Thursday, December 31, 2009
Roman numerals make everything cooler. And a year that looks so good in Roman numbers has got to be a good one.
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I make plans. I break things down into lists and I start tackling things one by one until they're all done. Whatever I want to accomplish, I try to figure out how to do it and then I do it – step by step.
Sometimes plans get revised. Others get ditched. Sometimes despite best efforts things don’t work out as planned. Sometimes the plague strikes. Life happens.
I had grand plans for 2009. I planned on getting an agent and selling a book. That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m revising my expectations, refining my plan of attack and moving forward.
But I’m not done with that one. In MMX I’ll get an agent.
And I’ll do my best to run the New York City Marathon.
Those are my two big plans for the year. There are also some other smaller ones. There’s even one involving a tiny panda, but I’ll save those as surprises for you.
Happy New Year! Accomplish all you want in MMX.
Dream it. Plan it. Live it.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
It was cold, it was early, I was in a rush. It was hours before I noticed, but when I did, I was full of grief and regret.
Dear glove, I found you in a desperate time. The stores were optimistically stocking bikinis while a blizzard waged outside. There were no gloves to be found anywhere. “Sorry, it’s the Spring collection,” they said without a hint of apology.
I had been looking for days for a pair before I found you. You were the last of your kind. Marked down. Final Sale. I couldn’t believe my luck. Though you had no lining, you had flair and you stuck by me for the rest of that season and a full season more.
We were going on two years – ten in glove years – and I shouldn’t have taken you for granted.
Yesterday I got up at five am. I had some coffee and bite to eat before heading out for my shift at the co-op. When I got there I locked up the bike, took off helmet and gloves, turned off the blinker, and headed inside to sign in.
When I came back out hours later you were gone. Inside my bag your partner was still resting next to the keys, alone. Oh, glove, where art thou?
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Brooklyn. Bluejay skies. A day of rain has washed the air and the sidewalks. The temperature is in the 40s and pleasant. The snow has melted. Majo steps outside her apartment building and starts running along 6th Avenue.
ICMajo– Do we really have to do this?
MuyMajo – Let’s just try and see how it goes.
LeftKnee – Guys, I’m not sure this is a great idea.
MuscleChorus – One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three…
MuyMajo – Don’t worry, knee, we’ll take it easy. Let’s see how you’re doing after a mile or two once you’re warmed up.
Mile 1: 4th Street
MuyMajo – Wow. 2nd Street. Didn’t even notice that first one.
ICMajo – Are we there yet?
MuyMajo – One down, six more to go!
6th Ave ends at Flatbush Ave. Taking a left, Majo hops on the sidewalk and exchanges nods and smiles with two separate women running in the opposite direction.
Mile 2: Atlantic Avenue Center
MuyMajo – Great job everyone! Only five more!
ICMajo – Can we go shopping? I bet Target is deserted right now.
MuscleChorus – One, Two, Three, Four, One, Two, Three…
MuyMajo – Don’t need anything right now, but thanks. How’re you doing knee?
LeftKnee – Ok, I guess. A little achy but no worse.
MuyMajo – We’ll just keep up this pace then. Let me know if you need me to stop.
LeftKnee – Nah. I’m all right.
As it moves away from Atlantic Center, Flatbush Avenue stretches in a landscape of shuttered storefronts. A few are starting to open but the sidewalk is mostly empty. Closer to Fulton Mall things start to get more gray and commercial.
Stomach – I’m not doing great here. Shouldn’t have had cereal for breakfast.
MuyMajo – Just relax. You’ll be fine.
ICMajo – This is ugly.
MuyMajo – It’ll be over soon. Look! A marathon poster!
ICMajo – Did you just high-five a poster? Dork.
MuyMajo – Look! The bridge!
ICMajo – You think I’m going to be excited about that? We’re supposed to be going up that thing.
MuyMajo – What do you think about running karaoke?
ICMajo – Would you please stop singing along? You’re making me run out of breath.
Mile 3:Tillary Street
The street has been rising in a gentle slope. The incline gets sharper with the proximity to the bridge. The pedestrian path is open.
MuyMajo – It’s so different on this side!
ICMajo – It’s the same thing. Same river, same city view. Seen it a thousand times.
MuyMajo - It’s so bright today. And from here you get a better view of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. And look at that sky! And the water!
MuscleChorus – Move as one everyone! Focus. One, Two, Three, Four. One, Two…
Heart – Thu-thump. Thu-thump. Thu-Thump.
Side-stitch – Hi, everyone!
ICMajo – Ugh! Who invited her? I told you it was a bad idea to sing.
MuyMajo - Don’t panic. Just keep breathing. Stay relaxed. We’re almost at the top of the bridge. We can stop for a moment there.
At the blue canopy that marks the high point of the bridge, Majo nods at other runners coming from Manhattan. A red barge drifts along the river.
ICMajo – Hey! You forgot to stop.
MuyMajo – There was no need. We’re going downhill now!
LeftKnee – Oh, no! We’re going downhill!
Mile 4: Manhattan side of the Manhattan Bridge
ICMajo – Why is it windier in Chinatown than it was on the bridge?
MuyMajo – I don’t know.
ICMajo – Let’s call it a day and go for dim-sum!
MuyMajo – And skip the Brooklyn Bridge? Are you crazy?
Mile 5: Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge
ICMajo – The Brooklyn Bridge? You’ve got to be kidding.
MuyMajo – But it’s so pretty.
ICMajo – It’s full of tourists. How can you run in this mob?
MuyMajo – It’s like a race. Fun!
Heart – Thu-thump. Thu-thump. Thu-Thump.
MuscleChorus – One, Two, Three, Four …
ICMajo – Why are they taking pictures? They need to keep moving. And they should stay off the bike path!
MuyMajo – There's no need to police them. Just keep running.
Two guys on road bikes and full racing regalia slow down and duck to avoid being on a tourist’s picture frame.
LeftKnee – Oh, no! We’re going downhill!
ICMajo – Yes! Last hill!
MuyMajo – Bye, bye Brooklyn Bridge!
Mile 6: Bottom of the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Side
MuyMajo – Cadman Plaza! Let’s take the runner’s path.
LeftKnee – Yes! Rubbery and chushy!
ICMajo – We should walk to the subway from here.
MuyMajo – Why?
ICMajo – Just a suggestion.
Mile 7: Corner of Montague & Clinton Street.
MuyMajo – That’s it, guys! We’re here!
ICMajo – Huh.
MuyMajo – That was fun!
ICMajo – Can I have some coconut water now?
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Larry moved in about a week ago, courtesy of the same neighbors who let Santa retire in my planter.
Raccoons are not only common in South Brooklyn, it turns out that raccoons like the city. New York City has the densest raccoon population in the state and most of them seem to live in South Brooklyn. Can't blame them. With Prospect Park and all the bars and restaurants in this part of Brooklyn who wouldn't want to live here.
So far Larry has toppled the garbage can only once but he's been snarky all day because I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox last night and loved it. He said Remarkable Raccoon would have been a better movie, but I'm not sure about that. Mr. Fox was pretty fantastic indeed, and if Larry wants to be able to continue living here he'll have to lose the attitude, don't you think?
Friday, December 25, 2009
Though Brooklyn is not the lawless place it once was, there are pockets of unruliness. You might be safe behind locked doors; the bolt keeping intruders out. But the minute you leave your apartment you may be ambushed in ways for which it is impossible to prepare.
Like finding Santa enjoying a tropical vacation under your cacti and succulents right outside your apartment door. I know who let him in. It was my downstairs neighbors. Can’t wait for them to return from Australia so I can get back at them.
For those of you who celebrate in more traditional ways, I hope Santa was nice to you before he retired in my planter.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
With half the city doing last minute shopping and the other half traveling, I thought it would be the perfect day to go to the DMV and get my new license. The name-changing process that started with a judge, a mullet, and a coffin was finally complete last week. Now I have to go around alerting official entities, changing cards and accounts. I started with the driver’s license.
Last time I tried getting something done at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles I was told to go across the river and have the New Jersey DMV help me. Today, with holiday spirit in the air, I was determined to smile and sing jingle bells if I had to in order to get what I wanted.
It turns out there was no need. I kept being shuffled from window to window and given slips with waiting numbers with a printed estimated waiting time of zero minutes. I actually had to hurry to make it from one window to the next, those people were in such a hurry to get things done today.
I smiled and wished them all a Merry Christmas, and now I have an interim NYS driver’s license to keep my wallet warm until the permanent one arrives in the mail.
It’s a state issued document with my name on it and it’s the best Christmas gift I could have given myself.
Merry Christmas everyone! Treat yourself to something that really matters to you!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The way our table was set while growing up, in the middle of it there was salt, there were napkins, and there was a cheese grater. It took the place that pepper mills take at other tables.
We put cheese in our soup. Cheese on rice. Cheese on salad. Cheese on arepas. Cheese on hot chocolate. Pretty much cheese on anything.
I didn't know this wasn't the way the rest of the world ate. I assumed everyone sat down to eat with a cheese grater handy.
When I was seventeen, I moved away from Barranquilla to Bogotá for school and I started missing the cheese. In Barranquilla you can buy fresh, farm made, white cheese pretty much anywhere. It's a non-pasteurized, hard, white cheese made in small batches. Salty. Highly grateable. Not as easily found in Bogotá.
It's because of the cattle. In the northern coast of Colombia - where Barranquilla is - you find mostly Zebu. They are brown, skinny, humped cows. Not very photogenic, but it's a type of cattle that does well in hot, humid weather and produces a high protein milk.
Near Bogotá, in the high mountains, you find more of the pretty black and white Holstein cattle with the smooth back. Those are the ones that get plush toys made in their likeness. Nice creamy cheese comes out of that milk. Good on crackers, good melting points. Not good for grating.
Not good for French toast.
I was eighteen before I found out that French toast was supposed to be sweet and that cheese was not the main ingredient. One of these days I'll share my French Toast recipe with you. It comes out more like Welsh Rarebit than what most of you would call French Toast and it's delicious. It's what I had for dinner last night.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Before heading to work this morning, instead of blogging I cleaned the stove. Usually I would never put cleaning above writing unless I was doing some serious procrastinating, but I'd finally had enough with the stove. Baking and general cooking - including a full turkey last Thursday - had left it covered with enough caked on flour, cheese, and assorted mysterious food smears for a small pizza tree to grow.
Though my kitchen does generally look like it sees regular use, I try to keep the stove somewhat clean. But lately time has been scurrying down the blogging and holiday card making hole and I've had trouble keeping up with other stuff.
Monday, December 21, 2009
For the past week I’ve been having the exact same thing for breakfast everyday. When I like something, I’m happy to have it everyday and that’s usually what I do, until the weather changes. It’s what I’ve been having for breakfast that surprised me.
I talk to my parents on Sunday mornings. Last Sunday when I was sick and with no voice my mom was upset. “Ay, mamita!” I wish I could be there to make you some changua, she said, expressing her desire to nurse me back to health from 2,000 miles away.
“Changua?” I replied in surprise.
“Si, mamita. Changua” she said. It’s good for you when you’re sick like that. Your brother didn’t like it, but you always loved it when you were sick, she continued.
Changua is a breakfast soup made with milk and eggs. I’m very particular about how I like my eggs. And those of you who’ve been following for a while know I have my issues with milk. How could I like this? My mom had to be confused. I did not like changua. It must have been my brother who liked it.
But my mom recently proved me wrong regarding my memories of a certain childhood incident involving a wonder woman costume and a missing pair of front teeth (she produced photographic evidence which I will not share). Maybe she was right about changua too, so instead of arguing I told her I’d make myself some.
Quick keystroke action gave me a recipe. I had all the ingredients or suitable substitutes in the fridge. Since something savory and warm did sound nice I thought I’d give it a try. I sautéed a small shallot. When it was translucent I added a cup and a half of a milk and water mixture. Salt. Once it was boiling I added an egg, lowered the flame, and let it cook for a couple of minutes until the yolk was fully solid. I poured it into a bowl over crumbled feta and topped with chopped cilantro.
I was prepared to toss this if I didn’t like it. It hadn’t taken long to make and I could always serve myself a bowl of cereal and yogurt if this didn’t work, I thought as I sat down to have the first spoonful.
There was no need. First sip. The taste, familiar but forgotten, took me back to my parents’ kitchen. Second sip soothed my throat and warmed me up. The changua went down easily that day, the day after, the day after that, and the rest of the week. I even had to make a special trip to the co-op for more milk and cilantro. And now I’m much better.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
All I did was ask for Theresa, introduce myself, and say I was there to volunteer. I was at the New York Road Runners headquarters ready to fulfill the last requirement for guaranteed entry for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon. I ran all my races, now I was ready to volunteer.
The goal of qualifying for the marathon had come as a whim. It was something seemingly impossible to strive for. There was not a chance I’d be able to run nine races in one year without my body falling apart, but I thought the striving would be good for me and that was enough. At best, I’d get in better shape and learn how to run.
I was wrong.
At best I found friends and strength that helped me live this year better. I also found a body that wants to run, that keeps getting faster and enjoys the road. And I have found the best post-race brunch company. And bacon tastes even better after a race.
I got goose bumps and tears watching the marathon this year from mile 6, and I can’t even begin to imagine what training for and running the marathon next year will be like. I don’t even know if I can make it, but I know I have to give it a try.
I’m excited about it and because of that I was excited about the volunteering.
Theresa gave me an up and down look. “Daphne!” She called out. “This one’s got a personality. Put her as a greeter.”
And that’s how I got the spend part of the afternoon yesterday smiling at strangers and directing them upstairs to pick up their bibs. My spot was right by the store cash registers so I got to chat with Celeste who celebrated her 75th birthday last week. When I mentioned mine had been the previous day she opened up the drawer of the register and gave me a marathon pen.
It looks like the perfect pen to log my runs, don’t you think?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
It's Paula Radcliffe's birthday today, I just found out. She's exactly two years older than me, which means I have a couple of years to become as fast as she is. I'll have a bit of cake while I think about that.
The celebrations started early. One of my clients surprised me with a mini-birthday party. Since I work freelance and I’m not there everyday, I was not expecting any kind of fuss.
My boss and coworkers - Anna and Kevin - had brownies topped with candles for me, and they even sang happy birthday. The blowing out of the candles – all four of them – took about three tries. Not because they were those trick candles that re-light themselves but because in the past week this cold I have has managed to take away almost all my lung capacity.
There were candles, there were brownies, there was champagne, and there was a gift: a Flip video camera (I don’t know yet what I’ll be doing with a video camera, but stay tuned and you’re bound to find out).
But more than that there was warmth. I’m lucky to be surrounded by such lovely people. Not just at work, but here too. Thank you.
And you, Paula Radcliffe, have a lovely birthday too. To read my previous posts featuring Paula Radcliffe, go here and here.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I haven't been able to shake the something I started fighting last week. It managed to lodge itself deep in my chest and cook up a batch of green rice pudding. Though I've been coughing enough to give nineteenth century heroines a run for their money, besides some soreness in the chest I actually feel fine.
Oh, and I have no voice.
Other than that, I'm peachy.
But, in the interest of getting better on time for my birthday, I skipped my broomball game tonight. It was a very hard decision to make but I was threatened by my Manisha and Lizz and told I had to rest.
And so I'm here, blogging about broomball instead of playing broomball as I wait for the result of the game. The pictures - courtesy of NYCSSC - are from last week's game against Gotham Blades. Yes. Last week. This ain't twitter folks. I'm the one in the highlighter yellow pants.
We haven't won a game this season yet. But we will. I know we will. Maybe even tonight.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Cookies are not my thing. Never have been. Not making them, not eating them. I might enjoy one sometimes, but I’ll always choose a brownie over a cookie, a tart over a whoopee pie. Cookies are nice. I’ll take one if offered and enjoy it, but they rarely make me my taste buds flare up in happiness.
Today I was invited to not one but two cookie parties. While flipping through cookbooks trying to find something I thought I might like to make I found Mexican wedding cakes. Also known as Russian Tea Cakes, Italian Butter Nuts, Southern Pecan Butterball, Viennese Sugar Ball, and Snowdrops they are considered a traditional holiday cookie.
The problem was that I had two recipes for them: one from The Joy of Cooking and another from The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook and they were different.
I learned how to cook with The Joy. While growing up I had ignored my mother’s dire warnings that I would never find a husband if I couldn’t cook and found refuge in books while staying away from the kitchen.
When I moved to Bogotá for school I no longer enjoyed the benefits of my mom’s cooking, but I could still have homemade meals. Near schools and business areas there are lunch places that sell home cooked food by subscription. They have no menu. They just have one lunch item, but it’s a full homemade lunch and it’s different every day. That was my one good meal a day while going to school in Bogotá. For dinner I was happy to have toast.
It was when I moved to New York that I became interested in cooking. Even though New York is a great place to find all kinds of cheap and delicious food, it’s not easy to have good homemade meals here. And so, craving food at home that did not come out of a can, I started to cook.
Irma was my first teacher. A friend gave me a copy of The Joy of Cooking and through its pages I learned not only how to follow a recipe but when and how to experiment with one. Not only does it have reliable recipes, but it’s also a great reference source. Got a spare butternut squash? Check out pg. 423 for everything you might need to know from selecting one, storing it, different ways of cooking it, to ideas about what to use it for and what foods it goes well with.
Williams, on the other hand, has given me some excellent soups. I have a copy of Soups from the Williams-Sonoma kitchen library and it has yielded an excellent Pumpkin Soup with Gruyere among others.
Another friend gave me a copy of the Williams-Sonoma Cookbook more recently, but since I rarely use cookbooks these days I hadn’t tried any of the recipes. But the pictures are lovely.
Including the one for Mexican Wedding Cakes.
Williams makes them with blanched almonds, Irma with toasted pecans. William uses more sugar, but other than that they’re very similar. Williams’ picture is compelling, but Irma has been my friend for longer. I briefly considered doing a cookie-off and making both versions to see which one I liked best, but decided against.
I stuck by Irma. She may not be flashy, but she’s been true.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Still windy and chilly. It will stay that way but that won’t stop me. It might slow me down, but I have to keep going. Besides - unlike Thursday morning - I have hot water by my side. Showered I can do anything.
By 8:55 am I’ll be shivering in Prospect Park, waiting for the race to start. Today is the NYRR Holiday 4miler and I don’t even want to acknowledge the temperature by writing it here, but the wind chill will be in the single digits.
This means the road near the water stations will be covered with ice and that I’ll have to be very careful when running past them. But it also means that the hot chocolate after the race will taste amazing.
Even more, it also means that it’s cold enough for me to run in my Santa hat and enjoy it. As if the hat weren’t enough, I’m also running with my posse and there’s no better way to stay warm on cold day.
Happy Holidays! Have some hot chocolate!
Friday, December 11, 2009
For the past few days I’ve been battling something in my chest. Because of it I’ve been having trouble breathing and there’s a gelatinous substance traveling my trachea.
I’ve been trying to stay warm but sometimes that doesn’t work. Tuesday night found me running on ice (literally). Wednesday morning was rainy and cold, then warm, before temperatures plunged on Thursday morning as the city entered the chilly wind tunnel where it spends winter.
When I woke up yesterday morning my nose was struggling against the cold air trying to squeeze some oxygen out of it. I was shivering and my hands were hurting. I wondered if for the first time in ten years I had gotten really sick but except for the shivering and the breathing thing I felt fine.
A glance at the thermometer and I realized what was wrong: my apartment was the same temperature as the fridge. The pilot light on the boiler must have gone out. No pilot light equals no heating and no hot water. I’d have to go at it European style.
My first trip to Europe was when I was fifteen. In 1992 (don't bother with the math) I had written an essay for a contest celebrating five hundred years of Columbus tripping over America and had won a trip to Spain. There were a couple hundred of us between fifteen and seventeen from all over the world touring Spain in seven buses and attending official events.
An uncle of mine who was the more traveled among my relatives had warned me that if I wanted to learn anything I should stay away from the Latin Americans. “Latinos are all the same, you should try to spend time with Europeans.”
Which is how I learned that Europeans have different views on showering. Neus, seventeen, from Spain told me “In the summer I do shower everyday, but not in winter. Every other day is enough.” And Florence, fifteen, from France confirmed it “It’s a waste of water – you have to save water.”
I’m all for saving water. Particularly when it’s ice cold and I’m supposed to shower in it. I don’t have access to my boiler so I couldn’t re-light the pilot. I’d have to wait until the super got around to it, which would not happen before I had to leave for work. I'd be European for a day.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Not sure which, but I'm definitely heading for one of those. I'm not doing it on purpose, but it seems to be part of the job description.
Since you've been so loyal I thought I'd come clean and let you know about my recent internet fame. I'm still getting used to the idea of it which is why I didn't mention this sooner.
Let's start with Party in Your Mouth. I love Jess Hulett's show and was thrilled to be a part of it. For those of you who might have missed it, you can watch me share my arepa recipe on this video.
Something else that was fun was this. I walked into this shoot wanting to help my friend Agatha and not knowing exactly what it was. Though it was fun participating, finding out the feature was up and that they had chosen my pictures from an email from an unrelated friend was startling.
And then there's that award that was named after me. It's the Majo Tinoco "that was my eye award" for best injury for the 2008-2009 winter broomball season. It's not news, but it's one that tends to linger the way things do in these google days.
Today, Party in your Mouth. Tomorrow, the world!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Sometimes it's hard to come back from a weekend. It's Tuesday evening and I'm just now landing. Because it was such a good one, Monday loomed particularly dreary and I felt I needed a little color in my day.
First I grabbed the red jacket. Then I went for the most colorful scarf I have which looks like a patchwork of Tibetan prayer flags. I was running late for work, so I grabbed the bag I've been carrying lately instead of trying to switch things around. The only problem is that it's purple. Since it's getting cold out I needed a hat. I paused to try to figure out what went with all that and made a grab for the fuzzy white hat because since it's neutral it would go well with all this color, right?
Except that the fuzzies threw the whole thing over the edge straight into a different territory: this was the outfit of someone who didn't give a hoot and the color combination was one rarely seen outside retirement homes in Florida.
Well, I didn't give a hoot. I went out wearing all that, enjoyed it, and didn't even get fined.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
This one falls under the WTF is Majo eating category. Since I was focusing on working on writing stuff yesterday I didn't want to bike over to the coop for groceries. Besides, lunch with whatever is at home is my specialty.
Give me an empty fridge, a raided pantry and I'll give you a meal. Tell me there's no food at home and I'll prove you a liar. Some days what will come out is normal looking - like a Spanish tortilla. Other days you might end up with the above pictured.
Let's start with capellini. Always keep some in hand -it's delicious and it cooks quickly. While the pasta is cooking, fry an egg and break it up with a spatula. Crumble some feta and toss it with the pasta and the egg. The feta will add some salty tangy goodness to your day. For texture (or if you happen to still have some left over from Thanksgiving) top with some homemade breadcrumbs. Toss with soy sauce and extra-virgin olive oil. Lunch for one is ready and it will knock your socks off. That was the first time I tried that particular combination but I know I'll make it again.
For most of my life I hated eating alone. Now I love it. I don't think I'd be able to come up with meals like this if I were trying to feed others. I'd be too weird-conscious. In the words of Mrs. Dalloway "It is the privilege of loneliness; in privacy one may do as one chooses."
It's in that privilege of loneliness that I write.
But not today. A peek at my day: people running, people playing, people eating, people making music. It started yesterday with some people acting (You're a good man Charlie Brown - I'm in love with Snoopy!) and people reading (Jonathan Lethem's marathon reading at Bookcourt). I might tell you about all this soon.
If you're nice.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Meet my reading pile. These are all books I've either read or am trying to read as part of my quest to find an agent and it looks messy. It's all over the place and in need of dusting.
Besides, I've pretty much maxed out both of my public library cards. Time to slow down and speed up. Stop reading and write more. Be more efficient.
On the list for today is sorting through this pile and figuring out which books I want to keep for a while longer and which ones need to go back to the library. Next, I'll be trimming my agent spreadsheet, querying, and working on another piece I'm writing.
Wish me luck!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Last night I got my first real rejection email. It was a lovely one and though I know it might have been a copy paste job I don't care. The email let me down gently and was so encouraging I didn't really mind (much) that it was a rejection.
This was from the more surprising of the partial requests which might be why I'm not upset. It had been an agency submission where I had filled out a form online hoping to reach Agent B, but it was Agent A who wrote to me and asked for more. I got excited - of course I did - I've heard great things about Agent A and he seems great, but he's not my dream agent. And I'm ok with that.
Or maybe it's just all that running. Not just the running helps you cope with anxiety thing but something else that I've found out through running races: being on the receiving end of cheering makes a difference to me.
Random strangers cheer for you when you're running a race:
"You look great!"
"Keep it up!"
The first time I found it strange. How do they know I look great? What if I usually look better and this is terrible for me? Turns out it doesn't matter because I don't care. It feels good to have others cheer for you even if they're strangers.
I know these are anonymous cheers but it's still good will being sent my way and I soak it up, just like I'm soaking up Agent A's encouragement. Sure, he might not have written that email just for me but that doesn't mean he didn't mean it and now that I don't have the hope of his acceptance dangling like a carrot, I need to majo up and get more queries out there.
(Note on the picture: that's not the rejection email but a visual of my working style.)
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
At least until I get some coffee in me. Broomball was a lot of fun last night but the struggle with the snooze button this morning wasn't pretty.
The alarm clock and I, we go way back. We've had an on and off again relationship for the past seventeen years. Once, on trip to San Francisco he threatened to abandon me and stay behind but in the end he realized what we have is special and he came back to me a few days later via FedEx.
For a while the alarm clock was in cahoots (don't you love that word?) with a cat but now the cat is gone and it's back to just the two of us. When the cat was around this is what things were like in the morning:
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
A balmy Thanksgiving weekend gave way to a gray and rainy Monday which brought us to this: Winter! It's definitely in the air. A dry cold blast in the face when you step out door and it's here just in time.
For years I fought it. Though snow is pretty, long dark cold days can get to me. I started dreading it as soon as summer left, and by mid-winter I was a miserable shivering mess. Enter Pavlov. Instead of fighting winter I decided to make winter a season of good things, so now when it's cold I get excited.
A few years ago I joined the New York City Social Sports Club and now I have something to look forward to every Tuesday of the winter season.
And it starts tonight, with the opening game of the broomball season.
Broomball. Think hockey, but without skates. On ice. Hence the need for a helmet with a cage.
My team, Too Fat for Porn will be facing Secret Agents tonight. We all know who the favorite is: doesn't everyone root for Porn? Go Pornies!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
This a word cloud I created using Wordle. I grabbed my book – the whole tamale – tossed it into worlde and this is what came out. The more often a word appears in my book, the larger it will show in the cloud.
If you take a look at the cloud, you’ll know there are games, soccer, parks, friends, and beer in the book. There’s also plenty of trying, things are hard, there are plans, and there are Pirates in New York. And there’s home – the finding of it.
Here’s what’s going on: I’ve written a book and now I’m in the early stages of the torturously slow process of finding an agent. It's going well, but the book business moves at a snail pace.
I’ve queried. I’ve gotten rejected. Twice. But I’ve also queried and gotten requests for more. Twice. I’ve sent more and now I’m trying not to tear the skin off my thumbie as I wait to hear back from them.
I also had an amazing meeting with someone who works on the other side of this – on the book buying side – who gave me great advice and offered me some candy. I grabbed onto the promise of that candy like it was the last helicopter out Saigon.
But I haven’t heard back about that candy and I don’t know when I’ll hear back. I’ve been busy following her advice and working on getting short pieces published and on developing the blog, but I need to move beyond that and start getting things done.
Rejection is hard, but I need to stop being such a wimp, leave the comfort of my couch, and get out there. Rejection is good. Rejection puts me in great company, as this post I read today points out. Getting a rejection doesn’t prove anything but if I’m not getting rejected, I’m not querying enough. And I have to query if I want to find an agent.
The holidays are looming and the publishing industry breaks away from their computers and goes caroling. Which means I need to get my ass in gear.
On my to do list for this week: re-work query, send queries out to agents (at least three), finish a first-person essay that’s been lurking in my computer, and run faster.
My objective for December: to get rejected more!
Friday, November 27, 2009
Yesterday I ran the Turkey Trot at a pace that was at least one minute and thirty seconds faster than my recorded pace with NYRR, which is a ton faster that I've ever run before.
As I mentioned earlier, I was running with six friends. One of them wasn't sure what her pace was but it sounded she'd be a little faster than me so I decided to try to keep up with her. Turns out she was a lot faster and though she was gaining on me I was able to keep her within view for most of the race.
It helps that she was wearing a bright top, but what matters is that I challenged myself. When I realized how fast I was going I got scared and slowed down a little but since nothing was hurting or feeling like it was about to break I kept going.
Today my quads and my back are achy but only in that nice way of sore muscles that have been asleep for a while. Not a single complaint from my ankles.
Maybe it's time to stop cruising. Maybe it's time to leave behind the fear of getting hurt, the fear of failure, and reach out for what lies just outside my comfort zone.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Here’s a turkey for you! Happy Thanksgiving!
This is my Turkey Trot medal from last year. It was my first and I’m off to try to get my second one.
Running the trot last year was a friend’s idea. I had never in my life run that distance and didn’t think I had it in me. But I decided to give it a try anyway, mostly because I knew it would make Thanksgiving dinner taste even better.
My friend ended up hurting herself a week before the race and I ran the turkey trot alone. I managed to complete the five miles, had so much fun doing so, and felt like such a champ that I decided to become a runner.
After the Turkey Trot I joined the New York Road Runner’s club. My new year’s resolution: to run at least nine qualifying races in 2009. Done. I’m thankful for that, but that was mostly under my control.
It has now been a year of running; a year of heart pounding heavy breathing as my feet strike the pavement. A year of pursuing strength and finding it in running. But best of all, it’s been a year of friendship.
Somehow, as the year went by, friends collected around running. I ran a half-marathon with one – the first time doing that distance for both of us. A dozen friend have cheered for me as I pass them. And a few more have run random races with me and others keep meaning to run races with me (you know who you are). There's one who has gone on Sunday morning runs with me even though he barely breaks a sweat keeping my pace. Another has waited by the runner's path on Ocean Ave with a glass of water to help me complete long distances.
I’m heading out to try to get another turkey medal. But the best part about today’s race is the company: I’ll be running with six other friends, and I didn’t bribe them to run this.
Thank you for friends. Thank you for running. Thank you for being there. Thank you for feeding me turkey.
And thank you, friends, for supporting this blog. Thanks to all those of you who know me, and thank you too, anonymous readers in Canada, Norway, India, and Japan! And thank you, google analytics! You make my day everyday!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
There’s nothing worse than the smell of freshly baked bread when you can’t have any. It’s the kind of smell that can drive you insane as you sniff the air trying to locate its source, until you track it down not to a bakery where you can go in and buy some, but to some building where some inconsiderate bastard has baked himself some bread for his personal use and isn’t sharing with you.
But that’s just me. I hope my downstairs neighbors are not like that or that they slept through it, because yesterday morning I woke up early and baked an upside down pineapple cake to take to work for an early Thanksgiving.
It got me a share of looks during the commute. The walk to the subway was uneventful. I took the R all the way so I could remain seated with the warm cake on my lap. Safer for the cake, but not for me – people near me seemed to be trying to figure out what was in the not-quite-clear plastic carrier.
But most people in the morning subway are still half asleep, tucked in their own worlds and barely acknowledging the presence of others. It was when I got out at Union Square that I noticed there was something about carrying a cake: I was drawing lots of attention and it wasn’t because of my skirt.
These were not the kinds of stares you get when walking past a firehouse or a construction site. Or the kinds you get when you go down the street dressed like a cat. This was a double take. First they would notice the carrier, get a frantic look in their eyes as they tried to figure out what it was and how it fit in their worldview of possible things, then as they got close enough to be able to smell it, they’d look at me with a hopeful smile.
I’d smile back trying not to look too smug. Sorry, this cake’s not for you, random commuter. But you, dear readers, you get a picture of it. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
As part of the Celebrate Divorce festivities, I spent the day yesterday undergoing name reduction surgery. It took four and a half hours but it was painless and I have no noticeable side effects.
The procedure took place at the Kings County civil court. It involved repeated shuttling between the 9th, 3rd, and 11th floors, plus visits to the bank, kinko's, a deli/notary, and the Downtown Brooklyn offices of the Brooklyn Papers.
I got to see female mullets and mu-mus in numbers I hadn't seen since last time I went to Six Flags, but the weirdest sight was this:
All the meters were taken when I first noticed it, but as I stopped to stare a car left the parking spot in front and another pulled in.
The meter was running.
Monday, November 23, 2009
For my last birthday a friend of mine – same friend whose boyfriend ran the marathon this month – arrived carrying a very large and heavy package. If it had been anyone else I would have worried, but this being Tim, I was pretty sure it would be fine.
I unwrapped it to reveal a tower of drawers made of dark wood, delicately carved, and looked like it had been part of a larger piece of furniture. The style of the piece matched my furniture. When I protested against such an extravagant gift, Tim defended himself by saying that when he had seen this at Housing Works it had my name all over it - and it's true.
In drawers I trust. Drawers keep objects with wayward tendencies from wandering to the dark corners where they tend to hide. Unfortunately, drawers can’t do this by themselves
Yesterday a friend was coming over for brunch and I wanted to go for a 6 mile run before then. I was ready but I could not find the iPod shuffle. It was not in its home drawer. I remembered leaving it on the window ledge by the door last time I used it, but it wasn’t there.
The apartment was a little messy so I started hurriedly putting away stuff, throwing things into drawers to make it easier to spot an errant shuffle, but it wouldn’t come forth. Could I run without music? Not today. Could I run with the nano? I’d have to change into the shirt with the bicep pocket if I were to do that, but it wasn’t cold enough for that shirt. Should I just ditch the run? No. I needed that run: the Turkey Trot was coming up and that was probably my last chance for a run before Thursday. I was running out of time, the apartment was now tidy, my shoes were laced up, and I needed to make a decision.
I took one last look in the drawer where I keep all the going-for-a-run accessories: a $5 bill, a health insurance card cut to fit the pocket of my running tights (yes, I run in tights – more on that at some other point), small tubes of disposable eye drops, a miniature chap stick, and the shuffle.
Drawers can be your friend if you treat them well, but over stuff them and they turn against you hiding what you need when you need it the most.
I had already checked there but it was when I took most things out that I saw the shuffle: resting at the bottom of the drawer, covered with red eye-glass wipe, with only an ear bud sticking out from under the blanket.
Do your drawers ever hide things from you?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
There are those who like milk with their cookies. I prefer them straight up. What’s more, I don’t like milk.
I’ve always hated its taste. My brother loved it. There was nothing better than a glass of cold milk for him. Me? I wanted mine warm and with a small scoop of instant coffee to kill the milky taste before I could head out to face the second grade.
When I finished high school and moved to Bogotá for school, I graduated to brewed coffee with some milk and my life greatly improved. I've followed that course and now what I have is a shot of espresso with a dash of milk.
I will give it that. Milk is good with coffee and it’s also good for cooking. I generally buy a quart at a time. When it’s running low, I buy another one and keep it in the back of the fridge because there’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning and not having milk for my coffee.
But this week has been rough at work with year-end meetings with accountants and such.
Yesterday morning I noticed I the carton was almost gone. I used as little as possible and made a mental note to buy milk on the way back home. Unfortunately, by then I had lost the mental and which is how I found myself with only about a teaspoon of milk for my coffee this morning.
I stared at the meager line of white in the bottom of cup and felt that sinking feeling in the stomach that comes from knowing that no good will come of this day. And then, like dark clouds suddenly giving way to blue skies, I remembered there was some heavy cream in the fridge.
Heavy cream + water does not milk make (in fact, don’t try this at home, kids – it’s kind of disgusting), but it saved my morning. And in spite of what the following video is trying to suggest, I did just fine in school.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Though legions of zombies were ready to welcome my thumb into their ranks, I am glad to report that after fighting for its soul my thumb is back in the land of living and healing nicely.
It doesn’t hurt but the skin over the cut is pillowy like the skin left over a drained blister. I’m not sure what happens next since I’ve never had the patience to let one heal properly.
Right now the thumb just looks surprised or, as a friend who was begging me to remove it from her sight pointed out, like it was attacked by a 1-hole punch.
Thanks you all for your sympathies and wishes of speedy recovery.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
There’s nothing like music to set the mood. Last night, after The Grates were finished with their set, a happy bouncy feeling lingered over the crowd. Just the thing to encourage incautious smiling.
One of my smiles landed on a guy who was standing about 30’ away from where I was with my friends. He smiled back. A little while later I looked his way again. He was still looking at me. He smiled, I smiled. He nodded and started walking towards my group.
Since it seemed rude not to, once he reached us I disentagled myself from my friends and said hello to him. After making me repeat my name a few times, he asked me what I was drinking.
I looked down at my empty hands and curled one as if holding a glass.
“I’m having an invisible Stella,” I told him.
“Can I buy you another one?” he asked.
“But I’m not done with this one,” I pointed out.
“When you’re done with that. An invisible one. Or a real one,” he said.
“Ok. I’ll chug this one then,” I replied, and he watched me gulp down half a glass of invisible beer.
“That was good. Don’t go away. I’ll be back with a Stella.”
From 30’ he looked cute. Mid to late twenties. Maybe. Hopefully. Once I saw him up close I noticed he was still cute, but closer to mid-twenties. Perhaps.
He came back with a beer. We were talking about the bands that had already played when someone else joined us.
“I remember you now,” he said by way of interruption. He was tall, good-looking, and more age appropriate. I had said hi to him earlier. He was a music journalist and fellow fan of The Grates I had met a few months ago when they had played at Pianos.
“How was your show yesterday?” he asked.
I hesitated for a moment. “It went very well, but how did you hear about that?” On Friday I had participated in a shoot for an upcoming episode of Party in Your Mouth. Not too many people knew about that and I couldn’t imagine how Guy #2 could have heard. Some of the band members from The Grates knew about it, but I couldn’t imagine their talking to Guy #2 about it.
“It was your debut show, wasn’t it?” Guy #2 confirmed.
Guy #1 leaned closer to me and gently placed his hand on the small of my back in a she’s-with-me move. He kept it there for only 2.3 seconds, but it was enough for it to register with Guy #2.
“You’re confusing me with someone else. You’re talking about a music show, right? Mine was a cooking show. Sort of,” I clarified.
“What kind of cooking?” Guy #1 asked, taking the opportunity to participate in the conversation which continued as it was tugged in different directions: from cooking to music, to fame, stardom, and world domination as both of them dueled for my attention.
In the olden days and Bridget Jones, girls got treated to the thrill of duels and having men go at it in fisticuffs. Now, in the music halls of New York, this is as exciting as it gets.
Out of attrition, Guy #1 won. After some minutes of this the last set started and group conversation became impossible. Guy #1 stayed by my side and occasionally tried to whisper in my ear comments about the music and Guy #2 dropped out.
It was a long set. We bobbed to the music. We danced a little. He asked me for my phone number. I gave it to him; I was enjoying his company even if he seemed a tad young for me. Besides, I wasn’t triggering a flight response in him with my weird replies.
“Do you live in the area? Can I see you next weekend?” he asked almost in one breath when the last song was almost over.
“Sure. Give me a call and we’ll figure something out. I live in Brooklyn,” I told him.
“I have to go now. My friends and I are going to a place on Bleecker. If I call you, will I get to see you next weekend?” he repeated.
“Yes. I’m not sure when. Can’t remember what I have going on next weekend, but give me a call,” I reassured him.
The last song was building up to a frenzy. It would soon finish. They would turn on the lights and we’d all get kicked out of the main floor of the Bowery Ballroom and be spit out onto the drizzle falling on Delancey.
“So. See you next weekend?” he insisted.
“Yes. See you next weekend,” I agreed and he leaned over to kiss me on the cheek.
And then it was over. The bright lights came on and I saw how smooth his face was. It was born-a-whole-decade-later-or-more smooth.
By then he was already stepping away, going back to his friends, smiling and waving at me.
A friend of mine placed her arms around my shoulders, “He was wearing a bracelet so he’s over twenty-one. You’re good.”
I wasn’t too worried. Guys sometimes seem to ask for phone numbers just to see if they could get it. Once, at a party where I was wearing a particularly fetching feathered hat and a fifties style dress, three different guys had asked me for my number. Not one of them called.
Perhaps that would be it. A sweet inter-generational interaction at the Bowery Ballroom aided by Grate music.
Except that my phone is ringing and it’s a number not in my contacts.
Friday, November 13, 2009
They told me not to bring anything. They had food, they had beer. Since I have shown up empty handed for dinner too many times – usually after having invited myself like a poor relative who just happens to knock on the door at dinner time – that day I arrived at Reiko’s with flowers.
Though I love flowers I don't often buy them. Compared with what's available in Colombia even fresh ones looked wilted to me. I usually add a few drops of Clorox and some sugar to the water, tactics which helped, but flowers here never lasted as long here. Some managed to look sad for a week before hanging their head in shame. But flowers still make a nice gift.
“Thanks! You didn’t have to,” she said taking them from me. Reiko walked back to the kitchen were her boyfriend, Ming, was working on the meal. She traded places with him and gave him the flowers.
Ming trimmed the stems, selected a vase, filled it with water, topped it with mouthwash, and placed the flowers in it. By then I was already swept in conversation with Reiko so I just filed away that information.
He’s a man of many talents. Besides having a successful career, he practices aikido, knits, makes beautiful pottery, and wears the coolest scarves and hats I’ve ever seen a straight man wear. I would never question his knowledge on flower handling.
A month ago, I was at Southside working on my book. I looked up and the barista was standing holding a bunch of cut orchids someone had just given him like they were a cat trying to scratch him.
“Here! For you!” he said.
“You don’t want them?” it seemed polite not to seem too eager.
“Nah. Take them. I don’t know what to do with them,” he shrugged.
At home I placed them in a vase with mouthwash, ready to try Ming's trick. Almost three weeks ago they made a cameo appearance in my Naked post. They were about a week old then. Last Sunday I removed the ones that had turned brown. Yesterday, in honor of a friend who was stopping by, I changed the water and removed the pond scum that had formed around the water line.
They’re not perky and there aren’t too many left, but they’re still purple. And I love purple. Besides, now that they've become a science experiment I owe it to them to take care of them in their dotage.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The cashiers at the co-op tend to be curious about fellow members’ purchases. It starts out innocently. “What kind of mushrooms are these?” asks the cashier. On lucky days I end up dispensing cooking tips and recipes, other days I get lectured.
A few weeks ago, after inspecting my lebne and my corn cakes, the cashier swiped my six-pack of beer and asked me if I had ever had kombucha. I prepared myself to defend my beer. I’d heard of kombucha. It sounded healthy.
Now. I don’t have anything against healthy, but healthy and good are not enough for me, which is why I don’t practice yoga regularly.
It’s hard to argue against yoga. Whenever I take a yoga class I can feel its benefits. I’ve limped into a yoga class unable to straighten out much-abused hip flexors and walked out with an easy stride. After a month of bikram yoga and no running, on my first race back I was able to shave almost a full minute off my pace.
I wish I liked yoga and was able to keep up practicing it for more than a month at a time, but for me most yoga is like that would-be suitor: very nice, but too boring to hold my attention. It would be lovely, I think as I cover my mouth to stifle a yawn,
What’s worse is the holier-than-thou company it often keeps.
“I’ve had green tea with kombucha.” I replied, tightening the hold on the beer and moving it away from her.
“No. This is a cold drink. When I get beer I usually swap out a few beers for kombucha,” she volunteered.
“Why?” I couldn’t imagine what beer had to do with kombucha.
“It’s so good! I love it!” She said as she scanned the rest of my items.
“You love the taste?”
“The taste is ok, but I love the way it makes me feel!” she replied, and I could see she was already looking forward to finishing her shift and buying herself some kombucha.
“Feel?” I wasn’t getting this.
“It’s kind of like I’m buzzed, but alert, relaxed. And it’s good for you!”
I filed that away under things from the co-op I might to try someday. Thanks to Veteran’s day, this morning I was able to shop in a relatively un-crowded co-op and look for kombucha. I started in the beer aisle and was redirected to the yogurt case.
It’s with the yogurt because it needs to be kept refrigerated. It has probiotics, B vitamins (my favorite!), is naturally effervescent, might have trace amounts of alcohol due to fermentation, and may have floating, living cultures in the bottle. Also, please avoid shaking. I’m guessing you don’t want to disrupt those living cultures.
I was skeptical, but I tried to keep an open mind when I tried it. I’m not sure how many bottles of the stuff you have to drink to feel its effects, so I will only report on the taste.
It was a little sour a little fizzy; light, almost citrusy. Refreshing. Kind of like a slightly flat seltzer mixed with leftover juice from the olive jar. The bottle contained two servings. I meant to have only one, but the whole bottle was gone before I noticed. I loved it, but unless you like to drink the vinegary liquid that olives come in, you might not like it.
I almost went for the fridge to grab a second bottle, when I had nightmarish visions of myself buying goji berries (I hate them), and alfalfa sprouts (they tend to go bad in my fridge – not sure why). Thanks Anna, for sharing this video and helping bring me back to my senses.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
This morning I woke up feeling the effects of last night. There were the usual ones that come after a good dinner party. I was both still full and hungry again, thirsty, craving coffee. But there were other troubling signs: my wrist was stiff and achy, and there was a dull throbbing pain in my thumb.
Thanksgiving is upon us, and with it, the perilous holiday season starts. For many years I have been systematically attempting and failing to holiday-proof my life. Though I have been able to avoid the worst of it by not going home for Christmas, I still find myself listening to jingly tunes and baking cookies around mid to late December.
But Thanksgiving is much more dangerous, and it started last night with round one of turkey centric let’s gorge ourselves and celebrate gatherings. The danger is that after eating good food in large amounts, everyone is happy, and things can take a mushy turn. Last night, with two new babies in attendance, the risks were even greater.
Careful planning was on my side. I wore an outfit without a waist and I packed my plate in such a way that I successfully hit that sweet spot where you’ve eaten enough to make motion difficult, but not enough to make you feel sick in just one serving.
But even the best-laid plans can go wrong. I volunteered to do the dishes. They had already been soaking for a while and were easy to wash. I thought I’d do a dozen or so to make way for more soaking. The plates were stacked on the left. I grabbed the sponge and soaped them as I stacked to the right, planning on rinsing them all at once before moving them to the drying rack.
The sponge slid smoothly and I was enjoying making quick progress. I was holding a plate in left hand, scrubbing it with my right, when the unthinkable happened. The plate cracked as I was holding it, attacked my left thumb and killed it.
Rescue workers rushed to the scene trying to stop the blood that now flowed from my thumb and spilled on the plates. They assessed the situation and dashed in search of emergency supplies. After leaving blood on several paper towels, I was able to apply antibiotic ointment and make butterfly stitches to place on the flap of skin that was left on the cut.
I thought that was the end of that, but this morning when I woke up to the pain in my hand I realized it was just the beginning. The pain in my thumb, hand, and wrist were symptoms of something larger; something my mother had not prepared me for. My thumb had turned into a zombie.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Willem Dafoe has a great pair of legs. I had never noticed. Last night he slowly hiked up his skirt to reveal the male garter socks he was wearing. The skirt kept going up – dramatically raised until I could see his thighs (which were lovely) – and up and up.
Because I like to watch men’s legs, I like to see men in skirts. They are more flattering than shorts and I wish I got to see more. The sight of a good pair of legs in a kilt always makes my day.
Or my movie. Even if I hadn’t liked the grand battle scenes – though I did – the abundance of kilts would have been enough to keep me interested through a dozen viewings of Braveheart. Without Achilles’ mini, Troy would not be the same. And my only complaint about Gladiator is the length of Russell Crowe’s skirt: it should have been shorter.
Last night’s skirt was long, but it got hiked up often enough to keep me happy and it was my favorite thing about Idiot Savant, which a friend with an extra ticket had invited me to go see.
Playing at the Public Theater, according to the Village Voice it is “a sprawling meditation on the power of language, the perils of desire, and the practice of interspecies golf.” It has no plot and features giant ducks. A booming voice talks to the performers and to the audience in a fatalistic “game over” tone.
I didn’t understand it, but I’m not sure there was anything to understand. It all seemed random: the golf clubs, the spilled fruit, the boats, the mute chorus of men in skirts, the loud noises and blinding lights. In the middle of it all, Willem Dafoe retained a commanding presence on stage, even as he played the idiot, writhed on the floor, shook his butt, or performed stiff puppet-like movements.
It was a very interesting play, but for me the best part was Willem Dafoe’s legs in a skirt.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
One of the advantages of having a uniform is that you don’t have to worry about what to wear. When you are the poorest kid in the school bringing homemade popcorn for lunch, that’s a relief.
To make things worse, my mother used to sew most of my clothes and I hated having to wear a purple jumper made just for me when all the other kids were wearing balloon skirts.
But I didn’t hate everything I wore. I also had hand-me-downs.
I have a cousin who is very close to me in age. Her father worked in fashion, her mother loved clothes, and every few months I’d get to rifle through huge garbage bags filled with my cousin’s discarded clothing. Things I had coveted a month ago and had seen her wear only once or twice were there. Piles and piles of almost new store bought and even imported clothing up for grabs. For me! Skirts, dresses, bows, ribbons, pockets, all the extra details my mother didn’t bother sewing were there. And I didn’t have to share with my brother. The only thing better than those bags was when the school library received book shipments.
But all that ended when we hit puberty and my cousin stopped growing. I didn’t. At almost 5'4 I'm the tallest woman in my family by at least four inches and now I have no cousin giving me hand-me-downs.
Sometimes I get them from friends, but it's rare and often awkward. It’s hard to explain that I’m not being sarcastic – I’m really that excited.
Fortunately for me, Brooklyn is a great place for hand-me-downs from strangers. A walk down the brownstone belt is better than a trip to a mall. Clothing on railings better than on racks. I’ve gotten cashmere sweaters from boxes by stoops and three weeks ago, just as the weather was starting to turn, I picked up a J-Crew black wool pea coat.
Last Monday I was riding my bike back from an early co-op shift. I was tired – still recovering from Halloween excesses. I passed a black lump on the road. It was wet from the rain and it looked like it might have been run over by a bike or two, but it was still recognizable.
I checked for oncoming traffic and circled back to take a better look. It was a pair of elbow length black gloves with jeweled wrists – the kind of thing I would never buy, but have always wanted to have. Without hesitating I placed the limp wet gloves in my basket and sped off, hoping no Audrey Hepburn would come out chasing after them.
She didn’t. I hand washed in the tub and it took them about a day and a half to dry before I could try them on. They fit like a glove and I can’t wait for an excuse to wear them.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s brunch party anyone?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
It turns out Paula did struggle, but she kept it quiet so no one would notice and overtake her. She looked strong at mile 6, leading the tight pack of women at the front of the race.
The previous night's Halloween celebrating almost made me miss the elite runners. When I got to 4th Ave there was already a small crowd waiting for them. I had missed most of the wheelchair racers but the women were still about twenty minutes away.
The closest I had ever gotten to seeing elite runners in action had been during the Brooklyn half-marathon in May. The course was designed so there were lanes marking the different loops in the park before bounding off to Coney Island. For those of us at the back of the pack, it worked out so that the elite runners were starting the second loop right as we were leaving the starting line area and entering first the loop.
Even though they were passing me on their lane on the right and were running much faster than I could ever hope to run, it felt like they were running with me and that if I hurried just a little I'd be able to keep up with them. Not the case.
And not what I'm hoping for either.
Getting to watch them from a greater distance was awe inspiring. But I was cold from standing around clapping, so I went for some coffee and thought I'd come back to watch those with a more similar pace to mine. I wanted to see what they looked like and get a little of the if-they-can-I-can feeling.
By the time I got back to the course a larger crowd had assembled. There were some very loud people cheering from a balcony above me. They were enthusiastically calling out runners' names so I didn't feel as much of a need to cheer at the moment. Many runners seemed to delight in getting called out, others barely acknowledged it.
Some runners seem to hate every minute of the marathon. They run with a very focused look and don't seem to enjoy themselves. Not only do they look like they're in pain, but they look like they want to be in pain. Others seem to be having fun and enjoy the party the street becomes.
As runners heard the names of people from the balcony, many were confused - unsure as to where the calling out was coming from. Many looked up and seemed amused. Others annoyed at the break in their concentration.
I had only been back on 4th Avenue for a couple of minutes when I remembered I had forgotten to ask a friend if his boyfriend, Keith, was running. Then I heard the people above me start calling out "Go, Keith!". A very handsome runner looked up, his face lit up with almost child-like wonder as he looked around trying to figure out where his name was coming from. When he found the balcony he smiled and waved, happy and grateful to be cheered.
It was him! Keith! Dear Keith! So I went crazy calling out his name. He found me, looked happily surprised and came over and gave me a quick sweaty hug before going on his way, still smiling.
And that's the kind of runner I want to be in next year's marathon.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Over the summer I started tracking how many miles I biked a week. I was surprised to find out I was biking 60-70 miles a week. As long as it’s not raining when it’s time to head out, I bike to work and back. With 4-5 days a week, once you add up it amounts to that many miles.
In New York City it’s very easy to get distances confused. Neighborhoods that might be a few blocks apart can feel like they’re a continent away, and though Brooklyn is just a hop over the bridge, for some Manhattanites it might as well be New Jersey.
Last night, as I was brushing my teeth, trying to figure out how to fit a run, a trip to Chinatown for costume supplies, and Halloween costume crafting in one day I realized that Canal street is about five miles away.
Five miles is the distance I most often run. Could I do it?
Though the map confirmed it, I kept staring at it wondering how that would work. I understand that if you unfurl the loops I run around the park it gives me the same distance, but the idea of running to the city seemed impossible – at least for me.
I know I can run five miles. I’ve been doing it for almost a year. And yet, every time I lace up my shoes I wonder if I’ll make it. I'm not trying to talk myself into doing something I don’t feel like doing. I'm talking myself into doing something I don’t think I can do.
This morning the sky over Manhattan had ominous looking clouds. Maybe I’d better not try this today. And what would I do without water? I’m used to running in the park where I’m never too far from a water fountain, or help, or home – easy to cut the run short if needed. And I’d be crossing a bridge. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.
After listening to the whining as I was getting ready, I reminded myself I could always stop and buy water if needed. And if something went wrong, I could always cut it short and take the subway or a cab back. This calmed me down somewhat and I headed out.
When I hit mile 2 at Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush, I was feeling strong. I kept going along Flatbush and soon I could see the bridge – all thoughts of turning back forgotten. The bridge was easier than I thought and it seemed less work than on the bike. By the time I got to Canal and Broadway I could not understand what all the fuss was about. The run seemed too short. I could have used an extra mile or two of that happy peace that fills me as I run.
Tomorrow thousands of runners will be battling their own demons to make it to the finish line in Central Park. Maybe even Paula Radcliffe will be struggling with herself wondering how it will go. I’ll be on 4th Ave in Brooklyn, cheering the runners.
But next year, there’s a spot saved for me among them and I hope to be on the other side of the party.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
BAM glows at night. Leo Villareal’s ongoing exhibit Stars lights up the arched windows in the evening and threatens to kill me: whenever I bike past it on my way home from work I have trouble looking away from it and bringing my eyes back on the road.
Last night, what was going on inside at the Gilman Opera House matched the façade.
Art moves. As far as I’m concerned, if it doesn’t move, it’s not art. And I’m not talking about bikes here.
Whether you understand what is in front of you or not, it is art’s ability to stir deep emotions that makes it art as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure there are those who would be able to take apart The Long Count and analyze its metaphors, explain its use of symbols, and understand the message within.
I’m not one of those. I can’t say I understood what all that was about, but when I left my body was still vibrating with the echoes of what had gone on inside.
The stage was framed by two diamond cut screens set at an angle, joined by an equilateral triangle. When the performance started, images were projected on the screen like a roving kaleidoscope being held against a dreamscape: from wheat fields, to images of vaguely industrial settings, to color splotches that seemed to react to the sound, to ink drawings that reminded me of Van Gogh abstractions.
And the music! Take a twelve-piece orchestra, mix it with a good dose of The National, sprinkle it with great female vocalists and bake it in glowing images in front of a rapt audience for 70 minutes.
String instruments have always gotten to me. It’s not only the sound. When the bow goes across the strings, I can feel it move across my chest, catching and pulling.
About midway through, there was a fast cello solo that was followed by a plucked viola. Its intensity was making it difficult for me to breathe. There was a hand violenty squeezing my heart and I wanted to run, jump, but I was trapped in a polite opera chair. Unable to take it any longer, I pulled my eyes from the musicians and looked up. On the screen above them, yellow exploding shards were speeding out of the stage and washing over us.
When it was all over, the audience burst into a standing ovation.
As we were leaving, I could feel my bag vibrating, but it wasn’t the buzzing of the phone. I asked my friend to hold it for me, but it wasn’t the bag. I stood still outside BAM and I could feel a faint but discernible vibration – and extended hum not only in my arm but through most of my body.
It was the best show I have seen in a long time: I cried, I bobbed in my chair to great music, I gasped, and when it was done I was exhausted by its beauty.
But it wasn’t for everyone: two people in the front row left early into on. There was a mother and son team sitting on my left. He fell asleep. She was covering her ears.
An unexpected side effect of biking almost everywhere is how inconvenient shopping becomes. My bike does have a basket. With the help of bungee cords and a fondness for precarious balance, I’ve carried a range of heavy and bulky items ranging from enough groceries to feed a starving soccer team to lumber.
It is impulse buying that has taken a hit. Once on the bike, I don’t feel like suddenly stopping to check out a nice window display. If the hassle of bike and helmet locking weren’t enough to deter me, walking into a store with rolled up pant legs and a blinking light attached to my ass would be.
When I’m biking, I go from home to work and back home. Since I usually carry my lunch with me and have developed the necessary endurance to withstand office coffee, I can go for days without even taking out my wallet.
So last night’s purchases can be squarely blamed on the rain. On my way to the train, I decided to make a quick stop at Sephora. Thirty minutes later, I walked out with lip stain and a fresh new look for my eyes - all better to snare you, dearie.
And that’s how I celebrated the news of my divorce finally having come through.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Everyone has that moment. Miranda Hobbes had it. Same for Liz Lemon. That brief moment of realization that you’re going to die all alone and it’d be weeks before your neighbors realized something was wrong. Since my downstairs neighbors are on tour, it would take even longer in my case.
The air was dry when I woke up this morning. I had unplugged the humidifier a few days ago and forgotten to plug it back in. I rolled onto my stomach and slid my arm between the gaps in the headboard to reach the plug. When I inserted my head into another gap and pressed my ear against the wall, I could almost see what was behind the bed.
My fingers closed around the plug and got it into the socket. The humidifier clicked on. I relaxed my hand and pulled back, but my shoulder would not budge. In the seconds it had taken me to get this done, my shoulder had managed to weld itself against the frame. I shifted and tried again. No luck. I shook the frame with my cheek flat against the wall with not results. My arm was one with the bed and I could not get it out. I struggled against frame but it was like trying to reason with a beartrap.
Maybe if I pulled hard enough I’d be able to dislocate my shoulder to escape à la Martin Riggs. I’ve separated that shoulder a few times anyway, so it might come off easily. Nope. That didn’t work. I was stuck. In bed. I needed help.
It was early enough that maybe my friend from across the street was still home. She had keys to my place. Did I leave my phone on the nightstand? I reached behind me and flapped around knocking a jar of pens, alarm clock, a book, some tamarind candy. I didn’t even know if the phone was there. As I struggled against the frame I realized my apartment was messier than usual, with discarded wigs (one of them purple), petticoats, baking pans, and shoes everywhere. And there were dishes in the sink! What would whoever found me dead think?
There was a panicky taste on my tongue and I was starting to hyperventilate. This would not do. I took a deep breath and relaxed against the frame. I turned my head and gently slid it back out. Flattening myself against the bed, I pressed mattress under my shoulder with my free hand managed to slide my shoulder back out, and lived to blog about it.