New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Randy and Me

I got to work a little late today so I went straight to my desk to pretend like I've been there working the whole time. Then I got hungry so at about 11:00 a.m. I took a walk out to the grocery store next door on 57th Street, the Associated/Morton Williams between Seventh Avenue and Broadway.

I walked in the grocery store through the entrance on 58th Street (by the piano shop). I wasn't sure what I was going to get, so I thought I'd take a look at the hot food bar. I strolled past the yogurt section, vaguely considering buying a yogurt, when I noticed a very tall man taking a couple of yogurts off the one of the higher shelves. He was with a woman. She was a normal-sized woman but she looked very small standing next to him.

I think he was taking La Yogurts or Yoplait-style yogurts (the kind in the smallish container with the foil top but no plastic snap-on lid like Dannon has, as if you actually need that plastic lid to save your uneaten yogurt for later).

My celebrity sightings always follow the same pattern. I see the person and something clicks in my brain and my first reaction is "wow that person looks a heck of a lot like XXX." It takes me a second to recognize that it actually IS XXX.

Well, as I walked past the yogurt aisle, the thought occured to me "wow, that tall guy looks a lot like Randy Johnson."

It only took me two beats or so to realize "Hey, that actually is Randy Johnson." And it definitely was.

I was a little bit taken aback. I had just watched the Yankees game last night (though Johnson did not pitch). I went and took a look at the hot food bar and was unimpressed (I wanted something more breakfasty, not barbecued ribs at 11:00 a.m.) so I went back where I came from, past the yogurt, past Randy Johnson, and grabbed a 32-ounce Tropicana grapefruit juice (golden, not ruby red). I said "Hey, go get 'em Randy" as I walked by, and he ignored me or didn't hear me but probably ignored me.

I could have paid for the juice right there at the 58th Street registers and left, but I wanted to see Randy Johnson again, kind of to see how other people were reacting to him. It was weird that he wasn't being mobbed, but the grocery store was pretty empty. The lunch rush hadn't begun yet. He was just grocery shopping, doing his thing, same as me. Me and Randy Johnson, grocery shopping.

He got in line by the main bank of registers on 57th Street to pay. There, people started to recognize him. I was standing near one guy, in his late twenties, who was talking to his friend and getting out a notebook and pen to ask for an autograph.

The guy was wearing a Yankees jersey but it was a Derek Jeter jersey, and he asked his friend something to the effect of "Is it okay that this is a Jeter jersey?" His friend agreed that it was okay (not ideal, but okay), and the guy went up to Randy Johnson in line and touched him on the arm to get his attention.

Randy Johnson slowly turned his head to the guy, and slowly took the pen and paper. That's when I went back to the 58th Street registers, paid, and left. I could have paid in Randy Johnson's line, but it was too long, and I was kind of in a hurry to get back. You see I'm not that star-struck. I still want to be in the fastest line.

Randy Johnson has a reputation of being kind of unfriendly, but he seemed pretty cool in the grocery store, not super gregarious, but reasonable, all things considered. I can imagine it must be tough when you get recognized everywhere you go, and when you're 6'10" there's really no hiding. Maybe making $15,419,815 a year takes the sting out of that, though.

Randy Johnson was wearing a Nike windbreaker, some kind of track pants, and Puma shoes. When I got back to the office and told my friends about my Randy Johnson sighting we agreed that he must live around here somewhere, possibly in the new Time Warner building on Columbus Circle or the Trump Tower on Central Park West.

As for the rest of my life, Jenn is in Arizona, catching up with her family. John will be driving up to New York tonight for his weekend visit with me, and Marty might swing by for a hang-out session later this evening. I've got to get to work now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Rainy Wednesday

I'm happy to report that New York has reverted to its usual ways today. The light rain that's been falling all morning has brought out the inner jerk in millions of New Yorkers. People were pushing and shoving and generally rude on the subway, following the unwritten subway rules I've been coming up with during my decade in the city.

Rule number one is, despite the admonitions of the conductor, some people will never allow passengers to exit the train before they board the train. As far as they're concerned, as soon as the doors open it's every man for himself. People getting off the train have to navigate a bulked-up offensive line just to step onto the platform. There was a lot of that this morning.

As for me, it wasn't such a big deal. I got where I needed to go. Now I'm at work and thinking about which stories I should be tackling first. I'm also waiting for one final interview for a Star-Ledger story. I might never get that interview, because, as the PR person explained, I'm dealing with an Orthodox company during Passover. I can probably write around it if I must.

Jenn took off for Arizona this morning. She'll be there until Sunday. John is coming for a visit over the weekend while she's gone. He'll be arriving on Thursday night.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Tuesday Muffin

It's Tuesday and I've just come back from my walk of shame to the 55th Street building to turn in my freelance timesheet and those of my colleagues Anna and Robert. On the way back I bought a bagel and a blueberry muffin from the snack nook guy in our building. We've got a new guy now. Babu had been our guy for a long time but he's gone now. I don't know the new guy's name.

It's a sunny and beautiful day here in New York City, maybe a few degrees cooler than usual. It's going to be hard to concentrate here at work though, because there's a construction crew climbing all over the scaffolding outside our windows using very loud power tools to clean the building's facade. The workers appear to be from Latin American countries. They have scarves covering their faces so they don't inhale whatever particles they are blasting off the building. The scarves kind of make them look like Middle Eastern men.

This morning's commute was mostly uneventful and my walk of shame was fine too. People on the streets seem to be doing okay. A bum tried to hook me with his hard-luck story but I didn't have time for it. I still haven't received my paycheck from the week ending April 15, so if anyone from Career Blazers payroll administration is reading this, please send me my damn money. That is what you do, right? The payroll admin professionals?

Things are starting to get pretty busy at work with the July issue. I've got several articles to work on. I've also got a Star-Ledger story due at the end of the week. I've got two interviews done already, although both of them are nearly incomprehensible. My third source hasn't called back yet. I'll make one more attempt, and if I still don't get a call back, well, as they say in Greek . . .

I'd better get to work on my various assignments, so I'll sign off, eat my muffin, and get moving.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

My First Cell Phone

I had avoided getting a cell phone for years, but Sunday, April 24, 2005 will now forever be known as Victor's First Cell Phone day. I broke down and bought a phone and got a service plan and now I have joined the cell phone generation.

I had avoided it all these years for a number of reasons. First and foremost was that I didn't want to pay the bill. I'm a cheap (parsimonious) guy and the idea of paying fifty bucks a month more than I was already paying was unappealing.

Second, I thought (and still think) that cell phones are kind of obnoxious and gauche. Third, cellular sound and service quality is still quite poor, especially compared to regular phones. And last, I just don't enjoy talking on the phone that much. I prefer to meet people face to face. I'm a face-time guy, that's how I communicate the best.

I finally decided to get a phone because I felt like I needed a business number for my freelance writing. Also, I wanted to be able to keep in touch with my wife, family, and friends. So, what the hell, now, for a total of $52.02 a month, I'm cell phone guy, with more minutes than I will probably ever use, but at least I've got "rollover."

Funny story about the cell phone, though. It was actually yesterday (Saturday) morning when I first got the phone. I was in Manhattan, walking down Broadway in the Village, and I was going to turn left (East) on Eighth Street so I could buy coffee beans at Porto Rico on St. Mark's Place, but I told myself that if I saw a Cingular store on Broadway before I got to Eighth I'd go in and buy a cell phone. (My friend Noah said Cingular was decent.) Sure enough, right as I was about to turn, I saw a Cingular store on Broadway at about Seventh Street.

I went in and was greeted by a tall guy named Galen. I told him I was here to get my first cell phone, and I wanted something cheap and simple and I wasn't going to use it very much. I also said I wanted to get a Nokia phone, because my friend Justin works at Nokia and I wanted to support him, and also support the very nice country of Finland, which I have visited several times. Helsinki is a fine capital, but I recommend getting up north to Rovaniemi.

Everything was going great. Galen was friendly and knowledgable and he helped me decide on a simple Nokia 3120 phone which I would get for free (after rebate) and a plan in just a few minutes (I am a fast shopper, I don't like to linger in stores). He even found me a coveted 917 number. But when he put a "sim card" in my new phone and tried to register it, it failed. Didn't work. Normally these things are supposed to power right up. Not this time.

He tried another sim card. It too didn't work. He got on the phone with the Cingular network people. A couple of times. Failure, failure, failure. The network people finally said that the whole system was down, and new phones weren't being registered. But if I took the phone home, it would register automatically as soon as the "system" was working again.

I was disappointed because I had expected to be able to walk out of the store with a working cell phone. I was going to surprise my wife by calling her at home from my new cell phone to ask her what she wanted on her bagel, but I couldn't (I ended up getting a half pound of egg salad). Had I not waited long enough for the cell phone companies to work out the bugs in their "system"? Do they need another decade? Did I just make a big mistake getting into this sketchy cell phone world?

Galen told me to call him if I didn't have service by 2:00 p.m. I walked to Porto Rico and got two pounds of beans, went to David's Bagels, and then went home. When 2:00 p.m. rolled around and I still didn't have service, I called Galen (from my regular phone) and he said he'd been on the phone with the network people, and they said that the system was still out of wack, but at midnight they were going to "force" all the new registrations through, so that might work, and he'd call the next morning to see if it did. Fine.

I went to kumite class at 4:00 p.m. I came back and cleaned up and then Jenn and I had a lovely dinner at the Garden Grill diner on Graham Avenue. I had a craving for a burger, and that is what I got. Jenn got the chicken souvlaki platter. Our meal was very good. On the walk home we bought the Sunday New York Times. And that was the extent of our Saturday night. It was very pleasant.

This morning, as promised, Galen called at around 10:15 a.m. and I told him the phone still wasn't working. He tried one more time to activate it remotely (I had to take out the sim card and read him the number) but it still didn't work, so I agreed I'd meet him at the shop. Jenn and I went into the city. She went to Benetton while I went into the Cingular shop.

Galen thought there might have been a problem with my 917 number but he would try a new sim card anyway (my third sim card). Voila! The phone worked with the third sim card. I got to keep my 917 number, and the phone worked fine. He said it was unheard of to have two sim cards fail in a row. One sim card was rare enough, but two? Forget about it.

Of course it happened with me. But anyway, I finally had my phone. I called Jenn. She answered her phone (she's had a cell for years) from inside a dressing room in Benetton. How very New York.

We met and then, amazingly, bumped into Jenn's friend Joy near the entrance to Benetton. We all rapped for a while, then I went with Jenn to a lingerie shop where she used up a $50 gift certificate on a fancy bra, and then we came home.

I was playing with my new phone for a while, making a voicemail greeting and calling a few people, but now we're relaxing and catching up on things. The phone is charging downstairs. And that's my phone story. It's a testament to how cool Galen was that I didn't flip out and just say screw the whole thing, I'm going back to my Unabomber shack. I knew he was doing his best and that it was the system to blame. I just hope the system never breaks down on me again.

Anway, now I can get freelance business cards made with my new cell phone number on them. Surely this new phone will put me on the freight train to success.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Sad Earth Day 2005

When I wrote my earlier post I had completely forgotten that today is Earth Day. Happy Earth Day 2005.

It's little surprise that nobody's making much of a big deal about it. It's a pretty sad day for environmentalists, of course, because responsible stewardship of our natural environment is such a low priority for our government these days.

I'm not going to launch into a rant about the unbelievable hypocrisy of Bush's "Healthy Forests" and "Clear Skies" initiatives, which are designed to produce the exact opposite of what those names suggest, nor am I going to opine on opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.

The one point I would like to make is on the general philosophy of conservation. I think that's Bush's greatest environmental failing. Our reliance on foreign oil is the cause of some of our nation's greatest problems. We're fighting a war over oil in which more than 1,500 Americans have already lost their lives, and yet Bush has never once made the suggestion that it would be in our national interest to conserve oil. Not one word, ever.

Why not? Because Bush is in the pocket of the oil industry. He does their bidding. He allows them to write our nation's energy policy. I think this is wrong.

Instead of encouraging conservation, tax breaks are given to purchasers of Hummers, the most fuel-inefficient vehicle ever marketed in America (until the next one). This is what Americans are fighting and dying for?

The idea of fuel efficiency is not even ignored, it's ridiculed. Vehicle fuel efficiency standards are being loosened, not tightened. American cars are less fuel efficient than they've been in years. Shouldn't the trend be toward improving efficiency? Shouldn't some of our best and brightest engineering minds be encouraged to work toward improving efficiency in vehicles? How can we be going backwards on these issues? I don't know, but we are.

Environmentalists are portrayed as nut-jobs, out of touch with mainstream American values. They'd rather protect a snowy egret than a timber worker's job. Well, I believe we can do both, but not without real leadership from the White House, which we will never get from this administration.

I come from a family where conservation was a common value throughout my childhood. We always owned fuel-efficient vehicles, even when the American land-yacht was the norm in the 1970's. We conserved fuel just because it made sense, both for the family's finances and for the environment.

And think about the word conserve. Shouldn't conservatives pay more than hypocritical lip-service to conservation? No, the new breed of conservatives encourage reckless consumption. The idea of fuel efficiency and alternative power sources is instead ridiculed.

All I'm asking is that people make an effort. You don't have to dump your car and live in a cave. Just make an effort to consume less, conserve more, and leave the earth and society in a healthier place. That's all. Happy Earth Day.

Bright Friday

I had a 9:30 a.m. telephone interview for a real estate story I'm writing for The Star-Ledger so I had to get up and come to work at the unholy hour of 9:20 a.m. The subway always has a different class of commuter for different times of the morning.

In the early morning, like the 8:00 a.m. hour and before, you have a mix of blue collar workers and eager business types and Wall Streeters (except there aren't many Wall Streeters on the L train). Then around 9:00 a.m. it's full of regular office workers, file clerks, mail room guys, etc. At 10:00 a.m. the media and publishing workers get going. That's especially evident on the L-train. Sometimes it's almost funny to see the bleary eyes and disheveled hair of the hipsters, sipping coffee and getting their bagels tangled up in their iPod headphone wires. Regular work can be such a drag for an artist at heart, believe me.

Although there are not infrequent clashes between frustrated people on the L train, the class warfare plays out more on the uptown/downtown lines than the crosstown lines. On the six train, for example, you will definitely have a Wall Street titan-in-training rubbing up against a drywall guy, with occasional disasterous results.

Today is a lovely day, and my fellow commuters were in good spirits. Nobody flipped out.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

First Air Conditioning of 2005

I've drifted off the topic of this blog in recent posts. I've been writing about myself and my illness and my brave struggle to regain my health. In short, I've been self-absorbed in my blog. How very un-bloglike.

Now I'd like to get back to the purpose of this blog, which is to keep abreast of the collective psyche of New Yorkers, as I see it. Today is Thursday, and the weather is beautiful. It's much cooler today than it was yesterday, but the sun is out and the sky is blue. Yesterday was really warm, unseasonably warm. So warm, in fact, that I heard the hum of air conditioners around our house for the first time this year.

I thought that was a bit ridiculous, but then I'm famously reluctant to turn on the AC until the weather is truly sweltering (read: I am famously cheap). We do have an A/C that does its best, but it doesn't work very well, and it makes our electric bill climb through the roof.

The air conditioners went on at work for the first time this year as well. That was fine with me, because without the AC it's absolutely sweltering in our offices. Also, I don't have to pay that electric bill.

After work a few of my coworkers played Ultimate Frisbee in the park, but I declined, for health reasons. If I had my health I would have gone to the dojo for black belt class. As it happens, I just went home and relaxed.

The collective mood of the New Yorkers I observed on my commute to the office this morning was a bit weird. I think people were taken aback by the sudden summer weather. The subways weren't very crowded but maybe that was just my timing, i.e. I may have caught trains that followed very close on the heels of other, more crowded trains. But there were no freak-outs, no violent incidents, no religious nuts, and nobody trying to sell a single pair of sunglasses (yesterday there was one of those).

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Emerging, Reborn

I feel better today. My fever is gone. I have just been through five days of sweats, shivers, and visions. Today, while I still have a sore throat, hacking cough, and a disheveled appearance, I feel significantly better than I have felt since early Friday. I'm not all the way back to good health, but I'm mostly there.

It's been an interesting experience, and not one I'd wish on anyone else, but transformative. I haven't spent so much time in bed sleeping, or trying to sleep, in years. I found a deeper level of consciousness (or unconsciousness) while snoozing by my open second story window. So many different sounds echoed across the courtyards of Leonard Street in Brooklyn.

In the early morning I could hear the sounds of birds chirping, and could actually discern different types of bird calls. I don't know what they're saying but they seem to be happy that the weather is nice. I could hear the old ladies talking to each other in Italian as they tidied up their back alley gardens, and as I felt the warm breeze across my face I could easily imagine myself in Italy. I could hear the little kids screaming in glee as they played with each other, then screaming bloody murder at the various injustices they perpetrated on one another. Then big Brooklyn mama would come out and yell at everybody and the fun was over.

For me the fun is just beginning. I'm getting my health back and I do appreciate it more than I did before this great illness odyssey. I hope to take advantage of my good health and do productive things now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Long Live Pope Benedict XVI

I was planning to write another whinging blog entry about how sick I still am, but then the smoke from the Sistine Chapel was white, and I gathered in the conference room at work with fellow Romans Kevin and Tom and watched the announcement of the new pope, Joseph Ratzinger, who will govern the worlds 1.1 billion Catholics as Pope Benedict XVI.

He's not the choice I had hoped for, but now that he's been elected, let's all support him and make his job as easy as possible (which is something I cannot bring myself to do for our so-called American president).

Remember, it's the Pope's job to be conservative, to counterbalance the more permissive influences of the world. We'll live our actual lives somewhere in the middle. Nobody's going to take away your rock and roll.

That the cardinals elected a German pope indicates to me that the church is concerned for its declining membership in Western Europe. They could have chosen an African or Latin American pope to reflect the places where the church is growing, but I guess they figured those countries don't need any more help being Catholic, they're doing fine on their own.

Long live Pope Benedict XVI.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Still Ill

I'm still ill, yet I am at work today, because as a freelancer I have no paid sick days. I'm feeling slightly better than I did yesterday, but my health is still dodgy, and my fever is well-nigh triple digits. If I was a full-time employee there's no way I'd be here today. That's how it is.

Over the weekend I was really sick, like Pink Floyd Comfortably Numb sick (though my hands didn't feel like two balloons). I spent almost the entire weekend in bed. My hair started to get matted, as though it were in the earliest stages of becoming dreadlocks. I had weird dreams that I can't remember too clearly, but in one dream I was hiking and went into a cave or underground bunker and didn't have a light, and then I lost my backpack.

I was also able to really listen to the sounds that come from the backyards and gardens of our neighboring apartments. At first I found the screaming little kids kind of annoying, but I grew to appreciate their young voices. Their heavily-Brooklyn-accented mother/caretaker was much harder to stomach, however. She's never not yelling. It's always something like "What did I tell you?" It makes me happy that the kids ignore her.

I also haven't eaten much. Some grapefruit, some tea, some cookies. Most of a bagel. Not much. I'm going to get something for lunch in a bit. The irony is that the weather outside today is spectacular. Warm and sunny, exactly unlike my health.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Sick as a Dog

I'm sick today. When I took my temperature about two hours ago it read 101.4 F. That sounds like a radio station, not a temperature. I think it's lower now because I gulped down a TheraFlu. Now I'm a little bit loopy from the TheraFlu, so please forgive any weirdness in this posting. This is probably one I ought to sleep on but what the hell.

Jenn is also not feeling well. We've spent the better part of the weekend so far sleeping. This is our big Saturday night party.

I started feeling sick last night at karate. I should have just stayed home but I promised I would go see Seth's band play at Grand Central Bar on Grand Street here in Brooklyn. Since it's in the neighborhood (seven short blocks from home, to be exact) I figured I didn't have much of an excuse not to go. I also wasn't feeling as gnarly as I am today.

The Blackout Shoppers were good as always and I had a nice time, but I woke up this morning sick as hell. I had planned to blog about a bunch of different things but my illness got in the way and I can't remember what they were.

I think I was going to write Subway Rant #2, because the subways ticked me off yesterday for a number of reasons, starting with MetroCard vending machines that are very poorly maintained and can cause a guy like me to watch two trains go by before finally accepting the debit card. Yeah, and then Raffi pissed me off. I'll have to tell you about Raphael Santiago another time.

I'm feeling better now but I was just sweating in bed for an hour. If I can summon the energy I might take a walk in a few minutes to buy the Sunday New York Times. That's about the extent of our plans tonight, but it will be nice.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Back in the Groove

It's been a pretty decent week since getting back to the city from our fun whitewater rafting trip last weekend. I've been busy at work, but it's been a good busy, working with some interesting subject matter. Most of the people at the office were pretty happy today because Esquire won a national magazine award for feature writing.

There were drinks at a bar in the afternoon to celebrate, though I only had a club soda. Tonight, being Wednesday, was black belt class, and it wouldn't do to tipple before it.

I was glad to be back in the dojo because I hadn't trained in a week. We went through a few different combinations and then worked on various fighting strategies and self defense techniques. It was good to sweat, because I felt kind of icky from the poorly circulated office and bar air today. Again I felt cleaner by sweating, and cleaner still when I came home and took the shower of champions.

Now it's time for the Daily Show.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Whitewater

It was busy at work today (Monday) but now I'm home and can take a few moments to write this. This is an abbreviated and sanitized version of the story, just a basic timeline. I may write my epic rafting masterpiece in a different form for publication somewhere.

Our trip to Indian Lake, New York was a great success. After work on Friday Webster, Adam, and I met at Noah's place uptown and grabbed some good food and hit the road. The drive was pretty smooth and we arrived at the Adirondack Trail Motel at about 11:45 p.m.

The rooms were perfect, an adjoining suite with four beds, and we hit the sack for our rafting trip the next morning. Okay, we had a Scotch, then hit the sack. We also enjoyed the deer motif in one of the rooms. There's a photo on the website so you can see it for yourself.

The next morning we settled up with the hotel manager, Martha, and then went to Jane and Cathy's Restaurant for an excellent pre-rafting breakfast of omelettes, toast, coffee, and juice.

We met at the outfitters, Adventure Sports Rafting, at 9:30 a.m. and got our wetsuits, booties, life jackets, helmets, and paddles. We changed into that stuff, locked up all our valuables, piled in the converted schoolbus, and rode, with about twenty two other crazy rafters, to the put-in spot.

We would be running three boats down the river, and our rafting guide was Stephanie. She was a very cool and highly-skilled guide. In our raft it was the four of us, three guys from another group, and Stephanie. She told us a dirty joke and then taught us the basic rafting strokes and commands and we were off.

I felt a fun feeling of anticipation but I was also a little nervous. It was a beautiful morning. The air temperature was about 55 degrees and it was very sunny, not a cloud in the sky. But the water was 29 degrees Fahrenheit. It said so on a sign in the store. We would soon know what it felt like.

For three miles or so we were on the Indian River. We hit our first set of rapids hard and got through it wet and exhilarated. The raft would first dive into a trough and then climb out of it, and usually a big wave would wash over the bow on one side or the other. Even though we were wearing wetsuits, that water was so cold that we all felt ice cream headaches for a few moments, but still we were really into it from the first rapid.

The rapids started to get wilder, and when we made it to the Hudson River Gorge we knew there was some big water coming. When we hit the first really big rapid the raft went just about vertical. Webster was at the starboard bow, in front of me, and as the boat went up I saw him start to tumble backwards and then started to fall backwards myself. At what seemed like the point of no return, the raft crested the wave, and I regained my seat in the boat, just barely.

But it was too late for Webster. He tumbled into the whitewater. He wasn't in for long, and was still in good spirits when he got back in the raft, so we forged ahead. In the end, we were among the lucky ones. The other rafts had multiple spills, resulting in a total of about seven or eight swimmers.

I could go on and wax poetic about it, but suffice it to say for now that it was awesome. The rapids were big and the conditions were excellent. Even our guides agreed. We shot through all different kinds of rapids with names like Gooley Steps, the Narrows, Giveny's Rift, and Bus Stop, to name just a few. Finally, after around sixteen miles, we hauled our rafts to the bus and chugged back to the outfitters.

We changed into our clothes and had a post-rafting snack, provided by the outfitters, of chicken, beans, rice, cornbread, brownies, and some other stuff. It was great.

We got cleaned up, and then tossed around the frisbee in the field behind the motel for a while. It was about 5:00 p.m. and the sun was still shining brightly in the sky. A bunch of people from the rafting trip were staying in our motel so we talked to them a bit. It seemed like everybody in town was involved in rafting at some level, either as a rafter or a guide or someone who works at a bar, restaurant, or motel that serves the rafting community. In the spring, Indian Lake becomes Raftville.

That evening we went to dinner at the Adirondack Mountain Grill, and then had some drinks at a bar across the street from our motel called the Bear Trap Inn. It had several stuffed bobcats, a dart board, and a pool table.

The next morning (Sunday) we went hiking up a mountain called Chimney Mountain. The weather was even nicer than it was on Saturday. At the summit there are several rock "chimneys," some of which you can climb, and others you'd best just admire from a distance. The view of the Adirondacks was spectacular and the air was crisp.

We were afraid to get caught in traffic, so we hit the road at 2:00 p.m. and drove pretty much straight back to the city, making the journey in about four and a half hours. I hung out with Jenn and put my digital photos on the computer. Unfortunately, the rafting trip was too wild to bring my digital camera, but I did bring a disposable camera that I put in a faux-Ziploc bag, and I'll get those pictures developed soon. The digital photos document things like our frisbee throwing and the hike.

Now I'm back to my regular life, which seems a little bit tamer than it was before I became a whitewater rafting enthusiast.

Back in the City

We arrived back in the city from our weekend in Indian Lake, New York last night at around 7:00 p.m.

We had a fantastic trip, and the whitewater rafting was phenomenal. It's something we all agreed we want to do again, even though the water was unbelievably cold.

I'll put together a more detailed post on the subject, but I'm going to be rather busy today, so it will have to be later. Just wanted to check in and say we're back safe and sound and fired up from the crazy rapids.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Pre-Flight

I stayed up late last night packing my bags for this weekend's whitewater rafting trip to Indian Lake, New York. I may have overpacked but I'm famous for underpacking for outdoor excursions, and we'll have a car anyway. I don't think I forgot anything (touch wood) so we're ready to go, and I'm excited. The weather forecast is calling for lots of sun (I brought two pairs of sunglasses and more sunscreen than even I need) and temperatures in the low 50's.

The plan is to meet up at Noah's place on 104th Street after work and pile into the car (a Subaru I think) and roll up to the Adirondacks. We've got a four-hour drive ahead of us. I hope I can get out of work a few minutes early because I need my beauty rest tonight. We're meeting at the outfitters at 9:30 a.m.

If I'm going to have a chance to get out of work at a decent hour today I'd better get going. I'll give a report on the trip when we get back. This time tomorrow we'll be shooting the rapids.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Club Macanudo

After work last night Jenn and I went to a Glenlivet tasting at Club Macanudo, a swanky restaurant and bar and cigar lounge on East 63rd. Glenlivet was launching a 15-year-old French Oak Reserve Scotch, and Macanudo paired it with their Vintage Cabinet Selection 1997 cigars.

Club Macanudo is an elegant and presumably expensive place, and we'd probably never go there if we weren't invited to an event. There were pictures of Native Americans on the walls and leather armchairs, just like you'd expect. Our dinner was pretty good. I had the steak and Jenn had salmon.

After dinner they brought out the Scotch and cigars. Jim Cryle, Glenlivet's kilt-wearing master distiller, and Benji Menendez, Macanudo's cigar master, said a few words about their products and then we all had a toast. Jenn and I had actually met Jim Cryle before, at a Glenlivet salmon bake last year, where we drank a 40-year-old Scotch.

The Scotch was excellent, and so were the cigars. I don't normally smoke cigars, but it seemed like a good idea at the time and the perfect environment to do it. Jenn gave the cigars a pass but sipped the Scotch. We lingered for a while and talked to writers from The New York Daily News, Cigar Aficionado, and Golf magazine, as well as a guy from Glenlivet. We had a very nice time.

We took the subway home and walked through our front door at exactly 11:30 p.m. which meant we missed the Daily Show, but no matter. We can catch it another time.

I'm going to be kind of busy today, so I'll have to wrap this up. I was, until recently, planning to go to karate after work tonight, but, like a bonehead, I brought my gi but forgot to grab my belt. Ultimately, it's fine, because tonight I need to pack for our whitewater rafting trip this weekend. I'll be leaving for Indian Lake, New York straight from work tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Art Show By Ten Women

The title is misleading because I'm really only going to write about the art of one woman, but it was from a show of ten women. First a bit of background.

Work was actually pretty busy and a wee bit frustrating yesterday but the day did end without incident and I headed downtown to the Belmont Lounge on 15th Street between Irving and Union Square. Kevin McDonnell is a friend from Esquire, also in research. His wife, Janice McDonnell, is a painter and she had three paintings on exhibit at the bar in a show called The Art Show By Ten Women.

It was about 7:45 p.m. when I arrived and I made my way through the bar and saw Janice and said hello. There was an open bar for the art exhibit but there was also a regular (very fratty and suity) happy hour going on, so in order to get free drinks you had to have a special orange wristband. Janice was completely on the ball and gave me a wristband and sent me to the bar straight away. I got a beer (okay, two beers) and left a tip (okay, a buck) and wandered to the back room, where Janice said Kevin was hanging out.

I figured I'd give Kevin the extra beer if he needed it, and if not, hey, extra beer. I got a Newcastle for myself and a Stella for Kevin or myself.

Kevin was chatting with a friend so I looked at Janice's paintings. There were three, Girl With Cage #1 and #2, and Orchid. Orchid was the largest piece, in between the two smaller paintings, and I liked it the best. It was an oil painting of an orchid flower, with a horizontal bar across the bottom divided into different colored segments. One of the rectangular segments was a painted reproduction of a photograph of Kevin standing on a beach in Washington State.

I liked Orchid particularly because of the horizontal bar across the bottom. My eyes were drawn to the image within the image, like there was some connection between the orchid and the beach. It was an interesting juxtaposition.

It reminded me somewhat of the art of my wife's stepbrother Jay Torson.

Janice told me that she has only recently begun incorporating seemingly disparate design elements into more traditional still lifes. She is a talented painter and I look forward to her next show.

The other works of art were good too, but I didn't examine them closely enough to write too much about them.

Once the bar wasn't open anymore I slowly finished my beer and chatted with Kevin, Bob, and John. We talked about contemporary music (I was bullish on the Music Choice channels), the Mork and Mindy made-for-tv movie, and our parents' and granparents' interesting history, of which we only know a small fraction.

Then I made my way back out to the street, to the subway, and home to Brooklyn. Being in the Belmont Lounge was kind of a throwback to earlier times, because it reeked of cigarette smoke. They have a backyard "garden" area with a tent over it for smokers, but so much smoke was wafting inside from the garden it was almost like a pre-smoking ban bar. It smelled like they were actually pumping cigarette smoke into the place through the vents.

When I got home and took off my jacket and shirt they both reeked of smoke and I hadn't even been in the smoking garden. Again, a throwback to an earlier time, when showering before bed after being in a bar was the norm.

Today is Wednesday, and I've got a lot of work to do, so I'll have to end it here. The weather today is beautiful, and it makes me feel like I'm somewhere other than New York. Tonight Jenn and I will attend another potentially interesting event, so keep checking in.

Belmont Lounge is at 117 East 15th Street, and The Art Show By Ten Women runs through April 30. Belmont has a happy hour from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Sunburned Country

A quick update: yesterday was sort of busy at work, and I went to karate at 7:00 p.m. Lots of people were there with their new black belts, starting to learn their new material.

I went home to find that Blanche had given us some leftover meatloaf. Excellent! A clutch play. And speaking of clutch, Reggie Miller was the guest on the Daily Show. New York will miss him as much as it hates him. He plays his final game in the Garden tonight.

I also finished reading In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson last night. It was pretty good and it made me want to visit Australia, although one of my friends said it was a book Bryson pretty much phoned in compared with his earlier, seminal work entitled A Walk In The Woods, which I'll have to read next.

Today is a lovely day. The sun is shining brilliantly in the sky. I hope the weather is this nice or nicer when we go whitewater rafting on Saturday.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Two Accomplishments

On Saturday I got my income tax returns done and for once the news was good, and I am getting a modest refund. Last year I was a dummy, and I hadn't paid enough estimated taxes against my freelance work. This year I overpaid. I know the tax professionals would consider that a dumb move too, but it sure beats owing.

I woke up really early on Sunday. The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. but since daylight savings time had just begun it was really like 4:30 a.m. I gulped down coffee and got ready and went to the dojo.

It was the final day of black belt promotion (see various entries below) and, according to tradition, they saved the best for last: kumite. The idea is to test the candidates' conditioning, control, and spirit. I was there as a helper, not a candidate myself. I went through that a year ago. But I was happy to help and also support the group going up.

The fights were pretty good, and everybody fought with good energy and spirit. I was glad to be a part of it, although I took a hard kidney shot that put me down on one knee for about five seconds. It felt like getting hit with a Tazer (I imagine). It was kind of electric. I also have a bruised shin.

It always feels weird to be doing something as unique as kumite so early on a Sunday morning. Once you start to wake up yourself you start to pity all the people who slept through it. It's like, what did you do today? Brunch, huh. Wow.

I stayed for the awarding of the black belts, gave them the proper bows and congratulations, and came home, stopping by the bagel shop on the way. Jenn was still in bed when I arrived at home around 10:00 a.m.

I managed to stay up the whole day without napping, but I slept pretty hard last night. Now it's Monday and the weather is looking pretty nice.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II 1920-2005

Rest in peace, Pope John Paul II, who died today in the Vatican at 84. He was a good pope, conservative and sometimes polarizing but overall a force for peace and love in the world.

Even if you don't agree with some of his more conservative positions, it's hard to dispute the positive and calming affect he had on such huge numbers of people.

I saw the pope several times in my life, although I never met him personally. As a newspaper reporter living in Riga, Latvia in 1993 I followed him through three countries: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, writing dispatches about what it was like to be in the crowd of a huge outdoor mass, or to see his motorcade and popemobile go by.

I was moved by the way people reacted to seeing him. They were so touched to receive his blessing.

I have been blessed by Pope John Paul II a number of times, albeit as one person in a big crowd getting the group blessing. But it counts.

I also went to see him in New York when I first moved here. It was 1995, and if I remember correctly I couldn't get a ticket to actually see him but I stood outside the fences and listened to him talk.

The crowd would chant "John Paul II, we love you!" and the pope would respond "John Paul II loves you."

Friday, April 01, 2005

Uneasy

I'm feeling kind of uneasy today. It's Friday, which is good, but I feel bad that the Pope is so sick and apparently in his last hours.

Yesterday was a pretty normal day, work, lunch, more work, karate, and home.

I'm not sure what's going on tonight. I've got to make some inquiries about our rafting trip next weekend. Also need to get my tax stuff together. I'm probably not alone in that.

On the plus side, tempers have been calmer on the subways. I haven't witnessed a freak-out since Wednesday.