The Other Side of the Ocean

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

(from the East Coast) please come to Boston 

In the course of my New York childhood, my parents never took me to Boston. They were crazy about roadtrips and we took many, across the country, in a Chevy with vinyl seats, often during the hottest days of summer.

But no Boston.

My first trip here was when I was a nanny to a New York family at the end of my college days. The family decided on a week-end in Boston. My charge, being totally into her nanny, was excited the entire drive up. We were given our own room at the Ritz-Carleton, overlooking the Public Gardens. Her mom, though, always wanting me to branch out and meet real American kids my own age, suggested that they take their little one to their room and I go visit (and stay with) my charge’s older sister who was living in Sommerville.

My charge sobbed long and hard in deep protest. I was torn – should I please my employer, the mom, or please the little girl? I chose the former. It was the first time that I recall having deliberately disappointed a little child.

My second trip to Boston came when I just graduated from college and my friend, also a recent graduate, moved into her own apartment in the North End. She made me a dinner of chicken and peach halves. I remember nothing else about the visit.

My third and all subsequent trips came when I was already a mother, with children either with me or waiting for me. Most often we’d stay in Cambridge and take the Red Line into town, venturing out on long walks through parks, along twisty streets, trying to understand the heart of the city as best as we could in the few days we would give it during any single visit.

So today I returned to Boston proper. It was a trip that was destined to pull things together for me. Not surprisingly, I started with the North End, the Ritz being just one of those sad memories that’s best forgotten (so I told myself).

To me, New York’s Little Italy loses big time to Boston’s North End. It’s understandable. The exodus hasn’t happened here and you see evidence aplenty of the old community that my college friend said frowned on outsiders as it sought to protect its own.

The streets looked vaguely familiar, though honestly, I was most drawn to the foods and the cafés.

New Haven Aug 05 066


New Haven Aug 05 067
lemon and chocolate cream filled

New Haven Aug 05 071
the best cappuccino this side of the ocean

I could have spent more hours there, but I was on a mission. I wanted that Boston heart to finally come forward and make itself evident. And so I walked – down the hill, through the Public Gardens, taking it all in, as the rain doused the vast green spaces and people took shelter anywhere they could.

New Haven Aug 05 078

ducklings and others

New Haven Aug 05 079
a child with hope, and a bird

I ended up on a commercial street and I walked into a gallery. With paintings. I was interested.

I had done a lot of picture hanging this past week and I have even more ahead of me. Picture hanging is sort of symbolic. It’s the last thing you do when you move into a new place.

So too, this gallery was a kind of ending. Literally – it came at the end of my walk, on this last day of August. And figuratively, as I thought there about the way I had disappointed people, ever since that first trip to Boston and all the way through to now, and how often that happens in spite of our best intentions.
posted by nina, 8/31/2005 07:55:00 PM | link | (8) comments

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

(from the East Coast) gotta get on board now, oh yeah! 

You’re done with the nuts and blots of the New Haven move-in. You’ve got your return ticket home, but it’s not for a couple of days yet. What do you do? Get on that Metro Line and head south to NY, or on the Amtrak line and head north to Providence or Boston. There are trains. They'll take you places. Yesss!

Don’t know anyone in Providence. Do know someone who is currently in dire straights in Boston –moving in and overwhelmed. So easy to hop on a train and do a spin up to where the seafood is legal.

New Haven Aug 05 035 at dinner: all seafood, all legal

I am setting up a company upon my return to Madison: Moving Madness. CEO/CFO/CeverythingO NLC. You yelp, I help.

The thing about paying attention to others and their moving issues is that it takes the mind off of one’s own. So that if I can boss around another with instructions on where to pound nails for the various wall hanging projects, then I do not have to remember that I have INSURMOUNTABLE picture hanging issues awaiting me back in Madison [as in: how do you even begin to mount pictures on a thirty foot wall? In steps? Gradations? Several layers? One layer? How?].

Okay, yesterday I was giving a critical assessment of my little one’s living space. Today was all about the Cambridge acclimatization of another. Tomorrow? Tomorrow I say ah, you’re all doing well in your new places. They are fantastically beautiful. You did a splendid job! My plan is to now head out and do some serious town-browsing. I've missed that.
posted by nina, 8/30/2005 11:05:00 PM | link | (2) comments

(from the East Coast) when the “to do” list is so long that it doesn’t fit on a single page... 

What then? Get up early and get to it.

I worked my tail off yesterday. No, really, we both did. On a hot, steamy (yes steamy, damn it, as in full of steam and humidity) day, we built, carried, purchased, shuffled and generally did everything necessary to bring this move-in project to a completion.

And it’s almost done. So much so, that I am about to retreat and let her finish it on her own. She (my little one) has already basically taken ownership of the project. Independence is a good thing.


On the road to success there are many tripping (if not tipping) points.

I’ll give just one example.

Those beautiful Matisse prints that I had agreed to ship to New Haven, why did they have to come wrapped in one thousand Styrofoam bubbles? Why, when I opened the box, did they all have to spill out on the sidewalk and street, leaving me vulnerable and likely to be arrested for defacing public spaces?

The village green was sprinkled with a fine layer of Styrofoam snow and I was left with a choice of either staying behind and waging a futile war with the dancing debris, or running in the other direction, with the prints carried high over my head like some kind of a sail of a thief who couldn’t quite handle the mast lines.


At some point, the two of us threw up our hands and said let’s Roomba!

New Haven Aug 05 016

You had to be there. Roomba is arguably New Haven’s best eatery (this in a town of dozens of fine eateries). It’s special: sleek, casual (no tablecloths, simple settings) and totally creative Latin cuisine.

Even though Roomba doesn’t require it, people treat going there as a big culinary deal. They take care with their appearance.

My little one and I went from unpacking boxes and building furniture to wiping grease and dirt as best we could so that we could present ourselves in this place of all places without causing a stir.

The food – ahhh the food. I’d never been there before. Somehow I saw it as belonging to the category of places you go to when you have both a birthday, an anniversary and a letter announcing your biggest promotion ever, all coming together on the same day. So it is fitting that we went there on the day when we simply needed a break from building a living space for the year.

New Haven Aug 05 021 talapia with the works
posted by nina, 8/30/2005 06:34:00 AM | link | (1) comments

Monday, August 29, 2005

(from the East Coast) reflections 

I’m typing at the desk in the hotel room and, as is often the case in these places, I am staring right into a large mirror, positioned directly in front of me.

I look up and I see waxed eyebrows (first waxing: March 05) and a toned and moisturized face (first concerted effort to look after it: August 05). Plus a few other interesting changes that I wont mention here.

As of last night, I am caught up with the New Yorkers. (First subscription to the New Yorker: August 74; first time caught up with the New Yorkers: August 05.) True, I have mounting pressures back home – a move, the beginning of a new semester, important personal issues to resolve – yet I could allow myself an evening of reading New Yorkers.

I am wondering why suddenly I am alerted to the pleasure of reading late and moisturizing early. Why it never struck me that this was a possibility, that indeed, many around me wax, moisturize, read New Yorkers, do pedicures and manicures (I have never had either), go for massages, listen to lectures on esoteric topics.

I had a vague idea that I should take care of my skin and I could read endless stories in magazines, but (apart from work and family obligations that everyone, of course, also has to worry about – some to a far greater extent than I) I was so busy chasing down projects and conniving how next to get the family over to Europe, that this other stuff just passed me by.

Small indulgence of self. It still seems sinful somehow, be it of mind or body. I remember being shocked when my man Jason told me five years ago that 87% of women my age color their hair. (He’s a persuasive fellow and so I broke down under his steady gaze). Really?

I had wondered if my inattentiveness here was the result of my being raised in post-war Poland. I don’t think so though. I am sure that every one of my women friends back in Warsaw moisturizes twice as much and as often as my friends here. People in Poland worry about their skin. And they read magazines (of the literary-cultural-political type) obsessively.

It’s me. I’m diffused and dilettantish and focused on a hundred different things in any given hour. If I indulge anything, it’s my inability to sit still. Taking care of skin and catching up on your subscriptions requires one to sit still.

It’s a wonder that I keep a blog – arguably the greatest of self-indulgences. Of course, blog birth: January 04. A recent addition to my daily routines. Right up there with very soft skin. God, does my skin look and feel soft and toned!
posted by nina, 8/29/2005 07:55:00 AM | link | (1) comments

Sunday, August 28, 2005

(from the East Coast) compensation 

In the course of one of the many ascents of this moving project, I stopped to catch my breath. Looking out the stairwell window, I was reminded that there is a distinct beauty to this place.

New Haven Aug 05 010

At dusk, a table outside offered still another reminder that New Haven is indeed a cosmopolitan town.

New Haven Aug 05 012
posted by nina, 8/28/2005 10:35:00 PM | link | (2) comments

(from the East Coast) notes and observations 

Two college friends run into each other after a summer away: each on his and her cell phone, they don’t pause in their respective conversations. They embrace with their free arm, give wide grins, mouth “how have you been?” then “fine,” all the while continuing their cell chats, point apologetically to their phones, wave and move on.


Conversation in cosmetics store:
I only need body lotion… forgot mine at home…
Ah. Grapefruit – go with the grapefruit one. But wait until you see what it does to your skin if you put it on after exfoliating.
I love all those products, but I always forget to use them. They wind up drying out in their dust-covered containers.
Well, at least for your face: exfoliate, tone, seal. Three steps. Surely you take them?
No, not really…
Here, let me show you (pretending the hand is just like a face, she begins to exfoliate, then tone then seal). Where are you from, btw?
Wisconsin. I’m supposed to do this how often?
Three times a week. Daily, you just use your cleanser, right?
I don’t really use a cleanser...
What?? How do you clean your face?
With water. [Guilt and panic set in as imagination conjures up weeks, nay months of accumulated environmental pollutants.]
Oh! You are so cute! With water! That’s so charming!
You think I should use special cleanser, don’t you?
(Two women in store nod heads vigorously.)
You know, one’s skin changes over the years. I prefer being happy with those changes than throwing products at them.
You color your hair, don't you?
My man Jason simply brings it to its natural shade and pristine glow, sort of what it was like at its peak -- at age 6.
(no comment necessary)
Okay, okay, tonight: after I finish lifting a couple more boxes up and down flights of stairs, I'll exfoliate, tone and seal already.
(smiles all around)


At Staples: Three rolls of carpet. We need three rolls. Can we borrow the cart to wheel them to their destination? We do not have a car.
Yes, leave a photo ID.
You know, we could use this cart for the rest of the day to move around other things.
How will it look to push around a Staples cart all over New Haven? It will look like we stole it. (weigh usefulness of cart against dorkiness of using it all day)
Okay, back it goes.


This year’s look: sexiness continues
to follow a downward direction as exposed lower torsos still catch the eye.


New Haven Aug 05 005
New haven, CT
posted by nina, 8/28/2005 01:25:00 PM | link | (3) comments

(from the East coast) movin’ on up 

(or: how to help a little one move into her college space given that I do not have the Arms of Arnold nor the stamina of a camel; I do have one thing though: HPPS* and mule-like stubborness, driving me to Get Things Done)

Four flights up, recover stored boxes, four flights down, three different flights up, place boxes in room.

Four flights up, recover stored boxes, four flights down, three different flights up, place boxes in room.

My hands are killing me. Not my arms, not my bicycled legs. My hands cannot hold another heavy box and clumsily, awkwardly, help lift it up another flight of stairs.

Four flights up, recover stored boxes, four flights down, three different flights up, place boxes in room.

A quick run to Ikea. Nearby, but not walking distance. Yet another chatty cabbie. I PAY for good cheer. They're rakin' it in from me today.

A lamp, two lamps. [I wonder if they have a shower curtain I could take back home with me to Madison? Seriously, does anyone know where I can get an interesting shower curtain back home? Don’t say Linens ‘n Things. Not interesting. Wait, we're takin' about a different move. Back to this one:]

Four flights up, recover stored boxes, four flights down, three different flights up, place boxes in room.

We need to stop.
Hi, Dean of College. How come this year’s reception is for class of ’09 parents only? Aren’t class of ’07 parent(s) good enough? I could have used those catered snacks. I haven’t eaten since yesterday, having declined an invitation to eat pizza and drink wine at 10:30 am.

Four flights up, recover stored boxes, four flights down, three different flights up, place boxes in room.

Oh thank you, storage area for closing at 10! Thank you so much.

We are ahead of schedule (when in the last three months have you heard me say that?) We are tired but happy (ditto). We make faces in the mirror across from our table at Cosi, order salads and toast marshmallows and graham crackers over a little burner. Heavy work, light heart.

* you can't be an Ocean reader and not know this: Hearty Polish Peasant Stock

posted by nina, 8/28/2005 06:25:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Saturday, August 27, 2005

(from the East Coast) oh hi! oh hi! oh. 

…or, more accurately, waiting to get there. In Cincinnati. At an airport that feels colder than Poland on a mid-January morning (the type of morning without much sunlight and with a prickly drizzle of ice falling on your nose, adding to the discomfort).

This is the first time I am flying into New Haven (not there yet!) as it is the first year that Delta decided to branch out and include Connecticut on its East Coast circuit. Yay Delta. All previous trips have been via New York or Hartford.

I cannot emphasize how On The Map it makes me feel, with both Madison (my home) and New Haven (the most frequently visited by me destination) linked in this way.

I am traveling with one of a very small handful of people who are, for me, the easiest to move around with – people who are ready to find pleasure in everything, including a sign that reads “Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky airport,” and who allow me to lean my head on their shoulder when I attempt to take a nap. Maybe these are not your criteria, but they most certainly are mine. Taking the arm in camaraderie and affection is also up there, but it is not as important as the first two items listed herein. Besides, this little one obliges me with the arm as well.

Perhaps I ought to work on my reputation though. At the airport, she coaxes me to take her to Moe’s – a pub where you can pretend that the pizza you’re eating crosses over nicely from breakfast to lunch. I’m reluctant. It’s only 10:30 Madison time. Oh please, she says – look! You can get a glass of wine!

Let it be known here that I never drink wine for breakfast. Never. Okay, fine, champagne brunch, but that’s different.

Just to prove my point, I drank water and ate nothing.

More later…
posted by nina, 8/27/2005 12:45:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Late (for my take off) 

...but ever reliable in keeing Ocean afloat.

If departures were easy, too many people would leave and there would be no one left at the home base to mind the ship.

My next post will be less nautical in nature. It will, however, be late, very late and from New Haven.
posted by nina, 8/27/2005 07:25:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, August 26, 2005

Have I got everything? Am I ready to go? 

(ha! you thought I would miss a day of posting, didn't you? fools!)

Is it gonna be wild, is it gonna be the best time
Or am I just a-saying so?Am I ready to go?
What do I hear when I say I hear the call of the road?

Why wouldn’t I quote lyrics when they are apt (especially since they happen to be on the only available decent tape to listen to in the car, as we spin, my daughters and I, for one last time through the neighborhood where they grew up)?

Posting is moving into difficult mode.

No no no, I am NOT having a mental crisis here, I am off tomorrow to the East Coast for the better part of the week. My littlest one is starting her next to last year of college and , like each Fall, I get to be the mover-facillitator. Posting will have to be on the sly, done in quick trips to erratically functional cafés, on the pretence that I have to dash down to check out the latest free trade blends.

Am I too old for this? (Not the posting, the moving in of daughters.)

I did it for the first time six years ago, when my oldest was first going off to college (same town, same college; the only thing that’s changed is the emergence of the BLOG!). I was 46 then. I remember going up to the Dean of the college and saying to her something like: “hey, look, miss. I am glad you got a good operation going here. But I am getting too old to be carrying boxes and building furniture for my kid.”

What do I say now, at 52? (Probably: so how come you ran out of the good snacks at this year's reception? You know, we take all the free food we can, giving that your college has sucked out every last penny from us in the past years.)

The residential college dean has never warmed up to me since, even though I have been going back regularly.

Six years later: I am still about to move boxes and furniture, painting walls as needed, pounding nails into walls that are too sensitive for that sort of thing.

But right now, I am in the midst of our last evening as a family in the home that is in every way our family home. You know, the one I pushed to put on the market. You know, the one I signed away today. I’m sure I am popular. Actually, it’s not about me. This night belongs to the daughters. And their childhoods here.

P.S. I feel like such a failure as a parent. They have no idea what Wonderama is.
posted by nina, 8/26/2005 10:55:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, August 25, 2005

pause for a station identification 

Remember those words from your childhood? Because these days, I don't hear them much. Pause. Exhale. It's time to identify your station. WQXR (ding! guess what that was? c'mon New Yorkers of my generation, what kind of a station was it?), for example.

It's a chance to reflect on what you're listening to and where you are in life.

My recounts of events of this week-of-high-drama (the title of the next popular reality show!) have irked some wise and some foolish people. When I went back with the tail more or less between my legs and asked still others if indeed I had been so annoying as to be insufferable and vile, they were baffled.

But truth is, it takes one wise person to discover that the earth is round. So I must go with the sage and leave the rest rubbing their chins in puzzlement.

I apologize.

To those who thought I was coming down hard against them: I am sorry. [Caveat: I am not sorry for coming down hard against those who in their lives do not treat their past, present or future loved ones with kindness and compassion.]

To those who thought I was batty at the least and about to jump into an abyss of neuro-psychotic illness (is it a disease? it sounds scary, hence the choice of words): I am sorry.

To those who hated the choice of instrument of torture for the home buyer ( a cannonball) --and there were many of you! --I am sorry.

Most of all, to the buyers who came back with a reasonable counter offer just five minutes ago, leading us to contemplate small sums of money instead of big cataclysmic outcomes: I am so so sorry. I know you love the house. Your letter is eloquent and genuine. May you have as many happy memories in this place as I did.

P.S. Yo, you home buyers: did you or did you not read this blog? fess up!

UPDATE: Coincidentally, today a friend sent me this image of an instrument of torture (had it been in my files earlier, I may have bypassed the cannonball idea):

posted by nina, 8/25/2005 09:45:00 PM | link | (16) comments

And people are just too much for me to face… 

And therefore, placing a particular house-purchasing family in a cannonball and firing it skywards seems just about perfect! [And I do not care if they are reading this. Go ahead, write your lower offer based on an exaggerated defect because, dudes, I am not going to accept it! Think you are so smart – reading my blog perhaps? I am fed up, I no longer want to sell you the house, I even take back my kind offer of the New York Times from this morning. My personal crises notwithstanding, I am not going to be drawn into this nightmare sale by house-buying transactional stubborness!]

…I climb up on the top of the stairs And all my cares Just drift right into space

Like hell they do. Type in correction: none of my cares are drifting into space. They are piling on rapidly and my plate was already full before this week even started. Prognosis: no relief in sight.

On the roof is peaceful as can be And there the world below can’t bother me…

Oh it bothers me plenty. Plenty. Thanks a lot world, for sucking it to me again and again. Thanks for last night as well (sorry, friend, for standing you up for drinks last night; I was quite incapacitated).

When I come home feeling tired and beat I go up where the air is fresh and sweet…

Where would that be? The fresh and sweet air I mean? In the crawlspace that the engineer came to inspect this morning? Is that it? Seemed fine up there. This is a forty year old house, damn it! You want a new property – here I’ll show you some houses farther west. Add a couple hundred thou and you can have all the brand new roof tiles you want!

Oh, did I hear that you registered your child for the local elementary school already? Well forget it! Tell junior mommy and daddy were forced out of the house by VERY ANGRY SELLER! I have no patience, no remorse, no oomph, no stamina left! Go pick on someone else, buttheads.

No more mr. nice-guy from me, ever. I tell you, it doesn’t pay! It DOES NOT PAY!

UPDATE: In case the buyers do not understand blogs, I am compelled to remind all that Ocean is a blog that believes in looking at tense moments with humor. I did modify the text a teeny tiny bit so as to not appear totally wacky. Which I am not.

* lyrics: my commenter was right. Peter belts it out, but Carole King wrote it

posted by nina, 8/25/2005 12:45:00 PM | link | (14) comments

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Everyone has a camel and a straw. Mine came tonight. Back broken. No comments necessary! Really. No sympathy, no, nothing please. It will do no good. Make a donation to your favorite charity, give money to GOODWILL, please, give them a boost. Because really, there is not enough of goodwill in this world. Not nearly.

And then, after you've written a check, sit back and reflect on how easy it is to do right by people who are important to your past and present -- even if not necessarily your future. Think how easy it is to wish them well. How simple not to break them. If you are parting with someone who, upon refelction, saved you in small and big ways once upon a time, remember those small and big gestures. Remember how once the person really truly was your best friend.

Don't screw your past best friends, even if they no longer are that. Don't trip them up. Look, look hard at their eyes and note their pleading wistfulness, their great desire to do the right thing even if you don't believe it is the right thing.
posted by nina, 8/24/2005 08:05:00 PM | link | (4) comments

When this old world starts getting me down And people are just to much for me to face*… 

…I climb up on the top of the stairs And all my cares Just drift right into space
On the roof is peaceful as can be And there the world below can’t bother me…

Hello, Nina?

The roofers are going to inspect your house as per buyer request, okay?
Do I have a choice? No I do not.

I’ll come over as well and listen to what is being said about it.

When I come home feeling tired and beat I go up where the air is fresh and sweet…

Hey there, do you know that there are a bunch of people outside, children running around, some men on the roof, some below?

Shouldn’t we do something? Like go out there and talk to them?
No, leave them alone. They’re looking for defects.

Oh. Well I already talked to them. They don’t want to be bothered with a roof replacement when they move in.
And I don’t want to be bothered with a buyer replacement, so just let them be.

On the roof the only place I know Where you just have to wish to make it so

I wish I would not feel like I am near the end of my period of sanity, where I am about to cross over and enter a terrain heretofore unentered, even during most trying past circumstances…
What are you talking about? Stay calm, stay calm.

I cannot. Excuse me, while I take this call…

...I’ve found a paradise that’s trouble proof And if the world starts getting you down There’s room enough for two up on the roof…

If it has a couple of more good years left, then how is it a defect? Damn it, I did not go to law school for nothing! I know my rights.
There’s time to argue whether this is technically a defect.

I am tired of arguing. I am tired tired tired of everyone arguing! Why does everything, everything have to be resolved through argument? I don’t want it! Purge it from my life already!
You could always give in. In all aspects of your life, just give it up. Let it go. Ignore the injustice of it all! You could always just take what's handed out and shrug your shoulders. Give in, given in.


...And all my cares just drift right into space Up on the Roof...

* On the Roof lyrics by Peter Cincotti
posted by nina, 8/24/2005 04:45:00 PM | link | (2) comments

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Jumping with a bungee cord 

There are people who walk cautiously through life. They take a step, pause, contemplate the possible consequences, retreat, move to the side, resume even more slowly and eventually they make progress. Really they do.

I am not like that. In all matters relating to my personal life, I plunged. Friends became intensely close, boyfriends were instantly candidates for soulmate status. I reeled in a world of dizzying love for people, for events, for activities that I discovered afresh each year.

My little one and I were talking earlier today. She remarked how I never just connected to a person, I super charged the connection and with excitement and found all the nuance and beauty that made a person completely stellar. Best of breed, so to speak. Best of the best.

At 52, as I now proceed to distance myself from a significant chunk of my past, I think, I really think this – I think I was wrong to be so headstrong.

To all you blog readers who are younger than me, take heed. The world does not belong to the bold, it does not reward you for your efforts, it will not smile kindly at your generosities.

Forget the visions of eternal love, of eternal friendship; not even that: forget the belief in a solid strong anything. It’s fleeting – all of it, it’s fleeting and mostly terribly unkind.

I took a stack of old books to a used book place tonight. Books, just books, useless books, books that I had no room for in the new loft. Before handing them over, I flipped through some of them. I came across an inscription, written by someone who, some years back, promised undying friendship and eternal devotion. I pulled the book out of the reject pile, as a reminder of how completely ridiculous the idea was.
posted by nina, 8/23/2005 11:45:00 PM | link | (6) comments

trippin' up at the finish line 

I held it together when the house was not selling and, for legal reasons, it needed to sell or else.

I held it together when changes were taking place in my life, changes that would rock even the most solid, stoic of characters.

I held it together when moving everything everywhere wrenched my back, and the holding it together was not tarnished by the fact that I still have a vast amount of moving ahead of me.

I held it together when I found that I needed to buy new furniture for the new apartment -- great fun! great expense!

I held it together when the very same van that I was treating with kid gloves started flashing "low oil" lights today, even though I had just changed the oil last month and had put on perhaps 55 miles since.

I held it together when my robust exercise schedule faltered -- the first major casualty of a hell schedule.

I held it together as I sat on the landing steps of my loft at the wee hours of the morning today, looked outside and noticed a solitary person walking, one prong at a time, on the railroad tracks. He looked lonely and sad.

I held it together through sadnesses and worries of others, which make me sad and worried for them in addition to making it absolutely impossible to look up with pleading eyes and ask for much hand-holding.

I held it together when my daughters were shaken out of bed because, unexpectedly, the realtor with the new buyers and their little children showed up at our doorstep and informed me that they expected to spend the morning here, overseeing the engineering inspection, giving me five minutes, FIVE FREAGIN' MINUTES to get the place in order for their peering eyes (and I don't care if they read my blog, so there!) and leave them to their devices.

I held it together when I came back well into the afternoon, loaded down with groceries and who knows what and they were all still there, discussing why the outside door downstairs was sticking and why the furnace was rattling. I have a furnace that was purchased within our tenure here, damn it, go pick on somebody else's furnace!

I even held it together when the purchasing wife said she would be back this Thursday along with the engineering crew, because they still needed to pry open the crawlspace and had no time to do it today.

But when I got a call saying that they were sending out a roofing contractor who would do an inch-by-inch analysis of the roof and would I mind? -- I sat down on the kitchen floor and cried.
posted by nina, 8/23/2005 01:05:00 PM | link | (8) comments

...and the day ran away with the spoon 

...and the knife and fork and a bunch of kitchen-ey items, as I got the loft ready for a small group of evening visitors.

Or, maybe I shouldn't call them mere visitors. My recollections this morning are foggy, but I distinctly remember looking toward the loft windows and seeing two chairs positioned in front. On those two charis were not exactly nine ladies dancing, but definitely at least two. Through the windows, the dome of the Capitol looked on. As did I.

It began as an evening of celebration. A daughter with a job offer was reason enough to go order some rainbow drinks along with the much beloved Ahi tuna, downtown, at the Crave.

Madison Aug 05 310

Madison Aug 05 319

Back at the loft, food was not the centerpiece. Or was it? I once said that if I had only a handful of foods available to me and I could pick my handful, it would include bread, cheese and chocolate.

Madison Aug 05 309

At midnight, someone who does not stop just because it is midnight, proposed more revelry and music. Truth is, no one could keep up with her. I vaguely remember thinking I should stay up and post. I fell asleep thinking I should post.
posted by nina, 8/23/2005 07:55:00 AM | link | (2) comments

Monday, August 22, 2005

bargain with the blogger in me... 

...if I promise to post after midnight and show pictures of turtles, fish and marble stone, will you still like me?

...if I tell you that I am only now by a computer and I only have five minutes, will you forgive me?

...if I tell you that this morning, I had time, but no interest in writing, because nothing, really nothing happens before noon -- nothing at all worth blogging about, will you understand?

Thank you.
posted by nina, 8/22/2005 04:45:00 PM | link | (2) comments

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Would you spend hours cleaning the house for the mother-in-law of a complete stranger? 

I did. Today, the soon-to-be-owners of our house asked to bring their parents for a special visit. You know, so they could say –“look ma & pa, look what we bought yesterday!”

I ran into the whole lot of them as I was getting the last piece of garbage into the van outside. The place was, of course, immaculate.

Why bother? We have an accepted offer. It’s not as if I am going to go home and there’ll be a ding-a-ling-a-ling and it will be them saying – forget it, slobs*, we do not want your piece of junk!”

Why do we do the things we do? Why do we bother, when it makes no difference, creates not even a small increment of pleasure?

I don’t know.

* incidentally, if they called us slobs, they’d be the first
posted by nina, 8/21/2005 10:35:00 PM | link | (1) comments

inch by inch, row by row, gonna make my garden grow...or not. 

Five years ago if you had asked me about my non-academic interests, I would have talked about traveling, writing, cooking and, yes, gardening.

Serious about my perennials, I planted hundreds upon hundreds of them. I pored over White Flower Farm catalogues in February and was there each April for the first hours of the Flower Factory's opening week-end. Dirt on my hands, strained muscles from digging -- all blissful reminders of my Hearty Polish Peasant Stock.

Then, like an unfaithful lover, a season or two ago, I got tired of it. My attention drifted. Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of garden space (the yard here is huge), by the rabbits that constantly chomped at my dianthus, by the phlox mildew and the spit-bugs and the drought and the weeds, I took one look and walked away.

The forces of nature retaliated. The perennial beds grew with wild abandon. Screw you, they seemed to say, we will multiply and spread and with great promiscuity, we will welcome weeds and everything and anything that wants to take part in this wild fling with nature. We'll show you how hot and alive we are! -- they told me.

But it was like the last wail of a scorned lover. I gave a small "there, there" pat, pulled a weed or two and turned away. The lure of the downtown, of my writing, of my camera, of new faces and new spaces was too great.

So, good-bye garden. Once I loved you to death. Now you are just a sweet memory of a damp soil and fresh new shoots in spring. Tucked away with all other sweet memories of past loves and passionate indulgences.
posted by nina, 8/21/2005 07:55:00 AM | link | (4) comments

Saturday, August 20, 2005

If you cannot find a free moment in a day, blog about tomatoes 

Heirloom tomatoes. Accompanying a bunch of grilled things -- scallions, mushrooms, meats, all of it.

The best of the suburban life (of which I have only days remaining) is that which happens at dusk, over wooden embers. With the colors of the late August garden there, to spark and inspire.

Madison Aug 05 304
posted by nina, 8/20/2005 06:55:00 PM | link | (1) comments

Friday, August 19, 2005

Reflections on selling a house 

So how anxious was I to seal the deal?
Anxious enough that the first offer, representing, as my economist pal figured out, 93% of the asking price, was accepted with a sigh of relief. Fact is, we were about to lower the asking price.

In the last three days, the house had more showings than in the entire preceding 6 weeks. What made the difference? It appears that the words “motivated seller,” plugged in just three days ago, pushed it into the suddenly desirable category.

I do not get people. Most sellers are motivated! If you’re not motivated, you don’t pound a “for sale” sign into your lawn.

How hard is it for all of us, my daughters especially, to let go of this family home? Hard. Trust me, hard.

Is there a bright side? Oh yes, definitely. Many. Too many to list here. But here’s one I kept thinking about today as I stared at the vine climbing along the back wall of the house. It had become infested with some bug or other and I predict that within two weeks the entire two-story wall will be covered by wilted brown leaves instead of the lush green ones that nature intended.

On the other hand, note what’s happening around the back and side walls of the warehouse apartments. THEY are planting perennials. THEY are responsible for their health and well being. THEY will weed, prune, mulch them. Not me. Not me.

Madison Aug 05 301
posted by nina, 8/19/2005 10:55:00 PM | link | (4) comments

in one hour: a tornado and a new family on the block 

The lead story on CNN is about the tornado that touched down yesterday evening in Stoughton, just outside Madison.

Oh, how well I know that storm! It was one of the rare times where I could not seek shelter during a warning. Between the house showing and the need to get down to the loft a.s.a.p., I just could not do it. And so I rode it out, plowing my van through the torrential rains.

Nothing happened here on the west side of Madison. Or, nothing bad happened. In the course of the tornado, a family with two little children purchased our house.

I was sitting in the van, watching the children of the prospective buyers run around the front yard just minutes before the storm struck. I thought -- how perfect! My neighbors had been arguing over the gender of the next kids on the block: there was a strong lobby for more girls. But the boys wanted playmates too. In the end, each will get one.

Me -- I just want to say that selling this house has been one huge nightmare. The sale isn't final yet, but it's a solid offer. The storm chased off a period of high uncertainty. How fitting that it should have cleared the air so violently, so completely.
posted by nina, 8/19/2005 12:05:00 PM | link | (5) comments

So fitting: amidst storms and turmoil, there is always the calming presence of Katy 

It could not have been crazier. The minute I finished posting on the blog yesterday, the avalanche intensified: one car stalled, without power. One house showing cancelled, another on for early evening. Must finish straightening and tidying (it has to sell! The house has to sell! Hurry up and sell!). About done now. Crap! – the AC breaks down (we were never friends, the air conditioning and I but does it have to fail me completely now? I am trying to sell the house! I have another showing tomorrow! It is so damn muggy!)

Quickly, open the windows. Create a breeze. Leave the premises, the showing is about to begin.

The sirens go off. Tornado warning. Radio reports: touch down in Spring Green, just west of here, ten minutes away. Return to close the windows. Have to wait. Showing in progress. Finally, the people leave (did you write out an offer? No? What’s the matter with you – the house is perfect!).

Close the windows, head downtown. I do not care about sirens. So lift me up and swirl me in your funnel clouds! I know all about storms – I am not going to be freaked by this one!

There sure is a lot of water around me. Don’t stall, trusty-but-almost-dead-van, do not stall! SO much water. I wade through puddles, I feel the pouring rain on my bare arms.

And then – screw it all. I go to dine with

Katy is leaving town and as her last parting gift, she takes her blog partner and me out to l’Etoile.

Oh, l'Etoile, l'Etoile! I knew you when you were just a baby. You too have seen me through a quarter of a century of changes. I ate here through the events that have rocked the world, I cooked here during my most turbulent years. And so it is fitting to sit here now, with these two bloggers, these two friends, and to let go of the storms around me and indulge in the foods and services of this stellar place.

Tory, chef and proprietor, hovers.

Madison Aug 05 279

We are winding down. I'm still reeeling over the charentais melon carpaccio with prosciutto-wrapped goat cheese and crazy jim's cucumbers, cippolini onions and baby arugula (in a honey-rice wine vinaigrette).

Madison Aug 05 284

We stare at the dessert menus, but not for long. They are snatched away. We are not allowed to choose. Tory makes us all of them and suddenly, our table is filled with sweetness.

Madison Aug 05 291 Katy

We linger. The evening cannot end.

Oh, but we are downtown! The loft! Of course. It is so easy to finish each evening at the loft. My daughters, elsewhere downtown this night, join us. The night is quiet except for the train that goes by outside the window. No storms now. Have a safe trip south, Katy.

Madison Aug 05 297
posted by nina, 8/19/2005 06:05:00 AM | link | (3) comments

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Spinning wheels 

Never has time pushed ahead so forcefully, never have so many changes happened in such a brief period of time. When I am not on my bike, I am pressing the pedal hard to the board. And still, most of the big stuff lies ahead of me.

I'm thinking of resorting to crossword puzzles -- endless numbers of them, as a calming device.

Guilt: I have tremendous amounts of guilt for giving up on eating places where our faces were one time so familiar that waiters would slide us in ahead of long lines.

Last night, four of us went to such a place for a quick burger. Though these days three of us are not ordering burgers for one reason or another. How do you even deal with that? We sit down and study the menu at a burger joint looking for burger alternatives. And the we choose salads. Who wants to photograph a salad? Not me.

Two of us then went to the sweetest bar I've seen in Madison. Very cozy. Just two tables. Brand new. Again, this newness is flying all around me. We sat down to a long and wonderful talk with Ann and Tonya...

Madison Aug 05 230 green drink, blue foot

Madison Aug 05 238 red drink, blue jeans

...and then we made our way to the (very close, because, of course, it's downtown!) loft.

Most of the loft furniture arrived this morning and I have been working like a madwoman putting the pieces together. But last night it was still nearly empty. We sat on the floor and did flips and rolled and I did my famous headstand.

Mostly we kept our eyes glues to the walls hoping to see a few centipedes.

I recommend it: taking friends to new places before the places get filled with a new life there.

Madison Aug 05 263 little S

Madison Aug 05 256 the Tonya Show

Madison Aug 05 244a the Althouse author

[Sadly, this little one was out and about and so she could not join us]:

Madison Aug 05 210 little C

But this morning the wheels started spinning again. Getting the house ready for showings, opening the door to a new couch at the loft, pausing for a Marigold breakfast and then building an island.

No, I was not strong enough to right it after putting it together. It is laying on its side waiting for a burly guy to come and sweep it to its feet. I will keep these wheels locked, I will! There is enough spinning in my life elsewhere.

UPDATE: Burly man found. The island is upright. The wheels are locked.

Madison Aug 05 270
posted by nina, 8/18/2005 03:55:00 PM | link | (1) comments

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pondering existential matters and dead batteries 

My life today is about dead cars and unplugged phones and missed deliveries and weedy yards and shiny floor surfaces (all the above required my attention).

How can that overwhelm anyone? Thay're just things and boring things at that. And yet..
posted by nina, 8/17/2005 08:20:00 PM | link | (0) comments


My first post from the loft (dial-up). I am sitting here mulling over bits and pieces of conversation overheard at a loft party. What do I make of all this? I catch the following:

They are harmless, harmless! But they move fast. I don't kill them, I capture them in a cup and set them free (a propos house centipedes, occasionally seen scurrying around on the warehouse brick walls)...

...I moved here from California and so I am used to basically subsisting on Tader Joe's. No, I will not shop at Willie Street Co-op. I don't care if it's equidistant (to Whole Foods). I went there this week and everything was wheat free or gluten free. What the hell is wrong with wheat? It's not as if we kill anyone to eat wheat. And I bought eggos. Okay so I like eggos. The bagger was actually frowning at this. I want eggos sans commentary!

I happen to know the private number to some pretty important people at Trader Joe's. I called them and said -- help! I've been in Wisconsin two weeks now and I am running out of things to eat! Can you tell me please when your store is moving here? Last quarter of 2006?? I'll starve!

So Nina, when I heard you're moving in to these lofts, I thought: holy crap, I read her blog. I should mention, I have my own blog. In fact, you link to it. You shouldn't -- I'm sort of quitting writing.

...Sure you can hear the noise of your neighbors! But think of it -- you'll be walking distance to campus. You're downtown.

The brick dust? It's not really dust, it's grit. If you wipe it off the surfaces that abut the walls daily, you should be fine.

They're great lofts, they really are!

Maybe it's like New Yorkers listing faults with the city they love to hate and hate when others talk dismissively of it. Many here are actually from NY or the environs. Maybe after all the flecks of tar, the house centipedes, the brick dust get cleared up with the coming of winter, we'll find ourselves wishing there was something else to wail about. Because really, if you want a quiet ride, you can move to the suburbs.
You will not be disappointed. Plenty of quiet there. Yawn.
posted by nina, 8/17/2005 12:05:00 AM | link | (9) comments

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Madison story 

There is this pack of former Badger Cab drivers that I have gotten to know. A diverse and good bunch of people, always willing to lend a hand in perplexing situations. So it is fitting that I should ask one of them to help me install pantry shelves at the loft today.

I bought these dang blasted wire wracks at Home Dept after much contemplation and consideration of various other alternatives. Average shelves – white, laminated – you know the type: like you see in ads for California Closets.

I called Kevin, one of the former cabbies and he came over to the loft this afternoon.

No good, he tells me. Flimsy. And the wall is hollow. What do you expect to put on them anyway?
Well, foods and stuff. Pantry things. Vanilla, chocolate, Arborio rice.

Flimsy. Take them back.

This from a man who owns a junk shop on Willie Street and seems to hoard everything (rather than himself returning things at Home Depot).

Okay, fine. Where did I go wrong and what do I do now?

Go to the restaurant supply store off of Atwood
(we’re talkin’ deep east side Madison here) and buy Metro line restaurant units. (He would say that, being himself a former restaurant cook.)

We went together and I was mesmerized by the place. I cannot believe I have never shopped here before! Oh, I cannot believe I have never entered these hallowed halls and lovingly caressed the likes of these:

Madison Aug 05 224

The Metro shelving units were perfect. We lugged them back to the loft and he set to work showing me how they fit together.

A Madisonian, he was. New Age this and that, with politics to match the neighborhood he inhabits. As he packs up to go, I tell him that I cannot give him a ride back – I am already late in cooking dinner for the family back at the (suburban, unsold, okay, lay it on - headache of a) home.

No, no problem, he tells me. I like to walk. Besides, I have to stop at the Soap Opera.
Why there?
It’s the only place in town that sells the Sandalwood soap I like. The one from France. I need to inhale its aroma to stay sound.

p.s. He loved the loft. The loft has bred no malcontents thus far. Yay loft.
posted by nina, 8/16/2005 08:35:00 PM | link | (6) comments

Just wondering… 

Hey, did I see you on Mineral Point on the bike yesterday, early in the evening?

Was there a rolled-up carpet precariously balanced on the back seat?

What the hell was that? A scrap of the Real Thing maybe?

What were you planning to do with it – put it by the door of your new loft?

…So that people with muddy shoes would know to take off their footwear as they enter and not soil the pristine white(-ish) carpet inside?

And you think this will do the trick?
posted by nina, 8/16/2005 05:55:00 AM | link | (3) comments

Monday, August 15, 2005

Walking with a bounce 

If you take walking desires of daughter no.1, add them to walking desires of daughter no.2 and then multiply them by my own, you basically got yourself on heapin’ Sunday of walking.

My daughters are relentless, covering the west and east side of the isthmus in record time. We return home, then set out again in search of innovative food and drink. Late at night, I sit down to write, except I am so tired that I fall asleep at the computer.

To be happy. Where does this ephemeral state of contentment come from? Here’s one trick that always works: think back to the closest people in your life. Pick out the ones you can bounce words with in such a way that not only you, but all those sharing your space start to grin as well. The positive energy overwhelms the hour and suddenly the meal, the walk through a city, the pause over a cappuccino or a latte is filled with such joy that you completely forget about all the smoldering fires in the darker corners of your life.

My daughters belong to this select group of glorious word bouncers. When we set an hour into “play” mode, it is impossible not to succumb to joy. How could it be otherwise?

Madison Aug 05 199 New York has SoHo, NoHo and TriBeCa. Until this day, I did not know Madison had its own: SoJo (South of Johnson).

Madison Aug 05 202 Madison walk: it's all in the legs

Madison Aug 05 211 Madison walk: is he mad? not likely. only a painter in Mad City.

Madison Aug 05 215 Madison walk: competition for my own wild garden
posted by nina, 8/15/2005 07:55:00 AM | link | (3) comments

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Big sky 

When I first moved to Wisconsin, more than 25 years ago, I was completely overwhelmed by the sky. Somehow it seemed to occupy more space than it deserved – there was more of it in proportion to land.

Last night, my east-coast residing daughters, home for a visit, were dazzled by the sunset. Though I sharpened the tones a little, I did not tamper with the colors themselves – the photos in the post below are quite authentic.

But it was also the clarity that they found so breathtakingly beautiful. Out east, the everpresent haze means that the sharp brilliance of the blue sky is a rare thing. More often, the sky hovers between a murky gray and a fuzzy slate blue.

Why should it matter? It’s only sky – nothingness filtered through ozone layers. Why be impressed by it? Why demand of it anything other than that it not deliver horrible damaging rain and sleet?

Like oceans and lakes, skies in their vastness have the power to set moods. Night stars, layers of storm clouds, clear days all provide contrasts that cause you to react. You cannot be indifferent to it. You confront it. And here, in Madison, there is much to react to. There’s a huge sky out there, there really is.

Madison Aug 05 198
Sunday morning bike ride
posted by nina, 8/14/2005 10:45:00 AM | link | (3) comments

Saturday, August 13, 2005


When there is too much day within a day, then the energy level to write anything sensible about it goes WAY down.

You will understand how impossibly packed this day was when I tell you that I was off of the Net from 6:30 am until my brief and inconsequential post in the late afternoon. Completely un-Nina like.

It was ye old Saturday filled with the predictable: the Market, the Goodwill, the furniture delivery and deliberations, etc. Oh, but how wonderful to have the Law School reunion continue right there in the loft! It is a given that people who were mutually supportive in early years would continue to lend a hand now. [Sometimes, in the past, you'd get so lost in the quagmire of home tasks, school tasks, little infant demands and everything in between that you would desperately want someone else to just decide for you on how to proceed. Today, I felt that way about the consequential task of placing a table in a good location.]

Madison Aug 05 162 arranging

Madison Aug 05 165combining

Madison Aug 05 159 photographing

Running: chasing down the essentials. Elluding the rain. Wishing it would not come down so hard as to get everything wet in the car that was left with open windows.

But then, in the later afternoon my attention shifted with the arrival of my daughters.

And still, the running theme continues: Home, store, loft, and finally -- screw it all, let's go have our seared Ahi tuna, along with some potent colorful drinks at our favorite State Street drink generating place.

Madison Aug 05 181

And there is always the poster boy for State Street spray painting to admire. And B & J ice cream to eat...

Madison Aug 05 187

Madison Aug 05 192

And driving home, the loud music and the loud voices and the setting sun that makes it that much more spectacular.

Madison Aug 05 193 so vivid

Madison Aug 05 197 so matched to the Dar song playing on an old truck tape

It's just that the energy to create a story out of it all is ... significantly diminished.
posted by nina, 8/13/2005 11:05:00 PM | link | (3) comments

Yes, I will post today 

...but it will be late.

...though with photos.

...not very good ones. it goes.
posted by nina, 8/13/2005 05:05:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Friday, August 12, 2005

Now, pause with your life and go back a few years… 

…to when you were a student.

Academics have a way of recalling their halcyon days of studenthood by coming together during annual professional meetings and clicking their cell phones like crazy to connect and reconnect, in various configurations and groups of past associates and long-time friends. All you need is your annual convention and a working cell phone and you are set.

Law school doesn’t offer the same opportunities. Oh, sure, there are more meetings than there are flakes of oats in a bowl of granola (I’m having a snack and my mind is wondering to the food in front of me) – ABA, AALS, L&S, various CLE’s – put together any permutation of letters in the alphabet and you’ve got yourself a legal meeting! And most are large, anonymous, with nary a soul from your law school cohort.

And it is a shame, because more likely than not, your law school pals will have formed a tight and enduring set.

My own consisted of 4. We were different from the rest. We had small children (both of my daughters were born when I was a law student; don’t asked me how I did it – call it the greatest endurance trip of all time, made possible by basically no sleep).

All but me left Madison. So I am the one who looks around and says oh this town is the same old same old, and they say (when they are back here) – Jesus, this place has changed (actually, they don’t say Jesus anything, they are as respectful of religion, as I am, except that this word serves like such a good exclamation point before a sentence so that I forget myself)!

Tonight they came back to Madison – some just for one night. It’s not really about catching up. It’s about being able to step back and redescribe yourself in a plausible way, without pity, without bragging.

They are slightly older than me, but they are patient with my jumps and leaps in life. We’ve played together, traveled together with and without our children, we’ve gone through periods of terrible illness and wonderful hope, we’ve all abandoned law firm jobs in favor of doing something different.

And really most importantly, we raised children. Our children were there, getting sick during our finals. They clung to us and we to them. It’s like “mommy, mommy do not leave me for that awful class!” “I have to go, dearest, besides, it’s not awful.” “You said it’s awful, you said! Besides, we are your children…” I wont even admit how many times they got me on that one, leaving me to chuck whatever unfulfilled obligation I had in favor of singing along to Ernie and Bert.

Madison Aug 05 157
posted by nina, 8/12/2005 10:55:00 PM | link | (0) comments

...when I jump out, you jump in 

There is a hell of a lot of hopscotching and jump-roping going on this week-end. Or maybe it is more like a dust storm, swirling masses of people, furniture and various and sundry items, round up in the air, only to land them in interesting and different places.

Today alone, a blogger packs up and leaves (amidst dust balls swirling in his now abandoned RV) and four law school friends stage a reunion (the last time we congregated was in the dusty desert of Arizona as described here), while tomorrow, daughters return home for a visit, and the loft takes in some basic indispensable objects-- all this as I wipe more brick dust from freshly painted banisters and shelves. Can’t live in the place without a table and a bed, can you?

I am focusing on loft details now. These are mostly noticable when you freshly inhabit a place. After a few months I wont even be aware of the interweaving of pipes and shafts. You take everything that is familiar and unchanging for granted. But today they make me pause and look up. I like what I see.

Madison Aug 05 152

I found a companion peeking 'round the banister. Must be one of the birds I wrote of in the previous post.

Madison Aug 05 150

posted by nina, 8/12/2005 05:05:00 AM | link | (0) comments've got one hour, it's time you told your story... 

Sometimes you get only an hour, sometimes a year, sometimes more. And when that space opens up for you, so often you go from telling your story, to living an even better one.

To listeners of people's stories, to those who turn you away from events you should ignore and nudge you toward good things: quaint noises of singing birds that totally lull and distract you -- this one's for you.
posted by nina, 8/12/2005 12:05:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Apartment notes 

The day is a blurr. I know I spent part of the morning tidying the loft, making it ready for an official move-in.

It is not clear why I need to “tidy an apartment” that is brand new (though within a brand old structure). I do know that the giant brick wall let go of brick dust and so going over window frames seemed crucial to my future happiness.

I have never in my life moved to a brand new interior before.

And, it has been more than 30 years since I moved entirely by myself. It allows for a deliberateness and an indulgance too. I carry things slowly, pensively, thinking about what it is that I am bringing in to this new space. No clutter permitted.

A blurr of wiping, installing phones and other mechanical devices, wandering around the place, liking its emptiness.

In that 3-story structure there is an elevator and I was so grateful that the extent of my carrying things was from truck to elevator to door. Shoes off, keep the place neat. I’ll be asking people to take their own garbage out, I just know it. You, sir! You have been drinking diet soda! Take that bottle out of here! It is polluting the garbage can!

People on the top floor of the building (this includes me) have been noticing an occasional black flake on their floors. I thought it looked like flecks of old tar. So long as it is inorganic, you know, like not a corpse of a little bug or something, I hardly care. I live under old beams and high wooden ceilings. You would think old ceilings release a tantalizing clue about their past every now and then.

All surfaces cleaned. Should I attack my office now? No, for God’s sake, let me just lay off of all the cleaning! Between getting the house ready for showings and getting the new place ready for habitation, I feel like I should not lie, that I should boldly state “sanitizing and polishing” as my main extracurricular activity.
posted by nina, 8/11/2005 04:55:00 PM | link | (4) comments

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Upstairs, Downstairs 

I am an apartment dweller again. [Sort of. On paper anyway]

Oh lofty place, you are awesome! And you offer another approach to life.

I met a neighbor as I dragged in some boxes today (Tonya: first thing in – the sound system, just to irk you!). Alice (I’m all about pseudonyms), a loft-dweller herself, was on her way out and we went back to her unit to chat. A handful have been living here since the grand opening on August 1st. Her scoop:

Here’s the lowdown: we live in a stratified society and nowhere is it more evident than in this building. Upper level: mostly UW profs, moving to Madison from California, New York, Connecticut. Middle floor: professional grad students. Lower level: struggling grad students.

Madison Aug 05 149 back entrance to three levels of warehouse living

We get together and we laugh a lot. They’re tracking my progress with a guy from It’s like a cheering squad. We toured each other’s units and bitched about how others have things that our own units lack. We compared shower curtains. We all really got into the loft idea. We got appliances to match the steel pipes. We want to feel urban.

The younger types [grad students] are straight out of dorms, you can tell. Like, one of them went around last night knocking on our doors. She was going to watch movies and wanted company. So sweet!

Come to a party this coming Tuesday. It’s for the lofters. It’s my birthday

The place is a mix of construction workers and residents. Things aren’t quite done yet, but no one minds. There is a freshness to the building that goes beyond new construction. I remember when I lived in the suburbs (oh! I used the past tense!), people said that it takes a certain type to move to a cul-de-sac. My apartment wisdom is that it takes a certain type to pick a warehouse loft to live in.

Madison Aug 05 146 still constructing (does the beard get in the way sometimes?)

I was glad I read up on urban spaces. I feel this loft will require a mindset in addition to pieces of furniture strategically placed in the cavernous spaces.

posted by nina, 8/10/2005 03:55:00 PM | link | (2) comments

Mr.B, let me thank you for a summer of good health 

One bonus of being a total advocate of healthy living is that annual check-ups provide opportunities to chat in a friendly fashion with your physician about their kids and hobbies. And I like my physician tons, so the annual check-in is like a yearly reunion. I always want to say we should have coffee sometime. Really, I just love my doc.

Yesterday, however, she really pushed me and tried hard to figure out if there maybe could be some small thing that she could note on my chart. I think she feels that it reflects poorly on her detection skills to put “perfect health,” especially since my first several dozen years of life were full of medical drama. How could it be that it all went away?

So she prodded me for more details.

Have you suffered a loss of appetite in the last year?
Nope – love to eat. [Doctors only pretend they want you to stay slim; once you’re at some lower weight level, they needle you about it all the time. The message is always clear: if you’re a normal human being, you should be getting fat! What the hell is wrong with you? You’re against candy bars and the sedentary life style? What kind of a freak are you anyway?]

Do you get tired during the day?

Are you at all depressed? Would you like to see a counselor or are you just relying on friends with life’s issues?
Friends. Besides, I’m hearty Polish peasant stock. We don’t acknowledge depressive states. We go out and till the fields when the going gets tough.

Ah! It says on your chart that you had a bike accident in June. Any aftermath?
Well, the sprain in the thumb never totally healed because I use the hand so much…
Let me take a look…Still swollen! You need hand therapy! I have just the referral for you. Next week I want you to go to the Hand Clinic at UW Hospitals.

The Hand Clinic? There is a Hand Clinic? I have a slightly swollen thumb joint and I have to go to the Hand Clinic for therapy? People have psychiatrists, neurologists, cardiologist and I have a hand doctor? How awkward is that?

I detected a smug little look of satisfaction in my her eye as she scribbled out the referral.
posted by nina, 8/10/2005 08:15:00 AM | link | (3) comments

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Lofty goals 

Tomorrow I am handed the keys to this:

Madison Aug 05 112

[The suburban house where I am currently living is not quite sold yet, but one needs to secure new shelter in this town fast if one is fussy about one’s spaces.]

To me, a loft is the epitome of urban living and I am aiming to put urban-ness into the interior of the apartment. On my way to a seminar today, I stopped at the bookstore to leaf through magazines on urban spaces (which are, BTW, outnumbered 10 to 1 by magazines urging you to go country or at least cottagey), just so I wouldn’t make some major errors in the way I created lofty urban-ness. I like the idea of pipes and bricks and beams running every which way in the loft and I want to do right by them.

Madison July 05 297

So engrossing was this project that I never noticed the time and I missed the seminar completely. Sorry, seminar.

It has been a while since I have moved (and officially I will not change residences until September 1st). Decades ago I would make arrangements weeks in advance of a move to get phone service started. Today I am worrying that access to the Internet will be uninterrupted for me. Phones? I don’t even know what people do about getting a number in the new place. Everyone I ask tells me they no longer use “land” service. Land service. How quaint. I need land service! What if my Internet breaks down and I need dial-up?!

And ordering things on line. Does anyone even go to stores these days? Mr. B and I are chasing around town thinking we are one up on everyone. We’re doing it right. We go, I buy, we leave. That’s what’s supposed to happen, correct? No! all I see is store-people bringing up screens on computers, informing me that the floor samples are just fluff and decoration, the real stuff being on line. And no, nothing can be carted home. So, can I have it delivered by this week-end? I ask this with my very best smile, the one reserved for judges and important people.

Stunned silence. I mean, the clerks can't recover from the incredulity and shock of the request. We regret to inform you that it all comes from small islands in the middle of the Pacific and the next boat is expected to dock and pick up the stuff on November 28th. If the weather holds. You can expect delivery in 36 weeks. Next time I'll stay home. At least there are blogs to read in moments of great frustration with the world.

Lofts have great heights, and a wonderful expansiveness. I’m hoping to feel the waves of euphoria and bliss from all sides and corners, sweeping over me soon, very soon. I am hopin'! Along with Internet service. It has been confirmed: I cannot live without NinaNet.
posted by nina, 8/09/2005 06:25:00 PM | link | (3) comments

Monday, August 08, 2005

jeffery, jlp, oscar, earthgirl, andrew, kerry, bert and dear dear old brando* and all you food/travel lovin’ readers, this one’s for you! 

* brando, I am so sucking up! You have a book contract – get me one!

So where am I and what am I doing?

Madison Aug 05 134 chocolate-covered gingerbread hearts

No kidding: I am right here in Madison. There is a Polish deli in this town, in a yuppified strip mall. It is so wrong for so many reasons but there you have it. Each time I enter (all of two times thus far), it is completely empty. I should buy something, I should! But the selections are too…. Polish.

Madison Aug 05 135 yum! sour cucumber puree!

Madison Aug 05 137 they (I cannot align myself with my homeland here) cannot live without this stuff

Alex owns the place and he was there today when I poked in. I want to refer all lonely people in Madison to his store immediately. The man is a talker! So Polish it hurts. It is one long sentence, sort of like this one which you cannot interrupt because it is joined together to form a whole and if you jump in and say something like I really must get going then you appear totally rude and like you’re really not listening to any of it and so what’s the point…

I just want to note that Polish people really are rotten spellers (in foreign to them languages) because we have a basically phonetic approach to words. A spelling bee would be a joke! How do you spell szczypiorek? What, you’re kidding, right? There is only one possible way: szczypiorek (meaning: chives). Try not to make fun, therefore, when you see signs in the store that seem somehow off. We are not trained to find fault with something like this:

Madison Aug 05 144

Alex, the highlander (the moustache says it all). He hasn’t been back to Poland for a while, but on the counter he keeps a picture of his old highland home. Next to it is a cheap replica of the Statue of Liberty. Behind it? A portrait of the pope. No, not the new one. The real pope. All we need is a fake-autographed photo of George W. Bush and I'd feel like I entered a place straight out of the Chicago Polish community.

Madison Aug 05 143 "When I lived in New Jersey, I wanted to get a degree at Princeton, but it's all about money here. I settled for menial work. It's okay, it's okay. It's the American way."
posted by nina, 8/08/2005 09:55:00 PM | link | (9) comments

Virgin voyage 

Or – are the proper terms maiden voyage and virgin territory?

Last night I was happily blabbing about something or other and a person in the same room said .. Nina, do you know you just said someone was “painstakingly shy?"*

I do that sometime. Wrong words, wrong meanings. Most people, when they learn a language through immersion (as I did by moving to the States at age 7), adultify it as they work their way through the school system.

Not me. I went back to good old Polska for high school and a chunk of college and so I never shed that elementary school pidgeon-toed (what the hell is that?) language, perverted at the playground and never subsequently corrected by exasperated teachers who would know better.

Ocean is written by a person who, at times, is still capable of talking “tenement for rent, inquire within, when I jump out, you jump in” talk.

A commenter notes that it does create a very distinct voice for blogging here. It’s an interesting point. I do think that I plunge ahead without heed and often without much awareness of the quaintness of my choices – words, topics, all of it. It must generate a (sympathetic) smile. As “painstakingly shy” did for the group I was with.

I read all your comments to yesterday's post very very carefully and I cannot thank you enough. No, really, they blew me away. So generous! That’s what I see – your utter generosity. And that is what shook me out of my alternately tearful and morose state of being, it’s what made me come back so quickly.

What’s with the virginity in the blog title? Ah. You could say that this is the virgin post of a new, refreshed Ocean. But actually I titled it thus because it is the first time that I am blogging from a new computer. Isn’t it wonderful when events sort of merge and coalesce and it appears that the chaos of yesterday can resolve itself into a quiet ride the next day?

[And virginity has another moment in this post: I have to admit that my last year in an American school was in 7th grade, where we graduated from singing about rental properties to belting out “...I don't want no fire truck, I want one that I can…” The awful truth is that I thought this was hilariously funny.]

* this kind friend followed up today with an email, noting: there are 43 google entries for "painstakingly shy" (in quotes) as opposed to 50,000 for "painfully shy".
posted by nina, 8/08/2005 05:50:00 PM | link | (7) comments

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Dear Ocean readers, 

Mr. B and I went for a spin today. More – I rode with him very very far, because when I want to make decisions, I cannot do it sitting still.

I am stepping back from what it is that I do here, on Ocean. Time to think more, write less.

Why? Because it has become apparent that you can take the water out of a real ocean sooner than I can take the emotion out of this Ocean. Even though this blog says really very little about the events and people that fill my days with boundless excitement and sometimes exasperation, it does reveal my moods. If I am not chipper, Ocean gets that sour taste to it, so that inevitably I get emails from people who wonder if I perhaps have come to need something stronger than martinis to pull me through the hour. (Someone did ask me that in an email – if there was perhaps a drink more potent and still legal that I could concoct for myself on a regular basis.)

I pick episodes, at times almost randomly, at times very deliberately and I write about them. They are from my day, and I spin them in the way that feels right. But now, I am afraid that I have become too wedded to being so true to a mood that Ocean has become too …well, honest and personal. (But not journalistic! Ever! There is a difference!) I hear the words articulated by someone just a few days back: "you write such a personal blog!" Do I? That would seem somehow wrong.

There are the other things, too: I have never been comfortable with the one-sidedness of the conversation. It gives me too much freedom to say things without worrying about reactions. And it gives you too many opportunities to lean on the blog to keep abreast of my life. I do not like that.

So here are my initial decisions:

First of all, I am immediately enabling the Comments function. The one-sidedness has got to stop. And, I will limit somewhat my writing for the rest of this month. I will resume regular blogging if I feel the problems identified by me can be addressed. I welcome your input here. You know what my limited talents are and what I can and cannot do. I don’t want to try to please everyone, I’m just looking for ideas and evaluating what has and what hasn’t worked before.

Feel free to write in and let me know what you think is worth keeping, if anything. Oh, and also feel free to react to the comments of others, but do not feel pressured to do so. It really is okay if I receive no comments and readers move on to other blogs. I can always go write a book or something.

One more thing: I will permit Anonymous comments only because it is hard to otherwise post comments if you are not a blogger. But I will basically not pay attention to anything written by someone who doesn’t at least sign with her or his first name (or initials) so that I know who you are.

And I will be ruthless in banishing comments that are in any way hurtful or mocking of others (or of me!) – even if only intended as a joke. If the last thing I do on this blog is give my support to highetened standards of blog discourse, I will be satisfied.

I’ll start with my own comment about Ocean: I think Ocean works best when it takes a trivial, very very trivial episode and makes a story out of it, no? So, your turn. Click on "comments" and let me know what you're into here in the murky waters of Ocean. Comments follow the photo of the turtle whom I came across during my bike ride. Note the readiness to jump (slowly) into the pond's own murky waters. I am aiming to emulate her (his?) pace in life.

Madison Aug 05 123
posted by nina, 8/07/2005 05:55:00 PM | link | (24) comments

Saturday, August 06, 2005

living up to expectations 

If someone were to ask me what bugs me most about being fifty-two I would say, without hesitation, that it is the way in which you are pigeon-holed by younger people. Even well-meaning younger people. There is hardly a single younger friend that I have (and I would say that purely for idiosyncratic reasons, most of my friends are currently younger than I am) who hasn’t at one point or other said something or done something that shows how much they keep my age very prominent in their attitude toward me. I don’t mind. Usually. Sometimes though, I mind intensely.

I’ll give you a trivial example.

A friend said this a few days back: I ought to hang out with younger people more. Younger people are into music. Older people are not. (I am eleven years older than her.)

My immediate reaction was to actually want to land a punch at the side of her jaw and watch the teeth fall to the floor. But I love her dearly and so instead, I embraced my inner calm and made some lame comment about music this and that.

Music. When I moved from Poland to the States the first time around at the age of 7, I was sent to summer camp for two months. Even before falling in love with junk food and television, I took to the guitar that summer. I played in a self-taught sort of way all the way through high school (back in Poland for that). My boyfriend taught me interesting plunking techniques and I spent pretty much every evening of my adolescence fiddling with my guitar.

When I turned 16 (still in Poland) I collected my first paycheck for cleaning up refuse in the city parks of Warsaw. With that first paycheck I bought a violin and then paid for a year’s worth of violin lessons from a university student whose name I grabbed from the campus bulletin board (I was then a student too, but in Poland universities were free and students lived at home so you could use earnings to indulge your music cravings.)

Did all this die in middle age? No. One could well trace my midlife rebellion right back to music, in fact.

It’s just that, well, it’s just that when you are plunging ahead with your life, you look squarely at your options and, in years where you are strong, you set your priorities straight and you move forward. That movement included, for me, many years of scant contact with music.

Age? It has nothing to do with it! You either are a person who loves music, in all its shapes and sizes, or you are indifferent to it. You don’t outgrow it though. Ever.

Tonight, I spent some hours hanging around guitarists. They didn’t play nearly enough to keep me happy. But the grilled burgers made up for it.

Madison Aug 05 120

Madison Aug 05 122
posted by nina, 8/06/2005 09:35:00 PM | link | (4) comments

Nocturnal guest 

It is late, I am on the phone, the doorbell rings. I light up – he’s there! It's funny how such a visit, one that you weren't really sure would happen, can light up your entire day.

“I didn’t think you’d make it!” I tell him. “Oh, I am so happy to see you!”
He comes in, sits down at the kitchen table, we talk. I show him my new computer, he admires it, tries out a few keys. “Nice…” he comments.

He paces around the house and says eventually –“Do you mind if we go outside?” It’s a dark night. He’s not familiar with my yard. I feel conspiratorial as I get the flashlight. The beam isn’t strong. I remember that the last time I checked the batteries of this light was when my daughter needed it for camp some half dozen years ago.

“It’s buggy,” he tells me. Inside again, I look at his mosquito bite, right there, just above the fingers of his hand. Good sturdy fingers – should play the piano, I think to myself, even though I know the keys he touches are mostly those of a computer keyboard.

It’s nearly 11 now. “I really have to call it a day” he says. “Tomorrow, I'm going to try to arrange it so that I can come back to morrow morning, okay? If not, then we'll have to plan on early in the week.” I smile. “Of course! I am so grateful to you!”

He leaves quickly, as if it only now strikes him that he has stayed too long.

Now, in the morning, I am waiting for the doorbell to ring again. I am hopeful.

UPDATE: Phew! He just left. Worked up a sweat today, that's for sure! He's younger than I am used to seeing here -- all enthusiastic about going to grad school to become a physical therapist. He likes being around people, he tells me. I can see that!

[this post is dedicated to him, the Internet repair person from Charter Communications.]
posted by nina, 8/06/2005 07:05:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bloggerrantics, part 5 

I did take a handful of photos before wallowing (see post below) set in good and hard. Here we go, outside Cafe Zoma, then inside the Cafe, waiting (with my flawed mechanicals) for the threesome to hike over and join up for a cool drink:

Madison Aug 05 098 gold on blue: a swallow and a sparrow?

Madison Aug 05 108 gold on gold: Jeremy shows up for the cool drink

Madison Aug 05 106 gold and blue: Ocean author, reflecting
posted by nina, 8/05/2005 05:35:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Bloggerantics, part 4 

I am being tested today for patience and anti-wallowing. The most obvious challenge comes from the world of computers. The less obvious ... oh why even go there when there is the obvious to talk about!

Two computers: one old, one new. Neither are working well. That is not a good turn of events when you are to spend a day with bloggers blogging.

At home, the Internet is down (I am on dial-up again) and time's a wastin.'

Because I spent hours on these problems, while bloggers roamed the Willie Street neighborhood taking pictures for their blogs, I sat at various places and said to myself "I am a patient and anti-wallowing person, I am a patient and anti-wallowing person..." pretty much over and over again.

The patient part at least worked and I screamed at no one.

I do wish my grandma, the one with the ample bosom and endless cuddling invitations was alive and by my side right now.
posted by nina, 8/05/2005 05:15:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Bloggerrantics, part 3 

Why are you so quiet?? -- I am asked.

I don't know, I think I remind myself today a little of him:

Madison Aug 05 096
Outside Mo Fool's
posted by nina, 8/05/2005 12:05:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Bloggerrantics, part 2 

Madison Aug 05

Blogging fools at Mo Fools?
posted by nina, 8/05/2005 11:25:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Bloggerrantics, part 1 

He was a portrait taker! How could you not understand my post title?! Blogger query of the morning.

A day of blogging around town: Oscar’s choice for a birthday celebration. Stay tuned – all we’re doing this day is … that.
posted by nina, 8/05/2005 10:30:00 AM | link | (0) comments

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Tonya writes this on her blog:

This is not a meme. But, you are free to join in the fun and list some stupid things that you worry about on your own blog. I'll list 10, but my list is actually much, much longer. Worrying is a way of life for me.

I read her list. Interesting. Check it out. It seems pretty tame to me.

It took me no time at all to post a comment. I wrote:

This is the truth: I worry that one day I will say "what's the point" and I will eat bagloads of M&Ms and not wash my hair ever again and wear flip-flops to the grocery store in the middle of the winter.

Doesn't anyone else worry about that?
posted by nina, 8/04/2005 07:55:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Tea and sympathy 

When I worked for years and years at a non-profit, we had these words for new staffers: don’t treat this as a place where we all come together and drink herbal tea and talk about our relationship problems. This is a place of work! Write grants, keep regular hours, and don’t spend time on the phone with your sweetie.

It had to be said. Private sector jobs can be terrifying. Non-profit organizations pay less and it is hard to get some employees to take their work seriously. The metaphor of tea-sipping on the job stuck in my head and I always combined herbal tea drinking with the type of person who would also keep a journal and talk about their inner feeling on all occasions, including at work. Ugh.

I like herbal tea and I'm okay with feeling-talk, but the combination left me ...cold.

When I started blogging I hadn’t, I don’t think, a "blogger voice" – to use writers’ fave little characterization (“you’re just developing your voice” one travel editor once told me when I gave her a travel story to look over). But I absolutely positively knew one thing. Ocean was not going to be a journal-type blog. You know, of the type: and I did this and this and I feel that and that. NO!

I do not take journal writing seriously – I kept journals when I was a kid and stopped (for the most part) as an adult. It seemed even more self-indulgent than blogging, if you can imagine (okay, kill me all you journal writers! I just do not like any of the journals I ever wrote. In fact, five years ago, I took a big trash bag, packed some twenty journals that I had written as a young adult into it and threw the whole heap away in the trash container next to Bagels Forever. I had almost died a couple of years earlier and one nagging thought I had then was that if I did die, someone inevitably would read the garbage I wrote and think I was demented.)

So today I am sitting at a blogger’s kitchen table and sipping herbal tea brought over by another blogger and they tell me: Ocean is awfully much like a journal…


So there.

Madison Aug 05 082ang, tonya, tea

posted by nina, 8/04/2005 06:15:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I walk my little one (actually she is twentyyears old) this evening via cell phone through remote parts of DC as she heads home late, in the dark. This is a modern way of caring for your older children.

I tell her that I have been listening to a Tonya mix a lot. She asks what’s on it. I read the titles. She says about one (Cannonball) – oh! did I know that this has been a favorite of mine? No, really? Yeah.
posted by nina, 8/03/2005 09:55:00 PM | link | (0) comments

I got a date with the night, burnin down my finger, Gonna catch the kids dry, gonna walk on water 

What I actually have had is a permanent date with the sponge and scouring pad as each day I am either cleaning the house for a showing or doing endless stacks of pots, bowls and cooking utensils (in the case of yesterday: both).

Cleaning a kitchen after a cooking binge is like grading exams after a semester of teaching – an unfair punishment for an otherwise challenging and stimulating set of tasks. There is no shortcut, you just have to do it. If you’re lucky, you’ll have company during the tedium of it all. Most often you will only have your thoughts.

And so what are they, those thoughts that accumulated with the four-hour stack of pots this morning? A blogger whom I had the great pleasure of meeting last night had recently asked how much of oneself does a person need to put out there [on one’s blog]? My personal answer is: perhaps not nearly as much as would appear at first glance.

Today, all you get is the facts:

After commenting on Jeremy’s blog that we keep too much useless stuff and we should all get rid of unnecessary “things,” I noticed that I had just last week purged old useless spices and therefore no longer had the black sesame seeds I needed to coat the chicken bits rolled over scallion, to be dipped in spicy pepper sauce at the grad student going away party (at JF's RV) for Katy and Jeremy.

The photos posted yesterday are from a rushed trip to Penzey’s Spices for a replacement jar of seeds.

I had balked initially when it was suggested that I throw some snackies together for this event. I love these guys tons, but I am not very good at throwing things together for any party, especially one that is not my own. If you want to point a finger at me and say “There runs Fusses With Food,” go ahead and do so.

In the end though, I could not resist, especially since blogging Ang agreed to stand by my side at my kitchen counter and take orders for a significant chunk of the day. Jesus, how often do you get that kind of assistance!

Facts, facts, stick to the facts:

There was a lot of vodka at the RV. It was good to see all that vodka and gin lined up on the kitchen counter. It was like an army battalion, scary, really, reminding me at the outset that it was poised to fire and kill if I drank too much too fast, especially since I hadn’t eaten (purely for reasons of being completely busy the entire day and completely out of it the day before).

So I drank with restraint. Probably more restraint than I have ever had at a party of this type. Others were far less restrained and still others did not drink at all. An interesting mix.

We played a game of associating weird facts with either Katy or Jeremy (you had to pick which if any had had a certain experience) and I walked away with a pair of striped socks for knowing, among other things, that neither Jeremy nor Katy had ever eaten an entire Thanksgiving meal naked. Someone else in the room apparently did eat it in such fashion, but if you walk with someone at dawn (Katy) and travel with another to Poland (Jeremy) you get to know a ton about each of them, including that they are not the type to leave their clothes behind when invited to share in the yams and pumpkin pies.

I can only speak for myself and so I will only repeat the toast I made in the round of saying something nice about either of the two celebrated persons. So: to their leaning in their work away from sociology – something that I myself had done twenty five years ago and now, in a different context, am doing yet again. Here’s to those leaning away, may they (me too!) find their true leanings truly rewarding.

And, speaking of rewarding, perhaps the most rewarding for me aspect of the evening (and there were many aspects of all shapes and hues) was meeting some people, blogging people, sure, but not only: all sorts of people, whom I’d never met but had always wanted to. The talk on the bench -- priceless.

Madison Aug 05 070 great friends

Madison Aug 05 068 lost in prayer

Madison Aug 05 066 the key to success

Madison Aug 05 045 tough act

Madison Aug 05 033 post prelim bliss

Madison Aug 05 030 Fruity Pebbles??
posted by nina, 8/03/2005 01:45:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

something's cooking 

Ocean takes a pause today because of this:

Madison Aug 05 017

and this:

Madison Aug 05 018

tomorrow, I'll explain tomorrow
posted by nina, 8/02/2005 06:57:00 PM | link | (0) comments

Monday, August 01, 2005

breathing lessons 

Twenty-four years ago today, I was taught to breathe for the first time. When my oldest daughter was born. The entire trick in childbirth, I was told, was in breathing. You do it right and the baby flies out and you go home laughing. You do it wrong and you lose your sanity. It’s all in the breathing.

I read Tyler’s Breathing Lessons more than fifteen years ago. Remember the story? Ira and Maggie, married for twenty-eight years get in the car and head for a funeral. (She’s so chipper, that Tyler is!) Hey, I’ve been married for twenty-eight years!

I like Tyler enough, but never quite in the way others do. Her heroines and heros are either numbed into some kind of pathological acceptance of their bum deal in life, or they are crestfallen from day one and they spiral down, as Maggie did, toward some great abyss of hopelessness before turning around and plodding ahead anyway. So that toward the very end of the book Tyler writes: Maggie had a sudden view of her life as circular. It forever repeated itself, and it was entirely lacking in hope. Thanks, Tyler! Such a nifty little idea to put down on page 315.

When my younger daughter auditioned for the various levels of the symphony orchestra, she tended to concentrate so intensely on her violin playing that inevitably she would be told, just before heading out to play before a judge: don’t forget to breathe. Because breathing isn’t a given. I guess we can forget to do it. I wonder what happens if you forget. Do you get nudged by the person next to you? Hey! You haven’t been raking in your free share of oxygen lately! Catch a breath already!

Tonight I realized that the red pepper I bought earlier in the day had a bruise. A significant bruise. I need an unbruised pepper. I also need more blueberries. So back I went on Mr. B, with my unsatisfactory red pepper, peddling to Whole Foods, somewhat in a hurry because I have a lot to do and in addition I have an early morning showing of the house to prepare for. Yet again. On the return trip I took the shortest route – up Old Sauk hill. With the 11% grade. Breathing will get you through! I told myself. But actually, after a summer of biking, I would say that my leg muscles rather than breathing per se allowed me to get to the top without getting off in shame and humiliation halfway up.

Just as in her violin auditions it was my little one’s talent and hard work that got her to the top. I truly think the breathing was incidental to her success.

So let's say you want to leave town, but you can’t, because unlike Maggie and Ira, you have no funeral to go to and so like it or not, you need to plod along from page one. What about the old childbirth breathing trick? Concentrate on breathing in and out, I mean really concentrate and you'll fly through the day laughing so hard that the tears will make your eyes puffy. Breathe in, breathe out.

I think breathing lessons are way overrated.
posted by nina, 8/01/2005 07:55:00 PM | link | (0) comments

In the still of the night 

If you go and go and go and then get to a forest at night and stop and look around, you may see this:

Madison Aug 05 012

And then you understand that what you do on a daily basis is pretty insignificant. That's if you're lucky. In the alternative, one could regard it as, well, almost worthless.
posted by nina, 8/01/2005 12:55:00 AM | link | (0) comments

I interrupt Ocean’s typically bland and/or morose posting to deliver the second* important announcement this year: my little S turns twenty-four today 

You have now lived one fourth of your life away from home. Not fair – you are not even half my age!

I know you remember this:

Madison Aug 05 004 enthusiastic

And this:
Tell a story, spin it from your own fantastic thoughts, spin it for your little sister, spin it for me!
Madison Aug 05 003 "S******* everywhere!"

I love you more than any love told in any storyform, more than Charlotte loved Wilbur, more than any character in the long line of Chestnuts ever loved anyone.

Happy birthday, little S.

* first important announcement told here.
posted by nina, 8/01/2005 12:01:00 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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