Thursday, April 29, 2010

Looming Threat

I don't own a home at the moment, in JC, NYC, or anywhere else. I got out in the nick of time thanks to some spendy neighbors (the down side of condo owning is other people get to outvote you on how you spend your money). That's because I've been 1) too busy to look for a new place 2) too comfortable where I live 3) too lazy to seriously hunt down an investment property (possibly a foreclosure) and 4) worried that the "other shoe will drop" on property taxes.

The JC council has recently cast a resounding boom as that other shoe crashed down. And I am watching carefully as their actions will directly affect whether I buy here, continue as-is, or head back to Manhattan. Or (gasp) even Brooklyn or Astoria.

They will revalue properties citywide.

What does that mean?

It means that the economy has crashed, state budgets have been gutted, and local budgets are anemic. And the money has to come from somewhere. And I cannot deny that I benefited greatly from the last revaluation having been in the prehistoric era of 1988. My last condo had taxes of something like a dollar and a carton of orange juice a month. I was lucky to get out of that before it was reassessed after some capital improvements went on record.

So what's going to happen after properties are all revalued at today's market value?

Some people will likely come out ahead. If their properties are valued at 2005 levels, their taxes might go down. Some people will see no change, including those with abated properties. For some, rates will skyrocket and that's gonna hurt. I expect it will be passed on to renters, at which point a lot of folks (maybe me) will head back to the City since there will not be any financial benefit to being here.

Then there's the old-timers and the people barely making it.

In 1988, I clearly remember things getting really really bad. I didn't understand it at the time. What I understood was that my landlady was freaking out and eventually was foreclosed on. And I remember For Sale signs across what seemed like half the city.

And property then became VERY VERY cheap. If the Other Marie and I had understood what we were doing, we'd probably have bought the 3-family brick house on Mercer Street that we lived in for a mere $170,000. (Though it all worked out as we both went and bought cheap on Avenue B and learned pretty quickly what we were doing.) This is when I learned that this nonsense about "real estate never goes down" was a sign that someone was either very foolish or trying to snow you into buying something at an inflated price. Real estate goes down. And up. And all over the damn place.

I'm too tired to chase real estate seriously at the moment, so it doesn't really affect my actions all that much. But real estate can also be a spectator sport, so I am watching closely to see if history repeats itself or not.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

And What Now?

Some interesting day job stuff has happened over the past few days. I don't really know what it means in the bigger picture, if it means anything at all.

But take a look if you're interested, here at the 5:40 mark. The video is funny, because the Prez kind of giggles and lights up when he starts talking about comic books. Nerd-in-chief! Love it.

And look here for a summary of events (though it names a 2007 comic as "recent"). Some of the comments... well, let's just say that I was losing interest in having a job but clearly, my work has just begun. Gone backwards, even. Gah.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

And She's Off!

To work, I mean.

That's it... I'm goin' in. The blotchy thing is still plenty visible but it's a sort-of acceptable blotch. I'm going to smother it in flesh-colored make-up, put on my burqa, and go to the office.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ash Monday

Purple thing update: It's still there, but more reddish now, with just a purple spot in the middle. I tried covering it in make-up but that didn't do much, so I'm working from home.

I did finally leave the house. Just to go to the deli. The day is rainy and gloomy, but as it turns out, umbrellas are even better cloaking-devices than sunglasses.

In spite of having months to prepare for staying home for days, I didn't. So I've been snacking on orzo with all-the-veggies-I-had and grilled cheese. Not at the same time.

After two-and-a-half day's of orzo, today's deli sandwich is heavenly.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Little Less Purple Every Day

Today's hideous purple-spot update:

Still hideous. But turning red around the perimeter, with the dense thick purple now just a small blotch in the center. When it all turns red, the lasered blood vessel will still be hideous but I think make-up might render the spot ready for the public at that point.

Meanwhile, on another topic... I found this in an advice column in Time Out New York. The writer meant it in terms of relationships, but this advice applies to everything. In my case, he is aptly explaining exactly why I decided to stay home for a while.

"...the desire to continuously chase something new prohibits you from fully committing yourself to the situation you're currently in... you just have to make sure that you aren't making choices out of fear and mere habit."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day After

Wow, that is one nasty purple bruise between my eyes.

The laser felt really strange. My eyes were covered (Doctor, casually: "I'm putting this over your eyes because the laser is toxic to eyes." Me: "WHA--?"), and there was a flash and a puff of air.

"Beautiful. You responded perfectly."

I was filled with pride, though I have no idea what responding perfectly means. The doctor stuck an ice pack on my face for ten minutes, told me to stay out of the sun (I agreed to go to the 6 train and not go above ground again until I switched to a taxi at Grove Street), and had me put on my sunglasses. Not for my eyes, but to hide the giant purple splotch that had appeared instantly where the laser had zapped the blood vessel.

I stared at my New Yorker through my sunglasses on the train. I couldn't really read but I didn't want to meet anyone's eyes. I didn't want anyone to look at me, to see the bruise.

There was no danger of the taxi driver actually looking at me (he was on the phone, of course), and I ran up the stairs to my building without encountering any neighbors. I went straight to the mirror. Eek.

I wish I'd stocked up on more food. I'm not going anywhere for a few days.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Maybe It'll Just Go Away On Its Own

So I have this zit to tell you about.

Which probably isn't the way that you thought I'd start my day on the morning-after occasion of my 44th birthday, a day when normally I'd be wallowing and bemoaning the state of my so-called life, which is currently full of mind-numbing repetitive items on lists. I shuffle from office to errand to school to bed, and sometimes I eat and stuff. If I weren't invisible, you'd see that my eyes are glassy and I no longer blink. Wow, is there anything more thrilling that settling down?

Well, yeah, there's a zit. That's a thrill a minute.

Sometime last summer, I noticed a red zit in between my eyes. Not a massive horrid one, but a noticeable large red spot.

And that was all. I noticed it. I forgot about it. The end.

Except it wasn't the end. I'd notice it every few weeks and sometime in the middle of fall, I realized it had been there for many months and that no amount of poking it or rubbing anything into it had any effect on this "zit."

More months went by. No change.

Eventually, I started to get a little worried. What kind of zit hangs around for almost a year? Why wouldn't it go away? Was there an unknown danger in having a big red zit between the eyes for months on end? What does skin cancer look like?

And so it went.

Finally, about eight months after I'd first noticed it, I looked up a dermatologist on my health insurance plan and went over.

She was young and efficient and still seemed interested, unlike one of those doctors that just appears overworked and tired, almost eye-rolling when you describe a minor ailment.

"The reason it hasn't gone away is that it isn't a zit. But it's not toxic. It's a broken blood vessel. They just happen sometimes."

"Will it go away?"



"Can you make it go away?"

"Yes, with a laser. But you will have a bruise there, on you face, between the eyes, for about a week. And your insurance doesn't cover it."

Oh hell.

"Make it go away."

I put the appointment off for a few months but today is the day. I get a big bruise between the eyes for my birthday.

This isn't a good weekend to meet for brunch.

On the plus side, I have to do my Flash final anyway. This will keep me in the house.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day hits the big 4-0 today, but gets no sympathy from me for its whining. I've got four years on it and that gap never seems to shrink.

Here are today's photos, not in honor of Earth Day at all.

This bag is on its way to the UK to a new home with Sally.

And here... this photo is something I stumbled over while searching for illustrations for my Flash project (you'll see it soon).

I cannot believe how blond my hair got by the end of MariesWorldTour. I kept going in for color in different countries, and people had to keep lightening it to make up for earlier mistakes... and it got lighter and lighter until this happened by the end of the year.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Link

Here's a link to a fascinating and well-written story about a young woman who went abroad to Jordan for a year, was almost immediately assaulted by a taxi driver, and proceeded to stay in the country, learn that it was a freak thing not at all common in Jordan, and yet throughout, she doesn't let society off the hook for its attitude towards women. A nuanced approach from a young, intelligent woman, I think.

Here I am not being nuanced like her for a minute: Taxi drivers frequently are my nemesis. Nemesises. Nemisii. You know what I mean. I do the whole "stare-out-the-window-and-bolt-at-the-first-suspicious-comment" thing. And yet many taxi drivers have helped me, too...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday in the Park

I can't go into the park in front of my home yet—it's still being renovated. But I can see through the fence and it's looking great in there.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Day at Church

There's a church down the street that I go to sometimes. Not for god stuff—I'm not a religious person—but for community events, like pie contests, art exhibits, and the weekly used book sale.

Books are fifty cents for paperbacks and a dollar for hardcovers. This can be for brand-new releases, rare books, or trashy airport novels. All are priced the same. Children's books are free. And good stuff shows up every week.

I go to the book sale frequently, usually with intent to distribute. I like to get rid of my books once I've read them, either by giving them to friends or to the book sale. I seldom keep books. I feel strongly that books are to be read, not to gather dust on a shelf.

Reality is different than intent, of course, and I can't remember the last time I left the book sale without a purchase. I figure if I get out of there with less than I went with, I'm doing all right.

Last time I went, I showed up in the last 15 minutes of the day. I whizzed around the room, glancing at tables to see if there was anything I couldn't miss. As always, I finished my circuit with a quick look at the travel section. I always stop there in case I can score a copy of Dik-Dik for fifty cents.

I'd just missed my chance today. A woman had a copy of Dik-Dik in her arms. Surprised, I blurted out "I wrote that!"

She looked surprised too, and we exchanged uncertain grins before I shuffled off to the fiction center, wondering what I'd hoped to achieve by telling her that.

A minute later, one of the volunteers who mans the book sale came over.

"You wrote this?"


"Will you sign it for the woman buying it?"

And then it was all okay. I signed it, the purchaser and I had a nice chat about the value of public transportation, and for good measure, I gave her a Dik-Dik postcard, since I didn't want her to think I was some freak who wandered around claiming I'd written whatever book a stranger had in her hands.

She seemed like my kind of person... I hope my neighbor liked the book.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Energy Conservation

I'm getting quieter and quieter these days, because I have a birthday coming up in a week. I must, therefore, spend all of my spare energy on cultivating a magnificent sense of despair. The only thing I hate worse than New Year's is my birthday. Actually, now that I've worked out to spend every New Year's in a foreign country in the company of strangers, it's not as awful as it used to be.

Which means birthday is numero uno disappointment every year. Until I forget to plan ahead for New Year's, at least.

Another thing that is taking up a lot of my time is me trying to figure out if I should buy property or not. I lucked out the first time, cluelessly stumbling into a future gold mine in my mid-twenties. I was slightly less clueless the second time but just as lucky. Third time in this case is not necessarily the charm. Where property is going isn't clear. Inventory is massive, but things have started moving. But moving enough? Not yet. Can I time the market? I wish.

I've been looking all over the map. Just to give you an idea, here's a contrast. Check out cheap and tiny versus massive and expensive.

I'll have the latter, please. For my birthday. That would shut me up.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

But How Would They Know?

I've been searching for decade-old graphics from, poring overing CDs and hard drives.

And I think I've found what I need (a map drawn by Don Hudson in 2000) for my Flash project, but I also found a stash of jpegs from an earlier trip through Southeast Asia.

This sign was on a temple in Bali in 2000. I bet it's still there.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Language Difficulties

I've mentioned before how I have problems remembering which fragments of language to speak in which country. For example, I asked for pineapple juice in Arabic in Colombia. Most of the time, I just launch into some kind of mash-up of European languages mixed with a lot of arm-waving and pointing. People feel sorry for me and try to understand.

But I really outdid myself yesterday morning.

I was walking to the train to work. There's a shopping mall between me and the PATH train, right next to the Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel.

An older man with a ring of white hair and glasses stopped me. He definitely looked out of place with his shorts, knapsack, and comfortable shoes. He was probably a tourist staying in one of the nearby hotels. The JC hotels are popular with Europeans, who don't seem to mind having to commute one stop to Manhattan.

"Where is... toilet?"

"You have to go up the escalators and go up to the food court. Wait... francais?"

He nodded. Yep, a French tourist off-track between his hotel and Manhattan. I'd just answer him in his own language then.

"Aqui," I said, pointing just above to the food court restrooms.

Too polite to acknowledge that the stupid American had just answered him in Spanish, the Frenchman nodded and headed to the escalator.

And I walked to the PATH train, laughing at myself all the way.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Cleaning Off the Kitchen Table

It took me two months to get around to making this bag for a small Australenglish girl named Daisy. I hope she hasn't gone off dogs and moved on to dragons or ponies.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Spring on 8th Street

I wish my phone camera could have done justice to the pink hue that tinted the streets tonight as I walked home from the train.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

An Easter Story

I was supposed to do my homework for Flash class today. But instead I awoke to GOTOWORKNOWRIGHTNOW and FILLOUTTHISFORMNOWNOWNOWNOWNOWNOWONWOWNOWNOW...

My "Er, it's Sunday and it's Easter" had no effect. I did drive, at least. Figured I'd have a better shot at getting in under the end-of-day Kuwait-time wire if I didn't waste time walking to and from the train.

So instead of doing my homework, I scrambled together a little Flash project AND Easter project, but alas, it's nothing I can turn in tomorrow.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Big Rock Stony Mountain

See this big rock? I'm going to go check it out this spring. I think it's Snake Hill, a famous big basalt rock near Secaucus Junction train station. I've never gotten a real close view of it before due to being located south of it and seldom having a reason to go through Secaucus. (Last night I was going to Montclair to see Wilco perform, but I was bored and left an hour into it. I was far more interested in Snake Hill and also in the bus ride through Newark that I took on the way home.)

This rock used to be 25 percent bigger but it was quarried and the basalt went to build structures in nearby places like JC. I wonder where I could find the basalt near my apartment. Maybe it went into the base of some of the railroad embankments or into buildings.

Nowadays, there is a park around Snake Hill. Well, to the north of it. South of it is the NJ Turnpike and the railroad. But the park has trails and a canoe launch. I'm fascinated with the idea of catching a train out of Penn Station and being in this park in ten minutes. Though I might let laziness win and just drive there.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Marie's Dilemma

Babcock made this while sitting at the other desk in my office a few days ago.

I didn't have a chance to correct his typos, or run the de-age and de-cranky filters on my images. It is, however, a fairly accurate documentary.