Monday, June 30, 2003

NY Journal # 7

NY Journal # 7 (now with photographically picturical photo album!!)
My lawyers tell me that contractually, I need to say this:"So it's been a long time since I've written and a lot of things have happened." Too much has happened, so much that I ... well... don't really want to talk about it. So I'm writing about it to tell you that I'm not going to write about it. Not really. I'll summarize: Elizabeth and I separated, she moved back to SF, I'm staying here. My longtime friend from SF, Matt moved up from Florida and took the office/bedroom. I lost my almost 7 year job with MCI and am not breaking my back looking for a new one. I am getting a "wicked-awesome" tan from a lot of reading in Washington Square Park. I have taken up yoga since E and I split, going to 3-4 classes per week. Am loving all aspects of it minus a few teachers' love of "fire breathing" (more on that later). My mom is doing really well after her 3rd surgery, cancer free again and sounding great. My parents moved again: 33 times in 35 years. My brother is buying a house in San Diego, or looking at least... Yes, that Does make me feel old, thank you for asking.

I've started an album of pictures I've taken w/ my camera phone:

All of the pics are currently in one folder, making it a slight pain to navigate through. I'll soon be migrating them to separate named folders and then going forward put new photos in dated folders.
Soooooo - let's see, some recent happenings:
- classical music in Washington Square Park every Tuesday at 8, for the next many weeks. A thermos of wine, people watching and fireflies, it doesn't get anymore 'summer' than this.
- Opera in central park: same as above but way, way more people.
- took a bus to Atlantic City. good god what a hellhole. 90% slots, 99% depressing. no offense to Atlantic City lovers.
- Went to the Queens Museum of Art (see picture album). Amazing.
- Turkish food in Queens: friends of Matt visited who knew the cook at the place... a decadent spread of deliciousness. MmMmMmMmmm...
- Saw Letterman last month (Antonio Banderas/Alanis Morisette)
- scheduled tickets for the Daily Show, Conan O'Brien and soon, Saturday Night Live (fingers crossed).
- Am hoping to open or collaborate with investors on The Bionic Bar idea: basically, my six million dollar man/bionic woman collection, in a bar setting. If anyone knows of potential investors or bar owners, let me know...
- fighting off & on summer heat (and rain). heat is ok, humidity suuuuuucks. when will it snow again? not soon enough.
- finished my tattooing. basically, took the design on my right arm over to my left arm, minus what existed on my left arm. not so strangely, I actually -feel- more balanced. a sense of completion, I reckon.
- we had an Amazing fireworks show, seen from our roof, a week before the 4th of July. yep, a week before. t'was gay pride weekend. They were firing off from New Jersey about a mile & a half away - stunning. on the 4th, we saw half of two different sets of fireworks from the East River side - not so spectacular.
- star sightings: geneane garaffolo (I know I butchered the spelling of her name) on 7th Ave. Scarlett Johanson (thrice) filming a movie ("Synergy") at NYU. Mario Batali (Mario Eats Italy, Ciao America w/ Mario Batali, etc)

So, on a more serious note... When are you visiting? Ya, I'm talkin' to you. all of you.
Seriously. No really... come.
it's fun. ask anyone.

Friday, June 20, 2003

NY Journal # 3 (4-6 missing)

NY JOURNALS 4-6 ......... missing.
so sad. so very f'n sad.

NY Journal # 3 - ... a shorter update
NY is still treating us ... well.
We, are sore, but well, as well.
We moved out of our sublet and into our permanent place this extended weekend (we took tues & wednesday off to help w/ the move) ... The past two days has been a Tetris-like game of trying to move boxes around & around to get things out of the way so we can put a small handful of things away to make room for other things which will free up space for more things. In addition to organization & re-organization, we had to deal w/ the process of movers (3 crazy russians with superhuman strength), the phone guy, the cable & internet guy, delivery guys for a bed & the plasma/flatscreen (yes, an admittedly extravagant purchase, ... but space saving and.. ..ok, fine, there's little justification for the purchase... namely: 1) I've wanted one for years and the price was finally right 2) we no longer have my old video projector for movie watching 3) it really Does save space (5" deep, in our NY-small living room) 4) that's all you get... trust me, I'm still experiencing guilt and self-doubt over the purchase)... the tv, so far at least, is gloriously beautimus... We haven't put it up on the wall yet, we'll be doing that tonight most likely. last night, I had found some very long screws that I'd had in my toolbox from the loft bed I used to have.. I was going to use those to support the tv which Sounded like a great idea... except... I quickly realized that if we used them... the tips of the screws would probably end up in our next door neighbor's appt (maybe not, I'm not sure how thick the walls are, but I could just see it... getting a knock on the door.. "uhhh excuse me but...") Hmmm, what else... we've painted - - the kitchen a red ... or technically "Dressage"... the living room a happy yellow... or.. "mango gold"... the bedroom will be a nice lavender or "enchanted" if you really prefer the formal names - yes, it's a lot of color, but this is for people who've lived w/ white walls their whole lives.... oh and rounding out the technicolor rainbow; the comically small bathroom will be transformed into a tropical micro-retreat, with exposed pipes hidden beneath bamboo, the walls colored in "tequila lime".
As if work and moving wasn't enough, Elizabeth continues w/ classes as Univ of Phoenix and I study Farsi (Persian language) at NYU. As of today... we're mostly just dreading unpacking the boxes upon boxes of who-knows-what that might or might not be damaged from the move... luckily, we've only seen a few things broken so far (that we've seen yet) At this point, it could all go in the trash and we probably wouldn't miss even a quarter of it... and probably not remember owning another quarter of it. In hindsight, we really could have moved here with half a closet full of clothes, 2 pairs of shoes and our toothbrushes. It's pretty amazing how much stuff you can unconsciously amass when you live in a large place (in SF) and have endless room for 'stuff'.

other than that... well, currently, there IS nothing other than that. just moving in, set up, all that good stuff.

NY itself, the city, it's people, being here, is still all too exhilarating... in all aspects that I could describe... it's awe inspiring in it's magnitude, breathtaking for it's scenery and history, and yet, when I write these Journals, I often feel like I'm being overly dramatic... that I'm somehow discounting the experience by over describing how amazing it is here. "yeah, yeah, you think it's amazing, We Get It" is what I sometimes feel people might think reading these things I write.. Yesterday we had to go to a paint store for rollers. Affixed to the side of the paint store (as with many bldgs in NY) was a NY historical plaque, this one saying basically "within this building, George Washington set up temporary headquarters for the US Govt after the revolutionary war .... later Alexander Hamilton used the building ... later, Aaron Burr used it, etc" - ... So how do I explain the feeling of walking around in a building that Washington worked in..? I mean "worked in", every day - for a little under a year's time, his shadow passed over the same ground I was walking on. It's those kinds of things that make me feel at a loss for words. To me, a thesaurus open to every word that implied 'exciting' and 'inspiring' would better describe being here... It's not for lack of effort or interest, it's truly because words cant ever accurately describe feelings ...or even a sense of place. You'll have to pardon the catharsis here.. I'm not sure where I'm going with these Journals... I'm not sure if I'm fulfilling what I'm intending to accomplish or meeting your expectations of what you want to know about or if anyone makes it past the first two paragraphs before work call them back to their duties.
Sooooo.... let me know... if there's something you want to know about. I obviously know how to talk at length, so give me a topic. : ) I apologize that you're bcc:'d on this Journal, there's honestly not all that many people on it, but in the interest of your own security and fears of spam, etc, I kept everyone private. I guess what I'm saying is, don't let that keep ya from responding, I'd love to hear from all'y'all....

I... and we... miss y'all....
shoot me/us an email when you get a chance...

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

NY Journal # 2


but before we begin, I should say that many topics below could and maybe should belong in other topical sections below, I may misspell words and I certainly admit to making up words. I am also prone to exaggerations ranging from wild to mild. Sometimes I outright lie for no reason other than it amuses me... At other times, I may actually be jeopardizing National Security by disclosing the classified whereabouts of undercover operatives...but unless I'm going to be graded or arrested, and unless those grades (or lawsuits) translate into fabulous vacations or cash prizes, I'm not going to sweat it. Also... all things expressed below are my subjective opinions and observations. I don't speak on behalf of New York or it's peoples, I am one out of 8 million fish in a very busy sea. (yes, just kidding about the lying and national security issues. Everything else you will read is true. Names have not been changed to protect anyone)

PRELUDE: They're going to be shooting Spiderman II in our neighborhood starting this weekend. Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing if Spidey will be flying from rooftop to rooftop or if Peter Parker will be entering and exiting a Leroy Street apartment. Either way, I'll get myself into a shot, watch for me when it comes out. I'll wear my Raider beanie. The other night, they were shooting some other movie on 7th Ave in front of our place, "Raising Helen" or some other movie name-ish movie name... The entire street was lined with production trucks, the sidewalks packed with people and lights and cameras and food tables and wardrobes and somewhere in that mess, I found out later, was Heather Graham. They had completely restylized the exterior of a restaurant to make it look like a hip-happening bar named "Random" - I know... ALSO very movie name-ish, isn't it..? The best part of the whole event was that by midnight, everything and everyone had vanished like it had never happened. The city has very strict rules about when film crews have to be out of a neighborhood.
THE CITY (itself): It's big. A big sea of a city. We've seen only the smallest fraction of the relatively small area of Manhattan below the park, it's kind of ridiculous how little we've seen, actually. Not that we haven't been trying... Every days it seems like we're both coming just short of blisters, leg cramps, outright muscle fatigue, the whole nine yards. You'd think we were avoiding subways and walking everywhere. Judging distance is part of the problem: avenues here are 900 feet long, streets are 100 feet long. To walk from the NY Public Library to the Empire State building for example (42nd St to 34th St), takes roughly the same amount of time as getting from one avenue to the next. It would be a cruel trick to tell people "I'm just the next block over" when you mean "avenue".
THE BUILDINGS (upon buildings, etc): As I flew in to JFK airport four years ago for my first visit here, I likened the look of Manhattan to 60 or more downtown San Francisco's, stacked back to back. I think that still holds. From the ground, (depending on the neighborhood) the effect is not much different. It is a concrete forest, the 'flora' seem as varied as a real forest, the sky is always visible, and there's certainly a lot of shade to be found. Because we're still in tourist-mode, we still look up a lot. New Yorkers we've talked to say they still do that, I'm not sure that ever changes. So long as you're not looking up when you step off a curb, or ONLY looking up,'s ok to look up.
THE SUBWAY: Ohhhhh, the subway. There's volumes that could be said about the subway system here. To summarize: it is incredibly efficient, incredibly old, incredibly complicated (until you understand the basics), incredibly bouncy in almost frightening way, incredibly diverse, and incredibly fascinating in how much it is taken for granted. Or maybe it's not taken for granted.... I don't know, I haven't asked everyone here yet, .... I guess until people start shouting "this subway system is AMAZING!" or start looking at everything with the same info-hungry eyes that I have for everything here, I'll assume people are taking it for granted. Maybe it's just in comparison to SF's transit system that I find it so amazing. SF being a city in which public transit is supposed to be a beacon unto... well, the West Coast at least
THE SNOW/weather: Any discussion of the weather should start with mention of the fact that it went from furiously snowing, to small flurries, to rain, to mist, to..... summertime heat... in the span of no more than 4 or 5 days. Yesterday it was 83, today it is 40 degrees cooler. That being said, the snow [ - and people who do not LIKE snow should keep in mind the fact that I have not lived in snow since I was 8 years old] .... was absolutely glorious, transcendently yearned for, like being reunited with a childhood friend after decades of separation. There is a term some people use... I believe it is "sh!t eating grin". Yeah... I had one of those. Uh-huh, a big one. Yeah, the whole time it snowed. Unfortunately... it only actively snowed for one day, three days later it was completely gone from the streets. I have to admit that some of the romance wore off the first time I had to side step yellow snow. Warm weather on the other hand, cause many interesting things to happen. This happens in all cities of course, but in NY it seems they happen quite spontaneously, before you've even left your house. The best part of this weather metamorphosis, or.. "weathermorphosis" as I like to call it (ok, so it probably wont catch on), is that restaurants become 'convertible', their entire street facing facades accordion open as tables and chairs are rolled out and before you know it, entire sidewalks are chattering away with a typical weekend restaurant buzz. This happens in Europe, you say..? Sure... true. NY is a lot closer to you. Decent weather also more accurately shows you just how many people there really are in this city. It is really almost indescribable how many people appear out of nowhere. And yet I will try [see THE MASSES section] Everyone springs into summer clothes, with the emphasis on "shorter" and "less of", which is mostly a good thing. Lord knows, there are droves of beautiful people here, with more perfect skin, bone structure and bodies than you'd find in a glossy fashion magazine. It can however, quickly becomes unpleasant when... hmmm... how does one say this delicately..? certain unsavory and/or unshapely characters display a level of unintentional exhibitionism that causes rapid eye-aversion and in extreme cases, nightmares and the loss of appetite. This unpleasantness is not, like in other cities, limited to parks, the beach or ones backyard. No, this happens on the streets, on subways and in stores. Call it a 'refreshing lack of self-consciousness'. I guess I'm still mildly traumatized by one particular person we saw.
THE MASSES: You may not have heard this, but there are a lot of people here. 8 million is a lot, in my opinion. It seems like a lot, sometimes it feels like a lot... and yet it never really seems to reach "too much". Everyone knows the "street fair" effect with the sideways walking, constant bumping of shoulders, wall to wall people.. At it's very worst, New York seems just short of that, like it would only take another 1/3rd of the people around you in any given area to make you feel somewhat claustrophobic and/or agoraphobic. At it's best, you have whole blocks to yourself. At it's average... well... there's just a lot of people out. This city, I'm sure, weeds out people who cant take it, people who find a steady stream of people uncomfortable, people who feel intimidated by a stranger bumping into them. Walking in the masses, I am always aware of how this Could 'get' to people, and yet I am always detached enough to know that it does not bother me, personally. There is something strangely comforting in being enveloped by a city's people.
THE PEOPLE: Not to insult the people of other cities, but the people here are without question, the nicest people I have ever met. Conversely, there are also thee most charming displays of finely crafted rudeness you will ever see. A dozen or more strangers have started up conversations with us, out of the blue, in the two weeks we've been here. And conversely again, we've also seen a lady curse the smirk off of an escalator slowpoke, followed immediately by seeing an office worker shoulder-bump a lady almost to the ground and keep on going like it didn't happen. Many people confuse the NY no-nonsense, determined, directioned, me-bother-me attitude for rudeness or disinterest in helping people, etc. I've heard it described, or thought of it, a lot of different ways recently... here's a few of my favorites: #1) people will not look you in the eye, they will shove past you for a train without a second thought, they will steal your cab... but ask them directions or to recommend a good restaurant and you will receive more animated, helpful information than you could have ever hoped for. #2) bodies in motion tend to stay in motion: nothing annoys New Yorkers more than people who get in their way while they are walking somewhere. It is a sense of "don't disrupt my life and I wont disrupt yours" that translates to many levels of life here, not just street walking. #3) Everyone's level of not-taking-conflict-personally and not-holding-on-to-momentary-anger is set for a casually restrained, professional functionality that seems almost comical. It is the opposite of road rage.. or perhaps, it's merely a quick verbal venting to deal with the emotions and move on. It may be that people visiting NY see a lot of these moments of 'anger purging' but don't notice that the person has moved on. Again, this is probably a wild generalization, but I think has a lot of truth to it.
PIZZA: There are two types of food in NY. Pizza, and the other crap people eat occasionally. The analogy of 'pizza is to NY what burritos is to SF' is not quite accurate. More accurate is 'pizza is to New Yorkers, what drinking water is to human survival'. If anyone can locate the actual number of pizza places in NY, I will.... ... I'll give you a piece of pizza. Seriously, it's only a matter of time before it becomes currency.
NON-PIZZA FOODS: Coincidentally, there are two types of non-pizza food in NY. Ridiculously expensive and ridiculously cheap. $9.25 for a sandwich is not unheard of. A "poor boy" sandwich, I kid you not, was $6.75 in the dining concourse of Grand Central Station. Conversely, budget choices are available, hot dogs and such, if you eat that sort of thing, which I haven't (yet). Soups, salads, bagels, breakfast places.... all cheap. My favorite so far is Mahmoun's $2 falafels on MacDougal @ Bleeker and of course.... ever present pizza.
HERCULES: Our closest neighborhood liquor store is called Hercules Fancy Groceries. It's owned & operated by (again) a slightly portly man of maybe 50-55... this time Greek (as you may have been able to infer from a name like Hercules). He has one glass eye, has the same gift of gab as Walter, and plays a bouzouki, an instrument that, upon some quick research, I found that both Greeks and Irish play.... go figure. Hercules' store has many many many beers. Almost exclusively beer, in fact. He doesn't carry anything other than beer in fact because it seems that in NY, stores can only get a beer license, hard alcohol license, or wine license, but rarely a combination (if it's even legal to have a combo, I'm not sure). Hercules' history with beer is such: he found a book about beer in the trash outside his store one day. He read it. He began importing beers from around the world (he's credited with importing the first Belgian beer into the US in 1960something) and to this day, "has paid for no advertising", instead reaping the rewards of newspaper articles and reviews written about him and his store. Let's get back to his gift for gab, though. It is truly unbelievable how skillful he is (Walter as well) with weaving different topics together into a finely formed net from which you cannot escape. There are no pauses where you might say "well, ok... we'll see you around then" or even "hey, I've gotta run, talk to you later" ... without seeming rude. Literally, the moments of pause are impossibly brief and through some unknown superpower yet to be properly tapped for the forces of good, they always appear to be right in the middle of making a point.. Truly though, they are very good people with very interesting stories .... upon stories .... upon stories.THE
WORK ENVIRONMENT: We work in the MetLife building, directly behind Grand Central Station (see GRAND CENTRAL STATION section). The 'corporate dress code' is a lot more valued here than in SF, which brings me a fairly consistent level of mild frustration. Cube space is a lot more dense, handfuls of different conversations can be heard all at once, about 2/3rds of them are not work related. The office has a few characters of it's own; there is the lady near me who sounds like she's always on the verge of crying and has conversations about the renovations she's doing to her house which is probably more of a mansion than a house from the sounds of it. There is the guy who sits next to our workmate Fortune, who on Monday and Tuesday, makes calls to friends, gabbing about his weekend, on Wednesday he's fairly silent & then on Thursday and Friday, he's making plans for the upcoming weekend. Then there are the sports fans. Much to my baseball-hating-dismay, I am surrounded by baseball fans who find no end of excuses to gather in one person's cube for a rousing 30 minute conversation about so&so's style of hitting or catching or .... well, at the 2 minute mark, I am bored straight into a coma so I'm not sure what they talk about after that. Then there are the Giants & Jets fans, of which I am looking forward to many spirited conversations involving the phrases "no, [YOUR team] sucks!" or "soooo, how'bout [your team] losing so bad on Sunday????" - (this last phrase, by it's very nature of course, doesn't even HAVE the potential of involving the Raiders, so... well... there you have it.. : ) ((We have yet to get a permanent cubicles, so I haven't been able to display my various Raider related items - I KNOW, how can I pit the whole office against me until I do that?!?! I'm working on it...))
GRAND CENTRAL STATION: Look up the words "massive" and "beautiful" in a thesaurus. Then branch out to each of their related words. Take it five generations out. Gather all the words together and read them. That will begin to do justice to Grand Central Station. People upon people upon shops upon restaurants upon bars upon... oh, right... trains. I sometimes forget that it IS a train station. We walk through the station to work, to lunch and to home. I absolutely can not think of a better ingredient to a daily commute. It awes and humbles me, Every Single Day,.... how lucky we are.
AND SO ENDS Episode 1 - PART 2.... Future episodes will be a lot shorter, I'm sure. Episode 1 had a lot to cover, a lot of initial observations that attempted to cover the entire spectrum of our experience here so far. I'm sure I cheated some sections and overemphasized others. I probably complete forgot to cover certain things which I'll only remember once I hit SEND. Such is life and the nature of journals. I am actually very much looking forward to rereading some of this a year or two from now, to see what ideas have changed and to recapture a bit of the feeling of slack jawed awe we are still feeling so early into our move here. All of our experiences seem to have an intense weight to them, they seem more 'real', concentrated, more in-the-moment... That feeling will surely subside over time, I'm sure. It's incredibly exciting to be living it now though.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

NY Journals 1 + K&E Europe Trip


OK, IF I WAIT TO FINISH our first journal before sending it, it's going to be next week or later before it's done. Call this part 1 of 2... Sorry for the length of it... read at your own pace...Before we begin, I'd like to mention... that it's SNOWING furiously!! only as of this morning... and it's finally STICKING TO THE GROUND... and trees (what's left of them) and cars and people. People like me and Elizabeth even! This must be unusual because people in the office are saying "hey, wha'ss the deal with this weath'ah ova' heyah" (ok, slight exaggeration of accent) The sky is white.. the ground is white, my fingers will be white once we leave the building again (the office is evacuating as we speak)...And without further adieu....

PREFACE TO JOURNAL: Needless to say, work had NOT let up last week, affording no time for travel journal nor any mentally therapeutic web surfing time at work. From 10:30am to 6:30pm (rough hours, aren't they? : ) I've been trying to balance a flood of work, a constantly self-corrupting database and a corporate-catch-22 battle for a building badge, a work badge and a permanent cube upon which I will eventually shine full Oakland Raider regalia in a sea of Giants & Jets fans (more on that later). Anyway, since I'm a week 'behind' perse and since I haven't been logging a synopsis of daily activities, this journal will probably be a loose mixture of diary, general observations, amusing frustrations and ruminations. First off, I [had typed most of] this from the computer room of the main NY Public Library on 5th Ave @ 42nd (this room alone, I read, is 2 city blocks long) The building itself is easily 10,000 years old (or so it seems), built in the days when "ornate" meant run of the mill and the fine craftsmanship of artisans probably appeared out of nowhere like skyscrapers rising through clouds of construction in old cartoons. It's more beautiful than a library should probably be, done to the hilt in stone work, dark moneyed wood, brass and leather, ceiling paintings throughout, wrought iron and brass chandeliers in every room. I'm sure there's been dozens of books written about this library alone so I will leave it at that. If you've been here, you know these things, if you haven't... come.
FAREWELL TO SF:I should really preface any talk of NY with a hopefully brief account of the whirlwind of activity that went into getting here. Namely, packing... and more packing, and god I hate packing, and holy mother of god where did all this sh!t COME FROM, and MY GOD, please just make it STOP, I want to cry. To run through quickly, we had a Sacramento-storage unit run for bionics and other storables, we had our 8'x7'x5' crate going to our eventual permanent apartment (2 months from now) Oh, and to make that part all the more exciting, Elizabeth possibly broke something in her hand as the last of the crate was being packed. We had 3 suitcases each to bring on the plane with us, we had friends of friends come by in a U-Haul and take our couch(es), TV(s), food, and dozens of other items that ended up filling up their truck. We THEN had 8 smallish boxes of things we had to USPS ourselves because it hadn't fit in our storage crate. We then filled up our buildings weekly allotment of refuse and recycling. Granted, we were not living the sparse life, but c'mon.. many of you saw our apartment, it's not like we were wall to wall packrats. After clearing out our apartment, we booked ourselves into the Hyatt @ Embarcadero for a last hurrah to SF, the hotel being a cavernous, inverted quarter pyramid design (wrap your mind around THAT shape!) with hanging vines, water features, blah blah blah.. very nice place. A last SF dinner with friends in North Beach was an amusingly ironic prelude to NY, as the Disneyland-ish feel of the neighborhood seemed to be on a similar ratio and scale to 'ItalyLand' in Disney's Epcot.The flight itself was... well... any 5 hour flight that feels like 3 hours or less should be considered amazing. And so, .. our flight was amazing.
THE ARRIVAL:'And ye shall know they who have moved unto thine city by their obscene amount of luggage'. Luckily, and somewhat shockingly, our fairytale carriage into Manhattan took the form of a taxi SUV that perfectly accommodated our baggage. My first city lesson was that when you tell a cab driver 7th Street @ Bedford when you mean 7th Avenue, you create an air of angry frustration that has potentially questioned their knowledge of city intersections, an emasculating act of war here.
THE APARTMENT: We found the apartment through and declined a complicated offer of pictures, opting for surprise. It's small by SF standards, but not unexpectedly small for NY (pictures in part 2). We live in 1 of 2 apartments directly above a catering company, the head caterer being Walter.
WALTER:The first morning we walked out of our apartment, we were greeted by a cheery, slightly portly man of maybe 40-45 years, an Italian accent of medium to heavy thickness. He asked us where we were going. And almost without hearing what we said, told us where we should be going. We talked for a few minutes and then bid him adieu. That night, we ran into him again and started talking about the catering his company does,.. high profile photo shoots and acting sets, mainly. 55 minutes later, we were still talking to him... well.. "being talked to" is more accurate, but that implies a captive audience and that first day, we were most certainly incredibly entertained by his stories. The next day, we ran into him again. ... 50.. minutes.. later.. we had amassed a great wealth of knowledge, from the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker does not eat parsley, to Christina Aguillera only eating gummy bears, to the N'Sync preferring (unbeknownst to them) McDonalds chicken mcnuggets to Walter's breaded chicken cutlets, to Annie Liebowitz demanding that her crew receive brown-paper-bagged lunches with sandwiches in two-colored paper, folded a specific, overlapping way, with an apple included and two cookies, each of which should not be bigger than a half dollar ("if they are, you must re-cut them to size"). And on and on through actors, photographers, directors... likes and dislikes. This last conversation spanned the time it took to rain on us three times, finally ending with us getting up the nerve to interrupt & say we needed to get out of the rain. Our third run-in with Walter lasted a mere 40 minutes and ended with an invitation to dine at the restaurant the catering company also runs, which we did, which was excellent, which Walter picked up the tab for, which, amazingly enough, we have not seen him to thank him for. I do not mean to imply that he is a 'talk-monster' or that he bored us at any time. It is just a game we are learning, that time with some people here must be managed, lest your time not be your own.

AND SO ENDS PART 1 - ....a preview of sections that will appear in PART 2:
THE CITY (itself):THE PEOPLE:THE SUBWAY:THE SNOW/weather:THE BUILDINGS (upon buildings, etc):THE NYC 'MAGIC':THE WORK ENVIRONMENT:basically... everything I meant to discuss in one, "standard email-length" journal that this email was supposed to be.


My first attempts at writing anything 'journal-like':
K & E - Euro Vacatione' email - Part 1 of 3
Ahhhhhhh vacation emails.

We love 'em and hate 'em at the same time. Both writing and reading, they're a bit of a chore... I fully understand the dilemma, currently being on the more laborious side of it, so I'll strive to make the read as entertaining, but to the point as possible....

I'll ALSO be splitting it up into Part 1: London, Part 2: Amsterdam, Part 3: London to take some of the load off of writer and reader alike.

Thursday - March 21st
SFOooooooooo -toooo- Heathroooooooooooowwwwwwww (10hr flight)

Friday - March 22nd
arrive at Heathrow, an airport that could be a city in itself. sleep depravation makes the express train ride into London look like the Amtrak route through New Jersey. Madonna and Jewel videos made for the train ride into London play interspersed amongst the news. foreboding..? slightly. check into hotel in the Paddington neighborhood. fish & chips at a pub around the corner. Mardi and Matt (our travelling companions) take a nap. Brian (the friend of Elizabeth's who lives in London) shows up and takes us to Oxford Street for some jet-lagged shopping at H&M (an excellent department-store-like store but with cheap cheap prices). (to note: H&M visit # 1) - then, our first London underground (train) experience. thank god we're jetlagged, it's now my opinion that public transit in a new city should always be done when your sleep cycle is seriously out of whack. the hustle & bustle is much more enjoyable when you're not sure if you're asleep or not. emerging up to ground level again, the bus we have to catch happens to be right there, ... Brian jumps on, Elizabeth jumps on, i go to... hey! -j-u-m-p- on... as it barrels away. literally. far too Hollywood for me. the realization hits me that i would have been 100% lost if i hadn't have jumped full force. - since it's our first night, we eat some pizza at brian's, watch a dumpster fire from his backyard (as he tells us "see those buildings that look like the American govt assistance "Projects" over there..? & you've seen them all over the city too.. those are where the bombs fell in WWII".. cheap housing was thrown up in the craters... - pretty crazy visualization) - later, catch a minicab back to our hotel and sleep the sleep of travelers.

Saturday - March 23rd
meet Brian for a trip to Portobello Market.. ( pics at the bottom) a bustling food/clothing/antiques/etc/etc type public market held on a 3/4 mile long stretch of a small two lane road. searching for food, we run into Courtney Love coming out of a record store. ya, whatever. - more shopping & desperation-hunger food buys ("kebab in a bun" - whaaa???) - still jetlagged, we head back to the hotel for a nap, meet brian later for dinner at a pub called the Duke of Cambridge. ( - amaaazing. fully organic everything - food, beer, cider, furniture, toiletries... you name it, it didn't come from a huge exploiting factory or contain known harmful chemicals.

Sunday - March 24th
underground train to Buckingham palace in the AM - end up losing our friends Mardi & Matt. they were there one second, gone the next. we wait around for 20 minutes (to which they later said they did the same thing) - head off towards Westminster Abby & Big Ben, run across a statue of Abraham Lincoln. yes... Abraham Lincoln. a shiny new British pound to anyone who can tell me WHY he was there..! - hop on a train to Liverpool Street station ( , meet Brian for some shopping at Spitalfield's Market ( also - then past the something_&_Silver_Bells Bar where Jack The Ripper first struck, then to Brick Lane (a great Indian part of town.. long, long street full of Indian restaurants, shops, etc) - we then HAPPEN across an exhibit we had passingly talked about visiting: there are almost not words to describe how amazing it was. take a look at the site. - we then head back to Spitalfields to pick up Mardi & Matt for some Indian food. exhausted from walking all day, we head back to the hotel.

Monday - March 25th
Eliz & I decided to see if we could get a room of our own at the next London hotel (near Victoria Station - (a 3d pic you can move around)) we'd be at. after we see the hotel, Eliz had a peanut butter/banana/cheese sandwich. yes, WITH cheese. I had a salted beef sandwich, that came highly recommend but was not so highly enjoyed. (-slightly- salted roast beef??? yeah, ok) - stop at EasyEverything to check email. In Europe these are everywhere... a coffee shop with -no exaggeration- at least 200-500 computer terminals where you pay by the half hour. everyone uses them. - then hopped on an Original London Tour Bus for some touristy sight-seeing. got off on the South Bank at the Old Globe theater... sorry, theatRE... only to realize that that thing i had felt flapping away from my arm while on the bus.... was... well... our receipt/ticket to be ON the bus. ok, so much for all day hop-on/hop-off access. then walked across the Millennium Bridge which was SO EXCITING I COULD BARELY STAND IT..!! ok, that's a complete lie. it's a freakin' bridge, it's slightly narrow... it's got a great view. it did not transport me into the next millennium as i had secretly hoped it might. thoroughly disappointed, we walked off & would have paid the 7 pounds to get into St Paul's Cathedral (where prince Charles & Diana got married) but.. well... it was 7 POUNDS! i wanted to play "Jesus" and throw the money lenders out of the temple but finally had to admit that i was far from being Jesus, and they weren't really money lenders and i would have surely been arrested. then took the tube back to Victoria Station where I called my parents who, as i found out, weren't aware i was in London. (what, I've gotta tell people these things? : ) - back to Victoria Station ( - off to Herrod's... which felt like a JC Penny's or Marshall's, thinly veiled in an air of money, signified by dark wood grain and tacky Egyptian themes interspersed throughout the store. very bizarre. - then another double-decker busride to Regent's street where, in a store i was 30 seconds away from walking out of, and COMPLETELY against my will, i splurged on a jacket, two shirts and a pair of pants. ok. maybe Not against my will, but damn, i felt like a Splurgee Bastard. from there, back up to Oxford Circus where Eliz fell crossing the street and, as i see in our quick-summary-notes, Elizabeth's "knee gets ouched". - skinned knees be damn when shopping's involved!!! so we headed off to Muji - - a superstore of little things, tiny containers, cute things.. pencils, stationery, furniture, etc, etc. (to note: Muji visit #1) - walked down through Carnaby, met Brian, Mardi, Matt & went to a semi-swanky-hip vegetarian restaurant, Midred's - stopped by a bar for a drink - and, being as it was 11pm: drinking curfew time in England (I'm still amazed that a people in a country so progressive, and geared towards nightlife, just roll over & accept 11pm as an acceptable time to stop drinking) - we headed 'home'.

...... more tomorrow..? or... the next day...? the next...?
.........soon anyway. I'll finish Pt 2 & Pt 3 within the week, for sure.

K & E - Euro Vacatione' email - Part -2- of 3
Finally getting to part 2... sorry'bout the delay. and sorry for the length of it... pace yourself.. take frequent breaks... stay hydrated.
Tuesday - March 26th(still in London) .... after another breakfast of grease with a side of food, we finalized reservations for the hotel we'd stay at upon our return to London & then set about packing.. and packing... and... where did all these clothes COME from?!?!? - Lunch for two at Paddington station (paid entirely from the change in my pocket at the time. those 1 & 2 pound coins go a long way) followed by the express train to Heathrow and on tooooooo........ AMsterDAM!!!!! from the Amsterdam airport, you have to take an express train in to town, which goes smoothly if you can read dutch and can operate the ticket machines. Since you cant read dutch, you head to one of their polite, kind, compassionate and always helpful ticket agents... where you watch her give the lady in front of you a really durable looking, high quality plastic ticket holder to keep your tickets safe (and can later use at home for BART/MUNI tickets, etc)... after you get your tickets, you ask the lady for one, to which you receive a blank stare. unsure if she heard you, you repeat the question, to which she simply says "no". NOW completely convinced that she thinks you just asked her for sex or money, you ask again since... well... you're asking for a PIECE OF PLASTIC that she just gave someone for FREE..... as if waking from a bad dream she says "no, i can not give you one" - ...Ok... now it's a matter of principle... "but you gave the lady before me one" - "yes, but she bought many tickets" (she had bought maybe 10 tickets, i had bought 4) - "but i really need one... please?" - "i... uhh... i am sorry, no" - "really... please???" - ..... and then she said the words that will forever be burned in my mind... "i really do not see the point of giving you one.... i do not see the point of it" - "how about because i am ASKING YOU NICELY?!?!?" (which, given the rising tone of my voice, slaps me with my own irony) - "NO.. i will not give you one" - "ok... You fugblmnPhhmn STUpi... rrgpHrrd... god DAhhrrrghhh stupi... fugrnmhatethiscountryalreadyGodDah......" etc, etc, etc. - soooo... a quick train shot into town... then thoroughly stupified by the beauty and... well.. Europe-ness of the Central Station area. this is not America. this is not England. this is Europe. about twice as many bicycles as cars, no exageration. the density of the housing (all 5 stories), the water... water everywhere. they weren't lying.. i haven't been tricked, this city IS really a former marshland, the water organized, resituated to serve as much for beauty as for functional transportation arteries. Not to mention real estate. Houseboats line both sides of almost every canal you pass over... passing over, of course... the 2,581 bridges within the city. Gathering our bearings.. slightly.. we hop aboard the # 17 train that'll take us to where we're staying. As we start moving, i begin to wonder if our train is behind schedule.... why..? because the train is HAULING ASS. 30-45mph, on WINDING streets, over bridges, irregardless of pedestrians, cars and gravity. We're going so fast, none of us can accurately call out the TEN TO FOURTEEN SYLLABLE names of the streets we're passing. all of them. every one. impossibly long to pronounce, full of A's and J's and S's and M's and... well... you get the point. Hoping off the train at our stop, we start walking down... Parimaribostraat (see what i mean? i had to turn it into a jingle just to remember it) walking and walking, we dont see the place, only residential housing... one of us knocks on the door of the address that we have & sure enough, it's a residential flat turned into a B&B. interesting. typical "flat" style apartment, nice rooms, nice people. starving, we head into town, have Thai food and walk around the town a bit... Mardi & Matt head back to the B&B & Eliz & I wander about, our jaws dropped at the beauty of the city, thoroughly impressed by the density of people yet remarkable laid back state of being, totally amazed by the efficiency and relative safety of the bloodflow of bicycles, most carrying two people, one of which probably on a cell phone or drinking a beer. Getting late, we head back to the B&B ourselves. Wednesday - March 27thAfter a complete and very UNoily breakfast (do my veins have cholesterol withdrawl?) - we head into the city, and we see (what i had to be told was)... what looked like a drinking fountain, surrounded on 4 sides by a chest high fence.... why? because it wasn't a drinking fountain.. it was. well.. sort of the opposite. yes, right there in public, swing open the gate, walk in & relieve yourself while you chat with a friend locking up their bike or watching the water.... since we didn't do NEARLY enough shopping in London, we head out in search of an Amsterdam H&M (Note: H&M visit # 3? 4?) - getting near lunchtime, we duck into a cheeseshop for some snacks. Feeling brave, adventurous or just stupid, i ask for a few of the different kinds of breaded things behind the window. "Kipberry Brood-JEH" i pronounce to the guy (only later to find out that J's are pronounced as "EEE" sounds... kipberry brooDIE, is what i should have said..... SILLY AMERICANS!!!) - Oh My LORD. OH MY LORD> so good it hurts... and hurts so good. basically, a lightly breaded, baked potato-flour-like skin around some light gouda-like cheese... YUMMY.... or.... YUMJE, if you speak dutch. sooo.... some more shopping about.. a huuuuuge street turned flower market, along a canal (it wasn't high flower season unfortunately, which i hear is bludgeoningly beautiful).... more shopping... a slight pause in a park.... a beverage at Neumark Square... and then we attempt to make reservations at a restaraunt where..... you get in pajamas, get in bed, & they bring you a 5 course meal... sounds cool, ya...? ya, that's what we thought until the guy finished our phone call reservation with.... "you know about our dress code, right...? No...? well it's dress CRAZY SEXY COOL...! DRESS TO IMPRESS!!!" SOOOOO, we called back 10 minutes later & cancelled. ........ after an amazing Italian meal, we headed 'home' for the evening. Thursday - March 28thgonna pick up the pace here a bit. breakfast, Van Gogh Museum.... amazing. Van Gogh & Monet were buddies back in the day (yes, i just said that.. maybe i can make 'em spin in their graves by calling them "canvas pals"...? "paint partners?"...? "oil amigos..?" umm.. ok, i'll stop.) and the museum had 100's of works by them, "bringing to life their tempestuous relationship, set afire with the artistic zest for life that....." ya ya ya... they were testy, emotional, take-everything-personally egomaniacs hell bent on copying the other's work or ridiculing it publically. i wanted to gag on the Hollywood-ness of it all. SILLY ARTISTS!!!!!! having worked up my apetite from such exhausting art absorbtion, and.. being that we had resumed shopping.... M&M located some french fries in a cone... while Eliz & I located... hmm... how best to describe it.... y'know those 50's diners that had a small wall of little cubes & you put money in, open a little door & take your food out...? well this one was a WHOLE WALL with the oposite wall being bar stools and a series of machines to get exact change. Again, being brave or stupid, i tried 4 different things, all of them were... AMAZING! one of which, i had to stand there looking like a dork while i scribbled the name of it in a little book.... KASSOUFFLE' is the name. look up a recipe if ya like... or just try one if ya ever run across it.... soo.. having had Good food... we did a bit more shopping & then decided it was time for F'N horrible food... well, not intentionally of course... Rosie's Cantina... sounds good, right..? if you like your ceviche served in a ketchup/chili-with-beans sauce, it is, i guess. personally, i wanted to slap the name right off the restaraunt. All in all, it wasn't That bad really... we had margaritas, which felt like the most American thing we'd had since leaving the States. alas... since our flight was at 7am the next morning, we headed back to the B&B to pack Friday - March 29thUp at 5:30am [kill me] we ate breakfast [kill me, TOO early!] and watched the sun rise [kill me! the Sun! AAAAAH!!] - waiting for the taxi that never came, we hailed one... a mercedes cab (about 75% of the cabs in Amsterdam were merecedes') & shot off to the airport [kill me!] Whizzing behind us..... the rising sun, a waking city, mirror still canals, a thousand bazillion windmills that we never even saw.... and all the more reason to come back... next installment, London pt 2.... which WILL come to you much sooner than this installment did from the last one..... and really, for REAL this time, i will try to make it shorter, i swear...