Friday, April 28, 2006

Oh Say, Can You See An English-Spanish Dictionary?

The immigration issue that's been spreading like VD over the past couple months has finally, inexplicably, landed on the nation's airwaves as well. Apparently, in an effort to spread the influence and presence of hispanic presence -- illegal or otherwise -- in the United States, the people organizing all the immigration marches have also commissioned a bunch of popular latino singers to record a spanish version of the Star Spangled Banner in the hopes that it will encourage a larger following of support.


I first heard about this earlier in the week, and I actually thought it was a joke. Recording a country's national anthem -- in another language -- in the hope that you will positively influence the nation to accept you into the fold -- is moronic. This is a group of illegal immigrants -- people whose first action in the country was to violate its immigration laws -- and who now demand citizenship. Um, sorry, can't help you there.

I've been buying basic housewares in NYC for the past five or six years, including tissues, toilet paper, dish soap, cleaning products, etc. All of them are packaged and labeled in both English and Spanish. For the most part, I buy these and other household staples at a deli near my apartment which is owned and quasi-operated by Koreans. They yabber back and forth at one another in korean -- or a language I suspect thereas -- but they have three or four employees who speak Spanish. All of them -- a half-dozen spanish-speakers and a few koreans -- have one thing in common -- they all can communicate in English. If the Koreans spoke only Korean and the Spanish guys only spoke spanish, and no one spoke English, I doubt very highly I'd be returning to their store, knowing I would be unable to ask them where they keep their Captain Crunch and their Cheez Doodles in either Spanish or Korean. Put another way, if I want Captain Crunch and Cheez Doodles and I'm in the middle of Korea, I'm fucked. In my travels to Mexico, if I'm looking for the above-listed munchies, I'll be sure and cross the Rio Grande into Texas and ask one o' them good-old boys for Doodles and Crunch, but 'til then, I'll be SOL. And if I am walking down the street in NYC and want the aforementioned munchies, I expect to be able to ask, in English, where they are.

The variety of Asian people in this city are either immigrants or born to families thereof. And while the large majority of Asians here are hard-working people who speak some English, some have negative impact on the City and its people -- triads/gangs, prostitution, drugs and other forms of extortion come with Asians just as with other ethnic groups. Ditto on the hispanics in Spanish Harlem and Washington Heights. But it has nothing to do with language and all to do with culture -- meaning that if someone, whether they speak Japanese, Spanish, French or Swahili, intends to live in this country, they need to assimilate into the country rather than live in a sub-culture therein. I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of people who live here who can barely communicate in English, whether as a result of a lack of intelligence or education -- or a combination of both. But the simple fact is that there is far more to a nation's culture than merely where it is geographically within the world -- its political framework, its laws and its moires are integral parts of what it means to be American. So if a person can't be bothered to learn the English words for toilet paper, how likely is it that he or she will bother to understand the concepts behind our political process, ie about the electoral college, the significance of checks and balances, and how to participate in the political process? Put another way, if a person cares so little about the country he/she calls home, then what will happen when he/she has children and populates the country with another apathetic, ignorant non-English speaker?

It's possible that my opinions come across as somewhat nasty and harsh. Good. I'm not anti-immigrant. I'm not suggesting that the majority of foreigners on American soil are criminals or bad people or bad for this country. I do, however, detest the fact that the immigration problem has gotten so far out of hand that the US has been implementing spanish-language driver's tests and other government-provided documentation for taxes, etc. Except the illegals that are being paid low-end minimum wage aren't filing documentation. And they're driving on roads that have signs that are distinctly-colored and -shaped so they don't need to know what the word "Yield" means.

Now that the cat's out of the bag -- the immigration marches requesting the US to toss out the whole legal immigration requirement and grant a bunch of illegals citizenship -- this "Nuestro Himno" seems like yet another attempt by a sub-culture more interested in simply occupying space here rather than becoming a part of the nation.

40 years ago, Jimi Hendrix ascended the stage at Woodstock and ripped through a feedback-drenched version of The Star Spangled Banner. It was largely considered as a subversive, artistic political statement. He was taking something that was dinstinctly American and turning it on its ear; at the same time, he was celebrating America and his place therein. The song still appears on every collection of Jimi Hendrix's music, and is a staple of classic rock collections and on radio.

Today's "Nuestro Himno" is not something I consider similar to Hendrix's Star-Spangled Banner. I think it's actually sort of repugnant that people who are requesting citizenship in this nation permitted, if not encouraged, this version to be released now. Instead of requesting to be permitted legal assimilation into American culture, the message -- unsaid, and unsung -- is that we're here illegally and you might as well just let us have some sort of legal status even though you don't want us here and we don't want to be here except to make better money.

That's one hell of a message to put on a picket sign or in a stanza of a radio-friendly "Nuestro Himno." At least they got the Nuestro -- "Our" -- part right.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

When Will We Learn?

Since 1979, every American president on one level or another has had to address our relations with the nations that comprise the Middle East. Aside from Egypt and Israel, however, the revolving door of leaders and regimes in that region have reliably been unreliable, inconsistent, and extremely volatile. And with each Presidency, from Jimmy Carter's to George W. Bush's, a good chunk of each President's successes and failures are directly linked to the events in the region.

Over the past year or so, we've been forced to witness the rhetoric and the rancor of Iran's recently-installed President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In addition to Mr. Ahmadinejad's inexplicable, baffling behavior vis-a-vis nuclear technology, whether for weapons or civilian-intended energy, and his blunt verbal attacks on Israel, it's fairly clear Iran's stances have created a hot spot in that region; considering the entire Middle East is a "hot spot," anything that instantly and inarguably ratchets up the heat is notable. And lest we forget, a literal stone's throw from Iran's diametric opposition to International Atomic Energy Agency conformity, there is the ongoing, no-end-in-site Iraq war.

With President Bush's approval ratings plummeting, many of his critics -- and there are many -- mostly point to the war in Iraq as the flashpoint which lit the fuse on his ticking Presidency. And while I agree with many of his critics that he has made several key errors in policy, both commission and omission, I can't help but wonder why people have become so galvanized against the war.

If the war was started simply because of this nation's interests in cheaper oil, then I could understand why the war itself was morally wrong. But even as simple and unintelligent as Bush may be, I don't believe that that was the imperative for this nation to go to war. And as we absorb story after story regarding suicide bombers, attacks on soldiers, and news accounts revealing bin Laden ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's latest attributed attacks, the one thing I wonder about is if these attacks -- and the war in Iraq -- wasn't happening, what would the "insurgents" in Iraq be doing? Where would they be? And what would they be planning elsewhere if not for the streets of Baghdad, Jordan and elsewhere? Put another way, if they were not being drawn to fight the West in Iraq, how many of them would be strapping on explosive belts and blowing themselves up in Tel Aviv or New York or Washington?

Whether or not the Bush Administration expected this contingency, ie that Islamic extremists would gravitate to Iraq to fight the West, is not irrelevant, but whether or not they forecasted this phenomenon is secondary to how it seems to be playing itself out. And inasmuch as the conflict has confined itself, thus far, largely to Iraq is interesting.

What I also found equally interesting, however, is the newly-elected leadership of the Palestinians. The group Hamas, which has been conducting terror operations in Israel for the past 15 years, has not used flowery language to hide the fact that they want to destroy Israel. However, yesterday an interesting news items was published on CNN here, in which Jordan discovered Hamas was smuggling weapons to be used for terror plots against Jordanians by Hamas. Of course Hamas denied the charges, but as Jordan described how Hamas members in Syria were stockpiling these weapons on Jordanian soil, and then invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to inspect the weapons, the situation prompted him to describe the situation as increasingly "dangerous and ugly."

It seems to me the point of these two stories, in tandem with Iran's desire to obtain nuclear technology, suggests that the doors, as Warren Zevon opined in his final album, are coming off the hinges. Iran, incidentally, has called for the dissolution of Israel and has threatened, if hit with sanctions over its "non-military" nuclear program, to both share the nuclear technology with other nations and to target US interests if military force is used against its nuclear production site.

Things are never simple in the Middle East, and while I understand -- on some level -- that the war in Iraq has shifted the focus, in one sense, to Baghdad and not to Tel Aviv, Washington, New York or Los Angeles, it seems to me that the heat is ramping up. Friday is the deadline for Iran to dismantle its nuclear program, which is clear it will not do voluntarily. So two days from now we'll see where this is going next. The one thing that is beneficial over this escalating situation is that we haven't heard a thing about North Korea's nuclear ambitions, which means that the spotlight -- and the pressure -- is off Kim Jong Il to quietly dismantle that nuclear program without losing face. In either case, the worry should be that men with ill will and some semblance of irrational behavior have the technology at their disposal to attack neighbors not with conventional military options but those which could eradicate cities, not in a matter of days or months but minutes.

Now, more than ever, duck and cover seems increasingly less an option and more a luxury that we don't have and never will again.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Old, New, SOS, and A Bit More

This past weekend, still fresh in my mind and body, was a study in contrast -- for half thereof, it was rainy, windy and cold, and the other half was sunny, comfortable and uplifting. And the weather was freakish, too.

First of all, this weekend marked the first hockey playoff game for the New York Rangers since 1997, the first year both Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier wore the same sweater since each (on separate terms) departed the city of Edmonton. That year was a bit more memorable than most: the Rangers went much farther than anyone expected, but their season ended with a loss rather than a win.

So Saturday's return to playoff hockey was bittersweet for me; obviously I was excited knowing my team was back -- at least in theory -- in the thick of the hunt. But, while the Rangers had a great season and had the chance to win their division, they wound up collapsing down the stretch -- five straight losses in unspirited, by-the-numbers fashion -- and limped into the post-season. And then Saturday, facing the New Jersey Devils, who are their biggest rivals, and who rode a 10-game win-streak into the playoffs on the back of their Hall of Fame caliber goaltender Martin Brodeur.

And the Rangers, in awful fashion, threw the game away and lost 6-1. Penalties, mental mistakes, turnovers, etc. As they say in France, feh.

Meanwhile, since it was rainy, I wound up doing a bunch of catch-up work at home -- and managed to get a bunch of new movies/stuff queued up: Syriana, Hostel, Wolf Creek, The Family Guy Movie, The Transporter 2, Sarah Silverman's Jesus Is Magic, Just Friends, Kinky Boots, Munich and Prime. I only managed to watch Hostel and The Transporter 2, and a little of The Family Guy, as I spent a bunch of the days running around and then a little time Friday night out with a friend.

Hostel, by the way, was a horror movie directed by Eli Roth ("Cabin Fever") but conspicuously was advertised with the tagline "Quentin Tarantino Presents" -- meaning that QT signed off on this film, ramping it up at least a couple notches on the legitimacy scale. So between that and the promise that this film would somehow scar your mind and scare you half to death, I -- in a dark apartment over a rainy evening -- fired it up in otherwise complete silence. Watching this kind of film alone, in the dark, late at night, somehow seems about as intelligent as one shaving his scrotum with a rusty cheese grater.

Yet I persevered.

And to be frank, it was a good film but it wasn't the scare-fest I expected. The early-80's horror films -- Halloween, Friday The 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street, Cocoon -- those are scary movies. They all have some of the same things in common -- supernatural, eternal bad guy, spooky music, incredibly taut suspense, and a lot of corpses. In contrast, Hostel, much like Saw and Saw 2, wasn't just a gore-fest (yeah, it's very gory and very repulsive and very nauseating -- mmmm, good), but it was the proverbial "mind-fuck." By that term I mean movies that put someone -- an ordinary, typical person you might know, or you might be -- in difficult situations, whether moral entanglements, life-or-death decisions, or simply one person playing with another's mind. It's more on a par with the movie Se7en, starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt. That movie wasn't a horror movie, but presented a variety of characters -- some of whom were John Doe's victims -- who were forced to make choices. Hostel was brutal, graphic and disgusting, but it wasn't really scary -- the premise, which I won't reveal herein, is actually quite plausible, except given the big picture, I think there are far worse things happening around the world than what was being depicted in this particular film, so the revelation(s) therein weren't horrific to me.

Personally, I think the scene at the end of the first Halloween movie, when the Doctor (good guy Donald Pleasance) shoots Michael Myers (aka the bad guy) off the balcony and he lands flat on his back, dead, on the lawn, only to suddenly sit up, is far scarier than anything I witnessed in Saw, Saw 2 and Hostel combined. Watching a movie like Se7en, The Game, or even Saw, the concepts and the ideas being presented are twisted, but they're more intellectually disturbing than purely frightening. Perhaps the difference is irrelevant but for me, anyway, I find the horror tag is being applied to gross-out movies that would never have been made save the improvement in technology since blood and gore was first the sole reason to make, let alone see, a movie.

* * *

Kaia spent part of the weekend at her parents' house, as her dad was out of town for a high school reunion so she and her mom had a girls' weekend. We hung out a bit here and there, but we both wound up doing odds and ends, errands and other checklist items -- and nap -- so by the time the weekend wound down, we both felt like we hadn't spent enough time together. I'm sure we'll correct that problem, but it struck me as interesting how, after 18 months (holy shit), we still crave each other. And as per usual, even though I got a bunch of stuff done this weekend, I still didn't feel quite complete until she and I spent last night talking and getting to sleep. Until next month, that's about as good as it gets -- and I know I could complain, but it could be lots worse, so for now I'll focus on the good and forget the rest.

For now, anyway.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Welcome to Duke University, Inmate #113132

It's not so much that there are some pretty repulsive allegations being addressed in the media. It's not that it's a black, working-class single mother who was performing as a stripper at a private, off-campus Lacrosse party attended by mainly young white guys. It's not so much that a variety of these guys have criminal records as a result of assault and other physically anti-social behavior in a number of settings.

It's that none of this should be national news until someone is convicted, whether of rape, kidnapping, assault or perjury.

Every time I see the two players' faces from Duke who were indicted this week, I recall memories of Tawana Brawley, Al Sharpton, and then the Menendez brothers (Kyle and Eric), and subsequently I harken back to the good old days when we didn't get force-fed these types of cases by lawyers looking merely to gain the public's trust with what usually amounts to grandstanding and bullshit. What is disturbing about this particular case are the particulars: there was no DNA match between any of the players at the party and the complainant; after the 30-minute assault apparently occurred, rather than go right to the police, the woman opted to go to a supermarket; and finally, there had been some sort of dispute that led to the woman and a friend of hers leaving the premises, only to return a bit later, at which time, she claims, the assult occurred.

If she indeed was sexually assaulted, I feel badly for her. Personally, I think there's a lot more to the story than she's revealing -- hence the mention of Tawana Brawley's name. However, what is also disturbing is Duke's willingness, up to the national scope of this matter, to ignore the obvious problems inherent with the lacrosse team's blatant behavioral issues. Based on a number of sources I've seen over the past week or two, there are a variety of on-campus and off-campus complaints against the lacrosse team during the past few years, which include things like disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, and assault with intent to commit bodily harm. In other words, there are at least a few members of this team who have been acting like thugs for awhile and the University hasn't done a thing about it.

I don't really care one way or the other about this case, excepting the fact that if this woman was indeed assaulted by these students (I can't rightly refer to them as men) than I hope those responsible are punished severely. If she indeed is the second coming of Tawana Brawley, then I hope she is punished. And I hope that any attorneys involved with this case who have made false statements to the press merely to sway the court of public opinion are found in contempt and fined exorbitantly.

Moreover, if it's not to much to ask, I'd hope that one day these types of repulsive crimes stop and that attorneys for the people that perpetrate them are forced to find legitimate, non-self-serving work.

In the meantime, back in reality, this case -- and its messy, contradicting details -- are just beginning to surface, and it will be quite some time before -- if ever -- this all gets unraveled, all before our waiting, hungry eyes. Better get your anti-nausea pills -- you're (eventually) going to need them.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

News, Notes, and Getting Lowdown In The Street

There are myriad things wrong in the world, but reading about Tom Cruise's intention to eat the placenta upon Katie Holmes giving birth was high on the list indeed. I found a series of posts over at the newly-repopulated Bennelli Brothers site. It's about time Captain, Sal, Mo and yes, even Razor, were back in the fold. Dunno what happened to 'em but they're back and better'n ever.

Meanwhile, New York City is getting downright comfy weather-wise. Therefore, it'll be no time at all that we New Yorkers will start complaining about the weather again. "It's too hot," I can hear them whine, as the bus inches through traffic amid heatwaves rising from the nearly-bubbling asphalt streets. And with the heat comes BO...BAD BO...the kind of BO that inspires people to relocate. Ah, spring is in the air.

Speaking of NYC, I am spending an hour a night over in New Jersey, killing mobsters, hijacking trucks, extorting and bullying drivers, and, of course, starting the occasional mob war. Thus far I have cleared Brooklyn and Jersey of all non Corleone influences, except I have not yet put the Straaci family out of business for good. But, within the next 48 hours, I intend to bomb their compound and take it over, so once I do, I'll be halfway home to becoming Don. So be nice ;)

Yes, I'm referring to The Godfather by EA. If you have a few days to yourself and have a decently-powered PC, I highly recommend it. But plan on forfeiting sleep and social engagements for about six weeks after you install it -- it's that addictive. The one saving grace is that I can run around like a maniac and still have philosophically engaging conversations with Kaia, who roots me on and encourages me to shoot everyone, including police officers. With her encouragement, I'm less morally ambivalent about enjoying a game this violent, nasty and repulsive knowing somewhere, somehow, a 12-year-old is doing the same things I am, only quicker, more efficiently and with less moral hesitance than me.

Did I mention it's spring?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Usual, By Numbers, and The New Crop

Things more often than not work as we expect them to; it’s always nice to be surprised, in a good way, but for the most part, things are pretty much straightforward and what you’d expect. That is, quite possibly, the very essence of being jaded.

Yet, all the same, a small assortment of news stories – the impending resignations or changes in employment of Scott McClellan and Karl Rove, a retired general bashing Donald Rumsfeld in the media, the tram connecting Manhattan and Roosevelt Island losing power and stranding 60+ riders traveling into/from Manhattan – these still have me, on some level, shaking my head. The political stuff isn’t really surprising, and I’m told Rolling Stone has already prepped its next cover story which asks whether George W. Bush is one of America’s worst presidents ever. These same types of commentaries shrouded Jimmy Carter’s presidency as well, but Carter’s intelligence and perseverance in foreign policy after his lame-duck term ended insured his legacy improved after he left office. “W” doesn’t appear to have the ambition, the discipline, the forethought, the understanding or the intelligence that Carter has exhibited, so it could very well be Shitsville for W. and his merry band of flannel-suited men. Personally, I don’t think he’s one of this country’s worst presidents – I’m still waiting on what happens in the next 18 months vis-à-vis Roe v. Wade – but his cache is definitely headed down with a bullet.

Off On A Rant/Tangent

Meanwhile, in less significant news, and in tandem with my thoughts on being jaded, I watched Saw II the other night. I could say I went out to the store and bought me a copy – on Valentine’s Day, even, the day it came out – but that would be a lie. I did what most teenagers and college students do – I downloaded it. Had I not done that, I would have waited til Showtime ran it rather than bought it, but neither here nor there – it was probably worth me picking up a copy in the store, and eventually, I will probably do so. If you’ve seen the first movie, you’ll know that there was a lot of gore, blood, panic, mayhem and violence. Ditto the second film. There aren’t really any spoilers here that I need to explore, but if you enjoyed the first film, you’ll find this to be nearly its equal. The only let-down, of course, is that this sequel, much like those from M. Night Shyamalan, already hits the screen with some expected baggage: you expect blood and gore, you expect a mystery of some sort, and you expect some bizarre, unique twists to stick with you well after you’ve managed the parking lot or the cab-ride back home. It's nice when a movie meets or exceeds these types of preconceived expectations, and Saw II does so.

Needless to say, I’m sort of ambivalent about this whole genre. I’m not referring to the “I Know What You Did Last Sequel” movies, nor am I talking about the “Scream” franchise; those are more about showcasing young talent and less about cinematic statements. I’m more referring to movies like “Se7en,” “Saw,” “Hostel” and “Wolf Creek” (I’d include “Silent Hill” in that grouping but I haven’t seen enough thereof to comment thus far).

The point is that these movies are far from examples of cinema verite; these are movies which are designed not only to frighten with cheap, cat-jumping-off-a-bookshelf-type jumpiness, but with sadistic, twisted motives forcing characters to make repulsive, which-of-two-lesser-evils choices. "Se7en," frankly, was even more disturbing than the other films on this short list because David Fincher, its director, used classical literature, from Dante’s Inferno to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales to the Bible, to injecta sense of intelligence and legitimacy into what could really have been merely a bloody, repulsive mess. The essence of this film, and the others on this list, are that they all revel in being twisted. The ideals of retribution, vengeance and justice shine heavily herein, even if these components are, more often than not, covered in blood, ooze and/or sludge.

Saw II, incidentally, was produced by an entity known as Twisted Pictures. The animated logo thereof shows barbed wire twisting and tightening around the letters comprising the entity's name, so even before a character hits the screen, you know what you're in for. I’m not exactly sure when we made that leap from merely looking for some cheap thrills from some ridiculously unbelievable horror movies (Friday The 13th, Halloween, etc.) to these mind-fucking expositions into the darkness of the human soul, but one thing is for sure – we've crossed a line. The past genre of horror movies were more about jumpy, tense, terse, brutal killing -- these new movies attack in ways that are far more psychological; due to technology and a new generation of kids who grew up with the prior genre as their textbook, the physical gore isn't gone, it's just old-hat. Why show someone something gross onscreen when you can imply it and let their imaginations do the work for you?

With the Saw films, assuming one can suspend disbelief for 90 minutes at a time and is open to seeing something on film that one will, hopefully, never witness in his/her own life, they’re worth watching. And even if one cannot suspend disbelief for that period of time, at the very least one can watch and marvel at the degrees we as a society are working to gross out our fellow citizens. If you haven’t seen either of the Saw films, I’d definitely suggest seeing the first one. As far as Se7en, the cast includes Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey – how could it really be bad?

About the only requirements necessary for any of these films is viewing them on an empty stomach and most definitely when it’s dark out – bonus points if it’s rainy and storming.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Surrealistically Detached

It just doesn't get any weirder.

On the one hand, everything is great -- the birds are singing and the sun is shining and Spring, despite losing an hour a few weeks ago, is in full swing. And yes, that's a good thing -- the weather is nice and NYC is, once again, palatable and downright lovely a setting in which to walk around.

Despite Kaia's back bothering her, she's doing better -- and while that tormented me, ie me being here and her being all the way over there -- things are, as per usual, wonderful.

Meanwhile, however, I've got a couple meetings this afternoon and another few high-on-the-list priority items to handle. The clock, as I've indicated countless times before, is always ticking, but it's just a question of how loudly and how much time before it stops ticking and something else invariably goes Boom. So I'm essentially heading downtown with the iPod and a bag full of files and hoping that everything goes relatively smoothly. I converted a couple episodes of the Chappelle Show to play back on the iPod (it's one o' them new-fangled video iPods) and I'm looking forward to a 22-minute train ride downtown. Problem is, I've got so much floating around between my ears that it's hard to focus on anything but everything. It's sort of like being in that commercial where a shitload of cars go whizzing by some Doof in real time; everything is happening at once, yet it's like running at top speed on a treadmill.

And the strangest part of all is my desk at work; normally it's littered with papers, folders, post-its and a variety of other chazerei that need my attention immediately. Now, however, post carpet-install, the desk is almost completely bare, aside from a file I need to review in order to prepare an Opinion Letter, another file I have for the client I need to meet in an hour, and a few other odds and ends (including a JBL OnStage II iPod speaker system -- very hot). So as things heat up -- the backdrop of Passover, Easter and the recalcitrant deadlines and impositions they invite to my world -- everything is at blistering speed and yet everything seems strangely, almost terrifyingly, calm.

Go figger. Must've been the four plus glasses of wine last night.

Or as they say in the Catskills: One seder down, one to go.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Almost Time

The expression "when it rains, it pours" might be another irritating cliche, but it seems to describe my life perfectly.

We survived the installation of new carpet in our office with relative aplomb; considering that every piece of furniture, aside from a few huge -- and full -- filing cabinets had to be emptied and the contents thereof boxed up and placed in a corner or window ledge, we handled the move -- two days of prep and another three days post-install -- very well. Granted, we were in over the weekend and we did plenty of sweating and tiresome, difficult work. Plugging everything back in, reconnecting the wires, cables, and connectors, getting our network back up and working -- these are not very exciting tasks, but it was a change to get dirty from head to toe while crawling under, over and around desks for sockets, wires and the random items that, quite literally, fall between the cracks.

On top of that, life -- ie work -- goes on. So it's a challenge being able to juggle our office preparation with actual office work -- especially if a client calls wanting a status update and half of my folders are in a box in a corner of our equipment/network room. Tapdancing around everything, even explaining the office is in a bit of disarray due to the new carpeting, isn't a viable excuse, so every time the phone rings, the clock starts ticking and the pressure exponentially rises. Nothing new, actually.

Meanwhile, on top of all that, another conundrum befitting Socrates crossed my desk. Clients of mine, who are frummy -- aka more observant than mere orthodox jews -- called me early this morning to follow up on one of their matters. There's a bit of time pressure -- as per usual -- with their request as they will not be available over the next couple days due to it being Passover, so I wanted to get that question answered for them ASAP. The problem is that meant I needed to touch base with several people who work for the City of New York, who, invariably, are looking forward to Good Friday and Easter, and who, for the most part, are expecting to leave today and not return until Monday, as many people celebrating their holiday need a day of travel time, so it seems that all the hebes and the non-hebes alike are expecting today to be it for the week (not to mention the fun that will await me, in the middle, come Monday morning). So I needed to assuage my frummy client regarding status and progress while being sympathetic to the woes of city workers that intend on evacuating this area and hit the Southeast or the deep South over the next 24 hours. It's a weird position to be in, and it only happens every so often, sort of like when Christmas and Chanukkah coincide on the calendar.

In the meantime, not spending my time with Kaia has mostly its cons. I find, when I come through the door at night, that my apartment is much darker and colder without her here. While she was here, she would spend most of her workday in my place rather than bother going to her office, so it was nice dialing my home number and knowing she was somewhere in my place, keeping it warm. Having her back in San Fran, however temporary, just doesn't seem right, and not having her next to me at tonight's Seder (it's the whole Passover thing) will once again remind me that the phone is not an adequate substitute for human contact. The one "pro," if it can be considered that, is since I got a copy of "The Godfather" game by Electronic Arts for the PC, I have lost all track of time. I don't remember the last time I bought a game -- I buy, maybe, two games a year if at all. Since I don't have time to enjoy them (or the proclivity I once had to do so) I just stopped altogether. But seeing the ad for the game (and hearing a lot about it from all different kinds of people/reviewers), I dropped the $40 and got me a copy. Two words: holy shit. It's as if someone took me and dropped me in the middle of the first Godfather film. On top of the fact that you take part in rather than simply watch a lot of the key scenes from the first movie (aka the killing of Luca Brasi, the Salozzo attempt on the Godfather's life, the hospital scene, the revenge against Salozzo, etc.) it amazes me the quality of the graphics and the interaction that the game offers.

Kaia was here when the package arrived, so we both got a chance to watch -- first-hand -- how incredible the game actually is, and she was almost as blown away as I was. I didn't spend much time playing it, though, while she was here, because I didn't want to neglect her or fail to spend time with her. Since she left, however, I've managed to get an hour or so in each night over the past week, save a couple nights. Spending time with her is a lot more important than any game, but since she and I are back on opposite coasts (and differing time zones) it makes it a bit easier for me to start mob wars, extort businesses, check off names on my hit list and throw bad guys off bridges or into bakery ovens that much more easy. It's not for the faint of heart -- it's (obviously) extremely violent and very vulgar and raw -- but it is well worth the $40 that admission demands.

We're heading out of the office early this afternoon to head out to Jersey for some much-needed family time. To those of you who celebrate Passover, enjoy your family and your holiday. To those who celebrate Easter, enjoy your family and your holiday. And to those who celebrate neither, go get yourself a copy of The Godfather and start raising hell. And fer chrissakes, when the bullets are whizzing by and you don't know what to do, break out a Molotov cocktail and toss it at the bad guys, or load up your Thompson and open fire on everything you see. Either one works for me ;)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Where Am I?

The last time I made it successfully into and out of these pages, it was the day prior to my 36th birthday, I had just completed a deadline for work, and I was barely holding onto my sanity.

Well, I'm pleased to report that I survived my 36th birthday and the requisite fun that surrounded it without resembling the artist's rendering at right. No bail money, no physical labor, and no breakin' rocks on the side of the road.

Of course, not everything worked out how I would have liked...but the fact that I finally made it back here is a testament to the will of human spirit.

On March 23rd, Kaia hit NYC -- as many of you know -- and while I've tried keeping tabs on our visits with periodic updates while she's been here, this time I found it a bit more difficult to do so; not only was it difficult to keep up with work due to the stress levels, since she and I were doing so much running around (and so much hanging out) I opted to keep mental notes on our goings-on rather than do incremental updates. I could and should have warned you, but aside from a dozen people checking in to make sure we were both okay (and not suddenly new residents of some island in the Bahamas or some chateau in Europe), no harm, no foul. To those of you who regularly checked in and/or got in touch with me to make sure we were fine, I appreciate it, and to you -- and all of the regular and irregular visitors here, I apologize for my extended absence. It occurred to me, incidentally, that this past three weeks was the longest I've been away from this space since its inception in November, 2004, and as much as we were busy having fun and living la vida loca (yeah, right) I did sense something missing. So I apologize and pledge I won't be spending any more significant time away from here without issuing some prior warning, assuming that decision is a wilful one within my control.

Without ignoring the past few weeks, let me just say that my birthday -- March 17th -- was a blast. I spent time with a friend or two in mellow, restrained fashion. I was a bit conflicted, because I wanted to celebrate but it didn't feel right doing so without Kaia here. She sent me a big care package and we hit the webcams prior to my opening it, but the only real thing I wanted for my birthday was her and I to spend time together. So I sort of postponed celebrating until the 23rd, when she arrived. I spent time with my family in NJ the weekend of my birthday and we had a nice time, but again, not having her there with us felt strange.

By the weekend, we'd spent time at the W on the terrace, running around NYC, spending time with friends, doing some shopping and some more running around. Honestly, not chronicling our time together was a mistake on my part, because, as per usual, it seemed like two days ago that she landed and I saw her in the lobby of the W for the first time. The only thing that confirms she was here for two weeks was the fact we'd managed to catch two episodes of The Sopranos as well as some Family Guy re-runs, episodes of Top Chef, The Apprentice and My Name Is Earl.

Late this afternoon, after I'd finished all my work downtown, I managed to grab a train back up to my place to spend our last hour or so together before she had to taxi back to the airport. And as per usual, despite my best intentions, I realized, as I wheeled her bags out my front door and to the curb to hail her a taxi, that I am crazy for letting her leave. We have so much fun together, no matter what, where or with whom we're with, that we wind up giggling, trading knowing glances and just moving through life without hesitation, discord or awkwardness. Hopefully this won't be repetitive, but when you find someone with whom you can't see being without, it's especially hard watching her climb into a taxi and out of your life, even if it's only for a month or two.

I think the hardest part of her leaving is knowing, as I made my way into my apartment, that I'd be alone again for the first time in two weeks.

Self-pity aside, we're looking at me, hopefully, heading to San Fran in May. We're getting new carpeting in our office this weekend, so it's essentially forced us to get prepared for a full-fledged move, as all our files and furniture and equipment will be relocated to allow the carpet people to do the install. That should keep me especially busy between client phone calls over the weekend into Monday, and between that and my grandmother's impending move, there's lots happening outside our own little bubble, as is always the case. But tonight, getting into bed is something I'll be doing alone, and that is something that I am not looking forward to reacquainting myself.

Prior to Kaia and I dating, a friend asked me how I felt about my ex-fiancee and I living together. In response to his question about the OCD, the mood swings, the constant depression and the omnipresent paranoid concerns, I confessed I wasn't sure but I thought I could live with her. He responded "Marriage, and living together, isn't about being able to live with someone, but the inability to live without someone."

This afternoon, as I contemplated sleeping in a dark, empty apartment, I finally realized what he meant.

For better or worse.