Wednesday, December 20, 2006

100 Million. Really?

I read yesterday that there are a 100 million blogs out there. That's a lot of fucking blogs, people. No wonder my comments section is dwindling in recent weeks; there are 99,999,999 other blogs you could be reading. Wait - are you reading them? What?!? I thought we had something special, Internet. Those other bloggers don't love you like I do!

This week I've been mulling over ways to increase my site traffic. Let's face it: I don't have a niche. I am not a Mommyblogger (and props to the Mommybloggers, because, God, I love you all). I am not an entertainment blogger. I am not a political blogger. Blog about sports? Nope. Won't find that here either.

I suppose then, you might categorize me as a "general interest" blogger. I contend that I am generally interesting, but when best friend Grace, featured often on the site, emails me every few weeks asking for the URL AGAIN, I begin to question my own blogging worth. We writers have fragile, fragile egos, you know.

I started a blog on Friendster many months ago, because I was itching to write. Well, in truth, I was already writing; I was itching for people to read what I wrote. I composed two incredibly weak entries, then threw out the whole idea. I wrote this: See "Beginning Blogger". Then I changed my mind.

I love this blog. I do. I love every single one of you who is reading this write now, even if you are extremely averse to commenting nicely (I am a comment-whore, damnit!). I love hitting the publish button after transcribing some inane story from my life, because it feels like I've accomplished something. I like to share. I am part narcissist, part aspiring novelist/newspaper columnist/editor-in-chief. The problem is - besides narcissist - I am not any of those things: yet. And the way to get there is to start writing and writing and then writing some more, and then getting published by others. You want to read my witty prose in print, don't you, adoring, extremely silent fan base? I thought so.

So I've decided that in lieu of merely increasing traffic here, I've got to quadruple my writing efforts on other fronts. I assure all five of you that I will keep up my blogging duties as best I can, because, as I said, I love you and all the blogging community and my own modest little webpage. Maybe I will publish rejection letters here as well! Could that be my new gimmick?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Well My Friends, The Time Has Come

Look, readers, I love Lionel. And I am okay with that. Really.

There is quite nothing like driving along 95 in New York state; the sun warming your face, the strains of "All Night Long" filling your rented Chevy Aveo. Pure bliss.

Once, Chaz and Grace and I sat in my living room, listening to the compilation disc that Grace had thoughtfully brought for her weekend visit. A familiar melody filled the air. The three of us, simultaneously, began:

That's why I'm easy
Easy like Sunday mornin'

We laughed uproariously. Chaz asked that we never mention that to anyone. You see, that's the power of Lionel. You can't help but sing along.

Tonight, Grace and Chaz are coming over to celebrate our final Queens hurrah, and also to dance on the ceiling.

I am characteristically overstimulated about it, though I can't help feel a bit melancholy. I'll miss these days. Ah, Astoria. You're once, twice, three times a lady. I loooooooove you.

Burn in Hell, Holiday Card Sender

I work in an industry in which I come across many, many different people. Thoughtful lass that I am, I collect contact information in a database in order to update my people on events, and also send warm wishes from time to time.

Yesterday my politically-correct holiday cards went out to my rather large database. Most people are gracious and reply with "Thank you, same to you!" Here are some of the more candid responses:

Please remove me from your mailing list.
- Consider it done, Grinch.

- Merry Christmas, George, you grammatically-challenged, naughty, disturbing contact.

WOW MEL it is good to hear from you I definitly would not have thought I would not hear from you again; did you switch Buildings; because I remember you working in a different building before have a blessed holiday Season email me back with updates
- Ummmm. Okay. (Unsure of who this person is, but slightly afraid of giant run-on sentence.)

Thanks for the holiday card, am not sure i remember who this this, but thank you.
- We're all friends here. Just spreading the joy.

And, my favorite, thus far:

Who the hell are you? If I know you, I'm sorry. If you're using this this holiday to sell me something, you're pitiful.
- Well, fuck you very much, you bitter, jaded soul.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Insight and Understanding, Courtesy of Zach Braff

The first time I saw Garden State, I knew. I sat in the theater next to Vanessa as the credits rolled, weeping openly.

"So what do we do?"

Zach Braff's character, Large, poses the question to a sobbing, beaming Natalie Portman. He's decided to stick around his hometown New Jersey suburb to be with Natalie. He's unsure of what will happen next, but he needs to stay and see. He's exhilarated. I am exhilarated.

"So what do we do?"

I dry my tears as our group of friends reassembles. "Well?" Brad asks eagerly. "Didn't I tell you?"

"Wow," I mutter. It's all I can say.

Some things just resonate: no rhyme, no reason. I couldn't stop thinking about the question Large posed. I was unhappy. I had been for years, quite frankly, but I hadn't allowed myself my misery. I ignored it and rationalized it away, until it began seeping in to my everyday thoughts.

You could leave him, it would suddenly occur to me. But I'd quickly push the thought aside. I can't leave, I'd retort. We just moved in. How can I leave?

And so it went. We went on as virtual roommates, pleasantly greeting each other as we passed by. We didn't talk about anything. I played happy and stayed away.

"So what do we do?"

Get out. I came to the decision suddenly, unsure of how to execute this newly formed plan.

New York would be my answer. It was always the answer. We had some unfinished business, she and I. An aching need to right the wrongs of 2001 and 2002 in downtown Manhattan; to forgive all that had been ripped from me in that year and to rebuild. I couldn't do that in King of Prussia, PA. I couldn't do that in this dead-end relationship.

So I moved. I determinedly clawed my way to Queens through an ex-boyfriend, mounting bills, and old apartment leases. If I concentrate, I can remember the exact feeling of that first night alone in my new life. Mistakenly getting on the R train (N, Melissa, N!). Vanessa's small one-bedroom littered with boxes. Searching through take-out menus for something appetizing. Crouched on the couch in a crowded living room, watching The Office on DVD. It was pure joy. It was liberation and Christmas morning as a child. It was the happiest I had been in my life.

Memories of that day now are bittersweet; as, in an ironic twist, I prepare to move to Philadelphia to live with the love of my life. I worried about the twinge of sadness that I felt for several weeks: was I making the right decision? Would I regret the move? Would I be a whole person still, when taken out of Queens?

And then it dawned on me, why I struggle with this: I credit Queens for saving my life. Admittedly, I didn't discover who I really was until I lived in Astoria. I made my peace with New York. I let go of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that had nearly suffocated me years before. I achieved the proper and perfect amount of distance from my somewhat overbearing family, which was quite a coup at the time. I did it completely on my own: good job, exciting travel, great friends, fantastic boyfriend from familiar Philadelphia town.

Maybe it's not the end for me and New York. Maybe I can, in a year, convince J we need to move to Brooklyn. What better place to raise a family? Or maybe someone will publish my stunning and insightful debut novel, perhaps about a girl living in Queens, and we'll be able to afford that brownstone on 80th and Amsterdam.

Or maybe I'll find that I am still me no matter where we live; that I am still whole and good and blissfully happy. Maybe I'll look back on Queens fondly, without longing; I'll take my daughter to Astoria Park one day, and show her where Mommy used to train for marathons (by this time I'll have run one, I know it). I'll lug her giant stroller by my old apartment, past Plaza, past Athena's, up to Steinway. Then we'll head back to Manhattan on the N train, meander through Central Park and make a quick stop at Tasti D-Lite. And then maybe I'll roll her towards Penn Station, onto an Amtrak train, and wherever we end up, we'll both be exhausted and delighted to be home.

"So what do we do?" resonates still. I've come up with many answers since I first saw Garden State, but this is one I'll stick with: we grow and change and fall in love and relocate, and if we are very, very lucky, we keep a sense of humor about it all.

Monday, December 11, 2006

This Used to Be My Playground

My cousin Lauren and I met when I was nine and she was seven. On one blustery February evening in 1989, Uncle Rick brought his future wife and her two young daughters (Lauren and Jessica, then just five), over to our house to meet his sister and family.

At nine I was highly sophisticated. I knew exactly how to entertain my two young guests while leaving the adults to chat in the living room.

"You guys want to play Barbies?" I asked.

And just like that, a new family was born.

Throughout the years, Laur and I were often the best of friends, at times fierce competitors. I was jealous when she had the better toys (I believe she had all of the New Kids on the Block dolls, for JC's sake); she would tattle on me for the slightest infractions (Taking Jess around the block on my banana-seat bike, is not a crime, GOD!). We would amuse ourselves for hours dressing up and performing Mariah Carey's, "Vision of Love." We had countless sleepovers in which we'd typically watch (and cry during) A League of Their Own, then we'd lay awake singing "This Used to Be My Playground," which, you know. Awesome.

One Christmas season we agonized over Magic Nursery Babies. These dolls were special; after purchasing, you'd find out the baby's gender (or if you had multiple births) by opening an envelope inside the packaging. We simply could not GO ON unless we had these beautiful creatures in our permanent toy collections. I received my doll and she was glorious. And then a call from my cousin - she had received the Magic Nursery Baby Twins!

Blinding rage. Burning envy.

Eventually, we pushed the toys aside when we discovered boys. We made it through adolescence as the best of friends. I had never really had a sister; Laur was it.

But quicker than the New Kids became NKOTB and then fell off the scene completely and spectacularly: we were grown-ups.

I was in my White Plains, NY office in May when I ducked into the ladies' bathroom to take Lauren's call. This time, she was having, like, an ACTUAL baby.


Yesterday, I attended her baby shower. Baby shower! Little Riley Olivia will be here at the end of January, and I will be a first time Aunt HomeValley (yeah, I know not technically, but we're unconventional here).

"You should see all the stuff they got," I told J when I arrived home last night. "It's amazing! Maybe we should have a baby soon." Now I recognize that "for the stuff" is not the best reason to procreate, so it's birth control and B vitamins for me for many, many years to come.

An Open Letter to the Newest Addition:

Dearest Riley,

We all can't wait to meet you! We already know you will be awesome. Confidentially, I always knew your mama would be first to make one of you. Also, the fact that Mom is two years younger than Aunt HomeValley, and having you very very soon, makes Aunt HomeValley's Mommy very aaaannnngggrrrryyyy. So thanks for that, Ri. XOXO!

All my love,

Aunt HV

I can read between the lines.

Last week, at a routine check-up, my doctor told me that the birth control pill can strip your body of B vitamins. Thus, in order to alleviate mood swings associated with PMS, I should start taking a B-Complex.

J has taken to leaving these vitamins out for me on the counter, where he can be sure I won't miss them.

Fine, I took the damn B-Complex this morning. But I am not sure why, as I am always a perfectly-behaved, non-hormonal little angel.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Syracuse, I hardly knew ye.

I flew into Syracuse this morning on JetBlue, and holy shit: this airline is amazing. The seats are enormous and a comfortable, cushy soft leather; plus, there is DirecTV available on each! Do you know that I got to watch Justin Timberlake on VH1 during the duration of the flight?? And also, that new Weird Al Yankovic video that just kills me. I literally laugh out loud at "White and Nerdy." Strikes a chord. The irony is, I've been traveling to Cuse on a prop plane from LaGuardia for nearly two years, and on my last trip here (moving, y'all, but MUCH more on that later in a heart-wrenching "Ode to Queens"), I discover this incredible airline with it's fancy televisions and actual jets at JFK. Figures.

I've got 20 minutes to get fabulous in time for dinner, but I wanted to let you know that my room at the Comfort Inn smells like the inside of a bong. And also, I read an article earlier this week that described Syracuse as one of the worst places to live in the country. A quote (I'm paraphrasing), "I went to college and lived there for four years. I don't know how people drag themselves out of bed in the morning. What motivates them to even brush their teeth?"

Farewell, Cuse, you winter wonderland, you. Be thee well.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Heart Attack HomeValley - and Happy Birthday, J!

Last Monday night, J and I flew into Philadelphia and stopped off at my other grandfather’s house to have a quick bite with my mother and brother, Mike. Over leftover lasagna, I entertained my family with tales from our trip, even telling Mom, “I swear, if I hear one more thing about hyper or hypoactive thyroids, I’m gonna kill myself!”

Oh man, talk about imminent karmic retribution.

On Tuesday night, my heart rate started soaring again. This happens from time to time, most recently on Friday night at the movies, watching (and loving) Stranger Than Fiction. I had been drinking a giant diet coke, and eating whoppers, and I sat there, unnerved, as my heart thumped loudly and swiftly in my chest. I went out for air and came back, but the heart racing persisted. J asked if we should go to the hospital. “No,” I said. “I’m fine.” And in ten minutes or so, I was.

But during A Charlie Brown Christmas on Tuesday (*sniff), it started again, just as J called. It seemed to lull, then began again in earnest. My heart felt fluttery within my throat. WebMd instructed to call a health professional if my heart rate was higher than 100 beats per minute. I checked my pulse, and became a bit alarmed. “It’s definitely over 100 beats,” I tell J. “I think I’ll just pop in the ER across the street, see what they can tell me.” No big deal.

I am immediately taken back to see an ER nurse when I explain my ailment. She takes my pulse, listens to my chest. “That’s a fast heart rate,” she says amiably. “160. Now come with me.” She leads me through a door where a gurney waits for me. “Sit here,” she says. She wheels me back to the bustling emergency room, where at once I am surrounded by a million nurses and orderlies. I am given oxygen, an IV in my arm, and am attached to several heart monitors.

This is not the way to soothe HomeValley’s racing heart. Once I am properly situated, orderlies begin walking by and gaping wide-eyed at the heart monitor. “What is it?” I ask, alarmed. “I shouldn’t tell you,” one young man says. “It’s high.”


I am inundated with questions from various people, all very kind. One man comes over and takes my information (name, address, emergency contact), and then asks, “Any religion?”

“For last rites?!? Jesus!”

I call J. He is on his way.

And oh my God. The hospital is frightening, and lonely, despite a million people walking around gaping at you, or waking you abruptly and sticking a large needle in your arm to draw blood yet neglecting to tell you what the hell they think they're doing?? One Queens woman insisted upon discussing with me the explosive diarrhea that brought her to the hospital that evening. Another elderly man with a BOOMING voice was placed next to me after Trots left; he’d just been attacked by his Rottweiler. And he did not. Shut. Up. All night. At three in the morning, he and his wife were still loudly discussing that damn dog and the events as they unfolded. (“I was just putting the spaghetti on my plate when he jumped at me!”)

After many, many hours and many different tests, it appears my heart is healthy and strong. I’ve been diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia (, or, in layman’s terms, “rapid heart beat.” Don’t worry: my cardiologist assured me, “I don’t think this is the lethal kind.” I need to take meds when I feel like it could happen or when it starts happening, and eventually I may need an invasive procedure to correct the electrical misfiring in the old ticker. But here’s the rub: the whole thing could be caused by… wait for it… a hyperactive thyroid! That’s what I get for tuning out during Grandma’s diatribes on her own mysterious thyroid issues. Lesson learned.

But, more important than Heart Attack HomeValley: J celebrated his 30th birthday on December 1st! It was a momentous weekend, as I cooked dinner for him on Friday night, and even rented him Harry Potter, and even tried to stay awake during the film (for the record, we both failed). On Saturday night we celebrated with friends and family at our favorite Thai restaurant in Manayunk, then had everyone back to J’s. Grace drank wine like it was apple juice and danced around for hours in her pink velour sweats. Success!