Saturday, December 10, 2011

Take a Sad Song and Make it Better

Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better

Remember to let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better
Better, better, better, better, BETTER, oh!
Na na na, na-na na na
Na-na na na, hey Jude

Na na na, na-na na na

Na-na na na, hey Jude

In Roman Catholicism growing up, I learned that St. Jude is the Patron Saint of Desperate Cases. And whether The Beatles deliberately meant to associate their song with this Saint or not, I always want to link the two together.

December has arrived and I've been feeling a little down and out, and as much as I have trouble admitting it.....maybe a little desperate. Desperate because I took a major pay-cut, desperate because I don't have a home of my own anymore, desperate because all of my belongings are in storage in another state, desperate because my Kitty is living with my parents and not with me where he belongs, desperate because I don't have time to drive to NC to renew my expired car registration (and I can't just fly there- I need the actual car there.....NC DMV: please don't read this blog, by the way), desperate because I walked away from a developing relationship that was going incredibly well, desperate because I keep choosing to change my life- when maybe I just need to stay still for awhile. I indeed love my career and I've wanted to do this for quite some time, but lately I'm uncertain I was ready to pay the price that came with it. Simply put, I had to change careers, but I think I sacrificed some other important things in order to do so. Additionally, I have something called "ear block", so I was grounded for three days because it could cause permanent damage to my eardrums if I choose to fly. So tomorrow I am eligible to go back to work and I am grateful for that. But I still don't feel great- my immune system falls apart when I'm distressed. And I am not sure what to do to make it better.

Although when I created this blog three years ago, I never intended to complain, nor air my dirty laundry, I did want to feel comfortable sharing with you- my friends and readers- what is happening in my life. So without saying too much, I've got to admit I'm going through a rough patch. Although, I begin to feel this way every December. Then I start to make it better (better, BETTER!) in January after the holidays are over.

I just finished reading a book, James Patterson's Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas. It left me in tears every time I read a chapter, yet I couldn't put it down. The lasting lesson in Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas is the story of five balls. In it Life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. Every day you keep them all in the air. Then you come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls are made of glass. When dropped, they will probably shatter.

I think I let some important things shatter recently. I chose a career that I've always wanted to do, but I think this means I caused a developing relationship to become dangerously close to failing. I guess I just assumed that because I'd be able to fly to anywhere, anytime I want on my days off, I could just make any and every personal relationship in my life work. Maybe not. I am promising myself never ever again to choose career over anything else, especially relationships.

At this stage of my life I vacillate about whether I want children of my own, but I know for a fact I do want a life-partner. And an apartment of my own to share with that life-partner. I don't even care if we ever get married or not. But I do know I have a desperate need to feel needed. One of my friends posted on facebook recently that she watched a homeless man in the park share his baguette with the pigeons. I think this is a simple illustration of the very basic need of everyone to feel needed in some capacity.
Don't get me wrong- there are plenty of people who need me. Like my passengers on the plane. I pretend I'm throwing a grand party when I'm working. I welcome my guests and I serve my guests drinks and I stand at the door and say goodbye to my guests, as they deplane. I tell them to enjoy their vacations and I wish them happy honeymoons. I smile at the babies and wave to them as their parents carry them through the jet-way. I try to be kind to everyone, because I know how stressful flying can be. So if I just pretend I'm a hostess and I'm throwing a gigantic soiree, I feel as though I've accomplished something. That's why I love First Class so much. I put out my fine china and serve up my best meals and mix fancy cocktails and pour wine to the brim. And because the number of "guests" is so much fewer than main cabin, I have more time to flirt.....I mean .....more time to build a rapport with passengers.

And then I have my family and friends who (I would like to believe) need me too. Recently I visited my nephew Sergio, and I held him and taught him how to blow kisses. Look how sweet he is and how big he got. He turns 1 on December 30:
And I visited my friend Maura yesterday in Brooklyn and we took her baby Timmy for a 3 mile walk through her neighborhood in Bay Ridge:
Timmy is about 3 months older than Sergio. I like this age- they are fun and sweet babies. They smile and laugh and hug and cuddle in my lap at this age, but they like to play too. And I feel so needed. They reach up their little arms because they want to be held. And their mamas sometimes need a break.

So there goes- there's a happy note with which to end this very depressing, crappy blog.

Please send a Novena to St. Jude for me, a wish to the Universe, or simply good thoughts my way so I can take this sad song and make it better (Better, BETTER!) I would enjoy my own apartment in the city (it doesn't have to be big or fancy- a small Manhattan one-bedroom will do!) with my Kitty curled up in my lap and a life-partner for whom to prepare dinner and drinks when we both get home from work. And to wait for me with open arms when I get back from my trips. Is that really asking so much? I don't think it is. And by the way- he gets free trips with me whenever he wants, in First Class around the world, for crissakes.

Happy Holidays, Everyone. If you have any words of wisdom or thoughts for me, I am all ears *now that they are finally unblocked. I need you too.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How do you take your coffee? How do you take your coffee? How do you take your coffee?

Now, I'm not sure about anyone else, but whenever I go to a restaurant or to someone else's home, I am very clear that I enjoy my coffee black. No cream. No sugar. No half and half. No Nutra-Sweet. No Equal. No steamed milk. Just black. Period. I do not want anything else to show up in there. It's not necessary to put a spoon in my cup. Nor a carafe of cream at the side of my cup. Just a cup of coffee. Filled to the brim. Black.

One thing I've observed since starting this career is the fact that most people do not like to specify how they take their coffee. Nor do they understand what you're asking them when you offer them a drink. "Hello sir. Would you care for a beverage?" And then comes the inevitable deer-in-the-headlights stare. No answer. No smile. No nod. No "no thanks". Just a blank expression. I am pushing a 300 pound bar-cart up-hill (the plane flies at a slight incline) in high heels and I am handing you a cocktail napkin. What exactly do you *think* I'm asking you?

I find myself asking "How do you take your coffee?" somewhere around 28373739 million times per day.

The other entertaining portion of this job is eating in the back galley, after all the passengers have been served. Often times we are required to work 4 legs back-to-back without enough time to get off the plane. (Disclaimer: I am by no means complaining- I have chosen this lifestyle and I thoroughly enjoy it.) So anyhow, that leaves us working a 12 hour day sometimes, with no time to get off the plane and eat between flights. So we are fortunate enough to be provided with crew meals. Once our first beverage and meal service is done, we hover in the back, right next to the stinky airplane bathrooms and eat our dried-up chicken breasts. And sometimes passengers come back and ask for ginger ale, and I am happy to put down my shriveled, dried-up chicken breast and serve them their ginger ale. And then they say "Oh I didn't want ice". So I make them a brand new drink. Without ice. And sometimes they ask "Are you supposed to be eating on the job?" And I smile politely and say "Yes, I am." And then I spray air freshener, because the smell coming from the lavatory is making me gag and I don't want my shriveled-up chicken breast anymore.

It's very glamorous being a Stewardess.

Some of you were wondering where I got sent on that first night when it snowed. I got sent to Puerto Rico. Don't get too excited though. It was just a turn. A turn is a trip where you work one leg there and one leg back. So I left Newark around 11:30 PM by the time we were all de-iced, we landed in Aguadilla at 3:00 AM and then at 3:45 we were all boarded up again and we brought that plane right back to Newark, full of passengers. arriving a little before 8:00 AM. No warm cozy hotel bed, no long lay-over in a plush metropolitan Renaissance Inn. Just a return to the crash pad and a hard mattress on a bunk bed.

Rest assured, I have had some long layovers though. I just spent 34 hours in Bogota, Columbia. It was a mild 68 degrees and I roamed the streets, admiring the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city. My favorite thing to do in foreign countries is to visit the supermarket. I wander the aisles and I buy strange foods and liquors. (We are exempt from that liquid-in-plastic-baggie rule on planes.) And I was in Dallas for 23 hours. I walked with the Captain and the First Officer to the "grassy knoll" and the JFK memorial museum at the former Book Depository. It was interesting, and it makes me wonder what really happened that day. Then I had very short lay-overs in Austin, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Just long enough to shower and sleep for a few hours. And there were lots of legs in between to glamorous places like Houston and Cleveland and such. My trip tomorrow has me dead-heading to Houston (easy- that means I simply show up in my uniform and then fly there with the passengers) and then I work from Houston to Fort Myers. Long-ish layover in a nice hotel. And then work Fort Myers back to Newark the day after that. Piece of cake!

I can sometimes pick my trips, if I'm coming from a day off. Except you can't work for more than six days in a row and you can only pick up trips that start at certain times and you can't go over a certain number of hours because they "level" Reserve Flight Attendant hours. And there are certain trips that a Senior Flight Attendant can "steal" from you and then you will be reassigned to another trip. The best thing I can compare it to is a game of Bridge. There are a lot of rules that they seem to make them up as they go along. And once you think you know a rule, you find out you were wrong, because there was some bizarre exception that no one ever told you about. I'll figure out this scheduling system one day.

Over-all I love this job. It is really enjoyable and I am learning so much. I know the average person changes careers like 4 times in his or her life, so I am glad to be keeping up with the status-quo. I haven't figured out the rules about how to trade days off and how to manipulate my time a little better, but I have been able to go to Raleigh once and to my beloved New York several times. My best friend provided me with a special treat last time- her job had given her tickets to the World Trade Center memorial and she had an extra one for me!
Look at the full moon shining above it in the photo. It was such a beautiful, peaceful night, and the memorial was very tastefully designed. The shiny silvery gleam you see at the bottom is a waterfall spilling into a pool. There are two of them and they were built on the footprints of the two towers.

New York will always be my favorite city. No matter what. As much as I am passionate about visiting new cities around the world, and about my upcoming adventures, sometimes I yearn to be in Gotham again. Forever. It is strange living in New Jersey and being on the outside, looking in. I am so close I can taste it, yet not quite there. There is a song by Coldplay and there is a line that goes "....and now I sweep the streets I used to own." This reminds me of how I feel when I come into the city. Now I am no different from any other visitor, just a mere peasant, back to the bottom of the ranks. I don't own these streets anymore. And for that matter- I don't really live in North Carolina anymore either, although my belongings are there and my car has a license plate from there, and my PO box is there. Ohio hasn't been my home for many many years, but my Cat and my family are there. New Jersey doesn't really feel like home either, even though I am based here. The crash pad is nice and convenient and cheap and close to the airport, but it doesn't feel like a "home" per se. I am in domestic limbo. I suppose one day I'll have a home with my Kitty curled up in my lap, and with the love of my life to cuddle with every night, and with a wonderfully scented kitchen.....maybe a crockpot on the counter, slow-cooking a pot roast. And perhaps a fire in the fireplace. And an actual designated spot for my car, not just street parking. And some seniority at my airline, so that I have a little more control over my schedule. And a choice of where I am going to go. And a desk with my calendar and my schedule printed out, sitting on top of it.

......And most definitely a pot of coffee brewing. (I take it black, by the way. )

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Prepare for Departure

We've got a lot to catch up on, so here goes:

Barbie Bootcamp: Four and a half weeks of intense training. September 19 is the day that Steve dropped me off at the airport RDU to go to IAH. This sweetie pie made me a little bag with a bacon and egg sandwich on a biscuit and he also tucked a cupcake in there. And then we parted ways.

I am happy to say that 43 classmates and I can now confidently evacuate an aircraft while shouting commands to "Jump and slide! And to get away from the plane!" (And for the record, I hope I never have to command this evacuation drill in real life. But if the need arises, you rest assured, I will get you off that airplane.)

We had several "test-drives" where we shadowed a working crew on an actual flight and assumed some of their duties. I went to Las Vegas, LaGuardia, and Ontario, California on my practice flights. We also learned specific things about each individual Boeing aircraft- like where the emergency equipment is, how to pour wine in turbulence, where the AED is and what it does, the proper brace positions for each jump-seat, and how to deliver a baby. You know, the basics. And my personal favorite day: the day we got into the pool in all of our clothes to practice "the rare event of a water landing."

We had a graduation ceremony and JoAnn (my best friend from high school who started as a Flight Attendant in 1999) pinned my wings. The pinning of the wings is sort of a rite of passage in this industry. Steve, Dara, my mom, and my dad also flew to Houston for the day. As much as I was grateful for our excellent instruction and for being hired into this career, I was really happy to be leaving Texas. I joked that I look like I work for Alitalia in this photo, since those crews always seem to be walking through airports with their sunglasses on and their hair slicked back, similar to how I was wearing mine:

Steve and I flew back to Raleigh- Durham so I could pick up a few belongings from my storage unit, pick up the mail from my PO Box, and be on my merry way.

After that, Steve and I took my car to Ohio to drop off Kitty at my Mom and Dad's in northeast Ohio. Poor little Fuzzball- he's been dumped off all over the place these past few months. Although, I do think he had a great home at Doug's house and Doug took great care of him.

Then we went to Lola, a Michael Symon restaurant in Cleveland. (Steve and I, not Kitty and I). The food was delectable. Steve always picks the best places to eat! This photo is the beef-cheek pierogi and the plate of awesome meats. (I forget the actual name of the dish, but I made a nose-dive for the prosciutto).

Cleveland was way cuter than I ever remembered during my childhood. There were charming street-scapes dotted with gaslights and historic buildings, small cafe's, and a charm that was not dissimilar from Greenwich Village. (Now this might have been only one or two streets in Cleveland, but we've got to give the "mistake on the lake" some credit, here! ) The next day we meandered around Cleveland. There was a Browns game going on, so the city was abuzz.

Since neither Steve nor I are much into football, we instead went to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I had not been there since I was in college, and it was really fun. Not only that- but my new employer is a sponsor, so we got a very deep discount for admission! The building looks kinda like the Louvre from the outside: a big glass pyramid. This photo is Pink Floyyd "The Wall". (Just in case any Security Guards are reading this blog, I know nothing of how this photograph was captured....)

One more night in Cleveland, and the next day we kissed goodbye, and Steve flew back to RDU and I drove to my new home: Newark.

This past week has been hectic. The arduous quest for a Crash Pad has been the bane of my existence. What is a crash pad, you ask? It's an apartment with about 10 flight attendants piled into it. The rent is very very cheap and usually only a couple people are there each night, since our jobs have us lying our heads in hotels in various other cities most nights. Additionally, many flight attendants choose to commute from their homes in other parts of the country (or even the world), so this is merely a place to spend a night or two each month after a late flight, and then they will commute home the next morning. I, myself, intend to be in Raleigh on my days off, or perhaps I will fly to Cleveland so I can spend time with my family, or if the days off aren't grouped together, I will be in my "real" home: New York.

Since I am one of the few people with a car, I carted around several of my classmates around on this search. One is from Hawaii and still doesn't quite get the grit of the tri-state area and thought that every single neighborhood looked "run down". One is on a very restrictive budget. One doesn't want to live with a bunch of other people. Oy vey.

Finally we found a place in the Iron Bound section of Newark. It is about a 5 minute drive to the employee parking lot and about a 5 minute drive to Newark Penn Station, so there is easy access to the city. And it's reasonably priced. There are a few other flight attendants and even a pilot who share this Crash Pad. So far they have been incredibly welcoming and kind.

It's been weird being in the outside looking in. I loved every moment of my life in the big apple, and I never would have dreamed that I'd live in Newark (let alone North Carolina). I spent a couple days last week in the city and I was able to catch up with so many old friends that my head was spinning. It was wonderful and refreshing and it felt like none of us had skipped a beat. It felt just like it did a couple years ago, except instead of getting on the subway to go home, I got on the PATH train to go to New Jersey.

So right now it is snowing and today is the first day of the actual job. I have been assigned "Airport Alert" at 6 PM, which means I sit at the airport and wait. I wait for Crew Scheduling to tell me I'm going to some exotic place like London or Barcelona or Hong Kong or.......Tulsa.

Stand by for details. I am updating this again while I am actually in the Crew Room at the airport. So far a lot of flights have been canceled, but I am "on" until 10 tonight. Word on the street is that they are trying to get some of these international flights out, so there is a chance I could be crossing the Atlantic tonight. Here's hoping.....

On Wheel of Fortune the other night, I saw this:

I think that sums it up pretty well.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wandering Jew, Spanish Moss, and other Novelties

I moved this week.  I move just about every year, it seems.  And it's usually because I am changing careers. Either I'm not on-call anymore so the job doesn't provide my apartment for me anymore.  Or I am going on Semester at Sea.  Or I'm getting promoted and moving out of state.  Or I'm changing careers all-together and once again moving out of state.  I've become a champion packer. 

 I'm tired.

I was smart this time and saved all the boxes that I used to move from New York to North Carolina.  Now every last one of them is packed up and in storage.  My mail is being sent to a PO Box near the RDU airport.  And Kitty is on Holiday at Doug's house.  Today I was reassured that his girlfriend Jill is giving him plenty of love.  I think Kitty will enjoy this vacation while I am in Houston for training.

Earlier this week I took one last trip (leisure trip, that is- via road, not air) before my new job.  Sorry Steve, but the photos are simply too cute not to post, so I am outing your anonymity, ok?  

We first went to Savannah (about a five hour drive from Raleigh) and then to Charleston, which took less than two hours from Savannah. 
 The bridge coming out of Savannah.  What a gorgeous day for a road trip.

Husk.  A yummy restaurant in Charleston.  It was restaurant week, so we didn't get to experience the full menu.  Steve is kind of a foodie, so when we go out we go ALLLLL out.  He orders just about everything on the menu, but we couldn't do that during restaurant week in Charleston. (Aside:  I don't understand this.  In New York when we would have Restaurant Week, restaurants ENCOURAGE you to order from their regular menu instead of the prix-fixe menu that they have just for restaurant week.  They certainly make more money that way.) Still delicious though.  For me the highlight was fried chicken skins.  Just the skins.  Fried. Yes. Does it surprise you that this would be my favorite?  And we had these drinks with orange bitters and bourbon and whiskey and rye and I don't even know what else.  (And how would I remember after all of those things in the mix?) We had to rush through dinner to make it on time for our ghost tour, but we made it by the skin of our teeth.

This was an old over-grown cemetery in CharlestonSavannah. We were introduced to it during our ghost tour, but the gates were closed so we decided to come back during the day so we could explore.

Charleston waterfront.  We just had eaten pink grapefruit, cherry chocolate, and apple pie gelato. All three were delicious.

Spanish moss at a cemetery in Savannah.  It grows everywhere.  I think it's pretty- the quintessential Southern tree.  Apparently it grows from spores and the wind blows them around and creates the moss.  I never saw it in Spain when I was there, but I guess that's where it came from.  

This plant is called Wandering Jew.  We did a garden walking tour in Savannah, and the guide pointed out all of the beautiful flor and fauna that lives in this beautiful Southern city.  I enjoy this plant thoroughly.

It was a wonderful 3 day mini-vacation.  We stayed at the Planter's Inn in Savannah.  I highly recommend it.  It is very historic and it is also very haunted, so Steve and I requested the haunted room.  There are actually two.  609 and 606.  609 is haunted by a little girl who allegedly jumped from a window and died.  606 is haunted by a whore, as the Planter's Inn was once a brothel.  I forget the story, but she died there too.  We stayed in 609.  I was freezing-cold the whole night and kept waking up and bolting upright, looking for the little girl.  No such luck.  Maybe next time.

It was a great trip and I would recommend both cities to anyone who enjoys flor & fauna, cemeteries, historic seaside towns, food, spirits, and spirits.  I had been to Savannah back in 2004 and 2005 but I could have used about 3 more days exploring Charleston.  We'll go back. 

This weekend I am off to Houston for one month to experience "Barbie Bootcamp", as it has affectionately been dubbed.  I will learn all I need to know about opening emergency exit doors and donning oxygen masks and pushing 300 pound beverage carts up the aisle at a vertical-incline in 3-inch heels. 

And it is with a heavy heart that I leave North Carolina temporarily.  Funny how things happen, since a mere six months ago I couldn't get back to New York fast enough.   It looks as though after my training I'll be straddling Newark (where I'll be based) and Raleigh (where all of my stuff is).

Next update will be from 30,000 feet.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fight or Flight

As many of my close friends and family know, I have come to a turning point. A proverbial fork in the road.

Although I have experienced 12 wonderful, educational, and developmental years working in College Student Affairs/Higher Education, the time has come to spread my wings. Everything was up in the air for quite some time, and I had reached a stage of burn-out. My office is in a dark basement, tainted with fluorescent lighting. There are no windows, which has never been easy for me, being a lover of natural light. I would often daydream, with my head in the clouds, imagining a job where I was not confined to a tiny cell, but instead exploring the world. I've always been pretty grounded, but I had reached a point where I had to make a critical decision: "fight or flight".

I chose flight.

After many years of considering this career shift, I have decided that it is appropriate timing to be a Flight Attendant! My best friend from High School (JoAnn) has worked for her airline since 1999. She told me an hour after the position posted that they were hiring flight attendants for the first time in years. I jumped right on it, applied, was invited for an inteview a few weeks later. I flew to Houston, was offered, and accepted the position that very day. Not to toot my own horn, but my understanding is that 100,000 people applied and they are hiring 900. Even though the Stewardess role has lost some of its glamour from the days of Pan Am in the mid-sixties, it is still a very coveted position. I think I will love everything about it- but most of all: the travel benefits. So in mid-September I will begin my training. I graduate in mid-October and begin flying shortly after that. I will most likely be based out of EWR (Newark). This makes me very happy, because I've been wanting to leave North Carolina and return to the greater NYC area for awhile now.

Although, I've got to say- there have been some definite improvements to my life in NC this summer. I've become closer to some new friends, I've appreciated and enjoyed the pool each weekend, and I've had a chance to really try and appreciate some of the "foodie" culture of the Triangle area. Additionally, I've met someone awesome with whom I've been spending a lot of my time, but he is a private person and I suspect he would appreciate me not broadcasting our personal information in a blog (at least not at this point). However- stay tuned, as I'm sure there will be some upcoming trips and vacations that we will be taking together in the not-so-far future.

Meanwhile, much like my experience on Semester at Sea, my blog will be updated much more often. Travel gives me excellent material for writing. An entire new dimension of thoughts, ideas, and creativity has opened. It's as if the Captain has turned off the "fasten seatbelt" sign and I am now free to move about the world.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I wonder what happened and I wonder what comes next.

The other day I was in my beloved New York. Something really got to me and made me think. There was a man on the subway. Mid-twenties maybe? 11:00 AM on a Tuesday. A large manila envelope on his lap, labeled "personal effects". He gingerly took several items out of the envelope and examined each one, turning it over and concentrating deeply upon it. A worn brown leather wallet. A red key chain that also had a bottle opener on one end. An older model Nokia cell phone. I forget what else. He wasn't crying per-se, but his eyes were puffy and there was this deep saddened expression on his face, and an extra dimple on his chin.

My lord. What a lump this created in my own throat.

I observe people often and I wonder what their stories could be. Was he going home from the hospital? Who died? How did it happen? Was it his father?

I miss the subway. It gives me so much to think about and so many chronicles to write about. So many snarky facebook updates about my fellow passengers. And I often play games on the subway. I might have blogged about this before, I can't remember. But what I like to do is pretend that everyone in the subway car is stranded together on an island, not dissimilar from LOST. Then I take each person and decide what role they will play. Who would be the "Jack", the doctor who takes charge and fixes everything? Who would be the whiner and complainer? Who would be the laid-back pot smoker who does his own thing? Who hooks up with whom? Who doesn't get along at all? Who tries to kill whom? A warped little fantasy world I live in......a lot more time to process between 125th street and 59th street when the train runs express.

Tonight I sit at the club house in my apartment building in North Carolina and type this blog. There is an older woman who is often here. She has greasy grey hair and large horn-rimmed glasses. Right now she is in front of the computer, but earlier she had been sitting in front of the television watching a Yankee game and making remarks at every play. It annoyed me. I have talked to her before. She is probably just a lonely woman, but she won't stop talking. Talking, talking, anyone who will listen. If I have come here with my mac book, it means I am here to do some work.

I tried to soften a little one day and listen to her stupid stories. Stories about getting new shoes and stories about how much muggier it was in Florida where she used to live, and stories about how she fell in her apartment. And every single other ailment she's got. Okay, Okay, okay. I can lend a sympathetic ear. It sucks to be sick or to fall or to be lonely...I'll try to listen a little and be a little bit kinder.

.....Until she told me that she needed someone to come over while she took a bath and make sure she didn't drown. Okay, Crazy. Line has been drawn. I'll listen to your ailments, but I will not come and watch you get naked and bathe.

So she still sits across from me, oblivious to my thoughts and I still type, type away. Lost in my own thoughts, drowning out whatever the heck it is that she is saying, and clicking away at my own keyboard.

This blog is really a stream of consciousness, because I didn't have an exact topic in mind. Just scattered thoughts that fill my head. I am going to Chicago later on tomorrow for my cousin's bachelorette party and I am anxious to get out of dodge. I have some other potential trips still planned. I think I mentioned Abu Dhabi and Qatar once before. Two of my friends and former colleagues have taken jobs there. The trip got postponed a bit, but I still intend to go. Another girlfriend is going to Ethiopia to adopt a child and has asked me to accompany her. I am flattered that she invited me and thrilled at the chance to go. And then there is another dear friend who is getting married in Peru next summer. So many extraordinary places to visit, occasions to celebrate, and friends with whom to spend time.

So where am I now? In limbo. That's where. My mind keeps changing about what I want to do and where I want to go. Some things have happened in North Carolina that make me want to book it back to New York as fast as my legs can possibly run. But then on the other hand, I have met some people in the past two months, who make me want to stay here and develop friendships, kinships, amorous flings, budding relationships, so on and so forth, and see what happens.

And then there is Chicago. I was there last month to visit some friends from grad school. More than ten years have passed, but it's as if we hadn't missed a beat. I never ever imagined how this tremendous wave of nostalgia would hit me, as it did. I walked around in the "loop" and sat on a bench in Grant Park, looking out to the crisp, sparkling blue Lake Michigan and enjoying the sunshine. Taking the "El" train even gave me the chills- it smells a certain way. Different from the subway in New York. I can't really explain the smell. Not unpleasant. Just kind of metallic maybe? Cleaner than the subway in New York. I spent a fair amount of time in Chicago years ago. In fact, I almost moved there instead of New York after finishing my masters degree. Visiting again made me wish I could live there. We'll see how I feel after my repeat visit this weekend.....

So my friends, I hope to have more writing to share with you. I have been missing my blogs and writing. I loved when I used to have funny stories at every turn that I could share with you. And warm inviting writing, writing that feels as comfortable and familiar as being invited to your best friend's home and smelling coffee brewing and banana bread baking.

......or.....just..... stories of dirty old ladies who want sponge baths.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Let's just keep this professional

I've always had a pretty good sense of direction. I rarely get lost, and if I do, I do so on purpose as a challenge to find my way out of it. When my family used to take road trips to Myrtle Beach each summer, my mother would try to navigate and tell my dad where to go. I would be in the backseat directing "Nope. Make a RIGHT, not a left" And they would make a left. And we would end up in Dillon, South Carolina or some strange little tobacco-farming town. (Mom and Dad- if you're reading this, I really had no intention of throwing you under the proverbial bus. You both are great drivers. Really. Thank you for keeping me safe for the first 16 years of my life in the backseat of our family station wagons and minivans.)

I like exploring, I love being able to give people on the street directions, and most of all I like knowing where I'm going. In New York, I memorized the subway map the first week I moved there. I figured out which streets were one-way and which ones ran north and which ones ran south, even though I didn't own a car. The *only* place I can never figure out is Queens. There is a 31st Road, 31st Avenue, 31st Street, 31st Lane, 31st get the idea....pure confusion.

At any rate, I was re-reading some old archived myspace blogs from 2007 and decided to revive portions of this particular blog about direction.....One day I was watching Family Guy followed by Robot Chicken. For some reason I never really liked the latter, but the one I saw had me chuckling.

This man decided to date his GPS. They went to dinner and she would say things like:
"Waiter approaching from behind."
"Kitchen 20 feet to your right."
"Yield to the guy bussing the table."

For some reason this cracked me up to no end. Then they split up and the GPS said Turn Left and Ms. Magellan's "boyfriend", drove his car over a cliff.

And then there was a commercial where a man told his GPS "I love you." After she didn't reply to that for awhile, she finally said "Make a right at the light."

His reply: "You're right, we should just keep this relationship on a professional level."

The few times I have had a GPS in a rental car, I've enjoyed maintaining a witty rapport with her. I turn the opposite way on purpose so she could tell me over and over again "recalculating, recalculating, recalculating." Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I know. The last GPS I had was in the fall and I affectionately named her "Tara", because she had multiple personalities. (Does anyone watch that show with Toni Collette and know what I'm referring to?) I also believe the GPS "Tara" also had a stroke, because she often got confused and her voice would get strange. I did enjoy when she would try to feign an Australian accent, however. You didn't fool me Tara with your Aussie personality. I know you were really just from Ohio or the midwest or somewhere.

So back to having a good sense of direction.... I thought I did. Scratch that. I think I do. But lately I'm a little off as to where I'm going right now. In a metaphorical and physical sense. I'm recalculating. Recalculating my entire life. It's daunting, really.

As a matter of fact I don't even own a global positioning system. I kind of just figure things out. Made it around North Carolina without ending up in any strange tobacco-farming towns. (Although, this very fact is debatable. What qualifies as "strange" to me, not everyone may agree with.)

So although I'm not in limbo per-se, I really haven't had much to say lately because I have all of these crossroads in front of me, and I'm not certain which one is right. It's like Queens. I don't know if I'm on lane, avenue, street, drive, or parkway. Whatever. I'll figure it out in a New York minute. And I plan to have some more to blog about soon for everyone. In the meantime, maybe I should go after Tom-Tom...... Or not. I think it is probably best to indeed keep it professional.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

You always get the whole pie in Napoli

You always get the whole pie in Naples.

You do?

You do! So says Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel and so says Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat Pray Love". You get the whole entire carbohydrate-drenched, flaky-crepe-esque style crust, fresh tomato/mozzarella/basil induced pizza-pie. Not just a slice. But the Whole. Friggin. Pie.

So then why have I not been there?

I am missing a major slice of pie. Things are awry. I just want to go home. Or I would settle for Naples with its gritty-graffiti-laced alleyways and trash everywhere and homeless people and old buildings falling apart at the seams. But in case you don't know me, grime, grit, and graffiti are right up my little soot-filled, trash-lined alley.

Which is why I want to go home to New York where soot and trash run aplenty.

Oh North Carolina, I don't mean to hurt any feelings here. It's not's me. It's not even that I'm unhappy per-se. I'm just *not* happy. I've been watching a lot of TV lately. Direct TV realizes my contract is up in June, so they are charming me with lower rates and free Stars, Encore, and Showtime to sucker me into renewing their crappy over-priced service. So I sit on my sofa and watch programs about Italy and food and world travel, mixed in with re-runs of Friends and Law & Order. Over and over. Law & Order is just always *on* nauseam.... My favorites are the very old episodes with Benjamin Bratt and with Jerry Orbach.

I watch TV. I eat shrimp and grits and I eat grilled pimiento cheese sandwiches (we did not have these two things in New York). Oh my lord, North Carolina- you know what you are doing here when it comes to pimiento cheese.

Don't worry though- I've been doing some healthy things too. I discovered the gym at my apartment complex and realized how much fun the elliptical machine can be. (And by "fun" I mean a grueling, sweaty twenty exhausting minutes of hell....)

I have been meeting new friends. I have had a really fun time with my new girlfriends Lorraine and Angie. I went to International Reunion Day with my sorority alumnae group and have a great connection with some of the women there. They range from 20-something to 80-something and they are just about the most inviting, warm and friendly women I've met in a long time. I volunteered at the Raleigh Beer Festival. It stormed heavily and the sky poured rain as I poured beer. I cut my finger on a bottle-opener (we had to open those darn things every five minutes to accommodate the masses.....anyone ever heard of taps???) and I was standing among a surge of over-indulged beer drinkers, my fingers gushing blood, rain gushing down, and beer being guzzled by the masses. The gutter was literally at my feet and rain, beer, and god-knows-what else was rushing over my toes as I stood there with a smile on my face, a band-aid on my finger, and a monsoon at my back. But it was fun. Really, it was. And I would do it again. We had the after-party/volunteer appreciation last night and I took Angie and Lorraine as guests. (Although we had to smuggle Lorraine in as my acquaintance Vito's date, since I clearly missed the rule about "just one guest". Vito was not in attendance, but his name was on the list. Vito didn't even know he had a date. Vito did, however, know he wouldn't be at the party. Vito- if you read this weblog, I owe you a beer for being a good sport.) We laughed so much all night, and it felt so good to sit outside and drink beer on a pleasant April evening.

There are some redeeming qualities to my lifestyle in NC. My best friend came to visit, and we went swimming in my pool already this spring. We drank mimosas and ate brunch pool-side. I went to a minor league baseball game at the Durham Bulls Ballpark. I am going to the beach in two weeks, which is only a mere two hour drive.

But (there's always a "but") I'm homesick. Someone told me to write. Find my soul or some-such advice. I've been out of wit and out of words lately. But nonetheless, here I sit trying to fill the white space on this dumb blog. I have so much on my mind, but I deem it grossly inappropriate to go into detail about work-related ailments. So instead I am trying to center this blog on the non-work related remedies.

In addition to writing, extensive travel soothes my soul. For 2011 I've had only work-related trips really. One conference in Philadelphia. One in Pittsburgh. A quick fly-by-night turn-around in New York for fun. And two trips to Ohio to see that sweet baby nephew of mine. And I'm going to Ohio again next weekend, as well. I postponed the trip to Abu Dhabi and Qatar until a date to be determined. Next month is New York again for a longer stint. Chicago in June to see some old friends from grad school. And Cincinnati in July for my cousin's wedding. That's not so bad now!

And being a lover of lexicon and linguistics, I've learned some beautiful words in other languages (that do not have an English equivalent) which I'd like to share with you:

Hyggeli (Danish)– Its “literal” translation into English gives connotations of a warm, friendly, cozy demeanor, but it’s unlikely that these words truly capture the essence of a hyggelig; it’s likely something that must be experienced to be known. I think of good friends, cold beer, and a warm fire.

Ya’aburne (Arabic) – Both morbid and beautiful at once, this incantatory word means “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.

Saudade (Portuguese) – One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.”

Litost (Czech) – Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, remarked that “As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.” The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.

Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese) – “The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.”
Aren't they pretty? I want them all. I want to say them in a sentence in their respective languages. I want to eat an entire pizza pie as I have a dialogue surrounding these words. Maybe I just need to learn some Italian instead so I can enjoy the whole pie sans judgment. Wait- I know! Maybe Vito can teach me. And all of my friends too.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies are for idiots

As if my last blog weren't sardonic enough, now I have something else that I feel passionate enough about to write a blog. A topic that keeps me up at night: bad cookies. There are some things that just irritate me to no-end and bad cookies fall into this category.

Here is what drives me mad: when people say they "know how to bake" and then they deliver these piece-of-crap, hard-as-a-rock, drab-flavored, ho-hum, I'm-so-bored-by-the-plainness-of-these-things-I-might-yawn chocolate chip cookies. Just thinking about such a plain and boring cookie makes me want to stare into space and file my nails and whistle and not pay any attention to the subject matter whatsoever. So ridiculously plain that I felt the need to write a blog to express my sheer and utter maddening annoyance.

People who think chocolate chip cookies are good are essentially idiots. It is not dissimilar from a wine connoisseur dining at a fancy restaurant, and requesting Boon's Farm. (A $2.99/bottle wine with a twist-off cap that they sold at the gas station down the street from my apartment when I was in college.)

My friend and colleague is from Pittsburgh and we were talking about good things that come out of Pittsburgh. (Of course, top on her list was The Steelers, but I am indifferent about football, so instead we re-focused the conversation and talked about other things that come from the region.) Since I grew up not too far away from "the burgh" as she calls it, there are some similar traditions in the region that extend to northeast Ohio. One of them is the cookie table at weddings. It is mostly an Italian thing, but I think a lot of people in northeast Ohio/western Pennsylvania do this, whatever their background may be. The cookies don't compete with the cake; conversely they are an essential addition to the cake. The reception halls automatically know to put up a cookie table. Family members make them and bring them there before the wedding starts and set them up. And people take home the left-overs in little boxes. We also have them at birthdays and Christmas and other occasions too.

When I lived in New York all these years, and went to weddings I never once saw a cookie table. Those folks are missing out! As for me, I have never wanted a big wedding. I want a simple wedding. (Just a husband will do for crissakes, who needs frills? See my last blog if you need clarification on this.) ..... Where was I? Right..... so all I want is simplicity when it comes to weddings. And maybe a really pretty pair of delicate white shoes with custom beading and rhinestone/pearl embellishments. And that is IT. Simple. Easy. No-frills. But I might renege on that decision one day just so I can have a cookie table.

It looks about like this:

I guess since I've (trying to successfully) been doing weight watchers, cookies have been on my mind a lot. The clothespin cookies, the pizzelles, the delicate little buttery almond cookies covered in powdered sugar, the melt-in-you-mouth flaky date-and-nut stuffed cookies, the cherry cookies, the banana nuggets, the kind that have anise and figs (they might be called cuccidati), and these anginetti cookies with a delicate lemon flavor. Then there are the little cheesecake squares. And I know I'm forgetting some.

I just really want a cookie.

My sister-in-law makes good cookies too. She shipped me some at christmastime and I just finished off the last of them. (3 weight watcher points for a little one).

I had some good cookies last weekend when I went to Ohio for my grandma's 90th birthday and to visit my nephew. Talk about sweet little things that I just wanna eat up! Here is baby Sergio with my grandma (I think they are both pretty sweet and adorable) and one of me holding that little Sweetie Pie (me holding Sergio, not my grandma). He is a very docile baby. Gentle and sweet and snuggly. I often vacillate about whether I want to have a baby of my own, but after this, I think I definitely do. Very few things feel as good as holding a baby in my arms.

And here is a close-up of the clothespin cookies- they are called this because the dough is wrapped around a clothespin, baked, and then squirted with this creamy yummy filling:

If I don't indeed move back to New York, it's because I've again changed my mind and decided to go back to northeast Ohio instead. Because New Yorkers suck at making good cookies. (Dear Goddess of Liberty: please do not write me off- I still love being part of your huddled masses. And I'm 90% sure I'll be back, but I just like cookie tables. That's all. Surely you must understand. You're French- cookies are good there too.)

So maybe I just need to get my Grandma's and my Sister in Law's recipes. Now *that* is a good solution. A solution that will allow me to have my cookies and bake them too. And I will finally find this elusive husband. And have a baby. Sergio should have a cousin. And he should have a cookie. (When he is old enough to digest solid food.)

And so it is settled. There shall be a wedding and there shall be pretty white beaded shoes and there shall be a baby and there shall be a cookie table in my future. Chocolate chips shall not be invited.

Disclaimer: Hypocritically, I still might eat a chocolate chip cookie one day in a desperate moment. Like say for instance, if I move back to NYC and there are no pizelles, nor clothespin cookies, nor buttery little almond treats to be found. I am not exempt from idiotism and besides, everyone sometimes takes desperate measures. Please do not exile me if you ever see me eating that junk. Because they are like 384949 zillion weight watcher points. And they taste like complete shit. That's punishment enough.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains there's more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line and the less I seek my source for some definitive (the less I seek my source) the closer I am to fine the closer I am to fine

(Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine)

The other day at work a colleague (We’ll call her Emma) was talking to another colleague and I about her brother and all of these great things he does and this fantastic job he has. We’ll call him Ed. So I casually asked Emma the next most logical question that a person might ask her: “Is Ed single?”


It was as though I had voiced that question in slow motion. Similar to when you push the button on the DVD that makes it play in sloooooow mode with a deeeeep, streeeetched out voooooooice.

Emma’s eyes widened. She looked me up and down. “Laurie. Could it BE? Are you SINGLE?” The word single was pronounced as if she were incredulously inquiring “Do you have LEPROSY?”

Well, yes Emma. Yes, I have been infected for a few years now. It is more wide-spread in New York, but I brought the disease down here with me to North Carolina. Fortunately it is not contagious, but there is only one known cure. There are a few treatments to make the pain go away and to stop the bleeding, but there are a few side-affects. Symptoms vary. Watery eyes. Rapid beating heart. Cravings for copious amounts of alcohol.

There is a colony for people who have been infected. The colony is located on an island far, far away, an island known as Manhattan. You pay your toll at a gateway to the Singledom Colony. That gateway is called the Holland Tunnel. From there you are triaged to the appropriate sector: outpatient, respiratory, broken hearts, radiology, and Chelsea. (The latter is for those in need of homeopathic medicine.) There is no need for Quarantine in Manhattan, as Singledom is not contagious; conversely those diagnosed may actually cure one another with proper treatment. Singledoms walk among healthy people. In fact, Singledom is not even diagnosed as an actual disease on the remote island of Manhattan, only in faraway lands, known as the South or the Midwest or Ohio. Singledom is rare in the South and doctors are often uncertain how to treat this condition. One is better off seeking treatment at more advanced facilities in larger cities throughout the world.

Often times desperate measures are taken as a home remedy to treat Singledom. I was watching a re-run of “Friends” the other day. Chandler, after seeing a neighbor die alone, realized that he was much like the neighbor and he may die alone as well. So he called his ex-girlfriend Janice, who was somewhat nuts, but nonetheless a viable option to date. He then finds out that Janice is married and pregnant.

I chuckled at this episode, as it is all too familiar. It is quite simple to call ghosts-of-boyfriends-past as a temporary cure for such an ailment. It’s kind of similar to Vic’s Vaporub to treat a stuffed-up nose. You rub it all over your nose, your chest and your throat and it temporarily makes you feel a little bit better but once it wears off, you’re back to not being able to breath again……yeah…….all too familiar.

In North Carolina, it hasn’t been so easy. There are exactly zero ex-boyfriends who live here. Which were plentiful in New York. Maybe not what all doctors would recommend, but a good temporary cure. Kind of like eating chocolate when your blood-sugar drops. Not as healthy as drinking orange juice, but still an alternative that helps you feel better.

I am somewhat fit to be tied. I have this dreadful disease. I am miles away from a treatment facility. And suffering severe symptoms.

What I’ve got to offer is: a vaccine for others who may be experiencing the same diagnosis. Word on the street is that February is Singledom Awareness month. I think there is even like a pink ribbon or something that you wear on your shirt to support the cause.

So, I guess at the risk of ruining any sense of pride I have- if you are reading this blog and you know someone who suffers from Singledom, who might benefit from treatment, I may be able to help with the cure. I am not licensed or anything, but I think I would be as skilled as an advanced practitioner. I have done extensive research on this science. My treatment regime includes lots of fun evenings out with liberal amounts of alcohol to disinfect the wounds; international travel to treat tropical depression; home-made chicken noodle soup to clear any congestion, heavy dosages of Vic’s Vaporub to open any blocked passages, chemo (not the kind that makes you lose your hair though), and I am also skilled in CPR. I do firmly believe I can cure Singledom. I have the elixir.

Emma asked what my requirements are:
Religion: Gentile or Jew, Taoist or “Spiritual but not Religious”. Agnostic or Buddhist. Shit. For me a “religious experience” means lying on the couch with a bottle of cabernet (holy Eucharist as far as I’m concerned) and a box of pizza (communion) and re-runs of Law & Order (reconciliation). I’m Roman Catholic, but at this stage, who in the Hell (or purgatory) is counting?
Occupation: Seeing as how I work with punk 18 year olds who are students, I meet absolutely 0 prospective boyfriends in the workplace. So anything that requires a college degree and some level of goals and a steady salary is good in my book.
Physical Attributes: Black, White, Cuban, and Malaysian. Hell, I pretty much suffer from leprosy, so you can have gaping wounds for all I care.

So Emma, to answer your question:
Yes, yes I am single. So sue me for mal-practice. It’s weird here. And if you know of any single men in this god-forsaken state, YES I am accepting new patients. And hey Manhattan- if you’re still accepting my insurance, I’m ready to come home for in-patient treatment.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Out with the old.....

Here is a review of 2010:
* Worked a gig for New Years Eve on "The Temptress". Had some friends aboard with me. We had fun! Brought in the New Year, toasting to fireworks over the Statue of Liberty.

* Poked my eyes out with a stick.

* I can't remember what I had for supper, let alone what I did in March, so I guess it wasn't that memorable.....

* Went to Brazil with my friend from Semester at Sea and met up with our friend Zella who was working the Spring 2010 voyage. Went to a soccer match in Rio. Visited the ship in Salvador, which is in the northern part of the country.

* Went to Hawaii with JoAnn, my BFF from High School

* Had a miracle happen: got a table at Rao's with my friend John
* Went to Cincinnati for my Cousin Stephanie's graduation

* Went to Canton/Akron for 4th of July with my family

* Got offered a promotion at my job and made a difficult decision to relocate.

* Went to Ireland with Dara. Stayed mostly in Dublin, but also visited The Cliffs of Moher and Gallway.
* Moved to North Carolina.

* Went to Wilmington with Douglas.
* Went back to NYC for Halloween weekend. Saw lots of old friends. Cried the entire way back.

* Made a grueling drive to Ohio for my sister-in-law's baby shower. Had to leave at 4 AM just to make it there on time.

* Planned and organized Graduation and Commencement ceremony for my students. It was a much huger project than I ever realized. But fun.

* Traveled back to New York for Christmas. Got stuck there for three extra days and it was fantastic!

* Best of all: Missed a phone call while I was on the flight back to NC. Learned that my first nephew was born! Sergio Cyrus. I will meet him in two weeks and I can't wait.

What I've done so far in January:
* Watched the Twilight Zone Marathon.
* Toured a microbrewery in Raleigh.
* Had a snow day- spent the day on the sofa, eating potato chips (while still sticking to weight watchers, thankyouverymuch), watching re-runs of Law & Order, and unloading the dishwasher. A success so far, if I do say so myself.

Goals for 2011
* Love
* Increase my income
* Many visits to Ohio to visit my new Nephew (and the rest of my family)
* Be a better friend to people I love
* Donate clothing and furniture that I no longer need to Salvation Army
* Travel to Abu Dhabi and Qatar to visit two of my friends who work in higher education at campuses in those countries
* Attend NASPA convention in Philadelphia for professional development
* Lose 52 pounds
* Take advantage of the pool at my apartment this summer
* Learn how to brew beer
* Cut back on drinking to oblivion (Had to put some easy ones in there- since I haven't ever really done this at all- I want to be successful achieving these) :)
* Stop sending the Universe mixed messages about what I want in life
* New York = home.