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  • Last Books Read

    Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - (K) Humorous and thorough history and science behind ultrarunners and long-distance running
    *****
    Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela - (K) An autobiography covering his childhood, years as a freedom fighter and incarceration. Inspiring and informative
    *****
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - (K&T) A mystery set in Barcelona involving an old book, a failed writer and murder
    *****
    Lush Life by Richard Price - A Lower East Side tale of cops, drugs and drinking
    ***
    The Chinese by Jesper Becker - (K&T) Modern history of my peeps, from the cultural revolution to the many failed economic and social attempts to move the country forward
    ***
    Setting the Table by Danny Meyer - A "how-to" on hospitality and business acumen by the restaurateur behind such NY institutions as the Shake Shack and Union Square Grill
    ***
    The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama - Obama lays out what is wrong with the current government and how, vaguely, to change it.
    **

Tim visits

My friends Tim and Dacia have been traveling through South America since this summer.  I miss them, but have been reading about their big adventure on their blogs:  stadtplanet.blogspot.com and daciachristin.blogspot.com.  Tim’s family is in Long Island, so he decided to come home for the holidays, and he came into the city yesterday.

The Tims

Tim and me

Our first Seattle Guests!

Over the holidays, we had our first 2 sets of Seattle guests came to NY. Only, we were not here to receive them, as we went to Arizona for Christmas. However, our apartment was here, so we were happy to have Lori and her mom as well as Heidi and Phil here…even if we didn’t get to see them.

Christmas with the Sales: On Risk and World Domination

Risk

For Christmas, Diesel got Drew the game Risk. I had never played it before, because growing up, the game always seemed too complicated to me. But it’s not. In fact, it now tops my list as one of the best games ever.

Diesel, Drew, David (his brother) and I decided to play it one morning. I was doing good. In fact, i was doing REALLY good. Which is why Diesel masterminded a plan to turn ALL players against me. Attacks on all fronts. Why would a husband do that to his OWN wife? I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him.

Fortunately for me David had to go change a diaper or something, so Dad Sale took over. And then he did it. He broke the alliance and joined ME. And we took Drew down. And then Diesel. We were the last superpowers standing, and it felt good.

Christmas with the Sales

As Diesel mentioned below, we left last Thursday for Mesa, AZ, where we would be spending Christmas with his family. His brother and sister-in-law were there as well with their two little girls, so having them and Drew around was fun. We spent a lot of family time just sitting around the table and talking, baking, cooking, eating unrestrainedly, and just hanging out.

Fortunately for me, I have great in-laws, so it was a good time. I did miss my family though, but I’ll get to see them soon.

Clinton Street Baking Company

After a red-eye flight from Phoenix aided by some Ambien and a short nap after arriving at home, Kelly and I made our way to the Clinton Street Baking Company. The CSBC has garnered a ton of great reviews and everyone tends to rave about it. One bite of the thick and fluffy banana walnut pancakes coated in maple butter sauce, which at least 50% of the patrons seem to get, was reason enough why. They are some of the most delicious pancakes I’ve ever had.

Kelly’s buttermilk biscuit, egg & bacon sandwich with tomato relish was less of a hit. The biscuit is just too big for what’s in the middle. And it would be better with sausage instead of bacon. It was still good though and I would head back to get some biscuits to go, loading them up with honey and butter at home (and maybe some homemade sausage?).

The Cut

Another story begins with a text message and after the response and a call, I decided it was too far and too much. Having grown up in a military family, it was hard to get to $35 in Seattle, much less $57 here in NY. I went for a walk in the chilly, afternoon air. I went looking for a better solution. Something in the middle.

A few blocks away I peered a slender, long-haired woman in the window diligently going about her work. She was alone except for her sole customer. I walked in and spoke something along the lines of “Do you do men too?” My voice pierced the quiet delicateness of the environment.
A hushed “yes” and nod in response and a finger pointed at the closest chair. Feeling a bit like the elephant in the china shop, I took a seat, making sure not to knock anything over. The universal symbol of 5 fingers headed in my direction to let me know it would be a few minutes.

Seconds later I was directed to the raised chair and without words, clothed in a black & white striped cape….paper collar brought between my neck and the nylon. And again she leaves.

After finishing with her other customer, she returned and quietly asked “How do you like it?”

If she hadn’t been right next to my ear, I wouldn’t have heard her.

“Short on the sides. Longer on the top. I guess… Something like that. It’s been over a month since I’ve had it cut” I’ve had the same haircut for years and I still don’t know how to explain it to anybody. It doesn’t seem that complicated, but I just don’t know the vocabulary. I throw in that last sentence in the hopes that it will give somebody a clue how short it should be, as if everyone’s grows at the same rate. Awaiting a few more questions for clarity, I’m a bit concerned when none come. She picks up a pair of scissors that look like they are straight from a child’s toy box (ya know, the scissors surrounded in plastic so a kid can’t seriously hurt themselves) and starts to cut maybe 1 cm off the top.

I wait to say anything, unsure if this is just like the setup for the bigger cutting to come. Unfamiliar with what exactly the process is for cutting I hold my tongue, but after a few minutes with no change, I speak up.

“You can take more off”

“OK” is the response, but the additional 1 mm that starts to come off is still far short of what I want, but now I’m embarrassed to say much more. She starts on the sides, again cutting maybe 1 mm off and I’m thinking that a good inch needs to come out. I finally speak up again. “Shorter please. Much shorter.”

The sole customer turns out to be a co-worker and she interjects something in Russian or some Eastern European language that grabs the cutter’s attention. She looks back at me, nods, and walks off.

I hear her digging around in some cabinets that I cannot see. She returns with a set of clippers. My face turns to happiness. Hers to concern. Now I’m concerned. Does she have that look because she thinks that I don’t know what’s best for me or is she concerned because she hasn’t used these clippers in like 10 years? I keep the smile on my face to mask my own growing concern inside.

She starts to trim the sides and despite at first starting to look like Adolf, the cut comes around and in the end, while a bit shorter than I’d like (I KNOW – never happy), it is OK. I’m happy. She seems relieved. And it cost only $30. I thought it was $45 going in but it turns out that was for a women’s cut, not a man’s. She spent like 45 minutes cutting my hair and in the end it came out just fine.

I felt like we accomplished something in that salon. Together. Without words. I feel like I know owe it to her to return…and myself. At least she’ll know next time what almost exactly I want.

We’ll see what i think in a month…

Little Old Ladies Magnet

My friend Anna from Barcelona once told me about the several occasions she has brought friends from all over the world to meet her mom. Upon meeting the new visitors, Anna’s mom, in all her naive friendliness, tries to strike up a conversation with the strangers, all in Catalan. Confusion sets in on the strangers’ faces, and she realizes they do not understand her. So she speaks again. Louder. Slower. In Catalan. When Anna explains that these people don’t understand a word of Catalan, she gets it. And then she speaks again. Louder. Slower. In Spanish, which they don’t understand either.

Which brings me back to NYC.

As per a previous post, I often get asked for directions. Amongst those who have approached me have been many very old Asian ladies. The story is always similar. First they gently tap on my shoulder. After a long stare confirming that I am, indeed, Asian, they proceed to ask me questions. It’s always in some foreign Asian language. And I never understand what they’re saying. So I smile and shake my head to indicate that I don’t understand. But they try again. Pointing, speaking louder, speaking slower. In Vietnamese, in Japanese, in Cambodian, in Cantonese, but you see, never in English. I’ve resigned to always nodding and agreeing with them. My acquiesce to questions I do not have a clue about might result in a Vietnamese lady ending up going the wrong direction on the subway and landing in Queens (as it happened to me once) or a Cantonese lady getting callous feet after being sent in the opposite direction of her destination, etc.

In all cases I will most understandably accept these gentle, friendly, senior citizens’ rage, whose only mistake was to ask me for directions. But really, whatcha gonna do?