Thursday, June 29, 2006

Which books would you take along?

When I moved from Atlanta to New York a couple of months ago, I had to decide which belongings I could take with me to my new tiny furnished studio apartment and which I had to leave behind in a storage unit. Obviously, my furniture had to stay, plus most of the china and kitchenware, winter clothes, and knick-knacks. The really valuable - rather, invaluable - items like family Bibles and photo albums I left in Kate's charge (not in storage, thank you).

Looking around my many shelves of double- and triple-shelved books, I had to make a decision about which books to store (most of them) and which to take as comfortable old friends. I limited myself to one medium-sized box - though I admit I spilled over to half of another box. As I made my choices, I could almost hear the other books crying out, "What! You're not taking me?" Sorry, old friends. I promise to make it up to you someday.

Well, here's what I chose:
  • The Birds Fall Down by Rebecca West
  • Teller of Tales by Daniel Stashower
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
  • Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Line of the Sun by Judith Ortiz Cofer
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • The March by E.L. Doctorow
  • The Professor and the Madman and The Meaning of Everything, both by Simon Winchester
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  • The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty
  • The Ponder Heart by Eurdora Welty
  • Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  • Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgsen Burnett
  • Inferno by Dante
  • Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
  • Abraham Lincoln Trilogy by Carl Sandburg
  • Marley and Me by John Grogan
  • Forever by Pete Hamill
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • To Make Men Free and No Greater Courage by Richard Croker
  • Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
  • Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
  • Miss Piggle-Wiggle Treasury by Betty MacDonald
  • Pastoralia by George Saunders
  • The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
  • The Fall of a Sparrow by Robert Hellenga
  • City Lights Pocket Poetry Anthology (ed. Lawrence Ferlinghetti)
All my World War I books (fiction and non), for research purposes, including:
  • 1914 and 1915, both by Lyn MacDonald
  • The First World War by John Keegan
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • The First World War by Hew Strachan
  • The Great War: Myth and Memory by Dan Todman
  • The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
  • A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot
  • Regeneration by Pat Barker
All of my Harry Potter books

So, which of your beloved volumes would holler "Take me along!"?

Cyclists, Umbrellas, and AC Drips

These are the things you need to look out for in New York City.

The most dangerous are the folks on bicycles - the racing types who speed around the outer ring of Central Park and the delivery boys (and they are all boys/men) paying no heed whatsoever to the traffic lights. I know that New York taxi drivers have a certain reputation, but they very rarely run even yellow lights. The guys on bicycles, however, zip around corners and through cross-streets with no regard to cars, people, or animals in their paths.

Then, there are all the umbrellas which pop out in force during a rainy period. The sidewalks are already packed with people; give 'em each an umbrella and Whoa! Nelly! Throw in a clueless tourist or two, and you may as well put on armor and goggles to avoid some serious poking. Dangerous!

The third thing isn't so dangerous, but it is irritating: air-conditioner drips. See, New York has - for the most part - not discovered central air conditioning. So every building built before 1980 has a slew of AC units hanging out of its windows. And they drip down, down, down splat! on my head. There I am, minding my own business, walking down the sidewalk and a big ol' drip of water (several, since I walk a gauntlet of AC unit buildings) hits me. Now, I could walk around with an umbrella, but that adds real danger (see above).

Don't say I didn't warn ya' -

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Expect the Unexpected

Does this phrase bother anybody else? Everytime it flashes across the TV screen or I see it in print, I wonder what it really means.

If you expect the unexpected and the "expected" happens, is that considered "unexpected"? Contrarywise, if you expect the unexpected and the "unexpected" happens, wouldn't that be "expected"? So, what's the point?

Am I over-analyzing this? Do I need to have a gin and tonic and stop asking myself stupid questions? And would that be "expected" or "unexpected" (if you're expecting the unexpected from me)?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Yeah, but you should see the other guy!

Woke up this morning with a shiner.

Like any self-respecting woman, I don't look in the mirror first thing in the morning, so I didn't notice the black-eye until after I'd walked Bailey and was ready to hit the shower. Where the hell did it come from?

The weird thing is that it doesn't hurt at all. But there it is - a nice big purply-red splotch under my left eye. If I'd banged it on something during the night (what??), wouldn't I feel some pain? Nope. Nada.

It does kinda give me a devil-may-care, tough-girl look, though. Maybe I'll start wearing an eye-patch. I do live in New York City now. Hmm.

I suppose if this kind of thing is going to happen whilst I'm sleeping, I'd better swaddle my head in foam rubber before retiring. Ah, me. It's obvious I need a keeper.

Still, it's a mystery.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Oy, Mr. Buffet! Throw some my way!

So old Warren is gonna give away a big chunk of his fortune (the Berkshire Hathaway B stock, worth about $40 billion), it seems. Stop jumping up and down and crossing your fingers. It looks like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will get most of it, because it needs it and all (with only $30 billion in assets). The rest will go to foundations run by members of Buffet's family. Sigh.

Wish WB had thought to divvy it up between some of the foundation-less masses. Would it've killed him to have spread the wealth a little? Shoot, even throwing the hordes a tenth of the fortune would leave $36 billion for all those foundations and given a coupla million of us poor working (and even non-working) shlubs a little monthly breathing room. Another sigh.

Remember that old television drama - and I'm showing my age here - The Millionaire? Each week, Michael Anthony, working on behalf of the mysterious John Beresford Tipton, delivered a cashier's check for $1 million to some unsuspecting person. Why, Warren Buffet could take a lesson from JBT and anonymously deliver $1 million checks to a bunch of folks. I wouldn't be greedy; I'd take a measley $1 million cashier's check, even in 2006 dollars (as compared to The Millionaire's 1950's dollars). Oh, yeah - and it was $1 million tax free.

C'mon, Warren. Step up to the plate. Be our John Beresford Tipton. Send Michael Anthony to our doors!

Just a run-of-the-mill Saturday afternoon in New York

It was pouring rain here yesterday, so I decided to catch one of the last performances of Clifford Odets' "Awake and Sing!" at the Belasco Theatre (it closes today). What a treat - sitting 12 rows back, center orchestra, watching the likes of Ben Gazzara, Zoe Wannamaker, Mark Ruffalo, and Lauren Ambrose do sweet justice to this classic. All performances outstanding - I do love Zoe Wannamaker. Not sure what I think about the device of taking away parts of the set as the play progressed - I get what was being conveyed, but, hm. Lovely old theatre, classic play and performances, a wet Saturday afternoon - yum!

What I did discover about myself is that I'm extremely impatient with tourists! Yikes! I don't deal with 'em much on the Upper East Side, or even in my work-a-day life, since they seem to congregate around Times Square and the Theatre District. Just keep moving, people! Geez! Uh-oh - I wonder if there's a 12-step program for this creeping tourist-phobia of mine? It'd be something if the rudest person in New York came from Atlanta! I promise to work on that. Promise.

Friday, June 23, 2006

"Too hot, too cold. Too late, I'm sold - "

"Again, on NYC." To quote from a song from the musical "Annie" (stage version, not movie version). And amen, Daddy Warbucks.

It is so, so good to be home. Bailey's hale and hearty, because I know that's first on everyone's mind. The dogsitter even gave her a bath, so she was shiny bright when I got home yesterday evening (Bailey, not the dogsitter).

Today, I slept in, took Bails out for her jaunt around Central Park, then proceeded to re-aquaint myself with the 'hood. Took dry cleaning in to Lee's Laundry downstairs - stereotypical, yes, but there it is, then on to the nail salon to be manicured and pedicured (I so deserved it). Had to run to good ol' Wankel's Hardware (see red/white/blue building in one of the previous posts) for a couple of things - they know me already, and on to lunch at the local Vietnamese restaurant (total - $5.95, including tax).

Step-daughter Kerry called to figure out a time we could get together for dinner (Sunday evening). Our goal is to look ahead to plan our summer theatre-going forays. We're both kicking ourselves big-time for missing "Pajama Game" with Harry Connick, Jr. I hear he was so yummy, you wanted to eat him with a spoon. Darn. (You know how I feel about New Orleans men. Mmmm.) Well, we'll figure out something else - lots of good things here, so never a problem to find something wonderful.

So, I survived my first General Convention, and I don't think that I, personally, contributed to the breakup of the Anglican Communion. Lots of folks on both sides upset about the last Windsor Resolution vote (the infamous B033 requested by both the current and the future Presiding Bishops). I believe pragmatism ruled the day. We had to give the new PB something to go to the table with when she meets with the other big-wig-bishes in a couple of years. Still, no one's happy and those famous Anglican "bonds of affection" have been stretched to the limit, I fear. Sigh.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Going Home?

I can't wait to get back to stumming my guitar on my fire escape on the Upper East Side. No. Wait. That's Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. But I might do that, if I every got to be on my fire escape on the Upper East Side.

Do I really live in New York City? I've been away so long, I've forgotten what it must be like, until an episode of "Sex and the City" last night reminded me. I've only spent 4 weekends in NYC since I hit town the last weekend in April. Just when I get used to the place and the pace, I have to leave town. All part of the job, of course, but boy - I haven't been "home" in 17 days and I'm ready to see old Bailey and cook my own food.

We leave this afternoon, so - God willin' - I'll be in my little studio apartment by dinnertime. I'm taking tomorrow off, as are most folks dragging in from General Convention. It'll be good to get back into my Central Park walking routine again.

So far, I'm not scheduled to leave town until the last weekend in July, when I have a mission conference in Amherst, Massachusetts. So I plan to dig right back into New York City - see a play or two, discover the best places to shop (I'm still trying to find those), and get to know some areas I haven't spent much time in, like the Village and SoHo.

I'm soooo in a New York State of Mind. Hello life, Goodbye Columbus. (And thanks for the hospitality!)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Real Live Literary Figure

For those fans of the Alexander McCall Smith series No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, I've met one of the key figures in the fifth (I think) book, A Full Cupboard of Life. Yes, Bishop Trevor Mwamba, who plays a small but vital role in the book, has been in Columbus for the past two weeks and has become quite the media darling.

He's a darling for many reasons, not the least of which is his centrist stand on the whole gay bishop issue. He gave a brilliant speech the other day, reminding the crowd that African bishops aren't of one mind on this, and that the average African is concerned with food, shelter, health, and education, not sexuality issues. Hear, hear.

Bishop Mwamba is also excited about our new Presiding Bishop - says the women back in Botswana will be thrilled. Well, sure - anyone that close to Precious Ramotswe (the beloved Botswannan detective in the books) would naturally carry the flag for women leaders.

The evening of his arrival, I was privileged to have dinner with Bishop Mwamba and two other people. It was a long, leisurely dinner - one where folks really engage in conversation and laughter. His sister lives in Atlanta, so we had lots to talk about. I didn't learn of his literary status until the next night, when he was introduced as a speaker and the Precious Ramotswe connection came to light. He's promised to sign my book next time we meet.

I'm thinking a trip to Botswana is in my future . . .

Monday, June 19, 2006

It's a Girl!

Very historic day in the House of Deputies yesterday. I was sitting in the visitors' gallery (staff aren't allowed close-up seats!) when the news came down that our new Presiding Bishop is to be Katharine Jefferts Schori. The rule in the HoD is no applause, or show of approval / disapproval, etc., but I gotta tell ya' - gasps, tears (of joy), hugs, barely contained hysterics were the order of the moment.

No one - no one - could believe it. Never in a million years did we think she'd get the job. We all assumed the bishops would do the safe thing in light of the Windsor Report fiasco. But they were very courageous - they elected the best person for the job, whatever the gender. Keep in mind that there are only 5 or 6 women in the House of Bishops, so Schori was elected by the boys.

I got to attend her press conference last night (sorry the shot is fuzzy) and she is one very smart cookie. As someone (a guy) said, she had a whole different take on the questions - always answering from the personal, human point of view rather than a hierarchical point of view.

There is such energy around this - people smiling, laughing, feeling great about what happened. Folks who were at General Convention three years ago say the mood is very different. Then, folks were somber, worried about what the reaction to the Robinson thing would be back home. No one's worried about this. The best person got the job. Period. Wow!

On a personal blog-note, I'm not able to respond or add comments to Blogger on this laptop, for some reason. Please know that I appreciate your reading and commenting - I'll try to catch up when I get back to New York on Friday.

From Columbus - goodnight and woo-hoo! The girls are kickin' ass!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Finding An Old Friend

Yes, it's Mr. Peanut! (And not the rappin', hip-hoppin' one from last year's commercials - ugh!) Turns out there's a Planters Peanut Shop just around the corner from my hotel here in Columbus, Ohio (where, if you'll remember, I'm ensconced for another week). Walking back from some function or another yesterday, the smell of fresh roasted peanuts hit me before I ever saw the neon Mr. Peanut winking at me. Fresh roasted peanuts. Yu-um!

When I was a kid in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we, too, had a Planters Peanut Shop a couple of blocks from our house. Summer evenings would find a knot of children and a parent or two making their way up our street and across busy Brainerd Road to get a big ol' sack full of hot roasted peanuts. That roasted-peanut-smell was the olfactory equivalent of the Pied Piper, drawing us closer and closer to the peanutty object of our affections.

The shop was usually crowded. It was summer in the South, after all. Oh, what torture to have to hang around outside the shop and wait your turn! Well worth the wait, however, as your little hand would scoop up a handful of warm little jewels from the big ol' sack o' nuts. Mmmmmm.

And you know what? The fresh roasted peanuts I bought yesterday here in Columbus had the same wonderfully indescribable taste as the ones from Chattanooga all those years ago. It was a fine thing to find an old friend again.

Oh. And by the way. Whatever the mainstream news is reporting about what's going on here, the real news of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church is the amazing stories of folks working hard for deaf ministries, peace and justice, HIV/AIDS, youth ministries, non-violence training, Appalachian ministries, the health and education of people in Sudan, India, Honduras - the list goes on. Here's hoping we get beyond the Windsor Report and focus on this very real stuff.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Goodbye Life, Hello Columbus

Day 6 in Columbus, Ohio, and we're just getting started. General Convention of The Episcopal Church starts today.

So far, I've seen and heard all sorts and conditions: arch-conservatives, ultra-liberals, LL Bean ladies, sandal-wearing monks. Most everyone's chipper and friendly right now. Who knows what will happen as folks get cranked up in the legislative committees. Here's hoping the gay bishop brouhaha's over. Ah, well.

My job is to act as press liaison for Anglican and Global Relations, escort international visitors to and fro, and just be helpful and gracious. Thank goodness we Episcopalians are allowed to drink.

Columbus, however, doesn't seem to be very hoppin', at least not downtown. I think we're the only ones here (granted, we're here in force). Fortunately, I'm in a comfortable hotel not too far from the convention center. I'm in search of a CVS or Target at this moment (but I understand I might not find anything downtown).

The point is, Shorty may be a little lax in posting over the next two weeks. I will let you know, however, if I'm made the scapegoat for the complete breakup of the Anglican Communion. Stay tuned.

(Enjoying Shadow of the Wind, by the way -)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Summer reading

I always wonder why people think that summer's a good time to read trash, while winter's the time to read deep, hi-brow stuff. I mean, I get the "beach-reading" thing and all, but doesn't it make more sense to read trash - sort of the literary version of hot chocolate or a plate of nachos - when it's cold and gloomy, and dig out the Tolstoy - the literary version of vodka (lots of it) fresh outta the freezer - while you're sunning yourself?

Think about it - there you are, glistening with baby oil and iodine, while all the poor Russians are slogging through house-high snow? "Man," you say to yourself, as you flip from your back to your stomach. "Just reading this makes me feel like I'm freezin' my patoot off!" See, perfect summer reading.

Then, when the ice and brrrrr set in where you are, that's when you dig out the "star" biographies and bodice-rippers. "Whoa!" you shiver, as you throw another log on the fire and another tot of brandy in your hot chocolate. "That Justin Timberlake has had such a tough life!"

Or maybe not.

I've just started The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (see reading list a few posts down). I have an early morning flight to beautiful Columbus, Ohio, my home-away-from-home for the next two+ weeks, so I needed a good paperback to take along on the journey. Terrific so far.

What are you reading this summer - dark, gloomy Russians or feather-brained heiresses?

Tha best thing about summer

Two words (or one hyphenated word, your choice) : flip-flops. I'm well aware that folks either love 'em or hate 'em, but I am firmly in the love-'em category. Such foot freedom! Such release! Why, I just warm to the sound of the onomatopoeiatic footwear. Flip-flop, flip-flop, slap-slap, slap-slap.

Pulitzer Prize-winning hack (and she is a hack - how she won the Pulitzer is beyond most thinking people) Robin Givhan of the Washington Post wrote a scathing little piece the other day about how uncool flip-flops are. Ugly feet, Robin? That your problem? "Uncool" flip-flops definitely ain't. They come in so many precious-with-a-capital-PRESH styles now, I'm not buying your pouty little review.

Now, I must admit to having my dog-walking flip-flops (the $2 rubber kind - but in really cute colors!) and my dressy, bejeweled ones (the more up-market $10-12 sort) - a range, if you will, suitable for all occasions. Listen, with a fresh pedicure and my feet shod in hot pink thin strappy sparkly flip-flops, I could meet the Queen. Never saw what the fuss was about last year when that girls' soccer team (or whatever) showed up in flip-flops for a photo op with the Prez. (In my book, my dog-walkin' flip-flops woulda' been perfect for that scenario, if you get my drift.)

So Robin, Robin, Robin. Get thee out into the world to see the wonderful range of foot-freeing tootsie-wear available during the steamy months. Sheesh. I'll bet she's still wearing pantyhose.

Yup. Flip-flops are just about perfect in my book, and I'm hard-pressed to pull them off my feet when October rolls around. The only drawback that I see is that you can't sneak up on anybody when you're wearing flip-flops. But other than that, just slap on a fresh coat of nail varnish (um, probably not the guys) and slide 'em on. They're the best thing about summer.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Girlfriends Weekend

This past weekend was our annual "girlfriends weekend," and for the second year in a row, I wasn't there.

Ten or so years ago, four childhood friends and I made a pact to get together once a year, with annual hosting duties rotating through the group. We roll in to the driveway of one or another's house on a Friday afternoon in June, eat, talk, eat eat eat, talk talk talk, sleep, eat eat, talk talk . . . until after lunch on Sunday.

Over the course of the weekend, we find out what each others' kids and animals are up to, the latest gossip on school friends we like and school friends we don't like, who's died, who's divorced, who's won the lottery - all the while eating, or lounging on the beach (if we happen to be at the twins' place in Destin, Florida).

And lots of remember whens. The time we stuffed Linda into a locker during our junior high days (she was small, she fit, why not?) always comes up. Various dating disasters - of course - paired with "Whew! Dodged a bullet there!" The hell we put our poor old 4th grade teacher through (we were little smart asses and she was way too old to be teaching us - no one's a winner in this story). The fourteen times we had to lug Susan's Homecoming Queen suit (and damn tiara) to school for yet another yearbook picture. And so on.

But I reckon they'll be kickin' me outta the club unless I show my face at the next year's girlfriends weekend. I've invited them to New York - might make a nice change from Chattanooga or Franklin or Sand Mountain or Atlanta (or Destin). And were my ears burning over the weekend? You bet.

Big kiss to all the girlfriends out there. We'll always be 14. Or 10. Or 17.

Friday, June 02, 2006

It's what I tell myself every morning when I look in the mirror . . .

Me and the Guggenheim: Restoring Our Exteriors Daily.

Just don't think about it

Last night, two people I don't know slept in my house in Atlanta. Yes, thank goodness (and Kate), the house finally rented - which had to happen since I certainly can't afford New York rent and a mortgage payment. So, whew!

But I woke up in the middle of the night realizing that my house - my sweet little Atlanta home that holds such wonderful memories and has cost me 13 years of blood, sweat, and tears - is now occupied by someone other than me. And I feel heavy and sad.

I can't shake the feeling of wanting to break down in tears. I no longer occupy my home.

All the Thanksgiving dinners with family and friends packed into the dining room and living room, all the Christmas trees and Christmas cards, all the kids who ran in and out of the place as Kate was growing up, all the slammed doors (mine and hers) when Kate was a teenager, all the wonderful cold rainy Sunday afternoons reading in front of the fire, all the times I opened the back door to let Bailey out (or in) - all the stuff of life is in that house. That house that someone else occupies now.

I took this picture of the hydrangea bush when I was back in Atlanta the other week. A family friend gave Mother, Bill, and Cindy potted hydrangea when Daddy died in 1999, and I planted mine in the front yard. It always has the most outrageously dark purple blooms - not your ordinary pale purple, blue or pink ones. I'll miss seeing it go florally crazy over the summer. Someone else gets to see it now.

I'm relieved. But so sad. So sad. I'm just gonna try not to think about it.