Sunday, April 29, 2007

Indiscriminate Sunday: Societal Service, Cat-Sitting Cash & Tradition Choices (in Random Order)

This morning I woke up bright and early and left the East Village [Update: I am again cat-sitting for my boss (the vp one) over the next two weeks while she and her husband are on vacation in New Orleans]. From her apartment on First Avenue, I journeyed to the Upper West Side, where I would be assisting with new registration for the March of Dimes Walk.

Now that I have become more settled as a New Yorker, I am getting involved with the New York Alumnae Chapter of my sorority (I joined a collegiate chapter of a Historically Black Greek Organization as a university undergrad in 2001). At Columbus & 62nd, I met my sorors at 6:50 a.m. to man our volunteer post and await instructions. The sorors, who volunteered their Sunday morning to the March of Dimes, ranged in ages from the mid-20's to the late-60's, and it was nice to spend time together while assisting a worthy cause. Over the past year since leaving North Carolina and the Asheville Alumnae Chapter, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed being with likeminded education- and career-oriented women, who share common interests in fellowship and community empowerment.

It may seem odd that I joined a historically-Black sorority since I am not Black. But in fact, it's not as unheard-of as one might think. In an article in 2000, Ebony magazine explored the rare phenomena of Whites in Black Sororities and Fraternities:

"If you're envisioning a bunch of Eminem- and Teena Marie-look-alikes, get ready for the real. These White members fit no easy stereotypes. Instead, they come from all backgrounds--urban neighborhoods, Middle America and even the segregated South. Some grew up surrounded by Blacks, while others had little contact with African-Americans before college.

"'Some of my brothers would say I'm probably the Whitest guy they know,' says Duchamp, the assistant director for fraternity and sorority life at Longwood College who joined Phi Beta Sigma at Clemson University in 1997."

Read more

Some of my sorors would describe me as the Whitest Filipina they know. Growing up in a society that often forces everyone into boxes, and where I was too White to be Filipina and too Filipina to be White, I feel like that description is pretty accurate. And it suits me just fine as I have grown adamant about not denying either side of my heritage.

I might have joined an Asian sorority had there been an opportunity at my university, and I considered several White sororities; however, in hindsight, my last six years in Greek life have been more fulfilling than I ever dared to expect from a sorority. My reasons for joining a Black Greek organization are somewhat similar to those of other non-African American members, including "perpetual membership and community service ... and a more-desirable moral fabric," but it was also something I just felt.

After the March of Dimes registration and check-in closed at 11 a.m., I ventured down to the Lower East Side to pick up nine pounds of jelly beans on behalf of my other boss (the avp one) for an upcoming company party. And because it was a chilly day and I had been awake since 5:30 a.m., I forwent my Spring Sunday City Walk and returned to my boss's apartment to lounge on her couch in front of her huge flat-screen TV.

I can't believe she pays me whenever I stay at her place with her 18-year-old cat Stella. Although ... it is pretty tough work. A comfortable couch with the deluxe cable TV package in a [Manhattan]-huge, 2-bedroom apartment in the trendy East Village. It's a tough job, but someone has to get paid to hang here.

BNY [heart] SB

My blog has fallen in love with SUBWAYblogger's blog. It's an innocent crush really, in which my blog feels the need to link to SUBWAYblogger's posts (see below for a few recent favorites) because they are just so damn funny. Cynical and sarcastic humor is one of my favorite personality characteristics. Who doesn't love a good asshole?

Evil fun with Red Sox fans
Litter on tracks cause FIRE
Wet enough for you?

And if we wanted to make it a virtual blogger threesome, a hilarious post from "I Hate Duane Reade" - Duane Reade: Missed Connections.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

West Side's Tale of Whoa

When I read on last week that Claremont Riding Academy was closing, I had not previously known it existed. A newcomer to the city, I had not yet taken the time - amidst the apartment hunting, job searching, acclimating and settling - to research one of my favorite pastimes: horseback riding.

Located in a national historical site built in 1892 on the Upper West Side, the riding academy is the oldest continuously operated stable in the country. Not only have they taught horseback riding lessons to hundreds, riders who prove competent enough to ride solo could "rent a horse" for an hour and hit the six miles of bridal paths in Central Park. However, the site on West 89th Street has long been coveted by developers.

The New York Post's article "West Side's Tale of Whoa" was a small glimpse into this heartbreaking tragedy entitled with a clever play on words, but it was more than just a woeful moment to witness the end of grand horseman tradition in a beautiful historic neighborhood that is quickly being overrun by condos, coffee shop chains and wireless communications retailers.

After my one-hour ride in Central Park, I returned to the stable and waited afterward to show my support during a scheduled press conference, in which district officials, neighbors, parents and horsemen - young and old alike - challenged the victimization of a 115-year-old tradition in the face of land-development adversity.

Though I remained an observer in the background, I more than empathized with the pain of the stable's staff and regular riders. As a former horseman myself, who began riding at age 7, took English riding lessons until high school and then worked as a trail guide at a stable in the mountains of Western North Carolina throughout college, I know the strength of the bonds formed between horse and rider and the joy that comes from varieties of personal interaction with these highly-intelligent animals.

I hope my first ride in Central Park will not be my last, but I was lucky to have the chance to take a small memory of Claremont Riding Academy with me and add it to my tales of becoming a New Yorker.

Phone Photo Ops - Horseback Riding in the City

Claremont Riding Academy
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Riding along West 90th Street headed to Central Park, I was armed with a horse, a map, a few instructions and rules, and a last chance to enjoy one of the many cultural Manhattan pastimes that are falling victim to residential land development.
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Above is Nelly's head. Described as a "forward mare," she is a spunky Thoroughbred who took me on a spirited jog around The Reservoir.

The park was so overrun with pedestrians and dogs that I was only able to trot and canter over a few short lengths of the six-mile bridal path. Nor was I able to grab any quick camera phone photo ops of the gorgeous paths lined with flowering ornamental cherry trees since I was constantly on the lookout for stray children and offhand joggers. I wish I had known about the stable during the colder months when the park wasn't so crowded.

Under the canopy of trees on West 89th Street
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Upon exiting the park, I joined two other riders, who were also heading back to the stables.

Riders pose with their mounts prior to the press conference
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Reporters interview community members and riders
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The two above photos are hazy because I dropped my phone during the conference and cracked the camera lens; Verizon is sending me a new one - for a price, of course. The replacement fee is $50.

I wonder what sterile condo or analogous retail window
will assume this historic and cultural landmark.
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Friday, April 27, 2007


In Amy's New York Notebook, an April 20th blog offers it condolences to the family of Julia Campbell, a former colleague of Amy Langfield at Julia was murdered in the Philippines earlier this month, where she was working in the Peace Corps - and keeping a blog about her experiences.

From (19 Apr 2007):
NEW YORK – Julia Campbell was no stranger to adventurous exploits.

As a journalist in New York City, she was a tenacious reporter, at one point getting arrested covering the funeral procession of rapper Notorious B.I.G. She once cut short a date after coming across a crime scene so she could report on the story.

Her adventurous spirit later took her to the Philippines, where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer. It was there that her body was discovered Wednesday in a shallow grave, unearthed by a stray dog more than a week after she disappeared while hiking.
Read more

The last post in Julia's blog is ironically titled "Buhay Pa Tayo." In it, she wrote: "One of the most familiar phrases people say here when you ask them how they are is "Eto" (here) or "Buhay pa" (still alive). Never has it had more meaning than in recent weeks here as we recover from one of the worst typhoons to hit the Philippines in decades."

Hundreds have left comments in her blog - much in the way that mourners have left messages on the myspace pages of those who died at Virginia Tech. The Internet has created a new outlet in which technology further aids memories - beyond simple photographs and video - in keeping loved ones buhay in hearts and minds.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Colleague Convo - The Urinary Issue Again

In the gym this evening with a coworker.
Victoria [between reps on the leg abductor machine]: "So I peed next to [our division's SVP] today."
Me [between reps on the leg adductor machine]: "And it was weird, right?"
Victoria: "Yea. I thought of you the entire time."
Me: "But would it have been weird if I hadn't said anything about it before?"
Victoria: "Yea. It's weird to know what your senior vice president sounds like while she pees."

Phone Photo Op - Pretty in Prank

My boss (the VP one) wanted to play a prank on my other boss (the AVP one). The latter just returned from a two-week trip in Africa, where she had extraordinary, life-changing adventures. She even shared a blog with me that she created to record her thoughts and experiences.

Yesterday we decided to wrap everything in her office with an ad she had created, which was published in a few recent magazines. When we ran out of magazines from which to tear the ads, we asked the consumer marketing department for some of their wrapping paper. We are aware how frivolous and wasteful this was, but we felt like it was a worthy way to welcome our AVP back to the country and let her know that she was missed.

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Her office ended up looking pretty rather than appearing to be an obnoxious prank. As we were finishing up, Julie said, "Ok. Let's do my office next."

My other boss (the VP one) is leaving for vacation at the end of this week. I know that a breeding ground for revenge has been laid.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Phone Photo Ops - Up & Down Park Ave

Views of Park Avenue while running errands on my lunch break
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Phone Photo Op - Flowers Always Because She Likes Them

Flowers for me! For Administrative Professionals' Day. From Human Resources. Totally romantic. I know.

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My boss (the VP one) gets flowers every month. Her husband ordered her a monthly flower delivering service. The message on the card that arrives with each delivery reads: "Flowers ... flowers always because she likes them."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Yesterday & Today

Two nice days in a row. Weather-wise and life-wise.

New York bloggers have a common theme in recent posts: great weather. Yesterday several colleagues and I were looking an empty table in Bryant Park during our lunch hour, and I said to Jenny, "How great is life right now?"

"Seriously!" she replied.

Later in the afternoon, I dipped out of the office to catch a friend's Broadway debut in the opening number of "The 21st Annual Easter Bonnet Competition" on Broadway. At 4:18 p.m., I ran out of the office as fast as I could in stiletto sandals, jumped in a passing cab and paid $6 to go two avenues. It was worth the investment - given my footwear - as I was just in time to pick up the ticket Stephanie had left for me at will call and find my seat before the lights in the theater lowered and the curtain rose.

I pride myself in not crying during movies, but Broadway always makes me a little emotional - even when the songs are happy. The music is so powerful that I have no choice but to let it move me. And "The 21st Annual Easter Bonnet Competition" served as a fabulous teaser for various shows that are currently running and featured multiple cast members and stars from "The Fantasticks," "Company," "Les Miserables," "Mamma Mia!," "The Color Purple," "Wicked," "The Lion King," "Phantom of the Opera" and "Beauty and the Beast" (to name a few).

"The Lion King" is now definitely next on my list of must-sees. After Stephanie's amazing performance, we had dinner in Bryant Park, where a bird dropped a surprise in my water glass, but knew better than to mess with my glass of wine!

Yesterday was followed by another gorgeous day, which found me lounging on the front steps of the New York Public Library again with my coworker Jenny. As we were crossing the street, Jenny said, "Days like today are what make winters in New York worth the wait."

This evening was my first night back in the gym after last week's bout with mild illness. I struggled through the cardio kickboxing class, but stuck around to lift weights and get a really good stretch in before heading back uptown. Now I'm back in my apartment, which is still warm after baking in the sun all day. I need to end this post and google eco-friendly air-conditioning units.

Here's to tomorrow.

From "Reputed to be the hottest ticket on Broadway, The Easter Bonnet Competition features a parade of bonnets hand-crafted by the casts and crews of dozens of participating productions. This annual spring event is the culmination of an intensive six-week fundraising effort by the companies of Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring productions. Curtain speeches, sales of autographed posters and programs, auctions and cabaret performances are just some of the activities that enable these companies to bring in generous contributions from audiences."

For more information on Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids and The Actors' Fund of America, visit

Phone Photo Ops - Yesterday & Today

Searching for a lunch spot with colleagues in Bryant Park yesterday
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The new grass is on the lawn (not open for lounging yet after removing the skating rink and replanting)
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Lunch hour for New York professionals
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From the mezzanine of the Minskoff Theatre after Broadway's 21st Annual Easter Bonnet Competition yesterday afternoon
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Evening chess in Bryant Park after Stephanie's Broadway debut, in which she sang a duet during the opening number of "The 21st Annual Easter Bonnet Competition"
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Lunch today with Jenny on the front steps of the NYPL
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And a closer angle
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Monday, April 23, 2007

Today Was A Good Day

I'll write about why tomorrow.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

City Walk #5 - Lower East Side 1

Card No. 9 - photos
This walk is a sentimental journey through what remains of New York's most famous immigrant quarter.

Begin at Canal and Essex Streets (F train to East Broadway). A century ago, the Lower East Side was the most densely populated human settlement in the world. Close to 400,000 immigrants crowded into squalid tenements that lined the narrow streets. Mainly Jews who fled the pograms that swept Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century, they created a cultural and religious enclave that survived almost unchanged through the 1950s. Today, the neighborhood has just over 90,000 residents - close to half of them Chinese who have migrated from ever-expanding Chinatown to the west and south - and one must search hard amid the growing number of stylish shops, art galleries, and restaurants for traces of the past. Along Grand Street, where 24 linen shops once competed for customers, there remains just Harris Levy (278 Grand) and one or two others. Religious goods shops are concentrated on Essex Street south of Grand. Since 1988, the most visited landmark in the neighborhood has been the Tenement Museum, a historically faithful re-creation of several apartments at 97 Orchard Street, between Broome and Delancey. The museum's shop, at 90 Orchard, should not be missed. Other landmarks include the recently renovated Eldridge Street Synagogue, between Canal and Division; the Romanian-American synagogue, on Rivington between Orchard and Ludlow; Yonah Schimmel Knishery (137 E. Houston); Russ & Daughters (179 E. Houston), purveyors of smoked fish and caviar since 1914; and Katz's Delicatessen (205 E. Houston), where "Harry Met Sally" for lunch and Meg Ryan faked an orgasm between bites of pastrami.

From City Walks: New York: 50 Adventures on Foot by Martha Fay

Phone Photo Ops - City Walk #5

Today's route: Lower East Side 1
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Seward Park
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Chinatown expansion
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One of the neighborhood's religious landmarks:
Eldridge Street Synagogue
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Chrysler Building from the Lower East Side
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One of thousands of Zagat-Rated restaurants:
Little Giant has fabulous window seats
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97 Orchard Street, between Broome & Delancey
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Adjacent the Tenement Museum shop
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Among various books in the Tenement Museum shop illustrating
the many love affairs with New York that came before mine,
I found a book about me: Part Asian, 100% Hapa
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Clinton Street, between Stanton & E. Houston:
A block so beautiful, I needed two angles
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A round sign hangs above the table where Meg Ryan
faked an orgasm in "When Harry Met Sally"
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Tracing the City in My Footsteps

Maybe it's the recent great weather coupled with a place that I love, but it seems like it took moving to the big city to turn me into an outdoor gal. Yesterday I hopped off the train at 42nd Street and walked to 23rd and over an avenue or two to get my eyebrows threaded and run other errands.

And today I went down to the Lower East Side for City Walk #5, and then decided to walk up Second Avenue from East Houston to my favorite $10-pedicure nail salon on East 26th Street (roughly 27 blocks). After receiving a french pedicure and a quick manicure to match, I switched from my tennis shoes to flip-flops and hiked another 32 blocks to The Container Store on Lexington & 58th. Finally with bags in tow, I crossed town to 59th Street-Columbus Circle to catch an uptown 1 train.

I might have worked off some calories, but I put them right back on with a small cup of ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery, which I consumed along several blocks on Second Avenue.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Phone Photo Ops - City in Bloom

Flowers are springing up everywhere...
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... Along with your everyday metal trees
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Friday, April 20, 2007

That's All I Have to Say About That

"Mama always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.'"
- Forrest Gump

Walking in New York City anytime of day or night is often like a box of chocolates. This afternoon a colleague and I stepped outside to grab salads from Cosi, but it was such a beautiful day, we decided to stay out and eat on the front steps of the New York Public Library. Among those seated around us were other midtown professionals, college students, a homeless man sleeping on his trash bags, tourists, and a mime.

It was a gorgeous day. One of those days that can make you fall in love with the city - if you haven't fallen already. My boyfriend - who is now living in Seattle through July - hates New York, but I believe it might grow on him if he could experience days in Manhattan like these.

Today also marked the beginning of the end of pleasant evening commutes through Times Square. It was so congested with tourists at 6:30pm. standing in the middle of the sidewalk looking up and posing for photos in front of the lights, billboards and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant and Market.

Victoria and I bobbed, weaved and dashed through the crowds from our office on 42nd Street aiming to be on time for our 50-min massages at the Broadway & 50th Equinox. She accidentally whacked some guy selling CDs in his leg with her laptop bag. Shit happens, but walking through Times Square was just a bad idea.

I finally used the Equinox gift card that my boss had given me for my birthday back in January. After my massage I was feeling so invigorated - as if I had magic legs - I decided to walk up to 59th Street instead of catching an uptown 1 train right outside the gym. But when I got to 59th, I decided I might as well walk to 66th.

I started to feel like Forrest Gump. By the time I got to 66th, I figured since I had come this far, I might as well walk on to 72nd. And when I arrived at 72nd, I figured since I had come this far, I might as well walk on to 79th.

When I got hungry, I grabbed a stick of street meat. When I saw a camera phone photo op, I took it, "and when I had to ... you know ... I went."

At 86th, I decided to hop on the train the rest of the way home. Back at my almost fully-furnished apartment, relaxing on a Friday night, a glass of red wine and a huge window peering out into Manhattan.

"Sometimes it would stop raining long enough for the stars to come out. And then it was nice. It was like just before the sun goes to bed down on the bayou ... There was over a million sparkles on the water. Like that mountain lake. It was so clear, Jenny. It looked like there were two skies, one on top of the other. And then in the desert, when the sun comes up ... I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It was so beautiful."
- Forrest Gump

Phone Photo Ops - Midtown & Upper West

Passing by The Late Show with David Letterman
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A gorgeous courtyard in a building on Broadway
between 77th & 78th
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Phone Photos Ops - Steps off the NYPL

Lunch in front of the New York Public Library with a colleague
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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Phone Photo Op - Skyline Sunset

Sun setting across the Hudson River
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Phone Photo Ops - Ready to Assemble

Before & during
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And after
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Craftsman Three-Shelf Bookcase with Doors from

P.S. The pile of boxes is getting smaller
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Six Months to Almost Furnished

To reiterate my previous post, I have lived in New York City for nine months and in my first Manhattan apartment for six. Today I am working from home to await a furniture delivery (yet again) and taking a late lunch to blog.

It has taken me six months to nearly furnish my 300-square-foot studio. The dilemma has been in working fulltime and finding the time to shop for furniture ... and in living alone and arranging delivery during weekday regular business hours. And with no car to pick up items held at the shipping centers, forget about it! I once saw a woman in the subway with a mattress, but that is one right of passage I am not willing to take.

FedEx and UPS don't deliver on weekends and if convenient in-home delivery is not an option with a particular piece, I have to find a day to work from home because my apartment complex doesn't have a doorman nor will the downstairs management and security offices hold deliveries. We have security guards and 24-hour video surveillance, but I think they pride themselves in not being doormen. They rarely assist in opening doors even if they see you through the glass, holding eight bags of groceries and fumbling through your purse for keys. I'm sure it's more of a security measure than an intentional attempt to be impolite, which is probably also the likely reason why they won't hold packages.

But security policies grouping a woman with eight bags of groceries fumbling for her keys with a potential burglar is like conducting a random search for terrorist toys on an 84-year-old White woman in an airport. While profiling can be humiliating and wrong, there is also a thing called common sense.

In addition, all deliveries must be announced (announced = going to the management office and filling out a delivery acceptance form and then taking it to the security office). There have been two occasions when I didn't know when FedEx was coming so I didn't fill out the forms and security turned FedEx away - thus creating a "refused delivery" code and sending my orders back to the shipper. Huge inconvenience and subsequent frustration.

As for today, I am waiting for a new bookcase/cabinet to be redelivered as the last one arrived damaged - probably because it was shipped back to Missouri twice by FedEx when refused a la my failure to track the shipment accurately and complete the proper forms with the building security.

P.S. I think I'm also coming down with strep throat. I called the Village Copier to get some pricing on one-sheets for our marketing department and I was so hoarse, I had to repeat everything twice. At least I am on the couch with a blanket, my laptop and a warm mug of herbal tea close at hand.

Six Months to Final Repairs

So I have lived in New York City for nine months - and in my studio apartment for six. This morning, the last of my requested repairs were finally completed. It's not that the management company for my building and their maintenance department are completely incompetent - in fact they do good work; it's just a challenge getting them to care about your problems as much as you do.

In New York City, many of us live in mediocre or below-average standards and pay out the ass for them. The demand for housing is so high that customer service among the middle and lower class residences suffers because if you aren't willing to pay for your subpar digs, someone else is. In many cases, you either get used to it or get out.

Fixed today:
- missing bathroom tile
- uneven roller track in a kitchen utensil drawer (you had to pull up and and back and then push forward to shut the drawer)
- remove window guards (I'm on a high floor; I'm assume that's safe enough to not have to feel like I'm in prison)

Fixed a few weeks ago:
- approximately 1x1' hole in the wall under my kitchen sink (I had baited it with about a dozen combat traps)
- poorly-grounded light switches (I often received tiny shocks when turning on or off a light)
- broken closet door
- approximately 2x1" hole behind toilet
- switch direction of pantry door (pantry is adjacent the wall) so that I wouldn't have to tilt sideways and over the door to reach into it

Fixed a few months ago:
- switch direction of refrigerator door (same situation as the pantry)
- missing electrical outlet covers

Fixed myself because I got tired of waiting:
- approximately 2x3" hole under bathroom vanity light (I covered it with a thin piece of cardboard, secured it with masking tape that matches the wall color and lined it with caulk)
- tiny holes around the air-conditioning vent (where there is no air-conditioner)

Still not fixed:
- missing back splash baseboard on counter top adjacent the stove
- extremely drafty window (not much can be done about that, short of replacing the entire window)
- the closet alcove lightswitch turns on the bathroom light and the bathroom light turns on the closet alcove light (but it's ok because they're right next to each other)

Phone Photo Op - Free Ben & Jerry's

Life goes on, of course. And it went on with free Ben & Jerry's ice cream around the United States yesterday. Below was the line for the annual free day at 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue. I instantly decided not to wait in this line, but did pause long enough to take a camera phone picture of those who were.

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I'd rather pay five bucks for a pint of Ben & Jerry's than wait in that line. I did neither, of course, especially after having skipped my Tuesday cardio kickboxing class last night for the first time in three months - thus proving that I am indeed subject to temporary bouts of poor will power. Not to mention an evening a few weeks ago when I devoured half a box of Famous Amos cookies in one seating.