Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Higher Your Heels, the Further You Fall

This is my post in honor of Fashion Week coming up here in NYC.
I used to watch America's Next Top Model (secret shame/ guilty pleasure) and laugh at all the tall skinny girls who couldn't walk in heels, and fell on their asses on the runways.
(This clip is a little long, starts to get good around 3 minutes in)

At some point I realized that all of my heels are sandals, boots, or Mary-Janes, which I can walk well in (for the most part, never hurt my ankles anyway).  I wanted some cute pumps for work, I was coveting some that my friends have.  So I went online and found a good pair with 3 inch heels on sale, perfect.
That's when I found out that I can't walk in heels either.  Granted, I'm not trying to make a living as a model, but business situations can call for a professional look with heels.  I don't really fit that description.

I haven't fallen down, but my heel pops out of the shoe just about every time I get up from my desk.  And one of my friends asked why I was limping when I walked over to her.  Which is better than being asked what's stuck up my butt, because I'm clenching for dear life while I try to keep the damn things on my feet.
So why do I keep wearing them?  I assume that after practicing for a while, it will get easier, right?  Right?
I'm never wearing any of those Lady Gaga hooves though, it's not worth killing myself for fashion.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Oh Sandy, You Bitch

The past week has been very surreal.  Yes, now we are back to mostly business as usual, except for transportation, and some very hard hit areas still flooded and without power.  But over the course of the week since Sandy came to town, I have had many moments that seemed to come out of a post-apocalyptic movie.  I should really start stockpiling fuel and weapons. 
I live in the lower half of Manhattan, so while everyone on the East Coast spent the weekend before the storm buying out the stores of non-perishable foods, flashlights, batteries, and candles, I was somewhat surprised when I actually had to use them.  On Sunday I bought food, took out cash, went out in search of a second flashlight and more candles, and had to visit several stores to find anything in stock. 
I spent Monday mostly on my couch, gathering my flashlight and hurricane lamp and lighter nearby, just in case.  I ate all the cheese in my fridge, lest it go to waste.  I also ate about half of the storm food I bought.  Online, I was able to keep up with the progress of the storm, watching videos from, tracking Facebook feeds, chatting with everyone else waiting to see if anything would happen.  It barely rained, on occasion the wind would howl by outside, but for the most part, the storm seemed very tame from inside.  I heard about the controlled shutdown of power in lower Manhattan, and below 14th Street went dark all together as planned.  And then the explosion, the first really scary moment.  I couldn't see the flash from my apartment; I just suddenly found myself sitting in the dark, as people outside screamed “No!”
But I had my flashlight handy, and I lit my lamp and my candles, and then realized that it was only about 9:30pm and I had nothing to do.  I read for a little bit, I knitted for a little bit, I paced around my apartment for a bit.  I picked up my free weights and lifted for a little bit.  I went through my closet with my flashlight, dug out my box of old photos, and started organizing them.  Eventually I gave up and went to bed.
Fortunately I put aside water ahead of time, because the pressure was gone, I couldn't use my sinks, etc.  I brushed my teeth by candle light with bottled water. 
On Tuesday, I slept late, because why not?  The power was still out, and the storm was passed.  I decided to get dressed and take a walk around to see what was what.  I thought I’d text a friend nearby, and found that overnight my phone was down to about 70% power, and my signal was very weak.  Maybe I could get a text message to send, maybe not for 10 minutes.  Phone call, forget it, not to mention getting any apps to load.  That’s when I began to feel pretty cut off.  But I got a hold of my friend and we went walking over to the East River, saw the closed off FDR Drive, with vending machines blown into the road.  The water was filled with debris, but receded back from land.  And the wind was still whipping, chilling us through.  We walked through Stuy Town, where trees had come down, buildings had flooded, windows had broken.  That first morning, there were people everywhere, wanting to get out from their dark apartments and see the damage for themselves. 
When I was able to get a text out, I invited myself uptown to a friend’s apartment, where power, hot water, and internet were still available.  By this point, my phone was down to about 40% power.  I went back to my apartment in the meantime, and found myself still completely bored without my computer or TV, which feels pathetic, but you can’t play a board or card game by yourself.  I read some, of course, and then got antsy.  I packed an overnight bag.  I heated up leftovers before they went bad using a make shift double boiler.  Having a gas stove is an advantage.  Finally, I began the long trek uptown, a little over 40 blocks.  Buses were supposedly running, but I didn't see any the whole way up, and every cab was already full.  The sidewalks were full of people dragging their roller bags uptown, fleeing, and again it seemed like one a movie, people trying to get out of the city with whatever possessions they can carry.  I myself had a backpack.
So I got my workout and arrived even more in need of a shower.  My hosts graciously took me in, fed me, let me get clean, gave me internet access, outlets for charging (phone down to 20%), and a bed.  All I brought them was a bottle of wine, but we did enjoy that.
On Wednesday my hosts and I ventured outside to check things out, see what was open, try and get a pastry somewhere.  By this point, the Upper East side was packed with people, every open food establishment had a line to the door, and Starbucks were crammed with people charging their electronics.  After surveying the total lack of damage, the traffic pileup, and the crowds, we returned to their apartment.  I had decided I needed to go back to my place for clothes and to check things out, and once again walked the 40+ blocks down, the sidewalks packed with people, all irritable and ready to snap at anyone who gave them an excuse.  The roads were barely crawling, and the promised buses were present, but useless in the gridlock.  But by 38th street, the crowds on the sidewalks had thinned, and soon there was a bare trickle of pedestrians, all looking bedraggled.  On occasion, a store would have their door open, offering bottled water or batteries for cash.  It felt like the last days of the Roanoke colony. 
Back at my apartment, I braved the pitch black hallway to my door, expecting something like a zombie to jump out at me and start eating my brain.  Everything was very quiet.  I cleaned out my fridge and freezer, sadly trashing everything, and packed up supplies for the next few days.  I know I was very lucky to have somewhere to go.
On Friday, I took a Metro North train out to Connecticut (they were running, at least on some lines, and not charging a fare, which was nice).  I went to my parents’ house, weaving through the long lines at the gas stations to get home from the train station.  My dad had gone earlier and gotten enough fuel for the generator and car.  Their power is still out, as I write, including electric heat.  So we huddled together in the family room by the fire place much of the weekend, running the generator at intervals to keep the fridge from getting to warm, and to give us some light.  We read and did crossword puzzles and went out to dinner and took the dog for long walks.  At night, we layered up, took our kerosene lamps to our bedrooms, and tried to keep away the cold.  I almost let the dog sleep in bed with me for warmth, but then she would think it was ok to get on the furniture, so I put her training ahead of my comfort. 
I found out that a couple of hours after I got to CT, the power came back on in my apartment.  So I didn't really have to spend a weekend in the dark and cold, but that’s how family works.
So now I have lights, internet, hot water, cold food, and it is all wonderful.  However, I feel like I should be making plans for when the end of the world comes and I need the tools to survive on hand.  I may buy  battery powered radio (how do I not have one of those anymore?).  And a samurai sword.
Good luck to anyone still working their way back to normal!

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Kind of Place

I walked by a bar tonight called the Qi Club, and it looked very exclusive, really not my kind of place.   I like the the places that the select people wouldn't select, that would never appear on Sex and the City or Girls (or HBO in general).  A neighborhood bar, a local haunt, the kind of place where the owner works the bar and knows the regulars by sight, is apt to offer one on the house to a good customer and stop by long enough to make conversation and not just make change.
I don't have a Cheers, where everybody knows my name.  I did have that kind of place for a while out in LA, because my friend worked there and a bunch of us played bar trivia every Wednesday night, and we always ordered the same things, so that we didn't even really have to order.  That place doesn't really exist anymore, it was completely renovated into something more hip that doesn't resemble our torn-cloth booth, sticky bar, light you could actually read by place.

There is a corner bar I frequent, with an old Irish man who owns it and employs students from the UK to work the bar and live in the apartments above.  Everyone is friendly and takes the time to let the Guinness settle while talking to you about the neighborhood or the picture of Gene Hackman hanging in the back of the bar.  There is a pool table and dart board in the back room, and on weekends they have live bands play, even getting some of the waitresses up to do a little Michael Flatly Irish dancing at times, very impressive.  I like this place very much and have brought many other people there when going out near where I live.
Recently, I have also adopted a pub near where I work for long Friday lunches, where the bartender/waiter we have befriended will pull up a chair and talk to us for long enough to forget to take our orders, but we forgive him.  We were told that when we don't show up for a week, he finds himself drunk at a bar depressed at 2am wondering what happened, and then remembers that we abandoned him.  He will go on to serve us shots of mimosas and tears (an interesting salty and bubbly concoction).  Despite the fact that this is a beer and (house) wine only kind of place, and I don't drink beer, I have come to love as well.
If you asked me where the happening new places in NYC to go out are, I would tell you to look online, try Huffington Post or Time Out NY.   I will be at the nearby spots where the drinks are cheap and the hospitality is abundant.  And if there is some trivia going on, I will be ecstatic, because I'm just that kind of nerd.   

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Best of SNL

A look back at some of the great Saturday Night Live skits and actors before the "Dick in a Box" era. (Or, How I'm procrastinating re-writing my novel, working title "Third Times a Charm.")

We have all come to love the comedy stylings of Andy Samberg and Seth Meyers, and we loved the years of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Kristin Wiig, and Jimmy Fallon.  I can go back and watch any of the combination of these actors do Weekend Update, and recently watched all the clips I could find of Bronx Beat.  

 But before all of this, we had Adam Sandler (back when he was funny) and Dana Carvey (the Church Lady) and Mike Meyers (Coffee Talk) and Chris Rock (around when he was voted the Funniest Man Alive) and Chris Farley (RIP) and Will Ferrell (Jeopardy has never been the same).  The 90s had some superstars of comedy that we don't think about very much now, but I feel like they need some credit.  

There have been many terrible movies made out of SNL skits (Night at the Roxbury stands out as well as Superstar), but Wayne's World is a time capsule of the early 90s, complete with Claudia Schiffer references, a car trip to see Alice Cooper in concert, in which the famous Bohemian Rhapsody sing along takes place, and of course, the bad guy being a greasy hairs yuppie in a suit who wants them to sell out.  

And of course in addition to being the sidekick to Mike Meyer's Wayne, Dana Carvey had a number of other great performances, from the Church Lady, "well isn't that special," to his uncanny impression of George Bush Sr. (until Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, there hasn't been a better political impersonation on the show) to his Choppin' Broccoli song.  

Just about the time that Adam Sandler made his classic Billy Madison, he was on SNL singing the Chanukah Song.  I have to admit, I was never a big fan of the Chris Farley and David Spade combo that went on to create such masterpieces of irritation as Dumb and Dumber and Tommy Boy.  But I did enjoy Chris Farley's audition against Patrick Swayze for Chippendales.  

And of course let's not forget, Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy (so proud to say that the original book of Deep Thoughts was published by Berkley in 1992).  These are classics, and the website gives you a Deep Thought of the day.  One of my favorites is, "If you ever drop your keys into a river of molten lava, let'em go, because, man, they're gone."
I also enjoy the story of Uncle Caveman, “When I was a kid my favorite relative was Uncle Caveman. After school we'd all go play in his cave, and every once in a while he would eat one of us. It wasn't until later that I found out that Uncle Caveman was a bear.”

I have no idea why I'm reminiscing about old SNL skits except that they are mostly free to watch on Hula when new seasons of TV shows haven't started yet and most of what I want to watch on there is for Hula Plus members.  Fascists. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Time I Went to Prague and Got The Plague

This is the story of the time I thought I was going to die while studying abroad in Prague. 
I always get sick when I fly, airplanes are like mobile germ factories and I have seriously considered being one of those people in a surgical mask, if I thought it would do any good.  So when I went to Europe for a summer poetry class in grad school, it was no great shock that I was sick pretty much from the get go.  But it was just a cold for the first week or so, no big deal.
And then I started to get the tell tale rasp and ache of Strep Throat.  I've have it so many times in my life, I cringe as soon as the symptoms set in.  But when lots of vitamins and hot tea can't drive it away, it's time for a trip to the doctor.  So I found the international clinic in the Old Town and got myself a week of antibiotics, and it seemed like that would be that. In the meantime, I did miss a side trip to Poland, so that sucked, but I was on the mend, and had the rest of the month to enjoy. 
Turns out that a week of antibiotics only angers Strep, doesn't cure it.  (For future reference, make sure you get a full 10 day course)
So when we went off to Budapest, I was starting to feel the soreness return, but I'd already dealt with being sick, so this was not happening, mind over matter, I deny the infection.  Going to the bathes and out on a dinner cruise on the Danube were good distractions.  The next day we went to Vienna, and by then, I was definitely feeling it.  But self medicating with screwdrivers seemed like a good idea, I mean, what better cure than vitamin C packed OJ and the disinfecting powers of alcohol?
From there I went to cough drops, until I couldn't swallow anything without wincing.  On the train back to Prague, I tried scalding my throat with boiling hot tea, because it was kind of pissing me off and I wanted to fight back.
At this point, I couldn't open my mouth all the way, my voice was slurred, and I couldn't even swallow water without extreme pain.  So I went out in the night to find the clinic, except that it was closed.  I did find the glowing green light of an all night pharmacy with a man who didn't speak any English, but who looked in my throat, and then put me into a cab to the hospital.  Yup, I had the plague and was going to die. 
The cab dropped me off at an old army barracks with no one anywhere in sight.  I went to the door of the building with lights on inside, and found it locked.  Since I had no idea where I was and no where else to go, I tried knocking, until a man in a partially unbuttoned shirt whose eyes wouldn't focus and didn't seem to be looking in the same direction, stumbled out, allowing me to get in behind him.  At this point I thought they'd sent me to a mental hospital, but as the pain in my throat and hunger from not eating all day were driving me mad, I went inside.
There was a long corridor with sickly green walls and a checkered tiled floor, that reminded me of something out of The Shining.  Again, totally empty.  But I went to the window and rang the bell, and a nurse came out to see me.  She also spoke no English, so I gestured as best I could to explain the problem.  After another few minutes, she brought me in to see the doctor, who thankfully did know some English. 
He sat me down, took a mouth mirror, the kind dentists use, and sterilized it over a flame, then stuck it in my mouth to look around, telling me to open wider, which I physically couldn't do at this point.

"You have an abscess on your tonsil," he told me, which sounded fairly ominous, but he just wrote me a prescription for antibiotics, and then asked if I wanted something for the pain.   I mumbled something like, oh god yes, and he handed me another prescription...for Ibuprofen.  Are you kidding me?  In the land of Absinthe, the best you can give me for the searing pain is something I can get over the counter at home?  Besides the fact that my cure and pain meds required me swallowing large pills past my huge abscess.  And that I couldn't even get these pills until the next day.  Wonderful.
I did manage to wander my way to metro station and catch the last train back to our hostel for the night.  And the next day I did find a pharmacy to fill the prescriptions, and even choked down the pills (I may have cried).  At this point, my roommate moved out of our room and found a hotel, because she didn't want to catch the plague from me and die too.
The next night I started coughing hard, coughing up blood and pus, which is really pretty and fairly terrifying.  
My abscess had burst, and I finally started to get better, with another week left of the trip to enjoy.
A couple of years later, a friend from home told me that she had had an abscess tonsil too, but in the US.  In the hospital here, they drained the fluid from the abscess carefully, telling her that it could be toxic if swallowed.  I don't know if it was US doctors being overly cautious, or if I really almost died.
The lesson remains: Never get sick in Eastern Europe.

Monday, May 14, 2012

50 Shades of Whaaa?

This year has brought a strange juxtaposition of trends and headlines.  In politics, there has been an attack on women's rights, in which women who take birth control are accused of being sluts and advised to simply keep their knees shut.  Meanwhile, for the past couple of months Fifty Shades of Grey has topped bestseller lists across the country. 

 If you've been oblivious to social trends, Fifty Shades of Grey is erotic fiction to wet the pallet (yes, that IS how I want to phrase that).  It's kind of like the Merlot of erotica: there are plenty of better ones out there, but this is easy to swallow (yeah, I said that too).  Apparently housewives from coast to coast have been indulging in a little guilty pleasure, even bringing this to book clubs (I admit I would like to hear how that discussion goes.  I imagine there is a lot of "my friend told me..."). 
All the while, publishers are gaping in astonishment that this book broke through to the New York Times Bestseller lists for 8 weeks running.  Not because it's erotica, but because there is much better written erotica out there, if you're going to start reading it.  Authors like Lora Leigh, Maya Banks, and Sylvia Day who have been writing these kind of books for years are right there with the rest of going, are you kidding me, I could have written that!
Somehow it has come to pass that women all over this country are entertaining an interest in descriptions of some pretty kinky sex, complete with whips and handcuffs, at the same time that a woman's right to recreational sex is being questioned on the floor of congress.  I know that we as a nation are prone to very polar points of view on a variety of issues, but seriously, who are these men discouraging women from exploring their sexuality and trying a few new tips and tricks they pick up in a juicy novel?
There has been some ridiculous speculation that female readers like the S&M in the book because they want to be punished for their success, they want to be made submissive again.  To which I say, it sounds like someone is projecting, get your bruised ass away from my steamy sex scenes.  And try picking up one of the many less submissive erotic choices available.  (and this article gives another side to the debate)

For your reading pleasure (yes, that's exactly what I mean):
Nauti and Wild -Lora Leigh and Jacki Burton
Bared to Me -Sylvia Day (BTW- interesting discussion of submissive behavior in the bedroom vs. in the boardroom)
Sweet Seduction -Maya Banks
Belong to Me -Shayla Black

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Time Travel Temptations

I recently finished reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63, and it has put time travel in my mind. The basic premise is that a man goes back in time to prevent the assassination of JFK. But first, to test that the changes can make a difference, he tries out saving a couple of other people.

Time travel has different incarnations in pop culture, whether it be this form of changing the past (or future, let us not forget Back to the Future 2), or simply enjoying a previous time, like in Midnight in Paris, or being at its mercy, as in The Time Traveler’s Wife or the 5th season of Lost (shameless excuse for picture of Sawyer shirtless). Maybe you are sent back to save humanity, ala Terminator 2 or Twelve Monkeys. In almost every example, people who travel in time have to be aware of the Butterfly Effect of making any changes. Kill a mosquito in the Paleolithic era, and find yourself back in a present world dominated by killer bees (yes, I’m making things up, but you never know, that is the point).

So I started thinking about if I could go back in time, what tragedies I might be able to remedy, without making too much of a splash in the space-time continuum. One of my old boss’s granddaughter died in a car accident a year or so ago, a totally sober and stupid case of teenage recklessness that ended horribly. I thought how easy it would be to track down the exact place and time (because doing research before you go is important, this was discussed a number of times in King’s book), and simply warn the girl to put on her seatbelt. And because this was recent history, not very much would be changed between then and now, besides saving her friends and family a lot of grief. True, she might grow up to have a large impact on the world, but how many people do, really? Seriously, most people’s lives make very small waves in the world at large.

Now if you did target a powerful public figure’s life to change, like saving JFK or killing Hitler before the Final Solution, or telling Shakespeare to lay off the iambic pentameter, things would change a lot more radically, at least that is the theory. It’s also entirely possible that the world realigns itself, if fate does have any place in our universe.

Anyway, it didn’t take me long to go from making a heroic action with my newly acquired time traveling skills, to just wanting to go back and make changes in my own life. Who hasn’t wondered if they had just chosen one thing differently at a key moment, how much different their life would be today? Or, if I just went back and invested in Apple when it first went public, or played those right lottery numbers, the temptation to use your new power for personal gain is also strong.

I know some people follow the idea that every step you’ve made has lead you to where you are today, and so every perceived misstep was actually important and worthwhile. And if you did make changes to anything, even to benefit yourself or your family, it might change a lot more than you intended. But the fact is, it only looks like a detriment if you are happy with where you are today. The idea of making a change to your whole life through one tweak to your past can just as easily look like a threat or a gift, depending on where you stand.
I won’t say exactly what I want to change, but I know where things went off the tracks for me, I know what day started me on a path that evidently led me here. And to be honest, here is neither where I ever thought nor wanted to be. So all I want to do is go back and warn my younger, oh so naive self to make a different decision. I’m pretty sure I could convince her, just by showing up looking very old (to a 16 or 17 year old), and still single and making not much money…basically, seeing me would scare the crap out of her and her teenage ideals of how her life should go, and I think that would make her stubborn smartass actually listen to me. The point being, if you change one key thing, you change any number of things that come after, and it’s sure to have a large (though not global or even national) impact.

Then again, when you start thinking of time travel as the best means of improving your situation, things are not looking terribly bright.