Finding my inner fish


This year I’m trying something new for my off-season time. Rather than do a less structured version of my swim/bike/run training, I’ve decided to pick one of the sports and just focus on that for a little while. So, starting next week, I’m going to focus on swimming. For the next six weeks, I’m going to aim to swim at least five times per week. I have some mini goals within there (learning a flip turn, for example… ) but the primary aim is to just get more time in the water which will hopefully result in being faster and swimming with better form.

This week was sort of a prep for the formal challenge and I actually ended up swimming four days in a row. I’m only swimming for 30-40 minutes in these sessions, but it’s been pretty good so far. I like the simplicity of just thinking about one sport, especially since it’s the sport I enjoy the most of the three. I’ll post periodic updates on my progress, just to keep my accountability up. Hopefully, this all will lead to some better swim times in my races next year. (It can’t hurt!)

Playing catch up


Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Things have been busy with the new job, but I’m slowly settling into a routine. I love the new gig. It’s awesome to have other designers to work with and it’s cool working downtown. My new commute is great – instead of yelling at terrible Seattle driving for 20 minutes, I get on a bus and play Angry Birds while listening to music for the same 20 minutes, followed by a one block walk to my office. It’s pretty sweet.

And here’s a nice pic of the market that I took after work one day:

Other than that, things are pretty quiet around the old homestead. Fall is in full swing, complete with leaves changing and a chill in the air. J & M were out of town last week and while we were in their neighborhood feeding their kitties, we saw this house with super awesome Halloween decorations. (I actually stopped the car in the middle of the street to take these photos.)

I like that they look like scary Ents (for the Tolkien aficionados out there… ) Happy Halloween everyone!

Retail insanity


It’s good to be home again and while I love many things about New York, I am glad I no longer live there. For quality of life, it’s pretty hard to beat Seattle, especially on a sunny fall day. M called me to see if I wanted to go out and run some errands with her, which sounded like the perfect low-key activity to me. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t blog about a trip to Target (even I have limits to the mundane depths to which I’ll stoop… ) but while we were there, I had to photograph a few particularly hilarious pieces of merchandise.

First up was the women’s footie pajamas:

Yes, that’s right. Footie pajamas for adult women. Hot…

Then we walked past the pet aisle to see this:

Yes, it’s a hairdryer designed for pets. What exactly is the difference between a pet hairdryer and a human one? About ten bucks, I’d say… Seriously, what is this world coming to?

I heart New York


The rest of my family was leaving today, but since our flight left early enough to be a pain in the ass, I’d scheduled an extra day in the city for T & I. I’d booked a hotel through Priceline and scored a 4-star Sheraton in Times Square for half the typical price. When we planned all of this, I was excited to have a day in the city with T. But the emotional toll the wedding had taken had me feeling like crap. As I sat at breakfast with my brother, Nerissa and my mom, I wished I was going home. But after a little tearful venting to T at the train station while we waited for our train into the city, I started to feel a little better. By the time we were walking to our hotel, I was actually glad we had this extra day (despite the fact that I HATE Times Square.)

We were able to check into our hotel right away, which was awesome. We took a few minutes to chill in our closet, I mean room:

It was funny to be staying in a hotel in New York. We lived in Brooklyn for four and a half years and prior to that I’d stay with my friend Heidi in upper Manhattan, so we’d never had occasion to stay in a hotel. It was funny to be on the 36th floor and still have this be your view:

Because we’d had Saturday to do some of the things on our list, we were able to be a little more leisurely today. We walked down to Bryant Park to check out a new building on the skyline (the Bank of America tower) and catch the subway downtown. There was a new ping-pong table section in Bryant Park:

And because it was nice out, there were tons of people enjoying the park:

We then headed down to the subway. I couldn’t resist capturing a few shots for old time’s sake:

We grabbed a couple of slices downtown and I saw this cool old bicycle mural across the street that begged for a photograph:

We had a nice day wandering around, checking out a few shops that we missed or that were new since we’d moved away. (The Muji store was particularly cool. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in NYC.) We went back to our hotel room for a little rest and then wandered up into Central Park and the Upper West Side:

Since we were nearby, we had to pop into Zabars for some black and white cookies:

On the way back to the subway, we passed by this obnoxiously high-end dog boutique:

We were planning to go to our favorite sushi place for dinner. It had a new location since we’d last been there, but the food was just as good:

After dinner, we decided to check out the Brooklyn Bridge at night, since we’d never done so before. (Plus it gave us something to do before getting dessert at a favorite rice pudding place.) There was a huge number of tourists also on the bridge, so we didn’t have to worry about getting mugged, ha-ha! It had clouded over significantly and as we walked, we started to feel random drops of rain. As we turned around, there was a huge lightning flash over the city so we paused under the bridge support to watch the storm. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a photo of the lightning, but it was still pretty out:

We hustled to the subway before the rain got worse. It wasn’t too bad getting there, but by the time we emerged from the other side it was pouring. Luckily, we only had to go two blocks and there were plenty of awnings. We picked up our dessert to go and headed for our hotel. I was hoping that the rain would abate while we headed home, but when we got off the subway again it was even worse. Standing under some scaffolding, it looked like a hurricane. There were huge sheets of rain coming down accompanied by a gale-force wind. It was insane. We were three blocks away from our hotel and there was no way this was stopping any time soon, so we had to make a run for it.

Within minutes, both of us were completely soaked. My contact actually washed out of my eye from all of the water that hit my face. So, I was running with one eye closed and behind me I could hear T laughing his head off, which made me laugh. (It’s really hard to run when you’re laughing.) People were huddling under awnings and scaffolding and as we ran by they either cheered or looked at us like we were nuts. (Not a tough argument.) By the time we made it back to the hotel, we looked like we’d gone swimming fully dressed, it was completely nuts.

But after wringing out our clothing and a hot bath, we got to watch a new episode of Dexter while eating rice pudding in the king-size bed. (Is it sad that this is the pinnacle of indulgence to me? Probably… ) I fell asleep to crazy lightning flashes only to be awoken at 2:30 in the morning to T calling the front desk to report someone in the hall way banging on doors. I couldn’t hear what was going on, but according to T some crazy drunken dude was banging on doors and telling security his name was Shawn Burton and he had a ticket to this hotel. After all of the crazy things we’d wake up to when we lived there, it was the perfect farewell from New York City.

Wedding day


The big day started early, as we needed to be at the wedding site at 10:00 am for pictures. The four of us sharing a room had to coordinate showers and what-not, but we managed to get gussied up quickly enough to stop at a Starbucks en route:

Doesn’t everyone look nice? The wedding was taking place at George Washington manor in Roslyn, NY. It’s a historic old house that George Washington stayed in during the siege of Long Island or some such. It’s basically a gorgeous old mansion that’s humongous. We got there at the same time as Paul and his family. Nerissa and I went downstairs to say hi to my sister and mom, who’d been there since 7. Here’s the Hipstamatic take on the preparations:

Then we headed back upstairs to wander around the reception area to take some pictures while it was still quiet. Here’s the couple’s table:

The bird cage for guests to stick their cards/gifts in an envelope. (I’d never heard of this tradition… )

And one of the many portraits of George that graced the mansion:

And while we waited for pictures to begin, we took some of each other:

While I was taking the above pic, Nerissa got this one of me:

Erik, me and my mom:

Hipstamatic cuteness:

My family with Paul’s step-dad, Lee:

The groom joined the festivities (my mom made his tie and cummerbund) Here he is with my Uncle Bob & Aunt Sue:

Eventually, my came out and the official pictures got underway. She and Paul went across the street to be photographed next to the historic clock tower and Nerissa got this great shot of their reflection in the movie theatre across the street:

Here’s the happy couple conferring with the photographer:

After our pictures were finished, it was time to head in for the ceremony. The service was being performed by a Catholic priest who was a friend of the family (and a Florida weatherman – no joke!) Every single member of Paul’s family went up and had their picture taken with him. Here he is chatting with Paul:

Before we knew it, it was time for the ceremony to start:

Nerissa got this great shot:

The ceremony was really good. The priest had a great sense of humor, but interwove it with readings from the bible and the more traditional elements of vows and whatnot. Afterward, there was a receiving line where my sister gave the most impersonal hug imaginable and didn’t even really look at me. (Naturally, this really hurt my feelings and it’s probably not good that I was near an open bar. Let’s just say there were some vodka cranberries, followed by some wine, followed by some champagne.) T was tasked with keeping me from drinking so much that I made a spectacle of myself and he did a very good job.

Nerissa got this great shot of the big entrance:

There was tons of great food, the aforementioned drinks and the obligatory mixed bag of reception music. Nerissa got this awesome shot that really captured the spirit of the reception:

There was so much bad dancing. I got some awesomely blurry shots of the conga line. (Yes, conga line!)

(Since my dad couldn’t make it, my uncle was really great about making sure my mom had a good time. He danced with her, made sure she had a good spot to watch the first dance, etc. I really appreciated him doing this.)

I got this great shot of my mom:

And another funny one of my brother:

The reception wound down and it was the perfect amount of time. Or rather, it would have been had there not been a second reception scheduled at the Elks Club. (Sigh.) When we got to the Elks club we saw these parking spaces that were the perfect photo op. T got his proper place confused and had to be corrected:

But then it was all good:

The space where our reception was held was no where near as… um… interesting as the upstairs reception:

My sister got a quick photo op with the giant stuffed unicorn:

After some more food (but no more alcohol) and some more of my sister ignoring me, it was finally time to go home. We said our farewells and headed back to our hotel for a little quiet time. It had been a long day and I was feeling a little raw emotionally. But even though my sister’s actions definitely hurt my feelings, it was nice to see her with someone that was making her happy and being welcomed by his family with open arms. Whatever happens between my sister and me, I truly wish them all the best.

Sister act


Before I write about my sister’s wedding, I feel like I should fill in a little background info. (Naturally, this is all from my perspective – I know my siblings would all tell very different versions.) I’m the oldest of four children. My brother Erik (the tall one who makes occasional appearances on this blog) is three years younger than me, then there’s a four year gap between him and my sister. My youngest brother is about a year and a half younger than my sister. So, there was sort of a pairing off of older kids and younger kids and I’ve always been closer to Erik than to my younger two siblings. Over the years, my sister and I have always had a complex relationship.

There are times when we are close and we’ve even lived near each other (in Brooklyn, she lived three blocks away.) Usually, we wouldn’t really talk on the phone too often, but when we got together we’d jabber at each other and have a great time hanging out. I spent three weeks staying with her in San Diego while doing a theatre job and it was so much fun.

But in that way of sisters there have always been dynamics that run through our relationship that date back to when she was a baby. I always feel like there are hidden grievances and buried hurt feelings that are going to rear their head at any moment. (This is because there have been a number of conversations where she airs said grievances that usually happened years prior… ) I also feel like I always have to put forth the effort in the relationship and reach out. This got hard on my when we lived in Brooklyn, as I saw my sister almost every day, usually several times a day. It always seemed like I was listening to her problems and issues, but she never listened to mine.

I left the city as my sister was starting the process of divorcing her husband and dating her former martial arts instructor. I knew my sister was having a rough time and tried to support her as best I could, but I was having a hard time myself. T had gotten laid off and I was devastated to be leaving New York, but knew T was not happy there. (He’s moved all over the country for me, so leaving for him was a no-brainer.) So, it was an emotionally tumultuous time to be sure and I decided that if we were going to have any kind of relationship, there was going to have to be some give and take.

After we left, I know my sister’s life has been tough. Without airing her business on the internet, she’s been through a lot of upheaval. But at the same time, I was dealing with some rough patches of my own. I was miserable in Portland and really missed New York. I was lonely and depressed. It seems like things fell into an emotional detente – I didn’t have anything to offer her, I was too busy dealing with my own stuff. We went out to visit in 2007, just as she was breaking up with the martial arts guy (Awkward!) but we had a good time hanging out in the city together.

We’ve talked sporadically on the phone, just like our usual pattern, but then that sort of stopped. I noticed that her e-mails to me have gotten increasingly impersonal and distant. (The e-mail I got telling me about her engagement sounded like it was coming from Bank of America.) My mom and brother have filled me in on various happenings in her life, but we haven’t talked on the phone in I can’t remember how long. So, I really had no idea what to expect for this weekend, but I honestly thought that the fact that I flew across the country at great expense would be a statement of my support and would make some kind of difference. Apparently, I was wrong.

Take the High Line


We had the full day to ourselves, so we’d planned to spend the day in Manhattan. This time, we took the Long Island Railroad, so that we didn’t have to deal with parking or traffic. (Unbeknownst to us, it was Comic-con day and we had the “privilege” of sharing our train with a bunch of loud, annoying kids dressed up like Dragonball-Z characters. Oh, goody!) But once we got into the city and out of Penn Station, I forgot about all of that. It was so nice to walk around the city and get away from all of the family dynamics in Long Island. But first, we needed some caffeine:

We’d decided to check out the High Line, a new park they’d built on some old elevated train tracks. It turned out to be the perfect activity, as it was gorgeous outside and it was both free and super-cool:

It was great to see the amazing architecture all around us:

There were a number of cool little touches, like these chaise lounges:

They had train wheels on the old tracks, so you could move them back and forth:

There were also some really cool art projects. Like Spencer Finch’s The River That Flows Both Ways:

And of course, it wouldn’t be New York without some shots of graffiti:

There was this room with a series of bells recorded from all over New York City. At the hour mark, they’d play all of the bells at once. We got there at five minutes till the hour, so we hung out to hear it. It was pretty amazing. While we were waiting, I got some glamour shots of the boys:

The Whitney had this cool exhibit near the end of the park:

The High Line ends in the West Village, next to a cool cobblestone street:

We decided to walk down to TriBeCa to another favorite old haunt: Bubby’s.

Unfortunately, the hostess was not a good ambassador for the awesomeness that I remember from Bubby’s and we waited way too long while they theoretically called our name and then sat someone else in front of us. But, the food was just as good as I remembered (even though they didn’t have my favorite mac and cheese on their weekend brunch menu) and our waitress was very friendly and awesome.

Afterward, I posed with the fiberglass cow out front:

Afterward, we walked around the West Village and up into Union Square. It was awesome to walk around the city and feel the energy. We then caught the train back to Long Island and met up with my Uncle Bob, Aunt Sue and mom for dinner. We were all pretty tired and didn’t want to deal with any of the big chain restaurants that surrounded the hotel, so we tried a local Mediterranean place, which turned out to be really good. All in all, a really great day.

My old stomping grounds


We had some unexpected free time during the day, so Erik, Nerissa, T & myself decided to head out to Brooklyn and hang out in our old neighborhood – Park Slope. It took a while to drive out there and then to find parking, but it was so good to see the old ‘hood. In that way that cities have, it had simultaneously changed so much while staying exactly the same. I took a picture of our old apartment, hipstamatic-style:

We walked around a little bit and then I went for a run in Prospect Park for old time’s sake. It felt great to get to do my old run loop and it was hilarious how much easier the “hill” was after running in Seattle for so many years. The section that I remember being super steep was like nothing now. (Although jet lag and last night’s wine made it a much “crampier” run than I would have liked… ) Afterward, I met back up with everyone and we headed to my favorite restaurant for lunch: Two Boots. We had lunch on their outdoor patio in the sunshine and it was pretty much perfect. (They have a killer Cajun garlic bread that I’ve missed terribly.) Afterward, we enticed Nerissa into sitting on the mechanical alligator outside the restaurant:

We then hit the road back to Long Island and sat in awful traffic. (We had forgotten that not only was it Friday, but it was Columbus Day weekend.) We were scheduled to attend another family gathering at Paul’s mom’s house about six, so we had been hoping to get back home with a little time to chill out beforehand. Unfortunately, we only had about half an hour of chilling out time before it was time to head over for another big gathering.

This time, it was much more of Paul’s family in attendance. We got to meet his father, brother, half-sister and a ton of family friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. It was a lively gathering, but I was a little tired and overwhelmed by all of the family. It was a lovely evening, so we were gathered in the backyard. At one point, Paul appeared on the roof to take a group shot of everyone:

We were then treated to a hilarious exchange between him and his mother as she handed her camera up to him for him to take a picture with it only to have the flash not go off. I wanted to get some video of that exchange, but alas was not fast enough. It was a hoot. The only other downside, was that I noticed my sister wasn’t really talking to me at all. Paul was very friendly and peppered me with questions about my new job and what-not, but she didn’t really talk to me at all. Not sure what’s up with that…

Let’s get the party started


Today T & I got up early to board a plane for my sister’s wedding in New York. It’s been three years since I’ve had occasion to visit the Big Apple and though I knew much of my time would probably be taken up with wedding-related activities out on Long Island, I was still excited to see my old stomping grounds. We were flying JetBlue, my favorite airline – which managed to still be awesome even on a completely crammed flight.

Our flight landed about fifteen minutes ahead of my brother & sister-in-law’s flight. They’d rented a car for the weekend, so it was very convenient all the way around, because we had to hustle to Long Island for a big family dinner at a restaurant that my sister had only identified as “one of New York’s top Italian restaurants” in the group e-mail she sent out. (Naturally, we’d been very curious about what this ‘top Italian restaurant’ would be like and not a few jokes had been made about it… ) We were meeting at my sister’s soon to be mother-in-law’s house and heading to the restaurant from there. (I would have preferred to be able to change before meeting a bunch of people after crawling off of an airplane, but alas, I was not consulted.)

After a fair amount of traffic, we arrived at our destination and met a ton of Paul (the groom)’s family. They are all very Long Island (loud, animated, Italians) but very nice. We met Paul, his mom and step-dad, his grandmother and some long-time friends of the family. After the initial introductions, we quickly changed and then headed to the restaurant. Thanks to the magic of smart-phones, we were able to navigate there pretty easily and the mystery restaurant was revealed. Behold King Umberto:

This is one of the things I love about New York, though. A restaurant can look like this on the outside, but still have really good food and thankfully, this was the case here. Here’s a shot of yours truly and the interior of the restaurant:

Paul’s parents had arranged for a big family dinner with a pre-arranged five course menu:

The appetizers/antipasto were very tasty and included a very unusual house specialty: a deep fried angel hair pasta in a creamy sauce. It was almost like a risotto cake, but the pasta gave it a different texture. It was so good, I could have eaten that for dinner and been quite happy. (Fat, but happy… ) It was followed by homemade penne and vodka sauce. Now, vodka sauce is not ordinarily my favorite, so I was counting on that to keep me from eating too much, but this version was yummy enough that it didn’t really work out so well…

But in between the massive infusions of food, there was lively conversation across the table and we were all having a good time. Paul’s mom Terry, making a toast to the happy couple:

My brother Erik and Nerissa:

The waitstaff was very diligent at filling both water and wine glasses, so I had way more wine than I realized and it snuck up on me very quickly. By the time the waiters brought out the cake for dessert, I was a little tipsy. (Evidenced by the 20 blurry pictures of the couple being presented with their cake.) Here’s a rare in-focus one:

I was so full at this point, I could only manage a bite or two. It was a very lovely meal. If you ever find yourself in that part of Long Island (I have no idea where exactly that was… ) I highly recommend it.


A Portland wedding


Back when we lived in Portland, we lived next to this really cool guy named Jeremy. We’d just moved to Portland from New York and he’d grown up in Manhattan. At the time, we only had one dog (Smokey Joe) and he had Jack – a high energy mixed breed that loved to chase birds as they flew through the air. The two dogs got along great and we got to be good friends with Jeremy. We’d watch each other’s dogs and go for runs/hikes and what-not. Eventually, Jeremy bought a house and moved across town but we kept in touch.

This weekend, Jeremy got married to a lovely girl and we were invited to the wedding. I’d always been hoping to see Jeremy meet the right girl, so I was delighted to attend. Plus, next weekend is my sister’s wedding, so I’d get to do a dry-run of my outfit.  😉 We drove down the morning of the wedding and I was a little nervous about the weather for the outdoor wedding, but by the afternoon it was absolutely perfect.

The ceremony was in a gorgeous park in North Portland, with a rose garden and a pretty fountain. Because I’m still in the throes of Hipstamatic addiction, all of the pictures are shot with that app on the iPhone. Here’s the park:

(The ceremony took place in front of that gazebo in the background.) You know you’re in Portland because there’s a bicycle nearby:

Jack was the ring-bearer:

I didn’t get any good shots of the actual ceremony, but it was very sweet. The bride wore a simple dress that had a hint of vintage to it. I also liked her low-key bouquet:

The reception was at the Ecotrust building, which is a really cool green space in NW Portland.  They did a cool thing for place cards, each couple was given a little card that looked like a restaurant order ticket and then they had to match it to a local restaurant’s menu that was part of the centerpiece of each table:

The centerpieces themselves were beautiful dahlias:

Our table turned out to be full of other folks who’d driven down from Seattle. We were the only ones that didn’t have kids (the three couples had eight kids between them!) but we still managed to have some good conversations. The food was delicious and there was plenty of good wine and beer to go with it. Afterward, dessert was served on the roof deck:

It was a very Portland wedding: laid-back with great food and drink. Many congratulations to the happy couple, they certainly kicked off their marriage in great style! Hopefully, next week’s wedding will be as much fun…