Thursday, August 30, 2007

Prettiest Gal in the Class of '34

Today would have been Mother's 91st birthday. Whenever I get a new calendar, I still mark my parent's birthdays, June 10 and August 30, even though Daddy died in 1999 and Mother in 2004. Wonder why I do that? I don't need a circle on a calendar to help me remember their birthdays. Hmm.

I have a couple of my mother's Fulton High School yearbooks, which I enjoy flipping through every now and then. Mother was in the class of 1934 and the first in her family to graduate from high school. I am always taken aback by how gorgeous she was. She wasn't voted Prettiest Girl, but she far outshone the girl who was. And I'm not just saying that because she's my mother, either.

Alas, neither Sis nor I - as adorable as we are - reached Mother's level of gorgeousness. On the up-side, our daughters are stunning, so the legacy lives on. And I've never been able to master Mother's innocently-flirty behavior, by which she could command the attention of any man in a room without leaving any doubt that Daddy was the love of her life. Well, it was a gift, what can I say? She was a woman of many talents.

I miss her everyday. It's a hard thing knowing that your mother is not still in the world with you. So I guess I'll keep circling her birthday on my calendars, celebrating the life of the Prettiest Gal in the the Class of '34.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Question of the Day

Anybody have any clout with Trouble Helmsley? I'm available for dog-walkin' and poop-scoopin'. $12 million. Yowser!

Katrina Blog-iversary

I was a brand-new blogger when Hurricane Katrina hit two years ago. Here's a re-cap of my posts in the midst of the disaster:

August 29, 2005: Before we knew what kind of devastation was in store, Literary salute to the Big Easy

August 31, 2005: OK, it's lookin' bad - A Streetcar Named Get Me Outta Here

September 1, 2005: Unimaginable awfulness prompts three posts in one day - Katrina concerns, "They endured," and Angry and helpless, which was pretty much the way we were all feeling.

September 2, 2005: Trying to figure out how to help prompts Mission Impossible? and Katrina rescue via database?

September 4, 2005: Still hangin' on with New Orleans on the big screen and Anne Rice does some truth-tellin'.

September 6, 2005: Wondering why we're having a hard time dealing with the catastrophe Questions that deserve a closer look.

September 7, 2005: So, how do we fix this thing? Can-do solution possibilities but don't forget what makes New Orleans great And then there's the music . . .

September 8, 2005: San Francisco earthquake vs. New Orleans Katrina Gee, it seemed to work in 1906.

It's still hard to believe that after two years, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast aren't back to normal. How those folks are hanging on in the face of living in trailers or gutted homes, continued lack of utilities and health services, and a total breakdown of government at all levels is beyond me. Keep them in your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How come . . . ?

  • . . . the Michael Vick story trumped the resignation of Alberto Gonzalez story yesterday on the major news websites? Both guys worthy of vilification, but c'mon - one's just a football player and one's the Attorney General.
  • . . . I have ten great ideas for stories but can't get one damn word down on paper?
  • . . . somebody thought it was a good idea to do a remake of the movie Halloween? Who or what could possibly trump Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, and the irrepressible P.J. Soles?
  • . . . I've messed up every Sudoku puzzle I've picked up the past week?
  • . . . I've never heard of this Winehouse chick? She seems to be all over the news, but I'm still not sure who the hell she is or why she's so famous.
  • . . . I'm always sandwiched between two loud iPod users on a crowded subway? TURN 'EM DOWN! Or get better ear-buds.
  • . . . the Phil Spector trial's still going on? It's been - what? - three or four years? How many more hairdos will Phil go through before he hits jail for good? Wall of Sound, indeed.
  • . . . we're all getting so fat, but stores don't carry anything larger than a size 2?
  • . . . America's Funniest Videos is still on the air? Who's watching? I'm always surprised it's still there when I'm flipping through the channels. Hm.
  • . . . all the good ones are taken? I'm talking, of course, about the flowers at the stall around the corner.
  • . . . we don't work on Labor Day?

    • Monday, August 27, 2007

      Blog-Ad Question

      For those of you who place ads on your blogs:

      1. 1. How's it working for you?
      2. 2. Who do you use? AdSense? Another ad placement service?

      Just wondering.

      Sluggin' it out

      I was a big ol' lazy slug all weekend. The Dog Days of August are to blame, me thinks.

      No work for me on Friday, as I took advantage of the third of my four "Summer Fridays" that the Church Center so generously gives us off. I spent the day in the old 'hood - love that Upper East Side! - getting a much-needed haircut and slipping in to the movie Stardust to avoid the heat. Fun little fairy tale, that. Robert DeNiro is a hoot!

      Saturday and Sunday, though, were just sleeping-reading-eating days. I did manage to rouse myself each day to take Bailey for an hour+ walk in Central Park. The humidity was stiffling, but there were some lovely cool spots in the park and water for Bailey.

      I'm not going to feel too guilty about my slughood, however. Lots of stuff to keep me busy at work, and overtime hours are piling up every day I'm in the office. Plus, I'm dealing with an unctuous manipulator on one of my task forces who's driving me and everyone else crazy. Aargh. So I deserved my slugfest.
      Now, off to work.

      Wednesday, August 22, 2007

      Location, location, location

      Boy, folks are just dying to get into this place. Evidently, the place to be buried is quaint little Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Why, this week alone it welcomes two of New York's toniest VIPs, Brooke Astor and Leona "Queen o'Mean" Helmsley. Who knew?

      I thought Sleepy Hollow was just famous for Washington Irving's Headless Horseman, but obviously, I was wrong. It's where rich folks go to pull the big dirt blanket up over their tiaras. Yup, the place is just packed with Astors, Andrew Carnegie, Walter Chrysler (yeah, the car-guy), a Rockefeller or two, Samuel L. Gompers (you remember that rabble-rouser from history class, surely), and old Washington Irving himself. Whoa! I am impressed!

      Friend and co-worker David lives in Tarrytown and has extended an invitation to spend a weekend with his family sometime during the fall. I'm thinking Halloween . . . Ooooooooooooooo!

      Tuesday, August 21, 2007

      Sometimes you just need a good laugh

      And Elsie at Elsie's Space gave me one yesterday with her list of "How to Make a Woman Happy" vs. "How to Make a Man Happy." I won't repeat her list here - go read it for yourself.

      But it did remind me of Jill Connor Browne and the fabulous Sweet Potato Queens' list of Five Men Every Woman Needs:

      1. One to fix things

      2. One to pay for things

      3. One to dance with

      4. One to talk to

      5. One to have sex with

      And as she so accurately points out, 4 of the 5 can be gay! This list comes from her theory that women expect 'way too much out of one man, and if you're looking for all these things in one person, you'll never hook up. She contends that if you find one guy that can fill two things on the list, grab him. And a guy that can manage three check-off items is, well, pure platinum.

      It's a theory that has totally changed my outlook on the dating scene. Also, I now understand why I have so much fun going out with my gay-guy friends. (Darn that pesky Number 5!)

      I wonder if anyone outside the South gets the Sweet Potato Queens books? I find them hilarious. Anyone whose five food groups are: sweet, salty, fried, and au gratin is someone I want to chum around with. "Tragedy deserves food" is another bit o' wisdom with which I can relate. Let me remind you, there are lots and lots of tragedies in this world. If you don't have one of your own, there are plenty to spare. So don't feel bad whipping up a big ol' batch of SPQ "Chocolate Stuff." It will get you through any bad day, trust me. I've tried it any number of times.

      Gee, how'd I get so far off-topic - from men-types to "Chocolate Stuff"? Oh, well. I'll let you figure that out. Now, get out there and do some laughin'!

      Monday, August 20, 2007

      Chain-yankin' Monday

      Well, the chain-yankers are out in force on this dog-day Monday. What? Have they been plotting all weekend about ways to rile me? Well, no matter. The joke's on them. I didn't get much sleep last night, so I disconnected all my "chains" when I came in this morning. I'm easy-breezy and practically unflappable today. Not to mention sleepy. So, yank away, you chronic chain-yankers. Ain't nuttin' in the end o' yo' line!

      Speaking of chain-yankers, I see where The Queen of Mean, Leona Helmsley, has died. She dropped out of the headlines after she came out of prison for tax evasion. Went very low-key. But I pass one of her holdings, the huge Helmsley Building, that sits smack in the middle of Park Avenue at Grand Central Station - it's the place where cars have to drive through and around to get to the continuation of Park on the other side. Well, Queen, off you go, then. Wonder if her funeral will be bigger than Brooke Astor's?

      And just so I wouldn't bore Shorty PJs readers with my Mother of the Bride angst for 14 months, I've started another blog: The MoBster Diaries. I'll try to put anything pertaining to Kate and Greg's impending wedding on that site, rather than this one. But I do expect those of you with MoB experience to visit and comment with your experiences and suggestions.

      Ooops. I've just found another chain that needs to be disconnected for the day. Hope you're all having a fine Monday.

      Sunday, August 19, 2007

      A beautiful day in the neighborhood

      Yesterday was the most glorious day here in New York City. With the temperature in the 60's/low 70s, I could almost believe that fall is just around the corner. That certain smell was in the air - leaves pushing out their last bit of green with a promising whiff of the color to come. And the late-summer whirr of cicadas (yes, even in Central Park, New York City) accompanied my afternoon walk with Bailey.

      Our walk took us all over the northern 1/3 of the park, winding up and down the paths of the North Woods and Meadow, around ponds and over little bridges. By the time we got to the Conservatory Gardens, it was packed with bridals parties, all jockeying for photo-op positions.

      If you look closely at the fountain picture, you can see 4-5 groups in wedding-photo mode. I saw no fewer than 15 bridal parties out there - from 5th Avenue trust fund babies to blinged-out brides from the barrio. It makes me glad that Kate won't be getting married in New York, if every bride has to take time out between church and reception to get to the Conservatory Gardens for the obligatory NYC wedding picture. Oy!

      I'll give 'em one thing, though. They had perfect wedding weather yesterday.

      I know the Southland and climes West are suffering through heat and drought. Here's hoping cooler weather starts punching its way through the wall of high temperatures for you soon, friends. It really is invigorating!

      Friday, August 17, 2007

      Twist the old week good-bye

      I'm puttin' on my capri pants and twistin' on outta here. This was one of those work-weeks that seemed to last 14 days, and I'm not a bit sorry to see the back end of it.

      But it's finally over. I can leave behind the meeting-freaks, the over-schedulers, and the "fix-this-please"-ers. (Most of those types are actually, um, me.)

      Enjoy the weekend, one and all. Raise your glass and do the Peppermint Twist, or whatever end-of-week tribal dance works best for you!

      Let me tell ya' 'bout a place,
      Somewhere up-a New York way,
      Where the people are so gay (yeah, baby!),
      Twistin' the night away.

      P.S. - I wonder if the two folks on the album cover are still alive. Or have they gone to the big Twist Party in the sky?

      Thursday, August 16, 2007

      So, where were you August 16, 1977?

      Yeah, I know, most of you weren't born yet.

      I, however, was alive and kicking, living and working at the pub in the Ashley Park Hotel in Walton-on-Thames, England. I'd just finished my stint at Exeter College, Oxford, and wasn't ready to return to everyday life in Atlanta, Georgia, and my work at a little television station called WTCG-TV.

      As I came downstairs the morning of August 16, the hotel manager and his wife, plus a couple of others, were standing solemnly at the bottom. Even after 30 years I can see the group looking up at me as I walked down the stairs. The memory is still so clear in my mind:

      Dougie turned to June and said, "Do you think we should tell her now?"

      "Tell me what?"

      A little hesitation as they looked at each other. "Well, you should know that Elvis Presley is dead."

      "Really? Hm." And I continued on to the kitchen to get my breakfast.

      The group followed behind me. "We thought you'd be upset about this news!" said one.

      "Um. No, I mean it's sad and I like his music, but I'm not a big rock-and-roll star fan of anybody's so, no. I'm not torn up about it."

      And that was the end of it, really (certainly the end of it for The King). Sure, the pub was full of talk about how it happened and wasn't he young and so forth. So, though I never shed a tear over Elvis, I do remember where I was when I heard about his death, and how disappointed the folks were that I didn't fling myself down the stairs, weeping madly. I've always found it interesting that they thought I'd be upset about it. Was it because I was American? Not sure.

      Now, I can conjure up a few tears when I hear "Can't Help Falling In Love," or when I hear his songs that bring back memories of those early "Hound Dog," "Teddy Bear," Don't Be Cruel" childhood years. But his death just didn't impact my life - certainly not the way Doug and June thought it would on that August day in 1977. (Elvis sure was purdy when he was young, though. I'll give 'im that.)

      Wednesday, August 15, 2007

      It's official!

      Just got a call from daughter Kate in Ireland. She's over there with her significant other Greg, her two half-sisters, and her father and his wife for a 10-day visit.

      Greg made it official on their visit to the Cliffs of Moher : I'm going to be a mother-in-law. Oh, and Kate's going to be a bride. I'm still waiting for the bling-photo to come through (er, picture of the ring).

      Remember the secret I posted about in June? Well, that's when Greg called to ask me if he could ask Kate to marry him. My response was "Absolutely - but I have no control over her answer!"

      I'm thrilled, of course, as is the happy couple.

      Wedding date? Probably October 2008. So I have a few months to lose weight and try to find a decent MoB dress (and aren't they all awful??).

      Tuesday, August 14, 2007

      The Meeting-Participant Field Guide

      Meetings. Got to have 'em. Hate 'em. Especially those scheduled to last more than 2 hours.

      The best meetings have 5 or fewer very busy, very efficient people. Those meetings last about 10 minutes because a) these people are busy and b) these people are efficient.

      And then there are the other meetings. Loooooong meetings. Meetings with too many people. Meetings that include a variety of meeting-breeds. Here are a few types I've encountered recently:

      The Conversation Hog - No matter the agenda topic, the CH cannot resist sharing his "expertise." Constantly. Because this person's opinion is so valuable (er, in his own opinion), the CH must spread the brilliance. Constantly. Neverendingly. Did I mention constantly?

      The Repeater - Believing that the group didn't hear her the first (and second and third . . .) time around, the Repeater says the same thing over and over and over.

      The Naysayer - Can't be done. Nope. Not that way. Not with those people. Not there. Not at that time. Won't work. Never.

      Mr/Ms Off-Topic - Forget the agenda or tasks at hand, O-T shoots off into another sphere of interest and meanders in space, sucking up valuable meeting time.

      The Silent Type - Whether they can't get a word in edgewise (thanks to any/all of the above types) or they really have nothing to contribute (so why are they here?), the silent types are just that. Shhhh. (They often call the facilitator later to say all they wished they'd said at the actual meeting. Sigh.)

      The Patronizing Bastard/Bitch - "Poor little meeting attendees. I know you see yourselves as having insight, leadership ability, experience, etc., but trust me. I'm the one with the all the knowledge and class here." (Add head-pat or two for people around the table.)

      Left-Behinder - "I'm sorry, where are we? What are we doing? We've already discussed that? Where was I?"

      Dr. Sidebar - Must have a running conversation, complete with sarcastic remarks, with the person next to him, even if that person is trying to pay attention to the actual meeting. The Conversation Hog often turns into Dr. Sidebar if the group has managed to put a halt to the hog.

      Professor Huff-and-Puff - Sits through the meeting sighing heavily, shaking her head, rolling eyes, tapping pencil. When asked to comment or join in the conversation, PH&P sighs and shakes head. Huff!

      Often times, these types combine to produce a really painful (for the rest of the group) meeting attendee. For example, the Off-Topic-Naysayer-Repeater-Patronizing Bitch. I know that's just bringing tears to your eyes, dear readers. Sorry. And pity the poor busy/efficient types when thrown into a room any of these folks!

      I'm sure there are a lot more "breeds" we can add to the field guide. Go ahead - pile on!

      Friday, August 10, 2007

      Manhattan 'Cue

      It was a cool, rainy day in New York - perfect for sitting inside and watching Vincent Price movies on Turner Classic Movies (he's star of the day). But I did manage to step outside, dodge the raindrops, and head downtown to meet stitches212 for barbecue at Blue Smoke.

      I got to the 28th Street station a little early, so I walked over to Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building to take a few pictures. It was actually quite pleasant and a nice relief from the 90-degree heat and humidity of the past week. But the Empire State Building got lost in a fog.

      Had some great barbecue at Blue Smoke. As an appetizer, stitches recommended the fried bread and chipotle butter - woo-ee! Good stuff! And we both tucked into a plate of pulled pork, slaw, and beans. Ummm. So much food, that we had to get doggy-bags. (Something to look forward to!)

      With full tummies (and since the outside temp was refreshingly cool), we detoured briefly to the Museum of Sex (see previous post) - didn't go inside (another day, perhaps!) - before heading north on 5th Avenue. Walked from 27th to 50th, where we parted ways - her to the bus, me to the subway.

      So when you come to town for a visit, I know where to find a good barbecue restaurant and the Museum of Sex!


      This picture needs a good caption. Ideas?

      Flower Power

      It's pouring rain here today, so I'm not going to strike out for the Flatiron/Ladies' Mile area as planned. Well, at least not till later. I'm meeting fellow Southern-girl-living-in-NYC and blog bud stitches212 later this afternoon at Blue Smoke for some barbeque and collards. If the rains continue, I plan to wear my new swimsuit, mask and fins.

      But since August showers bring August flowers, I thought I'd share a few flower shots I've taken over the past week during my time kicking around the city. Enjoy!

      Thursday, August 09, 2007

      My kingdom for a camera battery

      After dropping off my laundry at the local fluff-and-fold, I headed south on 5th Avenue to the lower 1/3 of Central Park. I hopped off the bus at 79th and had a pleasant little stroll along the avenue, entering the park at 72nd.

      I watched folks maneuver little sail boats around the pond and gave my regards to both Hans Christian Andersen and Alice in Wonderland. A guy with balloons on his head did some pretty good renditions of "Summertime" and other jazzy classics. I tossed a buck in his trumpet case and he said "Thank you" about a thousand times. Support the arts, sez I. And all the while, I'm snappin' away with my little digital camera.

      Strolling over to Bethesda Fountain, I whip out my camera - the fountain looked particularly fetching today - but, sad to say, I'd neglected to recharge the battery last night and it just would not crank out one mo' photo for me. Sigh. You'll just have to take my word for it. The fountain was lovely.

      As were Strawberry Fields and the "Imagine" marker, The Dakota, and the American Museum of Natural History. Now, the "Imagine" marker you've seen a ba-zillion times, and the best views of The Dakota can be seen in the opening credits of Rosemary's Baby. No, seriously - check it out.

      And of course the Natural History Museum stars in Night at the Museum, though Teddy Roosevelt's actually a big verdigris statue out front, not Robin Williams on horseback inside. (I think most of the film was shot on a sound stage in Canada.) Anyway, I wasn't going to be picky. It was hot, so I thought I'd poke around there for a while.

      Alas, after marching up the front steps and having my bag checked by security, I noticed the line to buy admission tix snaking around the lobby. Hmmmm. Did I really want to do that? Could I, perhaps, plan to come back another day, say, a Monday morning before the long lines form? Yes. That sounded better. So, though a little disappointed at not getting to venture through the museum, I looked around the lobby, then headed out again.

      As I strolled back across Central Park toward 5th Avenue, I remembered gleefully that I was carrying my very own Metropolitan Museum of Art Member Card. Why, no lines for me there - just flash my card, they hand me my little "M" button, and in I walk (while all the poor schmucky non-members have to snake through the Met line!). So I ducked into the big bad mama of museums, where it was nice and cool. I headed for the galleries with the least number of people. I wasn't picky - I thoroughly enjoyed a few Old Masters and some of the Medieval Art.

      And that's the great thing about actually living in New York City. I can go back to Bethesda Fountain and The Dakota and The American Museum of Natural History and the Met anytime I want. No big rush or hurry.

      So, I'll recharge the camera battery and head back another day.

      The "Terrible TWOs" Top 20

      In honor of Shorty PJs' second anniversary, I thought I'd celebrate by listing my top 20 favorite posts, arranged oldest to latest. Well, not the absolute top 20 - who can choose favorites among one's chirruns? - but 20 posts that I enjoy re-reading. Indulge me while I take a walk down Memory Lane before I strike out for Central Park, the Dakota, and the American Museum of Natural History. Check 'em out, if you're so inclined.
      1. Meditationally-challenged - why I don't do yoga
      2. A couple of Girl Scout leaders and a PTA president could organize the world - written in light of the Katrina disaster
      3. All Hallow's Eve Eve - childhood pre-Halloween excitement
      4. The music of a city - trains, cities, music
      5. Autumn evening - random thoughts as I walked from the car to the front door
      6. For all the saints (and sinners, too) - a little celebration of faith
      7. The day before the day before - a Christmas Eve eve rambling
      8. Anything for a couple of Krystal Hamburgers and a chance to sit on Rebel - local kiddie show memories
      9. School words - once you graduate, you never have to hear 'em again
      10. The Shortys - a better version of the Oscars
      11. The Good Mamas - a Mother's Day salute
      12. Finding An Old Friend - good ol' Mr. Peanut
      13. And The City - making my way in the Grand Pomme
      14. "Good Family" Guilt - obviously, I need therapy
      15. The Curse of the Suddenly-Stopplies - move along, move along
      16. A Little Fall Splendor in The Park Central - just purdy pictures
      17. Paying forward, not back - a subway experience
      18. O, the wonders of a flashlight and a bit of orange cellophane - Christmas pageant memories
      19. Celebrating 25 Years of Snow Jam '82 Tall Tales - you had to be there
      20. I smell fish and see plaid. This must be Scotland. - a tribute to dear Aub
      Really, I have lots more, but the world is a-callin'. Mo' later.

      Wednesday, August 08, 2007

      Do I have a New York guadian angel?

      Sure seems that way sometimes. At the risk of tempting fate, I do want to mention that I've managed to avoid several harrowing experiences since living in New York.

      The latest was this morning's flood/MTA shut-down. Rumor has it that we had huge thunderstorms (and Brooklyn got a tornado) that completely halted public transport for hours. In fact, I think things still aren't running normal even now. But thanks to this week's little in-town vacation, I was tucked up sound asleep during the chaos.

      I woke up around 7:30 - yeah, it was raining, but what did I care? I ate my breakfast, did a little reading, then dozed off again. And all the while working people in New York (which is pretty much everybody) were stranded at various locations around the city trying to do the good-employee thing and get to work. I only had a few errands to do around the 'hood - didn't do one of my NYC tourist walks today - so I wasn't impacted by the subway problems. Thank you, Angel!

      And remember the big steam blow-up a couple of weeks ago? I decided worked from home that day, so I missed that horrific thing, as well.

      Plus, my dog-sitter has reported that on two different occasions - one at E. 88th and one at my current apartment - I've missed "reported neighborhood bomb scares" by being out of town. Whew!

      The big snow storm in March? Where was I? Africa.

      Listen, Angel, I don't know who you are (Clarence?), but keep up the good work!

      'Tis the Season

      It's hot. The humidity is running about 150%. When I step outside I no longer breathe in air, I'm sucking in water. It's a wonder I haven't drowned. This is my least favorite weather, bar none.

      That's why sticky summer days find me launching into "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . . ," usually to collective howls of "Noooooooooo!" Why is that? What is it about the mention of Christmas - my personal favorite holiday of all time, by the way - that causes such mass protest?

      Is it because people associate Christmas with cold weather? (Then bring it on, my friend! Please.) Is it the gift-buying frenzy that folks hook on to the season? Is it that people hate Christmas carols, thanks to Mr. Muzak?

      Well, no matter. Whatever the reason for folks not wanting to hear a little reminder of Christmas in August, it's my way of remembering that sooner or later, the weather will change. Sooner or later, I'll be wrapped in sweaters and coats. Sooner or later, the spirit will shift and lift.

      Think I'll turn down the A/C, brew some hot chocolate, and load the DVD player with Christmas movies. Brrrrrr. Just my way of beating the summer heat and doldrums.

      Tuesday, August 07, 2007

      Aw, shucks. Ya' shouldn't have .

      Joy put old Shorty's name in the pot for a Creative Blogger Award. Thank 'e, madam! Such kind words and a kind deed! It means a lot coming from one of the best around.

      Elsie was good enough to make me a Rockin' Girl Blogger last week, and I still haven't figured out how to add the icon to my sidebar. Same with the Creative thing. If anyone can figure out the html on these things, let me know and I'll start tooting my own horn via my lovely blog awards.

      I'm supposed to nominate folks for both Creative Blogger and Rockin' Girl, but I just can't do it. I've mulled it over for a couple of hours, and I'm having a hard time narrowing things down. Listen, the folks on my "Good 'uns" list wouldn't be there if they weren't rockin' creative in some way or another. Nope. Just can't do it.

      . . . and The Battery's down . . .

      I am a history geek. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that delving into the nit-picky, teeny-tiny details of the past is one of my greatest delights. And thanks to the tip-end of Lower Manhattan, I spent the day getting nit-picky about colonial and revolutionary New York.

      Zipping down on #4, I got off at Bowling Green, the last Manhattan stop before the train heads under the water for Brooklyn. Tiny Bowling Green Park was the site of the iconic images of colonists pulling down the statue of King George III on horseback.

      I crossed Battery Place, avoiding tourists - chock-a-block for the Staten Island Ferry or the cruises over to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty - as best I could, to find a little pleasant walk along the waterfront in Battery Park. Great views of Lady Liberty and Ellis Island, plus gorgeous flowers and lots of benches to sit and take it all in. All free!

      Battery Park has some nice public art/sculpture, as well as World War II, Korean War, Merchant Mariners' memorials. I particularly like the Korean War memorial with the cut-out of the soldier, and one of the Merchant Marines trying to save a fellow mariner from the water. Castle Clinton's there, too. Nothing to do with Bill or Hill, but it was built to defend Manhattan against the British in 1812.

      On to Fraunces Tavern. This isn't the original (built 1719 as a residence) - it's actually the 3rd or 4th one, I think - but it is the original site. Great history behind this place. Big GW (George Washington) hung out here, as did many of the heroes of the revolution. Lots of plotting and drinking happened. It's where GW did his farewell to the officers of the Continental Army in 1783 (a very teary occasion, by all accounts - maybe it was the beer). I got to learn all of this for a mere $4. The restaurant downstairs is a little pricey, so I moved on after I'd gotten my Fraunces history fix in the museum.

      I meandered through the district - Water Street, Wall Street, Pearl Street, William Street. Trinity Church is always imposing at the end of the Wall Street, and Delmonico's seems to beckon "Put on your bustle and long white gloves, and c'mon in and have a steak!" Not suitably dressed, I didn't even try to get inside.

      Headed southeast to South Street. The masted ships with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background are wonderful sights to behold. I was getting hungry, but I wanted something historically interesting (and cheap) rather than the restaurants at South Street Seaport. I found my place. The Dodo Cafe (that's "dodo" as in the extinct bird, not whatever else you're thinking) is a great little place with a terrific street-side view of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Cold cantaloupe soup (with blueberries) and a dynamite chicken/avocado sandwich hit the spot. (And reasonable - around $11.)

      Poked around a little more - lots of historic little buildings and monuments of one kind or another in the area, so I took my time. Capped off the ramble with a visit to The Strand Bookstore, where I picked up two great trade paperbacks for $1.95/each. A bargain, I tell ya'!

      A little pre-visit research really helped focus my time in Lower Manhattan. Most helpful, in addition to the NYU architecture site I mentioned in a previous post, was my handy-dandy Eyewitness Travel New York (thanks, Barbara!). I knew ahead of time my "have to sees" and the rest was the whipped cream topping. I loved every minute of it!

      With a better understanding of early New York stuffed into my noodle, I feel fully prepared to attack the Gilded Age next. I will have to break out the bustle and long gloves for that, I suspect.

      Monday, August 06, 2007

      Naming Names

      I buckled down to do a little writing today. Seriously. Well, I did, um, after I completely rearranged my computer/writing nook set-up. And after walking the dog a couple of times. And after reading a several chapters of The Archivist by Martha Cooley. And after giving the floor a good Swiffering.

      Then I pulled out the laptop and started picking up the threads of a story I started about a year and a half ago. To get back into the swing of things, I re-wrote the story synopsis - adding a few ideas here and there - and started fiddling around with the characters.

      Whenever I get stuck on a writing project, I pull out the old character description worksheets and work up one for each person in the story, as I dig around for a good backstory. Most of the things I come up with I'll never use, but the act of doing it helps me understand these people better. And it helps get me un-stuck.

      One thing I enjoy doing is finding just the right name for each character. My names don't have much meaning - there's nothing wink-wink-nod-nod about whatever I choose, but I do like to make sure the name fits the person in the story. Once duly christened, a character starts taking on flesh-and-blood characteristics that feed the plot.

      Where do the names come from? Well, one of my favorite sources is old yearbooks. Now, I never pull a name full-blown out of the class of 1935 or 1963 or 1972, but I find the books a treasure trove of first and last names. Sometimes I use last names for first names, sometimes I make nicknames out of the real names. I always say the name over a few times to see if an image of the character comes to mind. If the name seems to fit, I add it to a list.Then I choose the work-in-progress names for my story-folk. Usually, those names stick for the final draft, but once in a while I have to change one or two mid-write. Hey, it's my story, and I can do what I want.

      So I christened a few characters today. And you know what? Once I got to know those characters better, good plot lines just seemed to grow out of nowhere. All in all, a good writing start.

      Sunday, August 05, 2007

      Eastside girl ventures west

      Ah, vacation days - sleeping late and plotting the best use of whatever daylight hours are left.

      Mid-afternoon, I hopped the M4 bus at Central Park and 110th and headed west. My goal was Grant's Tomb. I know, I know. I'm a Southern girl, but I still wanted to see it. I hold no grudges seeing as how he was on the right side (er, the side of right), let's face it. (And I'm not going to get into the states' rights thing right now. I'm on vacation.) Anyway. Grant's Tomb.

      The old joke is: "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" "Nobody. Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia aren't buried there, they are entombed there." Ha. Ha. Well, whatever they're doing there, it's a pretty awesome edifice. I mean, this is one whackin' great monument, friends. And their entombments are massive. See?

      Grant's Tomb is next to Riverside Drive and the Hudson River. A lovely, lovely setting. One of the unexpectedly fun things that I discovered was the collection of funky, mosaic-tile benches surrounding three sides of the monument. The benches are oddly shaped - some face the monument, some face the river or the park to the north - and each has a unique design. A New York taxi. Einstein. A clown. Hearts and flowers. Wonder if Grant would approve? Ah, well. No matter. I thought they were wonderful!

      Rather than bus it back to El Barrio, I decided to walk. I really wanted to see the view from the tower of the Riverside Church but it was closed. Darn. As was the church proper. Double-darn. So I opted for a mosey through Barnard and Columbia. Then on toward The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

      I've been in SJD several times (once for friend Harry's installation as Dean, which was awesome in the original, un-Valley-speak meaning of the word), so I didn't need to go inside. But I did poke around the student sculpture garden. Very cool and artsy. In addition to the big sculpture, there were little plaques for different philosophers and artists like Georgia O'Keefe, John Lennon, Mark Twain, Thoreau, Gandhi. Interesting and well done.

      By that time, I was getting rather peckish. I settled on the patio of "Spoonbread" (Columbus and 110th) for some "real" Southern food. Just my way or compensating for the Grant's Tomb visit. I'm not usually an al fresco eater, but there was a nice, cool breeze and low humidity, so it was actually quite comfortable.

      Here's what I ordered (fried chicken, collard greens, black-eyed peas). Not up to Atlanta's Colonnade Restaurant, but it scratched an itch, if you know what I mean. I even managed to pull out my journal and do a little writing while I was there (though not 1000 words).

      All in all, a pleasant day with a few nice surprises (mosaic benches, sculpture garden, fried chicken).

      Saturday, August 04, 2007

      The Kitchen God's Wife

      And vacation! Day one? I spent several hours re-organizing my kitchen. And I use the term "kitchen" loosely here, since I really only have a strip in the living room about 8' x 3' with the necessary appliances, sink, and cabinets.

      Still, until yesterday, the area above the cabinets was loaded with unpacked boxes, the microwave was in a totally unworkable space, and the free-standing shelf under the window was piled with junk.

      So I took my sweet time and got things functionally organized. I feel right chuffed about it, too. As long as all my teapots are out and ready for use, God's in his heaven yadda-yadda. (Boy, don't I sound like a prissy old lady: " . . . all my teapots . . . " Yikes. Maybe it's time for a tattoo.)

      But did I write 1000 words today? Nope. I think I'll start that Monday.

      Friday, August 03, 2007

      Vacation Game Plan

      Well, I was supposed to start my vacation today, but there are just too many important loose ends dangling around the office, so I'll save this vacation day for the Fall. However, it hasn't put me off working out a list of things I want to do next week during my first real vacation since May 2005. Ten whole days - in sequence - to do whatever the heck I want!

      I do have goals for the week:

      1. Stay up late/sleep late(r). I mean, I don't want to over-schedule myself or anything.

      2. Unpack all the boxes stuffed into the closets. OK. At least unpack all the boxes stuffed into one of the closets.

      3. Write. No, I mean it. At least 1000 words a day. Come out at the end of the week with something, anything that I can expand.

      4. Walk New York. I found an amazing website, Architecture of New York: a field study, that offers some great self-guided walks. I'll plot out a day-by-day plan of the areas I definitely want to hit. Can't do all of them this go-round, but I hope to make a dent in the stack. Comfy shoes, camera, writing journal, and some pocket change (and my MTA card, of course, for when I'm ready to stop walking) should be all I need next week, I reckon.

      So that's my holiday plan, friends. I see lots of blog-fodder there, don't you?

      Thursday, August 02, 2007


      Tamarika was complaining about her G-Rated blog, so I thought I'd put mine to the test. Hm. Got an R-Rating based on the presence of the words "death," "hell," and "bitch." Guess they missed the "shit" and "damn" I threw in during my rant on trash-talking the other day.

      Well, so be it. I'll proudly wear an R-Rating, thank you very much.

      Wednesday, August 01, 2007

      Summer retro-blogging

      Is it a cop-out to blog-post about previous blog-posts? Well, too bad.

      I was looking over last summer's posts, and two of them caught my eye. The first is called "Three generations of summer fun" and features summertime photos of my mother and one of her sisters, a threesome from my generation (there you go, Cuz - you're famous now!), and a couple of our children when they were small. Three distinct eras - as illustrated by the pictures - but all full of happy summer kids.

      The second summer-fun post is "You take-em your honey, don't need-em much money" about the local Chattanooga amusement park, Lake Winnepesaukah. Good times. What I wouldn't give for a couple of rides on The Scrambler or the Ferris Wheel. Or the Tilt-a-Whirl. Or those Swings that went around and around up in the air. Pure-T-D-lightful!

      Well, maybe retro-blogging is shabby, but I had fun looking at the pictures again.