Thursday, May 31, 2007

Another month gone by already ...

Time is doing strange things to Mary's head these days. In a way, it seems like Jeff and I have lived a lifetime already since we've been here, because so much has happened over the past 3 months. To think we have only lived here for 3 months is rather mind-boggling.

That's not to say we feel like we have the complete "lay of the land" yet. We still have to read the subway maps (not all the time, though--some of it is committed to memory now). We still haven't mastered grocery shopping, although we're getting a bit better at it. We don't dress like New Yorkers and aren't sure we ever will, mostly because the words "chic" and "Jeff and Mary" will never appear together except in this sentence.

We have come a long way since March 1, but this place still doesn't feel like home, at least to Mary. Not sure what will make it feel like home, either. Maybe just the passage of some more time ...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cindy Sheehan is right

Cindy Sheehan is right. Both parties have failed the country regarding the war in Iraq: the Bush administration for getting us into an unnecessary war and lying about it every step of the way to this day, and the Democrats for going along with it at the first and now for backing off the mandate of the election to find a way out. I haven't been a registered member of either party for a decade now, and can't imagine joining now.


I welcome your comments. Sheehan's comments are reported in a CNN story today (http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/05/28/sheehan/index.html) and elsewhere around the Web (http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&ie=UTF-8&ncl=1116770540):

(CNN) -- Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who became an anti-war leader after her son was killed in Iraq, declared Monday she was walking away from the peace movement.

She said her son died "for nothing."

Sheehan achieved national attention when she camped outside President Bush's home in Crawford, Texas, throughout August 2005 to demand a meeting with the president over her son's death.

While Bush ignored her, the vigil made her one of the most prominent figures among opponents of the war.

But in a Web diary posted to the liberal online community Daily Kos on Monday, Sheehan said she was exhausted by the personal, financial and emotional toll of the past two years.

She wrote that she is disillusioned by the failure of Democratic politicians to bring the unpopular war to an end and tired of a peace movement she said "often puts personal egos above peace and human life."

Casey Sheehan, a 24-year-old Army specialist, was killed in an April 2004 battle in Baghdad. His death prompted his mother to found Gold Star Families for Peace.

But in Monday's 1,200-word letter, titled, "Good Riddance Attention Whore," Sheehan announced that her son "did indeed die for nothing."

"I have tried ever since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful," she wrote. "Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives.

"It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years, and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most."

Cindy Sheehan's sister, DeDe Miller, told CNN that the group would continue working for humanitarian causes, but drop its involvement in the anti-war movement. As for her sister's letter, Miller said, "She cried for quite a bit after writing it."

Sheehan warned that the United States was becoming "a fascist corporate wasteland," and that onetime allies among Bush's Democratic opposition turned on her when she began trying to hold them accountable for bringing the 4-year-old war to a close.

In the meantime, she said her antiwar activism had cost her her marriage, that she had put the survivor's benefits paid for her son's death and all her speaking and book fees into the cause and that she now owed extensive medical bills.

"I am going to take whatever I have left and go home," she wrote. "I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost.

"I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Quality of life: post 1 of ...?

So yesterday, we did the math on this move and showed that, for us, it was an economically smart decision.

Let's talk about quality of life now; this post will discuss SLO.

(This is Mary writing, by the way.)

The quality of life in San Luis Obispo is, most would agree, idyllic. At least in terms of weather and sheer natural beauty. The downtown area is fun (although it's not as quaint as it once was), and the crime rate is relatively low--although we have had our share of murders and such, unfortunately.

The people are generally friendly, and it's quiet, green, and peaceful.

But for me, at least, all of those characteristics started to come together into a Disney-esque landscape--a place that exists apart from reality. Whenever we would go on a vacation to a big city, or somewhere that had ethnic and cultural diversity, I found myself not wanting to come back to SLO.

Let's face it. Now this will sound blunt, but I mean it to. If you walk down the streets of downtown SLO and see a black person, you notice.

That simply shouldn't be the case.

I noticed that I was noticing, if that makes sense. And I didn't like it.

I also felt cut off from new art and music (no offense to the SLO arts community, but it's fairly staid).

And to top it off, my work life had me feeling isolated, as well.

For many people, SLO is the right place for them. It wasn't for me anymore, nor was it the right place for Jeff.

And to be completely honest, I'm not sure it's the best place to raise a family (yes, I really did say that). If children grow up in Disneyland--and there's a lot more diversity at Disneyland, by the way--how well do they function when they leave the Magic Kingdom?

Judging by some of the experiences of Rachel's friends who are just finishing their first year of college--or some who didn't finish--not all that well. Yes, some did fine. Many did not, however.

I suppose you could simply say, well, like every place, SLO has its pluses and minuses. But the thing is, people who live there tend to forget about the minuses, and some of those are rather important:

  • Lack of ethnic diversity
  • Culturally, a bit static
  • Employment ... low pay related to cost of living, few opportunities
  • Housing prices (need I say more?)
  • Disney-esque atmosphere that may prevent personal growth, especially in our children
  • Isolated, both geographically and otherwise
  • Becoming an enclave of the wealthy
What bothers me most--and I promise, this will be the end of this lengthy post--is that the government and the people of SLO seem unwilling to tackle many of these issues. There is a very strange mindset there. Not everyone possesses it, of course. But once you are away for awhile, you start to realize that the "I have mine, so I don't care if you have yours" attitude is quite prevalent in SLO County.

When I first moved there, it wasn't that way. I'm not sure of all the factors that have gone into the metamorphosis, but I do know that it's not someplace I could ever live again. Despite the gorgeous vistas, beautiful weather, calm environment and all that good stuff.

Comments welcome.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Do the math

Before we made the move, a lot of people doubted the economics. Now we're solely talking about money here, not quality of life (we'll talk about that in another posting).

Remember, too, that neither of us had a job when we moved here (Mary was teaching online only--not enough to pay the bills!). We both found good employment within 6 weeks of beginning the job search.

So anyway, here's the bottom line, for those of you who are curious. We are not including costs associated with Rachel's college education, as those are covered by a separate fund that doesn't impact our monthly outlay.

  • Our monthly "nut" has decreased 20%.
  • Our gross annual income, which includes Jeff's bonus for 1/2 Rachel's NYU tuition for the next 3 years, has gone up 20%. Even if we didn't include that bonus, it has gone up 10%.
  • Our health insurance costs have decreased markedly. Mary pays ZERO for health insurance, and Jeff pays just $100/month for health and dental (which also covers Mary's dental)--for equal or better coverage than we had before. Rachel is covered under NYU's plan.
What does all this mean?
  • We now have enough money each month to contribute heartily to a savings plan and/or retirement plan.
  • We'll have almost no college-related debt in 2010, which Rachel graduates.
  • No more relying on credit cards.
  • Mary is working a regular work-week, which in NYC means 35 hours/week. And no weekends, no evenings.
And this is just the beginning. The opportunities to earn more money here are tremendous (and Mary plans to cash in, over time!).

Plus, we have real estate investment plans--probably in Europe first. Not sure we really want to buy in the NYC metro area yet. Renting is working out just fine. It's less stressful than owning, and it really has no downsides, since we're in a good building.

Another post will talk about quality of life changes from SLO to here. But if you do the math, for us, this move couldn't have been better, even though we ended up with less profit on our home than we anticipated. The other percentages make up the difference.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pool's open for business!

The fabulously large pool (nice and warm, too) at our building opened today. What a view! Pictures to come ...

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Help us solve the mystery of the toilet seat

OK, so here goes. There are 4 businesses on the floor where Mary works. There is a men's room and a women's room. The women's room has 2 stalls.

Sometimes if Mary gets to work before 9 am, she'll use the bathroom and notice that the cleaning crew has been in there. The seats are up, the water in the bowls is blue, and the floor has been mopped.

Same thing later in the day, in the early afternoon: cleaning crew comes in, leaves the seats up with blue water in the bowls, leaves the floors slightly damp from mopping.

BUT: Several times DURING the day, Mary has noticed that the toilet in the left stall HAS THE SEAT UP.

News bulletin: Women don't lift the seat up to use the toilet! Men do, and they often don't put it down again (although Jeff does, every time).

So what the heck is going on here? What woman is leaving the seat up--and why? Or is there some other explanation?

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Amended post: Chivalry lives!

Tonight after work, a nice young man allowed Mary to get onto the subway before him--even though it meant he would have to wait for the next train. So chivalry lives!

We're getting into the flow of a daily routine. Although it's still very different from what we're used to, we're slowly starting to adapt--feeling more comfortable with where we live and life and work in the big city.

The Empire State Building has been red, white and blue the past two nights (tonight and last night) and will be those colors through May 30 for "Fleet Week"--the Navy fleet is in town (or should we say, in port). We really enjoy watching all the different boats, ships, tugboats and barges that pass by outside our window.

Mary still can't decide which is her favorite part of the view: the Empire State Building (pretty darn cool), the Chrysler Building (sheer elegance), or the red New Yorker sign (classy and classic).


Anyway ... We're looking forward to the long weekend and plan to pack it with fun activities. Mary ventures back to the Aveda Institute New York for a (student) haircut Saturday morning, followed by a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see an exhibit of fashion by Paul Poiret, who is best known for freeing women from the corset (hooray for Poiret!).

After that, Rachel and Mary may do some shoe shopping--if Rachel is feeling up to it--while Jeff does his weekend bike rides through Central Park. Might try a yoga class somewhere, too, and maybe find a fun place to eat. No matter what else the city offers, the food is a star!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

AIDS Walk NY










Jeff and Mary (Rachel was home sick today) went to AIDS Walk NY today. There had to be about 40,000-plus people there, which is really amazing considering that's about how many people live in San Luis Obispo! That's Alan Cumming and Cyndi Lauper in one photo, Whoopi Goldberg in another.


We had the opportunity to see a few celebrities (some of whom we didn't recognize!) and participate in the walk through Central Park. We ended up doing about half the walk because we wanted to head up to The Bronx to look at a couple of apartments (open houses).





We saw 2 really nice apartments--actually co-ops--up in Riverdale, at the end of the number 1 subway line at Van Cortlandt Park and 242nd street. Reasonably priced, well taken care of, quiet location with lots of trees: pretty nice, although of course, it has no view of the city. The view here is SO tempting, but we could get a lot more for our money elsewhere (even though the prices here are actually quite reasonable). The photo of Jeff was taken right outside the apartment building in Riverdale, in Brust Park.



The commuting time from Riverdale would be about 25 minutes for Jeff, and about 50 minutes for Mary right now. Not terrible, and actually quite simple. Some more food for thought.




Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cruise ships passing in the rain

Three cruise ships passed by our apartment this afternoon; one blew its horn--a particularly large ship, probably 7 stories above the deck level.

Jeff and Mary have never been into the idea of taking a cruise. We know people (including family) who have taken cruises and have enjoyed them immensely. But we're the type of folks who like to get to a destination and visit the destination itself. We spend almost no time in our hotel room, and we rarely take advantage of anything a hotel might offer (restaurant, gym, spa, and the like).

So for us, a cruise just doesn't seem like a good vacation option, at least not right now.

It's rained most of the day, unfortunately including the time Rachel and Mary were making the long shlep back from ShopRite (2 miles each way). It was a good warm-up for tomorrows AIDS Walk NY, though. Don't forget to click on our link in yesterday's blog entry to make a donation! Cyndi Lauper is supposed to be there, along with a bunch of other celebrities.

Stay tuned for photos ...

Friday, May 18, 2007

AIDS Walk NY is this Sunday.

https://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=216438&lis=0&kntae216438=9B8746BC2DE74EAB8129198C1DC48392&supId=177474764

It's a long link, but it's worth the effort. All three of us signed up to do the AIDS Walk NY this Sunday--a last-minute decision, but we think it will be a great event. Thousands of people participate, and we hope some of you will decide to donate by clicking on the link, above.

Thanks, in advance, for your generosity.

The inspiration to do the walk came first from Rachel and Mary reading Angels in America, the play by Tony Kushner. Then we rented the HBO movie version (we have watched the first half), and all three of us are really enjoying it. It has to do with AIDS, plus a lot of other issues. So Jeff came up with the idea to do the walk this Sunday. We'll take photos and tell you stories afterwards. :-)

Saturday it's a day of errands: grocery shopping (yes, the loooong trek to ShopRite in Hoboken), shoe shopping for Rachel, and whatever else we can cram into a fun Saturday in NYC. The weather is a bit unsteady, but who cares? We're in friggin' NEW YORK CITY! It hasn't lost its lustre yet, despite the plethora of weirdos--or should we say, people who are "different." Mary saw a not-so-attractive middle-aged man yesterday wearing an orange tank top, athletic socks up to his knees, tennis shoes, and pink sequined hot pants. Need we say more?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Chivalry is, indeed, dead

FYI, Jeff will write about his experience listening to Ben Bradlee at Columbia today ... but it will have to wait until he's feeling a bit better. Seems he's caught a flu bug.

So instead, Mary will tell you why chivalry is dead.

Example 1: A couple of days ago, Jeff and Mary were on the bus heading to work, when a woman with a young baby got on--she was carrying the little 'un in a baby carrier strapped to her front. Their stop is rather late in the bus route, and by the time they got on the bus, there were no seats left.

We were sitting halfway back, and would you believe not one person stood up to give her a seat ... until she got to Jeff? I was shocked! I mean, come on. This woman has a young baby strapped to her belly, and no one is going to let her sit down? Not only that, she was clearly a working mother--she was wearing work clothes, so we assumed she was going to drop off the baby girl at daycare on her way to work.

Pitiful, people. Really.

Example 2: Mary is trying to get used to the pace of commuting, and for the most part, she's adapting. Except for one thing: Men who cut her off intentionally when she's about to go through the turnstile, in/out of the subway car, up/down a flight of stairs, through a doorway, up/down an escalator, and the list goes on ...

Generally speaking, it is the men who tend to do this, not the women. Yes, there is the occasional pushy broad (although the pushy broads almost always say, "Excuse me"). But honestly, every day, the men just barge on through. No "excuse me," "pardon me," or "I'm sorry."

And it's not so much that Mary's looking for a "ladies first" attitude, although that might be nice. Maybe she just needs to accept the fact that, despite the difference in rates of pay (women are still paid less for doing the same work), men see us as equal targets: for rudeness.

Should we women rejoice in this?

Overall, though, people in NYC are fairly courteous. People don't generally push and shove or get obnoxious, although they certainly would have reason to. It's amazing that this city works as well as it does, and a big part of its success must be the generally positive attitude of the residents (and those of us who commute into the city every day).

But it might be fun to, just once, hear a man say, "Ladies first" when I'm getting on the subway.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Practice makes perfect? Don't think so

Every day on her way to work, Mary passes by a "violinist" in the corridor leading from the number 7 subway at Grand Central Station to the 4/5/6 line (she takes the 6 one stop, down to her office neighborhood).

"Violinist" is in quotes because, well, this fellow needs a few lessons. He looks to be about 70-plus years old, and he literally saws on the violin. Back and forth, short little bowings. Maybe there's a tune in there somewhere, but it's hard to believe that anyone could sound worse.

The thing is, he's in the subway all day long, because Mary sees him in the evenings most days, too.

How can he not improve with that much practice?

It's like the homeless woman who simply inhales and exhales on the harmonica in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. No tune--just inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Wait for spare change. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Surprising that she doesn't pass out.

Today, Mary took a walk at lunchtime, intending to find a place to sit and read her book. Instead, she felt like walking for quite awhile. So, holding her book under her arm, she walked along the (breezy today!) streets of New York, past the tourists at the Empire State Building and down a couple of avenues.

At a stoplight, an old man walking his bicycle on the sidewalk said--as he looked at the book under her arm--"That's the only book by James Joyce that doesn't make you crazy." This rumpled-looking fellow with disheveled gray hair (under a bicycle helmet) and beard, with clothes that surely never had been pressed, had read a lot of Joyce, including the book Mary is reading, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. He said he enjoyed the stories of Dubliners but took months to read the author's other works--and wasn't sure they were worth the effort, after several tries.

Guess practice doesn't always make perfect. Another myth debunked.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Shopping ... and thinking of the troops

OK, so living here is actually a lot of fun. There's never an opportunity to say, "There's nothing to do."

The one major inconvenience: grocery shopping. In a previous blog, we may have mentioned that Union City is a lot of things, but a shopping mecca it is not. The closest grocery store is actually in Hoboken, which is about a 35-minute walk each way. Walking back is challenging, as we have a rolling cart filled with groceries and it's uphill almost the entire way.

Mary doesn't mind doing the shlep on a Saturday morning if she's ready for a good workout. But it's not the most interesting way to spend her time!

So we are trying new shopping strategies, like going to the supermarket after work and before we get on the bus. That, too, has its drawbacks: a) we get home closer to 7 pm than 6 pm; b) we have to carry the groceries on the bus, which is OK unless there are no seats and we have to stand for the 20-minute ride around some pretty serious curves in the road; c) we have to think ahead and bring our cart with us in the morning, which one of us has to then take to the office (not a huge deal, but it takes some forethought); d) sometimes we are so hungry after work, we end up buying more food than we need.

We still haven't perfected grocery shopping here. For those of you living in our old hometown, picture having to carry your groceries through the streets of NYC, up and down several flights of stairs, on the crowded subway (sometimes VERY crowded!), through long--sometimes VERY long--corridors in the bus station, then in line for the bus, then on the bus (sitting if you're lucky, standing if you're not), and then walking home from the bus stop.

Get the picture?

If and when we ever solve this dilemma, we'll let you know our system.

You may think, "This is no big deal, this shopping thing. There's a war going on in Iraq, for Pete's sake," you are absolutely right. For a moment on the bus this evening, it felt like the driver had turned on the heat instead of the air conditioning (it was warm here today), and Mary thought about how uncomfortable our soldiers must be in Iraq.

Suddenly, our lives seemed pretty damned good. Now, we just have to make that so for the troops.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fort Tryon Park/Hudson Heights



Mary at the edge of an overlook along the Hudson River near Fort Tryon Park at the far north end of Manhattan, with the George Washington Bridge in the background. That's Jersey on the far shore.

Mary and I spent a couple hours walking around the park and the surrounding neighborhoods, checking out what the area looks like. We have heard good things about the area and investigated for potential future place to live. There were some nice looking places and similar prices to what exist here in Union City. The advantage is somewhat shorter commutes and subway connections that run 24 hours a day. Right now, our bus service ends between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. In an emergency - such as the two we've had since we mvoed here - it's difficult to travel into the city. We could also get more space for our money there. Just something we're considering. It would be hard to walk away from our view, for sure, so who knows. It's nice to learn another neighborhood, no matter what we do.

The photo of Mary above is just a block or two from some of the nicer looking places we saw.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

An oasis
















Today, the three of us--Rachel was feeling up to it--visited the New York Botanical Garden, located in the Bronx. We decided to celebrate Mother's Day today, just to be different (and beat the crowds!). Here is a selection of photos. The tulips were in bloom, as were lilacs, peonies (the up-close photo), and dogwood--among other flowers. It is really a beautiful place, like an oasis of green ... and orange, and white, and purple ...

Afterwards, we had a quick dinner at Whole Foods market and then saw "Spider-Man 3." The movie was a disappointment, but it was weird to step outside and be in the middle of the city where Spider-Man was flying through the sky!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Brad's in town!

After work today, we were able to have a nice dinner with our friend Brad from SLO, here in NYC for a wedding this weekend.

Although we only had about an hour to eat and talk--Brad had tickets to a 7 pm play, "A Moon for the Misbegotten," starring Kevin Spacey--it was a great time. We ate at an Italian restaurant right next to the theater, and the food and atmosphere were both quite nice. Good service, as well. Brad was daring and ordered calamari and risotto, complete with squid ink sauce!

It's a lot of fun to see people from home here in NY. Soon, we'll know our way around a bit better and will find the best restaurants (in our price range, anyway!).

The weatherman had promised thunderstorms for today, but barely a raindrop fell.

Oh, guess what? On Wednesday, Jeff gets to go listen to Ben Bradlee speak, live and in person, at Columbia University! Surely he will post details Wednesday night ...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Looking back, looking forward

(This is Mary--hi all.)

A wise friend once told me that instead of always looking ahead at what needs to be accomplished, you need to look back, to see how far you've come.

I have really been feeling that way lately. It seems like I haven't stopped moving since last August. Shall we recap? Take a deep breath ...

First, we got Rachel off to college--no small feat, moving her across the country. Then we spent a month preparing our house for sale, dumping everything we didn't need by literally taking it to the dump or selling it at a garage sale. In October, we listed the house for sale and spent the next several months keeping it super-duper clean and showing it day after day--until someone bought it in January. (Forget the holidays--we barely had time to notice except that Rachel came home for a couple of weeks.)

Then it was a flurry of activity fixing minor house problems and filling out endless paperwork and holding another garage sale and saying good bye to friends and family--and of course, preparing to drive across the country with our three furry kitty friends.

On top of that, Jeff found us a place to live, and then we were off across the U.S. of A. We landed in New Jersey, got the apartment livable, and we both landed jobs. And then Rachel caught mono, was able to finish the semester half awake, and we moved her out of the dorm and into our (very small) apartment.

Are we still breathing? Panting is more like it.

OK, now that I have taken 5 minutes to look back, I'm going to enjoy the present moment--everyone say "Ohm .... ohm ...."--and then look ahead. But only to this weekend, which holds a visit to the lovely gardens I mentioned in our previous entry and, with any luck, a movie and a big box o' popcorn.

Ah ... I feel better now. We have accomplished something, after all. Gives me confidence that we can make big things happen in the Big Apple, too.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Purple and white!

Today was NYU's graduation ... so the Empire State Building is lit up purple and white! It looks really cooool ....

We moved Rachel out of her dorm completely this evening. All things considered, it went very smoothly. We hired a driver to come pick us up--in a nice, big SUV--and drive us home. The driver picked us up at 7, and we were home by 7:35.

That's home, but not unpacked! That will take a bit of time, but it's OK. We're not in a hurry. Rachel has one last project to finish, and then she'll be done for the semester. Sick with mono or not, she did extremely well in school. We are really proud of her.

This weekend is Mother's Day, so if the weather is good, we may go to the New York Botanical Garden, up in the Bronx: http://www.nybg.org/. What's in flower right now at the garden? Lilacs, flowering dogwood, Eastern redbud, some varieties of iris, tulip, and peonies. We'll bring the camera since Mary loves to photograph flowers.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Three people, small space

So ... we've been debating whether to put up a temporary "pressurized" wall in the bedroom to create a sleeping space for Rachel, so she's not stuck with sleeping on the sofabed in the living room all summer and when she visits during the school year.

The thing is, if we owned this place, we could make a couple of modifications to the bedroom that would make it easy to add a wall. But as a rental, it's a little trickier. We are going to take some more measurements and sketch it out to see if it might work.

If you have never heard of a pressurized wall, it's a temporary wall--complete with windows and doors--that needs no hardware to hold it in place. It's specifically designed for renters, as it leaves no trace once it is removed.

Here are three places that we may contact:

http://wallzilla.com/
http://www.livingspaceinc.com
http://www.1wall2rooms.com

Anyway, today is a busy day! We're heading out shortly via the ferry--decided to enjoy a bit of luxury this morning--and Rachel will go to her dorm room to study for her final exam this afternoon. After work, Jeff and Mary will meet her there to pack up all of her stuff. Then tomorrow after work, we'll move her home via a Town Car, complete with driver. It's the most cost-effective method of travel around here if you need a private vehicle!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Bourne again

Gees, you make a friend with a celebrity and he becomes a hanger-on who just won't leave. Yeah, sure, he's a nice guy and I've learned some grooming techniques and some martial arts skills, but come on. We gotta go to work, make a living, etc.

If you are wondering what I'm talking about, check out the poster for The Bourne Ultimatum:


Once we brought him home for dinner one night after bumping into him on the subway, Matt Damon insisted on using the photo I snapped of him enthralled with the view from our apartment for the movie poster of his latest movie. I wouldn't be upset at all, really, but we didn't get anything out of it. No fee, no tickets to the premiere, not even an acknowledgement in the film credits. Oh well, at least we're friends now and Matt's gone back to his wife.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Here are a few photos we snapped this morning on a short walk--just so you can see what our neighborhood looks like. The homes are generally rowhouses, although some have a slight space in between.

Almost all are very well maintained, and some look rather posh. Most are single-family homes, but a few--especially on side streets off of our street--may be multi-family dwellings (perhaps 2 or 3 units).

The flowers are really in bloom--with lots of beautiful pink flowering trees making the biggest splash so far this spring.

There is a cute little park about a block from our building that has shade-covered benches, a playground, and a popular basketball court. Oh, and it also has a great view of the NYC skyline.



Yummy Cuban dinner

Friday night, Jeff's cousin Mary Font, her husband Pedro, and son Pierre treated us to dinner at Victor's Cafe (http://cuisinenet.com/info/cnetrst-420/?v=237), a Cuban restaurant--appropriate, since Pedro is from Cuba.

We had a lovely time, and the food was truly delicious. I (Mary) hadn't met Pedro or Pierre before, so it was great to finally talk with them. Pierre is finishing his sophomore year at Swarthmore College and is going to Taipei this summer to study Chinese.

It was too bad Rachel wasn't able to come with us--she is still resting and trying to finish up the semester--because she would have enjoyed talking with Pierre about common interests. Pierre is interested in international issues and is contemplating a graduate degree related to nonprofit management.

Rachel, too, is very interested in nonprofit work: as she likes to say, "working for a cause." Right now, she has been doing a lot of reading about environmental ethics. She had Mom read part of an essay on industrial farming the other night--made Mom want to stop eating beef and chicken completely, which she may actually do.

Because Rachel is studying philosophy (and because she isn't able to go to Africa this summer due to her illness), she's considering a summer abroad next year in Athens. Seems appropriate for a philosophy major! With Jeff's tuition bonus from Columbia, we can have some more flexibility to pay for a summer program; that simply wasn't in our budget before--although NYU is unique in that it allows financial aid/loans to pay for its summer abroad programs (not many universities do).

Here's a link to the program in Greece (for this year): http://www.nyu.edu/fas/summer/athens/index.html. Rachel thought she would take either a class in Greek and then whatever philosophy class was offered, or perhaps philosophy and a class in Greek drama.

To be young again, right?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

9 to 5

Work is nice. Beats spending hours in the apartment all day, even with our amazing view. The two words are indelibly linked when referring to what lies outside our window. Each night it's a treat to see what color the lights are on the Empire State Building. Tonight they are the normal white. Last night they were lumniscent green to contrast with the full moon reflecting off the Hudson River:


So far, work is good. People are nice, the work is challenging but has plenty of opportunities for creativity. Nice balance. Course, it's only been two days. Can't complain at all. Mary and I ride together on the 8 a.m. bus that picks up outside our building and get to work before 9 and we get home around 6. Nice to let someone else do the driving. We spend less than $300 on bus/subway passes, which is less than our car insurance, payments, and gasoline back in SLO, not to mention depreciation on the cars (about $200/mo per car, thereabouts).

The weather has turned nice, with temps in the high 60s and low 70s. Here's a scene from Bryant Park, which is next to the NY Public Library, famous for its lion statues. For Ghostbuster fans, it was the scene of the closing battle with ghouls in the sequel.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Jeff started his new job today!

This is Mary ... I'll let Jeff write a blog entry about his first day at his new job at Columbia. But so far, so good. :-)

After work, we met at Wholefoods Market for a bite to eat, then picked up Rachel at her dorm. She's not moving out of the dorm officially for another week, but she's now at home so she can rest properly and study for her final final (ha ha).

On another note, it's a fantastic experience every day just seeing the variety of people there are in this world--because frankly, New York City feels like it's the world (or a microcosm of it, anyway). From the homeless people who make you wonder how they're still alive, to the fashionably dressed women and suit-smart men ... it's all a wonderful hodgepodge that makes even the morning commute a treat (most of the time).

Today, for example, I saw the Asian woman who's always in the Port Authority terminal right next to the entrance of the 7 subway. She crouches down and lowers her eyes and doesn't say a word. But she's there every day. Even on the weekend.

Then a little while later, I saw a group of women by the entrance to the 4/5/6 lines--two middle aged, two in their 20s--handing out copies of The Watchtower. I wondered if anyone took one.

On the way home this evening, on the subway I saw a man who looked like an actor--not sure if he really was or not--reading from perhaps a Shakespeare play and trying to memorize his lines. He wore a "Law and Order" cap, a nice beige sweater, dark tan pants and snakeskin cowboy boots.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Hold on to your hats!

Yesterday was quite blustery ... although thankfully, no rain joined in. But the wind seemed to symbolize what's about to occur over the next week or so. We'll be involved in a whirlwind of activity. Jeff starts his new job at Columbia tomorrow (hooray!), Rachel moves home tomorrow evening (with just the basics to study for finals--computer, books, notes), and then next Tues. or Wed., we actually move all of her stuff out of her dorm room and attempt to find a place for it in our tiny apartment.

Surely, this place will look like a tornado hit it.

Hold on to your hats ...