Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Chewy Nougat Center (A Guest Entry by Joel)

Hey there, Chunky Photojournalist Barbie here.. Work has been crazy for me. I've been working my butt off for Milestone clients so everyone is all situated before I leave for the honeymoon, and every time I think I have the lion's share of wedding planning managed, a bunch of other tasks seem to pop up.

I'm fine, but I need to slow down, and soon. The trouble is, an Angie in motion tends to stay in motion, and- to continue the physics analogy- Joel is the only thing keeping the household from careening into a state of entropy. I need to give Joel a lot of credit. He's grocery shopping, vacuuming, doing more than his fair share of pet care. He's the best. He's even updating the blog for me! So without further ado, Joel's guest entry about his latest toy, er, Earth-friendly endeavor: his Vespa. Except it's not a Vespa, persay. It's a Vespa-like scooter of a different brand. What was I saying about "Without further ado"? Ah, yes...


Everyone is noticing that the price at the pump has really gotten out of hand these last few months. During my first $50 fill up in May, I decided that I had to do something different. Gas plus tolls to work was adding up to around $100/week,and I don’t even drive a big car.
Angie and I have talked on and off about getting a pair of scooters. I decided to go ahead and get mine. I did a lot of research, took lessons, bought a scooter, passed the motorcycle road test and have been on two wheels instead of four for a week now. Instead of a 4 cylinder, 2.0 liter engine, I now primarily use one cylinder at 150cc. Angie is a bit concerned that I’ve traded in the hard candy shell of my car, and now I’m riding around with just my chewy nougat center exposed. (Well, yeah...)
Don’t get me wrong; I still own my car. I still use it for big shops at the supermarket, when I anticipate having a passenger and for long trips. I’ll be taking the scooter to work (weather permitting. I’m thinking of giving it a nickname… maybe the “Chinese Mosquito” because it’s made in China, it buzzes and from the front, it kinda looks like a mosquito. (As God as my witness, I will NEVER call it that.)

It’s orange… not my first choice for a color but it was the last one they had of that model. I decided to make the best of it and get a blue helmet so now when I ride it, I’m riding around with the Mets’ colors. It hits 65mph and gets about 75 mpg. I love going to the gas station on empty, giving the guy a $10 bill and getting back change after my fill-up.
As for the chewy nougat center, I understand the concern… ( I love you, honey, but let's face it: We're accident-prone jackasses) and I’m taking as many precautions as I can. Aside from rethinking the process of driving as a more deliberate and cautious act, I bought a full face helmet, even through I got a half-helmet, which just covers everything from above the ears up, for free when I got the scooter. I also got Kevlar reinforced riding gloves and an armored riding jacket with padding in the forearms, back, elbows and shoulders. Additionally, I have enough light-up accessories and reflective materials that as soon as another car’s headlights shine on me, they won’t be able to not see me.
I already had a few strange encounters on the scooter, though. First off, I have to break in the engine so I can’t open the throttle all the way, which means no highways for a while. I’ve been taking all side roads and surface streets. Even though I’m a native New Yorker, I’m going through places that I didn’t know existed, everywhere from the peaceful, woodsy road through Pelham Park, to the urban congestion and squalor of Webster Avenue and White Plains Road in the Bronx.
Responses from other people on the road and sidewalks have been… mixed. Every day I’ve ridden, people have asked me where I got my scooter. How much did it cost? Do you need a motorcycle license? Is it easy to ride? How fast does it go? What kind of mileage does it get?  I’ve been asked so many times that I’ve memorized the phone number of the dealer I got it from. Hopefully he’ll get some more business. I think he will, just because of gas prices. So those are the positive responses. On the other hand...
I stopped in Corona, Queens the first day I got the scooter. I went to a pizza place that sells Coca-Cola from Mexico where they make their Coke with actual sugar, not the high-fructose corn syrup crap that’s in everything up here in the US. It makes a difference, trust me.

I got out of the store, enjoying my bottle of ice cold Coca-Cola with regular sugar by the scooter with my keys on the seat,
when two clearly intoxicated Hispanic men came to me and started speaking to me in Spanish. This is Corona, so Spanish really is the first language of the neighborhood. I told them I didn’t speak Spanish, so in broken English, one asked me for money so they could buy lunch. My street-smart radar went off, so I told them no.

The surlier of the two grabbed the scooter keys off the seat. I almost punched the guy- (This is a funny mental image for me. Uh, I mean, you're a lover, not a fighter, Joel.) but I was able to grab the keys out of his hands since his reflexes were impaired by the alcohol. Then they asked for money again, this time saying please. If I wasn’t going to give you money before, I’m definitely not going to give it to you after you steal my keys… Duh!
Earlier today, I headed down to midtown Manhattan to go to a Q&A/Meet and Greet with the NY Mets announcers Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Lee Mazzili. (I am so fucking jealous that you get all summer off.) I was riding through Harlem and stopped at a stoplight. I hear a thwack on the scooter and saw something bounce away.

Now… I’ve heard that sound before… It reminded me of how sometimes in the fall acorns fall on my car. That’s the first thing I thought of. Then I realized that it’s July, and the thing that hit me was shiny and metallic. It was a AA battery. WTF? There were some people standing on the sidewalk nearby, but no one was paying much attention to me. I’m doing my part for the environment… are you trying to tell me I should go straight electric? Please don't throw batteries at me. Thanks. (Note to self: never throw batteries at Joel.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lump in the Throat (UPDATED!)

"One of life's best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you've got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. A lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump. One needs to learn the difference."
-Robert Fulghum,
author of "Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"

So last night Joel was very loyally getting angry on my behalf, telling me I wouldn't be unjustified "going all Queens" on on Hair/Makeup Lady. I started making phone calls, trying to find someone in Pennsylvania who isn't booked. (I have some solid leads. I'll probably take a day off to go for a trial; the problem is about 85% managed.)

I wasn't going to wait ouside her house, as Cindy and Michelle suggested :), but I *did* go to the Stepford boutique where she works. She's the only one in on Mondays. I got there in the morning, when I knew it wouldn't be busy. I didn't go all Queens, but I did say, "I'm very frustrated; I'm a little angry, but mostly I'm confused. What's going on?"

Long story short, her mom was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer three weeks ago. She's been in the hospital almost nonstop. She's facing surgery and some intense chemo. Her parents are divorced; her father is no help. Her brother's fiancee called off the wedding right before they got the diagnosis, so he's living on her couch but avoiding the hospital. She's basically supporting them all, asking all the right questions from the oncologist, getting her mom on disability, all of it. She still wanted to do this job for me, because she felt terrible about backing out and really needs the money, but she doesn't want to be three hours away, just in case. She's been trying to find someone who would agree to do it and was avoiding telling me until she could provide me with a solution.

It makes perfect sense to me. It explains why her cell phone is always on but she never picks up. I know her pretty well, actually- I wouldn't classify her as a close friend, persay, but there's a reason why I really wanted her to travel to PA for the wedding- and I completely believe her.

I told her that it's not that I was *hoping* something was really wrong, but I figured it might be, and in light of everything she has going on right now, I'm just giving her a free pass. My wedding just isn't her problem anymore. No guilt, no problem, no backup needed to be found for me. She got teary, and I think today was the first time she admitted to herself that there's a new normal now, that sometimes when you're being strong for someone else, you can't do everything you said you would or even want to do. I told her I'm taking this off her plate, and it's all good.

My mom had the quote that starts this entry- the one about knowing the difference between lumps in the oatmeal, the throat and the breast- posted on the fridge in my childhood home for years. Not having a confirmed plan for hair and makeup three weeks before my wedding? Lump in the oatmeal. Well, maybe the throat. Okay, maybe a lump of oatmeal STUCK in my throat, but it's definitely not a lump in the breast, that's for damn sure. I know both Jenny and her mom would benefit from your good thoughts and prayers, if you're into that sort of thing. :)

UPDATED TO SAY: Mischief managed! I found someone who's available on August 9th for the same price I budgeted for the other lady. WAHOO! I'm going to drive down there next week for a practice session, but- just looking at her work online- I feel really, really good about this. And M, you didn't stick your foot in your mouth AT ALL. You should have heard the stuff I was saying one hour after our appointment time on Sunday when it was clear she punked out. Fuhgeddaboutit.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Unbelievably Pissed Off

The woman I had booked to do my hair and makeup for the wedding has blown me off two Sundays in a row now. We did a makeup trial back in May, and I loved it. We scheduled a hair trial. Last weekend, I decided to take her at her word about a mix up in plans and thought she sounded sincere in her offer to reschedule for today.

She never got back to me with a time, and all of my text messages, voicemails and message left with her roommate have gone unanswered. Believe me, I am in a MOOD. Oh, yes, indeedy.

Friday, July 18, 2008


So you know how everyone always says, "There just aren't enough hours in the day?" Yesterday, believe it or not, I had this really productive day yesterday where I did all the things I ideally want to do.

I have all these good intentions, things I'd like to do every day if I had time. On the average day, I can *maybe* do three of these things. MAYBE.

Do good work I can be proud of while at work.
Cultivate professional friendships with co-workers, not just "Hi, here-are-the-photos-gotta-run, bye!"
Spend quality time with Joel.
Spend sexy time with Joel.
Spend a little time outdoors.
Do at least one small thing to stay on top of client wedding stuff.
Get some errands done.
Do volunteer work.
Eat fresh, local produce.
Cook at least one balanced meal instead of eating in my car.
Have one quality phone chat with my mom, sister or sisterfriends.
Get something done for the wedding (three weeks and counting....)
Update the blog.
Do some sort of beauty maintenance aside from my usual contact lenses, toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen regimen.
Keep up with some housework so the apartment doesn't descend to a state of medieval squalor by the weekend.
Play with Bella; I mean, REALLY play, not just the standard "empty-her-out" walks following by a few minutes with the squeaky toys and some low-key ear or tummy rubbing while watching TV.
Give the cats a little love on their terms. (Dancing around the apartment with one of them in my arms calling them Ollie-By-Golly Snickerdoodle Von Nom Nom doesn't really count. That entertains me, not them.)

And yesterday, completely unintentionally, I did it.

I shot an A1 centerpiece photo for a story about urban youth going to a farmers' market to learn about vegetables and local eating. I bought cherries and strawberries while I was there. (I did eat them in my car.) I went to the post office to send a CD of images to the jewelry designer and to Target to get bug spray for Australia, which were my errands. I produced a 90-second video package from the farmer's market and completed two other assignments on deadline, while taking time to sneak off to the break room to eat stale cupcakes with reporter-bridesmaid Sarah AND had a funny Diet Coke-snarfing moment with Newly Hired Reporter Ben during a demonstration of how to take a picture of a guy using a starter pistol, which briefly involved me standing on top of a desk.

I got the majority of retouching done for a Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep project, which is volunteer work.

I actually was home by 6:30 p.m., after stopping at the Cool But Expensive grocery store for salad and fresh, healthy ingredients for dinner. I talked to Gwen for 45 minutes on the commute home and in the grocery store. I took a short nap when I got home, then Joel grilled dinner while I wrapped groomsmen presents. We ate dinner outside and had plenty of rompy-stompy time with Bella in the backyard, which was all fun and games until Joel accidentally threw her tennis ball into a wash basket and she hurt her paw diving in after it. She limped around for 10 minutes, and then settled under the hammock while Joel and I laid in it chatting about everything and nothing. I ran inside for a few minutes to hammer out a wedding contract with a client in Boston. Then Joel and I practiced our First Dance for about 20 minutes in the backyard as the stars came out, not that we can see them with all the light pollution, but there were a few. Or else they were planes circling JFK. Either way, I spent quality time with Joel outdoors while doing something to prepare for the wedding. Boo ya!

Then, we came inside and had sexy time. The romance was partly inspired by the fact that Joel did housework earlier in the day. (Clean dishes AND clean litter box AND recycling sorted? Swoon!) Then I exfoliated in the shower (beauty maintenance), connected all the chargers for my various phones and beepers and scanners and computers (I'm like Data in Goonies, I swear to God) and wrote the bow hat entry that I'd been meaning to write since the beach.

Fred and I MOW!ed back and forth while I filled his Big Blue Bowl (nothing else will do) and turned on the AC unit closest to the ground, which is all the love he'll tolerate in the summer. Ollie snuggled with us for about 15 minutes- he loves being under the covers- before wandering away to sleep somewhere not oppressively hot.

There it was- my ideal day- which unfolded spontaneously. It only took a time span of 21.5 hours. Turns out there ARE enough hours in the day, if you are batshit insane. Which I am. Luckily, I don't have to be anywhere until 4 p.m. tomorrow for an easy-peasy assignment, because Living Ideally, even with squeezing in a nap, is exhausting.

Hopefully no one will accidentally set fire to a playground tomorrow or poison him or herself eating mushrooms found growing at a rest stop on the Interstate. (Jesus, people. Chunky Photojournalist Barbie wants you to LIVE!)

What do you wish you had time for every day?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh, my.

Wow, you can practically hear the crickets chirping as everyone tiptoes slowly backward away from the crazy bow hat lady . Attempt to be funny=FAIL.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bow hat= FAIL

Er.. hi! So yeah, in between all the editing, my own wedding prep, trying to get all my Milestone clients to a good place before I leave the hemisphere (Michelle, contract is SIGNED. MoH + Photog = BFF weekend in July '09! Woo hoo!), shooting funky ethnic jewelry for a LI designer for extra cash, and oh, you know, doing my regular job covering the deeply disturbing and completely unsolvable homicide of a homeless Vietnam veteran that no one even knew was missing until his skeletal remains were found in a root cellar, well... I've let the blogging slide.

And so I never got around to mentioning that right after Alissa and Todd's wedding, Joel and I went to Delaware for our annual joint-family week at Rehoboth Beach. We only had two nights down there, but it was just what I needed, a complete and total break from shooting.

Incidentally, there are many unforgettable moments crammed into those two days, including watching my 2-year-old nephew-type-kid Aiden eat his first Maryland Blue crab and finding out that he's going to be a big brother. (Baby-on-the-Way, you're adorable! Even though you totally still have gills and your arms and legs can only be categorized as "buds" right now. I don't care! You're cute! Stop making your mom barf every morning! Love you!), but my camera stayed in its bag the entire time!

Well, almost. More on that in a minute.

Our first night there, Kelly, Joel, Amanda and Tom stayed up laughing until 2 a.m. We took turns amusing each other with YouTube and and Joel's new favorite, is basically a collection of silly pictures of, well, failure. Okay, check these out...

fail owned pwnd pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwnd pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

Get it? It's a Microsoft conference, but they're using a Mac laptop?

fail owned pwnd pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

Poor pigeon!

Anyway, we entertained ourselves for over three hours. We just laughed, that deep, contagious kind of laughter that takes on a life of its own. We filled the quiet house with it, followed by noisy attempts at hush. It was the best.

I should say, before I explain this next part, that when Amanda got engaged five years ago (at Rehoboth Beach, actually) that we decided to reclaim the hokey, horrible, humiliating tradition of making the bride-to-be wear a bow hat. We started making kickass bow hats. (See, G, we were already using "fierce" in 2005.) Kelly's bow hat was a work of art. And so, I was kind of excited for my own goofy, over-the-top bow hat moment. Unfortunately, the heavens opened up, and my shower ended with a flash flood, so Amanda salvaged all the bows and ribbons and decided she'd make me an amazing bow hat and give it to me at the beach. Sounds good, no?

Here's the thing. ... Erg, see, this is hard for people to understand, because obviously, I'm not a shy person ordinarily. I don't mind public speaking; I LOVE giving toasts. I'm not exactly a delicate flower, you know? But there's something really hard for me about this bride-to-be thing. I think- drawing now on my mad talk-therapy skillz honed in my years on The Couch- that it's difficult for me to receive publicly. I don't mind giving to others; I love that, but I get really nervous when I need to be the recipient in public. I worry about giving the right reactions to things, about appropriately demonstrating my gratitude. I kind of... freeze. It's awful. I hate surprises. I need to be prepared.

Anyway. Amanda knows this, and she's tried so hard all throughout my engagement to manage situations so I'm not overwhelmed. She's been great, actually. On our second night at the beach, she got out the bow hat she made me. She just wanted to show it to me before we walked down to the boardwalk for ice cream. She asked Joel to get my camera, but I thought we were leaving for Cold Stone, and... erg. Anyway, it completely aught me off guard. And then, everyone kind of came into the dining room, and Joel needed a new battery for the camera so I ran upstairs to get it, and it just became this, like, bow hat SITUATION.

Joel snapped this photo right before I- swear to God- panicked and ran out of the room. Yes, folks, when confronted with a bow hat in front of the people who love me most in this world, I RAN AWAY AND CRIED. Joel snapped this right before my throat clenched up and I had to obey the instinct to FLEE! FLEE! FLEE! I call it...

Bow Hat. FAIL.

My poor sister. The next day we had a very private bow hat unveiling. I did not cry or involuntarily lose control of any other important bodily functions. I think we call that "progress."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More Wedding-y Goodness

First, a bonus photo:

And... a slideshow with 100+ pictures set to music of the wedding weekend. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Friendly Neighborhood Heathens at Your Service

So Joel and I got our marriage license today at the same courthouse where Alissa and Todd went, no trip to Center City Philadelphia required. We had to wait for a few other couples to go ahead of us, including a man and woman with a toddler.

The toddler was, um, unclean. It wouldn't have bothered me, like, at all, except that his mom kept singsonging, "Grubby baby! Grubby, grubby baby!" to him. Oh, and her babydaddy burped right into my ear when he sat down. Nice. I believe that's what they call "Klasse."

The couple on the other side of us was pretty fidgety. The guy kept saying, "I can't believe we're finally doing this. I can't believe we're doing this. How long has it been? Eight years?" at which point it took all my self control not to place my hand on Joel's arm and say, "Oh, honey. Who would have thought that when my uncle and your grandfather arranged our marriage all those years ago in exchange for a flock of goats, that we would someday really be here, in love!"

Flock of goats, herd of goats? Herd.

So we sat down and requested a self-uniting license. The clerk didn't even blink, to the point that I was sure she didn't hear me. All the websites say "You have to tell them BEFORE YOU BEGIN YOUR APPLICATION," and this lady was not messing around. Her name plate actually said, "No Nonsense." (No, it didn't, but it should have. She was tough as nails.)

When we got to the part where we swore on the Bible that we weren't cousins, all I could hear in my head was Forrest Gump saying "No, sir, we are not relations" when Lt Dan asks him and Bubba if they're twins. See, this is just what it's like in my head. At this point, another couple walks in. No Nonsense tells them to have a seat, there are a few couples ahead of them. "I have a question," the woman in the newly arrived couple asks. "When we called, they said it was $45, but no one told us it was cash only, so-"

Cash only," says No Nonsense.

"But we live all the way in Pottstown, and we don't-"

"Cash only."

You don't take credit cards at all? Because no one said-"

"You need a MAC* machine?"

"No, we'd have to go all the way back home and-"

"There are other couples ahead of you, ma'am," No Nonsense says. No Cash starts to get teary. "Do you have a check?" I asked No Cash. "Oh, they take checks?" she asks me. I throw her a life line. "No, but I will. I have enough cash on me to do you a favor." No Cash is all flabbergasty and crows, "You must be a Christian!"

No Nonsense actually makes eye contact. "I don't have cash." I shrugged. "I usually don't either, I just thought the self-uniting license was $90." She starts typing and muttering, "Course they told her she has to have cash.' We always say 'Cash only.' Don't be coming in here and telling me you don't have cash." The muttering is a little unnerving.

We finish up. No Cash has already filled out a check for $25. It turns out that they have a $20 bill, so they don't need all $45, just $25. Maybe I should call her Not Enough Cash. Anyway, Joel and I launch into our typical Jackass routine of dropping things, trying to hand each other the wrong amounts of money and causing general mayhem and confusion. We get our act together. We're all set. Not Enough Cash is all set.

"This is unbelievable," she says, "You are such a good Christian."

Having already suppressed the staged arranged marriage conversation for my own amusement and stifled my Bubba voice while swearing on the Bible, I can't resist a little "You Don't Have to Be Christian to Be a Good Person" Activism. "You're very welcome," I said, "but for what it's worth, I'm not a Christian. God bless *you,* though!"

"I can't believe that!" Not Enough Cash says. My mind is racing, wondering what I'll say if she asks us what we "are." And then, from the same part of my brain that conjures up quotes from Forrest Gump, I hear a Hanukkah song that burned itself ifnto my brain last December when I was editing video from a Jewish Day School's holiday concert. It's catchy anyway, but you combine the tune with two hours of lining up audio tracks of sweet children's voices singing and you have the potential to have a song stuck in your head for, oh, 5 years.

"I'm a Jew!" the song goes. I"m a Jew! I'm a Jew, and I'm proud to sing it, too! I'm a Jew, I'm a Jew, I'm a Jew!" That's just the chorus.

Except... I am not a Jew. (Just a little Jew-ish. :) So I just hug Not Enough Cash and tell her I hope she has a beautiful wedding. "We're heathens!" Joel says as soon as we're out of earshot. We hold hands as we dash for the elevator and leave with our self-uniting license. Just your friendly neighborhood heathens.

*I love how "ATM" never really caught on in PA.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My Magical Cure: Stop Huffing Mold

So starting in the middle of June, right when it first got hot out and stayed that way, I got a sinus infection and just felt all around crummy. Congested, pressure, lots of yuck, fatigue and general misery and malaise. I tried Sudafed Sinusm and my neti pot, pound water, use tons of tissues and rest.

I would rest, mind you, in our bedroom with the super duper air conditioner. I really couldn't call in sick (news breaking all the time, limited number of days off), so I would take it easy before work when I worked the night shift, reading in the bedroom with the AC on full blast. I would feel better when I was working, though the fatigue lingered, so I would take a nap when I got home if I worked the day shift. And I would wake up feeling like crap. And on and on.

After 10 days of this, I procured some antibiotics, which did absolutely nothing for me. After 3 more days of THAT, I started trying to figure out the variable: Go to bed feel a little better, wake up feeling like crap. Feel marginally better at work, come home and rest, start feeling like crap.

And the variable is.... The air conditioner in the bedroom was full of toxic mold. Awesome! We swapped out the moldy one for the slightly less cool (but non-moldy) one we had in the office and- surprise! I feel GREAT.

You know all those hours napping, resting, reading and getting plenty of sleep in the comfortable bedroom? I was practically sucking mold directly off the tap. Joel has completely dismantled the moldy one, cleaned all its innards and reassembled it. He keeps joking about his "manliness" vis a vis his foray into heating and cooling repair. Any minute now he's going to start drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon beer out of the can and barking a la Tim Allen on Home Improvement, but do I mind? No, I do not. I can BREATHE!