Thursday, September 25, 2008

Brother, can you spare $700 billion?

Whew! I'm really feelin' it for all of you big-time investors out there. Such a roller coaster ride (on the downhill side)! OK, I'm really not feeling it so much, since I'm pretty small potatoes in the investment game. And I managed to sell my Atlanta house in December 2006 just before the bottom fell out. I have no car. No silver (well, not much), gold, fine antiques, or a library of first editions. As daughter Kate said the other day, for once I'm glad I don't have any assets. How true, darlin'.

It's kind of interesting reliving 1929. I guess things really do go in cycles. Since I am at the complete mercy of the Powers That Be and refuse to check my 401K balance until 2014, I'm taking the Mildly Interested Outsider approach to the current financial meltdown of Wall Street and Washington DC. To be sure, it's a big ol' whackin' great mess.

I have no answers or advice, except to learn to love canned beans and cheap pasta. But I don't feel bad about not having solutions because I haven't heard anything from the rich and/or powerful, either. Guess we're all in the same boat, except that I don't feel the urge to fling myself out of my 5th floor window - not about this thing, anyway.

Can we take any clues from the Crash of '29 and the Great Depression about how to get through it all? Hm.
  • Dress styles will change from short and flirty to long and drab. Get a jump on that right now and make a quick buck.

  • "Homeless" will morph back into "hobo." A hobo is really cool (unlike homeless). Find yourself a stick and kerchief knapsack and get to the nearest passing train.

  • Big Hollywood musicals and curly-headed stars will hit the screens any day now. Start sparklin' up those little Shirleys so you'll be ready for the casting calls.

  • No more Hoovervilles, but Bushtowns instead. Stake your claim early for the most advantageous campfire location.

  • Buy low, sell high. If you can't do that, just hang on to what you got. Simma' down!

Fortunately, it's just about prime apple season. I'm already planning my tricked-out apple stall at Park and 51st. (I've claimed it; go find another spot fer yerselves.) Ain't life interesting?

Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

(Or $700 billion. Inflation, you know.)

Remembering to make poverty history

Today has been declared a day of prayer, fasting, and witness in support of the Millennium Development Goals by various faith communities around the world. The United Nations is renewing its commitment to end extreme poverty in a special session of the General Assembly.

If you're not familiar with the Goals (I eschew the popular acronym "MDG" because it sounds like something you don't want in your Chinese food), there are lots of sources of information. I'll leave it to you to read up on them. While the goals are a direct product of the United Nations, they reflect the basic underpinnings of most faith communities involved in peace and justice and active mission around the world. Some folks squawk that churches are doing the bidding of the UN, but actually the opposite is true. Faith communities (and many others) worked long and hard with the United Nations to craft the Goals in 2001.

My visit to Africa in 2007 brought me face to face with the reality of need and progress of the Goals. Hunger, child mortality, HIV/AIDS/Malaria, universal education take on real meaning in a community situated on the town dump or one with hundreds of AIDS orphans. Seeing first-hand the work of teachers and medical personnel combating these enormous problems 24/7 brings the need to achieve the Goals into sharp focus.

What can ONE person do? Well, in the Episcopal Church, we believe that if every individual, parish, and diocese designated just .07% a year to alleviate poverty, we could make a little head-way. Now, .07% isn't a lot per year, even in the current economic car-crash. It's only $350 for an income of $50,000. You probably already donate at least that much in support of one of the 8 goals, whether you call it supporting the Goals, or not. (Feel free to wear one of the white ONE bracelets or a big ol' "ONE" button.) Episcopalians believe that actively supporting the goals is one way we serve Christ in the world.

On this day of prayer for the Millennium Development Goals, look over the eight goals. Think about what you can do to help achieve one or more of them in your own community or the wider world.

For more information about the Goals and the Episcopal Church, visit Global Good, Episcopal Relief and Development, or Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Can't Help Falling: My Elvis Moment at Tabla

Talk about a fall from grace! Well, all right, I'm not known for my grace, so take out the "grace" quotient. But Sunday night I did have a spectacular fall in one of New York's finest restaurants, Tabla. And just let me say that if one is going to make a complete fool of oneself, a fancy restaurant is a good place to do it. I mean, why settle for a fabulous meal when you can cause a stir and make a memorable evening even more so by becoming an innocent public spectacle?

Tabla's main dining room is situated at the top of a lovely wooden staircase. After two courses of a grand three course meal with Atlanta friend Barbara and her brother and sister-in-law, I excused myself to go to the ladies' room before dessert was to be served.

In my defense, I did not approach the staircase lightly. I was watching my step and holding on to the rail. God forbid I should fall! Also, I was not drunk; I'd had the equivalent of one glass of very good wine, but I was totally sober. And I was wearing low-heeled shoes, so I can't blame what happened on the shoes. Well, I made it down the first section of stairs to the first landing and headed down to the reception/bar/restroom area, still holding the railing. After a few steps my shoe must've slipped or I misjudged a step, because the misstep pulled me away from the handrail and I started to tumble.

And I mean tumble. Base over apex. Head over heels. Ass over tits. Tumble. I realized right away that there was no way to save myself or break my fall, so I just gave in to it. Good old ice skating training kicked in, I suppose. The tumble itself was interesting. I was totally aware of what was going on, and my eyes were wide open. I didn't scream or yell out. Just rolled with it. My one thought, besides "Well, aren't these wooden steps hard?", was "Kate will kill me if I break something a month before her wedding!" Once I landed, after 6 or 7 steps, another thought crossed my mind. "Boy, I'm glad I'm wearing underwear!"

The good news is that even though the wooden steps were hard (especially those pesky edges), I did not break anything. Or need stitches. Or damage this gorgeous face. :-) I have three good sized knots on my head - one on the very top, which should tell you the trajectory of my tumble - and bruising across my back, shoulders, and hips.

The staff at Tabla was very solicitous, especially the manager. Yeah, I know he was just trying to avoid a law suit, but he was helpful. One of the waiters was an EMT, so he check me out for broken bones and applied ice to the goose-eggs on my head. I let them fuss over me for a few minutes and then I really needed to get back to the business at hand, which was to go to the bathroom - accident or no accident. And I didn't want another accident, if you know what I mean.

In the meantime, the staff had alerted my friends about my fall and they came down to check on me. Whoever broke the news must have said it in a panic, because I think Barbara was more shaken up than I was. (I'm fine, Barbara.) For the rest of the evening I was treated like a dotty fragile old dear - I mean, who knew when I'd take another spill?

But tumbling down a flight of very hard wooden steps did not keep me from my dessert course, a wonderful chocolatey thingy. I think the chocolate did as much good as the ice on the head. I was able to walk down the staircase unassisted (though I'm sure everyone was nervous) and out the door on my own steam.

Tabla took my name, address, and phone number, and did indeed call me yesterday to find out how I was feeling. I figure the restaurant is keeping my name on file, in case I ever try for reservations. I'm sure my name is starred as a "faller." Well, at least I had one good meal there, eh?

So, channeling The King, my theme song this week: I. can't. help. falling . . .

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Daddy's sleepin' and Mama ain't around

I suppose I should do a serious blog about 9/11, but I just don't feel like it. I prefer to think about more joyful news right now. Like today's big story about Chubby Checker's "The Twist" ranking as the No. 1 most popular single over the past 50 years of the Billboard Hot 100. "The Twist." Chubby Checker. Not Elvis or The Beatles or P-Diddy or Britney. It's Chubby.

What's not to like about "The Twist," as a song or as a dance? Simple rhythms. Easy to do. Why, any gathering worth its salt that has a band or DJ will play some kind of twist-music because everybody - from toddlers to grannies - can dance to it. You just stand there and, um, twist. But Chubby wasn't the only one to make a mint with twist songs. That twist bandwagon was pretty big.

Though Chubby Checker's "The Twist" has been declared the most popular of the No. 1 Billboard hit singles over the years, it doesn't make the top spot on my Top Ten Twist List. OK, I really don't have a Top Ten Twist List, but I do have a Top Eight:

  1. "Twist and Shout" - The Isley Brothers and/or The Beatles. I'm fine with either. So much so that I've told Kate I want it played at my funeral. :-) Though I suspect the Episcopal Church won't let me use it for the actual funeral. :-(

  2. "Dear Lady Twist" - Gary U.S. Bonds. Do the Twist and you'll never grow old. Ah, if only that were true, Gary.

  3. "Peppermint Twist" - Joey Dee & the Starliters. Meet me baby down on 45th street. Bop-shoo-ah-bop-bop-bop-bop-shoo-ah.

  4. "Twistin' the Night Away" - Sam Cooke, who's somewhere up-a New York way. Where the people are so gay. Well, yeah, there's that.

  5. "Let's Twist Again" - Chubby Checker. Do you remember when things were really hummin'?

  6. "The Twist" - Chubby Checker - see it only makes it to #6 on my list. Fun song, though.

  7. "Slow Twistin'" - Cubby Checker & Dee Dee Sharpe, 'cause there's no no twistin' like-a slow slow twistin' with you.

  8. "Soul Twist" - King Curtis. A great, great instrumental - the sax, wow!

YouTube has some great videos of most of these old twist songs. And I'm thinkin' that if I spent 20 minutes a night doing the Twist, I'd whittle my waist down in no time.

Who knows? Maybe Gary US Bonds was right: Do the Twist and you'll never grow old! (Extra credit points if you can name the three guys in the first photo.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Change

No, not that change. And I'm not talking politics, either.

All of a sudden it's darker when I get up in the morning, when I get home in the evenings. And there's that smell in the air. You know the one. That dry, leafy smell. Even when there are no leaves on the ground, the ones still on the trees rustle, "Stay tuned - I've got one last great show in me. The best is yet to come!" Their very tips are fading from green to pale yellow and faint orange. Another few weeks, and the color riot will be in full swing.

And even on warm days, there's a hint of a different kind of breeze. It feels . . . fall-y. Slowly, slowly, the thermometer settles itself south of 80 . . . 70 . . . 60.

Halloween fol-de-rol is already on store shelves. The dry cleaners are licking their chops at all that wonderful wool coming through the doors. Schedules become jam-packed as everyone settles back into routine.

Autumn - my favorite kind of change.

Monday, September 08, 2008


I am so frustrated with UPS right now, I could just spit! United? Hardly. Parcel. Can't prove it by me. Service? Don't make me laugh. No, really. Don't make me laugh.

Two very important deliveries are in UPS-Limbo, and no one can help. After paying overnight delivery charges for both orders (one is actually a small, but much-needed, stock payout check), UPS claims it has tried to deliver twice and that no one was home to sign. Um. I was home. I worked from home on Friday specifically to received several deliveries and never left the apartment, except to give Bailey a potty-break. Even then, I stayed where I could see the front door.

Interestingly enough, FedEx managed to make two deliveries to me on Friday. Hm. Seems they found me just fine. But UPS? Nope. Both times they claim to have attempted delivery I was sitting in my small, but comfortable, living room working on a PowerPoint presentation. While it shows delivery information on the website, UPS didn't leave a delivery attempt sticky note, which leads me to think no attempt was made.

After going online only to find out UPS had just attempted delivery (where, I wonder?), I called UPS and the customer service rep (and I use "customer service rep" loosely) informed me UPS wouldn't try to re-deliver until Monday. Monday! You know, when I'd be back at work and - you guessed it - I wouldn't be home to receive a delivery. That is, if the guy actually tried to deliver. What kind of delivery service doesn't deliver on Saturday? Sheesh! Even the US Postal Service delivers on Saturday, for goodness' sake! Is this a racket, or what?

Well, I cancelled one of the orders. It was something I needed for Bailey, and since it didn't arrive in a timely fashion, I was forced to get on the subway and make my way to and from Petco. Sigh. I explained to the mail order firm that I'd be glad to order from them again when they changed carriers.

But I can't (and don't want to) cancel the check. So I just have to wait. I called to see if they'll deliver to my work address. Fingers crossed, it arrives tomorrow. At work.

So, here's the thing. If you have something to send me, do not under any circumstances send it via UPS. Go FedEx or DHL. Or, shoot, good ol' USPS. But over the course of the last four days, I really believe they should rename UPS "OOPS." Or maybe "AARGH."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Back to School: The Perfect Schedule

Now that all the kiddies have started a new school year, I find myself wishing that I were going back, too. I want to go buy a new notebook and new pencils and pens. I want new school shoes and a couple of new sweaters. I liked school, for the most part. It's hard to beat the thrill of having a great teacher teach a great subject.

In short, I'd gladly return to school, but I want it on my own terms. I want to choose the subjects and the schedule. In my fantasy school I am paid top salary for each subject I take, with a bonus for each A. Every teacher is top-notch and interesting, to boot. No old fart boors or idiots with halitosis. I'm willing to read appropriate materials for the class but no textbooks. I'll even churn out a paper, if so moved, but it can't be required. Only reading, group discussion, lecture, and fun stuff. I've done all the boring textbook-term paper thing before, so I don't need to do it again.

Each school day includes one full hour for lunch and one full hour to goof-off. Goof-off hour can be used to take a siesta, draw, work on the computer, play on the "playground," or whatever. Goof-off time can be scheduled right before or after lunch, at the beginning or end of the day, or split into goof-off increments throughout the day.

Here's my dream schedule for Fall 2008:
9am - 9:55am History: The Great War 1914-1918
10am - 10:55 am Early 20th Century British and American Literature
11am - 11:55am Art History: 19th and 20th Centuries
12pm - 12;55pm Lunch
1pm - 1:55pm Goof-off Time
2pm - 2:55pm Political Science: The Constitution of the United States
3pm - 3:55pm History: The Age of Enlightenment

Oops! No math or science. Oh, too bad. Math will never make my fantasy schedule, though biology and earth science might pop up in the future. I'm a social science kind of gal. I will require grading, however, because I am reward-driven and competitive. Now - off to buy notebook paper and pencils.

What's your fantasy schedule?