Friday, April 25, 2008


If anyone walked into my apartment right now, knowing that I have to be out of it in less than 20 hours, they would laugh hysterically and then shake their head. *sigh* I am a little behind in the packing and cleaning, mainly because I got really overwhelmed this morning and decided to watch LOST and a couple of other shows online. I would clean/pack during the "commercial" breaks. While this is probably the least efficient manner of moving, short of doing nothing at all, I have not run screaming from the building in tears, which is Something. (However, I did just return from a harrowing experience at the laundromat).

As I suspected, the weirdest thing I found was in the fridge, but not like I'd expected. There were several FROZEN things in there - a left-over tomato soup popsicle, anyone??? I have NO idea what that is about, and have a feeling I don't even want to know.

I also don't want to know how the %^&* I am going to get all this crap into my car....

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Back, Albeit Briefly

Back in the city, after a series of whirlwind adventures. First, a visit from A., the highlight of which was seeing Avenue Q. We did attempt the Brooklyn Bridge, but we discovered it is not for the faint of heart. We missed the Pope, but did manage to stumble our way through a Denzel Washington movie set downtown. And, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where two young siblings ran through the sculpture garden yelling "Look! A penis!". It was actually pretty funny.

I spent a whole 24 hours in Maine, getting my car fixed, and then took off for my sister's house. Yesterday I went into Boston to interview for a job (cross fingers...), and today drove back to NYC after taking a....well, a CREATIVE route back. I found a parking spot on the right side of the street, although it was insanely tight and S. would have been SO proud of me for getting in there (if you need to learn parallel parking, I suggest driving to any side street in Queens for practice; if you can parallel park there, you are set for life). And now, despite the arrival of Netflix in my mailbox, I really MUST stop procrastinating and get packing. Ugggggggghhhhh.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stupid Drunk People

This, while obviously sad, didn't surprise me at all. In fact, it explains why there were so many drunk men on the train last night even though it was only 5:30.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Checking Off The List

Today was my last day of work, and it was unremarkable except for an annoying misunderstanding about the commuter reimbursement program at work that sent me scurrying to buy a monthly MetroCard pass. I hope S. or someone he knows can use it; I was NOT going to leave that money on the table. Happily, and somewhat unbelievably, they are paying me for 12 days unused vacation time (I had calculated 9). Not bad for 4 and a half months work.

Honestly, I am much more relieved about getting my taxes mailed. I did manage to finish them in time, although God help the people who have to process them. As some of you might recall, there was a major leak in my apartment that soaked all of my tax stuff, and while I re-did the forms, all I could do was dry out my W2s. This was the first year that I have not sent in my taxes until the last possible second, mainly because it is the first year that I had to write a check to the federal government. So, you can imagine my surprise when I turned up at the post office where there was at least 60 other people in line. (were at least 60 people in line? grammar police, anyone?).

I should be doing laundry right now, but I have no energy whatsoever to do it. In addition to laundry, I still have to clean out the fridge (ugh) and pack. But what I REALLY want is to go get Chinese food and watch the very last DVD of Ballykissangel and knit.

Posting over the next...however long may be sporadic as I am going to be back and forth for the next couple of weeks, and then I actually don't know where I will be living exactly but it will not be in NYC or at my parents house. That much I know. Also, lest you think my ranting about the neighbors is over, it appears my sister's issues with HER neighbors have cropped up again. It may be a recurring theme in my life for the next few years. (Although, it is fairly safe to say I don't have to worry about them playing salsa music on my roof at 2 am. We'll see.)

Finally, I am really looking forward to the next few days, between getting to hang out with S. and then A.'s visit, which will include a trip to see Avenue Q (Wicked was just too expensive...).
I may have to drag her to a yarn store while she's here, but I promise it will be quick!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mid-Day Rant

Tudor revival architecture really bugs me. I can’t explain why, but it has a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect with me. So, so very icky, particularly the brown-boards-on-white-masonry crap. It reminds me of Hansel and Gretel, a story I hated as a kid. I have utterly no idea what wires in my brain fused to make that correlation, but there it is.

I bring this up because today I made my final Metro-North train trip to Westchester County, and it’s just mile after mile of these fake Tudor houses, train stations, and stores. Even on buildings that aren’t Tudor, there are references, such as the steep gables, that are totally out of context to the rest of the building. I loathe and detest it.

I was very conscious of this being my last trip, even at 2 am when I was still wiiiiiide awake. It wasn’t the neighbors this time (they shut down around midnight), I just couldn’t turn my brain off. The alarm went off at 5:45, and I kept hitting the snooze button until 7 am. I’m supposed to leave at 7:15 to get the train, so you can sort of imagine what a mess I was. I did make the train, but without my usual caffeine and sugar fix. Then, I got to work to discover that the meeting I thought was at 11 was rescheduled for 1:30. This meeting was the sole purpose of my journey north, and that increased my crankiness substantially. 

My newly revised schedule of things to-do: finish taxes tonight, laundry tomorrow night, cleaning on Wednesday/Thursday.

And now, off to my meeting...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Upon Reflection

Despite having done hardly anything on my to-do list, I spent the past couple of hours re-reading my personal (paper) journal entries from a year ago. They are almost verbatim to what I am writing now, except that instead of talking about going to NYC I am talking about leaving it. I don't know why this surprises me, but it does.

The most prominent constant is the notion of faith. I came here with an abundance of faith - in myself, my friends, my love for someone, my ability to find another interesting job, the city itself. Looked at one way, I succeeded: I found an apartment, a job, and navigated the subway just fine. Many people have spent 7 months in this city and accomplished much less.

At the same time, I'm leaving pretty disillusioned about the whole experience. In retrospect a lot of the decisions I've made over the past few years weren't the best ones I could have made for myself. I feel like coming here actually WAS the best thing I could have done for myself, and yet it was still a disaster. Neighbors from hell, a job that defied explanation, a much-hoped for relationship never came to pass. Am I giving up by leaving? Was I supposed to stay and fight? My dad always says that the things that are hard are usually the things worth having. These were some of the HARDEST months of my life, and I just want to watch them disappear in the rear-view mirror. The quote "You have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light" has been rattling around my head lately, and I'm just trying to have faith that there will be some light soon.

Early Morning Musings

It's really late (or early, depending on your point of view) and I can't sleep. Too much soda, I suspect, and there's so much stuff running around my head I'm actually afraid to fall asleep because I really don't want to find out how my subconscious is going to process it all.

I did finish a pair of socks tonight, for my sister, and they are drying now. One might be sliiiightly longer in the foot than its twin, but I'm not going to get all picky about it. It's only the third pair I've knit, and I'm still at the point where if they even vaguely resemble socks, I'm happy. I also wound my new sock yarn into a ball, but am undecided about what sort of socks to knit next.

I've also moved on to watching a BBC show called "Monarch of the Glen", which is based on the seemingly improbable premise of a young man inheriting his family's 400 year old Scottish estate, except his daft parents are still alive so "inheriting" isn't really the right word at all. I don't love it as much as I did Ballykissangel, but it's good escapism for knitting time. There is a large Scottish contingent in my family history, as well as Irish and Welsh, and I like imagining myself roaming around a big drafty castle (probably trailing yarn behind me). Reading-wise, I've dipped into Jane Austen, but I'm finding it difficult to read on the subway. It's just too weird a juxtaposition.

In the next 24 hours, I must: finish my taxes; clean out the fridge; do a pile of laundry; start packing stuff up; and...I'm sure there's more stuff. If I can just get through Monday and Tuesday, it will be a great week: Tuesday is my last day at work, Wednesday I get to see S. (an unexpected and happy surprise!), and Thursday I go up to MA to interview early Friday morning. I'll get back here in time to meet A. at Grand Central, and I have tickets for Avenue Q Sunday night. Yay!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fear Factors

 I had two phone interviews this week which seemed to go pretty well, and one has invited me to interview in person next week.  On the downside, this cuts into my cleaning and packing time a bit, so that means I will have to double my efforts this weekend. I have been doing bits and pieces this week, in between moaning over the last season of BallyK (really, WHAT were they thinking?!?!). My knitting has suffered, and I am still trying to finish the socks for my sister.

My knitting time was also cut into last night because I am not yet able to knit and read at the same time (oh, holy grail...). I got to reading a book called "Creativity for Life" by Eric Maisel, which is just FASCINATING. First of all, anyone who is friends with or involved in any way with someone who identifies as "artistic" should read this book. Let's just say it Explains A Lot. Really.

Second, it makes those of us who "dabble" think hard. In some ways, it was a checklist for me, particularly when he described the personalities of artistic people. Not just like but NEED to be alone a lot? Check. Introverted? Check. Introspective? Check. Ridiculously honest? Check. Prone to depressive episodes? Unfortunately, Check. And I could totally identify with losing yourself in something - when I was quilting a lot, I would get so absorbed in the sewing that I would forget to eat. I would start at noon and suddenly it was 9 pm and the room would be spinning.

So I saw a lot of myself here too, and I found it simultaneously comforting and disturbing. Because it sort of explains a lot about me, and has sent me down an entirely different rabbit hole about the values with which I was raised, and what constitutes "work". Work was something that had to be done to pay bills, and therefore the more money you made the better off you were. Work was not something you enjoyed, it was something to be endured. It was a sacrifice you made to support your family.

So - I love to write. I write all the time (well, when I'm not knitting). I write at work, I write in my journal, I write on this blog. For the past 5 years I have taken one writing class or workshop each year. I don't think I've ever had "writers block" - for me writing is like breathing or brushing my teeth, something I do without really thinking about it. I can't write fiction to save my life, but I revel in the mundane stuff that fills up our days. (Although, I'm not so sure I "lose" myself in writing the way I do when quilting. It definitely feels conscious-altering, but I don't lose time the way I do when sewing).

But. There's a difference between writing and writing well. (There's also a difference between writing and publishing.) And I wonder about what happens when something you love becomes something you have to do for a living. When I was in high school, I was strongly encouraged by my flute teacher to study music in college, but it seemed impractical on the one hand and on the other, I loved playing flute. I was afraid if it became "work" that I would hate it and all the joy I derived from it would go away. Plus I wasn't so sure I was really that good, and the idea of auditioning and the possibility of rejection terrified me in ways that I wouldn't let myself even imagine. I also had a really hard time with a music theory class I took (math in hiding as far as I was concerned), and that really wrecked my understanding of what being a musician was all about. It was like, "Oh crap, just playing the notes isn't enough; there's actually all this OTHER STUFF going on that I really need to comprehend. Damn".

But I wonder about that decision now. I just...wonder.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

So This Is What "Later" Looks Like

Feeling overwhelmed with all I have to do over the next few weeks, even though my job ends next Tuesday. I have a couple of phone interviews lined up, which is good, and a number of arrangements in the works to see various people before I leave (including a 3-year old's birthday party!). And a friend is coming to visit, which is lovely in its own right but it also means I can cram in any last-minute touristy things to do (seeing a Broadway show and walking the Brooklyn Bridge are at the top of the list). This is all making me very happy.

But, as I ought to have learned by now, my apartment isn't self-cleaning. Or self-packing, for that matter. I'm trying to break the cleaning up into pieces - for example, last night I cleaned up the hallway. The downside is, "cleaned up" effectively means that I moved the piles of mail that were practically blocking the door...and now the piles are in the living room. But you can open the door now!

Why do I have piles of mail, you ask? By my count, at least five people receive mail in my mailbox: me, the woman I am subletting from (mostly catalogs and magazines), two men who are apparently dead (mail is addressed "to the estate of") and some other person whose name could be male or female. Plus all the "to the occupant" crap that I always find crammed in the mailbox. Most of the other mail is obviously junk, but some of the stuff is from Social Security and law offices which really need to be returned. And since I appear to have a mutation or two in my "organization" gene pool, I just throw it all on the floor when I walk in, to be dealt with "later". Later, my friends, has finally come. So tonight it's me, Bewitched reruns, and a Sharpie to write "return to sender" across the fronts of envelopes. My broom (how appropriate...)is also within reach, so I can bang on the ceiling if/when the noise from upstairs begins to drown out Samantha and Darrin. I'm telling you, this life in the big city just plum wears me out :0

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another Rant About the Neighbors

When I was little, going to Sunday School and trying to form a basis for my moral life, I went through a phase where I thought we should all get one "pass" at doing a really bad thing. If I recall correctly, this was when we were parsing through the middle ground of "God forgives all sins" and "if you break the 10 Commandments you'll go to hell". It seemed inconsistent to me, and I think I was trying to reason my way out of something that can't actually be reasoned.

At any rate, this "pass" for one really bad thing cropped up in my mind again tonight, as the kid upstairs is playing his bass badly and loudly for the 180th day in a row (and yes, I counted). For 180 days, minus a few here and there for Christmas and a couple of weekend trips, I have listened to this brat almost every single day since October 8th. I cower when I hear loud bass music on the street; I literally think I have PTSD from this experience. I want to go upstairs, break down the door, take the guitar, and smash it in a zillion pieces. Really, I do. If this act were not morally and criminally reprehensible, I would. Given the fact that I only have at most 15 more days of actually sleeping in this apartment, you'd think I'd be all zen about it. I am not. It just makes me think about what I might do and actually get away with.

The liberal socialist in me wants to be nice: the poor kid is probably 15, has no father, god only knows where his mother is, they are on public assistance, it's just an utter mess. The one thing the kid has is his music. And me, the "mean white lady" downstairs, who only speaks English, is ruining all the fun just because she has to go to her job in the morning. My white middle class guilt should be kicking in right about now.

But it's not, not at all. Possibly because when the kid isn't playing music, they are playing a game I like to call "Lets Move All The Furniture and Drop Heavy Things On The Floor Until 3 am". And so in the name of self-preservation, I sit here stewing and trying to think of creative ways to deal with the situation. I feel like there's something obvious that I'm missing, other than calling the cops. And it doesn't have to be a BAD thing; on some of the worst nights I've thought about going up there and offering the kid $50 to just watch TV all night (assuming they have a TV, or I had that sort of money to spare). But my luck, the kid would take the money and just turn up the amp. Plus, it would obviously set a really bad precedent.

I should just be grateful I'm in the home stretch and in another week it won't matter that I have to get up and go to work. Still, though, if anyone has any creative thoughts on the matter I'd appreciate them!!!

Blogspot vs. Livejournal

Prior to this blog, I kept one over at LJ for four years. A couple of people have expressed interest in my opinion on which service is better, so here goes:

1) LJ doesn't really like Safari (Mac browser). Blogger/Blogspot HATES Safari, and so I wound up downloading a free copy of Firefox for Mac in order to get things to work (particularly uploading photos). This change has enabled me to do web site links in my blog, something I am very excited about. It may be possible to do links on LJ using Safari, but I was never able to figure out how. Posting to either service using Explorer on a PC works just fine.

2) I started out with a paid account at LJ, but then let it lapse into an unpaid account with fewer services. Basically, all this meant to me was that I couldn't post photos with my blog entries unless I paid a $20 yearly fee. Blogger, on the other hand, is free AND, from all appearances, allows you to post as many photos as you want.

3) Blogger allows you to opt out of search engines prowling your blog. Many of my public LJ entries were picked up and cached by search engines, and even after turning the public access off those entries are still cached (much to the dismay of my mother). If you care about such things, it's worth making a note of.

4) Blogger has fewer basic design templates, but there is more freedom in "decorating". The photo at the top of my blog is a photo of mine that either I or a friend of mine took, and I was able to upload it as a backdrop to my blog title. I like this.

5) LJ has a better "search" tool, enabling you to find blogs that you might be interested in reading. But to do a really targeted search on LJ, you need to have a paid account.

6) Blogger appearst to have more blogs that you would ACTUALLY BE INTERESTED IN READING. I found LJ to have a preponderance of high school kids on it. Blogger seems to cater to a much wider age demographic. I also found a lot more stuff on LJ that was just plain raunchy, whereas I haven't found a lot of that here.

7) Anyone can comment on Blogger. This can be good or bad, depending on what you want.

8) Blogger does not appear to have anything akin to "friending" on LJ. I say that with the caveat that I might just not have found it yet.

9) Formatting on Blogger can be a little problematic. It's not always WYSIWYG; sometimes I have to add some extra spaces or actually edit the HTML (which, seeing as I don't know HTML, can get a bit dicy). I never had any formatting issues with LJ.

That's the comparison for the moment...if I discover other things along the way I'll let you know.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Bit More Craftiness

Another blog I regularly read is SouleMama, written by a lovely woman from Portland Maine. The photos are stunning, her kids are cute, and she quilts, knits, sews, and does all sorts of other crafty things, plus then gets to write about it. I want her life in the worst way.

She has a new book out, and if you have kids or nieces/nephews or just need a few new but simple crafty ideas, I'd highly recommend it. It took a bit of finding, as Borders shelved it in the parenting section and that's not exactly an area I frequent. While it is certainly geared for families with kids, it also convinces those of us who nearly failed junior high art that we too can be creative, dammit, even if we CAN'T draw a still life.

The problem with this book is that, much like her blog, the author makes me ITCHY to start MAKING things. It is INFURIATING to know how you want to spend your time and then have reality dictate that you must spend it in other ways (like going to work, for example). Some would say "that's why they call it work", but how wonderful would it be if everybody just got to wake up and make stuff that they wanted to make? Some would say "that's retirement", but why save up all the stuff you want to do for when you are old and possibly unhealthy? It seems totally backwards to me...

One good thing? Last night, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee quoted studies that showed that knitting can stave off dementia and alzheimers, and alters the brain in a similar way that meditation does for monks. Hurrah! Now knitting can be considered a form of exercise. And now, I must get back to work as my lonely and unfinished sock taunts me from across the room...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Knitting Groupie

Tonight I went to the Borders at Columbus Circle to hear author Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka the Yarn Harlot, and it was pretty surreal (Stephanie herself was fabulous). I love her books, and daily follow her very funny blog (funny even if you don't knit!). This was the first real "public knitterly" event I've ever attended, and honestly over the course of the day I changed my mind several times about going (I hate crowds). It started at 7 and I got there at 5, bought my book, and got a seat. By 5:45 there were no seats left. BUT, I have to say, I thought there would be many more people there just the same. The mostly-male Borders staff were pretty funny, although they were well aware that they had a bunch of women on their hands who were armed with sharp pointy sticks. We Are Not To Be Trifled With.

It was a whacked out crowd. Predominantly female, but beyond that all bets were off (although I did see a suspicious number of Obama buttons...). See, I think of myself as an obsessive knitter, but tonight I realized that's because no one else I know knits. These folks take it to a whole other level; I swear some of them were speaking in a different language. It was like being at a car show and all the men talking about engine torque; I knew the words that were being used but had never really heard anyone actually speak them in a complete sentence. People were saying things like "look, she's wearing that cable yoked sweater! and there's another one!". I was one of the few people who was not wearing something hand-knit - I was even wearing store-bought socks! They were all knitting FAST - I knew I was a slow knitter, but in the time I took to knit three inches the woman in front of me had started a sock and knit double what I had in my hands (and I had already knit two inches before showing up at the event). I made a comment to the lady next to me about how someone should do a sociological study on the people in the room, and she said "yeah, it kind of feels a little cult-like". It occurred to me that there are those of us who like to knit alone, and those of us that like to knit in groups, and I am very much in the loner category. I think my neighbor would count herself in that category as well.

What really piqued my interest though? I was not just surrounded by knitters, I was surrounded by bloggers. Everyone was talking about their knitting blogs. People were going up to other people and saying things like "Are you Jen? The one that has that blog called such-and-such?" and many "oh my gods" and awkward hugging ensued. Given that the author is a prolific blogger, maybe it should have been expected, but it certainly made it seem like EVERYONE has a blog and maybe I'm not such a freak after all.

There was also a lot of "I never think someone I don't know is reading my blog" comments made by the knitter-bloggers. In fact, someone asked the author herself how she felt about "putting it all out there" and having all these people think we know her. I've actually been thinking about this, because I read lots and lots of blogs. Some are written by people I know, and our blogs have become our primary means of communication for the most part. Most of the blogs I read, though, are written by complete and utter strangers who I feel like I know intimately. For example, whenever I hear someone's going to California I have to suppress the urge to tell them my friend Kevin lives there, because I don't actually HAVE a friend named Kevin. I do, however, read Kevin Smith's blog and books and watch his movies to the point where I feel like I know the guy (it doesn't help that he looks exactly like my friend Anthony from high school).

And so it was really cool to see Stephanie Pearl-McPhee IN PERSON -- and then very strange to realize...this woman is a complete and utter stranger to me. I have never met this woman and yet I KNOW stuff about her. I know the story about her walking 14 km to get toilet paper and Guinness. I know the names of her kids and her best friend and her mother. I own every book she's ever written. And she knows NOTHING about me. I had the same reaction once in junior high when I went with a friend and her grandmother to a restaurant, and as we were leaving we passed by the newscasters from the NBC affiliate. I was like, "wait, I know those people!". Of course I didn't, but they were in my living room every morning and seemed totally familiar to me. I used to think this was just me, but now I'm not so sure.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

My Bad Memory Explains A Few Things

One of my favorite books is “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin (despite his connections to the Republican party…). My first encounter with it was during my sophomore year in college, when one of MT’s housemates had her senior recital. She inserted the short chapter “Nothing is Random” from the book into her recital program, and I was hooked. It took me several years to actually locate a copy of the book, and had to read it three times before I felt like I was more-or-less grasping what the heck was going on. I would describe the book as part love letter to New York City, and part love letter to love. It’s very much fantasy, almost science fiction in a way, but grounded in the history of how the city developed. It’s very unusual.

The “Nothing is Random” chapter (which is widely available on the internet; just type it into Google) has stuck with me like no other. It is extremely reminiscent of passages in Ecclesiastes, and for some reason, I always thought I got the phrase “halcyon days” from this chapter. It’s one of my favorite terms, and ever since I met a very sweet woman whose actual name was Halcyon, I thought it was a great name for a girl.

So, I was a little taken aback when I re-read the piece and discovered that actually, Helprin used the phrase “perfectly blue days that begin and end in golden dimness”, and not the phrase “halcyon days”. Oops.

It turns out that the phrase “halcyon days”, which I have always associated with those perfectly blue days Helprin writes of, evolved out of a Greek legend about a kingfisher and calm seas right before the winter solstice. One goddess, Alcyone, fell in love with a guy named Ceyx who unfortunately drowned in a stormy sea. Filled with grief, Alcyone threw herself into the ocean and was transformed into a kingfisher, where she built a nest and launched it into the sea. She sat on her eggs for the two weeks surrounding the winter solstice, and during this time her father calmed the sea to protect his daughter and grandchildren.

The word “halcyon” itself means joyful and carefree, peaceful, prosperous; and also fair and stormless (related to the weather). As the past few months of my life have seemed like I’ve been out to sea in the middle of a hurricane in a leaky boat about to capsize, I thought it was an apt title for my new blog and my new adventures. This morning on the subway I felt something lift inside me, and at that moment a five-man group started singing in these marvelous harmonies that made me want to stay on the train forever. But I’m dreaming of making quilts again, writing funny stories about my childhood, baking bread, and taking long hot baths in the jacuzzi. It’s finally April, and while I have the terror of finding a new job over my head at the moment, I’m really ready to move on.