Thursday, April 30, 2009


Any Richard Russo fans out there? The first book I read of his was Straight Man, which I loved. Very funny in a Wonder Boys-ish sort of way. Really hilarious and so well done. Then a book group I was in read Empire Falls, which ended up being Russo’s biggest critical hit. It even won the Pulitzer, though it definitely isn’t my favorite of his novels. Since then I’ve also read Nobody’s Fool and I just finished Mohawk.

Mohawk, Russo’s debut, set the stage for a lot of the themes he returns to time and again: the struggles of blue collar workers in the northeast (usually upstate New York), difficult/estranged/unsuccessful fathers, ensembles of realistic but off-beat characters, and a diner. There seems to always be a diner for some reason.

Knowing the quality of work Russo has put out more recently, I think it’s fairly easy to tell that Mohawk was his first outing. There’s a lot more telling than showing compared with his later books, and some characters and events don’t evolve as slowly and smoothly as they should. It’s still a good read, but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who would only ever read one Richard Russo book.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Classes are over for one course

Last night my professor in one of my classes said, “It’s been a good semester with you guys. Good luck.” And that was it. First class is over, pending submission of my final paper which is due on Saturday. It’s kind of hard to believe! It went well, I really liked it, and I’m glad to have a break!

Tonight I have my second to last class for my other course. Because class was canceled once for Passover I actually have to go again next week for that one. Boo!

Monday, April 27, 2009


The big lift is over. Saturday sucked—hard. But all of my stuff is now in Todd’s apartment (our apartment now, really) and some of it has even been put away. Moving is always worse than I predict; somehow I talk myself into imagining that I’ll be able to find what I need when I need it in order to put things away in an orderly fashion. Obviously, that never, ever works. Why I keep thinking it will is anyone’s guess.

Worse, though, were my movers. Everyone, please tell any and all moving friends: Ben Hur Movers SUCK. Don’t use them! They essentially held my belongings hostage. Halfway through the move (i.e., when my stuff was in their truck), they said the price was different than the quote and they weren’t unloading anything until I paid. I really had no idea what to do and ended up calling Todd back from the park where he’d taken the kids. He dealt with them because I was too furious to able to. In the end we paid the money; it was that or say buh-buy to everything I own. I cannot believe that companies operate this way.

While moving is always painful and I got totally ripped off, there are some positive things to report about the experience, too. Todd was amazing, coming to my aid as soon as I needed him. He also worked like a champ helping me unpack and getting all the boxes out as we emptied them, a task that I hate far beyond what is reasonable. Dylan and Sofia were also amazing. Moving is no fun for adults who can rationalize why it’s necessary, so I can only imagine how awful it is for kids. They were really good, though, helping for some of the time and entertaining themselves admirably the rest of the time. Very impressive. And, finally, my mom came into the city for the day to help me move again. This is the third move in a row that she’s helped with, and I am so appreciative! It’s so generous of her to travel a couple of hours out of her way to spend the day with a grouchy, no-fun daughter who asks her to unpack box after box.

The apartment is probably 80% of the way to looking normal again at this point. The kitchen still needs a lot of work, and my closet is a hot mess. I threw so much in there just to get it out of the way that I need to spend some time organizing it now. The biggest improvement will come when we get a bunch of stuff into storage. We both have several boxes, big suitcases, etc. to store and they’re making the apartment feel temporarily more crowded.

All the sturm und drang is worth it, though. I love living with Todd.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Move: With Cat But Without Furniture

As per Rena’s request, here’s the latest on my moving situation.

I’ve moved! Sort of, anyway. Last Thursday night, Todd and I went out for a delicious pasta dinner at Carmines. It was the site of one of our first dates, so there was a nice synchronicity to eating there again just as I was about to move in. We left extra full of carbs and Todd headed back to his place with 28 pounds of litter (too heavy for me — I plan on ordering all future litter from Fresh Direct) and I went back to my apartment to pick up Camilla.

This cat of mine is not much of a traveler. Wander lust? Not so much. She’s quite happy staying right where she is and lets you know it as soon as you try to put her into her carrier. She fought me, as always, but eventually I zipped her in and then just had to listen to her cry the whole time she was trapped inside. Luckily our apartments are only ten blocks from each other, so it was a short if meow-filled cab ride.

Once there, Camilla did the standard freaked-out cat thing where she scoped the place out while walking super low to the ground. She’s a little chubby, so it doesn’t take much crouching before her belly touches the ground, but she was doing it nonetheless. She quickly found a couple of good hiding places (mostly under beds) but hasn’t had to make much use of them. She seems to have adjusted quite admirably, really.

Tonight the kids come over for the first time since we’ve moved in, and I suspect she’ll spend more than a little time stressing out again. The kids have historically been very good with her, though, never chasing her, tugging on her tail, or doing any of the other bad-animal-behavior I’ve seen some other kids do. I’m sure Camilla will be nervous for a little while with so much change, but in time I think it’ll all be good.

The rest of the move will happen this weekend. I’ve pretty much packed up my entire apartment, and Todd has cleaned out some of his to make room for me. Movers come on Saturday (predicting 80 degrees and sunny, which is good news) and I’m planning to spend the rest of the weekend unpacking as much as I can. I’m ready to feel settled! I’m not bringing all my furniture over, and some random catholic charity is coming to get a couple of things on Monday morning. In some ways it still feels like a lot to do, and in other ways I think we’re almost there.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Object of My Affection and Man of the House

I finished my second Stephen McCauley book over last weekend. Like The Object of My Affection, which I read a couple of weeks ago, Man of the House was given to me by Rena when she was doing a big purge before her move to Massachusetts. Though these are the only two of McCauley’s books that I’ve read so far, there were enough overlapping themes in them to suggest that he mines some of the same topics regularly. Both novels center on early middle–aged gay men who teach for a living, are entangled in the lives of their straight roommates and friends, have strained if hopeful relationships with their families, and ruminate on parenting.

Despite these similarities, the plots are different enough that I never felt like I was reading a retread of the same story (as happens in, say, every single Amy Tan book ever). The Object of My Affection was the more enjoyable of the two for me. I read it first, and McCauley’s voice and themes felt fresher. That said, both were perfect reads for me right now.

As you know, I’m all about the fluff these days. With boring academic articles coming my way for class reading, when I turn to fiction I’m looking for pure enjoyment. I’m sure that some day in the distant future I’ll return to heavy-hitting fiction that requires an investment of brain power. For now, though, I’m allowing myself to forgo all the books I should be reading and am just enjoying the pleasure of a good story. And McCauley is perfect for this. His stories have enough depth to hook you and maintain interest. They also raise enough issues to provide some food for thought, but the plot’s success isn’t contingent upon you actually doing any of the thinking. The prompts are there if you feel like doing a little reflection; if you’re just in it for the entertainment, that’s ok, too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Moving Tomorrow (sort of)

So the move is kind of, sort of, finally here. I’m off from work tomorrow and Camilla and I are going to cab it ten blocks north and make ourselves at home in Todd’s apartment. This plan gives Camilla and me a few hours on our own before Todd (who she knows well by now) comes home. Then she’ll have a few days of just the three of us in the new digs before Dylan and Sofia are there, too. It’s a lot of change for her, so I’m trying to ease her in.

Housing Works, a community-based AIDS service organization complete with thrift store, is coming to my apartment to, I hope, pick up some furniture tomorrow. Nothing is certain because while Housing Works is a fabulous organization, they are also annoyingly particular about what donations they’ll accept. I was grilled about the state of my sofa when I offered it to them, repeatedly being asked if it was in perfect condition. I told the woman it probably needed to be cleaned and she then went off about how if there was a stain on it I could forget about them taking it. I think they need to chillax a little, but since that’s not likely to happen before tomorrow I’m just hoping that at least a few pieces of furniture pass muster. In the meantime I’ve also discovered that Goodwill in New York doesn’t accept furniture donations, so I’m finding it oddly difficult to get rid of my stuff. The Salvation Army looks promising, so I’ll be calling them soon, too.

It’ll be nice when all of this is finished. I can’t wait to get into my new home with Todd!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day

Today is tax day—did all of you file? I am usually fairly quick to get it done, but this year I waited until last weekend to squeak in just under the wire. As it turned out I owed about $100, so there would have been no benefit in rushing anyway. Taxes are one of the times I feel the NYC cost pinch the most. If you’ve ever used Turbo Tax, you may remember that they show your federal and state return amount along the top of the screen as you’re working. The number adjusts here and there as you enter various information. As always, my state return was looking very healthy (around $1,800 this year) right up until the moment when I click “New York City resident,” at which point the figure drops to zero—or worse. I was horrified the first year I used Turbo Tax and had this happen. I’d had visions of shopping sprees and vacations dancing in my head...ever since I’ve been smart enough not to get too excited. So I wasn’t surprised when the city tax did me in again, but I was disappointed (as always).

I hope the rest of you are getting big fat returns and use them to visit NYC!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Eggs

Part of my weekend was spent decorating eggs with Dylan and Sofia for Easter. Todd had a decorating kit complete with not only egg dye, but also stickers, paint, clear crayons, and just about everything you can use to decorate eggs. The only thing missing, oddly, was what I remember most from decorating eggs in my own childhood. My family was partial to the colors you’d dribble into the water in dribs and drabs. We’d swirl our eggs in, descending through the dye as we went. Does anyone else know what I mean? Anyway, that method is apparently not in vogue anymore, so we didn’t have it.

Dylan and Sofia were most into the straight dye and the painting, with many creative and dazzling results, some of which can be seen below.

Sofia, hard at work

This blue egg by Dylan has a face that you can't see in this picture.
It was the most Dr. Manhattan-ish egg I've ever seen.

Sofia's Leigh Bowery-eque egg

Dylan, adorably, paints I [heart] U Dad on one of his eggs

Monday, April 13, 2009

Woe is Me (Apparently)

I’m sorry that I’m such a sporadic blogger these days. I really do miss blogging on a regular basis, but I can’t seem to find a new rhythm that allows for both daily blogging and the time now spent on homework. I’m thinking of all of you often, though!

I’m feeling particularly stressed these days. The move is coming up fast and furious and my apartment is both a mess and only half packed. I need to go secure a storage unit for us tonight, buy more boxes, and get some more packing done. I have more bags to donate to the church around the corner from me, but their thrift shop has the incredibly inconvenient operating hours of 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There’s more, but listing all that I have to do feels a bit like whining and also stresses me out a bit as I think about all that needs to happen. So that’s all you get on that front for now.

I’m in the homestretch for the semester. Sadly, of course, the homestretch includes lots of work, but still, some downtime is on the horizon. I got my final assignment for one of my classes two weeks ago and haven’t done anything on it. I know that a more organized, ambitious, and proactive student would be diligently working away so that she wouldn’t be crazed at the end...I seem not to be that student despite knowing I’d be better off if I were. Someone should tell professors that they can’t keep giving out weekly papers if they expect students also working full time jobs to start on their finals early.

Oh, yeah, and I had someone tell me the other day that taking two classes at a time while working a full-time job really didn’t sound like that much. I thought it was both rude and showed a serious lack of understanding on his part.

Sorry—this post has turned into a big complaining fest, which probably isn’t so fun to read.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

An Art Mash-Up

A week ago Alexis, Warren, Todd and I saw La Didone at St. Ann’s Warehouse in DUMBO. St. Ann’s Warehouse stages a lot of experimental works, and Todd was the driving force behind us seeing this particular one. It’s the merger of the baroque opera, La Didone by Francesco Cavalli, and the Italian sci-fi b-movie titled Terrore Nello Spazio (translates as Planet of the Vampires). The pairing is both bizarre and fun. The opera is sung by classically trained artists, while the movie and shadow cast of live actors tell the story of astronauts who land on a planet filled with parasitic aliens.

For all their differences both in style and substance, there are enough parallels between the two sources to make the mash-up work.

Friday, April 3, 2009

How Very French

Check out Sarkozy's hand placement. Those frisky French.

I'm glad Obama is wowing the world with the G-20 and now NATO. And I'm glad he doesn't cop a feel of Michelle's booty when there are a zillion photographers around.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City fame is starring in Distracted on Broadway right now. I saw it last week, the last show of my Roundabout subscription experiment. In the end, I’m glad I bought the subscription. It did what it was meant to do: it forced me to the theater. Unfortunately, though, I did feel forced. Attending the theater simply isn’t as much fun without a partner in crime who is as excited about the shows and cast members. Also, Roundabout’s season just wasn’t that great, which didn’t help matters.

I ended on a relative high note at least. Nixon plays the mother of a very rambunctious, energetic, foul-mouthed little boy. Is he simply excitable and testing limits as all boys do? Or is there something else afoot...something like ADHD? These questions, and the appropriate actions that stem from each answer, are the heart of the show. [Side note: Did you hear that they’re renaming ADHD? It’ll now be ADOS: Attention Deficit Ooh, Shiny!]

There is an odd tension between the humor in the script and secondary characters and the seriousness of struggling as a parent. I tend to embrace surprising juxtapositions, and had Nixon’s character been written as someone who dealt with the challenges of raising a difficult child with humor, I think it would have worked. Instead, the humor comes in the form of goofy and stereotypical supporting characters and the weird way the fourth wall is sometimes broken. All the while, Nixon’s character, and that of her husband, are very serious about their need to do right by their child. An argument could be made that as we all deal with very serious problems, the world continues around us in all its absurdity. Something about it still failed to work in the context of the show, though.

Across the board, though, the performances were excellent. I’ve long liked Nixon, and it was exciting to see her on stage. She and the rest of the cast did very well with a good but imperfect play.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Wishbones

As any of you who are Tom Perotta readers know, it’s easy to inhale his books in an incredibly short time. Even with work and school, I think it only took me three days to read The Wishbones. As with all Perotta novels, it was an easy and light read while still raising some food for thought. This time around, Perotta’s protagonist, Dave, is a suburban musician in arrested development. After the sudden death of an acquaintance, he’s rattled enough to propose to his girlfriend of fifteen years (fifteen years, on and off, as Dave always clarifies). He then spends the rest of the book considering the course of his life, his abandoned dreams of rock stardom, his love for his fiance, his attraction to other women and one woman in particular, and whether he still has the ability to change his life. Perotta fills the novel with enough interesting ensemble characters to keep the introspection from becoming either boring or stale. Instead, the story moves forward at a steady clip, and Dave feels relatable if not completely sympathetic.

Recommended for Tom Perotta fans and wedding junkies.