new york at a glance

Things I did not do in New York:

  • Have a drink
  • Visit the Empire State Building
  • See the Statue of Liberty
  • Eat a hot dog
  • See a celebrity
  • Find SoHo
  • Visit the Guggenheim or the Met
  • Finish my book

Things I did in New York:

  • Took a ride in an ambulance and visited the emergency room
  • Napped
  • Wrote
  • Took the subway
  • Walked *everywhere*
  • Traipsed around Central Park with all my luggage
  • Ate fabulous food
  • Went to MoMA
  • Met my friend Anna from the Internet
  • Bought clothes
  • Bought toys
  • Tried pate

eIVreasons not to visit 5th Ave on a Saturdaysunglassespigeonsubway

I had a fabulous time and can’t wait to go back. Although I feel certain that I can skip the hospital the next time around.

buckle up, buckle down

I may be the only person who takes a vacation to write a novel.

To be fair, the damned thing’s about 80% finished already. Well, maybe 75%. The point is, I’ve got verbiage, people, and I’m not afraid to use it.

I started this book (not to be confused with the other three books which are in various states of unfinished-ness on my hard drive, which is not a metaphor, though possibly it should be) around the same time we moved to Portland in 2004. 2004!

It is high time I took steps to get this thing finished, and by “steps” I clearly mean “a five-day trip to New York, where I have never been but always wanted to go.” Because that it totally what any rational person would do, right? Five days sans kid: that’s what I’ve got, so that’s what I’m working with. Also: five days in New York! I am totally bounce-off-the-walls excited, or I would be if I wasn’t working so damned hard, which is half the reason I’m taking this vacation in the first place.

I’ll be documenting the trip like the OCD princess I am, armed with camera, laptop, and BlackBerry. New York is clearly preparing for my arrival by forecasting snow (…) and icy temps, which everyone knows are my absolute favorite things ever (/sarcasm). Who will prevail, and who will freeze to death under the Brooklyn Bridge? Tune in this time next week to watch the madness begin.

decompression? is that in the manual?

I had the right idea on the way down. Sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight to San Fran, I cracked open the laptop and started working on my long-abandoned first novel, which I rediscovered while backing up my old hard drive. Reading through it, my first thought was “Huh – it’s not that bad.” My second was “…and I know what it needs to be better.” I was merrily typing away when my plane boarded, and away went the laptop.

As it turned out, that was the last time I turned on the computer for fun my whole trip.

The trip was, in theory, broken into two parts. My “vacation” schedule was thus:

Saturday
5pm flight lands, 7pm get to SC, have dinner with sister & brother-in-law, pretend I’m not on the verge of collapse due to skipping lunch
7:30pm – 9pm: Oh, I’ve got a little break. I’ll just catch up on some work.
9pm: Dancing at the Dakota, where :cue sympathy: not even one of my friends bothered to stop by and say hello, despite the fact that I’d posted several bulletins saying “I’ll be in town! Come play with me!,” 12am back to Bec’s, where I do a little more work and then go to bed at 2.

Next day:
9am breakfast, work, 11am pedicures, 1pm meetup with Emily and Mia, 5pm dinner with Maggie, 9pm back to Bec’s, 10pm work, 1am sleep.

Monday, though tecnically the first day of the “Business” portion of my trip, I decided to “take some time off.” This seemed somewhat reasonable (given that I hadn’t had any downtime yet) and turned out to be a huge, massive, all-encompassing mistake. Because, see, when I was tooling around Santa Cruz feeling vaguely bereft but pleasantly unencumbered? I could have been working. And if I had been working, I would have at least been closer to being caught up, instead of firing up the laptop Tuesday morning and realizing that I have more work to do than any one person could do in a week…plus 8 hours of conference every day. But I digress. Monday, lovely day, hung out with Maggie and then hung out with Emily and generally felt better than one should feel on a Monday, especially when one’s kid is several hundred miles away. And then, after the lovely Miss Emily got back in her car and I was alone in the city, I realized something I should have thought of weeks ago.

There is only one of me.

Yeah! I know. I was shocked too.

So the me who was going to take it easy and spend my downtime crocheting and watching primetime TV? Out. The me who had grandiose plans of spending my evenings immersed in my writing and finally, finally getting to concentrate on the book for more than an hour at a time? Out. The me who was going to spend the week being gregarious and outgoing and picking the brains of the lecturers? Out. (This one was a real disappointment, because I’d been psyching myself up for weeks. But do you have any idea how much energy it takes for the pathologically introverted to do things like smile and not hide under tables? More energy than I have on any average work day, I can tell you that right now.)

And that left us with the usual me, the one who works like mad during every free second so that I can feel like I’m not a complete waste of space. I so dislike the feeling of being unprofessional and unresponsive that I actually worked during several lectures, flipping manically between taking notes and making intricate modifications to a comp in Photoshop so that I could email it to the client before the end of the day. After at least a few of the sessions, of course, I wanted to talk to the speaker (because his or her presentation had been fascinating) but I was afraid that I’d say something that would make it obvious that I hadn’t been paying adequate attention. Because god forbid I don’t know the answer to every question before I ask it! I bug me.

Naturally this did WONDERS for my already overwhelming sense that I really didn’t belong, given that I’m nowhere near being an expert in anything web-related, and clearly had nothing of any interest to say to anyone. (I scurried quickly back to the hotel after the conference each evening so my cavernous, gaping ignorance wouldn’t embarrass me.)

This, my friends, was my vacation. I missed my kid. I missed my husband. I spent a bunch of money at Sephora. (Okay, that part wasn’t so bad.) And I squandered the opportunity to rub shoulders with people I admire in favor of making myself crazy trying to be three places at once.

I ask you, internets: what the hell is wrong with me?

jiggety jig

(That’s “jiggety jig” in the “home again, home again” sense, not any sort of newfangled rap reference. If you were confused.)

We’ve been home since Saturday afternoon, but the last day and a half was spent laying around in a post-vacation daze. Home seems particularly small and cluttered after six days at Auntie Pep’s spacious abode, but also comforting and familiar. The minute we got into Portland I felt a bizarre sense of calm that couldn’t simply be ascribed to a break in my PMS. I guess that means Santa Cruz isn’t home anymore. Which is okay with me.

When I moved away from California the first time, everything I saw went through the Santa Cruz comparison filter. Sure, this cafe is nice, but it’s no ERC. Lovely view, but it’s no Seabright. I like this bookshop, but – okay, actually, Henderson’s bookstore in Bellingham left Bookshop Santa Cruz in the dust, but that’s about the only thing.

Portland was the first place I’d been that came out on top comparison-wise, so of course we had to move here. Even so, there were things. Salsa, for example. How could any salsa ever be as good as the salsa fresca from Planet Fresh? I’ve spent the last six months craving the salsa from Planet Fresh. The tomatoes, the green onions, the cilantro I always picked out and left in a careful pile at the side of my tray…my mouth watered just thinking about it. I had some on Monday, and it was…not as good as I remembered. I actually wished we’d gone to Baja Fresh. How depressing is that?

My grandiose plans to write thousands of delicious words while other people wrangled my baby were, unsurprisingly, never realized, although I did get to spend some time in the place I always think of when I’m picturing myself writing in a coffee shop: the back porch at Lulu Carpenter’s (which used to be ERC but isn’t, anymore). Ever since I was about 15, I’ve wanted to sit back there with a laptop (or “pen and paper,” as we called it in those days) and churn out pages of novel-related angst. Instead I sat there with my sister-in-law and niece and husband and baby and watched them playing together while Not So and I passed the camera back and forth. Which is like writing, you know, only not. There’s a lot of only not in my world right now. I might need to get that printed on a shirt.

Now we have Christmas shopping and sleep training and laundry and school and holiday parties and birthdays and doctor’s appointments and website building and business wrangling. And that’s just in the next two weeks! I’m glad we went, and I’m glad we’re home. Portland is my hometown now. And I only miss my old hometown a little bit.

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two for one holiday angst

Family and holidays: what could be better? And by better I mean worse. Ha! I kid. Or…do I?

Sunday kicked off a week in sunny Santa Cruz, which both Not So and I call our hometown. In the case of Not So, it’s actually the truth! I did go to high school here (well, not here, but nearby. Same county) so it sort of counts. My sister went to UCSC and instead of fleeing once she was done with college and ready to settle down, she and her husband bought a huge, lovely house and live a huge, lovely life amongst the huge, lovely redwoods. Are you noticing the adjectives? Because that’s the first thing that jumps out when one walks into Auntie Pep’s house: the hugeness of it, and the loveliness, second only to this place is a baby deathtrap OMG. Or maybe that’s just me.

We’ve managed to keep the small child from, in no particular order, electrocuting, drowning, immolating or concussing himself, and I am offering myself a pat on the back for that. Pat, pat. I can’t take all the credit; Not So’s been lovely and amazing, and the aunt and uncle-unit are nuts over the baby. It’s so funny to see my baby sister all gaga over an infant. She’s always been somewhat more career-oriented than maternal, but as far as she’s concerned, Ellison’s the best thing since sliced bread. Which is pretty reasonable, since sliced bread’s got nothing on my kid.

We survived a family dinner with at least 15 guests, if by survived you mean sat upstairs while the baby wailed and refused to take a nap and three generations of relatives clamoured for him to cheer up so they could play with him. Good times, good times. I’m not fond of crowds under the best of circumstances, but add together my mother, my grandmother, and a screaming baby? At least I’m so sleep-deprived that I can’t quite manage a full-fledged anxiety attack, that’s all I’m saying.

Aside from the exciting napping issues, Happy Fun Baby is having the time of his life, running through the hugeness that is the living room, toddling around the loveliness that is the newly-remodeled kitchen. I can only imagine that the return to our miniscule (but cute!) condo will be somewhat anticlimactic for him.

Plus, home will not involve Auntie Pep, who is Happy Fun Baby’s official Favorite Person Anywhere Ever. She fed him ham last night. You wouldn’t think ham would be the way to a baby’s heart, but you’ve obviously never met my baby. They chase each other around, playing hide-and-seek, singing little songs…it is a veritable cornucopia of cuteness.

Being childless (except for the new puppy, which is a lot having a child, assuming you’re the sort of person who’s comfortable leaving your child home all day while you go to work) my sister has time to do things like paint her toenails and shave her legs, which Happy Fun Baby finds fascinating. Each time he sees painted toenails he gets down on the ground to study them, fascinated, and then looks up at me like why can’t you be more like Auntie Pep? To which I respond by putting on a pair of sweats and sulking. Just like when we were kids!

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minibreak

I just finished my Corporate Identity class on Saturday (final grade: A!). I’ve got two weeks before the next class starts, which I am declaring The World’s Shortest Summer Vacation.

My vacation is off to an inauspicious beginning: Not So is sick. He has a cold, poor thing. Do you hear that? That is sympathy. I am sympathetic, because I am a good wife. I am certainly not inwardly irritated because I now have two dependents to coddle, one of whom claimed he would vacuum and clean over the weekend but, inexplicably, did not. (Damn Happy Fun Baby. It’s as though he has no sense of responsibility.)

No, I am filled with sympathy. Being sick sucks. Not So’s upstairs right now, trying to get some rest while propped upright on a mountain of pillows so he doesn’t drown in his own snot. That, folks? That is not a good time. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, especially someone whose help I could use with, for example, the vacuuming and the cleaning of the house.

I feel comparitively footloose and fancy-free, what with the not having a cold and all. I feel, in fact, well enough to go out and play. The fact that I had a playdate scheduled for today would have worked out delightfully, had the baby not begun showing signs of inheriting his father’s Cold of Doom. Here’s a thing you do when you’re a parent: you stay home at the slightest sign of illness so as not to infect other kids, because bringing your sneezing, clinging baby to a public get-together is a definite faux-pas. You stay home and you do things like mopping and washing all the furniture covers to minimize the spread of germs, and then you turn your head, and in the space of that moment your angelic child somehow finds a used tissue (which, hello! Shouldn’t be within reach of the baby anyway!) and puts it in his mouth, despite the fact that you’re running toward him shouting “…Nooooooooo!” in slow motion. You think dear lord children are disgusting and you also think there is no way he’s not getting sick. And your child? He just laughs at you, like duh, mom.

Perhaps I will take a virtual vacation. I’ve got two weeks; where should I go? Since it’s all in my mind (like so many other things) I don’t have any financial or practical constraints. Well, guys? And suggestions?

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although i didn’t speak the language so i was one of “those” tourists

Day One: 4:00 am
Four hours of sleep. Mexico, here we come!

12:00 pm
My feet are so swollen, oh my god. When did I become the type of person whose feet swell? This never happened before I was pregnant. Never.

3:00 pm
I’m so glad my baby isn’t one of the poor kids wailing about the pressure change. So glad he likes his pacifier. Aren’t babies supposed to be hard to travel with? He’s a breeze.

4:00 pm
Dear lord it’s hot. Like breathing under a blanket. I need a nap and some water. And…that’s the line for customs? But it’s so hot! And I need a nap! Oh my god, this is hell.

On that illustrious note, our vacation began. We were spending five days at an all-inclusive resort about an hour out of Cancun, but first we had to, you know, get there.

Day Two: 10:30 am
The baby screamed all. night. long. And then I overslept – stupid time change – and the breakfast buffet is closed. I must eat or I will die. This vacation sucks.

11:00 am
Oh, the grill is open all day. That’s not so bad. And mmm, quesadillas. Who’d have thought of quesadillas for breakfast?

12:00 pm
The pool is divine. And have you seen the ocean?

5:00 pm
This vacation is awesome.

Once we got into the swing of things, the resort rocked. Happy Fun Baby took to the water like a duck to…water. Except without the feathers. And with slightly less quacking. As the days passed, my pasty white skin slowly tanned to a less pasty shade of white. I saw a shimmer in my hair that I originally thought was gray, but as it turned out was simply a blonde strand. Sun! Bleaches hair! Who’d have thunk? Not So and I got to take romantic walks along white sand beaches, listening to the crash of the surf and the wailing of the baby, and then hurried back to the air-conditioned room to drink bottles of water and try to decipher Mexican TV. And at some point I managed to finish not one but two books. Grown-up books. Books with no pictures. I am a party animal.

good book

The ocean was so beautiful it was unreal. I’d never been to the Caribbean before, and the clear turquoise water was amazing. And warm! Oceans should always be warm. I was telling Not So, if the ocean in Santa Cruz had been warm I might have been tempted to take up surfing. And not, for example, have become a pale, moody goth. Just as an example.

So batteries = recharged, and life = good. Cranky Mama’s cranky meter is at an all-time low. Let that be a lesson to you, universe: when the going gets tough, the tough sends me to an all-inclusive resort.