Archive for the ‘boyfriend’ Category

Another Roadside Attraction

May 15, 2009

robbins

I needed a distraction and that’s what the book was for me.  It took me almost an entire month to read this book, way too long for me.  It was my first book by Tom Robbins and it probably won’t be my last.  If you’ve never read any Tom Robbins, start with this one, it is his first novel and you won’t be disappointed.  It is beautiful and insightful, hilarious and creative.  In short, it’s about two hippies who open up a roadside zoo and hot dog stand during the 1960’s.  Also featured are a disillusioned scientist from Johns Hopkins, a pet baboon, and a former college football star who accidentally becomes a bad ass ninja monk.

I am still coming to terms with my decision to leave New York and go to Michigan for school.  It feels so reckless, leaving a well paying job, a rent controlled apartment, and all of my family.  The hardest part, obviously, is leaving Manny behind.  That is going to suck, big time.  I am afraid he feels like I’m abandoning him, that I’m choosing my career over him, that my education is more important that our relationship.  But actually he has been not like that at all, he’s been totally supportive and encouraging and understanding.  He wants the best for me.  But we are really sad and I start tearing up every time I think about it.   I am afraid of being in a new place without him.  Stuff is just so much easier to deal with when he’s around.  It’s going to be really hard.   I keep thinking, what if I get swine flu while I’m in Michigan, who will take care of me?   All I know is I’m definitely getting the flu vaccine next year.

Every decision that I make, I make it with him in mind.  I hope that going away to a more prestigious school will increase my chances of getting an awesome job that I love here in the city.   I would be happy with my career, which would make me a more pleasant person to be around than I am now.  I would make more money, which will help us get a nice place together.  But I just want to do this first, I want to take this chance and go to school,  for myself and for us.

It was my 25th birthday yesterday, on the 14th.  Last week I found my old diary that I kept from around 5th through 9th grades.  What a strange period of my life that was.   I realized I wasn’t a kid anymore and I was just beginning to know myself as an independent person, as an adult.  And it was painfully obvious that I did not fit in, not at school and not at home.  I wanted acceptance from my peers so badly but I also did want to hide or change or who I was.  When I graduated from high school I went away to this crazy cool hippie college in western Massachusetts.  My family teased me endlessly.  They said I was going to major in ultimate frisbee and live in clothing optional dorms.  They said I would never find a real job and that when I graduated I would end up working in a Starbucks.  How wrong they were and I love that they are all eating their words now.  But the best part of going to that crazy hippie college was not the satisfaction of proving everyone wrong.  The best part of going to that college was finding Manny, who was just as much of a misfit as I was.  And in him I found the acceptance I was looking for, but also learned to love and accept myself; with all my flaws, weirdness, and dorky-ness included.  Happy 25th Birthday to me!

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Christmas Recap

December 31, 2008

Internet has finally arrived in my little apartment in Brooklyn, with some help from Santa Claus!  Ah, feels good to be connected with the world again.  

Christmas Eve at Manny’s family was so much fun.  Once again, all my knowledge of Spanish disappeared, I could not even bring myself to say feliz navidad.  But the gift of baked goods proved to be the universal language.  My cookies and brownies were consumed with much praise and were gone in about an hour.  

But Manny’s family – seriously – the nicest, most welcoming people I’ve ever met.  I ate dinner seated next to Manny’s older brothers, who know English, and they kept translating the conversation for me so that I wouldn’t feel left out.  Then I hung out with Manny’s four nieces, who are all around the pre-teen and teenage years.  They are awesome, smart, tough kids who made me feel so old because they thought Daria and Beavis and Butthead were vintage TV classics.  I was afraid they would think I’m too much of a dork, because they’re cooler teenagers than I ever was, so to break the ice I told them about some crazy science stories (like that boy was nearly decapitated but doctors reattached his head) and soon we were all watching Nacho Libre together on Manny’s computer.  

After Manny’s house,  I went to my mom’s house up in Westchester, collapsed on my bed and slept for about 12 hours. During Christmas, I realized that my family is the exact opposite of Manny’s family in every way possible, and realized this is both good and bad.  My family is big on traditions and doing the same thing for Christmas every year.  Usually these traditions are comforting and reassuring, but this year they felt forced and I felt like I was just going through the motions.  Plus my grandmother makes it no secret that she disapproves of me and dislikes that I live on my own in the city, that I moved out by myself without getting married leaving my mom alone with an empty nest, that I don’t go to church anymore, that I voted for Obama, that I’m dating a Mexican, etc etc.  But you know, it was still good to have the family together.  

This week I am back to work and sadly, without reading material. I started reading Labyrinth of Solitude by Octovio Paz but I can’t quite finish it.  Originally published in 1950, Labyrinth of Solitude is collection of essays that explore the essence of the the Mexican identity.  I read the first few essays, which were interesting, but honestly, the book is not really a page turner and I found it hard to stay awake on the morning train ride to read it. So, back to the library it goes. But, you should read more about Labyrinth of Solitude because it is a really important book.  

On Friday I have to take the subway up the Bronx to visit a friend , which is about an hour and half train ride each way.  I cannot face this trip without suitable reading material, so I have some book exploring to do.

Never-Fail Coffee Cake

December 23, 2008

As a kid, I never understood why adults got so stressed out over Christmas.  When you’re little, all you do is sit back, open presents and eat, and enjoy a long Christmas vacation.  Nothing stressful about that! 

So, it is my first Christmas as an ‘adult’, my first Christmas living away from home, and I can officially say that now I understand why adults get so stressed around Christmas.  There is just so much stuff to do, stuff to buy, stuff to bake, more stuff to buy, stuff to wrap.  And the fact that I get one day off from work instead of a two week vacation like I did when I was a student is not helping. 

This year, I am having Christmas Eve dinner with Manny and his family at their house for the first time.  Even though Manny and I have to been together for a long time, I have never been over to his house.  Because of the the general awkwardness of meeting a significant other’s family, especially when there are obvious cultural and language barriers that make things even more awkward, we tried to put it off for as long as possible.  This was easily accomplished while Manny and I were away at college, but now that we are both back home in New York, and our lives are becoming increasingly connected, the time has come to the meet the families.  Manny has been over my house a handful of times and met my extended family at various family functions.  So far, so good.  But now it is my turn.  I met his family briefly at Manny’s college graduation two years ago, but now I get to meet all of them and be a guest at their house.

 I know some basic Spanish, but as soon as I see Manny’s parents, every single little piece of  Spanish that I know flies out of brain.  I forget everything that I’ve learned and I am too nervous to say a single word of Spanish in fear of looking like a complete fool.  I am intimated by his parents to the max.  Which is why I am going over to his house tomorrow armed with overflowing Christmas tins of homemade baked goods.

I clearly suck at a lot of domestic things.  I suck at cooking, folding laundry, and making beds.  I have a higher tolerance than most for clutter and messy rooms.  However, I am good at baking.  This week I’ve baked vanilla cookies with chocolate walnut frosting, oatmeal walnut cookies, a tray of homemade brownies, and tonight I am baking a coffee cake.   Because if there is one thing that breaks down cultural and language barriers and brings people together, it is homemade baked goods.  Right?  I hope so.

So now I am going to share with you, few readers of this blog, my never-fails-to-impress-people coffee cake.  (This cake better not fail me tomorrow!)  Maybe it is the massive amount of crumbs that makes this so impressive?  But one bite of this cake and people will think you are a baking goddess or god.  When all you really did was mix stuff together and put it in the oven.  This is why I love baking. 

My mom got this reciepe from somewhere, I don’t even remember, and it was her secret baking weapon for a long time.  Then she passed it on to me and my sister, and I’ve passed it to friends in need of bringing something special to parties or family functions.  Technically its not all “homemade from scratch” because it uses a Duncan Hines cake mix BUT – this recipe is different than the one on the box.  The crumbs use margarine and that’s gross and I never ever use margarine except in this cake.  I don’t have enough baking experience to experiment for suitable margarine substitutes. 

Never-Fail Coffee Cake

1 box Duncan Hines butter recipe gold cake mix
4 eggs
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup oil
 
Mix all ingredients well with mixer.  Grease jelly roll pan (the large baking sheet with edges) Spread batter evenly in pan.  Bake in 350 degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool well.
 
CRUMBS
4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cups brown sugar
2/3 cups white sugar
2 sticks margarine
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
 
Melt margarine and butter.  Add to dry ingredients in very large bowl.  Mix with hands.  Make crumbs as large or as small as you like.  Spread over cool cake and bake another 20 minutes.  Cook cake and sprinkle powdered sugar. 

Enjoy the cake and enjoy your holidays!

Dreams From My Father

October 28, 2008

I told myself I wouldn’t read it until after Nov 4th, but I was waiting on some books from the library so I had nothing to read, and I saw it on sale at the bookstore during my lunch break last week and I couldn’t resist: Obama’s memoir, Dreams From My Father.  I didn’t want to read it because I knew it would make me like Obama even more, and if he lost on Nov 4th I would feel really bummed.  Oh well.  I’m almost finished with the book, and it is really really good.  So good in fact, that yesterday I missed my stop on the train coming home and didn’t realize it until the train had pulled into the last station and the conductor made the announcement for everyone to get off the train.  Lucky for me, my stop is the second to last stop anyway, so it wasn’t that serious. 

This book was published in 1995, before Obama became a national political superstar, so it is quite honest and doesn’t hold back on descriptions of Obama’s college party days, experiments with drugs, his feelings on black power, black nationalism, racism, social justice, and his struggles of finding his identity as a black man in America.  In the preface to the 2004 edition, Obama wrote that part of him regrets some of the details he put into this book that have been used against him when he started his political career.  It’s kind of surprising to read such intimate details about a popular public figure. 

I think its pretty great that we could have a president with such a unique story and world view.  A man of mixed race who obviously understands the nuances of race relations in this country.  He spent his childhood in Indonesia with his mother, his adolescence in Hawaii with his grandparents, his college years in LA and NYC, then spent 3 years organizing black churches and community leaders in Chicago, then went to Kenya to meet his African family for the first time.  I think these experiences are what make Obama such an effective politician, they allow him to understand problems and solve problems with a different perspective that most other politicians.  I don’t mean to be gushing about Obama, I’m not naive enough to think that if he’s elected then all of our problems will be solved.  I’m just saying that he is a very cool, very smart guy who gets it.  And I do really hope he gets elected.

One part in the book really struck me.  Obama was describing to his Kenyan sister about a relationship he had with a white woman.  When Obama and his girlfriend were alone, their relationship was great.  But then, the woman took Obama to her grandparent’s country house, and Obama realized that if their relationship continued, he would have to live in her world, since he already knew how to be part of the white person’s world and culture; he had been doing all his life.  But she could not live in his.  He took her to a play by a black playwright that involved a lot of anger and what he calls “typical black American humor” and his white girlfriend was not impressed.  She thought anger wasn’t a productive way of dealing with past problems, that anger was a dead end.  Her and Obama had a fight, she told him she couldn’t be black, no matter how much he wanted her to be.  They broke up.

I had put the book down as soon as I read this.  Obama wrote about something that Manny tells me all the time.  Manny even uses the same words, about living in different worlds.  Manny has learned to be part of the white American world, the mainstream culture.  But as a white woman, I’ve never learned to live in his world, a Mexican world, an immigrant world.  As a white woman, I never had the need to do this.  Manny and I have talked about this a lot, we’ve come to terms with it we’ve compromised about it.  But when I read stuff like this I still get insecure, I mean, even Obama couldn’t have an inter-racial relationship!  What hope is there for the rest of us?  Dramatics aside, I need to stop these comparisons.  Manny is not Obama.  He has never made me feel like I should Mexican, and never made it seem like he wished I was.  I have never passed judgement on Mexican culture nor would say that their way of dealing with their past is a dead end. 

Its strange to write about such personal things, I’m actually a private person in real life.  Feels good to get those thoughts out there.  Last night, in my moment of insecurity, I asked Manny if he felt like he always had to be part of my world in order for us to be together.  “No,” he said. “We both live in Brooklyn now.”

Oh Brooklyn, the great equalizer.  Here is an example of Obama-inspired racial harmony that Manny and I thought was so appropriate, him being Latino, me being Irish.  We had to stop in front of this stranger’s house to take a picture:

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin

July 7, 2008

I took a break from reading this past week.  On Monday night, there was a fire in the apartment below Manny and his family.  It was the superintendent’s apartment.  The super and his entire family were badly burned and their apartment is completely destroyed.  On Wednesday, the super’s 14 year old grandson died from his burns.  We are hoping and praying the rest of family pulls through.  So it has been an emotional week, and instead of reading, I’ve been thinking over the fire and how fragile this crazy life really is.  The thing that kept the fire from spreading?  It was because the family wasn’t able to reach the door to get out of their apartment.  They couldn’t open the door.  Because they couldn’t open the door, the fire didn’t spread upwards into the rest of the building.  But because they weren’t able to open the door to escape, some of the kids were trapped in their bedrooms and couldn’t get out until the firefighters broke down the door and rescued them.  I know its cliche to say, but when you think about how quickly everything can change, you realize what is really important in life.  And that is the people you love.  There’s really nothing else.

Which brings me to The Reluctant Mr. Darwin.  Charles Darwin’s favorite daughter, Annie died of a mysterious illness when she was only ten years old.  Darwin referred to the time she died as the time he gave up on Christianity.  The death of his daughter, combined with Darwin’s knowledge that natural selection lead to the evolution of species rather than divine law made the concept of God impossible for him to believe.  This was what made Origin of Species so controversial.  Quammen writes:

It was a bigger issue that whether humans and monkeys share a common ancestry.  It was the issue of whether humans and monkeys, along with lobsters and dandelions and all other living creatures, share an absence of special divine appointment.  In plain language: a soul or no soul?  An afterlife or not?  Are humans spiritually immortal in a way that chickens and cow’s aren’t, or just another form of temporarily animated meat?

Darwin’s theory of natural selection depends on variation among species, and these variations are completely random.  There is no divine intervention, there is no higher purpose of life and death.  And yet despite all of Darwin’s experiences and knowledge of evolution and the origin of humans, it was not enough to make him disbelief in a higher divine power.  He believed in, according to Quammen, “a Supreme Being in the fuzziest sense, given rise to the universe and set it in motion according to the mechanics of fixed laws.” 

Can you imagine what Darwin thought of his daughter as he wrote about natural selection and how it meant that human life was nothing special.  What of the soul of his daughter?  Was there no special purpose in her life?  Was she not any more special than the barnacles he was studying at the time?  Maybe that’s what kept him from being an all out atheist. 

Anyway.  Tomorrow I resume reading.  I really want a light novel or something.  But last week I went the the Strand Annex on Fulton Street (where everything is 20% off because they’re closing that location, all NYC’ers should go) and picked up some more science books.  I don’t really want to read them.  Maybe I’ll go the library tomorrow and get me some light reading.

Birthday Love

May 14, 2008

I turned 24 today and I had a great birthday.  I love birthdays and they should be celebrated and you should be allowed to do whatever you want for the day.  I took the day off of work.  Manny and I went to Pelham Bay Park and thanks to the maps in The Field Guide to the Natural World of NYC, we found a nature trail that went along the shore by Orchard Beach.  We saw the following birds:

double crested cormorant:

snowy egret:

great egret:

black-crowned night heron, which was exciting because i’ve never seen one before:

We also saw lots of canadian geese, mallad ducks, mute swans, woodpeckers, robins, and american goldfinches.  After walking around the park all day Manny and I went to my house.  My mom made eggplant parmesan and my sister, brother in law and my two closest friends joined us for dinner.  Everyone told embarrassing stories about me – about how I always fall while trying to rollerblade and how I walk into poles and parking meters while on my cell phone and we all had a good laugh.  My mom bought me the books Grayson and Gift from the Sea which I’ll be able to start reading tomorrow since I’ll be finished with All the Pretty Horses. 

I am really good judge of character.  As soon as I meet a person I can tell whether or not I can be good friends with them.  If I don’t think I’m going to get along with someone, I just don’t talk to them, I don’t bother or waste my time.  Of course, this attitude did not serve me well in high school.  While my peers were busy forming superficial friendships with each other in order to advance their social status, I was sitting in the alone in cafeteria listening to my walkman reading a book because I didn’t get along with most of my classmates and didn’t want to pretend like I did.  It is my judge of character that has kept my social life virtually drama-free and kept me safe from backstabbing friendships most girls go through.  And I have a few solid friends who I love like family.  I’m so glad I saw them today.  Quality over quanitity – always.

Mother of Exiles

May 6, 2008

Manny and I went on a Circle Line cruise around lower Manhattan yesterday to celebrate his birthday.  We had a tour guide named David.  We weren’t expecting much, just your typical touristy stuff, i.e. “And on your right is the Empire State Building” etc.  But no, David turned out to be insightful and knowledgeable, pointing out things even Manny didn’t know about NYC.  We were impressed.  As we cruised past the industrial Brooklyn waterfront, David repeated himself over and over: “this building used be _____ [fill in the blank with any warehouse or factory name] and now is being converted in luxury condos.”  He talked about the loss of low and middle-income housing in the city.  The loss of working class jobs.  The city used to rely on industry – factories, warehouses, importing/exporting seaports, now the biggest source of revenue is Wall Street and tourism. 

We cruised around the Statue of Liberty.  I had never seen the Statue up close before, it was really beautiful.  David gave us the basic history of the statue, but then also gave an eloquent little speech about how the waves of immigrants shaped the city, the the rest of the country, into what it is today.  And how ironic it is that today even the most outspoken anti-immigrant critics are the children of immigrants who passed through this city.  Immigrants who came through Ellis Island had answer a few questions and pass a physical exam to get into the U.S.  2% of immigrants who came to Ellis Island were not allowed into the country and were forced to return to their home countries.  25% of immigrants who entered at Ellis Island stayed in the city.  The other 75% went to New Jersey to board trains that took them elsewhere.  Trains at this terminal left every 4 minutes, all day.  In the searchable database at the Ellis Island museum under the last name Gilfeather, there is someone named Thomas J. who came from County Sligo, Ireland which is near the border of Northern Ireland.  He is my great grandfather.  He was one of the 25% of immigrants who stayed in the city, and our family hasn’t left New York since then.

David read aloud the poem by Emma Lazarus that is engraved in the Statue as we cruised past Ellis Island.  It was a really poignant moment – the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the skyline all surrounded in orange light as the sun set, and listening to the words of the poem.  I felt foolish because I had never heard entire thing, only the last four lines.  Here’s the entire poem, sort of in honor of Mother’s Day:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883

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.