Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Whatever, Happens Every Day

Thanos in Athens sent me a videotape. A 3/4" videotape of a film from the sixties. It's one of very few existing copies of a film from our alma mater. My assignment was to take it to the video transfer place to get it transferred to a digital medium, then hand it off to him when he whizzes through town next month. I think it's going to be used for fundraising for the newly resurrected college in question.

I called a few places in Manhattan and ended up at one on Broadway. My compelling reason for choosing it over the one uptown? It's near the Strand bookstore, and I was in the market for a half-price review copy of a new hardcover written by an acquaintance.

I raced downtown after work yesterday, got caught in the rain, and dragged myself—in wet sandals—up some dingy, rickety stairs to the tired old customer service counter.

As the attendant took the the tape and filled out some forms, I felt something brush against my toes. I looked down.

Nothing. But there was a gray cat playing about ten feet away.

I guess the cat was just by my feet.

I looked back up. I scrawled my initials across the blue form and handed over my credit card. Something brushed my toes again.

The cat raced over and tried to scoop out my sandals.

Cuz there was a mouse between my two big toes.

I moved my right foot and the mouse bolted, the cat behind it. The cat trapped the mouse between its paws.

"Um, your cat caught a mouse," I said.

"Yeah, we leave the pest control to her."

"Well, a minute ago it was between my toes."


I was calm about the mouse—after all, this was nothing compared to the time the rat ran across my feet on the back porch in Del Ray when I was a teenager—but I was a little put-out that no one seemed to be concerned about it.

Then the cat let the mouse go. It ran straight at the employee's bag, which was on the floor.

Now she acted. She started kicking the bag from a distance.

I grinned, took my receipt, and went out into the rain.

Monday, September 28, 2009

That's Quotable!

I'm reading Ariel Gore's book "How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead," because it was fifty-cents at the used book sale and she's a close friend of Shannon's (you might remember him as the scofflaw that accompanied me on the Light Rail adventure).

And this marvelous passage at the start of one of her chapters—by Doris Lessing—made me laugh and say "Hell yeah." What a nutty industry.
And it does no harm to repeat, as often as you can, "Without me the literary industry would not exist: the publishers, the agents, the sub-agents, the sub-sub-agents, the accountants, the libel lawyers, the departments of literature, the professors, the theses, the books of criticism, the reviewers, the book pages—all this vast and proliferating edifice is because of this small, patronized, put-down and underpaid person." -Doris Lessing

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Overheard on the Light Rail

I got off the Light Rail in Hoboken yesterday to go to yoga (which I find both enjoyable for the exercise/calming angle and ridiculous when one of the teachers goes on about too much hocus-pocus).

Two guys were walking behind me.

Guy #1: "I don't have an iPhone yet."

Guy #2: "Dude, they're the shit."

Guy #1: "Hmm."

Guy #2: "Dude, they're not just a phone. They're a LIFESTYLE."

I resisted the urge to look straight at Guy #2 and laugh loudly.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Liberty Island at Night

The National Park Service opened up Liberty Island at night for the first time yesterday. It was kind of chilly. We'd all forgotten our parkas. And as it turns out, there's not really much to do on Liberty Island, so Roberta and I took photos of the Statue of Liberty and kept moving to stay warm.

We were treated to some documentary evangelism on the value of US National Parks. It so happens that National Parks propaganda is the only kind of patriotic propaganda that I unequivocally agree with. I left the island wanting to wear a funny park ranger hat and hang out with Smokey the Bear for the rest of my life, but I'm kind of over it this morning.

That's JC on the left and Manhattan on the right.

Ellis Island.

Approaching Liberty Island. Not too different from the half-dozen photos I've taken from the Staten Island Ferry.

Little-known fact: My legs glow.

Funny kid.

An outdoor screen previewed the new Ken Burns documentary about the US National Parks.

There was a big green lady on the island.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Lesson

I've been pushing it, trying to fit about 32 hours of preoccupation into each 24-hour day.

And I knew I was pushing it, but also knew from past experience that while pushing it makes me grumpy, I can usually pull it off.

So right now I have teaching, editor in chief day job, and a freelance job. I do these things for money the love of it. In addition, I try to fit in a little socializing, a little yoga, and interesting New York-like events.

Writing isn't even in the cards at the moment. (You don't have to tell me how wrong this is.)

When I looked at how tightly I'd scheduled this week, I wondered if I'd shoved in a bit too much.

First, there's work. Then there's teaching, which happens on Tuesday afternoons. I also have a trade paperback that I'm trying to get out for the freelance gig. And I didn't want to miss the $10 seat to the one-woman Carrie Fisher show, the free ticket to see Rosanne Cash perform at WNYC, the screening of the movie The Age of Stupid on Monday night, a bookstore event I wanted to attend, a fabric-shopping meetup, a pal's art opening, brunch with a friend, and a Sunday night performance art thing with a friend visiting from where she works (Iraq).

And on Thursday night, I had a ticket to Ellis Island for its first-ever night tour. Then tonight, I have a ticket for the inaugural Liberty Island night tour.

All week, I teetered close to the brink of exploding at people I normally tolerate okay, and was short and snappish at my colleagues. I cut deadlines close, nearly arrived late. Did arrive late.

Then last night, I blew it. I was dilly-dallying when I was supposed to be racing to Liberty State Park to get on the Ellis Island ferry. Since I was late, I thought I'd catch the commuter ferry that goes straight to the park.

Except it doesn't anymore. It probably hasn't in years. I last took it in 2006. I ended up on the other side of the canal from the Ellis Island ferry, barely any distance aside from that stretch of water in-between.

I started walking briskly. I thought about asking one of the Wall Street guys for a lift, but didn't have the nerve. They all get on the ferry in downtown Manhattan, then get into their cars at the parking lot across from Liberty State Park.

I hoofed it up to the pedestrian bridge at the western end of the park, crossed behind the scrap metal yard, then raced down towards the ferry by the old railroad terminal.

I watched the ferry pull away from about 40 feet off.

Exhausted, I collapsed on a bench. I pulled out my $29 ticket and thought about crying but was too tired. I couldn't bear to walk home. Isn't there a bus that goes here?

After sitting still for a while, I moved to the bus stop bench. I answered some e-mails and rested. A bus showed up! It took me to the Light Rail, which took me home.

And as I rode the train, I thought to myself: This was a warning. You need to quit screwing around and control your schedule better. Nip the unwanted distractions in the bud. Focus, Marie, focus...

I will. I'll go cancel tomorrow's plans right now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Truck in Town

Check it out! There's a new food truck in town, down by the PATH.

Unfortunately, I don't know much about New Orleans food. I bought the jambalaya yesterday and wasn't even sure what it was supposed to taste like.

No matter, I shall forge ahead. I'll try the pulled pork sandwich next time. As a Virginia gal (even northern), that's something I'm familiar with.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Par for the Course

I'm grumpy today because an opportunistic writer with a good schtick referred in print to how she'd bit her tongue when we were talking once.

Because of course, it was important not to argue with me when she could instead declare her opinions in writing to the world.

Now I've been in comics since this writer was SIX YEARS OLD, and it took about two seconds for someone to forward the review to me.

I don't care about the content of the review. It was fairly positive but off-base about my day-job product. Which isn't my product. It's my job, like when you go to work and do accounting or marketing or sell shoes or screw around on Facebook all day.

But I do care about the out-and-out lie where this woman said we'd met. (And of course, had she actually visited the home site of the product, or run a Google search in a big hurry, she'd have learned that the theme park is open and wouldn't have written that one was in the works. But I know, we're all busy. Who has the time to do a little research when you could instead be making up exaggerations with your time?)

We exchanged a few e-mails. NOT the same thing. And the "I bit my tongue" part? Thank you, young writer, for plastering your thoughts across the Internet rather than risking offending me in an e-mail. You're swell.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brave Little Girl

A few weeks ago, I went to Newark Airport to pick up a friend. I dropped him at the PATH.

This isn't really particularly noteworthy, except that when I walked to get my car at my garage, a man called to me from a stoop about 40 feet from my garage.

He was holding up a kitten.

"Do you want a kitten?"

Startled, I just laughed and shook my head. I thought for a second, "Can that work? Can accosting strangers on the street actually get rid of kittens?"

Apparently not. And apparently he tried this on a number of people.

Fast forward to a few hours ago. I'd used my car to go to the A&P. I went through the Sixth Street Car Wash then headed over to Colgate to put away my car.

The block was full of cops, all double-parked. I thought it was some kind of event or gathering. It never occurred to me that they were investigating a case in this little neighborly pocket of JC, nicknamed the "Italian Village."

It turns out that last night, a 12-year-old girl was riding her bike, when the free-kitten guy somehow got her into his house. He lives there with his mother, who was not into the idea that her son was trying to get the pants off a 12-year-old kid. Free-kitten-man took the girl into a building behind where he lived with his mother. He handcuffed her and went to argue with his mother.

The girl slipped out of the handcuffs, climbed out the second-floor window, ran down the fire escape, found her bike, and biked home to tell her mother.

What a brave little girl! And what a creepy man.

I wonder if he lured her into the house with the kittens.

The story is reported here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What's Swell About Twitter

Are you a Twitter naysayer?

I was too, back before I went to Cairo. Somewhere along the way, I think in early 2007, Jared and John Bligh got on Twitter. They were now able to virtually give each other shit all day long. Jared was in the office one day and showed me what he was doing. I was amused but not enough to sign up.

Fast-forward to me listening to a writer speak at some-event-or-other, earlier this year. I'd learned a certain revulsion for Twitter as the masses crowed about it. I can't help it. Skepticism is my knee-jerk reaction to anything that people glow about en masse. When the Times starts covering something, it's probably past its prime.

"Even if you don't like to Twitter," said the writer (which just means post little one-liners all day, perfect for a nation brought up on sitcoms), "just go and get your name so no one else gets it."

Oh. Right. Shoulda thought of that one myself.

I dutifully scored my name that same evening. There are not many other Marie Javinses in the world, but there are at least two. I'm now MarieJavins on Twitter, but I don't post much.

But I do use Twitter for things that are, I think, genuinely useful. I hogged this info to myself for some time, but it seems only fair to share my knowledge with you, loyal reader.

Twitter is good for these things:


I "follow" PATH, for example. That's the name of the subway train I take to work. Once in a while there is some kind of delay, and PATH will "tweet" about the delay, and then I'll know to go downtown to take the other line, or to catch a ferry home.

I also follow some tour operators and airfare discounters. If there's a discount, I want it to pop up in my face. Now, before the fares sell out.

Last, I have found Twitter to be a godsend when it comes to ticketing. The band Pavement is playing Central Park Summerstage next year. But the tickets sold out instantly. That didn't seem right, so I searched Twitter and immediately learned that another night had been added. I zipped over and bought a ticket for that night.

And when I wanted to see Othello with Philip Seymour Hoffman, the ticket server crashed the morning the tickets went on sale. You can guess how I found the alternate server and was able to take my time choosing my ticket, because everyone else was still fighting with the original ticketing site.

A similar event occurred yesterday with tickets to the New Yorker Festival.

So what I can recommend to all you Twitter naysaysers out there is this. Sign up and find sites where you need real-time updates. It IS useful, honest.

But one side note when you're Twittering... see that little "@" sign that shows up? That means the person has posted to someone's page. What it is NOT is a cool, new way to identify people by their electronic signatures on non-Twitter comments pages. My policy is, if you have to type in the @whatever, guess what, you're not on Twitter. Stick to addressing them by name.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hippo Food

This is a documented dissection of a candy hippo.

It tastes of sugary wafer filled with Nutella. And some milk powder.

Really. It says "milk powder" on the label.

Helps prevent osteoporosis, no doubt.

This was a pretty lousy breakfast, way too sweet. I got dizzy on the way to the train. Or maybe that's just the Swine Flu.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Enough Already

All right, I am totally sick of this health care shit.

I have left the country for YEARS before because insurance is so expensive in my NY/NJ that I cannot afford it. Excellent travel insurance is available anywhere BUT the US. Why? There is an endless list of reasons--lawsuit culture, corporate stupidity, for-profit situations, whatever... there are a million reasons, all of them endlessly explained by people far more conversant in the lingo than I am.

I have occasionally rearranged my official housing claims in order to take advantage of better rates in other states. I have used all kinds of loopholes to insure my healthy self, though I have not needed insurance at all, and if I did, well, I'd try not to use it since it means my future rates would permanently inflate.

That ain't right.

I agree completely with articles I've read about how utterly whacked our system is and how it's got to change. I also recognize that change is resisted so utterly in our society that there is no way the system is going to be dismantled and revised, as I wish it would be.

But the way it's looking now, with people screaming bloody murder at the thought that someone might actually do... what? Try to pass some pathetic attempt at helping their sorry asses?

I'm sick of this shit. This isn't really about me. While I will go to any lengths to avoid spending a fortune on insurance, I also have money and a passport, and I know well that people who assume we have the best of everything are uninformed and have never investigated options overseas. If I am sick and can still move, I will get my ass on a plane to go to somewhere that I can get great care and not go bankrupt.

It's not about me. It's about the very people screaming bloody murder and defending... what, I don't even know. People are baffling.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hippo Treat

I ran into this at the deli on Newark Avenue yesterday. Kinder Hungry Hippy candy, in "cacao." I bought a "5 stück" but haven't cracked open the box yet. Apparently, they are made of Knusperwaffel, Milchcremefüllung, Kakaocremefüllung, and Baiser-Splitter. Mmm-mmm, Baiser-Splitter.

At $4.59, these better be some tasty hippo treats.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Anniversary of Sorts

I've been writing this blog for over four years. Which is kind of surprising. When I moved to Uganda in June of 2005, I started this blog "just for the summer."

And here I am four years later, still exercising my diarrhea of the keyboard.

It it's been four years, that means four years since a short stay in a Namibian hospital. Four years since Prince Not-So-Charming ditched in a manner consistent with his previous episodes that he'd described to me. (Note to self: When a man tells you about how he had a motorcycle accident with a girl on the back, put her in the hospital, and instantly lost interest and dumped her, RUN AWAY, no matter how many years you've been together.)

Septembers have been unpleasant since, the "Mondays of months," as a friend puts it. A year ago featured cruel insults from someone I completely trusted. Ugh.

I can't decide whether I should just lay low until the calendar turns or whether I should try to take back September and disempower its creepiness.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rainy Saturday

So I made this thing today, trying out my IKEA fabric.

And now I'm not quite sure what to do with it.

Mini-hippos provided for scale.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yancey Sees the Future

Do you guys remember when Yancey drew this card for my birthday a few years ago? He was prescient.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mac & Cheese Bakeoff

Say what?

I am so there...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

We Have A Winner

Andy of Philadelphia narrowly beat out John Bligh for the title of "Bestest Hippo/Dik-Dik Poet."

Voting was fast and furious, with strong opinions being voiced on what exactly makes the awesomest hippo haiku or dik-dik limerick.

I am overwhelmed by the great love of and respect for poetry voiced by my audience. Or at least rendered speechless.

Andy won with this:

Throat looks bottomless
Folds of fat hide your cunning

And John nearly overtook Andy with this:

I think that I shall never see
a hippo sitting in a tree
And if I did, I turn and flee
Don't want a hippo crapping on me.

Congratulations to Andy on his new purse! Okay, my assumption is that it's for Moira, but let's leave it up to him.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Use "Hippo" or "Dik-Dik" to Create a Poem, Please

Vote here (in "Comments") and often to tell me your favorite hippo or dik-dik poem. You can also vote on Facebook. I didn't put the author's names here, in interests of fair play. Vote by number.

Winner gets a cool hand bag.

I think that I shall never see
a hippo sitting in a tree
And if I did, I turn and flee
Don't want a hippo crapping on me.

Irregardless I'm no rhymer I'm a
anglophonic come from behinder just in timer
I evolved from the slime to bring you this rhyme.

Is that a HIPPO or is it a DIK-DIK?
Better take a decision real quick-quick!

One to avoid, and the other to kick-kick
An error of judgment, and you will get sick-sick!

Did you ever hear of handbag made out of hippos?
I didn't think you did and this is what I suppose:
A hippo's got a tude
A hippo's got a smile
A hippo's got jaws that open half a mile
He's fatter than your mom
but he's faster than you run
If you ever see one coming you better have a gun
Or else make like a dik-dik
And flee the predic-dicament
Or you won't be evolving into no homo sapient.

Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my.
These beasties scare us til we’re sick.
The most fearsome are the hippopotami
But the cutest is the dik-dik.

6. (haiku)
Dik Dik antelope
Too cute to kill for dinner
I would rather starve.

7. (haiku)
Throat looks bottomless
Folds of fat hide your cunning

8. (limerick)
The hippo may seem like a bore
But he's got a most deadly maw
Don't get distracted
By the dik-dik's cute antics
You'll be trampled while your saying "Awww!"

Monday, September 07, 2009

Rhyming Round!

I almost forgot! There's still time to get in your rhymes or poems about hippos, dik-diks, or both.

Get your rhyme in by midnight today to be in the running for the second-chance handbag. Send your rhymes to: marie at mariejavins dot com.

Craftsy Gals

I love Flirt, even if I blurt out stupid crap on the phone to them. Even if I decided not to get the chicken skirt.

Here is a video of the women of Flirt doing their thing. They are even making the chicken skirt! And as a bonus, while searching for this, I found out that the ex-Limelight, a church-turned-nightclub, is now becoming a mini-mall. I didn't care that a church became a nightclub, but a nightclub into a mini-mall? Sacrilege!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Marie's Hair in the 21st Century

A Japanese hair fashion magazine sent a photographer to shoot images of my hair salon last time I went in for color.

And here we are! That's me with the super-white calves and the too-long hair.

Here's a closer look. The salon my colorist has moved to kind of looks like something in Space: 1999. Back when that show was on TV, we knew that all spaceships and stations were white inside, like someone who had spent too much time at IKEA had gone into spaceship designing.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Brand New Bag

Congratulations to Susan Daigle-Leach of Arizona! She won the drawing last night.

Well, this morning. Rather than wait up and draw the name at midnight last night, I went to sleep.

I assigned each entrant a number, then used something called Random.org to generate the number "8." Which was the number I'd assigned to Susan D-L.

I'm heading to the post office soon to send off Susan's new handbag.

Thanks to everyone for participating. Even a few strangers came over from Katy Wolk-Stanley's Twitter feed or from Larry Hama's Facebook post.

The bonus round is to send in a rhyme or poem about hippos, dik-diks, or both to marie at mariejavins dot com by Monday night. We'll vote here for the best rhyme. I already have a few really excellent ones.

If you didn't win, don't worry, we'll do this again and again. It will be a long time before I have a new book to promote, so let's keep working on the old one!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Win A Bag!

I haven't written Curse of the Hippo yet. I know, I know. Big loser. By the time I write it, I'll have forgotten all about the crappy stuff that happened to me in Uganda and Namibia in 2005, and how I had to race across Africa by bus, then move to Kuwait and Cairo to get over it.

Worse, my other book Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik has slowed down on the selling front after backlisting like a champ for a few years.

So what to do? Write the new book or try to get new readers to pick up the old one? Well, both would be the smart approach. But damn that day job... where's the time to write a book?

To drive a little traffic to my last book and hope that someone who hasn't bought it already will buy it (it's really cheap on the used list), I'm going to have a little contest.

It goes like this:

1) Go to the Amazon listing for Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik.

2) Look for the answers to these questions.
A. How many pages is Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik?

B. Does the last line in the second paragraph of the product description make any sense?

C. In the product description, was Marie described as "irrepressible," "groovy," "irregardless," or "unflappable"?

3) Send the answer to me, along with your name, e-mail address, and mailing address. Send to marie at mariejavins dot com. Subject line: bag drawing.

I'll print each e-mail. I'll put them all in a sock or hat (depending on how many there are) and randomly choose one. I will force Denise or Roberta to watch so that no one suspects I'm just eating the bag and not really doing it. That person will get this handmade safari-print bag, that I made myself. I actually designed it for Tracy's trip to Botswana, but it's been so popular that I made a few more.

Enter by Friday night! That's 11:59 pm on Sept. 4, 2009. The drawing will happen on Saturday and I'll send out the prize on Tuesday morning after the holiday weekend. Shipping is free.

Depressed that you might not win? Sharpen your rhyming skills. Here's the BONUS ROUND... make a short rhyme that involved either the term HIPPO or DIK-DIK or both and send to me with the subject line: rhyme. Rhymes are due by midnight on Monday, September 7, the four-year anniversary of when I was chased by a hippo. We'll vote on them here next week!

No obscene rhymes please. Unless they are hilarious.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Stupid Things I Say Sometimes

I did something really embarrassingly stupid yesterday. So I thought I would share.

First, I fell in love with this chicken skirt:

I called the store. The chicken skirt was on their website.

"Hi. I really like that chicken skirt on your site, but I wasn't sure what size to order."

"Did you measure?"

"Yes," I explained. "But I don't fit into the categories. I appear to be a Small in waist, but, uh... according to your site I should order an XL for my hips."

"You must have measured wrong!"

"No, no... I measured right. But the thing is... I'm not an extra-large. I'm sort of normal-sized."

"Well, that doesn't make sense. If you're a size four, you couldn't be XL."

I reddened, though I was on the phone and she didn't know who I was.

"I meant normal like... size 8... so maybe I am XL... but..."

I thought for a minute and then blurted out:

"If I'm XL, what do the fat chicks do?"

There was a silence on the other end and then the woman diplomatically suggested I come in to be measured.

But I can't. I'm too mortified by what had just come out of my mouth. At least I called from work, so they couldn't see my name on their Caller ID.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Disney Buys Marvel

Note to media personnel:

All your jokes about Spider-Man and Snow White? They were a little funny at 10:30 yesterday morning. Not so funny the hundredth time, and the farther away they get from people who actually know what they're talking about, the more obvious and painful they become.

Please stop. You sound ridiculous.