Friday, August 31, 2007

Happy Birthday Kira

Kira, may you party like it's 1999 (again) as you celebrate your 32nd birthday...

The older the fiddler, the sweeter the tune.
-English Proverb

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Going to NY?

My co-worker and cube-neighbor Mark asked me this morning if I had any suggestions on where to stay and what to do when visiting New York. My list of old haunts and must-dos is below, but I would love comments and suggestions from others to broaden even my narrow list of locations (especially hotels, I rarely stay downtown and instead take the LIRR into the city when visiting my family). Please leave comments with further suggestions.

Where to Stay:
  • Marriott Marquis (Midtown)
    Not only a good place to stay, but also has "The View", the only revolving restaurant in NY. Hit the bar and get a drink (expensive, but the one drink minimum is worth the view).
  • Abingdon House (Greenwich Village)
    I've never been, but I've heard it is a really nice B&B like setting.
  • Grand Hyatt (midtown)
    I've stayed a few times... it’s a nice hotel, good location, a little pricey but if you are a Hyatt Gold Passport points whore like I am, you’re willing to pay a few extra bucks to get those points.
  • Milford Plaza (midtown)
    The lullaby of old Broadway.
Where to Eat:
  • Becco (Midtown)
    Love, Love, Love this restaurant. For those who watch PBS, the owner of this restaurant is Lidia of Lidia’s Kitchen. Make reservations!
    Caesar Salad
    Becco's version of the classic Caesar salad
    ~ or ~
    Antipasto Misto
    An assortment of marinated & grilled
    vegetables with assorted seafood

    ~ followed by ~
    Our renowned unlimited table side service of
    our Chef's three daily pasta preparations
  • Carnegie Deli (midtown)
    Some people will tell you to go to the Stage Deli, I'm more about Carnegie. The location, the kitsch factor and the pastrami are quintessentially New York.
  • Trailer Park (Chelsea- downtown)
    This has become one of our favorite bars/cheap eateries in Manhattan. You can settle down in the bowling alley seats section and people watch everyone walking by. The theme of the food is comfort; mac and cheese and tater tots are very good. Very kitschy.
  • Waters Edge (In Queens, but there is a complimentary Water Shuttle from midtown (34th)
    I've never been, but if you are looking for a romantic view, this is your place.
  • ESPN Zone (Midtown)
    If you are lucky, you might catch a show being taped.
  • Mariella Pizza (Midtown)
    Very good pizza, although most little pizza joints in the city are going to give you a good slice at reasonable prices. This place is actually recommended by Oprah, for those who want a connection to fame.

    What to Do:
    • TKTS Booth(midtown- Times Square)
      Same day play/musical tickets at 50% off face price. Worth waiting in line
      Visit Playbill Online to see what is playing right now.
    • Yankee Game (Bronx)
      If you are fortunate enough to visit while the Yankees are in town, you must take a subway up to the Bronx and take in a game. Be prepared to pay top dollar for scalped tickets.
    • Empire State Building (midtown)
      Worth the view (get there early!
    • Golf at Chelsea Piers (Chelsea- downtown)
      What better way to fight off stress then driving golf balls over the East River.
    • David Letterman (Midtown)
      You must request tickets in advance or wait on line the day of to see if you can get in. Very fun to see a taping. Bring a coat; he keeps the theatre very cold.
    • St. Patricks Cathedral or St. John's the Devine
      St. John the Devine is the world's largest cathedral and is never expected to be fully completed due to its size.
    • Red Rocks West(Chelsea-downtown)
      Might not be your thing, but it is coyote ugly without all the tourists. If you've ever want to see the lady in your life dance on a bar, this is your place.
    • Culture Club (West Village, SoHo)
      Want to dance like it's 1989? This is the place. It has great people watching, bachelorette parties. No cover on Fridays ($25 on Saturdays).
    • Live Music
      It is all about who is playing, but places my (very hip) sister swears by are The Continental, The Bowary Ballroom and Roseland. (I know nothing of the Luna Lounge, but it certainly has a great name!) (O'Neill's Irish Bar is also known as Brady's (and Aidan's) Bar on Sex and the City)
    Getting Around:
    • Handsome Cab Ride (midtown)
      Take a horse cab ride through Central Park. Very romantic.
    • PATH Train
      Just in case you happen to want to visit New Jersey you can get there via the PATH.
    • Circle Line Sightseeing tours
      What better way to take in Manhattan then to sail around it.
    • Double Decker Bus
      It is worth doing a tour once to get some of the history and background stories of the city.
    • JFK Airtrain
      It is a pain in the butt to get luggage through subway turnstiles once you get into the city, but the airtrain is much cheaper then taking a cab.
    Where to Shop:

    Wednesday, August 29, 2007

    100 To Dos Before I am Done

    It is customary for bloggers to write 100 things about themselves to celebrate their 100th post. Since I write about myself rather frequently and would prefer not to bore you to tears, it is much more entertaining to share my personal checklist. You often hear people make mention of places and experiences “on my list,” but how many of us actually take time to make that list? Everyone should have a checklist of things they want to achieve in their lifetime; to strive for, to work for, and to live for. Sparked by the recent surge of books in the genre of “Things to do before you die,” it was time to officially pen my own list. Hope you enjoy my personal checklist of 100 things to do before I die and are inspired to start one of your own (and of course maintain the list of memories of things you have already accomplished: your to-done list).

    1. a creative writing retreat
    2. a concert of Vivaldi Concertos performed by a famous orchestra
    3. a game at every Major League Ballpark
    4. a Grand Slam tennis match
    5. a hot air balloon festival
    6. a U2 Concert (July 23, 2011 at TCF Stadium in Minneapolis)
    7. an Alanis Morissette concert
    8. a wedding in Las Vegas
    9. the Gilroy Garlic Festival
    10. the Highland Games
    11. the Kentucky Derby
    12. the Oregon's Brewers Festival

    13. Celebrate:
    14. Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts
    15. Oktoberfest in Germany (Regensburg Dultfest, September 2013, better than Oktoberfest!)
    16. my 25th wedding anniversary renewing our vows on a tropical island
    17. Thanksgiving by marching in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
    18. the Summer Solstice in Reykjavik, Iceland

    19. Cook:
    20. a Sunday dinner with my whole family at a villa in Tuscany
    21. at an overseas cooking class

    22. Dance:
    23. lessons with my husband
    24. the Polka in Eastern Europe

    25. Dine:
    26. at a Mario Batali or Bobby Flay restaurant (Vegas, August 2012)
    27. at Charlie Trotter's
    28. at French Laundry
    29. at Sardi's
    30. at the Chef's table anywhere
    31. in a Café with my last name in Italy (Rome, April 2012)
    32. on Buffalo Wings at the Anchor Bar (September 2008)
    33. on Lobsters in Maine

    34. Drink:
    35. at a vineyard with my last name in Italy, Australia or California
    36. at the Cape Winelands in South Africa
    37. at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Vineyard
    38. Champagne on a vineyard in Champagne, France
    39. frothy goodness on a German Beer Trail (September 2013)
    40. through Kentucky's Bourbon Trail
    41. through Scotland's Scotch Whiskey Trail
    42. wine and plenty of it on a vineyard tour with Kristen, Renee', Stacy and Diane

    43. Experience:
    44. a full day at a luxury spa
    45. an African Safari
    46. scuba diving
    47. sex on the beach
    48. raising $100K for animal charities

    49. Host:
    50. a Foreign Exchange Student
    51. my family for a holiday in my home

    52. Purchase:
    53. an original Tom Everhart painting
    54. a convertible for my WARM CLIMATE retirement

    55. Read:
    56. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
    57. every Bill Bryson book
    58. The Bible (or the Bible for Dummies (Removed)
    59. Thomas Jefferson by R. B. Bernstein
    60. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

    61. Receive:
    62. my Master's Degree (Removed)

    63. Rescue:
    64. a poodle mix

    65. Ride:
    66. the Cyclone in Coney Island (July, 2014)
    67. the roller coasters at Cedar Point

    68. See:
    69. Michangelo's David (April, 2012)
    70. Sistine Chapel
    71. Monet's Gardens at Giverny

    72. Skate:
    73. Miami's Great EsSkate
    74. Rockefeller Center
    75. the London Inline Marathon
    76. the Napa Valley Inline Marathon
    77. the New York City Inline Marathon

    78. Stay:
    79. at a Disney Deluxe Resort
    80. at a Ritz
    81. at the Fairmont Banff Springs
    82. at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City
    83. at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island
    84. at the Hayman Island Resort in Australia
    85. at the Hotel Del Coronado (completed March 2008)
    86. at the Inn at Little Washington
    87. in a castle (Oberwesel, Germany; September 2013)
    88. in a lighthouse
    89. in an over the water bungalow in the South Pacific
    90. on a boathouse

    91. Swim:
    92. the Mediterranean Sea in the Greek Isles
    93. with a dolphin
    94. with the animals of the Galapagos Islands
    95. in an ocean with my dogs

    96. Travel:
    97. across the Atlantic on a cruise
    98. in a hot air balloon
    99. on a water plane

    100. Visit:
    101. all 50 US States by the time I'm 50 (which will probably be 51 states by 51 by the time I get there)
    102. all 7 continents (including Antarctica before the environmentalists realize we shouldn't be there)
    103. a village of my descendants with my Mother (September, 2013)
    104. Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and Montalcino Italy (April, 2012)
    105. Cooperstown
    106. Croatia (soon, before it gets McDonalds and Starbucks)
    107. Disney World with my nieces and nephews
    108. Mount Rushmore
    109. Nantucket Island
    110. Stonehenge
    111. the Czech Republic
    112. the Easter Island Statues
    113. the Great Wall of China
    114. Pyramids of Giza
    115. the Seychelles (Chelle sees seashells at the Seychelles on the seashore)

    116. Win:
    117. a photo contest

    118. Witness:
    119. sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

    120. Write and publish:
    121. a book
    122. a travel article

    123. I would love to hear about what is on your list. Leave me comments to inspire my extended list...

      Bonus To Dos:
    124. Travel around the world on a cruise
    125. See a Bills game in Buffalo
    126. Do 10 pull-ups without help
    127. Learn Italian
    128. Get my boating license
    129. Kite Surf

    Tuesday, August 28, 2007

    Lambykins, dead of murder at 19 months old

    Former Canadian resident Lambykins, close companion of Luna and Solei Van Betta, was attacked in his home in Minnetonka, Minnesota this month and declared dead on the scene after medics were unable to revive him; he was 19 months old. Lambykins’ gruesome murder by evisceration, disemboweled during the light of day in a sleepy neighborhood, shocked friends and family and the still unsolved crime has residents living in constant terror.

    Lambykins life began in Pickering, Ontario where he served as the plush Lamb of God. When not serving at the church, he lived with Habbie the Cat in Ajax, Ontario. Unfortunately, Habbie lost interest in Lambykins, who bore none of bells, feathers or catnip necessary to maintain a feline’s attention. Habbie’s parents recognized the need for a plush animal to be in a home where he could receive endless attention and found Lambykins a good home with his cousin from the States; Luna.

    For two years Lambykins was a central member of the family, providing endless love and entertainment to Luna and her sister who arrived several months later; Solei. Lambykins and Solei instantly bonded and were rarely seen without each other for hours and hours at a time. The close knit relationship that Luna and Solei had with Lambykins makes their roles as the only suspects in the crime all that more shocking. Luna and Solei were home at the time of the crime and there were no signs of forced entry on the day of the murder.They have been questioned on their role in the murder but neither suspect is cooperating with the authorities, each refusing to talk.

    Lambykins is survived by friends Mr. Monkey Jr., Squeaky Squirrel, Footy Football, Harry Hedgehog and Cupid the Dog. He is preceded in death by Mr. Monkey Sr., Bouncy Bunny, Hammy Pig and Tweety Bird. The family asks for well-wishers to give to animal charities like the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program, Homeward Bound Dog Rescue or The Top Dog Foundation in lieu of flowers.

    Monday, August 27, 2007

    Quote of the Week

    My sister Krissy is visiting from New York this week and I'm giddy as a school girl with anticipation. To celebrate her upcoming trip I wanted to share a quote that reminds me of her independent spirit:

    If you always do what pleases you, at least one person is satisfied.
    – Katherine Hepburn

    Friday, August 24, 2007

    Don't Hate Me Because I'm a Yankee Fan

    There are two types of people in the world, those who love the Yankees and those who hate the Yankees. For the most part, there is no gray area for how people feel about the American League ball club from New York. What always amazes me is just how many people don the blue cap and pinstripes and root whole heartedly for the team, even if they have never stepped foot in New York. Equally remarkable are those who hate the Yankees even if their team of choice never faces them during the season. This nation (if not world) wide passion is especially evident when seeing the Yankees perform in their away uniforms. No matter where I see the boys from the Bronx play, I am surrounded by throngs of fans and haters; forced to defend my loyalty for the team and explain why I am a Yankee fan.

    These days, despite the amount of success the Yankees have experienced, it is actually difficult to be a Yankee fan. Try and be taken seriously when their very triumphs and victories become a source of content. First and foremost is the number of fair-weather fans success breeds. Yankee haters verbally attack fans by declaring their allegiance fake; one that jumped on the bandwagon sometime in the early to mid-90s, avoiding the heartbreak of the drought in the 1980s. As a lifelong fan, these people annoy me as well. Chances are they at one point rooted against the Yankees, softening up to the team after a few championship rings. These new fans cast a shadow on those who weathered the storm of failure and stuck with the team during the dark times; they make longtime Yankees fans appear less genuine. You are not a fan unless you survived verbal bashings in 1986 and were forced to root for the hated Boston Red Sox or a comet to hit the stadium and wipe out the teams, anything to avoid a Mets victory. To those who try to mock the length of my loyalty there is only one thing I say; “I am from the Bronx.” Amazing how 5 small words can get people to back off so quickly, like I am packing heat or carrying a crowbar.

    Money, and the Yankees use of it, is definitely a major source of contention for Yankee haters. If I had a nickel for each time I heard someone complain about how much money the Yankees spend on their team, I could probably personally purchase the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Yankees do spend a great deal of money for their team and I do not always agree with their business model of purchasing the “best” team rather then building it. Only the people who discover the cure for cancer, how to run a car on water or even the formula for world peace deserve the exorbitant amount of money made by baseball players. Money and greed, today’s centerpiece of professional sports, are ruining the pure joy of the game with the Yankees a focal point of the issue. With this being said money does help build a successful team, but is not the only part of the winning equation; just look at the Baltimore Orioles who spend a ton on their team with abysmal results. There are plenty examples of successful teams with small payrolls and terrible teams with huge payrolls; it takes more then just money to build a successful team. Additionally, teams from smaller markets now benefit from baseball’s revenue sharing model, allowing them larger operating budgets based upon the spending of larger market teams.

    Each time the Yankees announce the trade/purchase/acquisition of a big-name player, I cringe. While the team was successful in the past with bringing on superstar players to win titles, there does come a tipping point when this managerial philosophy becomes catastrophic. Baseball is like any business where a team with a diverse range of talents, personalities and backgrounds is the recipe for long-term success. At some point having too many superstars in the boardroom leads to serious organizational issues where competition is no longer friendly and the goals of the team are superseded by the power of the individuals, leading to overall failure. The Yankees failure to appear in the World Series the past few years and win one since 2000 demonstrates that money does not necessarily buy happiness and too many cooks may have spoiled the Yankees proverbial broth.

    The revolving door of players also brings difficulty to following professional sports. Baseball is just not the same without the ability to cling to a player for their career, following them from farm league to hall of fame. There is almost a need to keep players at “arms length,” developing distant relationships to avoid the heartbreak of their trade. On the flip side, the deep rooted hatred for opposing teams and their players, the keystone to any good rivalry, makes it quite difficult to embrace certain players when they are suddenly on your team. To me, Roger Clemens is still a Red Sox, no matter how many World Series rings he helps the Bronx Bombers win. It is hard to be truly passionate about a team like the Yankees when the roster is full of people who once were the object of distain.

    Despite all my concern around the Yankees they are still my team. The Yankees have an amazing history filled with triumph and tragedy. True Yankee fans are among the nation’s best, with an unparalleled understanding of the game, the history, and fan etiquette. I was born in pinstripes, mere miles from the stadium affectionately known as “The Bronx Zoo.” I support and root for my favorite team, but acknowledge their role in forever changing baseball from an enjoyable game to a cut-throat business. History shows that dynasties topple without a balance of power, money, popularity and fair leadership; hopefully Yankees management, players and fans understand what it takes to maintain their position Major League Baseball’s greatest dynasty.

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Quote of the Week

    Present your family and friends with their eulogies now - they won't be able to hear how much you love them and appreciate them from inside the coffin.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    Why Michael Vick is taking a plea deal...

    News sources report that Michael Vick will take a plea deal to avoid a trial by jury. Maybe his lawyers shared the following political cartoon to communicate how unlikely his success would be before a jury.

    Thanks for sharing this with me NeeNee

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Who will cry for you?

    Idle chatter filled the room as grieving friends and family gathered after the funeral service. Over coffee and cake we exchanged stories of our dear companion, celebrating life through sharing memories of times past. Anecdotes brought hearty laughter to stifle the tears and no one acknowledged nor truly remembered that the tales were taller and grander then when they actually happened. The silence between each story became longer and harder as memories became harder to remember and recite. Eventually we would run out of stories of our friend’s life, unable to create new ones. One pause went far too long, granting us time to reflect on the events of the prior days; the heartbreak of the news, devastation for the family, tears, prayers, memories and remembrance of a once vibrant person, now gone forever. In everyday life we spark conversation with questions about the weather, news or any other number of topics to break an uncomfortable silence. At a funeral, silence is disrupted with comments on the beautiful flowers, meaningful readings, strength of the family, fine preservation of the deceased, or the number of people who came to show their respects. As we launched into this customary funeral speak a friend looked me square in the face with a serious look and asked; “who will cry for you when you die?”

    Her intention was not to present a rhetorical question sparking deep thought or reflection; it was directed right at my personal decision to live a childfree life. This funeral was not the first time or situation where a friend or acquaintance has enquired about who will cry for me when I pass away, take care of my arrangements, care for me when I am dying, or remember me when I am gone; some of the many reasons people cite for having children. Each individual who has ever posed one of these questions has been under the assumption that I have never thought of these questions. They expected their inquiry to instigate some cathartic experience, driving me to reconsider my decision and begin the procreation process that very same evening, thanking them profusely for enlightening me on the error of my ways.

    Shocking as it is for many to hear, but the decision to bypass parenting is not one that is taken very lightly, often requiring more thought and reasoning then many put into actually having children. The “practical” reasons for having children; those based around having children to take care of you when you are old, or to mow the lawn when the back finally gives out, are important to consider when deciding against parenting children. Unarguably, every childfree couple has discussed and considered the answers to questions on aging, caretaking and their own mortality as part of their childfree decision.

    The answers to these types of questions are as varied as the couples themselves. For some, the answer is simple; who cares? Who cares if anyone misses you, or cries for you, or cares about you after you are gone; you are not going to remember who was at your funeral. Being an oldest child, a narcissist and a Leo, It would be a lie to claim that I personally belong to this camp. I would like to be remembered when I am gone; to have a room full of people fondly telling stories of my impact on their lives, and theirs on mine, wiping tears from their eyes as they remember my life and kept my memory alive.

    My desire to be remembered and loved after I am gone is not enough to start filling my womb with babies and my house with strollers for a simple reason; having children does not assure an answer to questions like “who will cry for you when you die.” Just producing children does not guarantee their lifelong love, security, companionship and devotion. We all know people who are parents and for one reason or another are left without the long-term security they thought having children would yield; individuals and couples whose relationships with their children are weak, strained or non-existent, who lost their children emotionally through events, circumstances or misgivings, or whose children’s death preceded their own.

    Being loved and making an impact in the world is not based just on the children you bore or raised, but on the relationships fostered and developed both in and outside our families. If we live our lives right by being a good friend and making a difference in the world, then plenty of people will laugh, cry and carry those memories on when we are gone. If you want people to care when you are gone, you have to love and care for them while you are still here, whether you chose to be a parent or not; having children does not guarantee being missed anymore than not having children means dying alone and unloved.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Quote of the Week

    Thank you to everyone who extended their birthday well wishes. In celebration of my birth-week, I wanted to post two quotes of the week that were left as comments by friends.

    A good reminder to all from my college roomie Kira:
    "You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely."
    -Ogden Nash

    No truer words have ever been spoken, from my friend and soccer player extraordinaire Jules:
    “Moisturize under the eyes.”
    -Julie M.
    For those who were wondering, the husband went above and beyond birthday expectations with dinner at the Nicollet Island Inn followed by an evening at the Guthrie Theatre to see the musical 1776. Without even having to tell him, that was exactly what I wanted and the the musical provided a good reminder; Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence at the age of 33. I better start writing...

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    Birthday XXXII

    Sally: I'm difficult.
    Harry: You're challenging.
    Sally: I'm too structured, I'm completely closed off.
    Harry: But in a good way.
    Sally: No, no, no I drove him away, and I'm going to be forty.
    Harry: When?
    Sally: Someday.
    Harry: In eight years.
    Sally: But it's there. It's just sitting there like this big dead end.

    The first time I watched “When Harry Met Sally,” the classic romantic comedy with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, I was 14 years old. I recall watching the film and thinking something along the lines of “Sally is old.” Today marks the day that the thought many years ago of Sally’s advancing age comes back to haunt me. Solving the simple mathematical word problem presented in the script above, Sally had her age breakdown at 32; the same age I turned today.

    Meg Ryan’s onscreen breakdown is not the only reason this birthday is a little less sweet then the prior 31. A few weeks ago while on the phone making a chiropractor appointment I overheard one of my coworkers planning his friend’s 21st birthday party. Here I was suffering through unbearable neck pain, the aging process deteriorating my vertebrae, and he was determining which bar to begin the all night binge fest at. When was the last time I partied all night? After years of actually being one of the young ones in classes and at work, a freshmen taking classes with seniors and an associate working side-by-side with partners, I was now a veteran player wondering how I was going to keep up with the rookies on the team.

    Being surrounded by people nearly 10 years younger then you has serious side effects. Their very youngness amplifies your own aging process. Being older and wiser is fine, but looking older and wiser sucks. I still look young for 32, but I definitely look older then the new hires and interns with their perfectly smooth, wrinkleless skin and lightning fast metabolisms. The only time I get carded these days is if the dirty old man behind the counter wants to know my name.

    My wallowing in self pity will eventually pass and I will begin to appreciate all the wonderful things that are symbolic of being in your thirties. After spending most of your twenties trying to figure out the meaning of your life, you begin actually living that life in your thirties. You appreciate who is important to you, realize what direction your life is going and understand that you will forever be a work in progress. Most have stabilized their careers, their relationships and their living arrangements by their thirties. I welcome being taken more seriously at work and in conversations and enjoy being able to afford extra luxuries in life like surf and turf and exotic vacations that seemed impossible straight out of college.

    There is nothing wrong with turning 32 and in the eternal words of the great Frank Sinatra “the best is yet to come,” but I still just can’t help but think that I’m going to be forty… someday…

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    I Left New York

    There are things I love about New York, but it is obviously not enough to still live there; as much as I miss my family, friends and a good sausage pizza, nothing would get me to move back. I am a Long Island native, so my view of the very large state is limited to the region I’m from. While simple to express the things you like about a place, it is extremely difficult to write the negatives. This list is not intended to offend but to enlighten those who cannot fathom why I became a New York transplant, moving the moment I turned 18. Leaving those you love behind to search for a better life is the hardest thing I ever had to do, but here are the top 10 reasons I had to leave NY:

    Traffic: “They” say that by the year 2012, New York will experience rush hour like gridlock 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Imagine never knowing how long your drive is going to take because there is always traffic. Expect blood-pressure related deaths and road rage to skyrocket. Every time I drive on the Belt Parkway, I experience an overwhelming desire to ram into the line of cars in front of me and cannot imagine sitting in that kind of traffic to go to work everyday.

    Expense: Houses, taxes, cars and groceries; all of life’s basics are so expensive it is hard for even the most successful person to make ends meet. It is not unusual for people to live with their parents well into their 30s, even if they are married with children, just to save enough to get a place of their own. This is unheard of in most other places in the United States. The American Dream is defined by some dictionaries as “the widespread aspirations of Americans to live better lives then their parents did.” Long Island’s out of control real estate market meant my American Dream needed to move to another city. Additionally, there are very few free options for fun and entertainment. Where many places have free museums, parks and gardens open to the public, free outdoor concerts and plenty of options for those who cannot afford good entertainment, New York nickel and dimes their residents, leaving fun to the elite who can afford it.

    Rudeness: There is a fine line between assertive honesty and pushy obnoxiousness. New Yorkers not only cross the line, they almost take pride in their ability to catapult themselves over the line to pure offensiveness. In our world of political correctness the honesty is sometimes refreshing, but sometimes it is very important to pick your battles rather then be rude over every little thing people do. While it is perfectly acceptable to blow your horn and give a guy who cuts you off the finger, telling a 90 year old lady off at Waldbaum’s for having 13 items in the 10 item lane or taking a call at the movie theatre is completely rude and unnecessary.

    Dog Unfriendliness: The Pet industry is the second fastest growing industry in the United States with over $41 Billion in sales last year. While most towns and cities in the United States are becoming increasingly dog friendly to align with this growth, Long Island seems to be decreasing the options available to dogs and their owners. State beaches were once a place where dogs could run and play October through April. Now they are completely off-limits to our four-legged friends. Fenced parks for off-leashing dogs are popping up across the nation yet they are not to be found in New York outside of a few tiny parks within the city limits. After experiencing the joy of seeing my dogs running freely over acres of fenced land, swimming in lakes and rivers and falling down exhausted afterwards, how could I possibly live someplace without an extensive network of dog parks?

    Xenophobia: New York is often referred to as the center of the world, and no one buys into that more then a New Yorker. While most outside of the state think New Yorkers are incredibly worldly individuals and New York the hotbed of cultural diversity, for the most part, New Yorkers really have a very narrow view of the world and think they are culturally diverse simply because they have a wide variety of ethnic cuisines available to them. Many people from New York stay close to home, go to a local college, marry someone from the area they grew up in, send their kids to same school they went to and expect their children to follow the same patterns. Some of this is cultural, with many coming from traditional Southern European or Catholic families who expect their children to remain close to the nest. Economics is also a factor, as the exorbitant cost of living in New York prohibits people from experiencing other parts of the world through travel. The end result is a large number of people who somehow look down upon people from different places even if they have never experienced those places themselves.

    Chauvinism: Machismo, the exaggerated sense of masculinity where men display attributes like aggressiveness and domination of women, oozes from the pores of far too many men on Long Island. Men spend time prepping and preening with hair gel and gold chains to look good for when they get into stupid fights with other men to display how strong and tough they are; and this actually impresses some women. When men capture the attention they are often sweet and romantic for a short time until showing their real feathers and begin exhibiting their sexist and prejudiced views of females, acting like they have a god given superiority over women. This attitude is perpetuated through the generations mostly by women who raise sons to believe they are god’s gift to the world and no woman is good enough for their son.

    Divas: What do Lindsay Lohan, Mariah Carey, Rosie O’Donnell, Taylor Dane, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Howard Stern and Flava Flav have in common? They are all divas from Long Island. There are many definitions for Diva, but most agree it is a person who is self-centered, vain, arrogant, high-maintenance, moody, difficulty, demanding, confrontational, and overly dramatic. Long Island is like a Diva factory. There is tremendous pressure to look like you came off of the cover of In Style magazine. If your hair, nails, makeup, clothes and body are not impeccable you will certainly be a hot topic of conversation among the ladies at the local nail salon. Although many women are intelligent and well read, the obsession with looks dominates conversation, and most discussions are void of real ideas and content, making women sound completely vacuous. Additionally the pressure to be toothpick thin is higher in New York then in most other cities (except Los Angeles I would imagine) and I know many New Yorkers who suffered with eating disorders at one time or another. How anyone has the time, money or patience to keep their looks and wardrobes up with the Jolie-Pitt’s is amazing.

    Drama: Unfortunately the passion and zeal of New Yorkers that I love so much yields an awful side effect; drama. Mix the chauvinists and the divas; add a small misunderstanding and next thing you know there are couples and families screaming, fighting, crying and tossing belongings out second floor bedroom windows declaring the person is "dead to them" or "their life is over." It is no surprise that there are so many actors and actresses that are New York and Long Island natives, with drama in your everyday life, it is easy to get all the training you need for the silver screen.

    Crime: Although violent crime rates have declined since the 70s, "small" crime is still significantly higher then in many other locations in the United States. Most people I know in NY have been the victim of some crime; car theft, home burglary, vandalism or assault. Long Island could be the only place where crime can be perceived as embraced as demonstrated by the somewhat successful reality TV show about a famous organized crime family who lives on Long Island; Bringing Up Gotti. Now New Yorkers have to deal with a different type of crime; terrorism. The treat of the next terrorist attack looms over the head of every New Yorker and everyone knows it is not a matter of if there is going to be another attack, but when.

    Difficulty: Everything is just so hard. It is grueling to get from one place to another, challenging to make ends meet, difficult dealing with threats and crime, demanding staying on top of fashion and trends, and tough to handle the stress that this all brings. Just leaving Long Island will lower your blood pressure. Life is hard everywhere, but in New York it is often impossible and unbearable. People often complain about how hard it is to live in New York but no one ever really leaves. Guess they like the pizza too much.

    "I hated Long Island and I had to get out." - Peggy Lipton, actress

    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Dog-Friendly Days of Summer

    One of the many things to love about Paris, and much of the rest of Europe, is their love of long evenings enjoying meals at cafes and restaurants, surrounded by the love and companionship of their furry friends. Pet owners in the United States, where most health codes prohibit animals from entering a restaurant, do not enjoy the same luxury. Fifi can enjoy a peaceful dinner at a café beside her loving owner in Paris, but Fido has to stay home anytime his parents want to grab a bite to eat, that is, except in the summer. Many restaurants are taking full advantage of health codes allowing pets to join their owners on patios, decks and rooftops to capitalize on the growing pet-friendly market.

    The following is a small list of some of the Twin Cities Pet Friendly Dining options for dogs and their humans. Allowing animals is at the discretion of the restaurant and can be changed at any time, so please call ahead to assure the establishment is still allowing animals. It is also important to remember to only take a well behaved and socialized dog that can quietly enjoy the sites and smells of al fresco dining; you do not want to bring the animal that causes management to change their tune. Summers are far too short so get out there and enjoy!


    St. Paul:

    • Coffee News Café: 1662 Grand Ave., St. Paul

    The Suburbs:

    Please leave a comment if you have a pet-friendly patio dining option to add to the list, or to report if a restaurant is no longer serving our furry friends.

    Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    Quote of the Week

    A reminder to a good friend and fellow trivia buff on his birthday...

    Everything I know I learned after I was thirty.
    - Georges Clemenceau

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    Conservatives want women barefoot and pregnant

    Conservatives in Texas must be really proud of the latest statistic to come out of their state. Facts and figures show the Lone Star State has the highest rate of teenage births in the US despite the major fall in numbers reported throughout the rest of the country. One cannot help but connect this high honor bestowed on Texas to the conservative politics entrenched in their system through the works and words of their favorite son, President George W. Bush. Every study under the sun has proven that policies like abstinence only education that keep teenagers from receiving education on sex and its consequences do nothing to actually stop them from engaging in sexual activity. Rather then curtail sexual activity; these programs actually yield horrific results in combating the issues surrounding ill-informed sexuality activity like STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Yet with all the studies around what is necessary to keep teenagers safe and baby-free, George W. Bush and his conservative cronies continue to support policies that restrict the information teens receive on sex, spending millions of tax-payer dollars on programs that do not work, leading to the question; do conservatives actually want teenage girls to get pregnant?

    Conservatives ride on a platform of being pro-life, but in actuality, are they really just pro-pregnancy? It is easy to draw this conclusion through policy analysis; the current administration and the Republican Party show a complete the lack of support for anything that gives a woman control of her reproduction. The battle against reproductive rights and freedom is fought from three major fronts:
    • Elimination of sex education.
    • Outlawing birth control.
    • Banning women from ending unwanted pregnancies.

    The Battle to Eliminate Sex Eduation: No matter which side of the political fence you are on, the facts are clear around the lack of success of these programs. Abstinence only education is proven to be ineffective in keeping teens from engaging in sexual activity. 60 percent of American teenagers have sex before age 18. Research also shows that 88 percent of those who took abstinence pledges have sex before marriage. The American Journal of Public Health reported that around 9 out of 10 times, better understanding and use of contraceptives is cited as the reason for the drop in pregnancy rate, not abstinence. Very few actually believe that these programs ensure that people wait until their wedding nights to have sex yet conservatives continue to stand behind these failing programs that promote ignorance over empowerment. Knowing these programs do not work, do conservatives see teenage pregnancy as a failure or is it actually being promoted?

    Countries that educate and have programs for teenage girls to get birth control have the same levels of teenage sexual activity as the US, but are seeing much better results in lowering the incidents of both pregnancy and STDs. American girls are four times more likely then German girls to become pregnant and five times more likely to have HIV. American girls are also five times more likely then French girls to have a baby and 70 times more likely to have gonorrhea. So programs focusing on abstinence are not only gambling with the reproductive freedom of teenagers, but also their lives.

    The Battle to Outlaw Birth Control: The Republican Party as a whole is very open about their stance against abortion, making their actions against birth control puzzling since knowledge of and the ability to attain birth control would prevent abortions. Republicans are very well aware that most of their constituents have used birth control yet they continue to cater to the extremists who equate birth control with abortion. Speaking of the “sanctity of life,” some proponents of outlawing birth control contend that every egg deserves to be a fertilized one that develops into a baby. This is the same argument given for arguments against embryonic stem cell research. It does not take much dissection of both these arguments to establish these groups value the life of an unborn child over the life of a fully developed, living, breathing woman.

    The Battle to Ban Abortion: Also demonstrating the lack of value placed on women is the support of abortion legislation that bans the procedure even if it is to protect the life of the woman. These groups are not pro-lifers, they are anti-women baby extremists; willing to sacrifice the life of a woman, placing a higher value on her womb then her life.

    These conservative groups want to keep women barefoot and pregnant through all means possible as demonstrated by their archaic views on sex education, contraception and abortion. With the number of Christians who support at the very least a women’s right to effective family planning through reliable birth control, it is difficult to accept the biblical reasons groups often cite as their reasons for limiting women's rights to quality family planning. There are reasons, other then those claimed to be based in religious faith, for denying women control over their bodies. In our capitalist society we must always remember that it is money, not values, that makes the political world go 'round'.

    The major strides women have made in attaining gender equality over the past century are primarily attributed to the advances made in reproductive medicine, education and the widespread availability of birth control. Forbidding women from controlling the number of children they have forces them to take on lower paying jobs, sacrifice educational opportunities and become increasingly dependent on men for support. Women are not able to be equal with men unless they are able to plan or forego pregnancy, allowing them to compete in the workplace and yield the same economic independence of men. The groups attacking women’s reproductive options are the same as those who keep fighting against the Equal Rights Amendment. Coincidence? I think not.

    From a purely socio-economic/political science standpoint, promoting unwanted pregnancies through all means possible actually helps the Republican Party well beyond their so called “family values” and “pro-life” platforms. One-third of teenage girls who have a child before 18 will ever earn their High School Diploma. Only 1.5% of these girls will earn a college degree by the time they are 30 years old. The children born of teenage parents are more likely to have health issues, educational issues and become teenage parents themselves. This creates a permanent underclass of females that perpetuates for generations through their children. Creating this second class citizenry through promoting unwanted pregnancies creates a very large population of individuals paying regressive payroll taxes, increasing the tax base while allowing for reductions in the higher brackets. So the next time you hear some republican talk about these policies being for the children, the children they are really talking about are their own who in turn become richer off those who were denied the economic freedom of education and higher payer jobs because they were not given the resources necessary to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

    The conservative agenda aims at keeping women from being successful and solidly cements the glass ceiling above the heads of girls through providing teenagers with abstinence only education, making birth control difficult to attain and limiting a woman’s ability to end unwanted pregnancies. These policies of promoting ignorance and denying women's control of their health are ethically imorral, risking the lives of teenagers and adult women to keep women from attaining the same freedoms and status of men.

    Sunday, August 05, 2007

    Carpe Vita

    During disasters we are naturally drawn to the stories of those who lived to tell their tales of survival; our instinct to celebrate human triumph over tragedy. Personal accounts of those narrowly escaping death, fighting to live and rescuing strangers, narratives of human strength, perseverance and fortitude, act as the coping mechanism necessary to move on with life. We each move on. Remember the days following the events of September 11th when no one thought the world would continue to spin? It did; we all did. We all spun right back into the routines of our everyday lives without learning the most important lessons these catastrophic events can teach us.

    Last week, many around the world asked themselves “who do I know in Minnesota” and if their answer to that question was anything other then “no one” then they placed a call, sent a text or wrote an email. We instinctively reach out to those we know to ensure they are okay, even if eons passed since the prior conversation. The phone is picked up and dialed without hesitation; no thoughts on the amount of time the call might take, if the other person will be mad for the number of years since you last spoke, worrying of bothering someone during time with their family, or the countless other excuses we routinely use to avoid calling our friends and family. Bad news means we have no excuse to reach out and show we care. After the news becomes old, we return to the hustle and bustle of our lives, forgetting once again to keep the communication channels open with those we care about.

    Whether you were in or around New York after the terrorist attacks, lived the path of a natural disaster, felt the tremors of California, resided in Minnesota after last week’s bridge collapse or been anywhere by a terrible world event, you learned the experience of being on the receiving end of the “are you okay” call. We hardly take the time to reflect on the importance of these phone calls as their numbers become as overwhelming as the experience that brought them on. Calls and messages of concern come out of nowhere as people we may forget show us they did not forget us. Through all these messages of concern and relief, we miss the biggest message of them all; the impact made on someone’s life that makes us important enough to call.

    After devastating events, we recognize the real fortunes we have in our lives; our friends and family. It is not our possessions or careers that define our place and path in the world; it is our relationships and experiences. For a short time we remember to spend time with those we love, to let others know they are on our minds, and to accomplish things we want to do before we die. These are the times when we often quote an unnamed friend of Paul Tsongas, "No man ever said on his deathbed, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.’” Unfortunately, this lesson is very short-lived. Time marches on and so do we; falling back into our routines and forgetting what we learned in the face of disaster. We begin putting work over family, stop calling friends, forget birthdays and anniversaries, neglect to tell people they are loved, forgo traveling, put off reading a good book and make excuses for putting everything ahead of the people in our lives.

    If you watched TV this week, you heard the stories of human survival, but the most important lesson we can learn during these times is never delivered; life is not about surviving, it is about living. Most will never need the lesson we were delivered on surviving a sinking car, but we all could use but we all use a refresher course on how to live life:

    • Pick up the phone and call your friends and family in good times and in bad.
    • Know the people who care about you, and put them all at the top of your priority life.
    • Carpe Vita... Seize Life!

    Thursday, August 02, 2007

    Minneapolis Bridge Collapse Tragedy

    During the bumper-to-bumper evening rush hour on Wednesday, August 1, 2007, the 8 lane I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis spanning the Mississippi River collapsed, crushing cars and sending countless vehicles and people plummeting into the water. This horrible tragedy is one that has left the entire area and nation shaken with disbelief, paralyzed with the images of twisted steel, crushed concrete and vehicles submerged in the water. Terrorist activity has all been ruled out, but the impact of the catastrophe is no less painful then if someone purposely attacked the bridge; an unknown number of people are dead, many hurt, and a major road and shipping channel closed causing economic impact that this area has never experienced.

    Minneapolis is a “small big city,” even with nearly 3 million people in the Twin Cities metro, it is a lot like Cheers; everybody knows your name. Unlike most of the United States experiencing increased transience of their residents as they move for other pastures, Minnesota remains a place where people continue to embrace neighborhood, friends and family. I often tease my husband and other friends that Minnesota ranks only second to Hawaii as the least migratory state; Over 90% of the people who are born here live their entire lives in the state. But this dedication to the state gives the people of the Twin Cities much of the same strength, fortitude, spirit, camaraderie and determination shown after the September attacks that made me very proud to be a New Yorker. Although the first reaction is always, “this kind of stuff doesn’t happen here,” it has happened here, and the people here will band together to get through this horrible time.

    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    Quote of the Day

    A perfect quote for summer....

    There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want.
    --Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes