Saturday, December 30, 2006

Top Ten of 2006

As per Rrthur's request, herewith in no particular order the albums I listened to the most in 2006. Best? Maybe not, but here's what stuck in my craw. Anyone else out there care to pass on their favorites? (yeah, I'm looking at YOU Xmastime/Tim/Roger/Pat!)

1. Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
2. Roseanne Cash - Black Cadillac
3. Archie Bronson Outfit - Derdang Derdang
4. Priestess - Hello Master
5. Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
6. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat
7. Cat Power - The Greatest
8. Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
9. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
10. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Cold Roses (2005)
Late adds:
11. Twilight Singers - Powder Burns
12. Beth Orton - Comfort of Strangers

Monday, December 25, 2006

I Went Back to Ohio

I'm at my mom's house (i.e. the only family house I ever remember living in) in Dayton, OH for TWELVE DAYS helping her pack and clean out the place before she moves to her brand-new, smaller home about a mile away. It's a good thing for everyone, but there's so much wrapped up in this house that is completely intertwined with who our family is that I'm a tiny bit wistful. I haven't lived here in 20 years, but details and stories are flooding back that I forgot about, with most of them really making me smile.

Everything moves along pretty well, even in lieu of my mother's serious OCD issues and the fact that she's lived here for 37 years. Then I stumble across some ephemera that has been stored in a box here for god knows how long, and it stops me cold for an hour while I fall into the memory pit.

I found my Dad's Army discharge papers; his resume from 1959; the real estate listing for this house ($44,500 in 1970); a worksheet from 3rd grade where I asked Jesus to help me "not be so bossy" (still waiting an answer on that prayer, apparently); horseback riding ribbons; my recruitment letters for college volleyball teams; pictures of Iggy Pop from 1987 at Hara Arena; a flyer looking to recruit a girl singer for my band; and almost best of all, the ticket stub from the day Pete Rose hit recordbreaking hit #4,192 at Riverfront: September 11, 1985, and my parents and I were sitting right behind the dugout...

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Because I am a book dork, I am completely fascinated by the New York Public Library, most especially the Main Library on 5th/42nd. I love the fact that the stacks of books at the main library run all beneath Bryant Park. I love the pneumatic tube system that whisks away the paper with your book request, issues you a number, which you then exchange when your books show up about 10 minutes later on the other side of the desks. I love the main reading room, where I sometimes have gone to do some half-baked research, just so I can sit in that cavernous, hallowed room with the wood tables and green-shaded lamps. I love the two lions, Patience and Fortitude that sit guard on 5th Avenue. The historical exhibits they have upstairs are always book and paper based, and incredibly interesting. And I don't really like Ghostbusters, but I even like the fact that some it was filmed there.

A tour is available of the stacks one time a year with a $40 contribution as a "Friend of the Library". See some pix of the miles of stacks beneath the park here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dubious Facial Scanning for Fun

You can take a full face shot of yourself, and compare it to famous folks via this site to see who you look like.

I do not, by the way, look like Katie Couric. Or that chick from the crap Terrence Malick Pocahontas movie that came out last year.

Two Things I Want to Avoid in the Future

1) Being in the room when anything I love dies, be it family/friend/animal.

2) Telling a dear friend that someone they love has died (see: Heather's Dad on Tuesday morning; Craig Falbe in 1998).

Urgh. It's always so hard losing someone important, even beyond the ways it breaks you down like you never imagined. Everything becomes Before vs. After. Alas, the only way to make death easier is to go right directly through all the shit just to get the other side where you might smile again.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Eatin' Out - Kasadela

647 E. 11th Street@Ave C
I met the Espresso Curmudgeon and his lovely finance, Miss P, here last week after numerous failed attempts this fall to get together and have some sake.

Kasadela is what's known in Japan as an izakaya, sort of a casual Japanese gastropub where a lot of small snacks are offered along with larger, inexpensive main courses to customers sampling sakes. Kasadela serves up sakes in the traditional cold style, offering four different portion sizes, whole bottles, or on draft.

We sampled a variety of excellent snacks, including shishito (flash fried sweet pepper), tebasaki (amazing Japanese chicken wings), beef tataki w/green apple and watercress, and kushiage (grilled chicken skewers).

While I was waiting for Mike and P., the servers at the bar were friendly and personable. After we were seated, the service became somewhat overly solicitious, constantly interrupting to take our order before we were even ready, and a conspicuous pushing of the most expensive 'winter special' sakes on the draft menu. That said, it was a lovely way to spend the first truly cold evening of winter, with reasonable prices being the final plus. I will definitely return.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

For Jen!

...because I told her I'd take pictures after I called her on my super shopping high. And, well, for me to brag about some fabulous new shoes! I scored today at the Sigerson Morrison warehouse sale, scooting out of there after waiting an hour in line with 4 pairs of shoes only costing me $280 when they normally would have gone for about $1500. We all know I am not a shopper by nature, but boy, do I love a deal AND a designer that makes cute shoes for girls with ginormous feet!

Photos below. Note Baxter's help.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Roundup

It's been a busy couple of weeks, with Thanksgiving the pinnacle of fun, and my body finally flaming out in a bout of the flu for most of last week. Thanksgiving found myself and about 24 others including Heater, Haas, Millicent, Liza, Kaplan, Kristin, Ruben, and a cast of Franklin Street characters eating 3 deep fried turkeys and drinking ourselves goofy on corn liquor at The-closed-for-the-night Queen's Hideaway. Truly a Thanksgiving for the record books, adding another chapter to holidays past including the year Roger left before dinner; the year Jen only ate mashed potatoes and wine for dinner and had to go to bed at 8; the year APB danced to the Pixies in my bedroom in her lovely slate blue teddy; the year Eric M brought a stranger he had met at the bus stop only hours earlier for dinner; and the year the DJ who played too much reggae at UPB the night before showed up with Scott in the form of the lovely Tony Miamone and carved the turkey like a pro...Ah, how I love Thankgiving! Easily my favorite holiday and the one I most prefer to spend with friends.

I saw a ton of music in November, including Dylan and the Raconteurs at Nassau Coliseum. It was awfully weird to be in such a large venue with restrictions and sets straight out of "Almost Famous", only this show was complete with NOBODY backstage visiting the Raconteur boys but Kaplan and myself. Dylan's voice is wonderfully raspy in his later years, but his songs were rearranged into midtempo waltzes that were so boring as to be almost unidentifiable (until the choruses came in), so much that we cut out a mere 45 minutes into it to instead try to have dinner at Luger's. Dylan or steak?? Almost a tough choice.

The Twilight Singers at Warsaw were another big highlight of the past few weeks. I hadn't seen Dulli onstage in about 5 years or so, and truly wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. It was brilliant, and the wall of noise from the band made me nostalgic for those amazing Afghan Whigs Ohio shows of 15 years ago, when music made by my friends changed life on a daily basis, and the Whigs created some of the soundtrack to those times. I realized listening to such a familiar voice and sound how intrinsically their music was a part of what formed me. The vocals added by Mark Lanegan were haunting, and the version of Live With Me/In the Pines between him and Dulli keeps playing in my head. It was great to also briefly see the omnipresent Scotty H. for the first time in 6 years (last seen at the the Cooperstown Hall of Fame induction for Tony Perez), managing just one more tour...

The Hold Steady record "Boys and Girls in America" is playing non-stop in my head and IPod since Will gave it to me 10 days ago claiming it as the "Best Record of the Year." I can't disagree -- it's a joyous burst of classic rock hooks, sing-along choruses and memorable images in the vein of Bruce's "Born to Run" or the Replacements' "Tim". I had a bad attitude about this Williamsburg-based band, thinking they were simply another group of overly ironic indie rockers, but was wrong wrong WRONG! We'll see if it holds up for months of listening but for now, almost every song on the album has become a favorite for at least a day or two.

To crib an lyric from them, I'd like to think I am ALWAYS golden with barlight and beer.

The Jenny Lewis solo record is really good, too.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Harvest Time on Calyer!

I found this tacked to the front door when I went out on Friday. I love when my sweet yet generally-lazy about-the-building landlords muster up one ounce of holiday celebration beyond the drinking parts! The busted and chipped plug-in Christmas candles complete with a peeling Santa pal are the best, but will not appear until 6pm on Xmas Eve.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Turkey Flees for Life a Week Before Holiday

A wild turkey was captured today running across the Triborough Bridge.

I don't know why, but that makes me laugh and laugh.

Romance, Nerve-style

I've been on and off Nerve for the past few years. Online dating works in my brain, but in practice, it's really mostly a drag. I try to remain positive but chemistry is not something you can determine over a computer. You show up, and 8 times out of 10, you aren't into the person, at least not that way. I continue onward in hopes that the law of averages will eventually play in my favor. And at the very least, you often meet nice people.

I dated this guy a couple years back. We had a lot in common, he was smart, a film critic and professor at the New School, a little too old for me at the age of 48, often very arrogant, and not really cute, but I gave it a shot for a few months in an effort to try something different and break out of my regular dating patterns. Something didn't quite connect between us, like he had some big secret (I guessed herpes!) but I thought it might pass with time and familiarity.

After fairly regular contact while both of us were out of town over the winter holidays and maybe 6 or 7 dates, he disappeared about 3 months into it. No email, no call, no explanation, zip. Okay, this happens. (BTW, It's classic guy behavior like this that makes women crazy when an bullshit explanation like "I just can't do this" would suffice, but I digress.) Anyway, it made me feel crappy. I was a bit bummed, but since I was still involved with Colum the whole time I dated this guy, I wrote it off and moved on.

Fast forward to six months ago. I've been back on Nerve, sort of hanging out and seeing what happens. I notice him checking out my profile regularly through the "Who's viewing me" option and adding me to his "Hot List." (both features that can drive you nuts, btw) Then he spams me about his long-promised book -- yet another biography of Gram Parsons (because there apparently needs to be a fifth 'definitive' one...) I tell him to not spam me and please take me off his Hot List. He does.

This fall, I notice he's still checking me out. It starts to annoy me more and more, as I'm thinking "Hey, you blew me off. You were not nice, and I want nothing to do with you because of it. No backsies." Finally, this week, after noticing him doing weekly viewings, I shoot him an email that says something along the lines of the above, telling him it's creepy and weird, and it was his choice to disappear without any explanation so why is he still interested? The correspondence from yesterday over a 12-hour period triggered by my first three sentence email appears below.

Truly bizarre and icky. And a lesson in why online dating is not for the faint-hearted.

It's not weird nor creepy. Well, from my end there's no wierd nor creepy intent. And nothing voyueristic either, since that implies passivity.

I apologize if my checking you out has made you uncomfortable or annoyed. It'd be nice if you would be flattered; there is, from my end, a flattering explanation if you're at all open to talking to me after my vanishing two years ago. If you ain't, I understand. I know I behaved like an asshole. I am sorry.

I've been looking at your profile because you're been very much on my mind and I've been summoning the will/nerve to write you. I was going to write you to your old email address rather than here. It seemed more real. But today's a precipitating day, it seems.

A couple months after I last saw you, I started a relationship with someone. (NO, I was NOT seeing someone when we met) That ended a few months ago. And since then, I've thought of you...I've been to a few shows wherein I could just see you being there. One of my best friends married the guitar player from Soul Asylum, and at the various SA & Golden Smog shows I've been to here I looked around for you, wondering.....this past week, too, I re-tooled my fucked up iTunes and Push-Pull (a mix CD I made for him) reappeared after an absence of some time. That was probably when I went right to your profile...

I was shocked when I came back on the site and you were still here, still looking.

I'd like to talk. I'd like to see you. Here's a photo from the Third Man Ferris Wheel in Vienna. If you would rather not, tell me and I'll piss off. I still have numbers for you, but don't know if they're working. Mine is: xxxxxxx. I've moved; I lived on the west side of xxxx now and my Gram Parsons book is actually done. It's quite good.
I trust you're fine, that all is well...I'm not that much an apologer by nature, but I am sorry if I've been intrusive...
There it is

I respond:

Not only did you behave like an asshole, you WERE an asshole.

It's not surprising that in this whole email, there's no explanation STILL, 2 years later, for your disappearing act. And that's all it would have taken back then: a few sentences, a little bit of communication to let me know what was going on. Even a "I can't do this right now" or a "I've met someone else" -- whatever it was. I'm a big girl, but you never had the balls to step up and be honest with me. It didn't have to be that way, but you decided it was.

Instead, there was nothing but a big, fat silence. Is your ego really such that you'd think I'd want anything to do with you again, or could trust you again after that kind of nonsense? Plus, a total disregard for my feelings? You really have got to be kidding. And to act like you are doing me some great service by apologizing now -- well, now I'm the one shocked.

My numbers and email have never changed, so had you wanted to contact me at any point, it would have been very easy. Instead, this late, great apology comes because I finally contacted you first. I just want you to quit making me feel stalked by someone who made it so crystal clear that they wanted nothing to do with me anymore.

And since you semi-asked, I am good. I've had success with work in the past year or so, getting to travel a lot and working on publications I'm really proud of. I'm sure the long-awaited Gram book is fine, but as you might guess, I won't be giving it much lip service.

As you said, there it is. Hell hath no fury and all that shit.

And then he goes a bit crazy and gets kind of scary. Whoa, dude. No need to freak. I just don't like you:

I thought I made it plain when I wrote you earlier, that I was waiting to speak to you, or communicate directly with you about how I behaved. I did apologize; it's right there in my email from earlier today. It seems to me MORE chickenshit to disappear as I did, then WRITE an apology/explanation than to communicate with you, tell you to your face/voice that I am and was sorry. And to try and explain my behavior. In this email from you, you rank on me because I didn't say more NOW? This confuses me...I would like to talk to you, and tell you I'm sorry, and try to describe my own behavior (though it eludes me, too, at times. ) Then you can tell me to fuck off in person or over the phone and that'll be that.

It had nothing to do with you being a good girl. Simply me being uncertain and a coward. I just faded away -- I wasn't sure what my feelings were or how to proceed, so I reverted to adolescence. No excuse.

An FUCK THAT STALKING BULLSHIT...yes, I looked at your profile a couple of times. And so did 10,000 other men in NYC. You could have blocked me from seeing it any time you wanted. So, let's keep language - our specialites -- in the realm of the real. Have I ever called you? Ever emailed you? Ever kept my attentions on you in some aggressive way? Never - a profile's public space and yours to close off. So, be as pissed as you may be, but could we please keep the name-calling to a minimum?

AND NOBODY SAID I WAS DOING YOU A SERVICE BY APOLOGIZING...please to read my email again. I was attempting to clear the air. That you have always behaved perfectly in every relationship situation is now clear to me - I didn't understand that before.

And hell yes, I thought you might want to see me once more. 'Trust you after that sort of nonsense'? What sort? Letting things fade? Did I ever press you for anything you didn't want to do? Was I not the soul of rectitude? You got a pretty servere fucking ego yourself, Susan, or else you're quite pissed at someone else and taking my apology as a chance to unload that anger. And this much anger is just plain disproportionate.

Yes, I came back after 2 years and here you still are, on the web. Could that lead me to think that you had yet to find someone to connect to? And to think back on the commonalities we had and to see if we might try again? Yes. And nothing untoward about that, either.

But you would rather not connect. You'd rather hang onto anger. Hang onto it, then. Wallow in the moral high ground to your heart's content. And in two more years, you'll be right here.

I offered you my apology. I offered you a chance to explain. I offered you a moment of re-connection. You threw a tantrum, and judging by the content, it ain't got shit to do with me.

Now THAT is weird and creepy.
And it's too bad, too.
There THAT is.

Then this, 30 minutes later. This is where I become convinced he's bi-polar or at the very least, psychotic:

Susan, I'm sorry you're so pissed at me. My crimes seem a bit less to me than your explosion, but so be it. I actually thought of inviting you to the Soul Asylum/Cheap Trick show on Thursday. Fuck it - I still will. I'm plus 1, you can come as my guest and never speak to me again for the evening if you like..or yell at me all night if you prefer... And you know what, you WILL give my book lip service when it comes out because it's fucking good. D

And my last email to him, in reference to the pre-invite email:

This email is really mean and kind of scary.

I’m not that angry, and you haven’t even come close to seeing me in “explosion.” I just don’t think you treated me very well. You blew me off. And that’s your choice: no problem. But I didn’t like it, it hurt my feelings and because of that behavior, I don’t have any interest in you except to clear the air once and for all, since I never got that chance before. Why does that make you so angry with me? Why does that call for such comments like “Yes, I came back after 2 years and here you still are, on the web.”?

That’s super nice, and really makes me want to see you. Do you even know there was someone else the whole time I knew you, who I became more serious with after you? And I’m still here. Funny what you assume about me just to be mean-spirited.

Most simply put, I wish you had talked to me two years ago when it might have made a difference and I wasn’t just Plan B.

And his vitrol ups in his final missive. Notice, he makes fun of the mix CD i made him as a parting shot, which cracks me up:

No, it's OK music, with one or two really good songs and several dull seques
...hey - you got what you wanted: an apology. And you got to be shitty after it.
If you want to communicate, pick up the phone.
I'm done emailing with you.
I reached out, I apologized, I got a huge load of disproportionate anger
And then I get accused of being mean & scary
So, one way or another, you neither have to address your own tone or leave the moral high ground.
Whoa- good for you.
And this after I said no more rancor.
Go away or pick up the phone.
All else gets deleted unread.

The End. And thank god I never did really get involved with him. What a total freak and chump.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Today in Brooklyn

Got up reasonably early after a busy week including a special guest one night only appearance from the ShellieandTommys, and went to the farmer's market in McCarren Park. (Wow, there's lots of children in my neighborhood now.) Scored a whole chicken, tons of pears and apples, fennel, radishes, fingerling potatoes, greens galore and am currently whipping up a big pot of collards on the stove complete with ham hock.

It's sure pretty here here today. A couple of images from down on Clifford Place below...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Putting Eggs in 2nd Basket Good for You

An interesting opinion from Stephanie Koontz in The Times touting the power and intimacy of other connections and relationships in a person's life beyond marriage. Maybe this just makes me feel better about living solo, but it also gives credence to a truism I have found throughout my life: the connections to my friends and self-created family are easily as relevant, important and powerful as the blood family ties.

At the very least it helps to explain to my brain why I sometimes feel absolute bewilderment regarding the super-coupled.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

God Bless the Red, White and Blue

I am feeling mighty chipper this week after the results of the midterm elections came rolling in. It's nice to have faith in your country and its citizens again after feeling like somewhat of stranger in a strange land at times over the past six years. As in: How in the HELL can people be so stupid as to keep voting for this guy and his party of idiots and crooks???

The Guardian thanks us for managing to get it together.

You are welcome.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloweeeeeeeen

Worst Halloween costumes of all time can be found here.

A small sampling below -- Chuck Barris or the Leather guy from the Village People? Tough choice.

I will be at my own version of a scary Halloween tonight by attending a party in honor of Courtney Love (V44 cover girl). EEEK!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

RIP Johnny Apple

My favorite New York Times food writer, R.W. Apple, Jr. passed away a few weeks back, and it is simply a damn shame. His stories combined food and travel in the best fashion, in a way that made you long for the place he was talking about. I carried articles of his with me when I went to Hong Kong and Saigon, simply because reading those stories while on the subway made me dream about the places he described.

Calvin Trillin paid magnificent tribute to him in the The New Yorker as well.

The Rules of Buybacks

I had no idea there were so many rules for getting buybacks in NYC bars. I've become spoiled and used to every third or fourth drink being on the house, so much that I start to get a little huffy when I go to other cities, and I'm still paying full price on my 5th drink. I mean, not that I'd have 5 drinks in one sitting, EVER...

Friends visiting NYC always seem surprised at the regularity of the buyback, but I almost think of it as a godgiven right to deal with the stresses of the city, especially at places where I am/have been a semi-regular. I forget that it's one of those nice unwritten rules of The City you don't become aware of until you live here.

It's simple: you tip a buck or two a drink, smile, be friendly and patient to your bartender, empathize when they have to deal with a jerk customer or when their team is losing, tip at least double on the freebies, and the drinks will start to flow like honey.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Mighty Beltran Has Struck Out...

In case you didn't catch it last night, the Mets were knocked out of the post-season by a Cardinals team who almost gave the NL Central division away by dropping something like 9 of their last 12 games. The Mets offense basically stopped producing in the last three games of the NLCS (1 for 8 with runners in scoring position including two chances last night with the based loaded), and a bunch of pieced-together pitchers were carrying the team. If only there hadn't been injurires to Pedro; El Duque; Cliff Floyd; etc gotta figure the Metsies would be in the Series instead of a team that went 83-78 in the regular season.

Gotta say though: last night's game was truly one for the ages. Heart-wrenching, dramatic, agonizing for both teams. It was just good, honest baseball at its post-season finest. It had it all: The deciding game of the series going into the 9th with the score tied 1-1?? Endy Chavez making a catch for the permanent highlight reels?? A often-mediocre young pitcher (although I've always loved Oliver Perez since I had him on my fantasy team a few years back...nyert!) only giving up 1 run over 6 innings simply BECAUSE it was do or die time?? The eventual game winning two-run homer in the top of the 9th by a light-hitting catcher (as I was once described)? And finally, the Mets best hitter up to bat with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth at their home stadium?

Last night's game had all that and more. A pretty funny perspective via ESPN's site can be found here.

I wish Willie Randolph had put himself in to pinch hit.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Eatin' Out - PT

331 Bedford btw S.2nd/S.3rd

Monday night a couple weeks back found me with my own version of Sex and the City (Gina, Kate and Helen) chowing down at PT in Williamsburg.

With the arrival of Will and Gina's new family addition in William Arthur Croxton IV on September 12th (that's him i.e. one of the cutest babies in the history of babydom above in the festive fall photo), Monday has been set up as Gina's night off from mommydom, with the handover of WAC4 to Dad and his crew of Monday Night Football-watching boys and dads.

Actually, "chowing down" is somewhat of a misnomer, since we all left still feeling hungry and like we wanted to fill up on a pizza immediately after dinner. Run by the same folks who own the much beloved D.O.C. (or at least, much beloved by all my wine-swilling, cheese-eating girlfriends), PT is as rustic and cute inside as D.O.C. The menu is rustic Italian (maybe Sardinian like D.O.C.?) and is more fleshed out than their first restaurant, with full-on entrees and appetizers. The wait staff was fun, and the food tasty, but the portions small and the menu fairly limited. For what we were paying, we all should have rolled out of there stuffed. Instead, PT was a purveyor of the "high price/small portion" cuisine that I really hate. It's too bad, because I really wanted to like it.

It's quite typically 'romantico' inside but you'd have to order about 10 dishes to fill up. I'd say it was a good date place, if I dated anyone who could actually afford to spring for dinner. And if I wanted to eat like a horse in front of a date.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Reasons to never talk to your crushes

I have to go to Montreal 8 times a year for press checks on 8 issues of 2 different magazines. This means I wait for the sheets of the magazine to come off the press and then adjust the color. i.e. Is the Vuitton ad bright enough? Does it need more magenta or yellow? Is Hedi Slimane's 4c black & white image rich enough?? What is more important when balancing color gains between a Chanel ad and an editorial shot from Mario Testino???

These are the VERY important decisions one must make in the role of Production Director.

I enjoy it, oddly enough, except sometimes for the round-the-clock shifts I work for 2 or 3 days in order to be there for each section of the mag. Since it's pretty much me and a bunch of men in any printing plant, I am forced to entertain myself between naps and movies and meals by deciding who the hottest boy is in any factory. This is a rough life considering I tend to like my gentlemen friends a bit rough around the edges anyway...

There's been one fella up in Boucherville/Montreal who I have gotten along great with. He has a very visible tribal-ish tattoo that runs down one side of his neck and arm. I know, I know -- I, too, am sorry about that early 90s version of the bell-bottom he's sporting, but pickins are pretty slim at these plants. Yet I'm a sucker for tattoos, he's tall enough, I like foreigners, and he's got really, really blue eyes so get offa me.

He speaks perfect English (which is pretty odd for any part of Quebec not right in Montreal), and we've talked more each time I am on press during his shifts. Long story short: we developed an obvious mutual crush on each other, where I find myself putting on a cute outfit and lip gloss to go to the damn press at 5 am, and he blushes furiously about half the time I talk to him. It's been so goofy that the occasional co-workers who come with me have commented on it unprompted.

When last up there, my rental car got a flat one evening and the weather was gorgeous, so I spent about 2 hours sitting outside talking to this guy while waiting for the repair man. While he chain-smoked, we finally, 10 months later, got down and dirty on the personal questioning. What I found out:

1) Has a girfriend of 12 years (much as i figured all along)
2) He's 32, she's 29. i.e. 20 and 17 when they met
3) He has never been to Toronto. (which is 5 hrs away from Montreal, where he has lived his entire life)
4) Wants to travel to Transylvania (WTF?). Uhhh, what? Romania? Are you on
5) Has been to the US once, for a week in San Diego. Claimes he wants to move there. Girlfriend "won't let me". Does not know where Ohio is.
6) Has worked at this plant since he was 17.
7) Drives a white truck; is still smokin' hot, funny and really really nice, albiet a little naive for this city girl.

Status: The pretend life I made up my head and thrust upon him was MUCH more interesting. And the crush began to wane rather rapidly...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More Images from Asia

Been meaning to put these up for a while but time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping... Captions are a bitch to format on Blogger so here's the rundown.

First series: Ubiquitous market images, these from a great market in Can Tho, including a tray of frogs trying to jump for their lives so someone doesn't fry them up and eat their little chicken legs, and a lady whose friends dragged me over to photograph her so that she would be totally annoyed by me taking her picture.

Next are a series from the Mekong River Delta boat tour. We've got a typical Vietnamese house along the river shot from the back, a lady doing her laundry as us rich white folk cruise by on a tour that cost more than she makes in a month, and a shot to show the houses on the riverfront with a million TV antennas. No running water in some places in Vietnam, but always a TV. God bless the Western world.

Floating market on the Mekong. Tons of boats are moored in one area and tied together so you can motor up and either climb aboard or get handed over the water what you need. A little hard to see on this shot, but on the vertical bamboo poles, the sellers string up bananas, dragonfruits, longans, clothing, electrical equipment, whatever it is they are selling.

Here we have myself and my 3-day travelling companions, the lovely Mirelle and her husband Stefano of Milan, Italy, in our boat. Mirelle is originally from the Baltimore area, and they were a real blessing to hook up with for this portion of the trip. Plus, a picture of a giant fish we shared at lunch that came from the area.

Lastly, a photo of the hut (and the view from the front of the hut to the ocean) that I hid out for three nights in an attempt to relax and become sane again in. $28 a night at Mai House Resort on Phu Quoc Island including hot water, a ginormous spider in my shower and amazing made-to-order breakfast. Phu Quoc is 2 hours off the southwest coast between Vietnam and Cambodia. Very mellow place, with nothing at all to do. I didn't leave this 100 yard area for the entire time I was here except to walk up the beach when I couldn't stand reading and getting massages from the local Vietnamese ladies anymore. Many beers were quaffed while gazing at the ocean from the porch of the Rainbow Bar with an Australian couple who were travelling with their 2 teenage daughters for 3 months across SE Asia. Phu Quoc is waiting to blow up and be discovered by the tourist masses. There was really no one there, although late August is the off-season....

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Home Sweet Home

I've been back in Brooklyn for a week now, and am happy to be home. I think I love my neighborhood the most in September and October, when the temperature starts to cool off and the late afternoon sunlight is all pinky-gold. I spent a great afternoon at Belmont today, sitting by the paddock, hitting exactas on 3 races, chatting to old railbirds, and soaking up a warm fall afternoon at one of my favorite places in the world. Everyone laughs when I say it, but Calyer Street smells good. I sat out on my stoop the night I returned, right after a late afternoon rainstorm had cleaned the streets and taken the humidity out of the air, just breathing it in. It smelled like home.

More interestingly, my mom is selling my childhood home. This is the only home I can remember living in with my family (We moved here when I was 2). When I go home, I still sleep in my old bedroom with its V.C. Andrews books, high school yearbooks, memories of tortured high school dorkdom, and Duran Duran scrapbooks.

So many things to remember: My brother knocked my tooth out when I came running up the small set of stairs right into his knee. Jeannine K got a bloody nose when playing Red Rover at my 6th birthday party in the backyard. My dad had a surprise 40th birthday party when I was 4. Mike Schommer caught our bush on fire around July 4th one year, and almost burned down the goddam house.

Anyway, it's not a cool old house, or anything more than a suburban tract home in Dayton, Ohio but it sure is home.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sensory Overload

Acted the tourist in Hong Kong on Thursday, going out to the beach town of Stanley after walking all over HK Island, loving nearly every minute of the energy and place.

Got drunk with very my first boss in this printing racket in Lan Kwai Fong, and was offered a job back with his company if I ever want to be live in Hong Kong. Hmmm. Noted.

Toured a bunch of sobering factories in Dongguang, China on Friday, seeing people who live and work only on the factory grounds, and are glad to have the opportunity. Starting getting humbled.

Left my one of new favorite cities, and came to Vietnam on Saturday morning.

Got harrassed by innummerable people in Saigon wanting anything from me related to money. Non-stop.

Felt really rich by how far a dollar goes here while throwing cash around in front of people who make $100 a month (dinner $2; cabs $6 from airport; pedicure $3), and was even more humbled.

Went to the War Remnants (cough atrocieties) Museum and was really humbled and saddened by how little things change with US policies and "enemy" countries.

Ate lots of weird food and made myself sick for the second time on this trip. Laid around and read "The World of Suzie Wong," sort of the "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" on 1950s Hong Kong.

Met some cool people, including yet another Ohioan, this one originally from Cincinnati...of course.

There's so much information and unfamiliar language rattling around in my brain combined with the CHAOS of Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, I can't seem to sit down long enough to write much of anything.

Tomorrow morning, I leave to go on a tour-guided boat trip through the Mekong River Delta to see floating markets, and stay a night each in the towns of Can Tho and Rach Gia before continuing on to a promised respite on Phu Quoc Island (off southwest coast) through Saturday. I can't imagine there's much internet on the river but you never know. I probably will be able to use my BlackBerry.

Incense cones at Man Mo Temple in Tai Ping Shan, HK

These greens at Ben Thanh market in Saigon made me drool

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New Day, New Country and a Memorial Note.

I've been in Hong Kong 12 hours, and I already am a hundred times more comfortable than in Japan. God bless the British for colonizing remote Asian areas so everything is more familiar. I never would have guessed it would be so apparent right off. Hong Kong is maybe more New York-like?? I dunno, but I feel way more at home here. Tokyo was off-putting and formal in a lot of ways - a very tough nut to crack. I like all the water here, the ferries and the islands. (I am always drawn to islands for some reason, but please, let's not read psychological mumbo-jumbo into that for today.) Hong Kong is almost pretty, in a slick, modern way combined right next to the old Chinese ways. Very cool. I think I will sleep well for the first time in awhile.

Someone asked me today on the Peak Tram what country I was from and I said BROOKLYN, without even thinking. Cracked myself right up, although this Indian guy full of the questions didn't really get it.

Also reminiscing about my Pops, who passed away 3 years ago today. Same day as Elvis (and Babe Ruth). I'm thinking about him a lot as I trot through this foreign land, and about how different this day is from the one a few years back. So raise a glass to him if you can, coz he was a good one and a King in his own right.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I am DONE DONE DONE printing, and would be doing high kicks, except that I need to pack and haul my ass up at 5:30 am tomorrow to go to Hong Kong. Best part of finishing was when the 9 pressman who rotated around on my job came in after the last sheet was signed to give me a huge group bow and hearty "DOMO ARIGATO!" It was the cutest. I do love the proud hardworking pressmen every where I go, even after I make their lives annoying for 16 days. Sure couldn't do it without 'em.

I had a meeting yesterday with the sponsors of the issue, Isetan (sort of like Japanese Bloomingdale's). This issue commemorates their 120th (hence: 13 decades) anniversary and as part of the contract, they aren't allowed to see artwork, sheets, nothing. I hid the JAP scenario pages. Fumi insisted one guy who couldn't speak English would come by and wave. Turns out 3 guys from Isetan come, all in suits including the big boss man who's pretty hot and charming. As i hold court and say stupid stuff that makes them laugh (a no-no in Japanese business), five Toppan sales guys flank me in their suits like my own personal secret service, milling around nervously, hoping I don't blow their account. Isetan is a HUGE account for them, so it was entertaining to know that their fate partially rested in my hands. But I didn't have any real complaints that weren't day-to-day for us and resolved, so I laid the compliments on thick for everyone. I also managed to get Fumi back for not being there for the meeting by insisting that the GM of Promotion MUST come to NYC in the fall with him - it would be SUCH a great trip, and we'd love to him there! ha ha. Yeah, don't skip my meeting to go on vacation...

Poor Japan. I have never been so happy to see the backside of a country. We'll meet again at a better time for both of us! Kiss Kiss!!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Day Off

On Saturday, my much-needed and demanded day off, I did a few fun things. I rode on the Arakawa line, the last streetcar route in Tokyo, running 12 miles through a bunch of Northern neighborhoods you'd never see otherwise. Kind of the Queens of Tokyo, the tram travels through the areas where regular folks live day-to-day. After I getting hopelessly lost trying to find the subway stop that was 600 feet away (happens at least twice a day -- there are no street names, only numbers indicating which one of 25-odd sections you are in in one of the 23 wards of Tokyo, and what number building it is in that section i.e. 8-2-9's impossible for everyone, so maps are everywhere), I went to Asakusa.

Asakusa is supposed to be the section of Tokyo most like the ye olde Edo era (1603-1867 AD), when people lived on top of each other on twisty streets jammed full of wooden housing and temples. Nowadays, these streets are full of covered walkways, lined with trinket shops hawking every kind of plastic crap-o-la and street food you can imagine. These stores surround the biggest Buddhist temple of them all, Senso-ji. The temple was founded on this site in 628, and the street that leads up to its entrance has been a place for vendors to sell their wares/food/whatever to people coming to pay respects for over 1,000 years, but it reminded me of Canal Street in NYC. So I went and had McDonald's for lunch in order to make me feel really at home (tastes the same, btw). The restaurant supply stores are in this area, too -- I can't imagine trying to takes knives on planes is a good idea with worldwide chaos at airports, so no dice on the cleaver. Dropped into the 'galleries' that only sell huge arrays of the plastic foods you see out in front of restaurants, showing what deliciousness lies inside. A nice quality fake bento box of sushi or tempura will set you back about $70. Who knew?

Next, over near the Tokyo Dome to check out the LaQua Spa, a schmancy modern onsen that, as they all do, makes use of the traditional hot springs that run underground throughout Japan. Basically, here's what went down: I muddled my through the check in/rules/locker room via no Japanese and pigeon English, and then got naked with like 300 Japanese women. It was a bit odd but excellent, especially when I closed my eyes and thought of Greenpoint. Before soaking in the variety of pools (5 at various temperatures + 2 outside in an enclosed area away from the mens) or using the 3 kinds of saunas, you scrub yourself completely clean sitting in these individual shower stalls of all soap, perfumes, anything that would contaminate the group water. You are good to go and can get in the tubs/sauna but you NEVER dunk your head under. The place is huge, really clean and not skeevy like the weird on-the-on-the-sly lesbian onsen I went to in SF many years ago, and it got better after everyone cleared out around dinner time. I was the only gaijin there, and the only person with tattoos and a tan. Again, I don't understand any Japanese (nor will I ever, I doubt), but you sure as hell KNOW when people are talking about you!! Ah well, so it goes. I did get to check out a lot of Japanese women's bodies in the flesh while trying not to be pervy, and it was pretty darn interesting to see all types. We'll call it a sociological immersion. You can spend hours here for about 2800 yen ($25). In the co-ed section, there's restaurants, relaxation lounges with super-recliney seats with your own private TV, spa treatments, the whole works. I'm told that when people miss their train, they'll go here to sleep and chill until the trains start running again at 6:30 am. The place is open 22 hours a day (closed between 9-11 am).

Later on, I read the English brochure, and saw that "people with tattoos will not be admitted." I'm guessing that rule is to keep the yakuza (japanese gangsters) out. It was a great way to spend a day, relax and get a taste of some Japanese-style fun.

That evening, I went to Bobby's Bar in Ikebukuro, hosted by the ubiquitous Bobby himself, a friendly Persian guy with more kinds of whisky in one place than I've seen in sometime. Hello, Maker's Mark. The small bar on the 3rd floor was quiet due to the start of Oban holidays in Japan, a Buddhist holiday that runs from August 13-15. It's the big summer holiday, where people go back to their hometowns to pay respect to their dead relations, and the whole city has emptied out. I had a nice talk with Mark Schilling, the American-born film critic for the Japan Times who has been living in Tokyo for 30 years. And Mark was, of course......originally from Zanesville, Ohio. Man, Ohio people are everywhere.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Farney leading the NL wild card race

I cannot find video online of Ryan Freel's apparently amazing catch for the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday against the Cards and Pujols, but I did find this quote in the Dayton Daily News.
"Ryan Freel said not even Farney believed that Freel made the stupendous diving catch on Albert Pujols Tuesday.

Farney? Who's Farney?

"He's a little guy who lives in my head who talks to me and I talk to him," said Freel, acting as if he finally crashed into too many walls, ran into too many catchers and dived into too many dugouts.

"That little midget in my head said, 'That was a great catch, Ryan,' I said, 'Hey, Farney, I don't know if that was you who really caught that ball, but that was pretty good if it was.' Everybody thinks I talk to myself, so I tell 'em I'm talking to Farney.' "
Wow, hard to believe the guy has TWO DUIs, huh?? Go Reds!

Nice article in the NY Times this week, too.

Book Club

David Mitchell's Ghostwritten is brilliant. I bought it a few years ago after hearing rave reviews, but never cracked it until this week. Comprised of 9 stories that intersect through random passings in eight modern cities, the tales start and end in Tokyo. Characterized by wonderfully imaginative and deeply funny writing, it's a challenging read and takes some time to fit the pieces together, but is well-worth the effort. Although I'm still not entirely sure how it ended, definitely highly recommended.

Tokyo Sucks

Okay. Admittedly, I don't think its the city that sucks, but more my work situation while here. I'm being held hostage in a printing plant in Itabashi. With my co-worker John leaving Vis so suddenly at the most crucial time, the two magazines closing and trying to get them out to the printer, plus all that I am trying to accomplish/wrap up on Decades --- it's simply been a mess. Our two biggest "fall fashion" issues of the year are coming out 5-7 days late (unheard of, and really bad) and extra costs have mounted on all sides as we all struggle to cope, pulling in help from all sides. I'm powering through with coffee and several drinks/sleeping pill a night to shut it all off so I can sleep for 6 hours before waking up already amped the instant I open my eyes, answering emails and making phone calls. Good news is: this time next week all should be relatively calm. I have to work 12 hours every day except Saturday (I told them I would cry if I didn't get a day off) before going to Hong Kong. And maybe, just maybe, I can relax then and have some fun. After all, it's only magazines we make. It's not real life. And doing all I can to keep this perspective is (barely) keeping me sane.

I threw my American-style tantrum, complete with patented slash-and-burn emails in simplified English on Monday night, and things FINALLY started moving properly. I will be able to get out of here by the morning of the 16th, my scheduled departure time, but it never would have happened if i had continued to acquiesce to the mindset of the Japanese printing business. The "sorrys" came fast and furious on Tuesday, and the gentlemen of Toppan moved themselves out of my dingy little room so i would have it all to myself while at the plant. Good. I wanted to concentrate on other things and needed a break from hearing a foreign language around me 24-7. Everything is cool now, and we are all pals etc., but I would love -- just ONCE -- to not have to be so demanding in my job. I'd like to know that a printer would be happy to see me coming instead of avoiding me in fear. I think it's the nature of what we do, though, and this is the both good and bad in what I get to work on. In order to get the quality that our publications demand, there's no other way to go about it. And when it works, it's something to be proud of, for anyone who has contributed. God knows I've never been one to avoid a confrontation, so in some ways, there's no better person suited for the job.

I've noticed walking around Tokyo the profusion of Anglo men with Japanese women. Obviously this would be a good place to live and work if you are so inclined to those, um, fetishes, but you simply don't see any Anglo women with Japanese men. There's not the same tradeoff between the sexes at all. I'm guessing Japanese men would only marry Japanese women, but not vice-versa. And I, myself, am one of those who said just a couple weeks ago "I'm not into Asian men." The greatest illustration I saw of this dichotomy was at the Citibank ATM last weekend. I saw two couples (young, gorgeous Japanese women w/American men), men who would never have pulled the chicks they were with if in the States. Not the best-looking guys, let's say.The main gist of these women's English seemed to be "cash" and "money" (not kidding) as the men emptied their accounts to take their girlies out for the night. I don't know why this surprised me (maybe because it was so blatant), but it was hard to stand there and not look at them with contempt. But what the hell -- I guess why not, if you can afford it? When in Rome, I mean, Tokyo....Maybe I'll go to Ireland and see if I can pull the same deal on a 25-year old hotties from Cork.

One of the Toppan guys told me Wednesday morning the typhoon was coming. It a good thing he told me - I would have had no idea that it was more than a severe, windy rainstorm. And a typhoon is simply a Pacific hurricane, from what I could gather, but it sounds MUCH more serious!....I've been frequenting every fake pub-style bar in Ikebukuro after work to wind down (there are 4 or 5 near my hotel because it's located near a huge train station). The thing about these places is that there's always another American there acting the total jackass. Loud, drunk, braying his opinions around the bar, making a general idiot of himself. I usually sit tight and read my book, trying not to speak while avoiding all eye contact so these fucking frat boys don't come over and tell me about their hometown in Connecticut or wherever. I realize why everyone hates Americans. I hate Americans (or really, anyone) who acts like this....Trying to talk to Japanese people, I realize how much slang I use. Like: I was "worked up"; we need to get this done and "out the door"; it's "no big deal"; "what's the story?"; "its not the end of the world" "I'm crabby" and any cuss word possible. I've been trying to pull this stuff out of my speech, and perhaps I'm becoming a more conscientious and formal speaker being in Asia....Interesting fact: if someone commits suicide in Tokyo on the train tracks (something like 32,000 people committed suicide in Japan last year, more than double the average in the U.S.), the family of the casualty is charged around $250,000 (or more depending on the line) for "cleanup". So not only have you suddenly lost your beloved family member, you also have to pay for the privilege....Toilets here are a trip. Heated seat, some play flushing noises to cover up sounds, bidet sprayer, butt sprayer, music, every single one with a different flushing mechanism. It's a little confusing, to be quite honest. Any button could set off anything at a moment's notice. And nobody wants to be wondering what's the hell is going on when sitting on the can. It look me a week to figure out which way to face to use the traditional squat toilets in women's room in the plant. This tells you how out of it I am....There are some elderly Japanese men and women who, seriously, come up to my elbow. Like under 4 feet tall. They stare at me and I always stare right back at them. I wonder if they are thinking what I am thinking: what would it be like if I just picked them up and swung them around?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Totally Off Topic

I never heard this band before, but this video makes me LOVE them.

This must have taken about 300 edits and a lot of scrapes, but WOW.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Wherein My Potty Mouth Comes in Handy

I taught one of my account reps at Toppan how to swear in English on Saturday. Isaka-san speaks really good English and was my daily contact in setting up this job before I came to Tokyo. Really nice guy and probably the only one here who gets it (sort of) when I am making a sarcastic joke. He asked me "What is a four-letter word? That phrase is in the book I am reading in English (John Grisham's Pelican Brief) and I don't know what it means." I start laughing nervously, and then make a list of synonyms that he cross-references in his handheld Japanese/English dictionary: cuss words, swear words, dirty words, curses, obscene words, an oath, 'bad words'. He's still not totally getting it, saying "You swear an oath before a judge, right? So how does this fit in?". So I list four-letter words: shit, hell, damn, fuck. I then explain that all four-letter words are NOT four letters (very confusing) -- he writes down "bastard". Exactly! Not four-letters. (But then he wants to know: what is a bastard, and why can't you call someone that?) I decide to leave cocksucker and motherfucker off the list coz he's only going to get himself in trouble with those ones. I give some examples of how these words are used in sentences "Shit, the color on this proof looks awful!" Or "I am really upset that I missed my goddamn train!". Then I make him promise not to use any of these words when talking to clients.

He thinks I'm a good enough teacher to teach English in Tokyo.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dears for Heaven to Lovers Keep Inversed

At least, that's what it said on this girl's sparkly pink shirt today on the subway. Huh?? Nothing like stringing together a bunch of English words just to have a hip saying on your shirt.

So many things have happened in the past few days, I'm going to string all these impressions together because I have no idea how to make a cohesive post out of this...Working at Toppan all week has been very odd. Anytime I ask about anything (for example, an internet connection during the day so I can get work done while I'm sitting around waiting on the next page for approval), there is a fucking 20 minute discussion in Japanese around me. Then 5 OTHER people come in the room to discuss the situation. It's embarrassing and irritating, and makes me not want to ask for anything 'unusual.' Or, another examples: getting a file off the FTP site. This should take, seriously, 10 minutes. They could not get it together to do it, so I ended up downloading the files for them from the Visionaire server and copying them to a portable hard drive for use. I mean c'mon -- it's a printing house! They should KNOW how to handle files, better than me with my slow-ass laptop....There is a mandatory 5 minute exercise period at lunch time for the Toppan employees. This goofy kids show sounding piano music comes on the loudspeaker at 1:55, and a voice starts barking out instructions and counts for stretching, I'm guessing for toe touches and things.

Reading international papers every day is no fun. I realize this sounds retarded and cliche about Americans and international affairs, but unfortunately it's true in my case -- I simply don't read this much international news in NYC. I prefer trashy gossip mags and the Wednesday food section of the Times. I told someone last night that I didn't have enough time to read the Times every day, and he laughed in my face! I deserved it but still. Anyway, the whole damn world is going to hell in a handbasket, everyone hates each other, there are like 10 wars, Americans are real assholes, and reading English-language papers overseas is super-depressing....And on that note, today is the 61st anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. Reading all the coverage about the hibakusha (A-Bomb survivors) and all of the horrible after effects from being near to the blast make me proud to be an American. Yes, I know it was effective in ending WW2 and crushing the Evil Empire but still, there are people 61 years later who have serious problems on a daily basis because of it, including their own government refusing to acknowledge or compensate them for their illnesses..... But then again, the Mel Gibson "story" got 25 minutes on CNNj every night this week. Who the hell cares?? He's apparently a big anti-semetic drunkypants, and why does this affect my life as a "news" story? He's probably no different than half the anti-semetic world and I don't want to hear about them either....Two gorgeous, amazing peaches in the grocery store are "on sale" for about $7.50. They are big as softballs, and supposed to be the "best peaches ever"(according to a former Japanese co-worker) but I have yet to spring for them and find out....Hardly any Japanese wear sunglasses. So not only am I Girl Godzilla, whacking my head on the hanging grips on the subway, having to duck through and get then blindly get stuck and claw my way through the cotton curtains that line most doorways into restaurants, or ramming my knees into the underside of every table causing it to move 6 inches when I sit down, I do it with sunglasses on so I look like a bigger freak. I look cool in my shades, though.

Things are much better here in general after a rough first week. I went out Friday night in Harajuku with Fumiaki, the guy who handles the Japanese distribution for Visionaire. (We are popular here, as evidenced by a graphic designer I met randomly at Toppan this week. I gave him my card, and he almost fell over with graciousness and compliments) We had yakitori (grilled chicken of all kinds) while chilling, talking and having some much-needed beers. Fumi worked in NYC for Visionaire over 10 ago, and has lots to say and much insight into the people we work with. He's trying to score baseball tickets this week, so I can take in a Japanese baseball game, and see the Yomuiri Giants (aka the Yankees of Tokyo).

Yesterday, Saturday, I was SICK of being nice, bowing, trying to talk slooooooow and simply wanted to be myself again. I needed an AMERICAN day. So I spent the day at my hotel pool (its about 90 degrees with 70% humidity), then went to a proper meal of steak/mashed potatoes/pinot noir at the Oak Door in the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi Hills. The steak was only okay (a little tough), but I was so happy to sit there, and listen to other loud, ugly American voices and have something to eat that really stuck to my ribs. I thought I could eat Japanese food for days, but I was REALLY craving some solid meat. Truly made me happy beyond belief.

Then it was off to the Irish/ ex-pat bar, as is always my M.O. when in foreign countries when the isolation caused by difficult communication gets to be too much. You know there's going to be other people who can speak English, sports on the TV and a place where you can semi-relax and feel like you are at home. As I pretended to watch cricket and talked to the bartender from Texas, I started chatting with Jonathan, a former rugby player with a PhD in Biochemistry, now-turned financier from London via 17 years of previous residence in Tokyo (how's that for a list! I was impressed.). He was all smarts, very funny, generous with the drink buying and made the rest of my evening loads of fun. Although after 17 years of only dating Japanese girls, he thought it was okay to tell me that I had "the biggest hands for a woman" and, after gaping at my feet, to not lose my shoes, as I wouldn't be able to get any replacements. (Why I would start suddenly losing my shoes, I don't know...) While we shared a bottle of wine at this swanky bar called Maduro, a woman serenaded the room with a piano bar version of "The Way We Were". In Japanese. Hands down my best night in Tokyo.

One of the more interesting things I got from both Fumiaki and Jonathan is that I'm should be more aggressive with the printers. Based on everything I had read before coming, I was trying to be respectful of their culture, and not TOO obnoxious and demanding (while still getting everything I need done.) It's a slippery slope and has been difficult to walk, especially with the language barriers. Both of these guys who have worked in Japan for years told me I should go balls out, and even throw a tantrum (Fumi's suggestion being: kick the table, then go out and get lunch alone, coming back in with a Big Mac in hand) so that I don't get taken advantage of. I guess Japanese clients expect 120% from their vendors but they think Americans are 'easy' and thus they won't work as hard for an American client. Hmmm... tomorrow should be interesting. I'm gonna give this a try and see if get better results.

Drums at the Meiji Shrine

Prayers and wishes at the Shrine.

Finally did a little sightseeing today after trying to shake off my hangover. I walked up to see the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi park, a quiet place full of songbirds and dense underbrush. Stopped to stare at the teenage hipsters hanging out on the bridge to the park in their cosu-purei (costume play) outfits. And made a stop in Kiddyland, a 5 story department store only devoted to toys and cuteness of all sorts before having a ridiculously cheap dinner at the kaitenzushi (conveyor-belt sushi) place next door.

Even the police station sign is cute.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I work for racists

More to come on what I'm have been experiencing once I get out of the weeds. It's been all work all week, working both New York and Tokyo hours (i.e. 5am-11pm), trying to deal with overwhelming amounts of things to do, as we close the two magazines by August 14 and try to get them off to the printer. My great assistant (and friend) suddenly had leave our company after having personal issues render him unable to work, at pretty much the worst time it could have happened. It couldn't be helped but really caused some serious problems. As my brother said "You working like Japanese businessman." Today, Saturday, is starting to look brighter although I have to go the plant AGAIN for 4 hours and get a few things done before I am free until Monday. So for now, a story.

The issue I am in Japan printing is called DECADES, and it's 13- 13 x 17 booklets in a fancy foil box, with each booklet covering a different decade from 1880-2000. The one for the 1940s is photographer Bruce Weber's collage art, and its WW2-ish, but with some pretty gay looking soldiers straight out of a Calvin Klein shoot, and newspaper clippings with phrases that illustrate the same idea. One of the clips is from Norman Mailer's "Naked and the Dead". After a daydream is described by a man at war and he starts to get jealous, wondering what his girlfriend is up to back at home, he screams (In 16 point type, assumingly to rid himself of stress) "GET THE JAP!".

Today, while printing at the Japanese printer for the Japanese department store/sponsor, the English-speaking head of the foreign rights department asked me just what it meant...Of course, I had never read the text (the image was looking blue, however) so I have no idea what he's talking about.

Anyway, when I get back, you can buy me a drink, and I will reenact me explaining "well, it's artwork based on the feeling during the 40s. It's not meant to be a translation of what Americans think NOW, but during WW2...when we were enemies. You know, its ART, creative license???..." I stopped there before I did more damage.

And then I laughed and laughed and laughed in my delirium of this week, WAY more than I needed to -- half in embarrassment and half in horror. I am making friends.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tokyo: Day 2

It took me two days to figure out that cars drive on the opposite side of the road here (look both ways when crossing the street or you could get clobbered from the left) and that when you are walking in the trains VERY fast, you should keep to the LEFT, not the right, as in the case for stairwells/passageways/sidewalks in NYC. I was like a salmon swimming upstream with no luck. And I may be semi-retarded.

The airport buses and commuter trains run with shocking efficiency. People get in a proper line and wait for people to exit before boarding. There are workers to assist and make everything run on schedule. Things run on schedule. And they are clean, clean, clean beyond belief. It's all very novel. Since I am going out of the center of the city each day, I have yet to see the infamous white-gloved attendents shoving people into subway cars or any opportunties for the even more infamous Japanese gropers (chikan) in packed subway cars. The train lines are a bewildering spaghetti of colors, with routes going off in every direction you can imagine, each of them owned by a different company and and with separate types of fares. Fortunately, all the announcements and signs are in English as well as Japanese, although that didn't prevent me from losing 1450 yen (US$12.60) buying a ticket that should have cost 210 yen (US$2.00). Ah well.

I think the best meals I'm going to get are going to be when the guys at the printer take me out to lunch to places I would never be allowed in if I wasn't with them. Traditional seating, no English spoken, don't even know the names of the places. Yesterday, Mr. Kai (a 60-year old color specialist who lived in NJ working for Toppan for 25 years and who knows his printing in and out...I love these kind of guys, and always want to find one at every printer I work at. My "father-figure" at plants, if you will) took me to a place that only did unagi teishoku i.e. freshwater eel grilled on sticks on a tiny grill fed by small bundles of hardwood . Tiny, amazing and so delicious. Eel is traditionally eaten during the hottest days of the summer to provide strength for the rest of the year. Kai claimed the owners said that I used chopsticks better than some of the young Japanese. I doubt it, but thanks for buttering me up! You get a mention on the Know-All: Go to the grilled eel place in Itabashi.... That one with the name written in Japanese.

My favorite moment of yesterday was when the printer was talking to me about schedule (we have 3 final forms printing on the 16th, the day I am leaving for Hong Kong) and I said "Can't we be flexible? We'll see how it goes and make up a day as the schedule goes along". "Flexible" does not seem to be a word used in Japanese.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Lost in Tokyo.

I arrived in Tokyo on Sunday after a relatively comfortable and semi-empty 13-hour flight. I'm holed up on the 11th floor of a hotel located in one of the or 6 mini-cities that make up Tokyo proper called Ikebukuro. It's mellow here in the somewhat suburban northwest section of this sprawling city and there's a university nearby, which means lots of cheap eats, a good English bookstore and the ubiquitous Irish bar or two, at least according to the guidebooks. I'm pleased to be somewhere I can slowly acclimate. The main attraction is that Ikebukuro is only 7 stops away via two subways from the printing plant where I will be spending my days press checking Visionaire 49. The hotel is fine -- it has kind of a generic Sheraton vibe with several restaurants, a swimming pool and helpful English-speaking staff. My smallish room for the next two weeks was thoughtfully positioned at the very end of the hall, and is decorated in an odd but somewhat comforting 80s fashion with a great southern view of the rest of the city.

My first day in Asia was overwhelming. Nothing strips you down like being unable to understand anything in order to process your new surroundings. Going to dinner was an experience in itself, as being forced to use signals to indicate what you want to eat leaves you with few choices, and absolutely no idea how to get the check. Its good I eat almost anything and am familiar with most Japanese food names (at least if they are printed in English...kanji characters, forget about it). I figure I can eat sushi everyday until I figure out what I want next.

Thank god English is the second most common language here with all signs for the subway, buses, major streets etc also given in English. And most fortunately, the Japanese people are patient with my questions and cluelessness. My sporadic escorts (Visionaire's distibutor in Asia and the various gentlemen of Toppan Printing, several of whom have lived in NYC and worked at the same Toppan office I worked at back in 1997) have done much to smooth my way. Their unspoken kindnesses are continually surprising, including a gift today of Time Out's Tokyo guide from one of the guys who can't even speak to me. If I were in America, I might think that I was being snickered at behind my back for my constant confusion. That may be the case, but I don't catch even a of whiff of patronization and instead only see attempts to make me comfortable. I do catch stares from people on the street -- although it's not hostile -- perhaps only curiousity about a 6-foot tall white girl wandering around like a deer in headlights, picking up packages of cookies and snacks in the 7-11 staring at them like she's on acid trying to figure out what's inside. Invisible I'm not.

As much as I would like to communicate, the only Japanese I can consistently remember beyond the names of sushi is "Domo Arigato". And that's because of Styx. I wonder what "Mr. Roboto" means in Japanese.

The jetleg is slamming me tonight, so proper exploration of Ikebukuro (and the rest of Tokyo) will have to begin on another day.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Irene and Carmine's

140 Beekman Street
A couple weeks back, a few friends and I went to see Chatham County Line and Dave Alvin at South Street Seaport after work on a Friday night. As cheesy and stripmall-esque as the Seaport is (HINT: Uno's has a public bathroom), there's also this amazing old-timey flavor because, after all, it was once a working port and the heart of the original city. The stench of the Fulton Fish Market has yet to fade with its move to the Bronx, the cobblestones still exist, the first forts are standing and George Washington once had some beers with his troops before crossing the Delaware in this area. Plus, it is located right on the water. [See: definition of "seaport"]

After bailing out on a rather lame Dave Alvin show, who somehow has become semi-jambandy with his recent record (hope that passes soon coz he's generally great), we needed something to eat. Someone proposed going to Carmine's, a red sauce joint known for its seafood.

The place is tiny, with people jammed elbow to elbow at crappy old wooden tables in a paneled room, half taken up the bar. It shows its 100 year-old age in every crevasse and dent. The food was mediocre and filling at best, but our waitress was utterly brilliant. A 60-ish year old silver-haired women named Irene in a bedazzled black shirt, she offered the comment about our choices (eggplant parm; calamari) "Well, I sure wouldn't have ordered that". And when asked for a wine recommendation by Kristen "I guess if you can't eat good, you might as well drink good." As we had more drinks, and ribbed her more, she pronounced platitudes on Italian men, New Yorkers, tourists and about 10 other subjects. Classic old school New York at its finest. And f-ing hilarious.

Carmine's. Don't go for the food, but the atmosphere cannot be beat.

Friday, July 14, 2006

North Fork Roundup

My first abbreviated summer at Shelter Island in several years has come to a close but why let the hard-wrung food findings go to waste?? Herewith some tips for worthwhile stops while driving out to the East End via the road less traveled. I still haven't sorted out the wineries but Paumanok, Lenz and Woelffer are generally safe bets. I've also had some terrible Long Island wines that made me skittish, but here's to hoping that with a little more time and more mature vines, they will only get better.

Starting from the last exit on the LIE and working my way out to Greenport, the highlights are as follows...Many of these places are found on the "North Road" aka Sound Avenue/County Road 48/the quick way out.

Athens Gyro & Grill 33 East Main St., Riverhead 631.727.1301 Really good greek diner in downtown old Riverhead.
Briermere's Pies 4414 Sound Avenue, Riverhead 631.722.3931 Solid pies and preserves from a family-run farm. Remember, pie for breakfast is never wrong.
Modern Snack Bar 628 Main Rd., Aquebogue, 631.722.3655
Home cookin', including all your favorite fried seafood platters in a retro diner setting with charmingly bored staff.
Harbes Family Farm Route 48, Mattituck 631.298.0800
Freshly picked berries (or u-pick-em) plus a great selection of cut flowers (gladioli, cosmos, sunflowers)
Village Cheese Shop, 105 Love Lane, Mattituck 631.298.8556
Friendly little cheese shop with lots of gay snacks to serve along side any kind of cheese board you might dream up.
Seafood Barge 62980 Main Road, Southold 631.765.3010
Best sushi I've had on the North Fork, but not sure there's much competition for that title. Hoping that its location in the Port of Egypt Marina means some of the fish comes out of the local waters.
Sang Lee 25180 County Rd 48 Peconic 631.734.7001
Best organic baby greens of all kinds on the planet and boxes of heirloom tomatoes in season that will make you weep at their beauty. Good selections of herbs and perennials. Downside: Six pieces of produce will set you back 20 bucks.
Rotisserie & Smokehouse of Southold 46520 County Road 48 866.253.8559 Carryout rotisserie birds, including Long Island DUCK! Order ahead for a whole duck. Decent sides include mac-n-cheese, greens and cornbread.

And one to skip:
Lobster Roll Restaurant Northside 3225 Sound Ave., Riverhead
While it's sister restaurant, the famous and much-painted LUNCH found between Montauk and Amagansett at least has the raw-bar-on-the-rolling-dunes vibe going for it, this one is only overpriced and mediocre.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Lulu Eightball

I love these comics by Emily Flake, printed weekly in Baltimore's City Paper. Check her out.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Eatin' Out - Sushi Yasuda

204 E. 43rd Street
Best sushi I've had in a coon's age. My dear pal Cranky Dave Kaplan was kind enough to take me to dinner here and the freshness and variety of fish served was unparalleled. The sushi is simply prepared, thinly sliced over perfectly cooked rice and very little wasabi. No 'fancy' rolls with 18 ingredients are found on the menu here. It's all about fish quality. The chef ships in fish from around the world for a constantly changing selection that may include 4 or 5 kinds of toro (fatty tuna), several types of hamachi (yellow tail), unagi (eel) from Chile, or suprisingly tasty mackrel from Spain.

The final bite of our meal was uni (sea urchin), and is the piece de resistance to beat, with a creamy, sweet and briny taste all in one. Totally mind-blowing.

It took about a month planning to get a reservation, but well worth it. Best partaken of on someone else's dime.

Friday, June 23, 2006

And God said...let there be Legos!

This site has contructed hundreds of scenes from the Bible out of Legos. It's both hiliarious and oddly fascinating. Of course, the Catholic schoolgirl buried inside of me secretly loves Bible stories, especially the ones I remember vividly from the book I was allowed to read during Sunday Mass, "Little Ones Listen to God".

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My man Junior

My beloved Reds are in town this week playing the Mets, and here's a nice column from The Daily News that semi-sings Ken Griffey Jr's praises. (Yeah, I almost cried when the Reds traded for him and brought him home; that is, before he got hurt for his next four years in what??)

It's the only time all year I'll probably see them, so here's to hoping they keep up the pace and end up in the playoffs for the first time since 1995. One positive and interesting note: thus far this year, the division-leading Cardinals are 5-12 against the Reds and Cubs.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Yankee or Reb?

Here's an entertaining little quiz that will tell you just how southern you are, based on how you pronounce certain words. Me?? I'm 46% Dixie. (And, p.s., always a sucker for boys who call me "Darlin'"...)

Monday, June 19, 2006

O Dr. Ralph

I had the pleasure on my birthday last Wednesday of seeing the 79-year-old Dr. Ralph Stanley perform in downtown Manhattan. Dr. Ralph is considered to be the father of mountain-style bluegrass music. His decorated career spans over 60 years, beginning with his brother Ira in the Stanley Brothers to becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry to numerous awards to over 200 albums to his acceptance in the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.

Due to a threat of rain, the concert was unfortunately moved indoors to the swanky auditorium of Stuyvesant High School, where we were crammed into seats and forced to shush ourselves throughout the performance. Bluegrass seems to me to be made for outdoor venues where that "high lonesome sound" can float through the air to listeners. I had high hopes for hearing Dr. Ralph's glorious old-time voice while sitting on the Hudson riverbank on a hot summer night eating meats and cheeses, but it was not to be. The bonus of being indoors was that I was able to meet the man himself, and get a signed CD offa him for a steep $20. And if anyone deserves my $20, it's Dr. Ralph...

Tres Chicas, including Caitlan Cary formerly of Whiskeytown, opened the show and bored us to tears with their samey-sounding sounds. Pleasant enough voices sung by girls in bad dresses but a total snoozefest. Dr. Ralph took the stage around 8:15 and led his Clinch Mountain Boys through a set that was heavy on the sales pitch and light on the music. Dr. Ralph has that Grand Ole Opry/classic country persona that seamlessly melds the music with the product so that you don't realize you are in the middle of a commercial until he's almost done with the cornball patter. At least the only products heavily pushed here were CDs from all 6 Clinch Mountain Boys members.

Since I last saw Dr. Ralph 5 years ago, he's noticeably aged (and underwent triple bypass surgery last year). For most of the set, he stood back or sat down, just behind the band in his red-and-black western shirt, and let the other members take turns singing leads (including 45-year-old son and heir apparent, Ralph II, and his 13-year-old grandson, Nathan on mandolin). He said allergies had, disappointingly, made him hoarse for much of the tour. You can tell Dr. Ralph is slowing down some, and touring the 200 days a year or whatever he used to do is rougher on him than it used to be.

That said: catch the man while you can. He's a national treasure and one of the true originals.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Geek Had It Coming

From today's New York Times coverage of a tourist from Texas who was stabbed randomly on the C train yesterday:

“He’s a smart, very bright kid,” his aunt said. “He’s not violent. He’s pretty passive.”

She described her nephew as a big science fiction and fantasy fan who used to collect Star Wars paraphernalia.

Poor guy, his mention in the paper of record also brings up his obsession with the Dork Arts. I'm sure he'll live that down with his friends and family, um..... never.

P.S. He's going to be okay and they nabbed the guy who was running amok stabbing people without provocation. At least he helped reinvigorate that early 90s vibe of "NYC is a SCARY place" by committing random crimes against tourists that are guaranteed to generate loads of media coverage.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Traveling and eating are about letting things happen...

...So says Mr. Anthony Bourdain, the best-selling author of Kitchen Confidential, among other titles. As much as I want to dislike his arrogant puss, the man talks some serious sense about food. Arrogance is always more tolerable when the person is dead-on about their topic. His No Reservations show on the Travel Channel is always entertaining, high on the gross-out factor (sharing a still-warm raw baby seal in Northern Quebec with an Inuit family), and highly recommended.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Tragedy at the Track

During the 131st running of the Preakness Stakes yesterday, the unthinkable happened: Barbaro, the 2006 contender for the Triple Crown, pulled up lame in the first furlong of the race. After bursting through the starting gate prior to the bell, Barbaro calmly went back to his gate, reloading without any apparent injury. All the horses sprung out of the gate, and within 15 seconds, it was obvious that something had gone sickeningly wrong. Barbaro's right hind leg jutted out grotesquely as his jockey, Edgar Prado, struggled to pull him out of the race before any more damage occurred to the leg.

Caused simply by a taking a bad step, Barbaro broke his right hind ankle in two places, and it looks bad for racing's next great hope. It's nearly impossible to put a horse in cast so the leg can heal, and it's even harder when it involves a spirited young horse who only wants to run. Horses with the kind of break he received are normally immediately put down at the track, but because of his breeding value and stature, surgery is being performed today on his life-threatening injuries. His racing career is thuddingly over, his immortality limited to being the 2006 winner of the Kentucky Derby. I had my head in my hands and tears in my eyes, devasted and horrified, as I watched Barbaro hobble around on the track yesterday, not wanting to believe that this amazing creature in his prime was so gravely injured. A shaky, hushed phone call from a friend watching the race elsewhere left me feeling like we had witnessed a death in the family.

Watching a horse in prime condition break down in the biggest race of his career, I was reminded of Ruffian, the championship filly of 1975. Considered by many to be the top female horse of all time, she was nicknamed the "Queen of the Fillies" after being named 2 year-old Filly of the Year in 1974, and winning the Filly Triple Crown in 1975. I was horse-crazy 6 year-old girl at the time, aware enough of Ruffian to name every female toy horse I had after her. (Yeah, my Barbies rode horses, instead of going shopping).

Remaining undefeated in her first ten races, a match race was proposed between her and Foolish Pleasure, the 1975 winner of the Kentucky Derby. Ruffian was in front by a half-length when in the third furlong, the sesmoid bones in her right front ankle snapped. Twelve-hour surgery was performed, but when she woke up from the anesthsia, she wildly thrashed around, causing more damage to her ankle. She was euthanized a day after the race, and buried near the finish line in Belmont Park.