The life and times of an ethnically ambiguous little lady.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Son of a Preacher Man

So there was a guy preaching the word of God on the G train this morning. He did this for about seven stops. And if I was waiting for a sign from God to help me to decide whether or not to buy a new Ipod, well, this was it.

Frankly, I thought his preaching skills were lacking. I'm not saying I'm a professional when it comes to prophesizing. I am saying, however, there were a few things you did, preacher man, that turned me off. So just in case you're reading this, here are some areas you might want to work on to more effectively convert us sheep:

  • Do not ask people to say "amen" if we think you look good.
  • Do not greet every man or woman who gets on the subway who looks vaguely Hispanic by the names Juan or Maria.
  • Do not assume said vaguely Hispanic people are from Mexico and then start praying for Mexico. If you start praying for other countries after that, please remember that it's El Salvador, not just Salvador.
  • When a Hasidic Jew gets on the train, do not report that you're going to go talk to your "Jewish brother" about money.
  • Do not keep threatening to get off at the next stop and then keep riding the subway. You getting off the train is the only thing that would make me say "praise Jesus!" out loud.
  • Do not say that people who are homosexual are "funny": that causes part of your demographic to tune out and we're not quite sure what you mean.
  • Do not tell everyone how you walk hand-in-hand with Jesus. Like all the time. Do not then go into further detail about how much you two were holding hands and walking close, it sounds gay.
  • And most importantly...Do not tell me that you used to be a male prostitute.

Thank you, and of course, god bless.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How Can You Ever Forget?

It's amazing to me how sad today is, even after six years. Ever year when September 11th rolls around, I go about my day, and when I first sign that date on something, I feel a little tightness in my chest. It’s strange—I didn't lose anyone when the Towers fell, but it took me a full year to be able to go visit where the towers once stood.

I had moved to New York City just three weeks before September 11, 2001. I had just started my job and was all bright eyed and bushy tailed. Or at least as much as one can be when they start a new job and then proceed to go out until all hours of the night. I had just gotten to my cubicle when my coworker mentioned something about a plane flying into one of the Trade Towers. And we realized from Sixth Avenue where our office was located, we had a clear view of the Towers. So we ran outside and saw the Towers on fire. The first one had collapsed and we watched as the second one seemed to disappear into the earth.

And I couldn't even fathom what was happening. Everyone at work was struggling to get in touch with their loved ones. I finally got in touch with my mom, only to find out that my brother happened to be visiting some friends at NYU that day. And she hadn't been able to get in touch with him. And I tried to calm her down as her voice became more and more worried.

With the whole city shutting down, I walked back to my cousin's apartment on the Upper West Side where I was staying. I brought my coworker who lived in Brooklyn back with me, as the trains weren't running. And she proceeded to get more and more anxious because the guy she was dating happened to work in one of the Trade Towers. For the rest of the day she tried to get in touch with him, and I sporadically talked to my mom, still having no word from my brother. I watched the smoke pour out of the Towers, which I could see from more than 80 blocks away.

Finally my coworker got in touch with her friend, nodding her as she listened to his account.

"He was in the second Tower," she said. "They weren't letting anyone out because of the fire but he got frustrated and ran down the emergency stairs with his friend. As they were running his friend was crushed by some falling concrete and killed. And he said he kept running until his was out of the building. And he just kept going until he had run over the Brooklyn Bridge and all the way home."

And the way she told me what happened it sounded like some kind of children's book. A horrible, sad children's book.

Hours went by. We sat numbly in front of the TV watching the chaos replay over and over again. And then we'd go out on the balcony and watch it all live.

My brother finally got in touch with my mom, but at this point she was beyond hysterical. For some unrelated reason, my parent's landline in Philadelphia had gone down so my mom was using her cell phone. But she wasn't really used to the cell phone so she was yelling into it. And crying.

"You can come home," she wailed. "You don't have to stay there. You don’t even have an apartment yet. You can move back here."

My dad came home right as we were having this conversation. Apparently my mother had gone outside because she got better reception with the cell phone. And she was sitting barefoot on our front lawn, yelling into the cell phone, drinking. And if I couldn't hear how upset she was and the fact that I was crying too, it would have all been very funny.


The next day, I went to work because I didn't know what else to do. But no one was at work, so my friend Allie and I met up and we walked. We walked from Midtown to the East Village and then up to the Upper West Side. We talked and tried to make sense of everything, and there were signs tacked up everywhere of missing people.


About a week passed and I went home to Philly for the Jewish New Year. And everyone was talking about how tragic it all was. And I could barely talk about it without getting choked up. And nothing bad even happened to me. But all that week everywhere I went there these signs of missing people and there was still smoke and dust. And some of that dust was the remains of some of the people who were pictured on those signs.


Nineteen Islamic extremists killed thousands of people they had never met to make a point. And every time something goes wrong in New York--when a pipe explodes, or the subway stops running, or a baseball player crashes a small plane into a residential building--I watch people tense up and question who's to blame and whether it's intentional.

Every so often, although less frequently these days, there is a warning that there might be a bomb somewhere in the subway. My friend who doesn't live in New York suggested that I refrain from taking the subway until the threat passes over. I asked if she was going to pay for all those cabs.

But we’re powerless. Things out of our control will continue to happen. And all you can do is live your life. It’s not much of a plan, but it’s the only plan I’ve got so far.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Just Top it With a Nice Cream Sauce

Back to our regularly scheduled travel stories . . .

Whenever in another country, it's always interesting to try the local dishes. China probably had some of the more interesting options, like pig penis. I passed on that one. They also had the motto in some of the more rural areas that translated loosely to "if it has wings or four feet and it's not an airplane or a piece of furniture, we'll eat it." Pure poetry. I'm thinking in China you want to keep your enemies close and your pets closer.

Scandinavia wasn't so big on the delicacies. My family did our customary "go to a supermarket and walk around like it's a museum" tour and all we found that was slightly odd was a huge container filled with ice and prawns right in the middle of things. I also saw firsthand how patient and friendly the people are—one of the women that worked at the deli actually translated all the ingredients on a dip for me to make sure there were no nuts. If I tried to do that here I'd probably get a punch in the face.

Scandinavia’s specialty is definitely fish. Ridiculously delicious fish. Probably because they're surrounded by water and it's pretty much the only thing they don't import. The only vaguely exotic options were whale (don't worry, Greenpeace, it's the Mink Whale, which are supposedly very common) and reindeer (sorry, Santa). Oh, and pasta with disgustingly heavy cream sauces which now, two weeks later, are still somewhere within my digestive system.

But there had to be something I hadn't found. So had a few conversations with some lovely Scandinavians and got some interesting answers. A delightful couple of boys my brother and I hung out with, Max and Rune (to say Rune's name you need to start the "u" sound somewhere deep within your diaphragm), said that Norway's state food was probably Grandiosa. What is Grandiosa? Apparently the world's worst frozen pizza. And that definition was coming straight from them.

But a few nights before I left I got the weirdest answer of all. At first, I thought my new friend Kari-Anne, who was from a small town in Norway called Voss, was pulling my leg.

"Well, where I come from we love sheep's head. We only eat it like once a year but it's amazing. The jowls are really tender. And we do the eyeball as a shot."

Ah, what? After I asked another girl who had no knowledge of my prior conversation, yet the same answer, I had to figure that might be true. And I'm not going to lie. I was a little disgusted.

I mean, Americans are known for some strange foods but nothing that disgusting right? Wrong. We have Twinkies, a food that explodes when heated. We have chitlins; that’s a fancy word for hog guts. And if that doesn't do it for you, there are pork rinds. That's right, we love pig so much in this country that we take the skin that we don't use to make footballs and then fry and dry it so we can eat it on the go. God bless America.

But hey, at least our national food isn't a frozen pizza.

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