Monday, November 30, 2009

On Returning

Dive 7 - Oil Slick LeapDive 7 - Oil Slick Leap
Originally uploaded by reallyct
In one of the many joking conversations I find funny and devoted partner finds less funny, I said that I didn't want to get married while we were still living in our Harlem apartment because coming back to that place as man and wife would be unspeakably depressing - the threshold being ruthlessly guarded by legions of mice, drug dealers, and the perpetually drunk and underemployed. I think this also made coming back from vacation deeply depressing. Imagine: you've just had at least a week of relaxation, amped up quality time, and fun and when you get home it smells funny, you worry your neighbors have broken into your house to steal your flatscreen television, and the elevator is out of service...again. The plunge from ecstasy to agony is acute.

Coming back from vacation to real life is never something to look forward to, I find, as one who aspires to being on permanent vacation, but pulling into our driveway yesterday and finding our house free of vermin and indigents made the process of devacationizing less traumatic. Devoted partner looked askance as I collected some inexpensive, but kind of tacky, tchotchkes (blogger knows this word is fake (or Yiddish) and has proposed "crotchless" in its place) souvenirs, but upon unwrapping some of them this morning and locating places for them, I was reminded of how different one feels about one's silly things when one doesn't mind looking at one's surroundings. Yes, I picked up some silly trinkets (and I will be photographing some of them presently that I may open myself up to ridicule), but for the first time in our relationship, we have a home instead of a mere abode, and those silly trinkets, memories of a very enjoyable trip, deserve a place next to our serious things.

This was an especially relaxing vacation that, by virtue of how active it was, seemed far longer than a week, but I noticed our demeanors this morning were different as we prepared to return to work. Can I blame all of that on the fact that we slept on a big-boy bed and not a futon? Hell, we even made a pact to be unpacked before dinner tonight, a feat unheard of in our old life (unpacking was frequently a month-long process - a sloth I attribute to not wanting to admit we were home), but one that's almost mandatory in our new one because we are endeavoring fiercely to be more like functioning adults and less like pigs who happily frolic in their own refuse.

So the vacation is over and a month of busyness begins. We'll have to start remembering what day it is and what responsibilities we have and whose presents need buying, but I hold on to the hope that we will be retaining a little more residual vacation relaxation this time around.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Things We Don't Say

I may come from a long line of contrarians. In all the years we've celebrated together, I don't remember our family taking a moment to verbalize our thanks. It's not that we're not thankful, we just weren't thankful out loud. Or because we were supposed to be on that day at that time. Or maybe we weren't thankful. Maybe we couldn't look past the myriad challenges of our lives to realize that there was a lot positive to acknowledge. But I don't think that's true. I know that I have felt uncomfortable at other people's tables when on non-Thanksgiving days, an ad hoc grace is said. It always seems hokey, or for appearance's sake. And I know that can't be true either.

Thanksgiving does provide a moment, though, to remember what one is thankful for, even if one can't bring one's self to list said things at the dinner table. Since I spend a lot of time ranting and raving like a lunatic - in print and also at the people I love - I'm going to set aside my fears of looking insincere to acknowledge some of the things I'm thankful for.

We're healthy. All of us. For the most part. It's trite and overused, but it's one less thing to worry about.

I have a brother I adore. I see other siblings who are not close and it makes me really and truly sad. I couldn't imagine not having the close relationship I have with my brother. It defines me.

Devoted partner and I made what, for all intents and purposes, was a huge life change in moving from Manhattan to the burbs, and we did it with fewer bumps in the road than I would have imagined. We now have a life that satisfies us more and of which we are prouder.

Our friends are the kinds of people to whom we would not hesitate to give kidneys. It's a good distinction to make. I like surrounding myself with people for whom the offer of an organ requires only slightly more thought than an offer of a cold drink.

I am packed and headed for a week of diving.

This is a short list because a) I think a longer list would devolve into trite and saccharine purple prose and b) these are the important things (ok, the diving is not actually important) and being thankful for a new stainless steel worktable seems petty in comparison.

I guess, in the end, without becoming queen of the saps, I'm thankful that I don't have many things to be unthankful for. Life isn't perfect, nor do I think it ever becomes perfect, but if you can look at your life, as I think I can, and not find something to be truly miserable about, you're doing pretty well.

Thank you for reading this.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sigh, I've Got Nothing

My brain has already gone on vacation. Yeah, I could talk about how effective the noisy and not too bright children on the train were this morning as birth control; or about my brand new 9 qt Le Creuset pot, but I'm not interested, so I doubt you'd be.

I could bore you with holiday preparations.

Dive sites I'll be visiting.

Orange chairs and purple sectionals.

How hungry I currently am.

But I just don't have it in me.

So instead, I will entertain you with the labors of others:

Seems boring, but strangely addictive

Yes, yes, these are my people see also oh god they're so cute.

I'll try to get my head back in the game for tomorrow, but I made the mistake of looking at the 10-day forecast for Bonaire, and it totally wrecked my concentration.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Six Hours Of My Life - Wasted

Did anyone else make the mistake of watching AMC's The Prisoner?

After night one, I honestly can't tell you why we continued watching except I think we both thought/hoped that there was going to be some kind of resolution/explanation that would validate the truly horrible plot development.

We were wrong.

Since I'm sure most of you didn't see it, I'm not going to bore you with my list of complaints (truth be told, I liked none of it; I cannot think of a single redeeming moment), instead I'd like a moment to discuss why we are so so so much stupider than we used to be.

Much like I'm sure you thought my elevation of Genesis to Band of a Generation status was hyperbole, I am confident you are going to think my declaration that Zoolander was a highly prescient film is so much making a point. But I am constantly reminded of a line that Owen Wilson says when told where to find the secret files: "they're IN the computer?" TV and film are making me feel like that all the time.

I'll elaborate. CSI is a show we used to watch until the creepy people started mating with one another. The pre-opening credits bit would always have William Petersen making some sort of pun or on-the-nose observation. But it was always spelled out - think Austin Powers, "I guess he'll never be the HEAD of a major corporation." Except where Austin Powers was making a joke, Petersen's character was being serious. It seems that we, as a society, are no longer able to connect the dots so our characters spell everything out for us. It's in the computer indeed.

I know that there are pockets of light amid the endless aaargh, 30 Rock stands out especially, but if you'll remember, the show was a critic's darling and a commercial failure at first. See also Arrested Development. I'm devoted to my television. Endlessly devoted. It's what I have on while I'm knitting. Or eating. Or doing my nails. And while, as a secondary entertainment perhaps you feel I shouldn't be so picky, I just need more than I'm getting. We stopped recording new V because it just didn't have the juice. A former fave, Nip/Tuck, is now a withered husk of itself. There are only so many times I can rewatch seasons 1-4 of The West Wing and the I Claudius miniseries.

And the future is not that bleak. Just the other day I sat opposite a high school student on the train. And he was reading! A book. Yes, it was for school, but the book was The Odyssey. This gives me hope as I thought Dalton was the only school that still made its high schoolers read this. Any generation of kids who can get through The Odyssey can make it through a television show that is more challenging than watching the clothes in the dryer.

I can tell you're bored of me. Fine. Go stand in line for your tickets to see a movie about teen vampires. Me and my soapbox will keep each other company.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why We Hate Our Families

Maybe hate is a strong word. I don't hate my family; in fact, I don't even hate devoted partner's family, and I assume he doesn't hate mine. Let's instead call it a simple case of different priorities. I prioritize my desires above the desires of our collective families. As many Americans know, we are coming up on one of the, what I like to call, mandatory holidays. Sure, you can spend 4th of July and Arbor Day on your own, but thou must spend thine Thanksgiving with some configuration of thine family. Lackluster though that may be.

So let me tell you what my family's typical Thanksgiving looks like and, without maligning devoted partner's, you can infer that his is similar.

Our nuclear family, mother father the boy yelena, sit down and eat turkey. Sometimes this happens in the afternoon; sometimes in the evening; sometimes on Friday; sometimes not at all. The boy shows up an hour late looking like he just rushed from the rumpled sheets of some woman of low morals; we argue about the Israel/Palestinian conflict; we eat too much pie; we children steal turkey for later. We do not watch parades, football games, or sit before a roaring fire. Father is distracted by the sales that will start the next day. Mother can't believe she just spent two days cooking all that food for four people. I miss Thanksgivings of Christmas when your friends were all home too and you snuck out of your family celebration as soon as possible to go get blackout-drunk with one another.

One year I ditched Thanksgiving with my family to spend it with the Frenchies (and I really can never finish apologizing for the undercooked turkey and the pumpkin pie mess). Family retaliated by spending the following Thanksgiving in Italy where the boy was studying abroad. WITHOUT ME. Yes, that's right. My parents went to spent Thanksgiving with my brother in Rome. I spent Thanksgiving at home with my roommate's family because my own parents wouldn't spring for the plane ticket - fu#@$@#4ers! So I have no allegiance to this thing. Furthermore, Thanksgiving for four people is the height of depressing. Why such a big meal for four people who don't need the excuse of Thanksgiving to eat together? After all, we all live near one another. And, despite the boy's protestations that he'd like to go spend Thanksgiving with our relatives in the greater D.C. area, I think spending 5 hours trying to make it from Newark to Trenton on I-95 would make him rue the day he thought travel for Thanksgiving was a good idea.

Now devoted partner is far kinder to his family than I. But, more often than not, Thanksgiving is a small and, dare I say, somber affair - of necessity: eating with your own immediate family does not a holiday make. Since sister-in-law moved to California, it's now a hideous shlep for her to come home and her uncle and aunt live 45 minutes from her - if I needed a dose of family, I would choose the family I could drive to in the morning and drive away from at night. So when mother-in-law announced she was going to California this year for Thanksgiving, I pounced.

And I mean pounced. I don't think devoted partner was off the phone with her before I already had plane tickets lined up. I would not be spending time or money to fly westward to have turkey with devoted partner's family, not least because of the hideous clusterfruck that is domestic holiday travel, but because in a world where we get three weeks of vacation and people think that's generous, I don't want to waste an hour of it on obligation (I am slowly converting devoted partner to this way of thinking). I realize that my grandmother lives driving distance and his grandparents are only accessible by plane, more! I'm sure mother-in-law would have been overjoyed had we leapt (oh, blogger, why do you think leapt is not a word?) up and said we would be overjoyed to have a Very Northern California Thanksgiving, and we got a little bit of ribbing from the other side of his family wondering why we didn't want to come to Arizona to spend Thanksgiving with grandma (grandma, by the way, is cool, and knows exactly why we'd rather take a week's vacation), but I used a cunning trick (made more cunning by the fact that he knows I'm doing it and still can be swayed): I offered an alternative.

It went a little something like this: you know, you already get Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week off; if you just take Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we can go diving for a week.

Evil, right?

Followed by this revelation was a 48-hour period of research in which I made a compelling financial argument and we were booked.

So, dear readers, I abandon you for the week of Thanksgiving as well. I will be underwater and I will not have a computer (except the one on my wrist that tells me how deep I am). I wanted to give you fair warning so that you could find another site to entertain you in my absence - I humbly suggest all the ones on my sidebar.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Worst of Both Worlds

I'm trying out something new. When people ask me where I live, I am going to stop qualifying my response with, "but we live three doors away from Port Chester" and instead just say "Greenwich." If someone chooses to imagine me in a 5000 square foot mcmansion with stable, so be it. In fact, people might be nicer to me if they thought I had an obscene amount of money, and I think one of those self-help fads suggests that you act as you would like to become and given I would like to become a person with obscene wealth, perhaps this is the first step.

However, admitting to others that I live in Greenwich catapults me to a demographic to which I never thought I would gain entry: B&T. I am now a member of the Bridge and Tunnel class. I must take a bridge to reach Manhattan. This was clear to me on Saturday night when devoted partner, Amy, and I finished dinner at Melon's and we walked to our parked car to return home. Not because we had to drive home - when we lived in Manhattan we would frequently take the car to Brooklyn - but because of the manner in which we hailed the cab for Amy. Back when I lived here, I was very conscientious about cab priority. I tried to never intentionally poach another person's cab because of the batshit crazy it made me when someone poached mine. And who were the frequent poachers? Bridge and Tunnel people, smacking their gum and teasing their hair while they wedged their spandexed behinds into my cab. There was a fine cold mist that had developed between downpours and the cabs were hard to come by. We staked out a corner so that we could find a cab going in either or two directions, and we waited. When a cab saw us, we heard the people across the street to our south yelling for it, and ignored them. When the cab pulled up, we ushered Amy into it.

This might seem normal to you. However, in my old life, I would have known whether or not the people to my south had been there before me and if they had, I would have given them my cab - call it my nod to karma. But now I just didn't care. I needed to get Amy into the cab so we could get into our car and get home. I couldn't tell you if we legitimately hailed that cab, or if we were cab poachers, but I do know that Manhattanite Yelena would have know the difference.

As I stomped around the neighborhood of my youth on Saturday, I realized that I did so with a sense of ownership coupled with the sense of disregard so often displayed by the visitor. I was the worst of both worlds. Unconsciously I was behaving with aloof entitlement (not to be confused with behaving as one or the other, which I am guilty of frequently), and this made me realize that transplants could be the most dangerous demographic of them all.

Imagine someone who knows where she's going and what to expect when she gets there AND doesn't care about making local enemies in the process because she doesn't live there? It's really a fearsome thing. I always attributed the rudeness of the out-of-towners to their indifference of how they were perceived BECAUSE they only came in once a week and the people they were rude to one night would never be people they saw again, whereas we who lived here ran a greater risk of running into our victims daily. But I don't live here anymore. I don't have to worry about running into people at the dry cleaners. I'm not sure this is a power I'm ready for.

Nopropos: first morning of singing civil disobedience was super satisfying, triggered by the third loud phone call in my train car.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fair Warning - A Multimedia Extravaganza

My parents would not let me have a walkman as a kid. Their argument was that by owning one, I would turn into a mindless zombie who walked down the street paying no attention to anything save the music thereby making myself vulnerable to muggers, rapists, and oncoming traffic. As a result, I was never really a walkman person. Sure I finally bought myself one, and later a discman, and later still an iPod, but I never got in the habit of wearing it around. Part of the problem has always been the earphones: the puppy ones of our youth fell off the top of my head, and the buds of today fall out of my ears, making me look like I have some kind of repetitive disorder as I shove them back into my aural canals while walking.

I know when to admit defeat. You win, commuter d-bags, and I lose. You do not seem to wilt beneath my death stare, and I am unwilling to fight each of you individually, so I have fished my half-broken really old (like 2005) iPod out of its grave and loaded it with a playlist I like to call Commute 1, to imply that there might be additional Commute playlists down the road.
But lest you think I am going down without a fight, let this be your fair warning. You see, I have stocked this playlist with a dizzing array of feel-good Yelena nostalgia tracks which means I know at least 95% of all lyrics. You'll never know if your particular inane cellphone conversation will be the one that pushes me over the edge and forces me to sing along with my iPod, but know it's coming. If you refuse to understand the difference between your office/living room and a commuter train, then I too must claim ignorance of the differences between my kitchen/bathroom (the locations of my fierce rock n roll concerts) and a commuter train. Where you babble on about what's for dinner, how nice it was to see your cousin, and how last weekend was, I shall serenade you with tales of love lost, social commentary, and the occasional instructional treatise on the proper ways to make with the intercourse. I like to think that, in the end, everyone wins. You continue to have your conversations with zero regard for the disinterest of those around you, and I get to have a sort of "Take Back The Night" approach to commuting.

So, I now give you an annotated version of playlist Commute 1 and, since it's Friday, I have attached links for your listening pleasure. Please feel free to turn up the volume really high if you are surrounded by people who annoy you like it's their job - I know I will! And please, additionally, feel free to mock this superwonderful list that is a pretty accurate sampling of the rest of the contents of my iPod - I am unashamed.

Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution - AC/DC - An important tract by a band whose radio airplay should not be limited to merely three songs. Pretty much every song by AC/DC makes me want to take my t-shirt off.

Janie's Got A Gun - Aerosmith - I can see how some might question this selection when I have, at my disposal, the entire Aerosmith catalog from which to choose, but this particular song made the cut due to the high note. You know the one Steven Tyler hits towards the end of, "they say when Janie was arrested they found him underneath a train" on the word "train?" Yeah, well I can hit that note. Not always well, and not all the time, but when I get it right, it can nearly break glass.

Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera - For all of you who claim I am not down with the kids today and their music, you are absolutely correct. Yet I may have a soft spot for Christina Aguilera, and this particular song calls to mind R&B from my teenage years, most notably the excellent collaboration between Salt N Pepa and En Vogue on "Whatta Man."

Love Shack - B-52s - Few other songs in creation have the potential to encourage other people to get up and dance. I argue that, given the right circumstances, one could turn one's train car into a mobile party simply through the application of this song. It is my hope to prove this hypothesis (or put together some bizarre performance art troupe that terrorizes commuters by assembling in train cars to dance to Love Shack).

Born To Be My Baby - Bon Jovi - I think this was the selected Bon Jovi track because too many American Idol contestants have murdered the a-list songs. Also this is catchy with no bizarre b-section.

Holding Out For A Hero - Bonnie Tyler - Please, like this even needs an explanation. No one ever wants to go to karaoke with me, but this is most certainly the song I would like to sing. I couldn't find a good version of the video, so I give you the scene from its inclusion in that most significant entry into the Pantheon of American Cinema, Footloose. You may fast-forward to about 1:45 if you have no soul and do not wish to watch the lead up.

Gonna Make You Sweat - C&C Music Factory - I'm at a dance, I think it might be someone's Bar Mitzvah. This song is certainly playing and, given that you probably haven't heard it in at least a decade, it is well worth remembering just how good of a dance track this is. Not so good for my singing along since, well, there aren't really a lot of words, but I'm sure I can come up with something equally annoying.

Lovefool - The Cardigans - This is an experimental entry. Yes, I really like the song, but I don't know if it has the same power the others do. Perhaps it's more suited to a morning than an evening. I will keep you posted.

Crossroads - Cream - Lest you assume I can only enjoy the music of my youth, I give you the music of other people's youth. I briefly sang with some guys (albeit only in the rehearsal studio) after college, and they wanted me to sing this. As Paula Abdul would say, I made it my own and, to this day have a soft spot for it.

Jolene - Dolly Parton - It's not just that I'd like people to think I have diverse and interesting tastes, it's that, sometimes, I do. Say what you will about country music, and I have said my fair share of unflattering things, Dolly Parton friggin' rocks. This song, completely misunderstood by the two American Idol contestants (yeah, I watch the show religiously even as it never fails to piss me off) who could not even approach the proper level of anguish necessary to pull it off, is unfarkingcredible. Also, I am seriously considering tracking down this lilac pantsuit and wearing it every day. EVERY DAY.

Blem Blem - Edesio - This one needs an explanation, but it has a sister track later on, and the explanation for them both belongs with her.

Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley - Again, icons need no defense. Everyone loves Elvis and I'm sure everyone will love hearing me sing along with him.

More Than Words - Extreme - Much like I think the HBO series "Rome" was created with me in mind, I believe that Monster Ballads was compiled for my enjoyment. To not acknowledge that would be to spit upon the grand gesture. I think a lot of people who didn't come of age as 80s became 90s might not understand the true greatness of this ballad. So think of me as an ExtremeEvangelist. Also, you gotta love that they both have way better hair than I do.

Praise You - Fatboy Slim - Trippy, jumpy, feel-goody, but, with repetition, highly annoying. This might be one of the list that needs to be back-to-back-to-back played before is achieves the desired results.

Sweet Little Lies - Fleetwood Mac - I am going to try to ignore that, while looking for this video, I had to wade through many a video of a remake by a teenybopper I've never heard of, because it is important to acknowledge the crazy awesomeness and awesome craziness of Stevie Nicks. Even thinking about her makes me want to wear spiderweb tights and a peasant skirt.

Jesus He Knows Me - Genesis
- I don't want to start sounding like Patrick Bateman, but I think Phil Collins needs a lot more credit. This song is unbelievable. It is so due for a good remake (but I can't think of any group capable of this level of intelligence). Twinned with Land of Confusion and I think history might look back at the work of Genesis as the seminal socio-political commentary of the 1980s. I know there's been a lot of joking on this list, but I might try to claim that Genesis was our generation's Bob Dylan. Also this song is really catchy and saying Jesus repeatedly in a confined space is always comedic.

Can't Help Falling In Love - Lick The Tins - Been in my head all week so I had to add it. Fortunately for you, after watching the end of Some Kind of Wonderful to find out when the song came in, I almost lost my breakfast and decided I would not inflict that on anyone else. Let it not be claimed that my nostalgia is not discerning. For those keeping score: Extreme - still awesome; Some Kind of Wonderful - horrifying to behold.

Cherish - Madonna
- Arguably, Madonna's sexiest video. I yearn for that hairdo. YEARN! To the point where I'm considering calling my hairdresser right now and asking for it. Seriously. Do you think there's a product on the market that makes your hair look wet like that all day? Cause I'm guessing it doesn't look good at all when dry. Yeah, Madonna was super sexy in this. It was during the Like A Prayer years when she still could sport a bit of muffin top (albeit, thin person's muffin top, but now I don't think you could get her skin to move like that over pants), before the crazy set in. It's my favorite Madonna. I have to stop watching the video - every frame gets me closer to a personal hair don't.

Beds Are Burning - Midnight Oil
- This is another song where it is inexplicable to me that a remake hasn't been done. How easy would it be to make this the new anthem for environmentalism? Anyway, the song rocks. Even if you have no idea what they're saying when they talk all Australian and stuff. Come to think of it, I'm pleased our criminal neighbors to the extreme south are represented twice on this list. It shows my aversion to their ridiculous accents does not prejudice me against their creative endeavors.

Vamos A La Playa - Miranda - After college, devoted partner and I spent 10 weeks in Europe. And this song was on in every country EVERY DAY. By the time we got to Italy (about week 3-4), I had to own it. I found it in some non-major town (possibly Urbino) in the discount rack on a compilation called Paradiso Beach. On it was Blem Blem which also got a lot or airtime that summer. The entire album is filled with the kind of amazingly bad dance music you hate to love. I love it. I had never seen the video before this morning, but for anyone who has traveled in Europe (or for my European friends) this is an excellent example of how poorly our southern European friends dance. I do not dance, but I dance better than this.

Push It - Salt N Pepa - Fast-forward to :30. Ooh baby baby, this song has a high nostalgia rating and is also offensive. Because it is about having sex. Non procreative sex. Get up on this! It also allows me to rap. And I leave it to your imaginations how successful that can be.

A Girl Like You - Tom Jones

Lift Me Up - Tom Jones

Sexbomb - Tom Jones - Tom Jones gets three entries because Tom Jones deserves anything Tom Jones wants. I convinced my college roommate Eric that we should call our wildly popular radio show Tom Jones's Sock and we started every broadcast with a Tom Jones song. I am very very upset that I couldn't find the full version of Lift Me Up - which is an incredible song - so consider tracking down that album. Viva Tom Jones! P.S. I am not joking about this. I love Tom Jones.

Leather - Tori Amos - Nothing says dangerously unstable better than a pissed off girl in a handmade knitted sweater coat singing Tori Amos to herself in the seat next to you. While it is true, I don't give off the specific Tori Amos whiff of crazy, I can do a pretty good version of her on this song. And it's a creepy song. The refrain ends with the line, "hand me my leather."

Scenario - A Tribe Called Quest
- When you think of vintage rap, think Yelena. I am almost as good on this one as I am on Mama Says Knock You Out. Fear my skillz.

Pride - U2 - I know U2 was gunning for voice of a generation and I up and gave it to Genesis, but this is to show there are no hard feelings. Also the high note in the chorus won't break glass, but it's in my sweet spot so it will definitely be loud! As a side note, I fear my hair looks way more like Bono's in this video than it does the Extreme guys.

Add It Up - Violent Femmes
- I will never forgive Ethan Hawke and the Reality Bites people for their cover of this song. Ethan Hawke is a mama's boy wimp no matter how much grungy facial hair you give him and was wholly unbelievable as a tortured Generation X-er. Please see Dead Poets Society and Swing Kids if you have doubts (OKAY - it's been brought to my attention that it's the other mama's boy who is in Swing Kids; please replace Swing Kids with Before Sunrise, Ethan Hawke is still a pussy). The song however, is perfect for scaring commuters. It uses the f-word and talks about guns. And I've known all the words to this one since I was way too young to understand them.

Ces Soirees La - Yannick
- Ok, this video is proof positive that we live in a post-racial society. This song comes to us from yet another vacation that saw us hearing the same thing on French radio once per hour. This song is so cringe worthy, I have learned all the words. In French. Don't believe me? I DARE YOU to call me on the phone and ask for it by name. But here's the thing. I never saw the album nor this video, so only hearing the rap, I assumed it was done by a white French guy. Because it sounds about as authentic vis a vis American rap tradition as Vanilla Ice (whose work was considered for inclusion briefly). But I love this song. And it is super annoying. And I know all the words. Which I think makes this a total winner because not only am I rapping, I'm rapping in a foreign language.

Bust A Move - Young MC - And let's end on a high note. Only the most cynical of squares could not want to dance to this. It is toe-tapping at its best. In fact, turn it up, dance at your desk - it's Friday!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Raining and Pouring

Pates de Fruit
Pates de fruit: pomegranate/pistachio, pb&j
Originally uploaded by reallyct

Apropos for the northeast today, no (she asks as she drips dry)? My confectionery ambitions have been tested by the economic downturn, but more by my seeming inability to concentrate on the job of selling what I make as opposed to simply making what I make.

I won't lie, the making is the easy part. For all my narcissism, I am horrid at self-promotion. Plugging my wares seems so, well, "look at me" which it's supposed to be. That's how you sell things. There's also a healthy dose of fear which says that if I try my hardest and fail, isn't that much worse than not trying and sort of failing? These are not personality traits I am proud of.

So I'd like to thank the friends and family who, in the past day, have tried to throw some business my way. Even if I get one of the jobs, it would be a huge deal after a year that has seen practically zero activity. I hope it might re-motivate me as well.

I have always like to think of myself as someone unafraid and resilient, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that there needs to be more experimental evidence to back that statement up. Sure, there have been examples of fearlessness and bounce back-ability, but I'm not sure there have been enough to make such a declarative, nor do I think those are two qualities that permit resting on one's laurels.

With so much else having changed for the better this year, I am going to renew my efforts to change my business for the better. I don't like the idea of failure, but I think the idea of coasting as a lifestyle choice is even more abhorrent to me.

End philosophical self-indulgence.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kids Today

As I pass month number three without sweet sweet cigarettes, I am saddened by what appears to be an alarming trend among our youth: abstinence. Twice in recent weeks, I have had occasion to visit my alma mater, and both times I have been confronted by wholly empty street corners. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

At first glance, I thought it was an issue of convenience. In this post-9/11 world (a phrase I abhor and would like to point out that I am currently using with a mocking tone), security at the tony private school where I matriculated has been beefed up in a manner I can only describe as Orwellian. The children have little badges, like you and your friends do for your actual potential target office buildings, which they must swipe every time they enter and leave the building. I don't know what the school does with the information about one's comings and goings, but I imagine it does let your teachers and perhaps parents know when you cut trigonometry. Something Alison F. and I never did.

Well, my parents were of the laid-back variety when it came to nicotine consumption, so knowing that I went out of the building between most periods to grab a smoke, would have only concerned them insofar as my health was concerned and would not have enjoined them to mete out punishments, but many of my friends had the kinds of parents that considered smoking a grounding offense. So, today's children of creepy parents would be wary of leaving the building every fifty minutes for fear their parents would catch on.

That was my first theory on the absence of teenage smokers in the vicinity of school.

But I went back this morning, at a time of day I remember being very popular for smoking, and I saw not a one. Not one lurking on the corner, not one in front of the bagel joint. No teenage smokers whatsoever.

And, forgive me, but it made me kind of sad. Yes, I know smoking is bad mmkay, but it also is a rite of passage for many teens. It's the first rebellion and, given how pretty much all of my high school smoking buddies have now quit, a rebellion that peters out given time and public outcry. Yes, there were the "I will never smoke" kids, but they were rarer than the "sure, I'll have one every now and again on the weekend" kids. I'm not concerned that kids aren't rebelling any longer, but I do have a sneaking suspicion that their rebellions might be riskier than smoking.

Oh, god, anti-smokers, shut up already. I know smoking is the most dangerous thing that ever was invented in the history of the world and harder to give up than heroin (lies, damn lies, and (tinkered with) statistics!). But you simply have to work really really hard to die from smoking the first time you light a cigarette. Similarly, overdosing on cigarettes is difficult. You have to really make a commitment. Kind of like overdosing on water: it's possible, but you've got to want it! Smoking might be a hard habit to break, but I think from both a health and culture perspective, I'd rather have a smoker for a kid than a tweaker.

Also, at an affluent school, there is always a tendency towards cocaine use. While this might be unavoidable, at least if your kid is a smoker, the chances are he will use that drug during the day and save the coke for the weekends. For all its real and perceived ills, smoking is a drug habit that you can do casually, throughout the day, with no diminution of one's faculties - your kid might be a smoker, but he'll still be able to use his brain in AP history.

So children, embrace smoking in a kind of retro nod to cool. Cigarettes make great props, lend you an air of sophistication, promote social bonding, and give you an excuse to take a walk every once in a while. They have their shortcomings, but you'll probably give it up sooner rather than later and, as I remember so fondly from my own mandatory health class senior year and now quote as gospel: if you give them up by the time you're 35, your lungs will go back to normal in a couple of years!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Project, Part 2

Originally uploaded by reallyct

Once upon a time, in our old apartment, we decided we would spruce things up a bit by painting some accent walls. I took the fun trip to Home Depot and loaded up on paint chips that I then pasted to the wall. Devoted partner might claim this was a pretense as I already knew what colors I wanted, and in point of fact the two walls did end up those colors, but had a convincing counter-argument been made, I may well have given it its due. The colors I was looking to match were bordello red and tropical paradise blue. Both were easy to narrow down and find and I would use both colors again (though in all honesty, I forget the name of the blue we used).

So now that I have a project, I skipped to the Home Depot to pick out my navy-ish color.

There were way more choices than I expected, and frankly than I think are strictly necessary. Yeah, I brought them all home because maybe devoted partner could see something I didn't. Yes, well, devoted partner took one look at this hot decorating mess and asked if I was joking. He may have a point: there certainly are a number of virtually indistinguishable choices.

So, I guess, dear Amy and others who like to weigh in, should we be looking at the slate dark blues, the royal dark blues, or the violet dark blues? I feel a bit or vertigo even staring at this picture for too long. I'm ready to get my hands (and clothing, and hair) dirty, I just need a little more direction!

Monday, November 9, 2009


We're not really good at this. Whether solitary by nature or defense, prickly, or lazy, amassing a sizable coterie of friends is something both devoted partner and I find difficult. Over time, as our friends have merged, we have, I think, stuck with a good group: the folks who come over at holiday time. But to suggest it's a large group would be false.

It's a good number, though. The friends we do keep are people for whom I like to think no favor is too large; ask away, our friends, and I hope we will do our best (notable exceptions to this rule, forgive us, involve the borough of Brooklyn and your friend's band, or similar - ask us for a kidney, on the other hand, and we'll see you in the OR). I would say that my only sadness is that all of our friends are not, independently, friends with one another. Similarly, we don't have wing-friends: those we do everything as a foursome friends.

Sadly, some of our favorite wing-friend candidates live a little too far afield for convenience. I like to think that if we didn't live, on average, 3500 miles away, we would not tire of one another should dinners together take place once a week instead of once a year. The B-s in France and the B-s in Portugal have, over time, given us more than their friendship; they've given us the friendship of their friends.

The gift of a ready-made social scene has been an inestimable delight, one that makes the parting and the distance more bittersweet. And opportunities for meeting in the middle are scarce - the stupid ocean between us offers little in the way of halfway points:

So, when we discovered that the B-s of Portugal and their friends (and ours!) the C-s had found a way to get us some Portuguese wine to warm our house, we were both delighted and misty. How can you toast someone thousands of miles away?

On a Friday, after a long week and ahead of a weekend that would see us hosting my family for brunch, there was little sweeter than opening a hand-picked bottle of wine, sitting on our sofa, clinking glasses, and thinking about four friends who allowed us to compose this warm little scene. We hope we can lure at least some of them to our hemisphere this winter for a little beach bonding, and we are storing the other bottle of wine until such time when the six of us may enjoy it together.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Popular Culture, Somewhat Retro

I know you have all been waiting for me to weigh in on the most anticipated series premiere of the 09-10 season, especially those of you who do not watch baseball. Dutifully DVRed, we sat down to watch last night. Even my mother, who called ten minutes before the end, remembered well enough to immediately hang up when I informed her what she had interrupted.

I refer, obviously, to V - the best show from childhood and now, they hope, of my adulthood. Though I cannot imagine that I know anyone unfamiliar with the hyperawesomeness that was V, the short version is the aliens come, they are lizards, and they are not as nice as they seem. And if you think that shit doesn't scare children...

I, over the protestations of my parents who didn't think it was especially good television, adored the evil lizard high commandress, Diana. She was like the Joan Collins of lizard people, and you can only imagine how I adore Joan Collins. When they introduced the Linda Evans blond lizard chick, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Diana to eviscerate her.

New V has done a good job of casting high lizard commandress chick by using the hooker from Firefly, a show I never would have watched, were it not for devoted partner, and for which I am grateful. They have given her an extremely unfeminine haircut which, I assume is supposed to imply futurosity, but instead reminds me of Mia Farrow's abominably stupid haircut circa Rosemary's Baby which is fine, I guess for women who are shaped like boys, but Monica Baccarin has some funk in various trunks and just kinda looks bizarre with the short hair. Her evil, however, is excellently honed - she's got that lopsided grin of doom I so hope I have too.

So the good: Monica Baccarin, obviously. The lizard crossover dude has some potential (though Freddy Kruger he isn't), and the hot catholic priest might not suck.
The bad: there is a hokeyness factor I am uncomfortable with not least because this pilot has been hyped as the best pilot for any show in a decade. Now I know I am a jaded media whore, but I can think of several better pilots (including West Wing, Nip/Tuck, and sadly, Desperate Housewives, and that's just on the cable we all get). Because we live in a post 9/11 world and of course every piece of media we produce from now until the sun is destroyed will need to reference that, there's some of that bs thrown in for good measure. I don't like the actress who is the lead and imdb assures me I've never seen her in any of the other work she's done which is odd since I feel I didn't like her since before this show began. Her relationship with her kid proves, yet again, that people who write for TV cannot, to save their lives, write about teenagers with any kind of authenticity. Her general demeanor reminds me of every chick they've ever had on a CSI: annoying, braying, begging to be sexually compromised in a way that will make her reevaluate her loyalty to fighting crime...

Also, is it me, or are our attention spans dwindling to nothing? So much was packed into this first 42 minutes of show that I don't know how they will ever have enough material to outlast a first season. I had the same problem with the (legitimately awful) new 90210. In original 90210 it took a long time before people were having abortions and drug problems and killing people; new 90210 pretty much covered all of that in the first 5 episodes. I'm a fan of foreplay. I want my watchable television to be drawn out, teasing, with peaks and valleys of mental stimulation. If I wanted a quickie, I would watch MTV or any of the other shiny people networks.

So I'm going to keep watching. The nostalgia alone will hook me (see 90210), but there was a lot of hype over this one and I don't feel this introduction lived up to it. I would love to know what any other fans of original V thought.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pity Flocked

Pretending for a moment that there are readers of this minimum opus who do not know me personally, it should probably be mentioned that I like dogs.

If by "like" you mean "obsessed with." See also: "stalkerish," "won't shut up aboutish," and "prone to tantrumish."

Devoted partner and I are not currently dog owners. After years of living in a small vertical box where devoted partner claimed my future 120lb.+ dog would suffer, we moved to a lovely attached-lawn house whose landlady specifically delineated that no pets of any sort would be welcomed.

I live in a house. In the suburbs. Without a dog.

Fortunately, our friends are totally on my side. Amy frequently forwards us emails about dogs who need homes; AB IMs me links to the Neapolitan Mastiff rescue nearest me. Devoted partner silently sobs in the corner while plotting revenge.

I went to a wine store this past week I had not been to before in the greater Greenwich area (to which a future post will be devoted) to pick up some wine only to discover that a yellow Labrador lived at the store. The AWESOMEST yellow Labrador to ever grace the world.

A lab who, within thirty seconds of meeting my acquaintance was giving me his paws, encouraging rough-housing, and generally bestowing upon me the kind of unconditional love my life has been missing due to a dog drought. I was immediately smitten in a Fatal Attraction, when the owner's back is turned I'm stealing the dog, kind of way. When I left the store that first night, the dog, Sonoma, went to the windowed door and stared out at me with, yes, puppy dogs eyes, beseeching me to return so we could play more.

Naturally I went back to the store.

It was then, during my second round of playtime with Sonoma that I got a strange feeling. Like the dog knew more than he was letting on. I think Sonoma knew I was dogless and upset by my doglessness. He decided the way to cheer me up was to spend an inordinate amount of affection on me: pawing, licking, sniffing, following, looking up with happy puppy eyes. When I relayed this to devoted partner, he tossed off, "oh, so you mean the dog was pity flocking you?" (Editor's note: obviously that is not a verbatim rendering of devoted partner's words, but I know some of you read this at work and I do my best to permit that sort of thing to continue.)

So now even dogs can sense my desperation for, well, dogs. I am officially the easy girl at the party where dogs are concerned and I fully anticipate that the dogs of greater Fairfield County, to say nothing of those of the Upper East side of Manhattan, will begin to pursue me, sticks and frisbees in their waiting mouths because they know I can't say no. Sadly for my self-esteem in this metaphor, I will welcome them all gladly, play with them until night falls and their true owners drag them away, and return to my dogless house to turn my longing eyes on poor, maligned devoted partner (because, as I'm sure is evident, he is standing in the way of my dog ownership - not the landlady, and that his own desire for a dog is a ruse to make me feel like we're in this together).

I hope you can now see why it is imperative for the health of this relationship that we have separate rooms!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hall Of Commuter D-Bags, Couples Edition

Reason #619 Why You Should Boycott the AARP 11/2
Originally uploaded by reallyct

I'd like to start out on a positive note: fellow commuters, I met your children this past week as they came by my house for candy. Defying all logic and expectation, they were the most well-mannered children I have encountered in some time. Without exception, each of them bid me a Happy Halloween, thanked me for my treats, and acquitted him of herself like a model citizen.

Which is what makes your (collective) commuter dbaggery so difficult to stomach. It's not that you don't know the difference between right and wrong, it's that you intentionally ignore it.

Take these two, definitely old enough to know better, people. They broke nearly every rule in the book from loudly talking on cellphones to using the seats as footrests.

I know, sometimes it's difficult: train, kitchen, kitchen train. They are so similar. And good for you, old dude, bucking convention by eschewing the traditional bagel/roll and coffee and instead choosing to pass your commute by gumming a hunk of chicken thigh on the bone, eating cottage cheese out of the container, and finishing it up by spooning what I'm pretty sure was hummus into your gullet. This way no innocent bystander could mistake your douchiness in assuming that a public train is merely an extension of your trough.

But you brought your wife, a charming woman who gabbed noisily on the phone and then spooned up her own cottage cheese. I'm pleased to see you came prepared for this eminently reasonable in-transit meal with a napkin you have artfully draped across your chest so that the masticated chicken bits don't mar your suit. I was less pleased to see you take that napkin, wipe your face with it, and then wad it up and put it ON THE SEAT IN FRONT OF YOU.

Quite frankly, I kind of hope you get herpes.

But lest you think I only hate old people, remember these two?

Dbag Marathon Edition, 11/1
Originally uploaded by reallyct

Love means never having to say you're sorry. Also: never having to move your ginormous bag from DSW, never having to consider a seat in a public train anything other than your footrest (shoes optional - remember, a train is very much like a living room, if your living room is on rails), and never having to modulate your voice as you have a moderately volatile conversation with your dad about whether or not you told Jody you'd be out in time to go out to dinner at Hibachi, and no, you didn't say you'd be there, you just said you'd be at the house in time for the Yankees game.

What made you two all the more entertaining was how perfectly suited you were to each other. Madam, when you got off the phone call so loud that people in the next car were privy to it, you proceeded to regale your fellah with the story of what had just transpired, just in case he had been temporarily deaf and hadn't heard your asinine conversation with your dad. And sir, ye who put your disgusting bare feet on the seat and snuggled with princess over there, you acted as though it was completely normal to have to listen to her play-by-play of a conversation you already sat through once. I applaud your love, and could only be more supportive of it were there some failsafe way to ensure you both become sterile RIGHT NOW. I'm thinking some form of radioactive ray.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Hope That Lump In My Throat Isn't Cancer

Almost Mile 26
Originally uploaded by reallyct

My brother, his friend Stephanie, and, if the mainstream media is to be believed, several other people ran the marathon yesterday. Let me start by saying, "way to effin' go!"

My cold heart? Officially moved.

My pride glands? Swollen.

To illustrate exactly how proud/excited/amped up I was, I went to Queens.

Originally uploaded by reallyct

To stand and hope I saw them (I didn't). Buoyed by the awesome supportingness of devoted partner, I spent the day watching people indulge themselves in what I consider a highly suspect pastime: endurance exercise. And it was incredible. I haven't actually watched the marathon since I was a kid, but I hope to watch it many more times in the future. It is one big United Colors of Benetton happyfest

Originally uploaded by reallyct

(with exhaustion, the threat of imminent cardiac arrest, bleeding nipples, and missing toenails thrown in to bring us all back to reality).

We potatoes on the sidelines exercise our talkie-holes to cheer the runners - all the runners - on to the finish. We call them by name (and by the way, mein bruder, you couldn't be bothered to Sharpie your names on your shirts?) though we don't know them and tell them they're doing great, that they're almost there and there is NO IRONY. The marathon is a wholly irony-free zone, and you can just imagine how uncomfortable that makes me.

I kind of loved everyone and knew that though I missed them in Queens, someone didn't.

Originally uploaded by reallyct

Someone, and frankly I assume there were lots of someones, cheered my brother and Steph through the borough of Queens. Loudly. Whole-heartedly. As I cheered for the friends those people missed.

In fact, I almost missed them twice. It was devoted partner who spied them coming up Central Park South, at the precise moment I wasn't paying attention. I looked up and saw them nearly passing us and I was off. Gentle readers, I ran like a lunatic person. And ran fast. Especially for someone who can probably be classified "dangerously sedentary" by the medical establishment. I sprinted and I weaved through people because I was going to see them, make eye contact, wave my very very very lame sign, and get a picture (a #$%#$&%%$ blurry picture, but a picture nonetheless). I don't know how these two can be smiling (or frankly looking so good), but they were and they did.

Originally uploaded by reallyct

I don't know what their final time was. I know The Boy said by mile 12 his knee was farked, and that he stopped at every subsequent aid station to have it looked at. Stephanie, you are whatever the lady equivalent of bon mec is for adjusting your pace and making sure you two finished together. Everyone who cheered for these two along the way (and for my cousin Sarah who made the awesome time of 3:36, for Lauren and Josh my former grade school classmates, for Chefs Rafael and Olivier who nicely let me into their kitchens last year): you guys frickin' rock!

Fortunately for my traditional bedfellows, pessimism and vitriol,

Dbag Marathon Edition, 11/1
Originally uploaded by reallyct

we returned home to the suburbs sitting near these two, who will be excoriated in tomorrow's special Couples Edition of Hall of Commuter Dbags.