1. The power of blogs is amazing! (Uh oh, I now have "The Power of Love" stuck in my head). Not only has it given me the opportunity to have newunions and renewunions with fellow bloggers and blurkers I had never met before, but it has reunited two friends who have not communicated with each other in forty-one years! A woman found my post about my family and managed to reconnect with my mother, with whom she was very close friends in Hong Kong and they had a lovely time catching each other up on four decades worth of news and gossip. SUCCESS! So you can give credit to this coda to the blog demise to Aunty Yasomi.
2. Stay tuned.
(a) after hoofing it with our luggage from our hotel at Lexington Avenue at 49th Street to the High-line Cafe, we found the staff to be top notch, the decor cute, but the food crap (although Gojira was quite content with our crap scraps);
(b) the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater is extraordinarily tiny compared to my conception of it (the exterior is, at least);
(c) the Empire Diner satiated my need for a decent cup of coffee (fancy cappuccino, actually); and
(d) despite their strong encouragement to order a plain cheese pizza, I was pleased with the mushroom and onion slice I got from NY Pizza Suprema (right across the street from Penn Station) ... even if my fellow Amtrak commuters were not.
The mini-vacation was great and we returned to great fanfare and enthusiasm when we got home (diaper needed changing! fish bowl needed cleaning! someone needs a nap!).
Since then, we've been back in the groove of things. The latest updates are that ZP is enrolled to begin preschool starting August 24th and he is very excited about it; ZP has finally gotten off the paci (not easy on any of us but after a week, we seem to be in calm waters once again); AP is getting heavier and faster and cleverer lately and loves to start her day by reciting the few words she knows: "flower! baby! daddy!"; TP has successfully caught at least four mice but, alas, none by stomperation and there is still at least one rogue mouse out there; I am going to the gym regularly but have already put a freeze on my account for the month of Ramadan.
I just got back from getting my eyes checked and everything is A-okay. There is always some trepidation associated with these visits (more so than the gum-gouging dentists or privacy-scoffing obgyns) because my mother has retinitis pigmentosa which is a genetic eye condition that, thankfully, neither my sister nor I have inherited. Although I like my opthalmologist well enough, he has this irritating manner of using the Socratic Method in our conversations:
Doc: "Well, it looks like your vision has not changed in the last three years. Do you know what that means?"
Me: "Ummm ... that's good?"
Doc: "Yes! It also means that you would make a good candidate for ... "
Me: " ... "
Doc: "Laser surgery!"
Me: "Ah, okay. Great."
Doc: "Have you ever considered it?"
Me: "Sure, but it's not high on my list of things to do. If I win the lottery, maybe. But otherwise, I don't think I'll do it now."
Doc: "If you ever did decide to do it, the first thing you would do would be ...?"
Me: "Do some research on it?"
Doc: "Yeah, but how would you know which doctor to go to?"
Me: "Ummm ... the internets?"
Doc: "Well, yeah, but what would you look for?"
Me: "I'd just research various services and providers."
Doc: "But how would you know which is best?"
Me: "I'd look at the user reviews."
Doc: "But what exactly would you look for?"
Me: "I'd look to see if someone said "this doctor totally butchered me and now I'm blind" and I'd take note."
Doc: (a little taken aback) "Uh, yes. But where else might you get a recommendation?"
Me: (finally getting it) "You, of course."
He then went on to explain that he'd be happy to work with whomever I chose but if I chose someone he knew was not trustworthy, he'd bow out. It irked me so much because (a) he was wasting my time because I already said I wasn't interested in it right now and (b) the Q and A game was so annoying! I had enough of the Socratic Method in law school; I certainly didn't have the patience for it at an eye exam. I wanted to say, "just spit it out already so I can go!" but, instead, I politely listened and played along until I was finally allowed to leave. I treated myself to an iced mocha at Illy's as a reward and as a defense against the humid mid 90s that accosted me after I flew out of the office. Worth it.
"Don't raise your head to look at the clock."
"Stay in bed."
"Imagine you are floating and drifting and being super puffy like a cloud."
"Stop twisting and turning and being restless and just relax."
DAMNATION! 6:00 a.m. on the dot. Despite my every attempt to take advantage of the opportunity to sleep late, my brain refuses to let me sink back into sleep and propels me out of bed and into the shower so I can plot out the day: Meet the gang for brunch; split up and spend time with our respective peeps; reconvene somewhere for dinner. Since this is partially TP's birthday present/getaway, I let him sleep in since he seems to have no trouble doing so. I quietly get dressed, whisper a request for his coffee order, and let myself out. I scope the area for some non-chain cafe but end up at Starbucks nonetheless. After correcting the barrista's mistake in the order (unadulterated coffee is horrid unless one is in Italy/France/Spain where they know how to do it right), I snag a New York Times for TP and head back up to our room.
As I exit the elevator on the 19th floor, I hear the sound of running water. "Hmm," I think to myself, "I don't remember there being a sink or water fountain near the elevators . . . " I turn around to locate the source of the sound and before I can blind myself by throwing the hot coffee in my face . . .
*parental advisory: the following contains explicit language, partial nudity, and vomitriousness*
I see a disheveled, swarthy man with one hand steadying himself against the wall and the other hand directing a full-on stream of piss right onto the carpet. No lie. He was drunk or completely brain-addled but either way, he didn't even register my presence and blithely emptied his bladder directly in front of the emergency exit door. I beat a hasty retreat back to the room, picked up the phone, and called . . . who? Security? No listing. Maintenance? Um. Concierge? Why not; they are supposed to attend to all situations, right? I reported the atrocity and got a mild, "*sigh* oh boy, we'll send someone up right away" in response. I'm not sure if this kind of thing happens all the time, but I'm loathe to find out. Whether it was my outrage or the smell of coffee, TP finally got out of bed and shared his usual "what do you expect? the whole world is full of horrible people" reaction.
Even though we have plans for brunch, TP wants to fill his stomach with some food before he boards the subway. We all remember what happens when TP mixes caffeine with nothing and then takes public transportation. We shudder, shriek, and shiver at the prices listed at several nearby eateries before ending up at a deli across the street. They, too, get the order wrong but the food is edible if not forgettable and we shuffle our way over the metro according to schedule. Or so we thought. While we watch one train after another whiz by, it becomes very apparent to me that OUR train, the V train, is glaringly absent. Upon closer inspection of a tiny, weathered notice posted on a column halfway down the platform, I see that the V line likes to take weekends off. Thanks, NYC Transit. Thanks a lot.
Doing some mental gymnastics to figure out the next best alternative, TP and I race back to the main entrance, get a sketchy signal on our cell phones to let our three buddies (who don't really know each other but hopefully will enjoy each other's company until we arrive) know that we are running late, and reroute ourselves to take the first 4, 5, or 6 line that comes our way. We finally emerge in the Lower East Side, and sweaty and mighty late, we find our gang seated together at Supper. After some perfunctory greetings and small-talk, TP and Dullard take off to check out Dullard's new house in Brooklyn (sell out!) while HA and Gojira and I settle in for a nice, leisurely brunch. HA's Organic Pancakes with fresh fruit looked healthy and tasty, the bite of parmigiano and fennel I swiped from Gojira's Grilled Polenta and Poached Eggs was delightful, and my Spinach and Goat Cheese Omelet was perfect. Grade: A.
HA had to "dip" into work, so Gojira and I spend the rest of the afternoon hoofing it around the area. We, too, dip into here and there: the tight housewares shop, the overwhelming candy shop, a tiny apartment moving sale. I refuel with a Lemon Yummy cupcake from the Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery. Despite the numerous flies buzzing around, Grade: A.
I stop in for a visit with Gojira's roommate Dr. Clothilde who is absolutely charming and gives me a warm reception. To soak in some more of the unusually gorgeous weather, we stroll outside. We walk through hustling, bustling, stinky, dizzying Chinatown which makes D.C.'s version look like a crummy and immature diorama, parts of Little Italy, and Soho. TP rejoins us for a quick-that-turned-long visit to Pearl River (or Pearl Harbor) Mart where we pick up a few "thank you for watching our kids, for helping out, for everything that you do for us" prezzies for the family. Indulging my desire to check out the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, we find the tiny and slightly pathetic museum, get turned off by the clerk's sycophantic glomming onto TP (ignoring us girls ... which, actually, was a good thing) and forcefully relating the suggested donation of five bucks each, and high-tail it out of there. To reward ourselves for our quick getaway, we stop at the kiosky Il Laboratorio del Gelato for a scoop of dark chocolate and toasted sesame gelato for me (Grade: GOOD GOD) and a scoop of dark chocolate with amaretto for TP (Grade: why must you put that topping on when you KNOW that anything almond-flavored except actual almonds makes me want to vomit through my nose?).
Gojira, back in her no-nonsense, "it's called a New York minute for a reason" milieu, instantly hails a cab for TP so he can meet up with some more buddies. Unprepared, TP ends up tossing the rest of the gelato away which, in other circumstances, would be an indefensible crime, but in this instance, with the amaretto poisoning, was acceptable. I give a brief eugoogooly for the dark chocolate melting in the trash and drown my sorrows in a cappuccino at the shabby chic Cake Shop. Gojira and I spend our valuable, limited time together discussing family, food, and inane subjects [Gojira, what on earth did we talk about?! The only thing that I really remember was the story about your grandmother lamenting the fact that NYC still hasn't rebuilt what was left of the two houses].
We finally decide to give our tired feet some rest back at Gojira's apartment. Our dogs were barkin'! Mine from having the insoles of my shoes fall apart and torn out earlier and hers from having fallen down and busticating herself while in France. We chill out and spend the rest of the evening listening to the mix CD I made for her, taking turns keeping Dr. Clo company while she dines, and making plans for dinner. Other than speaking in foreign accents, reciting quotes or recommending books/movies/shows to each other, jeering and sneering at others and agreeing that we are the best and everyone else is the worst, most of our time spent together has always been and will always be about making plans for our next meal. TP joins us at last and we order some sushi from Ogawa Cafe. Quick delivery, buttery soft sushi, and proper bite-sized rolls. Grade: Eyes rolling into the back of our heads delicious.
Exhausted, TP and I take our leave from the jet-lagged but seemingly tireless Gojira and sit around waiting for our F line to show up and take us to Rockefeller Center. Several trains later, I point out that, yet again, our sleep-deprived noggins were empty and that the F line was actually one level lower than the platform upon which we had been semi-passed out. We catch the next car which has an unusual amount of piratey commuters on it and come out at network studio heaven. Even though we spent the majority of the day walking around, the stroll back to the hotel is a lovely one and we make it back just as the first drops of rain began to fall. A quick recon by TP to ensure nothing inappropriate was happening outside of the elevators and we are finally back in our room to wash up, eat the rest of the leftover gyro in the fridge, and call it a night.
[no photo of sushi available because we inhaled it too quickly]
We arrived at Penn Station and because it was an amazingly pleasant, incredibly sunny but not humid, "are you sure this is July?" day, decided to hoof it to our hotel. I admit, we did the typical gawking tourist thing when we caught sight of the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the famous-named streets. How can you not? We kicked off our culinary trek through the city by grabbing lunch at Nirvana which was pricey (at least to our country bumpkin eyes) but worth it as TP tucked into TWO helpings at the buffet and I devoured the Murg Khaliyan -- Chicken chunks in cilantro and mint flavored yogurt marinade. Despite arriving ten minutes before closing time, we were seated, given fresh and hot food, and did not get any stink eyes from the staff when I ordered from the menu instead of digging through the buffet. Grade: A.
We checked into our hotel, consulted the map, conferred with some friends, and went right back out into the sunshiney day. We stopped at St. Patrick's Cathedral ("hmph, we have a cathedral too!"), Central Park ("hmph, we have a zoological park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted too!"), and the Museum of Modern Art which, as we gleefully discovered, waives its $20 fee on Fridays after 5 p.m. ("hmph, we have free museums too!"). We left the REAL touristy tourists behind and took the metro ... er ... subway to the Meatpacking District in the West Village (capital "V") to meet up with TP's high school friend Dullard. I had my one celebrity sighting ("TP! It's Debbie Downer!") and was pleased. We walked down to Los Dados and after seeing the crowd, decided to order something from the takeout-only taquería, foolishly thinking we'd get faster service. Tacos, sweet corn tamale, and tamarind juice were lazily prepared, fussed over, and finally delivered. Infuriatingly slow service (I can't imagine what the wait time for sit-down service would be) but decent food. Grade: B.
As the sun started setting, we found three empty seats overlooking the Hudson River and ate our dinner on the High Line, a former elevated freight railroad that has been rescued from demolition and redeveloped into a promenade plantée (fancy word for the elevated park). It was lovely to be able to put our feet up for a while and just absorb the view, the breeze, and the quiet. After a leisurely stroll up and down the railroad tracks and amiable conversation, we made plans for the next day, took the subway back, and returned to the hotel. Around 11ish, we were feeling peckish and decided to take advantage of the much touted convenience of being able to dash outside and grabbing something to eat from a local street cart. I washed up, put on my PJs, and got comfortable with the puffy pillows, cozy blankets, and remote control while TP ran out to get some juicy and tasty gyros and piping hot and crisp french fries. Grade: A. For both the food and the delivery man.
So, there's Day One, folks. Pix and the rest of the trip coming soon.
For anyone interested in meeting up with us (or just stalking us), here's where we'll be:
- First stop on Friday night: Los Dados, where we may or may not meet up with The Dullard and another high school friend of TP's.
- Brunch on Saturday morning: Supper, where we may or may not meet up with Gojira and my cousin.
- Cupcakes at Sunshine, Coffee at Cake Shop and Gelato at Il Laboratorio del Gelato where we may or may not explode ala Mr. Creosote.
- Relaxing in Central Park and perusing the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Arts if we have time and the weather agrees with us.
We were heading home for my cousin's wedding (see below) and I had everything and everyone packed, fed, and ready to go. We arrived at the airport, were directed to a "special" (read "snail's pace slow") lane, and approached the check-in desk.
Clerk: "How many passengers?"
Me: "Four but one is a lap child."
Clerk: "Do you have proof of age?"
Clerk: "Do you have a copy of her birth certificate?"
Clerk: "Do you have a copy of her immunization shots that would show her age?"
Clerk: "Do you have anything at all that shows she is under two years old?"
Me: [rummaging through the diaper bag in hopes of finding some evidence, some shred of proof, some saving grace that would allow us to board without having to resort to TP's clever but complicated plan of purchasing an extra ticket and then getting reimbursed upon sending proof of age later] "AHA!" [pulling out a strip of plastic that was hidden in a side zippered pocket that had not been opened for over a year] "THIS is the medical bracelet I wore at the hospital when AP was born! See! It has her date of birth on it!"
Clerk: "Works for me."
Me: "SUCCESS! Pack rats of the world UNITE!"
I know we have had our ups and downs, faced off with our respective weapons of choice (tattle telling/giant wax crayon candles), and listed each other as enemy combatants before we became best friends. But I'm so glad that we have been and have remained close for so many years now and that we get to see each other on such a regular basis. I can't imagine what my life would be like without you so involved in it. Thank you for being my sounding board, my advice-giver, my fellow bellowing karoke singer, my inside-joke-getter, my go-to-babysitter, my baby sister. I love you so much.
I'm reading this book called "Intern" by Dr. [aside, whenever I write "Dr." I always hear "It's Dr. Evil, I didn't spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called "mister," thank you very much." in my head] Sandeep Jauhar. It focuses on the traumas and tribulations he faced on his medical career path and features the inner workings of the process and procedures of hospital life. Some parts are stomach-clenching, like when his forgetfulness led to a tube of HIV-infected fluids to spray everywhere and on everything in the room. Some parts are secret-revealing, like when he explains that when he checks the blood pressure of a patient, he counts the pulses in the wrist and then keeps pretending to do so while he counts the breaths so as not to make the patient self-concious and thus change breathing patterns. Some parts are disheartening and particular to the medical field but this part struck me as fitting for just about every job, including mine:
"There were set times on call when you could expect a flurry of pages, like when the nurses checked vital signs at 4:00 a.m. That was when they called about fevers. Your response was always the same: blood and urine cultures and a portable chest X-ray to rule out pneumonia—but sometimes you discovered that a patient was already on antibiotics or that blood cultures had been drawn every night for the past week, every single one negative, and then you had to decide whether you really needed to stick him again, but most of the time you did so anyway, not for the patient’s sake but for your own, lest someone fault you in the morning for not doing it. That was the sad reality of residency: much of the time you were ordering tests to protect yourself. “The endgame of life is so depressing,” I wrote in my diary. “Look at Mr. Fisher. Successful lawyer, Goldberg patient. Now look at him? Sick, febrile, dying of who-knows-what: cancer, TB, sarcoidosis? If you think about it, it could make all of life seem unworthwhile if, in the end, we end up dying in the hospital, awakened at 4:00 a.m. by a stupid intern trying to draw another set of blood cultures.”
Can you relate? Does your job have a CYA culture too?
My locks have gone from jet black to reddish brown. Recently, a new shade has made an appearance. When I was pregnant with ZP, I found a single white hair. When I was pregnant with AP, I found another single white hair. The other day, I found my third white hair. Uh oh.
- The latest incarnation of Battlestar Gallatica (which itself is a sequel of sorts to the original 1970s version) ended recently (*weeps*) and Caprica has just come out to show us what life was like "before the fall." Young Adama is likeable enough, but the young Cylon needs some work.
- Although we've seen what Picard was like when he was a headstrong youth, we haven't seen a young Kirk or wee Spock before . . . until J.J. Abrams got his hands on the Star Trek franchise and offered his take. Young Scotty is, of course, my favorite.
- Speaking of J.J., his show Lost is also taking a trip down memory lane. Well, a trip down, up, across, double-backed, and splintered off. Wee Ben, wee Miles, and wee Charlotte running amok on the Island while their older selves are plotting, surviving, and/or dead.
- After the Last Stand, the X-Men folks decided to reminisce and review the origins of its mutants beginning with one of our favorites, Wolverine.
- Wedged between The Sarah Conner Chronicals and The Terminator, we pick up the story line of the rise of the 'bots in Terminator Salvation.
- Ever wonder about the background, history, and origin of G.I. Joe's nemesis, the Cobra Organization? Wait until August and find out in the Rise of the Cobra.
It's still over a week away, but this will give your fans a chance to get a jump start to say:
Happy Third Birthday! Now that you have put your twos, and the terribleness that goes with it (right? no more tantrums? no more inappropriate shrieking? no more "I wanna do it mySEEELLLFFF!!! rants? RIGHT?), behind you, let's take a look back at your achievements and milestones, shall we?
Your Second Day of Birth was attended by your new and oh-so-permanent baby sister. You were wary of her arrival, which was accompanied by the arrival of Babu and Nani and thus linked, and decided to condense all of your confusion and worry and jealousy and heap it all onto one person - Nani. You shunned her, you avoided her, and you would studiously avert your eyes from her whenever she happened to be cuddling AP. You also decided to intensify your adoration and need for your father. If he so much as dared to lift AP for a quick smooch or even a cursory inspection, you'd rend your clothes apart, beat your chest, and devise your very first self-made sentence ever: "put! baby! ziza! DOWN!" Thankfully, with LB, KG, Babu, Aunty C, and, when you let her, Nani lavishing affection, presents, and love on you, you eventually calmed down and came to accept this interloper into the family. It helped that she never tried to play with your toys, never really made much noise, and actually was kinda cute. She is now old enough to start encroaching on your territory and although there are some skirmishes that do not go as well as planned, you are generally pretty careful around her and try not to lash out when she scratches or bites or swats at you. For that, I thank you.
You finally graduated out of jarred baby food, but you still never really took a liking to kid or adult food other than a few, select choices: oatmeal or cereal for breakfast, pollo con arroz and some fruta for lunch, and whatever we could force down you for dinner (yogurt with honey, pizza, PB&H sandwich). The closest thing to a vegetable we could get you to eat is potatoes in the version of french fries and those are just tubers anyway.
Despite your desire to be a monkey, a train, or a robot, your personality has established itself quite squarely as "policeman." You are adamant about others following the rules, obeying your directives, and pretty much doing what you say when you say it. On our trip to Georgia, you not only reprimanded some kids who were running down the walkway to the plane, you also warned everyone around you that "we're in the plane; you have to be quiet." You nearly put me in time out when I insisted that a picture of a baby on LB's fridge was you and not your sister ("NO, MOMMY! IT NOT ME!") Your vocabulary has jumped by leaps and bounds and you are a quick study for any words that further your goals, nefarious or otherwise. When you abused your power over viewing countless episodes of whatever on youtube and were told that you could no longer do so because "the computer is broken," you stored the slogan away until bathtime when you regretfully announced that you couldn't take a shampoo shampoo because "the tub is broken." Your writing skills and drawing skills have also gotten better, thanks to countless reams of paper and crayons, chalk and the Magna doodle (which you stood on until it cracked and started oozing some clear liquid and we had to toss it away. . . R.I.P. Magny!)
One day, the day after our return from a trip to Florida (where we watched the historical inauguration and you familiarized yourself with the man named Obama who is always on the cover of Daddy's paper and who is the only one allowed to touch THAT switch on the heater), Tia decided that you were old enough to lose the diapers and go straight for the underwear to get some boot camp potty training. On the one hand, I was happy to have the help, happy to know that it would mean one less baby's butt mooning me several times a day, and happy to see you move to this next level of development. On the other hand, I was terrified that you'd balk at it as you have with pretty much everything else until you are darn well good and ready, terrified that our 40 year old Persian carpet and our brand-spanking-new couches would be stained and destroyed beyond all repair, and terrified that you would burn the house down. I decided to take some half days at work so that I could be on call for the meltdowns, mayhem, and mania that was sure to come. To our astonishment and relief, it all went pretty smoothly. You were already familiar with "the frog," you were excited about your new undies, and you were offered treats as rewards for each successful visit. The first day was tense but successful (it helped that Tia ran you up to the toilet every half hour or so whether you said you had to go or not) and by the second day, not only did you avoid any accidents during the day, you even emerged from your room after a good night's sleep completely dry. We were floored.
We had some sad moments this year when your great-grandfather passed away. When you found me in tears, you patted my knee and ran for a tissue. You asked me, "why you crying like me?" I told you that I missed Nani and Babu and you sympathetically nodded and said, "I miss them too. 'Sokay, 'sokay, they're coming!" When that made me smile, you asked, "you happy? I'm happy." And I was - because of you. During those times when you drive me insane with the silence-killing questions ("Mommy, what are you doing? what are you doing? what are you doing? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?") or the demands (after feeding, bathing, and reading you 27 stories before bedtime, tucking you in, and giving you cuddles, you begin your mantra of "I want Daddy." ) or the boisterousness that comes with a two-year old boy (throwing, hitting, running, falling, yelling, screaming, never sleeping), I remember that. I remember the times that you give me unsolicited hugs and smooches. And the times you help me make bread, sort the laundry, and bring AP a toy when she cries. And the times you make clever observations (such as the time I was reading a book about Peter Rabbit jumping into a watering can. I explained that the watering can was used to water the garden, like you did with Nani last summer. You looked it and said, 'yes, it's for flowers. and for my body' which is what you call your bottom). *dies*
And so, my lovely, loving, lovable boy, we wish you a happy birthday and best wishes and all that jazz. Cue the clip show!
Gojira is coming! Gojira is coming! AAAIIIiiiii . . . iiiiii . . . iii.
Friday: arrival, Ben's Chili Bowl for some chili cheeseboigahs and fries, home
Saturday: Breakfast (either force TP to make spanish tortilla or get brunch somewhere or both); lunch with LB and KG followed by birthday party for Maggie Jane (ain't no party like a two-year-old party); Kotobuki sushi for dinner
Sunday: [radio edit]
Monday: Breakfast at Tryst or the Diner or Open City; return to Union Station and grab some of Vaccaro's cannoli to go.
Hmmm. It appears that your entire visit will be based up and revolve around food. That okay with you? Yeah. Thought so.
I treated myself to a lovely cup of mocha at Illy Cafe that I enjoyed all the way to Georgetown.
After visiting the Old Stone House and sitting in the wisteria-blooming garden for a while to soak up some rays, I headed over to the C & O canal. I watched two horses pull a boat through the canal until they reached the lock gates and then watched the Amishly-dressed folks go about heaving and hoing to get the boat down to the next level.
I walked to the Potomac River to enjoy the nearly empty waterfront where. I loitered in the stacks of yet another bookstore until my friend finally called to let me know she was ready for lunch.
We strolled over to the LEED certified Founding Farmers where we had the popcorn of the day (what was it sprinked on there? chipotle? bbq? chaat?) as an appetizer followed by perfectly made crab cakes, whipped yukon gold potatoes, and limeade.
We caught up, made fun of each other, and exchanged prezzies. We fought over the bill (par for the course), promised to visit Tunisia next summer when her beach house was complete, and said our goodbyes. I haven't had a day off in D.C. where it didn't involve going grocery shopping, getting someone's hairS cut, or running errands in what seems like forever. It was a gorgeous day and completely recharged me. As DCist put it so nicely:
D.C. can be a wondrous place for tourists. It's got magnificent architecture, history, museums, and bustling streets and sidewalks. There are people from all over the world, homeless people, military folks in uniform, police, politicians, black squirrels, and lots of well-scrubbed young people. There's the Metro, the Mall, and more. And it's tourist season, so maybe those fanny-pack wearing throngs standing in front of the escalators are just awe struck, rather than annoying. The greater D.C. metropolitan area can be too much to grasp sometimes. It can be amazing.
After graduation and passing the bar exam, I came bright-eyed and bushy-haired to Washington, D.C. for several reasons (including the fact that I wouldn't have to take another bar exam to practice here and that I had free housing for 6 months), one of which was that there were more opportunities to find a legal position in environmental law here than most places. Here is where the acronym-frenzied organizations such as the DOJ's ENRD, the EPA, the ELI, the EDF, the WWF (not to be confused with the previously a.k.a. WWF) resided. I tried my luck with government agencies, private law firms, non-profit organizations and papered the city with my resumes and writing samples. I volunteered at the National Audubon Society. I wanted to use my shiny new legal skills to save natural resources, to protect cute and fluffy critters (the ugly, slimy ones could go to hell), to do something worthwhile and noble and good. I loved environmental law; but it did not love me back. I worked at a small law firm for a few years in which one partner focused on money-paying, steady, cut-and-dry contracts and corporate law while the other partner dabbled in pro-bonoish, erratic, but passionate environmental law. It was the field of the latter that pulled me into the firm, but it was the reality and solidity of the former that kept me there. Eventually, the firm needed to pay the bills by taking on more of litigation and negotiation cases and less of the altruistic but penniless clients. I still wrote briefs on behalf of organizations seeking to protect nature and strengthen standing environmental laws, but, by necessity, I began to gain more experience in contracts, intellectual property, and employment laws. By the time I became a partner myself, the environmental-focused part of the firm was all but gone.
I am pretty happily employed in the field of intellectual property. The pay is decent, the research is interesting, and I can work from home where the hours are flexible and the dress-code even more so. I can assist well-meaning but helpless entrepreneurs seeking protection for their goods and services. I can lay the smack down on arrogant know-it-alls who try to weasel or bully their way into getting their unacceptable trademarks through. But on days like today, Earth Day, I do wonder what my life would be like if it took me down the emission-trading, brownfields, smart growth path.
From The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain
"Ahh ... Le System D!" he said with a smirk, and a warm expression of recognition. For a moment, I thought I'd stumbled across a secret society-a coven of warlocks, a subculture within our subculture of chefs and cooks and restaurant lifers. I was annoyed that what I had thought to be an ancient term from kitchens past, a little bit of culinary arcanum, was in fact still in use, and I felt suddenly threatened-as if my kitchen, my crew, my team of talented throat slitters, fire starters, mercenaries, and hooligans was secretly a hotbed of Trilateralists, Illuminati, Snake Handlers, or Satan Worshippers. I felt left out. I asked, "Did you say `System D'? What is `System D'?"
"Tu connais ... you know MacGyver?" replied my sous-chef thoughtfully.
I nodded, flashing onto the idiotic detective series of years back where the hero would regularly bust out of maximum-security prisons and perform emergency neurosurgery using nothing more than a paper clip and a gum wrapper.
"MacGyver!" pronounced my sous-chef, "CA ... ca c'est System D."
Okay, maybe I am not as creative or crafty or clever as Bourdain and his ilk, but I like to consider myself as having a mommy version of resourcefulness or débrouillard.
One kid claims to have to use the bathroom while the other is screaming her head off from teething pains and doesn't want you out of her sight? Sprint up the stairs, lugging both of them, and use one hand to situate one on the plastic frog to do his business and the other to steady the baby in the baby tub to chew on a rubber ducky that has been nicely chilled from sitting on the tiles.
Trying to bake some bread while simultaneously watching both bored children? Give one child her choice of a dozen kitchen utensils to bang around and gnaw on and give the other the very important, very big boy task of measuring out the flour and sugar, of picking out the pre-cut cubes of butter, of whisking everything together all while ensuring that the kitchen doesn't end up completely shrouded in ingredients.
Baby's hair getting in her eyes and LB refuses to let you cut it (but doesn't understand that it completely impairs her vision) and baby is getting frustrated by it but you can't find her cute little butterfly hair clip? Binder clip will work in a pinch.
Mommy's little helpers getting extremely demanding in the offer to help with the laundry but they keep unfolding the folded stuff as quickly as its folded? Toss all the underwear and socks in their direction and instruct one to match up whatever he can while the other plays peek-a-boo with the unmentionables that end up on her head.
I've yet to achieve the status of Grandmaster Débrouillard of my parents who have considered using airplane's headrest cloth as an emergency diaper or who fashion wagons out of box lids and rope; but, I'm getting there.
Jesus Shaves by David Sedaris from "Me Talk Pretty One Day"
"And what does one do on the fourteenth of July? Does one celebrate Bastille Day?"
It was my second month of French class, and the teacher was leading us in an exercise designed to promote the use of one, our latest personal pronoun.
"Might one sing on Bastille Day?" she asked. "Might one dance in the street? Somebody give me an answer."
Printed in our textbooks was a list of major holidays alongside a scattered arrangement of photos depicting French people in the act of celebration. The object was to match the holiday with the corresponding picture. It was simple enough but seemed an exercise better suited to the use of the word they. I didn't know about the rest of the class, but when Bastille Day eventually rolled around, I planned to stay home and clean my oven.
Normally, when working from the book, it was my habit to tune out my fellow students and scout ahead, concentrating on the question I'd calculated might fall to me, but this afternoon, we were veering from the usual format. Questions were answered on a volunteer basis, and I was able to sit back, confident that the same few students would do the talking. Today's discussion was dominated by an Italian nanny, two chatty Poles, and a pouty, plump Moroccan woman who had grown up speaking French and had enrolled in the class to improve her spelling. She'd covered these lessons back in the third grade and took every opportunity to demonstrate her superiority. A question would be asked and she'd give the answer, behaving as though this were a game show and, if quick enough, she might go home with a tropical vacation or a side-by-side refrigerator-freezer. By the end of her first day, she'd raised her hand so many times, her shoulder had given out. Now she just leaned back in her seat and shouted the answers, her bronzed arms folded across her chest like some great grammar genie.
We finished discussing Bastille Day, and the teacher moved on to Easter, which was represented in our textbook by a black-and-white photograph of a chocolate bell lying upon a bed of palm fronds.
"And what does one do on Easter? Would anyone like to tell us?"
The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, "Excuse me, but what's an Easter?"
Despite her having grown up in a Muslim country, it seemed she might have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. "I mean it," she said. "I have no idea what you people are talking about."
The teacher then called upon the rest of us to explain.
The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. "It is," said one, "a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and . . . oh, shit."
She faltered, and her fellow countryman came to her aid.
"He call his self Jesus, and then he be die one day on two . . . morsels of . . . lumber."
The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.
"He die one day, and then he go above of my head to live with your father."
"He weared the long hair, and after he died, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples."
"He nice, the Jesus."
"He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today."
Part of the problem had to do with grammar. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as "To give of yourself your only begotten son." Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.
"Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb," the Italian nanny explained. "One, too, may eat of the chocolate."
"And who brings the chocolate?" the teacher asked.
I knew the word, and so I raised my hand, saying, "The Rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate."
My classmates reacted as though I'd attributed the delivery to the Antichrist. They were mortified.
"A rabbit?" The teacher, assuming I'd used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wiggling them as though they were ears. "You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?"
"Well, sure," I said. "He come in the night when one sleep on a bed. With a hand he have the basket and foods."
The teacher sadly shook her head, as if this explained everything that was wrong with my country. "No, no," she said. "Here in France the chocolate is brought by the big bell that flies in from Rome."
I called for a time-out. "But how do the bell know where you live?"
"Well," she said, "how does a rabbit?"
It was a decent point, but at least a rabbit has eyes. That's a start. Rabbits move from place to place, while most bells can only go back and forth--and they can't even do that on their own power. On top of that, the Easter Bunny has character; he's someone you'd like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It's like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they've got more bells than they know what to do with right here in Paris? That's the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there's no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell's dog -and even then he'd need papers. It just didn't add up.
Nothing we said was of any help to the Moroccan student. A dead man with long hair supposedly living with her father, a leg of lamb served with palm fronds and chocolate. Confused and disgusted, she shrugged her massive shoulders and turned her attention back to the comic book she kept hidden beneath her binder. I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with.
In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom. Why bother struggling with the grammar lessons of a six-year-old if each of us didn't believe that, against all reason, we might eventually improve? If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes. So why stop there? If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilities the benefit of the doubt? I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next. The virgin birth, the resurrection, and the countless miracles -my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe.
A bell, though, that's f***ed up.
I always feel like somebody's watching me. Who's playing tricks on me? I always feel like somebody's watching me. I can't enjoy my tea!
I had to explain that although I listed "Wales" as my place of birth on one form, the drop down menu on another form did not include "Wales" and so I chose "United Kingdom" and apologized for any confusion that may have caused (apparently it caused a lot of confusion because I was asked about it on three separate occasions). I was asked if anyone I knew would say that I was NOT reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, or capable of holding a position of public trust (I answered with a hesitant "no?"). I was asked if anyone had any blackmail material they could use against me (well, do you?). I was asked if that was a regular coffee I was drinking (it was a mocha).
So, just as a heads up, if some white dudes with sunglasses and dark suits show up at your door and start asking you questions about me, just don't tell them about my blog. Or my facebook page. Or my flickr account. 'Kay? Great.
1. Fill out and notarize a Power of Attorney (POA).
2. Send the notarized copy of the POA, a cover letter, and a self-addressed stamped envelope to your state's Office of Secretary of State, Authentications Department. The cover letter should include: your name, address, phone number, email address, indication that the notarized Power of Attorney is enclosed and that you require attestation in order to have the document attested for use in Pakistan. If there is a fee, be sure to include it as well.
3. When that comes back to you, send the notarized and attested copy of the POA, a cover letter (can be the same as above), and a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
US Department of StateAlso include the $8 fee by check or by money order made out to "Department of State". Turnaround time is 5 to 7 business days. Phone# 800.688.9889
Authentications Office518 23rd Street, N.W.Washington, DC 20520
4. When THAT comes back to you, send the notarized and double attested copy of the POA, a cover letter (can be the same as above), your National Identity Card or Pakistani passport and $8 (see below) to:
Consular Office, Embassy of Pakistan,
3517 International Court NW
Washington, DC 20008.
There. I've done my pro bono work for the day.
- Hotel coffee often tastes burnt and is undrinkable but if you add a packet of hot chocolate mix to create a home-made mocha, it is not half bad.
- Although knowledgable and articulate, Patricia E. Hong, Partner, Plumsea Law Group, LLC, does not know how to pronounce the word "skirmish" and perpetually pronounced the word as "squirmish" which made me squirm each time she did so.
- Susan Scafidi, Visiting Professor of Law, Fordham University Law School is a great speaker who had interesting things to say and has a sense of humor that is rarely seen at these kinds of events.
- No matter how fast I walk, how busy I look, or how studiously I ignore people around me, I can't walk down the street free of suggestion.
- I have become very spoiled working from home and had a low threshold of tolerance for the thunderstorm I had to run through during my commute today. The intensely bright, sunny day that followed the thunderstorm made up for it.
- I had forgotten how much I could read on the Metro with no distractions or errands or other matters to occupy my time.
He was the bearer of puns, anecdotes, and trivia. As an award-winning journalist, he was the master wordsmith of the family. With his steel-trap mind and his shelves of photo albums, he was the holder of the oral and pictorial family history. He always had a love of the good stuff: fatty foods, chocolaty treats, sneaky salty snacks. He could recite poetry that he learned as a child, drop names and dates of events that occurred decades before, and relate a joke about nearly any topic at hand. He had traveled around the world, lived in many countries, and documented his hilarious observations for the enjoyment of others.
He was deeply religious and loved his gigantic family with all of his heart. Like his father before him, he held a good education as the most important thing to give to his children. He wrote copious letters to family members (first, on onionskin thin airmail with carbon paper between the sheets to make multiple copies; later, on e-mail), he drafted volumes of newspaper articles, he edited books. During a school break one year, my teacher had given me the homework I would have missed while visiting Pakistan and he sat down with me to make sure I did it - even demanding that I clean up my chicken-scratch handwriting at the time. He loved to tinker, to invent, to improvise (hard to find the light switch in the dark? Get some glow-in-the-dark paint to outline the switch!). A chronic bibliophile, he passed his love of words to me. He came to my wedding and LB's wedding. As he got older, his strength began to fade (upon being hurried out of a car, he exclaimed, "I AM NOT AN ACROBAT!"), but his wit and humor never did. I'm so thankful that the last time I saw him, he was showering ZP with love. He was not just my Nanaji. Just like I am everyone's Baji, whether related or not, he was everyone's Bhai Jaan or, to their children, Uncle Bhai Jaan. He loved and was loved in return. May Allah (swt) bless his soul, show him mercy and love, and reward him for his good deeds. Ameen.
- The Non-Duty Hours Legal Studies Program and the Non-Duty Hours Technical Studies Program. This suspension became effective on Monday, March 16
- Recent TWAH deployments opened up several exterior offices on the 5th and 6th floors.
- OCIO will be performing emergency maintenance to EFS Web starting Friday, March 20, 2009 at 12:01 a.m. until 3:00 a.m., Friday, March 20, 2009. During this time, EFS Web will be unavailable.
But, today? Today, we got this! Yee haw! Sometimes, I quite dig living in this federal city.
Special effects explosion to occur in Washington, D.C. on March 25
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has issued an
advisory that there will be a special effects explosion on Wednesday, March 25,
between 9:30 a.m. and noon on the Potomac River near Key Bridge in Washington,
D.C. The explosion is being filmed as a scene in a new television series
entitled “Washington Field” highlighting the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s
elite District field office.
In the scene, which will be shot just north of Key Bridge near Jack’s Boathouse, one of six nearby sculling boats will be depicted as being destroyed. The fire ball resulting from the explosion is expected to last about two seconds and reach 20 to 30 feet high. Please be advised that the boat will not actually be destroyed, that all explosive materials will be vaporized, and there may be a small plume of smoke. The sound will be a low thud, not a loud bang.
The Department of Homeland Security, the Washington, D.C. police and fire departments, and the Washington Airports Authority have been alerted. Traffic delays due to the filming are expected to be minimal.
Sunday, March 17th, 2002 3:40 p.m.[editor's note: all spelling and grammar appear as written in the letter except the [Baji] part where he used my real name and that freaked me out and annoyed me b/c I HATE it when people over use your name, especially your real name . . .]
Asalaamu Alaykum, Ms. [Baji],
Proceeding from the verses of Allah's Book . . . (Al-Quran), I am writing you and sending you this letter card as a cheerful piece to keep you smiling and beautiful. I liked the picture that I saw of you and your cute little sister so much, I decided to make this card. Smile! I hope that it found you at peace [edited from "piece"] with yourself, healthy and strong, focus and feeling charming and very special, [Baji].
My name is Mustafa Umar [etc.] and I am Muslim, who have been truely interested in corresponding and communicating with you every since I saw your pretty name and face in the (Wash. Post) Apartment section of the news paper . . . But it took me to develope the courage to write to you, [Baji], and to ask your permission to write to you and establish a friendly dialogue with you. And with the hope that you and I can be very good friends. On a peaceful, moral and spiritual level. You look so intelligent and strong minded in your photograph hugging your sister, that your smile made me feel good. I've been lonely all of my life in America and one day, Insha'Allah, I will change that. But I would like for you to know that I would love to meet you some day and I pray that you'll give me an honest chance to get to know you as much as I would like for you to get to know me and for all that this is worth, I pray that you won't have any negative hangups about being friendly toward me.
Sister [Baji] -- I don't know if you are a Muslim or not . . . there are so many people born in med-eastern and arab countries who have arabic names . . . but are christians and Jews . . . who hate Muslims and every since 9-11-01 Muslim started really hating each other. Inspite of the New World Order. Most people put all the Muslims in a poor catagory . . . even the people who have arabic names like your are unjustly discriminated against for your name sake. Which is so insane and childish. But if you have experience any ill favor or disrespect for being who you are which no-one can change. Learn to treat it as a compliment . . . Because, regardless, of what the the people in this world put you through . . . you are as beautiful as your name and thoughts and can't no-one take that away from you. So hold on Allah is Akbar and He is leading on and the victory is Allah.
[Baji] . . . when I look at your photo . . . I see a woman that I would love to talk to and I pray that you are as friendly as you look. But more than anything, as beautiful in heart as you are in form.
So Stay. Beautiful.
P.S. I would love to hear from you I'll sned you a photo. Please write me back.
Thank you [Baji]. Salam!!
[editor's note: a follow up letter from my buddy Omar appearing a month later included questions regarding my ability to cook as well as homework in reading some articles he included]
It's been a while, I know. I've been in hibernation and babysitting Baji's wee ones is no small task. But I have managed to work in a movie here and a book there. So, without further ado, here's the latest installment of Pandi's 'Pinions.
- Slumdog Millionaire: I'll be honest with you. The soundtrack is rockin', the story is compelling and exciting, and Dev Patel is adorable with his gushing but sincere appreciation for his limelight circumstances. Nonetheless, I can't say that it is an Oscar-worthy movie. It was fun. It was entertaining. But was the fairy tale yarn more important or eye-opening or prestigious than the others? Perhaps I'm not being fair since it wasn't until half-way through the feature that I got confirmation (from KG seated to my left) that my cousin (seated to my right) was wrong and the movie was not based on a true story which meant that every other flashback left me shaking my head and muttering, "no way" or "yeah, right" or "gimme a break." Once I was aware that it was fiction, I enjoyed it much more but it was hard to shake the initial resentful response. One scene I did love was the montage of the kids on the train. I think I just have a thing for Bollywood train dancing scenes. Quick shout-outs to Tropic Thunder (hilarious), Wanted (good mindless bullet-curving action) and Across The Universe (love the Beatles covers) and shout-downs to Into the Wild (excellent book but trudgy movie), The Visitor (as TP described it: "I listen to NPR and I like world music so I like this too"), and Leatherheads (I liked it better the first time I saw it when it was called Bull Durham).
- The Wire: I don't have HBO and I barely have time to watch shows in real time but thanks to a combination of Netflix and KG's mom, I managed to watch the full series of The Wire. It took a few months, but it was totally worth it. At turns depressing and gritty and nightmare-inducing (what if ZP turns out to be a corner boy?! interro-I'll-kill-him!) and yet beautiful and hopeful and funny (Omar Little rules). Set in nearby Baltimore, the series was more than just a "cop show" as it delved into themes involving criminal/police hierarchy, the inner workings of the public school system, the good intentions paving the way for the politicians. The butterfly effect is in full force and the show makes you consider the show long after the credits as you think back and realize that [spoiler alert - highlight to read] if Herc had sent Randy to Bunk like he was supposed to, then Randy wouldn't have been labled a snitch and have lost his foster mother to a vengeful fire AND the investigation on Marlo would have been wrapped up earlier not forcing McNulty to take such drastic measures which in turn affected the race for Governor etc. Now that's edutainment.
- Music? Thanks to fellow bloggers, TP, NPR and others, here are a few new (to me) tunes that get the Pandi Thumb's Up: The Heavy's Colleen, Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex & Guests Aha Begana, Black Kids' I'm Not Going to Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You.
- True to the New Year's Resolution, I have forbidden Baji from purchasing any new books and am going through the ones on the to-read shelf. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris had some classic hilarity and, like the misleading cousin mentioned above, I can't help reading his material without his measured voice in my head which is great because he's a good narrator -- even in there. Unaccustomed Earth: Stories (Vintage Contemporaries) by Jhumpa Lahiri is about half way complete but I feel safe in recommending this to anyone who wants to read about the ABCDs growing pangs. I've finished nearly three whole pages of The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell but her wit and clever ability to make you learn about history through pop culture references will guarantee the completion and enjoyment of this book.
That's it for this installment! Stay tuned for the next time (which, now that the government has cut our bonuses and thus work is decreasing and free time is increasing, may not be too long from now).
Dear Sir or Madam:
Please review your attorney's denial of this trademark and then return my application fee to me promptly. The reasons she gave were absolutely invalid.
By the sheer number of attorneys that contacted me wanting to represent me in this matter, it is obvious that you gave out my information without my authorization. Is this just another government scam to forward the American Bar Association's lobby? How disgusting. I will turn this matter over to my congress woman, Hilary [sic] Clinton to expose your corrupt practices if my money is not returned. Shame on you for robbing the small business owners of this country. Organizations like yours are why the American public deeply mistrusts our government!!!
When I realized what you were doing. I immediately withdrew the application, so please give back my much needed money. You have spent no time or effort on my behalf, so this should not be a problem, if you're honest.
Claire: I love you, Mom.
Sandra: I love you . . . just the way you are.
Claire: I just wish I could be normal. Then maybe things would have been different between you and Dad.
Sandra: Honey, things between your father and I were troublesome long before you came along.
Come on, writers. "Between your father and I?" Really? Happy National Grammar Day!