Today is Valentine's Day, when lovers express their affection with greetings and gifts. Although there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, the day probably took its name from a priest who was martyred about AD 270 by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus.
According to legend, the priest signed a letter to his jailer's daughter, whom he had befriended and with whom he had fallen in love, "from your Valentine."
The holiday also had origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, held in mid-February. The festival, which celebrated the coming of Spring, included fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery. At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine's Day.
It came to be celebrated as a day of romance from about the 14th century.
[From the Encyclopedia Britannica. Thanks Britannica!]
Here's what's going on with me.
It was a busy weekend. I woke up slowly on Saturday morning and received a phone call from my friend Webster while I was lingering over coffee with Jenn.
Webster needed my help. His girlfriend is moving in with him and he wanted me to help him carry a bulky and heavy wooden couch frame down the stairs of his apartment building and into a rented van. They were getting rid of it at the Salvation Army on 46th Street. Yes, the same Salvation Army where I purchased my $10 Brooks Brothers blazer.
Of course I agreed to come over right away. That's what friends are for. But I also sensed an opportunity. Jenn and I have been meaning to get rid of a few items as well, namely a bar, a chair, a loveseat, and a coffee table. I suggested to Webster that after I help him load that couch into the van, we come by my place and grab a few other items for the good people at the Salvation Army. We had a deal.
I showered, got dressed, and gathered myself. I took a quick trip out to Graham Avenue to pick up the laundry and came back home to drop it off. Then I said goodbye to Jenn and took the L-train into Manhattan. I got out at First Avenue, and stopped by Citibank on the way to deposit two checks. Then I walked to Webster's apartment, which is on 10th Street and Second Avenue. He had run out for an errand, and left a Post-it note for me on his building's front door that said "Vic-Running an errand, -W." It was about 1:30 p.m.
I waited on the corner, across the street from the famous Second Avenue Deli. The sun was struggling to shine through the white winter clouds, and it soothed my aching head.
After a few minutes and a quick glance at the latest Village Voice, Webster showed up. He had been buying a Valentine's gift for his lady. We got right to business. First, he gave me an ethernet card to install into Jenn's computer, so we can hook both of our machines up to the router. Nice.
Then we attacked the couch frame, a tall, awkward monster that we nonetheless humped down six flights of stairs, in full military-press posture every step of the way. We hardly left any dings in the walls at all. Once we got it out the front doors MaryAlice was pulling up in the van. Perfect timing. We loaded the van up with the couch, a lamp, and a coffee table. I hopped in the back of the van (sat on the couch) and directed them over the Williamsburg Bridge to our place.
Things went smoothly with our stuff, and we filled up the van with furniture to donate. Jenn had gone to the gym so it was just me, Webster, and MaryAlice. Some of our stuff would turn out to be garbage, but there were enough good pieces to make it worth everybody's time and effort. I said goodbye to Webster and MaryAlice and thanked them for the ethernet card and the use of the van.
It was almost 3:00 p.m. so I heated up two pieces of leftover artichoke pizza that Blanche had given me, wolfed it down, grabbed my gi and fight gear, and went to the dojo.
Kumite class was excellent as usual. I was able to fight through my headache. I gave as well as I got. After class ended I showered, dressed, and went home to Brooklyn. Jenn was there, impressed at how clean the house looked with all that extra furniture gone. She was entering a very interior-design-focused state of mind that continues to this day.
It was about 6:00 p.m. when I got home and I was feeling both tired and energized at the same time. I was beaten down by hangover, furniture moving, and fighting, but yet I felt good that I had accomplished a lot. I figured I would keep working while my energy was up, so I took a walk out to Beverage World on Meeker Avenue and bought a case of seltzer (16 liters) and a six pack of Brooklyn Pennant Pale Ale. I carried it home, struggling now and then on my four-block walk. We do errands on foot in New York that most of America uses large vehicles to do. My seltzer and beer run was a real bicep blaster. Hooah!
I was even more tired but determined to keep going while I had the motivation. I put the seltzer and beer in the refrigerator and went back out. I figured my favorite Italian butcher would still be open and I was right, only he was out on the street in front of his shop, helping jump-start his friend's Lincoln Towncar. He told me to go ahead and wait in his shop for him, so I did. I sat in a chair, watched the Italian channel on TV, and looked around the store at the fine cuts of meat.
He came into the shop after about five minutes and got me two pounds of chicken cutlets, carefully trimming the fat from the edges. Then I walked up to Graham Avenue and bought grapefruit juice, milk, Italian bread, and chocolate chip cookies from C-Town and broccoli, carrot niblets, onions, and plum tomatoes ("from out front") from the produce market. Ready to cook!
But before dinner, Jenn and I hung up our new curtains, using convenient cafe rings. Now we have lovely off-white curtains downstairs instead of the jungle-bird motif, which I was okay with but Jenn had grown tired of. Really tired.
Jenn and I opened a bottle of Argentinian wine (I was feeling better and anyway it was Saturday night) and I started cooking. We had some garlic bread to go with our wine. Then I prepared baked chicken cutlets over a bed of onions with thick, seasoned tomato slices on top, drizzled with olive oil. I steamed the carrot niblets and broccoli. It turned out well, if I do say so. Yummy food.
After dinner we cleaned up and then I took yet another walk to the bodega to buy the Sunday New York Times. Mission accomplished, I came home, we flipped through the paper and watched Saturday Night Live, and went to bed. A nice, productive day.
Sunday dawned, and we slept until 10:00 a.m. We had coffee and newspaper time and then I got my stuff together and went to the dojo. Kata class was enjoyable, and I chatted with my friend Dan after class and then came home. I mentioned earlier that Jenn was in interior-design mode, so we spent most of the day cleaning the house and thinking about what could go where.
My big job was to power-clean the upstairs bathroom, which I did, to the detriment of my soft, supple hands. I used every cleaning chemical we had and created a toxic cloud of chemical gas, which I then ventilated by opening some windows. Jenn vacuumed the downstairs carpet and cleaned the downstairs bathroom and mopped the kitchen floor. Through our excellent teamwork we now have a very clean house.
We had delicious leftovers for dinner, and some cookies for dessert. Then we relaxed upstairs, read the newspaper and watched Raiders of the Lost Ark until bedtime. Good night!
Today is Monday, and not only is it Valentine's Day, it is also the third day of the massive outdoor art exhibit in Central Park called "The Gates" by Christo. I walked through the park last Thursday and saw The Gates before the saffron panels were unfurled. Today, if it's not raining, Jenn and I will check out the unfurled version, and of course I'll blog about it. I'm all for The Gates. Go Christo!
One more thing: My parents had a great time on their cruise. They report that the Queen Mary 2 is a fantastic ship.