Monthly Archives: March 2008

A good reminder

Let Peace Prevail
A couple of days ago, my mom sent an email to my dad, my sister and me that said, “What the 18 minute video when you have time, it’s worth it.” This afternoon, as I was cleaning out my inbox, I came across her email again, and decided to check it out. The link took me here, to the video of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk at TED about the experience she had when she, a brain scientist, experienced her own brain hemorrhage and stroke.

The entire video was fascinating, but the thing that has stuck with me the most is the understanding she took away from the experience that we are beings that are made up of energy and that if we could just spend a little more time in our right brains, the place where we’re able to experience the peace and connectedness of this universal energy, that we might be able to make the world a more peaceful and joyful place to be.

I was flipping through pictures on my computer just a little while ago and came across the one you see here. Several years ago, the Portland streets department needed to dig up the sewer on their block and so they ended up getting the mouth of their driveway re-paved. When the curb was still wet, they ran out with a couple of chopsticks and wrote “Let Peace Prevail” into the hardening cement (my father has also written a song with that phrase as its name). The next time I came to visit, I took some pictures of those words.

Re-discovering those image today, after watching that talk and also knowing that today people all across the world are trying to do a little something for the planet by turning their lights off for Earth Hour, seemed somehow serendipitously connected.

It's really official. I have a masters degree

I ran home during lunch today, and waiting for me at the front desk of my building was a large, flat package.  Seeing Bud bring it to the counter, my brain raced, trying to figure out what it was.  A very wide, thin book?  Something Scott ordered?  As soon as I caught the return address, I knew.

My grad school diploma.


It’s pretty neat to have my hands on it, and it’s enormous.  I have no clue what I’m going to do with it, as I’m not really the type to frame these things and hang it on the wall.  But it’s quite fun, nonetheless.

Good things do happen

Since Scott and I started the process of moving in together, we’ve generated something in the neighborhood of 25 bags of stuff that we no longer needed, wanted or had room for. A lot of it has been mine, as I’ve worked to make room for his stuff among the 42 years of accrued family stuff that can still be found in the corners and closets of the apartment. I love getting rid of stuff, as having more space on shelves and in closets is amazingly liberating. However, in the pasts one of the challenges I’ve encountered when getting rid of stuff is that once I’ve bagged it up, it takes me a long time to actually get it to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

There’s a little Jewish charity shop across the street from my parking garage called the Ort Resale Shop. It’s been there for years and continues to remain, even though the rest of the block has started to improve slightly. It’s run by volunteers and raises money for Ort’s educational programs. They have fairly short hours, open from 10 am until 5 pm on weekdays, so in the past when I’ve worked, it’s been hard to take stuff to them. However, now that I’m working a block and a half from home, I can easily take a load or two to Ort. And so I’ve taken bag after bag of clothes, kitchen supplies, books, CDs and other random stuff over there in the last three weeks.

We managed to come up with another eight bags of stuff neither of us wanted over the weekend and by Monday morning I was itching to get it out of the apartment. When lunchtime came, I ran home and loaded up my black metal shopping cart and wheeled over. They’ve started to recognize me from my repeated visits and so when I maneuvered inside the store, the man and woman who were working greeted me like I was an old friend.

As I unloaded, the woman asked me, “Honey, why are you getting rid of so much stuff? Are you moving?”

I explained that my boyfriend and I were moving in together and that in order to make it all fit, a few things had to go.

She nodded understandingly and said, “I understand, try before you buy. My generation, we didn’t do that and we all got divorced.”

She repeated, “try before you buy” a couple of times and then the man said, “Aren’t those the greatest?” He was pointing at my shopping cart.

“They are really very handy, especially when you live in Center City,” I agreed.

“Mine broke recently. I was coming home from the Acme and the wheels just feel right off. I had to hail a cab in order to get my groceries home.” He said this and looked utterly dejected, as if he was reliving the experience of having his weekly shopping stuck on the curb with no way to make it budge.

My cart was empty by this point in the conversation. It just happens that I currently have two identical shopping carts, as a friend recently gave me one that she no longer needed.

“Why don’t you take this one? I have another.”

His eyes widened and he said, “Are you serious?”


The woman, who had been watching this scene play out, turned to him and said, “You see Harry, good things do happen. After all the shit you go through, occasionally good things do happen.”

Then she looked at me and said, “Dear, you just made his day.”

Harry looked like he was ready to cry as I handed the shopping cart over to him.

I said, “It’s a little squeaky, I’ve been meaning to give it a squirt of WD-40 for about three years now, but I’ve never managed to get around to it.”

He waved my comment away and said, “I’ll take care of it. Thank you so much.”

He tried to give me something from the store in return, offering to let me take a CD or two for being so generous (I declined the offer, mostly because I was fairly certain that I had donated the entirety of their CD collection). As I left the store, I could hear her continuing to say, “See Harry, good things do happen.”

Mornings and passing acquaintances

There is an elderly woman in my apartment building who is always sitting by the back door when I leave for work in the mornings.  I’ve known her since I moved into the building, although I don’t actually know her name.  Six years ago, when we first started chatting in the elevator, she got around with the help of a cane, but was independent and strong.  You could tell that she was a powerful person, but one of such cheerful spirits that you could tell that she was the type that other people used for support and ballast.

In the intervening years, I’ve watched as she has gone from cane, to walker, to walker with a seat (living in a building with a high percentage of elderly people has been an education in their walking accessories) and now finally to a wheel chair.  She now always has an aide with her and seems to have shrunk quite visibly.  However, she is still exuberant and just this morning said to me as I was walking past, “Button up that overcoat dearie, it’s cold out there this morning.”  I smiled and said I would (even thought I was already all zipped up in my winter coat).

Quick Fork: Evil Eggs

Sunday is Easter, so in honor of that holiday, we’ve made up a batch of deviled eggs. These are so simple that you don’t really need a recipe (but you can find one here if you so desire). So make sure to take a few of your leftover Easter eggs and devil them (same goes for your leftover Passover eggs in a few weeks).

More greats than is easy to count

wedding invitation

Friday night, when we picked up the desk, I also acquired a couple of boxes of family pictures, letters, keepsakes and other paper. My cousin Lisa took me over to a trunk of letters and told me to take several handfuls. I dipped my hand in four times and on the last reach, pulled out an old stationary box from the John Wanamaker Department Store.

When we got home, I opened up that box and in it I found old postcards, Christmas cards and a small envelope containing the invitation to my great-great-grandparents wedding in 1886. In addition to its age, this invitation is particularly special because the wedding was here in Philadelphia. The ceremony was held at the Grace M.E. Church at Broad and Master Streets and the reception was at 1400 N. 16th Street, just a few blocks from the church. That neighborhood is now essentially part of the Temple campus and is sort of rough. My mind keeps reaching back, hoping to be able to imagine what it must have been like on the day they got married.

The final card in the packet, and the one that has given me the most delight, is the one labeled “At Home.” It indicates that the newly married couple lived at 1738 Green Street in Philadelphia. This is across the street from where my friend Georgia lives today and just a couple of blocks from where my cousin Harlan lived while he was in medical school. The idea that I’ve unknowingly walked the same blocks that my great-great-grandparents did thrills me in a way I find hard to articulate but enjoy deeply.

The best friends ever

Thad and Angie taking the desk apart
It’s been a hugely busy weekend, in which Scott and I rented a Philly Car Share truck, filmed a live episode of Fork You Live down at Foster’s Homeware, braved the St. Patrick’s Day crowds, watched a crappy movie, had lunch at Di Brunos, grocery shopped, had dinner with Roz at Plaza Garibaldi and came one step closer to integrating our stuff into a single apartment.

However, this post really isn’t about any of that, it’s about how Thad and Angie are some of the most fantastic friends ever.  After Fork You Live on Saturday, they came over to help us figure out how to get a very heavy, 100 year old+ desk that is 35 inches wide through a door frame that is 29 inches wide. We went through four screwdrivers, two hammers, nearly a roll of paper towels (it was quite dirty) and moved several pieces of furniture, but the desk now happily rests in the den.  Thanks guys!

The merging of books

Living Room I
There’s been a lot of rearranging going on around these parts of late, what with the whole cohabitation thing stirring up the order and arrangement of stuff. Last Sunday, Scott and I moved twelve boxes of books from his place to mine (we moved three boxes several weeks ago). They’ve been sitting in stacks in the living room since last weekend, waiting for us to do something with them.

I started moving things around last night, in an attempt to make some room, as well as cull a few books from my collection and I finished the process of making space tonight. Somehow (I credit my superior organizational skills) we managed to find homes for all of his books on the existing shelves (I did get rid of two overflowing bags of books in the process and I packed up most of my CDs, because really, I rarely use them anymore since the advent of the iPod).

The end of this merging process is actually in sight, which is a huge relief (I like it when things are settled, organized and put away. I realize that the nature of life is always in opposition to this desire of mine, but I still fight against entropy on a daily basis). He has to be out of his place by the end of the month, so the next few weekends will be devoted packing, moving, cleaning and discarding. I have to admit that I’m hoping for a spring and summer of simple routine and ease. A girl can hope.

Hey, if you want to see the rest of the overpacked bookshelves in the apartment, here you go. Living room, entry way, den, bedroom and bedroom.

Bits and pieces

prepping for a TUAW talkcast

Finally, a good use for my antique wooden spool. It’s the perfect height to serve as a microphone stand. If you’re wondering what’s happening in this picture, Scott’s about to participate in a TUAW Talkcast. Very exciting.

In other news, I’m into the third week of the new job and the schedule has suddenly started to kick my ass. I also think that losing the hour early Sunday morning has something to do with my difficulty to pry myself out of bed this morning. However, the good news is that the new vacuum arrived today (although I was too darn tired to do anything with it tonight). It is pretty and totally sucks.

The death of a vacuum cleaner

Scott trying to fix the vacuum

As with many things I own, my vacuum came with my apartment. My grandfather bought it at the hardware store that used to be around the corner (it moved into a storefront across the street from my building about two years ago). I remember using it to erase the marks that a rented hospital bed had made in the bedroom carpet after my grandmother died and I have spent quality time with in on my hands and knees, reaching for the dust in corners and out from behind doors.

The first year the vacuum became mine, it stopped working. The motor turned on and the headlight shined bright, but it did not suck. And, in opposition to most things in life, when it comes to vacuums, it is actually better that they suck. There was a vacuum and sewing machine repair shop near my office, and so one morning, set out with the vacuum cleaner in tow. I got a series of strange looks from the people I passed as I walked my vacuum down Chestnut Street and into my office building. It sat with me in my cube until lunch time, when I walked it over to the repair shop. Several days later, I picked it back up, good as new.  It worked for a while, until the belt that the I had paid $19.75 to have replaced burnt through.  I was actually able to fix it on my own, and it sucked happily until last month.

Towards the beginning of February, I was cleaning up and pulled out my trusty vacuum cleaner.  Plugging it in and starting it up, almost immediately the room filled with a burning smell and the vacuum started making a sound that was out of its natural range.  I turned it off and tucked it away in the hall closet, thinking that I would deal with it later.

Tonight, Scott and I took it apart and attempted to install a new belt, thinking that that would solve the problem.  It worked for about 30 seconds before burning through the fresh belt and grinding to a halt.   My run with this trusty bagged vacuum has come to an end.  I feel slightly guilty getting rid of it, not only because my grandfather bought it, but also it feels environmentally unsound to throw it away and get another.  However, my vacuum repair store is no longer and my need to remove all the media stand packaging on the floor is starting to overwhelm me.  The new vacuum will be here on Tuesday.  I can’t wait.