Thursday, February 28, 2013


Is innocence not knowing my way? Is it hopeful? Naive? Pure? Is the stranger always innocent? What part does fear play in innocence? Am I still innocent . . . about anything? Or just guilty, as charged.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I notice that I stereotype almost everything - animal, vegetable, mineral, scooters. Do I see hipster? Delivery guy? Upper East Side matron? Pfizer secretary? Myself? How do I stereotype myself? Hmmmm.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Gumption. Enthusiasm. Ghostly. Holy. Bright balloons, whipped by the wind, tied to a fake ice cream cone on a busy city street. There's all sorts of spirit in that, I think. Am I the balloons, the ice cream cone, or the wind?

Monday, February 25, 2013


For punctual people (like me), late equals a disregard for other people's time. For a night-owl (like me), late equals a time to create, be still, process the day. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Some things work better running side by side instead of crossing each other. What works better for me in parallel, and what has to get messier to work?

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Why doesn't everybody else move faster? Think faster? Why do I want them to? Impatience is the root of all my sins. Perhaps if I slow down, I'll never start back up again.


I'd Rather Live with the Bellamys

After finishing up Season 3 of Downton Abbey and then revisiting my friends at Upstairs, Downstairs, I've decided that I'd much rather live at 165 Eaton Place in London than be stranded at a huge country house in Yorkshire all my days. Oh, sure, a little visit to the country is nice now and then, but really, all the goings-on in Belgravia make life a lot more interesting and fun. Which is, I think, the problem I've always had with Downton. It's boring up there.

Life is always hoppin' at Eaton Place. Upstairs, Lord Bellamy (so much more on the ball than Daddy Crawley) is in Parliament, and politics is all part of the drama of the household. Why, Lady Marjorie's father is even the former Prime Minister. (Daddy's also Earl of Southwold - so, yeah, we can visit a big ol' country place any time we want.) The Bellamys know people. They know royal-type people. And these high-tone folks are always milling around. Poor tragic son James and poor wayward daughter Elizabeth lead the life of gentry-kids residing in London, so never a dull anything.

If you can get past moments of over-acting and don't mind living in a black-and-white video tape world for the first 6-7 episodes, why, you, too, can be a part of the illicit love affairs, real political intrigue, wild parties, royal events, and bastard children that come and go from Eaton Place. Downton? Erm, other than the occasional death, not so much happening, really.

And downstairs, well! As action-packed as life is on the floors above, the downstairs staff provides all the really meaty stuff. Hudson, Rose, Mrs. Bridges, Roberts, Edward, Alfred, and Ruby are the forerunners of Carson, Anna, Patmore, O'Brien, Bates, Thomas, and Daisy, and many of story lines are similar. Hey, that sounds familiar, I find myself saying at some of the below-stairs Downton hijinx. Well, yeah. The folks Downstairs did it forty years earlier. Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh must be shaking their heads in amazement at Julian Fellowes' lack of originality.

As much as I appreciate Violet's zingers at Downton, I'll still throw my lot with Downstairs' Sarah Moffat (or is it Clemence?), at turns hilarious, infuriating, and pathetic but always endearing. (Interestingly enough, "Violet" and "Sarah" are currently starring in the film "Quartet." Downton meets Downstairs 2013, I reckon.) Part of the reason is that I know Sarah so much better than Violet. Well, of course I do. I've known Sarah, Rose, Hudson, and Lord and Lady Bellamy for over 40 years, 5 seasons, and 68 episodes. I've only known Violet and the rest of the Crawley clan for a couple of years, 3 seasons, and 23 episodes.

Yes, I choose to live in the attic and take my tea with Rose, Sarah, and Mrs. Bridges at 165 Eaton Place, Belgravia, London, instead of spending all my days with Hughes, Anna, and O'Brien at Downton Abbey in the wilds of Yorkshire. Sure, I'm happy to visit with the Crawleys whenever they show up seven or eight times a year. Who knows? Maybe someone will break out and do something really interesting.

But my heart belongs to the Bellamys.

Friday, February 22, 2013


I need a certain amount of order in my life. I like schedules and deadlines, but I draw the line at alphabetizing my food in the cupboards. When am I a slave to my need for ordering my time? When should I be more of a slave to taking care of details?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Searching for treasure. What would I want to find if I uncovered a treasure chest? Money? Fried chicken? Chocolate mousse? Or health, happy family, time? If I treasure time, perhaps everything else will come to pass. Even the fried chicken.

(Picture of lobby clock, Chrysler Building, NYC)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


How am I a part of the whole, and how is the whole a part of me? How does rugged individualism advance the common good?  Does working for the common good ever advance individualism? I don't believe we can do everything all by ourselves. Yet sometimes it's good to pull away and follow your own path for a while.

Monday, February 18, 2013


What do I recall when I pass some old familiar thing? A single event, a season, or just a vague feeling? I wonder how the recollection has been tempered/tampered with by time.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


When I'm stuck, does a strong wind twist me even tighter or set me free? Depends on the wind. And the tree.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Sometimes this is all I can remember. A little color, a little light. But days tend to blur into nights, then back into day again. I must try to hang onto one thing every day. Freeze-frame the moment so that time-blur doesn't win out completely.

Friday, February 15, 2013


Passion. Humor. Anger. Hatred. Cupid or the devil? What do I see when I see red? And does an all-red building - door, walls, stairs - make me want to go inside, or run far away from it?

Thursday, February 14, 2013



Rain, shine, heat, cold, our friendly freebie-newspaper hander-outer at the 116th Street #6 Station is always smiling. Early in the morning. Irresistible. Smile back at him, everybody, even though it's early.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


For Lent, I've made a list of words - yep, 40 of 'em - and have assigned one word to each day in the season approaching Easter. I will post a picture I've taken that day that I think illustrates the word in some way. The word-list is made up of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and phrases. Honestly, they were the first 40 things that came to mind when I put said mind to it.

The reason? I find myself rushing through my days just ticking things off some list, so I'm trying this to see if it helps me slow down and think/reflect a little bit. I may fall short, but I'll do my best to post something every day. Bear with me.

Today: "self-reflection." Good day for it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Tale of Two Toilets

A flushable toilet at a comfortable height, with a secure seat, and reasonably soft toilet paper - all 21st century first-world expectations. And I'm a 21st century first-world gal, even though I pride myself at being able to roll with the punches. Or the lack of a toilet seat.

Recent travels to Asia have led me to experience the sublime and the ridiculous in the world of toilets. Of course, "ridiculous" is the wrong word for the dicier end of the toilet spectrum. "Serviceable," "functional," and "locally colorful" are better descriptions. Billions of people use such devices to dispose of their personal effluviance a gazillion times a day, so it seems very spoiled-bratty of me to even mention them. I'm just doing it for compare/contrast purposes.

Let's start with the locally colorful toilets. When I first encountered seatless toilets and no flusher or paper, I thought, "Hm. Must be broken." I figured something was up when the second and third "comfort rooms" I entered - both in nice buildings - had seatless/paperless toilets as well. Some had flushers, some only had a bucket and a hose, but - confession time - I never figured out what I was supposed to do with those flushwise. The toilet pictured above is as up-market as it got. At least it was more than 8" off of the ground and it flushed. Ah, well. When in Rome. Or Manila. Live and learn. Live with squatting, and learn to bring your own paper with you. Simple.

While latrine-use is the low-end of the toilet scale, the car-wash musical toilets in Japanese airports are absolutely 5-star. On my way to Hong Kong, I had a layover at Narita/Tokyo and experienced the push-button pleasure seats in their restrooms. Took me a few minutes to figure out which button did what little service, and I never sorted out why there's a "flushing sound" button in addition to the actual flusher. Study the picture; I'll spare you the details. But trust me when I tell you it's worth a trip to Japan just to use the toilet. Lucky for me I got to stop off in Japan on the way back to the US. I bypassed the souvenir stalls and eating establishments, and headed straight for the restroom. It was the most satisfying layover I've ever had. 

Yes, it was the best of toilet times, it was the worst of toilet times. And in Japan it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. I'm feeling very second-world here in NYC with my buttonless loo. Sigh.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Personal Jade & Noodle Tour

Happy Chinese New Year! It's the Year of the Snake, the black water snake to be specific, and will be a time of attention to detail, ambition, and responsibility. When I was in Hong Kong a couple of weeks ago, the city was in full preparation for the holiday. Lanterns and dragons and money envelopes and plush snake toys, all on display for purchase. Red and gold as far as the eye could see.

My ambition was to get a few choice items as souvenirs to bring home, and I felt it my responsibility to pay close attention to detail when making my selections. Obviously, I was already in the New Year's spirit, but as a stranger to the city and meaningful local purchases, I was at a loss as to how to achieve my Year of the Snake goal.

Peter Ng to the rescue!

The best way to get the feel of a new city is to have a native as your guide. In Hong Kong, I had my most excellent colleague, Peter, Asia/Pacific Partnership Officer of The Episcopal Church. One afternoon, we had a little free time, and he offered to show me around his old stomping ground in Kowloon. I readily accepted, and we were on our way.

We turned left off Nathan Road and started threading our way through tight alley-ways, street markets, and Saturday shopping crowds. We worked up to the Jade Market, where Peter assured me I'd find all sorts of interesting things. We entered the market, heading for his favorite stall to sit and pick through a tableful of trinkets at our leisure.

Peter greeted the stall owner in Cantonese, and the man offered us two low stools for our comfort. Neither Peter nor I are spring chickens, but we managed to flop down on the short plastic step-stools pushed under us, postponing concern about getting up from them until after we'd had our search through the thousands of jade, metal, and who-knows-what objects before us.

It was so helpful to have Peter with me to explain the meaning of things, interpret writing, and guide me to the really cool stuff. Thirty, forty-five minutes went by before we knew it. Do you know how much you can learn from sitting and talking about shapes, colors, and symbols at a table in the Jade Market for a little slice of time?

Anyway, we finally settled on our objects of desire and hoisted ourselves up off the stools to make our purchases. I bought five various jade symbols, including a snake (for "year of"), a feng shui pendant, dragon, and a couple with good luck calligraphy; I also chose five large old Hong Kong coins, which I plan to turn into necklaces for friends.

All that treasure hunting made us hungry. While tempted by the interesting food in the street markets, our ambition was a backstreet noodle shop. Peter knew just the right one, of course, and we elbowed through the crowds and found a spot in a tiny, busy establishment. Again, I let Peter do his thing, ordering our plates of noodles, beef, and dumplings. Glasses of hot tea were kept topped up as we shoveled noodles and soup into our hungry selves. The cost? Next to nothing. Even in Hong Kong. Delicious, all round.

Next, we headed for the department store Yue Hwa to finish my souvenir expedition. While I wasn't interested in clothing or perfume, the store had floors of local crafts to explore. Another hour slipped away and more little bags added to my purchases. Peter was a great help, reminding me that many of the items could be purchased more cheaply and conveniently in Chinatown/NYC (how true!), so I focused on what couldn't be so easily found right under my nose in New York.

It was time to get back to the hotel and rest up a little for an early evening social 'do. On the way, we stopped for a mango drink and Peter picked up some hand-made jerky. We'd both earned a rest after Saturday shopping in Kowloon.

An afternoon of responsibly attending to the detail of reaching my souvenir-purchasing ambitions let me get a jump on the Year of the Snake, all good practices that I hope I remember throughout this year.

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

A Letter to My Summer-Lovin' Friends

Dear Summer/Beach-Lovers,

A little blizzard blew through here last night. I loved every minute of it: the sideways-blowing snow, the wind, the color of my nose and cheeks when I came in from the cold, the stunning white blanket that was thrown over everything in sight this morning.

Because, dear friends, I love winter. I love snow. I love the cold, clear air that keeps me from feeling dozy and droopy. I love the sound my boots make scrunching through the snow. It's invigorating, mentally and physically.

So beach pictures and mentions of temperatures over 70 degrees are completely lost on me right now. I envy you not. I feel sort of sad that you're stuck in warm air, maybe with the added affliction of sand (and you know where that ends up), when my world is cold, crisp, and white.

Different strokes for different folks, so I honor your summer-lovin' beachy-cravings. But you're wasting your breath and sandy-pictures if you think I long to be there instead of here. This winter-lover will enjoy every snow day thrown her way. I'll save my complaints for July, August, and September, when the heat and humidity saps my energy and creativity.

Perhaps we can all agree on the delights of spring and autumn, and split off into winter- vs. summer-lovin' corners the rest of the year. So, enjoy your days at the beach. As for me, in the month of February, I say: let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

With love,
Your Friendly Snow Miser