Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Moving Finger Writes

My dad has never been a particularly emotional or sentimental person. That is not at all to say that he doesn't care or feel things; however, understanding the ways in which he cares is more about recognizing and deciphering body language and subtle nuances. When 9/11 happened I was in college, at an age where I was still acutely attuned to my parents' guidance and advice. I was particularly curious as to how my dad would react. He is the preeminent student of New York. He’s fascinated by the city and its ins and outs, knows the history of every architecturally significant building here and has a working knowledge of the city’s public transit system that could put the most seasoned MTA executive to shame. The ‘I <} NY’ shirt was truly intended for people like my dad.

On the day of, or perhaps the day after, the attacks I got an email from my Dad. It was a disappointingly short note, with remarks to the effect that he couldn’t help but be reminded of this famous quote from Omar Khayyam’s ‘The Rubaiyat’

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it”

My first reaction was utter disappointment. This was the first time my family had ever faced something so emotionally fraught, and I had felt sure that the silver lining to this apocalyptic cloud would be that we’d finally open ourselves up and show more depth of feeling. And yet, all I could think was that this quote was simply cold. Was he telling me that we needed to simply shrug our shoulders and get on with things?

Over the ensuing years I’ve thought back on that email and that quote with resentment that has evolved to resignation. These days, I can’t help but think that perhaps my dad was (is) simply a realist. In his nearly 77 years, a lot has happened. And once a thing is done, the world is forever changed. Khayyam’s quote may just be the precursor to today’s (and my most hated) pithy quote ‘It is what it is.’

Jobs are being lost at a frightening rate. Businesses are closing. Our country – and the world – is sliding down a steeply curved roller coaster hill. There doesn’t appear to be an upswing to this bleak horizon. But what are we to do? We can’t change what’s happened. The moving finger has writ. I’m afraid it’s still writ-ing. Our tears won’t wash out a bit of it. Now what? Quite simply, we must go on.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I’d like to simultaneously curse and kiss the creators of those health/medical portals that have sprung up on the Internet. Is it just me, or do you also immediately jump to these sites at the first hint of strangeness occurring in your body? You’re not yet ready to call the doctor so you log on, immerse yourself in the symptom checker and next thing you know you’ve diagnosed yourself with a flesh-eating bacteria that is only minutes away from devouring your body from toes to tongue.

Over the past several days, I’ve been experiencing a consistent amount of tingling/pre-cramping in the muscles of my feet, legs and arms that is slowly driving me nuts. I’ve always had problems with excruciating calf cramps waking me up in the middle of the night, as my college roommates and husband can attest to. In college, these cramps happened so frequently that as soon as I started thrashing around in pain, my roommate would rise up out of her bed, sleepwalk over to me, stretch out my leg to make it stop and then retreat back to her bed without a word. The first night my husband had the pleasure of awakening to one of these episodes, he nearly had a heart attack. For all my screaming and writhing in pain, the only logical explanation he could come up with was that a giant, slobbering psycho murderer had found his way into our bed and was tearing me apart limb by limb. Once the pain subsided I was able to breathlessly explain ‘my calf...cramp.’ This turned out to be an unsatisfactory reply. And yet, with time and a few pointers from my old roommate, dear husband, too, has mastered the art of stretching out my leg while remaining half asleep.

The symptoms I’ve been feeling recently feel much like the precursor to the calf cramps of yore. It starts with a tingling – a vague sort of early warning system that tells me to stop pointing my toes or flexing my calf because damn, THIS IS GONNA HURT. Except this time, the cramp never comes. Instead the early warning system continues on for hours on end. I suppose I should be grateful. The pain of a muscle cramp can leave you hopping up and down, gritting your teeth and hyperventilating from the torment. But this low grade twinge in my legs and arms is frustrating. I’m not yet ready to call the doctor. I just assume that this will pass within a matter of days. In the meantime, I’ll probably convince myself that I have MS, fibromyalgia, or the exotic-sounding Guillan- BarrĂ© (who doesn’t want an affliction with an accent over the ‘e’) Syndrome when in reality what I probably need to do is drink a tall glass of milk and eat a couple bananas.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Community Building

About four years ago I started a blog at a time when blogs were still unique and not something that every idiot with a computer had. They were the province of early adopters and tech geeks (and I’d like to go on record as the former, rather than the latter).

What thrilled me about having a blog was the idea that I had a place to spout my opinions. I had a lot to say, or so I thought. In those early days, I, web pioneer, talked often about current events and politics. Back then I had the time to read multiple news sources each day. These days, I have just enough time to check in on cnn.com and make sure that there isn’t a 60 pt. font headline and accompanying giant red bar alerting me to BREAKING NEWS.

As time wore on, my real-life career progressed and with it, the time I had to devote to my blog lessened and lessened. I took a job that required me to write all day long, which hampered my desire to do the same in my down time. I posted less and less often, and when it got to the point where I was embarrassed to even log into my site because of lack of activity, I decided to shut it down altogether. I couldn’t take the constant reminder of something that I should be doing – wanted to be doing - but simply was not.

And yet, these days, I’ve found myself drawn back into the world of blogging. This may have to do with the group of blogs I’ve begun following. I’ve collected a list that I check in on every other day or so for updates. Most of these blogs are authored by women about my own age, with an excellent knack for the written word and a sharp wit that I at once admire and like to believe I share. These women have found success with blogging. They post regularly and have cultivated their own little communities of readers who comment and exchange ideas. I can’t help but watch their little blogging worlds and want the same for my greedy little self. I want a community too! A community of people who believe that what I’m saying is worthwhile – whether because they learn something they didn’t know, think about something a little differently than they would have otherwise, or just because I make them laugh every now and then.

There are a few bloggers I follow who delight me so consistently that I just can’t wait for them to put up a new post (All & Sundry, Nothing But Bonfires - I'm looking at you). I don’t much care WHAT they’re talking about, so long as they’re talking. These bloggers are interesting and amusing even if they’re talking about pulling a giant hairball out of a shower drain. But there’s the rub. What to talk about? It confounds me to the point of paralyzation. Should I talk about the four hours I spent at the mall today, and the fact that I could have happily spent four more there if money were no object? Should I talk about how I’m spending a weekend alone while my husband is gallivanting around the bars and restaurants of Dallas? Should I talk about our decision to go halfies with our friends on a boat? Should I talk about the fact that we, along with our friends, might as well just take our money and drop it to the bottom of the Hudson River, for all the headaches a boat entails? I suppose I could talk about all of these things. I just need to get on with it! Stay tuned guys, I’m building our community. I hope to see you around!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fetching Some Brunch

The concept of brunch has sort of always confounded me. Well perhaps that's not accurate. I don't think brunch was really on my radar until I arrived in New York City a little over five years ago. Here in New York, brunch is the thing that people do on Sundays. "How was your weekend?" "It was great, we did blahdee blah and blahdee blah and Sunday met up with some friends for brunch..."

After enough time peeking in the windows, eventually you want to go in the store. So today, I suggested to my husband that we join all the other cliches and 'do brunch.' Tired of all our neighborhood haunts, we ventured to the Upper East Side, my first home in NYC. It was a perfect opportunity to return to one of the first restaurants we discovered together, a place called Fetch.

Walking into Fetch is a bit like coming home, throwing on your sweats and settling into your spot on the couch. The head chef greets you with that same warm and friendly smile you see nearly every time you come here. Silverware clatters in the background and neighborhood families chatter in upbeat tones. There are faux fireplaces and mantels adorned with pictures. It feels like the living room of that family you know who is bursting at the seams with love. And then you take a second look at the pictures. Every picture in the restaurant is of a dog. You see, Fetch isn't just about food. They're also about helping stray dogs (and animals in general). They are so serious about this that every table in the restaurant is adorned with a mission statement oulining the restaurant's partnership with a no-kill animal shelter. How many restaurants do you know with a mission statement?

Mission statement or no, let's be honest. The real reason we go to Fetch is for the food. As you might expect, they excel at comfort food. Burgers, mac n' cheese, philly cheese steaks, they do it all and they do it all extremely well. Today, I opted to change it up and try something new, trusting that I would not be disappointed. Being a lover of Mexican food, I ventured to try the Huevos Rancheros. Oh my Lord am I happy that my Huevos Rancheros virginity has been taken from me. And in this case, my first time was far from forgettable! Let's face it, fried eggs are always good. But you pair that with fried tortillas and some guacamole? Hurts so good.

As we sat happily enjoying our mimosas and comfort food dishes, we scanned our surroundings and enjoyed the view. There were extended families catching up on each other's news. There were toddlers in high chairs. There was a one year-old girl clad in an awesome pair of pink Chucks who had already perfected her Homecoming Queen wave. Is it odd to be jealous of a baby? Because I was. Girlfriend had great style and knew how to work a room!

Over the course of the meal I thought back on the days we first discovered Fetch's amazing Philly Cheeseteak eggrolls (YES! Heaven IS on Earth!) and watched the families around me. I was heartwarmed at the thought that this place could be 'our' place for years to come. We could have a framed picture of our family mutt displayed on the wall. We could bring a toddler here (although not before teaching him/her how to work the room). We could 'do' brunch for years to come.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Just Wondering...

A few things that are keeping me up at night these days...

You know those Viagra commercials? 'Vi-va Vi-AG-ra!' You know those? You know the part where they say, 'Ask your Dr. if your heart is healthy enough for sex.'? Well, just wondering, what if the answer is no? Then what? What's plan B?

Why do we only care about college basketball in March? Does anybody give a flying you-know-what if American University wins a college basketball game in the middle of January? Methinks not.

Speaking of college basketball, when did these guys get all these tattoos? Many of them are still teenagers! It's not like they only have one. Entire beautiful biceps, triceps and delts are covered in elaborate markings. Is it some sort of pre-req if you have any hope of making it to the big dance?

Why a simple McDonald's cheeseburger is the most satisfying thing on earth. That flat, plain bun! The fake cheese dangling off the edge! The general over-doing-it-ness of the ketchup and mustard oozing out the sides! Heavenly.

Why we can only get Girl Scout cookies once a year. You want to teach those girls life skills? Put 'em to work year round!

Why the cooks at 'Fresh Tortilla' are of Asian descent. It seems to me that New York City has a large enough population with the actual crediblity to run an authentic Fresh Tortilla joint. Do we really need to outsource this?

Sunday, March 15, 2009


There's a picture of myself taken around the age of 5 that sticks out in my mind. Perhaps because it was taken on family portrait day at the church my family used to attend in California, and that is the only family portrait that has hung on the walls of every home my parents have lived in since. So when I remember my earliest 'do, this is the one I remember. And of course, it was a hideous bowl cut.

I've always had freckles and my hair has always been auburn (British genes are some hardy stock!), but in my early years my hair was straight. As I got closer to puberty (GAWD, doesn't even just reading that word make you feel awkward all over again?), my hair grew wavy, and at the height of pube--you know--my hair was a curly mess. Except I didn't quite realize it. Or I was in denial. You see, in high school, every girl wants pin-straight, Sun-In'd hair. No substitutions. No imitations. And I, enlightened though I like to believe I was, fell prey to the same desires.

I would sit in my room, Third Eye Blind playing on my boombox, back propped against my twin bed, and point my red hair dryer straight down at my head, as Seventeen and YM magazine instructed me to do if I wanted to get Stick! Straight! Hair! I bought a paddle brush, as I was also instructed to do, and I slept very carefully, so as not to mess up my 'do. I was convinced that I had tamed the beast. Apparently, I didn't own a working mirror.

It wasn't until I saw my senior portrait that I realized I had only been fooling myself. In a cruel twist of fate, senior pictures were scheduled in the middle of summer, the height of humidity season. Alas, all my blow drying and brushing were for naught. And so, late in my senior year of high school, I began to let my true self emerge. The curls came out, and I did my best to come to terms with it.

With college and all the cliched 'finding yourself' that comes with it, my curls and I came to an understanding. I agreed not to hide them (at least not as often) and they agreed to become an asset of mine. And whaddya know, I began to embrace them as my trademark. People would refer to me as the curly redhead, and I wouldn't cringe. In fact, I began to feel proud of them. I had reddish curls, and freckles. I was unique, and I stood out from the crowd. The curls achieved near corkscrew status, snaked down my shoulder and halfway down my back.

My hairdresser told me a while back that your hair changes every 7 years. I looked at him skeptically. I'm an adult, isn't everything all set? I'm 5'5 and won't ever need to buy 'Tall' jeans. I wear a 7.5 shoe and will never get that beautiful shoe on the clearance rack because 365,769 women before me already got to it. And my hair is curly. I know what kind of mousse I need.

And yet, I had to admit that over the past several years there were slight changes. My hard-to-manage curls had become more manageable. A straightened 'do held its form just a little bit longer.

This weekend I sat in my hairdresser's seat as he busily worked his magic above me. He stopped.

"Sarah?" he asked
"Yes?" I replied
"Is your hair losing its curl?"

It wasn't all in my head? I mean, I had had my suspicions, but here was the expert confirming...what? my fear? Was I actually sad about losing my curls? I had fought the tide for so many years before accepting, and then embracing, my reality. And now that reality is waning and transforming into a new one.

"How old are you?" my hairdresser asked.
"I'll be 28 in August."
He nodded sagely, and went back to cutting.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What Goes Up

I've always been a believer in that simple concept that what goes up must come down. That a string of particularly brutal winter days will always be met with at least one mild, sunshiny day to remind us all to 'hang in there', things will get better. The power of self correction.

As we watch history unfold before us in the form of a frightening economic shakedown, I can't help but think that this, too, is self-correction.

It was not too long ago that I can remember walking through grocery stores and airport newsstands, wondering to myself, 'do we really need an entire magazine dedicated to cat clothing?' And try as I might, the only answer I could come up with (besides who in the HEEELLLL?) was, simply, NO. We didn't need 16 magazines about golf, 32 titles covering the intricacies of celebrity hairstyles, 9 rags about knitting and crocheting (sorry mom!). We just didn't need it all, and somewhere in the back of our minds, we knew it. Yet we could all squeal with delight at the discovery of a publication dedicated to some obscure interest of ours. I knew it! There are people out there who want to know more about Dungeons & Dragons!

In the not too recent past I recall feeling a growing discontent about the number of banks I would encounter on a daily basis. In this I know I was not alone. Working in Manhattan, where stores turn over at a particularly high rate, I couldn't help but notice that every time an eatery or clothing store would shut down, it was a solid bet that what would pop up next would be a bank. You could walk the entirety of Manhattan, bladder full to bursting, and not find a public bathroom, but you'd have no trouble drawing money out of an ATM or inquiring about (and apparently getting!) a home loan.

And then there was the coffee. Us lemmings would line up inside of Starbucks, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to fork over $4.68 for a shot of espresso and a healthy dose of warm milk. Starbucks responded, giving us what we wanted, and then giving us more, and more, and more. They began to multiply, and at its saturation point one was convinced that an aerial shot of Manhattan surely would be colored in that warm, soothing mixture of green and brown that Starbucks is known for, with a pleasant, frothy steam arising from the city streets.

And so it was. We were all walking around carrying stacks of magazines about obscure hobbies, passing only banks and Starbucks' on a daily basis. And then the crash. Sure, a lot of things happened. A lot more serious things than the folding of unnecessary magazine titles and the reduction in Starbucks franchises. But can I go out on a limb and say some unintended fall-outs of tragic happenings are actually nice? That I find comfort in the power of self-correction? What goes up must indeed come down. And when we go too far, too fast, take on too much, a force--sometimes greater than ourselves--will come into play and guide us back toward a saner reality.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Coming Up Orchids

What to do on the first unofficial day of Spring? Well, if like me you're lucky enough to have a husband who worked at a florist's shop in a past life, you might consider journeying to the New York Botanical Garden. Their annual Orchid Show is in bloom and oh my, to say it's breathtaking isn't doing it justice.

The Gardens are located in the Bronx, and after making a few wrong turns that got us lost in some rather unsavory parts of said borough, we found our way. And so too did seemingly thousands of other New Yorkers seeking to make the most of today's mild temperatures. We nearly drove around the circumference of the Gardens before landing a parking spot. But no mind, it was all worth it in the end.

Walking through the Botanical Gardens is like walking through Eden. There are wide pathways, sloping lawns and a pleasing lack of noise, save for the shrieking of excited toddlers thrilled at so much grass to hurl themselves onto.

We came upon the entrance to the orchard show, a massive, stately building that anchors a series of equally massive and stately greenhouses. These are not your grandmother's greenhouses! Well, at least not mine.

Did I mention there are toddlers at the Botanical Gardens? It's like a toddler convention up in there. And the kind folks at the NYBG make sure to provide for their needs.

But enough about that, let's get to show, shall we?

This is actually less about the flowers and more about the beauty of the fountain. I love the way the water is streaming off the sides.

Ok, please tell me my husband and I aren't the only dirty minds who thought this next orchid looked suspiciously like lady parts.

Right? RIGHT?!

We captured a lot of beautiful pictures of some stunning orchids, but something about this next shot really thrills me. Perhaps it's the notion of this lone orchid standing alone from all of its orchid friends. Seriously, this little thing is (ALERT! CORNY FLOWER JOKE AHEAD!) no shrinking violet! Ba dum dump! Or, perhaps it's just how dainty it is. Just a little fleck of vibrant color amidst so much green.

Now this? This is just weird. Can you believe nature created this?

And if you can't believe that one, how about this?

Red peppers whose bottoms were roasted? Trumpets?

After nearly an hour of perusing the orchids, we ended up in the 'desert' greenhouse. As you know, delirium can set in in the desert. And it did for us.

We were only too delighted to set up this little optical illusion. I know, it's not that effective. But yes, we are the same people who go to D.C. and take 'that' shot in front of the Washington monument. You know the one.

Snakes in the grass!

And now, I leave you with pure beauty.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Love in Unexpected Places

There's a couple that has captured my interest for over a year now. I see them every day. I know their faces, but recognize them first by the way they curl their bodies together to form one entangled web of limbs and love. They keep to themselves, gaze only at each other, speak only to one another. Each morning, as I get off the subway and make my way above ground, I see them knotted up on the same two seats of a four-seat wooden bench. They are homeless.

There's a lot of assumptions I'll admit I've made about homeless people. They lack motivation; they lack morals; they lack commitment. But when I think about it, perhaps the largest, overarching assumption I've made--and made in error--is that the homeless are simply not LIKE everybody else. Yet this couple proves that they are, in fact, 'like' everybody else. Sure, they live a vastly different reality from what most of us are fortunate enough to know. But this couple reminds me that above all the homeless are quite simply human, and thus in possession of the same desire for one of life's most innate needs: love.

At the height of summer, when New York City's subway stations reach temperatures that surely would rival the foyer of hell, I see this couple. In those brutally hot days, just hours after a night spent trying not to touch a single pore of my husband's skin because it's just too damn HOT, I pass these two, clad in sparse strips of clothing, fingers resting on each other, refusing to lose contact. In the dead of winter, when I have no real proof that there are actual people beneath layers of shabby coats and dirty blankets save for the unmistakeable shape of two forms huddled together, I see these two, coiled tight for warmth in single digit temperatures.

It's easy to complain about the hardships we go through within our own couplings, particularly during this increasingly unsettling depress...errr, recession. More and more these days, I imagine couples are wondering how their relationship would weather a hardship such as a job loss, or a house foreclsoure. And yet, I look at this couple. The fears we've all succumbed to expressing at one time or another: "Would you still love me if...'I lost' 'I didn't' 'I couldn't'. It seems they've looked those fears--and perhaps more--in the eye and withstood every test. And is there any truer display of love and commitment than that?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Just a Rat in a Cage

I haven't left the house in two days.

There, now that I've proclaimed to all that I am hopelessly pathetic, shall I try to explain my reasons? Rationalize my motivation for succumbing to sloth? Well, if we're being completely honest, I woke up yesterday morning with a wee bit of a hangover. Oh, right, we're being completely honest. I woke up yesterday morning with a full-on hangover. It was a hangover with all of the classic symptoms. Headache, lethargy, zero desire to bathe and an appetite that would rival Octomom in her third trimester.

But, the day progressed and as the hours slid by, so too did my hangover. By late afternoon I was ready to be up and about, but quickly realized I shouldn't bother as the March 1 Blizzard (also known as the "Gotcha!! Winter Isn't Over Yet, Bitches! Blizzard)was working it's way up the Eastern Seaboard. Sure enough, the first fat flakes started falling yesterday evening and I was damned if I was going to go out and partake. I'm on strike from winter weather.

Fast forward to this morning. I wake up, gently peek through the blinds in the hopes of discovering that this storm had gone the way of past storm predictions and ABC dramas--massively overhyped and anticlimactic. Twas not the case. Luckily my company was compassionate enough to let us work from home--realizing that those of us who do not live in Manhattan didn't stand a chance of getting to work today without arriving ridiculously late and looking like we'd been drug through a Ketchikan car wash. So I perched myself at my kitchen table, fired up my laptop, and hunkered down for Day 2 of self-imposed exile.

Fifteen minutes ago I went to get the mail in the lobby of my apartment building and in so doing, noticed snow shoes deposited outside my neighbor's door. My neighbors have a two-year-old and a newborn. THEY managed to leave the apartment building in the last 48 hours. I am shamed, but still not enough to do anything about it. Tomorrow's another day.