El mundo de Espanol

I'm not good at writing the upside-down question marks. I also consistently talk about my beer (cerveza) when I mean to talk about my head (cabeza). And my accent sounds like a mix of fancy-pants French and open-mouthed American.

"Un lapiz?" Our teacher, Cynthia de Mexico, gestures towards us and rattles off some Spanish. We are supposed to tell her what it means. My Romance language brain quickly shuffles through the Rolodex of French words that resemble it. "Sounds like lapin, which means rabbit," I think.

I make rabbit ears with my fingers and hop my hand through the air. Cynthia looks puzzled. "No comprendo, Jennifer?"

My classmate Katerina (of Moscow) holds up un lapiz triumphantly. Pencil. Not rabbit. Freaking Russians.

Other than the occasional French-inspired flub, Spanish is a hoot and a half. My amigos in class are an eclectic mix: a law student from Bratislava, a Middlebury professor on sabbatical, an Indian guy on a 3-year UN mission to NY, a Russian translator for the UN. We stroll into class twice a week at 8 am and slowly wake up together, prodded by Cynthia's worksheets and listening exercises. We are all at least bilingual and when Cynthia writes "ser" on the board and starts conjugating, we all know what part of the class this is.

This is the part where we learn the verb "to be."

This is the part where we learn masculine and feminine.

This is when we learn question words.

It's a rhythm I'm familiar with and the fact that it's taught solely in Spanish doesn't bother any of us. We're happy just to watch the language come alive, to understand more in the pages of our workbooks each day, to soak up the joy of attempting to be funny in another language.

It's so. great.


Is it only 5 years? Seems like 5 DECADES!

After work today, Anne, Rachel and I are piling into a car and making the trip down to our beloved A-town for the old 5-year reunion at Muhlenberg. No doubt it's going to be a weekend of debauchery and reminiscing...

I can't freaking wait.


Thwarted by Tequila

Jess was telling me the other day about how she keeps waking up at 4:30am for no reason this week. I woke up at 2:48 and now I can't go back to sleep. Can things like that be contagious?

I already have the dull pangs of a hangover because last night a bunch of work buddies and I went out for Margaritas the size of my FACE. I never have Tequila (Spring Break '03 in Vegas cured that!) and I suppose the reintroduction of that vile stuff could be the reason behind my interrupted sleep habits.

It's a nice time of night to be awake though; there's no noise outside, except for the guy who watches the fruit at the stand across the street. From time to time, he'll move his chair around or clear his throat. Probably trying to stay awake among the bananas.


At least there's Zach Braff.

Scrubs is the weirdest show. They spend the first 28 minutes making wack-o jokes set to electronic keyboard music. And then suddenly the last 2 minutes, they get sentimental about the fiancee whose heart is broken or guy who is accidentally a Dad. Then they play some ridiculously awesome song behind it and pull credits.

What gives?

P.S. Obama '08.


The things you can rush and those you can't.

Helpful things to do when you are trying to renovate a certain part of your life*:

1. Watch funny shows or movies.
2. Find new music. Erase old music from iPod. Insert new music.
3. Clean closet. Throw out old shoes.
4. Busy up schedule. Walk dogs. Learn Spanish. Give brain new content to obsess over.
5. Try new drink at bars.
6. Smile more at strangers.
7. Avoid songs on repeat.
8. Get perspective by whatever means possible. Walk on a bridge. Sit on the steps in Grand Central. Park yourself on a bench and watch people.
9. Pay bills. Arrange desk. Feel productive.
10. Wait. Longer.

*No guarantees. At least, not yet.

P.S. Obama '08.


Things that made me smile today

1. Postcard from Mom (on business trip to D.C.): "Hi Jen, GW said to send you his love! I just had to get you this post-card when I saw it..."

2. I'm sorry, I have to link to it. He's specific, he's reasonable, he's responsible. He is a true leader.

3. My new Obama totebag, to arrive next week:

And now for something non-political...
4. Note on the side of the new Trader Joe's, which opens across the street in a week:

P.S.Obama '08.

Dog Days: Cyril and Marvin

So I had this dream. I had this dream that volunteering walking dogs with NY Cares last night would be a connecting experience. I would walk dogs! Stray ones! Who lived in a shelter! And who needed love!

Turns out, connections were not in the stars last night for me and the stray dogs of Brooklyn.

Since it was my first time, the Leader Guy went through the rules and regs with me and another first-timer. Every time the door to the shelter opened, Shelter Guy who worked there would arrive with a new dog on a leash, ready to be walked. It was a little like watching people win the lottery.

"HERE'S PANDA!" he would shout, and Panda would wag his tail and head off down the block with one of the other experienced walkers.

When it came to my turn, Shelter Guy and Leader Guy decided that me and the other new girl should take a pair of dogs on a walk. This was not exactly my plan for dog connecting. And what happened next was even less my plan for dog connecting. Shelter Guy brought out two small dogs and handed me this one:

Please keep in mind that this dog looks very cute in the photo. But in real life, he did not give a shit about me. In real life, this old dog walked 2 inches per hour and peed on every blade of grass growing in the sidewalk and didn't look up to see who was walking him once.

To be fair, I did forget his name. Shelter Guy handed me the leash and said: "Here's Surgeon!" or "Here's Sturgeon!" or something equally ridiculous. I remember thinking "what the F?" but then Leader Guy was shoving plastic bags at me and Other New Girl was waiting for us to start moving, so we set off. Me and nameless dog. To make myself feel better, I nicknamed him Cyril and spoke to him in French. I will tell you that he was equally unimpressed by this linguistic choice.

The second half of the volunteer experience was a bit more exciting. Other New Girl and I brought our kitten-sized dogs back and Shelter Guy disappeared into the shelter to retrieve our new charges. Again, we were paired up. (Is it completely anti-social to want to walk a dog alone??) This time, Shelter Guy looked at Leader Guy and said "Hm... can they handle Marvin?"

Guys, let me tell you that Marvin was a freaking Pitt Bull and I got him because I was wearing sneakers. That freaking dog walked me for about 30 minutes and only slowed down towards the end of the walk, probably due to the fact that he was suffering of LACK OF OXYGEN since I was constantly pulling on his leash and telling him to stop being an idiot. Do you think I spoke any French to Marvin? No, to Marvin, I spoke KNOCK IT OFF.

"No Marvin, we don't live there. Don't GO IN THAT DOORWAY."
"Marvin, stop eating the effing trash."

He was, despite his energy, a sweet dog and I felt bad for him when people avoided us on the sidewalk just because he looked a little intimidating. I stopped us outside a bakery to take his picture, but he was too excited to sit still. Here's the best shot I got of buddy Marvin:

No soul mate dogs last night, and probably for the best. I did get a great workout (and some nice Leash Burn on my hand from the lovely Marvin) and it was good for the dogs. Maybe Golden Retriever puppies next month?

P.S. At work, we read that New York lost 1/5 of its wealth on Tuesday because of this Wall Street disaster.
P.P.S. Obama '08.


Packing it up and moving to Poland.

Ha! Did I get you? Were you concerned for a minute? Or maybe casually surprised? "Moving to Poland," you might have said to yourself. "What will she think of next?"

I'm not really moving to Poland; I'm moving to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I hesitate to write about it here because I don't sign the lease for another two weeks and I'm a little bit neurotically superstitious about this kind of crap. On the other hand, I've already told the roommates and so either way, I'm going to need some kind of home come November 1.

There are several really awesome things about this move. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. I will have my own place. Therefore, dinner parties will abound.
2. Possibility of getting a cat increases by 100%.
3. I will be surrounded by Polish people. Seriously. Polish bakeries, Polish diners, Polish grandfathers playing cards in the park around the corner from my place. I cannot wait to learn some basic Polish vocabulary to converse with the locals.
4. Change is good. Change is also freaking scary, especially when it involves new financial responsibilities and different subway routes. But ultimately, change is going to be really, really good.

There are so many secondary positive aspects to this move like an opportunity to focus the next 11 months of my life on my writing, on getting to know a new part of New York, on subletting a furnished apartment that (oddly enough) seems to have been designed for me.

Speaking of newness, new issue of NIFW published this evening. Enjoy.

P.S. Obama '08.


Top 10: most played songs from my work computer

1. You're So Cool by Hans Zimmer
2. For Emma by Bon Iver
3. This Year by The Mountain Goats
4. Flume by Bon Iver
5. A Better Son/Daughter by Rilo Kiley
6. Skeleton Key by Margot & the Nuclear So-and-Sos
7. Heartbeats by Jose Gonzalez
8. First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes
9. Rocky Took a Lover by Bell XI
10. You Will You Will You Will You by Bright Eyes

P.S. Katherine and Ben got married this weekend.

P.P.S. Obama '08.


Brooklyn Newsletter: Month Nine

Dear Brooklyn,

I had an interesting day at work today and although I finally got home around 10pm tonight, I went out on a run. Despite last week's humidity, tonight is one of the first nights that I felt a chill in the air as I ran along the Promenade. The image of Carrie pulling a warmer blanket onto her bed in the "I heart NY" episode of SATC popped into mind, and even now as I like here in bed writing this monthly letter, the breeze from my window has prompted me to snuggle down into the duvet. Fall is coming. In fact, it might already be here.

Tonight after everyone else was in bed, I slipped into my bridesmaid dress and heels to make sure everything still fit alright. Katherine and Ben are getting married this weekend, finally, after nine years together. In every way, they are each other's best friend; watching Katherine walk down the aisle towards her adoring Ben is going to be ridiculously emotional. It's pretty incredible, actually; when I think about the past nine years of my life, it seems that EVERYTHING important has happened to me in that time.

This past month has been noisy with mediocre dates and though I try not to put much pressure on first dates, there sure is something to be said for chemistry. Most times it seems pretty impossible to imagine meeting someone who I want to spend nine minutes with (let alone nine years) from an Internet site or in a bar. I have no other solution to this problem than to continue being myself and hope to attract lovely, smart people, some of whom might also have an extra boost of magic chemistry involved. It doesn't seem like much to ask until you're out there looking, when it feels like the most exotic thing in the universe. I will say this much, though: I feel much better about looking for a while than settling for a lifetime.

The past month has also been filled with ethical and emotional quandaries. What does it mean to stand up for something you believe in and how much am I willing to risk to do so? It becomes increasingly clearer to me everyday that life is easiest lived unchallenged. It is so damn easy to disengage from the world, to decouple from the neighborhood and community one exists in, to solely interest oneself in his or her own needs. And in the same breath, I'll admit that this isn't the life I'm interested in living.

At the risk of sounding dramatic (as often genuine honesty comes across), I refuse to be the girl who smiles and nods, I'm not interested in the least in being popular or liked for being anything other than who I am. I adore people who want to see another point of view, who are willing to suspend disbelief and who want to try life. I am lucky in that I know a great many people like this; I am equally lucky to know many who are not, if only because it affords me an opportunity to appreciate the former.

I walked home from the subway the other night and noticed that there were two bright lights shining from lower Manhattan. It seems that New York is shining these lights all week, given that Thursday is September 11. Seeing the lights from Brooklyn was a very moving moment for me and I think I'll do something special on Thursday to remember the day in my own way.

My bookmarks bar at the top of this screen has a bunch of folders, one of which is labelled "Music." I was flipping through it and came across this song a few minutes ago; I'll link you to it. I like the beat of it even if I don't remember how or when I came across it, and so I think I'll end this September letter with this song and a thought towards those who died seven years ago. We have come so far since then, and yet I still feel the effects of those events everyday. The world was changed, but I believe it can still be good.

I kind of have to.


P.S. Obama '08.


The swankiest of them all.

So Katie tells me she's staying at some Hilton on West 58th Street, so we head over tonight to drop her off. And realize it's not a Hilton hotel, but rather The Hudson, the swankiest hotel shit I have EVER seen. How swanky, you're wondering? Well, there was RAP MUSIC playing in the elevator. And the lobby was so dark that I needed bat sonar to find the bathroom. And we are TOTALLY getting dressed up and having drinks in her rooftop bar sometime this week after work.

I rode up the elevator with her to check out her room and we almost died with the swankiness of it all. Instead of dying though, we ran around the room and took pictures of everything and had an impromptu photo shoot, which I believe is most probably how people like Lindsay Lohan react every time she shows up at a new hot hotel.

"Don't you think it's sad that some people lose their sense of excitement when they stay in hotels like these all the time?" she asked, as we flipped through the breakfast menu ($17.50 for pastries and tea).
"I feel like you can only lose your excitement if you don't have someone to share it with," I said.

And then we got excited again and looked at the $50 hairdryer in the bathroom and checked out the view. Here are a few pics from The Hudson, and linking you to the rest of the batch.


"You look good, Jen; you look happy."

I immediately trusted Katie's quiet declaration of my own happiness on a rooftop bar earlier this evening. Maybe because of the trust you accord someone who hasn't seen you in a while, the impressive ability one has to pick up on the changes that go unnoticed by others. The last time I saw her, in Paris in mid-July, I was a different kind of happy. I felt a giddiness of beginnings more strongly back then; today I attribute my happiness to the gritty aftermath of endings that I wrote about yesterday.

It's really exciting for me to plan a long weekend with her, showing her the places that I think she'd love in this city (my city? has it become a version of that?). Listening to the stories of her first afternoon in NY (a man selling postcards, so charmed by her British accent, begged her to take some for free), I am relieved to hear that my fellow city-dwellers have extended her a warm welcome. Then again, her enthusiasm for exploring a new place is contagious enough to counteract even the most grouchy of New Yorkers.

"You know, we've hung out in three countries now, counting New Year's," I say with a mouthful of Pad Thai, as we curl up on the couch with take-out. Our conversation is punctuated with French expressions; from time to time we slip into our second language, recounting a conversation that actually happened in French... or not. I spend so much of my time with anglophones these days that it feels luxurious to have two whole vocabularies to choose from, two entire languages to arrange conversation around.

French, I miss you sometimes.


This sounds preachy, but I don't mean it that way and I'm too sleepy to rewrite.

My favorite moments are not the ones when everything is going perfectly, they're the ones when things have just finished being rough and though they're not totally alright yet, you know the goodness is coming. You can see it just over the next hill.

Also, coincidences are funny things. You just have to keep your eyeballs peeled for them; for me, they usually signify that I'm going in the right direction.


So I told Andy I would do this race with him a few months ago, and while I had been training for a while, I kind of lost the motivation. By that I mean that instead of running at night, I would sit on the couch and eat chips and guacamole and watch Democrats talk on TV.

Andy has been adamant that I get good running sneakers and I have been lazy on this front, mostly for two reasons:
1. That sounds expensive.
2. That makes this race a reality.

I dragged my ass to the sports store after work tonight and bought some running shoes. And boy, was I into it! I tried on 6 different pairs. I tried on socks. I jumped around the store. I got involved in conversations with fellow shoe shoppers who had run marathons, one of whom directed me to a website to get myself in shape for this upcoming 5k.

As I was getting ready to leave to go for a run earlier tonight, I cornered Jill in the living room.

"Jill, what do I tell myself if I want to stop running?"
"Tell yourself you want to look good for the wedding."
"Ok, that's good. What else? Obama! I want to run for Obama."
"Is this race FOR anything? What about that?"
"Yes! Good one! I want to run for breast cancer survivors- for my Nana and Shauna. And to look good at my 5-year reunion. And to feel healthy."
"Ok, so if you get through all those reasons and you still want to stop..."
"Yeah, I know. I'll be a total loser."

SO GUESS WHAT. I ran. Non-stop. 2.5 miles. In my new shoes. And new socks. And I didn't even need the motivations we'd dreamed up as leverage. What this means is that I have some hope of not keeling over and dying of a heart attack during this 5K shindig.

I think we can also learn a good lesson about the beneficial aspects of avocados, particularly that eating them nightly with yellow corn chips for dinner can do wonders for your running times.