Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wedding, or lack thereof.

So yeah, the "wedding" is no longer. Still getting married though, fo sho. I'm pretty sure that part matters more. What we're envisioning now is, basically, exactly what I've been saying I didn't want to do. We'll have a very simple ceremony, probably in the park somewheres (for which you don't need a permit unless it's more than 20 people, which it won't be), and then we'll go to dinner. But - and this is the clincher - we've tacked an extra bit onto the end. The day after the ceremony, we'll leave for a week's vacation. You could call it a honeymoon I suppose, but we're not really thinking of it like that. We'll go somewhere from Sunday to Friday, and that somewhere will likely be Boston. We'll stay in a nice hotel or a bed-and-breakfast, and we'll eat wherever we want to, and we'll shop. We'll spend way more money than we usually would on such a trip. And in the end, we'll still end up spending maybe a fifth to a quarter of what we were going to spend on the original wedding.

Outside of saving a significant amount of money, there are other benefits as well. It shifts the focus away from throwing a big party that's really for other people, and moves it more toward the event of our union. It also removes an immense amount of work and stress from me / us. Starting a marriage by doing something hugely expensive and taxing - where is the wisdom in that? If it wasn't so hard for us to do - for instance, if there was a lovely catering hall that we could walk into, choose a few options for a vegan buffet, pick out two kinds of flowers, and hand over $5k for the whole shebang, well sure. We'd wedding the night away, we'd wedding out little hearts out... maybe. But it just isn't like that. Not only would a catering hall kind of wedding cost way more than that anyway, but it would also just feel like it was for someone else - cookie cutter we ain't. I just can't see it working.

So it really isn't only about the money. Of course it's a huge factor, but if it was the only issue we would figure something out. The fact is that we've both had reservations from the start about the whole thing. There are problems on every level, from timing to social and family relations stuff to having to defend our decisions about what "traditions" to ignore to the hardly anticipated food difficulties to finding appropriate attire for ourselves and the wedding party... It just shouldn't be so hard. It became a question of, what are we fighting for? (Answer: something we don't really want to deal with.) What our we fighting against? (Ourselves, our financial status, and our current living situation.) In the end, I think this is much more realistic, and will be less stressful and as such more enjoyable. Party or not, we will still be married as of March 20th, 2010 - emerging from this little cocoon of engagement as fully formed husband and wife. And without the stress of trying to plan a wedding to get it done, we're pretty psyched about it.

I think the wedding that I was putting together would have been beautiful, and honestly I think I would make a pretty good wedding planner. With the details being less personal, I could be less obsessive - plus I'd be working with other people's money, which is always a plus. I've thought of putting myself out into the world as a strictly vegan wedding planner - as far as I can tell there aren't any, even in New York. I thought my own wedding would be good practice. Ah well, at least in the planning that I did do, I learned a lot. I know, for instance, what venues will allow you to bring in your own caters, and which ones have on site kitchens, and which caterers don't bother to return your emails when you mention "vegan" and "low guest count" in the same request. I know who will and won't attempt to make a vegan cake. At some point, hopefully soon, I'll compile this info into either one post or a collection of posts, for anyone who might want to do this crazy thing called a vegan wedding - and actually has the will and the funds to follow it through. (Well, in New York at least.)

I'll keep posting here as the details of our small ceremony and post-wedding trip come into focus. Who knows, plans may change again - but this is not just another waffle. I've jumped the fence, and I'm not going back. I don't want to work on a wedding. I want to work on a marriage. And now I have the time and energy to do it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Boxing Day.

I'm not sure what it is about December 26th. Perhaps it's 'December 26th With Jonathan'. Perhaps it's 'December 26th In Jonathan's Parents' House'. Perhaps it's 'December 26th In the Woods'. But any way about it, two years in a row now, on that day, we've had major relationship blowouts.

Last year, it went something like so. We'd spent days on end hanging out with his immediate and extended family. I'd been baking in the kitchen with his mother. I had essentially been doing whatever I could to carve out a place for myself within his family... and then my brain short-circuited, when I remembered the conversations we'd had in which he'd told me that he wasn't sure if he ever wanted to get married (i.e., actually make me a part of his family). Obviously this little revelation of mine was followed by the knock-down drag-out of the year - the "why the hell are you parading me around like a puppet in front of your whole damn family when you never intend to actually make a commitment to me anyway" argument. Fun times. And we didn't so much resolve that fight as it came to a sudden halt when he had to go with his parents to see his great Aunt Tillie, who had landed herself in the hospital on Christmas night.

I didn't go into town with them; I wasn't really in the mindset to be partaking in "family" events. We told his parents that I wasn't feeling well, and off they sped down the winding country roads in his mother's Lincoln Continental leaving me alone in the big house in the woods. Of course, within twenty minutes I was wracked with guilt about sending him off to the hospital and refusing to accompany him, so I did the only thing I could think of: I cooked. I cooked a huge meal for everybody, and then I scoured the kitchen from top to bottom. They didn't return for many hours, and when they did I learned that Aunt Tillie had passed away before they'd even gotten into town

Well, Jonathan's parents retired to their bedroom to collect themselves, and Jonathan joined me in the living room. I apologized for sending him off to deal with his family without my support, but he wasn't upset. Instead, he laughed. He said, "I've been spending time with my family. And I feel bad for you - I'm gonna make you one of these people." Well then. I looked up at him and told him he shouldn't say things like that; it wasn't fair to tease. And he replied that he wasn't teasing, was perfectly serious; he'd realized that he did want to marry me after all. Eventually, at least. I've been in various stages of wedding-crazy ever since.

This of course was not the engagement moment. That took a while. but it was a major turning point. What we've struggled with all along is his preconceived notions of "marriage" - that somehow the minute we get married we have to move to some awful house in the suburbs, buy a Subaru mini-van (do they even make those?), and start popping out kids. We've had many talks about this. I explain to him that, since neither one of us want that sort of life, it's not very likely that it will happen. It's not as if there's some sort of brainwashing that goes on during the ceremony, some subliminal messaging worked into the minister's spiel indoctrinating the new couple with fixations of white picket fences and 45 minute commutes. Usually by the end of the conversation he understands that "marriage", as seen on TV and elsewheres, has little to no bearing on what a marriage between he and I would be. But, somehow, after a month or so he forgets, and then we have to do it all over again.

As you may imagine, all this wedding stuff has not helped. Each level of expense and complication has pushed us that much further away from a marriage for us, and more toward trying to do things the way other people do. Because even though the wedding and the marriage are two separate animals, one is a sort of symbol of the other. I have a distinct feeling that the wedding has become ever increasingly a symbol for Jonathan of the kind of marriage that he does not want. This has been a major factor in all of my waffling on whether or not to even have a wedding.

But, to the instant event. We went into this long vacation trip with the intention of talking to both sets of parents about the financial standing of the wedding. After discovering that every penny of my parents' funds are invested in the stock market, I have become extremely reluctant to take anything from them until things become more stable in that arena. So we'd resolved to see if his parents wanted to contribute anything, and then see where we stood. We didn't want to bring it up on x-mas day, when we were arriving to their house, so we figured we'd wait for it to come up semi-naturally in the days following.

Well, the first wrench in the works was thrown within two hours of our arrival. We learned that his parents, who are now retired, have planned two rather extravagant vacations to take place within the next six months. Now, these are people who live very frugally, but have done relatively well for themselves and so every now and then like to take off to Europe. They're the kind that have worked for every penny that they have - in a very real way they are living out the classic "American Dream". It's almost spooky. Anyway, knowing that those trips would be a significant outlay for them, I started to have doubts that it was at all an appropriate time to be asking for large sums. My real fear, even, was that they would cancel one of the trips to be able to give us what we needed. It's the sort of thing they'd do, and they'd do it without even telling us that they were doing it. That's just not something that I could stomach, especially not for something that is, let's face it, a party.

OK. So the next night, the 26th. The day. Perhaps some quirk of astronomical alignment? Hard to say. Honestly though, it's not that hard to understand - here we are, sitting in the beautiful retirement home of two happily married people who have, more or less, gotten everything they wanted out of their lives, while we meanwhile are in our 30's, still not yet married, have no idea where we'll actually settle down, don't know when or where or how or if we'll ever raise any kids... Of everything I ever have wanted out of life - partner, career, artistic success, motherhood - I have only begun to achieve the first one. And this partner of mine seems to go through waves of wanting to stay in the exact same place forever, literally and figuratively. And so, this time my frizzling took a different focus, the 'when are we leaving New York City and where are we going when we do' focus.

Now we've had this discussion before. He gets in this "I want to live in New York forever" mindset. And then I have to ask, you want to stand out on exposed subway platforms in the rain forever? You want to throw money into the ever-deepening rent hole forever? You never want to own a house? You never want to have a dog? And, oh yeah, what about the fact that I don't want to live here forever? Shouldn't that be a factor? We talk about owning our own house and having a dog like every day. These are fairly basic things that both of us want, that are all but impossible here (prohibitive cost-wise and space/time-wise, respectively). If we are ever to have them, a change must be made. Shouldn't we go into our marriage with a plan, rather than stumble blindly forward just hoping that we'll figure something out?

Well, this time the conversation went on for hours, and grew into something more. Much, much more. It in fact, after several hours, developed into "you don't actually want to get married". A statement which was ever so terrifyingly verified. Indeed, he ended up admitting that no, he did not actually want to get married. That he had ended up proposing because he knew I wouldn't stay in the relationship any longer unless he did so. Which, of course, was absolutely true. But I never, ever wanted to get married for that. It was "I need us to progress or we're over, because what's the point", not "do something you don't want to do or we're over." Getting married to someone who doesn't want to be married is number one on my list of Top Ten Ways to Ruin Your Life.

So that was it. In the wee hours of the morning of the 27th, Jonathan and I were un-engaged. I gave back the ring. I tried to sleep. It didn't work. I wanted to leave, to drive on to New Orleans without him and send him back to New York on his own. He wouldn't let me go. I tried to sleep some more. I managed about three hours.

By around 9am I couldn't stand it any more. I tried leaving the bedroom, but his parents were in the main part of the house and I couldn't stop crying. So I got in our rental car and listened to my ipod for an hour. Finally I just got tired of it, and went back into the room to make him talk to me some more. And, actually, to explain to him that I couldn't do it. That I couldn't be with him as my "boyfriend", that knowing he didn't want me to have his name made me nauseous, that I couldn't live with the knowledge every day that I just wasn't good enough. I wanted him to fly back to New York as soon as possible so that he could find an apartment.

Well, as you might imagine, he was having none of it. He loved me. He wanted to be with me. But people became something else when they got married, and he didn't want... that whole list of crap that neither one of us has ever wanted, and that I have never suggested that we get anywhere near. So, yes, we had that conversation again. I know you don't want "marriage". That's not the question. The question is, do you what what a marriage would be between you and me? Oddly enough, the answer to that entirely different question seems to be, yes.

And so, game on.

There has been one significant effect of this whole blowout though: the wedding is basically nixed. The feeling that it's insane to spend a year's salary (maybe not mine now, but more than mine was for many years and more than many people's) on one day's celebration has officially won out over the need to have a party. I'm not sure exactly what we will do, but the original plans are out. It makes me a bit sad, but what can be done? If we could do the whole thing for $10k, it would be a different story. With the way our lives are situated though, and with what we have (and don't have) at our disposal, we couldn't do it any more simply than we were doing it, and it was still way, way, way too much. So it goes.

The end product will involve a maximum of ten people we're guessing. And even if it is disappointing not to have a "real" wedding, it's also a world of weight off of my shoulders - putting together a wedding is a huge amount of work, especially when you insist upon being different.

So, marriage: on, wedding: off. And we forge onward.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Finished / Starting

So, the crazy work insane-o binge is done... but only because I'm flying out of the state tomorrow. One of my attorneys spent the night at the office last night, no lie. The other will be there all weekend - all of our oppositions have to be served on Monday. But I did my time, composed opps to 17 motions, found liability materials for four others, and proofread I don't even know how many... I feel that I did my part. And now I'm done. I even got to leave the office early today - at about 2:30. They said I deserved it. Ya think?

Done, and yet. Tomorrow morning, Christmas morning, at 5:45 am no less, we will be calling the car service to take us to JFK so that we can fly to Raleigh/Durham, from which we will drive to Pulaski, Virginia. It will in all likelihood be ten to eleven hours of travel. Woo! After five days in the mountains of VA, we will drive from there to New Orleans - all of the flights would have taken us back through JFK, and we just couldn't stomach the thought. We'll be in N.O. for about a week, and then come back home - and I'll go back to the office the very next day. Restful vacation, eh?

So why are we flying out on x-mas day? Well, I couldn't take days off from work any sooner, and prices don't go down again until mid-January anyway. Why are we doing it at all? Hell, I dunno. Family obligation partly - what with the engagement and all everyone wants to see us... Plus, I didn't see my fam last year, so there's all the guilt for that, and I haven't seen my sis in ages. I also just really like seeing his family and being in their cabin in the woods. So it's semi-self-inflicted torture. Or something like that.

We will of course have the additional hurdle of Jonathan not having a valid ID - it expired like two years ago. Oh, airport security is just a joy, let me tell you. At least Jet Blue finally finished their work on Terminal 5, so we shouldn't have to deal with taking a shuttle to a goddamn portable gate or any of that nonsense like we have the last few times. Of course, I will be doing all of the driving on my own, but when other people (especially significant other type people) drive a vehicle I'm riding in, I tend to just get agitated and yell - so maybe it's for the best.

So yes, done with one stressful crazy adventure and on to another. It's like I'm Indiana Jones! Except, you know, infinitely less interesting. Happy christmas. Here I go.

Finished / Starting

So, the crazy work insane-o binge is done... but only because I'm flying out of the state tomorrow. One of my attorneys spent the night at the office last night, no lie. The other will be there all weekend - all of our oppositions have to be served on Monday. But I did my time, composed opps to 17 motions, found liability materials for four others, and proofread I don't even know how many... I feel that I did my part. And now I'm done. I even got to leave the office early today - at about 2:30. They said I deserved it. Ya think?

Done, and yet. Tomorrow morning, Christmas morning, at 5:45 am no less, we will be calling the car service to take us to JFK so that we can fly to Raleigh/Durham, from which we will drive to Pulaski, Virginia. It will in all likelihood be ten to eleven hours of travel. Woo! After five days in the mountains of VA, we will drive from there to New Orleans - all of the flights would have taken us back through JFK, and we just couldn't stomach the thought. We'll be in N.O. for about a week, and then come back home - and I'll go back to the office the very next day. Restful vacation, eh?

So why are we flying out on x-mas day? Well, I couldn't take days off from work any sooner, and prices don't go down again until mid-January anyway. Why are we doing it at all? Hell, I dunno. Family obligation partly - what with the engagement and all everyone wants to see us... Plus, I didn't see my fam last year, so there's all the guilt for that, and I haven't seen my sis in ages. I also just really like seeing his family and being in their cabin in the woods. So it's semi-self-inflicted torture. Or something like that.

We will of course have the additional hurdle of Jonathan not having a valid ID - it expired like two years ago. Oh, airport security is just a joy, let me tell you. At least Jet Blue finally finished their work on Terminal 5, so we shouldn't have to deal with taking a shuttle to a goddamn portable gate or any of that nonsense like we have the last few times. Of course, I will be doing all of the driving on my own, but when other people (especially significant other type people) drive a vehicle I'm riding in, I tend to just get agitated and yell - so maybe it's for the best.

So yes, done with one stressful crazy adventure and on to another. It's like I'm Indiana Jones! Except, you know, infinitely less interesting. Happy christmas. Here I go.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Doing the overtime tango.

I thought that December would be for loafing. Foolish, foolish me. Delaware defense counsel has seen to it that it shall be otherwise; they've decided, actually, that we should reply to 'round about eighty or ninety summary judgment motions... by the Monday after Christmas.

Now, mind you, the firm (firms, actually - ours and theirs) is (are) closed on the 25th and 26th. And futhermore, most of the attorneys were planning on being out from the 22nd on. One has already had to cancel her vacation over this malarkey, actually. So really they might as well have put the deadline at the 19th. In the midst of this melee I, of course, am back to working ten hour days. It's only ten because I've capped it at that; my original plan was eleven and I decided that that was ridiculous. See, I leave town on the 25th (that's right New Orleans, I'm comin' atcha). And yes, being me naturally I want to have as much done as is humanly possible. But you know what? What I can get done in ten hours a day every day between now and the 23rd (minus Saturday) might just be the definition of "humanly possible". Humans, after all, have their breaking points.

Of course this is hardly an isolated incident. Last week there was overtime trying to get extensions for these replies. And the week before that it was for the case charts. And the week before that... Does this all sound terribly familiar to anyone else? You may or may not recall that at this time last year, I was finishing up a trial that had me running 60 and 70 hour weeks. Granted, this is not that. And yet, it is all too similar for my taste. After all, the constant overtime was what led, last spring, to my being so completely overwhelmed and exhausted that all I could think to do was quit. But what with no savings left, a wedding in the not-so-distant future, and even more layoffs looming darkly at Jonathan's workplace, quitting is not so much an option this time around. I suppose I'll just have to deal.

Le pout, le sigh. At least it's paid overtime, and lord knows I can use the additional income. So it's really a matter of dealing with the additional stress, the lack of sleep. What did I learn during my time off? I have a feeling that whatever it was, it will now be put to the test.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Back and forth one million times.

So we've been through another "should we even be having this wedding" freakout. It began when we got the initial quote from the caterer, that put our teeny tiny low key event at $260 a head. Uh... and the food will be made of what now? Ohhh, platinum plated tofu? And will be served by an all-star waitstaff of Ton Cruise, Toby Maguire, and Brad Pitt!? Well then! Oh, wait, no. It'll be a self-serve buffet, with food not plated with any precious or even semi-precious metals. Apparently this is just what it costs to have an event catered in this stupid town.

OK. So then we took a good look at everything there was left to spend, based on the smaller number that we'd like to get by with on catering. And all together it looked completely undoable, but when broken down between both sets of parents and us (essentially dividing by three), we thought we could swing it. This is of course making the bold assumption that my parents will ever come up with money that doesn't completely jeopardize the only retirement fund they have - a fund which is ever so brilliantly all invested in that bastion of stability known as the stock market.

But then we realized that we're not gonna get this thing catered with anything other than lukewarm soy nuggets on iceberg lettuce unless we shell out significantly more dough. And we dove right back into "what in god's name is possessing us to spend this much money one one day's worth of celebration anyway?" And that, certainly, is a valid question. Unfortunately it leads to a circular answer, which goes something like this:

We are getting married. And we want to celebrate the event of us getting married with other people, many of whom live out of state, because it's a very important event. And if we're bringing in people from out of state, we need to tell them to go somewhere and it needs to be somewhere relatively large so that they can all go there at once. We don't have any friends with houses or yards of property of any kind, and Central Park is too risky as far as weather and permits, so we'll have to rent or otherwise pay for a place for them to go. And if we're making them fly here and gather (and pay for New York hotel rooms), we have to feed them and give them alcohol. Doing this at a restaurant would feel cheesy, prevent us from having a ceremony with the majority of the people, and would still cost a significant amount of money. Doing it the way we've been planning to do it will let us share the ceremony and be appropriately nice, but will cost enormous amounts of money which frankly, plainly, we don't have. So maybe we shouldn't be trying to have that kind of wedding. But... but... we are getting married. And we want to celebrate...

Have we considered doing it elsewhere? Yes. But we would have to travel which would add to our costs and to our stress. And then, where? New Orleans isn't exactly cheap for events, and just try to find us a vegan or even a vegetarian caterer. Not to mention that, uh, that's where my parents live. So, you know, they'd be all up in my junk? And I'd, um, kill them? Yeah. Pulaski, Virginia - well, as soon as you find it on a map you just let me know. His parents don't even live in the bustling metropolis of Pulaski anymore either; they now live in White Gate. Among the Amish. You think I'm kidding, and I'm so not. Sure the mountains are beautiful, but it becomes quite a logistical problem. As in, no hotels, certainly no way to have it catered, and so on. And as far as doing it where neither one of us have lived nor have kin, well I think that would just be way too effing difficult to arrange.

In the end, I feel like an ass for wanting something I can't figure out how to pay for, and for even considering spending so much on what really is just one day, even if a very important thing happens on that day. I find it frustrating that even while we're cutting so many corners the price tag is still coming out at over $25k. I'm not getting a real dress. Not having any flowers. Not putting centerpieces on the tables. Our wedding bands cost under $200 (and are, incidentally, lost in the mail - but that's another story). There are no professional decorators, I designed all of the stationery and bought the pieces separately and on sale and will be assembling and addressing everything myself. We did splurge on a photographer, but she's not at the top of the pay spectrum by any stretch of the imagination, and we're not paying for videography. We have a guest list of 50, for chrissake. The venue we've rented was the cheapest we found in the whole city, except for a few which seemed cheap until we realized that they had required caterers, who in turn had required minimums of 150 heads... and so on. For the love of all things good in the world, I've even given up on having a cake.

So, ok, sure. It's a big party we're trying to throw. But compared to what's pushed as the "norm", it's barely even a wedding. So how, how, HOW the hell does it cost this freakin much? I've broken it down. I've got my little chart with all the numbers in plain black and white. But it's still just insane. No matter what I do, I can't make it make sense. And yet, we're getting married...

So now we're back to the part in the cycle where we try to make it happen - with every possible bit of extraneous fluff cut out. Not that there's a whole lot of fluff to cut. I'm now cutting things that I'm not even sure are cuttable. Over the extensive Christmas travels we'll be doing, we're going to talk to the parents and see where things stand. Maybe, come January, we'll know whether or not we'll actually be having a wedding that doesn't involve an American Legion hall.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Welp, I done did it.

I wrote a novel. My final, winning word count, achieved today at about 3pm: 51,123. Of course, what I have produced is by no means a polished piece of work. It needs editing, and it needs it bad. Whole sections might be removed... or not. There are definitely huge holes (where did the blanket go? She has it one second, and then in the next she's applying for a job to bake cupcakes? What???) that need filling. But as we wrimos like to say, December is for editing. And as I told one of my writing buddies, all of 2009 is for editing if we so choose. The good part is that there is a beginning, and there's a middle with character and plot development, and there's a definite conclusion that draws a lot of things together - without giving anyone a magical happyland perfect answer to his or her conflict. That's good, right?

So, you like, heard me right? I wrote a freaking novel. And maybe it's tripe. OK, whatever. Tripe gets published every day. *But.* Maybe it's not tripe. Maybe it's a good seed, and with proper pruning and care and watering (read: a shitton of editing and rewriting), it will become a pretty little bonzai - one of the magical ones that even has miniature flowers. Ya think? Hey, anything is possible.

So now that you all know how awesomely fulfilling it is to write a novel in one crazy month, you're all going to join in on NaNoWriMo next year and be my writing buddies, right? Right. Hotness. See you on November First, 2009, 12:01 a.m. I'll bring the espresso.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So, we might have to postpone the wedding.

We met with the caterer, and everything seemed awesome. And then, we got the quote from the caterer. And it's a theoretical quote, based on... actually we don't know what it's based on, because it includes next to no information. It says things like, "Necessary Equipment - $2516.13". Um, which necessary equipment and how much for each piece please? Obviously they have specific pieces and prices in mind or they wouldn't have come up with such a precise number, but for some reason they don't want to tell us what they are. That annoys me.

The grand total of the quote comes to almost thirteen thousand dollars - several thousand dollars beyond what we could possibly think about spending. Completely ridiculous, in fact, considering that we're basing estimates on 50 guests. So, yeah, we'll be needing more information.

I'm a little bit backed into a corner here, and for one main reason: this catering company is literally the only one I've found that will do an all-vegan meal for us. I'm kind of astounded by this. We're in freaking New York City, land of vegans. I feel like I must be missing something. And yet, in the dozens of hours I've spent on the internet, I can't turn up anyone else. So assuming that we're not just gonna break out a b-b-q pit on the terrace and have some veggie skewers and cans of peanuts, I've got to figure out a way to make things work with them.

So, why might we need to postpone? In a word, money. We don't have any, and we don't really have a way to get any. I'm working again, but even if I save every available penny between now and the wedding I'll have scraped up maybe $3000 - barely a drop in the bucket, really. As I've discussed, the whole my-parents-are-paying idea dropped right out the window. Jonathan could maybe ask his parents for money, but neither of us are terribly comfortable with that idea, and we're sure as hell not asking for as much as we actually need, because it's much too big a number.

The truth is that when we started on the whole wedding idea we really thought we could do it for significantly less money than it's coming out to. I truly wish that I'd be content with a ceremony at City Hall and then a fancy dinner for the parents and a few friends. I'd be disappointed with that and so would both mothers, and ultimately I think so would Jonathan. But I don't want to spend thirty thousand dollars on a party, even if that party does center around a very important event. It's ridiculous. For the entire first decade of my adult life I didn't accumulate that much money over the course of any one whole year, and now I'm going to spend it on one day? It's almost obscene when you think about it. At this point I really don't know what to do.

I have an ominous feeling that I will be made to rue the day that I ordered those damn personalized matchboxes...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is it because they're at the end of the alphabet?

So, the economy is bad. Obviously that means we should make life more difficult for people who depend on public transportation - you know, the rich and elite.

According to the MTA's new budget plans, released Thursday, we may soon be seeing both an increase in fares across the board and an overall decrease in service. The service cuts will reduce the frequency of trains during non-rush hours, and will also completely ax the W and Z lines.

Raise fares AND cut service? Simultaneously? Really?

Am I the only NYC subway rider who remembers two Christmases ago, when the MTA boasted huge surpluses, and handed out discounted fares for a whole month like they were candy canes? I thought it was stupid then, and now my suspicions have been confirmed.

Speaking of suspicious confirmed, also being cut permanently is G service north of Court Square. Mmm hmm. Tonight I'm riding the new extent of the G line, almost by accident - it's the most convenient way for me to get from my office in midtown to my appointment near Carroll Gardens. I wonder how long it will be before the G is gone altogether? Before they tell us, what, just take the J through Manhattan? Or take one of our wonderful busses? Not the M though, because it will no longer be running into Brooklyn.

Good ol' Bloomberg wants us to tighten our belts and stick this thing out together - good ol' Bloomberg, whose net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Have we mentioned that the MTA's deficit, the one that is purportedly the motive for these cuts and fare hikes, is a mere $1.2 billion? Does anyone else find that frustrating?

Oh, MTA. Why, why must you forsake us all?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A successful mini-ride on the 6.

Today I finally, finally, finally made my ride around the southern terminal loop to confirm my suspicions about the old City Hall station. Indeed, what I had conjectured is true. Unfortunately, you can't see much, but whatever. It's still awesome. When I made my ride I was in the front of the train, but of course in the R142A's with double panes of tinted glass you can't really see through the front. I want to try it again in the back, and in the daylight because apparently the skylights are no longer boarded up. I'm getting mixed stories on that one.

On the way down, I was also able to spot the fabled 18th Street Station - man, is that some serious graffiti.

Anyway, at the moment I'm allowing my creative worlds to collide, and my 6 train ride got incorporated into the novel I'm writing for NaNoWriMo. The passage goes something like this.
Once her friend was fed she had to leave; there was nothing else to be done, no reason to be foisted upon the girl, and anyway it was difficult to watch her like that. The day kept getting colder and windier though, and as Kansas had had quite enough of being cold she decided it was a good train riding day. She rode the N train the wrong way, up to Ditmars, and then waited for it to turn back in the other direction toward Manhattan. Perhaps, she thought, she'd ride all the way to Coney. She'd forgotten though that they'd be doing construction on the tunnel all month, and at Queensboro Plaza she was forced out onto the outdoor platform to wait for the 7 into the city. She rode it to Grand central, where she caught the 6 train headed south. She'd long had a bone to pick with the 6, and it was time that it be addressed.

A few stops passed uneventfully: 33rd Street with its oddly looped seat poles, 28th Street, 23rd Street utterly boring. After 23rd Street though, her pace began to quicken, and she moved to the windows at a set of right hand doors. As they left the station, she cupped her hands around her eyes so as to see better out the window past the glaring reflections from the lights inside the train; for a few moments she was only staring at the rapidly moving walls. It was dizzying. And then suddenly, the wall opened up before her into a wide platform, with intermittent poles. It was an oddly shaped space full of geometric angles, and every square inch had been covered in graffiti since the station had been abandoned. No longer a rumor, she had seen it with her own two eyes: the 18th Street Station. She wondered what had happened to the entrances above. Had they been bricked shut, paved over? She would have to investigate, see if there were traces to be found, clues to the former existence of the passageway.

This train held further mysteries, so before the doors opened at Union Square she took a seat, knowing full well the flood that would be arriving momentarily. They passed Astor Place, with its odd beaver reliefs as tribute to the Astor family who made their fortune in pelts. They passed Bleecker, name of origin unknown, but it might have been her favorite street in the entire town; she had walked it end to end more times than she could count. That station connected with the Broadway Lafayette station of the F and V lines, with its odd metal cones perforated with glass circlets, which flashed lights at indeterminate intervals. Next Spring Street, the epicenter of the SoHo shopping district – Kate's Paperie and Spring Street Natural and Pylones a stone's throw. Then Canal Street, the ubiquitous street name phenomenon in every port city, here the gateway to the ever expanding Chinatown. And finally Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall... or at least, what they were calling the City Hall station these days.

The original City Hall station, opened in 1904 complete with chandelier lighting and amid much fanfare, had been closed for decades. Because of its location directly beneath City Hall, it was designed as the “jewel in the crown” of the whole Interboro Rapid Transit system. People stopped going to the station, though, because of the much larger Brooklyn Bridge station only a block north which had express service... How quickly they forget. And so, the station was retired in 1945, the skylights boarded up, the entrances sealed, the the chandeliers allowed to crust over. It had only been open for 41 years, so in fact had been abandoned far longer than it was ever used.

But. The 6 trains, upon finishing their southbound route at Brooklyn Bridge / City Hall, needed a way to get to the uptown bound platform four tracks over. The way they did it was to loop through the old station. Or at least, this was her conjecture. She'd looked up old track maps and it all made sense, all fit together. She wanted to find out.

When her train pulled into the station, she sat tight, listening. Sometimes the trains got pulled out of commission at this point, sent straight back north to Pehallam Bay. That would be bad. Or maybe not; it would be an adventure, but the MTA officers likely would not be terribly pleased upon discovering her. The announcement was made though: “This is the last southbound stop on this train; the next stop on this train will be Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall on the uptown platform.” Perfect.

The train sat for a few minutes with the doors open, and then it sat for a few minutes with the doors closed. And then it began to move. She could feel that they were traveling through the wide arc of the old paths. She waited patiently by the doors, on the righthand side of the car, watching, watching. And then there it was. It was indeed a short platform, very short and not very wide. City Hall was spelled out in tiling like in so many of the old stations. In the middle of the platform there were stairs leading up to a mezzanine level; she believed this was where most of the resplendent features of the station lay. She wished, though, that she could see the ceiling, vaulted and arced with leaded skylight detailing...

It was over all too quickly. Her train passed the platform in a matter of seconds, and then waited at the end of the loop for several moments in deafening silence for clearance to enter the uptown 6 platform at Brooklyn Bridge. Overhead, a 4 or 5 train roared by every few minutes. As they finally emerged from the tunnel, she thought, this city is amazing.

Emerging into the great circle that held the Ugliest Fountain, she found the world dark despite the early hour and colder than ever. Tonight she would not be able to sleep in her studio, with the bone-chilling winds making her old jaloused window rattle loose in its wall of glass brick, and she still without a proper blanket. She wondered what had become of Mr. Norris's things after he had passed. And then a vision in her memory made her stop dead in her tracks: at the very end of the Old City Hall Platform, there had been something. Someone. Standing, stoic. The goat, sturdy as always, patiently chewing cud.

I'm throwing in this youtube video I found, because it shows exactly what I was able to see on tonight's ride of City Hall. Whoever shot this is a lil bit goofy, but that's alright.

Well, I got in... sort of.

As you may recall, about two hundred years ago I applied to get into the Journalism program of Baruch College, one of the many schools in the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Before I had begun this application process, I never realized that you actually just apply to CUNY itself, and let them know which of their colleges you'd prefer to go to. Well, I filled out all my paperwork, and I put down Baruch as my first choice and didn't give a second, because I couldn't find anotherCUNY school that offered a Journalism major.

So.

Fast forward three hundred and twelve years, to yesterday. In the mail, I receive the following letter:
"Congratulations on your admission to The City University of New York. In reviewing your application, we attempted to offer you admission into the program of your choice but could not do so at this time. However, I am happy to offer you the opportunity to enroll in York College."
At which point I'm thinking, what the hell is York College? I had never heard of it. Apparently it's in Jamaica (Queens, not the sunny isle). At the time when I was filling out my application, four hundred and thirty two years ago, they in fact did not have a Journalism major which is why they did not appear in my searches. This semester, however, just the Fall of 2008, they have bumped it up from "minor" and let it go full blown.

So perhaps, ladies and gents, I'm school bound. According to the aforementioned letter, York will be sending me some materials in a few days. I've looked online at what they have to offer; it seems pretty cool. Of course, I'll only be able to take at most two classes a semester - and that's assuming they offer Saturday classes - so... perhaps somewhere around 2018 I'll be qualified to apply for an entry level job as a copy editor. You know, when I'm 40. Ha. That sounds bitter but I'm laughing. I'd love to be back in school, regardless of where it leads.

In other news, my NaNo novel word count is up over 25k now, which is semi-exciting. Good thing too, since we're past the halfway mark. Just gotta keep on plugging.

With school, who can tell. I won't know what York has to say to me until their package comes. Thus, the saga continues...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm excited!

Tonight I cracked twenty thousand words. I'm makin' it happen! Or something. I can't help but think that if I wasn't going through a major bout of wedding obsession right now, I'd have twice as many words cranked out... but so it goes. The waves come when they come, and I'm still getting the writing done, and I'm enjoying both - and isn't that the point?

So I'll give you another snippet, super fun since it's completely out of context! Enjoy.

* * *

Kansas reached Alice before she dared look behind her again. By that time her heart was pounding fast, half from adrenaline and half from the topography. The statue, she was happy to see, was still overrun with children of all ages and sizes despite dwindling twilight; she moved around behind it where she would have a clear view of the direction in which she'd come without being clearly seen, and could also take off stealthily in the direction behind her and make it quickly to the street. If need be, perhaps serendipity would provide her a well-timed bus headed down Fifth Avenue.

She watched for five solid minutes before she dared move, but she saw no trace of the man. She began to relax somewhat – perhaps she had imagined the following? They were pretty well into the depths of the park, though, the last time she'd seen him, and the first time she'd been under the Queensboro bridge trying to get a better look at the island. Could that have been a coincidence? It seemed doubtful.

She pulled off her bright red hat, and in its place wrapped her black scarf around her head after knotting her knot of hair in a bundle at her neck. At least that would be something. She'd known he would come, but she hadn't thought he'd be able to find her. Such a big city, and her with no legal address. She wondered how long he'd been trailing her before she noticed.

An essay on marriage.

I wrote this post a few months back, and recently revisited it because sometimes I need reminding. I found it badly in need of editing, but still a pretty good description of my stance. So here it is again for your reading pleasure/annoyance.

One of my favorite people (Genevieve) left a comment on the first version of this post. After describing marriage as "the daily practice of monogamy", she concluded with the following of weddings:
Imagine that your relationship with your man is a living, breathing organism. This is its bar mitzva. As Garrison Keillor once said, there is a reason why the music at the end of the wedding ceremony is a march. You're bravely marching down the aisle towards God knows what, armed to the teeth. And your loved ones are there to cheer you on.
There's an entertaining quote within a quote situation for you, ha.

Anyway, onward.

* * *

So, why the hell do you want to get married?

This is the question that I've been asking myself. For years. A decade or more, really. And it's not only me asking it; it's former boyfriends asking it, it's friends asking it. I've been asked it several times since I've gotten engaged, due to the company I keep. It's such a valid question that I've actually started polling people.

For those that know about my engagement, I ask for an honest opinion on it (and usually get one). For those that don't know, I ask for a general opinion on the entire concept and get the can of worms cracked open, and then show them the ring. Usually they backpedal, until I explain that I really am looking for genuine feedback and open discussion. It's a fun game when you hang out with a bunch of anarchists and artists and other such people engaging in non-standard lifestyles.

My answer to this question, as you may imagine, has changed fairly dramatically since I was twenty (and thank god). Back then, the reasoning was an ever so co-dependent "because that's how I'll know he'll really stay with me", or, "because that's how I'll know he really loves me" - something along those lines. As if marriage is a solution to a problem, a universal Mr. Fix-It to my severe emotional disruptions and fear of abandonment. Luckily, none of the boys that I dated were foolish enough to go for it... for very long, at least.

In my mid-twenties, for a minute or two, the answer was simply, "I don't." I'd learned enough to know that I didn't want to do it the way that a lot of other people do it, and wasn't empowered enough to realize that I might be able to do it in a different way entirely.

And now? Now that we've been living together for a year and a half? Now that I have a sparkly ring on my finger? Now that I've put a deposit down on a gorgeous venue and I'm scouting out dresses and caterers, not to mention trying to figure out how mortgages really work? Well, now it's a much bigger answer. But it needs some backstory.

As should be evident by this point, I have a lot of problems with marriage. Similar to my take on many other subjects, my contentions here range from the macro to the micro. There are the big, universal stumps like the federal regulations prohibiting gay marriage and the legal ramifications on each other's finances. And then there are the superpersonal, relationship-specific details like the way that a couple will try to use marriage to fix whatever intimacy problems exist in the relationship. And then there's this enormous gulf of gray area with any size issue you can think of. Let's examine some of these items, shall we?

The subject of the prohibition against gay marriage is one that I cannot help but consider when thinking about my own marrying possibilities. Since high school age my circle of friends and acquaintances has always contained gay people, and a few women have who moved through my life drew me strongly to them, so much so that I questioned my own sexuality for a time.

More to the point, though, is that two of my very close friends are lesbians. One, we'll call her H, is my oldest friend. She revealed her sexuality to the world in her 11th grade year (my 12th) and has never looked back. Recently she's fallen madly in love, and she and her new partner want nothing more than to marry. But of course they can't. They could maybe travel to one of the states that has made it legal for a moment - I believe California is the latest? - but of what use? It wouldn't be recognized in their home. And so they're talking about having a commitment ceremony and a big party, because isn't that what a wedding really is anyway? What is all this craziness with making it a legal contract? Ah, but we'll get to that.

The second of the two aforementioned friends, we'll call M. She has strong feelings about the concept of gay marriage, and does not want any part of it, especially not a commitment ceremony that strikes her only as a "fake wedding". To her it feels like mockery; yet it makes her sad that she will not get to experience that rite of passage, even when she is ready to commit herself to a lifelong partner. In what might be an ironic twist, I've asked M if she would like to be our officiant.

I've heard two opposing arguments on the concept of straight couples who support gay rights and what we should do with our own options. One camp declares that if we truly support them, then we should not take part in this unfair system and therefore should not become legally married until everyone has the right to do so. The other camp, upon hearing of couples who refuse to marry for the sake of gay rights, shake their heads sadly, and muse on the irony: that people who have the option would turn it down, while so many who want it so badly can't do something so basic as commit themselves to one another. At least, not in the eyes of the law.

And there it is: in the eyes of the law. What is that? "We love each other - legally! And our sex is legal too!" How perverse is that? Of course the thing is that it isn't actually like that at all. In reality, the legal aspect of marriage has nothing to do with the relationship itself. It has to do with agreeing to let your partner all up in your junk... in a paperwork kind of sense. Marrying legally intertwines your finances, lets you get on each other's insurance, allows you to file taxes or apply for a mortgage jointly, and can smooth the way in crisis situations.

That last one is a big part of why the legal aspect becomes important for gay couples - how terrible, how ridiculously unfair, to be kept out of the ICU because "you're not family". Also a big contender are the problems that arise in apportioning an estate when no will has been left - there have been instances where the family didn't approve of the relationship, and so a lifelong partner has been left totally s.o.l. in the wake of loss. You want to believe that people wouldn't act this way. But then, you want to believe a lot of things.

So when you consider it rationally, a legal marriage is two adults agreeing to open their files to each other, give each other all-access passes, and make decisions for each other in times of dire need. A scary proposition, no doubt - if things go awry, you can end up liable for debt that you didn't even know your partner was accruing. And in some situations it's absolutely necessary because of the way our society is structured. But it has nothing to do with romantic love; it has to do with trust and fiscal responsibility - an important but quite different part of the whole. Oddly, this is the part that many couples seem to gloss over entirely, focusing instead on some ludicrous notion that "love is all you need". Oh, if only.

So, under all of these dark and foreboding clouds, why the hell do I want to get married? As I said, that answer is complex, but it's all rooted in one very simple fact: I have found my partner, and he his, and we want to celebrate our partnership and make our commitment formal. We also plan on staying in this country pretty much indefinitely, and the plain fact is that legal marriage makes it far easier for two adults to live together in this system - or maybe, more accurately, the system makes life difficult for adult couples who aren't legally married.

Do I want everyone to have the same rights? Of course. But giving up our opportunity will not create one for anyone else. I can do exactly two things about that problem: create awareness and vote.

Can I abide the dogma of the wedding ceremony as it is commonly carried out here and now in this country? No, and I don't have to, and I won't. Do I think that a legal marriage makes us legally bound to love each other? No, I think it makes us legally able to file joint tax returns, and will make things easier in times of crisis. Am I wandering into marriage with naive notions that getting married will be the ultimate solution to all of the problems in our relationship, and indeed in my life? To the contrary, I'm making every effort to walk into it in full consciousness of the potential pitfalls and failures, willing to take the risks, confident that we will keep loving each other and acting as equal parts of a whole as much as we are able.

Sound scary as shit? Well yeah, it is. So was moving to New York, and so was starting college, so is showing my art or publishing my writing, and so was everything else worthwhile that I've ever done.

When you understand that a marriage is not a "marriage", something that fits in a box that someone else put a label on, but simply a partnership between yourself and the person that you know and love, and it is nothing less or more than what you decide it will be, then all of those dark clouds part. And nothing that society says about what a "wife" is or what a "husband" is matters anymore. The things that your parents did to each other within their own marriage melt away. Because none of that has anything to do with you and your partner.

The day after you say "I do" (or "I will" or "Yes!" or "Hell yeah!" or "Totally"), you will still be the same two people that you are today, and you will still have the same relationship that you do now. That moment is not the one at which you devote yourselves to each other forever; that devotion should have long been in place.

And as for that, why the hell do I want to have a wedding?

Well, lest we confuse getting married with having a wedding, that's a different discussion entirely.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hook, Line, and Sinker
-or-
No, I really will NEVER learn.

OK. So, back in June or whenever when we made the big announcement, we went into the restaurant with a plan of what would and would not be discussed. We also, of course, had a plan as to how we were going to handle the issue of money. But just leave it to my folks to blow decorum wide open. Jonathan's parents had barely had time to choke with excitement on their complimentary bread before my mother blurted out, "Well of course we're paying for everything!" Naturally I had no intentions of discussing finances at the announcement luncheon, so I hushed her as best I could - that is, her and my dad, who had immediately chimed in - until later that evening.

(In case you're wondering if I was mortified by this little outburst, well, a little bit - but I'll say that I've been my parents' daughter for a long, long time and if I had let that sort of thing get to me I would have had to stop leaving the house years ago. Also, if you're a friend of mine and have ever wondered why I've got that penchant for blurting out inappropriate things, well, here's your answer.)

Once safely out of earshot of people who know how to act, I explained to my parents that we weren't planning on letting them finance the wedding, that we were planning on paying for it ourselves. That we had in fact already started saving. They insisted, and I insisted, and they insisted, and I insisted, and they insisted, and finally I thought, what am I doing? We did have a plan for dealing with parentally offered monies: it was basically that they'd be taken, BUT: not for any specific items, and not with any (tangible) strings attached. Anything and everything was to flow through me exclusively - there would be no "mom sends a deposit to the caterer".

There's also the fact that, unlike while I was growing up, my parents now actually sort of have money. Not due to their own efforts or anything like that; my mom has inherited houses, stock portfolios, and lump sums from an entire generation of aunts and uncles to whom she is the only heir. So, they've got money, and it's only sort of theirs, and they want to give it to me: why should I feel guilty about that?

In such a way, we did manage to get the first installment. We've spent some of it - put the downpayment on our venue and have taken care of some smaller things like the champagne glasses and a deposit on the invitations. And we still have a decent chunk sitting in the wedding fund account, since as I said we had been saving.

Well, then there was this time where I went and didn't have a job for six months. It pretty much put an end to our own saving, and somehow during that time I relaxed from my "we're paying for it, and anything from them is extra" stance into something of the reverse.

In other words, I made the classic mistake that I have been making for my entire life: I trusted my parents.

Well, I should have know that that was gonna come back and bite me in the ass. Since I've been re-employed I've been thinking about how to start saving again... problem being that I built up a little bit of credit card debt in the last month or two of unemployment. Nothing terrible, mind you, but it's foolishness to save money at 2.75% interest when you're paying 18% interest on credit card balances.

Now, as I've been posting, we've been trucking along lately with our plans. We're booking our wonderful photographer Sarah Tew, we're still on the search for a cake baker, and just today we made an appointment to meet with a caterer at the end of next week. As such, I called up my mom to see when Wedding Fund Installment Number Two may be expected.

And, well, that's when it dropped.

This is when she revealed to me that the way they're getting the wedding funds is by - get this - LIQUIDATING STOCK. You know, the worst possible financial choice anyone can make at the moment? Yeah that. She has some sense, at least - enough to know that it isn't the best idea. She's all, "Well you know, we don't want to do it until you really need it. But just let me know when you do, it's no problem, you're only getting married once." Yeah right! As if I, in good conscience, can tell them to do that right now!

Even I, little miss Dow Jones Dunce 2008, can tell you that now is the time to be buying stock, not selling it. A few times, my mom has told me about how much money they've "lost" in the market plummets, and my response every time has been "no mom, you haven't lost a penny unless you sold all of your stock today." So now I'm going to turn around and tell her to sell stock? Uh... not terribly likely, is it?

So yes. I've done it to myself again. For the hundredth, thousandth, millionth time they fed me a really good, parental-sounding 'we'll take care of you' kind of story, and even though I shouldn't believe it I did. It's like college loans all over again, just on a much shorter time scale and without government subsidization.

Tonight me and the hubby-to-be will have to sit down and re-analyze. It's not that dire at the moment; with what we've still got we should be able to do the deposit for Sarah, as well as those for a caterer and a cake. That puts us in relatively good shape, assuming of course that we can start saving again REAL SOON, and pretty seriously. I'll just have to put the brakes on any other planning, even of small pieces. Which is irritating.

Of course this is all of my own making. I don't need to have a big fancy party to be married - that's something that I'm choosing. And I shouldn't have trusted my parents' promise of support for one single second. Money is the area where they are least dependable. I guess I convinced myself that maybe somehow now things were different, or that because it was my one and only wedding that... I don't know, that something. I'm just so astounded with myself that I fell for it again.

Man, do I know what my whole therapy session will be about this week.

Of rings and crinolines.

So many decisions, made and in the makings! I've been back and forth on dresses about a hundred times, but I think I've really decided at least on the company I'm going with, and possibly on the style - though of course I haven't tried anything on. I keep coming back to Aria, and I'm thinking that must mean something. Right now I'm liking this one, but you're going to have to use your imagination with me - it will be light blue, the piping in the middle will be black, there will be a black double hem at the bottom, and it will be floor length... Oh, and I'm neither Asian nor model thin.

Got it? That'll be good, right? I mean, I've thought about much more poofy, wedding-dress-ey things. I found a really cool art deco number; I was even considering a kind of awesome Quinceanera dress. As recently as Friday I was half sold on this bridesmaid dress - despite the super awful model that happens to be wearing it and even though it's strapless. But in the end, while I think a lot of things are pretty, most of them just don't work for me. Standing next to Jonathan and being the girl I am, I'll look and feel right in a more simple dress with clean lines and colors that I tend to go near.

I am, for the record, terrified to wear white.

There are a couple of things I really like about this company:

1) They don't go through bridal showrooms. You order directly from them, and all prices are right there on the website. Such a relief from the labyrinth of mainstream dress designers. Siri was the other top-competing frontrunner, but I'll be damned if I can figure out how to buy one of their dresses. From what I can gather on their prices, they're also a good bit more expensive.

2) Their fabric choices are simple and straightforward, two of their fabrics don't involve silk in any way, and you can get any dress in any fabric.

3) You can also get any dress in either knee length or full length, so you could theoretically get your wedding dress in a full length white or ivory color and then have "your girls" get the same dress in knee length in a different color. I think that's neat. What most women seem to do with this site, which I also approve of, is have their girls pick whatever style they want and just dictate fabric/color. That way if you have several body types in your group not everybody has to try to conform to one cut - something truly unnerving for those of us who size in the double digits.

4) Since they also make accessories, I can get shawls, ties, and purses that will all coordinate perfectly with my dress and bring the wedding party together. My sister will be officiating, and she'll be getting a black dress from them. Should she end up choosing a style with any piping or trim, it'll be the same exact color as my dress is. How cool is that? (As for our two honor attendants, in case you're wondering, they're picking their own black knee length dresses. I don't think either of them is particularly interested in Aria, which is fine.)

So yeah, I'm going with Aria. All that remains is to confirm that that dress works on me. Unfortunately, they only have showrooms in Boston, D.C., and Cali. Fortunately, they have a 'try on at home' program - for about twenty bucks I can try on any dress I want in the safety of my own home. (It's $15 per dress, and then you are responsible for shipping back to them.) No horrible lighting, no rooms with fourteen mirrors, no crazed saleswomen breathing down my neck. YES. For me, this is a much more realistic option than that, which I witnessed full force about three years ago when a friend of mine got married and came up here for dress shopping. *shiver* It seems like an experience engineered to destroy self esteem, at a time when a girl needs more than ever to feel beautiful. I find it a bit perplexing.

As for dress shopping online, I will say that ebridalsuperstore.com and bestbridalprices.com seem to me by far the best resources. From the latter I have purchased nothing, but I did actually buy a dress from the former. I'm not sure quite what I'll do with it now that I don't think I'll be using it as my wedding dress; of course I'm not even sure that it will fit, or exactly what color it is. It was cheap and I was having a bad night... sometimes I'm too impulsive for my own good. It'll arrive sometime in December; at that point I can decide whether to keep it for, say, the rehearsal dinner, or sell it on Ebay.

In other news, we bought our wedding bands! Well, I should say we ordered them off the internet from crazy people in Salt Lake City. (Beware, there are some tacky, tacky, tacky things on this website mixed in with some good basics.) They're stainless steel and plain as the day is long, just like we wanted. They're actually quite like my parents' wedding bands, except not as wide, silver in color (my parents' were of course gold), and "comfort fit". Jonathan's will be 8mm wide and mine will be 4mm (as a point of reference, this pic is of one 9mm wide... and made for a giant). We're pretty excited about them. Jon might have to hide them from me to prevent me from trying mine on every day. I like shiny things.

So yes. Moving right along. I need to get out of my wedding fog and get focused on the novel that I'm supposed to have finished by the end of the month... yeah, you'll have to look at my other blog to hear about my NaNoWriMo insanities. For now, my loves, I bid you good evening.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

About that novel I'm writing...

I promised I'd give you snippets. So, here ya go...

* * *

And then, there was CB's. The Country Blue Grass and Blues bar was, of course, legendary. They had tried for years and years to “keep it alive”, but the truth was people had stopped caring about it long ago. What had happened to its grave, though, was travesty. She looked across the traffic-jammed intersection to the John Varvatos store which now occupied the space. They sold obscenely overpriced clothing and accessories, along with “punk rock artifacts” like crusty old boots. They had “preserved” portions of CB's old walls, plexiglass-covered in all of their stickered, markered, spray painted wheat pasted glory.

To Morgan, it seemed like so: that they had found the corpse of Punk Rock. That they'd drug it into the town square, and strung it up there, and decorated it with ribbons and bows and put flowers in its hair. She couldn't have given a shit about the Ramones; it wasn't about that. She never had liked their music, and the whole “Joey Ramone Way” cracked her up every time she saw the sign. It was only that, maybe, she wanted to believe not everything was for sale.

She'd only gone into the new store once. That was enough for her. She thought that never before had she seen such a complete and brilliant commodification of a culture. It was infinitely worse, even, than the CB's gift shop thing on St. Marks. Hell, it was worse than all of St. Marks put together, and really that was saying something. She generally avoided thinking about it, and so she turned back to her book. In another few pages, she found this:

“In the meantime, through an oversight that Jose Arcadio Buendia never forgave himself for, the candy animals made in the house were still being sold in the town. Children and adults sucked with delight on the delicious little green roosters of insomnia, the exquisite pink fish of insomnia, and the tender yellow ponies of insomnia, so that dawn on Monday found the whole town awake.”

Agh! This book, it might just kill her of delight.

* * *

In case you're wondering, no, it's not a "punk rock" story. This is just a segment that I happened to write last night.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shutterbug.

So amidst my wedding freakouts of the week, in an attempt to channel some of that energy, I endeavored to find a photographer. This has borne fruit rather quickly, or at least I hope it has.

A while back I had been referred to Dave Robbins, who takes amazingly gorgeous photographs but is completely out of our pricerange. I would totally suggest taking a look at him if you have about a gajillion dollars to spend on your wedding, and while your at it let Worker Bee Designs do the filming. The records of your day will be adorable, and I'm sure the trust fund won't mind the hit.

Jonathan and I, however, have no trust funds. We do have a little bitta cash though, and we want it to go to the right people. I decided to contact a girl named Sarah Tew who I had met during my open studios event last spring; she has a studio on the same floor of the same building where I have a studio. I wandered in through her open door that May day and was immediately intrigued: I loved her art, and liked her as a person - and then discovered that she does wedding photography to stay afloat.

I wasn't sure how professional she'd be, since in the context it felt like wedding photography was something she did on the side. But I thought what the hell, it can't hurt to ask, and sent an email inquiring as to prices and so forth. I got back a response immediately, with her 28 page color brochure of packages and custom options attached. Yeah, I think she's got the professional thing nailed. Apparently she's been doing the wedding photography thing pretty hardcore for about five years.

She also immediately confirmed that she's down with the kind of wedding I'm having and the kind of pictures I'll want of it - there will not be any glowey photos of my white satin pumps on a ream of lace... there of course won't be any white satin pumps either. There will be no shots of me gazing distantly out of a window, as if to look into my future. There may, however, be pictures of me and Jonathan sitting on a subway platform in our wedding clothes reading books...

We made an appointment for Friday, last night, so that we could make sure that the reality matched up to the fantasy. After our cake experiences, I didn't want to get my hopes up too high - she seemed just too good to be true! But they got up high anyway, because I have trouble staying on the ground with this kind of thing, and all the pieces just seemed to fit together so perfectly. Cakes are different than photographs - I had seen the kind of images this girl was capable of capturing, and the kidnapping of images is sort of my thing.

Anyway, we went to see her last night. I've been in her studio space before, so I knew what was coming there. It's nothing too fancy, but since I also rent in the building I have an idea of what she must be paying (and it ain't cheap). Since she'd had several wedding-type meetings that week, her walls were adorned with large prints of some of her best shots. I'd seen most of them on her website, but it's totally different to see them in person - even in enormous prints they were gorgeous.

So we sat down, and she had books and books and books for us to look through of her shots, which was fun. While we looked, we chatted - she's such a cool girl. I feel like she's someone we would hang out with. We mentioned that we'd like to get some albums, but that since we're vegan we don't want anything that involves any leather. Lo and behold, she reveals that she's a vegetarian! She doesn't want to offer leather, but there's just such a demand for it that she kind of has to. Well I can understand that. She also just got engaged this week - congrats Sarah! - so she has a renewed sort of energy about the whole wedding thing. Not that it didn't excite her before, cuz it did.

So we went through the options that we want as far as hours and albums and the hi res archival discs that she offers and so forth, and boom, done! We got ourselves a photographer! She did not want to take a deposit until we had done the whole contract thing - see, I told you she was all professional and whatnot - so that'll get ironed out next week.

I'm totally excited - she is exactly the kind of person that I want involved in the wedding. Creative and artistic, and yet totally on top of her shit with a really awesome work product. YES. Oh, and in the six-degrees-of-separation department, one of the display albums she had out was of the wedding of one of Jonathan's good friend's brother's best friends. Small world right?

Now, about that cake...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Just in case you hear otherwise - EVERYONE VOTES ON TUESDAY.

* * * PLEASE REPOST! * * *

It seems that someone or someones have been circulating flyers, at least in Virginia and New York and possibly elsewhere, that say something pretty ridiculous. The flyers have an official looking state seal on them, and claim that due to the high expected voter turnout republicans will vote on Tuesday and Democrats will vote on Wednesday.

THIS. IS. NOT. TRUE. That may seem obvious, but who knows. All kinds of crazy shit happens with elections these days, and there are plenty of kids voting for the first time in this election. So let's get it out there real clear: It is not true in any state or district. It is a fallacy; personally I think it should be a felony. Regardless, please just tell everyone you know. Spread it around the office. Tell the fam. Everyone, and that means EVERYONE, republicans and democrats and greens and independents alike, VOTE ON TUESDAY. Again, EVERYONE VOTES ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4TH.

Besides that, contrary to what flyers in Philadelphia might state, voters with outstanding parking tickets or previous convictions will NOT be arrested for turning up at the poles.

It's not as if the president is elected by popular vote anyway, but that's a debate for another day and beside the point anyway.

To the criminals that are trying to throw the election by such absurd methods, I have only this to say: Yes, tomorrow a black democratic man may be elected as president. COPE.

And p.s. - No, I wouldn't approve of these tactics if they were aimed in the other direction. It is wrong, period.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Village Pet Store: how Banksy made my Halloween special.

As planned, on Halloween night my love and I braved the West Village to make it to the final night of Banksy's first animatronic installation: The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill. Our expedition was both a failure and a success - the shop was freaking closed. But, luckily, most of its wonders are easily viewed from the front windows. I can't say I wasn't disappointed, because of course I was. But at least I got to see as much as I did; this is the kind of thing that tortured me with inaccessability before I moved to New York.

Inside and beyond our reach were all the nifty details to make it look like a real store, such as plastic aquarium plants "for sale" and bags of pet food. The case of reptile-sausages, being against the far back wall, were somewhat visible through obstruction, but the pictures I got are basically total crap. The fishstick bowl was a straight shot from the glass door, but it seemed to have suffered some kind of breakdown: the fishsticks were barely moving. It was more like they were just floating around - in the video on the pet store website they're quite lively. I would have liked to see their wrigglings in person, but alas. So it goes.

We missed the monkey - he was barely visible from the front. But honestly he was pretty spooky, plus it's rude to interrupt people while they're watching porn, so I'm alright with that. We also missed the chameleon, which I would have liked to get a good look at, but I've seen pictures. He didn't move I don't think, so it's not such a great loss. The nuggets were probably the most amazing/intriguing/creepy thing, and they were right in the front window.

I managed to take a little bit of not very good video of them, which you'll find below. I've never really used the video function of my digital camera so you'll just have to excuse the quality. At the very end of the clip is a few seconds of Ms. FancyBunny; watch carefully or you'll miss the nail file action and the facial twitching.

Even from the wrong side of the glass, the pet store was truly something different. I mean, that's clear enough from the website, or for that matter just from a description of the concept. But to see it in person is definitely an experience. And that experience was enhanced, or at least affected, by the other people who were having it along with us. The vast majority of them were simply passing by, either going to or trying to avoid the parade on the next avenue over. On Halloween night the West Village is charged with a tangible energy, if only because of sheer numbers of people, and hilarious or incredulous comments came from almost everyone who walked by. By far the most common comment made was, "Is that real?" This was directed to the "leopard" on the far righthand side. The best part was, the most common response was "Of course it is, it has to be real; it's in a pet store."

Once people made it to the middle window case - the bunny rabbit wearing makeup and pearls - and finally to the far lefthand enclosure which held a mama rooster and her little baby chicken nuggets, almost all of the onlookers got the idea that there was something funny going on. However, there was one fully grown and apparently sober man heard to say, "Those can not be her baby birds." Most people seemed to miss the closed-caption camera birds altogether.

Other fun comments overheard: "I wish it was sweet and sour sauce instead of bar-b-q" (referencing nugget nutrition), "I could go for a six pack of chicken nuggets right now" (predictable and without need for explanation), and "I'm just going to come back tomorrow to make sure he's in a new position" (as to the "leopard". If only they could have gone inside to see that he's just a sheath...). To their credit, it did have very realistic breathing movements. To their discredit, a goddamn leopard? In a pet store window on Seventh Avenue? Really?

Sadly, in the hour or so that I hung around outside, fruitlessly hoping that these guys would let us inside, the overall jist of what I picked up was this: people did not get it. The only ones who did were those who'd come specifically to see the installation. Which begs the question: what, exactly, were they supposed to get?

I don't know that Banksy has come out with any kind of "artist statement" about the "meaning of the piece", but I do think that a couple of things are pretty obvious. Clearly there is an indictment generally of the way we treat and use animals in our current society. To me there also seems to be some commentary on how processed and detached from real, live animals our meatfoodproducts have become. And what about the chameleon? Well, I think maybe he's just supposed to be cool lookin'. I mean, can it really be a Banksy installation without some graffiti in it?

Banksy has taken some heat for a project he did in 2006 involving painting an elephant. That is, applying paint to the entire body of a live elephant. I've seen some references to this being cruelty to animals, et cetera. Naturally it piqued my interest. But in looking into it, I've found no mention that the elephant herself showed any signs of duress during the four day installation. In fact her trainer/handler thought she was just fine, and in videos she's hanging out eating hay. If she were upset about the situation, she'd be letting people know about it - elephants are pretty self-aware and pretty vocal - and when they're truly uncomfortable or compromised they're not going to be snacking.

I basically think that this kind of thing comes down to the comfort of the animal. The paint was non-toxic, the elephant was really just chilling out - so the only actual problem seems to have been semi-hysterical, self important "animal rights activists". Did I mention that the show was in L.A.? This is in a completely different category than that one crazy ass whose exhibit was to starve a dog to death. Whether he actually did starve the dog until it died or just made it look that way, him I'm not so hot on.

And as far as the pet shop goes? Well, many of us in the vegan community have found it quite intriguing. Personally, it is my hope that even for the people who were beyond baffled by the store, there will be some impression left. Some nagging thought, some disquiet that arises from within them the next time they get the idea to stop by McDonald's for some nuggets or bring home some weiners. Maybe they'll remember that nuggets do not come from a factory; that those objects did in fact, one day long long ago, begin as living things. Perhaps, even if they don't realize it yet, a seed was planted: one that makes them feel that strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

Friday, October 31, 2008

It's a sign.

Tonight, at precisely midnight, I will begin writing for NaNoWriMo. And in looking at this blog upon returning home from my evening excursions, my visitor number had reached 1667 - precisely the number of words that I am charged to write each day for the next thirty. Coincidence? Perhaps... AND PERHAPS NOT!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Great (Chocolate) Debate.

With all of the troubles in the world of chocolate - child labor, unsustainable agricultural practices, unfair purchase prices, animal testing - I'm often in a stupid conundrum when I want to do something as simple as, say, bake chocolate chip cookies. Actually chocolate chips are probably the easiest chocolate product to find in vegan, fair trade, organic, and otherwise non-offensive varieties - even if stupid old Key Foods did start including "milk ingredient" in their generic semi-sweet chips recently.

Where I really run into problems is in doing something like making fudge. My issue lies with two main product groups: 1) unsweetened baking chocolate, and 2) cocoa.

In the baking chocolate arena, there are two main contenders.

Baker's semi-sweet chunks and squares, and their unsweetened squares, are vegan ingredient-wise. And once the little natural grocery is closed in my neighborhood (after 9pm), it's usually all I can get my hands on. However, Baker's is actually a brand of Kraft. And until today I've been under the impression that Kraft was owned by Altria, who is actually just a rebranded Phillip Morris. However, now that I'm researching it again, I find that in 2007 there was a "spin out of the Kraft Foods subsidiary", and supposedly that means thatAltria no longer has an interest in Kraft. To which I say, wha??? Apparently what it means is that Kraft is now an independent publicly held entity. Now, whether or not that makes them now a good company is a different discussion entirely, but at least it means that you're no longer supporting Phillip Morris when you purchase Kraft products or any of their brands, so I suppose that's something.

Then we have Green & Black's, who makes various organic and fair trade chocolate products, many of which are vegan - but also many products which don't have any particularly special characteristics, other than being really good chocolate. They started out as a tiny awesome little company - the name itself is actually a testimony to their original ethics and intentions. They were then, however, bought byCadbury-Schweppes. Then Cadbury and Schweppes de-mergered; Cadbury, though, is still the largest confectionery manufacturer in the world. They've pledged to run Green & Black's as a separate entity, whatever that means... It does mean indisputably, though, that by purchasing Green & Black's you are also supporting all manner of other candies that don't meet various ethical standards.

So.

What I haven't mentioned here is that I'm also quite picky: it has to taste good, and I don't put up with any hippie ass shit. No carob, nothing sweetened with sucanant or brown rice syrup or any of that crap. All I want is chocolate that's organic and fair trade, and contains little or nothing other than cocoa and cocoa butter, maybe a dash of soylecithin, and if it's semi-sweet then some cane sugar. Why is that so hard?

As far as cocoa, I've got no leads at all. When I go to the regular grocery I have one choice and one alone: Hershey's. Do I even need to tell you that I don't particularly want to buy Hershey cocoa? They are the largest chocolate company in the US, and they put butterfat in freaking everything. It makes me crazy. (As a bit of an odd aside: I've been to Hershey, PA - twice. It's not my fault; it was middle school.)

I can't seem to find a good answer to this search. I came across this page which includes a guide to ethical chocolate, but it's for Australia. It also rubs me a little bit wrong: it strikes me as kind of sadly hilarious and all too ironic that they're encouraging people to support Starbucks and Target when they focus on abuses of child labor.

So, does anyone have any answers here? It seems like it's yet another case of finding the least of a hundred evils. I have so many rules, and I really can't find a chocolate product that adheres to them all. Of course, what it all comes down to is that chocolate is supposed to be a luxury item; it is ludicrous to have it lining the shelves of every grocery store and quick-e-mart. That's the result of the masses wanting the luxuries for cheap, as were so many things. It's related to the fact that there's no reason for a hamburger to cost 59 cents... but that's a different rant for a different day.

There is, to my knowledge, no such thing as the independent, privately owned, all vegan all organic all fair trade chocolate company. So really it comes down to the question, what compromise do I make? Is it better to buy conventionally produced and traded chocolate from Kraft, who is now an independent public entity? Or to buy organic but not necessarily fair trade chocolate from Green & Black's, when in reality I'm only supportingCadbury who makes a wide range of conventional chocolate products? Do I purchase whatever I can get (that's vegan, of course) at my locally owned vegetarian health food store, rather than buying other products that may be available at a massive chain grocery like Whole Foods?

And to think, all I want to do is make fudge.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NaNoWriMo! Yup.

Yes, I'm jumping on that crazyperson bandwagon. I, along with over a hundred thousand others, will be endeavoring to write 50,000 words. In the month of November. I'm not allowed to start until midnight on November 1st (and I'm not cheating!), and the fifty-thousand-th word must be typed and submitted no later than midnight on the 30th for me to be considered a "winner". But truly, there are no losers mong those who try. Who am I kidding though! I totally want to "win"!

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and I actually heard about it because of VeganMoFo, which is technically based on the idea. I've been faithfully writing a food post on my vegan blog every single day throughout the month of October, and hopefully that will be good training - discipline wise at least. (Sometime after the tenth day I stopped posting most of the VeganMoFo posts on my combined blog because I decided they were too boring for the general reading public.)

I've got my story sort of etched out: characters imagined, plot points scribbled down, and most importantly several pages' worth of scenes that I want to write. This, I feel, is crucial. Because the thing is that the book doesn't have to be a finished, edited product at the end of November. It doesn't have to be cohesive. It doesn't have to make sense. This is just bulk creation: as they put it, "an experiment in pure output... Editing is for December." They're right, it will make my inner editor very grumpy. But I'll get behind it, I'll plow through, if only for the sake of the imaginary shiny gold metal.

The NaNoWriMo team has proven to be a group with personality. They're a nonprofit, and they have a good website (you can see my profile!) and send out emails. The first one they sent to me when I signed up had the following tips:
1) It's okay to not know what you're doing. Really. You've read a lot of novels, so you're completely up to the challenge of writing one. If you feel more comfortable outlining your story ahead of time, do so. But it's also fine to just wing it. Write every day, and a book-worthy story will appear, even if you're not sure what that story might be right now.

2) Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December. Think of November as an experiment in pure output. Even if it's hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn't. Every book you've ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.

3) Tell everyone you know that you're writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who've had to hear about your novel for the past month. Seriously. Email them now about your awesome new book. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.

3.5) There will be times you'll want to quit during November. This is okay. Everyone who wins NaNoWriMo wanted to quit at some point in November. Stick it out. See it through. Week Two can be hard. Week Three is much better. Week Four will make you want to yodel.

And we're talking the good kind of yodeling here.

See? They're sort of adoreable. The whole thing is set up to give a sense of community, down to organizing regions and having kickoff parties and write-in groups and such.

All of this means that there are things I really need to get finished before November 1: reading Jane Eyre, well I'm close to done with that. It's a sweet little book, though I think I should have read it when I was younger and more easily swept away in romantacism. Writing my F train blog post: Sarah and I rode the F not this past weekend but the weekend before that; I'm dragging my feet on getting the post written as usual. And once all of my writing energies are sucked into putting out 1667 words per day, I doubt I'll be doing that many in depth blog posts. And I don't know what else; I'm sure there's stuff.

Never fear though: I'll keep you updated. I'm thinking something along the lines of posting my favorite new sentences or paragraphs here daily or near daily... or something.

I'm excited. Who knows what I'll produce? I'm hoping it'll be longer than anything I've written yet. In what I consider my adult work, my longest piece comes in at just over 5000 words. This is supposed to end up at ten times that. It's also the first time I'm really trying to write about New York City in a fictional capacity.

So yeah, it should be interesting. Wee! Fun.