Happy Birthday Megan! A Few of My Favorite Things

In honor of my recent arrival at Algonquin (and, let’s be honest, my birthday  week), Algonquin has been nice enough to let me cap off the month by sharing a few of my favorite things. And what better way to celebrate my birthday than to offer a giveaway, right? Share with me one of your favorite things in our comments and the person who has the most interesting response will receive an Algonquin title of their choice, as well as a surprise bonus gift guaranteed to be shown off among friends.


1. Housing Works Bookstore Café

One of my favorite independent bookstores in NYC where all the books are donated, the entire staff is volunteer, and all the proceeds go to help the homeless living with AIDS. I volunteered there for a good two weeks one fall (and was paid handsomely with a rocking employee discount). Not to mention, their events’ coordinator–Rachel Fershleiser–was an absolute riot to work with on our recent New Stories from the South event.


2. Hyperbole and a Half

I feel like writer/artist Allie Brosh understands how I feel about showers, sandwiches, and turning into an adult. I may have sent this link to every person in my address database, including several times to my eighteen-year-old sister Addie Lee, who, at one point, emailed me and said, “I get it. It’s not that funny. Stop sending it to me.”


3. El Cholo Restaurant

It was nearly two and a half years before my fiancé traveled back to Los Angeles with me. We hadn’t been to my hometown together yet, and we were planning on meeting my best friend Melanie for dinner. During our many trips, I complained endlessly about the lack of good Mexican food and how nothing–absolutely nothing–compared to El Cholo.


When we got there, Melanie ordered the chicken tacos–chicken and cheese only (Melanie only eats black and white foods, however, that is a story for another day). I happily awaited the delivery of my cheese enchiladas and michalada. My fiancé–adventurous gourmand that he is–went the route of the shrimp tostada.


“THAT” he cried out later in the car. “That place was the be-all, end-all of Mexican food? That’s what you’ve been going on about for years?”


“You ordered wrong,” I finally responded. “Let’s go back tomorrow.”


4. This story from The New Ohio Review, and this poem from The Adirondack Review, and this article from The Colorado Review


5. Bonnie Prince Billy & Tortoise’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”

Usually when I get into a song, I really get into it. I play it–and only it–on repeat. I play it so many times that eventually, I get nauseous when the song comes on and I never want to hear it, ever again. (I’m thinking of you, “Clark Gable” by The Postal Service.) However, the one–and only–song I can listen to and still get chills and still want to share with every person I know is Bonnie Prince Billy & Tortoise’s cover of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.”


Side point number one: I had never actually heard “Thunder Road” (apologies to John Gregory Brown, who I know will send me a scathing email after reading that sentence) until after I heard the cover. The first time I heard the Springsteen version was in a karaoke bar on St. Marks Street with my best friend Abby and a literary agent named Evan who ran around the room, belting out the song pitch perfectly, eventually sliding to his knees at the end of the song, leading the packed room (on a Tuesday night, mind you) to a standing ovation.


Side point number two: The one time I was truly flabbergasted (ok maybe one of two times I was truly flabbergasted) around a celebrity was when Bonnie Prince Billy–the day after he played a gig in Charlottesville–strolled into the Mexican restaurant, La Michoacana, where my fiancé and I were getting tacos. “Isn’t that Bonnie Prince Billy?” my fiancé asked and I promptly dropped my not-El Cholo salsa all across the floor.

18 Comments On This Post:

September 30, 2010
10:09 am
Amy says...

One of my favorite things is the internet. I’ve made friends that I would never have met; gotten to talk books with people who have similar tastes all over the world; discovered fabulous recipes and knitting patterns and cute puppy pictures. Also, Hyperbole and a Half is fantastic, as is The Manolo.

September 30, 2010
10:53 am
Charlie Boswell says...

Pub Quiz on Tuesdays at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub–shows me how little I know about post-1964 pop music, rugby, and identifying faces of almost famous people.
Oh, and Ina, I like Ina.

September 30, 2010
11:00 am
Ami says...

World Domination. Wait – what was the question? I think world domination would be a good favorite, but not mine at the moment. At the moment, connection is one of my favorite things. I can’t wait to check my blog stats to see what countries my readers are from. I love feeling like I can get a glance at people’s personalities by interacting with them online. The feeling of connection I gained from writing on the internet – and getting feedback from other writers – was what first gave me that sliver of hope that I could be a writer. And finding blogs like this one gives me a sense of what ‘real’ writers do.

September 30, 2010
11:02 am
Emily H. says...

One of my favorite things is Twitter because it instantly connects me with news from all over the world, as it happens. I guess the reporter in me will never die.

September 30, 2010
11:04 am
Marty says...

My favorite thing is the insane mop-headed person running around my house. While he’s only 2 and a half and pretty short, he’s a force of chaos and discovery. He hears trains a mile away and tells us to shush so he can listen to their whistle. Everything makes him giggle. He remembers and thinks about the giant beetles that live outside in an old tree stump (and tells me “big beetles live outside”).

He exhausts us all while making us feel young because it’s all new to him. It’s all funny and exciting and worthy of commentary. It’s all interesting again.

September 30, 2010
11:04 am
LuAnn says...

Happy birthday, Megan. One of my favorite things is a 3-piece “grooming” set I inherited from my grandmother. The set includes a hand mirror, hair brush and comb. It’s a creamy tan that’s slowly fading into a yellow tone, but since it’s close to 100 years old, it seems like a natural progression. I never saw my grandmother use it, but I can imagine her standing in front of the oak dresser and mirror, brushing her hair and preparing for the day. It’s a nostalgic reminder of the wonderful woman she was and the influences she made on my life.

September 30, 2010
11:20 am
LifetimeReader says...

Happy birthday!

One of my favorite things is listening to my son practicing violin. It is incredible to me to watch him go from Twinkle Twinkle to Vivaldi in the past 18 months or so.

Another favorite thing is our set of pottery plates made in rural North Carolina. Using handmade always makes me think of Alice Walker’s wonderful story “Everyday Use.”

September 30, 2010
11:25 am
Greg says...

Easily one of my favorite things is a dinner of spaghetti, a towering stack of excessively garlicky garlic bread, and a bottle of red wine. Sometimes I vary what the type of sauce or noodles or wine, but typically I stick with whole wheat spaghetti noodles, marinara, and chianti. I drench the noodles in sauce, then scoop them onto a slice of garlic bread. My college roommates would mock me for eating what is essentially “bread sandwiches.” But I didn’t care. This meal is simply too good to phase me.

This is something that I love so much that it actually sparked an argument with an ex-girlfriend. You know how sometimes girls hold in some criticism until they can’t contain it anymore and it just bursts out of them? Maybe they even say something like, “See, this is exactly what I’m talking about!” — even if they weren’t talking about anything just then and indeed had never mentioned it previously?

Well, my ex was bothered by a couple things about me. Specifically, how I tend to get lost in my own head, and how as a consequence of that I tended not to notice when she was in need of a compliment or reassurance of some sort. Of course, she’d never mentioned these things to me.

So anyway, I’d had a rough day and so came home to make myself a spaghetti dinner. I was instantly and completely healed of the wounds of my week. Feeling cheerful, I called the girlfriend-at-the-time to see how her day had gone. She pretended it went well, though it didn’t. On a typical day I might have noticed that she was doing that thing where I was supposed to keep asking until she confessed that it did not, in fact, go well.

But instead I said, “You know what I love?” She perked up, thinking that perhaps I was about to say, “The sound of your laugh,” or “Our plans this weekend,” or even simply, “You.”

“What?” she asked, a smile in her voice.

“Spaghetti,” I answered. “I freakin’ love spaghetti. I just ate so much spaghetti that I feel like I’m going to burst. Burst from joy!”

There was a long pause. Then, “SEE, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!”

That was over two years ago, and of course she’s long gone. But me — I’ve since learned how to make my own phenomenal marinara sauce from scratch. With fresh tomatoes and everything. And I couldn’t be happier.

September 30, 2010
11:26 am
Keetha says...

One of my favorite things is notebooks. I love real actual paper notebooks, especially those spiral-bound ones. Takes me back to school. Ah. The big 80s.

September 30, 2010
11:46 am
Christine says...

My favorite thing: a bench–positioned next to Lake Michigan that looks out towards the Chicago skyline; it’s on the eastern edge of my old college campus; it overlooks a weathered inventory of large rocks (that I used to sunbathe on top of); it’s where I went to clear my head, think over serious decisions, get away from the stress of being a confused twenty-something; it’s sometimes where I just sat, reading a book and sipping on coffee; it was there through all the seasons–and I took impromptu visits despite the season (and the snow and ice and sludge); and while it never said anything, gave me anything, or showed me anything, it helped me find my way. Yes, one of my favorite things is a bench.

(happy birthday!)

September 30, 2010
11:50 am
Holloway says...

One of my favorite things is the 3-ounce copper plate for my great aunt’s calling card from the early 19th century. Family legend has it that she chased my grandfather with an axe when she was a little girl. Miss Sarah Wingate Taylor left New England for Northern California, where she became a poet, scholar and professor. Someone wrote “Could be turned in for metal” on the manila wrapper. Not a chance: it’s my favorite paperweight.

September 30, 2010
11:55 am
Caity says...

One of my favorite things is doing travel photography. Just think about it for a second. You’ve got a wonderful camera that enables you to form art with the twist of a few dials and the push of a button, and you get on a plane to go somewhere new and exciting. Arriving somewhere, wherever it may be that you desire to go, you step off the plane and are immediately surrounded by a brand new culture, new people, new foods and places to discover. Once you’ve claimed your bags and settled them in your lodging, you step outside the door and there it is, the perfect photo opportunity. In your hands rests the surest way to capture that very second of life. You hold your camera up to your eye, focus it, and SNAP! You have taken less than a second of human life and stored it somewhere that allows you to go back to it over and over, whenever you so wish. This is done again and again as you experience the beautiful wide world around you, gaining knowledge and insight about the people you share the planet with and all of the opportunities it holds, all of the opportunities that can be yours if you just reach out and grab them, camera in hand. You’ve been enabled in a way that not enough people appreciate. This is a beautiful thing and a gift to be shared with the world, one that can help raise awareness and lower ignorance. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, and you have the ability to create hundreds, if not thousands of pictures.

September 30, 2010
12:40 pm
Beth says...

One of my favorite things is riding my bicycle in a city after rain has fallen. It amplifies the smells of everything. Noodle shops, indian food, trees, cars, flowers.

September 30, 2010
12:46 pm
Amy says...

Favorite things? One is eavesdropping at Starbucks. Fascinating. Remarkably, much of what I overhear is complete and total whining about their lot in life.

Another is the Project Night-Night charity, that makes me happy: it provides a new soft blanket, a new stuffed toy and a children’s book, all in a new tote bag, to homeless kids so that they have something of their very own. I like the idea that they are picky about what they give out, so the kids don’t get some crap toy or chewed up book.

Another favorite thing is baby feet-my three year old’s feet not only don’t stink, but they are immensely kissable. Soft, chubby, and adorable.

Lastly, I swoon for my husband’s homemade chili verde, wrapped in an omelet.

September 30, 2010
1:04 pm
Mel says...

One of my favorite things is coffee bean & tea leaf. Granted, it is kinda the same as Starbucks and all the other coffee chains, but it’s only on the west coast, which certainly adds to the allure. Besides having the most delicious coffee, coffee bean also serves as quite “the scene.” On the weekends during high school, Miss Megan Fishmann and I used to migrate to the coffee bean on San Vicente in order to meet up with some of our friends, stare at the hot older classmen, and find out where the good parties were.
Random story: Megan and I went to coffee bean one afternoon and ran into one of Megan’s artist/poet friends. The artist/poet (and not the other way around) proceeded to talk on and on about his paintings until Megan, in an attempt to impress him by acting more artsy then normal, said in her laid-back California voice, “it’s all about the art, man.” I promptly started laughing uncontrollably, spitting my delicious coffee bean coffee all over the floor. Only at the bean… Happy birthday Meg!

September 30, 2010
4:46 pm
Nancy says...

Happy birthday from a fellow Libra. Horoscopes are guilty pleasures but not favorites, unlike starry nights and Carolina blue skies and Chapel Hill most any time. But my ongoing passion is for books, and my favorite thing will always be reading and/or trolling the internet for titles to add to my lovely TBR stacks.

Say hi to all my favorite people past and present @Algonquin. You’re a lucky person to work there!

Cheers, Nancy Pate

September 30, 2010
6:23 pm
bermudaonion (Kathy) says...

One of my favorite things is college football, especially when the Hokies win!

October 2, 2010
3:57 pm
Benjamin says...

My favorite thing is having dirt under my nails for as long as I can. Not sure if my wife notices. Every minute in the garden is a lifetime of wonder and connection. So when I go to my campus office the day after gardening to hold office hours for students, as I scribble on their essays or type email responses to frantic requests, I look at my fingers lifting and rising, swaying and gliding, and for a moment see them in the soil or around a liatris plug. Everywhere is the garden and my work to plant native prairie plants in my suburban desert. Hopefully, those beneficial soil bacteria that jumpstart natural serotonin production are working under my nails 24/7.

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