Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Look Back

Ah. Here we are.


My annual complaint list.

This's really five years old? Seems like just yesterday I had my inaugural New Year's Eve meltdown, right here with you guys after the worthless German guy split on me after I was in the hospital in Namibia, right after he dumped me for being...well, you know why. All that stuff in Uganda. We all know why, though I can't quite bring myself to say it. Good times.

A year later, I was still pretty raw, though I'd had some recovery time in Kuwait. Not a lot happens in Kuwait. It's a good place to recover. I mean, if some young rich Swede isn't kissing your ass trying to convince you to be his gal so he can dump you five seconds later when his ex-wife yanks the old leash. Screech...whoa...what? Again? Can I please develop an alcohol habit now? Oh hell, I don't drink, do I? No problem, this old friend of mine is in New York over New Year's to help me by...getting drunk and trying to kiss me? ARGH, cut it out!

Yeesh. What's a gal gotta do to get a break?

2007. Where were we then? Ah, yes. The next genius move. Does it even matter? Have we noticed a pattern by now?

My next male-related scheme involved fragile-me looking for something less risky...I'm all grown up now, right? I can just, er...look past someone's weight or hair loss or cringe-worthy picking of teeth at the table, right? And I know...someone who actually lives here. In my country, right across the river. Someone employed at a major news organization. Hey, a job and health insurance! My, how my standards have changed.

This seemed like a reasonable choice, but he might have been worst of all. Okay, second-worst. He was pining away for his ex-wife too. Am I now totally scared off of divorced guys? Yeah, maybe. He even managed to call me at the last minute on New Year's Eve to say he'd changed his plans and was in Brooklyn with friends, so our dinner was off, but he'd be in later to go to that party for a little while, where he'd check his phone the whole time because he couldn't wait to race back to see the friends.

This behavior turned out to be typical for him.

And it still took him six months to dump me. Yes, that's right. Dump me. You heard it here first. MARIE WILL PUT UP WITH ANYTHING.


After that, I decided "Screw New Year's Eve," and went to Bolivia the next time. I sat on Facebook melting down in a hotel room while firecrackers went off in the street. Then next year, I went to a large foreign island south of Florida and...well, you know the drill by now.

Melting down in a hotel room. Questioning my choices, beating myself up for having not written another book, beating myself up for not moving forward in some manner and just treading water. For having whatever problem I have that men think I'm some kind of brilliant goddess that would make a great...friend. For not creatively moving forward. For allowing my brain to atrophy as I went through the mechanics of daily routine.

I don't want to sound overly dramatic. Actually, I already have. But I think it's clear that I have a dysfunctional relationship with New Year's Eve.

Not to mention with most men.

This year, I stayed in the US. I am taking myself to a party. No old friends are here to surprise me with sudden declarations of...well, not love, because it was more like "I'm drunk and you're in front of me." I can't say that I'm particularly strong and recovered from my years of whining and being a creatively spent deer-in-headlights. But I'm in my office in New York, and I'm not melting down, and I think New Year's Eve is silly, and I hope to get on the train before the masses do right after midnight.

It's something, right?

Oh, and did I mention that in 2011, I am going to do a 10th anniversary round-the-world

That's why I don't care that it's New Year's. Because this year, I actually have something incredible to look forward to.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Family Holiday

My mother posted this day-after-Christmas photo on her blog. Or on Facebook. I forget.

It looks fine of me, and pretty good of my mother. My sister looks like hell and is horrified at it. To which I remind her that she shouldn't have let her dog eat my shoes when I was 14.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Holidays

It's THAT time of year again.

God, how I hate it. I spend money, get involved in complex travel arrangements, and the worst part is thinking about what I have done over the past year, which means thinking about what I haven't done over the past year. And I am not the type of person who triumphantly crows about the glass being half-full.

Nope, it's not in my DNA. All I can think about is the unfinished book proposals and the brilliant-but-broken people I know whose problems I tend to make my own instead of running away screaming. (This is also in my DNA. My sister does it worse than I do—hey, look, I just saw a glass as half-full. Maybe I'm not hopeless.)

But this year things are going to be different. This year I'm going to do something about it.

You'll see soon.

The irony here is that what I'm going to do about it is what I always going to do about it. But louder.

Maybe this time it'll stick.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Bounty

Christmas, 2010.

I am now the proud owner of three sporks.

Two are titanium. One is BPA-free.

Because a girl can never have enough sporks.*

(*not actually true.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Class Final

Here's my final project for my SVA woodworking class.

And here's how I carried it home on the PATH train.

And here's the edge detailing that the teacher helped me with. It's just an angled cut with the table saw, and then a lot of sanding.

Woodworking school was excellent. I will cry every day now that it is over.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

There's Always a Down Side

I almost feel ungrateful for mentioning this.

The guys who developed the condo complex across the street went to great efforts to listen to the community. They helped renovate the wonderful park in front of my building, which is now home to two dog runs, a kiddie water park, and amazing playground, and two newly renovated tennis courts that are always in use. The basketball court is still active, the fountain works, the gazebo gets some use, and they even thought to add a funny crop-circle sort of thing for those of use who appreciate aliens and sit above the park, looking over it.

The lights come on at dusk and stay on until 10 or 11 depending on the season. The park was already wonderful--that's one of the reasons I refuse to go buy a condo somewhere and move out of my friend Yancey's place, which he rents to me. But now the park is even better.

And that's not all. The old nursing school across the street houses an arts center, a day care center, and my eye doctor. The middle part of the old St. Francis hospital is gone, and was home to the mini-golf course over the summer. The hospital tower and parking garage now house upscale condos, a fantastic gym, a wine shop, a kids dance school, and a gourmet-junk shop where you can buy handmade rolling pins and housewares.

I shouldn't complain. These are all nice additions to the area.

But my god...the parking situation!

I already have to haul my groceries and laundry up four flights. And now I get to haul them down the street too, from wherever I manage to find a spot.

Maybe I need a donkey.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


My table is coming along. On Tuesday, I get to glue it all together. I'll have to shellac it later at home. Did you know shellac is made from bugs?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I recently downloaded and printed out each year of this blog into a single book.

It's not available for purchase to the general public, but my intent was for long-term preservation. Like a scrapbook.

I haven't finished 2005 yet. That one was a doozy. But the others are done. 2010 will be on its way in a few weeks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Atlas in Softcover

Check it out—my mother found a copy of my 3-D World Atlas in paperback.

I don't know where this came from or how you buy it. She found it on the used section of Amazon. Maybe it's a book club edition.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pie School

First, there was bag school. Then there was Final Cut Pro and Flash class, and quilt school, and knitting. There's been robot school and woodworking shop and god knows what else. It was all part of my master plan to engage myself at home in order to get used to staying in one place instead of being hooked on the daily novelty of traveling. It's worked.

And now there's this.

Pie school.

I loved pie school. The rewards were many. Okay, not so many. I got a pie out of it. A tasty, flaky, tangy apple pie. And I have a skill, or rather a semi-skill. I will have to keep working before I can claim to have mastered this one.

Aunt Karen and family had presented me with a gift certificate for the Brooklyn Kitchen for my birthday. I'd heard of it, but hadn't been, and as usual I was lost in my multitudes of responsibilities, so it took me a while to get around to using the gift certificate.

And when I did, I scrolled through the class offerings instead of buying a kitchen utensil.

And boy, am I glad I did. What fun.

Millicent, whose pie I'd had once before at one of my friend Tamara's dinner parties in Astoria, taught the class. She showed us the trick of working quickly with butter crusts, scraping the surface constantly, and of grating a little ginger in with our apples.

Love, love, love pie school. I'd go back if they had a second pie class.

And on the way home, I balanced my unbaked pie carefully on the L train. There, that mariachi band! Charming, sure...but also a potential pie-hazard. I held my pie tightly to my gut as they strummed by. And then, kids breakdancing. Those feet! Those arms! MIND THE PIE, please.

Pie and I made it home in one piece. I lined the oven with foil, like Millicent said to do, and baked a delicious apple pie.

And on Tuesday, I forced slices off on my students. After all, one thing I *don't* need to do, is eat more dessert.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Clamps and Glue

My table is coming along. Two more classes to go.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Look, Up In the Sky

I went up to J.C. Heights the other night to look at a two-family foreclosure. I'm looking for a backup plan, somewhere that my money can go and do some good for me instead of me just slowly spending it.

This is the elevator that goes up to the Heights from Hoboken.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Chill In the Air and On My Feet

I headed home on the Amtrak the day after Thanksgiving. The train ride was more than 7 hours, and while I was going stir-crazy, I had two seats to myself, a power outlet, and a lot to read.

I thought I'd have time to get a sandwich in Washington DC, but I chickened out of leaving the train when one of the cleaners was vague about when the train would depart.

But one of the Amtrak employees gave me a slice of Bundt cake from her personal stash, so I made it home on sugar fumes.

I stopped by the office next to Penn Station to shuffle through some mail, and headed home. The weather was still nice out, but had just enough chill that when I got home, I changed into the socks that my friend Jessica had knitted me.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Family Snapshots

This is Johnny Appleseed. He stands outside of Johnny Appleseed Restaurant in New Market, Virginia. Push his button and he'll sing you a song about his origin.

This is one of the souvenirs you can buy inside Johnny Appleseed's. Before you think this is weird, bear in mind that New Market is the site of a major Civil War battlefield and museum.

And this? This is Flash, who jumped up on the dining room table and ate a waffle on Thanksgiving morning.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Eve

I was the only passenger to disembark at the Strasburg park-and-ride lot.

"Is someone meeting you here?" The bus driver was concerned.

"My mother is picking me up," I said.

"If she's not here yet, I can wait with you or drop you at the store."


He pulled into the lot.

"What does her car look like?"

I admitted I don't know. The car is new.

"That's her," said the driving, pulling up to a silver car and shining the headlights onto a woman who looked like my mother even to someone who'd only seen me out of the corner of his eye. He was right.

Mom and her husband and I went to have dinner with Aunt Peggy. Mom's husband took this nice photo of my aunt, my mother, and me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Riding the Country Bus

In the end, I shamelessly profiled.

I looked at the clusters of people waiting for buses. On one corner, I saw a suspiciously Shenandoah Valley-esque group.

Let's see, all white people, business attire but not too fancy, one guy with a USA baseball cap.

Spot the redneck,
I chuckled.

I then admonished myself that this wasn't really fair. There was only one USA baseball cap, and that wasn't exclusive to rural areas.

I walked up to the group and addressed a man who seemed to have some answers. He was chatting with the guy in the baseball cap.

"Where does this bus go?"

"Front Royal."

"And the Strasburg?"

Yep, I'd successfully profiled. I joined the end of the short line and waited for the bus.

I was surprised at the small number of people riding. There must have been about ten commuters for the full-size bus.

We all boarded and I paid my twenty bucks. Then, the man I'd spoken to said "We have to wait for John."

The bus time change hadn't managed to find John somehow, and he was late.

"I'll call him."

The bus guy called his missing commuter. I giggled. This was a small operation.

"John, hurry! The bus is leaving early today! Get on the Metro and get to Rosslyn as fast as you can."

And so we waited. But we weren't in a good place to wait, and another bus driver approached ours and tried to start a fight with him. Our bus driver drawled back at him in his Shenandoah accent "There's construction up there. I'm allowed to stay here."

The other bus driver suggested that our bus driver get out and settle the score man-to-man. Our bus driver declined.

And we waited.

In the end, half an hour late, John rushed up from the Metro and onto the bus.

"Sorry I'm late."

And on he strolled, with a tip of his cowboy hat.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble Gobble Hey

Ugh, holidays. I have long held that they should be staggered, so that we are not all traveling on the same days.

Nevertheless, I am thankful this Thanksgiving that I don't have to fly anywhere, because I've been scanned before and seen the results which are *horrifying* and not necessarily for the reasons everyone is chattering about.

Remember, the scanner adds ten pounds.

So, I had to get to the Shenandoah Valley and back. Last year, I caught Amtrak there and back via Staunton. That worked out great, but I realized I could save a lot if I could stand the BoltBus in one direction.

Buses are great when you get two seats to yourself. You can nap. You can spread out your paperwork and get stuff done. You can go on the bus wi-fi and update Facebook every two minutes for the four-hour journey.

But when you share with a stranger, there's never quite enough room. Invariably, the stranger naps-and-sprawls into your limited space. The train seats are bigger, easier, more private. The only thing worse than a bus is a coach seat on a plane.

(Never mind that I spend a great deal of my travel time around the world on buses. Let's just chalk that up to contrariness.)

I'm a member of the BoltBus loyalty club, even though I hate it and all buses, so I strolled up to the stop near my office on the late side and still got on first.

As if getting on first to a bus matters. Hmmm, which small seat should I choose?

I chose a seat in the middle and puffed myself up, thinking large thoughts. "I'm huge! I'm giant! Look how big I am! Don't sit next to me!"

I'm not asshole enough to do what several other small women did, which is throw their carry-on bags across the seat next to them and immediately close their eyes as if asleep. I'm pretty sure you can get BoltBus jail time for that.

The bus still had about 20 empty aisle seats when they let standby passengers on-board.

"Pleasedon'tsitnexttome pleasedon'tsitnexttome ... shit."

At least the man who eyeballed the available seats and decided I was...what? Thinnest? Least hostile? Not pretending to be asleep across two seats? At least he was a thin man.

He hadn't brought anything to read, unfortunately, so when he wasn't staring straight ahead, he was sprawled out. His knee knocked my a/c adapter out of the outlet twice. I briefly felt guilty for tap-tap-tapping on my laptop keyboard while he was trying to sleep, but transportation time is work time for me. I get a lot done on buses and trains.

Though Thanksgiving eve on the BoltBus from New York to DC isn't the best time to realize you have an Illustrator CS4 compatibility issue with Kuwait, but it's not the worst time either. At least the bus has internet access. The train doesn't.

We were lucky with traffic. I'd gotten on the 8:30 bus (somehow--I struggle with alarm clocks) and the big traffic back-ups start later in the day. We pulled into Union Station, Washington DC, before 1 p.m., and I headed down to the little snack stand across from Barnes and Noble. IMHO, it's got the best quick lunch food in the train station. And you can usually find a table.

But before I ate, I made a quick phone call. My travel scheme was to take the commuter bus to the Shenandoah Valley, an area not served by Greyhound. The only trains go north to Harper's Ferry and south to Staunton. The Greyhound to Winchester was discontinued years ago, but my mother had found a commuter bus online, and I could get to Strasburg, which was equidistant between Mom and my Aunt Peggy.

But I'd checked the buses Twitter feed, and I knew there was a schedule change. I'd been planning on getting the 4:05 bus from Rosslyn, Virginia. Somewhere. There was no bus stop or sign, just vague directions. Twenty bucks from an unmarked street corner to a park-and-ride lot in Strasburg. If only I could find the stop.

So I checked the schedule the old-fashioned way.

I called.

"The bus has been changed to 3 because the government let out early today."

"I haven't taken this bus before. Will there be room for me?"


Then, a little titter.


I gobbled my panini and got on the Metro, using all my New York 'tude to shove my way onto the crowded trains. Washington subway trains are smaller and more cramped than New York trains. There is only a tiny aisle in the middle for standers, not like in New York where the cars are aimed at standers.

Somehow, I forced my way on and off the packed cars, and disembarked at Rosslyn, going up one of the longest escalators in the system.

I canvassed the blocks outside the station, looking for a sign.

No sign.

How then, was I going to find the bus stop?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Still Have All My Fingers, For Now

Bundt is fun and all, but meanwhile, back in the sculpture lab, I've been making table legs.

And I learned all about jointing and planing. By making mistakes. Hot tip: If you try to shove an uneven, big piece of wood through a planer without being careful about only taking off a little at a time, it gets stuck and then you get a big groove in your table leg, which you must then patiently plane out.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

West Coast Bundt

On Tuesday morning, the day after Bundt Day, I rushed to the post office and sent out care packages. I'd sliced and packed tiny pieces of each cake, and sent them off in Priority Mail boxes to a few select individuals.

Steve B got his Bundt-box on Thursday. He arranged the cakes on a plate, printed out an identification photo, and his family sat down to Bundt-taste.

Steve's favorite was the peanut butter and chocolate cake, followed by Roberta's pecan sour cream pound Bundt. Me? I like them all.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bundt Gallery

So I made cake.

Lots of cake.

I made chocolate cake.

And peanut butter chocolate cake.

And cherry chocolate cake.

Eve from college sent me a recipe for pumpkin spice Bundt, so I made that too.

Finally, I made a tunnel of fudge.

And Roberta brought over her own cake. So did Otis, for his dogs. Or rather, he mixed it, using pumpkin as a base. I baked it in my oven, because his is broken. I never tasted this year's dog-pumpkin-cake, though last year's dog-yam-cake was a big hit with people AND dogs.

Bundt Day comes but once a year. Damn good thing too. It was exhausting making all these cakes. About a dozen people came over. Michael Kraiger supplied the signage.

Complete set of Bundt Day photos here, including cakes that happened on the West Coast.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bundt Happens

My pal Erik sent me this photo of National Bundt Cake Day celebrations.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Naked Bundt

It's that time of year again! National Bundt(R) Cake Day is tomorrow, Monday the 15th.

Here's my first effort of the morning, though it's cooling and unadorned at the moment. This is going to be a peanut butter and chocolate Bundt cake, once I figure out how to make peanut butter frosting.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday on Snake Hill

Boo-hoo, last week was so gray and dark.

Rainy, overcast, and I couldn't get out of bed in the morning because it was so dark.

Then on Saturday, the last day of Daylight Savings Time, the sun peeked out, illuminating the red and gold leaves on the trees in the park in front of my apartment. My mood changed from gloomy to antsy. What could I do to get out of the house? I had a lot to do...I couldn't go far.

Snake Hill.

Rising over the highway and railroad tracks heading from Secaucus into Penn Station is a giant rock. It's nice granite, and many have tried to destroy it over the years. Not out of spite, but because it's useful for building. There's been a mass cemetery and a sanitorium in its shadow.

Today there are baseball and soccer fields at the base of Snake Hill. I drove over and searched for a way up the rock. I'd missed the annual hike that the local conservancy hosts, which was in September. I'll be back in the future, someday when I get my act together and register in time.

Here are some photos of my morning wandering around the base of Snake Hill.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Hat

I agonized for a few weeks over this hat. $72! That's a lot for a hat.

Will I wear it? Will I lose it?

In the end, two of my male friends separately pointed out that the hats they have bought have been a lot more than $72. We're talking hundreds for fedoras.

So, fine. I went down to the hat store yesterday and bought the hat.

I hope I don't lose it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Luang Prabang, 2000

A friend of mine is living in Singapore with her family. The whole family recently took a trip, stopping first in Cambodia, then Luang Prabang, Laos, then moving on to Hanoi and Beijing before returning to Singapore.

Unfortunately, their camera, phone, and laptop were stolen from their hotel room. I'd been looking forward to their photos, but instead contented myself with going back into my archives to scan in some of my photos from a 2000 trip I took to Luang Prabang with Intrepid Travel.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Once is Enough

I've been meaning to get to the White House Sub Shop in Atlantic City for, oh, a decade or two. Ever since I first read about it in the 1992 book "Roadfood."

"The White House is a landmark for sandwich connisseurs; and like the cheese-stead shops of Philadelphia, it boasts a stellar clientele...(snipped)...These sandwiches, let us tell you, are elite eats...(snipped)...The White House Special is a tide of cold cuts—Genoa salami, ham, capicola, and provolone cheese—all rightly packed inside the loaf, lubricated with olive oil, decorated with lettuce and bits of sweet pepper."

And why hadn't I gone to it before? I don't know. I just never got around to it.

So on Friday, after visiting Lucy the Elephant, I caught the #505 bus from Margate back to Mississippi Avenue in Atlantic City, and walked up the block to the White House Sub Shop. I was alone, so I was able to walk in and sit at the counter after only a few minutes wait.

"What's the difference between the Italian and the Special?" I asked the server.

She shrugged. "Double meat and cheese in the Special."

"I'll have the regular, in a small size."

Here is the small size.

Oh. Oh my. Double oh my on a stick.

I wasn't even able to get through half. Which is just as well, as my medical doctor friend Lainie pointed out "That sandwich should come with a side of Lipitor."

I felt a little queasy—I'm not a big fan of nitrates—after I ate, and that might explain the brief mania that took hold of me when I then walked over to the Clark's outlet shop nearby and bought two pairs of shoes. I took a look at my phone (who looks at watches anymore?), noticed the time, and hurried to Caesar's to run through my free slots voucher. I won $9.75, and then used two of those dollars to catch the Atlantic City jitney back to Tropicana, next door to my hotel. I picked up my bag from the bellhop--another dollar, my $9.75 is going fast—then went to the Atlantic City Hilton to catch the skanky Greyhound back to Port Authority.

Which was even skankier than the southbound bus had been. Wifi? No. No wifi. Looking at the bus, I should just be glad it had basic safety equipment and a running engine.

Home again. Aside from one small stop.

I hurried from Port Authority, dropped my overnight bag off in my office, and went to see Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice. THEN, home again, from a long but entertaining couple of days.