Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Tonight I watched No Reservations, the latest on my Netflix queue, which I'm thinking of giving up because I never have time to watch movies anymore. It was cute, although not great, but the thing that struck me and E, is how creepy it could have been. If we didn't know we were watching a romantic dramedy that was going to turn out happy in the end, we might have been at the edge of our seats expecting murder and mayhem.

The film is about Kate, a very good chef in New York who suddenly is charged with taking care of her orphaned niece, Zoe. Then a cute new chef, Nick (btw, why are Nicks always cute?!), comes along at her restaurant, and she resents him at first but then they fall in love. The creepiness starts when Kate asks her downstairs neighbor, who is always trying to go out with her, to look after Zoe one night when she has to work late. She gives him a key to her apartment! The movie could have easily taken a dire turn for the worse here. But luckily the neighbor doesn't turn out to be a psychopath.

Soon after, Nick tells Kate that he could have had any job but he wanted to work with her, even though they have just met. Wierdo alert! I have to admit that I would feel strange about someone telling me that. Then, when Nick promptly starts buttering up Zoe, and charming his way into Kate's heart, E and I started to wonder if there was going to be a dramatic twist that revealed Nick to be a spy sent from another restaurant to trick Kate into spilling the secrets of her most secret recipe. No such drama. Turns out Nick really just liked Kate, and wasn't up to no good. He could have been a psychopath, too, and there was even a moment when he could have turned out to be a kidnapper. But no.

I heard somewhere that something like 80 percent of the characters in romantic comedies would be in jail if they did in real life what the screen permits. And yet, these movies are often what we base our romantic standards on. So, I don't know if its a good thing or not that E and I both felt creepy vibes when watching No Reservations. I want to think that my heart is open to romance, and yet I also need to keep my guard up because, as a young woman in a big city, I want to be safe. Not that I have much to worry about right now... I feel like I'm the one doing all the chasing. I need some guy to come along and hold a boom-box playing Peter Gabriel songs outside my window, or feed me tiramisu with a blindfold on, or order me to go to the opera with him, and then I'll be able to better tell you if these things are romantic or creepy. For now, let's just say they are romantic, and I want them to happen to me sometime soon.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Last Day of a Heat Wave

Look! Someone else thinks broken umbrellas are art, too! This is the work of Helen Tubridy, and it was on display recently at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. Don't ask me what rambling path of internet surfing led me to it. It's pretty cool, however I still tend to prefer the real thing. And there's a good chance that some umbrellas will be broken tonight. New York has been broiling in a heat wave for the past few days. It's been getting hotter and hotter since Saturday--we've been in the 90s for the past couple of days! It's been heavenly, I think. The humidity is low, so the heat feels nice, and I've really had a chance to bust out my summer skirts. And the heat is new, so there are places it hasn't permeated, like the marble lobby of my apartment building, and the perpetually shade-covered stone benches near work, where I eat my lunch. Still, the daffodils and tulips are withering away as we've been fast-forwarding through Spring. But now the winds are picking up, the clouds are gathering, and I feel electricity in the air. A storm is coming in, and by morning the heat will be gone. With luck, the rain will wash the dusty streets clean and give those spring flowers a second chance.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Picnic in Central Park

I wish I had a picture or two to go along with this post, but alas... I do not. Instead, try to imagine a beautiful spring day in New York City. A heat wave has come along, and the afternoon is sunny and suddenly 85 degrees after a long spell of gray cold rain. Everyone is outside enjoying the day, including me. My coworker gave me the idea to have a picnic in the park, so I did.

Having invited everyone that I know who lives in the city, and having baked a supply of food to bring, on Saturday morning I packed it all into E's rolling cart along with blankets, a radio, plates and cups, drinks, games, a book, and whatever else I could fit. I forgot forks, but luckily there is a bodega on every corner, and the one I stopped at had a cute kitten in it, so I consider it a blessing.

The park was gorgeous. The trees have tiny buds, not yet leaves, so any shade was dappled sun. It was hot, but atop the Great Hill blew a refreshing breeze. My friends joined me and we ate fried chicken, biscuits, fruit, cake, cookies, and cheetos. We played a few rounds of Uno, taking breaks every now and then to receive phone-calls from friends who needed help finding us. Mostly we just laid around talking and eating, enjoying the warmth. Friends from work, school, and church intermingled. Kids played frisbee and ran relay races around us. Nearby, people played guitars and others practiced tai chi. People sunned and napped.

There's not much else to say except that it was the best afternoon ever. I would love to spend every day in the park--it's so beautiful and peaceful. I will definitely be having more picnics there soon!

Church of the Week

This is a cute little yellow church. I like the creative iron window grates and door. I will do some more blogging later today, hopefully. Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Art in the Subways

I want to see the movie Earth, but E won't go with me because she says it's all just footage from the Planet Earth series. Well, some of us have never had cable! The other thing I wanted to see was the This American Life Live broadcast in theaters tonight, but I just had so many other little things I had to do. I bet it was really interesting--maybe I can catch the encore presentation in May.

I love how the subway stations all have artwork in them. Public buildings and gathering places all ought to have personality and beautiful elements, and not just be utilitarian. Speaking of art in subways, there is someone who is taking advantage of all the wall-space and foot traffic. There is a man who has been hanging his photography on the walls of the 59th Street/Columbus Circle station, near the 57th Street exit. The photographs are of New York places, some quite abstract, and all are signed, matted, and wrapped in plastic, ready to sell. They are taped in a neat, evenly spaced row, along the walls that line the steps, where people cannot help but see them as they hurry to and from life in midtown. I noticed the artist chatting with someone the first day, and today he was busy hanging more photos. I wonder how business has been? Actually, the first thing I thought of when I saw this impromptu art gallery was, what a great idea! Maybe it's illegal to turn a public building into your place of business, but the entrepreneurial spirit is still going strong in America.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Baking Again

I'm baking tonight for the fourth night in a row! Good times. No Pineapple Upside Down Cake tonight--there's plenty of that left over in the fridge. Tonight I'm making chocolate chip cookies for a funeral. There was a 94-year old lady in my ward who died recently and the Relief Society sisters are doing all the food for the service. I thought it was going to be on Saturday, when I would have time to cook something real, but it's going to be Friday, and because of my work schedule, I'll need to take my cookies over tomorrow evening. So cookies seemed the easiest to transport. I'll drop them off on my way home from work tomorrow. But besides all that, I love to make chocolate chip cookies. I've made them so many times since age 6, when my grandmother taught me, that I have the recipe memorized to the point where I can do tricks with it. For example, tonight after forming the balls of cookie dough, I rolled them in the superfine almonds that I had leftover from my pineapple cake adventures. The result is a crunchy roasted nut exterior with a soft delicious chocolate chip center. One of these days I'm going to experiment with red pepper and chocolate and make a spicy chocolate chip Mexican cookie.

Baking chocolate chip cookies tonight is helping me feel closer to my grandmother, too. She's 89 and not doing well. For the past year or so she has been living in a care-home that provides her with 24-hour care. Her memory is fleeting, her life force waning. I remember when she used to spend her free time making doll clothes for the local children's hospital. And I remember how she used to write letters to me while I was in college, letters that mainly listed all the food she made that week, and what teenagers got into horrible accidents around the Logan canyon. But after a while her eyesight dimmed and she couldn't sew or write much at all. I wrote to her less and less, wondering if I was causing her to strain her eyes. Now I regret not writing more often.

I don't have any things that my grandmother left me. There are too many of us grandchildren, I suppose, to inherit much from a small town dairy-farmer's wife. Besides that, I think my grandparents Viking heritage gave them both a love of the pyre. Every time they moved or even after a spring cleaning, they would build a big bonfire to consume unwanted furniture, clothes, and all the other day to day ephemera that a life accumulates. Once someone must have convinced them to give a few things away instead, and I was the recipient of a night-light made completely of seashells formed in the shape of Cinderella's coach, with petrified sea-horses pulling it. It enchanted the 9-year-old me, but at some point before I reached high school it must have found a new home. Luckily, my grandmother did write down a short history of her life, and I have that, along with all her letters, to keep. Included are stories of her childhood, courtship, and life as a young married woman in the 1950s. In pictures of her, I see a resemblance to myself.

My dad was in Utah this week and visited my grandma, his mother. Her sons gave her a blessing together. My dad said that the words were inspired, and the feeling was mutually peaceful. My grandmother lives, but tenuously. I wonder if soon she will reach out and join her husband, in that place beyond the veil. Thoughts like these make me stop and think of eternal things, wonderful things, sad things and things that are joyful, too. So I think, I wonder, I roll out cookie dough balls, and I bake.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Upside Down

My current baking obsession is the Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

I had never in my whole life contemplated baking such a thing, but when my coworker suddenly came to me with a request that I bake one for her husband for his birthday, the sight of her cash won me over. My baking philosophy is that if someone has baked it before, then I can do it too.

But of course, it has turned into a baking adventure. Researching recipes online, I regretted once again the decision not to bring my cast-iron skillet to New York. While it languishes in a Southern attic, I am being deprived of real cornbread, fried chicken, and other deliciousness. Luckily, my friend Peter happened to have the exact type of skillet I needed. Who knew? I went over to Peter's house after church on Sunday to get it, and almost got sucked into an afternoon of Arrested Development and eating boiled eggs with him and his delightful roommate Josh, but I resisted because I had a cake to make. So there I was on a sunny spring Sunday, walking through Harlem in my high-heels, bright orange patchwork skirt from the 70s, and makeup, with a big ol' cast iron skillet under my arm.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake isn't that hard to make. I will share the recipe soon, because I'm still trying to decide which version I like best. On Sunday, to practice, I tried a simple recipe with ordinary ingredients. However, there was one problem. I didn't have any pineapple! Luckily, just as I miraculously found a cast-iron skillet at a man's house (no offense, Peter, but I was surprised that none of my girl friends had one), my visiting teacher just happened to have a can of circle-sliced pineapple, perfect for my cake, and there was no need for me to break the Sabbath (phew! especially since E was really giving me a guilt-trip, just as I have given her in the past...).

As it turned out, my friend and neighbor Tam was having folks over for dessert and socializing, so after I made my cake, I took it, along with Peter, Josh, and E, over to the party where it was enjoyed to its fullest effect. The rate at which it disappeared gave me hope that I had followed a good recipe. However, tonight I decided to try a different, fancier version. Of course I had none of the ingredients, and neither did Whole Foods, so I had to make a trip to Pathmark in a rainy, windy lightning storm, and when I got home I realized I had forgotten two things. Luckily, E eats a lot of sour cream! So I was able to borrow some of hers, and as for the maraschino cherries--I'm just going to let that slide. However, next time I think I'm going to spend the big bucks and buy the almond flour instead of making it by chopping the almonds and crushing them with the rolling pin. It's not a quick process! And then, after everything was mixed, assembled, baking for half an hour, I suddenly realized with dread--I forgot the baking powder!

The lesson to learn is never bake something important after working a long hard day at work. I think my brain was fried, my body tired from rushing around in the rain, my mind elsewhere. Still, the cake didn't look too bad. I took it out of the oven, and sure--it could have risen a little more in the center, but it looks just like the first pineapple cake looked, even a little better. So I'm going with it. I'm taking it to work tomorrow and giving to Huni and she's probably never even had it before and her husband is old and won't notice, especially if she puts a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream on it, that the cake is a little dense. We'll see...

And then I'm going to come home and make one for me, with baking powder in it. Third time's a charm, right?

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I'm going to go back to writing To Do lists every day for myself because, seriously, I didn't get anything done this weekend that I had intended to do. Well, maybe one or two things. But there are so many more left undone.

Antioch Baptist Church

Antioch is an ancient Syrian city in present-day Southern Turkey, founded in the time of Alexander the Great. Perhaps the people who chose to name this Harlem church after it did so because Antioch was one of the cities that Paul traveled to during his period of missionary work, and where a large population of early Christians arose. Perhaps the members of the Antioch Baptist Church wish to relate themselves to the first Christian churches, who had the pure gospel truths. I love the graphic white and red of the building's facade, with its folk-art meets classic-revival elements.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Bottle District

New York has a Garment District, a Theater District, a Financial District, but did you know it has a Bottle District? Well, at least Harlem does. There are probably others elsewhere in the city. But you see, the Pathmark grocery store at 145th Street has a bottle recycling station on the side of it, where you can take your recyclables, be they plastic, glass, or tin, and get the 5 or 10-cent deposit for recycling them. Naturally, this is where all those people go that you see with the shopping carts full of bottles and cans. Saturday morning seems to be the day when they all go cash in their bottles and cans for the big bucks. A long line of people stretches down the block, each with their bulging sacks of plastic and metal recyclables.

What I discovered today is that, just a few blocks away from the Pathmark, a burgeoning business of bottle sorting takes place every Saturday morning. On my way to Pathmark this morning, I happened upon it. At the intersection of 142nd and Bradhurst, there were dozens of people sorting bottles on the sidewalks surrounding a tiny park. Children, old folks, men and women. Stacks and stacks of bottles. Nearby, what used to be a school-bus, now painted bright green, was parked in the middle of the street, advertising a bottle-buying business. People were lined up at the bus doorway to cash in their bottles and cans. It was a festive scene on an especially fine and sunny Spring morning. These people no doubt see each other every week as they congregate to sort, trade, and sell their bottles and cans, as well as socialize.

I had five empty Diet Coke bottles in my bag that I had intended to drop in the recycling machine at Pathmark in exchange for 25 cents, but when I saw the long line of people, I decided to give up. There was no way I could ever compete with these big-time recyclers and their trash-bags full of bottles. They would have laughed to see me join their line with my meager little collection, the result of at least four months of saving up (I don't really drink a lot of soda). So, if you can't beat 'em... I just donated my bottles to a lady waiting in the line, and hurried on in to Pathmark to do my shopping.

Friday, April 17, 2009

One More Reason To Love North Carolina

One thing I miss when I go home is being able to walk past Anthropologie and drool every day, but that's all in the past now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wait a Second

Yikes! I can't believe its almost Friday and I haven't written on my blog since Monday. Where did the week go? I guess its good that it's going by so fast. Right now I feel like I just want everything to hurry up and go by. I want the weather to hurry up and get warm. I want to hurry up and find a new job. I want to fast-forward to the point in my life when everything is working out really well. It would be nice to be in love, to have a job that I'm excited about, to be accomplishing something. Right now I just feel like I'm drifting. Floating along, keeping my head above the water, but not relaxing or enjoying the ride. Nevertheless, I am not depressed. I feel very hopeful that if I do my best, things will become wonderful eventually. I just want it to hurry up and happen!

So, that's what's up with me. I guess I haven't blogged because its been a busy week and every day when I get home from work I just want to lay around and vegetate. Last night was the worst. I went to bed at ten o'clock! But I decided that I'm going to start cutting back on sugar and start exercising more (I know, I know--I keep saying that, don't I?) so hopefully that will help with the energy levels.

Meanwhile, the highlights of my week:

~Picking out watch fobs and cufflinks for a certain movie star pirate to wear in a photo-shoot with VF. They borrow stuff from my jewelry store all the time for stories, but I'm not usually involved in the process. However, this week I got to fill in for a coworker, and had fun doing it! Too bad Johnny didn't come and pick them out himself, but I then I probably would have died. (Look in the August or September issue to see if he wears anything I picked out...)
~Getting a cell phone call while at work from my frantic little sister. I thought at first she was in some kind of horrible trouble, but it turned out that she just needed help filling out a money order so she could get her taxes mailed off on the afternoon of the 15th.
~Finishing my own taxes, finally.
~A delicious steak dinner at Ricardo's, courtesy of Dali, as a thanks for helping her get a huge project done at work.
~Pointing out a mistake that my boss made. I know, I'm evil!
~The funniest episode of The Office in a really long time.
~Discovering Elvis Perkins in Dearland. Listen to the song "Shampoo." Sooooo good.

Hmm... I feel like there should be more but, like I said, it's been a really fast week!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

Sigh... It was such a nice weekend, and so hard to go back to work today. Why, I wonder, must we spend more of our waking time at work than at leisure? Maybe some of you don't, but I do, and I resent it! Oh well. At least I have the memories of a lovely weekend to sustain me...

Maybe Saturday didn't seem lovely to you, but the rainy weather was fine with me. After a morning spent wrestling with TurboTax (their "free" links and their "$19.95" links both end up with them asking me for $69.95!) I decided to just call it quits and go outside. Having grown up in Oregon where a non-rainy day is a rare occurrence, I thought nothing of the steady drizzle. It was refreshing. In my rain-boots, I was ready to do some puddle jumping, and got completely carried away. I ended up walking all the way down to my housecleaning job on 87th Street. I must have looked quite bedraggled to the doorman there, but who cares. However, walking back was a different story. This time I was against the wind, and my umbrella acted like it wanted to join the legions of umbrella skeletons that could be found in every ditch along the way. But on the way back I decided to cut across Central Park, and was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the park in the rain. The colors of the grass and budding trees are so vibrant and invigorating.
Deserted woods and meadows almost tricked me into believing myself in the countryside instead of in the center of an enormous city. Wandering through the North Woods, the pavement trails gave way to gravel and then dirt, and though the robins were laughing at me, I could almost forget I was not far from civilization. Daffodils bowed their heads in the rain, yellow violets formed a carpet under blossoming forsythia, blue squill rose gloriously from beds of last autumn's leaves.
When I finally arrived back home from my long trek, I discovered that the mailman had visited. The dress pattern I'd ordered a few weeks ago on etsy had arrived. Inspiration struck, and I knew I must make an Easter Dress! Digging my African fabric out of the closet, I set about cutting out the pattern pieces and sewing them together. As always, I followed the "simple instructions" on the pattern only so far before abandoning them (patterns NEVER explain things clearly enough, and this one was particularly frustrating because it instructed me to create two pattern pieces that should have already existed, but did not...), but was somehow able to construct a real dress in the exact amount of time it takes to watch The Ten Commandments. Coincidentally, I was watching The Ten Commandments on TV while I made the dress.

The Butterick pattern, from the 1950s, declares "It's easy to be the best dressed woman in town," and the description on the back of the package reads, "Whisk in and out of this easy back closed wraparound for your daytime chores." It's funny to see that the price of the pattern was only 50 cents back then (compared with about ten or twelve dollars in the stores today) and my size was 18 (nowadays I can squeeze into a 6 on a good day.) Made with my green and red floral African fabric, the dress turned out quite lovely, if I do say so myself, and I had so much fun wearing it on Sunday, both to church, and later when I did my daytime chores. In fact, I might have had too much fun in that dress--after church, E and I decided that the daffodils in the little park next to our house were so charming that we had to go frolic in them, and we took pictures of ourselves disporting amongst the Easter blossoms.

Before church, I gathered with some friends for an Easter brunch and song-singing. We ate delicious homemade challah and sang hymns a capella. Sometimes the simplest activities can be the most delightful, and this was one such occasion. We'd originally planned to gather on the rooftop, but, though sunny, our New York Easter was cold and quite windy. Later, on the way to church, I spotted a bouquet of balloons carried by the wind into the branches of a tree, like colorful floating Easter eggs. Beyond the tree was another in full bloom, and below were big pots of tulips, but at my angle it was impossible to capture the entire scene.
After church, and after rolling around in the daffodils (much to the delight of the Harlem toughs playing basketball next to us), E declared that we must dye Easter eggs. Roommate bonding time! E provided us with boiled eggs, dye, and glitter, and she, S, and I set about releasing our inner kindergarteners. Now if only I had remembered to buy some Easter candy! Come to think of it, we didn't even have an Easter basket to put our eggs in. Hmmm... maybe I ought to learn basket weaving as my next hobby...

Lunch Break Notes

I like it when, although I've dreaded going back to work all Sunday evening and Monday morning, I finally get there and it's not so bad after all. There are definitely places I'd rather be than at work, but at least there are macaroons to snack on, friendly colleagues, and the sense that I am accomplishing something, even if it's just balancing a list of payments and payouts to and from a watch dealer. I feel satisfaction in my ability to do my job, and happiness that I am earning a living for myself. It's nice to know that I am capable, healthy, and (somewhat) smart. It's nice to have enough tasks to make the morning fly by. Lunchtime is nice, too. I enjoy going outside into a sunny spring afternoon, with the air cold in the shade and warm in the sun. It's nice to eat a brown-bagged lunch while reading the latest Paste magazine interview with M. Ward, and people watch. The sunshine makes me a little sleepy, but the cool April breeze refreshes. Running errands, it's nice to have stamps in my wallet so I can avoid the long lines at the post office. And its nice to rush back to work, only to find I have a few minutes left on my break to blog a little.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Church of the Week

I found this cute church yesterday on a long walk through the rain. I love it's bright red arches against the pale red bricks. Meanwhile, stay tuned for more rainy day pictures from yesterday...

Happy Easter

Happy Easter! My heart is full of thanks, love, happiness, and peace. I'm thinking of my loved ones, near and far, and hoping that their burdens are lightened, and their spirits comforted. Hoping, too, that everyone can feel a part, if not the whole measure, of God's love for them.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Crazy Love

I always say that true stories are much more interesting than fiction, so why waste my time on anything else? Tonight I watched the craziest documentary, which completely proves my point. You can't make this stuff up. I mean, the documentary was very very good, but the story was so bizarre! I'm not going to give it away, though, because while I watched this movie unfold, I kept gasping in disbelief. And I'm one who gasps in disbelief very often. So, in case you too would like to gasp in disbelief, I will not steal the experience from you. Suffice it to say that this is the story of a romance gone wrong, revenge gone wrong, and reality gone wacky. Also, can I just say that I love tough old ladies from the Bronx?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sun and Moon

Today is the Jewish holiday Passover, commemorating the moment, just before Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, when the firstborn son of every righteous family was "passed over" and saved from certain death. At sundown the holiday began, and at work we closed an hour early to make sure everyone who needed to could get home in time. But many Jewish people began celebrating much earlier today because of an event that, according to Jewish tradition, comes once every 28 years and happened to coincide with this year's Passover. Called the Birkat Hachamah, it is the day when, according to ancient rabbinical scholars, the sun is in the same position it was when it was created. To honor it and commemorate the creation, Jewish people all over New York gathered at sunrise to celebrate with prayers and blessings. One rabbi made sure his congregation knew that they were directing their prayers to God in thanks for the sun, and not worshiping the sun, a good distinction to make. Taken with the right spirit, a celebration of the sun is appropriate and lovely, and does not have to be pagan. It is good and right to give thanks to God for the earth and his other creations, the sun being one of the major ones. Without it, life on earth wouldn't really work. I like the idea of a holiday celebrating it.

Interesting that these holidays almost coincide directly with the full moon (completely full tomorrow). An Asian woman I work with is Jewish by marriage, having converted for her second (or is it third?) husband. She was telling me this morning about how she is helping to organize a Passover dinner for 40 people, some of whom are from Israel. The preparations have been stressing her out and so it was no wonder that she awoke in the middle of the night last night. She wandered through her dark house, not bothering to turn on the lights. Near a large window, she spotted something on the floor--a piece of round white paper, or... as she tried to pick it up she realized it was the moon. Outside the window the almost-full moon shone so brightly that it was reflected in the gloss of her hardwood floor. She gazed at it for some time, caught in it's strange spell.

Another co-worker of mine once told me that the moon used to be a sun, but it burnt up. Another believed it to have once been a planet, and wasn't aware that other planets had moons, too. As I gave these two a lesson in basic astronomy, I wondered, as I often do, why the solar system is arranged the way it is. Why do we have the moon, and planets, and stars? Do they affect us? I believe they do, and in more ways than we realize. We know that the sun makes things grow, and keeps the earth's rotation constant and regular. The moon affects the tides of our oceans. But what else? I believe that, just as we believe things in life happen for a reason even if we don't figure out the reason until years later or never even, the sun and moon and stars have a purpose we barely understand but which we will learn someday. For now, we just give thanks for them, wonder about them, and admire their beauty.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tar Heel Time

The Tar Heels had it goin' on last night! Actually, it was kind of a boring game, because they stayed so far ahead of Michigan the entire time. It's hard to be so good sometimes. I had the pleasure of watching most of the game with friends in Harlem. While E (dressed in her finest Tar Heel attire) and I may have been the only true Carolina fans there, our (true) friends humored us by cheering for our team, and I think we fairly convinced them that our team is the best.

The thing that makes me laugh is how New York pretty much ignores basketball, whereas in North Carolina basketball is bigger than religion to some folks. In the morning, getting ready for work, I always listen to the local NPR station, and even though they said some stuff about the Yankees, there was no mention of basketball. Nothing in the papers. In fact, the cover story on one newspaper was about something that happened two days ago. Don't these people realize that there were riots in the streets of Chapel Hill last night? That there were college kids climbing street-lamps, tearing down signs, building fires out of trash and jumping over them as fireworks filled the sky? We won!!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

The past two days I've spent luxuriously lounging around at home, listening to General Conference, a twice yearly event that, thanks to modern technology, I can enjoy in my pajamas. It is when the leaders of the church broadcast four sessions of talks to LDS people the world over. It's always wonderful--it renews my faith, energizes me, and gives me a greater peace and understanding of life. And perhaps I ought to go watch it at the church, where they show it on the big screen in the chapel, but it's streamed live online, and it is so nice to be able to curl in a sunbeam with a blanket and my current crochet project, and just listen peacefully alone.

In between the sessions of conference I ventured outside to take pictures of Harlem. On Saturday it was gray, extremely windy, and chilly. I walked the length of 116th Street, from west to east and took pictures of huge once-decadent churches that are now crumbling from poverty-induced neglect. My pictures didn't turn out very well, but I had a wonderful time. East 116th Street is right in the middle of El Barrio, or Spanish Harlem, and on Saturday it was a festive, vibrant mixture of people. There were women selling woven palm fronds with little pictures of the Virgin Mary attached to them. Lots of Latin-American food peddlers. And there is a big African influence, too--in fact there is an African market, aimed at tourists, with stalls of jewelry, clothing (Dutch wax print cotton!), drums, masks, etc. I saw so many captivating things. And so many friendly old guys kept telling me I needed a coat! And actually, I was kind of frozen by the time I got home.

But today it was bright and sunny, so I went back, again in between conference sessions. My friend Peter joined me, and we roamed Harlem, hitting 116th Street again, as well as some other side streets and back alleys. He was obsessed with old red brick buildings, crumbling cornices, and elaborate ironwork. I was fixated on the churches, graffiti, and one building with the most amazing Greek-revival columns covered in graying, peeling paint. Spring has definitely arrived! Marcus Garvey Park was full of daffodils, hyacinths, narcissi, and forsythia. Even green grass! The sky was blue, and the air was warm--a perfect backdrop for the old ladies in big sparkly hats coming out the Baptist churches, and the beautiful Hispanic boys and girls streaming out of the Catholic churches, their hands clutching folded palm fronds.

Harlem Church of the Week

I spent a few hours roaming 116th Street yesterday, walked it from West to East and back again, taking pictures of several huge, amazing, over the top churches, which were all in states of utter disrepair. Then on a side street I discovered this little gem. The windows are painted beautifully with clusters of Tiffany-esque wisteria blossoms, the building is clean and charming, and I love the name of the church: The Peoples Community Temple Inc.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fat and Happy

There is no better way to end a hectic work week than by going out on Friday night to hang with friends and have a delicious dinner. Besides the utter craziness that happened on Tuesday, we've suddenly transitioned to an entirely new computer system, so everything is different. Some of us had a little bit of training in it, but for the most part it has been trial by fire. And not all of my coworkers handle change well! Needless to say, we were all ready for the weekend. Dali had us all over to her place after work for an unveiling of her new over-the-sofa art.

Back in the 70s, Dali led a free-spirited, uninhibited life. She was a groupie for a popular Spanish singer, and scored a gig modelling on a float in the Easter Parade one year. She won a contest and got a free trip to Europe. Once, she and a friend rented a hotel room, dressed up, and covered themselves entirely in gold paint. Then they hit the town, like golden Grecian goddesses. A professional photographer happened to see them strolling down the street, and snapped their picture from behind. The image is black and white, but captures Dali's purposeful sway, her braids jangling, her low-cut dress revealing two alluring dimples on her back. Miraculously, the photographer happened to run into Dali some time later, and gave her a copy of the photograph. She stashed it away, over the years changing her focus from partying to raising a family. Thirty years and three kids later, Dali found the picture at the back of her closet, and was overwhelmed with the good memories that resurfaced. She had the image enlarged and printed on a stretched canvas, and hung it in her living room. "When my kids and my grandkids see it, I want them to say, 'My mom really did something! She really was someone!'" says Dali.

After drinks (me=coke and lime, they=margaritas) and reminiscing at Dali's house, we all decided to go to Ricardo's. When my dad was here last weekend and I was trying to think of places to go eat, I forgot about Ricardo's! It is the best steak restaurant I've ever been to. The food is divine. Located in East Harlem, it's able to stay small enough to feel exclusive but cozy. But it's not a dive--in fact, it's really classy, and this is coming from a person who tends to hate fancy restaurants because they always try to hard. Ricardo's doesn't try too hard, they just do a good job and keep it real. The food is exquisitely presented but not snobby, expertly prepared but not exotic, and so delicious. I ate a big juicy steak!

Walking to the subway afterwards, I found myself enchanted with the warm wet night. Spring is here: it rained all day, giving way eventually to a warm windy night. People were out enjoying it, strolling arm in arm, walking their dogs, savoring the freshness of the city after a good rain. The warm wind wreaked havoc with litter, forming small whirlwinds. A discarded wooden door that someone had propped against a street-lamp crashed down onto the pavement as I passed by. My hair flew around like a witch's, and broken umbrellas lay like crumpled flowers in the gutters. Though I had intended to take a subway, before I knew it I had walked across town, and from there it was just a few streets till I was home. Now I'm too stuffed to sleep, but too tired to do anything but lay here and write...

The Music Scene

If my handbag smells like beer, it's not my fault! I've been out late hitting the bars, but not for the booze--for the music! I'm going to start a new tradition on my blog: music reviews. These days I don't go to a ton of shows. My glory days in Chapel Hill saw me out at the Cat's Cradle almost weekly, to see groups like Teenage Fanclub, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Evan Dando, Cat Power, and the Avett Brothers. If I wasn't at the Cradle, you could find me at Local 506, or in Raleigh at (the late great) King's, or in Durham at the Lincoln Theatre or the Duke Coffeeshop, where I remember one very memorable solo acoustic performance by Ivan of the Rosebuds. Yes, those were the days! I wish I had kept a record of all the bands I've seen in all the places I've been--but I wasn't a blogger back then.

Now I'm in New York, where the music scene is five times (okay, maybe more than five times...) as exciting as Chapel Hill. With venues scattered across Brooklyn, Soho, Chelsea, and elsewhere, there is always a great band playing somewhere, always an amazing performance to catch. But that's the problem! There is too much, and too little time.

Nevertheless, and especially now that spring is here and all the free summer shows are coming up, I'm going to try and see as many rock bands as I can, and, while I will try and blog about as many of them as I can, I'm going to definitely feature one band per month. So stay tuned for my first official Music Review...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Ugh. Something really exciting and interesting happened at work yesterday, and I wrote a big long post about it last night. However, when I got to work this morning I was told by my boss that "in this day of blogging and twittering, we must be vigilant not to speak of company matters outside the shop." I'm not sure if that meant he knew about my blog post, or if he was just reminding everyone to be prudent, but at the first opportunity I deleted yesterday's post. Not that it even said anything bad. I never mention where I actually work, or anyones names on my blog, except in general terms or under pseudonyms, so its not as if I'm spilling company secrets. Nevertheless, I feel ruffled, like I should have the right to say anything online that I feel like saying. It's a free country, right? Well, sort of. I suppose if I owned a business, I would want to protect it in every way. And I realize that, in blogging, I am putting information out there for all to see. But I believe, and always have believed, that the more information the better. I think people should have a right to know things and talk about things without feeling afraid or intimidated. Information ought to be shared. Stories ought to be told!

Someday I will tell all the forbidden stories of my life!