Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Playdate for Harper

On Friday Harper and I hopped in a taxi and drove WAY uptown. She had a doggie play date with a Wheaten Terrier 5 month old puppy, belonging to an old high school friend of mine. He lives off of 215th street. I didn't even know there WAS a 215th Street in Manhattan! As we have made these occasional trips into the city from New Hampshire, I would see the sign for the Cross Bronx Expressway after the George Washington Bridge, and think that was the end of Manhattan and the beginning of the Bronx, but it's not. 215th Street is the very northern tip of Manhattan, but it is still city, with lots of apartment buildings, traffic and shops. There is even a subway stop right by his apartment.

I feel kind of silly now, but it did feel like we were driving out of the city and into the country. Once again, New York reminded me of Hong Kong, with the city center that everyone knows about and where all the tourists go, and then the outlying areas that are more quiet and peaceful, but still part of the city.

The taxi dropped us off right by Bob's house and we started walking toward a very nice nearby park. Bob's puppy is SO cute, just a big (40 pounds already) bumbling, rolly-Polly ball of energy. He bounded along excitedly; Harper seemed quite dignified in comparison. We took the dogs to a nearby dog park and let them go.

Their playing styles could not be more different. Teddy bounded around, chasing and wrestling with other young dogs, rolling all over the place with abandon. Harper greeted other dogs curiously, and a bit cautiously. She loves to run, and depending on the other dogs, this can be great, or it can be a little scary. In some bigger dogs she seems to invoke a prey instinct. I don't like it when big dogs chase her, although she is too fast and clever for most of them to catch her, and if an aggressive dog starts getting too close she zips over to where I'm standing or ducks behind a bench or a rock, making her getaway.

The best situation is if there or other terriers for her to play with. Teddy was too young; he just annoyed her and she ignored him for the most part. But soon a Jack Russell entered the dog park and they had a wonderful time chasing each other and running as fast as they could all over the park.

Eventually there were so many dogs at this particular park that some of them were getting into fights so we decided that it was time to leave. It was time for Harper and I to make our way back downtown anyway.

There aren't very many Yellow Cabs available that far uptown, so Bob showed me how to hail a livery cab. They are basically town cars that cruise the areas of the city where the yellow cabs don't go. They don't have meters so you have to negotiate your fare. I knew how much it had cost me to get there, so that wasn't really a problem. But the first livery cab I entered wanted too much money and my haggler's instinct from Hong Kong kicked in. I told him I wouldn't pay that much and got out of the cab.

At first I started walking a bit. I'm not sure what I was thinking. I couldn't take a bus or the subway with Harper, I had to take a cab. And it was WAY too far to walk! I was sort of looking for a yellow cab. There were a few, but none of them were going the right direction and they didn't seem interested in picking up a woman and her little white dog.

Finally I tried hailing another livery cab. The second car was much more accommodating. His English was fairly limited and he didn't know how to get down to the Village, but his price was right and he didn't mind me giving him directions. As we left the cab he said "God bless you lady" so I told him God bless you too!

Monday, December 19, 2011

New York City Part III: The Highline, The Daily Show, and Inverted Umbrellas

On Wednesday, the rain that had started lightly misting Tuesday evening began in ernest. Rain or no rain, lingering cold be dammed, my plan was to go running on the Highline, so off I went.

Wow. Wow! I'd read about the Highline, and thought it sounded neat, an urban rail trail park, winding it's way through Manhattan, but the reality is much better than anything I had fantasized about. I ran the entire thing; it's not very long. It starts in Chelsea, near the corner of Ganstrovoot Street and Washington. Following the old elevated train tracks, it winds along, approximately following 10th Avenue, ending somewhere around 29th street. There are plans to extend it further, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that evolves. But in the meantime the part that is finished is very, very nice. A wooden path meandered through plantings of wild flowers and other native plants. Here and there small trees and benches dot the path. Occasionally the old tracks wander straight through an old building (perhaps a former station?) providing shade, and shelter from the rain, and apparently in the summer a venue for concerts, food carts, and other shopping venders.

I enjoyed my run thoroughly. It's too bad dogs are not allowed on the Highline, but I do understand why. It's just not very big and bouncing labs and frisky poodles could easily overwhelm the space.

By 2 o'clock it was time to begin my quest for getting us into the Daily Show. I had decided that this visit to New York we should try something different. Why not see what it's like to go to a tv show instead of a play for a change? I don't watch that much tv; in fact I don't think I've ever actually watched the Daily show in its entirety, just clips played on Morning Joe, and occassional postings on YouTube or Facebook. But Jon Stewart is clever and funny, and his politics jive with mine, so why not?

I reserved our tickets online, and then read the instructions. Just because you have a ticket doesn't mean you'll necessarily get into the show, cause they overbook. So they tell you to be there at 2 pm, to get a ticket NUMBER, and then come back at 4:30 to pick up your ticket and see the show.

I also read a few blogs about the experience of getting tickets, and found out that just because you are first in line it doesn't necessarily mean you'll get the best seats. They put you wherever they want in the audience, using some mysterious formula of looks age and number of people that want to sit together. So I wanted to get there on time, but not real early or real late.

I arrived at the studio around 2:15 and there was already a long line. It was beginning to rain harder, but fortunately there was an awning to stand underneath. I ended up with tickets number 101 and 102. But now I had to meet Lee somewhere and kill some time until 4:30. We ended up hanging out in a bar across the street from the studio, a very New City City feeling thing to do.

Eventually we got back in line, went through the very extensive security that involved removal of anything metal, including jewelry, and were ushered to what turned out to be two VERY nice seats, right on the aisle, about 4 rows from the front. We could see around the cameras just fine.

We had to sit there waiting for about 30 minutes, as the music got progressively louder. Eventually the comedian that was supposed to warm us up came out. He was very funny, but I found it difficult to get very excited about practicing yelling and clapping as loud as we could. I did appreciate that he explained that our screaming was necessary to the success of the show, but I still resisted. It's one thing to yell at a basketball game...

Anyway, Stewart, when he finally came out was charming and funny and very polished. I was really impressed by his professionalism; his ability to spit out his little segments without a single stumble or gaffe. We even got to see them do the taping for the international edition, and to retake a few things that they wanted to alter slightly. I really enjoyed that part; watching the inner workings of a tv show.

Oh, by the way, the guest was Ralph Fienes.

Before we knew it the show was over, and we were back out on the street, in what was quickly turning into a howling storm. Fortunately the restaurant where we were meeting friends was only a couple of blocks away. Lasilhouette is a modern French restaurant. The food was delicious. I had the fillet and spare ribs, and an outrageous profiterole for dessert. It was more like a giant profiterole sundae, not that I'm complaining, mind you!

After dinner we were able to quickly grab a taxi back to Christopher street. The wind had picked up and the rain was coming down harder, but Harper needed to go potty, so out we went, one more time.

By this time the wind was blowing at a gale force velocity. My umbrella blew inside out and flew away, just like in a cartoon. In fact, umbrellas were blowing all over the place, as party-goers, and sodden dog-walkers scurried along the streets. Harper bravely trotted on, and I doggedly made my way toward the Hudson River Park, where there was enough grass to encourage my country dog to do her business. By the time we got there the rain felt like little needles and the wind was blowing sideways. Fortunately, Harper found an accommodating bush and we made our way home, wet and sleepy. It had been quite a day!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mizzou in the City

On Tuesday Lee went to New Jersey to work and Harper and I stayed by ourselves in the city. The predicted rain had moved in so Harpr was not crazy about going for walks, but I put on her raincoat and told her not to be such a baby. That evening Lee and I went to Madison Square Garden to see Missouri play Villanova in the Jimmy V Classic. It was just so strange that Mizzou happened to be in New York City right when we were there.

I've never been to the Garden. To tell the truth we weren't really sure where it was. But it was very easy to find (as it should be, it's huge). Right next to Penn Station, an easy subway ride away. We found our seats and before too long the game began.

Mizzou has a new coach, since Mike Anderson left for Arkansas. Frank Haith, the former Miami coach, is a big surprise. Many fans were not very excited about the choice that was made when picking our next coach. Miami was a terrible basketball team when Haith became their coach, but he took them from terrible to decent in the 5 or 6 years that he was there. But no final fours or elite eights are in Mr. Haith's resume, so Tiger fans were disappointed and suspicious. But so far this team has really been great. They are undefeated and ranked, and defeated Villanova handily.

Villanova is in Philadelphia, so they had quite a lot of fans there. But Missouri was surprisingly well-represented. I found myself wondering how many of the people surrounding us were former journalism majors.

It was fun cheering for Mizzou, yelling M I Z -Z O U and watching them win. But I missed the band and the full arena screaming for the Tigers. It would be great to go see them play in Columbia again some day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

New York City Part I. apartment in the Village and the 9/11 Memorial

We drove into New York from new Hampshire on December 4th. The drive went very smoothly until the Cross Bronx Expressway when an accident on the Hudson River Parkway slowed traffic to a crawl. Lee employed his best Hong Kong driver techniques, but all the drivers around us were using their New York City mojo, so it wan't as effective as it sometimes is. HK driving means if the nose of my car is ahead of the nose of your car I win, but New York City drivers don't admit defeat that easily. Finally the traffic eased and we made it the rest of the way into Greenwich Village.

We found a parking spot right in front of the apartment, at least for the night. Streets in this area of New York have a complicated system, that involves having to move your car for a couple of hours on certain mornings. We would have to move our car in the morning, but we would worry about that later. First it was time to see where we would be living for the next week.

First surprise, an apartment on the 4th floor, and no elevator! Hey, we're in good shape, but it sure makes you think carefully before you head out for the day. Next surprise, this is a VERY small apartment, and the decor is mid-century modern, i.e. sixties orange and avocado green. But it's clean and very quiet, and right in the middle of the Village, close to the Hudson River, Washington Square, and tons of restaurants.

We take Harper on a short walk over to the dog park in Washington Square. She is happy to be free and delighted to find a few other dogs to play with. But we're hungry so this is a short visit.

We decide to go to Momofuku for dinner. It doesn't require a reservation
And I know Lee will love the food. We sit at the bar and watch a very talented sous chef whip up various dishes. She makes a grilled octopus look simply heavenly, but we have already decided on brisket buns, spicy rice cakes (not your mama's rice cakes, let me tell you), and a miso ramen noodle bowl. We'd like to eat more, but there is simply no room.

We return to the apartment and take Harper for a long walk along the Hudson. She is very happy to see green grass. Although she loves seeing so many dogs and people when we are in the city, she is really a country dog at heart.

Monday was sunny and mild, unseasonably warm for New York in December. I had tickets to visit the 9/11 memorial at 2 pm. The site just opened to the public for the first time on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Up until now I had no desire to visit ground zero. I consider it a gravesite, and it didn't seem right to go just to gawk at a giant hole in the ground. But I read about the design for the memorial in The New Yorker. It sounded very moving and beautiful. They limit the number of people allowed on the site at a time by issuing tickets.

It was an easy subway ride down to the site of the memorial. Once down there it was very crowded. Everyone was standing around, trying to figure out how to get tickets, how to enter the site, taking pictures of the World Trade Center buildings rising against the brilliant blue sky and puffy white clouds.

As former Hong Kongers used to massive crowds, we had no trouble winding our way to the entrance at the appointed time. The security to enter the site is elaborate. We must have gone through at least 5 checkpoints where they scanned our tickets and a security scanning as well. Once inside the memorial a sense of peace and sorrow fills the air, along with the sound of falling water and construction. There are two pools, one in the footprint of each tower. The pools contain a series of two waterfalls, one along the edge of each pool, and a smaller one in the center of each pool. It gives the appearance of an infinite disappearance of water.

Around the edge of each pool are the names of everyone that died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania. It's a very sad experience but it's also healing. I kept thinking about that day over 10 years ago, but also about our visit to New York in the spring of 2001. We had gone to see the statue of liberty, and had walked from Battery Park to Wall Street, and then to the World Trade Center. We went up to the top and gazed at the view, then back down and continued walking north to somewhere in Soho where we met a friend for dinner.

When I first heard that they were planning on building a giant skyscraper at ground zero I was appalled. I couldn't imagine that anyone would want to live or work in a tall building right where the airplanes hit their target. But seeing that building rising against the sky I had a different, almost defiant feeling. Ha, I thought, watch us, we just can't be kept down for long. When that building is complete I'll be happy to go to the top to see the view. Yes I will.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving and a Cold and a Car

I feel like I haven’t had any adventures lately. Poor me! Ever since the marathon I’ve been feeling a little down. I know some of it is the post-race let-down. The cure for that feeling is SUPPOSED to be immediately setting a new goal. After Twin Cities last year I didn’t follow that advice. I was tired and sore and ready for a break. But this year only a week after the marathon I was feeling great, so I signed up for a 5K in Cambridge and started training again. Everything was going great, until a few days before Thanksgiving.

Lee had brought a cold back with him from Asia. Now I have gotten positively smug about illness. Except for occasional bouts of hay fever and a few run-ins with the touristas in Asia, I don’t think I have been sick since we left Missouri. I have attributed this to exercise and supplements and my superior immune system. But what is it they say about pride? Well mine has taken a fall, along with my health. I caught Lee’s cold right before Thanksgiving and for the past week the battle lines have been drawn. I’ve fought back with cough syrup, green tea with honey, antihistamines, and Airbourne. I have tried to continue running, but in the past few days the cold has moved into my chest, which has meant a lack of oxygen and stamina. The 5K in Cambridge is forgotten, and I’m busy feeling sorry for myself and trying to get better.

Thanksgiving was lots of fun, cold or no cold. Last summer when Sarah and I went to Montreal I jokingly suggested that she and Erik host thanksgiving this year and she took me seriously, so off we went to Minneapolis. So did both of our mothers and Daniel; Erik’s mother, grandmother and sister joined us as well. Sarah made an impressive brined turkey. Daniel was afraid she would brine it in the bathtub, but a large bucket worked just fine. 

Sarah and Daniel Show off the Beautiful Bird!
The grandmas made the rolls, I made two pies, and Lee made his famous stuffing. Suzanne, Erik’s mother, brought her family’s rice pudding recipe. This isn’t a dessert; we decided it was a Norwegian version of grits, and it was very good. My mother brought her macaroons, Daniel was in charge of the Bloody Mary’s, and Erik set the table.
Joanne and Hilda Make Rolls

Sarah’s house isn’t very big, and in my imagination it got progressively smaller as Thanksgiving got closer. By the time we boarded the airplane, no more than two people could enter her kitchen at one time and the turkey wouldn’t fit in the oven. So when I actually saw her house again it seemed very spacious, and the large old oven worked perfectly!
A Festive Table and Plenty of Room!

The day after thanksgiving it was time to make Lep cookies. For some reason Joanne and I seemed to be the only ones taking this task very seriously this year. Maybe we were just being too bossy, I don’t know! But thanks to us, and a few other occasional helpers, we made over 300 cookies, spread them all over Sarah’s table on newspaper to cool, and then packed them away in cookie tins for everyone to take home with them. As soon as we got home Lee took all but a small number of the cookies and hid them away from me in the freezer. It’s a good thing too. I can eat my weight in Lep cookies any day!

Shortly after we returned from Minneapolis Lee found an offer online from BMW for 0% APR for two years on any certified pre-owned 2008 model car. He started printing off possible cars for me from all over New England. It was kind of strange. I hadn’t really been thinking about getting another car yet. My Subaru has been very reliable and it’s good in the snow. And yet….lately it had been making me nervous. It’s been noisy for a long time. Last year in fact I took it to the dealer and they replaced the transmission under warranty. But it was still noisy, and seemed to be getting noisier. I was concerned that one day this noisiness was going to turn into something serious. Maybe it would be a good idea to trade it in before that time.

Lee found some nice-looking  328xi 2008 BMW’s at the dealer in Nashua, only 10 miles down the road from Salem. We went to test drive them on Wednesday and I picked up my new car yesterday.

I’ve never owned a BMW before. Lee has always been the BMW nut in our family; I always drove the more reasonably priced family car. Well this one is still a family 4 door sedan with all wheel drive, but it’s very pretty, an “Arctic Blue” exterior, and grey leather interior. It’s got all those strange BMW quirks, with radios and other electronics unlike any other car, so that even with the demo from the dealer before I drove it off the lot, I will still have to sit down with the owner’s manual and go through the mysterious buttons and gadgets it contains. I will also have to watch myself. BMW’s are speedy, and I can go nice and fast in one without realizing it. I wouldn’t mind getting in it right now and zooming down the road, leaving everyone else in my wake.


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