Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekend ends

My first visit to Trader Joe's was somewhat of a letdown. Even with the live music playing and happy t-shirt clad workers handing out food samples, it was just, really, a grocery store. And not a very big one. True, there are some fun and different things, but most are ones I'll have to avoid if I am going to re-lose the pounds I've re-gained. (Like the Trader Joe's oreos I sampled this weekend.) And the badly designed line system seems to be part of the organizational culture of the store - even with bigger space, they chose wider aisles instead of a distinct and comfortable place for the line to form and wrap upon itself. Frustrates the hell out of me, as I stand there and think I know better and can fix it. Although I will say that keeping the re-usable grocery bags near the exit where you can't get at them if you're at an express register is not the smartest decision.

Meanwhile, time marches on.

1- It seems like just a few weeks ago I went to see Stephen King present "Best American Short Stories" at Selected Shorts. But it's another year, and another edition and I'm going in just a few days to see the current guest editor, Salman Rushdie.

2- My phone has been out since Friday. When I called then, they were going to send someone on Saturday until I said I was going away for the weekend. So, I was told if I stayed home Monday they could come. Luckily I called just now and I don't need to stay home because, as I suspected, it's not just me but a swathe of the neighborhood (all of us stuck to our landline tether) and it will be fixed outside. I feel really cut off, though, which is dumb, as I have 2 cell phones (work and home, although the work one doesn't get any reception here) and of course, you, the internt. Hi.

3- October looms. Already?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

49 3/4 hours and counting...

The worst part of it is that I have suddenly been called into a Friday morning meeting (3 hours long!) that will prohibit me from working from home and slipping out to the Trader Joe's opening festivities. So instead of enjoying live music, prizes, and camaraderie with borough president Marty Markowitz, I'll be sitting in a meeting on a topic that isn't really relevant to my job responsibilities, with people who have no direct correlation to my team, but serve the purpose of providing office politics points. (Since I've been promoted, playing the game has become more common but also more distressingly obvious. We'll see how long I last at that.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


to get back onto a schedule and into a discipline. I always feel like my schedule is tied to some future happening and I make a promise that after that client event or that weekend visiting family or that business trip, I'll take control of my life again. But there's always another looming ahead. This week I am trying to stick to my gym schedule and eat well, because giving up just because I will be away this weekend (away from gym accessibility and control over what I am given to eat) is silly. I'll be fine this weekend, but between now and then I'll be super.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ooops, never posted, from Sunday

I had a few hours this afternoon that should have been devoted to work, or at least to writing, and I gave them to myself for a movie. "Burn After Reading," the new Coen brothers film with the parade of stars. Filmed partially in Brooklyn Heights - a Brooklyn Heights standing in, apparently, for Georgetown in DC.

The movie is getting fairly uniformly panned, and while it's not my favorite Coen brothers comedy, (I'm of the "Raising Arizona" fan base, with a good helping of "The Big Lebowski" - although not to the extent of those who have created a cult for the latter), I enjoyed it. It has a bit of "Fargo" thrown in (excess violence spinning the movie into another direction, seemingly just for the sake of plot) and a not unwatchable jaunt by George Clooney as a hapless playboy. And Tilda Swinton might be wearing mascara! At least her eyelashes are somewhat visible, which almost makes it up to me for her other roles (and real life appearances) where she looks like an alien. (I'm cruel, I know. But I do think that Tilda's character is one of the best in the film.)

But, why do John Malkovich's teeth look like they are too big for his mouth? Has he always looked that way, or is it a character choice? Maybe as he ages his face is shrinking around his teeth.

And, go!

Another weekend with visitors: nice, but I would ideally have spread them out a bit instead of back-to-back. In between I was stuck in a busy work week so have had little time to do much more than the barest of essentials. No movies.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Yes, a fire

I walked around the block on my way to work and yes, it was a fire. The building owner was out front taking pictures and she explained how someone had put out a loveseat for trash pickup, and she'd asked that they bring it up against the building (large item pickup isn't til Friday) and sometime during the night (morning) someone lit it on fire. She said three cans of recycling and trash burned, too. The outside of the building was blackened, mostly basement and first floor apartments, with broken windows. Nobody was hurt, she said, although 2 cats are missing. Yeah, that is sad. Naturally as I walked away toward the subway my eyes were glued to the ground (under cars, behind bushes, along fences) looking for frightened kitties.

In the wee small hours of the morning.

Wake up to the sound of trucks idling, the beeping sound they make when backing up, muffled voices. My window is open and I go to look and I can smell, distantly, smoke. Soon, flashlight beams in the backyards - from the roof of the building directly behind me? Voices, clearly, "fire."

One just said, "drop down?" to another. I hear their heavy steps on the fire escape across the way. What are they looking for or what have they found?

My window is open again and I'm not smelling the smoke. Are they looking for fire they can't see but can smell? The other option is that they are police and searching the backyards for someone who's escaped into them.

Radio static.

I want to go outside and around the block and see, but I don't want to at the same time.

There is a very high-pitched ringing in the distance. A smoke alarm? A sound from a fire truck?

Imagine block after block of brownstones and brick rowhouses. Behind them is open space, a grid of backyards walled in by the buildings. Like the yards in "Rear Window" only not as neatly visible. This is what my bedroom window faces.

Silence now, just the sound of the idling trucks. Windows formally lit are dark.

My upstairs neighbors are getting out of bed. (First, as always, the cat paws hitting the floor, and then the creaking of floorboards that indicates one of the humans. I love how the cat goes first - you know, when you are just waking up and stretching and your feet move and jostles the cat who wakes up.)

The last lit window in that building just went dark. I guess it's over.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Happy almost-birthday

I'm having a birthday party for myself. Of course I came up with a dinner menu that involves more time in the kitchen than I'd like. I'm tired and hot and sweaty. 1 hour 20 minutes til party time.

Friday, September 12, 2008


So, once again, I dive into something full force, after not giving it the time of day for along time. This time it is Facebook - spurred on by a work colleague who invited me to be his Facebook friend, and by the subsequent embarrassment in realizing he would see that I only had 3 of my own (2 siblings and a childhood friend), I began to aggressively reach out to friends to build my list.

And, along the way, a funny thing happened. I found some people I hadn't been in contact with for years. I know, that's the purpose of these things, but it was still a pleasant surprise. I love the ease of re-connecting, of immediately having the ability to see updated photos of old college friends and their children... the only thing that frustrates me is that only a small percentage of the people I look for are on.

I also am not quite sure I like the feature in which you update your profile and a message shoots out to all of your friends letting them know. This goes both ways - I really don't need to know that my teenage cousin was wasted and doesn't know how he got home the other night, nor do I want everyone in my circle to know I've updated the religious views section of my profile. On the other hand, it's sometimes fun to sign on and get a whiff of what people are up to - lots of "happy it's Friday" but also I learned a friend cajoled his way into the Project Runway tents at Bryant Park yesterday through Facebook, and I learned about another's child's birth, complete with newborn photos, the same way.

The biggest coup for me, though, has been an email conversation with a friend I'd lost a number of years ago. Lost, as in, he stopped speaking to me after a silly argument. He reached out to me first, which was nice, and even better, he has continued the dialog, even when the conversation topic seems to have run its course. I still have felt like one wrong move and I'll scare him away, like suggesting we get together in person, but then, lo and behold, he made the suggestion first (albeit in a very general, "we should sometime" way.) When I received that last message it was like I had been coaxing a new kitten to come out from under the bed.

Another day

Staying home yesterday helped to believe it was just another day. (My previous week's commute had been filled with big signs announcing detours and entrance closings that didn't allow you to forget that September 11 wasn't coming.) Before you think I am soft, note that almost all of my co-workers worked from home - the blockades around the office were making access that difficult, so it's about avoiding commuter stress not merely anniversary stress.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


The anniversary is hitting me harder this year. I don't know why. Maybe it's the mood I'm in. Or it might be because I was supposed to be flying to Boston tomorrow for a meeting, and the thought of booking a flight on 9/11 was surprisingly stressful, even weeks ago when it first came up. But the trip fell through and I don't have to go anywhere, and I'm avoiding the travel nightmares around my office (usual access points are blocked) and working from home.

Today, though, walking through the financial center, I passed two men dressed alike in brand new black t-shirts with big ugly white letters proclaiming "9/11 was an inside job." We were in the enclosed walkway between two buildings, directly across from Ground Zero. I'm not generally in favor of censorship, but these two sickened me and I couldn't believe that they could walk around in those shirts. I gave them a nasty look and they snickered at me and I so wanted to shove them up against the wall and tell them they were fucking idiots. How insulting, to be in that place, so close to the anniversary, making that ludicrous statement.

It startled me how angry they made me. I realize it's not them, it's just what they remind me of. The stress of this time of year, again. It's almost my birthday, too, so I try to pretend that I am angry that I can't look forward happily to my birthday without dealing with the bad day first, but that's not entirely true. A friend with an adopted child told me once that adopted children, even those in happy loving homes, often get anxious and stressful around their birthdays, even when they are too young to understand or vocalize why. Birthdays are symbolic of the events that shaped their lives: the physical connection to a birth parent that is no longer a parent, a separation that, despite how wonderful their lives may now be, is still a source of confused feelings and incomprehension. (Guilt, blame, sadness, loss.) I think on some level that is true of all of us; not just the obvious "another year older" but a more fundamental, "this is when I came to be."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Rainy days and Saturdays, redux

Today is expected to be a rain-filled day, with heavier storms later, compliments of Hurricane Hanna. I have enough to keep me busy inside and dry. Rain pounding the windows can be really comforting when you are on the other side of the glass.
The other day I walked past the funeral home, and the sidewalk was crowded with teenagers, all dressed neatly, standing, talking, smoking. I came home and searched the internet to see if I could find a notice of whose funeral it was - a classmate? A beloved teacher? But I found nothing. I don't know why it seemed so important that I know who they were mourning, but it was. Maybe because for a few minutes, while reading about this unknown person whose life was cut short, I could join them in their grief? I don't know.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I realize I am falling into the trap of hypocrisy by suggesting that a woman who hasn't had great success at managing her family would not be able to manage the country. Hypocritcal since I was one who claimed that a man's inability to keep it in his pants didn't mean he lacked the judgment to be president. I admit, it's hypocritical to believe one over the other. If our private lives are our private lives, then let it be. So I agree with the issue shouldn't be how a child's problems reflect on a parent's character, but on how a vice presidential choice reflects on the presidential candidate who chose her.

But let's just go back a couple of days, on the weekend, before any of the crazy came out. I am with a friend, and although I generally skirt any discussion of politics with people I can't 100% read, I mention the VP candidate because it seems like easy conversation, something both of us (she, a staunch Hillary backer and I, the friend she has assumed is the same, because she's never flat-out asked me, and that's what you get when you assume) can share a few light-hearted words over.

But, no.

My friend quickly downplays the Alaskan's conservative reputation, tossing out a factoid about some liberal legislation she's supported (which I've yet to find evidence of anywhere, so can't comment on yet.) My friend, you see, is trying hard to build a case for herself to vote against the Democrats this fall for one simple reason: they are not Hillary. Hillary, she says, deserves to be president, she's always dreamed of being president, and the only way she's going to be able to realize that dream is for us to not let Obama into the White House for 8 years, because then she can't come back in 4 and battle him. She needs the Republican to win so she can, while she's still viable, have another shot. So all we need to do is grit our teeth for four years, because it's all for the best in the long run. Or all for Hillary. Same thing, right?

I knew I couldn't adequately respond to that without destroying our friendship, right there, in the middle of a busy restaurant. (Been there, done that.) But it wasn't easy to sit, listen to this odd logic, and not want to laugh. Or scream.

There was more, about how the Democratic party is damaged beyond repair, and how winning this election now will only destroy it further (only Hillary can really save it! Let it self-destruct until she can be the one to do so!) Enough that I began to question my friend's sanity, and mine, for not responding.

Funny how people used to joke (still do?) about how obsessive Obama supporters were, how cult-ish.

Brand new me

I am branded. The other day I was lighting candles with one of those long lighters, and touched its hot end briefly against my other wrist. It hurt for a second, but not very much.

Now, however, I have a near-perfect red donut emblazoned on my inner wrist. Like an odd tattoo. Or a ringworm mark.

PS Don't google-image "ringworm." Trust me.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Role models

I just went to (still procrastinating, shut up) to check on the hurricane status and saw the headline news: the vp candidate's teenage daughter is pregnant. Seriously. The woman is younger than me and about to become a grandmother. She's a strict right-to-lifer who apparently wasn't able to teach her child about birth control - or even abstinence, if that's what those people prefer their kids to follow. Either way, she failed. Did she learn parenting skills from the Spears mom? Hopefully this sinks the whole candidacy, because really, it's crazy. Remember when Dan Quayle thought that the unmarried (and fictional) Murphy Brown was a bad role model? How about an underage pregnant girl in the White House? What progress we've made.

The House Bunny

I am procrastinating working on a short story, because I've written myself into a corner. There is no place to go and I don't know how far back to go to correct my course. But I have to submit it to the writing group tomorrow so I don't have much time to play around with it.

I had five days off and only saw one movie. I've seen most of what I wanted to see, though. Yesterday I took a brain-break and saw "The House Bunny," a mindlessly lighthearted comedy in the vein of "Legally Blonde." (I actually think there is a third film that needs to be made to complete the trifecta: in "Legally Blonde" we have a sorority girl who uses her unique perspective to take on law school, and in "The House Bunny" we have a Playboy bunny who uses her unique perspective to take on rejuvenating a sorority. Next up has to be a lawyer who uses her unique perspective to take on the soft porn industry.)

Okay, it was pure fun, and definitely funny, mostly because Anna Faris is just hilarious. She deserves a bigger comedy career, and hopefully this movie will catapult her into bigger roles. She should have the career that Kate Hudson stumbled upon.

And with that, back to the looming dark cloud of my short story revision. Sigh.

Hair today

I've always been pretty easygoing about haircuts. I walk in, describe what I want, fairly secure in the knowledge that even if it's really badly screwed up, it will grow back. And the reality is, it never really is screwed up that badly. In fact, usually I ask the stylist to take off several inches, and it's never short enough. I think many of them don't want to take a risk. Sometimes I've wished they would, that they'd surprise me with something really different.

Two weeks ago I replayed the same instructions: shorten here, trim here, bring back the layers so it will curl when I want it to. The stylist made "tsk-tsk" noises about how uneven it was, but promised she'd even it up nicely. She held up pieces and described other things, but you know, once I'm sitting in that chair with my glasses off, I can't see a thing. So I just smile and nod.

(Oddly I find that I can't carry on a conversation with a stylist when I have my glasses off. I have decided this means I use facial cues more than I think. But without my glasses, I'm so blind that I see nothing but a blur and my hearing becomes a blur, too, and I am constantly saying, "excuse me?")

As I'm sure you expect by the tone of this post, this last haircut didn't follow the pattern. The stylist stepped away to get some hair product before starting to blow dry, and I glanced at the floor and was surprised at the pile of hair. She really cut a lot off. She came back and dried it, and, since my hair is never blow-dried (I have lived in my new apt for 6 months and have not plugged in the blow dryer), it always looks nice and shiny and smooth and straight - pretty, but not a true reflection of what the cut will look like going forward. I thought I looked a bit like a mushroom cap, but the receptionist praised me (they always do, of course, right when you're ferreting in your wallet to decide on the tip) and I thought, okay, this will be okay. I mean, it's kinda helmet-like and poofy, but it'll grow back, right?

The blow-dry lasted only a couple of hours, as I was caught in a surprise rainstorm that evening, so I had less time than usual to get used to the length before having to style it myself. Luckily, this is a cut that requires only a fingerful of curling gel and some scrunching and I'm good to go. Unluckily, it also is a hairstyle that looks like hell every morning when I wake up, so there is no option to skip washing it every day.

But the worst part is that I can't make a ponytail. Which means I can't get the hair off the back of my neck when I'm sweating at the gym, and in general, look like a Bozo-clown attacked by a hack saw when I'm working out. I've taken to wearing a bandanna, but that's getting old.

Naturally, I've gotten more compliments on this haircut than on any in recent memory.
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