Monday, December 31, 2007

Should we or shouldn't we ...

So it's about 5:30 pm, and we are contemplating whether or not to go in the direction of Times Square tonight. Rachel and a bunch of her friends are going--probably there already--but of course, we would never be able to find them!

We thought we MIGHT take the subway down to 59th Street and see the view down Broadway from there (Times Square is at 42nd Street).

But we are undecided. Luckily the weather isn't bad--breezy and high 30s, could be worse--but we just aren't sure if we really, truly want to brave the elements on our first New Year's in New York.

We'll keep you posted on what we decide to do. (As of 8:30, we're not going anywhere. Jeff is ill with something. But not too ill to send you the link to his video interview on ESPN. Look at the first guy interviewed here).

Saw "I Am Legend" today. It was really weird seeing New York deserted ... now, all movies that portray NYC as deserted or destroyed seem strange, because we walk outside and we're in the exact spot where the movie takes place! We recognized all the neighborhoods Will Smith patrolled in the movie, especially where his apartment was located, since it's the same neighborhood where Rachel lived last year. And, she saw Will Smith while he was filming some scenes there last year.

Also of note, if you see the movie, when he says he'll be at the South Street Seaport every day, that's right across the street from Rachel's current dorm. Cool!

Happy New Year, everyone ... wherever you may be.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Resale clothing, Thai food, and a movie review

Yesterday, Mary and Rachel went to Williamsburg, a section of Brooklyn, to visit some resale clothing stores. Had lots of fun looking through the racks, and Rachel found several cute items. We ended up spending $50 for 5 tops--much cheaper than normal retail prices, that's for sure.

Also had fun looking in a "junk" store at old record players and some lovely china and furniture. Rachel is already decorating her first apartment in her imagination ...

Williamsburg is an interesting place. It's definitely not "there" yet, but it shows signs of being up-and-coming: some nice little restaurants and shops, new apartment buildings being constructed. There is quite a bit of graffiti, which makes the place feel pretty rough around the edges. But the streets themselves are clean, and it doesn't feel unsafe. In a few years, it will probably be the hot place to live--and it's a really short commute to Manhattan.

We enjoyed lunch at a Thai restaurant called Sea. Fun ambience, decent food for the price. The bathrooms are ... unusual: two female and two male "pods" that you step into to use the toilet. The sink is a round communal one in the middle of the pods.

Jeff got off work early, so the three of us met at the Regal theater near Union Square to see "Atonement." Split vote: Jeff liked it very much; Rachel and Mary did not--at all. Found out that the two of us actually had the same thought, of leaving in the middle of the movie! The professional critics seem to like it, so maybe we missed something ...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The next adventure ...

We decided to try and start the process of buying an apartment in Paris. We may have to start a whole new blog for that one! We contacted the property finding service--run by Adrian Leeds, whom Mary met in Paris at a Living/Working in Paris conference a few years ago. Adrian is an absolute expert in buying Paris properties, and we trust her to help us.

We are planning a trip to Paris in March, and we're having our first consultation with Adrian by phone next week. Wish us luck!

Mary and Rachel are venturing into Brooklyn tomorrow (Mary is taking the day off). Rachel wants to show Mom some fun vintage stores in Williamsburg, a very hip and trendy section of Brooklyn. Looking forward to it! We'll try to remember to take the camera along and post some photos afterwards.

Meanwhile, the apartment is coming along, albeit slowly. We may go look at some tile this weekend for the kitchen backsplash. The lighting is almost in place. No resolution to the granite snafu yet, which is disappointing. But we're just moving ahead. We're planning a housewarming party for the first week of March sometime, so the clock is ticking!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick entry to mark our first Christmas in New York.

No snow, but plenty of sunshine and warm feelings among our little family, in our little apartment in the Bronx.

We enjoyed some good food and lovely gifts, and just a generally relaxed day that all of us needed.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"Fuerzabruta" and bizarre weather

First, the weather: lots of rain and wind today. But the real news was the temperature. When Rachel and I returned from seeing a show tonight, at around 9:30 or 10 pm, it was 60 degrees! Considering that in the past week the high has been in the 30s, with lows in the 20s, this weather shift is truly bizarre. Not complaining, just noting. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and 40. Doesn't look like we'll get a white Christmas, after all. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 40s for the next 10 days. Maybe we will have a mild winter?

Second, "Fuerzabruta": What an imaginative show! More like performance art, really, with some pretty wild stunts. But it definitely had a message of breaking boundaries and defying conventions that Rachel and Mary took home with them. (Jeff didn't want to see the show, which was probably good because if you were at all claustrophobic, it might have bothered you.)

It was a really lively event, with some audience participation--essentially, we were part of the show, since there were no seats, we stood and moved sort of in sync with the performers as the stage moved around the room, and they came into the audience for part of the show, as well.

There were portions of the show that took place in water, inside heavy-duty plastic pools suspended above the audience. At one point, a giant pool with four female swimmer/dancers came down right above us (see photo), and we could touch the dancers through the clear plastic--it was encouraged (not in a lascivious way at all).

Hard to explain this show. You might want to read about it on the NY Times site:

Christmas Eve tomorrow! YAY!

A minor disappointment

Guess you can't win 'em all when it comes to the NY Philharmonic.

We went to hear Handel's "Messiah" last night and left at the first intermission.

To be fair, the orchestra--strings, oboe, harpsichord and organ--was wonderful, as was the choir. Really, truly excellent.

But the four soloists were generally terrible. They strayed off pitch, swallowed the lyrics, and sometimes sounded like they were choking. The soprano had the best voice but over-acted her part. The mezzo soprano was OK but wavered on the lower notes, and often was difficult to hear.

The tenor was standing in for someone who was ill, so we'll give him a slight break. The baritone--if we had to hear him one more time, we thought we might run screaming from the theater.

Sad, isn't it?

We have seen an awful lot of shows and other performances since we moved here, with very few "misses." So it's probably par for the course.

Tonight, Rachel and Mary are going to see "Fuerzabruta," an interactive dance, movement, crazy extravaganza. Maybe it will be better than the NY Phil ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Crazy week

With the holidays approaching, we have been very busy at our respective jobs, trying to meet deadlines. We won't really be able to relax until Friday after work. We both have the 24th and 25th off, and also the 31st and 1st, which is nice.

We are starting to understand the New York mentality a bit more--how people tend to think here vs. California. There is an interesting attitude of both entitlement and courtesy, of trying to behave civilly in a crowded, stressful environment, while at the same time feeling like, Aren't I entitled to (fill in the blank--this spot on the subway, this place in line at the supermarket, etc.)?

It's not always easy to be courteous, but New Yorkers really do try. We hear "excuse me" throughout the day as people navigate the subways, the stores, the sidewalks. Rarely have we seen anything nasty happen between people: maybe once or twice we have heard people get loud on the subway if one person thinks another person has gotten in their way on purpose (highly unlikely, but sometimes tensions run high).

The only thing Mary really hasn't gotten used to: the panhandlers on the subway. And also the poor people who sleep on the subway or in the subway stations. We see someone like this basically every day, in one form or another. The subway panhandlers make Mary the most uncomfortable. You know, you want to believe what they're saying--sometimes they do seem legitimate--but at the same time, you figure the money just goes toward another bottle of Ripple.

Being confronted with this type of situation, on such a regular basis, has an interesting effect. Mary thought she would get used to it--but instead, she has become more and more uncomfortable with it. Not sure what to do about those feelings of discomfort, either. Back in SLO, for awhile she carried some business cards of the homeless shelter and handed them out to panhandlers--probably no one actually took action, as a result, but at least she felt like she did SOMETHING. For its size, SLO had (has?) its fair share of homeless people and beggars on the street.

So what do you do? Look down and pretend not to hear? Look them in the eye as you refuse to give them money? Mary's tempted to put headphones on and pretend to listen to her iPod (which she doesn't on the subway because it's simply too loud to hear anything without wrecking her eardrums).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In the air there's a feeling of Christmas ...

A few sights of NYC that we saw today ... The crowds in Macy's weren't too bad, especially on the higher floors, where we bought Rachel a new winter coat. Macy's had the most fun window displays (a couple are pictured here, one of which simulates the feeling of looking down on Macy's from above).

But we enjoyed the sparkling Cartier only from the outside (darn!). The snowman video is of a window at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Thanks for the comments!

So far, we haven't gotten an answer on the granite situation. The cabinet guy, who contracts with the granite place, is stepping in. He originally suggested we talk with the granite place directly, so Jeff did that--only to be told that what was installed was what we ordered! Not.

Back to the cabinet guy ... who said he would call the granite place on Monday.

We'll keep you posted.

In other news, we have never seen so many people crowded around a dang tree in all our lives. Took Rachel shopping yesterday at Rockefeller Center. To say it was crammed with people is an understatement. Even though we still feel very much like tourists ourselves, we forget that millions of people come to NYC to see things like the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Rachel's comment was, "Gee, they should come down to the South Street Seaport and see OUR tree. It's actually prettier than this one!"

Which goes to show you that sometimes tourists miss the real NYC because they don't veer off the beaten path.

That's not to say that some of the touristy things in NYC aren't wonderful: they are. The Empire State Building is majorly cool, for example. And Central Park is superb, as are many other places tourists go.

But if you come to NYC, first of all, you'd better visit us. And second of all, let us tell you some of the places that you might not otherwise visit, but that will give you a real feel for this city. We have only been here about 10 months, but already we are starting to get to know the place--probably because we don't have the option of driving everywhere, so we actually SEE places while walking.

Stay tuned for some photos of store windows. We're going to brave the elements today and visit 5th Avenue!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Messy weather and ... our granite arrived

First of all, the weather today SUCKED. It snowed, and then it sleeted--if that's a word. The sidewalks are absolutely treacherous. Even normally speedy New Yorkers slowed down to avoid falling and breaking legs, arms, heads.

And ... our granite countertops were installed in the kitchen today. Jeff and Mary came home and had a strange sight before we turned on the lights. Hmmm ... looks a little dark in there.

We turn on the lights and, sure enough, the granite isn't what we ordered! We had ordered sort of a golden brown with dark brown and ivory flecks--imagine golden wood except in granite form, and that's the color.

Here's about what it looked like:

What we got, instead, is a very, very dark brown that matches our floor, flecked with a slightly less dark brown. Maybe a coppery color?

Something like this:

OK, so Mary decided not to freak out. Even though it's exactly the granite we DID NOT want when we saw it at the store.

She's freaking out a little.

(And a minor thing: The beautiful faucet we bought in the kitchen section at Home Depot is, according to our super/contractor, actually made for a bathroom! He's going to try and make it work anyway, but that may have to go back, as well.)

In the perspective of life, of course, all of this is meaningless. But it's frustrating when we physically went to the granite supplier and picked out the actual slab and had the guy mark it with our name! And now we get the wrong stuff.

Our plan is to tell them, Look, we'll keep it, but you gotta give us a discount on the price.

What do you think? Good tactic?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Super super and nice neighbors

What's the definition of a super super? Someone who comes to your apartment at 6:30 in the morning to fix your bathtub/shower, so you can get ready to go to work on time. It's also someone who follows up on your behalf and works hard to ensure you're happy with the work he and his team are doing.

That's Tom, or Big T, as he's also known (he's very, very tall!).

Met some more of our neighbors at a little party here in the building. Everyone seems very nice and friendly, willing to talk to the new kids on the block!

Also scored some storage space in the building, so we moved some of our boxes in there (like Rachel's keepsakes and some extra chairs). We have a few more items to put in there, but that was enough for one evening.

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the details of renovation and moving to the point where you lose perspective. Saw a segment on BBC News tonight about some people in South Africa who can't find work and live in tin shacks. They showed this one absolutely lovely woman who cannot find a job, who lives in one of these shacks. Inside, it was spotlessly clean. But there was no running water, just a hot plate, and when it rains, the roof leaks badly. Why should this woman, who seems intelligent and responsible, have such trouble finding meaningful work so that she can afford to live in a real home? We're no better than she, and yet look how much we have.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Rachel stayed with us last night!

She tried out the Murphy bed--it gets an A! This neighborhood is much quieter than Union City, so we all sleep better than we did previously.

Also wanted to extend our congratulations to Rachel's friend Beth, who found out yesterday she was accepted as a transfer student to NYU, starting next semester. Wonderful news!

Busy, busy, busy

We seem to have forgotten how much work it is to move, especially when half your furniture needs to be put together again, you have very little storage, and the kitchen isn't finished.

This morning, we encountered another minor problem: our shower doesn't work. We needed to call a plumber out anyway, because whoever installed the faucets in the bathtub and sink obviously didn't know what they were doing. In the shower, both hot and cold go the same direction, so that when you try and turn on the shower, that handle bumps into the cold one--not too brilliant.

So now, the shower works (barely) for about 30 seconds, with very little pressure, and then simply stops.

And . . . We need a brand new faucet for the sink, because a) the spout comes out so far over the sink that the water splashes all over the place, b) the handles are completely loose (maybe stripped), and c) the trap doesn't work, so you risk losing your valuables unless you manually place the trap into the drain.

Nothing major, but a hassle nonetheless. This is also what happens when you use a real estate attorney who doesn't follow through on the home inspection. If he had, we could have asked the seller to fix all of these problems beforehand. Now, we're stuck with them, sigh.

A word of advice for anyone buying property in New York: watch your lawyer like a hawk, and make sure he/she does EVERYTHING they're supposed to do. We made a couple of assumptions that we shouldn't have: like our lawyer would do what was required without us having to check on every detail. He was a nice person, no doubt, but there wasn't much follow through or communication.

On tbe positive side, we are making some progress around here. We are putting some items in a storage space in the building--Rachel's keepsakes, mostly--and we got a couple of items in the mail yesterday that we need: a wall-mount pot/pan rack and a couple of cool bookshelves (we bought 2 of the shorter ones, from We also may buy some more wall-mounted shelves by Elfa, because Mary fell in love with this system when we installed it in the closet.

So Mary's goal is to have this place basically done by mid-January: that includes a little painting, putting up some artwork, getting rugs, the whole deal. Wish us luck! As always, we'll keep you posted.

Will post some photos soon of beautiful holiday decorations in New York. Last night we went to a "mall" at Columbus Circle--"mall" because it's technically one but doesn't look like a suburban mall by any stretch of the imagination ( The decorations were lovely: giant ornaments that put on a light show along with the holiday music that was playing (see the photo at top). If you have never been to NYC at this time of year, you must consider a visit. Forget about the cold weather--it's not that bad if you have the right coat, and the city looks positively gorgeous!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

An unfinished kitchen ...

... but it will be done soon. Next week at this time, it should look much more like the real deal--although it will be missing a couple of details, like a tile backsplash. Gotta see it all together before we choose that.
The picture from the living room looking in toward the kitchen through the pass-through shows Rachel's murphy bed: a horizontal twin model. A big slab of granite is going over the top of it to make a counter for the kitchen; it will extend just a little bit into the kitchen itself. Will make a nice place to set hot items from the oven and also serve people buffet style. Can't wait to do some entertaining!

To all our friends and family back in California, we're surviving the cooler weather just fine. I guess when you're in California and you hear about snowstorms back east, you assume the worst. Believe us, we'll let you know if we're experiencing the worst. So far, it's been very mild: a little bit of snow, a little bit of wind, a little bit of cold air--nothing our clothes can't handle. :-)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What a day!

Yesterday was a busy one around here, with the movers arriving with the rest of our beloved belongings. We are now surrounded by towers of boxes and face the challenge of putting together our Ikea bedroom furniture again. Should be easier the second time around, right? At least, that's been true with our marriage ... :-)

It's supposed to be a blustery day here today, with some snow flurries later on. Wonder if it will snow on Christmas? That would be awesome!

Will post some photos as soon as we can uncover the little camera ... it's around here somewhere!

So far, though, we already feel like we are home. It's so much quieter here, and the commute is simple, simple, simple: a brief walk to the subway station, and then just one subway train for about 20-25 minutes.

Yesterday, Mary was surprised to see a guy smoking on the subway. Guess he felt since part of the ride was outdoors and not in a tunnel, it was OK? Every once in awhile, he would open up the door between the cars to spew some smoke and cigarette butt. It takes all kinds.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Quick post from snowy New York

OK, so LAST night was actually our last night in Union City, NJ. Today, we finished moving all the little stuff, and the cats, into the new apartment in Riverdale. Hooray! Tomorrow, we supervise the movers as they take boxes, our sofa, our wardrobe and bed up here for us.

Hopefully the weather will be better than today--although it hasn't been windy, it's definitely been cold and snowy. There is about an inch or so of snow on the ground. The drive to the Bronx from Union City was easy, though: no real traffic, and it wasn't snowing or raining. Just cold.

So now, we're ready to collapse onto our air mattress, since our real mattress won't be here until tomorrow. The kitchen is not finished yet, either. We do have a working refrigerator and a microwave, but that's it. The cabinets are in place but not quite finished (doors not adjusted, no knobs, some doors still missing), the countertop is not here yet, the sink isn't in, the stove isn't ready ... So it will probably be at least another week or more before everything's fully functional. But they're doing a good job, and that's what counts!

Anyway, we'll post some photos soon, so stay tuned for the next segment of Jeff and Mary's Excellent Adventure ... in the Bronx!

Friday, November 30, 2007

A pretty tree ... and our last night in Union City (probably!)

This is a photo of a lovely tree across from Mary's office on Broadway and 112th Street. Isn't it wonderful how it goes from green all the way to dark red? Gorgeous.

This is (probably!) our last night in Union City, NJ. We have rented a little passenger van for the weekend to move the smaller stuff to our new place in the Bronx. The actual movers are coming here Monday to take our sofa, bedroom furniture, and some boxes.

So if all goes according to plan, this will be our last night here. Lucky for us, the view is terrific this evening: clear skies, sparkling lights. Speaking of sparkling lights, the city is already beginning to deck its halls for the holidays. After we move in, we're going to take a few evening tours of the boulevards--and we'll take photos of all the festivities.

Our holiday concert will be the New York Philharmonic performing Handel's Messiah. Looking forward to it. Rachel will be joining us, too: Hallelujah!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Busy packing

Boxes are starting to take over ... how do we STILL have so much stuff? Some of it will definitely end up in the trash heap, either now or when we arrive at the new place. We simply have no storage, so anything that's not a major keepsake or necessary for survival is outta here.

But you know, it's really not as bad as it sounds. It's rather freeing to be rid of things.

The only trouble is, Mary has caught a cold, so the last bit of packing is going very slowly ...

The Empire State Building has been very pretty the last few nights, decked out in fall colors: red, orange, gold. Trying to enjoy the view every chance we get, since we only have about a week left in this place.

Jeff went to the new apartment on Saturday, and it looks like the kitchen is on schedule to be finished by the end of the week. Fingers crossed!

Check out Jeff's cycling blog for the fall colors he shot on his ride this morning.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tofurky Day

That's no misprint. We had Tofurky instead of turkey for Thanksgiving. Rachel - a vegetarian - took the bus over this morning to join us. Instead of making two entrees, we decided to go with the vegan "bird" and it was ... better than we all expected.
It actually had a texture of meat and the stuffing was rather good. It was better than it looks at right.

As with all Thanksgivings, the attendees were more important than the delectables. It was nice to be together, particularly since we can't be back in California with the rest of the family. It's our first Tofurky Day since we moved here, so it was special in many ways.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Snow ...

So here is how our conversation went this morning:

Mary, before she opened the blinds: "Looks like it's kind of ugly outside."
Jeff: "There was snow north of the city."
Mary, as she's opening the blinds: "Snow NORTH of the city?"

How about IN the city? It's snowing pretty hard this morning, although since it was raining earlier, it's not sticking to the ground just yet. But says it's 38 degrees and feels like 30. We'll be wearing some warm coats to work today ...

We might have a white Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nothing a little plaster won't cure

We went up to the new apartment today because we had to wait for a furniture delivery, and one of the fellows who works in the building, Angel, was going to help us install the Elfa system in the closet (which we purchased at The Container Store).

Tom, or Big T (as he is sometimes called--he's very, very tall), who is the super and our contractor (and a super contractor), had warned us that there were some holes in the walls. We had to have some work done to the electrical system to bring it up to the 21st century. It was still using an old-style fuse box, and now we have circuit breakers (much better!).

Mary was picturing large, gaping wounds in the walls. Yes, there were several holes--one went all the way through the hallway wall and into the closet--but nothing that a little plaster, spackle and paint can't cure.

The furniture arrived right on schedule: dining table, chairs, 2 really cool stools, a leather recliner for Jeff. And the Elfa system for the closet was a miracle. SIMPLE, and very, very functional. LOVE IT. Would highly recommend it. Installation is absolutely foolproof if you have the right kind of drill bit for the type of wall in your closet.

We hit a couple of snags on our kitchen remodel timetable, so our move-in date was pushed back to early December. But that's the way it is. There might be a couple of minor things left to do when we move in--like installing some lights in the kitchen and attaching couple of the cabinet doors, which didn't arrive on time (they are glass)--but we'll be able to live there without worrying about the kitties getting into trouble. There won't be any holes in the walls by then!

Had a nice dinner at a place called EJ's Luncheonette: Good food, fun decor, reasonable prices. Can't beat that.

And for once, our NJ Transit bus was ON TIME! Hard to believe. That almost NEVER happens on the weekend, going from NYC to NJ. We were grateful.

Tomorrow, Jeff was going to ride his bike, but it looks like it might rain ... but the Steelers play the Jets on TV tomorrow afternoon, so the day won't be a waste! Go Steelers! (Sorry ... can't root for the Jets ...)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Surrounded by boxes . . . again

It seems like only yesterday that we were surrounded by boxes as we packed up our belongings and loaded them into a truck ...

Oh, yeah. That would be because it WAS yesterday. Well, almost--just 9 months ago. So back everything goes into the boxes: our books, our dishes, our clothes. This move is a lot simpler, of course. And we're actually hiring someone to move the boxes and the furniture (we'll transport the kitties, computers, TV and the like via a rental car).

Trying not to get too stressed out about it, because we're excited about moving into our new place in Riverdale. At this point, the kitchen and closet renovations appear to be on schedule, so with any luck, we'll be completely moved in by Dec. 1. Will post photos as soon as we have something interesting to show!

Mary's looking at pianos online and planning visits to a couple of stores next month. Thinking a good ol' Yamaha upright, 48-52 inches, will do just fine. It's a good workhorse, and the used ones from the 1980's are priced well and are good instruments.

Gotta buy tickets to some performances soon. Thinking about seeing the Rockettes and also a show called "Fuerzabruta" ( for something way out and different. Check out the video:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Great minds ...

Here is a quote from Frank Rich's column from Sunday--I swear, I didn't read it before I wrote my posting about "No Country for Old Men."

"We are a people in clinical depression. Americans know that the ideals that once set our nation apart from the world have been vandalized, and no matter which party they belong to, they do not see a restoration anytime soon."

Here's a link to the column, a must read:

A little Thanksgiving reminiscing

Found some photos on my computer from Thanksgiving 2004, which we celebrated at Jeff's parents' (Alice & Glenn) house in Atascadero.

The group shot also shows Mary's dad, in the blue shirt. He still lives in San Luis Obispo. (Jeff looks like he'd rather be enjoying dinner than having his picture taken!)

Alice, cutting the pumpkin pie, is no longer with us; she passed away in October of 2005, so these photos are from our last Thanksgiving with her. We miss her very much but are thankful for the years she was in our lives. She was a beautiful person in every way.

So many other changes have taken place since then. For starters:

  • Jeff's dad sold the house and remarried (his wife's name is Sharon).
  • Jeff's niece, Sonia, got married and now lives in Germany with her husband, Jason Miller, who is in the Air Force.
  • Longtime Ballinger friend Terry Blankmeyer, who was also at this Thanksgiving, passed away; she was in her mid-90's.
  • Rachel (in above photo, next to her Momma) graduated from high school in 2006 and is now a sophomore at NYU.
  • And of course, Jeff and Mary packed up and moved to the NYC metro area.

This Thanksgiving, we will be surrounded by moving boxes, as the movers come the Saturday after the holiday to take our belongings to our new home in Riverdale. We're still going to have the big ol' dinner, though. We'll just pack the pots/pans at the last minute!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

No Country for Old Men (this blog entry contains no spoilers)

(This is Mary writing.)

There's no doubt that the movie "No Country for Old Men" is going to be represented somehow at the next Oscar ceremony.

What's interesting to me is why.

People will probably cite the writing--the dialogue is superb, nearly sublime in places. They'll discuss the acting--a beautifully delivered script by every actor on screen. They'll note the cinematography and the editing, both phenomenal.

But what's most interesting to me, the morning after (and that's how you'll feel if you see this movie), is one of the main themes: pessimism, and the belief that nothing you do can stop a negative force that has, seemingly, taken control of everything--society as a whole as well as individual human beings' spirits.

There have been many, many war-related, Iraq-related, politically charged movies this year. I can think of a few right off the top of my head: "Rendition," "Lions for Lambs," "In the Valley of Elah," among many others.

But for me, "No Country for Old Men"--which makes only passing reference to traditional war--does an excellent job of showing, and making us feel, the strong sense of pessimism and resignation that grips our country right now. I have not read the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, but it's no surprise to me that it was published in 2005. This is a contemporary story set in 1980, another time when the mood in the U.S., you'll recall, was not exactly stellar.

What's sad to me, though, is that even I, optimistic almost to a fault, feel like this country is headed downhill fast. There comes a point when the laws of gravity take over.

No one running for president has convinced me in the slightest that they have what it takes to right this democratic ship that has gone so far off course. (Jeff here - I will add one qualification to this statement, that there is no one running who has the leadership to fix things AND who has a chance of gaining a nomination, much less prevailing in the general election. I say this because I have very high admiration for Dennis Kucinich, but he is not a multimillionaire - and lacks flair or quirkiness that gets the attention of media types who hype campaigns like horse races, ignoring all but the frontrunners from the very beginning)

I continue to hope--yes, hope--that I am wrong. I don't want to believe that I, too, am as pessimistic as the creators of "No Country for Old Men." But hope is fading, and fast. Can someone convince me otherwise?

P.S. - Mary and I did get a chuckle from one scene, in which Josh Brolin wears a green Templeton Eagles jacket. His father, James Brolin, has had a ranch near Templeton for quite a few years and I understand Josh has visited frequently. No one without a connection to SLO County will notice, but it was a nice surprise.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fall color

In Palisades, NY, today.

Mary was out at a conference center there today and couldn't resist taking a quick photo of the trees; the stream runs right beside the conference center.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


So we FINALLY get our tickets to "The Daily Show," after applying for them months and months ago. And of course, now there's a writers strike! Jon Stewart has already said he's supporting the writers--which is fine, but selfishly, we're disappointed, naturally. Especially Mary, who does have a mad crush on Jon Stewart. :-)

Maybe it will all be solved by Nov. 13, which is the day we're supposed to go to the taping ...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

We love it here!

Just wanted to say that today!

We really do miss our family and friends back in California, though. The adjustment in that regard has been a bit tough. But we're trying to connect with people here and forge some new friendships. Our new building seems like a good place to start, judging by the shareholders meeting we attended a few nights ago. Lots of interesting people there, to be sure. In fact, our new next-door neighbor invited us to a New Year's Eve party, so that's a good sign.

Now, if we could only move in! The kitchen renovation is underway, so we'll just keep our fingers crossed that all goes according to plan and we can move in around Dec. 1.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

When is a movie more than a movie?

When you see it at the AMC Empire near Times Square. OK, so we go to see "American Gangster" at the AMC Empire, which is right off Times Square--which is almost always a madhouse. If you ever see a movie at this theater, allow at least 5 minutes to get from the ticket window to the theater and finally to your seat. No joke! We took escalator after escalator after escalator, and finally made it up to the theater.

So after the movie--Mary liked it more than Jeff did--we exit the theater and have to wait in line not just for the bathroom, but for the escalators that take us down again. So we take escalator after escalator, and just when we think we can see daylight, we realize we have been "escalatored" into some sort of restaurant/casino-type place. We have conveniently forgotten the name ... it was really tacky!

After 2 more escalator rides, we finally saw the doors to the outside world, which if course was madness on a Saturday evening. But it was a welcome sight. Thank God there wasn't a fire or some other disaster while we were in that maze.

We'll stick with some other theaters around town that we have enjoyed much more ...

Tomorrow evening, we see American Ballet Theater at New York City Center: Among other pieces, they are performing a new work set to music by Philip Glass (photo is from that ballet). Can't wait! We have really been enjoying the arts here and plan to make 2008 even more artfully designed. :-)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

OK, people on the East coast--in NYC, at least--are CRAZY about Halloween. Really, this is is a huge holiday out here. People decorate their houses and basically go nuts with costumes and parties and parades.

Jeff and Mary went down to SoHo tonight to buy the last bits of furniture for the new apartment from Room & Board ( Although we were near the major Halloween festivities, we decided to steer clear of all of it. We saw our fair share of costumes: everything from Abe Lincoln to a guy with an axe stuck in his head. Yikes!

Things seem to be moving along. We did close escrow on the apartment last week, and we are now working on the finer details of the kitchen renovation, like choosing drawer pulls and a faucet. We still have to sort out the closet situation, as it needs help, big time. But the rest of the pieces are falling into place. We still want to buy a piano, but that can wait until we have moved in.

So onward and upward, as they say--well, up to the Bronx, at least.

Monday, October 29, 2007

What Mary saw today

  • The intricate facade on a building at the corner of 57th Street and 8th Ave.--worthy of a photo (too bad she didn't have the camera)
  • The horses and carriages at Central Park
  • Tourists taking pictures of the horses and carriages at Central Park
  • Two tall, gleaming towers at Columbus Circle
  • Carnegie Hall (a very unassuming building on the outside)
  • A crazy man--literally, crazy--tearing up and down Broadway screaming at people and almost getting hit by a car when he crossed the street against a light
  • Lots of lots of people not too thrilled by the fact that they actually had to bundle up against the cold air for the first time since March
  • Her banged up shin after she tripped and fell against a stair coming up from the subway (ow)
  • Rows of gourmet cheeses, meats and desserts at the corner store near her office (yum)
  • The Empire State building lit in purple and red
  • City lights literally glistening against a perfectly clear night sky

Friday, October 26, 2007

10 subway pet peeves

The subway is great. It gets us everywhere we want to go, and it's mostly reliable. Amazingly.

However, we do have a few pet peeves about the beloved MTA subway and its riders:

1) People who take up 2 seats: Either due to their own bulk or their bulky package they set on the seat next to them instead of on the floor.

2) Loud panhandlers inside the subway car: We have only heard 1 of these who seemed legitimate. We still didn't give her any money (are we bad people?).

3) Loud panhandlers who dance, play instruments or sing inside the subway car: You expect these folks in the stations. Inside the subway car, however, they are even more obnoxious. Rarely are they any good, and often they are kids who break dance using a boom box for music--sometimes with guardian-type adults with them, sometimes not.

4) People who step onto the subway car first, knowing there is a long line of people behind them waiting to get on, and they stop right inside the subway car door. This is BEYOND irritating, because the rest of us in line have to figure out a way to squeeze past them into the car before the doors slam shut on us.

5) People who wear backpacks while riding in the subway car. Essentially taking up the space of 2 people, as a result.

6) Schedule changes. On the weekends. Actually, every weekend. Now we know how to read the signs (basically), but we still miss things and wind up being frustrated because we can't take our usual subway to get where we want to go. Visit this site if you want to see what we mean:

7) Homeless people sleeping in the subway car--mostly because of the, um, odor. Guess they don't know that it's a $50 fine if you fall asleep on the subway (it's true!).

8) Rats. We don't see them very often (try to avoid looking for them, truthfully), and we know there's not much more MTA can do about them, but they are majorly creepy. We have seen them on the platform, not just on the tracks. Great material for nightmares ("Willard," anyone?).

9) Dirty subway stations. Most of the stations we use regularly are OK, but some are downright gross--ceilings falling apart, tiles disintegrating. The one nearest our new apartment is in desperate, desperate need of a paint job. We understand they may be planning to install an elevator for handicap access, so maybe they'll decide to paint it at the same time.

10) Pushy people. Who somehow think that if they push hard enough, they will bend the laws of physics when it comes to how many people can reasonably fit into a subway car and still have oxygen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Finally starting to feel like fall

We had a nice rainshower today, with more to come for the remainder of the week, it appears. It was cool enough to wear a real jacket (as opposed to yesterday, which still felt like summer!).

Spoke to a friend in San Luis Obispo tonight who said it has been in the 90s there all week. Climate change? Nah ...

So tomorrow we FINALLY close escrow on our teeny-tiny Riverdale apartment. We have to come up with a name for this place--something suitably noble, like The Riverdale Estate, or The Riverdale Villa. Who says 600 square feet can't be a villa?

One thing we love about living here is that when we read the New York Times, it's actually relevant to our lives. And that proved true today, too, with all the extensive coverage of the fires in California. Seeing the state burn from afar is somewhat emotional, even though the fires weren't near our old hometown. But we have certainly lived with the spectre of fire (and a real one back in the mid-'90s that nearly blazed through Cal Poly). With the hot weather our friend reported, it made us a bit nervous that SLO might be next. Let's hope not.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Photos from last week

A few photos from last week when family was visiting us: Rockefeller Center, where the ice rink is now open; walking across the Brooklyn Bridge (looking toward Manhattan); and Central Park, where it still looks pretty green, even though it's late October.

Tonight, the Empire State Building is royal blue topped with white. According to the lighting schedule on the Web site, it's honoring "Poly Prep Country Day School." That must be some school!

This Web site somewhat mimics our view (only ours is WAY better). If you ever want to see what we're seeing at that very moment, give it a click (there are 3 camera views--scroll down the page to change):

Been very sad hearing about all the fires back home in California. We can't remember ever seeing such severe devastation and evacuations.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

More entries coming soon!

It's been a busy week, with Mary's relatives visiting us. They went back home yesterday to California. We will post some photos from the week soon ...

Meanwhile, it looks like our escrow is actually going to close this Thursday. Yesterday, we went out with the contractor, Tom, to begin purchasing everything for our new-and-improved teeny-tiny kitchen. Decided to go with white cabinets and stainless steel appliances, with granite countertops. We actually are going to the granite supplier in the next week or so to see the piece of granite before we select it. Because we need so little, we may be able to use a remnant from another job and save big bucks on a higher-end granite. Later, we'll add some tile to the backsplash to tie the whole little room together.

Today, we're going to purchase a Murphy bed for Rachel. After a lot of thought, we decided this is the best way for us to make the living room into a bedroom when she's living at home. We're going with a twin-size horizontal unit (opens sideways, so it's not as tall as a more conventional Murphy).

Saw two wonderful performances this week: "A Chorus Line" on Thursday, the London Symphony on Friday. The orchestra was ... truly amazing. Pianist Paul Lewis played a Beethoven piano concerto that was absolutely perfect. After intermission, the orchestra, led by Sir Colin Davis, played Mary's favorite Beethoven symphony, No. 3. Really can't describe in words how triumphant this performance was--the highlight of Mary's year in terms of musical events!

For Halloween, we're thinking of going to St. Paul's church in lower Manhattan to see "Nosferatu" with live organ accompaniment. You may remember this church, as it is right across from the World Trade Center site, and many people placed photos of their missing loved ones along its fence. It also served as a makeshift station for recuperating emergency workers and volunteers. The chapel itself is almost like a mini-museum for the event:

Will write more later!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Being a tourist @ WTC

We still feel like tourists much of the time, even though we have lived here since March. Today, we took Mary's sister and brother-in-law to a few sights, like Rachel's dorm, NYU, and the WTC site. It seems like, after all this time, there would be a nicer memorial at the site, near the entrance to the transportation station--it's where most people gather to look at the still empty hole in the ground.

Frankly, it seems shameful that it's 6 years later, and nothing much has happened. OK, they have decided on a new structure to be built--ugly as sin, in Mary's opinion. But it still seems so ... vacant, like it needs at least a commemorative area where people can pay their respects and contemplate what happened on that spot on September 11, 2001.

People NEED that. Maybe the new structure and environs will have an adequate contemplative space--not sure until it's built. But the way things are going, it appears doubtful that anything will change much there in the foreseeable future. It will probably still look like a hole in the ground with cranes and construction materials piled high. And no memorial.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Two of our friends expanded their families in the past couple of weeks. Congratulations to Trisha and Dave on the birth of their baby boy (their second), and to Mary and Adam for--yes, indeed--their second baby boy.

Boys, boys, boys! :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fun times ahead!

The next week or so is filled with lots o' fun stuff for Jeff and Mary. Mary's sister and brother-in-law arrive for a visit this weekend and will stay for a week. We're planning an itinerary for them and taking part of the week off to join them in their NYC adventures: museums, Central Park, NYU & Columbia tours, and anything and everything else we can think of to cram into 5 days!

The week will also include a Broadway show--"A Chorus Line"--and the London Symphony at Lincoln Center (playing an all-Beethoven program - check out preview video and audio clips). Maybe we'll even squeeze in a second Broadway show ...

However, there's a major rift between the stage workers' union and the producers, it seems. The producers have made what they call a "final offer" to the stage workers' union. If they don't accept it, there's a possibility that the producers will lock out the stage workers--thereby shutting down most of Broadway. Fingers crossed that if they decide to do this, it will be AFTER we have seen "A Chorus Line"!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Green, spiked with lightning

We're enjoying a wonderful light show tonight: solid green Empire State Building, spiked with lightning bolts. We won't have this type of view much longer, so we're soaking it in during this storm. At right is what it looks like on a clear night in a photo from the official building Web site.

Still not sure when escrow closes ... buying property is a different process out here in NY!

Had a nice, if brief, visit with our friend Linda and her daughter Kathryn. It's always great to see people from home. And yes, we still consider California and San Luis Obispo our home. :-)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Awakened by a fog horn

And we don't mean Foghorn Leghorn on Saturday morning cartons.

It must have been a fog horn on one of the cruise ships that routinely floats by on the weekends and docks for the day (it's still sounding off as we write this). We kid you not: it's solid pea soup out there this morning! We can't even see the cars on the street down below. Tuley, anyone?

The fog horn is getting louder--the ship must be passing right by, but it's still invisible to us.

Actually, this fog isn't funny. Last night our friend Linda arrived in NYC, but her daughter--flying in from Boston--did not (at least, not on time). We're hoping her plane was able to take off later in the evening, as it was fairly clear around 8:30. Not sure when this dense air hit Manhattan overnight.

By the way, don't always believe what you read on Right this moment, it says NYC is 67 degrees--with clear skies.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It's already October!

It's hard to believe we have been living here for 8 months already. We're still not completely adjusted to life in NYC, but we're getting there. Some days present challenges, other days we're "in the groove."

Friday, we are going up to our soon-to-be new apartment to look at some of the superintendent/contractor's kitchen work in other apartments. Then he'll take at look at ours and, with any luck, will help us come up with a good plan for the remodel. We're also going to ask him about enlarging the one-and-only closet in the apartment. It's a decent size, but it could definitely use a boost.

We're hoping to close escrow within the next couple of weeks, if all goes as planned. Yippee!

Rachel is having an excellent semester at NYU. She's doing extraordinarily well in her classes, she's working as a math tutor at an elementary school, and she's volunteering with a group called Earth Matters. Busy gal, but very happy. Sophomore year is proving to be better than freshman year. :-)

Friends will be in town this weekend--Linda from California, and her daughter Kathryn, who attends Wellesley. The weekend of Oct. 14, Mary's sister and brother-in-law arrive for a one week's stay with us, and we're looking forward to seeing them.

October is proving to be a good month!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Warning: Controversial post ahead

(This is Mary.)

I am so sick and tired of the media falling into the Administration's trap of publicizing the next "Satan" in the Middle East, just to make their case for yet another meaningless war sound like it has meaning.

Haven't we gone through this already, to the tune of nearly 4,000 of our soldiers dead, tens of thousands more wounded, and God only knows how many Iraqis and others killed for no reason?

It's neither here nor there for me whether or not the president of Iran was allowed to speak on TV (several top newscasters interviewed him), at a university, at the U.N., wherever.

But can the media PLEASE stop assuming that everything the Administration says about him is true? For example, I saw a snippet of an interview with him on 60 Minutes, where the interviewer asked about Iranian weapons "killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq." The Iranian president said something along the lines of, "You are assuming that U.S. officials are telling you the truth."

Haven't we learned by now that they DON'T always tell us the truth?

Everything I have ever read about Iran's nuclear capabilities--from experts who actually DO know something--says that he's got NOTHING. ZIP. NADA. His "nuclear program" consists of equipment that doesn't work and won't work for decades, if ever.

It's all playing out so similarly to the Iraq lead-up. Don't think for a minute that our current president wouldn't launch an attack on Iran before leaving office. If the media has anything to say about it, he certainly will.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Busy day

Jeff and Mary were all over the place today: Ikea in Elizabeth, NJ, then back home, then into the city for a little window shopping and some dinner.

We ended up in front of The Dakota, pictured here, where John Lennon lived and, unfortunately, was shot and killed back in 1980.

The Imagine artwork is just a few steps away from The Dakota, inside Central Park's "Strawberry Fields" area.

Friday, September 28, 2007

We've been approved

The co-op board approved us for the apartment we're buying in Riverdale, The Bronx. We will likely close the deal in early to mid-October and we'll move in as soon as a contractor can redo the kitchen for us. Here's a photo, linked to a slideshow of more:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

She shook his hand!

Barack Obama made a campaign appearance in Washington Square Park this evening. And guess who was in the front row and shook his hand? Rachie!

Here's an article about the rally:

Jeff tried to hear him speak, but there were too many people crowded into the area (and Mary was working late tonight).

Rachel said she was impressed by his genuine idealism, something that Hillary seems to lack. Don't know how much luck he'll have in New York come primary day, but we'll see. It's still a long ways off ...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

LA vs. NYC (vs SLO)

(This is Mary.) I spent 13 years of my life in LA, and for the most part, I enjoyed the city.

I moved away primarily because of the riots in 1992, when it suddenly became obvious to me that racism and violence were percolating under the (relatively) calm surface all the time. When it all exploded in our collective face, we shouldn't have been surprised. Los Angeles is a very segregated city, all the way down to people riding individually in their cars.

Yes, there is a hierarchy in NYC. Of course. There are mega, mega rich people, and very, very poor people.

But there is also a sense of integration here. On my commute each morning, I walk beside and sit beside people of all professions, all races, all sizes, all abilities, all education levels.

And we're all just people. We breathe, we perspire, we read books, we listen to iPods, we get impatient, we run for the subway doors as they close, we try and be polite as often as possible ... but we're all HUMAN.

On a related note: My time in San Luis Obispo was wonderful, but I think--despite some traveling during those years--that it insulated me to the point that I forgot about diversity. I think living in SLO reinforced some prejudices that, looking back, were quite terrible.

Now, it's no big deal to me what color someone's skin is. It is what it is. Certain groups have certain ways of dressing, and that's just the way it is. Knock on wood, no one has ever threatened me or scared me, and I have spent many, many hours commuting alone and walking through NYC alone. I have felt SLIGHTLY nervous just once.

I wish SLO was more diverse. I just don't know how it will ever happen.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Ahmadinejad Shuffle

One of the top news stories of the day was the president of Iran's speech at Columbia University's World Leaders Forum. I watched it on CNN like lots of other people, since my responsibilities were on the Web, but most of my colleagues were involved shepherding media and others around the event. Kind of an exciting day, even if Ahmadinejad deflected the pointed questions asked of him.

President Lee C. Bollinger did a good job setting the tone challenging Ahmadinejad (see his opening remarks I posted. There were a lot of groups - partisans, mostly - opposed to the visit A CNN poll I saw earlier in the day, however, was slightly in favor of the invitation to speak. One would think from the media coverage leading up to it that the vast majority of people were opposed free speech rights, which the event's opponents minimized with horrifying casualness, as if the First Amendment was a minor thing rather than the foundation this country was built upon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

More friends in town!

Last night, we had dinner with our good friends Vince and Catherine. They are actually in town to celebrate their friend's 50th b'day, so they kindly invited us to the party tonight. We hope to have a good time and maybe make a new friend or two.

So far, it has actually been fairly easy to meet people here. While we are still building our network of friends, of course, we do feel as though we have met some folks who may become good friends, and we have begun to create a social network of sorts. We're not always stuck hanging out with each other! :-)

The big news around here right now is that the president of Iran will be in NYC on Monday and will be making a speech on the Columbia campus. Could be interesting ... or, with any luck, quite a dull event.

The weather has been very nice lately, in the mid-70s or so with little humidity. We're appreciating it while it lasts. With today being the start of Fall, the air will become crisp before long.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What do Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and Indiana Jones all have in common?

John Williams, of course! The three of us went to a concert by the New York Philharmonic last night, conducted by the man himself: You're not going to believe this, but he has been nominated for 44--yes, 44--Oscars! Many times he has competed with himself! He's won "only" 5: for Schindler's List, Star Wars, E.T., Jaws, and Fiddler on the Roof (for an adapation he performed last night).

It was a wonderful evening--better than we expected, by far. The highlights were definitely the Harry Potter music, particularly the famous "Hedwig's Theme," as well as his tribute to his collaboration with Spielberg. It was a lot of fun to watch him conduct the orchestra as they played the Star Wars music and, of course, Jaws, E.T., and Indiana Jones.

One of the best parts of the show, however, was an appearance by Stanley Donen. To be honest, Jeff and I thought he was already deceased! But not only is he alive and well, he's funny as all get-outs. He directed many, many famous movies and described how he put together several of the most famous dance sequences ever on screen: Royal Wedding (Fred Astaire dancing on the walls and the ceiling), Anchors Aweigh (Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry the mouse), It's Always Fair Weather (Gene Kelly literally dances on roller skates - this clip is amazing), and of course, the most famous one of all from Singin' in the Rain (watch the famous clip).

The orchestra then played the music live, while the audience watched the dance scenes on a big screen. It was wonderful! And Donen's comments were absolutely delightful.

Williams did a couple of encores, including some of his score for Spielberg's first film, Sugarland Express, and he concluded by playing the entire theme song for The NBC Nightly News. You would recognize it immediately. They play it on the Today show, too. Here's a bootlegged clip of it on YouTube: (I have to say, the NY Phil sounded better than the Boston Pops, whom I love dearly. --Mary)

It's not often you can be in the presence of a genius. He has a way of capturing the essence of a story that is truly magical, to borrow a word Rachel used last night during the performance.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dinner with friends--always a treat

Our friends Len and Katrin have been in NYC all week, and we were able to meet them for dinner last night at a cute French restaurant called Gascogne, in the Chelsea section of the city. The ambience is lovely, and the terrace out back is absolutely charming.

But the best part, of course, was the conversation. Len and Katrin are New Yorkers who moved to the Central Coast about 3 years ago. Jeff met Len through the K-Man bike club there, and they spent many Saturday mornings bicycling on the roads of San Luis Obispo County.

Actually, the two of them had planned to do a ride this morning, but the weather is definitely not cooperating: rain showers and some dark clouds still on the horizon.

So while Len and Katrin did the more "normal" move from east to west, we moved from west to east. Katrin lived for many years in Riverdale, so she's quite familiar with the area we'll be moving to shortly.

We just found out that some other good friends of ours, Vince and Catherine, will be in NYC next week. October will also be a busy month for visitors: Mary's friend Linda and her daughter Kathryn (who graduated from high school with Rachel and now goes to college near Boston), plus Mary's sister Carolyn and her husband Ted.

Fun times ahead!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Why can't the weather be like this all the time? Oh, right, it is ... in SLO

It's been in the high 60s, low 70s this week--with more of the same over the next several days, with a shower here or there.

Makes us miss the beautiful weather on the Central Coast of California. But Jeff has managed to ride his bike to work almost every day this summer and will continue to do so as long as the weather holds.

As for Mary, she's content to take a few yoga classes, and she just joined the Columbia gym. Plus, if you've ever visited New York, you know that everyone walks everywhere. That's often Mary's main form of exercise!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Tried to photograph the lighted "towers," but the fog isn't allowing it. When a heavier cloud passes through the lights as they trail into the sky, there's a momentary white glow that illuminates the columns more clearly.

Here's the link to the livecam of the lights from CNN, and a photo from Canada's National Post:

When we visited NYC in 2002 after being here in August of 2001, the Empire State Building looked so gigantic--it had been dwarfed by the towers and had lost some of its majesty. Now it looks like the island's centerpiece.

Everyone has their memories of 9/11, so we won't bore you with ours. We're all thinking of what that day means: to us, to our country, to the world. Suffice it to say that we, Jeff and Mary, feel ashamed at the way our government has chosen to respond to 9/11. We hope and pray--and intend to continue to voice our opinions--that the next election will turn things around. We're trying to remain optimistic, even though it is difficult.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tomorrow's anniversary

Tomorrow is Sept. 11. Tonight, from our apartment, we saw them rehearsing the lighted "towers" down at the World Trade Center site. At least, that's how it looked from here. It's a bit foggy, but suddenly there was a bright white light down in lower Manhattan. Then a few minutes later, it was extinguished. So we guessed it was rehearsal for tomorrow.

NO one is really talking about it--at least not in our immediate circles. Mary will be out of the city most of the day tomorrow; Jeff will be working, as usual. It's supposed to rain all day--no crisp blue sky like that day in 2001.

Anyway, if we can, we'll try and take a picture of the lights tomorrow night, if indeed they are there.

And just as a quick aside, neither of us has any fear at all about living here in terms of terrorist attacks. Frankly, with its nuclear power plant, San Luis Obispo is pretty vulnerable, too. But you can't walk around feeling afraid, you know? Sure, there are lots of ways a terrorist could strike NYC again. But what's the point of dwelling on such negativity, especially when there is so much beauty to be found here?

Like the cute red-headed baby on the bus tonight on Mary's commute home, who played hide-and-seek with another passenger the whole way (what a cutie!). And the woman a couple of days ago who we saw help a blind man find his way through the subway--completely deserting her own plans. Or the gentleman who got off the bus one stop early to help an elderly lady down the stairs and across the street safely.

Those are the things that are worth dwelling on.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Celebrity sighting and food photography

Rachel saw a celebrity last week when she was having dinner at a cafe in Union Square: Ryan Gosling. She told us he gave her that knowing look, like, "Yes, I am who you think I am."

Actually, she has seen quite a few celebs since she's been in New York, including Will Smith--filming "I am Legend" in Washington Square Park--and of course, Haley Joel Osment, who is a fellow NYU student.

So far, Mary and Jeff have only seen John Lithgow (we wrote a posting about that sighting awhile ago), and Mary is 99 percent sure she saw Edward Norton one day near her old office.

Unless a celebrity is riding NJ Transit or the subway, or has decided to take a stroll, it's unlikely we'll see very many famous folks in our daily travels. :-)

After work, we met Rachel for dinner in the Village, and at the table next to us, the people were photographing their food. Then they started videotaping it. ??? Your guess is as good as ours.

Speaking of photography, Mary plans to do some things weekend, so stay tuned for photos ...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The check's in the mail ...

Or at least part of it. All the paperwork has been submitted on the co-op unit--to the lender and to the co-op board. We are waiting for just one last piece of information, but other than that, things look like a "go."

On the design side of things, we have been contemplating the challenges of our new kitchen and how it will be arranged for the best use possible. We're also looking into new furniture to really make our small space functional.

In California, these just aren't issues you normally think of. But in New York City, small spaces are so common, that nearly EVERYONE thinks about how to maximize and economize.

The reality is, you can live with a whole lot less than you're accustomed to. Less space, less stuff, less car (read: none). It's actually quite freeing to rid yourself of old things that, honestly, you don't really need. It's healthy to think about what you purchase. Mary has a deal she makes: whenever she buys a new book, she has to discard (donate) one she already owns. Same with clothing: buy something new, donate something old. Sort of like zero population growth for things instead of people!

Not trying to get preachy here. But asceticism, at least in the extremely moderate way we are practicing it, really does make you think about what you bring into your life. So does living on a budget!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Went to the co-op today

This afternoon, we were able to visit the co-op again and take some measurements and photos. The surrounding area of Fieldston/Riverdale is quite lovely--very leafy and green, as you can see in the pictures.

Can't wait to discover how to take the tiny kitchen and make it sing! We know there are newfangled appliances out there that do double duty as, for example, a convection oven and microwave. There are also small dishwashers and tall and skinny refrigerators. It'll be interesting!

Gearing up for the new school year

Rachel starts the fall semester Tuesday, beginning her sophomore year at NYU. She hasn't officially declared her major as Philosophy yet, but she thinks she may do so soon. Her classes this semester are a science class (astromony related), an ethics class related to the environment, an environmental studies course, and French.

So far, things seem to be going fairly well in her new dorm. Unfortunately, she found out through some testing that she is allergic to dust mites and mold. The good news is, it explains why she has had some of the continuing cold symptoms--especially during the winter months. Yesterday, we bought hypoallergenic covers for all of her bedding, to keep the dust mites at bay. And her dorm this year is much newer, so the mold shouldn't be as much of an issue as it was last year.

As for Jeff and Mary, we're trying to take it easy this weekend (especially Mary) but are thinking of going to the movies or a museum today, and maybe Central Park tomorrow--probably along with half of NYC!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Top 10 least affordable cities

Found this list, via CNN Money, of the top 10 least affordable U.S. cities (median household income vs. media home price):

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA
  2. Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, CA
  3. Salinas, CA
  4. Merced, CA
  5. Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA
  6. New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ
  7. San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA
  8. Napa, CA
  9. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA
  10. Modesto, CA
Nine out of 10 are in California, including SLO. So tell me, why are so many people flocking to California? I know, California's a great place and (humbly speaking) may be the best state in the nation in terms of a total package.

But there ARE other places to live, folks--where young people can actually fulfill a dream of owning their own home and saving for their kids' college funds.

And believe it or not, there are jobs elsewhere, too--some that even pay well!

I know NYC is on the list, too. But there are lots of suburb areas around here that are affordable, like Riverdale--where we'll be living in a few months!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

OK, I'm awake now

(This is Mary.)

So this morning, the commute seems pretty easy. I ride the bus into the city, then take my time walking to the subway. While I sit, I continue to read Hamlet (it's been awhile, and thought I should reacquaint myself with the prince).

We arrive at my stop--110th Street--and a woman next to me jumps out of her seat, clearly in a hurry to get off the train (I think she might have been a Columbia student). She rushes out of the train car, and I hear the loudest shriek I can remember hearing for a long time. I look down at the ground, and right in the pathway between the subway and the exit turnstile is a dead rat.

Fortunately dead, I suppose. But nevertheless, not something you'd want to step on (the woman was wearing flip flops, too).

When I say rat, I do mean rat, not mouse. I'm not good at judging size, but they're hefty.

We see rats fairly frequently in the subway--running across the tracks, hanging out on the platform (but usually only at the fringes), and bolting into their cubby holes. Frankly, it's only disconcerting to me when I see a group of them. Somehow, one at a time seems less frightening--almost as if it's the same one I keep seeing over and over. (Do you like how I lie to myself?)

But when there's a group, there's a sense of an entire community of rats that, in some way, may mimic what I see every day above ground. The rat race--now I know why it has that name!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Keep meaning to post this photo ...

A couple of weeks ago, some folks from home came out to NYC. Mary, her husband Adam, and son AJ had an opportunity to fly out to the Big Apple for a few days, and we were able to spend an evening with them. They were also generous enough to take us to dinner at a nice restaurant on the Upper East Side. Thank you again, Mary & Adam!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The agony of de feet

NYC is brutal on the feet. When you don't have a car, you have to walk--a lot. Coming from California, where no one walks ANYWHERE, this whole walking culture has been an interesting adjustment. Good for the waistline, but an adjustment, nevertheless.

Never before have we been so conscious of our feet and our shoes. For Mary, it's become an experiment in shoe shopping, with mostly hits and a few misses. It's one thing to say, "Well, I'm only going to wear this pair of high heels if we go out to dinner." But the thing is, you have to GET to dinner--which involves walking to the bus stop (10-15 minutes), then arriving at the bus terminal and walking to the subway line (maybe another 10 minutes), and then walking from the subway stop to your destination (who knows how long).

Now you're thinking, "Thirty minutes of walking ... that's not so bad." It isn't, unless you're wearing shoes that simply aren't made for walking (ladies, you know what that means!). With all the grates and other obstacles, stilettos are out--don't really know how NYC women manage to keep their ankles from snapping when they wear these, and they DO wear them.

Wedge heels aren't all that sexy, but they're stable. Shorter heels are OK, but only if the shoes have a lot of padding toward the front to absorb the shocks.

Or you can do the tacky thing, and wear your sneakers until you actually arrive at the restaurant or other evening event. Yuck.

Right now, Mary is still trying to find the perfect brand. Clarks are OK but the styles aren't all that sophisticated--although they have a couple of new ones that might pass muster. Aerosoles are so-so. Her favorite pair of Geox (black patent leather flats) are cute around the office but don't offer much help when walking many, many blocks because the subway had suddenly stopped running (ah, the mysteries of the MTA).

Dankso is a definite maybe: one pair worked very well and are a good choice for fall (a bit heavy for summer).

Mary plans to look at the Camper and Fluevog stores in Soho for one more pair of work shoes. Boots for the winter are next on the list.

You may think this is awfully spendy, investigating (read: buying) all these shoe options. But there is nothing like the agony--or the ecstasy--of de feet. The perfect shoe is out there, somewhere ...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dorm move-in day

This was a busy weekend. Saturday was spent finalizing Rachel's packing to move into the dorm, which she did today.

She lives in a high-rise near Wall Street (about 20 minutes from the main "campus" area of Washington Square Park). This year, she has an apartment-style dorm room, with 2 BR's and 2 BA's. There's also a kitchen and a large living room. The BR's aren't very big, but they offer something incomparable: amazing views!

That's Rachel's bedroom that she shares with a roommate, and no, that's not a poster of the Brooklyn Bridge--that's the view out the window. She and her roommate have the corner room, so they have windows on both sides. They have a wonderful view of the Empire State Building through the other set of windows (it's red/white/blue tonight, by the way!). In the photo on the left, you can't quite see it, but it's there. There's a beautiful domed building close by, and some other wonderful sights out the windows. Think they'll get any work done?

The third photo is the living area--with three large windows overlooking the water/bridges. Not too shabby. We're a bit jealous ... that area of Manhattan is very nice, and relatively quiet. Couldn't hear much of anything from the street, which is a nice change for Rachel: Washington Square Park is a romantic place to live and she enjoyed it last year, but it is L O U D.