Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Prophet and the Postage

One of the most enjoyable parts of doing research--on any topic--is coming across a bit of information that maybe has nothing to do with one's subject, yet is irresistibly interesting. As you may know, I've been researching the early days of the LDS church for my thesis paper on temple architecture, and part of that includes reading about Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith was the man through whom the church was restored in the 1830s and we consider him our first modern prophet, because he saw God, talked with angels, performed miracles, translated the Book of Mormon, and established a functioning church from the ground up. I don't know how he even found time to sleep, because when you read about his life during the 1830s and early 1840s, he was laboring (personally hauling stone) on the temple, traveling around visiting the various branches of the church, preaching, re-translating the bible, caring for his family, forming a bank and a store, evading angry mobs...

His life was not easy, but from all accounts he was a happy person, full of faith and hope. And yet he was a man like any other, subject to human error and disappointments, not perfect. I don't say this to disparage him, only remind myself that he was a real person, because it can be easy to idealize and give iconic status to important and awesome historical figures such as he was. But he was a man--he even had pet peeves.

I was reading a compilation of Joseph Smith's journals, and came across the following passage from Saturday, the 5th of December, 1835:

I received a letter today from Reuben McBride, Vilanova, NY. Also another from Parley Pratt's mother in law from Herkimer County, NY of no consequence as to what it contained, but cost me 25 cents for postage. I mention this as a common occurrence and I am subjected to a great deal of expence in this way by those who I know nothing about, only that they are destitute of good manners. For if people wish to be benefited with information from me, common respect and good breeding woud dictate them to pay the postage on their letters.

Well, I would be mad too if people kept sending me letters that I had to pay the postage on. And it must have been a fat letter "of no consequence" for 25 cents of 1835 money! But there was no Miss Manners back then to set people straight on postal etiquette. And I'm sure that it just goes to show how generous and kind Joseph was that people would want to write to him, even though they couldn't afford to, and that he would pay the postage though he could have just as easily refused and sent the letters back. So if you find yourself complaining a little bit, don't worry--even the prophet couldn't help grumbling a tiny bit now and then.

Friday, August 29, 2008

West African Colors

Sometimes in my neighborhood, standing in clusters by the street, waiting for the subway train, or sitting in the laundromat, I see women wearing brightly colorful dresses consisting of a flouncy but tailored top and a long skirt, both made of the same wildly patterned fabric. Sometimes they even have a head-wrap that matches. The cloth is cotton unlike anything they sell at JoAnn's or even Mood. Sometimes the patterns have a recognizable shape--I saw one with hens and chicks all over it once! The one below is derived from the form of electric shavers!

But usually the fabric is just a boldly repeating pattern of geometric shapes. It's gotten to the point where I'm constantly on the lookout for these fabrics, and I'm elated whenever I spy a woman wearing a dress of this unusual cotton. I try not to stare, but the fabric mesmerizes me. So I decided to research it, and I found out that this cloth is called African wax print cotton, and it was originally made in the Netherlands for the African markets, to compete with Indonesian batiks. Some of the fabric resembles the waviness of batik, but in a stylized way. It has a deep tradition in Africa, and has been associated with political and social movements. In fact, I actually own a small piece of wax print fabric with the image of a baby over a basketweave background, with a warning in French about the need for vaccination. I've had this piece of fabric for years, not knowing what it is, but just loving the graphics of it.

It's mainly in West Africa that these fabrics became popular, so I guess the women I'm seeing are from countries like Ghana, who are reluctant to give up their glorious way of dressing in exchange for a drab-by-comparison American mode. I want to join them and wear one of those dresses! In fact I freely confess to staying up too late at night poring over the websites of Chinese fabric importers, trying to figure out how I can buy some of this beautiful fabric.

So I was delighted today to discover an African fabric store in my neighborhood! I mean, it makes sense, but the way things are in New York these days, I didn't know. Every time I passed this store I thought it was probably just African-looking stuff made in China to sell to tourists. I went inside and thought I was dreaming. Floor to ceiling bolts of brightly colored patterned African fabric met my eyes. Racks of those West African dresses were there before me. They are not cheap, either! But they are gorgeous. I think they are handmade. The man was busy, so I couldn't ask him how much the bolts of fabric were, but I'm definitely going back when I have more time to spend.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I Love It When I Do That

I've been immersed in research at the library, working on my thesis, and they have a copy of this recent book by Richard L. Bushman so last night I was looking through it to see what it had to say about the building of the Kirtland temple, but as I was skipping around I kept reading really interesting things, and I started wishing I could check it out, but I don't have borrowing priveleges at this library. So I thought maybe I should buy a used copy so I could read it more leisurely. But today when I got home from work I opened my mailbox and found a copy of it, that I had ordered weeks ago!

Apparently several weeks ago I was trolling Amazon, buying some books on Kirtland and Nauvoo that they didn't have at the library here, and I added that one to the list, bought it, then promptly forgot all about it. And then it arrived today. Crazy. I wonder what other books are coming my way?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bring Me A Figgy Pudding

My new favorite snack is dried figs. I know they look disgusting, but they are actually quite tasty. Lately I've had an inexplicable urge to eat foods that have been cultivated for thousands of years--things you read about in the Bible like olives and figs and honey. Maybe there's a reason these foods have been around for so long. Figs are loaded with vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, and manganese and there are studies that show they may help prevent diseases such as macular degeneration (which has occurred in my family history.)

One of my fondest food memories is from eight years ago when I had the great fortune to spend a summer month in the south of France. One day some friends and I took a train to Monaco and hiked around the hillsides of that beautiful pastel-colored city-state, and for a snack we bought fresh figs. American figs have never been able to compare to that juicy delicious Mediterranean fig! It was succulent and sweet and the closest thing to heaven I have ever tasted. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Harlem Family

Many people are surprised when I tell them that because I am now thirty-one years old I am going to go to a family ward instead of a singles ward. People outside the church express feelings of indignation and unfairness, as if I'm being kicked out of the singles ward against my will. Inside the church people either give me pitying looks of sympathy or feign surprise that a girl like me wasn't snapped up into marriage a long time ago.

Whatever their response, I want them all to know that I'm sincerely happy and excited to begin going to the family ward. Yes, I liked the singles ward, but I confess it feels more natural to me to be with families and people of all ages. There are single people and married people in the Harlem ward, long-time New Yorkers and people new in town, and there are people who have been members their whole lives and some who have not yet been baptized. It is a vibrant, colorful, happy mixture.

One thing I love about the Harlem ward is that the members there are so friendly and welcoming. When someone standing at the podium says good morning or hello, the entire congregation says hello and good morning back. After sacrament meeting they pause for a few moments to let new members and visitors introduce themselves, and those people are greeted kindly for the rest of the day with expressions of welcome. This should be normal in every ward, but sadly that is not often the case. So I feel very blessed and fortunate to be a fledgling member of such a happy loving group.

This may seem silly, but I also love that I can walk to church now--I live that close by. Except for my undergraduate days at U-Mass, there has never been a time in my life when I lived close enough to church to just walk there (well, maybe when I was three years old, but that doesn't count) and there is something so appealing to me about being within walking distance of the places I need to go. There is no need to rely on cars, buses, trains or anything but my own two legs. Walking is excellent exercise and a chance to reflect before and after church. I also get to see all the colorful sights of my neighborhood, which resembles a carnival most Sundays.

I think that my sister thinks I'm lying when I express all these feelings of happiness about my new ward. Maybe she thinks I'm just putting on a smile to make things seem fine, but it's not so. My smile is real. Come to church with me, and you'll see.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Netflix This

Writing about The Big Sleep yesterday got me thinking about movies. There are only a very few that I really consider my favorites, that I could watch over and over again and not get bored. So here they are.

The first is Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, a classic with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr:

As you can see, it is the most completely entertaining motion picture your heart has ever known! Ha ha. The trailer is cheesy, but the movie is actually very good. It's about a marine who gets separated from his unit and ends up on a deserted island in the South Pacific during World War II. Actually, it's not quite deserted, because Sister Angela is there. She got stranded during the evacuation. So the movie tells the story about how they survive together. I like it because, not only is Robert Mitchum a very handsome man, the plot is compelling and makes me think about how important my own standards are. What would I have done if I were her or him?

Next--you've probably seen this one: Moonstruck with Cher and Nicolas Cage, the classic story of girl getting engaged and then falling in love with her fiance's one-handed brother.

There are so many good parts in this movie! My favorite might be the part where they go to the opera. It's true--the moon, and love, do make you do crazy things.

My third favorite movie is A Room With A View, the Merchant Ivory version, with Helena Bonham Carter:

Sorry, that clip had a gory scene, but at least I didn't include the part with the naked men! No, the naked men part isn't why I love this movie--I love it because it is so beautiful. The young English girl transfigured by Italy... But I wonder if it hasn't ruined me because now I want to find a man who will climb a tree and shout "beauty!" into the wilderness. I think those things might only happen in movies and E.M. Forster novels.

So that's my list. What's yours?

Friday, August 22, 2008


I need some sleep. Every day I go to the library after work to read books and take notes for my thesis, but then I get home around 11 and do all the things I would do if I got home at 7. So I end up staying awake super late. It's wearing me down. At work, my eyes just want to close and stay that way. So I've decided that tonight I'm going to go to bed early.

Wow. Sleep deprivation... its no surprise that my blog only has about 5 readers. (Thanks, guys!) But its not just me! My coworkers are falling asleep too. Part of it might be the smooth jazz we're listening to on the radio.

Anyway, don't ever watch the movie "The Big Sleep." It makes absolutely no sense. Trust me. Even the actors said they couldn't figure out what the movie was about. I guess if you love Bogart and Bacall (I do) it might be fun to watch, but don't even try to follow the plot. Someone ought to make a sequel that explains all the things that don't work in it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Oh, to be Sherlock

Today has been the day of searching. As soon as I got to work I was searching for a watch that had been packed in a large shipment accidentally. I found it, luckily, but then this man called who gave a clock to my boss to try and sell, but it never sold, so he wanted to come pick it up. That's usually no problem, except the clock has been here since 2000! So I searched and searched--even got all black with dust searching in the depths of the backroom--and never found it. Then a man came in who wanted to pick up his watch that he left here in 2006, and I couldn't find that either. What is with today and people wanting their old stuff back all of a sudden?

But I don't even think Sherlock himself could be of much use in this place. The system my company uses for keeping track of things is quite antiquated, and inefficient. Plus there are a lot of staff, and people don't always follow protocol, so things disappear into cracks in the system. There are some clues to follow, but no magnifying glass, calabash pipe, or even violin solo can help me, I'm afraid. I need technology! And some psychic powers. Luckily we're getting a new database soon... I hope it makes things less mysterious around here. Meanwhile, I'll be in the back, looking for fingerprints in the vault.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dinner With Joe

The hot weather is back! We had a nice respite for about a week and a half, but today was a reminder that we still have some more August heat to get through before the beauty of autumn. And with the heat, the mosquitoes are back! Ugh. I think one just flew into my ear.

It was my day off today and I was supposed to go to the library and do research, but instead I lazed around the house. I did do some research, but probably not as much as I should have. Nevertheless, it was good to put my house in order, get my room cleaned up, and stay in my pajamas all day.

Well, almost all day... at 6 I got dressed and headed downtown to meet up with my former boss, Joe, who is in town on a buying trip for the gallery. With him is Lizzy, his new jewelry curator. They are staying at a hotel in midtown, so we walked to Osteria Laguna, a nice Italian restaurant, and had a fantastic meal while catching up on each others happenings. It was so good to see Joe again. He has been a tremendous mentor and benefactor to me. It was so fun talking to him. Among other things we talked about the Edwards scandal--I wanted to hear an insider's perspective. It's so tragic that such a stupid mistake has probably cost Edwards his political career. He really disappointed, and broke the trust of, a lot of people in North Carolina.

After dinner and dessert I bid goodbye and good luck to Joe and Lizzy and walked down 42nd Street for a while, because its nice to walk a little bit after dinner. In Bryant Park they were showing the old Superman movie on the big outdoor screen, and I paused for a minute to watch Christopher Reeve. The night breeze felt great.

Back at home I had a few delightful letters in the mail from my little sis. One of them had this painting by Magritte, La Reproduction Interdite. It echoed something I've been thinking about lately. Do you ever stop and realize that you aren't paying any attention to your own self? It's not necessarily a bad thing. For example, I haven't bought makeup in about a year. I still wear it--I just don't really pay attention anymore, or think about it. I used to change my clothes at least 5 or 6 times every morning before going to work, but for the 2 years or so, I just get dressed in the first thing I see and go. I think maturity has something to do with it. And an end of experimentation. I know what looks good on me, and I've gained a confidence in myself that I didn't have in my early 20s, so I don't have to think about it as much. I'm comfortable with myself, and that's such a nice feeling. Plus I don't have to spend as much money on clothes and makeup anymore!

Anyway, this has turned out to be kind of a random post, but who cares.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

P.S. I'm 31

E got some fancy candles for my cake, but she forgot how old I really am. Oh well. Looks like I'll be 30 again, guys!

Turning 200

It's my birthday today. It's also my 200th post! My sister is in the kitchen now, making me a big fat chocolate cake. Last night I celebrated by going out to eat with some friends at Sylvia's, the famous soul food restaurant in Harlem. It was fun, but I must say I was not impressed with the food. And since Sylvia herself no longer runs the place and it's not in the South, I guess that's what you get. They were all out of desserts, so we stopped at McDonald's for hot fudge sundaes before walking home in time to see Michael Phelps win his 8th gold, and Usain Bolt from Jamaica practically dance across the finish line of the 100 meter. What amazing athletes!

Today my sister and I went to Central Park and played Scrabble by the baseball fields. She beat me by a couple of points, but only because she wouldn't let me use the word Tazer.

We went to a part of the park I hadn't been in before, the Conservatory Garden, which is just gorgeous. The first section is French in style, and features a lovely sculpture of three frolicking maidens.

The middle section is Italian style, with terraces overlooking a fountain and a large grassy area. The terraces are shrouded in Victorian cast-iron lattices which are covered with very old vines. E pointed out to me that up in the tops of the vines are sleeping raccoons! If you are standing under the vines and look up, you can see faint round shapes, like nests, cradled at the corners of the lattice. The raccoons are up there, curled in balls, sleeping until night. Except a few baby ones were awake and wrestling. So cute. I am obsessed with these striped leaves, which may appear in my future artwork.

My pictures aren't the best. The third part of the garden is English, with an intimate little lily pond at the center, with a fountain dedicated to Frances Hodgsen Burnett, one of my favorite authors of the 19th century.

Now I'm home, watching more Olympics, playing with my new Mac (yay! I finally have a computer that works!!!) and trying to guess what my presents are going to be. E is giving me clues, but they aren't helping...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

About Time

I wasn't a "jewelry person" until I was put in charge of the jewelry at an art gallery seven years ago. Soon I had pierced my ears, learned the difference between karats and carats, and fallen in love with high quality, handmade jewelry. I now consider myself a jewelry snob, which means that although I will wear plastic earrings, I do not think several thousand is too much to pay for a good quality piece of jewelry (not that I have ever had that much to spend! But if I did...)

So it's no surprise that now, having worked for 8 months at a store that sells high quality watches, and being the one to research and write about the watches, I see that I am beginning to become a watch snob. But that's beside the point.

What I want to say is that there is one thing I have noticed about good watches: they are alive. When you wind them up and their little mechanisms, made of precious metals and jewels, start to go and their little wheels turn, they tick softly with a little heartbeat. And when you carry them in your hand you can feel a subtle vibration, a slight whir, as if you were cradling a small bird. When you open up the back, the turning of the tiny gears seems magical. It's like jewelry come to life.

Friday, August 15, 2008

So Hot its Not

We're having unusually cool weather this August, so there actually haven't been any hot August nights. But it's nice--I like it. With no AC in the house, it's nice to be able to open the windows and have a nice cool breeze blow in. Tonight I went to the library after work, and it was raining. I've learned to carry an umbrella with me every day, like a true New Yorker. As expected on a Friday night, there was no one in the library, so there was no one to hear the loud squeak of my wet shoes on the tessellated floors of Bobst. No one to see me curl up in a ball surrounded by a pile of books on New England church architecture, ancient Christian art, Solomon's temple, and such. No one to see me sneak a bite of the energy bars they were giving out free at Whole Foods. I like huge libraries, and I like being all alone in them. But they are always cold. So I stayed and read until my mind started to wander, my stomach started to growl, and my legs started to freeze. But it wasn't very warm outside, even though the rain had stopped, so I had the bizarre sensation of enjoying the heat of the subway platform in August. It thawed me without getting me hot, because as soon as I was warmed up, the train came, I stepped in, and got refrigerated again!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reason to Believe

My sister was at the store where she works yesterday when Rod Stewart came in to do some shopping, and she got to help him. He bought some scissors.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I've been eating a lot of salads lately--they are easy to make ahead and pack for lunch. The woman who sits next to me at work also brings salad for lunch--often lately, because its summer and she wants to look good in her swimsuit on vacation. But the charming things is that instead of calling it salad, she always says, "Oh, I have leaves for lunch today." I don't know why that's so amusing, but I always laugh. I had leaves for lunch.

Monday, August 11, 2008

At the Laundromat

While I was at the laundromat today, despite a sunny morning initially, a sudden thunderstorm rolled into town. The thunder was startlingly loud, waking a man who had been sleeping in the chair next to mine. He started talking--I think to me, but I'm not sure--about how the lighting was now going to strike all the murderers and robbers. I'm not sure where he was getting his information, but before I could respond he suddenly asked me for a quarter and asked me to keep an eye on his backpack, then left. Meanwhile, on the TV they were replaying the swimming from last night's Olympics, and everyone's eyes were riveted on the men's relay. When the American team broke a world speed record and won by a fingernail against the French, who had made such boastful statements about how they were going to smash us, everyone in the laundromat started to cheer. People started chattering in Spanish and other languages. I don't even think many of those people in the laundromat were born in America, but there is something so amazing about watching a team that represents your country, whatever country it is, win so spectacularly. And these were Americans.

The Apple That Was a Lemon

I wanted to believe. I really did. They told me how awesome Macs were, and I believed them, and when I got mine it was wonderful... for one day! I'm not being entirely serious--I mean, I really do think the Macbook is a great computer, and I was overjoyed to receive one as a gift. I just think I'm cursed when it comes to computers. This is what happened...

If you recall, my old laptop, the Lenovo (the official computer of the 2008 Olympics, by the way) had been shutting down intermittently all by itself for no apparent reason, so I sent it away, hoping to get it fixed. Meanwhile, I received the wonderful gift of a Macbook. I set it up, started using it, and everything was wonderful. But then it started shutting down intermittently all by itself. Just like the Lenovo. So there were three possibilities: 1)I've suddenly become magnetic and kill computers with my mere presence. 2)My apartment is located in some bizarre Bermuda Triangle of electricity that kills computers. 3)It was a coincidence, and I just got a bad apple, so to speak. Well, numbers 1 and 2 could not be possible because I haven't killed my computer at work, or the one here at the library, and my roommates both have working computers--one of them a Mac. So, it must be 3.

To seek enlightenment, I journeyed to the Apple "temple" on 5th Avenue. Locals call it that because it's a giant glass cube that rises mysteriously out of the sidewalk and glows at night. Its open 24 hours a day and beckons to people, who flock inside to play with gadgets that I know nothing about. Anyway, there they have what they call their "Genius Bar" where you make a reservation to meet with a computer geek, who teaches you how to use your Mac or your ipod or else diagnoses what is wrong with it. My genius, Dave, was everything you would expect a computer whiz to be. He was small, wiry, talked a mile a minute, had a biting wit, and a pen behind his ear. He told me that the joke he hears the most from his customers is "I bought an Apple but I got a lemon!" The first thing he did was open my Macbook and tell me that the clicking sound it made was not normal. I sighed a breath of relief. He knew what he was talking about, and I knew I could trust him. You know when you go to the doctor, or the car mechanic, and you tell them what's wrong and they nod, but never really seem to believe you? They tell you to take some aspirin and get more rest, and you go away feeling like a crazy person? Well, that's not what happened here.

Dave the genius started fiddling around with my computer and gave it a stress test that maxed out its system, to see if anything would happen. Nothing happened. So he fiddled with it some more and then suddenly it did it. It shut down. We looked at each other, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It wasn't my imagination, which was a good thing. But my new computer was definitely broken, a bad thing. Dave fiddled with it some more and then came to the conclusion that there was a short circuit. With the computer on, he could gently tap the side of it and it would shut down. But it would shut down without being touched at all sometimes. He said they could either try to fix it, or I could exchange it for a new computer. I figured I might as well exchange it, having formed no sentimental attachment to it yet after only a couple days of ownership. He wanted to just give me a new computer right then and there, but his manager said I had to follow the rules and return the thing to where it came from and they would send me a new one. So Dave typed me up a case file and I went along my way.

So, the conclusion is that I am very fortunate to have such wonderful friends who care enough about me to want me to have a Mac, and I am very thankful to have gotten one. However, because I am cursed, I must go through life with computer problems the same way some people get struck by lightning 5 times in their lives or always get the squeaky chair in the library. Nevertheless I am confident that when my new Mac comes, it will be awesome, and maybe it will even break the spell. This past weekend I was talking about it with my dad, the PC champion, and he actually told me that because I am artsy I probably should have a Mac after all. So I'm going to hold on to the dream a little longer.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

It's a Perfect Day Out There

I saw this old poster image and it reminded me of today. It's just the most beautiful day outside! I wish I was in the park right now instead of at work, in the basement no less, where I can't even see the sun. During my lunch break I went outside and bought a delicious banana blueberry smoothie and a street pretzel and sat in the sun. But its not even hot--it's just perfect, with a coolish breeze, almost like autumn. The air is surprisingly fresh and clear. My horoscope (not that I believe in such things) says I'm going to find unexpected romance today, so I was hoping that I would bump into some attractive man, romantic-comedy-based-in-NYC style, but... not yet. Still, if it were to happen, today would be the perfect backdrop for it. It's simply gorgeous out there!

Friday, August 8, 2008


Watching the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, I am awed by the artistry of the program. The thousands of performers are perfectly in synch, the costumes are spectacular, and the music inspiring. More than once I have exclaimed out loud because the beauty of the performances is so amazing. China has truly gone to great lengths to make this Olympics memorable, and I think it is definitely the best opening ceremonies I have ever seen.

As the commentators (why aren't they called just commentors, by the way?) describe the happenings, they keep mentioning that China invented fireworks, China invented paper, China invented the magnetic compass, and the kite. And don't forget porcelain. China's history is so rich and vibrant, even though their Communist government has sought through the years to make everything plain and uniform, to suppress creativity and personal expression. I am amazed at all the art in just this opening ceremony. In the U.S. all we hear about is how terrible China's government is, how repressive, and how backward. And yet they have produced this amazing artwork.

Watching the Olympics is also a great lesson in geography. E had never heard of Eritrea or the Brazilian soccer legend Pele. I can understand Eritrea, but who has never heard of Pele? Sometimes I wonder about her...

Anyway, speaking of China, they are really taking over. In case you haven't noticed. Everything is made there, they own all the U.S. debt, and they are humongous. My dad's company is owned by China, and he has actually been having to take classes at work where he learns how to behave properly in China and with Chinese people. I wish they would give people from other countries how to behave properly in New York. The summer tourists have been driving me crazy. Especially near where I work, in midtown. The tourists walk 5-in-a-row down the sidewalk, super slowly, and you can't pass them or go through them, so they cause pedestrian traffic jams. Then they stop suddenly to take pictures of pigeons or storefronts. (Eye-roll!)

Oh well. I'm glad we have tourists, actually, because they are doing the New York economy some good. With the low dollar, they are willing to spend more here and keep me employed, which is a good thing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I Must Go Down to the Seas Again...

My sister's birthday was on Saturday and since her BF is out of town, we had a girls night in. She had been craving KFC of all things, so on her way home from work she bought one of those big buckets of chicken and all the sides, and I stopped on my way home from work at the Carnegie Deli and bought two slices of cheesecake. After dinner we stuck these super-long sparkler candles in the cheesecake and E made her wish and opened her presents. Then we watched a really sad movie about Sudanese refugees. But the thing she really wanted to do was go to the beach.

And so, on Monday she took a sick day from work and we caught the LIRR from Penn Station and headed to Long Beach on Long Island. It was the perfect day for it, too. It was hot, sunny--but not too sunny--and breezy. The train dropped us off a few blocks over from the sand, but it was an easy walk. Being Monday it was not too crowded and we found a nice spot to pitch our blanket (near some attractive guys, of course) on the crunchy sand. There was a nice boardwalk, some not too nice bathrooms, and lifeguards on duty. Volleyball nets, too.

We swam, we sunbathed, people-watched, read magazines, made sure not to sunburn, and ate a ton of junk food. The water was the perfect coldness, but E saw a jellyfish and got scared, so we stayed near the shore. The seagulls were voracious! I had an empty bag from Burger King and when my back was turned, a big fat seagull ran up, snatched the bag and ran away. He must have thought there would be french fries in it or something. I had to chase him a hundred yards before he dropped the thing.

But aside from Hitchcockian birds, there is just something so lovely about the beach. So peaceful and refreshing. I was raised in Oregon where the beaches are vast unpopulated stretches of dreamscape, so it was sort of a shock to me when I came East and found the beaches here to be small carnivals built up closely around short sandy shores. But a beach is a beach, and when I smell that salt air and hear the seagulls, all I can think about is adventure, childlike pleasure, and freedom. I think I must always live near the ocean.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Apple Time

Well, I don't even know where to begin. Due to an amazing benefactor, I am now the owner of a Mac! I was despairing the loss of my Lenovo laptop, which is still with the Level 2 support guys getting fixed. Not having a computer to use at home, I was having to furtively blog at work when no one was looking, or late at night at the library when I was supposed to be doing research. I had no way to upload music to my mp3 player, and no way to look at all the pictures I've been taking on my digital camera. Worse than that, no work was getting done on my thesis, though its October deadline is just around the corner.

Things were starting to look grim, when I suddenly received a surprise package. A computer! A Macbook. I'm still in shock that someone would be so generous to me, but I'm extremely grateful. And loving it!

My family is staunchly PC, and that doesn't stand for politically correct. My dad has worked in the computer industry for many years, and my brother too, so I guess out of loyalty to their companies we've never had exposure to Macintosh products in our home. The last time I used a Mac was in middle school I think, and I don't even own an Ipod, so this is all new to me. But when I called my brother last night to tell him about my awesome gift, he confessed to me that he recently built a Mac in the basement to see what all the fuss is about! So he was able to help me get mine set up and offered some advice about different programs.

Speaking of my brother, he wanted me to clarify that his truck is "viper yellow" not "schoolbus yellow" and he would like everyone to know that his once rusty jeep is now beautifully restored and pristine. Check it out for yourself:

Anyway, I love my new computer!!!!!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mmmm... Bacon...

I know it sounds really disgusting, but this is really really good! I'm a big fan of Vosges brand chocolate bars, ever since Matt introduced me to the "Black Pearl" bar with dark chocolate, ginger and wasabi. When I heard about their new bacon bar, I was skeptical, but tried it just for fun and was very pleasantly surprised. The little bacon morsels could almost be toffee bits, and the whole combination is simultaneously sweet and salty in an absolutely delicious way. I'm going to go home and nibble on it some more...

Friday, August 1, 2008

You Know You're A New Yorker When...

...the tourists drive you crazy! Yesterday I saw a woman tourist taking a picture of a homeless man sleeping in a doorway. Her friends stood in a cluster a "safe" distance away and watched. I don't even know what to think about this, because I have been known to photograph people on the streets myself, but I do it for art (and ask the person's permission if I can) whereas this woman was treating a human as a quaint sight-seeing object. Then again, as I was walking home from work I saw the cutest scene: a bicycle-taxi guy taking a cat-nap in the sun in the backseat of his pedi-cab, sprawled out and oblivious of the world around him, even as a fire engine roared past. Yes, I would have taken a picture of him if I had my camera with me, but I still don't think tourists should be taking pictures of homeless people for fun.

Last Night

Last night I went to a cookout at a friend's house a few blocks from our house. It was a nice walk over, and it's interesting to see the change from one street to the next in this city. One minute you are in the projects, the next you're walking down a tree-lined street of gorgeous old brownstones, and then you come to an avenue, bustling with bodegas, groceries, barbershops and laundromats. I love the variety.

Well my friend lives on a quiet street where the houses all look the same but they have front porches and actual front yards! Tiny ones, but still. So we had a cookout with a bunch of people and sat outside, enjoying the dusk. E tried to befriend stray kittens, but they would have none of it.

While we were eating, suddenly a pair of Elders (Mormon missionaries) walked by randomly, so we called out and invited them over for some dinner. They were very happy to oblige, having been out tracting all day. And as soon as they were done eating, they went right back at it, knocking at doors along the street. They must have some adventures in Harlem, sticking out like sore thumbs!

Next a UPS man came along with a package for my friend, and we invited him to eat with us, too, but he was on the job and wouldn't stop. Probably wanted to finish his deliveries as soon as he could and get home. I don't envy the life of the UPS evening delivery man in Harlem. Never knowing what kind of street or house or apartment building he's going to have to venture to, he must have some crazy adventures along the way. I hope he gets paid well.

As we settled back into eating our hamburgers and chips, suddenly a news reporter from Channel 11 was introducing himself to us and asking if we wanted to comment at all about the man who lived across the street. Turns out my friend lives across from the guy who spread internet rumors that he was poisoning Gerber babyfood. It was all a hoax, but now he's being prosecuted, I think, for causing an uproar. So the reporter and his cameraman were wandering around outside the guy's apartment looking for talkers. I would have talked to the reporter, but at that moment my phone was ringing.

It was my dad telling me that he couldn't figure out what is wrong with my computer so he's taking it to his "Level 2" guys at work. They are the ones who fix the Level 2 problems, apparently, that are more serious than your everyday Level 1 bugs. Having a dad in the computer industry is nice! But my poor computer--what will become of you? Will I even recognize you when they are done? Meanwhile, I am reduced to blogging from work or the library...