Thursday, February 28, 2008

One year in NYC

OK, so technically we started in New Jersey. But we could SEE New York City from there, so it counts as part of our first year in NYC.

One year ago today, we moved into the apartment with the amazing view and began a new stage of our lives.

We feel so incredibly fortunate to be near Rachel as she experiences the amazing journey that is college. We see her regularly and try to support her as best we can, while still respecting her independence. This time has been a gift, something we never expected. Who knew she would attend NYU? And who knew we would find jobs that would pay her (seriously hefty) tuition?

Despite certain stresses that have accompanied this transition, we try every day to focus on the positive and see how far we have come. Yes, we still have some work to do in the new apartment, but it's minor--and it's a lovely little place for us to live, well within our means.

If things go the way we would like, we'll be able to invest in a (teeny-tiny) apartment in Paris and begin to finance our future; we still have the goal to move to Europe once Rachel graduates from NYU.

So while we are living most definitely in the present, we are also looking toward an interesting future with an international flavor. And we couldn't be more excited about the options Rachel is exploring as career possibilities: professor is topping the list, with lawyer still in the running (although probably something less stressful than a law firm-type lawyer!).

Change can be frightening, certainly. But it can also be great. If you're thinking of making a change, do some planning, and then do it!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fostering patience in the big city

(This is Mary.)

Since we have moved here, one personal attribute I have been developing is patience. Back in SLO, it was rare to have to wait in line. It was rare to physically run into someone on the street. It was rare to encounter multitudes of strangers with all sorts of personal habits that, shall we say, differ from your own.

Here, all of those things happen every day. Multiple times a day. Someone plays songs on their phone on the subway, without using headphone. Someone decides they want to take 5 minutes to purchase a candy bar with a gift certificate at the supermarket (that happened to me yesterday).

Rachel once told me that since she moved to NYC, she has become less patient. I can understand why that happens. It can be frustrating to deal with all of those daily annoyances, and patience can begin to erode.

For me, those types of situations--like tonight, when a guy wasn't watching where he was going and literally knocked my left shoulder so hard I thought I was in a football game--allow me the opportunity to practice patience (and yoga breathing).

Honestly, I would rather deny that stress gets to me, and that my patience needs work.

But instead, I keep telling myself there is a benefit to being able to remove myself emotionally from situations that can raise my blood pressure unnecessarily. At my age, I can't afford to add more stress to my life. I have become much more aware of how stress affects me, and I'm determined to work on being more patient and more understanding in order to combat it, at least in part.

I keep telling myself all of that ... and maybe one day, I'll actually accept the fact that stress is a reality that I must actively confront, and deal with, on a daily basis.

Personally, I prefer denial. Too bad I can only manage to stay there for about 30 seconds at a time.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Road to the NYC Marathon Begins

My quest to run the New York City Marathon began Saturday with a four-mile fun run in Central Park, aptly named the Snowflake 4 Mile. That's me at right, a half-hour before the run. The six inches of snow on the ground didn't stop the race, as park workers and volunteers cleared the roadway. My common sense prevents me from posting an after-run photos.

I've run about 10 times in the past month or so - equal roughly to the number I'd run in the previous year - but this was the first time running in an organized race since the 1997 Bay to Breakers.

My goal is to break 4 hours in the marathon, which isn't until Nov. 2, thank God. To do that, I'll have to run a 9-minute pace. So, for this comparatively short run, I was hoping to just run a 9-minute pace. Somehow, I managed to do almost exactly that, running the 4 miles through Central Park in 34:51, about an 8:40 pace per mile.

Mind you, at this point in my training, I could not keep up that pace for another 3.5 hours, so I've got a lot of work to do. Since I routinely cycle for 4-5 hours, the duration may not be as big an obstacle as just not injuring myself, like straining a calf or Achilles like I am won't to do. Wish me luck. I'll need some.

This last photo was taken moments before the start. Not bad for a camera phone, eh?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A soggy ride to remember

Nearly 30 riders - mostly from Team K-Man - mounted their carbon steeds shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday in Carmel to ride our own slower version of the 130-mile Stage 4 of the Tour of California to San Luis Obispo. We were tested just like the pros were two days later, although their conditions may have been even worse. That's me at left with John Lehman (thank you Mark Glenesk for all the photos).

About half of the riders abandoned by the first rest stop at 27 miles. The rain - which forecasters didn't recognize until hours before the ride began - washed away the ambitions of many, most of whom had not brought rain gear (me included). As I didn't come 3,000 miles to take a drive down the coast, I persisted with a dozen or so intrepid folks. That's me at the right at the second rest stop at Lucia, about 55 miles into the ride. Read the rest of this entry on Jeff's cycling blog, On The Rivet.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

One year ago today, we drove away from San Luis Obispo

As hard as it is to believe, it has been one year since we loaded up the truck with all of our worldly goods, including our 3 cats, and began the long drive eastward from California to New York.

A year ago today, we really had no idea what we were going to do once we arrived here. We had a place to live, and of course our daughter was already here at school, but other than that, it was all a gigantic question mark.

As we reflect on the past year, we realize that we have accomplished quite a bit, but we still have a ways to go. On the plus side, we both found good employment at Columbia University. Plus, the university offers the generous tuition benefit, so we are only responsible for a relatively small amount of Rachel's college costs each year--about 15-20 percent of what we thought we would have to pay.

We managed to buy a co-op apartment in Riverdale (Bronx), which cut down our monthly costs and eased our commute. We found new doctors and a new dentist--not as easy as one might think!

We have started to form some friendships, and we have been available to our daughter when she has needed us (like when she got mono last year and was in the hospital for a week).

We have been fortunate enough to enjoy a year of good health, and many of our friends and family have come to visit us, which has been great.

But we have more to do. For the near future, we would like to develop more friendships and social networks--we realize that takes time, so we are trying to be patient. We also would like to become more involved in volunteer activities the city affords (Mary is going to target the arts in some way). And we need to continue on our path toward buying a second property, which we hope will be in Paris.

Finally, we both have personal goals, and we intend to use all of the resources NYC has to offer in order to reach them. And of course, we want to continue to support our daughter in every way possible as she finishes her undergraduate career and prepares for the possibility of graduate school.

The fact remains that this journey has been difficult at times. We have both experienced some grieving, some culture shock, some fear and anxiety. But we never felt we made the wrong decision, which has made it easier to deal with all of those other feelings that naturally accompany such a drastic life change.

We continue to offer an open invitation to our friends and family to come and enjoy NYC anytime. We can sleep 3 guests comfortably, and all the action is a short and easy subway ride from our apartment.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tomorrow's the big day for Jeff

He'll be riding down the coast of California with his good friends from the Central Coast--at least 100 miles on one leg of the Tour of California.

Speaking of the Tour of California, we hope it's not as fraught with drugs as the Tour de France. What a mess.

Back home in NYC, Mary has been hanging out with Rachel. She had free tix to an open rehearsal Saturday afternoon of the St. Louis Symphony at Carnegie Hall. That was really fun, hearing the orchestra rehearse and listening to the conductor's instructions. They are an amazing group. The sound in the hall was full and rich, too. What a fantastic music venue, needless to say.

The weather was truly bizarre here today: 60 degrees and a bit rainy. It's supposed to be back down in the 20s and 30s tomorrow. Bring out the down coat again ... can't live in NYC without one!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Jeff off to SLO tomorrow!

His bike already arrived at the K-Man bike shop in Atascadero, so all is well there. He plans to spend some time with his family before heading up to Carmel for the ride on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Mary and Rachel are going to Carnegie Hall tomorrow with some free tickets to a rehearsal by the St. Louis Symphony. Should be fun, especially since we haven't yet been to Carnegie Hall.

Mary also intends to visit Central Park this weekend as well as Macy's, which is having a big President's Day sale. Bargains, here she comes!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Living inside a snow globe

The snow was actually quite beautiful today. It came down fairly softly (although at times the flakes felt a bit more like pellets) and consistently all afternoon, blanketing the city with about an inch or so.

Tonight, though, it's supposed to turn to sleet and then to heavy rain through Wednesday.

The weather makes it tempting to just stay inside and (for Mary, anyway) play the piano. She's trying to get back into practice after not touching a piano for abou 15 months. Her newest project is Chopin's Nocturne in e (minor), Op. 72, No. 1. You can listen to an excerpt played by the great Artur Rubinstein here: Click on "listen to samples" and scroll down to the bottom of the list, to #19.

She continues to knit, too. By now, she has complete several projects for Rachel: 2 scarves, 2 sets of simple wristwarmers, and a bandana-like scarf (imagine a large knitted triangle). She also made a hat, although it didn't quite turn out the way she'd hoped--so it is relegated to trips to the corner store only. But hey, you gotta learn, right? More hats, scarves and other fun things are on the horizon, and her goal is to knit a larger piece of clothing, like a vest or simple sweater, before the end of 2008.

Jeff is losing a couple of biking days due to weather, but no doubt he'll still feel in tip-top shape for his Tour of California leg this weekend. Go, Jeff!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cars seem so ... passe'

Now that we haven't been driving for nearly a year, cars just seem so passe'. Mary was reading an article online today about a recall of 225,000 Ford SUV's and couldn't help but think, "People still drive those things? What a waste of money, time, fuel ...".

Obviously, places like California have a long way to go when it comes to public transportation. But why doesn't the California citizenry complain about it and demand some action on the part of state government officials? And why do we stand for this idea that somehow public transportation has to make money or it's not viable? It's a SERVICE, not a cash generator!

When we lived in California, we agonized over the fact that we couldn't take a fast train up and down the coast. Amtrak isn't fast, let's face it--it barely operates at all. The Bay Area is trying, with BART and some light rail service. It's a start, but where's the beef? Not sure what the status is these days of mass transit in LA but will bet it's a shambles.

We got by for quite awhile with only 1 car while we lived in San Luis Obispo, but that's because Jeff was able to bike to work and Mary worked mostly from home (with thrice weekly trips to Cal Poly to teach classes).

That's not saying mass transit is perfect here in NYC. It ain't. But it's a helluva lot better here than in California.

Those of you who love your cars have probably never experienced the freedom of not needing one: no gas to buy, no insurance to buy, no worries about maintenance costs or being stuck somewhere without wheels. So far, we have not been hindered in the least by not having a car. We just do things a little differently and we have items delivered more often. Plus, we can always rent a car if we want to take a drive somewhere.

Unless and until we are willing to give up our cars, we will forever be shackled to those countries that sell us oil, and our economy will suffer--as will the planet. Think about how you might live with one fewer car in your garage or parked on your driveway. Could you do it? Would be willing to?

(It's amazing what a difference a few days can make in temperature. Last Wed. it was around 60 degrees, even at dinnertime. Today, it was in the teens.)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Advantages to a tiny, miniscule, need-a-magnifier-to-see-it kitchen

1. You can never have too many cooks in the kitchen, because they simply won't fit.
2. You can stand in one spot and reach all the ingredients, cook and clean up.
3. You are forced to clean as you go, so by the time the meal is ready, your kitchen is already clean!
4. Your dishes are always clean, too, because you have to run your teeny-tiny dishwasher daily.
5. You save money on all those cleaning supplies because it takes only one or two swipes to cover all the surfaces with your sponge.
6. You can paint the walls a brilliant color without fearing that you're overdoing it.
7. Your largest pots are always at the ready, because they don't fit anywhere other than the stovetop.
8. Ditto your cookie sheets--always in the oven, ready to go (except when you need the oven for something else, at which time they migrate to the counter for awhile).

None, really. Except that people can't congregate there during parties. But that's what living rooms are for!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Reflections on the week (briefly)

Mary is battling food poisoning today, so this post will be brief.

Super Tuesday was, well, SUPER. What a horse race! No matter who you support, you gotta admit that this is an exciting election season. It's fun to read all the pundits' predictions, especially because everyone knows they don't know anything!

In contrast to our experience last week, we saw a good play last night, "The Farnsworth Invention," starring Hank Azaria. You may know him from "The Simpsons," "Mad About You" and "Friends." Rachel was kind enough to get us free tix through NYU--very cool. It chronicled the history of the development of television and was written by Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" and the TV show "The West Wing," among others.

Yesterday it was so warm here that we didn't even need to wear coats. Seriously, it was around 60 degrees, even in the early evening. It's supposed to cool off now, but the weather predictions here are not always very accurate, we have noticed.

Jeff shipped his bike to SLO for his big ride next weekend. Go, Jeff!

Monday, February 4, 2008

How 'bout them Giants??!!

We are all a little bleary-eyed from staying up and watching the fabulous finish to the Super Bowl (and a few of the festivities afterwards--like the presentation of the trophy, etc.). It's a bit easier to watch the game back in California, where it starts at 3:30 instead of 6:30.

Bot oh well! The Giants won the Super Bowl and beat those (cheating) Patriots with a lot of perserverence.

There will be a ticker-tape parade here tomorrow, starting at Battery Park and working its way up Broadway to Chambers Street. Rachel's reacton: "Oh, great, the subways will probably be packed." (She lives down in that general area.)

Jeff and Mary don't plan on going to the parade. We'll be busy working ... and voting! SUPER TUESDAY TOMORROW! What a Super week!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Sunday, Super Tuesday ...

As you might imagine, things are cranking up in NYC in anticipation of the NY Giants vs. the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl today. People are wearing their Giants caps and jackets and everyone's talking about whether the team can ruin the Patriots' perfect* record. *Except, of course, that they were caught cheating. And Jeff found something that said they had been doing the same videotaping crap back in 2002 ... so how long has this been going on?

Anyway, then there's Super Tuesday--totally weird to think that Californians are also voting in February. In Hillary's "home" state of NY, we actually did see a few rallyers yesterday in Union Square. But that's the first really visible sign of support compared to the Obama folks, who are out in droves all the time. Maybe Hillary thinks NY is a given? Maybe, maybe not. Is California a given for Hillary? Maybe, maybe not.

If the NY Giants happen to pull out a victory today, watch out! The streets of the city will be lit up with people who are, probably, lit up!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Global warming?

The last time NYC experienced a January with no measurable snow was 75 years ago.

Yet in other parts of the country, this winter has been harsh.

Maybe you can dismiss it as an anomaly. But maybe you can't.

What can we, as individuals do to counteract global climate change? We can demand from our leaders better, more progressive policies. We can demand that there be regulations against doing business with countries (like China) that don't have solid environmental policies in place. We can stop being so dependent on our cars and demand better public transportation in places like California. We can demand campaign finance reform, so oil lobbyists have no power in Washington.

There are lots of things we can do. More ideas?

Friday, February 1, 2008

It's only rock 'n' roll but I (didn't) like it

We were very excited to see the play "Rock 'n' Roll" last night, for a few reasons: 1) they honored our tickets we had already paid for and missed the performance (see an earlier blog entry), 2) it stars some interesting actors, like Brian Cox and Rufus Sewell, and 3) it was written by Tom Stoppard.

The night became an adventure even before the play. After work, Mary ran a couple of errands, so we were ready to head down to the theater at 6:30--from 110th St. down to 45th St. We had to be there by 7:30 to pick up our tickets, but it normally would take 20-25 minutes to get there. So we were fine.

That is, until we learned that the subway WAS NOT RUNNING. As you can imagine, the lines for the bus on were five-people deep. No way we could get a cab, either.

So we rushed over to Riverside Ave., a less-traveled boulevard that also has bus service. Most people like to travel up and down Broadway, which is understandable. But there are other boulevards that run north-south that have bus service.

We managed to catch a bus down to 59th and took a chance that the subways were working. As we rode the bus, we peered outside to see if people were coming/going up and down the subway stairs at various stops, and they appeared to be fine.

Luckily, the subway at 59th St. WAS working. We rode it down to 42nd and literally ran to the theater on 45th St., arriving at 7:29 pm.

But after all that, we disliked the play! It's hard to even describe what it is about, and honestly, it's not worth the trouble. The acting was fine, but the play itself was dull, dull, dull without a shred of emotion in it. It seemed like we were listening to a 3-hour lecture on Communism and Czechoslovakia through the mouths of the actors. Ugh.

We have decided to stick with off-Broadway and lesser-known shows and reputable music venues. Honestly, we have been disappointed by more Broadway shows than we can count. And they are expensive as heck!

If you come visit us, of course we would encourage you to see a show, if that's what you want to do. Just know that the city has a lot more to offer than the glitz and glam of Broadway shows--and it's often much better (and cheaper!).