Sunday, September 30, 2007

Everything's OK ...

... until it isn't.

I was on the phone with L.A. Dave Friday night when my Call Waiting beeped. I hate Call Waiting. I only have it because it came as part of a phone bundle, and I never think to disable it before I place a call.

So it beeped. And I let Dave keep talking, thinking he'd get to the end of his sentence, and then it beeped again, and Dave still wasn't at the end of his sentence, so when he finally go to the end of his sentence, I told him to hold on and clicked over to a dial tone. I'd missed the call. So I came back to him and said, "Dave, let me call you back. I want to check my voicemail. I just have a weird feeling." As it turned out, I'm glad I had Call Waiting, because otherwise, the call would have gone right to voicemail and I might have not checked my messages before I went to bed.

My friend Barbara calls it my witchipooness. Doreen calls it my Spidey Sense. Sure enough, the message was from my mom, calling from the ER.

My dad recently joined Civil Defense, something he used to be part of years ago. (I remember the Civil Defense Christmas parties. We got cool mesh stockings full of candy and crap.) But now that he's semi-retired, he's signed up again, to have something to do, something we all applaud. So he was at the local high school football game, helping to direct traffic and at some point, he became light-headed.

Dad's been having headaches for months, but he's stubborn, as so many people are when faced with the prospect of any kind of illness, and he's made excuses for them all this time.

On Friday night, his body finally said, "Um, OK. Enough. We're dealing with this whether you like it or not. And we're dealing with it right now."

So the paramedics at the game got him to the hospital. While in the ER, Dad's speech started to falter. He was rushed upstairs for a CAT scan which revealed bleeding in the left side of his brain.

When I think of bleeding in the brain, I think of an aneurysm, but this is being called a stroke, which I think of as a blood clot. But then, I'm not a doctor.

So he was admitted into the ICU Friday night.

Yesterday, I spent the better part of 12 hours at the hospital (and I know you know how much fun that can be). He had another CAT scan and an MRI, but he had to have part of the MRI repeated today.

There was no radiologist in yesterday, but there is today, so hopefully we'll learn some results today. His primary physician said that we're not out of the woods yet, but so far, things look reasonably good.

His right side is slightly affected, but not nearly to the degree that many stroke patients experience. He has some trouble getting words out so he's purposely not talking much, though we're trying to encourage him to speak.

I've only been in touch with two people this weekend, and simply haven't felt like talking about this, so if this is the first you're hearing of it, please don't be offended that I didn't call you.

Posting, of course, will be spotty moving forward. The funny thing is, right before I got on the phone with L.A. Dave Friday night, I was cracking myself up with the post I was writing. I'll post it one of these days. I hope it keeps.

Send prayers, good vibes, happy thoughts, positive chi, or whatever you got thisaway. We can use 'em all, especially my mother, who will have to put up with my grumpy-ass patient of a father once he gets home.

: o )

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Real 'Wicker Man' ...

Last month, I watched the Nicolas Cage remake of The Wicker Man. I was not pleased.

Specifically, I asked, "What kind of M. Night Shyamalan/David Lynch-wanna be piece of crap was that?!"

But readers commented that the original film was much better than the remake so I vowed to rent the original and do a compare-and-contrast.

Um, guys? (And by "guys" I mean "humans with penises.") You liked this one because it had lots of naked girls in it, right?

Maybe it's because I saw the second version first, but these films are nearly exactly like each other. Nic's version was a pretty accurate retelling of this movie. A few details changed, but the gist is the same, including the freak-out ending.

I'll grant you that for 1973 this might have been seen as revolutionary, but I gotta think that it's much better experienced when you're high.

Having never been high, I wouldn't know for sure, but I think it's a solid guess.

Comments on Netflix reveal that this version has been cut by 20 minutes, but I'm glad for that. I couldn't have taken 20 more minutes of the inanity.

What was with the weird musical numbers? What was with all the nudity and overt sexual references? I mean, group sex on the beach? Children's toys in provocative poses on the bed?

I'm still shaking my head.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Day 2 ...

I'm too tired to write tonight, but the take-home event from today was my visit to a couple gyms, at one of which I signed up for a week pass to give it a whirl, and I have my first meeting with a trainer tomorrow morning.

Chuckle Break ...

My friend Cheryl just sent an e-mail to me which made me think of this skit, which is an SNL classic, right up there with Christopher Walken saying, "I got a fever. And the only prescription ... is more cowbell." Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Day 1 ...

Today was one of those days.

I woke up, as I always do, and made my way into my office to fire up the computer, and I ran out to my car to fetch a Clif bar from the console (I love Clif bars and I keep one or two in the car in case hunger strikes while I'm on the road) and the weather was perfection, so I came inside, ate my Clif bar, downed a Nalgene bottle full of water, then donned a pair of the ridiculously expensive socks I bought for the walk and my walky shoes and went for a quick three-miler. Walk. Not run.

I don't run unless chased. (Actually, I love the idea of going for a run. Maybe someday.)

When I got home, I hopped on some conferece calls for work, the kind of calls that really don't require my participation, so while others conferenced, I edited a PowerPoint presentation.

My job is such that I don't always have a full day's worth of work to do, and today was one of those days.

My mail arrived while I was on the phone. In it, a package. A package I wasn't expecting. It was from my friend Claudia, along with the nicest note. It was a copy of the book Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender, which Claudia told me about years ago. And which I bought, actually. And then I gave my copy to Doreen last year. So I love that it came back into my life. What's that? Why did she send it to me? To be nice. And as a thank-you for walking last month, and "for carrying Carol's memory so prominently."

I was truly touched by the gesture. I love doing little things for people – sending them a book I know they'll like or taking them flowers for their birthday or whatever – but I'm always amazed when someone does it for me. Happily amazed.

Today was also one of those days where one task leads to another and you find yourself on a roll and you don't know why but you don't question it because you have no idea when another day like this will come along so you just keep going. Much like that sentence.

It's not that my office was a mess, but there was more well-stashed clutter than I was comfortable with, so today became the day to address it all, including my checkbook, which I hadn't tackled since, um, well, April.

Yes, April. I mentioned that to Doreen in an IM conversation.

Doreen is an accountant.

"APRIL?!" she wrote. "Don't talk to me."

But I assured her that I keep excellent records, that I was able to whip right through my check register. And I balanced to the penny, thank you very much.

It's been a very productive day.

And on the heels of my last post, one of my Anon commenters challenged me to give up sugar until my birthday. I reserved the right to eat natural sugar (you know, like fruit and carrots and stuff) but I'm on board with cutting out refined sugar until mid-November. My hope is that I will take one bite of birthday cake and my body will say, "What the hell is this crap?!" and I will find myself cured of my sugar addiction.

I've cut out foods before. Years ago, I learned the awful truth about diet pop and I haven't had any since, and boy, I used to like me some fizzy pops. Caffeine-free Diet Pepsi was a daily treat for me. No more. No artificial sweeteners. And I cut out high-fructose corn syrup, so I'm not drinking regular pop, either. (Nor am I eating ketchup or the zillion other foods with HFCS. If you're not the type to pay attention to labels, lemme tell you, HFCS is in damn near everything.) And I went through a spate about 7 years ago when I ate a bagel every morning. I cut that back to one a week, on Sunday, and have switched to a four-grain bagel instead of the refined-white-flour blob I used to eat. (Though I had a couple blobs in New York, because H&H bagels are not to be missed. Especially when they're warm, like ours were. Oh, heaven. Bagel heaven.)

So I can cut out sugar. Yes, I can. Even though I'm catering the sweets for a baby shower next month. I can bake 'em. That doesn't mean I have to eat 'em.

And I can't have any Halloween candy, which is good, because I love those little snack-size Snickers way too much. And little Twix. And little Almond Joy. And Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. And little boxes of Dots. And little Kit-Kats.

And I can't have an Affy Tapple, which is good, too, as no one should be eating an apple that was probalby picked six months ago, even if it is coated in caramel and peanuts.

For today, though, I'm fine with cutting out sugar. I've got that new-commitment momentum on my side. Let's see how long it lasts!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Accountability ...

In a moment, L.A. Dave will be clucking his tongue.

I've been doing a lot of thinking today, mostly related to my weight. I am not morbidly obese, but I have weight to lose. How much? I don't know. I don't own a scale. I've never owned a scale. I'm far too obsessive to have a device in my bathroom that would be able to set the entire course of my day in mere seconds.

L.A. Dave and I talk about women and body issues often. He keeps telling me I look great. I keep telling him I want to look better. Better than great? No, just better.

At my height, I can pull off more weight than most women. It's justified, even. This weekend, in New York, I saw some women who were nearly as tall as me but who couldn't have been bigger than a size 4 and they looked ridiculous. Remember that scene in "In & Out" when Cameron Drake says to his supermodel girlfriend Sonya, "Eat something, I'm begging you. You look like a swizzle stick"? That's who I was seeing wandering around MoMA. They were absurdly skinny for their height.

Waiting for the flight home on Sunday, I was seated in front of a column covered in some shiny metal. My legs looked super skinny in the reflection of the curved metal, like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I mentioned it to mom. She said she thought the same thing, but didn't want to say it. "I wish I was this skinny," I said. Only, I don't.

I don't want to be a swizzle stick or a Tootsie Pop, as I've heard people refer to the women in Hollywood with their normal-size heads and ridiculously thin bodies. I just want to be healthy.

I was my thinnest (as an adult) when I worked at the Chicago Tribune. I wasn't thin when I started there, but I was thin when I left. Thin, relatively speaking. I was wearing a 12, which on a 6'3" frame is kind of thin. Or maybe it's average. In any event, I'd gotten down to that size, whatever we want to call it, thanks to the stress of my job. I'd gotten to the point where I was subsisting on Lender's garlic bagels and Diet Pepsi, because that's all my stomach would tolerate. And I was drinking Cherry Creme Mylanta (cherry creme, my ass; cherry chalk, more like) straight out of the bottle.

I left the Tribune to work for a division of Thomson Newspapers. Shortly after I started there, we were hosting an event at Soldier Field and Paul, my boss, asked all of us to wear black jeans and a denim shirt that night, so we'd be easy for guests to identify if they needed anything. I went to the Gap. I bought my black jeans in a 14. (The Trib stress had abated and my new employer had a ridiculous budget for snacks.)

The night of the event, I needed to get something out of the visiting team's locker room and as I walked back toward the party, I glanced at myself in one of the mirrors and I stopped dead in my tracks.

Because I didn't recognize myself.

I mean, I recognized my face, but my brain wouldn't grasp that I was looking at my own body. I literally stood there for a few minutes, staring at my body in the mirror, trying to make my brain engage.

It's a very unnerving feeling, not recognizing your reflection.

Since then, my weight has fluctuated. Not wildly, but up and down a bit. When I was dating G, I was wearing 12s. (It's been nearly two years since we started dating. How is that possible?!) Tonight, I put on a pair of 16s to run to Borders. Not a huge difference, but the fact that I've put on any weight at all bothers me. I wanted to keep going down, not back up. Sigh. They don't call it yo-yo dieting for nothing.

And let's not talk about my arms. My Oprah arms. (Actually, I'm pretty sure I got them from my grandmother, not Oprah.) I recognize that I will likely never have ripped arms like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 3 but surely I can do something to make them less Oprah-esque. (She wore a dress the other day that exposed almost all of her upper arms and when I saw them, I said, to my T.V., "Eeeeeeeee!" God bless her for her upper-arm-baring bravery. I couldn't do it.)

The point of all this, though (yes, I thought you might be wondering), is that something clicked in me today and I decided that it's time to find a personal trainer. Because I know myself, and if I rely solely on myself to get myself going, I'll likely stay stalled. But if I'm accountable to another person, I'll show up.

And then I remembered a trainer who J-D told me about and I looked him up again and yep, I can't afford $80 a hour, not if I'm going to be meeting with him multiple times a week, for many weeks on end.

Of course, there are other trainers who don't charge $80 an hour, and there are gyms where a trainer will set up a program for you but you don't work with them one on one. But I'll need a few days to do some investigating.

In the meantime, I thought I should be accoutable to someone, or many someones, so I decided to write about my intentions here.

My birthday is just over six weeks away. So for the next six weeks, I'm going to focus on eating what I know I should be eating and avoiding what I know I should be avoiding and commiting to an exercise plan.

There. I've said it. Of course, most of you don't know me, so you won't really know if I stick to it or not, but lying is bad karma, so I'll also commit to being honest about my progress. The goal is to wear my 12s on my birthday.

I'll write weekly update posts to let you know how it's going.

For your part, you can think good thoughts and post lovely little encouraging comments.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Calling All Smart Blogger Folks ...

My sister-in-law's sister wrote to me this morning to let me know about her new blog. She figures it's easier to post pictures and stories to a blog than to send around e-mails with photo attachments all the time.

Good idea.

But she asked me why some of the photos enlarge when you click 'em and others don't.

And I have no idea. I poked around Blogger's help section, looking for her, but I don't see any explanation.

But surely one of you smart computer people know. If that's you, kindly leave an explanation in the comments.


Guten Tag! ...

OK, this is too weird.

I just found my latest post about New York on a web site translated into German.

Truly Words To Live By ...

Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.
– Dr. Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon University

I'm a bit behind the curve on this story. While I was flitting about, getting ready for my trip to New York, my friend Jeff published yet another of his Moving On columns for the Wall Street Journal.

I've known Jeff for 20 years. And even after all this time, I'm still struck by the ease in his writing. Jeff's gift is telling stories. As I wrote to him today, "What an amazing job you have, bringing the stories of amazing people to the wider world."

The story of Dr. Randy Pausch is an amazing story. One of the most amazing stories. I'm grateful to Jeff for bringing this story to light. Since Jeff's Sept. 21 column, Dr. Pausch has been featured on Good Morning America and my Charlie Gibson named him "Person of the Week." Not surprisingly, Dr. Pausch is now very in demand. You'll be seeing more of him in the weeks and months ahead.

Months may be all he has, if the doctors are right, though, of course, doctors are often wrong. He has pancreatic cancer. It's hard to look at him, such a young, handsome, vibrant man, and contemplate the chaos that is ravaging his body. How can such a vibrant man be in the waning weeks of his life? How can all we know about cancer not be enough to save him? What about organ donations? Surely, there must be something that can be done.

And maybe there is, some miracle. But probably not. Regardless, he appears very evenhanded about the cards he's holding.

And for that reason, his last lecture will change your life. There is no sorrow or pity. I'm angered by the unfairness of his situation, but then I watch him and he makes it all OK for the rest of us. I'd call it brave, but I don't think he's trying to be brave. I think he's just an extraordinary man with an elegant view of life.

The comparisons to Morrie Schwartz are inevitable, of course. But while Morrie's disease was cruel, his death was easier to understand. He was an older man. He had lived a full life. Dr. Pausch, though, is a man in his prime. He has three young children. He has a beautiful, brave wife who should have her husband by her side as their children grow and graduate and mark all the milestones that parents are meant to witness.

I'm inclined to call his impending death premature, but he doesn't seem to think it's premature so much as it's just the end of his life, the allotment he was granted when he was born. The clock is simply running down and overtime isn't part of this game.

I hope he knows, through the outpouring of attention he's receiving in the wake of Jeff's piece, how many thousands if not millions of lives he has touched with his lecture about life lessons. He certainly affected me.

He's achieved most of his childhood dreams. He has a family and friends who love him. And he's made a career out of pursuing his interests and inspiring his others. And maybe his words would somehow have less resonance if he were an older man. Maybe his lessons reverberate so strongly because we see ourselves in him and because his story reminds us of how much we take for granted, forgetting how quickly it can all be taken away.

I'm grateful that he took the time to create his last lesson and that he will live on in every person who embraces his philosophy and looks at life in a new way.

But he didn't say what he had to say for our benefit, nor his colleagues, nor his students.

As the professor said at the end of his last lecture, "This was for my kids."

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 23, 2007

New York Minutes ...

Yep, this is a long mutha, but I haven't posted for days. Grab a beverage and settle in.

First off, I didn't get pizza.

Thanks to those of you who wrote with suggestions. (Marc, thank your friend for me. Next time I'm in Brooklyn with a bit more time, I'll make the pilgrimage, indeed. Jeff, to respond to your comment, it wouldn't have mattered where I was staying. I'd travel for the best slice in the city.)

But speaking of where I was staying, it wasn't part of the original plan, but I ended up staying at The Bowery Hotel again. I think I'll just make this my New York hotel. I love it. It's charming. Walking back from dinner on Friday night, my cousin Barry asked, "Have you seen anyone famous?" Apparently, this hotel is the new "it" spot, along with its restaurant, Gemma, which wasn't open the last time I was there, but which was crowded every time I walked past it, and it was easy to tell that it was crowded, as there had to be at least 21 tables outside. Tables for four. Beautiful wooden rectangular tables, not the usual four-tops.

I just did a quick Google search and was pleased to find the hotel getting such overwhelmingly positive reviews on I'm very protective of this space, apparently, because my feathers got a little ruffled when I saw a few 4.0 ratings amid the veritable sea of 5.0s. Truly, if you can find fault with this hotel, you are trying way too hard. I'm a self-professed hotel snob, and I can always find at least one thing wrong in a room. (I once found several in a room at The Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, egregious enough that I wrote to management about them, and they must have agreed with my gripes, because the manager of the hotel replied with a letter offering to comp my next stay.) But I can find nothing wrong with The Bowery.

Oh, no, wait, that's a lie: It would be nice if the turndown service included a chocolate.

That, seriously, is the worst thing I can say about this hotel.

We (that'd be mom and me) had to wait for our room, but that isn't a knock against the hotel, as we were a walkover from another property (that didn't meet with my satisfaction) and Gina, who I met on my last trip, sent over cocktails on the house (along with cute little dishes of almonds and shelled pistachios) while we waited in the stupidly gorgeous lobby that is so stunning, it truly could be mistaken for the set of a '30s film noir. I looked over at a potted palm and expected to see someone hiding behind it.

Oh, I'm gushing again, aren't I? I can't help it. I love this hotel. So does Vanity Fair.

If you need a hotel in New York, look no further. Yes, there might be slightly cheaper rooms to be had, but I promise you that your experience will not be half what you'll have at The Bowery. I know, I know, you're just there to sleep, but it's your home away from home and they've thought of everything. There are even condoms (three will set you back $15, but in a moment of passion, what's $15?) in the mini bar, which is really a specifically designed closet, not one of those little refrigerators stuck in the TV armoire. Eric and Sean wouldn't participate in anything so pedestrian. (And I love that they include a signed letter in each room, asking for comments, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope.)

Anyway, there was more to the trip than the hotel.

My cousin Patty met us Thursday night and we went to The Mermaid Inn (Dave, dig the tune that loads with the site; you should add this to the band's repertoire for next season), not too far from the hotel. Totally charming. We tucked into a table in the back room and the lights got very dim. Good date place. In a rare moment of carnivorousness, I opted for the double pork chop. Yes, I know I was in a seafood restaurant, but my body wanted meat. The warm Yukon Gold potato salad with cayenne dijionnaise was better in concept than in execution, but it was yummy enough to eat most of it.

The restaurant doesn't offer a dessert menu, but presents each customer with a demitasse cup of chocolate pudding with a piped star of whipped cream on top and, adorably, a fortune fish, a fish-shaped piece of red cellophane that you put in your hand and whose movements "mean" things. According to mine, I'm "in love" or "passionate" or "false." Or all three, I guess. My fish kept moving.

Patty returned to the hotel with us to help plot some strategy for the next day, and when the next day arrived, mom and I made our way down Broadway toward Battery Park. We would have gotten a cab at the hotel, but I thought she wanted coffee, and she had changed her mind, so we were walking, looking for a cab, when we heard, "Kujawskis!" from across the street.

It was my cousin Barry. So this made two times in three trips that I ran into him randomly in the city, the last time being in the subway. Craziness. In a city of nine million people, I keep running into my cousin. He helped us hail a cab (always the gallant one, that Barry) and we made it to Battery Park with mere moments to spare before the first ferry sailed for Liberty Island.

In all my years of visiting New York (I was trying to figure out if this was my seventh or eighth trip), I'd never done the Statue of Liberty thing. And I might not have this time, either, but mom really wanted to go to Ellis Island to see where my grandfather arrived back in 1910 when he was 5. But Liberty Island is the first stop, so we stopped, skipped the main part of the tour and opted to just walk to the front of the statue (when mom started crying, in anticipation – I get my waterworks trait from her – and where I snapped a few obligatory shots) then to the "restaurant" for some juice and water and coffee and then we sat and looked at the water for a while before hopping the next ferry to Ellis Island.

I must admit that I got choked up, too, thinking about trodding where my family has tread. There's a beautiful monument on the grounds, a low, curved wall, onto which are affixed steel plates engraved with the names of immigrants who passed through the island. It's not hard to think back to their huddled masses on the decks of ships, after a long journey, seeing Lady Liberty for the first time, glimpsing the shore of New York City, and feel their excitement and trepidation. But for the sake of my mother, I tried to keep it together. She, I can report, was remarkably composed. More composed than I would have been in her shoes.

We didn't stay long. We didn't do research. We didn't take the guided tour. She just wanted to set foot on that soil. So we made our way back to Battery Park and then walked up Broadway to DiPaolo's, a must-see Italian market, according to Patty and Barry. They figure that if we lived in New York, mom would be in there all the time, and the owners would adopt her (and I figure I'd probably weigh 400 pounds). It was the height of lunchtime when we walked in, and the store is tiny, but the smells. My God, the smells. We inhaled a few times, made a quick pass of all the offerings and decided we needed to come back at like 3 in the afternoon. Which we didn't. Next time, though. I'm sure we need some proscioutto and cheese and olives and olive oil and pasta and ... . Where else you gonna go when you have a hankerin' for puttanesca at home but don't feel like making it yourself?

But seeing as how it was lunchtime, and our breakfast consisted of a Kashi Tasty Little Chewy bar and a Slim-Fast granola bar with our beverages on Liberty Island, we made our way to Balthazar in hopes of scoring some quiche. Balthazar has life-changing quiche. There was a crowd out front. Sigh. We stepped inside to inquire as to the wait for lunch. Forty-five minutes for the main dining room or they could seat us immediately in the café, the small-tabled space just off the bar, if we wanted something light. Yes, please.

So we sat, and waited. And waited. And when our server finally showed up (the place is always a madhouse), we asked what they were serving, and he said, "Oh, we're serving lunch now. Didn't you get menus?"

So yes, basically, we just jumped ahead of all those people outside. But we figured, with all the travel travails we endured the day before, we were owed a stroke of good luck.

We asked our server if there was any quiche left from breakfast and he said that he wasn't allowed to serve breakfast items, but that he'd check.

"I don't want to get you in trouble," I said.

"Oh, they might yell, but I don't care," he said.

We never did get quiche. Alas. Next time.

But my inner carnivore continued to shine. I ordered steak frites. I never order steak frites. "Do you recommend the butter or the Bearnaise?" I asked our server/would-be quiche scammer. He smiled somewhat sheepisly. "I like the butter," he said. "But the Bearnaise is good, too. I can bring them on the side."

Let the record show that Bearnaise is basically extra-fancy hollandaise. Hollandaise is egg yolks and butter. Bearnaise is egg yolks, butter, shallots, tarragon, and chervil.

So, yes, I'd be topping my steak with egg yolks and butter or herbed butter.

Let's repeat that: I'd be topping my steak with egg yolks and butter or herbed butter.

Who the hell am I? I don't eat like that.

I dipped a couple bites of steak into the Bearnaise lightly. Tasty, sure. What's not to like? But the butter. Oh, the butter. Butter on steak is good (think Ruth's Chris Steak House, where steaks are dipped in butter, I believe) but this herbed butter melting on top of a perfectly cooked medium-rare steak? Holy mother of God.

Mom had the pork Milanese, a pounded piece of pork the size of her plate, breaded and fried and topped with a gorgeous mountain of salad. At least she had salad. My butter-soaked steak was paired with frites. Though no mayo for dipping. And I don't mean that there was mayo but I refrained. I mean there was no mayo offered.

Which is a good thing. Because if there had been, I'm pretty sure I'd be lying a morgue right now.

Back at the hotel, I plotted the afternoon, the Patty-Can-Get-Away-From-Work track and the Patty-Can't-Get-Away-From-Work track. Happily, she was able to meet us, at ABC Carpet and Home, one of the reasons I took mom to New York this time. Along the way, mom and I stopped into an antiques store, but not like mismatched-china-teacups antiques. No, like salvaged French and English pedestal sinks for $3,800. OK. Moving on. At ABC, I bought a lovely throw/wrap/shawl/something that I thought would look perfect on the foot of my bed. I've since decided (upon arriving home and putting it on my bed) that I don't like it there after all, but I'll certainly find a use for it.

We hopped the subway and then wandered around SoHo (or was that Greenwich Village or is Greenwich Village part of SoHo?) where I spied, in a little shop window, the coolest card case which I decided would be the perfect Christmas gift for Dave. So I went in and asked the proprietor if I could see it, and he managed to reach it for me, and I eventually discovered that it was $180. So I handed it back to him. Dave and I don't spend upwards of $200 on Christmas gifts for each other. Besides, I figured that the price was inflated because those stores have to pay their exorbitant rents somehow, and I was sure I'd find it elsewhere for less. Well, not much less. I found it for $170. This afternoon. On Gaa! It's about a million times less special if you can buy it on But I still think it's cool.

Dinner was at Giorgione (the restaurant doesn't seem to have its own site, hence no hotlink). It was a very pretty space, very grey and white and silver. The space was opened by Giorgio DeLuca – yep, the DeLuca of Dean & DeLuca, whose colors are white and grey, hence the palette of the restaurant. Patty's pomegranate martini was super sugary. My mojito was super minty. Neither are good things in my book. But the frito misto she ordered for us to nosh on while we waited for Barry was outstanding. My salad of arugla and endive and pine nuts and roasted beets and goat cheese was good but not sensational. (I was hoping the whole would be greater than the sum of its parts.) My risotto of mushrooms and roasted peppers was likewise, though the glass of Barbera was nice. Giorgione's sin, though, was dousing my panna cotta with chocolate syrup. Panna cotta needs nothing, in my book, but if the pastry chef insists, I can abide a few fresh berries. The dessert menu said it was paired with a fruit sauce, but it was not. It was drowned in chocolate syrup. If it was an amazing chocolate sauce made with Valrhona and brandy or something, I might have been more forgiving, but it was very much of the Hershey's variety, like they popped the top and squirted. Sad. But Patty ordered the roasted peaches with mascarpone which handily won the dessert prize. Mom's tiramisu was very standard. Barry, wisely, ordered an espresso and just had tastes of each of our's.

We made our way back to the hotel. (That's when Barry asked if I'd seen anyone famous. I thought, for a half a second, that I saw Sting there on Thursday while we were waiting for our room, then I thought, "Why would Sting be here? He has a house in New York." Besides, Sting Not Sting was too short to be Sting.) Mom and I tried to sleep, but our tummies were too full so we slept somewhat fitfully, which meant that we were in no hurry to get on our way Saturday morning.

But we did, eventually. We went to Balthazar to try again for quiche. No luck. Turns out, the quiche is only part of the continental breakfast, which must only be served early. We ended up at Dean & DeLuca for coffee and pastry while standing in the store window, watching New York go by.

And then we headed to the subway to head uptown to MoMA. Mom wanted to go, which I found odd, as mom strikes me as more of the Metropolitan type, but we were there to do Mom things, so MoMA it was. Six. Floors. Of. MoMA. I was surprised to see Van Gogh's Starry Night there. I think of modern art as a movement, not a period. I was expecting (and saw plenty of) art that makes you laugh at its "artiness." Like the piece of paper, torn into smaller pieces, under a Lucite box. Were the pieces of paper affixed in that configuration, or were they just loose pieces of paper? And we were supposed to think that was some kind of statement on man's destruction of that which it creates and the randomness of the universe? Um, maybe. But it's also just a piece of torn-up paper.

Likewise, I can't get into Blue Monochrome (I think that was the title), a canvas painted blue. Just blue. Solid blue. A pretty electric blue, but blue nonetheless. Lemme guess: It's about mankind's sameness, our collective despair, our refusal to think for ourselves and stand out? Um, maybe. But it's also just a canvas painted blue.

But I can totally get behind Picasso or Magritte or Pollock. Yeah, sure, he drizzled paint on a canvas, but it hadn't been done before. Or Calder, who created kinetic sculpture. They might just look like wires or rods, but they move and cast shadows and the experience that you see changes. That's cool. That takes thought. Painting a canvas blue does not take thought.

And Patty and Barry disagree with my assessment of Matisse, but I still don't get why the guy is so famous. I'm not a great artist, but I've drawn a few things in my day (as an adult, even), one of which is hanging in my mom's dining room, and people seem surprised when they find out that I drew it. I'll have to take a picture for you someday.

It started raining while we were absorbing culture, but the rain abated by the time we left, so we started walking north. I thought we'd stroll up to H&H for bagels. Until it started raining again. We camped out under a patio umbrella just off Columbus Circle at the entrance to the park. The rain finally abated and we ended up grabbing a cab north only to find a line outside of H&H. You gotta love a bagel store so great that there's a line on weekends. But it was also Yom Kippur. Lots of people procuring noshes for breaking the fast, I'm sure.

The line moved swiftly, I called Patty to see if she wanted her usual (though we couldn't get our hands on any walnut raisin cream cheese), and we walked out of the store with a baker's dozen of bagels that were still warm. Really warm.

We hopped the subway and made our way to Brooklyn and noshed on our afternoon snack at Patty's place then poked around Park Slope for a spell. She had made reservations for us at a place in Red Hook called The Good Fork (the menu looks great), but Patty took note of mom's comment about not sleeping well and presuming the cause was eating late, and changed course, opting instead to visit the farmers' market and stock up on provisions for a cookout. Ah, perfect!

Patty's apartment was built on top of a building and has a deck. We learned last night that there are two doors in her apartment leading out to the deck because the apartment was going to be two apartments. That is funny. Patty's apartment is a one-bedroom, but it's a small one bedroom. It's basically a studio with a partial wall so it can be rented as a one bedroom. Patty has done a masterful job at fitting her entire life into this apartment, but the notion that her apartment might have been two apartments is laughable. You'd truly have room for a bed and a chair and maybe a small desk, presuming the inclusion of the tiny bathroom and kitchen.

But the point is, it's just one apartment, with two doors onto a very nice-sized deck with views of New York City and, if you look closely, the Statue of Liberty.

She has the deck outfitted with lots of plants and twinkle lights and we lit several candles, so it was extra twinkly. And Barry grilled bread for bruschetta which we built with the garlic-rubbed bread and thick slices of beefsteak tomato and arugula and olive oil and salt and pepper. And then dinner was the most-perfect white corn on the cob and barbequed chicken and a salad of mixed greens and a salad of fresh mozzarella and yellow tomato and basil. And, as my friend Gemma would say, it was the temperature where there is no temperature. A perfect night.

After visiting Barry's apartment (which he and Patty rented together until she got her own space) so mom could see it, we hopped a cab (which Barry hailed for us again) and headed back to the hotel.

I saw no one famous.

But we slept reasonably well, we had H&H bagels and schmears this morning, and then we headed to the airport.

And now we're back to our usual lives.

I love New York. And when I'm there, I think, "Hmm. Maybe I could live here." But I couldn't. It's just too much, all the time. Maybe I could move there for a year. Like an experiment.

But I couldn't afford it anyway.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Slice Advice? ...

Hello out there!

I'm heading to New York City for the umpteenth time and am chagrined – yes, chagrined! – that I have never, ever, neverever had a New York slice. You know, the humongo slices that are bigger than the plate they come on, that you fold in half and cram in your mouth or dangle over your head and nip at 'em like you're a baby bird?

Surely someone who reads this blog has some recommendations to share. I'll be forever indebted. And probably forever indigested, too. I can't wait!

This picture is of a slice from Koronet. Thumbs up? Thumbs down?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Notes On A Page ...

♪ Candidate conundrum: I've just taken my second online quiz to reveal the presidential candidate who most closely shares my views, and for the second time, my match is Dennis Kucinich. Pity he doesn't have a chance in hell of winning, but perhaps someone will select him as a running mate.

♪ I was watching World News with Charles Gibson, the key demo for which is even older than I am!, and I noted with amusement that immediately following a commercial for Plavix ("PLAVIX is indicated for patients with recent heart attack, recent stroke, or poor circulation in the legs") was a commercial for Applebee's new Ultimate Trios. A few of the heart-healthy choices: Dynamite Shrimp: "Plump, succulent shrimp coated in crispy panko bread crumbs and fried, then tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce" (fried then tossed in creamy sauce!); Mini Bacon Cheeseburgers; Tuscan Cheese Spread; Steak Quesadilla Towers; and Mozzarella Sticks, because nothing says "Code Blue!" like fried cheese. Mmm, mmm, mmmyocardial infarction!

♪ I'm trying to wrangle my CDs into some semblance of order. My nearly scientific count puts me right around 850. Assuming an average of 12 songs per disc, that's 10,200 songs. Which means my entire collection of 850 CDs could fit on just about 1/4 of the new 160 GB iPod. Which means a 160 GB iPod can hold, approximately, the equivalent of 3,400 CDs. I think I need a cigarette.

♪ I couldn't help but watch a few minutes of the new season of Beauty and the Geek tonight and was stupefied at the level of stupidity in some people. I'm embarrassed for my gender. "Do you know your IQ?" "Um, 3.4?" "Who wrote Beethoven's Fifth?" "Um ... ... ... Mozart!" "Where was the Gettysburg Address delivered?" [Crickets.] "Who was the first person to land on the moon?" "Neil Armstrong?" "Yes. What did he say?" "Um ... 'Yay, America!'?" And "Would you marry a rich older man?" "It depends on how long he'd live." (I was actually impressed by that answer.)

♪ And lastly, from my pal Jim, who moved to Arizona – voluntarily – some name fun:

1. MY GANGSTA NAME (first 3 letters of real name plus -izzle):

2. MY DETECTIVE NAME (favorite color and favorite animal):
Green Chicken

3. MY SOAP OPERA NAME (your middle name and the street you live on):
Ellen Main

5. MY STAR WARS NAME (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first):

6. MY SUPERHERO NAME (Your 2nd favorite color, and favorite drink):
Blue Vodka

7. MY IRAQI NAME (2nd letter of your first name, 3rd letter of your last name, any letter of your middle name, 2nd letter of your mom's maiden name, 3rd letter of you dad's middle name, 1st letter of a sibling's first name, and last letter of your mom's middle name):
Ejeumbn Oof!, that's tough!

8. MY WITNESS PROTECTION NAME (parents' middle names):
None James, so just James, I guess.

9. MY GOTH NAME (black, and the name of one of your pets):
Black Spanky

10. MY PORN STAR NAME (the name of your first pet and the first street you grew up on):
Spanky Bensley

Betizzle, over and out.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dating Malaise ...

Before we go any further, just let me assure you that I'm writing this post purely for my own amusement, not to truly bemoan the dearth of datable men out there, OK?


Last week, Doreen forwarded an e-mail to me featuring a new book (which I won't name because I try not to advertise that which I have not purchased), the premise of which is that we womenfolk should always be dating four men at once.

Yes, four men. Yes, if you're female and single, you're thinking, "I can't find one man to date. How in holy hell am I supposed to find four?" Supposedly, the answer is in the book.

The author is some sort of math person and she's devised some mathematical method, if I'm understanding the sparse content on her web site correctly, to essentially pit the boys against each other, the thinking being, if he's just not that into you, he might be more into you if he knows other guys might be even more into you. Because you, of the Adam's apples and penises, are a simple lot, apparently, and it'll bug you if some guy has something that you could have had and you'll rend your shirts and beat your chests and women will swoon.

Or something like that.

Dave once said to me that he didn't fully understand what it was like for women in dating situations until he started watching Sex and the City. Yes, bless you, Candace Bushnell and Darren Star and Sarah Jessica Parker for shining a light on the plight of the single girl, because for every Aidan there are a hundred Turtletaubs. "Do you like this shirt? My ex-girlfriend bought it for me." For the love of God.

Yes, the gene pool is shallow and the pickin's are slim. Maybe it was all the talk of The Sopranos leading up to the Emmys, but I found myself remembering one particular would-be suitor this weekend. Allow me to paint a picture: Think George Costanza meets the mafia, balding pate, receding hair slicked back with some sort of grease, a bit of a leer on his lips, and a pinky ring in view. Allow me to mention, too, that my profile on used to say that I'm drawn to men who can express themselves well.

And now, allow me to reveal the five magic words he offered as love bait: "You're stunning, I'm interested. Tony."

I say that to myself in my best goomba accent and crack myself up.

And then there was the man who looked a bit like Simon Bar Sinister with a comb-over whose handle was (is?), I kid you not, CareBear Eyes, who told me in his opening salvo that he'd enjoy brushing my hair and included this bit of poetry: "We would be like two vases of water poured into one larger more beautiful vase, in which we would be one."

Or cripplegeek, who wrote: "hi. ur tall. i bet you didn't know that."

My friend Eddie once told me that when it comes to men, I'm simply too picky.

Au contraire, mon frere!

It's not that I'm too picky. I don't expect of anyone else anything that I don't embody myself. And hey, I've been single for this long; I'm not about to settle. So, yes, I want a man who's intelligent and funny and kind and thoughtful, who can express himself well (words are my life; anyone who's going to be part of my life needs to be able to, oh, spell), who has a sense of who he is and where he's going. He should not live in his parents' basement.

I once dated a guy who didn't know what a cappuccino was. We didn't last. Not that that's why we didn't last, but it sure didn't help his case. I don't need to date a diplomat, but I need to date a guy who knows from a cappuccino. Really, it's not asking for much.

But on the off chance that there are any handsome diplomats reading this post, allow me to say:

"You're stunning, I'm interested. Beth."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Discuss ...

Why is it the bigger the elephant in the room, the harder it is for anyone to address it?

Updated to add this picture, because Ethan pointed it out, and it's too damn cute, even to a non-cat person like myself.

Friday, September 14, 2007

'Waiting' ...

I have Ethan to thank for introducing me to Idiocracy, one of the best movie recommendations of all time.

In that spirit, he wrote recently to say:

If'n you take a notion, add "Waiting..." to your Netflix queue. Uproariously funny in a dumb yet knowing entertainment kind of way. The guy who plays "Mac" in those Apple commercials is in it, and pretty much nails his role, as do many others. My guess is, the cast was called in to help someone finish their graduate project for film school and this is what they came up with.

If you want a one-line hook, it's "Office Space" for the chain restaurant crowd.

So I fast-tracked Waiting to the top of my queue.

And last night, I popped it in.

Shortly thereafter, I popped it out, and wrote to Ethan to say, "I had to turn it off. I just couldn't continue the brain-cell slaughter."

And I mulled the possibilities for the disconnect between Eth's "uproariously funny" assessment and my decision that it was too inane to finish watching, and I think we can blame the great comic divide between the sexes.

The main joke of Waiting (at least, the main joke of the part I was able to stomach) centers around guys trying to get other guys to unwittingly look at their junk. Luis Guzman has a whole scene devoted to this gag, using a raw chicken leg/thigh combo as a prop.

Um, OK.

And then there's the gross-out component of the movie, featuring cooks in the kitchen doing things to food that you don't want to contemplate, because it probably happens.

But one the big movie scorecard, Eth has far more hits than misses, so long as he doesn't recommend The Three Stooges.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

'For Your Consideration' ...

Sheesh. Critics can be so ... critical.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for For Your Consideration is a measly 51 percent. The Cream of the Crop rating is a slightly better 63 percent.

I stopped watching Curb Your Enthusiasm because the joke got tedious: Every week, Larry does something stupid, Cheryl rolls her eyes, his friends prop him up and enable him, blah, blah, blah.

So you't think I'd find Christopher Guest's movies tedious, too: Same cast, same general ineptitude.

And yet, I find each of them charming in their own ways, and I loved this latest installment.

Catherine O'Hara is outstanding. I wonder how much of her transformation was makeup and how much was her.

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor.

Oh, and Ricky Gervais is a god. A GOD. No matter what he says, no matter what he does, I adore him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Chuckle On A Sad Day ...

Click on the image to see it larger.

Six Years Ago ...

There's nothing to say, really.

That day, I was on the phone with my life coach (I had a very short relationship with a life coach) so I didn't see the news.

I hung up the phone and checked for messages. I had two.


The first one was my mom, asking me where my cousins worked in relation to the World Trade Center. I thought that was weird, but I jotted it down on a Post-It Note: 8:16 Mom World Trade Center

The next message was L.A. Dave, saying, "Oh my God, turn on your television."

So I turned on my television as I was calling my mom and when she answered the phone, I said, "What's going on?" not understanding what I was seeing on my TV.

"Planes have flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon," she said. "Our country is under attack."

(Writing those words, I am transported back to that morning. Tears are streaming down my cheeks again.)

I didn't stay on the phone with her for long. Then I called L.A. Dave. We watched CNN together, barely speaking. When we did speak, our voices were full of tears.

I switched over to ABC and watched Peter Jennings marshall the nation through the confusion. I had always loved him as a newsman but he became a hero to me that day, a day that would come to redefine the word "hero" in so many ways.

Mom called to see if I wanted to go get a hot dog with her and my niece. I did. I wasn't hungry so much as I needed to pull myself away from the TV.

So the three of us went for hot dogs, to Madalyn, the hot dog lady, and we sat on some nearby steps and tried to have a normal day.

My niece was the one who broke our intentional silence.

"That man thought the building was the sky and he flew into it." She was 4, then.

I tried not to cry.

I was so grateful that she didn't understand what had happened, that her little life was still somewhat pure, that the enormity of the evil that had transpired that morning couldn't cloud her little head.

And six years later, it all still seems somewhat unreal.

That day, six years ago, I stuck the Post-It Note to my office wall. It's still there, in exactly the same place. The sun has faded the ink over time. I have to look very closely but I can still make out the words.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ewe Betcha ...

What the hell is it, you ask?

Why, it's a bench, of course.


Actually, in this picture, there are two benches. They are $525 each. Yessirree, for $1,050 (plus tax and shipping, I'm sure), you too can have these creeptastic benches in your home.

The catalog copy:

Sturdy enough to support a 250lb person, this gentle ewe of the orvis aries variety is amazingly true to life. With her thick striated fur, velvet muzzle, and soulful eyes, she looks as though she just wandered in from the pasture. Steel reinforced, with a moveable head and ears, so no two in the herd need look exactly alike. Useful for seating, or to accept a casually flung coat, and always a conversation starter.

Yup, put one – or a herd – in your kid's bedroom and count how many hours it takes until your little darling awakens in the middle of the night, sees the soulful eyes staring blankly in the moonlight, and runs screaming into your bedroom.

And does any consumer of this product really care that this ewe is of the orvis aries variety? Is that the detail that's going to make people pony up more than half a G for a place to fling their coats? When did a sofa stop qualifying for that job? Or the floor, for that matter?

And call me crazy, but I wouldn't want to have to take a lint roller to my coat to remove traces of my furniture.

Conspicuous consumerism, anyone?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Wallpaper ...

I bought a digital camera a few months ago.

No, I hadn't owned one before that. I dunno why. I just never got around to it. I did, however, nag my friend Jeff on many occasions about which one to buy. (I think Jeff is a spectacular photographer. He hasn't updated his site in a very long time – the muse has left him, I guess – but if you've never been to his site, it's very much worth your time to poke around.)

The day I bought my camera, before I bothered to read the manual and learn anything about the settings, I took it outside and shot a few things in my yard. After eight shots, the memory card was full. Wha? Turned out, the camera's factory settings were for the highest resolution. I probably could have turned those pictures into wallpaper for my bedroom.

Instead, after I imported them into my computer, I took down the size of one of the shots and made it the wallpaper for my desktop.

I love these colors. This is ground cover that grows in various spots throughout my yard. Every year, it just comes up in the spring then dies back in the fall. My kind of gardening!

It's a pretty big image. Feel free to copy it for your wallpaper. It's very soothing on the eyes.

Bounty ...

No, not the paper towels.

This morning, in a rare moment of ambition, I decided to walk to Starbucks for some coffee and a low-fat blueberry muffin. (This may not sound ambitious, but from my house to Starbucks is a whopping 1.7 miles. I know! It's like I live in Bhutan or something! So 3.4 miles is a pretty decent hike first thing in the morning, especially when the first leg of the journey is to be completed without coffee or muffin for fuel!)

I like knowing as much as I know about food and nutrition (and God knows I have loads more to learn) but it sets up a devil-and-angel debate every time I want to eat something that's not a stick or a twig.

Like this morning, when I thought, "Ooh, I'll get a blueberry muffin with my coffee!" That happy thought was quickly supplanted by "Beth, that's refined white flour and sugar. You shouldn't eat that." Stupid angel shoulder. Luckily, my brain, which sits between and slightly above my shoulders, is rational, and said, "Shut up. She's walking 3.4 miles. She can have a blueberry muffin. But Beth, get a low-fat muffin, OK?"

So I got a low-fat muffin. Which was perfectly tasty.

On the return leg, I strolled through the farmers' market where I spied boxes of blueberries. Oooh. Had to buy a box of those! (I brought them home and turned them into more blueberry muffins. Now that the weather is starting to cool just a little, I'm inspired to bake again and I'm getting back to posting on The Cookie Queen's English.)

I also spied a beautiful pile of peppers, all different colors. So I had to buy a few of those, too. I have no plans for them, other than cutting them up and munching on them. (And check me, hauling out my digital camera to take a picture of my peppers!)

The one that looks brown is indeed brown. Chocolate brown. I'd never seen a brown pepper before, and in the daylight, it looked kind of purple. But no, it's brown. I cut into it and ate a piece and it tastes pretty much like any other pepper and it has the same texture. It just looks like chocolate.

I love this time of year, when all the farms are overflowing and neighbors are pawning off tomatoes and zucchini on anyone who'll stand still. Mom buys a bushel or two of plum tomatoes and we spend a happy day together chopping and turning them into spaghetti sauce. the most amazing, simple spaghetti sauce, that we then freeze (because it gets better, the longer it sits) and haul out in the depths of winter for a fresh-off-the-vine-tasting tomatoey treat.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

What I Smell Like ...

Let's downshift, shall we? No need to get all revved up around icky things like politics. Let's coast along on something much more fluffy: perfume.

Cologne, really. Who the hell can afford perfume when a bottle of the cologne I wear– oh, right, excuse me: not cologne, but eau de toilette – sets me back more than 80 bucks?

Good thing I don't have to buy it very often.

I've never been one of those women with a dresser full of perfume bottles. But I love scent strips. I love rubbing those pieces of paper on my wrist and then waving my arm around in the air to wear the scent a bit and then sniffing myself. And I have a few bottles of perfume in my dresser, but I really only wear one.

Maybe it's because my mom only ever wore one perfume. She still does, mostly. Estee Lauder's Youth Dew is her "winter" fragrance and Estee Lauder's White Linen is her "summer" fragrance. Fall and spring go along for their respective rides, hitching along with winter and summer. So whenever I smell Youth Dew, if I walk into her house after she's recently spritzed, I'm instantly transported back to my childhood, to that time on a Saturday night when she'd be getting ready to go somewhere with my dad. Mom used to sport some pretty spectacular hair back in those days. And I can still see the dangly earrings. The hair and earrings have changed over time.

Her scent, though, has remained the same. Youth Dew is the smell of my mother.

Likewise, Christian Dior's Dune is the smell of me.

I didn't always wear Dune. I've had brief affairs with other fragrances. I remember an especially expensive dalliance with Boucheron. Back when we were together, I spent about $125 a bottle on the stuff. And, of course, I was in no position to be spending $125 on any scent. I'm still not, really.

As with most girls, my first "real" perfume was Love's Baby Soft. Oh, sure, I had the Avon perfumes in the cutesy bottles (I remember one that looked like a cupcake – you screwed off the cherry to get to the goods) or the solid scent in the plastic pins (lifting the gingerbread man's head revealed a shallow pot of waxy gunk), but my first real perfume was Love's.

And I went through a musk phase. And I remember Anais Anais. Emeraude (What was I? 70?). I can see a bottle but can't remember the name of the scent – I guess that one was pretty forgettable. Someone once gave my mom a bottle of Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds. (Clearly, they didn't know my mom very well.) I wore that when I ran out of whatever I was wearing at the time. Paloma Picasso roped me in for a time, maybe a bottle or two. I fell – hard – for Quelques Fleurs one year, only to find out that it was a reissue of a perfume from 1912 and then it was gone. It came back, but I'd moved on. Still, I might find a bottle again someday. It'd be nice to see her again.

Or not. I just Googled it. The list price is $170 a bottle. One of the pages on says it's "recommended for formal use." Yup, it's not a lightweight perfume. Not that I'd buy my perfume through

I never bought into the "impostor fragrances" scene. I guess I figured if I couldn't afford the real deal, I shouldn't wear a knock off. Or maybe the scents just didn't do it for me. I was never bitten by the Giorgio bug.

And then, somewhere, probably in the pages of a magazine, I found Dune. And that was it, love at first sniff.

Yes, there are others. I just padded into my room and grabbed the bottles (so I could be sure to spell the names right) and I have Adrienne Vittadini, which is very nice. If I wore pantsuits, I think that scent would play well with a grey pinstriped suit. I have Mariella Burani, a lovely parting gift from a man I dated years ago. He bought me four gifts for my birthday, including this perfume, and broke up with me a couple weeks later. It's a very pretty bottle. But now that I smell it again, it's too flowery for me. Then again, it's also old. Tom broke up with me, um, nearly 10 years ago? Wow. Really? Yes, I guess so. I guess I can pitch this bottle. But it's pretty ...

I will confess to owning a bottle of Victoria's Secret Dream Angels fragrance: Heavenly. That's the name of it, not my description of it, though I kind of like it, as I sniff it again. It's kind of spicy. The box says, "An ethereal scent; envelops you in a gossamer mist of fragrance." And right underneath that, for an extra layer of sexy: "Caution: Flammable. Keep away from flame or high heat."

And then there's Chance by Chanel. Mom bought it for me for my birthday a few years ago. It's a very grown-up fragrance. I really love it, and I should wear it once in a while. Maybe for special occasions.

But I keep coming back to Dune. I spritzed my wrist before I started writing and I'm sniffing between paragraphs. It just smells like me. And everyone seems to like it. The last time I hugged Dave, he said, "You smell really good." For that matter, his wife once hugged me and said, "You smell so good, I'm just going to hug you and sniff you all night."

She didn't, which is a good thing. Probably would have been awkward for all the other guests at the party. But it's just that kind of scent. The Dior website says Dune is:

A radiant yet subtle fragrance at one with nature.
A glimpse of infinity.
A fragrance landscape where the sky meets the sea.
A harmonious bouquet where amber flowers and sweeping freshness melt into enveloping sensuality.

All righty, then. Who wouldn't want to smell like a glimpse of infinity?

Sadly, the supply does not seem to be infinite. Dune seems to be harder and harder to come by. Dior better not leave me high and dry without my fragrance landscape where the sky meets the sea. I need all the help I can get when it comes to melting into enveloping sensuality.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Propaganda? ...

Heads up, friends: This is a political post. Those of you who don't like it when I wax political might want to stop reading now, because odds are, you ain't gonna like what I have to say.

But I've been seeing these ads, presented by Freedom's Watch, about the war in Iraq and they're getting my dander up. It took about five minutes four years ago for me to get pissed off all over again at George W. Bush and his bullshit assertion that those who questioned the war were being unpatriotic.

Now the war is into its fifth year and thousands of soldiers are dead (3,741 as of today) and wounded and the Iraqi casualties dwarf the deaths of our soldiers. (The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit today demanding that the military release documents about civilians killed by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.) Everyone except the sitting administration seems to understand that we are in the middle of a civil war. And today, I saw a story stating that Bush, contrary to his recent assertions, knew about the plan to dismantle the Iraqi army.

And now all the Iraq progress reports are streaming in and the reports aren't good. The Iraqi government isn't meeting the benchmarks that have been set for it. The Iraqi government says the timetable is unrealistic. I agree. We can't force a nation to turn into a democracy so that we can feel safer, and we can't expect such radical changes in such a short span. Especially not while we're over there killing indiscriminately.

Oh, that last sentence probably pushed a button, didn't it? Well, I was watching 60 Minutes this weekend, watching an interview with a soldier who was responsible for the deaths of 19 Iraqi civilians, including children as young as 18 months old, and one of the phrases he used sent a chill down my spine: "... prepping the rooms with grenades."

Prepping the rooms with grenades. Meaning that soldiers pulled the pins on grenades and rolled them into houses before entering. Except that the criteria for shooting to kill necessitates a positive identification of a suspect or threat. It's hard to say you've positively identified a threat when you're rolling a grenade into a home blindly.

Some will argue that if soldiers politely knock on doors, they might die at the hands of whomever is on the other side.

So we kill indescriminately. OK, if that's what war's about, then we can hardly be baffled by all the insurgents doing their damndest to kill our soliders.

If someone started bombing our country and occupied our land for years and killed civilians day after day, do you think you'd sit idly by and do nothing?

So these commercials featuring amputee soldiers saying that if we withdraw from Iraq now that their sacrifices will be in vain really smack of propaganda.

Check out this press release, titled "New Group, Freedom’s Watch, to launch Major Advertising Campaign in Support of Victory in Iraq'

Here's the first sentence:

August 22, 2007, (Washington, D.C.)—Today a new organization named Freedom’s Watch announced it is launching a nationwide grassroots campaign aimed at ensuring Congress continues to fully fund the troops with the ultimate goal of victory in the War on Terror.

I'm sorry? The ultimate goal of victory in the War on Terror? Does that mean the troops aren't coming home until the War on Terror is won? We'll be waging the War on Terror forever, my friends. Victory in the War on Terror is not around the corner. It's not a matter of holding out until next year.

Guantanamo Bay is a breeding ground for terrorists. Does anyone honestly believe that if we ever let those men out of that prison that they'll merely shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh well, I had years of life taken away from me and I was never even charged with a crime. I'll just go home and be peaceful now." No, I don't think so. I think a lot of those people are going to retaliate and who will be able to blame them?

Saddam may be dead but his loyalists remain and they're pissed.

Oh, and by the way, the sixth anniversary of 9/11 is days away and we still haven't caught bin Laden.

Monday, September 03, 2007

I, Schizophrenic ...

It's not like I'm Niki and Jessica from Heroes, but the past week has been one of those weeks where I'm left wondering, "Who the hell am I?"

Just a couple days ago, I didn't even feel like leaving the house. Many days, I don't really have the need to leave the house. I work from home. My mailbox is right next to my front door. I don't get a daily paper so I'm not forced to go outside in my bathrobe to retrieve it.

If I do need to leave the house, I can accomplish a lot without leaving my car. Bank drive-thru, pull-up mailboxes, McDonald's for the grilled Asian salad when I don't feel like cooking or when I don't have much in the house, which is often when I don't feel like going out of the house, given that a) the grocery store is outside of my house and b) it is not a drive-thru establishment.

Some days, I wake up and shuffle into my office to turn on the computer and then get caught up in the day and never get around to taking a shower. But who cares, right? I'm home alone, I don't have to go anywhere, and no one's going to see me. But it can be hard to wrench yourself out of that rut, and worse, sometimes you find yourself sinking.

So it was, last week. And then Friday rolled around and I really, really had to go to the store. So I got myself together, and I went. And as I was walking to my car, the UPS guy arrived with my iPod gizmo. I tore into the package and noted the suggestion to have it professionally installed, so I went back into the house to look up installers. Made the appointment for Saturday. Then I went to the store.

And I came home and finished my work for the day and damn if I didn't feel like going to a movie. But the only thing that I wanted to see at the theater closest to me was starting sooner rather than later and I hate getting to a movie late, so I decided to stay at home and watch at DVD. (Breach. See it.)

Then Saturday dawned and I had some early errands to run, including a trip to the paint store to pick out paint chips. It's time to paint the bathroom again. When I got home, it seemed rather imperative that I take a shower and do something with my hair. And makeup. And then I had to head to my iPod appointment. If you haven't already seen it, that story is here.

Maybe it was Brian's nice invitation or maybe it was the Cheap Trick I was blaring in my car on a sunny Saturday afternoon (Dave suggested that I listen to Cheap Trick once my pod was installed, as it's good "windows down" music), but the tone was set for the day.

I stopped off at an antique store I hadn't been to in ages and actually bought things, including the most fab pair of chairs for $15 each. They're, well, let me go find a picture for you. You know, teachers' chairs. But they're painted this fab dark sage green color, totally a color I'd pick if I was going to paint them. The paint is a little worn off in spots, but the original paint job was very well done. It's not like somebody just slapped a coat of paint on these babies with a brush. The finish must have been sprayed on. It's perfectly smooth.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with them, but I loved them, and for $15 each (they're heavy and sturdy as all get out), I couldn't not buy them. Perhaps they'll join my other fab chair that I bought at a yard sale for $5. Damn, I love a bargain.

From the antique store, I headed home and off-loaded my treasures, then ran more errands. It was clearly a good shopping day, so I made hay while the sun shined. Shone? I made hay. I found a fabulous silver-plated oval dish at another antique store for $3. Three bucks. And found just the right thank-you/housewarming gift for Brian, my engineer. Engineer Brian. Pet Lover Brian. I'm going to have to create modifiers for all the Brians in my life, I guess. And I revisited the movie idea, but no, I wasn't up for it. Sunday, yesterday, I was up and at 'em early, off to a grocery store that I love for its produce and then home with all the intentions of cooking, but watching TV won out.

Doreen's gotten me hooked on Mad Men on AMC. I stumbled upon the last two hours of a marathon. For the love of all that is good and holy, Jon Hamm is one stunning son of a bitch. And this photo doesn't do him justice. My very good friend John used to be a big wig on Madison Avenue in the '60s, though he has yet to weigh in on the show. They may have been a bunch of borderline misogynists, but damn, bring Don Draper (that's Hamm's character) into this century (you know, without aging him 47 years) and I'd marry him tomorrow. Whew. He's got that Cary Grant thing going on and I am a sucker for Cary Grant.

Sunday night, of course, I had to watch Design Star because I'm paid to watch Design Star. (Tee hee. I'm paid to watch television! Well, actually, I'm paid to write about it after I watch it, but I'd probably do that anyway, here.) Which brings us to Monday.

Today I just felt like I had it going on. I called Doreen and made a plan to swing by her place with her birthday gift (in case I don't see her later this week) and we hung out on her balcony, sun for her, shade for me. (Gotta maintain that Wayne Gretzky tan, as English Teacher Dave likes to call my lack of color.) I thought I wanted to go to Crate & Barrel when I left her house, but just as I got through all the crazy traffic on North Avenue (why do I keep forgetting about the bridge construction?), I decided to abort that mission. Instead, I headed to the Cabrini Starbucks for a decaf grande hazelnut no-whip coffee Frap. I figured it would be my last one of the summer, on this, the last unofficial day of summer.

And then I felt the need to drive past Mama's, my favorite Chinese place, which does indeed look closed for good. Sigh. The quest begins anew for good Chinese food. And then I thought I'd head for home, but while I was in the car, I put in a call to Brian, he of the iPod installation. I got his voicemail. I left a message, suggesting coffee if he was around. But I didn't hear back from him. So the ball's in his court now.

So now the long weekend is almost behind me and I'm sitting here writing and wondering what accounts for the shift in attitude, from not showering and wanting to leave the house to putting myself together and calling up a guy (on my Bluetooth device because I was in my car) and suggesting we meet up for coffee. Weird, the difference a few days can make.

Maybe the makeup I bought at JD's new salon is magic. For what I paid for it, it should be.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I Got The Music In Me My Car ...

Woo hoo!

After last week's trials and tribulations in my quest for a decent solution to using my iPod in the car, I am now officially too cool for school.

Today, I took my car to Wyld Stylz to have the adapter installed. (Oh yes, you're reading that right, and don't tell me you're not thinking about Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Wyld Stallyns, because I know you are.)

When I received the device in the mail, I noted on the front of the instructions: "PROFESSIONAL INSTALLATION STRONGLY RECOMMENDED."

Sheesh. No kidding.

I walked into Wyld Stylz and saw a guy behind the counter.

"Are you Bill?" I asked. I talked to Bill yesterday to set up the appointment.

"Nope, I'm Brian," he said, and then added, joking, "I'm better than Bill."

"Well, then," I said, "you're the guy I want to work on my car."

He looked at what I brought in, asked me a couple of questions, and headed for the door with my keys in his hand.

"Is there anything you need me to do?" I asked.

"We can talk while I do this," he said.

Oh. OK. Talk. Right. Sure.

So he got in the driver's side of my car and I got in the passenger's side (it's very weird being a passenger in your own car) and he drove around to the back of the shop and got his tools and proceeded to take apart the dashboard of my car. Not with particular ease, I might add. Not that he didn't know what he was doing, but my dash seems to be screwed in in places where you wouldn't expect a dash to be screwed.

Eventually, he got it all apart, took my radio out, and started hooking up parts. Of course, there were a few glitches along the way, because there are always glitches, but he worked through them.

We made small talk. He asked me what kind of music I listen to. Springsteen came to mind. "Tickets are going on sale next Saturday," I said. Brian said he'd like to see Springsteen.

Alrighty, then. The boy has taste.

"What do you do?" he asked me. As well as, among other questions, "What do you do for fun?" and "Are you married?" and "Have you ever been married?" and "What kind of food do you like?" and "What do you drink?" I told him vodka in the summer, scotch in the cooler months. "Oh," he said. "You're a very classy lady."

Now is a good time in the post to tell you that Brian is 32 years old. He's about 5'11" and about as thin as my index finger. He's originally from North Carolina, but lived in California for a while. He's been installing car audio for 17 years. He likes to gamble and usually wins. He's very scruffy, in that intentionally scruffy way. He's one of the few people I've ever met who can use pet names for a near-total stranger and not seem insincere (i.e. "Would you hand me that drill, sweetheart?" That should have felt weird, given that I'd known the guy for 15 minutes at the point, but it didn't.) And he has the most intense blue eyes I've ever seen, the kind of eyes that you can't help but look into.

"And what do you drink?" I asked.

"White Russians, sometimes," he said. "Sometimes Bud Light, if I'm drinking beer."

"White Russians?" I said. "I wouldn't have pegged you for the White Russian type, Bri. They're kinda floofy." Then again, hey, vodka, Kahlua, and cream. What's not to like, really?

"OK, let's give this a test run," he said, with everything hooked up but hanging from my dash. I hooked up my iPod and dialed up Springsteen's latest tune. "Can I hit Play?" I asked.

"Yep, hit Play," he said.

So I did. And Bruce's voice rang forth from my car speakers! Woot!

He started to put everything back together and we kept chatting. During the "What do you listen to?" reciprocal conversation, he darted into the store and when he returned, he handed me a spool of CDs. I made my way through the stack. A lot of mixes, so I didn't get a sense of his music, fully, but we agreed that Def Leppard's The Vault is a great album (we put it in my CD player, to make sure that the CD overrode the iPod; it did). I dialed up Def Leppard on my pod and ejected his CD, lest I leave it in my player.

I ran across The Chronicles of Narnia. "Oh," I said. "You're into soundtracks." (I love soundtracks.)

"It's the DVD," he said. Which is fine, too. I like the books more than the movie, but I liked the movie.

My car was nearly put back together. He had one screw left over. Isn't that always the way? He dismantled part of my dash, looking for where it belonged. He couldn't figure it out.

"Throw it in my ashtray," I said. "If I hear something rattling around, I'll come back and you can fix it."

He drove us around to the front of the store when he was finished, put the car in park, turned off the ignition, turned and leaned against the door like he'd been in my car a million times, and said, "Do you wanna go out sometime?"

I was slightly taken aback (because men rarely ask me out) and yet not surprised (because I'd felt so comfortable with him for the past hour, and his line of questioning was pretty obvious).

"Sure," I said.

We went into the store. While I settled up, he wrote his number down on the back of a business card and handed it to me. In front of his boss.

"I'll call you," I said.

And I will.

I find him fascinating. So much so that I'm temporarily willing to overlook the fact that he smokes. I've never gone out with a smoker. Intentionally.

But maybe we can meet up for White Russians.

'Breach' ...

Holy crap, this is a good movie!

Did you see it? I don't think many people did, and that's a damn shame.

On, it received an 84 percent fresh rating. That's very high for that site.

If Chris Cooper isn't nominated for another Oscar for this performance, there is no justice in Hollywood. He's outstanding in this role, similar to his character from American Beauty.

If you haven't seen it, fast-track it to the top of your Netflix queue or get yourself to the video store or buy it on cable or satellite on demand. Whatever you gotta do, find this film.

I was watching this while lying on the couch and realized that my heart was racing. The suspense is literally palpable.