Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I was walking to work yesterday when I came upon this wisteria vine, growing up the facade of this town house. I happened to be wearing a shirt almost the exact same color as the blossoms, so I felt like I belonged there, standing beneath it, breathing in its light perfume.

Yesterday evening I walked over to the Verizon store near my house to get a cell phone battery. Turns out they don’t carry the battery, because my phone is too old (about 3 years). And if I did buy a battery, it would cost $49 -- almost double the cost of a new phone if I renewed my Verizon contract.

So, of course, I got a new phone. But I did it only under duress, and I told the guy I wasn’t happy about it. This is why the world’s landfills are filling up with e-waste. My existing phone was fine -- it just had a dead battery. So frustrating!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Drink Beer and Cry

What’s it like to be close to fame, but never quite famous? What happens when people keep telling an actress she’s good, and funny, but she can never quite land a big part?

That’s the subject of “Take Your Shirt Off and Cry,” a book by Nancy Balbirer. I went out last night with Gary and his friend Joy to see a reading performance by Balbirer at Joe’s Pub, and it was great -- both hilarious and poignant. It included a couple of other well-known comedians and show biz types like Charles Busch, who wrote the movie “Die Mommy Die,” and Mike Albo, whose book “The Underminer” I recently read.

Afterwards, Gary, Joy and I retired to McSorley’s, where we drank a few too many beers and whispered conspiratorially about our cute Scottish waiter.

A fun night, but holy cow. For a Buddhist I really fell off the low-alcohol, mindfulness bandwagon!

(Photo: Madison Avenue reflections, April 2009)

Monday, April 27, 2009


Well, now I have quite the farmer burn from being outside all weekend. Dave and I decided yesterday to go to Brooklyn -- I wanted to show him Dumbo, the neighborhood where the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges converge. There’s a great waterfront park overlooking lower Manhattan and some nice restaurants. So we zipped out there, had brunch, lounged in the park, and walked over to the historic district in Vinegar Hill.

We’d considered going to the Bronx Zoo, but we never made it that far (not surprising, considering we began the day traveling in the opposite direction).

Instead we came back to my apartment, made dinner (baked chicken -- we used the oven again!), and went to see "The Soloist," with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. It was a great movie, especially for a newspaper guy like me. It’s the first movie I remember seeing that addresses the death of newspapers -- showing the layoffs and financial squeezes affecting newsrooms. It also captures the cynical yet idealistic spirit of reporters.

(Top: Brooklyn Bridge, from the park in Dumbo. Bottom: Shadow of the Manhattan Bridge on a nearby building.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Broken Friendship

A friend sent me an e-mail asking if I wanted to go walking this weekend. I proposed walking in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I hoped to check out a new piece of street art.

Some background: My friend can be acerbic. He freely admits this, just as he admits his tendency toward self-involvement. I’m aware of these factors, but I try to recognize that they’re just his personality.

But on Saturday, things were ill-fated almost from the get-go. First we had a minor disagreement about where to walk -- he suggested Central Park, but I’d just been there last weekend, and then deeper Brooklyn, which I was open to. Ultimately he agreed to Williamsburg. Then he missed his stop on the subway and had to double back to connect with me.

After we finally met, we walked for a while and I tried to make conversation, but I felt a palpable hostility. We tried to decide where to go for lunch, and he rejected a couple of my suggestions while making none of his own. Finally he ducked into a pizza parlor to get himself a slice.

We proceeded to a restaurant I know, and he got the salad he’d said he wanted. But conversation was still difficult. He asked nothing about me or my life. I asked about his, but got either snide quips or complaints about his health, his dog, his apartment, his neighborhood. (He claims to love his dog, but all his comments point to hatred.) Everything I said seemed to annoy him.

He suggested we walk over the Williamsburg Bridge to Manhattan. Soon after ascending the bridge I pointed out a piece of graffiti on a nearby rooftop by an artist I know, and I got a nasty response in a nasty tone. I apologized for pointing it out, turned on my heel and walked across the bridge without looking back. I have no idea whether he crossed or not. I don’t particularly care.

Indeed, that’s what’s most interesting about this incident. I do not feel a whit of sorrow that we parted that way, and in fact, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve parted for good. If anything, I feel liberated.

Normally, I keep in touch with almost everyone in my life. I’ve experienced very few relationships -- in fact, I can think of only one -- that became truly unworkable. But this friendship falls squarely into that category. The break isn’t about yesterday -- it’s about all the effort I’ve put over a period of years into trying to make him happier, to talk to him, to comfort him, to be sympathetic to his many problems, only to be routinely treated meanly and disrespectfully. In retrospect, I’ve been a patsy to endure his negativity and self-pity.

Friendship is a two-way street. I’m moving on!

(Photo: Just No Idea, Tribeca, April 2009)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Horse Chestnut

This is the horse chestnut tree outside my window. The leaves came out substantially this week -- last weekend they were little more than buds, as you can see in the foreground of the final photo in this post. It’s amazing how fast they grow. You almost feel like you could watch them.

I love this tree, but it will inevitably be cut down. It's growing in my neighbor’s back yard, right against the wall that separates our properties. Eventually, to save the wall, he’ll have to remove the tree -- and because it’s in his yard I have no say in the matter. Fortunately, he’s not particularly attentive to household maintenance.

We have a maple in the back that we're allowing to grow -- it's small now, but my hope is it will replace this tree when it finally meets its maker.

Meanwhile, almost all the petals have fallen off the magnolia, and the redbud and dicentra are blooming. Our Manhattan back yard is in full springtime mode!

Friday, April 24, 2009

I, Consumer

Two nights ago I was relaxing here at home when my doorbell rang -- a rare occurrence in my apartment building. It was an older woman, armed with a stack of paperwork, conducting a consumer survey. As president of the co-op, I was about to ask her to leave the building when she waved $75 in cash in my face.

For $75? Sure, I’ll take your survey.

She ran through a list of questions about my reading, TV watching and moviegoing habits, and had me name the magazines I’d read in the past month. Then she paid me and gave me a thick questionnaire, saying if I completed it, I’d get another $75.

Now, I do not buy a lot of stuff, and as you may remember, I don’t have a TV. I could skip whole categories of the booklet devoted to things like automobiles, make-up, hair care and television. So when I sat down with it last night, I thought I'd make quick money.

Man, was I wrong! This book asked about everything: My clothes-buying, banking and grocery-shopping; travel habits; personal values; media consumption. For every product I had to note whether I’d bought it in the last six months or year, which brand I’d bought, which type of product (baking soda or non-baking-soda toothpaste, tartar control or regular, gel or paste) and how many times I’d used it in the last month or so.

There were whole categories for things like Cornish hens (did I buy Perdue or Tyson?) and Frozen Corn on the Cob (Bird’s Eye or Green Giant?). Granted, I was able to skip most of these categories, but it was exhausting to comb through so much! Breath fresheners, lip care, domestic dinner and table wines, foreign travel, batteries, computers, movie viewing, ready-to-eat sweet rolls and pastries, frozen hot snacks (love that disparity, don’t you?), fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen orange juice, rubber gloves, cat litter, “removable self-stick notes.” I was horrified to discover under toilet paper a variety called “moist wipes,” which I don’t want to think about.

It took me nearly five hours to complete the book. Which makes me think I should get more than $75.

I discovered some interesting things, though. For one thing, although I am generally brand loyal, I sometimes don’t know what brand I buy. I shop purely out of habit, grabbing the same product from the shelf that I bought last week or month. When the booklet asked me, for example, which brand of tuna fish I eat, I had to go and look. (Turned out to be Bumble Bee.)

I was nearly crazy by the end of this project. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been for people who shop for an entire family!

(Photo: Tribeca, April 2009)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I’m a practical cook. I can manage the basics, but I get tripped up by artistry. In recent years I’ve also become incredibly lazy, relying on peanut butter sandwiches, pasta, Progresso soup and steamed vegetables for most of my evening nutrition. (I get my main meal at midday in the cafeteria at work.)

Last night, however, my friend Dave came over and put my kitchen to good use. Dave’s been to culinary school, and together we made an incredibly adventurous meal -- well, for me, anyway. We made a chilled cantaloupe soup with pureed cantaloupe, champagne and mint; a veggie pasta in a sauce made of red wine, cream and thyme; and some little puff pastries with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

It was amazing to see these creations emerging from my kitchen -- which is so small it isn’t a kitchen, but a kitchenette. The pastries especially threw me. In the seven years I’ve lived here, I had never used my oven. I’m now happy to report it works beautifully!

Thanks, Dave!

(Photo: Spring on the Lower East Side, April 2009)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lily Allen

The gym is proving elusive this week -- my nights have been running late so I wind up sleeping in the mornings. I went to a party at my friend Dan’s on Saturday night, and Sunday I had a dinner party and meeting of the newsletter committee for the Zendo.

Then, last night, Dan and I went to see Lily Allen in concert at Roseland Ballroom. She’s a British pop singer who writes tart, saucy songs with lots of attitude. I confess I barely knew who she was before I went -- my friend Christopher gave me one of her CDs a couple of years ago, so I’d heard that, but she’s not someone I listen to regularly. That may change now!

It was a GREAT show. For one thing, it was like a rock concert should be -- general admission, with everyone packed onto the floor sloshing beer around. It was more crowded than the 6 train at rush hour! And Lily’s music was terrific. Here are two videos for songs she played last night, "It's Not Fair" and "LDN."

I also liked her opening band, Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, which may be the second-best band name ever, after Sandy Duncan’s Eye. They were fun and had a kind of retro synthesizer thing going -- they clearly know their B-52s. And for a band called Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, they were oddly obsessed with hair, singing about ponytails and facial hair, in addition to Holding Hands in the Shower, which might have been my favorite. Crazy.

Anyway, it was a fun evening. Kind of nice to realize I can still enjoy a good romp at my advanced age of 42.

(Photo: Mr. Spock does drag on the Lower East Side, April 2009)

Sunday, April 19, 2009


One of my favorite places in the city at this time of year is the obelisk in Central Park, behind the Metropolitan Museum. It's surrounded by Japanese magnolias that never fail to please. The little boy above was happily taking his own photos.

The flowers have a sweet aroma that filters down to those standing and walking beneath them.

The petals are so soft that the ones on the sidewalk bear the patterns of passing footprints.

Although I love to go to Central Park and see the magnolias, as I did yesterday, we have one of our own in our courtyard. Here it is, as seen from my window.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Few Random Notes

-- Our daffodils, which I photographed earlier, came up this year but didn’t bloom. We didn’t get a single flower. I’m not sure what happened; the bulbs are a few years old, so maybe they’re just tired, and I know the soil in our front planters isn’t good. Our tulips do seem to be blooming, but they were just planted last year.

-- I had an interesting medical experience this week. I was at work one afternoon when I suddenly began having trouble seeing. It was like there were blind spots in my vision. And then I began to get swirling, shimmering haloes around the edges of my sight. It lasted maybe an hour, and it freaked me out! I believe it was the “aura” that sometimes precedes a migraine headache. I did get a headache soon afterwards, though not a particularly bad one. I’ve never had that happen before!

-- I have about 6,000 photos on Flickr these days, mostly of street art. One photo, through the weirdness of the Internet, gets far more traffic than anything else. Soon after I uploaded it last June, someone put this photo (warning: phallic street art!) on a site called StumbleUpon. And somehow, through that site, it gets about 50 hits per day. While most of the rest of my photos have about that many total views apiece, this one has had more than 7,000 views. I’m glad for all the traffic, but I wish they’d chosen a different photo. There are so many works of street art out there (and so many photos I’ve taken) better than that one.

-- Surely by now you've seen the video of Susan Boyle? She delivered a truly moving performance; I even joined her fan page on Facebook. But at the risk of sounding cynical, I must say I wonder whether she (and/or the producers) accentuated her dowdiness a bit to better surprise the judges, and us. What do you think?

(Photo: Playground on the Lower East Side, April 2009)

Friday, April 17, 2009


I just became aware a few days ago of the 2012 prediction, which says the world is going to end in three years, according to the Mayan calendar.

To which I can only reply: About time! (Kidding.)

It’s so interesting how people latch onto these doomsday predictions. I wonder what it is in our psyches that makes us interested in predicted events, even when nearly every predicted event in the past -- at least the recent past -- has been a total bust? Why do we ever think there’s anything to this?

I remember getting a creepy-crawly feeling as a kid when my friends talked about Nostradamus. In Sunday School we once spent several months studying Revelations, which details the events of the coming apocalypse -- and is about as exciting as the Bible ever gets. (In fact it was so exciting that when the course ended, I asked to study it again.)

In the ‘80s, as my blog sister Reya pointed out in her post on this topic, we had the Harmonic Convergence, which wasn’t supposed to be Doomsday at all, but instead the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity. In the ‘90s, members of the Heaven’s Gate cult thought the end was nigh and went to meet their new existence in the Hale-Bopp Comet.

There was Y2K, the computer glitch that was supposed to derail the planet. I was working as a reporter in the late ‘90s, and the hospital I covered spent tens of thousands of dollars to replace its medical devices so they wouldn’t freeze up in 2000. Was that money wasted, or catastrophe averted?

Just a few weeks ago we had the Confickr computer virus, which was poised to unleash all sorts of havoc and then did...nothing.

Is all this just our inner Drama Queen, screaming to get out? Or our inner Control Freak? I guess it’s natural to wonder when all you’ve built will collapse, as it ultimately must. But let’s not rush it!

(Photo: Lower East Side, April 2009)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jane Fonda

I saw Jane Fonda last night on Broadway in “33 Variations.” She plays a musicologist who travels to Bonn to study Beethoven’s manuscripts, in hopes of unlocking his motivation for writing 33 variations of a lesser composer’s simple waltz.

The play was interesting -- I know little about Beethoven but the basics, so it was mostly new to me. My motivation for attending was Jane.

I suspect that a person’s feelings about Jane Fonda say a lot about their Red State/Blue State proclivities. Having grown up in the ‘70s, in a household headed by a feminist-leaning mother (also named Jane), I always admired her. She was the model strong, savvy woman, and I liked many of her movies: “The China Syndrome,” “On Golden Pond,” “California Suite,” "Nine to Five," “Barefoot in the Park” and of course, “Klute.”

(Funny story: When I was 10, I went with my church youth group to “California Suite.” It’s a Neil Simon movie, but it has some mature themes: Walter Matthau wakes up with an unconscious hooker in his bed, and Maggie Smith is married to a gay but closeted Michael Caine! I can only imagine the blood draining from the faces of the youth group’s leaders as all that unfolded on screen.)

I never understood, particularly as a kid, why some people considered Jane’s activities in Vietnam to be so treacherous. It seems to me that reaching across the gap in a conflict and trying to meet and understand the enemy might be a good first step toward conflict resolution. But then, I don’t come from a military background, and those folks saw her behavior very differently. I believe even she has acknowledged she went too far in antagonizing people back home, but I think we have to view her actions through the lens of the radical politics of that period.

Anyway, it was exciting to see Jane in person last night. She looks great. All those years of the Jane Fonda Workout clearly did her body good. And she sounds just as she always did -- it was wonderful and comforting to hear her distinctive diction and voice. (Almost like “Coming Home”!)

(Photo: Lower East Side, April 2009)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Photos from Sunday

I have a few nascent blog posts rolling around in my head, but nothing very well thought-out. So in the meantime, here are a few more pictures from my walk through Tribeca on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No Tweeting, part 2

I went to a presentation at work yesterday about Twitter. News organizations are all trying to figure out how to use Twitter to their advantage, in both reporting and distributing their news. This talk was intended to help us all understand how Twitter works.

One of the senior editors asked how it’s different from e-mail. The presenter, a guy from our Web technology division, said Twitter is like a river -- you check in periodically and read the posts you happen to catch going by, but you aren’t expected to go back and read everything you’ve missed.

Reporters have used Twitter to gather information -- about the recent attacks in Mumbai, for example. People on the scene were twittering what they saw, and news organizations were watching those tweets. But you can’t trust what you see on Twitter any more than what you see on the rest of the Web -- someone posing as a witness in Mumbai may in fact be in their garage in Pasadena -- so reporters have to do some verification.

I’ve already expressed my antipathy toward Twitter. It seems way too chaotic to me. It also reminds me of what someone once said about poetry -- lots of people like to write it, but nobody wants to read it. Twitter is self-expression run amok.

I mentioned this to my boss, who said she likes the immediacy -- she was in the park on Sunday and heard about the rescue of the freighter captain in Somalia before it was on the news Web sites, for example.

But what did she gain by hearing that news half an hour or three hours earlier than she would have otherwise? Not only that, but what the heck was she doing on Twitter while sitting in the park?

I got into news because I like writing -- and by writing I mean the craft of creating a considered, well-structured piece of work.

Still, I can’t be a dinosaur, so I guess I’m going to play around with Twitter a bit. Wish me luck!

ADDENDUM: Here's a timely example of how Twitter can make a difference, mobilizing people against an injustice. The recent protests in Moldova are another example.

(Photo: Lower East Side, April 2009)

Monday, April 13, 2009


As I've grown more interested in graffiti and street art, I've wondered whether my eye for photography is changing. I’m now so attentive to every little scribble that I often think I might be missing the shadows, shapes and streetscapes that interested me in earlier years. Certainly in terms of sheer volume the graffiti photos have taken over.

But yesterday I was reminded that I just need the right kind of day to see again. After an Easter brunch with some friends, I went for a walk in Tribeca, and the light was so beautiful -- clear and brilliant, casting perfect shadows and bathing everything in the sublime. The light in winter can be beautiful too, thin and white, but this was good solid warm sunshine. (Even though the day was surprisingly windy and cold!)

If Easter, like the spring pagan rituals that preceded it, represents an awakening, then it’s appropriate that I had these feelings yesterday. With the pear trees blooming in brilliant white clouds and the sky a hard blue, I did feel newly awake!

(Photo: E. 29th Street, yesterday, before I even got to Tribeca.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Musical Murray Hill

Let it never be said that I live in a boring neighborhood. We’re so cool here in Murray Hill that we now have our very own music video, courtesy of DJ Lubel. And it was largely filmed within about two blocks of my apartment!

Murray Hill has a reputation as the Manhattan neighborhood where all the fledgling bankers and investment types land when they graduate from college and move to New York. (Hence the opening shot of Lehman Brothers, which was not in Murray Hill -- it was across town near Times Square.)

It’s true that I’m surrounded by lots of 20-somethings who like to go out at night and get wasted. The bars on my corner, Tonic (visible in the video) and The Hill (formerly Dip), are routinely packed with these folks.

There are a few of us who don’t fit the video’s demographic: middle-aged, with middle-class Protestant backgrounds and unfortunately static (or declining) income levels. Oh well. C’est la vie. I still love Murray Hill!

As you watch the video, keep these landmarks in mind: The Tasti D*Lite yogurt shop is right around the corner from me, at Third Avenue and 29th Street. Lord John’s Bootery, where I buy my shoes, is just a few doors north of that. Windsor Court, a huge apartment complex, is two blocks farther north. And Joshua Tree, a bar I’m happy to say I have never patronized, is about five blocks north, near 34th Street.


(Photo: Hello Kitty, abandoned on a newspaper box in Murray Hill.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

It's All In The Cards

After my night of insomnia earlier this week, when I woke and felt my life was in flux and wondered where the heck I should go next, my friend Reya over at The Gold Puppy asked if I would like her to do a Tarot reading for me.

I said “Sure!” I mean, why not? There was always the chance that something unsavory would arise -- back when I was in tenth grade, a kid in gym class did my Tarot reading and said, “The more I look at these cards, the more I think there’s gonna be a war” -- but Reya has far more skill and intuition than my tenth-grade chum.

So anyway, here’s what Reya had to say. (I asked her if I could blog this, and she said it would be fine.)

“Your reading seems perfect, to my eye anyway. I used a 7-card spread that looks like a big "V". The cards descending down on the left side are past, present and future. At the base of the V is the card that is the key to resolving the situation. Traveling up the right side of the spread, the card placement is environment, hopes/fears, taking the next step.

“The big picture of the reading shows me how hard you have worked to achieve balance and stability. In the past you were master of keeping the dark and the light separate. Now you've achieved a harmonious balance of body-mind-spirit. The card in the place of "present" is often called "Virtue" by tarot people. It's the 3 of wands, and also represents the ability to visualize, quite clearly, what you want.

“I think you know in your heart of hearts that the change that's coming is going to require a huge investment of energy on your part. For awhile you won't have all those wonderful Saturdays and Sundays to wander and take pics. There is both a hope and a fear about how much chaos your life's renovation is going to bring into your normally peaceful, clean and simple existence. It looks like it's going to be quite complicated - it will require a lot of reflection on where you've been, and some real hard thinking, some real introspection to help you get clear about what it is you actually want going forward.

“Really interesting that the key to resolving this reluctance to move forward is the 2 of cups, which ordinarily represents romantic love! After I looked at the reading for awhile it came to me that falling in love brings up a lot of energy. I think you'll find resources you didn't know you had should you fall in love. Also the initial stages of falling in love are so blissful that the chaos that attends any big life change won't throw you quite so much.

“The next step card is the Emperor - that's about taking the reins of your life, being your own authority. This flies in the face of your go-with-the-flow philosophy, I know. No wonder you are reluctant!

“The wisdom card is Strength, a beautiful image of a woman taming a lion. It is also called Lust in some decks. It's all about bringing out some of the wild side of nature, and then working with that wild side to come into a more powerful balance.

“So my dear this is what I see in the cards. Much love to you - and excitement - about your upcoming adventure!”

Pretty interesting! If you’d like to see visually the cards Reya is talking about, she was wonderful enough to make a slideshow of the spread. Check it out!

A million thanks to Reya for her time and expertise.

(It’s certainly better than a war.)

(Photos: Superior Sewing Equipment, W. 25th Street, March 2009)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What's That Smell?

We had a bit of excitement in my building last night -- a visit from the Fire Department!

I was here at home when I heard a lot of clanking and noise on the stairs. I thought maybe someone was moving in or out, and as it was 10 p.m. and I’m the co-op president, I thought I’d better go ask them to wait until a decent hour.

But when I opened the door to the stairwell I saw a nylon bag on the landing labeled “lifesaving rope,” and I knew it wasn’t ours!

So I ran down to the lobby, and sure enough, a fire truck was sitting outside with red lights whirling. I asked some of the (cute, hunky) firefighters what was going on, and they said someone had reported a gas smell.

Turns out, someone on the fifth floor not only smelled something unusual, but had a gas alarm that went off -- twice. So they called 911.

The firefighters found nothing with their gas meters and we couldn’t smell anything either. But then our building super remembered that the owner of a unit on the sixth floor, directly above the apartment with the smell, was doing some renovation work.

So we went up there and sure enough, the floors were being refinished and the smell of polyurethane was heavy in the air -- and every window was shut tight. We opened some windows to ventilate the place, and told the downstairs neighbor what was going on. I’m sure those polyurethane fumes were the source of both the odor and the alarm.

Such a dramatic week! I noticed last night the moon is more or less full -- maybe that has something to do with it?

I went to a terrific poetry reading by Mark Doty yesterday evening at the Zendo, and I plan to buy one of his books. Funny, brilliantly observant, and such touching, lyrical language! Excellent stuff.

(Photo: Ronald Reagan sticker in the East Village, March 2009)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Well, I had a much better night last night, I'm happy to report. Slept soundly all the way through. No drama.

I don't know whether I'm really on the brink of change or just enduring a blip in my normally peaceful outlook. In any case, I will attempt to be vigilant about looking for opportunities, both personally and professionally, so that I don't feel like I'm stagnating.

I've said this before -- I am a big believer in feeling life's "flow." So flow on, life! I'm right here with you!

(Photo: This park on E. 29th Street, March 2009. That beige wall is where one of the murals used to be.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I’m getting a late start this morning, just waking up at 7 a.m. I had a strange night. I woke up about 1:30 a.m. and I could NOT get back to sleep. I lay there thinking about work, and about my life in general, wading into the weeds with questions like, “Where are you going? What do you want in life? What are your goals?”

Finally I broke out John Cheever just to get my brain off that hamster wheel, and after I read a short story and had a bowl of cereal I was able to get back to sleep again.

It’s true that I’m not particularly good at goal-setting. I tend to just hover in a job until the next thing comes along that seems right, and that pretty much describes my approach to my personal life, too. I’m not good at trying to nudge things along, to make things happen.

The truth is, I haven’t enjoyed my job for years. I have some good days, but I’m removed from what I most enjoy about journalism -- the writing, the storytelling. Now I mostly help get the tools and processes in place for our papers to tell their stories better, and there’s virtually no hands-on work.

On the personal front, I was recently talking to a friend who’s started dating a guy he met via a dating site on the Internet. I was thinking, “Geez, maybe I should be doing more of that.” I’ve only tried Internet dating once -- but let’s face it, that’s how many people meet nowadays.

I like to be open to what’s really happening, as opposed to getting wrapped up in what I only want to happen. But maybe I’m being too passive. Maybe helping things along would be good for me.

I hate insomnia. Ugh.

(Photo: "Flying" reflections in Chelsea, March 2009)

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Perfect Day

Yesterday was literally a perfect spring day. I was out and about in a t-shirt, and the sun was warm and bright. Such a change from Saturday!

I went to the Zendo in the morning and then went walking through the Lower East Side. I had lunch at the Cup & Saucer, an old-fashioned lunch counter on Canal Street that I always fear will close without warning and turn into a Rite-Aid or something. I had a grilled chicken sandwich and vanilla shake.

Then I wandered a couple of hours taking photos, until I wound up in Seward Park on Essex Street, where I sat reading "The Stories of John Cheever" and drinking a coffee from Roots and Vines.

Finally, when I got my second wind, I hot-footed it through Chinatown -- buying a bag of navel oranges on the way -- and walked over to Greenwich Village to see the movie "Gomorrah." I've been hearing a lot of buzz about it, and it was good, but literally nothing happy occurs in the entire movie. It's one long downer from one end to the other. So if you go see it, be prepared.

Fortunately, the evening was still perfect when I left the theater and walked to K-Mart to buy cereal, and then went home. Ah, spring!

(Photos: Forsythia and a blooming tree in Chelsea this weekend.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring Verification

I've been meaning to post these photos for a while -- I took them last week in Stuyvesant Square Park. I always like to see the crocuses just to verify that spring has, in fact, arrived. (You wouldn't have known it from yesterday's windy and chilly weather.)

I went walking yesterday morning over in Chelsea and nearly froze to death in a t-shirt and jacket. The weather reports had me expecting a nice weekend, so I was unprepared for that blustery gale off the Hudson. Today is supposed to be nicer.

Also yesterday I met up with an old pal from Sarasota who I found on Facebook this week -- turns out he's living in New York now! I hadn't talked to him since I moved up here nine years ago, so we got together for coffee in the afternoon to catch up. He looks great and he's collaborating with another guy on writing a musical, which is pretty ambitious!

I've found several old contacts on Facebook recently. It really is amazing!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Chatty Cathy

I went to get my semi-annual massage last night, and here’s what I can tell you about my massage therapist: He grew up in southern Michigan. He doesn’t like to wear shoes. People in his hometown don’t lock their doors.

How do I know these things? Because he was Chatty Cathy and shared them all during my massage.

I come from the school of thought that says we do not speak during a massage. I like to relax and float away to that hazy place where words are unnecessary. I managed to do that during the first half of the massage, when I was prone on the table with my face planted in that donut thing, and presumably even Chatty Cathy realized I wouldn’t really be capable of speaking.

But after I turned over he started talking about my high arches (it’s true, my feet have very high arches) and from there the conversation ran to how hard it is to get good shoes, and how shoes and walking on concrete are bad for our bodies, and how he doesn’t like shoes anyway because he never wore them in the summer, growing up in a town of 14,000 people where everyone knows everyone. “There’s been, I think, one homicide in that town ever,” he said -- and I thought, why am I hearing about homicide during my massage?

I tried to give polite but perfunctory replies so that I would not appear rude, but would convey that I really didn’t want to talk. I also tried to maintain some equanimity and openness to what he was saying. But I had the disconcerting feeling that he was paying more attention to the conversation than to my body.

Cathy was slow to pick up on my cues. Only after I stopped replying at all did he drift into silence, and by then I was finished.

(Photo: No Parking in SoHo, January 2009)

Friday, April 3, 2009


We're having a rainy morning here. It sounds nice -- I don't really hear the rainfall itself but I can tell from the hiss of traffic on Third Avenue that the road is wet. I'm also hearing lots of happy birds in my courtyard, which is a sure sign of spring. These may be the first birds I've heard since winter unlocked its grip -- a cooing dove and some chirpy little things.

I love spring!

(Photo: The New York Life tower from outside my apartment building, March 2009. Compare to the evening shot here.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Movie Week

This has been “catch-up-on-movies” week. I’ve been at the theater for the past three nights. (Which is ironic, considering I just told a friend I go to movies less often these days because they’re so expensive.) I saw:

-- “Two Lovers” with Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow. Of the three, this was my favorite. It’s the story of a guy living in Brighton Beach with his parents, in love with two very different women, and co-stars the fabulous Isabella Rossellini in a relatively small part. You care about all the characters and don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but of course it’s inevitable. Terrific performances.

-- “Sunshine Cleaning” with Amy Adams and Emily Blunt. Again, the acting was great, the plot was compelling, the characters charming. You just want to jump through the screen to keep the bad stuff from happening. I felt like I’d already seen a lot of the movie in the trailer, though.

-- “I Love You, Man” with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. I really like Rudd so I had to check this out, even though it’s a relatively absurd story. I laughed pretty hard in places, so the juvenile humor is effective, and all in all it’s not a bad movie as long as you know what you’re getting into. But parts of it made me uncomfortable. I don’t really want to hear a father making anatomical references to his son’s gay sex life, for example.

By the way, I returned the Masochistic Torture Pants. Levi’s took them back, no questions asked. I appreciate all the votes of confidence for my attempt to wear black jeans, but I exchanged them for a plain old blue pair. I’m going back to basics!

(Photo: Have some pi? Midtown, March 2009)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Masochistic Torture Pants

So I went to the Levi’s store opposite Bloomingdales on Sunday and bought two pairs of jeans. One was the traditional blue pair of 501s, and just to be different, I got black 501s too. They’re both the same size -- 32W, 34L -- the size I’ve worn my entire adult life.

The blue pair fit fine. But the black pair are HELL. They’re really slim, so the waist and hips fit and the length is OK, but my thighs feel like they’re being compressed by a blood pressure cuff. I wore them to work yesterday, thinking they’d stretch out a bit, and I was miserable the whole day. I felt like my feet weren’t getting any blood. I kept waiting to pass out.

Needless to say, I’m taking them back.

I was a bit concerned, because I took the tags off (threw them out, in fact) but I do still have my receipt, and on the receipt are these heavenly words: “Any item purchased at Levi’s...can be returned for a full refund for any reason within 60 days of the date of purchase with receipt or proof or purchase.” I’ll test their customer satisfaction policy on my lunch hour today.

I’ve never owned black jeans before. Maybe they’re intentionally cut more narrowly than blue jeans. But these are unwearable.

(And no, my thighs are no bigger than they ever were, thank you very much!)

(Photo: Monstrous street art in SoHo, March 2009)