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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Latest

Here are some updates of things going on around me:

1. The Ill-Fated House
is being wrapped up at breakneck speed, since the owners want to move in asap.

On top of the list of Bad Things that have happened, the contractor just got through back surgery. My part in the house is wrapping up, so I don't feel like I'm in too much danger, but the decorator and I are treating the project as if it's hexed.

2. The Stray Cats
The grey cat I befriended turned out to be a female. She spent her days with a sweet, orange cat.

A group of us on the street where Mark lives are bent on rescuing these guys knew how limited we were on time. Soon enough, we noticed the grey cat's bulging stomach. Grey cat had kittens (two, as far as we know), and a couple weeks ago, mom and kittens were rescued from the street.

Orange cat is still at large, and hangs out with a new buddy, a black and white cat. Both are sweet and were probably housecats. They'll be rescued in the next week. Mark's neighbors and I have a website where we share information, and we're lining up homes for them.

3. The Divas
where I work are thriving. Sometimes they're infuriating, but they're generally hilarious and make my daily life fun.

'I'm looking for Stephen', I said one day, calling the conference room.

'She's not here,' was the reply. 'Stephen's got a cold and she's gone home for the evening.'

The divas where I work (mostly gay men) call each other 'girls' and 'bitches'. Sometimes they give each other attitude and the rest of the office quiets down, trying to overhear the small uproar over whose job it is to do whatever trivial thing they're bickering about.

After five minutes, the skirmish is over and the guns are put down. Conversation swings easily to the color of a particular carpet sample, or a fabric swatch. Never a dull moment.

Photo by myself of from Long Island City of the East River, beyond.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Mawl

George Washington Bridge
Photo by myself of the George Washington Bridge.


I should have had my camera with me today. Mark and I drove out to Long Island to visit his mother and do a little shopping. Yes, we went to 'Long Island' (Lawng G-eye-land) to 'the mawl'.

Everyone makes fun of Long Island. It's hard to resist mocking the accent. Not everyone there has one (Mark grew up there and doesn't have a trace of it), but those who do are worthy targets. The stereotypical women bleach their hair and wear it BIG, sport lots of big jewelry, and drive big fancy cars.

We didn't run into any of those Long Island ladies. Oh well. Fortunately, we arrived at the mawl early enough to get a parking space and got out before encountering the crowd. It was a guerilla shopping mission that could've gone much better if my phone were working.

Anyhow, the drive there was beautiful - twisty-turny roads, charming houses and lots of trees turning orange. We drove through Cold Spring Harbor, for lunch, which was gorgeous. A whole bunch of non-big haired people were standing on the sidewalks of an adorable old town. Almost everyone had a dog on a leash, and most of the dogs were dressed in Halloween costumes. It was a missed photo-op. Drat!


Friday, October 26, 2007

Hipster Douchebags

Tonight, like many nights, I waited at the very back of the platform for the N and R trains, along with a crowd of hipsters. Mark calls them 'hipster douchebags'.

This happens every day - people know exactly where to stand on the platform so when the doors open, they're right by the stairs or the exit. All those hipsters (and I) were waiting for the last car of the train, so we could get out at Union Square and dash down the stairs to the L train. There, we'd all assemble again, on one end of the Brooklyn-bound platform, to squeeze into the last car. We'd stumble out at Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg and trudge up the stairs to the open air.

I wish I'd had my camera tonight, because it was raining. On the platform, and later on the trains, I was crammed together with a mass of damp, bed-headed folk dressed in saggy jeans and slouchy hooded sweatshirts. Mark hates them, (hence the 'douchebag' part).

Everyone (except me) looked like they just walked out of a Gap ad. That's the Williamsburg demographic, and tonight, they looked especially bed-headed.

Next time I'll have to bring the camera. Hopefully, it'll be raining.

Image from a review of The Hipster Handbook.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Going Dutch

Mark and I loved Philadelphia. I've been there before very briefly, but never had a chance to walk around. This trip we barely walked around, too - most of the time was spent in the car, driving through the countryside and stopping at little antiques dealers in the Amish areas.

After the cheesesteak debacle, we drove to where we were staying, a little clapboard, family-owned bed and breakfast. It had sloping floors, a little garden out back, a country kitchen, and heaps of Ye Olde charm. You could hear people speaking in the rooms above and below (so it was like we'd never left New York, haha). Next time, we'll have to stay the whole weekend.

We had a chance to walk around a little and ooh and aah over the beautiful brick townhouses on Sunday morning (very little of New York is brick, so visiting old cities like Boston and Philly are a treat). It was Sunday, so all the stores were closed, but we could at least take in bits of the tree-lined streets and perfect weather.

Amish country was relaxing. There were trees, hills, and a horse and buggy or two. I purchased a couple nice things for my apartment. We drove through Intercourse, Bird in Hand and Strasburg, stopping short of Lancaster. Absolutely nothing could have been done without the trusty GPS, which used to sound like John Cleese (after a minor meltdown, it had a sex change). The whole experience of getting lost will be obsolete in a generation.

All this escapism has been good for me. So far, the week has been beyond stressful. There have been late nights, computer glitches and just a general feeling of angst. Fortunately, I am not alone. My coworkers and I swing around to each other, mutter and comiserate. Thankfully, tomorrow is Friday, and there are drinks in my future. TGIF!

Day trips are easily accessible destinations just outside the five boroughs of New York City.


Sunday, October 21, 2007


This was the perfect weekend to drive to Philadelphia - the leaves were changing, the weather was beautiful. Our weekend began Saturday night. Mark and I decided to join a Mini Cooper rally for a late drive to Philadelphia for cheesesteaks.

Sounded fun, but just about everything went wrong. We missed the rest stop where we'd planned to meet some other New York Mini Cooper owners. No one had anyone's cell phone number. Mark had his Apple phone, so as we sat in a parking lot, he browsed online, emailing people, getting a couple numbers and leaving phone messages.

Meanwhile, I scanned the highway for a battalion of Mini Coopers. Of course, it was nighttime, so I couldn't see a thing. I thought I could tell whether a car was a Mini by the distance between the headlights and tail lights, but I was truly kidding myself. We had a walkie talkie with a ten-mile range, and every few minutes, Mark would broadcast an SOS.

After sitting for an hour in the parking lot and getting questioned by a cruising police car, we set off to Philadelphia by ourselves. The plan was to meet at Tony Luke's around 10:30 pm for their famous cheesesteaks.

The place was unglamorous but distinctive. Everything that could be aluminum, was. There was a window to place your order, a window to pick up, and several picnic tables under heat lamps. The cheesesteaks, on the other hand, were astounding. Juicy, littered with slightly crunchy onions, and doused in gorgeously melted American Cheese...I can see why Philadelphians call it their signature dish. In honor of my diet, I had two Texas style hot dogs (beef frankfurter, hot dog bun, chopped onions, and a spicy, curried sauce). They were good, but they weren't cheesesteaks.

Most interesting was the demographic that night. We sat among men in white shirts and ties, older people, younger people, couples on dates, people binging after the hockey game and a couple Harley riders. The couple next to us had driven from New Jersey. After meeting them, late night cheesesteak runs seemed almost sensible.

Just as we'd gotten up from our picnic table, the walkie talkie squawked from my purse. 'There's another Mini Cooper here'.

Happily, it was the other other Mini drivers from New York. It wound up being a rather small rally (just four cars), but the feelings were generally the same - excited to be there, amazed by the food, and happy that delicious cheesesteaks were just a short drive from home.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I took a cab home tonight. We stopped at a light on Flatbush Avenue, near Fort Greene.

It was a busy intersection. While we idled, I looked across to the sidewalk, where some teenagers were hanging out. One kid sat on hydrant, another stood in the doorway of a deli. Then, out of nowhere, was a loud THWACK.

I looked over and the woman in the car next to me sat in shock. One of the kids had thrown a crumpled beer can. It landed on the hood of her car and lay quietly against one of the windshield wipers. No damage, but the shock of it was threatening enough.

It's very safe in the city these days. Frankly, I'm more scared of the suburbs (Joey what's-his-name, the Grubner woman, kids stockpiling weapons in their basements).

Before I could think too much about all the above, the light changed. We were off.

Photo by myself, somewhere in Brooklyn.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Mark and I talk often about how we could ever leave New York, and where we could live. San Fransisco is his ideal (cooler summers, beautiful buildings) but I'm wary of how clean it looks there (I have been brainwashed by the grunge and graffiti).

And what's keeping us here? Snobbiness? The need to be where the party is? Absolutely not. It's the food. Neither of us could move far away from our favorite Ethiopean place (Meskerem on 47th) or Afghani place (Khyber Pass on St. Mark's). It's that simple. We love our eats. (Hence my recent diet).

This weekend, to widen our circle of restaurants, Mark and I went to Fort Greene, Brooklyn. A friend had mentioned a barbeque place and we could not resist.

I hadn't been back to Fort Greene since I looked for an apartment, last summer. It's a very pretty neighborhood with brownstones, trees, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, cool shops and several great restaurants. The prices of apartments to rent and buy has skyrocketed recently. Prices have easily doubled since 2003.

Smoke Joint, on South Elliot and Flatbush Avenue, turned out to be delectable. Said Mark on several occasions, 'Oh my god.'

We had a full rack of baby back pork ribs that was slathered in bbq sauce and burnt just so, mac and cheese, and cornbread. I now realize I should have taken an 'after' picture, for a full effect.

Yes, I'm on a diet so I did not have any of the cornbread (!).


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mister Kane

Mark's best friend, Tom, is in the advertising business. They used to work together for years, and still do, now and again, Tom as the creative director, Mark as the producer. Tom has dreamt up ads you've probably seen in print and on television, for Yellowtail vodka, Steve Madden and BASF, among many others.

I wanted to post about Tom's drawings and work, seen here. You can spend hours browsing through his images. His blog showcases his beautiful pen and ink drawings, which are done in notebooks of assorted sizes - pages and pages of drawings are covered in careful script describing whatever's drawn, and the narrative is intimate and interesting. The notebook covers have stickers on them that are artfully arranged, and piles of them are left on the living room coffee table to flip through. It's a neat way to get into someone's (nicely illustrated) head.

More amazing are his paintings, seen here. Most are several feet large, and when you walk into a room with a few on the wall, the effect is startling. I haven't decided on a favorite quite yet. Right now it's between Don Knotts and a gigantic white horse that used to hang above the dining room table.

I went through brief a period when I revisited drawing, (pencil on paper, from photographs). I remember asking Tom one night about how he works, and whether he ever made mistakes - if you flip through his notebooks, you will notice that there are never any ugly pages, pages that looked just wrong or that were abandoned halfway through.

Tom explained that if he ever made a 'mistake', he'd just work around it in the drawing. Whatever he'd draw would simply take on a life of its own.

There are so many things I'd like to get back into, right now, and so little time. If anything, just looking at Tom's work inspires me toward being more creative.

A page from Tom's notebook, above. His portrait of his friend, photographer Dave Lachappelle.


Friday, October 12, 2007


I've been scrambling this past week for yet another huge presentation. It went well enough and the dust is finally settling a little before the next wave of deadlines.

Mark and I are looking forward to a nice weekend. We plan to drive around Long Island, shop for fall clothes and just relax. Hooray.

I wanted to mention the house I've been working on in my 'spare time' at the office. We've been doing the interiors of a four-bedroom house for the nicest people in the world, but the job has been strangely ill-fated.

In the five months or so that I've been on the project, the following has happened:

1. I've had surgery twice (they were minor, as surgeries go).
2. The client has had surgery.
3. The decorator has had surgery.
4. The decorator's assistant's grandmother passed away.
5. The contractor's father died.
6. The decorator had to leave our office due to health issues.

Um...what could possibly be next?

Thankfully, my responsibilities are dribbling to an end. The walls and doors are in, the mouldings are going up, the bathroom vanities are being installed.

In a matter of months the house will be finished. Either that, or we will be!

Photo by myself, on the platform at Smith and 9th Streets.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

No Reservations

Last week ended up becoming very stressful, with surprise deadlines, fingerpointing, angry emails and phone calls with another office we're working with. No fun.

Luckily, it's a three-day weekend. Mark and I went to Chinatown yesterday, for a delicious lunch at Joe's Shanghai. Joe's is legendary for their soup dumplings, which are similar to the steamed dumplings you get at regular chinese restaurants. The difference is a hot, soupy mixture that you slurp along with the meat filling. There is always 15-20 minute wait and a line out the door. Mark had gotten a hankering recently from watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations segment from Shanghai, so off we went.

Several years ago, my mom and I visited Shanghai, where we had authentic soup dumplings. We were in a tour group travelling from Hong Kong. Twelve of us packed into a little white van and drove around various towns and cities in China. I noticed that ours was one of the only non-government vehicles on the highway. With all the rapid growth, I'm sure it's a completely different picture now.

Shanghai was the last leg of a week-long tour. When we arrived, it made me, a New Yorker, shake in her shoes. It is MASSIVE and looks frightening. I will have to dig up photos and post them later on (I'd brought a camera with real film, so there's some scanning involved).

The city was overwhleming and in the midst of transition. There were newly constructed skyscrapers next to older parts of the city that looked like they were built in the 18th century. Much of the older parts were in disrepair, with their cobblestone streets and missing roof tiles. Our tour leader took us to a mall of sorts to wander around and grab soup dumplings for lunch. We had platters and platters of them delivered to our tables, and they were delicious and cheap. Mom and I stuffed ourselves until we couldn't eat anymore. (When we visited, the exchange rate was 32 Chinese yuan to an American dollar. The rates today show 7.5 yuan to the dollar. Big wampum change!).

The dumplings at Joe's are pretty close to the ones I had in China - hot, slurpy and delicious. We ordered one set of dumplings with the crab/pork filling, one without, and devoured them.

After lunch, Mark and I had 40-minute massages at one of the many reflexology places nearby. He had his feet worked over, while a petite woman took me into a private room and basically beat me to a pulp. My back is sore and helpless today, and I can feel my body mending itself.

I'd love to visit Shanghai and experience it again, including those dumplings. Maybe after the next deadline.

Photo by myself in Chinatown, where can get everything from Shanghai soup dumplings to fake jade buddhas and deep tissue massages.


Thursday, October 4, 2007


Photo by myself in Brooklyn, New York.

New Yorkers tend to be thinner than people who live elsewhere in the US. It's something you notice if you're here a while. Part of this is due to fashion consciousness, and being bombarded by advertising and stores every day. And part of this is due to the lifestyle of walking around so much.

Lately, I've been changing the way I'm eating, in an effort to lose ten pounds. The idea is smaller portions and more of them during the day. Typically, I have three meals, and by the time I eat, I eat very quickly and down an unbelievable amount of food. (Think: man-sized portion for petite woman).

I've been relatively disciplined these few days, but I could be better. So far, salads for lunch, instead of a full 'lunch special' at a sit-down restaurant. Small snacks during the day, like peanuts or sunflower seeds. Eating out of a real bowl, rather than a take-out container. That kind of thing.

I've been doing this for less than a week, and I've somehow managed to gain a half pound. How is that possible?! I'm not going to be deterred by this, but I'm perplexed.

I've relied on my somewhat speedy metabolism and good genes. The long work days and commuting back and forth to Mark's place make it tough to get to the gym. Before I met Mark, I lifted weights and ran. Despite having to commute to my gym, I worked out at least four times a week. I looked and felt fantastic.

It's going to take a lot of gumption to do it all - work like crazy, maintain a relationship and take care of myself. I'm not sure I can do it, but I can at least try.

After this deadline, I'm going to get back to exercise (yeah, yeah...I've said this to myself countless times). Even though there's a 24-hour gym near my office, I'll still have to figure out when I can go. Now is the time to start.

Wish me luck!


Monday, October 1, 2007

Tourists For a Day

It was a beautiful weekend here in The City.

I used to object noisily to how people would call New York 'The City', as if it were the only city worth talking about. But after more than ten years here, I've given in. It's nothing personal, it's just that 'The City' is our shorthand way of talking about this place, and the name reflects our sense of pride.

This weekend was one of those times when I sighed and said out loud, 'What a great day to be a tourist'. It's nothing personal against tourists. There are plenty of days when I sigh and say 'What a terrible day to be a tourist'. Actually, it's often a terrible tourist day - too hot, too humid, too stinky, too wet, too cold, too rainy, too miserable.

This weekend, too, I considered going into the office, for a nano-second. I had tons of work, a packed schedule, and the office key. The one thing I didn't have was gumption. I couldn't muster up the energy to hustle in and slave away as I usually do.

And so Mark and I drove in on Sunday and behaved like tourists - we walked around the East Village, hand in hand. We had a big lunch at an Indian place on Sixth Street. We took pictures. We shopped. And we enjoyed The City on one of the very few great tourist days there are each year.

Photo by myself, along the Manhattan Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is in the background.