Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Recalculating

In case you've been wondering about my delinquency with this blog lately, I've got to tell you- it's because I've been up to my head in jeans, underwear, flashlights, mugs, books, sneakers, Woolite, scarves, clothespins, digital cameras, GPS systems, and Dramamine.

What do these things all have in common, you ask? They are all things that go into a suitcase for a four month voyage on Semester at Sea! All that and more. And I still need to remove some items.

On Christmas Eve I drove to Ohio. Somewhat of a pain in the arse, because I had to take the PATH train and then the NJ Transit to Newark Airport to pick up the car. Then drive BACK into the city to load it up. Then head west once again in the car, for a 7 hour drive to Ohio in the rain.

The worst part? I got a GPS with the rental and she was MUTE!!! She was just having a "Silent Night" I joked with myself (amazing the puns I create in my head to make myself laugh during a seven hour car ride). But I had really been looking forward to the woman with the Australian Accent. You could TOTALLY disobey her and turn "left" every single time she says "right" and she still manages to recalculate and get you where you need to be. Amazing woman that Aussie is! .....But nooooo, she was mute. I had to rely on the North Star to get me home instead. Good thing it was Christmas Eve. Good thing I'm a Wise Woman. I did seem to forget my gold, frankincense, and mirth though. Hope I didn't forget anything else in all these suitcases....

So then I went to Ohio and spent some quality time with my family and old friends (JoAnn, Barbie, Tricia, Rose- loved seeing you gals) And I packed. And packed. And packed.

Speaking of GPS systems, Sarah and Scott gave me one for Christmas, but it's a really COOL one that works internationally! And nautically too! It even tells me water depths. And when I get off the ship I can program it to remember the location where I disembark, then I go explore the city, then I plug in the initial location of the dock and it guides me back. Cool, right? Thanks Scott and Sarah...awesome gift! And it even fits compactly in with my stuff.

My stuff. Ay yi yi. I've got one 70 pound suitcase (have to get it down to 50). One 30 pound suitcase (not bad). One laptop bag which also holds a little more. One purse. Well that doesn't sound like so much, does it?

Except then there's that pink "overflow suitcase". I want to eliminate that one all together. So Mom, Dad....be expecting me to mail a box of excess stuff to Ohio. I know you guys can't wait for that. I know how much you guys love being my storage facility over the next few months.....

So how do I get rid of things from those suitcases that ALL seem important to take with me? I don't know. Give me some time to think about it a little more. I've got to weigh and measure some things.

Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating...........................

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shuffle off to Truffle-Oh!


In addition to my "day job", I do gigs on the side.

I've given many a sample of Famous Grouse Scotch, Mount Gay Rum, Masi Wine, Piper Heidsieck Champagne, and Remy VSOP cognac, among others.

I've done these tastings in bars, at liquor stores, in lounges, and at restaurants in the city. Who the heck passes up free liquor?

I've handed out samples of Saint Ives facial scrubs at the Revlon Breast Cancer walk.

I've passed out samples for Mr. Peanut on the 4th of July.

I've also managed Events, like New Years Eve parties on the "Temptress", a cruise that goes around the island of Manhattan. This holiday season, I will be doing another event like this, although I'm uncertain of the details just yet. I am hoping for "Capitale", this gorgeous venue downtown that used to be a bank- turned fancy party hall. It has marble pillars and ornate, rich decor. It stands tall, with high and beautifully sculpted ceilings, not dissimilar from Michelangelo's work. (Okay, not really similar at all really to Michelangelo's Sistene Chapel- but still high and beautiful.) The photo to the left doesn't do it justice. Not only is it a breath-taking setting, but I can also WALK there. Which would be quite pleasing for me on a cold cold night in the city when the streets are littered with drunken party-goers and there is not a cab to be hailed.

But I may be on a boat again or I may be somewhere uptown. Oh well- if I don't work at Capitale for NYE, maybe I can just get married there or something.

My other side-gig this year is to play the role of Lady Godiva. Kinda. I am working as the "Complimentary Truffle Girl" at the popular chocolate store. Only....it's outside. And I am giving prospective customers a card which entitles them to one free truffle: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or hazelnut.

And you'd be amazed how many people pass this up!

I think they think there's a catch, but there's really not. All you really have to do is go into the store and exchange the card for a truffle. It's that simple.

Godiva gave me this really cute warm black wool coat with the Godiva motif, red gloves, a red hat, and a red scarf. I still felt frozen out there today. But the very sweet Manager gave me rich, creamy hot chocolate to warm me up. And the Security guard at the store, kept beckoning me back into the store to warm up under the hot lamps. My event manager even brought me mini hand warmers, like the ones I used to have in high school at football games. And a concerned customer told the Manager "that brunette out front should have a break! She's been handing out these cards all DAY!" Another customer told me "I always KNEW Santa was really a woman with free chocolate! Bless your heart."

So it's a relief to know that on this cold day, in this cold city there are some warm souls.

In the meantime, "Would you like to sample a complimentary truffle?"
(Sorry- I've said that like 18473729101010 times today. My lips are frozen into the formation of that sentence.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"You just made me snort really loud, jerk!"

So before I give you the results you've all been anxiously awaiting, I must explain my title.

Okay wait...I have to sort of give you the results as a precedent to explain the above quote. I have two best friends, Dara and Holly. Holly didn't even bother to take the test, but Dara did. I called her this morning to let her know she came in 2nd, with 58 out of 60 correct. She started ARGUING about the ones she got wrong. She is angry that I "tricked" her because I am an Alpha Gamma Delta, not a Delta Gamma (see #28). If anyone in a sorority reads this...helloooooo, two different things. One has squirrels and pearls. One has anchors and little red-headed girls.

And Dara is also angry because she doesn't think I can break a brick with the back of my wrist (#9). Mom- can you PLEASE leave a comment on this blog and verify that this is true? Esta verdad!!!!

So Dara is yelling at me on the phone and I'm holding the receiver two feet in front of me as she complains for three straight minutes. "Oh how quintessentially Jewish of you to whine about MY blog", I taunted her.

This made her laugh and snort, while sitting at her desk, which turned the heads of several of her co-workers. And that's when she said the aforementioned quote "you just made me snort really loud, jerk." And I told her just for not believing me on those two questions, I am titling the blog after her. So there you go, Dara! Happy?

Oh! So the winner is.......{drum roll}.....Sarah!! My sister-in-law! She is a Laurie Expert. Guess what your prize is? A Pecan Cluster blizzard with extra pecans from Dairy Queen!! I'll give it to you when I'm in Ohio next week. And if it's nice we can even eat it in Dairy Queen Park. (hahah...just realized I said "we" can eat it...)

Here's how everyone else did. Thank you guys again for playing my game! Love you all! For those of you who didn't play, there's always next time...
Out of 60 Questions:
  • Sarah 59
  • Dara "sore loser" Finkel 58
  • Vickilicious 55
  • Erin and Adam 52
  • Sandra 50
  • Brian- somewhere in the 50s, but he refused to write the answers down, so I'm not sure
  • Barbie, Erika and Sophie 49
  • Margaret 45....this one was funny because I think Mags thought this was for her, so she answered according to what is true/false for herself! I love it! :) You win for most creative!

Okay so without further adieu....here are the answers:

1. I love to shop. F I hate crowds, and I hate malls. I *do* however, enjoy small specialty shops when I'm traveling. Just not malls or crowds.
2. I am lactose intolerant. F
3. I take the train to work. F Not anymore! I am on the Lower East Side for a couple more weeks!
4. I saw my mom yesterday. F- A little over a week ago I did.
5. I never leave home without my compact umbrella. T
6. My eyes are green. F they are "pretty blue" as my friend Adam says (thanks Adam!)
7. I went to Italy two summers ago. F- I went to Greece with Holly in 06
8. I am Czech. F Slovak! Two different things!
9. I can break a brick with the back of my wrist. True (DARA!) I know tae kwon do!
10. I know a girl in a city of 8.5 million people who has dated three of the same people that I've dated. T- her name is Maura. We were stunned and amazed when we discovered this!
11. My mother almost named me Valerie. T, but was too much of a mouthful, so she opted for "Laurie" instead.
12. I was Miss Majorette of Ohio. F- but my BFF from high school (JoAnn) was! She was more committed than I was about these contests! I was like 3rd runner up or something.
13. My favorite thing to do is drive. T
14. I am very good with directions and never get lost. T- I love getting off the subway in a strange neighborhood and as my friend Vicki says "finding my way back"
15. I love tofu and try to eat healthy. F- hate that crap! I am allllll meat & potatoes. That's the Irish that exists in me.
16. I hate sushi. F- but my sister-in-law reminded me, it always makes me sick. It kinda does- but I still love it and eat it.
17. My brother & sister-in-law live in Hawaii. F, they used to- now they are in San Francisco/Ohio.
18. I have a cat named Isham. F
19. I have a lot of shoes. T- I never buy clothes, but ALWAYS buy shoes. And I did it *before* Sex & The City made it a NYC cliche'!
20. I used to live in Queens. F
21. I'm afraid of thunderstorms. F- love them
22. I have lived uptown, downtown, midtown, and in Chelsea. T
23. My favorite apartment was the one by the Brooklyn Bridge. T
24. I am in the process of completing my EdD and soon you'll have to address me as Doctor Laurie. F, but Dara told me that she would address me this way if that makes me happy. My boss and I were going to do an online program together, but we've put it on hold.
25. I am writing a book. T
26. I am organized with my finances. T
27. My favorite book is "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. T- I cry every time I read it.
28. I am a member of Delta Gamma. F- Alpha Gam!!!!
29. I used to live next door to the largest indoor growing rubber tree plant. T-it was at the Fraternity house next door and I think it probably died. Drunk people used to pee and vomit on it at all hours of the night.
30. I went to college in the rubber capital of the world. T- Firestone, Goodyear, all of those call Akron, Ohio home!
31. I love to run. F- hate to run.
32. I love to walk. T- love to walk. I average about 6-7 miles per day.
33. I am diabetic. F
34. I love cheap white wine. T- oh how I love my rotgut! Especially with my Grandma K!
35. My dream is to go to Seychelles. T- until that dirty rat Holly and her hubby J went their on their honeymoon and stole MY spot!
36. When I was a child I wanted to be a flight attendant. T- I still kinda do some days
37. I have never seen a full episode of Seinfeld. T- I know. I'm weird. I've seen bits and pieces, but never sat through an entire episode.
38. I prefer my coffee with cream and sugar. FFFFFFFF Black please!
29. I prefer my men to be Spanish. T, and Dara said "but we're working on this". I can't help it though. (Oh...and If any tall single Spanish men are reading this, feel free to comment by the way.)
30. I still remember the hotel room number when I went to Hawaii in 3rd grade. T- that was a great vacation- thanks Mom and Dad!
31. One time in Puerto Rico I tripped in iguana manure and broke my wrist. Mostly False....although I did slip through some green iguana manure and I really did kinda hurt myself. Nothing that a vicodin didn't fix though! :)
32. I would love to be an astronaut. F- outer space just seems so lonely and desolate.
33. I speak French. C'est vrai!
34. I speak Spanish. T- sort of. Un pocito. I try.
35. I play the piano. FFFFFFFFFFFF- Mom- do you remember the day I went to my lesson in 2nd grade and I couldn't find "Middle C"? I cried for days.
36. I have been to Prague. F
37. I have been to the rain forest in Central America. T
38. I am a die-hard Democrat. F- I am Independent. Although, I registered as a Democrat when I first signed up to vote. But I am Conservative on many issues. Quite Liberal on others. That's why it's always difficult for me to choose an appropriate candidate. Someone the other day implied that I don't care about our future. Au contraire! And I notice this person has been coming back to my blog....is this what you were looking for, J?
39. I have a tattoo, but I don't tell very many people about it. F- I don't even know what I would want on my body for the rest of my life (except for maybe one of the Spanish men mentioned in #29!)
40. I am scared of needles. T- but am getting better after all these travel inoculations!
41. I won the award for "best legs" in my sorority in college. T
42. My dad was in Vietnam. T
43. So was my mom. F
44. They met there. F
45. I can't think of anything better than a day at Yankee stadium and a cold beer and a hot dog. F, unless they're playing the Mets or the Indians. Although I must say, I love all baseball, so I still enjoy a day up in the Bronx, as well.
46. I think A-Rod is hot. T (Embarrassed to admit this. Don't tell Carlos Beltran....)
47. I love the mustard from the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. T- Oh my god, it tasted wonderful. I could eat it by the vat. It is unique- ask anyone in Cleveland and they will totally know what I'm talking about.
48. They still have it at Jacob's Field. T- except it's not even called Jacob's Field anymore. Damn corporate ballpark names.
49. My favorite team won their prospective league's pennant last year.F
50. Chicago is in my top five favorite cities. T
51. Wrigley Field is my favorite ball park. T- even though their mustard sucks.
52. I know more about baseball than my brother does. T
53. I have never been to Mexico. F- I have indeed been there a couple times!
54. I hate baklava. F- I love this even more than the mustard mentioned in #47!
55. I used to work at NYU. F
56. I lived in a neighborhood with mostly Puerto Rican people when I lived uptown. F- primarily Dominican.
57. Monfongo is yummy. T- delicious! Ironically, Mofongo is Puerto Rican but I did eat it in my old neighborhood.
59. I love politics. F- and here is why: I think politicians do a lot of complaining about their opponent, as opposed to saying what they're going to do to better our government. I wanna hear what you can do to make things good- not the muck you have to sling about the other guy!!!!!
60. I am Catholic and enjoy going to mass. T- I am definitely more spiritual than religious, but I enjoy the tradition, the smell of incense, the witty well-spoken priest at St. Francis of Assisi, and the lessons. I think most religions have a very good underlying message, which inspires us to better ourselves. Peace be with you. That's my favorite message from mass. What a simple phrase. But what a wonderful message to spread to everyone around you. I get the chills when I think of this.

Okay, that's it for now. Thank you for reading this far. Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for the blog about all of VOUS!
xoxoxo

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stand by.....

First of all, I wanna say thank you to Barbie, Erika, Erin, Adam, Vicki, and Brian Vanschmataburg for taking my True/False test.

....but, where are the rest of you? Dara Pie? Patty Cakes? My Little Chicakadee Steph? Mommy? Fatima? Sarahlicious? JoAnnie? Grandma? Gissell? Sophiqua? You guys might win! I know you guys read this stuff.....

But I'll give it a few days for you guys to give it a try before I post the results. So far so good. You guys made some good guesses! So to the rest of you, even if you don't think you know, go ahead and take a stab! Remember, there's a PrIzE......

Okay, so not today, but after this True/False quiz ends, I've decided my next "game". It's a Tribute to my readers! I'm going to write a few sentences about all the people whom I know read my blog and you guys have to guess which one describes you. Does that sound fun or what? Who said the Rime of the Modern Mariner has to be all about moi? I mean Samuel Taylor Coleridge's work wouldn't have been as good without the albatross and the wedding guest, right? I think this might be a tall order, even for me. I know of at least 55 of you who are subscribed (which is awesome, by the way- send all your friends too...the more the merrier....there is room at the Inn for many more of you.)

At any rate, I don't have much else to say today. From what I understand it's snowing outside. But I wouldn't know for certain, as my office doesn't have a window. Nonetheless, the snow is quite welcome. Last night was 60 degrees and I went onto the terrace and ate a knish and drank a beer (because the two go hand in hand). Oh- and by the way, I went to Katz's for the first time in the 7+ years I've lived here . NOT IMPRESSED. Disorganized, expensive, confusing, and not so good about customer service. But the knish was okay.

In addition to the warm weather making this season kinda weird, I've felt a little lack-luster about the holidays. All of my belongings are stored at my parents' home in Ohio from now until after I get back from my voyage. My cat ("Kitty") is uptown at Dara's. My heart is still in New York. And my mind is out at sea somewhere. I walk by the fragrant smell of scotch pine and nostalgia hits. Love that smell. We always had a big tree at christmastime when I was a child. I even watched my favorite Christmas special the other night- Charlie Brown's Christmas. But I can't get into it. I even took a new route to work today. I walked down Mulberry Street. Little Italy looked festive for the holidays! Oh wait- I think those gaudy lights are ALWAYS there year-round. But nonetheless, I liked walking down a different street. There were crazy aluminum trees in windows and tacky things like that. It made me smile a little. For those of you with children (Jen N., Wendi, Gissell, Margaret, et al), please tell me the holidays get exciting again with children around? That's what I'm hoping for. In a couple years when I have some wee sproggins' I'm sure my heart will be back into it again. (Is that jumping the gun?)

But for now, I am just going to enjoy the time with my friends and family before I leave (in LESS than one month I'll be in Miami on the ship!!!!) Thank you all for reading, commenting, entertaining my notions, playing my reindeer games. Because you guys mean everything to me. Even that pain in the ass, Brian. Yeah, yeah yeah....it's getting mushy and I can't have a blog with at least a HINT of sarcasm somewhere.....

Thursday, December 11, 2008

True or False

Always a popular blog, today's exam will cover everything Laurie V from A to Z.

This is an exam, so there will be no cheating. Cheaters will be dismissed. Get out your number 2 pencils and clearly mark "T" for True or "F" for False. You can leave your guesses in my comments, or email directly to me. Results will be posted in a couple days.

And.....are you ready for this? The winner gets a prize!!!

1. I love to shop.
2. I am lactose intolerant.
3. I take the train to work.
4. I saw my mom yesterday.
5. I never leave home without my compact umbrella.
6. My eyes are green.
7. I went to Italy two summers ago.
8. I am Czech.
9. I can break a brick with the back of my wrist.
10. I know a girl in a city of 8.5 million people who has dated three of the same people that I've dated.
11. My mother almost named me Valerie.
12. I was Miss Majorette of Ohio.
13. My favorite thing to do is drive.
14. I am very good with directions and never get lost.
15. I love tofu and try to eat healthy.
16. I hate sushi.
17. My brother & sister-in-law live in Hawaii.
18. I have a cat named Isham.
19. I have a lot of shoes.
20. I used to live in Queens.
21. I'm afraid of thunderstorms.
22. I have lived uptown, downtown, midtown, and in Chelsea.
23. My favorite apartment was the one by the Brooklyn Bridge.
24. I am in the process of completing my EdD and soon you'll have to address me as Doctor Laurie.
25. I am writing a book.
26. I am organized with my finances.
27. My favorite book is "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein.
28. I am a member of Delta Gamma.
29. I used to live next door to the largest indoor growing rubber tree plant.
30. I went to college in the rubber capital of the world.
31. I love to run.
32. I love to walk.
33. I am diabetic.
34. I love cheap white wine.
35. My dream is to go to Seychelles.
36. When I was a child I wanted to be a flight attendant.
37. I have never seen a full episode of Seinfeld.
38. I prefer my coffee with cream and sugar.
29. I prefer my men to be Spanish.
30. I still remember the hotel room number when I went to Hawaii in 3rd grade.
31. One time in Puerto Rico I tripped in iguana manure and broke my wrist.
32. I would love to be an astronaut.
33. I speak French.
34. I speak Spanish.
35. I play the piano.
36. I have been to Prague.
37. I have been to the rain forest in Central America.
38. I am a die-hard Democrat.
39. I have a tattoo, but I don't tell very many people about it.
40. I am scared of needles.
41. I won the award for "best legs" in my sorority in college.
42. My dad was in Vietnam.
43. So was my mom.
44. They met there.
45. I can't think of anything better than a day at Yankee stadium and a cold beer and a hot dog.
46. I think A-Rod is hot.
47. I love the mustard from the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
48. They still have it at Jacob's Field.
49. My favorite team won their prospective league's pennant last year.
50. Chicago is in my top five favorite cities.
51. Wrigley Field is my favorite ball park.
52. I know more about baseball than my brother does.
53. I have never been to Mexico.
54. I hate baklava.
55. I used to work at NYU.
56. I lived in a neighborhood with mostly Puerto Rican people when I lived uptown.
57. Monfongo is yummy.
59. I love politics.
60. I am Catholic and enjoy going to mass.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Gratitude

Yesterday I learned that my Semester at Sea Itinerary has been changed. Now, instead of Italy, Istanbul and Egypt those ports have been replaced with Morocco, Namibia, South Africa and Mauritius. At first I was disappointed, now I'm flipping it upside down and getting excited again. The rest of the itinerary stays the same. We are going to be safe from pirates now. I was actually surprised that Thailand and India stayed on the itinerary, but we're on stand-by for other changes, based on political and terrorist situations.

Ironically, this was my horoscope this morning: You may be feeling anxious now because so much is up in the air. It seems as if your plans -- no matter how well formulated they are -- will have to undergo revision in order to adapt to the changing circumstances.

It's true. At my institution of employment the President is having all staff members read "Our Iceberg is Melting", which is a fable about penguins finding a new, safe place to dwell. Moral of the story is basically that everything is always changes, and how you manage it is what matters.

Speaking of places to dwell, I had drinks last night with my very good friend Vicki and my new friend Adam and we were in one of my old neighborhoods at a place called "Redemption". We also decided there should be a blog about places where I've lived in this Big Bad Apple. Why not? Everyone always seems fascinated and has a bunch of questions when I talk about New York. So here are some old apartments. Talk about Ch-ch-ch-changes......

So when I first moved to the city in Summer 2001 I interned at an ivy league university uptown. I looooved the neighborhood (Morningside Heights) and it was really hard to go back to Illinois at the end of the summer to finish my masters. Morningside Heights was a neat neighborhood. I lived near Grant's Tomb and cute little tree-line streets with ornate pre-war buildings adorned with gargoyles and beautifully sculpted wrought-iron trellises which were decorated with window-box gardens. Maybe a pansy or two growing in those boxes. Very cute, quintessential New York City. Below is a street scene from Broadway, near 113th street or so.



When I moved back permanently the following summer, I lived downtown in the financial district. The first apartment was pretty sweet. I had a dishwasher (a hot commodity, by Manhattan standards!) and a marble kitchen and bathroom. That's my sister-in-law and me in the kitchen. Notice the wine glasses....every single one of those has been broken since I lived there in 2002, between all the blissful wine-induced moments.....I mean..... between all the moves:
I worked on-call at that job, so the university provided my apartment for me so that I would be able to respond quickly to incidents on campus. Often times in the Residential Life role, one is asked to direct a different building, which was the case here. The following summer, my supervisor had me move to another apartment. I was excited about it, and I looooved this one, because it was huge and it overlooked City Hall and the entrance ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge. The first one is my living room and the second one is the view out my kitchen window.
Then I left this job so I had to find a new place fast. Two weeks notice meant two weeks to also find a new place to live. Kind of not easy in Manhattan. This time my new job was *not* footing the bill, as I did not rotate on-call. One of my friends was subletting her apartment for $800 per month, which was a STEAL in Turtle Bay. The exact same unit above me was rented for $1500- almost double. I lived on 53rd and 2nd. And I was excited. Well, as it turned out, my "friend" turned out to be a slumlord. The apartment was a small studio in a tenement building. I lived above that Indian restaurant pictured below (the red awning). My apartment always smelled of curry. Since it was an old building, the fuses would often blow, and guess where the fuse box was? In the basement of the Indian restaurant. One time, over Memorial Day Weekend, I turned on the air conditioner and blew a fuse. The Indian restaurant was closed for the entire weekend, so I had no electricity. Also, when I lived there in 2003, it was right after Bloomberg (or wait...maybe Guilliani at the time?) proposed the "no smoking in restaurants " rule. It was a great rule, but guess where all the smokers stood? You got it! Right under my window. There was also a popular bar next door to the restaurant. So if I opened the window, in came the smoke. It was also quite noisy and one morning I woke to a drunken puddle of vomit on my doorstep. Fantastic......Then in January, we had no heat, nor hot water because something was wrong with the boiler. I found out from the upstairs neighbor that everyone got a free month of rent. Since I was subletting and payed my "friend" directly, who in turn payed the management company, I was unaware of this. She claimed to know nothing about the free month. I was glad to get out of there. Cute neighborhood, though and I loved the conundrum of small very old tenement buildings being shadowed by huge modern glass office buildings.
In addition to hating that apartment, I also hated my job at the time. It was *not* in college student affairs, but with a jewelry firm which bought important estate jewelry and re-sold it to private dealers.
I left that job and got another job that involved being on-call, so once again my job provided the apartment. This one was in Chelsea. I loved it so much- I had a fairly large one-bedroom with lots of sunlight. Here it is at Christmas-time.
Oh, and did I mention I had a view of the Empire State Building from my window?

Then after I left that job, and ended up in Inwood/Washington Heights. Like a million blocks uptown at 204th and Sherman. The cheapest neighborhood in Manhattan. The best way to describe this neighborhood and building would be summed up in one word: disrespectful. People didn't clean up after their dogs. They left garbage and litter everywhere. There was often ketchup smeared all over the floors in the hallway. Teenagers played their reggaeton as loud as possible. The infamous neighbor below me was affectionately nicknamed (by me) "The Ol' Bitty". She would complain about everything and often bang on my pipes. The lady above me must have been auditioning for "Stomp", because that is mostly what I heard all hours of the night. Neither of these two women spoke English, so I would often have the one below (The Ol' Bitty) come upstairs, pound on my door, shake her fist and scream some Spanish obscenities...my Spanish is somewhat limited, and the only word I actually caught was puta. I got it.
That apartment was a very small one-bedroom. It looked like a shoe box. I had absolutely no sunshine, and the view out my bedroom window was a dank courtyard (if you can really call a cement dumping ground a "courtyard"). I did, however, love the exposed brick walls. Across the way, I had a direct view of Inwood's own version of "the ugly naked guy". You can sort of see him in this photo:

Then that lease just ended in September. I have been in transit since then. Currently I am on the Lower East Side, which I looooove. Here I am on the corner outside my building. I have always felt pulled toward this neighborhood. I love it so much because it is "old" New York. I think my Great Grandma Valentino may have lived here. Lots of immigration took place here in the 1920s from Italy and there is even a Tenement Museum on Orchard Street.
The photo below is of Dara outside a synagogue on Rivington Street. One of the things I love about New York is the contradiction of the city- the fact that something beautiful is often laced with graffiti (as seen below).

I joke with my friends, that the small cabin I'll occupy on Semester at Sea will actually be an UPGRADE for me, after getting used to the tiny shoeboxes in Manhattan! At least I'll have a port-hole so I can wake up to the skyline of Hong Kong and the pristine beaches of Mauritius and the jungles of Guatamala.....I would say that appreciating where I am at any given moment and adapting to change comes easily for me. Wouldn't you agree?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Farewell, So Long, Vaya Con Dios

There is a country song by George Strait that says " Goodbye, Farewell, So long, Vaya con dios, Good luck. " I loved it, because when I was in college, we would go country line dancing at this joint, and to that particular song we would dance the cha cha. We twirled. We spun. We swayed our hips. The cha cha was a dance used for many different songs, but it had some different moves than the traditional Latin cha cha, when doing it "country line" style. At first it made me dizzy, but once I got the hang of each twist and turn, I loved it so much.

Getting the hang of each twist and turn? That's what we do in life, isn't it?

Additionally, I have been thinking about this George Strait song, because this week has been about parting ways. My Great Aunt Theresa has died this week. She was my grandma's sister and best friend. A beautiful woman, she had been sick for quite some time. But she was surrounded by her children, her grandchildren, and her great grandchildren. People who loved her. And I will say my farewell to her this weekend. She is on the right, my grandma on the left. My aunt Patty and I in the back:
This week, and over the course of my lifetime, I have also parted ways with friends. Not by death, but because I chose to remove "the toxins" as my friend Vicki refers to them. Like a colonic for one's soul. I had to do that this week- remove a toxin, that is. (By the way, if you've never had a colonic, it is a daunting experience, but you feel so cleansed afterwards! I recommend La Casa Day Spa on 20th Street. All the toxins are removed. Out they go!)

Where was I? Oh yes. Parting ways. Removing toxins. Vaya con dios. That's it.

It's been a tough week in so many ways. It started over the thanksgiving holiday. The ultimate holiday of gratitude. Without going into personal detail, I have learned about surrender. Surrender, to me does not hold the negative connotation as we know it, but instead it is more of an acceptance. Marianne Williamson writes in her book "A Return to Love" about surrender. On page 52, she states that this means emptying one's mind. In Zen Buddhism, a beginner's mind is like an empty rice bowl. If it's not empty, the Universe cannot fill it with wonderful things.

Yes, yes, yes. THIS is what I'm talking about. Emptying my mind of all of the anger, the bitterness, and the hatred so I can open it up to all things new, happy, and wonderful. Letting go.

Marianne Williamson also talks about the day that she officiated both a wedding and a funeral. The funeral was first and the woman who died had been brutally murdered. She told the little boy and the husband to be strong and to use this death as a gift, a blessing. Oddly enough, Williamson describes that at the wedding she officiated later that day the groom had the same look on his face as the husband at the funeral. It was a look of pure unadulterated love. Healing is a return to love. Even death can be a gift to us.

Okay, is this post too serious? It is. I know. I know what you guys like and it's the humor in my life. Either that, or the stuff that is forthcoming.... the Semester at Sea stuff. But you have to get through the serious stuff to get to the humor.

So here goes..... a funny anecdote, a typical "Laurie" story. Today over my lunch break I went to the nail salon in Tribeca, across the street. Frankly I needed to get out of my office and my nails were a mess. I haven't been there in awhile, but I recognize the woman doing my nails. She has never spoken much English, but she tries. I give her credit for trying. Throughout the course of doing my nails she asks "You have baby makes?"

WHAT!? Baby makes? My family just told me I looked like I had LOST weight. So now I look pregnant? Fantastic. That goes nicely with all the stress in my life these days. Par for the course, as they say. Although I would love to have a baby more than just about anything in the world, sorry Toots- not just yet. Maybe after semester at sea.....but glad that I pull off the pregnant look with such ease.

As I was sitting waiting for my nails to dry, I was looking at the bottles of light pinkish colors of nail polish to choose from. "Sugar Daddy." "Mademoiselle". "Spaghetti Strap". "Baby Cakes".

Oooohhhhhhhhh......Baby Cakes. Baby Cakes. Baby Cakes. Baby Makes. What color is on my fingers? I get it.

Ah well. Either way, I was so ready to get outa that nail salon.

Vaya Con Dios.