Enjoying the site "Overheard in New York."

Goth guy on cell: You can't divide by infinity! Infinity is a concept, not a number! How many times do I have to tell you that?
-Penn Station

Tall woman on cell: ...there's something I haven't told you too: I've been sleeping with hundreds of women all this time!
-4th Ave. & 10th St.

Guy: Dude, who needs a date when you've got a vagina?
-8th & University

Dumb teen: Hey, look at this! It says "Train for jobs in beeyotch."
Smarter teen: Fool! That word is biotech. Why you gotta be ignorant all your life?
-1 train

Doctor on phone: A drug test? OK, so how much coke did you do? And you wanna know what?
-232 East 20th Street
New York, NY

You get the picture. It's a treasure trove.


Hot-taye Diggs

Poor Blue is very used to this by now, but a former classmate and crush of mine is a famous movie star who has his own TV show, Kevin Hill, and I finally watched it last night. That's right, me, just a step away from celebrity. Think about it. Me....celebrity. Scott Diggs (now Taye Diggs, cleverly derived from Scott-taye) was five years older and never really looked my way, exactly, if you must know the truth, but he was part of the Cool Theater Group in my underdog public arts high school, and we all thought he was a hottie. He was actually rather bookish and kind, nothing like the ripply built "Jamaican" in "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," but whatever. So maybe 15 years ago I was vaguely acquainted with a faint version of the celebrity he is now; I still am just a step away from Hollywood.
R.I.P., Little Office

Throughout my working life I've struggled to get away from the office. In every single job I have pushed and pushed to telecommute, and I've always succeeded, even just for one day a week. The reasons are plenty: I can work when I want, I can be as anti-social as I actually feel, I don't have to wear uncomfortable clothes, I eat less junk food, and in the end, I'm actually more productive. So the job I am in, in which we've all agreed to work from home three days a week, is total bliss. And I wanted even more; when a colleague was awarded 100% telecommuter status a month ago, I was jealous. He was smug and happy as he took down his office calendar, and I wanted exactly what he had.

So yesterday, when my boss sat me down and told me that I would finally be liberated from the office on a full-time basis, I should have been on cloud nine, right? I wasn't. I was teary as I took down my orange Indian cloth wall hanging, packed up my plant and wedding pictures, and gazed around at the exposed beams and 14 foot ceiling. My intern came in to cheer me up. "It's not like it's that great of an office," he said. It's true; I had to buy the wall hanging to cover the cracked plaster, and my only window is in someone else's office, across the hall. When she's gone, I peer through her smudged glass at the hilly landscape. Many afternoons I sat there, wondering, what's my window doing in someone else's office? But it was my first and only single-occupancy office, my own place, and I miss it. I'll still go in, sit there and meet colleagues once a week, but we'll stop paying rent on it, and therefore have a little more breathing room in our budget.

Sure, I'm liberated. But it's because the future of our center is on the line. And that's no way to be liberated. This time, being liberated from an office feels too close to being liberated from a job, which no one wants. I left sadly, dragging the tendrils of my thriving philodendron to the car, wondering with a sad familiarity about my Plan B career. Is this the time to start studying to be a private detective? (That's the job I have in a parallel universe.) Or learn how to become a newspaper columnist? (Another parallel universe.) My intern is leaving Boston to get a Ph.D. in philosophy with a focus on aesthetics; "I always wanted to be one of those people who writes books about art criticism," he says. Maybe I should do that. I definitely want to write books. In the meantime, though, there's a mortgage. This morning, I thumbed through the Cambridge Center for Adult Ed catalogue, reading carefully the descriptions for classes like "Start Your Own Import Business" and "Entrepreneurship."

My husband reminds me that a.) I already have a good career and b.) we have plenty of time to keep fundraising. My boss feels the same way, expecting that we will get enough money for our initiatives to keep going and eventually growing. This is one of those times when I really have to remind myself to live in the pretty-good present and not the awfully-scary-anything-goes future.

In other news, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes? Woah! It just cries out publicity stunt, but maybe I'm too cynical.


Want/Don't Want

I have a memory of an old college boyfriend telling me that he finally understood some of the lyrics behind the Talking Heads song "Don't Worry About the Government."
"It's about moving to a new place and being excited about how unbelievably perfect everything is going to be," he said. "Everything that's old and doesn't work for you can be discarded! It's like being born again!"

I was playing a fun game the other day that relates to this aspect of moving. I call it Want/Don't Want. It's part of the plan for new visions in lodging. When we move, we plan to start nearly from scratch, buying new furniture and appliances over the first few months in the new place. We also want to rethink our wall hangings, comforters, towels, and nearly everything else we have. And we won't stop there! We'll merge finances! Filing systems! Photographs! Mementos! Dreams and hopes! Quirks and neuroses! And we'll only keep the good stuff! I've even wondered if I should toss my old love letters & other treasures buried in the closet for the last three years, although Blue contends they'll make for good writing material on down the line.

Now I walk around the apartment, playing Want/Don't Want. You can try it at home. Just point at something, and gauge your reaction. It's either Want, like the old heavy desk I painted blue and orange a few years back, or Don't Want, like the old heavy couch we bought together for $128 at a time when that was a nice hefty sum, or Think About Later, like my Schlitz lamp filled with shells that Blue isn't especially crazy about. Think About Later is the category that fills the spaces where my Wants and Don't Wants don't exactly align with my husband's. Ah, the old 'two bodies, one marriage' conundrum. So inconvenient! Good thing everything else in the new condo will epitomize organized and meaningful beauty!


Sometimes I ask myself, how do I work from home, day after day, with no one but a small moody cat for company? And then I think about all the time I spend talking out loud to myself, laughing aloud, reading blogs, catching up on gossip, flipping through Yahoo's most-emailed pictures (always sexy women, cute animals and religious or sports oddities, in that order), and sending multiple emails to my husband, and I realize that the answer is that for the most part I don't feel very alone. Web-happy procrastination makes me feel...well, like part of a large, crazy Web family. Awww.

Today's discovery, made while seeking tenants on Craigslist, is something that perhaps everyone else has already discovered: their best-of list. It's lethal if you don't want to waste time. But it is so funny. I like "Hey Cats" but I laughed out loud at "Free Small Unfriendly Hamster." Too much.



Totally obsessed with the name of the government's new food pyramid: My Pyramid. Is this a Microsoft culture, or what? Before My Documents and My Computer, was there anything quite so pandering and falsely empowering? Not that I'm knocking the new pyramid. I'm so impressed that meat doesn't have its own category; instead it's 'Meat & Beans,' with suggestions for non-meat foods. It's like catching a glimpse of a better America. One with no livestock lobbying groups.
Bye-bye, Prez

Tonight I'm going to see Greg Prince, long-time president of Hampshire, bow out of his duties over cocktails at the Harvard faculty club. Should be interesting. As a student, I reflexively despised him, but I'm curious to know what he's like when you're not under his thumb. The new guy steps in, too: obsessed with medieval history and gay. I kind of can't believe he's going to be the new president of Hampshire...Hampshire is nothing if not gay, yes, but medieval? No. Not even a little bit.


Bumper Stickers That Made Me Think Fondly of the Owner

Am I Liberal? Or Just Educated?

I'd Rather Be Here Now

I Think We Met In A Past Life and I Was a Witch Then, Too


Misc. News of the Day

+Britney IS pregnant after all (although I admired her initial denial, when she blogged on her site, "can't the tabloids let someone gain 50 pounds in peace?"...). She ends months of speculation with this announcement, and incites loads of pity. Poor girl. She's just so confused and lonely.

+Still unable to use nose to breathe, but slept without the aid of codeine last night! Am on mend, for sure. Completely spaced out.

+Blue and I were perched last weekend over our favorite pond at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, watching the fish swim in the shallows. Suddenly, we saw a big orange goldfish...then two...then five! They looked an awful lot like our wedding favors. We'd lovingly released our finned friends/wedding favors into this same pond about nine months ago, and cringed later when they seemed to disappear as a cormorant (a fishing bird) became a frequent visitor. Sure, maybe they aren't ours, but they sure look an awful lot like ours, and they looked fat and happy. That's enough for me. The pond just finally thawed a couple weeks ago, so they were thrashing around happily with the carp or bluegills or whomever is in there now. They seemed right at home...or at least a lot more so than than they seemed in the packed feeder tank from which we first bought them for .29 each.

+I love my job so much, but I am so stressed out about our funding status. I heavily dislike relying on foundation whims for my salary. It's freaking me out.

+No more freaking out. Everything looks better when you're off decongestants.


Just What the Neighborhood Needed

A mere two months before we're set to move out, the Cosmo Deluxe Cupcake Bakery has moved in down the block. There's no place to sit down, which is a bummer, but the coffee is excellent, the ice cream is great, and the cupcakes---the chocolate-frosted ones, especially--are sublime. As soon as I have my taste buds back, I'll be their best customer. Imagine! A cupcake bakery! It's almost cruel!

I'm thinking it will help us attract the perfect tenant to take over our lease, however. "Two-bedroom apartment av. July 1st, steps from Cosmo Deluxe Cupcake Bakery."


House of Pain

I've been in physical therapy lately for nagging inflammation in my left knee and right ankle. These problems are a year old and six months old, respectively, and I've been pretty much told to get used to them; one doctor just shrugged and said, "You're an active person," as though this is what I should expect. Sigh. Then I pulled the tricep muscle in my right arm at the gym a few weeks ago, causing agonizing pain that has since worn down to a minor aggravation. Two days before our trip to the desert, I spent the morning at the Media & Technology Charter High School, a great independent high school in downtown Boston. Just as I got there, I reached into my bag for a pen and cut two of my fingers fairly badly on a razor in the backpack that I'd meant to leave at the gym. It took a half an hour to stop the bleeding before I sat in on a class, and later I had to carefully bandage both fingers each morning, leading my husband to remark, "You've got no good limbs."

Despite my various lamenesses, we headed out for our trek in the desert anyway, and everything was fine (except for the high winds in Death Valley, see previous entry). Our return flight was delayed, and we got in around 2am. The next day, my very tired husband was biking home from work when his hand smashed into the rearview mirror of a car, nearly severing a tendon in his finger and eventually sending us both to the ER for a late-night/early morning consult with a hand surgeon. While he was getting stitched up at 2am, I sat in the waiting room for the sixth consecutive hour, fanatically Purelling my hands as the woman across from me wheezed miserably with the worst-looking sinus infection I'd ever seen. We got home at 4am.

I just got back from the doctor for the sinus infection that I caught in the waiting room. All she could do was give me Robitussin with codeine so that I can sleep. It's stressful, especially since this is the first week in a while where I could have focused on important work projects instead of home-buying or mortgages, and I can barely think straight. But it's a virus, she says; it'll pass. "In a week." I just hope the chain stops here.


High Winds, Turtle Rescues and Vegas: An Illustrated Entry
My pictures from the trip are linked to key words!

I just got back from a very long short trip. That is, a short trip packed with so many surprises that it felt long. Which was good. Surprises are what you get when you have no time to plan.

We left on Thursday for Las Vegas, and spent the night in the Wild Wild West Casino and Hotel. We'd wanted to get some local flavor, and we did get it, thanks to the 18-wheeler idling outside our door all night and the vacant-eyed slot players in the lobby. We had a late night at In-and-Out Burger. We were stunned by Vegas, which has an honest-to-god roller coaster in the middle of the city (there might even be two!). It really lived up to the hype. We drove down the strip in our rental car.

On Friday we drove down the Colorado River through Arizona and into Joshua Tree National Park in southern Cal. to visit my sister-in-law and her boyfriend. We saw the desert; felt the 90 degree heat; got tan; and drove down one long straight road after another, ultimately driving through about a thousand butterflies flying across the road. Once we finally arrived, our rental car was like a rolling butterfly graveyard. And we found ourselves longing for trees and grass. People kept saying how "beautiful" Joshua Tree is, but at first I wasn't sure I agreed. It was striking, to be sure, but bare rock and spiny cactus doesn't really make me feel relaxed and invited into the landscape. It was also all very much the same at first; it seemed to me that once you'd seen one slab of granite you'd seen them all.

Still, after hiking through it on Saturday and spending the night there, I came to appreciate the subtleties of Joshua Tree and its environs. The slow, spaced-out, sunbaked, generally annoying people we'd encountered on our drive down there were balanced by my sharp sister-in-law and her boyfriend, both of whom were interns there and as a result, very knowledgeable about the park. We saw lots of lizards, loads of wildflowers and that expanse of sky that only the West can deliver.

At night, we slept under a huge rock shaped like a lizard.

On Sunday morning, we stood on a mountaintop overlooking the San Andreas fault, 3,000 windmills and Palm Springs. I was shocked that the faultline is something you can actually see, a big crack with ridges around it. We left that morning for Death Valley, and we were sad to go. The stillness, the incredible quiet, of Joshua Tree and the rocks, the animals, the sun, the flowers, turned out to be difficult to leave.

We pulled over many times on the drive through the Mojave National Preserve. Once we stopped because we were driving through the middle of a salt lake. We got out and stood on the salt, pooled faintly in water. You forget where your table salt comes from, but it's a rock, too. We stopped for beautiful, fragile, rolling sand dunes, and a long gravel road where we stopped to walk three desert tortoises across the road, all very friendly, all an endangered species. One of them was the friendliest turtle we'd ever seen.

But my favorite moment, and most amazing pull-over, were the moments after we sped over a huge old tortoise at 80 mph. The two-lane road was so busy, with so much traffic at high speeds, and he was balled up in his shell, with motorists dodging him left and right, and putting their wheels on either side of him. "Oh my god!" we yelled. We hadn't hit him, but it was a matter of minutes before someone would. We debated very briefly, Blue made an impressive U-Turn, and I jumped out of the car, and with traffic bearing down I made a beeline for the old man. He saw me coming and retreated further into his shell, but once I was running with him (he was so solid, so heavy, so big) and had him over the ground, his legs and head easily came out and he looked at me, unafraid. I set him down next to a yucca and patted his back. We sped on to Death Valley.

Driving into DV was amazing. We'd seen nothing BUT big sky and sweeping vistas, but this was phenomenal; towering snow-capped mountains, huge plains filled with yellow wildflowers. We saw marbled mountains and vast rock; salt lakes, sand streams and alluvial fans. After a 70-mile drive into the park, we began to see something else; it looked like the mist from Niagara Falls, rising from the middle of the valley up ahead. "Maybe it's a hot springs," I said innocently.

It was, instead, a dust bowl. The dust bowl that was our campground.

We could barely get the car doors open, once we pulled up. I'd never seen winds like that. The palm trees bent over like they do in hurricane footage on television. We ran, with the other campers, from door to wall, no one being able to be out in the dusty wind for long. One employee told us the winds were 70-80 mph, and it wasn't unusual. "It happens sometimes," he said.

With great difficulty, we set up the tent under a beaten desert tree. We considered sleeping in the car, (or not-sleeping in the car, at least) but slept in the tent in the end (well, didn't-sleep in the tent). The wind was bad all night, but it was the other campers who ultimately kept us up. It was crowded, dense, hot, salty, and everything was covered with dust. Maybe even this wouldn't have been so bad, except that there were also no showers.

So, for perhaps obvious reasons, we decided to stay in Las Vegas Monday night before our flight home on Tuesday afternoon. But before we headed out, we hiked a canyon. It was 6 miles, soft gravel underfoot, huge brown rock on either side, and at the end of it, we climbed a precarious path that gave me vertigo, which I'd never had before this trip. It disturbed me. Blue talked me through it, and we were incredibly rewarded to come out the other side, into the "narrows." It was the same as the canyon, but with much tighter walls. I thought of the scene in Star Wars when the trash compactor begins to close in on our heroes. But really, that's not fair; this rock was beautiful, colorful, and wildflowers bloomed in the most surprising places.

That night, we rolled into Vegas hot, dusty, tired, and ready for some r'n'r. So we went all out. We stayed on the Strip, in the black pyramid, the one with a beam of light that can be seen ten miles into space. We had a big dinner. We saw a racy Vegas show (oh my!). We walked the strip. The bedroom was elaborately and tackily Egyptian, but it was also one of the best hotels either of us had ever stayed in. The next morning we swam in the huge outdoor pool, lined with Palm trees.

I have a lot of thoughts on Las Vegas. The main one is that I love it. I'm just glad it's there. I didn't at all expect to like it, but it is what it says it is; in the oddest way, it doesn't lie, and I like visiting it. The place was summed up for me by our first real experience there. It was a Monday night and we were leaving the hotel lobby/casino. The light jangle of slot machines was ever present, and 4-story statues of Egyptian icons towered over us. Lights were dim and the mood was hushed, expectant. We were giggly, disbelieving, dragging our dust-ridden selves to a deluxe room with a huge shower, anticipating a good meal in this crazy place. There were six restaurants just in our hotel!

Two women walked past us, both in their sixties, round, gray-haired, sweet-looking. They both looked like we felt; drawing in their breath a little bit, eyes wide, hands clasped at their sides, like anything could happen. "Well," said one to the other, encouragingly, "we should do it. This is what we're here for, after all." They both hid gleeful smiles.

The next morning, we had the famous buffet, and it was incredibly good. We made one attempt at gambling. I tried to put a dime in the Playboy slot machine, and it didn't work. Then we tried a quarter. It didn't work. We poked it for a minute. Nothing. We trudged on, getting lost in casino after casino during our nearly-24-hour stay in Vegas, and never gambling. There was just too much else to do.

But then twenty minutes before we boarded our flight, our mortgage broker called us, and we locked in a 30-year mortgage at 5.875%. So we made a gamble in Vegas after all.