Monday, December 30, 2013

Where Did I Leave that Fire?--Year end meme

Time again for my year end meme. If you had a great year, good for you! You fared better than 98% of the rest of the planet! If you had a bad year, take heart, everyone's life ends eventually. (Full disclosure: I'm not that great at comforting people.)

1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?
Went to assload of new places including:  Spain, Austin, Seattle, New Hampshire, Fire Island. Successfully did a tripod yoga headstand.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't actually think I made any "official" resolutions this year but I did write more and I far surpassed my unofficial resolution to watch 100 films (Last count had me at 168).

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not that I'm aware of.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No and I'm grateful.

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

I want to focus on the things I do have.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
This entire year will be etched upon my memory for various reasons but all in a colorful, Impressionist blur of soft lines. 2013 was memorable indeed.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Making it through relatively unscathed.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Communicating what I want.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Um, a Vitamin D deficiency and pink eye. I'm lucky.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane tickets.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Almost everyone I know personally has come up against one personal trial or another and all have handled it beautifully and gracefully. That's all we can expect from ourselves and each other. (Same as last year and probably will be true until my life ends, and beyond.)

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Most people's behavior normally appalls me.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel, booze and that mysterious vortex where money goes and nothing comes back.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
Traveling with a group of amazing people.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
Volume II of Arcade Fire's "Reflektor". Over and over and over again, especially Eurydice and Orpheus.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
happier or sadder? a little sadder
thinner or fatter? the same
richer or poorer? poorer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Sleeping, dreaming, writing and laughing

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Worrying about the future. It takes so much time and energy from the present.

20. How did I spend Christmas?

Eating, drinking being happy with the family. (sane as it ever was.)

22. Did you fall in love in 2013?

23. How many one-night stands?

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Mad Men, as it has been and ever shall be, world without end, amen. (same as last year) However, the last season of Arrested Development was genius as was Orange is the New Black. And Breaking Bad. I watched a lot of TV.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No. Hate is still a waste of time.

26. What was the best book you read?
Again, need to mention a few: Eleanor and Park, Night Film, Love Dishonor Marry Die Cherish Perish, The Peripatetic Coffin
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
That I miss all the good albums until the year end lists get published.

28. What did you want and get?
 I wanted to be out and about in the world, doing things. I got it all.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
This is a hard one. In fact, it is impossible to pick one so here are a few standouts: Her, Rust and Bone, Gravity, Before Midnight, Blue Jasmine, 20 Feet From Stardom, Five Broken Cameras.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I worked on my birthday this year but I had a wonderful dinner the weekend before with some people I love and saw a show at one of my favorite local venues. Not too bad. I turned 37. Old.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Being satisfied with what I had already. (Same as last year. Someday I'll get it. Someday.)

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013? 

Same as it ever was.

34. What kept you sane?
 Honestly? Wine. and Whine. and the close friends and family i have...same as last year, and the year before that.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
The entire cast of Mad Men.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

I took a break from immersing my brain in politics since it started to become a clanging, indecipherable din but tangentially? Our country's foreign policy and use of drone strikes is horrendous and the ongoing, eternal war on women kinda makes me want to jump off a bridge. Oh and the government shut down. Actually maybe I kept reading about politics but have grown numb?

37. Who did you miss?
Old friends who live far away!

38. Who was the best new person you met?

I've been fortunate to meet some pretty amazing people this year. I can't rank them.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:

You cannot have everything at the same time and you have to be ok with that. However, wanting everything at the same time is a mark of passion and can stoke all kinds of fires within you.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: 

I did my usual cock ups in my personal life and I seem to dwell on those so here are two selections, pick your favorite.

 Always keep your heart locked tight, don't let your mind retire, oh
But I just couldn't take it, I tried hard not to fake it
But I fumbled and when I came down to the wire
It felt great, it felt right, oh
But I fumbled and when I came down to the wire
It felt great, it felt right. --
The Wire, Haim

I saw my shadow looking lost
Checking its pockets for some lost receipt

Where did I leave that fire?
Where did I leave that fire?

Will a stranger find it on a curb idling?
Cold cough and the time zone just short of outer space?
Six o'clock tomorrow a strange voice says to me
I do believe we have a fire lady
You can pick it up if you come down with ID
-- Neko Case "Where Did I Leave That Fire?"

Saturday, December 28, 2013

You are going to want to rub this, or a trip to Austin, Texas

Oh boy. BEDD is dead. I took a seven day break that was originally meant to be a three day break while I was in Texas. Then I came home, felt depressed that home wasn't anywhere near as cool as Austin. Then Christmas and all familial and friendly accouterments floated to the surface and I felt better. Time off from one of my jobs meant whole days unaccounted for; I am unaccustomed to so much free time with no schedule. Apparently my body is as well since I haven't been awake before 10am this whole week. Each  morning I awoke disoriented, cats appraising me expectantly. How strange to have nothing to do, nowhere to go. I feel indulgent, like maybe the part of "woman who owns fur coats and real strands of pearls" will be played by me, one week only.

Anyway, Austin. Visiting Jason has been on the list for about a decade. Spending time in Spain and later in New York with him was the boost I needed to remind me of the equation: Good friend + Place you have never visited = Go visit now. It seems to dwarf the experience by just saying "it was a really good trip" but that's what it was...a really good trip. Now, how to invoke it out of my brain and into yours. How often in life do I long for a real life Pensieve?

If I told you that on the plane there I had an entire row to myself all the way in the FRONT, would that tell you what mood I was in when I stepped out of the airport into the (mid-December) 65 degree sun of Austin, Texas? How about how Jason drove me directly from the airport to my first tacos of the four days worth of tacos I was destined to eat? There are truly few things I enjoy more than having a coffee or a drink and a long talk with Jason and this trip was rife with that, beginning at the Kerbey Lane Cafe. In fact, out of the ten places on that list in the link, we ate at/visited four of those without ever being aware of that list's existence. I effing love visiting new cities with locals.

I could tell you that we played ping pong at this place outdoors (again, in December) after drinking several cocktails called "Tiger's Blood" and eating candy cigarettes. I noticed at that bar and a few hours before that, while we walked along a street dotted with shops and restaurants that there is nary a beardless young man in Austin and if you know anything at all about me it is that if I had a bumper sticker tattooed on my, uh, bumper it would read "I Brake for Beards." So yeah, I liked the look of the city.

Does it communicate anything to say that Jason's house is situated alongside a creek that practically begs a person to skip stones across it or that one of his roommates is a big furry adorable dog that greets you upon entering the house, belly up as if to say "you are going to want to rub this"?

If I told you that at one point during the trip, Jason and I were driving down a dark, half deserted road on the way to his friend's house listening in rapt attention to the isolated vocals of David Lee Roth's "Running with the Devil" and giggling, would that give you a sense of how I spent my time in Austin? At the end of that road is his friends' beautiful house with a sunken living room and a dark wood piano, and a big bright beautiful kitchen. I wanted to draw hearts around the building. They had built a small fire and my scarf still smells like cedar wood. Mental note: sit around fires more often.

While in Austin, I went to hands down the coolest bar I've ever been to and honestly, I have been to many, many bars. This was the place: The Eastside Showroom. I drank a spectacular Pimm's Cup and caught the end of a performance by Blue Squeeze Box.(I am listening to them as I write this post.) I want to transport that bar to my hometown so I can go in there and live. Another impressive place was called the Whip In which was an Indian restaurant/bar/liquor store/live music venue. I don't know if places like that are unique to Austin but it makes me wish a business like that could open and thrive here.

I visited the Texas State Capitol building. I'm just going to include two pictures to give you a sense what I did there. First, here's Jason in a photo I took from about four floors above.

And secondly, here's a picture of me at the doorstep of the building:

We got to see where Wendy Davis held her filibuster and on a lot of the walls are pictures of various senators and house representatives and oddly, photographs of babies. I asked an employee about these and he said they were included in the portraits to "remind the politicians of who they make laws for" but I just thought it was weird.

I ate my first breakfast taco. Memo to the rest of the world: make breakfast tacos a "thing" where you live. They far surpass breakfast burritos as they are just palm sized, contained deliciousness. I just made my own this morning but I'd much rather see it as an option at the delis up here, right next to everything bagels. Let's get this done.

I spent some time in the biggest motherfucking Whole Foods on earth. It was just so beautiful in there and I wanted to buy all the things while twirling and singing like Julie Andrews. I visited graffiti park and took this

Well, Jason took this because I don't know how to use panoramic on my phone.

I had the pleasure to hang out with several new people, all of whom were intensely cool and incredibly nice and interesting and funny. On one night in particular, I was invited to a girls' night with a group of women who I instantly connected with and when I experience a situation like that,being in a roomful of strangers and feeling at ease immediately I know something unique is happening and it feels like a gift. It made me think of Austin as a swirling vortex, drawing in all this creative, calm energy. I could sense pretty quickly why creative people find their way there and take root. That might be a mixed metaphor but I'm leaving it.

The four days I was in town flew by but it was a great experience and I'm so glad I got to squeeze this trip in this year. It means 2013 was the year of truly great trips. I can only try to top it in the future but it will be hard.

And now, back to long, long, Long Island. I have some year end stuff I want to post and I only have three more days in which to do it. Outlook, not good.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I am a material girl

This is an entirely materialistic post. It serves two purposes: 1) It helps me keep track of things I want to buy when, as often happens, I'm bored and sitting around wanting to spend money that I don't really have. A list like this will prove very useful for those times. 2) It provides ample information for everyone who knows me and eventually wants to buy me a gift. You might think me crass but honestly? If this is any more crass than the periodic lists I get for children each Christmas detailing what "they" want (as opposed to, say, being grateful for what they are given) then so be it. Having said that, check out all this shit I want.

1) This cassette to mp3 converter

I have a plethora (aka an assload) of mix tapes that I want to preserve in their original order from the 90s. I am fully aware that I could likely mine iTunes and the public library for all the original recordings and just compile my own playlists but why? Why not just convert the tapes as they are? Plus, I still can't find that live recording of Concrete Blonde's "Tomorrow Wendy" on that one mix tape I made myself in Bouton Hall, circa 1996.

2) This Law and Order PC game

My ex boyfriend once bought me the Law and Order PC game and it was riddled with bugs and didn't work very well. Plus he kept it in the breakup. But I loved that shit. I haven't had the wherewithall to replace it and frankly, this is the kind of thing that you can only feel good about if someone gives you. Buying it for yourself changes the enjoyment somehow because it is such a lame thing. If getting it as a gift, it is, I don't know, kitschy?

3) Both of the detachable collars in this post

Neither of which are still available from the seller on etsy. I truly wish I could sew or was even remotely crafty in any way.

4) Any
item of
with a
on it.

While it is true that I already own a variety of cat themed clothing, I am fully committed to becoming the cat lady I was always meant to be. I can't help it. I am charmed by cats and I will wear their visages.

5) An enormous plate of these, cooked to this level of crispness, served with a chilled glass of white wine eaten while overlooking the Plaza Mayor in early afternoon with nothing to do and nowhere to go. If I can't have that whole thing, I'll just take the peppers then.

6)  This door mat

Because it makes me chuckle.

7) This top

Though in all honesty, where in the hell would I wear that? Behind the reference desk to stare at Pizza the Hutt?? There will always be a part of me that will imagine I am Daisy Buchanan. Only browner. And nicer. And less rich. Ok maybe I'll just imagine I have her wardrobe. Though now that I think about it, Daisy was prone to lying around on chaise lounges in the middle of summer in her undoubtedly designer duds. Maybe I could assume a new identity. The Sparkling Librarian?

8) This nativity nesting doll set

I just got a beautiful nesting doll set from my secret Santa at work but before that, my gung ho nesting doll collecting had taken a serious hiatus. It is time to renew my fervor for these.

9) My own pack of Cards Against Humanity

....along with all the accompanying horrifyingly offensive extension packs. I have never laughed so hard playing any game. Well, not since my brother's Mick Jagger impersonation during Cranium that one time.

10) Any piece of jewelery with blue goldstone

Because it looks like the universe inside a tiny stone.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One gigantic red circle

Recently I have spent some recreational time scouring the Long Island want ads for apartments and the NYC want ads for jobs. I have desires to change both things in my life but I have vowed to pursue one or both at a leisurely pace as opposed to my usual frantic, desperate grasping for immediate change. I think I am on the computer often enough and with enough spare moments in the day to qualify these visits to sites advertising housing and employment as a pastime. I'm relieved no one ever asks me how I spend my free time ever because I'd have to be honest and in being honest, I'd have to admit that I spend too much time in the building of a theoretical new life in 2 dimensionally described, poorly photographed apartments after coming home from 8 hours at my sparkling new office where I'm required to know Microsoft Office and be able to lift at least 15 lbs.

 I find myself often wishing for the days when one could make one gigantic red circle around an interesting ad while some peppy music plays in the background. One could be seated at an outdoor cafe over the same cup of coffee for hours with one's khakis rolled up to the calf, tapping the pen against one's teeth, the world a friendly face with sparkling smile. Afterwards, if the meetings and apartments turned out to be duds one could enjoy the satisfaction of writing a large "X" over all the once promising ads. What tangible closure!


Not that I had the pleasure of doing such a thing that often. When I was old enough to be looking for those life needs in the newspapers, the world was on the cusp of being completely electronic but my brief foray into the satisfaction of a red X made its mark (pun completely intended) on my brain. Craigslist, though in its infancy by the year 2000, was how I ended up finding a variety of things. The less said about that the better.

Still, it is my go to for a lot of things. One of the following statements is a lie. I most recently bought an awesome secretary desk from an ad I found on there. When I left my Jackson Heights apartment six years ago (I just stifled a sob) I was able to sell bits and pieces of my belongings, relatively painlessly through there. I have friends who buy and sell and rent apartments through there. A few of my NYC apartments I got through there. I've successfully had anonymous sexual encounters through there.

Overall my experiences using the site have been positive, despite a few horror stories I've heard. Craigslist was a pioneer in the process bringing people who need and want to give things and putting them in touch (kind of ) anonymously enough at first to dip the toes comfortably in before jumping right in. I've always liked that about the site.

Because there is often dirt in your fries, here's what I never liked about the site: the lies and lying liars who tell them through their ads. I don't think I need to expound on this point: if there is a will to lie, sites like craigslist (and you can go ahead and insert any and all dating sites) provide the way. The latest reminder of this occurred recently when I answered an ad for an apartment.

The photographs provided in the ad made it look charming and rustic, even down to the tin roof and wooden beams. It was advertised as being "walkable" to a nearby village, known for its adorable shops and acclaimed restaurants and the ad highlighted the neighborhood's name, an obvious nod to the surrounding affluence. The asking rental price was alarmingly low but the proof was in the pudding: the photographs.

Well, I called the provided number and I told the landlord, "I'd like to come see the apartment you have for rent but I will be out of town until Monday." His response was "You might want to fit this one in before you leave. I'm already getting a lot of calls about it." He served up a plate of hot, steaming panic at missing out and I swallowed it in one gulp. "Okay." I said, "Can I come by today?"

Before leaving, I Google mapped and street viewed the hell out of the place. One of the red flags I should have picked up on then and there was that there was no street view of the actual building. This apartment is situated on the property of a working marina. There were plenty of photos of speedboats and sailboats and the administrative office of the marina, but none of the apartment building. No matter, I thought. This will be a secluded spot on the water and it will be ideal for writing, something I'll have plenty of time to do since the rent is cheap enough to relinquish at least one job. I could have summer parties on the water and maybe borrow a speedboat for my more 80s inclinations of drinking champagne with a white suited man in Ray Bans and sockless ankles in topsider shoes. Ah, my exciting new theoretical life! And it would all be here, in this affordable water mansion!

Well I drove there one late afternoon. It was gray and almost sundown. I could go into minute detail about what I experienced there, maybe describe to you the sights and smells of a small boat marina in winter, maybe lay out the features of the erstwhile boat mechanic cum real estate agent as he looked at me with simultaneous boredom and impatience. Instead, I will employ the only words I have found to be accurate when I later called everyone I know to describe the "apartment" to them (the quotation marks are intentional): Do you know how in a Law and Order: SVU episode when, say, a hooker is murdered and the detectives are tasked with investigating her life and are led to her apartment. In those episodes she's always a sad, neglected woman with estranged (or no) friends or family and she lives in a hovel, one step away from a crack den with falling apart walls and a decor that can only be described as "shanty"? Well, this apartment that I saw? That's where she lived. Alternately, it was the "apartment" of her murderer, a loner sociopath who collects blood soaked underwear from his many victims and stores them between the rotting wooden beams and the rusted tin roof. So there you go. This "apartment"s description should have read either "a murdered hooker's shanty" or "a sociopath's blood soaked underwear storage facility". Though not literal, they would have given an accurate feel for this apartment.

And so my theoretical new life will have to wait. I also need to get my hands on an actual red pencil. I could technically just go around circling things and then crossing them out. It might be time better spent than on craigslist.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Unsubstantiated Heebie Jeebies

I missed a day. And I'm not backdating because I can only be so much of a cheetah. I attribute yesterday's silence with a few things, not the least of which was that all of yesterday was gray and sleepy. On my way home from the city, I saw a man's black dress shoe in the middle of a busy intersection. It struck me as odd and out of place. And overdressed. Abandoned shoes are usually of the sneaker variety. Seeing it there, abandoned and alone on that street I felt the tone of the day setttle in. Some days are exactly like that shoe: incomplete, random, lonely and simultaneously noteworthy and forgettable all at once. Such was yesterday.

Today I've felt exhausted, physically and mentally. I don't really know why. This isn't a noticeably stressful time, I mean apart from whatever stress the holidays bring. Being a childless, unmarried cat lady, I don't have a lot of the traditional stresses of family dinners and children's needs to attend to so my level of stress stays relatively even. Just this morning, though, I wanted to tunnel through my blankets and arrive in a warm pillow fort and come up with a plan of attack for the rest of the day, the rest of the week, possibly the rest of my life. But I woke up late and groggy and there was no time. I've been feeling out of it and, despite the geyser of caffeine I've tried to foment since about 7am, I'm just getting sputtered out steam. I just don't wanna.

When I worked on Saturday, I noticed that my library had mounted a new poster of Nelson Mandela on the wall. It features a close up of his face with the inspirational quotation: "What can one person do?" Underneath the question it says something that rang very familiar to me: Inspiration. Pass it On. I remembered seeing television ads and a few billboards with that slogan and I'm not sure when or how I equated it with the Mormon church. Each time I've seen that phrase somewhere, I've just automatically drawn a connection to Mormons. I vaguely remember that the TV ads were a little strange because they didn't seem to ever be selling anything or providing any kind of contact information or anything a normal ad does. They just always had a little story about someone doing something moral or kind for someone else. They reminded me of those old Scientology ads they would show in the 90s with vague messages and graphics of volcano-like explosions with quotations about achieving inner power or something. It is all a big blur, frankly (though I still get creeped out by these).

Anyway, the Mandela poster brought this vague feeling of unease for me and I did some cursory research on the organization that published the poster. There is a website on the poster that says Anyway, and I have to stress this emphatically: I did not do exhaustive research and so I don't know a whole lot about this place. And maybe it says way more about me than anything that I have an instant mistrust of an organization that has "" as its domain name and that pumps a lot of money for expensive advertisements to just say things like "share with each other" and "pass on inspiration" without an obvious agenda but I am suspicious. I approach life with a light dusting of defeatism (more as a precaution than anything) and I'd frankly feel more comfortable if they would take the poster down. However, being a rational adult, I can't very well tell the powers that be "Yeah can you take that down because I have the heebie jeebies?" Also, until I have actually done any research to substantiate said jeebies, I will just have to drop it. Unsbustantiated Heebie Jeebies: Pass it on.

Since I'm talking about heebie jeebies, I'll mention a regular library patron who is here tonight and whom I have dubbed "Pizza the Hutt". You'll remember Pizza the Hut, a character played by Dom DeLuise from the classic film "Spaceballs."

Pizza is gonna send out for YOU.

And since all of you remember him,  you also remember that he made various disgusting noises as he talked and just sat there, oozing cheese and sauce all over the place. The sounds were gooey burps and phlegmy clearing of his throat and wet sighs. Are you grossed out yet? Because this is what I have in front of me at the  moment and every weeknight that I'm at work. The Library Pizza the Hutt (LPTH) has a briefcase, and by "briefcase" I mean several plastic shopping bags filled with crumpled up paper that he prints out from the library. I am, in fact, typing this little mention of him in order to drown out a few of his standard noises, since he is on a tear this evening. One of my coworkers once saw him hanging around an emergency room one night. Wisely, she did not make contact and does not know if he was actually a patient there. Knowing nothing whatsoever about LPTH, I would still be apt to bet a small amount of money on "digestive problems." I will never know. Personally, when I run into strange library patrons outside in the real world (something that happens more often than makes me comfortable) I apply a valuable lesson taught to us all by Lucille Bluth:

I take heart however, my Monday will be over in 90 minutes. Hold me until then?

Saturday, December 14, 2013


We had a staff holiday party yesterday at one of my jobs and I am going to blame all the free sugar I ingested on the fact that I forgot to post and had to cop out and reblog something I saw on Facebook. And I had to back date it. So I cheated basically. Sue me.

Today I am meant to go into the city for a small gathering of holiday revelers. It is snowing and promises to snow all day. While it's true that I'm feeling particularly holiday cheer (a mug of mulled wine and some gingerbread would NOT be an unwelcome addition to my day at the moment), I am trepidatious about trekking into Manhattan. It doesn't appear to be prohibitively inclement weather at the moment and if it stays as such, I'll go in. Seeing as I started this post at 11am and it is now 2pm and the snow is of the steady but unaccumulating kind, I'll be going in. Huzzah! I'll get to wear something sparkly and drink something fizzy. What else is life for? I hope Chadley will be there.

My mind is utterly blank today. I often question my motivation to blog every day on days like this, when I've got nothing to say. This is supposed to get me into the habit of writing all the time and to jumpstart my creativity in other writing. Aaaand sometimes that just doesn't work at all. I often wonder how I would fare if I chose to blog every day for a year. I have a very good feeling that I'd have to back date more than one post during those 365 days. I know a few people who have done something every single day for a year. They usually feel pretty good about it. I don't know if I could make that commitment. I don't know if I could make most commitments. I lose focus too quickly and become distracted easily. Hey, remember how great that band/movie "The Commitments"? See what I mean?!

There is a library program happening right now that is some musical performance. The sound is muffled from the main part of the library but I can still hear some trumpets, although they are slightly distorted. In fact, all I hear is the occasional blaring of the trumpets, making it sound like the Honeymooners' theme song over and over again. Yeah, I don't really like that song. However, in the pantheon of television theme songs, I suppose it could be worse. There could have been a harmonica involved in the performance and I could be listening to a muffled version of the "Perfect Strangers" theme song all afternoon.

I have no earthly idea how to end this entry so I think I'll go with "abruptly".

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chadley and the Corgis

The other day I was discussing with my brother some of the various blogs that I follow. My reader has a lot of variety in it but the majority are fashion blogs. I almost never read the content; I usually just like to see how people wear their clothes, especially when they have a vintage style to them. It is a past time that I have carried over from the days when, as a child I used to spend afternoons flipping through my mother's Spiegel catalogs (in the 80s that crap was around 500 pages thick) and stare at the outfits, admiring the shape and colors and how it all came together. I like clothes. Sue me.

Anyway, what I noticed about, oh I guess 98% of these fashion blogs is that they are all exactly the same. They all have the same bios, the same way of photographing and seemingly the same lives. Of course there are exceptions but they seem rare to me. Interestingly, I didn't even notice this "phenomenon" until very recently, since I rarely read the text of these blogs. And it is probably because most of them have something like this in their "About Me" section:

Hi I'm Suzy Q and I'm a freelance fashion consultant/stylist/graphic designer/boutique owner/knitter (take your pick). I like to blog about fashion, beauty, recipes, crafts, and how hard it is being so beautiful and so put together. I'm married to my best friend Chadley and together we live in a small Montana town with our two Corgis: Beatrix and Ethel. I have shiny, thick, long, straight hair and long legs that look good in everything that I get for free from small boutiques. Chadley and I have a 19 minute long wedding video that we subjected our friends and family to on our wedding day that I repost every anniversary for my fans. I'm more often than not white and thin and I really like to dress in my own unique way. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog which is just like every other blog by a  fashionable, 20something from some small town somewhere!

At first I thought maybe it was just the blogs I happened to subscribe to but then these bloggers would link to other bloggers and they would all be exactly the same. I'm beginning to think this network of fashion bloggery is just one large Spiegel catalog for the modern age, complete with two dimensional  models looking beautiful and put together and exactly like the one on the previous page.

Perhaps I'm generalizing too much. It isn't as though my blog is all that original. If I wasn't the antithesis to every and all things photogenic, I could easily take photos of myself every day in front of a meadow wearing various outfits from my vast closet. I 'd probably get a lot more comments and views. Views that aren't just bots trying to phish views of their own. (I'm looking directly at you vampirestat.) But alas, I've never photographed well. Also, my best friend and lover Chadley doesn't have time to take my photo every day. He's got to get to the handsome store early to open up or people in town will riot. 

I poke fun because I love. All of these women have impeccable style and, if their homestead photos are to be believed, they have pristine homes that are ready for a spread in "Romantic Homes", an actual magazine. Also, their husbands are their best friends. In fact, if I ever knew anyone like them in real life, I'd probably never be friends with them because they are the types that made fun of me in high school and also they would likely never shut up about how much they are in love with this new eyeshadow palette that the manufacturer sent them along with $100 in cash. In all sincerity, if I could figure out a way to blog for a living, if in some parallel universe someone, somewhere would pay me to write about my stupid life and if I could finally get around to publishing "Banallison", my weekly magazine of everyday observations, I would do it in a New York minute.

In other news,  I just noticed that there is a hole in my sweater. I currently have a pile of clothing that has holes in it and that I do not want to give away (how can I in good conscience give away holey clothes) but feel silly bringing in for mending. Also my winter coat is positively saturated in cat hair and I spilled coffee on my pants this morning. I can't help but wonder, what would Chadley do??

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"I think about you everytime I pass a filling station"

The holidays are overtaking my brain. I realized that they are basically two weeks away and I've got a trip to Austin sandwiched in there during which I don't want to think about anything but getting the hell out of New York for a few days. I've got most of my shopping done, thanks to my family doing a Secret Santa and my workplace doing a Secret Santa and if I'm grateful for a few things this year, the thing that I'm most grateful for is this minimalist philosophy behind Secret Santa. I'm usually so inundated with holiday obligations that pretty much deaden the spirit for me. Not this year. This year, I can relax and reflect upon family time and friend time and not increasing credit card debt time. It's a Christmas miracle!

Anyway, it is busy at work today and lately all I have wanted to do when I get home from work is flop around my house until I get sleepy and fall vaguely asleep to episodes of Archer. Actually, if you remove the word "lately" and replaced the show name occasionally, you could use that sentence to describe my entire year. So this post will be short and sweet. But here's "reward" for having read it. It is a nod to the holiday season (what with it being a song about a Christmas card) and my trip to Austin (this version having been filmed at Austin City Limits in 1978). I hope you enjoy it and the rest of your day. Also, would it kill you to comment once in awhile? Geez.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Canary in the coal mine

Beginning with the staff meeting at my full time job a few weeks ago, my cycle of life reevaluation is in full throttle. That meeting was one tiny canary in the coal mine; my full time job could conceivably be removed from my life come July or shortly thereafter. And,like clockwork at this time of year, I am reviewing my life, making plans to make plans. And maybe it is some astrological force field or some disturbance in the cosmos that affects me during this time but damned if I don't feel the need to transform everything all at once.  I usually review my year during December, despite that it isn't over yet and invariably I look back and think "I spent too much money." That isn't different. Particularly since I just this very minute purchased some Christmas gifts. One of the earliest resolutions I'll make for the coming year is just an echo of all the times before it, when I made the identical resolution. On the one hand, it is good to keep reaching for goals. On the other, it is really stupid that I have this cyclical need to change and never do.

 In keeping with reevaluation on a life scale, I am almost completely positive that I am done with my career as it has been for the last decade. In 2014, I will have worked as a librarian, in different capacities, in different libraries for 11 years. Forgetting the fact that I have been working two jobs for five years in order to live comfortably, I don't recognize any of the reasons I chose this profession anymore. I don't care about anything that goes on and I do not feel valued at any of my workplaces. I don't necessarily need to draw validation from my work, being fully aware that what one does for a living is merely a means to an end for the majority of the world (the majority that isn't concerned with how to put food on the table/make ends meet, that is) and I've come to accept that and not expect my job to fulfill me. But working two jobs needs to have some kind of point. I don't see the point here. Despite the fact that the grass is always greener in my head, I'm kinda really done with overworking for underpay. I won't even go into the torture that is the civil service system of libraries in my county but I'll say this: it is a completely useless, ridiculous way of running a large consortium of libraries that grinds people down until they regret their degrees and their careers.

Gone is the verve and enthusiasm I once had for leading people to information. The people who want information can generally find it on their own, leaving only the people who want you to do everything for them. I feel bad about this. Also, in keeping with burn out, I have become rather negative about the future and the average level of intelligence of most people. Someone with that attitude should not be in the capacity to help the general public. Don't get me wrong, I have felt moments of reward (and never ending humor) in the 11 years I've done this; I've made wonderful friends that I would never give up. But overall, with libraries completely transforming, with the only things left that I love about the profession being things I can do whilst working in another field (reading, researching, attending annual meetings, etc.) it has actually become time for me to move on. I keep hedging around this because I have a natural fear of change, everyone does. There are only so many times I can send a resume in for a library job and get no response or get a response with a salary that that is on the level of what I made as a freshly graduated undergrad in 1998. I feel strongly that the coming year is going to call for action on the job front. Of course, all of this will be null and void should my dream library call me for my dream job, at which point I will be happy to eat crow by the forkful. If the last four years I spent actively pursuing this are any indication, that should be happening aaaany second now.

 I actually feel elated. I'm sure that will turn into something else entirely once the new year arrives and it becomes time to take action. Look for the next volume in this series called Panic. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Just when I thought I was out

In my infinite wisdom, I have decided to diet hardcore just in time for the holidays to deep fry all food items and set them down in front of my face at all times. Por ejemplo, I came into work this afternoon, after a particularly debaucherous evening last night, determined to be healthy and what is awaiting in the break room? Literally two large and full boxes of candy. Just endless candy of the best kind: Hershey bars, Nerds, Sweettarts. I feel like Michael Corleone.

In other news, I attended my first "advanced" yoga class yesterday morning. I was only one of two people in attendance and I was already intimidated. The other person in the class was a middle aged guy who moved around with a dancer's agility. Like most people who teach and attend the particular yoga studio I frequent he was really nice and even a little self deprecating and I was put at ease. Anyway I kept up and was even able to hold my headstand for a long time. And there ends my explanabrag. I realized recently that I always assume, when I'm successful at doing something, that I am doing it incorrectly. Is that a sign of low confidence? I also assume that if something comes easy to me, it is easy for everyone. Like the masters program I did for librarianship. I thought that was one of the easiest degree programs I've ever taken and I don't even really consider it a real masters degree. Though now that I really think about it, a decade of being a slave to the whims of the department of civil service may have deadened my accomplishments a bit. Anyway, advanced yoga is a lot like unadvanced yoga in that it is amazing and fun and you don't have to be good at it to enjoy it. This is a lesson that yoga teaches me, daily.

Last night I went to Port Jefferson to attend a beer tasting with some friends at the Port Jeff Brewing Company. There were some fantastic beers, the highlights being the peppermint porter and this brewery's Tripel, which was called H3. Port Jefferson was in the throes of the annual Charles Dickens festival and combined with the temperature which I would place at about "fucking freezing" degrees, the little tasting room was packed with swaddled beer tasters. Sometimes I really think that heaven will take the form of a tasting room. These micro breweries keep sprouting up all over Long Island which is a very good thing. It is also the reason I remain bewildered that people go to bars and order Budweiser. That beer is not any cheaper than the really, really good, locally sourced beer that is practically flowing down the streets. My neighborhood alone has two breweries and one "brewtique" that readily serves and sells local beers. Sometimes, when I'm embroiled in my usual "should I stay or should I go" battle royale, I'll make a list of reasons to stay. On each one of those lists are the words "local breweries in walking distance." I am not kidding. 

It is relatively quiet here at work today, offering me plenty of time to eat candy, which I'm trying not to do. We are going to be getting some weather later, possibly the first snowfall of the season. I want all the heavy snow to hold off until January so I can have some snow days off which is really the only thing winter is good for. I don't want any snow between now and Christmas because I have a flight to take and stuff to do and I fail to understand why the weather doesn't understand that.

I got nothing else.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Did you ever notice how when you are sampling beer at a local brewery beginning at 4pm, the hours go by so slowly and the outside world is so dark by afternoon and seems really late when in reality you are back at home in your pajamas before 9pm? Did you? Because I'm noticing it right about now.

I am, in fact, falling in and out of sleep this evening and I had not realized the late hour and that I haven't posted for today. This is what happens when I don't spend the long long day at work in front of the computer. Day drinking. Don't do it, kids.

Friday, December 6, 2013

That's irritating

Yay! It is my 200th blog post. I never thought I could fill 200 blog entries with inane crap but check it out: dreams come true! For anyone reading, thank you for reading. I sincerely hope that you continue to be entertained by my ridiculousness.

Overall it has been a largely negative week for me. I don't know why but I've just been in an overall foul mood. Talking to my coworker last night I realized that I kept saying "that's irritating" over and over again. I had to catch myself at least two more times even after I realized what I was doing. In addition, I've had some issues with bitching to my friends and family about stuff that doesn't really need to be bitched about. It is all kind of stupid. I'm determined to make things better in the coming week starting right now.

Tonight was a good night because I stuffed myself with Greek salad, watched a dumb movie with an old friend and drank a lot of wine. That last thing might explain why my attempt to build a book Christmas tree ended in this

This is pretty much an accurate representation of all the crafts I attempt to do ever under every scenario. I've got my strengths and being crafty is not one of them.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, December 5, 2013


I'm already mining archives of old blog posts. Strangely my expedition resulted in my finding this entry which is especially enlightening to me for various reasons. I'll explain in a moment. First, the entry, dated December 11, 2003. I was 27 at the time.

i don't wanna make it rain, i just wanna make it simple

the rigorous testing process at my job-to-be (maybe) has ended and it is now my duty to...wait. 

there is a cold rain in the city today that i simply don't mind in the least. 

i picked up tim o'brien's the things they carried again for the first time in years and so far i have wept openly three times. if you want to be left alone in new york city, start crying on a crosstown bus, or anywhere full of people with not a lot of room to move. people are afraid of solitary criers. me personally? i am afraid of solitary laughers (despite the fact that i have been one on more than one occasion). laughter can turn quite maniacal at the drop of a hat... but tears are usually melancholy, or angry. today mine were empathetic, as they always are with mr. o'brien. 

maybe i'm feeling a bit sissy-fied today. it is one of those days, unique to this life i'm living, where i don't actually feel i know anyone. perhaps i spent too much time walking around midtown this morning. i feel anonymous. i feel solitary. wholly without connection to another person. 
i am lacking and wanting connection, physical and otherwise to one other person. 

of course this is all a product of reading about war. cold isolation is the partner of knowing about what can and did happen, i suppose. but it has to be told and it has to be read, doesn't it?

you know what i need right now? i need some ice cream.

The title of that post comes from Rufus Wainwright song "Want" which was new at the time. I loved that album something fierce, still do.

I don't know what job-to-be was at that time. Maybe my indexer job? Maybe a job I had interviewed for and didn't get? It is difficult to say since I was doing a lot of interviewing back then, fresh out of library school and in the midst of a swirling, bustling economy. Remember those days, when they would give out jobs offers free with proof of purchase. Yeah, me neither.

I remember rereading Tim O'Brien's book. I was very, very big into Tim O'Brien at the time. I had recently read "In the Lake of the Woods" which tore my brain and heart open. That reminds me, I should reread that book. I loaned my copy to someone and never got it back; someone should buy it for me. I also remember crying on the bus and I'm still very suspicious of solitary laughers...laughter can cross over to mental instability without much warning.

In that post, I chalk up my feelings of isolation to "reading about war". But I know now that I was wrong. What I never remember, what I should remember, is that sense of isolation and loneliness I felt and that I felt it even living in NYC. I usually romanticize that time in my life into a perfect circle, something whole and formed solidly all the way through when in reality, it was an amorphous blob. My brain still worked the same way as it does now. I still want everything at the same time. I still gobble up time with going and doing and planning and getting, wondering why nothing is quite sticking. I also still turn to ice cream in confounding moments.

 I think many people who know me well are confounded by my ability to do a lot of things and still be bored, to be around a lot of people and still feel alone. This is a chronic condition I have, regardless of where I'm hanging my hat. It may serve me well to remember that when my solution to everything is "move somewhere new". I think my own version of nirvana will be calm contentment as opposed to blissful, ecstatic happiness. What can I say? I"m a whirligig.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In which I'm not really a musician

At the library last night, I passed by a table with a closed flute case resting on top of a stack of school books. The owner of this flute had wandered off to find books in the young adult section. I had a Proustian moment when I saw that lonely flute case there. I half expected an 11 year old in a plaid Catholic school uniform to saunter slowly up to the table with oversize glasses and awkward baby fat, a bewildered expression on her face. In other words, I expected me, at 11, to walk right out and bust right into my choppily played flute solo from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

I started to spiral down in that way that involuntary memory has: suddenly making you physically stop what you are doing to run your hands slowly along the inside of things you used to do. (Bored brains are especially susceptible to this). Music was a huge part of my adolescence. I used to play a musical instrument on a daily basis. I remember enjoying it and being relatively "good" at it. Memory is tricksy so I use the word "relatively good" with extreme caution and a pillar of salt. Playing the flute was never something I found particularly difficult to do and no one ever had to remind me to practice. I truly enjoyed it from the second I started it. I played it in fifth grade and all the way through high school and pretty much preferred it to most other activities, apart from reading. In grammar school my teacher tried to get me to also learn the oboe and the clarinet, neither of which I enjoyed because of the wooden reeds. I have the same reaction to touching that thin, splintery material with my lips as I do when I touch peach rinds: freak out. Something about the texture sets off unpleasantness in my brain. I do regret that I couldn't get past it and learn the oboe, since it is one of my favorite instruments.

I was a band geek I guess and it was one of my favorite classes, though I didn't really hang out with anyone from band if I didn't already know them from another class. I was also in my school choir and participated in all the musicals, even scored a lead in one. There are a few videos of the high school me singing various solos. I had way more control over my voice back then than I do now. It is kind of bizarre. I've never been a strong singer but hearing myself from back then, I think if I had tried even just a little, I could have gotten better. Or maybe not. Who knows?

I think I hung out more with the musical theater geeks than the band, though there was an overt, overly sexual energy in the musical theater crew that I didn't really understand. I didn't really even recognize that that is what it was; I was slow on the uptake with that one. (I would later learn through doing musicals during summer breaks with a local theater group that musical theater people have a lot of sex with each other. And if not, they pretty much exclusively talk about it all the time. Then again, maybe that's just teenagers.) By the time I got to college, I had become a full fledged introvert and I much preferred poetry to singing solos in front of people. And my college had a huge performing arts school with amazingly talented people. Even my dorm room had non theater and non music majors that were way better than I was at everything music related; I was intimidated. Simultaneously, I got more into writing and focused a lot of my creative energy on that. But please don't take what I wrote during that time period (aside from a few pretty good love poems) as evidence of that creative energy. I often cringe at the memory. I digress.

I can still read music though it is in the exact same manner and at the same pace at which I read Spanish. I've got to translate it in my head first before it actually makes sense and my comprehension is more in context and likely riddled with errors. In college I took a lot of music theory classes and I did ok but I was on the verge of graduating and didn't really care that much so I'm not even really sure I absorbed any of that info. Music theory didn't really interest me much. I was always more interested in music history. I still have some "mix tapes" from my History of Western Music class. That class introduced to me to Monteverdi, Purcell, Brahms and Mozart's Don Giovanni among many, many other things.

In recent years I haven't really played much music, unless you count singing at the top of my lungs in the shower and in my car. I bought a ukulele and learned two chords. I've thought about getting my flute, which I still own and keep in its original blue velvet interiored case, tuned up and repaired (it is missing a few pads) but then what? Would I sit in my living room, playing arpeggios? Would I learn that killer flute solo from the Beach Boys' awesomely trippy "Feel Flows"? Likely that flute would sit in a pile next to my uke and my keyboard, gathering dust.

I took a trip to Albany over the weekend and visited my friends who are musicians. I listened to a few of their songs and sang along to some covers like we used to in high school. I realized that I missed that. I completely understand how people form communities around music. I don't know if I ever fully appreciated it in high school or college. It remains one of those if I had to do it all over again  things.

Life is lousy with those.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The shiny gloss of unsalted popcorn

Because of traveling and having a busy autumn and (insert some other lame excuses here), my quest to see a lot of films this year stalled out around September. I also must say that losing interest in volunteering for my local theater and simply not having the time anymore to do it has limited my film intake. The shiny gloss of free films and unlimited, unsalted popcorn wore off around about the time when I grew weary of living on Long Island. There just needs to be salt on my popcorn. And it happened just in time as we just got word that the theater is changing and growing and will likely not even be located up the street from my apartment in a year's time. I'm happy for the progress of the  scrappy start up theater and that fellow film buffs are alive and well but sad for the loss of my own private Idaho. Nothing gold can stay.

So far the tally stands at 162 films in 2013. I may just leave the list alone at that, seeing as we are in the tail end of the year. Then again, it is only the third day in December so I might add to it.
Anyway, here's what I watched since the last time I listed the movies I watched.

Le Auberge Espagnole (2002)
Les Poupees Russes (2005)
The Bling Ring (2013)
World War Z (2013)
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Sidewalls (2011)
Gravity (2013)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
The Razor's Edge (1984)
A Perfect Man (2013)
The Karate Kid (1984)
The To Do List (2013)
This is the End (2013)
Rushmore (1998)
The Happy Poet (2010)

I just finished that last one, The Happy Poet. It was an interesting, little film with your standard unlikeable characters and bizarre, immature life decisions, just like real life. However, and this happens more often than I'd like it to, I was completely distracted by the film's score. Throughout the entire film, there was a sporadic note played on a piano and held for a few seconds. Sometimes it was in the middle of a scene, sometimes at the beginning or end but it didn't matter because it always seemed random and unnecessary. It completely took me outside of the story every single time it happened. The last time I was this distracted by the music in a film was during the ENDLESS organ music that accompanied the ENDLESS corridors of Last Year at Marienbad. Holy crap that just about ruined that film for me. You can hear some of it in the trailer if you are so inclined.


As a whole, I was unimpressed by the films I have seen since September, apart from Blue Jasmine, Gravity and the ones that were rewatches. I am really excited by several films that are on the horizon, not the least of one is Spike Jonze's latest called "Her". I just have a strong feeling that it might break my heart and if I know how to do one thing well, it is seeking out various ways in which to have my heart broken.

Also, the new Justin Bieber film looks phenomenal.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I heard the signs. Then I plugged my ears with my fingers and went "la-la-la, I can't hear you."

Lately, the smoke alarm in my apartment has been triggered by my hair dryer. By "lately" I mean every time I use it for more than three minutes at a time. I am not certain which one is defective, the dryer or the alarm. I know only that for my cats to begin acting blase about one of the most piercing alarms I've had in my many, many apartments, it is time for something to give. I'm pretty sure my upstairs neighbor is harboring a deep resentment for me, the kind that can only be born at 6am on a Monday morning but considering that she has very loud sex at inopportune hours, we might be able to agree to disagree. Also, I don't know why, but I feel extraordinarily lazy about doing anything about this daily occurrence.

For the last six months or so and on an almost weekly basis, my boss will come into my office with a stack of papers listing all the serials publications we are cancelling for the library. It is my job to contact the vendors and let them know we no longer want to receive these, effectively cutting the job responsibilities of everyone in my office, myself included, inch by inch. We have cut a huge amount of our serials subscriptions, mostly because no one is publishing, reading or keeping them anymore. I should mention that one of my job titles contains the word "Serials" which may as well be thrown into the vortex of obsolete words next to "analog clock" and "8-track". Maybe it is the glacial pace of academia and its budgets but it never really occurred to me to be concerned about this until a staff meeting last week that basically cast the school's dean as a Cassandra of sorts; she had pretty much nothing but bad news for us but the staff sat happily munching on the free breakfast and got grumpy about not getting the week between Christmas and New Year's off. I think it was only last week, as I watched my coworkers swirl half eaten french toast triangles in their syrup and drank my third cup of coffee did it truly occur to me that come July, my job might actually be in danger. I have done nothing but casually mention it to one or two people. Doing nothing you know, for a change.

I routinely drive down a street where deer are known to cross. There may or may not be a few signs that indicate this. I still drive at a faster than needed speed, a result of my always being 15 minutes late.

How many times have I looked back on various relationships to find all the "red flags" that people just carry around with them like heavy bicycle chain necklaces or I don't know, face tattoos. Those things are there from day one of meeting someone new, usually the prologue to their life's book. And yet I consistently don't even dog ear the page for future reference. It is only after it is all over do I say things like "Oh so THAT'S why he said tongues freak me out" or something when really I should have said "Thanks but no thanks" from the beginning.

Ignoring warnings is apparently one of my fortes. And sure, if I'm to use the actions of most law school students and public library patrons during fire drills as an example, most people ignore most warnings, even when they are piercing sirens or signs that are big and red and say things like STOP.  For all my perception and insight into things that happen to me or around me, it is kind of remarkable to me that I often don't get it. I suppose that in itself is a meta-sign of sorts but, in true "me" fashion, I'll go ahead and ignore it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Remember, Remember the First of December

It is December 1st. This is the inaugural post of Blog Every Day December or, for the uninitiated, the month during which I make the best of intentions to blog every single day and run out of ideas by, say, day 4. But if at thrice you don't succeed, etc. etc.

The first of this particular December was rather memorable. On the happier end of the spectrum, my little brother got engaged! I'll repeat. My LITTLE brother got engaged. Yes, at 25 he is still little. We are all excited to welcome Kristen into our family and to have yet another classic wedding and reception to add to our collection. I have no details whatsoever on the proposal or anything but I've always considered those stories to be better told in person anyway. Oh and also, it isn't my story. I think I'll hold off on relating engagement tales until my own pops up (READ: nevergonnahappenwhichishowicurrentlylikeit). Anyway, the most articulate way to sum up this news up is to say, with all the excited energy I've got: YAY!

A side "event" that is going on as I type this on my home computer is that my "w" and "a" keys are sticking. I'm certain I resemble a small child with small hands, trying to play Rachmaninoff whenever hitting one of those letters. And did you ever notice how many words contain one or both of those letters? I have. And still am.

At the moment I am unwinding in my apartment after a weekend upstate in Albany with my good friends. It was really just spectacularly cold for most of the time (late November, who knew) and as a result we spent time indoors catching up, eating and playing "Cards Against Humanity" and then eating some more. I also stayed up late one night discussing my love life with Becca, arriving at the conclusion that I'm pretty much a hot mess in that department but I kinda already knew that anyway. Still, it is nice to get confirmation. Anyway, it was pretty much a needed respite from the constant entropy of coming and going that is my natural state of being. Honestly, if I could live my entire life going from one warm and cozy evening spent this way to another, I think I might forget my existential panic once or twice, though I can promise nothing.

The relative calm of the weekend was disrupted a bit when, after arriving at the Albany train station with plenty of time to spare before my 8 am train this morning, the announcement was made that an earlier train on the same line had completely derailed. Not that I have personal experience with such a thing (though news reports have been stating that this has happened at least twice before this year), it was pretty clear that it was going to be hours and hours before service was restored, if it even was going to be restored. It was pretty easy to quickly decide that renting a car and braving the traffic back downstate would be the preferable option to sitting and waiting for train service to be restored. Thankfully my friends waited at the station with me and were able to drive me to the airport to rent a car. We offered a ride to another young woman who was also headed down to NYC. Each time I have found myself in situations like this, when people are essentially stranded due to human errors or acts of god, I have found my fellow humans to be helpful, honest and willing to accept help. In a way I think these times have instilled a deep faith in human nature in me that, no matter how often I profess to recognize evil in humanity, never really goes away. When I've needed help from a stranger, I've received it. When I could offer help, I have and so have my friends and family. So there is that.

The car rental boots at the airport were plentiful, and completely ready to charge almost $300 to rent a car for the three or four hours it would take to drive back to Long Island. Dejected, I was forced to take the "deal" which would involve me driving to JFK airport and then taking the train home. I kept repeating to myself and to my friends that at the very least, I'd be able to go home, unlike the people injured on that derailed train. In all honesty, even with the added expense and hassles of having to rent that car, I was not upset. I didn't even mind the extra $100 or so it cost me to get home. It was the ability to get home at all that I held onto. And so a normally three hour trip ended up taking about seven hours, even without traffic. It was what it was. I only ever understand that saying when it is actually happening. It is a good saying, though. It help give the perspective that sometimes there is nothing to do but live through whatever is happening; an important lesson that most of us never really learn.

Anyway it is nigh on 11pm on the first day of the month and I find myself exhausted so I'll say goodnight. My exhaustion is mentioned here by way of explanation to the quality of this entry. Unless you liked it. Did you? Check "yes" or "no".

Monday, November 25, 2013

All this goodbye without going away...

Two things I had floating around in my drafts folder were things I wanted to revisit and remember for whatever reason. In keeping with having at least one thing in my life organized and in the interest of prepping this blog for both Blog Every Day December and the 200th post (!) I thought I'd just post the two things here. The first is an excerpt from David Rakoff's swan song "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish" which is a novel written entirely in verse and written while Rakoff was dying. This brief excerpt is in the voice of one character who is caring for his mother as she dies of Alzheimer's disease. I'm currently witnessing the "dispiriting coda" of my own grandmother in this way and when I read it, I could almost hear the words echo off the walls of every chamber of my heart and all three parts of my brain, particularly "All this goodbye without going away."

"Like a time-lapse filmed flower that blooms in reverse,
Each day brought some further cruel deforestation
Of mind, with no hope for one thought's restoration.
 He'd thought that her being alive  would defray
His sadness, but all this goodbye without going away
This brutal, unsightly, and cold disappearing
Was so beyond what he'd conceived ever fearing
A stupid, but no less dispiriting coda
to be slapped by his mother, who wanted his soda
This someone he'd loved and so viscerally known...
It left Josh abandoned and feeling alone.
More than his mother uncensored, unkempt,
Was the non-recognition. Her blanket contempt
Made him feel like they'd never met, wholly a foreigner,
Meriting no more regard than the plant in the corner.
This being stranger was like being dead,
And brought to mind how, in a book he had read
That most folks misunderstood one common state:
The flip side of love is indifference, not hate."

The second thing I came across awhile ago, when I still had a twitter account, was this tweet from Sherman Alexie:

Ocassionally, when someone asks how I am, I tell them the truth: always hungry, often lonely.

One of the things I do miss about twitter is the off chance that somewhere in the sludge there is always the possibility of truth. And sometimes that truth is told so succinctly and honestly that seems even truer, as though that were a possibility.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

One really long, satisfying ramble: the rest of Madrid

I'm not sure if it is a thing that happens but when I upgraded my phone's software, a huge amount of notes that I kept in there just disappeared. Unfortunately one of those very, very long notes, contained my travel blog outline. And because I rely heavily on writing things down and because alcohol is a bit of a hobby of mine, the memories are fuzzy and I have tried to piece together the rest of the week as best as I can. So if it sounds a bit disjointed, blame apple, inc. Also, the day to days might start to bleed into each other so I might just make the Madrid blogs one really long, satisfying ramble. It has been months. And I'm still drinking, so there's that. A lot of the details of particular days have been lost to the cloud. I know everyone wants to see every single slide in the projector wheel while sitting my sunken living room, sipping cocktails and eating gherkins but I'm afraid I'm full of disappointments. Let's move on.

I should also mention that I think I've figured out why the Madrid portion of the trip has been so hard to blog about and break down. A lot of the highlights of the trip were due entirely to conversation and the company I was in and after Paris and after Barcelona and Sevilla, I felt old hat at being a local in a city I've never been in. Insofar as ANY of this is of any interest to people who were not there, the least interesting parts of it for, you know, everyone but myself and my traveling companions would be what we spent most of our time doing: drinking together and talking about our lives. Having said that, I'll just consolidate the rest of the trip in this post and hope it is read and enjoyed. Madrid was one of my favorite places I've ever been to and I feel drawn to go back and eat peppers and drink wine and have dancers perform flamenco for me. It's good to have dreams.

I mentioned in a previous post about my affinity for and subsequent surrounding myself by really exceptional ramblers. Well, I just so happened to find myself in Madrid with two of the best ramblers I know, Rowan and Lorraine. I knew from the moment we started planning to meet up in Madrid, it would be one really long, satisfying ramble, we being who we are and Madrid being what it is. The weather was perfection and we decided to walk around to find the royal palace and get our bearings. Madrid has the kind of feel to it that draws you outside, day or night. I was getting that feeling from the moment we woke up and stepped out on the balcony and saw the city awake and populated with beautiful happy people.

After doing one of my top five favorite things in the world (taking a long time in the morning to walk around one's space aimlessly in order to mentally prepare to do just about anything), we left the apartment in search of the Royal Palace. It turns out we were about five minutes away by foot, crossing through the Plaza Mayor in order to get there. We'd actually be crossing through the Plaza Mayor to get anywhere we were going which was always an exercise in diversion. On the first day, and every subsequent day as a matter of fact, we saw Fat Spiderman and his mini me statue. Here's a picture that I did not take.

I don't get him or why he has his own little statue but everyone seemed to love him. He did call me guapa but we've already established that everyone calls everyone else that in Madrid. Why should fat spidey be any different? Also, if I'm going by my internet search just now for images of fat spiderman, everyone who goes through Madrid makes note of him and he may as well be an official attraction of the city.

We made it to the outside of a large palace looking building but it wasn't really clear if it was in fact the Palacio Real or not because there were also large signs advertising the latest art exhibit at the Prado. It was not our intention to actually visit the Palacio Real that first day but rather to just get our bearings so it didn't really matter but I did notice that everyone else was pretty confused about it as well. It wouldn't be an old city in Europe if it didn't have confusing signs.  We walked around to the side of the building and saw a beautiful garden with manicured hedges and plenty of places to wander through so that's what we did. I got some photos.

The hedge homage to Marge Simpson and Kid from Kid n' Play.
After spending a short time in the labyrinthine hedges, laughing uncontrollably about some past jokes and ridiculous new ones, we started wandering around the streets and ended up in different neighborhoods, trying to figure out where to return for drinks later that night. It was just about siesta time and apparently the people and businesses in Madrid observe this tradition in a bigger way than I had noticed in Barcelona. Though that could definitely have been me. Everything was shut down and not a lot of people were out on the streets while we walked through. As a result we pounced on the first open sidewalk cafe and sat down to have more pimentos de padron, more wine and more people watching in the best city for people watching (after New York of course). After lunch, we walked through the Latina district to scout out places to go out for the evening. The city was coming back to life after siesta and things were starting to look lively.

We somehow ended up back at the Plaza Mayor but we came around the "back" way and spotted a Belgian beer bar and sat down for a drink. (At least I think that is what we did on that day but like I said, it all blends into one.) The Cafeeke had a great beer list and was such a cute little place that it became one of my favorite spots.

I just fantasized that I was back there.

I had a nice Kriek and then we went back to the apartment to rest from all the leisurely walking and beer drinking and to get ready to go out for some more leisurely walking and drinking.

As I was getting ready I looked up through the open doors of the mini terrace in the apartment and saw the moon so clearly, maybe more clearly than I can ever remember seeing it. It stayed that way for every night I was in Madrid. I think I will probably always think of Madrid at night as a result. The photo I took doesn't really translate but here it is anyway:

It becomes apparent why I borrow photos from other websites. But still, lookit the moon!
I do remember leaving the apartment and the rest is pretty much hazy. From the photos on my phone (not showing you those) it seems like we went to a tiny red bar, then an outdoor cafe that closed shortly after we ordered a drink. We ended up in another bar where there was a toddler dancing and that had to have been around 2am. At some point I started substituting cocktails for vino tinto because there is photographic evidence of this but I would not have believed it. It would explain the almost total absence of memory of the details of the evening. I am very glad to have caught it all on film, however.

The next day we understandably awoke late. Apparently we were all passed over by the hangover fairy which is quite the phenomenon that occurs during most European vacations in my experience. A visit to the Prado was on tap. I probably mentioned this in the Paris blogs but it is worth mentioning again: Rowan is a super traveler. She is able to find her way around almost everywhere with relative ease and she is just downright pleasant to follow around blindly, which is basically what I do when she's around. My memories of getting from point A to point B are fluid, easy and aggravation free. I keep meaning to ask her if she has the same memories of if or if she is always quietly stabby about figuring it all out. I wish for the former. Anyway, all that to say is we arrived in the general vicinity of the Prado and when we exited the subway we thought this was it:

It wasn't.
But it is a lovely building nonetheless, no? We walked a bit further and found the Prado right where Madrid left it.

The building is not as ornate as the one I'm calling the "Not Prado" but considering the fantastic art work it holds inside, it doesn't really need to be. I had a lot of notes about the artwork I saw inside actually but now what sticks out in my memory are the portraits by El Greco, particularly this famous one, which is very striking in person:

As well as the Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch which was, of course mobbed by a large crowd of picture takers. Grumble, grumble. After spending about six hours in the gift shop trying to decide what to buy (I actually bought an El Greco t-shirt) we sat outside the Prado for a bit, making plans for the evening. The evenings start to muddle together at this point in our trip and what I believe happened is that we went to have a drink near the apartment, then had dinner in the Plaza Mayor which, surprisingly, was not a tourist trap and then called it an early night. But I could be wrong about the sequence of all of that. I know. A thrill a minute.

The next day we made it back to the Palacio Royal, inside of which was one grand room after another with no photography allowed. It was a damn shame too because the textures and patterns were so vivid and well preserved, likely due to the no photography rule. After touring the grounds for a few hours we decided to have a nice three course lunch as the Spanish do right before they nap and close up shop for two hours. This particular meal was a highlight for me though if you were to ask me what I ate, I wouldn't be able to tell you. Pork chop? Yes! Pork chop!

Later that night we went to see some flamenco at a place recommended to us by one of the guide books. It was possible to get dinner while you watched the show but we opted for (wait for the shocker) just drinks! Again, we were not allowed photographs or video and I'm actually kind of glad for that since it allowed everyone to just experience the show. The flamenco was incredible. I had only ever seen it during that night in Sevilla and was not certain what to expect. And if I'm to glean from this show in Madrid what to expect from a typical flamenco show, I would draw the following conclusions:
  • Flamenco is one of the most beautiful, passionate forms of expression I've ever seen
  • There is a sense of community among the dancers that, even when they are sitting on the sidelines and not dancing, is evident with the near constant vocal support they offer each other. 
  • I know I have said over and over and over again how beautiful the Spanish are in the cities I visited but the most beautiful Spanish man I saw danced flamenco for us that night. Honestly, he was it, in its entirety. I was under the spell for the length of the show, so much so that it was jarring to see him in a tracksuit, ordering a drink shortly after the show. A bit like "wait, you drink booze and wear leisure wear like everyone else? That's totes weird."
After the show, we walked back towards the apartment but stopped when we passed this alleyway which was populated with a young and lively crowd, drinking and eating outside. We got a table and proceeded to drink and eat and talk and look at the incredible moon. It was a beautiful night (I defy you to name one that isn't in Madrid) and we somehow, accidentally ordered an entire bottle of wine and then got drunk by mistake. The waitress was frantically running around and she wrote our order down right on the tablecloth. It felt like a communal night out. If it were possible, I'd like to transport that place to New York and its environs; we don't really have that community here or if we do, I have not  yet found it. Oh and here was the moon that night.

Or it could have been a comet heading toward the earth.

We took a trip the next day to the Reina Sofia museum which is the modern art museum in Madrid. It was probably my favorite one, after the Dali museum. You know by now how loathe I am to take photos of art but I did it in this instance because when I first walked into this room, it scared the crap out of me and I wanted to remember that.

In fact there were a few exhibits there that scared the crap out of me. They were showing a lot of art films in these little blackened rooms that connected to each other via heavy velvet curtains. There was a room with just old film equipment that had the air of someone having just left a few moments before. I don't know if you know this or not, that feeling of a "presence"in a museum is a creepy one. Of course another highlight was seeing Picasso's Guernica in all of its glory. It is a truly remarkable work of art that lives up to its reputation and I count myself lucky to have seen it up close.

After the museum I remember eating a large potato tortilla which I am actually craving as I type this over two months later. We then went back to the same cafe as the night before, so good was the feeling. And guess what? We got drunk under another gorgeous moon. And in a shocking change of events, we ate peppers. Only these had camouflaged jalapeno peppers and I bit into one and my head exploded. This is the second time in my life that I have done that, the first being in Montreal when I thought they might have to cut out my tongue. It was the last time I was ever going to eat those Padron peppers in Spain and it depresses me still that my tongue was numbed. VACATIONPROBLEMS.

On our final day in Madrid, after a long and leisurely lunch in the Plaza Mayor, we spent the day at the Parque del Retiro, napping away our "hangovers" and people watching and enjoying life before actual life invaded once again. It very nearly mirrored our final day in Paris when we napped away hangovers in the Musee Rodin. I think if my vacations had portraits with quotes underneath them a la high school yearbooks, mine would read: Napping away hangovers in every European city. Here's a photo of our farewell dinner, consumed inside our fantastic vacation apartment:

Rowan and I went to the little Belgian bar down the road while Lorraine stayed in to pack and organize before our flight the next day. I had a pretty great conversation with Rowan and had what we used to refer to back in college as "a moment" which really just means a pause to smell the roses and appreciate everything going on. Before I knew it, it was time to go to home before going home. We left early the next morning, so early it was still dark and managed to get a taxi to the airport. On our way there I fantasized that we were boarding a plane to another plane to another destination that wasn't home. Can you tell I didn't want to leave? Times like that morning and times like writing about it now remind me to always travel; I only ever feel at home when I'm far from home. O. Spain. O the humanity!