Monday, July 31, 2006

Hot enough for ya?

I was away again this past weekend, returning to the blasted heat. Being at work in the super a/c is actually something to look forward to.

I had to say goodbye to some family members who are moving cross country. It sucks. I want to go ahead and make flight reservations to visit them in October, but I guess I should wait until they are settled into new home and jobs and know their schedules... one of them is only two. Do you know how hard it is to miss big chunks of time in a two-year old's life? And it might be for a long long time.

It also was a family reunion. It was the first time this particular group was together in many many years - a grandmother and her brother, four of her children, some of their children. There were at least six pairings of people who have at some time stopped speaking to each other for long periods - one as long as seven years, the mending of which was the real reason behind the party. There were no obvious fireworks, although this side of the family doesn't do public fights, but sits and grimaces and burns with inner resentments that will spill out later on long phone conversations behind the other's back. So much to look forward to! I need caller id so I can avoid everyone for the next week or so.

I can leave work now but I don't want to go out into the heat. I have so much to do, though - buy groceries, drop off laundry, pick up dry cleaning etc. All the weekend stuff that I missed.

I saw "Scoop" when I got back last night, because I needed to sit in the a/c. (I have one, but only in my bedroom, and I get stir crazy hanging out in my bedroom all the time.) But I'll write about it later. I just realized I need to get to the bank before it closes!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monster Questions

I think I've mentioned before that I'm not a great connoisseur of animated films, having seen very few in the last 3 decades. My points of reference are the Disney classics of my childhood: Snow White, Pinocchio, 101 Dalmations. So I come to "Monster House" with a different expectation than most of the rest of the audience. I see the very realistic animated people on the screen, in very vivid and realistic settings, and I wonder why isn't this a live action film? What am I getting from this fake almost-not-quite-human human, that I couldn't get better from seeing the actual human? The boy who read all these lines into the microphone in the recording studio, what does he look like? (According to his imdb pictures, he looks rather a lot like his cartoon alter ego.) Isn't it as interesting to watch him act as to listen to him act? Why is this weird-moving plastic-y thing better?

I don't have this problem with animated - well, animals. Obviously. You can't cast "Over the Hedge" with your friendly neighborhood hedgehogs, raccoons, and possums, who tend not to take direction well. ("Look sad. No, not like you lost your favorite acorn, like you lost your whole family to a pack of wolves!") And, I suppose it is reasonable to suggest that the monster house itself is not going to work as a sixty foot tall wooden structure with mechanical levers twisting its boards and flapping its shutters. (C'mon, I'm not giving anything away, am I? I mean, you've guessed already that the house is a... monster?) But aren't most of the "monsters" we see in films CGI anyway? Isn't it common practice to have real actors and fake everything else around them? So why didn't they just do that here?

Ah, so many questions for a simple children's film. Although I agree with the majority of reviewers I've read who say this isn't a movie for small children. It has its moments of real terror. And visually, it's very dark and claustrophobic - close camera angles, zooming perspectives. I liked all that, and once I got used to the way the animated people moved, I started to like them, too. There's some great dialogue and character interaction. In fact, I really liked the whole film until... the very same moment that lost me in "The Incredibles" and would probably turn me off in all the other animated films I've missed: the big climatic action scene. I don't like action movies, thrillers, car chases, big huge physical confrontations, etc. I used to fast-forward during the fight scenes in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (which was one of my favorite shows) because I grew bored watching the fight - all I needed to know was who won. That's how I feel with these movies, too - I'm bored watching the house chase the kids, or the Incredibles chase the bad guys (sorry, I can't even remember who they are), because the actual action itself is meaningless to me. I don't see any beauty in the chase or the fight. Just tell me who wins.

So, yeah, I was all there until about an hour in, then just wanted to keep checking my watch, but the scenes are pretty dark, so I couldn't even see it to tell the time.

Don't base your decision to see it on me, though - if you like that kind of thing, you'll probably like this film a lot.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Saturday morning, yay

This is the first weekend in awhile where I have no plans, no company, no commitments. I am looking forward to listening to NPR, playing computer games, cleaning my apartment, and maybe seeing a movie. Yes, I said looking forward to cleaning my apartment! I am obviously not well.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Stuff in my head today

So there's this woman at work. She & I aren't very close friends, mostly because we have very opposite personalities - she's an aggressive steamroller, I'm the type that will get flattened because I'm sitting back watching, unable to believe she'd really run me over. Anyway, she was one of the first people to notice my weight loss, months ago, and immediately asked me what I was doing. I started telling her about the low-calorie, low-fat, sensible-carb plan I'm on, and she cut me off. "I can't do that, I need immediate results." O-kay. Whatever.

Fast forward a few months and she's noticeably heavier. Is it wrong of me to feel a bit gleeful in that "I told you so!" way?

* * *

Another co-worker told me that I was a "nice person" the other day. I was telling her about how I ran into my old boss (which I don't think I mentioned here, but yeah, I did) and how nice and friendly he was to me despite the miserable end of our working relationship (i.e., him laying me off and me vowing to hate him forever.) He sad he was glad to see me, and he really seemed to be. My current co-worker said of course he was, because I'm such a nice person. I didn't know how to respond. Does no one realize how much of a bitch I am in my own head? Guess that's good.

* * *

We were talking about age, and my brother told me I look younger than I am because I have young-looking skin. Now, people tell me this all the time but it still throws me. I remember way back when I was in my early 20's and working in Macy's, a customer grabbed my face and rubbed a finger on my cheek and told me I had beautiful skin. I don't really see it, but I've heard it many times in between, and if someone as unobservant about cosmetics and skincare as my brother sees it, then I guess it's true. I wish I had some kind of secret beauty routine to share, but the truth is I do nothing. I wash with water and washcloth in the shower in the morning, and don't even take off makeup at night before going to sleep. (Not that I wear very much, mind you.)

* * *

Weird thing happened: the owner of the nail salon on my block disappeared. Although, maybe she was just the manager? Anyway, she'd been there 12 years, as long as I've been there, and I've been a customer for about 8-9. Now, I'm not one of those long-taloned nail fetishists, I simply like to be well-groomed and I keep my nails short and usually polished in pale pink or clear varnish. It's more of a clean thing than a fashion thing.

Over the years, I've had occasion to talk to the owner about things, like my family, etc. She always asks how my mother is, or how my nieces/nephews are. She had this same kind of connection with other customers, too, and knew the ins and outs of the neighborhood. On 9/11 (her birthday), she was the first person I spoke to after my 3 1/2 hour trek home from midtown. Her shop was still open, and she invited me in to sit and have a drink of water before heading home. I live just five buildings down, so I'd walk by every day and she'd wave from inside.

She'd also been out a lot recently with neck/back problems, but I saw her there on Thursday. On Saturday I walked by with my nephew and thought if she were there, I'd stop in with him, but she wasn't, and two complete strangers were. Monday there was a new sign on the window, with a new business name. Last night I went in for an eyebrow wax, and sure enough, the two strange women are the new proprietors. Most of the stuff inside (handmade signs, customer baby photos on the mirror) are still the same, but they've brought in a few pieces of new equipment. And put up their business/cosmetology licenses where hers was. They didn't have an answer as to where she had gone.

I know this doesn't sound earth-shattering, but it's such a strange feeling to have someone disappear from your life like that so abruptly. Especially someone you don't necessarily know all that well, yet have known for so long that it feels like you should. I can't help but think I should know what happened to her. I remember talking with her after 9/11 about how she might not ever know if a customer was lost in the twin towers because they might just never show up again, which she might not even realize until months had gone by. And which could mean anything, really. That's somewhat how I feel about losing contact with her. It could be anything. And I might never know.

* * *

CNN today said that Macy's is doing a reality show, about their employees. See, now, I get that. I worked there for 5 years, and believe me, I lived through enough drama to fill several long beach-read novels. I started out in a store in Albany, at the time the store furthest removed from the Herald Square (Manhattan) flagship. Twenty-something managers from the executive training program would rotate into our store for 9 mos. to a year, and knowing virtually nobody but co-workers, and working 70-80 hours a week, we formed our own, very incestuous, social circle. The stories I could tell! I've joked about doing so, about turning it into a racy novel, but figured nobody would believe it. We'll have to see if this "reality" TV experience can come close to matching it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


If I don't get my period soon, I'm going to go crazy. No, of course I don't mean that in the way women usually do, as there is no possible way I am pregnant. I'm just old. I've had a semi-erratic schedule for a year or so, but my doctor shrugged and said it's just my age and nothing to worry about. So I'm about 20 days late now, but late is relative if there is no longer the necessity of a schedule (a practice Amtrak seems to be following lately, too - is Amtrak going through "the change"?)

I don't think I'm especially bitchy lately, but have been periodically weepy (yes, that's a pun) at strange times - like watching a Holiday Inn commercial during a marketing seminar last night. And I'm convinced I'm having hot flashes because I am hot a lot, although let's face it, it's been 90+++ degrees lately and EVERYONE IS HOT. Still I sit there and feel the sweat collecting on my forehead and stare at people next to me thinking, are they as hot as me? I wasn't feeling it this strongly a minute ago. Is this what growing old feels like?

I don't really think it's hot flashes. I think I'll know them when they come, like orgasms or dead fish. Oh, yes, that's a pretty lurid comparison, but it's true about the fish. I sometimes have fish that are lying and not moving and I wonder if it's dead and of course it isn't, because when it is, you immediately can tell, there's no question. There's something in the dullness of the color, the emptiness of the eyes.

I've also leveled out on my weight loss, something that always happens pre-menstrual. It's also because I've been traveling and hosting guests, and not as diligent on my eating plan as I've been. I've pretty much maintained for three weeks, which is fine. But I know as soon as my period hits, I'll drop a pound or two, which will serve to pscyhologically get me back on track.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

As cold as I wanna be

I slept in my own bed for the first time in five days, and oddly didn't sleep very well. Maybe it's the sound of the a/c. I was brought up in an aggressive energy-conserving household - as much an environmental concern as a cost-conscious one. In the back of my mind, even in 95 degree humidity, is "Do I really need this on?"

But damn it's hot out. Damn, it's hot in the other parts of my apartment which aren't air-conditioned. Hot days keep me imprisoned in my bedroom. I ate dinner right here at my desk - cheese and crackers, carrots, fruit - anything cold that didn't require standing too long in the kitchen, which receives direct sun in the later part of the day. This was after returning home from a company picnic, where I tried not to sweat as I watched co-workers complain about how hot it was playing basketball and tennis in the sun. There was a pool, but I'm of the type not to want to wear a bathing suit in front of co-workers, even when I can reasonably fit into one. I was surprised to see a handful of women (not all of them with model bodies) prance around the pool in revealing suits, even as I was pleased to see a handful of men decidedly better-looking shirtless than in business casual clothes. I may never look at a certain co-worker the same again. Which exactly proves my point.

At least there were no speedo incidents, ala Larry David.

I need to leave my a/c apartment for the gym, which is nicely frigid, and then to the office, which is even colder, but I'm having a hard time getting up and out.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I don't know.

Mucho family. As you my have gathered, I babysat last night. And I now have other relatives staying with me. This just days after returning from a week spent with some of the same relatives. So as usual part of me is craving my usual solitary life even as another part is trying to hold onto these moments, because these very family members are about to move across the country.

I realized that a reason I don't like staying with other people is not so much not being in my own home, but being in someone else's home. I'm okay with hotels. I don't know if it's because I've lived alone for so long or because I have a somewhat regimented personality, but I like being in control of my schedule and my surroundings. For example, I wake up really early, even when I don't want to. In my own home, I have things to do - tricks to try to fall asleep again (tv turned down low to an inane sitcome I've seen over and over, sleep timer set for 15 minutes), internet when I can't, etc. In someone else's house I am often trapped in a room, waiting for someone else to get up, or slipping down into their living room, trying to be quiet, sitting on their sofa with a glass of water and a book, wondering how many hours before someone else wakes up.

So I generally get tense right before a trip, even if I don't understand why. I start out counting the nights before I'll be home again. The shift from my little insular world to someone else's isn't always easy, and I fight it. Last week I was stressed when the train I was taking was almost 45 minutes late leaving Penn Station. A large group of us, familiar with the route, had been standing on a line outside the usual gate for the entire time, when finally it was announced and dozens more rushed forward, and past us. I was annoyed, and said to the guy who'd been standing behind me for the past hour, "So much for waiting in line, if people think they can just rush the gate."

A woman cramming into the space next to me said, "Sorry, I'm from out of town, I'm not as sophisticated as you, I don't know how all this works," with a sneer. So I bitched back, "It's simple. A long row of people, standing next to something? That's a line. You go to the back of it and wait your turn." She told me I had anger management problems and then snickered, "You need caffeine. There's a Starbucks back there, okay?"

Being a former caffeine addict who had to give it up, that's not the thing to say to me, but I realized that I was so angry I was shaking so I just shut up and kept walking, making sure I was ahead of her when we got to the guy checking tickets. But then I started feeling weird, like maybe I am being too much of a bitch, it's just a line, right? I need to relax. So I turned to her on the escalator and said, "Listen, it's just a little frustrating to have waited in line and get cut off like that, I don't mean to take it out on you." And her response? Called me a bitch. So I shut up and got on the train. But I really wanted to push her off the escalator.

Hmmm. Maybe she's right about that anger management thing.

Seriously, I know it's just the stress of the moment, and that's what I'm trying to come to terms with. Why can't I just relax? I wonder sometimes how I'll ever be able to seriously date again if I get all twisted just thinking about staying at someone else's.

And the reality is that even as I sit here and count how many hours until my apartment is blissfully quiet and mine alone again, I know that I'll miss having them here.


First attempt to blog from my new treo. Camped out on a brother's couch, listening for baby cries from the other room - no, she's still asleep. It's the latest I've been awake in awhile but I'm jazzed up on Diet Coke & Diet Dr. Pepper. I want to write more but this keyboard is tiny & I'm not even sure it will work.

Friday, July 14, 2006


I just reread that last post and I sound like a whiny bitch. I'm not, and I really don't feel the way it sounds.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Welcome to July

So, yeah, I was away for awhile, but I'm back. Vacation? Well, yes, in the sense that I didn't go to work and I wasn't at home. I visited family, helped Mom move, etc. Yes, that's a vacation, but it's not like I was relaxing on a beach. I didn't even see fireworks, but by choice, since I can look out of my apartment windows to watch them (or go on the roof for an unobstructed view) and didn't. I am not a fireworks fan. I just don't get the draw. Loud noises, flashing lights, craned neck. Not for me.

I should have oodles to say after so long away from this blog, but nothing. I am sitting here at work thinking of all that I have to do but almost paralyzed into doing nothing. There isn't a specific urgent time sensitive task on my plate, which makes it hard to feel motivated. Plus I had a morning meeting suddenly cancelled, so this time feels suddenly and beautifully free.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Strangers with Etc.

I'm reading an interesting novel by Kim Edwards, an author who wrote the story I heard read by Holly Hunter at "Selected Shorts." The novel, "The Memory Keeper's Daughter," is quite good, but I am most impressed by her ability to carry a consistent thread of imagery throughout. Descriptions constantly include words like "soft," "white" and "light," all without being obtrusive. You just are lulled into this delicate world. That's a style I have tried to develop - a consistency in image which subtly carries the theme without slamming the reader over the head with intention.


Things are going better for Mom: her move is back on, neighbors have rallied around to help fix things enough to get the animals out, and the buyer visited and is hopefully making a reduced offer. The town is not so fortunate; only 15 miles away, it's on the Delaware River and much has been destroyed. There is talk of how much money to rebuild, and the nagging question seeps into the corners of my brain, afraid to be spoken out loud: Why? Isn't it about time to recognize that you built your little village too close to a temperamental water source? True, the last big flood was ten years ago, and the one before that nearly 50, but do you really want to gamble on another 50? And if you do, what then, in 50 years, for your children and grandchildren? I know, it's home, people have lived there their whole lives, I get that, but it seems somewhat futile. Of course I can be so cavalier because I lived there for just one year, and because of the many times we moved when I was growing up, I have no connection to any one place as "home." I've lived in this Brooklyn apartment for more than twice as long as any one place in my entire life.


On Sunday I saw "Strangers With Candy," a movie based on the former Comedy Central sitcom of the same name. I loved that show. And Amy Sedaris. She and Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert wrote a book a few years ago called "Wigfield," about a small town and its crazy residents, and I went to a live reading by the three of them. It was really funny, and after I bought the book and waited on line for them to sign it. Amy saw the credit card receipt I'd stuck inside the cover and started teasing me - wrote "Rejected" on big letters on it. It was really funny at the time, although seems silly now. She also was selling her infamous cupcakes in the concession stand.

The film is perfect for fans of the tv show, because it's just a longer episode with the same blasphemous humor - or actually, without the constraints of basic cable, even more so. Sometimes movies based on tv skits fail because they take a thin concept and try to draw it out into a longer series of related actions and plot, but this movie takes a different approach. Instead of sending the main character on a journey across the U.S. to find her natural mother or some such outlandish (and out of character) two hour escapade, we simply spend more time in each of the scenes which could easily make up a standard thirty minute episode. The typical "After School Special" format is still there, and is still wonderfully turned upside down. I laughed, a lot, as did most of the audience I saw it with.


July 4th. Not sure what I'm doing today; I've done some light cleaning this weekend (could do more) and relaxed, and am hoping to get upstate tomorrow or Thursday. (All depends on Mom's move.) I just feel like lying in bed and reading all day. If that isn't asserting my independence, what is?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sunny Saturday

It's a beautiful sunny day, the birds are singing outside my window, and a cool breeze blows through my apartment. Which means that any moment the bakery down the block will burn something and destroy the beauty of it.
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