Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Little Traveller

Just a couple of updated photos of my little traveller, seen here hangin' out with "Frosty," and, "Santa."

Friday, December 29, 2006

North of the Border

This past Wednesday, Emma and I piled in the car to drive north of the Cackalackie border to....North Cackalackie to visit old and very dear friends. It was a lovely trip, and travelling with Emma was a pleasure, go figure. It gave me hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel in terms of being able to sit in the car for more than 30 minutes without someone screaming.

Anyway, as I said, the trip was lovely. I got to see my best and lifelong friend Karen, her husband Jason, and her extended family. I also had the opportunity to meet her new daughter Marcie, who was recently adopted from China. Check out We Found Baby S. In China for the details. Unfortunately, Marcie was pretty sick, nevertheless, she was charming and adorable, and a little butterball of a baby that I couldn't resist kissing and squeezing. I'm sick. Very sick. And so is Emma. Yet it was TOTALLY worth it! Emma had an absolute ball playing with Casey, Karen and Jason's soon to be 4 year old son. And I loved being able to chat with Karen and Jason again and squeeze their new daughter. And I had a wonderful conversation with Karen's sister-in-law which ultimately helped me to clarify some ambitions I've been kicking around lately (but those are a subject for another post).

There's just something about meeting up with old friends. It felt a little bit like coming home when "home" is something that seems to allude me lately. All in all, it was a memorable trip, a wonderful bonding experience for Emma and I, and inspired a few thoughts along the way.

Here they are:

1. North Carolina is just another way of saying, "South Carolina" without the inland wetlands. It's all the same people, Baptist and Methodist churches, BBQ, and freeways named after staunchly conservative, right-wing, fundamentalist Christian, dead politicians.

2. "Carolina country" is surprisingly beautiful...large white pine forests, rolling hills giving way to wetland laden valleys all framed by white horse fences and fall foliage. I remember at one point thinking that I had just driven into a Norman Rockwell painting.

3. "Carolina country" is surpisingly ugly...too many trailer parks dotting an otherwise beautifully untouched landscape; too many industrial parks, factories, and truck stops that have obviously over-run some of the only remaining wetlands that this country has left.

4. My friend's parents are possibly the most patient and tolerant people I've ever met. I envy their calm demeanor and warm, patient regard. After being a stay-at-home-mom for the past 2 and a half years, I am especially in awe of my friend's mother who raised 4 of her own children with what appears to be the utmost of grace and kindness, and now treats her own grandchildren with the same regard. I wish I had her patience and reserve in those moments when my own kids are making me want to crawl out of my skin!

5. I miss Karen. I sorely miss her. Like I said, there's something about old friends that makes you feel at home the way that nothing else can.

6. There is a random traffic sign along I-26 that reads, "SMOKE." That's it. And given that we are in a part of the country where tobacco is considered a vegetable (thanks for that one Jason), I couldn't help but chuckle and think that perhaps this sign was intended less as a warning and more as a reminder to grab a pack of Marlboros and light up, perhaps because you were approaching a particularly stressful part of the drive.

7. So much of the Carolinas is untouched landscape, and as a result, there are a plethora of intact habitats available to support local wildlife, as is evidenced by the variety of raptors I saw flying overhead throughout the drive.

8. Much of that untouched landscape is marked with, "For Sale," signs or equipment for clear-cutting, which of course foreshadows the ultimate destruction of local habitat and ensuing disappearance of said wildlife.

9. Emma is a delightful traveller, and a very well-behaved, polite child. I had my suspicions about the well-behaved part, but I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the little traveller in her. Perhaps she and I will find ourselves in more exotic locales in the near future.

10. Finally, in seeing old friends, one is reminded of old times; laughter, tears, kindnesses exchanged, and hurts inflicted. I only hope that in the end, those I've met along the way take the kindness and the laughter with them, and leave the hurt where it be forgiven in the past.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Isn't It Ironic?

And no, I'm not referring to that idiot song by Alanis what's-her-name in which NOTHING she says is actually ironic. Someone should buy that woman a dictionary and flag the page on which you'll find the definition of the word..

Anyway, here's our little bit of irony. As you may or may not know, we just moved into a new house. Prior to moving in, we and our home inspector collectively complained to the builder that the concrete on the back porch was pitched improperly and needed to be reskimmed. Otherwise, we'd have our own personalized lake in the kitchen at the sight of our first big storm.

The builder reluctantly agreed to do the job, and so began our story. First, the poles supporting our back porch needed to be removed, then the concrete repoured, skimmed, etc. It was, of course, boarded up around the edges to keep everything in place until it had completely cured. A few weeks go by, yes, a few weeks (which should be an indication of the reliability of our builder in following through with projects), and we complained for the 5th or 6th time that our porch was not completed. Finally, they got the message, and a man showed up to remove the wooden boards that had been put down to support the concrete. The poles, however, still remained leaning up against our house outside our family room window. We complained again. Finally, a rather disheveled looking man, who spoke almost NO English shows up in a bright lavendar van with clouds painted on the side and starts to install our poles. He worked for about an hour, measuring, cutting, drilling, installing supports, installing metal ribbons, etc.etc. He looked like he was doing a good job, a thorough job, but what do I know about concrete, porches, or poles. Anyway, after about 2 hours of this ruckus, he finished and packed up his stuff. The poles were in place, and the porch appeared done, except for one thing....

(now here's the ironic part......and remember, this all started because our concrete was improperly poured in the first place and had to be redone.)

...he cracked the concrete.

PS I've just met with a representative of the builder who informed me that they have to start over....which is, of course, not at all ironic....that just sucks. c'est la homeownership.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Grosser than Gross

Remember that game? The one you used to play with your friends at recess. It went something like this, "What's grosser than gross?" And you'd oblige saying, "What?" And your friend would reply with something revolting like, "Eating a bowl of corn flakes that you found leftover in a plastic baggy and finding out your brother's scab collection is missing." Then you would counter with something equally, if not more vile.

So here we go.

What's grosser than gross?
When you're playing with your infant son and he vomits directly into your mouth.

I'm not kidding.
Fabulous afternoon.

Post Script (December 19, 8:01pm) Here's my attempt to head-off you non-believers who have been emailing me...yes, it really did happen, and yes, I immediately followed it up with my own command performance into the kitchen sink.

Can You Buy That at Wal-Mart?!?!

While getting Emma dressed for the day this morning, a funny thing happened that I cannot resist sharing here. I should preface this little story by saying that I breastfed both of my children until they were each 9 mos. old. With Emma's blossoming curiousity about the world coinciding with Nicholas' peak in feeding (at least 5-7 times a day), I knew it would be impossible to be discreet around my toddler's investigative stare. And frankly, I didn't see a reason to be. I'm a strong supporter of breastfeeding babies and found it to be one of the most natural things in the world. Why then would I invoke the ever-present taboo about breasts with my 2 year old daughter long before she will inevitably succumb to it through social pressure. Breastfeeding is natural. And what an absolutely amazing thing that a woman's body is capable of not only growing and giving birth to another human being, but can then nourish it for months on end as well. And if anything, I want my daughter to feel proud of her body and every magical thing it can do. So, I never felt bashful or ashamed of breastfeeding in the privacy of my home in front of my daughter. And as a result of so much exposure to adult breasts coupled with her ever-expanding fierce sense of independence, she naturally started to want some of her own.

So, this morning, as we were getting her dressed for the day, Emma stood in her room half dressed and proudly exclaimed, "Look at my boobies, mommy!" Now two things strike me about this exclamation. First of all, where did she learn the word, "boobies?" And second, why is she so anxious to show them off?!? After quelling any fears about her one day living at the Playboy mansion, proudly displaying her saline injected double D's and swinging around a steel pole in the "Grotto," I regained my composure and said, "Emma, you have a beautiful body. And you should be very proud of all that it can do. And someday, you will have 'boobies' like mommy when you get a little older." We then continued our morning routine, putting on a shirt, socks and shoes, and combing her hair. All the while, we chatted about needing to walk to the Wal-Mart nearby to buy some milk for breakfast (I know, the irony of needing milk in this situation). And again, I should preface my next comment by saying that my 2 year old, in her limited exposure with the world, already has a PROFOUND understanding of consumerism. She knows all about the "store" and how you "pay for it" when you take things to the register, etc.etc.etc. So it should have come as no surprise when she proudly exclaimed, "Mommy, we go get boobies at the store and pay for it!"

I swear, I almost peed myself laughing at the thought of buying breasts at the store, and at Wal-Mart no less. It almost came across as a cheap solution to plastic surgery. For those of us who can't afford the skill of surgeons featured on, "Dr. 90210," there is Wal-Mart, where you too can purchase a set of ta ta's for the low, low price of 119.98. Hey...does anyone feel a tv show coming on?

For now, Emma will have to be satisfied with what she has. But I can't help but wonder, is this the beginning of a lifetime riddled with societally imposed insecurity that women's bodies are never quite good enough? And is it so insideously ingrained in our culture that it sets in as early as basic consciousness about one's anatomy?!? Good God, I hope not. I hope she'll always know how amazing, how blessed, how capable, and how miraculous her body really is, whatever form it takes.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in "Mommy- mode"

This past August my in-laws made a trip down to the "Crik" for a brief visit and to see the sites of our little town and its surrounding metropolis of Charleston. That took all of one day. The rest of the time we spent chatting, eating, and having
an all around good time. For me, it was an especially noteworthy visit as I hadn't had much contact with adults other than my husband and parents for about four months at that point. So, they could've come down and stared at the floor for 3 days, and I probably would've been thrilled. Lucky for me, they are remarkably intelligent, warm, and fun people, making the visit all the more inspiring.

Anyway, in the course of conversation, my sister-in-law pointed out that I have been in, "mommy-mode," for approximately 3 years now, and the thought has stuck with me ever since.

For those of you that don't know my immediate history, let me bring you up to speed. Three and a half years ago, I began a period of my life that I like to call the, "reproductive epoch." It all started with an offer to donate eggs to a dear f
riend of mine struggling with infertility. After several months of repeated visits to the fertility clinic, many vials of blood, one month of daily injections, and a "harvest", three little eggs found their way out of a petri dish and into her uterus. Today they are two beautiful little boys and a dream come true. And up until that point, it was the best thing I had ever done with my life.

Then I found MYSELF pregnant six months later and only two months after getting married. Nine months later, Emma graced us with our presence on 9/9/ 04, and I began my new role as, "stay-at-home-mom." Exactly nine months after that, I found myself pregnant again, this time with Nicholas. And again, nine months passed and we became a family of four. Emma is now 2 years and three months, and Nicholas is.....9 months old. So, I'm sure you can understand that given our luck with the number 9, I'm a bit weary to acknowledge Nicholas' 9 month anniversary for fear that there's yet another reproductive surprise waiting around the corner. And quite frankly, I know that my body, mind, and spirit can't handle any more....particularly my body. I'm DONE! I have two healthy, beautiful children, and that's it for me. No more baby making, eggs, embryo, pregnancy or otherwise. My body has done enough for this family, especially considering that both kids were breastfed for 9 months each as well. I formally reclaim my body here and now.....if only I could reclaim it in its pre-baby making days!

As for my mind and spirit, well, I'm still a, "stay-at-home-mom." So, my biggest decisions during the day tend to revolve around things like how to hide peas and spinach in meatloaf, how to keep little hands out of light sockets despite the fact that they've learned to open the safety covers, and how best to facilitate the bowel movement of my constipated infant. I know....vegetables, safety, and poop....thrilling. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids dearly. But quite frankly, being home with two small kids under the age of 2 and a half is f
rustrating part of the time, mind-numbing most of the time, and psychologically exhausting ALL of the time. It tries the patience in ways that I never thought possible. And so, I have my days when I've reached my wits end, and the slightest thing sets me off.

I remember one such occasion when in the midst of the third toddler melt-down of the day and Nicky's 7th poopy "incident", "Potty-Time Elmo" had uttered the words, "Oops, accidents happen," one too many times, and he found himself 30 feet out in the yard after being hurled there from the back porch while I growled, "OOPS! ACCIDENTS HAPPEN J****SS!" (I beg your pardon.) And this was all before 10 in the morning. I know, I know, it's not the most mature or even sane way to handle my frustration, but in my defense, it did make me feel better, it prevented me from taking my frustration out on my kids by yelling at them, and Emma had finished playing with him prior to his taking to the not-so-friendly skies. And for those of you that are worried about our dear, little, red, furry friend, he's been recovered and sits comfortably on his potty on a shelf at my mom's house where he's visited once a week, which is just about as much as I can stand of him.

So, needless to say, the last 2 years and 3 months have been a learning experience. I've learned that I am a person who once thought of herself as patient, and then I had kids. I've learned that my fuse can be very short if presented with enough poop, tears, tantrums, sleeplessness, and whining. I've learned that ANYTHING can be hidden in meatloaf made with enough ketchup, and thereby consumed by the unsuspecting toddler palette (and no, I have not abused this little discovery, although the thought has crossed my mind once or twice). I've learned that wearing work clothes as opposed to "mommy" clothes does make you feel a bit more adult during the day. I've learned that when trying to put together furniture or hang picutres, ALWAYS have an associated activity for your 2 year old toddler to do nearby that doesn't involve your tools, hardware or furniture pieces, or these things WILL go missing or get broken. I've learned that with two small children in the house, if you can find the time to shower and get dressed by 11am, you're 2 hours ahead of schedule! I've learned to always make extra breakfast for myself because even though Emma has wolfed down a bowl and a half of cheerios and half a banana, she will ALWAYS want some of whatever I'm having. I've learned that child-proof gates are only child-proof if your child is deaf, dumb, and blind. Otherwise, they will carefully study the operation of said gate and have it mastered in a matter of hours. And I've learned that no matter how mind-numbing or frustrating my days can sometimes be, when I reach the end of my life, I won't wish that I had spent more time on my career or at the office during these days (thanks for reminding me of that mom). I'm lucky to have this time with my kids, even if it means we make quite a few sacrifices. Now if I could just figure out a way to get paid for all this work.....

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas (with Palmetto trees)

A major part of the adjustment to living in South Carolina is acclimating to the weather down here. Now most of you reading this will say, "Wait a minute. You lived in New York, and now you live in a city that's hardly north of Florida. What is there to adjust to, wearing shorts?!?" And I'll grant you that it is unseasonably warmer here than New York (last year at Christmas, it was 70 some odd degrees). But, you see, that's the problem. It's December. It's Christmas time. I want snow. I want scarves. I want gloves. I want roasted chestnuts (first introduced to me by my father-in-law...thanks Pop, I miss you). In a nutshell (no pun intended), I want a dreamy New York Christmas.

But there are those moments in life when you find yourself living another kind of fantasy...a different kind of dreamy with Palmetto trees, bright sunlight, and a walk through the park. We had just such a day yesterday, and it was more than I could hope for....especially since the weather here has turned surprisingly chilly, adding a certain festive quality to the experience. Needless to say, I got to break out my scarf, gloves, and heavy coat. I bundled the kids up in their heaviest jackets and sweaters and tucked them in the stroller under a nice warm blanket, all of which made the day seem a little more like Christmas.

Doug, the kids and I piled into our little car, and headed down to Marion Square Park, Charleston's answer to Central Park if you shrunk it down to 1 giant city block and took out the ice skating, runners, carriage rides, restaurants, etc. We were in search of three things; Santa Claus, the Budweiser Clydesdales, and the building of our first Christmas memories as a family.

Now here's the thing about living in a small city and being married to someone who's job allows him to have days off on weekdays. There was NO ONE there but a few other moms with strollers, a few brave tourists (despite the cold temp's), and some chattering employees. Everyone else was at work or unwilling to come out in the cold. That of course left things WIDE open for us to enjoy, and hey, we're used to winters MUCH colder than this anyway, so it all worked out. If this same event had taken place in NYC, first of all, it probably would've cost about $25.00 just to see the horses, then another $25.00 to see Santa...per kid, and at least $30.00 in parking fees. The same trip in Charleston....FREE!!!!! Aaah, the joys of small city life.

So, we've OFFICIALLY begun celebrating our first Christmas here in South Cackalackie. So far, it's surprisingly lovely. The kids had a great time. I'll admit, I was pretty impressed with the horses, but then I'm an animal nut so it doesn't take much to impress me in that regard. And we all got to take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus (who was exceptionally warm and friendly this year). Emma, for the second year in a row, wouldn't sit on his lap by herself, but at least she held his hand and talked to him this time. Progress people....progress.

Anyway...see for yours
elf....and I hope you are busy creating some of your own holiday memories with your family.

Once again, I had to sit with Emma as she visited with Santa...but if you look really closely, you'll see that she's holding his hand. Next year, this kid's flying solo!

The Budweiser Clydesdales were visiting Charleston this week, and since Emma is big into animals, we thought she'd enjoy. You'll notice that there is a chain around the stalls to keep visitors back a few feet and give the horses some personal space. We were there for all of 30 seconds before Emma dove under the chains and went right up to stick her hands inside the stall of a 1,000 lb. horse . Gotta' love her courage. I wish she was that brave with Santa....or at the portrait studio for that matter (but that's a post for another time - I'm still bitter about that one).

Our two "little roosters" all bundled up for their walk in the park (those of you that know our last name will get the rooster reference).

Emma, me, and "Donny". Emma wanted to pet the horse so badly, but as soon as he turned his head to smell her, she clutched me. This kid is a baffling mix of fearless courage and bashful reserve. Now, if I could only turn one off and the other on according to the situation (again, like in the portrait studio....I'll be sure to post about this experience as soon as I can get passed the disappointment of it all and focus on the hillarity).


Finally, this one's for you Darren.

I's be ejumacated!

That's South Cackalackian for, "I am an educated and informed individual." Ok. I made it up. Still, I run across people EVERY day that make me wonder if this kind of vernacular is more common than not. And in a state that ranks....50th! out of 50 for quality of education, well, you can't help but wonder if that statistic is in any way linked to the number of trailer parks along I-26.

Needless to say, I'm worried about raising and educating my children here. Luckily, they are both too young to be in school yet which buys me some time, but in a matter of years, I'll be faced with the daunting task of finding a school in which to enroll them. It just so happens that we live in one of the two top ranked school districts in the state. But like I said, SC ranks 50th out of the 50 states for quality of education, so even if you are in the top two school districts, how good could that really be?!? One wonders.

So I'm grappling with the thought of private school vs. public. And after doing a little research, I've realized that my options are limited to a variety of VERY Baptist, non-denominational Christian, or fundamentalist Christian schools or public school. Hmmm....I think I know now why so many of the New England transplants down here home school their kids. I'm just not sure I'm up to that task. Besides, I'm a big fan of kids being in a school environment and learning how to socialize with their peers....but at what cost?

I do feel obligated to mention that if we had stayed in New York City, we would've had the same problem since the public school system there is deplorable, not to mention unsafe in many schools. However, the private school options would've been a bit more diverse and well-rounded. But of course, in order to afford any of them, I probably would've had to sell a kidney on the black market.....and then part of my liver....and maybe an arm eventually. So moving to a part of the country where the cost of living is more affordable just made sense. I just wish that there were more private schools here without any religious affiliation. I have nothing against religiously oriented schools, I just feel strongly that my husband and I should be taking care of that, not strangers.

Like I said, my kids are young, so I have some time to figure it all out. But as far as education goes, I think Dorothy said it best, "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore...." Heck, we're not in New Mexico, West Virginia, or Alabama either. We're in South Cackalackie.....the 50th best state for quality education in this great land of ours.

Friday, December 8, 2006

7 months and counting....

As I mentioned in previous posts, we moved here last May, but only moved into our new home at the end of October. For our first 6 months, while Doug attended the police academy, my kids and I stayed with my parents who graciously hosted us and provided us with a temporary home. During that time, I continued my diligent documentation of the kids' growth with our digital and video cameras. Unfortunately, our computer was still in storage while we looked for real estate, so I never got a chance to download any of the pictures until two nights ago. Here are some of my favorites. Enjoy.

Doug managed to snap this picture as Nicky woke up from a nap on the sofa. He'll never forgive me for this. But hey, that's the fun of having kids, right?

Emma's first tricycle experience (June). Needless to say, Doug did more pushing than Emma did pedaling.

The kids and I sometime in June.

Doug and the kids around that same time.

"Hippy" Emma on the 4th of July. She decided that the stars and stripes dress she has on was not "cool" enough and asked for this t-shirt and my hair band.

No caption necessary! I just love this picture. Perhaps it was insensitive of me to snap it while she was having a meltdown, but hey, I believe in documenting ALL parts of childhood. She'll thank me for it someday. Besides, I gave her big hugs afterwards and let her see herself on the camera....which of course made it all better for her.

Our little "peanut."

This is what happens when you give Emma the choice of which shoes she wants to wear. Uh...yeah, those are rain boots and this is September in South Carolina which is still in the high 80's with not a drop in sight.

Nicky's first trip to the pumpkin patch.

Emma found a new "friend" on our trip to Boone Hall Plantation for the "Taste of Charleston" festival.

Cookie monster "practicing" for Halloween. We did at least 2 days of practice runs, teaching her to say, "Trick or Treat," which came out as "Tick or Teat," and she still panicked when we rang our first doorbell. Apparently she didn't realize that a complete stranger would come to the door and she'd have to say, "Trick or Treat," to them. I think she thought that I would always be the one giving out the candy. Hey kid, you live and learn. Needless to say, after she got her first piece of candy, she was FEARLESS!

My little "peanut" is growing up so quickly! (He's about 7.5 months old in this picture wearing 18 month clothing.)

And his big sister is really starting to warm up to him!

Emma all dressed up for her first trip to the movies with "Ama" (that's what she calls my mom). She saw "Happy Feet" and LOVED it! Note the purse in one hand and little toy dragon in the other. That's my girl.

Nicky "chillin" in his chair.

Before and after the bath. Enough said.

Look who learned how to pull himself up to standing. And of course he's now doing it at 2am and then crying because he can't get down. I will sleep through the night uninterupted in this lifetime, right?

So that's a brief glimpse of life in our little family over the last 7 months. If you want the most recent picture, scroll down to my first post. That's a picture of us last Wednesday in front of our living room window.

and so it goes....

From the New York Islands....

We moved to South Carolina in May of this year. So, it's been 7 months, and I still haven't adjusted to life down here. Then again, I lived in New York, the Bronx specifically, for 6 years, and it wasn't until I'd been there for a full year that I finally felt like I had a handle on the lay of the land and the unique culture that goes along with it. So, I suppose I should cut myself some slack on the adjustment issues I seem to be having here, especially considering that Goose Creek, in all its quaint glory, is quite a stark difference from the Bronx.

Anyway, I've been fortunate enough in my lifetime to have lived and travelled all over the world, so I'm fairly familiar with the experience of culture shock, sometimes in the extreme. I've had to reacquaint myself with the use toilets in southeast Asia, been illiterate and helpless in Japan, lactose intolerant for a variety of cheeses in France, etc. etc. You expect and even welcome these little adventures when travelling or living abroad. They are what make the whole experience worth it in the end. But the thing about culture shock is that you don't expect to experience it in your own country. Well, let me tell you, having grown up in Southern California, lived in New York, and now residing in the Southeast, our nation is rife with very distinctive regional cultures, any of which will put your system into the worst kind of insidious culture shock. This particular brand of culture shock is so much worse than the rest for the very reason that it just sneaks up on you. Take New York for example. I moved there in March of 2000 feeling hopeful, excited, and ready to take on the world. I knew there'd be an adjustment period, but I figured how bad could it be? After all, I'd lived in Japan where I didn't speak or read the language. New York was only 4,000 miles away, and I already knew the language, the traffic laws, the food, etc. Well, within one day, I realized how very much I was out of my element. The Southern California lifestyle just doesn't translate on the East coast...not that I expected it to, but I didn't exactly expect to have to relearn so much. For example, you may not know that in most other parts of the country, waiting in a line is referred to as just that, "waiting IN line." However, in New York, it's affectionately referred to as, "waiting ON line." Now I'm not the most computer savvy person, but last I checked, the phrase, "being on line," in our culture referred to using the internet. Who knew that one little twist of a preposition could cause so much confusion. Perhaps one of the more charming examples of my culture shock experience in New York was my first experience at ordering a pizza (on my first full day there, mind you). The conversation went something like this...

Me (on telephone): Hi. I'd like to order a large pizza to be delivered.
Pizza Guy (PG): One large pie. Anything else?
Me (with a stupefied look on my face): No, no pie. Just a large pizza please.
PG (with a hint of disbelief at my stupidity, or perhaps wondering if I was mildly developmentally delayed): Yeah, one large pie. Address please....
Me (irritated and insistent at this time): NO! I don't want a pie, I want a pizza! One large pizza!
PG: Lady.....where are you from!?!
Me: What difference does it make?!? I'm from California! Could I just order a pizza please?!?
PG: Oh. (with a hint of disdain...NY'ers HATE California as I soon found out by the nasty notes left on my car while it still had CA plates on it). Ok. Well here in NY, a pizza is called a pie.
Me: Well back in California, pie only comes in the pumpkin, key lime, cherry, and pecan varieties.
PG: Well, you ain't in California anymore, are you?!?
Me: (at this point resigning myself to defeat, and desperately hungry) Yeah, I guess not. Ok. One large pie please.
PG: (with a hint of sympathy in his voice) And the address....

I eventually got my pie. And wouldn't you know that the guy on the phone was the owner of the pizza place, who personally delivered my pie himself because he, "had to meet," me. Yeah....great.

In any case, my first few months in NY proved to be more of an adventurous learning experience than I had ever expected. And in the end, I learned to love it there. It was my home. And I distinctly remember there being one moment (as there always is with culture shock) in particular where I realized that I had finally figured the whole New York thing moment where I felt like I was finally home, where I had assimilated. I'll leave you with that moment here......and I'll be sure to document the day that I can finally call this place I've affectionately named, "Goose Crik, South Cackalackie," home.

New York State of Mind (written sometime in 2000)

I'm sure many of you will remember a popular song from a few years back entitled "Wear Sunscreen". For those of you that don't, imagine a man's voice replete with all the qualities of a movie preview voice over, delivering a graduation speech and offering up the few bits of wisdom he's managed to garner on life's journey. One of those bits of wisdom included this line, "Live in New York, but leave before it makes you hard."

After this morning's incident while dropping a friend off at the Fordham Road Metro North station, I think the line should be ammended as follows, "Live in New York, but leave before it makes you homicidally crazy." Here's how it goes....

My friend Lilia has been staying with me for the past week. She's on a life's journey that's taking her out of a dead-end job and into the heart of the Costa Rican rain forest for a bit of retreat and reflection. However this morning, she's regressing a bit and heading back up the coast to Martha's Vineyard with a friend. So, around 9:00, we packed up her things, loaded them in the car, and headed out to the Metro North station so she could catch a train.

Upon arrival, it was immediately clear that parking would be an issue. So I dropped Lilia off at the curb with her luggage and told her to wait while I looked for a spot. Now common sense would tell you that in New York City, when you're dropping someone at a station, it's best to just double park for a minute or two and say your goodbyes at the curb. But Lilia's been having a rough time lately, and I really wanted to put my full attention into a heart-felt goodbye as I wished her well on this next adventure. So, off I went.

To make a long story short....and anyone who has tried to find parking in New York knows the approximate length of that story, I finally happened upon a school bus pulling out of a metered space across from Fordham University and a few blocks from the train station. Delighted at my good fortune, I turned on my signal and waited. That is when I noticed two older gentlemen coming out of the local bodega and heading for my spot. They were blindly stepping into the street, obviously signaling a friend of theirs a few car lengths away, and trying to claim this spot as their own.

Well, I would not have it.

As I nudged my car forward into the spot and into what they thought they had claimed as their own personal space, I caught the eyes of one of these men. He pointed to my car and then arrogantly pointed out into traffic as if to say, "Move this piece of s**t out of here!" (which was later voiced). Now first of all, my car is 6 years old, granted. However it is far from what I would term, "a piece of s**t." So naturally, I took offense to this gesture and immediately retaliated with, "HEY, get the hell outta there you bastard! That's my spot!" Now two things strike me about this exchange. First of all, it seems that in the midst of any confrontation, especially those occurring on the street or in traffic, I have taken to using an accent comprable to that of Lauraine Bracco of the Soparanos. Second, considering the varitable cornucopia of vulgarities that color the English language these days, I took a bit of pride in the reserve used when addressing this man. However, I also knew that in accordance with my personality, the use of reserve has a once-an-incident limit...and mine was just spent.

So, displeased with my insistence on parking my car in his supposed spot, this man shared a few of his thoughts with me, the details of which I will keep to myself out of respect for the easily offended. Now this is where the story turns from your average parking space quarrel to "homicidally crazy". And I should preface this by saying that I have been working a lot lately and therefore am somewhat stressed out and over tired. However, even I recognize that neither of those are valid excuses for what happened next, nor would they stand up in a court of law.

Getting back to the story, I'm not sure if was the fact that I'd already been driving around for 30 minutes looking for a spot going the wrong way on one way streets, or the fact that this man had the audacity to place his hand on the hood of my car, or that I hadn't had my morning coffee and was cranky about having to get up early for a trip to the train station....BUT, I went from being a mildly upset, yet still rational human being to a crazed lunatic in a matter of seconds. And all it took was some gentle pressure on the gas pedal.

Yes, I actually used my 2,000 pound vehicle to bully this man out of my spot by backing up and hitting him repeatedly while sharing a few of my unreserved, thickly accented thoughts which culminated in one sylable exclamations and colorful slurs. And all that I could think of was that this spot was MINE, and I was taking it! And no bodega-owning-dirty-shirt-wearing a**hole (I beg your pardon) was gettin' it! So I gassed, and gassed as my car repeatedly made contact with this man's kneecaps. I should add here that while I was using my vehicle to push another human being around, this man showed absolutely no sign of alarm or surprise, the mark of a true New Yorker, and it was clear that he'd been "vehicularly" bullied before.

It being two hours after this incident, I can look back now and recognize the sheer homicidally frightening value therein. I can see how this moment of road rage was not only unreasonable, but unethical on so many levels. However in the moment, I had lost all appreciation for that which is moral or good, and had only fixated on that parking spot.

To add yet another twist to the story, as myself and the gentelman were locked in our battle of wills, we'd failed to notice the third party located in a shiny new Honda Accord who'd begun backing her car into the very space that I and he had claimed as our own. Having developed a healthy, vengeful rage for the bodega-owning friend at this point (yes, the rage didn't actually come when I began hitting him with my car, it came after about 2 or 3 hits), my commitment and claim to the parking spot began to pale. And now I was consumed by a new obsession, not for the parking spot, but making sure that this j****ss (again, I beg your pardon, but that was what I was thinking at the time) with the bruised knee caps didn't get it. So, when I did finally notice the attractive woman slowly backing her car into the spot, I committed to a new gesture in this battle which was to keep the gentleman's
attention so that he wouldn't notice the back-ended usurping of his claim. Mind you, at no point in this incident did it occur to me that while I was hitting this man with my car, the Honda was going to hit him from the other side, and he would be fatally squished between two crazed New Yorkers looking for parking on street cleaning day. No, that thought was of no importance. If this man had to lose his life to a parking spot, so be it! I was determined, and such is life in New York City.

And as the Honda gracefully slid into place far enough that the gentleman would have no choice but to concede, I smugly directed his attention southward, again punctuated by a multitude of one sylable epithets and colorful slurs. As he turned around and realized that he'd literally and figuratively been put between the proverbial rock and a hard place, he threw his arms up in defeat and retreated to the curb, all the while cursing at me and my car. I, on the other hand, sat for a few savory moments with a smug smile on my face, waving to him out the window, and revelled in my triumph. I had completed my mission, and the satisfaction was good. And only after I'd had the joy of watching this woman take his beloved spot did I drive off bidding him a sarcastic good day.

Mind you, my friend is still waiting for me at the train station.

And when I finally arrived there, I had regained enough sense of morality, composure, and dignity to know that what had just happened was utter lunacy! Yet as I stood on the corner of Fordham road hugging my weary friend goodbye and wishing her well, I was struck by this realization....

....I had finally arrived. And I am finally.....a "New Yorker."

Thursday, December 7, 2006

on the band wagon...

So just about everyone I know has one of these things going, and frankly, I'm hooked! It all seems like a great way to keep up with people in our increasingly high-tech and otherwise alienating world. Not to mention the fact that with two small children (9 mos & 2 years), I don't have much time for phone calls, emails, or any other form of correspondence. And when I do have time for the occasional phone call, someone is usually whining or screaming in the background. So, in the interest of everyone's peace of mind, including my own, I figured this was a nice way to post the happenings of our little family and keep anyone who's interested updated.'s front of our new house! Yes, we moved to this little South Carolinian corner of the world and purchased our first home. The house is great....the adjustment to living in the south as a self-proclaimed liberal New Englander is not. I'm constantly in awe of things down here, the absurdity of which I'll be sure to mention from time to time, but I think the title of the blog says it all. So this is it, our life in South Cackalackie.