Friday, November 30, 2007

Signs and more signs

I decided it's time to make a file folder for the paperwork for the new coop. I pulled out a folder and the tab was folded over and I thought, "that's not a good sign," and when I went to smooth it out, I got a paper cut. That's not a good sign, either.

Luckily I don't believe in signs. Not really. I believe in them when I interpret them as good, not when they could be bad.

I felt pretty elated walking back from the lawyer's office this morning. A week ago I was just answering an ad about this apartment, and now I am in contract to buy it. Things are moving quickly, but since I still feel like I've been in the process for months, it's fine with me. My mother asked if I still had boxes packed, but of course I never unpacked them.

Contracts, signed.


My cold is at that point where the worst symptoms are gone, but the most obvious ones are in full force. I feel a lot better, but sound incredibly worse. I think we can call it the "sympathy stage."

I haven't been able to go to the gym all week because I can't breathe. But I also have no appetite, so seem to have slipped away from some of the excess pounds that followed Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What is real anyway?

At work yesterday I attended a seminar on virtual worlds (Second Life, etc.) and the business opportunities they are creating. The presenter, reacting to the bewildered stares in the room, likened it to the early days of the Internet: few could understand how anyone was going to make money online.

I think I get that, and I think I can see the natural evolution. We used to conduct commerce in the real world for real goods, and when faced with the opportunity to conduct commerce in cyberspace for real goods, we were puzzled and resistant and then leaders like Amazon and EBay showed us how it could be done. Now, it's strange to stand up in front of a room of twenty-somethings and tell them about how just 15 years ago we had conference after conference obsessed with questions of whether or not the corporate world could actually make a profit on the web.

Now, it's questions of the viability of commerce in cyberspace for virtual goods. There is virtual money, backed by real money, which means that many business needs are still valid, plus all of the variations that unregulated virtual worlds bring, like can you be taxed in the real world on making profits in the virtual world with virtual money, or only when you convert your virtual money back to real money? (Which I assume must happen at some point, if you are one of the growing number who make a living off of their virtual world businesses. After all, virtual money doesn't pay rent in the real world or buy real groceries for the sustenance of living bodies. Unless your landlord and grocer are also willing to barter real life goods for virtual currency? My head hurts if I think about this too long.)

I was annoyed that some of the audience members seemed unable to grasp the simplest concept. Note that I was likely one of the oldest in the room, and one of the few not in an accountant or in a similar financial role. (Maybe they are too literal?) One kept asking, "But the land isn't really land, is it?" No, honey. And the world wide web isn't really a shimmering web of silken strings hanging out in space with your website domain sitting neatly at its IP address.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sick Days

I feel so much better today. Still stuffy, and sneezing and coughing, but the chills and stomach pain is gone. And no more headache.

Today's technology means you never really can call in sick. You can "work from home," lie in bed with your laptop or blackberry nearby, scan for urgent emails when you get up to use the bathroom. No need to miss meetings, they are taking place over the phone anyway, and the toll free conferencing number is as easy to dial from home as in the office.

We don't even have "sick" days in my company, nor in the place I worked last. All days off are lumped into one category, be it sick or vacation or personal time, and you record them the same.

Long gone are the "mental health days" of my early work years, when you'd save a sick day for a day when you had little going on at work and could call you boss that morning with a scratchy-voiced feeble excuse, and just climb back into your lazy bed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sick, sick, sick

Door two

My offer on apartment #2 was accepted. Limited celebration now, both due to my cold and my caution in light of the last debacle. I'll celebrate after the closing, and even more after I move in, (when my piano and all of my things are safely there.)


I'm pretty laid back when it comes to germs in public places - my theory is if you think too much about what you're exposed to, you'd never leave your house. Over the weekend I was in the Tea Lounge and ordered a tuna sandwich, brought out by the kitchen guy (not a true waiter; it's a place with counter service and a "we'll bring it out to you" for more complicated items from the kitchen.) He held something else in his other hand and as soon as he set that plate down in front of another customer, he turned his head and sneezed into his now-empty hand, away from my tuna sandwich in the other. For once, I felt a big apprehensive, but took it and ate it anyway.

Yesterday I came down with a cold, sneezing, headache, and stuffed up nose (one side only.) This morning I awake to swollen glands and sore throat.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Door one or door two?

I had the apartment dream again. Oddly, I haven't been having it as I've been apartment hunting. Why is that? Because I am seeing different places so I don't have the need to invent them? In last night's dream I moved into an apartment in this same building, upstairs, and was surprised to find that instead of the two apartments that used to be up there, there now were four or five, with odd configurations (one involved walking down the public hallway to a separate bathroom.) I was watching the new neighbors out of the peephole in my front door and it slipped open, and I made a show of trying to close and lock it again, but it wouldn't close, it wasn't really the right sized door, so I just tied it closed with a piece of material. The people in the hallway (which was now being used as a bedroom, with bunk beds built into the wall) were giggling at me. I said something about just having moved in, and turned back into my apartment and there were piles of unfamiliar clothes and things and I began to worry that maybe it wasn't my new apartment after all.

Meanwhile, I may have another shot at the last apartment I bid on and lost. And then I went to see another yesterday and fell for that one, too. Each is not perfect, and each has exactly what the other lacks - big closets vs. none, a brand new kitchen vs. an older one, an elevator vs. a walk-up. Yet I could happily see myself in either. I may not have an answer on #1 before I will need to make a decision on whether to bid #2, but don't want to put all my eggs in one basket and lose the other.

Not exactly a mystery about last night's dream.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Shop around

After 6 holiday seasons (the currency for measuring time in retail), I left my career at a major department store chain absolutely hating shopping. Part of it was being thrust into the pack of wild animals I'd sneered at from the other side of the counter, and part of it was frustration when those at the register were not as quick or efficient as I'd been or as those I'd managed.

Almost two decades have passed, and I still find shopping at peak times unappetizing. (And despite all of the media hoopla yesterday, in my experience the busiest shopping day of the year wasn't "Black Friday" but was, depending on the day of the week on which Christmas fell, the Saturday before Christmas or Christmas Eve, or the "One Day Sale" we held a week or so prior. But in the rising tide of holiday sales, the Friday after Thanksgiving was an obvious peak that left us exhausted, never to fully recover until sometime in early January, during the brief lull between gift return madness and preparing for inventory season. It's not hard to figure out why I left retail, is it?)

A friend told me about another friend who was staying up Thanksgiving night to be first on line at the local mall when it opened at 2 am Friday. Yes, that is crazy, but the only reason a store would bother to open at 2 am is if it's lucrative for them, so there are clearly enough crazies out there to make it worthwhile. And seriously, you have to be somewhat excited by the whole circus aspect of it to join in. If you hate fighting the crowds, there's always gift certificates or the internet. Or catalogs.

I remember when the Sears "Wish Book" would arrive in the mail, and we kids would scour its pages, folding down the corners of ones which held the gifts we absolutely had to have. I think some of our letters to Santa included page numbers.

Earlier this week I did some shopping for my growing group of nieces and nephews and cousins. I like the smaller, independent toy stores with their mix of European imports and trendy brands. I know that most of what I like, the Plan Toys and the Melissa & Dougs, are sold at the big chains as well, and that they really aren't as unique as they appear, but there is something nice about not having to tunnel past plastic action figures from movie cartoons, and dolls so ugly (and yet so popular) my head hurts.

This year I became obsessed with kids' card games and board games. Hopefully the children in my family will be as eager as I am to play the "Sleepy Princess and the Pea."

Friday, November 23, 2007

I'm Not There....

I am either too uneducated in Bob Dylan lore or too stupid to get the cultural references, but to me, "I'm Not There" was not the filmatic ecstasy that Tony Scott of the NY Times raved over. I don't like feeling too dumb to understand a movie, but I gave up long before the giraffe and the giant tarantula appeared.

I feel better having read some of the comments on the Times website (found at the same page as the review.) Apparently, even married couples were divided in their love vs. confusion over what it all meant, with the division directly tied to familiarity with Dylan-ology.

On the other hand, not everyone loved "Across the Universe."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How many movies in how many days?

I don't think I'll break any records this vacation as I have been going to the movies so often, there's not much out there I haven't seen and still want to.

Wait, I forgot films opened today because of Thanksgiving tomorrow. "I'm Not There," the Bob Dylan movie starring a bunch of disparate people playing Dylan (including Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett, and a young black boy), started today across the street. I think I have another film to see...

"No Country for Old Men" was a really good, powerfully made, well-acted film. And violent. A friend told me not to worry when I said I was afraid to see it because of the violence; he'd seen it and thought it would be fine. Now I am beginning to wonder about him, because it was really violent and really bloody. Blood is practically a separate character in the film. True, it's the calm slow realistic violence, not the cars-crashing, buildings-exploding, bodies-burning violence you see so often these days, but that violence is numbing and this kind of violence is terrifying, because it's more real.

The movie is quiet, deliberate, direct. It's essentially a long chase scene, a man hunting another, a sheriff bound by duty to hunt both. There are some remarkable scenes where almost nothing happens but your heart jumps out of your throat, like the old-school thrillers. Sound is almost another character - footsteps, the ticking of a tracking device, the thud of a briefcase. When a car does crash into another it's not the musically scored screech and blast of bigger films, but an abrupt metal on metal impact that is over before you can swallow again.

The movie is very very good, and yet I don't think I could ever watch it again.

"Park" is an independent comedy I'd never heard of that had nothing going for it but that it was one of the few movies I'd not seen and it started about the time I wanted to be sitting in a theater out of the cold sleet and rain. It's a weird, quirky, odd little movie about a park in California that draws a group of misfits: a suicidal young woman, a lonely dog-washer and his hot little Polish helper, a cheating husband in a big SUV, and a group of young corporate types on their lunch hour eating sushi in a van. Throw in a blender, shake, pour. Before it's over we have a converted lesbian, a duct-taped SUV, a blonde in a maid's uniform off to a come-to-Jesus mission lunch, a romantic interlude in the dog's bath, and a near naked man (wearing tight shorts that reveal his butt cheeks) covered in green vomit. Not hilarious, but it had its moments. It'll do if you want a laugh.

(Me, I played "how many of these actors now have hit TV shows, since this was made in 2006? Billy Baldwin, the cheater, is Patrick on "Dirty Sexy Money;" one of the girls in the van is the Cut-throat Bitch on "House;" the other, Melanie Lynskey, has been Charlie Sheen's neighbor on "Two and a Half Men" (knowing if she's still a regular would mean I'd have to watch that show more than when I'm flipping during commercials during "Heroes"); one of the guys in the van plays Sanjay on "Weeds," the gay about-to-be-a-baby-daddy drug dealer. Oh, and there's Ricki Lake - whatever is she up to these days?)

Looking again

I let the apartment go. I bid up to my limit, and the realtor said the seller was standing firm and that there were others about to make offers higher than mine. If I matched the seller's asking price I would lock it in, otherwise, the other potential buyers might drive it up in a bidding war. I said that obviously that would be great for the seller, but that I wasn't going to go any higher, so best of luck to all of them. Call me if the other offers don't materialize.

It wasn't so much calling her bluff as refusing to engage in the dance. If I met the seller's price and then she came back and said, oh, another bid came in, just $5K more and you're in, I'd feel like I had gone that far, and well, why not? Which is just the way to get sucked in to doing what you don't want to do. I don't stay away from gambling for nothing - I can see myself just playing "one more time" over and over.

I don't buy lottery tickets either, but that's because the odds are so bad.

Seriously, though, I don't think that in this real estate market, buying something at a price higher than you feel comfortable with is a good idea. Even in NYC.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Off, off, off

I have too many unused vacation days, which I'll lose at year end. I was saving them to move, when I thought I'd be moving this fall. Now I am taking them. This week we are closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving, so it's only three days. Usually I like to work when most people are off, when it's quiet in the office, but I'm over that. I am tired, drained, brain-emptied, and need to recharge my batteries.

Family will come later this week; for the next three days I plan on writing, reading, cleaning, and shopping. Movies, of course.

I am likely going to be out-bid on the apartment. I'm torn between feeling very sad and feeling that it wasn't meant to be. The sad side keeps calculating how much higher I can go, and the resigned side knows that's a dangerous path to get on.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Two movies, mixed response.

I thought "Wristcutters: A Love Story" would be fun and quirky but it's more dreary and quirky, not that one should expect more from a romance set in the suicides' afterworld. I don't mean dreary in a way that's not entertaining, for part of the appeal of the film is observing the world itself: its dead-end jobs, sad landscapes, lethargic population. Where else would suicides go, or more accurately, what else would that world become when they're the only ones in it? Just when the movie begins to drag itself down on its own whimsy (Will Arnett as a Messiah!), it ends, and the ending is so enjoyable that it makes up for most of the missteps that went before. (A levitating man! A black hole that eats sunglasses and lighters!)

"Margot at the Wedding" caused two very different reactions at the theater when I saw it: a round of applause from some members of the packed auditorium, followed by a rant outside between two people about everything they hated in it. Put me squarely with the haters.

I think it's partly the result of too high expectations. You have Noah Baumbach, whose last film "The Squid and the Whale" was one of my favorites of last year; Jennifer Jason Leigh, who has always been sadly underused as an actress (her imdb profile is trying to contradict me, but most of the films they list even I haven't heard of); Nicole Kidman, who when she's good, is so very very good; and Jack Black, that every-guy that never fails to make me smile.

What we get is a mishmash of scenes where unlikeable people do mean things to each other, revealing years of complicated past history but no hint of promise or change. Which is okay, mostly. I don't need my movies wrapped up neatly in a bow before the closing credits (if they do, I'll sneer and roll my eyes in my usual "oh-I'm-too-cool-for-this" posturing), but I do like to feel that the characters have taken me on some kind of journey before dropping me unceremoniously by the side of the road. (Or in this case, on a dreary rural bus, coasting along that same road.) For the first time in a long time, I was startled when the credits rolled, not just because the movie felt short (at 90 minutes, it's not that short) but because it felt unfinished, incomplete.

Nicole Kidman's character is so despicable that she's hard to watch, and it's not just her weirdly stretched eyes and frozen features. (I came home to find "Malice" on cable; one of my favorite trashy thrillers, it also reminds you sadly of how beautiful she was when she was natural, not just when she was young. She doesn't look good now, pretending she's as young as she was 20 years ago; you can't help but wonder how gorgeous she would be with a natural softness to her face.)

Jennifer Jason Leigh is five years older than Kidman, but always looks so young, not just because of her small stature but due to her gawky, coltish nature. Here her face is softly lined and she's still pretty, a lesson too late for Kidman. Leigh's misfortune is to have to play off Kidman, and she does a good job of matching that cold negativity with strong emotion, but in the end neither character seems to have much of a center. They're almost too realistically complex to be realistic. That's fine in life, but in a film, it can be an incomprehensible drag.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A house is a house is a house

So, yeah, I made an offer on another apartment. I'm moderately hopeful. I can't be blase about it, because the reality is that I have to be in love with a place in order to fathom pouring my $$ into it. I have to have an emotional investment to make a financial one.

I was talking to my mother last night and we were looking at the pictures/floorplan on the website, and both trying to figure out where my furniture would go. She stopped, thinking that we shouldn't put the cart before the horse (or count the chickens before they hatch - those farmers were quite the pessimists), but my theory is that I have to think through where I'd put my piano in order to know if it really would work, size-wise.

To be continued...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rebound love

Oh, I fell in love with another apartment. It has been a kind of lust-from-afar-movie-star love, as I really thought that I wouldn't be able to afford it, and that if I could, it's probable that someone else has already snatched it up. I'm finding out that both of those assumptions are false. I may be able to afford it, and by the immediate response by the realtor, it seems there is no competition at the moment. It's been on the market for several months and the asking price was reduced a few weeks ago, without any apparent effect. (Except on me, because before it was completely out of my range.)


There is a spider walking across the wall in front of me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Morning after questions

I am not sure if my previous post lets on how freaked out I was. I really was scared, in the moment, and then after I was embarrassed, when so many cops showed up and nothing much had actually happened.

But I told a couple of people at work today and they thought I absolutely did the right thing.

So, last night

I rode in the back of a police car for the first time in my life. Now, that's an intriguing opening line for a story, yes? And it's true. Last night I was in the bodega (and it's the same question I always have - is it a "bodega" if it's run by Koreans?) down the block and there was an altercation at the register between the proprietor and a young man, and the man refused to leave, saying he would "take something" first. The man at the register waved me forward and I handed him a $20 and, as you would expect, the other guy grabbed the $20 out of his hand and raced out of the store. The proprietor jumped over the counter and raced out after him. And I called 911.

Now, understand, this argument between them had been going on for several minutes. I was ready to pay but held back, concerned by their raised voices that something might happen - a weapon produced or the angry guy lashing out at me, the person on the side of the counter with him. And when they raced out of the store, my only thought was that the owner would be lying a block away in a pool of blood after a fight.

I would say 10 police officers showed up within 4 or 5 minutes. That's something to feel good about, right? But of course then I felt really guilty and silly. The owner of the store came back just then; he'd lost the guy he was chasing. One officer (a woman) questioned me and asked me to ride around in the back of her car and see if I could see the guy anywhere. I didn't. When I got out they took my phone number and asked if I'd be able to identify him later. I said probably not. (I should have said no, but the idea of participating in a lineup is intriguing. They'll never find him, though, based on my flimsy description.)

Oh, and in case you are curious, the cameras in this particular Korean bodega do not record.

Oh, and when I went back into the store with the police, the owner gave my not only my purchases, but change for my $20. I was still too stunned to do anything but take it, although now I feel like I should have refused the change. Split the loss, so to speak.

Monday, November 12, 2007

American Gangster-ish

A friend told me repeatedly how fabulous "American Gangster" is. I learn a lot about people by what they recommend me; I recall feeling really ambiguous about the PR agency my company hired when our account executive convinced me to read "The Firm," telling me it was one of the best books she'd ever read. I've had a friendship sour over an obsession with "Titanic." (I should have realized how bad her taste was when "Braveheart" was her other favorite film.)

Now I'm not giving up on this particular friendship just because of the way she raved over "American Gangster," but it does puzzle me that someone I thought I had a lot in common with would go so ga-ga over that film. I don't think it's a bad movie, just not really rave-worthy.

It's hard to define what bothered me about it, but it might just be that Denzel Washington is not the right actor to play someone inherently evil. You want him to have motivation for his bad deeds, and the film gives him just the barest - his late boss wasn't a true crime boss, as he still answered to the white man, so Denzel cuts out the "middle man" and starts an enterprising drug organization that hits all the hot buttons of capitalistic glory. I might be able to buy that, but what exactly turns this man into someone who can put a bullet into a rival's head right out on the street (in front of the man's girl friend, and innocent civilians) and not blink an eye? Everyone wants to catch this guy for his drug dealing, but nothing is said about his murderous rages. At one point, his mother begs him not to become a cop killer, which makes no sense - he's already killed, isn't that horrifying enough for a mother to accept? Her son killed the son(s) of other mothers. Or is she just as heartless as he is, just hoping he doesn't cross the line far enough to put him in the chair?

I kept thinking of "The Departed" and wondering why that movie worked for me with a completely amoral character like Jack Nicholson's. Maybe because Jack is that different an actor? That I don't need to see his motivation or understand him? Denzel is smooth and charming in this role, but you never see the monster inside him. An acting choice? Maybe. But I wanted to walk away knowing less about how big the house was he bought for his mother than about how many people he killed to afford it. My own steadfast "morality" getting in the way of my enjoyment of a film? Maybe.

I also just didn't feel that entranced by the movie's plot. We know right from the start how Denzel runs his operation, and for much of the film, Russell Crowe's detective/lawyer isn't even aware of him, let alone on his tail, so when he finds him easily it's not much of a revelation. Compare that to "The Departed" and the endless tense moments when Leonardo DiCaprio's undercover cop seems like he's been found out.

I think for me, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" is a much more satisfying thriller.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday night, living

I skipped some invitations this weekend just so I could do my own thing - anything I damned well pleased, on my own schedule, no judgment, no explanation. Sometimes I wonder how I could ever be anything but single after all these years of twisting solitude into patterns that comfort me.

Last night I pulled out the sofabed so I could watch the (fixed) HD TV and fall asleep if I felt like it. I did, dozing off at one of those ungodly early moments (9?) and waking up about midnight to the sounds of a party. I think in the apartment below me, as it's too cold for it to be in the backyard outside my window. It doesn't matter - the new couple below me are pals with the couple in the back, and the guy across the hall seems to be in their posse. It's like Melrose Place here - although I suppose that's too archaic a reference for these 20-something guys.

So I was okay with the noise, just turned up my TV louder, but then I woke up again with a headache and realized I was smelling cigarette smoke. Was it drifting through the radiator, the gaps around the pipes, the floor? Or were they standing below my window smoking outside? They all smoke, but it smelled like they were all chain smoking. It reminded me of coming home from smoky bars, in the old days, with hair that smelled like an ashtray and that turned your pillowcase into one if you went to bed without showering.

But I was in my own apartment.

I have found another reason to move.

Monday, November 05, 2007


I never got around to talking about "Lars and the Real Girl," which I saw last weekend (or the one before?) and enjoyed quite a bit. It's not what you might expect from the premise (man dates realistic-looking life-size sex doll) but more of a real love story about a troubled young man learning to love and the small town that helps him. Ryan Gosling is just wonderful, as is the actor who plays his brother, another man struggling to connect emotionally, but in a more subtle way.

"Dan in Real Life" not only has a similar-sounding title, but also boasts a romantic bowling scene (as does "Across the Universe" and a recent episode of "Ugly Betty" - bowling is the new house o' love.) It's touted as the best romantic comedy of the fall, and "finally, and a comedy for adults," which means, as far as I can see, that there are no jokes about bodily fluids. (As far as I can recall.) I liked it because I find Steve Carrell nicely, naively charming, and the story is decently realistic, with people behaving more like people than movie characters. I am, however, completely bowled over (c'mon, let me have that one), by the way Dan's extended family is portrayed in the film during their annual end-of-summer trip to the family vacation home. Have you ever gone on vacation with your family? Especially when there are kids involved of multiple and overlapping ages. In this family, the groups split into male vs. female to race to finish a crossword puzzle. After dinner, naturally, comes group games like charades. In the morning, everyone assembles on the lawn for group aerobics. And, to cap it all off, an annual talent show in which everyone participates! In my family, which is notably smaller, we're lucky if we can assemble around the Christmas tree at the same time to open gifts. (It usually takes some degree of pre-negotiation that addresses conflicting children's bedtimes, the arrival of non-family guests, and when the dogs will be least likely to be disruptive.) Recently we tried a Boggle tournament, but I think we managed 5 people for 3 or 4 hands before it dwindled down to two of us. So, yeah, I did like "Dan in Real Life," but I lusted after his family life. If that's "real," then bring it on!

Last night I saw "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," a Sidney Lumet film starring Ethan Hawke, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Albert Finney, and Marisa Tomei. If you have heard anything about this film, you've heard that it's great, and believe me, it's all true. It's scary and fascinating and sad and bewildering. Hoffman is insanely good, and Hawke is mesmerizing. Even Marisa Tomei, playing her usual trashy hottie, shows enough depth to hush those who still question her Oscar win. It's at once a crime drama and a family tragedy, and does both brilliantly.

Side note: one actress has popped up in three films I've seen this past month. Amy Ryan plays one of Dan's sisters (or sisters-in-law - you really need to take notes at the start of that film or you never quite remember who is married to who or has which kids) in "Dan in Real Life," Ethan Hawke's character's ex-wife in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," and the kidnapped girl's mother in "Gone, Baby, Gone." A great deal of screen time for someone whom I had never seen before, and each of the roles are very different from each other, showing great range in someone I want to see more of.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Done. Another Cable Box/DVR, and this one is working. For now. I'm not very optimistic, right?

I feel hungover from lack of sleep. I'm not in any mood to call them back and negotiate my credit (which has remained an open issue, pending final resolution of my issues.) I seriously feel ill.

In my story, my protagonist just woke up with a hangover.


The replacement box won't turn on. It's dead. He says he'll be right back. He leaves his cell phone here, so I believe him.


He says it's the cable box, and goes outside to get a new one. He doesn't come back right away, so I go downstairs, thinking he's locked out. The door is braced open and he's leaning on a parking meter, chatting on his phone.


The technician is speaking Russian on his cell phone. I don't think it's work-related.




Veronica, who has a decidedly masculine voice, says that it's still on the schedule and she completely understood why I'd call after waiting 2 1/2 hours yesterday.

I don't think I'm going to make it to the gym today, as I have a number of open houses to go to that will eat up my afternoon.

At least being trapped here is forcing me to work on a short story draft that is due to my writing workshop on Tuesday. It's something new, too.


On hold for 18 minutes, waiting for what will likely be a distressing conversation, with them saying, "they have until noon to show up," and me being all martyr-like with "just checking, because yesterday I sat here for 2 1/2 hours without a word."

Martyr? Masochist, more like it.

10:01 am, halfway there

Part of me wants to call and see if there is a status update, but I also don't want to deal with the aggravation of talking to anyone right now when I'm in this mood. I just want the damned technician to show up.


It's Sunday morning so not very busy outside and so every time I hear a car door close, I jump up to look outside the window.

9:33 am, still alone

I feel so tired, I'm nauseous. I didn't think I slept that badly last night - I think I fell asleep insanely early, like 9 pm, and don't remember waking up much before 4 am.

Each time I go into the bathroom, I think, this will be the last time before the TWC guy is here.

9:12 am

TWC's automated phone system warns that the NYC Marathon could delay technicians traveling to appointments. The automated woman (I should be on a first name basis with her by now) repeats that my appointment is scheduled from 8 am to noon today, so I hang up.

8:49, nothing yet

what if I live-blogged my TWC wait? would that be as boring as hell?

times, they are a changin'

So while the rest of the country snoozes away, grateful that the switch from daylight savings time to standard time gives them an hour extra sleep, I am, as usual, up and about. For two reasons: 1)since my body clock wakes me at 5:00 am almost every day, it very nicely woke me at what is now 4:00 am. Hurrah! 2)I have a cable appointment at some moment between 8 am and 12 noon.

Now, I'm not the kind of person to actually schedule a cable appointment at this time on a Sunday morning. I generally schedule them (and yes, I have quite the track record to mean this is a habitual decision) post-gym visit and morning errands. In fact, I scheduled this very service call for 2-6 pm yesterday, an appointment which I had on the books for 9 days, and one which Time Warner Cable was kind enough to remind me of with two (not one) automated reminder calls.

Cut to 4:30 pm yesterday, a full 2 1/2 hours into my sitting around trying to find activities that didn't involve the disruption of my apartment (i.e., cleaning the fish tank or swapping summer clothes for winter in the closet.) Phone rings, and it's TWC. I'm used to the routine, so I assume she's calling to alert me to the fact that the technician is downstairs. No, she's telling me they aren't going to make it today.

I can't describe that conversation or I'll risk my mental health.

After two phone calls, I got someone to call the dispatcher to determine that the reason behind the cancellation was that two technicians called in sick. But instead of next Saturday, the original option, they are going to get me an emergency tech visit today, Sunday, from 8 am until noon.

Status to date since August 31:
  • Six scheduled service calls, three actual, one canceled by TWC; one canceled by me after they called the night before to say something had been addressed "in the neighborhood" which amazingly fixed my problem (although it turns out, for two weeks only); one TBD.
  • Two different HD DVRs.
  • Approximately 10 hours of sitting around waiting for them to show up.
  • Approximately 3 hours of waiting around for them to get to my call, or take me off hold.
  • Three billing errors, which caused approximately 1 hour of phone time to "resolve." (Actual confirmation of resolution on hold until the next bill arrives.)
What is wrong here? Am I cursed? A hypochondriac - seriously, the HD DVR DOESN'T WORK. Why don't I just find an alternate service provider? I know they are out there. BECAUSE I WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE MOVED BY NOW.

Every time I call and tell them this is insane, they insist another technician can look at it and fix it. And, I fold.

I can't keep writing about it or I'll risk my blood rising to a boil.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A reunion, of sorts

So recently I was reading my college alumni magazine, which I always do, despite my sadness at how impossibly young and over privileged the students look. I went to an overpriced and not-very-illustrious college that I have no strong feelings about, except that I don't feel it's the best place to donate my money (so stop asking!) Still, it's fun to read up on what others are doing, especially people who I've lost touch with. (Which is, almost unilaterally, all of them.) The last issue had an update on one of the school's sports heroes (not sure why I persist in the fantasy that I need to blind-item my observations here, but announcing the sport feels like too much information), who is now a senior executive in a Boston-based company, and is still married to his college sweetheart, a girl I remember being both strikingly beautiful and completely invisible. (It was a small school - you knew everybody, either through a sorority or an on-campus job, or your academic department, or something. But she seemed to belong to nothing and nowhere, but to him.) He was both a star and a foreigner, and my friends and I lusted after him from afar. (I try to forget my own drunken run-in with one of his friends, one of those "I'm-with-the-band" type guys who traded on his friend's attractiveness but was himself a total ass.)

Because our schools' jocks were, like the stereotype, recruited based on their sports talent and not their academic prowess, it surprised me to learn that this super jock had done so well in the "real" world. Narrow-minded of me, of course.

Last night, he walked into the event I was attending. He is a client of my company's, and the minute he opened his mouth to tell me his name at the registration table, and I heard that accent, I knew who he was. And of course I recognized his wife, more by her name than her face. You see, both of them looked so much older. Not old and ragged by any means - he is a very handsome man with a thick head of silvery hair and a fit build, and she is a well-maintained, slim, nicely coiffed woman. But he no longer is the floppy-haired skinny kid running on the field, and she looked more like a clay model of herself (softened, blurred, weighed down, not by pounds but gravity.)

It's been 25 years. We're old. But are we that old? Am I that old?

Later I couldn't find the words to approach him. I don't think he would know who I was, and I am fairly confident he was never aware of my fling with his friend. (I would be giving myself too much credit to think he'd even remember, if he'd even known.)


I am in Boston for a client event, a pre-show reception and performance of "Wicked" at the Opera House. I was able to see the show when a client cancelled. I was pretty excited about it, as I am a pretty big "Wizard of Oz" fan (I was managing a book/video store during the 50th anniversary of the movie and we ran several cross-promotional activities with commemorative books and events. Plus I used to think I looked a lot like a particular movie still of Judy Garland in her brown pigtails and dreamy smile.)

But I identify myself as someone who doesn't like Broadway musicals, and it takes going to one after a long break to remember why: I don't like the music. It's not memorable to me. I can't tell the songs apart. They don't seem like songs to me, just la-la-la sung words. Even when they are framed like songs, they are not the kinds of songs I'd want to listen to over and over. The musicals I like are ones like "Rent" which have non-traditional music, or "Chicago" which are more period-specific. When I am watching a Broadway musical I keep longing for the song to end so we can get back to the story. Last night's two and a half hours seemed like the Clif Notes version of a book I might like to read.

I also think part of the issue with last night was that I am such a big Wizard of Oz fan, I found it hard to adjust the mythology to contain this version. I read all of the Frank L. Baum "Oz" novels (there are 14), and the mythology there is not really that of the movie, either, but it is the original. But I do think I might like the book, "Wicked," as I expect it explores this alternate reality in more depth. The musical's connection to the movie's story felt constricted to a series of snarky one-liners that had the audience exploding into laughter and me just grimacing. (Except for when a character is offered punch and told it's made of "lemons and melons and pears, oh my!" which inexplicably I found funny.) Maybe it's just that the play felt like a bunch of songs strung together by wink-wink, nudge-nudge inside jokes, that seemed smug and not as much funny as clever.

The actresses in the main roles were good, though, and the parts nicely showed off their talents in both singing and comedy. I kept imagining Kristin Chenowith and Idina Menzel in the roles - I am sorry to have missed that.

I think I'll avoid musicals again for awhile.

After, the 2600 audience members piled onto the street and I followed a colleague to a corner where she promised I could get a cab back to my hotel, before she disappeared into the T. I don't like cities whose cabs don't give you visual clues as to whether they are full or not! I didn't find one immediately, so started walking in the direction she told me the cab would need to go, and before long, I was just walking, although I had only the barest idea of where I was going. I began to think it wasn't very smart, as the sidewalks emptied and I began to pass only closed businesses. And yet, oddly, I felt calm. It was a cool night but I had a coat; I was wearing heels, but comfortable ones. I just walked, trusting that either I'd find a landmark I recognized or be able to flag down a cab if I got off course.

And then, wonderfully, I found myself a block away from our local office, and I could readjust the map in my head to point to the hotel. I passed a group of young couples who seemed lost and happened to mention the name of one of the only restaurants I could pinpoint in the city - one across from the office - so went from wandering cluelessly through the city to providing spot-on directions to others. (I admitted to them I was from out of town, too, but they, Californians, insisted that I was "local.")

I looked up online (not stupid Google maps, which still don't offer options for walking - go green, Google! - but, and discovered I'd walked about a mile and a quarter. Not bad.

Now off to the airport to trek home.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Gone, Baby, Gone

"Gone, Baby, Gone" starts out really strong, with a riveting mystery of a kidnapped four year old girl, and two private investigators (Casey Affleck and Michele Monaghan) in over their heads with their first real case. There are, of course, grizzled cops with attitude who don't want to cooperate with them (including an-always-hot Ed Harris, whose spectacular facial angles still manage to cut through the gray beard his character wears.) There's also the kindly gruff police chief, in this case Morgan Freeman, who is haunted by the kidnapping and murder of his own young daughter years earlier. (He keeps newspaper clippings about it framed on the walls of his office, and offers his past readily to strangers such as the private eyes, the press, and of course, the public.) He tells his detectives to work with the young couple, for no good reason, which becomes even more unbelievable as the plot unfolds.

There is a second mystery, that of a missing boy, and the film manages to move from one to the other in its first two thirds, leaving you only a bit concerned that neither will be satisfactorily solved. Eventually, they are, and while they are linked by circumstance, luckily these connections are believable and well-written without being cliche. Ben Affleck directs, in his feature film debut, and there was much about the visual moodiness of the it that I liked. It has much of the feel of "Mystic River," no doubt because of its setting in working class Boston, and its origin as a Dennis Lehane novel. There is intricacy in the plot, and in the characters - the kidnapped girl's mother is a druggie and a slut, one cop is a liar and another accepts a forced resignation with, well, calm resignation. I was lulled into thinking that this was going to be a really satisfying movie experience.

And, then, whoosh. After 90 minutes or so of being securely in the point of view of Casey Affleck's young earnest Patrick, there is a scene where we are privy to flashbacks from another character, flashbacks that give us insights into the mystery that Patrick doesn't have. (Cue Scooby "whu-uh?" here.) Completely threw me. It's a cheat to give us a solution that the hero, whom we're following, doesn't yet have. It's a "Murder, She Wrote" quick ending. And it's only the start. In quick succession, Patrick figures out what we know, helped by the fast flashbacks that intersperse the "confessions" that are offered him. And what was a nicely complex and nuanced movie falters into detective TV, with neatly wrapped solutions in pretty visual packages just in time for the credits.

Compare that to the wonderfully acted scene where Ed Harris's character makes another, smaller confession to Patrick, in a moment of drunken grief. He tells us, not with pretty flashbacks, but with the strength of his words and his talent, and we can see it just as powerfully. Film is a visual medium, yes, but it's also a medium for actors, and an actor who shines in small moments like that is what makes a film more than just mediocre.

To be fair, the ending is not simple, with Patrick forced to make a decision that will cost him either way, and on which most audience members would not be able to agree. The film gives us Patrick's decision and a glimpse at its consequences, including a quiet closing scene that almost brought the movie back for me.
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