Archive for January, 2008

Bless Me, Ultima

January 30, 2008

Since I wrote my last post about moving out and the amazing apartment in Brooklyn, all of my plans have fallen to pieces. Nothing worked out how I anticipated, everything became one big mess. And I’m afraid that nothing will be the same between me and my (former) perspective roommate, who also is (maybe was?) one of my closests friends. We have not spoken since the fall-out of our plans and I feel awful but at the same time proud of myself for making a decision that was best for me, not everyone else around me. However, as of today I still have no apartment and no roommate.

Through all this drama I have been reading Bless Me, Ultima and this book was completely captivating. I wanted to read it because it is one the boyfriend’s favorite books and I wanted to read something that was important to him. I think this book is an example of magical realism, where things like witches, curses, forces of evil, spells, shamans and miracles are just a part of everyday life. This book asks questions that I have held to myself since childhood (for reference, I grew up in a strict Irish-Catholic family). If God is supposed to be all loving and forgiving, why is there still so much suffering and evil in the world? The main character, a seven year old by named Antonio, spends a great deal of time thinking about religion and the conflicts between native pagan Gods, the Catholic God, and the saints. How come a pagan healing ritual cured his sick uncle when prayers by the priest to the Catholic God failed? How come his mother prays to the Virgin of Guadalupe instead of to God? How can you believe in just one God if there are so many other forces at work?
I had strange dreams while reading this book. This book is mysterious and has many secrets. It asks questions but does not fully answer them. Ultima seems to know the answers to everything but we don’t know why and we never get to know all that she knows. This story took my mind off all that was happening in my life and helped me not to take everything so seriously. So my plans to move fell through but I am lucky I have other options available to me and I can continue living at home if I need to. There is so much more to life than what we preceive.
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3 day weekends

January 18, 2008

I cannot do any work because I’m too excited about the possibility of moving out. Last night my potential roommate and I saw an amazing, renovated, beautiful apartment, with a dishwasher (!) in one of my favorite areas of Brooklyn. Problem was it was 3 bedrooms (with 2 bathrooms) so we have been asking everyone we know if they or their friends want to move in. Because with 3 people, the rent per person would be comfortable below our original budget.

I actually have exciting plans for my 3 day weekend and what to share them with you. Because most of the time my own plan for the weekend is sleep

  • Tonight – dinner with my friends from high school who are meeting Manny for the first time, which is a pretty big deal since they have been waiting to meet him for 5 years
  • Saturday – maybe working some overtime hours to help finance possible upcoming move, then maybe seeing some more apartments then maybe seeing my long lost friend Ada
  • Sunday – attending this panel discussion “Embracing the Radical King” hosted by NPR on MLK, Jr at the Brooklyn Museum

I’m almost finished Breaking Out of Beginner Spanish and it’s definitely one of the most interesting Spanish books I’ve ever read. Even though I’m still a beginner and do not not need to be breaking out anytime soon, still a very useful read and I’ll probably read it again once I’m ready to break out of the beginner stage. This book is actually laugh-out-loud funny. I cannot stop myself from laughing sometimes on the train, and people look over to see what book I’m book I’m reading. They always give me raised-eyebrow strange look when they see it’s just a Spanish book. More thoughts on it later.

documenting NYC commuting culture

January 15, 2008

So, my family is obsessed with modes of transportation, specifically public transportation systems, specifically trains. Whenever I came home to New York from college in Massachusetts on the Amtrak my father and my uncles sat down with me and asked me all the details of my ride, even though I took the same train home every time. How many stops did it make? How long did it take? When did it switch from diesel to electric power? How long was the stop over at New Haven?

Similarly, they want details of every subway ride that I take in New York City, particularly if it involves going into Brooklyn, their hometown. Since the subway lines have changed in Brooklyn over time they do not know the Q, N, or F trains. They know the Brighton Line, the Sea Beach Line, and the Culver Line. They know the IRT, the BMT, the IND. My grandfather worked as a subway car repairman at the Coney Island yards, and one of my uncles just retired from the MTA after 30-something years and was honored with the highly-coveted Lifetime Unlimited MetroCard. My father and his 4 brothers collected Lionel trains when they were younger and now my dad has enough trains to take over the entire living room when he puts them up at Christmas. He also has a collection of tokens that he will never throw out.
I guess its in my genes, but I find the subway culture, and utilization of public transportation in NYC so unique and worthy of further study. More people use public transportation to get to work in NYC than in any other city in the country. I don’t even know what it would be like to go to work in car, by myself. I think I would get lonely. I do almost all of my reading on the train. When you are commuting by train, yes, it’s crowded. Sometimes people are rude and pushy and downright nasty. Sometimes trains break down and get stuck. But there is a sense of camaraderie, that we are all in this together. Sometimes on Mondays I think, too bad its Monday and I have to go back to work; but then I look around me and realize so do all of these other people.
Anyway, the real reason for this post – a reporter from the NY Times is going around commuting with people and documenting a new commute route each week. I love it; it is so good. I want this to be my job. Read it here.
For more information on subway culture, read Subwayland: Adventures in the World Beneath New York by Randy Kennedy, which is a collection of essays from the former NY Times Column “Tunnel Vision” about the people who ride the subways, live in the subways, and work in the subways.

Re-Introduction

January 10, 2008

I’m going to re-start this blog. I still want this to be a space where I write more about the books I’m reading. I have a few friends who actually keep active blogs about their day-to-day lives. It doesn’t sound very exciting, but I actually really enjoy reading about how other people send their days. About their jobs, their friends, their weekend plans, their relationships. At the end of the year, my blogger-friends were able to look back through their blogs and visualize what they had accomplished through the year and used this to make new goals/resolutions for the new year. This inspired me to restart this blog. Since graduating college two years ago, I’ve become sort of an adult, I guess. My mother always said how time goes by faster as you get older I am starting to realize that she is right. In thinking back on 2007, I realized it was all a blur and all I could remember clearly of 2007 were the last 2 months of 2007. I could not even remember what I did on my birthday (I eventually remembered that I went out for Mexican food with the family). Anyway, this sort of scared me. I want some way of documenting my life, even if its a pretty “normal” life. I don’t want time to be a blur, I want to remember more than just the big, life changing events that happen (births/deaths/marriages, i.e.) I want to look back and remember how I lived my life on a daily basis and how these little everyday things shape a life.

I don’t think I’m going to write all the details of my everyday life on this blog. That would get boring really fast. I still like the idea of creating a book blog. I still hope to write about the books I’m reading, but not just give reviews and opinions, but write more about why I chose to read these particular books. What was going on my life at the time I was reading this book? How has this book influenced my life, if at all. How does my current life situation influence my opinions on this book? So, hopefully I will be blogging about my life, but through books.

I’ve been keeping track of the books I read on Facebook, as of May 2006. Let me just say that I’ve also a few Anita Shreve novels, large print editions, courtesy of my great aunt who gives us a bag load of books from her suspense/romance book of the month club every time she visits. Anyway, here the books.

Breaking out of Beginner Spanish – Joseph Keenan (currently reading)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

Summer Crossing – Truman Capote

Atonement – Ian McEwan

Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America – Juan Gonzalez

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York – Robert Caro (read about half of it, would like to finish it when I have more time or on vacation. It was just too big to bring back and forth to work everyday. Wish they made it into smaller volumes for easier transport)

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals – Michael Pollan

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus – Charles C. Mann

The Death and Life of Great American Cities – Jane Jacobs

Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind – David Quammen

Crossing Over: A Mexican family on the Migrant Trail – Ruben Martinez

The Fated Sky: Astrology in History – Benson Bobrick

Polio: An American Story – David M. Oshinsky

The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City – Jennifer Toth

Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen

Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and the Fair that Changed America – Erik Larson

Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants – Robert Sullivan

Lucky: A Memior – Alice Sebold