Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I have been around parents of young children enough to know that transition times are often difficult for kids to handle, whether it's moving from one activity to another, from one location to another, or from playtime to bedtime. I think we resist them as adults, also, or at least I do. My stress at being away destroyed the first night's sleep, but gradually I fell into the groove of being there, and stopped counting the hours until I returned. Then, slipping onto the train home, I felt it again: not so much a reborn level of stress, but a feeling of unmoored panic as I tried to reconfigure myself to fit my old, other, usual, normal, real life.

But I did, and two days later, I'm here, settled, home. Anticipating the next transition as I am forced to move from vacationing me to back-to-work me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


My back window has an iron mesh gate, for security and protection. Yesterday I heard something and turned to see a squirrel trapped between the gate and the window proper, running back and forth on the screen in what appeared to be a panicked state. Nothing I could do (to open the gate I'd need to open my window and my screen, both of which would allow the squirrel access into my apartment) except point upwards in the hope that he'd figure out he could leave the way he came - through the narrow gap where the top of the gate runs along the upper window sill. Finally he ran up and out, only to return a few minutes later, running down and around and up and out. I think he's discovered a playground.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Down, down, down

Christmas eve and feeling down. I can't pinpoint the reason. Maybe a combination of several. Let's try to list them, because naturally that will make me feel better, right?

- I have apartment stress, as a leak from upstairs is growing on my bathroom ceiling and I'm unable to get it looked into due to the holidays (compounded by my being out of town) and of course, it's not my leak but that of the upstairs neighbors, so I have to pester them about it which is uncomfortable.

- I am on vacation but am still being asked to do things for work, which I can't not do, not now, when people are getting laid off, when I need to prove my value. It's not too much actual work, really, it's just the constant buzz in my brain of feeling the need to check in.

- I am not looking forward to my trip out of town. I know that it's not unusual to view time spent with family as stressful, but it's aggravated when everyone is stuck in the house by cold weather, when extra people means it's more likely the well runs dry, when random peripheral relatives

UGH just as I wrote that I received a call confirming departure time for tomorrow. I read what I wrote above and feel silly, stupid. Yeah, some people are coming over who aren't my idea of family, but they're perfectly pleasant people and don't deserve my thinking of them as annoyances. Yeah, I will likely be given dirty looks each time I shower, but I can live through that. Yeah, it will be noisy and crowded when all of the family kids descend upon us in one afternoon, but I can escape, or, even, join in their fun. Why am I being such a Debbie Downer?

I just spent a couple of days with some other family members who were visiting NYC. The irony is that one of them spent much of the time complaining, about one thing or another (the proximity of our table in a restaurant to the door and then, almost as vehemently, the proximity to the heater in another establishment; the number of stairs down to the subway; the "language" of two teenagers crossing the street in front of us; the prices of items in the luxury department store we dashed into for warmth.) I listened and thought, I hope I never sound like that.

And I won't. I am vowing, now, here, to be positive and upbeat for the next 4 1/2 days until I am home again. Because, I can't change everything around me, but I can change how I respond to it.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Breaking news," and for once it is

My 35 minutes on the elliptical machine today coincided with the televised live rescue of two people trapped in their cars by the water main break and flooding in Maryland. I don't think I needed the machine to elevate my heart rate.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Much ado about "The Wire"

I can hear the icy rain hitting the top of my air conditioner. In a few minutes I'll venture out to the gym, scope the state of the sidewalks and streets on the 2 block walk. I am up early, but feel rested, ready. Yesterday, day one of 14 days off, I went to the gym, cleaned, did some knitting, made pea soup, went to the police precinct, watched the first three episodes of season 1 of "The Wire."

Those last two are not connected in any way but my brain. But sitting in the precinct, again, waiting, I had the opportunity to eavesdrop on two interesting conversations - one, a heated debate over whose jurisdiction (if that is the correct term) a recent arrest should have been (complete with several carefully constructed scenarios of "what if"), and a grumbling by a cop of how she hates doing all the paperwork for a missing teenager when the kid just shows up anyway. "But you have to," said the desk sergeant/dispatcher/man standing on the raised platform, "what would the public think if a kid's body washed up and nobody had been looking for her because you didn't do the paperwork?" I'm not sure if this last was for me, the lone civilian, sitting on a hard plastic hair waiting for a detective to bring me a copy of my police report, trying not to appear as if I'm listening, but how could I not?

It's very strange to me that I have enjoyed my two visits there, observing. Is it a desire to draw a parallel between the detective shows/novels I read, and the reality which exists just a few blocks from me? If it weren't for the guns (because, you see, I am always hyper-aware of the fact that each person in the room has a gun strapped to his or her belt - my eye drops to it almost immediately, as if by seeing it I won't be surprised if it's used), I probably could sit there contentedly for hours more.

I don't know why it took me so long to start watching "The Wire." It's only been touted as the best television ever created, by more than one critic. But I get it now - there is something very fresh about the way the story is being told, something not-like-TV, but immensely rewarding. I hear it gets better, and I can't wait. How quickly can those little red Netflix envelopes wind their way back and forth so that I don't wait too long between episodes?

Friday, December 19, 2008


Well, snow and sleet and hail. But, you know, cold wet stuff.

I worked from home, as is typical for Friday, and the day felt little different. It was still dry when I went to the gym before logging onto the computer. I ran out at lunch to mail a package, and then again after logging off for the night, just to escape the prison of work-transitioning-to-home.

Home for 2 full weeks of vacation! (Although I'm on call for possible emergencies, let's pretend there will be none over the holiday.)

I am drinking wine. Can't focus my brain to post here. Later.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Midtown, downtown

Last week I worked at our midtown office, starting out there for a client event, and then staying because it was, simply, easier to do so. I have worked in downtown Manhattan for over three years now, after nearly 15 years near Rockefeller Center. I realize that I miss it terribly - yes, even the crowds of tourists trying to find the Christmas tree, even the weird traffic barriers along Sixth Avenue, even the blue-hairs tumbling out of Broadway matinees. It feels like Christmas there, not here, where I trudge the same convoluted path past (up and over) ground zero, where tourists line up in front of a big construction pit because it means something to them. Maybe it's sadder, here, this year, because the holidays (and bonuses) aren't the same for most on Wall Street. But I don't remember it being much more festive last year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Finest

I spent some time yesterday evening at the local police precinct. (I love that as an opening line.) I had to file a police report because someone used my corporate credit card number and racked up (wracked up? neither looks right) almost $3000 in charges. I've been talking to the credit card company and the merchant involved, and finally was told I have to file my own report in order to get it cleared off my card.

The local precinct is not at all like in the movies or TV - not like the bustling Hollywood sets, but also not like the "gritty realism" we're given instead. Realism here is more dim and institutional: 70's era decor with bad lighting, cheap furniture, sad neutral-colored walls. I sat in the entryway for almost 45 minutes, waiting, separated by a cluster of officers at a square table by a flimsy barricade, and by a podium which had a computer printed sign telling visitors to wait there for an officer, taped over the NYPD insignia. (I stared at it for a long time. Is that an American Indian on the right? Or just some guy with plumed headgear and a long knife?) The place was decorated for the holidays: garlands and lights, mostly.

The men behind me were talking, surrounded by vending machines and not much else. Is this the lounge area? The waiting area? Others came and went, mostly in uniform, one in a dark suit. Talk about who was assigned to do what next, who could drive another officer to another precinct, how many minutes Spenelli (general facsimile of Italian-American surname used) was late coming downstairs.

I was told one of the fraud/identity theft officers would come down to help me. None did. Finally the guy at the desk who'd told me this waved me over to the side and had me fill out a form. He asked me some questions and had me sign my statement. And then I went home, feeling a bit disappointed. I don't know why, but I felt comforted sitting there, observing. I had a reason to be there, and yet was able to be part of a world that I didn't belong to, even if only on a far-removed perimeter. Sitting there for that long I began to wonder, too, what Spenelli was up to (how long does it take to change out of one's uniform?) and when the guy in the suit would stop going in and out to his car and leave for whatever he needed to do in Staten Island.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Medusa in the morning

I was really surprised, yesterday, to see that I hadn't posted here in 2 weeks. I think that's the longest I've gone. I don't know why, exactly; it wasn't a conscious decision. Am I busier? I'm always busy in some way or another.

I think my online behavior has changed, with the intrusion of Facebook into my life. Not that I've become a strict devotee, in the way that I've observed others use it to navigate their social interactions, but I've become - well, an observer of others who use it to navigate their social interactions. It surprises me how many people expose themselves every day, and I don't mean in blatant ways, but in subtle and mundane ones, commenting on their moods or what kind of day they had at work or what their weekend plans are. So I suddenly feel like I have windows into friends', colleagues', and acquaintances' lives in ways I never had before. (I also fall into the trap of being judgmental: why is the young woman who works for me, who happily "befriended" me despite my wondering if it were a good idea, has time to update her status so often?) It's hard not to want to look, though, especially when it's learning things about people I've not been in contact with in many years. (That guy from high school who was only a friend of a friend? He leads a really interesting life now - or so it sounds from his daily postings.)

I also have become addicted to word games on Facebook - not that they are any different than the word games I have on my own hard drive, but there I can challenge friends to play against me. (More palatable than playing strangers live on other sites.) So my morning routine has evolved - I now listen to NPR news radio in the morning as I play word games.

Does this make me any smarter? Ha.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Three films: Milk, Slumdog, and 4 Christmases

I thought that "Four Christmases" might be good, mindless, romantic comedy for the holidays. It's not. It's alternately horrifyingly bad, boringly mediocre, and frustratingly funny. (Frustrating because those few moments made me think it could have possibly been a decent movie.) When the credits rolled and I saw that no fewer than four writers took credit for the script, I realized the problem was, once again, too many cooks in the kitchen. But if you're forced to see it, at least you can entertain yourself by trying to guess in which scenes Reese Witherspoon stood on a box to make herself less than a foot shorter than Vince Vaughn.

Luckily, I've seen two really good movies recently. "Milk" is excellent: strong acting by Sean Penn and Josh Brolin, a compelling story that surprises even if you know its basic elements, a timely political resonance, and a smart, visually interesting direction by Gus Van Sant. I also saw it on opening day in Chelsea, surrounded by gay men (mostly in pairs) and the emotion in the theater was palpable. If I couldn't see it in San Francisco, this was the next best thing.

"Slumdog Millionaire" is even better, a whirlwind of a comedy/romance/drama/fantasy as only Danny Boyle can deliver. (I had to just look him up, as I keep referring to him - when I recommend the film to friends and co-workers - as "the director of Trainspotting" even as I am convinced he's done something as recognizable since. But, apparently, he hasn't, at least not on the level of "Trainspotting." "The Beach"? Didn't that bomb? "Millions"? I liked it, but would have to no doubt explain its entire plot to dazed and blank responses. My favorite Danny Boyle film remains "Shallow Grave," with Ewan MacGregor before he was anyone, but has anyone seen that but me? At least anyone I know.)

"Slumdog" is visually dazzling, highly entertaining, and as funny as it is emotionally wrenching. It even has a gross-out scene to rival the toilet-diving scene in "Trainspotting," not to mention a Bollywood dance number over the closing credits that makes it difficult to sit still in your seat. The film itself is set in Mumbai, which admittedly feels a little different to watch than it probably did two weeks ago, and centers on an uneducated young man from the ghetto (the "slumdog" of the title) who answers too many questions correctly on India's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and is forced to explain himself and his answers, which results in a flashback-driven retelling of his life story.

I've heard that "Slumdog" is positioned to be the indie darling of this year's Oscar season (see "Juno" and "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Sideways") but hopefully it won't get some of the backlash of those others, since it deserves a good audience.
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