Friday, December 12, 2008
Now, if you're reading this it's probably because you know me, and therefore you also probably know that the highlight of 2008 for me was getting to see Bon Jovi, a band I've loved since I first heard "Livin' on a Prayer" sometime back in the early '90s, perform at Central Park. Matter of fact, that show was exactly five months ago today. Loved every second of it, and the same can be said for most of the songs from their albums. I know they haven't exactly been embraced by the critics over the years, but listening to their songs closely (which critics almost never do, instead basing their reviews on at most a few times through an album) reveals very technically superior musicians who, in my opinion, have managed to produce some of the best popular music of the past quarter century.
But why do so many people seem to think that good music (or movies, paintings, books, athletic performance, etc.) translates to a "nice" personality? I've never understood that. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they're decent human beings until proven otherwise, but even the most well-intentioned celeb is as flawed as the rest of us. And of course, quite a few of them are not nearly as nice or decent as we might wish. Why do a lot of people continually find this surprising? And why does our enjoyment of their work so often hinge on our need to believe that their artistic or athletic talents carry over into other aspects of their personalities? In order to enjoy, say, a good meal at a fine restaurant, not many people need to believe that the chef is a wonderful human being, only a wonderful chef. Why do people expect more out of musicians and athletes, and why are they disappointed when the object of their admiration doesn't deliver?
I would never argue that disrespect for fans is okay. When people who have considerably less money than you are willing to spend their hard-earned income on your albums and your sky-high ticket prices, they're entitled to be appreciated and respected. Quite frankly, not having had the opportunity to see Bon Jovi live on any occasion save for last July and never having considered joining their fan club (which, in any case, is much more about just their lead singer, and not the whole band), I don't have any personal experiences on which to judge their relationship to their fans. I've obviously never met any of them, so I don't know what kinds of people they are. I just know I find their music very appealing. Would I love the opportunity to meet any of them someday? Sure, especially if doing so was able to give me any new insight into their songs. But do I expect that being very talented songwriters and performers somehow puts them onto a higher plane than the rest of us? Why should it? And why do any of us allow ourselves to be continually disappointed by any public figure who doesn't live up to the hype?
My own response to the article linked above is #161, so if you're interested in reading it (but don't feel like scrolling all that way down!), here is what I wrote:
I'm struck reading through your comments (yes, I read ALL of them!) that not a single person has chimed in to defend the club. And I agree with everybody else who find it hard to believe none of the bandmembers are aware of what's going on. You can pretend to be a nice guy in interviews even if you're really a douche when the press goes away, but you can't fake smart. Jon is clearly a very intelligent person, so if he truly has no awareness of what's going on he's being very irresponsible. I think it's much more likely that he knows exactly how things are being run and simply doesn't respect the fans enough to address it. I hope that's not the case, and of course I have no idea what gets said between the bandmembers and others they work with. But it strikes me as extremely unlikely that all of this has happened without his knowing consent.
As long as they keep making good albums (and for the record, I LOVED Lost Highway), I'll purchase them, because that decision is about the quality of the songs and not the personalities involved. But I would never consider joining a fan club under such circumstances.
Thanks for an excellent, well-written and thoughtful piece.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Early in October, there was an online test for the annual Jeopardy college tournament. Having returned to school this fall, I decided to take it. I felt like I didn't do very well, but a week later I got an email saying that I had passed the test and had been invited to an in-person audition! When I registered for the test I had to pick an interview city, of which there were several around the country. New York was not one of them, and the nearest were Washington and Boston. I chose Boston because I hadn't been there before and have always really wanted to visit. So a week after that I was completely surprised by this invite, and of course I said yes! Now, I should say right now that the odds of me actually making it onto the show are still very slim. Several hundred people were interviewed, and only 16 will be chosen for the show. But the fact that they had whittled down the applicants to a few hundred meant that I had to have done pretty well on that first test, so I'm pleased I got as far as I did.
The interview was the morning of November 8, which was a Saturday, so I headed up Friday morning. I went by bus (NOT Greyhound), and the trip took about four hours. I had driven through western Massachusetts before, but had never been to Boston. I've always really wanted to go there, so the chance to do so was what really excited me about being picked for the audition. It always seemed strange that I hadn't been there yet, seeing as I've lived just a few hours away for six years now, but given my financial situation I could never justify spending the money to go up there just for a vacation.
I stayed at a Sheraton near the hotel where the interview was held. My hotel was in a neighborhood called Back Bay, which is an old, upscale part of the city. I was on the 18th floor and had a beautiful view out my window of the surrounding neighborhoods and the Charles River in the distance. I was only in town for a couple of days so I knew I wouldn't be able to do much sightseeing, and rather than trying to run around and see as much as possible I decided to just explore the area where I was staying and see what there was to see. Which worked out great, because it turned out that a lot of the city's famous sites were right in that same part of town. Beacon Hill, the most well-known neighborhood, is right next to Back Bay, and I stumbled upon it while I was out exploring. You know the old sitcom “Cheers”? Well, it was inspired by a real bar in Beacon Hill, and I walked past it while I was out exploring. I also passed by the famous Trinity Church and several other old buildings; I just love the way Boston has found a way to preserve its history by integrating it into the modern city.
The audition, which after all was the purpose of the trip, lasted for about two hours. First we all took another test, and after that three of us at a time played a mock version of the game. (This was very low-tech; instead of actual buzzers, we used pens ;)).After our turn at the game, we were each asked a few questions, I guess to make sure we were interesting enough to not bore the show's audience ;) Everybody else was from a four-year school; one guy went to Yale, a few went to Harvard, and then there was me, from LaGuardia Community College! But I did okay, I didn't embarrass myself—at least, I don't think I did! Like I said, I'm not holding my breath waiting for them to call—though I wouldn't be completely surprised if they did. It was just fun to make it to the next round and see how the whole contestant search thing works.
After the audition I went down to Providence for a few hours. I had never been to Rhode Island before, so I took advantage of the chance to check one more state off my list. RI now makes thirty-one. There is a commuter rail that runs between Boston and Providence; the trip is about 70 minutes each way and is less than $8 one-way.
The most famous landmark in Providence is the Rhode Island State House, which is one of the largest in the country and has the world's 2nd-largest marble dome (after St. Peter's Basilica). During the week there are tours of the building, but since I was there on a Saturday I could only see it from the outside. It is quite impressive, and it struck me as kind of ironic that this was the center of government for a state most famous for its puny size. The City Hall is also worth seeing. Downtown Providence is pretty small—it's not a huge city—but across the river there's a historic district where a lot of city and state offices are held. I didn't explore it in too much depth, but I walked along the river for a while, and again, I really enjoyed how well the city had managed to preserve its history. The riverwalk itself is very nice, and in the summer they have something called “WaterFire,” where they light bonfires on the river and accompany it with music, often live performances. So, that's about all I did in RI, but I'm glad I got to see a little of another important city and got to add another state to my list! 19 more to go.
And that's about it. I wish I could have stayed in MA a bit longer, but I had missed one class already and had to get back. Boston is a beautiful city, and I hope I get the chance to go back and see more of it in the near future! At the start of last summer I hadn't been to either Boston or Baltimore, and now I've been to all five major cities along the Northeast Corridor, as well as every New England state except Vermont. So, I feel like I've actually done something this year, which is nice.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Also during the week we drove out to Shanksville. I had been through the area before, right before I moved to New York. My brother Chris and I drove from Grand Rapids to Gettysburg. We took Route 30 across southern PA, which is a very scenic route through the Allegheny foothills. We were driving through a rural area and actually were kind of joking about how different our lives would have been if we had grown up in a place like that, when we passed a sign saying “Shanksville 5.” I was like, “Do you realize where we are?” and I told Chris that we were right in the area where Flight 93 had crashed. My grandparents actually live right on Route 30, so it was just a straight drive west through the mountains to get to Shanksville.
There is currently a temporary memorial across the street from the site of the crash with a permanent one planned for the site itself. It is staffed by volunteers from the area who work in two-hour shifts once a week. When we were there, I asked the volunteer if there was much controversy surrounding the memorial's design, and he said the only significant one was a dispute about the shape, which I had already heard about. The lay of the land lends itself to a crescent-shaped structure, but the crescent is also a symbol of Islam, and some of the families feel that would be inappropriate. (I certainly understand their point. Nothing against Islam as a whole, but it was in the name of that religion that their loved ones were murdered. I mean, there's nothing inherently wrong with the German flag, and most German people are good and decent human beings, but it would be totally inappropriate for the German flag to fly at Dachau, considering what was done there in the name of that flag. But then, a crescent isn't so specific, so I really don't know whose side I'm on. I can see both sides!) Other than that, the only major snag in the memorial's construction has been the acquisition of the land the plane crashed on. All things considered, it sounds like it's been a relatively smooth process, and so different from what we've had here in NY!
Visiting the site was more emotional and personal for me than I thought it would be. I may live at a geographic distance, but it's all part of the same thing that happened to my own city and forever altered the course of my life. There was a wall where people had left mementos and an opportunity to record your own reflections. I didn't write anything because what could I say that hasn't already been said? I just felt that I wouldn't be able to sum it up in such a short amount of space without sounding terribly trite.
The town of Shanksville itself only has about 250 residents. It is a few blocks long and about two blocks wide. On the way back we stopped on a hill above the town and got a picture of it. You can see pretty much all of Shanksville in the photo.
Gettysburg is located in Central Pennsylvania, somewhat closer to Philadelphia than Pittsburgh, and not far from the Maryland border. The bus I took went into Harrisburg, a much larger town about 45 minutes away. The closest big city is Baltimore, and the day after I arrived we went down there for a day. I had never been there before, so I was looking forward to that. The first place we went was the birthplace of Baltimore native Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player who ever lived. Here's a picture of the outside:The building is furnished as it was when the Babe was born in 1895 and is now a museum. It was fun to visit, and I think my grandmother actually got the most out of it, because she's the one who had the most to learn! (BTW, there's another Baltimorean who's more recently become a rather well-known figure in his own sport—guy by the name of Michael Phelps. Maybe you've heard of him? ;-))
After that we drove around the waterfront area to Fort McHenry, which is part of the National Park Service. Have you heard of the War of 1812? It was between us and Great Britain—who we'd succeeded in kicking out just 31 years before—that actually went on for two years till 1814. It began because of an ongoing conflict between Britain and France in which American trade was being disrupted. We nearly lost that war, and had we lost, our very young country would have ceased to exist. British forces managed to reach Washington, DC, and burned much of the city, including the president's residence, to the ground. Then they headed to Baltimore, whose only line of defense was Fort McHenry. Right before the Battle of Baltimore, a man by the name of Francis Scott Key went to see the British captain to try to gain the release of an American prisoner they were holding. He succeeded, but because the British were afraid the two Americans had heard too much of their plans they forced them to stay on the ship. During the battle, the smoke got so thick that nobody could see who was winning. At some point in the night, sounds of battle ceased, but because it was dark they didn't know who'd won, and since it was the Americans who stopped firing first they feared the British had gotten past the fort. It was only at sunrise, when they saw the American flag still flying above the fort, that they realized Baltimore had been saved. Can you imagine what a dramatic, emotional moment that must have been, to realize both your city and your country, which you thought were both on the brink of total destruction, were still intact? Key was so moved by the site of that flag that he wrote a poem called “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” which was set to music and later renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It is now our national anthem. This is the view of the fort from the visitor's center on the grounds:I knew that story before visiting the fort, but what I didn't know was that long after the War of 1812 it was still an important part of the military, serving as a holding area for Confederate POWs during the Civil War and a hospital for wounded soldiers during WWI. What was left of the fort when it became a National Park has been preserved to what it was like in 1814, with exhibits on the officer's quarters, magazines (where gunpowder was stored) and other aspects of its function at that time. Of course, the flag in the middle of the fort isn't the same one that was there then—that one is kept at the Museum of American History in Washington—but it is a replica, complete with the 15 stars that existed at that time. (Each star on our flag represents one of the states, of which we currently have 50. In 1814 there were only 15 stars: the original 13 states, plus Vermont and Kentucky. There were already more than 15 states by that date, but they stopped adding stars for several years because they thought it would look too cluttered.) After Fort McHenry, we went to the Inner Harbor for lunch. It's an area in downtown Baltimore where there are a lot of shops, restaurants and other places geared toward tourists.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
One thing my grandparents and I talked about during my stay with them last week was music. I put on a Bon Jovi CD because I was curious what they'd think of it, and their reaction surprised me. Now, I wasn't expecting them to instantly love it the way I did when I first listened to it, because after all their tastes are pretty different from mine; I mean, I have a hard time understanding how anyone could not love rock music, and especially this particular band, but I also think there's virtually nothing more subjective than musical taste. What sounds amazing to one person sounds mundane to another.
What surprised me though was my grandmother saying that it wasn't that she disliked the songs, but that she couldn't understand them. She kept asking me to explain what the lyrics were, and that was so striking to me because I'd had no trouble understanding them right away. In fact, one of the things I really like about Bon Jovi is that I've always found their songs easy to understand and to pick up on, very “singable” as my dad would say; I don't like songs that I can't sing along with. So it struck me when Grandmom said she couldn't understand the words. She actually did like a couple of the songs on that CD (especially “Seat Next to You"), and Grandpop really liked “Who Says You Can't Go Home.” I know that different generations grew up with different musical styles and that that has a huge influence on what people of different ages like, but I hadn't realized that it might affect our ability to actually hear the music. (In some ways, my grandparents' reaction to Bon Jovi was an improvement of sorts; several years ago when Grandmom heard one of my Bruce Springsteen CDs she dismissed it outright as “not very musical.”:-P)
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
I think it was...Oops, wrong band :)
I got to the park a little over five hours before the show was to start, and by 4PM I was in and had a spot on the lawn. It was a great location. From where I was, it was a straight shot down to the stage, and while I was too far away to see it well there were huge screens up all over the place. And I was still in the front section, so about half the audience was behind me. The day was beautiful, a breeze was blowing and although I'd brought a bunch of magazines along to read while I waited I ended up spending most of the time looking around and just soaking up the atmosphere.
The show started right at 8, and it was right then that it really hit me that I was at a Bon Jovi concert!!! I just couldn't believe I was actually there! They started out with “Livin' on a Prayer” then went right into “You Give Love a Bad Name.” I'm usually pretty inhibited, but I quickly found myself really getting into the music. How could I not? And let me tell you, those guys really know how to work a crowd. During repetitive parts of some of the songs Jon Bon Jovi turned it into a call-and-response with the audience and continually encouraged everybody to sing along. (I wonder if they ever still get a kick out of hearing tens of thousands of people singing songs that they wrote.) The concert was at the tail end of their “Lost Highway” tour, and of course they played that song, “Who Says You Can't Go Home,” “Bad Medicine,” “It's My Life” (the one I know best—it was very popular in Peru the month I was there in 2000), “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “I'll Be There for You” (Richie Sambora sang that one), “Blaze of Glory”—just about all their major hits. I don't own a camera, but here's a picture I found online to give you some idea of what it was like:
I wasn't this close, but so what? The point is, I was there! :D:D:D
What else can I say? For me at least, it was perfect. I just wish it weren't over :( As exciting as it was to see Bon Jovi, I know it's not the last concert they'll ever give, and hopefully someday I'll be in a position to be able to get tickets even if they aren't free. But what are the chances they'll play at Central Park again? No indoor concert can compare to being outside, and I absolutely love that park. This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I am so, so, so glad I got to be there.
Friday, July 11, 2008
But anyway, the meeting. Ostensibly it was for Chris Ward and Janno Lieber (Larry Silverstein's spokesperson, since the Great Landlord himself has never seen fit to stoop to attending something so base as a public hearing, where us regular folk actually have a chance to speak) to answer community questions about the process. In reality, of course, it was a chance for them to give off the appearance of concern without actually answering any of the more hard-hitting questions. For example, retired firefighter Jim Riches and fire safety expert Glenn Corbett both asked questions about the Port Authority's refusal to meet NYC fire codes. (Since they are a bi-state agency, they are exempt from such codes under their current charter.) On both occasions, Ward claimed the PA has a deep commitment to safety while completely sidestepping the specific question asked. He emphasized that simply abiding by the codes is not the be-all and end-all of building safety--which is true, but completely misses the point, since if they are committed to safety there's no reason for them not to at least meet city codes, if not surpass them. The whole meeting was nothing but theater, but as a member of the community and longtime rebuilding activist I wanted to be there and see how things would go.
Talk of scrapping the Freedom Tower plan and rebuilding the towers has started to creep back into the papers, and I'm hoping to add to that myself. I'll post links here if I manage to get anything published. Wish me luck!
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
So in summary, I managed to snag two free tickets to see one of the greatest bands in the world perform in one of my favorite places in the world, in conjunction with a celebration of the greatest sport in the world. Life is good :)
Monday, June 23, 2008
One thing really pissed me off though. I live in an attic room with no air conditioning, and when it gets hot outside it really gets hot in here. The week before I went to Michigan, we had a severe heat wave in NYC. Temperatures got into the high 90s and even reached 100 one day, which is unusual even in the middle of the summer and all but unheard of in early June. During the day, the temps in my room must have gotten well above 100 (I can't say for sure, since I made absolutely certain not to be here in the afternoon when it was at its worst), but it didn't get much better at night. The only thing I could think to do was to shower with my nightgown on, and then the wet clothing would work as something of an air conditioner for the short time it took to dry. It was really horrible, and wouldn't you know? as soon as I went out to spend a week in my mom's air-conditioned house, the weather dropped back into the 70s, which it probably won't get down to again until the end of the summer. I wanted to cry. Why couldn't those two weeks have been switched?
I was a bridesmaid in the wedding, along with Alisha and Cara's sister and two of her friends. She and Jeff looked so happy, it was wonderful. My aunt took a picture of Cara, Alisha and me at the reception, and although I generally detest having my picture taken I thought this one turned out decent enough to include here. I know I look hideous, so please don't make any comments about my appearance. Alisha is on the left, and the one in the middle is of course the bride :)
Jeff and Cara went to Boston for their honeymoon and stayed at the same inn they had stayed at during their trip to New England with their college's English department almost a year and a half earlier, which is where they met. When they came back they moved into an apartment they found in Grandville, which is a suburb of Grand Rapids. They have the entire second floor of a two-story house for less than I pay for my room. It's very, very nice. Cara graduated from college this spring and is looking for work, whereas Jeff still has at least one more year of college left.
I came home the morning after the wedding. The plane I took coming back had apparently originated in the Twin Cities, because when we landed the flight attendant said, “On behalf of our Minneapolis, Minnesota-based crew, we'd like to say, Go Minnesota Twins!” I mention that little anecdote to sort of segue into the current baseball season, because while I don't really care how the Twins do, I very much care about how my Cubbies are doing! And guess what? They're the best team in baseball! They won their division last year and were expected to do well in '08, but I wouldn't have predicted them to be the very best. I keep expecting something to go wrong and everything to fall apart; whenever they lose a game (rare as that is) I hold my breath that this isn't the beginning of the end. And you know, so far at least it hasn't been, and they remain on track not only to defend their division title, but to finish the season with 100 wins. I don't know if they'll still be the best team come September, but I'm enjoying this for as long as it lasts :D
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
And I just keep wondering, when will it all end? It seems like it's bound to at some point. After all, there've been several years recently that have seen the Cubs start off hot and then fizzle partway through...although in each of those cases, that fizzling had already occurred by this point. Usually when that happens they manage to right the ship enough to stay in contention, occasionally to the end of the year, but even when they make the playoffs, it's always been by the slimmest of margins. This year though is different. Anyone looking at this season would have to conclude that the Chicago Cubs are the team to beat.
And why does this seem so strange? After all, they've won their division twice this decade--a significant feet in and of itself--including last year, making them the defending NL champs. And they improved in the off-season. Everyone expected them to be good, but if you're a Cubs fan, you don't expect them to dominate. You expect them to struggle. You expect to be disappointed.
So I'm still holding my breath, all too aware that the picture could look quite a bit different in September. But a 3rd of the way through the season, I'm willing to tentatively go on record as saying I've got a good feeling about this year--and am thoroughly enjoying the ride for as long as it lasts.
Friday, May 30, 2008
But since then I've experienced, er, side effects, if you will. Namely, I don't get nearly as much enjoyment out of the other shows I watch. The mystery in this season's "Desperate Housewives" greatly intrigued me at the start of this season; since I started watching LOST, I've hardly cared. Even "Law & Order," still one of my favorite shows, doesn't interest me nearly as much as it used to. I could go on, but the point is, this insane show has so totally raised my standards that I just can't get into most shows very much anymore.
Anyone else have this "problem"?
PS. I'm not really complaining...;-)
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I think I've mentioned my grandmother (mom's mother) and her struggle with Alzheimer's, so it probably won't surprise you to hear that the inevitable has happened. She is no longer able to live alone and had to be moved into an assisted living facility. She was found on the floor in her condo, unable to get up. They think she had been there for many hours. She was conscious, but too weak to get up by herself. She was taken to the hospital, but the doctors couldn't figure out exactly what had happened. In any case, she stayed in the hospital for a few days and was then moved to a residential facility. My mom and her siblings seem pretty pleased with the place, although none of them are happy about her being so far away from all of her living children. But it sounds like the place she's in is taking good care of her. Apparently the morning after they moved her in she had all her bags packed, ready to go back home. Because of her memory problems, it's so hard for her to understand why she can't live in her old home anymore. She'd been there for almost two decades and really liked it. At some times she'll make really lucid statements, wondering if she'll ever feel at home in her new place...And other times she'll sound totally lost, saying things like she'll need a bigger bed if Neil's going to live there too. (Neil was my grandfather, who died in '93.)
On a happier note, this past weekend I went down to Gettysburg for my cousin Adam's wedding. I don't know if I can explain this clearly, but I'll try my best. Adam married Katie. Adam and I have a mutual cousin named Tim. (Adam is my dad's brother's son; Tim's mother is my dad's sister.) Four years ago, Tim married Sarah, Katie's older sister! So now Adam and Tim are each other's brothers-in-law as well as cousins. But it gets even more complicated than that, because Adam's dad, my Uncle Phil, who'd been divorced for several years, remarried two years ago—to Jen, Katie and Sarah's cousin! So Adam's wife is also his cousin's sister-in-law and his stepmother's cousin! You try keeping that all straight, because I can't ;-)
A big reason for this, though, is that they belong to a very small church called Sovereign Grace that acts almost like a cult. I won't go quite that far, because they don't encourage their members to cut off ties with the rest of their families or try to force members to stay if they decide to leave. But they do see themselves as a separate religion (actually, they think they're the only “true” Christians, and basically believe that everyone who doesn't believe exactly as they do are going to hell), and so to marry someone not a member of their church would, in their eyes, be marrying outside of their religion. (Of course, they'll be forced to rethink this in a few generations when they're all related to each other!) This all got started by their former pastor, who held very extreme views and formed the church completely around himself. Its members, including my relatives (especially my relatives, quite frankly) viewed him as a prophet who somehow uncovered the “truth” and “loved us enough to share it with us” (my uncle's words!). Absolutely everything at that church revolved around him, and nobody was allowed to disagree with him on anything. (Can you say egomaniac?) In my opinion, no valid religion would ever compel its members to give up their right to think for themselves, and it bothers me that these people were so willing to just go along with whatever their pastor said, even when it made no sense! Ten years ago my family and I came east for Christmas—a trip that I mainly remember now as being the last time I was in NYC before 9/11—and part of the reason for doing so was to attend their church and see it for ourselves, and I have to say, it was probably the dullest service I've ever sat through! In any case, that pastor is no longer a member of the church because he was caught having a long-time affair with one of the female members. (Can't say I was surprised). You would think that seeing that the guy wasn't perfect might encourage the remaining members to rethink some of what he taught, but no, not yet. I hope it doesn't sound like I'm trying to disparage my relatives, because they're really great people, except for the fact that they believe I'm going to burn in hell for all eternity because I'm Anglican :-P
In any case, the wedding itself was nice, except for the fact that one of the things this church believes is that the man is the head of the household, and that his wife should be “subject to him in every way.” (Sounds like the definition of slavery to me.) I always have to fight the urge to walk out of the church when they get to that part—it's just so offensive!—but I don't because, what would that solve? I don't understand why some people think a marriage can only work if one person is in authority over another; I mean, shouldn't mature adults be able to find ways to be equal partners with each other? I can't believe that any decent man would truly expect his wife to obey him, nor would any self-respecting woman agree to such an arrangement...And yet, if you don't plan to incorporate that into your marriage, why have it in your vows at all? I joked after the service that if I ever get married I'm going to make a point of vowing not to obey my husband!
I stayed in PA for three days. Besides the wedding, there was also time for a visit to Tim and Sarah's new house, which they just bought last winter. They live down a dirt road through the forest on a property that borders a creek where they can go fishing. (My brother Jeff was practically drooling at that piece of information.) Their house is small and made of wood, with no central heating (they have an old wood-burning stove) and a porch looking out over the woods and the creek. It's really a pretty neat place. It wouldn't be my first choice of places to live, but it's definitely nice to visit, and both Tim and Sarah love it. They have a daughter, Dulcinea Rose (Dulci for short), and Sarah is due to give birth to their second child in July. They've also started taking classes to become foster parents, so their family could become quite large very quickly! They've been trying to explain to Dulci, who's 2½, what exactly a foster child is, and Dulci sometimes will claim that she's a foster child too, which is pretty cute since their last name happens to be Foster. They also have a little cat (who's also pregnant) and several chickens they raise for eggs. I may be going down to Pennsylvania again later this summer, and if I do I'll see if I can borrow someone's camera so I can take some pictures.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
Oh yeah, and the Cubs have the second-best record in baseball :-D
And the DEVIL RAYS are in first place! WTF???
Monday, May 12, 2008
- Cubs win
- Cardinals lose
- Finally getting my tax refund
- Those rare occasions when something I write actually gets published
- A letter from one of my pen-pals in my mailbox
- Shoo-fly pie
- Shoo-fly cake
- Shoo-fly muffins
- Shoo-fly cheesecake
- Molasses cookies
- Thinking about how the 2007 baseball season ended, with the Yankees settling for the Wild Card, the Mets not even making the playoffs, and the Cubs taking home the NL Central championship
- Any U2 or Bon Jovi song
- Sushi--yes, sushi!
- "This Week in Unnecessary Censorship"
- Walking past a cab with its windows down while printing a receipt (sounds like...you know...)
- Ketchup sandwiches!! (let me know if you actually get that reference!)
- Giants win
- Patriots lose
- Isaiah's gone
- Team Toxicity!
- Being able to say that I went swimming in the Amazon River
- Remembering the view I had flying over the Andes on a crystal-clear day
- Belting out "Root root root for the CUBBIES" at a Cubs-Mets game at Shea...especially that Sunday night in 2004 when we outnumbered the Mutt fans
- "You want your damn thirty dollars back? I want my kidney back!"
- A cat climbing into my lap (sure wish I had one of my own!!
- The March 24 cover of New York magazine
Friday, May 9, 2008
First of all, I am so sick of my job! Yes, I know you're not supposed to post negative stuff about work online, but nobody in upper management is reading this, and anyway it's not like I'm mentioning the name of the company I work for. And it's not even the company itself that's driving me crazy--it's the customers. I'm convinced there's not a service worker in America who gets paid enough to compensate for the obnoxiousness we have to put up with every freakin' day, and lately I've really been feeling like I'm at the end of my rope.
The Cubs won today. They were all but unbeatable starting off the season, but lately they've been struggling. They just lost a series in Cincinnati--against the lowly, way-below-.500 Reds--and then they come back to Chicago and beat the first place Diamondbacks. It's great that they're winning so many games at home, but their last loss dropped them to below .500 on the road, and you're not likely to win your division playing like that.
The pope was in town a couple weeks ago, and on his last day here he said a prayer at the World Trade Center. It was broadcast on TV here, and it was particularly nice to see him include in his prayers all the people who are sick because of their exposure to toxins at the site. It made me think maybe these victims aren't completely forgotten after all. The other day, the NYPD added several names to a 9/11 memorial. They were officers who have died in the past six years from illnesses they likely contracted from their work at the site.
I recently read an article in The New Yorker about driving in China. I would have been laughing till my sides hurt if I hadn't been surrounded by strangers on the subway. Some of his descriptions brought back memories of the time I spent in Lima eight years ago, a city about the size of New York that only has a handful of stoplights, where stop and one-way signs are mere suggestions.
And finally, somebody on the Lostpedia boards had the following quote in their signature, which they attribute to "an unknown LP poster": "It wasn't Ben you mole thruster, Richard was wearing eye shadow and Locke should have taken his kidney back before he toted his dead father around in that potato sack." Now, I don't know if you know who Ben is, or who Richard is, or who Locke is, or why he'd want his kidney back, or why he'd be carrying his father in a potato sack. That can all be explained. But can somebody please tell me, what the fug is a mole-thruster???
And if anybody is still reading this post, you have my sympathies.
Monday, May 5, 2008
It's always kind of exciting to meet an actor from a show you watch because they're instantly recognizable; for me, though, getting the chance to speak with anyone--a camera man, set designer, even just an extra--who's had even a tiny part in the production of "LOST" is a thrill. But if I had the chance to really sit down with anyone, it's the writers whose brains I'd love to pick. Lindelof, Cuse, Drew Goddard, Brian K. Vaughn--where do they come up with this stuff? What's the thought process behind it all? I don't think it's the fact that I'm a writer myself, since creating a work of fiction is so different from the narrative and opinion pieces I do; it's the difference between painting a wall and painting a mural, in my opinion. I don't consider myself an artist, not like writers who manage to create vibrant fictional characters and storylines. I'm fascinated by how they do it, especially when it comes to a show about which I fully agree with Kimmel when he called it "the best show in the history of television."
So of course, I had been looking forward to his interview with the head writers all week. And it was great--at least when they were able to get a word in edgewise. I'm sure Terrance Howard is a fine actor, but the man really needed to shut up. He was the first guest, he had his turn, and he had nothing relevant to contribute to the discussion. Kimmel was trying to have a fun nerdy conversation with the head writers of his favorite show; perhaps Howard couldn't understand what he was talking about, not being a regular viewer himself, but there are plenty of us who could--those of us who have not only seen every episode at least once but also listen to the podcasts, read the magazine and discuss the fine points of each episode on message boards, and who were looking forward to hearing what "Darlton" had to say. When the interview did manage to get going it was entertaining, and the clip from the next episode made me even more eager for Thursday to arrive. I just wish they'd been able to talk about the show during their entire ten-minute spot.
And speaking of the writers: Damon Lindelof was quoted in a British article calling the discussions many of us love to have about "LOST" "toxic." This caused a bit of a stir on the Lostpedia forums and generated a lot of comments, which can be seen at http://forum.lostpedia.com/showthread.php?t=13399. I couldn't help but think that some of these posts are a bit too kind. I'm willing to give Lindelof the benefit of the doubt and assume he was speaking of the impact some message boards can have on the creative process and wasn't referring to the fan community itself; that being said, his comment was, at best, a poor choice of words. The responses on the message board put it as thoroughly as anything I would write here, and I'm not going to go into a rant about the ingratitude of people in showbusiness who owe their careers to their fans. I've been able to personally interact with a couple of the cast members; they could not have been more gracious, and it meant a lot to me for them to take the time to answer my questions. Moreover, the cast and crew have often made a point of finding ways to interact with the fans, so this isn't meant to be a complaint. I just wish that Lindelof, and anyone else who may feel as he apparently does, would understand the fact that our habit of discussing, debating, and yes, criticizing, every single detail of our favorite show is the product of our interest in and appreciation for the story they've created. I have yet to visit a "LOST" forum that wasn't full of enthusiastic, passionate fans, and if we sometimes seem overly critical, it's only because the bar's been set tremendously high. Even if Lindelof turned out to be an incorrigible jerk--and I'm not asserting that to be true by any means--I'd still be a fan, because I'm hopelessly, pathetically addicted to his show.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
Bless my church for its staff has sinned
By Rachel Snyder
Stories of prejudice and discrimination frequently make local and national news, but in Lower Manhattan we often see ourselves as being above the fray. Bigotry may occur in a small Louisiana town or in the high-stakes world of professional basketball, but not in the life of your average progressive, open-minded Downtowner. But while we embrace gender equality and gay pride, prejudice still exists here, and members of our community can still be its victim. Several weeks ago, that victim was me.
This past summer, my Downtown church announced plans to send a dozen parishioners to New Orleans on a short-term trip to aid in the rebuilding effort, and I was eager to go. I love to travel, and I’ve never been to the Gulf Coast. More significantly, I hoped that being of use to a part of the country suffering the aftereffects of disaster might help to relieve some of the bitterness that 9/11 and the botched World Trade Center rebuilding process have engendered in me.
What I wasn’t prepared for was a phone call I received from one of the organizers of the trip, who I’ll refer to as “Amy,” informing me that I would not be allowed to participate because I have a disability.
I have never been able to get a clear diagnosis of my disease, although it’s agreed that what I suffer from is either a form of autism or a related condition.
Experts don’t have one uniform definition of autism, so its determination in people like me who are relatively high-functioning is tricky, if not impossible. The bottom line is that I suffer from a debilitating condition that has brought a great deal of heartache to my life. Among other things, it makes me extra-sensitive to sound and touch, and it has robbed me of the intuitive ability to read the nonverbal signals that are believed to entail the majority of human communication. Imagine the social ramifications of being unable to pick up on the majority of what is communicated to you during the course of every single face-to-face conversation you have.
Despite this, I have been determined from the start of my life to do everything that “normal” people do. I insisted on going to camp as a child; as a teenager I went on two mission trips to Mexico and was an exchange student to Japan, Germany and Peru. More recently, I moved to New York on my own, worked jobs without any special accommodation, joined American Mensa despite not knowing anyone else who was a member, and walked through the doors of my church even though I had neither acquaintances there nor a background in this specific Christian tradition.
Amy became a staff member several months after I joined this church, and since then we’ve had a great deal of interaction. Until recently, I considered her a friend, and believed her to be someone I could trust. I confided in her about my condition and tried to describe some of the ways in which it affects my life. Discovering that she saw me as a disease first and a person second was a devastating blow.
In many ways, discrimination based on disability has become less of a problem than it once was, but anti-disabled prejudice remains more socially acceptable than other forms of bigotry such as racism or homophobia. Unlike other minority groups, the differences between those who are disabled and those who aren’t are more than merely superficial. This in turn leads people to conclude that excluding us is, to a certain extent, justified.
And of course, there are certain tasks that we simply can’t do: No blind person is suited to drive a car, and you’re not likely to find a quadriplegic performing open-heart surgery.
What the non-disabled tend to forget, though, is that most of us with disabilities are perfectly capable of determining for ourselves what we can and can’t handle. Being blind, deaf, dyslexic or autistic doesn’t make you stupid. One of the most hurtful aspects of what happened to me was the fact that, rather than simply expressing doubts about my ability to participate on the trip, Amy took it upon herself to make that decision for me without my input. There is nothing more disempowering for the disabled than for someone else to decide for us what we are and are not capable of.
For those like me who suffer from mental rather than physical handicaps, the discrimination is even more prevalent because our handicaps aren’t immediately obvious to others. And because the disabilities tend to manifest themselves in our behavior, people are less likely to recognize the symptoms of our disorders for what they are. When I was a child, I received constant negative feedback from my parents, teachers and peers for behavior that was largely out of my control, and as a result I spent the first two decades of my life bathed in constant shame and self-loathing.
Through determined effort, I have been able to overcome the worst of my limitations, but I will always be autistic. And I want to make this perfectly clear: Mental disability is not the same thing as mental instability.
It hurt to miss out on the New Orleans trip, but much worse was the way in which this incident has isolated me from my church community. Suddenly, I no longer felt safe there, and haven’t been back since. If Amy could hold such a poor opinion of me based on my past participation in church activities, how do I know others haven’t reached the same conclusions she reached? How can I believe them if they claim they value my presence in the church, when Amy herself had previously made the same comments?
In the past two months, I’ve had trouble sleeping at night and concentrating during the day. I miss my church, but I’m unable to see myself as an active participant. I don’t know who I can trust.
This is the fallout of discrimination; it makes you question your place in the world. I’m even angrier now than I was before at those churches that openly discriminate against women and gays. But my church has no such policies, and I know from what I’ve seen there that its stated commitment to inclusion is more than mere idle talk for some members. If this could happen here, at a generally open-minded church in the middle of a progressive community, it truly could happen anywhere.
Its progressivism is one of the things that initially drew me to Lower Manhattan, and I continue to feel that the liberal attitudes that pervade our community are a blessing. But all of us, no matter how open-minded, carry prejudices ingrained within us that, if we’re not careful, can lead us to discriminatory actions, with devastating consequences for others. If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s to not allow ourselves to become so smug that complacency sets in and our own bigotries go unchecked. Simply holding liberal opinions on social issues doesn’t make us progressive; if we’re to expect inclusiveness from society as a whole, we must be sure we’re holding ourselves to the same high standards.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
And oh yes, the Cubs won again today. Let's see if they can finally overtake the D-backs for the best record in baseball!!!
Some thoughts: I just love what they're doing with Sawyer's evolution as a character. When we first met him, he was one of the most unlikable characters on the show, and now he's literally risking his life for his friends. I know some people think such a dramatic turnaround is a stretch, but it feels just right to me. Over the past 3 1/2 seasons, we've watched him bond with his fellow castaways despite his own efforts not to, and behave in ways that suggested a much more generous spirit than he was willing to admit. Before leaving on the raft in Season 1, he makes a point of telling Jack of his encounter with Jack's father. When he, Michael, Jin and Walt are attacked on the raft, he saves Michael's life despite having been shot himself. In a feverish state after his wound becomes infected, he blurts out to Jack that he loves Kate. In Season 3, he's shown giving some of his food to Vincent when he thinks nobody else is looking, and he's visibly moved when Hurley enthusiastically embraces him upon his return to the camp after escaping with Kate from the Others. It seems as if the Survivors of 815 have filled much of the void he's had in his life ever since the deaths of his parents. In some ways, his stay on the island has been every bit as healing for him as for Locke and Rose--only in his case, it wasn't the island itself that healed him, but the other people on it.
I also thought it was good that when Claire was pulled disoriented from her ruined house, she initially thought it was Charlie who was rescuing her. I understand that both the large cast of characters and high-paced nature of the plot made it difficult to show her grieving for Charlie, but this let us know she does still think of him. And speaking of grief--the writers and Michael Emerson combined to accomplish something I didn't expect: I actually felt sorry for Ben, as well of course for Alex.
Like many viewers, I will be terribly disappointed if Desmond and Penny don't end up living happily at the end. Their love story has always packed such an emotional punch that it's impossible not to root for them. But while I hope Ben never succeeds in making good on his vow to Widmore to kill Widmore's daughter, I had to wonder if the impact of doing so would be quite what Ben hopes. We now know that Ben has some capacity for genuine love; the same can't yet be said of Widmore, and I have my doubts about his being anything other than a power-hungry psychopath. Were he to say the same things about Penny that Ben said about Alex in his vain attempt to save her--"She's only a pawn"--I don't know that he'd be lying.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I'm not at all famous myself, but the neighborhood where I work, go to church and live much of my life certainly is. There's Wall Street--and it is an actual street, by the way, one that contains both office buildings and residences--there's Battery Park, where people can get gorgeous views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; and of course there's the World Trade Center site, where you can't see much of anything. Though that doesn't stop people from coming to gawk.
Let me make it clear that not all visitors to the WTC behave inappropriately. I've taken out-of-town guests there myself, and I've seen people become very visibly moved upon first viewing a site that I've out of necessity become accustomed to. (I wouldn't say that I'm used to it.) I'm glad that even after six and a half years, so many people want to learn more about an event that so thoroughly altered my and many others' lives. I'm grateful that people still care. At the same time, I can't get over the crassness and thoughtlessness that some visitors display around the site.
I'm conflicted about just how much carelessness crosses the line. I recognize that my emotions are very much involved, and I don't think it's entirely fair to try to impose my feelings on individuals for whom Lower Manhattan is just one stop on a whirlwind tour of the city. Is it too much to ask, however, that people not appropriate the site for political protests that have little or nothing to do with 9/11? That wacko conspiracy theorists not harass me as I make my way from the subway to the post office? That tourists not purchase graphic photographs from street vendors, then blithely carry said photographs around for all to see, including those of us who really don't need or want to see those images?
Right next to the WTC, on the same block I worked on three years ago, there is a firehouse. It is a real, functional firehouse; the brother of a friend of mine was stationed there and was one of the 343 firefighters murdered in the attacks. The crowds around this house are easily as large, and as obnoxious, as crowds I've seen around celebrities. The guys there generally try to remain friendly with tourists, but being treated like public figures gets to them, especially because it only reinforces the daily reality of their surroundings. For most people, 9/11 meant a shocking TV event; but for these firefighters, it meant countless funerals for friends and colleagues.
It gets to me the way so many tourists seem to think of the area around the WTC site--and New York in general, for that matter--as a museum, or even an amusement park, set up specifically for their benefit, rather than as a real home and place of work for hundreds of thousands of very ordinary people. Large tour groups often crowd an entire block, and what's worse, get angry with people like me as we try to walk through them to get to work. What possesses someone to behave this way? Would they find it acceptable if I were to behave the same way in their neighborhoods, on their front yards?
I remember being horrified, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, at the site of reporters and camera crews barging into abandoned and decimated homes in Louisiana and Mississippi. Those houses may not have been inhabitable at that time, but they were still private property and should have been treated as such. The fact that their owners had obviously suffered tremendous loss in the storm should have engendered compassion, not exploitation. Hadn't they already suffered enough, without having to endure the indignity of having their flood-wracked kitchens and bedrooms and basements broadcast on national news?
What much of this comes down to isn't so different from the reasons why some people find it acceptable to annoy, pester and sometimes thoroughly creep out famous actors, singers, athletes and politicians. It's a struggle for me to put into words what I sense is going on here: That something about seeing a person, place or event on TV, in a movie, in a magazine article, etc., leads to an inherently warped view of the subject. To most people, both 9/11 and the community in which the worst of the devastation occurred are current event subjects. They're not really "real," at least not in the same way that they are when you spend a lot of time in the immediate vicinity. And while most people understand intellectually that the attacks were and are much more than a media event to some people, the full implications of that aren't processed, and people behave in ways they never would when confronted with a much more private tragedy. It's not all that different from society's habit of objectifying public figures. We're treating normal people who happen to have high-profile jobs in ways we would find unacceptable were such behavior to be directed back at us.
It's a struggle for me to find the right way to express this, but when I observe the way people crowd around someone who happens to be well-known, the behavior and the underlying attitudes behind it often seems familiar, not at all unlike the behavior of some tourists who visit the WTC site. There's an undercurrent of both novelty and thoughtlessness that at best can only be described as distasteful. And yeah, it bugs me.
OK, rant over :)
District of Columbia
PLACES STILL TO BE VISITED:
US STATES AND PROTECTORATES:
US Virgin Islands
CANADIAN PROVINCES AND TERRITORIES:
Prince Edward Island
Antigua & Barbuda
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Central African Republic
Papua New Guinea
St. Kitts & Nevis
St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Sao Tome & Principe
Trinidad & Tobago
British Virgin Islands
Isle of Man
St. Pierre & Miquelon
Tristan da Cunha
Turks & Caicos
Wallis & Fortuna
The Yankees, of course, are the team America loves to hate. And the Mets are a team against which every true Cub fan holds a grudge. Never mind that I was born 13 years after '69; I still hate 'em. Their collapse at the end of last season--which coincided with the Cubs' clinching the NL Central--was exquisite. And if their recent two-game sweep at Wrigley is any indication, they've picked up exactly where they left off last September.
The best thing about growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was having Chicago just a few hours away. It's a great town; how it compares to NYC I can't really say, since I've only lived in one of the two. When it comes to most sports (especially Giants and Rutgers football) I've become a New York fan, but my baseball loyalties were set in stone long ago. There are three things that need to happen before I die: I have to get to all 50 states. I've been to 30 so far, so I'm well on my way there. I have to see how LOST ends; since that's scheduled to occur in two years, I shouldn't have much trouble. And I dearly want to see my Cubbies win the pennant. The last time they did that, my grandfather was a preteen, so that final wish seems the most in doubt, even if I can reasonably expect to live for a good half-decade longer at least. Is this the year? Cub fans expect every year to be, and something invariably goes wrong. And yet, we remain unfailingly loyal year after year, in the hope of experiencing that one magical summer when everything goes right.
Monday, April 21, 2008
I've noticed a number of people here have different blogs for different topics. For now at least, I plan to stick with one blog, in which I write about anything and everything that interests me. In no particular order, that might include:
- The idiocy of the official plans for the World Trade Center site, and the ineptness of those in charge of building it.
- Life as a Cubs fan living in New York, and how delightful it was last fall to see my Cubbies win their division while the Yanks settled for the Wild Card and the Mets missed the playoffs completely.
- Places I've visited, and which places I still hope to visit (i.e. any place that exists).
- Thoughts on religion, spirituality, politics and all that other controversial stuff.
- My recently-acquired LOST obsession (Yes, I am NYCub from IMDb and Lostpedia!)
- Living with autism (no, we're not all Raymond Babbitts!)
- One of my great loves--MOVIES!!