Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ah... New York!

September 30, 2008

Every time I step outside it's a new experience. That's just one of the things I love about NYC - so many people, so many different lives, so much activity always happening.

This afternoon I decided to go for a walk. The weather was finally gorgeous here (read: no humidity). Sunny, dry, upper 60's/low 70's. My favorite weather.

I was walking across the familiar stone surface of Cadman Plaza, approaching a pod of pigeons near the statue at the north end of the park, when suddenly a large brown rat darted across the ground directly ahead of me, headed straight for the city trash can just off to my right. Usually they only come out at night on the plaza.

A young woman headed toward me had that wide-eyed look on her face when she saw the rat. I laughed and said to her, "That's one bold rat - in broad daylight, no less!" She winced in agreement, exclaiming, "I thought it was a cat!" as she rushed passed me. I laughed so hard - the rats are big here in Brooklyn, but not that big! Too funny.

I turned to see the rat's rear end poking out of the bottom of the slatted trash can container as I continued on my walk. It occurred to me later that I definitely belong in New York if the sight of a rat sharing the walkway with pedestrians doesn't even faze me.

A funny thing happened in Central Park yesterday, where I went to do my first full jog around the Jackie O. reservoir. (Woo-hoo - I did it! 1.58 miles.) Wearing an oversized Mariners t-shirt and short, baby blue cotton "biker pants," I was walking briskly up the east path from 60th Street toward the reservoir when I passed a nice couple walking in the same direction. The dad had his young toddler son perched atop his shoulders. About 20 feet past them I thought I heard the kid say something about someone "wearing her underwear outside." I looked down at my thigh-length leggings and suddenly realized the kid must be talking about me.

Then I heard it again, "She's wearing her underwear outside!" Then I knew the kid meant me. I turned around to see the mom's face had turned beet red as the mortified father tried to shield his son's face with some colorful object in an effort to shush him. I was laughing and told them, "I've never been accused of that before!"

Not long before that, on the same path, and older lady wearing a long rain coat and hat (and other winter attire) was walking ahead of me, ranting and raving very loudly about something. I noticed that she was following a tall, white-haired gentleman who was walking hand-in-hand with a young child. The man was smoking a cigarette.

As I got closer I heard what the rant was about. The woman was carrying on antagonistically about "filthy, f---ing cigarettes" and how they cause "f---ing tuberculosis" and other maladies and pollution. She was just going on non-stop like a lunatic. (She was obviously a tad touched.) Granted, I agree with her that it's a filthy habit and I wish people didn't smoke in public--(yes, I'm an ex-smoker, forgive me for the times I did that) . . . but I still felt sorry for the old guy who was just minding his own business, taking a Sunday stroll through the park with his grandson.

He ignored her and kept walking at the same casual pace, despite her rants becoming louder and more animated. I walked right past her, wanting to tell her to watch her language around all these kids, but I knew it would be a fruitless effort.

And that's what New Yorkers do. We've seen and heard it all. And so we just keep on walking. . . .

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bodies: The Exhibition

September 27, 2008

Today I braved the rain and severe humidity to go over to Fulton Street Market in the City to see "Bodies: The Exhibition." It is absolutely amazing.

If you haven't seen this show and it comes to your town, I highly recommend it. Currently, in the U.S., it's showing in Vegas, NYC, Indianapolis, and Honolulu. This exhibit contains displays of real human cadavers, dissected in numerous ways to show the inner workings of the human body.

The bodies come from a medical university in China. It is truly facinating how people managed to remove, for example, all of the tissue surrounding the entire circulatory system and preserve that incredibly complex mesh of veins and arteries in its original form. How on earth did they do that? In another part of the show, the entire central nervous system is laid out on a table.

Very impressive. When I inquired the amount of time it would take to do such work, I found out that the show was 10 years in the making.

There were several organ samples showing various diseases (cancer, Parkinson's, etc.), and some cross-sections of the brain of a stroke victim. I couldn't believe how black the smoker's lungs were. Nearby was a huge, enclosed clear acrylic container full of partially used cigarette packs. There was a slot cut out in the top for patrons to toss their cigarettes after seeing the condition of those lungs.

I saw an aneurism, a peptic ulcer, hardened arteries, gallstones, cancer of the larynx, skin melanoma, advanced breast cancer, lung cancer, diverticulosis, intestinal polyps, an ovarian cyst, cirrhosis of the liver, a real pair of conjoined twin fetuses, an ectopic pregnancy, and much more. Nothing short of fascinating. I held a real human liver in my hand, along with a brain, a muscle, and a shin bone. Oh, and the the multiple vertical cross sections of an overweight woman was enough to make me (briefly) consider never eating again.

There's a video about the processes behind Bodies on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqKvYUO7C7w, which actually takes you to one of the Chinese "body factories" and describes the preservation process, called plastination. In this video you will see medical students dissecting cadavers and placing them in "playful" positions for the exhibit.

Apparently this is a big business in China. Another video takes you inside the actual exhibit, narrated by a forensic pathologist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kJmypE1DGQ.

That's it. Time for dinner!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Still Loving New York

September 26, 2008

It's finally fall. There are only three things I don't like about NYC - the humidity, the subway platforms in the summer, and spit on the sidewalk. The rest is great. I'll be glad when the humidity subsides completely.

This evening I went for a walk in Brooklyn. I had planned on doing my usual walking around the Heights and returning home. But I walked toward DUMBO instead.

As I headed down the cobblestone streets of DUMBO (the artsy area of Brooklyn that lies down under the Manhattan bridge overpass), I came across a huge book/art show in a large warehouse-type building lined with windows on Water Street. It was all lit up, with music blaring, and full of people looking at the exhibits and tables piled with wonderful books - many about New York. As I wandered from table to table, I kept wondering if I somehow had snuck in without paying admission. How could this be free?

I didn't know what the event was until I stepped back outside and saw some "Art Under the Bridge Festival" signs. Turns out the whole event is free. After gazing at the beautiful lit-up Manhattan bridge above the cobblestone streets for a few minutes, feeling grateful for my life in New York, I walked across the street. Soon I found myself inside another show at the festival. I stepped into a big, old, dark loft space with mortar walls set up with three huge video screens, a bar, and lots of large round benches facing the screens.

It too was packed with people, some eating and drinking, the screens showing video interviews of New Yorkers on the street. One question posed was "Do you make enough money to live in New York?" I smiled as most responders answered in the negative, except for a doctor and a handful of others. It was interesting. A server was handing out those paper 3-D glasses, but I didn't stay to see what was next (it was too hot in there for me).

When I checked the Web at home, I found out I'd come upon video_dumbo.

When I left there, it had started to drizzle. I walked to the Brooklyn Bridge. The famous Brooklyn Bridge Ice Cream Factory, for once, had no line out the door. I'd never seen it like that in all the dozens of times I'd passed by it. Since it was on my list of things to do, I finally stopped in tonight and bought a chocolate chocolate chunk cone.

Walking home in the rain from there, I stopped to pet a dog tied up outside a grocery store on Henry Street while its owners shopped inside. And all I could think about is how much I love NY and wouldn't want to leave. Unfortunately, due to a recent unexpected change in my job status on Wall Street, I might be forced to go elsewhere to find work.

It's been a crappy year for Wall Street. I'll never forget the words of one of my two British bosses several months ago, "You couldn't have picked a worse year to join financial services." (Real motivating, eh?)

Yet it's true and is the story of my life. It's just like me trying to do something simple like have LASIK surgery - these life changes just never seem to go right for me. The only right thing about taking the job on Wall Street was that it put me back in my favorite city and allowed me to meet some wonderful people (bossholes excluded).

When I gazed at the two bridges I so love earlier tonight, it almost brought tears to my eyes. It's a sight I always enjoy and will miss dearly if I'm forced to leave. If I do go, I'm going to have to move to another major metropolitan city and visit New York frequently.

Maybe I'll go back to my second favorite city in the U.S. - Seattle. We shall see.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Did It!

Today was the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Central Park. I completed the 5K run/walk in about 41 minutes. I know what you're thinking - "She's really slow!" Actually, for me that was excellent time, as I am not a runner.

I managed to run from the starting gate past the first mile marker. I kept pushing myself and almost made it to the second mile before slowing down to a walk. Just that 1.75+ miles was an amazing feat for me, being the non-runner that I am. And I was really pushing myself! Thank goodness for the volunteers along the sideline cheering us on.

This was a neat event. There were over 30,000 people there, but I started right near the front of the pack and ran right past the little stage where Judge Judy and Stephen Colbert sat. It was also pretty neat to see Cynthia Nixon in person (many people know her as Miranda from Sex & the City - I couldn't get over how long her hair is today). She was there with her mom and kids, and even she ran in the race. Both she and her mom are breast cancer survivors.

I was walking down 14th Street on my way home today, switching from the 1 train to the R (because the trains were messed up as usual on the weekend), when a woman walking toward me turned as she passed me and said with a smile, "Great job at the race today!" I guess I didn't realize until then just what a huge event this is.

I want to do it again next year! Thank you, everyone, for all of your donations. The support I received from friends, co-workers, and family exceeded my expectations by hundreds of dollars.

Thanks again!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Good Cause

September 6, 2008

Next Sunday (September 14) is the Komen New York City Race for the Cure®. It's a 5K run/walk that takes place in Central Park. I've signed up and am ecstatic about the amount of money my friends and co-workers have pledged. Thank you, everyone, for your outpouring of support! I've had to raise my goal several times. I ended up targeting $1,500 and, thanks to the generosity of many people, I have managed to surpass that goal! I can continue to collect donations through October 31. Who knows - maybe I'll surpass $2,000.

The cool thing about the Susan G. Komen foundation is that 85% of every dollar donated goes to the worthy cause of finding a cure for breast cancer. Since its inception over a quarter century ago, the foundation has invested over $1 billion in breast cancer research, and is the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.

This year alone, Komen will invest $100 million in research grants, representing the largest single-year investment in research in the organization’s 26-year history. The 2008 grants move Komen closer to accomplishing its goal of investing another $2 billion in breast cancer research and community health programs by 2017.

Remember, one in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer. Early detection is saving more and more lives every year. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2006, when she was 72 years old. She underwent a lumpectomy the following January, followed by several months of chemo and radiation treatments.

Today she is a healthy, happy woman enjoying her golden years with my dad in northern Georgia. She frequently visits with her young granddaughters from Atlanta, swims several times a week, and still cooks the world's most fabulous meals for her family.

My mom's 80-year-old older sister Geraldine was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and underwent a mastectomy. She too is a survivor. Help continue the fight! Thanks to Nancy Brinker and organizations like the Komen foundation that Nancy kicked off in honor of her sister Susan G. Komen, we can beat this thing. To see where your money goes, go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation web site.

For anyone interested in helping me run breast cancer out of town, please donate here.

Thank you so much for your support, and please pray for Nadine, the wife of one of my employees, who underwent a double mastectomy on Monday.