Friday, August 27, 2010

The View from Friday

Little Babe is asleep on a mattress in the living room next to Alfie and Nala the Pomeranians who clearly believe they have died and gone to puppy heaven. With a dopey, love-besotted fascination, I watch their furry little backs rise and fall in tranquil slumber. Nala sleeps in the crook of Little Babe's right thigh while Alfie reposes somewhere near his toes. On the pillow, my 15-year-old's Jim Morrison-like mop of long curls reminds me of a finger painting he once did with chocolate pudding.

Though my other children are elsewhere -- Middle Babe on Long Island, at the home of her Gentleman Caller; Big Babe, in his adopted home of Berlin -- I have heard from both this morning. Middle Babe texted to confirm our travel by Short Line bus later today up to our bungalow in Monroe with her BFF and in an email sent in the middle of the German night my 26- year-old son gladdened my heart by informing me that he plans a month-long visit back to New York in November. Yeeess! Already my mind is fast at work conjuring up effective strategies (handcuffs, brainwashing ala A Clockwork Orange, large sums of cash, all the Zabar's babka he can eat) to get him to stay.

On Monday, we drive our 22-year-old daughter back to her college in Maryland for her final semester so this weekend is our last together...though, in truth, she comes home in two weeks for Rosh Hashana. Still, this last-Shabbat-of-the-Summer-with-My-Daughter does make me kind of maudlin and Middle Babe is sad in advance, not because of her impending separation from us but from her Gentleman Caller, a fine young man who is attending Law School in New York.

In other news, a COTB (Cousin of the Three Babes) is asleep in Little Babe's room. Leggy, blond and stunningly beautiful, she and Little Babe share rock band aspirations, spent half of yesterday at Guitar Center on 14th Street and vacillate between being young sophisticates and overgrown puppies themselves. They are the human versions of Alfie and Nala crossed with the aforementioned Jim Morrison and Gisele Bundchen.

Sadly, SOBB (Sister of Bungalow Babe) is in a Jerusalem hospital, having fallen off her bicycle and shattered her clavicle earlier this morning. I just got a call from her husband and had to beg him to refrain from calling MOBB and FOBB (Mother and Father of Bungalow Babe) to convey this news. My parents will be spending the weekend with BOBB (Brother of Bungalow Babe) who knows about our sister's accident as he is a doctor and is the first family member my Israeli brother-in-law called.

Who else did I neglect to mention? Oh yes. HOBB (Husband of Bungalow Babe), who is in his Columbia office. Our week together included beloved (injury-free) bike trips and films that ranged from the appalling (Eat, Pray, Love...what the #$% were we thinking????) to the unforgettable (The Pawnbroker) to the darkly compelling (Life During Wartime).

Next week, we celebrate our 27th Anniversary. I want to say that I hardly believe this number and yet that is not true. I have a deep cache of memories -- magical, marvelous, tragic, transcendent -- that seem to span not 27 years but an entire lifetime. The only reason to disbelieve the number of years I've been married would be to deny my age.

AND SPEAKING OF COLUMBIA....I've got some stuff going on there today including co-hosting a blogtalkradio program, taking a Mac skills class, surveying the fitness center to see if it is worth joining (last time I belonged I bolted after learning that the meager number of cardio machines bred a culture of vulture-like behavior as frantic fitness buffs hovered over you while you tried to enjoy your 30-minute workout) and checking out whether my Columbia ID has that magical door-opening power.

This is the way it looks from the morning of the last Friday in August 2010.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Apple Store is My New Starbucks

It is 7 pm and I am sitting on a black stool in the basement of the newish Apple Store on 67th and Broadway.

I am halfway through my two-hour Personal Projects session, during which I have figured out Power Point, learned how to sync my Columbia email with my Outlook, sent about 20 emails, Googled theaters in Manhattan where Life During Wartime is playing, checked out the offerings at the Fringe Festival and moved the Skype icon onto my Desktop.

Today's visit is the fifth I have made since Monday morning when I came by to retrieve my brand new MacBook Pro after it underwent a weekend-long transplant of computer files from my PC. Based on the fact that my presence here this week beats the number of times I visited a Starbucks 5:1, it is clear that I am at risk of developing an Apple Store addiction. Aside from the high school geeks and twenty-something slackers, the clientele is fun to look at, with plenty of familiarish faces (celebrities???). I am completely fascinated by this place, quite unable to tear myself away.

I can hardly believe that I am the owner of a Mac, secretly think that it lends me a hardcore varnish of cyber-coolness. took several years of being the only PC-user in a house dominated by a Mac Monopoly and once I got the machine, several days of dysfunctional email service and emotional sessions with Geniuses and frantic phone calls to the nice people at OnetoOne and late night trouble shooting sessions with the nice people at GoDaddy but I am finally sitting in the basement of the Apple Store, happily blogging after all, a sure sign that I have crossed over to the dark side.

In fifteen minutes, I will leave to meet HOBB for the 7:50 pm showing of Life During Wartime at the IFC. I'm almost confident that things are okay; I just have to make sure my Columbia email is actually staying on the university's server. I'm going to check my test PowerPoint presentation one more time. I'm going to check if any new messages need responding to. In a couple of minutes, I'll be ready to shut down my new Mac, leave the Apple Store and have a life.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Burning Down the House

HOBB drove up to the bungalow earlier tonight -- when it was still Thursday -- after his new media workshop at Columbia and I stayed in the city because of several appointments tomorrow in Manhattan. The most pressing one is the 9 am drop-off of my brand new MacBook Pro at the Apple store on Broadway so a resident "Genius" can transfer the files from my mega-sucky Acer PC into this sleek, slivery machine which I expect will change my entire life. The purchase of the Mac was inspired by my impending identity as a full-time graduate student at Columbia, in the very school where my husband is a professor.

The thing is, it is nearly 4 am and I am still awake. The grande iced coffee I had at 8 pm might have something to do with it. I was en route to the gym at that hour and needed something to inspire my three-mile elliptical workout. The caffeine worked so well that I was wired even after my sweat-drenched session, so after showering, I wandered down to the 3rd floor of the JCC to check out the Israeli dancing and was surprised to find a party-like scene with dozens of people doing complicated choreography to contemporary and classic Hebrew songs. It was so fascinating that I stayed until midnight, enchanted by the spectacle, talking to people, fantasizing about learning these dances and joining the Israeli dancers as soon as possible, maybe even by next week.

It was well after midnight when I returned home (having stopped at Fairway to buy steak and lambchops and then having walked with a friend up to 96th street) and I was completely famished so I put the meat up to broil and went to turn on the television, a rare treat enabled by my solitude. (If any other members of the Bungalow Family had been around, vigorous negotiation would have ensued and I would have retreated to my room with a grumble and a fashion magazine.)

While I was watching Law and Order, the meat caught fire in the oven. I found out because of the sudden urgent beeping sound the oven was making. Also… the smell of burning appliance that filled the urban bungalow. I rushed to the kitchen, saw the fire and became paralyzed with fear. What to do??? I couldn't remember. Should I google "fires in oven?" I wondered as I stared dumbly at the dancing bonfire behind the glass. I didn't want to open the oven door as I was afraid of flames leaping out, fed by the oxygen...on the other hand, I was pretty sure letting a lively fire burn in the kitchen was a bad idea.

After a small eternity, the fire burned itself out. I breathed a sigh of relief, removed the charred pan and actually ate parts of the lamb chop that had not turned into charcoal.

To calm down after my ordeal, I watched two back-to-back Law and Order episodes, each more disturbing than the next. That morphed into two episodes of a true crime show called Snapped which features women who commit heinous crimes...and almost get away with it. Both episodes last night had to do with women having affairs who kill, or try to kill their husbands.

After a futile fifteen minutes spent tossing and turning in bed, I got up and decided to research what to do if I were to encounter a bear in the wild. This quest for information arose out of my early morning hike with HOBB on the Appalachian trail earlier today, the first twenty minutes of which were spent in abject terror, anticipating an up close and personal bear encounter.

Because the information I found strikes me as both reassuring and helpful, I thought I'd pass it on so others who fear bear encounters might be likewise armed with useful knowledge. Maybe later I'll look up what to do if your oven catches on fire. Or what to do when you can't fall asleep, though I have a solution and this is it.

Close Encounters: What to do

If you see a bear, avoid it if you can. Give the bear every opportunity to avoid you. If you do encounter a bear at close distance, remain calm. Attacks are rare. Chances are, you are not in danger. Most bears are interested only in protecting food, cubs or their "personal space." Once the threat is removed, they will move on. Remember the following:

Identify Yourself

Let the bear know you are human. Talk to the bear in a normal voice. Wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you. If a bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening. You may try to back away slowly diagonally, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground.

Don't Run

You can't outrun a bear. They have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph, and like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Bears often make bluff charges, sometimes to within 10 feet of their adversary, without making contact. Continue waving your arms and talking to the bear. If the bear gets too close, raise your voice and be more aggressive. Bang pots and pans. Use noisemakers. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.

If Attacked

If a bear actually makes contact, surrender! Fall to the ground and play dead. Lie flat on your stomach, or curl up in a ball with your hands behind your neck. Typically, a bear will break off it's attack once it feels the threat has been eliminated. Remain motionless for as long as possible. If you move, and the bear sees or hears you, it may return and renew its attack. In rare instances, particularly with black bears, an attacking bear may perceive a person as food. If the bear continues biting you long after you assume a defensive posture, it likely is a predatory attack. Fight back vigorously.