Thursday, December 30, 2010


I was shooting video at a high school basketball game the other night, when I heard a squeal from the stands and someone calling my name. I glanced over in the general direction and thought, "Nah, that can't mean me" before sliding my gaze back to the action on the court.

That's when I got hit- with a whoosh of hair gel and a swish of long hair, lip gloss and gum- with a hug. One of the maids of honor from the wedding where I had cross my personal boundaries of gruffness to get the family portraits finished last July was practically dancing in front of me, all high school excitement and popular girl glee.

"The photos turned out so good! You are so awesome!" she said, bouncing in her Uggs. I grin and I know, despite how I agonized over it last summer, that the images I shot had the desired effect and the effort, no matter how intense, was worth it. She has fallen under the spell of her big sister's wedding photos, and the two hours spent posing at the church and moving to the riverfront and posing some more and going out on the golf course and then- wait! I'm sorry, what? really? Okay, wedding party, more on the veranda, please!- now feels totally worth it to this 15-year-old who chatters on about her PSATs and Christmas break and her sister's arrival date from the other side of the country for the holidays.

"You are so welcome, sweetie," I say sincerely, and I hug her right back.

As I haul my gear out of the gymnasium doors three periods later, I do a little victory dance in the parking lot, a Rocky style fist pump as well as one can when encumbered with a tripod AND a monopod. Five months later, I'm officially redeemed, validated, and so appreciative of this teenage girl whose thanks- expressed in her own authentic way- means more to me than she knows. The gratitude? Is all mine this time.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pets, You'll Be the Death of Me

Fred? Is a punk ass. He somehow lost his collar when I was in India. No one has seen it. A few nights after I got back, when I was still jet-lagged and sick and reeling from reverse culture shock and spending four consecutive days holed up in the Harrytown Tusic Mall shooting "Bye Bye Birdie" as performed by ten-year-olds, my lazy cat turned busted out some kung fu moves, the likes of which I haven't seen since that time a bat got into my apartment, and ran out of the house.

Again. I am the smarter species! I should know better! I actually managed to block him on his first lunge but then everybody was kung fu fighting and blammo, he was under the deck.

I was trying to get him back myself because I was afraid Joel would kill me for not catching him- AGAIN- because we've been going through more of this kind of jackassholery than usual recently. I'm... in a very special place right now. I'm always special, which is why Fred and I have an understanding, but lately... hoo boy. Being married to me is a treat, let me tell you. Time to get my meds re-evaluated! Yay!

Anyway, cut to 20 minutes later, we realize that Fred has strayed from his usual routine of ducking under the deck to sniff the house and the reason we can't get him out from under the deck is because he has ventured into the woods. The oh-so-itchy poison ivy-strewn woods next to our house. Of course, he's not wearing his IDs because he got rid of his collar and stashed it somewhere, so we can't even hear the bell that he usually has on.

Joel and I are alternately shining flashlights on him and trying to cajole him toward us with fistfuls of rotisserie chicken when he darts my way. All of sudden Fred thinks his Crookshanks at the Whomping Willow or some shit. I dive for him- and miss- flat on my stomach and HE DISAPPEARS AGAIN, this time running toward the house. oel has wedged himself under the deck and as we creep around snarking at each other, "I can't believe you dived and missed!" "Yeah, well, there was a LOG under that bush and it really hurt, you know." "You? I still have bruised rib from when he ran outside before Thanksgiving!" and other mature exchanges.

We're really staring to worry, the two of us, straining and shimmying and snarking with fistfuls of moist and increasingly warming fistfuls of chicken when Fred meows. We look up to see him pawing at the backdoor, all, "I'm done with outside time now! Open the door for me, please." And now I'm covered in poison ivy- turns out the roots and stems are still exposed even if the frost has killed the leaves.

You know the Christmas carol about the holly and the ivy? It's stuck in my head. You know, "The holly and the ivy, When they are both full grown, Of all the trees that are in the wood, The holly wears the crown.: Yeah, well, of all the trees that are in the woods, my cat has to dart under the one still wrapped in ivy vines. I am so itchy. No one is wearing a crown, but Fred has a brand new collar with the biggest dorkiest bell ever and new ID tags, and I am incredibly itchy.

Meanwhile, Bella took an extra-long time doing her business today, and I panicked when I couldn't see her in the backyard anymore. I ran around calling her name and acting like a nincompoop and freaked out looking for my keys planning to drive around screaming her name because I've been doing a lot of catastrophizing lately. Of course, I couldn't find my keys- step right up to the jackass show!- and so I was about to hop my bike.

I was trying to back it out of the laundry room without knocking down all the rolls of wrapping paper when Bella nudged the front door open (our screen door no longer closes properly for reasons beyond my comprehension; don't tell the cats) and let herself back in. I turned around to find her smiling at me with her head cocked to the side, all, "What? So I pooped in the front yard today. Is that a problem?"


Friday, December 03, 2010

A Different Kind of Festival of Lights

Happy Hanukkah everybody, you know, from your friends Chunky Photojournalist Barbie and Joel who are not really Jews... just kinda of Jew-ish. Get it? Get it? Or Jew-esque. ;)

We went down to Queens tonight for AMAZING latkes made from scratch. My mother-in-law has casually mentioned in the past that she really worked hard learning how to cook all the traditional holiday foods and things when she and Marty were newlyweds, but I had no idea. She has SO been holding out on me for the past five years. Best latkes ever.

They had also pulled out their menorah and got out some yarmulkes from Joel and Brian's childhood, which I had never seen before, hand knitted by his mom. The little boy-sized yarmulkes were pretty cute, actually. It's kind of nice seeing my in-laws slowly bringing back holiday traditions that were just too sad to observe for so long.

Anyway, nearly a month ago, I was in New Dehli for Diwali, which is also called the festival of lights. In this case, the holiday is centered not on the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians but of the return of Lord Rama, a Hindu deity who embodies ideal manhood and virtue, and his wife Sita, who is worshipped as an avatar of Lakshi, the goddess of prosperity.

Long story short, Rama was exiled for fourteen years after giving up his claim to Kosala, a powerful Indian kingdom during in the 6th century BC, in order to defend his father's honor. His brother and his wife Sita joined him in his exile, during which time Sita was kidnapped by Ravena, the evil monkey king of Sri Lanka. Rama fought a big war in order to get his wife back, which he did. She had been perfectly faithful and devoted to Rama and his supreme awesome husbandly-ness the whole time, which was swell, and they got to go home and rule the big kingdom that was rightfully theirs and live happily ever after, which was also swell.

So now, Hindus light candles to symbolically illuminate Rama and Sita's way home, to celebrate the returning of light over a period of darkness. Everyone wears new clothes, eat sweets and sets off fireworks, with stores holding big Diwali sales, and McDonalds billboards featuring happy children drawing the golden arches with sparklers.

Buildings are covered in twinkle lights and everywhere you look there are cardboard swastikas on signs wishing everyone a happy new year and whatnot. In Hinduism, the swastika is the ultimate lucky symbol, but from my Western perspective, the swastikas were incredibly creepy to see as part of holiday decorations, you know, ever since Hitler stole it, rotated about 45 degrees and made it the symbol of the Third Reich and everything. It's ironic that the swastika, which comes from the Sanskrit word "svastika," is now THE iconic representation of evil.

On the other hand, maybe it's not ironic after all. Just as Rama returned to his kingdom and took up his rightful place as its ruler, the swastika continues to be a symbol of all that is auspicious in India, as if to say, "Pay no attention to that psychotic fuckhead who killed millions of people in the 1940s with something that looked just like this on his armband. It was ours for thousands of years before Hitler came along, and it's good luck and meant to wish you well, and if Hitler had been a Hindu he would have the WORST rebirth ever, so have a happy new year, dammit."

So maybe It's downright fitting. Diwali is ultimately a big celebration of good over evil, of starting anew, reclaiming what was ultimately yours in the first place with honor and welcoming a new era of prosperity. Which- having an epiphany as I write this- so is Hanukkah, actually. So here you go. A video of the Diwali celebration in my hosts' home. (If it looks weird here, click on it to watch it on YouTube without any weird cropping.

Here's to festivals of lights, to observing traditions, to emerging from the darkness, to getting out old menorahs and yarmulkes after years of being sad. To miracles everywhere, and appreciating all paths to God.