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. :-)