Friday, August 19, 2005

We laughed and laughed and ate all the cookies.

There's a Chappelle's Show sketch where the main character is a crack addict named Tyrone. In one of the earlier episode, Tyrone goes to give a lecture to some school children about why they shouldn't do drugs, and it winds up being an instructional speech about where to buy/how to use drugs.

At one point, he's telling the kids about the first time he smoked marijuana: "My friends and I smoked some weed after school. And we laughed and laughed and ate all the cookies. It was terrible!"

For whatever reason (probably because it's funny) Kate and I love this sketch and whip out lines from it all the time. Especially the above line. There's also the classic "Do you know what dog food tastes like? Do you? It tastes just like it smells. Delicious!"

I tell you this because I am off to DC is less than an hour for the usual South East high living of martinis and gorgonzola cheese, Southern market coffee, and Chappelle's Show quoting. Pablo is driving down with me, which means that there will also be lots of Simpsons quoting (much to Kate's chagrin). And of course, there will be bridesmaid dress shopping.

Anyway, have a great weekend, and let's hope that a monsoon hasn't hit I-95 and washed it out, although knowing my luck, it probably has.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Alpha Down, Dude

Phil and I drove to Nueva York yesterday after work for poker. And with apologies to Phil, who thinks I pretty much always get conversation reconstructions wrong, I am going to try and repeat a small excerpt from the car ride.

Phil: I hope we get there before Rajeev.
Me: Why?
Phil: Because if he gets there first, he'll que all his music on the computer.
Me: So? (this above comment seemed especially strange since I thought that Rajeev and Phil had nearly identical musical tastes.... it seemed like me and Kate fighting over NPR programming)
Phil: It's this passive aggressive thing we have going where we're each trying to play music that the other person won't know.
Me: There's music you guys don't know?

And while I have never thought of any of these guys as quintissential "alpha male" types, I guess they sort of are when it comes to music. And maybe a little bit when it comes to poker... but what guy isn't alpha when it comes to poker? These two points became clearer as bickering would erupt over whose turn it was to pick an album, and as Rajeev's buddy Jason, who had never played poker before, won a series of big hands. I smartly stayed away from the music selection, and managed to do fine at poker - I hit quad 10s in a hand of Omaha, which is probably the best hand I've ever had in poker.

Annnyyway, after a particularly contentious hand of poker and some disagreement over the next musical selection, Phil got fired up and Jason came out with the line of the night: "Whoa! Alpha down!" Awesome. I wish I had thought of it. Regardless, it clearly belongs on a t-shirt.

Rest of the night progressed as usual with lots of beer, cheesesteaks, smack talk and poker. The cheesesteaks from Blondie's? Excellent, as were the waffle fries. I have come to realize that Phil sometimes acts like a Mc when it comes to ordering group food - in other words, like you grew up in a family without enough food, or too many kids fighting over said food and now overcompensate by ordering everything on the menu. My mom is a big fan of that method. And we used to run into problems with this in law school when two of the guys would go out to White Castle or Popeye's to buy dinner for the group. Phil, it's official. You're an honorary Irishman. Your love of fried fish, single malt, beer, gambling, and general belligerance in an argument makes it clear. I'll just add a "Fitz" onto your last name and you're set.

"We just gave too much away."

First things first. Fucking Yankees. What the hell? D-Rays are 9 for 13 against us this season? It's a disgrace. The Yankees don't deserve to make the playoffs this year. If we're very lucky, George Steinbrenner will fire himself after this season.

Next. I came into work late today. My typical morning routine is Morning Edition on NPR, followed by BBC World Service. However, BBC World Service is covering ad nauseum the Israeli eviction/pull-out from Gaza. Not to belittle or undermine this story, which is clearly very important, but BBC World Service's coverage has been... well, repetitive to say the least. I almost feel like they're just looping the same program. Cue sound on the melee, then sound of shouts and protests, poignant and sad interview with a woman who's leaving her home, interview with a Palestinian. The end. Except it lasts for about 30 minutes before they bother to cover any other world news. My point is, I'm getting a little tired of BBC's coverage.

So, I switched over to ESPN Radio, which I always enjoy. Listened to Mike and Mike in the Morning, and then at 10, it switched over to some dude named Colin Cowherd. And I hate him. "Who is this guy?" I wondered. Cowherd is apparently from Portland where he had a show. I have no clue what his sports background, if any, is. He proceeds to make the most blanket, and obvious statements one could make about baseball, and since it's just him on the show, it feels like he's yelling at you. I personally don't like radio programs where there is only the one host and no sidekicks. I'd much rather listen to a constructive conversation than some douche from Portland yowl at me about how the Yankees are incapable of beating crappy teams this year (Really?!?!? I had no idea! I thought we were playing swell and that it was totally fine for the Rays and Kansas City to smack us around.) Then he starts talking about how he's noticed that the players for the Twins and other lower pay-roll teams tend to be very small and that bigger teams like the Yankees and BoSox have very large beefy players. Ooookkkaaayyyy.

I had to switch over the The Fan, and it's usually no contest that I'll pick ESPN radio over WFAN. Sid and Joe B. (well, actually it's Ian Eagle filling in for Joe) were definitely preferable to Cowherd. Sure, I'd rather listen to Dan Patrick or the Michael Kay show (I enjoy Don LaGreca), or even Mike and the Mad Dog, but any port in a storm, people. Any port.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

¡Oígame compay! No deje el camino por coger la vereda.

Friday was a big night.

Law school friend Vanessa and I were meeting up for dinner, old college friend Jim was in town looking for apartments in preparation for his big move to New York, and I took the PATH train to the city for the first time in quite awhile.

I typically drive to New York for two main reasons - it can be cheaper and faster than public transportation if you park on the street, and since I am typically out late in New York, it's nice to just get in your car and go, rather than waiting for the subway, PATH, so on. And if you have to take the NJ transit train, well, they usually stop running by 1am, so that can be a problem.

Anyway, Friday evening, I wound up taking the PATH from Pavonia/Newport in Jersey City. V and I were meeting at 7pm, but at 6:30, I was still thick in the middle of Holland Tunnel traffic and I knew there was no way I'd make it to Columbus Circle by the appointed time. So, PATH and subway it was. Going in was fine, coming out was a whole different story which I will save for later.

Anyway, I met Vanessa at Azucar, a Cuban restaurant on 8th Avenue at 56th Street. My whole weekend had a very Latin theme to it, which seemed even more apropos following Ibrahim Ferrer's death. Outside there's a man making cigars, and there's a busy bar just through the door. The restaurant itself was also bustling, but Van had gotten there early and snagged us a table (and also had some empanadas, which she said were excellent, to tide herself over). The decor was really nice, with the typical warm, low lighting that softens the edges and makes everyone look better. Lots of vegetation, too, which helped muffle the din somewhat. I had rabo encedido - braised ox tail in red wine sauce with mashed plantains. It was served with a side of rice and it was simply splendid - the meat was tender and full of flavor, and the mix of peppers in the sauce was quite complementary. Van had the pollo aljibe, which she raved about.

The service was quick, friendly and attentive (and patient considering I was late to meet V, and she sat at the table for about 45 minutes before ordering) and the salsa music was at a good volume. I love salsa music, and I thought to myself Friday night, "If I were a waitress here, it might not be so bad, I'd just dance around all night long." Anyway, I'll definitely return to Azucar.... I think I'll have a cuban sandwich and a mojito.

As ever, the company was a delight. I hadn't seen Vanessa since last October, but she was full of her usual saltiness. Few people could pull off, "Megan, you should be black. Ordering ox tail. Jesus," or "If another associate talked to me like that, I'd tell the partners, 'Fine. But you're losing two attorneys today - her because I'm gonna kill her, and me because I'll be going to jail." We gossiped and commiserated and had our usual rollicking time.

I met up with dearest Jim after dinner and we headed off to Citrus for my favorite sangria. Citrus has its faults (the music is completely bizarre and the bar area is not comfortable) but the sangria rules and I actually am a fan of the food too. Jim is a law-talking person too, so we did the usual legal blah-blah and caught up since we hadn't spoken since December, and hadn't seen each other in years. The delight of Jim is that despite the fact that we have both changed a lot since we were 18, we can still talk and talk like it's 4am in the dorms and Jim's roommate has sexiled him. Spending time in New York with Jim is so refreshing because he sees it through entirely different eyes - the kid grew up in Idaho and has loved New York, or the idea of it, since childhood. Everything is fresh and clean and beautiful, even when it's hot and sultry. This fall, he'll be moving here for the next two years. "I wonder if I'll ever see New York as home," he mused. "Or if it will always just be this beautiful, exotic other. I think it'll always be the other." I hope so. Familiarity can breed love, but it's nothing like the love you have for the ideal in your head.

Jim and I said our good-byes and I headed back to the PATH, where I got to wait on the unbearably hot platform with other Jersey-bound folks for 30 minutes. As we rolled off to Hoboken, I dozed off in an attempt to block out the loud people. I was so successful that I slept right through my stop and had to wait at Grove Street till the next train came. I stood on the platform as a train headed to Journal Square came in, watched a guy go running off the train and puke all over the tracks. "This is why we can't have nice things," I muttered. Long story short, from the time Jim and I said good-bye outside Lincoln Center till I got home to Mo Plains, two hours had elapsed. This is why I don't take public transportation.

Never gonna dance, only gonna love

Last August, Turner Classic Movies did a gimmick they called "Summer Under the Stars" or something like that. Every day was a different classic movie star marathon. I was in the process of packing for a move, and basically was shell-shocked from the bar, so it was perfect for me.

Poking around on the Times for a break today, I found this article about some new DVD releases. What tickles me about it is that there's a new Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers collection out. It includes Swing Time, Top Hat, Follow the Fleet, Shalll We Dance, and The Barkleys of Broadway.

The reviewer read my mind - always a fan of Top Hat (who wouldn't be?) I saw Swing Time for the first time last August on TCM and I completely fell in love with it. How could I have missed this Fred and Ginger gem - it's obviously beautifully choreographed and executed, but the storyline itself is so bittersweet and gentle, which is unusual for a Fred and Ginger movie - the climactic scene set to "Never Gonna Dance" is romantic and heartbreaking. Love it!

Anyway, check it out, and if you have TCM, check out the lineup. This Saturday is Jimmy Stewart (includes The Man Who Knew Too Much, You Can't Take it with You, Vertigo and Rear Window) and Bogie gets the last day of the month (sadly I've missed Lauren Bacall, Cary Grant, and the aforementioned Fred.... and why no Orson Welles? Weird).

Monday, August 15, 2005

Mourning the Life That Wasn't

On Saturday night, Mike and Gena hosted a lovely wine tasting at their home. Their house, for the record, is brand new and was built to their specifications. It is utterly, ridiculously lovely. I keep encouraging them to get a dog, go on vacation and ask me to pet-sit just so I can bask in the glow of their home.

At one point I went into the kitchen to get some water and as usual, I molested the refrigerator. It is a wonderful stainless steel Jenn-Air fridge with french doors, an internal water filter and a bottom slide freezer. Cooking and entertaining are important to Mike and G, and so their kitchen is pretty much perfect - Viking range, island, granite counters, marble tile work, cherry wood cabinets with silver fixtures. It is, in sum, exactly the type of kitchen I have always wanted. Gena stepped into the kitchen and asked what I was doing. "Oh, just fondling your fridge, as usual."

Seems like most of my people are divided into two camps right now - life crisis or massive settlement. The settlers - buying property, having children, working towards a lasting and fulfilling career. The life crisises - wondering if they're making the right decisions, not sure what they're doing and so on.

My teenage years were difficult, unpredictable and unstable for a variety of reasons. And loathe as I am to admit it, I suppose those years drove me towards some of my goals earlier in life. I have always erred on the side of, or perhaps more accurately craved, stability and predictability. And so it was with trepidation and disappointment that I realized some months ago that nothing in my life was headed in the direction that I had expected. Despite staying close to home, I am no closer ot putting down roots; despite an advanced degree, I am no closer to a lasting and fulfilling career. And while I feel deep satisfaction with my personal life, I must admit that I thought I might have some ideas about marriage and family by now. I didn't expect to be married, of course, but I suspect that at this juncture in my life, I am further away from that sort of settlement than I have been at any other time in my adult life.

And as I realized these massive shifts between my expectations and reality, I mourned the life that I didn't have. But since so many of these disappointments were beyond my control, I figured perhaps there was a lesson to extract from this after all. Perhaps this was really an opportunity for reinvention. I never expected to be here - to be planning massive job jumping, calculating how much money I have to save so that I can run off on a world tour, and accepting the fact that after a couple of decades of behaving in a manner that is more mature that I should have to be, it was time to be immature. There is something overwhelmingly liberating and refreshing about it. Why shouldn't I sell my car and go live in New York in my 30s? Or move to Valencia for that matter?

But for a moment on Saturday as I stood running my finger tips over the steel door of G's fridge, I forgot all that and felt the sadness that goes with unfulfilled longing. It was only fleeting, though. Changing takes practice.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Plan Your Escape Route

About a month ago, old college friend/housemate Devon came up from her southern home to visit New Jersey. We met with other housemate Elana to catch up and eat some kosher food. Devon is by far the most advanced of the college folk - married, owns a house, baby on the way. The rest of us are mostly picking our noses and wondering where we went wrong.

The topic turned to jobs/careers, and Elana explained to Devon that she had just started school to become a massage therapist. E has been working for the last couple of years doing computer stuff for a university. It's certainly not what she planned on doing when she was in college, but what was supposed to be a temporary job turned into something else. Elana cleared her throat. "I graduate from massage therapy school next June. And then I'm going to move to San Diego and get a job at a spa. Or I might work on a cruise ship." There was a pause and I said, "I think that's awesome. That's a great escape route."

My own personal escape route is to keep doing this for a few more years, save up some money, pay off some debt, and then leave. I think I'll travel around the world for about three months, thanks in part to this website, and Global Freeloaders, and when I return, perhaps I'll open a bar. As I was looking for new jobs earlier in the year, I came to the conclusion that one of my problems was that I was entirely lacking any enthusiasm for my chosen profession. It's not the field itself, which is generally interesting. It's the idea that I'm expected to do it for too many hours a week, to give up too many things in exchange for money and a shot at becoming partner. Why?

That question of why is what spurred me on. Maybe you'd hate anything you had to do for 80 hours a week. Or maybe there really is something out there that'll make you happy to get out of bed every day. It's not true that everyone hates their job. With these thoughts circling my head, I realized that one of the main reasons I was hanging onto this profession was the idea that I had spent three years in school getting the degree. I couldn't waste the time or money, could I?

I got feedback from the strangest and most unlikely of sources - my brother-in-law. He grew up very poor and as a result, has always believed that the pursuit of money was very important. But back before he started doing stock analysis, he used to teach doctors how to use and read CT scans and MRIs. And he really enjoyed it, it just didn't pay a whole lot. So when I talked about traveling the world because there were so many places I wanted to go and I couldn't really see myself trecking around India when I retired at 70, and that then maybe I'd open a bar, I got a rant from my sister, and a knowing nod from Crazy. He said, "It's good to travel when you're younger. You're right, you should do it. And a bar could be a good business. And you could always go back to law if it didn't work."

Opinionistas clearly doesn't have an escape route planned, but I think she ought to get one. After reading her entertaining blog, I am more convinced than ever that no amount of money is worth the hours and the crappy living. And meanwhile, I intend to spend the next few years fleshing out my own escape route. Cliche as it is, life's too short.

Home again, home again

Well, the good news is, folks, that I have found an apartment that is to my liking and the landlady decided she'll let me live there. I sign the lease this Sunday. It's a real load off.

I'll be moving at the end of the month to fair Nutley, home of the Pizza Wars, American Bistro, a good steak, my favorite pedicure place, and two shakes from Montclair and Clifton Commons. Sigh. Life is good.

The apartment is on the second floor of a house, it's just my apartment and the one below. I'm pretty pumped. In fact, I think this calls for a playing of favorite happy song, "Ray of Light". I haven't lived in a house since I left college, and needless to say, a house has charms that a building sometimes lacks. Anyway, the new place has two bedrooms, a large kitchen, a utility room (with washer/dryer hookup!), living room, and an enclosed sun porch. Plenty of room for me and Mr. Abbott. I hope that the next time I move, it'll be into my very home. Preferably this one. Ha ha! Kidding, of course, it's much more likely that in order for me to buy property, I'll have to live here. Or here. Then again, I don't think the humidity and heat of Vicksburg, Mississip would go well with my delicate Irish constitution, and I definitely have too much crap to live in a cardboard box.

So, in lieu of buying anything in the near future, you can find me in Nutley.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


You may recall from previous posts that my best girl, Kate, is engaged. She and her betrothed, Bart, are getting married next June and I am sharing maid o' honor duties with Kate's little sister. Go me! It's not my first time as a bridesmaid, and probably won't be my last. It's not because I am some sort of beloved friend that I am chosen, I think rather, that I have gained a reputation as a bridesmaid fascist.

I like planning parties and what not. At the same time, dealing with whiners and other unhappy family and friends isn't my cup of tea. Isn't this supposed to be the bride and groom's day? Yet it frequently turns into what everyone else wants. Well, my general feelings are that if Kate and Bart are paying for it, then it should be just as they like it, and I have no problem being a little bitch about it.

The thing is, for years, Kate has been threatening to be a Bridezilla. The funny part is, she got engaged, they booked the church and the reception site, and she subsequently stopped caring about any and all wedding-related plans. In fact, the only thing on which she has laid down the law is that the bridesmaids can't wear black (phooey). Enter Bridesmaidzilla. While I was fussing over what we should do for a bachelorette party and bridal shower (the purview of the bridesmaids), I came to the realization that Kate has made absolutely no other plans for this wedding. Granted, there's plenty of time, but it's always best to get these things out of the way, in my opinion.

As such, I have been making lists on the remaining issues, taking down names and numbers. My fascistic planner side is not something I find terribly appealing or enjoyable, and yet it's almost compulsive. On the flip side, I feel like if I were in Kate's shoes, I'd probably be taking the laissez faire approach as well. Actually, if I were in Kate's shoes, I'd probably elope. This wedding shit is a real boondoggle. At least, that's how I feel about myself. But when it comes to other people, it's nice to be included in one of the more important days of their life.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Candy doesn't have to have a point

I've been catching up on my movies the last couple of weeks. I've already discussed March of the Penguins, but I have subsequently seen War of the Worlds (it's so sad that matinees are $7.50 now), Me and You and Everyone We Know, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Hustle and Flow. Didn't dislike one in the group, I found them all enjoyable, some more than others, of course.

WOTW was pretty intense. Good effects, naturally, and I was actually able to put aside my irritation with Tom Cruise. I liked the fact that the story was entirely from the main character's point of view - there's not too much blather about beating the aliens and so on. In other words, you don't really know how the war is going or what's happening, except as Tom Cruise's character experiences it. Made it realer and scarier. Kind of wanted to shove a sock down Dakota Fanning's throat, but that's to be expected.

I also liked Me and You, though I'd recommend DVD for this. Chuckles loved it, and I think it's loveable if you're in a certain place in your frame of thinking. Briefly, Me and You is about a newly single father and his two kids and the woman with whom he strangely becomes involved. It's all about loneliness and connectivity, but what really made the movie for me were the two kids. The younger one especially was to me what the kid in Jerry Maguire was to everyone else.

Charlie was my favorite of the bunch, partially because Pablo and I saw it on the IMAX. I am a fan of the original, but I don't even really feel the need to compare the two - I think it's entirely possible to enjoy them both. Johnny Depp's Wonka is a lot more malevolent and maladjusted than Gene Wilder's more paternal Wonka. It goes without saying that a twisted Wonka is more in keeping with Roald Dahl. Granted, the boat scene was rather lacking (the original is quite scary) but on the whole, I had a lot of fun.

And last night I saw Hustle and Flow, which was certainly fun, and since we saw it at $6 movie night in Maplewood, it was the bargain of the bunch. Terrence Howard's role as a pimp turned aspiring rapper was a complete 180 from his role in Crash. I hope to see him in more stuff in the near future. I also enjoyed Taryn Manning, who was, interestingly enough, also in 8 Mile.

Coming up, I'm hoping to see The Aristocrats soon, which Lauren really enjoyed, and Broken Flowers with my man Bill Murray. Such a long way from Carl Spackler, buddy, but I'd follow you anywhere.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

He's a Great Kai

I am mildly in love with Marketplace Morning Report's Kai Ryssdal. For you non-NPR listeners, Marketplace is the economic-themed half hour show that's right in between All Things Considered and Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The Morning Report is the ten-minute morning version that's on at 8:50am every day after Morning Edition.

Anyway, I've loved Kai for years. He's got a great voice, he's smart and he has the most wonderful, dry sense of humor. His weekly "Sign of the Apocalypse" cracks me up every time. Kai has been the host of the Morning Report for years.

Meanwhile, the more substantial Marketplace was hosted by lame-o David Brown, whom I do not care for. Anyone who describes himself as a "renaissance man" deserves a cock punch. Sure, sure, someone probably wrote that for him, but it seems so much more effusive than Kai's or Tess Vigeland's description, and therefore I think Brown had a hand in it.

But anyway, I am happy to report that David Brown is gone and Kai Ryssdal is now hosting the 30-minute Marketplace. Hooray!

In other news, this past weekend's This American Life made me cry. It was about the difference between how we want people to see us, and how they actually see us. As far as themes go, it wasn't as well-tied as it usually is. But the last two stories were so well-told and moving that it didn't matter. Jonathan Goldstein's realization that his father loved him because of who he was and not in spite of it? Priceless. But I lost it in the final act where the mother is trying to help her ten-year-old son learn about who his father really was, now that Dad has a degenerative brain disease that has wiped away his personality.

Chuckles and I argued last week about Ira Glass, host of TAL. I'll grant that my argument wasn't that strong... I think I said something like, "You're crazy! Ira Glass rules!" And he does. So. There.

Last, but certainly not least, it's hard to beat Peter Sagal saying "badunkadonk" on the radio, and then having to explain what that means to Roy Blount, Jr (whom I strongly suspect was drunk).

Everybody's got a little light under the sun

This, folks, is Philly's last week as a Jersey pretender. This weekend, he moves back to New York where he will live with lady friend Emily, while they await the completion of their fantabulous Brooklyn Heights apartment. When all is said and done, this will be their view. Purty, isn't it? I am, of course, very happy for him, as all friends are happy for each other when they are excited about the future. At the same time, I'm sad. Now I'll have to audition a whole new set of Yankee-hating, Mets-loving poker players to keep my life interesting. On the flip side, I'll probably drop five pounds from not eating so many burgers and drinking so much beer. So I've got that going for me.

Anyway, last week, in the continuation of Know Your Enemy: New Jersey, Phil and I went to the Gaslight Brewery in South Orange. Phil declared it "the best bar in New Jersey" (and bear in mind that he's probably been to about 5 bars in the entire state). It certainly is quite good, especially if you're a fan of beer. First off, Gaslight has cask-conditioned ale. I can't even begin to tell you what a challenge it's been to find that in the Jers, where the plebs just don't enjoy good beer. Anyway, we returned there again last night.

Gaslight has a nice bunch of its own brews, as well as "guest beers" like Fuller's and Lindeman. As for their own beers, I like the 1920s Lager, which is apparently a classic style of American lager from pre-prohibition. Phil really liked the black bear lager, which he had again last night. We both finished the night with some Lindeman Peche, which I think even non-beer fans would like because it's sweet.

Other enjoyable things about Gaslight - they play both Mets and Yankees, so if we get the corner of the bar, I can watch my boys and Phil can watch his. The juke box is also enjoyable, although I could do with a little less Bon Jovi (and a lot less Eagles.... god, I hate the Eagles).

In the meantime, I do believe that Phil has warmed a bit to New Jersey, even if we don't have a bar as cool as the Blind Tiger.... then again, Blind Tiger doesn't have $10 lobster on Mondays. If you're interested in reviewing our previous adventures, they are here, here, here and here. Tonight, Rajeev is coming out to New Jersey to experience Fuddrucker's with us.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Little Buddhist

So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevice, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-galunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

-- Carl Spackler

I apologize that my posting last week was so lacking. I was having a series of meltdowns.

I’m in search of an apartment and the hunt has been poor thus far. I’ve seen two apartments – one terrible and one decent, but not really what I want. Really, I’d like to just pick up my current apartment and move it closer to my new job, but that isn’t working out so far.

What I really enjoy, though, is how the realtors look at me like I just said I own a pet llama when I explain that I have a cat and have to bring him with me when I move. Christ, doesn't anyone own a pet anymore? I can't believe what a hassle this has been.

Anyway, I am currently reading a book about Buddhism. I frequently become interested in a religion, read all about it, and then move onto another religion. High school, I read about Islam. First few years of college – Judaism. First year of law school, Christianity. And now, Buddhism. It’s not a question of practicing; I just find the study of religion to be fascinating. Still, as I read about Buddhism, I find myself thinking, “Hey, I do that!” or “That’s a good idea. I should look at things that way.” So I'm working on cultivating a little Buddhist in myself.

Last week when the dentist told me I have to get new veneers, to the tune of $6,500, I had a little bit of a freak out. What would I do? I couldn't afford that! And I still have so much other stuff to do, like work and find an apartment, when would I have the time? And I should get a second opinion! Would the insurance cover that? After about 5 minutes, the little Buddhist Megan said, "Megan, this is silly. Your teeth won't fall out of your head. And if they do, insurance will probably cover new teeth. So don't worry. Take care of it next month."

The little Buddhist has been getting quite a workout lately, though thus far I am pleased with the outcome. I'm still not very good at meditating – my mind keeps straying to things like, "I'd like a donut," or "Does my breathing always sound this loud?"

So, I'm working on all this, but I'm never going to reach nirvana because I could never be a vegetarian. Meat is just too yummy. Guess I'll have to settle for listening to my Nevermind album. Ba dum dum. I'll be here all week, tip your waitress on the way out.

Bitter Dan

My mom calls it the Irish. The Irish is your sixth sense, psychic ability, whatever. My mom has the Irish something fierce. Old Italian women give the eye, but my mother just calls it a curse, and when she puts her hex on you, bad things happen. I am generally completely lacking in the Irish. A year ago, I had a prophetic dream and my mom exclaimed, “I knew you had the Irish! You couldn’t be my daughter and not have it!” Well, I’m pretty sure I don’t have the Irish, but I knew Saturday that I would run into old friends and I was right.

Saturday I headed up to bucolic Mahwah, my hometown, to visit my parentals and buy a new cell phone. I planned to go home after mooching dinner, do some cleaning, and a little memo writing for work. But then Philly called.

Phil called because he rightly thought that I was going to be in the city that night…. but I had rescheduled those plans. As Phil was telling me that he and his people would be out at a bar on the Lower East Side, I thought, “Well, gee, I’m just going to go home. I have so much work and cleaning to do.” But my mouth wound up saying, “That sounds good. I’ll come out around 10:30.”

The trip into the city was lousy – accident in the Holland Tunnel, blah blah blah blah blah, I didn’t want to make a deal because I’m trying to be calm under such situations, and I hate to be a stereotypical Jersey girl complaining about traffic when I’m out with Phil and his decidedly un-Jersey surroundings. Long story short, I left Mo Plains at 9:45 and rolled into
Loreley on Rivington Street at about 12:00am. Good. Times. (Sorry Phil, I know the excessive sarcasm of that phrase is bothersome, but if ever it was called for….)

Anyway, it wound up being completely worth the hassle to get in. Indeed, I’m not the type of girl to stay out till 3:30am unless I’m having fun. Playing the role of typical Jersey lamer was yours truly, but it wound up being fun anyway. One of Phil’s buddies is actually from New Jersey, and we agreed (naturally) that true diners are only in Jersey (open 24 hours and owned by Greeks, of course), and that making a right on red is completely logical and it’s asinine that New York doesn’t allow this. Meanwhile, Rajeev has just returned from his three week trip to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, so there were plenty of stories to hear. I enjoyed Loreley, although I was certainly not cool enough to be there.

I headed upstairs to get a beer, and locked eyes with Jay from college. “Hey!” he said. “Demarite?” “Yup,” I responded, “Megan.” As I turned to see whom he was with, I found myself face-to-face, with TK’s old flame Rich and Liana friend (and Rich brother) Jim. “Megan!” Jim exclaimed and we exchanged the heartiest handshake I’ve had in awhile.

For those of you who didn’t know me in college, allow me to explain “Demarite.” For three years, I lived in
Demarest Hall. Residents were known as “Demarites.” Demarest was home to special interest housing – in other words, organized groups for whatever you had an interest in – mine was writing, Janet’s was visual art, Lauren and Roxey were in political science. For writing, we would meet and discuss each other’s writing. In poli sci, they’d argue politics, and so on and so forth. In retrospect, I’d say it was a real nerdfest, but it’s where I met all of my closest friends in college. So there you have it.

I stood talking to Rich, Jim and Jay for a couple of minutes and stuff like, “Hey, did you see that
Jeremy Glick was on Fox News?” “Yeah, he was on the O’Reilly Factor, it was crazy.” Then I threw out, “Guess who I saw walking down the street in Montclair last week? Bitter Dan.” “Bitter Dan!” the guys all yelled at the same time, as if this were Norm on Cheers. During my first year of college, there were about 5 different Dans living in Demarest, so they all got nicknames – Pipe Dan (smoked from a pipe, of course), Red Dan (had red-hair), etc. And Bitter Dan. Bitter Dan was simply very funny and very bitter. He was punk rock to the nth degree, ridiculously smart and lazy, and completely, singularly, himself. I have never met anyone like him, and don’t ever expect to again.

Bitter Dan was a celebrity in our dorm – everyone knew him and he clearly was important in all of our views of home. I’ve told about 7 different people now of my Bitter Dan sighting and everyone reacts the same: “Bitter Dan!” I can’t even count the number of times I would come back from class and see Dan sitting on the front stoop smoking a cig, complaining about the lack of unionization at Brower Commons or something to that effect. He represents so much of my college experience, and so it was natural that he would look at me and not know who I was. I guess it’s always that way for people who are representative.

Anyway, my Irish sense told me I’d run into law school people, but college is a better place to remember. The rest of the evening was spent in the company of Phil and many of his college and law school friends. I can’t stay up till 4:30am like I did in college and not pay for it the next day, but holding onto that youthful feeling makes it all worth it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Slut in My Own Mind

I once remarked to some friends that I was probably the sluttiest girl I knew in my own head. In reality, I am two shakes away from the convent. But no matter. Maybe I'll never be a slut in the traditional sense, but that's not stopping me from being a tramp with realtors.

I'm looking for an apartment, and time is running out. I tried to do it on my own, but found the lack of returned e-mails and phone calls annoying. Also, what with Abbott and all, it's tough to find an apartment that will let me bring a cat. It's also not so easy finding stuff in my price range. Craig's List is filled with one bedroom apartments in Montclair for $1500.... are they dipped in gold? Christ. Or $2000 for a 2 bedroom. Otherwise, it's $800 on P & E's old street, which was frequently closed due to police activity. So as you can see, I'm having difficulty with the middle ground.

In a typical Megan frenzy I started calling and e-mailing multiple realtors. It wasn't really intentional, but if I sent out an e-mail to one, I'd just get carried away and keep sending more. The result is that, I think at this point I have three realtors.... though I may have more. I'm starting to lose track. In the process, I managed to find Dan this very nice furnished apartment one block from the beach that he has decided to take. Meanwhile, I'm still homeless as of September 1. Luckily, a glass of wine helps me sleep at night.

I'm also thinking about wheedling my way into other people's homes.... I was hoping Lynn might let me live in her attic, but she says it's filled with boxes she's storing for other people. And I'm also trying to get Wendy to buy a house and let me live in it with her.

Anyway, when you add to all this the cost of another deposit, the fact that I am po', and dreading the call to my pops asking if I can borrow four grand, well you can imagine that I don't really feel much allegiance to any realtors at this point. Frankly, the one who finds me the nicest place in my price range, doesn't waste my time, and doesn't recommend that I ditch Abbott (thanks, Evelyn the Realtor, who recommended that Liana leave Kitty Kitty with her mother), is the one deserving of my money (or, really, my credit card). So, for now, it's Megan the Trollop.

I'm going to see a place tomorrow morning - I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Animal Planet

This past Friday, I saw March of the Penguins with Lauren. We selected Millburn as the location, and before I get to my thoughts on the movie, allow me to complain for a moment. This was a 9pm showing. Of course, that didn't stop a particular couple from bringing their two young children. Both kids were noisy, but the youngest one by far would not stop talking. This was a small theater, so it didn't matter where you sat, you could hear the kid: "Mommy, why is he doing that? What are they doing? What's happening?" Not once did those parents tell the kids to shush or pipe down. Hi, this is a movie theater, where I just paid $9.25 to see a movie about penguins. This is not your living room. Will you tell your kids to shut to eff up? Thanks.

Now, to the movie. Loved it. I kept whispering to Lauren, "This is unbelievable!" Because really, it was. I don't necessarily mean the movie (although it is well shot, I thought, and the fact that these guys were in Antarctica filming all this for 13 months is tremendously impressive) but I mean what these penguins go through to reproduce.

I have been reading about Mei Xiang and her panda cub at the National Zoo, and I was fascinated to learn that a female panda will not eat or drink for almost a month after she gives birth because the cub cannot be left alone. Then I found out from M of the P that male penguins will not eat for 4 months while tending to the egg and then the chick - they lose up to half their body weight. And I thought, damn. Those pandas are freaking lazy bastards.

Anyway, it was a great movie, the penguins are completely amazing and adorable, and I highly recommend it. I'll tell you, there are some things in it that are tough to take and yes, being the nut job that I am, I may have teared up a few times.

One of the things that was particularly intriguing to me, though, was a human's desire to anthropomorphize other creatures. There are points in the movie where a human's overwhelming maternal or paternal instincts is placed onto these penguins. For instance, one penguin loses her chick to the elements and stands over him for a few moments, as if beseiged by the unbearable loss. She then tries to steal another mother's chick, unsuccessfully. It's almost human, the response, and the narration (perfectly done by Morgan Freeman) plays on that. Yet, later, the mother penguins stand by and do nothing when a large preying gull attacks the chicks. So, clearly, the human maternal instinct is not the same as that of the penguins. It kind of reminded me of Pi's father's admonition to him and his brother in Life of Pi, that these are wild animals and you must not think they feel the same as we do. Pi remembers this, even as he places human feelings onto Richard Parker (a Bengal tiger) while stuck in a life raft with him.

Anyhoo, I was reminded of this again when I listened to an interview with the director of Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog), a doc about grizzly bears and an amateur grizzly enthusiast, Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell was killed by the grizzlies he so loved in 2003, and from the previews, it's pretty clear that he a) was mentally unstable and b) thought these bears were his friends. If you want to hear the Herzog interview, it's here.

I also watched The Ghost and the Darkness, about the man-eating lions of Tsavo. I saw it a few years ago, it scared the bejesus out of me, and thought I'd watch it again. Anyway, if you're not familiar with the story, check this out, and I do recommend the movie - Michael Douglas at his campy best, and Val Kilmer does a shitty Irish accent.... but it's largely accurate and suspenseful.

So, there you have it. Lions, bears, and penguins. And for those of you who didn't know that ligers are real, well, they are.