Wednesday, November 27, 2013

where I will no longer live

We've been asked to move out of our apartment. It's a long story, but the relevant facts are that we caused some damage to the apartment (leaking air conditioner, which we did not know was leaking or causing damage), and that the landlord never felt we kept the apartment tidy/clean enough. The latter has to do with the fact that the apartment has always been too small for us. When we first moved in, we had to put a lot of stuff in storage, and when we were unable to pay the storage, we lost it all. Even so, what remained in the apartment was not neatly storable and we certainly did have clutter. Not insane clutter, but clutter.

You have to figure that two middle-aged people who have all of their belongings in their possession (nothing stored in parents' attics etc) and who have some interests (reading, music) are going to have a lot of stuff. A lot of what I lost in the Great Storage Disaster was years and years of writing, many cartons of books, a lot of CDs and albums, a collection of baseball cards and a collection of postcards, and similar items. Barry lost some papers and all of his vinyl. While this was a lightening experience in some ways, it would have been nice to have the choice to keep some of these.

We've been sorting and clearing and throwing out as we look to move, and I'm starting to have a better understanding that I need to let go of a lot of things. As attached as I have been to my "stuff," it's clear that we'll never have a large enough home to make use of all of it, or store it neatly. I got rid of all but 100 or so books, pretty much only keeping those that are out of print, autographed, or books I worked on as a publicist. We got rid of a lot of CDs. We got rid of a lot of clothes.

As we needed to raise a good deal of money for the move, I sold my collection of 7,000 vintage bottle caps in one lot, to a collector in Germany. I kept about 20 that I'll display at some point. That was a little wrenching, but the truth is that it's all been packed up for about nine years, and I haven't had the money to add to the collection. It also turned out to be the single most valuable thing I owned.

Apartment-hunting is a hopeful and depressing thing. We saw a large, beautiful apartment in a great part of Bath Beach and put in an application, only to be turned down for poor credit. We've only seen one really bad neighborhood (Ditmas Park), but quite a few bad apartments. And there's no finding an apartment without a broker any more. There actually may be no obtaining a decent apartment without a co-signor, and it may be difficult to find one. Everything is much tougher, even since our last move eight years ago.

Although we were originally asked to move by the end of November, we asked for and were given until the end of December. Then the landlord called and offered us two months beyond that. This makes it less impossible but still hard.

The other bad part of this whole thing was that when we were asked to move out, the landlord decided that "cat" also had to go (we always told him we had only one although it was actually three), so the girls have been with Rochelle for about a month and a half, keeping company with her four. It's been a godsend - we couldn't have afforded to board them. But it's hard to have this kind of stress without the comfort of the cats. I've been visiting every couple of weeks. Maya won't speak to me, which just breaks my heart.

Other things go on, nothing too world-shattering. Barry and I celebrated our birthdays earlier this month with minor festivities. Things go well at both our jobs. I'm still reading and seeing movies and making jewelry.  Hard to balance mind and body, as always. Peacefulness is elusive. I want to make some changes once the move is behind me.

When I was looking to sell the bottle caps, I did approach V. by email, first time in five years. I caught the hobby from him, and felt it would be right to offer them to him first (also, I knew he would be able to afford them). He emailed back and said that he was in a cash crunch and couldn't buy them right now, but would I like to have lunch? I said I'd have to think about it, and never emailed again. I'm still patting myself on the back for that one. If he had said some small thing along the lines of "I've missed you" or "I've been thinking about you," I might have given it some slight thought. Maybe it was self-centered of me to contact him about the caps, since I was only interested in turning them into cash, but it was such a small instance of self-centeredness by comparison to the years and years that I let him take without giving. I'm really glad I didn't give in to a nostalgic blindness, nostalgia for the times that I enjoyed his company and believed we were friends, and conveniently forgetting how badly he treated me and how many times he hurt my feelings. I think that toxic mess is thoroughly out of my life.

And here are some of the scans of selected corks that I prepared for prospective buyers:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

where I live

I live in a neighborhood in south Brooklyn that few people have ever heard of, even other Brooklynites. I'd like to keep it that way. Too many Brooklyn neighborhoods have of late been colonized by youngish people priced out of Manhattan, and their new neighborhoods have become trendy and expensive (Williamsburg, for instance, and Greenpoint and Bushwick). Ours may not be at risk of falling victim to this trend as we're not very close to Manhattan, but I'm still not going to name it. Suffice is to say that we're somewhat near Sheepshead Bay.

It had been a working-class Italian neighborhood, but most of the Italians are gone. There are still a few Italian grocery stores and restaurants. But for the most part, the neighborhood is mixed working-class. Avenue U is the main drag. On the opposite side of U from where we live, there is a colony of rich Orthodox Syrian Jews, who live in large private homes. So we also have a decent smattering of kosher food stores and other stores that cater to the wealthy (designer clothing, fancy tabletop goods, fine jewelry). It's basically a safe, family-oriented neighborhood.

There are a number of industrial businesses under the elevated subway line (about five blocks from us); the jewelry company where I used to work is one of them. There are quite a few factories and auto repair shops. It's the only stretch of the neighborhood that's less than pleasant. Quite a few Mexicans and South Americans work there, so there are some Mexican businesses near the subway - including a little grocery where I can always get good mangoes and avocados.

The only thing we don't really have is a good supermarket. There's a Met Food about fifteen blocks away, but it's a pretty old market, narrow aisles etc., and I don't trust any of their perishables. But they're not bad for packaged foods. There's an excellent Shop-Rite a few subway stops away - we used to shop there, carry our perishables back on the train, and have the rest delivered. But they won't deliver to our area any more. We used Fresh Direct for a while (shop online and they deliver), but we had problems with spoiled meat a few times (though they always gave a store credit, no questions asked), and the prices aren't that great. So we're back to mixed shopping. Paper goods and cat products at a few cheapie places nearby; chicken and pork and beef from an Italian deli; other groceries, wherever. Produce is a bit of a problem. A wonderful kosher produce store closes during the summer, and is only open on weekdays the rest of the year. There is a really shitty produce market up toward Met Food; every time I go in there, everything looks pretty icky except the bananas. I shop some at the Union Square Greenmarket, near my office, especially this time of year, when there are great tomatoes and stone fruit. I've recently discovered Trader Joe's, also near my office, which has canned tuna at a great price and other useful groceries. It's basically impossible to get a decent loaf of whole-grain bread where I live, so I've been buying unsliced loaves at the Greenmarket, but just discovered whole-grain bread at Trader Joe's for a dollar less. (Counting pennies, as always.)

We have a great mom-and-pop pharmacy near us for prescriptions, and a Rite-Aid for discount-drug-store stuff (cosmetics, shampoo, deodorant). We have a store called Meats Supreme which is good for cold cuts, but we've gotten spoiled meat from them as well. (Got a couple of well-priced and excellent packs of beef and pork from Trader Joe' recently.)

For fish, we're a short bus ride from the second-largest Chinatown in Brooklyn, with many groceries full of gently priced fresh seafood. You can get salmon fillet at $5.99 a pound, which is mostly what I crave. We also sometimes buy white fillets of some sort (sole, flounder, etc) and occasionally shrimp. There is a kosher fish market a few blocks from where we live, but it is quite expensive and of course you can't get things like shrimp.

I don't consider our neighborhood all that great for walking, and we don't have a park of any sort. But we're decently close to Coney Island (a few train stops) and not that far from Prospect Park (two buses).

We've been there about six years and doubt we'll be moving any time soon (although we'd love a bigger apartment). It's still cheap, we have a good landlord, and you need all kind of good credit and hefty income to rent an apartment these days.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

odds and ends

Here are me, my mane, and Raghu Dixit. My phone was out of juice, and Barry is not good with his camera, so Raghu had someone take the pic with his phone and then posted it to Twitter.

So many random things on my mind...

I work a block from the Union Square Greenmarket, which is the best farmer's market in the city, and especially wonderful in the summer. Yesterday I came home with: local peaches, local nectarines, two kinds of plums (shiro and Santa Rosa), a quart of small heirloom tomatoes, a couple of Kirby cucumbers, French breakfast radishes (very mild), and a couple of young, mild red onions. Ate tuna last night mixed with chopped onion, tomatoes, cucumber and radishes. When I'm there, I tend to buy as much as I can carry. Barry is especially fond of the heirloom tomatoes. He loves tomatoes, but they're basically horrible and flavorless for most of the year. Most tomatoes have been bred to travel well and to be "attractive" (round shape), so most of them end up kind of hard and mealy...they look good but don't taste like much. "Heirlooms" are grown from old, non-hybrid seeds, and are grown outdoors and in season (as opposed to year-round in greenhouses), so they not only taste wonderful, but they're bumpy and delicate and irregular and all kinds of wild colors. When they're around, we basically eat them with everything, or eat them plain, and then buy more.

Splurged a bit today (hey, it's payday) at Sephora on a rollerball of Marc Jacobs' Honey. I got some small samples a week or so ago, and I love it, which is no small thing, considering that I am way picky about cologne and have only ever liked wearing a handful: Bellodgia (Caron), Coco (Chanel), Rush (Gucci), and Escape (Calvin Klein). I've tried others, but those are the ones I return to over and over. I go to Sephora a lot and just walk around and look at things, and always feel rather daring when I actually buy something, since you're basically spending at least $15 for a single item. And my inner cheapskate comes out when I look at $23 lipsticks, no matter how nice they are. I also bought a facial treatment I really like, an at-home facial peel. It's for daily use (yeah, right), but a box of five lasts me a month and only costs $15.

This is Patricia, who does cat rescue and set up near my office on nice days. She's a little wacky, but I love her to pieces. She never lets anyone touch the cats - but she lets me. This is earlier today - she's bottle-feeding three-week-old kittens. I admired one of them today, and she just handed it to me. We've tried to adopt from her a couple of times, and as much as she likes Barry and me, and knows we are long-time cat owners, she stalled and stalled and made excuses until we gave up. She kept saying she had to check this and that with her sister, that her sister would call us, and it never happened, even when we were trying to adopt an older cat - we thought she'd let him go easily, since older cats are much harder to place than little kittens. Still, since she lets me hold tiny kittens, we're still pals.

Friday, July 26, 2013

that's what I was aiming for

Finally, someone referred to my hair as "your mane." Thank you.

(Even better: he was a musician who'd just come off stage. I said, "You know, I was up there dancing the whole time." He said, "I know, I saw you - you were the only one I could see. I couldn't miss your mane.")

That might possibly have been the payoff for following musicians around all these years. And, you know, the music. The kind that makes you dance for nearly two hours.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

he's the coolest

Raghu Dixit is playing in New York on Thursday, but it's a bad week and we don't have money for tickets. So even though it's been a while since I tweeted him (I'm rarely on Twitter of late), I tweeted him and asked if he could comp us:

@Raghu_Dixit Dying to see you on Thursday but we are flat broke. Any chance we can get on the guest list? My husb and I loved the Sept show! - 24 Jul

@JennLevyBKLYN Sure thing! @GauravVaz kindly do the needful please. - 24 Jul

@Raghu_Dixit @JennLevyBKLYN - oops I meant 25th!

Honestly, do they come any nicer?

And any of you in New York - do come see him at SOBs on Thursday night!

Monday, July 22, 2013

travels in Pennsylvania

Just spent two weekends in Pennsylvania: with Joyce in Pocono Mountain, and with Jannah in Yardley. I wouldn't say I know Pennsylvania well - hard to know any state well without doing a lot of driving - but I like Pennsylvania and have some good friends there.

Joyce's house is more rural and Jannah's more suburban, but it's all very different from my little castle in Brooklyn. Lots of talk about cars and boats and homes: costs and methods of repair and maintenance, comparisons, troubles, comparisons, and so on. Pool patches. Gardens. Guns. It's all very foreign to me, and some of it is very interesting, some...less so. But it's interesting to see how much less important my city-girl concerns are to non-urban folks.

It happened that there was a birthday party for John A. - his 60th - when I was at Jannah's, so we went to the party. I do love going to parties out around there (John is in Bordentown, NJ), except for some excessive drunkenness...and then it depends on who the drunk parties are. John was pretty rocked by the end of the evening, but he was very sweet and sentimental. Then there was another guy who was just plain obnoxious and was passed out by the time I left. (Needless to say, the latter was the only only guy at the party who flirted with me.) Some folks I knew and some I didn't. Linda made piles of food. John and his posse played some old-timey/bluegrass stuff, calling themselves "The Clam Daddy All-Stars," and even slightly out of tune, it was a good time. Before the weekend, I had a vague fear that V. might turn up, but I don't see John inviting him for a social occasion at this point. (One of the first times I V's incredible self-centeredness was when he was invited to John's wedding. V's response: "Why should I go?" Not a clue about being there for a friend. Of course, when he learned he'd have a chance to play, he decided to go.)

Jannah's life is insanely busy, like being inside a blender. She commits herself to a lot of stuff and then runs around like crazy. For instance, she joined a boat club so he could dock her boat (they actually call it a "yacht club," but the boats are not at all what you'd think of as a yacht). Next thing you know, she's an officer of the club and knows every single person there and is organizing all kinds of events. I accompanied her to a "short" meeting she was running there, which lasted three hours. Most of her boat pals are heavy-drinking white non-Jewish blue-collar men. Not really my crowd, though I met a few nice folks.

Things around Joyce are a lot more quiet. We went to see "Raymond, the Amish Comic" near Jim Thorpe, PA (we thought he'd be laughably bad, but he was actually pretty good). We walked around Jim Thorpe before the show, which is a quaint, touristy little town, not unlike New Hope. But the buildings were more impressive. It was certainly more relaxes in the Poconos than whizzing around between Yardley, West Trenton (where Jannah's boyfriend lives), Bordentown, and wherever the yacht club and the marina are (it's called the Bristol Yacht Club but I think the town is called Easterly).

I'm kind of all over the place here, but just wanted to post something...the bottom line, I suppose, is that it's good to get away, good to be with friends, and good to be with close women friends. Joyce and I have gotten pretty thick after years of not seeing each other - and when we did see each other, she was primarily my uncle's wife and not my pal. But we always liked each other, and in fact I absolutely worshiped her: she was so attractive, talented, funny, adventurous. Still is. And I still worship her a bit. And am so enjoying the way we slipped into a very warm friendship.

All of my women friends have been having bizarre relationship problems and arrangements (except for L., who doesn't have a boyfriend or boyfriends or girlfriends or husband or some combination thereof). Joyce's seems to be the simplest - which doesn't mean it's easy. But I can understand it. With some of my friends, I simply have to step back and just watch to see what happens.

A little plug: John's daughter Ashley and her fiance Joe have a charming blog called Our Bklyn. I feel like my blog has a lot of potholes in it, but their Brooklyn blog hits all the right notes.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

some good causes

Monday, July 8, 2013

this wasn't supposed to happen

It's business as usual for early July, which means the weather is too hot, work's quieting down, and we are constantly broke. The stress of the latter is really beating me down...except for the couple of months after the holiday jewelry sales, it's always a squeeze. And the constant anxiety has been making my life generally unhappy. And I suppose it's been hard to reconcile myself to such reduced circumstances...maybe that's why I always feel so frustrated. And less-than. I think I'm going to cry if one more person asks what I'm doing for summer vacation. (Answer: I'm spending a long weekend in the Poconos, because my aunt can afford to send me a bus ticket; and I'm spending a long weekend in Bucks Country, because I can afford the $30 train ticket.)

I'm bummed out that I haven't been able to afford to stock up on materials to make a lot more goods for the crafts fair in November...once my recent trigger finger surgery permits such things, And it's hard to know what kind of effort I need to make in order to sell more. Would an Etsy store be worth the fuss? I'm pretty sure going to jewelry stores to try to consign my work would not be worth the fuss and could lead to more aggravation. The last place where I consigned my jewelry was the typical consignment experience: the store owner marked my work up way too much, making it unsellable; then she stopped returning phone calls; then it was like pulling teeth to get my goods back. I've never made enough on consignment sales to justify all the hassle.

As weird as it seems to me, Barry can start collecting social security in January; apparently he makes little enough to do it. I suppose we might as well d it now, since who knows how much longer there'll even be social security, and it'll add another $1,400 to our monthly income.

But it just feels sad and pathetic overall. I'm so tired of "no, we can't go out to dinner/a concert/go on vacation," can't shop for clothes or shoes, can't see a movie in a theater, and don't have a dime put aside. This wasn't supposed to happen.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

current affairs of the mind

It's kind of nice to do research in these wired days. No more hit-and-miss searches of library branches - or the thing I really disliked, having to sit in libraries reading journals from huge binders. Instead: Wikipedia. Documentaries online or on Netflix. Connections with people on Facebook, by email. Articles from all over the world. Goodreads. My tablet. On and on. A good result of those library days is that it's fairly easy to sniff out which material is thorough and accurate, and which is speculation and crap. I can catch and interest and begin satisfying my curiosity almost immediately, and can attain immersion or satisfaction in days or weeks.

Two topics grabbed me recently: the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints), and Henry VIII. Go figure. The FLDS is a splinter group that broke off from the Church of Latter-Day Saints (aka the Mormon church), which became deeply weird and cruel under the leadership of Warren Jeffs. He's in prison now, but apparently still leading the sect from his cell. Both the mainstream LDS and the fringe splinters are fascinating because it's a recent religion, formed in the last century, and a wholly American one.

I can't remember what triggered my interest in the FLDS, but I caught the Henry VIII thing from reading The Other Boleyn Girl. It's fiction, but gave a good starting peek into Henry's reign. (Maybe I'm on a despot kick, with Jeffs and Henry.) I have a couple of non-fiction books yet to read, waiting in my tablet, but I am currently binge-watching  a fictionalized account on Netflix, The Tudors. I always found the whole English monarchy business kind of a bore (and the modern one truly is), but this business of Henry hijacking the Catholic church to get a divorce is pretty amazing stuff. More old monarchy reads to follow, I'm sure.

I'm now reading Bengali Harlem by Vivek Bald, which I had on hold at the library. (Yes, I still use the library, requesting holds online.) It's about Bengali immigrants to the US in the early 20th century, and how many settled in communities of color and intermarried with black, Puerto Rican, Cuban and Creole people. The book is proving a little dryer than expected, but it's still a nice slice of history.

I realize this is not much of a catch-up on the past month, but it's a start.

Monday, May 6, 2013

yes, it really happened

Amitabh Bachchan came to town for the red-carpet premiere of The Great Gatsby at Lincoln Center. Tickets were invitation only, but quite a few of his fans went to the red carpet to support him. I head that we made so much noise that the media initially thought DiCaprio had arrived. Some of the "EF" ("Extended Family," the fan group from his blog) arranged three meet-ups with him, and I was in one of the Saturday groups. It was only ten of us, sitting in a circle with him in a meeting room at the Carlyle (where he was staying). He spent about half an hour or forty-five minutes with us, mostly answering questions. Then everyone got pictures taken and autographs signed, and gave him all kinds of gifts. (I made him a turquoise bracelet, and an agate-and-carnelian necklace for Jaya, who was in the city but not at the meet.

It was nice to meet some of the other EF. Rochelle and I were the only white girls there, and most of the rest were men. Everyone was quite lovely. Some had traveled from Atlanta, Rhode Island, Florida.

Amitabh was quite friendly and pleasant. It didn't occur to me until later, though, that he didn't ask anyone about themselves. I think he truly loves his fans but in an abstract way; he requires the ego boost, but has no intention of having particular friends among the fans. There are some he recognizes and knows of, those who comment on the blog and tweet with him every day. I've been somewhat absent over the past months, but quite a few of the EF knew who I was. I don't believe there are any other "Jennifers" in the crowd, and I certainly don't look like any of the others. He did pause in his recent blogs to say how much he appreciated seeing us all. We're a mirror where he sees what he likes. Still, it was no small thing to have met him, and it was nice that he created a relaxed atmosphere. Most of us were quite nervous beforehand.

The rest of my life goes well, busy. I passed two years at my job and got a nice raise. I'm traveling a little this month - to Jannah's over Memorial Day weekend, and the weekend after, to Philadelphia to see a staged reading of a play my father wrote. My uncle arranged the whole Philly thing, and is paying for our train fare and hotel. Joyce and Joe are also coming, which is really nice.

It turns out that one of the EF, Nimmi, lives in Yardley, so we'll keep a lookout for each other at the Memorial Day parade, although Jannah is not fond of Indian women. (She says all of their husbands beat them, and they permit it. She has certain views that I do not share, to say the least.)

It's going to be nice to get away. And I'm taking vacation the first week in July, just to have a break, and to take advantage of July 4 - one week's vacation for only four vacation days.

The bad news is that I have another bad trigger finger, and am seeing the doctor on Wednesday. The treatment for the thumb and pinky is usually a cortisone shot (which worked well on my pinky), but this one is a middle finger and I'm afraid it may require surgery. Bummer. I'm drawing a blank on any pain associated with the last surgery, but I sure do remember wearing the little brace and going for six weeks of OT (occupational therapy).

I've been back at making jewelry of late - had some repairs to do, and a few commissions, and I'm starting to gear up for the November crafts fair. The last one was so successful that we're doing it again.I gave myself six months last year, and the same this year. I had pretty much laid off for a few months after the holidays, but I'm really enjoying it again, although keeping wire and headpins stocked is tricky.I can easily use 60 headpins in a "fringe" necklace, so buying 100 doesn't even last two projects. I'm using only silver-filled pins now, and moving to silver-filled wire. I want to stay with sterling clasps as much as possible but am looking into filled and plated as well. Even though I'm charging healthy prices ($75 each for the two fringe necklaces I'm making), the cost of silver is pretty frightening. Even with the silver-filled wire, I'm measuring the pieces I cut, rather than just eyeballing them. Fortunately, I still have a LOT of beads, and a decent stock of earwires. I'm also using a little more gold-filled, since I have some sitting around and it's a nice look for earrings. Chain is a problem because there just isn't a lot of nice silver-filled chain around. I bought a foot-and-a-half of sterling chain for $23 some months back, and I'm totally hoarding it. The days of lavish silver chain-based bracelets and necklaces are a dim memory. I do still have plenty of shorter bits of silver chain for earrings, and I'll just have to wait for better silver-filled chain to come along.

That nice piece of sterling chain will probably become a necklace, dripping with some larimar nuggets I changed to find at a very good price. Larimar is obscenely expensive. I have a couple dozen faceted larimar beads I've been holding on to for dear life. I own a very few pieces myself: a small cab in a silver bracelet I bought in St. Croix in the 90s; a big pendant given to me by an old boyfriend in the 80s (he has family in the Dominican Republic, which is the only place larimar is found). And I have a pair of big heart-shaped stud earrings that my stepmother was nice enough to bring me from the Caribbean when she and my dad were on a cruise.

Well, the bad finger is nagging me, so it's time to relax a bit. I worked until eight tonight, so I'll have to finish the second necklace tomorrow night (it only needs about an hour). I was planning to ask the hand doctor to try cortisone, but I'm starting to think it's going to be surgery. The finger aches all the way down to my palm.

Monday, April 22, 2013

sad about Richie

I was asked in the middle 90s to interview Richie Havens for an EPK for Bill Perry's first album. (An EPK, Electronic Press Kit, was a video that was played in record stores to promote an album.) Bill had played guitar with Richie before starting his solo career. I had interviewed Bill for a national magazine, and his manager asked me to interview Richie. We did the interview at a blues club, Manny's Car Wash, which was kind of an unusual venue for a video interview, which may be why Richie remembered me when I ran into him some months ago. He was a very, very nice man, and a great talent. I've met an awful lot of musicians in my day, some famous and some not, but only a handful had that deep sweetness, and Richie was one of them. And now he's gone.

I never saw that EPK - don't even know if it was completed and used. Bill's manager was kind of a slippery guy. He also managed Johnny Winter, and kept saying he wanted me to interview Johnny, and then called it off numerous times, always with fishy excuses. (Strangely, I hadn't asked for the interview - the manager had offered.)

Bill Perry was a great guitarist and singer, but a little wild around the edges. He died young, sadly.

No one stays the same, no one is safe from the passage of time. We fall away from each other without realizing it, and suddenly it's been years, decades. I don't feel old, but I'm constantly reminded that I've been around for a good chunk of time. I hope I've affected people in some good ways, but it's out of my hands and I may never know.

Monday, April 8, 2013

hatin' on technology

My phone was lost on the subway a couple of weeks ago. I had it insured, but i still had to pay a $125 co-pay. The replacement they sent me was defective. It turned itself off, screens went black, I had to touch an app several times to get it to open (which it did slowly), but sometimes apps just turned themselves on. I kept getting an notification that said "Service Denied." So I took it to Metro PCS (my carrier), who said that the insurance company, Asurion, had sent me a defective phone. The rep used the word "horrible" to describe it.

I tried to file a new claim online, and they wouldn't accept it. I tried to resume my old claim and they wouldn't accept it. So I pressed "Contact Us" and got a phone number which was supposedly Metro, but was actually Asurion. I spent ten minutes explaining the problem, and was then transferred to a tech guy, and explained the whole thing all over again. He made me "factory reset" it and then said they'd send another phone in one or two days. So now I have my phone without my apps or contacts.

The person at Metro had told me that Asurion is the only company that insures cell phones, "so they can do whatever they want." I looked online, and they have a pretty crappy reputation; they send out a lot of bad replacement phones. So we'll see.

Verizon is also on my shit list, since they had a service outage near my office and we were without internet all day. Didn't have it this morning, either, so I called them and they said the router had to be reset, so they walked me through it and I had internet again. But then the wi-fi was out in the office. Another call to Verizon.

Apart from consumer tech, I'm still having a problem with people spamming the comments on this blog. I have no freakin' idea how to stop it, except maybe not to accept comments at all.

Other than is super-busy. We have a big conference on Saturday, and I did all kinds of drawing up mailing lists and mailings and emailings and contacting people and the like. Then I made the mistake of saying I wanted to go to the conference; the honoree is speaking on addiction as self-medication, which sounds pretty interesting to me. So somehow, I ended up having to coordinate all of the volunteers and all of the stuff that has to go to the event hall and having to be there at 8:30 AM, instead of 10 when the conference starts. I really wouldn't have minded if I've gotten these responsibilities earlier, because some of the organizers fell down on the job and I spent a lot of today having to find and buy a podium and a microphone system - the latter of which is way beyond my competence. How did no one ask me about this earlier? And exactly who is going to take care of the work I'm supposed to be doing?

I've been cranky all day. Just plain cranky.

Good news? well, I'm going to Jannah's over Memorial Day weekend, maybe my fifth year in a row. Surely something to look forward to.

Judy also hired me to do a little outside work, editing some articles to submit to a journal. I'm enjoying the work since it's something I'm really good at; I feel powerful when I do it.

The weather's getting warmer and I'm looking forward to getting into my warm-weather clothes. I am so sick of my winter clothes. I open the closet and gaze at the pretty dresses I'm going to get to wear. After I get paid Monday: pedicure! get ready for sandals!

I've been rewatching tv series on Netflix, now that I can wi-fi it into the tv. Nip/Tuck was a guilty pleasure, but I just finished seven seasons of The West Wing last night, and I'm really going to miss it. Smart, engaging show with great actors and great characters. Hard to let go of them.

I've discovered an app called Podkicker. Never really listened to podcasts before, but this is an easy way to do it. I'm partial to Stuff You Should Know and Stuff You Missed in History Class. And The Bowery Boys (NYC history). I like to go to sleep with it, even more than Pandora.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

the picture of Ginger Rogers

In case I neglected to mention it...I probably didn't. It always seems premature when I say I'm writing a book, because I've never finished one yet. I start, and never continue.

So, I'm writing a book. It's a memoir, told in little chunks, and I'm getting the feeling it won't go father than age 20, if that much.

Anyway, I was writing about how my father wallpapered the bathroom in old Playbill covers, and how I was struck by the picture of Ginger Rogers in Hello Dolly. Rather than picturing her as Dolly, they used an older picture of her which was absolutely stunning, not movie-star glam but wholesome and lovely.

After I finished writing the section, I did a web search, out of curiosity, to see if I could find the image, which I haven't seen in forty years. And here it is:


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

now we're talking tablet

After consulting with Tamsir, Cnet, Ebay, and a cheap-computer site called, I've decided that if I'm going to buy a new device, it should probably be a tablet. I was really sold on the Nexus 7, but too many consumers said that the screen break very easily. So I decided that a used Galaxy Tab was the way to go, 7", 8.9", 10.1", 8 or 16 gig storage - whatever was affordable. Cowboom had a lot of decent used goods but most were without chargers or manuals, though they did have cheap warranties. Ebay's prices were a little steep compared to Cowboom. And then I walked into an electronics store near my office, where they have the Galaxy Tab 7, 8 GB, refurb, for $175 - complete with all accessories, 90 day store warranty, and one-year manufacturer's warranty. It's also the kind of place where I can probably walk in with $150 cash and make a deal. So all I'd need to do is buy a case.

For Valentine's Day, Barry is going to give me some money toward the purchase, so I will have a decent chunk of money left over from the $200 I allocated, even after buying a case. I believe I will buy myself a bottle of cologne, and some other girl things like new eyeshadow primer and re-up on the Phillip Thomas Roth face bar I love so much.

Hey, stupid spammers! Blogger is BLOCKING YOU - your comments are not being posted to this blog. So why don't you leave me the hell alone?

Oh...and I wrote four pages of my book tonight. When I complained to my analyst about not being able to focus my creative energy, and mentioned that I'd always wanted to write a book, she said, "Why don't you go ahead and do it?" After some more thinking aloud, I decided on a memoir. After thinking about it for a week, I decided to go with little segments on particular topics, more or less chronological. Three sections into it, about an hour's work, it wasn't really painful and I think I'll go back to it.

I used to meet with my favorite writing teacher, the late Bill Decker, and tell him all kinds of story ideas. He'd say, "Write it. It doesn't exist until you write it, and you can't make it any better until you do."

PILES of spam

It seems this blog has somehow become a target for lots of spam comments - typically an off-topic comment on an old entry, ending with, "hey, come see my website" and a link. Blogger seems to have the good sense to segregate and not publish them.

Why anyone should hit on my blog is a total mystery. I have a teeny-weeny readership, and my topics are not terribly sexy.

The spammers are totally screwing up my stats. Stats say I had 60 hits yesterday on a two-year-old post. I know those were spamaroos, not a big group of people suddenly fascinated by whatever the topic was, my getting this job almost two years ago or whatever. Sigh. I wish they were real readers. No one's left me a real comment since I said I disliked fantasy books.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

ebooks and ebook readers

My Kindle 3 finally croaked, after about three years. The Kindle was my constant companion, always in my purse for a subway ride or a wait at a doctor's office. And if I finished a book in mid-trip, there was always another one.

What's been tiding me over for the past week or so is an app called Cool Reader that I downloaded to my smartphone. Cool Reader has the benefit of reading both epub (Nook) and mobi (Kindle) formats.

It's probably no great secret that like movies and music, I download a lot of ebooks without paying for them. I've only hinted at it in this blog, because I find it a little embarrassing and am afraid of being judged harshly. Plus, it's not legal. But I don't begin to have the means to feed my book, music and movie habits, and libraries very often don't have what I want, except for books; I do occasionally reserve new books, though I confess I hate lugging around a hardcover after mostly using my ultra-light Kindle.

Amazon offered me discounts on a couple of refurbed Kindle Touches, both discontinued models with ads, for $74 and $104.

I figured that if I was going to spend that kind of money, maybe I should do more investigating and shopping.

I started to think about tablets - in particular, about getting an Android tablet onto which I could download Cool Reader. The Nexus 7 sounded really good, but a lot of users complained about the easily cracked screen.

Then I realized that I really don't need most of what a tablet offers. I don't really need a device to web-browse or send email; I can do it with my phone, although frankly the time I would want to use it is on the subway, which is a no-go. I have computer access at home and at work, and that seems to be plenty.

What I really wanted was something to read books and maybe watch movies - something for subway rides, bus trips, train trips, and waiting rooms. So, back to ebook readers.

Ebay had a lot of used Kindle readers, the plain-jane kind I had and the Touch, for very cheap prices. But then I was stuck with the epub/mobi problem. I've made some use of this online converter for epub to mobi, but it only converts one book at a time. So I took another look at Calibre. I had downloaded it some time ago, found it a hassle, and removed it. But it now seems a lot more powerful and user-friendly. It also will download and convert newspapers and magazines, which made me think again about getting a color device.

I looked into the movie formats the Kindle Fire plays, which is basically one proprietary software (V8 or something), and mp4. Most of my movies are in avi. But that online converter will convert video to mp4.

So I believe the solution is going to be a used Kindle Fire, Calibre, and the online converter for movies. Friday is payday. I had allocated $200 for a new reader, which will be way more than I need for a used first-gen Fire. Any excess money will most likely go to some new cologne, since I am entirely out of any of the good brands I like to wear (Bellodgia, Coco, Mitsouko, Rush). And maybe, you know, some makeup and nail polish. I love stretching a buck for everyday luxuries.

And for those of you who also enjoy stretching a buck, the bittorrent client I use to keep myself fully stocked in entertainment material is Vuze. Some of the bittorrent tech is over my head, but I've managed to figure out how to do what I need - well, want - to do.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

recommended reading

I've been reading so promiscuously over the past couple of years that I really haven't been tracking new work by some of my favorite authors. But I've recently bumped up against a couple of new ones I want to mention.

I just finished reading Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe, which was a very enjoyable reminder of how much I enjoy reading pretty much anything he writes. This one is set in Miami and its themes are race relations, the art world, law enforcement, money and social climbing, and so on. Wolfe always seems to swirl big topics in with available characters and a lot of wit; somewhere along the way, you realize you've been reading social commentary, and it's gone down pretty easy. I would say it has a similar tone and scope to his '80s novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities.

There is also a new John Irving book, In One Person, which is next on my list after I gobble up the Kenneth Swalanski bio of J.D. Salinger. I don't think I've read Irving's last book, Last Night in Twisted River, so that's on my list, too.

I've also had a strong recommendation of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, so that's in the queue as well.

My Kindle croaked for good about a week ago, so I'm using the Cool Reader app on my phone until I decide what to do next. I get paid on the 15th, and Amazon has offered a discount on a couple of refurbed Kindle Touch'es, though as always I am eying better models. My phone will do a lot of things that an e-reader will, and an e-reader will do a lot of things that a tablet will, so I have to figure this all out. All suggestions and advice will be appreciated.

Monday, February 4, 2013

stuff girls put on themselves

I recently discovered a makeup blog by the great cartoonist Natalie Dee. It's called Stuff I Put On Myself. As someone who grew up hippie-ish and makeup-less, I find myself still learning how to use the stuff right. And like Natalie, who was a lifelong nail-biter, I overcame my lifelong nail-picking to become a very serious consumer of nail polish. (Though Natalie has gone so far as to create her own line, Super Black; the winter line will be available shortly.

I'm a cheapskate about makeup but I have expensive tastes. I spend the money when I need to, and have been known to look for discontinued and out-of-season colors on Ebay. When I can, I buy from ELF, which has great/cheap powder eyeshadow kits and some nice lipsticks - although their online swatches bear only a faint resemblance to the actual colors. Their nail polishes used to be great, but then they changed the formula and became way too thick. Some nail polish thinner helps.

I'm still looking for the perfect day cream (something very moisturizing with a 15 SPF) and the right foundation (never wore the stuff until recently...I'm starting to see a little discoloration from times past spent in the sun) and the best-ever mascara (I'm sticking with Maybelline Great Lash for the time being).

I've been a fan of Urban Decay for a long time, although they keep discontinuing stuff I like. Their old nail polishes were awesome, as was a metallic (not glitter) liquid eyeliner and a gloss called Lip Gunk. Now they do some no-good polish in sets. And recently, they discontinued my all-time favorite eye shadow, Lounge, which is a reddish brown with a green sheen. I bought an extra before they vanished.

There is no doubt that I've become a girlier girl over the past few years...the makeup and clothes are catching up with the jewelry, it seems.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

less and more often

I decided to see if I can write more frequent entries into this blog, posting a little more often and at less length.

I saw two very different movies this week.

One was the new Paul Thomas Anderson movie, The Master (2012). I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in this, although it's worth seeing for the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman. This story about a Scientology-like cult was marred by the casting of Joaquin Phoenix as a troubled man going in and out of the cult. There's been a odd aura about Phoenix since his dropping out of films and making that weird documentary about being a rapper; instead of seeing a troubled ex-soldier, I was seeing weird Joaquin Phoenix. And I'm not sure if this was an acting or writing deficit, but some of his comings and goings from the cult were not clear or understandable; the passage of time was also murky. Amy Adams, playing Hoffman's wife, was pregnant for a very long time early in the film (that is, way more time than it seemed phoenix's initial indoctrination took); later, she's no longer pregnant, but there's no sign or mention of a baby. The character of Hoffman's son (played by Jesse Plemons of the TV fave Saturday Night Lights) was sketchy: early in the film, he's dubious about what his father does, and later, he's clearly on the time, but has no story line other than that. Anderson usually does beautiful work with period settings, but they didn't jump out at me in this film (the way they did in, say, Boogie Nights). This wasn't the film I wanted to see.

On the other hand, I watched the Indian film God Tussi Great Ho (2007) the other night, expected little, and was surprisingly pleased. Yet another unauthorized Indian remake, this time of the Jim Carrey film Bruce Almighty, all of the silliness carries a very good comic performance by Salman Khan. And of course, there was only one person to stunt-cast as God: Amitabh Bachchan. The movie was corny and the special effects horrendous, but it was really, really entertaining. There was also one great song - I'll have to sniff it out on YouTube.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

I'm still here

A few quiet hours on a Sunday morning in Yardley, PA, while other goes about their Sunday committments. Weekend with Jannah. Slept beautifully on Friday night but had screaming insomnia last night. It's my second weekend away in a month - I was in the Poconos visiting Joyce two weekends ago, and will get some of those pictures up as soon as I can. Some are in my phone, and on my home computer. I think I need cloud storage at some point.

All of this time away makes me feel hopelessly behind on everything at home, things like jewelry and catching up with my various online pursuits (like this one). Still, it's nice to get away. Very peaceful at Joyce's; Jannah's is the usual whirlwind of visits and activities.

At home, I'm mesmerized by the TV, which is now hooked up to play from my computer and to access Netflix by wi-fi. And loving my new phone, which is fast enough to play streaming videos ad music. I like all of the intake, sucking in information.

Work is getting busy again - classes start tomorrow, as does the first of my two new interns. I hope thay adapt and stick. My winter term intern quit after a day. I hope I didn't overwhelm her...although this is the first time it's happened. Lots going on at work: big plans to reclaim the money from candidates who don't see Treatment Service patients. Could turn the financials around in a big way. I'm definitely more involved in fundraising and in the economic health of the institute. Coming up on my second year there (it'll be two years in April), I feel very locked in and live and die for the institute.

Mostly I used feel overwhelmed by too many projects: jewelry repair and commissions, trying to get enough new jewelry made to start on Etsy, and the urge (again) to start (finally) writing a novel. I'd like to take an online course. A lot to juggle. Here in Yardley, I see Jannah also juggling a lot, but totally different things. Homeowner life is very different.

Even with the huge media input, I'm still reading as usual. I finally decided to read Ringworld and found it too confusing.

So now that I have time and a computer at hand, everything has gone out of my head. Isn't it always like that?

So now tht