the hyphens that define my life

Live from New York! October 10, 2013

Ok, not live.  This post was previously recorded.

Previously lived, recorded live in Chicago tonight.

It has been a busy week.  And it’s only Thursday.

My travels took me to New Jersey this week, as you know from prior.  Despite the rain and threats of tornado on Monday late afternoon, I lived like a Jersey Girl.  Armed with trench coat and umbrella, I took the train from Newark Penn Station to New York Penn Station, a 40 minute round trip ride, a $10 bargain, to get a dose of the Big Apple.

It is no wonder people yell at the top of their lungs, “I love New York!”  I’ve been to NYC several times, but this city never ceases to amaze me. The downside was that it was really humid on Monday, so this city can stink like no other.  Gross.  Once you’re nose desensitizes to the funk, your other senses are overwhelmed with the sights, the sounds and the energy.

NY Penn Station is near Madison Square Garden.  I joined the masses heading up 33rd Street before hanging a left and strolling down 5th Avenue.  Praise be to the grid system and numbered streets and avenues.  What an easy city to get around!

I was on a mission. Remember the Real Simple book list of 50 Great Books That Will Change Your Life?

I am determined to read all of these books by year-end.  You know me, lists and personal challenges.  Who I am, what I do.  One of the books on this list is Apartments for the Affluent:  A Historical Survey of Buildings in New York.

Let me remind you from my August rant, that this book was deemed a Great Book that Will Change Your Life by Alexa Hampton, an interior designer and author of an interior design book.

The beauty of this book is that it is completely near-impossible to read, unless you want to drop $875 USD on a used version available through Amazon, or, do as I was doing, going to the New York Public Library, Stephen Scharzman Building, Room 121 to view a reference copy.  Since the June publication, Real Simple, I still think it’s ridiculously lame of you to put an unavailable book on this list.  Not every person gets to go to New York. Just lucky ones, like me.

Honest.  That’s why I went to New York City.  To go to the library and read a book.  Not just any library.


Nothing in life comes easy, neither did my efforts at reading this 159 page book.  When I entered Room 121 of the Stephen Schwarzman Building of awesomeness and grandeur, I was informed that I couldn’t view the book without an NY Public Library Card.  envision my eyes welling with tears.  Thankfully, the librarian had no time for my senseless emotion and set me up to register for a library card.  Yes folks, I am a card-carrying member of the NYPL.  Badass, I know.  Can I get a whoop whoop?

With my new plastic, I was told to take a seat while the library aide retrieved the only copy of this book in-house.

Why are books made with turd brown book covers?  Really, don’t judge a book by its cover, but this nondescript turd brown specimen gave me little hope for life changing effect as the result of reading this book.

nypl book

I should point out here that this list of 50 has GREAT books.  On my flight to NJ, I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace. Everybody read this book, right now. Life changing.  Another incredible book on this list is Day of Honey:  A Memoir of Love, Food and War.  Life changing, perspective altering.  Read!

Yet here I sat in an amazing library armed with a skinny book that didn’t give me much hope.  I checked the copyright and title page for inspiration.  1975 was the date of publication.  1975 explains the brown binding.  Before I slumped with “ugh, dated material” I reminded myself that I read Huckleberry Finn and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, also on this book list,  far older material than 1975.  I also commented to myself that these pieces of literature are timeless classics.

I got down to business and started reading.  The book allows two open book pages for each apartment building referenced.  Each building lists the year built, the architect, the contractor, a floor plan, and an exterior photo of the building as well as current status of building. For example, the oldest buildings listed from the 1800’s have been razed and exist no more.  All of the other buildings stills standing have been gutted, remodeled, renovated beyond recognition to their original state.  I totally understand the need for historic preservation of these floor plans, but life changing?  No.  Though I’m certain to cause a stir in my company (a good conversation topic, discuss amongst yourselves), these floor plans are not relevant.  Good historical data, cool but so is flapper slang, but not timeless, not earth shattering, ineffective but good information.

nypl book int

I read the book, cover to ugly cover then took my library card carrying butt back to the streets of New York for a good time.  Headed back the way I came, I ventured to a familiar favorite, Eataly (Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich are co-owners) in the Flatiron district on 23rd Street and 5th Avenue.

I sat at the bar at one of Eataly’s many restaurants, La Verdure, and very much enjoyed Farroto con Broccoli (farro risotto with broccoli puree, leek, garlic, romanesco broccoli florets (the purple ones) and grana prado). Viva Eataly!


Back to the streets, I made my way to Chelsea Market where I sat at the Milk Bar and had an ice cream cone, and watched people pass. I treated myself to some new espresso cups at my favorite little kitchenware supply shop and bought the Chelsea Market Cook Book to add to my collection.

Walking the High Line back to  32nd Street and straight into NY Penn Station.  Thanks to my teenager insight, I logged my walking miles on my Charity Miles App.  My 6 mile loop made a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation.  Check out the App.   Several charities are available.  You select your charity and start running or walking, generating a donation as you go.  My daughter is doing the #80challenge, to accrue 80 miles this month.

My 6 miles were completed in the dark, at night, in NYC.  One block gave me a little concern but I persevered and took my train back to Newark.  Nightwalking in NYC by myself may be the true badass part of my story, but my library card gave me street cred.

 nypl card


Bury Me in Books August 28, 2013

My love for reading is beyond books. Subscriptions to newspapers and a ridiculous number of magazines prove this.  I just love stories at any time, any where.  I riddle new poeple I meet with questions so I can understand their story.  If driving in the car, I listen to an audio book or NPR public radio to hear world stories and views.  My mind is stimulated through learning how the threads of the fabric of our lives are woven together.  That is, until I trip on the threads and find myself down the rabbit hole in Wonderland.

Recently, Spokane news reported the tragic story of two teenagers that beat an 88-year-old man to death with a flashlight outside the Eagles Lodge in North Spokane.  I looked up the address of the Eagle’s Lodge when I read this report to see how far away from my door did this horrific tragedy occur.  Thankfully, far enough away for me not to give a second thought.  In the paper this morning, the teenagers claim that the old man shorted them in a crack cocaine deal and they beat him as the result.  The plot thickens.

Today, as I drove north on Division, turned right on Francis and made a left on Lidgerfeld, to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, I found myself on the same street, driving past the Eagles Lodge, where the incident occurred.    Hello.  I’m new to town.  Have I found myself suddenly in a drug zone? Is this a safe area?  Eek.  I pulled into the parking lot, parked the car, and hustled on into the DMV and took care of my business.  I mentioned the incident to the DMV clerk and she was, at first, oblivious to the entire ordeal.  When she came to her senses, she recalled the event and said the teenagers should be hung and quartered.   I told her of the news update of a drug deal gone bad and a switch flipped.  “Oh,” she said “Doesn’t that change your perspective.” Not having formulated an opinion, it was clearly not my perspective that had changed.

Correction.  My perspective has changed.  I am now an official Washingtonian and Spokanite and a card-carrying member of the Spokane Public Library.

Careful folks, I’m armed with books and dangerous.

I have, due to the overwhelmingly enormity of the challenge, given up on the New York/LA Times Best Seller’s lists.  I am exhausted from reading the same formula authors too.  I do love a good book list though, so when I saw “50 Great Books That Will Change Your Life” in Real Simple magazine, I thought this would be a great list to start my personal reading club of one.

Here’s the list: 

At first glance, I appreciated the humor, depth and variety of this list.  I was thrilled to check off The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Little Engine That Could, Of Mice and Men, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (I have this one memorized) as books I have read.  Starting at the top, I read and crossed off About Alice, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in recent weeks.

Then the list starts to agitate me. What the heck?  Book #4 on the list, Apartments for the Affluent:  A Historical Survey of Buildings in New York by Andrew Alpern is available on for $179.66 in used condition and for $895.00 in collectible condition.  My local library doesn’t carry this book nor does my prior library in Southern California.  How then, dear Real Simple, am I supposed to read all the books on this list?  Perhaps requiring that the books recommended be available to share with readers should have been considered prior to publication or please pick another book. Going for the obscure book on your list to recommend is a good joke. Thanks for the laugh Alexa Hampton, who recommended this book.  Real Simple provides a link to stating that the used price is $45.  This book must be a hot commodity because the price has gone through the roof since publication!

Thanks for the challenge, Real Simple, I’ll accept it.  I will be in New York City in October and I will make the excursion to the Mid Manhattan Library on 5th Avenue and read this book.  Maybe this is an east coast thing?  I’ll be in Seattle in September, I’ll see if they have the book too.

The online list (link provided above), specifically if you click [print], the list is much more manageable and provides great information.  I will stick with the list and have already requested several of the books from the library.

What are you reading?  Where do you get your book recommendations?  If you could only pick one book to recommend, what would it be?

I am currently reading My Life With Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall.  Spokane Public Schools recommends this book as summer reading for 7th graders, (along with Freak the Mighty, My Side of the Mountain and No More Dead Dogs and others) which is good enough for me.  This year, hardly any of the books I have read rise to the top to really challenges my senses. When all else fails, go for humor, so i recommend A.J. Jacobs’ Drop Dead Healthy (or any of his books) as my favorite.

My next read will be Woody Allen’s Without Feathers, recommended on the Real Simple list by my favorite, A.J. Jacobs.  It’s a give and take world.

Happy Reading!