Thursday, August 31, 2006

More weighty issues.

Since I opened the can of worms about weight loss... Had two positive experiences today:

I was able to wrap the small gym towel around my waist and it actually met and didn't leave a gaping gap revealing my nakedness. I haven't actually tried it in awhile, so am not sure if I simply lucked out and got a longer towel, or if this is a permanent milestone.

Two construction workers whistled at me when I passed.

Still annoying: On "Project Runway" (and other shows) they talk about size 12 as if it's plus size. I've worked hard to get down to a 12, and I can guarantee, you don't find that size in a plus size store. I used to shop in them, I think I know. And a size 12 isn't even the largest size in most retail stores! I'm still damn proud I can fit into one. Fuck them all.

(I'm so cold today at work I went down to the Gap and bought a down vest with a fur-trimmed hood. Really. I'm sitting here all bundled up at my computer. A co-worker went home because she was so cold she couldn't work. It's like this summer, fall, winter, spring. )

(Blogger spellcheck offers "Fuji" or "Fizz" for "Fuck." Oh, Blogger, you're so innocent.)

More, again.

A restaurant on my block had closed for renovation right after labor day, and after Sept. 11, a makeshift shrine appeared in front of its closed door - a couple of those tall glass candle holders, a few bouquets of flowers, notes. A blurry picture on the door of a young dark-haired woman, who I decided was the former hostess of the restaurant, who used to hang out in the doorway on quiet weekday evenings, exchanging pleasantries with passers-by. In my mind she was one of the few casualties I could put a face (if not a name) to.

And then, a few months later, I saw her working in another restaurant and realized the shrine belonged to someone else. I wanted to hug her, I was so happy to see her, but of course she would have no idea why.

I still don't know who was in the photo - the renovation never happened. The restaurant opened a few months later under new management. It's been four or five different restaurants since, and is currently about to re-open yet another time as a coffee and tea lounge.


I am on a weight loss plateau, which started when I was visiting/hosting family, continued through various summer social events, although I kept to the eating plan on unaffected days and made wise choices when "indulging." So I haven't gained, even as I haven't lost any more in the past 6 weeks. It's somewhat depressing, since watching the numbers fall on the scale were such a nice high, but I only have a short way to go, so it's okay to take a summer breather. And I'm getting more wear out of the clothes that fit me now.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I saw Paul Giamatti at Circuit City over the weekend. As celebrities go, he's in that unique category where he's A-List (Oscar nominee, critically acclaimed, etc.) yet never tabloid fodder. Not really someone that gets many heads turning in Circuit City, or winds up on Gawker's Stalker map.

Although what is A-List, really? Maybe my criteria is off. Is A-List just reserved for those that are known by the mass market? The first-name onlys - Tom, Brad, Julia, etc.? But I think that for the roles he's suited for, i.e., the coach (or "couch" as the brilliant calls him) in "Cinderella Man" or the inspector in "The Illusionist," Paul Giamatti is likely on the first page of the wish list.


Our office stayed closed on Wednesday, Sept. 12, but opened again on Thursday. By noon there had been three bomb scares at Grand Central, the last just as a group of us were gathering by the elevators to go out to lunch. We went across the street to a pizza place and after we'd all gotten our food and sat down at tables in the back, a police officer came in and said that we had to evacuate. Some people went back to the office but most started heading home. There was a rumor that the subways were out again, but I jumped on one at 34th Street and made it safely home without incident. I got a call that night via the office phone tree - don't bother to come back in again until Monday. Maybe things will settle down by then.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I hated it when people kept calling it "September 11th" because I needed it to have a more dastardly name, something fitting what had happened, not just a date that up until that year had been simple and innocuous. It's also just days before my birthday and I'd grown up accustomed to hearing any date that week and having warm fuzzy thoughts about it, thinking, oh, that's almost my birthday. Having the date burdened with so much heavy meaning felt personal. I wanted them to call it by something else, but of course the name stuck.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Half Nelson

"Half Nelson" is just wonderful, a film that I don't know that I can aptly describe. It's a story of a drug-addicted teacher (Ryan Gosling) in a Brooklyn middle school and the young teenage girl who befriends him. It's set in Gowanus Brooklyn, not too far from here, although far enough (as in, away from Manhattan and the direction of my commute) that I didn't notice the film crews when they were here. For a story of a person whose life is owned by his addiction, and yet has managed to carve out enough of a compromise to function, it's light years better than "Factotum." The comparisons are hard to avoid, since I saw them close together. And they both boast powerful performances by their leading men - an Oscar contest between Matt Dillon for "Factotum" and Ryan Gosling for this would be pretty interesting. Oh, and throw in Ed Norton, who is garnering his own great reviews for another film released at the same time ("The Illusionist.") (I haven't seen it yet, but it opens in my neighborhood theater on Friday - just in time for a four day holiday weekend! You know I'll be there.)

I get Ed Norton and Ryan Gosling confused. I actually sat down with my popcorn, watched the opening credits, and was startled to see Gosling on the screen instead of Norton, that's how intertwined they are in my mind. I don't know what else I've seen Gosling in - maybe just "Murder by Numbers" - surely not "The Notebook," which I didn't see (and have no plans to.) But in this film he's just so good, and the writing is so good, and the other actors - especially Shareeka Epps as the young girl - are fabulous as well. The only thing that I wasn't crazy about was the camera - handheld, shaky, pressed up against every image so tight that you never got to see the spaces around the actors, the rooms or the streets or their surroundings. I understand that it's a stylistic choice to be that close, that it's meant to portray intimacy as well as claustrophobia, but it gets to me after awhile. I want to pull back and look away - and yet, maybe that discomfort is part of the movie experience. These aren't pleasant things, these are real life things, and sometimes there is just no escaping them.

Ryan Gosling has 5 additional imdb entries after this one - I'm impressed.

Another, part many.

Our Brooklyn neighborhood is close to downtown - realtors used to advertise apartments as "7 min. to WTC" and you could see the towers from almost any vantage point. There was, naturally, a large percentage of people who worked there and lived in our neighborhood, and our streets became heavily papered with "Missing" posters. The posters saddened and then angered me. I got tired of seeing them, tired of being reminded that nobody had been found, nobody was ever going to be found. As long as the posters were up, someone was still desperately hoping, and the rest of us had to hold our breath and wait with them for the one miracle that might, just might, make it a little easier.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Up and down

I might have slept in today, the first dim rainy Sunday in weeks, but because it was cooler and I didn't have the fan on, I was woken by the sound of my next door neighbor clomping home from work. Granted, he's been quieter since I mentioned it to him, but I wasn't aware of how much of that was just the fan drowning him out. It's like when the mice returned the day of the blackout, when the sonic mice repellers I have plugged into the outlets weren't working.

So I'll be among the first at the gym when it opens today, just as I was yesterday morning.

* * *

Yesterday I saw "Trust the Man," because my crush on David Duchovny is still alive and well, despite the film reviews which suggest (on the heels of the debacle which was his directing debut, "House of D") his career might not be. The movie isn't very good, although I'm not sure it's quite in the "bad"category, like "Connie and Carla" or "Return to Me," two really dismal films I sat through just for him. "Trust the Man" is just empty, with weirdly "emotional" scenes that have no connection to character, because there are no defined characters. Throughout I found myself asking, "Now what is her deal in this scene?" or "What does he want?" and never had the answers. Sad, too, because it also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is usually so brilliant.

I still love David Duchovny, though, and don't mind having paid $6 (matinee prices - I wasn't ready to gamble much more) to see him again, larger than life.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Picture this

You know why I haven't been posting photos? Because Blogger is so erratic in allowing me to, that I stopped trying. I don't know if it's a setting on my home computer, but I have trouble getting photos uploaded, spell check to open, etc., which I never seem to at work.

Oh, well. It seems to work if I save the post first, and then re-open it to edit. So I think it must be Blogger's fault. I mean, really, "blogger" still isn't in their spell check dictionary.

Another still.

All morning we stayed in the office, not sure if we should leave, or if we could, how. We were right across from Grand Central Station, where many took Metro North trains home to Westchester and Connecticut. Rumors flew from desk to desk - Grand Central is closed, now it's open, no now it's closed again. Clumps of people rushed into elevators only to return, shaking their heads. The rest of us waited, hoping subways would start running again. We all spent hours on the phone trying to connect with family, to let them know we were alright, to find out if they were, to find out if anyone knew what was going on. I couldn't get ahold of either of my siblings, both of whom worked in Manhattan at the time, but my mother had heard from both. From her sleepy rural town she became the conduit of communication. I couldn't get through to my grandmother, who lives on the upper west side of Manhattan, but finally tracked her down at one of her daughter's upstate. I was worried that she was worried, but it was my phone call that woke her up. She had no idea what was happening. (Now, five years later, an aunt has actually tried to guilt trip the rest of us about our relationship with Grandma, floating the lie that nobody had even bothered to check on Grandma on 9/11. I don't know why people think they can get away with revisionist history like that.)

Friday, August 25, 2006


I haven't posted a picture in awhile, for no particular reason. This was earlier in the summer in the backyard of my mother's new farm. It was abandoned for many years so formerly cultivated beds of flowers grow thick with the wildflowers. I love that. If, no, when I have my own outdoor space, it will have a ramshackle garden of flowers that bloom from spring to fall...

Oh, and another.

After running across town to my own office building, I ran into a group of colleagues who'd been outside watching the smoke billow uptown as the first tower fell. One of them was a guy who I had a fairly contentious relationship with - he was an outspoken conservative who liked to get into it with me over group lunches. But he was the first one to come up to me and we hugged, both biting back tears.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I was wrong.

The vote on the definition of planet is today. I don't know why I assumed it had happened previously - I guess I misinterpreted a "whatif" scenario to be actual. I was somewhat saddened by the CNN morning weatherman who joked, "Hey, if Pluto is a planet why not the moon? Isn't it even bigger?" as it just showed how uninformed he is. I guess I thought that a "meteorologist" would have some scientific background, or at least an interest in the natural sciences. Ah, silly me.

But now, it's official. Pluto is no longer a planet.

And another.

A grief counselor came to our office and met with groups of employees. He was an Israeli who had spent several years in the middle east dealing with hostage situations and post-traumatic stress syndromes. He said he'd never seen anything as horrible as what was happening in NYC.

We went around the room, and each spoke. I can't remember if he asked us to think of something positive, but I said that I was somewhat comforted that everyone seemed sure that Al Qaeda was behind the attacks. (This was before they claimed responsibility.) It was a relief to think that there weren't that many others who could possibly hate us so much. I received a few strange looks when I said that, either because I was incredibly naive or because nobody else thought that way. I don't know. Maybe I was naive.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

To Pod Or Not To Pod

Podcasting, now in its furiously commercial stage, no longer holds as much interest for me as it did initially. My favorite homegrown podcasts are either gone or on "summer hiatus" (and I'm afraid that's a euphemism for "gone" for some.) Luckily there is Tim Gunn's take on "Project Runway" each week, and my favorite NPR shows.

I tried a new show yesterday, Penn Jillette's radio show. I thought I liked him, but was immediately relieved of that mistake. He starts out complaining about a recent study that says Americans are more stupid than ever, based on research that showed most of us can name three of Snow White's drawfs more easily than three of Supreme Court Justices, and can name the Three Stooges more quickly than the three branches of federal government. He argues that we're not dumb, and he's tired of hearing it. Okay, I somewhat agree - I'm tired of hearing it, too. Wouldn't it be more interesting, instead of filling the news with stories of how dumb we are, filling them with stories that actually make us smarter? Example: The news that it's been decided the definition of planet still includes Pluto. Now that's interesting - brings up all kinds of related thought, like what makes Pluto a planet and the Earth's moon not? What else could become a planet by this definition? How big is our solar system, anyway?

But back to Jillette - is he really convinced that education in this country isn't a joke? That we're as focused on learning and intellectual growth as many other western cultures? If so, Mr. Jillette is in need of some education himself.

Then he said that he completely agrees with Ralph Nader (okay...) that our country isn't run by politicians, but by corporations (I agree for the most part. Then again, I live in a city whose mayor is a billionaire former CEO.) And then, Jillette adds that he's fine with that! Thinks that's how it should be.

Yeah, that's when he lost me as a listener.


My boss was one of the only ones not glued to a phone or the tv we'd rolled into an empty office and turned to the local CBS station (the only one still broadcasting, as the others had transmitted from the top of the twin towers.) He yelled at his admin when she told him his mother was calling to see if he was okay. "I'm fine, tell her I don't have time to talk to her." He called me into his office and started talking about a project he wanted me to work on. He saw the blank look on my face and said quietly, "I know this seems crazy to you, but this is how I cope. I have to fill my brain with work. You can ignore everything I'm saying, forget it as soon as you walk out of this room, but let me keep at it." It was the closest I saw him express any emotion over what was happening.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Conversations with Other Women

A lot has been written about the structure of the film "Conversations with Other Women," which is understandable, as the screen is constantly split between two camera angles, often of the same scene. I think I would have seen it anyway, as I am drawn to claustrophobic real-time interactions between couples. Think any single section of "Closer," without the jarring jumps in time or logic or lack of emotion. (Apologies for my still simmering hatred of "Closer.") I like Aaron Eckhart, one of the few blonds I find attractive, and Helena Bonham Carter has that whole trashy period thing going so well. I can't watch her without picturing the crazy Marla of "Fight Club," however.

I don't know if I would have liked the film without the split screen, as it gave it some depth that the story probably didn't have without. Moments when a character stops and imagines what would have happened if he or she had done something differently are played out on the other screen as he or she is lost in thought. Old memories are triggered by present interactions and one half of the screen obligingly shares scenes from that past. Who hasn't reconnected with an old lover and had flashbacks to how it was way back then? (Okay, so I have, but even if you haven't, wouldn't you, if it were to happen?) Other times, when one camera lingers on one character's face while the other stays on the other aren't as interesting, especially when they are sitting or standing in a way that would allow for one camera to capture both. Then it does just feel gimmicky.

In such a simple and tight film, some lapses in logic of course drove me crazy: if a person answers his cell phone and sees by the caller id who it is, and then later the other person mistakenly answers this same cell phone, thinking it's hers, and clearly is shown peering at it to see who is calling, why doesn't she also see the same caller id when it turns out to be the same person calling. How does a woman still have perfect lipstick and un-smudged eye shadow (the patented Helena Bonham Carter dark purple) after a bout of frantic love-making? Etc., etc.

But, yeah, I liked it. I liked spending time with these two actors, and enjoyed the way the film looked and how it brought up questions of love and commitment and fantasy and reality. Maybe because I'm getting older and I understand how hard it is to not be nostalgic about past romances, to not wonder what would have happened if only, and to imagine what might happen if we ran into each other.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Shut up!!

Not for the first time, I need to air my frustration for what passes as "news" these days. Do I care what film John Mark Karr, the alleged JonBenet Ramsey killer, watched on his flight from Thailand to the U.S.? Do I care enough that I need to see film clips from the film as it's related to me?

I love the NY Times - yesterday they had a tiny little two paragraph story, buried at the bottom of an inside page, announcing he'd be returning to the U.S. shortly.



I had an early morning meeting on Sept. 11, 2001, in an office that was about seven blocks from my own. The meeting was interrupted when someone came to tell us about the second plane hitting the tower and we all ran to another conference room that had windows facing south, where we could see the billows of smoke pouring from both in the distance. I practically ran through the streets to my own office building, holding back from crying until I realized how many others were rushing past in sobs. I passed clumps of people around parked cabs, whose doors were flung open and radio volumes turned high, waiting for someone to tell them what was happening.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Factotum and the Memory Keeper's Daughter

Last month, I mentioned that I was reading "The Memory Keeper's Daughter," by Kim Edwards, author of one of the short stories I heard read at "Selected Shorts." I liked it then, although by the end of the novel felt less enthusiastic. The writing is beautiful, but the story goes on and on and on without getting very far. In time, it travels nearly thirty years, jumping back and forth between a number of narrators, but in each we're inside the head of someone who repeats the same obsessions and fears they had in a previous narration, a decade earlier. I still enjoyed it, but would recommend it with some reservation.

Imagine my surprise, then, to see it listed as #1 in Entertainment Weekly's trade paperback bestseller list, with a note about how this barely-promoted, quite little book has carefully made its way to the top by word-of-mouth alone! I am glad, as I think Edwards is very talented, and hope that her success means we'll hear Holly Hunter's reading of her short story on "Selected Shorts" very soon!

* * *

Yesterday I saw "Factotum," a film based on a novel by Charles Bukowski, starring Matt Dillon. I don't know that I have an opinion about it. Dillon was very good at inhabiting the character, at seemingly moving through life in a constant drunken haze, but it felt disjointed, like a series of snipped short stories united only by similar characters and theme, not plot nor storyline. We spend several scenes with Dillon's character Chinaski after he meets a fellow barfly played by Marisa Tomei, and some things happen that seem to be taking the story somewhere, but the section ends abruptly with a narrated, "We broke up shortly after that and I didn't see her again." I recognize that this is what the film is ultimately about: exciting and different things might happen, but Chinaski will always wind up back in the same endless empty drunken life. In life we don't always live out full-blown storylines, we are just offered glimpses of other people's lives before falling back into our own seedy routine.

I suspect it's the constant narration that I found disconcerting; I know it's supposed to reflect the written word that Chinaski is pouring onto the page at the time, but I've always preferred my films (and my short stories, to be fair) to show rather than tell. Don't tell me what I just saw, show me something I can interpret and then process. I would have preferred Chinaski's written word and the depictions of his life to have a more stylized connection in the film, somewhat along the lines of "American Splendor." When played straight, I found the overlay boring.

* * *

The sun is shining. I thought it was supposed to rain today.


I walked home on 9/11 with one of the administrative assistants in my office, an older woman I didn't know very well. Our small office had waited it out for several hours, hoping for some improvements in the mass transit situation, until finally giving up and making alternative plans to get everyone out. I was asked to take A. with me, since we both lived in Brooklyn, and so we set out on foot shortly after noon. In a way I wanted to be alone, but walking with A. probably kept me from falling completely apart, because I felt I had to be the strong one. I thought she was in her early fifties, but later would learn she was in her mid sixties. I had nothing to worry about, as she kept up with me the entire way, refusing to stop for a rest as we passed storefront after storefront offering chairs and cups of water. We didn't talk much, although we took turns trying to connect to family members with my cell phone. It took us about three and a half hours to walk the seven miles.

She died, suddenly, a year and a half later, after a visit to her doctor for back pain uncovered advanced stomach cancer.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Spots of remembrance as we approach the 5th anniversary

Walking home on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, we passed a homeless man in Union Square. He was standing, dazed, staring downtown at the rolling clouds of smoke and dust. "They're not there," he said. "They're always there, I always see them, and now they're not." I understood his bewilderment, then and now.

What I did this summer

I had another week filled with family, to cap off a summer filled with family visits (both them to me and me to them), and I'm a bit burnt out. That sounds so mean to say, because individually, yes, I love having here, but cumulatively, I need to clear my head and be alone. Minutes after the last left, I received a phone call, which I let go to voicemail. It was a friend who I haven't spoken to in awhile but I didn't want to call her back because I wasn't ready to give up the silence, to let someone else inside my space again.

Taking time off has made what might have been a quiet summer at work a much busier one, with the same workload crammed into fewer days. It's been a whirlwind the last few days trying to catch up.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I hate Blockbuster.

Not for the usual reasons - that they have a pitifully small collection of independent films, are often accused of censorship for they way they edit (or influence distributors to edit) films to remove objectionable material, etc., or are another big impersonal chain killing mom-and-pop businesses (like the big bookseller in "You've Got Mail," although in that movie - a comedy! - the big guy won and the small independent bookstore was crushed, a perfect example of a Hollywood happy ending. God I hate that movie.)

But I digress.

This morning I hate Blockbuster because I am sleeping in the living room while my mom is here, and was woken by two workmen who felt the need to have a boisterous conversation as they checked the air conditioner (or satellite dish, or exhaust system, or whatever) on the roof just a few feet below my window.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Karma, when it's good

Yes, by now I know that all those scary stories were reality for British travelers, even if not for us over here. Still, on the way home today I got a more stringent searcher, who took my solid deodorant and my mascara. They patted me down and ran the wand over me, too. I think now all that's in my toiletry bag is my toothbrush, a couple of bandaids and cotton balls, and an emery board.

I read an article that said Bath & Body Works had to close all of their airport stores because nobody was buying anything, but really they just need to change their business model - instead of selling inside the terminal where people shop while waiting for planes, have quick curbside shops next to the taxi stands where people can pick up all the stuff that just got tossed! You know if the guys that pop up everywhere selling umbrellas on rainy days ran the airport stores, they'd be right out there with armloads of toothpaste. Someone should start peddling curbside toiletries! Although I suppose if this becomes standard, people will just check their baggage more. Not me. I'm still smarting from when mine got "lost."

I have good travel karma this week, though. My boss was due to leave Newark yesterday at the same time I left LaGuardia, but his flight got delayed and he arrived two hours late. He was scheduled to fly home last night and got stuck when storms hit Newark - said he got home three or four hours late.

Me? My meeting ended early today, so I got to the airport quickly and sailed through security without much trouble, (even the wanding and mascara-snatching was good-natured), got on a much earlier flight, landed a few minutes before scheduled time, and got a fast cab home. Then I found out my mother was coming on an earlier train than originally planned, so I had to rush back out of my apartment, into the subway, and to Penn Station, where I was thrust into the midst of a mad throng of Friday evening travelers - to the Jersey shore, to Long Island beaches, to upstate summer homes, or simply just home after a long work week. There was no way I was going to find Mom, and of course we hadn't arranged a meeting point because I wasn't supposed to be there, I was supposed to still be in Boston and she was supposed to be finding her way in a cab alone to my grandmother's. (I know, she's a grown woman, but she's not familiar with the city and it can be overwhelming.) There was no way I would find her in that crowd. I found out what track the train was coming in on, but there isn't one stairway per track, but several spaced out along the waiting area. Hopeless! So I just went outside, figuring I'd stand by the taxis and hope she would wander by, and yup, with in a minute and a half I saw her walking toward me on the sidewalk. Two minutes longer inside and I'd have missed her.

See, that's good karma.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Toothpaste Terror

I am in Boston without my toothpaste, shampoo, moisturizer, lipstick, hair gel, and body wash. I was pulled out of the line at the gate at LaGuardia, my bags searched, and liquids/gels confiscated. They missed my eye drops and one lipstick which was in a different pocket.

Like last week's blackout paranoia, I am hearing wild rumors about what they are doing at airports: forbidding carry-ons of any kind, making you throw away your luggage and dump your belongings into clear plastic bags, or refusing to allow laptops on board. None of this happened to me in NYC or seemed to be happening in Boston when I landed, based on the announcements that were being broadcast repeatedly about the liquid/gel ban. But I bet someone out there has an uncle who works for United Airlines and emailed his nephew that he's never seen it this bad and that he should avoid flying today at all costs - but if he does, he'll have to strip to his underwear in order to board the plane.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

On the Waterfront

Last night I went to an event at the Battery Park Ritz Carlton, which is just a short walk from my office: through Battery Park City along the water. It was a beautiful evening and I felt exactly like I was in one of those architect's renderings of a future development: a beautiful view of the river and harbor, a path neatly lined with healthy green trees and thick flower beds, a mix of people sitting on benches reading newspapers or chatting, others spinning by on bicycles or rollerblades, or pushing strollers or pulling spry little dogs on bright colored leashes. If the other plans to turn waterfront into parks and living spaces come to fruition, this will really feel like a coastal city.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Canary in a coal mine

The lead story on the early morning local news was about an overnight fire in a pet shop in Queens. Stories of how the caged puppies, kittens, guinea pigs, etc. were rescued. I am glad that they managed to save so many, but what ran through my mind most is, "Do pet stores really still sell puppies and kittens?" I find that sad. There are so many homeless pets in shelters desperate for a loving owner - I can't imagine who would go buy one in a store. As for purebreds, do any well-respected breeders sell their animals in storefronts? I doubt it. Cages in pet stores bring to mind puppy mills and inbreeding. I didn't realize that was still going on, but I guess I'm naive.

I think they said that the birds didn't survive the fire. Their tiny little lungs and hearts can't take the smoke. I understand that; when I was six, my pet parakeet died when my father fell asleep on the couch while boiling eggs for the next day's egg salad sandwich lunch. Nobody else was harmed; the smell of burning and smoke woke us up. I never liked egg salad as a kid - maybe that's why.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Are caterpillars a good source of iron?

A productive day so far! I went to the gym, came home, sorted through recycling, defrosted the freezer, cleaned out the fridge, mopped the kitchen floor, and repotted some plants. Two plants had died from the heat and my inability to stay on top of watering them.

But also, I'd bought some herbs (mint and basil) last weekend at the farmer's market and planted them in my kitchen window box (inside.) I noticed mid week that the mint and half the basil was dying, leaves missing or transparent. I threw them away, hoping the last basil plant (which I'd started months ago from seeds) would be okay. I thought I saw some little black bugs but they were mostly on the dead plants.

Today - just stalks, no leaves. I dumped the plant in the trash and then noticed a big light green caterpillar, who I fished out and tossed out onto the fire escape. Then, noticed another, and another - on the ceiling, on the kitchen floor, crawling up the walls. Ugh.

The phone just rang - the blood center wanting me to schedule an appointment to donate. They didn't realize I'd tried yesterday, because I'd gotten rejected. My iron level is often too low, but usually within a few fractions of a point (11.9 or 12.2 vs. the required 12.5) and they prick another finger or wait a few minutes and I'm okay. Most of the time, not always. But yesterday it was only 9.5, and when they tried the other hand, 9.4. Pretty upsetting. But I also didn't have my usual nut and fruit snack yesterday morning, but a peach and string cheese. Of course it's a daily thing, so I have to keep remembering to include nuts and raisins and spinach and beans in my menus, not just when I feel like it. I have only been tracking calories, carbs, protein, and fat, but maybe I should start tracking iron?

Anyway I told the guy on the phone I'd wait a bit, although he seemed to think if I ate a small box of raisins I could go give right now. I'll have to remember that for next time. Truth is I always go to the Blood Drives at work because it's convenient, but rarely seek out opportunities to give other than that.

I feel really productive so far today. Maybe I'll even be motivated to work on a short story - there are a few contest deadlines looming.

Oh, August

A few days ago, a huge colorful chalk valentine appeared on the sidewalk at the corner. "Gretchen, you are beautiful," it read. At first I thought, "Awww... how romantic," but that was swiftly replaced with, "Hmmm... hope it's not a stalker." I mean, this thing was HUGE - about ten feet across and filled in with bright pink and blue and green chalk. Nothing subtle about this guy.

But then again, when did I get to be so cynical?

* * *

My weight loss has somewhat stalled, although with good reason. My last few weeks have been filled with visiting family, having family visit me, summer picnics at work, etc. I've made the wisest food choices in each occasion, but that doesn't mean I stayed in the calorie level required to continue to lose. I'm not gaining, just wavering within a 2 lb range, but my net loss hasn't changed in over a month. I'm not giving up, and on the days when I have the ability to control my food intake, I stick to the plan (which is probably what keeps me from gaining.) I hope this week I'm able to stay moderate and see some more results by next weekend. I miss seeing the scale drop. Although I had a doctor's appointment and he was impressed to see that I was down 50 lbs. since my last visit.

* * *

One of my baby fish died, the first one since they were mosquito sized. I don't know what was wrong with him; he was hovering near the gravel breathing heavily when I left for work, and dead as a doornail when I got home. (What is a live doornail anyway?) It's still amazing that I had 15 (now 14) out of 17 babies live to adulthood. One even appears to be pregnant, but I'm not going to play god (or man, really) and try to save them. They will have to fend for themselves in the gravel and plants in the tank, and if they manage to avoid getting eaten by their older relatives, bravo. I just can't have any more fish. My tanks are overcrowded as it is.

* * *

I have not given thought to writing in way too long. My creativity is dormant. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe after the rush of the spring writing workshop, I needed a break? But this is why I'm 43 and virtually unpublished. No discipline, no constant drive.

* * *

First morning without the a/c on. I had to turn it off during the night because I got cold. The windows are open and I'm happy, but of course it's much too early for the bakery to fill the neighborhood with the dreaded burnt smell. Yeah, I thought that all the baking was done early, too, but the burnt sugar smell hits around midday, so I'm not sure what they're doing. It's one of those old Italian bakeries with an Italian ice window in the front. This past week people lined up five and six deep for ices.

* * *

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


It's so hot that my toothpaste, coming out of the tube, feels warm. My bathroom doesn't have air conditioning, just my bedroom. Even the fish in the living room are surviving with just a ceiling fan. They're tropical fish, true, but 90 + degree water isn't good for them. In their South American natural habitat they can swim down into the cooler depths of the rivers and oceans; here they are stuck in a small square box without much opportunity for relief.

The Scoop on Stuff

I am turning 44 next month. I have to keep repeating it, because the first time it popped into my head I got depressed. Why does 44 seem so much older than 43? The difference between early 40's and mid 40's I guess. Turning 40 wasn't as bad as turning 39 - being at the end of my 30's bugged more than being at the start of my 40's. It doesn't matter. I'm still older than most of my colleagues at work; I graduated high school before some were even born.

* * *

It's already August! I still feel like the summer has just started. I bought a bathing suit but have not worn it yet. I am not much of a swimmer and don't often have occasion to swim. A friend of mine just suggested going to Coney Island this weekend, which I might do if it's not in the 90's or, god forbid, 100's. Coney Island can be insane and crowded and loud and obnoxious, even in nice weather.

It's supposed to hit 100 today.

* * *

My friend just moved back to NYC after 5+ years in Europe, and she and her husband have rented an apartment just blocks from mine! It will be fun, but also strange, to have someone that close. My last experience with having a close friend in the neighborhood ended poorly when she stopped speaking to me. Oh, yes, the woman upstairs who I've alluded to but not yet fully explained. In a nutshell: we used to be friends, I got her the apartment upstairs, I asked if she could be less noisy in the mornings, she refused to speak to me again.

Of course this time will be different, as I'm not living in the same building with this other friend. But I can now do all the things I looked forward to doing with the first - pointing out the best place to buy fresh fish or ripe peaches, hanging out in Cobble Hill Park with an iced coffee and the NY Times, eating brunch at places I don't feel like going into alone, etc.

* * *

"Scoop" was pretty bad, and I'm a Woody Allen fan, although one that is resigned to the knowledge that he makes bad films ("Curse of the Jade Scorpion," "Anything Else") as well as good ones ("Matchpoint," "Husbands & Wives," and the older classics.) Worse than the sparsely written plot (with a dangling storyline that was grating on my nerves until he "wrapped it up" in a throwaway line in the last few minutes of the film) was Scarlett Johanssen. I don't want to blame her, as I've been impressed with Scarlett on other occasions, so I'll assume that Woody directed her to do a Woody Allen impression, and you can guess how successfully that came off. (The only Woody-ish character I've liked was John Cusack in "Bullets Over Broadway.") Her character is a budding journalist who goes undercover to unearth a possible serial killer, so sometimes it's hard to tell if she's playing a woman who's really bad at pretending to be someone else, or if it's simply bad acting. But then the empty facial expressions and awkward voice spills over into scenes where she is no longer undercover, but is being herself, and it's clear that she's flat-out uncomfortable in this role. And she looks - weird. Someone decided the best way to make her look frumpy and comedic is to pad her in unflattering clothes that make her look pregnant. I don't think that Scarlet Johanssen has that big a butt, and while I'm aware of the internet obsession with her breasts, even they were not displayed to much advantage. Now all of this is fine - I don't think that every character an attractive actress plays has to look like a goddess - but there was something off about the frumpiness in relation to the character. A pair of glasses and a fat ass do not a nerdy girl make, if the nerdiness isn't coming across in the acting itself.

At least Woody didn't attempt to script a relationship with her, although his character does pass himself off as her father instead of her grandfather. Yes, I know that Woody himself is having children in his late 60's, so being only 50 years older than a fictional daughter is probably a stretch.
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