REPORT A PROBLEM
Today is Day of the Dead. Iím so tired and cold, Iím clearly getting sick, and I again donít do anything truly appropriate to the spirit of the day. Late at night, however, I do try to find Grandpa Bís sister, MaryJane. The internet is a crowded graveyard of obituaries, genealogies, class reunions and other historical data, but I was unable to find any trace of anything useful, quite frustrating. Of course, I have almost nothing to go on, not even the actual year of her birth, so it is worse than searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Iím tired and cranky and yet thereís the overlay of the night before the first day of school. Which this pretty much is, no doubt about it: itís a new job and at a university. I am really looking forward to this job, while trying not to put too much pressure on it Ė I would really like to find a job that didnít have me running for the hills in a few years. So much of life is spent at work, you really do have to love what you do to stay relatively sane if youíre a thinking, feeling person.
Day one and counting. I feel at home in the space, never mind that I donít have office furniture or a working phone and will be sitting in an open cubicle for a while. It really does feel like I came home. Of course, a lot can change and I may not feel the same way in three months, six months or a year from now. For now, everyone is friendly, helpful and there is a completely different energy: never mind that thereís probably more than enough work, people are calm, the room is calm. Or maybe thatís just Monday.
The office is right across the street from where Uli used to live, her second apartment in the city. I think that is a good remembrance, something from my earliest years in the city, when I was not at all ossified but more vibrant and alive. I am hoping that this job, with the students, and being in this neighborhood, will help me relearn who I am, who I am now. I donít necessarily like what I seem to have been turning into, although I donít think some of my earlier incarnations are appropriate to my current stage in life.
I explored the Union Square Greenmarket at lunch today and I wish I was feeling better, so that I could carry more booty home with me. I suspect, however, that the very small amount that I bought will be too much at the end of the day. I wanted to buy butterfish from the Long Island fishmonger, grass-fed beef from upstate, small whole carrots, beets, fresh mesclun lettuce and herbs, beautiful flowers, bread in several flavors, but I restrain myself rather admirably. This is the part of life in the city that I miss: the amazing variety of available choices.
The only thing that is clear to me today is that I have to get started on antibiotics so that I can get well Ė funky colors belong on the outside. Iím barely functional and I canít believe Iím out sick in my first week on the new job. I think that single fact is probably stressing me more than actually being sick, as I can only perceive how this would be interpreted in the world of the old job, where this would probably get me fired. I have to hope that this non-profit world is truly more reasonable and humane.
Walking in the neighborhood, Iím stunned by the number of tights I see being worn under short dresses or tunics. And on young women for whom the look is not flattering. I know there are many, many college students around, but I feel as though it is twenty years ago. I have no idea if the look survived continually since the heyday when I wore my purple & green paisley tights, or if something has sparked a resurgence. I just know that I want to find some black tights for myself as they are warmer and more durable than hose.
I needed a nap today after doing basic errands. Iím hoping the reason Iím so trashed this weekend is simply because Iím sick, not because of the new job and commute. I know it will take a while to truly adjust to the schedule, although Iím hoping it will be a positive adjustment, that Iíll be more relaxed when I do get home and that the increased walking during the day will mean that over time Iíll perhaps return to losing weight and having more energy. Thankfully, climbing stairs happens in the morning Ė on the way home itís all downstairs.
I can hardly believe the progress Iíve made this week with my knitting projects. The Urban Goddess Peacock vest is approaching 75% done with the knitting done on the train and the body of my cashmere February Lady Sweater is nearly half done after my evenings of knitting this weekend. I clearly have enough yarn to make the FLS a longer sweater, and I may do it. Iím already considering options for the next project, although I have three I need to finish first: the green mohair bedshrug, the Not Just for Bed Jacket, and grafting the black cashmere shawl.
I love the walk to the office from the subway stop in the morning. It is a tree-lined residential street, with interesting architecture. Thereís a private school of some sort on the block, which means thereís always parents, children and dogs walking toward me, which I have not yet found annoying. The walk is only one avenue block, just enough to stretch the legs, but not enough to be troublesome, unless thereís snow. Iím also exploring the neighborhood for at least 35 minutes at lunch every day, so Iím getting my exercise. And finding all the bakeries and foodie shops.
I seem to be having problems adjusting to the new schedule Ė or rather my stomach is having problems. Getting up in the morning isnít a problem, eating something breakfast on the train or in the office is working, but by the time lunch rolls around (before then, actually), I am absolutely starving, and I seem to stay that way all day. When I get home in the evening, Iím like a hobbit who hasnít had either first or second breakfast Ė FEED ME! And yet, with just over two hours between coming home and bed-time, Iím not comfortable eating a lot.
This definitely isnít midtown. The sidewalks are passable, vehicle traffic isnít backed up and the passers-by are not dressed in suits. Black is the uniform color, the funkier the better. The sidewalk is occupied by babies in strollers and prams, dogs of all sizes being walked, and students, from pre-K through post-grad. The street-level businesses in the neighborhood include fine bakeries, historic pharmacies, art supplies, toys stores, natural food stores and greenmarkets, not just office supplies and restaurants. This is the whole city, not just the business powerhouse, and I find it a lot easier to work in this environment.
I still find it amazing, in a sad yet funny kind of way, that as a professional who has worked on data integrity and availability issues for a Fortune 1000 company, I managed to blow up my own Contacts database. And, typically, it wasnít the result of a single event that did me in, but a series of smaller failures over the course of about two months. None of them struck me as significant or a problem until it was too late, I was too busy worrying about larger issues - exactly the situation I try to educate companies about.
I completed my first full week on the job. Whoo-hoo! My back is still in great shape and Iím starting to be able to cope with the schedule adjustments. Iím delighted with the neighborhood, more than I thought I would be - thereís so much to do and see at lunch. I wish Helene were still in the city, it would be good to hang out with her over dinner and a glass of wine some evening, but that isnít going to happen. I donít know if Iíll find someone at work who can be my ďBarbaraĒ here Ė weíll see.
A serious discussion about the housing situation revealed that we are both interested in building our own house. As land prices make that rather cost-prohibitive at present, we are honestly considering tackling renovation on my house, the project that I wanted to avoid, as weíll have to redo the entire electrical and update plumbing. We both want another bedroom and a full bathroom upstairs (with Jacuzzi tub, mandatory) and I want an improved kitchen. The house would then be acceptable for the both of us for the forseable future, but it is unlikely to be the true long term solution.
Iíve started to pack up some of my stuff that is inhabiting various nooks and crannies of the house so that it can move to the basement. Thereís some stuff I just canít bear to get rid of just yet although it has sat undisturbed for years and I donít know if Iíll ever use it, like the purple lace tea set that Rae made. Or Grandmotherís silver set, which is actually silver plate, but nevermind (although if it was actual silver I might contemplate selling it). Iím not sure I can box up enough to make a difference though.
Today I went to the wake for Westís father, a man Iíd never met when he was alive. This is the second wake Iíve been to this year, and Iím still not sure I understand how they work and what the point is, probably because in my family everyone chooses cremation - thereís just a single service afterwards. Two days of waking and then a funeral service just prolongs the agony of the close family. Or so it seems to me Ė I just want to be alone, in private, with my grief, I donít want to be around other people.
I visited one of the local yarn stores, which is also a cafť/hang-out joint. There were several staff there (someoneís gotta pull that latte!), a couple people hanging out, and another shopper, which probably isnít bad for a weekday. I had to wonder, how many staff does this place support? And tucked away in a little corner of town, with relatively little stock, how do they stay afloat? How will they stay afloat? Is this the yarn that is in demand locally? I looking for the right hangout store for me, with the kinds of yarn I want to buy.
It doesnít seem possible that Thanksgiving is a week away at this point, that weíre already working on arrangements. Wasnít it just Labor Day? Didnít I just give notice at the Local Expansion Team? If I blink it will be Christmas Ė although with more than a week off (Hurray! I still canít quite believe it!), hopefully that holiday will move a bit slower this year, I will actually notice and enjoy it. Weíre not going to go anywhere this year, except perhaps a few days at the Gatehouse, saving vacation travel for later. But thereís a month to survive first!
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. You think youíve got it all figured out, and then the universe bites you on the ass. Or that youíve just skated by, had a close one, but will survive this time, and then youíre caught out and things collapse, and yet youíre still surprised when they do. Weíre all human, we make mistakes, do or say something thoughtless or stupid, even when we know better. It is something peculiar in our constitution, that we do the wrong thing at the wrong moment when weíre not thinking. And sometimes even when we are thinking.
I finished the Peacock vest today and think it is just beautiful, a perfect marriage of yarn and pattern. I hope it wears well, Iím concerned as this is the first lace garment that will really get worn. I am holding to my promise not to cast on another sweater yet, but I do have yarn ready to go for fingerless gloves, I really do need a pair that has some memory in the fiber. I want to make real progress on my cashmere sweater this weekend, then spend next weekend finishing it and a few other works in progress.
We are so accustomed to modern medicine fixing anything and everything that we sometimes forget that we still are the one who must make the actual choices, manage our own risks. I thought the biopsy was a royal pain in the ass. I was also absolutely terrified and squeamish at the thought of platinum permanent markers at the cysts, yet it was clearly the safest way to go. Iím fine now and realize what a baby I was about the whole thing. Someone else chose to assume her cysts were not significant and now she is fighting for her life.
We went to the Holiday Boat Parade tonight, despite the cold, despite how comfortable we were in the house. We had an excellent view, but were a little disappointed in the turnout Ė there werenít as many people as we expected, and surprisingly, no vendors selling hot chocolate or hot dogs to the people milling about in the cold. The parade is a charming yet slightly campy small-town tradition, and it was fun to watch the decorated boats motor up and down the river in the dark, playing music to the theme of their decorations - some even had live bands!
Iíve achieved a relaxed state during the commute Ė in just three weeks! Perhaps Iím distracted with my knitting projects, but I no longer am in a rush to get to off the train, in either direction. Iím happy to just ride along in peace and quiet, get another row finished, listen to another podcast. This is really my daily relaxation time, more than I ever had when I was driving to and from work. Yes, the day is long, but the day actually has quality time in it now. Now I can try to reclaim some organization for my life.
Twenty three years ago was Foreign study; although enrolled at the University of Bonn, this was the week of the organized pilgrimage to Berlin. We ate Turkey Dinner at the Embassy, shopped in the fabulous flea markets, saw La Cage Aux Folles, drank red wine with Jean and stared solemnly at the soldiers with machine guns on the East Berlin subway platforms. I walked with my Sony Walkman playing Bowieís ďHeroesĒ album, surprised every time I found the wall and remember Kreuzburg as a fascinating peek into big city multiculturalism, even while I shied away from the idea of NYC.
The current issue of Lux Esto arrived Ė and it has a feature story on Foreign Study. Many kind remembrances of Joe Fugate, which isnít surprising. Yes, he was a taskmaster and a drill sergeant and sometimes was more brusque than necessary, but after reading some of the stories of problems with the first decades of sending students abroad, I have even more respect for what he was doing then. I am happy I had the opportunity to properly thank him for his thankless task when I was shepherding the East German teachers around the Midwest back in the early 1990s.
We ate dinner out in Port Jeff last night, like real grownups, going for Spanish seafood in preparation for fresh American Turkey. No mad dashes to the grocery store the night before the holiday or an evening spent prepping in the kitchen, no baking of pies. Just a nice, relaxing dinner. This is the way to start a long holiday weekend. Turkey day dinner is on our own, when we want, whenever the bird and side dishes are ready. Weíre compromising on the traditional family side dishes this year, trying to develop our own, but will have two different stuffings.
Working on someone elseís resume can be tough, particularly when you have no intimate understanding of what they do, how they do it, no frame of reference for the minutia. And yet, it is an education in and of itself, you arenít just learning about the job, but about the person: what are they most proud of, what details stick in their head about a job and clients that existed twenty years ago? Yet with my hiring manager hat on, I understand that there are some questions that are universal and I try to get those addressed within the resume.
29 Sat You really do have to see Van Goghís work in the original, there. His brushwork appears flat (in more ways than one) when rendered in reproductions and prints. They really cannot capture the light and shadow of the real paint, so thickly yet evenly applied, rhythmic repeating strokes, I didnít really believe it myself. And the gleam of those three-dimensional highlights in oil paint is part of the painting. Starry Starry Night was indeed impressive, and yet, The Starry Night over the Rhone is probably the painting I liked best. The MOMA exhibition is forcing me to reconsider Van Gogh.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Or in a cast iron pan in the oven. Today I learned that a properly cooked chestnut is a wonderful thing, nothing like the mealy, mushy, slightly sour thing I remember. I first tried chestnuts walking around the city with Michael, some twenty years ago, probably from a street vendor near Central Park. I thought they were disgusting. That memory stayed with me until today. Freshly roasted and served, they are sweet morsels and I can see that weíll be doing this again soon, Iím not waiting another twenty years for my next taste.
The Tip Jar