Friday, September 26, 2008

I like this city

Wish me luck, tomorrow (Saturday) I am giving notice. So no more relaxing in Federal Plaza after work...and back to the job hunt...


New York can at times feel like a small town. Because there are fewer trains per hour, the likelihood is greater of seeing the same people repeatedly in the same train carriage, sometimes even on the way home. I've seen at least 10 so far.


Last Sunday I went to dinner with Chris, Vera, and Vera's father who was in town for a couple of days to see her before she flew back to France.

Vera's father escaped from Berlin when the wall went up. Since then he has lived in Barcelona (where Vera grew up with her mother), NYC, and Houston, where Vera lived for a few years and where we went to university together. He has a very German way about him, although his three wives have all been Hispanic. I was rather amused at the end of the evening when I shook his hand, he did a little German bow and clicked his heels! I tried to see the similarities between the two, but although Vera looks German, she has a Spanish soul and has little in common with her father.

Photo taken by a helpful NYC cop

We met in Chinatown and ended up at a Malaysian place where the service was silly but the food was awesome, so good that we actually decided to return regularly. It was a veritable feast where Vera's father ordered about 6 items for the table and then told us to order what we wanted too. There was loads of food but all so great we finished it between the four of us!

After that we rambled through Little Italy during the last night of some saint's festival, so the streets were lined with food and fairground stalls. The restaurants are very reminiscent of Italy, with the covered terraces as extensions of the inside, the placement of the menus in glass cases outside the awnings, the little tables with those Italian woven round-backed chairs. We stopped at a Franco-Italian style patisserie where we had coffee/tea/hot chocolate, biscotti/rum baba/gelato/granita. It looked like any I've visited in Paris down to the repousse tin ceiling and high counters.

This is what I love about NYC. Every day I can feel like I'm in another country...

St Stephen's Episcopal Church uptown east which reminds me of a Greek Orthodox basilica or somewhere like Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome

St Paul's Chapel near World Trade Center downtown, built in the 1740s as a relief chapel for residents who could not walk to Trinity Wall Street. Although unstuccoed it resembles any one of Sir Christopher Wren's neoclassical churches in the City of London.


One day after work this week, a coworker and I went to a Japanese market in SoHo where I picked up spicy seaweed strips, crispy tofu, some yellowtail sushi maki, and daifuku for dessert (which I usually call mochi). I had enough energy to lay it out on my roomie's Japanese platter and was pleased with the result:


Today roomie and I spent the day in our jammies, surfing the net on our respective computers, feeling a little blah because autumn arrived in force today. The leaves are starting to change, that's one thing, but we have swapped weather with London! Today was like summer in the UK: grey, rainy, and breezy - although a few degrees warmer than it usually is there. 21C (65F). Not complaining too much.

In the evening, we squeezed our summerized feet into autumn boots and headed out for dinner at the Chip Shop here in Bay Ridge. It was founded by a Brit who sounds like he's from oop north so next time I may ask him. My poor roomie had a bad experience with fish n chips in London a few years ago, but we ordered some excellent cod and haddock in light crispy batter, and her faith is restored - they even have Sarson's vinegar, a staple of any British chippy. We started with a delicious salad of mesclun leaves, granny smith apples, walnuts, crumbled stilton, and a simple balsamic vinaigrette - definitely going to make this again at home. Roomie boldly ordered the ball of battered deep fried macaroni - so bad it's good. And she managed to choose one of the 30 British beers on offer. Stuffed to the gills, we enjoyed a brisk walk 30 blocks home, which really only takes 10 minutes.


On the way home we walked through the traditionally Irish section of Bay Ridge (I am told we are in the Italian part). Lots of pubs with names like Mooney's or O'Sullivans. Ironically, while waiting to cross the street an older gent asked us to guess the distance to Tipperary. We guessed 3,000 miles, but then he laughed and started singing "It's a long way to Tipperary" because he had got us on that one. I guess he needed a listening ear and that was his way of breaking the ice because as we crossed the street, he went on to say that he is a widower attempting to get back into the dating game, and that tonight he has to go to a singles event at a nearby restaurant. He sounded genuinely frightened and I felt sorry for him. He said it was easy for young people our age or his grandkids, but it's too hard for him, so I wished him good luck, he wished us a good evening, and went away. Roomie and I thought that was the most random encounter we've ever had, but so typical of this city. We also thought that he had probably imbibed some liquid courage before attending the event...


Friday, September 19, 2008

Here we go again

Can't do this much longer. I slept for over 14 hours between Thursday evening and Friday afternoon and I had to get up at 4am to drink vinegar to stop my stomach from burning, and had awful dreams - in which no one in the office could do anything right. The area where I had shingles in February stirs suspiciously sometimes, I have noticed. What's more, a couple of other biological rhythms have been knocked out of sync despite a full moon last week.

Judging by the expressions I saw on her face, the trainer who came one day this week to observe was appalled. She has a lot of talking to do with the consultant. I still don't expect things to improve much, although the second new assistant and I are learning to cooperate and help each other. The first new assistant, who has years of experience, left after the first week...

I can work hard and I always do my best, but I can't work relentlessly under both physical and mental pressure, all day, every day. When everyone is frequently put into a flying panic, there is no way you can do it right.

Bottom line is, I chose the wrong office. I just wanted to stop relying on my father's help.

It's funny, I thought I did enough whining before. I actually like this city and don't want a repeat of last year.


I have to thank Beginning Here for the lovely encouraging card that came in the mail this morning! It really cheered me up. Thank you Ms A, so sweet of you!


Do you like the new layout? I noticed Blogger has so many exciting new features and widgets, and my custom layout was getting old and unwieldy, so I decided to return to the provided templates, choosing black to offset my oft-posted photographs.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Stayin alive

Well, it's not much better now than it was before the other assistant started. Not sure how long I can do it. I sleep all the time, if I am not eating delivery (too tired to light the stove) or working. I sleep in the subway, then I sleep on the sofa for hours, then sleep for hours more in bed, often amounting to 10+ hours on days off and then I get up feeling like I've just recovered from the flu, tired in my limbs, dizzy, and feeling drugged, and I simply cannot budge for hours after waking,

Apart from the hypoglycemia, you all know how much I love food. Whenever I go out to eat now, I'm almost obsessed with it because at work it's something I have to sneak in - a granola bar in one minute or a bit of pasta in five minutes. So before I'd go, "Mmmm, food!" but now I'm all, "Foooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

This work, it's just relentless and not a place where you can walk off for 5 minutes unnoticed. There's no buffer of people or space. And as I have Friday off, work Saturday, and have Sunday off, there is no time buffer either. I can't do anything out of the ordinary because I don't have two consecutive days off. Whereas on weekends you spend a half day recovering if you need to, and then get on with things like having a life, now I simply have no time. So I can't stray from my routine. I can't stay with friends or go out of town or stay out late...

So now the question is, how do I find something that balances the repetitious boredom of a desk job with the repetitious variety of this job?

In other news, I had dinner with Captain America (remember him??) on Wednesday as he was in town this week for work. It was nice to catch up and he wanted to meet me a couple more times but I was usually too tired or the scheduling was wrong.

Because I'd been trying to meet up with Jo and Dave since Thursday, and we managed that on Saturday evening. You should have been there, Matt. It was so great to finally meet them! I had meant to last March when I was in Dallas but was prevented due to family crises. Jo is so chatty and amiable, and she can really tell a story.

We were in the East Village at a tiny wood panelled pub with religious murals on the wall (because it was called a Cathedral of Beer). There was an orderly line at the bar, wonder of wonders. What's more when the voices got too loud and shouty as they usually do at pubs, someone or two would Shhhhhhhhhh and the volume would go down for a while until the next shush was needed but nobody got angry or annoyed.

(I'm discovering that New Yorkers are good at following rules: I can't find any of the free commuter newspapers lying around anywhere! People actually read the public announcement ads in the subway: "your city, your litter". Not honking except in cases of emergency. Not eating on the subway. Not spitting where people will walk on it. Not cussing in public that much. Still haven't seen anyone get arrested, mugged or shot. Most of the sirens are fire department or ambulances. Lines at bus stops remain orderly even when the doors open, so you keep your place in line. And people have more patience.)

Anyway, back to meeting Jo and Dave.

Along with two of Dave's childhood friends who also happened to be in town, after the pub we went to a Mediterranean bar and restaurant which smelled so good I wanted everything on the menu. I had a French martini (had chambord in it) and two yummy starters:

tuna tartare with avocado, cilantro and fresh chili on thinly sliced fresh beet and cucumber, topped with toasted slivers of baguette and lambs lettuce

deep fried baby artichoke on a bed of romaine lettuce with shaved manchego cheese and spicy marinara sauce. Addictive!!!

I became so engrossed in enjoying these delicacies that every time Dave addressed me he had to call me more than once out of my little world and once Jo had to poke me! This has HONESTLY never happened to me before. Sorry, y'all!

On Friday the weather was very English, which was ironic as I was meeting someone from a London media co in SoHo. It was about 70 (which feels chilly after the hot summer) and the sky was letting out a substantial autumn rain, rather than the usual short storm burst.

However, over the weekend we were back up there and had the same temps as Houston (86F, about 30C) and it's humid.

Speaking of Houston, they were pounded by Hurrican Ike, but apart from downed trees, wind and lots of rain, they escaped most damage and everyone I know is fine. It's Galveston Island that suffered the most starting with storm surge flooding while Ike was still all of 500 miles away.

Anyway, on to lighter topics, my friend Vera came to spend Labor Day with me. She's having a stressful time right now with a photography exhibit in France which she is not present to oversee. So once she'd made her phone calls, she was thankful that we had a quiet and peaceful time just relaxing and being in each other's company.

We went for a walk by the water of course. I love taking photos of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge:



NORWEGIAN CRUISE SHIP KNOCKS DOWN BRIDGE (just kidding, they build them purposely low enough to pass underneath)



---Which is your favorite?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Wipe out

Yep, that's me - wiped out. My limbs don't work today. Worked soooo hard this week, didn't get time for lunch most days (and I'm hypoglycemic), and hardly sat - except chairside. I definitely know the difference now between sitting to relax and sitting to work.

As it is, no matter how hearty my breakfast - I've tried bran cereal, oatmeal porridge, egg and sausage in a bun, even switched to whole milk - I still get shaky by 11.00, and when that happens I can't retain anything and have to start writing things on scraps of paper, and past a certain point I may even develop a headache. Not one of those people who can function without food. So I need a midmorning snack, a bit of lunch, and possibly a midafternoon snack depending on what I ate for lunch. I it because I didn't eat anything when I was a child that I have created this lifelong problem for myself?

Anyway, I've had more assurances that my workload will be halved when the new assistant arrives on Monday, and that I will have more time to learn. Plus, the office will close an hour earlier soon. So, hangin' in there! But still, I am sad to lose real weekends. I get Friday and Sunday. Not two consecutive days...

Last night I fell asleep in the subway on the way home from 22.00-23.00 (had gone out to buy some chinos and long sleeved t-shirts for the days when I will need them under scrubs, plus underwear - I'm learning that you can never have too much underwear or too many socks), ate dinner (roomie made salad and left me some), fell asleep on the sofa from 1.00-2.00, washed up and went to bed, then woke up at 13.15!!! That is over 12 hours of sleep! I checked my clock, gasped "Oh my gosh!" and immediately tumbled out and tripped over everything on my way out the door, giving my roomie a crooked and drunken smile as I passed her with all my curls sticking up. She had woken up at 10.00 and been in and out of the house 4 or 5 times, made an omelette, and I hadn't heard a THING.

After work I usually walk out into the Federal Plaza, a large area cluttered with federal, state, and city buildings, and sit in the park to rest, have a drink, and maybe a snack. I don't know what I will do when it snows, although as I said, my workload will be lighter. City Hall is sort of at the crossroads between Chinatown, Tribeca, and Little Italy. I could walk a few steps in any direction and be in any of those neighborhoods.

This is what it looks like to my right from the bench where I usually sit:

This is the side of City Hall.

Centre Street runs past the State Supreme Court...:

(I work in the brown building you see on the far right side of the frame)

...Towards City Hall:

Went on a walk one day after work:

This behemoth loomed up in front of me somewhere in Tribeca, so I asked a passerby what it was and she told me it is an AT&T telecoms switching station, then she said she used to think it was a prison, which is what I was thinking!

Passed a yarn store in SoHo on Wednesday during a makeup and facecare run to the Origins store. I immediately thought of Jo!

I've been looking for a backpack for weeks, but they all seem to have gotten bigger since I last owned one at college, plus the V where the padded straps sprout from the top irritates me - they didn't used to do that so it must be some newfangled ergonomic feature. When I used to carry 40 pounds of books, which is actually the weight used on basic military training runs, backpacks were much simpler. So I love this cotton canvas bag I found at Paragon Sports off Union Square. It's lightweight, won't show dirt, fits my back like a glove without all the annoying bulky padding. It's also soft, unlike the hard, unyielding, abrasive nylon surfaces of the usual suspects.

Look how green I am - with my neutral colors and natural fabrics and recycled paper and organic products :)