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« November 2005 | Main | January 2006 »

December 21, 2005
some things i saw

My dad decided to visit on Tuesday, December 20, on behalf of my brother's birthday. The transit strike had just started, and Chris was going to work for half of the day, so we picked him up at his apartment and then drove him to Andy's apartment, because Andy's apartment is near the Brooklyn Bridge. We were planning to spend the morning in downtown Brooklyn and then see Shadow of a Doubt at the Film Forum, which necessitated crossing into Manhattan. So Chris worked and my dad and I ate breakfast at St. Clair and then went to the Transit Museum, which was free for some reason. We watched a video in an apparently new video room, and I got to go on a subway after all.

Then we tried to go to the Brooklyn Historical Society, but it's closed on Tuesdays (oops), and so we spent about an hour at Barnes and Noble waiting for Chris to finish up with work. It was sort of pathetic, hanging out at the bookstore, but it was warm and there were lots of people reading things for free on their lunchbreaks, so it felt festive. This particular Barnes and Noble, to my amusement, often plays songs with "adult themes" and/or swear words in them, and this seems to go unnoticed by everyone else in the store.

Then we met my brother at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and began our walk to the Film Forum. He stopped for lunch at the Subway in Chinatown and had to deal with the extremely cheap guy behind the counter. I'm not really a fan of Subway, but you sort of expect some kind of standard treatment. At this one, the guy, who seemed to be the owner, first seemed upset that not all of us were ordering food, then tried to give my dad the wrong change, then told my brother he'd put the cup for the value meal in the bag, which he hadn't. When Chris told him it wasn't there, he charged him $1.19 extra for the cup, even though my dad had paid for the value meal. There was also a sign on the soda machine that read, "REFILLS 50 CENTS," and the paper they used to wrap the sandwich was only half of the normal size and didn't fully cover up the food. Then these other guys came in and the guy didn't want to give them napkins with their meal. I guess that's what someone who's seriously worried about going out of business looks like, but I don't think he's given his cost-cutting / customer-alienating methods enough consideration. (Sorry; sounding off about bad businesses here is strangely satisfying to me, but it's probably pretty boring to you.)

Okay, then we made it to the Film Forum about half an hour early and sat in their seats in the lobby. I listened to a woman make lots of loud phone calls to let people know that they were going to go ahead with the meeting. Her name was Susan W-something.

Then we watched the movie and Chris fell asleep for the first part but then woke up. It had more humor in it than I remembered. The theater wasn't full, but there were a good number of people there, given that it was a 3:10 movie. I think one group had cut out of work early.

Afterward, we walked back to Brooklyn in the dark with a bunch of people who were going home from work. It was a cold and crowded trek, but walking over a bridge in thirty-degree weather is something I probably won't get to do very often, and I feel like I have a lasting mental snapshot of how it felt to be part of it. I also feel lucky that I didn't have to do it again tonight.

When we arrived in Brooklyn, I saw something strange in front of the courthouse: a UPS truck driver, his truck running and parked by the curb, his body slumped far forward in his seat, apparently asleep but possibly worse. I kept walking and thought about it and asked my dad and brother if they'd seen him. They hadn't. Maybe no one had. I thought that maybe I should call the police. But I didn't, and I wish I had. Would I want someone to call the police if they saw me slumped over in my car? Yes, I think I would, just in case. I hope Mr. UPS was just taking a well-deserved nap.

We ate a hearty dinner and dropped Chris off and then drove back to my place, and my dad headed for home, and I got into bed. My legs hurt, but I felt good, and I was glad that the day was over.

File under IN THE CITY. Posted at 10:31 PM | Comments (5088)

December 19, 2005

During this season of giving, I find it hard to decide which charities I should support and how much I should give to them. It doesn't seem fair to give to just a few causes, for one thing, but I just have to get over that feeling that I'm deciding that some people are more "worthy" than others. Also, I don't like that some organizations try to make me feel guilty by giving me cute address labels that I'm obviously going to use regardless of whether I donate. I'm actually less likely to donate to the notepad/address label givers. Plus, I don't always know which charities to trust. The graphic design and photography for charity appeals has to strike just the right chord, and it can be very tricky.

One organization to which I had no qualms about donating was Nepal Orphans' Home. Michael Hess, the person who runs the orphanage as well as a school in Nepal, is one of my clients, and I truly admire his efforts to bring health and education and happiness to the lives of these destitute children. If you're looking to give a good gift donation on anyone's behalf (including your own), I definitely recommend donating to the orphans' home.

Another sometimes-client who can be trusted with donations is The United Methodist Committee on Relief. (Andy told me to mention that I didn't design this site; I actually designed this one, which highlights their core programs.) UMCOR works to provide relief in disaster areas and assist the needy all over the world.

Okay, I'm not trying to be preachy! Not everyone has money to spare. But sometimes when you don't think you do, and you give anyway, it makes you feel pretty good and pretty lucky. Sorry, I sound like my mom, I'm going to stop talking now.

File under . Posted at 09:50 AM | Comments (1)

December 07, 2005
current nostalgia

A while back I read something that said the way people feel -- their general physical sense of being -- is often tied to how they were feeling the previous year. (The article was about the process of recovering from grief.) So, for instance, if something particularly sad or happy happened to you one year ago, even if nothing very significant is happening now, you are likely to feel similar to how you did at the same time last year. I picture this idea as a tape that keeps getting copied and copied, so that the influence of the past year becomes weaker with each year. But then of course new experiences influence moods all the time, so it's as though you have many tracks on the same tape that overlap to create new sensations. I'm not sure whether what I read, or my interpretation of it, is accurate (unlike Andy, I don't have the patience for exhaustive web research, and technically I'm "at work" right now), but I like to think about this idea and compare my current year with previous ones.

New York has been my home for just over two years now. Two years ago today, I was gearing up to start a new part-time job tomorrow. I was starting to settle in to my new apartment in Brooklyn and frequently thought about how wonderful it was to be here. I was exploring the streets of my neighborhood, marvelling at how almost everything I needed was within walking distance, filled with glee. In four days, I would be dumped by my boyfriend.

Somehow this all ties in to last night, and, according to the first paragraph, how I've been feeling in general. After work, I visited my brother in Ridgewood, which is on the border of Brooklyn and Queens. We went to dinner at a cute new family restaurant in his neighborhood. He told me he wasn't going to apply to graduate school just yet for a variety of reasons. I was glad to learn that he's going to stay for a while longer -- somehow it hadn't felt right, at least to me, that he'd been planning to leave so soon.

Toward the end of the meal, Steve called. He was getting out of work late. He said that, since he was working from home tomorrow, we should go to karaoke night (something we haven't done in months). "Chris," I said, "You're going to karaoke."

Chris scrunched up his face. He didn't want to; he'd planned to cut his hair and study Irish. I told him he was being lame but eventually relented. Next week, we decided.

During the above-ground parts of my subway ride home, I peered down at all of the Christmas-lit streets and felt very content.

When I got home, Steve suggested that in lieu of karaoke we go out for a drink. First he had to make dinner, however. He made eggs and soup, and then, I learned later, put the eggs into the soup, which grossed him out, but he ate it anyway. I sat on the floor and painted, and we talked, and at some point something I said reminded Steve that, in his preoccupation with the karaoke idea, he hadn't set his office's security alarm when he'd left work.

I volunteered to trek back to his office with him. He had to go; his computer was stolen after-hours earlier this year, so this offense would look especially bad. But he was worried that we wouldn't be able to a) get into the building and b) get into his office. We headed out into the cold night, knowing that whatever happened, we'd still go out for a drink when it was all over.

It was about 10 o'clock when we reached the tall, undistinguished building on Fifth Avenue. Suddenly it was though we'd entered a video game in which we had to solve various puzzles to accomplish the goal. The front door was locked; two girls were standing in front of it, smoking. Steve walked around to the back door but couldn't get in. The girls left. Steve came back. He tried all his keys on the front door; one of them turned, but the door wouldn't open. Then he tried the keys on another keyhole on the wall next to the door, and we were in. But the front door was now unlocked and hooligans could enter the building at whim. I worried about this, but we decided that we had to risk it. But then the elevator wouldn't go up to Steve's floor, and none of his keys worked on the stairwell door. The elevator would still go to the sixth and tenth floors, though, so we pushed button six, got out, entered the stairwell, and walked up two flights to our destination. But none of his keys worked on the eighth-floor stairwell door, which featured an ominous sign: "NO RE-ENTRY THIS FLOOR." So we headed back to the eerily bright and empty sixth floor while I pictured various hooligans milling around in the lobby. Steve tried the elevator again, but number eight still wouldn't light up. I asked him if there was another stairwell on the other side of the building. There was. We walked up those stairs, and then, at last, he unlocked the door to his floor. Steve walked around his expansive office -- which, with the lights off, seemed calm and maybe a little mocking -- making sure all was okay. It was. He set the alarm and we left, pumped with accomplishment. The air felt much warmer on the walk back to the subway.

Back in Brooklyn, we decided to go to Enid's, a bar we used to visit often in our early days of living here. We talked about what things were like for us two years ago and what's happened in between, a little wistful, as usual, for the way we remember life feeling back then. As we were getting up to leave, Andy called me from Florida, where he's working on a show for the next couple of weeks. It was a comforting jolt back to the present, though I wish he weren't away for these days when the break-up feelings from two Decembers past, faint though they may now be, are lingering in my system.

File under DAILY. Posted at 10:04 AM