New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Monday, January 31, 2005

New York City Diary

That's the new name of this blog. I have changed it from New York 2005 because I've really enjoyed my first month as a blogger and want to keep this going through 2005 and beyond. It began as a lark, a new year's resolution fulfilled. Now my traffic is up and I've got people logging in from around the world (and I know this because of my Statcounter).

I guess I'll have to change the name again if I move out of New York City, but I'll worry about that when the time comes.

Welcome, all of you, and thanks for reading. Please post comments and tell me what you're up to.

As for what's going on today, it's Monday and I'm at work at Esquire. I felt a little out of sorts this morning but I'm sorted now. It's cold outside but not freezing. I just got lunch from the nearby grocery store with my beautiful wife. Jenn got a turkey wrap, I got various things from the hot food bar. It was mediocre.

I've got to get back to work now, but please come back to this site often to see what's going on in my frequently interesting life.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Karate and Spaghetti

Today is Sunday, January 30, 2005. It's 12:15 p.m. Jenn is reading The New York Times and I'm here at the computer writing a blog update. The temperature outside is 33F/1C. I took a walk to the store to buy the paper and it felt rather pleasant outside. The Iraqi elections are over.

Yesterday I went to the dojo for kumite class at 4:00 p.m. It was a great class because the group that showed up were mostly people I'm friends with, at least the black belt contingent. There was also a good showing from the Japanese contingent. It's not surprising that our very traditional karate school attracts Japanese people who live in New York.

This might sound odd, but fighting your friends is the best, at least when you're trying to learn and get better. Since I'm a regular in the Saturday fight group I've gotten to know the fighters that show up every time and we've improved our fighting as a group. As soon as we're matched up we're ready to fight, there's not much time spent "feeling out" your opponent. We're familiar with each other's fighting styles and techniques.

Of course you have to deal with surprise attacks and things you hadn't bargained on, but the beauty of fighting your friends, particularly someone you're evenly matched with, is that you don't have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings. You and your opponent are both there for a good fight. It's a perfect example of being very much "in the moment." If you let your mind wander in the middle of a fight, think about paying your bills or something, you will be brought back to reality in a hurry.

And you're doing your opponent a favor by fighting hard. That's what you're there for. We always thank each other after a good match and have a jovial, informal post-fight analysis in the locker room.

Our instructor, a Japanese guy named Senpai Honma (Senpai is his title, Honma is his name), runs the class very well and keeps everybody in control. He often reminds us "I want you to fight hard, but we don't hate each other."

So yesterday's fight class was great, and I walked out of the dojo tingling from adrenaline and endorphins. I took the subway home and Jenn came home shortly after. She had been to the hair salon in Brooklyn Heights and her hair looked very nice. We hung out bit and then at 8:30 p.m. met our friends Jen and Steve and their Australian-Israeli friend Arieh (sp?) at a local Williamsburg "red sauce restaurant" called Bamonte's.

Bamonte's is everything it should be, which is why it has endured for over a century (it opened in 1900). It's a real Brooklyn Italian restaurant, with red decor and big hanging chandeliers and surly career waiters. We enjoyed spaghetti with meatballs, red wine, garlic cauliflower, broccoli raabe, potatoes, bread, and salads. The atmosphere was loud and boisterous. We had a swell time. After dinner we all came to our place for tea and a discussion of the sins of the Catholic church.

Today we have big plans to clean the house and solve all the world's problems, but you know how hard it is to actually clean the house.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

I'm Number One on Google

I don't know how it works, but as of today, Saturday, January 29, 2005, I have been added to the Google directory, and I am the number one result when you search my name, Victor Ozols. It's the same for Yahoo! and Lycos as well. It's very cool and a little scary.

First of all, it looks like I have won the race to be the number one Victor Ozols on the internet. There's a Victor Ozols who's a doctor involved with the Mayo Clinic who has a few mentions online. He seems like a good guy. I'm okay with having him as my doppelganger. I emailed him once to say that we have the same name but he never emailed me back. He probably thought I was a freak or a spammer.

There's also a Victor Ozols in England. I'll let his story speak for itself:

"A heroin addict who stole to feed a pounds 200-a-day habit took his nine-year-old daughter shoplifting with him, a court heard. Victor Ozols, 32, admitted six offences of theft and a public order offence when he went before Recorder Nicholas Paines at Coventry Crown Court on Friday." (From the Evening Telegraph, December 2, 2003)

I want to make this clear. It's true that Victor Ozols is an uncommon name, but there are more than one of us on this planet. I'm not this guy from England. I'm not perfect, but I have never taken a nine-year-old daughter on shoplifting excursions to feed a drug habit. Not me. I'm not from England. I don't have a daughter. I'm a different guy, although I hope this guy can find a more positive path in this world.

Ozols is a very common surname in Latvia. It means oak tree. That's me, Victor Oak Tree. There's even a rapper in Latvia named Ozols, and that's his stage name, he named himself Ozols because it was a cool rap name. In Latvia.

Being number one on Google also means that anyone who knows me or used to know me can type my name in and get my blog as the number one result, and I would say it's a good bet they'll click on it and read some of it. And everybody googles people's names sometimes.

This means I'm really "live" now. Hi everybody! Hi family! Hi friends! Hi coworkers at Esquire! Esquire in the hizzee! I would really appreciate it if people would add comments to this blog to let me know they were here, or just let me know you saw the blog. I can't help but be curious about who winds up here (although my statcounter gives me a general idea).

Part of the reason I started this blog on January 1 was to get out there without concern for criticism. I don't feel it a lot, but I'm as self conscious as anybody else when it comes to writing. I just wanted to go on the record to say this is who I am, and this is what's going on in my life. Most people have been supportive so far.

It's fitting that I became the number one Victor Ozols on Google today (and I know it was today because I tried to Google my blog yesterday and it didn't work). I've had this blog for just about one month now, and it has been a really nice addition to my life. It's fun to hop online and jot down a few thoughts whenever I feel like it. It's like writing a letter to my family and friends (and the world) all at once. Hi world!

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading this far. Please leave a comment or send me an email. I'd love to hear how you're doing.

Now, after that long introduction, I can finally get to the update. Here's what's happened since my last post. Work wasn't too busy for me yesterday. I moved the pages I had to move, talked to my parents on the phone (they're fine, taking a cruise on the Queen Mary 2 next week), and left work a few minutes after 6:00 p.m.

I met my friend Marty Flanagan on the northwest corner of 57th and Sixth at about 6:15 p.m., just like last Friday. We took the subway to Brooklyn and walked to the Brooklyn Brewery. This time it was only me and Marty. Our other brewery friends couldn't make it.

We had a couple of beers (Abbey Ale), played with the brewery cat, and had a nice conversation. I gave Marty some promotional CDs that I had gotten from the giveaway pile at work (he's a big music fan and he helps me weed out the killer from the filler). Marty gave me a black t-shirt with an American flag on it that says Dissent is Patriotic. I walked Marty to the subway and then I walked home to my wife. It was a cold walk but I was bundled up in many layers.

It was 9:08 p.m. when I walked in the door and kissed Jenn. We relaxed a bit and listened to music and read the weekend sections of the newspaper that I brought home from work. On Fridays I sort and archive the newspapers for the Esquire research library and I take my pick of sections from the extra copies we don't need. I always take the weekend sections and Escapes from The New York Times, the Weekend Journal from The Wall Street Journal, and all of The New York Observer. We had a pleasant evening reading and relaxing.

Today is Saturday, and it is a sunny day in New York. It's not quite as cold as it has been. The temperature is supposed to climb above freezing today, just barely. Today, as I do most Saturdays, I'll be going to kumite class at the dojo. I've got about 20 fights ahead of me today, and I always feel a little jittery before I get to class. However, when I walk out of the dojo after a tough fighting class I feel like nothing in the world can hurt me.

Friday, January 28, 2005

This or That

Last night's karate class (senior kata) was great, although I felt kind of weak while I was there at the dojo. I hadn't had enough to eat so I was a bit wobbly as we went through our forms and did our knuckle pushups. On the way home I stopped by Family Garden in Brooklyn and got a small order of beef with mixed Chinese vegetables, just steamed, no sauce. It was delicious. It's true that it's hard to eat healthy food on the cheap, but most Chinese takeout places offer steamed vegetables with your choice of chicken, beef, or tofu, and it's always a good bet. Add a little soy sauce and you've got yourself a healthy lifestyle, sort of. My meal was quite filling and it cost $4.50.

I've written enough about the weather of late, but it's worth noting that today is just about the coldest day we've seen yet this season. When I woke up the radio said it was six degrees Fahrenheit outside, and we can look forward to a high of 20 degrees today. I'm not as layered as I normally am (only one sweater instead of two) but I've taken to wearing a jacket underneath my coat pretty much every day now.

Here's my read on the pulse of New York. Most people are doing fine and well today, cold but happy that it's Friday, but I'm a bit saddened by the news of a 28-year-old actress who was murdered on the Lower East Side Wednesday night. People get killed all the time, I know, but this was in a neighborhood where my friends and I frequently hang out. They had been hanging out at a bar called Max Fish. It's a damn shame. She lived in Greenpoint.

As for what's going on tonight, I'm prepared for this, that, or the other. I brought my gi in case I want to go to karate, and I brought my two leftover beer tokens in case I wind up at the Brewery. And I'm open to doing something else as well, so long as it's cheap.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Martial Law

First off, today's a really cold day in New York. People are acting cold. The vibe on the street is holy-crap-it's-cold. I'm wearing many layers. I'm sitting at my desk at Esquire and it's 1:06 p.m.

I've had a few things on my mind besides making money. One of those things is my karate training. I've spent a pretty good amount of time in the dojo lately so there's mental and physical recency. My karate is pretty prominent in my brain at the moment. I fight rounds in my mind as I'm on the subway or spacing out at work.

As a new-ish black belt I have a mountain of material to learn. Sometimes I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on it, and my confidence is quite high. Other times I feel rather inexperienced when compared to the "real" fighters I go up against, the tough guys, the murderer's row.

Last Saturday's kumite class was a good confidence-builder. I fought some tough rounds and basically controlled my fights, doing what I wanted, not hurting anybody but definitely picking my spots and attacking at will. I was thinking that if I can do that well with people who actually have some fighting training I'd do really well against people who don't have any training. If I see an intimidating-looking thug on the street I imagine him wearing a gi and standing in front of me at the dojo. Thugs always seem less threatening that way.

On the other hand, on Saturday-before-last I got tenderized, and it was quite humbling. My confidence takes a temporary hit, but then I think that it's enough of an accomplishment just to face off against some of these guys at all. No matter the opponent, I do fight to win. When the round begins, I truly believe I am going to win the fight. Then I'm on the floor. One time a few months ago I fought two very tough fighters in a row. Both of them swept me, and by swept I mean they took my legs out from under me. I remember this one Sensei (4th degree black belt) came in and swept me so fast that I went up before I went down, and I remember looking up and seeing the ceiling fans spinning. That was a humbling experience. Try as I might, I could never touch him, unless he wasn't paying any attention, which is what I have to count on.

The bottom line is this: fighting is the same as writing is the same as playing basketball. You get better if you practice. But it's hard to get a grasp on exactly how good I am. For one thing, our training is Zen-based, which means our first and foremost fight is against our own egos. I can't speak for women but the ego is a pretty big force in a man's life. Being free from the ego is quite liberating. The result is a pure confidence unfettered by ego, but my grasp of this is such that sometimes I give myself less credit than I deserve. Other times when the ego rears its ugly head I feel like I could defeat anybody. It's not true, of course. Plenty of people could knock me down, and they don't even have to be martial artists to do it.

Finding the actual truth is difficult, and maybe it's better just to do and not think.

"There is no think, there is only do."

The philosophy behind any martial art is bushido, loosely translated as the non-quitting spirit. I might be weaker and slower than you, but I will never stop fighting.

"Fall down seven times, get up eight."

So I might as well not try too hard to get philosophical about it and just keep training. Enjoy every day, every breath.

Now if I could only apply my Zen principles to the rest of my life . . .


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Wistful Wednesday

It's tough to wake up and feel good these days with the abundance of bad news. I was just about to type a few words about last night's fun karate class and how my get-rich plan is going when I saw a headline that 31 U.S. marines died in a helicopter crash in Iraq. Suddenly my personal issues seem frivolous.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Idealistic Tuesday

The cold spell is still upon us New Yorkers, but the snow has already gotten dirty. Intersections are the worst, with mountains of filthy snow piled high all around and frozen puddles to wade through. This is winter in the city.

Some people have complained to me that they're sick of hearing about my million dollar idea, especially since I won't offer any details, and I can't blame them, so I will stop writing about it, except to say this: something may well be happening with it. I am in touch with some people, and there is a possibility that this seed of an idea could sprout into a mighty oak. It's possible. It could happen, and that is what keeps me motivated.

Enough of that. I ought to get back to the original idea with this blog, which was to give my view of the state of the city right now. I read somewhere that yesterday or today were supposed to be the most depressing days of the year, based on the weather and the distance from the holidays, but I'm not buying it. The weather is biting and the economy is sluggish and this blue state I'm in isn't exactly thrilled with recent political events, but people seem to be doing fine. I haven't felt much tension on the streets and sidewalks of New York in the past couple of days.

Maybe I'm projecting my own psyche onto other people, but I think I can tell when the collective mood is anxious or agitated and when it's not. New York City is getting through this winter just fine.

Yesterday at Esquire wasn't very busy but several stories were moving in the queue, and pages are being designed, so we'll be in full-swing on the April issue in no time. My timing is good on this, in that I'm done with my big blast of freelance work for now.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Chilly Monday

Celcius: -11 (Feels like -18)
Fahrenheit: 12 (Feels like -1)

It's a very cold Monday morning in New York City. I'm sipping coffee at home at 8:45 a.m. and I'd better get moving. But first, an update.

Jenn arrived home safe and sound at about 7:00 p.m. last night. I cooked dinner: baked chicken breasts with a homemade tomato, onion, and herb sauce. We had tomato foccacia as an appetizer. She thought my million dollar idea was good, so maybe it's a gender thing.

After cleaning up after dinner we read the newspaper and watched TV and went to bed.

I did finally get The New York Times yesterday, but I had to travel into Manhattan for it. Got bagels too, from David's.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Where's The New York Times

Neither rain, nor snow, nor . . . well, snow is enough to keep The Sunday New York Times from being delivered to my local bodega. Normally I buy it on Saturday night when the early edition first comes out but it hadn't been delivered. I had hoped it would be available by this morning, but no such luck. As such, I will make a snowy trip into Manhattan to fetch it. I must have my Sunday New York Times.

Current temperature in New York City at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday:

Celcius: -7 (feels like -13)
Fahrenheit: 19 (feels like 8)

I think most of the heavy snow is done but there's quite a bit of snow on the ground and wind gusts are blowing it around. I woke up rather quickly at 10:30 a.m. and when I opened the curtains I was almost blinded by all the lovely white snow. I quickly got dressed and trudged to the bodega to buy the newspaper, but it wasn't there.

Now I'm back at home, sitting at my desk and drinking coffee. When I go out again in a few minutes I'm going to wear sunglasses. Snowy days are fun. I just hope Jenn's flight arrives safely and on-time.

Blizzard

It's been snowing pretty hard for several hours now and there's at least ten inches on the ground by my estimation. It's hard to walk but it's really pretty to see the snow falling over New York.

The temperature:

Celcius: -4 (feels like -12)
Fahrenheit: 24 (feels like 11)

I went to kumite class today at 4:00 p.m. and it was excellent. My fighting was much better than last time. Good energy, good technique, good control.

There was already a good deal of snow on the ground when I left the dojo. At home I ate an onion bagel with egg salad on it and then went out and shoveled the walkway through the garden. It had been a long time since I shoveled snow. It's a pretty good workout, especially since we only have a regular shovel, not a snow shovel.

There was a really good martial arts show on the Discovery Times channel called Martial Arts: The Real Story (Techniques arise from cultural and religious contexts in China and India) and I watched it from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Then I bundled up and took a snowy walk to the corner bodega to buy the Sunday New York Times but it hadn't been delivered yet. I wasn't too surprised, considering the snowy road conditions.

Our landlords Blanche and Louie just got back from a vacation in Florida. It was the first time they had ever flown on an airplane. Blanche said the flight was fine, smoother than being in a car, and that they had a wonderful time in Florida. It certainly was an extreme change in weather, to go from sunny Florida to the New York Blizzard of 2005.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Brooklyn Brewery

Last night's trip to the Brooklyn Brewery was a lot of fun, as it always is. I met Marty after work at around 6:30 p.m. on the northwest corner of 57th and Seventh (the opposite corner from Carnegie Hall) and we took the subway to Brooklyn together. We stopped for pizza at a small pizza shop on Bedford Avenue (I hadn't had lunch) and then walked to the Brewery on North 11th Street. Adam had gotten there first, and we all got beers and sat on sacks of grain and shared the latest news of what's going on in our lives.

I got a beer called Brooklyn Abbey Ale, a "Brew Master's Reserve" ale. Abbey Ale is the Brooklyn Brewery's version of "the wonderfully complex beers traditionally brewed by Belgian monks of the Trappist order." It is brewed from a blend of Belgian and German malts, and fermented with a "special yeast derived from one of Belgium's remaining monastic breweries." It is a "strong, complex, russet-brown ale with a spicy aroma reminiscent of chocolate, cloves, dates, and figs. The palate opens with a short burst of sweetness but finishes dry."

The Abbey Ale was spectacular, and three went down effortlessly, which turned out to be it for the evening.

Webster joined us after a while, so that was the extent of our beer group, Marty, Adam, Webster, and me (Victor). I had been waiting to tell them all about my million dollar idea. So finally, I did. How did it go over with the guys? Not so well. They weren't as enthusiastic about my idea as I was. Maybe I didn't communicate it well enough, or maybe it's just not such a great idea. I'll have to think about what to do with it. I won't be disheartened, it's good to keep generating ideas, million dollar or otherwise.

It was nice enough just to sit around and sip fine beers in the brewery. When we got there at around 7:15 p.m. it wasn't very crowded but as we were sitting there hundreds of people filed past us and filled the place up. The brewery is basically a big, old Brooklyn warehouse near the East River with beer vats and brewing equipment on one side and a "Tap Room" with a dozen or so long picnic tables on the other side.

They usually have about ten beers on tap, including a variety of seasonal offerings. To buy beers you first have to get beer tokens at the front. Beer tokens are wooden coins that say "Brooklyn Brewery" on one side and "Good For One Beer" on the other. You take your wooden Brooklyn beer money to the tap guys and exchange it for beery goodness. There's also a tip jar, of course.

I like the Brooklyn Brewery because, well, it's cheap, as am I, but also because it's not a bar, you're actually in a brewery, the place where the beer you're drinking was made. There's a gray-and-white brewery cat that slinks around while everybody tries to entertain it. There's good music (I recall hearing a fair amount of Nirvana last night). And if you don't care for the picnic tables you can just lean against sacks of barley or hops and set your beer on a stack of empty pallets. Setting your beer on a pallet is what America is all about!

Also I like it because it's a short walk home for me. I said goodbye to Marty, Adam, and Webster and walked home, where I made some instant soup and watched boxing on Showtime.

Now it's Saturday and I'm watching the very beginning of what they're calling a blizzard here in New York. It's 12:26 p.m. and the snow just started a half hour ago but it's really beginning to accumulate. I'd normally be pretty excited about it (I think it's pretty when it snows in New York until the snow gets dirty) but my wife is in Chicago right now and she's planning to fly back to New York tomorrow, which could be problematic.

I feel good today except for being a bit cold. Upstairs it's okay but when I went downstairs to make coffee this morning the thermometer on the wall said it was 45 degrees fahrenheit. Indoors, not outdoors. I'll have to turn on the downstairs space heater so the pipes don't freeze.

My plans today include going to the bank, going to karate, cleaning the house, saving America, doing some writing, and making a million dollars.


Friday, January 21, 2005

What Are You Wearing?

Temperature in New York City right now:

-10 Celcius (Feels Like -16)

14 Fahrenheit (Feels Like -4)

I'm wearing: CK Boxers, gray 18-year-old Fork Union Military Academy sweatpants, old CK Jeans, new socks, black Doc Marten Boots (just fixed), white tank top (wife beater), black swag tee-shirt with a picture of a lizard on it, tan sweater, white wool Orvis sweater on top of that. For venturing outside: scarf, hat, gloves, Dickies denim jacket, black Schott NYC leather jacket on top.

Layers, man. Layers. I'm not taking any chances.

It is hard to move. I feel like I'm wearing a space suit.

Last night I heroically wrote my 1,100-word Bank/Investment/Insurance Company overview story for The Star-Ledger. I had to stay at work until 7:45 p.m. to interview an economist from Commerce Bank, then I took the subway home to Brooklyn. Jenn's still in Chicago. I ate some pizza and watched the Apprentice, which emboldened me to pursue my million dollar idea. Then I wrote the Star-Ledger story, taking a break to watch The Daily Show. It was cold in the house, even with the heater on full-blast.

When I got to work today I had a voicemail from some toolbox from the public affairs office of an unnamed state government agency telling me that the economist I spoke to yesterday can't speak on behalf of the agency. Of course, said public affairs toolbox couldn't return my repeated calls yesterday, so I just went ahead and did the interview. I'm not sure who annoys me more: inept PR people or super-slick PR people.

At some point today (Friday) I have to put together 500 words on where to invest your money in 2005, but that's not too tough.

Oh, yesterday there was some inauguration thing in Washington. I tried hard to ignore it, but I am very afraid for the future of our country and the world.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Snowy Wednesday

My wife is in Chicago visiting her new niece. I'm here in New York and it's snowing. The snow is quite pretty.

Today was a rather slow day at Esquire and I was happy to make it to black belt class on time at 6:30 p.m. It was a good workout and we had a brief meeting after class and then I came home to Brooklyn at around 9:10 p.m. Being low on cash I bought a large chicken noodle soup from Family Garden for $2.25. I got home to the empty house and read Jenn's sweet note and gave her a quick call in Chicago and then and went through the mail. We received five magazines in one day.

I grabbed the soup and a spoon and Kill Bill Vol. 1 was on cable, which I think is a great movie. I watched it for a while, then turned it off before the final fight scene because I wanted to get some work done. The soup was decent.

By work I mean blogging and then writing out a few details about this million dollar idea that I have but I can't tell you about just yet, but I will say that it involves weather. I have to maybe register a patent or trademark or possibly start a website. I read on the U.S. Patent Office website that you can't just patent an idea but there should be something I can do.

I'm not sure how to proceed but I'll ask a few of my trusted beer buddies when we go to the Brooklyn Brewery on Friday night. I'll need their expert council, and when I make that million bucks then I'll buy the beers.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

It's Cold Outside!

I just took a short walk down the block to the mailbox to drop a couple of bills in the mail. It's awfully cold out there. It's -12 Celcius. Feels like -18 C. I set my weather.com New York City page on Celcius units just for comparison and haven't changed it back to Fahrenheit yet. By either measure it's cold. I wanted to jump on the computer right away and start writing but my fingers are still numb.

It's Tuesday night, 10:33 p.m. and Jenn's on her way back from a research trip to Philadelphia. I came straight home from work. The house was cold but I've had the heaters on a little while now. I'm listening to some lively classical music on WQXR.

Things at Esquire were pretty slow today so I made some calls for my last two Star-Ledger stories that I need to file on Friday. Nothing too strenuous. An overview of the banking and insurance sectors in New Jersey and a where to invest in 2005 story on stock and bond markets. Not too much trouble.

I guess the standout element of today was simply the cold. It was really the first seriously cold winter day. We had a few cold days in the fall but this was the first real New York winter day. There are a few very small snowdrifts left on the streets here in Brooklyn from the light dusting of snow night before last. People were bundled up in the subways, a woman at the United Homeless Organization table outside on the corner of 57th and Broadway was yelling really loudly for people to have compassion.

When it's really cold like this in New York it reminds me of the time I was living in Riga, Latvia in 1992-1994. Winters there were pretty brutal but there was always lots of snow to brighten the mood. Snow and vodka. And a strange, strong Latvian drink called Melnais Balzams (Black Balsam). Those were good times.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

MLK Jr. Holiday

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I had the day off work. It was cold outside today, in the twenties.

Jenn went to the gym in the morning and I stayed home and wrote the third of my three stories for The Star-Ledger that were due last Friday or over the weekend. I have two more to report and write by next Friday but they shouldn't be too tough. I've had pretty good focus in my freelance writing lately. I've been able to concentrate and not daydream and just bang it out in an hour or so.

I took Kaicho's black belt class at 1:30 p.m. today, and then I went to Roman's on 23rd Street to get a haircut. One of Roman's guys cut my hair and I actually prefer when Roman does it but it looks okay. I was feeling shaggy. Now I'm more clean cut.

I feel physically pretty good, from having gone to karate the past two days and having the extreme street run on Saturday morning (see below). Tomorrow Jenn's going to Philadelphia and Wednesday she's flying to Chicago to see her new niece.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

75% Off 2005 Calendars

I finally got my "bargain" on 2005 calendars this afternoon. I stopped by Barnes & Noble after karate at about 1:15 p.m. today (It's Sunday, January 16, 2005). I hadn't been there since Wednesday night, so the prices could have been lowered any time from Thursday to today. All remaining calendars were 75% off. I got two weekly planners, Van Gogh and Ireland, and two desk calendars, boats and lighthouses.

The boat one is kind of nice but we'll see about the lighthouses. The weekly planners were the real bargain, but the selection of desk calendars was kind of slim. It was between the lighthouses and Lewis & Clark's expedition and I went with lighthouses, because the pictures looked prettier.

That's where being a cheapskate kind of hurt me. Two weeks ago I could have gotten a Greece desk calendar at 50% off but that wasn't cheap enough for me. They sold out of course. I'm going to give Jenn the nice Ireland weekly planner and use Van Gogh for keeping track of my own interesting life.

The total for all four calendars was $14.63. A real bargain if you don't count how many trips I made to determine the ideal day to buy calendars. My determination is that the best time to go is when the first calendars for the next year start coming out in October. That's when we got our wall calendars (Japan, Japan, Trees, Ireland, New York). Otherwise, you might as well buy them at 50% off on January 1, because the selection is still very good. Barnes & Noble increases the discount to 75% around January 15, or the third weekend in January, but the selection is markedly worse by then. That's what I've learned. It's nice to be done with my market research.

As for what else I've been up to, I can say that yesterday (Saturday) turned out to be a pretty interesting day. The L-train was having construction done so there were major delays. There was only one shuttle train running between Manhattan and Brooklyn, back and forth on the same track.

I was supposed to meet Jenn at Eighth Avenue at 11:23 a.m. as she was leaving New York Sports Clubs. We were going to take the train to New Jersey to visit her stepbrother Jay Torson. I had dawdled a bit in the morning and then realized I didn't want to be late, so I really hauled ass.

I took a fast shower, got dressed, grabbed the laundry bag and literally ran with this huge laundry bag bouncing for two long blocks to Graham Avenue and dropped it off at the cleaners. Then I ran all the way from Graham Avenue to Bedford Avenue, (a serious distance) wearing boots and my black leather coat and carrying my bag. The weather was cold but I was really sweating when I got to the subway station.

The platform was absolutely packed, but I was fortunate. A train was just pulling in, and I squeezed on it. It only went as far as Union Square and I needed to be at Eighth Avenue (in about five minutes) so I had one more run.

I ran from Union Square to Eighth Avenue, weaving and dodging people along 14th Street the whole way, and I made it to our rendezvous point on time at 11:23 a.m. (Maybe it was 11:24 but it was not 11:25.) Jenn was a few minutes late, though, so I waited outside her gym with my wet sweaty head steaming in the cold. I put on my hat and gloves right away before I got a chill.

I felt really good after those three amazing runs: 1. Leonard Street to Graham Avenue, 2. Graham Avenue to Bedford Avenue, 3. Union Square to Eighth Avenue.

It's freakish to physically run along the sidewalks of New York wearing street clothes (Winter clothes at that) and making a spectacle, but nobody really notices and I wanted to see if I could do it and I ended up getting a great workout that I could really feel for the rest of the day. It was if not an adventure at least an experience.

So I met Jenn and we took the subway up to Penn Station and we bought our NJ Transit round-trip train tickets on the Dover line to Maplewood, New Jersey ($15.00 for both of us, not bad), and we got on the train at Track 1. It was a cold, cloudy day and a lot of the scenery from the train was kind of a worst-of-New-Jersey panorama of junkyards, old warehouses and highways, but then it got nicer, and where we got out of the train in Maplewood it was really nice. The train ride took about forty minutes. Jay and his friend Ingrid met us at the station.

We got in Jay's truck and drove down the street a little way to his apartment. He showed us his place and some of his artwork. We watched a short video of his trip to Newfoundland last summer to paint. It was nice. Then we went to an art gallery in the town of Maplewood where his work is being shown. It's a very nice gallery and his work is excellent. See some of it at www.jtorson.com. He said we could pick a piece as a wedding present so that is excellent.

After we left the gallery we drove to the next town, South Orange, and went to a brewpub called the Gaslight Brewery www.gaslightbrewery.com where we had lunch, and, of course, a couple of brews. They have some games, like a table shuffleboard game, foosball, and darts. We played shuffleboard and foosball. I liked shuffleboard better but I was pretty bad at both. Jenn and Ingrid crushed me and Jay at foosball, and it was pretty clear that I was the weaker player on our team. We all talked about artwork and the former Soviet Union (Ingrid had spent a semester in St. Petersburg).

After a few games and a few brews, Jay and Ingrid walked Jenn and me to the train platform. We said goodbye to them and caught the 4:56 p.m. train from South Orange to New York's Penn Station. It didn't take long. We took the subway home, relaxed with some wine, watched the Jets lose on TV but didn't care very much, read the Sunday New York Times, and went to bed feeling pretty good.

Today I had a great kata class at noon. Then I bought the calendars. Then I came home to Brooklyn and bought some groceries to cook dinner tonight. Got a whole chicken, some Italian bread, and some broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot niblets. I'll steam the veggies all together in a steamer basket and call it vegetable medly.


Saturday, January 15, 2005

Saturday Morning Fever

It's Saturday morning, 10:06 a.m. in Brooklyn, New York. Jenn's gone to the gym. I'll meet her at the Starbucks at 8th Avenue in a little over an hour so we can go together to Penn Station and catch a train to Morris, New Jersey. Her stepbrother lives there. He's an artist and his work is hanging in a gallery, and we're going to see it and also have lunch. Jay's a cool guy.

Last night (Friday night) I worked until about 8:00 p.m. and finally closed the feature story I was working on. I'm afraid to say what it was because of my large, international readership. I wouldn't want to endanger my job at Esquire, but it involved an American soldier in Iraq.

I left work and took the subway down to Seth's apartment on Grove Street in Greenwich Village (or simply, "the Village"). Marty was there and I brought him about thirty CDs from bands I had never heard of. We have a couple of boxes of giveaway CDs at work that anybody can take, and I know Marty's the guy to spend the time listening to them and sorting the wheat from the chaff. It's a good music vetting process.

We had two beers apiece (Anchor Steam beers, which I much prefer to the Sierra Nevada mentioned earlier) and caught up on what each other were up to, but we split at around 9:30 p.m. or so. I went home, Marty went to his girl's place, and Seth went to DJ at a Lower East Side bar called Motor City.

I haven't been to Barnes & Noble to check calendar prices since Wednesday night, so I hope that proves I'm not a complete freak. If I have time I'll drop by on the way to meeting Jenn. I've also got to drop off the laundry and it might take a few minutes to get it together.

As for my freelance work, I'm happy to report that I filed the first two stories and have my editor's blessing to file the third over this (long) weekend. Next week will be kind of slow at Esquire so it won't be a problem to report and write the two stories that are due on Friday, January 21.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Heroic Yet Mortal

A handful of words as an update:

Worked late last night, took subway part of the way home with Kevin, who got out of the L train at First Avenue. We talked about Ireland and Chicago and EU passports. Finally got home, scarfed down some sliced summer sausage and Colby Jack cheese-food pieces, and sat my tired ass down in my desk chair for some freelance writing at 8:00 p.m. Didn't budge for four hours. I had better focus than I normally do but it was kind of painful all the while. I just wanted to relax.

Heroically finished 1,400 words on apartments as investments and 500 words on private money sources by 10:53 p.m. Jenn came home at 10:45 p.m. We watched the Daily Show at 11:00 p.m. and the previous day's Daily Show (from Wednesday) at 11:30 p.m. Felt good to be done, though I still have one more 500-word story on industry honors to crank out at some point today (Friday). I can do it, no problem. Might have to be sneaky (or late) but it will be done. I'm making that money. This is the road to riches, or something. Two more stories due next Friday, but that's a million years away.

It was 60 degrees at 5:00 a.m. The temp's been dropping all day. At this moment (12:48 p.m.) it's 40 degrees and dropping. Snowflakes were falling over New York a few minutes ago. It was raining as I took the subway in to work this morning. Marty wants to get together for beers after work. I want to but we'll have to see how work goes. It's very busy for me at Esquire today. In fact, what am I doing writing this? I've got to go before somebody notices.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Climbing the Ladder

This will be brief but heartfelt. I'm busy and somewhat stressed. The March close at Esquire is in full swing. We need everything now if not five minutes ago, that kind of thing. I had a not-quite-world-class but at least semi-pro screw up yesterday that I hope will blow over by today. Just a careless oversight on my part, but as a fact checker, if I don't catch factual errors, what do I do? Well, I felt bad for a little while, and then got back on the metaphorical horse. Let's go.

Add to this the three (3) freelance business stories I have due for The Star-Ledger tomorrow (Friday). Amount I have written already: zero (0) words. Tonight will be fun. I also have two stories due next Friday. Number of call/interviews I have done for those stories: zero (0). And today's certainly not a good day to make calls from Esquire.

I would have made some headway on those stories last night, but I had "other priorities" as Dick Cheney would say. I was at Esquire until 8:00 p.m. (forced by circumstance to miss my required weekly black belt class at karate) and went home straight from work (with a brief stop on the way, no calendar news to mention). At home, however, I had to spend the evening updating (actually rewriting) my resume and pulling togehther some published clips. I'm applying for a freelance financial writing job with an investment bank (one article a month) and of course they're in a hurry to get things done, so I had to send in my resume and clips today. (I'm happy to report that the fax went through.)

No complaints here, just admiration for the people that can hustle all day at their regular jobs, and then go home and hustle some more to make things better. Some people make it look easy. Not me. I can't function without a decent night's sleep. I had to wolf down my steamed beef with mixed Chinese vegetables last night so I could get cranking on the resume. I hope all this effort pays off so I can start buying my own courtside Knicks tickets (see below) instead of relying on the kindness of others.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Courtside at the Garden

This afternoon my friend Seth came up with two courtside seats at Madison Square Garden to see the Knicks play the Hornets. It's funny because exactly one week ago Noah came up with a pair of free tickets to the Knicks-Kings game, for my first-ever trip to the Garden. Having lived in the city a decade I had never been to MSG and now I've gotten free Knicks tickets on two consecutive Tuesdays. Uncanny!

Last week's seats were good, but being courtside tonight was amazing. To be precise it was Club Courtside, Game K18, Gate 66, Court 17, Row E, Seats 3 and 4. I sat in 3. The price on the ticket is $330. Amazing!

There were three rows in front of us and the scorers tables. Our view was excellent. The "tunnel" where the teams came out of was just to our right. I could have thrown a water bottle at one of them, but they were charging like five bucks for a big Poland Spring and I'm pretty cheap. Also they'd pound me. And I wasn't angry about anything.

It felt kind of rich to be in those seats. We had a waitress. I was happy to buy some burgers and beers. Both were pretty decent. I didn't like balancing the plate on my knees so I ate fast, and then I kicked back and enjoyed my Budweiser and started paying attention to the basketball game. The Hornets took the lead and held it. The Knicks' play was uninspired. Stephon Marbury was the highlight, he has some great moves to the basket and he can finish, but he wasn't enough to compensate for the lackluster effort of his teammates.

Sitting across the court from us, on the edge of the court itself, were L.L. Cool J, Samuel L. Jackson, and a few of their people and also Rowdy Roddy Piper. (As we were leaving Seth said he had seen Spike Lee but I hadn't noticed him.)

There were some exciting moments in the game, but overall the Knicks seemed flat, and while the Hornets weren't much more energetic, they did keep the lead for most of the game, then allowed the Knicks to tie it, and then they pulled away for good.

The other entertainment included the Knicks City Dancers (pretty good), a children's musical chairs contest (cute), and two contest winners taking half-court shots for $100,000 and $77,000, respectively, and missing.

After the game I walked over to the subway on 32nd Street. It was a few minutes after 10:00 p.m. It was raining pretty steadily. It didn't take long to get to Williamsburg on the subway. When I came in the house Jenn was talking on the phone to her mom about Stephanie's new baby. It's midnight now.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

So Maybe I Do Snore

Jenn said she snickered about my last post that said how quickly I fell asleep on Sunday night, because I did some world-class snoring, which I'm sure was charming. Not much I can do about it, but it reminds me of how helpful earplugs can be for noise-sensitive residents of the five boroughs. Last night I was much quieter, she reported this morning.

It's 10:34 a.m. and I'll give myself just a few minutes to update things before plunging back into Esquire's March issue, which is rumbling along at a steady clip.

Yesterday was pretty busy and I didn't have much of a chance to do anything besides work at work. I was sore from the previous two days of karate and wound up working until around 7:00 p.m. so I didn't go to the dojo after work, although (and It's becoming embarassing to say this) I did stop by Barnes & Noble on the way home to check calendar prices (unchanged). It's not obsessive-compulsive disorder, it's not extreme miserliness, it's market research. Okay? Okay, also I am a very cheap man.

Jenn was already home when I arrived last night, pizza box in hand. We listened to classical music and I ate pizza from Sal's and Jenn ate the crusts (she had already had a tofu burrito). Later on we looked through New York Times Travel and Escapes sections we had accumulated over the past month. We like to plan (or at least daydream about) trips we'd like to take, and I also think about story ideas I could pitch and the type of stuff that gets published. It does seem to me that travel writing would be one of the better ways to have fun at work.

Tonight I'm also going straight home after work. The first three of my five freelance business stories are due on Friday. The next two are due the following friday. So I've got to focus and bang them out. It keeps me in the black, just barely. And speaking of paying the bills, I've got to hop.

Monday, January 10, 2005

A Walk in SoHo

Having had my coffee and newspaper time after the karate event yesterday, I pulled myself together and took a walk to the local grocery store for some lean chicken breasts and a loaf of Italian bread. I grilled the chicken in our black, cast-iron skillet and made some garlic bread. Jenn and I enjoyed a nice dinner at the table downstairs.

After cleaning up I was kind of crawling the walls, so I convinced Jenn to come with me for a after-dinner stroll through SoHo. We had the vague idea of going somewhere for a drink, but really we just wanted to walk off our dinner a bit. The weather was cool but clear and SoHo is always a pleasant neighborhood to walk in. Being Sunday night, most of the stores were closed, but there was plenty of activity. We had brought cameras with us and snapped away. We had gotten off the subway at Canal street and we eventually made our way back up to 14th and First, where we took the subway back home to Brooklyn, feeling tired but good. It was around this point (10:00 p.m.) that I started getting really tired from my lack of sleep the night before. When we got home we looked at my digital photos on the computer (I had taken about 215 of them, maybe thirty turned out really well). I fell asleep within moments of my head touching the pillow.

This morning was a typical Monday morning, but I got my act together pretty well, dropped off the laundry, and made it to Esquire only a little bit late.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Happy Karate New Year!

It's Sunday, January 9, 2005, 2:20 p.m. and I'm relaxing at home with Jenn. It's a pleasant afternoon, cold but dry. It was kind of sunny before, but now clouds have moved in, making the light over Brooklyn kind of brown and weird.

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, this morning was Seido Karate's annual New Year's training, called Kagami Biraki. A full explanation of Kagami Biraki, written by one of our most senior instructors, is here . If the link is bad just google kagami biraki.

Anyway, I set two alarms for 5:50 a.m. this morning and actually woke up at 5:40, got up and turned off the alarms before they went off. I shuffled, bleary-eyed, downstairs and had some grapefruit juice, a bagel, and some coffee. I showered, dressed, grabbed my gi (karate uniform) and belt, and went to the subway at 6:50 a.m. I made it to the dojo at 7:15 a.m., changed into my gi and went upstairs to help set up for the event.

Kagami Biraki started right at 8:00 a.m. I estimate that there were about 400 people there, but there could have been more. Our dojo has two workout floors, and the one on the third floor is the biggest, maybe 3,000 or 4,000 square feet, with wood floors. The place was packed. We lined up, senior black belts in front, first- and second-degree black belts (shodans and nidans, respectively) in a line ringing the edge of the dojo floor. Colored belts were lined up in the center.

Our master, the founder of our style, Kaicho Nakamura, guided us through a brief meditation. Then we bowed in and recognized Kaicho and the most senior members of our style who were present (in this case it took a few minutes, since lots of senior students come to the event). We had a group stretch and then a very vigorous workout. We started off with about a hundred punches, each punch punctuated with a kiai (shout). With all those voices and all those kiais, it was loud in that dojo, and the energy level shot up right away. All the windows and mirrors were steamed up. Everybody was dripping with sweat. We did several sets of blocks, kicks, and squats the same way, as well as various types of pushups and situps.

It didn't last very long, maybe an hour and a half. At the end we all sat down and Kaicho said a few words in honor of the new year. As always, he reminded us to appreciate what we have, and the opportunity to train together and form bonds with eachother. He reminded us of the saying "Karate and Zen are inseparable" (I can't remember it in Japanese). He showed us a poster with the Japanese kanji characters for Zen and explained that the kanji for Zen is the small character for "be" or "show" next to the larger character for "simple" or "simplicity."

He mentioned the recent tsunami and explained that although we may feel young and strong now, bad things can happen at any time, which is why we should take risks and work hard now to appreciate every moment, not just in the dojo but everywhere. Bring your karate into your everyday life.

At the end of it, every student in the place bowed to everybody else, shaking hands and wishing happy new year starting with Kaicho and forming a line in rank order snaking through the whole place. I actually cut out of line early, around the green belts I think, to help set up tables for the annual meeting of senior black belts (fourth degree and higher). The windows were opened and the cold January air rushed in and it felt refreshing. I changed back into my street clothes in the very crowded locker room and left. I didn't even try to take a shower. It was too crowded and the hot water was long gone anyway. I'd shower at home.

I walked from the dojo to Barnes & Noble and again, the prices were a measly 50 percent off for a dwindling supply of calendars. I guess it's just a waiting game but it's January 9 already.

I took the L-train from Union Square to First Avenue, just so I could pop out and buy bagels and lox spread from David's Bagels. I hopped right back on the train and came home to my wife, who had just recently gotten out of bed at 10:30 a.m. She made a delicious pot of coffee and I drank two mugs while sitting in my chair, reading the Sunday New York Times.

Now I feel sore from both yesterday's kumite class and today's new year's training, but I feel good. Kagami Biraki is a really cool thing to be involved in. I'm quite sure nobody else in NYC was doing what we were doing.

New Babies and Karate Fights

Last night Jenn's sister had a baby. Proud parents Stephanie and Eric welcome Evelyn Charlotte to the world. They're in Chicago, so we toasted from New York with cabernet sauvignon.

It's 10:25 p.m. and Jenn is out for one of her friends' birthday dinners. I'm home staying mellow because I've got to wake up early tomorrow (Sunday) morning for Kagami Biraki, New Year's karate training.

Today I took a kumite class. Kumite is the word for free fighting. What we do is like kickboxing, more or less. We don't try to take eachother's heads off, we exchange techniques and try to get better, find out what works and what doesn't work.

I'm a decent fighter for the most part, but there are lots of black belts who are senior to me who can really take me out. It's exciting to fight someone with superior skills because you are fighting to win, but of course everybody has a plan until they get hit. Today I had about a dozen good fights with both black belts and colored belts, but I also got tenderized in one fight with a fellow first degree black belt (shodan). I got knocked down too, which doesn't happen too often. It was exciting but humbling and a little frustrating.

I am still coming back from a karate injury last year, so I'm a bit out of practice. Still, when I walked out of that place I felt like nothing could hurt me. Now I feel a bit sore.

It's 10:36 p.m. and I'm going to bed soon so I can get to the dojo at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Friday Night; Still at Work at 8:37 p.m.

My long workday has come to an end, but now I am waiting for my wife to finish up at her job. I work at Esquire, which is on Broadway and 58th Street, and Jenn works at Newsweek, which happens to be right across the street. We didn't plan it this way, but it worked out nicely.

Until just a few minutes ago I was working too, but I "closed" the section I was working on, and now I'm just tidying up my area, blogging, and waiting to take the subway home to Brooklyn with my wife. Also I'm drinking a beer. Our managing editor was kind enough to bring up a couple of six packs of Sierra Nevada, which isn't one of my favorite beers, but I'll admit that this one (and the one before it) tastes darn good.

Today was a good day in New York. I was pretty busy but of course that doesn't mean I was lacking for email or keeping up to date with the news of the world, which generally falls in the bad category: tsunami agony, more U.S. deaths in Iraq, government malfeasance, etc.

Friday is a wonderful day of the week and I'm happy to have two days of leisure ahead of me, but I also have a few things to do over the weekend, particularly early Sunday morning, which will put a crimp in my Saturday Night Fever. We have "Kagami Biraki" at karate on Sunday morning, which is New Year's training. It begins at 8:00 a.m. sharp, but as a new black belt (shodan) we have to help set things up, so I need to arrive at 7:00 a.m.

Kagami Biraki is a big, early morning workout, where literally hundreds of kareteka (people who do karate) get together and go through a tough workout to commit to train hard in the coming year. The idea is all about spirit: if you have spirit to share, you bring it, and if you need some spirit to help keep going, you come and take it. It's a very loud and energetic, and I suppose it's hard to imagine if you haven't been there, but it's a very unique and empowering experience that I'm looking forward to, despite the early hour. There are so many people, so much energy, and so much sweat, that all the mirrors and all the windows in the dojo get completely steamed up. Then at the end of the workout Kaicho opens the windows and the cool, fresh air rushes in and you feel terrific. The dojo is on 23rd Street off Sixth Avenue in Chelsea.

As for tonight, Jenn and I will go home, probably pick up takeout from some local joint in Brooklyn, and hang out. Maybe there'll be a good movie on cable we can watch. We don't pay those big cable bills for nothing.

As for the New York report: it seems to be a mild evening, societally. Of course I say that from the 13th floor of an office building. If I was down on the streets I might have a different asssessment. But the vibe I'm getting of my fellow New Yorkers is mellow and kind.

First Friday

First Friday of 2005 and I feel fine. The weather is clear and mild, my commute was sane and bearable, and, well, it's Friday.

Yesterday was rather busy at Esquire, and I left the office just a couple of minutes too late to make it to karate class, so I went home and finished the book I had been reading, Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. I highly recommend it. It was rather bleak but very gripping, and the portrait it draws of Pinkie is a picture of pure evil. It's considered one of Greene's "Catholic novels."

After I put the book down (and ate some chinese food) I watched a documentary called Born Rich, which was made by Jamie Johnson, heir of the Johnson & Johnson fortune. It was enjoyable. Most of the subjects who sat to talk about being born rich were intelligent and articulate, if shallow. It sounds weird to say, but on some level I did feel a little sorry for them. Those huge amounts of money did tend to isolate them, and not having to struggle to pay the bills deprived them of a certain emotional attachment to the vast majority of people on the planet. I wouldn't turn down a free million, but I do feel very engaged in the world when I have to hustle along the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn in an effort to "make it."

That effort involves keeping my job as a fact checker at Esquire, so I've got to do that now. More soon.

And yes, I dropped by the bookstore on the way home. Calendar prices have not budged. The selection has dwindled, but there are plenty of Celine Dion Eating Babies calendars left.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Black Belts and Calendars

Things at Esquire got busier yesterday, as we near the completion of our March issue. I'm also trying to get interviews out of the way for the five freelance stories I'm writing for The Star-Ledger. At the same time I have to implement my Get Rich in 2005 plan as well as become one of America's most transcendent writers of the 21st century. A tall order, but I had a good breakfast.

After work last night I went to black belt class at Karate, which is taught by the grandmaster of our style, Kaicho Nakamura. It was our first class of the new year, and there was much greeting and happy new year wishes. Then we had a vigorous workout that I can feel in my legs and hips today. It's a good feeling. Not so much sore as alive. After class let out I walked from the dojo (on 23rd Street) to the Barnes & Noble on Union Square to continue my market research project on calendars. Prices still haven't moved from where they were on the first. All calendars are half off. The selection has shrunk, but there are still some decent offerings in the desk calendar area. That means I didn't blow my opportunity for a calendar bargain this year by going to the Knicks game on Tuesday night. Maybe tonight's the night for a 90% discount.

It's cold but not freezing today and rain is falling in a gentle mist. The New Yorkers I shared the subways and streets with this morning weren't especially agitated, and people in the office seem to be in good spirits as well. Pretty good conditions for the first Thursday of 2005.

Now I have to get back to my Esquire responsibilities.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

My Interesting Life

Today is the first Wednesday of 2005. Here's what I have to report:

Yesterday afternoon my friend Noah came up with a pair of tickets to see the New York Knicks basketball team play the Sacramento Kings at world famous Madison Square Garden arena. In my ten years living in New York I had never been there, so it was a first for me. The Garden is ugly from the outside (it looks like a big rabbit warren, though those are not my words) but impressive on the inside. The game was exciting as well. The Knicks were decent in the first quarter, and flat in the second quarter. However, a third quarter rally had the Garden crowd on its feet cheering. The Knicks had taken the lead! Sadly, that lead dissolved in the fourth, and the Knicks lost the game 105-98. Still, it was a very enjoyable game, impressive for my first trip to the famed venue.

The game interfered with my market research project on calendar prices, however. After going to the bookstore on the first, second, and third, I didn't make it there on the fourth, which may have been my last, best hope for a calendar bargain. I might drop by tonight, after black belt class.

This morning it is raining in New York, and the temperature is expected to drop throughout the day. Snow and sleet is expected in the evening. The subways were pretty crowded this morning but I arrived at Esquire just in time at 10:00 a.m. to do an interview for a freelance story I am writing about real estate for The Star-Ledger. It's always a hustle, but things are working out. And speaking of working, I've got to get busy on Esquire's behalf, so I'll have to end this post.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Tuesday Update

It's 11:14 a.m. It's mild enough outside to wear a short sleeved shirt without a jacket, provided you keep a brisk pace. New York is in a mellow mood today.

I forgot to mention earlier that calender prices haven't fallen since January 1. I dropped by Barnes & Noble after work last night. True, I'm a cheap (parsimonious) man, but this has become a bit of a quest, or a market research project, if you will. I think tonight might be the night.

Early Morning Blogging

I suppose 8:32 a.m. isn't so early but I still have a foot in the sleep world. This black coffee is doing its job, though. (We ran out of milk.)

Jenn and I went to bed early last night. I read in bed until about 11:15 p.m. Brighton Rock is a great book. British thugs and hooligans are more interesting to me than their American counterparts. Maybe I've been overexposed to mafia stories. Graham Greene is an excellent writer. His dialog is realistic and his characters are vivid, especially the self-loathing Pinkie. He's an 18-year-old gang leader.

It's time to get going. Can't be late to work again. Stories in the March issue are really beginning to move along the production schedule. I'll drop back in if I can.

What's NYC up to so far this morning? From my bedroom I can tell you they are fumbling through the rain, getting ready for the first Tuesday of the new year.

Monday, January 03, 2005

New Year's Monday

This will have to be brief:

I arrived at work (I'm a fact checker at Esquire) a bit late today at about 10:25 a.m. but still managed to get here before some of my colleagues. I had to drop off the laundry before work, and the laundry bag was huge (probably 40 pounds) and it took a while to get everything together. But here I am at my desk at 1790 Broadway, 13th Floor. The subways were okay. The weather is mild for January 3.

Last night's New Year's goal setting with Jenn wasn't too tough. Get rich. Write more and better. Start a family with Jenn. She's more specific in her goals: get new curtains and couch, etc. Now it's time to achieve those goals, but writing them down is a start.

I'm still excited about having this new publishing medium, but I've got "real" work to do, so I'm off. I'll drop back in later if I have a chance. One comment in the spirit of the blog title: New York seems to be doing fine in 2005 so far. The mood on the subway was bleary but bullish. People in the office are saying "Happy New Year" to each other.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy January 2

It's 8:19 p.m. and we're relaxing at home, sipping wine and listening to jazz music on the Music Choice channel (630).

Last night's cocktail party at Noah and Elizabeth's place was lots of fun. They have a very nice place on 104th street. We caught up with several old friends and had some drinks. The Finlandia vodka made me swoon. We left at 8:30 p.m. and took the subway home to Brooklyn, where I proceeded to cook some chicken breasts with grilled onions. We didn't stay up too late. Saturday Night Live was a rerun.

This morning I gathered myself, read the New York Times for a while, and then went into Manhattan and took a karate class at noon. It felt good to be back in the dojo because it had been closed for a week over the holidays. It was a good workout. After class I walked from the dojo (23rd Street and Sixth Avenue) to the Barnes & Noble on Union Square, where I was hoping to get a deeply discounted desk calendar and day planner. They didn't change the prices from yesterday (I also went by yesterday for the same reason) and they remained 50% off. I think if I wait another day or two I can get them for a buck. Yes, I'm a very cheap man, but if this isn't a productive way to spend my time at least I enjoy dropping by the bookstore. I want to determine the ideal day for buying cheap calendars and then stick to it every year.

After I came home Jenn floated the idea of going to see the 4:00 p.m. showing of the movie Sideways at the Union Square theater. To Jenn's surprise I agreed to go and we arrived about a half hour early and got good seats. By the time the movie started almost every seat was full. We both enjoyed the movie, and we both agreed that it was overrated, not through any flaw in the film itself, but it was simply overrated. Rated too highly. Sideways is about two forty-something guys who go on a bachelor party trip through wine country in Northern California. It was interesting and well written and we laughed out loud a couple of times. It was nice just to go to the movie theater at all because I don't go very often, on account of being cheap (see above re: calendar purchasing).

Since Sidways involves the drinking of wine, we decided to come home and open a bottle of wine. We are now sipping a bottle called A Mano from Italy. It's delicious. My boss at Esquire, Bob Scheffler, gave it to me for Christmas. It's a very nice bottle. We also had pizza, from Sal's on Lorimer Street. Good pizza, too.

While we munched on the pizza (I cut it into little pieces and served it on the cutting board) we watched 60 Minutes. There was an interesting article about Google. It's an amazing company, and it's worth so much because their products are excellent, first the google search, and now, this blog program. It's great! I'm having fun now in my second day as a blogger. I even mentioned it to Noah last night. Noah is a blogger of some fame. He has a blog called defensetech.org.

For now I just want to focus on updating this on a regular basis. I figure the personality and any specialization will come over time. But my general concept is to describe my life in New York. I'm a regular, imperfect person with hopes, dreams and weaknesses. Some people might be able to relate to my perceptions of life in the city.

Jenn's in the shower now and after she gets out we're supposed to think about where we want our lives to be at the end of 2005. I guess it will be like writing down New Year's resolutions but taking it to the next level and thinking about what it will take to achieve our goals. I've said before that my main New Year's resolution is to get rich in 2005, and the plan is to get paid more for my writing and other skills (which others I'll have to think about) and invest that money wisely. I'd also like to start a family with Jenn. Yes, I have lots to work on in 2005.



Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, one and all. This is my first entry on my first blog. I'll do my best to describe the life I live in New York in an interesting and informative way.

It's January 1, 2005, and I'm sitting in my home in Brooklyn. My wife, Jenn, is getting ready for a New Year's Day hangover cocktail party we'll be attending at our friends Noah and Elizabeth's apartment on 104th Street in Manhattan later this evening. I'm already taking care of one New Year's resolution: to start a blog. This could be the start of something big.

The general idea for this blog is to describe the life I live in New York City. I figured I'd name it New York 2005 since it's New Year's day and I'm looking forward to lots of good things happening this year. [I have since renamed the site New York City Diary]

If this blog is to have any value to anybody it will be to honestly describe what it's like to live in New York, at least for one particular guy: me. For the most part it will just describe what I do every day. Wake up. Go to work, etc. Deeper thoughts will pop up from time to time.