Friday, July 31, 2009

Apologies to Mrs. West

When I was a senior in high school, I worked a semester as a teacher’s aide. For one class period each day I helped one of my favorite teachers grade papers and do administrative stuff.

Sounds harmless enough, right? Well, you’d think so. But nowadays some of what I did as a teacher’s aide would get me thrown out of school.

Mrs. West, the teacher I assisted, was a terrific woman and an entertaining instructor. She sponsored our drama program and did a great job teaching English. A few years earlier, she’d helped me come out of my shell through involvement in drama. (I helped run the lights on “The Sound of Music,” and had a lead acting role in “The Taming of the Shrew” – and mercifully I will never again inflict my acting upon an audience.)

As her assistant, I had access to her gradebook. One day, a friend who had that class asked me to mark in the gradebook that she’d turned in her assignment, even though she hadn’t. I said I would, and I did.

Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. Soon a friend of my friend made a similar request, and as in the shampoo commercial, they told two friends, and so on and so on. Pretty soon I had about a dozen people routinely asking me to doctor the gradebook.

I did it. I guess I thought it made me popular or cool or likeable. I didn’t really see the difference between being liked and being used.

Even worse, pretty soon I was drunk on my own power – I adjusted grades for a few kids who weren’t even in the period I assisted. (Mostly guys I thought were cute, including one or two I’d never even spoken to.)

As far as I know, Mrs. West never caught on to my deception. I raised a few people a full letter grade in her class, I’m sure.

The whole episode is so embarrassing to think about now. And thank God I was never caught or punished. I didn’t think of it as very serious at the time, but I might have never graduated!

(Photo: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, July 2009)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Amelia Earhart

I read an article yesterday about researchers who plan to visit a deserted speck of an island in the Pacific to search for DNA remnants of Amelia Earhart.

It made me wonder at the appeal of the Earhart mystery. She disappeared with her navigator on July 2, 1937, ten days before my mother was born. Now, more than 70 years later, we’re still looking for her. What other missing-persons case has been so enduring?

Part of the allure probably has to do with the South Pacific, a vast expanse of tiny coral atolls amid endless miles of water. We all get a little giddy thinking about that part of the world, with Polynesian beauties a la Gaugin and swaying coconut palms. But to Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan – had they successfully crash-landed somewhere – it would hardly have been a vacation paradise. Probably more like a recipe for starvation.

Earhart herself is a pretty interesting character -- an early feminist icon. While other missing persons of more recent vintage, like Jimmy Hoffa or D.B. Cooper, also captivate the public imagination, they’re tainted by a whiff of crime or scandal. Earhart has none of that baggage. She was a heroic woman who failed at a heroic task.

Now a group of researchers are going to Nikumaroro Island, once known as Gardner Island, to look for Earhart’s DNA. This despite the fact that Earhart is thought by some to have crashed nearer an entirely different uninhabited atoll, Howland Island, hundreds of miles away.

I'd love to see them succeed. But then we'd be deprived of a good mystery that's occupied us for decades -- and we do love a good mystery, don't we?

(Photo: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, July 2009)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weekend in Pictures

Here are a few random pictures from my weekend. I already wrote about my activities, so let’s call this the supplementary illustrated account.

Above are Dave with Ernie and Ruby at the dog park in East Brunswick. I call this photo the “Port-a-Potty Picnic.” We picked up some stuff from a deli near his house and went to the park, which proved to be a little more bare and sun-baked than we’d imagined. The dogs ran around for a while but eventually wound up lying in the shade beneath our bench, panting -- that was our cue to leave.

Here’s a photo of Ernie and Ruby, both boxers, in Dave’s apartment. I love this pic. They’re both rescue dogs so their ages are uncertain, but they’re probably getting up around 10 years old. I’m not sure what they were so intrigued with outside.

And here is an apple tart Dave made. What an artiste!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Five Words

My blog pal Barbara recently did a writing exercise in which a friend gave her five words to use in some kind of composition. Other than that, there were no real guidelines. I asked Barbara to do the same for me, and she gave me three sets of five words to choose from:

1. graffiti walking hidden green heat

2. writing editor capture surprise recognition

3. tricky relationship embarrassing love compromise

Instead of choosing, I decided to write something for each quintet. So last night I sat down and created a poem from each set. Here goes, for better or worse.

Heat is walking up the wall, along a track of sun
Hidden in its obviousness.
Voluptuous graffiti curves
Morph and shimmer, each line
Gaining new meaning in the light.
Every perspective scrawls a new message
On the leaf-green walls
Of my living heart.

The editor yearns for invention:
Writing someone else’s story
With someone else’s words
Leaves him oddly speechless.
It’s no surprise to him, this recognition
Of the bland potato life
Of a desk jockey.
He goes for coffee
But the coffee is secondary
To a precious capture
Of outdoor air.

People think love is tricky.
I find it exceptionally easy:
Yin and yang
Courtship and relationship.
Each compromise seems
Sweet as a gift;
Each personal failing,
Otherwise embarrassing,
A breath of intimacy.

(Photo: Municipal building in lower Manhattan, July 2009)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jersey Graffiti

Back in the city this morning with my poor, neglected cat, who cooled her paws by herself this weekend while I was at Dave’s. Funny thing is, she doesn’t particularly seem to mind. Cats are the most low-maintenance pets EVER. (She’ll have me around nearly all this week to compensate.)

Dave and I had a great time this weekend, exploring New Brunswick and environs. We even went out to find some graffiti, and I gotta give Dave kudos for indulging me on this, because not everyone is into my little street-art obsession.

Several times we’d passed a bridge in town that was COVERED with graffiti, and on Saturday Dave pulled over and waited in the car while I scrambled down a steep embankment to shoot up at the bridge from the shores of the river beneath.

He also took me to find a building I’d spied earlier near the train tracks with some great pieces on it. I had to trespass a bit to get to it, so Dave hung back with the dogs -- no reason ALL of us need to get arrested! (We also discovered that bringing dogs along on a graffiti hunt can be a bit tricky logistically, because a certain amount of freedom and agility for climbing and exploration is required.)

Yesterday we lounged around Dave's house and watched “Maurice,” the Merchant-Ivory movie adapted from E.M. Forster’s novel. I saw it in the theater when it came out in the late 1980s. Paging all Hugh Grant fans: This is one of his earliest appearances, and he’s more authentic, I think, than the bland dashing-yet-bumbling charmer he became in his later films.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lazy Saturday

I'm at Dave's this weekend, hanging out with him and his dogs, Ernie and Ruby. We had dinner last night with my friend Bill in New Brunswick, and this afternoon we're heading over to the local dog park. I think we'll get some take-out for dinner and Dave plans to make an apple tart for dessert.

I love days like this, with no really urgent tasks and lots of leisure time. I guess this is more the kind of practice I'm looking for, rather than the retreat I wrote about in my last entry -- being aware of the beauty and perfection of a lazy Saturday with Dave and the dogs, with a walk to CVS to buy milk, with sunshine and the dog park..

By the way, I appreciate everyone's comments on that entry. I think Lorianne particularly hit the nail on the head when she questioned the tendency to think of practice in competitive terms, and pointed out that Zen is about practicing with what's there. I did write my teacher and tell her I planned to bow out of the retreat. She didn't argue the point -- just reminded me to keep practicing!

(Photo: E. 29th Street, July 2009)

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I am scheduled to go on retreat again this summer, for one week in August. As usual, it will be a silent retreat, with ceremonial meals in small portions and lots of meditating. Early to rise, early to bed, no air conditioning and all that.

Longtime readers will remember that I usually approach these retreats with some trepidation. They're long and hard and uncomfortable. Despite the images that the words "Zen Retreat" may conjure up, thanks to our misunderstanding culture, they are not the equivalent of a spa getaway.

So this year, I'm struggling with a question: Should I go?

Part of me thinks I should. I've already paid for it, for one thing, and I have no doubt it would help my practice. It's not entirely unpleasant -- the walks in the hills around our retreat center are wonderful and I enjoy the scenery and most of the people.

But I never enjoy the retreat itself. I'm always so relieved when it's over. And this year, my heart just isn't in it.

Zen is supposed to be about facing yourself, really experiencing what's going on in your life and in the moment, and not deluding yourself with everyday distractions. But I must admit I suspect that some people hide in practice, using it to avoid questions and issues in their own lives, in direct opposition to its purpose. Perhaps I suspect that of myself.

I'm not jettisoning my practice entirely -- that's not what I'm saying. But I want a less intensive practice than a weeklong retreat will offer. If that makes me a lightweight, so be it. I'd rather walk the streets of New York City and visit Dave and my friends and experience my life in all its richness, without giving up a week to sit on a cushion.

I have long wrestled with the amount of time involved in Zen practice. In recent weeks and months I haven't even been able to get to the Zendo -- partly because I've been busy, but also, truth be told, because I've been in a period of silent rebellion.

I've been facing a lot of questions about what my practice should be. (I'm not really supposed to discuss this with anyone but my teacher, but here goes.) For one thing, I've been working on koans, which are Zen riddles that are meant to lead to greater enlightenment. I just HATE them. I don't really have much aptitude for the teachings of the old Zen masters, and I dread being pressed into service during liturgy. It's the sitting I enjoy, and that only in limited quantities.

Of course, "enjoyment" isn't really the point. Zen is not about doing what you enjoy. But why shouldn't I spend my valuable and finite time on this planet doing what I enjoy, as long as it's not harmful to me or others?

I understand that devoting time to the practice is the essence of practice -- the need to remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of daily life. But here's the thing: I like the hustle and bustle. I'm enjoying my life. I don't think I'm woefully deluded or in need of balance and equanimity. I'm pretty balanced already.

I think I'm going to write my teacher and tell her I don't intend to come up this summer. I'll continue to go to the Zendo and practice here in the city, and try to find a comfort zone that allows me to maintain my practice while devoting more time to just living, pursuing my hobbies, friendships and relationship.

I'm not a monk. I don't want to be a monk.

Does that make sense?

(Photo: E. 29th Street, July 2009)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

La Grenouille

Dave and I went out last night for the latter half of his birthday gift. Because he’s a chef in the French tradition, I promised him a meal at La Grenouille, a famous French restaurant in Midtown with rich red velvet banquettes, masses of flowers and really amazing food. I had bass with artichokes, fava beans and a fennel puree, a salad with sweet heirloom tomatoes and a towering chocolate souffle. Dave had foie gras with seared peaches, lobster and monkfish with sweet peas and a Grand Marnier souffle. Incroyable!

We began the evening with a drink at Top of the Tower, my secret rooftop bar at the Beekman Tower Hotel. No one knows about this place, but it has an incredible view of Midtown and the East River, and it’s much less expensive than many other scenic rooftop bars. (A hint for any frequent New York travelers out there!)

And we ended the night with a walk to the scenic little pocket park at the east end of 57th Street, overlooking the Queensboro Bridge. It’s one of my favorite romantic spots in the city. We sat on a bench and looked out over the East River and the bridge, and talked about our future -- happily, we both seem to be on the same page about that.

I hate to drone on about Dave all the time -- please forgive me -- but I suppose it’s normal in the early stages of a relationship to only have eyes for each other. I can’t believe I’ve only been with him three months. It seems like it’s been years -- and I mean that in a good way. Of course, we’ve seen each other pretty intensely all this time, so that’s part of it. Here’s to years more to come, and to me moving on to other topics in future blog posts!

(Photo: Lower East Side, July 2009)

Monday, July 20, 2009


About 32 years ago, my dad and stepmother piled us four kids into our Volkswagen van and drove off to an evening screening of “The Jungle Book.”

Our van was not exactly pristine. The middle seat had been removed, so the center of the van was a big open space. The adults sat in the front seats and the kids sat way, way in the back on the one remaining bench seat.

Somewhere on this trip we kids decided it would be fun to stand up in the center of the van and sway while my dad rounded curves and made turns. We got giggly, tilting right and left and bumping into each other. Suddenly Dad turned left into the movie theater -- a particularly sharp turn that no one was ready for. My brother and stepsister fell against the van doors, which promptly flew open, and they both tumbled into the middle of the intersection.

I screamed “STOP!” to Dad, who pulled over on the side of the road and ran back to retrieve his kids. JM was fine, but Jennifer was still lying in the roadway with a bloody knot on her head. We were all shaken, but incredibly, we went on to the movie. (To this day, Jennifer doesn’t remember it at all.)

This is a legendary story in my family -- one of those tragicomic incidents that could have been disastrous, but because it wasn’t, makes a really good, even darkly funny tale.

While visiting the family this weekend, though, I discovered something interesting. We all remember the The Van Incident a little bit differently.

For example, I left my stepbrother out of the account above. That’s because my stepbrother insists that he wasn’t standing up with the rest of us and didn’t fall out of the van at all. As I recall, he fell out too -- I distinctly remember being the only one left in the van. I think he ran to the side of the road, like JM, and wasn’t injured.

We also had other disagreements about who saw what and how we made the appalling decision to go to the movie, despite the fact that my stepsister had a HEAD INJURY. (I definitely advocated for going to the movie. I can’t take the high road on that one.)

It’s a perfect illustration of how people can witness and even participate in an event and remember things so differently. (Granted, though, we’re also looking back through a 30-year haze, not to mention a likely concussion.)

It’s also amazing the authorities didn’t show up and take us kids away from my father and stepmother and make us wards of the state. But as Dad says now, he got us all out of there fast.

(Photo: Lower East Side, July 2009)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Coming Home

I'm about to hop on an airplane and come back to New York from Florida. This has been a fun family visit, but also a bit intense and exhausting. I've got a pretty big family, and getting all of us together always leads to a lot of overlapping conversation and, well, noise. I don't function well in that environment! I miss my cat and Dave and my quiet little apartment!

It's been a good visit. I've spent a lot of time talking to my dad and getting to know my niece and nephew from Louisiana, who I hardly ever see. I also took my mom to dinner for her birthday and did "fun" suburban things like go to the mall -- I am having the TRUE Florida experience!

I'm looking forward to returning to my routines, though, and seeing Dave again!

(Photo: Address on a door in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, July 2009)

Friday, July 17, 2009


I was walking in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago when I saw this scrawled on a sidewalk:

"To every girl that has said 'Let's just be friends,' I wish you knew how much that sucks to hear."

I set down my coffee to take a photo, and then noticed this on an adjacent lamppost:

Somebody had it bad! :(

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Surprise! In a few hours I'm taking off for Florida, but just for a quick trip. My Dad's side of the family is posing for a family portrait this afternoon, and they offered to fly me down so I could be in it. How could I say no? I'm also staying through the weekend just to catch up with everyone. Back to NYC on Sunday!

(Photo: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, July 2009)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Specter Art

Sunday I took a walk through Bed-Stuy to catch up with artwork of Specter, who I believe is Canadian and who has posted a lot of new stuff in recent weeks. He does incredibly beautiful street art, handpainted and very detailed. Here are four of his pieces. To see more photos with details from the pieces, check out this link.

It was a strenuous walk. A friend provided me with the locations of the pieces, but I had to hoof it across a large section of Bed-Stuy in just a couple of hours. Quite a workout, but just my kind of afternoon adventure!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Beach Glass

Do you ever anthropomorphize inanimate objects? For example, when you’re in the grocery store, do you ever think: “Oh, I have to buy this garlic, because I picked it up to look at it and now it expects to be purchased. If I leave it behind it will be disappointed.”

Embarrassingly enough, I do.

I don't quite know how to write about it without seeming crazy, and maybe it is a sign of mental illness or a lonely childhood*, but I anthropomorphize everything. I hate to throw away a paper clip because I imagine the paper clip saying, “Wait! I’m still perfectly good! Don’t discard me for no reason when I could clip papers for years and years to come!”

Sheets of paper, apples, ball point pens, you name it -- I can project emotions and expectations onto any object.

The other day, in this vein, I was wondering which object in my household I would most like to be. What’s the one thing I own that exists under the best, most comfortable circumstances?

I think it’s this stained glass window ornament that my grandmother bought on Cape Cod in the 1930s. It’s made of beach glass and supposedly represents a seagull on the ocean, but I always think of it as more of an abstract sculpture.

It sits up in my window, day in and day out, with an amazing view of my courtyard and all the apartments across the way, not to mention a smidgen of the Empire State Building. It sees rain and blue skies and pigeons and trees, with leaves and without. It sees snow and blistering hot sunshine. It just sits quietly, taking it all in -- or it would take it all in if it were sentient. And it’s never disturbed, except for an occasional washing with dish soap. What a life!

Except, of course, that it’s really not a life at all. Oh, yeah. There is that.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Asbury Park

Each year my friend Mark, who lives in New Jersey near Asbury Park, gets together eight or ten of his friends and hosts a weekend sleepover, barbecue and beach outing that he has jokingly dubbed “Nuts in the Sand,” or NITS. (These are all gay men, and the beach is clothing-optional. You get the picture, whether you want it or not.)

Anyway, Dave and I were invited this year, but we only participated in part of the weekend. Mark hosted a dinner outing on Friday night, the beach trip on Saturday morning and the barbecue in the evening, and then breakfast the next day. Dave and I skipped the Friday night event, preferring instead to relax at his apartment that evening, and we skipped the beach trip -- we’re not really beach types, particularly when it comes to clothing-optional! But we joined Mark and the crowd for the barbecue and stayed over Saturday night, and we had a great time.

Mark has a beautiful house from the 1930s that he renovated in an older neighborhood called West Allenhurst, just above Asbury Park. The area is really interesting -- it was a faded beach resort that had struggled through some hard times (Bruce Springsteen is from Asbury Park -- think of the song “My Hometown”) before enterprising gay men and women moved in and turned the tide. It’s a popular gay residential area now. (Of course not everyone is gay, but as often happens with gay couples who have relatively healthy incomes and no children, they have money to spend on improving the housing stock and they don’t need to consider the quality of local schools -- except to contribute to their subsequent improvement through higher taxes.)

Anyway, we had a really great time. The more time I spend with Dave, the more I want to spend with him. It’s actually a downer to come back to Manhattan -- and I never thought I would say that!

(Photo: I didn't take any photos in Asbury Park -- this one is from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, June 2009)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yiddish Policemen

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I rarely quit a book. Once I start, I push myself to read it the whole way through. My philosophy is that you can’t really judge a book without reading the whole thing, because a bad book may redeem itself before the ending -- and a good book may go to hell.

For example, you might remember a few months ago I read Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great.” It wasn’t an easy book but I pushed through it, and I’m glad I did because I could then see its flaws in their entirety.

More recently, though, I tried to read Michael Chabon’s “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.” It’s a sort of noir-ish mystery set in a fictional Alaska, populated by Orthodox Jews whom Chabon places there rather than Israel after World War II. I thought the premise was pretty fascinating, and I loved Chabon’s other books, like “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay” and “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.”

But try as I might, I could not get into “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.” For one thing, I couldn’t keep the characters straight. They all seemed to play chess, have beards and wear black! I also must admit a lack of cultural knowledge about Orthodox Judaism, which might have made the book harder for me to understand.

(Plus, one of my former love interests thought Michael Chabon was the best writer since Salinger. Maybe my resistance was psychological?)

At any rate, I read about 100 pages and then quit.

Did anyone else read this book and have a different experience? How do you feel about quitting books?

(Photo: Turn that frown upside down! 14th Street, June 2009)

Thursday, July 9, 2009


So all this time, as Dave has been preparing his move to New Jersey, I've been telling myself that I'm fine with it. He's only an hour away by train, we'll see each other several times a week, we'll talk all the time on the phone. It's no big deal.

But this week, as I helped him physically move all his stuff to his new apartment, his departure has really hit home.

When I came back into the city on Tuesday after a long night of moving and a few hours of sleep at his place, I felt terrible. Of course, I chalked it up to fatigue. But then yesterday morning I felt terrible, too -- weighted and slow, with a dull ache in the center of my chest. That's when I realized this move bothers me a lot more than I've allowed myself to admit.

I called Dave from my office -- poor Dave, who already had enough to worry about, with his parents about to arrive bearing all his furniture -- and I began to tell him I was depressed. I had a total meltdown! I mean, not a freak-out, but a tearful episode nonetheless. Dave was totally great and I felt much better afterwards.

The strength of my feelings surprised me, which just goes to show I don't always know how I really feel. It takes me a while to look beneath my "story" (he's still close by, we'll see each other a lot, etc.) and get to what's really going on. In fact, I often don't look at all, unless the feelings just explode out of me, like they did yesterday.

(Fortunately I was not at my desk when this happened. I'd stepped into the privacy room on our floor, which we call, appropriately, the "crying room.")

I've had people comment before on how positive and happy I often seem. That's not a ruse -- I generally AM positive and happy -- but it takes some emotional management to keep me there. At some point in my life I learned to push bad stuff so far down inside that even I don't see it. (I vent it all once or twice a year when I see a sad movie or a sappy TV commercial and cry for twenty minutes afterwards!)

Anyway, I went back out to East Brunswick last night and helped Dave move in the rest of his stuff, which his parents brought on a trailer from Michigan. (And, of course, more importantly, I met his parents!) So now he's all set up in his new place with his beloved furniture, which he's been without for a year. That makes him really happy, and I'm happy to see him happy.

But here, back in the city, I'm still pretty bummed.

(Photo: Graffiti monster "in the bushes," Greenpoint, Brooklyn.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The List

“The secret of social success in Manhattan, I’d discovered, was to be on the list.”

That’s a line from Toby Young’s book “How To Lose Friends and Alienate People,” about his stint as an editor at Vanity Fair. It amused me because it got me thinking about how often I’ve been on the list.

Answer: Zero times.

The list, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is just that -- a list of VIPs who are admitted to a hot nightspot because they know the owner or have some other “in.” I am so unhip that I almost never go places where there even IS a list.

I can remember being asked whether I was “on the list” only once, actually.

It was in 1997, when I still lived in Florida but was visiting my friend Arthur in New York. We went to Webster Hall, a nightclub that had been featured a few years before on an afternoon talk TV show (Oprah? Geraldo?) about neighbors of the nightclub protesting excessive noise. (Why this was news anywhere outside New York I’m not sure, but I distinctly remember watching the show while on vacation in New Mexico in 1995. I think it also featured Michael Alig and the “Club Kids,” but I might be mixing two different shows together in my memory.)

Anyway...Arthur and I went to Webster Hall, having only recently been turned away at the velvet rope in front of The Limelight, because we were wearing jeans and sneakers. (What did they expect? We’d been walking around town all day!)

The woman at the door to Webster Hall asked, “Are you on the list?”

I looked at her blankly. “What list?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes and let us in. There were no other people waiting. Clearly Webster Hall’s status was diminished in the nightclubbing world.

We had a ball, though. There were plenty of people inside and we danced until sunup, one of only a handful of times I’ve ever done that in my life.

So, yeah, no lists for me. Which may explain why I never see anyone famous on the rare occasions when I go out at night.

(Photo: Colorful trash cans in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, June 2009)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


My internal clock is all messed up. Here I am, at 11:30 a.m., writing a blog entry. I had a bagel for breakfast (instead of my usual raisin bran) after waking up in another state. Let's hear it for shaking up routines! Woo hoo!

This disruption is the result of an adventurous night of moving. Dave drove into the city last night in a U-Haul and I met him at his apartment at about 7 p.m. We spent a couple of hours loading his life into the back of the truck, and then drove it out to East Brunswick, where we wasted no time unloading it right away. We drove the truck back to the U-Haul center, dropped it off at about 12:30 a.m., and went straight to Denny's.

(A side note: Denny's has deteriorated significantly over the years. I remember it being a fairly good coffee shop with real food back in the '80s, but now it might be lower than even Waffle House. I got on omelet with swiss cheese, and the cheese was in pre-made gluey slices -- i.e. Kraft singles -- melted on top. Yuck!)

Anyway, we finally got to sleep at about 2 a.m., and then I zipped back into the city on an 8:45 a.m. train. I'll be amazed if I get through the day without falling asleep at my desk!

It's cute to see Dave so excited about his new place. I think he'll be really happy in New Jersey.

(Photo: Stuffed elephant at the wheel of a forklift outside a recycling business, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, June 2009)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fourth Report

Well, as so often happens, my plans for this weekend went totally awry! I went out to Pennsylvania with Dave to visit his friend Adam, and we had a barbecue in Adam’s back yard. We bought some barbecue staples like potato salad and macaroni salad, put chicken and burgers on the grill, and lounged around eating and drinking red wine.

We had a comical moment after Adam’s friend Cathy joined us -- we ran out of wine, and because the liquor stores in Pennsylvania are all state-operated, they were closed for the holiday. Cathy and Adam volunteered to go back across the river to Trenton, and returned with some of the most godawful swill I’ve ever tasted. (Sutter Home “Red” -- it was like Kool-Aid.) Kudos to them for running the errand, but none of us could drink it.

After dinner Cathy left, and we three guys sat around and talked for several hours, watching the fireflies and the occasional spray of neighborhood fireworks as dusk closed in. Dave and I stayed long enough to spontaneously attend a 10:50 p.m. showing of “Star Trek” at the local cinema -- the second time for all of us -- and then he and I headed back to New Jersey.

Obviously, we’d discarded our original plans to come back to New York to see the fireworks from David’s apartment. It was just too far to drive from where we were, and I didn’t want to deal with the crowds, anyway. So we made it up to David by joining him for brunch Sunday morning.

Then, after I got back to Manhattan Sunday afternoon, I had a great time wandering the Lower East Side, visiting my favorite coffee shop on Grand Street and taking photos. The light was brilliant and the shadows deep and dark -- it was beautiful photography weather!

(Photo: Stencil, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, June 2009)

Sunday, July 5, 2009


I put a small collection of photos from my Peace Corps days on Flickr. I scanned some of them because the prints were deteriorating badly -- photos developed in Morocco often don't hold up all that well! Others I just wanted to share via the Internet, like the shot above, one of my favorites from my two years living there.

This is a street scene in the town of Tan Tan, in far southern Morocco, on the edge of the Sahara.

Take a look at the set via the link above, if you're interested. Maybe if I get around to it I'll scan some more. It's nice to know they're housed on a server in digital form just in case my house burns down or something!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Fourth!

Well, the stomach seems a bit better, thankfully. The doctor told me to just keep taking the Nexium and let him know if things don't improve. I think I'm on the mend, though.

I'm off today on a street art walk, and this evening I'm headed out to New Jersey for the weekend. I'm not sure yet what's on the agenda -- Dave and I talked about trying to picnic somewhere tomorrow, and then we're going to my friend David's in the evening to watch the New York City fireworks. (They're over the Hudson this year, rather than the East River, so they'll be visible from New Jersey, where David lives.)

On Sunday I'll be helping Dave move the last of his stuff to East Brunswick. He's rented a U-Haul, and I'll be fine as long as I don't have to drive it in Manhattan -- that's where I draw the line!

Have a great holiday, everyone. Catch you next week!

(Photo: Midday cafe, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, June 2009)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Some of you may remember that I had an attack of gastritis last year. Well, unfortunately, it seems to be back with a vengeance. My stomach feels painful and bloated, like I swallowed a basketball. Not pretty.

I have a feeling it’s from eating (and drinking) out a lot and not getting enough sleep. I can’t tell you the last time I ate at home, and Dave and I haven’t been able to cook together much during the past two weeks because he’s been engrossed in his move to New Jersey. (Even when we do cook together, what we prepare is a far cry from my previously simple peanut-butter-based diet!)

I refilled my Nexium prescription from last year and began taking that on Saturday. So far, it hasn’t helped much. I’m going to the doctor before work this morning just to run all this past him. Frankly, I’d love to just lie in bed for a few days -- that may be the cure I really need!

(Photo: Chicory growing wild in Brooklyn, June 2009)