Saturday, May 28, 2011


I had to go into New York yesterday to see the dentist. I had my teeth cleaned a couple of weeks ago for the first time since I left the New York Times Company, and the dentist found a filling that he said was deteriorated. He wanted to replace it. So that was the task for yesterday. Fortunately it was a small filling and an easy procedure. Gotta take care of these things while I still have dental insurance!

Afterwards I went walking with my camera from his office on East 54th Street over to the West Side and down Ninth and Tenth avenues, back to Penn Station. I'm always fascinated by the shadows from fire escapes, the rhythmic patterns they cast on walls and sidewalks. Hell's Kitchen is a really good neighborhood for fire escapes.

My friend Tricia from Florida arrived yesterday evening for a couple days, along with her 4-year-old daughter Kate. I want to take them somewhere quintessentially Jersey, so we're going to go down to Asbury Park today to check out the scene on the boardwalk. We had a great time last night going over some old letters, particularly a really funny one that Tricia wrote from Japan in 2003 involving lesbians and a hike on Mt. Fuji in high heels.

Friday, May 27, 2011


This is one of the prints I own by the artist Gaia -- you might recall I have two. I love these prints, and I am in a quandary about what to do with them when we go to London. They are very large -- this one is almost four feet high, and about 3 1/2 feet wide. Its companion is roughly the same size, though a slightly different shape.

They're framed with plexiglass, so at least I wouldn't have to worry about glass breaking if I decided to ship them. But the frames really can't be dismantled -- not without ruining them -- and they cost even more than the prints themselves. How does one send something so unwieldy all the way across the ocean? Any ideas?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


For several years, Dave has owned this figure of Nipper, the famous RCA dog who hears "His Master's Voice" as he peers into a Victrola. It's ceramic, about a foot high, and it occupied a shelf on our hall table. (Victrola not included.)

Dave isn't entirely sure where he got it, and it's not an item of great significance to him, so when we began selling our stuff to prepare for our move, Nipper was marked to go. I put an ad for him on Craigslist.

I promptly heard from a guy who lives down south -- I believe in Florida. He wanted to buy Nipper for a friend who used to work for RCA Corp. in Camden. He said he'd be traveling through New Jersey in a couple of weeks, and would I hold Nipper until he could pick him up?

I said sure. Even though I specify in my Craigslist ads that I only want local buyers with cash, this seemed like a special case. Besides, among all the scammers, I could tell this guy was genuine.

So late this morning I met with Walt (no scammer would be named Walt) in the parking lot of a Days Inn by the New Jersey Turnpike. Like a couple of dealers conducting an illicit transaction, he slipped me $30 in cash and I handed him Nipper. He was very happy, and said he was glad I trusted him and was willing to go to such lengths. I said it made me feel better to know Nipper would be appreciated!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Liz and Bill

Here's one of my favorite recent street art finds -- a sticker bearing Liz Taylor's violet-eyed youthfulness and reading, "Beauty don't die!" The fact that it's been slapped onto a New York subway security camera makes it even better.

Speaking of recent celebrity deaths, I read yesterday about the death of Bill Hunter, who played numerous crusty old characters in Australian films through the 1980s and '90s. You might know him best as Muriel's corrupt father in "Muriel's Wedding," or Bob, the gent who falls for Bernadette, the oldest of the drag-queen trio in "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert."

To commemorate Bill's passing, we watched "Muriel" last night. Undoubtedly one of my all-time favorite movies, and Dave insisted he'd never seen it. I'm sure I showed it to him before. He probably fell asleep.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Craigslist Drama

Dave and I have been using Craigslist to sell our furniture, and it's been quite an experience. Listing something on Craigslist is easy enough, but I wasn't prepared for the bizarre scammery that goes along with using the site.

For example, I make it clear in all our ads that we want local buyers and cash only. Early on, I had one potential buyer contact me and say that he wanted an item, but was overseas at the time and would have his assistant send us a money order. I initially said yes, thinking that a money order would probably be OK and I could hold the item until it cleared. But then he gave me a song-and-dance about his assistant mistakenly sending too much, and would I wire back the difference? I was like, "Dude, you have GOT to be kidding."

Needless to say, no money order ever came, and I even more adamantly insist on cash.

Lots of people send cryptic notes saying things like "Still available?" immediately after an ad is posted. I initially replied to these inquiries, resisting the urge to say, "Well, I just posted the ad two hours ago, so yeah, it's still available." Then I realized they aren't interested in the item at all -- they just want my e-mail address, which Craigslist cloaks until I respond to a potential buyer. Apparently these addresses are sold to marketers. Seems like a tedious way to make a buck, but I suppose it's no worse than working at McDonald's.

Finally, I've had a ton of replies from people who send strangely worded sentences and a fake phone number. Here are two actual examples:

-- "Hey there be sure to call me 765-187-9978. Actually Buh bye."
-- "Heya pls call me 034-947-0300. Say thanks a ton. Kreiger"

I'm not quite sure what's up with these. My guess is they're fishing for my e-mail address, expecting me to write back saying "Hey, your number doesn't work." Even better if I call them and they somehow capture my phone number and pair it with my e-mail address. I don't write back, though, and I certainly don't call.

So, what a strange world Craigslist is! The good news, though, is that we have successfully sold several pieces of furniture. Once you've used the site a short time, it becomes pretty obvious who's scamming and who's sincere.

(Photo: Upper East Side, May 13)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Massage Envy

I wrote some months ago about joining Massage Envy. Basically, I paid a monthly fee of about $65 and got a monthly massage, with the option to add additional massages at less than I'd pay on the open market. The idea was to have more massages than I would otherwise, at less cost.

It seemed like a good idea.

The problem turned out to be quality. I think Massage Envy does for massages what Fantastic Sam's does for haircuts. It's a chain, so they achieve some cost savings through scale. And because the massages cost less than I've ever paid elsewhere, and they undoubtedly pay their therapists less, they have a few good people and many, many moderately skilled ones.

You can tell when you get a massage from someone who just doesn't have a feel for it. I think a good massage therapist needs to empathize with the client -- they need to be able to sense how every touch feels. I had some therapists who had absolutely no ability to project themselves into my body and feel their own touch.

For example, I told one kid early on that my back was bothering me and he spent nearly the entire hour-long session poking at a tiny group of muscles near my shoulder blade, until I asked him to please move on. I was sore for a week.

Yesterday, I had a therapist who couldn't use enough massage oil -- I felt like a big caesar salad. My arms and legs were wet and slimy, leaving cold, damp patches on the sheets. It was disgusting. He also couldn't get good traction on my skin because I was so slick.

I had a few good massages, too. Last month I had a female therapist who was excellent. But overall, I'd say the quality at Massage Envy is not up to the quality I've experienced at other locations when I set up my own occasional massages. You get what you pay for!

(Photo: In the field, yesterday. I think it's a wild geranium?)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spring Saturday

So how do we feel about this new template? I felt like I had to shake things up a little -- that old white "Minima" template was just a little too "Minima." I'm not sure how much I like those birds at upper right, though. I'm reminded of that old Wes Anderson commercial for American Express: "Are those my birds? I need those."

Anyway, it's beautiful outside today, the End of the World notwithstanding. If there has to be an apocalypse, it may as well happen on a nice day.

Dave and I met our friend Bill for brunch at the local diner, and then Dave and I went to a memorial service for the mother of one of his co-workers. It was held in a bright, modern Catholic church with lots of stained glass, and it was visually beautiful. I tried not to think too much about the church's stand on my life and my relationship. Sometimes it's best to just go with the flow, and anyway, that's not why I was there, right?

Dave and I are planning to work on our immigration paperwork this afternoon. We have to file for visas with the British Home Office, and though I think we have all the documentation we need, it promises to be a bureaucratic adventure.

Just to catch you up on Ernie and Ruby, here they are, lying out in the field behind our building:

Ruby (in back) looks much better than she did just a few weeks ago. She seems to be more or less in good health, never mind the heart problems and hip infection.

If I have any guilt feelings about our move, they're over the dogs. The poor things are pretty old, and they're set in their ways, and I hate to disrupt what for them is a cozy and comfortable life. On the other hand, not taking the job because of the dogs really isn't an option for Dave, and leaving them behind is definitely not an option. They're family. So I hope they fly well!

Friday, May 20, 2011

London Calling

Yes, I am still here, O Blog World. I gotta say I have enjoyed the last seven months (can it have been that long?) without the self-imposed ritual of daily blogging. The break did me good. And my job, for a while, was a great change of pace, one that took every ounce of writing will that I possessed and left me with nothing to contribute here.

But now the job is coming to an end. As I've mentioned elsewhere on the InterTubes, Dave and I are moving to London in July. I gave eight weeks of notice to my employers -- a little excessive, I know, but I wanted to give them time to plan for my absence, which might reveal some overinflated sense of self-importance on my part -- and I plan to leave work June 9.

What does that mean for blogging? I'm not sure yet. But I think I'll come back to it in some form.

The London move is incredibly exciting, and still seems unreal, even though Dave and I have given away or sold a whole lot of stuff and made plans for the sale or storage of the rest. (We'll ship some, too, but I am still a little foggy on how that's going to work. We found an international moving firm that will come and pack 20 boxes of stuff and ship it door to door for the low, low price* of $1,300. But something tells me there's a cheaper way. And beside, what on earth do I do about these?)

Dave is going to be a band director at a private school in London. I am going to freelance, I guess, or find some other kind of job. I don't see myself doing full-time journalism in the UK -- in fact, after this most recent stint, I think I may have come to the end of my journalism career. The newspaper business, as much as I love it, has been transformed dramatically by the real and perceived financial crunches facing the industry, and staffing just ain't what it used to be. I've done more daily work in my current job than I ever did as a reporter in prior years -- four stories a day hasn't been unusual, and when you wind up with that kind of quantity, quality inevitably suffers. (I've had no corrections, though, in my nine months on the job, for which I am thankful. D'oh -- jinx!)

And the dogs? Well, we're bringing them along, despite Ruby's persistently challenged health. A few months ago we launched the process of preparing to take them to England under the "PETS scheme," as it's known. This involved having them both microchipped, blood tested and vaccinated, and now we're waiting out a six-month window before they'll be allowed to fly. This means they won't be ready in July, and we're exploring ways to house them in our absence. It also means I'll have to come back to get them in October.

Anyway, if you've been following my blog at all, this probably seems like a bolt from the blue. But I'm glad to have a big new life change on the horizon, and I'm glad to be testing the blogging waters again. As exhausted as I've been by my newspaper writing, I've missed my blog. I have some ideas about how to restart it, and perhaps make it better. We'll see how those play out over the next weeks and months.


(Photo: First Avenue under the Queensboro Bridge, New York, May 13)