Thursday, August 30, 2012

News, Information, Pets

Precious IdaIt's the week of the RNC so I kind of ought to do a news and information round up, right?

First, coming in under both categories, I'm about two-thirds finished with Lizz Free or Die and I already feel comfortable telling you that you need to read it ASAP. Nearly home on the subway last night I started the chapter titled Two Dogs One Cup and began to laugh out loud. I couldn't stop reading so I continued to laugh, read, and walk down DeKalb Avenue during rush hour. People moved away from me on the street. I was in danger of being dragged into the hospital as I passed and put on a psych hold. It was totally worth it.

Our Maggie wrote a lovely open letter to Mrs. Romney about her speech the other night."It's not about love."

Derek Powazek has developed a site called Cute Fight. You can put up a profile of your pet and pit it, in all its cutitude, against other profiled/spoiled domestic companions. It's in a limited roll out sort of thing so you have to sign in and ask to be included. I'm feeling too shy to do that but I bet a bunch of you aren't. Can't wait for the full deal to see how Eddie rolls!

Blogher has representatives at the RNC this week. They're doing good round ups of both what's happening at the convention and how people are responding to it in social media. If you're looking for an easily accessible way to get into what's going on in Tampa this is a great start.

Bella Bella For the gun enthusiasts we have in the audience, I want to make sure you've heard that Linda Sharps's husband, JB, has designed an AR-15 lower receiver he's calling Hellbreaker. He's working to get funding to have it tooled for mass production. She has all the information about that over here.

Someone finally built a web site to help performers find rehearsal and performance space in New York City. This is a brilliant idea and I wish them enormous success. I haven't had time to properly explore the site yet so I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has.

Bangladesh recently announced their High School exam results and the girls' scores outranked the boys. This picture of some girls receiving the news is fanfuckingtastic.

There's a guy, a soldier I think, in Afghanistan making marvelous metal sculptures from re-purposed materials.

I'm sure I've told you about Blogher's Community Keynote called Voices of the Year. This year was as moving and inspiring and funny as ever. You can watch it on video from that link above. I recommend it all but if you can only watch one or two start with Shari Simpson. You'll laugh until you ruin a chair. (That last sentence will be funnier after you watch her story.)

Our Suebob gave some important advice to men recently about how to meet women other than in bars or online. Take note, gentlemen, it's funny but she's not kidding.

Apparently the NYPD has a unit specially tasked with spying on Muslims. Don't worry, it's stirred up quite a lot of controversy. A couple of weeks ago we were told exactly how many leads the unit has uncovered. Zero. Please remember, profiling is bullshit.

Elvis At Play I found this quote over at Lindsay's tumblr. It's Easton and Hardy. "“Perhaps if being single were an acceptable, even valued, lifestyle, partnerships might develop more out of choice and less out of necessity or a desperate grab for salvation.” If I had a nickel for every time I'd seen someone use that motivation...

Michael J. Fox is returning to TV, you guys. I hope they give him everything that is great so we can enjoy the crap out of seeing him regularly again.

Did you catch these drawings of all the Doctor Who incarnations as women? It's pretty cool.

No matter how you felt about Paul Ryan's speech last night here are some actual facts about his political record.

Let us go out on a good, nay great, note. Someone wrote to Humans of NY to promote a vendor who did a kind, compassionate, human thing. If you're in his area I hope you patronize his business.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

NWW: On The Go Photo

Iron Rose

One of the major reasons I wanted an iPhone was the camera. I could have gotten a point and shoot that did just as well and gone with a cheaper phone but I decided that integration would mean accessibility and accessibility would lead to taking more photos. Practice is good.


As I walked the dog on Sunday evening I realized that my plan was working. My phone was right there in my pocket and when I saw little things around the neighborhood it took no time at all to set up a shot and even to share it.


Here are a few things I've captured in my everyday life lately.

Prospect Park Boat House

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Exciting Than Nessie!

I spotted my first Fall TV schedule grid today. I'm going to do something pretty embarrassing and list for you all the things I'll probably be watching and dropping (non-cable networks only)  this season.

Hint: Gonna be way more than 10 things.

Day 234: New TV Sunday

 - The Good Wife
 - Once Upon a Time (This baby could switch categories in a heartbeat.)


 - How I Met Your Mother
 - Partners
 - Grimm
 - Castle

 - Two Broke Girls
 - Mike & Molly (I'm so sorry Melissa McCarthy!)
 - Bones (Technically I accidentally dropped this last spring but still...)


 - New Girl
 - The Mindy Project
 - Parenthood
 - Vegas (maybe)


 - Modern Family


 - Big Bang Theory
 - Elementary
 - Grey's Anatomy
 - The Last Resort

 - Glee (I may not be able to stick to this because I love the musical numbers and the guest stars, it's just the rest of it, the show part, I dislike.)


 - Blue Bloods (It's filmed in NYC and Donnie Wahlberg is such a nice guy, even though it's terrible I can't stop watching.)
 - Whitney (Going to watch this to the bitter end just to spite Seth.)
 - Fringe

Feel free to ask why about any of these. I've got my reasons. I'm not saying they're good but I've got 'em!

Go There Then Come Back

I posted about fantasies and money at Kizz & Tell. I'll do my 10 things here a little later. Hope to hear from you in both places! (Dirty?)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Nobody Got Blown Up In A Car

FishwifeA couple of Saturdays ago Ralph Lee's youngest daughter was married. Her wedding took place on one of the roof decks of a famous art building in the West Village and the reception was in Queens. The lion's share of the guests were to take the subway from one place to the other. About a week before the ceremony I got an email asking me if I would come, get costumed up, and assist for part of the festivities. The instructions were vague but, as with any Lee Family production, I just said yes and tried to ask all the right questions before it was time to go on.

I arrived on time and wove through the crowds in the apartment. When someone sings out, "Who needs prosecco?" you know you're in a good place. There was some confusion about which parts of my costume (pictured) went over the other parts but once we got that sorted out it was easy. I had my pick of four masks and chose mine based on which one fit over my glasses best. If I'm going to stay in a defined area I can ditch the specs but we'd be wandering a lot for this, it would have been too dangerous. (Note to self: Just get the damned contacts for performing already!)

As go time neared another woman and I, in our fish wife gear, were led down winding hallways and up secret stairwells until we got to a door that hid an abandoned elevator shaft which houses most of the costumes and masks from Mettawee River Theater Company's decades of performing. Were I a nosier person I could have gotten into some awesome trouble. "Whatever you do, don't lift that grate!" were my friend, and elder Lee daughter, Heather's parting words as she pointed to the iron slats we were standing on. We didn't. We gazed out the window that faced down on the ceremony site and chatted about how we'd come to know this family of makers.

Our first official item of business came during the recessional. As soon as the trumpet and accordion (yes, seriously!) began to play we leaned out that window as far as our short legs would allow and waved like mad with our gloved hands and pristine white dish towels. The bride and groom waved shyly as they exited and the guests followed suit, squinting up at us high above.

When the last guests had climbed the iron steps back into the building we made our way out of the shaft and back through the halls to the working elevators to wait for a ride to the ground floor. Since everyone else was going down, too, it took a while but even with my glasses crammed under the mask the stairs weren't an option.

In the courtyard below we milled about with guests for a bit. Then someone distributed homemade noisemakers. Tin can timpani and paper plate shakers were tentatively rattled and banged. Finally  our compatriots, Mr. & Mrs. Bunny and The Robber Bridegroom arrived, the music began and we danced with each other and with any guest we could strongarm into it. The noisemaking got a little bolder then, the laughter louder, and the camera flashes more frequent.

The parents of the bride were the last to descend. They each carried tall poles with long, fabric fish banners on top that swayed in the breeze above our heads. After a little discussion the happily newly coupled realized they ought to lead the procession so they headed out with us close behind.

What followed was something out of the movies. Do you remember this scene from Michael's sojourn in Italy in The Godfather? It was as if Terry Gilliam had remade that. A long snake of revelers wound through the streets of New York City banging on cans and rattling their cups of beans. The accordionist and the trumpeter played and played. Guests spontaneously began to chant the names of the newlyweds. Every few feet we heard a spectator ask, "What is this?" I wish there was a way to scour the internet for photos and video of the event because nearly everyone we passed took a quick shot. If they didn't have proof I'm sure no one they knew would have believed them.

As our parade crossed the first street the light began to change. There weren't any cars coming but I decided to stand sentry. The line was so long the light changed again and it was still moving. Cars began to come so I turned and held out my hands. I had to believe that only a fool would viciously run down an old lady made of paint and plaster and I was right. I also had to believe that I wouldn't keel over in my 4 layers of clothes and pointy hat, and ancient plaster mask while I ran back to the head of the endless column of cheer. I didn't!

I urged traffic to wait at one more spot but by that time the procession had taken on a life of its own. We confidently walked up the center of cobblestone streets and cars waited for us, even smiling as we waved our thanks. The only people who, perhaps, didn't see the humor in it were the ones trying to come out of the subway as that steady stream of guests plunged down the stairs. We just kept waving and dancing and playing, though, and it all worked out.

Dancing in a wedding parade through the streets of the meat packing district is a once in a lifetime experience. This is why I always say yes to the Lee family.  I'm wildly lucky to have been part of it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Always a Winner


I don't know why I did it. It's ridiculous.

OK, I love my dog and I love taking pictures so I guess there's a logic to it. Still, these things are always rigged, aren't they?

A neighborhood group is having a dog photo contest. They're picking a King and a Queen of the area. Out of 20 or 30 entries Eddie made the cut to be one of the 5 finalists of his gender. For the amount of time I spend nodding and smiling at people on the street who say he's cute he ought to have made it, right?

The voting started yesterday and ends on the 29th and I'm afraid my dog is getting his ass kicked. It's the bulldog, Beaumont, who's doing it, too. He's got some sort of following, I don't know how he's doing it. Now, I know it's just a popularity contest and it doesn't mean anything if he doesn't win but it's still kind of chapping my ass.

We'll understand if you don't vote. No hard feelings, I promise. They do ask for registration (just email and a password) so I'd understand if you didn't want to go to all the bother. On the other hand, I ask you...


Isn't my dog cute?

Friday, August 24, 2012

UntitledI have a hard time getting things done on a Friday night. I can usually keep up the pretense during the day but by Friday night the give a shit doesn't.

Last night I made a list. I prioritized it into must dos, good to dos, and should I dos. I set out this morning with a song in my heart, and fortunately one on my lips, too, since I had a voice lesson. I even did one of the should I dos by stopping at Colony Records. Glad I did, too. I overheard that they may be entirely closed by the day after I get back from Italy. I walked the dog. I trained him while we were out there. He's really getting good at this loose leash walking thing. I'm super proud of him. Now I'll just have to be brave enough to work us closer and closer to other people while we're doing it.

I was just going to sit down for a minute, really. I deserved that after being out all day. I planned to get right back to the list after a few minutes.

That was almost three hours ago.

Do you have a particular day or evening that's your kryptonite?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

102nd AB

AB 102ndThere's a bus stopped at the light when I step outside. The side is plastered with an advertisement for a new TV show, Nashville, starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere. I spend the next several minutes crafting a rant on the subject. I mean, seriously, Connie Britton is fabulous, no one is going to convince me differently, but what this poster says is that a wise person gave her a development deal and then handed over the reins to someone who must have said, "I don't care what it's about just make sure we pair her up with a young woman who has long, blonde hair. That's what made Friday Night Lights a success!" No, no it didn't. Friday Night Lights was a success because of Peter Berg. And Kyle Chandler and a room full of awesome writers and the aforementioned Connie Britton. It was a success because it was an intelligent reworking of a proven concept. Twice proven, as a matter of fact! It wasn't because Connie Britton looked great next to Aimee Teegarden!

When I was well and truly lathered I had a moment of pause and wondered if this was really what I wanted to be using my heart and brain for on what would have been Auntie Blanche's 102nd birthday. Probably not.

AB 102nd So I finished my lunch time health walk. Health walks were kind of Auntie Blanche's thing. She walked at least a mile a day for decades. People on the street called her the "little old lady in tennis shoes." Then I bought myself some m&ms, plain ones, because those were kind of her thing, too. She knew they were the sort of simple magic that could turn a kid's day around or give her courage. She always had a big bowl of them at piano parties (don't call 'em recitals, bitches!) and we couldn't touch them until we'd all played our pieces. When I got back to the office I took a couple of pictures of my little package of m&ms because doing what you love was totally Auntie Blanche's thing. I emailed one of them to ChemE, partly to remind her (she doesn't need reminding) that it's Auntie Blanche's birthday, and partly because I know that me and ChemE were Auntie Blanche's thing, too.

The year I turned 26 I went to school in London. I traveled when school was over but planned my return so I could drop my things in Brooklyn, hug my friends, and get myself North in time for Auntie Blanche's birthday party. I gave myself a couple of days cushion. Through a farce of immature attempts to be polite to our hotel's owner my companion and I arrived at the airport almost exactly as the hall to the gate for our flight was closed. In my head I'd been home since the night before. I loved London and I loved traveling but I belonged in Brooklyn and I couldn't wait any longer to get there. I could not seem to take the 3 hour delay and roll with it. Having spent the last 9 months studying drama I put it all to use, worked up some tears, and spun a yarn about missing my grandmother's birthday and she was old and what if this was the last one? WAH!

The airport workers didn't fall for it which was, frankly, perfect. Auntie Blanche wouldn't have put up with that sort of display, either.

M & AB 1969
Still missed: Blanche C. Bailey 1910 - 2008

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Photo Challenge: HURDLE

So, it seems that I used HURDLE as a prompt before. It was a couple of years ago but still slightly peeved that I'm already repeating myself. Probably time to make a list of the prompts so I can check myself. Thankfully I have a fantastic list-making app for that!

Since we had 3 photographers this time around I decided to do 2 pics from each, just for fun. Please give them all the commenty love you can spare. Also, scroll down and join us for the next one!

Inside the old barn
I didn't become friendly with Our Janet until after the bulk of her cancer treatment was ended. Sometimes she'll share a shot from that time, like this one of part of the process of cleaning out her family home for sale, and it makes my heart hurt.

Fried Dough
Fried dough was a staple celebratory food when Our Lisa and I were growing up. I suppose it's a testament to how careful we both are about not growing up too much that she recorded her delight in fried dough when she made her annual pilgrimage to our homeplace this year. My mouth is watering.

There was a moment when we the assembled weren't sure if this hardy groomsman was going to be able to get his charges to do anything but walk stoically down the aisle. Once she saw the petals float to the ground like this, though, she was on board with the plan.

max, jumping
Our Janet's dear Max who died this year. He is heartily missed.

Mud Race
When I first saw this shot of Our Lisa's son I thought, "I could do a mud run, it would be fun!" Dude, I could not do a mud run, I would not have fun. But this guy? He's a warrior!

For almost 12 years now there has been bloodshed in my house when trying to crate up this cat. New carrier. Cat enters voluntarily. Sure wish we could have reached this milestone a lot sooner.

I never got on the color prompt bandwagon but I like it. I also like to mix it up a little. I like leaving plenty of room for interpretation. Therefore, I decree the next challenge to be RED/READ. Bring your imagination to the challenge!

Please add your photos to our Flickr photo pool by 9am on Tuesday September 4th for posting on Wednesday September 5th. I am leaving for 10 days in Italy the night of the 5th so please be prompt in your entries, I don't want to be late to the plane. Let me know if you have any questions!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Here We Go Again

I've been starring posts and ignoring them as long as I can but it's probably time to run down some political links before I explode. That'll be my new weapon in the War on Women, I'll just explode without warning. Terrible mess. Who's going to clean that up, I ask you?

Just 10. Only 10. Promise.

Untitled 1. My friend, Spoon, spoke to the "legitimate rape" atrocity this morning.

"But I hope Cong. Akin sticks to his guns. I see absolutely no difference between his policy, Mr. Ryan's policy or Mr. Romney's policy. I see only a difference in honesty. I find all three of these men's positions on women's issues to closely match those of the Taliban. I don't support the Taliban or their positions.  

But the Taliban, and Cong. Akin, are at least honest. And I can respect honesty on any subject, and the debate which honest statements engender."

In this post from Shakesville Senator Mitch McConnell says, "Although Representative Akin has apologized, I believe he should take time with his family to consider whether this statement will prevent him from effectively representing our party in this critical election."

McConnell doesn't say that he doesn't agree with the substance of Akin's assertions, he makes it clear that the way he conveyed them was improper. Let us all please agree that anyone qualifying the type of rape that's indefensible and using that as a way to legitimize squelching women's humanity is condoning rape and therefore is not fit to govern.

2. On the flip side President Barack Obama, whose record on choice and women's issues is far from brilliant but better than his opponents', said all the right things in response to Akin's dangerous asshattery.  

3. This might not qualify precisely as politics. It's not about the current election or a bill before our legislature but it's a key underlying factor. Pamela Ribon wrote a post to address something she'd heard on a screenwriting podcast. She turns in an essay on women and the way we approach feedback, adversity, and our careers. It's brilliant and inspiring no matter what your gender so I think you should read it.
The Lip
4. In a similar vein, Our Cindy wrote a laser-accurate post on our health care system. She posits that, while the problem of how to pay for our health care is urgent, it is equally urgent to address how we are treated by healthcare professionals. It's something that is constantly on my mind and I'm grateful she brought it up.

5. You already know I'm a Get Out The Vote crusader. I learned this week that you can use an online resource to register to vote in New York State. If you don't live in New York State I beg you to double check your voter status and polling place. This is an important election (they all are!) and some of the rules are quietly changing. I want your vote to be counted.

6. So, rather than releasing more detailed information about his taxes Mitt Romney decided to simply talk about them. In his familiar ham-fisted way he takes pride in a tax rate that most of us making far less than he does would be frightened to admit to if we ever got it. Don't worry that's not possible for us and certainly won't become so if he's elected. I would write this whole thing off as his absolute ignorance of how real people live except for the way he phrases it, ""I just have to say, given the challenges that America faces—23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, one out of six Americans in poverty—the fascination with taxes I've paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face. But I did go back and look at my taxes and over the past 10 years..." Not only does he belittle people asking for far more relevant information than his party asked from a previous presidential candidate but he then nanny-states his response. "Oh I looked at my taxes so you wouldn't have to worry your pretty little head about it." I fear Mr. Romney has mistaken  the American public for a sea of Betty Drapers. I don't believe even Betty Draper would vote for this sinkhole.
7. Now, I'm no fan of Chris Brown but when you put his name in this list and then evaluate the celebrity offenders for race I'm more likely to measure my response next time his career comes up in conversation.

8. A gay rights ally walked into an anti-gay organization's office and started shooting. It is, of course, creating a lot of press. If there's anything to like about this it's that a number of LGBT groups banded together swiftly and released a joint statement that unequivocally condemned the use of violence to support their causes.

9. A while ago there was a debate in comments here about how Obama has handled gun laws. In this article from Shakesville about the frontman for Megadeth accusing the President of staging the recent mass shootings we get a run down of POTUS' record on the issues. It should set gun enthusiasts' minds at ease.

10. I want to close with Dr. Willie Parker on how he reconciles his practice of providing abortion services with his beliefs. You may want to grab a hankie before you click. One word: Hero.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Moody: Rock & A Hard Place

Today's entry is an installment in my series about my friend, Moody, who, due to a fall, became quadriplegic a few years ago and died in 2011. 

Untitled On my way to the post office this afternoon I hurried myself up to cross Lexington Avenue before the light changed. I wasn't the only one and as I crested the curb on the other side two nattily dressed young people slid by eachother and came up short. The buckles of their fashionable bags had gotten hooked together. It was so bizarre it should have been funny but neither of them was smiling. I was sad because that's got to be a one in a million chance there, they ought to at least have been amazed.

Then I thought of Moody.

For a while we saw eachother once a week for our Friday movie. After a few years we sometimes skipped a week but we'd average twice a month. I was conscious of the regularity because it seemed important for him to have things he could count on. To have doctor's appointments be the only reason you get out and about is no way to keep one's body and soul together.

This particular May had been weird and hectic and I knew I was going out of town later in June and July so when I realized that I just didn't have time for a movie the Friday of Memorial Day weekend I punted instead. I asked Moody, since it was nice out, could I come down to his neighborhood and have coffee with him after my voice lesson? He agreed and we decided to grab our drinks and sit out in the courtyard between his home and the coffee shop.

Birthday Bouquet I got there first and as I walked through the entrance I took a moment. It seemed to be regulation size but it was a pretty narrow passage between the outer and inner door and was set at a slight angle. A few minutes later Michael sailed in all by himself so I set my worries aside.

His aide, the cool one, Nigel, had stayed in the apartment since it was a short trip across the courtyard and I would be there to help. He would finish up some work he was doing and meet us later. I grabbed some cash from the bag on the back of the chair and got Moody an enormous hot chocolate at his request. Once we'd put everything back together I slung my backpack over my shoulders, grabbed both hot cups, and preceded him out the door so I could hold them for him. This usually involved shouldering the door open then holding it with my foot while repeating silently, "Please don't run over my foot, please don't run over my foot, please don't run over..." but I discovered that the door had an automatic catch so it would stay open once I pushed it past a certain point. I moved on to the outer door and waited.

Behind me Michael stopped in the inner door, right across the threshold. This would happen sometimes for reasons I rarely understood. He would poke a few buttons, maybe go backward then forward, and proceed when ready. Before his accident his work had always been as a problem solver. He thrived on fixing things and creating systems. He knew the ins and outs of his chair better than I so it always seemed better not to offer help until asked. We had time, I waited.

And waited.

Finally I heard, "Kizz?"

The chair was inexplicably turning off. As soon as he turned it on again it would go off. Since Moody's fine motor control was gone the tiny buttons of the control panel were attached by small wires to larger buttons, like bicycle reflectors, velcro-d to the side of the panel so he could hit them with the side of his hand. The first order of trouble shooting was to press the core buttons to determine if the wires were failing and for that he needed my fingers, all ten of which were wrapped around steaming cups of hot chocolate.

Untitled I whirled around the spartan foyer and finally determined I could balance the cups on the ledge of the baseboard to free up my hands. I took a moment to remind Michael not to let me tip them over then I pressed the button he indicated and we both watched as the machine whirred up and spiraled back down.

By this point we had an audience. The local mail carrier had come in just as we were leaving and was now trapped in the coffee shop while we rolled our eyes at each other in lieu of a full on panic. I missed Nigel very much then. The mail carrier made gestures that seemed to offer to push the chair through manually but I had no idea if that was even possible. Did the wheels lock when the power went off? No clue. I might have asked Moody to explain the system to me again or he might have spontaneously begun to lecture me. I had, after all, worked under him many years ago. I was supposed to have absorbed his problem-solving knowledge.

As humans often do in these cases I began to just stare at the objects in question. I hit the tiny power button again so we could observe more closely how it lit up and went dark. I poked at the larger button on the outside and it did nothing. The next step, it seemed to me, was to check to see if the wires were firmly connected but, with everything so close to the door, I couldn't quite maneuver to see so I muscled the heavy glass thing that last inch or so past the catch point and leaned down to look more closely and, in doing so, inadvertently smashed against that big button.

The chair lit up!

It didn't go dark again!

Triumphant, I let go of the door and the chair went dark again.

I started to laugh that panicky, adrenaline giggle and almost couldn't explain.

You see, when you held the door open all the way there was an inch or so clearance on each side of the chair. If you snapped the door open so it held on its own it came to rest just close enough that it rubbed against the big on/off switch for Michael's chair. Every time he turned it on the door turned it off again. We could have been stuck there for days.

We weren't, though. We chortled in an oddly conspiratorial way and couldn't wait to tell Nigel. Outside we enjoyed about an hour of watching hot guys in the courtyard before I had to go.

That was the last time I saw Moody before he went into the ICU where he died. I'm really glad we laughed.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Crazy Stupid Things


Two years ago today I did a crazy, stupid thing.


Fortunately it turned out ok.


Pretty well in fact.


Happy homecoming day, Edster.


Turns out I would do it the same way all over again.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Trip Planner Extraordinaire

GraceThree weeks from right now I'll be on my way to the airport with Mama Kizz and Queen Bee. We'll be headed to Italy for a 9 day whirlwind of sightseeing. These two brave and intelligent women have entrusted the planning of our madness to me so it'd probably be a good idea if you didn't tell them that I've never planned a trip before.


Paternally I come from a strong line of amateur travel agents. Both my father and his father before him delight in poring over the options in a new destination and picking which highlights could be crammed into the available time. I suspect that, before mapquest and the like, the occasional protractor was used to measure travel distance and estimate time between points A and B. I know that maps of all kinds were employed because on our last trip together, the three of us, I was the one reading a county survey map of Devon and Cornwall, England on the afternoon we accidentally found ourselves needing to ford a rushing stream in a rental Fiat.

Proof It's possible that I abdicated the planning rather than learning from it. This would surely be my failing and not theirs. The ability to narrow down my choices from EVERYTHING IN ITALY to the top few things I'll be disappointed not to see is not a skill I seem yet to have mastered. I'm good at the big stuff. I can pretty easily decide when we need to get somewhere and when we need to get back. It's all the things we do in between that's baffling. Last year I arrived in San Diego and hadn't even glanced at a website to see where our hotel was in relation to the rest of the city. Fortunately Our Cindy knew where the nearest museum was and we went directly there...after a stop for fish tacos.

In the last week or so, though, I think I've gotten this Italy thing worked out. Thanks to some specific inquiries from the professional travel agent and Queen Bee and a frantic call with a tragic misspelling of a gallery name from Mama Kizz I have been able to ask the right questions which, of course, leads to the right answers and has miraculously resulted in a hilarious but relatively detailed itinerary.

Untitled For instance on the day when we go to Vatican City I've added "(incl. Sistine Chapel)." The ladies might think I did that because I think they aren't too bright. Sadly it's not them I'm worried about. Though I know in some reptile part of my brain that the Sistine Chapel is part of Vatican City if I hadn't written it down specifically I'd continue to worry that we weren't going to get it into our sightseeing. In Florence I've specified which gallery has Michaelangelo's David in it for the same reason. Just seeing it on paper has lowered my stress levels and increased my pleasant anticipation levels enormously.

Turns out I like having all the details worked out. Who knew?

The two major pieces left to slot in are how we're traveling to Siena from Florence (and back again!) for our day trip and how to get to see the Murano glass. We've got plenty of time factored in so I don't think they'll be any trouble. Feel free to point me in the right direction. I'm addicted now to this whole "concrete plans" initiative that everyone else has been doing for so long.

Three weeks from tomorrow morning I'll be eating breakfast in Italy! Now, remind me which restaurant you said we shouldn't miss?

**All photos are from other trips since I don't have any pictures of Italy yet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Once In A While

UntitledI don't know how they announce a death in your neighborhood but in mine we usually get a xeroxed information sheet taped to the window of the building's front door. It talks about the person's "homegoing" or their "sunrise" and "sunset" and it lets you know where the services are being held and when. Most of the time there is a photo. Most of the time that photo is more than a decade old.

Earlier this month my next door neighbor died. I attended her funeral yesterday and it was a lovely service for which I was grateful to be present. I almost missed it, though, because she was in good health and died suddenly. When I saw the notice on the door, despite recognizing her name, the picture didn't look a thing like the woman I've known for almost eleven years so I did everything I could to dismiss the idea. It became clear that it was Ms. Hall and I went on to tell other neighbors who also didn't recognize her but after we talked a while they understood just who had left us.

Today, friends and neighbors, please hearken to this Public Service Announcement.

Every six months, or at least every year, I want you to do me (and your next of kin) a favor. I want you to have your picture taken. It should be a closeup without a drink in your hand, a hat on your head, or sunglasses hiding your pretty peepers.

I can hear you say, "Aw, nobody wants to see me!"

You're wrong. I, for one, want to see you. I always want to see you. I am forever grateful to the person who invented Flickr because the opportunity to casually flip through the world's vacation photos is a hot fudge sundae of a treat for me!

That's not the point, though. The point is for posterity, just for the record as they say.

"But we don't do doorway death notices and I know all the people I care about coming to my funeral." you tell me.

You do obituaries and death notices in the newspaper don't you? What if the nice crossing guard or the giggly check out girl or the new guy from church reads it and doesn't realize it's you until it's all over.

OK, ok, I get it, you're right. It might not be important to you. It's important to me, though, and I'll bet it's important to someone who is, in turn, important to you. I've helped pore over hundreds of family photo albums rejecting fabulous picture after fabulous picture for inclusion in a newspaper announcement or on a service program. Too small, too far away, can't crop out mother/sister/spouse/nephew/stranger/Santa, sunglasses, ratty old ball cap, beer, different sunglasses, beer and sunglasses, beer and sunglasses and cap, prom picture, etc. You get the idea.

If we love you we want to know you and remember you at your best but at your real best. Trust me, please. Just do this. Just let your kid take that picture of you at the beach. Let your friend snap a shot over lunch at the taco place. Let your husband click a pic while you're gardening.


I want the last image of you I remember to be your smile.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Good With The Bad

Today needs a moment of levity, right? Our Bethany took this hilarious series on Saturday and allowed me to post them.

Let me to take you through his decision making process.

He assesses the situation.

can i?

He calculates his odds of success.


He goes in for the kill.


He cares not about the aftermath and those he's damaged beyond repair. He is content in his success.

the aftermath

He takes a bow. He's not one for the self-deprecation.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Three Little Words

UntitledDespite a long to do list I am enjoying a friend's company while lounging on the couch and watching the Olympic recap. It's cut together for maximum jerking of tears and I am, as usual, an easy target. When Kerri Walsh announces her former coach's motto, "Breathe. Believe. Battle." my lower lip is bound to wobble.

It's no secret over here that I've been having a little trouble. No need to worry about it, really. Not a killer. Not nothing either, though. I'm disappointed not to be able to see landmarks as I'm grappling with some craft and career decisions. I'm looking ahead and seeing great things while twisting my ankle on this cobblestone street in front of me over and over again.

Walsh reminded me of something, though. When I was in school in London the woman in this picture was a 12-year-old girl. Her mother and I studied together. Our voice and speech teacher often admonished us to "Think. Breathe. Speak."

I used to write those three words at the top of journal entries, on scripts, even in the occasional email. It is, perhaps, the best advice I've ever heard. It applies, of course, to performing because you need to be centered and properly placed to be able to convey your message. It's got regular old life uses as well, though. I find myself in political discussions, in personal discussions, and in work situations where my patience and my intelligence are tested. When I think first and take a clear breath before I open my trap I'm more likely to do myself proud. It is easier when standing on that foundation to convey the message of my life.

I don't know what I'm going to do, I don't know what direction I'm going to take, but I do think I'm going to start writing a little something at the top of every page again.

Think. Breathe. Speak.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The President Spoke to Me

POTUS Just For UsI read a list the other day, 9 Things You Didn't Know About the Obamas. Most of them were things I did know, like the fact that Michelle Obama considered delaying her move to the White House until the end of the school year, or common sense items like Mrs. Robinson saying she'd declined being interviewed by Oprah because she liked to browse the Filene's Basement near the White House in peace.

The 9th item on that list is a story about a woman introducing President Obama before he signed a bill to strengthen sexual assault laws. She, a survivor of abuse, broke down at the lectern while telling her story. POTUS came out from the wings, placed a hand on her back, and waited with her until she was able to finish her story. From some angles it's surprising that I even noticed this. I mean, he does this sort of thing all the time. The famous fist bump with the custodian picture, the kid who wanted to touch his hair, responding humanely and appropriately in the moment is his greatest strength, it wouldn't be too shocking if we'd all gotten used to it by now.

I did notice, though, and at first I cackled to myself and had some extremely uncharitable thoughts about Mitt Romney. I don't like the guy. In fact I think that he's dangerous to me and people like me both on a personal and a political level. Still, what leapt to mind weren't things to be proud of. "You wouldn't catch him going out and helping a crying woman. He'd probably shove an aide out there to whisk her off stage. Wouldn't want to get contaminated by all that girly emotion. Hell, he might even offer her cash to get the hell out of the way!" Then I turned a corner and thought, "That's not fair, he wouldn't do any of that. He wouldn't be there in the first place."

That's the bald truth, he wouldn't even be there. Romney isn't interested in lifting up women. Hell, he isn't interested in women at all. While I'm sure he's addressed women's groups during his campaign, it comes with the territory, I've certainly not seen much published on the subject. I can't imagine him supporting survivors of domestic violence. He hasn't shown an ability to empathize with people who have less money than he has so I can't imagine that people with less penis will be any easier for him to get at.

Last week I took some extremely respectful guff from someone on Facebook. We'd never engaged over politics before but this friend has some high emotion over the I Built That controversy. She thinks it was wildly disrespectful of the president to ask that business owners acknowledge other contributors to their success and it has made her genuinely upset. Admirably not upset enough to use multiple exclamation points or call me names or threaten bodily harm to anyone who opposed her. We engaged and I politely refused to get angry at the idea of acknowledging those who have contributed to my own success and finally we let it pass. Then I posted a protest video by women who clean for a major hotel chain and we were off to the, perfectly civil, races again.

Important Marketing PartnershipWhile this woman never explicitly came out in support of Mitt Romney I now believe that is where her vote is headed. If that's what she really feels is right then it's her vote to use as she likes and I support her as long as she uses it. Not voting will set me off like a bottle rocket, even more than voting against my interests. After our conversations last week about jobs we've had and income brackets we are in and knowing that she's a woman I can't help but ask my one huge nagging question from this and all other political campaigns. Why are people like my friend so emotionally connected to candidates like Romney when those candidates are perfectly blunt about disregarding her needs? To my knowledge she's not someone who will easily get by without social security or medicare. If she has children I don't think she'd be able to educate them in private institutions. I can't imagine it will be helpful to her to pay more in taxes. If her current story is anything like the stories she and I found were parallel earlier in our lives then she will make good use of the Affordable Care Act rights for women's health care. So why does she support a candidate who is actively dismantling these services? The things he endorses, like tax breaks for people making mid six figure salaries, do not, I believe, apply to her.

I was at Blogher for some of the weekend. At the last minute an announcement came that President Obama would give a live video address to the assemblage on Thursday afternoon. Knowing that not everyone would have arrived by that point and that in a group of 5,000 there would be a sizable split in candidate support I was both surprised and excited to see how full the ball room got as we waited for the big screens to fire up.  Elisa Camahort Page emphasized that both presidential candidates had been invited to speak to the entire group. While there were people from the Romney camp speaking in a couple of sessions during the conference Governor Romney had decided not to take advantage of the opportunity to address the conference directly and as a whole.

Obama's address was a little like the list of 9 things I might or might not know about his family. It was short, the bullet points were clear, and much of the information was not new to me. However, by taking even 15 minutes to direct his message to the Blogher crowd he reinforced for me the feeling that he's a force for good in the country and the world. Not a perfect force, no one is perfect, but a good one.

He spoke briefly about the Blogher publishing network, proving the speech wasn't canned. He spoke of the importance of women in society and in this election, taking care to include his mother-in-law in the estrogen count of his family. Then he reiterated his successes in legislating for women, kicking off with the Lily Ledbetter act and wrapping up with the Affordable Care Act provisions that had gone into practice the day before. He spoke simply and directly and about things that are pertinent to my hopes and fears for the future.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a historic piece of oration. It didn't change my life or even my political views. What he did, though, was voluntarily come forward, put his hand on my back, and make sure I knew he cared if I was OK. That sets him apart from other candidates and makes him worthy of my vote.

I thank Elisa Camahort Page, Jory Des Jardins, and Lisa Stone, the founding pillars of Blogher, for providing this opportunity. A moment of clarity in the sea of willful disinformation of an election year is a priceless gem.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Photo Challenge: STRANGER

This one was evocative, no? As always I'm thrilled by the results. Please let the photographers know how much you love them then scroll down for the prompt so you can join us next time. We got a new member with this prompt so I'm excited for more of that in the coming challenges.

A quick aside in that vein before we get going. You don't have to submit something you've taken especially for the prompt. Some of our participants pick things from their archives, others take something they plan when they hear the prompt. Some shots are recent and some years old. When I say anything goes, I mean it. Don't be shy, come on down!

man with flowers
Our Janet also submitted another photo that was so much STRANGER but this one spoke to me because it was a stranger who was clearly perfectly happy to be chosen.

New member alert! I look at this photo of and by alisuna and think, "Hello, stranger!" because we went to high school together and now we only see each other every 20 years or so. It's a problem.

STRANGER - Ass kicking photo
Even before I met her I admired Our Suebob's bravery. She took this shot and the consequences. Click through to see what they were.

There's a guy in a banana suit
When Our Cindy came to New York she met all kinds of strangers. Guy in the banana suit had to be at least top 5, though.

Clemo Chomp
I may have posted this one before but I still just love the look on Rocket's face. It's like he can't quite believe he's supposed to be doing this. "I'm holding a STRANGER in my mouth! This can't be right."

I had a bunch of ideas for this next one and still had a hard time choosing. Some of my ideas seemed too easy and some too hard. I finally settled on HURDLE. It's not as much of a tribute to the Olympics as you might think. Use your imagination and feel free to push the boundaries of the idea.

Please add your photos to our Flickr photo pool by 9am on Tuesday August 21st for posting on Wednesday August 22nd. Let me know if you have any questions!