Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ghost spottings

My reading has always nurtured my imagination, and my imagination has always nurtured my reading. I've never been sure which came first, but they are both alive and well, sometimes disturbingly so. Like the time I was working as a summer associate at a law firm in Philadelphia during the summer of 2006. I had just reread The Great Gatsby and was resisting the urge to slap my mentor on the shoulder and tell him not to worry about a thing, 'ol sport. We'll win that trial alright. We were out wining and dining clients at one of those power lunches (I can barely recall the perks of the private sector) at the Capital Grille in downtown Philly. I was positively haunted by a painting on the wall that I swore was an exact replication of Daisy as I imagined her. I can still picture it in my mind and would fancy revisiting the restaurant for the sole purpose of re-creeping myself out.

On that note, Gerry and I had a lovely weekend in Maryland for his birthday. We stayed at the Inn at Perry Cabin, an upscale inn in St. Michaels, a charming coastal town along the Chesapeake. We had some time to kill before our dinner reservations (Maryland crab cakes all weekend mmm...) so we took a drive to Tilghman Island, a small, rural island with nothing but small farms and old homes. Naturally I pulled over and asked Gerry if he would kindly snap a few photos of the Sawtelle farm (see earlier book review of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle):

And we thought the book took place in rural Wisconsin? Can't you see Edgar through the trees, walking the edge of the forest with Almondine?

Friday, March 26, 2010

The joys of homeownership

(Blurry blackberry picture taken on my walk from the hill back to work- to be further discussed below- but check out the bottom left- the first signs of the cherry blossoms! Woot!)

What a week. As most of you know (most of you is two people, as I only have 3 readers to date, but not complaining because you are all fabulous and totally get it), I have been without a hot water heater for nearly two weeks. I've been showering at the gym and otherwise inconvenienced beyond my wildest dreams, as Juan the contractor and his nephew, who is apparently a "whiz at dry wall" (to quote a man who barely speaks English) have transformed my 600 square feet into a highway of ingress and egress. Folks, I don't come home from a day of lawyering for the Secretary of Energy and long to change into my weeknight casualwear to make the deals happen with a pair of rogue contractors.

All of this finally ended 30 minutes ago as Juan put the finishing touches on the job. He really is a God send, despite my complaints. He and his nephew replaced my hot water heater, disposed of my old one, having to knock down and replace part of a wall to do so. I came home from a fundraiser last night to find everything fixed and grand- until I realized my bathroom was completely flooded. %&(*!%$&@^! Dealing with all of this (1) alone; and (2) with 5 floors of fellow condo owners below me is NOT a holiday y'all. It cost me a fricking fortune and let's just say that all of the cash I spared by not drinking any champagne during Lent (and then some...a LOT of some) has all literally been flushed down the toilet.

Anywho, Juan fixed everything today and now I am up and running, just in time for my mang to arrive for a surprise birthday getaway weekend which will start in the AM.

And after all of that yapping I will revisit my capitol hill story at another time and leave you titillated all weekend. Happy Friday y'all! xo

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Citizen's arrest

Allow me to introduce you to someone very close to my heart: the Tiny Sheriff. Pictured above in the 2009 Summer Outward Hound collection, in the off-season she embraces her post in the pontoon boat of guarding the family's stash of potato chips (honey she's just like a snappin' turtle- her jaws won't let go until lightnin' strikes so you'd best rethink stickin' a finger in that bag). When she's not directing Carnival Cruises alongside Kathy Lee Gifford, she enjoys long walks to retrieve the morning paper with Mum, sexually charged weekend make-out sessions with a stuffed porcupine named Pierce Brosnan, and inserting herself into crippling power struggles with every other animal she meets.

Monday, March 22, 2010

(Running) Party in the USA

I can't resist a quick post of shameless bragging: I ran the NYC Half Marathon this weekend and managed to beat my personal half-marathon best by 12 minutes (a lifetime in running terms) AND I was only 29 seconds away from breaking a 2-hour half marathon.

I've always viewed the sub-2-hour half marathon as the cross-over from "liking to run" into being a "runner." I've run tons of races, including a full marathon, but still hesitate to refer to myself as a "runner" for a number of reasons, including the fact that it's something I picked up much later in life (grad-school-ish), along with my slow timing compared to objective running standards (let's just say I'm not qualifying for Boston anytime soon...).

So I started this race just hoping to finish without any pesky knee issues- I'm just thrilled to be running again after taking off two very long months, during which I spent a small fortune visiting a sports chiropractor biweekly (whose office is in the suburbs, no less...GAG). I wasn't expecting to break my last half-marathon time; after all, I ran that one while training for the Chicago marathon and I had been running TONS in the months prior. Moreover, the first 6 miles of the NYC Half are a loop through Central Park (the hills within are infamous among runners for some brutal training grounds). So at this point I'm happy to be in the club- lining up to run a race and thrilled to be back in the land of racing! I'll keep an eye on my gps running watch ("Antoine") and make sure I'm pacing myself at a generous 9:30-10:00 minute mile throughout, and I should finish in under 2.5 hours no problem. Sweet.

First two miles I did just that. But the adrenaline of racing combined with my intimate familiarity of the Central Park loop (I run it all the time when I'm up there) translated into a boost of confidence. So I pick up the pace and realize about halfway: I just might be able to finish this in under two hours. We exited the park and I sprinted for a good 2 miles to make up for my slow start- one mile I even logged in at 7:40 (now that's scootin' for a distance race). Heartbreaking 29 seconds short of the goal I set for myself mid-race, which makes me realize that (1) had this been an easier course; and (2) had I started with the right pace...I could've pulled it off.

It's Monday's lunch break and I'm still on a runner's high. Giving my knees a hard-earned break and devoting this week to yoga and pilates. I have another half on the calendar in May and I can't wait to challenge myself to beat...myself.

For those of you who haven't raced before, below is the live coverage of yesterday's NYC Half Marathon. If you can, watch the first few minutes and you can see the elite runners, the line-up, and the course. The energy is indescribable at these large races and I wish everyone could experience it just once!


Book Review: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Warning: this is an Oprah's Book Club read. So all of you people who somehow gather from the grapevine that this is a bad thing yet have nothing close to the repertoire to justify book-snobbery, (1) get a life; and (2) read this book. (I beseech you all- what is wrong with Oprah encouraging adults (and women in particular) to expand their library beyond Nicholas Sparks and James Patterson?) I regress...

For a first novel, this truly was a grand slam. David Wroblewski retells Shakespeare's Hamlet in rural Wisconsin (now that's my kind of Shakespeare y'all!). Although at times I felt like he was wed to Hamlet's plot and it seemed a bit unnatural for Edgar's story (like the ENDING), the book was a richly-written, satisfying read that will sit in my select "to reread" pile.

Edgar, son of Trudy and Gar Sawtelle, was born mute (but not deaf) and can only communicate through sign. The family maintains a business of breeding and training "Sawtelle dogs"- an elusive breed genetically perfected by generations of Sawtelles. Partially because of Edgar's handicap, Trudy and Gar take in one of the Sawtelle dogs as part of the family- the beloved Almondine. She and Edgar develop a special relationship and a unique means of communication, and I can say that dog-person or not, you will fall in love with her. Life is carrying on wonderfully until Claude, Gar's ex-con brother, is generously taken in by the Sawtelles. His entrance mysteriously coincides with Gar's sudden death, followed by his manipulative courting of Trudy (Hamlet anyone?), and Edgar flees to survive in the wilderness with a few pups from his very own Sawtelle litter.

It was all I could do not to wikipedia Hamlet's ending (long-forgotten since high school) before finishing Edgar, and I would press readers to do the same. Tragedy, loss and coming of age are all best absorbed along the way and we can all agree that there is no rush to finish Edgar's journey. He has an unpredictable depth, and I was almost afraid of him at times (I was even frightened for Claude at the sight of Edgar's cheshire cat grin in the tree outside the kitchen window, and the dogs' performance of "pass-and-drop" in the barn). The final scenes were a bit of a dream scape blur and the ending uncertain, but Wroblewski is an extraordinary storyteller and his deliberate lack of closure left me almost paralyzed and unable to crack another book before sorting out his story for a few days.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cinema Italiano

Here's a little hump day pick-me-up...

Kate Hudson's dancing debut in Nine. Sadly it was the only good part of that film, aside from the irresistible Penelope Cruz, whose acting has permanently transformed for the better since Woody Allen tapped her inner crazed femme in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

The plot of Nine was borderline insulting it was so dull, especially considering the caliber of the cast. Daniel Day-Lewis? Try emaciated faux euro with two hours of a terrible Italian accent. (Very unlike his lead in There Will Be Blood, which will forever leave me fondly reminiscing Daniel Plainview and his son, H.W.) I'm through with Nicole Kidman, a.k.a. Hollywood's matriarch fembot, and Fergie frankly freaked me out. As always, Marion Cotillard went down like a glass of champagne, but honey you aren't getting any Oscars from my academy playing a scorned ex-lover.

Kate Hudson, however, owned the only part of the movie worth watching: the Goldie-Hawn-gene-pool-meets-Bollywood dance piece. I can't seem to find the entire thing on youtube but here are some highlights:


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The perfect Friday night

Picture posting inspired by a fellow foodie- I am obsessed with Julia Child and all things francais...after enjoying her memoirs (not to be confused with Julie and Julia), I received volume 1 and 2 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking from Santa Claus and can't get enough of her delicious recipes. Though, come to find out, they are not the secret key to sensational weight loss.

Classic move

I'm not going to write about how much I love facebook because I understand how lame that seems (in reality it is not lame if you value reconnecting with old friends who live back home when you are far away); but I will share the following stunt I fall for every time without fail:

Old Friend (via FB message): "OMG!!!! How are you?!?! What have you been up to the past few years? How did you end up in DC? Catch me up!!!!!!*"
*Please notice the subtle difference between the above overuse of punctuation and the Susan T. Sholtes-style over use. In the latter, there is a premature removal of the shift key resulting in something resembling: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111111.

Me: "Hello Old Friend! It's been such a long time- I hope you are well!" (Long, thorough, time-consuming message reply ensues that would probably average 2 type-written pages "catching up" old friend on my life and what I've been up to) "So that's my story, how have you been? What have you been up to for the past few years?"

[Old Friend is gone and (1) is laughing hysterically that I actually took the time to "catch him/her up"; and (2) immediately forgets this ever happened and doesn't have the wherewithal to reciprocate.]
WITSH? (What In The Sam Hill?) How do these people sleep at night? Why do I continue this destructive and embarrassing behavior?
I cannot help myself. I am an over-sharer.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dear Type-A Parent

I recognize that the Economist is the ultimate source of weekly international affairs, but I just couldn't take it anymore. I had paid its ungodly subscription fee for over a year (part of my larger Economist subscription pattern, which was subscribe for a year, get fed up and don't for the next year, repeat pattern), I was exasperated from the never ending 9pt font of political minutia and couldn't bear the thought of another 4-page spread on Burma's indefinitely tumultuous state of affairs. I just don't need to know the details anymore. Life is too short for me to read a fourth article on the straw that broke the Icelandic economy's back (in a publication who endorsed Barack Obama, no less).

So I took a stand for my weekly publication rights. I swapped out my Economist subscription for the New Yorker (which came highly recommended from a reliable source). While, as a result, some may classify me as an intellectual lightweight ("some" including my former self who did subscribe to the Economist), they may be right: it turns out my tastes are much more suited for a weekly publication which minimizes its political dabbles and maximizes its content regarding random, useless information such as the availability of human cryogenics services in Michigan or a cross-cultural comparison of how the press treats Roman Polanski. Mix this with a briefing of NYC cultural goings-on (I lied, the information is useful) and a consistently clever parody of some class of people (see discussion below), and I can honestly say I haven't looked back.
The reason for this post is the class of people parodied a few weeks back: the "type-A parent," providing a bolstering argument against my reproducing because (1) I can't stand these people, much less the thought of integrating them into my social circle; and (2) my offspring would inevitably be subject to some of the pitfalls caricatured in the following as I am, without any doubt, a type A personality: http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2010/02/08/100208sh_shouts_mccall

Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Review: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Having been moderately obsessed with Jane Austen in high school, I was very quick to recommend Mansfield Park as my book club choice for this month (confession: I am in two book clubs. Nerd alert. This particular book clubs is very small- only 6 people- and we are devoted exclusively to the classics. How does the other half live?) Perhaps having just come off the high of reading Lady Chatterly's Lover, the girls were all for another dive into a formidable piece of brit lit. Although this pick waned in popularity compared with D.H. Lawrence's sex thriller, I thought it proved classic Austen and well worth the read.

The protagonist, Fanny Price, is a young girl from a poor family, raised by her rich aunt and uncle, but treated more like the hired help by everyone except for her cousin, Edmund. He and Fanny are most virtuous in their own personal and social lives, while the rest of the family and friends suffer from a number of character flaws, including being vain and spoiled. Fanny's two female cousins, Maria and Julia, closely resemble Cinderella's evil stepsisters, and without spoiling the book (for all of my imaginary readers who no doubt have Mansfield Park next on their reading list), much like Cinderella, good triumphs over evil.

And that's really it. Because as any of us who have read Austen know, she thoroughly develops her characters for the entire plot and only writes the book's ending in the last two pages (really my only criticism of Austen). But ah the character development! Her writing is truly a pleasure and while sometimes dense with running sentence structure, her prose make such a comprehensive narrative.

As for Fanny Price, her upstanding character is the subject of much of the book's criticism: namely, she's just too good to be true. She is timid, keenly aware of even the slightest ill motive and very disapproving. It's hard to relate to perfect Fanny Price, but her character is endearing all the same as she does a likable job at serving as a near-biblical example of how we should act and treat others.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Not quite sure why, but I've been so homesick lately. Actually, I think I know what may have instigated it...thoughts of running the Five Points of Life marathon (or what's more likely, the half) back in Gainesville next year. My mom suggested it and she's right- would make for a great trip home during what is the most miserable time in the Northeast- FEBRUARY. Blech. I looked at the race course online- it goes through all of the Gainesvegas highlights and my head spins just thinking about the Sonny's pork-on-garlic waiting after the finish line.

It made me realize that even though I've gone back home for the holidays for the past approximately 3.5 years, I really haven't spent time doing anything more than rushing around from family event to family event (and by event I of course mean meal after meal during which I challenge myself to consecutive eating contests). Because my parents are divorced, and all four of my "parents" have medium to large-sized families in the area, my trips home are a mad dash to see as many people as possible. We're talking quantity, not quality. In the past few years I have managed to do (what I would consider to be) tons of foreign and domestic traveling in addition to making it home for holidays, graduations, etc., which means my trips back to "the 'Ville" have been painfully brief. I am longing for some time in Gainesville somethin' fierce. How ironic?! I have spent most of my life trying to get out of Gainesville and see the world. Not exactly a settle-down-in-my-hometown kind of girl. In fact I have recently decided that the nation's capitol is just a little too small potatoes and am studying for NY bar exam in July to consider moving to an even bigger pond in Manhattan (ok, forget the size of the potatoes, the truth is I'm in love with an Irishman in that zip code).

I can't honestly say that I don't ever think of moving back home. The thought has crossed my mind but it is, and continues to be, the result of some fleeting nostalgic moment. Some contributory factors: the mid-Atlantic winter from hell, the tempting glitz and glam of being a big fish in a small pond, maybe running for office in Florida, and, most importantly, being closer to Susan T. Sholtes et al. But I know myself well enough to say that I would outgrow Gainesville all over again and it would take me a lot less than 25 years this time.

So for now I'll turn on the "local" news consisting of scenes from Senate hearings (instead of Paige Beck updating on a GPD bust), I'll polish the hardwood floors in my 600 square-foot condo that cost more than the average single family estate in Alachua County, I'll cheer for Georgetown's basketball team (the only thing remotely close to a college sports experience), hop on the metro to get to French class at the embassy (instead of at Cafe Gardens over a beer), and take my granny cart to Whole Foods to spend the other half of my paycheck on organic avocados and champagne (when I'd truthfully just prefer some chicken 'n dumplings and sweet tea). Not my natural habitat, but not exactly roughing it...