Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Day

I'm working from home right now, typing at my dining room table. I'm sitting stretched out in a patch of sunlight. Kind of like a kitty cat. It's pretty damn nice, if I do say so myself.

Who said the snow doesn't have its advantages??

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Look homeward...if the snow doesn't blind you, that is.

When last I left you, we were on the runway at O'Hare, watching scenes like this unfold:

The thing is, I'm not bad with flying and snow. Jeez, I'm from Massachusetts. What I am bad about is the fact that airlines choose not to send their planes to cities where bad weather is expected because they won't "get their plane back" therefore royally effing up our travel plans. We landed in Chicago to find all flights to Boston canceled until Thursday. It was Tuesday. WTF. I actually walked away from the woman at United when she informed us she couldn't get us to Boston on Thursday because everything was booked but there was a chance of getting us to Manchester or Providence. REALLY UNITED, REALLY?!!!! Jamaal, because he's awesome, managed to score us tickets to Baltimore that night. "Eastern Seaboard" we shouted, dancing merrily around the terminal at O'Hare amidst weary travelers looking for an electrical outlet. We took off around 7:30PM. It became clear as we approached Baltimore, that we may not be escaping so easily from BWI. During the last 40 minutes of our flight, all I could see was snow rushing by the window. All I could think was how the snow was blinding the pilot and we'd miss the runway - I am morbid like that when I fly - and how we'd skid off and be on the news, but maybe I'd be injured just enough to get home to Boston on some sort of mercy ambulance ride, or how my dad could pull strings with the Maryland State Police and get me home. Luckily, we landed just fine to find BWI....closed....dead....with no flights to Boston until Thursday. Le Sigh.

In our infinite wisdom stupidity, we hailed a cab, which charged us a 25% markup in fare for "weather conditions" and went to the Greyhound Station. Looking back, this was the turning point in our journey, the point where we could've had triumph or tragedy. Sadly, triumph was not in the cards for us. Jamaal went in. I am sure they laughed when he was gone. No buses. We went to the Amtrak station. Because we had gone to the bus station first, we entered the train station to hear the final boarding call for the 10:30 train to Boston. Because we didn't land until nearly 10, we never thought we'd make the Amtrak....but then that train was 17 minutes late, and by the time we diddled around the snowy streets of Baltimore, our arrival via cab exactly coincided with the Regional Service. We asked the cops in the station if we could make it. To their credit, I think they radioed someone. They looked at us with a mixture of amusement and downright pity, informing us that the train was pulling out of the station and the next one was at 3:55AM. Thus began our long night at the Downtown Baltimore train station.

I've slept on airport floors before. I pride myself on being able to fall asleep anywhere, and often end the night on the couch knocked out on husbando's thigh (we have a system). Unfortunately, the train station is in the midst of renovations, and the flimsy plastic covering the windows near the only benches in the station not occupied by homeless men did little to protect us from the howling blizzard winds. It was f*cking.cold. I tried to maintain perspective - we were sharing a place with homeless people. How cold must they be? I tried to be worldly and understanding, but you know what? Around 1AM I started to lose it. We had been up for 18 hours, I was tired, my dinner had been apple pop tarts from a vending machine, and Jesus gay did I want to get home.

The 3:55AM Amtrak looked magnificent as it charged towards the station, lamps gleaming, snow falling gently around it. I half expected some elves to serve me hot chocolate on board, all Polar Express and sh*t. The conductor applauding us for signing our tickets ahead of time was enough (though I wanted to say, what else were we doing during our 5 hour layover that would've taken us away from the ever-important signing of the ticket?). I stretched out on two seats and tried to sleep. The door of the train froze shut. Whatever. I figured if I had to peel the rubber gasket from the window and jump onto the platform at South Station to get home I would.

At 7AM the train came to a grinding halt in Penn Station. The friendly conductor starts moving through the train. "You gotta get off" he says, "we're not going to Boston." "But that's where I'm going!" the passengers lament. "Go to customer service, they'll help." We gather our crap and head to the Amtrak area at Penn. We get to the window and I explain that we were on train 91, bound for Boston, and it just stopped here. Could we buy another ticket for another train to Boston? "Ain't no trains going to Boston" Amtrak lady says. "I can get you a ticket back to Baltimore though" she reassures me. In my head, I want to leap across the counter, tackle her and say "WHY THE F*CK WOULD I WANT TO GO BACK TO BALTIMORE!" I didn't though. Jail is probably  colder than the Baltimore train station. I take a breath. I say "Ok, so what do we do." She offers us a refund. Whatever. We soon learn that the snow is not the issue with Amtrak, but downed power lines in Massachusetts. Great. At least we had made it to NYC, a place where you can get food 24/7- for that fact alone, I was grateful. We hopped on the subway to Port Authority to try our luck with buses. As soon as we said "Boston" we got a "no" head nod. OOOOKKKKKK. Back to Penn we went.

I spent the next seven hours wondering when we'd make it home. I knitted. I read a book. I looked for places to charge my electronics. I spilled my entire coffee moments after purchasing it, then felt so bad I offered to clean it up myself. "No no!" the ladies cried, "we get it!" They were probably worried I'd spill something else. I brushed my teeth in the squalor that is the Penn Station ladies room (cleaner than Port Authority, my friends). At 2PM (this is Wednesday, now, and we hadn't had more than 2 hours of sleep in.....a long time) Jam cracked. "WE ARE GETTING A HOTEL ROOM" he declared with manly, husbandly authority. Never have I been so willing to be the dutiful, subservient female in all my life, that is how desperate I was for a bed with a blanket and hot water. When we left Penn, NYC was bustling around us. I grew to respect NYC after six years of visiting Jam there, but at that moment, my heart swelled with love. I wanted to kiss the sidewalk and every hot dog vendor and bootleg cd hawker in sight. After the empty echo-y halls of BWI and the desertion of the train station, NYC was an elixir of life! "Jamaal!" I cried, "Let's go to Old Navy and buy clean clothes - I have the credit card, my treat!" After checking into to the shaky Hotel Pennsylvania, we went to find clean clothes (my suitcase actually smelled by this point, I swear), then we finally took a nap. We had been awake, more or less, for 33 hours. We looked like this:

The end of our journey home was uneventful. We called friends for dinner and went to BBQ's where I ordered a "Texas-sized" drink called a "cherry bomb" which tasted like a cherry popsicle. The drink was as big as my head and came with a shot of 151 in a test tube stuck into the frozen glory of the drink. It was really just what I needed.

We boarded our train at 7AM the next morning, now 45 hours (adjusting for the time difference) after waking up in SD to leave. Luckily, there were no snags on the way home. We made arrangements for my mother to fetch us from the Red Line. The day's only catastrophe was me spilling an entire medium french fry on the tracks in a feat of spasticity the likes of which Boston has not seen in a while. It was sad, but I need to lose like, 15 pounds anyways.

We were delighted to come home to our cozy apartment and our bird children. We had fretted about them the whole time we were trapped; my sister had been petsitting, but left on Tuesday afternoon, assuming we'd be back by 10PM Tuesday night - she then proceeded to get snowed in at my parents, where they also had no power. She was worried that we had lost power also, and we'd come home to find our birds sitting on their perches, lifelike, but frozen to death. Luckily our landlord works for National Grid and typed our address into the computer, and was able to see we had power. Thank goodness.

And here we are two weeks+ later, where life has taken on its normal winter pace, where I avoid going out except to work or to the occasional social gathering, I eat a lot, lament about how I should be out jogging, then declare it too cold to exercise and sit on the couch and knit instead. Life is good. I have no real complaints.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I've been MIA for THREE WEEKS?!

Don't worry world, I'm still here!

In response to my last post, the work world came crashing down on me last week, and I am now forced to deal with the terrible, procrastination, sloth, and disorganization that has been ruling my work life. As much as it kind of sucked to be asked point blank why I was "so far behind" it did give me a sense of great satisfaction to reply "because I do the work of two salaried employees." This did not take away from the fact that our project is behind and there are people expecting results. It did prompt me to make an elaborate spreadsheet with all my overdue projects on it, complete with tasks listed by the person to whom the project is owed/subject and in order of importance. I felt organized for a few minutes! Then I just felt overwhelmed. Mostly because these projects are for a group that did not give us a due date for two years, then decided that January 31, 2011 would be the magical due date for "all the things." Yeah, OK.

Other reasons I might be more behind than average:
That's San Diego for those of you unable to recognize the city skyline in my crapass night photography. 

If I had to describe San Diego in a word, I'd probably choose "ideal." It's the perfect city. It's got nightlife, culture, great food, a TON of stuff to do, it's driveable (so unlike my home city of Boston) and the climate is amazing. The weather reminded me of the mountains of Costa Rica, a bit - it's chilly in the morning, but as the day progresses, it becomes sunny and beautiful. I guess this isn't actually normal for San Diego, as temps hovered around the mid to low 60's and the natives were disgruntled, but it was perfect for me! This was, once again, one of those trips where Jamaal was tied down by business obligations and I was free to wander and do all things touristy. I had a FAB time. Here's a large sampling:

 Day One

 We managed to go on a whale watch together. Here's a view of the city as we leave the dock.
 Here's a Grey Whale tail. We saw several whales - lucky, but then again, 'tis the season of migration and we had a good chance of seeing at least one of these slow-swimming whales as they make their way down from the Bering Sea to Baja.
 We saw a pod of hundreds of dolphins. If I had to estimate, I'd say maybe there were 300 in the pod...they swam right for our boat (we literally floated in place) and as they drew close, the captain started moving so the dolphins to could bow ride. It was one of the most awe-inspiring things I've ever experienced. This youtube video is almost identical to what we experienced.
 This is the new Point Loma lighthouse. I actually drove out here a few days after this was taken.
 Because rest and relaxation are for the week, I bounced off the whale watching boat and hopped on to another boat, the carrier USS Midway. I've been on an aircraft carrier once before, and it was a great experience. This was very different - I was on an active carrier - while that was exciting and educational, the Midway features TONS of information about each and every part of the ship, along with "scenes" set up in most of the rooms. 

Like this, for example. This is the ship's operating room. The mannequins are so life-like that it was unnerving sometimes to come around the corner and see one standing there. I usually jumped because I am gullible like that. A free audio tour came with the price of admission, and this was great. Vets actually narrate parts of the tour, and it's amazing to hear from people who actually stood where you're standing on the ship.

Midway has a ton of aircraft on deck. If you have a plane buff in your family, they will die from all the awesomeness. My dad would've frothed at the mouth at the deck. This is the SH-3 Seaking which fetched the Apollo astronauts. Badass.

 The bridge! It was the perfect day to visit the Midway because it was a weekday and a little chilly. The place felt deserted and there were no lines. I got to see the bridge no problem - I actually had to wait for enough people to join the group before our guide took us up!
View from the bridge. The airplane in the shot was being restored.

 I figured I had earned Pinkberry, which I have now learned, is glorious. This is the new blood orange flavor. It was so frickin' good I took Jam there for dessert after dinner. When the employees there asked if I wanted to try the new blood orange flavor I said "I already have." The guy goes "that's impossible, it came out today!" I said "yeah, I know, I was here four hours ago." I think they were slightly horrified. I didn't care :)
 Sunset from our room! That's the Hyatt in the distance.

Day Two

Decided to exercise the car a little by driving up to La Jolla. The animals there are the coolest. Here are some brown pelicans.

 Someone told me to skip La Jolla unless I wanted to "look at women with tons of plastic surgery." Ouch! I went anyways, and am glad I did. I didn't notice women with plastic surgery, but I did see a lot of seals. 

 Cliffs - so pretty

 Happy seal!

 I ended the day in Balboa Park. It was crowded and not very pretty because of the time of year! The gardens were not in bloom and everything was kind would definitely give this place another try on a return trip. Oh also, I didn't hit up any of the museums while I was there because I was dead tired. Next time, next time.

Day Three, in which I shell out $40 to go to the San Diego ZOO!!!

I'm often iffy about zoos. I usually get all excited to go and then end up depressed as hell, thinking of all the little animals in their very small spaces. In the case of the San Diego Zoo though, I wanted to keep in mind a bunch of things, two being that it is a multiply-accredited zoo focused on education and conservation. It also has an endangered species breeding program. I took a deep breath, hawked up my $40, and went in. And oh my, was it great. Here, a Calamian Deer and I take a look at each other.

 I visited the zoo as soon as it opened, which was a nice time - we went back the next day in the afternoon, also and excellent time to visit. A lot of the animals were either still snoozing or doing morning things, like eating or preening. This is a Lesser Spot-Nose Guenon doin' his morning maintenance.

Because people are jerks, many complained about how the tapir was sleeping. Oh come on, how adorable is this snoozing Malayan Tapir?? FRICKIN CUTE.  I snapped a pic and then tiptoed away.

Paradise Tanager! This is the most awesome bird of all time. The end. 

Okapi, last living relative of the giraffe.

 Condor - they were eating bunny rabbits when I got there. The kids had one of two reactions: *horror* "Is that a rabbit??!!!" *fascination* "It's eating a RABBIT!"

 Meerkat Manor. Awrrr.

Giraffidae, as we used to say in Kenya. 

 After five hours at the zoo, I decided to hit up Point Loma/Cabrillo National Monument so I could get off my feet for a little while.

 View of the city. Just gorgeous

 The cliffs at Point Loma. I had to wait like, 465 minutes to get a shot without people in it

That's the car I got in a Hertz upgrade. WORTH IT. 

We stayed in the Gaslamp Quarter. Also worth it, so fun. And we were basically diagonally across the street from Pinkberry. 
Day Four

 Decided to see what the hype was about and drove over to Coronado Island. I actually screamed as I crossed the Coronado Bridge, I found it terrifying. It's high enough to accommodate large ships...and high enough to scare the cccrrraappp out of me. Also, the sides are only 34 inches high. I would like a steel fortress surrounding me when I cross a bridge like that. eeeeeek. Luckily, once in Coronado, I was quite relaxed and fancy free. Above is the famous Coronado Hotel. It's gorgeous.

 The beach is frickin' nice. The sand is raked and free of crap like, oh I dunno, trash, glass, hypodermics - free of the stuff you used to find on Nantasket. ha. 

 There's Point Loma!

 I hadn't touched the Pacific since 2007. Long overdue. I stuck my feet in. It was cold as balls, like, Maine Atlantic cold. Of course that's the Maine Atlantic in the summer, whereas this was dead winter....

 Return to the zoo! I went with my honey this time. Another $40. Yup. Probably why I felt so broke after coming home. 

 Koala! I had skipped this the day before because the poor things were MOBBED. The glory of going on a Monday afternoon is that the zoo was emptying out when we arrived around 12:45-1PM. The stroller quotient was reduced by about 75%. Don't get me wrong, I love a place that is accessible to all, but when being a pedestrian becomes a hazard because there are so many strollers shoved into one place and occasionally ramming into me? Yeah, I get crankified. Anywho, Koala!!!!

 Secretary Bird

Jamaal and the lion. We couldn't get any closer because the other rabid tourist were in the way, stepping on the zoo's landscaping to get a closeup of the lion. Whatever, tourists. 

 Speke's Gazelle. Not the kind I ate in Africa. 

 Wolf's Guenon. Baby played with his toy while the adults preened each other.

 Baby tried to help but was reprimanded several times!

 Flamingos. Loved the light, wish I had zoomed in a bit more....

 Day Five

 I took this pic before heading to the airport. It's kind of awful. I fiddled with it a lot on Picasa (moment for how I need Photoshop?!) The problem is this: I am pale, Jam is dark (just typed that the opposite. oy). The camera does not adjust very well for our biracialness, so I usually look washed out as hell, and Jam looks fairly well-balanced. It sucks. I messed around and got this. Not too bad, but the picture looks a little grainy. Eh well. This is our one pic together from the trip!

Day five (technically six) marked our regretful departure from SD. Goodbye city of warmth and sunshine! We took off for our stopover at O'Hare and arrived to this:

And with that, I leave you.
More tomorrow. I've gotta make dinner and watch Inception

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Resolving to....

You ever have a project that you avoid tackling because you have no clue how to start?

Yeah, I'm at that point right now - only it's at work!

Usually work is my "let me go in, get sh*t done, and get out" place, the place where I know how to do everything, a place where I might procrastinate, but my stuff gets finished, maybe the day before it's due, but it gets DONE. Home is usually the place where I have about a billion projects stacked up and have no idea where to even start, and I get so overwhelmed I sit on the couch and watch a mind-numbingly stupid reality series Jerseylicious (ps - anyone watched that? It's ridiculous....yet so addictive. One girl's lip gloss is the exact shade of her skin, except iridescent. I find myself fascinated...)

So yeah, here I am at my desk, looking at a spreadsheet sent to me nearly two months ago for modification and I have no freakin' clue how to fix it. And I'm kind of in that situation where I should ask for help, specifically from the woman who sent it, but it's been so long since she sent it I'm embarrassed to send her anything but the completed project, or at least, a project that's completed to the best of my abilities that she'll have to heavily modify. Oy. Disaster. I have about four or five of this type of project to complete too, nevermind catching up my project that is behind a year. YES. We're behind a year.

The good thing? Despite the general disorganized state of our apartment, I feel that this year I can really meet a couple of my new year's resolutions: 1. be more organized/neater 2. finish unfinished projects 3. destash/declutter. I feel so ready to tackle these things! I have plotted on the Container Store's website, I have organized my Ravelry queue and have plans to photograph projects and yarns to upload them to my profile, so I can keep things in order. I am ready to organize my binder of recipes, to make the switch from scrapbooking with paper and glue to making edgy photo books on Blurb, ready to tag my Flickr photos, ready to visit the dry cleaner's once a week until my laundry bag of dry cleaning is gone. I'm ready to clean out my car and keep in clean, even treat the poor gal to a car wash every couple of weeks. I'm ready to commit to monthly pedicures with my sister, because they're only $20 near my office and they're WORTH the indulgence. I feel so ready to ATTACK......EVERYTHING....except my JOB....AHH! This never happens to me! Ironic.

I suppose it's good that I'm actually paid to do my job, so somewhere, deep down, I know I'll find the motivation I need. Part of the problem was the last few weeks of December. I admit, seeing that pedestrian accident left me terribly shaken. I am a LOT better now, especially after having this wretched emotional catharsis on Christmas Eve, but work the week before and after Christmas was highly unproductive, partly due to the endless questions of coworkers, wanting to know all the details of the accident, partly do to the fact that the woman's face was on the work intranet - I couldn't escape what had happened and it left me paralyzed. I am still freaked out by it - nearly getting side-swiped last night left me this shaky, anxiety-ridden mess - but I feel like pieces are slowly falling back into place. I think they're coming easier at home because that's a "safe space" (forgive the stupid cliched "buzzword" lol) and taking some time at work because I still arrive a bit rattled after stepping off the shuttle bus. I guess everything will come together soon, and I'll be back to my old self, ready to tackle the work world. For now I guess I'll just have to take it one project at a time. Eek, and ask for help, even if a project is two months late. Luckily I am excellent at writing humorous self-deprecating work emails that almost always evoke a sympathetic response. Go me.

A picture, because my blog is getting wordy and boring:

View from our apartment. We face north, so we get lovely sunsets visible from the living room, dining room and kitchen windows. I love it, though now that it's January, I mostly get home after dark. Just something to look forward to when the long days of summer are back.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

My sister  has an awesome tumblr - I love it, though the concept of tumblr kinda escapes me. I had to steal this, because it's Little Women.  Not only am I absolutely in love with that movie, but I'm in love with all the elements that make Little Women special. For each individual, this might be different. For me, it's specialness is this: it's setting (though yes, the movie was filmed elsewhere) - I'm from Massachusetts and love Concord, and love the transcendentalists that called the Concord area home in Jo and her parent's time, I love the coziness of the winter scenes and the green vibrance of the spring and summer. I love the bond between the sisters, I love Jo's rejection of what is "expected" of her, of what is "proper." I love that Amy grows up before our eyes. I love Beth's quiet fearlessness, Marmie's strength, and Meg's practicality, which she set aside for John (I love their wedding scene so much that I chose "For the Beauty of the Earth" for the bridesmaid's processional at our wedding!). I love that Jo sets out for New York on her own, in a time when that probably wasn't common, or maybe even frowned upon for a single woman! Oh, and that scene with Friederich at the opera? Oh my.

Little Women is filled with several fresh starts and second chances (as well as love, life, death, humor, and happiness). It feels like the right way to start off the new year on this blog. I'm so looking forward to a new start this 2011, since 2010 ended a bit oddly and abruptly. I know the "new year" feeling is mostly in my head, but I love the thought of a fresh start.

Marmee March: Oh, Jo. Jo, you have so many extraordinary gifts; how can you expect to lead an ordinary life? You're ready to go out and - and find a good use for your talent. Tho' I don't know what I shall do without my Jo. Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. 

So someone awesome decided to do their Top 100 Movies and well, I couldn’t let this one slide.  So for the next 100-ish days (I know I’ll be skipping here and there) I present my Top 100 Movies (in absolutely no order because after the top 3 or so, I can’t decide).

100.  Little Women
“Change will come as surely as the seasons and twice as quick.  We make our peace with it as best we can.  Or as Amy once said when she was still a little girl, ‘We’ll all grow up someday.  We might as well know what we want.’”

CHIB: So someone awesome decided to do their Top 100 Movies and well, I couldn’t let this one slide.  So for the next 100-ish days (I know I’ll be skipping here and there) I present my Top 100 Movies (in absolutely no order because after the top 3 or so, I can’t decide).

100.  Little Women
“Change will come as surely as the seasons and twice as quick.  We make our peace with it as best we can.  Or as Amy once said when she was still a little girl, ‘We’ll all grow up someday.  We might as well know what we want.’”