Tuesday, November 27, 2007

London Highlights

Hello Blogsphere! I'm back from a drizzle-soaked, chilled-to-the-bone, museum, musical, and historical sight-saturated, family-intense, surprisingly endearing baby-spit-up-smelling, cuddle-filled visit to London. I know I've mentioned this before, but my nephew - Baby Bean - is adorable, and getting the chance to bond with him was one of the highlights of the trip.

Despite the weather, London is a fun place to visit and there's tons to do. I had a great time walking around Notting Hill, Covent Garden, and Hyde Park. In Notting Hill, near where my brother Frey lives, there's a cute coffee shop with inviting couches that plays old French songs and has delicious baked goods. Their coffee was better than London's Starbuck's, which tasted burnt to me. Hyde Park was relaxing; there were teenagers playing soccer outside, people strolling, flocks of swans and ducks, and wide open grass filled spaces filled with fallen leaves and dotted with impressive, stately trees. In Covent Garden, I had the best Belgium waffle I've ever tasted from a little kiosk. It was delicious! They must make the batter with heaps of sugar because the waffle, which I had plain, came out delightfully carmelized around the edges.

Speaking of food, I had my fill of Scottish shortbread cookies; they were impossible to resist, particularly since they were one of the few things that was not at least double the price of what it would have been in New York. I also tried clotted cream for the first time. Strange stuff. It looks like butter with a crusty yellow edge, but tastes like whip cream. My mom and I had it on scones with strawberry jam. On the way down it tasted delicious, but I must report that 15 minutes later I could still feel the sensation of it in my mouth and throat - sort of an unpleasant coating that made me fear for the health of my arteries. I also sampled the fish 'n chips - good, but not good enough to make up for it being fried. The stand out food was the Indian and fusiony Thai food. Excellent.

I took advantage of the lack of a strike to see some musicals in London, and am now of the opinion that the theater in London may be superior to that of New York, not necessarily for quality (although it was great) but more so for convenience. While in New York one must wait for hours for half-priced tickets and can't get tickets for tons of shows, in London it was a snap to get half-priced tickets and I was able to see "Wicked" - a show that I've been trying to see forever in New York. A review of Wicked will be forthcoming. I also saw "Chicago" which I also enjoyed. I love that song that the murderesses in jail sing about how they killed their husbands. He had it coming!

The other London attractions I enjoyed were Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the tour of the Tower of London. My favorites though were the museums. I dragged my mom to the British Museum where we saw the Rosetta Stone! - how cool is that? - the National Gallery, and the Tate Modern. That Tate was really cool. I'm not a fan of modern art but they had quite a range including some surrealist and abstract impressionist art. The coolest thing about the Tate was the actual structure of the building, an impressive old warehouse set on the bank of the Thames River with dramatically spacious, high-ceilinged rooms showcasing the art work. Even if you absolutely loath modern art, it's worth it to go to the Tate just to check out the facility, arguably a work of art in and of itself.

The visit also included some good family time, including a walk from the Tower of London up the Thames and over London Bridge to get to the Tate with my mom and Bacchus, nice dinners and lunches, and just chilling in front of the TV watching movies or taking turns gushing over my little nephew. My brother Frey gets props and many thanks for organizing the trip.

But, as with all great trips, it's always nice to get home. I'm very happy to back in my own bed, work, routine, and among predictable and familiar New Yorkers. The Brits are cool, but it's comforting to be back on the subway after the tube, to be walking on streets where pedestrians have the right of way, where Starbuck's coffee tastes like it should, where there's sunshine mixed in with the rain, where I have my whole closet and bathroom at my sole disposal, and where the cost of my morning coffee doesn't cause me to shake my head in despair at the dismal state of the American dollar.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Baby Bean

I've been off the radar because I'm in London with the fam for Thanksgiving. I left New York Thursday morning and met up with Bean, Baby Bean, and Bacchus in the airport. I also met a fantastically sexy Italian man going through security, but that's another story - nice beginning to the trip though, I must say.

I've spent the last 4 days wanting to eat up my little nephew. He is soooo adorable I can hardly stand it. Now don't get me wrong, the whole experience has also made me think long and hard about how unready I am to have babies. Good lord the little tykes are a lot of work. I struggled up my brother's stairs carrying just the stroller; somehow Bean managed to go up and down carrying the baby, his seat thingie, the stroller, diaper bag, and other sundry items like random pacifiers, blankets, stray toys, and burp clothes. It's incredible. I haven't really checked email because I've been focused on sightseeing with Bean and the baby, trying to make him smile (and/or stop almost crying - he's so good, he hardly ever screams), or gazing at his sleeping little face in wonder.

So, let's get to how freakin' unbelievably cute my nephew is. Adorable. The cutest. Ever. I'm so smitten. His huge luminous eyes just gazing up at me, and then suddenly, from out of no where a brilliant smile filled with sparkles. It's one of the most beautiful, peaceful things to just watch him sleep. He and Bean are leaving tomorrow and I'm going to miss them. I'm so glad they came and that I got to spent a few days with them; I can't believe I hadn't seen him since he was born. Now he's 7 1/2 months old! A mini-human, as my brother Bacchus says.

Speaking of which, one of the most special things was watching my brothers with the baby. I knew Bacchus would be good with the baby but Frey really surprised me. He was so gentle and sweet and seemed kind of fascinated and enamoured.

I can't let 7 more months go by without seeing him. He's too cute and he's growing so fast! He's going to be colouring, crawling, and walking - maybe not in that order - in no time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Turkeys: Before The Table

I don't eat meat. It used to be for health reasons, but now it's mainly because I literally cannot stomach the cruelty perpetuated against animals in the industries that prepare them to become food. My personal view is that we all have a responsibility to understand what happens to animals before they wind up as carcasses on our dinner plates, and it's also my belief that if more people were aware of the poor treatment that animals receive they would work to make the system more humane - so at least if humans must eat animals, we can do so in a way that minimizes the pain caused to them.

If you are interested, check out the below video, filmed by an undercover investigator from PETA. It's short and not as informative as some of PETA's other videos, but it gives you a sense for the kind of senseless cruelty that turkeys are exposed to while waiting to be slaughtered. If they have to die, they should at least be treated with dignity and compassion. After all, if giants invaded the world and started eating us, wouldn't you want to be treated - at a bare minimum - with dignity and compassion?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

No Grazing

While having coffee after church today, I met a fascinating woman who does work with women's and children's health in South Africa. She's Swedish and moved to South Africa because she married a South African. Her work in Capetown started off focusing on children's health, but lead her to women's health - because unless the mothers are healthy it's unlikely that the children are. Interestingly, she said that working on women's health leads inevitably to programs to increase the economic self-sufficiency of women.

The starkest example is the AIDs crisis in Africa. One of the highest risk factors for women in Africa is whether they are married. Married women are at an extraordinary risk of contracting HIV because their husbands are using prostitutes or sleeping with other women outside of the marriage and then bringing back sexually transmitted diseases to their wives (and children). Where women are not economically self-sufficient - which is most places in the world - they are trapped. They're dependent on their husbands and feel that they have to stay, even if there's abuse or adultery.

While I was in Cambodia, I saw the same thing. Women from different social classes are separated from one another. The men move between the different classes of women, sleeping with one class outside of marriage, and the other inside of marriage, and passing diseases between them. It's incredible that prostitutes continue to be blamed for the spread of diseases, because it's not them that are spreading it to the wives of the men who buy them. Prostitutes, like wives (and of course they're often both), have limited power over the men that they sleep with. Often times, for example, they are not in a position to insist that a client wears a condom.

Apparently the only country in Africa which has seen a drop in the rate of HIV transmission is Uganda (hopefully Pas, who has done work there, will chime in). My new friend told me that this was because Uganda started a massive public health campaign aimed at curbing concurrent sexual relationships - something which my friend said was more common in Africa than the West (in the West you have lots of sexual partners but their more often one after another, instead of all at the same time). The issue with having multiple concurrent sexual relationships is that if one person in that chain contracts HIV, suddenly you have 4, or 6, or 10 others who contract it almost at the same time. It makes sense that it would spread rapidly under those conditions.

I honestly don't know if this is true, and if you're interested this theory is discussed in depth in a new book called The Invisible Cure, which I plan to get. The slogan of the Ugandan campaign was "No Grazing," as in, if you're eating one dish, don't nibble from others. It was successful because it resonated with both the health workers in Uganda and the population at large.

It's just so shocking that becoming a wife could be the most dangerous thing you could do in terms of your health. But on the other hand, it's not at all surprising that becoming a wife in an unequal partnership could be risky. I think it was Abigail Adams who said that all men would be tyrants if they could. Women have to come together and support one another in becoming economically independent. As the AIDs epidemic demonstrates, women's rights are quite literally a life or death matter.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Drafting Doldrums

I really quite desperately want to sleep.

Unfortunately, I have a rather gigantic assignment due that is taking literally forever. It's 9:00 pm and I'm stuck in the office and probably will not be able to go home for a while. Boo. As I have nothing substantive or interesting to say, I guess the point of this post is to whine. *frowning* This is the first OBIM day that I've had in a long, long time.

Which reminds me, it's actually Tuesday! Which is both good and bad. Good, because I'm that much closer to the end of the week and my coveted weekend. Bad, because I have a boatload of work to do and I'm not sure how I'm going to do it. I'm also supposed to go on a date tomorrow night with the Masked Priest, but it's unclear at this juncture how that's going to happen.


I'll leave you with a funny tidbit: The other day, I heard someone describe a person as ineffective by calling them a "one-armed coat hanger." Hilarious. Come to think of it, I kind of feel like a one-armed coat hanger right now.

Date Update: The Masked Priest just called and for the third time in a row he did something that left me feeling pleasantly surprised. How delightful. He called with an idea for a bar to meet at tomorrow night which was midway between both of us in a cool area. Then, during the conversation when I was saying that I might have to meet up a bit later because of work, he suggested that we meet for dinner instead (because I would not have been able to eat by then). He even had a restaurant suggestion. He listened, thought of me, and suggested something that would make my life more pleasant. He's confident, has back-up plans, and fun ideas. Remarkable. Wow. I kind of feel like a one-and-a-half armed coat hanger now. Once again I'm left with the impression that this guy might be kind of cool. Despite my work, I'm looking forward to dinner tomorrow.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Mom & Me

My mom's in town for the weekend and we've been having a lot of fun. We attempted to go for drinks at the bar on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Hotel but were thwarted by all the people in town for the marathon. Lesson learned: Make reservations, even just for cocktails. Instead, we had dinner at Cafe Gray. Fancy, but delish. She had Snapper, which was light and flavorful, and I had the Skate Schnitzel. Interesting, but not the greatest because it was fried - hence the "schnitzel." My favorite was the tiny lavender cookies that they brought at the end of the meal (I believe pastry chef Chris Broberg's lavender-scented white-chocolate petits fours). Lavender in food is kind of fabulous.

Today, we went to church and then had coffee cinnamon buns and pieces of Princess Cake after the service. It was so relaxing, and fortifying for the four hours of shopping that transpired afterwards. We hit Banana, Kenneth Cole, and Bloomies and basically shopped 'til we dropped. OK, I shopped; my mom almost dropped. I got two dresses, a purple coat, two pair of shoes, and a sweet black top that I can wear for both work and going out at night. A perfect date top - always a great purchase.

Now, I'm trying to do work while my mom is watching football downstairs. God, do I hate football. Hate. It. It's got to be one of the top 3 most boring things in the world, right before watching paint dry or waiting for water to boil. Not only is it boring, it's extremely aggravating to listen to. I can't stand the incessant murmur of the crowd roaring and the announcers squawking.

It makes me tense. She loves it. Bizarre.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


I'm having a slight emotional dip. I'm not sure why. This is 10,000 times better than it used to be. It used to be that the norm would be a dip, and the unusual would be a feeling of well-being. Those were in the dark days of things long since past. Now, I operate, especially lately, on a plane several stories above the emotional wasteland that I used to exist upon. It's nice and warm and fuzzy up here, but sometimes there are the dips.

I'm not sure what precipitated this one. It's not even a full dip, but I find myself hanging on with my fingernails, scared that I might slide down all the way. I don't like the emotional wasteland. It involves feeling of isolation, being overwhelmed and anxiety. It feels a little like things are flying apart, like there's no sense of purpose, nothing concrete to hold on to. It evokes the desire to binge. It evokes a feeling of need. Need. Need for what?

Not cool, creamy, chocolaty goodness. Despite what I feel.

But, as I was saying, we're not in a full-blown dip. I think it started from a series of seemingly small, inconsequential things. I had to deal with the psycho-actress that I rent from about bills. Every time that happens it's a source of stress and I think why am I still living here? The apartment suddenly looks dingy again, I hate the lack of bath tub, my room looks like a chaotic mess. I think, I'm not together. I don't have the apartment of a woman who is together, sophisticated. My mom's coming in to town and I'm excited to see her, but it's also stressful. I have to think of what to do, where to go, will she be happy, will she be warm. I need to work because of something that came up last minute on Friday. I feel guilty. I also feel stressed about work.

And then, last night, I met the boyfriend of one of my new friends. She's white, he's Indian. Sound familiar? Well, it turns out that Indian boy, after dating this White girl for 4 years, finally told his parents that he was dating a white girl. Ooooooh. Yes, I intended that mocking tone - not to him, not to my friend, but to the past - my own past. It was a big deal for Indian boy to finally tell his parents, and of course he didn't tell the whole truth. He told them he had been dating her for 1 year (not 4). The mother cried, the father wrote an email asking him why he made his mother cry. They both asked him why he couldn't just date an Indian girl.

God, it's all so stupid.

Exbf's parents didn't want me to be with him at first either for everything that I was not. I wasn't Indian, I wasn't Hindu, I hadn't grown up in the Indian culture. Never mind that I'm respectful, culturally aware, and that I was genuinely interested in embracing their background and culture. My dad's an immigrant. I get it.

The funny thing was that eventually his parents did accept me. It actually got to the point that his father gave him his blessing to marry me. The funny thing is that it happened a few weeks before we finally broke up. That's hysterical. His parents came to accept me, actually embraced - to the extent that they could - the idea of us marrying, just before we broke up.

I have to admit that hearing my friend's story last night, I felt a tiny flicker of hollowness laced with a tinge of bitterness inside of me. An edge of harshness. I guess it's anger, maybe hurt. Still. I don't want to be with him. I haven't wanted to be with him or talk to him since the day, almost a year ago, that we broke up. But, things that I experienced with him still affect me now and then. Remembering still evokes some negative emotions.

I guess maybe this emotion is something like: You never saw how wonderful and special I was. And, that makes me mad. It makes me want to throw a plate at him. I tried really hard. His parents - people totally dead set against me from the beginning b/c of things completely out of my control - came to appreciate and accept me. But, not him. He was too selfish, too small, too weak, too insensitive, too self-involved, too cowardly, too insecure, too pathetic, and he had way too little to give.

Every time I remember these things it take me back to this: The re-realization and re-confirmation that he was not good for me and not good enough for me. He sucked.

So, why the lingering emotions that pick at the edges of the almost-healed scabs on my heart? I should be joyous, filled with elation that I'm not with him, that I didn't end up with him, that I was spared from spending one more year with him and his bullshit. And, I am. Truly. A day ago, two days ago, I was filled with joy. The world was warm and fuzzy, and I was so incredibly happy to be me, on my own, safe from that kind of negativity. But, as I'm learning, things are not black and white. I can be joyous about not being with him at the same time that I still feel, on occasion, sad about how he acted and what I experienced while I was with him.

(I was just thinking, as I was writing, you should not be feeling this; it is over a year ago! But then I thought, Fuck it, I'm purging. This is how I feel. This is what I will write. So there.)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

You're Invited to the EXBF-WHO? Party!

There is so much to celebrate today. First, it's a Blood Day and I'm going to do something especially nice for myself in honor of the first day of my period. Second, I'm planning a party - an "Exbf Who?" Party for November 9th, the one-year anniversary of my break-up with Exbf.

I've invited a bunch of my girl friends in New York to celebrate with me. On the agenda are cocktails, cute outfits, and perhaps a healthy dose of Exbf bashing, just for fun. Or, maybe not. Maybe I'll be having so much fun, I'll be like "Exbf who??" That's the objective and I think it will be rather easy to achieve.

Fun, right? I am so incredibly fortunate to have a network of wonderful girl friends in the city. I'm also fortunate that I have so much support from my friends outside of New York. Wood, Pas, and Bubbles supported me through three years of nonsense with Exbf. And, I have all of you! Your kind words, humor, and presence helped me get through that difficult time when I was not only moving on from Exbf, but also trying to escape the evil empire (my former employer).

In thanks to all of you, and in order to fully commemorate this wonderful occasion, you're all invited to a the EXBF-WHO? Party, here on my blog, on November 9th! Drop by, leave a comment, and share your own story about an Exbf who wasn't worth his weight in salt. (Men, you can share stories about Exbfs who weren't worth their weight in salt too).

Love, Buttercup