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Summer Vacation

So… a work week has passed since I left the office and began my work-part-time-enjoy-the-city-to-the-fullest-sleep-in-stay-out-late-revel-in-freedom last month in New York.

It feels a bit like a summer vacation. But instead of staying out, sleeping in and spending my days at the pool, I have been acting rather responsibly.  I head to bed when I feel tired and wake when I’m rested, which has usually been somewhere around 9:45 (yes, A.M.). Read more…

Happy Hour

I have mixed feelings about attending conferences by myself.  On the one hand, and I think everyone can agree, getting away is nice.  On the other, traveling solo means eating meals by yourself (or ordering room service in your bathrobe) and awkwardly meandering through happy hours and social events looking for eye contact, a smile, anything that gives you an in, so that you can avoid looking like a complete idiot by tacking yourself on to a circle of people who obviously know each other, laughing casually in an effort to squeeze into the conversation.

I am great one on one.  Sales meetings, business discussions on the trade floor, and the like are a piece of cake.  Couldn’t be easier.  But in Las Vegas at happy hour, I was by myself, sipping a glass of sauvignon blanc, watching two alien figures in stilts (outfitted in bubble costumes and led lights) scare the heck out of people.  That’s Vegas for you.  As freaky as these “light people” were, they were a blessing, a conversation starter.  I asked a lady next to me, who was also sipping solo, how her day was and we were off, covering everything from Hawaiian real estate to holistic and alternative medicine for pets. A few others joined our conversation as the appendages of the light people swung over our heads.  I even felt relaxed enough to eat a mini crab cake.

But after twenty minutes, my newfound conversationalist was calling it a night and I was quickly back to where I had started.  So, I headed in another direction (away from the light people) and searched for an new in.  I found a smile at the corner of a high top table and started chatting with John and Jessica, both of whom are based in Vegas at the host hotel.  We chatted for a while but John had door duty and Jessica had business to attend too, so I reluctantly said goodbye again.  It was about that time that I had had enough, and slipped out of the bar and headed back to my hotel, to my kingsize bed.

One of the keynote speakers at the conference the next morning talked for an hour about what it means to be vulnerable.  She went off on a few other tangents about anxiety and what it means to be joyous, but she talked a lot about how much people hate feeling, being and acting vulnerable – yet it is often what defines us. The happiest people in life, she said, are those who don’t feel vulnerable but rather those who feel comfortable being so.  I couldn’t help but thinking this in terms of being alone, whether it be alone at happy hour, in an airport, or in my apartment.  Somewhere along the course of my time here in New York, it became difficult for me to be alone; I shy away from it just as others shy away from vulnerability.  Maybe being alone and being vulnerable are one and the same.  I haven’t quite figured it all out yet.  It might be one of those memories that I look back on in ten years and say, oh, I get it now.

The next morning I had an email from Jessica saying how glad she was to have met me and that I was so brave to have come up to speak with them, being that I was at a conference by myself. I felt slightly pitied, and a bit disconcerted, but ended up with a positive sentiment.  Sure, I could have easily abandoned any hope of socializing all-together and take the easier hermitic path but, no, I gave it a shot.  Now I just have to take the awkward meandering route as many times as it takes to start feeling completely comfortable with being alone, whether in a room full of people or by myself on the couch. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Idle

Well I am off again. Back from Bali just about a month ago and I am en route to Aspen for a quick two-day site-visit for the 2012 Summit, which will take place next June. And with two weddings and a bridal shower in June – let’s just say I didn’t have much time to wind down – let alone get back into a routine. The gym misses me.

But idleness is a sneaky thing – something that I might akin to a margarita. Both seem well and good, but indulge too much, and it suddenly doesn’t seem so wonderful anymore.

I think I have a problem being idle, sitting, resting, doing nothing. Memorial Day weekend (after returning from Bali with food poisoning) I had the perfect opportunity and excuse to do absolutely nothing. Sleep, rest, relax. Yet, I called my parents myriad times a day (especially in the early morning) and complained about not being able to come home or that I had nothing to do. I called for take out or would head back to bed and sleep for hours just to do something. It wasn’t nearly as calming as I originally expected.

But is this really being idle? Or is idle what I want to be? Often times, when I find myself in these ambivalent situations, I am alone – and I am finding more and more that I really attest to being that way. Although I admit that there are times when there is nothing better than coming back to the peace and quiet of an apartment that is yours and yours alone… but I can think of ten words that I’d like to be rather than idle: content, peaceful, complacent – well maybe just three for now.

I had a goal this summer, to write 60 pages of something for next semester – something that might turn into my thesis. But gosh, I am struggling. Even writing on my blog seems hard-boiled – my sentences feel forced and so does my subject. And I am frustrated because I find myself wanting to talk about idleness, feeling like a stranger in my own city, tequila (yes, I tried that) but I wind up feeling a bit lost, and playing it a bit too wishy-washy… generating more questions than answers.

PS: Word of the Day is:
hard-boiled\HAHRD-BOYLD\
adjective 1a: devoid of sentimentality : tough
b: of, relating to, or being a detective story featuring a tough unsentimental protagonist and a matter-of-fact attitude towards violence
2: hardheaded, practical

Symptoms

It’s been just over a month since I’ve returned from Bali, where I recently spent a majority of my month of May.  One week, I worked harder than I have possibly ever worked before, directing a conference of 300 people, and somehow managing to block out everything “Bali”.  It was easier knowing that after the Summit ended I would have some time to finally soak it all in.  So the week that followed was spent lounging in luxury resorts, practicing being a caffeine-free vegetarian (only the caffeine-free part has stuck) and enjoying massages every other day.  Those two consecutive weeks couldn’t have been more opposite from one another.  The first was rewarding and the second was much needed.

On the way back from Bali I ate something undetectably horrible and I was suddenly and very much sick for a better part of the long haul flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver.  And the decision to take a sleeping pill had made it even worse.  Sleeping pills always warn against operating heavy machinery but they never mentioned that basic operations of your own body would be so difficult.  I did eventually make it back to NY and up the four flights of stairs and into my bed – and that is where I stayed for the next 30 hours.

Holed up in my apartment, I was sheltered from the outside world.  I was up at 2am and back asleep by 9am. That Monday (Memorial Day) I managed a visit to the grocery store at 8am, but successfully avoided the mad rush at the grocery store during prime time hours and had to dodge only a few early risers who were as non-confrontational as I.  We all seemed rather peaceful in our early morning activities.

Tuesday morning I was back at the office.  Same thing on Wednesday, Thursday… and so on.  I’ve gotten over the jet lag but something is still not quite right.  You would have thought that going from New York to Bali would have been an adjustment, but coming back has seemed harder.  The city is tough and mean and ruthless.  People are introverted and are protective of their smiles.  Some people say I am still working back into my routine, but I was spoiled by Bali.  Not by the spa treatments, the canopy beds, and the beachside cabanas but by the people, who made me feel as though I had lived there for years. This September, I will have lived in the city for five years and, strangely enough, it still doesn’t feel quite like home.

Helloo from Hong Kong

Molly and I, after a 15 hour flight, have been hanging out in the Hong Kong airport – sipping Starbucks and working on emails… Our flight for Bali leaves in just about an hour. The airport is surrounded by mountains on either side – that appeared slowly as the sun rose.

What’s on tap for the evening? Arrive in Bali, get to the hotel, squeeze in a workout to relieve the aches and pains in our knees, dinner with Susie, and then perhaps some organizing and yes, of course, handling emails…

Word of the day? Bandwidth :)
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Dearest Blog…

I have neglected thee lately. While I progress, somewhat sparingly, on my final essay for workshop, which may or may not be a brilliant commentary on tourism and tourists, I have come across so many things to share!

…Like, for example, the prevalence of cheese in the news. The government now supports more cheese consumption (via dominos) and one lady's relationship with a piece of 150 year old generational triangle of cheese that she nows keeps in her freezer was a spotlight in Harpers. Which reminds me also of an experiment on a McDonald's happy meal, in which one woman left it "out in the open air" for 168 days only to find it relatively unchanged. This brings me to my question of what, exactly, is our society eating?

Also of note is my adventure to Mexico, which was relatively tame as far as gang war goes, except for a momentary panic at the airport where a few dudes tried to usher my sister and I into unnamed vans that were "definitely going to our resort." Rest assured we found our van, which was actually a Navigator, and once settled into our room at the property made many a flip video utilizing the unique features of the room. Who knew electronic blinds could be so entertaining!

And shall I close with a local adventure, which promised to be a genuine gender-balanced singles night at MOMA but proved instead to be a middle-aged-single-women's social hour? Followed by mechanical bull riding? Let's just say I counted myself out of that one.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Hi! My name is Joe…

vulpine \VUL-pine\
adjective 1: of, relating to, or resembling a fox 2: foxy, crafty

My cat, Remy, is part Fox. I am quite sure of it due to the level of fuzziness in her tail, and the fact that it doubles the length of her body. Ever since I can remember, I have loved foxes. Legendary foxes, like Swift from David the Gnome, the singing, swimming fox from Milo and Otis. Once, before I decided to officially annul my “no pets for 10 years” rule a bit prematurely, I looked into how it might work having a fox as a domesticated pet. Remy has turned out to be a vulpine gem – and she even plays fetch.

Every now and then you come across a word, a sound, smell, taste that launches you into memory, which is coincidentally, the topic of conversation in my MFA literature course – taught by Honor Moore. Today was my first week of classes and aside from being irrevocably enlightened, I am even more excited to write, read… and even work(!) this week. Oh my!

The first book we read was Joe Brainard’s, I Remember, which took form as a series of recollections, providing not only a glimpse into his own memory, but a social history of the 40’s and 50’s of his lifetime. His recollections were funny, nostalgic, erotic, nauseating, and breathlessly simplistic. Last night, after a pee break, we reconvened to write our own “I Remembers,” which I will share with you below (don’t worry none of them are erotic, because I can’t imagine myself sounded as nonchalantly so as Joe Brainard):

I remember getting married in the last scene of our kindergarten production of “the Little Mermaid.”

I remember someone from kindergarten friend-ing me on Facebook recently, and thinking it was creepy that he remember my sea shell bra.

I remember too many tequila shots.

I remember the taste of the tuna that made me sick for 15 hours. (yuck!)

I remember when I started not feeling skinny anymore. (ugh)

I remember the pool at the Grandparent’s neighbor’s house. The water always looked so clear and bright when we first got there. And the sun was always shining.

I remember my Grandmother’s Tropicana Orange juice towels.

I remember my first, and only, speeding ticket. It was my competitive nature that awarded me that ticket, while racing down Route 1 against a car full of boys. Later, when we met up with our friends, I learned that we had passed them on the way down and they thought the FBI was chasing after us.

I remember the day I picked up my kitten, she fit in the car’s cup-holder.

I remember the Fisher Price cassette player and microphone that glued to my side.

I remember, “She’ll be coming ’round the mountain when she comes”

I remember my red sippy cup filled with orange juice, and my sister’s yellow one filled with milk.

I remember band concerts.

I remember how great my Dad is at naming things.

I remember reading my Irish Literature final exam to my professor, because my handwriting “Monet” was illegible. It wasn’t the first time a professor had made that request.

I remember feeling great about the cash tips that I brought home as a waitress. Mostly because I had truly worked my way up from the bottom of the work “totem poll.”

Networking

pre·di·lec·tionpre-də-ˈlek-shən, ˌprē-\
noun: an established preference for something

I have spent quite a bit of time lately on my home computer – partly in thanks to food poisoning from tuna – and have decided I am ready to comment on the wireless networks within range of my apartment building. (Note: today’s word of the day is actually ponzu which is defined as a tangy sauce made with citrus juice, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce and used especially on seafood. I will not be reflecting on this term for a slew of reasons.)

Last fall I bought a wireless USB modem at Verizon Wireless and the program installed on my computer lists the following other networks within range of my apartment (even though I am unable and, more importantly, unwilling to access them since I am very well capable of connecting to the internet with my own device):

THE_ROOST
The Ill Flow
Craftworld
SaToIm
Pistachio Kings (my favorite)
Model UN
Mimi Dog
Apollo13
Smile
At Least Nine
AOFO
CityKids
Pajammie

These are FANTASTIC names. I have left out some which I have generalized as normal, including Home, Rachel, 890C, Tom235, etc. but I am thrilled with the originality of my fellow Upper East Side dwellers and their initiative in actually naming said networks with relevance and wit. Bravo! My predilection for finding creativity in unforsceen places persists.

Fusion

eminently \EM-uh-nunt-lee\ adverb

Meaning: to a high degree : very:

Several weeks ago while running the AC full blast, lights ablaze, and switching on a culprit of a hair dryer, I blew the first fuse in my apartment.

At 9:30pm on a saturday night, one might not expect it to be such an ordeal. One, being me, found an antiquated fuse box with little round fixtures that fit roughly into corroded sockets. I panicked.

My friend Becky and I went on a racing search for these so called "fuses" and by the time 10:30 came and went we had found several fuses but not the exact 15-volt S-type fuse needed to bring power back to my apartment. I googled. Found them on amazon.com. Ships in two days. Not good enough.

Sickened, we returned to the apartment, but not before I had given the door man across the street a $20 bill to find some fuses in his basement. They didn't work either. We gave up, packed bags, and went to Becky's Aunt's apartment down on St. Mark's. I threw up when I got there.

In the morning, the handy man arrived to fix the fuse and all was simplisticly well. I reveled, sheepishly, in the cool air restored in my apartment. And the power stayed eminently well-balanced in my dwelling until this morning.

Today, as I sit here, remembering my strife, I am again without power. This time the power just slipped away – almost unnoticed – as I dozed on and off in the Sunday morning hours. Click. The AC rests.

I'm a pro though, this can be fixed. after evaluating my fuse box, I am alarmed to find that none were broken. Replaced anyway, the socket remains dormant. Panic?

No! I call the landlady and she wishes me best of luck as she says the electrician might not arrive till tomorrow. S'okay. Call to Dad – all is well. My $120 firehouse fan is rigged to cast a gentle breeze in the living room.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thanks

Am on my way home for the Thanksgiving Holiday! And I even caught an earlier train from New York to Delaware. I called the Amtrak reservations number, asked what they could do for me, and they offered a 4:05 departure instead of the original 5:39… And they even offered to hold while I called my Mom to get the credit card security code to… Save $5.00!

Amtrak is my dream come true in situations like these. Having spent my fair share of time at our office's registration desk, I can appreciate how difficult customer service is… and we all know how awful it can be on either end (cough, Verizon). .

For some reason or another there is seems a biopolarity of demeanors around the holidays. On one hand: cheer, joy, warmth, love. On the other: impatience, anger, anxiety, humbug. I was watching the news the other morning and the reporter was sharing the "5 best ways to reduce holiday stress.". What happened to "5 best ways to be happy around the holidays" or "5 best ways to connect the family scattered around the country" or even "5 great gifts under $5"… The pessimism is rampant before it has a chance to cultivate in the consumer petri-dish.

And while we all might, at one time or another, dread traveling and scrambling with millions of others looking to get to point x as fast as they can, I am reminded of the reason why we have holidays in the first place.

Yes, to celebrate our nation, our heritage, history, faith… But to celebrate the good in everyone. And the simple gesture of helping someone get an earlier train can get that going.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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