Monday, February 28, 2005

Snowy night mosey & an aimless post.

Oh, this is about when I start thinking about recipes for Groundhog Pot Pie - yet another snowstorm. Oh well, it's still winter. Boy, when I think about how much my sister and I whined, as kids growing up in Hawaii, about how neat snow at Christmas would be, I just have to laugh. Serves me right that I landed in New York. Our mom, having grown up in New Jersey & seen enough snow to last a lifetime (except for occasional ski trips with Dad, but that's different) used to always tell us that it really isn't all that neat - pretty at the start, but then the snowplows come & push it around & people walk on it & it gets all dirty and slushy and gray.

My sister and I never bought it - but now after 12 years in New York, every now & then I'll find myself admitting that maybe Mom had a point. Not that I'd ever admit that to her or anything. The novelty - when we moved back to the mainland in my junior year in high school, I could hypnotize myself watching the snow - has finally kind of worn off.

I do still find a good snowstorm fun. We're having one tonight - it's dumping a lot of snow, but it's not too too cold. I worked kind of late, and decided to do one of my post-stuck-at-the-desk-all-day meanders through Chinatown. Very different than the last one I wrote about - that time, it was the start of Lunar New Year, and warm, exciting, and festive. This time, there were only a few people out, and the snow had sort of hushed the noise of the city (except for the snowplows clanking past), and I drifted down nearly empty sidewalks to the Grand Street subway station, enjoying the snow falling around the lights, stopping to get some chicken at one of the shops with the roast meats in the window (wanted to stretch some leftovers which are simmering away making the whole apartment smell like coconut milk right now, mmm)(I didn't throw in the chicken foot that was included though - I'm adventurous but there are limits). It was nice unwind at the end of a busy day & a weekend that definitely had it's downs (ups too, I'm just still a little closer to the downs right now - maybe by tomorrow perspective will be settling back in).

Must've been relaxing, 'cause when I got to the Grand Street station to find the B train shut down from the snow, I wasn't even phased, just went back upstairs & quite cheerfully continued my mosey, ending at the Q train at Canal Street. I think part of why I was able to accept with such odd equanimity was because the conductor on the D was extremely clear in her announcement. Sometimes when the subway address system starts up, you know there's a message you probably need to hear, but it makes as much sense as the grown-ups voices in Peanuts TV specials - mwah mwah mwaaah, mwaah mwah mwaaaah mwah. That's annoying. No, this lady was clear as can be - "Hello, hello, hello! Hello, People! There Is No B Train Service! For Service To..." and that was as much as she needed to tell me because I'd already been thinking as I went down the stairs that I almost wouldn't mind a little more meandering & that maybe I'd get off a stop early in my neighborhood (which is full of Victorian houses and big trees and absolutely beautiful to walk through in the snow). Transit problems are so much less annoying when they actually tell you about 'em instead of letting people stand there on the platform for 40 minutes before the word finally filters through the crowd that that train just isn't coming. This time, no waiting, instant clarification, and an immediate decision to go ahead & extend my post-work walk.

Nice thing about being out a snowstorm in New York, especially after rush hour, is that it's actually acceptible to walk from Point A to Point B in a leisurely fashion. How many chances do New Yorkers get to actually say "I moseyed"? And here I've repeated it until it's probably verging on annoying! This is not a mosey-conducive town, ya know? To mosey in New York City without getting in anybody's way is something of a luxury.

I was relieved, though, when the Q train came squealing around the curve into the Canal Street station. Soho to the far side of Prospect Park in a snowstorm is a lot of moseying even for the most enthusiastic moseyer. And I found myself breaking into a trot on the last block before my place - just like a horse heading for the barn at the end of a ride.

Huh. I was going to write up the paddle some friends & I took on Saturday, but after all that moseying I seem to be sort of aimless tonight. So I think I'll just go make some hot cocoa and curl up with a book (much more snowstorm-appropriate than curling up with a blog) - or just watch the snow collect in the branches of the trees outside my window for a little while. Enjoy it while it's pretty, y'know?

(note to sparkytown if reading - there, did I rub that in enough? heh heh heh...)
(note to Am, if reading: yes! you read it right, I bought Chinese Chickens!)
(note #2 to Am: snort!)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Good thing I'm not posting on weekends anymore.

Cause if I was this would just be a big boo hoo hoo.

it wasn't a bad weekend - in fact that there were parts that were spectacular - but I'm kind of depressed about something I keep thinking is over but keeps managing to come back to bite me in the tuchus again (this time really should be it though - can't see how the situation could manage any more boomerangs), and the damned dock I keep trying to get properly secured keeps finding a way to chafe it's lines, and I'd really wanted to at least keep that off of a old friend's heaping pile of responsibilities but since there are other paddlers using the dock & now one of 'em's going to write a letter - damn, now I feel like I shoulda just left the situation be

- although we do have a functioning dock because I really did try whereas before we didn't really - I just wish I'd done a better job...and we did have a really beautiful paddle on the Hudson yesterday - great to get outside -

I just feel like I've let my friend down with the dock thing - I said I'd take care of it & now it's ending up back in his lap. hate doing that.

but the big thing that's depressing me tonight is that we didn't get the people that I was SO hoping would roll tonight to roll. They all continued to hover on the boundary. Everything continued to be almost right but the 2 bugbears of 1st time rollers, the diving blade & the instinctive pop-up of the head to breathe, just kept on happening. God, if I was a more experienced rolling instructor maybe I'd be able to explain these better but I just couldn't figure out a key to make it work.

damn damn damn damn damn.

Like I said, the problem with teaching rolling is that the bar's just so damned obvious - and when students who really should be able to do it still can't I just start kicking myself. And scanning all my books & surfing the internet for different ways to approach the problem. I mean, it was like the magic feather in Dumbo - I had one of 'em doing rolls while I literally had just the tips of my middle & index fingers in contact with her paddle - I wasn't really doing anything more than tracing the path the blade had to follow, she was doing absolutely everything else - but take those two fingertips away & back to the land of close-but-no-kewpie-doll.


In the end, nothing earth-shattering really - just a couple of situations where I wish I could've done better. Well, at least I care & I'll keep trying. I said, good thing I decided not to post this weekend. I think I should go follow my instructions on yesterday's non-post now. thhhbt.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Go Ye Forth And Laugh. I wasn't gonna post today but dagnabbit there Muskie, this is jes' too good to not share.

(besides sitemeter sez that people actually read this today...people, just when ya think you've got 'em figured out, you don't)

Not to be bossy or anything, but since you're here, here are today's simple Frogma instructions:

1. Go here.
2. Laugh.


All doctrines should be so simple, yeah?

ps - big thanks to Guy With Same Taste in Silly Fleece Hats As Me (aka my paddling friend who coordinated the Gates walks I couldn't get to last week).

pps - wish I was better at these clever nicknames t'other bloggers are so darned good at...

ppps - if I sound a little giddy today that's cause I paddled outside & I think all the fresh air went to my la la...ok, time for Pollyana to go wash the Hudson salt out of her hair & get some sleep...

Am I the Most Oblivious Person In The World?

Or, I Love My Place So Much A Whole Pack Of Drug Fiends Can Move In Next Door And I Won’t Notice, La La La!

This was actually supposed to be last night’s topic, but then I got a message from a friend who’d been traveling for a while & had a nice chat with her & that was the blogging time.

Being home last night wasn’t the original plan & that’s why I was going to write about it. A friend who lives on the Upper West Side near Central Park had coordinated 2 nighttime walks of The Gates, taking advantage of the full moon. The Wednesday night walkers must have found out exactly what color orange nylon is when lit by silver but I had the usual pool session. I was going to go on Thursday night instead – which went from being a Full Moon Gates Walk to being a Snowy Night Gates Walk – but on Tuesday night, there was a notice from the building management that front door lock was being changed on Thursday and they’d recut any keys delivered to the super’s workshop by Wednesday night. Thursday night was the official night to get the new keys, and since the walk would’ve meant get home well after the doorman had gone off duty, and I had no interest in competing with the local crazy lady for the warmest stoop, and was kind of tired after 3 hours of rolling (only one student, sigh) & the usual late night the night before, I just passed on that & came home instead.

So far so good. Where does the obliviousness come in?

Well – the reason that the front door lock had to be changed was because we had some squatters move into one of the apartments in the building. My friend IL, who’s a paddler & also the real estate agent who found my apartment for me (I think it took 3 days – I was just so lucky…why I ended up apartment shopping right when she had the perfect apartment for me to buy is actually a fun story although telling it makes any New Yorker that is currently, has been, or will be in the market hate my overly fortunate guts – but believe me, I paid my dues) was having an open house in a 2-bedroom in my building last weekend. The first 6 visitors were all nosy neighbors, including me. I was first, and shortly after that, 3 others turned up – a young lady who lives on my floor & a nice lesbian couple from downstairs. They knew each other, I introduced myself, we got to talking about how much we liked the building and all of the sudden the one from my floor was talking about how totally nice & sincerely apologetic the management was to her about her putting up with this absolute nightmare-sounding squatter situation next door for as long as she had to – she said they had parties all the time, and people doing drugs, and she’d be hearing people throwing up at 2 am & occasionally would call the police when it got to horrible.

Apparently the old woman who had lived there for a long time – and so had that increasingly rare NYC treasure, a rent-controlled apartment, had passed away a few months back. She was the only tenant, and had lived there for a long time so was still under rent control. Her drug-addict grandkids saw their chance, moved in and claimed that they’d been living there all along & so were entitled to keep the place under the rent control rules. After that, it was one big party all the time for them & their friends.

My apartment is at the opposite end of the hall & doesn’t adjoin at all, but still – you’d think a person would notice a crack house right down the hall. Not me. Nosirreee. Me? La la la, look, daffodils!

Actually, the answer to my title question is no – not all the time anyways. That’s part of why I was so surprised. I’m very alert when I’m out paddling – you just can’t afford to be daydreaming out on a big, busy river with barges & ferries & speedboats (oh my) & stuff. 3 years of guiding kayak tours & 3 more of working on a charter schooner intensified that. The ability to swivel one’s head 360 degrees like an owl would be most useful out there. Travelling around the city – ok, there sometimes I can space out a bit but mostly you do have to stay awake because otherwise you’re going to get pickpocketed or hit by a car or else just really annoy somebody who’s trying to get somewhere quickly (grrrr…). At work – well, there I’m selectively oblivious. Been through enough layoffs & other office politics to have decided that on the whole it’s better to just stay out of the gossip & do my work. I can tune out just about anything.

In general though – I am reasonably observant.

But I think the key to this lapse in my observational abilities is that I still just go into a blissful-haze state when I get home. It’s those dues I mentioned paying before getting this place. For the last few years, I was sharing a 2-bedroom rental with 3 successive roommates (the first actually insane – thought the upstairs neighbors were all in cahoots & following her all the time). The apartment would’ve been OK for a couple but it was too cramped for two people who didn’t want to share a bed. The most successful room arrangement was with the last roommate, where I simply turned the good-sized living room over to him & used the 2 back rooms (a very dark 10x10 bedroom & a maybe 11 x14 “sitting room” with a hideous suspended ceiling & floorboards that leaked cold air in the wintertime from the outdoor passageway that ran beneath my rooms) for myself. It was so cramped and so cluttered that even when it was clean, it felt shabby and sad. My ex-boyfriend gave me flowers once. Poor guy. He gave them to me at his place. It was only once because I never remembered to take them home & they wilted in a glass on the floor by his bureau – in part because my place just wasn’t flower-friendly, every flat surface that wasn’t either the few square feet of open floor I tried to preserve - or bed - had something stored on it. Not very romantic of me I suppose but there it was. Plus the landlady had a few screws loose, and her daughter actually told me point-blank (shortly before I left, and that’s no coincidence) that she HAD to raise my rent the usual 10% - right during the worst of the post-9/11 economic slump – because with the rent-controlled tenants and the deadbeats they kept letting get in (they never checked references until it was too late & the "nice new tenant" hadn't paid a dime for 3 months - and I know that 'cause the landlady used to complain to me bitterly about it) if they didn't jack the "good" tenants up they wouldn't make money. GGRRRRRR.

So…no. I guess in this case I’m going to cut myself some slack. After 6 years of that (and that was the summary rant), I come home to a place that’s spacious, clean, warm, and mine all mine, and no wonder I don’t notice the drug den next door until it was already gone!
P.S. – I think I’m going to go to what is evidently the blogospheric s.o.p. of not posting on weekends. Nobody reads, nobody writes. Paddling outside tomorrow, rolling class Sunday – hmm, I wonder what I’ll write about on Monday?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

And the Best Boy Toy of 2005 was...

So I got quite a number of readers the other day when I did that quick post about the Best Boy Toy of 2005. Hm, go figure. Kayaking kayaking kayaking best boy toy of 2005 kayaking...which one makes you go "wha?"

But I realize I left everyone hanging...ok, enough suspense, the Best Boy Toy of 2005 was...the envelope please...

Lego Knight's Kingdom!

ta tata ta-ta-ta TAAAA!

why, what were you thinking?

or, uh, who?

By the way, did I ever mention that my on-land job is in children's publishing? Or that Toy Fair is going on in Manhattan this week?

And just for the record, the Best Girl Toy of 2005 was Bella Dancerella Home Dance Studio. Molto girly, eh? My inner 6-year old would much rather play with the Lego Knight's Kingdom playset. Legos are cool. What I don't get is why Legos have to be boy or girl - didn't they just used to be little bricks that you'd snap together and make things?

Oh my...was that a nice curmudgeonly "Why, when I was your age..." I almost slipped into there?

At least the Best Girl Toy wasn't Bratz-esque. Now THAT'S a scary toy line.

Bedtime for bk now.

Tomorrow's topic: a quick exploration of the question "Am I the most oblivious person on the planet?"

Answer: quite possibly. Details "TK".

Spring Peeper Song

5-minute at work between-reports posting jes’ cause I saw something that made my little amphibious heart sing for joy this morning…gotta get this out before I start annoying my co-workers with all this cheerfulness -

Hooray hooray…

I was leaving for work this morning as I do every workday, and as I was looking out the window to the courtyard I pass on the way to the lobby I noticed daffodil leaves…

La la la, spring is coming, hooray hooray, daffodils, and there are leaf buds starting up on the trees!

OK so those daffodil tips are going to be under 4 – 8 inches of snow by tomorrow morning but

La la la, spring is coming…

Pretty cool post in the looking-forward-to-spring vein over on Kayak Wisconsin – who probably doesn’t want to hear about daffodils, bet they aren’t seeing those in Wisconsin yet – there’s a link over there in the link list so I’m not messing around with HTML right now. I have a cheatsheet at home but it takes too long here at work. The boss is out being trained on a new reporting system today & so I’ve got a nice quiet day to get all caught up on my to-do list (we’re going into budget season & there’s been a lot of jumping around getting that moving…I will probably be whining some here about being overworked as we chug through the 8-week period – but I’d always rather be busy than bored).

Exuberance break over, back to work.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

In a lighter vein

So there I was this morning, sitting at my desk running daily reports as usual, when what should pop up in my inbox but a message announcing the Best Boy Toy of 2005.

Boy, they’ve got awards for everything these days, don’t they?

Just thought I’d share.

Report went “bing”. Gotta go.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

time for someone else's words

Anyone who's reading this & knows me knows that monologues are not my forte. I can sometime get up a good head of steam on a topic with which I'm familiar & about which I care, but there's usually something of a dam-breaking aspect to any lengthy & vehement outpouring of words...something's been bottled up & has to come out. And when that happens - well, I say what I have to say but I don't necessarily enjoy my moment on center stage & end up feeling guilty in the end.

Writing's different. Writing, I have the time to sort through the thoughts, follow the thought processes I'm going through, decide what's relevant vs. what's just plain old self-indulgence. In fact I think I'm doing better at this blog thing than I do at paper journals because a)the fact that other people might be reading does make me tend to keep the emotional bilgewater I sometime pour out in paper journals (which then makes me cringe, rip out the entries & shred 'em after running across the abandoned-after-3-days journal a year later) in check and b) it makes it possible to go back & clean up the sloppiness that sneaks in anyways.

I have a tough topic I'm thinking about right now though & I think it's going to take more thinking before I can write about it with any coherence.

There was a drowning last weekend at the pier where I keep my kayaks. I found out about it because my friend L. had called me just to say "Hi" & while we were talking, he spotted the article in a New York Post someone had left nearby.

The article doesn't give a lot of detail that would really let you know how it happened. But the fact is that somebody drowned at Pier 63. If it turns out that this could in any way be linked to negligence on the part of the owners - well. Who knows. I just hope it was purely an accident - the article did mention that the man had a history of seizures & perhaps had had one that somehow sent him over the railing into the water. I guess time will tell on this one.

Still sorting out my thoughts on this. About water access & how it's great because it lets people get to the water, but also dangerous for the same reason. Also thinking maybe in more days there will be more details. But I can't help thinking about how just a couple of posts ago, I wrote with such enthusiasm about how the border between the city, where the rules are those of human manufacture, and the river, where you obey the tides and the weather and the power of the river before anything else, is so sharp and clear and immediate and how much I love that...

For this guy, it was too immediate and it killed him.

anyways...still mulling things over. I want to say things about it, but I don't know what yet.

Not up for monologue instead I'm going to give you a link to something I read today that I kinda want to pass along. Trust me. I'm violently allergic to saccharine. I have deleted every bit of "glurge" that ever stickied up my inbox...but this is real & worth sharing.

The blog is called Sardonic Bomb. Sometimes he is. Not today.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Rolling rolling rolling, git them kayaks rolling

What a great rolling class we had last night! One student – D1 I’ll call him – got his first roll – and then got 3 more (2 of them actually in a row!). Oh, there’s just nothing in teaching paddling that beats a student getting their first roll. It’s just awesome. I always let out a whoop (couldn’t suppress if I tried, it makes me so happy) and do a little victory drum on their boat – and it’s funny because almost every single time, the student looks at the instructor and says “did you help me?” and then you, the instructor, get to say “No, that was all you!”…oh, and the look that people get on their faces as they actually realize that they did it? Beautiful.

The other students who are just learning to roll are all extremely close. In fact we all – me, the head instructor, and the other students who were already done for the day after 2 hours of hard work, really thought O. was going to get hers right at the end – she has been ALMOST up any number of times but then each time, she lifts her head and down she goes again. AUGH! Oh, we all wanted her to get up so much – you could hear the collective intake of breath as her boat would start on it’s way to rightside up, and then we’d all go “D’oh!” as she lost it right at the last minute. Sounded like a Homer Simpson Impersonator Convention. Even the lifeguard was transfixed. She was great, too – some people would’ve seized up with everyone else watching like that, but she was so game…oh well, next week, next week. One problem with rolling classes is that by the end, you’re just pooped and cold and waterlogged, and it’s tough to really concentrate on lining everything up right. Next week she’ll have everything she got this week (95% of the way there!) and she can put it all together when she’s fresh, and…knock wood again.

Rolling is a funny skill to learn and (at least in my less experienced opinion) to teach. It just so isn’t what it looks like it should be. If you watch somebody rolling a kayak, doing a basic c-to-c roll (on of the two varieties most commonly taught as a first roll) first you’ll see the paddler capsize. The upside-down paddler raises the paddle up to or slightly above the surface of the water, parallel to the boat. The forward blade then sweeps out away from the bow so that the paddle ends up perpendicular to the boat. Then the paddler does something you can’t see ‘cause they’re underwater – and then the boat turns right-side up. Hey! Cool! Neato!

Naturally, the mind of the watcher sees this & wants to figure out how that bit you can’t see works & usually ends picturing something like an underwater chin-up – with the arms pulling the body upright. I did that on my first-ever try at rolling a sea kayak (as opposed to a whitewater boat) – I’d first rolled (in the very pool where I’m now teaching, which is cool) in March 1999 or so, and decided to try it again sometime that July or so & had of course forgotten EVERYTHING about how it was supposed to work – reached up – swept out – pulled down – came uncomfortably close to dislocating my own shoulder. It went back in by itself but it was icky. Took some getting over both physically & mentally – that could be a whole other post some day .

So one of the first 2 challenges for teacher & student is to delete that picture of the roll being somehow about yanking yourself up by brute force. The other is to get the higher brain to convince the reptile brain that being upside down, underwater, with half the body inside and attached to a big lump of plastic is actually OK. The two go hand in hand. The roll isn’t about the arms pulling you up at all – it’s actually about snapping the hips to get the boat rolling, then just letting your spine go all overcooked-pasta & letting the momentum and weight of the boat do all the work. No pulling. Pulling wrecks a weak roll & weakens a good roll. And the head has to be down - raising the head before the roll is done pulls you right back down again (the human head weighs a lot). But when you find yourself upside down for the first few times, and your reptile brain is screaming “AIR! WANT AIR! MONGO NO BREATHE WATER, MONGO BREATHE AIR!”, your instinctive reaction is to use your arms to drag yourself back up to the air, craning your neck to get your head up to the air as fast as possible. That just doesn't work, though. Hard on the arms & shoulders, hard on the instructor if climbing the instructor happens to be the most expedient route back to the air. Doesn’t feel like fun.

The first week of the class was all about getting over that. Signs that we were moving in the right direction? O saying, with a pleased look on her face, after I asked her how a particularly graceful hip flick off the side of the pool felt (that’s Step 1, practicing turning the boat over & back up again and again with your hips while both hands rest on the nice solid secure edge of the pool), “It felt like nothing!”. That was nice – I think that’s going to become one of my “learning to roll” stories that I use in teaching ‘cause really, it was a beautiful way to express what a good hip-flick feels like – as opposed to the grunting effort involved in pulling oneself bodily upright. Then, feeling S’s hands, as he was starting to practice the same movement using my hands as support (step 2), go from tense and shaking to relaxed and calm…that was nice too. As the instinctive fear dissipates and the confidence grows – the learning (& teaching) move away from feeling sort of scary to feeling like play – and that’s what I was really feeling yesterday. Good stuff. Oh yeah, and everybody’s either rolling or darned close…yay! Next week. Knock wood. Cross fingers. All that. As the head instructor said to everyone at the end of the 2nd class – they all have all the pieces they need to roll – each one of them has done every single element of a successful roll – now it’s just a matter of doing them all at the same time.

I’m feeling pretty OK about myself as an instructor too. I’ve been feeling bad about the young lady that decided to drop out of the Sarah Lawrence classes – can’t help wondering if there was some other approach I could’ve taken that would’ve worked – and I was a little afraid, when I first said “yes” to the job offer, that I was somehow going to be a disappointment. We’re playing now, everybody’s having fun & making clear progress – I’m still very happy to be the assistant to a head instructor who’s done this for years, but I think I’m being a good assistant & actually helping move the students along towards their goal of rolling their kayaks.

I find teaching rolling challenging in a way that’s really satisfying once I get through the initial “I can’t do this” nervousness and find the groove. You really have to be a good ex-post-facto ( and pre-, too) explainer, since (unlike beginner skills) you can’t explain at the moment of doing because the student is underwater, which also challenges your ability to pick up on what the student is doing right or wrong – and then the main thing is that bar is so darned obvious! Almost rolling is good and encouraging and all that, but rolling is the grail here, not almost rolling. I’ve gotten people there but I’m still working out what I do that works vs. what I do that screws ‘em up. The main critique I’d give myself, as an instructor, is that I want to go too fast & in the gradual introduction of this counterintuitive skill, adding a new piece too fast sometimes just discombobulates things whereas patiently drilling each step until it’s understood not just by the brain, but the body, allows for faster, smoother progress.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

4000 words!

wait a minute...

wait just a blasted gosh-derned minute...

no, actually this is pretty funny. I just spent 2 hours I spent tussling with silly downloads like Picasa and Hello and finally setting up a buzznet account where my first attempt at posting pictures was met with a "you do not have the right to edit bkfrogma's content" error message, and I sign in to actually give my average of 8 readers per day (hope you like!) and I see a little "upload image" icon in the toolbar here where I write my post.

well, I'll give that a shot sometime when I don't have an apartment to clean, a book to read, an apple crisp to bake & a dinner with friends to go to.

In the meantime - in my last post I wrote and wrote and wrote.

Today, I thought I'd just show you some pictures that I think would say more about how I feel about getting out on the Hudson than I could if I used as many words as there are in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (i.e., a lot).

well - that might be an exaggeration. But this was a spectacular night out there - all the pictures in the gallery I'm sending you to were taken with a plain old EveryoneSmile disposable camera - the light was so phenomenal that even a shot I accidentally took of the deck by the foc's'le hatch looked kinda pretty (didn't post that one though).

Anyways, blah blah blah. Enough words, I've got things to do - so on to the pictures!

p.s. - if that looks like a nice way to spend a couple of hours, and you happen to be in the NYC area in the summertime, come on out for a boat ride! I can't resist a little plug for the schooner Adirondack, the most beautiful boat in New York Harbor! Best part-time summer job a financial analyst could ask for (just hope I can do it this summer - last summer I was still an overperforming administrative assistant - with the promotion, I'll have to see how things work out this year. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs. That's life, innit?

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Joys of Paddling NYC

So as I was saying…

There’s good stuff about paddling in New York City – and then there’s stuff that just sucks.

I want to talk about the good stuff now. The political idiocy only makes sense if you are coming at it from the point of view that the North River (the old name for the Hudson as it passes Manhattan) has gone from being a horrible, dead, polluted waterway to being a much healthier, cleaner river, and it’s now a real live Valuable Recreational Resource. There’s a new park being built along it, there are going to be more boathouses, maybe marinas, “get-downs” where you can get closer to the river – city folks are realizing, after a long period of collective amnesia about the fact that we live on an Island, that our waterways really are something special.

Oh, yes, when I tell people that I paddle on the Hudson (and even swim some of the shorter races, 1 mile or less I’ll do), there are always comments about “wow, hope you’ve had your shots, ha ha” & whether my hair glows in the dark – but more and more, I get “Really? COOL!” from people who are aware of the healing the river’s been able to do since the Clean Water Act was enacted. I once found a chart showing pollution in the Hudson in parts per million in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s – wish I could find it for a link. PPM were indicated by the density of blue dots on a map of the river. The chart showing measurements taken in the 90’s showed a river with a sprinkling of dots. Denser in some areas, but almost totally white out in the middle. On the chart for the 70’s, the river was solid teal. Ugh. Now that was when you really did need to get some vaccinations if you happened to get in – and if you did find yourself in there, it was probably an accident.

Now? It’s so much better. As a paddling venue, it’s unique - it’s not for a beginner out on their own, but for a person with solid skills & local knowledge? It’s fantastic.

First off, there’s the obvious. The Hudson ends in New York Harbor! There are just a lot of neat things to see & goofy or fun or beautiful destinations to go to. I posted a while ago about a paddle where we started out going for lunch on a lightship in New Jersey – that was some classic New York Harbor paddling. We literally ended up drifting along past Ellis Island on the tail end of the ebb, debating about whether or not we should head on down around the Statue, analyzing what the tides were “supposed” to do according to the tide tables vs. what they were actually doing (tide tables give you a good baseline, there's all sorts of factors can change the reality & in the end, you go with reality, not what the book said), estimating paddling speeds, sunset time, etc. Think about it – “ehhh, whaddaya think, should we go on around the Statue of Liberty or just call it a day here at Ellis Island?” Really. In some ways we’re spoiled rotten. We did around & paddled back in to Pier 63 right as the sunset was setting the Empire State Building aglow. No. Really. How cool is that?

Aside from the obvious though - the thing that always amazes me about paddling the Hudson is the sheer abruptness with which you move from an environment completely shaped & dominated by humans to an environment where natural forces are completely in charge. There’s very little real nature in New York City – there is some true original forest up at the north end of Manhattan, but the primary green spaces in NYC are our parks. Central and Prospect Parks are of course stunning – and they LOOK natural - but they were entirely designed by Olmsted & Vaux. Someday I’m going to say more about The Gates – but one curious effect all that orange has is making you notice how incredibly well designed Central Park is to give an illusion of nature…that was a very strange & unusual thing to see.

But the Hudson – that’s real. The minute you leave the dock, you are answering directly to the forces of nature. Of course there are Coast Guard regs and rules of the road with which paddlers must comply just like everyone else (got a link to ‘em on my link list in fact) – but first & foremost, it’s the tides and the weather that tell you what you can and can’t do on any given day. The Hudson is an estuary, tidal up to Troy. The currents can run around 3 knots on a strong ebb. 3 knots is considered a good cruising speed for a touring kayaker. Aye, there's the rub. So Step 1 in NYC paddle trip planning around here is a perusal of the tide tables to see which direction the river is going to let you go that day. You could even say “which way the moon is going to let you go that day” without exaggerating – moon causes tides, which cause currents, which determine which way it’ll be best to paddle…see? Talk about being subject to the forces of nature!

We plan long trips to take advantage of the fact that the water in the river swaps directions 4 times a day on a reasonably predictable schedule – timed perfectly (like the trip I just talked about turned out to be – that was a great case of being flexible and changing our plans to suit the conditions which the river was presenting to us resulting in a better-than-expected day) that means – heh heh heh – that the river helps you out both ways. Nice, huh?

For shorter trips, we tend to go out against the current, getting a good ride home. That way you do most of the work when you’re fresh, while knowing that if anything goes wrong, the river is going to help you get back home. Sometimes when it’s really strong, I’ll give up on destinations & just do laps - get right out in the current where the force of the water feels like a giant hand pushing against my bow. It almost feels like the river is playing with you. It becomes an exercise in both stamina & technique, keeping the power on while trying to find & hold optimum boat-to-current angle. After 20 minutes of clawing and sidling and bashing and cajoling my way up to the ferry terminal at 34th street, I’ll turn around and be back at the start in a minute flat. Repeat until ready to fall over and/or eat a cheeseburger. I love doing that – you really feel just how much power that water has. Plus it makes a cheeseburger taste faaaabulous.

Anyways…the whole point of this was…the Hudson is amazing. I love it, as do a lot of people – even the people who drive me the battiest at various river-related meetings. I have seen plenty of water that’s far more beautiful (I grew up in Hawaii & it’s not fair to compare), but in the 7 years since my first kayak lesson, and 3 since I first started working on the schooner – spending all of that time out on the river has been a major factor in how happy I am with my life in New York City.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

update -

ok just the quickest of updates since somebody was reading this thing today...

I did hear back from the trusted former biz partner (actually there were 2 more I also trusted but this is the one who's actually still involved) and as I expected, the situation sounds better than what I initially heard last night although not as good as the automatic 2-year lease extension.

In all fairness, the person that passed on the news to me did say that there were various steps to the process of whatever they'll be doing at Pier 63, that certain things that were more likely to happen first & that that meant that there was definitely some possibility the barge could just hang for a while but that was later in the evening & I was a little rattled from other stuff). And where I got the 2-year lease thing? Well - I don't know. I do manage to intercept a lot of rumours & now I'm wondering if this was just a rumour I heard somewhere & promptly latched onto it because I really liked the concept of knowing where I'll be keeping my boats for the next 2 years. I don't know though, I really feel like someone who was actually in a position to know told me that as though it was an inarguable fact.

Of course some people have a wonderfully convincing way of making a statement as though it was an inarguable fact when it's really just something that they THINK should be an inarguable fact - as though repeating a not-entirely-factual statement enough times with enough conviction could make it be true.

Anyways - based on what I've been able to sort out it looks like there's at least another season (not that kayaking really has a season for the true kayakaholic - as anybody who's happened to find this via probably already knows, the whole point of these boats is that the Inuit used 'em for hunting in really really really cold water). And the trusted former biz partner said he'd let me know if and when he hears anything else - so with that I can at least not toss & turn & fret over this all night. Not that I would - tired after another good class & an hour & a half straight of drilling myself on my Greenland rolls (with all the teaching I haven't been practicing enough & the degradation was obvious - my Aariammilllugu was groovy, Kingumut naatillugu no problem, and YAY I'm getting pretty solid on the drill that will eventually get me to a Kingukkut tunusummillugu...but then I went and locked up on a plain old offside Kinguffik paarlallugu & actually had to go to onside - don'cha HATE in when that happens?

hee hee...ok, I'm TOTALLY cheating, I just copied all those Greenland roll names off my scoresheet/capsize manuever from last year's Hudson River Greenland Festival. For the uninitiated who are actually curious about what the HELL I'm babbling on about, you can go read the English descriptions and hear them pronounced here...oh yeah and if you want to SEE 'em video clips. Pretty cool stuff at least in my rather oddball opinion. Just think of it as Yoga-in-a-boat!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Life of an Urban Kayaker...

Oh, the life of an NYC kayaker. We have a foothold doing what we love on a river that we love - but that foothold can turn slick as ice in the space of a day. We have no cars, we have no's such a different and altogether more tenuous existence than anything your average cartopping paddler who keeps their boat in a sling in their garage (or even in a nice normal storage place that doesn't have legislation spelling out an automatic if-then end of things as they stand looming over it) can imagine.

Sometimes being an NYC kayaker just rocks.

Sometimes it's not so hot.

The following paragraphs are an excerpt from an email I sent tonight to the former business partner I still like, respect and trust (as opposed to the other one who...well, that's for another post, I thought he hated me - or was at least terrified of me - but I just heard some weird info about what he says about me from some of the people I'm teaching on Sundays...kayaking in NYC is one surprisingly small pond...god this is all making my head hurt...)

Hi! Hope you're OK!...

Had dinner tonight w...a couple of the folks who do the swims regularly - one attendee is on the advisory ctee of the Hudson River Park Trust & asked me what was planned for Pier 63 since BasketBall City lost its appeal & eviction proceedings would begin in 3 to 6 months...said that was the word at an advisory ctee mtg about a month ago.

You know anything about that? I thought everything was groovy for next 2 years owing to failure of Trust to announce budget by whatever date resulting in automatic 2-year lease extension????!!!???

Can you please fill me in?

God. And here's the private-boat-hold mailing list getting all het-up about whether "we" (I don't include myself in that "we" as I have a clearer view than most about how things operate around there)...need to ask management to please install a seal-launch dock...but now all the sudden I hear that this news that contradicts this whole comfortable next-2-years-are-a-given idea...

so there's life as an NYC paddler. Everything's fine, everything's fine, everything's fine, everything's WHAM!!!!!!

lordy. and the discussion of next season's swim support (that's kayaker swim support for swimming races in the Hudson River - and the GOOD news in all of this is the Hudson is so much cleaner than it used to be that the swim race series in the Hudson is burgeoning) got pretty interesting too -

way too late to go into that right now.

I think this blog may become a bit of an analysis of the vagaries of NYC paddling for the next week or two...there's a lot that's good, there's a lot that's not...sometimes the two are just inextricably tangled & that's true of both this new development that might mean that my boat storage might be in jeopardy when I thought it was safe until 2007, and of the kayak swim support issues. This seems like as good a place as any to sort out my thoughts.

tomorrow I go teach though. And I think maybe no blog - I have been very good about this (surprisingly so) but the topics that I'm thinking about require a little more care & attention than I will be able to give them when I get home after a full day at work followed by an hour and a half of beginner skills & an hour & a half of rolling practice.

will probably start trying to sort this all out for myself on Thursday, when I have no plans (hurrah and about time too).

Monday, February 14, 2005

What Valentine's Day Means to Me.

What Valentine's Day Means To Me.

By BK.

Valentine's Day means that maybe tomorrow the Dean & DeLuca near my office will have some of their really onolicious chocolate on sale cheap just because it happens to be in silly heart-shaped boxes and nobody will buy expensive chocolate in a silly heart-shaped boxes at the original retail price on the fifteenth of February.

Cookies would be OK too, but I don't have much chocolate around right now and anyways, cookies I can make myself.

I think I will go check it out.

The End.

full circle...broken circle

The class went well. I found myself actually humming as I packed up my gear - corny, but I was psyched - then got a little, no, quite nervous walking to the Y, but once I was in the pool & working with people, I quit worrying & concentrated on the job at hand, and I was definitely seeing progress as I was working with people, and in teaching , that's the main thing. This is going to be a good experience for me, I think - especially doing this at the same time as teaching beginners at Sarah Lawrence & then also having pool time there.

I did realize something interesting - I'm now the assistant teacher for a rolling class in the very same pool where I first rolled - must've been in early Spring of 1999 - and I'm assisting the very guy who taught me in the first place.

Amazing how long ago that feels - so much has happened since then.

that is a very satisfying circle to discover. Taking what I've learned, and passing it along, right where I learned it in the first place.

makes me feel pretty good.

Found out about a broken circle this week too. As I'd mentioned in a post right after I got the call from the outfitter asking me if I'd be willing to help out instead of just playing, I've let my ACA Open-Water Coastal Instructor certification lapse because I wasn't teaching anywhere & it wasn't doing me much good - but this week I found out that the company where I was certified, Katabasis, has shut down except for private instruction. This makes me a little sad - I can really understand the owners' doing so (speaking from experience, owning a kayak company is a marvelous way of turning a superlative pasttime into an unbelievable amount of work) but although I've been doing more British Canoe Union programs through Atlantic Kayak Tours in Peekskill (although they run their 4-star training/exam in Naragansett Bay - that was a blast!)- I did get a lot out of the American Canoe Association IDW/ICE process & with all the teaching I'm doing this winter, it had gotten into my head that it would be fun to at least go back to Ray & Margaret for the less-high-pressure Instructor Development Workshop - that I could've done entirely for kicks.

Funny way to get one's kicks I suppose. But that's just me. Anyways, I was sort of dissappointed to find out that that's not an option any more. Ray & Margaret put on a good workshop.

Plenty of other options but sad to find that avenue closed.

Well, that's life for ya - ups and downs, ups and downs. More ups than downs this week - can't ask for more than that!

enough for now - time for bed!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Visiting The Gates - post "TK"

I don't like leaving this blog hanging on quite such a rant as Friday's when I had such a cool day yesterday - and I started writing a post on visiting The Gates (starting with a really bad joke about "So I visited The Gates yesterday, and Bill said to me...PSYCH!") but all of the sudden it's time to go sew up my poor old wetsuit (a Henderson trilaminate garment which was quite spiffy and sleek back when I bought it in 1998 but which I wore a lot and finally sacrificed to the Pool Session Gods - all the spandex in the stretch-fabric outer layer went bye-bye and now instead making me look like a seal, it makes me look like a Shar-Pei - still keeps me warm though, and I get cold fast) and otherwise prepare for a 1:00 departure for Stamford. Unfortunately the train schedule doesn't jibe too well with the rolling class schedule - class starts at 4, I'd like to be there at 3:30, but the choices are 3:00 or 3:44. Oh well, I'll get the mongo-huge Sunday NY Times, catch up with what happened yesterday while I was wandering around in some great big art-thingy.

My initial reaction to art-thingy, btw, was actually dissappointment...funny, with all the to-do about the & Jeanne-Claude work, I had gotten these images in my head of what it would look like, and it wasn't as beautiful as I thought it would be. For starters, they're really orange, and orange is not my favorite color, and somehow I'd pictured "saffron" as being sort of a very rich, warm gold color. And there was no wind when I first spotted 'em from 57th street so it just these big, orange rectangles hanging there. But I did warm up to it and by the I had to head on to a friend's housewarming party I was thinking it was all very cool - as I was leaving, I passed a couple on their way in, and one was saying "It isn't really very pretty, is it?" - and that was funny 'cause by that time I'd been wandering for 3 hours & my initial "Aw, that's it? I should've paddled for sushi with my friends instead." had given way to "This really is neat, I can't WAIT tell my arty aunties all about it".

ok, time to sew, pack, and scram. Think I can promise no more rants for a couple of days, not when I can talk about and rolling class!

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Memo - instead of a Rolling Post.

I was going to write about paddling today. But then I read the memo. Don’t have the heart to write anything fun now. Yes, we'd heard about the memo during the hearings - but I was shying away from making judgements because I hadn't read the memo myself. Now I have.

I have one friend who is moving to Canada. I have another who talks wistfully of emigrating to Paris.

Myself, I’m a Navy brat. I'm definitely a liberal but probably the most conservative of all my liberal friends. My dad helped protect this country through the Cold War. My mom & my sister and I – well, “they also serve…”. I'm proud of what we did.

I’m not a belligerent, flag-waving, America-love-it-or-leave it patriot – but I am patriotic in my own way. This is my home. Want to say am proud of it but I don’t like where we’re going, our own home-grown fundamentalists scare me as much as any bearded lunatic in the Middle East. This country is from perfect – but I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I have always believed that for our imperfect world, our imperfect system of government was about as good at trying to rein in the worst of our human tendencies as any you'll find. But now - I just don't know.

Faith has been slipping away since March 2003. Call me naive, but I believed in the war in Afghanistan. It’s hard to call any war good – but there was cause, we exercised restraint, we waited until investigations were done, we planned it out with the world’s support…I just wish that we had offered assistance to help rebuild after helping the mujahedeen defeat the Russians, then maybe…maybe…

And today I read that memo. And I thought about what happened to me – running for my life in my own city with the worst noise I’ve ever heard (so terrifying I didn't look, just ran) ringing in my ears - and I thought about former co-workers of mine that weren’t as lucky as me – and all the other people too – and I imagine that memo - that quite plainspoken & clear memo - sitting in a file in Condoleeza’s office from January 2001 on, and the what was it, 57 FAA warnings, and I just do not have the words to express how this all makes me feel.

I’ll write about something fun tomorrow. Don't worry about me, I'm upset, but as a very wise friend of mine once told me when I was absolutely livid after discovering that someone I had trusted & thought of as a friend had been secretly discussing me with another mutual acquaintance in a very demeaning manner - "The situation hasn't changed, just your perception of it".

that's exactly what's happened here - and as you can tell from earlier posts, my perception of the situation was already unfavorable - this just adds another layer of resistance. I've indulged myself in this post & a good brood tonight. I'm still excited about seeing The Gates tomorrow, and going to an old friend's housewarming party, and the rolling class on Sunday (and there WILL be a post about teaching rolling before the end of the weekend, oh yes!).

The anger can go on the back burner where it can stay until a chance to do something useful with that energy.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Well this is novel...

Readers! How very interesting! I suspect most are coming through a comment exchange with Scott of Scott-O-Rama on Traveling Spotlight - that was actually pretty entertaining. The whole exchange was one of those things that if I hadn't been involved, I would've suspected collaboration - but since I was I can vouch that it was spontaneous.

so...anybody wanna buy a bridge?

No! I'm kidding! That was totally unscripted.

It was also very classic me being me. I am not - surprise surprise - the most self-confident person in the world. I sort of envy girls these days - although I notice that a lot of the whole "girl power" business seems to involve an awful lot of midriff at an awfully young age - one of my most vivid recollections from jr. high in Aiea was hanging out in the band room one morning - band was first period. Someone complimented me on something - probably my drawing, that was the only thing I did well enough & publicly enoug for someone to just notice, my notebooks were a veritable menagerie. I said "Thank you" - quite flattered.

Well, the first seat flautist - who was a very pretty, popular, smart girl with just-right clothes & perfect black hair (and oh god how I wanted black hair & brown eyes & to NOT be the tallest gawkiest girl in the band) - pulled me aside on a mission of mercy & said "You know, when somebody compliments you, you should deny it - otherwise people will think you're stuck-up". And in Aiea, in 1979, stuck-up was considered to be about the worst thing a girl could be.

my...we were innocent back then, weren't we?

Anyways - that was just one very noticeable occasion that I remember, not the whole story, but I've grown up to be a person who's very uncomfortable with the idea of calling attention to herself. Quite competent in many respects - and if somebody notices it that's fabulous, I love it (honestly, a small part of why I'm so darned tickled with this business of the Sunday rolling classes is because I had only given the guys at the Small Boat Shop my name, but they remembered that I was at one time an instructor and that was nice)- but to actually say "Here's my blog, want to read it?" - well, that felt egotistical.

but then Scott came swingin' in with some shameless self-promotion silliness & people laughed - and all the sudden my Brooklyn came out & all my apologetic oh-here-is-my-humble-blog-which-can't-possibly-replace-the-ones-you-lost tiptoeing just looked kinda dumb. Hey, I wanna play too!

I posted after my first class up at Sarah Lawrence about fear & overcoming it - that was the "teaching - and being a grownup" post, I believe, with possibly more at "meanwhile, back at the pool" -

well, it's funny how that simple business of drawing attention to myself really is one of my nastiest irrational fears. Surf? Yippee! Whitewater? Yeah! Thunderstorms? cool! Trapeze? whee! OK, so I doubt I'm ever going to jump out of a plane, but guess what, I consider fear of jumping out of planes to be TOTALLY RATIONAL, ok?

Saying "Hey, here is something I am doing, want to take a look?"

Now that's frickin' scary for me...and that's what I call irrational. I mean, my response to "Bobo" telling me where his blog was "Cool, I'll check it out!" I didn't think he was a snob for telling me. And I got a kick out of following the links - it's like a really big story, but it's all real and I like real reality so much more than "reality" tv (of course I don't HAVE a TV so I'm officially talking through my hat now). Didn't look down MY nose at any of THEM - nope. So why would any bloggers look down their noses at me for doing the same thing? and if one did - well, why should that bother me?

Well, the rational mind knows that. Irrational mind was fully expecting rotten eggs.

But once again - got through it. yay! And no cautionary emails from the first-seat flautist yet - so maybe this will come out OK. Anyways, feathered hair & polyester pants don't impress me nearly as much as they used to. Hmph. So THERE.

And I actually found another kayaking blog - now that, I am very psyched about - I have a lot of fun reading the gay (wait - gbltq? is that it?) & gay-friendly writer's blog circle (blog amoeba, more like, no geometry about it!) that Bobo's linked in with, and I will keep reading those, but I'd also love to find more kayaking blogs to link to - like this blog - this is another paddling-addict writing about a sport that means a lot to him, and why it means so much, and I really liked what he had to say. There are plenty of paddling discussion forums, but paddlers being an opinionated bunch & also cranky as hell when cooped up inside for too long, those can get contentious - and then sometimes after too many flame wars everybody backs down simultaneously & with everyone too cowed to post it just kinda peters out. Not a friendly environment for long reflective meditations. And getting involved in a flame war is something I really don't enjoy.

somehow blogs seem better suited to that. Hope I can find a few more out there. Preferably before boating season when I'm sure that kayak blogs will get very, very quiet!

well, enough reflection & meditation, if I don't do at least a little exercise before I go to bed I will have all night to reflect 'cause I will not be able to get to sleep!

Anyways, welcome to anybody that's reading - thanks for stopping by & I hope you'll visit again sometime!

Happy Lunar New Year - baaaaa!

says the sheep! yep, I'm a sheep. Or a goat sometimes. The few people who manage to piss me off to the point where I'll fight would probably say goat. Always wanted to be a Horse instead, just 'cause I like Horses & the real sheep I've met haven't exactly struck me as being an animal I want to be like. Oh, whatevahs. Happy Year of the Rooster! On to the Really Long (but Fun to Write)Post!

It’s Wednesday night, which is usually teaching followed by rolling practice night at the pool. Unfortunately, this week is my division’s monthly Hell Week – every month there is a review of the numbers & we create the package for our division. It’s time-consuming & has to be done absolutely perfectly each & every time. No pressure.

I had known right from the day I agreed to assist with these Wednesday night paddling classes that I wouldn’t be able to make it tonight – I actually probably could have made the second half, the rolling practice, but the sessions are at Sarah Lawrence College & it just seemed to make more sense to just let it go this week, stay at work, and get some decent progress made on the package (the alternative being being prepared to stay until 10 tomorrow if things didn’t go right – and there’s a lot that’s outside of my control – reporting systems running slow, spreadsheets crashing, ad hoc report requests, whatever). Had the class been the later half of the pool time, I might have tried to go – I’m really enjoying teaching these young women. I can feel the rust working loose on my instructor skills at a rate that makes me very happy. I can’t wait to get going on assisting at those rolling classes in CT – as I think I mentioned in another posting, I am not as confident in my ability to teach rolling (originally I thought I'd write about that tonight but then I went for this great post-work meander & decided rolling reflections would keep for another day) & this should be a real chance for growth in that area.

What I’m supposed to do with all that growth, I’m not quite sure – but when I was teaching & guiding a lot, I always just loved the synergy between teaching others and learning myself – learning skills is exciting, and I love the fact that in paddling, there always seems to be more to learn, one thing leading to another and another and another – but to learn a skill and then understand it well enough to turn around and give it to another person? That’s even better. That, like, totally rocks, dude (although it does make this closer-to-40-than-30 finance-team member wanna talk like a surfer and I’m not sure that’s so good!). So even if I go back into my early “retirement” from instruction (partially self-imposed, little pity required, will post on that sometime when nothing else seems interesting) this will have been a TOTALLY awesome and most radical winter. Dude. Oh, there I go again. Stop that.

So anyways, since I did give that up the pool time tonight, and probably won’t have much of a chance to hit the gym this week, I decided to walk to the next subway station down the line instead of the one closest to my office. It was a warm night for February in NY, close to 50 degrees, practically like early Spring (that lovely warm weather we had for our paddle to the Statue of Liberty is sticking around and I’m so happy – I heard somebody mention that four letter word that starts with “s” and whose second letter is NOT “h”, more like 6 letters down the alphabet from there today, but it sure wasn’t tonight). Tonight was a particularly good night to go for a long walk, not only because I did get to a good stopping place at the semidecent hour of 7:30 and because it was warm, but because I work in Soho, and the next subway station is in the middle of Chinatown, and today was the kickoff of Lunar New Year festivities!

I always enjoy walking through Chinatown anyways. Soho offers some fine, fine peoplewatching, especially in the summertime when people can truly cut loose sartorially (and oh my have I seen some “interesting” outfits out there) – but as far as atmosphere? Well, it’s pretty much one big mall that just happens to be housed in some nice old New York architecture. Ann Taylor, H&M, Banana Republic, Duane Reade, Express, Pottery Barn, Bloomingdale’s, Eddie Bauer…ho hum. There are definitely some interesting smaller shops on the side streets – oh yeah, and then there’s Prada which is rather fascinatingly bizarre even to a acquireophobic like myself – but on the whole it’s pretty chain-store dominated. Nice stuff, but...

Chinatown has a much more unique character. The fishmarkets, the greengrocers (where I buy vegetables whose names I don’t even know), the restaurants with the tanks of fish, lobsters and crabs (including these giant spidery-looking ones that look like they could give the cook one hell of a fight – I can’t quite imagine how they cook these monsters), the signs in Chinese characters, the jewelry shops with the jade & gold & little gold Chinese zodiac animals & good-luck symbols, and the souvenir stores with the sidewalk displays of bright-colored, sparkly toys, trinkets and tchochkes – I love walking around and looking at it all. Makes me glad to live in a city big enough to have these ethnic neighborhoods – it’s got it’s problems & it’s not the easiest place to live but hell, anybody that lives here & is bored has only themselves to blame!

Anyways, they had firecracker displays and music and dance performances today, and tonight Mott Street was full of leftover confetti (the sanitation squads had started but had barely made a dent). The restaurants were full of people. The sidewalks were full of people, some waiting to get into the restaurants, more just walking around taking it all in like me. Lots of families – kids popping snappers on the sidewalks, bugging parents to buy them stuff, or both at the same time. Everyone was having fun – oh except one little boy I saw, dressed like a little prince in blue brocade and a satin & velvet cap, sounded like he’d had about enough of a day, his mom caught my eye & gave me that wry smile & headshake that loving parents do so well when their kids are getting cranky just says so clearly “too much excitement for one day!”. And all the souvenir stands were extra-rich-looking with all the New Year stuff - red & shiny gold scrolls, lanterns & neon-colored lion heads (some that played a folk tune and snapped their jaws and blinked their flashing l.e.d. eyes – I almost had to get one!). I know it’s all just gaudy plastic and paper and tinsel – but it’s so much fun to look at!

One of these years I really should take the day off & go see the festivities. Actually the parade itself, with the lion dancers, is on Sunday – I’d be tempted except that I have the rolling class that day and I will be carrying a big bag o’ paddle gear and a 7-foot long Greenland paddle & it won’t work well in crowds. Anyways, I think I will restrict my cultural activities for the weekend to going to see "The Gates" on Saturday – I’m no big connoisseur of modern art or anything (January blizzard-in-Beacon blitherings notwithstanding) but that just sounds so cool, all that saffron blowing in among all those winter-bare trees - I can’t wait to see it but I think that’ll be enough culture for my poor little brain to deal with in one weekend.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

somebody teach our President english, please...

good lord. just took a look at Dan Froomkin - prime sample of Bush going off the script. Very depressing - wish he could at least stay coherent.

here's the quote against the day when the Washington Post archives this & wants money to let you see it -

Bush's response to a question about how his plan is going to take care of Social Securities "red ink" problem:

"Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

"Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

"Okay, better? I'll keep working on it."

Yeah, George, you do that. Or maybe just stick with "steadfast" and "resolute". Worked at the debates, didn't it?

The sad thing is that before I read that, I was actually in a really good mood today 'cause I got a great call this morning - my lapsed ACA certification did NOT do me out of the chance to get some work as an assistant for some eskimo rolling classes during February, they were happy to hire me and I am PSYCHED...heck, even just saying that much cheers me up some!

Does that make me fickle? or just resilient?

bells & whistles...

well...I added 1 bell & 1 whistle here - joined Technorati & added a blogrolling list. hm.

problems with this -

1. I stayed up way too late doing it. Had no clue what I was doing & am sort of psyched I figured it out without having to go ask for help but boy am I gonna pay tomorrow.

2. People might actually be able to find my super top secret blog now. I am not sure that's good. Oh well, you can always make these things private, right? I will do that if this looming sense of stage fright crashes down & I get to feeling like this is all too egotistical & all-about-me for me and decide it's time to hide (kinda like why I stopped posting to the kayak list serve I occasionally refer to).

3. I am going into an insanely busy period at work & will probably have no time to blog for a while. Swell timing, eh?

of course when I do get back to blogging it may get interesting 'cause I miiiiiigggght have a chance to do even more instruction - I was signed up for a weekend rolling session, just practice, in the area & my name rang a bell with the outfitter that runs it. He called today to ask me if I'd be interested in assisting in the 4-6 session (I signed up to practice during the 6-8 one). I hope I'm not cursing things by blogging now - I have to talk to the guy, and first of all I have gone & let my ACA coastal kayaking instructor cert lapse (this winter is the most serious teaching I've done since 2001 - YAY - and since I wasn't teaching, and it was tough to get to updates, and expensive, and I was doing diddly-squat with the certification, I kind of let it wind down) so that may bring up insurance issues, and second of all, well, I've taught people how to roll but I just don't have the confidence level in that area as I do in the beginner stuff - and even the beginner stuff I'm rusty on, although the Wednesday classes are definitely getting me loosened up. Anyways, trying not to count chickens - or ducklings - but it would be really cool to do that & I suspect that that would generate some fun paddling entries here.

Interleavened with all the other stuff - politics, number crunching, the vagaries of NYC life...Since I can never totally concentrate on one thing.

ok, time to hit publish & see if my bells & whistles broke my blog!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

what a weekend!

OK, happier post - yesterday's got a little on the heavy deep n' real side. But I worry about that kind of stuff. A lot. Every now & then I just have to say something - somewhere - even if it's here on the ultra-mega-super-top-secret blog.

But this weekend - oh, it was just too damned nice for effective brooding. Y'know my secondary title "because it's too cold to paddle & I'm bored"? I wasn't kidding! That was why I started this thing - cause we were locked in a deepfreeze there for a couple of weeks & I could feel the cabin fever setting in. Oh yeah, that was also before I got the invitation to teach that just cheered me up & made the long dark cold months left in winter seem at least SLIGHTLY more palatable.

This weekend though - just great. Lunch with a old friend I hadn't seen for a while yesterday - she just moved to a town "down the shore" (isn't that what they call it around here?) so after lunch we went for a walk on the beach - great surf, and only a few people out enjoying the day (where was everybody? jeeze, if we'd been out on Brighton Beach, which is the closest beach where I live, all the Russians would've been out there with their kids and their dogs and swimming & sunning & generally acting like it was 80 degrees as they do all winter - great peoplewatching!). I even took my shoes off for a little while (that ended after one promenade across some snow that hadn't quite melted yet...yipes! cold!) Good stuff. Really good catch-up, I was really glad to see her.

Then back to the city for a housewarming party with some of my friends from sailing - it's a good crew, I don't see a whole lot of these folks when it's not boating season so this was also fun. plus...ok there were a couple of guys there that actually seemed to want to flirt a bit & while I'm not really looking, and there was no swapping of numbers or anything else, it was still nice after that whole Baggage Boy thing made me feel kinda chopped-liverish.

and then today - it was warm enough to paddle! YAY! I haven't been out since New Year's Day when it was also beautiful - but then the ENTIRE month of January was just a deep freeze and ended up with the river all full of ice that kept me from getting out last weekend. It always amazes me how fast the ice goes away when it warms up - there's so much of it one day, and then three days later - nada! My paddling companion today was saying something about wanting to paddle in ice sometime - I actually have, and it is fun, but you have to catch it just right & pretty early on before it all stacks up & gets big enough to block you from your dock or damage your boat. Anyways, it was ALMOST all gone today - but I saw a little white thing floating down the river, and we paddled over to find ONE lonely little berglet - the last one left of last week's packs. Awwwwww. Poor li'l thing. So I told my fellow paddler that now he could say he'd paddled in the ice, and he started cracking up, bumped it with his bow, and said "In the retelling, it will become an iceberg" - "the size of Texas" I chimed in - of course an iceberg the size of Texas wouldn't fit in the Hudson but there's been some kayak listserve chat about some iceberg bigger than Texas so why the hell not? - and by the time we finished elaborating it was like "Titanic" all over again only with kayaks and without Celine or whatsisface. Fun fun fun.

We were just so glad to be out - we paddled to Liberty Landing, stopped for lunch at the lightship there, then hemmed & hawed over the still-ebbing current & in the end decided to paddle on down & go around the Statue of Liberty. Timing worked out PERFECTLY, that gave us just enough time to get to slack & then we had a rising flood to carry us home, arriving just before sunset. Sweet. Nothing like being back on the river after a long time of not being able to get out.

of course then the owner of the barge where I keep my boat served up the traditional fly in the ointment (I do always seem to get one of those - keeps me in balance I suppose!) by chewing me out over something I'd TOLD him about back in December - he said then "I'll go take a look, I absolve you of responsibility" - but then he never looked & forgot I was absolved I guess. I reminded him of the whole conversation & he did remember so that was OK but I have a feeling that because of the weird interpersonal politics of the kayak company of which I was once a part owner, this is almost inevitably gonna come back & bite me in the ass again. Oh well. Things do sometimes get weird, irrational & unpredictable at Pier 63,
- but most of the time it's in a good way - it really is just about the coolest thing in the Hudson River Park right now!

Ah! Made it! It's now an hour at which I can safely go to sleep without waking up again at 4:00 in the morning. I hate that. Always a problem after a hyperactive weekend - I get home at 7, I have a couple of really comfortable chairs in my apartment, and it's just SOOOO tempting to curl up in one & doze off. Especially after a big bowl of homemade split pea soup & a couple of gingersnaps. Snooze until 10 or so - finally go to bed, and then up & wide awake at oh-dark-thirty. Ugh. Well, avoided that with this.

and oh yes one other cool thing this weekend - hooray for Justice Ling-Cohan. Of course I've thought something like this was pretty cool before, and had a friend who's both gay & more politically aware than I am tell me "No, it's not cool" and outline the reasons why...sadly, so sadly, he was proved right last November. Well - hope this works out better. Just makes me happy to live here, though.

Friday, February 04, 2005

writer's unblock!

So my post today is all about how I couldn't post last night.

I tried. I tried for 3 hours. At 12:55 pm I finally told myself that I had to give up and go to bed so that my number-crunching abilities wouldn't be too impaired today - I don't have overwhelming confidence in my number-crunching abilities even when well rested, and since I'm a finance analyst now (how that happened is a topic for another post - basically I'm pretty good at saying "Well, I'll give it a shot" when life decides to give me an opportunity - even if it seems really improbable) it's pretty important to get enough sleep. topic was not a small one - I wanted to set down some of my thoughts on the Iraqi election. I thought this was an amazing day for the Iraqi people. I was absolutely blown away by how brave they were. I was much more screwed and stuck would we have been if they had stayed home like the insurgents wanted 'em to?

But I also felt guilty, and worried that once again we were mistaking one good day for the triumphant end of some big action-adventure flick, music swells, roll the credits, let's all feel good while we put on our coats. I can't lose sight of all the other not-good days or of the fact that there are likely to be more - I can't forget the cost on both sides - and I have this dogged (frogged?) belief that somewhere back after the war in Afghanistan, but before Bush started beating his war drums for Iraq, there was actually an incredible opportunity to maybe, just maybe make things better in a peaceful way.

This conviction had something to do with a memorable Thanksgiving dinner in 2001. I was still, I think, in shock (I was at the WTC the morning of Sept, 11 - I doubt that will ever in and of itself be a blog topic, too damned personal, but I will refer to it every now & then as a lot of my current outlook on life was shaped by living through it). An old friend invited me to come up and have Thanksgiving with her family up north a ways. Now, hers is a very big & loving & welcoming family & they have this wonderful habit of "adopting" people like me whose relatives are far away. Once they do, the adoptee never has to spend a holiday alone. It was especially important to me that year - I had all the get-up-and-go of a jellyfish, was somehow able to hold down a temp job that I stumbled into in October but that was all I could manage, I would have spent the day alone & staring into space if left to my own devices (although I don't think that would've happened, I had a lot of friends looking out for me).

Another "orphan" present at the table that night was this really nice young man from Afghanistan - I'd met him at at least one earlier Thanksgiving. He was just as horrified as anyone at what had happened - but at the same time he was filled with hope for what Afghanistan might now have a chance to become once freed from the Taliban and their terrorist guests.

News has gotten very scarce from him since then because he went back and got very busy helping to draft the new Afghan constitution. Very, very smart guy. And the nicest & most decent young man. And listening to him made me believe that maybe, just maybe, if there were enough like him that maybe something good could actually come of what had happened and could not be undone.

I still wonder what it might have led to had Bush taken the less-martial road of concentrating on finishing the job in Afghanistan - or better yet, handing the job over to the Afghan people & supporting them fully while THEY finished it to their own satisfaction.

dunno. Awfully pollyanna-ish of me to think that that might somehow have been a better way to "plant the flag of freedom", I suppose. Anyways, we'll never know now. Another thing that has happened and cannot be undone.

Well. That was more or less the post I tried to write last night. But I'd lost sight of the lost opportunity that made me dead-set against this war from the start - I knew that once we were in, there would be no way out except to finish it - and now finishing it remains to be seen.

I'm amazed that columnists are actually able to make a living writing commentary on stuff like this. Last night, it wasn't writer's block for me - it was the opposite. I couldn't focus. Couldn't write coherently. All the things I fear & dislike about what our country is doing now are so interrelated that I couldn't mention one concern without it leading to another, and another, and twenty more.

My sister & I always had certain chores when we were kids - our folks were pretty strict about that. Weeding the backyard & the rock garden out in front was one of them. There is this one kind of weed that was a particular pain to pull - it's called nutgrass. It's pretty innocuous-looking if there are just a couple - just a little bunch of skinny leaves like long grass. But it's what's underneath that little bunch of leaves that makes it such a pain. It develops this long, branching root system. Thin roots. Delicate. Here and there, though, there are these little swellings that look like small nuts - hence the name. The catch, in pulling this weed, is that if so much as ONE "nut" breaks loose from those long, delicate, branching roots and stays in the dirt - well, that nut instantly generates a complete replica of everything else that you just threw in your weed bucket. So you go at it very carefully, following the branchings, feeling for the nodules in the dirt, one leading to another and another and another.

And that's what trying to write down how I feel about the various policies & action taken by the Bush White House feels like - or even talk about it - only the network just doesn't seem to end...and the roots aren't fine and delicate, they're more on the strangler fig scale...

wow. meant to just write something short about how hard it is to write about something that serious, then maybe maybe move on to, oh, I don't know, maybe about walking through Chinatown after work yesterday (always fun to walk there but especially this time of year when people are getting ready for the Lunar New Year). Maybe at most a bit of a rant about how incredibly stupid it is that Baxter the Bunny is being censored because he dared to...oh, no, this post really needs to end somewhere.

Nutgrass. Mental nutgrass. See what I mean?

Bedtime now. Will come back & see if anything can be trimmed some other time. this got too damned long.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Meanwhile, back at the pool...

Wow. Well, Wednesday night, teaching night. If anyone's actually reading this & didn't read last weekend's post about last Wednesday's class - go read it now 'cause that's the background for this.

Unfortunately, the young lady I talked about last week has decided not to take the class. I was so dissappointed - but in the end it was her call. She did actually come tonight - made the decision as everyone else was working on wet exits with sprayskirts on. She told me what she'd decided & went into the locker room - well, fortunately I listened to the little voice in my head that said, a little bit later, "Better go check on her". She wasn't crying as she left - but she just looked pretty sad.

I was so glad I did. She's already changed & was just getting ready to leave but I asked if we could just talk for a little while. Started out by mentioning that I'd done a little reading up on neuropathy, that I hadn't understood last week what a strange thing this was she was dealing with, and that I was very sorry I hadn't asked her for a little more information because it sounded like a really difficult thing to come back from.

Well - she took the time to tell me what she's been through and I ended up really impressed. Her own conclusion about the kayaking class was that she was just pushing herself a little too far too fast & that it might be better to step back & do some more swimming just to get more comfortable in the water.

She put it all beautifully into perspective for me when she told me that she'd at one point been so debilitated by the pain & had such a hard time getting around that the school had asked that she not come back.

Now I didn't get if that meant permanently or just taking a leave of absence to recover - but whichever it was, she wasn't having it, came back, toughed it out, & there she was, so there! And well enough now that to look at her, you'd never know anything had been wrong.

Suddenly, instead of looking at someone who I was feeling really sorry for because she was afraid to capsize her boat - I was looking at someone who had through sheer determination fought her way through something & had, in the process, had learned enough about herself & about personal goals & expectations to know when to say "OK, I'm not ready for this". Not, "I can't do this" - which is what I was afraid she was saying. No - it was definitely that she wasn't ready - but she was already thinking about what she could do next to keep making progress (which sounds like swimming, swimming, swimming until she gets back to her old comfort level in the water - which sounds like a good plan).

As she talked, she started smiling & that was great to see. I think I was seeing a lot of pride in having stayed when the college wanted her not to - and just in getting as far as she has when it's been such a tough road. She also mentioned - in response to my apology for not asking for more info when she first mentioned it - that she tends to gloss it over because people tend to - i think her word was "pamper" her when they do know & she doesn't want that. Nice. Some people would totally go the other way. Easy enough to do when life hands you something like that - and not necessarily wrong - just not as productive as her view of it.

As I said, I went in because I was worried about her because of one stupid little thing she couldn't make herself do - ended up sort of amazed at how much she's already done, instead. I'm always amazed at people who go through things like this at an unfairly young age & but pull it off with a grace you'd admire in a person twice their age (I have one friend of whom that is particularly true & if it wasn't almost one o'clock in the morning I'd have to touch on that - but I can't even start to do that one justice at this hour). Ended up with a whole lot of respect for her - I don't think I said that straight out, but boy, I sure hope she saw that.

Will probably have to skip next week due to a financial review, which bums me out as the rest of the class seemed to have a great time tonight & are learning really, really fast (some of these kids may be rolling by the end of the 6 sessions)!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

redtail update -

well, this is cool - looks like Pale Male (the hawk with a CPW address) and Lola have decided that the "renovations" (ahem) pass muster.

there, now I didn't just use my blog to whine today.

Not that I wouldn't have been totally justified in doing so after being at the office chugging out numbers until 10 pm last night.

oops, I'm whining again.


I just HAVE to take a split-second breather to say that it is just not fair to change people's deadlines from COB, February 7th to 9 a.m., February 1st and then act surprised when the quality of that work suffers (along with the producers of said work).


and the boss's boss - at whose request we're all doing this report production in five-times-faster overdrive - was leaving after some office festivities last night - saw us all working away, and cheerfully sang out "Oh, you're all working too late, and everyone else is partying - go home!"

Boss was sitting in his office with his face in his hands.

ok, end of whine, back to work...