30 July 2005

Meet the Candidate

I ran some errands on Broadway just now, and between Radio Shack and Staples, I was accosted by a young woman urging me to "meet Anthony Weiner!"

Weiner is a Congressman from Brooklyn, and former aide to Senator Chuck Shumer, whose district he took over when Shumer was elected to the Senate. Weiner is now running for the Democratic party nomination to run again Michael Bloomberg for mayor this fall.

I have actually considered voting for Weiner -- his politics are mostly good, and he's cute, if a little tight in the face, and even though I think Bloomberg is doing a decent job, I've never pulled the lever for a Republican before, and I'm not sure I can start now -- so when I saw his entourage across the street, I headed over.

I have always had a weird reaction to meeting anyone remotely famous. Once, when I lived in Washington DC, some work friends were going to a bookstore at lunch to meet Barry Williams, who had written a book about being Greg Brady on tv's "The Brady Bunch". It was just down the street, and a lot of people were going, so I tagged along. If you bought the book, you could wait in line for Barry to sign it. I bought the book, despite never having been a fan. As the line got closer to Barry, my friend Susie told me I looked nervous. Did I? I don't know why, but I was really excited. I thought of things to ask Barry/Greg to write in my book when I got up to the table, but by the time I did, I could barely tell him my name. He signed the book, "To Ellen, Stay Groovy," and I went back to work, embarrassed to have been exposed as star struck.

While I crossed the street to meet Weiner, I thought about what I would say. "Why do you want to be mayor," seemed safe enough. Inoffensive, but when you think about it, kind of tricky. He could give me a rehearsed answer, and he probably would, about how he cares about this city, and how if we give him the chance, he'll prove just how much he cares, but maybe he'd dig a little deeper and say something meaningful.

"Why do you want to be mayor, why do you want to be mayor," I rehearsed silently as I got closer. Weiner seemed to be just shaking hands as he passed people, without really stopping. A classic politician's maneuver to keep moving and shake as many hands as possible. I walked up to him, held out my hand, and when he said "I'm Anthony Weiner," I managed to reply "I'm Ellen" before my brain went soft.

He asked if I wanted a pamphlet. I said I'd take a sticker, because I was "actually thinking of voting for him." He said "this is the flashy visceral stuff," as he handed me an oversized postcard with pictures of himself and quotes from news articles about how great he is. I noticed he was wearing make-up before he moved around me and kept walking.

I didn't ask him my question, and I'm sure I didn't make any impression on him. He made one on me, though. The first thing I read on the card was this: "I'll fight for the middle class and those trying to make it. No one will work harder for you than I."

Oh, Anthony. Get yourself a good copy editor.

29 July 2005

Fridge fascists must die!

You realize you're hanging on by a thread when you arrive in the office in the morning, looking forward to the leftover Starbucks iced coffee you left in the fridge the day before (and not having had any caffeine yet in the day, you're really looking forward to it), to find that the hyper-compulsive facility manager has tossed it out as part of his bi-weekly purge, and you have a near-total meltdown. Two hours and a cup of weak office coffee later, and I still haven't recovered.

He also dumped my juice. (Shown here; $1.75 at the corner deli.)

The thing is, when the HCFM announced the purge, I marched into the kitchen and wrote my name and the date on my items. Isn't that standard office fridge saving protocol, as much as it pains me to admit that I know that there is such a thing? How can we come to work with equanimity when we know that at any moment the things we were counting on might disappear? Is nothing sacred?

Suggestions about how I might get back at the HCFM will be greatly appreciated.

28 July 2005

Return to something approximating normal

I was able to walk all the way to work today. It rained last night, and the promised cold-front actually arrived. It's only 70 degrees now.

I was so excited that I was walking, both for the walking itself, and the fact that now I'd be able to tell you something about my day. But Ninth Avenue did not inspire me this morning. All I could think about was the weird dreams I had last night. Bloggy Blog Blog and I swam up Bleecker Street, which had turned into a river. I woke up early to take a shower -- that time of the morning when you're not sure if you're awake or dreaming; I'm pretty sure I was dreaming -- to find that none of the lights in the bathroom or kitchen were working. I checked the fuse box, but the tripped circuit breaker would not flip back. (My friend Stacy has been having problems with a vandal stealing her building's fuses; that must be where that came from.) A friend from work and I attended a fancy wedding on a train; everyone thought he was too young for me.

But then, fortunately, something happened in Real Life, that I can tell you here. I passed this man walking up Ninth Avenue. He seemed a little angry, and in a great hurry. Maybe it hasn't cooled down enough for him yet.

27 July 2005

Searching for lost friends

I had to go out at lunch today, despite the fact that it's currently 97 degrees. No money + no food = trip to the bank. I think the heat must have frizzled my brain, because I could have sworn that I saw, walking down Eighth Avenue, my high school friend, James Han. It wasn't him, sadly.

James played Linus in our senior year production of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown." That should give you an idea of his loveableness. I haven't seen or heard from him since 1986, when we graduated from Bayside High. He was going to some obscure Christian college, which his parents had insisted on. They were fairly recent immigrants from Korea, and very conservative. So, despite the fact that James was one of the top students in our class, he was shuttled off to academic obscurity.

I heard a while later that he transferred somewhere out in California, Pomona maybe. After that, the trail goes cold. Google has been no help in the past, though my encounter at lunch reminded me to try again.

If any of you in my wide audience have any information about James Han's whereabouts, please let me know.

25 July 2005

I haven't perfected this yet

There are any number of reasons I haven't posted since Friday. It could be that because of the hot weather, I haven't really been walking much, so I don't have material. Also, walking loosens things up for me. The converse would mean that if I don't walk, I'm blocked.

The second potential reason is that, while at Sase's BBQ way the fuck out on Long Island on Saturday, Erik told me that he'd heard that I am writing a book. He was intrigued, and wanted to hear more about it, if I felt like talking about it. Nothing could have been gentler or more respectful. He'd like to start writing himself, and did I have any advice for how he could find the time. I found myself telling him about this blog, and how great it was to have something that I wrote every day that had no pressure attached to it. Clearly, I jinxed myself.

So, I got nothing. If you want something to read, go read a real blog. Always funny, always insightful, always there. How does she do it?

20 July 2005

Do you see what I mean?

A few years ago, I read all of Edith Wharton's novels and short stories, over the course of a few months. I love her. She wrote about a New York that existed for only a short time, and for only a few people; a fantasyland below 23rd Street. She describes many societal changes over the course of her oeuvre, but one small one has always struck me. The moment when stylish women, coming home from Paris with the latest fashions, stopped putting them away for a year before wearing them out, and started wearing them as soon as they bought them.

I always thought aging your wardrobe in a trunk for a year sounded like a good idea, though. For one thing, it makes it less likely that you will be wearing the same exact thing as everyone else. How many times have you walked down the street to see the dress you bought last week at H&M walking towards you?

But the other reason it sounds good to me is that things look better after you've had some time away from them.

I painted this last summer, over July and August, promising myself I'd finish it by Labor Day. I had it propped up against the tv cabinet, but eventually, after the cats knocked it over one too times, I put it away, unfinished. Something reminded me about it tonight, and I took it out to see what more I needed to do with it. But I think it's done. Somehow, it got finished in the months since I last saw it.

P.S.-- I'm an idiot. I completely forgot when I was thinking of Edith Wharton up there, that the words in this painting are taken from a letter she wrote to her lover. But I have to say, I like that I made a connection to her before remembering that.

18 July 2005

4H: Hazy, hot, humid & Harry

Every summer in New York feels like it's completely different from the one that preceded it. Last year was the coldest summer ever; the year before the rainiest. We like to attach a superlative to things in NYC, so I will declare the summer of 2005 the swampiest ever.

It was too awful to do anything outside yesterday, but fortunately, I'd bought the new Harry Potter on Saturday, so could happily spend the entire day in the cooler and more exciting world of Hogwarts and the fight against the ultimate evil. I won't say anything about what happens, for those of you who are planning to read it, but there are some obvious, but nevertheless satisfying parallels between what is happening in Harry's world, and the current state U.S. foreign policy.

But back to the weather. One of my favorite movies about New York is Taxi Driver. Robert DeNiro's Travis Bickle hopes that "someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets." We could use one of those rains right now. Travis meant the scum of humanity, of course; I'm really talking about the dog piss.

17 July 2005

The other direction

Yesterday, I turned left on the Hudson River path. They've bifurcated the path around 70th street, so that walkers and runners are completely separated from bikers and rollerbladers, by a lawn, "decorative grasses" (which we are admonished every 10 or so feet not to disturb; right, we wouldn't want to disturb the rats that I'm sure can't believe their luck that the city actually created a perfect breeding ground just for them), and a steep verge covered in fist-sized rocks.

This is a great thing. For the 12 blocks the path is separated in this way, I don't have to worry about getting run down or yelled at by a biker. Except that at around 66th street, I ran into a fence, and a sign, "path closed." I wasn't going to turn around and walk all the back to where the path forked, in order to get on the bike path. No, clearly I wasn't the first person to be frustrated by this obstacle. To my left, part of the fence between the bike path and the hill of rocks had been pushed open, so I walked across the lawn, carefully down the rocks, nearly twisting my ankle several times, jumped over the puddle of mud left over from last week's rain forest conditions, and emerged victorious on the bike path.

I walked down to Chelsea, to visit James' open studio day. He and his wife Michelle have a fellowship this year at Eyebeam, an interactive gallery, which means they get to play with lots of very expensive electronic toys. The gallery has a 3D printer that can "print" the hollow arms, torsos and legs they're designing. They are creating an animatronic version of their live over the last 18 months, during which time they got married, and James was operated on four times for Chron's disease. The scene they are working on now is the night they woke up at 3am to find James completely covered with blood. I smell a Tony.

15 July 2005

Friday night arts and crafts

One of the great things about not having a boyfriend/husband is having Friday nights completely free to do things like make bracelets. Sorry about the blur factor. My camera battery is completely shot, and only allows me to take five pictures before it needs to be charged for 24 hours. Do you think I should buy a new one?

Boys with guns

Walking past the Port Authority this morning, I saw a child in camouflage holding a rifle. OK, he was probably 20 years old, and a member of the National Guard, but I can't help but think, every time I them, that these young men and women are awfully, well, young for the responsibility they're given. The Guard has been a lot more visible in New York since the London attacks. We are now on "Orange Plus" alert, which sounds more like a calcium-fortified juice drink than something that's going to prevent us from being blown up. What, exactly, are they going to do with those guns? I know they will be the first ones to rush in to help if something does go wrong, but what do they do on a normal day? If they ask, say, my brother, to open his backpack and he refuses, will they shoot him?

14 July 2005


On my lunchtime walk yesterday, I ran into my friend Becca. Tenth Avenue in midtown is not normally a place you'd think you'd run into someone -- or walk, for that matter, if you could possibly help it -- but Becca happens to work in the building next to mine. We never see each other except by chance.

Becca had just come from an acupuncture session, and said she almost went home instead of back to work, because she felt so relaxed and sleepy. Relaxed and sleepy are two of my favorite things, so when I got back to the office, I investigated whether acupuncture was covered on our insurance plan.

Hooray! For $30 a session, and no pre-certification, I, too, could achieve the Becca state of being. I looked up practitioners in my neighborhood, picked out one on 94th Street with a Chinese name, Li Qi. Acupuncture is one of those areas where I think racial profiling is a good thing. I called, and they had an appointment at 6pm that very evening.

Then came the bad news. The receptionist called my insurance company, and it turns out that it didn't cover acupuncture after all. Did I want to keep the appointment?

Yes. As antithetical as it is to the alternative medicine approach, I am an impulse consumer. I was going to be relaxed by 7 o'clock no matter what it cost me.

After filling out a medical history and a brief exam, consisting of feeling my pulse on both wrists and looking at my tongue, Dr. Qi announced that I have low energy, and asked whether I was tired a lot. Uh, yeah. Pretty much all the time. Plus, I get plenty of sleep and according to my friend Cricket, I probably don't have leukemia (she's a doctor, even). Clearly, my Qi is not flowing sufficiently.

A few minutes later, I'm lying on my back on a massage table, towels covering my crotch and breasts, and Dr. Qi is putting needles into my belly.

Into my belly! One just below my navel; one two inches below that. Two on either side of my navel, and one just below my breastbone. I am the most ticklish, hyper-sensitive person about my midsection and soles of my feet person I have ever met. Yet here I am, trying not to think about the fact that the five shards of metal sticking out of my lower torso are being held vertical by MY OWN FLESH.

A needle in each of my ears and on each side of my neck. In each of my ankles and shins. "Thirty minutes," says Dr. Qi, and he turns down the lights and leaves the room. I try not to move too much, fearful that one of the neck needles will get stuck further into my flesh and work its way slowly over the course of several months down my body until it comes out my big toe.

I don't feel much at first, but after a few minutes, I get a pleasant tingling sensation. Dr. Qi comes in twice to check on me, and tweaks each of the needles. He is tweaking needles IN MY BELLY. Stop that!

The needles come out, Dr. Qi massages all the areas where they've been, then rolls me over to my stomach for needles into my shoulders. My right shoulder has been sore lately, probably because of all the limes I've been juicing for limeade (much better than lemonade; you should try it).

This time the effect is more immediate and pronounced. Greater tingling, and a pleasant ... oh, I'm not really here... am I? ... feeling. I hallucinate about the cast of "Friends" for a while, then Dr. Qi comes back in, more massaging, and I'm done.

I walked home in a valium-like daze. I've never taken valium, but I've had it's baby sister, ativan, plenty of times (one of the great things about Ghana is that you can buy ativan over the counter, thus ensuring you won't possibly run out on the long flight home, or the taxi ride from JFK on the BQE), and it's wonderful. Acupuncture, fantastic. I am definitely going back.

13 July 2005

Technologically challenged

You were going to get a picture today of my most-frequent walk, down Ninth Avenue, on my way to work. It's about a two-mile walk, and I do it most days, if it's not raining, and I've managed to get up on time. Why is it that when I go to bed early, as I did last night (only ten minutes into the 10pm episode of Law & Order), I inevitably sleep later on the other end? I didn't get up until 8 this morning, necessitating some cutting of corners in the dressing and eating departments.

I did, however, remember to put my memory card in my digital camera. There's an island at Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th streets that looks straight down Ninth Avenue, and when I reached it, I took my camera out for a snap. It wouldn't turn on, no matter how many times I banged the power button. A memory card's no good without a battery.

11 July 2005

It took forever to get there

My cousin Christina recently moved to Fort Lee, New Jersey, and despite her claim that she can "get anywhere in New York in under an hour," anytime crossing the George Washington Bridge is involved, time goes into a black hole.

She and John live on Hudson Street, which isn't marked with a sign. N. Hudson is, though, so I thought maybe that was the right way to go, but does this look like someplace people live?

StuntMother and her children were there. Daniel has been interested in space lately, and spent some of the party on the computer, coloring in astronauts and spaceships on the NASA for Kids website. At other times he was asking questions like, "say a star could go into a black hole, and come out the other side? Would it still be a star?" None of the company had an answer for him. I'm still working on the bridge problem.

I've got to get better at this self-portrait thing.

By the time I left, as I mentioned below, it was too late to walk back across the bridge. But even if the sun weren't setting, this sign wasn't very encouraging.

10 July 2005

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway

I left Christina's party too late to walk home over the GW Bridge. Instead, I took one bus from Fort Lee to 175th Street, another to 139th and Amsterdam, a bit of a walk, then a third bus to 109th and Broadway, after which I walked the rest of the way home.

At 92nd and Broadway I saw something you don't see every day in these parts. A 60ish man walking towards me with his arm around a 40ish woman who had on a leather vest, lined with sheepskin. It's in the 80s tonight and humid. The vest was unzipped all the way, revealing the woman's breasts. It made sense in a way. That vest must have been stifling. If she'd have been wearing a t-shirt she'd probably have felt fine. The gang of teenagers in front of me could not stop talking about it after they passed her, and to be honest, I was pretty shocked myself.

More from my second trip to New Jersey in as many days tomorrow.

09 July 2005

No walking for me today

I'm waiting for my parents to pick me up so we can all drive way down into New Jersey together, for a baby shower for my cousin's wife. Why do I do these things? It poured rain all day yesterday, but today is sunny and clear and the temperature is not supposed to go above 75 degrees. Perfect, in other words.

To console you all for the loss of my ramblings -- ramblings, get it? both in the sense of walking and writing? -- I leave you with this picture.

As you can see, Oz is pretty pissed about this New Jersey thing, too.

07 July 2005

Things go Boom

I walked to work today, which I normally do, but after what happened in London a few hours ago, I was extra eager to avoid the public transportation system. Bombs went off in the Tube at King's Cross, and a bus was also blown up, presumably by an Islamic Fundamentalist group. As of now, ten people are dead and at least 200 injured, but it seems likely those numbers will rise.

I walk everywhere because I like to, but there is a small part of me that knows it's only a matter of time before the NYC system is attacked. Even before 9/11 I couldn't understand why it hadn't been already. If people are willing to die in the cause of killing Americans and Europeans, then why not set off small bombs in the subway, and frequently?

Of course I will take the subway again, I will have to. My life encompasses too wide an area not to. But I don't understand how we are supposed to just live from day to day, knowing that the attacks are going to keep coming. But I can't think about that right now. I have to go do something really important... take minutes at the bi-monthly management meeting.

UPDATE: I have to say, for all my nervous nellying above, this is an excellent response.

06 July 2005

Aren't they hideous?

These are my walking shoes. I got them in April, and have worn them nearly every day since. They go with nothing, except jeans. Fortunately, I can wear jeans to work, but who wants to do that in the summer? I'm considering becoming one of those people who carries their "office shoes" with them to work in a little bag, but I haven't been able to make myself do it yet.

These shoes cost $234, plus tax, and they're funny looking for a reason. The brand is "Masai Barefoot Technology," and they purport to take advantage of the more natural way of walking demonstrated by the Masai people of east Africa. That is, walking on a soft, uneven surface, that reduces shock and uses our muscles better.

It sounds like a load of bollocks, and it may well be, but they are the most comfortable pair of shoes I've ever worn, so despite my desire to be pulled together and stylish all the time, I'm going to keep wearing them every day.

05 July 2005

War of the Worlds

I saw War of the Worlds last night. After Tom Cruise's insane rantings over the last few weeks about Scientology and the evilness of psychiatry, several people I know declared that they would never again pay to see one of his movies. It reminded me of those people who were going to move to Canada if Bush was re-elected. In fact, I think they were the same people.

I don't know that I've ever paid to see a Tom Cruise movie before, but WotW got decent reviews, and it was a holiday weekend, and I hadn't seen a movie in a long time.

It was great. The aliens were scary (and had a terrific foghorn sound that announced their presence), the kid in peril was cute but not too cute, and Cruise is really good at these kind of everyman heroic roles. The ending is abrupt, and a little silly -- though faithful to the HG Wells novel, so what could they do? -- but there was one thing I didn't like.

I'm tired of 9/11 being referenced in pop culture. It's cheap. It's not that I think 9/11 should be held sacrosanct, and I know that artists have always used current events to inform their work. But for those people who were not in NYC on that day, it feels like an emotional shortcut. If aliens attacked Earth, we would feel as lost and confused as people did on that day, get it? For those of us who were here, for me anyway, it's jolting. It takes me out of the story, and back to remembering those awful weeks of constant sirens wailing and missing persons posters, and out of the movie.

04 July 2005

Happy 4th of July

I walked up to 155th Street today, up the Hudson River path, and down on Broadway. In the last few years, the river path has gotten a lot more accessible, which is great. It's easy to forget that Manhattan is surrounded by water, so cut off from it are we by Robert Moses's highway plan.

The path is a little erratic, though. From 80th to 91st, for instance, bicyclists have to detour into Riverside Park, because the "path" at that point, is just a roughed up section of dirt and cracked concrete about 18 inches wide. Two walkers or runners can barely pass each other. At other points, there's a green line dividing the path into two unequal parts. There's a sign that indicates that runners and walkers are supposed to stay on the smaller side, closest to the water, while bicyclists and rollerbladers should be on the larger, inland side.

There are a few things wrong with this. It's confusing, from both a consistency and rules-of-the-road perspective. Why this section of the path, and not others? Anyone who has driven a car knows that slower traffic stays to the right; you pass on the left. And if you miss the sign, you'll still be following that rule and running into those of us who saw the sign and paid attention to it.

It's the bicyclists who seem to disregard the sign the most, which makes sense. They've ridden past it faster, and they, being on a vehicle, are most used to following the rules of the road. But since I always follow instructions, I'm on the side of the path I'm supposed to be on. At least once a walk, more if it's on a Saturday afternoon, a bicyclist will pass me shouting angrily, "you're on the wrong side!"

They're a half mile down the path before I can shout back, "no I'm not! read the sign!"

03 July 2005

I live in New York City...

Everyone in the world has a blog these days, and I like nothing more than to catch onto a trend just as it's getting annoying.