Saturday, November 29, 2008

In which I leave my dignity and a bunch of dead skin somewhere in Koreatown

A lot happened today. Eric, Michael and I had brunch at Jackson Hole, a great breakfast place. Then we headed to Union Square to walk through an open air holiday market. Michael left for work, so Eric and I did some shopping on Lower 5th. And we eventually had dinner at Nonna's, which featured an amazing Caesar salad with "croutons" made out of semi-molten cheese.

But, really, all that wonderful, fun stuff paled in comparison to the night Eric and I had in Koreatown.

To preface, I bought a couple of tour books before this trip which have led us on quite the series of misadventures. This is how we learned of the dark spot on the ceiling in Grand Central, the Campbell Apartment, the shops we visited in SoHo and the Chinese restaurant where we ate last night. In reading through and deciding what I wanted to do this trip, I became fascinated by the idea of visiting one of the spas the book discussed. There was a whole list, but one was open 24 hours a day. How perfect, I thought, for the city that never sleeps.

Eric, however, was much more sanguine. He reminded me of the deviants that would likely frequent such an establishment, wondered how clean and/or disease free it might be, and generally (rightly) thought a non-24-hour place was probably the better way to go.

We were both a little leery by the time we got over there. We'd decided to try a classic Korean spa treatment -- a vigorous body scrub followed by a massage. Neither of us had ever been to a Korean spa, though, and what we'd heard of it basically made it out to be something straight out of Silkwood, as Eric said: vigorous whole-body scrubbing that threatened our virtues.

I don't know that I have adequate words to describe this experience. You lie on a table and are approached by an all-business Korean lady wearing a swimsuit (the reason why becomes apparent later). She begins to rub your body very vigorously with these two exfoliating mitts. This was not entirely pleasant, especially at first, but oddly satisfying. The Korean ladies worked us over, methodically scrubbing away at every part of our bodies, stopping only long enough to toss buckets (literally) of really warm water onto us as a rinse. This cycle repeated itself until our fronts, backs and sides were completely rubbed pink. At one point in the process, I looked over and there was a six-inch-long gray ribbon of dead skin that the woman had scrubbed off my arm. It was repulsive to see -- but satisfying, too. I can only imagine what all come off the rest of me.

And while we're talking about the rest of me -- yikes. That disposable bathing suit? No match for these ladies. My, um, virtue was fully on display as she lifted the top of the bathing suit and rearranged the bottom to gain access to whatever she felt like. Let's just say there's no dead skin anywhere on my body. Anywhere. None. Thinking of places dead skin could be? I don't have any there.

More than two hours after we arrived, Eric and I stumbled out onto 32nd Street and hailed a cab for home. We were both gobsmacked by the experience, which was overstimulating to say the least, and left with skin softer than babies'. In many ways, cleaner that we've ever felt -- and yet dirtier, somehow. I fully recommend the Korean spa experience to anyone prepared to let their dignity take a break for a few hours, but it's not for the faint of heart or those attached to their boundaries.

Friday, November 28, 2008


  • Breakfast with Shu! and Eric at Sarabeth's
  • The (fabulous) shoe sale at Bergdorf's, which I could not resist, and Louis Vuitton
  • More shopping in SoHo and NoHo, including the Camper shoe store (another case of not being able to resist) and Mayle (which didn't have a single garment in a size larger than a 4), and walking through the Bowery
  • Tried to go to the Tenement Museum but by the time we got there, all the day's tours were sold out, so bought postcards instead and wandered the neighborhood
  • The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station (found the "secret" Art Deco elevators) (which must not be so secret because we rode up in it with others). We learned that Anneliese had been attacked by an iguana at work and wound up with a tetanus shot and prescription for antibiotics when all was said and done
  • Dinner in Chinatown with Shu!, Eric and Michael (we went to a restaurant that Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton both apparently enjoy)
  • Watched The Happening on On Demand and ate ice cream
  • To bed

Mobile blogging in the Bowery

Am using Shu!'s iPhone to tap this out. We're in a Starbucks in the Bowery, having tramped through SoHo en route to the tenement museum.

I hope to post for real tonight.

Yesterday, diary of a mad blogger

Breakfast at Nonna's. There were tater tots!

Then a trip to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. One of many so-called unfinished cathedrals.

This statue outside was particularly creepy.

We went there because I wanted to see a triptych done by the late Keith Haring. After flirting a little with a construction foreman and following him through the areas of the cathedral that were still under construction, I was able to get a glimpse. It's behind an iron grate, so I had to stick my camera through and hope for a decent picture from quite a distance.

Then we went and saw the film "Milk" in Chelsea. Sean Penn was amazing in it.

En route to the subway, we saw the "Seinfeld" diner.

We went to Grand Central.

One of my tour books said there was a spot on the ceiling in the main concourse where, during a recent renovation, the restorers decided to not to clean, to show everyone how dirty the ceiling had been before. We found it -- near the crab, if you're ever there and care to look. It was too dark inside to photograph well.

Then we dashed over to Pier 81 for our dinner cruise! Anneliese and Shu met us there. The ship took us all around the harbor, lights from New York and New Jersey glinting prettily at us from the shore. We ate a wonderful dinner on board as we slowly made our way out to the Statue of Liberty and back.

After dinner (and drinks) some folks started to dance. In the beginning, everyone was civilized enough. Then this lady took to the floor, and the tide turned.

It's hard to see, but she's wearing a backless leopard-print dress with a little leopard-print hat perched on top of her updo.

Once the music shifted from jazz standards to clubbier music, a group of about 15 single women who were visiting the US from Ireland took to the dancefloor. Wow. These ladies were something. Singing along to Abba and the Village People, doing that "lasso" dance move with one arm circling over their heads, they howled and wriggled and shook their considerable booties.

They were like the Ghosts of Thanksgiving Future -- single women, no families or husbands of their own to spend the holiday with, who get together and dance and party. It was terrifying. Eric was quick to tell me I'd always be with them at the table and not with other ladies on the dance floor, which was reassuring.

Anneliese and Michael got their grooves on as well during this little period. Michael to Tina Turner...

... and Anneliese to YMCA.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In which I am too stupid to understand Checkov

Today was my first wake-up in New York! It's still so exciting just to be here, in a place where Eric is and it's wintry and bustle-y and alive.

Eric's neighborhood is super cute and very different from his previous area of Hell's Kitchen/Times Square. Here's a picture of his building:

A building across the street. Such pretty details:

And even in winter in New York City, a flower box blooms:

We had a leisurely day at the apartment, whose climax was the dramatic delivery of a new sleeper couch (it's a five-floor walk-up!). Here's Eric tearing apart the living room to make space for the new arrival:

And here, for those of you who haven't seen one before, is a radiator. Heat (via steam?) comes up pipes throughout the building and radiates out of this gizmo to heat the room it's in. There's all sorts of hissing and other noises involved when it comes on:

As soon as the delivery men left, Eric and I scooted out for the evening's festivities: dinner at the Russian Tea Room followed by an 8:00 curtain for Checkov's The Seagull, featuring Kristin Scott Thomas and Peter Sarsgaard.

The Russian Tea Room is a New York institution. Opened in 1927 by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet, the Tea Room features authentic Russian food in an opulent setting, served by attentive, precise staff. I'd never been before, so this was a real treat.

The food was exotic and tasty. Eric got Chicken Kiev while I had a shrimp risotto that was unlike any I'd ever had before (I avoided several of the choices I probably would have ordinarily picked because they included foie gras among their ingredients. I'm officially a Californian.).

Here are our main courses:

After dinner, there was a special treat in store: we asked the hostess if we could see The Bear. The Bear is a 16-foot-tall, hollow sculpture commissioned by the Tea Room's former owner, who previously also owned Tavern on the Green. The Bear is on the second floor, so we were led up some winding stairs, the hostess (literally) flipped on a spot light, and this is what we saw:

We both gasped. I don't know what I was expecting, but yikes. And yes, those are fishes swimming around in its belly.

After dinner, we headed over to Broadway, to the Walter Kerr Theater, for the night's show, stopping long enough in Times Square for a quick picture:

The Walter Kerr is just a beautiful place to see a show, having been restored several times to its former theatrical glory. Here's a shot of the theater's ceiling as an example:

I need to fully disclose at this point that while I like lots of kinds of art and personal expression, and certainly have always thought of myself as especially liking plays, I'm not really a a terribly arty person. Museums tend to bore me ("Where's the gift shop?"), and lots of so-called classic films leave me cold as well. But when I came to visit several years ago, Eric and I saw Proof at the same theater, and it was wonderful.


I'd never seen any Checkov before, but had always heard wonderful things. About how smart and deep and insightful it all is. I don't know about all that, but after two acts' worth of The Seagull, I basically wanted to kill myself. So much interminable, self-involved dialogue among aristocratic, artistic Russian characters about the nature of real theater and inspiration and true expression. Bah. At intermission I told Eric that I hated it, basically wasn't smart enough to even understand what was happening* and that if we didn't go back in, I would be perfectly happy.

Here's a picture of the stage before the performance began to give you a sense of the happiness and joy that accompany this little production:

Eric was lovely about it, despite how much the tickets were and the reviews the play's received. We left, had a late (second) dessert, and returned to the apartment.

* Eric says I am smart enough to understand it and wanted me to include such as a disclaimer.

Photos from yesterday's travels

I am safely in NYC with Eric. Yay!

The day is still unrolling over here (slowly... and with the assistance of a lot of coffee). We have theater tickets tonight, plans to eat at the Russian Tea Room as well as a new couch that will be delivered sometime this afternoon. But here are a couple of CrackBerryCam pics from my JetBlue adventures yesterday until today fully unwinds itself.

Here's a picture of the Pacific as we flew into Long Beach. Because when you fly to New York from Sacramento, an obvious midway point would be Long Beach.

I spent three hours in the airport in Long Beach. Which appears to have been overrun with various forms of critters. For example, there was a flock of wrens that appeared to just live there all the time, flitting and hopping and flying around inside. Here's one wren that almost sat still long enough for me to get a picture.

And, there were dogs. Lots of dogs. Specifically dogs on my flight. Dogs who, from the looks of things, have logged considerably more air miles than I have. For whatever reason, they were all miniature Pomeranians. Here's one of them chilling in the airport before being stuffed back into his carrier for the last leg:

Last (and most fascinating) (/sarcasm), here's a picture of my lunch. Beggars can't be choosers when trapped in an airport. I was really glad the mayo was on the side in this case, because the little packet of it the guy at the counter handed me was warm to the touch. Ick.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


To: Douchey guy at SMF this morning
Re: You're a cautionary tale

How you, with the paunch and bad frat-boy clothes and, heavens help me, checkered Vans, managed to get the attention of the young woman you were seeing off this morning is a bit of a mystery. She was very pretty, in a quiet way, and seemingly smart, based on the conversation I was forced to overhear as you brayed your end of it at her like some kind of donkey.

Seriously, telling her she's prettier with her hair darker and "everyone knows it"? And that you know she can't go to Disneyworld but she "has to understand" that you'll just have to take someone else in her place? And promising you'll send her pictures? Lucky girl!

Four words: You have highlighted hair.
Five more: Sister, run like the wind.

To: Douchey wanna-be rock star/college kid in Long Beach airport
Re: Please get over yourself

OK. The blingy Versace sunglasses (indoors) and omnipresent iPod I totally get. It's SoCal, baby. Or something.

But you have called literally eight people in the few minutes I've been nearby powering up my MacBook to tell them your flight number. Which you repeat digit by digit, as though they're learning impaired. Plus, you sing along to the Muzak and adjust yourself in your seat so abruptly every few minutes that the whole row of chairs bucks around. Never mind that you have taken up the seat next to you with two additional iPods, a BlackBerry and a concerning amount of gum.

Are you a rock star? A movie star? Perhaps just in your own mind? No idea.

To: Douchey seatmate on flight to LGB
Re: I exist

Quit touching me! With your elbows and your purse and your seat belt (which you chucked over the shared armrest for some reason mid-flight) and your carry-on and YOUR HAIR, especially your hair, which you flung around like a horse's tail for most of the flight.

I feel violated. A little dirty. And fairly creeped out.

So far

No traffic

Parking was easy and I was the only person on my shuttle

No lines

Everyone's been polite and friendly

I continue to fret about my wardrobe choices

I have a long layover midway through the trip, but I brought a couple of Netflix movies to pass the time

Next stop: Long Beach

Saturday, November 22, 2008

In which I fail a Pilates class

Another day, another abject humiliation at the hands of my new gym membership: I took my first Pilates class today. Or, I tried to anyway.

The instructor seemed nice enough, particularly at first, and she was sure itty-bitty, which I guess is some sort of testimony to the effectiveness of the class.

There were three of us, not counting the instructor, in a small room. And these flat machines that featured resistance cords and a middle platform on which you'd kneel or lie or whatever. Joseph Pilates originally designed his machines to help veterans rehab after World War I. They are also commonly used by dancers who need to be both flexible and strong. Exercises were essentially repetitive, controlled movements emphasizing stretch, range of motion and using your own body weight (with the resistance cords' help) to deepen stretches and ranges.

All this was done to New Agey music that I think was supposed to be soothing but made me slightly homicidal. I can see the appeal of the discipline even from the few exercises I was able to complete successfully. I could feel the stretching, the depth of muscle contraction as I worked along in my first-timer, uncoordinated way.

The trouble started when we quit lying flat on the platform and began balancing on it. One exercise required us to place one knee on the platform and link a cable to our other leg. The non-kneeling leg was then to kick back behind us as we balanced on the platform knee. Of course, the platform would move on its track as the free leg moved back and forth.

It was during this exercise that I fell off the machine for the first time. I was fine as long as the instructor was next to me with one hand on my shoulder and the other on the small of my back. But the minute she stepped away, I toppled crazily over, a whir of arms and legs. Undaunted, I popped back up, laughed it off (I am a bit clumsy) and tried again. And fell again.

After that, I decided perhaps that specific exercise wasn't really happening for me. So I waiting 'til the rest of the class moved on to the next one. At which point I fell a third and final time. I was done.

I told the instructor as I was leaving that while she'd been very nice and all, I really didn't think Pilates was for me and thanked her for her help.

"Well, yes, it seems very hard for you," she said. "It's a hard discipline."

"Well, sure, but my falling OFF THE MACHINE isn't really helping matters."

"Hm," she said. "Well."

Well, indeed.

New favorite thing: stoneware spoons

I have this weird habit -- whenever I drink coffee, I leave a spoon in the cup. I think it comes from my early days as a coffee drinker, when I was constantly trying to get the sugar-to-coffee-to-cream ratio right. This involved a fair amount of stirring, and if you drink out of a mug, there's really no place to set a sticky, wet spoon like there is with a cup and saucer. Letting it sit in the mug was just neater, easier. And a habit was born.

So when I saw these cool stoneware spoons at Basic French, I was very happy. They're the perfect size to leave in a mug of coffee. They're ceramic, so they take on the temperature of the coffee, and the patterns are just too cute (as an aside, if you're a Francophile, Basic French is definitely the site for you).

I splurged and got three of them:

The red pattern reminds me of chintz china.

They have already worked themselves into my morning routine.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Used to

There was a time that I was different than I am now.

I was coupled -- for a while, with a husband, and at other times with boyfriends and lovers. My world, my space and even my affect were completely different in those days.

I see couples around me now and notice the subtle secret handshakes of this other world that I once inhabited. How they instinctively know where to reach for the other's hand. Exactly how much to upturn their cheeks to receive a kiss. The right angle for their arm to embrace their partner.

The intimacy, the presence of another person has become part of them, and the space around them bends to accommodate, to take in. The reaching, the adjusting isn't conscious. But it's there, a delicate balance, caught up with words and actions and sharing. Consummation, of a sort.

It seems to me that the whole point of the awkward naked stiltedness of early dating is to get you to this place -- of openness, of seamless fitting together, of knowing where to reach and when.

When I was coupled, when I was younger, when I knew and performed the secret handshakes, I too reached and adjusted and embraced. But it's been a really long time. I worry that all it takes to be in this world as a singleton of a certain age -- the keeping so much to oneself, the not getting one's hopes up, the readiness to do nearly everything alone in the end -- works at cross purposes with the emotional collagen needed to be part of a pair, to internally adjust and open. How to be hard, until you're needed to be soft? How to be closed, until it's time to be open?

If the opportunity comes again, will I be ready? Will I even be able?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Easily amused

It's been a while since I've seen an LOL Cats that made me laugh, but I found this one greatly amusing:

Good morning?

Full disclosure here -- I hate mornings, and I hate exercise. If there was some way I could just stay in bed all day, managing my life via wifi and MacBook with the occasional shower thrown in, I'd be perfectly happy.

But, sadly, that is not my fate. I am neither a starlet nor a trust-fund baby; therefore, I must get out of bed every single morning and, five days out of seven, go to my job. Which is not in my bedroom or even my house. Add to this my fatness, lack of fitness and shiny new gym membership, and we arrive at a sad realization: if I am going to fit exercise reliably into my life, I am going to have to do it in the morning. Before work. Which is early. And outside my house.

Did I mention I hate mornings?

The new routine has me leaving the house and to the gym by 5:15 AM. Which is just very early, y'all. I spend about 30-ish minutes on cardio followed by ab work and Nautilus-like weights. On the days I do weights for lower body, I do less cardio, largely because if I do more, I can't pick my legs up to get into my car. I'm out of there by a little after 6:00.

What has been an insight is just how many people do this every day, apparently because they choose to and not because they are being held at gunpoint or anything. I base this on the fact that the people I see at the gym early in the day are, dare I say, happy -- smiling and talking and laughing with one another. It dawned on me this morning, as I was slogging through another set of ab something-or-others, that what we have here are Morning People.

There are women in the locker room who, when I arrive to stow my stuff, are already doing their hair. Which means that by 5:15 they have already finished working out. What time did they get there, anyway? When I hit the cardio area at 5:20 or so, there are many people who are already running or climbing happily along, completely sweaty, smiling their "good mornings" at those of us who stumble in. I am stunned by this. I can barely form words at that hour, but these people have been cardio-ing away for who knows how long already. There are also trainers working the weight floor, putting clients through their paces, who ask how you are and if you're having a good day -- and stop to listen to your answer.

It's fascinating. And a little scary. It's like there was a whole world out there, carrying on, while I was sleeping.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why I love living in Northern California

Especially in the fall: yesterday's changing leaves.


The shocking oranges and reds.


Set off by a bright blue sky.


Making a mosaic on the ground.


Sunday, November 16, 2008


Three weeks ago I took something of a leap of faith in treating my migraines and went off all analgesic medications. I was in increasing levels of daily pain, so after talking to a new doctor and deciding I might be having rebound headaches in addition to migraines, I went cold turkey.

And the results have been great. I mean, not so much the first few days of this little experiment, when I basically wanted to hunt down New Doctor and hurt him in a way that would help him appreciate how I was feeling. But that passed, and while I still got headaches that I would have loved to take some Advil to treat, overall, things were a lot better.

The rub was that I was still getting migraines about twice a week. The medicine New Doctor prescribed to treat them, Relpax, works like a dream for me. In less than an hour after taking it, a migraine is typically gone -- not just better or tolerable, but gone. It's like a miracle. The medicine's expensive, and I'm still concerned about the migraines' frequency, but having a reliable means of addressing them has greatly contributed to the quality of my life.

Friday was my three-week follow-up appointment with New Doctor. He actually hugged me when I told him how well the Relpax worked, that I'd managed to tough it out with the Advil and get past the rebound headache cycle, and that I was just feeling so much better. We decided on a wait-and-see approach for the migraines themselves -- to give them a little more time to see if successfully addressing them with the Relpax will, gradually, reduce their cycling as well. All in all, a great day at the doctor, which I don't get a lot of when it comes to my head.

And then -- about 3 AM Saturday I got a humdinger of a migraine. The kind of migraine I get about once a year, one that didn't respond at all to any medication (and I threw everything at it that I had in the house) (which is saying something). It left me whimpering in bed for most of the day, dashed the day's plans to help with Christina and David's move and then go to my church's celebration dinner. It was so frustrating -- to go from feeling so positively about things one day to being back in the trenches the next.

I'm a lot better today, if out of sorts and shaky. But also prayerful that I'll be given the grace I need to walk through this.