Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Evening With Sandy

This was my Tuesday night. My Monday night was darker and a little scary. 

Monday, October 29, 2012


9:22 AM view of Hamilton Park.

I took the air conditioner out of the window yesterday, for the first time since I moved into Yancey's place in 2007.

I couldn't believe how quiet my bedroom was, and how there was no draft. I might make this an annual event.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Hamilton Park, Jersey City. 10:15 PM, waiting on a hurricane.

Waiting on the Storm

We're all gearing up for Hurricane Sandy here. It's currently on worst-case-scenario track, but it has a way of changing suddenly so we don't know yet what will happen.

People have been friendly and funny today. Cashiers have been chattier and snarky, and strangers are talking to me on the street. Everyone is a little nervous but also in the "what-can-you-do" state. We're all going to hunker down. Well, not all. Some people are being evacuated. We probably should evacuate too, but JC is only evacuating people on the bottom floors of high rises by the river.

Here's what we look like. The red is "oh-shit" zone. I'm at the blue pin.

I have prepared as much as I can. I have a bunch of food too, but I was too lazy to bring it into the other room for this photo.

Ready as I'll ever be.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Harassment in Cairo

There's been a lot of media coverage lately of sexual harassment in Cairo, around Tahrir Square. And in this piece, it's being talked about and men are trying to stop it. And that is a step forward.

I don't know what the problem is with harassment in Cairo. Surely it's to do with poverty and ignorance mixed with lack of exposure to women aside from via TV, and if you don't believe me on the ignorance, check out this video about catcalling in New York. The men who do it claim that it makes women fell good.

Which is nonsense. It makes people feel scared, embarrassed, and horrible. So these are men who are not impoverished, but still manage the ignorance part of the equation.

I had a clue something was up in Egypt the first time I went there in 1999, but I was with two guys, so the soldiers wrapping their arms around me and suggesting someone take a photo didn't seem too harmful. Plus, this was no different than the mild hassle I'd get in most countries.

On the next trip (November, 2001), I'd just gotten off the train in Cairo when this happened:

I got in a taxi at the Cairo train station. By the time the driver asked "which Hilton," we were already underway, and it was too late for me to find a driver who'd heard of the Magic Hotel.

The driver groped my leg. Startled, I jumped.

"Sorry," he said. "So beautiful..."

"Gross," was my reply. "That's disgusting. You shouldn't touch tourists. Pull over. Let me out right now."

As luck would have it, he pulled over and I got out right in front of the tourist police and the Nile Hilton.

"You're disgusting," I announced, emboldened by the police presence. I refused to pay him and he fled quickly without argument.

And here are some 2007 stories: 
Walking to Zamalek He unzipped his pants.
Glimpses of Flashes I've been hearing others that trump mine completely.
Fun with Taxis "No, I mean..." He made an obscene motion with his finger. "I love you."

My stories are nothing compared to the stories of women who actually live in Cairo. This happens to everyone, not just foreigners or protestors.

The fact that it's finally being addressed doesn't mean it never happened before. Only that people are finally trying to stop it. But it may be that taking down a corrupt dictator was the easy part. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

But the Laundry Dries Fast

The ceiling fan in the kitchen won't turn off with the remote anymore, so I called the manufacturer. They told me I need a new receiver and sent me this.

 Stay tuned.

This should be funny.

 For you.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More Red Hook

Here is a photo gallery of photos I took in Red Hook on Saturday.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Walking Red Hook

After three straight days of staring at the computer and working on the Iron Man novel, I was going stir-crazy and had to get out of the house.

I went over to Red Hook in Brooklyn, to go on a photo trip with SVA.

It was fun—I didn't take the ferry because it was just easiest to catch the subway to the free jitney to the meeting spot at IKEA. I had some meatballs and lingonberries on the way (does anyone really need FIFTEEN meatballs??) and walked around for about three hours.

At four, I took my leave after the group went to the host's studio/apartment to look at slides. I had a headache from walking about in the sun, and a brain-ache from group activity, and since I can go to incredible Italian delis in J.C. any time, the next part of the event didn't engage me.

I walked over the pedestrian bridge back to the brownstones and trees of Carroll Gardens, caught the train back to Penn Station, and spent a few hours in my office before heading out to meet a friend for dinner.

And by the time I got home after midnight, I was fried.

So it was just dandy when the upstairs neighbor, the one that snores so loud I hear it through the floor, decided to have drunk friends over at 3:30 AM. Swell!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I was typing out my next blog post for Wanderlust magazine when I got to this incident. I was in Gorakhpur, India, just over a year ago, wasting time before my overnight train to Varanasi. I was across the street from the railway station, searching for thali, when I came across this place.

I asked the man in the shop next door, "What is that?"

"Gods," he said, shrugging.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Don's New Project

Look, Don Hudson's Kickstarter project is a Staff Pick! 

I kicked in for this project. But I couldn't do the two grand level--which would make a lot of sense, because at that level, Don draws your own comic project for you. That I could use. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Today's Project

I'm a busy gal, but I still had to make something for a baby shower I'm heading to in an hour.

Fortunately, Martha Stewart had me covered with an online video for making this portable diaper changing pad, and City Quilter had half-yards of plastic-coated cotton for sale. I had batting around the house from some other project—maybe part of the bedbug I sewed a few years ago.

I put in my Castro and Obama caganers for scale. This pad rolls up tiny. It's basically just the plastic-coated cotton, a soft fabric, batting, pink thread, five inches of pink elastic, and a flat button. Easy-peasy.

Good for busy Iron Man prose writers.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lazy and Overwhelmed

New York Comic Con is on today! I was there yesterday, being inarticulate on a panel about Marvel prose. Fortunately, some of my comic book pals were there to pick up my slack.

The con is fairly new--was it just a few years ago when it took up half the convention center and the travel show took up the other half? No more. The con has gotten huge, MASSIVE. San Diego-big. I don't think I can bear to go back today.

Which sucks, because I was going to get Mike to sign my Economix book for me. But I can't bear to go back—jostling tens of thousands of people to fight my way to Mike's table seems daunting here on a Saturday. I hope someone else drops by for his signing, which is at two at Charlie's Abrams table.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Traveling in Style

This was parked outside the A&P today. I love these bikes—there's a whole group of older men that dress their bikes up around here. I've seen them in JC and in the East Village. They even ride in the Puerto Rican Day parade.

Meanwhile, I was in a matte-finish old Ford. I should really dress Henry up a bit.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Booking Burma

When I'm not writing Iron Man prose or chasing Kuwaiti comic books, I'm either planning class, teaching class, writing my next Wanderlust magazine weekly post, or planning my Christmas trip to Burma.

Once in a while I manage to get to the gym.

The Burma thing has been a lot tougher than I thought it would be. I congratulated myself when I managed to piece together the crazy itinerary to get myself there on frequent flyer miles at a time when mileage seats weren't really available. I added a few nights in Bangkok at the end at my favorite hotel, made a dentist appointment at the place I have been going to there for ten—oops, eleven—years, and bought an AirAsia ticket for Mandalay to Bangkok on January 3.

Turns out, that was the easy part.

My friend Toby, who lives in Chiang Mai, met someone who had just been in Burma, and reported that the "opening" of the country (which has been open all along, but the reduction of the tourism boycott from "don't go" to "go mindfully") has produced a tourist onslaught. And there aren't enough hotel rooms or little guesthouses to go around, particularly during high season (aka high-price season).

Which is when I have to go, due to my teaching schedule.

I jumped on it, sent about 20 emails, checked all the hotel booking sites (which mostly access crap, but Agoda/ has good stuff), and finally just called places via Skype.

Burmese hotels and travel agents do generally seem to be switched on to email. They have intermittent power and slow internet, but they mostly have email addresses (at least) or sites, but most don't seem to answer. Some do, some do but slowly, and it seems more effective to use the web forms on their sites than to directly email. My phone calls produced mixed results, including one "Use the website."

Here's what I have confirmed so far:

26 Dec: Arrive Yangon/Rangoon. Overnight at new city center hotel (no reviews yet, yikes) booked on Agoda. Clover City Center Hotel. Day One in Yangon. Also: sleeping off the tremendous plane trip.

27 Dec. Yangon. Clover City Center Hotel.

28 Dec. Fly early AM Yangon-Bagan on Air Mandalay. These guys are efficient and do web bookings. Probably because they have an office in Thailand, where they have fast internet and steady power. Spend day in Bagan. Overnight Aung Mingalar via Agoda.

29 Dec. Bagan. Aung Mingalar.

30 Dec. Bagan. Aung Mingalar.

31 Dec. Tentative flight early AM Bagan-Heho/Inle Lake. Here's where I'm having a hard time getting a room. Some of the small guesthouses seem promising.

1 Jan. Tentative Inle Lake, depending on finding a room. Otherwise, maybe I'll go somewhere else between Bagan and Mandalay.

2 Jan. I need an early flight from Inle (Heho) to Mandalay, so I can have the whole day in Mandalay. Air Mandalay goes in the afternoon. Yangon Airways has the earliest time, 1225-1255, but they haven't responded to my various booking requests yet. Overnight in Mandalay at Silver Swan Hotel (confirmed, miraculously, via their own website).

3 Jan. Early AirAsia to Bangkok, where I intend to eat pad thai, get a massage, see the dentist, buy more zebra T-shirts, and get the audio on one of my old iPhones repaired. I might even go to my doctor to get a report on the state of my parasites.

So the only piece of the puzzle still missing is Inle Lake.

This wasn't easy--I couldn't get a single Burmese travel agent to email me back (maybe because I'm just booking budget rooms and domestic flights). Most people that actually wrote back wrote to tell me that everything was booked—they seemed terribly concerned for me, which was sweet. And tracking down email addresses and websites was kind of ridiculous, and involved lots of coffee, determination, and a bit of desperation.

I am a professional. Okay, maybe not that professional. But telling me something cannot be done is exactly how to get me to do it. So I have to thank the person Toby met in Chiang Mai for telling him how difficult this would be. Otherwise, I would have rolled up to some guesthouses in Burma and ended up sleeping in the reception area when the country was booked solid.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Toilet Paper is Not Enough

 We've come a long way with online translation software, but apparently not quite far enough on the Japanese-to-English front. This made me laugh.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Damned If You Do

I've been researching how to get around in Burma (Myanmar) and it looks like loads of fun.

Here's a tip about certain airlines:

And this from about the bus from Bagan to Inle Lake:

If you've been following a while, you know that I've really had quite enough of endless hell-bus rides. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle this yet. It might come down to budget, but there does come a point when I would pay anything to get off the damn bus. So we'll see.