August 27, 2005

Update on Scotland

Greetings from sunny but frigid Scotland! Although I have internet access for a few minutes each day I haven't been able to post or upload images. Since the visuals will enhance my entries I'm holding out to update the blog until my return.

August 18, 2005

ye'll take the high road and I'll take the low road, And I'll be in Scotland afore ye;

Tomorrow Stephen and I head off to Scotland to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary with family and friends. Since we basically eloped when we married in San Francisco last year this is a chance for folks to celebrate. In fact over twenty adventurous souls will be joining us from Connecticut, New York, California and Texas. Just the invasion of East Coast Jews schlepping their stuff across the planet to shop-it-up, talk-it-up and generally show these Scots how to have a good time! Like a giant therapy session. Oy, you shouldn’t know the pain.

The traditional celebration will be a Ceilidh Dance, which, from my understanding has evolved into our American square dance tradition. Here’s some simple instructions for you to follow along at home:

Strip the Willow

Formation: Longwise sets of 4 couples, men on the right and ladies on the left as viewed from the band. Couples number from nearest the band.
Music: 6/8 or 9/8 double jigs. E.g. "The Irish Washerwoman", "The Curlew", "The Jig of Slurs" for 6/8 and "Drops of Brandy" for 9/8.
Bars: Description
1-8 1st couple spin RH.
9-20 1st lady turns 2M LH, partner RH, 3M LH, partner RH, 4M LH.
21-24 Spin with partner RH to the end of the phrase.
25-36 1st man turns 4L LH, partner RH, 3L LH, partner RH, 2L LH.
37-40 Spin with partner RH to the end of the phrase.
41-52 1st lady works down men, while 1st man works down ladies, turning 2C LH, partner RH, 3C LH, partner RH, 4C LH.
53-56 Spin with partner RH to the end of the phrase.

Just imagine the good laugh these Scottish folks are going to have at our expense – twister never seemed so easy.

I will post images and stories of Scotland while on our adventure so visit the blog and be prepared to learn cultural insights such as eating haggis and smoked kippers, dancing Strip the Willow, reciting the poetry of Robert Burns while toasting the Queen, and navigating the Edinburgh Festival!

August 17, 2005

Walking in Memphis

Yesterday I was in Memphis for a meeting. Everyone keeps asking me if I met with Elvis. In fact, I didn’t see a single fat, skinny, young or old Elvis. Apparently I was one day late for the anniversary of Elvis’ death and the conclusion of Elvis Week . If you dressed like Elvis you could get lots of free meals. The cab driver pointed out that there were Elvis’ (Elvi?) representing 49 countries at the International Convention and it was not a pretty site.

I was actually there for a meeting with the National Civil Rights Museum which gets lost in the Elvis shuffle of Memphis. The Museum is a group of historically significant buildings in the arts district of South Main Street. It encompasses the Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. The Motel is preserved, and if you were blinded by the Elvis buzz you could mistakenly look for the registration office.

This is one of the most engaging and impactful museums I have experienced. In fact, it is more of an experience than something that you passively look at – like so many other cultural and historical institutions.

Mission: The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination, chronicles key episodes of the American civil rights movement and the legacy of this movement to inspire participation in civil and human rights efforts globally, through our collections, exhibitions, and educational programs.

Imagine sitting on a bus next to a life-sized sculpture of Rosa Parks with a sculpture of the bus driver turning to confront her. I couldn’t make it past the driver. The turn of his body, the look he was giving her, the dignity with which she presented herself, It was as though I were there in the moment and I was ashamed.

I recommend you put on your blue suede shoes and wander on down to Memphis, skip Graceland and instead enter an institution that addresses the global struggle for civil and human rights.

August 13, 2005

Zen and the Art of Bicycle Design

I was a pretty active bicyclist up until about four years ago. Certainly wouldn't have called myself an avid cyclist but I did complete two Arts AIDS Rides/Lifecycles (1998 and 2002) riding 600 miles over 7 days from SF to LA. The second ride sucked the love of biking out of my heart, soles and aching rear.

Stephen and I met about six months prior to my doing the second AIDS Lifecycle. It was a pivotal time in our young relationship and a critical emotional time for me cycling-wise. Prepping for the ride was hard work and being prone to anxiety (East-Coast Jewish, it's in my blood) I was not the friendliest chicklet when it came to my weekend training rides. Nonetheless Stephen purchased a bike to train along side me. Often we would show up at the training rides and I would have a Kweskin-style anxiety attack and back out at the last minute. The most memorable time resulted in us riding in the opposite direction of the group, departing Golden Gate Park's panhandle and instead of going to Marin we went up, up, up to Twin Peaks.

On that fated Twin Peaks ride my loyal Gary Fisher Marlin finally gave out. The poor hybrid, which had already survived the 1998 AIDS Ride, was pooped. As we were cranking like crazy to get up that unforgiving hill the chain pulled out of the sprockets. The fish had taken its last gulp of water.

Always loyal I thought that I could have my good friend fixed. After all, it was adorned with my favorite riding accessory an extra wide, extra cushy seat. I took the bike to a posh bike shop on Union Street and they told me, "it's dead, a junker, don't waste your money or your time." I lost it. Stephen had never seen a breakdown like this over a bike. He officially thought I was nutters as I acted out a full blown five-year-old hissy fit.

Being the loving boyfriend, and perhaps hoping to avoid future scenes of mind-numbing meltdowns, he bought me a new bike. We went to a women-owned bikeshop on another posh street in the Marina and got me a real beauty. I even went clipless, which is to say that I got the kind of pedals that you clip your shoes into (really they are clip-full, not clipless). We went out to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and I chucked another A+ hissy fit. DEATH was around me. I felt it on every peddle. My feet were attached to the frigging beast.

The anxiety turned into vertigo and even driving was becoming scary. Being one with the bike was not my idea of zen. We removed the clips which helped me get past the situation long enough to do the AIDS Lifecycle. Once it was over, so was my love for riding. But neither I, nor Stephen and my family could understand what was the cause of this lost love.

Flash forward to 2005 in Houston. Being frugal (synonym for stubborn) I have decided that I will not purchase a car but instead will ride my bike around town. The streets are flat, some are quiet and only a few are molten cement from the heat. Why not give it a try. I pulled out the Schwin, covered in four years of dirt, and decided to finally give it some love. I walked it over to the Houston Bicycle Company, just a block away from our new place for a tune-up. I really didn't want to get on it. The anxiety was still alive.

The amazing Guys at the bike shop noticed that the toe clips smashed into the wheel every time you tried to turn. WAIT, it was true, the pedals were too long for the bike's geometry. Maybe this was the source of my biking anxiety. The guys thought they could get me shorter toe-clips and perhaps that would work. But even the new toe clips smashed into the wheels. They removed them and even my TOES smashed into the wheels.

It was a design flaw. Schwin had decided to design a bike where performance outweighed safety and practicality. IT WASN'T MY FAULT THAT I COULDN'T RIDE HER, NO ONE COULD! Vindication! We could have saved thousands on individual and couples counseling if only the now-out-of-business bike shop that sold Stephen this machine had really evaluated the bike's design and my needs.

Jeff, the owner Houston Bicycle Company, who was self-admittedly buzzed from his two-beers-at-closing-time on a Saturday afternoon, offered me another bike, dropped the price by $100 and then subtracted the cost of my repairs, which I had already paid - as part of a trade-in deal on my dud bike. I rode away on a Flite 300 (shown in photo) with total toe clearance. Each time I pedaled I instinctively looked down awaiting the toe smash - but there was full clearance! Now this is Zen.

August 11, 2005

Is it Really OK to Dress Dogs in Spandex?

While taking an ice cream break in Oakland along Grand Avenue tonight with my friend Rachel we witnessed one of the most disturbing sights I have ever seen in dog wear. A woman was trotting her pitbull type dog around in a full aqua spandex bodysuit. It covered the dog’s body from neck to tail with a space for its rear end to stick out. Rachel, always the animal lover, noted that it was neutered.

We stared at the woman and the dog, unashamedly, chins hanging down as she pranced past us on the sidewalk. Why in the world would anyone ever do this to their animal? Maybe if the bodysuit wasn’t 1970’s aqua it could have been almost OK.

Searching the web I found this article, Effects of a whole-body spandex garment on rectal temperature and oxygen consumption in healthy dogs. on the Pub Med Website. Folks, this dog was a fashion victim and he was probably sweating to death. A cat would never allow this to happen.

Photo is from the web - the dog we saw was wearing a disco-style slim fitting version.

August 9, 2005

Wireless Internet as Mysterious as Most Religions

I’m traveling with the laptop again hoping that I can get internet access and stay up-to-date on my email addiction. This wireless thingy is difficult. Poor Stephen is often on the receiving end of a frustrated phone call. “Hi Sweetie Pie, it’s me. I can’t make this wireless thing work and time is running out.” He valiantly tries to talk me through the connection screen but I don’t get it. Just make the bloody thing work. Okay, I’m internet spoiled.

The B&B that is my home this week in SF supposedly has wireless. Let’s be honest, I’m steeling some guy named Dogpack’s wireless connection because the B&B’s just doesn’t cut it. Like shooting up bad speed – I need more, I need it faster and I need it NOW. Resorting to steeling. When it finally does connect I watch those magic vertical bars with hope and dread, knowing that at any moment they will disappear and my current email will be lost forever in internet lala land.

Ventured out to an Oakland CafĂ© to meet up with a friend and tried to oh-so-coolly connect to their wireless. Paid a buck for the password but didn’t know where the hell to put it. A very nice coffee drinker tried to help me but he couldn’t get past the fact that I’m using a PC and he’s on a Mac – another type of addiction issue.

Finally, it connected. Not sure how or why. But then I was out of time. Do I need to resort to a Blackberry? I really fear for my sanity if I move into that level of emailing. My friends with these phone-internet connections look like they are hunched over praying with a stylus-pointer in hand following every significant phrase. I picture myself bumping into walls, walking into traffic, ignoring Stephen while I click, click, click on my email. For now I’ll keep praying to the great wifi voodoo god.

Winter in the Summer?

Mark Twain said that famous quote “The coldest winter I ever spent was my summer in San Francisco.” I get it. Back in SF this week to meet with clients and it is cold! My nose is running and my toes are freezing. Actually had to wear flannel PJs and socks as well as cover up with two blankets. I’ve officially acclimatized to Houston!

August 7, 2005

Downtown Houston Skyline

From our house you can see the beautiful downtown Houston skyline. It is like Oz in the distance, rising above the trees. We've become familiar with the different buildings and each have our favorite. Stephen's is the one with a giant cube on top and mine is rounded on the side facing our house - this could be the old Enron building, but I'm not certain.

We live in Midtown, which is deceivingly close to downtown. Stephen doesn’t believe me but I have walked to the base of the closest skyscraper in 15 minutes. This is one of the things I love about Houston, you can move from city streets to tree covered roads in half a mile.

Yesterday we ventured into downtown, at my insistence. Forgetting that I really don’t go outside between the hours of 10am and 6pm the shocking heat nearly killed us. Now I know why downtown is vacant of people. Bravely we walked along the Buffalo Bayou hoping to see an alligator. Our pace went from slow to sludge. No gators.

After 45 minutes in the heat we escaped back to the shady streets of our neighborhood and determined that downtown was better enjoyed from a distance.

August 4, 2005

JCC Macabi Games in Dallas

The JCC Macabbi games are youth sports events hosted at four Jewish Community Centers annually. For 2006 my parents' home town JCC in Stamford, CT will be hosting one of the four games. In preparation my mom visited the 2005 games in Dallas, one of this year's host cities, to watch over 1,200 boys and girls between the ages of 13-16 from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Israel compete in the four day event. I joined her for the closing ceremonies today at American Airlines Stadium in Dallas.

Here she is carrying the torch with Jocelyn who is on staff at the Stamford JCC and will be coordinating the 2006 games. It isn't a real flame but it was pretty exciting anyway.

August 1, 2005

The Humid Challenge

Two challenges of living in hazy, hot and humid weather avoided in California:

1) Constant bad hair - frizz extreme and a daily battle to make it straight or at least orderly.

2) Mosquitoes - it's a love hate thing, they love me, I hate them.

Hair: I now have a drawer filled with hair products to make this mop cooperate. It seems to stay straight for about 5 minutes after the torture treatment but then something happens, even inside the house, shwing, frizzy.

So far I’ve had success with Bumble and Bumble products. There are a dizzying number of products you can layer into your hair and I’m now using three, all at once. Like having a helmet of grease on my head. Supposedly my hair is sucking the moisture out of the air so I have to moisture it up with gunk. Maybe I could start a career as a dehumidifier?

Start with blow-drying; add goop of three gunks (always apply from the bottom and back working upward or it sits on your head – learned from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.) Then blow-dry section by section with the big round brush. Complete hair torture with a straightening iron. Watch it still curl and frizz.

Last week I had it cut and styled at a local salon. The guy put so much gunk on my hair that when he was blow-drying it smoke was coming out. He said it was “product”. My god, is this what I’ve become? It looked good but felt gross.

Mosquitoes: I wander outside to get the mail and instantly I have a bite, which immediately turns into a giant welt. Itch, itch all day and it stays big. Now I know why I had those gross scabs when I was little. Give me some mittens, please.

The squiters love me. CURE! I Heard on a news program that the little bastards hate garlic and rosemary. HA! I love rosemary. Didn’t want to smell like garlic all day so I ventured out and purchased Rosemary Oil! Aren’t I clever? Rosmarinus officinalis, the scientific name, is available in health food stores Haven’t gotten a bite since. I use it like perfume and dot it on my wrists, neck, behind the knees and rub it in. Instantly I smell like an Italian restaurant!