Archive for March, 2012


what I did while I wasn’t here

Apparently, this is one of the most popular blog headlines.

Alas, I’m a cliché, and probably in more ways than this.

But I was in New York City for four fabulous days, at a conference, well, at least some of the time, and having lots of fun with lots of very good friends.

Some highlights of the trip.

What I ate:

The Best Gyro. Ever. (Greek Kitchen)

Miso Menchanko. (54th St. I think, in the block west of 6th St.)

Pad Prik Khang, with shrimp; and a sake-sojo martini that gave me such a headache I thought I might be having a stroke. (Boyd Thai, Greenwich Village)

Spicy tuna sushi, washed down with an ice-cold Sapporo. (Sushi Damo, 58th & 9th)

Savory crepe with chicken, mushroom and asparagus, topped with a tomato-olive tapenade. (Europa Café, 57th St.)

And, believe it or not, at the LaGuardia airport:

Sun-dried tomato and goat cheese panini with a Pilsner Urquell ($8, but never mind.)

I only have pictures of all of my meals because Husband was at home, and I thought he might look at this as a way of our sharing the trip. You’d have to ask him if he agrees, or if he thought I was just being really annoying.

Some other interesting sites:

Rockefeller Center

This looks so much bigger on TV.

St. Mark’s (?) Cathedral

I really should keep track of the identities of these things. Stunning, though, isn't it?

Columbus Circle

Does this coat make my butt look big?

Times Square

I would have taken pictures on our pedicab tour of Central Park but I was too busy hanging on for dear life. This is also why you don’t get a picture of the chocolate almond croissant I got from the Bouchon Bakery. It was, for lack of a better word, amazing. Probably a thousand calories. But worth every single one of them.

I also don’t have pictures of Murray Perahia in concert. They kind of frown on that, although it didn’t seem to be stopping someone on the other side of the hall. I’m sitting in the back of Avery Fisher Hall, with ~ 2,500 people between him and me, and he plays Bach with such a beautiful, delicate, intimate yet singing tone it’s like he’s sitting right next to me. And then oh, how the Chopin roared! I was there with at least a dozen of my music-camp-faculty colleagues, and we were joking that we were going to have T-shirts made to wear at camp this summer that say “Just play it like Murray plays it.” As if.

It was also nice to see a full house, and again the next night for the Interlochen Academy’s anniversary celebration concert. Maybe it’s NOT the end of Classical music after all.

I loved the city. Anything you want to eat, do, see, buy, they have, and probably in the same block on which you find yourself. It was cleaner and safer than I imagined, although there was one poor soul on the subway that I can’t stop thinking about. As my friend Liza, who lives on the upper tip of Manhattan, says, you can’t help everyone. But I do think maybe we should try harder to help more.

And I don’t think I would be very happy about having to drive there, although I might be able to convince myself that I could find that perfect balance between assertive and defensive driving. I certainly wouldn’t bother with wanting a nice car; maybe something pre-dented.

I wrote the poem in the previous post on the plane on the way back after almost a two hour delay while we waited for the mechanics to make repairs. I’m always happy to have people fix things wrong with the plane that I’m supposed to be flying in; not like the pilot can hear a funny noise and decide to pull over onto the shoulder and call AAA. I would however always, selfishly, rather it was someone else’s plane that needed repair. I didn’t really understand the surly young man behind me — would he have rather they had flown without rear pitch control (whateverthatmeans)? And it did make my night’s sleep rather short by the time I got home. I was extremely grateful not to be seated next to the girl who had plopped herself down next to me in the terminal (despite the other 85 empty seats at the gate) and then regaled her father via cellphone with her tales of woe, including an apology for being so drunk last time she called him — apparently her brother had carried her out of the bar after she passed out and she didn’t even realize she had made any phone calls until the next morning. Charming. On so many levels. Not helped by the fact that some other people seemed to think she was with me. Apparently my sympathy only extends so far.

And despite popular opinion, most of the New Yorkers were exceedingly friendly, except for the waitstaff at the Pazza Notte on 6th. We weren’t getting dinner, just drinks and an appetizer, so, despite the fact that it was 10:30 p.m.and there were at least ten empty tables in the restaurant, we were escorted to two uncomfortable chairs and a barrel (I’mnotmakingthisup) in a stinky corner by the kitchen to drink our watered-down cosmopolitans and eat our not-really-all-the-convincing bruschetta. Quite a contrast to the ramen place, where every. single. employee.  thanked us as we left.

Not bad, all things considered.


from there to here

The left wing bowed graciously,
after the plane caught its pocket of air
and nonchalantly dropped the LaGuardia runway into its wake
(an hour and a half behind schedule,
not that anyone’s counting,)
and New York City gleamed as if gilded in gold,
the Avenues wearing their red and white stripes
of cars going this way,
and that way;
Central Park all darkness,
the pedicabs and ice skaters long gone home.

The stewardess fills up my water glass
for the fourth time, then sneaks me a bottle of merlot
minutes after turbulence shakes us all like
dice in a Yahtzee cup.

I am 38 minutes away from you,
that “you the singer sings to,*”
according to The Flight Deck,
and despite that promise I make to myself
time and time again,
You know–that promise
not to wish my life away;
It cannot pass quickly enough.

There. It’s 36  minutes now.
Not that anyone’s counting.


*Ani DiFranco


Do I have to?

What if I don’t want to?

I don’t even know what it is.


one of the darker sides of technology

In a report on this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland from the March 5 New Yorker:

There’s a software firm by the name of Tibco, based in Silicon Valley, which has generated data-sorting software for companies such as Amazon, FedEx, Goldman Sachs, eBay airlines, and the Department of Homeland Security. They have also designed a program for Harrah’s, the well-known casino, which “can figure out when a gambler is about to encounter a loss of such magnitude that it will cause him to leave the casino and perhaps never come back. The casino’s Luck Ambassadors [I’m not making this up] will then offer the gambler a free meal or a ticket to a show. . .and distract the gambler long enough to entice him to return later, to continue losing money in palatable increments.”

Well, at least it’s palatable.



Hey Jude, the Canadian version

Heard in the bathroom this morning, from Only Daughter with the newly formed Beatles obsession:

“Eh, Jude. . .”



today’s Bible study

Today’s old-testament reading was from Exodus.

Moses and the Israelites have been wandering in the desert for 38.5 years.

They’re complaining, just a little.

(Big surprise, eh?)

They’re basically tired of wandering, perpetually lost, hungry, and thirsty, and bored with the limited menu: namely manna, quail, and water from a rock. Perhaps a little variety would be nice: maybe some salmon? a nice green salad? would a little fruit — some strawberries, or perhaps a handful of grapes, be too much to ask? all washed down with a nice, under-oaked Chardonnay?

ANYway, God hears enough of their incessant whining, and sends poisonous snakes among them. (Let THAT be a lesson to you.)

I can honestly say, in all these years of having children complaining about what they are being fed for dinner, I never thought of this.



Murakami, and why I won’t be reading him anymore; UPDATED

I had this all written this morning, (some of my best work,) and when I went to insert the picture I lost the whole post. (Ain’t technology grand?) I’m still not sure I have the heart to start over. But here goes.


Still taking a break from The Street Sweeper, although I plan on finishing it. Instead, though, I just read Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. Supposedly his readership went into the millions with the publication of this book, but I can’t really figure out how, unless it was high schoolers looking for the sex scenes.


Toru is a “preternaturally serious” student. In case we miss this by the fact that he has very few friends, and spends all of his time going to class, doing his homework, and working at his job at a “lame” record store (is there a geekier job than working at a “lame” record store?), the few friends he does interact with can’t seem to stop telling him how “strange” he is, or how “strange” he talks, even when what he says seems perfectly normal.

In this way, Murakami seems to demonstrate very little faith in his readers. Another example: Toru travels to visit the young woman he truly loves, Naoko, who has secluded herself in the mountains of northern Japan at an idyllic mental institution retreat recovering from the emotional trauma of first her older sister’s, then her long-term boyfriend’s, suicides. (There is a lot of suicide in this book; it seems to be the solution of choice in Murakami’s Japan; and surprisingly, many of those who commit suicide in this story don’t seem to have demonstrated any signs of emotional or psychological instability beforehand.) The line between patient and doctor is particularly blurry — when Toru first meets Naoko’s roommate, she is introduced as “Dr.” because she teaches music to some of the patients; a fellow patient wears a white coat and makes his “rounds” from table to table at mealtimes expounding on arcane topics. The “patients” live calm, idyllic lives, eating prepared meals, living in austere yet comfortable houses, performing “meaningful” menial tasks. Many patients stay for years. In case the insidiousness of this is lost on us, Toru just happens to have a copy of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain in his backpack. “How could you bring a book like that to a place like this?” Reiko asks him. How indeed?

And then there’s the sex.

Murakami is clearly trying to write the way the teenagers/twenty-somethings talk about, think about, sex. But I don’t think he’s very good at it. It’s too self-aware, too self-conscious, too proper. And that’s not the worst part. Besides the fact that, except for Toru, none of the men treat their girlfriends very well, the women themselves seem to have no sexual desire, no needs, no agency, of their own. (Update: Actually, this isn’t true, I somehow forgot one twist to the story. There is one “woman” with sexual desire and agency, she just happens to be a “pathologically lying” 13-year old girl who tries to seduce Reiko during one of the girl’s piano lessons. An event so traumatic it triggers Reiko’s latest psychological break. And, as far as I can tell from the story, the only lie the girl has told is after her seduction fails, and she reports that Reiko tried to seduce her. Apparently the idea of a 13 year old girl being sexually assertive and/or curious, or that she would spitefully lie about it later, is too bizarre for Murakami to consider.)

But back to the rest of them:

Naoko is a virgin when her long-term boyfriend commits suicide; apparently she was unable to, well, open herself to him. Naoko and Toru have one apparently mutually-satisfying sexual encounter, immediately after which she disappears and checks herself into the rehabilitation center. (There’s a ringing endorsement.) When Toru visits, Naoko services him in various ways, (Ugh), but waves off his offers of reciprocity.

Toru’s one male friend at university sleeps with dozens of women, despite having a beautiful, accomplished, intelligent young woman as a girlfriend. This girlfriend apparently knows about his philanderings, but tolerates them, claiming that she loves him and this is just what he must do. Reportedly she, too, will commit suicide, around four years after the end of this particular story.

While Toru waits patiently for Naoko to decide she can return to society, he is befriend by Midori, a “sexually liberated” young woman in one of his drama classes. They are physically attracted to each other, but are unwilling to consummate the relationship because she is “trying” to be faithful to her boyfriend (this is Murakami’s version of “sexually liberated”? That a twenty-something young woman has sex with her boyfriend?), despite the fact that the boyfriend criticizes the way she talks, the way she dresses.

And then there’s Reiko. Reiko is in her 30s, and, perhaps as an outward symbol of her long-term struggle with mental illness, is apparently extremely wrinkled. Reiko comes to visit Toru in Tokyo after (spoiler alert) Naoko’s suicide (see?), finally leaving the “center” after 8 years, on her way to teach music lessons in yet another secluded location. They cook together, and then make love, four times, in one evening. The first two are strictly for Toru, iykwim*; but afterwards, she lies in bed, eyes dewy, and declares: “I never have to do this again, for the rest of my life.”



The next day, Reiko departs, and Toru calls Midori, telling her that “all [he] wants in the world is [her].”

Funny way of showing it, but whatever.

*if you know what I mean

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