Thursday, September 20, 2018

Things I keep thinking of blogging about but do not

Before I kick into the list of things I have failed to blog about, let me begin with a list of the critical barriers paralyzing my blogging effort:
  1.  I am also writing a book. Ha, yeah. Stick that between your judgy squished eyebrows.
  2. I got a food dehydrator that I need to amortize. Turns out, I wholeheartedly enjoy dehydrating practically anything and then stuffing it into little plastic baggies for the zombie apocalypse. On the downside all that chopping and zip locking is a hella time suck.
  3. Other miscellaneous pursuits which I cannot recall at this time.
That was sort of a bust, so let us transition to the part where I list all the things I haven't been blogging about:
  1. Pascal's wager
  2. The twelve pack of colorful socks I recently purchased online.
  3. Basilica Hudson Soundscape
  4. Getting mistaken for a minister and having someone's father confess to me.
  5. The guy with the Gay AF t-shirt on and the high altitude straddle kicks
Also other things that may or may not happen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

I believed you, dude

I wanted to talk about the time I was supposed to have a video Skype meeting with this guy. We got on the call and he said that unfortunately he had to go. 

He had badly burned his foot. The burn had turned into a huge blister and the blister had just popped and he needed to go to the emergency room. 

He lifted his foot to the webcam and I got to see the bloody wound. 




Thursday, September 06, 2018

Very observant


Tom and I were over at Sloan Kettering meeting with one of the doctors for a consultation. We walk out of the exam room.

"What did you think of the doctor?" I ask.

"He favors one knee," says Tom.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

My Basketball - Don't Even Think about It

Tom said he was going to write his name on the basketball with a sharpie marker. He didn't want to get mixed up in a who-owns-this-basketball fracas with the kids who always play on the half court on our street in Chelsea. We had just been talking about going down there to shoot some hoops.

Good idea about the name on the basketball, I said, except it's my name that is going to get written on the basketball. Because it's my damn basketball.

Tom disagreed. He said he was sure it was his basketball. And anyway, it had been pretty flat and he used his bicycle pump and pumped it up again.

I said I know it is my basketball because I got it at the office Evil Santa gift exchange. I stole that basketball fair and square. I said there were probably a dozen witnesses and they weren't that drunk. They would remember whose basketball we were looking at here.

I probably threw in a small fingerwag at this point because I even knew who brought the wrapped basketball to the party in the first place. He originally bought it for a disabled five year old, but then realized you can't give a little kid a full-sized basketball. That would be suboptimal. Five year olds have tiny hands and soft skulls.


The next day at the office, everyone agreed I should just put my initials on the basketball. That would be cooler than writing my whole name.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Dairy-free Yogurt in the Instant Pot

I am now fully into making yogurt out of soy milk. There are three to five reasons for this which I will make up right now:
  1. Store-bought non-dairy yogurt is super pricey. I prefer to spend my money on Dona chai turmeric latte supplies that come in totes adorbs bottles that look like tinctures from the days of yore. I love stepping away from my desk for a moment to transform myself into some sort of herbalist shaman centrifuging a potion on the rotating glass plate inside the office microwave.
  2. Store-bought non-dairy yogurt has all these weird gums and gellans in it and comes in plastic one-use containers which I dislike for all the same reasons some people wear organic bamboo shmatas and eat tiny scraps torn from Mother Jones magazine.
  3. Fresh Direct sent me 4 quarts of soy milk that expire in two weeks. I over-ordered to stock up and then noticed the tragic flaw in this plan.

As with all my endeavors, this dream of yogurt also required a lot of online research, mostly on Amazon. I read reviews like some people do actual research. My strategy is to add ninety-five things to my shopping cart and then delete the ones I don't want. Not only is this efficient, it is a great way to consistently surprise yourself with items you would swear you deleted.

Finally, after exposing my eyeballs to much blue-light way too late in the evening, I purchased this yogurt starter: https://amzn.to/2OakK6k

incomprehensible instruction card enclosed.

Upon receipt, I snapped into action and read the enclosed card with great anticipation. The first sentence of the instructions said to "whisk or blend pouch contents." This proved difficult as the product came in a plastic bottle, no pouch to be found. Such obstacles generally cause me to abandon the mission for five days to a year, and so I looked at pictures of #weldporn on Instagram for the rest of the night.

OMG that is a buxom TIG weld.

Maybe three months later, I was talking to Audrey who reignited my interest in the non-dairy homemade yogurt. I vaguely remembered buying the starter on Amazon and jamming the little bottle into the cabinet behind Tom's electrolyte drink mixes. This time I would not be deterred. I did a google search for "non-dairy yogurt instant pot" because if you're going to do it, you might as well do it at high pressure.

Making non-dairy yogurt in an Instant Pot is seriously easy it turns out. Fuck that little card. All you do is add 1/8 a teaspoon of starter to a quart of nut-milk and then stick it in a jar in the Instant Pot for 14 hours. 14 hours?

14 hours seemed like a hella long time, but I excel at leaving and doing other things. Also, I can follow instructions. Except when they involve micro-measuring units. I decided to make a quart of yogurt but I didn't have a jar that held a quart, so I used three jelly jars. I considered doing the math, and dividing 1/8 by 3, but it felt like a very taxing operation and I don't have a teaspoon measurer smaller than 1/8 anyway. So I just eyeballed a less-than-full 1/8 teaspoon to all three of the jelly jars and called it good.


Only 1 hour and 19 minutes to go.

 The results were impressive, if I do say so myself:



I'm practically a homesteader now.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

My Recipe Novella - Pressurized Rhubarb in the Instant Pot

It’s a thing, you know. These days, when you look up a recipe on the interwebs, you don’t just get a straight up recipe with just the facts ma’am tablespoons and cooking temperatures. 

Now the recipe is like the climax after paragraphs about grandmothers and prairies. There is talk about heading out to a well-tended garden on rainy days. After sniffing the fragrance of a good simple life, the recipe author will gracefully kneel to clip perky stalks of nostalgic vegetables sprouted from the pink hearts of homemade whole grain bread baked with love in shiny retro appliances covered with artfully arranged Hello Kitty stickers.

Also there are a lot of ads for Pottery Barn for Kids and photos that make you want to paint your kitchen butter yellow and make yourself an apron out of gingham.

Rhubarb dessert

I love moss-covered table decorations as much as the next gal, and so I became inspired. May I present to you my first, and probably last, Recipe Novella:

I went out in my ancient slippers to pick up the CSA box. I threw all the vegetables in the fridge. Then I ignored them for about a week, until everything became somewhat flaccid and clearly on the way out. 

This is when I normally snap into action. 

I extracted everything from the fridge and besides the easily identifiable kale and turnips and romaine hearts, I found some long red celery looking things. I smelled them and cut them in half, but to no avail. I had a mystery produce item on my hands.

Mystery Blood Celery

In a burst of epiphany possibly accompanied by 80’s electronica, I recalled the photocopied sheet that always lists the contents of the CSA box. I fished it out of the recycling bin and by process of elimination identified the stalks as Rhubarb. 

I should have moved the sheet from the counter
before I started washing things

I do not have a treasured box of family recipes. Both my grandmas were somewhat questionable in the kitchen department. No worries, the google found this narrative about stewing Rhubarb including a decent backstory and plot line:

These photos seem a lot nicer than mine.


It looked amazing and such cute rubber boots. I couldn’t be bothered with the whole stove part of the operation so I just threw all the ingredients in the Instant Pot, guessed at the timing (8 minutes?) and hoped for the best. And when I say “all the ingredients” I mean all the ones I happened to have on hand. 

My Pressurized Rhubarb turned out pretty well. Good enough to add to my smoothie. I could barely taste it.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

MidSummer through Jenga

Corridor to Midsummer in Battery Park, NYC

After we left the Midsummer fest on Friday, we marched up to El Vez for corn tacos. But we only made it half way there. Someone spotted a half empty patio with twinkling Christmas lights and Casey had us a table in T minus 20.

Personally I couldn’t keep my eyes off the party of six next to us. Two gentlemen took turns slapping each other across the face for about ten minutes. Then a skinny Asian girl fell underneath the table and simply could not escape. The table legs were like the bars of her personal prison, impossible to circumvent when you're flat on the floor. Finally she managed some sort of yogic sunrise and rejoined the world of chairs.

After that, they all did body shots of tequila.

Earlier, at the midsummer fest, Anna Karin told me her American husband got the Swedish Rosetta Stone but he quit because he was learning sentences like “The girl is under the table.” Whoever would need to say “the girl is under the table” in Swedish, she griped. Well, now we know. 

Don’t underestimate Rosetta Stone.

The waitress, it turned out, was moving to Croatia the very next day. Our fellow patrons had come to see her off very emphatically and in a fashion that no one would recall in the morning.

Meanwhile, over at our table, we felt experienced. We’d been out hopping like frogs around the midsummer pole for something like 8 hours and yet were totally able to sit in an upright position and grill the waitress for solutions to everyone’s unique dietary restrictions. Also could she ask the kitchen to make a corn taco.  

We went inside when it started to rain. Someone noticed a ping pong table. Tom and Jo teamed up for a little doubles action versus Casey and Steven. Their moves were daring and terrifically bouncy. Surprisingly, we only found one ball lodged in Petrina’s tote bag after the match.

Jenga seemed like a good idea for a cool down. Our first game was total anarchy. We only figured this out after Jo got back from the bathroom and schooled us on every single Jenga rule. He has a keen eye for compliance. The game ended in a towering ruckus and then we had to leave because they turned the lights on in the bar and started picking up the salt shakers.


Considering that now we were going on pretty much a full day in the field so to speak, including serious solstice action, teaching “Helan Går" to the unwary, getting bitten by children, enjoying svenska punsch with a lot of ants, learning that spiked seltzer exists… it was an achievement. Kind of like a triathlon.  But that's next week.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Family Pile-On

It all started when my mom dropped the s-word in front of the kids. My bro tells grandma she could certainly come up better word choices. Almost immediately afterwards, he sends this text:




Sunday, June 03, 2018

Well... that was awkward.

Coming home the other day, I ran into our neighbor Marilyn outside on the sidewalk. Her sad, matted little dog slumped over in one of those dog strollers while Marilyn chatted with a young woman I had never seen before.

"This is my niece Dara. She's visiting from Virginia," said Marilyn.

I said nice to meet you or something. Then we all stood there uncomfortably, like you do when you run into someone on the sidewalk but can't think of anything to talk about.

"She's 17 and completely arthritic," interjected Marilyn. "She can barely walk."

My eyebrows probably disappeared into my hairline. I looked at Dara the niece. "My goodness," I said. "That must be a challenge."

"She's talking about the dog," said Dara.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

George Washington, a sight you can't unsee by Grant Wood at the Whitney

In case you didn't know, Grant Wood was the one-hit wonder who painted American Gothic:
American Gothic by Grant Wood.


Grant Wood's other works are obscure. Perhaps for a reason. At the solo exhibit at the Whitney, this painting caught my attention:

Grant Wood painting of George Washington

I stared at the central theme - a young George Washington brandishing an ax after cutting down his pop's cherry tree. "I cannot tell a lie," he blabbers. This tell-all gambit seems like a totally straightforward best move, given that young George has just been caught brandishing an ax in the middle of the yard. 

Let's zoom in on the action:

Zooming in on young George

And tighter:

What head?

Aha. Now I see what is so peculiar.

If little George is so smart, why is he out cutting down cherry trees in satin Tory Burch ballet slippers? Not only are these a genuinely bad idea for ax-work, but they're also a crappy get-away choice.


I eyeballed this rendering of our founding father with a giant WTF dangling over my head. And a song came roaring out of my subconscious. It became the soundtrack for the whole damn day. As a result, I am not happy with Brad Neely. Or Grant Wood.






Civilized Air Travel does not include smearing up the back of your seat

Speaking of things not to do if there's someone sitting behind you...

Some lady on the plane back from Cuba
Let me turn your attention to air travel, specifically civilized air travel. One rule of etiquette might be:

Do not rub your fingers all over the screen on the back of your seat.

I don't understand the contortions necessary for this sort of rear overhead relaxation. I envision the armpit in the stewardess's face though. "And ma'am, what would you like to drink..." cough cough cough.

I showed the above photo to someone and they said I should have leaned forward and licked her thumb. I would have considered this course of action had it not sounded so truly unhygienic.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Our Broadway weekend.

Never man-bun at the theater. Never woman-bun either, especially a topknot of any kind. Hair should be low slung and, if possible, damp so as to avoid frizz. Someone is sitting behind you for chrissake. They might have a short torso.

Also, do not move around your head like you're listening to polka music. You are not listening to polka music. Everyone with a view including your head now also appears to be listening to polka music, just in the opposite direction. It's a chain reaction. It would be a terrific play-by-play commentary:

"The gentleman in G105 with the long spiky haircut-- he's at again with the agitated bobble-head moves. The woman in H105 reacts to left. And it's I105 to the right... 
But now for the flourish! G105s girlfriend, there she is with the head tilt aaand... SHE PUTS HER ARM AROUND G105. The crowd goes wild. 
It's a cascade folks, a veritable waterfall. Everyone in the 103 and 105 seats madly attempts to catch a glimpse the culmination of Act 1 on stage. And fails miserably. It's midnight for Cinderella for the low 100 seats. Maybe Act II will be their time to see the show."

On Thursday and Friday nights, we saw Angels in America. On Saturday afternoon, we saw The Play That Goes Wrong with Derek and Wanda. Very different, these two shows.

But there was an incident during Angels in America that was eerily similar to The Play. I took it as foreshadowing.

During the third act, a hospital bed on wheels hadn't been locked in place. And the bed began to slowly roll across the stage, headed in the direction of the front row. Andrew Garfield tried to stop it, but there was an angel in the room, and Andrew got bodily moved elsewhere. The bed continued to roll...

photo credit: http://t2conline.com/ntlives-angels-in-america-
still-a-gay-fantasia-on-national-themes-both-past-and-present/


Boom. Five guys in black with headsets come flying out stage left and clamp that sucker down. They are gone as fast as they showed up.

On Saturday, during the Play that Goes Wrong, the whole stage fell apart. Nobody did anything about it though. That was the point.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Adding and Subtracting and Toting Up the Meaning

Usually, I sit down to write these blog posts and a theme comes to me. It's not usually an effort. I just think about the goings-on and notice a peculiar pattern. Or an odd outlier. I try to find some meaning in life, which might seem unbelievably quaint but usually I give it a solid college try.

So far, 2018 has been a neurotic cat totally unwilling to get herded. Maybe Mercury is in retrograde or something. When I try to recall yesterday or last week or last month, it's all choppy and poorly lit.

Probably normal people don't attempt to summarize their calendars. But when I don't or can't, it makes me harshly aware of the nature of earthly things --  mainly that anything I can touch with my fingers, hear or see is as mesmerizing as it is vacuous. Everything tangible I'm preoccupied with at this exact moment, I know I won't remember in a month. And time disappears without even a poof.

Despite all my faults, which are numerous and occasionally spectacular, I think I figured at least one thing out. What matters to me is what the time spent adds up to. And if it actually adds up to anything, it is possible to write down the sum of it on a piece of paper.

Therefore.

I have a proxy for determining if there's any sort of meaning to be found in how I'm choosing to fritter away my hours. It's my ability to write a blog post or a really short journal entry. Nice when it's that simple.

Quite possibly this whole introspective phase might have started right after my second, and final, grandmother died in January. It's been a tough transition. Anyone who has experienced the death or disablement or departure of beloved family or a friend has experienced the same, I'm confident.

What a melancholy moment it is to find yourself in the possession of a topic --  a topic that, in the past, you would have tucked carefully away in brain tissue. While you waited, with great anticipation, for the chance to talk to the one other person who would also relish the topic.

And then together you'd inspect the topic and poke at it, savor it. You'd laugh over it using language no one else would understand because the words are really about the thing that happened twenty years ago and you both smile as you remember it.

But now, instead, you spot the topic. Maybe you turn it over in your hands once or twice. And then you drop it on the sidewalk because. What's the point.

That's an endgame right there. To be around and appreciate people who see time spent together as an opportunity to build something together. A structure where all these shared topics hang on the walls in frames and the chairs are comfortable. This mysigt-filled place might have a name in Swedish. Probably the Buddhists also have it figured out.

Even though I can't think of a good name for it, let me state for the record that without this joint construction project, the relationship or friendship isn't much more in hindsight than laundry lists of dates on the calendar.

I don't know.

I guess it's fun while it lasts.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Speaking of the Mayor of the Met-Breuer Art Museum....

Oh and BTW, I’m now the mayor of the Met-Breuer on Four Square. Not sure who this says more about - me, the Met Breuer or the four square app. Nonetheless, I’m not one to walk away from fifteen minutes of fame, so hell to the yes.

Here's the only screenshot I got of my inauguration, it's not that great. There was this apoplectic frenzy of a screen that came before this one with cash register noises and trumpets. I had to shut that shit down and fast. All the racket was not going over well in the middle of a gallery on the 2nd floor of the Met Breuer. I was getting a lot of stink eye. Not a good way to begin my term in office.

There's a new Mayor in town!
I visit a lot of museums. I love museums. I especially love my membership to the Met where I get to flitter into the members-only Balcony Lounge for tea and a snack. I show my member card to the very disinterested volunteers guarding the entrance and disappear into a sanctuary of quiet and mid-century modern seating arrangements. It sort of looks like the United Airport lounge but with fewer jet-lagged sweaty people in comfortable shoes desperately seeking an electrical outlet.

Here’s my top art museum picks from Q1 2018:


At the Met, Public Parks, Private Gardens, Paris to Provence. It was a members only preview and there still were too many people in the exhibit including some dude and his, not one but two, tiny little not-trained service dogs. They were barkers. Luckily it was an exhibition of parks, otherwise I would have been really annoyed about the whole tripping over loud, misbehaved animals at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The only artwork that has stayed with me from then until now is this photograph:


Ok also this little Matisse called Pansies. Such a cutie:

Pansies by Matisse.


We were at the Elena Goor Museum in Tel Aviv by Jaffa in February. I really loved this museum tucked into an old soap factory in Tel Aviv. And when I say "old" I simply mean "no longer in business."

Keep in mind “old” in Tel Aviv has a different context than “old” over here. Things don’t qualify as old in Israel unless they were around at approximately the same time as Jesus; and even that timeframe is a little suspect, i.e. the “new” testament and all. 

King Herod by Elena Boukingolts
This King Herod built the big synagog in Jerusalem that eventually got torn down when the Muslims paid a visit. Or maybe it was the Romans. Ripping down "wonders of the world" sorts of architecture was a global pastime, it’s hard to keep track of all the participants. 

Herod also built the castles on top of Masada. When he wasn't building things, Herod took some fast trips to Squirrel City. You can see his crazy eyes in this sculpture.

 Munch, Jan 21 at the Met-Breuer:




Anselm Kiefer, Jan 21 at the Met-Breuer:

Yggdrasil



Leon Golub at the Met-Brewer in March:

Top left of something much bigger.

Jimmie Durham, Jan 7 and one more time with Wanda and Derek at the Whitney.
Saw this show twice I loved his whack little musings and doodles mostly:





Bird Prints by Mathew Day Jackson at the Met, Feb 3





Of course I saw the big David Hockney show at the Met while I was there:




Michaelangelo at the Met, Feb 3. New goal: sign my name in a flourish:





Sunday, March 18, 2018

Never fear, I'm like the Houdini of bathrooms in Israel.



The first time I got locked in the bathroom in Israel, we were at the Isrobel Hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea. We weren't staying there, we just had day-passes so I had to change and put all my stuff in a locker in the locker room in the basement.

This was the women's locker room; Tom was therefore not around. Nor was anyone else. The entire time I'd been in the locker room attempting to figure out how to get the locker combination lock to work, determining it was broken, walking out to the front desk to get a new locker, getting a new locker, getting that one to work.... the entire time this whole preparing to take a dip in the Dead Sea had been going on... No.One.Had.Come.Into.The.Locker.Room. 

So I'm in there all by myself. 

I figure that very few other ladies, maybe nobody, had done the day-pass thing. Everyone else was an overnight guest and therefore had no need for the public locker room. It's nice to have an entire locker room to yourself. Until you get locked in a toilet stall.

After I managed to jam everything I had with me into the locker, I meandered over to toilet area.

I picked a stall. I locked the door behind me. 

By the way, this was not an American style stall with a high-hanging door that, worst come to worst, you could crawl under. These stalls were solid. Stone walls and a full-on wooden door.

When I went to open the door to leave, the latch turned but the door didn't open. I turned the latch again. No dice. The deadbolt wasn't moving. I turned the latch again. Nothing. I turned the latch three more times but remain stuck in the stone cell which some people might call a toilet stall.

Immediately, I had a full-on panic attack. How long will it take Tom to realize that I didn't wander off for a snack or walk over to the Dead Sea beach without him? And then how long will it take him to find someone who speaks English to come into the locker room and locate me? Will I have perished by then?

I sat down on the toilet seat and took deep breaths. I gave myself a little pep talk-- calm under pressure and all that. Then, with steely resolve, I slammed that latch back and forth like a blacksmith with unusually strong forearms. I must have opened and closed that latch 50 times in 20 seconds.

And the deadbolt opened. The whole episode was harrowing, but rather brief.



The second time I got locked in a bathroom in Israel was in Jerusalem at the Mamilla Hotel. Our tour arranger guy loved this hotel, so I didn't have the heart to tell him that we're Chelsea people and this place is so Upper East Side it made me want to go full-on rogue. I had a wild urge to wear around a beanie, drink my coffee out of a mason jar and talk about experimental house music and my stance against french manicures and matching luggage. The whole place gave me an identity crisis.

The bathroom in our room was super cray:

Glass enclosed bathroom in our room at the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem.

Photo credit: http://www.asherworldturns.com/luxury-travel-in-israel/

Photo credit: http://www.asherworldturns.com/luxury-travel-in-israel/

You see what I mean? Who could have imagined a more deluxe gimmick? Anyway, I had to get up to pee in the middle of the night and I realized if I turned the light on in the bathroom, it would be like turning on a bathroom-sized incandescent lamp. This would wake up Tom and then we'd have Grouchy Tom on our hands. So I walked into the bathroom and closed the door in pretty much the pitch dark because the Israelis are very good at black-out curtains.

When I went to go back to bed, I couldn't find the doorknob. I couldn't actually even remember where the door was. Also the Plan B light switch was somewhere totally not obvious to someone feeling up the walls like a blind person with a fetish for walls. Granted, I could have just yelled and woken up Tom and I'm sure he would have saved me but that would just be a little too much like giving up.

Eventually, like Houdini, I escaped.

I mean, like Houdini all the times before that last time.

(The cleaning ladies the next day: "Look at all these fingerprints all over every single surface in this entire bathroom WTF with these Americans?!")



Sunday, March 11, 2018

Meanwhile, in Norway. Also entitled, Jo: Home for the Holidays.

It's almost midnight, the Saturday before St. Patty’s day. At an Irish Bar packed with actual Irish people. Accompanied by a swarm of Scandinavians. I know, this sounds like a truly bad idea, but fear not, I have lots of experience with these kinds of dangerous scenarios.

Jo, one of my favorite Norwegians, breaks into this story about his trip home for the holidays. I felt like I was in an episode of Drunk History

Jo says that he was up with his family at their “hytte,” the cabin in the forest that every single solitary Scandinavian has and talks about all the time.

So these neighbors of Jo’s family drop in and invite Jo back to their family's hytte for a drink. Jo went to school with the kids. Jo’s mother is like, “go, go over to their hytte.” Jo is hesitant because he knows that one of the main reasons they are inviting him is because Jo has a posh Norwegian accent and they think he is a….

Three people start imitating posh Norwegian accents and I yell out pantywaist! Only Tom laughs but everyone toasts each other because we’re at an Irish bar at midnight the Saturday before St. Patricks day and Scandinavians love toasts.

After about ten minutes someone realizes we're in the middle of a story here.

Jo straps on his cross country skis, because. Norway. He follows his old neighbors over to their hytte. It’s a couple of kilometers.

The neighbors have brewed up a batch of moonshine using their secret family recipe. In Norway, the moonshine is 96% alcohol. BTW, that’s not 96 proof. Jo asks for whisky and they reach up in the spice cupboard for their little bottle of “Whiskey Extract.” They also have “Scotch Extract” and “Vodka Extract.” They sell these little bottles of extract in every Norwegian grocery store, right next to the Vanilla Extract. Two drops of Whiskey Extract and shazam. They hand Jo a shot glass of “whiskey.” Helan går, as they say.

Jo proves he is not a pantywaist. Finally, it’s time to go home. He walks out into the cold, dark Norwegian night all by himself. Did I mention dark? It’s really really dark in Norway in the winter. Pitch. Black.

Jo pushes off in his skis. Swish, swish. But the snow is deep. And it’s fucking dark. He break a pole.

Oh no!!! The crowd goes wild. We all clutch our heads. 

Jo skis a little further, and realizes right then that the alcohol hasn’t kicked in yet. The clock is ticking. He must make it home before he gets as truly drunk as he deserves to be. He skis with one ski pole, recalling that in the old days, like the 13th century, they used to ski with only one pole. We all imitate his re-enactment. We probably look like we’re trying to pilot a gondola. None of the Irish even notice.

But then, the worst! THE OTHER POLE BREAKS.

OMG! And it’s dark and Jo is in a valley and he has to make it up the hill and home to the family hytte before he can’t feel his arms and he has no ski poles and the snow is deep and he’s a little lost and it’s pitch black and it's the middle of the night!

The next morning, Jo’s mother asks if he would like to go out for a little julekake and to shop for a pink marzipan pig. Maybe sing a verse or two of the Mouse Song.


Jo said, no. He’d rather just stay home and do a little reading. 

Monday, March 05, 2018

Jerusalem for the clueless


Overlooking Jeruselem
During its history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times and captured and recaptured 44 times. And it shows, for example, in the bullet holes from 1948 by Zions Gate built in 1540. But mainly it doesn’t show, which might be my main point. 



What there is to see in Jerusalem is often what you don’t see— the long-gone ancient temples, palaces, marketplaces. In a timeline that will boggle the brain, most of what was built here was ripped to shreds by invaders. You walk around suddenly very aware of the empty space. Blank sky or rearranged stones that once were feats of engineering and centuries of history. 

By the way, the rearranged stones I’m talking about are Jerusalem stone. All white. So it’s very easy for your minds eye to see the blood on them.


Here’s the difference between a visit to Jerusalem and one to Paris or Istanbul or one of the old norse temples nestled between trees. In Jerusalem, I did not experience that moment… the one where suddenly you’re overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty that humans can create. Where faith and ingenuity of our ancestors shines through the centuries.

In Jerusalem, one aspect of human nature overshadowed the rest: testosterone-fueled aggression justified in the name of something that sounds noble. As a general statement, I’d say the place is chock full of all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire. 

I walked around feeling dismayed, disappointed, horrified… so much nasty zealotry, so little time. Wait, scratch that. So much time. You can't chalk it up to an anomaly.


Shrine enclosing the grave of Jesus.
Various priests and clergymen from various denominations
bicker over who gets to go in with the incense. 




Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the Dome of the Rock.
You have to be able to recite the 1st chapter of the Quran to get in.



Western Wall, encasing the Rock under the Dome of the Rock
 and now deemed to be just as sacred as the rock that cannot be visited.

This is the Rock where Abraham almost offed his son and the same rock, the exact same rock,
that Muhammad leapt into the sky to have lunch with the prophets.

BTW- women aren't allowed in the most sacred place inside this wall.
I fail to understand the appeal for any woman to believe this place is holy and then agree to the ban.


I don’t mean it wasn’t unforgettable and staggering to take in. You can read a page of the Bible and see where, exactly where, the scene described took place--- It was right over there that King Solamon did this or David did that or Helen built the church. It was right here that the Romans or the Byzantines or the Canaanites built their homes or the aqueducts a millennium ago. Or five millennia ago. That kind of old is unfathomable. Our guide was a veritable encyclopedia on two feet. 


Insanely ancient place... It's possible that King David
(ie David from David and Goliath, that David) lived around here.

This might be the residence of Helen
who built the Church of the Holy Seprechur

Our trip was like Israel 101- the crash course. I feel like I should get a certificate. Or another one of those Jerusalem bagels.


Jerusalem bagels were pretty awesome.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

And I was the only one in the Dead Sea with a rash guard

There was lots of action during our trip to Israel last week, so let me begin with the low point... and by low point I mean 1300ft below sea level low. We spent a morning in the Dead Sea amidst a flotilla of citizens from post-Soviet countries. It was kind of great.

There are apparently dodgy public beaches around the Dead Sea, but it was made clear to us that you don't go there. You buy a day pass at a hotel. You have a buffet breakfast and lavish yourself upon their facilities like any self-respecting retiree from the Uzbekistan.

The lobby was marble, the cushions were orange and the carpet was plaid. The crowd had their plan down pat: Sauna, Sea, Jacuzzi, Steam room (dry), Steam Room (wet). Repeat for one weekend.

We changed into white terry bathrobes with the hotel name embroidered on the lapel and walked across the street to the beach. We got to wear our water shoes, which was a big deal because we didn't wind up going through that water tunnel in Jeruselem. Our guide said it was too cold that day and anyway a busload of Swedish school kids had just headed in there. They looked like splashers.

You're not supposed to float on your stomach in the Dead Sea because your feet just fling themselves skyward and people with shitty core muscles drown when they can't get their face up out of the water. We flipped around some trying to figure out the best way to take a nap. We had gotten up at 3am that morning to hike up a mountain at sunrise. I'm not going to say our efforts were really a win, but we at least achieved a buoyantly snoozy Detente.



We returned to the hotel to find the heated Black Sea water pool. I felt like I didn't have on enough aerosol hair spray and blue eyeshadow to really fit in and Tom's swimming trunks are way too comprehensive. I kept waiting for a Russian mob hit. Someone in a Speedo getting taken down by a guy in 70's nylon split shorts. I never realized there were so many styles of tiny men's bathing suits so appealing to the over 60 set.

All in all, the day was kind of unforgettable. We loved it.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Satisfactorily planning our trip to Israel. Otherwise known as buying water shoes.

photo credit: https://www.bibleplaces.com/heztunnel/


About three weeks ago, Tom announced that he had booked a business trip to Israel. Of course I immediately invited myself along. I suggested that he book our flights before his meetings started, so we'd have some time to tour around.

Tom's meetings were set for Monday, so he booked our flights the Thursday before. Those reservations didn't last long. I am not going the whole way to Israel for a long weekend. We compromised and Tom booked the tickets so we'll have a full week to take in the birthplace of about twelve religions and an outpost of the Roman empire. 

Speaking of the Romans, here's what I just learned reading Sapiens: Christianity only became a real deal when one of the Roman emperors, Constantine the Great, for some reason, decided Jesus was his man. By all accounts, this was an odd choice. The Christians at that time were just this weird little sect tooling around on the fringes. It would be like suddenly the United States turning into a Hare Krishna nation.

Back to planning our trip to Israel. First things first. I immediately began shopping for water shoes. The reason is simple. First, I noticed that there is this ancient water tunnel that runs under Jerusalem called Hezekiah's tunnel. That looked cool. Then I noticed in order to go in this tunnel, you need water shoes that actually stay on your feet for a half-kilometer trek through knee high water. Also, water shoes were recommended for the Dead Sea, another must-see attraction. So you can clearly understand why finding the perfect pair of water shoes was of the highest priority.

After a few hours online, I looked into booking hotels, our itinerary and how to get from place to place. I learned that apparently most normal people book their pilgrimage to the holy land with plenty of advance notice. "Do you have space on your tour on 2/19?" I would write. "2/19 2019?" they would reply. 

This became a problem. 

Another thing that became a problem was no public busses running on Friday nights or Saturdays and the intricacies of renting a car and finding our way around. After a very stressful week, I think I finally figured most of it out. Or paid someone to get most of it figured out might be the better way to put it.

Meanwhile, Tom just ran out to buy himself some shoes. We leave tomorrow. 





Saturday, February 17, 2018

My Meditation Chops

Image credit: http://axtschmiede.com/meditation-2/


I’m a half decent meditator. I know this quantitatively. 

In December, 2014, I attended a digital health trade show and purchased a headband which tracks brainwaves while meditating. Then it gives you an EEG style reading after you’re done, including a score. So if you’re me, you can get all competitive about it. 

A couple Fridays ago, I met this very large party of Buddhists drinking at the Rubin Museum happy hour. One of them was also a vegan wearing a shirt with a giant fluorescent green Under Armor logo emblazoned across the front of it. It vibrated my eyeballs, this logo. I would not have expected a vegan Buddhist to sport such a large area of fluorescence. That’s one stereotype debunked.

Anyway, subsequent to two bourbon on the rocks, generously poured, I decided to become a Buddhist. Then I read up on it.

Buddhists are all about not suffering. Because not suffering is a synonym for happiness. And how you avoid suffering is to quit craving things. You stop with the expectations already, because if you don’t have something, you want it, and if you have it, you worry about losing it. The idea is that you regard everything as impermanent and unnecessary.


I get the drift. But I have to tell you, I like my things. I like to put on my purple robe in the morning and furry slippers with memory soles. I like to swan about the house carrying my new ember mug that keeps my tea at a constant temperature. (Tom got it for me for valentines day because he's romantic like that.) Then I like to change into daywear and log everything in the app I use to amortize my wardrobe. I find this whole process very pleasing. 

I wonder if this kind of possession obsession is kosher with the Buddhists. Probably not. 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Books I would totally read

An Introduction to Elvish


The Summer Solstice: Your Minute-by-Minute Companion


The World of Fountain Pens


Memento Mori: A Coffee Table Book
also its sequel: Dead Things on the Sidewalk


Zagat's Guide to Peculiar Lip Balms



The next book by Patrick Rothfuss. Seriously man, get on with it.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Grammy R's Eulogy


Here's to you, Grammy.
1920-2018


You always think you have more time. Time to listen to the stories once more, time to record them. Time to relax into the moment and not yada yada yada, get on with it we've heard this one a thousand times already.

Here's what I had the great privilege to say at Grammy R's funeral last week:

Grammy is the stuff of legends. Every one of you is thinking of ten things or a hundred things she said to you that no one else would have ever said to you. Every day of her life she was full-on, unfiltered Grammy. But if someone's last name wasn’t the same as hers... Watch out. They'd need to go through her to get to one of us. She was our staunchest ally.

There are 3 pillars of Grammy. Three overriding themes that she could weave into every statement, story or conversation. Grammy was a master at staying on message.

#1 - Ample kvelling - She might get up in your business one-on-one, but out of doors, if Grammy had anything to do with it— we’re all pretty amazing. She wasted no opportunity to squeeze in a little one-upsmanship, or let everyone know about the vast successes we may or may not have achieved, our championship trophies, her talented great-grandchildren who are smart and beautiful and occasionally mischievous young sprouts.

#2 - A flexible view on facts. Grammy had an unsurpassed ability to add and subtract and rearrange the facts to her liking. It was truly a gift. 

#3 - Grammy could hold a grudge. You cause offense to her or her family and she won’t forget it. She had a mind like a steel trap and sixty years later she could tell you all the details leading up to the slight.


I was looking thru a pile of papers yesterday, trying to find something to talk about today. And I stumbled across a note I took… she told me a story (again) and this time I ran home and typed it out. But I want to retell this story, because it perfectly exemplifies all three pillars of grammy. I can hear her voice, that thick Bronx accent that just would not soften no matter how long she lived out of state.

The whole thing was over a dog - there was a lost dog. It was Fred (your father) and Frankie Latino and Stevie Schlackman. They got a reward for finding the dog. $3. Stevie wouldn’t give the other two any of the money. So Fred and Frankie beat him up.

I get a call from the school principal, Mrs. Bloom. It seems that the mother, Stevie’s mother, made a complaint that Fred beat up Stevie. And Fred didn’t even beat Stevie up at the school, he beat him up in front of our house. This Mrs. Bloom, she was a bigot.

So I go to the school. Mrs Bloom the principal gets out the boys' report cards. She says, "I don’t understand how Fred beat up such a smart boy. "

She pulls out Fred’s report card. "Oh, Fred is a very smart boy... Well. He can go home."
And I understand Stevie Schlakman turned out to be a nothing. Frankie is a doctor. Just like your father. 

Rosetta, Stevie’s mother, she was a good friend of mine. I never spoke with her again, her doing something like this.




1,2,3. Grammy hit all her points as efficiently as always. She dedicated her entire life to us.
Thank you for everything, Grammy.