Monday, December 31, 2007

Last Blog of 2007!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually, that second part is a lie. When it comes down to it, 2007 was a pretty good year all around.

It started with a slight hangover and a cup of hot chocolate with my dear friend Ruchi at the Tea Lounge in Park Slope. On top of my hot chocolate, the barista made two interlocking hearts of cocoa which she and I took to be an omen of things to come. While I end 2007 single, there has been much love and good will in my life this year. I've made some fantastic new friends and met some brilliant and inspiring people. I reconnected with a dear friend from college who lives nearby but who I didn't see for years. (Foolish!)

I started the year living in a rental apartment and am now the proud owner of a lovely Brooklyn Co-op apartment, in spite of our seriously crap plumbing and the fact that I had to shower at the gym yesterday to avoid flooding my downstairs neighbor's basement (yes, three floors down!). My neighbors are lovely, I'm healthy and happy, and gosh darnit, people like me.

So far, all factors indicate 2008 will be pretty kick-ass too. I'll finally finish painting that hallway, replace the light in the bedroom and maybe even take up spinning classes again. Although that last one is pretty ambitious...

What are your big plans for '08?

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Holiday Child Extravaganza

There exists a videotape of Christmas 1982 that may be the single most embarrassing, incriminating thing on the face of the Earth.

My parents had set the video camera up waiting for us to come down for Christmas morning, and the entire unwrapping event has been preserved through the years to be sure that we never try and put them in a nursing home. This video shows the year I got the Barbie Dream House, a complex, do-it-yourself mansion of plastic parts that my father had apparently spent the entire night putting together before getting about 7 minutes of sleep before we tore into their room to see if Santa had come.

In this video, Julie's 3-year old chain-smokers voice can be heard asking for Pep Pep, her beloved toy whale. Jackie, 1 1/2 is stumbling around in her footy pajamas about to be knocked over by the frisky Newfoundland puppy at any second. I, on the other hand, am calmly sitting there with my disheveled hair authoritatively telling everyone exactly what I think they should be doing at every moment in time. I instruct Julie that she has to share things with me, but I get to decide if I have to share things with her. Oy. I am evil!

When we watched this video when Jessica was young, she was devastated. "Where am I? Why didn't you guys let me be in the movie!" And we were all "Jess, this was before you were born..." and she burst into tears. "But why didn't you guys let me be in the movie!" No concept of "pre-me" with that one at the time. Now, I think she's grateful that the videotaping Christmas era pre-dated her existence.

Next up on the X-mas Embarrass-a-thon came the Holiday Child Extravaganza, a holiday beauty pageant cooked up by my grandmother and aunt who made us sing, dance and do interviews on camera. It was the 80s. There's a lot of awful clothing and feathered hair.

I can't actually bring myself to reveal more about it. Suffice it to say that you, dear reader, are very happy to have missed out on participating in the Holiday Child Extravaganza and if I hear you ever do that to your own children I will help them put you in a nursing home when the time comes. Oh yes.

This Christmas, there will be no videotapes. We will instead sip cocktails as my dad is on a fancy fruity martini kick, and on Christmas morning no one will run down the stairs like a bat out of hell to see if Santa came. Now it's more of a "Go get your sister up it's almost 10" kind of event. No dive into piles of presents all lovingly wrapped and then thanklessly torn to shreds. Now there's coffee to be made, teeth to be brushed, dogs to be fed. Then we can gather around the fireplace next to the tree and exchange the things we got for each other.

When I was 5, I got the Barbie Dream House. This year, what I really want is a... Microwave.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why Oprah is on my Sh*t List

Because I am a writer and I want her to like me. Because if *I* wrote a memoir you can bet she'd be the very first person I made sure had a copy. Even before my mother, my grandmother and God. Oprah would read my book. And with a mere mention on her over-hyped program, I would be famous.

I say this because I want the world to know I WAS READING "PILLARS OF THE EARTH" BEFORE OPRAH TOLD ME TO! To prove it to anyone on the New York City subway who happens to read the cover of my book while I'm commuting to work, I'm not even reading one of the new, giantic copies that have suddenly sprouted up like babies nine months after a blizzard. (Oh! Isn't that the latest Oprah book?) Christ. I'm reading an old-skool mass-market paperback edition that has yellowed pages and a torn cover. It looks like a well-loved Steven King novel. It is my shield of literary street cred against all that is Oprah.

Because let's face it. She has great taste in books. At least she endorses books that I think are worth reading like 75% of the time. The James Frey thing was unfortunate, and I totally lust after and envy Joanthan Franzen for having the integrity to tell her she couldn't put her stickers on "The Corrections." Which was brilliant and sardonic and everything a book about family should be. Of course she wanted to put her name on "The Corrections." She's the King Midas of book readers. Every page she touches turns to gold. Who else could get 21st century middle-aged housewives to read Tolstoy and John Steinbeck?

I hate that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cirque du Crap

If I had never seen a Cirque du Soleil performance before Wintuk at Madison Square Garden's WaMu Theater on Saturday, I would still have found the tepid juggling and bizarre anti-plot to be a disappointment.

I can't believe I exchanged cash money for the chance to sit and watch that load of horse sh*t.

Cirque du Soleil. What comes to mind?

Lithe, somewhat emaciated very short Bulgarian trapeze artists in elaborate costumes doing death-defying leaps through the air. Teams of men on trampolines somehow crossing paths in midair while tossing burning swords. But all with a somewhat French sheen of blase and Marcel Marceau oddity. It's compelling. It's mezmerizing. It's not Wintuk.

In the photo here note the weirdo creepy puppet dogs. At times the dogs sing. The boy in the red parka keeps babbling about how he wants to see it snow, but one has no idea who he is or why it's suddenly so important that it snows that he gets on a flying sled with a mime, a woman in a gaudy patchwork cloak who keeps throwing up her arms like she's casting spells in Macbeth, and of course, the giant dog puppets.

I don't want to slam the performers, but aside from the crappy story, the spectacle itself was underwhelming. Two women who were doing acrobatics on ropes basically just spun in circles. There was a woman who juggled 7 pink balls. Impressive if you're at a frat party, but one expects something more from the creators of Corteo, Mystere and "O". The acts were almost comically short as well.

One woman standing behind me at intermission said she felt like they were scamming people by doing the show on a small stage in New York at Christmas. It had to be a gold mine. The performance was sold out. But putting on a lackluster cash-cow of a show should be shameful to Cirque du Soleil. Hopefully next time they come to New York they'll live up to what audiences have come to expect.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Just in case you were wondering...

There have been requests for photos of my wee Brooklyn abode, so here it is in its mostly-finished glory!

My apartment!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Too Many MCs, Not Enough Mics...

In other words, what do you do when you anticipated that your holiday party would be ill attended as it's 10 days before Christmas and tons of people actually love you and decide to come! Ha ha. What a glorious problem to have! But seriously, turnout is on track to be better than I'd anticipated so I'm very excited and looking forward to seeing how many people can fit into 500 square feet of Brooklyn apartment space. I have decreed that no one is allowed to wear big pants or ball gowns. That would take up unnecessary space.

Skinny pants are okay, as long as you don't wear a belt with them in hipster white. That would be too much for my tiny mind to handle.

But the point is this: It's Christmas Time in New York! (Holiday time, if you want to include those other ones...)

Christmas in New York is spectacular. As the days grow shorter and one doesn't even manage to leave the office before nightfall, it's uplifting to see that the street lights are strung with garlands and snowflakes made of lights. I love the crowds clogging Rockefeller Center to get a glimpse of the enormous tree, which never fails to both impress me and make me a little bit sad. So beautiful! So festive! I can't believe we killed that tree!

Somehow the lights and the buzz of holiday shopping and throngs of tourists whip me into a Christmas frenzy and I start doing things like drinking Gingerbread Lattes and mulling wine. Suddenly stew seems like a perfectly viable meal option and brussel sprouts are back in full force. Window boxes in Brooklyn shed their flowers for those cabbage things that go all red in the middle.

When I was a kid we came to New York City during the holiday season to see both Showboat on Broadway and to see the Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular, complete with dancing girls and Santa. Ever since, I've loved Christmas in New York. Apparently lots of people do because you can't get a hotel room between Thanksgiving and New Year's without forking over quite a wad of cash. Makes having that apartment even sweeter.

In keeping with the "embarrassing things that my parents did to us as children" theme I've been developing lately, I'll share the downside of that trip to NYC back when I was about 12. Just old enough to be mortified. By what, you ask?

My mother decided to dress the four of us into outfits as "old fashioned" as we could muster without actually having to go shopping. Kind of crossed with this furry babushka thing - furry hats and furry muffs. On top of the costuming, which was almost too much for a 12 year old trying so hard to be cool to even bear, we then had to go out in the most public of places.

We had to ice skate in Rockefeller Center while she took pictures of us.

If you can't see why this would mortify a 12-year old, I cannot help you. Needless to say, it kind of killed the joy of being one of those ice skaters making endless circles between the golden angels blowing on their trumpets, under that giant, sparkling tree. Those pictures still make me cringe on the inside, remembering the awkward, clumsy girl I was at that age, bumping into things, fretting over who had the other half of my "best friends" necklace.

It makes me sigh with relief that I'm now an adult and on the other end of the Santa spectrum, as in pretending to be Santa instead of pretending to believe in Santa.

Stay tuned for notes on the Holiday Child Extravaganza, the time the pogo stick was thrown on the roof because "Santa dropped it" and the joys of the White Elephant gift swap.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Best Thanksgiving Ever

It is 1986, and my parents have decided we are going to spend Thanksgiving and my sister Jessica's third birthday "Up the Mountains..." - family-speak for visiting a tiny house near Dushore, Pennsylvania, that my grandfather's father built at some point "back in the day." The house has a gas stove, water from a well and an old fashioned wood-burning stove in the living room heats its four rooms.

We came to this house often when I was a child. I remember it's wood-paneled walls, it's room full of beds (with one set of bunk beds) and then the "master bedroom" where my grandparents would sleep. I remember sitting on the ice-cold toilet seat when first arriving late at night after a long drive from South Jersey, trying to ignore the copious piles of mouse poo. The first thing we always had to do was clean up a bit.

That year my family had gone up on its own. No grandparents. No cousins. Just the six of us. With our costumes.

That year, my mother decided she was going to dress us up as Pilgrims and Indians. Two Pilgrims. Two Indians. Jessica, whose third birthday was that week, and I were dressed in folksy regular clothes on Team Pilgrim. Julie and Jackie, however, won out in the costume contest that year. My mom took faux-fur and made them little tunics, put bands of ribbon around their heads, hair in braids, and stuck a feather in each. Oh god damn. There is a photograph of this, but I'm not sure I can bring myself to post it without the express written permission of certain members of the clan.

One of the (many) problems with this house in the mountains was its distance from civilization. Excellent when you were looking for solitude and a break from busy work schedules, but not so awesome when a winter storm knocks out the power and you're stuck going down to the creek with pails, breaking through the ice and bringing back 33 degree water.

I'm pretty sure we had power on Thanksgiving Day, but I do recall climbing into the family van and schlepping to the metropolis of Tonowanda or Tamaqua - I'm pretty sure they're mostly the same - and having Jessica's 3rd birthday party at Burger King. There were paper crowns involved. We saw a Star Trek movie. Star Trek IV, the one with the whales.

Yet, in spite of a lack of electricity and fetching water from the creek, that Thanksgiving stands out as one of the most fun we ever had, even though I think I was pretty pissed at the time about having to dress up like a freakish Pilgrim and pose for photos. Maybe I was just jealous of the furry Indian costumes.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

La Beauté

I have a confession to make.

I have a $90 night creme.

I had gone into Bloomingdales on the way to see my dentist (who has thankfully moved to the Rockerfeller Plaza area) and I had fallen victim to the one-two punch of the very effective Chanel saleswoman and my own longing for porcelain-clear skin, devoid of wrinkles and blemish free.

If you've never been to the Cosmetics and Beauty section of Bloomingdales, it's as overwhelming and perfumed as you think it is. Bright lights. Sample sizes. Lipgloss in every shade of pink you could imagine, and very aggressive salewomen in neat black suits. They are impeccable. You are not. Your presence in the Bloomingdales beauty department means you know you are not. You are easy prey.

About five years ago I had bought a Chanel night creme - Age Delay Nuit it was called - that was like taking a cool drink of water on a hot, dry day. I had gone back looking for the same, not with any serious intent to buy, but really now. Who was I kidding?

Oh Chanel, how you upgrade!

The product that I had known and loved back when really I had 25-year old perfect skin had been replaced by one called Beauté Initiale. It was light and pink and the word geleé suit it to a T. Unfortunately for my slightly-older, somewhat dry skin, it wasn't as rich as the other one the saleswoman had lovingly swabbed onto my cheek. The Précision. Oh, it felt like she had wiped whatever they used on Mount Olympus onto my face. Only goddesses had such sweet smelling, oddly satiated skin.

I tried to feign indifference. To pretend I was weighing my options. It took everything I had to resist the coordinating eye creme. I had some from before. (Which I threw away upon arriving at home, realizing it was in fact five years old and had traveled with me between five apartments.)

I walked out with a glorious "little brown bag" with a black and white box of really expensive creme, a sample of the eye creme I had shunned (which is still in my bathroom. taunting me.) and a mini sample mascara. The sample mascara had the most unusual, most fabulous applicator brush I'd ever seen. But I'm afraid to go back. On the way out I also got a Bobbi Brown lipstick in Burnt Red and a Cole Haan handbag.

I apparently am afraid of having cavities filled.

My occasional trips to Sephora are usually not as dangerous to the budget. Sephora is about 50 yards from my office. The worlds fastest sprinters could be there in mere seconds upon leaving the elevator.

Sephora has a few things I find myself acutally going to visit. Yes, I visit sample cosmetics.

First place: Anything from Philosophy. While Philosophy is nowhere near as posh as the Chanel creme that shares its shelf in my bathroom medicine cabinet, it has a somewhat hippie, almost spiritual allure. Perhaps because their perfume is both called Amazing Grace and makes me feel like the prettiest girl in the world. To me, it's what pretty girl smells like. I love it.

(Chanel No. 5, on the other hand, is the smell of sexy, sexy woman. A man in my office cafeteria once said it made his knees weak when I wore it to work once. That one is for dates.)

Philosophy also makes cremes, cleansers, serums, and microderm abrasion scrubs and "peel pads". I have two kinds of their shower gel. I have Hope in a Jar. I am a girl-stuff marketer's wet dream.

If it's slightly different and smells like clean girl or promises clear, sweet smelling, dewy skin, chances are I'll spend $45 plus tax on it.

I also have sugar scrub and body soufleé from Om, some St. Ives scrub and Vitamin E lotion. I have several different lip colored light pink lip glosses. Nars. Chanel. Revlon. Laura Mercier. Vincent Longo. My wide array of hair care products is a totaly different story. I <3 Terax.

It's hard to be a girl, is what I've resolved. There's an entire industry out there trying to take our money and sell us lotions that they swear will make us feel better about ourselves. And what if they do? What if using a $90 night creme before I go to bed makes me feel luxurious, beautiful and pampered? Like I think my face is the most precious one on the market and should be treated like a queen's?

Worth every penny.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So much to say, so little time...

So, this past week I visited dear friends in North Carolina, got really drunk, confessed all kinds of sentimental things, had to go on a hungover walking tour of Duke University and had an unsatisfying omelette. For their part, my friends were glorious, gracious hosts who make some fan-f*cking tastic barbecue. Really. I'm not full of hyperbole.

My cat is sitting three feet away purring becuase he thinks there's a chance of him being petted. This is what I think men are secretly like... or is it not such a secret? :)

On a more serious side, there's been some stuff in the media that I really want to talk about but I've been saving myself for a post book club discussion on our latest - Sick, about the health insurance industry and its affect on our health. Health insurance is almost an oxymoron after you read about its history. It cannot be a "business" or it fails to do to what it needs to do.

How can we fix it?

Please do comment if you have any thoughts. I'm saddened and stumped by what I see as failure on all sides, which ultimately hurts us all...

Hotties.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

If Stephen Colbert Designed the New US Passport

I'm pretty sure what he came up with would be spot on when compared to what the U.S. State Department devised for us globe-trotting Americans to carry as they make their way around the world.

I had my first glimpse of the new passport standing in the customs line at the Istanbul airport on my way home from Turkey. Maybe there were 1,000 people in the lines waiting to have their passports stamped. I was next to a group of middle-aged white Americans who were holding out their brand-spanking-new passports and showing each other the garish pages.

They look like what you'd get if you put Epcot Center and a passport into a blender. Each page is more insultingly stereotypical than the one before with lame quotes, stupid pictures of idealized American landscapes, and best of all, a GIANT EAGLE on the page opposite your picture.

The New Republic had an excellent piece on exactly this the other day. Go read it. It's hilarious. Excessively weird, red-state passport, it calls it.

If you don't want to bother, you can still see the new passports here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

On Candidate Thompson

Fred Thompson's character, the Manhattan District Attorney, Law and Order, just said "You take the justice you get."

Sam Waterston: "We're letting justice get lost in the fog of war."

The case: A soldier in Iraq shoots another soldier to prove that the body armor that a contractor working on-the-cheep was selling was useless.... prosecution trying to convict the armor company.

The DA sides with the armor company.

This might be fiction, but even the character Thompson plays with such folksy authority is a colossal prick.

Listening to Fred Thompson, he sounds like he might be the kind of man to vote for the armor company. Big government contract. Low quality control. Lucky soldiers.

My Local Food Movement...

I have read about 75 percent of "The Omnivore's Dilemma", and I may never eat again.

I'm utterly disheartened at the idea that "organic" food just means that chemical ferterlizer wasn't used, and that "organic" chickens still grew up in really shitty homes. As did "organic" pigs, and lordy "organic" milk makes me want to throw up in my mouth. I'm so torn.

Michael Pollen discusses the implications of organic v. industrial v. organic industrial v. local food production, and it really seems that the most conscionable food choice is local - farmers market or community sponsored agriculture (CSA). Industrial organic uses the same overblown, oil-driven system to produce food on a massive scale as does regular industrial food, but it does have the perk of keeping fertilizer runoff from damaging our water supply and our oceans. (See my earlier post giving the LA Times a shout-out for its brilliant work on pollution of the oceans which won the Pulitzer this year.)

In addition to finding the organic food market disappointing, I was more disgusted by the industrial food chain than I thought I'd be when I set out. The prolific movement of corn in our food chain - from overproduced commodity pillaging what could be productive farmland that feeds teh nation - to cattle fed with corn and pumped with antibiotics because COWS CAN'T EAT CORN. God what are we doing to ourselves and the animals we depend on for food?

It's almost too much to think about.

So, this is going to be a project you hear about frequently: Jen's Food Movement. I will try to eat as locally as I can. When I can't, I will buy the most environmentally and animal-friendly food I can. I will try to buy organic produce, because at least it wasn't grown in a chemical bath becasue the land had no nutrients left after over-farming.

One thing that gives me hope, aside from the brilliance of Joel Salatin's complex Polyface Farm, where chickens get to be chickens and pigs get to be pigs, is that even CNN and the Senator from Iowa realize that corn is doing us in.

If we are what we eat, Americans are corn and soy.

The USDA recommends we get 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day.

If this country were to suddenly give up its Coke and McDonalds for fruits and vegetables WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH.

Chew on that.


.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dancin' in the Dark

Wednesday night I saw my first Bruce Springsteen concert. It was about 2 hours and 15 minutes long, and some serious, serious rock was played. While I only knew four of the songs he played (I spent a lot of money on this) the band was beyond brilliant. Max Weinberg (drummer) was like a drum machine, man. That guy can keep some rhythm.

I knew: The Rising, Born to Run, Dancing in the Dark...

So I actually only knew three now that I'm listing them.

But hearing Bruce play Dancing in the Dark live was like reliving a moment from my childhood.

I don't remember where we were, but I remember coming home. I remember hearing the music shaking the entire house in our neighborhood from well down the block. There was bass in the 'hood, and it was coming from the dining room.

We walked in to find my father, dancing to Dancing in the Dark played as loud as the new stereo with its 3-foot tall speakers would play it. It as so loud the ear-ringing started almost immediately, but it was impossible not to start dancing too. I think that might be the loudest music I've ever heard ouside of a concert...

But how pricesless is that? Every time I hear that song, all I can think of is one afternoon, maybe 20 years ago, where we found my dad dancing to Bruce in the dining room. Awesome.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vegas, baby!

I am in bed in my room in Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas. A room bigger than my apartment back in Brooklyn and oddly decorated like something out of the pages of "Domino" magazine, and this bed is wicked comfortable.

Earlier this evening, after dinner and drinks with some folks I'd attended a conference with, I was walking back to Ceasar's alone. A few nights here following a sleepless night of puppy-sitting (bad Leo) had me wiped out at 11, which makes me feel old and lame. But my flight is at 7:15 a.m. and damnit, if I miss it I won't make it back to see Springsteen tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden, and a Jersey Girl has to have her priorities.

We hadn't gotten far, my compatriots and I. Ceasars is next to the Bellagio, and I had never actually been inside the Bellagio, so we wandered that way - me, another reporter, a CEO, a marketing manager, and a couple celebrating their third anniversary. We decided to stop in a cafe on the water outside the Bellagio that had a prime view of the water show, delicious sauvignon blanc, and was prone to a gentle misting as each short performance by the water spouts wound down.

It was lovely and my company was superb. After a walk through the Bellagio's casino to the lobby where I got a glimpse of the ceiling - covered with giant glass flowers - I decided to turn in for the evening.

On the way back, I walked outside rather than back through the casino. While I was passing, a new water show began in the giant artificial desert pond, this time to the tune of Elton John's "Your Song," a song for which I have a particular weakness. The pond was surrounded on all sides by people, and as the song went on, I found myself drawn to join them at its edge. I leaned forward on my elbows on the railing, watching the water sprouts dance in time to the tune.

It's someone's job to make that water match up with the songs. To pick the songs. To choose the lighting. And rather than my usual New Yorker cynical reaction to all things, I let myself enjoy it for a moment. I was so taken with the moment that after it ended, as I was walking back, I passed two women who were taking turns taking pictures of each other. I asked if they wanted me to take one of the two of them together and they were delighted. I photographed them standing in front of the Bellagio and the pond, and even though the flash had drowned out the background, they loved it.

I walked off smiling.

It reminded me of something I'd read earlier in the day in "Water for Elephants" where the narrator, Jacob, talks about putting on his "good shirt." The idea almost brought tears to my eyes. In the story he is 90-something, and is heading to see the circus with his family, interspersed with the tale of his circus life during the Depression, caring for the exotic animals in a traveling circus. What struck me was the mention of his "good shirt" and the ways in which we all so tenderly prepare for special occasions. We all have our everyday things. Our everyday shirts. But sometimes, we decide that something is worth donning our Sunday Best.

That reminded me of an article I once read about how even the poorest of the poor, back when photography was in its infancy, would try to get photos taken of themselves, and the lengths to which people - from gentry to factor workers - would go to in order to have their best face photographed. They'd put on their nicest clothes. Whether those be with fine lace or simple cotton shirts without stains or tears, being photographed was something special that people thought was special.

Like the woman who I photographed tonight in front of the Bellagio. They might not have gone out of their way to wear their nicest clothes, but they were using photography to mark a special time. Their trip to Las Vegas together. And I was happy to get to play a small part in that.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Eat, Pray, Love Me!

Last night I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir of loss and re-birth, "Eat, Pray, Love", and while I found it was one of those books that I just couldn't put down, something about it seriously irritated me.

My necessity, a memoir writer is a bit of a narcissist. They're writing about their experiences hoping against hope that you'll read them and take an interest. Bloggers, shamefully I must admit, share a bit of the same tendency, but at least we don't commit anything to paper, publisher and the N.Y. Times Bestseller list. (Yes, if you're wondering, I'm just jealous. Very, very jealous.)

The book follows the recently-divorced and utterly heartbroken Liz Gilbert as she eats her way through Italy, prays her way around a single Ashram in India, and then well, gets her Brazilian dude on in Indonesia, while also hanging out with a tiny, ancient Indonesian medicine man, who I find to be the best character in the book. In the meantime, Gilbert is seeking balance and divine redemption following a messy divorce, something I cannot associate with, so perhaps I find it hard to connect with her character at times.

In memoir, even your heroine is still a character, portrayed as they see themselves, not as they are to others. That's the perk of memoir over biography. But I digress.

In what must be a hidden streak of self-loathing, I found her putting asides in parenthesis to be utterly annoying. (I know, I know. Hypocrisy!) There were such heavy-handed adjectives.

Maybe it was reading it right after Ian McEwan's terse and compact "On Chesil Beach" that made me think she was a bit over-the-top. McEwan is able to convey the disconnect, tension and beauty of a situation without having to call it "unbearable tense," "painfully remote" or "strikingly beautiful."

She also was "that girl" who was always dating someone, always attached, to a man from the time she was 15. Heck, she had a boyfriend she was "desperately" in love with before she was even divorced. And she has an entire chapter about how she can make friends with anyone, which also just made her seem insincere. Perhaps I'm projecting my own feelings here, but they grated on me and made me dislike her just a bit.

Yet, I couldn't stop reading. I had to find out what she did next, and even though her language lacked the grace she so often sought, she managed to tell a darned good story.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Late in the game...

This past weekend I finally finished watching the first season of Lost. It's highly addictive but due to some misfires in the good old Netflix queue, I got the last disk before the second to last, and had to watch 4 episodes online.

Watching them on my 12-inch Mac laptop was not as awesome as watching them on the TV. So, I stalled, thinking that maybe I could just skip over them. Good thing I didn't or I'd have found the last episodes even more confusing and traumatic than they were!

Lost is what you get if you put The X-Files and Gilligan's Island into a blender, and you decide you're going to end the show before it gets crappy. The X-Files, unfortunately, didn't realize that it had gone off track about three years before it stopped. Around the time David Duchovney realized that he didn't want to be on it anymore. When one of your two leads decides the show is done, the show should be done. I'm just sayin'.

So now I have a new addiction to add to my love of all things Battlestar Galactica. Which I recommend as highly as I recommend things like Salman Rushdie novels and Stag's Leap S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon, the best red wine I've ever tasted. Watch it! Now!

I can't remember where I was going with this post... I started it like 3 interviews ago. Busy day here at work. Anyway, Lost. Awesome. Although how likely is it that 90% of the survivors of a plane crash would be that hot? Have you ever been on a trans-oceanic flight? Not full of hotties.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Kid Nation Not as Scary as I'd Imagined

Last night CBS debuted its latest "reality show", Kid Nation, where they take 40 kids, aged 8 - 15, and stick them in a "ghost town" in New Mexico called Bonanza City and tell them to build a society. When I first heard about this, I imagined what kind of coked-out parents would let their children go run amok in the deserts of New Mexico with no adults and no, um, I don't know... survival training?

But thank god it's way less Lord of the Flies and way more Double Dare than I'd feared. There IS an actual adult, a kind of cute-in-a-goofy-way man who looks about 30 who just has to say "Hey kids!" and they all come running and suddenly behave. He helps them out. He gives them challenges. He's the teacher, the surrogate dad to a bunch of latchkey kids with a mission.

They have teams, a town council, they have to figure out how to cook, and there's "laundry", which I can only assume is actual 21st century laundry complete with LG or Kenmore washing machines and dryers. The kids have normal kid clothes. The only cowboy kitsch are their hats and bandannas. The 15 year old boys are jerks (complete with 15-year old boy chalk graffiti pranks), but once they realized that good campers got $20,000 prizes, I think we're going to see a change of heart next week.

So, CBS is not as douchey as I thought they'd try to be - this isn't Survivor Pre-Teen. At each town meeting - which seem to happen every 3 or 4 days - the kids get a chance go say they want to go home. Last night 8-year-old Jimmy, from New Hampshire, wanted to go home. He had repeatedly said he was too homesick. He missed his parents. He thought he was too young to be doing this stuff. And if an 8-year-old boy thinks he's too young for something, chances are, he's right.

On a side note, I'm really not sure who they think the audience for this show is going to be. There weren't ads for the first 30 minutes or so, but towards the end, there was one for Vagisil cream. Apparently their intended audience has vagina problems.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Donovan McNabb Needs Glasses



If that guy had been LESS wide open, as in NOT SURROUNDED by FOUR Redskins players, I could have imagined throwing the ball to him in a life-or-death situation in a football game. As in, if I screw this up my team is toast, or I make a good play... I know! Let's choose the shittiest play imaginable! Oh wait. I already did that.

I hate football season.

It gives me so much anxiety and rage. This is a picture of my team failing me. (See photo of ball slipping from Eagle hands...)

FOR SHAME B*TCHES. PLAY SOME FOOTBALL.

There. Ugh. I'm disgusted. You guys are going to give my dad a heart attack, and then I'm going to be SUPER pissed.

Oh yeah, and I once gave up going to see a Redskins v. Giants game on the field with the Washingtonpost.com's photographer because I wanted to see my "boyfriend", who then informed me he wasn't my boyfriend.

See? I have horrible luck with football.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Leo

On 9/11/07

It has been six years since that morning I woke up to hear the radio commentators going "A plane has apparently hit the World Trade Center" and then made it to the television just in time to see the second one strike.

I didn't live in New York then, but in Boston. Where we were suddenly very afraid of our airport and of flying anywhere. I had a friend who bought a fancy bed for a song from an Arab man who had to sell everything and get out of town on Sept. 10. It does make one wonder. Can that be a coincidence?

Today, New York City is gray and it is raining. It's like the city is crying. Sirens roared past my office and I shivered. A crash of thunder made my stomach crash. Sometimes, while I know it's irrational, I am afraid. And I hate that.

Maybe it's the endless re-hashing people seem to need to do on days like today. Anniversaries of tragedies are delicate times. It's important to us to remember the past and keep alive those we loved and the things we lost that were precious to us. But it's also important to remember that dwelling on suffering isn't a good way to live, and that moving on doesn't have to mean something in the past was not significant. Life-changing. Defining. I wish America had used its chance to define who it would be after that tragedy for something noble and good, rather than for a war of _____ (fill in your own depressing word). I'd call it a war of convenience if it seemed at all convenient. Every day we sink further into the mire, and every day I'm a little bit sadder that being an American isn't such an honorable thing anymore when you cross our borders.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Taxi Strike Strikes Back...

Maybe it's because I'm a lowly writer, but I tend to take the subway most of the time to get from here to there. Yesterday morning when I heard it first on the radio, I didn't give a hoot about the taxi strike, apparently in response to being GPS tagged so that they would be tracked... I guess on one level it sucks to be tracked, but on another, you're being a taxi driving people around. What's the big deal if you're able to leverage GPS to track where everyone is? Isn't it a semi-dangerous job?

Either way. That's another story.

This evening, I attended a Rock show. The kind that begins with a capital R. My friend Andre fronts a most excellent yet very loud band called ism that played in the Village this evening. My dear friend Carrie and I ate at Otto (I had the incomparable Carbonara) and then trekked over to the Lion's Den to see ism rock it out. Wait. I mean Rock it out...

So, awesome rock show. Chillin with old friends. Reconnecting with people I've missed for longer than necessary. Then Carrie and I jump in a taxi. I notice when we get into the taxi that there's a strange young blond man sitting in the passenger seat. And the driver has yet to turn on the meter... We've gone a few blocks... Um, I ask. Are you going to turn on the meter?

Random slurred words meant to obscure the understanding. He's not using the meter.

How much to Park Slope?

THIRTY DOLLARS, he says.

It doesn't cost $30 to get home from LaGuardia. It doesn't cost $30 to get home from 96th and Central Park West. It is NOT $30 from here.

Then I realize the blond man in the front seat is a passenger, and he's suddenly all "Yeah, how much are you charging me?" We decide as a collective, the passenger coup, that we're getting out. F*ck that.

So, now Carrie and I are cab-less. And I'm wearing new flats that are chaffing at my heels, used to wearing the flip flops. I limp. We make a last ditch effort after several blocks to catch a cab near the Prince Street subway station. A silver minivan with a paper sign that reads "Taxi" in the window pulls over. "Yeah, I'll go to Brooklyn!"

"How much?"

"However much you want to pay ladies!" rings a jolly Jamaican accent. I'm not saying all Jamaicans are Jolly, but this one definitely was.

The dashboard is lined with bobblehead dolls, a model 3-masted sailboat, and other weird dolls and hanging figurines. There is a giant Jamaican flag taped to the ceiling with masking tape. A back-seat facing TV screen is taped up with the same masking tape. There are 2 "no smoking" symbols also affixed to the ceiling with masking tape. (Like Ghostbusters, but with a cigarette instead of a ghost, for those born between 1973 and 1982). There is reggae.

Carrie asks who's singing.

Duh, it's Bob Marley, Carrie. She's so cute.

So, we're in this minivan that looks like an exploded doll house/carnival/mode of transportation, and listening to some reggae, and the dude is laughing like a hysterical hyena.
Oh crap. Is my driver on the drugs? In a moment of sober (I was actually, the whole somewhat-bad-decision-making time) I take my cell phone out of my purse and just hold it in my hand, ready to call in my own abduction.

But driver remains kind of super cool. He's hilarious. He's really f-ing happy. He's giddy and loves loves loves that he's driving two ladies to wherever the ladies want to go. I hold my phone, laughing about how NYU students are tools with the driver, who also loves them because he works there.... Apparently he plays taxi when driving home from work. At midnight? Humph.

In spite of my reservations and clutching my cell phone, he took us to where we wanted for what we offered to pay (market rate essentially) and he took our money, continued to giggle with us, and then drove off.

It really was a nice guy with a van who wanted some extra cash so giggled as he listened to Bob Marley and drove home harmless ladies.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Sailing the Wine Dark Seas


I've been back in the States for about 24 hours now, and so far I've attended one dinner party, tried 9 new wines and painted one hallway (before: black::now: orange) and now I'm sitting, satisfied with my week of adventures and wishing I were still at sea.

This year's voyage aboard the HS Kybele was as delightful as I'd imagined it would be, although I did a lot less reading than I thought I would. I got in about 50 pages of Don Quixote, 100 pages of a book on evolutionary psychology and then 25 pages of The Ominvore's Dilemma. I dragged all that stuff 5,000 miles for nuthin. I didn't even finish this month's Oprah magazine.

What did I do while at sea? I did quite a bit of swimming. A bit of napping. And lots of eating delicious, fresh foods prepared by the ship's unparalleled cook, Hassan. Kofte, moussaka, lamb chops. Fresh feta and tomato for breakfast. Nescafe instead of real coffee. Dessert of fresh fruit, watermelon, grapes or figs. Salads of onion, tomato and cucumber dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. We ate well.

And slept well.

Each night we'd drag our pillows and blankets up to the mattresses lining the deck of the ship (for afternoon lounging... or morning lounging...) and sleep under the bright stars of the Aegean. Although sometimes the full moon shined so brightly it made falling asleep difficult. A few times I even woke and saw the sunrise. Delicious.

Vacations when you can reconnect with what makes being alive special, because that's all you're doing, are something everyone should get to experience. Being alive and savoring the earth, the sky and the sea. Feeling your body move in the salty water before you've had breakfast. Sleeping under an afternoon sun. Laughing your ass off at something someone you find brilliant and engaging said. Sharing stories with new friends. Gossiping with old friends that know you well enough to know that you do love figs but don't like fish... Good times is an understatement. Thank you Ayse and Zehra for a splendid, rejuvenating week. I can't wait til we do it again next year.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Netflix is even awesomer than I thought...

In addition to being a great service that mails you movies that you want to watch and lets you keep them as long as you want for a flat fee, Netflix has gone and made customer service a person-to-person experience by eliminating e-mail service. If you want something done, you have to call.

In a world where customer service is becoming a bit of an oxymoron and it takes days to reach a human being to resolve a problem that can't be fixed by dialing "3" when prompted, it's refreshing to see a company making the effort.

At Netflix, Victory for Voices Over Keystrokes

However, the part about how sometimes people are lonely actually made me tear up a bit. Yes, I'm a wimp, but I hope I never become one of those people who calls the Netflix call center to have someone to talk to.

Monday, August 13, 2007

You can't climb a mountain...

With a sinus infection. Or the remnants of one. It f*cking hurts your head until you feel your eyes are going to be crushed by the pressure mounting in your forehead and cheekbones and finally you have to admit that yes, the mountain has defeated me.

And so it goes.

This past weekend I traveled to Mt. Moosilauke near lovely Warren, New Hampshire. (Hey! I know Warren!) Some friends and I rented Great Bear Cabin, a cabin owned and maintained by the Dartmouth Outing Club, of which I am a lifetime member in spite of my decided lack of sportiness. My sportiness comes in the form of yoga and tennis (because I think it helps to have a dress code), neither of which involves dirt. Camping and hiking involve lots and lots of dirt, so this was my first mountain trek in quite some time.

I arrived after midnight from New York City, where two lovely friends had rented an SUV to whisk us northward. It worked. We got to the cabin in a reasonable amount of time, and were informed, after a dark, dark hike up 1/3 mile of trail, that there were no pork tacos.

It's the kind of statement you think will not affect you, until it happens. You didn't even know pork tacos were a possibility, but upon hearing you can't have one, sadness sets in. (Don't think of a white elephant).

I jest. There were no pork tacos, but it didn't crush my spirits. The team assembled in its entirety sometime near 2 a.m. and we turned in for the night to get adequately rested for some hiking.

After a breakfast of: scrambled eggs with fresh herbs, johnny cakes, which are pancakes with corn, not flour, and lots and lots of Schaller and Webber bacon, we set out on our varied hikes. Five folks went up the more difficult trail to the summit of Mt. Moosilauke. Three of us drove to the Ravine Lodge at the base. One decided it was a good day to chill at said lodge, and I should have stayed with him. Up up up I went, only to wind up with crushing head pain, no tissues and a trip back down, down, down without having seen the expansive vistas that should have awaited me.

C'est domage.

Back at the cabin that evening we drank ourselves out of wine, played a game with dice called Mentirosa which I think is my new favorite thing (it involves lying. it's awesome.) and then trundled in my bunk after eating delicious sausages.

Mad props to my chef for the weekend, and kudos to my companions for providing me with a fine woodland retreat that wasn't too dirty. Although next time I might lobby for canoing.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Arnie, the Darling Starling and the Great American Road Trip

As I have mentioned, I'm going on vacation very soon and I am most excited to have the opportunity to lounge in the Mediterranean sunshine with an Effes and a book or three. So, I'm having a hard time focusing on the three articles I have due tomorrow, and in an effort to get the writerly juices flowing, I'm going to chronicle my last thirty minutes for you. A winding, information-filled trip down memory lane thanks to that wonderful thing we call The Interwebs.

I'm writing a story about healthcare. So, it's hard to focus. So, in between takes I start reading the Frugal Traveler's latest update on NYTimes.com. How this had gotten past me for the last three months is another matter, but I clicked through to read the initial story - the departure from New York, and writer Matt Gross talked about the great American road-trip authors: Kerouak, Steinbeck, William Least-Heat Moon. Who? Who's that last one?

William Least-Heat Moon wrote a book called "Blue Highways" that tells of his cross-country odyssey in his van along the back roads of America.

It had been assigned to my 11th grade honors English class "back in the day", and I remember everyone bitching and moaning about reading this old man's book about driving around in a big van. My teacher seemed to think it was the greatest thing ever. Brilliant! Authentically American! A Tour-de-Force!

To be honest, I had little appreciation for the thing. I read it because I had to, and recall thinking it was "stupid" and "lame," but for some reason, it's been popping up in my life in various places lately.

Thinking about "Blue Highways" got me thinking about high school English, which made me wonder if it would be hard to find the email address of my AP English teacher using Google. So, I Google her name and our high school, and what comes up? A chart on a web site promoting open information flow in government pops up with the salaries of every teach and administrator in the school district! Weird! I felt oddly compelled to read the whole thing, feeling somehow shameful and dirty knowing how much our teachers made. Granted, that was more than 12 years ago, so they're doing pretty well across the board. But it felt like an odd intrusion into the privacy of people who I'd known.

Which got me to thinking about teachers and reading, as I had google-stalked an English teacher. In first grade, a student teacher read "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" out loud to the class. I can still remember her mousy brown hair and the look of the small book in her hand as we sat around her feet.

In fifth grade, we had another reading-aloud, but that time, it was a book called "Arnie, the Darling Starling," a memoir about raising a tiny bird that had fallen from its nest, and the life-long journey they took together. I don't remember much about that book, except that during that year the Keds that had comics that you colored in yourself were all the rage. (Like Crocs, according to the gap company's shoe outlet Piperlime.com. When an e-tailer tells you something is "all the rage", run.)

Arnie is out of print these days, but I do think I'm going to pick up a copy of "Blue Highways" this evening on my way home from work and give it another go. Perhaps with grown-up eyes, I'll finally learn to see what my teacher saw.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The High Tech Dental Experience

This morning as I was laying in bed in my new apartment, waking there alone for the first time and I heard a report on NPR about how some dentists are using technology to make their patients relax during treatment. They show them movies on special goggles that are linked to a mini DVD player. Amazing, right?

"Wow," I thought laying there. "That sounds pretty cool."

So, fast forward one subway ride to midtown (my dentist is across the street from Bloomingdales!) and I'm sitting there, chatting with a lovely dentist named Julie who seems younger than I am.

She's taken a slew of digital xrays of my teeth using a device that's slightly larger than the traditional film of yore. The new device produces computer images instantly, but it cuts your mouth somethin' awful. I hate it. And I have cavities. Six, to be precise. I have cavities UNDER MY FILLINGS. This is alarming to me. I also have a chipped tooth, near an old filling, that may require a crown. So in addition to learning about the joys of interior painting on 90 degree days (don't do it!), you'll get to hear about the latest and greatest in Manhattan dental technology.

Post-picture-taking, the dentist hands me a list of movies. On this list is the Mel Gibson movie "Apocalypto." Yes, a movie in Mayan. At my dentist's office. I couldn't resist and asked if people actually picked that one, and she said yes. To her dismay they sometimes did. It's just not soothing.

I picked the first disk of Season 3 of Sex in the City. I put on the goggles, plugged the tiny ear buds into my ears, and lay back. Scraping and some kind of drilling with water, or scraping with water, ensued. Vaseline was smeared on my lips to keep them moist as a metal tool was dragged between my teeth. I promised to floss more. I have to go back three times. Three! And one is rather urgent as my tooth has chipped near the filling that has a cavity under it. Awesome. That wasn't even the one that hurt!

It was a bit random that I heard a report this morning on TV at the dentist and la voila, my digital dentist whips out TV goggles so that I can watch that instead of my reflection in her glasses. Which I still watched from time to time. How often do you get to watch someone else poking around your teeth with a sharp metal device, scraping away at the remnants of meals past? It's oddly riveting. Kind of like "Apocalypto."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Shout-Out to SoJo...

Well, it's not so much a shout out as a blisteringly funny yet somehow soul crushing blog post from an old friend from high school mocking what was, until I was in middle school, our local "mall." It's just that depressing.

Check it out.

I'm not usually a post-thief, but he does capture the essence of the Shore Mall in ways I think need no further elaboration.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Books! Boats! Books on Boats!


I leave for vacation in 3 weeks and 3 days, and I'm already foaming at the mouth to get on that plane, take some Lunesta, and wake up in Istanbul ready to spend an endless day waiting to reach the Kybele, a beautiful ship that will be sitting at the harbor in Bodrum waiting to whisk me and my fellow travelers away.

I have the lists of things I'll need, like beach towels, hair conditioner, bathing suits and sunscreen, running through my head.

But the thing that keeps tripping me up is this: What will I read? I figure that with 7 days of sitting on a boat, I'll finish 3 average-length books. Part of me is also tempted to bring Don Quixote as I've never read it and it's one of those considered far-and-wide to be a tour de force and quintessential example of the perfect novel. But do I want to do that to myself? I'm having a hard enough time gearing up to start that damned book (the writing of it that is...) that maybe the great masters of fiction will daunt me out of it...

Do I re-read "The Wind Up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami because for some reasons visions of its story have been popping back into my mind like a movie? Do I take something like "The Omnivore's Dilemma" to get it off of my shelf of things-to-read and to feel better about the delicious, fresh Turkish figs I'll be munching on as I learn about the evils of agribusiness?

Do I take the past 5 issues of The New Yorker which have been piling up in my apartment?

It's a serious problem in my life, perhaps to distract me from the fact that in the meantime I'll be buying my first home and moving into it with just enough time to unpack the necessities before going camping...

But this is where we get all Web 2.0 and I eagerly solicit reader opinions on what books YOU think I should read while at sea... Comment away!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I (heart) Harry Potter!

What a glorious final journey our hero had! Trials. Tribulations. Exuberance. And the use of the word "nargle." Fabulous really. Simply fabulous.

But I suppose I'll do the humane thing and not go on about the content of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but I will comment that J.K. Rowling has a gift for storytelling and managed to weave everything she's brought to life in the past ten years into a magnificent finale that I wish had gone on even longer than it did.

Whew. Almost as big a mouthful as a 759-page hardback book is a pain in the ___ to carry around on the subway. Ever try balancing a giant hardback book in one hand while gripping a slimy subway pole in the other? Not awesome.

But the book was!

I finished it last night just before watching the latest episode of "So You Think You Can Dance," a show that actually inspired me to download music from Timbaland and Citizen Cope to bob my head to on the subway. I had to keep myself from dancing on the train this morning, which was a rather awesome way to start the first day of Life After Potter.

But really I just want to read them all over again, like I read and re-read the Little House on the Prairie (which is being reissued later this year!) and Anne of Green Gables books when I was a kid. How fascinating was it to a suburban Jersey kid that you could make a balloon out of a pig's bladder or that people actually lived in Canada? Go figure, right?

Now, the only piece of pop culture mystery in my life is where the heck Starbuck has been for the past few episodes of Battlestar Galactica until the show comes back next January.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ten Hours to Harry Potter Time!


I ordered my copy months ago from Amazon.com, and have managed to keep the fact that the final installment of Harry's epic battle against the forces of evil and the Dark Lord who threatens both wizard and muggle-kind with death and destruction somewhere in the back of my mind.


This week, however, that's been virtually impossible. Even my computer industry rag has gone and written a story about how Harry's been leaked and how computer security professionals think it could have been averted. There are photos of pages of the book on the Interwebs. There are articles about how several companies shipping the book screwed up and let it arrive before the 12:01 a.m. official release time being marked by celebrations at book stores the world over. There are spoilers threatening me at every corner. The New York Times even got a copy at a book store, or so it said, and reviewed it.

But I am determined to stay away from the fray and wait until my copy arrives to find out what happens.

This, however, is harder than I thought it would be. I imagine this is what it's like to be addicted to something like crack or heroin. Your mind constantly wanders to your next fix. Imagining its sweetness. Imagining the smell of the pages, fresh from the press. Their thick, pulpy texture. The black typeface. The illustrations... The nubby feel of the book jacket...

I'm almost drooling now. Here's to hoping Harry makes it and the forces of evil are put to rest at last. One good thing I've gleaned from trying to avoid the coverage of the biggest book launch in the history of mankind, unlike The Sopranos, the most loved mafia tale since The Godfather Part II, this one actually has an end that makes sense. Closure, if you will. Thank god.

But I guess I'll see for myself tomorrow! Anyone else suffering from Harry-lust?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I had no idea they still made Easy-Bake Ovens...

One million Hasbro toy ovens recalled

Easy-Bake Ovens caused 77 reported burns to children says Consumer Product Safety Commission.


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Hasbro Inc. will recall about 1 million Easy-Bake Ovens because children could get their hands caught in the front opening and suffer burns, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday.

A voluntary recall for the ovens was first issued in February so a repair kit could be provided to address the issue. But since then, there have been 249 reports of children getting their hands caught, 77 reports of burns and one girl had a finger partially amputated, the CPSC said.

easy_bake_recall.03.jpg
Hasbro's Easy-Bake Oven

The new recall urges consumers to stop using the oven and to contact the company at 1-800-601-8418 for details on how to return it for a voucher toward the purchase of another Hasbro (Charts) product, the agency said.

The $25 Easy-Bake Oven, made in China, was sold at stores including Toys "R" Us, Wal-Mart (Charts, Fortune 500), Target (Charts, Fortune 500) and KB Toys, among others, from May 2006 through July 2007. The recall does not include ovens sold prior to this period, the CPSC said. Top of page

Badge of Honor - Why New Yorkers WANT to Give You Directions

The simple answer is that it makes us feel good about ourselves.

We love knowing the city and the subway well enough to tell you how to get wherever you're going. It's even more of a rush when you ask two of us and then we get to debate in front of you whether taking the 4/5 to the 2/3 at Bergen St. or taking the Q to 7th Ave. is the best way to get to Flatbush Farm, or if it's better to talk one block to the F train or to take the tram to Roosevelt Island. Not that tourists go to Roosevelt Island, but you get the gist.

We love that we know how to get around this sprawling, crazy city, and by god we're going to demonstrate that to you.

The New York Times recently ran an excellent article on our dear subway and how tourists think it's like descending down the Styx. Yeah, it's hot down there. Sure, it's filthy. Granted, sometimes you wait forever for the Q train or find yourself sandwiched among so many travelers that someone is actually touching your body on every single side... But having been a Manhattan car owner, I'll take the foibles and stench of public transportation over that 45-minute parking odyssey any day.

In spite of the run-down stations and the Carter-era cars, there are improvements being made on the subway: I RODE ON A BRAND SPANKING NEW N TRAIN!

It was so new there weren't even scuffs on the floor. Not a speck of dirt. And get this - they had a digital display next to the digital list of stops we were approaching in order (no more guessing which direction you're going!), and that digital display showed videos of how neat-o the new trains were! And to top it all off it was like twice as wide as the former nicest trains on the subway - the ones that run on the 4/5/6 and the 2/3 (occasionally). I hear the L trains are nice too, but I can't really imagine an occasion when I'd need to ride one. I'm a sorry excuse for a hipster.

It renewed my faith in the subway. Now if they can just wash down those platforms or something. Anything. And maybe install some fans.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I want this somethin' awful...


[Addendum: 7.18.07 - The cow rug is mine. Oh yes. The cow rug is mine. I <3 eBay.]

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Slippery Slope

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my neighborhood in the form of a wee video courtesy of Gawker.com.

Gotta love the Slope.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mid-Week Holidays Rule!

It's Tuesday and I don't have to go to work tomorrow. Neither do you. Awesome.

I've been pondering a new post for the past few days, and there's just so much going on in the world to talk about that I haven't been able to decide, so I'll hit on the highlights, and then go on for a bit about a band I saw...

1) Dick Cheney, otherwise known as the man you'd least like to leave in charge of your children (let alone your country) declaring himself no longer of the executive branch of government. Civics students across the nation try to keep their brains from melting out of their ears into puddles of goo on the floor. Next stop, Justice Cheney will use his powers to dissolve the Congress and the Executive and then start selling shares of America, Inc. to Dubai... wait... I think we already do that...

2) Using race as a basis of integration in schools is no longer allowed. See: "Stupid decisions made by white people and black people who think they're white people about how racism no longer exists because they have a black upper-middle-class friend". A major setback for America.

3) Congress blows its wad on immigration. Good job Congress. I think we should send every anti-immigration, send-em-backer to a destitute Mexican village without electricity and plumbing for 10 days and then see if they'd want their children growing up like that.

4) The Polyphonic Spree, i.e. an overwhelming display of narcissism and chamber rock in a tiny Polish club in Greenpoint. A.K.A. The Hipster Revival Meeting.

The Spree, brainchild of Tim DeLaughter, is a sight and sound to behold. A 20-something piece band that has a harp, an 8-lady choir, a string section, a brass section, and a flautist. Imagine it. In a room not-so-vaguely reminiscent of your middle school auditorium. There was nowhere for the sound to go but deep, deep into your bones. And with lyrics like " Follow the day and reach for the SUN!" and "Hey, it's the sun and it makes me shine. Hey now it's the sun and it makes me smile," you kind of feel like you're deep inside some Electric Company acid trip. DeLaughter holds himself like the Hipster King, standing in front of his ensemble conducting, and sometimes turning around and conducting the audience.

The band began the show in black military garb, "The Fragile Army" of their new album, and with gusto whipped the crowd into such a frenzy that for a full five minutes they sang something about "raising our voices" while the band did a costume change into their more-typical white choir robes, making the sweaty DeLaughter seem even more like a Messiah seeking the adulation of his disciples. And the crowd gave him what he wanted as the band weaved through the audience from the back of the auditorium up to the stage to open the encore, which lasted almost as long as the show featuring a cover of Nirvana's "Lithium" that actually made me bounce.

If I seem cynical, I kind of was. Hipster King really got under my skin sometimes. I think it's got something to do with some of my ex-boyfriends. But then again, even a 24-piece band couldn't outshine DeLaughter's electric need for your adoration, and somehow, you wouldn't want that to happen.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cat Pimp = me

In keeping with this week's animal theme, I believe I found a home for a kitten last night! My friend Nicole (of the house she and her husband have renovated and made gorgeous!) found herself with 13 stray kittens. Some 8 weeks old, some 6 and some like 4. Lots of kittens.

Since my dear sister Jessica lives in the Philadelphia area and has always had an obsessive love of the cat - she still cries for her first cat, Other, when she hears "Wind Beneath My Wings" - I decided to hook a sista up. With a kitten. Because I'm cool like that.

But on a more serious note, I think it's fabulous that Nicole has taken in the stray kittens and is finding them homes and caring for them. Some sounded like they were in pretty rough shape, but she's nursing them back to health. And it's awesome that my sister is willing to take in a stray kitten and give it a loving home where it can play with her cat Lua and have a life of leisure versus a life on the street.

My cat Harold was adopted from the ASPCA shelter on 92nd St. back in 2005 when I moved to Manhattan.

I'd decided to adopt a shelter cat and had been perusing the online listings on Petfinder.com which lists animals that are being held in various shelters around the country. You can search for your area! At the ASPCA, they had a butterscotch cat named Felix that I thought looked fairly adorable in his picture, but as with any Internet dating service, once I went down to the shelter on a Saturday morning to meet him with my sister Julie (not the cat sister), I was disappointed. There was no *spark*. Felix and I were not meant to be.

Let me back up - when you get to the shelter you have to fill out an application for adoption and then have your information verified by an outside source. We had them call my dad who said sure she can have a cat! And then we got to meet the critters.

After Felix was a letdown (sorry Felix) we met a bunch of other lovely beasties. Some were shy. Some were pet-whores, ready to rub up against anyone who was within 2 feet of them. Some were aloof and very prissy indeed. In the front of the shelter they had a room they called "The Diva Room."

That's where I met Harold.

He was lounging on a carpeted pedestal and a bit of a filthy mess. He hadn't been grooming himself so he was dirty and greasy. He had a cold so he was a bit snotty and sneezy. But he turned up his little green eyes and looked at me and went "Meow?" and I started scratching his head and that was it. I went and met a few others, but then went back and saw Harold again and had decided he was coming to live with me in my wee 5th floor walk-up apartment about 10 blocks south. Maybe not stylin', but way better than the alley where he'd been found semi-starved and sickly.

Paperwork signed. Check turned over for adoption fee. Cat in cardboard carrying box. Done.

Julie and I carried him home along First Avenue and stopped at the grocery store for some food. I'd already gotten a litter box and a wee cat bed in anticipation of the event. We lugged him up the stairs, opened the box and out he jumped. "Meow."

Harold took a few minutes to survey the miniature apartment he'd just found himself in - bathroom, kitchen/living room, bed... Then he jumped up on my bed, saw the little round cat bed in the windowsill, and immediately curled up in it and took a nap.

Home. Safe. Awesome.

I hope Jessica's new cat is just as happy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mice Are Not Your Friends!

A friend of mine just informed me that he has pet mice. PET MICE. That's like getting pet head lice or pet spiders. Pests do not equal pets!

Perhaps I react so vehemently because my office has developed a mouse problem. I'm talking PROBLEM. I find mouse poos on my desk and lining the floor of my cupboard. They ate all my cheerios. They peed in my bowl. PEED IN MY BOWL. I hate mice.

In fact, one time, I singlehandedly killed one that had terrorized my neighbor in a story we call: The Time I Killed the Mouse

I arrived at Carrie's apartment just as the book club meeting was scheduled to start, and she buzzed me up. I walked up to her door, and it opened, but instead of ushering me in, she was coming out, adjusting her coat.

There was a mouse. And she needed traps. Stat. She'd be back.

Okay. Mouse. No problem, I thought, entering her apartment to find a handful of fellow bookclubbers ready to discuss whatever it was we had read most of.

Now, Carrie had a mouse problem, and I had a cat, but my cat was of a highly unreliable sort. I once watched him not catch a bug for about 10 minutes. It was depressing. After a bit of discussion and pesto pasta salad eating, Carrie returned, armed with sticky traps - large white pieces of paper with industrial-strength adhesive, sticky enough to trap even the wiley-est of mouses. They were promptly scattered around the apartment in strategic locations.

Time passes, and there's a general air of unease in the room of ladies attempting to discuss books while a roadent is on the move. The building had sent some dudes to plug up the holes in the walls with the unfortunate effect of trapping the wee beasties inside.

Jump ahead.

Liz strolls out of the bedroom, coming back from using the loo, and she announces that the mouse is on the bed. Alert. Alert. The Mouse Is On The Bed.

Chaos ensues.

I take matters into my own hands.

A broom! Stat! (It was a day full of urgencies.)

The mouse had run into the closet, and there it would meet its fate, I had decided. I created a barrier of stickytraps along the edge of the door, and proceeded to corner the bugger with the broom, forcing him to retreat across the stickytrap barrier. A barrier he would never cross.

Mouse trapped! Shit! Mouse trapped! But still wiggling a whole lot. In a stroke of what seemed like genius at the time, I took another trap and slap! Sandwiched it between the two. He was a goner. I picked it up. But wait, what the heck was I going to do with it now?

"Could someone please get me a bag?"

"Huh?"

"A bag. A bag. Could someone please get up and get me a bag?" I held the stickytrapped mouse out in front of me like a smelly diaper.

"Oh!"

A CVS bag was procured. I dropped the trap into the bag.

We couldn't just leave it in the trash to writhe and starve, it was decided, so Carrie, Liz and I took it outside. Leaving it in the can would be torture. We didn't have a bucket to drown it. So, the only logical step was to throw it against the ground as hard as possible and break its neck. So I did. Twice to be sure.

In retrospect, it might sound like a horrifying thing to do, but it really did end the poor sandwiched animal's suffering, and it kept Carrie from sleeping in the hallway. Which probably had even more mice. But I wasn't going to bring that up.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Attack Squirrels!

I live in Brooklyn. Which is a city. A very big city. Maybe not Karachi-big, but nonetheless. One would not expect to have a "squirrel problem."

But we do, my roommates and I, have a squirrel problem.

Last summer, a vermin of the black squirrel variety chewed a neat little hole in our kitchen screen, and we found him having a grand old time in the kitchen, rooting through the foodstuffs, on two separate occasions. Twice. We then banned leaving the window open, but he was spotted on the fire escape, lustily peering inside occasionally throughout the summer.

Now he's back. Or else it's a fellow squirrel who had been well informed of the tear in our screen right off the fire escape that allowed easy access to nuts that had already been shelled...

Emily witnessed the assault on our pantry and chased the bugger out - and on his way he attempted to carry a BAG OF WALNUTS. What what what? The squirrel was trying to scamper away with booty? This animal is not normal.

Unfortunately for him, the gigantic tear in our screen was alas not big enough for him and the bag of nuts so he was forced to jettison them to make his escape.

So, I hear this story when I come home from work. Ha ha. Funny times.

The next morning, I'm standing in the kitchen, next to the window, washing dishes. Dum-da-dum. Minding my own business when I glance outside.

ACK!

Beady eyes peering back at me. Legs in "about to run" pose. Waiting for us to slip sat the squirrel. Motherf*cker. This beast is insane! How often does he sit there and watch us? I feel so violated.

Not as violated as these people though:

Squirrel goes on rampage, injures 3

Thu Jun 14, 2007 10:42am ET135

BERLIN (Reuters) - An aggressive squirrel attacked and injured three people in a German town before a 72-year-old pensioner dispatched the rampaging animal with his crutch.

The squirrel first ran into a house in the southern town of Passau, leapt from behind on a 70-year-old woman, and sank its teeth into her hand, a local police spokesman said Thursday.

With the squirrel still hanging from her hand, the woman ran onto the street in panic, where she managed to shake it off.

The animal then entered a building site and jumped on a construction worker, injuring him on the hand and arm, before he managed to fight it off with a measuring pole.

"After that, the squirrel went into the 72-year-old man's garden and massively attacked him on the arms, hand and thigh," the spokesman said. "Then he killed it with his crutch."

The spokesman said experts thought the attack may have been linked to the mating season or because the squirrel was ill.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The shores of South Carolina...

Sitting on the beach here in Hilton Head, South Carolina, I'm as far into "the south" as I've been, since I don't think Disney World and Miami count, and it's delightful.

Yesterday, in spite of the clouds of smoke from forest fires raging many miles away in Florida and Georgia, I walked along the beach in my work trousers, flip flops in hand, and collected tiny sea shells like I did when I was a kid back in South Jersey. I haven't been anywhere that feels quite this much like home in a long time, and if I weren't Ocean City-bound next weekend I'd be sad to go.

There's something about the Atlantic Ocean that just mezmerizes you and takes your mind off of whatever it was that worried you. Maybe its the vastness, the unknowable richness of the life beneath those waves of which we get to see mere trinkets - shells along the shoreline. I collected tiny pieces of the sea and stuffed them into my pocket until it could hold no more. The water seeped from their cracks to stain my bulging pocket, giving away my contraband as I tried to slink past the crowd at the poolside bar returning back to the hotel.

I have a box with shells I collected from the Indian Ocean, much in the same way, although without the pleated work trousers. Every time I look at them, I'm taken back to the shores of Kerala and the time I swam in the Arabian Sea after my friend's wedding in Delhi.

I rinsed the shells, one cupful at a time, in my sink to wash away the sand before storing them in a paper coffee cup with a lid inside my sneaker and packing it in my bag. I'm hoping some of them make it back to Brooklyn in tact, mementos of the time I stepped in the Atlantic in May and didn't think my toes would freeze off.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

How I REALLY Injured Myself After The Arcade Fire Show

The Arcade Fire show had ended, and rather than fight the hipster wave as it roared towards Williamsburg, I stopped for a drink. Or three. Ample time to let the swell abate as I traveled back through the underground railroad from Mount Washington Heights to deepest, darkest Brooklyn.

The first stretch was uneventful. Placid even. I had no idea what I was getting into.

The A train squealed to a stop in the bowels of the Port Authority, dingy and dank. I maneuvered my way around the crowd, heading towards the passage to make my connection.

About halfway through, the lights flashed, and it grew dark. Pitch dark. I could hear water running and the air grew cool. I stopped in my tracks.

Whoosh! Suddenly, torches lit along the walls, no longer the sooty white tiles of Gotham's underground, but slate. The ground was slick. Uneven. WTF?

"I'll get you this time," came a gravely voice from behind.

I turned to see a tall figure, with a weird, spiked hat and evil eyes gleaming from above a ninja mask.

"Oh shit," I mumbled, stepping aside as he advanced. I slid on the slick stone floor, squealing as my ankle gave out. But I was too stupefied to wallow. "Is that… Shredder?"

He glared my way, but just as he was about to step forward, a voice cut through the black.

"Not so fast, Shredder!"

Could it be?

Green arms and legs whirled past me, and there they were. Poised to do battle in what had just a moment ago been the Port Authority. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

"Michaelangelo! Save me!" I shouted in my best damsel-in-distress voice.

"No problem lady! Cowabunga dudes!" and the turtles were off!

Leonardo's ninjaken whirled through the air, hitting Shredder squarely on the head. Donatello leaped on his bo staff. Whacking Shredder in the back of the knees. The giant went down. I had really thought there'd be more of a "battle", but they made quick of it and Leonardo grabbed my arm.

"This way!"

He lead me down a dark passageway I'd never seen before in the Port Authority, taking care to move quickly while still respecting my slight limp.

"Where are you taking me?"

"Brooklyn, silly."

"Uh, okay…" I decided it was best to just go along with things at this point. This was, after all, New York. Things happened.

We came to a roller coaster cart on a rusty old track.

"This is the secret ride to the Slope. You totally bypass all of Chinatown and Ft. Greene. It's awesome," he said, pulling back the safety bar. "Hop in!"

"Can't I at least buy you a slice?" I said, knowing the turtle's fondness for pizza. "You most certainly saved me from ultimate doom!"

"It's cool," he said, locking the bar across my lap. "Just close your eyes. Sometimes it's dusty in the tunnels." He pushed a button, and the car lurched ahead, taking a steep dive like Space Mountain.

I squeezed my eyes tight. "Aaaahhhhhhhhh!" went the inside voice. My stomach flew around inside my body, I re-tasted my lunch.

Screeeeeech!

With a jolt, I opened my eyes.

In front of me was a map of the New York City Subway. On the grimy orange bench sat a lady in a jean jacket, reading US Weekly. A bum was on the other side of the door.

"Is this the Q Train?" I asked her, trying not to sound drunk.

"Um, yeah. Seventh Avenue," said jean jacket, looking at me like I'd just beamed down from the mother ship.

Word. My stop.

"What a crazy ass dream," I thought, standing.

I stepped toward the door and gasped at the sharp pain in my ankle as I put pressure on my foot. Humph.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Springtime is for Pink Wine

Back in the 80s, I remember seeing berry wine coolers and bottles of white zinfandel at parties (don't get me wrong, I was a wee babe, and just remember the bottles, I wasn't drinking). But the mood changed, and for the longest time, "ros-ay" and "blush" wines were the height of tacky. Gauche, if you will. Anyone that brought you a bottle of pink wine was a hopeless philistine, destined for the trailer park. In college, you'd be more likely to drink straight from a bottle of Boones than to buy a bottle of White Zinfindel (most likely from California and under $8).

Now, thanks to the scenester's insatiable need to make everything old new again, pink wine has experienced a resurgance that's landed it not only on the picnic tables of Brooklyn, but at some of Manhattan's trendiest night spots. Last year, even the New York Times, often the last to know in matters of haute everything, wrote a piece on how pink is the new Pinot Grigio.

Domaines Ott, a French rose that sells for about $30, was the shining star of the Times article, but just about everything that comes in red can be found in a pink - White Pinot Noir, White Zin (of course), White Rioja, White Cab Sauv. Insanity!

Writers Julia Chapin and Sia Marshall (it apparently takes two to write about pink) went on:

"Still, its old reputation was hard to shake. Jay McInerney, the wine columnist of House & Garden, compared rosé to Jackie Collins novels and Jerry Bruckheimer movies in his August column. ''There was a sense that pink wine couldn't be serious,'' said Mr. McInerney, a rosé fan, who has been trying to lead a revival for years. ''People were afraid of looking unsophisticated by drinking rosé. It wasn't red. It wasn't white. They didn't know what to do with it.''

But now, among a certain group of global style setters ordering rosé is a sign of being in the know. Dropping the name of a Provençal rosé like Domaine Tempier can be code for having recently frolicked in St.-Tropez or Cap d'Antibes, where rosé accompanies leisurely seaside lunches. Even Pamela Anderson, in the days before she wed Kid Rock in St.-Tropez, was snapped by paparazzi on a yacht, a glass of rosé in hand. ''The South of France holds a place in people's hearts and psyche as this cool jet-set place,'' said Jennifer Rubell, the author of ''Real Life Entertaining.'' ''Ordering a bottle of rosé back in the U.S. is a subtle sign of belonging to that world.'' "

St Tropez! You don't say! If the Times says it, then it must be true (unless Judith Miller is involved).

So, in honor of the first warm spell of 2007 (that isn't in January) and of trying to be as culturally saavy and jet-setter as Pamela and Kid Rock, I'll be sitting on a Roosevelt Island roofdeck this evening, sipping some pink wine and counting the days until the wine cooler is cool again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More on the Pulitzers, Our Seas in Crisis

Having grown up on the ocean, the series winning this year's Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting is especially chilling, and something I think everyone should have to read and be aware of. We're slowly killing our oceans, and this cannot be good for us.

Read the five-part series here.


Monday, April 16, 2007

And the winner is... Pulitzer time!

Earlier this afternoon the Pulitzer committee announced the winners for 2007, and like any good journalist I was quick on the uptake to find out who was the best of the best of my "peers" for the year. (Sometimes I do regret the move into trade publications...)

This year's winner for feature photography took my breath away.

Renee C. Byer of The Sacramento Bee spent several months documenting the slow decline of an 11-year-old boy with cancer, culminating in his eventual death. Having slowly lost my best friend to cancer two years ago (next month), I was unable to keep from sobbing at my desk as I watched the progression into sickness of this little boy, and the steely resolve of his mother to take care of him as best she could as she lost her business, her hope, and eventually, her baby.

The opening photograph is the most bittersweet of things with the boy holding his arms up in a V, smiling, as his mother pushes his wheelchair down a hospital corridor... What comes next is a testament to the beautiful, tragic, overwhelming love that human beings can have for each other - the kind of thing everyone deserves, and some of us are lucky enough to have gotten, even if it's taken away.

That's what I want out of life, I've come to realize - a partner who will stand by me for better or for worse, even when the worse is worse than you could have imagined, because then the better is aweing in its beauty and there is nothing more precious than that love that blows your mind, whether its for your lover, your child, your parent or your friend.

But don't take my word for it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Opening Night!

QUEENS - Shea Stadium. Mets v. Phillies. 40 degrees. Mist. Misery.

Last night I went to the Mets "opening night" game - opening day had apparently happened on Monday, and as a result, I remember why many years ago I tried to ban myself from attending baseball games in April (Go Sox!) after many wet, cold nights at Fenway Park. But, each spring, April rolls around, someone offers me a ticket, and I say "hell yes."

So, I made my way to Shea last night with some dear friends who had come slightly better prepared than I, but not much. Last year I went to opening day and it was so cold and wet that I bought myself a $50 Mets sweatshirt, and for the second time last night, I got to wear it. That brings it to $25 a wear. A few more games and it will be just like buying a really expensive martini at a Times Square hotel bar...

After weaving our way up the ramps, we stoped by the Sam Adams dispenser kiosk where two lovely teenage girls who had never operated a tap before tried to figure out why the cups were full of foam. $7 later I got my foamy beer, pulled my sweatshirt on, and found my seat.

Our seats were in the mezzanine section, and happily shielded from rain. What we were not shielded from was the bitter cold wind which grew sharper with each passing inning.

Meanwhile, on the field, the Mets gave up 3 runs in a row on walks. Six batters in a row were walked by the Mets pitcher, who my friend had assured me "had a really good spring". Nice. It was a completely unmemorable game. I have no idea what else happened, except that a small part of me was happy that the Phillies were winning as deep down, a Philly girl can never abandon her teams. And from what I've read, going into last night's game 1-6, the Phillies can only seem to win if they are walked across the plate one at a time.

On the plus side, I did get a foot-long hot dog, the rite of passage of every baseball goer, and a Budweiser in a freezing-cold metal bottle with a Mets logo on its side. Neat-o! After that, however, until the unceremonious top of the 8th, after which the pain of the cold greatly outweighted the fun of the baseball... We left.

Had it been just 20 degrees warmer, I'd have been able to tough it out, but I was losing sensation in my toes, and that's not awesome.

Back in Philadelphia, where Phillies fans were watching from the comfort of anywhere else, my sister texted me that Haley had been booted from American Idol. There is a God.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Success and Achievement

On the NYTimes.com today, columnist Judith Warner, who I often think does a whole lot of complaining for a woman with such a comfortable life, wrote a piece in response to an earlier Times article about "amazing girls." Warner makes several points with which I disagree, but the most interesting is that by setting up such high benchmarks for success early on in life, girls are destined to crash when "achievement" isn't "rewarded."


Warner writes: "Many, I think, never figure out how to handle the emptiness that comes when the rush of achievement fades away, or the loneliness — the sense of invisibility — when no one is there to hand out yet another "A." The fact is: when you are narrowly programmed to achieve, you are like a windup toy with only one movement in its repertoire. You're fine when you're wound up; but wind you down, and you grind to a halt."

My first reaction to her is "that's not true!" but is it?

I spent my high school years being as busy as I could possibly be because I wanted to go to Harvard. Later on my heart became set on Princeton, but the goal was basically the same. Five AP classes, captain of the tennis team, lead in the school play, Mock Trial, academic team, science club, Governor's School of the Sciences (back when I thought I wanted to be a Physicist...). You name it, I did it. And I probably ran it at some point too.

What was my reward? Well, Dartmouth. Our wee college on the hill with it's frat parties, beer bongs and ridiculous set of course requirements that tried to make us as well-rounded as humanly possible. And we had to pass a swim test.

Don't think I'm knocking Dartmouth. It was a wonderful school where I received a top knotch education and I wouldn't trade a day of what came before or after.

But when I got out of the Ivy League bubble and moved to Boston to find a job, the crash was swift, and I fell hard. In interview after interview people assumed I was a certain way because of what my resume read. As I got rejected from jobs, I became meeker in my interviews. Quiet. Terrified.

One day, a recruiter I'd been working with called me up and asked what kept going wrong. I said the woman who had interviewed me sat me down and said "I know you think you're too good for filing and copying, but that's a lot of what this job entails."

First sentence out of her mouth.

After being rejected from five jobs, how was I supposed to respond to that? I was afraid of losing yet another prospect, and I tried to be pleasant, but she interpreted my fear of saying the wrong thing as aloofness.

I finally wound up in a temp job at that company that lead to a year as the assistant to the director of marketing. Yes, it was miserable. Yes, I mailed, filed and photocopied. I hated every single day of it.

But it did teach me that graduating from an Ivy League school wasn't a Golden Ticket. Adults weren't lining up to throw opportunities at my feet. I had worked to get to college, and after college had to work even harder to find my place in an even bigger pond - that "whole world" place they don't tell you about when you're a kid.

So maybe Warner is right, and falling on your face early might be the best thing that can happen to a girl.

Now, as I count the days to my 30th birthday, I look back over my marketing days. My time in graduate school "studying" journalism. My scrappy years as a cub reporter for a 16,000 circulation daily newspaper where I found myself writing about whether or not Steve LeBel could build a giant shed in his yard (the planning board said yes. his neighbor cried.) and wondering how, for having finally found a job in "my field" that I loved, I was so damned poor. I had made more money temping. But without that newspaper job, perhaps the real-world equivalent of taking AP classes to get ahead, I wouldn't be sitting here now - not writing an article about custom-made gaming computers for a magazine.

Along the way, there have been some bumps in the road (mountains maybe...). My best friend passed away almost two years ago. I've struggled with depression and self-doubt. I've had some doozies on the relationship front. But I made it through, and in doing so, I've had to redefine what it means for me to be successful.

I may not be the CEO of anything. I'm not interested right now in being Anything-in-Chief. I'm not breaking any glass ceilings. I'm not in charge of much.

But I have a lovely cat, amazing friends, stellar sisters and a sense of peace and confidence that I can get through just about anything that I hadn't imagined possible back when I was 21.

My definition of success in the world has morphed along the way - from needing to put myself in the best college the world had to offer, to a steady staff job at a magazine that lets me do what I do best - write sentences - and get paid for it. Not bad. And that's good enough.