Thursday, August 30, 2012

I is for...

Well, of course, I is for Ithaca.

I've loved Ithaca from the time I went to swim camp at Ithaca College when I was 16, all through the almost ten years I've spent as a proud I-town citizen. I spent four years in between as a student at Ithaca College and while the grand majority of my fellow classmates knew only a select handful of bars and Joe's, I loved riding the bus around town and discovering everything else Ithaca had to offer.  When Brett was finally nearing the completion of his master's degree, we discussed where we wanted to settle. The midwest was definitely out- for a variety of reasons, the biggest being tornados. As we'd both had family crises that year, we really didn't want to be too far from our families. Far enough away to prevent a pop-in, but close enough that it didn't require a military maneuver to rush to someone's aid who was ill or hurt. We looked at each other and said, "Ithaca." It was unanimous and we really didn't entertain any other suggestions. We just knew it was where we belonged.

And although there are drawbacks (winter that goes on until May, the taxes, students cluttering town all wearing that same uniform of super-skinny jeans, a blazer and oddly-colored ballet flats, the "reality" that surrounds our ten square miles, etc.) we love Ithaca. When we were first moved here, we lived in a townhouse up by the mall and I worked downtown. Every day as I drove down the hill, I would see the sailboats out on the lake, see the towers over at IC and the IM Pei-designed Johnson Museum at Cornell that looks like a coffeemaker and think, I am lucky to live here. Nine years later and living on a different hill, I still think so.

So, here is a list of some of the things I love about Ithaca:
  • Namgyal Monastery. One of the coolest things about Ithaca is our Buddhist Monastery, currently located in a house downtown. There's nothing better than seeing the monks tooling around town in their robes, just getting a newspaper or whatnot. Also- it's the North American seat of the Dalai Lama and he pops in from time to time.

  • Howard Cogan. Howard, one of my professors at IC, was an ad man who created the Ithaca is Gorges slogan and gave the rights to the city. He taught Ad Lab, an intensive course where the students create an ad campaign for a national client, sponsored by the American Advertising Federation. You spend untold hours working on every detail of the campaign: research, creative, media placement, etc. and it's expected you'll give up your Spring Break to stay on campus and work. I did it twice, once my junior year for no credit because the class had already filled up. Since I'd taken the brand-new research mini-course in the fall and already put all this time and effort into it, it seemed stupid to give up just because I wasn't going to get 3 credit hours. It meant I was insanely busy trying to make it up my senior year, but totally worth it. Howard was more of a steward than an instructor for Ad Lab, there to steer us gently but leaving the work and major decisions to us. He and his wife Helen had a dinner for the Ad Lab kids at their house after the competition. He was like a big Jewish Santa Claus, and one of the best parts of Ad Lab was lining up for a hug from him. He passed away a few years ago. His was the first Jewish funeral service I ever attended. I use something that Howard taught me everyday in every aspect of my job.

  • Ithaca Bakery. The Flat Rock sandwich: Roast turkey, fresh local goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, extra-virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar, on a Baguette. Need I say more?

  • Cayuga Lake. Even though you technically can't swim in it anywhere in Ithaca, it's a gorgeous focal point.

  • Mulholland Wildflower Preserve. One of my favorite places to take Minchy for adventures and quiet, secluded dips in the creek.

  • Cinemapolis. Our local art house movie theatre. Where all the films I want to see are showing, like Moonrise Kingdom. Also, they have delicious air-popped popcorn that you can get parmesan cheese sprinkled on.

  • Briar Patch Veterinary Clinic. Where we've taken our dogs since we got 'em. I love that they remember Frances & Minchy's histories and are so genuinely happy to see them. I also love that they are so practical-minded and emphasize common sense alternatives to surgery whenever possible. And believe it or not, our dogs don't mind going to see the vet.

  • Tompkins County SPCA. A No-Kill shelter since 2001, our SPCA is innovative, creative, and above all, extraordinarily caring. Animals that wouldn't stand a chance at other shelters get 2nd, 3rd, 4th and more chances here at a loving, forever home. They do good work.

  • We have an awesome mayor. Svante Myrick is one of the youngest mayors in US history at age 24 and one of the few to be popularly elected by city-wide vote. He's Ithaca's youngest mayor and our first Mayor of African-American heritage to hold the office. In addition to being a sharp guy, he's also got a great sense of humor and one of the most entertaining Facebook pages I've ever seen. Since he doesn't have a car and mostly bikes, he made his Mayor's Parking Space into a park space. 
The Mayor's Office has Funky Fridays!

He has advice for students on how to party without the police!

The Mayor in his Park Space with LA Kings' captain Dustin Brown,
oh, and the Stanley Cup.

  • Cocktails- at Felicia's and Lot 10. I'm partial to the Lavendar Lemonade and Hemingway Daiquiri.

Evil DragonEye
  • A local bus system so great that I gave up my car nearly three years ago and haven't missed it since. Also, they have really nice drivers (except Evil Dragoneye.)

  • Novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote "Lolita" in Ithaca-and he almost burned it here after the story was rejected by every American publisher. His wife,Vera, changed literary history when she pulled the manuscript from the incinerator behind their rented house on East Seneca St.

Well, I'm sure I've left a lot of things out, but this was by no means an inclusive list. Please feel free to comment on any of your Ithaca favorites that I may have missed!  (Please note: I only included things/places/people in Ithaca proper, not any outside of town, such as Taughannock Falls, etc.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

H is for ...

I asked for suggestions for a topic for H on my Facebook page and received a whole variety of suggestions:

  • Historiography. (Yeah, no. That sounds like work.)
  • Hieroglyphics. (Interesting. But also sounds like work.)
  • Hatter, Mad. (A possibility. But the kazoo band at work (named for the Mad Hatter) has ticked me off today so no go on that one.)
  • Ham chuckles!!!! (Nice one, Sheri.)
  • Hygiene. (Mental or physical?)
  • Horseshit.
  • Hemorrhoid.
  • Horrific.
  • Horrible.
  • Horror movie.
  • Hillbilly.
  • Hit me with your rhythm stick, hit me, hit me! (The previous 7 suggestions were all by Gary Rith, who is a little too excited about the Letter H today, I think.)
  • Hopscotch (Physical effort? Not happening today.)
  • Horticulture (You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think! Ha!)
  •  This reminds me of when I was a teacher and a boy called a girl the "h word". After several questions I asked him to write it down. He wrote "hore." (This also reminded me of when I was teaching and I subbed for a 5th grade teacher named Mrs. Hoare. Seriously? How did she survive with that name around fifth graders???)
  • Hematomas. (This entry, along with hygiene, hemorrhoid and the next one made me think medical matters are too much on some of your minds.)
  • Hove. (This is the singular of 'hives' my friend and I decided.)
  • Home or house (This may be a bit too sincere for me to tackle today.)
  • Hippies (Got stuck walking behind a couple in handmade clothes of dubious quality and workmanship who stank of patchouli when I was downtown yesterday. I think I have to pass on this one.)
  • Handi-wipes (Intriguing. But I'm not sure how far I could take it.)
But the winning topic turns out to be inspired by someone who didn't even offer a suggestion.

H is for... hot dogs.

Kieran and George-
aren't they cute?
My cousin Kieran posted today that her dog, George, decided to run off for the third time this week. So she, her sister and her brother and her brother's friend go into the woods to find him. They ran through pricker bushes barefoot until they found him, got a leash on him and all four of them were walking him, yet George could still pull them all down the road."It was fun allll three times," she said sarcastically. And a few weeks earlier, she posted, "Just went on a wild dog chase through the woods trying to catch up to my dog who was chasing a deer.Thank god Andrea used her track skills to do hardcore parkore over branches and catch my dog. Too bad we both got stung by the same bee in the head."

Me and Murphy, in a rare moment of holding still
Kieran, I feel your pain. My childhood dog, Murphy, was an escape artist extraordinaire. If he saw the tiniest window of opportunity, he'd bolt. We all learned to answer the door with our knees locked like our bladders were about to burst. But no matter what preventative measures we took, Murphy would get out and run wild throughout town. When this happened, our parents would slap some enticing treat into my brother Kevin's and my hands, give us his leash and send us out into the neighborhood to retrieve him. He wouldn't come when called (well, he'd get within a few feet of you and dart away as soon as you grabbed. He thought that was damn good sporting fun.) so you had to lure him close enough that one of you could snap the leash on him and end his freedom run. What worked best to coax my wild dog? Well, steak or some kind of raw game probably would've been most successful. But we had processed meats.

Okay, not much relevance to the story, but I almost peed
I laughed so hard when I found this image. WTH???
Yep. A handful of hot dogs or palms-full of bologna. Now, put yourself in our shoes for a moment. Start out with a good measure of worry, because dogs get hit by cars and while Murphy certainly had more street smarts than my two dogs do now even put together, the odds of a dog out on the streets on his own are not good. Throw in a little panic because time is of the essence, because mofo can RUN. Faster than you'd think a little guy who never went over 17 pounds could. So a lot of the times that we were out on these retrieval missions, we were barefoot as well. (See Kieran, I told you I felt your pain!) 

Anxious, panicked, barefoot, and with fistfulls of hot dogs. Most people avoid touching hot dogs with their bare hands, and not just for hygiene reasons (See, I worked yours in there, David!) They feel incredibly, grossly, smoothly weird. And they leave a processed meat smell on your skin that doesn't ever really come out. It's sort of like skunk; it stays embedded in your nostrils for weeks after. 

Imagine this, but with weiners.
Not to mention the sheer elegance, the undeniable coolness of racing around town with no shoes on chasing after a taunting dog with a handful of weiners. My brother knew Murphy's escapes worried me; he'd try to cheer me up and make me laugh. Usually by juggling the hot dogs. Or shuffling them, pretending to do magic tricks with them. It would've made Oscar Mayer proud.

So, H is for hot dogs. And even though, unfortunately, I have no photographs of my brother and I armed for pet retrieval thusly, I do have the most awesome hot dog picture ever taken- Charlotte Doyle, asleep on her mother's back, refusing to let go of that hot dog clenched in her tiny fist, even through unconsciousness:

Friday, August 24, 2012

So you're the girl who can get me whiskey...

Yesterday, a resident came up to me in the lobby and said, "Now here's a girl who looks like she can get me whiskey!"

This is Lorna Gobey, a woman in the UK who turned 100
2 years ago. She attributed her longevity to 70 years of
cigarettes, Guinness and whiskey. Her son Bob Fisher, 66, said:
''She smokes faster than the rest of us and still loves a drink.
She loves bingo, playing a tune on the mouth organ
and riding around town in cars.''
I didn't know any of the context that had happened prior to me stepping into the hallway. I just knew that we were in the middle of having a career fair and the lobby was filled with prospective employees.

This resident, she's a lovely woman, very refined, used to be a docent at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, has terrible vision. She's blind as a bat. She picked up the hem of my dress and said, "Oh, are these doggies?"

"Uh, nope. Butterflies."

"Oh. Well, I'm sorry you can't get me any whiskey."

"I'm sorry too. Maybe next time."

I'm still wondering what it was about me that made her think I'd have a fifth stashed in my pocket for the sharing.

And considering the 92 year old woman who "repaired" the fresco on the walls of the church of Santuario de Misericordia, I'm wondering if there wasn't a similar moment in a hallway a couple weeks ago in Spain:

 "Ahora aquĆ­ es una chica que se parece a ella me puede conseguir whisky!"

G is for...

Okay, with everything swirling about us these days, G is gonna have to be for GIRLS, because we're under attack.

Yeah, I'm gonna get political all over your asses. Hold on tight.

I'm pissed off and the only thing that makes me feel remotely better is that there are thousands of other girls out there who are pissed off too and we'd better damn well all trot our fannies off to the voting booths this fall and do something about it. (Guys, too. You have mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, daughters, friends, nieces, aunts, grandmothers, granddaughters, etc. Step up.)

If you haven't read Eve Ensler's response to Todd Akin, read it NOW.
We'll wait for you.
 Between wanting to stick a wand in our hoo-hahs, comparing us to farm animals, revealing their ignorance (and a piss-poor education) by spouting off absolutely inane and completely ERRONEOUS facts about the female body, denigrating and violating rape victims, censoring female congresspeople for using the word "vagina," and NOT LETTING EVEN ONE OF US IN THE ROOM TO DISCUSS MATTERS OF CONTRACEPTION, we're starting to get tired of being kicked in the taco by a bunch of old white dudes. (And it's a shame that I have to use the word 'starting' there.)

So listen here- the only way to fix any of this is to vote these assholes out of office as soon as we can. Take it upon yourselves to not only vote, but bring friends! Take someone to the polls with you- offer to drive someone who doesn't have another way to get there. (And be damned sure to have all your ducks in a row before you go- bring all the ID you can muster and hell, even call your voting board ahead of time to be sure. They're looking for any way they can shut us down at the polls, legally and illegally. Don't give them a chance. Be a Girl Scout and BE PREPARED!) Convince everyone you know (and everyone you don't) to get out there because our very lives depend on it. Don't think for a minute they don't.

They want us to go back to the days of the desperation of back-room abortions, when women did not have full access to birth control, when domestic violence was commonplace and acceptable, when it was legal to pay a woman less for doing the same job as a man with the same qualifications. (Not that that isn't still happening, but Republicans are bound & determined to knock down the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, so same diff.)

"I fear change!"
Women are surging to power in more ways than ever before. More women are earning college degrees now than men. It's only a matter of a decade or so before women become the primary breadwinners in a majority of households. This scares the living shit out of the guys who have enjoyed bossing us around, putting us down, treating us as property, enforcing the double standard, blaming the victim, doubting our intelligence and ability, and keeping us under their thumbs for centuries. And as any viewer of Wild Kingdom can tell you, fear makes animals and people lash out in desperation. And I truly think that that is what this recent round of misogyny is: desperation. The world is changing and these guys are desperate to stay on top.

(And a quick note- this isn't to accuse ALL men of this behavior. Most of the guys I know are equally furious and dumbstruck by the crap people like Akin, King and the usual band of assclowns are slinging. There are plenty of good men out there on our side. We know that, and thank and appreciate you, even if you don't have your own feminist meme like Ryan Gosling.)

Okay. Enough lecturing. You got it- I trust you to take care of it. Don't let me down.

And G is also for "Girls," the HBO show, one of my new favorites. I have a girl crush on Lena Dunham.

Nora Ephron mentored her AND she dressed as Louis CK for Halloween.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012




A.  You have a delicate sensibility. (But if so, why the hell are you reading this blog?);
B.  You are at work somewhere other than HBO or a whorehouse and value the stability a steady income provides; or
C.  You are my mother.

Actually, never mind C. My mom can crank up the potty mouth with the best of them.

But c'mon. Could F really be for anything BUT the F word??
Bear with me; this is gonna get ugly.

The F word is truly the ultimate of swear words.

It was one of George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words:

Lenny Bruce got arrested for using obscenity, including the F word amongst some other choice nuggets:

Norman Mailer had to reduce it to "fug" in The Naked and Dead, leading Dorothy Parker to quip upon meeting him, "So you're the man who can't spell fuck."

Country Joe McDonald led the crowd at Woodstock spelling it out in a cheer before launching into a little ditty about 'war a-go-go' and being the first one on your block to have your boy come home in a box. One of the first songs I learned all the words to as a child. No lie.

It's heavily featured in one of my favorite musical numbers of all time:

In that esteemed, veritable tome, The F Word, humorist Roy Blount Jr. waxes rhapsodic over it:

"Fuck. Sounds a little like a suction-cup arrow hitting a wall. Or someone pulling it off. Or putting a foot down in a quagmire. Or pulling it out. Connection, detachment. The old in-and-out."

But the book's editor, Jesse Sheidlower, urges careful use:

"The increasing acceptance of fuck in American society is not a sign that its use should be encouraged- nor should this book be considered such a sign. Any sort of language has a time and place appropriate to its use, and it is often unsuitable to use the word so thoroughly chronicled in this book. It would be as misguided to say that fuck should be used everywhere as it would be narrow-minded to insist upon its suppression."

He's got a point. When it become too commonplace, it does tend to lose its magic and its power to shock. It goes back in line with "hell," "damn," and "shit," those weenies of the cuss-words wagon.

One antidote to that may be in more imaginative uses of the word. For this, I would highly recommend reading The F Word. Apparently it's in its 3rd edition (the latest features an introduction by Lewis Black) and hopefully still includes the creative and evocative illustrations that accompanied more colorful entries such as:

I'm thinking one of the last two might be my new tattoo.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

E is for ...

Boy this is going to be totally random.

E... what to do with E?

Ha ha! You were expecting a bug maybe?

Eww, no.

Emancipation Proclamation?
Not today, but still very important.

Then it occurred to me that four authors whose work I'm reading now have names beginning with E:

E.B. White
("Is Sex Necessary" written with James Thurber)
White & Thurber
e.e. cummings
(Collected poems)
e.e. cummings

Ernest Hemingway
("The Sun Also Rises," "A Moveable Feast," and a biography of him)

Doesn't this look photoshopped? Like it's on a kids' show set or something?


Eric Griffith
("Kali: The Ghosting of Sepulcher Bay")


Also- Elvis died 35 years ago today.


(But Shelley Fabares is still around. As far as I know. And her name doesn't begin with E so she doesn't really warrant a mention here today.)