Monday, December 14, 2009

Wine, Frankincense, and Myrrh

I've altered the three gifts of the Wisemen to form the title of my post. Gold is losing value. I've been working a lot of wine-tastings lately. My title made more sense.

December is really not my favorite month. But there are some things I do love about the holiday season. Instead of expressing what I hate (which sounds like way more fun) I'll share some of the stories about what I like (don't worry- you just keep on reading....these are entertaining stories as well):

1) The other night my friend Vicki and I met for drinks after work. Much to my amusement, I heard people entering the bar asking where the Price Waterhouse Cooper Holiday Party was. The host directed them to a room on the lower level. As I was waiting for Vicki, a light bulb appeared. WE should attend their holiday party! So when Vicki arrived, she agreed what a great idea that would be and our story was "Michael from Accounting invited us." That's all! So lo and behold, Vicki and I walked into the party and Vicki ran into this guy she knows, Joshua. "Hey Vicki! Who's your friend? What are you two doing at our party?" Vicki was quick to answer "Laurie is friends with Mike." "Mike?" he asked. "Yeah, Mike," I answered..."You know. MIKE! From Accounting." Joshua scratched his head. "Well I work in HR and there are a lot of Mikes. What is his last name?"

Time to get a drink.....

After we left, Vicki pointed out that PWC is an Accounting firm, so that would be like someone looking for me at my job at an institution of higher education and saying "I'm looking for Laurie in Education."

Guess I need some better tips on party crashing....

2) On another "the other night", I went to a holiday party with my friend Sheilla. I walked into a room full of 20somethings on one side and Greeks on the other side. It was quite amusing. As you many know, Greek people are just about my favorite ethnic group in the whole world. And we were in Astoria (a heavily Greek populated neighborhood in Queens.) Somehow I ended up in a conversation on the 20-something side of the room. The 20-something side of the room was close to the wine table. You should have seen how the 20-somethings were opening the wine bottles. Actually they were *not* opening the wine bottles. They were plunging the corkscrew into the cork and causing it to break off. It was cork murder. Since I am heavily skilled in damage control AND wine opening, I was appointed the wine opener for the evening. I guess you earn that title if you are a 30-something among a crowd of 20-somethings. (I guess the Greek-somethings were doing their own thing. Ouzo, I suppose?) So I uncorked many bottles of wine. It was nice. I like having a role, such as this when I attend parties. And in case any of the Greeks needed help with their Ouzo and/or Baklava, I was glad to be on-hand....

3) I am working again on New Years Eve as an Event Manager. I will be supervising the DJ, the Photographer, the ticket taker and the bottle hostess. Although I absolutely hate the sloppy drunken behavior, the cold weather, the shortage of available cabs, and the expense of New Years Eve in New York, it is well worth the pay to suck it up and go out into the battlefield and work a gig that night. So I will be working on a cruise that goes around Manhattan that evening. I notified my friends that they could apply for such a gig as well. One of my friends (whom I have kept anonymous- decided to apply for the ticket taker job.) I found his email extremely amusing (Names have been changed):
Hello Miss Parker.
My name is Robert Meagher, I'm a friend of Laurie who will be managing the New Years Event on "The Temptress". She and I spoke about, me being hired as a "Ticket Taker" and I received an email from Shelley Price about emailing you, as far as that job is concerned. Although I was told I would be paid 1,000.00 bucks for the night, I have a feeling I was lied to, so I wanted to confirm the rate with you.

As Far as my "Ticket Taking" experience, I've roamed the nation taking tickets at countless fairs and Carnivals. My thumb and "pointer" finger speed are unparalleled as you can see by reading the 2007 Guinness book of world records where I am listed as the fastest "Ticket Taker" on record....a record that wont soon be broken. I've also worked for the Big apple and Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey circus as a Ticket Taker.

Although I will say that most of my Ticket taking experience comes from Taking tickets at the old YANKEE stadium. I left that job after they decided to go with electronic ticket readers. (The Machines will be the end of us all!!!) I went on to work at SHEA stadium where the Mets play till the lousy "Subway series" stirred up many deep feelings of my "Ticket taking" at Yankee stadium and I had to leave in shame. I have since retired from the ticket taking industry. Rejecting lucrative offers from such outfits as Broadway Plays, The Miami Dolphins, The Los Angeles Dodgers, but after a 7 hour heartfelt, sometimes teary and violent talk, with Ms Laurie, she's talked me into coming out of retirement and using my powers for good once again.

In conclusion, I would be honored to be taking tickets on New Years for you, Miss Parker.....So when do we meet?
Sincerely yours.
Rober Meagher
P.S. ...............Please disregard 99% of everything I wrote in this email, due to the fact that its a lie.I hope you have a sense of humor and look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to call me at (917) xxx-xxxx...just dont call me "collect"

-He didn't get the gig. I am still trying to understand why.

4) This is really not "holiday" related, but I've been kind of interested in (okay more like obsessed with) "Jersey Shore". It is such a train wreck of a show, but I can't not watch it. It's on MTV and it is the Guido version of "The Real World". All of these Staten Island/New Jersey/Long Island Italian kids who like to party at the shore. I especially love the guy who has hair "that looks like an artichoke" (Think Gotti-boy style.) I love the souped-up cars, the gelled-up hair, the tanning-bed tans, and the ripped-abs, know as a "situation".) Love it, love it, love it. In fact, I am in two different "Jersey Shore Fantasy Leagues", where there are four of us competing in each one. We each have one boy and one girl on the show and they earn us points each week. How do they earn points? 10 points for mentioning hair gel (they wear a LOT of it). 10 points for mentioning their tans. 50 points for a bar fight. 50 points for hooking up with another cast member, etc. Since I don't do "fantasy football", I am purely entertained with this venture. So far my girl "Snookie" is earning me many points. I have her in one league, but not the other.

5) Yesterday I went to Mass. The 3rd week of the Advent season. I am somewhat of a slacker when it comes to Roman Catholicism these days, but I do enjoy my religious heritage, and I love the smell of frankincense. So off to church I went. I chose Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, which is one of the few remnants of Italian Harlem (while we're on the subject of Italians). Many elderly Italian folks still live in the neighborhood and there are even a few Sunday masses in Italian. I opted for the 12:30 mass. (That one's in English.) It suited my need to sleep in, especially after working another one of my side gigs the day before. So the church was about 90% empty. I sat wayyyy in the back and off to the side. An elderly Italian couple came and sat right next to me. Great. Of allllll the 1000s of empty pews, why are they on top of me? I rolled my eyes, and begrudgingly stayed in that hard, uncomfortable pew. I was trapped between the elderly Italian couple and a "station of the cross" wall mounting with a three dimensional Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene. It's as if they were mocking me- "haha Laurie. Trapped here now. No way out.". At the end of the mass, the elderly gentleman, quietly thanked me "This was the pew where my late parents once sat. Thank you for sharing it with us and allowing us to pray here and remember them."

After that I said about 80 "hail mary's" and had another glass of wine. I am going to try a little harder to be a better person from now on. So once again I recite the words I learned in catechism at a young age: Holy Mary, mother of god, pray for us sinners (i.e. ME!) now and the hour of our (MY) death. Amen.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Smokey Eyes

Smokey eyes are what make-up artists create on their subjects to capture a sexy nighttime look. Usually eyeshadow is a blend of grays and dark blue/plum colors. I am unable to accomplish such a feat myself, but this lady, Felicia, who works at the Sephora in Columbus Circle is quite skilled at it, and my eyes were smokin' in about ten minutes. Impressive!

On another note.....Did I ever mention that my best friend Dara works for a gigantiC News Network? To protect her privacy, I won't name the large news network for which she works, but you may be able to take a gander from my context clues? :)

So anyway, tonight Dara's company had the Inspiration Summit. It was phenomenal. It was inspirational. It made me want to go into the world and do fantastic things. My smokey eyes teared up more than once.

Mary J. Blige and Holly Robinson Peete were the guest speakers. You may recognize Holly from "21 Jump Street" or "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper". Mary goes without introduction. Her version of "One", a duet with Bono, again brings tears to my smokey eyes every time I hear it on my ipod.

So the "Inspire Summit" brought together mainly women who do altruistic things, but there were a fair number of men there, as well. As a woman, I think sometimes we (and I think I can speak for others too) get short-changed. We take a lower pay. We do thankless work. We pick up extra jobs to make ends meet. We apologize for things that aren't our fault. Perfect example: the Anchor last night who was interviewing the inspirational women was standing on stage. The stage-hand was setting up more chairs for the panel. He ran into her mike cord with a chair, and SHE apologized for it! I think about how many times on the subway, it's crowded and people fall into me when the train lurches forward and I apologize. And then I am disappointed in myself, so I have been training myself to say "excuse me" or "pardon me" instead, so that I am not apologizing for simply occupying space.

I digress.

This blog is not about weak women. It's about strong women. Mary J Blige (who is absolutely stunning and so eloquent and articulate in person) has an organization called FFAWN (Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now), which helps women overcome difficulties and reach their full potential. (And she sports the smokey eyes too!) Holly Robinson Peete has a foundation which helps people who have been plagued with devastating life circumstances. There were other women there too last night. A woman who has a non profit called "Cell Phones for Soldiers". (Did you know they have to spend their OWN money to call home when they are in the Middle East???) One soldier was stuck with a $7000 phone bill so this incredible woman, Brittany Berquest created this organization to alleviate that. There were women there who were CEOs of so many inspirational non-profits that helped rape survivors, cancer patients, children's literacy, and anything else you can imagine. They told their stories and I got the goosebumps. I want to be in the trenches making a difference too. (Stay tuned to blog when I reveal my big idea.)

Holly Robinson Peete spoke about ways you can make a difference. If you have an overwhelming urge to reach out and aid someone who needs help, but you don't know how, I recommend you visit Chris Rock's wife's website.

I'm never sure what to do either, so I will be checking it out myself. I keep thinking back to my visit to India, both the Disabled Children's Home and the visit to the non-profit community center that got children out of child-labor and into school. Visits to both made me immensely happy and humbled.

At the end of the night, after the inspirational forum there was an after-party. I was listening to the band play Mary J Blige's (who had to leave a little earlier) song being sung:

Feels so good, when you’re doing all the things that you want to do...Get the best out of life, treat yourself to something new...It’s a really good thing to say...That I won’t change my life, my life’s just fine...Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, ooooh...Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, ooooh...Just fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, ooooh.

So I was smiling, kinda swaying back and forth and once again my smokey eyes were a little teary. Dara came up behind me:

"Laurie, are you drunk?"

"No, Dara. I'm inspired."

Service is the rent we pay for living.
Marian Wright Edelman

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hew-ston (the city in TX, not the street in SoHo: How-ston)

Last Wednesday was a flawless autumn morning in New York City. The sun poked its warm rays through the cracks between the buildings and cast bright warm light on the streets, awakening them from their dark slumber. The temperature was in the mid 60s. The rich fragrance of coffee filled the air. The coffee that is sold from carts in little iconic cups with Greek figures on them. (Why do all NYC coffee carts have Greek figures adorning their cups anyhow?) Newspaper vendors shouted out "New Yawk Post! Get it heeah!" (I didn't get one. Instead I usually opt for the free version- "AM New York").

I took the bus across 125th Street and the Triborough Bridge (renamed something ridiculous, like RFK Bridge.....waste of tax money- in my opinion- to repost all the street signs, reprint all the maps, etc.) Anyhow, also a waste of time to be bothered by something so trivial. I was on my way out of the city that I love so much on this gorgeous morning. I was on my way to Houston! Except I have to get used to saying "Hew-ston", as opposed to "How-ston". Because here it is a carnal tourist sin to pronounce it like one would pronounce in Texas. How-ston is a street, and it is about as far from Hew-ston as one can get.

Both flights coming and going were fabulous. I had the exit row window seat. On the way there, the poor young boy in the middle seat, who was probably not more than 21 or 22 fell asleep on my shoulder. I didn't mind a bit, because his aftershave smelled so fresh and wonderful. When he awoke, there was some turbulence and he grabbed my arm. Poor dear. "Completely normal," I assured him, "we are just going through a cloud. That's all." He asked me how I knew so much. I told him I had years of experience. "Is it because you live in New York?" he asked. "That, and because I've been around the block a time or two," I explained to him, smiling.

Why was I (such an expert on clouds and turbulance) flying to Hew-ston, you ask? Because I was visiting my BFF from high school, JoAnn, whom I affectionately call "JoAnnieeee". She is a flight attendant. She used to be Newark based, and lived right across the Hudson in Jersey City, but several years ago she moved to the more senior base for her airline in Houston. Here we are now:

Here we are in High School. Kind of a strange shot, but I couldn't find any others that I had scanned. I was in the "milk maid" uniform. Those were our Summer majorette outfits and that was at the "band festival" in Ohio. Her hair was darker, mine was lighter. I don't think we've aged much:
On this visit to Houston, we saw a very funny comedian named "Pam Ann". Pam Ann does a spoof on the Flight Attendant industry. We sat in the very front row at the University of Houston's auditorium ("First Class" as Pam Ann calls it.) Here is a link to part of her routine, which I have perfectly imitated (if I do say so myself.) In fact, one of my friends told me yesterday that I should just speak in this voice all the time, because I've got the accent and this skit down perfectly:

I also met up with my long-time friend Buddy. (Why the heck did we not take a picture, Buddy, if you're reading this??) and also with my friends from Semester at Sea: Hayley and Kate Berge. JoAnn was so patient, because the three of us cracked up hysterically remembering funny things that happened while we were on the ship and we also kept finding people who looked like people we knew from the ship. Which was even more hilarious after drinking margaritas. Why does tequila always make everything so much sillier than normal??

Other than that, not much to report. It occurred to me that I started this blog over a year ago for the purpose of recording my voyage around the world in writing. I feel very evolved since then. A ship, some new friends, a trek around the globe.....all of those things do wonders for one's soul. I was reading a book the other day referencing Plato's "Allegory of the Cave", which I had read in high school. I don't remember much about it, but I do remember that there was a cave with just shadows that were formed by fire light on the wall of the cave. And then there was everything outside of the cave. Real images. The people confined to the cave only saw shadows and nothing else. Simply reflections of the real world. The cave symbolized a world of "becoming" and outside the cave was the world of "being". I think I am out of the cave now. I feel like I've gained such a rich knowledge, a new perspective and understanding of things. (That guy sitting next to me on the plane was definitely on to something!) Images that were merely shadows before, have gained some form.
Don't get me wrong though- I'm still learning things as I go. The voyage doesn't ever really stop. I am still stuck in a cave though, when it comes to dating. Nothing ever happened with that situation in the previous blog, in case you were wondering. Have met several other potential suitors in the meantime, but can't seem to really figure out what happens with them. The light goes out and the shadows disappear. But I do have a few in my peripheral vision. Now they just have to come to light and to true form. So now when I get my morning cup of joe in the Greek coffee cup, I'll be reminded of Plato's allegory.
And now it comes full circle. Those Greeks were pretty smart cookies. And as for me, well, the odessey really just never ends.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The City for the Buildings

It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.

(Crash, 2004)

Ever see that movie? I love it. It's like a big lesson of "what goes around comes around" and this one is crashing into that one who's crashing into the other one, who is crashing into the one who initially crashed into the first one. Confusing, right? It's like that in New York too. We get up, we go to work, we go home to an empty apartment. Maybe feed a cat. Perhaps send a few emails. Watch Jimmy Fallon or whomever the late night tv show host is. Turn off the light. Go to bed. Alone. Wake up. Alone. Take a shower. Get dressed. Go to work again. Go back home to an empty apartment. And the cycle repeats.

Lately I've been taking an inventory of my relationships. Not necessarily romantic relationships. But all of my relationships. Who do I attract to me? What kind of people do I seek out? What kind of people seek me out? What are my interactions like? Do I crash into people just so I can be touched? When can I go to Ohio again just so my mom can hug me? Who do I touch in New York? Do I touch people's arms simply when I speak to them? Are some interactions different with different friends? Which friends do I call for what reasons?

Recently I met someone. We locked eyes and I was smitten. We had a fun flirty interaction for a few weeks. He was affectionate and I literally crashed into him. We laughed. We texted. We talked. We hung out together. But now, Now it's just the cold shoulder. What the heck happened? What do I do differently? What should I have done differently? Who is going to hug me now? What friend can I call to help me figure this all out?

This weekend I rented a car and drove out of the city to South Jersey. My friend Jeff whom I was visiting advised me to be a bit more Buddhist about this. Nothing to analyze here. It is what it is. Let it be. Don't *DO* anything.

Let me point out, Jeff and I are eerily similar. Both of us are Cancers. We met 10 years ago when I was a traveling consultant for my sorority and he was a traveling consultant for his fraternity. A new college campus every five days. 90% travel. As we each traversed the US and Canada visiting different universities, we would occasionally bump (crash!?) into each other. I moved to Illinois and he happened to be visiting the campus where I was attending grad school. Then he moved to Miami and I moved to New York. Recently he moved back to South Jersey where he grew up and met the love of his life (actually they had met before, but they re-met when he came back). Jeff is now engaged to Missy, who couldn't be any sweeter. They are a perfect balance for each other. But there was a time when Jeff used to experience the same "relationship conundrums" that I experience. He gets it. And he used to react to things the same way that I do, because we are both Cancers.

So I am taking his advice and doing nothing at all concerning the confusing situation aforementioned.

I am taking a step back. I am not analyzing. I am going to try not to crash into anyone. I'm just going to let the cards fall as they may. No sense in planning, nor over-analyzing any of this.

And you know what? I get so caught up in what I'm doing, that I forget the big picture. Sometimes I am focusing way too much on specifics and missing the point. So as I was on my way to return the car, driving along the FDR, admiring the skyline against the East River, watching the reflections of the buildings dance on the murky rippled water, I began thinking. And I adapted the familiar old adage to suit my urban environment:

Sometimes I forget to see the city for the buildings....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Full Count

Bases loaded. 3 balls. 2 strikes. I'm at bat.

That's how I've felt lately. Every day I have something else going on and the pressure to get it done well. I do some heavy-hitting. But mixed in with that are my "seventh-inning stretches", if you will:

* I spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday "weekending" in the Hamptons. I went with my friend Viviana (that's actually her alias) and we stayed with her friend and her friend's family. They own a gorgeous "weekend home" in Bridgehampton, where they stay when they aren't at their Manhattan home. We spent Saturday at Shelter Island. They had to let their weekend Nanny go over the weekend, so Viviana and I helped them chase down the children. A good taste of what it's like to prepare me for motherhood. These kids were non-stop energy. Another Hamptons friend with her two children joined us at the beach, as well. She had a shiny newborn. I held that snuggly baby in my arms and it felt fantastic. It's amazing though, how babies know their own mother's touch and pheromones, even though their eyes are closed. The infant began to fuss. That is when *the* cutest thing happened. One of the other little boys, who is merely two years old, leaned over and kissed him on the head. Melted my heart.

I am so ready to be a mother. I really want to bear a child. But I also want the Nanny and the diaper-changing husband. And perhaps a 4 carat emerald ring. Platinum setting. Adorned with pave diamonds on the side. And still a place in the city. And of course a vacation home in the Hamptons. .... Actually, on second thought, I could do without the latter....the beaches were okay, but not what I expected. Rocky and the water was somewhat murky. But their home is beautiful. Here is their conservatory:

But the kids, those sweet angel-faced kids, give me them any day! Children are quite hilarious. The little 3 year old repeated everything I said. I accidentally said "nice ass" about someone on the beach and the next thing I heard was a sweet little three-year old voice repeating "nice ass" and giggling. I have GOT to watch what I say....

* On a completely different "seventh inning stretch", I spent Monday pounding shots of tequila with a colleague and hanging out in a graffiti-laced alleyway downtown. That sounded like a fantastic idea for a Monday night. And, as I told my friend that I am very good at making smart decisions. And the tequila qualifies as such. Although, sometimes I have to ask myself how old I am again. I mean, after all, the mothers in the Hamptons are quite close to my age and they are talking about formula and water wings and teething and MUCH more important things than alleyways and tequila. After re-reading that paragraph, I must clarify- we were not pounding the Patron shots *in* the alleyway, I just went outside with him to keep him company while he smoked. Because doing shots in the bar itself is much classier than doing so in an alleyway, if I do say so myself.

* I spent yesterday night at Shea....I mean....Citifield. I can't stop calling it Shea. Even the subway station got rid of the "Shea". It used to say "Willets Point- Shea Stadium". Now it just says "Willets Point. Mets".

I am loving the shiny new ballpark though. There is attention to detail that only nerds like me notice. Things like the seats angled towards home plate. The high-tech sound system. The Women's Mets Boutique on the Promenade Level. (Which I found out was created by Alyssa Milano. And I got suckered into buy a shirt. It was on sale though. V-neck and very sporty/cute/feminine with the NY Mets logo). And there were still the buzz of planes taking off and landing at the nearby LaGuardia, just as there were at Shea. It was just a fantastic place to see a ball game. The bottom of the fourth was amazing. Since all the high-paid players are down for the count, all the "no-names" scored 8 runs in one inning. I was on the edge of my seat! And by the way, I love the variety of beer available at the new ballpark. I enjoyed Leffe Blonde and even Tiger Beer (!!! Haven't had this since I was in Vietnam!) And by the way, beer is cheaper than it used to be at Shea. Quelle supris! The one thing I did not get to do was have frozen custard from Shake Shak. I got to the game 45 minutes earlier and there was already a line around the interior of the ballpark. New Yorkers know a good thing when they see it. Unlike the Hamptons, Citifield exceeded my expectations.

......until I get my 4 carat emerald-cut diamond in a platinum setting, I'll just settle for a baseball diamond instead.....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chronicles of Life in the Big Bad Apple

Upon popular request, I am working on a book of my life, but in the meantime, I've wrapped it up in to blog form. So the new blog is about some of my "adventures" specifically on living in New York and on public transportation in New York City.

I dug through my myspace blog archive to share some of my favorite (!??) stories:

April 28, 2008 - Monday

I almost died today.

I was on the 6 train going uptown to an appointment at 11 this morning.

So at 14th Street, the 4/5 train is there, so people inevitably get off to transfer over across the platform. (In case you aren't familiar with the NYC Subway system, the 4/5 run express from 14th to 42nd Street, meaning they don't stop at all the other stops.)

It is pouring down rain outside, and there are puddles everywhere. As I'm walking across the platform, I slide in a puddle of water. I fall onto the ground and my right leg goes into the gap between the subway and the platform. So now I am on the ground and my leg is stuck between the subway and the platform. My left leg is on the platform, but bent at this weird angle.

Images of Boxing Helena flashed before my eyes. Would I function without my right leg? Would I ever get a date again? Would I be confined to a wheelchair? How would I get up the steps of my apartment? And will I ever be able to wear my pretty dresses again? I like my legs. They're my favorite body part. I am starting to lose my breathe.

As I'm beginning to panic, the doors of the train begin to shut.

Crap, crap, crap.

This is not good. Not good at all. This means the train is going to leave the station and take my leg along with it.

There were people on the train, but with the doors shut, there is nothing they can do to pull me out. I think the only other people on the platform are too far away to see what's going on and/or to know that I need help. (All this time, I am trying not to cry, or yelp, or panic.)

I am going to be on the cover of AMNY as the girl who falls into the subway tracks.

My worst fear has become realized.

Stand clear of the closing doors!! exclaims the jolly recorded message.

Bastards! Where am I going to go???

Somehow a surge of adrenaline came over me, because I pulled my stuck leg out of the gap.

And now it hurts like no tomorrow. I am bruised and bloody I'll be ashamed if anyone sees my leg. But then again, I guess I can't take the very thought of *having* a leg for granted. Bruised and bloody is better than no leg at all.

October 18, 2007 - Thursday

Somebody today asked me how I'm feeling.
"Like shit" I replied...."there's plaster falling down from my ceiling!"

The obnoxious neighbors have moved from their apartment upstairs
But the Management has decided to rennovate and do some repairs...

So the dust falls down on me from the vent
So they can renovate that apartment and raise up the rent!

The real estate market is a scam in New York City,
And all my neighbors suck, especially the "Ol Bitty"

She lives below me and likes to complain
My shower broke and down came the rain....

She said something in Spanish and pounded on my door,
I yelled "Uno momento, por favore!"

Out of the shower, towel wrapped around
I answered the door and the Ol' Bitty frowned.

"La agua, mucho problemo!" she exlaimed
I rolled my eyes....the wrong one has been blamed.

I said back to her "Go to the Super, I am no plumber!"
But this 'Ol Bitty couldn't be any dumber.

So my misery comes from above and below
I hate this apartment, but I've nowhere to go!

Tonight in my bed I'd like to watch the Tribe win the pennant
But instead, I'll go to get drunk, I'm an unhappy tennant.

So if you need to find this Unhappy Brunette
I'll be out looking for someone else to sublet.


September 25, 2007 - Tuesday

So as you may know if you're an avid reader of my blog, I have little sunlight and a view of a dank courtyard.

Across from my bathroom window is a window of some lazy man's bedroom. It never fails, he is *always* there in bed sleeping. Morning when I wake up. Night when I get home. All day during the weekend. I think all he ever does is lie in bed and watch TV.

And he never has pants on. I only see balls and legs. (Gross, I know.) His face is yet to be seen.

It's kinda like "the ugly naked guy" on Friends meets the faceless neighbor on the other side of the fence in Home Improvement.

I see it much much clearer in person, but there he is in the upper window just to the left of the pipe.

August 8, 2007 - Wednesday

Never fails. Every summer there is either a black-out, a subway crisis, or a flood. And it always happens on the hottest day in the city.

Today it took me 3 and a half hours to get to work. But all these crazy things happened on the way....

1) They kick us off the A train at 168th street. I get onto the 1 train an lo and behold I see this guy I know, Cesar!

2) Cesar and I take the 1 until 137th Street and we get kicked off THAT train.

3) We find a cab and share it with like five other people. Cesar even loaned me cab fare since I had no cash....awwww...

4) The cab is going to the east side, which is out of the way for me. So I get out at 52nd Street.

5) I find my friend Holly who happens to be in that vicinity too. Holly and I walk from 52nd Street to Tribeca. (This is about four miles I believe).

6) We stop for breakfast on the way.

7) For some reason I wore my comfortable shoes today. I usually wear my heels, but today I had packed them in my bag to change into (I had no idea the trains were this messed up).

8) I get to work around 10:30 AM and I realize some people didn't come until 2:00 PM because of this disaster. Turns out every single subway in the city was messed up. Man! I could have milked this for a lot longer!!! Too bad I'm an honest employee......


July 27, 2007 - Friday

First a little bit of background before we get to my blog:

Herd behavior describes how individuals in a group can act together without planned direction. The term pertains to the behavior of animals in herds, flocks, and schools, and to human conduct during activities such as stock market bubbles and crashes, street demonstrations, sporting events, episodes of mob violence and even everyday decision making, judgement and opinion forming. A group of animals fleeing a predator shows the nature of herd behavior. In the often cited article "Geometry For The Selfish Herd," evolutionary biologist WD Hamilton said each individual group member reduces the danger to itself by moving as close as possible to the center of the fleeing group. Thus the herd appears to act as a unit in moving together, but its function emerges from the uncoordinated behavior of self-seeking individuals.

So each and every day on the subway I play this game. (Well, *some* days, when I'm not sleeping or reading...) It is a game about group dynamics.

Basically what I do is pretend that my subway car crashed onto a tropical island. (Okay humor me here!) I look around and pick out the team leaders, the people who would panic, the people who would be natural care-takers, the people who would build the strongest forts, the people who would fish and hunt, the people who are lazy, the lovebirds who are removed from the group, etc. How do I do this? Easy. Observation.

Observation is an interesting thing. You can tell so much by observing a person's body language, the way they dress, the way they style their hair, their eye contact, the way they smell, etc.

NOW.....that being said, I work very hard not to judge people just based on appearances. I think that's the oxymoron of society. We form opinions about people and we are often wrong. One cannot know Everything about a person based solely on observation. And often, we pre-judge before the observation process or we leave out a vital part of information that we need. For instance, I do not interview or talk to these people on the subway, so I am missing some majorly important information. So I just have to play my silly little game based on what I see or hear.

On the subway car this morning, I picked myself as the smart, level-headed one who calms the panicked people. I picked a guy with strong buff arms as the "Jack" (Do you guys watch "Lost"? Although, I think Jack is a natural leader, I do think he's a bit of a pompous know-it-all and I think he would get on my nerves.) I picked a frail looking older woman in frumpy clothing as one of the "panicked" women. I picked a girl with pink hair and distant eyes as the one who strays from the herd. I picked the woman with the Prada bag and obnoxious perfume and perfectly coiffed hair as the prudish beeeotch who wants nothing to do with the herd. I picked the tall handsome man with the ipod and the amazing cologne, swaying to the beat of his songs of the one whose tent *I* would want to share......

Then in my mind I set up scenarios on the island. Like how these people would go about gathering food and setting up shelter. Who would bond with whom. Who would steal the food. Who would do absolutely nothing. Who would stray from the group. And so on and so forth. It's a forty minute subway ride. People do get on and off, so my game is a little skewed, but fun nonehteless. Sometimes I do this game with my myspace friends' list as well.

No wonder I always liked sociology so much.....

July 26, 2007 - Thursday

This morning I woke up in the gorgeous Bay Ridge neighborhood in Brooklyn. Maura and I had dinner and drank wine and laughed and shared funny stories last night. A little background on Maura-- we had at one point dated the same person (who shall remain nameless to protect his privacy, although I'm sure everyone pretty much knows and I'm pretty sure he doesn't care if I share the story anyhow. It's okay, right Ralph?) ...... So at any of the stories Maura and I shared went a lil' something like this:

Maura: Several years ago I dated this guy who was a cop and he lived in Brooklyn with his parents.
Laurie: For real? So did I.....except he moved to Staten Island. Chris A^!)**@. Sweet guy.
Maura: Wait a minute. Did he have a mustache? Was he a "housing" cop?
Laurie: Ummm.....Italian? Grew up in Bensonhurst? MrTn2104 on AIM?
Maura: Holy Shit, Laurie! We dated two of the same guys!
Laurie: That was in 2001. Sweet guy. Just no spark. Met him on
Maura: I did too!!! Just tell me you never dated Brad the Lawyer....
Laurie: Umm......Brad the lawyer in West Village with the Golden Retriever?
Maura: Brad the lawyer in West Village with the Golden Retriever, Jewish, last name T@*&*($*&
Laurie: Is this even POSSIBLE in a city of 8.5 million people, that we would have not one, not two, but THREE men in common?
Maura: Just goes to prove that there are more men than women in this world.

Crazy, right? I guess it makes sense. We both have blue eyes, long hair (although Maura's is blonder than mine), counseling backgrounds, and similar sense of humor. And honestly, is a small world. Mary and I signed up for it once at the same time and we got a lot of the same people. Now I want to get in touch with Chris A. He was sweet, but there wasn't the chemistry necessary to maintain a relationship. I do think he had an easy-going personality though, and would get a kick out of this. Maura heard from Brad T. within the last six months, so I think we should let him know too. I thought he was kinda pompous and perverted, but I still think it would be funny to let him know about this synchronicty.

So this morning I treked it from the bottom of Brooklyn to the top of Manhattan (took an hour and a half on three different subway lines). This morning I renewed my lease (just one more lousy year in that place) and discovered that my rent is only going up $27, not $36, which isn't tooooo bad (although rent increases still suck). I was walking through Inwood to the Management Company and I realized "Inwood really isn't so bad." It's actually quite pretty when there aren't a bunch of icky men making vulgar comments to me in Spanish. There are trees and parks and sunshine and birds. It's just *my* street that is bad. The rest of the neighborhood is great. (Although parking really sucks there). But it only takes me 40 minutes to get to work by subway.

So I decided to wave, wink, and smile back to anyone who waved, whistled or "Hi Mami"ed me today. Construction workers, garbage men, hoodlams, homeless people, truck drivers, etc. It was fun. I don't think they know how to respond when a woman actually responds back. But they did smile back at me , albeit with a kind of blank/amazed expression on their faces. So from now on I think I'm going to be flattered instead of being irritated when slimebags whistle. I mean, it must mean that I'm not *that* grossly obese or ugly. So I am now turning it into something that makes me feel good.

And I also feel immensely amused that Maura and I dated three of the same men in a city of 8.5 million of them.

Monday, June 29, 2009

It's all part of my Rock & Roll Fantasy

Here come the jesters, one, two, three.
It's all part of my fantasy,
I love the music and I love to see the crowd,
Dancing in the aisles and singing out loud,
Its all part of my rock 'n' roll fantasy,
Its all part of my rock 'n' roll dream, yeah.
-Bad Company

Over the weekend I went upstate to the Catskills to see Bad Company at Bethel Woods, and they were fantastic. (Thank you Cheryl and Dara!)

Bethel Woods is the place in upstate NY where Woodstock happened. And it felt exactly like Woodstock must have felt and smelled a lot like Woodstock must have smelled, because everyone around me was smoking some weed. I don't know if I just really loved the show or if I just had a contact high. Ironically and quite appropriately the Doobie Brothers were there too, touring with Bad Company. See how it all fits together? Everyone around me smoking doobies listening to the Doobies.

Now I'm back from the country. Doing all this mundane, yet necessary stuff on my day off, like going to the DMV, and to the laundromat, and to the Dentist. I've also been picking up side-gigs on the weekends. I don't know if you guys remember, but I do Liquor and other Promotions on the side. (See blog archives from December). Unfortunately the liquor promos have been few and far between lately, so I've resorted to doing sampling at Costco in Queens for Vaseline lotion. Squirting a dab of Vaseline into consumer's hands and convincing them how wonderful and non-greasy it feels. It's so gentle on the skin. And the fragrance is so light and fresh. (Am I convincing you yet?)

Let me tell you how much of a freak show Costco in Queens is. It is pure entertainment to do these demos and to watch the people who shop at these sorts of places. First of all, a little dab'll do ya! A DAB! There are crazy folks who love free things, so they roll up their sleeves and their pants and spread that Vaseline all over their bodies. You would think they were entering a mud wrestling contest, except instead of mud, they use Vaseline lotion. It is quite comical.

And then we've got the Over-Zealous door guard. I was given a tshirt to wear for the promotion, and as I was walking out to the bathroom to put it on, she came chasing after me, banging on the stall wanting to see the receipt for the shirt. Ummm....lady, I wouldn't pay to wear this shirt, they are paying ME to put on this ridiculous thing and squirt lotion into people's hands.

Then there's the Nutso Manager who couldn't figure out where my Vaseline cart should be, so he kept moving me around and finally he settled for putting me next to Men's shirts.

A great place for a Vaseline demonstration, if I do say so myself. The day after that the Men's shirts were mysteriously gone, so I strategically placed myself in the same spot, which now had Charcoal. The Manager did *not* like the Vaseline demo next to the Charcoal so I get moved.....moved next to the Diapers and Baby Wipes. Of COURSE! Why wouldn't I be there?

Costco also has this's a combination of soggy cardboard and oranges. It is kind of nostalgic for me, because I used to work at the Giant Eagle in high school and every grocery store has that smell. But for Costco you have to mix in the smell of electronics with that. Where else can you buy some tires, a bulk 6 pack of 2 gallons of mik, some Vaseline, a 42 inch flat screen, and some charcoal? I think if you look hard enough, they even sell parakeets there. But most of all it smells like damp cardboard and oranges.

Standing there in the cardboard/citrus scented aisles next to charcoal and diapers, I get bored after six hours of squirting Vaseline. So I create little games for myself. I tally the number of pregnant women, the number of Vaseline sold, and the number of people who sneeze. Costco is a haven for pregnant women, but usually the Vaseline tallies win.

What an absolutely entertaining life I lead.

So I've created some fantasies of where I want to be. These include owning a home with a terrace and a grill, traveling around the world (oh wait- been there, done that), and meeting the man of my dreams, like James Bond or Superman.


My fantasies are becoming so real.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

4th Floor Walk-Up

Actually I live on the 5th floor, because the ground floor is the ground floor and the 1st floor is one flight up. I like all the stairs though. Saves me money on joining an ultra-posh gym over-crowded with sweaty smelly people waiting on a long line to get onto a elliptical machine. I am settling in to my new apartment and the steps don't bother me a bit. (Ask me again when we start to have 95 degree days in the city.....) For now I'm doing just fine on top, thank you very much. In fact, I like to call in the penthouse up here.

When the gangway of the ship was on Deck 5, that was the equivalent of a 5th floor walk-up as well. And I walked up those very stairs once again this past weekend.

It was weird. I think it was too soon to go back to the ship. (Not too soon to see my friends, but too soon to see the ship again- a ship full of strangers, a new person in *my* cabin, a wall full of passport photos with unfamiliar faces, replacing our own, etc.)

There was a rowdy bunch on board. Young alumnae jumping into the pool in their clothing with wine glasses in their hands! I bet the crew was on-edge the entire night. Glass in a swimming pool is a dangerous thing. I am soooooo grateful our students did not behave in such a way on my voyage. It felt like the rowdy bunch should be disembarking and we should be staying on, and sailing on to Halifax, which is where the summer voyage is going next to pick up the students.

On another note, I heard a rumor. A rumor that a few people were missing my blog. I can definitely continue to write, but I'm uncertain this blog will be filled with exciting stories like I had in foreign ports of call. But I'll try my best. I did meet the mother of Will, one of my students, who hugged me and told me how much she loved reading my blogs. She told me she also lived as a single girl in NYC for many years, so we've got some common ground. I was so humbled and flattered to meet her! She is a great mother, as Will and his friend Walsh were two of the best students we had.

So I will do my best to keep the blogs coming.

In the meantime, here are some photos from the ship:

......Actually....that's not entirely true....this first one was in Cambridge. Linus, Bama, Jason and I took a field trip to the Harvard campus. It really felt like we were docked in another port, soon we would go back for "on-ship time" and meet all our friends who were on different trips through the field program. But alas....we really just got back into Linus's car and drove back to NYC.....except for Jason who was on the ship until Halifax, since he was facilitating part of the training for the new faculty/staff.

Julie, Me, and Berge at the "No Name Restaurant" on the Boston Harbor:
Deck 6 Aft:

When can I sail away again?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Topsy Turvey

First of all, my friend from high school, Jen has a blog: which I frequently visit. Her kids are scrumptiously cute and I love reading about their adventures. Jen is so articulate and writes so eloquently, so I was pleased to find that I was her 10,000th visitor today.

On the note of milestones, I've been back in New York for one whole month now. I am finally all moved into my apartment. And this past week has been spent hanging valances and blinds; arranging furniture; unpacking; and making my house a home. Here is a fuzzy picture of the blinds and valances I mounted.

Kitty has settled in quite well also. He enjoys watching the pigeons on the fire escape.

I am considering growing a window-box garden out there, but now I'm worried that the birds may eat any herbs or vegetables I plant. Anyone have any tips for a fire-escape garden? My friend Melissa suggested something called a "Topsy Turvey" which grows tomatoes upside-down. But I think the Topsy-Turvey might be a little too large for my fire escape, even though it does sound like fun. My friend Mary suggested a wrought-iron planter thingy from Crate & Barrel with a variety of kitchen herbs, which sounds more practical. Is it even legal to have a garden on my fire escape? I mean, I've seen people do it before, but what if there's a fire? Will the NYFD have to cut through tomato plants with a Swiss Army knife to get to me and Kitty? Or will I have to eat through strawberry planters to break free from flames? Or better yet- will I just be extra cautious and not leave candles lit, stoves on, and curling irons plugged into the wall? I've got to admit, I am a little bit nervous, because my smoke detector is hanging crookedly (topsy turvey!) from the ceiling by a wire. I told the Super, so now I guess I should probably follow up.

So far I'm enjoying my new neighborhood and my shorter commute to work. The 6 train has certainly been interesting. Last night on the way home from work I noticed:
* one guy sketching me (he blushed when I saw his notebook). Wonder how he finished it, since my stop was before his?
* one guy grilling me about the art of Soduko and asking me about my career. I told him I work at an art school and he told me I seemed creative. (Guess you gotta have some creative solutions to deal with some of these students!) As it turned out, he was a Firefighter- so I made sure NOT to mention the idea I've got for my fire escape, nor the smoke alarm dangling from a string.....
* one Asian guy screaming that he was God.

All reasons why I love New York.

And I love Boston, which is where I will be on Friday- back on the ship! The ship will be docked there for a few days before the Summer Voyage, so they are having a reception for alumni. Stay tuned for more photos and pictures as I reunite with Semester at Sea.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


The other day as I was going through my suitcases, I found two notes: one from my mother when I was leaving Ohio last December and it said "Drive safely, we love you- see you in the Bahamas". And one from Dara that said "Have a great voyage, see you in May. I'll miss you".

Well, my loves....Summer has arrived, it's Memorial Day. I've now been back in New York for 18 days....except, it's quite surreal. It feels like I've already *had* my summer and it feels like it should be autumn now. Did I *really* sail around the entire world in 4 months? Did I skip the winter? Isn't it September tomorrow? Wasn't I just getting off the ship into Spain yesterday?

The rocking motion I had been feeling on land has started to become a blur. Falling asleep to the mystic moon reflecting on the black water is a distant memory. Waking up to the sun dancing on the ocean right outside my window seems to have been ages ago. The storms that played havoc on my stomach have turned into clear blue skies. The eastern horizon is behind me. The many metaphors of the sea are waning their way out of my vocabulary.

And admittedly, I've fallen a bit melancholy. The sea depth is a million feet, because I've been drowning in tears. I'm unsettled. I am still living out of two suitcases (which is how I found the notes aforementioned.) I am still not in my new apartment yet. I am still missing my shipboard friends like crazy. I see their faces on every stranger passing by. I call out their names. And the harried strangers give me a peculiar look and keep walking by me, through the mean, unforgiving streets of Manhattan.

But alas, there is some good news. The ship will be docked in Boston before it leaves on the Summer Voyage, so I will see approximately TEN of my closest Semester @ Sea Friends on June 12 in Boston for an alumnae reception. I will kiss them and hug them and squeeze them and maybe even bring a few of them back home with me, so I don't have to keep freaking out the strangers on the subways who look just like them, that I keep seeing every day. I take the subway these days, and I stare into space, daydreaming of the sea.

Finally this weekend I'll have my belongings loaded onto a moving truck from where it has been "wintering" in Ohio, back into the city, into my new Hellsgate apartment, which may be more permanent than I thought...... My boss Joe went with me last week to check out the neighborhood of the Brooklyn co-op at 11:30 AM on a Tuesday and we had some doubts. I'm not sure what it was, but I think maybe the dodgy looking drug dealers on the corner turned me off a little.....I'll write more about that later. Everything is up in the air in regards to that life-changing purchase. But at least I've got a place to go on June 1. (And I am forever grateful to Holly and especially to Dara who have generously been allowing me to sleep in their homes.)

The week before Memorial Day is always "Fleet Week" in New York City and the sailors take over Manhattan. I had been traveling on this holiday for the past two years (Alaska last year, Montreal the year before that) and I had to miss seeing these handsome sailors embracing the city that I love so much. This year I stayed local. And it was fantastic to be in the city that I call home on this holiday weekend. Memorial Day has new meaning to me, after sailing around the world and after learning more about the armed forces who have sacrificed so much to protect our country. After visiting Vietnam and the War Remnants Museum. After asking my Dad about his experience as a veteran and hearing his stories. Fleet Week itself has new meaning to me, after being on a ship myself for a small fraction of the time to which these generous sailors have devoted their lives.
Okay, that photo above is actually not from Fleet Week, but from Semester at Sea. This is Kostas, the First Officer on the ship, who was so sweet and handsome.

And I am happy again. My weekend went like this:

Friday- caught up with Fatima and had possibly the most proud moment in the history of parallel parking. I wedged her little red Dodge into a spot on 18th Street with less than an inch in front and an inch behind. (I let Fatima maneuver it out of there, later on. Thought it wouldn't be a good idea for me to try after a few beers.....)

Saturday- had brunch with Dara and my friend Chris. Worked a promotional gig for a really cool event called "Improv Everywhere" on Roosevelt Island (which by the way is beautiful.....New York's little hidden secret, an island tucked between Queens and Manhattan, floating in the east river, accessible by tram, which connects Manhattan to Roosevelt Island, like in the Spiderman movie.)
After the gig, I took the tram back to Manhattan, went to Chris's apartment, and there we watched the Mets game on his gigantic TV, and drank Blue Moons with a slice of orange. There is just something about Beer and baseball.......

Sunday- absolutely nothing, which suited me just fine!

Monday (today)- went to Elizabeth's house in Queens. She grilled out on her balcony. Then Holly swung by, picked us up and we went to Rockaway Beach (yes, like the one in the Ramone's song!) We got there after 7:00 PM and by that time the Memorial Day crowds cleared out. We dug our toes into the sand. I think that Rockaway Beach is another hidden gem of New York City. It was much cleaner than the beaches in Brooklyn and it was very surreal. You look one way and see the blue ocean that I've grown so accustomed to these past four months. And then you turn around and see the Manhattan Skyline.

Here are my friends Elizabeth and Holly on Rockaway Beach:

I love the ocean. I love the water. I love the sound of seagulls. I love looking out to sea. I love the smell of salt water. I love the way the squishy sand feels against my feet. I love seeing the silhouettes of ships sailing along the horizon.

And I love that I'll be back on the Explorer on June 12.

It just never gets old....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

I've hit the ground running since I landed in New York again. I've started back to work again. Bills are being paid. Friends are being caught up with. The apartment search is done.....basically.....but there's a twist to the story and it goes like this:

When my Mom picked me up at the final port in Fort Lauderdale she brought all of my mail from the past four months along with her. We drove to Miami and spent the night at the same hotel where I started my voyage. The day after I got back I was feeling pretty weepy and I spent most of the day under an umbrella on the beach, hiding behind big black sunglasses crying. I missed my friends. I didn't even get to say goodbye to some of them when we disembarked. I felt like I should be going right back to the ship that night, swiping in at the gangway, and sailing on my merry way to the next port, wherever that may be. They told us that we might experience something called "re-entry" (i.e. reverse culture shock and such) which I somehow thought I might be exempt from. Au contraire. I felt kinda lost for a few days. A sailor lost at sea. I am still feeling a little off.

So because of these feelings, I couldn't sleep that first night in Miami. So at 2:00 AM I sat in my bed at the Eden Roc Miami Beach, and went through all of my mail for the last four months. I almost discarded an envelope from an unfamiliar address, but after opening it I realized that I had won a housing lottery I entered last fall. sponsors several lotteries for middle-income housing. Basically you have to make under a certain amount to qualify, so that folks can buy affordable housing in the city. I was so excited, because I could never afford to buy a co-op on my own in the city! So I woke my mom up to tell her and I think she was slightly confused, but also excited.

And it just so happened that my co-op interview was scheduled the day before I had to return back to work! (Which was yesterday). I had to bring all but my first born: bank statements, paycheck stubs, 401K statements, tax returns for the past three years, etc. Not an easy feat to drum all of this up after having been gone for four months! But I did it.

The co-op is in Bed-Sty in Brooklyn. A neighborhood with a rough history, but still has potential, just like all of the other up & coming neighborhoods in the city. And it is a brand new development, not even finished being built yet. And the best part is that I can sell it at market value, which is more than double what I will be paying for it!

So now I wait. A bank has to review my paperwork, check my credit, check my background, etc. And I'll know in about two weeks if I get to purchase. And then I make a decision if I want to live in Bed-Sty. The place is still under construction, so I can't visit the actual building yet.

In the meantime, I signed a lease for a place to live on the border of Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem. It's a roomy one-bedroom and I am excited to not be in Inwood anymore (please see blog archives about the nightmare of a neighborhood where I came from.) So this new neighborhood is on a blurry border of two other neighborhoods, but I noticed the post office around the way is called "Hellsgate Station". Hellsgate is also the name of a bridge nearby. So I decided just to start calling my neighborhood Hellsgate. It's catchy, no? In fact, when I lived in the north part of Chelsea, I started calling it NoChe (NOrth CHElsea.) Noche means "night" in Spanish. I thought it was cute. It never stuck though......maybe this one will.

Lease starts June 1 and soon I will go home to the place where angels dare to tread: Hellsgate.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Full Circle

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” - Jack Kerouac

Okay, so we had a Staff Social, and I just drank a bunch of margaritas and now I am sitting in Logistical and "Cultural" pre-port for Fort Lauderdale. It is a spoof on all the other pre-ports we've had. The "Duty Dean" is my dad, apparently.... and the Field office is at the beach. (I was really hoping to get on the Walking Tour of the Fort Lauderdale Airport, but it looks like I'll have to instead do a tour of an airport further away in Miami, where the national language is Spanish.) Things to be worried about in the United States of America are: Traveler's Diarrhea, Hypochondria, and Swine Flu. The exchange rate is really crappy. In fact, at this point, most restaurants prefer Canadian dollars. Bartering is not widely practiced in this country.

I just learned that I have to drop off my luggage tomorrow at noon, and I haven't even started to pack yet. And at this point, I wonder how that feat is going to be accomplished after all the margaritas......And I have to fill out the customs form. So if you ever want to complain about filling out the form you get on the plane, I don't have much sympathy. Try doing a customs form for 13 different countries visited. And if I spent over $800 on souveniers I have to pay some sort of fee.

We have come full-circle, my friends. Than you so much for following my journey. In closing, here are some photos from the Ambassador's Ball last night with my colleagues and with some of my students, as well as some other photos around the ship and from the Panama Canal crossing. In fact- my "son" Will from my "Extended Family" on the ship told me the other night that his "real" mom found my blog! So for her, I am posting a photo with Will and Walsh, two of the sweetest students I've met ever met!
Janetta and Me. I have a feeling we're going to cross paths again.....
Grace and me. Grace lives on my "sea" and is a very sweet student:

Linus, Laz, and Dougie. (Those are their nicknames):
One of my "daughters", Jess and me:

Jonathan Katz, Issaiah and me. Jonathan is HiLaRiOuS....mark my word, he will be famous one day:
Another "son", Bobby and me:
One of my favorite peeps, Biscuit and me:
Another one of my favorite peeps, Jason from the "home office":

'Bama and me. She bleeds "roll tide" blood and praises Bear Bryant:
All the students catching tan, as we traversed the Panama Canal:
We saw ourselves crossing the Panama Canal on the computer!
Zella loves me.
Et moi!

Dress: Custom tailored in Vietnam $75
Earrings: Chinatown, New York, New York USA $1
Shoes: Chennai, India $10
Bracelet: A gift from Mexico
Understanding of the world: Global, Priceless

"The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning." –Ivy Baker Priest