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Category Archives: Life

Everything Under The Sun Is In Tune

I showed up at work today armed with a pair of eclipse glasses I scored at the last minute (Niki had a spare – thank you!).  About mid-morning, I found out that Pink Floyd’s song “Eclipse” was exactly the right length as the peak was supposed to be, so I downloaded it, thinking I would play it precisely when the peak hit us here in New York.

I was getting nervous about an hour before, when a bank of clouds started to roll in – right where the sun was going to be.  But then at 2:30, fifteen minutes to peak, i head down to the street with glasses in hand.

Now, if you’ve never seen a pair of eclipse glasses, you don’t expect much.  They’re flimsy cardboard with plastic film lenses; and if you look through them ordinarily, you can see nothing at all.  I’d been playing around with them at home this morning, and it was as if I were blinkered.  So I wasn’t sure what I would see when I got down to the street and put them on.  There was a small cluster of people from a couple of the surrounding office buildings, trying to simultaneously shield their eyes and peer through their fingers; the residual light from the sun was just too overpowering.  I put on the glasses and had a look up.

And I saw a crescent sun.

“Oh WOW.” I blurted out, making a couple people’s heads turn.  A cloud obscured it almost right away, so I snuck out of the direct path of pedestrians, waiting for the cloud to pass.  Knots of people were standing around me, discussing the eclipse; the group right next to me was a four-man team of young men in the starched-shirt and khakis uniform of bankers.  “Where is it?” one asked, looking up.

“It would be that way,” I cut in, pointing.  “Except that there’s a cloud now, so you can’t see anything.”

“And how long is it? Will it get all the way dark?”

“Nah, we’re only going to get like 70% of it.  It started at like 1:30 here, and then it’s at its peak in about 15 minutes; and then after that it’ll start moving away and it’ll be all done by 4.”

“If only it wasn’t for that cloud!” another one grumbled.

“Yeah…but we got like 15 minutes until its peak.” The cloud started to pass a bit, so I took another look through the glasses again, as they talked on, unclear what they were looking for.  Then turned to them.  “Anyone want a look?”

“Sure, I’ll try,” one said, dubious. He put them on.  “And where would I look, right up th-WHOOOOOOOOOOOA!” he gasped when he finally saw it.

“Ooh lemme try!” one of his friends excitedly asked, reaching for the glasses.  “So you can really see it?…..OMIGOD!”

A pair of women behind us saw them react, and heard me laughing.  “Wanna try?” I asked them.

“Uh, sure….” one reached for the glasses, and stepped over towards us, putting them on.  “WHOA FUCK!” she gasped.  Her friend had another similar reaction.  And so did the family of Japanese tourists that was passing by at that moment when I let each of them look in turn as well.

One of the bankers asked to borrow them again, trying to figure out how to hold them in front of his camera and get a picture.  “Here, I’ll hold them for you,” he offered, gesturing to my iPad, and we clumsily tried to get a picture, me fiddling with the camera on my ipad and him balancing the glasses in front of the lens.  The clouds covered the sun again, and I told them to also take a look at the shadow of a tree near where we stood.  “If you look at those shadows,” I said, “they’ll be all crescent-shaped too.”

“What about a pinhole like those guys over there?” someone near me was pointing at another cluster of people nearby, fiddling with a couple pieces of paper.

“Yeah, that’ll work too; it works for the same reason that the shadows look different – there, look!” and I pointed at the ground, at the dappled shadow of the tree near us.  Someone else had my glasses while I got a picture of the filtered-leaved shadow, chuckling as I heard yet another person blurt out their awe.  They handed the glasses back to me when I was done, and as soon as they did, another person asked for a look.  And then another.

I was down on the sidewalk for about a half hour, but spent most of that time loaning my glasses out to strangers.  At one point I was informally assigning numbered turns to people (“Okay, ma’am, you’re next, and then you here on my left – they asked just a couple seconds before you on my right did, guys”).  But everyone thanked me profusely after a look. I even went back up to my office and grabbed one of my colleagues and dragged him down, telling him it would just be five minutes (his reaction when he put on the glasses and looked up – “whoashit, yeah“).

I came out to look at an eclipse. But I ended up being more charmed at the sight of everyone around me all being struck with awe and excitement, and all of us turning into children for a while.

 

 

 

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Hey, Wait……

I had a bit of an epiphany this morning.

A lot of the white supremacist groups claim that they are simply “expressing pride in being white”.  However – have you ever noticed that they can’t seem to do that without insulting others in the process?

August Break Day 1 – Morning

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I think I started last August with a version of this picture as well – the lemon verbena on my bedroom windowsill, which is one of the first things I see when I wake up.

A year ago I had just gotten back from my second trip to Paris, and had romantic notions of using more herbs in cooking.  The French cookbooks I already had spoke of using lemon verbena in baking a lot, and I already knew I liked the scent; a sort of fresh, herbaceous lemon.  I picked this plant up last June while on a camping trip with a friend, when we’d stopped at a roadside stand for grillable vegetables. I saw it in a little cluster of 4-inch herb pots they were selling, and snapped it up.

Actually, let’s look back at how it looked a year ago today:

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Yeah.  It grows fast.  And what I didn’t know at the time is that all those baking recipes only use a couple leaves at a time, so I would be stuck making regular pruning and harvesting forays and trying to cope with the excess.  I’ve made sugar syrup, I’m going to try pesto and jelly this season; I tried candying the leaves once, but that really, really didn’t go well.

….Know any recipes with lemon verbena, actually?

August Break 2017

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I’ve only come upon a couple of blog challenges that I’ve wanted to do; this one I did last year was especially fun.

The blogger Susannah Conway started it as a “break” from trying to write blog posts every day; she decided she was just going to take pictures instead.  And people jumped on that like whoa.  Fast forward a few years – and I didn’t even know who Susannah Conway was, but this “August Break” thing sounded interesting and there I was.  The idea is simply that you take a picture every day and that’s it.

I actually did a lot more photography as a hobby some years back and have been wanting to get back into it; this would be the perfect excuse (along with my finally biting the bullet and signing up for Instagram).

I’m In The Money

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So I grew up in New England, and we tend not to talk about money all that much.  Especially if we’re having money difficulty; we go all stoic and stiff-upper-lip and try to “make do and mend”, resorting to repairing things that break instead of buying new or waiting for sales or reverse-engineering our own solutions.  Or just going without.  This is the kind of approach that can be carried too far, of course – there have been times that I have been almost pathologically afraid to spend money on myself.  Also, all the frugality in the world isn’t going to help you if you’re just plain not making enough money to begin with.

That latter state was my lot for the past couple years.  But – the new job has fixed that, and then some.  And it’s taken a couple weeks to sink in, but….I’m starting to get into it.

Now, I’m not going totally bugnuts, buying up entire racks of shoes or renting a yacht to go to Martha’s Vineyard just for lunch or anything like that. I’ve maybe spent more than I should on books, but the bulk of the money I got from my first paycheck went either to paying down some debt, starting a nest egg, or finally getting some long-needed house stuff. (Hellooooooooo, replacement window blinds! Welcome, stash of bulbs! Hi there, no-longer-threadbare pillowcases!)

When it comes to things I’ve been buying sheerly for pleasure, they’ve actually been comparatively modest: a couple yards of fabric to go towards a quilt I’ve been working on (yes, I’m making an actual quilt), a couple pounds of candle wax to round out the candlemaking stash Niki gave me (rather than buying the actual pre-made candles, which was getting costly), or a couple of utterly gorgeous French cookbooks (I make no excuse because I don’t need one dammit).  Or going to the occasional movie.  Or just going out for ice cream or dinner or lunch.

Or actually paying people back.  The thing that saddened me most about being so cash-poor for so long is that my friends have had to cover me more times than not – never anything big, just a couple extra bucks here, an extra five there, whenever we went out.  Or even the convenience move – if a group of us were gathering for a movie run, it would always be someone else who’d say “I’ll pick up the tickets and y’all can just owe me.”  It would always be someone else saying “what the hell, I can put dinner on my card and y’all can just owe me the cash.”  We usually settled up, I told myself, but it would always be someone else making that initial convenience step.

Tonight I am seeing a movie with a few friends; we were planning our attack this morning, and in the middle of the discussion I popped over to the movie theater site and just got our three tickets without even thinking.  “I got our tickets,” I emailed back, “so we can all just meet there.”

“Oh, great! Thanks!”

And the feeling I get simply because I am able to do that – and may even be able to cover them for a car to get them home after – is a feeling that I have been missing for a long time.

State Of The Kim

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I’ve hinted at it, I’ve been all cryptic, finally I can come clean – My last day at my current job is Tuesday, and my first day at a new job is the following Monday.

Now, I like my current company itself.  I also like the people I work with.  The problem is, what I’m doing (human resources data processing) is something I didn’t have any experience in before starting, and am ultimately not that great at.  I wasn’t even supposed to be in that role as long as I was – I was supposed to keep watching for executive assistant roles and apply for them, so I could move into that instead.  And for two years I did exactly that.  However – that plan was kind of like the Underpants Gnomes on South Park: everyone overlooked the necessity of the middle step between my applying for a job and my moving into it, namely that I would have to be accepted into said job.  And that’s the bit that never happened.  I finally started looking outside my current company, and got accepted into a new place within about three or four months.

(Quick note – I don’t think I’ve mentioned the name of the place where I work.  I will not do so, nor will I mention the name of the new place; I don’t want there to be any perceived problem with anything I ever have, do, or will say on this blog.  I will say only that the current company is an NGO and the new company is a small development and housing non-profit startup.)

So that’s why I can’t do much traveling this summer; it isn’t that fair to be starting a new job in mid-June, and then take off for a week at the beach only one month later.  I also won’t have built up enough time off until September or so.  I have since learned that I’m being brought along to the company team meeting in upstate New York during my second week there (and this is the first time I’ve ever been considered worthy of inclusion at a team meeting, so I’m not entirely convinced this is really my life just yet), but any funtime travel is going to have to wait a while.  I knew that would probably be the case when I started my job hunt, however, so I have resigned myself to that.

But – the new job comes with something of a considerable improvement in pay over what I’m making now.  And it’s a very new startup in a shared-work space, so everyone’s walking around in jeans and polo shirts and khakis and t-shirts, so I can dress way more casually than I’ve had to.  And – and this is something I’m unnaturally excited about – I can walk to work.  It is a half-hour on foot from my apartment to the office, and even if I took a bus it would only save me five minutes.  So I have every intention of walking to and from work – I could leave home later, get home earlier, and take little exploratory detours or run errands on the way home (there is a major food mart opening up just a couple blocks off my route, and a Wegman’s will also open up a couple blocks in the other direction within two years).  And that’s also one hour of walking each day, five days a week.  So by the time I finally do go on some kind of trip, I will be richer, better rested, and in better shape, and I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna call that a win.

In the meantime: I have gone into a full-on DIY Home Decorating Mode.  I’ve tried making a couple of candles and I’ve stumbled upon several crafting sites that show you how to make erzatz Moroccan-style colored glass lanterns out of plain glass jars and paint.  That, plus the shibori-dying class I’ve signed up for, has sent me galloping into a plan to give my bedroom a slight “boho chic” makeover (which, really, is mainly going to translate into creating a few candle arrangements here and there, changing a couple lamps and then dumping a gabillion cushions on the bed).

And I’ll be getting back to the movies soon, of course; I’ve just been trying to get through the last couple weeks at the old job.  I’m doing a major cleanout of the file room as my Last Act And Legacy; it’s something I’ve desperately wanted to do for a year and a half (ever since we discovered one day that there was about a two year period when people didn’t actually file things in there, so much as “shove them into corners”), and that’s been a lot of lifting and toting and shoving and sorting and arranging, interspersed with cursing and grumbling.  At least four times now I’ve discovered a whole new pile of un-filed files, and opined to my coworkers that “I really feel like someone needs to die for doing this.”  Wishing others death is tiring work.

Feeding Others

On my 25th Birthday, one of my best friends – who lives outside New York – came for an overnight visit. We planned to take a walk through Chinatown and buy up whatever unusual and fascinating food things we could find, and then come back to my apartment and cook it all; I’d put the word out to my other friends that “if you turn up in the afternoon, you will get fed”.  My then-roommate somehow forgot the date and invited his table-top gaming club over for a game that same afternoon, but when they offered to leave I told them “no, you can stay and help us eat all this!”  Ultimately, we had 20 people crammed into my tiny living room, perched on folding chairs and huddled onto the sofa, and one person even had to sit on a step stool because we ran out of anything else.  But I will never forget the sight of all 20 of us, all engaged in the same lively, cross-the-room conversation, plates balanced on all our laps and eating homemade shrimp shumai and mung bean noodles and stir-fried chicken with peppers.

My 47th Birthday was yesterday, and I sought to recreate that birthday a little. I have a bunch of friends I know from all different contexts, and have wanted to introduce them to each other to see what would happen. It’s also the weekend before Mardi Gras, so I put the word out that anyone showing up at my place that afternoon would be fed, and then I got up at about 6 in the morning and started cooking. I went Cajun rather than Chinese this time – jambalaya, corn maque choux, two kinds of red beans and rice, a huge pot of gumbo. By the time the first guest showed up, I’d made the choice to abandon the shrimp etouffe, literally because there was no more room on the buffet table.

I even mail-ordered a King Cake from Gambino’s Bakery in New Orleans, and found a silly bejewelled pair of sunglasses to give to the person who got the baby in the cake.

My friends are the sort to also ask to bring things, but knowing how much food I was making I tried to steer them into simple things, like a spare bottle of soda or a bag of chips. But – rather than getting a single bottle of Sprite, they mail-ordered things – one friend found a web site offering local Louisiana things, and shipped me half a cases’ worth of stuff, including Abita root beer and Bananas Foster soda, and another couple brought a sampler case of different flavor Zapps’ Chips.  Sue couldn’t make it herself (our lives are both a little different than they were when we were 25), but earlier in the week she’d sent me a delightfully silly gift – a five-pound Hershey bar.

I actually wasn’t completely finished cooking by the time the first guests showed up, so I threw them in the living room with the chips and a bowl of peanuts I’d seasoned with a spice blend I’d picked up at a great little shop in New Orleans. I popped out of the kitchen to make basic introductions for people who hadn’t yet met (“So, Jonathan I know from kayaking, and Ian and Gabby I know through a play I did in 2005 – and there’s E, we were on a pub quiz team in the 90s and she just got a job with the library…”) and then just stood back.

And just as I hoped, there was lots of boisterous talk around the room. Jonathan and Gabby compared notes on kayak clubs. Niki asked E for book recommendations. After an hour Ian begged us to keep him away from the peanuts because he’d just eaten half a pounds’ worth.  Colin learned several of the guests hadn’t ever been to New Orleans and made travel recommendations. We passed around shared bottles of the fig soda, but were less brave about the bananas foster soda.  Niki got the King Cake baby. Everyone left well-fed, but there was still an enormous amount of uneaten food, which E blessedly helped me pack away into the fridge before she took off.

I took a closer look at the damage this morning after sleeping late. There’s still an awful lot of the gumbo, which E had thoughtfully doled into smaller ziploc baggies so they could be frozen. It’s a basic greens gumbo, which I can easily add leftover chicken or sausage too; the okra and tomatoes will also work there.  There’s easily enough jambalaya and red beans to see me through two weeks of brown-bag lunches, and the little bags of Zapps’ are perfect for snacks as well.  I did as many of the dishes that my drying rack can hold, and then made a breakfast of shrimp grits before tucking the rest of the shrimp into the freezer too.

I’ve also spent the morning browsing for recipes that use a lot of milk chocolate – I’ll definitely eat some of that huge Hershey bar, but probably not fast enough, and will definitely need to get through some of it by baking.  After only an hour of looking, though, I was already starting to get the idea that maybe another party would be just the thing – only make it all sweets, lots of cupcakes and tarts and cookies and puddings and…and more people in the house, more of the laughter and talking.

When you feed people, I discovered, you also feed yourself.