Monday, June 30, 2008

And the heavens ring with "Rocky Top"

The saddest news came through today. Forget Carlin, Korman, and the rest of 'em. We lost our dear Winston on Saturday. How will our blog community ever be the same?

When this Tennessee-by-way-of Georgia gal was sent to the heady world of New York City a couple of years ago, it was Winston who sent me grits and Luzianne tea bags so that my Southern cravings could be sated. His downhome wisdom and sense of humor are irreplaceable.

The Tennessee Vols have a new cheerleader in their heavenly fan club.

Winston, I'm glad I knew ye. Rest easy, dear friend.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

10%, Baby!

Woo-hoo! Finally! I hit my 10% weight loss today at Weight Watchers. Took me forever to crawl over that last pound-and-a-half. I thought I'd gained at least 5, what with the conference and the girlfriends' visit. But, nope.

Now, on to the 25-pound mark!

Last Week's Top 3

New York, New York. So nice, they named it twice. Bronx is up, Battery's down. East Side, West Side. We pretty much covered it all last week when the girlfriends were in town. But there are three stand-outs for me.

1. Ellis Island and the American Family Immigration History Center. Unfortunately (or, fortunately), three of us didn't have ancestors who came through Ellis Island - we're strictly Virginia-landing types. But Linda's grandfather did come through Ellis during the early years of the 20th century, so we took the opportunity to try to find out a little about the specifics of his arrival. Linda had the grandfather's name (Israel Feldman), country of origin (Odessa, Ukraine), ethnicity (Hebrew/Russian) and a few other specifics to help begin the search.

On the ferry from Liberty Island to Ellis Island, our group horned into seats with a wonderful man who worked at the Immigration History Center. He and Linda spent the brief trip going over her grandfather's information. The man explained how the tracking system worked and promised to show us the ropes once we got there. He was an enormous help and saved us lots of time at the Center.

We paid our $5 and were assigned a computer. You're limited to something like 25 minutes to locate your information (the computer keeps a timer for you), but the system walks you through step by step. We narrowed down the years (1892-1906) and typed in the name "Israel Feldman." All sorts of iterations came up, but we could eliminate most since we were looking for someone from Odessa. The only one that came up spelled his name "Feldmann" with two n's, but everything else seemed to check out.

Though we were pretty confident we'd found Linda's grandfather, we couldn't locate her grandmother who came over a couple of years later. Time ran out, so we printed the ship's manifest and picture of the ship and other details. We weren't completely sure we'd found the right guy (the two n's threw us off). Once everything was printed out, a wonderful woman at the center took the time to explain the ship's manifest. Linda's grandfather was listed as a "clerk" but he was actually a musician. Upon closer inspection of the manifest, it appeared that the word "clerk" was written over the word "musician" (clerk was a better wage-earning profession than musician). As for the two n's? The ship was German, sailing from Bremen. Since Germans would have filled out the manifest, it was very probable that they added the extra "n" to Feldman's name.

Well, who knows? Whether we found the right guy or not (but we really believe we did find him), the whole exercise had us all in tears. Definitely a memorable New York experience.

2. Gramercy Tavern. We wanted to splurge at a notable New York restaurant one night, so we chose Gramercy Tavern for that experience. We were not disappointed. Yes, it's expensive: $82 prix fixe 3-course menu, but, boy, those three courses were special. I had a wonderful duck terrine, an absolutely perfect smoked lobster, and a definitely-off-Weight-Watchers-list warm chocolate bread pudding with cocoa bean ice cream. Others chose offerings like halibut and sirloin. In between courses we were brought little specialty tidbits, and the olive bread was to die for. The service was magnificent - attentive, but not intrusively so. Water glasses were always full. We were in a lovely room that leant itself to conversation. The restroom was fabulous. What can I say. We loved it. I'd definitely go back if I ever win the lottery.

3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Super Summer Sale. Well, the Met is always spectacular, and the girls found more to hold their interest than I would've ever expected. I think we were there 4-5 hours, everyone going off in different directions to explore on their own with certain meet-up times and places. But when I found the super summer sale on the the 2nd floor, I was in hog-heaven. I was handed a large Met shopping bag and told "$5 for whatever you can fit in the bag." I wasted a little time saying, "No? Really? Honest? $5 to fill this thing up? Really?" Once I accepted the fact that, yes, I could fill up the bag and only pay $5, I was off and running.

Most of what I grabbed was Christmas stuff - a pop-up Christmas in New York book, boxes of Christmas cards, 6 gold cloisonne ornaments. But I also got a fabulous photography book, several art books and a couple of New York trinkets. Let's just say, I over-filled the bag. When I got to check-out, it didn't cost me $5 - I'm a Met member so it cost me $4.80. Woo-hoo! I was one happy camper, I tell you. I just wish I'd gotten in there earlier. Next year, my friends. Next year!

So there you have it. Don't you wish you'd been there? At Ellis Island? At Gramercy Tavern? At the Met filling your shopping bag for $4.80? New York, New York. So nice, they named it twice.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bye-Bye, Carlin

Has June 2008 not been the deadliest month for celebrities in recent memory? (I'll add Harvey Korman to the mix, though he missed the cut by leaving us May 29.) Friend JC Burns posted about this the other day. And now, George Carlin.

I posted about Carlin in November 2005, so I'll leave that as my tribute since it links to two good articles about Carlin.

“Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that ...” - George Carlin

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"The Visit That Went Like This"*

Whirlwind tour. Burning all candles at both ends. Meeting ourselves coming and going. And that's just a taste of what things were like around here once the girlfriends hit New York City last Sunday afternoon (2 hours late, via Philly). We turned this town inside-out before I put them into the airport limo yesterday morning. Since then, I've been in uber-nap-taking mode.

Because there's just too much to tell in one post, and because I'm a total vegetable right now, I'll give you a quick rundown of what we accomplished in one short week. Here goes:

Spamalot, Hourglass Tavern, Central Park (Bethesda Fountain, Strawberry Fields, Boat House, Reservoir, countless statues and gardens), The Dakota, Emerald Inn, Tom's Restaurant ("Seinfeld"), Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Riverside Park, Grant's Tomb, Cornelia Street Cafe, Greenwich Village, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Grand Central Station, NBC Studio Tour, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, The Plaza, Trump Tower and 5th Avenue hoity-toity stores, Empire State Building Observation Deck, The Museum of Natural History, Radio City Music Hall Tour, Circle Line Harbor Lights Cruise, Patsy's Pizza, Metropolitan Museum of Art, St. Bartholomew's Church, United Nations, Gramercy Tavern, Union Square, Sex and the City (yeah, we took time out to see a movie), World Trade Center site, St. Paul's Chapel, Trinity Wall Street, Wall Street, Federal Hall, US Custom House, Bowling Green Park and the bull, Fraunces Tavern, City Hall Park and Municipal Center, Little Italy, Chinatown, Manhattan Bridge (walked to Brooklyn), Brooklyn waterfront, Brooklyn Bridge, and a tiny Spanish Harlem apartment where we finally collapsed Friday night and watched three movies and ate junk food.

I'm sure I left one or two things off the list, but you get the drift. We went from sun-up to sun-down, hitting all the city sites on the friends' must-do lists. The point was to be so tired by the time we got back to my place at night, that nobody minded having to sleep stacked up in 600 square feet.

It was fun, but very tiring. I'm looking forward to getting back to the hum-drum of work tomorrow and just being part of the workaday crowd. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put my feet up for a while.

*Very poor reference to Spamalot's "The Song That Goes Like This."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The girls are goin' on the town

Every June four of my childhood girlfriends and I get together for a weekend of catching up, looking forward, and - of course - food. The venue rotates through the group: two are still in Chattanooga, one's in Franklin, Tennessee, and one lives on Sand Mountain, Alabama (no, seriously). All the years I lived in Atlanta, my house was a popular destination because, well, because it was in Atlanta, and we could hook up with even more old friends who'd moved there. Kate refers to this annual event as "The Old Ladies' Slumber Party."

But now I'm in New York. Somehow, one weekend just wasn't going to do, so Linda, Susan, and the two Sharons arrive today for a week's visit. Two of them, I think, have never been to NYC. Everyone stated their sight-seeing d'ruthers a while back, so the week ahead will be quite the Manhattan Marathon.

Tonight, we're having a pre-theatre meal at The Hourglass Tavern before heading to the Shubert for Spamalot. I've seen it - remember, I sat 10 seats down from Liza when the show was in previews? - but I got a great deal on great seats, so Spamalot it is. I guess the deal was available because most shows will be duking it out at Radio City Music Hall for the Tony Awards this evening. Anyway, I thought we should play it safe with a rousing, funny show, rather than a subdued one. So there's a plan for tonight's entertainment.

My concern is how five grown women are going to bed down in my tiny apartment. I actually have places to sleep - 1 double bed, 1 full-size sofa, and a queen-size air-bed, but where that air-bed's going, I have no idea. Wonder how they feel about sleeping in the hall. Ah, well. We'll work it out.

And Bailey? Well, there was no way five women and a dog would fit in my SpaHa abode, so Bailey is spending the week at doggie camp. I'm trusting that it's more the fun kind of camp and not the army kind. No, I did check it out. It'll do her good to be out of Manhattan for a week.

I'll try to post throughout the week as The Girls Do New York. Now, off to La Guardia to meet my buddies!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Good times and bum times, I've seen 'em all and my dear . . .

I'm still here. (I love stealing from Stephen Sondheim!)

I am still here. I have survived a major conference, new job expectations (the small print stuff), the heat and humidity of Baltimore, several testy meetings about websites and branding, and a general early-summer malaise (why can't I be on summer vacation, too??). I've learned a lot about planning and pulling off a conference and even more about human nature, most especially the great chasm of difference between the Can-do's and the Whiners.

Currently, I'm preparing to welcome my four childhood buddies, arriving Sunday for a week's stay in New York. We always get together for a weekend over the summer, just to catch up with each other's lives and play remember-when. But since NYC was chosen as the destination, the girls decided we needed a week to do that. So I have a full slate of tourista activities planned. I'll post about it so that you, too, can enjoy the latest episodes of "Fun (Not Sex) and the City," coming to a blog near you next week.

Sorry I didn't post about the passing of the great Harvey Korman, but Pete did - so, here's to you Hedley Lamarr . . . and Rhett Butler and all the other great characters you played on The Carol Burnett Show. Who's gonna crack up at Tim Conway's antics now, eh?

You all seem to be doing fine without me. I'll get back on the blog-go-round soon. Stay cool (and avoid tornadoes), my friends.

Lord knows, at least I was there, and I'm here.