Monday, March 27, 2006

To Ski or Not to Ski

It's a beautiful day in Colorado today, with blue blue skies, breezy breezes, bright sunshine, and the mountains coming out of their cloudy slumber. Too bad I didn't get the chance to spend time in their midst this weekend.

I almost did. In a brilliant display of doing as the Romans do, I have developed a keen interest in skiing. Last weekend I went to Eldora, which is, at 45 minutes away, the closest ski resort to Boulder. It's just a short ride up the Canyon, a few miles outside of the funky little community of Nederland. And as evidenced by moi, it is a great place to go skiing for the first time in 12 years.

I went with Steven [names changed to protect the innocent], the writer/slash/photographer/slash/statistician who sits in the office next to me. I have a fine history of befriending those who sit in the offices next to me. G.Bro, for example, was my next-door-neighbor at the job before last. Bwitter occupied the cubicle next to me way back at my first job in NYC. And up until a few months ago, I sat sandwiched between MEO and ZZ, two beloveds o' mine. So when Steven asked me if I wanted to go skiing with him and Pizza Crayons,* another colleague, I took it as a sign from the gods that the time had come for me to get my snow-legs back.

And get them back I did! My affinity for the Green (i.e. easy) slopes notwithstanding, I did a pretty durn good job. I didn't fall; I entered into no quarrels with the fauna; I didn't even hurt that much the next day.

So when it became clear that Mom & Dad weren't going to be able to make it to see me this weekend, I made plans with Steven and Pizza C. to hit old Eldora again.

Alas, the weather was not on our side. Halfway up the mountain we had zero visibility, thanks to blowing snow. The Subaru and I executed a death-defying three-point-turn on a tiny cliffside road above a frozen lake (okay, it was a bad idea), and we came back down to sunny (if windy) Boulder. Steven and I stopped to change out of our ski clothes, and hit the Dakota Ridge Trail for a nice little hike instead. Quite pleased with our cardio-rific selves, we then proceeded to reverse any good the hike had done us by scarfing a greasy burger (for me) and a greasy reuben (for him) at the West End Tavern.

*her real nickname in kindergarten

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Bed, and a Work At Home Day

Today I got two things I didn't have in NYC:

1) A real, honest-to-goodness bed.

2) A guilt-free edit-at-home day.

It's true: my bed in the BKL was a lofted thingamajigger, impossible to change the sheets on and harder still to convince out of towners to sleep in. It wasn't rickety or anything; I had it specially built by some dude on Craig's List and it was solid as can be. But it frightened even the most stalwart of family members. Everyone thought they'd fall trying to get down the tiny ladder. Nobody ever did, but the sight of my poor mother climbing up to bunk with my sister is one I won't soon forget.

It's significant to note that, no matter how treacherous the climb, the bed never discouraged special guest appearances. :)

MOVING ON! The new bed is a so-adult-you-could-die Simmons BeautyRest, perched atop a really cool black slatted wood bed frame. It makes my bedroom look--well, like a bedroom. Because it's a big bed, and that's pretty much all you can fit in there.

Note: apparently you don't have to tip delivery guys in Colorado, because both sets that came through here today (the mattress and frame came from two different stores) were out the door so fast I couldn't even reach for my wallet.

The work at home day arose because I had to wait for the aforementioned bed. I didn't get as much work done as I'd hoped to, thanks to two hour-long convos with office persons, the delivery itself, and trying to un-destroy my washing machine. (How was I to know that "Dry Clean Only" meant the rug would disintegrate into eighty pounds of heavy purple fuzz upon submersion? I'm only human, after all.) But nevertheless, it felt really good to work at home. Much as I loved my last job in NYC, I never cottoned to the way they frowned on work-at-home days. Sometimes, you just gotta wait for a delivery, y'know?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

In Which She Attends Her First Non-Work-Related Book Signing In Years

Tonight I did something I would never have done in my previous life: I attended a book signing on an entirely voluntary basis. I had no connection to the author whatsoever, besides having read the book. (And having previously worked at the company that published it, but so long ago that it doesn't really count.) I attended only because I thought it would be fun, and because the Boulder Book Store is only 4 blocks from my house.

The book was Marley & Me, by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist John Grogan. After watching it start to work on the NYT Bestseller list, I had requested a copy of the book from a mole at Morrow, and was reading it as a distraction the week I left NYC. I finished it on the plane ride from New York to Denver, and then handed off my copy to J.Go for her take.

The book's presence on the New York Times list--currently in its 7th straight week at #1--seems to be the market's way of saying it's fantastic. But neither J.Go nor I felt the book was fantastic. We both thought it was fine. It was readable, relatively entertaining, and the bearer of a dang cute cover image. But the writing and story are both unremarkable. Marley was not, for example, the "world's worst dog." A royal pain in the rear, yes. Perhaps he would not have lasted an entire dog-life in my own home. But he never bit anyone, and he was friendly toward children. I think those two traits alone put a dog out of the category of "world's worst." The rest of the book follows suit--it's halfway to being great, but it doesn't quite get there.

I don't say this to be mean. Sometimes an okay book catapults to the top of the bestseller list, and that's, well, perfectly okay. I think most breathing humans would give their first born kids for the kind of fame and success that this book has garnered for its author, whether it's great literature or not.

Given the impression of mediocrity the book had left with me, I was not at all surprised to find that the reading was . . . fine. Mr. Grogan is an adequate speaker. After weeks on the road, he has developed a book signing stand-up routine that's scripted right down to the hand gestures. In some instances he seemed to take his patter word-for-word from the book. But I don't begrudge him this either. He's not a performer, after all. He's a writer--a real, honest-to-goodness working writer, an every-single-day writer, a journalist who pens three columns a week.

Still, I couldn't help but chafe a bit at how obviously impressed he his with the success of his book. I'm not saying he shouldn't be; most of us would be more than a bit self-congratulatory if we found ourselves on a 10-week book tour to promote our massive bestseller of a memoir. But I could have done without the litany of bestseller stats that was his opener; the faux-modest story about being approached by an "fan" who turns out to think he works at the hotel; and the mentions of all the Marley franchise projects he has waiting in the wings. As someone who has watched success turn previously lovely authors into living nightmares, this kind of talk sent the red flags a-flyin'.

A hint of redemption came, however, when he noted with confidence that he had successfully negotiated for contractual input on the screenplay of his book. Marley & Me is an intensely personal account of his family's life, the producers had told him, and so of course he would have consultation on how the book gets translated to film. The fact that he believes anything the producers of his movie have to say belies a vulnerability that gave me hope. Perhaps he has not yet turned into a monster. Perhaps he will keep a good head on his shoulders, make hay while the sun shines, and stay off the ego rollercoaster. If this is the case, I hope for his sake that the movie--and his input therein--will benefit from the same good fortune that turned what could have been a quiet memoir into no less than this year's sleeper hit.

Boulder = Brooklyn

Ah, the global marketplace. You move 1795 miles and nothing changes. Some things I thought I had lost, which have now been found again, include....

....Sabra Go Mediterranean Classic Hummus. I thought I would have to switch to an inferior brand when I lost access to my corner bodega. But Saturday I was strolling through Safeway, and there it was. I had to agree when, a few aisles later, a tiny man serving samples of NEW! Quaker Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies* remarked that this particular Safeway (the one at 28th and Iris, if anybody's interested) is "the most cos-o-mo-politan Safeway" he had ever served samples in. Who knew? beloved therapist, ND. I used to trek down to her office at 6th Ave and 8th Street every Friday at 12:45pm. Now I trek from my kitchen to my sofa, coffee in hand, every Tuesday morning at 7:30am.

....annoying authors. This one I had hoped would not resurface, but alas.

....heart palpitations. Sometime last summer my crazy, unhealthy New York life caught up with me in the form of freaky heart palpitations. In the following months I visited an emergency room, had an echocardiogram, and even wore a thoroughly unsexy holter monitor for 24 hours, as little GTO can attest, which counted my irregular beats. (Over 650 in 24 hours--still several thousand too few to worry my cardiologist.) I had hoped I'd leave them behind when I struck out for the mountain zone, but no. Even in Boulder, I can still count on a few funky beats whenever I eat chocolate--which is a lot.

....good guitar lessons. See posts previous regarding the amazing emergence of sweet Murph.

....speed. I don't mean the drug, I mean the habit. Part of why I left NYC was because my life there was so high-strung. I sped from one engagement to another; from one day to the next. I sped through the city on crowded subways, sped down avenues in stuffy, smelly cabs. I click-clacked ferociously down sidewalks and into expensive restaurants, where I dashed through lunches with speedy agents, then zipped back up to the office for another whirlwind afternoon. I don't mean to say that my life here is in a gear that high--I don't think a gear that high exists in laid-back Boulder. But I've only been here six weeks, and I have no social life to speak of, and already I have found myself wondering when I'll have time to finish unpacking my boxes. Speed survives and thrives. As long as my mind is speedy, so will my life be.

*Gross. Not that you had to ask.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Brooklyn v. Boulder

Brooklyn: rats
Boulder: prairie dogs*

Brooklyn: Time Warner
Boulder: Comcast

Brooklyn: the L train
Boulder: Hwy 36

Brooklyn: Bob Parins
Boulder: Murph

Brooklyn: the Manhattan skyline
Boulder: the Rockies

Brooklyn: mobster landlord
Boulder: aging hippie landlord

Brooklyn: 11211
Boulder: 80302

Brooklyn: most relentlessly cheerful boss on the planet
Boulder: most relentlessly honest boss on the planet

Brooklyn: The Garden Grill
Boulder: Dot's Diner

Brooklyn: jeans on Friday
Boulder: jeans on Monday

Brooklyn: cigarette butts thrown on sidewalk
Boulder: cigarette butts carefully extinguished and carried home to a proper receptacle (you think I'm kidding)

Brooklyn: bodega
Boulder: Wild Oats

Brooklyn: Manolos
Boulder: Crocs

Brooklyn: dog park
Boulder: my office

*look cute but carry the bubonic plague

Thursday, March 02, 2006

On Being Back on the Grid

In more ways than one, I have returned.

First, I'm writing in this here blog. Which several of you actually noticed I hadn't been doing lately. ( care!) Second, I have internet access available to me almost every minute of the day, which is something I have come to learn is vitally important. You think I’m kidding, but I’m as serious as Condi at a press conference. You don’t realize how much this wacky thing we call the web has infiltrated your daily life until you actually have to travel in order to access it. (And then stand up to use it.) Let's look at an example.

Last Thursday, I moved into my apartment in downtown Boulder. Psyched as I was to finally have all my stuff back in my possession, something felt slightly off. I realized that I was jonesing for my computer (how depressingly 21st Century is that, people). So I rushed over to the big Dell box and unpacked it, setting everything up carefully on my two-legged desk.*

But even once the computer itself was up and running, I still had no internet—and didn’t know when I’d be getting it. This was because the day I moved in my upstairs neighbor came down to say hello (we're not in NYC anymore, my friends) and our first decision was to go in for wireless internet together. Being Boulder, no deadline had yet been set. (Note: Upstairs neighbor hereafter referred to as Veggie Boy. Not because of his eating habits, which are suitably carnivorous, but because of his job, which is selling organic produce. An even more suitable name would be Ganja Boy, but who knows if his mother is reading this?)

It took only one more night before I was upstairs knock-knock-knocking on Veggie’s door, to lay down some internet-getting plans. It so happened that it was Friday night, and he invited me in. He was hanging out with a tall and very lanky bloke from Valparaiso, IN. Together we decided to go out for Vietnamese food, which Boulder is known for. Another thing Boulder is known for is a nightlife that shuts down at 10pm, and as it was almost that time, we needed to go online to check the restaurant’s hours. Which is when I realized that Veggie Boy already had internet. Or seemed to. In fact, he had been making use of some of them wireless waves what’s blowing through our heads all the time, unbeknownst to us. But they are knownst to Veggie Boy, and he was pirating them.

Enough with the waiting for cable, says I, dashing out to Best Buy the next day to purchase a wireless adapter. I am now the proud user of some of them wireless waves myself. (This is not stealing, people. It said so in an article in the Times just last week.)

The moment my (I'm using the term "my" loosely here) internet was up and running, it was like the whole universe fell back into its grooves. I suddenly didn't mind that my new apartment is, like, the farthest thing from being new you've ever seen. I stopped seething over the fact that it smells like your grandma's house.** And I started actually unpacking the boxes that were strewn about me, finally feeling like I had arrived.

*Casualty of the move. Don't ask.
**A direct quote from Jane Yamanaka.