Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Storm That Was…and Still Is

I try to post lighthearted bits of babble on this site, but events of the past month have made that a bit difficult. There’s no way to gloss over the destruction that Hurricane Sandy laid waste, to not take a moment to acknowledge the lives that have been upended, and those that have been tragically taken.

Today, President Obama is visiting the storm-ravaged New York area. If you live in the tristate area or know someone in the region, you’re well aware of the personal horrors and the tragedies that this storm wrought.

There are countless poignant stories that have been told, and so many shocking photos detailing the damage. Yet still, there are many areas that remain without power, areas that are drowning in garbage and building rubble, entire neighborhoods that are trying to stop from teetering over the edge. Of course, in certain areas, like Breezy Point, the road ahead is that much harder.

I know these are generalities, and that vague descriptions of a disaster are much less tantalizing than raw photographs or haunting images of decimated communities. But that’s by design. Those photos are out there and easy to find; what I want to talk about is the importance of community.

I’m hardly the poster child for this subject—at least I didn’t used to be. I’ve lived in New York City for years and for whatever reason, quirky DNA perhaps, the anonymity suited me perfectly. I found solitude in detachment, a certain peace in not having to deal with neighbors.

After I got married, we started renting a place in Long Beach for the summers. For four years we did this, coming back to the same house, the one with the same terrific neighbors, on a street where we saw familiar faces year after year.

If you’ve never been, Long Beach is one of those places where everybody knows everyone else on the block. It’s like Cheers, but beach side and with bungalows. It’s tight-knit, the kind of place where you can’t walk out of your house without striking up conversations with everyone else who’s outside—and in the summer, everybody lives outside. Long Beach still has block parties, a veritable throwback to a time that seems, in many ways, easier and more innocent. This is the place that seeped into our bones, the no-frills seaside spot that became a part of our lives.

Our adopted Long Beach block was flooded by angry waves that ate away the formidable beach dune. Water surged into the street and into homes. It overtook everything: wooden supports, plaster pilings, couches and TVs, snapshots of moments long gone. Cars were tossed around like boats that had come unmoored. Chaos was left in the storm’s wake.

There are some who have been displaced from their homes, who are eager to get back to the block, to reconnect with their home and community. There are others who have worked tirelessly for weeks to scour away the hurricane’s lashing, trying to right-side their world and return to a sense of normalcy. It’s going to take a lot to finish this job. There much left to be done. Communities, no matter how strong, still need help, and like many others that were in Sandy’s path, Long Beach still has great needs.

I trust this won’t be lost on President Obama.          

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I Hart Autumn

My friend and I got out of Dodge today to soak up some fall.

We set out as we did last year with a list of places to go. The morning started out crisp--the perfect backdrop for apple picking. Then there was a lavender farm, and lunch by a lazy river. But we didn't follow our plan to a T. Instead, we took the advice of some folks we met along the way. They led us to one of the best farm markets either of us had ever been to, and a delightful town that was new to both of us. A stop at a nursery for some plants and a pop into a local shop with the most outrageous ice cream rounded out what was a perfect day. Not the exact one we had planned--but one that turned out to be far better, thanks to the detours.

Hopefully you're enjoying the season wherever you are!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It's Been Ages

Dear Four Blog Readers,

I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long. Sometimes life gets in the way of good writing, or, in the case of this corner of the Internets, passable writing. Anyway, I’ve missed you! Thanks for checking this page, which has remained stubbornly unchanged for much too long.

Things here in New York City are finally starting to feel fall-like, which means it’s time to head out of town to an orchard and pick apples--something I’ll be doing this weekend with a dear friend. I’m just days away from serving apple everything: homemade applesauce, apple crisps, apple in kale salads, apple pureed in soups. We’re also days away from my husband bemoaning the fact that I’ve stuffed our fridge and freezer with apples and apple concoctions. It’s an autumn tradition.

This is also the time of year when I outfit the pup in a variety of vests, coats and various and sundry other items he has no interest in wearing and, I’m sure, is developing a healthy level of resentment toward. Who am I kidding? He loves them!

To wit:

Nothing I write can top the pup in a wizard costume, so I'll end here. Until next time!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tried and True

Full disclosure: I did a 6:30 a.m. Bikram class this morning, so I’m all about the positivity today. And now, I’m going to share it with the four of you who read this blog.

That's right, big news on the blog front—massive really: I got another reader! So that brings the grand total to four! At this pace, some sort of branding effort might be in order: visors, key chains, maybe bunting…I’m just spitballin’ here.

But I digress.

It’s June, graduation time. For the youngsters, it’s time for the pool, or, if you’re like me, dance camp. For those graduating from high school, maybe there’s some separation anxiety swirling about your household. But today I’m thinking about the crop of young adults who are graduating college, looking to start their careers.

Now, this isn’t a commentary on the economy or employment prospects for these young folks. It’s actually about trying. I heard something in yoga the other day. It was a particularly steamy class and it was packed, which just made everything hotter. There was a fair amount of frustration on the mats for many people and amidst the grunting and heavy exhales, the teacher said the dearest thing: He said that it didn’t matter what the outcome of a posture was—maybe you’ll wobble, maybe you’ll fall out, maybe you won’t get to the full expression—what matters is your effort, that you try as hard as you can. And that’s where you have to be really truthful with yourself, in that effort, in really showing up in that moment and trying as hard as you can.

Which brings me to my disaster of a dinner last night (stick with me, this will all tie together, I promise). I kind of pride myself on making a kickin’, healthy dinner every night (or most nights, anyway). It’s not a weird Stepford wife thing, it’s more of my hobby, my passion. A passion that I get *really* into in a go to the greenmarket, buy only organic, read the labels in the grocery store, eat seasonally kind of way. You know, except when we order pizza.

Anyhow, I had it in my head to make a healthy stir fry. There was going to be a sambal sauce. I was going to use sprouted tofu, organic broccoli and brown rice. I was breaking out the lemongrass and ginger. It was going to be transcendent.

One hour later, after grating, chopping, measuring, pureeing, cooking down, I had a pan full of something that looked like cat sick. And that’s how it tasted. So I opened up the refrigerator and starting adding what I was sure would bring this saucy mess back from the brink. The addition of honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, orange juice, peppadew juice (I know, pure desperation), chopped peppadews (beyond desperate) and teriyaki didn’t help one bit. You see where this is heading, right? Yep, down the drain.

And yet, I tried.

Of course, I don’t mean to equate one night of culinary failures on what graduates are facing today, but here’s the thing: If these young people are anything like me, there’s going to be a lot of trial and error in the next year or so. When I graduated, it was clear that I’d poured precious little time while in school thinking of my real-world life once I got out. But I knew I wanted to write. So like any good English major, I went back to school, got some practical knowledge and some hands-on experience. I kept trying, kept climbing—in some cases, literally: I actually got to go to the top of the Chrysler Building and stand out on scaffolding when workers were shining it—all because I was persistent in getting an interview, in seeing this place that not everyone gets to see.

When I was a journalist, the journey wasn’t over. Much like other fields, you had to keep learning, doing, seeing and growing. If you didn’t write about different things, stretch your comfort zone or keep expanding your knowledge base, you’d languish. It was the same thing the years I was an editor. Now I’m working on fiction writing. There is no easy road here, no quick way to publication, and, since I’ve never done this type of writing before, I’ve had a lot to learn. The point is to keep trying.

And so this concept of striving to do your best seems a fitting theme for today when so many are graduating, embarking on real world stuff. There will be days when you wobble, when you feel so spent that you can’t go any further. And yes, there will be days when you make things that look like cat sick. But keep trying. Just try. That’s all you have to do is try your hardest. Success will come with effort.

And if it doesn’t, you can always order take-out.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Today’s Bit of Procrastination

I watch entirely too much TV.

It’s a well-established fact that my husband and I are huge consumers of entertainment. We gorge ourselves on books, on television, on Broadway shows—basically anything that has a modicum of (pop) cultural value to it, we’re there, reading it, watching it or listening to it. Why I didn’t become some sort of critic is a mystery, as I spend a goodly portion of the day that I’m not writing or cooking or walking the dog gobbling down some form of entertainment.

So when writer's block had me in a knee-crippling head lock the other day…and, let’s face it, today, I decided to check out the up-and-coming television shows that were trotted out earlier this week for a look-see from the industry. (This is actually a timely blog because up fronts, as they’re called are a big deal. And that, my friends, is a well-tortured piece of rationalization as to why I’m watching clips of television shows and not working on my second book’s outline. Welcome to my world.)

Anyhow, what I discovered in my research/procrastination is there are several good shows I’m eager to squeeze into our already-full dance card of viewing. But there’s one in particular that I thought I’d share with you/write about to make myself feel like I’m actually being productive today when really I’m ready to bang my head against the wall with my writing.

And that is The New Normal. I’ve been interested in seeing what this one was all about because one of the leads dazzled in Book of Mormon, which I’ve seen an embarrassing number of times. The tagline for the show is: “Two gay dads and a baby mama create a totally new kind of family comedy.” It’s an unfortunate sentence of marketing, really, because when you watch the trailer you’ll see that it’s so much more than the offhanded one-liner would imply. It appears to have such gorgeous heart, so much real emotion and such beautiful sentiment—the kind of stuff that isn’t summed up easily in a sentence. Still, how do you produce a show that looks and feels like such a grand-slam home run from the trailer and then dress it up in a cheap one-liner of a wrapper?

Let’s hope the show is as amazing as the promo suggests. The cast looks incredible, the writing (from the short video I viewed, anyway) is sharp and the story, oh, the story…well, it looks gorgeous to me. Yes, I can be horribly sentimental, but that’s ok.

It makes me a good audience.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Scenes from the Greenmarket

I thought I'd let the pictures do the talking again today.

This morning's adventure: The pup and I hit the Union Square Greenmarket.

Despite the chill in the air, we weren't the only ones in search of early spring produce. The flowers were vibrant, the pea shoots were verdant, and...wait for it...there were ramps!

I know, the pup could hardly contain himself.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Better Living Through Alka-Seltzer Cold Medicine

On Monday, while suffering from a horrible head cold I caught on a plane, I trudged out in my gigantic black puffy parka to walk the pup. It was an attempt at normalcy as I sneezed, sniffed and snorted out an ungodly amount of…never mind, enough said.

Anyway, off we went, the pup at a happy trot, me sluggishly trailing behind. We walked up one street, the pup sniffing and marking his territory, me blowing my nose, eyes tearing from repeated sneezing. We continued along in this fashion until we got to East 58th Street, which turns into a weird, one-block, lane-less free for all during rush hour as cars simultaneously try to jam their way onto the Queensboro Bridge or head further east for…I don’t know, breakfast doughnuts.

It was in this Thunderdomic stretch of block that the pup decided to really get down to business. As dutiful as can be, he headed to the curb for his intent sniffing of the perfect spot while I wiped my nose on my puffy sleeve. It was then that a horror-on-wheels started beeping maniacally as she barreled toward us, Cannonball-Run style. She was intent on cramming her four-wheeled hell machine into a space it couldn’t fit, and for her to do that, she needed the curb, you see. Also, it was a red light she was racing to stop at.

So, I yank the pup away, process what was happening (snot now dripping down my face) and then realized that this hellacious driver stopped her tin can three feet ahead of where the pup and I stood (eyes at this point watering out of fury). Again, it bears mentioning, she was stopped at a red light. Not only that, but she was typing away at her Blackberry. In other words, a captive audience to whatever I had to say to her.

For the three people who read this blog, you’ll recall that my patience runs out pretty fast with driving mishaps. It runs out doubly fast when I’m nearly run over with the pup.

So I stood where she could see me. Admittedly, I looked like a cross between the grim reaper (sans scythe) and Dan Ackroyd in Trading Places when he’s dressed up like Santa Claus (I’m referring to the hair, not the salmon). 

There, on the sidewalk, snot dripping down my face, eyes watering, I looked at her, gave her a two thumbs up and said, “Great job! YOU ARE AWESOME!” At which point I raised my arms above my head as if at a sporting event and yelled, “YEAH!” And then, the cold medicine clearly doing all the talking, I pointed at her, “THAT’S THE STUFF! YOU ROCK!”

Green light. She sped off.

I think the sarcasm made it through the passenger’s side window, which was closed. Also, I’m certain she thought I was crazy—will blame that on the cold medicine. The point here is, I considered the moment--however bizarre, medicine-induced and off-kilter it was--to be one of personal growth. Why? Because nary an expletive was used. It's the small victories in life.

So, today is Friday and I’ve stopped wishing that woman’s thumbs to fall off (another great leap forward). Also, my cold is gone—just in time for the weekend! Used properly, cold medicine can indeed be a transformative thing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Spring Forward

After a cold snap, spring is making another go of it here in New York.

The season has cleared its throat a few times in recent weeks, but still hasn't managed to fully find its voice. Although I tend to dedicate this blog to words (most of the time), I thought it might be nice to let some pictures do the talking for once.

All of these snapshots were taken today a handful of blocks around my apartment building. I don't live near Central Park, but even surrounded by concrete, it's impossible not to see spring peeking out from the cracks and crevices around you. A burst of bloom here, a growth of greenery there. When those little early season crocuses muscle their way up through a packed bit of dirt beside the street, you can't help but be reminded that there's an energy here that's vibrant, sometimes pugnacious, but quite often, gorgeous.

Soon, the season's vocal cords will be warmed up and we'll be treated to a cacophony of color. Until then, enjoy a few brief bars as spring starts humming anew.