Sunday, July 26, 2009

Snapshot Book Review: You or Someone Like You

You or Someone Like You You or Someone Like You by Chandler Burr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Burr does a phenomenal job of appealing to readers of all types: those who enjoy easy-read, name-dropping, fast-talking high-profiles-in-busy-cities sort of novels (by putting Howard in the upper echelon of the movie industry in--where else?--LA); those who enjoy books seasoned with literature references (by making both Howard and Anne literature professors and by creating a family dynamic by which these characters communicate with each other and with their son via these references); and those who are seeking insight into cultural and religious institutions (by tackling the subject of Jewish identity). Moreover, the style of the writing is not such that it would put off any one reader, and so each type is drawn into the other two threads of the story almost without choice.The case concerning Jewish identity is one I can relate to, being born of a Jewish father and a Protestant mother. Yet, I have never considered the potential for this as a basis for struggle or even division. It is one of those matters I have glossed over in my life, perhaps always feeling something was a bit amiss but pushing it to the side, since I know that--being born of a non-Jewish mother--I am not technically Jewish and therefore do not need to know much more than how to answer the question that inevitably comes when someone learns my last name: "you're jewish, right?"

This is a brave novel, as it addresses a subject that will undoubtedly draw criticism and hateful reactions. Just as Anne's character attests, however, literature is meant to show us realities we do not want to face, and that is why so much of the greatest literature was hated in its day. This novel will certainly be hated by some. For my part, I will recommend it to those who I believe can approach the question with open minds and open hearts--and perhaps a love of literature, as well.

Discover more about the book at

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Snapshot Book Review: Because I Love Her

Because I Love Her Because I Love Her by Nicki Richesin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a beautiful collection of essays written by women about their daughters--usually young daughters--told through reflections about their relationships with their mothers. I think mothers, particularly young ones, will take the most from reading this collection, but even without having a daughter of my own, I related to many of the messages the writers convey through their small pieces. Essays that struck me in particular include:

  • "Cutting the Purse Strings" by Heather Swain
  • "Other People’s Mothers" by Katrina Onstad
  • "A Girl Grows in Brooklyn" by Sara Woster
  • "Mother Hunting" by Kaui Hart Mennings
  • "What I Would Tell Her" by Rachel Sarah

I would recommend this book to all women who either adore or abhor their mothers and want to reflect just a little bit more on that relationship.

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Michael Jackson: Quote of a Lifetime

I read this quote in the AM New York (for those who don't live in NYC, this is a free publication that is handed out at subway entrances Mon-Fri), and I felt like it was something I should have said. So I am--to steal a recent turn of phrase--"re-tweeting" it, albeit without Twitter:
"Ever since I could breath air, I have known Michael Jackson. He taught me my ABCs, he taught me I could heal the world. . . . He told me to remember the time when we fell in love, and I do."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Run for Central Park

Somehow, I managed to surprise myself again. Don't ask me how this happens--I honestly don't know where these running performances come from, particularly considering that a) I've been running "seriously" for less than a year and b) I haven't trained with a true running team or received any sort of coaching in over 8 months (i.e. the last time I ran with the Harriers). The only thing I can attribute this to is having been trained as a swimmer and having been the the underdog in that sport for so many years: suffering through practices I could barely complete; sprinting through sets that were intended for "recovery" just to make the times; and pitifully losing every race I swam, making me the last swimmer left in the pool--one of the most humiliating experiences any swimmer can endure. Through all this, the mantras I learned (as corny as they sound) were: "Keep going," "You can't quit now," and, "The pain will only last through the end of this set/race/etc.; you can handle it."

These are the same mantras I apply to running. Whether I need to talk myself into finishing the last two miles of a 20-mile run or to keep myself at "sprint speed" in a 4-mile race, I rely upon my previous mental training to pull me through. This doesn't explain how I have managed to excel at this running business so quickly--I never achieved this sort of success in swimming, and I put in equal, if not more effort there--but perhaps I have stumbled upon a sport where I am lucky enough to possess a "natural gift."

In any event, all this speculation arises due to the results of my latest race, a 4-miler which took place this past Saturday. It was wicked-hot: 86F high for the day, with 94% humidity. I had run miserably slow runs all week long, so I didn't expect to do particularly well, but I gave it my all and somehow I pulled out a 7 min/mile pace by some odd fluke. If you'd like to see ranking results, you can check them out here.

Note: There were 207 female participants in my age group. By some weird happenstance, that puts me in the top 10% of 20-24 yr-old finishers!

My Own Place

I have a goal.

Today, I take the momentous step of resigning my lease. I have spent all morning cleaning the apartment, not only because it is “my week” to do so, but also because I want to make a good impression on my landlord, just in case that should have anything to do with his raising or lowering my rent (and so I have leverage in saying that I am a good, responsible tenant when I argue that our internet connection is shoddy).

However, as I clean burnt soya sauce out of the crevices of our stovetop burners, pick strands of black hair out of our front doormat, and open the box of Swiffer sheets that I bought three weeks ago (meaning they should have been opened by those whose duties it is to clean on their designated weekends by now…), I cannot help but make a resolution. At this time next year, I am determined that I will be signing a lease to an apartment for ONE. It might be the shoddiest thing you’ve ever seen, it might be the size of a closet and require performing Cirque de Soli contortions to get into the shower, but I am resolved to live by myself.

As good as these roommates have been in the series of roommates I have had in my life, they are still roommates and therefore still earn a share of my resentment for not living precisely as I do. They do not meet my cleanliness standards (I can think of few people who would), they leave their belongings in “shared” spaces in a sprawling “I own this area” fashion (unfair!), they leave all apartment handiwork to me (roach-killing included), and—most basic of all—they are inevitably using the bathroom or kitchen at the very moments when I wish to use these facilities.

What could be more luxurious than coming home and knowing you will not be observed or bothered when you shut your door to the world? To know that you have a bathroom and a stovetop all to yourself? To realize that the molding zucchini in the refrigerator can only be yours, and you therefore do not need to worry about informing anyone else that they are about to infect the rest of the food in there with dangerous illness-inducing spores? And imagine if it had a dining room! And a living room! I could invite people over and invite them to sit on furniture other than my Garfield sheet-covered bed while I finished cooking dinner….
These are the things I dream of; forget Prince Charming. Perhaps this is a true indication of the age of female autonomy. Or then again—and indeed more likely—maybe it’s just an indication of my own neuroses.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Virginity Question

I have a question for all my male readers (and any females who care to comment, naturally): how do you—or would you—feel about fucking a virgin? (I apologize for the crude language, but “having sex with” is just too many words; it impedes the flow of the language.) This is a question I have tried to ponder from the male perspective for quite some time, but ultimately I arrive at too many possibilities to settle on any one answer—hence the poll present to you, my readers.

Obviously, a your feelings would be largely dependent upon your own sexual status, so let’s start out assuming you have “experience.” On one hand, deflowering a virgin could be quite a heady experience. This girl/woman is uncharted territory: no other man has ever seen her this way or done these things to her. You own this experience, and no one else will ever be able to take this role in her life. Plus, you can’t go wrong, because she has nothing to compare this experience to, so this means your “performance stress” should be next-to-nothing.

But then, of course, there are drawbacks. You will likely have to serve as her mentor or teacher of sorts, as she certainly doesn’t have any experience upon which to fall back. The whole experience might prove to be incredibly boring or worse—uncomfortable—and there is no telling ahead of time, since even she doesn’t know how she’s going to behave. Here, temperament indicates nothing: the most outgoing flirt could be boring or insecure in bed, whereas the quietest library mouse might be the biggest moaner you’ve ever known. You just don’t know.

Now, let’s consider if you’re a male virgin. On one hand, the girl is also a virgin, at least she can’t compare you to anyone. You won’t have to live up to anything more than some potential romantic idealism, and if she really thinks she loves you, then even failing to live up to that ideal will likely be forgiven.

However. If this is the first time either of you has done this, neither one of you will know what to expect, nor what to attempt. You can read ten karma sutra books, but until you physically try anything, you’re not going to know what to do. At least if the girl had experience, she could walk you through things and help you to please her. So really, as charming as two virgins marrying and spending their wedding night “together” may sound, it ultimately seems like one big recipe for Awkward.

On the other hand (how many hands there are to this situation, I haven’t quite determined), you don’t want a girl with too much experience. That’s just gross. Girls who put out regularly have reputations, and as far as I know, they’re not considered desirable or sexy.

So I guess the real question is: is being a virgin considered sexy? Can it make you desirable? Or is it, in reality, the opposite—a deterrant for any guy who either a) doesn’t want to play teacher or b) doesn’t know what he’s doing himself?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stood up: an adventure on NYC Transit

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not typically a “night person.” I would much rather get up at 4 a.m. to pack for a trip, write a paper, or go running than to stay up past midnight doing any of these activities. (Although to qualify things a little bit, only packing or writing could potentially keep any sane person up so late. Once the clock rounds the 6 p.m. bend, however, even running is ordinarily out of the question for me.) Accordingly, I have been known to say on more than one occasion that if you do not get me out of the house—or in this case “apartment,” but the idea remains the same—by 9 p.m., your chances of doing so go down exponentially every ten minutes or so from that hour on. By 9:30, I will be in my pajamas, reading a book, and contemplating how early I will have to wake up the following morning to complete all of the things I had intended to do that evening.

This being said, Saturday night proved to be an exception. From the start, I had three “options,” of which I could potentially do all or none. One was an easy decision: I happily spent the evening entertaining a friend in my apartment, cooking dinner and the like. I love cooking for other people, he is great company, and staying in my apartment requires absolutely no effort in terms of physical presentation (i.e. I don’t have to wear a dress and earrings to make chicken) or bodily transportation.

The other two required more consideration. My second option was to attend a show in which another friend’s band was playing. Two factors were deterring me from choosing to attend this: 1) his band would not perform until midnight, which meant that I really shouldn’t leave my apartment until 10 p.m. or so, which as I mentioned before, is a feat nearing impossibility for a homebody such as myself, and 2) I would have to attend by myself. I had invited friends to D___’s shows before and had done so once again this time, but for some reason no one ever agrees to come along. Needless to say, the late performance time and lack of company “expecting” me to be there ended truly discouraged me, and I decided, as M___ and I dined on chicken, Tuscan vegetables, corn on the cob, and M&M brownies, that I would skip that event.

My third option was a bit harder to ignore. A___, friend who I had invited to D___’s show (and who had declined due to other commitments), was in town just for the weekend and wanted me to come bar-hopping with her and her friends after I attended the show (which, of course, I had decided not to do). Oftentimes I will try to circumvent invitations like this by making alternative plans to see someone who comes into town at a time when I am more motivated to travel for an hour by subway (say, 10 a.m.); however, I had already missed her 25th birthday party the last time she came to NYC, so I felt doubly obligated to go out on the town with her this time around.

Thus, when M___ left my apartment around 11:30 p.m., I cleaned up the kitchen, looked forlornly at the wrinkled pajamas lying in my closet, sighed at the thought of going out into the rain that was pelting at my window, and called A___. “We’re about to cab it to a loft party by Canal and Broadway,” she told me. “Just get to those cross-streets and call me when you get there so I can tell you the place.”

Hair straightened, earrings in, skirt donned, and umbrella in hand, I set out for the E train—the closest subway running at this godforsaken hour of 12:30 a.m. Long story short, it took me an hour and fifteen minutes to make it to that Chinatown intersection, during which time I managed to finish a chapter-and-a-half of Driving Over Lemons which I had fortunately remembered to bring along.

I am uncomfortable enough being “done up” to go to a bar/club/etc., but I am doubly uncomfortable being “done up” and riding the subway at half-past-midnight with weird old men and bored looking teenage guys staring at me. Quite honestly, it makes me feel a little bit like a whore. Now, if that makes me uncomfortable, imagine how I felt standing in the dark, in the rain at this intersection random intersection in Chinatown, desperately wishing A___ would pick up her phone. Trying not to look as lost or abandoned as I truly was—and also to remain visible in front of as much traffic and as many lit storefronts as possible—I walked aimlessly up and down Canal Street, calling A___ continuously and getting nothing but tinny rings in my ear.

I wandered and waited until 2:15 a.m. before I finally gave up and went back to wait for the 6 train. With the prospect of another hour-and-a-half train ride ahead of me, I must have looked pretty dismal, because two guys standing and inspecting the subway map on the wall turned and said, “Rough night?”

I don’t know what possessed me to continue this conversation—maybe it was because there were two of them or maybe it was because of their obviously European accents—but when I nodded and the other guy asked where I had been drinking, I replied, “Actually, I got stood up?”

“Really?” The taller blond one looked surprised. “Well fuck him.”

“Well, clearly not,” I said, thinking Did I really just say that? Who am I even referring to? Now the blond guy really looked surprised.

“Indeed!” He chuckled a little bit, and his friend picked up the conversation, swaying a bit before he leaned against the wall.

“Do you love him?”

They were so drunk and I was so not, and so I decided to fashion a rather intricate story about having arranged to meet up with my ex-boyfriend. He was a lawyer, and we had met in law school—I was in my last year—and he had dumped me several months ago, only to decide he missed me and wanted to see me again. After much cajoling, I apparently agreed to this, and was to have met at a local bar. He, however, never showed up, and I was planning to never speak to him again. Apparently I had decided that this was “his loss,” and there were, “no third chances. This isn’t baseball.”

I have never lied so elaborately before, and I must say, when I watched those two boys stagger off the train at 34th street, I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d even remember me or my story the next morning. However, that was the beauty of it: it was just a story, and therefore it didn’t matter if they remembered it or not. They could always go read a book or watch a movie and enjoy another equally dramatic, entertaining story. And at least telling it took up half-and-hour of my ride home.

So ultimately, being stood up wasn’t a complete loss after all. Next time, though, I do hope my date shows up.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Snapshot Book Review: Girl in a Blue Dress

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I may not appreciate Charles Dicken's writing, but his life certainly makes for a good novel. This was a very quick read, not only because it falls comfortably into the easily digestible language of the YA genre, but because it was well-paced, with the backstory woven into the "current" plot in a very logical, forward-moving sort of way. I generally do not appreciate "old England" sorts of books, either, but this one got the language just right. What's more, the characters were fully believable and multidimensional; the narrator was just the right amount of indignant, compassionate, wistful, and independent for her time, age, and station in life, and she told her story in an equally appropriate manner. Seeing Alfred (i.e. Dickens) through her eyes as well as the eyes of her friends and children in the way of 3rd party characters provided a fascinating spectrum of perspectives on the character, and fleshed out the novel.

My one and only complaint is that the author made herself "known," in the section where Dorothea (the narrator) begins to rant about women's liberation. While thematically presenting this idea was not far-fetched, Dorothea's making a scene over this subject was not consistent with her character's temperament, nor did it fit the situation. This was the only disruptive segment of the novel, and without it, Girl in a Blue Dress would have provided a seamless, compelling read from beginning to end. It's the sort of book that keeps the reader wrapped up in the world it has created, and as we all know, these are the best sorts of books. Escapism will forever be invaluable.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Training for Tri: First TRY at biking

Well, this has been a humbling experience. I always knew I was not "built for biking." Ever since I was young, I never enjoyed bicycle riding, mostly because it seemed to require so much effort. Others could just hop on and zoom away, but I always felt so much tension and resistance in my legs, I would get off and walk the bike at even the smallest incline. This led to my never riding my bike anywhere--not around my neighborhood, not around the various campsites we visited, not anywhere.

Unfortunately, now that I have chosen to train for a triathlon--scheduled for August 23--I am forced to remount my bike and pick up where I left off: at pain and suffering 101.

I decided to try out an exploratory ride today, in order to start charting my route down to Coney Island. This will entail quite a lengthy ride involving much uncharted territory and many unfamiliar streets, so I mapped out my route and set off at the early hour of 6 p.m., fully intending to be back by 7 at the latest. At 7:30, I still hadn't even crossed back into Queens. My full route ended up taking me down toward Brooklyn, across the Manhattan Bridge, up the east side of the island, and then back across the Queensborough Bridge and onto my usual running route (the one I used tirelessly to train for the PIttsburgh Marathon). In all, however, despite taking me nearly 2 hours to complete, the route ended up only being 12.1 measly miles long!

Clearly I have my work cut out for me.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about classified ads—personal ones in particular. A number of recent occurrences have brought this topic to mind. One involves a friend of mine who is what I would call a “perpetual dater.” (She, I believe, would prefer the term “man-eater,” but I know she can be tame when the occasion arises.) She can pick up a guy virtually anywhere—at a bar, in the supermarket, on the subway—so it’s my assumption that her forays into internet dating services are merely meant to cast her net as far as it will go. (After all, why else would a gorgeous 5’10” runner with big boobs and finely honed seduction tactics need to look online for dates?)

In any case, her most recent posting in an online dating forum garnered the following response. Note: I have abbreviated the gentleman’s message for literary merit.

(Warning). This email will not be the usual message you get. First of all you are getting a message from me because obviously I think you are very attractive and seem like a very chill homosapien =P. Second I am on this site basically to fulfill a fantasy that I have had since I broke up with my the fantasy...I am not talking about tying you up to the ceiling and coating you with honey that I will proceed to lick while jumping from a trampoline or anything crazy like that. Basically I want to mess around with someone I don't know that well out of lust. I am not talking about sex though; A big part of the fantasy is to refrain from it actually!!

Unique, no? Needless to say, as tempting as it may have seemed, my friend did not respond to the post.

Then today, when I was in the locker room at work showering after my lunchtime run (yes, we have lockers at work—we are very spoiled), I overheard two fellow runners whispering together as they changed. When I emerged, I picked up the word “date,” from their conversation and nonchalantly asked B___ (one of the two women) if she was about to go on a blind date. (There’s nothing more intriguing than two half-dressed women neglecting their clothing in order to whisper together! I simply had to know what they were talking about.) She replied that no, she was about to ask someone else out on a date. She said it made her want to throw up.

I was commiserating at the thought—of asking someone else out, not of wanting to throw up—when P___ (the other woman) asked me if I had ever been on a blind date. I didn’t even have to think before answering: no, of course not. She looked at me oddly and then laughed. “You’re twenty-three years old!” she exclaimed. “Get out there, girl!”

So I have now spent the last six or so hours thinking about what I would post if I were to write an online or classified ad for myself. People who try to be witty always end up looking retarded, but if you are too boring, no one will respond. If you provide too much information, you might not have a back-out plan, but if you don’t provide enough, the wrong sorts of people may answer your ad.

If I had to write one, I suppose it would go something like this:

SWF Reasonably cute, long legs, low maintenance, athletic. Seeking smart, considerate, athletic man. 6’ + a bonus.