Friday, October 31, 2008


My corner-mates were talking about the importance of embarrassing their offspring. I questioned the wisdom, since I'm the approximate age of their kids.

K: "I feel it's my job as the younger demographic to question your logic."

Beloved, adorable colleague: "Your premise is flawed, because there is no logic there."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

madison square art

Must go see this (Oct. 24 - Nov. 17). Madison Square Park is one of the greatest places on the planet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


"You'll never believe what happened to me this afternoon," I said to my editor after returning from a meeting with the head of the local Jewish Federation over two hours after leaving to meet him.

"He happened to you," she said with a small smile, using his name.

I was walking to the Federation, I told her, when he shouted out his window, "Are you coming to see me? Get in." I did, and he announced we would go to the Sukkah of the local Hasidic rabbi and speak there.

"You have to warn me when people are insane," I chided my editor.

Her reply?

"You didn't tell me you'd be getting in the car with him!"

But I did, and soon we were a couple miles beyond downtown New London. There were about 20 people of all ages and observance levels sitting around two giant tables crammed into the Sukkah, and a meal was about to begin, less than a half-hour after I finished my lunch.

They ushered the Fed prez and me inside to wash. I've never done it, so I did not know the blessings. The rabbi's pale, slight wife talked me through the ritual as their eight children stomped in and out of the kitchen (they range from age three to 14, and seven of them are girls). I felt like I'd stepped out of the car and into Washington Heights or Williamsburg; the whole family was dressed to Orthodox modesty standards, and the wife wore a wig. They're the first Orthodox Jews I've seen since moving here in April. They are the only Hasidic family in the city.

The tables in the Sukkah were covered with a meat feast - steak, meatballs, pasta with chicken, stuffed peppers, sweet potato pie, challah... I sat erect, half-off my chair as I do when I'm uncertain as to what I should be doing. Fed prez began loading my plate with meat hunks. I told him I wasn't very hungry, and he said that I should just eat half of it for appearances' sake.

"It's my second lunch today too," he said, grinning and patting his Santa belly.

Commence festive meal, interspersed with the black-hatted, bearded Rabbi breaking into jolly song snippets and taunting the two (secular) Israeli teens visiting for the year when they didn't know the words.

(Side note: does anyone know how all those Hasidic men snag wives? Does anyone find those wispy beards attractive? Seriously?)

When the wife went in to prepare dessert, I followed to ask her advice on how to feed my Orthodox friends in this area without a Kosher kitchen should they come to visit. We ended up having a long, fun talk, but it gave me the sense that she's lonely. Her two eldest daughters live with grandparents to attend school in Brooklyn, and she home schools the rest with online resources. I asked who she socializes with, and she waffled a bit before saying that she talks to her sister on the phone a lot. I hear that; a good chunk of my social life is phone and gchat-based. But I'm not the sole Hasidic woman in an entire region. After, per her husband's wishes, she talked me through shaking the lulav, she asked if I was interested in studying Torah with her an hour a week.

I told her I didn't know, because I didn't have the heart to outright refuse.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

adventures in "i work saturdays"

A bored detective working the dispatch desk and I had a wide-ranging conversation when I went to collect police logs this afternoon. He asked me my name so that he could look up my articles and heckle me in the reader comments, and I found myself explaining why, when people ask my name, I tend to just give my first name unless people specify. (It has to do with my last name sounding very Jewish, and I'm not religious, so I don't like being labeled by my name. That said, I dislike the fact that I'm not fond of my name, so I refuse to change my byline. It's cyclical K-think.)

"You're crazy, aren't you?" was his response. "Should you really be out there driving around?"

This from a man who who described one arrestee's name as "funny," accused me of spitting on the apple he was eating a couple yards away, called the lobby phone from behind the desk while I was writing and asked me to answer it and called a colleague in another town a garden gnome.

Made my day.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"this is how it works..."

I am often deliberate in deciding what sort of gal I wish to be. In college, I decided that I was going improve my posture, my (mental) health, my journalism skills and my ability to exude confidence. I did all those things. A couple old men outside a barber shop near my apartment have complimented me on my posture multiple times, and everybody else just assumes I'm a dancer. (That shows how well people know me here. Friends can relate that I've never been able to dance, ever, though the idea of ballet lessons intrigues me.)

Right now, I'm working on turning my tendency to say "hey" into "hi" or "hello" and "yeah" into "yes," simply because I think those changes would make me sound more polished.

Verbal habits aside, I'm flying blind.

A lot of the affect, etc., I chose to acquire during college are often read as pretentious or condescending in New London. That upsets me, because I don't judge others for doing things I happen to consider unappealing as far as doing them myself. The person I chose to become does not fit in here. Instead of changing myself as I did in New York, I'm pretty happy with myself, which means I now spend a lot of time feeling alone and misinterpreted.

I also cannot decide how to approach bringing change into my life. Do I want to blossom at my current job, fall deeper into a yoga practice, and build a cute little life here for a few years? Do I want to be in NYC at any costs? NYC if I can get a job a want, or one with a trajectory? Someplace warmer, but only for a journalism job? Grad school? Somewhere far, far away from this country, which is in free fall anyhow? Do I want a balanced life or conventional success? Where and how can I do the best writing? How will I know when I'm doing it?

I do know that whether I make an interior paradigm shift or an external one, something needs to change. I feel trapped too often and have too many weeks where I'm sunk helplessly in depression; walking through a doom fog is an energy drain, even if "doom" is a fun word.

self-ish promotion

Orange Juice: Don't Start Your Day without It.

(I never thought to play with punctuation in "selfish." I like it.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

for the record

I HATE cold weather. Hate it. There is no such thing as too many blankets or too much heat (though there is such a thing as paying for too much heat). My fingers are cold and my toes are cold, and a chill permeates the rest of me and makes me want to pace, which means I have to emerge from my blanket cave, which turns into one of those vicious cycles they warn children about in bedtime stories.

I told my yoga teacher last night that I was hunkering down in my blanket pile for the foreseeable future, and she suggested I try and crawl out long enough to go to a warming yoga class Wednesday morning.

Reasonable solutions are such a killjoy when the aim is a display of histrionics.

Here, I'll mitigate my whining with some Muppets:

Friday, October 03, 2008

palin mayhem continues

The VP debate last night was everything I wanted it to be. Sarah Palin was often incoherent, did not address all the questions in her answers and sounded ignorant as Biden corrected her gaffes without sounding condescending. Below, a friend and I weigh in on the state of the debate.

Friend: I was sort of hoping Palin would implode, but it sadly didn't happen

me: I don't understand how people are saying she didn't fail. When did the ability to form complete sentences become "not failure"? She didn't answer the questions when she didn't feel like it, there were more cliché talking points than substance, and she was condescending: "There you go, Joe, looking back again."

Friend: Actually, I didn't think she failed either. I agree with you: she didn't answer questions, and she had no substance. But she was (a) not the wreck she's been in interviews; (b) consistently appealing to the kind of people who don't care if you know anything

me: Apparently, the woman has no weaknesses ("Achilles' heel")

Friend: I loved that. Her weaknesses are that she is TOO fond of this country!! Please.

me: But seriously - is slang supposed to be appealing?

Friend: Jim Lehrer said she was 'relentlessly colloquial.' It is [appealing] to people who want to identify with her, and don't care that running a government is about intelligence, skill, and erudition, not being Joe six-pack

me: Which is scary to me. I was watching her horrified that someone who doesn't seem to know anything could be that "heartbeat away."

Friend: It's scary to me, too

me: And others were probably watching Joe Biden's calm, clear responses and well-placed humor and thinking, "That establishment bastard." There were just so many holes in her logic

Friend: That's why I was so disappointed that she didn't fall flat on her face. He was great, I have to say. Not only did he answer every question, but he handled her really well, I thought. He addressed all his attacks to McCain and was consistently pleasant, good-natured, and funny with her

me: Which takes skill. I would've been all "Lady, you're not making sense - again!"

Friend: Me too. I would have been like, “I’m sorry, which part was the answer to that question?”

me: They respond to her with more respect for her than I think her answers deserve

Friend: Well, they have to, because otherwise they'll be seen as picking on the pretty little governor. Big bad establishment guy v. pretty little google-eyed governor. It's like, please, Joe Biden is a marshmallow and Sarah Palin is a barracuda. I was so shocked when she corrected him by saying, “the cheer is actually drill, baby, drill”

me: I kind of love Palin's little daughter who's always pushing her way into the center of things, the one who spit on Trig's head

Friend: I know, she's kind of adorable. And there's no getting around the fact that Sarah Palin's a good-looking woman

me: I don't find her good looking

Friend: Well, she's not my type, either, but I see her mass appeal

me: She doesn't radiate any good energy, just mania, which for me negates the fact that she's slim, etc

Friend: Oh, totally. And her eyes get sort of weirdly manic. I LOVE the Tina Fey version of her

me: Her makeup also looks kinda plastic on TV

Friend: Well, she looks like a beauty queen in a suit. Which is exactly what she is

me: And when she reiterates her credentials, it sounds to me like someone discussing high school experiences at a post-college job interview

Friend: Well, because that's what it is. She's working off so little, it sounds like she's trying to sell an undergrad resume. I mean, you might say that relative to many policymakers, Barack Obama has less experience, but you'd also have to concede that relative to most people, the constitutional law professorship, community organizer, state senator, and US senator resume is pretty damn incredible. Whereas weather girl, PTA mom, mayor of a small town, and first-term governor doesn't have quite that weight

me: (First-term governor of a state nobody really lives in)

Friend: I know. Ridiculous. [Colleagues] hosted a debate-watching party last night with a drinking game - a shot every time someone said “Alaska”

[For more crazy, see a Palin debate tactic flow chart here.]

Thursday, October 02, 2008

few things make me giggle at the mailbox, but we have a winner

I bet the fist-bump Obama cover made Remnick determined to give Barry Blitt as many cover gigs as possible. This one's called "A Room with a View," which is a brilliant way to pay homage to my favorite "View of the World from Ninth Avenue," satire the perversion of feminism that happened when Palin joined the ticket and, like Blitt's other covers, tickle the brains of those pesky Eastern Liberal (Media) Elites who are watching the whole show.

Speaking of shows - VP debate tonight!!! I hope this continues my suspicions that Palin is more entertaining than Britney by making tonight more of a debacle than last year's MTV Awards show performance.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

today's installment of self-promotion

I finally thought of a feature story that was entertaining to write - the first time in a good, long while. The headline, as usual, is inane. I wish we had copy editors who knew what they were doing. Sigh. They, or perhaps the equally awesome city editor on duty early last night, also added a word into the brief I wrote that made it a tad misleading. They could've called and checked with me.

End rant; start article:

Ledyard - When Mayor Fred Allyn formed a new “core group” last week to start discussing next year's budget process, he gave the members more than just a directive to find ways to decrease town spending.

Finance Director Marcia Hancock, Tax Assessor Paul Hopkins, Planner Brian Palaia and Public Works Director Steve Masalin were each promised a copy of John Kotter's “Leading Change,” a 1996 book about the need for bosses to spearhead changes in the workplace.

Allyn assumed his post in December 2007 with various books stacked on his desk, mostly on change in the workplace environment, which he offered to Town Hall employees who asked about them.

He estimates that he has bought 100 copies alone of “Who Moved my Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. Ordered from, that amounts to $1,357 from his own pocket, as the town has no Books to Inspire Employees line item in its budget.

Palaia got his new book the day after their meeting.

”I was up there reviewing my memo with him about the projects we have ongoing, and he just suggested that I might enjoy reading this book,” Palaia said. “Leading Change” is the second book Allyn has given him since he took office.

”He does that,” said Hancock, who was hired over the summer. “He reads a book that he really likes and then he gives copies to other people that he thinks will benefit from it.”

And Allyn liked the message in “Who Moved my Cheese?” which, according to Publisher's Weekly, was the best-selling nonfiction book of 2000. It discusses ways to anticipate and adjust to change, broaching the topic through a tale about mice in a maze whose cheese is suddenly moved.

”I think it's important because change is difficult, and I think that we have to use whatever tools that we can use to encourage the changes that are necessary,” Allyn said. “Everybody's cheese gets moved on occasion.”

Economic Development Commission Chairman Stephen Eichelberg was a “Cheese” recipient.

”It was shortly after he took office, and we were having one of our meetings,” said Eichelberg, who has been on the commission for five years. “Generally, we've held our meetings in the mayor's office. I was talking with him briefly after the meeting, and he said, 'I've got a book for you.' “

Unconventional town management techniques can be useful, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities spokesman Kevin Maloney said.

”Sometimes using a non-traditional approach can get people off the back of their chairs,” Maloney said, though he stressed the importance of monitoring its efficacy.

Other books Allyn shares with staff include “Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results,” by Stephen Lundin; “When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up,” by Michael Sedler; and “A Message to Garcia,” by Elbert Hubbard.

The latter, which Allyn offers to employees as well as to new Eagle Scouts, is a slim volume about a Spanish-American War messenger who selflessly enters a dangerous Cuban jungle to deliver a missive.

”It's not book-learning young men need,” Hubbard wrote in 1899, “nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing - 'Carry a message to Garcia.' “

Allyn reviewed the book on in May.

”I give 'Message to Garcia' to new Management employees of our Town,” he wrote. “The message is 'brief' which I feel is important, and clear. It demonstrates what I expect of our Management Team players.