Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Before the Storm - aka 'Hurricane Saturday'

There was much fervor and excitement leading up to the let down of 'Hurricane Irene' here in my part of NYC.

Saturday was spent with my friend, Jenny, making preperations which included stocking up on water, filling the bathtub in case of loss of power, buying 'non-perishables' annnnd ...

treating ourselves to brunch, taking photos of our quaint neighborhood, and taking on fun things we wouldn't normally have the time to do.

Roman's - our wonderful brunch spot

French press coffee :-)

Love this vespa and mercury!

Fall already??

Jen circa 1960 ;-)

No subway service!

This came out blurry, but o so cute
Gotta love our chucks

How much for the doggie in the window?

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Country Weekend

I recently returned from an extremely abbreviated trip to the hills of Pennsylvania this past weekend. And though very brief, it was most certainly enjoyable.

Dad's 560 Farmall in field behind the barn
 Friday afternoon was spent winding west over interstate 86 on a crammed Shortline bus. Despite the bothersome travelling situation, the sights were quite lovely. The further away from the city the bus ventured, the prettier it became. The afternoon sun's rays seemed to throw a golden hue over the trees and fields, while shadows were cast in all the perfect places.

My bro and Dad working on the hay wagon

Yes, it was beholding this backdrop that I started to get that familiar rush of adrenaline and excitement. I was going home! Home - away from the hustle and bustle, concrete, and blaring vehicle horns; to a land of pickup trucks, trees, mountains, dirt roads, wide open fields and wild flowers.


It was one day and two nights of seeing my hilarious family, being around their familiar sense of humour, and laughing our heads off. I was also able to leave behind the salad and veggie burgers, and feast on mom's homemade vittles - pancakes, macaroni & cheese, and ice cream sundaes. 

My nephew, Ondrej, and 'maddie'

And so my weekend ended all too fast - for it was with melancholy heart that I pulled out that rainy Sunday morning. Time to head back to New York City.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"We Must Love One Another or Die"

This post was supposed to be about old-fashioned elevators - I know, please don't ask. However, I thought, why on God's great earth would one write about elevators when you can muse about such juicy subjects, as say ... love.

From the beginning of time this devotion has been subject for many a writer and poet; friend and foe; yes, all humans.

Though in the words of Roland Barthes, "To try to write love is to confront the muck of language: that region of hysteria where language is both too much and to little, excessive ... and impoverished." And while it seems there is much truth in Mr. Barthes' quotation, where would the literary spice be if we did not did take a stab at this 'muck of language' of love?

I have been asking myself why I've rediscovered the fascination of this oftentimes worrisome topic. I was quite fine in self-preservation mode, living my life and doing what I pleased. So perhaps it has to do with the fact that the big 3-0 recently swooped down and now has me in it's grip. Or maybe it is the fresh departing of someone special (yes - a breakup).

But whatever the case, it seems I am nowhere as close to finding love at 30 as when I was 10. And though recently thinking I had found it and would have given my heart and soul; in retrospect, I would not have been being true to myself. And so we simply remain that lovely, little F-word - 'friends'.  

I suppose I may be, at the moment, labeled as 'cynical' or 'bitter'. And that is quite possibly true, for what woman in her right mind wants to let down the walls of self-preservation, leaving herself open for an attack? Yes, who wants to lay like a wounded lioness who misjudged the distance and was stabbed by the horn of love rendering her useless? Sure, she will regain her strength, but how long this will take, and how painful it will be, one cannot know.

Or perhaps this cynicalness stems from what most of society has made love out to be. Relationships are more often than not exploited for sex and selfishness. And it seems everywhere one turns there are constant jabs and sneers at the family unit. Yes, what happened to those timeless principles as family loyalty, communication, honesty, respect, and loving one as you love yourself?

In spite of all the stresses on love, why the enduring obsession and enthrallment? Why the allure and appeal? Why do we want it so badly??? Well, I always like to go back to a rather similar rant from Barbara Streisand in 'A Mirror Has Two Faces', "because being in love feels *blank* great."

And though I couldn't agree more with Barbara, I do feel there is a deeper purpose and point - and that is, quite simply, it is the way we were designed. We have this inherent need to provide and care for, to need and be needed, to love and be loved. It is not natural to be alone.

'Two Lovers'
Prague, Czech Republic

Yes, as W.H. Auden wrote, "We must love one another or die".

So until that sensational day arrives, you will find me in the coffee shops of Brooklyn blogging away, at the gym burning off my frustrations, staying true to my Bedouin ways and travelling the planet. And then on the bad days listening to sad country songs like Pam Tillis' 'All the Good Ones are Gone' and occasionally drowning my sorrows in a tub of Ben and Jerry's. If anything, I will be busy.

'American Girl in Italy'

I just came across this article by Laura T. Coffey which made it to the MSN webpage today.

Many have perhaps seen this photo at one point or another.

© 1952, 1980 Ruth Orkin /
Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

The woman in the photo happens to be Ninalee Craig and, as stated above, the photographer was Ruth Orkin. Both were young single girls who travelled Europe alone post World War II in 1951. Coffey's piece encases Ninalee's recollection of their adventures. A very delightful read for fellow travel enthusiasts.

© 1952, 1980 Ruth Orkin /
Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

Above: Ruth on left and Ninalee at right 

© 1952, 1980 Ruth Orkin /
Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

To the Ends of the Earth

Guyana, South America

Back in 2005 I had the amazing experience of being able to venture to the jungles of the South American country, Guyana, to do volunteer work. Little did I know, when I boarded that plane out of JFK airport in New York City, that it would prove to be an experience of a lifetime. And not because of any amazing, touristy, daredevil adventures I would go on. No, but rather, for the astonishing earthy sites I would see; and mostly for the distinct, extraordinary people I was going to meet.

You see, the coastal country of Guyana is located on the northeastern cap of South America. It is nestled between the ocean to the north, Venezuela to the west, Suriname to the east, and Brazil to the south. It boasts a population of only about 751,000. Some 76,000 square miles (196,850 square kilometres) compose this little country. The majority of ethnicities are of East Indian, African, and Amerindian descent. And an interesting note is that it is the only official English-speaking country in South America. 

Specifics aside, I always express to people that I left a piece of my heart in Guyana. It is a place where one can just focus on the simple, more important things of life. Also being able to witness the sheer, untouched (relatively) beauty of the jungle. Observing how people live without the fast-paced, so-called 'needs' of  Western society was an ordeal in itself.

Of course, if you were to ask most anyone who was born and raised there, I am certain they would jump at the chance to venture beyond the jungle walls or village borders. I surely cannot blame them, either - for it is also a land poverty, which brings many other different struggles. And, as I have learned, there are without a doubt, pros and cons wherever one dares to roam or rest their head. However, for me, it was an enchanting look at the world through different eyes - a world so far away from the one I had ever known.

And so, in the three months that were to follow, I would be engrossed in helping others, doing my laundry by hand, using an outhouse, taking showers outdoors, preparing meals from scratch, buying just baked bread from the local bakery lady, and purchasing freshly (I mean 'fresh' in the purist sense of the word!) ground coffee.

Yes, those three months would also include traveling further into the jungle interior to a mesmerizing place called Wauna. This would be by way of 'bus' which was really an overcrowded van over extremely rutted, dirt roads. Once we had safely arrived, we then ventured off on foot to visit our acquaintances; our backpacks loaded down with the essentials - water, sunscreen, snacks, and toiletries.

One lady we visited seemed, for me, to live at the end of the world. To reach her, we had bounced over the rugged road in our 'bus', crossed on foot more dirt roads, and then trudged through leafy jungle paths and over little creeks on makeshift bridges. After all of this, there in the midst of the clearing was a whitewashed, clapboard house on stilts. While her husband was away working up the river at a factory - as was common for the men to have travel to other parts of the country to find work - she manned the homestead along with her young children. I remember thinking she must have been the farthest from civilization that I had ever dare go.

However, just recently I was recounting this experience with a friend and they so interestingly pointed out that while her parcel of earth was so distant and extrinsic for me, my home for example, New York City - would be her so-called 'ends of the earth'. And that is the truth - what may be so for some of us, is most certainly not so for others.

How good it is to be able to acknowledge this and embrace mankind's differences. My three month journey to the jungles of Guyana was just the beginning of my cognizance of this actuality. And wherever my travels take me in the world, I will always fondly recollect this woman and her piece of terrain so utterly far away from my reality.


They always say 'the proof is in the pudding'. Therefore, my only regret with writing this piece is that I am not able to share my photographic evidence, for all of my 35mm photos are stored within the confines of my parents' farmhouse back in Pennsylvania.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Something Cute at Grand Central Station

Yes, that is actually possible!

Amidst the morning rush of business commuters climbing, crawling, creeping up the escalators into Grand Central station, my eyes happened upon one person that you wouldn’t expect to see at that place and time. There in the masses going up the moving stairs was the cutest, bespectacled little boy in a baseball cap.

The look on his face was priceless – as I imagine him thinking, ‘These people are crazy!’ At least, if I was an 8 year-old, that’s what I would fancy. Why come to all this chaos when you can stay home in bed and watch cartoons?

Oh, to be a kid again...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Gentlemen - Bratislava, Slovakia

Have you ever taken a photograph and it seemed as though time stood still just for you? Perhaps it was as if the scene was custom made for the exact moment you would be there.

In fact, maybe to this day when you look at the photo it takes you back to another place and time so far away from the reality you are in now. Many photographers know exactly what I am speaking about.

One of my experiences with that happened back in 2006. At the time, I was living in the Czech Republic. My sister had come from Pennsylvania to visit me and we took a trip with friends to Bratislava, Slovakia. We strolled with our chums along the cobblestone streets of the old centre, checking out the quaint little boutiques, and an occasional coffee shop. Upon coming out of one of the shops, my heart skipped a beat. And I when I saw this, it felt like, yes time was standing still. In fact, I could not believe that I was actually able to capture the photo in time.

So there you have it - two men with their trench coats and hats just observing the sights of Bratislava.

Here are a few others from that same trip:

Terezka, my sister - Katie, and Majka

The skinniest house

The Bratislava Castle at dusk

One should most certainly experience a European city at least once in their lifetime - they possess such old-world charm and are definitely some of the most romantic, magical places I have ever been.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Lighter Side

Location - Subway, NYC

My last few posts have been a bit blue, so I figured it was time for something on the lighter side.  

Ah, the joys of living in New York City - I love taking the number 7 train form Court Square, Queens into Grand Central Station. There is a diversity of people on that train unlike any other I have been on. However, my fascination some mornings ago was with a pale, 40ish looking man sitting directly across from me. At first glance, he appeared 'normal', but then as the ride wore on he started laughing. I kept looking for earbuds, phone, bluetooth – something! But, no, this guy was having a grand ol’ time alone with his thoughts. Watching him for some moments definitely brought a giggle and a smile to my face. 

And then I thought, ‘Who is really normal these days?’ Thankfully, not many of us - the world would be a very dull place.  

Monday, August 8, 2011


Location: Universal

They say time can heal many things. I'm not so sure about that adage. It seems that time and space only make the shaft of pain and emptiness grow larger and deeper.

One can try to fill the cavern with other good and clean elements; and sometimes it helps. I find myself discovering other pieces of my soul that maybe I didn't know existed; also exploring new and interesting crevices of this vast city; and finding different things to occupy my time. But therein that word, 'things', lays the problem. Never can any amount of things replace people that have touched your life so very sweetly.

They say to be strong. They say to find others to spend time with. Maybe for some these are easy things to do or say, but for as me, I've learned they are two of the hardest feats I will ever have to accomplish.

You can travel the world over discovering different concepts, ideas, interests, people. And whilst these are amazing, I suppose I am torn with the thought of leaving certain ones behind and trying to forget.

Or perhaps I am wrong. Maybe we just have to appreciate our experiences with loved ones for what they were - a short, but beautiful piece of precious time, leaving us an enchanting memory to treasure forever.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Location: Clinton Hill - Brooklyn, NY


Upon arriving at the subway platform some weeks ago, violin music echoed through the entire station. It was the man who is there probably once a week. Whether he has a set day or not, I do not know. All I knew was how it made me feel. It had been all I could do that morning to pry myself out of bed not wanting to face another day with a heavy heart that resulted from some dismal things that have happened in my life. The sad, forlorn music that flowed so soothingly from his violin somehow seemed to comfort my weary soul. 'Too bad he was on the other side of the tracks', I thought, he would have gotten a huge tip and I probably would have bought all of his CDs.

Then, not long ago, for some strange reason my friend and I were having a discussion about a certain violinist who frequents the subway stations. She had also heard him play and was able to buy his CD. It turns out that the mysterious man with the violin is Tom Swafford. As a token of her kinship and generosity, she gave me the CD.

I would have to say that Tom's music most assuredly fits the category of a soothing consolation. But you may decide for yourself at his website:


Why is it when we feel as if our heart has been ripped from our chest, that music can sometimes be just the healing balm that is needed to soothe the pain? But at other times it can be like salt to a wound that stings and festers?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Location: 42nd Street, New York City, worldwide

Well life isn’t all peaches and cream. Today, I need to vent.
Sometimes I see very interesting things on the train to and from work. Other times, I’m a witness to distressing situations. Yesterday an extremely disabled man, who was not able to walk very well at all, was in my car. The sheer helplessness I felt of just having to sit there and observe his plight was overwhelming. In fact, I was in one of those moods that I probably would have just sat there and cried had there not been so many people around. And then I thought, ‘Well, Annie, imagine his frustration and helplessness.’
To add to my misery, after going and spending money on things at Target, I happened upon a well suited, yet quite overweight man inhaling his McDonald’s burger and fries in the middle of the train station lobby. Now I don’t know that guy’s circumstances, but I couldn’t help but think, what has it all come to? I didn’t have any answers; I just wished I was going to the gym to burn off my vexation; instead it was home to do laundry. Needless to say, I collapsed into bed thoroughly exhausted.
So today, as I walked along 42nd Street, sipping my $4.63 Tall Caramel Lite Frappuccino from Starbucks, for some reason, I was piercingly reminded of my angst toward the rotund man I had so much disdain for yesterday. I didn’t even need or really want the blasted drink – it was just something to do to fill time on my half hour lunch break.  Then I thought of the famine taking place in East Africa. Yes, I remembered watching something about a man from Cairo who has to support his family on $4 dollars a day. Here I was spending more than that amount on a drink that I didn’t even want.
Now I know that my not buying a $4.63 beverage will not help anyone unless I personally was to escort the money to those in need. Nor do I have anything against caffeine. However, I can’t help but think about this society we live in. We are taught to believe we need things that we most certainly do not. And it is that very attitude and feeling that big business has exploited and cashed in on.
I just keep reminding myself of the huge change we need – one to permanently help man and animals alike.
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