Beginnings and endings: the 2009 edition

This morning I cleaned my apartment in Greenpoint, hauled out a few bags of trash and packed the remaining few items to cab it back to our new place. It felt significant, like an ending. I suppose there are all kinds of endings and beginnings happening in our lives right now.

My memories of that apartment are almost solely of 2009 (though Obama's election as we cheered in my little living room in November ranks pretty high up there too). What a year it's been, quite possibly the best year of my life.

I spent New Year's 2007 (turning 2008) in London and I remember walking one of the bridges a few days into January. It was cold and there were couples and tourists everywhere. I was in a bad job situation, had just moved into a roommate situation in Brooklyn after living with my parents for 6 months and had no promise of a love or social life. It was a rough time, that New Year's, one of those celebrations that you're not quite ready for. You aren't setting any resolutions or goals because it seems like the most obvious goal is insurmountable: getting a life.

I stopped halfway across the bridge and looked out at the London skyline, vowing to myself that I would start looking for a new job once I got back. Yes, I had only been at the place six months, yes I had just moved out of my parents' house, no it was not what I would have done if I was playing it safe. But I knew that satisfaction in my job and finding a way to meet other younger people in New York hinged on that decision.

A few months later, I was hired by Arc90, a software company. This isn't the time or place to get into what I do or where I work, but that hiring happened 20 months ago. In the past 20 months, I've met my boyfriend (also an Arc employee), made a ton of hilarious and incredibly intelligent friends, and just two weeks ago I got the exciting news that I was being promoted to Director at Arc.

December has been insane, folks. From traveling to promotions to moving to the holidays, it's been a very overwhelming time for me. Sometimes it seems like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, for one of us to be diagnosed with a terrible disease or worse. How can life be this fantastic? It seems too good to last.

Now here I am, lying on the couch I helped Chris buy on one of our first dates last January, in our shared apartment with views of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Oscar is sleeping on the chair across from me. In a few hours, my sister and her friends will come over and sit on our floor and eat dinner with us (we are still lacking a kitchen table and chairs). Then we're having a Progressive New Year's Eve party, which starts at a former co-worker's apartment, continues at Sarah Mclo's digs and then moves to a current co-worker's place. If we're not too tired, we'll come back here to celebrate our new place and the new year post-midnight.

The best part is that each place is within 5ish minutes of the next.

I love living around friends. I love living across from Trader Joe's (yes! can you believe it??). I love our new apartment and our life together and my job. I am really optimistic for 2010 and cannot wait to see what it brings.

I wish you all a very happy new year. Thanks for reading and following the adventure from over here. I'm often not sure how to define the relationship between blogger and her audience, but I do hope that someone might stumble onto something of use or inspiration here. If this New Year's is your version of my London bridge moment, don't be afraid to make a really big vow to yourself and then CHANGE your life. It's seriously the only way it's going to start to get better.

Happy changing! Sublime in '09 is almost over!


The end of December 2009

Dear Everyone,

Sometimes (when I am in a subway reading poetry or trying to fall asleep at night to the smell of new varnish or uploading photos of Oscar in our new apartment), I get really excited to post again to this here blog. Sadly (and stressfully), the past few weeks have been spent at work. Also in a moving van and also a tiny break for Christmas, but mostly at work.

There is no sense promising an update, as that will make the stress level higher. Just wanted you all to know I'm alive and fine. And at work.

So much exciting stuff to recap soon. Hope you are all well.

xo J

P.S. Ok, I couldn't resist:


At the Taj!

Here is a tiny taste of India to tide you over until I can actually write something coherent about the trip. Jet lag and these Malaria pills are making me feel pretty crappy 24 hours a day. I'll be adding new photos to Flickr all day... enjoy!


What's up, India?

This is going to be one big mega-dump of stuff, as I'm leaving for India tomorrow night and kind of having seven nervous breakdowns simultaneously.

1. Yesterday I went to the doctor to get vaccinated for Hep-A and Typhoid. I'd had cold-like symptoms over the weekend and a fever on Sunday night. When I mentioned this to to doctor, he made a face.

"Hm, you might have swine flu."
"Ha! Wait, you're kidding, right?"
"No, those are the symptoms. If you still have a fever in 24 hours, get this prescription for Tamiflu filled and start taking that. In the meantime, we'll give you the vaccine in case you don't have it."

So I spent yesterday home in bed, mostly worried about all the work I wasn't doing at work. But I am happy to report that the fever seems gone and so, verdict suggests no swine flu. Thanks, universe! Cause I needed that like a damn hole in the head!

2. Slowly but surely, the India trip has been scheduled. Now doing New Delhi, Bangalore and Bombay. I am excited, but also pretty anxious. I can completely understand why lots of people avoid traveling to 3rd world countries; the insane amount of vaccinations and medications I have to take with me, coupled with the daunting flight and Visa stuff... well, let's just say that I'm an avid traveler who is going to stay with two friends that I know. And I'm still kind of freaking out.

I want to write about how it feels to suddenly put a bunch of medications in my body when I get back. I hate knowing that I'm messing with the system, even if some of these things are necessary.

3. I just got mocked by an old woman at the post office over lunch because I had my Christmas cards done so early. Seriously? Lady, I'm about to cough some swine flu in your face.

4. Kate, Steve and I saw Guster on Friday night during their reunion tour at the Beacon Theater. All I can say is holy singing! And awesome vibes! How fun are concerts where you all sing along and love the band and lyrics together in one harmonious vocal community? It was pretty killer.

That's all I have time to write. Hopefully I will make it back in one piece and you'll hear from me after the 13th. I'm bringing the Netbook, so I'll be able to write the whole time, so stories and photos to come!


It's here!

Phone call to my house this morning:
Steve: Hello?
Mom: Hello?
Me: Hey, it's me.
Steve: Mom?
Mom: Who's on the phone?
Me: ME.
Mom hangs up.
Steve: What?
Steve: Oh, hey sister. What's up?
Me: I need to talk to Mom. Mom?
Steve: She hung up.
Me: Gahh can you get her? I have to tell her what train we're taking!

It's times like these that I love living back in the States.

Chris and I are headed up to my parents' for Thanksgiving in a few minutes. Wishing you and yours a really fun turkey day with the goofiest people in your life. Happy Thanksgiving!


Oscar in a bag

So last night I decided that I should clean out my hall closet. And the kitchen. And, well, the entire apartment. Oscar found one of the bags I use to bring groceries home and spent the evening hiding in it and escaping from it. I had to capture some of this on video for Oscar's fan club.


Oscar in a bag, part 1 from Jen Epting on Vimeo.

Oscar in a bag, part 2 from Jen Epting on Vimeo.


On negotiating

Since the moment that I graduated from High School ten years ago, there was never a doubt in my mind that I'd be someone who would attend our reunion. I am so clearly a reunion girl. I organized our 5-year reunion at Muhlenberg last year and if there's anything that I'm interested in, it is surely the ways in which we change throughout our lives and the moments we are allowed to examine those ways.

Which is why it comes somewhat as a shock to me that I'm not going to the reunion next weekend.

At first I wasn't going because it was ridiculously expensive. The minds planning said reunion calculated $75 a person for 4 hours of open bar at a location 45 minutes from home to be an "unforgettable night." Uh. Only if you mean YHS reunion = drunk driving disaster.

And then I wasn't going because none of my friends were going. Not one. Sure, there'd be people I could catch up with and have a conversation with. But I can pretty much talk to a brick wall. No novelty there.

In the end, even after a price reduction, I am not going because the only reason TO go at this point would be to satisfy those in charge. I get these emails- "come on, guys! We'll be the only class not to have a reunion! How sad would it be about the class of '99 if we couldn't even do this?"

I am a sucker for saving things from large-scale disappointments, particularly those caused by groups I am part of. Nevertheless, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats, dreaming about the people who have had babies and who remain drinking buddies and who are, to this day, just as flipping annoying as they ever were back in High School. I dreamed about them all week! And then I realized: there is nothing that I really have to say to these people. For the unique moment that it would be to all gather in the same space again, I remind them that we were never all in the same space to begin with. This idea that suddenly ten years have passed and we are all on the same page, all able to speak the same language and reminisce about where we used to hang out- this idea is a lie.

My, how dark and bitter I've become.

Instead of my High School reunion, I'm going to spend Saturday night with my brother or my sister or my parents, who I don't get to see very often. I might do some last-minute planning for India, where I will visit Priya (one of those very smart friends I mentioned earlier), who I have known since 3rd grade. I don't know; I'm going to spend my energy pushing the relationships I have further instead of hopelessly nurturing the stubs of old ones.

Oddly, this one decision says more about how I've changed within the past ten years (or even five years or maybe even since last week) than almost anything else I can imagine.


I need to say a note on being an extrovert here, a thought that stems from conversations that Chris and I have been having lately and from my comment above about being able to talk to a brick wall. It is interesting (I might use another adjective here, but, hey.) to be in a relationship with an introvert. When I need to be chatting about my week and going on about a project, Chris sometimes needs quiet time. My need to be WITH someone and his need to be WITHOUT someone combine in one giant potential for misunderstanding city. I am sure some of you know what I mean.

Last night we saw some friends who just got engaged and they asked us both to be in their wedding party. I was really excited and, reminiscent of when Katherine asked me to be one of her bridesmaids, did a little squealing and hugging. Chris' side of the table was more subdued, maybe in the way that men show the acknowledgment of their emotions. Well, here I am hours after this situation and I keep running over it in my head. WHY did I have to be so excited? Why so over the top? (Though I will mention that the reaction was entirely genuine). I even texted my Mom when I got home to tell her. Guess what! Fun bridesmaid times coming soon!

Sometimes extroverts feel like airheads. Didn't you know?

At its best moments, being an extrovert feels like exuding a non-stop stream of charm. At it's worst, it feels like losing all credibility and exhibiting not even an ounce of grace.

This one does not wrap up as nicely as the comment on growing since High School did above. I continue to negotiate the reality of being someone who is over-zealous about most things in her life. Some days I feel like I've made people feel at ease; other times I wish there was another extrovert in the room to squeal even louder and make me feel better.

Anyone have thoughts on this? I would be curious to see how you guys think about these things; obviously I'm only expecting the extroverts to comment. Ha!


Reasons why I have not updated this blog lately

We all know it: November has been a crappy blog updating month. Here are the top five reasons:

1. I'm working like a crazy person. Actually, probably more than a crazy person. I'll just put it this way- the past few days have been bed-work-bed-work-bed. Off to work in a minute. Again with the working!

2. I have been cleaning my apartment like a crazy person. Or a person whose landlords need to show her place all the damn time. Oscar is shedding entire kittens off his back and throwing his litter around like it's a ticker-tape parade. This, as you might imagine, is really helpful.

3. I have been WRITING A NOVEL. Remember that little project? Today marks the day I'm supposed to pass 30,000 words. Sadly, I am only at 18,000. (Please note: THIS IS STILL A LOT). I have lots more to say about Nanowrimo, but at the moment it is giving me a migraine. So... soon!

4. I am never home. Also there are about 16 holidays coming up. I will be traveling to India in two weeks, Kenosha in four, up to my parents' at least twice during that time.

But I will be back. Soon. To tell you about people who got engaged and people who tried to guilt me into my HS reunion and people who I randomly ran into on the street recently. It's all exciting! It's so exciting that I'm having more fun being excited in person than on this here blog. That sounds pretty healthy, no?

Seacrest out... for now.


Working from home

I was doing some software QA from my couch this afternoon and a little friend came to snuggle his face against my face. You'll probably recognize him.


The Yellow Notebook, 2009.

At the beginning of this year, I wrote about keeping a small Green Notebook in my bag for moments of inspiration, funny things overheard, a space to organize my thoughts on hectic days. I just finished another one, this time a yellow Moleskin. This one has more ideas for fiction, shopping lists, lists for packing... oh hell, there are tons of lists in this one. Perhaps one of the reasons why 2009 feels like a less stressful and more organized year?

3/5/09: G train home
Use this guy as a character:
- black baseball cap
- ankle-length jeans
- graying hair
- black gym bag
- he swung wildly and narrowly missed taking off the head of a 20-something bearded man when the subway stopped
- "Sorry, sorry!" he said in an Eastern European accent

This man is someone's father!

3/6/09: Notes on Managing
1. Challenge them- they might not have the skill set you wish they did, so help them get it
2. Be patient- be ok with growing progress and not instant perfection
3. Share examples- good writing styles, etc.
4. Be available- do my best to get back to them asap.

3/6/09: L train to Chris'
Why do I write? To translate life into words.

3/11/09 Fiction idea
Widow with her husband's sweat-dried sock.

3/15/09: L train to brunch in the city
How do we meet someone in a new passion or mode of life and never feel like we're with someone who is unrecognizable to us T-2 years? If you start playing tennis and met a tennis player and start to date him, what happened to the person you were pre-tennis? How do you know if tennis is a phase or if it's an evolution of yourself? What place do your previous hobbies have in your life?

... why is happy less interesting?

A boy across from me on the L train (with 2 lip rings) is reading a DK Eyewitess companion book about Beer. Huh? Not Egypt or llamas, but beer! Crazy!

3/30/09: San Fran (Sausalito)
... I have all the bread in the basket to myself and all the butter too.

This is the joy of traveling alone.

I've been to so many places alone - or with moments alone. I am my own best company. "What does this remind me of?" I think and I already know. Ireland. Or Italy. Or London.

I went in a used bookstore and since I have no money, I floated to see if they carry any Charles Baxter... I vow, if I ever publish a book, to seek it out in used bookstores wherever I go, to see if anyone has written sweet messages in the front, to buy the copies if they are looking too dusty to sell. I'd rather be a hot commodity than left to rot on the shelf.

... The bench I sat on in the park, the table at this restaurant, they are both part of my memory. But what of myself stays here? How to find them again = how to feel as though I am not just a visitor, but a changer, a tiny speck of influence, however small.

4/16/09 after 99% conference after-party
I met a girl called Shoshanda who has four years of travel journals to transcribe. She's a writer. She told me that you can't wait to make what you want to happen come true. You have to take all your dreams and boil them together into one action task. Her task is to transcribe her journals.

What is mine?

4/30/09 Moon at the film festival
Director lets the scope of his story influence the plotline??

$ dictates what could happen to the characters.

5/11/09 From The Invention of Air
"Necessity may be the mother of invention, but most of the great inventors were blessed with something else: leisure time." (p. 49)

"The whole notion of intellectual circulation or flow is embedded in the word "influence" itself ("to flow into", influence in the original Latin). Good ideas influence, and are themselves influenced by, other ideas. They flow into each other. (p. 51)

5/26/09 6 train, uptown
Maybe instead of starting the day positive and being beat down until 6pm, I need to start the day asking "what can I do today to feel good at 6pm?"

FYI this was the first day I defined 5 goals daily... I'm still doing this 6 months later!

Girls who wear shorts in the rain + sandals. ITCHY.

... so maybe the reason we can get so upset with software is that it often mimics our deepest fears in our relationships.

My computer used to freeze and quit programs, I had no idea why or how to fix it or what I'd done to make it act that way. We watch people use insanely old versions of IE browsers or conduct crazy, twisted actions on their own machines because they're afraid of not being able to predict what's coming next. And isn't that what we do in our own relationships?

Frank Lloyd Wright's "The Living City"- acres of land for every family. And flying taxis?!

How to keep shining a positive light when you don't have enough energy?

How to rejuvenate yourself.

- Needle
- iPod shuffle cord

10/16/09 The NYer festival
Readings remind me of being a little kid and listening to stories before bed.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
"In Mali, your mother is your mother even if her leg is broken."

"To answer questions about my creative process suggests that I am conscious of what I'm doing.

Yiyun Li:
"The story of immigration is of layers of loss and I hope to explore those layers in my fiction."

"Craft is a process of writing sentences that I like. I'm drawn to writers that add elegance to sentences; they nourish and influence me."

Aleksander Hemon:
"I cannot imagine places I have never been."

"I explore alternative possibilities to the narrative of my life."

Stanley Tucci:
"Acting is celebrating the multiple personalities that we all are."

10/25/09 Thoughts upon NY return:
- What am I still doing in this dirty, annoying city?
- Why is the ACE running so slow?
- Why is the L limited again??

If you believe that people are good, can they ever make you upset? Isn't it possible that you can be too understanding of the world around you?

What is the balance of what you are entitled to and what you owe? Zen zero.

It's funny to see how much of the year I spent thinking about writing, as well as how much time I spent analyzing and planning things. I didn't include any of my shopping lists or five goals or planning lists, but know that they make up a lot of this notebook, particularly over the summer and in the second half of the year.


The Day Oscar and I Ran the NYC Marathon

Oscar has had some pinkness happening on his face lately and has seemed kind of itchy so I made an appointment with the vet for this morning. As many of you know, I adopted him almost a year ago from a shelter, who had found him abandoned in the Bronx. If anything is true about Oscar, he surely loves an adventure... which is why, after I got his carrier out early this morning, it was no surprise that he was ready to go. Immediately.

Off we went, into a cab that allows pets, and as we got closer to Williamsburg, I mentioned that the driver might want to avoid Bedford. "You know, it's the marathon today," I said. My driver did not seem to understand the concept of 40,000 people running down the road we needed to cross.

"Is there another way around this??" I asked. My driver shrugged. I got out.

I'll say this. There are many things that one might bring to watch the NYC Marathon. Signs, flags and dogs are among them. Cats in carriers do not, typically, belong on the scene- and I say this because there sure is a lot of SCREAMING. Oscar the Wonder Cat did not flinch. I however, was not managing as well.

The trouble with wanting to cross Bedford Avenue on the morning of the marathon is that there is no way to do it. The subway doesn't go underneath it (allowing a prairie-dog-style-pop-up-to-the-other-side situation). And there are runners constantly coming. So I'm standing there on N. 6th and Bedford looking mightily confused when this woman comes up to me and asks if I need to get across. I tell her we do.

Then she says she will help me cross, that we will only need to RUN with the RUNNERS for a few seconds diagonally across Bedford. I remind her I am carrying a 15lb cat in a carrier. She offers to hold one side.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is how Oscar and I ended up running in today's marathon. People are screaming and she is quietly saying "not yet... not now... GO, RUN, GO!" and we're off, crossing the avenue with Oscar in hand.

PEOPLE. It was exhilarating! What a memory! After we got safely to the other side, I thanked her and showed her Oscar, who nicely sniffed her hand and nuzzled her. UNPHASED BY RUNNING IN A MARATHON, was this cat.

Then we went to the vet, where we found out he has a mild case of cat acne and an allergy to his food. In usual fashion, he was adored by the doctor and her assistant and enjoyed hanging out in the waiting room while we awaited a cab for our ride home.

I do not know what the odds are of having the sweetest cat in the world, but I think I should probably play the lottery one of these days. While I made banana bread and worked on Nanowrimo this afternoon, our little buddy did a little napping. Big freaking day!


Checking in.

On Monday night, my sister and I cuddled up in her room to catch up on our lives. Having been driven from the family room for disturbing Steve's TV-watching, we were deep in a discussion of love and life when my Mom poked her head in to say goodnight. As she pulled the door shut, I imagined what we must have looked like, two similar-looking twenty-somethings sharing secrets.

This is what my Mom always wanted for us. "You're so lucky you have a sister!" she would say to us during our frequent adolescent fights. "I always wanted a sister... and look how you talk to each other!"

For lack of a better excuse, the simple fact that we see each other so rarely prevents us from using harsh words. The entire family made the trek up to my parents' for the funeral of a dear family friend on Monday and we had only a few precious hours of time. Better make the best of it.

The funeral (which I will probably write about at some point) was difficult, the way it always is when someone dies in their 50s. You mourn for the kids, you mourn for the husband, you mourn for a life that should have been allowed to continue for decades. But the underlying refrain remains: our time is short. Our hours are precious. You never know.

Chris and I found an apartment this week, a place that strikes at the heart of where we want to live and the kind of life we imagine together. We got approved yesterday and will sign the lease next week when he's back from Wisconsin. As we rode the elevator up to work the other day, I said "don't die, ok? Be really careful." Things are so good right now that I can't help letting down the brakes. The build-up has the ring of tragedy, the potential for devastation.

I know that's not the way to think. I know that most of this is a reaction to death and the incredible amount of joy in my life and the confusing way those two exist side-by-side. But, you know. You wonder.

To distract myself, I've decided to embark on a project so great that I don't sound sane talking about it. Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? This year I've decided to join the ranks and throw myself into writing a November novel. I have no idea how this will go and it's possible that posting here will be light for the month. But oh! The CRAP that will come out while writing 50,000 words in 30 days!

I'm pretty excited to see how that goes.

P.S. I haven't said anything about my trip to Madison last weekend; I'll write about that soon too. For now, amuse yourselves with photos of this awesome city.


Las chicas.

Behold! The stunning Mexican ladies!

These girls are multi-lingual like you wouldn't believe, have lived all over the world and are willing to engage in theories on love for hours at a time. Daniela is spending a few months in New York on an internship and Steph is up in Montreal for the year. What a crazy thing to meet up in Greenpoint last night to reconnect over dinner and drinks.

Per usual, our goodbyes were uncertain as to when and where we'll meet up next. Maybe Amsterdam 2010? Possibilities exist, that's all I'm sayin'.


Lovely lunchtime: check.

Today at lunch I took a 20 minute walk around the UN and, to give my walk some purpose, I took my camera. I decided to specifically look for new and lovely things. Here are some of the things I found:

Crazy vantage point from the outside of the U.N. After I took this photo, I walked up the stairs and into the most quaint neighborhood I've ever seen in Manhattan.

This wall made me think about what it would be like to chisel this text into a rock myself. And how that might be a great way to meditate on a mantra.

The U.N. isn't really the most attractive of buildings, but there's a little magic in the way you hear people talking so many different languages while on their lunch break.

Um, hello. I am moving to this park. Forget it Chris, call off the apartment search. I will just live here. Or, if rent is too high, I will spend my lunch breaks reading Jane Austen or tales of Heathcliff here. It seems too appropriate.

An inscription revealed this to be the last remaining lamppost from the 1927 park. How many people spent their evenings wandering by this light? Fiction brain suggests a tryst between lovers of different nations, who meet at the Tutor City park after hours.

It was good to leave my desk and take a break. You should too.


An Ode to the Socratic Method

We walk through the door, taking in the large living room and the awkward way you have to turn yourself to get past the island in the kitchen. It is a huge apartment. The landlord explains his new place in Park Slope, that's why they're leaving, he's bummed because this is a great place. I wander to the window, wondering if this is where Oscar will sit to watch the birds. It isn't. We both feel it and, though we're enthusiastic to the owner, we decide this three blocks away after the tour is over. The search will go on.

The past week has been a swirl of reflection within a sea of stress. Though we'd discussed living together in the future, several recent conversations made it clear that the future might be sooner than we'd thought. And though some might see the mere possibility of taking the next life step as confirmation to do it, I was on less solid ground.

All I will say about this is that I lived with someone a few years ago and it did not go well. It went so not well that it was over within a few months. And though I am someone who loves jumping into new challenges and adventures, I find it much more difficult when it is an adventure that I have already failed.

How do you get to the bottom of what you really want? Such epic life moments have a way of sweeping you up into them. You imagine how happy your mother will be that you've finally found someone. Your friends will come to a housewarming party and bring you candles and guest towels. The outside world never fails in its enthusiasm for societal progress. And what of your inside world?

Sometimes I write things on this blog because I want to share them with you. Most times, actually. But sometimes I find myself writing things here for myself. Your appreciation or lack thereof is merely by-product. Sometimes I want to record history here, register how it was. In future weaker moments, I want to know that this decision was something that I thought through and out and around and about. Because I have. And all of that brings me as deep as today possibly allows me into the wants of my subconscious: I want to live with Chris.

In short, we made a survey and took it separately about where we wanted to live, what kind of neighborhood, the amenities that were important, how long our commute should be. Then, compared. And though it was a promising start with many similarities, my introspection wasn't finished.

I came home on Monday night and put on some Bon Iver, lit a couple of candles, and wrote out some questions. What would I ask myself if I were my own friend? And then, in colored markers, I wrote out the answers. Those answers are full of nerves and excitement, a colored mess of letters on a page filled with as much truth as I can muster. So then I knew.

It's ironic; I carry a notebook with me, I write on this blog, I am perhaps one of the people who wonders and reflects the most on the world around me. And yet the challenge of knowing what you really want seems an impossible task without some solitude and quiet. In the stillness of Monday night, I felt no loyalty to either opinion, but rather to myself, as deep down as I could stretch.

So January 1 it is. We're at the beginning of our search for a place with enough space for independence, as many outlets as an apartment can handle and close proximity to Trader Joe's. This time, maybe because I've made such a point to think it through, it feels much more like taking off, like clipping in our seat belts and putting our chairs in an upright position.

Yes, it feels a little like flying.


Happy Napping

Uncle Steve moved back home with the 'rents last weekend, but his memory remains. Also the photos of him napping at various hours of the afternoon. Ahhh to be a recent grad...


Bulking up... on weight-lifting, India-ness and wedding gifts.

This is going to be another post about the India trip and I know, I know- you're sick of it already. First it was francefrenchfrancais all the time and now it's iheartgandhi. Well, that's how I run, folks. I really like getting INTO something and, at the moment, I'm reading Indian fiction and kind of pissed at the British and storing various Lonely Planet guides under my pillows, which I fall asleep reading every night.

Not knowing much about the place, India already sounds GIANT. People are giving me this kind of advice:

"X town is only 6 hours away from Y town, so you can totally do that and get back in a day."

That seems like a long time in a vehicle to me, regardless of whether that vehicle is a bus, train, driver or personal chauffeur who will carry me on his back while I drink chai tea lattes. Someone kindly recommended a very adorable hotel in Delhi and I have half a mind to have a stay-cation for all four nights prior to the wedding in Bombay and explore the closest cities. Because packing up my stuff EVERY MORNING and moving to the next place? Well, that sounds like traveling in my early 20's. Ha.


Last night I printed out some arm exercises and hit the Weight Area at the gym. For the first 20 minutes, a crazy-toned Asian girl with tattooed arms lifted some odd heavy bar in front of me in the mirror. We ended up in one of those awkward positions, where every time she stooped down to drop it, there I was behind her, calmly doing bicep curls. I was like her lame-tastic double, sans body art and giant lobe holes. Also, I was rocking out to The Killers and, I can only assume by how angry she looked, she was using something a bit more heavy metal as her lifting muse.

I happened to glance over at a personal training session and almost laughed out loud when I saw the trainee had folded her arms across her chest and was sulking, which the trainer explained why xyz exercises were good for her. Listen up! If you have enough cash flow that you can pay for personal training, how about you NOT SULK? It makes you look like a royal jack-ass and if I were a less polite girl, I would have gone over and asked to use her 60-minute session, since she was so clearly not.


2010 is shaping up to be The Year of the Wedding. Four friends have already proclaimed their engagements and I am starting to think about bulk-shopping for blenders and champagne.

Some of you have been to 15 million weddings (Katherine? AB?)... any advice on how to budget for such massive de-single-ifying is welcome.


Take that, Lonely Planet.

A former boss of mine was, for a million different reasons, a great role model to me. She was self-sufficient, confident, a mother of two, a hard worker and a smart cookie. But for all the reasons I had to admire her, there was one that stood out like a golden achievement: she had great friends.

Having lived in a million places around the world, she had acquired a network of incredible people who would do anything for her and she for them. I babysat for her sons when she took a plane to Switzerland to a surprise party for a friend's 50th birthday. I met a few of them at her son's Communion party, one of whom gave a speech that still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it today. Not one of these epic friendships were cultivated in the town she lived in; rather, her network spread out across the world, flourishing in airports and annual dinner parties and random meetings in the south of France.

Three days ago I sent an email to my most nomadic friends, asking for advice about where to stay, what to see and who to meet in Delhi when I go in December. And this morning I have no less than 16 emails back, many from connections of connections, all of which overwhelm me.

Some snippets:

My next recommendation would be to take a train to Amritsar which is about 6 hours from Delhi. Its where the golden temple is which is a holy sikh temple. Its so beautiful and atmospheric, it was my favourite place in India. Also you can go to the India/pakisthan border in the evening for border ceremony which is worth a visit!

...I could also check with my mom, if she can perhaps help you, while you are in delhi... (she is a great shopper!).. you can contact her for everything (sight seeing.. shopping.. etc)...Next do check out the Agra fort, 40kms from Taj... do some shopping in the local markets (leather footwear is famous)... well, if u happen to get in touch with my mom, i don't need to give u any more guidelines.. she can join u for a day trip to Agra too...she would love that!

After two nights in Delhi, jumped on a Second Class section of train and zoomed to Agra. (third class can be a bit sketchy, and first class is quite a bit more expensive and you don't get to sit next to strangers and talk to them, so we thought 2nd class was the way to go). We arrived in the late afternoon and made sure to find a hotel within the limits of the Taj Mahel, and had already organized with a tour guide so that he would pick us up before dawn, so that yes - we did indeed watch the sunrise over the Taj. Magical indeed - check out my Facebook photos of my South Asia trip.

our tour guide for agra was Amit Agarwal. HIs email is [email]. His phone number is [phone number]. I had a very positive experience with him the first time I went to the taj.

my recommendation here would be to show up early in the morning at the British High Commission in Delhi, and sign up for a tour of Old Delhi with Nigel. Nigel is an old man who came to Delhi in the early '40s with the British, and after independence he decided to stay in India. He knows places in Delhi that no one else does and brings a small group of people there. You cannot reserve over the phone, you have to go in person to the British High Commission and sign-up. This is a one full day tour in Old Delhi... you'll never forget it!

I cannot even tell you what all of this advice means to me. The prospect of connecting with a random friend's mom in Delhi and having tea with her (or, you know, visiting a FORT together!) is making this trip truly come together.

Human connections, man. The most valuable thing I have.


Teeth, swine, 29.

"I'm getting a wisdom tooth."

"What, are you 17? Did you lie on your resume to get a job here?"

"Shut up, it's supposed to be impacted."

Turns out it's just impactFUL. Years ago, my dentist took out two wisdom teeth and told me the other two were hidden deep in the recesses of Never Appearing. Some part of me is convinced that riding this pain out will result in a new, friendly tooth that fits nicely in my mouth. The other part of me is about to pull a fast one and revive the teenage years of laughing gas and gauze chez la dentiste.

Le sigh. I really don't feel like dealing with this.


Tomorrow I am supposed to get a Swine Flu shot. Having been forewarned by many a friend that India is bursting at the seams with H1N1-ness, I called the local Duane Reade. "Come between 11 and 3," the woman said. How simple is that?

Then I mentioned it to a co-worker who looked at me kind of oddly. "I don't think they can give you that... it's only for children or women who are..."

STOP. Nope. Not preggers. Please. Just hypochondriatic (not a word, but should be) about all of the possible diseases that I could contract during Tejal's nuptials. Will report back about the ease with which one can obtain Swine antibodies.


This morning I was thinking about turning thirty. It's not for another year plus, but still. Thinking about the number. What's supposed to happen when you turn 30? All of your underwear turns frumpy and gray. That's what.

I kept rolling this number around on my tongue. "THIRTY YEARS of living," I thought. "THIRTY YEARS and no book to show for it. THIRTY YEARS of someone existing with my name."

That's a long friggin' time!

So I think I have to do something significant in my 29th year. I don't know what yet, but come on. THIRTY YEARS? I gotta accomplish something by then. Right now I feel like a recent grad who somehow stumbled into an apartment and a cat and an unlimited metro card. How did this time pass?

So, you know. Twenty-ninth year. Eyes peeled.


Freak show, midtown

So... wow. Looks like the UN was a freak show yesterday, no? I spent my workout last night at the gym listening to the speeches of Ahmadinejad and Gaddafi and... what the what. Not quite sure who Gaddafi paid off to get NINETY-SIX minutes of rambling in front of an international stage.

Obama's speech was, I thought, forceful and thoughtful. What an unfamiliar pleasure to be impressed by one's leader.


I was a senior in college when the U.S. declared war on Iraq. Immediately upon the declaration, Muhlenberg announced a "teach-in." Classes were canceled for the day and the departments organized discussion groups and learning sessions about various relevant subjects. The language department spoke about how the declaration was seen by other countries around the world. The religion department taught on the different religions of the people who live there. The history department shared a history of the region and background on Saddam. The philosophy department taught on the philosophy of war. It was one of my favorite experiences of college... perhaps why I love the New Yorker festival is that it presents another opportunity for a short-term, yet intense, period of learning.

In any event, inspired by all of the discussion and debate, I headed off in a bus to protest the war in D.C. a few weeks later. There is something incredible about a protest: the energy, the immediate kinship, the mental exercise of deciding where you fall on the spectrum of whatever you're protesting against or for. How refreshing it was to actually DO something about my feelings against the war... it felt like a mix of history and America and freedom of speech and revolution. It felt like believing in something.

I worry that my generation doesn't have as many of these moments as other generations did. I worry that people defer to leaving sarcastic comments on blogs and news articles, from the comfort of their lifestyles.


I work around the corner from the U.N. and we've been seeing a bunch of protests and rallys. Many were immigration related, but on a quick jaunt to the library, I passed through the parade of people protesting Ahmadinejad's presidency. The stream of people extended down 3rd Avenue, all holding Iranian flags or posters, all chanting about needing the truth of the presidency and mourning the loss of the innocent people who have been killed or tortured by this government. "Rock on," I thought to myself as I passed by them.

I doubt I have any Iranian or Libyan readers, but in case I do, chin up. Your leaders demonstrated irresponsible leadership yesterday in the best case, and extremely dangerous leadership in the worst. But we don't assume that the entire country believes what these two men assert. There's the reality that a people is represented by one figure and the simultaneous given that one person can never represent the truth of all his or her constituents.

We spent 8 years coming to terms with that.


Status: pending

I haven't listened to my iPod while commuting in a long time. Nothing against it; I just simply have too much to read in this life. A subscription to the New Yorker is both a blessing and a curse. Fantastic, fun-fact-filled articles... and a time suck like no other, on a weekly basis at that. Last night, though, I slipped on the headphones from my gym bag and found myself swept up by the striking contrast of a silent New York City. Faces, buildings, all mute- as the soundtrack plays on.

At times like these, I am plunged headfirst into characters. I become one myself. If my life were a television series, this week would be the season premiere. The camera pans across the city, tracks down the central character as she walks towards the subway in Union Square. She always has a new haircut and clothes; it is, after all, a new season and there are future DVDs to come.

If my life were a television series, what would the narrator say behind the opening scenes of this season? How to fill in the blanks since we last left her in the spring? How to describe the summer? I wondered what images would sufficiently represent my summer, what the Yearbook would look like. The fact that it was almost indiscernible from my spring concerned me; time has made a milkshake of my memories and I am losing definition behind what was when and with who.

Camera pans to subway, where she stands, surrounded by L-train commuters. It is hard not to feel epic with a song blasting out the noise of the subway around you. I cannot hear these people complaining about their days. Instead, I am struck by how easily I can imagine what they looked like as children.

I am brought again to character. To emotion, to feeling, to moving, to crowds. My fingers itch to write as much of it as I can translate from the reality, but I am far from a keyboard. Instead I stuff my imagination with phrases and thoughts for a later time. This stuffing happens often. It's the de-stuffing that is consistently lost when I'm interrupted by a text message or I come home to a conversation. Need time to de-stuff, I think and my subconscious laughs. Right after this week's New Yorker is finished.


"So Jen, how's the book coming?" Numerous times in Europe. "Are you writing? How's your book?" From my brother. I flick away these questions. Irritated. My brother presses: "Jenny, you have to do it, ok?" "I know. I'm just... busy." "Ok, just make sure you make time for it."

If you all only knew. If you knew what a complicated relationship I have with the task of words, the joy of creating them and the heavy organizational job of finding the space to write them. A million plans per day about how I will now change my days to find time to write. But the gym! And other creative projects! And I don't want to lose my French! And maybe if I was supposed to write, I'd fight harder to find time. And maybe I'm supposed to contribute other types of creative projects to this world. And there are so many books to read at the library! For free!

Then, suddenly, I'm in the subway with a ballad blasting in the background of a million evening commuters and I know it's coming. Somehow it will happen. A little patience required.

Thanks for asking. Yes, there is a book in me. No, I haven't found it yet. Yes, I think about it most hours of most days. Sit tight. It's coming.


The loss of the losing

Last night during the Ingrid Michaelson concert (which, by the way, was one of the most fun I've ever been to), she played a mix of old songs and new. Several of her songs from the Boys and Girls album reminded me of the period after I'd moved home from France and would drive from work to Yoga before heading home to my parents'. Ingrid's album was the soundtrack of those few months and last night I found myself thinking about that wonderful moment with music- the one when you are so distraught or lost that you can only sing someone else's words over and over again. And it gives you strength.

This is the power of break-up songs, isn't it? The message that you're better off and your life will be ok and you are finally free. The freedom that I have felt in the past after break-ups has always been fueled by music, both Ingrid's and others.

Last night I thought about how my life has been pretty good lately and how the space within me to connect with some of those secretly-longing-to-be-freer lyrics seems to have shifted. I still hear the songs, I still understand where the lyrics come from, but they no longer resonate with me. I suppose that means I'm happy.

When you've spent 28 years grasping at the hints of love that find their way into your life (both Love and love), it is an odd feeling to have drained that pool. The 'what if' path is well-worn in my love life; I have, many times, left something with substance for the possibility of something more. I never left someone because there was nothing left. Rather, I left because I suspected there was nothing more to find.

The moments of rebound, of self-motivated bounce-back, that have defined who and how I am... they are part of my identity. For a split second during the concert, I mourned their loss. And then I imagined all of the other moments that I don't even know about yet- the moments AFTER the starting gate of a relationship, the time that doesn't involve finding someone but rather staying with and working on life together with someone. Those I know nothing about yet.

One of the reasons I so love Ingrid is because she's about the same age as I am. As she discovers life, so do I. And I'm so excited for the day when she puts out an album about this next step in Love; to see how she interprets it, to sing along and consider how I connect with it... that's going to be great.


An A through Z list of everything we encountered in France (and Finland!)

Alien bites?
I mean, a week is not complete if I don't get attacked by some insect, right? (For more on attacks, see H). On our fourth day, I noticed that I had giant bites all over my arms and back. Not mosquito. Chris had none. They itched like hell until the end of the trip until they faded to the freaky shadows they are today. French spiders? Fleas? Now considering buying mosquito netting and wearing it daily.

The incredibly lovely Maddy and Katie came to Paris to visit with us during the weekend, and I dare say that Chris was so influenced by them that he spent the rest of the trip speaking about how many pounds something cost. "Whoah, that coke is 9 pounds in this cafe." "...." "I mean Euros!!"

Celine and I worked at the same high school in Clermont in 2003-04. Since then, I've visited her a bunch of times in France and she's come over to New York. She is always an incredible host and we have the best conversations about France and America and the world.

Dramatic Vistas
View from Pompidou? From Montmartre? From the Eiffel Tower? Most of our time spent in Paris was based on trying to get as high above the city as possible, only to look back down at it.

Erica and Damien
You know you have good friends when they loan you a cell phone for your trip. Also when they let you taste their pistachio pie during a picnic in the park. Erica, you will never know how much I dreamed of that pie for the rest of the trip and sought it out in every patisserie we passed...

Awesome realization: lots of people complimented my French, even after being away for a year. Sad realization: I never use it in New York.

Les Granges
I found this B&B online and instantly the second half of our trip was planned. We decided to rent a car to get there and explore Normandy a bit, while relaxing after a hectic few days in Paris. I cannot recommend Madame's cooking enough; if you go, you should definitely eat in one night!

Homeless Man Beatings
Although we can all laugh about it now, our scariest moment of the trip was when a random homeless man ruined our party on the Pont des Arts by trying to get our wine and then kicking me across the picnic blanket. What!? Yes. When Chris tried to get up to defend my honor, he got his face pushed... thus ensued a stand-off with said homeless man who had since grabbed a bottle. The cops came, I was shaken and a little bruised, but we carried on with our party down the Seine. Nothing stops Middlebury alumni from partying. Not even homeless violence.

Hey! Look down there! It's Iceland!

The closest I came to being annoyed at Chris this whole vacation was how quickly the damn guy fell asleep. "Gee, I'm a little sleepy," I'd say. "Not me," he'd reply. Five seconds later: "zzzzzzzzz." Jetlag is irritating when you have to do it alone.

King Louis
I've been to Versailles about 10 times now (ok, probably more like 5), but I never tire of the gardens. The Hamlet where Marie Antoinette used to play house is adorable and it's always fun to get ice cream along the side of the canal.

The Louvre is impressive. The Louvre is also a stressful pain in the ass. Obviously I was not going to deprive Chris of his chance to see the Mona Lisa in person, though, so we joined the crowds and made awkward Mona Lisa smiles.

Moutons and Moutard
Ahh mustard. Even though I hate it, I always end up at the Maille store in Paris, chosing exotic flavors of mustard and vinegar and oil as gifts. And we did see some sheep while we were at Versailles... prompting the obvious new insult for sheep: YOU MOUTARD.

Monet's water-lilies and the gardens around his house were just... crazy beautiful. I wanted to live in that house in Giverny and become a painter. Badly.

I do not care what the food is. I will always love Orangina as my accompanying drink.

Have I mentioned that I love sitting in parks? That sometimes the mere fact that the parks in New York are cold and uninviting ruin my day? I got my annual fill of flower beds and fountains, pony rides and picnics this year as we hit up the Tuileries, Jardins de Luxembourg and Parc Monceau, among others in Versailles and Honfleur.

Questionable Highway Signs
We had a laugh with our dinner companions at the B&B as we asked a bunch of questions about the road signs we'd encountered. "What the heck is a blue circle with a red slash through it?" "Oh, that means no parking." Oh. Duh.

From down the terminal, we could smell it. "MMM what is that??" Chris asked. It was, of course, Reindeer Jerky. On our trip back, we planned to stop and buy some for the office, however found ourselves on the wrong side of Passport Control. Long story short, we now each have four stamps from Helsinki in our passports... nothing could stop us from buying that jerky. Not even border security.

One day we walked about 68 miles. We were supposed to do a fancy dinner that night. Instead, we opted for giant bowls of delicious French Onion Soup at a nearby Brasserie. We do not regret this choice.

Halfway through the trip, I thought: "Shit. I have not had conversations like this since last year." Friendships based on scarce meetings are like that, aren't they? You know you don't have a lot of time together, so you jump in the deep end. My foreign buddies are nothing if not curious and talkative, inquisitive and open-minded.

Unexpected Pepper
You know what sucks about Finnish pastries that are labeled "Buttercream"? They don't mention that they are TEEMING with chunks of black pepper. Blech. Thanks for nothing, Finland.

Vivienne, Hotel
Guys, this hotel was killer. Free Internet, clean rooms, showers that hang up on the wall. Real pillows. French TV. A cat named Romero in the lobby. And wait, 90 euros per night. IN CENTRAL PARIS. Honestly, I don't know why you're not staying there right now.

I had a lovely Brouilly during our extravagant dinner near Evreux, followed by a glass of Sancerre. Before which was a Champagne. Drinking wine often during meals is one of my favorite things about France.

Xcellent food
I know, this is cheating. But the food was crazy good, especially Madame's veal at the B&B. Ham and cheese crepes, Raclette, gelato. These are the good foods. Non-good? Maybe the baby cow brain I ate without realizing it. Gahh.

Yep, frog legs too
Frog legs taste like a mixture of chicken and fish. It was an odd tasting experience; on the one hand, butter and garlic. On the other... frog. Ribbit.

Ze French
"What did you think of French people, anyway?" "You know, everyone was super-nice!" Nice job, France. Le boyfriend approves.


What's that, French Eagle? We're back from France?

Well, yes we are. A bit jet-lagged and crazy with the laundry and the unpacking and the getting back to work, but we had a great time. Definitely will update soon with full details, but for now, the photos are here.


AND a stopover in Finland... nice.

I hit the snooze button, but there was no way this day was being slept through.


Why, thank you, loud internal alarm voice! Bleary-eyed, I am now awake.

Off to a lovely week of sipping champagne and driving through the French countryside. Hilarity and hi jinx to come, as usual. A tout!


Once again, the complex issue of being stuck.

This morning on my walk to the subway I started imagining all the things I wanted to talk about with Erica and Maddy and Katie and others in Paris. For about two blocks I was grinning, piling up the topics for discussion and catch-up and then suddenly I was blindsided by this incredible gaping hole of missing them.

It is much easier to pretend you do not miss something if you do not think about it.

This bombshell to the heart made me realize how I don't have anything like those friendships here. I have others. But I do not have the kind of depth and bonding that comes over living in a strange place with foreign people. It makes me sad to know that this entire area of myself remains tucked deep away, hidden from everyone I see here in New York on a daily basis. I can't tell if that presents a deep barrier that prevents them from really knowing me or what.

Anyways, tough stuff over here as I prepare to make the jump once again (how many times have I been? Sometime soon I will have to count that...). It's interesting to me that the original aim of this blog was to keep in touch while living abroad and dealing with the issues that arise from navigating the in-between spaces. Obviously that's still hanging around a few years in.



Growing up, my siblings and I had a million acronyms and code names and funny nicknames for things. One of my favorites is CCA (Cute Cat Alert), which we would violently whisper from the other room when one of our cats were doing something adorable.

"CCA! Come quick! JENNY!" It makes me smile just thinking about it.

Now that I have Oscar, I find myself thinking "CCA!" and yet have no one to call from the other room. Here you go, Blog people... CCA. Big time.


Way more characters than a Tweeted update.


1. Steve (aka le brother) is moving into my apartment this coming Sunday for 6 weeks. I know! These bum college graduates who majored in Environmental Science! We lit majors weren't allowed to flit around the country tracking wildlife and the ways they migrate. Instead we stroked our lit books sadly and prepared ourselves for long careers of getting someone coffee.

Well, not me. I just left the country and tried my hand at living Le Foreign Life. But you get my gist.

Anyway, I digress. So Steve! In Greenpoint! Woo! I am happy to have reconnecting adult "hey you aren't the little goon I remember!" time with him, yet I am slightly worried about having a 6+ foot male using the same kitchen. I have a vision of going food shopping at Trader Joe's and lugging my items home only to find the fridge is empty 15 minutes later.

That said, hopefully we'll have another cooking video in the works sometime soon...

2. I am leaving for France in 5 days. 1 2 3 4 5. That's it! It's so close that I practically already have jet lag. I have started judging my clean clothes as "this will look beautiful on me in Paris!" and "this is for my shoddy remaining days in NYC."

All I'm saying is I might not be looking my personal best this week.

3. Chris and I went to a Spinning class last Wednesday and we made it out alive, though he needed a post-Spinning EKG on Friday. It turns out he is a very healthy person but did not eat enough before crazy-psycho-biking class. This good news has not, however, prevented me from waking up in the middle of the night and putting my fingers under his nose to make sure he's still breathing. Oh, hypochondria. Sounds like you're still hanging around.

4. Last night I had a crazy dream that I was making an art project for my Mom. I wrapped her head in paper mache and she was so sweet about it. I kept saying "hang on Mom, I just have to find out how to sketch you now!" and she was like "ok, no problem!" So accommodating. Once she mentioned her head was tired, I helped her lay it on the table in front of her while I interviewed the art teacher about how to proceed with my sketch.

I called her this afternoon to tell her.
Me: So then I wrapped your head in paper mache!
Mom: And what, I suffocated?

Me: Uh.. no! I was making you an art project!

Mom: And I suffocated at the end?

Me: NO. You didn't die. I wasn't killing you!

Hypochondria. AHEM.

5. We do something really cool at work every 6 months or so called The Shake-up. This entails a brand new arrangement of the office and where everyone sits. I love such drastic change; it reminds me of rearranging my dorm room in college every so often. I mean, how many possibilities are there for a desk, a bed and a closet, right? MILLIONS.

Anyway, my new office mates are all boys this time and I took a funny picture of our bookshelf. Please guess which two books belong to me. Hint: they do not require a Computer Brain to read.

6. We explored The High Line today, which is a park of sorts on the West side. Essentially, some old train tracks have been redone to become a plant-filled walkway above the road. It was a really nice little walk and halfway through we got some Raspberry Ronnybrook Ice Cream. More photos on Flickr, but here are two of my favorites. In one, you can observe my impressive birthing hips. In the other, I think we finally prove that Wisconsin people attack ice cream cones like they do cheddar. Mystery solved.


No, I will not acknowledge that this is a passing fad.

I am on a health kick. Last week I planned out a new healthy lifestyle in the G train on the way home and it is in full swing. (Having a Moleskin allows me to do this type of subway-planning on a regular basis).

Today I went to a market near work to buy some Good Healthy Lunch. I bought turkey and an avocado and a yogurt from Iceland. Iceland! Pomegranate and Passion Fruit flavor. Yes!

Except, no. No no no no no. The yogurt is thicker than sludge (think Greek yogurt x 500) and the flavors are making my taste buds FREAK out. Not really in a good way. For example, I was subtly trying to eat my yogurt during a meeting and had to stop because I realized I was making crazy sour faces. Awkward.

Also, I joined a gym. CRUNCH! That is the sound my gym makes. I am planning on attending my first Hip Hop class tonight. Watch out, suckas. I will probably be very talented at this.


If you see me rolling into a cocoon, you know what happened.

On Saturday, Chris and I went to see separate movies at the same time. "I'm surrounded by grandmas!" I texted him as I took my seat in Julie & Julia. "I'm surrounded by meatheads," he texted back from District 9.

Today the senior citizen theme continued, as the closest doctor I could find on ZocDoc was a Geriatrics specialist. Was a little age difference really going to make me go to a doctor on the west side? Hell to the no. Geriatrics was fine by me.

It seems I've had an allergic reaction to a CATERPILLAR BITE. I know. What? I know. First Yoga eye, now this. What's next? CUPCAKE ARM?

Two weekends ago I was minding my own business on a park bench (lost in the romantic letters of A Venetian Affair) when I felt something on my neck. I reached up and picked off a little green worm. "Blech," I thought. But then I tried to get over it. Because CATERPILLARS are supposed to be adorable and eat through books and turn into butterflies.

A few minutes later, I felt something at my elbow. One of those big effing ones. With the hair. And a Caterpillar SWAT team. So I bid adieu to the park and finished the book in the comfort of my apartment.

Fast forward ten days and here I am, glands swollen, unmovable fat neck. I have a fat neck, guys. It's not pretty. "Look," I said to Chris the other morning with my hair twisted up into a towel, "my neck is fat. I look like a fat immigrant."

"Where's your babushka?" he said.

To add insult to injury, some other type of insect bit the hell out of my ass the other night while sleeping. So I show up at the Geriatric doctor this afternoon with a fat neck, a caterpillar vampire story, and an ass full of (spider? flea? RAT?) bites.

"Do you itch at all?" the doctor asked. Duh.

So now I have antibiotics. And prescription Ibuprofen. And anti-itch cream.

On an unrelated and also sad note, the bake sale was a total bust. My new friend Lee (who commented on the last post) got a free cupcake as I toted my 900 pastries back to my fridge. I made $5 in 3 hours. That is so much less than minimum wage that it's not even funny. Instead I think I will work on some more prosperous ventures, like writing articles or catsitting. Or, you know, joining a freak show.

Behold, the girl with the caterpillar allergy! WATCH HER ITCH!


$300 Project: Checkpoint

Ah, the $300 Project. Such loftiness, such opportunity... such a hot kitchen in this heat. So far I've made $60.64 (not counting upcoming gigs tomorrow and next weekend) and tomorrow is the day of The Big Bake Sale. I went to Target a few weekends ago to invest in supplies. Here they are:

I'm kind of terrified, actually. What if everyone thinks I'm a loser in a park with cupcakes? What if no one buys a thing and I have to truck 50 brownies and cupcakes and banana bread slices home? What if I get stopped by the cops and reprimanded? I will probably cry, no two ways about it. Sadly, I am an emotional mess under pressure, which is probably why I never did anything truly illegal in my life.

So send some good bake sale vibes in this direction and I will report back how it goes. Hopefully not from behind bars.

Also, my brother is a Project Guy too and he just released a few songs out on MySpace. Check them out here.


Oh! That's exciting!

Well, first things first. Ahoy, readers coming from Matador! Make yourselves at home and help yourselves to some cold water and old magazines. Aw, it's nothing, just trying to be a good host.

Second things second. I had an article published on Matador today. Matador is a Travel Community that has about 8 sites running and my article, called 8 Simple Ways to be a Great Host, is currently up on MatadorLife. Check it out and please do not be intimidated by baking banana bread. Monkeys could do it. Hell, they probably do- when they host their guests!

Public shout-out to Dave, who told me about Matador and Sima, who suggested adding limes and lemons to the ice water. She's classy, that one.

Bring on the books

It might be the lack of time away from the city this summer or the close proximity of the newest NY Public Library branch, but I've been reading up a storm lately. I'm trying to figure out how to create a new page on this site to list books and what I thought of them.

Anyone have a successful experience with this? Should I just use GoodReads and somehow drop in a widget? (Mental judgment: BLAH. BORING). Is there an easy way to add a page in Blogspot?

And most importantly, what have you guys been reading this summer? I need new titles. Please leave good ones in the comments so that my voracious reading brain has food. Special preference goes to awesome fiction based on historical events (which seems to be my favorite, as of late).


Worldwide birthday fun: check.

So I had this idea. I'm a project-y type of gal (NO, REALLY?) and a few months ago, after one of the many evenings entering Chris' building and seeing his gloomy "no mail today" face, I thought "geez. Wish I could get that kid some mail."

And then I started thinking about how cool it would be if everyone I knew all over the world started sending mail to him. But why? And what for? And who's crazy enough to organize that?

Hello my name is organizer.

On Saturday, Chris opened 28 letters that he got from all around the world and we had a birthday adventure. It was seriously the most fun thing I've done in a while, watching him open letters from crazy awesome people that I know. "Ohhhh she's SO great, she lives in Philadelphia and I haven't seen her in, like 5 years, and you would LOVE her..." The comments went on and on.

So, step 1: receive 28 letters. Check.

Step 2: Open the envelopes to see what was inside!

Step 3: Organize the letters on the floor and figure out what they spell.

Step 4: Oh! They spell a website!

Step 5: Go find the geocache in the park.*

Step 6: Movies, then delicious dinner at SushiSamba.

*There was one small hitch in this plan, as someone stole the geocache from the park 4 days before we got there. Jigga what? Yeah, tell me about it. But no fear, as we made a new one and will replace it together and hopefully New Yorkers will stop stealing camoflauged tupperware worth $1.99. Idiots.

This crazy present was possible ONLY because a bunch of fun and awesome people spent a few minutes mailing a letter in an envelope to a guy they don't know in NY. So thanks, humanity. You really rock.

P.S. More photos from our fun day here.


Monday, or ESL day

Frantic IM to Chris a few minutes ago:
Total brain meltdown.
How do you spell tole booth?

And then, minutes later, another mental challenge.
Stache? Stashe??

Google was snarky both times. "Did you mean: toll booth?" "Did you mean: stash?"

Yeah yeah, Google. Get outta here with your italics, know-it-all search results. Jerk.


28 is no kid stuff.

Last night, after watching an episode of 30Rock.
Me: Phew! What time is it?
Chris: It's... 11:15.

Today, after going to a 10:30am movie.
Me: You know, the world really benefits people who get up and moving earlier. We got half price movie tickets for the first showing, and if we went to lunch now we could get the $6.95 buffet special. Not to mention the early bird special at dinner!
Chris: Yes, life is cheaper for grandmas.

Oh Internet, I often want to blog but, as you can see, I've become an old person. My next profile pic will probably be me in a rocking chair. I am old and tired and I love sleeping 8+ hours per night. Sue me.

The other day Kamni did something crazy, like went to Philly on a bus after work and saw an show and then took a 2am train back to NY and then went straight to the Today show to see a band's taping and then slept for one hour and came to work. To which I said, "What, are you 18?!"

I am not made for those kinds of evenings. My Dad is in bed at 9:30pm every night and awake at 5 something every morning. THOSE are the genes I'm fighting here, people!

Instead of some quality writing and some interesting factoids about my comparison shopping at Target and Pathmark this weekend, here is all I can muster: a pretty flower that grew on my fire escape for a few days. It was my impression that Morning Glories should, oh I don't know, hang around for more than two mornings, but hey. Perhaps these are the one-night-stand varieties.

More photos to come soon, including some shots of an Italian parade I found myself walking in with groceries on my way home the other day. See? And you thought life in Brooklyn had turned boring...


Sunday night of the Keep Busy weekend.

No one wants to be the mopey girlfriend, least of all me. Chris went back to WI for a long weekend of camping and canoeing (aka Mosquito Bite Central) and, anticipating potential loneliness, I tried to organize weekend activities far in advance.

It's a fine line between thrilled-with-your-6-month-boyfriend and appearing-clingy-like-the-worst-Saran-Wrap. Nah, that's not true. It's not actually a fine line, but I think girls see it thinner than it actually is.

I ended up with a fantastic weekend, full of friend dinners and brunches and museums and lounging and babysitting for Sima's sleeping baby. (Can it really be called babysitting if you never actually *see* the sleeping baby? Seems more like couch-sitting...). And yesterday afternoon, I got my first 300 project job, writing a section on Greenpoint for a "Living in NY" guide. Today, my second job: writing the section on Williamsburg. Soon to be $30 in pocket in total. Two days in and I'm already at 10%.

Productive, social weekend. Boyfriend who?

Last week at a birthday party for the lovely Goldrick. Girl in the kitchen, looks so familiar. We're eyeing each other until I say "Did you go to Muhlenberg like 90% of this party?" Negative. We try other guesses. Did you ever live in France? Rye? Work on a farm in Italy??

Then finally, Yorktown High School. This girl was a photographer for the newspaper when I was EIC. Now she works with Goldrick. Crazy. Such random connections always freak me out.

Today, at the Guggenheim, I'm hiking up the slanted walk with Anne. Suddenly a feeling comes over me, something feels incredulous, like I just ran into someone I know at a random place. I shake it off, easy as it came, remembering last weekend's party.

Not two steps later, there's Kate, a buddy from Middlebury Paris. Last time we saw each other, we were graduating with Master's in Vermont two years ago. I'm sufficiently freaked out. I mean, come on NY. I don't know THAT many people. And yet my rate of running into familiar faces in a city with 9 million people is off the charts. Enough that my friends make jokes about it.

Enough that sometimes I wonder about coincidences.


Yesterday morning, one blue Morning Glory opens herself along the fire escape. This morning there are three. The garden adds an extra dimension to the apartment, a crazy, changing section of my living space. Other than the cat, who follows me incessantly from one room to the next, the rest of the place stays the same. Dirty dishes, sadly, do not wash themselves.

It's the greatest thing about plants. They're just living here parallel, going through their life cycles alongside us. Thrive on some love and water and sunshine, but capable of photosynthesizing on their own.

Good role models.