Thursday, April 29


Well, my ill-timed sinus infection is being treated with what I'm told is a form of penicillin called Augmentin. While it instantly kicked my sore throat and cleared my sinuses pretty well it unfortunately had the same effect on my intestines. It tore... me... up. The sinus infection has been the least of my troubles for the last 24 hours. (Brace yourselves for TMI) I was trapped in my room all day until I found a stash of Imodium. I popped those pills, waited 30 minutes then RAN down to Duane Reade (again) for more. I realize this is WAY more info than you need but I wanted to share so you could appreciate how desperate I was to get out of my room today. I'm pretty much sure I've now consumed illegal amounts of Imodium. I really wanted to make it to my last two appointments of my trip this morning so I skipped my Augmentin pill this morning. It helped but I was in no shape to do any jumping jacks.

My meetings went well but I was feeling a little "precious" so I came back to my hotel room where I had yet another bowl of matzo ball soup. It was such a pretty day and I still wanted to get out. I cautiously waited for my lunch to settle then headed downtown. I picked up a friend in a cab where we shopped in Soho. But that's not the good part. The good part of my day was the rare opportunity to take a spare hour and spend it on a tour of The Tenement Museum. Have you heard of The Tenement Museum? Do you really need to know anything more than the name to be completely sold?
First of all, the lower east side is where so much of the flavor of New York comes from. I learned all about it today. It's where China Town, Little Italy and German Town where all found, to name a few neighborhoods. Immigrants settled there because it was close to the harbor where they first arrived in America before Ellis Island was created. They would typically hand a slip of paper with their name on it to a dock worker who would point them in the direction of the area where their language was spoken. If they were lucky they had family or friends expecting them. This is the type of scene that welcomed them:
The word "tenement" was not a negative word until much later. Tenements where simply affordable multiple family dwellings built to accommodate the immigrants coming to the US. Wars, poverty and famine brought on an onslaught of immigrants to the lower east side neighborhoods that eventually turned the tenements into the dark, crowded, oppressive slums we now associate the word with.
That street scene pictured above? That's Mulberry Street but it gives you an idea of what life was life in the lower east side at that time. This is what those streets look like these days:

The tour begins in a gift shop where the tour tickets are purchased. There were tons of fantastic books in there but I resisted and instead went to the back of the shop to take in a short film on immigration in America. Soon a tour guide announced our tour was about to begin. About 15 of us gathered on the sidewalk where the tour kicked off.
I chose the tour about a German-Jewish family and an Italian-Catholic family. In the first apartment we heard the story of a German-Jewish woman named Josephine who came to America most likely in search of a husband. She found one, named Louis, and they moved into the apartment on Orchard Street where they had 4 children. Soon after the Panic of 1907 Louis vanished. (Which is when I mumbled under my breath "We HATE Louis!") At the time, some men would just abandon their families, others were murdered for their wages while others committed suicide. Times were tough. The museum has done tons of research on the tenement families but they still do not know what exactly happened to Louis. Our friend Josephine was left alone to fend for her family. She had to find work ... fast. She could have become a prostitute (the red light district was literally on the street behind her tenement) or a factory worker or a street vendor or any number of tough jobs on the street. In the end we learn that she chose to borrow money from a relative to rent a newfangled sewing machine. She worked from her home repairing and sewing clothing for those in her neighborhood. Josephine was soon making more money than Louis ever had. (Which is when I mumbled "Well, she had one less mouth to feed!" and another lady said "Right on!" Was that rude? I couldn't help it. I was still mad at Louis.) One day a telegram arrived from Germany stating that Louis had inherited $600 from his father. (Damn you Louis!) The only way Josephine could collect the inheritance was to have Louis finally declared dead. She did and she got the money. (We know this because the tour guide showed us the legal document they found signed by Josephine and witnessed by her landlord... cool! It mentions Louis' disappearance which is how we know that he vanished.) Josephine took the $600 and moved uptown. (Yee haw!) I was surprised at how emotional I became when we were saw pictures of Josephine's great-great grand children. Seeing her descendants really got to me. Because of that tough, tenacious broad there is a whole family line thriving in this country. Seeing those modern day smiling faces got to me.

I pulled it together enough to get to the next apartment. Here we learn about Sadie and Al from Sicily. They had a daughter and a son and lived in their apartment from 1928 to 1933 when it was condemned. The daughter eventually moved to Brooklyn but came back to her old neighborhood often. One day in 1988 she saw that the building of her childhood home suddenly had some interesting activity going on. She inquired within and learned that it was being turned into a museum. She was thrilled to hear the news and shared her memories with museum founders. The tour guide played an audio clip from the hours of interviews they have with her. She described how her mother would cook for them and they would sit around the kitchen table playing checkers and listening to the radio. Her father loved riddles and would write them down for the family to figure out. She described many happy memories of their tenement home. Mostly I loved that due to her parents spirit she had no idea how hard times were for them. She remembered getting government cheese during the depression and once getting a box of clothes from the government. She needed shoes for school and vividly remembered getting her government box home where he opened it to find men's size nine shoes inside. She had no choice but to stuff the shoes and wear them to school. Poor thing! Otherwise she didn't seem to have bad memories of not having much. I suppose nobody had much back then so it didn't occur to her that times were hard. (I loved her and now I can't even remember her name!) I adored seeing he picture of her at the 1992 opening of the museum with her family.

There are several tours offered by the museum but I chose the the one with German/Italian stories. My tour told the stories of single families living in the apartment. I did not get the story of 25 people living in tiny spaces. I'm sure those stories are also offered but I didn't see those. I will say that a family, even a small one, living in a 325 square foot apartment is unbelievable to experience if even for an hour. indoor plumbing, ventilation and gas heat didn't exist when Josephine lived in her apartment. Those conveniences were around for the second family dwelling I saw and it made quite a difference. If I had to choose one I have to say I'd want ventilation above all. I'd have thought I'd want indoor plumbing but indoor plumbing without ventilation is something I'm not interested in.

I wish more of the country could experience the tour I took today. I think it would impact how we view the immigrants of today. Their stories have not changes much. The only thing that has changed is what it takes to become an American. When Josephine came to New York she only needed to want to be an American to become one. It was tougher from our Italian family and even tougher today.
Cameras are not allowed in the museum. If you'd like to see more you may do so here. I hope you get a chance to visit this amazing museum very soon.

Wednesday, April 28

The view

No work for this girl today. I was booked from 7:30 am through dinner tonight. It was supposed to be the busiest day of me week. Instead I called my boss and told her I'd be staying in bed.

I called housekeeping and asked for some fresh towels and for someone to empty my tissue filled trash cans as they were getting out of hand. A very nice lady arrived and completely refreshed my room while I answered emails on my laptop. She left me a couple of extra boxes of Kleenex and some toiletries. She was very motherly and seemed to be worried about me. She even put an extra blanket on the bed for me. Her work alone made me feel better. I took a nap then checked some more emails.

I've had the tv on all morning and tuned to some terribly cheesy movies. I've been drawn to the big stars but it seems even Lauren Bacall, Deborah Kerr and Gregory Peck made some clunkers. No matter, it's just the comfort I need while nursing a sinus infection far from home. Besides the tv, here is my other view:

Can you see the view from my window? Here is a better shot:

Some might find it a bad view but I like it. Like most views in New York it's the view of the wall of windows in the next door building. What I find interesting is that it could be mistaken for a tenement building but inside one window I can see some people seated around a table working. There seems to be lots of paperwork and discussion going on. The hardwood floors are beautiful. Pretty much every window in the city is framed in stripped, distressed wood. I suppose they figure why bother painting, much less replacing, window frames that only the neighbors can see. I like the attitude and think they're right. I love how practical New Yorkers are. It's a no nonsense kind of place that has been forced to make due with what already exists. Sometimes a building is completely renovated but the bones of the structure never changes. The bathrooms in almost every restaurant I've visited are in the basement. I don't know what folks with bad knees or in wheel chairs do around here when they need the facilities. There are open holes in the streets for loading goods into the basements of stores and restaurants. I wonder how many times a year somebody falls down one? There are water towers on every roof. Are they still in use? I've asked and nobody seems to know yet still they stand. Of course, I doubt anyone would make the effort or expense to tear one down unless it was a safety hazard. Many of the streets are still made of original cobble stone. Again, why change it if it's still working? I'm sure it's the enemy of all high heel wearing drunks but it's the risk you take in the meat packing district. The plumbing is consistently either slow to drain or slow to bring hot water. At first I called maintenance thinking the trouble was with my room then, after a few trips, realized it's just that New York hotels are housed in old cranky buildings.

Aside from being a voyeur I managed to trip upon another spectacular architectural blog. It's not your average shots of glorious structures but instead ones devoted to abandoned asylums and hotels. Why do I LOVE that photographic subject? I'm not sure I know the answer. All I know is that they rarely creep me out. Instead I'm just plain fascinated by them. I could explore pix like this all day long.

Oh, and here is one more shot for your viewing pleasure. Remember that $63 dinner I mentioned yesterday? I had soup and salad again last night and took a picture for you. Here it is in all of its glory:

Pretty weak for $63, huh?

Tuesday, April 27


So here I sit in New York City. I suppose you think I'm doing something super New Yorky like seeing a show or going to a museum. Well, actually I'm sitting in my hotel room with a questionable hotel blanket wrapped around me trying to stay hydrated. Why exactly am I doing this? Because the night before my flight I was kept awake with a terrible sore throat. I hoped it was just allergies. When our delayed landing in JFK left my ears screaming from cabin pressure I knew it was more than just some pesky allergies. Because I now feel even worse and I fear what that pressure will due to my beloved ear drums on the way home I decided I should see a doctor.

A colleague of mine once mentioned visiting a "doc in a box" while in New York. I decided to go see one for myself. Around these parts about the only storefront more prevalent than Starbucks seems to be Duane Reade drug stores. They are everywhere and when visiting Manhattan you quickly learn to rely on them. They all have ATMs, and pretty much everything else a hotel dweller could possibly need. They also seem to be chock full of crazy people and you know how I enjoy the crazies. A friend once saw a crazy ranting and raving in a Duane Reade. When the crazy lady finally spiralled within earshot my friend put on her best psycho face and whispered "If you don't shut up I'm going to kill you." That really set crazy lady off. My (hilarious!) friend just shrugged and shook her head as the security guard escorted the crazy from the store screaming "She said she's going to kill me! She said she's going to kill me!!!" As if that isn't endorsement enough for Duane Reade (I'm sure they'd be proud) I've just discovered some Duane Reades have "docs in a box". I met one today.

Because I'm so distrustful of my (and all) insurance I called to make sure my little out-of-state visit was covered. I called and described my symptoms to the insurance dude (sore throat, irritated ears and sinus pressure) and was told I would need to leave the Duane Reade and immediately go to an emergency room. "What?! That will cost you SO MUCH MORE than this place will charge." I was promptly put on hold. When the insurance dude returned from hold I quickly told him the Duane Reade was considered an urgent care facility (as the Duane Reade dude had calmly assured me). Hold guy then said that the Duane Reade would be ok but that they would have to bill it as an "Emergency". WTF? It was NOT what I would call an emergency (no blood, broken bones, stopped heart or otherwise collapsing body). Duane Reade guy said they would bill it as "urgent care". Semantics!! All I know is that I didn't feel well and I wanted to get a handle on it before my return flight. Isn't that what my spendy insurance is for? I paid my $50 co-pay (rip off!) but only $4 for my prescription of penicillin. All in all, not bad. The girl in the pharmacy noticed where I worked (it was all over the forms and insurance cards) and asked me about what I did and why on earth I had left California to come to New York in the rain. I told her I was here on business. I then over heard her talking to a co-worker and say "$4. Not bad. I guess (fortune-500-company) wants to keep their employees feeling good." I kept an artificial smile on my face... if only they knew what my poor boss has been through.

I was finished with the days meetings so I returned to a rather chilly hotel room. I thought it might just be me but I now think it's seriously cold in here. That's where the blankets came in. It seems the heat is centralized and they can't do anything to make it warmer in my room. Housekeeping and maintenance instead dropped off two blankets and a space heater. Then, of course, I kept thinking "Isn't the only thing in the world more flammable than a Christmas tree a space heater?". I then felt a chill and stopped caring. I needed some warmth. I'm feeling warmer but I admit the blanket situation is grossing me out. I've seen too many Dateline and 20/20s to not be. On the other hand, I figure I've got a fist full of penicillin so I should be able to handle a questionable blanket, right? Don't answer that.

When I checked in last night I skipped the big dinner out with everyone and stayed in for some matzo ball soup. It was amazing and the only thing in the world that I wanted. Who knew a little lemongrass could be such a delightfully unexpected twist on a classic soup? I'll be having more tonight. I had the soup with a salad last night. Guess how much it set me back... Go ahead, guess. Are you ready?


I know! Soup and salad, people! I guess it's good I didn't have a hankering for a steak. Sheesh! I'm now settled in for the night. I've got TCM on tv and a New York Times. The million dollar soup will come later. I hope the good old fashioned penicillin kicks this thing before I get back on that plane. *fingers crossed*

Saturday, April 17

My Superpower (Not for the faint of heart)

I believe we all have a superpower. I'm not talking about leaping over tall buildings or stopping bullets with a bare hand, I'm talking about every day ordinary abilities that we take for granted.

About a week ago we had what are known as Santa Ana winds in Southern California. The climate becomes typically warm, extremely dry and very windy. As is often the case, the dry air caused me to have a bloody nose. It doesn't happen often but I've been getting spontaneous bloody noses since I was a kid, especially during Santa Ana winds. As always, I grabbed a tissue, laid down and pinched my nose for about 30 seconds. I then sat up to confirm that the nose bleed had stopped. It then occurred to me that that is my superpower. I make really good blood, I always have. I'm O+, the universal donor type, and my blood clots quickly and efficiently. I sat on my bed, staring at the Kleenex in my hand and thought "People die because they can't do what my body just did for me."

As a result, I found myself cruising down the road to The City of Hope to donate platelets. They are always in need of whole blood but platelets are particularly hard to come by because the procedure takes some time. As I drove on to the hospital campus and towards the donor building I saw an older man, standing in a hospital gown by the fountain enjoying the sun. He broke my heart but confirmed that I REALLY hoped my blood was all I'd thought it might be. I hoped that it would help someone like him.

Once in the center, I filled out an information form and answered some questions. The good news is that I'm just the right type to be a donor. The bad news is that I've led a rather dull life. I've not traveled to exotic locales, never been to prison, I've never been a drug user and I've never had any dangerous sexual habits. In other words I'm not likely to have any blood related diseases. I'm so boring that I've even started avoiding processed foods and have never been a coffee drinker. For God's sake, my blood is about as clean as it gets.

I then met some very nice nurses who gave me heated blankets and seated me in a nice comfy recliner. They explained the whole procedure: They were going to withdraw some of my blood, remove the platelets, then return the platelet-less blood back to my body then repeat. It would take 1 -2 hours depending on how I felt after an hour. I had reading material, I had time.

The nurses at The City of Hope are good. I felt only the tiniest of pinches in the crook of my arm and I was good to go. I said "Dang! You're good." the nurse smiled and said "You're in the big time kid! This is The City of Hope." I think they have to keep an eye on you for a few minutes so I sat and chatted with my nurse. I asked what they would do with my platelets. (It was all on the web site but I'd already forgotten.) She explained that platelets help our blood clot and that when someone goes through chemo, or has an otherwise weakened system they lose their ability to produce platelets. All sorts of terrible things can happen without platelets. You can bleed into your eyes (aghhhhhhhh!) or have a stroke or God knows what. The nurse told me to think of what I was doing as "Helping a mother not have a stroke so she can go to her daughter's wedding or meet her grandchildren." She added "I'm serious. What you're doing is literally saving lives." I guess I knew that when I walked in but hadn't thought of it so literally. It was nice of her to say it to me in that way.

I learned a few fun facts too. For instance, did you now that The Red Cross sells it's blood to hospitals? I'm not bagging on the Red Cross but I was disappointed to hear that a place like The City of Hope has to spend millions buying donated blood from The Red Cross. It seems that, because I was donating at the hospital, my donation would go directly to patients in need. I will be giving my superpower blood to The City of Hope from now on.

The bigger bummer came when, after a little while, I felt a bit of pressure and a sudden ache in my transfusion arm. I told the nurse about it because once a needle is inserted you really can't feel it and I figured it should be looked into. They had told me earlier that if I felt anything, anywhere on my body change that I should notify a nurse. I'm so glad I did. The nurse jumped up to check my arm and sighed. Brace yourself... my vein had collapsed. I know, I know... gross. Honestly, it didn't hurt much at all it just felt different. I have shy veins and they are sometimes hard to find. To the nurse's credit I didn't feel anything during insertion but apparently a needle can occasionally nick a vein on the way in and later shut down. That's what may have happened to me. Who knows. That or my vein was just plain wimpy. I think when the blood was being returned to my body the vein stopped working and that was the sensation I felt. It was a TOTAL BUMMER. None of my blood would be useful to anyone. I was sad but the nurse was very kind and encouraging but we were done for the day. I promptly made my next appointment.

The nurse handed me a list of iron rich foods I should eat since I wasn't getting my intended blood back. I felt a little light headed as she walked me to the "canteen" where they insisted I eat a cookie and drink something. (Sweet!)

It is good to know that my superpower is indeed my blood. I just wish my veins could keep up. Of course, I'll go back to any place that encourages me to eat more red meat and cookies.

On the way home I drove myself to Trader Joe's and picked up a nice filet mignon for dinner. I looked for iron supplements but couldn't find any. They must have some other name. I remained light headed for a while and even thought "Oh, my blood sugar must be low." Then I reconsidered and thought "No, spaz, your blood is low." In the end, I'm no worse for wear. I was incredibly tired when I got home so I took a nap. I felt fine when I woke up an hour later. I had filet mignon and asparagus for dinner, life is good.

I apologize if this post was too graphic for anyone but I believe giving blood, in any form, is so important. If anyone out there suspects they have superpower blood I hope you'll consider donating some regularly to your local hospital or even The Red Cross. If you live near The City of Hope I encourage you to donate there. They are such nice people and they are doing exceptional work. They have made some amazing discoveries in cancer research and deserve whatever you can do to help. If nothing else, do what you can to help that nice man in the hospital gown by the fountain. Otherwise, do as I did today and think of all of those you love who have fought, or are fighting, cancer.

If you'd like to read more about becoming a donor for The City of Hope you may do so here. Thanks for listening. I hope I didn't scare anyone off.

Saturday, April 10

On the other hand...

Yesterday's post was all about signs that I'm getting old. Here are a few indictations that I'm still young at heart:
  • I can watch ridiculous amounts of tv when a marathon beckons. This weekend? Deadliest Catch is calling. (I know I said I was turning off the tv lately but that's on weeknights. Weekends are full throttle tv-fests!)
  • I still want to do that cross country road trip one day. That dream never dies.
  • Speaking of dreams, I still buy Lotto tickets every once in a while.
  • I'm getting a new digital camera and may even learn how to Photoshop!
  • I have been known to have popcorn for dinner.
  • Well, umm, this shared challenge probably isn't the most mature but I love it!
  • ... and this one was fantastic but not much more mature.
  • I can text!
  • I like this site and I'm giving these as baby shower gifts to all of my knocked-up friends.
  • The Onion still slays me.
  • I enjoy Farmville on Facebook.
  • I own a Nintendo DS.
  • When I picked up a few Fage fat free yogurts at Trader Joe's today and a moment later that lady, who had been standing there a while, let out a little groan when she reached for the last one, I thought "You gotta move faster than that sucka!"
  • When I see you weaving in and out of freeway lanes in your big dumb truck I am certain you have a wee penis.
So there.

Friday, April 9

Growing up

Today I saw a ridiculously tricked out Oldsmobile on my drive home. It had a custom glittery blue paint job and sparkly chrome rims. I was far from impressed. In fact, the first thought that went through my head was, "There's a guy with some messed up priorities." Then it hit me, I'm officially old.

Of course, I've seen signs of age... err... maturity in myself for ages but I started listing them in my mind this afternoon. Here are a few indicators that I am in fact getting really old:
  • I voluntarily make my bed every day (except when I'm sick).
  • I voluntarily shower every day (even when I'm sick).
  • I have never eaten a tub of frosting for dinner as I claimed to would "totally do" in Jr. high.
  • I wait ages before buying big ticket items.
  • I know how to save money.
  • I've never seen "The Hills" or "The OC"
  • My desire to lose weight has nothing to do with appearance and everything to do with well being.
  • I voluntarily get a medical check up every year.
  • I get the oil changed in my car according to guidelines of my warranty.
  • I look for ways to relieve my stress
  • I have a bottle of Aleve and a One-A-Day vitamins on my desk at all times. (Whoa, that's a rough one to admit.)
  • I subscribe to National Geographic, The New Yorker and Prevention magazines and actually read them.
  • I listen to NPR every day.
  • I do not know who most of the people on Dancing with the Stars are.
  • I read nutritional information in the grocery store and look for low fat/high fiber foods.
  • I've seen some favorite beauty products come and go move on to discontinued status (that used to only happen to my mother).
  • I'm starting to consider what to do in my "Second Act" career.
  • I turn off the tv more and more lately.
  • I have my hair colored every few weeks to cover the grey.
  • I still do not own a HDTV.
  • I hate going to the mall.
  • I know that young people in hot cars did not buy them themselves.
So there are a few of the symptoms I've notice about getting old. I don't think I'm alone here... am I?

Tuesday, April 6


How great is this idea?! The artist takes ads from the Missed Connections postings and illustrates them. I absolutely adore them. They represent just one more reason to love New York. Here is a sampling of the illustrations:

Friday, April 2

Is it just me...

I was watching 16 & Pregnant on MTV (I'm not proud of it) and saw a familiar face.

This kid popped up on the screen:

He made me think of this kid:

Ok, so who's going to tell him this is coming?

I know it's mean but sheesh! Somebody has to tell him fame is fleeting.