The Switch

No, a piece of rogue malware did not hit my site. I finally threw in the towel and switched to WordPress as the back-end of this site. I got sick of all of the duct tape maintenance keeping this thing going, and I wanted it to not look like it was created in 1997 (which it was). So here we are. This is still in shakedown mode, so there will be lots of bugs and omissions and other errata. Please leave comments and let me know if this works for you and if it’s more or less readable than the previous version.

I have not imported over any archives prior to this year, and it looks like this will be a monumental cut-and-paste task. I will (famous last words) get to it eventually.

No real news to report right now, and I am in a hurry to finish lunch and get out the door to the grocery store.  I have been busy writing something, although I don’t know what it is.  I’ve also got a “must read immediately” queue of at least four books that are burning a hole in my pocket (mixed metaphor, sorry.)

OK, more later – hopefully this will be more conducive to shorter “blogging” posts mixed within the other longer bits.  I know I hate “blogging”, but I always have quick thoughts or riffs that are too long for twitter and will go stale before I get a spare hour to mess around on here.

BTW create yourself an account and log in – anyone with an email address can comment, but I’ll be going password-only for some rants that fall into the blood and money genres.  (No, not Wall Street vampires.)


The day

It’s a rainy morning here, maybe the first big storm since we moved in here. It was nice to sit in bed and hear the rain bounce off the skylight above. There was a decent amount of lightning and thunder, which I almost slept through. There were, however, two cats with large tails sprinting around the house to get away from this large cousin of the feared vacuum cleaner monster that was booming through the skies.

I saw a guy get killed on a motorcycle yesterday. I mean, I didn’t see the actual accident; I sat in traffic forever, and when I finally got to the epicenter of sirens and emergency vehicles, I saw a debris trail of the remainder of a BMW bike smashed into a thousand pieces. Then I saw a yellow plastic sheet over a body, with one hand sticking out. That really freaked me out. If I just saw the twisted metal machinery, it would bother me a bit, but actually seeing the casualty made me start thinking about a family member somewhere getting a phone call. And what a day to get a phone call too – on the anniversary of 9/11.

I’ve been ruminating on that one a bit too. Now that I’ve been out of New York for a few years, it seems to be just a distant memory. I was just looking for the scans of the pictures I took on that morning, and ended up spending a few minutes looking at all of the other pictures I took around that period, like a whole series of shots of my old place in Astoria, and the batch of pictures on a rainy September night that eventually yielded the cover of Rumored to Exist. There’s so much distance now, I look at the pictures and try to pick out the little details that I forgot. When the towers were on fire, and before they collapsed, I walked south on Broadway, toward the World Trade Center, taking pictures. I don’t know why I did this, as pretty much everyone was headed in the opposite direction. I remember thinking that if a tower collapsed, what if it fell over onto its side, like a tree falling – how many blocks down would it fall?

I think I got down to West Broadway and Varick before the police had the area completely sealed off. That’s maybe ten blocks north of the plaza. By then, both towers had collapsed, and everyone was then trying to figure out how to get home with no transit running. A common thought is that all of lower Manhattan looked like that ashy Mount St. Helens nuclear holocaust you saw on the news over and over; it didn’t. I do remember seeing an unmarked police car tearing up Broadway the wrong way, sirens on, with a foot of ashes sitting on its hood and roof. And we all ended up breathing the dust for weeks. But that particular misconception got to me, mostly because everyone in the Midwest who watched the news all day and then called me expected my apartment eight miles away to be a virtual Pompeii, and my neighborhood was pretty much untouched.

It still amazes me that there isn’t a new building yet. I look at these pictures from the summer of 2001, of Times Square, and every single sign and storefront has changed three times since then. I look at pictures of the block where my old office was, and almost every small store went bankrupt and was then replaced with a Best Buy or Rite Aid or Bank of America or Nike store. This isn’t unique to post-2001 New York; it happens pretty much on an annual basis there. Manhattan sheds restaurants and stores like humans shed molecules of skin. They die, are brushed away, and are quickly replaced by new ones. Having a digital camera for almost a decade of this is a strange testament to this.

Went kayaking last week. I want to go again today or tomorrow, but given the weather, I don’t know. I need to practice before we go on vacation, because I want to take this kayak tour, and currently, I can barely get a straight line going with it. But it looks more like an indoor sort of weekend.


Benadryl hangover

I’m trying to come out of a horrible Benadryl hangover today. I hate when I take this stuff at night and wake back up, but am so tired, I can’t go back to sleep. It’s a weird drunken feeling, that I can’t fully explain, but I hate it. I can’t believe I used to be practically addicted to this stuff, in the form of Tylenol PM. I’m currently trying to stitch together a travel story about my trip to Treasure Island, Florida in 2001, and one recurring theme is that I’d stay up until 3 or 4 every night and then bomb out with the Tylenol PM and wake up all screwed up at noon the next day.

My latest project is the aforementioned travelogue. Michael wrote a giant 175,000 word account of his story when he went to TI a few months before me, and that inspired me to do the same. I wrote one entry, on the plane ride down, and then lost the motivation. Now, I’m trying to reverse-engineer all of the pieces of my trip so I can write about it. I’ve got all of my sent email; paper journals; the dated photos I took; some comments I made in Michael’s story; and a couple of other scraps of notes I took at the time. That’s enough for me to get started. The account of my 2004 trip was about 14,000 words. I have about 6000 words into this story sofar.

I keep thinking about all of the dead projects I have floating around and wish there was a way I could pull them together or finish them. I doubt it would be that entertaining to put out a book with the first half-chapter of 20 books that I never wrote. The problem is that every new project steals just a touch of stuff from the last dead project, so those 20 chapters are really like about three chapters rewritten in different ways.

The Bay Bridge is closed for the weekend – they are tearing out a football field-sized double decker section and putting in another temporary one, to make room for the replacement bridge they are building next to it. It’s a monumental piece of engineering, and it’s taking place on our horizon. We’re at the wrong angle to see the big switcheroo, but we can see the giant crane they have assembled at the port of Oakland, which I think is the biggest maritime crane in history, and will be used to sling around steel for the new bridge. I don’t know why I’m obsessed with this, but I am. Maybe because I helped pay for it, or because it’s all happening in our front yard.

I’ve also been trying to get my ass in gear with investing. Now that the house purchase is done, the next big milestone will be saving money for retirement. We already max out our 401Ks, and that is under control, but we’re also trying to save every penny to make pull retirement from 72 to 59.5 years, and earlier. So I’m shopping for good places to park money and make it work.

But now, a three day weekend is afoot. Speaking of saving money, I think we will start by trying out the West Oakland library. Maybe it would be prudent to start checking out books and videos, instead of hitting Amazon every other hour.