Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hiatus


I have blatantly stolen Barbara's "hiatus" artwork, such that it is. I'm not really feeling the blogging urge these days, so I think I'll close up shop for a little while and just coast. I write and spend so much time on the computer at work that I've lost any and all enthusiasm for doing so in my off hours. I'll keep visiting the rest of you, though!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Massage


There's a place in town here called "Massage Envy," and the other day I stopped in to check things out and maybe get a massage. I hadn't had one since last summer, before I lost my job in New York -- if you don't count my bizarre Asian salon massage of January, that is -- so I figured it was high time.

I checked to make sure the Massage Envy folks are LMTs, and they are. So I tried it out, and it was great. Better yet, the place offers a membership that allows me to get monthly massages for $59 apiece. I took the plunge and joined.

I'm a little curious about how a monthly massage will feel. I hope it doesn't lose its "specialness" and become too routine. But at the rate I've been working lately, I'll need it!

(Photo: Pokeweed behind our apartment building.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

History


Yesterday I had a cool assignment at work. The county I cover had a special weekend celebration of local history, opening up 26 historic sites for free tours, demonstrations and more. I made a story out of it and took some photos for an online gallery.

I'd hoped to visit five or six sites in different parts of the county, but I discovered that each one took more time than I expected. By the time I got the tour and interviewed a couple of people, I'd usually been there an hour. So I wound up visiting only three, but it was still enough to get a sense of what was available.

The photo above is the city hall in one of the towns I cover. It was originally a private home and only became a municipal building in 1959 or so.

This area is crazy with historic sites. George Washington literally slept here, all over the place. (George got around, apparently, despite the wooden teeth.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Audrey II


Several months ago -- May or June, I'd say -- I took out the garbage and found some plants in the dumpster. Or, more precisely, pieces of plants. I rescued the ones I thought I could save.

This one, a dieffenbachia, has proven to be the most robust of the lot. When I found it, it had been whacked off at ground level, so it was just a thick stem with some wilted leaves attached. I brought it upstairs and put it in a bucket of water on the balcony, and pretty much left it there all summer.

That was enough time for the plant to grow some roots. Last month, I bought a pot and put the plant in some soil. It has thrived since then, to an almost scary degree. It's doubled the number of leaves it once had and grown a new branch.

We call it "Audrey II." We half expect it to eat us in the middle of the night. Hopefully it will go for the dogs first.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Family Stickers


It's the thing to do here in New Jersey to show the composition of your family via stickers on the back window of your car. Are these stickers as popular elsewhere?


Sometimes there are just a few kids, and sometimes whole armies of them. I once saw a car with at least eight kids marching across the back window. I so wish I'd gotten a photo. Sometimes the cats and dogs are shown, too.

Sometimes the stickers include outfits that show everyone's hobbies and athletic pursuits. Invariably the boys are football players and the girls are cheerleaders.


There's something very Republican about this whole phenomenon, it seems to me. (It's interesting how "family" is a word that's turned sour in my mouth because of the right-wingers who have used it to bludgeon the rights and freedoms of the rest of us.) There's also a sort of one-upmanship, like, "Look how many children I have! Look how fertile I am!"

I told Dave we should get some stickers of our own - two men and two dogs! But he firmly vetoed that idea.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tablescape

Dave and I went to a French restaurant in New Brunswick on Saturday called The Frog and The Peach. This is my one photo from the meal. But don't worry...we had food too.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mushrooms


All the rain has led to a bumper crop of mushrooms here in New Jersey. The field behind our apartment building is littered with them, I suppose because the summer drought created a thick mat of dead grass. The fungi are feasting away!

I took the photo above of a particularly nice one. Most of the mushrooms I'm seeing are much more pedestrian:


Walking around out there yesterday, I was reminded of the poem "Mushrooms" by Sylvia Plath, a longtime favorite poet of mine. Very whitely, discreetly, quietly, these mushrooms are taking over our field! (Or have we taken over theirs? Hmmm...)

I was also reminded of "fairy rings," which is a term you don't hear much these days. (Come to think of it, you never hear the word fairy, except in the derogatory sense.) I couldn't find any really good fairy rings in the field (nothing like that photo with the Wikipedia entry -- holy cow!) but I did find what looks like a partial ring:


I've never done mushrooms. An opportunity missed -- but somehow I don't mind.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Glow


Here's a photo from my recent stroll in the Bronx. I loved the way this white trailer was reflecting light onto the fence. Makes it seem like a heavenly semi, doesn't it?

Yesterday was a big day - I closed on the sale of my apartment. So I am finally free of that huge $1,500-a-month gorilla on my back. I did well money-wise, and the closing went smoothly for the most part, though there was a minor hiccup when the bank and the closing broker realized the new buyer's middle initial was included on some documents but not on others. (Apparently this is important?) Anyway, they sorted it all out, and I walked out with three checks which I took to the bank immediately. (Why were there three? I haven't the foggiest idea. All I know is they added up to what I expected.)

My broker gave me a nice closing gift - a pizza stone for baking pizza, and a basket containing some sauce, dough mix, a kneading bowl and some other stuff. Only problem - the bag weighed about 80 pounds! When I got to the closing she said, "I hope you drove," and when I told her no, I took the train, she seemed chagrined about her choice of gift. I admit hauling it around Manhattan was hell. The handles on the bag broke, I kept bumping into things -- argh! But once I got it on the train I was OK. (Note to all readers: Never give someone a pizza stone without first ascertaining their mode of transportation.)

I raced back to New Jersey and of course went promptly to work, because that's practically all I do nowadays. I even dream about work. Fortunately, it's a lot of fun! The downside, though, as you have seen, is that I won't be around the blogosphere much anymore. I just have too much to do and I often don't feel like sitting down at a computer and writing more after doing it all day. Maybe when I'm more established and more comfortable I'll find time to post more regularly.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sidi Ifni, 1993


When I lived in Morocco, I took a weekend trip in February 1993 to a tiny community in the southwestern coast called Sidi Ifni. It was once a Spanish colony, and the center of town had a desolate colonial feel -- old Art Deco architecture and European-inspired parks. Spain ceded it to Morocco in 1969, and since then it's been mainly a fishing town.

I just recently rediscovered some of these photos, and a few I had reprinted from the negatives because the original prints had badly deteriorated. (African processing!)


We stayed in this hotel, the Hotel Bellevue. You can barely see the heads of my friends, Kim and Jennifer, peeking over the top of the upstairs porch railing.


The park in the center of town was called the Plaza Espana.


In the morning, the mist would roll down from the hills behind the town, giving everything a gray, foggy atmosphere.


But soon the mist would burn off and the sky would turn bright blue. Here's the town lighthouse.


And here's the old Spanish consulate, which was shuttered and derelict. I saw on Flickr recently that it still looks like this, though that tree on the left has been cut down.

I found some great beach glass in Sidi Ifni, worn smooth and round. I still have a bowl of it. I was pretty fascinated by the place, though there wasn't much to do. Back in my stamp-collecting childhood, I had some stamps from Ifni, so it was amazing to be able to say later that I'd been there!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Madonna


This week I read Christopher Ciccone's book about growing up with, and working for, his sister Madonna. I know, I know -- not very literary. But I found it at Barnes & Noble on the clearance rack for $4 or so, and besides, I've always liked Madonna. I've long been impressed with her ability to continually reinvent herself.

Anyway, if his book is any indication, she sounds like a bit of a pill. She's evidently very focused and very ambitious, which isn't really surprising given the level of her success. (Christopher and Madonna have had a bit of a falling out, too, so he may have an axe to grind.)

I was impressed by her insistence on going to bed every night at 11 p.m. That's pretty much what I do -- except it's 10 p.m. for me.

Anyway, after reading the book I rented "Desperately Seeking Susan," which I remember going to see in the theaters in 1985. In one scene, Madonna talks on a pink telephone plastered with seashells, and I remembered that telephone vividly. I liked the whole bohemian feel of her city life, and it's cool to watch the same movie now, on the other side of a decade living in New York. As movies go, it's so-so. And sadly, one of Madonna's best.

(Photo: "Hotel California," Branchburg, N.J. Madonna probably would not stay here.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Goldenrod


Yesterday I drove out to Hunterdon County, on the Pennsylvania border, to cover a house fire that turned out to be pretty much nothing. I was glad I made the trip, though, because the countryside is beautiful -- hillier and, at the moment, more autumnal-looking than where I live. I passed this picturesque field of goldenrod outside Flemington.

Another reminder that fall is right around the corner!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blue Hill


Well, we managed to cram quite a bit of activity into our weekend. (My weekend is now over since I work on Sundays.)

On Friday I stayed home all day, just resting and taking care of the house and the dogs. I didn't even go to the gym -- just read, watched some TV, took a nap. It was fabulous to do nothing.

Then, that evening, Dave and I went to Blue Hill, a restaurant in Greenwich Village that we've wanted to try. I actually went there about five years ago, but I didn't realize at the time what a reputation the place had. Dave and I decided to go to celebrate our civil union, my new job and the sale of my apartment (which is marching toward completion). The food was wonderful and just my style of eating -- mostly light, relatively simple and very vegetable-oriented. I got the tasting menu with wine pairings. Amazing!

Yesterday I finally hauled myself to the gym, and then we went to see "Going the Distance," the romantic comedy with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. I liked it, even though there were about 400 things wrong with it if you watched with an even slightly critical eye.

Then we went to Barnes & Noble, where I picked up a couple of books I'd read about and wanted to try: Freedom, the new novel by Jonathan Franzen, and The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson's look at the great migration of blacks from the south to the north in the early 1900s.

Finally, we went grocery shopping, came home and cooked, and watched Elizabeth Berkley in the notoriously bad "Showgirls" movie from 1995. Apparently it's now considered a camp classic, rather than just a horrible movie. I've never seen so many bare breasts in my entire life. We laughed and laughed.

(Photo: Moon and star over East Brunswick, last week.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Limelight


When I was in New York last week, I walked past the old church that once housed the infamous Limelight nightclub and was stunned to find that it had been turned into a mall.

The Limelight was a notorious disco and drug den in the 1990s, and was the hangout of Michael Alig and the Club Kids, who became better known for a grisly murder recounted in the film Party Monster. I have only a few personal connections to the place.

Once, in 1997 or so, I tried to go there with my friend Arthur. But we'd been walking around New York all day and we were wearing sneakers. As I recall, they turned us away at the velvet rope because our feet were not stylishly shod.


By the time I tried to go back, The Limelight was no more. It had become another nightclub called Avalon, and I went to a fundraiser for Howard Dean's presidential campaign there in 2003. I saw Gloria Gaynor perform "I Will Survive" beneath that peaked Episcopalian roof -- not to mention Howard himself and, I believe, Whoopi Goldberg.

Now, in what is surely another sign of New York's Disney-ization, it's a mall. And it's a schmantzy mall too, full of stuff like guest soaps and fragrances and scarves. Things, in short, that I would never buy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Transistor Radio


I was driving along in my car yesterday, with my iPod plugged into my stereo, when the old Skeeter Davis song "The End of the World" came on. I got to thinking about how music from that era was made to be heard on a transistor radio. Whenever I hear old '50s or early '60s songs on an old radio, they sound so authentic. They seem to gain something from the static and the scratchy reception.

In fact, one of the things I love about antique stores is that they often have an old radio playing somewhere, usually tuned to an oldies station. Sometimes it's an old '40s playlist, with favorites like Adelaide Hall singing "As Time Goes By." Sometimes it's the '50s, with Johnny Mathis crooning "Misty." Regardless, there's something really charming about the simplicity of a transistor radio.

This is my transistor radio. It's a Panasonic "Panapet 70" radio, also known simply as a ball radio, from the early 1970s. I got it for Christmas in 1974 after begging my parents, all because Denise Long (who lived down the street) had a yellow one that I coveted. It used to have a chain with a ring on the end that you could theoretically use to carry the radio -- but mine broke off, so ultimately maybe that was a bad design idea.

I turned on my old ball radio this afternoon, and it's playing now, tuned to WCTC, an oldies station in nearby Somerset, N.J. They just finished playing "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys and "Undun" by the Guess Who, and they're advertising a Tommy James & the Shondells concert coming up in Morristown. (Who knew he was still performing?)

Actually, this was the one music station I could find, and I was thankful for it. Most of AM radio is a wasteland these days, littered with talk stations and sports. I don't know about you, but I don't want to listen to either one.

I wonder if Denise Long still has her Panapet?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Still here!

But crazy busy! Here's an alley I passed this afternoon on a coffee
break, just to give you a Shadows & Light fix...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Plenty

I'm working late tonight. In fact as I write this I'm sitting in a
quiet room waiting for a meeting to start. From the looks of things,
not a lot is going to happen.

This is going to be a bear of a week. I have night meetings every
night. Fortunately (?) Dave is working too, so at least one of us
isn't languishing at home without the other!

I went to a diner for dinner, and I had a somewhat overenthusiastic
waitress. At one point she said, "If you need any more sugar, creamer
or jelly, you just let me know." Now, look at what I had on my table.
How could I possibly need more that THAT?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bronx Graffiti


Not much time to write today, so I'll just post some photos from a walk I took yesterday through The Bronx. Lots of great graffiti, most of it painted with the permission of building owners -- so there was lots of time for the artists to create incredible color and detail. Spectacular!

The piece above is by Dasic, who also did this piece.






Bad news about Travis, our formerly living Christmas tree. I went out to give him some water the other day and he was about 80 percent brown! It happened so quickly -- he looked fine just a week or two ago. I guess I should have been watering him more carefully through this long, hot drought. Maybe he'll pull through, but it doesn't look good.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Impromptu Picnic


This afternoon, Dave and I took a blanket out to the field behind our apartment building for an impromptu picnic. I thought it would be a good opportunity to use the "wine sticks" that Barbara sent me an embarrassingly long time ago. (Wine sticks are designed to hold your wine glasses so they won't fall over in the grass.) You can't really see them in the above photo, but they're holding our glasses slightly aloft.


Of course, we took the dogs. Ruby was mostly content to lie on the blanket and relax, as she did with Dave above.


But then Ernie had to get in on the action, and unfortunately, Ernie has a lot more energy.


Ruby was in the mood for a belly rub, so I obliged. At first, Ernie was happy to lounge nearby.


But then he realized what he was missing and got very excited. (Look at that wagging tail!)


So excited, in fact, that he crashed into the wine sticks and sent both our glasses flying. Fortunately, no broken glass -- but now we know Ernie and wine sticks don't mix!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Famous Ruby


Ruby is famous! We nominated her for upsidedowndogs.com, a Web site we heard about several months ago on Graham Norton's BBC talk show. She loves to lie upside down, so I took an iPhone pic and sent it in. Then I forgot all about it until yesterday, when the site notified me that Ruby had been published. Pretty awesome! (Though she's not nearly as extreme as some.)

I wonder who makes money from all the advertising on that site? Whose pockets am I lining?

While walking Ruby and Ernie yesterday I found a note on the roadside that obviously had been lost or discarded by some school kid. For a glimpse into the mildly raunchy but mostly silly teen-aged psyche, check out "Things Waseem Can't Say." (And don't forget part 2!)

I had another library meeting last night. Ugh! Library overload!

(Photo: Listening to the garbage, on the Lower East Side, Monday.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Library Board


I worked late last night covering a library board meeting. There's a small controversy about the public library in the town I cover (which, in the unlikely event you're really interested, you can read about here) and the meeting ran pretty late. Then I had to get back to the office and write my story. I got home around 11 p.m.

Dave and I have been passing ships in the night this week, which I guess is how things are going to be now that we're modern DINKS (double income no kids).

On the bright side, though, I've had my mornings free. I spent yesterday lounging around, cleaning a bit, reading "Insignificant Others," the new novel by Stephen McCauley, and watching "Thirtysomething."

I must admit these old "Thirtysomething" episodes give me a melancholy feeling -- a nostalgia for the period in my life when I watched that show. I loved talking about it with my friends, at least one of whom is no longer my friend. And I looked forward to being in my 30s, when I imagined my career would blossom and I'd get to live where I wanted in the way that I wanted -- and all that happened, and now it's past. *sigh*

I don't mean to dismiss where I am now -- I like where I am and I think it's the right place for me at the moment. It's a different kind of new challenge. But I miss the aspirational relationship I had with the old "Thirtysomething," the sense that so much lay in the future, you know?

(Photo: Near Union Square, on Monday.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day Wandering


I went into the city yesterday morning and spent the day wandering. I'd hoped that Dave could go with me, but he wasn't feeling well and wanted a day of rest, given that school begins bright and early this morning. So I hopped into Florence by myself and drove to New Brunswick, and took an early train to Penn Station.

It was a spectacular morning for photography, with great light and nice cool temperatures. The streets were relatively empty because all the New Yorkers were out of town for the Labor Day weekend (always one of my favorite times to be in Manhattan).

I experimented more with including people in my photos, like this older lady reading the New York Post in a monumental doorway.

I tried to go to the Cup & Saucer for lunch, but it was closed -- bummer! So I went to the Moonstruck Diner in the East Village and had an omelette. Then I made my way back to Penn Station and came home. I walked until my feet were sore -- my favorite, favorite way to spend a day off!

I did not visit my old apartment (which is still in contract -- we haven't closed yet) or my old neighborhood. I like visiting New York and not being anchored to one area. I also think visiting the old 'hood wouldn't be very productive -- it might just make me sad! I do feel a germ of melancholy over not being a Manhattanite anymore, even though it's so close and so easy to reach by train. But life marches on!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Asbury Park


Dave and I went to Asbury Park on Saturday with our friend Adam. We really didn't do much wandering, though -- we went to a poolside bar and had a drink, then went to an oceanside bar and had another drink, then went to dinner. By that time we were too worn out to do any more! (Ah, the joys of being 40-something.) So we came home.

Yesterday, as I worked in my office on my normal Sunday shift, some folks were filming a movie around me! Apparently the newspaper agreed to let them use the newsroom as a set. So as I sat and tried to work -- typing up a story about a guy killed by a train -- I had to wonder whether my good side was facing the camera! (Not really. I don't have a good side.)

There were about ten other people there, appearing as extras and sitting at desks around me, and even more who seemed to have no on-camera role. I've always heard that movie-making, despite its glamorous reputation, is a pretty tedious business, and now I see what they mean. There's definitely a lot of sitting around and down-time between takes.

We'll see if this production ever gets any kind of commercial release. Regardless, it was kind of fun being in the background!

(Photo: Empty in downtown Somerville, N.J.)