Travel Log, Budapest Trip, Days 5 & 6

Danube Bend and Vienna, Austria

During these two days, I ventured outside of Budapest. I wanted to see some more of Hungary, outside the city, and I very much wanted to set foot in Austria and experience Vienna. So, I signed up for two day trips. Guided day trips. Yes. Sigh. I usually steer clear of anything that remotely smells of “guided group tours,” but I wanted to make the most of my short time in unfamiliar areas and the easiest way to make sure I didn’t waste my own time figuring things out was to trust a knowledgeable guide to do it all for me.

There were pluses and minuses to the guided tour thing. The winning “plus” was none of my own time spent coordinating train times and routes and figuring out how to get where and what to do there, and amassing maps and plans. Pick up and drop off was at my hotel. I also got to meet and spend time getting to know some fellow travelers who also signed up for the trips. Three continents were represented– on Tuesday’s trip there were travelers from Turkey, Israel, Italy, Holland, England and several others also from the States, including an older couple also from New York, who I really enjoyed chatting with. (Shocker, I know– I go halfway around the world and end up chatting away with fellow New Yorkers. They were about my parent’s age and widely traveled and really fun to talk to. They kept saying to me that I’ll end up telling my friends I was on a trip with old people. Which I guess is what I’m doing! Being a solo traveler though, it was nice to meet up with them throughout my week and touch base.)

But the thing about guided tours, is that you have to trust that the tour guide is like-minded and will take you to places you’ll be interested in and would have chosen. Or even better– introduce you to someplace you’d never have found on your own. That was not completely the case with my experience on these two day trips, which is where the minuses start to pile up. Plus, you have to allow for the pace of a group, as opposed to what might be your own faster or slower pace. So, compromise is an inevitable part of group travel.

Danube Bend, Day 5

On Tuesday, the trip was headed north to a highly regarded and historically important region of Hungary called the Danube Bend. We visited three towns of important significance: Ezstergom, Visegrad and Szentendre. However, when I say “visited three towns” that was not actually the case as there was little to no exploring done of Ezstergom or Visegrad, just a visit to a famous site at each location. And while we did wander around Szentendre, too much time was spent on tourist trap souvenier shopping areas and too little free time given to wander at will to our own styles. I hate tourist trap sites and shops as I don’t consider that any real way to experience a location. I like to wander at will, go off the main tourist streets a bit and most importantly SIT AND HAVE A FREAKING DRINK OR TWO. Coffee, beer, wine… whatever. That, my friends, is how you take the pulse of a place. At least, that’s how I like to do it. There was no time to do that on this day trip.

 

 

The view from Esztergom Basilica

The Ezstergom basilica is truly remarkable. It is the seat of the Catholic church in Hungary and behind its altar has the largest painting in the world painted on one canvas.

The basilica was beautiful, but the most exciting part, to me, was that just across the river was Slovakia. I was this close to Slovakia!

Look, kids! It’s Slovakia! (across the bridge)

The castle at Visegrad dates back to 1009 and was the royal seat of Hungary in 1325 before the official royal residence was moved to Buda in the following century. I’m a sucker for castles — always have been. Most of this one is reconstructed though, as it was destroyed by the Turks in the 1500s, fell to ruin, and then was actually completely covered by earth. Excavation started to occur in the 1930s.

Szentendre was a cute little town. Definitely touristy, but thankfully also quaint and picturesque.

So, all in all, the interesting group of travelers, the beauty of the Danube Bend, the interesting and very distinctive architecture dotting the countryside, the history that I took in at the various places, and the beautiful local Hungarian artisan pottery that I found OFF THE MAIN TOURIST DRAG in Szentendre made it all worth it. The end of that day’s trip was to go back to the city via a peaceful hour long boat trip on the Danube. So, ok, various annoyances aside, the trip was nice.

Vienna, Austria, Day 6

Wednesday, I woke up even earlier than the day before’s 8:30 am departure, for a 7am departure to… Vienna, Austria!!!! I was one of 5 people signed up for this trip. Same tour guide, the New Yorker couple I mentioned, and the Turkish couple. First of all, I am hugely impressed with myself for choosing to spend two days of my vacation getting up earlier than I would in my real daily life. I usually love sleep more than just about anything else– but apparently not more than travel!

Vienna (Wien) is a 2 ½ hour drive from Budapest. I was looking forward to a quiet bus ride of reading, enjoying the countryside and maybe some dozing. First wrench in the plan was that the tour guide was driving us in his car, not a small bus, since we were just a small group. Oy. That meant I was stuck sitting up front and having to react to nonstop chatter and nonstop pointing out of inane sites from the highway. Our tour guide did not appreciate the value of quiet and contemplative introspection. I am not at my best at 7am– no, let’s be honest and say I’m at my worst. My nerves were shot by the time we arrived, after 3 hours (b/c yes, we passed 30 minutes at a freaking rest stop) of being told the history of Tesco (the English supermarket chain who’s factory we happened to pass), shown the factories of various soap makers, various electronics and car manufacturers. I gotta say, other than the giant windmill fields, the Hungarian highways and the corporate entities that run along side it, are much the same as any other place in the world and I truly, dear God, could not care less about any of those damn plants, factories, corporate headquarters or whatever the freaking heck is there. At least not that early in the morning. And not for 3 hours. I spent the entire drive dodging the guide’s frantic pointing hand being waved in front of my face and thinking to myself that this was a mistake. I should have taken the damn train to Vienna and done it myself. But too late for that. So, I told myself not to think of this as a wasted precious day, but to make the best of it. And those windmills? They were pretty darn awesome. And huge! I’d only seen pictures before, so to drive down a highway lined with field after field of them, was pretty cool.

Schonbrunn Palace

We first went to the Schonbrunn Palace, which was huge and beautiful. It really was. But, and I do not say this to sound spoiled or travel weary, I’ve seen a lot of palaces. I enjoyed Schonbrunn and it is worth seeing its splendor, however, the crowds were large and it was a very rushed visit. So, I didn’t really get a feel for the place and what it must have been like in its time.

The back gardens of Schonbrunn Palace

Then, and I kid you not, we piled into the car and drove 5 minutes more, got out of the car to see a plaque – a freaking plaque– of Stalin commemorating the place he lived for one month that he spent in Vienna. After that, we were taken to a jewelry store that sells crystal (an Austrian specialty, as I was told). But this was just a normal jewelry store full of expensive and tacky crystal jewelry and statuary that I’d never in a million years, even if I was rolling in money, spend time looking at. I was polite, but told the guide I had zero interest in shopping at that store and told him I’d meet them all outside. This is where I was sure that the guide and me did not have a like-minded view of how the day should be spent in Vienna.

We were than led around in what I started to refer, in my head, as the Austrian Death March. It was about two more hours of walking and seeing large and beautiful buildings which I could now tell you nothing about because they had no significance during the Death March. We kept asking when we’d stop for lunch and kept being told “a few more minutes.” Well, Attila’s (the guide) idea of a few more minutes and our idea were vastly different. We finally ended up at the restaurant that he had chosen around 2:30 or 3.

I was tired, hot, cranky, bitchy and hungry and about 5 minutes from a Shirley MacLaine style tantrum. Instead of “give my daughter her medicine” it was going to be “WHERE IS THE RESTAURANT? GET ME MY LUNCH NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW.” But I gotta give it to him, the lunch was fantastic, and the location, once finally reached, was exactly what I would have chosen. A small mom & pop style restaurant. The lunch will go down as one of the best lunches in the history of lunches. I decided, since I was in Austria, I was going to have all things Austrian. So, I had weinerschnitzel, beer and streudel. And in a desperate need of vegetables, I ordered a cucumber salad which turned out to be the best damn salad I’ve ever had in my life. The dressing on the beautifully ribboned cucumber slices included paprika. I never would have thought to do that, but it was fantastic. The conversation at the lunch table was fun and lively, even though the Turkish couple spoke very little English. It’s amazing what you can still communicate with hand gestures, smiles and intonation.

My fantastically delicious lunch!

After lunch, the Death March was all set to resume, but there was a minor rebellion about 30 minutes into it. We expressed the desire to wander on our own, rather than a continued led walk. So, thank god, I finally got my desired time to wander Vienna. Unfortunately, we were in a highly touristy area– and a main touristy shopping road of which I’ve never understood the draw. Why on earth would I want to shop a street of stores that I could visit at home? Then again, I live in New York, so maybe travelers from more rural areas of the States, or world, would indeed find a shopping street such at that to be a huge draw.

Vienna was indeed a beautiful city, and my experience, I’m sure, is colored by my dissatisfaction with my tour, but… it had a colder, a more disinterested vibe than Budapest. Does that make sense? Vienna felt world weary and disinterested, whereas Budapest, from the moment I arrived, felt welcoming, like it was saying, “Welcome! Come! Enjoy!”  Maybe the pace of the guided tour was making me the one that was world weary and disinterested, not Vienna… but I was so excited to visit the city, so if that’s the case, that’s a real shame. Regardless, it was a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous city.

Happy in Vienna

That’s the Austrian National Library in the distance

So. Two day recap:

Hindsight: Had I the chance to do it over again, I would only choose one guided tour, certainly not two days in a row of them. I do stand by my original premise that it saves time to have someone else set the travel plans up and take you from place to place. But this is not real traveling. This is not how an entire trip should be spent, if you truly want to figure out a place and experience it. This is… travel lite. And this flies in the face of my whole trip’s philosophy– because I specifically chose to travel alone, experience the place on my own and refuse to compromise with what anyone else wanted to do.

What’s done is done though, and I cannot take it back. So, I will take the good from the places I saw and the good people I traveled with and I will let go of the annoyances.

Me and the lovely couple, also from New York, trapped in Visegrad.

Final Tally: I set foot in a new country (Austria), set eyes on another never before seen country (Slovakia), had wienershnitzel– a food I’d never had before– had Austrian beer in Austria and acquired some beautiful Hungarian pottery. So, these two days will go down as a win, drawbacks and all. And quite a few firsts were achieved!

Travel Log, Budapest, Day 4

Day 4

Buda hills

Today was to be a day full of walking around several areas of the city, Lipotvaros then crossing the Chain Bridge to do a Castle Hill wander. I had envisioned a couple cafes throughout the day to grab some lunch and a snack and coffee; some sitting in various public open areas with some streudel while I soaked up the sights and sun. But I awoke to a driving, non-stop rain. My previous decree of “rain or shine” has wilted in the face of a day spent balancing an umbrella and my camera and wet jeans and no ability to sit outside. Occasional showers are one thing, but nonstop, constant rain?

 

Hmmmm.

 

So, considering that this is a much needed restful vacation to destress, not just a jam-packed sightseeing touristy trip, I made an executive decision and have remained in the Buda Hills for a relaxing day at my lovely hotel filled with writing and reading and perhaps a massage. Oh, the life!

 

Thought of the day: the Hungarian people I’ve come across are lovely. At times, they may seem brusque at first, but they warm up very easily and are easy to charm with my attempted Hungarian. Although English is widely spoken, and those in the hospitality and tourist industry speak very good English. Outside of the hotel and tourist trade, they first speak Hungarian to me and it’s this rush of nonsense (to me) and I just smile and bumble my way until I figure out what’s going on or they start to speak heavily accented English. The only phrase I’ve nailed other than hello, is thank you. But a smile and saying thank you in Hungarian gets a really good response! I’ve got a phrase book, of course, and read up on the language and various phrases, but it’s a lot to take in and when I’m face to face in an unknown situation, most of the quickly learned phrases are deserting me. But I continue to try, and it does seem appreciated. After all, while it is a fairly obscure language only spoken in this country, this country has outlasted 1,000 years of almost continuous foreign rule and yet still managed to maintain their own language. So, that language deserves and will get my respect.

End of day recap: Day of lazy recovery became lazier than anticipated. <insert sheepish grin> After my computer bizarrely froze and would not let me type a single word, I laid down during the reboot….and promptly fell asleep! Well, I guess it’s what one gets after not enough sleep and too much work stress for months on end, followed by 2 days of travel to get here, and a massive time change!

 

Day of rest and writing

There is a cuckoo bird outside my balcony nearby. Oh my gosh, Sound of Music song is running through my head and has been the whole time I’m at my hotel in the hills. I know, I know, wrong country. But this is the closest I’ve ever been to Austria! BTW, stay tuned for Austria later in the week!

Travel Log, Budapest, Day 3

Day 3

Budapest

I awoke at a decent hour of 9am, even though my body was screaming for more sleep and was still angry about… well, everything it had been subjected to. The hotel was having a welcome meeting, and while I usually hate things like this, I figured attending this one was a really good idea. Foreign land, foreign customs and all that. Got all sorts of useful advice and transportation information and booked some trips for the week.

Had Sunday brunch at the hotel, surrounded by Hungarian families. The food was delicious — not my normal Sunday brunch, that’s for sure!

I then set off on a trip into the city for a Danube river cruise. On the drive into the city, I was again smiling like an idiot, thinking, “I’m in Hungary. My god, I’m in Hungary!” Beautiful sunny day, beautiful river cruise. I can’t yet share the truly stunning pictures I took of this stunning city because they are on my good camera, which I won’t be uploading until I get home.

I then passed an hour wandering Pest town center before taking the bus to a grocery store and then back to the hotel. I already love this city.


Travel Log, Budapest Trip, Days 1-2

Back out in the world!

Days 1- 2

New York – London

I left on Friday morning for the first leg of my journey. I will admit I was so nervous that I couldn’t poo properly, and for those that know me, you know how attached I am to a good poo schedule! It was nerves wrapped up in excitement, of course, but as the outset of the journey had finally arrived, the details of my 2 day travels to get to my destination were starting to nip at my confidence. Will my debit card work? How much will I need in London? Do I have enough money? Is my hotel reservation ok? Will I find the hotel?….

You know when you have so many steps to complete before your task is done, but you can’t start the steps yet, so all you can do is run the anticipated plan through your head over and over and over? Yeah, I was stressing myself out. Whatever happened, it was all going to be fine. Deep breaths, Beck. You’re embarrassing your fearless self!

So, the flight from JFK to London was a dream.

I had the whole row to myself, as well as no one in front of me. I could spread out and wasn’t bothered by anyone. I was actually so happy to be heading back out into the world and traveling again, that I had some emotional tears (of happiness) on the plane. Thankfully, no one was around to see it! I arrived in London and got through customs seamlessly. No, it’s not that I was worried I’d be pegged as some international mastermind– it was that I’d heard nightmare stories of the hours it could take to get through Heathrow’s immigration. But I breezed through that, claimed my bag, got a bit of cash out of the ATM [YES YES YES THANK GOD MY CARD IS WORKING!] and headed to the central bus terminal where I had read that you could ride for free if you were going to a hotel near Heathrow. So…. finally figured out the right bus at the terminal, got on it, got off at my clearly marked Holiday Inn…. and was then told by front desk that I was at the wrong Holiday Inn. Only I can manage to choose a hotel chain that has 4 locations around Heathrow! So, the guy pulls out a map, and shows me on the map where my Holiday Inn is and tells me it’s a 5 minute walk after a little bus ride back down where I’d come from. Well, an hour later, in a full sweat, I’m cursing, mumbling “are you freaking kidding me?” after curve in the road after curve in the road fails to lead me to anything remotely resembling a hotel of any kind. I’m walking down deserted streets of nothing but quaint little English houses and Gilligan’s “3 hour tour” is singing along in my head. It’s now freaking 11:30 at night and I’m now mostly certain I’m fully and completely lost WITH all my bags and suitcase and no taxis…

I finally found the hotel! Yeeeha! Well I can see it, but I have to walk alllllllll the way around it to get to the entrance. 15 minutes after sighting the hotel, I arrive at the front desk, red-faced and sweaty and greet the mildly alarmed desk clerk with “Please tell me I’m at the right Holiday Inn.” I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. New York was going to come out to play. Sigh. Thankfully, I was at the right one. I check in– we’ll ignore their 15 minute search for payment that I’d already made online and their desire for me to pay again, which I politely declined– and the clerk asks me if I want any extras. I figure I’m only here for another 9 hours, so “no, thank you.” I get to my room and can’t turn on any lights. We are now past midnight and ok, I was probably not thinking too clearly. But I’m thinking, “Oh my god, was electricity one of those extras that I declined???!!! Stupid British plumbing and electricity… <mumble curse mumble>…” Alas, one must put one’s keycard in a slot by the door, to announce you are in the room. Then and only then does the electricity turn on! Ingenious really. No possibility of a guest leaving all appliances running while out of the room. I asked the country to forgive my rants on it’s plumbing and electricity.

I hung my sweaty clothes up to dry, went down to the lobby in basically my pajamas – too tired and too late for any shame– had a wee drink and made use of the lobby’s wifi. Caught the late London Mayoral election results. Quite some drama, and seriously interesting elections going on over here!

I tried to go to bed, even though my body felt it was only 8pm, and then woke up at what my body felt was inhuman, to meet a lovely, old friend for breakfast. Chelsea and I met 16 (OH MY GOD, 16??) years ago this month, while tending bar at the same pub in London. We’ve been friends ever since. Chelsea, an American, still lives in England, so I rarely get to see her but through the wonders of Facebook, we can now keep tabs on each other’s lives. So, Chelsea picked me up and we had a wonderful visit over breakfast at a cafe in Hounslow. And, I got to meet her adorable daughter. And have chips. Yes, I know they are just fries, but chips are so much better. Day 2 was starting off swimmingly!

I then had a wonderful 2 hours at Heathrow (still my favorite airport of all time) and had a momentary loss of sanity at one of the duty free stores, where, in an overwhelming fit of nostalgia combined with a need to use my British money, I bought shortbread, chocolate covered digestives, a bag of cadbury’s and an OK! Magazine.

I know that compared to the time in my adult life spent elsewhere, my time in London was brief. But its place in my heart is huge and dear. This place will always have a chunk of my heart.

And 4 hours later, I arrived in Budapest! Customs was a breeze, got cash out of the ATM while waiting for my bag (and my biggest concern was put to rest– I now had cash and would be just fine. I won’t go into the nightmare time in London years ago when my ATM card wouldn’t work because a bank clerk had misentered my PIN– back in the day when bank clerks still did that when you opened an account—and my parents had to use Western Union and wire me money. We all learned quite a bit about Western Union!) Ok, so cash in hand, bag claimed, I met my hotel shuttle, driver waiting for me with a sign in hand and enjoyed the 40 minute, give or take, drive from the airport, through the city, to the hotel in the Buda hills. I was smiling like an idiot the whole way– and from my massive guidebook reading, I recognized what I was seeing. When I saw the beautiful Parliament building, I took a rushed picture from the car, just so happy to be here.

Look, kids! Parliament!

Check-in was quick and easy. My room is freaking awesome. I’m so happy to be here. What a great day!

This is my little slice of peace, in the Buda hills. The view from my balcony.

2012 New Thing #3

 

Ok, so I didn’t do any new things worthy of note in March or April. I will plead overwhelming work stress and a case of tired to the bone. And I knew that coming up in May, I was going to have a HUGE first. Actually, quite a few of them.

So, here it is, I am in a city and a country that I have never been to before. I am in Budapest, Hungary!!!! I thought that worthy of going bold! I’m going to see things I’ve never seen before, eat things I’ve never eaten before, speak (as best I can) words of a language I’ve never spoken before. And actually, I’m going to see several cities and towns I’ve never been to as I venture out into the countryside. And then I’m going to hop on over to Austria and visit a whole new city, Vienna, and country I’ve never been to before. Bam, that’s quite a bit of firsts, if you’re counting. Which I am.

I have been wanting to take a trip by myself for a while now. Traveling alone is not a first for me – I used to do it back in the day, when I was adventurous and fearless. But it’s been a while and I wanted to reclaim that girl I was. And after the stress of the past few years, I really needed some time away from my regular life. Time to myself. And time to get out of myself. At first I was going to take a trip to some spa site and do nothing but spa and write all week. But…. I ended up looking at a map of central Europe and… I decided to go to Budapest. Within 2 days of that split second decision, the trip was booked. And per the airlines, that trip was going to be via London for a night. Can’t argue with a chance to spend time in my beloved London!

I’m excited beyond words to be heading back out into the world. God, I’ve missed traveling. This is going to sound corny as hell, but I feel like I’m supposed to be traveling. I’m never happier than when I am. But grown up life and budgetary constrictions tend to interfere, don’t they?

So anyway, I’m going to post a log of my trip. Because I want to explore everything about this trip, and I want to write and I want to remember it all. Thank you for indulging my traveling rambles that will ensue!

Szia, Magyarorszag!

2012 New Thing #2

Bam. Done. Check.

New thing #2. Uh huh.

Empire State Building.

 

The best part about February’s new thing… well, there are so many best parts, I’m not sure I can fairly narrow it to one best….So here are the bests:

1. Totally impromptu last minute plan. Is there anything better than spontaneity?!

2. No line, no wait. (Probably because it’s a winter Tuesday night.)

3. This is a couple firsts rolled into one, because I’ve never been this high up — in a building, that is. 102 floors. Eiffel Tower was my previous tallest structure. Factoid – Empire State is 1250 feet tall, Eiffel is 1056. I’ll admit it– I was a dorkishly giddy in the elevator, with my ears popping, knowing I’d never been that high up. The elevator operator was kind enough to hold the doors so I could take this:

102nd floor!

1250 feet up in an elevator!

Other bests of this outing:

4. I live in this glorious city where I can just decide to do stuff like this with no forethought or planning. Why don’t I do this more often? It’s time for a Rebeccassance! I’ve stolen that line, but it’s apt and I’m sticking to it. More cultural out and about firsts in my city must be had.

5. I called my parents from the observation deck just to say hi, and my niece and nephew were over, so I got to talk to two of my favorite little people. My nephew told me “We’re in this house.” He’s 2. It was cute. It has nothing to do with the Empire State Building, but it’s part of the night, so in the blog it goes.

6. Man, it was peaceful up there. Beautiful and peaceful. Screw work stress. There’s no work stress 102 floors up in the sky.

I almost didn’t do a February New Thing. I was going to let it slide. Because I’m tired. I’m so tired. I’ve been working so hard, I think my brain and body have about given up on me. So, big thanks to my friend Melanie for the 4:30 pm call at work, saying, “Let’s do the Empire State Building tonite.” Bam. Done.

 

 

 

 

 

2012 New Thing #1

Outdoor winter cat shelter = DONE!

What an awesome weekend this first one of 2012 turned out to be! I am determined to get off my ass this year, so this weekend I completed my first item from my list of things to do for the first time.

[See Balance and Firsts for the original list]

First completed item from my list of firsts on the first weekend of 2012– That turned out nicely! I chose something I’ve meant to do for years– I made an outdoor cat shelter for some of the neighborhood strays. It breaks my heart when it gets cold and I see them outside, so it’s about time I did something about it.

It’s not the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, and it’s not the beautiful wood one that I imagined building, but this one was made entirely of repurposed items I already owned and some styrofoam (for insulation) contributed by a friend. I consulted various websites about building a cat shelter and chose this one as the most doable and the most free (!). Can’t hope for anything better than that! Other than some of my little outdoor buddies having a spot to keep warm this winter.

It’s a large rubbermaid tub, turned upside down with a door flap cut into it. Styrofoam has been attached to all sides, top and bottom, for insulation and the bottom has been covered with a mat. I put flower pots on top to weigh it down in case of heavy winds.

I’ll let you all know how it and the kitties do this winter. But for now, I feel very satisfied and happy that I’ve finally done this. As me and my friend were constructing it and putting it together yesterday, in the hallway of my building, several neighbors walked by and asked what we were doing. This opened the discussion to talk of our neighborhood strays and how we can help them. It made me feel good to know my neighbors are on board with taking care of the little buddies outside.

Here’s the finished product:
(Please excuse the winter twiggy mess that my back “patio” has become!)

Balance and Firsts

As I sit in my apartment, on my beloved couch on this peacefully quiet New Year’s Day, I’m thinking of the year to come and what I want out of it. I have chosen a word to encompass all that I want out of 2012: Balance.

Thank the heavens above that 2011 is over. If it had gone on much longer, I’d become entirely rotund and completely angry and ultimately explode in a stressful attack of rage. So here’s to 2012 and less rotundness, less anger, less stress, less pain and lots of new things. Mostly, I want a better year than 2011. And the only person who can make it better is me.

So, with that in mind I have decided to pursue a personal project this year, similar to my self-portrait project last year. The self-portrait project (I know, I know, I still haven’t posted the results) brought a lot of lessons, just as I’d hoped. It caused me to look for the tiny moments and meaning in each day and thus both notice and appreciate them; I have a fully documented year in the life, day by day; I learned how to look good in a picture and to appreciate myself, flaws and all. And I learned that I’m good with projects and the structure they provide. So, cue drum roll, this year I will, each month, do something I’ve never done before. I hope to learn new things, experience new things, push myself, and use my personal time wisely. I think I’ll end up with plenty to write about and achieve more of a balance between work and personal life.

Because, ultimately, that’s what it’s about. Balance. I need to learn how to balance my personal life with my professional responsibilities. For that matter, I need to re-learn how to have a personal life! I need to balance healthful choices and indulgences. Rest and activity. My budget.

Below is a list of things I’ve never done before. Ideas for my New Things project, in no particular order. I’m not looking for huge expenses and massive undertakings. Or to push boundaries by terrifying myself. I’m on a budget and don’t need something like skydiving or Far East travel to help me find balance.

  1. Fire a gun/ Go to a shooting range
  2. Martial arts
  3. Learn to meditate
  4. Make home-made pasta
  5. Make my own pickles
  6. Go to a state I’ve never been to
  7. Dancing classes
  8. Bowling league
  9. Enter a skill contest (cooking, writing, etc)
  10. Hike a portion of the Appalachian trail
  11. Mets game
  12. Hockey game
  13. Top of the Empire State Building
  14. Play handball
  15. Knit something
  16. Volunteer in a soup kitchen
  17. Build a cat shelter in my backyard
  18. Pastry class
  19. Take a Continuing Education art course

I think first on my list for January’s New Thing will be either going to the shooting range or building the cat shelter in my backyard (after all, this one is a time sensitive matter that needs to happen before winter hits us hard).

I welcome suggestions of things to do. And would love company doing them. So, please let me know if you have any ideas or want to do any of these items with me.

Happy New Year! And may it be a peaceful and fun year full of balance and firsts!

Cheers!

I Love New York

Two weeks ago I marked my 10th anniversary in New York. I have been anxiously anticipating this achievement, it being the first time in my adult life I’ve managed any long term achievement. I had envisioned some drinks with friends. Instead, I marked the day, August 28, camped out inside with as much water and candles as I could gather, riding out a hurricane. An actual hurricane. It was my first hurricane of any category. And considering the events that have occurred in my 10 years here, a hurricane marking my anniversary? It was strangely and perfectly poetic.

I think marking August 28, 2011 was so important to me because of the other 10 year anniversary looming. I needed to mark a celebratory anniversary. All things considered, it’s fairly amazing it even happened. Ten years ago on August 28, I arrived in Brooklyn and moved into my apartment on the 4th floor of what turned out to be a building resembling a godforsaken hellhole. It was a horrid place. There was dog crap in the hallways and the apartment itself was not only much much tinier than I remembered, it was horribly, disgustingly dirty. My first night there was a nightmare. There was yelling in the hallways, my cats were wailing in displeasure and I had so many boxes in too small a space, so that I basically ended up with a path from the bedroom to the kitchen to the bathroom and that was it. I could not believe I left a secure, good paying job and a fantastic apartment in Maryland, not to mention my family, to come and live in a piece of shit hovel. The saving grace was the view. I could look out my windows directly at the Statue of Liberty and then a little to the right was the downtown Manhattan skyline. God, it was gorgeous.

After a little over a week, I was still doubtful of my apparently idiotic decision, but I clearly remember getting up in the morning and looking out my windows at that famous view of Manhattan and saying “Hello, New York.” A few days later, that view was forever changed. And so was I.

I have no desire to talk about what I saw on September 11, 2001. It goes without saying that I was terrified, horrified, traumatized. It felt like an earthquake when the first tower went down. I frantically closed all my windows as the dust cloud overtook my building. My car was covered in a film of grey. I don’t think I ever washed it off because in my mind, that grey dust was all that was left.

On September 12, though, I finally started unpacking. That’s when I decided to stay. It wasn’t even a conscious decision. I just started opening boxes and hanging pictures on the wall. No freaking terrorists were going to make me run home in fear. In the days and weeks that followed, the horrible burning smell dissipated. And I got to know a city in which I’m so very proud to live. I barely knew a New York City with the Twin Towers, but the New York City that I got to know was a sight (and site) to behold.

I saw firefighters in uniforms from all across the country who just showed up to help. Strangers regularly stopped to offer assistance, to ask if I was ok, if I looked even slightly lost or confused. I even had a police officer walk me across Battery Park helping me find the address of my latest temp job. On my way to another temp job, transferring trains at Atlantic Avenue, I’d walk by the police officers stationed at that travel hub and this one particular officer was in the same spot every morning and each day he’d look at me and say “It’s gonna be ok. You have a good day, now.” I will never forget his face. He brought reassurance and confidence back to my routine.

About a month ago, a friend and I were driving up West Street, heading north and stuck in traffic. I was staring at a building, a skyscraper, under construction and noting the unique shape, the beautiful, mirrored glass. I was thinking, “What a gorgeous building that’s going to be.” Then as we got closer, I noticed that we were driving by the site of the previous towers, and what I had been admiring was the Freedom Tower in progress. It will be a sight to behold, just like my city.

I spent today, the 10 year anniversary of the worst day I hope to ever see, with a wonderful friend, watching the Ravens/Steelers game on TV. My Ravens kicked ass. Then I did some laundry. It was a good day, marked in my own way. Life goes on. And thank God for it.

Dad

As everyone who’s ever spent any time with me knows, I love food. Just like scents and music can evoke specific memories, food also does this for me. When I think of a place I love to go, something I love to do– something delicious is somehow tied in. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge = a good excuse to go to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Sunset over the Pacific = the best banana rum drink I’ve ever had. Baseball game = ballpark hotdogs.

So I guess it makes sense that when I think of my dad, a bunch of happy food memories come to mind. My dad frequently supplied treats. He often came home from work with a treat from the bakery where he worked: Gingerbread cakes with chocolate icing. When we went to the mall (Hunt Valley, of course), he always went to the candy store and got bags of sesame sticks or nonpareils. And he always shared. When we were on our family summer vacations, usually involving a road trip to and from, he’d go to pay for gas and return with candy bars for everyone. It was always Kit Kats.

For almost as long as I can remember, whenever I want to do something special for him, I always cook or bake something. Something that I know he loves. Interestingly enough, I’ve never connected these two ideas before now. But yeah, I show my appreciation and love by trying to create a happy food memory, just like he did for me.

Sure, when I say that my dad is a great man, I could give you specific reasons like how smart he is; how I always know when he’s telling a tall tale because of the twinkle in his eye; how he is a living, breathing example of overcoming a terrible childhood and not letting it stop him from a successful life and being a supportive father. (In fact, I was once talking about my dad to an acquaintance who was a new father, and he said to me, “I can only hope that when my daughter grows up, she will talk about me like you talk about your father.”) But when it comes down to the little memories that make me smile, it comes down to food. Because I love food? Yes. And so does my dad. And I love my dad.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

The Fire Ant Theory

During the summer that I was 23, I learned a very important life lesson. A good friend and I spent that summer on a cross country road trip. When we were in Houston, we happened upon a Gay Pride Parade. I’d never been to a Gay Pride Parade before and who doesn’t love parades?! So, we were standing along the street, catching beads and enjoying the spectacle as I notice a section along the curb where no one was standing. Well, being a short person, I hate standing behind people at events, so I took immediate advantage of the open spot on the curbside grass. In less than 2 minutes I was slapping at my feet, ankles and calves while being introduced to another first for me. Red fire ants. They were all over my legs. Because Dumbass stood right on the ant mound. The ant mound that everyone else knew to avoid. Thus, the open spot at the curb. Those welts took months to heal and disappear fully!

These days, the Fire Ant Theory frequently manifests its practical teachings via the subway. If you luck into an empty car or a bunch of empty seats during rush hour, it’s very likely not the good luck you think it is. The car either has no functioning air conditioning or there is an odoriferous individual occupying a seat nearby. One empty seat on which no one chooses to sit? There is probably something messy on the seat, so check veeeerrryy carefully before sitting.

Sure there’s good luck and fortuitous events that can happen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating pessimism as a viewpoint. Being in the right place at the right time can certainly happen. But… you’re more likely to throw away hundreds upon thousands of dollars than ever win that weekly lottery that you play. Will I achieve fame and fortune and best-selling profits by ignoring all editing advice and choosing to self-publish? Yeah- probably not so much. My brilliant idea for my first novel is probably not as brilliant as I think it is and will definitely benefit from expert advice and critique. I prefer to employ the oh-so-painfully learned Fire Ant Theory and avoid the welts, smelly people, transferred messes on the ass of my pants and hasty, uneducated decisions. I look very closely before I jump on, sit, or grab that amazing thing that everyone else in the world has somehow managed to magically miss. ‘Cause they didn’t miss it. They saw the ant mound that I, in my youthful ignorance and arrogance, blithely ignored.

Fire Ants: Lesson learned.

Fear

 As I’m sitting ensconced in my comfy chair on a lazy night watching a thriller about a serial killer who hunts and terrorizes women, I started thinking about fear. I mean, this is a lazy and relaxing night for me, but I’m sitting here and watching a movie that is the opposite of relaxing. Why do I watch movies about killers, horror movies and disaster movies? Why does anyone? Why do I read books about terrorism and spies and impending disaster? Why am I drawn to suspense? Is it the adrenaline rush that may come from the vicarious action? I’m far from the only person drawn to these kinds of books and movies. So, are we drawn to the action because we like to envision that we would survive the disaster and prevail heroically should we find ourselves in a similar world ending mass destruction zombie apocalypse climate change alien attack doom? Is it escape from our drab day to day lives where the most we typically conquer is an annoying commute or a cranky coworker?

In order to learn the important lessons in life, one must, each day, surmount a fear.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Surmount a fear everyday? Man, that sounds exhausting. I don’t know about that. I get the spirit of it… pushing out of your comfort zone, pushing through fear and all that. But what would it be like to do it every single day? Stressful, that’s what. I’ve put a lot of work into making my life comfortable. Sure, I pushed through some serious fear in order to get where I am. But now, I’m kinda good. I would like to take a break from the fear conquering and the stress for a while.

And then, when I’m bored with the comfortable, I’ll get back to the surmounting of the fear. Maybe I’ll take Mr. Emerson literally and on Monday I’ll let a giant cockroach crawl on me and Tuesday I’ll use my broiler for the first time ever and risk exploding fiery doom and Wednesday I’ll tell a man to whom I’m attracted exactly how I feel and risk rejection and Thursday I’ll watch the horribly disturbing “I am Legend” and Friday I’ll sing karaoke while sober. Hmm, now that I’m seeing this proposed schedule of fear conquering– minus the cockroach– it sounds like a much more interesting way to live. Maybe Mr. Emerson got it right after all….

(And personally, I’ve always thought that should I find myself in a world ending mass destruction zombie apocalypse climate change alien attack, I would totally kick ass. It would suck; I’d be scared; But I’d kick ass.)

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Peoples of my small world– Thoughts? Fears? Good scary movies? Conquering to do? Ass kicking plans? Oh, I know– here is the perfect place and time to get over your fear of adding a comment to a blog!  What think you?

My Mom

One of my favorite memories of how my mom handles me is from the year when I was working in London. Someone in the group of friends that I had made learned the British Telecom code for the pubic payphone at a particular pub. Now, if you had the code – the code used by Telecom workers– you could use the phone for free. I was a bartender making zero money and spending what I did, so I did not have money for long distance calls and email wasn’t really part of life back then (yes, apparently I’m that old). So, I’d go to that pub and call home. Inevitably, this meant some pints were involved and I’d then cheerfully chat away on the phone. One of the times I called, Mom says “So, you’ve mentioned this guy named Richard a lot recently. Who is he?” Of course, she says this in a very casual way so as not to set off my privacy alarms. I answered, “Oh, me and Richard just fool around a lot.” At that time I literally meant that we were joking around. Mom says, “Well, as long as you’re using protection…”

That’s my mom. She never panics. Or openly judges or pressures. She keeps communication open by saying, in a non-committal tone, “OK…. What about…” It’s the teacher in her. She is brilliant with kids and people of all ages. I don’t think she realizes how much people like her and want to be around her.

I remember a family dinner at some point in my teenage years. My family always had dinner as a family. Even when my brother and I were obnoxious little teenage assholes. I think that’s why we’re such a strong family who gets along to this day. And at this particular dinner that I remember so well, my mom said to me, “Welcome back.” I had been telling a story or saying something about my day, and I was confused by Mom saying this. “What do you mean? I didn’t go anywhere.” She told me that I had been an unpleasant person for a while now, and that I was back to being interesting. And then we went on with the dinner conversation. This is how my mom handled me. And it works. She handles my willful and stubborn personality so that I often don’t even see the “handling” going on. If I see the “handling” or someone tells me what I should do, I will resist and very possibly do the opposite. Or worse– I will shut the person down. My mom is brilliant and figured this out a loooonnnnggg time ago.

When I was 16 and had no intention of going to college because I was going to go to Los Angeles and play guitar in a band, I told this to my parents. No reaction. My mom just said, “OK” and shrugged. Had they argued with me and told me how ridiculous this plan, of course, was, I would have been forced to stick to it for much longer than I did. But with their course of action, it opened the door for me to change my mind when I was ready, which I obviously did, without embarrassment. That’s the genius of my parents. My mom never reacted with blame, guilt or pressure. I was and am super lucky to have won the mom lottery, because without such a brilliant mom, it is very likely that my stubborn idiocy would have gotten me into ridiculous amounts of trouble.

I can only hope to grow into becoming the kind of woman that my mom is. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Love you!

If a tree falls in the forest, is it art?

A few weeks ago, I was at a dinner party hosted by my good friend Holly and she asked what we considered to be art. Holly, a talented and successful writer, actor, director, producer—basically she does everything but sculpt salt statues– said she’s been thinking a lot about what makes something art and she wanted to know what we thought.  Holly feels you can produce any manner of creative work but it’s not art until someone has seen it. Otherwise, it’s just practice.

The table erupted with all sorts of opinions and disagreement. What if I paint a mural on my bedroom wall? I paint it because it will make me happy to see something beautiful from my bed. My audience is myself.  Why would that only become art when someone else sees it? Is seeing it enough? Does the audience confer the title of art?  Then there were objections regarding the quality of the project—just because someone produces a creative work, and there’s an audience, is that enough to make it art? Is there a quality requirement?  But who gets to decide regarding quality?

This started me thinking more generally—what differentiates between a creative work and a work of art?  This blog is a creative outlet for my voice, but I do not consider it art. There are a lot of books that I would not personally consider art, however they are indeed creative works. I’m, of course, focusing on the written word because that’s my thing and one tends to have more opinions and qualitative judgments about one’s own “thing.” For me, for the written word to be a work of art, it must transcend mere words making sentences. The author must create such vivid or strong descriptions, themes, characters and/or ideas that the work becomes three dimensional, possessing depth that can be interpreted and discussed.  That is when written word becomes art for me.

However, am I getting into a pretentious quality judgment to feel that way about writing? Yes, probably. But I think that’s natural to judge one’s own field more stringently.  I know the mechanics and difficulty of good writing, so I choose to acknowledge when something beautifully artful has been achieved and created with depth, imagination and skill. When it comes to the fine arts, I have very little talent or knowledge, so anything from a child’s painting to something hanging at MoMA is considered art to me. Whether I like the work or not.

So, I decided to look up the definition of “artist.” Here are some of the various definitions I found via google:

Artist:

1. One, such as a painter, sculptor, or writer, who is able by virtue of imagination and talent or skill to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts

2. A person whose work shows exceptional creative ability or skill

3. A person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination

Hmmm. It appears that all of the various definitions I found contain qualitative judgment. As far as definitions of “art,” my favorite was: “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” And this definition does imply that the end result of a work of art is to be appreciated.

So, going back to Holly’s stance where art requires an audience in order to exist as art —let’s say someone paints that gorgeous mural on the bedroom wall and no one discovers it until the painter has died. [I have no idea why I seem obsessed with the idea of bedroom murals. Perhaps it’s the most personal form of art that comes to mind? And let’s nevermind the social sadness that this non-audience implies about the painter…] Does it really only become art when someone else finds the previously unknown painting? I think Holly would say yes, it’s only practice, or creative expression perhaps, until someone sees that mural. But that makes me wonder, why does the exact same piece of work change classification the minute someone finds it? Why would it be a practice painting while it is known and appreciated only by the artist? My feeling is that it was art the minute it channeled from the painter’s head through his fingers to the brush and onto the wall.

Personally, I think that artists create. Plain and simple. Whether it be a sculpture, a song, a culinary confection, a novel, a painting, a film—the artist has created something from her own ability, imagination and skill. The mere act of creation can equal art. But the determination of whether the work is art or not is made by the beholder. Art is determined by the eye of the beholder. And after much thought, I have decided that the beholder can indeed be the artist, as well as the audience. In fact, the artist herself might decide one of her works is for some reason not worthy of being called art. Perhaps she feels it is unfinished, uninspired, not creative enough… But someone comes along and sees what she created and proclaims it a stunning work of art. All of which boils down to the fact, and perhaps this is the only fact achievable in this discussion– the discussion of ‘what is art?’ will never end because the artist and the audience will inevitably disagree with each other like the brilliant Holly and I disagree with each other; like you and I may disagree on the topic. And works of art, as well as the definition of art, will always be open to subjective judgment. Thus the Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy’s statement:

“The definition of art is controversial in contemporary philosophy. Whether art can be defined has also been a matter of controversy. The philosophical usefulness of a definition of art has also been debated.”

No wonder the dinner table that night at Holly’s was consumed with loud debate on the topic! My favorite comment from that evening remains “I’m still trying to figure out why this matters to you…”  And yet it does. And I can’t stop thinking about it. And how all of this disagreement is part of what is so interesting about art.

What do you guys think? What is art to you? Is the audience implied and required? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

An Abusive Relationship

I have a love affair with food. I don’t just enjoy it like regular people. Eating good food is a five sense experience to me. When I’ve got something particularly tasty in front of me, it’s about everything from the smell to the texture to the presentation to, of course, the taste. If there’s an audible treat– like a sizzle going on– well, the excitement factor has been ramped up. Otherwise, it’s just me moaning in appreciation that will be heard.

I often eat too much, and I frequently eat emotionally–currently I’m nursing some heartbreak and grief with a long line of fatty foods– but I don’t eat to feed an empty hole in my soul. Well, not usually, that is. I don’t think there’s serious psychological issues going on here. I’m just a foodie. Even when I’m eating the proper caloric intake and watching my fat, fiber, calcium and sodium, I still eat only what I enjoy. I still make my meals an experience. I still splurge and treat myself. Food and good cooking is an art. An art that I refuse to give up.

However, in this love affair that I have going on, there is some abuse. And that abuse is called the doughnut. I can’t even claim to abuse the high class doughnuts, for god’s sake. I mean, give me a box of seriously crappy heart-attack-in-a-box Entenmann’s chocolate pop’ems and I’m a pig in rut.

Since September of 2001, I have turned to the chocolate doughnut in times of immense stress. The cafeteria where I work has chocolate glazed doughnuts the size of my face. On a bad day, they are particularly attractive to me. But somewhere deep inside, I am aware that the doughnut is not really my friend. Even though he acts like he likes me as much as I like him. Just because the doughnut combines two wondrous creations – cake and fried food – I must not be fooled. I must resist the bad love!

It may be a good time while I’m enjoying the wondrous chocolatey sugary glazed cakey doughnut. I mean, it’s good. But then comes the guilt, the horror, the embarrassment. And then the sick part. No, I really mean the sick part– actually being sick. The part where my stomach laughs at me for being so stupid.

My first clue of abuse, other than the growing tightness of my pants, should be the secretive nature of my affair. I hide the doughnut box from people if they come over. If I buy doughnuts, I eat them very fast. Is this to hide the evidence? I have no idea. All I know is that the only thing left behind are an embarrassing array of crumbs.

It is a shameful abusive relationship. And I think I may need someone to break us up.

Oh the horrors. The horror. Sigh.

Straight A’s

So, as I was limping up the hill on my way home the other night, burping and slightly out of breath, I pondered my amazing array of attributes. Or perhaps one would say they are alarmingly aggravating ailments. Either way, they must be special. Because of, you know, all the A’s. I was really good at getting A’s in college. In between all that alcohol, of course. And now it’s still all A’s: Asthma, Acid and Atrophy.

Asthma has been bitch slapping me since its official arrival in 2003. Perhaps I am not so smart with the medical stuff… but I have yet to truly grasp my warning signs. I am rarely aware that I am in trouble until the elephant is sitting on my chest. I’m not a fan of the elephant. Or the asthma.

Then there’s Acid. Acid is a new… friend. A really bitchy friend. I’ve got some seriously bad acid reflux thing going on. It embarrasses me, as it seems like something only old people get. Since I am young and super awesome, this is obviously not the case. Right? Duh. This new… friend… requires daily prescription medicine. Do I manage to remember to do this daily? Of course not. However, too many days without the medicine, and I will throw up. Spontaneously. It’s not pretty. But I’m still young and awesome. Even when I’m spewing TMI.

And the latest feather in my cap of A’s: Atrophy. Don’t be jealous. Not everyone can be a straight A girl like me. After the Crushing of the Foot episode last March, which led to the Foot Debacle of 2010, I was finally diagnosed with soft tissue atrophy in my foot. Everything from fatty tissue to connective tissue to muscle is, you guessed it, atrophied. I cannot move all of my toes without trying really hard. My foot remains so bruised, even after 13 months, that even the shower water hurts it when it falls on my foot. And worst of all– although maybe not worse than the pain– my foot is ugly now. Atrophied skin looks like crepe paper. So, I’m young and awesome with the foot of a 90 year old. At least this A of mine is likely to get better. In like 30 months. Maybe when it’s better I can replace it with Anemia. Lord knows I’ll never be Anorexic.

Ten and Eleven

I wouldn’t exactly say that I make new year’s resolutions… but I do make goals for the new year. I view the new year as a clean break and fresh start, and thus an easy (well, easier) way to make necessary changes.

It’s kind of interesting– the whole 2000s have been a learning curve. I think that’s the best way to describe it. I was talking with friends a week or so ago, and I said that the decade has been a bad one, to which my friend wisely said to me– “But how can you say that? This is the decade you’ve spent in New York.” And you know, she’s right. It’s perhaps very naive of me to think that adult life isn’t going to be constantly full of trials and hard times. It’s learning how not just to get over those things but even during those hard times to focus on the good stuff that is happening and to let the quiet peace and the too-oft ignored small miracles have more of my focus. It’s a life skill, I think. Learning how to focus on the good instead of the bad. The bad will always happen and is always there, so waiting for the days/weeks/months/years without it is a losing bid.

I spent a lot of time toward the end of this year, feeling beaten down and realizing that the beating down wasn’t going to stop. It’s life. It’s hard. It’s all in my own attitude and what I choose to take away from each day that will determine, for the most part, how I view the year and the world and my life. And it’s time to perfect this skill. When I said to my friend that this decade hasn’t been very good– I was thinking about the big bad things– world changing events I witnessed in 2001; two robberies- 2002 and 2005; a 2003 ER visit and dramatic change to my health. But I also finally found my home—in 2004 I moved into my current apartment and breathed a sigh of relief. It is the first place in the world that I want to stay. And the peace that came with that realization was immeasurable. My niece and my nephew were born in this decade. I became a godmother- twice. My baby kitties came to live with me. I fell in love and had my heart broken. This is life. This is my life. And it’s good. And bad. And that’s what is supposed to happen. It’s a learning curve, and I may be slow to it, but I’m getting it.

So each year I make a list of the things I want out of the upcoming year. (I really like lists! You should see my notebooks. In fact, I might have to resort to lists to accomplish goal number 1 for this year!) I do not consider these yearly lists to be a way to plan and wait for better times; I just think it’s natural to get mired down in the business of life and a new year is a clearly delineated fresh start and chance to regain focus. Also, I find that the quiet that naturally follows the holiday hubbub really lends itself to introspective plan-making.

In reading my list for last year, the 2010 goals, I did pretty badly. It was a valiant effort, and a really good list. A good list of things I did not accomplish. 2010 turned out to be what I internally have started to call a bad year for grandfathers, cats and feet.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got for 2011. I’m making it public. Accountability? Maybe.

1. Regular blog posts. Once a week. [Internets and people of the world, get ready!]

2. Regular writing schedule. Fantasy Man book is in the works and WILL be finished.

3. Regular Sunday cooking and back to healthy eating.

4. Get the foot situation sorted. Doctors, sigh.

5. Figure out fitness solutions with foot situation.

6. Join RWA.

7. (the magical 7) Be open to it and Do Things!

And now ladies and gents, once more with feeling!

(I’ve been watching a lot of Buffy recently. If you’re a Buffy fan, then you might know the episode of which I speak and what I’m trying to say here…)

Peace in the new year to you– and talk to you next week!

A merry little Christmas

My favorite Christmas song has always been “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  And this year, it’s been the perfect song. Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.

It’s been a quiet December.  One of my cats is dying. He’s a beloved member of my family. I’m still hoping that his doctors will scratch their heads six months from now and say, “huh”  because his liver has said “hell, no, I’m not failing!” But, I know that’s not hugely likely. So, between vet runs, medications, no leftover money and the horrible economy resulting in pretty much everyone living smaller than we used to, I haven’t gone to a single holiday event this year. Well, one impromptu work happy hour courtesy of the big boss and an office potluck which was lovely. But nothing with friends and decorations and lavish bigness or cozy charm. Maybe this sounds sad, and my heart is breaking at the prospect of losing my baby boy kitty, but as I sit here in my quiet, lovely, holiday decorated apartment with my happy little tree and Christmas playlist, I find that I may have had a quiet month, but I am (mostly) content and am ok with my quiet final month of 2010.

My parents came up to visit two weekends ago, and we braved the crowds and saw some of the Christmas wonders of the city. And each night as I leave work, I’ve been walking (insert hobbling) to various beautiful parts of the city to enjoy their lights and decorations. My family has always been that family that drives around and looks at the lights in various neighborhoods. I love doing that. So, now, I just do it on my feet and check out what various businesses, parks and neighbors have done. It’s a fantastically beautiful time of year.

And regardless of grief, money issues, and whatever personal upsets the year has offered and taunted, I have wonderful friends and family and I don’t need big, or even small, parties to know that. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Christmas is also my birthday. I’m ignoring it so far this year– for the most part. I’m not ready to turn the age that I’m about to be. Although, it’s a lucky number made up of two magical prime numbers, so in a month or so, I’ll bring myself around to embracing that it will be a magical year for me. But right now, in this quiet mood in which I find myself, I’m just going to quietly mark the occasion. Maybe I’ll have a party later. Maybe not.  Tonite, I’m having a holiday cocktail and a celebratory birthday cupcake. Cheers and happy birthday to me. And happy holidays to all I am lucky enough to have in my life! Peace.

Gary Gnu was right

I’m beginning to think that it might be better to be uninformed than watch the news, or even pay attention to the headlines. This realization pains me as I have no tolerance for ignorant people. Not necessarily saying that the act of not paying attention to local, national and/or world events makes you ignorant… but it certainly doesn’t help. I’m a northeastern elitist bitch. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. I do believe that people and corporations and politicians get away with bad things when everyone else just looks away– thinking someone else will fix it, or it doesn’t concern me, or it’s too hard, blah blah blah.  You can’t look away.  But damn, I can now feel my anxiety level rise when I watch or read the news. And my anxiety level does not need a boost these days. The situation is dire enough without being told over and over and over how dire it is.

For instance, tonight–wait wait wait. I guess I should first share that I am not a regular watcher of the local news, lest I have created the idea that I am a regular nightly news watcher. I’m more of a news reader. But tonight I was tired and plagued by that syndrome that sometimes happens to me that I call Seemingly-broken-appendages-can’t-seem-to-operate-remote-control-and-so-sit-like-zombie-and-watch-whatever-comes-on Sydrome, so I watched what I already know is crap.

And as expected, I got very little of any substantive information; but I was told of many other alarming things that are happening. Bed bugs (we’ve already established that I hate bugs [in the Why Rebecca’s Neighbor’s Think she is Crazy post] but the mere mention of bed bugs, specifically, terrify me– bugs that hide everywhere and bite me and suck my blood and attack my baby kitties and are next to impossible to get rid of?! oy) are now in the Empire State Building, the infestation is up by 200% this summer, and all sorts of other huge profile places in the city that have been shut down this summer because of them.

Then, there was a stabbing in a public place. Then, raccoons have apparently taken over my own neighborhood. My lovely little neighborhood is reportedly full of wily raccoons that open windows and invade and ransack apartments, 4-5 critters at a time, like little gangs. And they bring parasites.  And finally, a huge python in a near enough to be scary New Jersey garage. Like I need new things to worry about?!

I guess I should be thankful that none of the truly horrible things going on in the world were on tonight’s local news broadcast. Even so, I think I’m done with tv news. Brian Williams, you have filled the hole that the loss of Peter Jennings left, but your business is a business of bad news. And it’s stressing me out. Gary Gnu told me this when I was 7. I’m not going to watch the No Gnews is Good Gnews Show anymore.

*****

codicil to above statement: Pat Kiernan, you are totally remaining the exception to my no more news policy. Non-New Yorkers, I know you know not of whom I speak, and that’s a shame. Pat tells me what’s in the papers. He’s awesome.

Creative Juices

Writing Date! 8.1.10

Today, this lovely and cool and greyish Sunday afternoon, marks my first writing date. Me and another writer friend met up for a few hours at a local bar, sat on the back patio and….. wrote. We bounced a few ideas off each other, talked some things out, I read her play, but for the most part, we sat in silence and wrote and were hugely productive.

I love that I have started my August, usually a month consumed with work stress (the work that pays me the paycheck) by claiming time for the work that I want to be  my future. And even better, I realized today that in this year where I have been, by force, almost completely physically inactive, I have been hugely creatively active. Funny how things work out sometimes.

So, ok, I’m not able to work out and claim that fitness level that I want to achieve, but I’ve got three creative projects in the works that are making me happy and are steering me toward the life that I want to lead. Cool.

Today: I mapped out two plot ideas and chose the one to start with and wrote the opening scene. I realized that the reason I was stuck on another plot idea was that another story has to happen first before I can get to my little money laundress. Today, it became apparent that Fantasy Man gets the first book. Don’t know what the heck I’m talking about?  Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned and read the books! They’ll be steamy. You’ll like them.  I hope.

Next Sunday: 2nd writing date.

Cool, again.

Internets, I am here again

I am sorry to have abandoned you, Internets, but, well…. I was about to say my July has sucked, but it completely and totally has not and it would be a disservice to the month to say so.  So, I will revise my unwritten thought to say that my July has been packed full of two mini-vacations, one to see my beloved family and to see my aunt (really my cousin but I think of her as my aunt) get married and the other to go to the beach with two beloved friends. As you know, internets and friends, the beach is my favorite place in the world, and the house on K court on the Jersey Shore is a haven of wonderfulness for me.  Plus, I had a little staycation where I went to a local beach, had a “London day” and went to a favorite cool place- the American Museum of Natural History- and lunched with different friends each day (that’s two more things from my solstice list, if you are counting, internets!). I have a new foot doctor who I have seen 3 times now and have had a new MRI done. I took about 700 pictures over two days at my aunt’s wedding festivities and did a not too shabby job as official and amateur photog for said aunt’s wedding.

I have not shared any of this wonderfulness with you prior to this because of two things. Two things which are sapping the energy and creativity out of me and truly bringing me down. One: I have spent about 5-7 hours a DAY answering work emails for our general office account. Hundreds upon hundreds of emails a week to students and parents who are sucking the soul out of me. So, guess what? I am assigning this job duty to someone else who works for me and I will be back among the soulful writers very soon! Two: This goddamned foot injury hurts me every hour of every day and I’m so sick of pain that it is exhausting me physically unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Enter new doctor, new diagnosis and new plan.  But as its the last day of July, a month of zero posts to my precious young blog, I couldn’t let you be apart from me anymore. So, internets, I am here again.

Would you like to hear about my Thursday? Ok! It was one of those rage-happy-rage-annoyed-happy days. And I will tell you about  it now.

1. I went to work and promptly became filled with rage. I spent 4 hours answering those never-ending emails and fixing the damn website that no one uses anyway because why would they read to find out answers themselves, when they could just email me 20 times a week and ask every little thought that pops into their head?

2. I left for an afternoon doctor’s appointment with my new foot doctor on the  upper west side, about a 45 minute trek in my current hobble. On the train, a stranger (most fellow train riders see my lovely huge black walking foot cast and close their eyes and pretend they are asleep so they don’t have to give me a seat) struck up a conversation with me about my injury where we talked about sports injuries, all of his injuries to his body from his playing tennis even though he’s old, and how bad movers are and how they don’t seem to care about damage they cause.

3.  I got to my doc who I just saw on Monday, where after a 4 day vacation off my feet at the beach house, I felt great. 3 days later, back into regular commuting life in the city, and the pain is right back where it started. So, I went back and I told him we had a “false happy” result on Monday, upon which he asked me what the heck that was. (Can I say that I love my new doctor and might be developing a teeny crush on him?) Oh and Internets– my foot problem is stemming from an asshole mover at work who dropped a 10 foot table directly onto my foot, but it’s “not his fault” as he immediately told me before running away as fast as he could. No, I’m not bitter. Ok, so back to the doc– he and his partner examined my foot very closely again, told me I was in the best of hands, reassured me, discussed every thought they had about what was going on with my foot, and expressed concern about the apparent atrophy and discoloration going on, gave me something for the pain….  I left feeling hopeful and my foot was numb and out of pain for the first time in months. It was wonderful.

4. I went back to work even though I wouldn’t get there until 5 pm. But god forbid my work-caused injury get in the way of the job. Again- no I’m not bitter. So, in order to make it there quicker, I took a cab. The cabbie behaved like all the students who email me on a daily basis and like the people I work with. He asked me to approve or advise on every single decision he had to make. When did people become entirely unable to do their own jobs and make basic decisions, thus requiring them to ask someone’s advice on every move made? “Which way? West side highway or …”   First off, just fricking drive. It’s your job, you’re the one with experience with traffic this time of day and dear god, can someone just not ask me something for one freaking hour? I said a nicer version of this but he hesitates, so I say “Not the west side highway. I’m going east.”  Then he asks me at each avenue we pass, which one should he head down. Oh. My. God. Take a fricking street that heads south and let’s go. So, I’m annoyed again.

5. I arrive back at work, just as everyone else is packing up. I answer 40 something more emails and stay till 7 pm. During the emailing session which has become my work life, an incoming Austrian student is writing to me and keeps writing back right away to each response I give. Now, with a large amount of emails received hourly, I answer in the order the emails come in, typically, so if you respond to me, it may take a day before I get back to you because 50 others came in before you. But something about this girl’s polite fear about not knowing what to do, how to pay, where her bill was and knowing that she was about to leave all she knew to come to a new country and a huge city that might feel like it doesn’t care about her made me want to do more than my usual. To be fair, I am a fantastic written rep for our office and every email gets my full attention and a thought out and helpful answer, but very few get my heart. But I wanted her to know that her decision to come to our school was a good one and that I cared and was there to help her. So, I answered every email she wrote that night, as it came in and reassured her on each item she was worried about.  She told me that I must be one of the reasons that our school is such a good school and she asked me if I like good Austrian chocolate.  I gotta say, it was the heartwarming thank you that I needed.  So, I’m back to feeling ok about the world.

6. I head home, and it’s late, it’s been a long day. My foot stuff and doctor’s appointments just make all my days longer.  Whine whine, I know. So, I’m limping/trudging up my street toward home. It’s in sight. I see someone across the street wave to me and it’s my buddy, Jevon. My biggest fan on the block. He has asked me out many, many times.  I always take a “rain check.”  Although, someday, I’m sure I will sit down and have a drink with this man. He disappeared for a couple years and when I saw him again a month or so ago, I asked where he’d been.  Prison. Yep. (On a side note, several years ago, some of the guys on the block were playing a game in the street, were getting in my way, and one of them was about to loudly proclaim all of my sexual attributes and get in my face. Then I heard someone else say, ‘dude, that’s Jevon’s girl’ and everyone backed off and was polite. So, being an admiree of Jevon has it’s payoffs!) So, Jevon waves, I stopped to chat, he sees my cast, asks me what happened, tells me I’m too nice and should sue, tells me I look “gooooooooooood” and that all I need to do is sit still and he’ll take care of me.  I laughed and headed home to hit the couch.  But hey, I looked “goooooooooood.” teeheehee

So, you know, all in all, it wasn’t a bad day. And it’s not been a bad month.  Now, on to August.  Talk to you soon. Promise.

July had this? July not bad. Picture taken from the front porch of the Jersey Shore beach house during my mini-vacation.

Why Rebecca’s Neighbors Think She is Crazy

Well, it could be because she lives alone and yet is constantly talking.  She either has tons of guests who have the exact same tone of voice as herself, or….  she talks to herself. All the time.

I was not aware of how often I talk to myself (to be fair, I talk to the cats too, which is totally not crazy, right?  right?) until my co-worker said to me one day, as we were both working late and it was just the two of us: “You’d be talking this much even if I weren’t here, wouldn’t you?”  Oh. Dear. God.  I am a crazy person who talks to herself constantly. When did this happen? Who knows.  I mean, can a crazy person pinpoint their descent into the crazy?

It could also be the fact that a few years ago when her lock broke and locked her out of her apartment after taking the trash out, she spent the next three hours obsessively looking into her own windows.

Why? Because I was convinced that the problem was that someone snuck into my apartment in that three minutes that I took the trash out and locked the door and was currently robbing me.  Nevermind that they would have had to lock the door in such a manner so that my key to said lock suddenly didn’t work. And have had a key to get in in the first place, or damn fast lock picking skills. And invisibility or been lurking in the basement just waiting for the opportunity to pick my lock. To be fair, I should add that I had been robbed for the second time in three short years only a month earlier than this broken lock situation, so I think it’s fair to say, I was legitimately paranoid and hating the world.  My wonderfully kind upstairs neighbor patiently took my crazy self into his apartment while we called a locksmith who took freaking 3 hours to show up and he listened to my slightly over the border obsessive surety that someone was currently in my apartment, put up with my need to monitor my own windows so I could catch them in action and even offered to break my window and get inside to check! (Awww!) He also finally must have decided I was over the top and strongly recommended a nice shot of whiskey. Which I took him up on.

Good points, all, but the clincher in Rebecca being awarded Crazy Lady title for her building occurred tonight: After entering the building late this evening and stopping at the mailboxes for her mail, she was observed batting at her head with both hands.  Yes, you read correctly. Like a crazy person.

Ok, I have a good reason for this one too.  But it really doesn’t look good. I’ll give you that. I should first point out that I have an embarrassing aversion to many insects.  I can lose it in public– and have– if the wrong kind of bug crosses my path. (MN will testify to the shot glass throwing incident in St. Maarten when I was sure a giant cockroach had entered my shot glass. Dear lord though– don’t EVER find yourself on a wood deck in the tropics at night.) Tonight, the front door of my building was covered in beetles and those bizarre lightning bug types that don’t actually light. It’s the beetles that nudged me over into the land of keeerrrraaaaazy.  Beetles have been my nemesis since my swimming days, when I’d be at early swim practice before the guards had cleaned the pool and the lane ropes and edges of the pool were infested with beetles that would cleave to my hair with their horrible cleaving sticky legs. Do you know how hard it is to get beetles out of long hair when they don’t want to come out?   So, tonight– I pause before rushing quickly through the horror show summer bug covered door, run inside, stop to get mail, decide to do a beetle head check and deargod-findabeetleinmyhairandholycrapMUSTGETITOUTNOW! MUST GET OUT NOW NOW NOW! Thus the head batting. With both hands.  Aaaaaaaannd–enter neighbor into scene, coming downstairs to find lovely (um, obviously!) and apparently mentally fragile nice girl neighbor Rebecca having finally snapped.  Sigh, he must have said, “We all knew it was coming.”

***************

p.s. Just so you know, the lovely and patient neighbor who coached me through the lockout theatrics?  I baked him a batch of chocolate chip cookies as a massive thank you.

Half Birthday

So, today was my half-birthday.

Every year I have the intention to make my half birthday a special day. Why? My actual birthday is on Christmas, and while that was magical as a child, it’s not so much now.  Some people reading this would say, so what? Grow up. Birthdays are not a big deal.  But the thing is– I think they are. I think the day that you were born is a big deal. I think one day in the whole year to be about me and some planned pampering is something I should be able to make happen. Don’t worry, I’m not pushing a narcissistic agenda here–I’m not saying other people have to make a big deal about it every year. (Once in a while would be cool, though. And if I’m in a relationship, um, yeah, these lowered expectations go out the window and he better be planning some pampering.)   But this day-for-me thing just isn’t going to happen on Christmas, and it shouldn’t.  But knowing that doesn’t necessarily improve the day for me.  So… blahdiblahblahblah, I tell myself that I get to pick a day, any day, and it’s MINE. There will be a massage, or a lunch out, or…. I’ve tried December 27, December 29…  something always comes up to ruin my day for me. So, the half birthday becomes the next plan.

Most years, I don’t even remember to notice my half birthday. I mean, this isn’t exactly a traditional event on anyone’s horizon. But, this year, I did remember! Halfway through the day. So, on my way home, I treated myself to two lovely cupcakes which I brought home with me. And happily ate them both.

And as I was thinking about these thwarted birthday plans, I realized that the problem is the plan.  I hate planning.  I’m a horrible planner. I hate delayed gratification; I don’t know why anyone would want to plan something for 5 years from now; and, while I understand I could definitely manage my time and money better, I don’t know if my failure is due to lack of plans.  I think, actually, that you can plan all you want, but life happens. I mean, those legendary fun nights out are always the ones where nothing was planned– it just all happened.

So– all these jumbled, crumb covered, sugary buttercream cupcake inhaling thoughts of failed planning as I stuffed my face bring me back to this feeling that I might be better off celebrating and pampering in small ways throughout the year. Not keeping my head down and pushing through until… my vacation, or the weekend, or next summer, or when I lose 20 pounds, or when I’ve got a job that doesn’t make me want to bash heads in.  Sure, plans are good, plans should be made, plans will be made–after all, I also realistically know that if one doesn’t plan things, not much will get done. But these birthday plans that I hinge so heavily on a specific date?  Probably time to let them go. Ehhhh, maybe in a few years.  Or maybe, on Monday, when I go back to work, I will put in for a day off next June 25 and plan a day of half birthday pampering.

Rain and Freedom

A couple years ago I started a revolutionary activity. I started running. I was inspired enough to ignore the fact that I don’t run, hate running and have never run and I, yep, you’re following along now, started slowly but surely to run. One of those warm spring evenings that I was out on a training run, it began to very suddenly pour.  I was at least a mile and a half from home, with no hope of getting anywhere dry before I got soaking wet, so there was nothing to do but accept that I was going to get stuck in the rain and very very wet.  So, I didn’t stop running. I soon found myself to be one of very few people on the street, and without even realizing that it was happening, I was jumping over puddles and… laughing.  I was laughing!  It was amazing.  In fact, it was one of the most amazing feelings and amazing nights of my life. Sounds strange to say it, but yeah, it was incredible!  There I was– me, a total non-runner– RUNNING, and I’m not sure if you knew this, but running makes you go way faster than walking.  So, I’m RUNNING, and I’m soaked to the skin, slopping in my own shoes, have water running down my face and into my eyes and mouth and I’m jumping puddles like a kid and laughing out loud.  I was energized and cooled off from the invigorating rain and could have cared less what I looked like, who was watching me or pretty much anything else at all. And I’d never felt so free in my entire life.

It happened again a couple months ago, although this time wasn’t on a run. I was walking home from the train and it began raining almost as soon as I came up the stairs from the subway onto the street.  I had no umbrella with me. So, again there was nothing to be done but accept that I was going to get wet and that was that. Once I accepted it, and that water wasn’t going to ruin anything– I got super soaked-to-the-skin-water-running-into-my-eyes wet.  And ding ding, you win– Yes, I loved it.  There comes a point, with something like this, where fighting, resisting, denying or hating isn’t going to change where you are or what’s going on. So, you give up the energy needed to resist and hate, and embrace where you are and damn, everything gets better from there.

It started raining tonight just as I got off the train and began walking home. I got a little wet– enough to make it worth a spontaneous self-portrait for the day– but arrived home just before the rain got really bad.  I was inside my apartment when I heard the sky open up and the rain pour down in sheets.  And I have to admit– I was wishing the pouring had started 5 or 10 minutes earlier when I was still a ways away from home.  I thought about going back out into it, but no, that wouldn’t be the same.  You can’t fabricate freedom.

Solstice

I am enamored with the idea of the summer solstice. The longest day of the year. The longest period of sunlight all year long. And today was the perfect summer solstice. Super warm, bright and glowing sun, humidity not too high– the kind of day that makes you love summer like you did when you were a kid and summer meant freedom and days at the pool and popsicles and sprinklers. These days summer means sidewalk cafes and sangria, sunglasses, tank tops, swaying skirts and flip flops, barbecues, sunscreen all day everyday, smelly trash and high electricity bills, and best of all, a fantastic and long beach weekend with friends.

Technically speaking, the summer solstice is only an instant in time. An instant when the sun is at its northernmost point in the sky. The word solstice derives from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). The sun stands still. We’ve colloquially adapted the term to encompass the whole day. But, I love that it is, at heart and in reality, an instant in time. I’m especially drawn to this idea in this year where each day I’m looking for that instant in time to capture and call my self-portrait for the day.

Culturally, we’ve come to stretch this scientifically real instant into a whole magical day, and I feel that day should be full of celebration.  And a holiday! Ok, yes, I’m looking for a day off any way I can get it but who wants to work on the first day of summer?!  It should be marked with sprinklers and opened fire hydrants everywhere, and frozen, sugary food products-  so I can run through cool sprinkles of water and then have some melting, fruity flavored yumminess and not care about getting my clothes wet or my hair wet or getting my face and hands all sticky.  And we’d pretend there was no need to worry about water shortages, or conservation of water, or that my sunscreen was wearing off.

Every year, about this time (and about the time of all seasonal changes), I find myself drawn to some sort of faith or ritual to honor the changing of the seasons, and the earth and all that naturey, witchy naked tree dancing stuff. And one of these days, I tell myself I will look into Wicca more.  In the same way I tell myself that I really need to look into Buddhism more. I’m not so much for the organized religion stuff, nor am I too good about the disciplined study of anything these days, but I’m all for a set of beliefs and practices that puts one in touch with the inner self and honors the earth.

So, in that spirit, I’m going to set a few hopes and goals for this summer (other than writing goals) and one of those hopes is that making this public will help motivate Ass (mine) to get Out There.

1. Governor’s Island

2. Bike riding. Seriously want to rent a bike and spend some Saturdays riding. In any of the parks. Take your pick. Along the Hudson and Gov Island would be first picks though.

3. Want to spend the day vegging and reading? Great– grab blanket and do it at the park.

4. Walking walking walking. Exploring exploring exploring.

5. Sandy Hook beach days on weekends

6. Coney Island and check out  if any of new Luna Park rides convince me that ‘THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA.’   Hehehehe, I always enjoy a good inside joke.

7. Check out the Wednesday concert series at Madison Square Park.

8. Take your damn lunch hour and GO. OUT. SIDE.

9. More promenade and/or Brooklyn Bridge Park days, which is really an excuse for some Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory treats.

10. Hot and horrid day? The nice and cool Museum of Natural History awaits!

11. The High Line (suggested by Monica!)

Will keep adding to this list as more ideas occur to me! Suggestions welcomed!

#8 in action. Lunch Hour. Out. Side. Woohoo! Accomplished 6.23.

#5 in action: Sandy Hook Beach Day, accomplished 7.2.10

#10 in action: AMNH and the awesome blue whale!

 

Dear Freaking All that is Good and Holy

So, apparently Republican politicians today apologized to BP for the President making them pay.  Yep, APOLOGIZED*. TO. BP.  Regarding something the leader of their own country and government had done for the people in this country.  I won’t get into that part– the part where everyone seems to have forgotten that the office of the presidency is about more than one person, and the office and position and person deserves respect, at the very least. No I won’t get into that–  just the freaking apology part. And I’m sorry, how is it a “shakedown**” to make BP pay for the worst environmental disaster this hemisphere has seen and which THEY CAUSED?

Do these politicians, who are incidentally all Republicans, need so badly to be against President Obama in every possible opinion he has that it doesn’t matter what is coming out of their mouths? Do they need to be on the opposite side of every issue from him so badly that basic right and wrong are totally incidental? Optional? Or are they too busy counting the money given to them by big oil to run a conscience check before they issue their sound bites written for them by big oil?

And then I read that some crackpot – apparently a very scary crackpot- senatorial candidate in Nevada has said on record and in public, over and over and over, that if she doesn’t win, “second amendment solutions” must be sought and Harry Reid must be “taken out.”

Um……  What the hell is going on?

See, this is why I’ve become completely and totally burned out on people. I’ve gone beyond burned out on politics. I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. But right now, my hope is down to the dying embers. I am a daughter who grew up on stories of Kennedy era behavior regarding your country. Noble leadership ideals. I am the daughter of a former congressional intern. I have been to a lot of different countries and lived in two countries other than the U.S. and know how lucky we are. I believe that if you don’t like what you see in government, then change it. Through VOTING and contacting your elected representatives. Through making your voice heard.  I did not give up during eight long years of sheer idiocy and cronyism in leadership positions (see, but I have the respect for the position of the presidency so I will not bash that man publicly by name); I argued with my father that there was hope, that people could do it, that Obama could win and change things. And now, here we are.

With the fucktarded behavior that I read about today and our seeming race to drive ourselves straight off a cliff and break the whole world simply because two parties cannot agree, listen or compromise– what species would think that humans are any good?  Then add to this asstardedly  disgusting behavior by people who are supposed to be protecting us, leading us, working for us– add to this my daily professional tribulations dealing with “the public” and their inability to read, their desire to ask the exact same questions over and over and over, their desire to bully people and lie rather than to simply and politely and humbly ask for help, their pathetic need to have every single decision and thought verified, and their unbelievably selfish entitlement to everything for nothing — and what you have, my friends, is the full blown realization of my total apathy for people.

Ok. Sigh. Deep breaths.  I will cool off and hate people much less tomorrow or the next day and will come up with reasons why we aren’t all bad and see someone do something lovely and then will be embarrassed that I aired these sentiments, but for now… I’m good and pissed, disgusted and completely and totally disheartened.

*******

Let’s make sure to give full credit where credit is due:

*The grand apology this morning was given by GOP Congressman Joe Barton, where he went on to say that the money BP was forced to give was a “tragedy in the first proportion.”  I’m sorry, what is the tragedy?  Not the wildlife dying, death of the sea, ruination of beaches and shorelines and people’s livelihoods?  Oh, right, sorry, you mean the money that poor BP has to pay for their little mistake.  Right, right (I’m doing my British right now)– that’s the tragedy.

**This one is from The Republican Study Committee. No, I can’t say I have any clue as to who they are, nor any desire to. But I know that they publicly declared this.  And I can add that Rep. Michele Bachmann announced that BP shouldn’t agree to be “fleeced.”  Dear Freaking All that is Good and Holy– let us not fleece BP.

A year in the life of me

So, 3 of my wonderful friends and I decided on a project for this year.  It all came about over Memorial Day weekend and cocktails in plastic cups at the 79th Street Boat Basin – and our 3rd annual welcoming of the summer there. One friend (incidentally, it was the one who suggested this blog! Wow, she is the creative impetus behind us all!) mentioned that one of her students did a project this past year, and after oohing and ahhing, we decided that we should, all 4 of us, spend a year doing the same thing.  There’s no originality in the idea, but… there will inevitably be originality in the results!

We have decided to mark one full year with a self-portrait a day. 365 pictures of myself. Yep.  We started last Tuesday, so today marked the end of the first complete week of our me me me projects.

I’m trying to take pictures that somehow represent that day and what was special about it, even if it’s only a moment of that day. I’m carrying around my camera, and looking for those moments. And I have not only had fun so far, but have actually found that it’s been hard to narrow down the results of my self-portraiture attempts to just one picture to represent the day. I have very little self-control– in pretty much all aspects of my life– so I’m currently trying to talk myself into allowing a folder of pics to represent some days.

But no no no no.  Because, I think that in addition to all sorts of other things that I’m likely to learn from this project of ours (namely, and hopefully, living in the moment, self-expression, self-acceptance), I might learn basic decision making and control!  So, one picture it must be!

And at the end of this year, on June 8, 2011 (wow), I know I will see a unique representation of my life and myself and I hope to feel self-acceptance. After all, each day, bad or good, is special and each picture, bad or good, is me. And my picture choices will probably say a great deal about my overall outlook on life and myself.

I hope my girls are having fun with the pictures (and would lay money on the fact that more than one of them has already missed a day of picture taking!). If you’re reading this, girls– feel free to refute my claim!

*****

As a p.s., when this project was mentioned to another friend, he forwarded this link regarding a man who took a picture a day from 1979 until the day he died.  And the end results are not only a portrait of the man’s life, but a portrait of New York City through the years.  The website cataloging the pictures is amazing. And I am inspired.

Read about it here: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/15131