Friday, September 30, 2011

One Step Closer to My Dream House

Ever since I have lived here, I have admired the old brownstone across the street that seems to have its own apartment on the side. I have never seen anyone ever coming in or going out of the side place, and I have only seen a very old man in the main house. This is the place that is covered with wisteria every May.

Somehow I believe that the universe is going to plot to get me that apartment, and today I got one step closer. About 18 months ago, I let someone ahead of me in line in a big drug store and I then recognized him as the old man who lives in this brownstone. I told him at the time that I love his house and if he ever sells to remember my face so that he'd give me a good price. At the time, I thought, "The wheels are in motion."

Today, when I came back from lunch, I sat on my steps for a while, and there was a well-dressed couple in their 50s standing outside this brownstone, making notes, taking photos and they then crossed the street to ask me if I knew anything about this building as they are in the market to buy a full house. I blurted out my whole story about how I am somehow going to get that side apartment.

We talked for a few minutes, I told them about the wisteria, and I told them that if they somehow end up buying the house to invite me for dinner and I'll bring dessert. They took me very seriously, and I said, "You can find me on these steps" and the man said, "Don't worry, we'll find you."

So I'm not ready to send out invitations to the housewarming party, but the universe is moving things in the right direction. I have patience that the plan is unfolding as it should. I better continue declutttering so packing for the move will be easy.

Scrambled Eggs: Day Two

This is on the way to meet Barbara for our monthly lunch. This is Fifth Avenue a few blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and there are always a bunch of street vendors selling "art" and it always reminds me of Paris.

Really bad photo, I know, but the cab was moving. We were seeing cops everywhere, swarming in and around Central Park and the driver and I didn't know what was up. Turns out there's a Black Eyed Peas concert tonight in the Park and the cops were getting into position. It's nice when cops are there for a happy reason.

Waiting for Barbara to arrive, I couldn't help but look at these fellows sitting at the tables outside who didn't say a word to each other. I don't know what the scaffolding is for, but here's a polite request: If you and I ever share a meal, you can look at your email/texts three times, once when you first sit down, once during the meal, and once when we're leaving. And that's being generous. Other than that, keep all electronic devices away from the table. Can we no longer enjoy a beautiful fall day sitting outside? Can we no longer enjoy each other's company? Do I sound like an old lady?

This is Jackson Hole, a mini-chain of hamburger places. Barbara and I like this place, but we don't like the hamburgers as they are like three-inches high, just huge, and it's too much. So we come to a hamburger place to order....

SCRAMBLED EGGS!!! We have our order refined over months of ordering the same thing: scrambled eggs ("soft" for me), crispy bacon, well-done fries (B's suggestion so we don't get those half-done white sticks), toasted rye bread for B and a toasted bagel for me. Strawberry jam on the side for both of us. Yum. The food of goddesses.

This is a preposterous sign for a Manhattan side street where you go about 15 mph anyway. Plus the sign is enormous. Made me chuckle.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday: It's Lunch Out Day!

I had to adjust my plans somewhat today, which I rarely do for my lunch out. Got a last-minute proofreading job about an hour before I left, and this ad agency was literally waiting for my proofing to put the brochures on the press for an upcoming big trade show. I realized I wouldn't enjoy myself thinking about this job so I took my computer with me and went to the Choux Factory, which is around the corner from me on First Avenue.

Choux are custard-filled cream puffs, all the rage in Tokyo supposedly, and when this place opened a number of years ago, all they sold was choux and coffee. It always reminded me of that Saturday Night Live skit which took place in a shopping mall store that only sold scotch tape.

Year by year they've added more items, and I hadn't been there for a while. Now they sell everything, up to and including that old Japanese standard: quesadillas.

This is the counter -- no wait staff. You can see the restaurant name in the background. In the two apothecary jars on the right are these macaroons which I once tried, but they are baked meringue so you take a bite and the whole thing flakes and crumbles and you have more macaroon on your front than in your mouth.

The bakery goods really are the star. In addition to choux, they have fancy cakes and pies, including one that looked delicious which was a coconut cream/meringue pie. Didn't try it.

I didn't know what to order, so I ordered eggs, before I remembered I'm going out to lunch tomorrow with Barbara and that is what we typically get. I also asked for butter on the side. They had toasted the bagel and I don't like melted, liquid butter on toasted bread. Partially melted is OK, but I still like the butter to be in somewhat solid form. I also asked for scrambled eggs SOFT, but these are really non-English speaking Japanese people and I don't think they knew what I meant by that. These are way overdone for me, even with brown speckles on them but I ate them nonetheless.

This is my iced latte, which along with the eggs, brought my lunch total to $8.50.

This is the most lovely mother and child who came in. This place has a self-service frozen yogurt machine and I was drawn to the two of them discussing which of the four flavors they wanted, and then what color spoons each wanted. The mother was very engaged with the son, as opposed to checking out her Blackberry and ignoring the kid. At one point, I overheard part of their conversation about Shakespeare. I was impressed. On the way out, the kid put his hand on the bakery display case to see the mark it left, and the mother gently told him that now someone has to clean off his handprint. I thought, "Aha, this is how you make responsible adults." They were a charming pair.

When I say I sit on the steps of my building, here's where I sit to watch the world go by. I have sat there with some of you too. When I was leaving today, the funeral home down the block was wheeling a body in on the gurney. Always a good reminder to enjoy today.

This is Ana, the one who is toiling away in my apartment as I am eating great lunches and enjoying my Thursdays.

I avoided the coconut/meringue pie, but I did succomb to a coconut muffin that I brought home for later. They are baked on the premises and it shows that it's not the uniformly perfect machine-made shape. This one has a weird leaning muffin top. Made with fresh coconut. I am planning to eat it for breakfast tomorrow, but I am not positive it will survive the night untouched.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Check list accomplished... and a bit of luck

Unwatched Netflix returned. Dresses, shoes, pantyhose to thrift shop. First of the month bills in the mail. All was accomplished along with my helper Marilyn and a bunch of other stuff.

But in the midst of this, something very lucky happened. I was writing out the bills while we were also sorting papers and we had piles of recycle, shred, and keep and somehow the envelope for the mortgage payment got lost. I asked Marilyn to go through the recycling papers to see if she could find the envelope. There was a clear, large garbage bag about half full of paper recycling from earlier as well as from this morning.

As she was looking for the envelope, she picked out this catalog and started leafing through it when what does she find but an unopened check for $2000 which somehow got wedged in the catalog, maybe in the mail box. I am always careful, scrupulously so, with checks when they arrive. One because I never want the embarrassment of having to tell a client I lost a check, and secondly, hey, I need the money!

So that was incredibly lucky. Had the envelope not gone missing, had we not decided to look for it, had she not looked at that particular catalog, that check would be lost. Wow. I am usually not that lucky. It gave me goosebumps when she held the envelope up and I recognized it as a check and my client's logo on the return address.

I added twenty dollars to her pay for today, and she called it her finder's fee. I joked that I pay 1% for all lost checks which are now found, and gladly so.

As a PS, I'll add that I love electronic banking, but I can't pay my mortgage electronically unless I give them access to my checking account, which I won't do, even though I know other folks don't have a problem with that. I can't pay health insurance electronically at all.

One last PS: Marilyn and her husband got tickets to The View for Monday, October 10 so please send a thought into the universe that it's a day when they give all audience members something really fantastic. Gift cards, computers, cameras, etc. The show does this occasional feature with a guy called Mr. Gadget where he shows a half-dozen new of the latest electronic things and so we are hoping it's a Mr. Gadget day on The View. Marilyn and her husband had gone to The View two years ago and each got an Aero Bed. Marilyn sold hers on eBay for $150, and her husband wanted to keep his, even though they have a sofa bed and a spare bedroom. When he saw what she got in eBay, he sold his too.

Oh, and we never found the envelope.

Little Boy Somehow Grew Up

The last time I saw Ken's son, I think he was about 12 years old, and I remember him as this very sweet child who wanted to do everything and experience everything and fit into the big city. We had gone to the Museum of Natural History and then to an Italian restaurant where he was being adventurous and ordered something he'd never eaten  -- I think it was fettucini alfredo -- and thought of himself (in a polite way) as this sophisticated diner.

But now, my sweet little friend has grown up:

Remember the kid you took to the museum of natural history? He is a good fisherman! 75 lbs of prime yellow fin tuna on 30 lb line.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Interesting Friends

It's a good thing I find my friends so fascinating, and I do. Today, I sent an article to an old friend who replied and said he was reading my blog, that he had been doing his own decluttering. I met Ken back in the late 1970s at an aviation trade show, and we've stayed in touch ever since. It doesn't seem that long, actually, but his son who was a baby is now all grown up with a Naval career. Yikes.

I asked him to send me some interesting photos to post, and he complied. Interesting friends have interesting photos. For the past few years, Ken has been building a retirement home in Fiji. In addition to being a helicopter pilot (and Viet Nam veteran), he is also a recreational diver, and when I was writing for the dive magazine, Ken was my go-to guy for the many diving questions I had.

Self portrait while speeding along the coastline of Kadavu, 4th largest island in Fiji. Nice warm flat seas and a beautiful day to go 30nm to the airfield to drop off my 88 yr old mom, who was done spending 3.5 weeks in Fiji with no TV, radio, Internet, shopping, etc., at our house. We played dominoes, walked the beach, ate, drank, shared stories, etc. She told me this is her last visit, She’s said that after the previous 5 visits, too, but this time I am sure she means it and I’m OK with that.

SEP 2009. At dinner outdoors at a farm on the island of Hvar, Croatia, while on a 5 week motorcycle trip. We’ve done two of those Balkans tours and look to ship the bike next JUL/AUG to Rotterdam to tour the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and ? for at least 6 weeks before shipping it home or storing with a friend outside Paris until the next year.

My latest project: a very early 1964 – almost 1963 MGB with only 103,000 miles. It was parked and covered for 11 years and it started right up with fresh gas, oil and a jump start. I am now driving it with new chrome wire wheels, proper black wall tires, new English leather - black with red piping. I completely overhauled and rebuilt the brakes, suspension, fuel system, etc and it’s pretty reliable. I’m into it (more properly, it is into me) for a little over $9k counting the price of the car. It’s now worth about $12k and after paint for another $5k, should be worth close to $22k. I got it to play with and fix up to sell, but now….. not so sure.

Yours truly in a 1958 Hiller UH-12E, , on a farm in N Cal before going out for a recon of the almond orchards. I was preparing to be called out to fly at night on Frost Patrol to stir the air in attempts to prevent frost from damaging the almond blossoms. Damn! What fun to fly that old manual throttle - piston engine noise maker! Unfortunately, a part time pilot totaled this ship while I was in Fiji in May. He was drying cherries, the same job I had been working on two days before going off to paradise. Now Joel (the owner & VHPA buddy) has to buy a replacement and will likely get an old Bell 206 which will be better in many ways, but not nearly as nostalgic or as cheap to operate for things like frost patrol and drying the rain off of cherries.

The Struggle Continues...

Last night, as I was going to sleep, I had a smile on my face. Looking around, I realized I was alone in bed, so there had to be another explanation... and I had nothing in particular I was looking forward to for today and I finally realized that the smile was caused by finally taking the three dresses out of my closet to my dining room table ready to be packed off for the thrift store. I also added three pairs of shoes and two shirts.

This morning, I was looking to see if there was anything else, and I opened a dresser drawer and saw a bunch of pantyhose packages, unopened... and here's the embarrassing part: one of the pairs was white. I swear it must be left over from the 1980s. Even the packaging looked old. So I took that pair, and a pair in gray (did we really used to wear tinted pantyhose??). That left seven pair of "neutral" pantyhose.

Here's where the struggle comes in: I so rarely wear pantyhose that I don't need seven spare pairs. I also know these must be ten years old.

Marianne Williamson says all our behavior is motivated either by fear or by love... and in the case of not letting go of ALL of the pantyhose, it's definitely fear. Fear that I won't find any that fit me like these do. Fear that I'll be called on to attend some event where I had to wear pantyhose (yeah, like they'll put it on the invitation!). Fear of being without. Fear of being caught short.

I have to make a compromise. I am giving away all but three pair. Someone might question if I struggle with this, why force myself? The answer is, once the struggle is done, I'm thrilled.

A few years back, I decided that I wanted to be able to open up my underpants drawer and be able to take any pair, even blindfolded! Rather than saying, Oh are these the ones that ride up? Are these the ones with the tear? Are these the ones that give me a wedgie? Or worse, KNOWING these are the ones that give me a wedgie and keeping them in the drawer anyway-- yes, JUST IN CASE. Just in case I develop a wedgie fetish or something, I'll be prepared.

So I did that, and I have to say that I get one second of pleasure every time I open my underpants drawer and select a pair at random. I am easily pleased by myself.

Now I feel as if I'm on a roll. My helper comes tomorrow and I want her to go to the thrift shop with a nice big bag of things I can bless somebody else with. Someone on the island of Manhattan might just be looking for a pair of white pantyhose. For an 80s retro disco party maybe?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Three Unlearned Lessons, One Learned Lesson

I think I've done my share of evolving in this lifetime, but despite my advancing years, I find there are still lessons the universe keeps tossing my way in the hopes that I'll learn from them. So far, hasn't worked for these three:

If I don't watch a Netflix movie the day it arrives or within 24 hours, I won't watch it. Ever. I am on the Netflix one movie, unlimited plan. By mistake, Netflix sent me two. I have had two movies since July. Yes, July. You read that right. I keep thinking, next weekend, tomorrow night, maybe next weekend, when I come back from here, when I come back from there. And they sit there. This past week I decided that if I hadn't watched them by the time I went past a mail box on Thursday, I'd mail them. I didn't do that. Here it is Saturday afternoon and I'm still clinging to some sense that I'm going to watch one of the two. Or both. This week, they are definitely going back.

If you haven't worn it in a year, get rid of it. Talk about clinging. I, who spreads the gospel of the joys of decluttering, has crap I can't let go of. Case in point: three summer dresses. I have not worn them for two summers, maybe three. But they fit, but they are classic style, but they are easy to care for, but they are comfortable. BUT I DON'T WEAR THEM. If I could bottle the energy that I've spent fretting and considering whether these three dresses should go, I could have written the great American novel. To add to my embarrassment, these dresses are probably ten years old. So this week, my helper is coming and off they are going to the thrift shop. Out with the old, in with the new.

I remember years ago, seeing a Cathy cartoon, where she was going through her closet and making up a set of special circumstances whereby she'd wear a certain piece of clothing, and that's what I've done with these. Like an outdoor, informal wedding reception during the summer in the country. Oh, really Pat? How many of those are you typically invited to? And you'd change dresses twice during the reception? And here's an insight: I have enough money to buy a new dress. So out they go. I hope.

My writing may be for business, but it is still creative. And there is no ON button.  This ordeal happened again this week. I had a deadline on Friday for writing. I was totally unmotivated when I finally started on Wednesday. Instead of saying to myself that I am not feeling it that day, I waste most of the day in childish procrastination. But the stress is going up. Thursday I get up and the words flow like water. I get it half done with ease. Then I stop. On Friday, the words flow like water for the second half, and I turn it in on time.

The problem with this lesson is that it is based on fact: a deadline is a fact, but even though Sane Pat tells Crazy Pat it will get done, it always does, Crazy Pat talks louder than Sane Pat. Crazy Pat has more convincing arguments, and those arguments inevitably lead to my sitting on a piece of cardboard, with dirty fingernails, over a subway grate because I missed a deadline.

But all is not lost. I am continuing to learn lessons, such as this recent one:

Even though a bill is due on the first on the month, you might want to pay it sooner to relieve stress. I have three bills due on the first of the month: my mortgage, my maintenance/co-op fees, and my health insurance. Of those, the only one I really care about is my health insurance as I imagine being hit by a bus on the first of the month, and the insurance company saying my payment wasn't received until the second of the month. Yes, I know that I am actually paying in advance -- so the October 1st payment is actually going toward November, but when you're making yourself  crazy, facts don't really enter the picture.

I don't really care about my mortgage arriving on time since I have until the 17th before there's a penalty. And I don't really care about the co-op fees as there are really no repercussions other than a second notice asking to send the check.

I was spending too much energy discovering that if Friday is the 28th, let's say, which sounds like I still have time, that Monday could be the 1st... whoops, no time left.

So I have written on my calendar on the 25th of the month to send in these bills. I feel like a damn CFO, in control of every penny. I've done this now for the past six months or so and it has been a good new habit.

What lessons have you left to learn? What lessons have you learned recently?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday Lunch Out

I have decided, for now, to go totally out of character, for me, and try a different place each Thursday. We'll see how long this lasts before I fall into my comfortable rut.

Today, I tried Sunny East 88 which is on First Avenue between 88th and 89th Street. Here's the view from across the street. As you might be able to see, it's next door to a sports bar and I decided to check out both before I eventually decided on Chinese.

The reason I decided on Chinese (which was empty) vs the sports bar, which had people in it, was that the only seating in the sports bar was high bar stools, including around tables. I don't like sitting in those kind of chairs. For some reason, I like my feet planted squarely on the floor.

Sunny East 88 is a small place -- three tables for 4, one table for 2, and one table for 1. I love how it looks so unlike a typical American restaurant. I was the only customer the entire time. You can see me taking the photo if you look right avove that blue cloth on the right side, just above the middle point.

I hadn't gone to an ATM, and I did ask if they take credit cards, and the answer was yes. That will figure in later in the story. They offered great lunch specials -- soup and an entree for $5.50. I ordered wonton soup which really was good. The broth part looked weak, but it was very flavorful. This photo doesn't really capture it, but I've noticed in the past, and today, how Asian food, even a humble bowl of soup, is always presented so charmingly.

Then for the entree, I ordered "crispy shredded chicken" and here it is. I had my choice of white, brown or fried rice, and I went with brown. Oh, so healthy, and I always forget how much I like it. Again, it's so full of flavor. It came with the broccoli which was about cooked one minute past raw and also there were peapods underneath the broccoli.  A big serving for $5.50.

When it was time to pay the bill, the male worker told me that they don't take credit cards for under $15. My bill, with a can of soda, was $7.60. I had $8.00 and about 50 cents worth of change. From my restaurant magazine writing, I know it's illegal to have a credit card minimum so I wasn't about to run to an ATM. I offered up the $8.50 and apologized about the tip. He then conferred with the female worker and decided to take my credit card. The female had told him that I had specifically asked about credit cards. So I rounded it up to $9.00 and that was fine, and a good lunch deal for me.

Then I went to the ATM, talked to the UPS guy who told me my regular guy, whom I really like, had  knee surgery and is out for three months. Then I talked for a long time to a woman who lives in my building. She had put up a note recently asking fellow residents not to buzz in people without identifying them through the intercom.

When I read her notice, I thought human nature has not changed. People were asking others to do that since I've lived in apartments. She had an experience where someone came to her door (past the two security doors which means somebody buzzed this guy in) who was selling something. She escorted him out of the building which I thought was very brave, and maybe just a little stupid.

She told me she is a medical student/resident at NYU. The talk turned to mice, which don't bother her, and she said if I ever need help, which, knock on wood, I hope I don't, I should come find her. I guess for a medical student/resident, they are used to looking at icky things. Very lovely woman who said she'd like to talk to me again. Sure.

And finally, I saw my boyfriend Brian (the crackhead who got rid of my half-dead mouse) who was in bad shape. I had never seen him like this. He could barely walk; his legs were like rubber and he went down the steps in the front of the building to where the garbage cans are, I guess looking for cans. He was down there a long time (while I was talking to Lauren, the med student). She checked on him a few times, said it was heroin, and I told her he had been helpful to me with a mouse at one time, and she apologized to me for making a derisive comment about Brian, as if he were a family member. It made me chuckle.

She left, and I was sitting on the steps that go to the front door and Brian came up the stairs, swaying and rubber legging and falling backward, holding on to the rail. He made it to the top of the stairs, but couldn't navigate opening this gate while simultaneously stepping over about a six-inch step. He kept falling back and grabbing the rail and I was afraid he was going to fall down the steps.

Just then, someone else I know came out of the building -- a man -- and I didn't want to touch Brian, but I thought he might so I said suggestively, "I'm afraid he may fall down the steps," hoping he'd give Brian a hand to get him out to the sidewalk. Instead, this man said not to worry how Brian never falls. At that point, I decided to go inside just as Brian made it past the gate. The man called to me, "See? He never falls. He's like a marionette."

And that's my Thursday adventure.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Houseguest Postmortem

Ok, so the houseguest leaves and there's always this time where you check out that yes, they took the sheets off the sofabed, folded them nicely, didn't leave any personal belongings that you can see... and then I am frequently surprised when I look at the used towels and see that the lovely, fresh, fluffy washcloth I have provided for them is unused and untouched.

I don't want to name names, but Meredith is the most recent non-user of my provided washcloth.

When I saw it this morning, I thought, "What? Again?" My houseguests don't seem to use washcloths. Who doesn't use a washcloth?

My houseguests, for one. I thought everybody used a washcloth. I wonder if I'm in the washcloth-using minority or something. I do not have some hangup about using my hand on my own body (Wow, that's not quite what I meant) but you non-washcloth users -- don't you miss the added tool of the washcloth to get clean?

So do me a favor. Humor me. If you're my houseguest, just run the washcloth under the faucet for a few seconds so it appears as if you have used it. That way, when I'm picking up after you leave, I will feel confident that my washcloth was used.

I will say this: about 10 o'clock last night, I was standing next to Meredith and said she smelled good and wondered how it can be 10 o'clock and she still smells good so maybe there's something to this non-washcloth thing.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dinosaurs on my Doorstep

Does anyone use a phone book anymore? I think I stopped taking them about five years ago, probably more. I can't think of any reason why I would need one or use one, or what a phone book or Yellow Pages could provide that I couldn't get on the Internet. I normally don't get that excited about "how many trees" were chopped to print something, but this does seem like an absolute waste of lots of trees. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Profound Thought for Friday

One of the authors who has probably changed my life in many subtle (and not so subtle) ways is Louise Hay, a New Age author who believes our thoughts create our reality.

I got an excerpt of her new book in an email today. In this excerpt she talks about the fear of dying, how we all have it, and I love the movie metaphor she uses. It's something I've always thought, never articulated it this way, but find it comforting. She writes:

I don't want to go right now because there are things I want to do, but I'm going to say that throughout my entire life. We all will. There's always one more thing to do -- a child's wedding to attend, a baby ready to be born, or a book to write.

I also have this very strong feeling that we arrive in the middle of the movie, and we leave in the middle of the movie. The movie is continuous. We enter and we exit. All of us do that. There's no wrong time or right time, there's just our time -- it was our time to be born and our time to go.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Thursday Lunch

I changed my routine for my Thursday lunches today. I had been going to the same neighborhood pub for several years, every Thursday I was in town, like clockwork. What made me change is a drunk who has been tossed out of the bar many times, but keeps coming back. Sometimes he'll start yelling, and on two occasions, he tossed disparaging remarks my way as he was being thrown out.

Two weeks ago, when I was in there, he was there and was yelling as he was being thrown out, said something nasty to me, and I thought Enough. The bartender, who is the only restaurant employee on duty in the dining room, apologized to me, but he clearly thought the whole thing is kind of funny. I questioned why he even interacts with him -- he likes to taunt the drunk. Last week, I was meeting someone for lunch so I didn't go there, and then decided today not to go back to the same place.

My Thursday lunch is my respite during the work week, and it makes no sense for me to continue to go there to be potentially annoyed. I was thinking that as a great generalization, men find drunks funny and amusing, while women find them scary and threatening.

So today, I went to Sotto Cinque, an informal Italian restaurant on 86th Street, that offers a great lunch deal. For $9.95, you get soup/salad and then an entree. And a couple pieces of great Italian bread.


Last time I was in there, I envied my friend's minestrone -- so full of fresh vegetables and so I ordered that -- See? You can even see the steam:

Next was my entree -- I ordered a dish called Rigatoni Cinque which is pasta with mushrooms and peas.

and then, as I continued to relax and read my magazines, I finished it all off with a cup of cappucino:

Oh, now things are making sense to me...

Email exchange today:

Man: So I click on the line of blue print? Then what happens?

Pat: A bumblebee flies out of your ass.

Man:  It's that kind of attitude that forces potential husbands away, Pat.

[And before anyone jumps on this guy -- or me, this was said (I think) in good fun.]

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Not much to report

No traumas, no dramas, nothing in particular to write about. Today, this gave me a laugh.

Monday, September 12, 2011

O Lucky Day!

Today was a day I wasn't looking forward to: reporting for jury duty. Like many states, New York has cut way, way back on the deferments which is good in that you end up serving a shorter amount of time. In the olden days, you had to serve a full two weeks unless you were assigned to a trial, so in those days you wanted to get on a trial since it might only last 3 or 4 days and you could be done.

So of course the overachiever in me shows up at 8:30 for the 9:00 start and I have to say I was stunned at how many people were late -- people were wandering in as late as 9:45. So we sat there for a while in this big jury pool room which probably holds about 150 people. I did a bit of work, but at about 10:30 we went into the courtroom and they picked 18 people at random to question. Of those they picked 6, and then we broke for lunch from 1 to 2. Same routine in the afternoon. Again, my name wasn't picked to be questioned in the jury box and so I just sat there. Then they sent us back to the jury room where we sat more. About 4:20, the jury woman announces that we're very lucky in that they were letting us go after one day and gave us certificates to prove we served and we can't be called again for six years. So if I disregard the pain to my butt (literally) from sitting on hard wooden benches/pews all day, jury duty was about as painless as it gets.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fire and Rain

I avoided 98 percent of the television coverage today, wondering if there were anyone anywhere who couldn't get enough of it.

Just now, flipping around the channels, I stopped at VH-l which is re-running a concert that took place in October 2001 that I remember meant so much at the time. Bill Clinton spoke, and damn it, if that man doesn't have the common touch, no matter what else people think about him. And then he introduced James Taylor who sang Fire and Rain.

It was so lovely, so moving and oddly appropriate for this concert. There are very few songs I never, ever tire of hearing, and Fire and Rain is one of them. And to hear and see James singing it was, for me, a perfect way to memorialize today.

Then he sang Up on the Roof, a quintessential New York song. A great ending to today.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

View out of Someone's Window

This photo was just sent on Twitter -- the view from someone's apartment. I saw these lights, which are lit each year, once coming into LGA at night on a September 11th. My nose was pressed up to the window, and I was mesmerized by the lights. It was a damp, hazy night and they really do look like ghost lights.

Orchids and Onions

Orchids to well-behaved children. Yesterday my helper was here, and I had forgotten that I had said it was OK for her to bring her daughter who is in second grade and only had a half-day of school. She is named Marilyn (same name as her mother). She was into HELPING. Big time. I guess kids go through that stage, and she took all her little jobs so seriously.

At one point, her mother was folding laundry, and Marilyn would take each individual item downstairs as soon as it was folded.  I found a job for her, which was I had just ordered a box of K-cups (those individual coffee servings) and I opened the box, and they come in individual boxes so she opened each one, put the coffees in a basket, put the boxes in recycling. And she would take each K-cup out one at a time, and then when the box was empty, she'd dramatically hold the box up to her eye to make sure that particular box was empty. Then she'd shake it to see if anything else came out, just to be sure. I loved just watching her.

When they were leaving, she had warmed up to me and wanted to show me each of her school books -- including one for handwriting and how she was going to learn script/cursive. She really is a sweet little girl.

And onions (I think for the second time) to my friends at Citibank. I had gotten a new Citicard (ATM card) and I had activated it and was just skimming the paper in advance of shredding it. There was a list of Security Tips which I decided to read and it's the typical "Don't write your PIN on the card" and "Take your receipt with you."

But then there was this gem... and I quote... "Do not permit any unknown person to enter the ATM lobby after regular banking hours."

Oh really, Citibank? How do you suggest I stop them?

In New York City (and I suspect elsewhere), people would not take kindly to my holding the door shut so they can't come in. I'd look like a damn crazy person. Talk about a way to GET hurt.

Later Update: I mentioned this tip in a phone conversation today, and the person said, "I bet they mean that you don't let anyone in, meaning walk in after you or open the door for someone who can't get in." Just like you don't let someone follow you into an apartment building if you've been buzzed in. That very well may be what they meant, but if that's the case, it should have been worded more clearly.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I flirted today

Every so often, I remember that my heart is still beating when it comes to men. When I went to the periodontist today, the elevator door opened and I started to get on when I saw there were two men not getting off in the lobby. I got on anyway and they said they were going down. I started to get off the elevator when one of them said, "You can come down with us."

So I said "Ok, you guys look safe." Actually they were in their late 20s, were some kind of maintenance type guys with tank tops and nice size muscles, cute faces.

Then I remembered that no man wants to be called "safe" so I said, "Now that I look at you, you look dangerous to me... a young girl like me could get in trouble... you might want to have your way with me."

Then I paused and said, "Please?"

They were both laughing and one told me how "sweet" I am... oh like your grandmother sweet? Or juicylicious sweet? (No, I didn't say that, just thought it.)

As they got out on the basement level, they were talking about me, how great that comment was. So that's how I flirted today.

Meanwhile, during the stitch removal, the periodontist commented on how many stitches I had and said something like, "I bet you thought I was embroidering my initials in there" and I asked him if he could sew in real life. He said no, he couldn't sew on a button and said he tells his wife that he can only sew if the thing he's sewing is bleeding.

Reviving a 9/11 Memory

An aviation magazine called Aviation International News (Melissa works for them) has published on their blog readers' memories of 9/11. These are basically stories from corporate pilots who were somewhere in the airspace system that day and how they heard the news, reacted to it, got grounded, tried to get home, etc. They are fascinating stories. You can read them at

In the cab coming home from stitch removal (all was well) today, the driver and I started talking about 9/11 and he told me his day back then. I was thinking that despite my ambivalence about the 9/11 machinery of made-for-tv movies etc., one thing I never tire of is hearing people's invidual stories.

Back to the corporate pilots. To me the most compelling was from someone who worked at a helicopter charter company. I was reminded that there was a time that morning where we all thought that people above the fire could be rescued by helicopter from the roof. Here's part of his story. For those non-aviation people, an S-76 is a fancy executive style helicopter.

He writes in part:
Shortly thereafter the passengers arrived for their Boston flight. Our aircraft departed Wall Street heading for Boston, not realizing the magnitude of the disaster that was still unfolding. We at AAG were now glued to the TV and saw our S-76 pass by the Twin Towers on its way to Boston.

Soon the second tower was hit, and we knew we were watching a disaster unfold. I then received a call from the New York/New Jersey Port Authority asking if we could send any helicopters to the city to assist with an evacuation from the World Trade Center. I told them I could provide four S-76s immediately and was then informed to stand by for further instructions as to when and where to report. We stripped out four VIP S-76s to be able to accommodate as many people as possible.

We never received the second call to launch our four aircraft. They were not needed; the attack on the World Trade Center was too devastating and no helicopter evacuation services were required.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And another thing...

I had complained to the Holiday Inn Express via the website about my experience two weekends ago, with rain water puddling in the room, the reluctance to give me a late checkout, and that darn takeout menu still in the guest book.

Just now, I got an email and I was anxious to see their reply... I hate these generic replies... and this one was particularly bad as they filled in the blank wrong in the first line. My experience with the [my email address] ?

Dear Ms. Luebke,
Thank you for contacting Guest Relations regarding your experience with the [my email address]. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to bring this matter to our attention and apologize for any inconvenience the room conditions and level of service from the hotel staff may have caused you.

me again: then it goes on and on... you've read these letters before. Now my letter is being forwarded to the hotel so we'll see if they reply.

Love these metaphors

This is a Tweet (Twitter message) from someone I follow who hosts one of my favorite ghost tv shows. I love both metaphors; it made me laugh:

Some of the people at my gym walk around like snooty reindeer...all prancin like they crap cotton candy...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Random Thoughts

Random: Has anyone else noticed this word being used all the time in a way that doesn't quite make sense? Well, I have and today I heard it being used by a news person. I knew it was somehow slang, but didn't know what it meant. Checked Urban Dictionary which says it means "funny, weird, crazy, stupid." Someone might say, "I forgot my wallet at home; that's so random."  I never got it, and now that I do get it, I don't like it. Even Urban Dictionary said it is totally overused.

Coffee: I've been on an ice latte kick. No one I know likes iced coffee, and I think people are strange -- random, even! -- about which coffee flavors they like. Mary loves coffee, but hates iced coffee. I love iced coffee, but hate coffee-flavored candy or coffee ice cream. Stephanie likes coffee and coffee-flavored candy. Me, I am disappointed when I take a piece of candy that I think is chocolate and it turns out to be coffee flavored. Tastes like medicine to me. I also don't like coffee ice cream.

9/11: I'm in a total state of ambivalence with the 10th anniversary. My voice still chokes up when I talk to someone about that day. It still makes me cry, yet I hate the whole 9/11 machine. Last night, I came upon the pretentiously named "9/11: When Popular Culture Saved the World." -- Yes, saved the world! I watched it for a while and it was stand up comedians, sit com people and other actors all talking in the most self-absorbed way about coming back to entertain after 9/11. Those breathy voices and dim lighting -- it just annoyed me. I was flipping back and forth to it because I remember watching in real time David Letterman's first show back and Jon Stewart's and I would have liked to have seen clips from those two again, but they weren't on. Thinking about it this morning -- this show was on some odd cable channel, I believe only shows from the channel's line up and other channels owned by the same company were mentioned. That could be my cynical view, but I think it might be the case.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

So Sick and Tired of Scams!

I hadn't gone to my mail box on Saturday and picked up the mail today. I'm looking through and see this envelope that looks like a check, one of those self-contained envelopes where it's all one piece of paper and the check is attached and you open it by ripping off a 1/4 inch strip on either side. When I looked at this piece of mail, it's addressed to me, but looks very official from the "Payment Adjustment Services" and it says on the outside "Vehicle Return Instructions Enclosed."

Well, for a second, I panicked thinking somehow a rental car I had hadn't been logged in as returned or something... and I owe thousands of dollars -- you know how those wild thoughts go through your mind... so I rip off the little margins and open it and there's a check made out to me for $1000.

Gee, that's when I knew it was a scam. The copy reads, "Records indicate that Patricia Luebke may be in the market for a new or pre-owned vehicle..."  So it's not a check (as it states about five times on the face of the check) but some kind of voucher.

As a copywriter myself, I wonder about the people who dream these things up, and whether they feel lousy about it or if they rub their hands together in delight. Yes, they got me to open it, but even if I were about to apply for a car loan, I wouldn't use them.

AOL does a good job in getting rid of spam before it even hits my inbox, but I'd say my spam trap gets about 10 spams a day with all these dire warnings about my account having been compromised on PayPal, Ebay, Amazon, and a list of banks I don't even have accounts with. Then there's the lotteries I've won, the inheritances I'm getting, the business deals people want me to be a part of because I am a person of integrity. I am equally amazed that there must still be people who fall for this.

Tonight I got a new one -- an email supposedly from someone serving in the Army in Afghanistan who needs me to transfer money for him. This is something that I am naive about -- I do not understand how people can look at themselves in the mirror when they perpetrate something like this.

The closest I come is remembering an assistant I had once who was mugged on the street, and she wouldn't give up her money, and I forgot how she got away, but she did. The police detective, of course, told her how foolish she had been, and said that to the guy robbing her, she is not even a human being; rather she is an ATM machine with legs. He said just as you pass an ATM machine and think, "Oh, I need some cash," the robber sees her and sees his opportunity, with no more feeling than we have about the ATM machine, and the robber is in no way thinking about how traumatized she is or how hard she's worked for this money. He just wants it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Stunning News for Pat/Pollyanna

I really would not char- acterize myself as naive, but I guess I can be. I used to think that no one in my  high school was having sex -- that is, until I went to my reunion and found out that loads of people were having sex -- it was me who wasn't!

So today I'm reading an obituary for this rock 'n roll lyricist who wrote Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, Yakkety-Yak and also Poison Ivy.

I always thought Poison Ivy was about... poison ivy!

But it's about syphillis. Am I the only one who didn't know that? The lyricist "readily admitted" this, according to the obituary -- that's why, he says, "it's gonna take an ocean... of calamine lotion..." which I thought meant (really) that the person just had a bad case of poison ivy.

End of Summer Saturday

I love how gardens look at the end of the summer when we (I) have given up trying to make them grow this way or that and leave the plants to their own devices. I love how lush they become. I have often thought that my apartment would be so different (and so dark) without my garden. I love having the garden door open and letting fresh air and light in and seeing the green beyond the door.

I have enjoyed having brand-new fences this season and they've lost that new-new look a bit which is good.

I should have taken a photo in the morning when the morning glories were in bloom. They really do shut down in the afternoon. These are healthy and lush and go up beyond my fence up about 10 feet. If you look at the fence beyond my new fence -- that's a fence of a neighbor but someone I had doing some work suggested I put this bamboo sheet over my neighbor's fence since it was ugly chain link with green intertwined plastic through it. So he did it and it's been up there for two or three years now.

Here they are upclose and it reminds me of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dental Update

I mentioned that the swelling came back yesterday, and that was normal I was told. Just now I went to use the restroom and as I was washing my hands, I look in the mirror, thought I had dirt/ink on my face and went to rub it off and it's a big black and blue mark. I looked like someone punched me in the jaw. Ok, big is relative. I'd say it's as big as two quarters (two 25 cents pieces).

I don't have pain, there's no heat, but I've never had a bruise like that before so I called the doctor and was told that was totally normal, no worries. It's weird to see. I don't think I've ever had a bruise on my face, which is probably a good thing!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bad Start to the Day

I didn't sleep well last night, and I awoke to some swelling in my jaw which the dentist had warned me about -- that it might happen today and not to be alarmed. So I get in the shower and I'm waiting for the hot water to make itself evident until I realized there is no hot water. Luckily I got under the water when it was a neutral temperature but by the time it was over the water was really cold.

So I'm still trying to be perky -- and I had yet to call the West Virginia number to get the amount of my fine. The cop had told me to call on Monday and I didn't. I didn't Tuesday or Wednesday, and I looked at the ticket last night to see the due date and I couldn't read the handwriting, but I could see it said "September" something so I knew I was OK.

I call and the woman was very nice, spoke very simply and slowly about how to respond to the ticket, but then she told me the amount:


In my head, I was thinking it would be in the $50 to $75 range. Bear in mind, that's the amount for 4 miles per hour over the limit. Granted, I was driving much faster than that and I acknowledge that I have exceeded the speed limit dozens of times so I guess this is my overall punishment, but I truly did not expect it to be this much.

I asked her about the amount, said (nicely) I thought that was excessive. Well, it turns out that this is not just the fine, but it's also "court costs." I said, "What court costs?" -- I'm mailing in the check; there's no trial. So she didn't know the answer to that and I realized that nothing I say or want to say really matters. She tells me I have 40 days to send in the check and I said, "Ok, I know it can't be changed, but I just want to say that I think this amount is excessive."

Much to my surprise, she said, "I do too." Which really made me feel better (seriously) -- better than if she had given me some sort of public safety lecture. And then, I hung up the phone and I admit I got teary eyed (again). I was later thinking I hate this out of control feeling that money slips through my hands... Today is my worst day for money as my mortgage, maintenance and health insurance are all due today. Then I had the $2500 from Tuesday and now a total waste of money of $165.80.  It's an expensive week.

Just to be totally ironic, today is also the day my cleaning woman comes and I eat in a restaurant, reading magazines, while someone cleans my house. Now THAT'S a good use of my hard-earned cash!