20 November 2005

A modest proposal

I had no plans for Friday night. I'd been out every night last week, including on a date with a promising Welshman; a quiet night in seemed in order. I checked my email at 7 o'clock to find that the promising Welshman had replied to my reply of his email. Earlier in the day he was so happy to have met me, and here was the link to that English carol we were talking about. By 7pm, though, it was over. He'd love to hang out with me again, and thinks I'm terrific, but "wasn't sure we had much 'chemistry'", and he hopes "that makes sense."

I don't need sympathy for the lost promising Welshman. He was cute and smart, but after one evening, I didn't sense he was the love of my life. What I need sympathy for, however, is this lack of chemistry thing. Why is it that lately I only seem to have it with men who are, ultimately, unavailable, whether because they're with someone else or they've just gotten out of another committed relationship, or they saw their father bludgeon their mother to death when he was a child. (That last one actually belongs to a friend of mine.)

Faithful readers will know that I love to listen to other people's conversations on the street -- and really, if they're not going to keep their voices down while they're on the phone, can't we assume they want me to listen? -- and this weekend I've been overhearing a lot of conversations that go like this, "I really like him; we hit it off really well the other night; I'm just not sure what he thinks," or "He's so great, so perfect for me; I haven't heard from him yet, but I'm sure he's going to call this week."

What is wrong with us??? Men do not have these conversations with their friends, or if they do, they have the good sense to have them in private, where other people can't laugh at their naivete. I'm guilty of having them myself, but at least I'm aware that when I say, "he was really fun," after a date there's a pretty good chance that I just doomed myself to an "I'm not sure we had much 'chemistry'" (quotation marks and all) email the next day.


I was in a bad mood. Not disconsolate, not despairing. Just a little sad and in need of a treat. What better way to treat myself than to buy something pretty. I'll show you, Mr. Jones (all Welshman are named Jones); a flouncy skirt later, and you are fading from memory.

I went down to Century 21, on Church Street, whose motto is "New York's Best Kept Secret". I'm not sure who it's a secret from anymore, because everyone and his credit-card-carrying uncle were there yesterday. It was much too crowded to give the racks anything but a cursory peruse. I was out on the street after not too long.

When I used to go to the Financial District, I'd emerge from the subway and look up. In an unfamiliar part of town, the Twin Towers made it clear which way was south. Century 21 was right next door. Now, of course, there is no such clear landmark, and more than once I've walked several blocks in the wrong direction.

The pit where the World Trade Center once stood is still fenced off, but around that fence is an exhibition of sorts. Placards telling the story, listing the names of the dead, discussing the future plans for the site. I know many people who haven't been down there since 9/11, but it's being there has never really bothered me. I have my flashbacks at loud noises, and even though I can't help but think about that day when I am in the area, it's only in a general way.

The plans for the site are still in flux, and I'm glad. Maybe people will come to their senses. I hate the idea of building another gargantuan building, full of offices and retail stores we don't really need. The cultural center that was to be part of the public space has been scuttled. The families of the victims wanted assurance that only 9/11-specific art and culture would be on display, and no artistic director is going to agree to that kind of restriction.

It occured to me yesterday that the perfect thing to do with the space would be to leave it unbuilt-upon. A pit, but not one that is fenced off. People could descend to a town green of sorts. The walls could commemorate the day, but otherwise, it would just be trees, and grass, and benches. A fountain or two. Why do we need to build something similar to what was there? Why does "not letting the terrorists win" mean recreating exactly what they took from us? That can't be done.

Wouldn't a space where people came together, to rest, to contemplate, to play, show anyone who cared that we're a civilized, thoughtful, progressive people who cannot be destroyed? There are so many other office buildings in that area. All their workers would gather in the green at lunchtime. Street musicians would be naturally drawn there, and the tourists would still come to spend their money at Century 21. It would be a little oasis of oxygen in a part of town that doesn't have many parks.

Why not?

16 November 2005

Things you shouldn't do or say to me

Nearly run me over in the crosswalk, then shout out the window as I scowl at you: "Smile!"

12 November 2005

Where have all the girl ducks gone?

I stopped to sit near the lake while in the park this morning, enjoying the fall leaves and the cool, but not yet cold, weather. As I always do when I look out on the lake, I think of Holden Caulfield's concern about the Central Park ducks, in "The Catcher in the Rye." Throughout the book he wonders where the ducks go in the winter? I want him to know: nowhere. They stay right here, all year 'round. Maybe that wasn't always the case. Maybe global warming has alleviated the need for them to fly south. J.D. Salinger might have just been taking artistic license. Or maybe, as I've always suspected, he just wasn't paying very close attention.

There were more male mallards than females on the lake today, nearly two to one. Usually they are equal, quacking along in their life-bonded pairs. Today, the males were competing for the attention of the females, and it got pretty noisy at times.

The deficiency is probably due to lethal dog activity. In fact, while I sat there, a magnificent red pointer, a bird hunting dog if ever there was one, swam out to an outcropping of grass and rocks where part of the flock was resting. The ducks immediately got back in the water, while he ran around chasing them, splashing in the shallows, and generally looking like he was having a great time.

His ineffectual owner on the shore shouted, "Bobby! Come here Bobby!" as if he were an recalcitrant toddler, rather than a well-trained dog that would probably respond to a firm command.

From across the lake, a flock of geese formed a V and silently swam up on Bobby. When they got close, their honking was ferocious, but Bobby was impervious to their complaints. He was going to stay on those rocks for as long as he was allowed. After 20 minutes or so, his owner finally persuaded him to come ashore -- or, more likely, he realized he wasn't likely to catch up to any of the birds, who had the advantage of flight -- and he swam back.

05 November 2005

Beirut, New York

There are fireworks being set off in Central Park. It must be more marathon celebrating, but I wish it would stop. It sounds like we are under attack.

I was once at a pre-World Cup soccer match at the Redskins stadium in DC, where fireworks were set off before the game. Walking into the stadium, I noticed there were extra chain link fences set up to control traffic flow. Given the number of soccer stampedes in what were then recent years, the fences made me nervous. But then in a stadium full of people from other countries, many of them Latin American and Middle Eastern countries that have known long wars, the fireworks made me even more nervous, on their behalves. Wouldn't anyone who has ever been bombed have immediate flashbacks? Why subject them to the kind of bombast that would remind them of being at war?

Maybe I'm getting too sensitive as I get older, but fireworks in a city that is likely to be bombed someday don't seem like much fun to me.

Marathon weekend

Central Park is full of foreigners. There is always an international fun run the day before the marathon. I guess 5K isn't a long distance for someone who can run 26.2 miles, but it's amazing to me that they want to run two days in a row.

A woman on a podium greets runners in different languages, as she sees flags from their country. Maybe they got her from the UN, because her accents -- French, Hebrew, and Portuguese, from what I heard -- seemed right on.

Some runners dress up for this event. A group of Japanese men in Ninja wear run with plastic swords. A bevy of busty British broads wear white t-shirts with American flag bras painted on them. A mixed group of French runners wear neon orange overalls and flesh-colored skull wigs with neon orange spikes sticking out of them. Is this a recognizable French trope I'm not aware of?

New York has gone out of its way to provide a perfect weekend for all our visitors. It feels more like the beginning of Fall than the end, the leaves all still on the trees in an array of oranges and yellows. It's actually a little too warm for marathon runners; I think 50 degrees is optimal.

Still, they all look like they are enjoying themselves, and I'm glad. I'm ready to give directions to Times Square and Soho, and tomorrow, the entire city will turn out to cheer them on. I'll never understand, though, what is so fascinating about our squirrels that people need to creep up on them, holding a bit of food in their fingers, hoping their friend behind them gets a good picture. They are are invariably Italian, these squirrel-lovers.

Recently, George Bush appointed his old friend Karen Hughes to a position in the State Department in which she is responsible for improving the U.S. image abroad. I wonder if she's with him right now in Venezuela. That seems to be working well for him. In the last five years, the Republicans have inadvertantly proved what their party has always held -- the Federal government is useless. If you want real action, look to the states and localities. (That said, I don't believe the current crop of Republicans really believe in small government; big government has been too profitable for them.)

Instead of deploying Karen Hughes, who, like her friend George, doesn't seem like she ever travelled outside the United States before he became president, just leave it up to us, in NYC, and the stoic residents of the Gulf Coast, to be the ambassadors of good will to the rest of the world. They'll start liking us again in no time.

04 November 2005

Rescue me!

For the love of God, won't somebody call in a bomb threat to my building so I can leave the office and enjoy what's left of this gorgeous afternoon?

(Note to Fed lurker: I didn't really mean that about the bomb threat.)

02 November 2005

Walker Goes to Washington

I met Hillary Clinton yesterday. My company gave a presentation to her and her staff yesterday, in the Indian Affairs hearing room of the Russell Senate Office Building. You know I can't talk about work on my blog, so it's a little hard to give you the real lowdown, but fortunately, there were things other than work to pay attention to.

In addition to being interested in the intellectual and political content of the event, I was curious about what Hillary would be wearing. She has a reputation for favoring black pants suits; I was wearing a black pants suit. She turned up in a dark brown textured pants suit with a light blue wool sweater underneath. Very becoming, but I couldn't help but think it must be warm.

I always look at successful women's shoes. There is a part of me that thinks the reason I am not more successful starts with the fact that I cannot wear the right shoes. Anything that looks good hobbles me in a few hours, and while I'm willing to suffer for the occasional important meeting -- like today's; black leather loafers, but without orthotics they might as well have been stilettos -- the key to success is being able to do something -- talk to strangers, shake hundreds of hands, wear the right shoes -- many days in a row.

Hillary's shoes were not what I would have called successful: brown pumps with a low heel (two inches is considered high in Washington), and a pointy toe. They could not have been comfortable, and if you are going to be uncomfortable, you should wear something more attractive.

It didn't matter. If she can manage to meet 50 or so million people in the next three years, Hillary will be our next president. She was friendly, engaged, intelligent and kind. She has people who can worry about whether she's spending too long with her constituents or missing an important hearing. She stayed focussed on us the entire time, and made sure that we were all included in her questions. Despite my tendency to go stupid when I meet famous people, I was reasonably articulate, and managed a firm handshake. Her hands are very small. I've always thought she would be a good senator for New York, but after yesterday, I was ready to volunteer for HILLARY 2008.