Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm Just(in) Riley from the Block...

OK, first of all, I coulda swore that J-Lo used to sing "I'm just Jenny from the Bronx" until I made a bet with someone (Rebecca I think?) that I subsequently lost. In any case, I will never be *from* the Bronx, but I may soon live in the Bronx [insert shocker emoticon here]. My friend Melissa has a very nice 2-bedroom apartment that she owns and is offer to rent me the other room for a steep discount compared to what I currently pay for my studio. My lease is up in August and my landlord wants an answer soon on my renewal. Let's break it down:

  1. Melissa is an awesome cook and we cook for each other occasionally, so if we were in the same apartment it would be a pretty good setup.
  2. I can't remember the last time that I actually did something besides go back to my apartment during the week (exercise excluded). I am really a homebody during the week.
  3. I would see what it's like to live with a girl (if you didn't pick up on previous blog hints, you might consider re-reading)
  4. I would not have a lease to be bound to, meaning I could pick up and leave within a few weeks notice (again, consider re-reading previous posts). Even if I decide that living with Melissa is hell and I want to move to Billyburg in Brooklyn.
  5. Melissa doesn't mind visitors at all.
  6. Melissa is Mexi-American: Spanish language partner?!?
  7. Melissa works crazy hours for the energy company, so she's off a lot during the days and works at night, so it would only be like a part-time roommate.
  8. I need a change, I can't take the Upper East Side for much longer.
  9. This would do wonders for my street-cred and tough-guy image.
  10. There's actually a beach up there, supposedly pretty nice and [gasp] clean.
  11. Did I mention that I would save almost $1000 a month in rent/bills? Imagine the travel/gadget budget with that.
  12. She has a much bigger TV that I do, couches, Lazy-boy, and a stocked kitchen.
  13. She's the one person who is cheaper than me (besides some of the guys I work with).
  1. My commute would expand to roughly 45 minutes each way (15 minutes more than it currently is)
  2. Subway rides home at 3:00am on the rare weekends out on the town would be tough (of course I could just cab it).
  3. Getting downtown would take about an extra 1/2 hour (the 45-minute commute as it is now prevents me from going down there much anymore anyway).
  4. I wouldn't get to hang out with Andrea & Alan and Paul & Cathy (if/when they come home!)
  5. Melissa, how should I say it, likes a bit of attention
  6. Melissa has a cat that, as cats go, is chill. But, it's still a cat.
  7. Mom and pop natural food shops, restaurants, etc. are non-existent there, they will require a commute.
  8. I would be the only white guy in the zip code (not that I care much about that though).
  9. I couldn't be a snobby ass and brag about living in Manhattan (maybe this would fit better under "Benefits").
  10. Girlfriend gives me the eye-raising emoticon when I mention that I might be living with another girl (she's given me the ok, however ;o).

J. Riley, it will be interesting to go back and read this in 6-months if I do end up moving north.

Just Curious...

Just curious, why is my website so popular with people in Romania? Honestly -
it's the teeth, isn't it?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cultural Extravaganza Road Trip

Sean has recently purchased (outlandishly, of course) a new bike for running errands, touring the city, getting exercise, etc. I have considered doing the same but am having a hard time justifying the $300 purchase right now, when I can rent one for $35. Sure, after a few years it would pay off, but I am still hesitating. Anyway, we decided yesterday, despite my sore-throat-cough-and-evening exhaustion (something I caught in the hospital down south?), to do a serious road trip along the East River, going up to 125th Street, bypassing the high-security mental institution on Randall Island, crossing the Tri-Borough Bridge into Queens, then heading south through Astoria, Long Island City, into Greenpoint, into the hipster enclave of Williamburg, and then crossing the Williamsburg Bridge back into Manhattan.

We left at about noon with Sean already exhausted from the 91 block ride from the nexus of the universe to my apartment, but I was feeling fresh with my newly rented Euro-urban "step-through" (aka girl's) bike and we headed off into the great unknown that is Queens and Brooklyn. It was completely casual and a true stop-and-smell-the-roses type tour that I've wanted to do for a while. We hit up the MoMA PS1 museum, a sculpture park with people doing yoga in it, watched a children's Tae Kwan Do demonstration (or so I assumed it to be), found a Czech-Slovakian store full of goods from that part of the world (I happened to be wearing my Czech Republic soccer jersey so of course I had to stop in and practice my Czech), and finally found our way to Williamsburg in time for lunch.

We stopped into a place called Fada that looked intriguing, desperately seeking as many calories in the form of hamburger we could get in order to replenish those we had burnt. We were quickly re-directed to Teddy's Bar and Grill, which the hipster waiter promised had the best burgers around. And we proceeded to absolutely gorge on nachos, giant tasty burgers with cheese and chili, and polysaturated salty curly fries.

In a food-induced como, we rolled down to the river and found a random "State Park" with people sunbathing, reading, and playing soccer along the river. It was amazingly quiet on that side of the river and it was very refreshing. I am starting to like that area more and more, just like everyone else in the city.

We finally made it back to the madness of the LES and relaxed our exhausted bodies and watched the second half of a movie at Sean's. After the movie, it was time for me to head back uptown to get my bike back in time. Of course, at this point the sky got seriously dark and it started to rain. Perfect. I didn't really mind because I was hell-bent on beating Sean's one-hour commute uptown so I sprinted uptown as fast as I could, even when it started absolutely dumping rain. At least the river-side trail was cleared of pedestrians :o).

J. Riley, I found out when I returned my bike that my food-induced coma caused me to leave my credit card at the restaurant. I had to make a road-trip back out there today to pick it up, but this time I stopped at Fada and ate brunch with the NY Times. Yummy! :o)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Call 9-1-1 - Put Me Through to the Fashion Police!!

Today was a bad day. Not that anything in particular went wrong today, it was actually a pleasant day. But, for some reason in my haze of the early morning hours before I went to work (an hour early), I decided that I should wear charcoal grey (Firefox tells me it's supposed to be spelled "gray" - you've upgraded to the latest version, right??) pants, black belt, and my white Mexx shirt with green-dotted squiglies on it. A nice shirt, but an awful combination. And I felt awkward wearing it before I left for work because it clearly did not match. I have plenty of other freshly-pressed shirts, but I didn't change it.

And I felt like a total dork all day at work. Guess I fit in with the software developers I work with today.

J. Riley, by the way, Erika now had to deal with taking care of her mom (who returned from the hospital) and somehow working her 12+ hour days with a boss who's terrible to her at the same time with nobody else available to help. Any volunteers to go down and help out ;o) ?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My Week in the Hospital

I'm back - again! I spent some of last week down in Peru with Erika because her
mom was going to have surgery for her breast cancer. Although a plethora of
relatives visited, Erika was all on her own as the only child and was mostly
responsible for her mom and needed some support so I made the quick trip.

I spent almost the whole day, every day at the Peruvian hospital where her mom
was staying, and it was certainly interesting. My jaw surgeries were performed
(not by my choice, but the doctor's) at Mt. Sinai hospital. I found out later
that it was one of the top places in the city, and I had a pretty good
experience there. I also spent a year working in the New York City public
hospitals, so I was very curious to compare the Peruvian public hospitals with
those here in the city. It was also funny to be pretty much the only gringo in
this whole huge hospital. I got plenty of strange looks because I was much
taller than average. Erika said that the only gringos that go to these places
are actually doctors...

I found it interesting that her mom had to check in a day before the procedure
so that they could control what she ate and drank before the surgery. OK, maybe
this is something common for these surgeries, but I never heard of that before.
But the biggest shocker to me was that 1.) you have to bring your own toilet
paper to the hospitals with you, and 2.) you have to bring your own soap (which
I didn't see anybody bring) since the bathrooms don't have either one. It wasn't
even like they were always out of soap and/or toilet paper, there was not even a
spot for them in the hospital. Crazy. And needless to say there weren't Purell
dispensers on the walls inside. I can only imagine the infections that must
spread, and needless to say I wasn't eating with my hands much after that. And
thank god I didn't have to do any #2's (or is it #1?) while at the hospital. I
did leave her mom the Purell from my backpack, though they were probably
wondering why they would need to use it :) . Ryan mentioned that he went into a
cevicheria (raw fish) restaurant that had the same thing. Raw fish + no toilet
paper + no soap? No wonder I always come home sick...

My surgeries were more or less on time last year and I don't know how they work
at the public hospitals here, but Erika's mom was scheduled for surgery at
11:00am on Thursday and actually didn't go in until 3:30pm. I suppose that
could happen here. But the shocker? Another lady who was also scheduled at
11:00am was told, sorry, you have to wait until SATURDAY for your surgery. And
of course she had to stay at the hospital those extra days.

The last thing that I noticed was that the shared hospital room (she had a
neighbor) had no window shades and giant windows, so during the day you pretty
much had to wear sunglasses inside the room. I can't imagine spending a few
days after surgery in such a blinding light. I guess these are just things that
we take for granted!

In any case, supposedly Erika's mom's surgery was successful. The doctor said
that she won't need chemotherapy, but I thought that was pretty much standard
these days. Again, I don't know much about this, so maybe I'm totally off-base.
I also know that they are going to do a biopsy (or did a biopsy?) on her lymph
node near the breast with the tumor. Exact details on this were lost in
translation so there are still some question marks. Her mom was having allergic
reactions to something while recovering, giving her rashes on her skin, and was
having stomach problems but otherwise I think she is doing okay. She certainly
enjoyed the company. There were so many cousins, brothers, sisters,
cousin-in-laws, and other distant relatives coming through, it was really
great. I also got to speak a bit of Spanish that I've been learning, though I
still have crazy nervousness whenever I start to say something. I need to study

Outside of the time at the hospital, Erika and I spent time enjoying the amazing
cuisine or Peru, described by some as the best cuisine in the world. Who knew
that there were so many sauces, beans, and multi-ethnic treats? I ate "chifa"
on the first day, which is Chinese food but tt's about as Chinese as our
Chinese food! One funny thing was that I wanted to eat hot & sour soup. Their
equivalent is "hot & acidic" soup, doesn't quite have the same ring to it. I
guess it was somewhat similar, but the "sour" of the American style was
replaced with the "sour" (and acid!) of limes. Overwhelming lime taste!

In addition to the awesome, standard pollo a la brasa (roasted chicken), ceviche
(raw fish "cooked" by mixing it with lime juice), and amazing arroz con pollo
(rice and chicken with crazy chimichurri-type herbs), I also ate quinoa con
maca and leche, which is like a hot cereal served by a street vendor near the
hospital. Interestingly, maca is supposedly like a natural aphrodisiac from the
Incas, no wonder Erika took me there every day ;o).

All-in-all, it was a pretty good and successful trip, mostly because I was with
Erika the whole time. We are in perfect harmony when we are together, it's
actually quite amazing. Her and her family live a very simple life which I
realized even more when we went to her house and I saw their sleeping quarters
and watched (since I am useless in this case ;o) her wash her mom's pajamas -
outside in the sink where clothes and dishes are washed. We've started talking
about the possibilities for the future and spending more time together. I'm not
sure how that's going to happen, but this is J. Riley we're talking about, I'm
open-minded to a number of possibilities!

J. Riley, oh and we did go to a Latin disco with her friend and her boyfriend my
last night there which was of course amazing!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Running: The Aftermath

So I am finally feeling the ill effects from running distances (though nothing major) on concrete. I think I'm getting shin splints because the area around my shins are killing me. I stopped running for a week because of this and now am pretty much planning on just running sprints on the spongy astro-turf at this park near me, which sucks because the security guard there is a pain in the ass. A few weeks back he kicked me out because I was walking on the outskirts of the field (which is a running track) because there were soccer teams who were going to be playing. Uhhh....I'm not exactly using the field. Yesterday, he tried to pull that again and I said (referring to the sub-10 year old children practicing) that it didn't look like they were playing and proceeded to go past him and started my sprints. After about 15 minutes, he said "ok, that's enough", even though half the field was still unoccupied and I was completely out of the way of the practice. I talked with the guy for about 10 minutes, trying to logically reason with him. He clearly just didn't want ME there. There was a dad playing with his kid on the field, but there was no problem with him. Just with me, running on the side of fields. Finally I said that I was only going to be there another 10 minutes, I'm going to the middle of the field where there was no one. He said something like "well if the parents complain, you're going to have to leave". Like a parent is going to complain about somebody using a completely unoccupied part of the field. Well, then again, this is New York.

Did I mention that I'm in Peru? I didn't think so. Erika's mother was suddenly scheduled for surgery tomorrow, 6/6, so I booked a (unreasonably cheap) direct flight down here and thanks to my boss for his understanding and flexibility in allowing me to work from here. Not that he reads my blog (or knows that it exists ;o). So, I'm here, working from my youth hostel (or their neighbors') wireless internet connection!

J. Riley, I don't really classify this as a "vacation" trip, but I'll label it as such anyway.