Monday, December 21, 2009

the warm embrace of home...

Mom and I have been discussing cookies lately. As in, would it be okay to not make the cornflake marshmallow holly cookies as long as we make the chocolate crinkle cookies? Can we do away with the peanut-butter Hershey kiss cookies this year if we make a batch of snickerdoodles? Can I still make some mint chocolate chip meringues even though I made them so recently for my library staff, and can we really live without the gingerbread?*

Oh how I love the quibbles and sacrifices of going to my mother's house for Christmas.




*Just for the record, Evan ma
de a batch of gingerbread men tonight, which more than makes up for the lack thereof on Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

near-winter days

Early rising, before full light. Coffee with sugar, half & half, the littlest bit of cinnamon. Soaking and blocking of most recent knitting job (beautiful pattern, scrumptiously soft kettle-dyed wool in deep purple -- I think she will be pleased). Toasted bagels with lox, cream cheese, red onion and capers.

Late morning, bundled up walk north through the park, then along Broadway to PJ Wines & Liquor for rum, then on to the Inwood Farmers Market for fresh eggs, cranberries, blue cheese, sourdough bread, several heads of garlic, beet kvass, giant ginger molasses cookie.

Long lazy afternoon slowly darkening to early evening, peppermint chocolate chip meringue cookies cooling on the counter, music playing, ornaments on the Christmas "tree," belly full of hot cider & rum & sourdough bread & garlic confit, cranberry ginger port concoction in the fridge, milk purchased for tomorrow's batch of yogurt, cat batting bemusedly at ornaments or curled contentedly up on the couch, purring quietly.

Friend's apartment-warming party later in the evening, mere blocks from home. Meringues packed up to bring to the gathering.

Such a core part of me loves
these winter days.

mint meringues

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint flavoring
6-8 drops red or green food coloring
1 6-oz. package chocolate chips

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Add flavoring and coloring, and beat for one more minute. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop teaspoonfuls of mixture slightly apart on well-buttered baking sheets. Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hour or until outside is dry and set. Store in airtight container.

Notes: I always, without fail, double this recipe. I use an egg-separator because I am eggwhite-challenged. I sometimes use vanilla instead of peppermint. Today I added about a tablespoon of rum to the bottle of peppermint flavoring after discovering that all the alcohol (which makes up to 90% of these flavorings) had evaporated. These are very potently pepperminty meringues. I always either use red food coloring or none at all. The one time I used green coloring, the cookies rather uncomfortably resembled snot. Or mold. Or little green blobby aliens.

lauren's garlic confit

4 heads garlic, divided & peeled
2 cups olive oil
freshly ground pepper
salt
red pepper flakes
4 sprigs fresh rosemary and/or sage, thyme, a bay leaf or two

Place garlic cloves in a 2-quart dutch oven or a loaf pan or whatever you have that is about the right size to hold the garlic and the olive oil. Add 2 cups olive oil, black and hot pepper and salt to taste. Add herbs. Bake garlic in oven at 325 degrees for about an hour, until golden brown and bubbling.

Let cool and store for up to a week, using as desired. Makes a delicious dip for bread or a welcome addition to a tomato tuna caper pasta sauce or in lieu of olive oil in almost any recipe, or, as friend Lauren from whom I stole this idea proclaimed, "I just eat it like candy!"

Thursday, December 03, 2009

a pox on the NYS legislature

Despite this incredibly moving testimony from New York State Senator Diane Savino, our state legislature yesterday saw fit to protect discrimination and bigotry rather than stand up for equality.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

moving on, or, going to court and what you can find there

I've been told that it takes half the time you were in a relationship to fully recover from it once it comes crashing to an end (depending, I suppose, on which side you're on, on whether you are the one leaving or the one left). I can't attest to the truth of this maxim as a general guideline, but in this, as in so many things, I have been slow (and with a relationship of just over five years, well, you see where this is going).

I was heading home this evening from the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse after attending Jerry Lynch's induction ceremony to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. It was an experience to be sure, and I'm glad that I went, but there was something unnervingly sad about being an outsider, a mere spectator, at an event I might once have attended as his family, the girlfriend or fiancee or wife of his son.

After the ceremony various members of his family came up to say hello, giving me hugs, one of them holding my hand and telling me about the recent death of a family member, another whispering to me, "Emily, I've missed you so much."

Truth be told, I miss them too, and that whole world, that whole life I was once so intrinsically a part of.

But all of that was warm and good and nice, even if a little bit awkward, and even if a little bit sad. And it was good to see Jerry and Karen, his wife, even if only long enough to hug them and wish them well.

It wasn't until I was heading to the elevators that I ran into the old boyfriend, Jerry's son, standing in a doorway talking to a man in yet another suit (a courthouse full of suits, and there I was in my pink shawl sticking out like a sore thumb!). I wasn't sure what to do, given that I'd just found out he'd just passed the California bar, that his grandmother passed away yesterday, that his father is an even bigger bigwig than before. I wanted to congratulate and console and commiserate and applaud and make it be three years ago, five years ago, my arm again linked through his.

I paused and smiled, almost reaching out to him, and then kept on going when he continued his conversation with the suited man, feeling abruptly as if all the air had been sucked out of that seemingly endless hallway, and willing with all my might, all my being, for him to come after me (this is so often what we did). I took the elevator down to street level, crammed in between half a dozen important-looking men in business attire, pushed my way out into the dark and rain and headed across town toward the train, all the while wanting to curl up in a ball, sobbing, gasping for air I couldn't seem to find, waiting for him to come comfort me (this is so often what we did).

It took the walk to the subway station, and a long train ride north, and a text message from my new sweet boy wondering how the evening had gone before it fully hit me -- that this, these overwhelming feelings of sadness and loss and doom, this was how I often felt during those five years that he and I were together. That what I was feeling tonight on that walk, and have felt every time I've seen him since he left so abruptly almost three years ago, wasn't because of his absence, wasn't because of missing him so very much, or so desperately wanting him back, but rather was inherent to what our relationship was.

And it hit me, too, that I don't need to feel that way, and that that space we created together, that space so often full to the brim with need and dependency and rage (and yes of course, in its way, love), is not a space I inhabit anymore.

I got home, powered up my computer, spent an hour or so chatting with my boy on the far side of the world, and had some soup. Now it's time to head off to bed and I imagine, I have no doubt, that I will sleep much more soundly tonight than I have in awhile.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

bus drivers

I take the M4 bus quite a bit -- most week days to get to work in the morning and every so often on weekends. I don't know any of the bus drivers' names, or where they live, or whether they have families or not, but I know some of them by the way they say good morning, or don't, and by the way they smile, or don't.

It hadn't occurred to me that any of them would know me.

One morning not long after I shaved my head back in the spring of 2006, I got on the bus and the driver glanced up and a look of horror crossed his face. He was one of the friendlier drivers, a man I'd been exchanging good mornings with almost daily the previous year, but whom I had not seen in awhile.

He looked at me, aghast, and said, "Oh sweetheart, I am so sorry... are you feeling okay?" It took me a moment to understand, and then I quickly explained that no, I did not have cancer, but had merely shaved my head. He grinned, greatly relieved, and I grinned, somewhat embarrassed.

One year on Thanksgiving, Nathan and Chris and Jill and I were taking the bus down to Chris' parents' place for dinner. Traffic was backed up from the George Washington Bridge and the bus was crawling south on Fort Washington Avenue. The four of us were the only passengers and clearly frustrated. The bus driver, also clearly frustrated and probably wanting to get home to his family himself, went rogue. He spun a left on 181st Street, careening down the hill towards Saint Nicholas Avenue, gleefully exclaiming, "I'll get you where you need to go!"

His shift ended at 135th Street, but before he left I ran up and gave him one of the black-bottomed cupcakes I'd brought for dessert. He grinned, crammed it into his mouth in one fell swoop, and jumped off the bus. And we got to where we needed to go just in time for dinner.

I like taking the bus.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

'it's a golden prison...'

"It's a golden prison. The light on my hair
cries for memory, for anything
to weigh it down. All this time
I've been hanging, the secret tides
of my body staying high."

(Larissa Szporluk, from Menace of the Skies)

this & that

This makes me hungry and almost (but not quite) wishing I had a cold.

Also my landlord in the news (again). (Thanks, Andrew!)

Also, this quote: "A good Roald Dahl sentence is a physical event: It can leave a child literally writhing with glee." -James Parker, Outfoxed

So very true.

shameless promotion

Need holiday gift ideas for your nearest & dearest? A couple friends of mine are doing some pretty amazing things.

Chris Beidel, former library colleague turned woodworker extraordinaire, makes beautiful and unique pieces at Pernt Studios.

Josh Siegel, dear friend and artist and musician, designs awesome "graphic mutant" prints, available for order here.

Jeof & Zach opened their games store a couple weeks ago at Bryant Park, but have also now gone online at The Games Place.

And of course there's always me, still doing that whole yarn thing.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

miso sweet potato soup

Erica brought me a bag of CSA goodies last weekend, which I put in the fridge and promptly forgot about until yesterday, when I was scrounging around at lunch time for something to eat other than the rest of the bag of Trader Joe's Thai chili cashews I've been munching on all week. This is what I came up with.

quick & easy miso sweet potato soup

coarsely chop 1/2 an onion and a few garlic cloves
cook over medium heat in some olive oil, along with a dash of red pepper flakes, until soft (10 minutes?), in a 2-quart saucepan
in the meantime, dice 2-3 smallish sweet potatoes and add to pot
stir in 1 tablespoon or so of miso paste
add enough broth to cover the potatoes and let simmer for about 20 minutes
blend with stick blender
salt & pepper to taste

I added a dollop of homemade yogurt to my first bowl, and a spoonful of coconut milk to the second bowl. Delicious both ways.

welcome to bahamas

Friday, November 20, 2009

tripping

I was listening to The Cure's Like Cockatoos on my walk to the subway this morning and feeling like a 16-year-old bad ass, until I tripped on the sidewalk and was reminded yet again that I have never been a bad ass at any age. Alas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

pictures, scary people, long lost friends

Jessica was telling me recently about one of her favorite photographers: a war photographer, a photojournalist by the name of Ron Haviv. She was talking specifically about his Blood & Honey collection, a photo essay of the chaos that overtook Yugoslavia following the end of the Cold War.

Funny that she should mention him now, given the world's (and my own) preoccupation these last few weeks with the end of the Cold War. It is easy to forget that the Soviet Union and the Communist Bloc, for all their badness, kept certain horrifying nationalistic, ethnic-cleansing, tendencies in check. (Such a horrific term, 'ethnic cleansing.' Honestly I can't imagine a more horrific term, for all its mundane connotation of purification.)

I've been looking at these pictures (can't seem to stop looking at these pictures) and feeling a little overwhelmed by our capacity to inflict pain upon one other. They make me think of the Rwandan genocide, and how I was old enough in 1994 to have known what was going on, and yet I did not, any more than I understood what was going on in Eastern Europe. I was old enough that I should have known was was going on, but I wasn't paying attention. Five years later, during the summer of 1999, I was house sitting for a friend and read his copy of Philip Gourveitch's We Wish To Inform You. I spent much of the rest of that summer reading about Rwanda, trying late at night to understand the hatred and rage that must have been percolating beneath the surface of that country before the Hutus rose up, spurred on by Radio Rwanda, and slaughtered 500,000 Tutsis. (And not with the systematic, horrific coldness of the gas chambers, or even with the physical distance of guns, but rather largely with machetes. Can you imagine the force it must take to cut someone down with a machete?)

Looking at Haviv's pictures brings up similar feelings of not quite despair, but an incredibly uncomfortable mix of fascination and frustration, sadness and fury and impotence -- how is it that we continue to do this to ourselves?

And I've been thinking about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's pending arrival here in New York City, epicenter to his frightening hatred of this country I can't help but love. I've been thinking about Jerry, who until recently served on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, where Mohammed will be put on trial. I remember how, in the days following 9/11, the courts reopened and Jerry couldn't seem to shake a sore throat and a hoarse voice. I remember how this sore throat and hoarseness dragged on and on, after days and weeks and months of breathing in Ground Zero smoke and dust and ash.

And I've been thinking about our own homegrown extremists, the ones who begin to balance out the Khalid Shaikh Mohammeds of the Middle East, at least in rage and hatred if not yet in action. I'm remembering last August's controversial DHS report on the recent rise of rightwing extremism, and of the man who thought it was okay to bring a loaded rifle to a Presidential event, and of the man now sitting in jail after having gunned down Dr. Tiller in the foyer of his church, and of the hordes of teabaggers with their "Obama is a Nazi" rhetoric and their overblown sense of self-righteousness and self-pity. I'm thinking of the recent poll indicating that nearly 1 in 3 conservatives in New Jersey either believe or don't know whether they believe that Obama is the Antichrist. I'm thinking of the Secret Service's report that the number of death threats against our current president is unprecedented, and how when George W. Bush was in office and we left-wingers were fit to be tied, the most extreme of us was a bereaved mother camped outside Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. I'm thinking of Fox News and Glen Beck joking about killing our Democratic leaders. And I'm thinking about our current Republican leadership standing by these people with the guns, these people arguing that our duly elected president is not American or is the Antichrist or is a Communist, that he's going to steal our children and kill our grandmas, that his attempt at health care reform is another Final Solution.

I've been reading Chaim Potok's The Promise, and am reminded of Reuven Malter's rage against the extremists in his yeshiva, and his frustration that all extremists sound so much alike. And I am reminded of Rachel Maddow's recent interview with Frank Schaeffer, former rightwinger and religious leader turned apostate, during which he says, "What surprises me is that responsible Republican leadership and the editors of some of these Christian magazines do not stand up in holy horror and denounce this. You know, they're always asking, 'Where is the Islamic leadership denouncing terrorism? Why aren't the moderates speaking out?" Well I'd challenge the folks who I used to work with, and I would say to them, 'Where the hell are you? This is not funny anymore.'"

On another note, I recently reconnected with a girl I met in Paris twenty years ago, and for whom I babysat regularly during the months our families overlapped there. She was a wonderful girl, smart and adventurous and kind, and I still remember fondly recommending books for her to read, cooking dinner for us (boiled spaghetti and jarred tomato sauce and boiled broccoli, probably), listening to her practice the violin, spending New Year's Eve together with our families.

Turns out she's still smart and adventurous and kind, and a writer! This piece, published earlier this fall, moved me almost to tears.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

transfixed

Kathy's Famous Swope Bread

Back in the days when I was growing up in Mohegan Lake, a few families in the neighborhood decided to start a bread club. The breads were all so different that it was always a treat, and something I think it is safe to say that we all very much looked forward to. I can't remember now what everyone contributed, but there are three that I still find myself hankering after sometimes. Nate & Dad's cinnamon-raisin bread, Mom's oaties, and Kathy's quick bread. Kathy was kind enough to share her recipe with me a couple months back and I've been meaning to share it here ever since. (I'm still working on getting Mom's oaties recipe, and Nate & Dad's cinnamon-raisin bread, alas, may be lost to the ages forever.)

Kathy's Famous Swope Bread
(Makes 2 loaves)

4 cups unsifted whole wheat flour
2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 quart buttermilk (or 3 1/2 cups milk acidified with 1/2 cup vinegar)
2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease two 9x5x3 inch loaf pans.

Combine flours, sugar and salt. Combine buttermilk and baking soda; stir into flour mixture. Turn into prepared loaf pans.

Place in oven. Turn down heat to 350 degrees. Bake 1 hour 10 minutes or until done in center when tested with toothpick. Remove from pans and cool on rack.

Kathy notes that she uses cider vinegar, and that she mixed the milk and vinegar at the beginning to give it a few minutes to "sit."

I didn't have buttermilk or regular milk when I made this batch yesterday so I used just under 4 cups of homemade yogurt with a little vinegar. Turned out deliciously, and I've been munching on it ever since (though I've tucked away the second loaf in the freezer, as apparently this bread freezes well and even I probably can't get through two loaves in a week).

Friday, November 13, 2009

odds & ends

I happened to be in Anacortes for the town's annual Shipwreck Day this past July (basically a town-wide rummage sale) and bought an absolutely scrumptious Fidalgo Rain Shampoo Bar from a lovely local lass. (Now that I've got hair again I can indulge in such things -- a forgotten bonus of going all girly.) Turns out she's got a website! If you, like me, have lots of people in your life who appreciate a delicious soap, consider checking her out for holiday gifts: Ancient Dragonfly Soap Company.

And what I want for Christmas? Other than world peace and all that stuff? Blocking tools. Seriously. Wires. Pins. Mats. A ball winder. Maybe another set of stitch markers. And a comprehensive lesson in chart-reading, which apparently I am incapable, thus far, of doing. That's it.

No more stretching things out on towels and hoping for the best:


And on another, different, note, there was a piece in the New Yorker a couple weeks back, on the eve of our mayoral election, that seemed to sum up my somewhat conflicted feelings about Mayor Mike:

"In broad outline, New Yorkers know all this. We know that we’re bought and paid for. We know that there is something unseemly, even humiliating, about submitting ourselves to be ruled by the richest man in town. We know that the muscling aside of term limits, whatever the law’s merits, was a travesty. We know that the Mayor’s campaign this time has been puzzlingly, pettily negative. Yet we will, most of us, troop to the polls on Tuesday and pull the lever for Mayor Mike. The truth is that Michael Bloomberg has been a very good mayor. The record is mixed, of course, but the mixture is largely positive...

If Bloomberg had been satisfied with two terms, he would be leaving office a beloved legend, a municipal god. He’ll get his third, but we’ll give it to him sullenly, knowing that while it probably won’t measure up to his first two—times are hard, huge budget gaps are at hand—it’ll probably be good enough. The Pax Bloombergiana will endure a while longer. But then what? Will we have forgotten how to govern ourselves?"

Sunday, November 08, 2009

ruminating on the wall

I've been thinking about Germany lately, and the 20th anniversary, tomorrow, of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the ensuing demise of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union and the Cold War and the world as we knew it, that world of the Evil Empire.

Slate Magazine ran a fascinating piece the other day on the mundanities behind the initial border openings (missed phone calls, misread government memos) on November 9th of 1989.

The New York Times ran a Then & Now piece today, and a small collection of poems, Berlin poems, Wall poems:

"Then the inspiration to build walls facing in!
Reservation, concentration camp, ghetto,
finally whole countries walled in, and saved were we
from traitors who'd dare wish to flee our within."
-C. K. Williams

"When the wall came down I was distracted. By what?
A man I loved and longed for?

A self integrating so slowly most days I hardly knew who I was?"
-Marie Howe


Ten years ago, in the spring of 1999, I was working at the University of Pennsylvania Bookstore and semi-surreptitiously reading as many books as I could. One that's stayed with me all these years, the one I perhaps found most haunting, was Tina Rosenberg's The Haunted Land: facing Europe's ghosts after Communism. She wrote compelling stories of resistance and dissidence in Poland and Czechoslovakia and Germany, and how that resistance played out, became integrated into a post-Communist world, once those Eastern Bloc regimes collapsed. But even more compelling, to me at least, were her stories of how easy, how seemingly necessary, it sometimes was to be complicit in one's own repression. These post-war Eastern European countries, unlike most dictatorial regimes, demanded of its citizens full political participation, whether that meant attending endless political rallies and marches and meetings or spying on relatives and friends and neighbors. As Jane Kramer wrote in The Politics of Memory, "With 300,000 informers, the Stasi was not so much a mirror of East Germany; to a large extent, it was East Germany."*

My family was in Berlin for Christmas a month and a half after the Wall first opened. My father regaled us with stories of JFK's infamous "Ich bein ein Berliner" speech and took us off to see Checkpoint Charlie and the opening of the Brandenburg Gate and took a sledgehammer to the Wall. I have a notebook somewhere, or perhaps not any longer, with pages full of the graffiti I copied down from the western side of the Wall that December. The eastern side was blank, empty, the people of course having been kept away from it by armed guards. We brought back to New York a bag of chunks and chips of the Wall to give to friends and family, though this bag, too, has probably gone astray in the twenty years since.

I don't have any of the Wall anymore, though I remember poring over the pieces we took away, hunting for the perfect one, the one with the brightest bit of colored spray paint (sea green or stormy blue or a deep firey red), the one with the most legible fragment of writing (ghosts of this demarcation point between two worlds).

"They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I'm guided by a signal in the heavens
I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin"
-Leonard Cohen, First We Take Manhattan

Other interesting reads:
The day Checkpoint Charlie came back to haunt me
Berlin Wall's fall inspires us still
Berlin Wall as a piece of history: too-good riddance?


*The Stasi was East Germany's version of the Secret Police. After Germany's reunification in 1990 legislation was passed that opened up the Stasi files to the public, so that people could see their own files and possibly learn who had been spying on them. Turned out pretty much everyone was spying on pretty much everyone else -- 300,000 informers, in a country of a mere 16 million people.

Friday, November 06, 2009

'there was the cove and the smooth shallow water...'

From Chaim Potok's The Promise:

There was the cove and the smooth shallow water with the tall trees of the shoreline breaking the force of the wind and Michael lying on his back reading the clouds. There was the cove and the birds high overhead and the clouds white against the deep blue of the sky and the whisper of the wind through the trees, a loud whisper that was a roller coaster roar, and the sensation of dropping into the night.

"We are at war, friend. Didn't you know we are at war?"

Danny said nothing.

"The enemy surrounds us. The evil forces of secularism are everywhere. Look under the bed before you say the Kriat Shma at night. Look under the bed before you pray the Shacharit Service in the morning. And while you're at it check the books on your desk and look in the typewriter and close the window because they come in with the wind. Did you know they come in with the wind?"

"All right," Danny said quietly.

"The hell it's all right. We become like dead branches and last year's leaves and what the hell good are we for ourselves and for the world in a mental ghetto. The hell it's all right."

Danny said nothing. There was a tense silence.

"I'll survive," I said.

He was quiet.

"If I can have another cup of coffee."

He smiled then and got slowly to his feet.

"One derives great moral strength from a cup of coffee," I said.

"Kosher coffee," Danny said.

"Yes, of course. Kosher coffee. Of course."

We talked over the third cup of coffee, about ourselves, about the past, and there was silence and more talk and silence again and more talk. That was the best cup of all, that third cup of coffee. It took us a very long time to drink it.

Then I was putting on my coat and hat and we were standing at the door.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

'these streets will make you feel brand new...'

I came home to an empty apartment tonight, at least aside from a particularly grumpy feline greeting me at the door. Last year, a year ago today, I came dashing home after closing up the library to throw on a pot of soup, get beer in the fridge, and open up my door to a cohort of dear friends. We spent the evening trading voting war stories, exalting in each other's and the world's excitement as the night wore on and Obama pulled ahead, some of us brought to tears when his meteoric rise to the White House became official.

This Election Day is different, of course, and somewhat less exciting in terms of the political world. I assume Bloomberg won handily though I have not been watching the incoming election results. I am waiting to hear about Referendum 71 in my adoptive home state of Washington, and Maine's Question 1.

I headed out a little early this morning, voted before work (still love those old voting machines we've still got here in New York, and was pleased that the little old ladies manning the sign-in table for the 77th Election District found my name with a little less prompting than usual this time around).

I came home tonight to an empty apartment and a grumpy cat, but also to a bouquet of flowers (shades of orange and pink and cream) waiting cheerily for me on the kitchen island. I came home missing an incredible man who has recently become unexpectedly central to my world after years of being somewhat peripheral, on the far side of the country, and who left for Europe today with an open-ended ticket.

But I also came home thinking how lovely it is that this man seems to have grown fond of my adoptive hometown and the small life I've built within it. This city of mine, prone to its fits of quirkiness and beauty and tolerance and frustration and violence and resiliency, has been for many years now central to me, and rediscovering it through his eyes, in all his newness to this place, has over these last weeks made me love it, and him, all the more.

And just for the record, as in years past, New York remained last year one of the most Democratic cities in the country:

NYC 2008 General Election Results
Total votes: 2,641,669
Obama/Biden:
2,073,915
McCain/Palin: 524,774
Other: 42,980

"I am them!"

Best article ever, bar none.
(Thank you, Marti!)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

politics as usual II

Oh New York, how easy it is to love you, but also how easy it is to be disgusted by you, especially when it comes to politics.

We've got a city-subsidized* brand new $1.5 billion baseball stadium already falling apart (and already in violation of ADA compliance regulations) brought to us by companies either linked to the Mob or under indictment. It's always so heartening to know where our tax money goes.

We've got Bernard Kerik, once upon a time NYC Police Commissioner, close friend to one Rudolph Giuliani, and George W. Bush's nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security, now being indicted on 16 counts of conspiracy, corruption, tax fraud, and mail fraud, and facing jail time pending his upcoming trial.

We've got a mayor who, drunk on the glory of elected office, saw fit to overturn New York's term limits in order to run for a 3rd term, spending millions upon millions of dollars in a race in which he's been consistently well ahead in the polls ("blowout" is the term currently being bandied about as a probable outcome of next week's election), and bringing in the aforementioned Giuliani, race-baiter and fear-monger extraordinaire, to campaign on his behalf. As a friend of mine recently put it, "Right, if you're already winning, why piss off half your constituency by bringing in the fascist?"

All in all, I'm still not decided on who I'll vote for come next Tuesday morning (and all you loyal readers know how much I love to pull that lever). It seems poor Thompson is a lost cause at this point, but it's bound to be low voter turnout and it'd be nice to see Thompson at least give Bloomberg a run for his money.**

*"In 2006 the New York Yankees were given about $1.5 billion in tax benefits and public funds for the building of a new Yankees Stadium. Over $500 million was direct cash and tax relief."

**Bloomberg's taking a lot of flak these days about how much money he's blowing through on this campaign alone ($85 million and counting) and cumulatively on all of his campaigns ($250 million and counting), though it's also been pointed out that $250 million is about what was spent on the latest Harry Potter movie. It is, granted, an insane amount of money, and renders the whole election process arguably up for grabs to the highest bidder. But still, doesn't it seem a little perverse to compare it to the cost of a movie? $250 million to run one of the biggest cities in the world for twelve years compared to $250 million for a few hours' entertainment? And the first one is the one worth condemning? Really?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

'no one's laughing at god when they're saying their goodbyes...'

A coworker's sister passed away earlier this week and I can't help but simultaneously cry in sadness for his loss and cry in gratitude for the brother I am so very lucky to have.



(Regina Spektor, Laughing With)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

fever dreams

I'm not feeling feverish or anything but this little infection I have, if left to its own devices, could theoretically spread to the kidneys and cause all sorts of problems. (Never fear, Mom, I've got a doctor's appointment first thing Monday morning and will get the proper medication!)

I would not claim to have 'the constitution of an ox,' as my friend Lauren describes herself and her Herculean ability to ward off the germs of a roomful of first graders year after year, and am somewhat prone to headaches and colds, but in the grander scheme of things I know these complaints are small. I have not needed antibiotics since the spring of 1986 and I find it slightly unnerving to need them now.

What I remember most, if fuzzily, about that last course of antibiotics is actually the year leading up to that spring of 1996. What I remember is being sick. On-goingly sick, spending the better part of an entire summer on the west coast in a haze, dazed and burning or vomiting and chilled to the bone. I remember shaking with cold, in the midst of a hot July, in the loft at my grandmother's house in central Washington. I remember shivering in the August sun at the end of the dock at my grandparents' cabin, huddled in a towel and miserable while all the cousins went swimming and water-skiing and motor-boating around the lake. I remember being dropped into a large inner tube in that cold cold lake water, my parents and grandparents on the verge of panic as my temperature crawled upwards of 104 degrees in that cabin on Lake Coeur d'Alene, an hour's drive from the nearest hospital.

I remember finally (and to everyone's relief) being diagnosed that September with nothing more than a particularly virulent (and atypical, given the complete lack of sore throat) form of strep throat. I remember spending much of the following year dutifully taking my penicillin, camouflaged disgustingly in a bright pink cherry-flavored viscous liquid, being healthy for a few weeks, and then getting sick again.

And I remember the fevers. And the fever dreams.

I remember hours (days?) spent lying in bed convinced that my ankles and wrists were pressing up against miles and miles of concrete; that I was swimming through lagoons filled with garbage; that snow fell constantly down on me from all those white ceilings. I remember sitting hunched in the armchair at the head of our dining room table, wrapped in a much-loved pink and green crocheted blanket and trying to drink lemon tea with honey, crying because my arms, gone all elastic-y and long, kept escaping my control and tangling, Gumby-like, in terrifying pretzel-like knots.

I remember those out-of-control knots, that garbage, the concrete and snow, with a certain marked dread, and also a certain relief that they are just far-flung disturbances, rising up out of long-ago childhood fevers.

After nearly nine months of antibiotics and nearly a full year of getting sick every few weeks, my doctor finally decided to take out my tonsils. I haven't had strep throat, or any other infection or illness requiring antibiotics, since.

The antibiotics I will get in two days' time will, I have no doubt, remedy this infection of mine right quick. And yet there is a lingering dread, an ever-present if subtle distrust, in the medical establishment, in the resiliency of my own generally healthy body, perhaps even of bodies in general. I was complaining to a friend earlier this evening about having to (oh the horror) visit the doctor on Monday and he said if it was him he'd probably forgo doctors, diagnosis, and medication, and just hope he didn't die. There is a certain blase comfort in this attitude, a certain faith in one's own survival, that I kind of wish I had.

anathallo



(Anathallo, Dokkoise House)

Friday, October 09, 2009

strange, or, only in berlin

This has got to be one of the strangest things I've ever seen, even remotely via Big Picture, and I can't begin to imagine something like this taking place here in New York. But as I sat there last night at my (brand new and beautiful!) desk scrolling ever so slowly through these photographs I found myself strangely moved, even as I knew I just wasn't quite getting it.

Take a gander your own self:

The Berlin Reunion

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sunday, October 04, 2009

sunday in the city

From the 9th Annual Pickle Festival (on the Lower East Side, of course) to the 16th Annual Medieval Festival (in Fort Tryon Park near the Cloisters, of course), it was a wonderful, gorgeous day in this fair city of mine.

doughnut holes

Michael, Evan, and I made doughnut holes yesterday afternoon. We'd been planning to head downtown to Michael's favorite doughnut shop but NOAA was predicting thunderstorms all day so we thought better of walking around in the rain. Thus doughnut holes.

They were delicious. We used our homemade yogurt in place of the buttermilk, but otherwise pretty much followed the recipe. Well, I snuck in a little more cinnamon and nutmeg, and the dregs of a bag of crystallized ginger may have made its way in to the proceedings.

This was just the beginnings of a delicious food-filled day. To accompany the doughnuts we had spiced hot apple cider & rum. Then we put out some cheese from Fairway and some garlic & rosemary crackers from Trader Joe's. Then I made up a pot of curried squash soup with blue cheese sprinkled on top and served that with a pretty decent bottle of red table wine from Jumilla. And then we ate Michael's homemade banana cream pie. And then we all passed out on the couch.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

yogurt

Evan has been teaching me how to make yogurt. It's actually surprisingly easy, at least going by his seemingly fool-proof recipe, and delicious. I've been eating it with leftover Indian take-out, or with dried cranberries and a dollop of buckwheat honey, or with a handful of Grape-nuts and a drizzle of maple syrup, or with a spoonful of raspberry jam, or as this morning, stirred into a bowlful of oatmeal.

Here is what we've been doing:

Heat a half-gallon of milk (we've been using 2%, though you can of course use any kind you want) over medium heat to boiling, stirring occasionally and looking out to not let it abruptly boil all over the place and make a frothy, sticky mess, as I find milk is wont to do.

Remove from heat, insert a candy thermometer, and let cool to 120 degrees. (This can be expedited by placing the saucepan in an icebath.)

Stir in 1/2 cup of active-culture yogurt (either one grocery-store bought container of yogurt, or remnants from a previous batch of home-made yogurt).

Pour mixture into plastic containers (quart-sized wonton soup take-out containers are my favorite, or at least what I've had on hand, but of course pretty much anything will do) and place in oven next to the oven light, which, if left on, should keep your oven at about 100 degrees. You might want to check this with your candy thermometer though, since some oven lights are more equal than other oven lights. (Also, beware assuming that if you turn on your oven and set it to 100 degrees, it is actually a steady 100 degrees. My oven, for example, is closer to 120 degrees when set at 100.)

Leave the yogurt in the oven for about 7 hours, and then check to see if the whey has separated and the yogurt has set. If not, leave in the oven with the light on and check every 30 minutes or so.

Once the yogurt has set, you can either pour off the whey, leaving a thicker yogurt, or, as we've been doing, just stir it back into the yogurt, making it nice and creamy.

Absolutely scrumptious, any way you have it.

One piece of advice: start this little project at a time when you won't have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to pull the yogurt out of the oven. I'm just saying. Learn from my mistakes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

women want what?

So I was watching an episode of Greek (yes, Greek -- I'm home sick with a cold, give me a break. Besides, my college didn't have sororities so I have to live vicariously) today and was confronted with what may have been the most disturbing commercial I've ever seen, for a new prescription drug by the ever so pleasingly pretty name of Latisse.

Before I go further, let me just say that when a friend of mine recently mentioned vibrating mascara I thought she was joking. I mean seriously, vibrating mascara? I can't even handle the stationary kind.

Let me also just relate here a joke, or a story, a much loved story, of mine. An old boyfriend had a roommate, once upon a time, who was very wealthy. This roommate's family owned half of Singapore, or so the story goes, and said boyfriend was quite smitten with this family's wealth. One night the roommate was taken out for dinner by a friend of his who was exponentially more wealthy than he, and this meal was one to go down in the history books. The bottle of wine alone was over $1000. The old boyfriend was telling this story, with a certain gluttonous glee, to my Arielle a few years back and Arielle, never one to mince words, blurted out, "Shit, for $1000 that bottle had better vibrate!"

This became a sort of catch-phrase between us, an acceptable expletive evocative of an uncomfortable mixture of envy and disgust in the face of decadence and waste.

I was shocked to learn of these vibrating mascaras last week, but I was even more shocked today to learn of Latisse which, as it turns out, is a prescription medication that one applies to one's eyelashes in order to make them grow fuller, richer, darker, more luxuriously feminine I suppose. Never mind that you'd best not miss the mark or you'll end up with hair growing out of your eyeballs, or that this allegedly benign drug can turn blue eyes brown, or that during pregnancy "this medication should be used only when clearly needed." ( It's cosmetic, at least if the commercial is to be believed, so when is it ever "clearly needed"?)

Okay I'm done. It's late, and past this girl's bed time. But please just put me out of my misery if I ever get so worked up about appearances (barring some unforeseen calamity such as the need for facial reconstruction from accident or burn or something equally as horrible) as to start using this stuff.

I mean, really. Just think of all the world's troubles these people could solve if they just put their minds to that sort of thing rather than to vibrating mascara and magic-grow eyelash balm.

Monday, September 21, 2009

going home, 9.20.09

traffic

little worlds

This evening, tonight, is the first evening I will have spent alone since Thursday, September 10th (not that anyone's counting or anything).

Friday the 11th was hectic, rainy, and sore-throated, working all day and then heading down to Philadelphia, checking in to the Sofitel, meeting up with Mom & Paul, Uncle Jim & Aunt Sharon & Bookstore Patti for snacks and drinks, then on to the pre-wedding party in an industrial loft-space in a somewhat sketchy part of Philadelphia, and then a long walk home in the drizzle after getting carded and found wanting of proof of age at a bar nearby, thankfully accompanied by Evan and Kristine rather than being abandoned to my own devices at one in the morning.

Not much sleep ensued that weekend, despite free-flowing alcohol over the next 48 hours and a friend's offer of Ambien. Saturday the 12th, an odd mixture of dashing around and waiting -- whether running to the hair salon to have my hair 'styled' in five minutes flat and then waiting for the more fully-fashioned ladies, or going for the minimalist make-up 'do and then waiting for Billie, that sexy young vixen, and Shanna, my new sister-in-law, looking radiantly porcelain-skinned and sweetly old-fashioned in her grandmother's wedding gown and antique necklace. Sunday the 13th, early-morning coffee in the hotel lobby with the early-risers, a beautiful walk along Walnut Street across the Schuylkill River to a late-morning post-wedding brunch, and then the drive back to New York City late that afternoon.

Cousin Dirk came back with me from Philadelphia that day, joining me for an evening of Chinese take-out and The Lords of Dogtown and then the commute down to Columbia the next morning. Friend Evan surfaced at my place that night and finally left this morning.

I say finally only because I have spent so much time on my own these past few years, and have settled so comfortably in to this solitude in ways I had not thought possible, that I can't imagine not having lots and lots of time alone.

I was somewhat anxious about having Evan come visit me in part because the last time he was here, back in spring of 2000, he was visiting my brother, and my brother and I inhabit New York in such different ways. Nathan is a true New Yorker, partaking in everything that the city has to offer -- museums, shows, restaurants, stores. Nathan teases me sometimes about my uncanny ability to reduce New York City to a small town, but he's right. I have my routines, my routes, my favorite places to which I return again and again and again. I know Sally at my grocery store, Ahn who lives down the hall and runs the little market across the street, the cashier lady at my bagel shop, my coffee stand men and my deli men. I love my neighborhood, tucked away in the northern wilds of Manhattan, and am often content to spend whole weekends within blocks of my home. I love my friends, and look forward to weekly dinners with Nick and Dan and Lauren, impromptu weekend brunches or lunches or walks to the Inwood farmers' market with neighbors Erica and Freddy and Jessica and Andrew.

I wasn't expecting a houseguest to fit in so smoothly, and I'd forgotten how nice it can be to have someone to go home to in the evening, have a bowl of oatmeal with before heading out to work in the morning. And Evan seemed to enjoy partaking in this little life I've created here in the big city, meeting me for dinners after work in Morningside Heights, walking up to Inwood through Fort Tryon Park to buy vegetables and apples and cheese at the market, standing by patiently while I snapped pictures of my bridge, helping me put my new desk together, teaching me how to make yogurt, spending evenings chopping and roasting and reading and eating and going to bed by 10 or 11 and getting up by 7.

It was odd saying goodbye to him this morning, as I dashed around brushing my teeth and looking for socks and my cellphone and a bag of cough drops, and unexpectedly sad. He said he liked my world, and this in turn meant the world to me.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

bridge, 9.20.09

eating with evan

Roasted eggplant with fresh parsley; julienned beets with blue cheese; white rice with pinches of cayenne, salt, black pepper & a bit of olive oil



Enchiladas filled with poblano pepper, onion, and soft white cheese from the farmers' market; tomatillo salsa with jalapeno; refried beans