Friday, April 29, 2005

Enemy of the People

Here is yet another sign of the new United States version of fascism on the rise. There is a legislator in Texas who wants to name a stretch of interstate for country music legend Willie Nelson. Says the AP article...

"But two Republican senators, Steve Odgen of Bryan and Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, said they didn't want Nelson's name on the road that crosses their districts, citing the musician's fondness for drinking and smoking, and active campaigning for Democratic candidates."

It's that last little bit that gets me. They kind of betray themselves, though with the smoking and drinking part too. I mean, how many country music legends don't have songs that glorify drinking and smoking?

People doing impressive work in exciting places

Newyorquina salutes my colleague and pal, M. who is starting a public health fellowship in Kigali, Rwanda. M. is documenting her experiences in a blog of her own that is thoughtful and entertaining.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Dear God, what torture and angst I have been spouting. Let's talk about music.

Today I am listening Los Angeles's Indie 103.1, which is about the best radio station in existance, I'd guess. They just played the mash-up of the day, which was a combination of Mirror in the Bathroom by English Beat and Riding on the Metro by Berlin. Call me old fashioned, I'd just as soon hear both songs one after another.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Rereading that last post I sound awfully discontented, so I think I should add a word or so more to this. I'm not at all unhappy in my life or really dissatisfied with the things I have been able to do in my education, spare time, and professional life. Moving to New York, grad school, the job I have been in for several years, losing 30 lbs and keeping it off, learning another language, teaching English are all activities that do in fact have loads of meaning for me and I don't underestimate the importance of them. So it's not that I have really been blocked or had difficulty finding meaningful things to do and I don't take the capacity to do any of this for granted. I think what is bothering me, and has been bothering me since the election is a larger question about how to organize my life. There are all sorts of universal difficulties, sometimes caused by nature and chance, but more often caused by human error, greed, indifference, and apathy. We all are guilty of various incarnations of this from time to time, although some obviously more than others. We all learn our roles, our place, and our way of fitting in and making it in this world. Those lessons teach us ways of shielding ourselves from all the potential ill that could come to pass (financial ruin, loneliness, illness, being the victim of a crime.) We develop ways of being to protect ourselves, but those habits insulate us from strangers and from the unknown. These habits are ground into us from the day we are first spoken to (along the lines of don't talk to that strange man, don't go to those parts of town.) Changing the way we interact with one another ranges from challenging to impossible. From the little bit I know about her life, Marla Ruzicka was so clearly an example of someone who was able to transcend some of these day to day rules and regulations that we all live by to a certain extent.

Last fall, my friend who teaches seventh grade knew I wanted to do some volunteer work in the neighborhood, so he set me up with one of his students, a teenage girl whose had loads of trouble with her family and with schoolwork. She didn't do work in school, was stubborn and intransigent with teachers and with her foster mom, but when we got settled in at my apartment, she would try any excercise I asked her to. At the beginning, it was super-awkward, and often making conversation with her was next to impossible. I was conscious of the fact that didn't know much about what the kids are listening to and on the walk to my apartment I sometimes gave up on thinking of things to talk to her about. The first few times I was supposed to pick her up I desperately wished I has dinner plans with friends or could go home and watch TV, but it did get more comfortable over time. She was probably about three years behind in her reading level, so reading books was a little torturous, but we were plugging away, and I kind of got into finding little excercises that might be good for her. In the end though after a few months, she quit showing up for tutoring, and after she stood me up a couple times, I told her mom to please call me in the future, but for now it didn't seem to be working out. I took from all this 1) that it is that it's hard to get yourself out of your comfort zone, to do something different with someone who isn't necessarily going to be comfortable around you, 2) perhaps I'm not necessarily well-equipped to help someone with a different life history and experience, 3) even though I probably live an eighth of a mile from this child, in a certain sense we don't share a community or neighborhood, we function in entirely separate worlds, and finally 4) poverty and abuse and crappy schools make it hard for kids to learn and shut people off to new experiences.

And then I read about someone like Marla Ruzicka and I feel a little helpless, I guess.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I have been thinking more about Marla Ruzicka and about what I said about "feeling insignificant in my less than robust life" a day or so ago. Yesterday, I was in therapy trying to explain my thinking about her to my shrink, because one of the points that he makes all the time is how I need to focus on living, dealing with daily stresses, doing work on my house, saving vs spending, balancing rest with play as unremarkable, as normal occurences and dynamics to be managed with a minimum of anxiety or self-judgement. (I don't have an anxiety disorder or anything, but perhaps I am a wee bit prone to obsession.) I was saying that focusing on this as a goal in therapy is, in some respects, self-indulgent. To worry about living well and buying things for your home and organizing your life so you derive gratification from it seems to be such a capitulation. We are all such little cogs in the system that constantly puts up barriers to doing meaningful or valuable things, barriers to doing things that have real significance or meaning for people around us. And here is this woman that was concerned about the war in Afghanistan who just bought a plane ticket and set herself up as her own human rights advocacy outfit, started an NGO, got funding and, in some cases through the sheer force of her personality, made a measurable impact on the biggest crisis of the time. Yesterday, I actually found a conservative blogger, who I won't dignify with a link, that dismissed Marla Ruzicka as "a contributor to the World Socialist Web Site and an admirer of Fidel Castro." The very act of trying to do something to counterbalance the bloodiness of the Iraq war is called into question.

Now on paper, I realize this sounds like your classic leftie hand-wringing (apologies to Allison Bechdel) and perhaps I shouldn't be working myself into a state over some silly bloggers. I've allied myself with the tortured classically-white liberal guilt informed community organizing at various points in the past. At other times, felt really frustrated by them. So, perhaps I am engaging in pointless navel gazing, but I feel like I'm reflecting on something that a lot of people feel, which is that we are relatively powerless to change the course of things in this country right now and that organizing your life to make any sort of meaningful contribution against the less admirable dynamics of human behavior is tough.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Impressive person

Marla Ruzicka was killed in Iraq over the weekend. She is by all accounts a remarkable person, who makes me wonder what the hell I am doing here in my less robust life. View the Salon obit here (you probably have to watch a little advertisement before you get to the article.) Here is another article, written before her death, about the organization that she started, Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict

Via Unfogged

Slowly, slowly

Last Tuesday I went jogging before work and I feeling very pleased with myself, indeed. What a contrast with today. I was full of energy and endurance, but today I did only half as much and I was exhausted by minute nine.

Monday, April 18, 2005

You say tomayter

Via Ogged, see what kind of English you speak. It would be more interesting if the quiz broke down what is "General American English," but its not that finely tuned a tool.

Your Linguistic Profile:
55% General American English
35% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
5% Yankee
0% Midwestern

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Since I started writing this, I haven't been sure whether Newyorquina is serving a real purpose by encouraging me to write more, or whether I am producing anything with real content, substance, or wit. I had visions of becoming one-of-the-gang of the bloggers that I read regularly, but that hasn't happened, perhaps because my blog is boring, or perhaps because I'm not a regular comment-poster on most of them. But I kept doing it, because it was kind of fun to think of things to talk about and every once a while, someone would comment favorably on a post.

Yesterday, I read through the entire blog, and I realized that I am, in fact, happy with the purpose it has served so far. I started off awkwardly at the beginning and I noted an affect that is grating in some cases and pretentious in others. But over the months, it seems that I have gotten more comfortable with the format and with putting together relatively succinct entries on my day-to-day, mundane struggles and rants. In this setting at least, I'm not a good writer, because I don't have a good sense of how my own voice sounds to a reader and I don't yet have control over the tone, pacing, and affect that I employ. But I see progress and feel like the blog functions as a good excercise, for now at least, in articulating observations about my life, some of the issues I think about, and the outrageous shit that appears in the news.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


I have already been for my jog today. I worked out today. I rule!

Spring is (sort of) here and its a little bit easier to get moving in the morning. My apartment smelled like heated cat box this morning so getting out into the brisk fresh air was sort of welcome.

Last night I finished In Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer which is a personal memoir about a man who is trying to write a book about D. H. Lawrence. One might think I would have trouble getting interested in such a book given that I know practically nothing (actually really nothing) about D.H. Lawrence. I remember a copy of Women in Love being in house when I was five. So I was surprised how much I liked this particular book. In great part, it has to do with the fact that he weaves some critical observations on D.H Lawrence in with some very funny writing about his travels to some of the places that Lawrence lived and some rueful, self-deprecating comments on his own life.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Rites of Spring

The decent weather has come to New York and everyone is a little bit giddy to see the long winter come to an end. I had a very summery weekend, even though its not quite yet really warm. But in anticipation of the new season, here is a list of things I did to celebrate:

Made fish tacos for friends
Went to the park, jogged
Took a nap
Went to the park, read
Went to a salsa class,
Went to brunch (outside!)
Had a pedicure
Bought sandels
Took new sandals to the park, walked, got blister, put normal shoes on and finished walk

Of course it is Monday and now I am back at work. I actually put in a couple hours in the office on Saturday, which was relatively painless. We will see how much I get done today.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Poco a poco

OK, now this has become a salsa blog. How una norteamericana overcomes her intense fear of trying move in public and learns to dance. Or at least is able to go enjoy dancing in a club. That really is the objective. Just to be able go out and enjoy it. Last night I went to the dance basics class at the Y because they were doing a latin dance on this particular friday. Ah, the Y, where people wear workout clothes and tennis shoes. We did a bolero, and practiced little arms motions with the merengue, and then went to salsa, where I was not OK exactly, but better. Better. Better than I was.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Little bittersweet reminder

I was trying to figure out what was going on with my credit card balance this morning, and was pulling various cards out of my wallet. There, suddenly popping out of my wallet, was a ticket stub from a movie theater in Madrid. I stared at it for a few minutes, trying to remember which movie it that my ex and I went to see in Spain this summer. Then it all came back to me. It was a little tiny revival theatre and we went there to see Last Tango in Paris, which, which oddly and unexpectedly, we both absolutely loved.