Monday, December 19, 2005

merry christmas vs. happy holidays

I think Nicholas Kristof had a very good idea when he suggested in a recent op-ed that Bill O'Reilley and the rest of his so-called "War on Christmas" ilk traipse on over to Darfur, or Iraq for that matter, just to take a gander at what a real war is all about. Especially given that so many of these hardcore "Christian" blowhards managed to weasel their way out of Vietnam all those decades ago.

But that's neither here nor there. The holiday season, how ever you wish to call it, is in full force at last. The better half of this past Saturday was spent dashing about looking for last-minute gifties for various friends and relatives, from the Body Shop to a little tiny Chinese dried-fish store (hundreds of bins full of creepy delicacies from gift-wrapped dried scallops to loose shark fin for $299/pound) to Starbucks to the craft fair and green market at Union Square. Then a mad dash home to wrap some of said gifts before cabbing it down to Chris's parents for an early Christmas with his family.

Yesterday was tree-decorating at Dave & Josh's 6th-floor East Village walk-up, and can I just say, I'm just glad they had already lugged that tree up all those stairs! But it was a lovely evening full of cute little christmas ornaments, delicious grilled cheese sandwiches dipped in tomato soup, free watches (again with the Chinatown), homemade pumpkin pie and black-bottomed cupcakes, and other oddities.

Chris and I are leaving Friday morning for a week in Anacortes, Washington, and then flying north for nearly a week in Anchorage, Alaska. I haven't been home for Christmas since 2001, and Chris hasn't yet spent Christmas with my family, so I'm both excited and just a little bit anxious about the whole thing. But Mom and I have already been making plans about what cookies to make for which visitors, and what to have for dinner on Christmas Eve, and where to do our post-Christmas shopping (which will last all of an hour, despite our best intentions of doing that whole manic best-deal-hunting shopping thing, and will end in both of us throwing up our hands and saying, "Oh hell, let's go get a latte!").

Really one of the things I'm most looking forward to is going on one of the ferries out to Friday Harbor, on one of the San Juan Islands. Our big plan is to head out on a 3:30ish ferry after Mom gets off work one of her early days, so that we can see the islands and the ocean and boats (and probably an oil tanker or two... but sitll, it's beautiful...), have dinner at a little Mexican restaurant in Friday Harbor, and catch a later ferry back, showing off the Anacortes skyline, such as it is, or at least the eerily beautiful oil refinery lights at night.

But really what I'm most looking forward to is baking and cooking and sharing knitting stories and other family gossip with Mom, and watching everyone open their presents, because I really like everything we've bought or made for people this year, and I think they will too. And that pleases me to no end.

Anyway, to all, I wish you a lovely holiday season, whether it's Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanza or something I don't even know about, especially to you, Nathan, newly arrived in New Zealand and the next part of your great adventure. Merry Christmas, kiddo.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

just a little bit o' teen angst

I don't know why it got in to my head the other day, I must have been listening to something that reminded me of it, but I suddenly had to go dig out my old Belly album, the first one, the one that I listened to incessantly the summer before my senior year of high school. Chris was surprised, said, "I don't think you've played that since we've been together!" and to the best of my knowledge, he's right. But I put it on as we were cooking dinner, and at first I couldn't quite figure out why I'd liked it so much. Chris was politely tolerant, and I was a bit befuddled, and then Feed the Tree came on. And I had to go turn up the volume. And there's still something completely, if perhaps adolescently, compelling about Tanya Donnelly breaking into her chorus of:

Take your hat off, boy
When you're talking to me
And be there when
I feed the tree...

And it's not like I know what she's talking about, as far as the tree thing goes, but at 16 these lines felt like they could make me soar.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

knitting circles (redux)

Our Sunday afternoon of being almost incomprehensibly domestic (cookes were baked, soup was made, tea was drunk, rumors were gossiped, and knitting was done, to various degrees of success...) was, as it turned out, just lovely. Only three of us made it to this one, but I did manage to finish this (crocheted, not knitted) baby blanket. This has become my latest project, this making of little baby afghans. They're fun and easy and, if I do say so myself, very pretty. And there are lots of craft fairs where I'm contemplating the notion of trying to sell these things.

Monday, November 14, 2005

pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce

Now this is an actual recipe, with actual measurements and stuff, that I sort of follow for the most part, but generally use a lot more than their recommended spice dosages and I've never actually added the raisins because that seems weird.

Bread pudding:
2 cups half and half (though I tend to use half plain old milk instead)
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin (I've used a jar of pumpkin pecan butter for this too, homemade by a dear friend of mine, which was delicious)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 cups 1/2 inch cubes bread (preferably white or egg bread, slightly stale)
1/2 cup golden raisins

Caramel sauce:
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream

For bread pudding:
Preheat oven to 350. Whisk half and half, pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, spices and vanilla in a large bowl. Fold in bread cubes. Stir in golden raisins (if you really want them). Transfer mixture to 11x7-inch glass baking dish and let stand for 15 minutes. (I actually use a 2-qt. round baking dish instead, though it doesn't really matter, and I butter it first). Bake pudding until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare caramel sauce:
Whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about three minutes. I know this looks really scary, what with the whole stick of butter and the heavy cream and all, but this much sauce is actually more than enough for two whole bread puddings, and it keeps just fine in the refrigerator for quite awhile.

Sift powdered sugar over bread pudding. Serve warm with caramel sauce.

leek & potato soup

head of garlic
4-5 red-skinned potatoes
chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 of a bag of baby carrots
2-3 large leeks (white & pale green parts only)
2 tablespoons butter
cup of white wine
pepper (black & cayenne)

Peel all the cloves in a head of garlic and wrap in a pouch of aluminum foil, drizzled with olive oil and a little salt & pepper. Close up the pouch and roast in the oven (or toaster oven, if you've got one) at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or so, until soft and slightly golden.

Dice but don't peel the potatoes, bring to a simmer in water or chicken broth (enough to cover). Dice the carrots and add to the potatoes about 15 minutes later. Leave to simmer until all the veggies are very tender, 10-15 more minutes.

While the potatoes and carrots simmer, rinse and chop the leeks. Heat some butter, a tablespoon or two, in a big soup pot (mine is 5 quarts) and toss in the leeks, cook over medium-high heat until soft, stirring occasionally so they don't burn (a little browning is good though). Pour in about a cup or so of white wine and let boil down until it's reduced by about half. Season with pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon black and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, if you want a little kick).

Mash up the roasted garlic (don't worry about making it smooth, just mash it up a little) and add to the soup pot.

Add chicken broth (I used one of those boxes--Imagine, I think) and the vegetables (with the water if you want, or set aside the cooking water and add later if the soup is too thick). Blend with a hand-held immersion blender (my favorite kitchen item ever) until kind of smooth (I prefer my soup with texture--bits of potato and carrot and leek and roasted garlic in a thick creamy base).

This is delicious plain, or you can serve it with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt and a sprinkling of chopped chives.

We used a Borgo Maddalena pinot grigio for this, which went really nicely with the soup. Had to drink it while we cooked the soup, just to make sure...

Our dinner guests that evening, Julie & Dave, brought fixings for a lovely cheese fondue, and with that we drank a deliciosly sweet and crisp late harvest riesling from Hogue Cellars, one of the bigger Washington State wineries. Scrumptious.

For dessert, a pumpkin bread pudding. Recipe to be added soon.

Friday, November 11, 2005

knitting circles

I was surprised, to tell you the truth.

Last April I spent nine days out in Washington State. This was the first time I went to visit my mother on my own, with no brother or boyfriend in tow, for several years. I was anxious, a little, but Mom and I had a lovely couple of days in her coastal town of Anacortes, WA, and then the two of us headed east on a little "ladies' road trip" we'd bantered back and forth about for years but had never actually managed to do. We got up early, packed up the trunk of the car, and took off. Stopped at a gas station for gas, coffee, snacks for the road. Drove over mountains and desert and farmlands to end up in Pullman, WA, on the eastern edge of the state, barely west of Idaho, at my grandmother's house.

My grandmother and aunt, in from Malaysia for a month or so, and my mother and I spent the next few days together, and those days were oddly magical. We spent time walking around Pullman, and Mom and Aunt Ellen and Grandma pointed out various places to me--where Mom and Dad had their first date, where they first listened to the Beatles, where Dad fell down a hole in the middle of a field as a wee lad. And Grandma and Ellen taught me and Mom how to knit. We spent much of the time we were there making our first scarves and rummaging around in arts & craft stores looking for the perfect yarn.

This past July my friend Cindy and I had to go upstate for the wake of a woman we knew from growing up days. Cindy had mentioned before then that she'd like to know how to knit, so I brought some yarn and an extra pair of needles to Grand Central Station with me and showed her the basics while we took the train north. It was a difficult afternoon, unnerving and sad. But somehow the knitting, the learning and teaching of how to make something soft and beautiful and warm, provided a ballast of sorts. There is something both mesmerizing and safe about chatting over the quiet click of knitting needles.

In the months since that day, Cindy and I have thrown back and forth the idea of getting together some afternoon to knit together and just hang out. And finally we picked a date. Tomorrow, in fact, though it's now been postponed until next Sunday. But what's been odd, what I've found so surprising, is that all the other friends I've mentioned this to have immediately asked if they could come too. And they don't even knit!

And I've been pondering this ever since. What is it about the idea of a knitting circle that is so strikingly appealing to a bunch of modern urban gyrls? I've been joking about our afternoon of tea and knitting, about maybe even breaking out the bottle of port I've been stashing away and getting a little rowdy. But I'm also honestly surprised at the excited, almost joyful, response I've gotten from my women friends when I've mentioned this idea to them.

Cindy's grandmother has been ill recently, and Cindy just finished knitting her a scarf and was about to start in on a hat for her when I saw her earlier this week. I recently finished a large afghan that I've been working on for years and have since taken up crocheting little baby blankets. We were talking about this the other day and came to the conclusion that, for us at least, there's something intensely moving about creating something to keep warm the people that we love. I want to wrap my blankets and scarves around Chris and my family, around these women and all of my friends, and I want to hold them close to me, and keep them safe.

In the end, who knows? The ladies will be gathering in my living room next Sunday to learn how to knit or crochet, to chat, to sip tea and maybe something stronger. I'm going to put a big pot of soup on the stove, maybe pumpkin or tomato or squash, something easy that can simmer away quietly for awhile. And we'll probably not get much done, will end up gossiping or watching a movie or our newly acquired first season of the Muppet Show as it grows dark outside. And maybe next month, what ever each of her reasons, the consultant, the computer programmer, the housewife, the child psychologist, the law school student, and the library geek will gather again for another round.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

going girly

Survived the pedicure (though with a sore toe), the shaving of the legs & the pits (how women do this all the time is beyond me, the itchiness alone is more than its worth), the ankle-length dress (here a shout out to Jill) & the heels & the stockings (I almost wrote stalkings...can anybody say Freudian slip?), the wedding itself (though with a massive headache the next day--due as much to the loudness of the band, I think, as to the vodka & caviar), and Long Island (with much less travel time in the car than anticipated, thank god!). And that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, October 31, 2005

presidents & parties & dress-up, oh my!

Chris, Andrew, Chris, Sophia, and I went to the New York Public Library last Thursday night to see Bill Clinton. It was cool, he was cool, and damn does it make me miss having him as my elected leader. I know he wasn't perfect, and he sold a lot of people out, and he failed on a massive scale in Rwanda and other regions, and he just couldn't keep it in his pants, and his nose often bore an unsettling resemblance to Rudolph (the Red-Nosed Reindeer, not Giuliani). But the man was clever, and the man was eloquent, and the man made me proud of this country in a way that's hard to imagine just five years after his departure from Washington.

We hit another party Friday night, this one not so much fun although Mike G., a lovely host if ever there was one, did let me open a delicious bottle of port he'd bought for his girlfriend. I made sure she got some too.

Next weekend we, meaning Chris and his family and myself, have to make an excursion out to the Island, which would be Long Island, which is somewhere I generally have no desire to go (though there are some decent wineries out there). Chris's cousin is getting hitched Saturday evening, and it's apparently what is considered a typical Long Island black tie affair, and the people who know me also know that I don't do black tie. Luckily my friend Jill has a dress that fits, and we went out and bought a pair of silver shoes. And she's dragging me out to get a pedicure, something I've never done in my entire life, this Friday after work. Oh Lord I'm terrified. It's almost enough to make me want to stay at work indefinitely, or at least through the end of the wedding (which, by the way, also involves a big celebratory brunch on Sunday, the day after the wedding--twenty four hours in Huntington, LI!).

P.S. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2005

flying cats & mike doughty's band

We had a crazy busy weekend, at least for us homebodies. First a lovely dinner at Republic after work on Friday, just the two of us and a pair of overly priced but deliciously tasty drinks, and then on to a Friday night party over in the East 30s in a duplex with a really scary, if simultaneously wonderful, spiral stair case. Let's just say it's probably a good thing I wasn't horribly intoxicated, as my stair-navigational skills leave something to be desired in the best of circumstances. Being that this party was in the East 30s, and being that this party was actually fun, we didn't get home from said shindig till around three in the morning. Saturday night saw another lovely dinner, this time at a Thai restaurant in the West Village, and then on to Webster Hall over on East 11th for a Mike Doughty show. Great show, got absolutely soaked on the way to the L train. And Sunday, ohhh Sunday, saw us at the Moscow Cat Circus performance way down at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, and what a truly bizarre thing it was.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

interlude: what i'm reading right now

Michael Cunningham:
I love Michael Cunningham's writing, generally, and have read each of his novels. His style has always been lovely, meticulous, seemingly delicate but with, at its core, a subtle desperation and power and loss.

In A Home at the End of the World he speculates, "I believed, at that moment, that I had never loved anyone but my parents and these two people. Perhaps, in the extravagance of youth, we give away our devotions easily and all but arbitrarily, on the mistaken assumption that we'll always have more to give." And later, "After awhile, we left the cemetery again. It seemed there should have been more to say or do, but the dead are difficult subjects. What's most remarkable about them is their constancy. They will be dead in just this way a thousand years from now. I was still getting used to it with my own father. The whole time he lived I had thought in terms of how we might still change in one another's eyes. Now we could not revise ourselves. He'd taken the possibility with him into the crematorium's fire."

In Flesh and Blood, he circles around the idea of inner- and outer-selves and how so often they don't come together exactly seamlessly at the edges. It is those small, sometimes almost inperceivable, rents in the fabric of our nature, the ordinariness and the outgrowing or escape or fear of that ordinariness, that interest him. Of the housewife, the prim and proper Catholic girl, he writes, "The most terrible beauty came out at night. In daylight the world was full of facts; you could live in a swarm of errands. At night, late, there was only desire or its absence, after the other stories had been pulled in off the streets." And of the housewife's son, "Smallness was over for him. He'd lost all interest in being lithe and clever, a monkey boy. At twenty nine, Will wanted size. He wanted to move with the ease and authority of geography. No more little thin-boy dance. He was tired of making jokes. He was ready to look a little dangerous, to need no apology."

I think part of why I love this writing so much is that, for all its delicacy and simpleness of structure, his characters are so strongly rooted in the real world, in errands and geography and dirt and cemeteries. And now I'm in the middle of Specimen Days, his latest work, and am having trouble getting through it. As with The Hours, he's channeling another writer, but it doesn't work quite as well with Walt Whitman as it did with Virginia Woolf. Virginia Woolf, with her unquestionable brilliance, was not what you would call a "wild" writer. And for all that I love Cunningham, he can't possibly match Whitman's exuberance and grace, and in a way it seems, in the end, that Cunningham's stories themselves embody the ghosts and emptiness that his characters fear. Specimen Days is lovely and delicate and ethereal, its characters struggling to be grounded, to take root, in a world that has moved beyond them somehow. Yet it's almost like an exercise in form, a meticulously planned wilderness, a beautiful garden that can't quite support its own weight.

But I'll have to confirm all these feelings when I actually finish the book.

Tad Williams:
The Otherland series is an over-indulgent look into the world of cyber fantasy, and at four volumes and over 3300 pages, I'm having trouble justifying to myself the amount of time, all the minutes and hours of my life, that I have invested in reading it. I'm getting on towards middle age now (scary thought though that may be, we do have to face reality some time), and with the hundreds, probably thousands, of books that are already cluttering up my apartment, or that haven't even been written yet, that I will fall in love with or be terrified by or merely like, a little voice in the back of my head is whispering, "This is what you want to read before you die?" And yet I'm 2800 pages in and so couldn't possibly stop now.

Friday, October 21, 2005

stuffed chicken with mushrooms

I got home from work pretty early yesterday, circa 5:30, and decided I'd be adventurous and surprise Chris with a new meal on a week night instead of going through our take-out menu collection.

So I chopped up a head of garlic (not too fine, but rather in biggish chunks) and washed and sliced some baby portabella mushrooms. Set aside. In a saute pan, I browned a couple chicken breasts in butter on high for a couple minutes each side, obviously until slightly brown. Removed pan from heat. Cut into the middle of the chicken breasts and stuffed with some goat cheese (I used some leftover stuff from last weekend, with garlic & herbs), a few chunks of garlic, and some rosemary. Buttered the bottom of a glass roasting pan, placed chicken in it, covered with aluminum foil and started baking at 375 degrees. Added garlic to the saute pan and cooked for 5 or so minutes over medium heat, scraping up the chicken bits and stirring in (adding a little more butter as needed). Added the mushrooms and cooked down a bit. Added some white wine (i used about half a cup, maybe a little more) and cooked down. Added a cup of water and a bullion cube, some black pepper, some cayenne pepper, and a spoonful of brown sugar to sweeten it just slightly. I let it simmer away for a little while so the flavors would intensify some more. Then I took the chicken out of the oven, threw the mushroom mixture on top of the chicken breasts along with some extra rosemary, and put back in the oven. I left it in for another 30 minutes or so, which was a little too long.

Serve over white rice, also drink the rest of the white wine especially if, like me, you manage to get raw chicken juice on the cork. I used a bottle of Rhine Riesling Petit Chapeau which has a lovely sweetness to it, worked well with the mushrooms and rosemary. Also it's on sale at Zachys right now for a mere $7. Can't beat that. I think Chris liked it too.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

the headline got it right

Senate Again Fails To Raise Minimum Wage

The beloved members of our dear Senate have, over the past 9 years, managed to vote to raise their own salaries not once but again and again, culminating in an overall annual salary increase of $28,000. And yet somehow these same men and women haven't managed to vote to give poor people a salary increase of any sort, let alone a living wage. We're not even talking about outpacing inflation here, we're talking about people earning $5.15 per hour since 1997. Say, for example, you've got a single mother with two kids working full time at McDonalds. She'll earn a whopping $10,700 this year, just over one third of a Senator's raise. And we choose these people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

moons over my brooklyn

The MTA (that would be Metropolitan Transit Authority, the be-all-end-all of subway systems) just announced yesterday that it will be offering reduced fares during the holiday season this year, from Thanksgiving through to the New Year. This is unprecedented. Not that I'm complaining, really, but it does seem just a little bit sketchy. Not too long ago the fare was raised from $1.50 to $2.00 because the MTA said the system was broke. A judge threatened to reverse it when it came out that the MTA had been cooking their books, and in fact had "hidden" money. Then the judge backed down, the fare increase remained, and the MTA started complaining that it can't afford sufficient security for the transit system because the Feds haven't given NYC the promised funds after 9/11 four years ago. And now the MTA's boat has apparently come in, as it's got an "unforseen" surplus this year of $928 million. Go figure.

On another note, this picture above is a newly renovated public plaza (Goldman Sachs was kind enough to fork over the funding) on the roof of a building at the southern tip of Manhattan. Pretty snazzy, eh?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

chickpea, yam & pumpkin stew with cous cous

For stew:
First, roast whole pumpkin (but small--the small ones have better flavor) in baking dish with a little water in the oven at about 400 degrees for 40 minutes or so, until very soft. While pumpkin roasts, cheat and empty a can of Goya's "Chickpeas in sauce" into a large pot on the stove. Add a can of whole tomatoes, chopped, along with juice. Throw in some grated ginger, a lot of hot curry powder, quite a bit of cumin, a touch of cayenne pepper, a spoon or two of brown sugar to balance the tomatoes' acidity, maybe a spoonful of honey (preferably buckwheat) if you like things sweet. Peel and dice a couple yams and add to pot. Remember the pumpkin in the oven, let cool until handle-able, and then remove seeds & skin and mash in a bowl with a little of the sauce from the pot. Add to pot, stir. Let simmer for half an hour or so, until the yams are soft but not squishy.

For couscous:
Saute a couple yellow onions in butter or olive oil with some cinnamon and maybe some cardomom if you've got any, over medium heat until very soft and starting to caramelize, circa 20 minutes or so. Add appropriate amount of chicken or vegetable broth for amount of grain and bring to a boil. Throw in some chopped dried fruit (i.e. cranberries, apricots, dates, figs, what ever you've got lying around). Let the fruit soak up the flavor for a few minutes, then add appropriate amount of couscous, remove from heat, stir, and leave covered for 5-10 minutes. Fluff with fork before serving.

Serve stew over couscous.

We drank a Robert Mondavi 2002 Cab with this, provided by Jen, and it was lovely. Despite being stuffed to the gills afterwards, we did manage to take on the challenge of eating a little bit of the afore-mentioned banana bread with chocolate chips for dessert.

autumn in the heights (redux)

It's getting cold, finally, here in New York. After eight solid days of rain and gray skies, the weather doesn't quite know what it wants to be doing today. Beautiful crisp blue sky, clouds, and heavy winds threatening to blow all of my plants off the windowsills despite the windows being mostly closed. Our friends Jen & Jon, also from the neighborhood, came up for dinner yesterday evening. And finally, finally, the weather suits my entertaining inclinations. It's all in the name of feeling cozy, with lots of candles, free-flowing wine, and the smells of banana-chocolate-chip-bread baking in the oven mixing aromatically with onions sauteing in butter & cinnamon with just a touch of cardamom on the stove. And the blanket. The blanket, pictured above, has been a work in progress for over three years now (with, of course, various long hiatuses scattered throughout). My brother, Nathan, left New York recently after living here in my 'hood for two years, and I was feeling pretty sad about that. And the morning that he left, 5 a.m. to catch the A-train all the way out to JFK to make his 9 a.m. flight, after seeing him out the door, I decided it was time to get the thing done. Maybe it was a way of trying to warm myself and not feel his leaving so deeply, or maybe it was a way of trying to pull all the threads together, both metaphorically and practically, tidy up the loose ends and prepare for winter. At any rate, the blanket is done, Nathan is safely on his way to foreign realms, hopefully filled with adventure and excitement and joy, and I am still here, in Washington Heights, keeping warm and feeding anyone who shows up at my door. And now I can even provide a blanket, should those "anyones" end up crashing on my couch, that covers both their feet and their shoulders at the same time.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

and then there was nova

This is my cat. She's very large and not overly friendly, but she's got the softest belly fur you'll ever feel. She will sometimes sit just close enough that she's almost touching you, but not quite. She has a box full of tissue paper where she spends much of her time. She sleeps every night on my pillow, squished up between my head and the wall. And she loves ice cubes.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

my friend ben

My friend Ben is a prince among men, a Jesus- and TheArtist FormerlyKnownAs-loving force of nature to the Nth degree, and he's getting his family back. The saga, in a nutshell, is that Ben, being one of the most altruistic people I know, was, several years back, in a small village in Costa Rica with his church group helping to rebuild houses after a large hurricane. During his month there he met a lovely young Costa Rican woman and fell in love. After going through the entire bureaucratic process of having her move to New York and become his wife, and after adopting her daughter and buying an apartment and creating a warm and loving home, and after doing this all completely legally and honestly, he's been through hell trying to get them back. Over a month ago the three of them traveled to Costa Rica to visit her family, and while they were there, their passports were stolen. To make a long story short, the United States seems incapable of helping families navigate the immigration system, and I imagine to most people that comes as no surprise. It's taken Ben until today to get a guarantee that his wife and daughter would be able to come home to him at all, and that was only after somehow gaining the personal attention and help of Senator Clinton's office. And even now, he has to wait for another interminable week before he can welcome their plane with open arms and tears of joy. God Bless America, and these incompetent federal bureaucracies that are supposed to be keeping us safe but can't even manage to fax a copy of someone's permanent residency card and marriage certificate to a US Embassy on foreign soil.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

autumn in washington heights

The season turned this week and somehow it caught me by surprise. Again. You'd think after living through this twenty nine times before I'd be in the know, but no.

It's easy to mock us city folk sometimes, and our concrete lack of nature, and our lack of understanding of the natural world, but even just looking out my living room window at the New Jersey cliffs across the river, at the vast blue sky arching over the little plaza in front of my building, at the tiny fragment of the George Washington Bridge peeking out between buildings across the way, you can tell. The sky is a different shade of blue today, somehow, than it was this time last Sunday morning, and more beautiful, and more sad.

Today is the Medieval Festival in Fort Tyron Park, a few blocks north of my apartment, home to the Cloisters in all it's medievalish glory. I'll be traipsing up there this afternoon with my brother, my boyfriend, and a random assortment of friends congregating to wish my brother farewell & good luck. He's leaving tomorrow, you see, after living here for the last two years or so, almost to the day, bookended by this Festival that descends on us every fall. And I'll miss him.