Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 in hindsight

It's now officially New Year's Eve, and as is my custom on this blog, it's time for a year-end recap. It seems every year these recaps read like high drama, and this year is not much different. As the famous fortune cookie says, I seem to live in interesting times, which definitely gives me mixed feelings.

So obviously the big event this year was my surgery on January 8, which impacted many things for the entire rest of the year. I was out of work and mostly housebound for six weeks, and then dealt with some pretty major physical discomfort for about six months after that. I also had some related skin ailments that required treatment by a dermatologist, plus I started a regime of allergy shots in October. So in a sense, it's been a year of healing for me, physically speaking.

The surgery impacted my work life because I took most of my paid time off at the beginning of the year, meaning I had very little time off after February. Fortunately for me, I suffered no major illnesses this year that would have required me to take unpaid leave. However, I did have a second fire in my life that completely destroyed my apartment, just as I was starting to get comfortable there.

While most of my smaller possessions, like books, DVDs, clothes, kitchenware, bathroom stuff and most importantly my three stuffed animals survived (since the apartment was not so much damaged by fire as by smoke, water and the roof collapsing), the larger items did not. I lost my new bed, a new Dell computer that I'd only had a week, my 50-inch plasma TV, my $1,200 Yamaha receiver and several home theater components, a new recliner and my old sofa, and countless other things. All the electronics and most of the furniture I lost were less than six months old, which was really tragic because I didn't have insurance (now I do).

It was during this time period in the early part of the year that the most significant change (other than surgery) occurred with my personal relationships. It was a time that saw some of the highest highs and the lowest lows in my relations with my new family. It was also a time when I started to open myself up to meeting new people, both as potential romantic partners and platonic friends, the most lasting being my friend Agnieszka who lives about a half-hour away from me.

From Memorial Day until the Fourth of July, I explored a polyamorous relationship, and while it didn't work out for everybody, it introduced me to the concept that I am continuing to explore on my own. There is a lot about polyamory that appeals and makes sense to me, but it's a pretty academic exercise unless I get out there and start meeting more like-minded people.

I've also had my share of entertainment this year, as any of my readers know. I've seen two operas, several rock concerts (including my all-time favorite band, the Police, and Porcupine Tree twice), Rent on Broadway and added several museums to my resume (the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Princeton Museum, the Montclair Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Historical Society) in addition to several visits to our beloved Met and American Museum of Natural History. Here is a picture of the Temple of Dendur at the Met that I took with my phone camera several months ago that I was recently able to put on my computer desktop, just because I think the lighting is so cool:

Temple of Dendur

The latter part of the year from about Labor Day on settled into mostly a nice groove. I started my South Beach Diet again and lost some weight, although I've been allowing it to slowly creep back lately. I took an acting class in the middle months of the year that I enjoyed for a period of time. I met a couple new friends, Lori and Karina, who I hope to grow closer to in 2008 and beyond. I had a quiet reunion with the other Agnieszka from my past in November, whom I hadn't seen in 17 years. I've worked hard to rebuild my apartment, my home theater, and my media libraries from the fire in March.

As I enter the secular new year, the only significant thing happening is that I'm interviewing with a new PR firm for a job. I had four interviews this past Thursday, and although I don't think they are in any hurry to make a decision, I do feel that I'm still a viable candidate for the position. I'm not really looking to leave my company, but more money is always welcome to offset the expenses of living in this area. Whether I get a new job or stay with my old one, at least with the start of 2008 I will have my full complement of paid time off to take some breaks throughout the year, something I sorely missed last year.

How do I sum up 2007? A roller coaster ride, a phrase I used in earlier blog entries to describe the events of this summer with my family, and to a lesser extent with work and fallout from my second house fire in less than two years. It almost seems as soon as I've turned a corner and I expect life to start settling into a groove, things get all wacky again.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my life, and what I want out of it. This year has definitely been another one of tremendous growth and change for me - perhaps not to the scale of the preceding two years, but necessary as a result of the groundwork laid before. As I enter 2008, it occurs to me that the road I've traveled for the past three years will begin to vanish, and I must now chart my own course without doctors, caretakers or other preordained signposts to guide me. The time has come for me to follow my own counsel on where life takes me, and take responsibility for my own happiness. Goddess grant me the wisdom and courage to take the right path.

Happy New Year everybody - may your future be full of light and joy. Thank you for reading.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Really big Christmas trees

It's been a good long while since I've updated, mostly because it's been busy at work and consequently I haven't had much surplus energy to devote to other things. My apartment really took the brunt of it, what with between my lethargy and Christmas shopping it was becoming most untidy. Basically I've been putting things off until last Friday, the start of my vacation week. My company was most generous in closing the office from Dec. 24 until January 2, and I took my final remaining personal day on Friday the 21st, so now I'm on the third of 12 straight days off, which is about the only significant time off I've had since July 4 week.

So last weekend we took a trip to the American Museum of Natural History to see a new exhibit about water, and the butterfly exhibit. They also had a marvelous Christmas tree in the lobby, decorated entirely with origami figures, some of the most ornate and complex figures I've ever seen. The main piece was a 20-foot-long dragon wrapped around the tree made from hundreds of interlocking pieces. The top was decorated by several hanging stars and other figures on a slowly rotating spindle.

Origami Christmas tree

Here's a closeup of what looks like a paper hedgehog, for you Sega fans out there:

Sonic the Paper Hedgehog

Here's another shot of one of the many butterflies we saw in the sauna-like Butterfly Conservatory:

An Owl butterfly

The last week of work was not only busy from actual work, but also personal errands I wanted to get done while I was in the city. Tuesday I got my hair re-colored because the red had washed out pretty quickly. Then on Thursday I got my first haircut in over a year at a salon in Chinatown a friend at work recommended. The stylist's name is Edison, and he's a really young, cool, hip guy from Taiwan. He gave me some long layers around my face, and some long bangs that hang over my forehead, which is a first for me since I was a kid. It's going to take a while before I get used to it.

Friday Tara and I went into the city and visited the New York Public Library's special exhibit on Jack Kerouac, which included a 25-foot-long section of the original "On the Road" scroll. Afterwards, we visited the Museum of Modern Art, and explored the top three floors, including a special exhibit on the drawings of Georges Seurat. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so no pictures from that trip :( After dropping off Tara, I went out again to see Sweeny Todd with Agnieszka (her choice) which was stylistic and inventive, although a bit overly gruesome. I found out that she has a lot higher tolerance for gore than I do. Afterwards we went to dinner at Chevy's, a local Tex-Mex place.

Then yesterday we all went to Rockefeller Center for our traditional annual visit to the Christmas tree, St. Patrick's Cathedral and to see the lightshow at Saks on Fifth Avenue.

Creepy Yankees fan behind me!

Saks lightshow

There was also a cool public charity project called the Common Sense Penny Harvest that collected pennies from schoolchildren all over the city and laid them out in one of the empty pools in Rockefeller Plaza. We threw our pennies in to the millions of coins collected for the cause.

A field of pennies

Today I finished wrapping all my presents for tomorrow's celebration with my family, and otherwise it's been a very quiet day at home. I'm just getting used to relaxing before I start doing some of the stuff I've been saving until I have more free time.

I hope all of my readers are having a peaceful and happy holiday season!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas museum crawl

I didn't get much sleep last night because I was waiting for my sheets to dry, and then I had to get up early for a client call from the Netherlands that I have to take in the office because I don't have a home phone and my cell phone doesn't include an international calling plan. So I got about four hours of sleep last night, which isn't a lot of fun, but fortunately it was a pretty relaxing weekend otherwise.

Before I get into that, I did want to say that I got a call back on the job interview I went to last week. They want me to talk to some more people and go a little further in the process. I'll probably try to schedule this for Christmas week if I can, so I don't have to deal with being away from work and making excuses for dressing up. After New Year's, I'll have plenty of time off I can take for further interviews if necessary.

Also, an update on my hair. Most of the really bright red has washed out by now, leaving a much more subdued shade of reddish brown with rust colored highlights. It actually looks pretty conservative now, compared with the crazy wild look it had when the color was fresh. I'm kinda disappointed the color didn't last very long, but I still get compliments on my hair all the time around the office. Here's a picture of it from yesterday's visit to the Cloisters:

Redhead at Cloisters

Saturday I spent the morning watching Heroes on a library DVD - I'm really starting to like that show after the first six episodes. Bug and Tara came over in the afternoon and we watched the first episode of Tin Man on the Sci-Fi Channel that I had recorded on my DVR. Then Bee came over after she got off work and took a shower at my place before we started talking about plans for Sunday. This turned into a bigger discussion than first intended, which was cut short when Bee started having chest pains and we took her to the emergency room to get checked out. Fortunately, it turned out to be nothing more than a case of heartburn, but the experience put an appropriate cap on a rather long evening.

Sunday I got up early to shop a Christmas sale at Loheman's, where I bought a purse, a sweater, some yoga pants and a few pairs of earrings. Everybody came over at 12:30 and we drove into the city for a museum crawl that included the Cloisters and the Met, where we wanted to see the Christmas decorations. At the Cloisters, they hang handmade wreaths over the arches in the entry hall, and weave stalks of wheat into a decorative bundle.

Handmade wreaths

Wheat on the altar

They also have pots of planted paperwhites all around the courtyards, tied with lattices made of vines.

Christmas flowers

I discovered a new tryptich of the annunciation that I really liked because of the vibrant color of the oil on wood painting. Here's a photo of the entire panel, and a detail of the center section:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

We drove down to the Met and walked through the newly-opened Oceania exhibit, then the new European decorative arts rooms before finally seeing the Christmas tree in the medieval hall:

Christmas tree at the Met

We spent the bulk of time in the newly re-opened 19th and early 20th century European painting gallery, which include many of my favorites from Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir and Sargent. Here you can see Sargent's popular work, Madame X, on the far wall in the distance.

Newly reopened European galleries

And then after that the museum was closing and we were abruptly shuttled out. The rest of the evening I made stuffed mushrooms for dinner (yummy, and all vegetarian to boot) and watched the Rockets get stomped by Toronto while doing laundry and dishes.

Just 8 1/2 days until Christmas vacation. It can't get here fast enough.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Job interview

I had a job interview this morning with another large PR firm that called me out of the blue last week and said they wanted to meet me. I'm not particularly job hunting, but I'm certainly open to new opportunities, especially if they want to pay me more money. I always feel like I'm paid a bit below my market value because when I got this current job, it was my first job in New York, and there's always skepticism that some people can't handle this city. I guess that's why they say if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere. And this city certainly has it challenges, but I feel after 18 months I've proven it to myself and everybody else that I'm here to stay.

The interview went well, as they usually do when you already have a job - takes a lot of the pressure off. The office is located smack in the middle of Times Square, so if I'm working there by New Year's Eve, I'll have a great view of the ball dropping party. Luckily it's 20-something stories up, so you don't hear the noise. Their lobby is a lot nicer than ours, as it actually has windows that show something interesting, whereas our lobby's window faces another office tower in Midtown. Since it's just the first interview, I'm certainly not packing up my office yet, but I think it would be fun to get familiar with another part of the city, especially since it's so centrally located.

Today is my company's holiday party, which covered the fact that I'm wearing my new black suit and dressy flats for the interview. Like many companies these days, we're having it during working hours starting at 2 p.m. at a nearby Mexican restaurant. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the fact that we're getting time out of the workday to socialize, rather than having it after-hours like last year where I have to give up "my" time. Like I said, I'm not unhappy with my current company - it's a great company - but money talks, and the work lately has been a little dull, so speak the truth.

Speaking of how great my company is, we received the new revisions to the employee handbook yesterday, and sure enough, gender identity has been added to the list of non-discriminatory classes - huzzah! For new readers, this has been a personal quest of mine to get this changed (it wasn't included last year) and I'm pleased to say we're one less Fortune 100 company that allows job discrimination based on gender identity. Another tiny step toward an inclusive ENDA...

Tuesday night I visited the library in New York and found a Dave Grusin CD of Gershwin music that I owned a long time ago, which was a nice find. Afterwards, I had dinner with my family for the first time in a while and we had a great time laughing about interior design in the 1970s (don't ask me how we got on that topic). Afterwards I rushed off to Borders to use a coupon on a Christmas present, even though we haven't circulated our lists yet (hint, hint).

Alright, better get some work done before the party, which starts in about two hours.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Fountain

First, a photo promised from yesterday's entry. Here is a view of the tree and pond outside my patio balcony, three stories up, after Saturday night's snowfall:

Juxtaposition of autumn and winter

Last night Tara and I watched The Fountain at my apartment. It was the second time for me, first for her, and she loved it. Interestingly, the first time I watched it alone, I wasn't very impressed. It's a very deep movie, with overlapping themes of life/death/rebirth, masculine/feminine, mythological and religious symbolism, and love, all told in a non-linear format. The first time I saw it, it made me cry a lot, because there are a lot of powerfully tragic scenes. But this time, I was able to more fully appreciate the vision as a whole and I felt like I understood more of the symbolism instead of being run over by it like I was the first time.

It occurs to me how few times in my life I've sat down to watch a movie when I literally know nothing about it. Like most people, I like to have an idea what a movie is about before I spend time watching it. I got interested in The Fountain when I picked it up in a Barnes & Noble and read the description, which is quite vague, but interested me nonetheless. I rarely buy a movie sight unseen, but I put it on my birthday list, along with the companion graphic novel (which I haven't read yet). Now I'm finally glad that I did.

It occurs to me that some of my all-time favorite movies fall into this category of movies I saw without prior familiarity - The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Tampopo, Copying Beethoven, A Prairie Home Companion, just to name a few. These are usually movies that someone else brings me to, since I wouldn't normally go to a movie myself without knowing something about it. Once in a while, this is a good experience, to see something new and outside the usual milieu, or else how can we grow and discover new things?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Another quiet weekend

It was a super-quiet weekend, which is always welcome. Friday night I met Lori and her SO Erik after work and we visited the Whitney Museum of American Art. Friday night is "pay-what-you-want" night, so I paid $5. It turned out that I was overcharged, because it's not quite the quality I'm used to with the Met, MOMA and the American Museum of Natural History. We went through all five floors in a little more than an hour, and frankly, I didn't see a single work that moved me, nor were there any works from artists the general public would immediately recognize. Probably the most recognizable artist I saw was Georgia O'Keefe. Anyway, at least I got to meet Erik, of whom I've heard so much about.

Saturday morning I had to get up relatively early (9 a.m.) to go get Yoshi's brakes checked. It turned out they're still okay, although I'm down to about 20-30 percent remaining on my brake pads. I'm thinking again about trading him in for a Mini Clubman Mini Clubman when they come out in February. At that point, he'll have about 130,000 miles on him, and might be ready for a major overhaul - we'll have to see how he holds up.

After my usual errands and food shopping at Costco, I came home, made breakfast and sat on the couch all afternoon, thinking we were going to visit the Met when Bee got off work in the early evening. However, she ended up having to work late, so we canceled the trip, not wanting to be rushed like last time. So I stayed in and watched the 194-minute director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven as the first part of my sword-and-sandals series (director's cuts for Gladiator, Troy, Ben-Hur and 300 will follow in the coming weeks). I don't include Return of the King in that list (the first half of which I watched Sunday night) because that movie transcends the genre.

Sunday I didn't leave the apartment at all because we had a couple inches of snow Saturday night. The roads were okay to drive on, but since I didn't have to go anywhere, I was content to stay inside and enjoy the view. I took some pictures, but forgot to upload them, so I will post them later. Tara and Bee came over in the late afternoon and helped me put up my Christmas tree and move some furniture around - again, pictures following later. I gave Tara a manicure while Bee took a nap and we listened to the DTS DVD-Audio version of Porcupine Tree's Deadwing. Also, I finished reading my Absolute Batman: Hush book that I had bought last week - awesome story, great art, and probably my favorite Batman series not written by Frank Miller.

Only three more weeks until Christmas.