Monday, July 30, 2007

A fun To Do list

Tuesday, Tom and I decided to go see the Mets play the Pirates. We bought some sandwiches and jumped on the train, than got a couple tickets in the upper deck. It was a lot of fun. There was Mr. Met, Cowbell Man and the Mets kicking Pirate booty. There were several home runs for us to jump and yell and high-five over. The pitcher even scored his first home run ever. P.S. The boys who sat in front of us were slobs.

Wednesday we went to the Bronx Zoo. It was warm and sunny. We got to see lots of cool exhibits and I had a lot of fun playing with my camera (see Ebony Langur at left and tiger below). A butterfly landed on my dress a couple times, which I enjoyed.

There were tigers, giraffes, a mouse house that was full of cute-yet-creepy rodents and various cute primates. We had a lot of fun at the gorilla exhibit, especially watching the babies play. They reminded me of children playing, but the adults looked to Tom like people in gorilla suits and the babies looked like aliens. Okaaaaay. I just thought they were cute.

Thursday was the day of the Amanda Burkowitzs. Yes, Tom knows, not one, but two young women who are named Amanda Burkowitz and have the same birthday (though in different years). We stopped by the birthday parties of each. First we went to Bar Nine for the party of the Amanda who used to be Debra’s roomie.

After a drink and some chatting, we hopped a cab downtown to meet up with the Amanda with whom Tom attended Stuyvesant High School. We did much chatting until it was time for…Tada! The Simpsons movie! The movie was opening with a midnight showing that night, and she had acquired tickets for us. The movie was really rather funny, like a classic episode from the show’s strongest point. Then, on the way home, we had a rather hard time getting the train back to Tom’s. Grr. That’s one thing I won’t miss about New York: standing in a steamy-hot tunnel while waiting for a train that never seems to arrive.

Friday, Tom and I decided to take advantage of Restaurant Week. We went to Smith and Wollensky. The place had an amazing floral arrangement (see photo at left), cloth hand towels in the bathroom and filet mignon so buttery and soft! I ate just about every bit of those 12 ounces. Best meat ever. Seriously. It made me forgive the fact that it took us a million years to get water and our bread basket.

Then we walked back across the Brooklyn Bridge. I don’t know why, but I’d been wanting to do it for a while, and Tom gamely agreed. The breeze was so cool and refreshing and I got a chance to play around with my camera, snapping photos. My camera was acting up a little, which makes me nervous because I love it so much. Why did it stop working? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

Saturday, Tom had his last few games of bocce for the standard season. They lost their first game (and to a team they had expected to beat easily). Thankfully, the made a comeback and beat their next team for an 8-2 record, coming out first in their division. On they go to the…finals? Championships?

Meanwhile, I was at the Cloisters with Madrid. The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As I understand, it is composed of the pieces of various Cloisters (convents or monasteries) all over Europe. The art is gorgeous, especially the famous unicorn tapestries. I liked the architecture, the courtyard gardens and the natural park setting even more.

Madrid has been such a good friend to me, and it was nice to spend time with her. Then we met up with her hubby, Chris, for supper. I had a glorious Ruben sandwich and garlic mashed potatoes while we all talked.

Then it was home to read the new Harry Potter book while Tom was still out with his team. I just finished it today. Tom and I have been sharing a copy he bought. We’d both been hoping to finish the book before anyone spoiled the ending for us. I’d been hoping to finish it before leaving for Iowa, so I wouldn’t have to drop $30 on it and subsequently find room in my baggage for it. So hooray! Done. I promise not to say anything about the book and/or its ending.

Now there’s just three days left for me here. I’m so excited to see my family and pets and the farm and Iowa. I’m excited, too, for the educational experience to follow. But it’s hard to leave. It’s hard to leave everything that’s here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Time passes...

Post-Virginia and post-party we were tired. The next few days passed with us mostly hanging out around the house, doing various necessary chores and me fielding calls from potential roomies. One day while I was doing chores, Tom surprised me with a bouquet of irises! Aren't they pretty?

On the 19th, we decided we’d had our fill of sitting around the steamy apartment. We decided to go for a walk and spent a few hours traipsing around Prospect Park. We got to hear a band practicing for a concert that night. Then we stopped by a children’s park to use ‘the facilities.’

The park had a musical theme and giant musical toys for them to play with. There was also this neat harp fountain. Then we met up with Debra for pizza. Yum! She was given an undeserved censure from her employers, just like me, so I could feel her pain.

Friday was a housewarming party for Danno, Chris and Jarbo (Bill, I think.). Their apartment was, in certain ways, amazing. Its best feature, I think, is that it has a huge, open kitchen/living room space. Since people always end up in the kitchen during parties, it was great because the whole place is basically kitchen.

Saturday Team Rolling Thunder had its first taste of defeat, but it was followed quickly by victory in their second match of the day. Then, if I remember correctly, Tom and I went home to watch DVDs of the incomparable Veronica Mars. It’s an amazing TV show. My friend, Drew, always recommended it to me, but I didn’t have time to watch it while I was in grad school. Soon I’ll be in grad school again, so I’m taking advantage of this break. Netflix to the rescue! Maybe next week, I’ll actually get around to all the things I need to do before I leave.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bullseye. (It's a long one.)

Wow, it’s actually now, now! It really is July 15, 2007.

Monday, Tom and I evaded the extreme heat in NYC by going to his parents’ house on Staten Island. Tom, his brothers and I went to see the Transformers movie. It was Armageddontastic, and I’m told it has many references that are satisfying for fans of the original cartoon. After the movie we swam in his parents’ pool. It was so nice. Also, Tom’s brother Paul lent us his SUV to move my stuff to Virginia.

The next day, we went shopping, got my mail from Rick and had dinner. Wednesday morning we hit the road, and eight hours later we had moved my belongings into a storage facility and checked in to our hotel rooms. We had nice seafood (it’s usually great that close to the ocean) and went to bed really early.

Thursday was a rough day. I was scrambling for housing, and afraid I wouldn’t find it. Mom and Dad had delivered the bad news that they couldn’t spare a car for me, so I had to eliminate any possibility beyond walking distance of campus. (Mom, here's one of the big ships you wanted me to go see!) Technically Norfolk has public transportation, but the whole time I was there, I only saw one city bus, and I never saw a bus stop.

After checking internet listings and bulletin boards, as well as newspaper listings, I was frustrated. I decided to take a different strategy. I decided to walk around campus, look for interesting properties with “For Rent” signs and get a place that way. The minute we parked, I saw one and called the owner, John Warner. He only had four-bedroom apartments, but knew tenants in need of roomies so I signed up for a tour. I spent the time until then calling landlords and possible roomies.

Everything seemed fruitless. (No, I do not want to live with a guy who has a pirate flag on his wall and a collection of beer bottle caps. No, I do not want to live with a sickly, elderly smoker and her mentally challenged daughter. No, I do not want to live with three hard-partying 19-year-old boys.)

Then it was time to meet up with John for the tour. By the time it was over, I had an idea. Hundred, maybe more, of us were all looking for apartments, begging “Pick me, pick me.” I decided to turn the tables and be the picker for once. I filled out an application and gave an application fee for a four bedroom, two bath apartment (complete with a washer and dryer!) in a duplex five blocks from campus.

It was a giant load of my shoulders. Also, the campus looks pretty nice. They’re renovating the building what my office is in, and doing lots of other construction… including a MONORAIL! The school is much bigger than BV was, but I really don’t think the campus is big enough to justify a monorail...especially since I doubt the winters are even frigid. On the other hand, as Tom put it, “If I were you, I’d come here just for the monorail.” So there’s the cool factor.

With my extreme housing anxiety out of the way, I was free to relax and we went to Virginia Beach for yet another amazing seafood dinner. We sat on the upstairs deck of a restaurant and gazed out at the beautiful water as we ate our meal. I took the gorgeous picture below. It was over too soon.

The next day we got back in the car and drove back to New York. It was a bittersweet moment. It seems now like it’s really going to happen. On the one hand, I’m happy because I’ll really be learning poetry and teaching a college class. On the other hand, it means leaving New York, my friends and Tom.

Yesterday was Bocce again -- sadly, they lost for the first time. The group had been claiming they wanted to find a team that took the game as seriously as they do. Well, be careful what you wish for. “Actually,” Tom said, “that’s what’s so annoying! They don’t take it as seriously as we do! We just sucked today.” Well, this loss has certainly fired them up for next week. After the match, I decided to give Bocce a try. I rolled three balls and got them all close to the paulino!

Then I got ready for my Going Away Dinner. My friends decided to throw it early because 1-everyone was free that night and 2-it would be less sad that if the party was actually the last time they would see me. Brilliant!

We met at El Paso for some decent paella. It was just nice to have my closet friends together. It occurs to me that I’ve now given a rundown of Tom’s friends, but not my own. Here goes. The photo (taken at Madrid's party) shows Jenny, Laura, Madrid, Carolina and me.

Madrid and I met at IS 318 where I taught English and she taught Social Studies. She astounded me by telling me her old middle school was worse. She is ten years older than me, but this is only apparent if we’re discussing how old we were when major events happened (the Challenger explosion, etc.). She’s from Mississippi and a Vassar grad. She is married to Chris, a sweet guy working on his PhD is something computerish from NYU.

Madrid introduced me to Laura, her colleague from the worse middle school. Laura makes gorgeous jewelry loves to organize gatherings. She is excellent at getting people to stay out much later than they intended and at getting people to dance. She is pretty much engaged to Ryan, a funny and outgoing former restaurant manager/new Teaching Fellow who was in the band Who By Fire but is currently forming a new band.

Laura introduced us to Carolina. Carolina is a fabulous Latina who teaches high school bilingual earth science and performs stunning acts of geology on the weekends. She drives like a New York City cabby and is a shopper extraordinaire.

Madrid introduced us to Jenny (of Jenny’s Closet fame). They went to Vassar together. Jenny has been teaching for, what, ten years? She is one of those people who seem born to it. She also has impeccable taste in clothing and shoes, and when she cleans her closets, all her friends reap the benefits.

Laura introduced us to Riza, an adorable girl who, prior to meeting her boyfriend Pete, was a boy magnet. And she was never trying. (Sorry, this mysterious pic is the best I can find right now). When she was sad, the boys liked her best of all. She is dainty, and the boys wanted to protect her, I think. She is quick to laugh and eats like a champ. How does she remain so tiny? Its like a scientific impossibility. (Riza couldn’t make the party. She and Pete are in California.)

That’s the main group. Sometimes we hang out with Irene, too. She works with Jenny. She has shiny hair and a sharp, dry sense of humor. So much fun.

Back to the story, if anyone is still reading. Madrid, Chris, Laura, Ryan, Jenny, Carolina, Tom and I all met up for dinner. After dinner, we went to Kettle of Fish to play darts. I had never played before. It was actually fun, and I didn’t do any more badly that my team mates. Why did we play boy-vs.-girls when the boys had a lot more experience than we did? I have no idea.

In the first game, we weren’t far behind. Game 2 we played for points and bet a drink. It was quickly apparent the boys would beat us. Eventually, the guys needed two bullseyes to win and we needed 15. Well, we got that down to thirteen before they won, so that’s something. It dragged on and on. “Seriously,” the boys said, “Don’t you want to quit?” “No way,” we replied. “Look, we know we’re buying you those drinks, but you have to earn them.” About a month later they did.

While everyone else was chatting, I threw the darts over and over until…BULLSEYE! I set my goal, made a few wild stabs and wanted to quit.

Then I focused. I breathed. I tried and tried and tried, finally found a little luck, and hit the bullseye. Isn’t that always the way with me? Sometimes, the want, the need, the effort and the luck all come together. Somtimes it all works out. Maybe my life will be the same way.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Happy July 4!

Oh, it’s vacation, indeed! July 3, Tom performed the amazing culinary feat of consuming 11 portions of meat (sausages, burgers, brats, etc.) at Mike and Britt’s barbecue/housewarming. Wow, is their new duplex amazing! We ate and ate. Then someone started smoking and I had an asthma attack. For some strange reason, I forgot my inhaler. I went inside and lie down and tried to slow my breathing. Eventually I felt better and went outside. I chose a part of the patio farthest from the smoker. Then he stopped smoking, and I was quite happy…until they lit up and my asthma started up AGAIN! Grr. I went back inside, but soon it was smoky in there, too, so I had to leave. Sigh. Oh, well.

Then next day, the whole crew met up for a free July 4 concert in Battery Park, Middle Lake and The New Pornographers (their name is the only thing racy about them. They’re actually very mellow). It was a nice concert. Sometimes my view was awesome…sometimes not so much (see demonstrating photos below). Then it started to rain, and some of the rude people opened umbrellas. Okay, if you must be perfectly dry at an outdoor concert, there are non-rude options: 1-wear a rain poncho, 2- stand off to the side or in the back where your umbrella won’t block other people’s views. That’s just how I feel.

We then went to Brooklyn for Mexican food, a Bocce scrimmage (they’re REALLY into that game) and fireworks. Well, Tom and I went for the fireworks. Everyone else decided to stay in the bar. Oh, well, their loss. The next day, I sorted out a few boxes to get rid of some belongings and consolidate others while Tom was with his parents. When he came back, we went to the movies and saw Knocked Up, which was pretty funny.

Friday afternoon Tom and I went to Coney Island. I had never been. We walked up and down the boardwalk. Then we rode the Cyclone, a wooden rollercoaster that just turned 80. It rattled my teeth and bruised my arms and I screamed until my throat hurt.

By that time, Debra and her friends were off work and joined up with us. We got in line for hotdogs at Nathan’s. It was the longest, slowest line EVER! Then we were finally at the front. As Tom grabbed his greasy hot dog with sauerkraut and onions, I was hit with a wave of nausea. “I have to go sit down,” I told him. But halfway between the stand and our table, the nausea hit so strong that I ended up crouched on the sidewalk.

Eventually I saw the table where Debra, Sheena and Carl were sitting. I took a deep breath, launched myself over there and sat with my head on the table. But I could smell their food, so then I lie down on the bench. “What’s the matter, Erin,” they asked. “Are you okay? You want some water?” I could barely answer them. But soon it passed. I managed to eat my supper and drink my Sprite. We suspect I was foiled again by Benadryl. I had taken some that morning, and though I drank a lot of water, when on antihistamines you need so much more!

Whatever. The point is, I felt all better in time for…the Burlesque show! Okay, some Burlesque shows are clever and sassy. The one we went to was more along the lines of trashy.

Then we went on THE WONDER WHEEL! It was wonderful, indeed. The Wonder Wheel is a giant Ferris wheel. The story goes that a guy once proposed to a girl and she said, “I’ll marry you if you buy me the Wonder Wheel.” He saved up and somehow did it. She married him, and the ride is still owned by that family. The wheel has two kinds of cars, stationary and moving. The moving cars swing and slide. I just thought it would swing, so when it slid, I almost jumped out of my skin. When I got past the shock, it was so much fun!

Then we went out to the boardwalk for fireworks. They were set to such patriotic music as “God Bless America,” “Proud to be an American” and “Eye of the Tiger.” The fireworks were set off so close to the boardwalk that, by the end, we were engulfed by a cloud of smoke. (P.S. Isn't my new digital camera's fireworks setting awesome?)

Saturday was Madrid and Chris’ one year anniversary. I straightened my hair and even painted my nails for the occasion. We all met up at Prohibition. I ordered a scrumptious frozen raspberry margarita, of which I slurped up every last drop. It was so nice to all sit together and talk and joke and laugh. Madrid and Chris are one of the happiest married couples I know. It makes me happy that they found each other and they make each other so happy.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The End

I'm no longer a middle school teacher at IS 318 in the South Bronx. The school year ended. I said goodbye to my students, thinking “Good riddance,” with some, worrying for others, and knowing I would miss some. “Are you coming back next year, Ms. Kiley?” “That’s the plan,” I replied to some, or “Well, you never know what will happen in life,” to others. I told a few coworkers the truth, told some I was thinking about leaving, and was completely evasive with others.

It was hard, not being completely honest. I didn’t get to say the big emotional goodbyes. Everything was up in the air. I don’t want to quit before my grievance goes through, or before everything is finalized with Old Dominion. Anyway, I snapped pictures of my classroom before packing everything up (and went home each night to pack up my apartment). I got photos of my favorite class, too (at least, the students who bothered to show up for the last three days).

After the last students left, we had the usual meeting and award ceremony where some of Ms.Lopez’s assistants got special trophies and the rest of us all got matching trophies. I really don’t get the whole giving-trophies-to-everyone thing. It’s supposed to make us feel appreciated…but for me, not so much. Then we all turned in our fans and easels and keys and picked up our paychecks.

I went home and did some packing before meeting up with my teacher friends as Valhalla. The night before, I’d been up to all hours packing, so I bowed out early to go home and sleep. The next day was move-out day. Tom brought his car and we loaded it up with my stuff a few times. Then I was homeless, no longer a resident of Manhattan! No more living with Rick (see sad photo below.) From here on out, it’s all couch surfing, depending on the kindness of friends.

That day was also the birthday of Tom’s best friend, Debra. We met up with her crew for tapas in the village, followed by gorgeous, decadent deserts at Venieros. I had a marvelous cheesecake topped with fresh raspberries, but upon trying someone else’s raspberry truffle cake, I’ve decided the next time I go that’s what I MUST get.

Friday I was pretty zonked out, but Saturday was fun. Tom had another Bocce match. They creamed the competition once again. Then we went to a sports bar and watched a Yankees game, followed by Dom and Tori’s house where we watched the Rice game followed by a restaurant for Buffalo wings and the Mets game. Yeah, by that point I was pretty baseballed-out. We went back to Dom and Tori’s and hung out for quite a while. By the time we left, it was almost supper. Tom and I decided to have steak.

We trolled the supermarket for all the necessary ingredients, then I washed and cut the veggies while Tom did something yummy to the steak, which we ate with wine by candlelight. Not a bad start to the summer.