Friday, May 30, 2008

Dreams: The Little Grey Ones

I am consistently having the strangest, most vivid dreams so I decided to start writing them down. This one was about a month ago but it’s been stuck in my head ever since. Forgive me, I am not an avid suspense writer but I’ll do my best to capture the moment.

2 years after the bomb hit life was somewhat back in order. We had begun to re-colonize the affected houses and were starting to get back on track. Life had certainly taken on a different look though. The landscapes were barren littered by skeletal remnants of trees and blank dusty fields stood where grass had been. All food had to be grown in large greenhouses. A few farm animals had survived but we no longer used them as a food source as there was no way to cultivate them in large numbers with the desolate lands. They were now free to roam the planet, living off whatever they could find to eat. A few pockets of rainforest remained though the predators there had become so voracious that humans did not dare venture near.

Only those of us with strong immune systems had survived and anyone within close range of the bomb had been killed on impact or shortly after. The children with Down syndrome had been hit the hardest. The chemicals left hanging in the atmosphere had merged with their 21st chromosome, changing and mutating them. They were no longer able to withstand even the tiniest amount of sun. Their flesh which had turned a translucent grey as a result of the darkness, felt like shaved velvet. Their bodies were soft and squishy with an overall lack of muscle. Their spines were curved and made their crooked shoulder bones protrude forward like oversized doorknobs. They moved slow and awkwardly, more slinking and creeping than walking.

The transformation had left them with a zombie like hunger for human flesh and they set out each night in search of food. They were not adept hunters and possibly this is what kept them weak. They were strong collectively and once they had you there was no hope of escape, but their atrophied muscles would not allow for extensive reach. They would creep into the houses at night in groups searching for anyone who might have been caught unaware. You were safe in bed if you slept toward the middle of the mattress where they could not reach you. Sometimes you would wake up to the scuffle of bare feet across the floor and if the moon was high enough you might catch a glimmer of light reflecting in their huge black eyes. You would quietly curl to the center of the bed and hope desperately they had not noticed your movement. I remember the night they came. The pitter-patter of tiny feet on the hardwood was what first alerted me. Tiny whispering voices were nearly inaudible. “Had they discovered I was lying here silently?” “Was the information about their short reach true?” “Would I truly be safe if I stayed far enough from the edge?” “Had I left anything on the floor they might use to climb higher?” These questions raced through my mind as I tried to stay still as a statue. I could feel their spongy fingers searching the edge of the mattress. One grazed my cheek and quickly pulled away. A chorus of little voices arose and then numerous hands reaching toward my body. I moved further away from the edge, shaking and terrified. When they could not again feel my flesh, they turned and crept toward the door. I prayed my neighbors would be safe as well.

Side note: I googled "little grey ones" and come up with many pictures. This was my favorite.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New York was fabulous!

Background note: My mother and I went to NYC from May 20-25 to sell my grandmother’s painting at Sotheby’s, when it turned out to be worth more than anyone in the family wanted the responsibility of owning. The painting is nearly identical to this one.

My mother and I arrived Tuesday morning at 6:00 am, desperately tired and discombobulated. We had originally planned to go out and see the city, but were not quite in a state to do so. Instead we went straight to our hotel, The Yale Club, hoping they might have an open room and willing to pay a half-day rate if so. The gal at the front desk told us there might be something open around 7:30 so we left our things with the bell staff and staggered over to Grand Central Station to grab a bite to eat.

We found a place called Dishes, which had a delightful array of fresh pastries, sandwiches, fruits, smoothies and other such fare. I had a “bagel press” which consisted of a sesame seed(always a favorite) bagel with herb cream cheese, feta, and plum tomatoes pressed on some type of grill. It was absolute heaven! We walked back to the hotel after enjoying our breakfast and inquired about a room. They said nothing was available but maybe around 11:00 when folks started to check out.

We plopped down on one of the couches in the oh-so-elegant lobby and discussed what to do next. Mother had grabbed one of the cards describing the dress code from the front desk and we began to read through. No jeans, no tennis shoes, no casual sandals. Dress shoes, tailored pants or skirts, and dress shirts only. Very strict. Well I’m in basically a sweat suit and thongs and mom’s freaking out about her crocs. We both fumbled over ideas of where to go and what to do, both terrified to walk across the lobby and have someone comment on our attire. I had somehow gotten out of the house without my raincoat so we decided to hit the streets and try to find one as the NY weather had been rather wet. I finally worked up the courage to walk down to the front desk again and inquire as to where I might buy one. We wasted away an hour or so at the suggested spot and came back to find they had found us a room.

The view from our window.

After sleeping for about 2 hours, we decided to relax for the rest of the day, get to bed early and make a better go of it on Wed. A leisurely stroll around the immediate area and dinner sounded like just the ticket. We ate at an upscale Greek restaurant called Ammos which had simply superb, although tiny, Spanikopita. The walnut spice cake with honey, and cinnamon ice cream, was perfect and the rice pudding with fresh raspberries was the best I’ve ever had.

The next day we decided to go to the Trinity Church(the subject of the painting we were selling at Sotheby’s) and ground zero. I must quickly mention the fabulous grilled cheddar cheese sandwich with plum tomatoes alongside a flavorful Thai tomato coconut soup from Dishes, that I enjoyed before setting out. Wow! There was not much to see at ground zero and it was horribly windy and rainy so we didn’t explore as much as we might have otherwise. A church across the street from where the twin towers had been did have a beautiful old graveyard and some rather tear provoking memorabilia from 911.

Origami Crane chains sent in support by children in Asia.

We ducked into a discount designer clothing store, Century 21, to escape from the weather for a moment and were pleasantly surprised. We left with a large bag of goodies including clothing, hats, and jewelry and headed toward Trinity. Trinity Church is beautiful!

I did my best to photograph it from Wall Street like the painting.

Mom in front of the Church.

Of course, I had to take this picture for Jason.

We also stopped by the building where George Washington took his oath as President.

Wed night we went to see The Lion King. It was utterly amazing!

The music, the costumes, the dancing was all so colorful and engaging. The highlight of the show was Raffiki, played brilliantly by Tsidii Le Loka.

After the play, we stopped by Gaby for Dessert. We split an appetizer, goat cheese brie on baguette with greens in a balsamic reduction. It was incredibly delicious. I swear the greens were watercress although mom disagrees. I was talked into the pineapple carrot cake by our waiter who assured me it was like none I had ever tasted. He was right. The tiny square looked more like cheesecake, and the cream cheese frosting surrounding the dense, fruity cake certainly was rich enough to be. It was served with yogurt sorbet, which was again like nothing I’ve tasted. Light yet creamy with a perfect yogurt zing.


New York was fabulous! II

We had decided not to cram too many plans into Thursday’s schedule, as we were not certain how long the auction at Sotheby’s would last. The auction was exciting, full of beautiful art selling for ridiculous prices. I simply don’t get some modern art. I watched a couple black lines drawn through various circles and squares, completely uninteresting in my opinion, go for I believe it was $500,000, much more than its listed value, while some of the classic pieces did not even sell. Our painting went for more than the estimated value and we were happy in the end.

When the auction ended earlier than anticipated, we decided to go to another play. I chose Cat on a Hot Tin Roof featuring James Earl Jones(one of my very favorite actors), Phylicia Rashad, and Giancarlo Esposito among its very talented cast members.

We went to Sardi’s for dessert after the show and had a somewhat forgettable strawberry concoction, which happened to be their specialty.

Friday we figured we’d do the touristy must sees of New York, the Empire State Building and The Statue of Liberty. Well silly me for thinking that we would just walk into the ESB and casually waltz up to the top to have a look. We piled into the line outside the door where we were promptly taken by a couple of New York hustlers. The story was that if we went on their “New York Skyride” we would be able to bypass the lines and get to see more of the city for about the same price. After dropping $76 for the two of us, we followed the young men through a back entrance to the building and up to a cheesy “Star Tours” type ride that showed a video of New York. After the ride, we still waited in about an hour worth of lines before getting to the top. It was cold, windy, and crowded but still fun.

We took the Staten Island Ferry to see the SoL since it was free.

Great views of the city all around

and a kind fellow ferry rider took our picture.

We went to see Rent Friday night. The set and costumes were well done and the music was lively. Tamyra Gray was certainly a credit to the show, which I felt was actually lacking in its character and story development.

Angel, the shows charismatic drag queen deserved a bit more attention in my opinion, but it’s hard to explain more without giving too much away for those of you who have not yet seen the show.

We skipped dessert and went to bed early by comparison. Wed and Thurs nights had extended themselves until around 2:00 am.

Saturday I joined Jacob for Brunch in Union Square. Stupid me, I didn’t get any photos. I had tasty dish that included tofu scramble, black beans, guacamole, salsa, veggie sausage and corn tortillas to wrap it all up. I asked Jake how much a typical tip was in NY not wanting to look stingy with my standard 20% and he advised servers were lucky to get 5%. What?! You New Yorkers are a tightfisted lot! Come on! After, I walked around the farmers market while I waited for mother to join me. I bought a photograph of a goat, which I later decided needed to go to my brother Matt, a gingersnap and a cranberry walnut pastry. What great vendors! I could live off this market alone.

I had seen an add for a Brazilian Rainforest exhibit in South Port bragging about a recreation of the Amazon. Of course, I coerced mom into going. Disappointing! I expected something similar to the greenhouse exhibit in the Chattanooga Aquarium. No such luck. A few potted plants lined a canvas walkway. There was a shop at the end with Brazilian made products explaining the importance of fair trade. Ok good for them in that respect. We walked around the port a bit and looked out over the water,

then headed to the Bodies exhibit next since it was just down the street.

Mom was a little wary of the gross out factor. The exhibit was done tastefully though with information versus exploitation. I would certainly recommend it to anyone. The preservation was phenomenal. It is so amazing to see what’s lurking just under our surface.

When plans with my NY friends fizzled out, we decided to hit another Broadway production. November, starring Nathan Lane, was simply too irresistible. I adore Nathan Lane!

Funny, quirky, and constantly entertaining, the only gripe I had was that constant use of the word F%*# took away from some of the jokes. Honestly, I often enjoy a well-placed expletive, but sometimes it just kills the flow of the funny.

After the show, we planned to go to a vegetarian restaurant who told us they would be open late. They weren’t, the bastards. Thankfully, an adjacent European bistro was more than happy to seat us. In fact they didn’t seem to want us to leave when the meal was over. We enjoyed a four-cheese fondue. The bread was tasty but wanting a bit more, I asked if our waiter could bring out a few fruits or veggies for us to dip. He obliged with a platter full of tomatoes, carrots, and green apples. The green apples were my favorite; such a great compliment to the pungent cheeses. We shared a flourless chocolate cake, which was accompanied by a light pistachio ice cream and called it a night.

Sunday morning we woke up early, packed our things and had breakfast in the hotel’s rooftop restaurant.

After eating, we stopped by the hotel’s extensive library,

paused for mom to pose with one of the hotel’s beautiful flower arrangements, and then set out for Central Park.


New York was Fabulous! III

What a beautiful place to spend a day.

I just wish the roses had been in bloom but I took photos of many other flowers. You know what a flower enthusiast I am.

I was so taken with this little bird picking happily at an apple core. She wasn’t too keen on having her picture taken, but I managed to snap a quick shot.

After the park, we headed over to The Museum of Natural History.

My lord, a person could spend a whole week in this place! They actually make you sign up for a specific time in the special exhibits to keep traffic down. We unfortunately couldn’t see it all in the limited time before our flight home so we chose the butterfly vivarium, the horse exhibit(for mom of course) and the reptile exhibit(for me of course) and quickly walked through the dinosaur, Indian artifact, and northern animal halls. The butterflies were stunning, the horse information very interesting, and the reptiles fascinating. We actually saw a Green Mamba and a Gaboon Viper, two animals I had only ever witnessed on TV. Considering my experiences and collections, that’s saying a lot! Unfortunately, the camera battery died half way through the butterfly exhibit so the pictures are lacking in this area but I did get these.

When we got back to the hotel to grab our things and head to the airport I ran over to GCS to stop by an extraordinary little chocolate shop I had been eyeing all week. I was determined to bring home something decadent for Jason and Michelle. The shop was closed, but there was still someone inside. I rapped on the window and asked the girl if she knew of somewhere else to buy high-class chocolates, secretly plotting to get my foot in the door. After a moment of discussion she said she’d let me in. I chose a box of unusual fruit flavored chocolates for Michelle and hand picked a few for Jason.

I got carsick on the cab ride to the airport. Ugh! I don’t get carsick ever, the cabby just drove so erratically that my poor head was spinning. The plane ride home was a bit bumpy too, which didn’t help. To the credit of Jet Blue though, I must say their planes are very roomy and comfortable. The headrests all had TVs which boasted Direct TV. Such a savior on long flights! The service was impeccable as well.

So now, safe at home, I still have a bit of vertigo but at least school doesn’t start until June 4th. The chocolates by the way are astounding! Apparently, Neuhaus Chocolates has been around since 1857, and boasts the invention of filled chocolates and boxes to protect them. I could die happy after eating just one.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rocky Balboa

So I was talked into watching Rocky Balboa. Ok fine, I hadn't seen any of the other Rocky's but Jason convinced me that it was not necessary for me to know the back story. We had heard that it was really great so I was somewhat excited to see it. I must admit Mr. Stalone is in prime shape! There was some inspiration inserted into the flick, but honestly I was quite disappointed. I think if one of two things had happened I may have been satisfied. You may want to stop reading now if you have not, and still plan to, see the film.

A. Rocky had won the fight at the end.

B. They hadn't talked about the guy Rocky fought being a wuss throughout the film, stating the only reason he was undefeated was that he had not had any real competition thrown at him.

I mean if they had built this guy up to be some great unstoppable force and Rocky had done well but still lost ok I could see it. But Rocky losing to the guy after what had transpired in the film...... totally lackluster and not inspirational in my opinion. What made it worse is that the fight ended with Mr. Cocky undefeated guy still acting cocky. Come on, give me a winner goes over and grabs hand of loser raising it to the sky and praising him for a good fight kind of ending. Anyway, blah, not impressed.