HOLY SHIT. Pictures.

This is my neighborhood. I took a walk earlier to see how things were going before Irene hits. (Captions above each picture.)

The new fish shack near the water. Haven’t been yet.

Bagelsmith. They stay open ALL THE TIME. Seriously, it could be the end of days and you could buy a a bagel there.

The Future Perfect with a perfectly funny window treatment.

East River State Park. Mandatory evacuation for this area (about four blocks from us) It was basically a ghost town.

Blackbird Parlour. Boarded up but bumping inside.

Oy Vey indeed. (I have no idea what this bar is called or how it’s still open at all to be honest.)

NYC Muffins. Boarded up but ready for business. As you can see, everyone is in a panic.

Teddy’s Bar and Grill. AKA place where scenes from Boardwalk Empire was shot. (Among other shows/movies.)

Oh, and this is my baby. Arrr!

The Comfort Of Strangers. (I’m Her Ghost.)

We live on the fifth floor of an apartment building that overlooks several houses and backyards. We chose the fifth floor because of the view. And over the years we’ve gotten to know the people who make up that view even though they have no idea who we are. I take a great deal of comfort in this view and the people who live here. It’s like a rerun, an old movie, a longtime friend.

There was the naked couple who ran through the first snowfall of 2009. They moved out two weeks after we moved in and I still kind of miss them.

There was this:

There’s the girl who has so much sex and with several different guys, we have often wondered if she’s a professional. There’s the family of five, the lawyer, the guy without an air-conditioner who leaves his door wide open at night. He has a massive back porch, perched on the roof of four-story walkup, but never uses it. I covet his porch. But I bet he covets my central air.

There’s the gay couple, the couple who fosters dogs, the NYU student with the pet rabbit. There’s the little hispanic girl who rides her tricycle in the afternoon, the one my son loves to watch from our bedroom window.

There’s the polish couple who smoke together in the kitchen, then disappear for weeks on end. There’s the old Brooklyn lady who hangs out her window on hot days wearing a muumu. She watches people who are unaware, as we watch her.

There’s the doctor with the Flickr doormat, the couple next door to him who has a fat cat. They all share a backyard. Sometimes they combine parties. The yard is often illuminated with white lights.

There’s the guy on the third floor above them who BBQs on his fire escape almost every night and during every season. He sips Coke, hangs out his window and flips different cuts of meat.

I love these people. I love watching them come and go and work and play. I love their pets, their kids, their oddities. It’s the living equivalent to a blog—I feel like I know them, they haven’t the slightest clue as to who I am or that I’m even out here at all.

But there is one person within this view I cherish more than everyone else. She brings me the most comfort. And I want to explain why, put it in writing, I don’t want to forget her.

For the first several weeks of Elliot’s life I slept on the sofa. I wanted Toby Joe to get as much sleep as possible since he had to return to work right away. Elliot has always been a pretty good sleeper, but he does get up at night to eat. One of the feedings that remains relatively constant, and has since the day he was born, is the 4:30 AM feeding.

In the beginning, I had a case of the baby blues. And while they weren’t nearly as bad as what I experienced with Em, they were there. And that 4:30 AM hour was a particularly lonely one. It was February. The sun wouldn’t be up for hours, and I was alone with a baby who didn’t yet know I exist. The apartment was dead quiet, even the cats were in other rooms snoozing alongside other warm bodies. So I would nurse Elliot and look out over our view in search of some life, something, anything. There was a streetlight on Bedford Avenue, the occasional taxi cab, a hall light or two gleaming up through a domed skylight, otherwise, everything was dark.

This city really does sleep, contrary to what they say.

I would lie awake, staring outside, watching and waiting. And all my little TV screens, all my friends were sound asleep. All but one.

She wakes up every morning at 4:30 AM. I haven’t any idea what she does for a living and I can’t really see her. I can’t really make out her features, or how old she is. I know it’s a woman and I know she wakes up every weekday morning at 4:30 AM to go somewhere. I know it takes her a long time to get ready.

Besides work, she doesn’t get out much. She’s often home on Friday and Saturday nights all by herself. Her TV flickers and glows in the evening and usually goes dark around 11 PM. Sometimes she falls asleep with it on and it remains on all night. I guess her TV is her company. I get that. I’d have done the same if we had a bigger place.

For the first few months of Elliot’s life, when I was alone at 4:30 AM and feeling a little blue, I would sit with her. I wouldn’t bug her. I couldn’t. And she didn’t know I was there. But I would sit with her. I’d send her messages like: What is your name? Why are you always alone? Are you lonely? Where do you work? Why does it take you so long to get ready? Do you take vacations? Who are you?

What is your name?

Are you lonely?

Elliot is nearing 6 months of age. I’m floored by this. Six months! Time really does fly especially when the punctuation involved is generally the same. And my friend? She’s still out there.

I don’t get to visit her much anymore. But I do still sit down with her from time to time and I do still send her messages. She still takes forever to get ready. And I still feel comforted by her light, her ritual. And, yeah, her.

This woman has no clue who I am, that I know anything about her existence at all. But I really needed her company. My only hope is that she finds some of her own.

My Costanza Moment

A few months ago, I volunteered to be “Class Parent” at Em’s school. I figured, I’m not busy enough making candy, going to culinary school, and being a pregnant mother. I needed to add something to my schedule. But what?

CLASS PARENT!

So, I volunteered for the job. And for the most part things have been going just fine. (Plus, I get to pawn off my homework onto the kids and make it seem like I’m the BEST CLASS PARENT EVER! Because, what kid doesn’t like cake, cookies and croissants?)

Then the holidays rolled around, and I got the bright idea of arranging a group gift for all three of Em’s teachers. We (Toby and I) figured 20 bucks from each family meant each teacher would get 100 bucks. We thought 20 was a decent amount—not too much, not too little. I sent out an email saying, “Let’s do this! I’ll buy three cards and have an envelop waiting in Em’s cubby at school. Sign and drop off cash. Interested?”

What teacher doesn’t like cash?

The first response I received was positive. Something along the lines of: “YES!! Sounds great. That’s one less thing I have to deal with!”

Awesome.

Then the second one came in. It read: “This is very nice of you! But, listen, [insert daughter’s name] has been going to this school for 3 years, and while group gifts are nice and all, this year I’m opting out. One teacher likes my daughter’s lunchbox, so we’re going to give her that. The other teachers are getting the equivalent in cash. But thanks for the offer! We’re out.”

So yeah. The second response? Not so good.

“Is it too little?” I asked Toby. “Maybe it’s too little. Maybe I should have suggested 30? Or 50! What if they all think this is stupid?”

He told me to stop being an idiot and wait to hear from the others. He then said something like, “There’s always gonna be one person who fucks shit up.” And I calmed down a bit.

By the following day, every other family had responded and everyone thought it was a fine idea. I decided that we would cover that family’s 20 bucks. It’s worth it, after all. We love Em’s teachers.

So yesterday, I gathered everything together, got some C notes and began to finish off the card. That’s when I had a Constanza moment.

Wait! The teachers won’t necessarily know that there was one family that opted out of the group gift. They won’t know I covered her non-conforming ass. OMG, I need to let them know this!

“From everyone but So-and-So’s mom. Because So-and-So’s mom is kind of bitchy and had to go and fuck shit up.”

How’s that for holiday spirit?

WORST CLASS PARENT EVER.

NaBloPoMo: Four Little Birds.

Toby Joe and I have been stressing out about our living situation again. We live in a tiny apartment. We pay a lot of money for a tiny apartment. And the rent is set to go up 200 bucks in December. Between that, the size of the place, and the fact that we’re about to become a family of 4, we’ve been stressing out a bit.

Where do we go? What do we do? Do we pay the extra amount until we figure it out? Do we move? Do I want to move while 8 months pregnant in the dead of winter when our lease is up? Not really. We’re just not sure what to do. We feel stuck and we’ve been stressing out about it.

Em is in school three days a week. He loves it. He loves it so much he wants to go every day and tells me this often.

The school is in our neighborhood. We can walk there in under five minutes. It’s one of the main reasons we feel tied to this area. We are very, very happy with the school. So is our son.

A couple of weeks ago, while I was there picking him up, he came out singing. I didn’t pay it much mind at first because Em is almost always singing something. But it seemed oddly familiar.

“Em, are you singing Bob Marley?” I asked and I hummed a little bit of what I thought it was.

“No. It’s just a song we sing.”

“Oh, OK.”

He continued singing it all afternoon. At the playground, he sang it loudly. It sounded an awful lot like Bob Marley. Had he been singing Bob Marley in school?

When we got home that evening, I decided to dig out some Bob Marley. Only I guess one doesn’t really “dig out” music all that much anymore. No. Instead one fires up the computer that hosts one’s thousands of MP3s. One turns on the Playstation 3 (or whatever), the receiver and the TV. (Wait! What was that? I just heard something from inside the closet! Why, it’s the sound of my vinyl collection sighing! And, OMG! What was that?! The dust made my one-of-a-kind, pink-pressed vinyl of Sonic Youth’s Evol cough! And that’s the sound of me sighing.)

I flipped through the list of MP3s and found “Three Little Birds”.

“Emdash, is the the song you’ve been singing?”

I could tell immediately from the look on his face that it was. He began to sing and dance around the room. I sang and danced along with him. It was impossible not to. Our apartment roared with noise and laughter.

Later, Toby Joe came home from work and I showed him what happens whenever you play “Three Little Birds” in front of Emory. Em immediately began to sing and dance again. Toby Joe started to as well. And just like that, the whole family began to move around our small, overpriced apartment.

“Singing:

Don’t worry ’bout a thing,

‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

This is my message to you: The space we call home may be very small. And it’s most definitely overpriced. We may be seen as a little stupid for putting up with it all, but the sound and joy that fills it up is monstrous.

And it’s just gonna get bigger.

And you can’t put a price on that.

Sunset Tonight.

Tonight’s sunset blew my mind. It wasn’t there and then BAM! It was.

You see, I had a terrible day. This morning I nearly passed out twice a block from home and Em was with me. I had to sit down on the sidewalk and tuck my head between my knees. Twice. And then it took every last bit of effort to make it back home. I’m not sure what Em would have done had I actually passed out. Would he have panicked? Would he have run off? We were on a busy street after all, cars zoom past at intense speeds even though they’re not supposed to. It was early and there were a lot of people out, my hope is that someone would have stopped to help us/him.

Anyway, it was a difficult day.

I also felt bouts of rage at certain points. I found I was ready to pounce on anyone who did something even remotely uncool. The city and its people really got to me today, more so than ever before.

I’m not proud of my role in today.

But then we returned home and I was greeted by this sunset and it took me back and made everything seem OK again.

So here’s to hoping tomorrow is better—that the sunset was a promise of some sort. :]

8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live

Y’all, it’s just me and the kid these days, so time has been limited, hence the lack of updates. I’ll be back shortly. (He starts school soon!) In the meantime, I just had to share this amazing article with you.

It’s hysterical on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin. Enjoy!

8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live

NEW YORK—At 4:32 p.m. Tuesday, every single resident of New York City decided to evacuate the famed metropolis, having realizing it was nothing more than a massive, trash-ridden hellhole that slowly sucks the life out of every one of its inhabitants.

The iPhone 4 and Its Camera

Sunday is our long day at pastry school. We go from  9 AM until 5 PM but we do get a 20-minute break. Whenever lunch rolls around I pull out my iPhone to check email, Twitter and the like. Well, this Sunday it wasn’t working. The little ATT icon showed up but the 3G icon did not. I figured the entire network was down.

I looked around the room and saw another woman was using an iPhone. I asked her if she had service. Her’s worked. I restarted. When it started up again, nothing worked. The ATT icon was gone as well as the 3G icon. It read “No Service”. I no longer had a working phone.

Toby’s iPhone died several weeks ago. So he’s been living without one since. And that’s been hard for us especially since we don’t have a landline and haven’t since November 2001. For weeks we’ve been using the DM service through Twitter to communicate. (Why not email, I’ve no idea. But it did keep our correspondence to the bare minimum and there’s something to be said for that sometimes. You get to the point when dealing with 140 characters!) So he needed a new phone. He went back and forth on what to get, whether or not he wanted to switch away from ATT altogether or sign another contract. (Toby hates contracts more so than most people.) But in the end, given his job an all, he decided to stick with Apple.

I didn’t really need a new phone. Mine works, albeit rather shoddily since Emory gave it a sponge bath. But it does work.

But here’s the skinny: I need a new camera for school. We were told on day one that we’d need a small, but decent digital camera to document our work. At the end of our time there, we’ll need a photographic resume of everything we bake. I don’t have a small digital camera. My camera is a massive Nikon D200. And since we already have so much to carry with us to and from class (knives, a bag of pastry supplies, towels, a scale) there’s no way I could include that in my repertoire. So, I would need a new camera at some point. And I told Toby this in passing one day. It was such a non-comment, I kind of forgot mentioning it all.

Well, Toby apparently had an idea and his idea traveled uptown and entered my head right as I restarted my iPhone for a second time: my husband was, right at that very moment, buying me an iPhone 4 as well.

(Thank you, lovely husband!)

You’ve probably read all about the controversy surrounding the iPhone 4. And I’m sure by now you’ve heard that Consumer Reports basically said DO NOT BUY THIS PHONE. And they have to; it does have a problem. And Steve Jobs was less than accommodating when it came to responding to the backlash. He went from suggesting the user not hold the phone that way, to offering up free bumpers to fix the problem. Consumer Reports suggested duct tape. Another user suggested buying an Ove Glove. All those perpetually drinking the Apple Kool-Aid responded to the naysayers and critics by holding their hands over their ears and repeating, “LA LA LA LA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”  The whole mess was quite entertaining for those of us in the middle.

Straight up: I don’t use the phone part of the phone very much. If I were a heavy caller, I’d probably have taken my iPhone back. But I use it to browse the Internet, check email and Twitter, as well as text people. I’ve used the actual phone application maybe four times since Sunday and thus far I haven’t had any dropped calls. I know it will happen and probably at the most inopportune time, but for now I’m really pleased with my new phone.

A FEW THINGS TO NOTE:

The Screen

The screen is amazing. It’s just beautiful. Whenever the very first round of buyers got a hold of it and my Twitter stream lit up with tweets about the screen, I rolled my eyes. But you know something? They’re all right! It’s really wonderful. So much better than what I had been using.

The Speed and Ease

The applications run so much faster and smoother. I use the New York Times application every single night. I fall asleep reading. At least three times a week for over a year I have complained to Toby Joe about how buggy that application is. It takes forever to load, if it loads at all. It crashes. It crashes the phone itself. It spins and spins and often times you can’t scroll through the article. With any other application, I’d have trashed it on day one. But I like reading the NYT, so I put up with it.

That’s all in the past. It’s fixed. It runs supremely fast. Other applications run better as well. It’s just faster all across the board. No joke. And noticeable for even us laymen.

The Camera

But, guys, the camera. Holy shit! The camera. The camera is outstanding. It will definitely do the trick for class. And I’ve been inspired again! A phone has inspired me to take pictures again. I just want to snap everything I see, which is totally mihow.com circa 2002. For those who haven’t been around since the beginning, that’s how this blog began. I took pictures of my everyday life. I snapped hundreds a day—to an from work, during lunch—all over NYC and beyond. I loved doing that and often miss it. It was super easy to do because I had a Canon ELPH back then. I shot from the hip and most of the time my subjects didn’t even notice me.

Well, this phone has me doing that once again. I’ve taken dozens of shots in the past few days. I just can’t get enough of it. And with the added application Hipstamatic forget about it. I’m a photo-taking machine.

So, yeah. I’m really happy with this phone. No regrets at all. We’ll see how I feel with the first dropped call, but I super pleased with the phone’s camera ability. I haven’t even used the video yet!

That’ll be a post for next week.

For now, I’d love to share some more of the pictures I’ve taken in the last couple of days. I hope you enjoy!

I’m so enjoying this, my friends. And you know there’s going to be a whole lot more of this. It’s like I’ve met NYC and 2001 all over again.

On Soccer Camp.

I am constantly learning new things as a mother. For example, last week I learned that getting a 3-year-old to listen to a soccer coach for three hours in 90+ degree heat is impossible. We tried. I had high expectations, but it went just about as smoothly as Mom and Baby Yoga. The good news is we didn’t end each class lying on our sides, breastfeeding our kids. The thought of doing that in direct sunlight in 95 degree heat makes me want to puke.

He’s not ready to pay attention for that long. I was silly to think otherwise. Motherhood has been one learning experience after another. For example, I’ve learned that the more you spend on an activity, the less your kid’s gonna get out of it. And the more excited you are by said activity, the less excited they’re gonna be. So, should we ever have a second child, that kid’s gonna be ignored until age five or so, particularly where extracurricular activities are concerned. Sorry, kid. It’s nothing but flour and water for you. Maybe some paint. And we might take you to the playground.

(Wait, I’m a second child. This explains a lot.)

But all was not entirely lost. We had two great days. He followed instructions, had fun and we stayed the entire time. I won’t talk about the other three days; the days I had to take him home kicking, screaming and spitting. (Picture Linda Blair from “The Exorcist” only without the company of The Devil. Because, seriously, had The Devil been there I’d have asked him or her for help.)

I won’t mention those days. I won’t start talking about how age 3 is ten bloody times worse than age 2. If I start talking about all the timeouts we’ve had lately, or the fact that it took him 1 hour, 40 minutes to eat pancakes this morning all the while he sat screaming at the table, I’ll never stop talking. Plus, I’ll develop a stutter and start drinking. And I haven’t had a drink in a very long time.

I will say this: the closer we get to three, the rougher our days become. I’ll leave it at that for now. But soon I’m gonna need some companionship, a gentle shoulder to cry on. Because this has been hard, really hard. It’s kind of like breaking in a wild horse, not that I’ve ever done that. But if I ever apply for a job as cowboy, I’m putting this on my resume.

I’m convinced this is why siblings aren’t often 4 years apart. Who in their right mind looks at their husband after a day spent with a three-year-old and says, “Hi, honey! Let’s have unprotective sex so we can have ANOTHER ONE!”?

Anyway… SOCCER CAMP! The last class went off without a hitch. And I managed to get this short video of my boy following instructions, giving high fives and receiving his final award.

So, we won’t be back next week. But we will be back next year. Because the gentlemen from United Soccer Academy who were in charge of these 3-year-olds were amazing. I’ve never met two Brits more deserving of an award for patience. In fact, everyone pooled together a hefty tip at the end of the week to show how sorry we felt for them. A pity tip! A pitippy!

We’ll be back next year—you know, after three is over.

(Three does end, right?)

Now I Know Why They Call It A "Stress" Fracture.

I run about 20 miles a week—sometimes more, sometimes less. But that’s been my average for a while. I love running. I run to avoid depression. I don’t take pills. (Not that I’m against doing so!). It’s just that running works for me. I run because it gets me high and makes me unbelievably happy. I can’t imagine not being able to do it.

A few weeks ago, I started to notice some pain at the top and center of my left foot. I continued to run, of course, because, if you know anything about runners, we tend to be a stubborn bunch. It was fine. I mean, it hurt, but I ran through it. I ran and iced and elevated and then last Sunday I hit Central Park for a NYRR 4-miler and finished in great time (for me). I was so proud of myself. I came home and immediately signed up for another race. Sure, I could barely walk at the time, but I figured I had time to get back to normal again. I guessed it was just a bruise but I made a podiatry appointment just to be safe. This time I even stayed off of it. I used the elliptical machine and lifting weights instead.

Today my doctor ran a series of x-rays and I have a stress fracture—a bloody painful one. When she touched the magic spot, I nearly puked. So, she put me in a soft cast and gave me a boot. She told me to stay off of it. (Yeah, right! Have you met my son?) But, worst of all? I can’t run for 8 weeks. I can’t even use the elliptical machine.

Of course, with every fairly uncool event that takes place in my life anymore, there’s always an element of humor involved.

You see, I live in Brooklyn and I have a car, so a depressingly large chunk of my daily life is spent abiding by the alternate side parking calendar. Naturally, I was concerned.

“Can I drive?” I asked her.

“Yeah, because you don’t need that foot to drive.” She joked.

“I drive a stick.”

“Oh gosh. Well, the more you use it, the longer it will take to heal. So, I would suggest you not drive.”

And you know what my first thought was? I wondered if she might write a doctor’s note so I could get out of having to move the car from one side of the street to the other, as if the NYC government was going to take pity on the fact that I am wearing a cast. You could be a headless person without hands and the New York State Department of Transportation would continue to ticket your car.  Hell, you could be giving birth and they’d give you a ticket and make you pay it. (YES, THAT HAPPENED TO ME! The birth part, not the headless bit.)

The NYSDOT does not care about my left foot.

When I left the doctor, I couldn’t call Toby because I knew I would just cry into the phone, so I texted him instead. I told him what was going on. Here are those texts:

Me: Stress fracture. I look like a freak. Huge boot and soft cast. WTF have I done? Can’t run for 8 weeks.

Me: Can’t do much of anything. This is going to make me into a crazy person.

Him: Will take care of ya. CAN YOU MOVE THE CAR?!!?

The first thing I did when I got out of the subway was move the car.

But seriously, people: what I am going to do without my antidepressant?