Monday, November 27, 2006

The great American holiday

Oh, yeah. Thanksgiving break was beautiful. I get teary just thinking about it.

For starters, there was no formal Thanksgiving anything. John and I slept in, stayed home, watched TV, picked up around the apartment, and had turkey burgers for dinner. Magnificent. And yes, we were definitely grateful. Besides, the low-key Thanksgiving was a necessary component of the big picture, and the big picture was all about Black Friday.

We had initially foreseen ourselves out in the trenches in the early morning, armed with brass knuckles and nunchucks, battling it out with the otherwise unabated throng of rabid shoppers late into the evening for the best sweater at the bargain table of the nearest H&M. Suprisingly, this wasn't so much the case at most of the places we went, but we did have a tiny taste of the ugly. Our day was spent at Union Square, and we didn't get as early a start as we initially planned to, but once we were out there we grabbed some lunch and got to the shopping. Again, most places were suprisingly calm... for Black Friday, that is. There was still a very reasonable crowd everywhere we went, so we weren't entirely disappointed. Then, as the evening progressed, we got to an Aldo store, where we saw a banner advertising their Thanksgiving weekend special... 50% off everything's already marked down tag. Oh, man... we were so there.

When we got inside, we could barely move through the mass of people there, men and women alike. Shoes were literally flying everywhere. Dozens of store emplyees were walking around with clipboards and notepads, taking people's shoe orders, just before running to the back of the store and hunting down the requested items. Mind you, one had to hope that the size was right or the shoe looked good when worn, or you'd have to go through the whole process all over again. Then, if you should have to sit down in order to try a shoe on, good luck... short of pushing a kid into a pile of shoe boxes, I could barely find but a corner of a seat to sort of prop myself against for balance. I'd found three pairs of shoes for unnatural prices, and I was willing to undergo some minimal tortures to walk out of there with at least one pair to brag about later. Meanwhile, John was going through the same nightmare on the men's side of the store with three selections of his own. I did witness a fight between two women looking at the same pair of shoes, one overhearing that they were the last pair and waiting for the other woman to try them on so she could pounce if they didn't fit. There was some yelling, rustling of shopping bags... frankly, I was too busy fighting my own battle to see how it ended.

When we finally left, John had one pair of shoes and I had two. From there, things were easy and relaxed... the weather was crisp but not unpleasantly cold, and the outdoor stores in the park at the square had plenty to offer. John, in fact, got an early anniversary present while we were there, which he seems pretty giddy about getting: a celtic torque necklace. You gotta love it when someone's wanted something for years and years and not been able to get it, then all at once an opportunity presents itself and you jump at the chance, and presto, dream fulfilled. Besides, it was an instance when, despite the fact that it's not your common everyday kind of men's jewelry, the one we found not only fit well, but was also the sort he could actually pull off. Naturally, I had to get it for him. Besides loving him more than enough to justify the purchace, it also saved all the world from hearing him mutter to himself for weeks about having finally found it and wanting it more than anything ever in the whole wide world.

In short, it was a fantastic Thanksgiving, albeit somewhat unconventional. We didn't do big family stuff, but we both feel like we celebrated in style. Tie it up with going to the movies (the new Bond is a winner) and walking around in Lower Manhattan and South Street Seaport, and I'd say it made for a nice little package. Just a few weeks more, and the semester will be over and done with... for now, I maintain the opinion that three weeks have never been longer than the ones I'm begining at the moment.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving plans, or lack thereof

Interestingly enough, we've decided not to go out of our way to do, well, anything at all for Thanksgiving. With different branches of the family spread out across the greater known world, and with money not growing off that tree I planted, we decided we'd stick around in New York and take it easy, treating it more like a real vacation. Typically, Thanksgiving is more of a marathon consisting of family and food, and usually far too much of both. At this point, we've already made plans and bought tickets to go to Texas for a couple of weeks during the Christmas break, and since that's not so far in the future, we figured we'd wait until then to see everyone. So far, no one's voiced any violent opposition to the game plan, so we're pleased with it all around.

Vacation though it may be, there'll be plenty of work to do while we're, um, relaxing. I have a pretty heavy load of writing and research to plow through over the next few days, and I think John's got his hands full with one or two projects of his own. This will be a true test of our discipline as students, I suppose, although I can't say I'm feeling very optimistic at the moment. The thing is, I'm feeling a certain brand of laziness setting in, the sort that hits right around this time of year, just as the end of the semester is in sight. Simply put, I'm tired. I'm tired not only in the sense that I've been working just about as non-stop as I think I ever have, but in terms of not having had much chance to do the things I'd rather from time to time. I wouldn't mind being this busy if I had just a little time for more songwriting and guitar, for weekend performances around the city... I'd be busier if I did it, but I'd be better off somehow, I think.

Enter Thanksgiving. I've decided it'll be my chance to seize upon moments I wouldn't have come across if we'd chosen to do the usual Thanksgiving travel. I won't have to steal away a momet or two for music, as I've had to the past few months. No, I think I can manage a bit more than that.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Parade of the damned

And everyone else, I suppose. At long last, here are photos from when John and I went to the Halloween parade in the village. It wasn't enough, of course, to simply be there, so we dressed up and got into the parade, as one is pretty much an idiot to not do, if only at least once.

This one is a picture of me on the subway, on the way to the parade. The corset was actually not as tight as I think it looks here, but it did make me long for the days when women wore these, because I must have shrunk by five or six inches around my waist. And, by the way, if anyone's wondering what we went as... we're Venetian masqueraders (or Venetian masks). I think it's a little more obvious when looking at John's costume.

See what I mean? (and you can't miss the beauty of the picture that's behind him, no doubt.)Anyway, a lot of people were running around the city in costume, most of them headed to the parade, so we weren't exactly complete sore thumbs on the subway. Still, people thought John was pretty creepy, which he absolutlely loved, and lots of people wanted pictures, which I'm sure he didn't mind posing for. Anyway, I think I can let most of the rest of the pictures speak for themselves:

Okay... these are real firemen. Back to the fakes!

And now, my favorite:

The runners of Pamplona

...and one of their bulls. These folks must have run like crazy all night! Great gag... they win the originality prize from me, hands down.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Frustration, thy name is TiVo

I must not be very bright, I imagine. I know there are countless people out there with TiVo, yet I find it increasingly difficult to set up my service. Whether it's a matter of the fates conspiring against me again, or simply an issue of sheer incompetence, the fact still remains that I'm incapable of making the TiVo gods appreciate my desire for their cooperation.

We set up the box, but it seems that the cable signal is a sometimes friend. Don't ask me why... to the best of my knowledge, everything is hooked up properly. On top of that, I have to wait until people in California wake up before I can actually activate the service, since I have a gift subscription and need special permission to so much as blink in the general vicinity of the TiVo box. Again, it could be my own genius that's making this all so difficult, but at this point there's no telling. Meanwhile, the wires in my apartment are multiplying... it is more machine than apartment now...

Speaking of which, Cinemax is doing a Star Wars marathon thing, showing all six episodes back to back to back to... well, six of them, naturally. This, suprisingly, matters. I can't say I've ever seen the damn things all at once and in their proper sequential context, so I figure it might make for good times. Besides, I married a walking trivia box when it comes to Star Wars, among other things. I can ask all sorts of random questions about the film... the movies, the related publications, the merchandising, George Lucas' dietary habits at the time of filming... and John will likely know the answer. Adds an enjoyable element to the whole thing, really. Besides, it gives him a reason for wasting so many years on learning so much otherwise pointless crap.

Oh, and as for the Halloween parade... there are indeed pictures, which will be coming along before too long. John's got them in his camera, or in his computer, and that means that I've yet to get my hands on them for posting. Not that anyone's waiting on baited breath for these things, but at least the word is out that they're en route. As for the rest of everything, we're busy as always. Nothing particularly dramatic going on (save my epic battle with the TiVo box)... school is insane in both our camps, working out at our posh gym gives us much needed solace, and New York is still very much New York (particularly now, being election season).

A bit of news that no one will care about... I got my IRB approval, which means I can finally start collecting data for the quantitative portion of my thesis. I still hate that I have to do things this way, but I'll do what I must. Mind you, I won't go down quietly; I still plan to refute my need for that sort of data in exploring my selected phenomenon. Sorry, but there's no way they're nudging me off my soapbox. I've also finally landed my placement with CASA (the Natioanal Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse at Columbia University) as a research assistant on their LEAP program... I've been gunning for this position for a year now, and it's finally paid off. We're doing work on constructing a measure at the moment, and, once again, I have huge problems with the methodology. The nice thing about working with these folks, though, is that they seem to care about what I have to say, so my kicking and screaming about this theoretical garbage might not be a lost cause after all. We'll see how it goes. Meanwhile, John's off being impressive, which still makes me sick... sure, he works hard, but COME ON! He walks into situations that don't even seem real! You know what... I don't even want to talk about it right now. Ugh.

Of course, it couldn't be a day in the life without loss of it. Someone comitted suicide yesterday morning by throwing himself in front of the 1 train over by Columbus Circle, right by campus. If that wasn't enough, I received an email yesterday telling me that one of my friends from high school, Billy (nice guy among a slew of not-so-nice ones where I was concerned), was killed in Iraq. Chances are, no one reading this knew either of these people. Hell, I only knew one of them, and never very intimately. The point, I suppose, is that they weren't so far from me somehow. Death never is, one could say. We don't like to think about it, but then again, we're drawn to it all the same, and somehow we strike a personal balance without losing it completely. That is, unless you decide to end it all by throwing yourself in front of a subway train, in which case you've pretty much given up on balance. I say live, and do it as much as you possibly can. Somehow, at least in my experience, therein lies the balance.