#thanksobama (no, but really)

Two little babes at the 2004 DNC in Boston.

Two little babes at the 2004 DNC in Boston.

Dusting off the old blog in the event we’re all blasted into oblivion soon… I’ll never forget July 27, 2004. After toiling away as a fundraiser (and sending me into the finance office for two unpaid summer internships), my father was a delegate to John Kerry’s DNC in Boston and we made a family vacation out of it. It was a pretty momentous trip by several accounts – it would be the last family vacation we ever took as a 5-some and it was what put an inkling in my mind that I might want to live somewhere other than New Jersey one day. Establishment mainstays filled most of the speaking spots, but on that night, the convention keynote address would be delivered by a relative nobody: a state legislator from Illinois running for U.S. senate.  Continue reading

Blissful Moments With Just the Right Amount of Terror

A rare occasion: all seems well aboard the Barrel of Monkeys

A rare occasion: all seems well aboard the Barrel of Monkeys

My dad would have turned 60 this week. He exemplified all the phrases the French use to describe an excellent human being – joie de vivre, je ne sais quoi…OK, I’m out. Je ne parle pas Francais. (Thanks, Google Translate!) But you get what I mean. You really and truly cannot find a soul on God’s green earth that had met my dad and didn’t love him. Well, except for the people he cut off on the road and on the sea – not the world’s greatest driver of cars and certainly not of boats, as you’re about to find out. To honor this occasion, I solicited happy memories and hilarious stories of my father’s many mishaps. I was shooting for 60, but I should have known this request would far surpass my expectations.

Below are submissions from family and friends presented in no particular order and with minimal editing, save for some snarky insertions from yours truly. Because most people had several stories to share, I tried to keep these in bite-sized chunks. To me, the most astounding thing is that there were so few repeats of stories, except the broken wine jugs and the fruit flies. You’ll see common themes: lots of vacation follies and a lot of people sensing they were in danger while out on our old boat, the Barrel of Monkeys. Yet, we all kept taking trips and setting sail – not wanting to miss the adventure. I stole the title from AJ’s story, the last of the bunch. I promise it will make sense when you get to Uncle Anthony’s stories.  Continue reading

A Tale of Two Maker’s and Gingers

It can be like pulling teeth to get this crew to even leave our block. That they trekked 300 miles just for me is still astounding. (I can say this because they all know I love them dearly. Also because it's true.)

It can be like pulling teeth to get this crew to even leave our block. That they trekked 300 miles just for me is still astounding. (I can say this because they all know I love them dearly. Also because it’s true.)

Ever wanted to experience the gamut of all human emotions in a 24-hour period? It’s easy. Follow these steps:

1. Demand that your boyfriend throw you a birthday party months in advance

2. Convince yourself that it won’t happen

3. Perceive the lack of an event on your actual day of birth as a sign that everyone you know decided other plans and/or Christmas were more important

4. Pitch a hissy fit that lasts until the next morning

5. Continue your petulance until your boyfriend relents and makes you promise you’ll still be surprised when your family arrives at your apartment in 45 minutes Continue reading

Some Angst, Some Thanks – the Usual

Last week, I had a few really vivid dreams. In one of them, I had a wiener dog. It was awesome. In the other, though, I walked around Boston with my dad. In some ways, it was also awesome. Let me explain…

Today marks five years since his death. This past September began my fourth year in Boston. Sometimes I forget that just about everything in my life has changed since then. Were he to come back for day, he would find my day-to-day completely unrecognizable. And so, in a weird way, I actually kind of enjoyed this dream I had. Its premise was that he didn’t actually die on Nov. 27, 2009, but for some reason had been in a coma since then and recently woke up, a little bit like a bizarre Encino Man sequel starring a middle-aged attorney. He and I strolled Boston, I pointed out various landmarks that figured into my new life and we stopped for beers are several pubs along the way. We talked all about beer and he seemed pretty impressed with my new fermentation-filled life. Even though it technically never happened, it almost felt like closure. Continue reading

Knock it the Heck Off, Connecticut

An unfortunate yet inherent fact of hailing form the great Garden State is that the rest of the country thoroughly enjoys crapping all over us. Granted, we have some exports and landscapes that may provoke this (the cast of shows like JerseyLiscious and the Turnpike north of exit 7). However, most of us and our allies know that these attacks and laments are unwarranted.

By far, the most abuse we take comes from people from Connecticut. Which is patently ridiculous. They seem to coast on an air of superiority that’s fueled by the fact that the rest of the country mistakenly believes that their entire state consists of country clubs and regattas. Most of the people who try to tell me that CT is far superior to NJ because of their fancy-pants reputation don’t really come from the fancy-pants stock but are regular people from regular families who would fit in just fine with us (perceived) Jersey hoodrats. Apparently they seem to forget that the parts of our state they love to hate on have mirror images in their own state. Continue reading

After a Hurricane Comes a…Meh.

We're almost not homeless!

We’re almost not homeless!

I remember this same weekend last year like it was yesterday. I woke up early that Saturday morning with an ungodly hangover and suffered through a bus ride to New Jersey for my 10-year high school reunion. A few girls asked what I thought about the impending storm and I shrugged it off with an “Ehhhhh, Irene wasn’t toooooo bad.” The next day, I checked the MegaBus site compulsively for updates about my scheduled departure since it seemed that every other transit line was canceling trips, even though no rain had fallen yet. I met Lauren at the diner because she happened to be home from New Orleans the same weekend. More hurricane talk, more “I mean, it’ll be fiiiiine?”. She offered some encouraging information about the power of mold bombs immediately after flooding.

Despite secretly wishing for my bus to be canceled (I was hoping for an extra day or two at home), it took off, the last bus to make it out of New Jersey in advance of Sandy. Unbeknownst to me at the time was the fact that, had I not made it to that bus, I would have been stranded for weeks. In the dark, in the cold, with little access to the outside world or any perspective on the carnage up and down my beautiful, beloved Jersey Shore. All the mold bombs in the world couldn’t have helped our charming little bungalow, after the island was off-limits for three weeks.

It seems like this week, every media outlet is offering retrospective stories – about where we are, about what we’ve learned, about what progress there’s been, but mainly about the lack thereof. A majority of our neighborhood’s houses sit vacant and gutted. Whole tracts of land on the Barrier Island where houses once stood have become open space. I hope those cringe-inducing Stronger Than The Storm commercials are played in marketing classes for years to come to highlight glossed-over ineptitude and the woeful decline of jingle writing as an art.

My mom has fought tooth and nail to claw her way through a bureaucratic system whose goal seems to be keeping funding from the people who need it most. A year ago, it warmed your heart to see all the support pouring in as millions of dollars racked up; it seemed implausible that my widowed mother would have to pay out of pocket to fix our only home. In the months that have separated us from the most destructive storm I hope we’ll ever see, she’s gotten a loan and used it to pay for a brand new house, but that’s money that needs to be repaid. The state’s RREM program has yet to disburse any money from what I can tell and they keep moving the goal posts for homeowners who are still waiting a year later. Continue reading

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout My Beeeeest Friend

Mere babes back in 2007.

Mere babes back in 2007.

Hopefully you read that title as being a drawn out, multi-syllabic rendering of “best” and not as pronounced like “beast.”

This week, one of my most favorite people on the face of the earth, Miss Katie Booker, has packed up all her things, left her wildly successful job and will move 3,000 miles across the country back home to California. I am equal parts happy for her and sad for me. This occasion seems like a monumental opportunity to wax poetic publicly about how much I love her and how better my life is by having her in it. I am lucky enough that there are several people I can say this about, but….none of them are moving this week.

I’ll always remember Bid Day 2005 when we all nervously milled around at Theta, trying to meet each other and not say anything stupid. Somehow it turned out that Katie and I were the only two living on South Campus and I became her official chauffeur of the new member ed process. Those 10-minute rides to and from the house forged our friendship for everything that followed: adventures, fun nights out, becoming real adults and dealing with sadness and disappointment. We went from being within spitting distance of each other in our tiny bedroom at the house, to a 30 minute train ride from NJ to NYC, to a 4 hour bus ride from Boston to NYC. We’ve always made it work and don’t let more than a couple months pass between seeing each other. Now it’s a cross-country flight, but I’m happy to have someone to visit in San Francisco.  Continue reading

Thank You, I Love You, I’m Sorry, Goodbye: When Hurricane Sandy Makes You Demolish Your Home

My little house in the snow.

My little house in the snow.

I knew it was coming, knew it had to happen and know that its occurrence is simply the first step in a string of good things to come. Recently, I found myself growing annoyed that it hadn’t happened yet. But once I found out it was scheduled, once it became real, it punched me in the gut and all but knocked the wind out of me.

Our lovely little house at 202 Joseph St. meets its demise Wednesday after sitting uninhabitable all winter and spring, gutted to its studs and stripped bare of all the wonders inside that made it our home. Like I said, I knew this was coming for months, but wasn’t anywhere near prepared to hear the news. I’ve powered through this whole process knowing that the demolition of the house would usher in a new house, a bigger, more storm-proof one with swankier amenities and enough space for everyone to get their own bedroom. A house just like that had been the plan for my parents’ retirement, except they were going to give our current structure a makeover because it was so important to keep the original structure, which my grandfather and great uncle built with their own hands.

I’m trying to think positive thoughts here, but it’s hard. I knew I’d be sad when it was finally time to tear the old girl down – I just didn’t think I’d be this sad. Continue reading

When Life Crumbles Your Cookie

I have failed you, green besprinkled friends.

I have failed you, green besprinkled friends.

We all know what to do you when life hands you lemons, just as we all know about cookies and the way they sometimes crumble. On my way back to Boston after a nomadic Memorial Day Weekend, I had in my bag some rather precious cargo – two Ninja Turtle cookies from the greatest business establishment known to man, Colonial Bakery. A series of unfavorable circumstances (crazy early flight, lots of rushing, bag packed with a laptop and other stuff) convened to put me awkwardly juggling bags, shoes, jackets and my boarding pass through security. In the hubbub, my cookies crumbled to the fine pulp at your left. (Don’t worry, I was going to be nice and share with the RyGuy.)

I trudged straight to work upon landing and plopped the cookie dust on my desk, sneaking occasional chunks while pondering what to do with this travesty. I shared this picture on Facebook to garner sympathy for my grave misfortune. Condolences rolled in from my Shore friends and I wondered exactly how I would manage eating these.

Then, genius struck: ice cream topping! Two of my most favorite guys (Ben & Jerry – what, did you think I was going to say Mark & AJ?) have been blending baked goods into ice cream for years. Obviously, these two pulverized Michaelangelos were just waiting for the sundae treatment. I shared my stroke of fat kid genius on Facebook and collected a few “likes” of agreement. See, I always try my best to find the upside of a down situation (or else I surely would have cracked up years ago) and this pickle turned into a win-win-win-win (in Michael Scott parlance). Eventually. Continue reading

Why Philip Roth Deserved the Pulitzer

roth

Read him, yo.

On my dad’s advice a few years ago, I picked up Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America and really enjoyed it. It represented the perfect storm of nerdiness that gets me psyched about a book – American history, New Jersey and some conspiracy. (Two thirds of this trifecta also explain my somewhat secret guilty pleasure Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.)

Needing something more substantial than Jen Lancaster‘s snarky bits of fluff to feed my brain, I grabbed Roth’s American Pastoral, which won him the 1997 Pulitzer. I’m only 20 pages in, but Mr. Roth doesn’t disappoint.

Again, since I’m borrowing library books and not purchasing my own to highlight, a few of old Phil’s lines could use a shout-out for being such fantastic uses of the English language:

“No one gets through unmarked by brooding, grief, confusion, and loss. Even those who had it all as kids sooner or later get the average share of misery, if not more.”

This verbal painting of an Italian restaurant may go down as the most spot-on, most evocative thing I’ve ever read:

Vincent’s is one of those oldish Italian restaurants tucked into the midtown West Side streets between Madison Square Garden and the Plaza, small restaurants three tables wide and four chandeliers deep, with decor and menus that have changed hardly at all since before arugula was discovered.”

Then again, it’s not that hard for me to picture an Italian restaurant.