Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rescue me

Every time I take a deep breath and calm myself down from wondering how I'm going to get through all the work,

eight more things land on my plate.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sentimental journey

My job in high school and summer job in college was one I'll always remember fondly; I worked in the ticket office of a concert theater with outdoor shows in the summer and a nationally renowned opera company in the winter. I started there when I was sixteen: although they usually preferred to hire college kids, it was early spring and they needed help with the mail order rush. For several mornings a week I'd address postcards letting customers know their order had been received.

Aside from the salaried, year-round staff, my part-time companions in this task were two elderly British men (coincidentally--they hadn't known each other previously). They sometimes lapsed into a sort of code between themselves but one day, overhearing, I can't recall, a reference to "Bluebottle" or "Neddie" or some such, I suddenly interpreted and called out, "Oh, I love the Goon Shows!" They were astounded that an American teenager would ever have heard of these 1950s BBC radio shows, much less be able to quote from them (the explanation is that my dad had cassette recordings our family listened to on road trips), and after that I was one of the crew.

In late May the college employees began arriving and with them I was trained on the (ancient) selling software run on IBMs from what seemed the 1980s. Two or three years later, I became a supervisor, and even after I graduated college, just before I moved to New York, I worked there for one final month. By the end--well, let me be honest. By the middle--I, with my three or so fellow long-term alumni, liked to gripe about the shabby trailer which housed the offices, the inane stupidity of the customer service phone calls we fielded, the crankiness of the Peter Paul & Mary audience, the fact that Riverdance was on the billet again. But the fact is I loved it; I loved knowing exactly what I was doing, I loved being in charge, I loved the feeling of being behind the scenes. Working there made the experience of attending a concert, there or anywhere, somewhat less pleasurable in that to this day I can't walk up to a box office without analyzing the display or battling the compulsion to identify myself to the seller as a fellow veteran of the trenches. But both in retrospect and at the time I thought I had the best summer job of anyone I knew.

This morning* I fell back asleep after disabling my cell phone alarm, into a vivid dream. In it my contemporary self returned for a ticket-selling shift. I was no longer a supervisor, of course, so they put me out in the window with a college kid who was faceless and voiceless in my dream. To my eager small talk he responded in monosyllables and buried himself in his book. As I'm writing this I'm remembering how I used to watch the schedule in terror of getting stuck for a four-hour shift out at the window with an incurable chatterbox; and how later when I drew up the schedules various things had to be taken into consideration, like when "Michael C." came to me in private and begged me not to schedule him with "Marissa S.," who had confessed to him her (unrequited, as it turned out) love.

In my dream I was trying to sell a pair of orchestra tickets for a country star named "Kevin Mardus" (???) to a middle-aged woman. I knew exactly how to pull up the show: select "Calendar," move over four spaces, type the date, numeral first, hit enter and control-x. But for some reason "11JULY" wasn't bringing anything up. I began to feel panicked; had they implemented a new system since I'd been gone? I looked over at my anonymous colleague, whom a moment before I had been bossily informing, "Don't give them those seats, there are two in center Row D open;" but he was busy with his own customer; in horror I saw a line developing. Soon our shift replacements came and were forced to stand to the side in the narrow aisle, holding their metal cashboxes to their hips as I frantically tried to complete the sale.

The dream skipped ahead and everyone else had finished and departed. I printed out my ... what were they called? Impossible that I can't remember now. At the end of each shift you pulled up your sales history; they printed out on ticket stock which you took back to the office for the supervisor to count you out.

I had a pair of tickets in my till that I'd accidentally "sold;" these would need to be released back into the system by the manager and torn up. Once upon a time that had been my job; now I was a 25-year-old ticket selling has-been. I was beginning to wake up. In my dream I grabbed a pad of paper from the counter. The trailer looked exactly the same--battered wood plank walls, green countertops, musty beige carpet, mismatched stools with duct-taped vinyl seats. It was important to my dream self that I get every detail written down to tell you about, so I moved through with my pad and pencil. On the back wall hung nearly a dozen mirrors with ornate frames: some black, some gold, one reddish, differing sizes, all with intricate molding. It seemed very natural for them to be there and for me to describe them to you, but of course as I came fully awake and groggily climbed out of bed for a pen, I realized that anything so elegant had never been present. In real life, the back wall hosted a lightbox with a blown-up photo of a picknicking lawn audience at sunset. We liked to pick out our boss in the photo, recognizable by his pot belly.

One of those original British coworkers died a few years later--not so elderly, it turned out, but cancer took him quickly. My other English gent was the one who told me, when he heard. We were both silent.

He himself has become a grandfather three times over since then, and still works there part-time, as far as I know. I owe him a postcard.

* I dreamed this Saturday night and scrawled this post down upon waking Sunday morning, but haven't had one second to type it up until now. Work has been rath-er busy; but I hope for it to calm down (ish) soon.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekend update.

Fashion forecast! I'm guilelessly excited for the florals trend for spring, even if it does mean that all of NYC will be wearing the flowery dresses I already love; but can the ongoing obsession with platform heels go away? Like, who is so short that they have to make platform shoes, even/especially hidden-platform, the only ones available? Those of us over 5'6" could use a break.

Chris and I went to see Atonement on Friday night. It was about what I was vaguely expecting: gorgeously shot, to the point of Anthropologie-esque porn (those floral wallpapers? Keira's green satin gown? Wow); many of the touches--various close-ups, the score, which echoed the typewriter theme that is so central to the story--were similarly beautifully executed, despite a lack of subtlety; and mostly well-acted, particularly by Romola Garai and Saoirse Ronan, both playing Briony at different ages. But, also faintly unsurprisingly, it left me emotionally cold; I teared up at the very end imagining what it must be like to be Briony and to have lived a lifetime under that burden of unimaginable guilt, but otherwise I felt mostly untouched by the central love story, and even, guiltily, by the surrounding war themes. The famous sevenish-minute scanning shot had me enraptured BECAUSE it was such an extraordinary, one-camera shot, NOT because I was horrified at the tragedy of war, and that conceit was a mistake on the filmmaker's part; likewise, loath as I am as a since-Bend It Like Beckham-Keira Knightley fan to admit it, but she did a terrible job, and her performance wasn't just a minor weak link in the film, but THE weak link that led to me not feeling anything for these war-torn lovers. How can I believe in their already tenuously-based passion if when James McAvoy was being carted off to prison (spoiler alert, sorry) Keira's standing there with her arms BEHIND her shoulders to make sure her (lovely, lovely) green dress still falls perfectly? I read an interview after Pride and Prejudice (same director, same star, excellent movie) came out that said the director had various folks on "pout alert" to make sure they reshot any scene in which she pouted too much; did these fellows not get hired this time around? Listen, I still really like her (Chris hates her, he thinks I'm insane) but she really dropped the ball on this one, I'm sorry to say.

I don't entirely blame her. The writers didn't give her character ANY backstory, and since she is so central to the plot, this was unfortunate. All in all, I thought it was a decent, even good film; I'd recommend it, and if it was playing on TV I'd watch it again, and I'm going to B&N tomorrow to buy the book and belatedly read it (anathema! A book person saw the film without reading the book!). But I wouldn't give it a Best Picture Oscar, even if I can't think of any other film that particularly deserves one either.

Today Chris and I hung our curtains and some of our pictures, and now we're watching the desperate Giants-Packers game and hoping New York makes it to the Super Bowl. I'd say "cross your fingers," but why do I have a feeling some of you are rooting for Wisconsin? :)

Friday, January 18, 2008

In other news, I finally got my New York state driver's license.

I've got a three-day weekend only an hour or so away, and I've been so looking forward to fully unpacking, organizing, setting up, and decorating our apartment. I love the new place--it's a real, adult apartment with high ceilings and six windows and multiple rooms, so many rooms that we're turning one into a walk-in closet. In New York City. Can you imagine?? Those of you who witnessed the shoebox I lived in on the Upper East Side can well picture my delight.

Because I am so excited about decorating, and because I am fervently obeying my "no more gossip blog" resolution, I've been gazing at pretty photos on design sites across the Internet, and I've come to the realization that I have a pet peeve:

People who color code their books.

Listen, I'll agree that it makes a nice picture, but Domino magazine took it so far they constructed an entire slide show about it, complete with such tips as "it's even better to make your books color coordinate with your wall art and couch!"

I'm just going to leave this one open to comments, not trusting myself to be polite about people who buy books solely for the color of their spine.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Liveblogging the Nevada presidential debate.

Very impressed by Barack Obama...John Edwards, not so much.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Children's book Oscars.

I don't know too much about this morning's children's book award winners--the Newbery winners, especially. Never heard of 'em. I do know that Laura Amy Schlitz, winner of the Newbery, also wrote The Drowned Maiden's Hair, which was one of my favorite books of 2007, so I hope her award pumps up recognition for that book as well.

RE: The Invention of Hugo Cabret taking the Caldecott: loved the book, but am unsure how I feel about a novel winning a picture book award, no matter how many illustrations.

RE: The White Darkness winning the Printz: YES! This book was fabulous--read it. It's a thriller / psychological study / all around gripping story of a half-deaf girl adrift with her insane uncle in the Antarctic. That description isn't doing half as much justice as the book deserves. Go buy it.

In my actual life: I moved this weekend, update to come.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Pictures from our vacation.

Here are some pictures from our trip! Let's see if I can figure out how to make captions. Sometimes I miss Typepad. Update: apparently, I cannot figure out how to make captions. So let's see if YOU can figure out which description goes with photo.

Our trusty guidebook, overlooking breakfast at "Eggspectations."

Chris and I outside Montreal's Notre Dame Cathedral.

Ice skating in Parc Mont Real...I deliberately did NOT choose a photo that showcases my nonexistent ice skating skillz.

My sledding skillz, however, are madd.

Chris enraptured at the Cinerobotheque.

This isn't from Montreal, it's from Thanksgiving at my mom's house.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Yeah, Iowa!

I was slumping over my desk wishing passionately for coffee, a muffin, a donut, or a cinnamon roll (I remembered that resolution #10 was to cut back on caffeine and cut out sugar) when I opened the NYTimes webpage and brightened immediately. What cheerful news! I remember 2004 when I caucused in was so exciting...which Howard Dean promptly squandered not 30 miles from campus.

I hope the Obama momentum just keeps building.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

All the cool kids are doing it.

I don't really believe in formal "resolutions" per se but these are the changes I want to implement in my life starting now:

1. Abide by the Four Agreements. My mom gave me this book to read a few years ago and I came back to it this past fall. The Agreements are, essentially: always tell the truth, don't take anything personally, don't make assumptions, and always do your best. I could especially benefit from the two middle ones but I am working on keeping all four in mind as I go about my life.

2. Cook more. Chris and I eat out, or get takeout, a lot. (I feel embarrassed to admit it, but in defense I honestly do think it's a not infrequent result of city living.) Before we got our apartment, we ate out because we each had two roommates with equal kitchen rights, or else we'd meet up somewhere in the city after work which is, of course, dinnertime. Then when we first moved in we were cooking a lot more but in recent months we've been so insanely busy that that's fallen by the wayside. Eating out is not only money flying down the drain but it's generally higher caloric content, even if you get a salad, and not as healthy. I got Chris a cooking class and three cookbooks for Christmas, and Erika gave me an amazing stone baking dish and Liz gave us some fantastic kitchen basics (like a wisk, measuring cups, mixing bowls, and other stuff) that will help us in this goal.

3. Eat locally. I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which is about her family's attempt to only eat things that they grow or that they obtain from local farmers. The international food trade is nutty...did you know we export 1.1 million pounds of potatoes a year, but IMPORT 1.4 million?? I'm not ready to dive wholeheartedly into the lifestyle that Kingsolver suggests, but I do want to support local farmers as much as I can, and there are numerous farmer's markets each week in New York. This also means eating things when they're in season--in other words, skipping a tomato right now because it's pale, mealy, and probably had to be flown here; but eating MILLIONS of tomatoes in the summer and fall when they're actually ripe. Again, I'm not sure I'm ready to live by this moral at every moment, but it's something I hope to keep in mind.

4. Go back to the gym. Such a cliche, I know...but I got some pretty shirts for Christmas that my mom and Chris's mom may have bought with my pre-Thanksgiving form in mind, and I'd like to be able to wear them, heh.

5. No more Internet gossip. I'll still read the blogs linked here, which is not gossip but is being in touch with my friends, and one or two other sites, but no more Gawker, Jezebel, Fashionista, etc....I'm sick and tired of that judgemental, shallow crap. Over the vacation I wasn't on the Internet at all and the peaceful silence in my mind was profound to experience. Jamie Lynn Spears's pregnancy has no place in my thought queue.

6. Try my hand at writing and painting.

7. Have regular chore time every Saturday. This involves not going away on weekends so often! And ties into

8. Keep a simpler schedule. I always feel obligated to accept every social invitation that comes my way, and it's just TOO MUCH. I'd like work, gym, home to be the NORM and not the exception for a weeknight, and I'd like to relax around the neighborhood on Saturday and go to church on Sunday. The people I care about most, with the exception of Chris and Shelby, don't even live in New York, so why am I knocking myself out to hang out with others? I'm going to become a curmodgeonly hermit :)

9. Do at least one cultural thing every other week. Maybe this is reading a good book or watching one of Chris's arthouse Netflix selections, or maybe it's actually going to a museum or a gallery, or finding a lecture, or going to a documentary. Be smarter, basically.

10. Hmmm, I don't have anything to put here (that is, I'm probably forgetting eight more things) but I think I've set horrifically lofty enough goals as it is, so maybe better to stop while I'm ahead.

What are you looking forward to in 2008?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bonne nouvelle annee!

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all had holidays as wonderful as mine. I had a great time visiting family--Chris's mom, my dad, my mom (at whose house we saw my grandparents and my aunt, uncle, and cousins), and my grandma. Chris's mom was kind enough to lend us her car, and so we drove it back to her house on Dec. 28 and hopped on the last bus out of town with literally only moments to spare, getting back to our apartment in time to go to bed and get up at 5 a.m. for--

a trip to Montreal!

This was one of my presents from Chris, who loves Christmas so much that he goes totally overboard and spoils me a lot more than anyone deserves. We arrived at 9 a.m. on Saturday and left around 7 or 8 p.m. on New Year's Day. It was a glorious trip. We stayed at the cutest little hotel in Old (Vieux) Montreal, with a mini library/bar in its lobby and the softest sheets imaginable (on the bed, not in the lobby. Obviously). On Saturday we walked around the Quartier Latin and other parts of the city and visited the museum of contemporary art, which was fabulous. On Sunday we walked around a lot more and went to the Cinerobotheque, which is run by the National Film Board of Canada and includes a free viewing room where you can browse and watch any of the 9,000 films in their archives at personal viewing stations. We watched about an hour's worth of short films, including The Danish Poet, which was so sweet.

That night we took the subway out to what was supposed to be a hip neighborhood, Mile End, but whether due to the snow or the holiday nothing seemed to be open except for the one cool brew pub we'd stumbled across, so after trooping around deserted blocks in some icy sleet for a half hour we reentered that pub and warmed our bones with "hydromel," which turned out to be mead with a flavor that resembled cherry cough syrup (which, luckily, I like).

On New Year's Eve we went to the Parc, which is located on the slopes of the mountain, and we went ice skating and sledding, and it was SO FUN! That evening we went out to dinner around the corner and then holed up in our room with a bottle of champagne, Carson Daly, and the ball dropping. I think I went to sleep at 12:01. I'm the life of the party, folks! But it was relaxing and wonderful. And on New Year's Day we tried to go to the Musee des Beaux Arts in a snowstorm, but it was closed, so we saw Sweeney Todd because it was playing soonest and we were dripping snow down our backs, but I wouldn't recommend it because it was REALLY bloody and gruesome and otherwise kind of boring, actually. The popcorn was delicious, however. When we emerged, it was snowing harder than ever so we went to the airport a bit early. Our flight was delayed about an hour total, which seemed miraculous to me because of what seemed to me to be a blizzard going on outside, but apparently the delay was caused in JFK anyway, where it was NOT snowing, and not on the Canadian end.

We got home about 11:30 to the unpleasant realization that we had no heat or hot water, but it seemed a small price to pay for such a great holiday vacation. So here's to a fantastic 2008--I hope it brings great things for each one of you! Except you, you unpleasant spamming commenters.