Friday, September 28, 2007

You say pee-CAN; I say it correctly

As far as I know, pecans aren't grown up here in the northern climes to any great extent. That's probably why no one outside of the South or Texas (not the South; it's Southwest) can pronounce the name of one of my favorite nuts.

"Hey! Want some butter pee-CAN ice cream?"

"Why, no. But I'd love a little butter pe-cahn if you find any."

Since Southerners are often taken to task for mispronouncing words (and rightly so), I always feel it's my prerogative to correct a Northerner who says "peeCAN" instead of the more luscious "pe-cahn" or (if you really want Southern-speak) "pe-cawn".

Picky? Perhaps. But "peeCAN" just lacks dignity. Yes, dignity. It strips a noble nut of its rightful place at the the center of the nut constellation. So, repeat after me: pe-cahn, pe-cahn, pe-cahn.

Very good. Now, run get me some butter pecan ice cream, please.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

And suddenly, it is dark

A few mornings ago I noticed that the street lights were still on when I took Bailey out for her morning walk. It was bit jolting. One day the morning is bright and streetlight-free; the next, it's darker and in need of artificial illumination.

It's not that the seasonal change is unexpected. Let's face it, I've seen many an autumn roll in. But I'm always caught unawares by how quickly fall (and spring) hit. All at once the moon is in a completely different part of the sky. It's darker when I leave work in the afternoons. And the streetlights are still burning for my morning walk.

Fall is my favorite season, so I find some reassurance in the new morning and late afternoon darkness. Can cooler weather and colorful leaves be far behind? And will it happen . . . suddenly?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It was a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad world

Cuz responded to my previous post about the book Blink with a book recommendation of his own, The Glass Castle. (Looks good, by the way.) What struck me about his recommendation, though, is how far we've come since those summers in the early 60's, when we spent many an hour laughing over Mad Magazines.

Spy vs. Spy, Alfred E. Newman, iconic wild-eyed-hinged-footed Don Martin cartoon people, and song lyric parodies (our particular favorite) kept us entertained for hours. We committed verses of those silly songs to memory and drove everybody in the house, well, mad spouting them over and over.

In those days, the magazine was full of Cold War humor (yes, the Cold War could be funny) and commentary on cultural mores of the times. I'm sure a whole lot of stuff went right over our 10-, 11-, 12-year-old little heads, but like Bugs Bunny cartoons, there was enough har-dee-har-har business to keep us highly amused.

It was funny but not crude. OK, just a little crude, but nothing in comparison to South Park. At any rate, Mad certainly wasn't banned - even in our Southern Baptist households. I do wonder if our parents ever secretly read the thing when we weren't around. Hmmmm.

And that Alfred E. Newman was such a rebel, eh? "What, me worry?" certainly ran counter to the bomb shelter, hiding under school desks mentality of the day. He gave us permission to forget about the USSR, homework, and ironing our button-down Gant shirts for just a little while. Thank you, Al.

It's heartening to know that both Cuz's and my reading tastes have matured over the years. Still, I wish I could get my hands on one or two of those Mads from my youth. I'll bet they would dredge up all kinds of memories. I suspect Cuz, Lil Sis, and I could launch right into one of those song parodies, if we only had the words . . .

Monday, September 24, 2007

Blinking all night

Over the past couple of years, I've read little chunks of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. It's one of those non-fiction books that allows for skipping around, flipping through the pages and picking up on something that interests the reader without having to sit down and read it cover-to-cover.

Well, yesterday, I did sit down to read cover-to-cover and couldn't put the thing down! So I ended up reading late into the night (i.e., wee early hours of the morning).

The subtitle of the book is "The Power of Thinking Without Thinking." Heck, yeah, I'm all for that. Who has time to think anymore, eh?

Actually, the book is about decision-making, and how the amount of information we process is less important than the first few seconds of honing in on core impressions. Finding the "fist" of the situation or person. In other words, just the opposite from what we've been taught with "Don't make snap judgments," "Haste makes waste," or "Don't judge a book by its cover." Seems we have the innate ability to sum up an object, event, or person - correctly - in a matter of seconds.

Once in a while, this "thin-slicing" gets us into trouble, especially if we have a layer of preconceived notions to crunch through. Racism and gender-bias are examples. But for the most part, our gut feelings are spot-on.

Still, I don't have to thin-slice to understand why not being able to close the book at a reasonable hour has left me blinking this morning.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The War starts tonight

The war. You know. THE war. When someone refers to "the war" in conversation, which one do you think they mean?

That question came to me a couple of months ago when I was on a plane, and the guy in front of me mentioned something about "the war" to the young man next to him. Now, the guy that brought up "the war" in the first place wasn't old enough to have fought in "the war," but we all knew good and well which "war" he was talking about.

The Big One. WW2. World War II.

I really pondered why it was that I assumed the war that was being discussed was "the" war. I was too young for it, too, so why would I think that? Is it a cultural thing? Have we seen so many movies and TV shows about this war of the "greatest generation," that it is the primo war that comes to mind? And does everybody think that, or is it just me? I mean, if I say "back during the war" to a 20-something person (not in the context of current events), will that person also jump to the conclusion that I'm talking about World War II?

Well, I have conducted my own little test, asking various young'uns in their 20's and 30's about "the war." Know what? Everyone of them looks at me like I'm crazy and says "World War II, of course." Even if they don't know jack-poo about what took place over 60 years ago. Hmmm.

So there. That's it. We need another name for armed conflict because "the war" means World War II. At least for another 100 years or so.

The new Ken Burns (of The Civil War fame) series on WWII starts in a few minutes, so let's see what he has to show us about . . . The War.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Every morning when I squeeze my way out of the Downtown-bound #6 train at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station, I'm greeted by a cheerful, rotund MTA worker who calls out to all and sundry, "Good morning!" or "Have a good day!" or, on Fridays, "Enjoy your weekend!"

He's a familiar sight, in his light blue shirt, orange-and-yellow reflective vest, and MTA cap. He's missing a few teeth, but that just seems to add to his bright smile. I must say that his greetings go a long way toward smoothing over any feathers ruffled coming off of the subway cars or trying to push up the stairs to the main terminal.

I've been saying "Hello" back to him for months but never dared to stop to ask his name because I'd've gotten trampled in the process. But last week, after escorting my out-of-town guest to her destination across town, I arrived at GCS later than normal. He was still on the platform. I said "Hello" and started to walk away, but I was curious and just had to find out his name, so I stopped and turned around.

"I see you every morning and have always wanted to know your name," I said.

"Calvin," he said. "Calvin's my name."

"Well, hello, Calvin. You sure make these hectic mornings a little nicer."

"Thank you, m'am. I do what I can." That was the end of it, and I went on my way.

But I do love adding "Calvin" to my morning hellos. He seems right pleased.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The (Online) Education of the New York Times

I noticed something different when I opened the online Opinion Page of today's New York Times. It's been a couple of years since I've had access to the likes of columnists Frank Rick, Maureen Dowd, and Thomas Friedman, because the Times held them hostage to the Average Joe/Jane by imposing the nefarious "Times Select" embargo. "Times Select" was the not-so-brilliant idea that charged a fee - that's right! a fee! - for reading the paper's top opinionators.

When the pay-to-read toll was put in place, I said to meself, "Hm. Seems all that's going to do is cut down the readership of these top columnists, cuz who's gonna pay to read somebody else's opinion?" I figured that sooner or later, the Shining Stars would realize that their online audience had dissipated and would revolt. Anyway, you could find their opinions on other sites - most all of 'em are syndicated - so what was the point?

Seems that - as of today - the NYT has seen the light and discontinued "Times Select" fee-to-read. Welcome back, Maureen, Frank, Tom, and all! And as for you, NYT, I hope you've learned your lesson.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


One mo' to go.

No complaining here, though. Weather's gorgeous. Plus, the worst of the three meetings is behind me, so it should be less stressful in the Second City.

I'm trying to catch up on my blog-reading. I'll get to all of you eventually, I promise. Hang with me just a little longer.

Winston, sorry about the implosion of the Vols. Still, Bama kicked Razorback butt, so I'm OK.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

One short day in the Emerald City . . .

OK. One trip down, two to go. Flying into New York at sunset was just glorious this evening.

I do have some hopeful news out there for all you air travelers. How many times have I written about my irritation at having to take my laptop out of its case to put it through security at airports? All of us business travelers slow down the process by having to make this little maneuver (though we don't slow it down as much as non-regular travelers trying to figure out that, yes, they have to take off their shoes, and no, they can't take that bottled water through).

Well, Cleveland Airport has one security lane with some new system that allows you to just throw your computer case on the belt without taking the laptop out! Ya-hoo! I forgot what the system's called, but we can only hope that every airport in the country will have this up and running on all security lanes before long.

Now, if only they can sort out the shoe-thing, so we don't have to keep walking through the metal detector barefooted!

Anyway, as the song from Wicked says, "One short day in the Emerald City. One short day, for there's so much to do . . . " Alas, I only get to spend the night in the Emerald City (aka NYC). Must be at Penn Station by 12:30pm to catch the Baltimore-bound train. Wish me luck!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Human Ping-Pong Ball

Here's my schedule for the next five days:
  • Today: New York to Cleveland
  • Tomorrow: Cleveland to New York.
  • Sunday: New York to Baltimore.
  • Monday: Baltimore to New York.
  • Tuesday: New York to Chicago.
  • Wednesday: Chicago to New York.
Whew! Tea and chocolate will keep me running, I reckon.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Thanks to Elsie's excellent suggestion, I contacted Beth to get the little girl's phone number from the cell phone so that I could check in to see if she made it home OK. (See previous post.)

Elisa herself (the little girl) answered the phone - no school today and tomorrow for Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan (this ain't Atlanta, folks!). She said that she had indeed found her brother and made it home safely and thanked me for helping her.

Both Beth and I had been so worried. Relief all around!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Walking up the hill to 116th to help friend Beth catch a cab to LaGuardia, a little girl - maybe 10 years old? - came up to me, sobs in her voice, "Have you seen a boy in a white shirt and a baseball cap?"

Well, yeah, I'd seen hundreds of 'em, just not in the last few minutes. "No, what's wrong, sweetie?"

"He's my brother and I saw him across the street and he's supposed to take me home, but now he's gone!" She didn't break down in tears, but she was on the verge.

In the meantime, Beth and I were keenly aware that we needed to get Beth into a cab and off to the airport. Everything that passed us was either "Off Duty" (yeah) or occupied. Drat. And yet, we really needed to help this poor child. (Besides being just a naturally nice person, Beth is a priest. No pressure to be nice, though.)

We kept going round in circles with the little girl's story, so finally we suggested she call her mom and ask what to do. Quickly. I didn't have my phone with me, but Beth was able to rummage around in her bag for hers.

Well, the circles continued as the little girl went over and over the story to her mother. Goodness knows what the mom was saying on the other end.

Finally - brutally aware of precious airport minutes ticking away - Beth suggested that the girl and her mom come to some decision because she needed to leave. (Nice only lasts so long when you need to catch a plane. Even for a priest.) After several more minutes on the phone-roundabout, first Beth, then I took the phone to help work out a solution.

The girl kept talking about the 125th St. station and the B and C trains. I couldn't make her understand that the #6 train just across the way would get her to 125th (next stop), then she could get the train she needed. I told her mom that I would make sure she got on the #6 going to 125th, where her mom was going to meet her.

"Does she know where you're going to be?" I asked her mother.

"Yes, she knows where she should be," assured the mom. The little girl didn't look so sure to me.

Beth and I walked her to the subway stop, and I pointed the way

"It only goes uptown and 125th is the very next stop," I kept saying, "Then ask one of the subway attendants to help."

I felt bad - I didn't have my MetroCard with me, had no money for a fare, and had Bailey on her leash, so I couldn't escort the little girl personally. It would've been weird to take her back to my apartment to drop off Bailey and get some money. Aaargh! Such a dilemma!

Last I saw of her, she was going down the subway steps.

We finally found airport transportation for Beth, and she headed for LaGuardia and I headed for home.

But I'm still worried about the little girl. Did she get to 125th? What happened then? Did her mom find her? I can only trust that she asked one of the MTA folks to help her (she didn't seem shy).

But I wonder. And worry.

Monday, September 10, 2007

No wonder I'm confused

  • So, is the surge working or not?

  • Is Madeleine L'Engle really dead, or did she just find a tesseract?

  • Is Larry Craig gay? Straight? Resigning? Not resigning? What day is it? (I figure the minute a public figure answers a ludicrous charge with an extreme declaration -"I am not gay," "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," "I am not a crook" - then, by golly, put your money on just the opposite.)

  • Why are techno-computery things names after fruit? What is it about fruit? Why not use animals, or geologic ages, or the periodic table, or the Monday night television schedule from 1962?

  • Britney, Britney, Britney. What were you thinking?

  • How am I helping the environment if I pick up and dispose of Bailey's dog poo from the sidewalk with plastic bags? And wouldn't it be just as big a recycling waste if I used paper bags? (And no, I'm not going to pick the poo up in my hand and put it "live" into a trash can.)

  • Steve Fossett: dead or alive? Oh, yeah? Then where is he?

  • Madeleine Little-Missing-Girl-in-Portugal-or-Wherever: dead or alive? Oh, yeah? Then where is she?

  • Now how many children will this make for Angelina and Brad if they adopt another one? (And can't they do it without so much publicity? Same for you, Madonna.)

  • Should I worry more about losing my job or retirement?

  • If it ain't over till it's over, when is it over?

  • Sunday, September 09, 2007

    Eye of the storm?

    Last week was a real bear. On the up-side: I made my Broadway stage debut, and I received some very enthusiastic compliments about my marketing work for next year's big world mission conference and the department website I re-designed.

    On the down-side, there was that unfortunate email blast (insert cringe here), and we learned a few more details about the reorganization of the Episcopal Church Center. I think I still have my job. Not sure if I'm going to have to reapply for whatever my new job description will be - news coming soon on that, I hope. Anyway, it's certainly not the first big reorganization I've been in the midst of (Turner's sell-out to Time Warner comes swiftly to mind), so I think I know how to survive. Or at least position myself for the next big thing.

    The weekend has been uneventful, because I needed it to be. But things are looking up. Good friend Beth arrived from St. Paul last night, and I met her at La Guardia. Beth's in town for a conference and will be bunking with me in the ever-trendy Spanish Harlem. It's good to see her. My first New York house-guest!

    I deserve a little pick-me-up to face the coming week and weekend. Who knows what's coming at me in the office today (or if they're in the process of boxing up my stuff and chucking it out onto Second Avenue)?

    Friday, I start traveling again. It's been nice staying put since the end of July, but I'm back on the road with a vengeance. In fact, I have 3 trips in 5 days. Truly: Cleveland, Baltimore, and Chicago, with NY in between all of 'em. Pass the gin and pep pills!

    Am I in the eye of the storm, or will it be clear sailing ahead?

    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    The Curse of the Mis-sent Email

    Yep. I did it. Zapped out a "reply all" email - which I never do, honest! - and it landed in the mailbox of the very person that didn't need to see it. Aaargh!

    Fortunately, I had tempered my words so that the "Help! How can I cut (name inserted here) off at the pass?" message read as merely an innocent "How can I answer (name inserted here)'s question?" Still, it was obvious what I was trying to do. Shoot.

    It's been a long, long time since I've made such a stupid internet mistake (Shorty PJs, notwithstanding), so I reckon I was due. But, again, aaargh!

    Story of my day.

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    Best seat in the house

    I went to see Spring Awakening tonight. How can I possibly describe what it's like to watch a Broadway show from a seat on stage? What an experience!

    We stage-sitters were instructed beforehand to arrive at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre early, wear neutral-colored clothing, and put all worldly belongings (at least the ones we were carrying) in a locker off-stage. I duly complied. There were three rows of wooden school chairs on graduated risers on either side of the stage. On the stage. Not off-stage behind a curtain. On. The. Stage.

    A nice little man showed me to my seat - stage right, second row, middle seat, and I waited for the other "stars" to arrive. A young couple sat to my right, but the seat on my left was vacant until about 5 minutes before the show. There were a few vacant chairs on both sides of the stage, and I felt kinda bad that they were empty. Well, duh. The cast sat amongst us at various times during the show. Very cool. And imagine my surprise when the girl on my left whipped out a mic and started singing during the third song! Yikes! She was part of the ensemble cast, and I was as close as a person could be to the action on stage.

    I had no preconceived notions about the play. I mean, I'd seen the Tony Awards, which featured one of the songs, and I knew it was about teenage sex/angst, but other than that, I really didn't know what to expect. The music was great - mostly rock. A fine story, plus a little nudity (and I had a ring-side seat, thank you very much). But it was just incredible to see the thing unfold from my vantage point - to see the sets and lights shift (that folks in the audience couldn't possibly see), to watch spit and sweat fly (OK, that doesn't sound glamorous, but it was live theatre, I tell ya!), to watch the band members change out instruments. Plus, I could watch the real audience - I could see exactly what the cast members were seeing. Plus-plus, I got to feel Broadway spotlights on me - a very warm and glowy feeling, I must say.

    It was an amazing night. Well, you'd just have to see it for yourself to believe it. Why everyone doesn't want to sit on the stage, I'll never know. And all for $31.50. Man, oh man.

    Spring today, Fall tomorrow?

    I have a ticket to see Spring Awakening tonight, and I can hardly wait. The show won Best Musical at this year's Tony Awards. But here's the really cool thing. Spring Awakening is one of those shows where part of the audience actually sits on the stage. Very up-close and personal.

    I really pounced on the opportunity to get an on-stage seat, especially since the show has a lot of sexy, lusty writhing. OK, that, plus the fact that on-stage seats are only $35. So what if I'm looking at the show from a side angle? I'm on a Broadway stage, baby! Woo-hoo! You'll have my review tomorrow.

    Ah, tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow I and everyone else here at the Church Center will find out our fates of employment. The entire place is being reorganized, which is no bad thing - it could use a little streamlining - but no one knows where they'll fall in the new organization. What will my new job description say? Will my department be broken up? How will that work?

    So you can see, there's no small amount of tension around here. It's been building for weeks. I only hope if they ax my job, they'll pay to send me back to Atlanta. Will Fall come early this year? Stay tuned!

    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Labor Day in the Village

    Before my run-in with the rude parents at Big Daddy's Diner (see previous post), I'd had a quite pleasant day touring around Greenwich Village and checking out the points of interest. Here are a few of the highlights.

    First stop, Washington Square Park:

    The row houses around the square and throughout the village really hark back to a different age - so very Henry James and Edith Wharton.

    Then, a short walk east to old Jefferson Market Courthouse and the lovely little garden next door:

    And over to Patchin Place, where poets e e cummings and John Masefield once lived:

    That's the thing about New York City. Everywhere you turn, you step in it. History, that is. Political, social, art, theatre history. Everywhere. No time (or energy to do it all) today, so I just did a little. The rest? For another day. Or two.


    Which is really all I wanted to do when I strolled into Big Daddy's Diner on Park Avenue. The menu looked affordable, and I was pretty darn tired after spending several hours wandering through Greenwich Village on a self-guided walking tour.

    The hostess sat me at a booth wedged between one with four NYU girls plotting schedule and dorm designs and one with a couple of parents with a toddler. I didn't really think much about it. I was pooped and just wanted a burger. So I sat down, grateful for the air-conditioning and the chance to get off my feet.

    All of a sudden, the toddler behind me let out an ear-piercing shriek. Trust me - it hurt me more than it hurt him. Well, no matter, I thought. I'm sure they're good parents and will settle the little guy down, sez I to myself. Um. Nope. More shrieking. Plus, grabbing at my hair. I pulled away several times, again thinking that the parents would shift him to the opposite side of the table. I was wrong a second time.

    Just then, a couple of hipsters walked into Big Daddy's and headed for the rear of the restaurant. As they passed my booth, I heard the guy say, " . . . as far away from the screaming baby as we can get."

    "Good move," I said to them as they passed.

    Well, I sat there, working my sudoku, minding my own business, when all of a sudden a couple of french fries hit me in the head. OK. That did it. I grabbed my bag and Coke and headed for my waitress to let her know I was shifting seats to avoid the charming little tot. As I passed, the mother looked up and sarcastically said, "Byeeeee."

    No problem. The waitress moved me to a booth next to the hipster couple, and I settled back in to my puzzle-working while I waited for my burger. No sooner had I made myself comfortable when the mother got up and stormed back to my table. She leaned over me and started a tirade about what a rude person I am. "He's just a one-year-old baby! He can throw food!" How dare I make a comment about her child. (I assumed she meant the "Good move" one, since that's all I said to her. Notice, she didn't light into the hipster couple, who were sitting there completely stunned at the goings-on.)

    "Look, I moved. I'm out of the way. Go back to your booth," I responded, instead of popping her in the mouth, as she so richly deserved. Well, she wouldn't leave! Finally, my waitress came back and told her she couldn't bother other patrons (the hipster guy says, "Too late!") and asked the woman to return to her own booth. It took the waitress a couple of times to move her away from my table.

    Well, I was feeling really weird by then. I do not like scenes at all, and this clueless parent put me right in the middle of a big one. I was getting all sorts of hipster sympathy and lots of empathetic head shakes from the other people in the place - who were fed up with the kid's behavior as well.

    My food arrived, I went back to my sudoku, and started to relax. Both the waitress and the manager came by my table and apologized. Of course, being the Southern girl that I am, I was apologizing right back. "So sorry to cause a disturbance . . . ."

    Finally the little family left and the restaurant became instantly cheerier. The hipster guy leaned over and said, "Gee I hope I didn't get you into trouble! Why didn't she come after me?" We were having a good laugh, when the father returned to the restaurant and headed for my table.

    Oh, geez! He said he hadn't seen what happened (oh, really, sir? - you were holding the little dear as he threw fries and pulled my hair), but that I was really rude. Blah-blah-blah. I'm still confused over how my getting up and moving - without saying a word to the folks - was deemed rude. Perhaps I should have just stuck around for more shrieking and pelting!

    Again, my waitress came over and asked the guy to leave. He said something rude to her and huffed out. And I'm still apologizing "I don't know what I did . . . ." The couple next to me was taking my side, as well. The manager came back and apologized a second time.

    I went back to my burger. My waitress knelt down next to my table for yet another heart-felt apology. And because my meal was disturbed, there is no charge. Order dessert, as well, she says (I didn't). I protest, but she said the manager had already totalled out a zero charge for my bill. Wow! All I wanted was an uneventful little lunch, and what I got was high drama!

    "You know the sad thing?" said the hipster. "They both left thinking that you were the rude one. They didn't learn a thing!"

    I left the waitress a hefty tip. She stood up for me, not once, but twice. Big Daddy's is just that kind of place.

    Saturday, September 01, 2007

    S'mac and Ginger Ice Cream

    Spent the day kickin' around Union Square and a chunk of the East Village. I hit the Strand bookstore - the main one, not the Annex in Lower Manhattan that I schlepped through several weeks ago. It was crowded and intense, so I left without buying a thing. How unlike me!

    Since the weather was perfect, I headed east, poked around the street fair on 4th Avenue, then just explored the area. I had no particular destination in mind. I was paying more attention to taking shots of some of the buildings of interest, when lo and behold, I ran smack into S'mac!

    Remember Sarita's Macaroni and Cheese that I posted about last year? Well, there it was, right before my eyes! Now, how could I possibly pass it up, especially since it was going on 3 o'clock and I hadn't had lunch? Hm? The place was just as mind-blowing as I suspected it would be. It was crowded, and I felt some pressure (from the crowd behind me, not the counter staff) to order quickly. I settled for the Gruyere/slab bacon s'mac, and worked my way over to a vacant seat.

    Yes, friends, for around six bucks, I got my own little cast-iron skillet of mouth-watering mac and cheese (Gruyere, not cheddar) with luscious chunks of slab bacon baked in. Really. Where else can you feast like that for under $10? Gee, even a sack-full of Krystals costs about that much these days. The only problem was that I sat facing the menu board. As I read all the other offerings, damn! I saw about 15 other things I would've like to have tried! (Enlarge the picture above to see the menu.) I'll definitely keep S'mac on my list of cheap eats.

    I continued my sauntering and passed St. Mark's in the Bowery Church, where my pal John Denaro is priest-in-charge. I know him because his office is around the corner from mine at the Church Center. He works with Episcopal Migration Ministries (refugees). Anyway, I wasn't sure where his church was, so it was nice to stumble upon it. Nice old thing (the church, not John) - built in the late 1700's.

    Then I remembered that I had a $10 gift certificate for a little ice cream joint in the area called Sundaes and Cones. I won it last year in a church raffle at Church of Our Saviour in Chinatown. Anyway, I'd heard great things about the place because it offered some very interesting flavors: chrysanthemum, green tea, honey ginseng, lychee, tiramisu, wasabi, along with the standard vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. What a tough decision!

    After a lot of hand-wringing, I opted for a two-scooper: red bean and ginger. The ginger was super creamy and had slivers of ginger throughout. YUM! The red bean was firmer and had more texture, so it was a good complement for the ginger. Next time (because I still have $$ on my certificate), I think I'll go for wasabi and chrysanthemum. Whadya' think?

    I ended the excursion by picking up some lovely vine-ripe tomatoes and a fragrant bunch of fresh basil at the Union Square farmer's market. After giving my regards to the Gandhi statue near the southwest corner of the Square, I hopped on the uptown #6 and headed back to El Barrio - tote bag full of 'maters and basil, and a belly-full of s'mac and ginger ice cream. Ahhhhhhh!

    Dead Icons: The Rules of the Game

    I'm rather enjoying all the hoopla over the 10th anniversary of Diana's death. I most especially enjoy the opinionators who claim they don't understand what all the fuss is about and that it's time to move on, etc.

    You're fighting an uphill battle, friends, because, trust me - whether you think she deserves it or not, whether you loved her or hated her - every five years, there'll be another remembrance flurry for the late Princess. There is not a damn thing you can do about it.

    Here's how it works: there are icons and then there are Icons. Small-i icons are those who made a big name for themselves, lived a full life, then died of natural causes or of some run-of-the-mill disease after the peak of their success. Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart. Queen Victoria. Gandhi. We don't spend any energy commemorating the dates of their deaths. They're still in the icon-stratosphere, but they don't get the 10th (or 50th) anniversary treatment.

    No. We leave that for the capital-I Icon. In order to qualify for Icon status, a famous person must:
    • die while their star is still shining bright.
    • die before the age of 50.
    • die in an unexpected way. The gorier, the better. Assassination's good. So are car wrecks and suicide.
    • have conspiracy-theory overtones and debates about whether the person was "good" or "bad," "saint" or "sinner."
    • have a huge fan-base.
    Hmm. Who can possibly fit those criteria? Let me see. James Dean. John F. Kennedy. Marilyn Monroe. Elvis. And, oh! I know! Diana Princess of Wales! Well, duh.

    These are the folks whose death-dates we remember through books, documentaries, retrospectives, and increased opinion-page inches. They are mentioned in any number of places every year on the day they died, but the big guns come out every five years. And they always will, - at least, until nobody can remember who they were.

    Why, August alone is a big Icon month: August 5 - Marilyn Monroe, August 16 - Elvis, August 31 - Diana. (Note to current celebrities: try not to die in August. The month is already over-scheduled for death anniversary remembrances. Try, oh, I don't know - um, February.) We've been through the mill this year over Marilyn (45th), Elvis (30th), and Diana (10th).

    Next year will be the 45th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. (45 years! Yikes!) You think there won't be countless documentaries about his life, his extra-marital affairs, the single-bullet theory, and Lee Harvey Oswald? You're kidding yourself.

    So, to all you "get-over-Diana-and-move-on" people, it ain't gonna happen. Not in your lifetime. She'll be fodder for commemorations on the 15th, 20th, 35th, and 50th anniversaries of her death. She'll be beloved, and she'll be hated. Just like JFK. Just like Marilyn. Just like Elvis.

    And now, off for a cuppa tea in my Diana-and-Charles-Royal-Wedding mug.