Saturday, September 29, 2012

Beginnings and endings...

Summer is my favorite season. Maybe that's because I'm a Leo, but mostly I think it's because all the good things in my childhood were associated with summer: the ocean, birthdays, sleep away camp, the slowing down of time and lengthening of days. But now that I leave the city regularly on weekends to go the lake, I'm especially appreciating the autumn, especially when the foliage is reflected on the water.
The view on my twilight run, today. Nice.

Which reminds me how lucky I am, to have both a city and a country life, in this dual domicile marriage. Last night, my husband and I went to a swank cocktail party in the city, at the very elegant apartment of a college friend. There was beautiful art, sweeping ceilings, a capacious terrace with a city view and waiters serving bite sized smoked salmon slivers and lamb sliders. Friday nights being what they are, I wasn't exactly energized to go to the party, but promised myself I would have a drink and say hello. We ended up being among the last to leave, along with the waiters and bartenders. I talked to a college acquaintance about his 9 years in the military (marines! infantry!), met a very cool woman who I liked, even when she blatantly flirted with my husband (I guess blatantly is better than surreptitiously, because we all laughed and my s.o. got an ego boost). Then, once we recovered from all the partying with breakfast at Malecon the next morning, (for the record, it's the best little Spanish coffee shop with cafe con leche to die for) we took the train up to CT, stopped at some very rural-ish antique shops along the way, then headed home where I got to inspect all the progress on my hubby's gazebo project, a monument to art, persistence, perfectionism and, soon, I hope, lots of cozy nights by a roaring fire and days looking out at the lake with a burbling stream at our feet. (In case you're wondering, that is a hole you see in the floor by the couch, below. It will be covered by thick glass and down-lit, so you can see the water rushing beneath.
The gazebo and our new couch, not-yet-unwrapped.

The entire structure is built with beautiful local cedar logs, all meticulously de-barked, to reveal the gorgeous grain of the wood.
I've occasionally been cranky about this gazebo project (lots of time, energy, resources, etc., etc.) but seeing it now, I have a renewed appreciation for my husband's perseverance and vision.Wouldn't it be nice if I could adopt all his great qualities and he could adopt all of mine? I guess that's an idealistic view of marriage, but if I learn one thing from Randy, I would like it to be the ability to persist in the face of obstacles, optimistically and energetically. Not necessarily in my DNA, being of neurotic Jewish stock, but a girl's got to have something to strive for.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sex and the 20-something girl

Okay, I admit it. I don't completely know what sex is like for the 20-something girl/woman. Because I'm 49 (as evidenced by the technically incorrect title of this blog--yes, yes, it's really my 50th year). But I've had the opportunity to meet, talk with and email with a number 20-something writers in the past few weeks, and I'm deducing a few things:
  1. Life is very different for a 20 year old today than it was when I was in my 20s, in the 1980s and 90s. Much of life is lived and viewed online/on-phone. But you knew that.
  2. 20-something women are a tough breed when it comes to sex. This is the hook-up generation, after all, and it's not cool to admit to something old fashioned like wanting a committed boyfriend, or wanting someone to be monogamous.
  3. Yet, underneath that "I'm cool with the friends-with-benefits thing veneer" I think many of these women feel a little lost. They talk about sex like the guys do, they have sex like guys do--easily, casually, with no strings. But it seems to me that they are often left feeling surprised by the loneliness and disappointment afterward. They seem to want more, but be surprised at themselves for wanting more.
  4. A friend of mine compared the hook-up mentality to the "free love generation" of the 1960s--all for one and one for all in the bedroom. That credo kind of ended up better for men, too. Who knew that there was a sexual similarity between millennials and boomers?
  5. These women are having a hard time launching. Many are living with parents, or being supported by parents in one way or another. We knew that, but it's interesting to see how common it is. And they don't seem to mind that much.
  6. Perhaps this is related to #5, but I'm finding that many 20 something women are extremely tight with their parents--something I attribute to their being the cell phone generation. Many of my young colleagues, as I've mentioned here earlier, talk to their parents daily, to discuss dinner choices or boyfriends or major life decisions. When I was 23, all I wanted was to escape the feeling of being someone's daughter. I wanted to live my own life. I desperately wanted my parents' approval, true, but I didn't want them weighing in on the day-to-day minutiae of my doings. Last week, one young woman confided that her mother took her vibrator shopping when she was 16. Now, my mother was very open in terms of telling me the details of the birds and bees (about which I was extremely curious from an early age) but vibrators? Didn't happen.
  7. All in all, I sense an interesting combination of innocence and a complete lack of innocence. Then again, maybe that's not so different from how I was at 24 after all.
The cast of HBOs Girls. (I need to see it but don't want to pay for HBO!)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reconnecting with friends--and myself

Stoking the fire
Millie's famous eggs on the grill. (Not exactly roughing it)

Happy in my PJs!

Great minds....

Thank god there's a doctor in the house

A little light reading...
Gotta love low expectations. This past weekend, the plan was to meet up with about 14 friends (adults and kids) for a quasi-camping experience in the Berkshires. The place: Kutsher's Sports Academy, a summer camp that, coincidentally, was down the road from where I went to camp for 7 years (Kutsher's Camp Anawana). Back then, the two camps were in the Catskills. Now, Anawana is defunct, and the Sports Academy has a new home in Great Barrington, MA. In the non summer months, the camp lets the cabins and the grounds and the friend who organized this outing downplayed the digs: bunk beds, hard mattresses, iffy heat, etc., etc. So I must say,  I had some trepidations about the comfort level. But my hubby and I arrived on Saturday morning to find warm and spacious cabins, roaring fires, cozy rugs (which our intrepid organizer friend had actually brought from her mom's house, who happened to live  nearby) and my husband and I, being the last to arrive, scored the a completely empty cabin next door to the group, which meant we could immerse ourselves in the party dynamic and retreat when we needed to. The weekend weather forecast was gloomy, and there, too, my expectations were surpassed: Instead of gray skies, we had crisp, sunny fall days with a sudden thunderstorm at night (the perfect background for gathering around the indoor fire, over which we still toasted S'mores.). We hiked on the nearby Appalachian trail, grilled steaks and sweet corn, played tennis, ran, napped, sang around the indoor fire to a guitar played by a very charming and precocious 14 year old, talked and talked and talked and talked about everything from politics to hormones to relationships to sex to parenting, slept late, read the New York Times, paged through magazines and basically had plenty of hours to catch up with each other--such a luxury. It made me remember why I love my friends (again), and appreciate those who have the endurance to organize these kind of unwieldy group trips. (Not I. It takes many, many emails.) I feel refreshed in body and soul and heart and ready for the work week. Oh, and the whole thing cost about $50 for the weekend. Gotta love that.
The group on the deck of the cabin.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Communing with New Jersey

My husband and I saw Bruce Springsteen on Friday night at New Jersey's MetLife stadium (formerly the Meadowlands). Hate those corporate names. Anyway, it was the eve of Bruce's 63rd birthday. There was much preconcert tailgating...
And 40- and 50-something moderately soused fans, big hair, distended bellies, high heels and all. On the bus over from Port Authority, I sat next to a woman from Western Australia or W.A. as she called it. The Australian dollar is now so favorable to the U.S. that she told me she was finding NYC incredibly cheap. In any case, she had come from Australia to follow part of Bruce's tour through the U.S. She had been to 17 of his concerts in her life (all with her sister) and, on this round of Bruce mania, had flown from Chicago to Philly to D.C. to NJ to see all seven of his state side shows. That is devotion. And Bruce, on the eve of his 63rd birthday, is as soulful, heartfelt and energetic as ever. But I have to admit, I was very aware of time passing, of Bruce getting older (though he still looked AWESOME in his tight denims, especially from behind), of my own impending 50th, of the fact that I remember so clearly what it was like to see Bruce for the first time, in my late teens. (The girl behind me threw up on my head, but I still really enjoyed the concert, which tells you something.) How can I remember my late teens so clearly, remember what Bruce looked like so clearly, line-free....yet be almost 50?

I realize that when it comes to rock icons, they are embedded in your brain the way you remember them as a teen. Peter Frampton. Mick Jagger. Roger Daltry. The Boss. And it's kind of painful to see them in their 60s and 70s--painful and joyful at the same time. They are still making music. I am still enjoying it, but with a keen sense of time feeling tilted in a single direction--forward, relentless.

Friday, September 21, 2012

As jackhammers rage outside my window

This is why I'm starting to fall in love with the country.
Last Sunday, on our pond. Life is good.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I think I finally get the social media thing

I know that sounds funny, given that I'm blogging and all, and that I have 1000-plus FB friends, and am even on Twitter.  I probably shouldn't even admit it that I didn't fully get it before. But frankly, Twitter seemed like a bit of a time suck, for very little payoff. And most tweets I read seemed insipid or banal or just plain boring, on top of that. But today, on a quest to find writers younger than 25 or so (not so easy for someone in her late 40s), I posted on my FB page and on Twitter, and within five minutes or so, had writer suggestions and young writers themselves pitching me. And then I had someone extremely interesting contact me on Linked In. It was a social media bonanza. I still don't plan to spend all my time tweeting, but the thing is, I finally saw a practical use for all this stuff. If it connects me to real people who can help me/inspire me/amuse me in real life, well, that's a good thing. And I can ignore the insipid tweets. (I've composed a few of those myself.) Guess I'm firmly moving into the digital age, albeit with a bit of kicking and screaming.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What does it mean to have a "real" marriage?

There's texting. Skyping. Emailing. But when it comes to keeping in touch with my husband the four or so nights a week that we are apart (we have a dual domicile marriage), we rely on the phone. There's nothing like hearing someone's voice (and I don't know about you, but at a certain point, I'm sick of being in front of a screen). Yet the phone calls inevitably come late at night. My hubby is a hard driving guy, up early, going all day, physically and mentally. (I'm lazier and more slow moving, I admit it.) So while I'm often awake and relatively perky at 11 pm, my s.o. is often somewhere between lucid and a twilight state, sometimes even drifting off as we speak. Not ideal conditions for sharing the nuances of one's day.

On the positive side, we will have five nights together, starting Thursday. I find that too many weeks of only two-day spates together, and I start to feel disconnected--and, actually, single again, in the slightly lonely sense, as opposed to the "I'm freeeeeeee!" sense. It would be nice to be able to sleep next to my honey every night and have coffee every morning. But is that kind of togetherness worth either of us ditching a life we love (for me, an urban, friend-filled existence in NYC, close to work; for him, a more secluded spot, also close to work)? I think both of us pride ourselves on how well we handle the married-but-living-apart thing. I actually think it's easier to live this way, as a married couple, than it is to be under the same roof every day. It requires less compromise. Less checking up. Less politeness. Less of all the stuff that can make a marriage annoying. But I sometimes worry that it demands so little in the way of compromise that it means our marriage is somehow less "real." Then again, what is a "real" marriage? If by real, I mean "traditional," then I guess I have to say that historically, traditional marriages haven't done so great. Which takes me back to where I started: figuring out how to make what we have work best. And isn't that what everyone has to do?

With this ring...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

overscheduled, much?

I need more open weekends in my life. After a summer spent entertaining guests pretty much every weekend (we love our little lake house and want to share, and of course, I love my friends) but entertaining got tiring; and working weeks where evenings are typically filled with, well, work; and a calendar that sometimes feels packed til 2013, I truly appreciate the extremely rare weekend where we have no plans whatsoever. Actually, my honey and I did have a plan, but it was cancelled, thus leaving 48 hours of blissfully unstructured time at the lake, with clear skies, temperatures in the 70s, fresh tomatoes in the garden and lamb burgers ready to go on the grill. After sleeping late, we sat on the deck, did a few chores, drank coffee, then headed to the lake for some kayaking. We were quickly intercepted on the pond by our new neighbors, who have been busy turning the site of their soon-to-be new house into a veritable playground for adults. 3 docks. 7 kayaks and canoes ("For the nieces and nephews!") a little tricked out camper, hammocks, seating built right into the trees, a stone patio with a stone fireplace and a little screened-in gazebo. All so stylishly done that I wanted to order up a magazine shoot right then and there. We sat on one of their docks and got to know them--she works at a local hospital coordinating organ donations--totally inspiring. Then back in the kayak for some serious tandem paddling (our kayak was the best wedding present ever!), followed by a run (the first I've done here since I've been back from vacation and tough because of the hills). But my amazing trainer, Larysa Didio, has given me some great running advice. I'm a sloooow runner, and part of the reason for that is that I tend to take many steps but small steps--thus, I tire myself out and don't get very far. She has helped me lengthen my stride, using my arms and legs and brain (with each stride, I think "reach! reach! reach!) and the run feels smoother and more efficient. When I'm  on hills, that's when I take small steps, which helps you get up the hill without unnecessary stress on the body.

After that, another couple came over (another plan spontaneously made!) for a drink on the deck, which turned into dinner (they ran home and brought over the skewered shrimp they were going to grill, seasoned with hot peppers from their garden, plus cous cous and cucumber salad; we contributed our lamb burgers and tomato salad) which morphed into after-dinner drinks around the fire pit. And today, another free day. Maybe I'll fire off an email to another nearby couple we haven't seen in a while and invite them for a drink--and maybe I won't. Who knows what the day will bring?!

On the cartroad to the lake
First glimpse of the moon
Lily pads and reeds (all photos courtesy of our recent guest, David Kriss)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

There is nothing like the comfort of girlfriends...

...when you're halfway through that first glass of wine (or margarita, as was the case tonight) and you settle in and know that you can get every little thing off your chest, and your friend will understand. So good to be able to talk about sex. Hormones. Ambition. The future. Work. Love. Life. Capped off by a sifter filled with really good tequila. I love all my friends but am including photos of one particular friend tonight. I'm going to bed happy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The best day of my summer

...may have been on Sunday. I had just more than 24 hours at the lake house, with my hubby, so for once, we didn't do chores, we weren't entertaining others, we were bound and determined to make the most of our day at the lake--and make the most of one of the remaining days of the summer. So we slept late, then my husband made us poached eggs with tomatoes from the garden. Then I did a little editing work for a friend--a screenplay, which was interesting. It's amazing how, when you're writing a screenplay, you have to describe every gesture a character makes, every expression that flickers across his face. A very different kind of writing, hugely detailed oriented and more action than dialogue oriented. A good exercise for me.

Next, my husband packed a surprise picnic and we went down to the lake and unlocked the kayak. Usually, I get into the kayak with the goal of just paddling around for a while and getting out, but this experience was both more aimless and more purposeful. First, we skimmed around in a desultory way, searching for osprey and bald eagles (didn't see any, though we did spot turtles and our resident blue heron). Then, my guy broke out a libation: cava with raspberries, followed by a snack of hummos and salsa made from tomatoes from the garden. Nicely buzzed, we paddled around some more, than ended up in a long conversation with neighbors, who were lazily paddling in their kayak. Kind of like conversations over a white picket fence, except this was on the water. Finally, we decided we wanted to get some exercise, so we did five or six sprints, paddling as hard as we could, until we were breathing hard and feeling our muscles. I was shocked that kayaking could feel like actual exercise--when you're doing it hard, you use your entire core, your upper body, and your legs, which press with each stroke. Then, we docked, lolled a bit in our tent, and grilled sliders for dinner. Next summer, my goal is to have more chore-less days, spent paddling on the lake and running into other paddling neighbors. I felt connected to my husband and to nature in a way I haven't for a long while.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Did you ever wish you could swap your life...

for someone else's? Well, when you do a house swap (my favorite site is, you kind of get to do that. Sleep in their bed. Look at their photographs. Peruse their bookshelf. (But I promise--no looking in the bedside table drawers!). Beyond the house itself, each swap usually comes with exhaustive lists of local restaurants, the best markets, walks, beaches--mostly things you won't get in any guidebook. And sometimes, friendships develop from these swaps. My hubby and I still see a young woman we met through a swap we did in Brazil (we traded my modest 1 bedroom apartment for a studio in Rio and a fab beach house in Sao Paolo. Not a bad deal). I'm starting to develop a bit of an email friendship with the lovely couple, Avril and David, who swapped with us recently--they spent a few weeks at my pad on the upper west side and a few days at the lake; we settled into their funky, comfy apartment in the wonderful neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, in Tel Aviv. And now, I get to read about their impressions of New York City on David's cool blog, Tel Aviv Rooftop. Turns out we were having parallel experiences. My hubby and I were amazed by the friendliness of Tel Avivians--so unlike New Yorkers, we thought! A & D were amazed by the kindness and generosity of NYers (you guessed it: so unlike citizens of their country). Pretty funny. I say it's the "vacation state of mind" most of us bring to travel: When you're away from home and  routine, your eyes are open, your senses are alert and you are drinking in experiences. It's hard for others not to be attracted to that kind of openness. When I get back from vacation, for the first few days, I catch myself smiling at strangers in the street and expecting to strike up conversations (not always a good idea in the city), until I get back into my "I'm in a hurry--don't bother me" mentality. Sigh. It's nice to know that all of us--my s.o. and I and David and his wife--brought out the best in our respective city dwellers--and maybe ourselves.

Take a look at the amazing photographs taken by David of NYC and our little house by the lake. Fresh eyes, indeed.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Life is just a bowl of...

tomatoes! A country girl I am not, but it feels great to be spending the day at our little lake house, even if it means traveling more than six hours for not much longer than a 24 hour stay. I'm sitting on the deck, resting my eyes on the water and my hubby is topless, lounging on the hammock, listening to "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me!" on NPR. Our cat is slinking around like the huntress she aspires to be. The brook is burbling. A woodpecker is pecking. The hot tub is heating up. And I've just picked a bowl of tomatoes from our garden. Way more than we could ever eat. At this moment at least, life is exactly as it should be.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Declaration of dependence?

It's important to appreciate the little things after the end of a long vacation. The waning of jet lag. Seeing friends again. Resuming a running routine. (Two days in a row around the Central Park Reservoir and counting, despite a sore toe and knee. Must be getting older, because the number of sore joints are adding up.) Clean laundry. Sleeping in one's own bed. The fact that as hot and steamy as New York City can be in the summer, it will never be quite as hot and steamy as it was in Tel Aviv. Walk outside and dare to step out of the shade and you are instantly drenched in sweat. Or, at least, that's how it was for me.

Then again, coming home also brings a few negatives. Like not being with my honey. After we travel together, I get accustomed to having him around. But I may not see him this weekend, which will mean two weeks spent apart. I have a family event in NYC this weekend, and my s.o. can't come. My current plan is to get on Metro North after the event on Saturday night, ride up to New Haven, have him pick me up, and  spend late Saturday night and Sunday together. Then back to the city Monday morning. Part of me feels silly  doing that kind of traveling for what amounts to not much more than 24 hours together. After all, shouldn't I take the opportunity to enjoy the city, my apartment, solitude, etc., etc? But the truth is, the longer I'm married, the less I like being apart--and a two week separation feels like a big drag. Does that mean I'm turning into a weenie? Becoming too dependent on my husband? I'm not entirely sure. But I miss our little lake house, I miss our cat, Lexi and I miss the physical presence of my partner. Scary to feel so tethered to another person. What has happened to the fiercely independent woman I used to be?

Intertwined? Attached at the hip? How much connectedness is too much?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Does jet lag get worse as you get older?

I'm not sure, but all I know is that it's been a rocky adjustment to life back in NYC. Post vacation goals: appreciate my husband and marriage, spend more time with good friends, less time on my computer and get more sleep, jet lagged or not.

I've never been good at transitions, at comings and goings. After two and a half weeks with my husband in Israel and Istanbul, the prospect of going back to our dual domicile existence was daunting. I'll admit it: When we returned to NYC on Labor Day, after an 11 hour flight (thus the jet lag) I shed a few tears at the prospect of his returning to CT and leaving me alone in my upper West Side pad. After a few minutes of tears (mine), he said: "Okay--I'll stay the night!" My immediate response: Guilt! Had I cried my way into getting something I wanted (e.g., my husband's company for another 24 hours?) Was I losing the independence I've always prized? Was I being manipulative on some level? All I know is that he stayed, and it made facing real life a lot easier.  Now, after two days back at work, I'm finding my bearings again and getting used to the apart-ness. And it's always nice to sleep in my own bed, whether I'm alone or with my s.o. (The key is a great feather bed to put over the mattress.)

Below, a shot of me on a camel in the dessert. Camels fart a lot. And make funny noises. But I'm sure we all would too if we led such a hard life.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The joy of sensual pleasures

I'm not talking sex. I'm talking the welcome surprise of a more-luxurious-than-expected hotel room (with a balcony! and a view of the blue mosque!) after a way-too-early wake up call. I'm talking the Hagia Sophia, which is worth the trip to Istanbul alone, with its mosaics and awe inspiring domes, suffused with natural light. I'm talking an amazing massage with a totally hot Turkish masseuse who seemed to know just where and how hard (and soft) to touch me. I'm talking a king sized bed with crisp white Turkish linens. I'm talking the perfect end to a vacation.

Below, the view from our balcony at the Neorion Hotel (under $200 a night!). As my hubby would say: "Ahhh. Pleasure."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Romney and Ryan (and Clint!) from afar

...seem perhaps even more ridiculous. My hubby and I watched some of the goings on at the RNC via iPad last night, on our last evening in Tel Aviv. Perhaps it was due to being in a two-week politics-free vacation state but...seriously?

On a more meaningful note, we are at the Tel Aviv airport, finally having some good coffee after countless passport checks and questions ("What was the purpose of your visit? Do you know anyone in Israel?") Security is tight, but friendly, and no one asks you to take off your shoes or throw out your water. We are on our way to Istanbul for an afternoon and night, then back to reality. This was a very different Israel trip than my first post-college experience. That one was a bus tour with a gaggle of young 20 somethings, with stops at all the major sights and no interactions with Israelis other than our voluble and enthusiastic guide. Back then, I went expecting a spiritual experience, because that's what I was told I would have. Didn't happen. This time, I thought I was traveling with fewer expectations, but when I arrived, I realized that because I was in Israel, I felt a pressure that I don't feel as much on other vacations. To see the holiest sights. Or to see every sight, in general. Somehow, I didn't associate Israel with vacation and relaxation; to me, it felt as if I had a duty to check everything off my list. And so, for the first half of the trip, we traveled and saw sights, and (I'll admit) I felt a bit stressed. Trying to see all there is to see in Jerusalem in 36 hours is about as impossible as doing the same in New York City, plus the reverence factor. It was only during the second part of the trip when I realized, "Hey, this is a real place like any other, with restaurants to try and people to watch and beaches to lounge on." Which is when we finally slowed down, stopped trying to cram everything in, and began to truly enjoy ourselves. We skipped a final trip to Jerusalem and instead decided to enjoy the pleasures of our incredibly charming neighborhood, Neve Tzedeck. I shopped. (Great boutiques. Great prices.) We went to the beach every afternoon from 3 pm til sunset, sitting on the deck of our favorite restaurant, eating mezze with amazing bread and watching the sun melt into the mediterranean. We lingered at rooftop bars. We saw a way-too-avante garde dance performance (we both agreed the dancers looked like they were having spastic fits, but hey--we got some culture). We struck up random conversations with Israelis. We relaxed in our air conditioned apartment during the high heat of the day. We had breakfast at our favorite restaurant every morning and became "regulars." Snuggled with our adopted cat, Shakshuka. That's her, below, licking my s.o. with zealotry. We read and read and read. (I took a break from book number 3 (Edgar Sawtelle) to start book number 4: Orange is the New Black, a memoir by Piper Kerman, an upper crust Smith grad who ends up spending a year in prison for a drug trafficking crime she committed as a reckless 22 year old. (I decided I wouldn't do so badly myself in a minimum security prison. People skills and intuition can take you pretty far in that kind of situation.) And so, two weeks in, I finally reached the vacation state of mind that I'd been striving for. Calm. Rested. Clear of mind. Full of vows to keep some perspective when I hit my desk on Tuesday morning. Now I just need to keep it going to the end of the first week, at least. But first, a day and night in Istanbul.

Below, a shot of the Tel Aviv airport, with a cool fountain, where the water drips from a skylight, like a giant passing shower. Why can't JFK look like this?)