27 April 2006

sailing the concrete rivers

my friend hernan came over this afternoon because i felt helpless and knew that if i made these color decisions on my own i would totally fuck it up. so we measured, and discussed, and went to the paint store, and got color samples, and cut and taped and applied. and looked, and discussed. and threw some out. and discussed further. this is an absurdly roundabout way of saying that i have decided the following.

my new room will have three white walls ("mountain snow") and one accent wall in a medium deep blue ("lagoon blue"). the accent wall will frame the window that looks out towards brick and blue sky. with the old maps i've got and the captain's bed, i think it'll have a nautical feel. maybe later i'll put in some sailor wallpaper. a giant oar might look nice.

tomorrow is the final day of priming and then sunday i paint.

in other news, it was hernan's birthday today. and ameet's. and damien's. and i spent time with all three. i don't think i've ever done that, three in one day. happy birthday.

26 April 2006

i need your advice

as i said in the last post, i'm designing my new apartment. it's a tiny little room and i want to be sure and do it right.

here's the bed i'm thinking about:

the bed is part of a set, so i can get matching pieces. the question is, what color best matches the wood?

i'm thinking about a gray green but haven't firmly decided on anything. i'd like to do some sort of interesting trim, but the room has baseboard heating running the length of every wall, and my roommates advised that dark colors don't work for painting on the metal baseboards. would a light wall color work with a light trim? if i left the trim white with green walls, i'm worried that i'd have a minty sort of effect which sounds awful.


25 April 2006


remember the guy who was 86ed from carnegie hall?


24 April 2006

what i did today

it's late, so i won't say much. but today was my first day as the administrator of red hot. i am overjoyed to be back at work after so long, especially since i get to work with something that means so much to me.

today i read all the applications for african grant recipients in the past year -- we've got some money to give away and we want to continue to work with some of the organizations we already support. so they told me, given my on-the-ground experience that they'd appreciate my opinion of which organizations seemed to have effective models for education and outreach. we also had a long meeting about being a media organization in the age of free downloads, and talked about creative ways to both keep people interested and maintain our revenue stream.

for those of you who have a solid internet connection, go to redhot.org and watch the video for david byrne's cover of cole porter's don't fence me in. it's amazing.

in other news, last week i got a manicure/pedicure with my sister. it totally ruled.

also, i'm painting my new apartment. i'm thinking pale green with gray trim and rosewood furniture.

20 April 2006

a room of one's own

it’s just after midnight. the humble click of my keyboard is no match for the snap and ping of the typewriter across the way. some studious author perhaps hard at work on the next great american novel, or maybe he’s writing scripts for wrestling pictures to make ends meet and dreaming of better times, hard to say. if his apartment were any closer to mine, i might be able to read it, but for now i’ll take his click and clack to be of the utmost importance, regardless of content.

unfortunately it looks like i’ll be trading his graceful mechanical rhythm for something a little less delicate. this afternoon i accepted an offer to move into a new apartment on atlantic avenue, a central artery coming off the brooklyn-queens expressway and definitely not as quiet as my present sheltered block of brownstones. the place has some significant pros – it’s the southernmost street of brooklyn heights and i’ll be two blocks away from the gorgeous brooklyn promenade, not to mention sahadi’s, a marvelous middle eastern market. although my bedroom is on the small side and faces the street (and is above a bar), the apartment as a whole is huge and has a washer/dryer and an enormous porch that could comfortably seat eight for brunch. most importantly, the two people already living there seem to be totally relaxed, down to earth and friendly. they both work for XXL, a pretty important hip-hop culture magazine (http://xxlmag.com/), and i think we’ll get along splendidly. and i’ll still be a few short blocks from my friends here on baltic avenue. the noise makes me a little nervous, but i talked to the guy vacating my room after living there for the past five (!) years, and he said it wasn’t too bad and didn’t even bother his light-sleeping girlfriend. so all in all i am excited to have found a good place with good people.

one month in new york city and i have my dream job and an apartment in brooklyn heights. now that ain’t too bad.

18 April 2006

your choice: good morning, god or good god, morning.

this week is the end of a long vacation. i haven’t worked a steady job since the spring of ought-four, and all of a sudden i begin again on monday. red hot has given me final confirmation and i’m heading in for a big meeting to get things started. they’ve agreed to a three month part-time contract, at the end of which we’ll reevaluate. if we get along and i’ve proven myself, then we’ll start to talk bigger things. like full time. and benefits. it seems like forever that i’ve lived my life like most of the twenty-somethings i know, holding my breath with my fingers crossed and making friends with health professionals in case anything goes wrong. did you know that if you go to a hospital without id and say you can’t remember who you are that they are required to treat you? i hope it never comes to that, but it’s good to know.

i’m a little shocked that i have time to write again. things have just been so busy! but this week is nice and open, so today i slept in and went to a wonderful yoga class. after a month of regular classes, i really noticed for the first time how much my strength and focus have increased. i held crow today longer than ever before and was able to hold sideways variations on both sides. i couldn’t even do it six months ago.

what’s even crazier is that after the class, i was feeling so good that i came home, got my new ipod (did i mention i lost my last one? thank god for studio liability!) and ran from my house to the end of the brooklyn heights promenade. when i have some more time, i’ll put up some pictures, it’s a pretty special place. since i haven’t run in a while, i took it easy and walked over to the foot of the brooklyn bridge and started running again, all the way across. it is long. and now i am tired. but god, today is a beautiful day. why is it that every winter i can’t figure out why i am so moody or depressed or both or worse? and then suddenly everything comes back to life and people show their skin and the sun warms us all and turns those of us who are pale into happy pink angels of springtime. and i realize, oh right, that’s why i felt like shit. to borrow from the gift of gab, in winter i wake up and say, good god, morning, but now it’s good morning, god.

jeez, and that’s just today. i’m still so behind on stories.

last week there were huge protests all over the country against immigration legislation, and here in new york my sister invited me to join the group from her school. it was awesome. and not just being a part of this incredible cadre of kids chanting (to luda’s rhythm) MOVE, BUSH, GET OUT THE WAY! GET OUT THE WAY BUSH, GET OUT THE WAY! what was even more exciting was being a part of a protest that was so unified and so diverse. back in san francisco, it seemed like the protests tended to overreach, so an anti-war protest would become anti-israel, anti-nuclear, anti-capitalist, pro-whale protest. of course so much of what is wrong with the world is interconnected, but when you’re trying to convince the greater public of a particular point, it helps to stay focused. in the three hours we spent marching, we moved three blocks towards city hall and every step of the way, we were surrounded by people from all over the world simply trying to prove that they were just that – people. not three-fifths of a person, or leeches, or felons, but real people with real lives that make a difference in this country. which, i might add, they love passionately, and most flag-wavers held their own national colors right alongside the stars and stripes. instead of a band of white, educated liberals, these were people taking risks to make their voices heard – and some of them even ended up losing their jobs for it. but for those three hours, herded like cattle by the stunningly well-organized new york city police department, we marched together, waving flags of a million colors and making sure the thiefs in washington don’t steal absolutely everything that makes the united states of america, with all its flaws, a place which i am proud to call home.

as for the post-protest party, well, that will have to wait for later.

the miracle of the season

what an amazing range of experience this incredible city has to offer. i only wish it hadn’t been so long since i last posted anything, so i could focus on the details of every moment, every subway ride, every conversation, every latenightdrunk cabride home, every blossoming pear, cherry, dogwood, tulip.

last time i highlighted a baseball game, of which there have been more (go mets). also the view from my temporary roof of a spectacular sunset, of which there will always be more. i only wish my poached internet connection was reliable enough to post pictures regularly, but i can’t tell you what a struggle it was to even get online those few shots. so bits here and there will have to suffice.

there have been some momentous events in the past week or two, but there's something that trumps it all. maybe in my next entry i'll get to the funny stuff.

my cousin aaron is six years old. he lives in minneapolis with his parents jen and charlie and his sister leah (seen below in the egyptian collection at the brooklyn museum). when aaron was quite small, he developed a cyst near his collarbone that turned out to be cancer. and not just any cancer, this was such a rare form that aaron has been poked and prodded by experts from all over the country wondering, how did such a young child develop nerve sheath cancer? and what can we do about it? i (and many of us) were initally left asking, what the hell is a nerve sheath? after chemo on his tender young body and two years of clean scans, it looked like he’d beaten this extraordinarily rare disease.

and then, a few months ago, it came back. chemo was no longer an option. the doctors in minnesota discussed some horrendously radical surgeries that could leave aaron without the use of his right arm or even without the arm itself. the cancer is tucked under his clavicle in the midst of the brachial plexus, a mass of nerves that run out from the spinal cord into his right shoulder and down his arm. so avoiding lasting damage looked difficult. because of the complex nature of his case, the tumor board at memorial sloan kettering here in new york decided to take his case. aaron and his family arrived two weeks ago, and although i wish they were here under better circumstances, their presence and our time together has been a gift. MSK may well be the most advanced cancer hospital in the world, and right from the start it was a great relief to sense the incredible confidence with which the surgeons were approaching aaron’s surgery.

he went under the knife on the 12th. they cracked his sternum and peeled away his ribcage to get at the cancer. hours and hours after they’d begun, the head doctor came down to talk to aaron’s parents, his grandpa bob and myself. we held our breath until the doctor said the surgery was successful, at which point all four of us immediately wept out of the corners of our eyes until the doctor left, and which point we burst into tears.

i saw him the next day in the pediatric ICU, morphine eyes, immobile, in and out of consciousness. i managed to catch an early moment of lucidity, when he moaned in pain, cried out for his mother, requested that we put on the cartoon network and promptly asked us to go away before he fell back into his drug-induced sleep.

whenever i’ve had the time, i’ve been at the hospital with his family, but this morning, just five days after his surgery, i didn’t go to the pediatric ward -- because he had recovered so effectively that he was discharged. the shirt brought to him by his grandmother says INVINCIBLE, and it seems to be true. you can keep an eye on his progress at http://www.caringbridge.com/page/aaron/index.htm

this year i feel no great need for the story of the passover, no celebration of the resurrection, for this child and his precious life are my miracles of the season.

04 April 2006


and you may find yourself
living in a shotgun shack
and you may find yourself
in another part of the world
and you may find yourself
behind the wheel of a large automobile
and you may find yourself
in a beautiful house
with a beautiful wife
and you may ask yourself

well...how did I get here?

i'm not sure how it's all happened so quickly, but i think i was just hired for my dream job. i'm going to be a sort of administrator for red hot (http://www.redhot.org). not administrator in a secretary sense -- this position is more like director of operations. it'll start part-time, but the opportunity for growth is considerable. basically, the people who started red hot have a million other things going on (including running a huge web production company -- http://www.funnygarbage.com) and they want me to breathe some new life into a well-established organization. this is an incredible chance to make a real difference in hiv/aids education and prevention. i'll be doing a little of everthing -- disbursing grants, web development, promotions and marketing, archival maintenance, music production and even envisioning and securing financing for new projects (how about something focusing on music about hiv in africa? a movie perhaps?).

i'm still in shock that i managed to work things out so quickly. i've been in the city just over two weeks, i have two jobs and a volunteer position, and now all i have to do is find a place to live. and i think as all the students shift around come the month of may some things will be available.

time to head to the bar! hopefully i'll be back by 5 am.

03 April 2006

ain’t nothing to it but to do it.

a cool spring rain is falling today, drop by drop removing from the sidewalks the words and works of my favorite sidewalk chalk artist. ellis has been in the neighborhood ever since i started spending time in cobble hill; his medium, chalk and asphalt, his topic, shadows. throughout the brownstones and budding gardens of cobble hill, ellis’ work appears magically, an outline of a fire hydrant here, a bicycle shadow marked UNFINISHED there. out on the town over the weekend, ameet spotted a yellow halo highlighting the shadow of a stop sign cast by a street lamp onto a brick wall nearby. i’ve always wondered if ellis would mind if i joined in his game of shadows, and this morning i found my answer – ain’t nothing to it but to do it!

it’s been a while since i've had a chance to sit down and write. i’ve been working hard to get myself established here, and my efforts have actually yielded some success. through a friend of a friend, i think i’ve secured a job as a barback near union square. it’s hard, maybe the hardest physical work i’ve done since teaching preschool, but it pays remarkably well for only working a couple nights a week. but what nights – last wednesday i worked from 4 pm to 4 am. i’m still in the training phase, and they seem to like me. i have my third shift coming up this week.

also coming up this week is a major interview. i sat down last week with the founder of red hot, (http://redhot.org/) expecting to have an interesting conversation about the relationship between music and AIDS advocacy – red hot produces cds with musicians from all over the world and the proceeds go to AIDS prevention and education. but since red hot hadn’t come out with anything in a few years, i didn’t have high hopes for employment potential. near the end of our chat, i explained that i had set up the interview to hear about other local organizations that might be a good fit. he said, well, i think we have a job for you. how would you like to work on our newest compilation? we have sufjan stevens signed up already.

i adore sufjan stevens, so much so that elaine refers to him as “my boyfriend.” anyone who’s interested in hearing a most intriguing artist, one whom i consider to be a new bard for america, should go and buy sufjan stevens’ illinois. sit back and be amazed.

so obviously i’m tremendously excited at the prospect of working with red hot, an organization that shares my passion for the intersection of music, health education and African advocacy. i have a second interview tomorrow and i’m nervous and giddy.

this weekend was sunny and beautiful. my god, i can’t remember the last time i wore a t-shirt outside. spring is in effect and i find myself taking long meandering walks to nowhere in particular, standing under blooming magnolias with some unknown tree that blossoms white lining the avenues around me and daffodils and irises at my feet. the brooklyn botanical garden’s cherry blossom festival starts this week, and since i don’t think i’ll make it to dc this year, i’ll have to go marvel at some home town sakura.

man, this weekend! saturday morning, ameet and i went to volunteer at the red hook community farm – a new york miracle, this place. a group of dedicated folks have turned an abandoned asphalt lot in an industrial neighborhood near the port into a raised-bed organic farm with fertilizer provided by the bronx zoo. a cadre of girls from spelman college were along for the ride, and their lunchtime step performance was well worth the hours of leaf-raking and shoveling. caroline loomis, a friend from vassar, helps run the place, and i’m hoping to get involved.

after the farm, to dinner with munish puri in the village. good luck going out to dinner on a saturday night in the village! an hour long wait at our intended destination led us to a walk through the neighborhood, where all the other restaurants had hour-plus waits. we eventually found ourselves back at the original restaurant where we feasted on tagines and fresh pita and stella.

then things got crazy.

jessie, as many of know, is my sister, who has lived in new york for a while now and knows more people than ever (lucky jessie!). one of her friends threw a fundraiser house party in the south bronx, up near yankee stadium. i was about to spare my sheltered readers the details, but i have to say that watching drunk teenagers throw up out of fifth story windows was special. ameet and i got home at 6 am. curse you, daylight savings, robbing us of an extra hour of party!

this coming week? looks like shifts at the bar are a possibility, along with my continued yoga studio volunteer work. then let’s add the big interview. oh, and my college buddy bret is coming into town for a couple days. and let’s not forget the baker-vaneks are in town for the month! baseball season is under way with the a’s opening up against the yankees, so i get to watch the games this week. i haven’t even seen most of the people i already knew here. hopefully i’ll have a chance to see them in may. good god, what a crazy fun chaos is this life!