Saturday, January 31, 2009
My dear, darling Jonathan thought hard about how he should approach the situation, and came up with the following:
-Stay in bed until after noon
-Leave the house before 3pm
-Go eat lunch at my favorite pizza place in Brooklyn
-Do so with a girl that he used to date AND some chick that I don't know
-...and then go and have beers afterward
-Stay out for almost eight hours, leaving me completely alone and unable to leave.
-With no food.
-Upon arriving home (at 10:45), go lay down and promptly fall asleep.
Ah yes, he is truly my champion in times of need. Thank goodness I'm marrying a man who will always consider my needs before his own.
Why is it that even the most awesome guys are prone to being such jackasses?
To his credit, he did go pick up the prescription I needed. But somehow, I'm not feeling like it's a draw.
So, the foot thing. It was bad. It got better. And then it got much, much worse. On Wednesday it had gotten painful enough that walking made me want to cry - doubtless because on Tuesday evening I had dared to walk all the way from 50th street to 60th street (a ten minute trek) on my way home from work. The severity of the relapse inspired me to finally call my doctor.
Well, I called him at lunchtime and didn't hear back. And didn't hear back. And didn't hear back. I know better than to call the office again; that will only irritate the front desk girls, who are relatively irate already. I figured I'd hear from him Thursday. When it was time to go home from work, rather than walk the two blocks to the 6 train from the office, I paid $17 for a cab.
Then, to my surprise, he called a bit after 10pm. I described the issue to him, and he said it didn't sound at all like a pinched nerve as I thought it might have been. No, he thought it was probably a stress fracture. (You know, that thing that athletes and runners get all the time.) He instructed me to call his office the following morning to make an appointment for Friday, so that he could get a look at it and have some x-rays taken.
Now, if he had told me they needed to amputate my foot I probably couldn't have reacted more poorly. There was crying. And when Jonathan said the wrong thing when trying to get me to stop crying, there was yelling. The thing is this: while I'm really used to any problem having to do with inflammation of soft tissue, actual damage of something so seemingly sturdy as bone is brand new territory. The prospect of it completely freaked me out. New problems always do. Sometimes I just need to cry damnit! Anyway.
So Thursday morning I went into work late, waiting for the trains to empty out to insure that I could get a seat. While I waited, I called the doc's office as I'd been told to. I explained to the girl who answered that I'd spoken to the doc the night before, that he thought I had a fractured bone in my foot, and that he wanted to see me the next day to get some x-rays done. So when she said, "OK then, 10am on Friday", I stupidly assumed all was well.
Um. So Friday morning I showed up, a few minutes after 10am because I'd had to hobble from the train station at Park Avenue all the way to 1st Avenue - for those of you not familiar with NYC geography, thems the long blocks, and a bunch of them at that. I gave the counter girl my name and she was all, "we don't have you down for today." And I was all, "uhh, well I called yesterday..." She kept looking and lo and behold, they had made the appointment for NEXT WEEK.
Now, I'm not sure how a person tells a doctor's assistant "I might have a fractured foot", and that person somehow thinks that the patient can somehow wait NINE DAYS to figure out whether or not the foot is actually fractured. But that's neither here nor there, now is it? Long story short, they managed to wedge me in. But it definitely added more stress to an already un-fun situation. Fine, I'll admit it. I cried. I'm a crier. I'm prone to hysterics. Happy?
To make it even better, the goddamn insurance company got involved. For some reason they wouldn't approve my x-rays being done in the office; instead I had to waddle my lame ass over to the NYU facilities three blocks away. Not much distance at all - that is, when you can, say, put weight on both of your feet. Yet another example of how insurance companies always have the utmost concern for their customers' health and comfort - NOT!
Alright. Fast forward through getting over there in the 25 degree wind, the very cool and funny radiology guy, the getting back to my doc's office, and the waiting for him to have a minute to talk to me. Let's go to the part where my doc looks at the x-rays and sees, guess what?
NOTHING! Nothing at all, not even a hairline fracture. Nada, nix, zip, zilch.
It seems likely to just be an extremely localized fibromyalgia flare-up. On the one hand this is good news. It doesn't seem that anything is particularly damaged. And I shouldn't need surgery, which was the most terrifying prospect that was looming. On the other hand, though, I once again have an unidentifiable and unsolvable health problem. Is there, like, and award or a contest of some sort for this? If so I really need to find out how to apply. I'm a shoe-in! It's also something new to add to the already absurdly long list of "unpleasant things to attribute to my fibro because they don't seem to be related to anything else." Yeah, cuz I was really looking forward to adding to that list.
I'm supposed to tape up the foot in question, and "stay off of it" (great, so you're going in to work for me then?), and wait and see if it gets better on its own. All advice that is chillingly familiar. If it doesn't get better by next week, I have to go to the doc again for an MRI. Can I even describe for you the level or quality of frustration this causes? No, not really. If you've been there, you know, and if you haven't, I hope you never are.
I'm sorry if it seems like I'm whining or feeling sorry for myself. Everyone's got their cross to bear, I know; I'm just discussing mine. Most of the time it stays in the background. But right now it's making it really difficult to do things like wash dishes or take a shower or get to work, which is when it really gets to me. As I so enjoy doing, I'm going to once again ask all of you to keep your fingers crossed, and maybe even beam some positive energy my way, in hoping that this episode is short-lived.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
OK, so I'm a little behind on this one. Like, a year and a half (or so) late-ish. But I still say better late than never, and maybe it will come as news to you like it did to me. And if it weren't for good old SuperVegan, I still wouldn't know. (Thanks guys.) Now, don't get me wrong - I've known for ages that marshmallows have gelatin (can you say cartilage?) in them, and are therefore not vegetarian. What I didn't know is that a) there was a kosher-related scandal, and that b) vegan marshmallows were dragged down by trickery... Intrigued? Check it out - mainstream media coverage, no less! Behold. (And be warned - there are two parts.)
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The only recent article I could find on the subject was this one from the Daily News. It strikes me as odd that for a topic so crucial to almost all New Yorkers, we're not getting the blow-by-blow. From what I can gather, the powers upstate are looking into two sources of money: 1) tolling of the East River and other bridges, and 2) a payroll tax to be paid by the employers of NYC.
I must say that suggestion number one makes a whole lot of sense to me. The tunnels are tolled, so why shouldn't the bridges be? Particularly those from the east side. No one, and I mean no one, needs to be driving into Manhattan over the 59th street bridge, when it's far cheaper to park in Long Island City and take the train in. If they still want to drive in why shouldn't they pay for the privilege?
And yet somehow, much like Bloomberg's congestion pricing suggestion, it is being decried as a "tax on working people". Are they effing kidding me? Shall we even begin to compare the numbers of "working people" who would be affected by increased subway fares and reduced bus services to those who would be impacted by tolls or congestion fees? I'm going to put this in terms of a real-life example. I work in a midtown law office that has something like 67 employees. Of those 67, I know of TWO who will SOMETIMES drive in to work... and both of them are lawyers. EVERYONE ELSE uses some combination of public transportation, be it buses, subways, or other trains like the LIRR. So, a tax on working people? Uh, more like a tax on rich mf'ers who don't need to be clogging up midtown with their damn SUVs anyway.
The fact is that most New Yorkers who even own cars don't drive them into Manhattan; there is far too much traffic to make it a practical way to get to work on time, and once you're in town you'll be very lucky to pay less than $50 dollars to park for the work day. And if you consider $50 a reasonable expense to park for a day, are you seriously going to tell me that you can't afford an $8 congestion fee? Pardon me if I find that just a bit hard to swallow. The whole thing makes me wonder if the people who are crying "unfair!" aren't the very same people who would end up having to pay, lest they be forced to join us public-transportation-riding plebeians.
It seems that The Powers are vastly preferring the payroll tax. On its face it doesn't sound like a bad idea - until you consider that we're in the middle of a recession. Employers are laying people off left and right, and cutting benefits and freezing salaries of the employees they're keeping. So I'm not sure that levying a tax on the PAYROLL will exactly encourage hiring new employees, or even keeping the ones already on the rolls. Yes, the MTA needs money, because the cuts they're proposing are absurd and will make the city borderline unlivable for many, many people. But this option really does seem like a tax on working people - because employers will ALWAYS transfer a new cost to its employees if at all possible.
Since the announcement of the deficit, I have been thinking often about the first winter I spent in New York City: the winter of 2005. The MTA, declaring a budget surplus of over $900 million, decided that the best thing to do with the money was to offer discounted fares for the holiday season. I think I got some benefit out of it - two extra days of rides or some such. But still, my feeling on the matter was mainly, what the hell is wrong with you people? Have you seen your trains? Have you seen your stations? You must be joking! They were also stating that they'd have a deficit of practically the same number only two years later. So... what the hell could they have been thinking? I don't think we ever quite figured it out.
Well, the MTA employees didn't seem to like the plan much either, and during the discounted time they went on strike - beginning on December 20, 2005. Compared to two previous strikes which respectively lasted 12 and 11 days, the two-day 2005 strike was pretty weak. But it was enough to make the city a whole new landscape amidst the ice and snow of that December. Of course, the reasons for the strike were ridiculous - pay increases for people already making over $50,ooo a year? Cry me a river. The strike was so short lived largely because their union did not support them.
When the discounts were announced, I got in lengthy debates about whether or not they were worthwhile. People, intelligent friends of mine whom I like and respect, were trying to argue that by effectively putting subway rides on sale, people would use the system more and it could be a net gain. To which I could only reply, uhhh, that's kind of like saying that if you make municipal water cheaper people will take more showers. It's a public service; people use it as they need it. Making it cheaper will save them a little tiny bit of money for the short while that the discount applies, but in the long run everyone loses. All they were really doing was losing the profit that could have been gained from all the Christmas shopping and tourism - those people were going to ride the subway regardless of what it cost.
Part of me is happy that other people also remember this little escapade. Part of me hates being right. Most of me just hopes that those who make decisions will free their collective heads from any and all orifices, and will find a way to do what's right for the REAL working people of New York City - those of us who depend on reliable subway and bus transportation to get to work each and every day.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
You see, it's had about all it's gonna take with this increased walking nonsense, and is now boycotting any and all load-bearing duties until further notice. Complaints began Tuesday, and as such were not heeded, a full action was deemed warranted. Specifically, not only must all extra activity be eliminated, but the everyday walks which had previously been standard (such as from the subway to my office) must cease and desist immediately. Any and all infringement upon said boycott will result in punishment for the transgressor (uh, me) ranging from mild discomforting ache to intense shooting pain, punishment to be determined instantly at time of transgression.
I have to go in to work late today. Because going in at my normal work time means very crowded trains means no seats, and I can't really stand for the 20 minute commute. Often, I circumvent this issue by taking a fifteen to twenty minute walk north and just getting on at the end of the line, where there are seats galore. However, since the issue here is not being able to put weight on my right leg, the extra walk is kinda out of the question. So I'm waiting till 9:30 to leave the house, hoping that that will lead to less crowded trains. Then, once in the city, I'll have to transfer to the 6 train to take it one stupid stop south, instead of just walking the ten blocks from 60th like I usually do.
And this, my friends, is why my diet revolves primarily around reduction of calories rather than increase in exercise. My body cannot be trusted, does not play ball - for that matter, some days it won't even walk from the car to the ball field. So it goes. With frustration, we struggle on.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
I've never been pro-Dubya in any way whatsoever, but I've also had my doubts about Obama. I'm beginning to feel, though, that this dude might actually have an idea of what's going on. And I gotta say, that's a nice feeling to have.
* * *
Dear WFP Supporter,
Woody Guthrie never expected "This Land Is Your Land" to be played at an Inaugural celebration when he penned it in 1940. But he probably never expected a President Obama either.
Below is a link to the Bruce Springsteen-Pete Seeger (plus Pete's grandson Tao) rendition of Guthrie's most famous song, performed at Sunday's "We Are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial. If you've already seen it, well, my hunch is you won't mind seeing it again:
One can only imagine the pleasure these singers, especially Pete, must have felt. Guthrie's great anthem was written in the shadow of the Great Depression, after a decade of worker and farmer organizing from coast to coast.
Today's struggle is different, but yesterday's song still resonates. And how great to have it sung in celebration of both the King Holiday and the Obama Inauguration, with Mr. Lincoln (and the Obama family) looking on.
It's worth noting that they sang the entire song, including the more provocative verses usually left out. Sing it to yourself if you don't already know it:
"In the squares of the city - By the shadow of the steeple
By the relief office - I saw my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there wonderin
If this land's still made for you and me."
Chorus [this land is my land…]
"There was a big high wall there - that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted - it said private property;
But on the other side - it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me."
Chorus [this land is my land…]
"Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking - that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me."
There's plenty of work ahead as we support and pressure and cajole and e-mail our new President and Congress, but this moment of the peaceful transition of power, of a much needed shift from darkness to light, is one to savor.
Let's hear it for audacity. And hope.
WFP Executive Director
PS - Pete Seeger was nice enough to record a message for the WFP's 10th Anniversary bash last fall. You can watch it here at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Help Working Families: We can't count on Wall Street. We rely on contributions from ordinary people like you to keep the WFP going. If you'd like to support our work, visit:
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
It is ten o'clock at night. A woman around thirty years of age (but maybe very slightly older), bundled to the neck against twenty degree weather, bustles past the everlong block of Silvercup Studios. Hopefully, she emerges onto the brink of the abandoned strip that is the western portion of Queens Plaza South. To her elation she sees exactly what she wants to see: her bus, the Q102, turning the corner from 21st Street. Standing next to the bus stop sign, she waves gently as if to say, "hello my savior from the cold cold night!"
And yet, to her surprise, the behemoth vehicle does not draw near the curb where she stands, does not attempt to stop; does not, in fact, even slow. As her surprise turns to shock, the bus simply passes as if she were not standing there in the freezing dark, next to the sign declaring that in this place a carriage called Q102 will arrive to take her home.
Shock turns to a vague sense of outrage as she begins to walk east, staring down the taillights of her would-be ride which is gaining progressively more distance ahead of her. She thinks for a moment about climbing the three flights of stairs that will bring her to the train platform as she passes the entrance to Queensboro Plaza, but rather passes them by, fueled by her anger and ready for a walk. She steers herself instead up 29th Street.
At 40th Avenue, she is livid. At 38th, annoyed. At 35th she remembers a bar up the road a little ways and laughs to herself about an evening had there not so long ago. At 33rd she spies a Christmas tree, still decorated and lit, through a second story window and is charmed that some are still clinging to the joys of the season.
By 31st Avenue she is near enough to home to claim her neighborhood, and noticing again the sculpted stone and wrought iron details of the pre-war apartment buildings that have caught her eye since that first November day, so long ago now, that she first rode the N out to its northern extremity. Remembering why it is that she has, in fact, loved this place from the start.
And so, eff you Q102. I didn't want to ride you anyway.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I've now moved back to New Orleans! And I have a whole blog about being vegan in New Orleans. If you're looking for restaurants that have vegan food in New Orleans, I think you'll find it extremely useful. Don't miss the link in the sidebar of Vegan-Friendly Joints In and Around New Orleans - it's a huge list that's growing all the time. Check it out: New Orleans in Green. Enjoy!
* * * * *
It's terrible, the way I've neglected you. I won't try to make excuses, explain away my actions or lack thereof. I will only say how deeply I regret the time we've lost together. But alas, no use crying over spilt silk. I'm here to tell you about my travels, and possibly most importantly, what I ate as I traveled down the east side of our continent and back up again.
Our trip began on Christmas morning, calling the car service at approximately 5:45 am - far too early to eat or drink. The flight to Raleigh-Durham, on Jet Blue (which I love except for the dead cow seats that they're oh so proud of) involved little to no foodstuffs - there may have been some potato chips. And so, upon arriving at the small airport, the first order of business was COFFEE. I hadn't had any yet, and I wasn't about tho think about driving the four or so hours to Jonathan's parents' house in Virginia without a proper amount of caffeine in my system.
Luckily, thankfully, blissfully, the airport had a Fourbucks. Now, in general I hate starbucks. For all of the obvious reasons - the lack of fair trade, the high prices, the ridiculous amounts of fat and sugar and additives in most of their "specialty" drinks. But their one redeeming factor is that no matter where you are in the country, if you can find a Starbucks you've got yourself a soy latte. Ahh, the sweet saving grace that is a soy latte, how would I live without it.
Properly caffeinated, we made our way up, up, up into the Blue Ridge mountains. His parents live far out, up and away from what we like to call "civilization" - we're talking no cell phone reception people. They, in fact, live near a large Amish community that has sprung up in the last few years, overflow down from Pennsylvania. The one main benefit of having them as neighbors is the Nature's Way grocery just up the hill, which sells all manner of, well, Amish food. Jams and jellies, jarred fruits and vegetables, pastas, beans, cereal, the best damn spiced peaches and marinated mushrooms you ever had, and for reasons we'll never be sure of almond and soy milk. Do we shop up the road at Nature's Way, rather than drive the 40 minutes "into town" to shop at the Kroger? Well yes, yes we do.
I'm not going to talk a whole lot about our five days up in the mountains; meal wise it was fairly uneventful. Jonathan's parents do some gardening that's really more like small scale farming, and whatever they can't eat fresh they freeze or can or jar or pickle, so we as usual got to eat plenty of things that they had grown themselves which is awesome. Furthermore, his mother (the cook) 'gets it', and goes out of her way not to put butter on the potatoes or ham hock in the black beans - double plus awesome. We eat hearty, simple meals at the mountain cabin. Jon's dad even requested that I make my tofu lasagna while we were there, quite a surprise, so of course I did. I made tomato sauce using tomatoes that Miss Judy had jarred last summer - does it get any better than that?
We had originally thought that we would fly from Virginia down to New Orleans for Parental Visit Two, but when we went to book we discovered that every single flight from anywhere in the area got routed back through JFK - and most had a layover there. Well, we just couldn't stand the thought of basically going back to NY only to leave again, so we said screw it. We'll take a day to ourselves and have a little road trip. We took supplies with us from the Amish store: mustard pretzels, sesame sticks, their version of corn nuts, and dark chocolate covered peanuts - vegan as the day is long, oh yes, and gooood. Freakin' love those things.
We drove through a series of really prize states, places that just adore veganism: North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. Oh yes, choices on places to eat were just boundless. Well, we made a stop at Cracker Barrel, because you just have to, and made very careful selections from their menu of sides. They at least tell you what crazy things they put lard in (like their corn muffins).
The second stop, made at a gas station, offered up sandwiches at a Blimpie. Much like the sandwiches that you get at Subway, it was salad on bread - typical vegetables plus pickles and banana peppers. Ahh, road food - you do whatcha gotta. Driving into NO, it was so odd to feel relieved seeing signs for Slidell... my friends from down south will understand that sentiment.
Now, to the meat of the subject (ha ha): eating vegan in New Orleans. The fact is that you can be vegan anywhere that there's a grocery store; the city you live in just determines how much you can go out to eat. This is the south, and there are definitely a good number of restaurants here that don't sell a single edible item. They make their red sauce with beef stock and you'll find chunks of ham fat in the green beans. And let's just say one thing up front: there is not a single all-vegetarian restaurant in New Orleans - not even a vegetarian-but-we-have-fish. But. You can eat here, and well, and often, if you know where to go. For any of my vegan brethren who may find themselves in the situation of trying to eat vegan in this odd little curve of a town, I present to you the following information.
Mona's is, in my opinion the best middle eastern food anywhere. Sure, we can get all manner of hummus and falafel in New York, but my palette for this ethnicity was set at Mona's and to me no one else's babaganouj tastes right. There are now three Mona's locations for your dining pleasure, spread conveniently around the city. I'd give you a link to their website except that they don't have one. The original restaurant on Banks street, mid city just below Carrolton, began its life as a gas station. At one point not so long ago, but before the storm, it burned down - but they rebuilt it, much to the joy of its faithful followers. I ate there with my sister (and my man of course) on our first real day in town. Another cool bonus of the Banks Street location is that attached to the restaurant is a little grocery. This isn't quite as exciting as it used to be now that I've lived in Astoria for a few years, but it's still cool and I'm happy that they're continuing to do well. The other locations are 1) in the French Quarter/Fauburg area at the corner of Decatur and Frenchman, and 2) on Carrolton in the Riverbend just toward the river from Oak Street. Go there. Get the babaganouj and the falafel and the veg grape leaves. Don't tell me about how that's too much food. Just do it. Oh, and the red lentil soup is excellent as well...
Same neighborhood as the Riverbend Mona's, really just down the street, is Bangkok Thai. It's next door to Cooter Brown's, but we can't really blame them for that now can we? It's, well, a Thai place. And I like it. They apparently changed hands after the storm, but there doesn't seem to be any significant difference in the food or service. The atmosphere is humble, but the food is good. The house pad thai with vegetables is quite pleasing, with chunks of fried tofu and lots of nice veggies, and just a hint of yellow curry to tinge and flavor the noodles. There are many options on the menu that can be vegan; choose the "vegetables" option and make sure it doesn't usually come with egg, and you're pretty much good to go.
Juan's Flying Burrito.
Juan's has two locations, but if you want to actually have your food served to you within an hour of ordering it (or, for that matter, at all), you should probably shun the Magazine Street Garden District location in favor of the Mid City spot at the corner of Canal and Carrolton. Service there will still be bad - just not nearly as bad. It'll all be alright though once you get your food, because it's freakin' good and there is a whole lot of it. Many of their dishes do not feature meat (such as the bean burrito, the build your own tacos, the supergreen burrito, and the veggie punk burrito - my personal favorite), and they're pretty good about leaving the dairy out. They haven't quite progressed to having vegan cheese or sour cream, or tofu, but I like to believe that they'll get there one day. They also make a tasty guacamole and a mean margarita.
Sake Cafe, Wasabi, and Ninja.
Japanese is pretty much always a good option, what with seaweed salad, veg tempora, and any number of vegetable rolls that can be on offer. As far as their miso being clean (sans fish broth or benito), I haven't been to any of these recently so I would ask your server before ordering. The first and last are uptown but on opposite ends - Sake Cafe is in uptown proper but nearing the Garden District, at the corner of Magazine Street and Washington; Ninja is almost to the river on Oak Street in Riverbend - maybe after dinner you can stop by the Maple Leaf. (Rebirth plays on Wednesdays.) Wasabi is in the Fauburg / Marigny, at the corner of Frenchman and Burgundy (not pronounced like the color / wine - stress on the second syllable, please).
Pho Tau Bay.
Unfortunately, you will now have to travel to the Westbank to get the best Vietnamese food in the country - the shops in Fat City and on Carrolton shut down after the storm due to copious damage. But that's ok, because at least there's still the one locaiton, and that one's booming. All you gotta do to get there is take the bridge and then go three exits into the Wank (or, to some, the Best Bank), to Stumpf. Get off and go straight, but get into the right lane. It'll be on your righthand side in a big parking lot. And it's so, so, so, so worth it. This journey alone with validate your rental car. There is plenty of meat on the menu, but there are plenty of vegetarian options too. I suggest... any of them, as long as you also get the spring rolls - they're the kind wrapped in the stretchy rice paper stuff, and they're full of fried tofu and noodles and thai basil and goodness, and served with the most wonderful peanut sauce this side of the Pacific. Aw man, now I wanna go back there.
Alright, enough for now. I'm starving, and more convinced than ever that it in fact is possible to be a happy vegan in New Orleans - something I could never quite convince myself of when I lived there. Until next time, this is BoBo the Wonder Puppy saying, don't forget to eat your vegetables!
Monday, January 12, 2009
Then, I tried to use my shiny new external hard drive. I plugged it in via USB and... nothing. Oh, it lit up with a weird little heartbeat type light, but it didn't pop up on my desktop or any finder windows. My first thought that was I'd made the classic moron move, and had bought a drive that wasn't mac compatible. But the internets confirmed that I'd correctly done my homework, and that there was no reason for it not to work. Naturally I sic'd Jonathan on the problem the minute he got home. All of his 17 computers have no problem recognizing it, including his mac.
Well OK. After some searching, chat rooms and bulletin boards and such, he discovered that I'm not, by far, the first person to have this problem. Apparently in versions of Mac OSX past 10.4.8 the damn os just stops seeing external hard drives. (I'm running 10.4.11.) And of course, since they came out with Leopard they're not really supporting Tiger any more, but I can't really run Leopard on this machine because I don't have the intel processers... Aarg, the constant "progress" of technology really irritates me sometimes. Jonathan's doing some kind of gadget whatchamahoozit (he looses me pretty quick when he talks computers) that may or may not make it work. Or, he will, but not tonight since he's working till midnight. Ho hum.
Then I tried out my new electronic scale, because I feel the need to quantify exactly how much weight a person can gain from scarfing Croatian wafer cookies for an entire summer. Anyway, I couldn't get that to work either. By that point I was fairly convinced that a small scale conspiracy was at hand. I mean, a bathroom scale? Really? These things are designed for the common man! I am college educated! This household item should not thwart me!!
Today seems to be going a bit better. Yesterday's problems are not solved, but at least no new ones have cropped up... yet.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
January 10th was a cold, cold day here in New York City, but plans are plans, and our
plan was to go to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and see what there was to see. Now, it being the middle of winter, what there was to see outside was mostly a lot of dead stuff. But the glory part is that they have lots of insides - fantastic greenhouse-like domes of different themes which are warm and lush year round. It's kind of awesome to stand in a tropical paradise, peering through the glass at the 26-feels-like-17 weather beyond. They have three such rooms, actually, joined together by a central indoor pavillion courtyard type space; upstairs from there is a sort of lush tropical garden of its own and the bonzai room. Now, as far as feng shui and chi are concerned I'm against bonzai trees. But the good ones are truly gorgeous, and the examples they have there are about as good as it gets. I just wonder about the spirits of the trees, trapped in bondage, tortured and unable to grow; they must become demented and somewhat evil by the time they're 150 years old like a few of them are there. But that's neither here nor there. We saw many beautiful flowers and enjoyed being surrounded by living thriving plant life while outside it was beginning to snow.
And snow it did. There had been flurries all morning, but by the time we went back outside from the greenhouses it was really working. There was a white dusting building up on everything, including the ponds outside of the Palm House. (Incidentally, if you'd like to have a wedding at the Palm House, quite a lovely venue, on a Saturday in March, it will cost you a bare minimum of $40k.) The ponds at
warmer times are home to koi and water lilies; this time of year the lilies are long gone, but the koi are still there - doing what they can under two inches of ice. I've always known this is what big goldfish in such ponds did; the ice actually insulates the water beneath keeping it above freezing. This is why it's imperative that you don't go walking on it - if you crack it the whole system is ruined and you may kill the fish. But I've never actually gotten to see the fish under the ice. They were just hanging out down there! Swimming around! Sticking together in little clumps! So, so cool. I wanted to take some video of it, but the view wasn't the greatest through the ice and snowdusting, and I never knew when one would choose to swim a little; they mostly stayed in place. Ugh, still one of the awesomest things I've ever seen though.
Now, snow in New York in January is not so very unusual. But this, my poppets, was no
ordinary snow. Due to the extremely cold temperatures, the snowflakes looked like snowflakes. Like, little water crystals with hexagonal structures - pretty and white and perfect like the ones you cut out of paper when you were a kid and hung from the ceiling, like the glass ornaments that may have adorned your tree in December. I've seen one or two "real" snowflakes before, but never anything like this. The perfect shapes just kept coming, some so small they could barely be made out, some half a centimeter or more in diameter. Like magic falling right out of the sky.
On our way back to the subway, we saw a little girl maybe eight years old waiting for the bus on Flushing Avenue: arms akimbo, tongue out to receive frozen sparks from the sky, smiling, giggling, twirling and spinning in the tiny perfectly falling flakes. The epitome of happiness. Sometimes it's the little things.
From the Botanic Gardens (a place that I truly love and if you live here and haven't been there go right now) we headed to Chinatown. It was determined that there was no better way to eat a birthday lunch than to do Dim Sum at Buddha Bodai, our favorite of the three all-vegetarian places in Chinatown. We were joined by Monica and Josh, and by Kathy and Robbie. They appeared with flowers and other awesomeness, such as long gloves and a slingshot planner - oh, yes. If you're wondering why you weren't invited it's either because a) I don't know you, b) you live in a different state, or c) trying to seat more than 6 people together at that place is neigh impossible, especially at dim sum time. As it was we had to wait 20 minutes for a table, standing out in the freezing cold of Mott street. There's also the fact that it was planned extremely last minute (can you say Friday?), because I had decided not to do anything for my birthday. You know how it is. Anyway, we had the most extraordinary lunch, as usual. If you go there, you MUST get the baked veg meat buns - it may be the best thing I've ever had. Then there are my standard favorites, the sticky rice steamed in lotus leaf, and the roasted veg meat. Every time we go there we are overwhelmed by choice - with the exception of a few dishes with egg, everything is vegan and delish. The six of us gorged and there was still plenty left over... all for under a hundred bucks. Beat that anywhere in NYC, I dare you.
After that, I got a giant tattoo. Yes, really! Also a somewhat last minute decision, though not really. I always think about getting more, and I'd actually wanted to get one while I was in New Orleans but the I got sick instead. So the idea didn't get really fully formed until the 9th. As such, we figured I'd just be going in for a consultation type meeting when we walked up to Adorned on 2nd Avenue after our dim sum bliss. Imagine my surprise when, at 4:30, I was told that Damion Ross could do my tattoo at 6!
So it was that I was able to get a fairly huge tattoo of a hybrid blooming dogwood/cherry tree branch on my 31st birthday. The original plan was to get the same thing on both shoulders; that was before I was under the needle, remembering exactly how much it actually hurts to get a tattoo and finding out how my shoulder muscles react to being worked on. I realized that if I wanted to get any sleep for the next week (or two or three) it would be prudent to wait until one side healed before doing the other. That was probably in part a plan of my tattoo artist - It's more expensive to do it in installments. But whatever. I think it's for the best. And I will get the other side done, oh yes - I'm thinking Valentine's day will be optimal timing. Both for healing, and because I'm working on conning Jonathan into getting just one of the flowers tattooed on him somewheres. Hee. Wouldn't that just be freakin' adorable?
I will now digress into showing you pictures of pretty flowers.
The outline completed, no color. For the most part the outline hurts the most. But then the skin is good and irritated, so even though the shading and coloring is less difficult procedurally it can hurt just as much. But ain't it perdy?? Once I saw this, I knew It was all worth it.
I went in with a fairly vague notion of what I wanted, mostly just with a lot of pictures of dogwood flowers. Damion took it from there. The branches came out significantly more elaborately than anything I'd been thinking... and not at all like dogwood branches. But they're gorgeous, and the flowers are obviously dogwood flowers, so I'm not really worried about it.
The flowers are actually distinctly more white and less pink than they appear here - a lot of the color that you're seeing in this picture is, um, blood. I promise to post pics when it's healed. Interesting note about the branchwork: he put in the flowers via stencil, and then just drew in the branches by hand with a sharpie.
After you get a tattoo, they bandage you; you keep the bandages on for a couple of hours to soak up the blood. They use these pads that are made for putting under slabs of meat (like steaks) when they get packaged in styrofoam and covered over with plastic wrap - so that dinner isn't sitting in a pool of blood when mom goes shopping at the grocery. I can't decide whether it's weirder to use these pads as bandages or as blood sinks for steaks. I want to say that the meat packaging is weirder, but then I think I might be biased.
Finished with the tattoo adventure we wanted a little pick-me-up, so we headed to Think at the corner of Bleaker and Bowery - which now has beer! As you may know, I worked for Think for a while, and as luck may have it some of my friends are still around. As a matter of fact and as an extra special plus on my birthday I must say, one of my favorite people ever, Miss Elizabeth (the Vixen) was there. She made me the most beautiful soy hot chocolate the world has ever seen. See? As she would put it, her liberal arts education is paying off. And kittens, if you ever stop by Think, remember what angry penguin says: Bus Your Table!
So yes, I stand by my verdict. Best birthday ever. I spent the whole day being happy, enjoying the world around me, and feeling loved. Thank you to everyone who came out, called, texted, and otherwise took part in the day. Thank you to the snow, a startlingly perfect conspiracy of clouds and air. Thank you to the magical, if somewhat painful, transformation that is receiving a beautiful new tattoo. Thank you New York City, exquisite backdrop for fantastic days of tromping, exploring, and living. Hurrah for January 10th, 2009 - may you be a good omen of things to come.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
(Illustration from the New York Times, 2004)
The F train, as far as I'm concerned, is a train of mystery. It goes where no other trains go, dodging and darting and twisting in a huge expanse from deep within Queens, through Manhattan, and on into Brooklyn all the way to Coney Island - but not by the same paths as other Brooklyn trains. It has forged its own path, and maybe because of this it is a train that draws reactions. No one is lukewarm about this line; it is Love or it is Hate. People write about it, make art about it, take video of it. Of all the trains that do go to Coney Island, a guerrilla art group chose this one for its livingroom style attack. It is also an eventful train; just this past June a woman gave birth on it - a woman named Francine, no less. And merely a month previous to that life-giving episode, a man was hit by an oncoming F train at Delancy - and lived.
The F has always been a train of wild times... here, Miss Amanda Brown (of Thibadoux / Chapel Hill infamy) has a quick bite before taking a ride. This pic was actually taken long before my official F train ride, but it was just too perfect a shot not to include here.
In the genre of beautiful women, the F happens to be the favorite line of the stunning and brilliant Miss Sarah Riley, film maker of Che La Ke fame, and as such she finally joined me for a ride.
The F seemed to be doing its damnedest to evade us - we'd been trying to make the journey for weeks and were thwarted by such events as work schedules and sinus infections. Hell, just to get on it we had to ride the E well into Queens - to Union Turnpike - thus retracing in large portions my previous subway journey. At least they were the express portions. Or, well, they would have been, if there hadn't been a "malfunction" with the emergency brake - slowest ride on the E ever. But despite all odds and forces conspiring against us, that mid October day Ms. Riley and I did eventually make it into the depths of Jamaica, where our journey truly began.
When we looked at the subway map with the ubiquitous "you are here" arrow circle, Sarah laughed to herself saying, "Fresh Meadows? I doubt it." It was kind of hilarious. That one's always full of surprises.
We emerged from a fairly unremarkable station to find ourselves on the border between to very distinct neighborhood types. To one side of a major road, which I now believe to be 179th Street, we found QUEENS. The kind of row houses and old lady gardens that one envisions when you hearing the name, thanks to Woody Allen movies and Peter Parker's humble upbringings. I kinda love it. To the other, we found Jamaica Estates, a large development of all-too-manicured houses, perfect sidewalks, and expensive cars. We did, however, find this intriguing mailbox. The most perfect paint spill ever? Perhaps. An interesting side note that came to my attention after the fact: Jamaica Estates is where the McDowell family lives in the movie Coming To America. In case you haven't seen it, that movie is effing hilarious.
Returning to the subway, we came upon a likely commissioned graffiti-style mural - and them is some tough vegetables!
Now, this may surprise you, but for some reason there just aren't very many art installations in the subway stations of northeast queens. Shocking, I know. And since I'd already been through most of it with the E - almost all of it, in fact, since in an absolutely brilliant logistical move all the trains out there use the same wide vein of track - there wasn't really anywhere else to stop until we got to Roosevelt Island. We did pass through the 21st Street / Queensbridge station, a station at which I have gotten out a few times, and also the locale of a very unfortunate event which was to take place only a few days after our ride.
At any rate, about the island. I've talked a good bit about its history in previous posts, so I will only focus now on that day's experience. Sarah and I got out and explored the station, oh so deep under ground, before emerging into the bright blue day and hopping onto the red bus that circles the island's perimeter at a mere 50 cents per ride. For reasons that we did not fully understand, we noticed scores of Hasidic Jewish families seeing the sights around the island; it somehow seemed appropriate to see people in somewhat antiquated dress in a place with such history.
We took the bus up to The Octagon, a truly bizarre establishment. I've done some internet research, and it's rather pricey to get a condo in this converted building - a studio goes for a bit more than what we pay for our one bedroom. There are two extra-special weird things about this particular condo building: 1) they consider themselves to be 'in Manhattan', despite the fact that they're on a different island, because yes technically Roosevelt island is part of the Manhattan borough, and 2) the namesake of The Octagon, the beautiful octagonal building that serves as cornerstone for the L-shaped development and its main entrance, was originally the main entrance hall to one of the most notorious LUNATIC ASYLUMS in the whole country. (Funny enough, as much as they like to tout that the octagonal beauty is "historic" on the condo website, they don't so much talk about what that history might be.) That's right folks, spend an arm and a leg to live on top of the site of the place that Charles Dickens, Nellie Bly, and countless others have written about as a place of suffering and horror. Uh... no thanks?
But, of course, we couldn't resist taking a look inside now could we? We walked in, and the front desk guys were eying us immediately. I imagine they get not a huge number of spectators, but enough that they know what's happening when it happens. They instantly saw Sarah's video camera and informed us that no photography was allowed. No problem, guys. The architects really did do a wonderful job of restoring the structure; the building itself is indeed quite beautiful, with a spiral staircase winding around the perimeter of the atrium. The wings that held cells for patients are long gone; at one point the thing burned to the ground (likely with most of the inmates inside), and it was rebuilt after that, but at any rate all that remains of the original structure is the octagon.
At first the space felt like most newly constructed spaces feel - sort of vacant and dead. But then, all of a sudden, a wave came over me - of panic, of fear, of Very Bad Things. I looked around, and the lobby was still as calm and unremarkable as could be. But this energy was surging through me with a force that made me feel as if I might fall down. I collected Sarah and got the hell out.
We crossed the street to a little area with benches and a sundial, and it took me several minutes of sitting and breathing to collect myself. Now, I am not one to go in for a lot of heebee jeebee mumbo jumbo. But I have this thing with places. I suppose the best way to explain it is that I believe in energy; that a place can be infused with the energies of its occupants if those energies are strong enough, good or bad, and that the traces can last long past their actual presence. I know it sounds a little goofy, and maybe I just watched The Shining too many times when I was a kid. But I've felt many things in many places, and never in my life have I felt anything like that. And I lived in New Orleans for chrissake. Granted, I went in knowing the history of the place, but it certainly isn't what I was thinking of at the time. I was thinking about how pretty it was, and the nice weather, and how yuppies like to live in expensive places with tennis courts. And it just hit me out of nowhere, like a sickness. Whatever it was that happened in there, it is not an experience I have any desire to repeat.
After I'd got myself together a bit, I explained what had happened to Sarah. She's the kind of girl who understands these things and didn't think it was terribly crazy - remarkable, perhaps, but not crazy. When my strength was regained I went to take a look at the sundial that was at the center of our little area of respite. Being placed as it was, directly across the street from the old insane asylum, I found the sentiment rather ironic. (In case you can't read it, it says "count none but sunny hours")
Once we were thoroughly over our Octagon experience, we walked up to the very tippy top of the island, at which there is a spooky little lighthouse built by inmates of the Blackwell Island Prison with stone that was quarried there... yeah, that place is just nuts.
I, of course, had wanted to visit the southern end of the island, at which lies the ruins of the abandoned smallpox hospital. Yeah, seriously. But, for some effing reason, the city has seen fit to fence off the whole bottom fifth of the island and post guards at the gates that allow access. I've made it this far without a police record, and if I'm gonna start one now goddamnit it's going to be for breaking into an abandoned station. Anyway, here is a picture of the hospital that I managed to take from Manhattan's east side. The ruins are collapsing, and there are factions that want them preserved as a historical landmark. There are also idiots (on the internet) who think that the smallpox virus will still be alive and active in the rubble. Um, sure.
We stayed on the island for a long, long time. It's really quite beautiful; I'd consider living there if it wasn't prohibitively expensive, crawling with feral cats, and possibly the most haunted piece of land on the planet. But as it headed toward late afternoon, we realized that we were still pretty far north and had a long way down to Coney. So, back to the subway we went.
This is just not a line with many installations, and the stations that do have them largely also have other train lines stopping at them, which means that I can show the cool stuff to you at a future time. The very next station we passed after resuming our journey was the Lexington Ave / 63rd Street station, which is only vaguely interesting in that when the Second Avenue Subway finally opens up - at this point supposedly in 2015 - that station will be a junction. It seems that there is already a platform for the new train line built and sitting behind a red brick wall; all that must be done to connect the two is to remove it. I hope it's not load bearing. They thought of that, right?
We actually didn't get out of the train again until the end of the line, but as is so often the case in Brooklyn this train came on up out of the ground and gave us some things to look at through the windows. Near the Smith and 9th Street station, which incidentally is both the station with the highest elevation in the entire subway system as well as the terminus of the G train, the most notable feature is the Kentile Floors sign. Kentile is a name quite familiar to me for... uh... professional reasons. Let's just say that, for several decades, they specialized in manufacturing asbestos floor tiles. Ahem. Anyway, it's quite a cool sign, and a nice feature in the skyline.
Paradoxically, just two stops after reaching the zenith of the entire track system, you're back under ground. You are also, I must note, interred only one stop before it, at Carroll Street. This strikes me as very odd, and I really do need to do some investigating as to why they'd turn the subway into a roller coaster for that moment. I'd like to assume there are structural reasons, but you just never can tell.
We rode through the strange and mysterious depths of Brooklyn without incident, but fully in the knowledge that this train did not trace the steps of any other - not the B or Q or N, which all also end up at the massive Coney Island convergence. At Neptune Avenue, there are stained glass installations in the "wind shields" of the platform; I did not, however, manage to photograph them. At the next to last station, West 8th St / NY Aquarium, the exoskeleton of the station itself is a work of art, a glass and steel sculpture resembling a marlin or sea beast - very cool, very massive, very hard to frame properly. And finally, we arrived at the end of the line, the big Coney Island station at which so many trains are anchored.
Naturally we got out to walk on the boardwalk. By that time the sun had begun to set on the autumn day, casting a golden patina over the fading relic. Coney is a place like no other, and yet it is now facing irrevocable change. As of the end of this summer season, the majority of the amusement parks were to be closed down, leaving only those like the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone that have achieved landmark status. Why? Well, to build condos of course. Why else would something special and irreplaceable be destroyed forever?
We walked west, into the wind, into the sunset, Sarah filming bits of beauty in every direction. Perhaps, like New Orleans, this is a place that will retain its spirit regardless of what fate befalls it; maybe its true self will shine through whatever polish the developers choose to slather on. We can only hope. After all, it has seen many changes already and is long past its glory days. After all, with every visit I have wished that I could have seen it in the days of Steeplechase.
After a long and weary day of travel, we two considered dinner in the city but thought better of it and returned instead to our houses - Sarah to her abode in Brooklyn, and I to my Astoria pre-war nest. But the day remained with me, the rhythm of the train continuing its lull like the rocking of a boat will do after a day's travel on the water. Yes, everyone either loves or hates the F train. For me, as far as having to depend on that line, well, I would never want to try. But for an adventure, or a joy ride, or just a unique subway experience, I'll vote love. After all, it wouldn't be the first time that I loved someone, or something, unpredictable.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Quite the way to start the year, but then my body does not like travel, so when I planned this multi-leg flying-and-driving trip I was sort of asking for it. I think the clincher was in staying at my parents' house - between the sheer annoyance and the fact that they have three cats, it was almost inevitable. Anyway, I am remiss in having yet to review the past year, and setting goals for this; I am in fact days and days late. Butdamnit, it's not my fault. I'm on vacation and I'm sick; that has to be some kind of excuse, doesn't it? (Apparently this will not be the year that I give up procrastination and the rationalization thereof.) Anyway, as I've always said, better late than never.
As for last year, well. Thirty did not want to go quietly, did it? Or maybe I didn't want to let it. Either way, it turned out to be tumultuous to say the least. I discovered / discerned / achieved a few things though, including but not limited to the following:
-If I'm going to quit my job, I need to have a much better plan for how to spend my time and how to become re-employed.
-I can be just about as crazy and sick as I get, and Jonathan will still want to be with me... he won't necessarily happy about me being crazy and sick, but he'll still want to be with me.
-I no longer have the stamina to work in a coffee shop. I'll leave that shit to you young kids. Make me a freakin' soy latte already.
-I really like having my own studio.
-If I ever get another studio, it should be a block or less from my house.
-There are people in the world who want to buy my art and print my writing, but I should probably be working harder to find them... and to provide them with things to buy and print.
-Marriage is for me; weddings are not.
-Hanging artwork in public is scary, but satisfying - even if no one buys anything.
-I shouldn't take art classes for something that I already do, unless it gives me studio time and equipment access.
-York College can kiss my ass.
And so, goals for the coming year:
-Figure out this whole marriage shtick, along with some of the details of our "future" - where to live when we eventually leave NY and such and so forth.
-Make more art and write more words - and show both to various and sundry peoples.
-Specifically, finish my started and planned paintings, and edit the novel that I've already written.
-Spend more time in the studio.
-Lose some freaking goddamn weight. Cliche, I know, but somehow over the summer I managed to gain fifteen to twenty pounds, and I can't fit into most of my pants or dresses. Not cool. I am not buying a new wardrobe, nor am I pleased with my appearance, and therefore theblub must go.
-Get money saved again.
-Continue to work on that tricky work/life balance thing.
-Be happier, healthier, more well adjusted, bla bla fucking bla. I hate goals. Screw goals. I'm just gonna do stuff.
Since I'm probably not going to uproot my life at its foundations this year, 2009 is bound to at least be a bit more stable than 2008 was. And really, there's something to be said for stability. It provides a platform, you know, the kind on which to build things. And while it may be an illusion, it's an illusion that allows us to be productive - more than can be said for most. So, I'll stick with it, even if I know all too well that all things that seem fixed are actually paper thin and infinitely malleable. At least with the illusion of stability, there is a place from which to begin. And so my loves, here we go.