Thursday, January 14, 2010

What's Your Weekend Worth?

This evening, I was planning to try to lighten everyone's mood, in light of the recent Haitian tragedy, with a whole posting about Donald E. Goerke, Creator of Spaghettio's, who died today at 83. Guaranteed, every single one of my college classmates was raised on this tomato-meatball stew. I know it was a quick fix lunch in our home, and my mother cooked! My final point was going to be for my little sister, and every hangover that she's ever had. She's completely in mourning.

Instead, I go with a challenge.

My challenge is this: all of the money that you would normally spend during the weekend, try not to spend it. For example, Ben and I will go to brunch at least once of the weekend days, to the total of at least $37 with tip. And, the weekend is the ideal time to catch a movie. That's $24 for two. Now, I am not saying hermit! No! But, eat at home, explore what's free in the city (or wherever it is you call home), volunteer, talk with friend face-to-face (this is free!!!).

Then, whatever money you save, give to the Haitian Relief Effort.

Yele Haiti

This organization, founded by Wyclef Jean, creates projects to improve the quality of education, health, environment and community development in Haiti. To donate to to its Haiti relief efforts, go to or text YELE to 501501 to donate $5.

This is the one that I've heard most recommended by legitimate sources.

Game On.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Controversy Caused By Four-Legs and Two-Feet High in New York City!

There are three types of dog people in New York City. There are Dog Owners. There are Dog Lovers who haven't become owners due to time, financial, and/or housing restrictions. And, finally, there are Dog Haters.

I begin with the final group. The Dog Haters of New York City can, primarily, be identified by "The Transformation". One moment, they are just other figures sharing your sidewalk, moving briskly between appointments in their day. Yet, one glance at you and your companion, and they seem to be tripping across non-existent hot coals! This is accompanied by a look of disdain, which says, "Dogs? You dare corrupt by pristine concrete with the paws of that filthy beast?" This expression appears, be the pup Bernese or Peakenese, teeth-bearer or teddy bear, on the end of a leash or in your purse. To the Dog Haters, neither size nor snuggle matter. Your companion is simply a yapping and crapping machine and he or she is to be despised.

Next, we move on to the group to which I pay my membership dues: Dog Lovers who haven't become Dog Owners due to time, financial, and/or housing restrictions. Before you say, "Well, I don't have enough time either, but, I have a dog!" I reply, "'Time' in the sense of owning a dog in New York City warrants its own, special definition."

And it is: one's ability to construct a schedule conducive to 6AM risings, and in the case of certain breeds, ball throwing sessions, managing to be at your desk on time, dashing home in the less than an hour most NYC Employees are allotted for lunch, and passing on staying late to complete a project or participate in X after work activity (and there really is something to do in this City every night of the week, the gym aside, if you just seek it out) to tend to your pup's natural needs. Add to this, the countless New Yorkers whose days don't begin until noon, and you begin to understand how finding rhythm can be problematic.

But, again, I know, some of you will continue to insist that it can be done. To this, I now reply, "I guarantee that you are lucky enough to have or pay for one of the following: patient and working from home or nearby roommate or partner, childcare giver/dog walker or occasional Doggy Daycare, or Gentle Octopi." I was the first during my second year in the city; I got calls at least twice a week from my roommate. I am now that pup's official aunt! The second and third are among the Puppy Financial Restrictions. And the third definitely requires a definition!

The Gentle Octopi of New York City are its dog walkers. Characteristics of these caring souls include durable outerwear (particularly colorful Peruvian hats and made-to-be-trampled-on-and-easily-cleaned walking shoes), a beaming smile, and a minimum of six additional appendages, in a rainbow of canvas and those little clips that create that tinkle telling of a pup's approach. Naturally, the Gentle Octopi must be respectfully compensated for their time and dedication. After all, aren't they caring for your best friend, or in some cases, your 'child'? Sentiments expressed to me include, "my husband wants another child; I told him we can get a dog" or "we discussed adopting or getting a dog, and decided a dog better suited our lifestyle."

Finally, there is the housing issue. Contrary to "Sex and the City," and 75% of apartments portrayed in New York City set films, not all New York 20 and 30-somethings can afford copious one-bedrooms in Soho with walk-in closets! 6-Floor Walk-Ups, Shoebox Studios or Three-Way Splits in "Chelsea" or Brooklyn, some a half hour ride from one's job in Midtown Manhattan and you can forget any semblance of a backyard, are most of our initial realities! Into none of these situations do I consider it fair to bring in a dog! And, in many cases where you happen to have enough space, you are met with a big X next to "Pet Friendly" on your lease!

The final group, the Dog Owners, are the simplest to explain. This is a rare breed of human being who, in my opinion, really has it all: the time, the partner or money, and a happy and large enough home to welcome their beautiful bundle of choice. Members of this group are also fully aware of all of the issues faced by Group #2. In most cases, they have probably been members. Thus, to the thrill of Group #2's members, if you ask nicely and offer a big smile, the Dog Owners will happily allow you to stop them on the sidewalk and give their treasure a scruff.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Speaking "Le Poisson"

If a leading expert in the field says "fishes" not "fish", does that mean that I can too? More importantly, is citing this expert, and the speech that she gave at The Museum of National History, enough evidence for a teacher or professor not to mark one wrong?

Good sleeping!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Can a Map Really Make You Ill???

It's 11:56PM, and I am getting sick. Yes, that's physically. A souvenir from France, er, Ben, er, Ben's exhaustion in France.

But, the ill feelings I really want to discuss are my mental ones. My distraught feelings, specifically. Actually, I guess I am 2x physically, 1x mentally, ill. Because, the feeling of unease generated by my mental stress is causing symptoms similar to nausea deep within my stomach. I am not well.

Why? Because I just began my favorite annual read, The Best American Travel Writing! To begin this highly-respected compilation of the 20 plus most well-written, ingenious and timely American travel writing articles, a chosen guest editor offers his or her perspective on the current need for travel writing... and, thus, why he or she selected the articles he or she did. In 2009, this is British travel writer Simon Winchester, and he, he is the source of my mental ill. For on page xxi, he writes: "We all know the statistics-73% of American children can't find France on a map,...".

My fingers are trembling too much to complete that sentence for you, or offer you the most disturbing fact of all: Geography is no longer a class at UN International School. And, I wasn't kidding when I said that I was physically sick. And, I have a really early morning.

For all of these reasons, I can only propose that you pick up the book for yourselves. That's The Best American Travel Writing 2009. And, when you do, I ask you to consider the following questions. Are they right? Do we even need to teach Geography? I mean, according to someone I mentioned my concerns to, why would U.S. citizens need to know of other nations, when we have everything we need for basic survival right within our own borders? Why do we need it? Is it even important that your child can shout, "I know where that is!" and point at a map, when great-grandmother says, "We are Irish"? If it is important, who's to blame for this course's absence? And, should we play the blame game in this situation?

With my head spinning with the French cold remedy, Fervex (French cold, French medicine...wait, I take it for U.S. bred colds too!), I bid you all, good contemplating, wherever on the world map you are! Wait, you know, correct?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Penny-by-Penny, Sale-by-Sale, to "Make It" in New York City

In no other city in the world, but New York City, could one piece together a sustainable living.

Reason #1: The majority of people who offer work in New York City, understand the cost of paying the basics of city living, i.e. rent, food, Con Edison, Time Warner Cable, and public transportation. And those who don't, like the ones who extend "$8/hr for a bi-lingual, childcare giver holding a valid Driver's License and a Bachelor's Degree in Special Education" or "lunch for three days, to a P.A. with technical know-how of camera, audio and set experience gained from over 5 years of well-paid jobs" on craiglist are bluntly and publicly berated for all of the web world to see.

Reason #2: Most New Yorkers are in this city for a reason. And all have either escaped, overcome, achieved, sacrificed, and clawed their way here. Damned if they are going to allow something like the Rent Man stand in their way now!

Reason #3: Everything and anything is for sale in this city; and, conversely, someone is always in the market for everything. Clothes (especially with labels), cats (that may of may not eventually turn out to have ringworm), maps to the backdoors of old speakeasies; recorded 'live' (translation, illegally taped) DVDs; stilettos, Size Drag Queen (you do the math!). Even the oldest profession in the world is for sale on craiglist, albeit and apparently, cleverly veiled. Key Words: Young, Pretty, Female Roommate; Housemaid; Roommate to Share with Couple.

Insert final notes of that Frank Sinatra here!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Current Nonsensicalness of International Travel: Part III: Visa Requirements

Why does Australia require its Mother Country residents to get a visa?

That's all I've got for today.

Any direction to an answer is appreciated.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Current Nonsensicalness of International Travel: Part II

In the age of, and Priceline/, Heathrow Airport (where three airlines servicing one city are housed in three separate terminals) does not have an airport employee capable of accessing these sites for customers. It does, however, have a lovely woman who will advise passengers to do so for themselves.

Why would this be necessary, you ask? Say a passenger’s connection was cancelled due to inclement weather throughout Europe, the threatened strike of an airline, an airline’s attempt at operating with as few personnel as possible over the holidays (I wouldn’t want to work either. But, my sister had to, as did two other friends, and they did it, alright?) or the downsizing of Eurostar’s fleet to 75% capacity at the height of holiday travel. (Eurostar is the train whose sole purpose is to do the Channel Tunnel or Chunnel crossing, between France and the UK. Local newspapers and fellow stranded travelers, some who had been grounded in the London area for 5 days, reported route closures, lengthily halted trains, and an electrical failure, due to, as The Week put it, “excessively “fluffy” snow in France and warm, humid conditions in the tunnel”. And, say, just for ‘s and gs’ (that’s ‘shits and giggles’), said passenger has been advised by his/her carrier, that his/her best chance for arriving at his/her destination on his/her foreseen day, instead of on Christmas Eve for example, is to find another carrier, and be reimbursed for his/her original flight.

How lovely it is to try and find oneself paying British Pound 3-4 for 45 minutes of a fruitless internet access! Every single Outbound flight to my destination was taken, a fact of which, I am sure, they were fully aware. Now, let me just stop for a moment and say, I get it. Sometimes there is just nothing available. It's really the Hopeful Circus that is at the root of this posting! This, excess luggage tax when only one checked bag is allowed, and the Duty- Free Shop that greeted through the doors just beyond “Nothing to Declare” at Heathrow are my three new favorite, shameless money- making schemes.

Friday, January 1, 2010

In the Name of, well, Sisterhood!

As I stepped into the aisle, two things made my heart sink. First, there was a woman waiting at my destination’s door. Second, was the thought that the person she was awaiting, the one who had turned the happy, green “Vacant” sign into the dreaded, “Occupied” red, was also a woman. Because, in my experience on international flights, it is women who hold the dreaded Red in position for so long, that I am at a loss to do anything but ask, with all due respect, lack of malice, but just utmost curiosity: what the heck do you do in there?

I mean, really, it’s the size of an outhouse. And, there’s really not that much to do, but either take care brush your teeth or wash your hands!

Let’s break this down, hmm? The first, bladder relief: even if you have had five cocktails, this does not take five minutes. The second? All I can say is, if I can do this while upon the throne, so can you! The third? Well, the water, in my experience, doesn’t run for more than five seconds before automatically shutting off. I understand that international flights can get boring, especially when the movie selection sucks or in the absolute worst case scenario, your video console is the only one around you that does not work (flashback nightmare, flashback nightmare), but pushing a few levers to see if the water will run longer? Now seeing how many ‘free’ feminine products you can take without getting noticed on the way out? That sounds like fun! But even I would not do that, out of just pure, ol' fashioned sisterhood!

Finally, I hope that your nicotine addiction is not so great that you would risk either a. the smoke detector going off (I’m not sure what the punishment for this is; but, I betcha it’s not pleasant!) or b. being being arrested and/or fined $2,220 for disabling the smoke detector!

So, I ask again…what do you do in there?

Makeup, you say? Yes, I too am guilty of wanting not to look like I have been punched in the face either! Believe me: I win in the sleep-induced dark circle department. But, ladies, I have a secret for you. Everyone around you is too spaced out to care that you are putting it on at your seat. And, psst…terminals have bathrooms too, really big ones with huge mirrors that are much better lit.

In sum, from one woman to another: next time you are squeezed between the miniature sink and the plastic wall, think. Wouldn’t it be much more fun to go hang with the flight attendants and see if you can score a free drink? Might be worth it for the U.S. 6 bucks In-Flight cocktails cost these days!