Chinese turkey for Christmas dinner

Fabled chinese turkey

To the kind folks who have continued to visit during my lengthy absense…my sincerest thanks. Due to the nature of my profession, I have had little time to write for fun. That will hopefully change in the next few months. Due to travel and professional obligation, I had given up my residential  internet connection, but this will soon change. My hope is to get back to writing what I care to write and to speak more about food, as this is the topic most of you have enjoyed here. So…turning over a new leaf — of paper — HA! I give you a new post about…what else…FOOD!

Ever since my family first viewed the eponymous “A Christmas Story” film, my mother has longed for a Chinese food Christmas dinner. This year Mom gets her wish.

Like many picky eaters before him, Dad would not eat Chinese until recently. Coming from an area where farms abound, he was the very definition of a meat-and-potatoes man. What changed his mind we shall never know, but after years of doing without, Mom and I are sinply thrilled  Dad has joined our ranks. Frankly, I would have bet a large sum of money this day would never come.

Having called ahead, Mom has gleefully reported that the local Chinese is, in fact, open on Christmas day. After twenty six years, she gets her wish. So excited is she, she has even invited several of her church-lady friends to join us. It should be quite the adventure.

I consider myself to be a rather adventurous diner. Lebanese, Indian, Pakistani, Thai, I love to try foods from cultures other than my own. But one admission. I am not a fan of fowl. Especially fowl of a gamy nature. So there will be no duck for this girl. Honestly, I only eat the white meat of chicken and turkey. Boring, but hey, to each their own. I prefer seafood.

As soon as I am able, I shall report back the details of Christmas dinner. In the meantime, my secret wish is to arrive home after the bacchanalia to behold this lovely sight beaming from the window…

Ah, the gleam of electric sex streaming from the window

Posted in A Christmas Story, Chinese Food, Christmas, cinema, city life, cooking, food, humor, Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.

I suppose the day after the tenth anniversary of 9/11, many people are still solemn and reflective. The anniversary events and the emotion are still very much on our minds, and that is as it should be. As I was traveling yesterday, I did not get to partake of the anniversary coverage until late last evening. Over the past weekend, I did catch several well done documentaries: one on PBS, and the incredible Time doc Beyond 9/11. Frankly I am hoping to catch that last one in its entriety, as the small part I saw was extraordinary. To hear the thoughts of first responders, those who lost loved ones, George W. Bush,  to the fireman who stood next to him atop a decimated hook and ladder truck as he spoke to the nation; all were represented and spoke eloquently about their experiences that day. Many shed tears as they shared, many also smiled and even laughed, especially those who were blessed to walk away from the disaster.

No matter how many years have passed, no matter how many times I see the footage, no matter how many times I stand at Ground Zero and see the evidence of absence stretch out before my very eyes, I simply cannot grasp it. After ten years, I’ve realized that I probably never will. Too many lives, too much destruction, too much loss. Not buildings, not people, not even a sense of innocence. We lost so much. but the most unsettling reality is that we lost some of our freedom, and one has to wonder if we will ever be able to recover it.

Don’t get me wrong, the United States of America remains the freest country . But think about what we are forced to go through as we travel. Yes, we all want to be vigilant and safe, even smart, but at what cost to our freedom? Clearly this is shaky ground. We have to look out for one another with all the threats that have and will be made against us. But fear is a terrible thing and once we get used to living in fear, once we allow fear to surpass common sense and lean over into paranoia, the other side wins.

Take the threats that came to light the evening before 9/11 this year. Intelligence revealed what appeared to be a substantiated  threat and everyone was momentarily on edge. Wisely New York City became a parking lot as trucks and other vehicles were stopped and searched. Armed officers and military were dispatched around the city in subways, in Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, everywhere you looked. Times Square was full of fully kitted-out, armed men. It took on the surreal look of an action movie set. But this was no set, it was all too real and of course they were just there to keep us all safe as we readied to honor those lost on the infamous September morning a decade ago.

Ergo, my point about losing some freedom. In the moments after that report came to light, everything changed. We had to turn our attention from honoring the dead and the heroes of 9/11 to preparing to avoid another horrific incident. People in the city began to question if it would be wise to attend the ceremonies and events spanning the island.For those hours, the attention turned from grief and remembrance, to fear that something awful could happen again…at the worst time imaginable.

Nothing did, thankfully. The ceremonies went on as planned. The families who lost so much were able to assemble to see the beauty that has risen from the ashes and rubble of the World Trade Center. President Obama attended, as did former President Bush and many other dignitaries. Most importantly the reading of the names of the victims. Family members were granted privacy and the well deserved honor of being the first to see the memorial where the names of their loved ones have been permanently etched for posterity. It was the best day it could be. Solemn, somber, full of respect and healing. The fountains that grace the sacred ground where the twin towers stood are peaceful places of repose and reflection. Seeing the fountains and the museum made me feel better about being at Ground Zero. No longer a place of only tremendous sorrow and tears, it has become a hopeful place where life goes on.  Serenity. Trees, water, construction of a beautiful, strong tower. Growth. Moving forward. Never forgotten. Ever changed.

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Loss is a strange thing.

Life is funny sometimes. Sometimes it is not. And sometimes it just ends.

After my earlier post about regret, I never expected to be talking about loss, but when something disturbing occurred in my neighborhood this morning, I realized just how much the two go hand in hand.

Loss can encompass so many things: lost love, lost relationship, and worst of all, lost life. This morning, my elderly neighbor passed away. It happened suddenly because he had just come home from his morning run for coffee and a paper, and less than an hour later, the EMT’s came. When they sat at the bottom of the stoop, I had a feeling it was not good news and soon learned my neighbor had passed in his apartment. It made me very sad.

These days most people don’t even know their neighbors, especially in a large city. Do you know your closest neighbor’s name? Few people do. People tend to mind their own business and I suppose for the most part, that is a good thing; on the other hand, it can make a sense of community impossible to achieve. No one gathers on porches or stoops like they once did. Fact is, the only time I recall a large gathering of neighbors was on Sept. 11, 2001. Everyone talked to each other then, and it was nice.

Unlike many city-dwellers, I speak to people in my neighborhood when I pass them in our building. This particular gentleman lived in the next apartment, so we passed each other often. I got to know him a bit, and I knew his name. Like most older people, he had his routine, and I found it a comfort to know that he went out at a particular time and came in at a particular time. The most we ever conversed was during the winter when he would go outside and shovel the sidewalk. He didn’t have to do this; we have people to do this. But he wanted to do something constructive, to contribute, stay in shape and feel needed. We all loved him for it, as seldom did the service come before we had to leave for work. He did a lot of nice things around the building. He was a nice man.

I suppose most people would not even notice should something happen to their neighbor. A lot of folks would pay little attention, especially if they were not inconvenienced in some way. Maybe I am overly nostalgic, but this building, this neighborhood and this person…me…will be less without Tom. His name was Tom.

Godspeed Tom, we may not have known each other well, but I knew you were there and I will miss you. I’m glad we met.

Posted in acceptance, city life, kindness, Life, life lessons, loss, relationships, Writing | 1 Comment

Eliminating “regret” from ones vocabulary.

Leaving the past behind.

Sometimes in life we tend to look back on past times, relationships and situations and feel regret. Perhaps we could have made more educated and informed decisions. Maybe we could have acted with more thought than anger. Maybe. And maybe not.

Everyone has regrets. It could be that chance that you didn’t take, the road you failed to go down, the graduate degree you did not pursue. The list is endless.

Any time a relationship ends, it gives one pause for thought. After the tears, the move, the splitting of household goods, it is human nature to reflect on what went wrong. Reflect and learn…good. Reflect and regret…bad.

Have you ever met up with an ex years after the fact and had one of those times when everything goes so well, it is like old times and makes you feel as if the end never occurred? Maybe you get together for dinner and it is just like yesterday. The easy conversation, the laughs; and you wonder to yourself, wouldn’t it be nice to have this back? Isn’t this the way that we were supposed to end up? Together forever?

Then reality sets in, and you realize those things seldom happen. Your ex has moved on and is in a long term relationship. You are in a relationship. But…what if? It may take you a few weeks to get over this meeting, but you do. You understand it was for the best and you revisit the reasons why it didn’t work in the first place. But you also think about the new person and perhaps for a brief moment you envy them for living the life that you were supposed to live.

Years later, you run into your exes significant other on the street. You were not aware that they still lived in the same area, but there this person is and you meet and talk on the street. The news is broken that there was  a recent break-up, that after almost the exact time of your relationship, this person has also left. Sharing a lengthy conversation you learn that this person left for the same reasons you did, and more. Rather than progressing, moving on to grow into a successful long-term relationship, this one ended more badly than yours had. So much for positive thinking.

Regret is a funny thing. It can be good. It can be bad. Mostly it is bad. The best feeling in the world is leaving someone or something with the knowledge that you did all you could. You’ve moved on, you’ve grown, you’re now successful in love and life. This is the best any of us can hope to obtain. When regret is  positive we learn from it and move on. Go back to school, pursue the career that you have always longed for, take that trip to far destinations. You make new contacts, gain new friends, grow and move on. Even the most cynical among us would wish this for any ex in our lives. Move on and move up. What good is a life lesson when the lesson goes unlearned?

When we learn that the ex has had another unsuccessful relationship, it is easy to gloat. Gloating may feel great for the moment, but it seldom gets you anyplace. It is small, immature and mean. Best not to go there. Take the good from the news, let go of any regret and see that the grass is never greener on the flip side. Realize that you were lucky to get out when you did, and close that door for the final time. Wish your ex the best and say sayonara once and for all.

Be supportive of the second ex. Sometimes from commiseration comes great knowledge. Help this person realize that you went through the same things. They can in turn help you, especially if you were holding on to regrets. Now there are two of you and you can once and for all put to rest the idea that you caused the end of the relationship. You can both move on with the knowledge that the ex is the one with the issues, it was not you.

No matter how sincere we are at wishing an ex well, it is their responsibility to learn and grow. When they fail to do so, we can only look back and be happy that we learned the lesson and moved on. No matter how we wish things turn out differently, when they do not, facts must be faced. Sometimes people can’t change. They may have issues that don’t go away easily, or the issues may become worse over the years. Sometimes you cannot change the spots on a leopard no matter how hard you scrub.

As Frank Sinatra sang…”regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention.” When you get to the end of your life, may you be able to say the same with a smile. Regrets are weighty things to carry around. So are grudges, but that is a topic for another day. Learn, love, laugh, but most of all…do it your way. There is no clearer path than the one through the arch, on to the larger garden, to new experiences, to a new day.

Posted in acceptance, break ups, city life, dreams, kindness, learning, Life, life lessons, Music, People, regrets, relationships, Writing | Leave a comment

I caved.

Yes. I did it. I caved.

You may recall back on January 7, 2011 I posted an article entitled “Content is King”. If not, by all means check it out, you will need the ammunition to judge me when I confess:

I caved. I now own an e-reader. Me, the walking anachronism who swore to never dare read the New York Times in anything but its original form. Me, who swore that it was the cover art, the feel of the page, the smell of the ink in a real book that is my ideal. That me.

In my defense, I came to my senses due to a renovation in my new apartment. Dear God, I had no idea how many books I owned. Yes, I knew there were a lot, but oh how easily we deny the obvious; how we fool ourselves into thinking it’s not as bad as it seems. Then one day, after hefting an inordinate number of tomes, you just have to tell yourself…”STOP BUYING BOOKS!”

Am I an organized person? Yes. Still, I seem to have books in every room of the apartment. That is not such a bad thing, but downsizing your living space tends to make you value space and crave organization, hence the need for all the books to be in one place. Bookshelves must be purchased and a small library room built.

At any rate, giving up books is no easy task, but with cuts to library funding local libraries have a great need for donations. I consider this a win-win situation. What good are books if they sit on a shelf unshared and unread? That’s just sad. So with that in mind, I will be donating the books that I no longer need to have on hand. Also, I told myself that this will not be an excuse to purchase books to replace the ones I am giving up. No, no, no! That defeats the purpose entirely. Unless…

I’m sure you see where I am heading. Consider, the e-reader that I had previously panned. Hmm…you can take a small, lightweight device, carry it everywhere, read till your hearts content and…load with up to 3,500 books. 3,500 books that would never fit in your apartment. 3,500 books that you will never have to tote, or move, or dust. Um, why am I just now catching on to this?

Simple answer to that, really. I saw one. In person. I held it, I used it, I saw how easy it is to read, even in bright sunlight. At the risk of sounding like an advertisement,  it is as wonderful as the manufacturers would have you believe. All that and a new improved price? Why not?

So, I went there. I now own a Kindle® and I have to admit it is the smartest little device. It just makes so much sense. This does not mean that I will no longer purchase hard copies of books, because I love them, and I love shopping in bookstores. What it does mean is that I can travel unhindered by a suitcase that weighs as much as a teenaged child (not to mention actually have room to pack clothes). I can carry my reading material wherever I go and not have my shoulders and back ache. Let’s face facts, it just makes sense on many levels.

They say that with age comes wisdom. Fortunately I’m not so advanced in age to be completely inflexible. It may take some research and convincing, but I eventually come to my senses and embrace technology. It all comes with the territory of being an eternal learner. Some things never change. But some things have to.

Posted in Addicted, Books, city life, entertainment, Information, learning, Life, literature, Reading, Technology, Writing | 2 Comments

Things to do when you are in a pissy mood.

We’ve all been there. Your day is sailing alone fine, when lo and behold something or more often, someone ticks you off. Now you are pissy. What to do to bounce back and fling yourself back into the sunshine?

1. Go to Starbucks – get a drink and sit your butt down…relax…breathe. Ahhhh. Now see? Isn’t that better? Surf the web on their awesome free Starbucks intranet. Listen to music, peruse new book titles, talk to other coffee addicts. Don’t feel like talking? Take a book or the Times with you. Easy as that.

2. Have a nice pal who will email you cute, funny videos. For instance a baby laughing hysterically when his dad tears up pieces of paper. If that does not send a smile, you are in some serious darkness.

3. A good book. Grab some quiet time in a remote corner, crack the cover, and allow the world to fade away.

4. Make a stop for a favorite food or beverage. Treat yourself people. If you won’t, who will? I recommend a lovely cheeseburger. The messier the better. Try 5 Napkin.

5. Visit a toy store and play with the toys. Relive your childhood; it’s never too late. Leave with a new game, invite some friends over..if you don’t have any friends, buy the hand-held version. Heh.

6. Listen to jazz and contemplate New Orleans. Do I smell gumbo? Magic.

7. Number seven – the magic number. When all else fails, think about how much worse it could be. Think of those who have no job, are homeless, or repressed. Now think about what you can do to help.

Your day really wasn’t so bad after all, now was it?

It was? Well…in that case crawl under your desk and hide, or hide out in the bathroom. Go for a walk. If all else fails, move on to the desperation plan: barf on the boss’s desk. Works every time.

Posted in Books, career, city life, humor, Information, kindness, Life, People, Reading, restaurants, Starbucks, Writing | 6 Comments

Midnight in Paris. Woody Allen. Need I say more?

Fair warning: I am not a film critic.

Being a critic has never been my deal. Frankly I am always concerned that I will hurt someone’s feelings. No matter how much I may dislike something, I hesitate to rip it to shreds mainly because someone worked hard on whatever it is: book, film, music, article – someone dropped a bit of themselves into it. Last thing I want is to be mean. Course we all have opinions and this being a free country, we are entitled to them. All I know is that I could never be a paid critic.

In this case, however, I am breaking my rule. Time I gave this thing a try and wrote about a film. In this case, as the title suggests, I am writing about my all time favorite writer/director: Woody Allen.

My first exposure to Woody was the riotous “Annie Hall”. Fell in love and stayed in love to this day. Yes Woody is quirky, his films can be depressing to some, but to me I see them as real. Add to this the total New York City vibe and we’ve got a winner. Many winners.

Imagine my excitement when I learned about “Midnight in Paris”. A new Woody Allen film? Be still my heart. Now toss in Owen Wilson and the City of Lights. This has to be extraordinary, there was not a doubt.

One thing I do not do: read up on a film before I see it. There is never a need to have someone else’s thoughts crowding my head with sacks full of expectations and opinions not my own. Being a reasonably intelligent adult, I am more than capable of making up my mind. Prefer it, in fact. Yes, I unavoidably read New York Magazine’s review, but I did not go out of my way to read all the reviews. What I heard on NPR was encouraging and of course the box-office has been far above and beyond. Woody has hit one far out of the park. So off I go, expecting great things, with an air of excitement. I was not disappointed.

“Midnight in Paris” is one of the best films I have ever viewed. The casting, the writing, the music, the setting, the tone, the screenplay. Par excellent! The opening of this film is incredible. The soundtrack still plays in my head many hours after leaving the theater. Cole Porter, roaring 20’s, typical French accordian music. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Woody set out to tell a story and set a tone and boy did he!

Paris did not become the iconic setting for writers for nothing. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, they all lived in garrets and wrote their faces off. In Paris. The light, the cafes, the rain-soaked streets, the bridges over the Seine. It’s all in there. The parties, the drinking, the conversations about writing. Nothing could be better than having the time to walk around Paris with nothing else to do but think. Think, think, think. Work out a plot, work on your characters, come up with a story line…the thought makes me swoon. It makes Owen Wilson swoon too.

Not wanting to spoil the film for those of you who have not seen it, I will not give you any further details. Just see it. Please. If you love any of the things I have mentioned, you owe it to yourself. It will be the finest thing you can do for yourself for just few dollars. Go all out, have some popcorn too. You’ve earned it.

If you have seen the film, or go on my recommendation, kindly deposit your thoughts in comments. Nothing better than discussing films with friends.

And to you Mr. Woody Allen: I adore you and your view of the world. Never stop sharing your brilliance. Never ever.

Posted in architecture, art, Authors, Books, cinema, city life, dreams, entertainment, films, humor, Information, Life, literature, movies, Music, NPR, Paris, People, Woody Allen, writers, Writing | Leave a comment