Thursday, December 28, 2006

Quick Links

To Whom It May Concern...

Lancaster Christmas Photos are online here.

Magical New York Christmas Weekend photos are viewable here.)

"Christmas: Round 1" photos of the R!os, Attr!dge, ZseIler clan are viewable here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gigantic Catch Up Entry

Hey, remember when you and your kids all came over and my dad drove all the way here from PA to dress up like Santa for them and we went to see the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center? No?

(All the photos from that weekend are here.)

Because it was so long ago and I've been posting big soapbox-y essays and snarky commentaries about life in suburbia? Oh, and driving hundreds of miles up and down the NJ Turnpike and serving breaded squid to lots of people I may or not be related to AND cleaning up dog pee from Joel's parents' carpet RIGHT as we sit down to Christmas dinner?

Poor Bella. She was so. good. all through Alissa and Todd's Christmas party, greeting two dozen strangers with a wagging tail and wearing her silly Santa collar. She sat in the back seat for 300 miles and only got her head stuck in the automatic window once. She obediently let strangers pet her at the Vince Lombardi rest stop.

She played nicely with my parents' sweet, rambunctious dog and was extremely gentle with a six-month-old baby in a house full of 30 loud people.

We took her straight to Joel's parents' house in Queens where she could smell and hear their dog but not see her.... She was very calm, and very confused, and finally just marked her territory right next to the dining room table. Fuckety fuck fuck fuck. Then again, Joel's dad kept slipping her "people food" all through dinner, WHICH IS COMPLETELY FORBIDDEN, and I know he did this because she has thrown up tiny pieces of perfectly cut pork chop all over the living room today. Twice. I consider us "even." (Except? DUDE. All my "mean" rules for Bella EXIST FOR A REASON. Do you think if I made her a little bandanna that said, "People food makes me vomit copiously" people would stop doing it already? Christ.

Speaking of Christ, back to Christmas! I find myself sort of surprised to admit this, and I know it will shock at least one of my readers here, but I've grown to kind of love Christmas. The "Christmas Season" starts for me on November 1. I make a lot of my gifts, because I'm stupid. No, really. I love it- LOVE IT- when people open the coffee table books, framed photographs, and shadow boxes, but it is a lot of work.

Manda, Tom, Joel and I and gave my Nanny a portable DVD player with Rachel Ray and Iron Chef episodes, because she really, REALLY hates that her nursing home doesn't get the Food Network. When she saw the opening logo for the "Iron Chef" on the screen, she said weepily, "It makes me feel like I'm home." She did NOT say that about the photo album I made for her of the house she lived in for 50 years, complete with snapshots from three generations taken IN the house, copied and scanned and restored in PhotoShop. Oh, no. She was definitely, definitely talking about "Iron Chef."

I recorded family interviews and transfered audio clips of my sister and I singing Christmas carols when we were toddlers to a CD, and my mom melted into a puddle of weepy Christmas goo, right there on the dining room floor. Still, that's the BEST, when you give someone something you made and you can tell you got just right.

Holiday assignments start before Thanksgiving, with executive portraits to accompany business stories about huge department stories and their end-of-year "vision." You name it, I shoot it- as many church turkey drives, Scout carol sings, volunteer firehouse Christmas tree sales, community college Menorah lightings (they had a fire thrower show this year for variety), scholarship fund Kwanzaa dinners and people-receiving-charity-from-do-gooders on the suburban side of the river. I work my ass off, but it is pretty handy when I can get a little holiday shopping done between shooting the annual tree-lighting at the mall and high school basketball two hours later.

I also:

• spent four days baking, including large Christmas cookie trays for my parents, Joel's parents, Joel's co-workers, my office Christmas party, and our Magical Childhood Memory Santa PartyTM. Two round tins: one for my mom's mom and brother, one for college roomie and wife. Four cute treat bags for my three fellow bureau photogs and Joe the mailman. And two pumpkin pies.

• wrapped all the presents for my friends and family, Joel, Joel's friends and family, gift recipients from Santa at the Magical Childhood Memory PartyTM, my office Secret Santa, Joel's work Secret Santa and the pet-sitter.

• went through three branches of Target, a Wal-Mart and a Toys R Us and looking for the elusive Fisher-Price digital camera for kids.

• spent an evening in the ER getting rehydrated by IV during The PLAGUE.

• mailed 45 Christmas cards to friends, family, former picture story subjects, a college friend in Singapore whom I considered marrying for his green card and my host family in Scotland from a trip I took in 1999. (Their Christmas card is my favorite, favorite one every year. New sheepdog puppies! Host sister preggers!)

• helped my mom, dad and sister pull off The Annual Gigundo Christmas Eve meal with seven kinds of fish and a lot of deep-fried dough for so many people that we have to eat in shifts. My sister is the only person I know who can look this good while deep frying.

• got spanked in this year's gift competition with my dad. I have NEVER lost two years in a row. For SHAME, for shame.

While I was sulking, I gave Aiden a bottle. Everyone was staring at me, because once I started talking with my hands, he held his bottle on his own. This is not a skill he previously had, apparently. AND THEN, he reached for a beer. He really is just like his Uncle Brad.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Life Imitates Art

(I don't know if you'd consider the old "Daria" cartoons art, but for those of us who came of age during MTV's "Beavis and Butthead" era, it's pure brilliance.)

Oh, stereotypes, you conundrums, you...

Every now and then, I see these little moments that I just have to capture. They often have nothing to do with the reason I have my camera out and poised. They're just THERE, and I can't help myself.

This particular moment reminded me of an old episode of Daria, where everyone's favorite cartoon heroine helps the uber-popular cheerleader understand three-point perspective for art class by drawing her a picture of the mall.

The part of the episode that drives my above comparison home doesn't happen until 4 minutes and 16 seconds into the YouTube video I've linked to below, so here's the dialogue in case you're, you know, busy or something.

Brittany: Hey! Thanks for helping me out in art.
Daria: No problem.
Brittany: Maybe I could help you out in something.
Daria: Well, you could show me how to twirl hair around my little finger and look vacant.
Brittany: (twirls hair and looks vacant) I don't know if that's something you can teach.

Monday, December 18, 2006


This is a concept I've been kicking around for a while, this notion of "enough." I suppose I'm thinking, in particular, about activism, charity and goodness in general.

I started working on a long entry back in October, when the marketing campaigns for Breast Cancer Awareness kicked into overdrive. I saw a commerical for Macy's that really pissed me off. Someone, an actress I really respect, Susan Sarandon maybe, was talking about Breast Cancer Awareness and Shop for the Cure! and there was some promotion, something like "20% off! 10% of which goes to breast cancer research, so you can Shop for the Cure! and Save money, too! And THAT feels really good."

And I thought... what fresh bullshit is THAT?

First of all, if we can shop for the cure! And sip for the cure! And crunch for the cure! And drive for the cure! Why can't we get a damn cure? There's so much money spent in marketing Pink Ribbon products. Wouldn't it be great if Ford could the funds it puts toward mixing a special blend of limited edition pink car paint toward, I don't know, developing a car that releases less carcinogenic pollution? And Revlon? I know you proudly describe yourselves as all about giving (their words, not mine) and boy howdy, y'all love your pink ribbons, but could you maybe STOP MAKING MAKEUP WITH CHEMICALS THAT CAUSE CANCER ? 'Cause THAT would be awesome.

Before I go on too long with this rant, I will tell you that more information on this topic can be found here and here and here.

My point is, reapplying your Revlon lipstick after washing down a bag of Sunchips with Republic of Tea's Pink Lemonade Green Tea as you drive your pink Ford to Macy's for the 20% off sale does not an activist make. It. Is. Not. Enough. to eat your "dating a massage therapist while shoe shopping for Zen-wrapped in Karma dipped in chocolate GOOD" yogurt (Don't even get me starting on the stereotyping evils of THAT ad campaign) and mail in your cute little pink lid for the $0.10 donation. Dude. Just take the $0.39 you'd spend on the stamp and give it to Susan J. Komen your own self.

I'm focusing on breast cancer activism in this entry, because I already did the research back in October, but the sentiment could apply to any form of charitable giving or activism. I'm asking the question: What is "enough?"

Is it enough to pray for what you'd like to see happen in the world? If you vote, recycle, adopt your pets from a rescue organization and toss your envelope in the offering plate once a week, is that enough? What if you compost all the vegan peelings from your pesticide-free vegetables, ride a bicycle everywhere and only drive a hybrid car for emergencies? (We all still produce ozone-destroying methane when we die, by the way.)

I always kind of grew up thinking that if I'd been alive during such-and-such a time, I would have been "one of the good guys." Like, if I had been alive before the Civil War, I hope I would have assisted a stop on the Underground Railroad. If I'd been in Nazi-occupied Europe, I like to think I would have been like Miep Geis , helping hide Anne Frank and her family. If I lived in Rwanda? I tell myself I would have done whatever I could, like Paul Rusesabagina (The hotel manager who provided shelter for over a thousand Tutsis refugees when the Hutu militia was exacting genocide in Rwanda.)

Historical events and eras seem to naturally align themselves in nice, organized chunks after the fact, such as the Antebellum South and the Holocaust. I wonder, though, would we have enough perspective to know if we were living in a Historically Significant Chunk right in the thick of it?

Aren't we living through a Historical Chunk right now? There are atrocities happening in our own time, injustices all around us. We are in a time of world crisis, today. Right now. Am I a freedom fighter in Darfur right now? Nope. Am I on a hunger strike in solidarity with the innocents (surely there are more than one or two) imprisoned in Guantonimo? Hardly. I personally don't think that I do "enough," actually, but that's a personal goal and perhaps a New Year's resolution.

I'm finally, finally getting around to finishing this post in part because I've recently come face to face with the legacy of Someone Who Absolutely Did Enough. Go google "Welles Crowther," please. I'll wait. No, seriously. It will save time. Look up the "man in the red bandanna" while you're at it.

We're on the honor system here, but just in case you didn't google him... Welles was 24 when he died, a BC graduate in my sister's undergraduate class. He always carried a red bandanna with him, by habit. He worked as an equities trader on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. He used his training as a volunteer firefighter to save a lot of lives on 9/11. He covered his face with his red bandanna as he went into the inferno of the 78th floor several times, helping badly burned individuals to safety.

He could have made it to safety. He could have helped save one person, and it would have been "enough." He could have run for his life, saving only himself, and gone on to live a productive, happy life, and THAT would have been enough. He made it all the way to the lobby of the South Tower. His remains were found with several FDNY firefighters and EMT workers in what was a suspected command post when the towers fell.

Last week, the FDNY made him an honorary firefighter. They almost never, ever do that. The gesture is even more meaningful because his parents found a partially completed application to join New York's bravest in his apartment. We've done a lot of stories about this man in the last five years. I've only been privileged enough to work on the most recent two, the story announcing this posthumous honor and the one covering the ceremony. You can see the slideshow here.

He did enough, more than enough. I spent an hour bonding with his mom, who gave me a red bandanna, which I will carry in my camera bag always. He saved lives, and last week, I sat on the floor of his old bedroom and played with his dog.

What, out of all of your charitable giving, activism or volunteerism, is the most satisfying and meaningful to you? How do you define "enough?"

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A General Update

So, hi. Obviously, I didn't die from the plague. (Thank you for asking, Wetzel. Did you get my card? What is your working email address these days? Where do you live? Why can't I find you? Don't make me sing Faith Hill Christmas carols at you! Because I will! "Where are you, WET-zel?/ Why can't I FIII-IND yooou?")

I took an absolutely unheard of three days off from work last week. I called out sick Monday and Tuesday. I went into work on Wednesday, where several of my co-workers did everything but beam me back to bed with the sheer force of their combined maternal instincts. I took off Thursday, and I'm pretty much better now except for an annoying lingering cough.

But look! My ears work again! I can yawn without whimpering in pain! Rockin'!

Meanwhile, Joel is sick now, despite ingesting a frightening amount of Airborne and washing his hands like Howard Hughes. He called out sick today, but I think he's going in tomorrow. We'll see if this illness hits him behind the knees with a steel rod like a man on Tonya Harding's payroll the way it did after my attempt to work last Wednesday.

Seriously, though, there has been so much sustained coughing in this apartment, followed by double hits of cough drops and Dayquil. Yesterday, I was choking on a pear, and I actually thought, "Damn, if this piece of pear shifts a little and starts blocking my windpipe, I am in DEEP SHIT. Because Joel will not come check on me. He thinks I'm coughing and looking for more cough drops. I will die here on the kitchen floor, and he will merely think I found the Halls. He might not find me for HOURS. Maybe I should find a pen and write a 'I am choking on a pear' note while I have enough oxygen to do it..."

Meanwhile, I'm truckin' down the holiday to-do list. I have all my cards sent, dozens of cookies baked, mostly everything wrapped, just a few more small presents to buy, most photo client orders filled if not shipped, plus getting ready for the Magical Manhattan Weekend coming up. There will be Christmas light-seeing, Reindeer hoof-print spotting, Santa-letter mailing, Nutcracker viewing, Rockefeller tree-viewing, and Kris Kringle-visiting.

I just have to clean, grocery shop, launder some towels and make an appointment for Bella at the groomer to take care of her Talons of Pre-Schooler Doom before the house guests arrive.

P.S. To Wetzel: "Katherine! Christopher! Babila! Give me your hand, come along with me!"

Wedding/Party (Bonus: Kittens!)

You can see a slideshow of the wedding here, the party here and the kittens here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Scenes from a Suzuki

Woman: Are you ready to go?
Man: Yeah.
Woman: Did you print out Mapquest directions?
Man: I checked Mapquest, but they're in my head.
Woman: Are you sure? 'Kay.

(45 minutes later)

Woman: Have we been here before?
Man: No.
Woman: What road are we looking for?
Man: I think we're in the wrong place. Their street is a tree name, and none of these are tree streets.
Woman: Should we call them?
Man: No. Look, there's Joel Place! Let's go there.
Woman: There is no housewarming party there. Let's ask for directions.
Man: Well...
Woman: Ask for directions!

(One trip to gas station for directions later; we're getting back on the highway.)

Woman: Should we call them?
Man: Nah, just get on the highway.
Woman: North or South?
Man: I'm not sure if we got off too soon or too late. We have to go one exit and see if they go up or down.
Woman: 'Kay... Is there a reason we can't use one of the three cell phones in this car and CALL THEM?
Man: I want to see if I'm right. We want exit 24. We could BE at exit 24 right now, but get on the highway anyway.

(Woman drives on highway, sees signs for exit 9.)

Woman: Call them.
Man: But-
Woman: Call them.

(Passing exit 8)

Woman: Call them or I'm taking the CD out and switching to Christmas carols.
Man: Noooo!
Woman: I will SO put on Christmas music.
Man: But-
Woman: DUDE. (finger lingering threateningly over AM/FM button)
Man: (reluctantly digging around for cell phone)
Woman: I'm talkin' BAD Christmas music, too. Celine Dion, if I can find it, or that terrible Santa Baby song.
Man: I'm dialing!

(One confusing phone call with harried hostess later)

Man: There! Route 24! I was right.
Woman: Oh, no. You said EXIT 24, not Route 24.
Man: But there it is.
Woman: Yes.
Man: I bet they eloped.
Woman: What?
Man: I bet we get there, and they announce that they went to the courthouse and did it.
Woman: Ya think? No, they wouldn't do that.
Man: I just have a feeling.
Woman: Wanna bet on it?
Man: Like what?
Woman: Like... dinner out. Dinner at Legal Seafood.
Man: But not at the one at Palisades.
Woman: No, that one sucks. The one in Plite Wains.
Man: Deal.
Woman: If they eloped, and you're right, then I buy. If they're not married, you owe me dinner.
Man: Okay.

(Drivey drive with the driving)

Woman: You know what WOULD be like them?
Man: What?
Woman: They got a friend to get ordained over the Internet and they surprise us tonight.
Man: Nah, they eloped.
Woman: I'm just sayin.'


Man: If they get married tonight at the party, we draw for it. No one buys dinner.
Woman: That works.

(Three and half hours, four courses of passed appetizers, and a dozen birthday/housewarming presents later....)

...Joel and I are eating at home. ;)

Congratulations, guys! This is your heart's true happiness, and it's everything you deserve.

P.S. Yeah, I take my gear pretty much everywhere I go, but THERE IS A REASON I haven't traveled lightly since 1998. :)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Miserable Monkey

Hi. I am sick. Again. I feel like a broken record. I just wrote a post like this last month. This is the most serious, non-food poisoning-related illness I've had in a while. I have your standard no-good very bad cold- tonsilitis, possibly strep throat, sneezing and wheezing like one of Marge Simpson's sisters.

But! Bonus! I have an ear infection so bad that it hurts to move my jaw in certain ways. The slightest touch to that half of my head makes me whimper pathetically. It's like my Pathetic Whimper Button. Or something.

I worked on Saturday, holding it all together with Dayquil and caffeine. For the past week, I tried pounding water, taking Vitamin C and zinc supplements, getting a chiropractic adjustment, taking making my vile magic potion of lemon tea, honey and melted cough drops. I've been turning the bathroom into a steam room, pouring eucalyptus body wash under the taps and breathing deeply.

Fuck it! Fuck it all!

I finally dragged my ass to the doctor and got me some antibiotics. Which haven't kicked in yet. Most of all, I just DO NOT WANT TO BE SICK. This is really pissing me off now. I have a to-do list a mile long, projects at work that deserve my attention, and nowhere on that list does it say, "Be Miserable" and "Count the Hours Until It Is Time for More Eardrops."

Joel keeps refusing to shoot me.