June 28, 2005
The Met, Sailing, and Hipster Heaven
To balance out the rant I just posted about the move and the toll it's taken on my sanity, here's a recap of my packed weekend. Clay, Lloyd, and I finished off a bottle of Prosecco at the Met on Friday, on the balcony overlooking the main hall. We were planning on heading to the roof but noticed a little sit down bar area up there and took a look. It reminded me of a posh event full of society people -- we found tablecloths, live music, a well-dressed waitstaff, and a tasteful menu of finger food and alcohol. It's called the Great Hall Balcony Bar and it's only open on Friday and Saturday evenings. I think some of the elder museumfolk sitting near us may have been wearing Chanel suits in honor of the Chanel exhibit. It all made us feel very sophisticated and proper. At least that's how I felt. It might also have had to do with the Prosecco, or the Brooklyn Lager we finished it off with (scandalous!).
Speaking of the Met, it's a great time of the year to head up to the Cloisters with a picnic, or hike along the Palisades.
Saturday and Sunday morning, I dragged myself out of bed for the Sebago sailing class. Holly and Jim -- longtime Sebago sailors -- did the teaching and Tracy and I helped out. This year's class was fantastic. We had five students and five suitable boats for them to use -- three Sunfishes, a Laser, and Dad's old Phantom. By Sunday, each student had capsized (more than once) and righted the boat successfully and everyone had tried sailing solo. We even set up bouys out by Canarsie Pol and did figure eights (very fun). I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera out there -- would have made for some great photos with all the boats sailing so close together (no collisions, either!). I got a little beach time, too, since the sailors were doing so well on their own. (By the way, found photos of an actual Sunfish (the animal) when looking for photos of the boat. Strange looking thing.)
Saturday night, we met Melissa, Steve, Liz, and Matt for the Sadies/Stars/New Pornographers concert in Prospect Park. It was a hipster magnet -- I spend nearly an hour looking for parking because so many Williamsburg twenty-somethings were taking up all the spaces. The place was packed and our view was somewhat obstructed by a monster stroller, but it was a good show. If my plan of getting their early to get a good blanket spot had worked out it would have been more enjoyable, but it was great to see everyone.
June 27, 2005
Moving is driving me nuts. It's hot and I'm sitting in a room full of boxes. It's raining. At the moment, I don't feel like I have a home. I'm cranky and pissed off at real estate investors for forcing me to move. I'm mad at brokers for getting a broker fee out of us twice in two years. I'm mad at Derek for no particular reason. I hope this real estate bubble bursts and all the speculators lose lots of money.
I think the problem is that I don't have a knitting project. Plus, all the yarn is moved already so I can't start one and do something mindless for a while.
This evening got off to a promising start. I picked up a pizza on the way home -- I've been craving pizza for weeks -- and we drank soda and ate before packing. Then, stuffed, we packed up glasses and clothes and musical instruments and made two trips to the new place. We're trying to move the breakables ourselves so we don't have to worry about packing them properly for the movers (they're coming Wednesday).
I think the lifting and the two flights of stairs in the new building went a long way toward dampening my mood. Plus, people kept beeping when passing our double-parked car, even though they had plenty of room to pass. And there was a particularly stressful Fresh Direct incident, where the truck just barely squeezed by within about half an inch of the side mirror. Oh, and it was drizzling. And did I mention that it was hot and we were wearing jeans? And our new place feels like it's five miles from Prospect Park or anything familiar.
I'm trying to cheer myself up with purple Kool-Aid. A nagging voice in my head is telling me we should have bought our place.
Which reminds me. I have a whole new plumbing story to tell. On my way down the hall yesterday evening, just as we were about to leave to get dinner and check out our new digs, I felt a drop of something on my foot. I mentioned it to Derek. After inspecting my foot and a damp spot in the luggage in the hallway, we looked up. The lighting fixture was dripping. This has happened once before -- when there's some sort of water-related problem upstairs, the water finds its way to the lights in our hallway. So we postponed dinner, called the building people and the landlord, and enlisted a bucket. Pretty soon we had three buckets -- one under each light -- and had noticed that the water was kind of ... brown. It didn't smell bad, though, so we figured it was probably just dirty water from a burst pipe.
The drip was steady, but slow, so we eventually went out for dinner. I bit my nails the entire time and kept imagining all my books getting soaked. When we came back, it was still dripping slowly but it smelled faintly (to me anyway -- and my sense of smell is acute) like I imagine that bathroom smelling in that scene in
Pulp Fiction Trainspotting (you know the scene I mean?). It was basically raining sewage in our hallway.
It dripped on and off through the night. We shut ourselves up in our air-conditioned (and non-smelly) bedroom and tried not to think about how "opening up the ceiling" -- one of the possibilities our neighbor had suggested -- would affect our move. I mean, the timing of this particular plumbing adventure -- and we've had four this year by my count -- could not have been worse. Well, unless the buyers decide they don't want the place as a result and we can snap it up for half the price (riiiiight).
We still have the buckets out but at the moment there's no dripping, which is why we were able to do the moving we did tonight. The landlord has been coordinating with the owners of the apartments above us, so maybe they worked something out. We're thinking the dripping has to do with someone's toilet upstairs. Hopefully this was a fluke and we can get rid of the obstacle course of buckets in the hall before the movers show up. It would really suck if we had to rig some sort of tarp over there or have emergency plumbers milling around.
Okay, maybe that wasn't as exciting as the clog, or the time I used dish soap for the dishwasher and ended up with four inches of white soap bubbles in the kitchen (exactly like that I Love Lucy episode). It made us feel a tiny bit better about moving and not buying -- I mean, it'll be nice to live on the top floor, without any chance of a flood from someone else's toilet coming through our ceiling. And on a clear day we'll be able to see the Empire State building from our bedroom window. If we squint. So it's not all that bad.
June 23, 2005
We tried out Tost on Tuesday night -- the new panini place in Park Slope. The wine list is pretty decent and the menu is simple enough: bruscetta for $2 apiece, salads, panini for $7 each, and some great desserts. We ordered two pieces of bruscetta and a panino each -- ham, fontina, mustard and pickles (ew) for D and portobello, caponata, fontina and arugula for me. We thought that would tide us over -- sounds like a good amount, right? Except the bruscetta was actually half a slice -- piled high with interesting ingredients -- but still, not a whole slice. D almost asked if they were bringing out the rest of the appetizer later. I felt like we were in that room in the Willy Wonka film where everything is cut in half.
Everything was really, really good, though. The bruscetta, though small, was perfectly made -- it had just the right balance of toasted bread and topping. The panini was tasty. For dessert, we had the panna cotta with a fig and biscotti. My God that was good. Decadent. And the fact that all the breads are made with organic flour made us feel better about the bill.
In other news, Gothamist says the new IFC Center has some good food, and everyone recommends the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom (Stay Free has an article about the film's copyright hurdles). A line-up of indie rockers will probably draw record crowds to Celebrate Brooklyn this Saturday.
And finally, if you want to learn how to sail, there's a two-day sailing instruction workshop at Sebago this weekend that still has some open slots. I'll be helping out both days -- email me if you're interested.
June 22, 2005
I Ran the Corporate Challenge and It Didn't Kill Me
Today, despite my inability to adapt to long-distance running of any sort, I managed to 1) find the courage to wear the headband outfit, 2) go to the starting line, and 3) run the entire race WITHOUT STOPPING.
The running at the gym -- infrequent though it may be -- must have helped. I still don't have any desire to put on running clothes and head to Central Park voluntarily, but given a clear strategy and some cheerleading, I can run a race-for-non-running-people (like the Corporate Challenge) any day.
D had done one of these before and told me to keep it nice and slow or I would burn out around mile 2. I kept it slow. Walking people passed me at one point. But I didn't stop. Derek cheered me on at mile 3 (Lloyd, Clay where were you?) and then ran faster than me (argh) in business clothes just to be at the finish line to cheer me on again. A bit embarrassing -- kind of like your mom showing up at track practice saying, "Honey, wait!! You forgot your blue gatorade! You're doing great!" -- but he told me at mile 3 that it was downhill to the finish so I could speed up a bit. Which was nice, because as much as I can't stand the endless running I do like to sprint. Take that, fast finance and publishing people.
Which reminds me, the range of corporate team T-shirts was interesting. One said: "T-shirt: $5, New running shoes: $89; Monthly gym membership: $105; Getting out of work before 7PM: Priceless." The MTA one said something about "running for over 100 years," and one team had shirts AND matching running shorts. Can't remember the other shirts, though they were all clever in a that tame, corporate marketing kind of way, so you're not missing much. The running (and subsequent beer to, um, replenish carbs?) has done something to my brain.
June 21, 2005
Dad's New Toy, Our New Lease, My New Book
There is a new Jaguar in the family. Dad recently sold his 1950 yellow convertible Jag in order to buy a more sedate, family-friendly sedan in beautiful shape. He also made it up to New Hampshire and back in the new Jag with only one minor -- well, major -- mechanical mishap. Something to do with the alternator. Or a flat tire (true to form, he had some Providence, RI kids give him a push backwards down a hill to get going at one point). The whole trip makes for a good story but I have to run the corporate challenge this week so I should get to bed. Enjoy the photos from the quick ride I got in it for Father's Day.
Oh, and by the way, we signed a lease this evening. We paid the ghastly broker fee but will have a nice place on 12th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues to move into before our lease is up here. (Sigh of relief.)
One last thing. We walked over to the Society of Ethical Culture after signing the lease to hear some excerpts from a new book, The Friend Who Got Away. It's a collection of 20 essays about lost friendships. The bits we heard were pretty impressive, if sad at points, so I ended up with a signed copy. Definitely worth checking out.
June 19, 2005
Phildanco, Love Camp 7, and Lamahjun
It reeeeeally smells like summer in our apartment right now. Specifically, it smells like our house upstate when there's a big fire going in the fireplace (our neighbors downstairs are grilling something and we have the window open). I think just about every grill in the country is probably being pressed into use today. For Father's Day, we're heading out to Jersey for a cookout of our own, which means we'll miss Seventh Heaven -- the big annual Park Slope 7th Avenue street fair. I got a mug that cracked and a too-small "Breuklyn" tee-shirt last year (and I ate a crepe that I shouldn't have), so maybe this is for the best.
Last night, we saw Phildanco at the bandshell (Celebrate Brooklyn) but missed the first part because a) we forgot about it and b) they wouldn't let me in with a can of Coke. I find this rule to be idiotic. Beer cans I understand -- they don't want rioting drunken idiots crashing the party, even though everyone sneaks wine in anyway and the only rioting going on is by five-year olds catching lightning bugs -- but the Coke can thing pissed me off. Can't they ease up a bit? This isn't an airport. Plus, they almost lost our (small, $6) contribution by doing that. We watched from outside for a bit but the show was hard to see from there so I eventually finished my Coke (don't ask my why I was drinking a Coke in the first place -- very unlike me) and we went inside. The show was great -- it was a very energetic, feel-good, celebrate-life type of performance, and since it wasn't too well attended we snagged some pretty good seats up front.
After that, we headed to Parkside Lounge on Houston to see Love Camp 7, our new friend Dan's band. It was fantastic -- the songs were great, the band has a great sound, and Dan has a good singing voice -- we could actually understand and appreciate the lyrics for once (amusing in the case of a song about an angry bus driver). A couple of songs borrow titles from the Beatles -- Rubber Soul, Abbey Road, Revolver -- and use them for lyrics, which was a nice twist. Each of the four band members can sing well together, and their style ranges a bit. They were pretty polished, too. I'm absolutely not knowledgable about music in general, and I have no musical talent (which is too bad bcz D and I could do some cool stuff together if I did), but I did like this band. Dan flaked and didn't bring CDs or I would have pirated one and posted an mp3 (if it was okay with him).
We hit Bereket on the way home for Lamahjun, which was ooooh-so-goooood and not vegetarian. It's hard not to eat meat in the summer, or when you're near a barbeque. Or Bereket. Mmmmmmmm. I think I'm hungry.
I don't know whether this happens every summer or Coney Island is experiencing some sort of rejuvination, but it's getting tons of press these days (at least of the online sort). The NYT, Gothamist and BrooklynVegan have posts about some new signs and this summer's goings-on, and Banterist played Grammar Cop for old, grammatically-incorrect signs (I can only imagine what Grammer Cop would find on Blue Sage). Unfortunately I'll miss the mermaid parade next Saturday, which I've never seen. We'll have to make the trip to Coney Island sometime this summer, maybe for a film or for a Cyclones game with the family. We went about five years ago and saw the real, live Freak Show, rode the Cyclone, and ate some fried beach food. The Freak Show was a throwback (to approximately 1890, which is freaky all on its own) and the Cyclone was a great ride -- although I think the wooden track rattled my brain around a bit. The place was a bit deserted then -- it felt abandoned and depressing and not worth the endless local train ride we took to get there. Maybe the new signs and hipster attendance will liven things up a bit.
June 16, 2005
Everything But The Kitchen Sink
For some reason I'm just not that into blogging these days. There's a ton of stuff going on so I'm preoccupied and don't spend time ruminating about coffee or running or some other pointless blog-friendly subject. On the other hand, I've come across some interesting sites and information so I'm going to pass them on, sans self-deprecating allegory.
First, there's PledgeBank site, which is primarily British but a great concept. You pledge to do something if x number of people visit the site and say they'll do it too. How you make sure everyone does their thing I do not know. Seems good for badgering people into doing environmental things, though.
On Tuesday I spent the evening with Pam, Lloyd, and Clay from work at the Boat Basin Cafe on 79th and the Hudson. It's a bar housed in a stone highway structure (I'm sure there's a better way to put this) with lots of arches, and it overlooks the Hudson. It had a bit of a Brooklyn Brewery feel (lots of 20-somethings with beer), it was relaxing, and it offers a great view of the sunset. Didn't have my camera with me or I would have taken some photos. Also, Riverside Park is right there so you can walk off the beer afterward.
The Celebrate Brooklyn concert series began last night and I would have missed it completely if a friend hadn't called to remind me about it. It marks Park Slope's official start of summer. We brought cheese and crackers, sangria and chinese iced tea (love that stuff), and sat on blankets on the grass to hear Ricky Lee Jones. The music was great, the company was great, and it was amusing to watch little kids run around with light sticks and dance and tackle each other.
Oh, and since it keeps coming up in conversation -- there's a great new use for iPods. Via Make, I learned about an effort to have arty people submit commentary about art exhibits to a website, where it can be downloaded to your iPod and used as an alternative walking tour for MoMA. Very good idea.
That's it for now. Off to see apartments tomorrow -- we still haven't found a place to move to (hence the title above) and it's getting a bit close to the wire, so we've stooped to working with those scheming, dishonest, exuberant swindlers: brokers.
June 15, 2005
Since my 10 loyal blog readers are probably curious about the 10th year HS reunion, here's a recap. It was strange, and almost no one I was friends with showed up, but it went well and I drove away feeling good about the whole thing. I was struck by how lucky I was to have been part of the whole experience. The school is like Hogwarts -- the grounds are old and beautiful and there's a strong emphasis on academic achievement and athletics. It is still is an amazing place to go to high school, despite the aforementioned caveats.
Instead of heading off into the woods to break rules this time (a habit from previous reunions), D and I visited most of the buildings on campus and took lots of pictures. Given my new appreciation for the value of real estate, I was impressed by the fireplaces in the classrooms and the sheer size of the school. Later on, we went out to the dock and went for a swim. It felt so familiar and the weather was perfect -- swimming alone in the late afternoon was definitely the highlight of the day for me (I'm not a social creature).
The group of alumni who came back were in various stages of success, and plenty are still figuring out what to do. No children showed up. It took me a moment to figure out who everyone was and everything was a little awkward, but personalities don't change much so catching up wasn't that hard. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that I both belonged and didn't belong to the group. It's such a surreal environment. Anyway, photos are up on Flickr.
June 12, 2005
Thanks to help from Dad, Mom, Derek and Nick, the stoop sale was a success. Dad did us a huge favor and drove in the minivan-full of dumpster rescues and junk from the attic. My brother Nick contributed board games, DVDs, baseball equipment, and Star Trek paraphernalia. That, along with a sizable collection of leftover items from my childhood and Mom and Dad's gadget-collecting past, meant we pretty much had something for everyone.
Derek swears that the same people showed up today that showed up at the last stoop sale we had a year and a half ago. They are probably eBay resellers and stoop sale regulars (they come in cars and know how to bargain). They come early and find the good stuff that's priced cheap, then they come later to clean up on the stuff we've marked down.
There are also the pointless hagglers -- they look over everything with disdain and bargain endlessly over 50 cents (they also criticize things loudly -- one woman said about a TV five times, "It's not even color, right?" when I had explained that it was color and worked fine). I had to pretend to be doing something else to avoid them, since they never seemed to actually want to buy anything.
Plenty of nice people from the neighborhood showed up and bought DVDs and toys and board games. That makes the whole thing a bit more pleasurable -- they're happy to find cheap used things, you're happy your junk didn't go to waste. Some kids actually got excited about stuffed animals and games we gave up on decades ago. Other people just have a weak spot for stuff -- one guy kept picking up things long after he said he was leaving.
Then there was the Ukrainian woman who spent at least an hour going over a set of china that we were selling for $5. She inspected every single piece, talking my ear off the entire time, and rejected anything with so much as a scratch. I kept explaining that it was used, hence the really cheap price tag for an 8 piece set with platters and whatnot. To pack it up she wasn't satisfied with any old bag or box, or even free luggage. Instead, she had me wrap everything up (okay, I'm a sucker) and put it in just the right box and wrap that up with string. When the string was too hard to hold on to, she got some free clothes to use for padding. Oh, and did I mention that she wanted to get me down to $2 for the good stuff she was taking???? I said $3. I really didn't give a damn but there was no way she was taking it for free with all the manual labour involved. Just when we thought we were finally rid of her, she came back, having only made it halfway to the corner. She asked if we had a cart she could use. So I gave her a crappy granny cart that's been sitting in our closet for ages. It's amazing how she pulled off the nice wacky grandmother act just enough to get me to be her personal slave for an hour.
One strange thing is that people are really suspicious of free stuff. Someone had left a wine rack in front of the building the day before. Since it was in the garbage area I moved it to the free pile but no one was interested. Later, Derek stuck a $6 price tag on it and someone bought it 20 minutes later.
The books didn't sell as well as last time (I ended up with an $18 credit when I took them to the used book store later), but the electronics went pretty fast -- TVs, games, stereos, speakers, etc. With all of the stuff and the initial chaos of people, I didn't do a great job of pricing or keeping track of things, but the main point was to distribute the stuff so it gets used again. Typewriters, the overhead projectors, speakers in need of TLC -- all of those found new homes. We both feel pretty good about having spent the day the way we did. I have a sunburn and am completely exhausted, and we still don't have a place to move to, but I turned half a dumpster's worth of stuff into a profitable recycling project, right?
The Chinese wedding we went to Saturday in Flushing was really interesting -- mainly for the 10 course meal of unusual food involved, and I will eventually post about the 10th year high school reunion, I promise -- I have to go to bed now, though, before I fall asleep on my desk.
June 09, 2005
Why is it that each year, when it finally gets hot out, everyone breaks out these great outfits and I can't even find my sandals? Seriously, the first warm day (which always takes me by complete surprise because I never check the weather), all these women show up wearing these uber-hip top-skirt combinations with summer sandals and I'm wearing a wool turtleneck sweater, corduroys, and boring shoes? When do these people find time to find these clothes? And where the hell are the great clothes, anyway? I try to go shopping and it's usually a complete disaster. I only ever find good clothes if I come across something when I'm not shopping. Yesterday, for instance, I was on my way to my Coop shift -- slated to make it there just on time -- when I walked by a shoe store that is usually crappy but suddenly has 20 pairs of shoes I HAVE to check out. And they're all on sale and ridiculously cheap. So now I have two new pairs of summer shoes (and I was late for my shift) but no frilly, gathered v-neck tops or cool-looking skirts. I give up. I was not meant to be fashionable.
Sebago Open House This Saturday
Two years ago I found out about Sebago Canoe Club in Canarsie, Brooklyn (right next to Diamond Point Yachting on the Google map -- it's the little dock without any monster boats attached). D and I were on a Ditmas Park house tour and came across a Sebago member with a bunch of photos of people in kayaks, canoes, and Sunfishes -- all apparently on a body of water in Brooklyn.
I was amazed that the club existed and was interested since I love being on the water in any small boat. I went to their open house a few weeks later (which was an adventure all to its own, with the train-to-the-bus maneuvering) and was thrilled to find a bunch of laid back people who all loved the same thing. One of the sailors took me out in a Sunfish and I went out with a group in a kayak. I was hooked. First, there's a completely friendly, no-pressure environment and second, there is access to a bunch of boats, a dock, and open water within reach of public transportation. It's not perfect (I use a car to get there now and I still don't get out there as much as I'd like), but it was enough to get me to sign up.
Sebago members are a diverse and friendly group, and there are plenty of long-time members willing to teach you whatever you want to know. The club is a no-frills collection of shipping containers and small buildings on a grassy piece of land between two yachting clubs. Activities include rowing, canoeing, kayaking (most popular), sailing, and some kayak fishing (you can attach a rod to the tip of your kayak or something -- greek to me). Sebago owns a bunch of boats for general use and organizes plenty of paddles, sailing cruises, rowing clinics, etc. At the moment the club is undergoing some major renovations since it became part of the NYC parks dept last year, but this means it will eventually graduate from a Port-a-Potty to actual plumbing.
The dock is on a basin that feeds into Jamaica Bay, which has a couple of small islands (good for picnics) and is full of interesting birds. There's an inlet to a little pond on one island that's only accessible via kayak. On the water out there on a nice day, you'd never know you were in Brooklyn. Sailing in the bay took some adjusting for me since I'm used to lake sailing, but it's lots of fun. Sebago also has a cabin at Lake Sebago in upstate New York, where I'm taking a weekend kayak course this month (I'm in denial about the apartment search. I'm going to pack on weeknights and hope D finds a great place. That's the plan.). Sebago actually started way back in 1933 -- there's some history and some good old photos here.
There are Saturday morning paddles each week that are open to the public, but if you're at all interested in Sebago, visit their open house this Saturday (directions here). There's a reasonable annual fee and a work requirement (it's all volunteer and pretty low budget) -- if you don't mind trekking out there it's a great club to be a part of.
June 08, 2005
After my eco-friendly dumpster diving adventure, I read up on about two weeks-worth of Treehugger posts and found a ton of interesting things. Apple has announced an iPod recycling program, so at least those don't have to end up in the dumpster in 2015. I had no idea that eco-friendly web hosting existed (it's wind and solar powered), but it does and now there's even green broadband. There seems to be a growing interest in working for environmentally and socially responsible organizations, and some specialized job-seeking sites and books are appearing to support that. For the uninitiated, here are Ten Steps to Reduce Your Global Warming Impact. If you only click on one of these links make it that one.
June 07, 2005
Every ten years or so, my parents decide that their house in New Jersey is too full of STUFF and they decide to throw everything out. It's a psychological thing we all do -- except usually it's annual and it's called spring cleaning. With Mom and Dad, it takes the form of a dumpster in the driveway. Pretty much anything in the cellar or attic that isn't a family heirloom is game.
The problem is, I can't stand to see good stuff go to waste, so I freak out every time. I know that someone, somewhere needs music box cartridges from the fifties or a book on roses from the nineties. Since I've been getting more environmentally conscious these days, I also know that perfectly good metal filing cabinets should be given away and not tossed, computers and air conditioners have harmful chemicals and should be discarded safely, and books that can't be sold should be recycled. So I threw my usual fit, then took a day off to wade through wet garbage and rescue things. I understand that sometimes you just have to get rid of stuff and figuring out how to do that is hard, but it just kills me to see good stuff in a dumpster. And this time, I have the INTERNET. (Derek checked eBay and found someone in need of those exact music box cartriges, so there.)
I think this way of dealing with stuff is a generational thing. Baby boomers were the first generation to experience this unique consumer culture -- it's affordable to buy the latest and greatest and there isn't much value placed on anything five years old unless you're an eBay collector. It's easy to accumulate lots and lots of stuff. With Derek's family I've seen exactly how much stuff a family can buy over a thirty-year period -- they still have it all.
All the pointlessly huge McMansions and Targets suggest that generation X hasn't improved much, though. There's a trend toward conservation and organic foods, but people don't seem to realize that conservation means living with less -- owning a smaller home, driving a more fuel-efficient car, and creating less waste. Dad has one of the first hybrid cars, so we're not quite as bad as your average SUV-owner, but we've got plenty of the same bad habits everyone else has (not carpooling enough, using too much water, buying mass-produced junk we don't need, etc.). The damage caused by all of this consumerism and the outsized oil comsumption is irreversible, but environmental issues are low on the political priority list. I just don't get it.
Anyway, back to the dumpster. Driving home I tried to think of a rational plan to deal with all my stuff AND all the stuff in the dumpster, but when I pulled up the driveway and saw the thing, I had to call D and freak out over the phone a bit (Hewey consoled me). I tried to be a good environmentalist after that and called a bunch of municipal offices to find out about recycling, but have you ever tried to talk to New Jersey municipal people? It's kind of like talking to the garbage/mafia man. There was a lot of "Sure, we can take care of that for you -- just throw it in the dumpster (wink wink)." Recycling lumber and consumer electronics? Unheard of. ("That's what the dumpster's for!")
My triage efforts so far have included two trips to the recycling center, the rescue of a suitcase full of fabric, a 1922 Encyclopedia, LPs, speakers, books, a jewelry box, a lamp, clothes, a drill, two typewriters, a slide projector, frames, a small TV, a wrought iron table, baseball bats, clothes, a camping lantern, and luggage (here's a pile). And that's just from my Dad's collection. There was probably more buried in the corner, and I'm sure more went in after I left, but at least I made a dent. Unfortunately I didn't find a computer recycler for the computer stuff -- there are periodic collections but I don't know if there's a permanent drop-off anywhere. I'm heading out later this week for Mom's contribution and a collection of board games my brother is getting rid of.
The plan is to pack it all in the minivan and have a huge (and very cheap) stoop sale on Sunday in Brooklyn. (If you like old junk, please stop by -- hopefully we'll be out there by 11. We're at 11th St. btw 8th Ave and PPW.) Anything that might be a collector's item will be sold on eBay. Anything left over will go on the sidewalk (sidewalk items almost always get picked up in Brooklyn) or to Goodwill.
June 03, 2005
I recently found myself at an Apple store with my entire family celebrating the Tiger release (Apple's new operating system). My family is not an Apple family. We were pioneers in the eighties (or at least my parents were) and had an Apple IIE at one point (on which I played numerous games of MathBlaster and tried unsuccessfully to let Mavis Beacon Teach Typing), but we switched to Windows after that.
I scoffed at Apple users in high school and college, jabbering on about the superiority of the DOS interface (I didn't really know what I was talking about). I wrote papers on ThinkPads and 486s. Then, toward the end of college I took an HTML class taught on the Mac. I had to ask the person next to me how the thing worked. I was compeltely Mac-illiterate.
Slowly, as I learned to use BBEdit and Fetch and then got a job in a Mac-friendly office, I converted and became an Apple-loving freak. I bought a G4 desktop -- and a cool-looking Apple monitor -- and then a used G3 laptop. I made a pilgrimage to the Apple store when it opened in Soho and stared in awe at the new machines. I own a t-shirt with a sequined apple on it (the old rainbow one, for the retro appeal).
Why the conversion? The interface is full of great graphics-based shortcuts. You can drag-and-drop anything, and although I have had some very bad run-ins with slow and demented Macs that have died unexpectedly, OSX is pretty stable. Apple's software -- iPhoto, iTunes, especially the new Tiger Dashboard -- is always intuitive and well designed. Good design saves time and reduces clutter. Windows is a poor copy of the Apple interface.
I extolled the virtues of the Apply platform to my family but got a lukewarm response. I'm not great at logical debate (Me: Macs are soooo coool! Parent: They're way too expensive. And what about all the PC software we own? Me: Whatever -- it's like, just, really cool!)
Then, out of the blue, Mom decides that Dad -- the gadget man -- needs an iPod. Then Apple releases the very cute and affordable miniMac. Mom gets a MiniMac. And an iPod. Then my brother decides he needs a iPod Mini. (iPods are ubiquitous these days. Even Lego People have them.) So within the space of a couple of months the family is interested enough in Apple to attend the Tiger release and be dutifully impressed by all the hype and features. I HOPE this is indicative of a larger PC-to-Apple trend, but I'm trying not to jinx it.
June 01, 2005
My dreaded 10th high school reunion invitation arrived in the mail a few months ago and I'm slated to drive up to it tomorrow. I had a minor breakdown shortly after getting the letter about it, possibly due to the fact that this year's reunion photo might include CHILDREN.
I feel like I'm the only member of my class without an advanced degree of some sort, or a least a spouse. The most I can claim is a fireplace and washer/dryer in my Brooklyn apartment (and I might not even have that soon). When you've gone to an elite (oppressive, high-pressure, competitive, screwed-up, insane, kick-you-out-for-doing-things-normal-adolescents-do) boarding school, reunions take on an entirely different dimension.
The prestige of the school makes you feel like you should at least be a foreign ambassador or running a brilliant startup by now. My latest theory is that alumni spend the first 10 years either trying to achieve this or figuring out that the expectation is (gasp) unrealistic. The latter group has a major breakdown somewhere between years six and nine and is only just coming to terms with being normal around the 10th. This is, of course, drastically oversimplifying things -- most alumni do really interesting things. I'm just trying to make myself feel better about my extended post-college procrastination.
You can't physically visit the place without feeling a combination of awe and repressed-memory recovery. It's a gorgeous campus. The teachers were phenomenal. On the flip side, the school politics are and were completely screwed up. The attitude of the administration toward disciplinary action is still infuriating. A special brand of conformity is king. The pretentiousness of it all makes you queasy, but the reputation for academic prestige is fully deserved. The whole experience of going there was pretty intense.
The 50-year reunion types get nostalgic and passionate about the school, but members of my class (save for the successful people) are a little more cautious. I decided to go, then decided not to, and eventually justified going by promising myself that if it's really uncomfortable I'll just go hiking somewhere else in New Hampshire. I know I'm not the only one with qualms, either. We'll see how it goes. Maybe I'll bring a flask of brandy for the hard parts. It is, after all, the location of my very first drinking adventure.
Some happy summer-is-here photos from Memorial Day weekend.