The Other Side of the Ocean

Thursday, March 31, 2005

It just goes to show how little shame I have left… 

How obsessed are you with the world of blogs? Do you really really want to listen to Dave Edwards on NPR talk about blogging? With the tiny (and oh so absolutely ditsy-stupid) one minute sentence contribution by the author of Ocean? Go ahead. Listen. Click here. [Webster's def. of ditsy: eccentrically silly, giddy, or inane.] I promise you, in real life 1. I don’t quite sound so much like I just got out of bed and am wrestling with a significant hangover; 2. I am way more intelligent (the bar's not set high by my little contribution). But listen anyway, because the Pew analysis that follows the little Wisconsin blogger snippets is quite informative.
posted by nina, 3/31/2005 11:55:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Go ahead, say it out loud: behind (as in, behind every great person…) 

What did I just hear? B-hind. From you and on NPR this afternoon, no less.

When did we, even in clear, standard Walter Cronkite English, start incorporating pronunciations into our speech that are not being taught to the foreign-born (like me)? So that the foreign-born always sound…foreign-born?

I am especially confounded by the “b” words. I had to look up in the dictionary my colleague’s rendition of banal (she says it’s b-A-nal, I say it like b-hind, dropping the first vowel: b'naaaal), because I was confused by the sudden appearance of that A. It turns out that I am correct, b’nal is an accepted alternative, but who cares that I am right, if the world listening to me smiles benevolently and says – “how quaint, she follows the textbook.”

So, as I process all the new subtleties and I b’come like one of you, let me just ask, on b’half of all who have the b’lief that the first vowels are there for a reason, don’t drop them or add them without warning. Otherwise we, who don’t know any better, sound b’zarre as we enunciate our syllables, as the good Webster’s d’rects us, or drop them, not knowing that they ought to be retained. Or is it r’tained?
posted by nina, 3/31/2005 05:55:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Krakow leading the way, continued 

After rhapsodizing about Krakow’s progressive move toward creating a wireless Hot Spot in the Main Square (as well as in a number of other places, such as Kazimierz – the city’s old Jewish neighborhood ) I took a step back and considered the drawbacks (I was assisted in this by an email from Aaron, an American living in Poland).

Indeed, you can bring your laptop, open it up and surf away, right there, amidst flower stalls and groups of school children. True, you need a place to sit. The two or three benches may be unoccupied.

The numerous outdoor cafés! Yes, there are those. But they pose challenges. For one thing, you can’t plug in your laptop anywhere. Thus, it’s at best, an hour’s worth of surfing or writing. (Why do batteries give out so quickly? Why why why can’t they invent a power pack that will keep a computer happily breathing for a whole day?) And there is the weather problem. I just don't see this as a viable option when I travel to Krakow in December.

I am told that if you do take out your laptop, most definitely you will be the only one doing this. And so you will be stared at. Ah well, this in itself can be gratifying. It makes you feel like you are doing something Very Important.

I don’t worry about theft so much, but I do worry about the pigeons. I may be one of the few people around who does not think it’s charming to feed pigeons on St. Marks in Venice and Rynek Glowny in Krakow. I always feel like I want to wash the soles of my shoes when I return from a hike through the Square.

Okay, I’m still shouting yay Krakow from the sidelines, but it’s a quieter shout.
posted by nina, 3/31/2005 04:20:00 AM | link | (0) comments

In my Inbox: an email in support of one of the candidates for the presidency of the State Bar 

He’s really a warm and fuzzy kind of guy:
He plants flowers and shrubs.
He feeds the birds.
He watches reruns of “Leave it to Beaver.”

My kind of man.
(does a blogger have to explain when she is not serious or will the readers catch on?)
posted by nina, 3/31/2005 04:17:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Krakow leading the way 

Not many people know this about Krakow: it is one of the few cities in the world that has created two major Hot-Spot neighborhoods, where you can take your laptop to any café or even outdoor bench and surf away to your heart’s content.

But today’s Krakow newspaper reports that thus far, the project has not had a high success rate: few people take advantage of the wireless option. What was intended as a ploy to generate excitement among both tourists and locals, results, on the average, in fewer than 40 hits per day.

The newspaper blames this on an absence of advertising. Letters to the editor express concern with theft. Petty crime is common in Poland and people feel rather protective of their expensive laptops.

These concerns notwithstanding, I have to say that it thrills me to see Krakow once again take a bold leap into experimenting with new ideas. The city’s main square is one of the most beautiful urban spaces on the planet. Filled with antiquity, with a vibrant city life, where cafés are so numerous that in the summer you cannot tell where one ends and the next begins, Krakow's Square is a place where it would be extraordinarily enjoyable to sit and write (blog, if that’s your preference) on a laptop.

To me, wireless services are yet another way of connecting with others. I spend a good portion of my days traveling alone and having my family and friends farther than I want them to be. To take the time to sit in a spot as supremely beautiful as Krakow and reach out to others through this new way of talking (i.e. email or blogs) is priceless (yes, I know I am hijacking an expression from an overused MasterCard ad campaign -- it fits).

Hats off to you, Krakow, for creating spaces where people can link with the world and share a moment or two, so that ours becomes less and less of a lonely planet.
posted by nina, 3/30/2005 09:27:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Waxing lyrical 

Everyone knows about my special bond with Jason. He may be one of the few men around that has complete power over me. He says run, I run.

In truth, he is not always very talkative and neither am I. Enjoying a quiet hour with him is equally satisfying.

Jason is half my age and he is in a committed relationship. That doesn’t matter. He and I relate in one limited way. Our encounters, for the most part,* are to consider and discuss and eventually deal with the length and color of my hair.

But yesterday, Jason introduced me to something that women the world over have known about for centuries, yet I have never even contemplated: waxing.

It turns out there is a whole subculture of people out there, all dedicated to the idea of waxing portions of their epidermis (beginning with the eyebrows and working their way down) to eliminate all signs of hair in places where you want there to be none.

When Jason says look into waxing, I naturally look into waxing.

I have never thought much about the shape of eyebrows, but as I stared at my fantastically rejuvenated (by Jason, of course) hair yesterday afternoon, I saw the potential there. Waxing ensued.

In Poland, women care about skin. In cities, there are as many cosmetic boutiques (where women come in for facials on a very regular basis) as there are hair salons. I am certain that my friends there would be amused that it took Jason to lead me to contemplate the finer points of waxing away undefined eyebrows.

And part of me just wants to wax and transform all possible surfaces with brittle stubs into peachy smooth terrain. The other part, the rational, unwaxed-for-51-years part, says I have strayed into a world that I don’t fully comprehend, where women think nothing of spending $100 for smattering mud, salt or seaweed on their faces.

Still, Jason was right. Of course. A pair of waxed brows makes more of a statement. The frown becomes more pronounced, the raised brow has more height and depth to it.

The buck stops there though. For now. Okay Jason?

* I admit that I have also been known to give him travel advice. We've exchanged emails on Paris hotels, etc. He looks after my hair, I pass on my views on Michelin rankings.
posted by nina, 3/30/2005 08:28:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

From summers in the deep Polish countryside to hot days on crowded New York beaches: didn’t I notice that suddenly there were people around me? 

Is it the summer-like weather that makes me ask this question, or is it that, upon returning home to Madison, I became curious about photos from New York taken some forty-plus years ago? Here is the issue: at what age should children wear clothes suited to their gender requirements?

Because I came across several photos that I was tempted to post – thematically they fit into my New York musings about Coney Island, or even about Bulgaria (under the banner: I survived the flight to Sofia and here I am to prove it).

The problem is that in the vast majority of my Coney snaps and also on the Bulgarian beaches, I seem to have forgotten that girl-swimsuits have a top part to them. My sister, my senior by a mere one year, is jumping waves in a nice little suit with a ruffled skirt and a tight string bringing up the top part firmly all the way to her neck, and I am running around in some ratty underpants, enjoying the splash of water, in complete, immodest oblivion to my surroundings. On Coney Island beach, no less, with a crowd of several million around me.

True, I was only seven (six in Bulgaria) and so scientifically speaking, there was no reason to run a halter top to my neck. And I cannot imagine this was the work of my mother who had a habit of dressing her daughters in identical clothing, on the same days, up until the day my sister threatened to not leave the house if she had to look like me. (It was a fifties dressing thing I guess.)

I could print the photo and add a painted-in red bar in the place that matters, but that only draws attention to the embarrassing truth: I seem to have enjoyed having skimpy attire. Either that or I let the waves wash away that band of polka-dot fabric that should have matched the polka-dot bottom I seem to have worn that day.

No Coney photo then. Nor Zlote Piaski in Bulgaria. Ocean feels like maybe little Nina should have been a little less of a free spirit.
posted by nina, 3/29/2005 06:51:00 PM | link | (0) comments

End of break 

It stopped being fun three flights ago, in Colorado: the sitting on the airport floor near the one plug (for the computer) within ten miles of the gate, the so called bad-weather delays, the crowds, ill-tempered and ill-mannered, the babies who want you to smile at them even though you want to be far far far away from them in seat assignment, the cab drivers who do not have change for a ten thereby commanding a tip in excess of 40%, all our bulging suitcases of things, irrelevant things – if they fell off the plane over Lake Erie, who would miss them?I am suddenly not a fan of the tedious process of getting myself from one place to another.

The above was written at LaGuradia where I waited for many many hours for my NW flight to Madison, connecting in Detroit. I’m home now and I want to put a more positive spin on things. No one likes a whiner.

DAMN IT! Why is the flight to Detroit delayed two hours? And why are there no seats available to Madison on any other flight today? I teach tomorrow (or: I have a guest coming to class tomorrow and I HAVE to be there), help me out here, Northwest!

La Guardia is one crappy airport. I admit it: I don’t really enjoy sitting on the floor, hearing some raspy CNN station recount the Schiavo story over and over and over again. I am well aware of what was at issue and where we’re at now. Leave me alone, I do not want a replay of it all.

I fly a lot. I mean, a beastly amount. But I can confidently say that the flight from NY to Detroit today ranked among the top five in terms of horrible turbulence. I think my maiden voyage abroad, from Warsaw to Sofia in 1959 was worse, but this one may come in as a close second. The flight attendants were ordered by the captain to sit tightly buckled for the entire duration of the flight. That one dip right in the middle was grounds for a lawsuit. Though I appreciated the captain’s words reassuring everyone that all the planes passing through New England were screaming at the air traffic controllers to get them out of the swirling air current mess. Our plane went up to 38,000 feet and still could not shake the storms.

Remarkably, I made my connection in Detroit (naturally; the flight to Madison was delayed, even though the entire Midwest is under a canopy of calm clear skies). So Mr. Pilot: explain why, in these perfect conditions, where you could see the Madison runway all the way from Milwaukee, why did you miss it? And abort the landing at the very last second?? I have lived through about a half dozen aborted landings in my life, but NEVER one this close.

Yes, of course, Northwest lost my suitcase. They have no idea where it is.

No, it does not end there: the only cab I could get was one of those communal ones. They are the biggest scam in town. You stop at all these horribly distant places, take forever to arrive at your destination and you still pay pretty much full fare. And you have to listen to everyone’s story. Because everyone gets all friendly-like and chatty. Not me. I was in no mood for reviewing my spring break for the lot of them. You want to know, talk to me tomorrow, or read about it on the blog.

So here I am, back in Madison, with no suitcase, worse, no sign of life in this huge empty house. Wee. Hoo.
posted by nina, 3/29/2005 12:56:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, March 28, 2005

New York break: don’t know when I’ll be back again… 

When I was a kid and leaving a city like New York, I never thought about when I would be returning. Even when I left it "for good," (not really, but I should have believed it) I looked more at the place where I was next going, than at the place from which I was bailing out.

I’m leaving the city in the rain. A March rain – wet, trashy, sticky, cold, the kind that will cling to whatever you expose to it – coat, face, shoe.

When I was very young here, in New York, I never noticed the rain.

Late last night, the train pulled into Grand Central around midnight. It had been sunny in Connecticut. It was raining in the city. The train was crowded. It is always crowded. Who is returning on a Sunday night to the city by train?

Heads bent low, gray masses, pushing toward the exit, like in the movies: dark times, people moving rapidly and purposefully, pushing their belongings onto a train, leaving troubled cities. Only here, they are returning to a city, a closed up for the night city, where it’s damp, dark, with no welcoming noises, no bright flashing lights at all, just a few cabs pulling up.

And still, these images notwithstanding, I love trains now as much as I did forty years ago.

Mondays in New York are especially brutal. Museums close, businesses open for another week of work – who can be smitten with a Monday? Good Monday morning! That’s our Madison weather man, faking it every week. Sorry, Charlie, can’t trust that day
posted by nina, 3/28/2005 11:45:00 AM | link | (0) comments
March Monday in NYC: week-end trash, wet dog, cold owner... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/28/2005 11:44:51 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, March 27, 2005

New York break: ...and you'll find that you're in the rotogravure (or blog) 

An Easter parade? Of sorts. More like very many people walking. I did not know that this really took place: along Fifth Avenue, in front of St. Patrick's.
posted by nina, 3/27/2005 11:30:00 PM | link | (0) comments
Hurry up, little one, we're going to see some cool Easter bonnets, just like yours... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/27/2005 11:29:59 PM | link | (0) comments
This is February and we're at the Mardi Gras, right? No??  Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/27/2005 11:14:33 PM | link | (0) comments
Don't mess with my girl, I mean guy, I mean... whatever. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/27/2005 11:09:09 PM | link | (0) comments
Step aside, cat-in-the-hat. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/27/2005 11:04:23 PM | link | (0) comments
It's all in the pearls... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/27/2005 11:01:04 PM | link | (0) comments
Dogs with hats? strange world... Men with baskets -- now that makes sense. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/27/2005 10:57:20 PM | link | (0) comments

New York break: the Cloisters, 2005 

Exactly forty years have passed since I last visited the Cloisters in New York. To the month.
I do believe the Cloisters contain the finest pieces of Medieval European art on this side of the Ocean. But that’s not why I went there – not this day, not forty years ago.

On a bluff, overlooking the Hudson River Valley, they are magnificent.

I never understood, when I was little and dragged there by my parents, that the Cloisters were real – that the columns and the art within were brought over from Europe.

I remember going there in my childhood on the off-Sundays: when my parents hadn’t the will to go elsewhere (Bear Mountain in New Jersey! Miniature golf! Coney Island! Please, not the Cloisters!).

My last visit was when I wasn’t quite twelve. My mother’s closest friend in New York was dying of lung cancer and my mother had gone to see her one last time – to say good-bye. Afterwards, we went to the Cloisters.

My mother wore sunglasses frequently (she liked to imitate Jacqueline Kennedy in this) and so it was not unusual to see her hidden behind the dark lenses.

But that Sunday, she was also unreachable. Baricaded in her own grief, she was unavailable. I have pictures of her then – I always carried my little Kodak with me – and even those little snapshots demonstrate this side of her that I was only then beginning to understand: when tragedy struck, she accepted no consolation.

Exactly fifteen years later, again in spring, after freshly moving to Madison, my own good friend died of cancer. I saw it coming: soon after we became close, she said to me: I did my research, I will be dead within a year. She was.

The Cloisters are the most peaceful spot in all of New York, of that I am certain. I went there yesterday morning, the day before Easter. I went alone, but I was not as alone as on the day when my mother drew boundaries around herself or when my friend faded away. There are good and not so good ways of being alone.

To my Ocean community of family, friends, bloggers and readers -- if you celebrate Easter, have a happy one. And in any event, may we all stay happily connected to each other, in the many good ways available to us.
posted by nina, 3/27/2005 06:15:00 AM | link | (0) comments
Finding spring joy, in a Cloister courtyard Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/27/2005 06:14:07 AM | link | (0) comments
in her other hand, a bird... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/27/2005 06:11:01 AM | link | (0) comments
the Cloisters on the Hudson Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/27/2005 06:08:09 AM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, March 26, 2005

New York break 

March 26th, Central Park:
posted by nina, 3/26/2005 07:57:00 PM | link | (0) comments
one day snow, the next -- these: Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/26/2005 07:54:00 PM | link | (0) comments

New York break: next time, do your research, kid 

I mentioned in my previous post the invitation I got to join a couple of journalists* on their hike this afternoon around the jazz hot spots of Harlem.

I have actually not a thing to say about the walk.

Oh, fine, I will bravely post on, though I’ll limit myself to just four points:

1. It is remarkable (albeit depressing) how little I know about jazz (after the conversation moves beyond Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Dizzie Galespie, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dinah Washington, Pearl Bailey and Benny Goodman, I’m out of it);

2. It is remarkable (and again, depressing) how little is left of the jazz scene in Harlem (the Cotton Club? The Paradise? The Savoy Ballroom? Rhythm Club? Mother Shepherd’s? – all gone, without even a single plaque to commemorate them; no wonder I could not find them on my own);

3. It is remarkable how much territory I had already covered here during my solo trek last week (in a state of jazz ignorance and in hellish weather conditions, true, but with time to take out the camera and shoot; today I was totally traumatized by having jazz journalists with me and so I kept my camera, for the most part, in its case, as I mumbled things like “that’s okay…” each time someone asked me if I’d like to take a minute for some camera work);

4. It is remarkable how beautiful the music is of the people whose work I don’t know at all (I was given a handful of CDs, I’m sure out of benevolent compassion for my state of almost complete lack of knowledge about almost everything).

Just two photos then: one of a row of beautiful houses that I had somehow missed last week, and the other of the Lenox Lounge – one of the few spots that is still up and running.

* One of the journalists, Paul Blair, does (as a hobby) walking tours with a jazz focus in and around the city. If you’re ever in NY and want to join his groups, look up his operation at The guy knows a hell of a lot about jazz.
posted by nina, 3/26/2005 05:30:00 PM | link | (0) comments
A surprisingly well preserved row of central Harlem brownstones, with balustrades still in tact. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/26/2005 05:25:07 PM | link | (0) comments
Lenox Lounge, with one of the journalists peering in. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/26/2005 05:18:33 PM | link | (0) comments

New York break: hanging with the big-time boys 

When I was twelve I had an autograph book. Every girl in my class (I was in New York then) had an autograph book. We wrote little messages about how we’d be each others’ friend forever. Boys wrote little messages about how great they were.

On the title page of the book you had to write certain things about yourself, including what job you’d eventually like to hold. I put down “journalist.”

I don’t know why I wrote that. I had the label in class of being “good in math.” I didn’t especially like my English teacher. She had milk-breath. I read no Nancy Drew type books about women reporters. In fact, I’m not sure women were very visible in the 1960s world of newspapers, were they? Yet, in my mind, it was clear as anything: I wanted to be a reporter.

Moving back to Poland the next year put a lid on that career choice. Journalists, lawyers and cops – all ratty jobs for the unimaginative, the corrupt, the apologists.

And now, here I am, almost thirty years later -- a blogging member of the legal profession. Ocean is like this fantasy bubble where I can pretend that I have something that resembles a column, with a handful of readers who actually glance at the first sentence of each paragraph (just like in reading news stories).

Today, my circle is complete, because I actually get to hang with my heroes – a handful of reporters and photographers. I have Ocean and the Net to thank for this. I am set to spend the afternoon roaming the upper blocks of Manhattan with people who are professionally documenting life and the music scene of Harlem. I couldn’t be happier.

[What do I wear?? A black turtle neck and washed out jeans? Will they make fun of my dinky little camera? Of my yellow and navy note pad?]

Tune in later.
posted by nina, 3/26/2005 07:06:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, March 25, 2005

New Haven break: the other side of whatever 

At Atticus books, they claim that March is “umbrella month.” Makes sense. Tends to be wet now. The window display pulls together books with umbrellas on covers.

Which month is railroad track month? I’m on the Metro North now and so I cannot Google this important question, but I am curious.

This morning, I walked over to Wooster Square, which is on the other side of the tracks from Yale. I am interested in things that are “on the other side” – of oceans, tracks – it has implications about how you regard yourself.

Wooster Square is the Italian enclave of New Haven (see photos below). Yalies cross the tracks for a slice of Pepe’s (that’s right, Mr. know-all-about-pizza, it’s Pepe’s, not Sally’s). I cross the tracks for the cookies and the houses (Pepe’s lines are so long!).

The cookie store was closed this morning. My images of tiny Italian confections had to be pushed aside (replaced by a cake slice from Claire’s – see photo below). The streets were empty and no one was buying the Easter bunnies casually displayed in front of a store.

But there is something very reassuring about crossing these New Haven tracks and placing yourself in a neighborhood where eateries and shops have signs indicating a long, if not always prosperous, existence. You leave behind a university-focused set of blocks and enter a neighborhood. Crossing railroad tracks (and oceans) can displace you or place you. They are like oceans, only a hell of a lot more narrow.
posted by nina, 3/25/2005 04:25:00 PM | link | (0) comments
There's no argument: the best thin crust pie is at Pepe's Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/25/2005 04:20:44 PM | link | (0) comments
bunnies for sale Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/25/2005 04:18:59 PM | link | (0) comments
very red white and green Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/25/2005 04:18:00 PM | link | (0) comments
a Wooster house Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/25/2005 04:16:39 PM | link | (0) comments
from Claire's: a delicious alternative (blueberry pound cake) Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/25/2005 04:14:54 PM | link | (0) comments

New Haven break: Bright college years with pleasure rife, the shortest, gladdest years of life… 

Parents have a way of labeling their children, weighing them down with the burden of their own impressions – ones that you either cannot live up to or are desperate to get rid of. I had both. Their “sunshine” thing was just plain wrong and I proceeded to spend much of my adolescence trying to disprove it. Unfortunately, my parents hardly noticed, being themselves then firmly ensconced in an anti-sunshine phase of life.

The other one – “meet our daughter, she is the perpetual student!” was a blatant apology for my academic indecisiveness. They were not saying – meet Nina, always the learner. They were saying – meet Nina she will never get out of the classroom, ever ever; we’ve basically given up on the idea that she would actually be done with pursuing an academic degree of some sort.

I thought that was unfair for reasons I do not want to go into now. Ocean has long renounced the label of “a blog where one relives one’s grievances against one’s parents.”

But there was a grain of truth in both labels: I was (am) (on the surface) as cheerful as they come. And I do seem addicted to adding fields of interest. I don’t drop them so much as I add on others. A friend told me yesterday about a dissertation being written on the topic of Venetian art and I thought – now that sounds like something I would like to write, even though my knowledge of Venetian art is limited to what I read in guide books. Not worthy of dissertator status, of that I am sure.

In part, I do admit, I simply love universities. I pass Hunter College (part of the NY City College system) almost daily when I am in New York and I get a thrill seeing students pile into the urban halls, plastered with notices of lectures, events, apartments to sublet. The Jagiellonian in Krakow is equally wondrous. I could do the Copernicus tour each time I am in Krakow and each time I will be awed. Yale – say no more. I choke at their alma mater song and it’s not even my song (see lyrics in title of post).

I’m in New Haven for one more day (Brooklyn visit has been moved to another day – keep checking!), as a chance meeting with a law prof forced an extended further meeting today. But I am secretly glad I am part of campus life for just a few more hours.

True, this morning, as I walked up and down New Haven, looking at the beautiful play of a morning sun on the towers that dot the campus, I was very much alone. What academic gets up at dawn these days? But it was a lovely walk, invigorating and inspiring, so that I indeed could imagine myself as a happy student again. This, in turn, lead me to conclude that my parents, in their infinite ignorance about their kids, nonetheless did recognize within me these two strands that are always threatening to disturb my firmly engrained Eastern European angst: I can wake up buoyed by a sunny day and I am indeed deeply in love with the unreal world of academia.
posted by nina, 3/25/2005 07:09:00 AM | link | (0) comments
window whimsy at Yale Law School Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/25/2005 06:54:41 AM | link | (0) comments
in the earliest light... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/25/2005 06:52:38 AM | link | (0) comments
A student at Starbucks, at dawn: pulling an all-nighter or leading the life of a secret blogger? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/25/2005 06:49:18 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Take note: a modest suggestion, humbly stated 

If you like Ocean, do click here and cast your vote in support of it. Ocean has indeed been nominated (it's one of ten) in the blog contest sponsored by MKEonline and though I’m not in it for the win (really truly), I would be a tiny bit traumatized if I collected only ten votes -- from my immediate family and closest friends who feel duty bound to register their approval (they’d vote if I wrote "padooooka" each day ten times and left it at that).

Thank you!
posted by nina, 3/24/2005 01:10:00 PM | link | (0) comments

New Haven break: Question: Why is a Wisconsin law professor sitting in on a Yale Law School class? 

Answer: To get to the other side.

Really. How else am I supposed to understand the “student perspective” (on computer use, boredom, tension, etc.) if I am never on the side of the audience? ...If I have lectured for more than fifteen years, but have never sat amidst the students, taking notes on my computer?

One objection raised by faculty who conduct classes in this Internet-driven climate is that flashing screens are a distraction to those (few? many?) who are paying attention.

I am simul-blogging this class, trying hard to have my screen remain as dull as possible. I want to blend! Be part of the pannelled walls! The room is full and every single person is using a computer. A few are, indeed, reading the NYT (though he is talking about the Schiavo case, so the NYT is not irrelevant), a few are emailing. But he’s pacing, moving into the room. Interesting.

New worries for the connected generation: did I remember to mute the volume on the computer? To turn off the cell? Did you know that a NY museum will fine you $50 if your cell phone goes off on its premises?

Oh dear, why does my computer give out occasional puffs, as if it’s revving up for something big, pushing itself to make that extra leap, then giving up? No one else’s does that! I am learning something about the age of my little Dell. And my age as well: dear prof, you are mumbling the ends of sentences. Keep your energy ‘til the end: the last words are not mere shadows of the rest.

Oh! He’s taking a five minute break… says he has something in his eye. Maybe he’s crying?? Everyone of us has had this happen: a lecture must be delivered, even though our emotional world is a complete bloody mess: we enter class and we push ourselves to be in control and we can barely make it until the end. He does seem sad...

And now I am sweating for him, for myself as the interloper, and for the students who are on call. I’m looking at the clock. It’s tough to be in the middle. Next week I’m at the podium again. Nice and safe, with my notes and the seating chart.
posted by nina, 3/24/2005 01:05:00 PM | link | (0) comments
Welcome to Yale; have a seat: spring has come to Old Campus. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/24/2005 01:03:02 PM | link | (0) comments
this is the last of it, right? right?? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/24/2005 01:01:44 PM | link | (0) comments
a snow cap on a bike seat says it all... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/24/2005 12:49:49 PM | link | (0) comments

New York: Louise's on a wet day 

I cross the street and finally I see it: a diner that is open. I have been walking for hours, past blocks and blocks of closed and boarded up houses and stores, barber shops without customers, funeral homes – lots of funeral homes, and every once in a while a grocer with Coors beer flags flapping in the strong gusts of wind. Every square inch of me is saturated with wet snow. And then, on the corner of 121st and Lennox, I see Louise’s.

This post is about nothing at all. Because nothing took place there, I saw nothing of note, heard not a whole lot, ate little, talked less. And yet, it may have been my favorite half hour of the day.

I walk in. Shut that goddam door! --shouts a patron, seated on a stool at the counter. Ten stools, three tables, that’s it.

Sorry, I say and I close the door. I didn’t know that it didn’t swing shut.

It’s open, isn’t it?
You’re right. It’s open. And now it’s shut.

From the woman behind the counter: It’s dinner time now. (at 1 pm?) Here, we have these. I am shown a sheet with a list of hearty dishes, all below $10. Way below $10.

Hmm. I was thinking more like a cup of soup.

No soup today. (Bad timing. Today seems like a soup day if ever there was one.)

Okay, just tea then. I get my tea. The news is on the TV. One of Louise’s crew is eating eggs, sausages and pancakes. The others are sitting, watching – first me, then the TV. Finally, one says: would you like something with that tea?

Like what?

We have cornbread.

I’d like that.
She (Louise? Probably not. Why do I think there hasn't been a Louise around for years...) smears butter over two pieces (Okay! That’s enough, thanks! – I say, and then I catch myself. Maybe it tastes great with lots of butter). She grills them until they’re good and crisp.

Want jelly on that?
Is it better that way?
Lay it on.

The cake under that dome, it’s home made?
It is.

Horrible weather. Came as a surprise, didn’t it?
Yes, it sure did.

The one decoration is a big poster describing what to do if a customer chokes.

The first patron leaves having ordered nothing, a second comes in, sits down next to me, orders toast and lemonade. He stares at me taking my picture of a cup of tea. [Sometimes blogging is impossible to explain and so I offer no explanation.]

I hate to leave. It’s so warm – the kind of place you can doze off in. I watch the weather on the grainy TV screen. More snow-sleet-rain. Check please. I look at my total for the tea, cornbread with butter and jam: $1.45.

I’m energized. I take on the next several dozen blocks of my Harlem walk
posted by nina, 3/24/2005 05:10:00 AM | link | (0) comments
Louise's: open and warm. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/24/2005 05:05:41 AM | link | (0) comments
A chocking poster, a dreamy cake, and a sensible alternative. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/24/2005 05:02:40 AM | link | (0) comments
Several streets down from Louise's Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/24/2005 04:39:19 AM | link | (0) comments
A block that shows off the great potential of these buildings. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/24/2005 04:32:52 AM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

New York break: one hundred streets of fortitude 

I sit in my chair
And filled with despair
There’s no one could be so sad
With gloom everywhereI sit and I stare
I know that I’ll soon go mad…

[Billie Holiday, Solitude]

Rain, sleet, snow, then a combination of the three. New York, imitating a Wisconsin spring. Thanks, I feel so at home.

No, wait! You’re reading Ocean, written by a blogger made of hearty Polish peasant stock (with strains of gypsy, I am told). I’m out. Billie pushed me out the door, straight into Harlem, where she herself once crooned.

[Here I have to express deep gratitude to Paul Blair, NY jazz journalist who chatted with me for some time this morning about Harlem. Invaluable! For more on Paul, tune in on Friday – he and I are taking a walk through his home turf – Brooklyn.]

The thing is, I want to check out the entire Harlem neighborhood and that place is monstrously big. Indeed, I got off the subway at 168th and Broadway and I honestly did walk more than 100 blocks, this way and that. I’m cold. Frozen, in fact. I’m tired. I saw so much. But I did not see enough.

A great deal has been written about the gentrification of Harlem, about Bill Clinton’s digs there, about 125th street, but are we all on the same page about this? Has Harlem changed that much?

From my walk, I would say not as much as it could have, should have. West Harlem, upwards of 140th, the little Dominica of New York, is significantly disadvantaged. The Black central Harlem around Strivers’ Row (so named because it was, even 100 years ago, a place for the socially and professionally upwardly mobile) has signs of rebirth, but the renovated row houses are completely surrounded by blocks of closed storefronts and abandoned buildings in need of repair. Jungle Alley and Marcus Garvey Park are hangouts – of the type where you don’t want to hang out for long and especially not after dark.

And yet, Harlem still seems alive and pushing ahead, in spite of it all. Art and culture thrived here in the 20s and 30s, even though the anticipated economic rebirth never took off then. The brownstones, some of the most beautiful in the city, were never occupied by prosperous owners. Instead, Black families squeezed out of other New York districts, moved here, rented at inflated prices, and stayed, and with them stayed the music and the clubs and the art. All are evident. It’s a kickin’ neighborhood!

The pictures below are the Harlem that I want to see more of. It is the boom rather than the bust (with an occasional photographic digression). It is the hope, not hype. [The photos follow the geographic progression of my walk – from 168th down to the northern tip of Central Park. Adjust the quality, please, for the fact that it was raining-snowing-sleeting and the wind was blowing me up to the rooftops, along with the goddam umbrella, the bag, the camera and my super-sized scarf, frantically protecting me from the horrible weather.]
posted by nina, 3/23/2005 07:52:00 PM | link | (0) comments
Harlem: Washington Heights: Sylvan Terrace: row houses dating back to 1882 and looking pretty much as they did then. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/23/2005 07:43:22 PM | link | (0) comments
In the heart of Little Dominica and the Cuban district of Harlem: the shining stars, the houses that are bursting with color. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/23/2005 07:38:55 PM | link | (0) comments
North and west of Sugar Hill: the ubiquitous corner grocery store and the lingering patron...  Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/23/2005 07:34:08 PM | link | (0) comments
Heritage Heights: in my opinion, the grandest of the Harlem homes. Rented in the past, but showing signs of a changeover. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/23/2005 07:30:38 PM | link | (0) comments
Strivers' Row: 3 blocks, for the young and ambitious (that was the plan back in 1891; its time may have come). Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/23/2005 07:27:19 PM | link | (0) comments
Central Harlem: Mount Morris Park District. Stunning brownstones waiting for renovation. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/23/2005 07:22:58 PM | link | (0) comments
Cornbread and tea at Louise's. This place saved me. A separate post on Louise's will follow. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/23/2005 07:19:13 PM | link | (0) comments
Central Harlem: the commercial side. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/23/2005 07:16:37 PM | link | (0) comments
Central Harlem: a mural tribute to a heroine whom I did not recognize by name; if you study it carefully you'll see the imagery of hope. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/23/2005 07:14:22 PM | link | (0) comments

New York break: subway spit storms and chicken bones 

Yesterday’s ride to Brighton and Coney Island took 1 hour and 10 minutes. Going there, the train stopped repeatedly, waiting for clearance. The cars were nearly empty and sitting there in the dark long tunnels, waiting for the lurch that would mean movement at last, tried my patience, though others sat listlessly, impervious to the delay, to the silence of waiting.

Three guys got on at a Brooklyn stop. They were immersed in a spitball (through straws) fight. In the almost empty car, they could sit at a distance from each other and make the soppy crumbled balls fly high over to the far corners of the train. Watching them litter the car, so that the wet little mounds would adhere to seats and walls, I felt the overwhelming desire to tell them to cut it out, and in fact – to clean up the mess. Of course I didn’t, not because I felt threatened – the chances of these particular thugs beating me down were, after all, small, but because I knew they would not listen. There was a moment where I thought of doing it anyway, just for shock value (they surely would recoil), but then decided to simply move myself further out of their range with what I thought was a great display of indignation (I'm sure this only fueled their spit).

I sat at one end, across from a guy who was in workman’s (construction?) clothing, reading Oggi (Italian-American?). He was equally disgusted.

“That big guy is the worst” he told me. “I was a kid once, I got into trouble, but this – this beats the hell out of my pranks.” I tried to imagine if a prank could be smaller than spit balls and still be called a prank.

And the spitballs mounted. More passengers got on, not knowing that they were entering a battle zone. I could not stand the image of sitting in that spit waste, but I watched anyway. It took another group of (high school?) students to finally distract me. Their chatter about that “bitch girl” who “did what she f******* pleased” was riveting enough to draw me away from the speckles of spit bullets.

Besides, by now, my senses were being assailed in other ways as a woman took out (from a dirty plastic bag) a box of Popeye chicken and chewed her way around the thigh bone. She left the bag of chicken remains on the seat, not too far from the spit mess. Others got on, sat down, got off, not knowing, locked in their own conversations and thoughts about whatever destination they were heading for.

My Oggi man got off with a friendly wave at me and somehow I felt the bond of riding out a spit storm with him. That kind of momentary connection with a stranger happens on trains and subways.
posted by nina, 3/23/2005 06:43:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

New York break: or, break from New York 

Where am I?
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:56:00 PM | link | (0) comments
this place once seemed so huge to me... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:54:54 PM | link | (0) comments
Correct. The last subway stop on the F line puts me in Coney Island. Home of the first Nathan’s hotdog and of the original Cyclone rollercoaster. I came here occasionally as a kid, on the hot, doggy days of summer. Today, the beach is empty and the water is warm enough for birds only.

But wait, is this really Brooklyn’s tip or is it Russia? As I walk up the beach toward Brighton, I suddenly hear Russian. Everywhere around me, Russian. The sun brings out the people – older, retired people mostly, some with baby buggies, minding the malcziki and dzievuszki. But mainly, they have created a gathering place, clustering around benches that line the boardwalk, speaking passionately about…everything important: gossip type talk, melodic, expressively presented. Hairstyles, makeup, clothes are from half a century ago. But then, that was their time in the sun, that’s when they conquered the world. Or at least this small portion of it, at Brighton Beach.
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:37:00 PM | link | (0) comments
three on a bench Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:35:40 PM | link | (0) comments
did she knit this for her precious pup? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:33:40 PM | link | (0) comments
some read. most talk. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:31:36 PM | link | (0) comments
all you need is the music. and the diners. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:29:40 PM | link | (0) comments
blog author photographing reflection of boardwalk and self Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:27:25 PM | link | (0) comments
next door, at the Moscow Bar: "on Saturday evening live music" Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:25:14 PM | link | (0) comments
a Russian girl in a Russian coat Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:22:26 PM | link | (0) comments
In the nearby park, they play dominoes. A man’s game! None of the wimpy women at the tables. So where are the women? Back on the boardwalk. Telling stories of their men, I’m sure. Or, looking out at the ocean, unscrambling thoughts, dreaming.
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:19:00 PM | link | (0) comments
what's more interesting: the game or the players? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:17:36 PM | link | (0) comments
intent and intense Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 03:09:10 PM | link | (0) comments
lovely. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 02:53:01 PM | link | (0) comments
looking at the other side of the ocean... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 02:50:52 PM | link | (0) comments

New York break: dasvidanya dzievuszki.. 

Back in September, Tory, chef (and now proprietor) at Madison's L’Etoile, said to me “you should go to my favorite place in New York -- the Russian Vodka Room.

I have come to New York frequently over the past year, but I have never made it to the Russian Vodka Room. Until last night.

The room is small, dark, narrow. A jazzy guitarist is playing at the side, a guy at the piano accompanies him. A few men sit at the bar. They’re Russian. The waitresses are Russian as well. My friend and I find an empty table in the corner – there aren’t many, we are lucky. The menu is all about vodka. And pirozki. She and I split a carafe of the apple pomegranate infused vodka. Then the cranberry one. Then a carafe of the pear infusion. Carafe – it’s like wine, isn’t it? A carafe implies easy drinking, a sip, then another, ummmm, delicious! This stuff is so good! I haven’t had vodka in so long!

Next thought – this stuff is potent! The music continues, people come and go, my friend and I talk about old times, new times. We haven’t seen each other in years… She looks the same… another carafe? Sure, but add some food, the shots are going down smoothly, but they need something to arrest the easy flow.

The hours pass… the guitarist packs his bags. The men at the bar sigh in the Russian life-is-tough way… the couples, scattered around the dark room, are quietly mumbling to each other.. My friend and I divide the pirozki, then order some cheese and bread… the carafes appear, magically, the waitress seems to know when they need to be refilled. I’ve stopped counting.

Outside, the air is cool, refreshing. We take a cab… who can walk after that? The RVR, at 265 west 52nd. Go there, order a carafe. Or more. Tell the waitress “spasiba,” lean back, think sleighs and onion domes, birch trees and balalajkas. Dream in audacious ways, talk big, brag about your past. Break bread, drink vodka, feel the weight of the world on your Polish or Russian shoulder. Na zdrowie!
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 07:23:00 AM | link | (0) comments
it's all about pain and suffering... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 07:22:06 AM | link | (0) comments
to your health... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/22/2005 07:19:37 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, March 21, 2005

New York break: a Chelsea market inside a Nabisco shell 

Ripping the gut out of an old Oreo cookie factory and fitting into it wholesale outlets geared toward foods and restaurant supplies seems clever. Now called the Chelsea Market, it does remind me of how a place with a sordid past (not the cookie factory but the Chelsea district) can be revamped and turned into a spiffy present. Or at least it’s getting’ there.

I have to say that the factory makeover itself is stunning. Since the place is off the beaten path, there aren’t many who come just to look. Most are serious about checking things off a list. But there is also that stray person who seemed to be in search of not food, but WiFi and he found it here, within the walls of the past cookie emporium (see photo below). I don’t question the logic of putting WiFi into a former Oreo cookie place. The greater puzzle was finding, on the walk over, a tiny grocery store, the type that looks too narrow to fit in two people standing next to each other, with a large sign posted over its door: WiFi available within.
posted by nina, 3/21/2005 02:52:00 PM | link | (0) comments
Inside the Nabisco building: an underground spring is feeding the waterfall; an intersting spot to settle in with your computer. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/21/2005 02:50:57 PM | link | (0) comments
need a snack? there are options... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/21/2005 02:46:30 PM | link | (0) comments

New York break: Melinda and Melinda and Manhattan 

Such cinematographic nostalgia! Last night, I may as well have been standing in an advance purchase line to buy opening week-end tickets for Annie Hall or Manhattan.

Once inside, I am in for a shock: people in their twenties and thirties actually do fill moviehouses! Nice! (This is the age group that always laughs appreciatively at offbeat lines that have absolutely no appeal to younger audiences and aren’t forceful enough to stir the jaded “I’ve heard this before” set. It is also the most underrepresented age category in a Madison Westside multiplex.)

The movie? Woody Allen’s newest – Melinda and Melinda. It’s not really so new (content-wise) after all – someone remarked that Woody plagiarizes himself, and it’s true. The uncertain distinction between the comic or tragic, the certainty of death – all Woodyisms through and through.

This post isn’t a movie review though. There are plenty who have already written (not too kindly) about M & M (I would say that generally, it is regarded as merely better than his recent worst). It is a homage to viewing it in New York. To watching an audience, sitting tightly in a little basement theater, looking not unlike the characters on the screen – entangled in city life and in each other, neurotic, deliberately dressed, seemingly focused on their own personal successes. Since the movie jumps between two separate story lines, it isn’t hard to add this third one, of those at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema last night, so that I (as the non-New Yorker) am really the true outsider, the moviegoer, while they all played their parts, reacting to each additional twist along with those on the screen.

Authentic New York. If this is a mysterious (pretentious maybe?) label, wander into a moviehouse and stare at the audience. You'll see it.
posted by nina, 3/21/2005 07:11:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, March 20, 2005

New York break: isn’t it a lovely day to get caught in the rain… 

In New York, the sky looks yellow-gray on rainy days, misty and putrid, fouled up by rising fumes from cars, buildings and people, all releasing something horrid and stale. Rain here is dirty, not clean ((like in the Midwest)) (I had to say that). It’s brutal on the footwear because it makes the street debris adhere to it. And when you get splashed by a passing cab, you get splashed with God knows what muck lining the gutters. Yesterday, a sanitation truck went by brushing down the streets along the avenues and I wanted to ask – “why bother?” Now I understand – it’s to keep the streets less grimy for the splatter experience on rainy days like today. In all, I don’t like city rain.

On the other hand, it hardly interferes with anything that you may want to do. I would have taken the same jog, the same hike to this point or the next, the same everything, regardless of the weather. Except for one thing: I will not take out my camera in the rain. It’s the balancing act of working with it while holding an umbrella and keeping my purse from swinging freely into your camera arm – too much! Add to it the horror of fogging over my lens – forget it.

And so I have no pictures to post from today. None. The one below doesn’t count. It speaks to the place I went to so that I could convince myself that life is cheaper in the Midwest: it’s a trio of satisfied Starbucks customers. Me, I’m deeply satisfied with the beverage, less so with the cost of it, since currently a small latte here rings up at $3.37 (Madison: $2.85). Way to go, NY, keep the prices climbing, and the rain messing with my clothes and photography and I’ll thank my Midwestern stars that you’re a mere smudge in my life, no longer the prima donna that I’d kill myself for, just to spend time with and swoon over. You’re a drip and a drag.

[Did that sound convincing? No, it didn’t to me either.]
posted by nina, 3/20/2005 03:13:00 PM | link | (0) comments
afternoon out of the rain Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/20/2005 03:12:22 PM | link | (0) comments

New York break: Joe Junior 

At times I feel that Central Park, before 8 a.m., belongs to the dogs. If there are leash laws, no one obeys them (are there leash laws?).

On my second day out jogging, I once again encountered an incident of the Dog That Has Tasted Freedom. This dog, by the name of Joe Junior, had an owner of Russian heritage.* He flew the coop and a distressed woman anxiously ran the paths of the park shouting “Joe! Joe Joo-nioh-r! You comb bah-ck heerrrr, n-ohv! Joe Joo-nioh-rrrrr!

You had to wonder about her life, there, in New York with Joe Junior. Or, is it not her dog? Is it the dog of the fellow she met and partnered up with? Joe Junior doesn’t seem all that fond of her (“I’ve got to split and run from this woman who has usurped my sacred spot in the household”). Did she have a dog in Moscow? Does she miss Moscow? Her girlfriend, Katya, her grandmother, Ludmila? Is the guy worth it? Does he come with a Fifth Avenue apartment?

In the meantime, all the dogs are running crazily around, chasing balls and sticks, while she’s there anxiously searching for Joe Junior, and I am jogging, rain splattering all of us so that we huddle in our private spaces, concentrating on keeping the mud off our clothes and the dogs close to us, or, in my case, far, so that they don’t shake their wet hides anywhere near me.

* The accent is a dead giveaway. Being in NY reminds me how many people in the city speak with strong accents. No wonder no one here ever asked me where mine came from – it is imperceptible when measured against the accents of others, whereas in the Midwest, any variation stands out and so I am asked repeatedly about the origins of mine.
posted by nina, 3/20/2005 08:52:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, March 19, 2005

New York break: in search of the black& white and finding color 

If I read that a gallery is displaying the works of six “preeminent” photographers and “every piece in the show is a beauty” and “you’d be hard pressed to find so many examples of important photography in one place again,” then, even if the gallery were an obscure, tiny little place, I would look for it.

But obscurity has its shortcomings: it places limits on one’s ability to find things, especially if the New Yorker publishes the incorrect phone number and the incorrect address in its listing.

Fire the magazine fact-checker!

If my morning was spent on chasing down the black&white, my afternoon was all about color. When did TriBeCa lose its "lofty" brown and gray tones? Just a quick look here at today's shades and hues, with one big splash of color at the end, from a street fair:
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 08:45:00 PM | link | (0) comments
pale blue looks good here Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 08:43:50 PM | link | (0) comments
strong contrasts Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 08:40:39 PM | link | (0) comments
yellow on red, green on red Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 08:38:45 PM | link | (0) comments
The seller tried to talk me into buying an adult cap (color:red) with a green frog. I seriously considered it. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 08:36:07 PM | link | (0) comments
Food: where has Ocean’s appreciation for the edibles wandered off to? Here are two shots from an afternoon break at Once Upon a Tart:
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 08:30:00 PM | link | (0) comments
all freshly baked, all good Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 08:29:57 PM | link | (0) comments
technology enters the Village café Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 08:25:10 PM | link | (0) comments


Finally, I’ll include a conversation that I overheard in the drugstore uptown. It demonstrates a certain level of independence that city kids reach early on, just because they don’t have to be chauffeured every time they leave the house. And you can send them on errands, as clearly this girl’s mom did, even though the girl was certainly no more than 7 or 8:

(into the cell phone) Okay, mom, I’m in the right place. Yes, I already got the soap…Which one?The multipack? What’s that? Oh, oh, I see. Mom, this is embarrassing! But I’m a kid! Kids don’t buy this stuff! Okay, okay – sure, I see them. Which color? Oh, I have to pay for this now. Okay…. (completes transaction, leaves store) Hey, I’m out already! I’m about to cross the street, can you see me? Hi mom! (waves up to window of apartment building, bounces across the street happily, bag of soap and xxx in hand.)
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 08:19:00 PM | link | (0) comments

New York break: New Yorker gem 

One flight equals one New Yorker. It is, perhaps, the nicest aspect of flying so frequently to the coast: I catch up with the longer stories.

And here is another point of deep satisfaction: when an expert in a field expresses a sentiment you have held but haven’t stated adequately, nor with any degree of credibility, given your ignorance of the subject matter.

I’m thinking of the wonderful article on the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who is proposing a radically unobtrusive (these days this means no big glass dome in front of, or inside a period piece) addition to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Koolhaas understands the completely fascinating aspects of architecturally daring projects. And, rather than eliminating ones that are perhaps visually or politically jarring right now, he feels the need to highlight them. With that, he highlights (with respect) the audacity of some of the steps taken in the past.

That’s a cursory summary of a complicated position, but I especially want to quote it as applied to Stalinist and “communist” architecture. My sister and I have always felt that there is something riveting about the building projects dating to the 50s in Warsaw. The MDM Square, Latawiec – these are blocks that were visionary at the time (as was the political climate of postwar Poland; I’m not addressing its corruptness here, nor am I regarding it with any degree of nostalgia -- that's not the point). They expose the beauty of hope and even today, the forcefulness of their statement is, to me, astonishingly touching.

And so I read with great fascination in the New Yorker:

[Koolhaas] expressed his ardor for "sixties and seventies Soviet architecture"
as well. On the drive from the airport to downtown St. Petersburg, Koolhaas had
focused on a bleak row of dilapidated concrete apartment towers and swooned over
their "heartbreaking delicateness."

"Say something on those buildings’ behalf before they’re torn down," Piotrovsky [director of the Hermitage] said. "Nobody here defends that architecture."
For my own heartfelt defense (against attacks on aesthetic grounds) of the apartment buildings of the sixties and seventies, (coincidently?) noted on the drive from the Warsaw airport, look at my (December 7th*) post here, and of Stalinist-era architecture in Warsaw, my (December 13th*) post here.

*My apologies for having to note the dates -- the links, as everything else about Blogger this week, are not working properly and so one has to scroll down to locate the posts. Not worth it, to be sure, except for the most diehard blog readers.
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 08:42:00 AM | link | (0) comments

New York break: on the day before the official appearance of spring I take my first run of 2005 

Yesss! Good for you! You went jogging! Where?
Oh, in Central Park, of course.

And how was it? Running through those curvy hilly paths, early at the crack of dawn, must have been sublime!
I felt inadequate.

Oh! Don’t let it get to you! It was your first run of the year! Yes, you go to the gym, you walk for miles and miles, but this is different – running is a strain. You’ll pick up your speed, you’ll see. You probably felt a little like an engine without the proper grade of fuel, right? Like you were put-put-putting your way to the harbor while the ships and sailboats breezed by without so much as a glance. You have to understand that they’ve all been going to the Equinox where personal trainers had them develop the proper muscle groups for it. They probably work out for hours on end. You fit it into a busy schedule – don’t berate yourself, in a matter of weeks (okay, months maybe) you’ll be right up there with the fastest.
I felt inadequate because my old t-shirt was sticking out from under my old sweatshirt. They all wore snazzy jogging outfits.
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 07:35:00 AM | link | (0) comments
city trees, equally bewitching in the early morning sun Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 07:32:55 AM | link | (0) comments
brownstones reflecting the morning light Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/19/2005 07:29:32 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, March 18, 2005

New York break: three women and a plan 

Plan number one was to go to the Fulton Street Fish Market at 2 a.m. Missed that one by dragging in too late last night. Plan number two was to go to the Flower Market at 5 a.m. Missed that one by… well, let’s just say that got missed as well (don’t look at me – I get up early). Plan number three was to make it to the South Street Seaport Museum on Fulton Street before noon. Missed that target time too!

On the other hand, couldn’t you argue that this little part of New York is more enjoyable in the afternoon sun anyway?
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 05:55:00 PM | link | (0) comments
from an old deck: Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 05:54:43 PM | link | (0) comments
a handsome threesome Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 05:51:05 PM | link | (0) comments
warm enough to read outside, or, if you're a dog: people watch Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 05:45:10 PM | link | (0) comments
what time did we finally make it down here? well, these guys are leaving after the closing bell... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 05:29:40 PM | link | (0) comments

New York break: the stress of city life 

In Madison, I drive on automatic pilot. To change a route requires a mental exertion that I am not willing to hand over to the entire driving experience. I am not a big fan of driving all the time -- to work, to the store, etc. so it’s best for me to not think about the fact that I have to. Daily.

In New York, of course, it’s not all about wheels. That is indeed a relief. Except that now you are faced with endless possibilities of getting from point A to point B. It’s tense: from the minute you leave your place, you have to decide: left? right? And for how many blocks before you go up toward the next avenue?

I’ve always hated this, even when I lived here as a young kid. And there is remorse, too, because at times you realize you’ve made a bad choice. The block is especially dull – you have no window shopping opportunities, you pass by offensive places, shut down, barricaded, menacing. Next time, you say to yourself, next time I wont go this way.

And then through a confluence of factors, you find yourself on the same deserted block a few days later, hating yourself all over again.

It’s easier in Madison – no decisions, no self-loathing. Also no variation. Each drive to work is a repetition of the same route. To the grocery store – the same. Post office? Same. Gym? Same same same damn same.
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 11:15:00 AM | link | (0) comments
potentially interesting... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 11:12:16 AM | link | (0) comments
poor block choice Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 11:07:23 AM | link | (0) comments
rewarding window display of a good block choice Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 11:03:34 AM | link | (0) comments
and another... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 10:48:57 AM | link | (0) comments

New York break: O’Leary’s? O’Reilly’s? Oh yes! 

The night is young! an energized person tells me (she herself is not all that old, so why am I listening to her?) as my cab pulls into New York late in the evening. Come with me and we’ll join a New York crowd of shamrock-seekers. I oblige.

Morningside Heights (upper Westside, around Columbia) is not, demographically speaking, a good place to look for crowds with “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”-type t-shirts. In fact, the green motif, highly visible in the trimmings and decorations of the Irish Bar we stumbled upon, was not much in evidence among the patrons. It was the kind of place, also, where most people were drinking by the glass instead of by the pitcher – a welcome change from, say, State Street partying (although one might challenge my statements here, as I know next to nothing about Madison’s State Street bar scene).

Three women, sitting at a bar, is also an interesting situation, except when one of them so clearly is more than the combined age of the other two (yes, I did get called “mums” by one of the patrons, but the conversation sort of begged for it). If I had had any trepidations, they proved to be unwarranted. I would say that by the time we left (near closing?), the entire crowd (including the three of us) was pleasantly sober (-ish). Perhaps it’s because New Yorkers worry obsessively about keeping the numbers under control. You know, it’s the East Coast weight obsession.
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 07:54:00 AM | link | (0) comments
the pitch: Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/18/2005 07:30:27 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, March 17, 2005

New York break: Notes en route 

Standing in front of the Business School, waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for my cab this afternoon, I encountered, separately, four people (it was a long wait):

1. a colleague on her way to the garage beneath the Business School (most law school profs park there) – we chatted, it was pleasant;

2. a neighbor who teaches at the Bus. School (he was hurrying to a meeting), and who, with the highest level of pity at my plight (a very real possibility of a missed flight) said this to me: “take my car and leave it at the airport, then call and tell me where it is – I’ll get it later” (saint! but at that moment the cab came ---“you should never worry with Union – we’ll never let you down!” yeah, cool, save that for the next rider; it was about as credible as his next comment ---“you didn’t have to lift that suitcase in, I was about to get out and help you…” and finally ---“I don’t have any change – sorry…” Keep it and stuff it, buddy);

3. a blog reader (“do you remember, we met once… I wrote you in Poland…”);

4. and finally, a woman who smiled at me, though I am certain I have never seen her before. Even so, this chance encounter may significantly alter the course of my life. Picture this: she’s dressed in a long woolen coat (too warm for today, I think) of a stunning deep blue-navy color. Her hair is yellow – the kind I suppose a literary type from a previous century would have called “flaxen,” but I associate with Scandinavian women, ones who maybe picked up an outlier gene (from an unexpected past dalliance between their Swedish relative and an interloper Pole?) that passed down a bit of a honeyed tone.

That honeyed flaxen hair against the royal blue coat was so irresistible (yellow against blue) that I seriously thought of calling my man Jason (who loves to talk about hair color, being rather an expert at changing it for people), right then and there, telling him we need to make some changes during my next visit.

When a woman talks about changing her hair entirely (I’d already discussed going short again, but Jason balked: he loves the idea of a 50+ person with long hair, occasionally done up in a pony tail; one doesn’t challenge Jason), you suspect that something’s up. She is redefining herself in some way.

Am I? I’m thinking about it. For the time being, I put aside thoughts of hair and concentrated on giving permission for my cabbie to zip through yellow lights so that I could catch my flight. I did. I am en route LGA as I type this.
posted by nina, 3/17/2005 08:48:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Heading into a storm 

Class is done. Another hour and I’ll be New York-bound. Or snow-bound. Because as far as I can tell, a winter storm and I will be chasing each other around the Midwest before I finally get closer to the coast. My immediate thought – if I get stranded, at least it wont be like Aurora, Colorado.

But actually I’ve been mulling over a different kind of storm – the one that leads you to create something that roughly can be cast into the domain of “art.” A blogger over at Home Sweet Road writes this about her painting: “My art has always come from darkness.” She muses if she will be able to sustain that quality of painting, now that she has hit a period of tranquility, happiness even.

Will I be reassuring if I write and tell her this: not to worry! People who have lived through a powerful tempest (or two. or three…) never shake it at the core. There is something nicely permanent about that level of sadness which is juicy fuel for all of us who use it to produce the next painting, or chapter in a book. Sweet bedfellows – despair and creativity, egging each other on. They make happiness look soppy and dull.
posted by nina, 3/17/2005 12:23:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

T.G.I. March 17th tomorrow 

(Do you know that it took me ten years to figure out what those letters stood for? Us immigrants are at a definite disadvantage as far as these hidden little meanings are concerned.)

I am not Irish (who is shocked by this assertion?) and so the 17th has no Patty’s Day associations for me. Though I did live in Chicago for a number of years and that city went hog wild over the holiday. I mean, it really was a holiday, where nothing was required of you except to drink a lot and wear green. Preferably the donning of the attire would precede the drinking, but you never knew. This was a city that died it’s river green. You can’t expect great sanity from a city that (at least in the 70s) liked to purposefully dump green die into the already murky waters.

It’s not St. Patricks that I am heralding, it’s the arrival of Spring Break for me. After I teach my Thursday class, I hop on the plane and take my books, my camera and my restlessness over to New York for the week.

A student in my seminar today told me that she was going to Paris with her mom for Spring Break. She asked for tips and ideas and as I told her about my favorite hobby there of people watching, of children-going-to-school-holding-their-rushed-doting-parent’s-hand watching, of older-men-and-women-enjoying-a-late-night-dinner-watching, she said: “yeah… it sounds like New York.”

Maybe. Except there aren’t establishments that facilitate that in New York. [Write and tell me if you know of a café where I can alternate between staring into space and taking in the presence of others for hours on end. Because that’s even better than a day at a spa for me.]

Still, New York is New York and tomorrow night I’ll blog with the inevitable sound of sirens and car horns somewhere in the backdrop. No saffron banners to distract me this time. Only the city there with its New York-ish smells and rat clusters. I can deal with that.
posted by nina, 3/16/2005 10:02:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Did you ever notice how some people are so clever and sharp when interviewed on the radio, while others are not? 

I just finished being interviewed by the producer over at WUWM (Public Radio). I am glad that the reach of the show does not extend to Madison. Upon hearing my very long answers to very good questions about Ocean and blogging in general, my friends and colleagues here would have said this to me:

* you sounded like you were testing all ranges of the melodic scales – what’s with the high pitch and the low tone and everything in between? [answer: if you party the night before, your voice sounds weird the next day; coffee helps, but I can’t find my little stovetop espresso maker yet – it’s buried somewhere under the dirty dishes]

* sound bites: don’t you know that you have to give answers in bullet points? No one will remember a word you said, you were way too long-winded. [answer: it is good that they wont remember all that I said]

* you went on forever praising the blogs of others, how come you did not mention mine? [someone is bound to say that and they will have been right; how do you praise blogs on a radio show anyway? It’s not as if people are sitting there listening, with pen in hand, ready to jot down blog addresses]

* you talked about the blog of a guy who hates Ocean – why would you give him publicity? [answer: she got that out of me! she's too clever with her seemingly tame questions! But, notice that clever me did not reveal his blog address, nor am I even linking to the clown in this post]

* you weren’t that witty; people will think “why should I read the blog of a person who sounds so ordinary?” [gee, thanks; I thought my recycled (from Ocean!) stories were decent. -ish]

* so you wont hear the program when it airs?
[answer: I’ll hear it alright. She’s sending me the tape. I’ll put it on someday, in the privacy of my own boudoir, thank you]
posted by nina, 3/16/2005 02:19:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Slow down, slow down, slow down……Why? Full days are good days. 

An investigation into why the last twenty-four hours offered no time to post:

Perhaps leaping out of bed at 3:30 a.m. is not your own personal preference. I feel sorry for you, because the light is very special then: it’s very unobtrusive, very subtle, very…. dark.

My lecture needs a tinker’s touch. I have this pattern now: I sit in the middle of the night staring at my computer screen for a good twenty minutes thinking absolutely nothing more profound than how pretty that Giverny iris is (photographed last May, now pasted as wallpaper on my computer). It’s that blue and yellow pairing that gets me every time. Oh, I suppose an Ocean reader would be well aware of my love for the blues and yellows…
posted by nina, 3/16/2005 08:15:00 AM | link | (0) comments
captivating  Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/16/2005 08:09:44 AM | link | (0) comments
I rouse myself, I write something, and then I go into my next trance. Eventually I look outside and notice that the sun is out, touching everything in sight. A good half hour is devoted to looking at branches jiggling this way and that.

How did it get to be so late?? The run begins. I never want to be late for class. They can roll in as they see fit, often holding what must be the first cup of coffee of the day. I’d rather be there benevolently waiting for the last straggler, and the one after that...

Class is finished. I look outside my office and the sky is the kind of blue that asks: aren’t I good enough for you? Why aren’t you here with me, playing?. I can’t. I have to go home and cook. Blogger dinner tonight (noted with photos here and also here).

I work at food prepping as if I had extra super unleaded pumped right up to the brim: I am energized.

Officially, we call it “blogger dinners” – but increasingly we do not bring out our computers unless, toward the end, someone wants to check their email. Here’s the thing: we always have our laptops with us – like the photographer who doesn’t want to be caught without proper equipment exactly at the moment when the child looks up at the aging face of her greatgrandfather and trustingly takes his hand. The computers are charging, waiting, not realizing that after many courses and many bottles of wine, the chance of any of us spotting a precious bloggable moment is very very small.

It’s dark outside. Someone says it is hot and we should open the door to the back yard. When was the last time I opened the door to feel the night air come in to the kitchen? Last October? [Someone else says it’s too cold. People who say that they are too cold typically win.]

The last guest leaves at 12:30. I make an effort to at least to wash my treasured plates, painted by an older woman living at the foot of the French Alps. Somehow I can’t stand seeing them stacked to the side, dirty and waiting.

I sit down for just a few minutes. No, that can’t be. If I am just sitting down then how come it is suddenly 5:30a.m., and I am under a quilt on top of my bed? I get up, I go down and turn off Ella and Louis who apparently have been singing all night. I survey the storm damage in the kitchen. I smile and sit down to post.
posted by nina, 3/16/2005 08:05:00 AM | link | (0) comments
The face behind JFW: happy birthday, Jeremy! Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/16/2005 08:04:25 AM | link | (0) comments
The face behind the Tonya Show Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/16/2005 08:03:29 AM | link | (0) comments
The face behind Marginal Utility Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/16/2005 08:02:17 AM | link | (0) comments
The face behind the Althouse blog Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/16/2005 07:57:50 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Working in the early morning by the window, I see the pine face up to a day of sunshine 

posted by nina, 3/15/2005 07:50:00 AM | link | (0) comments
The beginning of a good day: it starts with a morning greeting. Sun, meet tree. Tree, say hi to the sun. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/15/2005 07:46:15 AM | link | (0) comments

In anticipation of food and more food 

[Another one of those conversations where it isn't clear which voice is me and which, if any, is not me.]

I’m cooking a Napa meal today!
What’s that?

You know, with Napa influence.
You mean California-like? Avocado and crab?

No, not, California rolls. And not California cooking. I never knew what that’s supposed to mean anyway, except it sounds vaguely vegetarian and this meal is not vegetarian.
So what’s Napa?

Oh, please, use your imagination! It’s all about wine and lemons and spring greens and Dapple Dandies (dried pluots) and fresh peppercorns picked off the tree and kumquats ripped off the backyard bush last month – so, all sorts of ingredients and ideas brought back straight from the Napa region.
Because you can’t get them here? I understand you had trouble locating arugula

Ideas arise out of inspiration. I am, today, inspired. As for ingredients -- I remember attending a lecture once by Charlie Trotter where he said that these days you can get any ingredient from anywhere in the world if you are willing to pay the price for it. So I could perhaps have purchased everything from here, but that’s not a fun way of looking at things.
So you lugged food from California anyway? And wine? How quaint.

Yes, it’s the type of thing I would do. So today is Napa day.
Pictures? There’ll be pictures?

Definitely if something burns. Remember, I am on a modest streak at the moment.
On the other hand, we are celebrating a very important birthday, so photos may be appropriate. Check in later.
posted by nina, 3/15/2005 06:24:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, March 14, 2005

A new old Polish proverb: a swollen head is emptier than a pickle barrel after a pickle eaters’ convention 

This afternoon, someone alerted me to the fact that Ocean had been nominated for a prize (one of ten blogs so honored).

It took me only five minutes to start drafting an acceptance speech/post, even though the winner would not be announced until April.

Why this mad dash toward the podium? Clearly I will never have this opportunity again! I do not act – I cannot even hope for a Razzie Award (given to worst performances of the year). When else will I be drafting acceptance speeches? I wanted to savor the feeling of a nomination! Step aside, Halle, it’s my turn to thank the lawyer!

Ultimately, I knew Ocean could not win. It was astonishing enough to see it up there on a list of ten, though perhaps less astonishing if you read the description of what’s under consideration: They’re not exactly Shakespeare, But they’re some of the more amusing, informative or otherwise quirky blogs among the hundreds we scouted… (a Milwaukee publication is the sponsor). Ocean does not have a large enough readership. Even without a tracker, I am quite certain that it cannot compete with the others, even if Ocean had 100% turnout and all readers voted for it -- a mighty hefty "if." It’s like the obscure film that people say “huh?” about and wonder if this is the little indie that’s thrown in to show that the judges are not a predictable lot.

So, no win means no speech-post to write in April. I may as well play with one now, thanking everyone under the sun for placing Ocean on a list, any list.

I wrote my draft. Too contrived! Not humble enough. Should I start again? No, I have too much work to do. I’ll let it go. But you were all mentioned! Especially those who came through today with a lot of “there, there, don’t get discouraged with your cyber-writing” – you were in my speech!

My thank-yous ended with this:

Out of time, I’m out of time! Oh, and the grocery store clerk who laughed when I told him that the sign saying tulips for $6, 2 bunches for $12 seemed silly – thanks for laughing! Yes, all of you, thanks for laughing at my ridiculousness sometimes. Thanks for not taking me seriously so that I, too, can feel free to not take myself seriously.

Not great, but not bad for a first draft.

Proud as a pickle, I posted the whole story. I sat back, beamed a little, then clicked on the site, just to see Ocean’s name again. [Head swells the full size of the pickle barrel at this point.]

The link didn’t work.

Oh, no problem, I’ll fix it – I must have been too excited to fully replicate it in that little blogger box.

Still not working.

I try to get at it in other ways – no luck.

Finally, I call the publication. I mean, how ridiculous to have a post about a nomination that appears to be not real.

I am told that someone put the page up too early, by a few weeks. Moreover, they have to remove at least one of the nominees because it appears, upon the full reading of the blog, that a post in it favored the distribution of narcotics. The publication did not want to align itself with blogs that favor the distribution of narcotics. [Wherein Ocean avoids the first cut and understands the glory felt by those who survive the hatchet at American Idol.]

In the end then, my pickle-barrel-size-swollen-head post quickly left Ocean, to be buried with other deletables. [A more modest post will appear here if and when an announcement of any nomination is really truly made and that announcements remains online for more than one hour.]

A post script about feeling foolish: making a fool of myself here on Ocean comes easily for me. I have a knack for it. However, announcing a coup that proved to be a non-coup is about as foolish as anything I’ve ever done. My penance: I am openly telling you all about my stupidity. Nothing like a little public humiliation to keep you level headed in the future.
posted by nina, 3/14/2005 07:25:00 PM | link | (0) comments

I am embarking on a stage in my writing where my main concern is going to be the weather 

A few punches this winter and I am ready to give it up. Not writing in general, but writing with any zest and spunk. I’m beaten. I don’t want to worry with each carefully worded opinion piece about who is going to make the villain out of me next. And so I wont write anything at all that in any way strays from a discussion of topics as bland as the weather until I regain my strength.

Someone recently said to me that my teasing had a bit too much bite to it. Maybe once upon a time, in the good old days where I actually dared tease. Right now I feel I have become like an old woman whose teeth have fallen out and she can’t afford replacements. I think Ocean has no bite at all and neither do I.

But what worries me is that I am losing my spark. I used to write with enthusiasm and passion and increasingly I write (here, elsewhere) with fear. I have become a stunned and stunted scared rabbit, less bold than the ones that are currently making an appearance in my backyard. A few jabs from just a couple of people will flip a day upside-down for me and so I avoid saying much of anything (in writing? in person?) more and more.

I am becoming a stepford blogger. Dowd would understand.
posted by nina, 3/14/2005 01:16:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Offense taken 

Read here about one person’s experience with taking photographs in an area of town that’s not known for its physical loveliness. It reminds me of the many times people have looked at my camera with suspicion and anger. Pictures of urban decay, of scenes that speak of poverty and hardship, these are especially difficult to take without offending those who inhabit those spaces.

But negative feelings at being the subject of someone’s artistic expression go beyond that. I have been screamed at by a French butcher who did not want his market stall filled with rabbits photographed, by a Polish peasant woman who virtually spat at my camera as I tried to take a picture of her table of highland wares, by a janitor in a school building in Warsaw and a vendor at a New York hot dog stand.

These days I ask and I don’t push it if people say no. But it invites a negative outcome more often than not. And always I walk away depleted, in the way one does when one has offended someone out of the blue, unintentionally, and gets slapped down publicly for it.

Let it not be said that posting pictures or words for that matter, is always a joyful experience.
posted by nina, 3/14/2005 07:55:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, March 13, 2005

In hot pursuit of arugula 

Food is on my mind again. It’s the season for it. The pace of restaurant kitchens seems cool right now. Why did I completely let go of that world? When you’re prepping, nothing, nothing is as important as getting the flatleaf parsley exactly to the consistency you’re after. How many of us have the luxury of worrying about the size and texture of shredded parsley for a solid block of time each day?

I read in the news about L’Etoile (our infamous eating place that pays homage to the small, organic farmer), and about Charlie Trotter opening a place in New York and my mind wanders to plates piled high with artistically presented food. I’m inspired. I want to cook again.

The starting point: what should be the dish that draws you in so that you can’t wait for the next one and the next? Something zesty and totally spring-focused. Something that’ll bite at your tongue but wont quite leave you in pain. Arugula! How about creating an arugula frappuccino? Seems perfect, no? A frothy little mixture, warm, served in a cappuccino cup. Add a few other green vegetables to the base to tone down the pepperiness of arugula (onion? sweet spinach? zucchini?) and you’ve got yourself a hot start to a dreamy meal.


...there’s no arugula to be had in Madison. Whole Foods tells me they’ve been begging their California suppliers, with no luck. Copps doesn’t have it. [You might say that these days Copps is losing its produce advantage. Where are those bins of fresh baby lettuce (and arugula)? What happened to the organic fruit section? There is, according to me, currently no good reason at all to set foot in that store.] Magic Mill? So laid back, so sweet, so barren -- at least in terms of arugula.

At this point I am ready to call friends in far away places. I am possessed by an arugula craving. Nothing, no other green soup will do. Arugula or bust!

But reality forces me to acknowledge the shortcomings of living in a state with weather that is in a symbiotic relationship with the Siberian tundra. Or so it seems.

I’m tired of winter.

I drive to Brennan’s to pick up some fruit for the morning – I am not a Brennan’s fan especially, but minute for minute, it is the closest grocery store to my house and so once or twice a year I go there.

I get out, am reminded by the clerk that the place closes in five minutes, I throw him a dirty look -- as in, how dare you hurry me just so you can go home to your wife and kids on a Sunday evening!?? I look listlessly at the berries, walk around to the cashier and pass a stack of beautiful, fresh arugula.
posted by nina, 3/13/2005 08:40:00 PM | link | (0) comments
arugula on my mind... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/13/2005 08:32:36 PM | link | (0) comments

You could almost feel the collective Republican breath held in anticipation of the final definitive answer to the question of will she or wont she? 

Rice supporters I am sure were listening carefully this morning as the Sec of State faced off with Russert (on "Meet the Press") on the Q of whether or not she would run for the office of president in 2008.

Ann outlines the full exchange here. I, too, watched. I am not a Rice fan for any number of reasons, though I must say that I enjoy listening to her respond to pointed questions, since she understands subtlety and does not stumble when pressed for answers. For instance, her responses this morning to questions on how on earth anyone could possibly believe that Bolton is a wise choice for the position of Ambassador to the UN (really, if you can defend that one, you can defend anything, including a flat earth and a cheese moon) were nothing short of brilliant. You could almost think that she believed them herself, even though her subsequent comment perhaps signaled some degree of apprehension. “I look forward to having him come to Washington and communicate with me on a regular basis” I took to mean “I am going to watch this dude closely; it’s undignified to remind everyone of the obvious – that indeed, we are the only important member state in that butchered and beleaguered organization.”

But back to the presidential quandary. I have to admit that my short-term self-interest does cause me to favor a Rice run for office. If she is on the presidential ticket, I win a challenge and earn myself a dinner at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago.

It became clear to me that my chances of cashing in on the dinner plummeted today. But what also became abundantly clear was that she was side-stepping the issue of the presidency by focusing on the act of running for that office. Nothing that she said precluded her being on the ticket as the VP candidate. This, then, is her potential assent to power: through the VP doors, those same ones that have lead others straight into White House in the past. Russert was wrong to show her photos of past Secs of State who became presidents. He should have shown her photos of VPs who then made the leap into the Oval Office. It is not inconceivable that she sees herself as being one of them.
posted by nina, 3/13/2005 12:17:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Could it be that within the next month the dollar will be worth 0.1 Euros? 

Do you want to track my travel to Europe? Easy. Look at the table below and find the lowest points in the value of the dollar against the Euro (December, for example). Is the dollar sliding again? Must be time to plan another trip!

I am getting used to coming home and finding that a charge for a café au lait rang up $45 on my card. It has great amusement value, really it does.

source: Federal Reserve Bank of NY

posted by nina, 3/13/2005 07:37:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Challenge: get those dangling-in-perpetuity little work projects done tonight! 

Strategy: rent numerous videos* at Blockbuster, load them in and sit in the kitchen, half listening, simul-working.

Stage One: Go to Blockbuster, look for interesting videos. Find none. DVDs? Sure, but I may as well put the video player up for sale on ebay, because there are now only two videos for every thousand DVDs available for rent.

Stage Two: Play the video with the greatest potential: the Terminal. No! It’s all about the US government being mean to a poor traveler whose country (sounding, in accent, awfully like someplace in Eastern Europe) suddenly disintegrates while the traveler is in flight to the US. When I get to the point where he is eating saltines with mustard and ketchup for the second time in a row at the airport, I turn it off. Certainly no officials in the Office of Homeland Security would let a man under virtual house arrest subsist on saltines. Would they?

Stage Three: Play video that I have now watched maybe 865 times. Embarrassment prevents me from posting the title, it is THAT low brow. This is more like it! I can tune out (you don’t have to be a frequent viewer like me to move in and out of this story and still know exactly where the next scene is heading), or I can tune in. Abstract of paper is completed to the tune of La Vie on Rose as the precious Meg Ryan frolics in the vineyard of Southern France [yeah!].

Stage Four: Look at title of third movie and decide that it may well be even more low brow than the one about Meg Ryan in the vineyards. The title alone gives me pause: Ladykillers. Why would have I rented a movie called Ladykillers? After an afternoon with Sartre, she settled down for an evening with the Ladykillers. Beyond weird. But let me remind you: there are no videos out there anymore. It was either that or the Catwoman, for which Halle Berry got an award for the worst performance ever in a leading role. Of course I am going to pick the Ladykillers.

Stage Four, however, is interrupted as I receive phone call from Very Gloomy Person. That takes the spunk out the evening. Forget the Ladykillers for now. Out comes the blog, time to post. Will return to dangling-in-perpetuity projects next week-end.

I did not rent DVDs because there is no DVD player anywhere near the kitchen. Question to mull over: why not move downstairs to where the DVD player resides, with stack of excellent DVDs instead of watching trashy videos in the kitchen? Answer: it didn't fit my image of how this evening should look.
posted by nina, 3/12/2005 10:00:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Isn’t it like taking the apple from Newton’s outstretched hand? 

For one reason or another I found myself reading a biography of Jean-Paul Sartre this afternoon*. I noticed that he was born in 1905. Given the fact that he had fallen in and out of favor with writers and philosphers, one has to wonder if 100 years later he'll be commemorated in any significant way. I did note that, among other events, the National Library in France has put together an exhibit of Sartre-nalia to honor him.

All this in itself would not be especially bloggable. The tone of Ocean has been such that my Sartre moment should feel oddly out of place here.

Enter the Net. Because once my Sartre Saturday inquisitiveness hit the keyboard, it was only seconds before I discovered an article in today’s Telegraph on the Sartre exhibition.

It appears that the French are worried about the message they would be sending by using a typical photo of Sartre. [To those who do not happen to have a latte and a biography of Sartre before them, the man was known for his habit of pushing through at least two packs of cigarettes a day, in addition to indulging a few sessions with a pipe and an occasional popping of amphetamines.] And so, to remain in compliance with strict laws banning any promotion of smoking, they airbrushed the cigarette out of Sartre’s mouth in the photo used to promote the exhibition.

This fascinating and grotesque, if you ask me, act, lead me to Net surf some more to see if anyone was commenting on this and sure enough, I hit bingo at boing boing. There, a note was posted by someone who points out that many a famous person has had a cigarette removed by an airbrush ex post facto for similar reasons (the list includes the Beatles, Jackson Pollock, James Dean and Paul Simon)

Not right! Ocean is all about clean air and environmental protection, but defacing history in this way seems plain wrong. Therefore, in my efforts to counterbalance such censorship, I am posting a photo of protest, to demonstrate Ocean’s commitment to truthful reporting.

* I have previously stated here that I find biographies about as irresistible as lattes. I know, It’s an odd comparison, but at the moment I have both in front of me.
posted by nina, 3/12/2005 04:40:00 PM | link | (0) comments
the correct way to remember Sartre Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/12/2005 04:35:41 PM | link | (0) comments

March in Madison: morning walk 

posted by nina, 3/12/2005 01:05:00 PM | link | (0) comments
snow caps Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/12/2005 01:03:05 PM | link | (0) comments
white on gray Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/12/2005 01:01:10 PM | link | (0) comments

So the custom hasn’t died… 

I’ve lived in the States long enough now that sometimes I cannot tell if an old familiar Europeism has vanished from the continent by now, or whether it remains firmly in place.

This one apparently has survived (Chirac greeting IOC committee member, via

I have to say that I am quite comfortable jumping from one set of customs to another. And a man kissing the hand of a woman isn’t in itself so jarring as to make an outsider sit up and stare in disbelief. But when I returned to Poland (after six years in NY) as a young teen, I was utterly astonished to see my high school (boy) friends deftly kissing the hands of older women, including my mother, in greeting. Grown men in suits and ties, with hats quickly removed for the greeting – yes, fine. But my gawky classmates who still had some growing to do?? The ritual was fraught with tense moments for me even though I was a mere bystander to the entire event.

It did not help that my mother oftentimes did not cooperate. The norm is that the woman extends her hand in greeting. She would not. She’d start in on a brief verbal exchange (very brief, and only if circumstances placed her momentarily in the same physical space where my friends and I would be standing) while the poor boy would frantically keep his attention riveted to the moment when she would extend her hand, so that he’d be there to catch it. She rarely did and the moment would pass.

It was an overall good lesson in furthering a kid’s understanding of human nature: some people take pride in flaunting convention, some people are oblivious to it and some people are a combination of the two. Those in the latter category are a challenge, especially for a thirteen year old, who just wants that whole scene of parent-meeting-friend to pass as seamlessly, effortlessly as possible, so that parent likes friend and friend likes parent and you, there, in the middle, never have to worry about it again. The unkissed hand was like a bad omen, portending of rocky future friend-parent associations. Unfortunately, most often it proved to be a reliable indicator of exactly that.
posted by nina, 3/12/2005 09:53:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, March 11, 2005

March in Madison: looking out the window at night 

posted by nina, 3/11/2005 09:15:00 PM | link | (0) comments
signs of spring? not really... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/11/2005 09:11:00 PM | link | (0) comments

The gloom factor 

I am a baby-boomer. Our cohort has been variously described, but no one has yet given us this ancillary label which I do believe is apt: we are a generation of baby-anti-gloomers.

Are we unique in this way? Oh yes. I cannot even recall how many boomers have told me of parents who spread the message of anti-joy. What was it with that generation? Why does it want to instill caution in us, to the point where it seems that’s all it wants to instill? Be careful, don’t be happy! Sacrifice, don’t seek pleasure! Your body will age, your mind will atrophy! We are not happy in our lives, they tell us again and again, and neither should you expect to be, you naïve and innocent young one (this said to an almost 52-year old?), just you wait.

And so we rebel. I was pedaling away at the gym with a friend at dawn today (fighting atrophy?). She is my age. What struck me was how sensibly cheerful she was in her reactions to my stories, and how much she believed that her own (grown) children should be able to search for the joy that she herself routinely finds. The woman is so damn happy, even at the times when life (and a parent) presses her to be exactly the opposite.

I want several bumper stickers for my car: The pursuit of pleasure is not a sin. Those who find life fantastically rewarding are not, by definition, hurting others. Looking forward to better times is better than looking backward at bad times. And so on. The anti-gloomers are forging a quiet revolution, ripping to shreds the signposts of gloom. You’re welcome, you young ones after us. We blaze endless trails for you – know how lucky you are that this is one of them!
posted by nina, 3/11/2005 05:26:00 PM | link | (0) comments

The word of the year in 2004: blog. The word of the year in 2005: privatization 

Americans are unconvinced about the need to privatize Social Security. Good. So am I. But catching the debate on privatization on the other side of the ocean really caused me to sigh (in a resigned life-is-tough-and-I-can’t-do-anything-about-it sort of way) because it says so much about the Poland of yesterday and the conflicted Poland of today. Here’s the story: Yesterday, Polish coal miners participated in a referendum on whether to privatize coal mines. 100,000 voted (75% of those eligible). 97% were opposed to privatization.

This does not surprise me: Of course they voted no! Coal mining under communism was a lucrative profession. You held on to your job, your salary was on the high end of the Polish scale and the mines remained opened, regardless of market pressures on the industry.

We are looking these days at a more conflicted Poland: a nation that says yes to market capitalism, on the condition that it does nothing to disturb the nobler aspects of Life As It Was Back Then.

In the meantime, those outside the industry are bitterly watching the vote come in and their reactions are less than magnanimous. I read in the News chat rooms: why should the miners remain privileged while the rest of us suffer the risks of an unstable market?! What a sick referendum! Why ask only them? The mines “belong” to all of us! We, the taxpayers*, should decide how they should be run.

Worry not, readers who think privatization is the way to go in all walks of life. The mines are doomed. Their transfer into private hands is already underway. The referendum is like a last little voice coming from these gloomy dark caves that were once as close to diamonds as anyone in Poland was likely to get. A few more jobs lost, a few more security blankets ripped from the hands of those who want to cling on, because for a (small? not so small?) number of them, it was better then, even as it is not so bad now, what with all the stores showing all those wonderful things that the employed can, every now and then, purchase. The tricky part is to remain employed**.

* this is fascinating since Polish taxes are new, low, and not evenly collected.

** Poland’s unemployment rose to 19.1% in December; it is significantly higher outside the major cities.
posted by nina, 3/11/2005 11:21:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, March 10, 2005

It just boggles my mind that a high ranking Polish government official is taking on Ikea for its sexist instructional pamphlets 

There was a time when the mere mention of the word “feminism” in Poland would make people laugh. Did you know that American women are asking that sexist language be removed from school texts? Laughter. Hey, in the States, women are demanding that employers focus less on their appearance and more on their performance. Laughter. And so on.

So you could have knocked me over today when I read in the Polish paper that the Polish Minister for Social Affairs is spearheading the campaign to make Ikea redesign its pamphlets providing instruction on the assembly of furniture.

Why have we missed the boat on this one in the States? It seems that there are more than two thousand brochures with Ikea instructions and not one of them has a sketch of a woman doing the assembly. All guys. And the women in Poland are livid. [Why do I think that, after a day at work and an evening of housework and child care, it is indeed the women who are assembling tables and beds…]

The Minister herself states: I’m right there, putting the screws into the furniture, as are thousands of Polish women! [What did I say?] That’s how attitudes toward women are shaped, in these little ways – claims a representative to the Parliament. And I am sitting here reading and this time I’m the one chortling away. Because finally, issues of sexism are, to the Pole, no longer simply funny.
posted by nina, 3/10/2005 07:34:00 PM | link | (0) comments

You just call out my name... 

In demonstrating that he can say something nice about President Bush, Oscar writes: he was good to his friends.
I wonder if that’s true…Because I am going to guess that most of Bush's friends are not residents of Crawford Texas, it being a mere piece of lint on a map. Therefore, they are long distance friends. And in my experience, long distance friendships* suck.

Oh, I am asking for emails of protest here: my longdistance friends sustain me! We keep in touch!** We call each other when we are needy!

Yes, all that may be true (though disproportionately so among women, who appear to have a more expansive relational horizon than do men, especially over long stretches of time – at least that has been my experience). These friendships are curious, though, because availability appears to matter not at all. It becomes mostly about "knowing" that someone is there. A friendship conducted 99% in the imagination. How is it that it deserves to live under the same label as the proximate friend, the one who tracks your weeks and takes you out to dinner when you need to be taken out to dinner?

I received an email this morning from a long-distance friend. He writes: “I feel really bad about the way our friendship is going” and he then lists all the opportunities not taken, the broken contact (so that he knows little about my winter and I of his), the months of not writing.

Having moved an ocean away from very many very close friends, I have to say that over the decades, they become mere specs on the horizon – name entries in an address books, email writers upon occasion, a phone call maybe, and then loaded with some good days of intense love and camaraderie during the rare visit. Sustaining? Not in the everyday.

We need a new category for those who are away: they are, as the cliché would have it, our anchors. They may keep us from drifting away, from feeling displaced and lost. All fine and well. But let’s be honest: when we step out on the deck each morning, we don’t give them a second’s thought. We look to the left, to the right, never down below. We ignore them, they ignore us. Anchorships (an odd combination of terms, to be sure) are not friendships.

Maybe it’s easy if you have the resources to pull in your anchors on a regular basis and invite them for a week-end at the ranch. Maybe long distance friendship is much improved for the wealthy (must their lives be made easier in this respect as well?). Maybe Bush is, indeed a better friend than I am to my far away group and they are to me.

* Not the friends, mind you, I am writing about the friendships.
** My latest favorite from my long-distance friends: we read your blog! -- Thanks guys. That really makes me feel "connected," especially since, in the absence of you having any, I don't read yours.

posted by nina, 3/10/2005 06:21:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I am not going to let go of this one so easily… 

Yesterday I did get two wishes in the end for a “Happy Women’s Day:” one from a friend who was told to do it (“wish me a Happy Women’s Day already since no one else has!” – he obliged, probably somewhat terrified at my insistence) and the other from a friend who is plugged into a feminist network that supports the holiday on this side of the ocean.

Meanwhile, my sister writes this from Poland:

Women's Day is alive and well in this country. On March 7th already I noticed that a lot of men in Leclerc [a food store] were buying chocolates. Then yesterday, March 8th, you never saw so many people on the streets walking with flowers - those who just got them and those about to give them. Tulips mostly, all colors - yellow, orange, red, pink. A few roses here and there and some yellow jonquils. But not a sign of carnations. It looks like once the socialist Women's Day speeches are gone [this is a reference to the fact that the holiday was once much politicized and the government made a point of underscoring the role of women in building a socialist state], people get to enjoy this holiday. After all, can you really get annoyed if someone gives you flowers?

It sounds quite wonderful to me. Can we perhaps just once in a while be the importers of social custom instead of always sending our own abroad?
posted by nina, 3/09/2005 05:50:00 PM | link | (0) comments

I suppose he can have the “bunny” part, though it hardly seems appropriate to call a former president a bunny... 

I heard Bush Sr. refer to Clinton yesterday as the Energizer Bunny. Now, I do not mind that a former president promotes a certain brand of battery – after all, former Olympians are all about plugging brands and they get good money for it. Bush was doing this for free, demonstrating his enduring diplomatic panache. A man with the UN written all over his forehead. [Possibly there are some Bush – Energizer connections, but none that I am aware of.]

But I do mind the Energizer Bunny tag being brandished without care or deliberation. I have always wanted to appropriate the label as my own! I am the original bounce-back kid, the one with stamina and grit, Polish peasant stock pumps through my veins as it had for generations before me. I’m the one with ENERGY. I haven’t much to brag about, but this descriptor truly ought to be mine.

As for Clinton? The man is playing golf to raise money. It’s noble, it’s grand, but it’s also golf. And with respect to his health stamina, what can I say, he’s got the time to embark on a full scale fitness program! I have to squeeze things in. He’s 58 and basically out of a job. I’m fully employed and teaching overtime.

Can we share the label? No! If I share it, it will be with someone I find (energy-wise) inspiring. Someone who sleeps even less than I do and appears at peace with this, someone who does not play the guitar at night because of tiredness, but instead, learns a new language and builds a telescope strong enough to detect the Galilean moons around Jupiter. Or, I’ll share it with my grandmother. She’s no longer living and she never finished even grade school, so the telescope-building is not workable, but she had stamina! And grit! And heart. There's a true Energizer Bunny for you.
posted by nina, 3/09/2005 05:30:00 PM | link | (0) comments

You’ve changed, my mother told me a few years back… 

And I don’t think she meant in a good way. Perhaps she detected some ossification of traits she had wished would go away. Or, she suddenly saw parallels between the adult (more than just adult by now!) daughter and other adult members of the family she wasn’t especially fond of at the time. Quite likely.

I saw hope in that statement. For after all, doesn’t it mean we are capable of change? Regardless of how others judge the direction of it, isn’t it a sign that, with a little twitching, we can actually steer ourselves in a desirable (in our view) direction?

Last night proved that my mom was wrong and so my bubble of hope for a different, better me popped, making puddles of wistful thinking about how I could some day be a person who actually does what she sets out to do.

Because last night, I did what I had done for years and years back in high school, when I was, I thought, less “mature” and “disciplined.” What I did was simple: I stretched out on the floor, leaned against the foot of the couch, took out my guitar and played my Russian ballads. With some Polish odes thrown in. For hours I was there, with my guitar, letting that plunk and warble flow.

Sorry, mom. Once a guitar-playing wallower always a guitar-playing wallower. All that self-improvement I put aside in high school in favor of this rather fainéant activity? It was never meant to be. Some people industriously apply themselves to mastering the next level of whatever intellectual task or project they have undertaken in life and I think nothing of letting three hours slip humming about the sadness of never seeing Alexander Sergeiev Pushkin*, only to move slowly, wistfully into a poetic little tribute to summer

(with apologies for the roughness of my translations)

* What was once, will never return, it’s pointless to feel anguished about it,
Every era has its order, its beauty,
And yet I am saddened, that in this doorway, Pushkin will never appear,
I so crave, if only for a short moment, to sit down over a cognac with him.
(from the Russian poet, Bulat Okudzawa)

** Grasshoppers ran before me in a gallop
From underneath their hooves, flowers burst into bloom
Frogs in ponds lit fires of sound
In the sky the moon set flames of light to stars…
(the imagery in this song is Polish through and through)
posted by nina, 3/09/2005 08:26:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A ja tobie chcialbym dac, troche inne kwiaty.. 

Lyrics to a Polish song... they mean: me, I would like to give you slightly different flowers... Why is this in my head? Why am I playing this record right now (yes, it’s a record, scratches and all)? Because, as I wrote on the week-end, today is Woman’s Day, widely celebrated in Poland with gifts of flowers (oh, that ubiquitous red carnation!). March 8th is irrelevant in this country. No flowers for me, unless I pick some up myself. Or bring up this photo from a Madison summer market. For all of us who would enjoy seeing these on our kitchen tables/counters today:
posted by nina, 3/08/2005 03:40:00 PM | link | (0) comments
On March 8th (because just about everyone likes getting flowers), for you. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/08/2005 03:35:40 PM | link | (0) comments

A new thread: the ragged life of a blogger 

When I post something, even with anonymity, about someone who reads Ocean, I am filled with trepidation and anxiety. Not the sort that leads me to worry: what if I got it all wrong? I am smug enough to think that I did not get it all wrong – at least not from my own perspective here, behind the screen at Ocean. But what if they think I got it all wrong? What if they think that the light I cast on them is more like a menacing, mystical shadow, a malefic caricature of how they would have described themselves, or the event?

If you send a book to press, there is no going back. An author is not obligated to post an erratum with the second printing (assuming that the revelations are so fascinating that the masses are entertained and there is a second printing) – something to the effect: “the incident described on p. 145 does not in any way indicate that I indeed find Mary’s ratatouille tasteless. I do not.”

But in the blog, it’s different. I have had the occasional email from friends, family members, colleagues – ranging from mild annoyance to outrage at posts that have appeared on Ocean. From: I don’t remember it being that way, to you take that God damn post down or else! Once, only once, did I cower and oblige.

Since I’m not a ranter, the likelihood of offense is small. You’d think. So why is it that I sweat it out each time I hit publish?
posted by nina, 3/08/2005 08:03:00 AM | link | (0) comments

An hour over chili 

The bowl of chili is hot, the corn bread straight from the oven, the salad crisp and full of cut up fresh vegetables. The talk falls to Paris. And then to Poland. And to the generations that lived before us there. The ones that endured the shifting borders, who, rather than feeling displaced, developed a fierce allegiance to the concept of nationhood. And to those living there now, willingly (for the most part) falling into step with the EU even though, at some level at least, it must run counter to the concept of nationalism (maybe it's time). And those to the west of Poland, those who tampered with the border and on whose economy Poland now depends.

And about somewhat shabby hotels with relics from the past, tied to that past, trying to keep pace with the demands placed on them by people like us, with our computers and finicky demands for freshness and crispness (I have them too). And about stores filled with merchandise, proudly displayed, in excess of what any family (except for a handful) can afford. About the crowds filling a square that has café tables spilling over one another, so that there’s hardly room for the pigeons (which may be a good thing, if you ask me).

And now I am drifting back, scanning the place, noting the stalls of flowers – so many flowers! Who are the recipients of all these flowers? And the trumpeter is out doing his hourly number at the top of the tallest of the two church towers…

So you’re really coming to visit this spring? -- I ask.

Yes, wouldn’t miss it for anything.
posted by nina, 3/08/2005 07:05:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Monday, March 07, 2005

Typing on your laptop and watching the texts of Marcel and Leo appear on the screen 

In a New Yorker tribute to Hunter S. Thompson, it was stated that Thompson’s “true model and hero was F. Scott Fitzgerald. He used to type out pages from “The Great Gatsby,” just to get the feeling, he said, of what it was like to write that way.”

I tried it this week-end. Aim big, I told myself, staring with total admiration at two favorite classics – one of Tolstoy, the other by Proust. Did I feel flooded with greatness as I set out to do this? No, I felt like their secretary. I felt like I was going to be admonished for using the wrong language by both and that Proust would invariably call out to his mother and tell her to fire me. Tolstoy would be more forgiving, I’m sure. Didn’t I read somewhere that he was scorned and rejected by friends and by women while at the university (his bushy eyebrows and full lips making him feel terribly self-conscious about his looks)? Surely he, the dispirited and disinterested academic that he was, would understand why this typist wasn’t doing justice to his Anna K.

Maybe the problem was that I did not use an inkwell and pen. I’m familiar with those. We actually used them in my first grade class back in Poland (that’s how old I am – or, how behind the times Poland was). Or maybe I should have selected a female author. Maybe I’ll rub nicotine stains on my fingers and stick rocks in my coat pocket and hack away at the Waves when a slow day next comes around. But honestly, I just don't see how I could ever, even momentarily, take ownership of someone else's text. Thompson's imaginative stretch (or audacious presumptuousness?) must have been far greater than mine.
posted by nina, 3/07/2005 05:00:00 PM | link | (0) comments

The last trolleybus 

The title of the previous post made me think of the hours upon hours of my youth spent on guitar playing. If someone were to ask – and how did you waste your high school years? I’d have to answer “staring into space, strumming my guitar and wallowing.” My guitar playing, which thrived at a self-taught level of not good but not god-awful either, is possibly not something I want to brag about in public.

And yet…

I was in love with the ballads, mostly those of the Russian, Bulat Okudzawa.

He was a poet (in the 1950s and 60s) and he used music to add even more lyricism to the beauty of the Russian verse. The lines are laced with what my friend here has once referred to as the typical Eastern European angst: living in the shadow of World War II, Okudzawa wrote mournful poems (filled with innuendo) about the brutality of war, about loss, about displacement.

I should remember to pick up my guitar at times when the Maiden of Nuremberg threatens repeatedly to close the lid on my insides with her sharp spikes. This song would be at the top of the list of wallowing-in-angst song moments:

the Last Trolleybus (crudely translated by me)

And when it is impossible to float against the tide
Impossible to pull out of despair
A blue trolleybus takes me away from here.
A blue trolleybus,
the last one.

My midnight ferry, you sail through the night
Not caring whether it is deep, whether it is shallow,
You collect all of us who are hitting rock-bottom,
From the boulevards,
The fallen ones.

Oh, open your doors: a passerby, a guest,
I know that for those sinking through the night --
Someone from your passengers, from your crew
Will get up
Will help them.

Many a time I fled with them from despair
I felt their shoulder against mine…
And yet, really, there is sense in silence
There’s goodness
In silence.

A release for the downtrodden, your doors beckon
Moscow is like a swollen river,
And the pain that has made itself felt from morning
Leaves off

By morning-time.

Chipper little piece of writing, isn't it? To be savored and deployed as needed, accompanied by the strum of a few minor chords.
posted by nina, 3/07/2005 12:15:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Killing me softly with my own words 

As I read through yet another stack of Law School Admissions files, I am struck by how neatly I can group candidate statements into three: those with passion, those with adversity, those wishing they had one or the other.

What would I write were I applying someplace now? I’m not one to dig into chapters from the past laced with drama (in the “I almost lost everything” sense, even though I did, several times). Then would it be the positive, up-beat statement about passion and commitment? Not likely. I noticed separately, in another writing project that is under way for me, that I do not like writing about the achingly benign character traits that push toward good behavior and excellence. Lost and displaced – I’m fine with that. Well-adjusted and pushing ahead in life – I just can’t embrace it on paper (maybe not in real life either). And so my statement would, most likely, fall flat and sound like it was ripped off the Internet or something.

In other words, were I applying now, most likely I would be placed on hold, with a post-it inside (I put numerous post-its myself into files) saying: appears to lack ambition, passion, no adversity, nothing stands out.
posted by nina, 3/07/2005 09:21:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Sunday, March 06, 2005

121 days left (before departure, but not mine) 

Two people experience a loss. They recover their sanity and their cheer in the course of a road trip. They decide that road trips are the way to go. And so they plan to set out, for a year, traveling randomly around the country, 121 days from today. [This is my terse summary – don’t neglect clicking onto the travelers’ own version, planted in their sidebar.]

I have blogrolling to thank for the various blog connections that I have made this week-end – all inclined toward the story telling that I love so much. I cannot end this day without urging you to check this one as well: home sweet road. It’s like a book that you can’t put down, only you read it backwards, in the way that happens with blogs.
posted by nina, 3/06/2005 07:55:00 PM | link | (0) comments

More on learning languages 

Isn’t it funny that a chapter on the Polish language should itself make use of a term in a way that is incorrect in that given context! A reader reminds me that “steep learning curve” (as in: Polish has a steep learning curve) is so often used to mean "hard to learn" whereas it actually implies just the opposite.

Ah well, it could be that “steep learning curve” will eventually become so standard in its misuse that it will replace the technical term (with its original source in engineering).

And speaking of incorrect meaning, I thought of still another delicious aspect of the Polish language: it makes use of sounds that Americans simply cannot reproduce. For example, the “sz” letter combination creates a harsh version of an English “sh.” Now, if you say the simple word “prosze” in Polish, you are saying (depending on the inflexion and context) either “here you are” or “take this please” or “what would you like” or “you’re welcome” or “what did you say?” All those meanings in one word!

But I can guarantee that the list of meanings does not include “pig.” Yet, the English speaking person invariably pronounces it as “pro-sh-eh.” Thus, in an attempt at courtesy, they are telling the listener “Pig! You pig! You rotten hog in a pig sty!” It’s quite funny to the impartial observer.
posted by nina, 3/06/2005 01:19:00 PM | link | (0) comments


An morning walk on a sunny day revealed this:
posted by nina, 3/06/2005 11:40:00 AM | link | (0) comments
only one small patch so far, but it's enough to make you grin. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/06/2005 11:38:45 AM | link | (0) comments

Learning languages 

I was just reading a book about the Polish language. Why, you might ask? Don’t I know it already? Oh yes, sure, of course. But I had this curiosity about what it is that I know. For example, these heretofore unknown to me truths emerged:

* Linguistic associations rank Polish as belonging to the group of ten most difficult languages in the world.
* In addition to the difficulties of the language itself (all those consonants! A simple word like wzbronione seems to cause English speaking people great pain, and they totally fall apart when faced with a little nothing, like szczerze), understanding is further confounded by the fact that meaning often changes depending on inflexion, pronunciation and emphasis. [I love the example given: in Polish, when you say “Iran attack Iraq” it can mean either that Iran attacked Iraq, or vice versa, depending on the context.]
* Polish has seven characters that exist in no other alphabet.
* Polish has seven cases, two numbers and three genders and an adjective qualifying a noun must agree in all three respects OR ELSE!
* And finally, this is said of it: Polish has a steep learning curve.

I have no idea what they mean – it took me no time at all to pick it up. A babe could do it.

And it’s not as if English doesn’t present its own challenges. As a new kid on the English-speaking block, I had to come to terms with the fact that English has sixteen verb tenses.
You truly are insane! Why do you need all those verb tenses? In Polish, we only have three: past, present, future. Why muck around with all the absurd had beens and will have hads? Perhaps you should stop trying to simplify the tax code and concentrate instead (since you clearly want to make English the universal language) on getting rid of 13 of the tenses. You’ll do some three billion people an enormous favor.
posted by nina, 3/06/2005 07:51:00 AM | link | (0) comments

One child left behind 

I know, I'm now engaged in the mutual blogrolling thing and so you can find him on my list here, on the left, but if you’re not a roll clicker, then at least click here in this post. You just have to read this guy. Blogging, to me, has always been all about picking up little bits from a day (or from the past, or from one's mind) and writing short little stories around them. His are phenomenally well done.
posted by nina, 3/06/2005 07:38:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Are we gonna let de-elevator bring us down, Oh, no let’s go! Let’s go crazy, Let’s go nuts! 

The last time I felt that engaged with dancing was on a field trip, in a Polish youth hostel, with my new classmates (I had just that year come back from the States), when I was fourteen. That day was marked by significant bridge-building for me. It’s as if I was desperate to hang onto my fading American ways. I danced as if my life really did depend on it. It was so new to be dancing in this way in Poland, in the spring of 1967. I felt like I’d been all wound up and then someone pressed the “go” button.

So what explains last night? I am not one of those people who lives to dance, who cannot say no to an evening of movin’ to the beat. Fine, yes, my foot twitches to the sound of music, but it stops there. With few exceptions (all in the last year, actually), I don’t normally get up and dance for significant number of hours, without pause, without catching my breath.

It had to be the coming of spring. Or my thinking so much lately about Poland and that period where I was more Polish again than American (and which am I now?). It must be that the hostess created the right conditions. Yeah, that’s it! The dance space, people drifting in and out, in the way that people drift in and out of your life in general – engaged, then off at the sidelines, partnering you then letting go, standing back as you continue to do your thing.

When did I finally stop? At some point, well after midnight. I was all danced out. Like at the hostel in Poland, something inside you says – okay, that was good, now it’s time to put it aside and move on to the next day.
posted by nina, 3/06/2005 07:17:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, March 05, 2005

A full plethora of sensual and intellectual activity 

I recently told someone that it’s not all in how things look. One scene tells many stories on many levels. Still, our eyes have become so efficient, what with all the corrective lenses and laser surgeries, that we are happy-happy to under-use just about every other sense and processing device available to us.

Maybe nature intended us to use our vision less over time, so that we would appreciate the world more fully. Maybe our eyes were meant to fade, as our brains wisened up. Maybe over time touching and smelling were to rekindle within us feelings of comfort and serenity. Maybe. In light of these majestic possibilities I think training our other senses and experiential devices is very much in order. No need to immediately read Plato or search for fields of lavender. All you have to do is open a brand new container of Illy espresso, dark roast, fine grind. Visually? Take a look below: not much. But oh, that rush of coffee aroma! And what intellectual component follows cracking open that lid? Writing a post about it. [Not that easy, believe me.]
posted by nina, 3/05/2005 03:20:00 PM | link | (0) comments
what's in a can... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/05/2005 03:17:05 PM | link | (0) comments

Where Ocean yet again endorses the polite and the thoughtful 

Last Sunday I stopped by a house with two little boys. One of the things I miss tons about having little ones under foot is that I don’t have many opportunities to browse through children’s books anymore. In the way I can’t resist lattes now, I once could not resist picking up books, and more books, and even more books for my own little ones. And so now I jump at excuses to go to places where there are little kids who would not mind an extra book on the shelf. To entice them into the project I’ll throw in a piece of chocolate, especially when I am told that a particular kid is a chocoholic. One has to promote good taste for desserts at an early age.

And it is perfectly wonderful to then pick up in the mail a note like the one below! I know, it’s ridiculously hard sometimes to get the kid to slow down long enough to write something down, but know that the effort is worth it. It is SO NICE to receive this, especially because one knows that it required more effort for an 8 year old to do it.

Thanks, Evan. Also for generously including your three-year old brother so that he’d look good too!
posted by nina, 3/05/2005 02:40:00 PM | link | (0) comments
how often do you get this kind of treat stuck in among the bills? Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/05/2005 02:39:51 PM | link | (0) comments

Cup half full: what a great set of days! Cup half empty: it’s warmer in South Dakota. 

I’m with the half full this week-end. Who cares about South Dakota!*

True, I found no snow drops yet and walking through Owen Woods was like navigating a slippery river bed. But at least it wasn’t muddy! And the birds – where do birds hang out in the winter? Suddenly they are everywhere. Too shy yet to be photographed. But so wonderful to listen to. Sun’s out. Life’s better than good.

*all in jest – no emails please!
posted by nina, 3/05/2005 01:55:00 PM | link | (0) comments
The one sign of color: a birdhouse. How pretty! Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/05/2005 01:54:14 PM | link | (0) comments
Like foaming champagne... Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/05/2005 01:52:31 PM | link | (0) comments
Water, snow, ice and sunshine. So slippery. So nice. Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/05/2005 01:50:35 PM | link | (0) comments

Oh may I squire you round the meads And pick you posies gay?---'Twill do no harm to take my arm.'You may, young man, you may.' * 

In planning my May trip to Poland, I have been jumping around my preferred Polish sites, checking up on what people are gossiping about these days. One of my favorites is the news daily, Gazeta Wyborcza. There is a “forum” on the front page where a question is raised by a reader and others weigh in with brief answers and opinions.

Today’s forum really made me smile because I imagined how differently the thread may have proceeded had the same question appeared in a Madison paper. Let me do a translation. [Background info: in Poland, March 8th has always been celebrated as “Women’s Day,” with flowers and special recognition being given to…women. But as so many of customs and holidays have been revamped under western (aka American) influence, questions are starting to crop up as to whether the time has come to put this holiday to rest.] Here, then, is today’s little discussion (I’ve omitted some repetitive comments to save space):

Q: Each year in my mind a dilemma arises: should I give flowers or not? Will she get miffed at me? At times it’s best to forget that it’s THAT day again and at other times, dear God, you better not forget! Will someone finally settle this one?

A1: I can’t think of a single instance where a woman receiving flowers would have gotten miffed!

A2: And not only on March 8th :-)

A3: Oh, I know of some! :-))))

A4: In my opinion, give, give and give more flowers! I think that most women like getting flowers…Anyway, our culture demands that we behave well and treat this as a special day. What would we do without the beautiful gender?

A5: I’m not giving. Why? Because my sister and my women friends have already reminded me that March 8th is coming up and that’s why they’ll get nothing… I’m not going to give anything because it is expected of me. I’ll give a flower or a whole bouquet on one day, maybe everyday, but it has to be my decision.

A6: So I gather that presents and birthday wishes and holiday greetings you give out also when you feel like it, not when the calendar demands it. You should be congratulated on your good manners and self-satisfaction.

A7: What would we do without the beautiful gender? Live normally at last!

A8: Why don’t you instead give her chocolates …or a kiss…

A9: So stupid to even ponder this…Doesn’t a woman in today’s world deserve just a smidgen of gratitude? She’s supposed to only slave away at work, in the home? Unfortunately, I have never received a flower without any occasion and neither has any woman that I know of…

A10: You deserve not only a smidgen but whole lot of our gratitude. We’re just jealous. See – the men are on your side, even on the Internet!

A11: Let’s please not make an issue of this! March 8th has always been Women’s Day and we have always received flowers and presents! And it was nice! We can’t count on getting anything on other days. We go to work, we leave work, we get groceries, we cook dinner… I await March 8th!

A12: My husband doesn’t observe Women’s Day. But my work colleagues do and I get flowers from them…I take from this that I am more of a woman to strange men than to my husband. A wife is an institution – someone to do the laundry, to take care of HIS sick mother. From such small things [no flowers] begins the end of love as one as felt it on the wedding day.

A13, 14, 15, etc: (from the vast majority:) Give the flowers! We love them! Yes, please continue to give flowers, on this day, on other days! Long live March 8th!

* A.E.Housman
posted by nina, 3/05/2005 10:48:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, March 04, 2005

Don’t Mess With Martha 

I rushed home tonight so that I could catch the news and watch Martha Stewart reenter the real world of her $xxx million home

Why do I mention this? Because I have less than zero interest in the woman and her empire (even if I think a few of her decorating ideas, from what I’ve seen in grocery-line flipping through her magazine, are kind of pretty). And yet I thought – this will be interesting.

It wasn’t. She got out, went outside and walked around her $xxx million yard. Big deal. What was I thinking??

But I did listen to the news reporters – from WSJ columnists to major network anchors – speculating endlessly if she will use the period of her imprisonment auspiciously to boost her image and prop up her ambitious new ventures. Her walk through the garden was analyzed to death: is she smiling to purposefully ingratiate herself to the public? Was she tugging at lemons to draw attention, perhaps, to yellow-toned products? Maybe it’s because there wasn’t much of a story in her return and so we had to listen to an invented drama. Or maybe we just cannot forgive her for being so damn successful at selling an image. Why the hell can’t she trip up already? This Polish-American woman just cannot take failure, can she? One tough woman. The t-shirt says it all:

posted by nina, 3/04/2005 06:24:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Where Ocean gives women invaluable dating and mating advice 

Stay away from guys whose index finger is stubby and short!

I am so glad that someone has finally figured out how to assess the behaviors of a potential dating subject. Before, all we had was conversation. Sure, we could google people, even track down their criminal records, but personality-wise – clueless. Everyone knows that men (and women, but someone else can write a post on that) display their best behaviors, not at all indicative of their true nature, when hunting down their loved one.

Science comes to the rescue at last, providing invaluable information for women who are about to be swept off their feet. In the hand that opens the door for her, she will find the “key to aggression.” A recent study (described in a BBC article here) reveals that finger length will tell her a lot about the man of her sweet dreams.

Let me summarize the three findings and then you can decide for yourself if he is worth it:

The shorter the index finger is compared to the ring finger, the more boisterous he will be.
Men with more “feminine” finger lengths may be more prone to depression.
A longer ring finger may indicate that he is one fertile dude.

The researchers tell us that unfortunately, finger length tells us nothing about male neuroticism. Why they should think that this, above all else, is something we need to know at the outset is beyond me, but I’ll pass that piece of information along in case aggression, fertility and depression are irrelevant and you only care about the degree of neuroticism in your future mate. The finger studies will tell you nothing. You’re back to conversation on that one.
posted by nina, 3/04/2005 09:09:00 AM | link | (0) comments

When in Poland, chase down the Americans, of course. 

In the course of my frequent travels to Poland, it had never once struck me to look up Americans living there. Sometimes, when American friends would be traveling through Europe at the same time that I was, we would meet there, which in itself was amusing. We’d not meet a heck of a lot in the States, but once in Europe, it was a must! But never have I actually sought out other Americans once I crossed the ocean. What causes me to do this now (during my forthcming May trip)? There are American bloggers living in Poland, both of them teaching English to Poles (find them on my new, fancy blogroll!). One can never say no to a blogger. It’s as if you have been meeting these people all the months of posting and reading and enjoying their written company, it follows that you would want to see them once you’re within a hundred miles of where they live.

I am working the permutations of the American and Polish descriptors to death: I know American Americans, Polish Poles, Americans with Polish heritage, Americans from Poland (me), and now I’m adding the category of Americans living in Poland with Polish spouses who will soon be residing in America. What’s missing? The person who lives in Poland having once lived in America. Oh – wait, that’s my sister! I’m covered on all fronts.
posted by nina, 3/04/2005 04:53:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Blogroll up and ...tripping 

Yes, I finally posted sidebar links to favorite blogs.
No, it was not as easy as I thought it would be.
Yes, it took a lot of time.
No, it's not working perfectly.
Yes, I emailed those with troubled and troubling URL's asking what the buzz was.
No, I do not intend to fix the two one defective links tonight. [UPDATE: they're fixed.]
Yes, I'll add others. Please, go easy on me. This was hard enough.
No, I do not pretend to be facile with HTML. I don't even know what it stands for. Hateful Technological Manipulative Disorder? I don't care that the letters do not match.
Yes, that's all I have to say about this for now.
posted by nina, 3/03/2005 09:07:00 PM | link | (0) comments

I would not be one of THEM if I did not write a comment about the hot topic of the day 

There is much discussion currently in our Law School about Internet use in the classroom. I’ll permit a reasoned guess as to how the troops appear to be aligning themselves. You are correct! Most faculty (of those who have bothered to post on this) favor placing some limits on Internet use (in the name of etiquette and pedagogy) and most (though not all) students favor leaving this to their own judgment.

I am in the collegial minority – I have gobs to say about etiquette and not a whole lot on the matter of how pedagogy is affected by Internet surfing. Because, in truth, I do not know that much about pedagogy, except what I see students responding well to, as evidenced by their class participation, attendance, exam performance and course evals. I trusted them with fashioning their own learning styles before and I am ready to let them judge now how they wish to listen and learn. [My guess is that the educational professionals (the school teachers) who these days clutter school rooms with visuals, know what they’re doing. By comparison, our Law School walls are bare. Clutter on the screen may be an antidote for some students whose eyes glaze over when they have to look at just ME.]

On the matter of etiquette, I feel myself to be on firmer ground. I am an etiquette buff. Some people are fastidiously precise with putting on make up in the morning, some iron their sheets and towels, still others use actual shoe polish on their shoes instead of spitting on a rag and wiping off the mud. Me, I like etiquette. I like polite, I like courtesy, I like good manners and good behaviors. I just like all that stuff that paves the way for pleasant, cordial relations. It makes life so much easier to proceed with respect. And so, I am convinced that rules of laptop ettiquette should appear in every spot on earth where laptops are permitted (these would include no porn, no distracting visuals, nothing that may be intrusive, rude, inappropriate, etc.).

As for me, up there in the front of the room, at some point there will be a student who will come to class with an iPod in one ear and a laptop under her arm and she will take off her glasses and close her eyes and snore and the snore will flutter the newspaper where she has been doing the crossword to the floor and that, most certainly, will be a distraction for me. At that moment I say take that piece of technology and find yourself another rest station. But it hasn’t happened yet. From my vantage point, students appear to be decent and polite. Especially when they understand that they are being graded by the prof who is watching them every single minute of class time.
posted by nina, 3/03/2005 12:03:00 PM | link | (0) comments


Since I have lived in this house (17 years this summer), I have never had a backyard neighbor. The house on the adjacent lot stands empty, neglected. Upon occasion one can talk oneself into seeing lights at night there, shadows on the blue snow, moving images and shapes, signs of life, but not really, because, unless one is under a martini haze, there is no life there. The house is truly deserted.

In the morning, of course, it is obvious that any noises or dancing shadows from the night were all in one’s head. Add a pinkish orange morning tint to the scene and you’ll have a house that is truly bewitching, if not bewitched. I’m looking at it now as I work away at the kitchen table. So tranquil, so pretty! So deserted.
posted by nina, 3/03/2005 07:18:00 AM | link | (0) comments
morning light, the "witches' house." Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/03/2005 07:16:28 AM | link | (0) comments

A Madison March morning 

So, you, dear reader from a southern state, you wanted to see the way spring makes its way to our doorstep here in Wisconsin? Alright. A photo from this morning:
posted by nina, 3/03/2005 06:40:00 AM | link | (0) comments
Backyard steps. (Were you expecting crocuses? On March 3rd? In Madison?) Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/03/2005 06:38:35 AM | link | (0) comments

You never know: that person riding the subway with me in NYC? She may well be a former student of mine. 

One of the fantastic things about teaching is, of course, that sooner or later, the student is done with your classes. By that I mean that they move on. I have already rhapsodized about keeping connected to those who that stay in town. Over the years, as their numbers swell, they fill the firms around Madison and you get to the point where you never know (especially if you are like me and have a problem keeping a name to a face) when you are going to be passing each other on the street. I feel like inevitably there will come a day when someone will come up to me and do one of those “Moonstruck” numbers of spitting at my feet or slapping me down for something that I said or did that irritated them back in 1989. To date, they have been more gracious than that, but you never know.

Those that go away typically are gone for good. Occasionally they will email, but that conversation usually fizzles after one round of “how’s it going?” I love the updates, but absent a more current mutual stomping ground, we simply don’t have the time to take things further than that.

Enter the world of blogs. Yesterday I heard from one of my students of many, many years back. She had discovered Ocean a while ago and, probably in the spirit of “if she can do it, it can't be that hard,” her NYCbeauty blog was born. She had always been a clever and audacious writer. She now joins the ranks of others around town and out in the world who have taken up this hobby and are producing some of the funniest, punchiest posts out there. Check out her introduction to her blog. It’ll make you chuckle for sure.
posted by nina, 3/03/2005 05:55:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

It is unbelievably sunny and bright outside. I am absolutely thrilled to be getting back to a writing project I let slide last month. I am greatly looking forward to munching dried organic white peaches that I picked up in SF. I just booked a flight to Poland in May. Pictures of crocuses are about to make an appearance on this blog.

There. Ocean is all about balance.
posted by nina, 3/02/2005 02:20:00 PM | link | (0) comments

I am inviting Larry Summers to our next blogger dinner 

I noted earlier that last Wednesday, a game was hatched between Bozzo and Oscar. Basically the goal was to outsmart (in a mechanical way) the ecosystem link count by mutual link-adoration. Freese joined within hours and as of yesterday, they appear to have succeeded in pushing the blogs toward link stardom. B,O,F: Are you doing some harmonic belching yet in celebration of your achievement?

And the girls? Why weren’t we playing? Some words the capture for me the spirit of their game: “silly,” “competitive and pointless” “doesn’t go to the relational aspects of blogging.” It seems clear that I refuse to play with blogs in the way that these three are doing. I can just imagine what Larry Summers would say.
posted by nina, 3/02/2005 10:00:00 AM | link | (0) comments

A post on how Ocean inspires young attorneys to engage in the august, the exemplary, the most noble of pursuits 

A wee part of me had always hoped that Ocean would entertain, yes, of course, but occasionally also maybe elevate and inspire – to travel, to learn about Poland, to be forgiving of human foibles, to write and pursue one’s artistic streak… I get all choked just writing about the possibilities.

I was, therefore, gratified to learn that one wonderful former student who has recently entered the ranks of the legal profession has taken to blogging. Moreover, he is an Ocean reader and I can tell that I have indeed inspired. Read about it here and here.

UPDATE ON BOZZO LINKS: After my earlier run in with the Maiden of Nuremburg, I did not have it in me to work on the Ocean sidebar last night. I will get to it by tomorrow, for sure!
posted by nina, 3/02/2005 07:18:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Is Ocean joining the ranks of Very Strange Blogs? 

I noticed that the side bar with a blogroll is up and running! But….are you saying that the only blog you read is that of Bozzo?
What makes you think that?

Take a look: it’s all about Bozzo
Bozzo rules. Actually I should go ahead and change that. Bozzo & Lee rule.

Who is Lee?
Lee is in on the partnership. You know: There are two Bozzos and then two Lees in the household.

I see. How delicate.
No, you don’t understand. It’s all one family and always has been. And they rule.

Obviously they rule your blog. Again, have you looked at your sidebar lately?
Looked at it! I created it! Actually, big Bozzo created it. Hence this moment of Bozzo stardom. The blogroll is all about Bozzo. At least for the next hour or so.

Big Bozzo. Suddenly you’re writing about size. So…crude.
My eating companions tonight included a big Bozzo and a little Bozzo. And a Lee. Look – the last time I had such a roll of bad days (weeks? months?) was decades ago where I said to those within spittin’ distance (that would be my immediate family): get me out of this funk! I need to go to Canada! They knew not to tinker with that one. We went to Canada. But times have changed. Everyone’s going to Canada these (post election) days. It doesn’t provide the exotic relief it once did. All is not lost, however. So long as I have advice from afar (thank you), a reader for my text (thank you) and Bozzo, Bozzo, Lee and Lee cooking me up spaghetti and meatballs, I’ll be okay. Here, before I get to work on my Bozzo sidebar (by tomorrow, this post will totally not make sense, as all but one of the Bozzos will be erased), admire the photo of one of my Bozzo hosts for the evening:
posted by nina, 3/01/2005 09:15:00 PM | link | (0) comments
my dinner host let me know: utensils are passé.
 Posted by Hello
posted by nina, 3/01/2005 09:14:11 PM | link | (0) comments

March came in demonstrating that if things are rocky rocky at the outset, they can get even worse! 

I would be remiss not to blog about the 11th hour today (it is the one that immediately follows my teaching). It could be that, if I spent a day at a spa doing total body relaxation, I may let my mind reach for memories of worse work hours, but I would be hard pressed to do so.

Hard pressed, Exactly. I would say that this hour, and therefore this day could provide nice competition in terms of evil and torture with what once was endured by a person locked in the Maiden of Nuremburg, an ancient contraption looking, to the best of my web searching efforts, something like this:

Oh, not threatening enough? The Maiden of Nuremburg is described thus (and please read it carefully because the highlighted by me phrases quite nicely replicate my 11th hour of today):

This instrument has four main features, whose wickedness … deserve to be analyzed. The inside of the sarcophagus was fitted with spikes designed to pierce different parts of the body, but miss the vital organs, so that the victim was kept alive, in an upright position. Its second feature is that the victims were kept in an extremely confined space to increase their suffering.Its third feature was that the device could be opened and closed without letting the victim, who had been pierced from the front and the back, get away. Its fourth feature was that the container was so thick that no shrieks and moaning could be heard from outside unless the doors were opened. When the sarcophagus doors were shut again, the spikes pierced exactly the same parts of the body as before, and thus no relief was ever possible.

Spiky wickedness, with targeted suffering, no chance of getting away, no relief in sight. Exactly!
posted by nina, 3/01/2005 03:01:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Where Ocean strives to encourage feelings of empathy among those living south of us: 

March 1st:

Temp outside: 15 degrees F
Windchill: something like 5 degrees F
Snowcover: more than it was on the day I decided to forego shoveling thinking it would all melt before my eyes imminently.

posted by nina, 3/01/2005 07:43:00 AM | link | (0) comments

I'm Nina Camic. I teach law, but also write (here and elsewhere) on a number of non-legal topics. I often cross the ocean, in the stories I tell and the photos I take. My native Poland is a frequent destination.

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