Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sunsets in the City - 01.08.03

Yesterday's post reminded me of one I wrote years ago, when I had first moved here. That first year was hard, and though my friends here went out of their way to make me feel no-so-alone, we all had seperate lives and I needed to find my way. And as you all know, that's often lonely and hard and a little desperate at times. I wrote this post at a moment where it seemed I might finally see the light, get my feet under me - make this home.

And I did, eventually, in ways deeper and richer than I ever could have imagined back then. I had *hopes* for such things - but sitting here years later I can still feel that lost girl hoping against hope that somehow it would all work out. I wish I could go back in time and tell her there are so very many beautiful sunsets and sunrises and stars in her future.

And, well, welcome her home.

Sunsets in the City - 01.08.03

They said there were no sunsets in New York City. And I believed them. I nodded my head in sympathy when a friend sighed watching a sunset at the holidays, or shrugged helplessly when another would lean in and whisper, “You can’t tell me you won’t miss that”. It never occurred to me it would be otherwise, for with those giant walls of steel and stone surrounding me, of course there would be no sunset, no dramatic skies, no smoky end to my days. And I consciously tried to breathe in every sunset before I left, memorizing the colors, trying to remember how it felt when the sky suddenly blazed up, then retreated into the dusky blue of the stars. And I was right, in a way. There’s no watching the sun melt into the horizon. No slowly counting to yourself to see if you can guess how long it will take the ball of fire to disappear behind the far trees. But there ARE sunsets. And tonight a small woman bundled in an old ill-fitting coat taught me just that.

It was bitterly cold, as it has tended to be these last few days, and I found refuge in one of my favorite neighborhood haunts, the bookstore. I spent an hour walking slowly through all the sections, running my finger along the spines and every once in awhile opening a book up to smell the newness as I flipped the pages. I sauntered aimlessly through the modern fiction, rattling off the titles of my favorite authors and dreamily quoting what I could as I peered through the poetry section. The sales people all said hi, noticeably trying not to disturb my familiar rituals; each recognizing me and my small play from the countless times I had already been there. Rarely buying, but always critically and languorously examining. When I finally had reached the travel section and finished planning fictitious vacations I would soon be on, I wrapped my scarf tightly around my neck, pulled down my hat and said good night to the security guard at the door.

It was five-ish and the sidewalk was filled with couples going to the movies next door and people running into the grocery just down the block for what I imagined was some last minute dinner preparation. I paid little attention to them all; picking up what I always thought was that awful New York habit of not noticing those around you. I catch myself from time to time and then make an honest effort to smile at the passers-by, but I am slowly losing that self-awareness. So as I was blindly fighting the cold and crowd to make my way home, a small voice said, “Lovely, isn’t it?”

Now there’s one sort of sense I’ve always had, and that is the ability to somehow know, despite my surroundings, when I am being spoken to. And in my small commuting haze, I stopped and turned toward the voice.

“I said, ‘lovely, huh’?”

And she pointed at the buildings behind me, a look of pure joy across her face.

“What? Wha . . .” But before I could ask which building, or maybe where she was from, thinking perhaps she had caught a glimpse of the Chrysler building, I realized she was pointing at the sky. A brilliantly red sky dipping behind the tops of the buildings and creeping past to a beautiful, awe-striking blue.

“Wow. You’re right, it is breath-taking.”

“They say it doesn’t happen here, but it’s just because no one looks. I used to teach first grade, and that sky there? The red? There’s a saying for it. Red in the morning sailors take warning, red at night sailor’s delight.”


I stood there just looking upward as she talked. She was so very much shorter than me, I was afraid I’d miss something if I turned to look down at her. When I finally did, I found her patiently waiting for me.

“Thank you for stopping me, I would have missed it completely.”

“Yes, well.”

And she gathered her coat collar around her and went to turn away.

"No, really. I never thought to look for it before. I will from now on."

I was having my own conversation now, thanking her for more than showing me the sky. Thanking her for reminding me it was still there. That I had not given that much up, I had just forgotten about it for a while. I was thanking her for reminding me.

“It will be a beautiful day tomorrow. That’s what it means. ‘Sailor’s delight’.”

And I’m sure it will be. For more reasons than I think she could have possibly meant.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Summer has officially begun here in the city for me. See, part of living here just the two of us has meant we've been able to develop traditions all our own - and this makes me very very happy.

One of those traditions is dancing every summer - and not just any dancing, but dancing outside in the plaza of Lincoln Center at their Midsummer Night Swing. It's absolutely fabulous.

On MsNS nights, Sam meets me in the plaza of my work and we walk to Lincoln Center, where we take lessons on some sort of specific dance (usually some kind of swing, but this year we're going to the western as well as the Irish nights) and then a band plays for two hours. I can't tell you how wonderful it is. Then, on the TRULY great nights, we stop at a diner on the way home and have dinner. It's brilliant, have I mentioned? And it defines summer in the city for me, as much if not more than cherry-dipped vanilla cones from Mr. Softie. Which is saying a lot.

Last week, as we walked home, Sam pointed out stars in the sky. Planets, probably he said. But sparkles in the sky nonetheless. And he commented that, well, you CAN see stars in the city. And we both stopped right there and looked up for a moment. And though it was fleeting, it felt nice. And important. And something I'll remember for a long time. Us, all dressed up and sweaty and tired from dancing the night away - standing hand in hand on the sidewalk looking at the sky in our city. Looking at the stars. One of the many things people tell you won't get once you come here.

Sometimes I feel that way about my life. How it's all that moment, filled with luck and love and happiness. Filled with all my dreams right here at my feet - all the things people tell you can't have all at once. Yet, here I am - holding hands with the one I love, where I love, doing what I love.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is just stop in the middle of it all and look up . . .while all the too good to be trueness just spins out all around you.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More Spice than Sugar

I hardly ever answer my phone, let alone return calls. But when I do finally pick up my phone you can bet I'll be hurt when whomever I call never calls back. I'm fair like that.

I'm horrible at sayng thank you. When I get it out it's clumsy and awkward and probably sounds insincere. Which it isn't - it's heartfelt, but trippingly so. And often, I forget to say thank you for things I should and accolade for things that aren't necessary. I have no gratitude skills, really. (Though I am, extremely, grateful.)

I will eat the last piece of chocolate unapologetically.

I have unbelievably high expectations for the people in my life. I want them to be strong and courageous and commited. I want them to care for themselves as much as I care for them. I have a hard time expressing these things, and when they falter, I have a hard time hiding my disappointment. This often leads to feelings getting hurt and general confusion on all ends.

I'm slow to anger, but when I do I'm even slower to let go. Grudges? Um, hi. We're well aquainted.

I hate being put in the position where I am guilted into doing something I don't want to do. Or when I can see that someone's manipulating the situation to their advatage. It drives me crazy and I will often dig in my heels and fight useless, meaningless battles over such things. Just to not back down.

I will drink the last bit of water, and not refill the jug.

I have friends I haven't talked to in ages. They probably figure we're not friends anymore, and rightfully so. But I think of them on an almost daily basis. I miss them. And still, I have yet to do something about that.

I can't take a compliment. In fact, I'll often argue with whomever gave it.

I live a block and a half from work. I am late, every single day.

But I'm not all evil. I swear. And perhaps I'll make a list of good things eventually. This list, however, was just too easy to ignore putting down. That and I feel like it's good to have written(typed, rather), because, of course - it's all stuff I'm working on. . .

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Fishes! Seals! WALRUSES!

Sorry about the lack of posts. Work has been crazy-busy and it seems summer is now officially in full swing. Last weekend we celebrated by a trip to Coney Island, one of my favorite summer respites. We ate at Nathan Famous hotdogs, toured the boardwalk (the best people watching EVER) and made our first trip to the New York City Aquarium.

I think one of our best purchases ever was the membership to the zoos in NYC, to be honest. It's already served us well - and the aquarium was amazing!

For example:
A statement with which I unerringly agree. Only I'm not sure they were thinking what I was. Nonetheless, the jellies were some of my fave exhibits.

We also saw some otters, the seal show, some manna (manta?) rays and our first ever walruses. And DAMN walruses are big! I think Sam and i agreed they were our absolute fave animal. They even had "jackass penguins" which, of course, seemed hilariously just right.

So New York Aquarium at Coney Island, we applaud you.
Good show.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Second post today - because, well, PIE!

I made blueberry cheesecake this week. I, personally, don't like blueberries - but Sam loves them. I made this a couple years ago to some acclaim and decided to try it again.

Tis' the summer of desserts.

Even better, Stephanie and Tim are here to help Sam conquer the mound of berries I created.

Sam seems to approve. Though it's hard to find food Sam *doesn't* approve of, so I'm never sure how it truly came out. I'll have to ask him how this rates against the tarts from last week.

Demon-Tim the Pie Eater.

Stephanie, who could not have taken a cuter pie-eatting picture.


So it's a link a friend sent me today. And while I'm not so much into trying to get people to join causes and I'm not so into sharing personal stuff in detail - I think this is worthwhile, it hits close to home - and I figure one entry won't send anyone running away never to come back.

We've all seen the commercial recently about HPV. There's pull-out ads in all the women's mags now. I'd be surprised if, as a woman in my age range you HADN'T heard about it. But here it is in case you've missed it - it's a virus that causes cervical cancer. Weird, I know. And creepy. More women have it who don't, and of those most aren't properly informed or are completely ignorant - of what it means, if they have it, what they should do. The majority of OBGYNs don't test for it unless specifically asked to. Often getting this test means you pay for it yourself, or call and argue with your insurance company. Good doctors will do that last part for you. And here's the thing - getting tested is no big deal. And finding HPV isn't do or die. Most people's bodies fight it off and it's gone by the next time you go in. But there is a group of women in whom the virus causes complications and/or cervical cancer. And testing for HPV can catch that super early, and therefore cut down the rate of fatality.

Why do I care? What's it to me? I have HPV. And due to a number of factors; compromised immune system, family history, sheer luck - I fall into the category of "likely that HPV will lead to, well, something else." I rated high on the simple scale they use, 1= for barely there, will disappear on its own to 6 = cancer. I'm a three - "early pre-cancerous cells exist." Four and five mean late cancerous cells (stuff gets taken out) and six means serious talks with my husband and doctor.

But I *am* only a three and my doctor is amazing. I go in and get checked every four months, and while that is nerve-wracking and frightening and causes me ridiculous amounts of anxiety - it means if the virus ever does cause cancer we'll know early. We'll know right away. "Fatality" is not in my and my doctor's plan.

The cool news is there has been a vaccine developed. The FDA just approved it. How it will be used exactly, and when, is still being debated. More than likely it will be given to young girls pre-puberty, and those girls will be spared the worry and concern that my husband and I now live with every four months. This is amazing and awesome and something I'm very excited about. But there's still more to be done.

That's where this link comes in. It's where I feel like I need to pass it along. Fatality from this cancer IS preventable. I'm proof of that. But the only way that can happen is if we, as women, are informed and active in our own health care. Talk to your doctors. Talk to your friends. Make and wear a bracelet, and when people ask where you got it, why you wear it - tell them. And even better - For every pair of bracelet kits ordered, Merck will donate one dollar to Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation, up to $100,000, for cervical cancer awareness and screening programs among medically underserved women.

It's simple really. And it can make a miraculous difference in your life, or someone else's. Because seriously - there are cooler ways to die. I plan on finding one.

And PS - Thanks, Em, for spreading the word.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Thanks to our good friend and amazing travel coordinator Phil, Sam and I now have tickets to HAWAII in October. Ya'll. HAWAII. I'm so excited.

Here's to alcoholic drinks with umbrellas in them, wearing flip flops in late fall, and dancing in grass skirts with the Schambergers. I can't imagine anything better.

Here's to adding to our already awesome list of good times had.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Holding it up to the Light

"It's a long long road,
it's a big big world
we are wise wise women
we are giggling girls
we both carry a smile to show when we're pleased,
we both carry a switchblade
in our sleeves."
- Ani DiFranco

This city has taught me a lot about myself. It has shown me that the world is smaller than it seems, that we are all much more alike than most would like to believe. I have develeoped, in my stay here, a passion for peace. For pacifism. The news often is too much for me. The images and stories, more than I want to witness. I often tense my hands into fists and argue with the screen, or cover my eyes and ask if it's really necessary they SHOW us. I have become increasingly against violence; I have never waivered when the talk comes to war vs. peace. It was one of Sam and I's first debates, and it continues to this day.

But this city has also taught me something previously I never truly had the chance to discover about myself, never was in the situation where I would know. When it comes to fight or flight, my first, most honest instinct is to fight. To protect myself. To stand up. I have had men try to steal my gym bag and have ended up thrown in traffic because I refused to just LET GO, have confronted pickpockets and have scared a crazy man from my doorway with a wooden bat . . . I had the bat. And this is a piece of myself that I struggle with. I mean, sure, I'm proud that I can protect myself. I like the fact I lived here in this place on my own and was okay. More than okay, sometimes in circumstances that weren't, well, okay. Sam is here now, we're here together now - but I like knowing I can stand on my own in this place and hold my own.

But the part of me that wants to walk the walk, wants to ACT as peaceful and calm and diplomatic as I insist the world act, well, it falls short on sheer instinct. And I don't know if I'll ever reach the point where when it comes to myself or those I love I'll be a pacifist in protecting. And that's just another thing I've learned, I guess. That none of us is just the easy descriptor, the lone adjective or the character outline. That just because I'll rage against the violence in this world, that I'll walk amongst thousands of others to protest a war, that I'll cry over the news story of how many died today -- it doesn't mean that if I feel threatened I won't pick up that old wooden bat my dad gave me, hold it menacingly in your direction and kindly, um, ask you to BACK THE F@#^* OFF, thanks.

It means we're all different than we seem. Than we expect ourselves. I think we often fall into the trap of taking the people around us and defining them: this is what they do, what they give, who they are. We forget they too are more than they seem, more than we see. No matter how close or how well or for how long we've known them.

And worse, we do it to ourselves. We find the role we're most comfortable in, or the role we think people expect - and eventually we forget we're playing a role at all. We forget we are new every day, we are complex living things that adapt and grow and expand every second. We forget we have to tend to *ourselves*, give ourselves room to breathe and grow and contradict. Hold a bat in one had while the other makes a peace sign. ;)

Sarah and I talked tonight about how so much had changed in the little over the year it's been since Hagan was born. How much she's changed, how he changes every second it seems - how I've changed since moving here. But it's not the events, or even Hagan that's caused all this - they just held it up to the light for us to see. And I'm glad of that. I need it. Because, really, it is such am amazing thing to be a part of. the light shimmers so. I hope I never reach the point I forget to watch it.

I drive myself crazy sometimes, with the constant shove and pull - but it's worth it. It's worth it to always see new, feel new - know there's another chance, another shot at redemption, another surprise right around the corner. I wouldn't trade that for the world. Even a nicely defined, perfectly ordered, somewhat calmer world at that.

(That and that old bat my Dad gave me really has come in quite handy . . .)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Raspberry Rhubarb Vanilla Custard Tart

My first attempt at a "fancy" dessert and it has been declared a success! Yay! Pics of Sam and said tarts soon.