Friday, August 31, 2007

"Infinite Island" Rules, or why the NYT needs to GET OVER IT

Check out the review of Brooklyn Museum's "Infinite Island" in today's NYT. and then read why I think NYT needs to get over itself:


Here are my complaints: "I’d like to report that the labor has paid off in a triumph, but it hasn’t. Nor has it produced a failure."


"One of the show’s stated purposes is to ask whether there is, in fact, a cultural entity — or a type of contemporary art — that can be securely identified as Caribbean. And it arrives at its answer — no — through a display of sheer multiplicity."

And how, exactly, is that a failure? The reviewers main complaint is the packaging.. that is: "what can it mean now to stamp diagrams of slave ships in an attractive pattern on a gallery wall? Or to offer blurry photographs of tropical landscapes, or deep-colored lifestyle pictures, images that gain what interest they have only from explanatory wall labels?" Whatever!

"the show feels warmed over and sluggish: it doesn’t have the sense of risk or discovery that a re-arguing of identity as a subject now needs, at least in a New York context"

Can a show that is an "in house job" and a "labor of love" be sluggish?

The NYT's main complaint about the show is that while the art is really good, it is, uh, sluggish?

WTF? Check out some of the images from the show:

Sluggish? Yeah, right.

The closing line reveals what the NYT is trying to do:

"turning its back on art world whims and fads in “Infinite Island,” the museum is staying true to its present self, against all objections, and there’s something cool about that."

In other words, the art is great. We just love to hate Brooklyn Museum.

NYT, get over it. The show is BRILLIANT, as is its presentation and its curator, Tumelo Mosaka. If you live in NYC, go to this show and see why.

* yeah, yeah, I am not exactly objective. I worked on this show (not exactly - it's a long story) and I am astonished that NYT can continue to hate on Brooklyn Museum, despite how consistently, as NYT says, cool it is.


I bought these before I left for Peru. I had been tearing my feet up all summer and short of wrapping my entire foot in duct tape, I was out of options. These were my last attempt to prevent ragged, bleeding feet before going to a podiatrist.

They worked. They suck to my boots for four days straight, and I never felt a thing.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

45 seconds

I was just sitting here reading the google search results for "take me anywhere, internet" when I glanced to the right and noticed the wrecking ball outside my window, slowly beginning its swing right toward my house.*

Reader, I am no longer interested in teaching. That's right: the thing that I was certain I would do for the rest of my career no longer inerests me. I have no idea how this happened or why. The most cogent thing I can say about it is that I've lost my ability to say the word "cogent" without a pang of regret that I don't really mean it. Or anything. When I tell my students that language can change their lives, that writing gives them freedom, I no longer believe it.

I am not saying that from an objective standpoint, I am correct. The opposite is almost certainly true: my students can benefit from competent writing instruction, and English classes are a right and practical use for taxpayers' dollars. The rub is that I don't want to deliver anymore.

To review: 22-26 BC Paper mortgage underwriter; 26-30 small business/retail relationship lender; 30-37 English professor - mostly ESL and developmental, grad student.

If you look at the pattern, you'll realize that I am a bit late - usually the wrecking ball tears my whole house down once every four years, at which time I something to do that appeals to some other, probably neglected district of my brain. It has now been seven.

What should I do? I find myself wanting to be a cocktail waittress, or a subway train operator, or a postal worker.*** The overwhelming urge I have is to do physical work - preferably work where I can punch a clock every day, go home and forget all about it. **

I figure I've got about 45 seconds until my house is knocked down to dust, at which point some kind of decision must be made.

Any ideas?

*it's a metaphor. And no, I don't give a damn about those anymore, either.

** I might make ane excellent secretary, too. Hiring, Lola? Pax?

*** Truth be told, all I really want to do anymore is climb. I have no idea how this happened. A year ago, I was afraid of heights and I could barely cross the street without looking nine ways. I have changed. Obviously.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tap tap tap.... click

I sent the email, the one I have been meaning to send to the man I used to work with at Prestigious U. The content is dull - I ask about his summer and his travels and prudishly ask him to let me know how school is going.

The punctuation, however, is hot. One semi-colon, on double dash and, you know, I almost threw in an asterisk just to make my feelings clear. But then I realized that it might be a bit forward to take things so far on the second email. As far as I know, the lovely creature who tossed an asterisk at Woodrow got absolutely nowhere for her troubles, in spite of the fact that she took it a step further and spelled it out for him* using actual language. Perhaps if she had simply sent him an asterisk - all out there by itself - he might have taken a greater interest? No idea.

What I do know is that if the smart, serious creature who emailed me in July emails me back, I will consent to spend an hour in his company. And then I will take my pulse and see if I am still living. I'll let you know how it goes.

* transcript of the text to which I refer (to which I refer!) since I can't figure out how to link to it. (Duh).

I wanna hump* ur leg! :)

How funny is that? But what is the asterisk for? Priceless.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

So much for penury

I started looking for part time work the moment I got home on Friday. I now have four adjunct classes in the bag - which means I can go the the Canadian Rockies for Columbus Day and I can ALSO go to Ecuador for New Years. Interested... Lola?

In other news, my recent positiion vacancy post has been refilled by the previous occupant. My stalker is back. This is rather good news, since he is the devil I know and my vanity is rather stoked by the idea that some random man that I don't like very much likes me. Vanity is, in other words, a failing of mine. Let's hope it doesn't get me into trouble.

Pax and Joe did in fact split up yesterday. I am sad for them, but they agree it was a good decision. I predict many martinis and mojitos this weekend.

And that's it for me today. More to say tomorrow, almost certainly.

Memo to Mighty Inca People, Part Two

Mighty Inca People:

There was a blackout in New York City in 2004. I never thought I would see stars so bright. It made me wonder what it might have been like to live before electric power, and well, SUVs and crackberries and straightening irons. I wondered what I might have done with my time at, say 10pm, when the only access to light might well be fire. Obviously, there would not be a google to tell me everything I ever wanted to know about (actual list of what google-ing I did today) pop sugar, dog fighting, suny schools, eclipse, GR20 and NASA.

The Inca Trail, starting at kilometer 82, is a hell of a good time. Winding paths through a lush cloud forest, deep misty valleys filled with alpacas and flowers and fat, laughing children, chicha served in plastic cups on the way up the trail.

When night fell, the trail grew pitch black. We, the American and European tourists, huddled under our dining tent and drank coca tea and talked of our retirement accounts and flat screen TVs and our high-end wilderness gear. We looked nervously at each other, and I know at least half of us were thinking that we ought to be proud of ourselves, you know, for getting "out there" - you know, experiencing another culture and having the courage to go three entire days without a hot shower.

One of those people might have been me. Maybe.

I was reaching for a cracker (that would be one of the roughly 1,000,000 crackers your descendents carried on their backs so that I would have access to the refined carbs they know gringo trekkers simply cannot live without) when something landed on the table with a distinct, sickening thud. From the ceiling of our tent, a grasshopper the size of a cell phone had fallen into the cracker tray.

The two men sitting on either side of me shrieked and crawled under the tent fly and out into the darkness. I remained immobile as I watched one of our most esteemed (badass) hikers nudge the hopper to the ground, pick up the cracker it had recently used as a surfboard - and eat it.

That's when I shrieked and exited the tent into the darkness to find V and A. It was not hard to do, since they were standing right there on the other side of the fly, frozen in mid-shriek.

They were side by side with their heads thrown back, staring up at the stars. I looked up too. To see what all the un-fuss was about.


It was then that I began to understand just how confused I had been. I was surprised to learn, when I first arrived in Cuzco, that you, Mighty Inca People, had a bit of an over interest in astronomy. The sun and the moon and so forth. When I saw the rock at Qenko, I was bewildered. It appeared to me as if you had made an enormous fuss over a piece of rock and a shadow that would fall twice a year. I wondered why you would seek to satisfy something so reliable as sunrise. In my culture, we have sunglasses. Our very government recommends daily sunscreen use. And at night, we all stay in our houses and each Hostess snack cakes - and if we do go out, it's generally also "in" - a movie, a bar, a friend's house.

And so day and night, we are always looking down, down at the keyboard, down at the cell phone screen, down at the scale, down at the sidewalk, down at the newspaper, down at the blood in the sink. We swear we will start flossing, but most of us never do. We don't really have to because we were busy looking down long enough to dream up the idea of twice yearly cleaning. Now that's culture.

And where did you get the really inconvenient idea that there is more than one God? Had you not considered, ever, that maybe God was not actually present in the sun and the moon and the rivers and lakes and trees and grass and mountains?

In the good old U, S, and A, God has a jolly nice white beard and he sits on a cloud in a Juicy couture tracksuit and Reeboks. We only have to send up one set of prayers (most of us don't bother, however... or we say we don't believe in a higher power unless we are about to be shot in a ritual gang initiation or find ourselves sitting in a doctor's office hearing the word "cancer" as if it has something to do with someone else.... when that happens, we all believe) which is pretty awesome because we, most of us, have at least six email addresses and many of us have more than two phones. I am pretty sure that "we" will figure out a way to get text messages from the Almighty himself. We've done damn near everything else with our cell phones, so success contacting the Supreme Being shouldn't remain out of "our" reach for long.

The next day, I saw a painting of the sacred valley and the alignment of the stars over the river.

I learned that you had engineered the path of the river to follow the path of the stars. I learned that your vision of the heavens included a llama and a panther and a goat. I thought that was really cool and unique and I got, you know, that stars were very important to you. That seemed really romantic and sweet to me. I hadn't looked up at the stars since 2004, so I made a note to do so on the trail. I thought maybe if I looked at the stars long enough, I might see a Prada handbag or a pair of iPod Shuffles.

But I still wondered whether you might ought to have done more on the ground in the way of, well... something, anything else. You might have spent more time, for example, developing an alphabet and a system of writing. Surely there were people like me among you who are good for absolutely NOTHING except teaching other people the grammar of a language they think they already speak. What would I have done, had I been born among you? Mend socks? Have CHILDREN?

It's just too terrifying to imagine.

The grasshopper/cracker crisis, the one that actually got me out of the frikkin tent... the one that got me looking up?

Standing out in the cold, pitch-black night with V and A, the stars we not merely bright. They were a glittering tapestry of light and movement and color - yes - color. Blue ones, pink ones, red ones, pale yellow winking stars clustered together and spattered out across the whole valley. It was so beautiful, so surreal, that it was immediately clear to me why V and A, two software engineers from Texas,** had not said one word to each other, or to me. At one point, V pointed his camera up, but he didn't take a picture. He focused for a second, and then lowered it again. A just stood there with his mouth open.

A few yards away, our porters, your descendents, were reclining in the grass, looking up. One of them, however, was watching us. He whispered something to his friends in Quechua, and they laughed, derisively, I thought. A few minutes later, Jorge, the eldest of them, disappeared into the darkness and returned with three tin cups of coca tea, which he wordlessly handed to us as we stood there, shivering and staring up into the sky.*

We sipped our tea. If we had reached up, we could have pulled one of the stars right out of the sky. That's how close they were.

I do not pretend, Mighty Inca People, that a twenty minute gaze at the stars in Ollyantaytambo means I "get it". In fact, it may be more apt to say what I don't get.

I don't "get" why I have 29 pairs of shoes. I don't "get" why the cost of my climbing gym membership could easily pay the entire monthly rent in Cuzco for a family of four. I don't "get" why I only looked up three times today - all three at the moon - and that only because we are due for an eclipse tonight. If I am not trying to figure out how to make money, I am trying to figure out what to climb next and who will go with me. If someone asks me where I will be in five years, I start crying and say something about how I hope I won't be dead yet. I live in the rich country, where even POOR people eat cheeseburgers, and that's all I aspire to. Not dying.

Reader, take a look at what you googled today. Count your shoes. Take stock of what's in your medicine cabinet. Review your credit card bills and your tax returns. Are you in there, anywhere? Does it... any of it... give you any idea who you are? What you value? Does it tell you what your life is about? What life is about, period?

All this is why, in a recent post-Peru post, I said I'd say more about getting OUT OF HERE.*** People all over the world live, love, work, and die without any idea what it is like to have health care, or ponder the cost of a flat screen TV or a fishing boat, and their lives, their living, loving, and dying, is just as valid as yours (ours). In Peru, specifically, many of them just died in an earthquake not because of the quake itself, but because they did not have access to emergency services and adequate medical treatment.

I'll close by saying that if you'd read this epic post, you have my gratitude. Sanctimonious and bossy isn't usually me; but I've been down lately, and the blog I mean internet diary has suffered for it. I'll get over it. I'll be fun again. Promise.

* It is this kind of graciousness that made the following incident funny instead of annoying: that first night, after the grasshopper/cracker/stargazing episode, I lost my hiking boots. I woke up the next morning expecting to find them where I left them, between the tent and the fly. They were not there. I freaked. After breakfast, another hiker in a neighboring tent found them knotted together next to HER tent. She swore she never touched them. Fine. The next night, the same thing happened, and I spent the morning in a panic, hunting for my shoes. I found them, of course. But in front of someone else's tent. The third night, Mischa couldn't sleep, and as she lay awake in our tent, she heard (and saw) three porters approach our tent, giggling uncontrollably. She heard them say, in Spanish, that "these are her shoes.." before they, apparently for the third night in a row, tossed my shoes in front of someone else's tent. They were LAUGHING THEIR ASSES OFF at me every single morning as they watched me freak out over my footwear. Bear in mind that these guys RUN the trail in flip-flops. So, whatever. They stole my shoes, but they also fed me and carried my gear. Good clean fun, I say.

** There is a song, no? About the stars at night? and how they are big and bright? deep in the heart of Texas? Well, ok. But our TEXANS were blown away, just so you know.

*** Here, of course, being the USA. If you are not HERE, please understand what I mean when is say that the USA is wacked: I don't mean that America sucks or that I wish I were not an American. Far from it. America is safe, rich, and stuffed to the gills with good intentions - it'd be great if great intentions made for good actions, but that's for another post.

The people who hire me

Let's forget for a moment that "they" (on this particular day) are people I have never met and that they are saving me from complete financial ruin by giving me a job this fall. I can't organize my thoughts (no unity, no coherence... and I am an English teacher... uh huh) so just keep reading and perhaps you will get why I have a confusing love/hate thing going on.

After my panic-mode post from the airport, I banged my resume out to three local schools hoping that, uh, at 4 in the afternoon the Friday before classes start, someone would be magically understaffed enough to hire me sight unseen based on a resume that could easily be a complete fabrication. Seriously, a nine year old could have downloaded my CV off the internet and carpeted the city with it.

Only it was me, and it appears that I, sight unseen, references unchecked, am teaching freshmen comp first thing Tursday morning -- 8:15am. *

And I am ready for whatever hits me square in the face at 8:15am.** I just put my school-marm glasses on. I have practiced knotting my hair into a bun at the nape of my long, shapely (ok, alien-like) neck. I have reviewed my wardrobe: tweed skirts and crisp white blouses and Mary Janes and sensible stripes and oh dear heavens will I wear the seamed stockings? Yes. Yes, I believe I will.

As far as the actual teaching goes, my future students will hear about the perils of verbosity. They will cringe over the bright red slashes of my felt tip editing pen. And oh yes, they will suffer the lash of my semi-colon. I will make them suffer, I tell you.

Why? Well, partly it's because they are paying me to do it. But I am going to do it with a bitchglorious attitude. Why?

Because I am angry.


I could easily melt some nice person's eyeballs out when I am in a rage, but you are nice people and therefore I cannot do such harm to you. So I will say this as nicely as I possibly can.

My rage has to do with the fact that any nine year old who can tell jokes and show up on time (or not, whatever) can get a part time teaching gig for slave wages, but actual real live adult smart people with metric tons of books on their shelves and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of education and dear God, seriously POUNDS of reference letters cannot get tenure track jobs unless they have won the Nobel prize FOR SOMETHING THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ENGLISH (something like "spelling reform" or, oh God help us all, advancements in "tolerance" or some unbelieveable bullshit like "culture work"). More often, it's for screwing someone, anyone, who is screwing someone else who is screwing some other someone else who happens to be the husband of a major benefactress. Of the (often) two year college.

Please just kill me. I will be sitting quite still right here at the monitor for some time. Thank you for your courage (and the expense of the bullet).

* I'll talk some other day about why I so very much hate teaching at 8am. Summary: I am not "on" at 8am. I am nice and ok to be around, but it takes me until at least 10am to be even a little bit amusing, and since kids these days need to be entertained, and since I am not on my game yet at 8am, the whole semester goes straight into the weeds from the first day unless I can train myself to get up at 5am and warm up my silliness. And who does that? Not me, in case you thought so...

** Not that I have not already taught enough freshman comp that I could probably walk a half way intelligent nine year old through it if he were wearing convincing stilts and a tweed blazer with corduroy patches at the elbows. If he could tell a few good jokes and felt A-OK about grade inflation, they'd probably hire him instead of me next year (because, obviously, he has done more "culture work" (or something).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Circling the Drain

Pretty, no?

About Atlantic City, I have only this to say: anyplace people get up at 7am and, without even bothering to get out of their sweatpants and shower, spend the day shoving money into brightly colored boxes (until the cash advance limit on the credit card is reached) is the definition of horror and misery, in my opinion. People literally watch their rent and mortgage money circle the drain. And they stand there smiling like it's ok, which it absolutely cannot be.

The city smells like despair, unless it is after midnight, in which case it smells like panic with a despair after-bouquet.

Did we have a good time? Yes. But it was, well, surreal too. The sweatpants, the panic, and the ruin start to get to you. At a certain point you have to wonder what all those people are doing there, and then you also have to ask YOURSELF what the general point was.

This was Pax's party, and now, a day later, Bibi, Sri and I realize that the point was getting away* and letting Pax talk about Joe and deal with the fact that they are circling the drain. She is sad. She needed to be among people who adore her. Us, in other words.

I am not much of an emote-r but this needs saying: I love my friends.** We traveled and hiked and climbed and drank and ate and laughed all summer. School starts tomorrow, so we'll be back to our regular lives, but we had a hell of a good time these last few months. The kept me from completely freaking losing my mind this year, since my own personal drain has been pretty busy sucking down pretty much everything that I cared about and would very much have liked to have saved.

In fact, for a few years, the general theme here at Team Nina (me and the little elves who live in my head) has been loss - loss of time, loss of money, loss of sanity and more than a few times, near loss of life for more than one person I kind of can't live without. On the credit side, the list is short, only one item long, really: my friends. I absolutely love my friends. Did I mention love? And me and my friends?

Pretty, no? Well, I think so. It is good to be home.

* You might notice that we do that an awful lot. We planned three more trips last night just over drinks and dinner. But this is all information for another post.

** Yes, Lola. I am talking about you. :-)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Airport Hilarity

I am in the airport. I just drove 6 hours from Pop and Mamacita's to get here and I am pretty sure the rental car company failed to notice the broken tail light that shattered while I was driving the car. Score!


I have been in this airport for a total of 15 minutes and I am on my second drink. Because my flight boards in 10 minutes and I just learned (just learned, just now!) that school starts for the City of New York on MONDAY. Which means I have ZERO days to beat the pavement for part time work when I get back to the city.

Which means I will be broke and tawdry this fall... which means I'll probably toss back another drink before I board the plane back to the shark pit that is New York City.

(I like sharks, as long as they are not biting my ass and the ass of my checking account. I don't like being destitute. It's "freeing" at 22. It's stultifying and moldy and desperate at 37. Theme of blog might go from self involved blah blah blah to penurious self involved blah blah blah. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Good Day

I took this picture of my Dad and Liam when I woke up:

I spent the rest of the day half asleep on the dock, reading a senseless book. I rolled into the lake if it got hot and then at around 4pm the cocktail cart arrived and I selected a girly chilled white and sipped it until it was time for the sunset boat ride.

The whole week has been similar. Which might explain why I have been too busy to post.

I drive the rental car back tomorrow and then I will be flying back into NYC and immediately heading out to Atlantic City for an end of summer party with the girls.

Then I will start posting again. Honestly.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A picture a day

Day One:

Qenko, ruins outside of Cuzco*. The carved rock you see there is shaped so that on the Winter Solstice, June 21st, the shadow of the rock resembles a panther. Behind the rock is a tunnel containing a sacrificial altar.

Day Two:

Here is our guide pointing out the start of an archiological dig near Sacsayhuaman. Extensive ruins have already been excavated near Cuzco, but as much as 75% of the area remains unexcavated (and therefore under ground).

Day Three:

Sacsayhuaman. Some of the stones used to build this fortress are bigger than a Cadillac Escalade. The Inca cut them to fit precisely together and moved them into place using ropes and manpower. Some stones took years to cut and move. They all (still) fit so together so tightly that you cannot insert the blade of a knife between them.

Day Four:

The start of the Inca Trail (for us, at least), kilometer 82. The trail to Ollyantaytambo was pretty, but also short and much easier than we had expected. Mischa was just getting over the flu and while I am in better shape than some people, I am not a front of the pack hiker. However, we smoked everyone (with the exception of Larry) and had to wait at the lunch stop for over an hour that night.

Day Five:

This image should give you some appreciation for how much gear and food the porters carry. I have more to say about the porters and what they do. However, the summary version of it is that they work incredibly hard and they can run circles around all of us (even Larry) and they are very kind when we complain about all our gringo ailments. Amazing. (And yes, those peope in front with the itty bitty backpacks are us).

Day Six:

The prettiest part of the hike on day three of the Inca Trail. It was on this section of trail that Mischa and I (still smoking everyone) decided that the Inca Trail is not all that difficult and that we are ready to try Kilimanjaro next year. We were either hallucinating on coca or in much better shape than the rest of our party, but the gauntlet has been officially been thrown down, and so next year, Tanzania.

Day Seven:

Taken from the sungate... and pretty much like every other picture of MP available. But hey, it was taken with my camera. By me. Mischa and I took our pics and walked directly down through the ruins in order to climb Waynapicchu, the larger mountain there in the background. (The smaller one is Machu Picchu proper). Waynapicchu took about 40 minutes to climb, but offered stunning views of MP, which I would have been happy to photograph if I were not just the tiniest, teeniest, remotest and insignificant (nearly) bit still afraid of heights. It was ok to sit on the summit and look down, all right, but flinging my hand over with the camera didn't seem all that important to me at the time.

Ok, so I did try, but not hard enough to take a really good picture.

After that, we headed down to Aguas Calientes and waited for the train.

Yes, I'll post more about the ruins and I may put some more photos up too. Right now, however, I have to try to persuade my nephew Liam upstairs to take a nap. He learned to cast with a fly rod this morning, and I believe he also peed off the side of the boat on that excursion, so, um, he's had a splendid day so far and needs to rest, as I feel pretty sure he'll be fishing and peeing again later this evening. Poor kid has it rough.

* the Spanish spelled it Cusco, and the Inka didn't spell it at all because they spoke Quechua. The Quechuanized (no, that's not a word) spelling is Cuzco.

Friday, August 17, 2007


When I first arrived at Mama Rosa's house on the outskirts of Cusco, she handed me a cup of coca tea and demanded that I drink it. She claimed it would help me with the altitude. I did. It did. It was delicious. I drank more.

A few hours later, I realized that all my fantasies of arriving home with a suitcase full of coca leaves were not to be. I had consumed the raw product of the coca plant that some people use to produce cocaine. And I could not consumer it again after I left Peru.

Days later when Mischa and I started the Inca trail, I awoke each morning to the sight of a tin cup pushed through the netting of our tent. Around the cup were the brown, coarse, dirty fingers of a Peruvian porter, a man named Pancho who had been carrying mine and Mischa's gear throughout the trek. He considered it so vital that we start our day - and this would be before arising to brush our teeth or ANYTHING else - with a strong cup of coca that he was willing to get up an hour early and stick his hands into the tent of two female gringos at 6am in order to see it done.

On day two, Pancho handed a single leaf of coca me to and several others and instructed us (wordlessly) to house it between our cheek and gums, tobacco style. No chewing. No sucking... just housing.

On dead woman pass, I felt just great. By the top, 4200 meters, I was flying - not high, mind you, but sharp, competent, full of energy. By nightfall, I was stone cold sober, and yet also somehow euphoric. And it was legal.

The United States Government has waged a "war on drugs" that has hurt Peruvian coca producers. One can hardly blame the U.S. government for trying - no one I know would dispute that cocaine is a heartbreaking derivative of coca, nor would anyone I know try to suggest that Peruvian producers, who earned $6 a pound for coca vs. 50 cents a pound for mint, are unaware of the market they are supporting.


Spending four days trailing Peruvian guides and porters who routinely chew (and drink) so much of the stuff that they literally smell of burning coca made me wonder not whether something was wrong with coca, but whether the something that was wrong had more to do with America.

Without further elaboration, I do. I am not saying no one uses cocaine in Peru. Nor am I saying that the U.S. Government is 100% wrong for trying to prevent production and sale of the leaves.


I am saying that when thousands of Peruvians drink the tea and chew the leaves with no ill effects - and the U.S. Government burns acres of coca fields - plants never intended or destined for the U.S. - that there is, at the very least, something unfair happening.

There is much more I could say about Peruvian culture (and I probably will) - but the fact that Peruvians use coca KNOWING it can be sold for high profits for far more dangerous purposes AND DON'T DO IT is a fact I find really striking.

Am I feeling perceptive and astute enough to define it further? No. Would I like some coca tea right now?


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pop and Mamacita

I drove for six hours this afternoon to get to my parents' house. This is why I failed to post today - or was that yesterday? Anyway, once I get the mission critical portion of my job done in the morning, I'll write. For real. Seriously.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What the hell (might as well)

Here's the pic of me rock climbing in the Sacred Valley last week. I am the person on the higher end of the photo, wearing the hat down almost over my eyes. Below is the Swedish guy who I (and Mischa) later had dinner with. He was by far the better climber. I just happened to be higher off the ground at that moment.

Axis of Evil

When I first moved into my condo on Dawson St, my neighbor Betsy and I called our building the "axis of evil" because it was next to the fire department (hubba) across from the police department (hubba)* and because the building was in mid-construction when we moved in. Which meant it was half overrun with glossy, shirtless construction workers for at least twelve hours a day. Please note: I work from home. It was a difficult summer.

Things have changed, obviously.

I am now a block from that very building, sitting in a high rise hotel bar. I no longer live here. Men are currently invisible to me, so though I can look straight down the block and see those very same (hubba) firemen shooting baskets as they await a firey disaster (or a cat up a tree), their presence does not distract me. In fact, the most concern I can muster is a vague curiosity regarding whether they will have sense enough to put their shirts back on when the sun goes down. It gets cool here at night, this time of year.

I still work at home, but nowadays home is New York City. My annual compulsory and mercilessly dull meetings are completed, but I remain in my high rise hotel bar for the following reason: I am revising ny entire arsenal of course materials because I found out today, at the brain-liquefying staff meeting, that the entire curriculum has changed and that no one bothered to tell me. It is now six hours before classes start and I must "achieve compliance" by midnight.

Because of this crisis (it's THEIR crisis, mind you) I will be at the hotel bar, taking out commas and putting in dashes and slashing entire units and explaining, once again, the eroticism of the semi-colon and the coyness of the colon for the next six hours. I should be on my way to my parents' house right now, and believe you me, I am feeling it. I am pissed.

And so now I will sign off and start working - and also slowly, surely, steadily drinking the full compliment of alcoholic beverages I so richly deserve.

I will describe the hangover tomorrow morning, where I will post around 10am from the one and only Supajewie's kitchen. I am bringing cheese doodles (don't ask) and I feel pretty sure she'll greet me with a glass of bourbon and a donut.

Tomorrow, in other words, promises to be a much better day.

* Police officers are hit or miss. They carry firearms and I am afraid of firearms. Any IRISH police officer, however, works for me. Or at least he would if I were paying attention, which I most assuredly am not. (see: invisibility, emotional paralysis, cowardice, etc).

** It turns out that today I want to talk about hotness and getting drunk - but this does not mean that I have forgotten to post about Peru. I'll get around to it. Promise.

Monday, August 13, 2007


To leave Peru via Chavez Airport in Lima Peru, you must ransom yourself for $30.25. Or is that bail? Or is that admission to anywhere other than Peru? I have no idea.

Any and everyone with the means should get a passport and get out of the United States, if only for a short time. If you do, and you stay gone long enough to feel what it might be like NOT to be an American, being out of here will help you understand both the gifts and curses of being from (if you are) this country. More on this later.

That said, it is good to be back in the United States of America. I have a lot to say about Peru, how great a country it is, how lovely the people, how utterly different the values, the way of life, the everything... and also there was that four day hike to Machu Picchu to cover... but I can't say much of any of it right now because I have to get back to the airport and fly to Raleigh, NC to a meeting tomorrow. What joy is mine.

Summary: It is good to be home. I have missed you.*

*Even though I don't know who you are, or who I am. I have missed typing stuff and hitting the orange button. It had become a habit (past perfect tense) and I mean to get back to it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Memo to Mighty Inca People

Perhaps you could have done without so many stairs. Also, letting donkeys, llamas, alpacas, horses and chickens roam freely in your mountains is distressing for gringo trekkers. Just so you know. Final point: por favor, no mas coca. Yo estoy, como so dice.... high as a kite.


Monday, August 6, 2007

in Peru

I have been in Cuzco for two days, acclimatizing before the four day hike to MP. So far, the only effect altitude has had on me is that I don't want to eat and I am constantly sleepy. Since in NYC I am up half the night eating anything involving salt, I could make a good argument for staying here forever. (I may not feel that way after four days on the Inca trail).

I am posting from my cell phone so I don't know when I can post again.

I am sleepy. Will try to post again tomorrow...

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hammer in the morning. Or was that HAMMERED?

I bought a new computer this week. The circumstances surrounding this purchase will not be recounted here. Just know, reader, that I would have been far better off financially if my old computer had not decided to lose all functionality by being old and ugly. And slow and the wrong color.


I am pretty smart by standard measures, but one thing that proved just too involved for me the "data transfer" bit involved in the transition. I want some of my old files, but not all. Notes to self re: grandiose plans for future, ok. Tearful emails never sent to men I hope I never see again... perhaps not.

So this week, between the eyebrow threading and the pedicure (no, it wasn't on the list, but whatev) and the boot check, I loaded roughly 500 CDs into iTunes. In the process, I listened to music I have not heard in years. I am sure you can guess the effect this had on me. Pushing the CDs in and then hitting "copy" and then listening for the special noise and then hitting "eject" is such hard work. I got a little emotional hearing all those old songs again. And what the hell: I allowed myself just asplash of gin and tonic.

I expected, when I first started loading those old CDs, to be emotional about the church music - the songs I heard countless Sundays growing up in the Post-Vatican II Catholic Church - you know, the church that brought the electric guitar and the synthesizer into the liturgy and insisted it was perfectly ok for priests to use the "language of the people" during Mass (you down with G-O-D? Yeah, you know me!). Little did the Vatican Council know that such reforms would produce songs such as "Hear I am, Lord" and "One Bread, One Body"* songs I find so insipid that I could barely contain my vitriol in the house of the Lord.

Click on the below if you are a devout Catholic of the modern sort and you want some encouragement in your spiritual journey. If you click this video because you are merely curious, it may do you serious emotional, not to say spiritual damage. DO NOT SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU.

I got slightly emotional over my collection of classical CDs. If spiritual-ish music is what I am after, I'll go ALL THE WAY, as in John Eliot Gardiner conducting Mozart's Great Mass in C Minor - and yes, look! - YouTube really DOES have everything!

And then of course there is the more secular Buckley doing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah better than, uh, Leonard Cohen.

But not even Buckley really got to me.

Nor was it Bob Dylan, though Dylan would have been an excellent guess. It's all over now, baby blue? Or how about this one:

Wanna know what got me, in the end? Music I did not even think I owned anymore.

It was Joni Mitchell. And, even more of a shock: Peter, Paul and Mary.

Joni Mitchell is what I was listening to when I met the first man I ever loved. Of course I was silly and ignorant and knew even then we were not likely, at twenty-one to make the relationship permant. But oh, my goodness, "All I Want"... and oh my goodness "Coyote."

Then I got to the Peter, Paul and Mary transfer, and it totalled me. You see, the first song I listened to was "The Hammer Song" - an innocuous, upbeat, harmless feel good song

- except if you are like me in 1992, when I listened to The Hammer Song on repeat with my head phones on to, from and between every class because it had the hypnotic buoyancy I needed to help me manage the guilt of being in love with my roommate's boyfriend (and doing a fair amount of making out with him when her back was turned).

It was also the perfect anthem to begin a night of drinking, since I knew such nights would include, at some point, my roommates' boyfriend passing by me just a little too closely (and slipping his keys into my jacket pocket). Because then I'd be humming this song all the way back to his dorm room where I would have long talks and long sweaty make-out sessions with SOMEONE ELSE'S BOYFRIEND because I thought it would make me a more seasoned and complex human being. And maybe also someday his real life girlfriend. Inevitably, I was still fairly drunk the next morning when I did the walk of shame out of his dorm. So I would put my headphones on go on my way.

I'd sing about danger. I'd sing about warning. I'd sing about love all right. Love between me and my sorority sister's boyfriend.

(Lake of fire, people, lake of fire. And when I get there, "One bread, one body" will be the only song the minions know how to play).

Needless to say (or perhaps it needs saying) I have changed a lot. I mean, not enough to prevent me from splashing a bit more gin into my gob than is medically prudent. But I have, at the very least, grown out of kissing other people's boyfriends. I expect further improvements in my character daily.

* If you are Catholic and you like these songs, I am happy for you. I mean you (and the Church) no disrepect. But frankly, I prefer the old Latin Rite and its music. These post VII nearly caused me to become a Scientologist, but I guess that is, in the end, MY issue.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Oh Buzzer, where art thou?

A conversation between Buzz and I this afternoon:

Buzz: Hello, sistah.

Nina: Hello, Buzzer.

Buzz: How's it all?

Nina: Good. I am tired. I have a cold. I climb a lot.

Buzz: Climb? Climb what?

Nina: (between sneezes) rock climbs. You know. That thing that I do.

**** long pause ****

Buzz: Yeah.

Nina: Yeah.

Buzz: I was much more comfortable with hiking.

Nina: mmm yeah, but that's not the point. I need a crashpad.

Buzz: WHa???

Nina: For South Carolina. We are going to be there almost two weeks. I will want to boulder."

Buzz: You used to HIKE? What the fuck???

Nina: Climbing is not that dangerous. NOT DANGEROUS if you follow the rules. I am a nelly, and I am not scared.

**** long pause ****

Buzz: Didn't you used to be in a sewing circle? Whatever happened to needle point?

Nina: I have taken up crochet. I still needle point. But I also rock climb, as you know.

Buzz: *feh*

Nina: (silence)*

Buzz: why do you do this to me?

Nina: (silence)**

Buzz: Jesus Christ. I mean, really.

Nina: Almighty. Absolutely,

Buzz: *groooooooaaaaaannnnnn*

Nina: so, we're all set then?

**** long silence ****

Buzz: Yeah. I guess.

Nina: Thanks, man.

Reader, I love my brother. Even if I die tomorrow in a humiliating accident involving a streetcar and a constuction crane and a I (happen) to be wearing no underpants, I will count myself among the fortunate because my brother will love me and defend me from here to the end of whatever rope I happen to climb from. Go see Supajewie's comments if you want to find out more about why.

* sometimes he needs a moment.

** sometimes he needs another moment, God bless him.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Suzanne is delivering ****updated****

Hello, internet.

If you've stumbled onto my blog from Suzanne's comment board, you'll find out pretty fast that this is not a pregnancy or IF blog. But happy to have you if you care to click around. Just be warned: I swear a lot. Sorry.

If you don't know Suzanne, she is delivering her QUADs this afternoon. If you are a praying person, now would be an excellent time to toss a Hail Mary or simply a "God, please look out for the Steece's today" into your evening. If you are the non praying type, lift a glass of whatever you've got in honor of Suzanne and Joe and their babies. They've done an amazing job maintaining this pregnancy for 30 weeks and 1 day, and I hope when I grow up I am as good and nice as Joe and Suz are. (They are both in their early 20s. Mmmm guess I better hurry on up with that, huh?)

The Steece quads have arrived. Go give Suz and Joe some love (if that's your thing).

Pre-Peru Freak-Out

I hiked Gnose this weekend. And I climbed in the Gunks.

Yesterday I felt a little off, but not exactly sick. Today, I am fully completely totally sick. Sore throat, itchy eyes, popping ears... the whole thing.

I feel so wretched that I had to cancel movie night with Jib - which means that unless I get well by Thursday (when Jib is free once more) there will be NO consequence-free kissing for me until sometime in September.


If I felt better, I'd find the will to complain. Instead, I'll just keep typing.

Here's what I have to do before I leave for Peru:

1) eyebrows threaded
2) haircut
3) laundry
4) mail taxes (oh don't ask, please, please don't ask)
5) gear check (boot check) at EMS
6) mail iPod rebate
7) drop off rent
8) clean out my iTunes folder
9) get my Hep A booster (ew)
10) measure my waist and hips (repeatedly)
11) finish my novel
12) bleach my shower
13) finish my paper on Mosely's "Devil in a Blue Dress"
14) take the German translation exam (what??)
15) register for dissertation hours at Merciful U

The moment I get back from Peru, I fly to Sweet Little College to meet with my boss and attend professional development seminars that will likely cause my brain to liquefy and run out my ears. And that is if it goes well.

Then I will drive my rental car* down to South Carolina, pick up Buzz, Leta, and Liam and drive us all to Pop and Mamacita's for a ten day visit. I am looking forward to that even more than I am looking forward to Peru.

If this post has a purpose (not sure it does) then it is to inform my three readers that I might be a pretty unreliable narrator for the next few weeks. I can blog from afar, yes. But you know, those four days on the Inca Trail might prove tricky. Also, I might have altitude sickness and be gagging and clutching my skull.**

So you might not see me so much in the next few weeks, but don't count me out. I'll be around for a few more days yet, and in a few weeks I'll be back and posting more useless nonsense than even I can now imagine.

* Can I tell you how hard I tried to AVOID renting a car? Damn that Bingo. I don't like driving. It scares me. Also, renting a car is just so damned adult. It feels right up there with subscribing to PornNewsWeekly. Blech.

** Actually such circumstances would provide me with opportunity to complain and Lord knows I snatch those up every chance I get. So you might be hearing from me very often, in reality.