30 October 2006

ode to the 'ham

my old friend and framingham buddy mark alerted me to thisisframingham, a surprisingly charming and sweet blog about our hometown. although the author didn't grow up in the 'ham, she has a remarkable memory and writes with loving innocence yet not without edge.

she searches for the perfect pizza (i would suggest makkas pizza - my first employer - in the old framingham mall, were it still around). she owns a bike and actually uses it to get around. she seems dedicated to finding the rare nooks and crannies in what is increasingly a chain-store-saturated anywhere, usa. she mourns the "sad plaza" (you know, where big d used to be), hopes for the revitalization of downtown and supports local businesses.

but her biggest rant may be the sad transformation of shoppers world from the pioneering open-air mall of our youth to the big box glorified strip mall of today.

"i don’t want to sound like an old lady shaking her cane into the air but, the new shoppers world isn’t even worthy of the name shoppers world! They should call it 'another blob of generic stores you can find anywhere in America with bland, unoriginal structures and no trains or reindeer'"

amen, sister.

boston men

five name-brand actors who would have been a better casting choice than jack nicholson to play frank costello in "the departed:"

gene hackman
michael caine
ian mckellan
michael gambon
hell, daniel day lewis with some makeup

and speaking of boston,
rip red auerbach. although i was too young to see him as a coach, i do remember watching the ceremony in 1985 when the celtics retired his number and my dad telling me stories about red.

reading the obituaries i am struck not only by the humor of the red stories but also the humanity. for every tale of him being thrown out of an arena, or punching somebody in the face, or the bravado of the famous cigar, there is a story of his undying love and support for his players, his insistence on a team-based strategy, or his groundbreaking hiring of black players and coaches. boston has lost a legend.

28 October 2006

subway birthday

check out slate's great photo essay in celebration of the 102nd birthday of the new york subway. i love the contrast in old pictures: the stations look exactly the same, time is told through the details. men wearing hats in the 60s; grafitti everywhere in the 80s; police officers in the 2000s.

memories of taurus

the ford taurus is no more. this week, the last tauruses (tauri?) came off the production line in atlanta, as the factory ground to a halt and prepared to close its doors. taurus was ford's big hit of the 1980s: an american car for american drivers. the taurus was a product of an innovative development process and featured "revolutionary design" and "aerodynamic styling." these days, the taurus looks dated and tired and americans have shifted their focus to gas-guzzling suvs or japanese imports. the taurus has not kept up with the proverbial jonses.

hmmm. i had a ford taurus between 1998-2003, and my relationship with the car followed a similar story arc. my parents bought it for me my junior year in college to replace my ailing buick. i felt like i was driving on air. smaller, faster and cuter than my previous ride the taurus was. it served me well and i drove the hell out of that thing. it accompanied me from new hampshire to san francisco, waited patiently for a year while i gallavanted around the world, then was ready and willing to cruise back to new york for a few years. but gradually the taurus seemed as huge and clunky as the buick had been. it was with little regret that i said goodbye to welcome the car-love-of-my-life subie into the picture.

i don't have the sweet nostalgia for the taurus that i have for either the buick or the subie, although i owned it for longer than the two other cars combined and put by far the most miles on it. but i can think back to some good memories with that trusty car.

there was the time that tami, rob and i drove the taurus down to florida and new orleans for spring break senior year. we drove straight without stopping, except for a blizzard in georgia where we had to pull over and sleep for a while. i think it was on that trip where i passed 100,000 miles. and it was definitely on that trip that a bird met its fate in the front seat. we were on the interstate doing about 80 with the driver's window cracked and somehow a bird flew in, hit the passenger's window and died in an explosion of feathers. true story.

there were the two trips across the country. going west it was a three-car caravan and five people, a legendary trip. my car was the solo vehicle - the five of us rotated through the three front seats, but my passenger seat was full of eli's backpack, so driving in my car was driving alone. of all the adventures of that trip - and there were many - i can't think of any that were car-related. but it was a beautiful time, five kids driving into their future with no idea what was in store.

on the way back three years later, i drove by myself from california to kansas city where seth met me for the rest of the trip to new york. those were two intense days of driving alone; i was again moving across the country without a plan - running away, in a sense. i listened to memoirs of a geisha, unabridged, on tape and drove 14 hours a day, barely stopping for gas and food. i can still imitate the voice on that tape saying "hatsumomo-san." with seth in the car we stopped every 15-20 minutes and had legendary nights in kansas city and lexington, ky.

there was the time when i almost slept in the backseat at my cousin's wedding. and the time i drove to framingham from brooklyn in winter without one window because some asshole on adams street had smashed it. i remember towing the taurus up the driveway daily during winter in new hampshire with tami's ford explorer; the taurus was never very good in the snow.

sometimes the taurus would break down and all you had to do was pull over and wait a half hour, then it would be ready to go again. that's a great car. that happened on the drive west in badlands and again on the highway outside of vegas. it happened once with seth on our way to go camping in upstate new york, another classic trip. we made friends with a gas station attendant and stopped by to see him on the way home and were crushed that he didn't treat us as the old buddies we thought we were.

so adieu taurus. you were a good car...and thorough.

ok, time for me to get off the couch, kick this hangover and get ready for the bbq!

27 October 2006

just blame bush?

bush's mea culpa (of sorts) regarding the iraq war strikes me as somewhat bittersweet. on the one hand, of course we believe the war is his fault. from stories of bush and his cronies planning an iraq invasion long before 9/11 to the WMD lies to the halliburton contracts to abu ghraib to the costly and murderous disaster of today, this war has been an outrage from day 1, and to hear the president say "If people are unhappy about it, look right to the president" gives a certain satisfaction. of course we're looking right to you, and we don't need your permission to blame you for everything, but thanks anyway.

however, those votes in congress authorizing the president to use force in iraq didn't cast themselves, and since this is obviously bush's election-night ploy to save his party in the house and senate, you kind of want to stop him in his tracks. yes, it's your fault, but let's elect democrats just in case, shall we?

meanwhile, the GOP is apparently seeing a golden opportunity in new jersey's recent court decision to allow homosexual couples the same legal and financial benefits as everybody else. war cry! call in karl rove. will they be able to use what is basically a human rights issue to scare voters as they did in 2004? stay tuned...

today' question: so what's your feeling over there in the US? from here is looks like the republicans are about to get trounced...but i don't want to get my hopes up.

26 October 2006

rain in spain

the rain is insistent, it is constant. it has been raining for weeks. it drizzles, it pours. at first i kind of liked it; autumn was here. time to cozy up, dig out the sweaters. i silently congratulated myself for my practical rain gear: waterproof jacket and waterproof sneakers. i made soup. i made more soup. but now it's getting tiresome. the weather shows rain for the rest of the week. i'm losing patience.

i think the spanish news outlets are thrilled. tonight's top stories: it's raining! in some parts of spain it's raining, while in other parts it's really raining. rivers are high, trees are falling. yes, indeed, it's raining in spain. the same news spots previously reserved for reports on the drought are now filled with breathless stories of rain.

somebody mentioned to me that it's all relative. as in, a british person or perhaps a person from seattle would step off the plane in madrid and say "what rain?" but here we're so used to the drought that this weather is cause for hysteria.

meanwhile, i'm taking the optimistic approach. somewhere out at the end of the forecast i see a little icon of a sun, and a tempting 27degrees. could it be? whatever, i'm planning a bbq. you're invited.

25 October 2006

novel aspirations

a week from today i start my novel. for those of you who don't know, i'm participating in national novel writing month, starting november 1. the idea is to write a novel in one month, focusing on the finish line and not worrying about details and edits. a friend in sf who did it years ago inspired me, saying that it is more an exercise in creative confidence than anything else. not that i expect to publish this speedy work of fiction, but i do hope that the effort of writing it, will jumpstart other projects, give me confidence in what is possible.

so i've been thinking about this for months and have a basic idea mapped out, but i still feel a little unprepared. some concerns:
  • i've never written any fiction. i don't even think i've written a short story
  • i don't even read fiction these days. for the past 4 years i've read only the occaisonal novel
  • yesterday i tried to read milan kundera's essay "what is a novelist?" in the new yorker and i got through about two paragraphs before i was bored stiff, more interested in the following piece on a real-life michael scofield. is that a bad sign? has anyone actually read the article, can you summarize it for me?
the novel project is the reason i started this blog, i wanted to get into the habit of writing on a daily basis. it has been great, but i'm definitely not up to speed. luckily for me, november 1 is a holiday in spain so i'll have the whole day to stare at the screen and start writing. blog posts may taper off a bit, sorry.

today's question: what is the best novel you've read? and what made it so good?

23 October 2006

an offer you can't refuse

here in spain they really know how to do sundays. the typical sunday starts late, includes a walk and possibly a nap and is generally spent in bars and cafes, alternating between wine/beer and coffee. yesterday was a lovely example: despite the insistent rain i managed a stroll through town, found a new cozy cafe with yummy homemade cakes and enjoyed the company of a quippy friend ("top is the new bottom").

in new york i remember sunday always feeling like a punishment, the eventuality of monday was a doom that poisoned the possibility of an enjoyed afternoon. the exceptions were macki (tm) days around brooklyn and riis park in the summer. for the most part, however, sundays were just depressing.

last night i watched the godfather for the first all the way through. previous attempts had always resulted in a deep sleep. so what can i say that isn't trite and 34 years late? great movie, i loved it. part 2 is tonight.

today's question: who's a better actor: marlon brando, al pacino, robert duvall or robert deniro?

21 October 2006

won't you be my neighbor?

from InMadrid, a local english language "newspaper:"

"poor old VIPS! after a meal at their restaurant near the rastro, around 200 members of a gypsy clan rose to their feet practically in unison and wandered off without paying, leaving helpless staff agog and police from a neighbouring comisaria unable to act. the result? a new record for the biggest "sinpa" (sin pagar) spain has ever seen"

for those of you unfamiliar with my neighborhood, the dine-and-ditchers in question are none other than the local rifraf: the gypsies who hang out on the corners with their long greasy hair, three-inch heels, hooker ensembles, and unsupervised and numerous children. they often frequent denny's-like chain VIPS, where they've been known to cause a ruckus, especially on popular 2-for-1 sunday nights. i've seen toddlers running amok lighting things on fire, impromptu flamenco dancing between booths and outfits worthy of a white-trash prom.

i've often thought that the VIPS in our neighborhood must be one of the worst to work at; i've imagined managers of other locations chiding late-to-work employees that if they don't start turning up on time they'll be sent to the rastro VIPS to deal with the gypsies. and the employee begging, promising: "anything but that!" i envison long regretful sighs from the steadfast waitstaff as large groups of gypsies enter...the scent of hairspray preceding their noisy arrival.

so i guess it doesn't surprise me that this rowdy bunch orchestrated a junior highschool-level prank of record-breaking proportions. of some concern, however, is that InMadrid listed this news item in the "in" column of their "in/out" feature. now granted, InMadrid isn't exactly the go-to publication for ethical journalism, not exactly the watchdog of our spanish society, to put it lightly. but, still.

but why am i reading this damn paper anyway? the final episode of project runway just finished downloading, i hope michael wins!
related: michael kors, great project runway judge, sure. but, great american designer?

today's question: is dine-and-ditch ever ok? i think not...

19 October 2006

sf: too pretty for its own good?

is san francisco ugly? architecturally, yes, according to witold in a slate article. he goes on to pull his punch a bit, basically saying that the buildings in SF lack edge.

why? well perhaps because there is no historical architectural tradition, there are no local "starchitects" to create a modern movement or raise the public consciousness (such as Frank Gehry in LA) and even guest architects don't do their best work in the city by the bay. but my favorite explanation is that SF's location is just too stunning, too beautiful. as if any attempt at architecture would be overshined by the gourgeousness of the place itself.

today's question: can you make striking and important architecture in a city that is too pretty?

unrelated: an interview with wonder showzen creators john lee and vernon chatman. apparently the second season is now out on dvd. but you've already downloaded it, right?

17 October 2006

out of five

i love out of five. they post weekly themed mixes of ten tracks, each song chosen by a different person. this is not the place to find hot new bands or to get ten new songs you'll love every week. there are no archives. but i like the curatorial aspect of it, and the randomness. it's as if you are picking through a bin of mixtapes at a record store: some are interesting, others feature a song or an artist you haven't thought about in a while, some make no sense.

this week's mix is titled: "Pure Genius: songs with a legitamate claim to being the greatest pop song ever." ok, a good one for beginners. pop songs: nice and digestable (previous themes have been haze, high, spoken word). they've chosen some obvious tracks here -- from Kylie, Prince, ABBA -- and some less so -- Matthew Sweet, Talking Heads. A good mix, overall.

Now, of course, the armchair music selector: where is "Dry the Rain" by
the Beta Band? How about "Oh Sweet Nuthin" by the Velvet Underground? Not pop enough? Ok, virtually anything by the Beatles, then.

Today's question: what makes a genius pop song? should it push the boundaries or please the masses? should it be widely recognized as genius, or be a tour de force of a lesser-known artist?

16 October 2006

best days

what makes for a memorable day...the type of day you mark as one of the best of your life? is it the achievement of a goal or an important event: weddings, graduations, promotions? or maybe we just fall back on those days as candidates for "best in life" because they are so memorable. there are photo albums and eyewitnesses to vouch for them.

but, i suspect, more often a perfect day is one with less planning, a day of surprises perhaps, or a day of seamless enjoyment. for me these qualities define the best days of my life, and i allow the plural just as i allow it with best friends. there is too much pressure to have only one.

these types of days are harder to recall in that they aren't life landmarks. and it might even be sweeter if they pass by without us realizing. you've just had one of the best days of your life and you don't even know it.

here are some of mine:
  • Winter 1995, Framingham: the day i got accepted to dartmouth. not only was i ecstatic at the time, as dartmouth was the only school i wanted to go to, this was a formative day in young jacki's life. looking back, my entire life from that point has been influenced and informed by my experience at dartmouth and my friends from there. sidenote, i've been reading about how several ivys (ivies?) have suspended their early admission programs. while i understand that early admissions give unfair advantage to already-privledged students, in winter 1995 it sure did rock my world.
  • December 2001, New York: this was a day of big thrills, many laughs and my closest friends. seth corby and i rode on a motorcade to the army/navy football game in giants stadium. once you've had the lincoln tunnel cleared of traffic for your motorcade, everything else in life feels rather blase. well, until the opera. saw my first opera at the met. i recommend opera to cure post-motorcade blues. finally, a classic night at bridges (at this point i stop remembering but i assure you, it might have even been the best part of the day). i think corby made us breakfast the next morning.
  • June 2005, Madrid: a perfect sunday in madrid. it was summer, so the day started with a terrace party at our house. from there the afternoon proceeded effortlessly through afternoon/evening drinks in la latina, a little friend drama to keep it interesting, seeing just about everybody we know milling about on the street, a spontaneous street party due to some firemen and their car troubles, and finally to cap off the night more drinks at parque atenas, a cafe in the middle of the park where we sprawled out on a grassy hill with some dogs and lots of people. not working early on monday morning is one of the best things about living here in madrid. sunday nights are a gift.
  • Saturday October 14, 2006, Madrid: saturday qualifies as a best day. it was an unplanned day with perfect weather that came together better than many that you plan for weeks. lance and i spent the afternoon meandering around madrid without direction, stumbling upon some random and delightful things. some easy shopping, a gallery exhibit, a gourmet food fair with a hot bread salesman, an impromptu and delicious dinner at his house. finally, we met up later for a couple of drinks in the barrio which turned into big night out dancing with a fun group of people. came home at 8am tired, happy and impressed.
today's question: would you rather know you were having a/the best day of your life and experience it more fully, or enjoy it unfettered by expectation?

14 October 2006

the new

a long time ago in new york i minted the phrase "tuesday is the new thursday" to explain the certain magic of going out for drinks on a tuesday night. i think i was even quoted in the company newsletter. perhaps there is an engraved plaque on the wall somewhere, who knows?

so anyway, i have now unveiled a new witticism: "hair is the new skin." this refers to men's faces. everywhere i look i see facial hair. where there used to be short hair and bare skin there are now bushy heads, beards or - god forbid - goatees. boys, take this chance to grow it out. winter is upon us.

hair is the new skin. you heard it here.

note: ladies, this does not refer to you.

and ps. look out new yorkers. grambo is moving in.

bumping in

lately i have been bumping into people on the street. this isn't too normal for me; i think i usually walk with my head down to avoid tripping, and don't see people's faces. but on wednesday i bumped into not one, but two bartenders who i know.

beyond the fact that two people in one afternoon is a huge bumping-into count for me, to bump into two bartenders is even more random. i'm not the type of girl to have personal relationships with bartenders...is it because i don't often drink alone in bars? or maybe because i spread out over a number of bars rather than becoming a regular at one.

of course, in the section of my heart labeled "my bartender" there is a shrine to joey from bridges. i don't know if anybody can fill his half-italian half-puerto rican shoes. maybe that's it.

in the meantime though, i should stay on my toes and keep my head up. there are better things to see than my feet as i amble along.

today's question: where's joey? does anybody know?

10 October 2006

put the patriot into ex-pat

hey all of you who are living outside the U.S.: this is coming a little bit late but is still important. if you haven't done so already, you can register to vote or request an absentee ballot for the elections november 7 at this website: VoteFromAbroad.org.

although this isn't a presidential election year, these midterms elections are crucial and could provide what would be a refreshing swing in the political tides. there are several important governatorial and congressional elections (looking in your direction, residents of connecticut, new york and massachusetts...you know who you are!) let's stop being ashamed of our country's voting record, shall we?

also of note, Democrats Abroad, an organization for those of us who want to be politically active and meet other sexy democrats in foreign settings. there is a cocktail hour in madrid october 26, who's coming?

and for the two, maybe three of the readers of this blog who aren't democrats (i won't name names), i apologize. the regularly scheduled non-political banter will continue tomorrow.

09 October 2006

9 lives swiss

my swiss army knife has been with me forever. it's one of those things that i always take with me -- on every trip, on every move -- and although it's not a family heirloom or particularly valuable, it is one of my favorite posessions. a jacki heirloom, i guess.

due to all this moving around with the trusty knife in tow, and also due to what seems to be a consistent failure to keep sharp objects out of my carry-on luggage, the knife and i have had many near-misses. we have almost parted ways at least four times. and this is in approximately ten years of ownership. i'd better start showing it some more love and attention; it only has four lives left!

the first time i lost the knife, tami had it for maybe a year. i don't even think i knew that i'd lost it, and if so i may in fact have been happy about it. it started out its life #1 as a gift from an ex, and perhaps at the time it still had that nasty "ex" feeling to it. anyway, tami handed it back to me one day to my surprise. life #2.

i think i managed to hold onto it for a good while after that. it wasn't until two months after sept. 11 when i ambled through bangkok airport security with the knife in my hand luggage. those lovely people put the knife in a plastic baggie and checked it right there at the metal detector. in los angeles it nonchalantly slid down the baggage carousel like the jetsetting gadget it truly is. life #3

at this point, i am fairly attached to the little bugger. so it was with extreme stupidity before a flight in august that i carefully ensured that knitting needles could be brought aboard, double-checked that there were no liquids or gels in my bag then strolled through security with the knife in my purse. the good people of manchester, new hampshire were kind enough to let me go find my bag and remedy the situation. i had tears ready to go; an invented tearjerker involving a deathbed bequest of a favorite relative in my head. no need. life #4

well, this brings us up to saturday afternoon. ever the useful tool, the knife currently holds only pair of scissors in the house. so there were about five of us using it to create sukkot decorations at the pre-party. suddenly and without warning, the knife disappears into thin air. not wanting to make a big deal, and confident it would turn up, i reluctantly grabbed some steak knives to use in lieu of scissors. it was only the next morning, after thoroughly cleaning up from the party that i realized that the knife might truly be gone.

how can this be? after everything, to disappear without so much as a strip search by an airport rent-a-cop? what an anticlimax! should i cry? or just deny? sure enough, an hour went by and simon texted to announce that he has the knife in his bag. sigh of relief. life #5.

why do i love this knife so much? well, besides its obvious utility there is the simple fact that we have been together so long. and the tools are slightly ridiculous: the hook? the awl? i mostly use the scissors. truthfully, i've used all of it (ok except the damn awl) and now i'm so attached to this thing it would be devastating to live without it.

what other silly objects am i emotionally bound to? i'm not too materialistic, but here are some other trifling objects i would have a hard time living without:
  • my sarong (playa del carmen, mexico, 1998)
  • my greek sandals (athens, 1998)
  • green dartmouth hoodie (hanover, 1995)
  • ziebenshlafer artwork (hanover, 1999)
and that's it? everything else you can have....

today's question: what one object would you take from me, if you could have your pick?

07 October 2006

faint recollections

i have a tendency to faint, due to what all doctors have assured me is a healthily low blood pressure. standing up too fast, not having enough air and being dehydrated are the catalysts. it happens once every few months...most recently last night.

my reaction when i feel it happening is to flee -- a feeling of claustrophobia followed by a need to escape. to the bathroom, outside, out of the room. then i usually hit the floor about five steps in. when will i learn: my flee should be directed downward...my escape to the safety of the floor?

making light of this somewhat embarassing tendency, here is a list of some of my favorite fainting moments. thanks to all you friends and family for your assistance and for getting me those highly necessary glasses of water.
  • the first faint (~1989) - my mom was braiding my hair in my room. beginners luck: i artfully crashed into the corner of a table in my room, creating a well-placed permanent dimple on the right side of my face
  • thailand (2001) - eating dinner on the beach with ange, barrett and raf i try fleeing to the bungalow and trip over a lawn chair, an exposed pipe and then roll through some shrubbery. i awake to the thai proprieter shaking her finger at me yelling "you too drunk!"
  • calistoga (early 2000s) - it was here when i discovered that extremely hot rooms are not for me. covered with mud i was falling all over the room passing out, while begging my friend not to call in the staff to help. at the time: mortifying. retrospectively: hilarious.
  • madrid (2005-2006) - once it was in the basement of an irish bar. i fell over the pool table and ended up on the floor next to the cigarette machine. awoke to realize that a room full of people did nothing to help, the savages. then last night: my flight to the door was fortuitiously thrwarted by an unmoving chair. i came to on the floor with zoe saying "should we get an ambulance? yes." that woke me up. i dont need an ambulance, just a glass of water with a straw and ten good minutes sitting on the floor under a table.
now i have a bump on my head. drinking lots of water. how embarassing.

06 October 2006

design, redesign

wow, the morning news has redesigned. lookin' good. i remember working at a dot-com and going through approximately two redesigns...during each one the old site looked like such a dinosaur it was almost nauseating. but somehow when another site redesigns it is jarring.

i'm still not used to the "new" new york times; what has it been, six months? videos? i dunno, i like them, but i go elsewhere for my video content. new york times: i want you to look like you did before, thanks.

even my new yorker this week (two weeks late, as usual) has tweaked a bit and i balked, slightly.

blogger's all: "new beta version!" damn, i've been here, what...two weeks?

am i an old fart...resistant to change? am i like those people who still cling to yahoo or - god forbid - aol when the rest of us enlightened folk have long ago switched to gmail? (you know who you are)

today's question: should i redesign? is it long overdue??

03 October 2006

fast forward

good news and bad news. the good news is that i fasted for yom kippur. all day. i even skipped dinner the night before (by accident). the bad news is that i failed to be anything other than *busy* during the whole day. no quiet moments of reflection, no mourning, certainly no atonement.

in the end, it was more just a personal challenge followed by a big dinner. which is interesting in its own right, but really not what i was after.

in other news of my jewish awakening, we are having a sukkot party on our terrace this saturday. i'm looking forward to the project-y part, as well as the bbq. pictures to follow.

today's question: if you could be from one country other than your own, which would you choose?

01 October 2006


an extremely insensitive remark made last night has me thinking about expectations.

something horribly shocking happens and one asks "what did they expect?"

does anybody ever expect bad things to happen to them? to say somebody should have expected something, is it to say that they deserved it?

thinking about my failure to expect certain events, i wonder what i expect at all. i always find it difficult to look into the future. what do i expect to happen in five years? tomorrow? what do i deserve?

my roommate says the only thing you can be sure of is the worst case scenario. so that is perhaps what we should expect. then at least we won't be guilty of not expecting what other people think we deserve.

today's question: what is the use of having expectations anyway? is each day just a surprise and expectations, whether high or low, meaningless?