A Clean Well-Lighted Place

While I wouldn’t say I have a full-blown phobia of sewage, I have spent an uncomfortable amount of time thinking about it. There are just so many of us! What happens to all the poop once we flush the toilet? This thought bubbles up regularly and sometimes I just can’t stop thinking about it.

This may have started because of a goldfish. You see, I wasn’t allowed to have pets as a kid. I begged and pleaded for a cat, but my parents said cats were too much work and that they’d get stuck cleaning up after the cat, feeding the cat. I swore that wouldn’t be the case. And I meant it! But no. No cat for me. (Now that I have kids of my own, I know they were probably right. They would have gotten stuck doing everything.)

But finally, after years of begging, my mom let me get a goldfish. And I loved that goldfish. I talked to it; I tried to pet it. It was my pet. That goldfish had the most devoted, doting parent ever.

Well, eventually my goldfish died. And my mom told me it was time to flush it down the toilet.

The toilet? Why the toilet? The idea disturbed me at first. But then my seven-year-old brain began to make sense of it.

My fish couldn’t walk to heaven. My fish would have to swim there. And our toilet was probably the most direct route. It never occurred to me to put it in the creek 50 yards from our house. No. The toilet seemed like the most logical way for a fish to get to heaven.

So we flushed my pet fish down the toilet. And I was sad. I cried. I said a prayer. My fish was on its way to heaven.

Later, I pooped. And as I flushed the toilet, I thought about my fish and how it had traveled that very same route earlier.

What if my fish hadn’t made it to heaven yet? And how did my poop know NOT to go to heaven? What if my poop bumps into my dead goldfish on its way into heaven?

I started to cry. My poor goldfish had been run over by shit.

Yeah. It could have started with the fish. Or maybe it’s just the way I am. Maybe it’s in line with my fear of landfills, embalming dead people, and individually wrapped slices of processed cheese. For whatever the reason may be, the idea of living overtop, next to, below, surrounded by pipes full of feces, urine and vomit has often troubled me.

Like right now, I’m sitting in a massive apartment building and poop is coursing its way through it like blood through veins. We have built a cardiovascular system into every modern building around the world, a system whose only purpose is the transportation of poop and urine from a smaller pipe, into a larger one. Eventually our poop ends up all together, moving into an even bigger artery on its way to a massive plant where it’s changed and cleaned and then pushed back out again.

I have spent far too much time thinking about this. Far more time than the average person spends thinking about plumbing and the transportation of feces.

A few weeks ago, I saw that our local Newtown Creek Sewage Treatment Plant was giving three tours for Valentine’s Day. You had to RSVP and you had to do so fast as it was likely to meet maximum capacity within a few hours. And it did. But not before I nabbed a spot. I needed to put this fear to rest. This visit would either calm my nerves, or I’d end up institutionalized.

So last Thursday I bundled up and headed out into the cold to tour the local sewage treatment plant. I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be disturbing and upsetting? Would I leave wishing I could change the world, rid it of human waste, litter, used condoms, the Gowanus Canal and bloodied tampons? Or would I feel better?

Suffice it to say I have a great deal more respect and faith in sewage treatment and how our waste is treated after it leaves our toilet. I am no longer afraid of the unknown.

Now, I won’t bore you with every minute detail—believe me, I could! But I would like to share a bit. So bear with me as I paraphrase a 45-minute lecture coupled with slides, told to me by an expert.

For starters, they use our poop to clean our poop! It’s true! Yesterday’s poop is used to clean today’s, and this continues every day. Basically, all the “good” bacteria and waste from our poop is starved and added to new waste. Yesterday’s bacteria eats most of the “bad stuff” from the new poop and, fat and happy, it then sinks to the bottom. That is scraped off and taken away. The remaining bacteria that didn’t eat enough (very little), and is left floating in the water, is killed with a scant 9 gallons of bleach.

The fat guys that sink to the bottom are scraped from the bottom of the tanks. That scum is the consistency of pea soup. Half of that is mixed with the next day’s poop, the other half is sent to a centrifuge of sorts, which turns it into a solid and that is later destroyed.

It’s a truly organic, relatively clean process. Once the treated water is flushed out again, at the end of the treatment, 94% of the waste is stripped from the water. The remaining is sent back out into our waterways, which are capable of handling/treating that.

They test the water three times a day, all over the city. They want to make sure they’re doing their job. And they are. The rivers are the cleanest they’ve been in 100 years. I was super happy to hear that.

Granted, problems arise, and that has to do with rain. The more rain, the more runoff and they aren’t able to handle it all. Here is where a relatively awesome system fails; but it’s not their fault! The problem is, the sewers collect EVERYTHING from rain, to trash, to your spit and gum and cigarette butts. The more rain, the harder it is for them to handle all the water and therefore trash that comes in from the many streets. So, they have a backlog and most of the time that means trash runneth over. And I’ve seen that firsthand in the East River after a massive rainstorm. (Only twice! They do a pretty great job and are constantly looking to make it perfect.)

Our guide talked about the next step, which would be to build more and more rooftop gardens to collect the rainwater. Rainwater is clean. He has no use for the rain.

“I only want your waste.” He said.

He covered everything from the history of sewage treatment, to what he’d like to see done one day to make it even better. He was charming, knowledgeable and there was a great deal more laughter than one might assume.

We were given so much information, valuable, intriguing information. And as much as I’d like to share everything with you, it’d be pretty boring in the retelling. But I would like to share a few facts that I found pretty great:

  • Those umbrellas women used back in the day, the pretty ones associated with keeping sun out of their eyes, they weren’t designed to protect them from the sun. They carried them originally to protect themselves from the urine being tossed out of apartments. This was before we had indoor plumbing.
  • Back in the day, boats used to come into NYC waterways and sit for a bit in order to kill all the barnacles from the bottom of the boat. Our waters were that polluted. (This saved them money from having to strip the boats themselves.)
  • Their busiest time is roughly 20 minutes after the Super Bowl ends.
  • The biggest issue they’re having right now is with people flushing medications. (You’re supposed to take them to a pharmacy.) The other problem is with BABY WIPES. Don’t flush baby wipes. They are horrible for the system. (I was guilty of this but will never, ever do it again.)

Lastly, I interviewed three workers while visiting. I like doing this. I feel like you get the best idea about how a place really works if you talk to the people who do the work.

I talked to a younger guy who commutes from Staten Island. He loves his job and has been there for 10 years. He doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

“It’s a really tough commute.” He told me. “But it’s ok. It’s worth it.”

He told me that on the Fourth of July they have the best view.

I talked to an older gentleman who had been there for 21 years, working for the city for 40. He was born and raised in Brooklyn and truly enjoyed his job.

I spent a good 30 minutes talking to a 25-year-veteran of the plant. We stood in the glass walkway, overtop the sewage tanks overlooking one of the best views of the city I’ve ever seen. I asked him if he enjoyed working there. He told me he did.

“What do you like best?” I asked him.

“The people. And I love my boss, Jimmy. He’s a really great guy.”

Jimmy was the guy in charge, the one who gave us the lecture. The one with the biting sense of humor.

He pointed out all the old tanks, the ones they don’t use anymore as most all of the treatment has moved underground or is contained.

“When I first started here, oooooo boy! Did it ever stink! We would have to shower before heading home. It was awful. You could not get the smell out of certain material. It stunk so bad. As a new guy, if you could last 5 minutes without puking, you were considered a superhero. I only puked once.” He laughed. “Now everything is covered. So it doesn’t smell anymore.”

He pointed toward Northern Manhattan, right to where the treated water gets pushed back out. He told me about the biggest catastrophe and his worst day on the job. I pointed to where I live. He pointed to where he lives. We stood there in silence.

“I love coming up here when it snows.” He said. “It’s amazing here when it snows.”

And just like that, I realized that I had completely forgotten we were standing atop thousands upon thousands of gallons of human waste, above the very thing, the heart of what I’d thought about for a great deal of my life. And just like that, it didn’t seem so strange to me anymore.

All three men I spoke to last Thursday deal with millions of gallons of feces each and every day and they really like their jobs. I know of at least 20 people right now with office jobs who are miserable.

I shook his hand, thanked him as best I could, and told him I would remember that day for a long, long time. (I meant it.) And then I headed back down to the street, hundreds of feet below where we stood overlooking a thousand of people absentmindedly pooping, oblivious as to where it all goes once they flush.

Downtown Manhattan: Five Days Post Sandy

I ran over the bridge today and into downtown Manhattan. This is my usual running route, but my goodness are things ever different down there right now. I did a 10 mile run and stopped along the way to take some pictures. These aren’t the best pictures as I was using my phone, but they should get some info across. Anyway, I figured some people might be curious as to what things look like down there five days after Sandy. I know I was.

This is along the East River, right below the Brooklyn Bridge. Trees down, rocks moved, giant planters overturned. The boardwalk was uprooted in some spots.

Many of the buildings downtown were shut while generators worked to pump water from them. An area whose soundtrack is usually sirens and horns, adopted the hum of hundreds of generators.

One of the hardest hit areas was right around the Staten Island Ferry landing. They are still managing the flooding. Water was being pumped out into the street.

Below is a shot of the WTC construction site. Still a great deal of water being pumped out.

But if you look straight up, you’d have no idea. Look at the sky! The blue sky and clouds added to the surreal nature. On the street, there is water and trash and a lot of darkness as most are still without power. The whole experience was just crazy. I can’t even begin to explain.

Again along the East River, right below the Brooklyn Bridge. Trash and dirt line the streets and people are out trying to do whatever they can to clean it up.

Seaport is usually bustling with people. Not today. Most of the businesses were flooded. Much of it remains boarded up. Truly strange sight.

Verizon building appears to have taken a kick to the face as well.

Lastly, Chinatown. I can’t even begin to tell you how emotional and strange that was. Chinatown is usually a big ol’ MESS of people, annoyingly so. There are thousands upon thousands of people roaming the streets on any given day. Not now. And businesses are without power. Many shop owners sat outside with spoiled food, looking kind of just lost. It was heartbreaking. Seeing how badly businesses all over NYC were hit by this hurricane, well, it’s just devastating.

I didn’t get many shots of the emptiness, the surreal nature of Chinatown because I was too busy wrapping my head around it. This is the only shot I got.

CANCELED.

A few more things: The ING NYC Marathon will still be taking place and while I don’t agree with that decision, it is happening. So, if you plan on watching the race please, please don’t take it out on the runners. Please. I beg of you. I know many runners who are greatly conflicted by this, and most of them are lending every hand they can to help NYC recover. They are friends. And they know how emotional this is for people. It’s emotional for them too. A friend of mine, a mother of two from Queens, fears for her safety after reading the hatred being posted on NYRR’s Facebook page. It’s downright threatening.

If you’re opposed to the race, so much so you can’t see why someone might still run it, please stay home.

I think the race should have been postponed. But it’s happening and I can’t change that, neither can you. So be nice. That’s all I ask.

Lastly, volunteer. Support local NYC businesses. Donate whatever you can.

New Jersey: Morgan Marina, Lacey Township, and Barnegat Bay.

Hurricane Sandy blasted New Jersey. I feel terrible for the coast. My parents will be without power for a while, but that’s nothing compared to what many people along the coast are dealing with today. Anyway, here are a few pictures we took while down there.

This is Morgan Marina right off the Garden State Parkway. I can’t do this sight justice. The boats are usually on the marina. Now they are on top of one another. It looks like a boat junkyard. This is normally a serene marina filled with sailboats. It was crazy.

Check out the larger version. It was truly end-of-worldish. One almost made it onto the Garden State Parkway.

This was taken before the hurricane hit and before our noon curfew. My mom and I drove down to the bay to get some shots. It got much, much worse later.

This was taken the following day, several blocks from Barnegat Bay. We are looking down the street toward where the image above was taken. Obviously, we were unable to make to the bay again. Many, many houses were underwater or completely destroyed. This is where my grandmother’s house is, however she passed away in 2001. My father grew up here.

A picture of one of the houses nearby. The ones further down the road were almost completely underwater.

Residents heading home to see if there’s anything left.

We drove home yesterday and were able to make it back to Brooklyn. Our building had flooding in the basement, and there’s a sinkhole out back along the river, but otherwise, things look good here in Williamsburg. Thank goodness. It’s New Jersey and lower Manhattan I am worried about. There is no power below 34th street. It’s just so odd looking.

Hurricane Sandy. Pictures.

We had to evacuate our building in Williamsburg due to flooding. We live in Zone A. The irony here is that we’re now in South Jersey, right by the shore, which is supposed to get nailed in a few hours.

I love storms. My mom feels the same way. So at 11:15 AM, 45 minutes before a mandatory curfew, we got in the car and drove to the bay.

Our first attempt at getting to water was interrupted by flooding and the police. We were turned away.

With 25 minutes left before curfew, we drove to another spot and reached the bay.

The docks are usually 5 feet above the water. It was awesome. The wind and rain was so intense. And the waves were reminiscent of what I’ve seen only in dreams.

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There was another woman there as well. We both giggled like fools. We’re the people who get swept away by the sea and when it makes the news, you’re left asking, “What kind of idiot does that after being warned incessantly to stay away?”

Me. This idiot. I can’t help myself.

Of course I had to take a self portrait. I was totally into it. But I love water. I am haunted by water.

OK, so a tree just fell in the backyard and I got word that our building is flooding back home. My friend, Jon sent me this shot. This is our home in Brooklyn.

The hurricane hasn’t even hit us yet. Crazy.

(We took ALL of our pets with us. They are safe. I wouldn’t have it any other way.)

More pictures to come! A video too.

City Kid Calls 87 Percent Of Americans “Crazy”

Twice a week Emory, Elliot and I head into the city for classes at Chelsea Piers. It’s the only time we drive, except for when we visit grandma and grandpa. Elliot hates driving and has since the day he was born. He screams uncontrollably. It’s gotten better. But he still has a limit, and a lot of time I bribe him with treats to shut him up. I am not proud of this, but a screaming child isn’t something I can tolerate while maneuvering through crosstown traffic.

But yesterday he started screaming right as we exited the Williamsburg bridge, which is a couple of blocks from our home. Instead of throwing some M&Ms into his pie-hole, I decided to try and reason with the kid.

“You know, Elliot. You should realize how lucky you are. You rarely ever drive. You drive, what? Once a week? Sometimes twice? And for maybe 30 minutes. So stop your fussin’, kid!”

“Yeah, Elliot!” Emory agreed. “Stop your screaming!”

And oddly enough, he did.

“You want to hear a CRAZY story, mom?” Em went on. “I have a crazy story. This story is just crazy. My friend Nell told us this story in school. She said, ‘you want to hear a crazy story?’ And we all said ‘YES!’ So she told us this crazy story about a kid she met. You know what that kid did? That kid drove in a car EVERY SINGLE DAY OF HIS LIFE! Isn’t that a crazy story, mom? We all thought so. We told Nell we didn’t believe her. Because that’s crazy.”

Elliot’s First Yankee Game (Em’s too!)

You know how at big events they have people walking around, taking your picture and handing you a card telling you to go online and buy said picture later? Yes? No? Well, that happened a lot at the baseball game. Sadly, I can’t find a record of the shots they took of all of us. But this one was online. And I’m a sucker for “Firsts” so I had to buy it.

Also: I think it might be time to get over my anti-whitening toothpaste stance. For those keeping score: I’m slowly losing my perfect eyesight; I’m getting wrinkles, grey hair, and now my teeth are finally yellowing. I got my first cavity this year, too. Approaching 40 sucks, but at least I have menopause to look forward to.

The Brooklyn Half (and a request).

I ran the Brooklyn half last weekend. I really had no business running it. I was injured from running two races the weekend before. But I’m stubborn. Most runners are. So, I ran it. And I loved it. I’m proud of myself for finishing at all. Due to injury, I was betting against myself. And looking back, I do wish I’d run it better.

You see, I’d been excited about this particular course because, unlike the course in DC, you get the hills out of the way by mile 7 and then it’s super flat for the entire second half. In fact, when I signed up for it, I was pretty sure I’d get a “Personal Best”. I was wrong.

I started off solid. I started off steady. Everyone will tell you, “Never go out strong! Slow and steady wins the race!” Blah blah blah. They’re right. So I went out at my comfortable 10K pace (10 minutes per mile for hilly runs). And behold, I hit the 6-mile mark and felt great. I had the energy to continue! I was on pace. I was doing really well.

(Incidentally, I’ve no idea what’s up with my legs in this picture. They aren’t dented. Strange light? Weird.)

As I exited the park, the hills behind me once and for all, I spotted a little girl holding a sign that read, “Don’t stop running! People are watching you!” And I laughed out loud.

Laughter makes for great fuel.

Another guy had on a t-shirt on that read, “HALFWAY THERE!”

We were! We were halfway there! And I had the energy to finish!

As I merged onto Ocean Parkway, I ran over a dead rat. Perhaps it was a sign, because half mile later, I started to fall apart. First it was my right knee, then my left ankle and finally my right hip.

At mile 8, I saw a dead parrot, a fully intact, beautiful green parrot. Someone’s pet? This bummed me out a great deal. And of course I read meaning into it. Who wouldn’t?

Things got worse.

I stopped at a medical tent at mile 9 and grabbed a bag of ice. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the bag of ice, especially while running, but I had it.

I thought about quitting several times. I walked and held the ice against my knee. Things were getting uglier by the minute.

And then I started fighting with myself.

“You’re carrying ice, Michele! You look like a fool! You should stop. Just stop, Michele. Sit down. Just stop. You can stop. No one will care. You’re injured!

“I can’t stop.”

“Yes, you can. What if you’re so injured you can’t run at all anymore?”

“I can’t stop. This is Brooklyn. And if I stop I can’t wear the shirt. You know how I am about wearing shirts for unrun races. I want to wear the stupid shirt.”

“What are you going to do with this bag of ice? Carry it over the finish line? You’ll look ridiculous! You look ridiculous now, carrying a bag of ice during a half marathon. Just quit.”

Then I heard the sound of flesh hitting the pavement. I didn’t see it happen, but I heard her body hit the ground hard. Someone behind me had fallen. Another female runner stopped and waved over a NYRR volunteer who was on it immediately. The woman who’d fallen said she was fine. I was still fighting with myself while jogging. I was also still carrying the bag of ice. I had an idea. I stopped jogging and walked back to the woman who’d fallen. I touched her shoulder and said, “Ice?”

It was as though I’d offered her a ride. She lit up, “Oh my goodness! Yes!”

I gave her a quick rub on the back and jogged away.

“There! It’s gone! Now shut up about the ice and looking stupid!”

And that other voice, she didn’t say another word. She remained silent. (Or perhaps I’d left her behind.)

During both half marathons, I’ve lost consciousness. Not in the true sense of the word; I’m still blinking and breathing and alive; I’m still functioning. It’s more like my brain just stops thinking. It happened at mile 10 during both races. After mile 10, I simply can’t tell you what actually happened, or anything I thought about. It’s thoughtlessness, pure stupidity, beautiful brainless enlightenment. Simply put: it’s f*cking awesome. There’s no last minute. There’s no next minute. There aren’t minutes at all. There simply just is. There’s just a right now and even that’s gone right away. I LOVE that feeling. And even though I don’t usually know it’s happening while it’s happening, it’s the most profound, amazing feeling ever.

I think that’s why I run. I’m chasing nothingness.

And that feeling (or lack thereof) saw me to the Coney Island finish line. It also had me grinning like an imbecile.

I’m super proud of myself for finishing, but I sincerely wish I’d done better. I want better times. I want to be a better runner. That’s my new goal.

Stats and Boring Stuff

I’ll be honest, it’s hard to write on here lately because all I want to write about is running and I know that’s really boring. But I think I need to now because I want a record of what I’ve been doing. So, forgive me, but I’m going to ramble for a bit and document some stuff. I need to see progress eventually because I’ve been growing a little discouraged.

I’ve been beating myself up over my inability to beat a personal best for a 4-miler in Central Park, so I decided to look back over my stats on RunKeeper. In May of last year (3 months postpartum), I was running up to 2 miles at a 12-mile pace. Not great, but not too bad for just having had a baby.

In September, after running at most 2 times each week, I was able to finish a 4-mile run with NYRR in 38 minutes 45 seconds. That’s an average pace of 9 minutes, 41 seconds per mile. (I should mention I was also 10 pounds thinner than I am now thanks to an overactive thyroid.) I was VERY proud of my progress especially considering I was still just 7 months postpartum.

I ran here and there into the fall and winter, probably 8 to 10 times a month. I never did more than 2 to three miles unless I had a race. Running helped me clear my head. It was my alone time. That’s why I did it.

But I craved a bigger goal. So in November I signed up for the lottery to run the NYC half marathon. I told myself that if I got in, I’d train properly. I’d make a schedule and put my all into running. Finally.

On December 30th, I found out I didn’t make it into the half. I was heartbroken, frankly. But my brother came to the rescue suggesting I run the DC Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon scheduled the day before the NYC half. Perfect! I signed up.

I began my training on December 31st. From that day until the first week of March, I ran four times a week with one long run on Saturdays. I followed this schedule. I saw progress, but more importantly, I didn’t see injury.

I signed up for a bunch of NYRR races. They offer a 9+1 option. Basically, any member who finishes 9 races and volunteers for one during a calendar year is guaranteed a spot in the NYC ING Marathon for the following year. As testament to how much I’ve run since January, I finished my 9 last Saturday. So, should I ever decide I am actually able to run 26.2 miles, I have a chance to in 2013.

Anyway, on March 17th, I ran the DC half. And I was proud of myself and my time. So with Brooklyn, even though I was injured and betting against myself, I wanted to see progress. And I didn’t. I was a little bummed.

My brother tells me I’m running too much and I think he’s onto something. I’m doing too much, too soon. I started reading this book and they seem to think the same thing. Because I’m getting slower, not faster. While my 4-mile and 10K race paces are very consistent, anything more than that, I slow way, way down. My half marathon pace is SUPER slow—at around 2 hours, 30 minutes. This is partly due to injury, but it’s also that I simply slow down after 7 miles.

I want to finish faster. I want a new goal. I want to be faster and more efficient.

I’m 38. I won’t ever be a really fast runner. But I want to be steady and good at it. I don’t really have many regrets in life. But not running earlier—like, not sticking to it all those times in the past I’d start and then stop—well, that’s a huge regret of mine. Had I stuck with running at age 27, when I realized how much I enjoyed it, I might be pretty damn great at it by now.

Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

By November of this year, I would like to run the half in 2 hours, 10 minutes. Is that crazy? Can I do this? I’m not sure, but that’s my new goal. We’re running the Disney Wine and Dine half in November and I want to look back on this post and see a difference. I want to be really proud. I simply want to be faster.

Are There Any Runners Out There? A Moment of Your Time!

Are you a runner? I want to hear from you. When did you start running? How long did it take you to run 13 miles straight? What was your time? I think I’m looking to feel better about my terrible times. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself; maybe I’m not being hard enough on myself. But right now I just want to hear from others. So, if you’re reading this and you’re a distance runner, tell me about yourself. How long? How fast? Suggestions? Help? Anything goes, my friends. Rant, rave, brag. Show off. I want to learn from you.

Edited to add: The lovely Krissa had some great information about the dead parrot! And it made me feel better, so I wanted to share it with everyone. Read more about it here.

P.S. B.S.

My son is four. He’ll be attending kindergarten in the fall. That’s crazy and awesome and strange. It’s true what they say that time flies. I can’t believe he’ll be 5 in August.

In New York City, the public school thing is brutal. I am sure you’ve heard it all before, so I won’t bore you with the mundane and awful details. It’s a damn joke. I can’t believe the conversations I have had about my 4-year-old’s education. I also can’t believe the number of times I’ve gotten worked up over it, sent myself into an absolute frenzy.

He’s four. These kids are 4.

Just last week I had the following conversation with a mother on the playground.

Her: “Where is your oldest going in the fall?”

Me: “P.S. ____.”

Her: “We are going to P.S. ____. It’s the cool thing to do right now.”

She may have been joking. But she’s not wrong. Let me explain.

There’s a Yahoo Group set up for families living in my area. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that 85% of the moms I see every day visit this group. I know this because I am often asked, “Did you see what so-and-so wrote on the baby board?” And I always answer with, “I”m not on the baby board.” And so they fill me in on the details of whatever took place on the baby board.

Many local families are members of this baby board where all sorts of topics are discussed. I reckon most of it is very helpful. I’m not going to sit here and slam it. I’m sure it’s very, very helpful to some. But it’s also been very detrimental in the past. (A local personal trainer’s livelihood was nearly ruined thanks to one very bitter, resentful parent. My pediatrician said a number of parents are refusing vaccines and the board feeds directly into that.) Like with most forums on the Internet, there is a great deal of bitching and complaining, and then bitching and complaining about the bitching and complaining. Sometimes people get banned. It can be helpful. It can also be an absolute shitstorm. I know what happens because people tell me about it. (I assure you; I don’t even lurk. I’d rather go to the gynecologist or read comments on YouTube.)

Of course, schools have been discussed in great detail, scrutinized to the point of exhaustion. And mention the words “CHARTER SCHOOL” and you’d better run in the opposite direction. Fast.

Last year, a bunch of parents got together on the baby board and decided to take over a local school (we’ll call it P.S. Donut) known for being, at best, a so-so school. And so the word spread: “Send your kid to P.S. Donut!” And parents did! And it was nothing short of awesome. It was inspiring seeing a movement take place right before my eyes. Many of Em’s friends got accepted. Basically, every kid that was zoned for that school went to that school. We weren’t zoned. And although we tried to get in, we weren’t accepted. (We were rejected by all 6 of our requests, but that’s a story for another day.)

P.S. Donut was indeed being revitalized.

So, fast forward to January. News began to spread that one school was shutting down entirely. We’ll call that school P.S. Union Skirt. P.S. Union Skirt was performing so badly, the board of education said, “No more!” It was a notoriously bad school. So, they shut it down. But! Get this! They’re opening another school (let’s call it P.S. Dog and Pony) with a different number in the exact same location. This way, thanks to Bloomberg, they can fire up to 50% of the staff and hire new teachers. (This was what I was told by someone working for the NYC BoE. Don’t hold me to this number.)

But here’s the catch: P.S. Dog and Pony is still in the same zone it was before, which means ALL the same students from P.S. Union Skirt have first dibs on P.S. Dog and Pony. While there may be 50% new staff, the same kids are likely to attend that school. And if it lacked a sense of community before, what makes anyone think that will change? Also, won’t the families who attended P.S. Union Skirt for years feel resentment toward the families moving in?

I’m not sure. Only time will tell.

I mean, I get it. Things change. People can do whatever they wish when it comes to their children. It’s none of my business. But what gets me is that everyone got online again and, just like we saw with P.S. Donut, rallied together and suggested everyone move their kids to P.S. Dog and Pony. And nearly every person who rallied together to get their kids into the P.S. Donut a year ago are moving their children to P.S. Dog and Pony.

What’s next? And why should I believe any of them?

A few months ago, Toby and I entered into the mix and began looking at schools for Em. I shamefully got swept up in the frenzy. Back then, people were still rallying behind P.S. Donut. So we pushed to get Em into P.S. Donut. And he was accepted! And then I find out that many of those who’d rallied to get us all interested in that school are leaving for another.

In short: Screw that.

I do not feel comfortable following a group that is so easily swayed. Their word means nothing to me now, not that it should of in the first place. I should have made my own decision from the get-go. Shame on me, really.

So we went in the exact opposite direction and decided to send Em to a school known, among this particular group, as being too strict, military like, hard on the kids. I don’t agree. But that’s fine. (A little aside: we did not feel this school is any of the above. But if I blindly defend the school we chose, right now, given the fact he hasn’t yet attended, I will look like everyone I’m upset with. So I’ll withhold my comments. We are quite pleased with our choice. This school is a lot like every school I went to—every school everyone I know went to—growing up.)

Why is our generation like this? The school frenzy has become the new Thing. But it’s always going something. If it’s not breastfeeding vs. formula, it’s organic vs. non-organic. Why? Does this come from having TOO many choices? Is that possible? Would Brooklyn parents be acting this way if they lived nearly anywhere else in America where choices aren’t as plentiful? Is this some retaliative move against our parents’ generation? Or was it always like this and I was blind to what my mother and father were going through while I was growing up?

I can’t stand inane competition. I just want to cover my ears and scream, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU! LA LA LA LA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” You know, speaking of kindergarten and all.

A Cake That Says…

CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR FIRST PROSTITUTE!

My friend Mikal came up with that one.

For what occasion would one use this cake? A Sweet Sixteen birthday party? A cake for your son (or gay daughter!) celebrating the loss of his virginity (or your gay daughter’s!) after paying a prostitute to sleep with him (or your gay daughter!)?

Did I just write that? I’d like to apologize to both of my sons. I love my sons (and your alive gay daughter!). No disrespect here at all.

Actually, this cake may have lapped itself in badness becoming perfectly awesome.