Friday, February 28, 2014

{This Moment} Golden Birthday Edition

Prelude to Spring: A Victorian Garden Party
A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Would you believe that this is the fifth birthday I'll have on this blog? And even more, that I've never really mentioned it on here? (I did blog about my surprise 25th birthday party, though.) Well, it is. And not only is today the fifth birthday I'm spending with Not Intent On Arriving, it's also my Golden Birthday, the birthday where the day of my birthday, 28, is the same as the age I am turning.

I was planning to throw a big bash where I would wear a gold sequin dress and drink a lot of champagne and all of my closest friends would come sing karaoke with me. But, it turns out that I don't own a gold sequin dress and I don't drink champagne anymore and okay, karaoke still sounds fun but it's a little late to plan it now. Turns out, sometimes the fabulous lives we live in our heads don't always work out in reality. I was even thinking of having gold glitter on a big birthday cake. But anyway, my nails are painted gold, so that's something.

I've had any number of wonderful birthday parties, including the one pictured above, which was my 22nd and A Prelude to Spring, filled with flowers and floral prints and a dump cake and rosewater cupcakes with pistachio. Leah was making everyone vegan cupcakes that year and mine were the best. My 25th, though a difficult one for me generally, was also a killer party, courtesy of Roger and the bartender he hired to make "Alien Tear" cocktails for us.  In high school, I threw some theme parties that I thought were out of this world: The Godfather, Lothaire Bluteau, The Passion; and my sweet sixteen was at Equus, a great restaurant overlooking the Hudson.

When I was a kid, my parents let me have a party at The Party's Here, a kid's birthday place where there was a bouncy castle inside. It was almost snowed out but friends still came despite the blizzard, and I wore a faux fur coat with my very own muff. Another year, it was at a pottery studio close our house, and I remember them bringing pizza out and all the girls just attacking my father as he put it down on the table. He called us piranhas. Honestly, to get a sense of how idyllic my birthdays have been, you should probably know that my mother, who hates cooking, once frosted a Minnie Mouse cake in pointillism icing for me - the same day that my sister was baptized, and another year made me a wedding cake with tiers and a Barbie bride on the top.

Honestly, I have no idea what I'm doing tonight. We've talked about going to Spa Castle or having a fancy dinner or eating Chinese take-out (another birthday tradition in the Maffei household), but I'm still not totally sure what our plans are. We'll head up to Mahopac this weekend for some cross-country skiing and dinner with our families, and then maybe hit the travel show at the Javits Center on Sunday. No matter what we do, I know it will be a nice, low-key weekend and we'll have a blast, even if it doesn't involve sequins.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On Envy

One of my less flattering traits is jealousy. I have plenty of virtues, like everyone else. I am patient, trustworthy, and generally a kind person who tears up when she hears about dying children or watches commercials that especially highlight human achievement. But, I have a mean jealous streak in me. For as long as I've been able to feel jealousy, I have.

I was so jealous of my mother's best friend taking my sister to get her hair done that my father noticed, called me a Green-Eyed Monster (I was) and I cried from both the embarrassment of being called out on it and from the jealousy itself. I was fiercely competitive in high school and jealous of the people who were more attractive, more popular, and smarter than me. Lately it's been a dull pang of seeing other people's beautiful homes and clothes online, to the point where I had to take a break from Pinterest because all I was feeling was material want, and that felt metallic and dirty to me.

I am constantly working against it, much in the way I am constantly working against my cravings for fast food. Sometimes they get better, and it's easier to exist without an endless hole of gaping want inside me. And sometimes it's quite hard and I find myself diving headfirst into it.

This week has been one of them. I love my incredible, talented, kind friends, and I am happy when they do well because they deserve it. But, this week, instead of feeling immediately happy for them, I felt a twinge of jealousy before that joy filled it in. Friends got engaged, friends had books published or accepted for publication, friends got gorgeous flowers delivered to their offices. I don't know why this week felt worse than normal, but it was, and I got past it because these are people I love, people I've spent hours and weeks and years loving. I'm so happy they're getting all these things and I don't believe in a limited good and I know we're all in this together. So after that little pang that I sometimes don't even get anymore, I just threw myself into loving it and moved on.

Until today, when I found out that someone (maybe the only person on earth, actually) that I hate has had a success that I would very much like to have one day and goodness it gutted me. I wanted to let it glide off me so badly and actually it felt like being physically pushed, as if all I could do was wrap myself around envy and never feel anything else again. I don't think I've felt so pure an emotion in ages, and frankly, I would not have picked this one if I could have picked any to feel so strongly. It felt like some sort of hot metal pulsing behind my eyes.

Now, home and alone and hours later, it feels less awful, less new, and more just a part of myself. I want to not hate this person, because my anger at him might be blinding me to the fact that it isn't really his fault that I hate him so, and more than that, I want to be able to be happy for his success in spite of the fact that I dislike him as a person.

And most importantly, I want to be able to close out my 27th year with positive feelings. It was a good, decent year. It deserves better than this at its end, so I'm going to try for something good instead. It's Thursday, Take Out Day in college and my very favorite day of the week because it matched up to my ring finger and we had art class on Thursdays in fourth grade when I was picking out things like my favorite day of the week and because it was the end of the week in college and the day we always got take out and ate it on our dorm room floors. I'm going to finish East of Eden, one of the finest books I've ever read, tonight and then there will be a warm shower and so many good things always.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Peter Longofono

I was lucky enough to have my very first workshop in grad school with Peter Longofono.  In addition to reading his work, which is wild, brilliant, and obsessed with the music of language, I also had the benefit of his incredible critiques, which were always leagues above what I was able to give him.  In addition to being a great mind and a great poet, he's one of the most generous and genuine people I know, and I believe his mind works like Wikipedia.  I'm so thrilled to be featuring him here today.

Who are you? I'm Peter Longofono. I make music and poems (and occasionally reviews) in New York City. I'm 25. My weaknesses are tiramisu and Celan.

Online Presence: I don't have my own site or anything, but I can point you toward some recent publications:  here and here and here.

The Hot Tub Pitch: I go for the precise and the unsettlingly weird. Most of my work looks at a situation going or about to go very wrong. I draw on Byzantium, jazz theory, architecture, astronomy, Germanic languages, and a host of other topics. I think the proximity of unlike objects does the most for poetry--the umbrella and the sewing machine, as Lautréamont and Breton put it--and that it's worthwhile to (violently) dislocate language in the process. The fact that much art/communication can be reduced to the presence/absence/distance/etc of objects is very, very, very important to me.

Inspiration to Start Writing: One of my ninth-grade English teachers turned me on to poetry, though it would be another six years or so before began to seriously seek out good writing. I went through the following progression: Keats>Baudelaire>Plath. In college, I came upon Ben Lerner through a friend, and that set off an entirely new poetry engine in my mind involving humor, absurdity, etc. I'm glad to have that living in me.

Why do you Write? I write to give glory to God. After that, to point out paradox, to explore impossibility.

Who Inspires You? Lately, Kierkegaard and Vallejo, especially "Trilce"

Trip: Well, depending on the length, I'd love to go back to Germany and see the wonders there: monastery libraries, alpine culture, etc. Also Berlin! Also Nepal!

Favorite Place on Earth: Tough one. Many contenders. I would have to say areas of the northern California coast--stiff breeze, redwoods, angry surf, fantastic geology in general. I look forward to establishing more happiness there.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fiscal Fasting - My Month on a Spending Diet

So, our fiscal fast ended on Valentine's Day this month, and I figured I should catch you up on our spending. Our total spending for the month ended up being: 
  • Joint Account: $260.71 
  • Personal Account: $38.90 
  • Cash Spending: $92.00 (includes $57 in court payments) 
For a total of $391.61 spent on groceries and incidentals. We also spent $180 on utilities and my gym membership (the necessities I mentioned at the beginning), and we haven't paid rent yet in light of the heat incidents, but we would normally also have paid $1,640 on that as well.

That would bring us to a total of $2,211.61 spent for the month. For myself, I was able to save just about $400 for my personal account this month, which is probably the most I've managed to save since I finished grad school and lost my stipend last May.

Honestly, it was less of a success than I'd hoped it would be. We spent more on take-out and going out than I'd hoped (budgeted: $0; spent: $81.62), and our grocery bill didn't seem to decrease at all, considering I really felt like we were using A LOT of ingredients from our cabinet. We spent 228.71 on groceries, which is pretty normal for us. Much of the money went to groceries we didn't need: a giant plate of delicious bbq nachoes we made in our last week, ham sandwiches we made to bring to Danielle's house to watch the Olympics, a big burger and beer night at Rob's house. It's still a lot cheaper than going out to dinner, so it was definitely better than it could have been, but still, I was hoping to get our numbers way down, and that didn't really happen for us at all. Food is definitely the biggest budget breaker we have, and I think we really need to sit down and talk about whether there are any ways to fix that.

If I'm being honest, it was also really hard to do this alone. Roger agreed to do it with me, and then backed out after two days to take a weekend trip to Boston. He was always supportive of me doing it, but he definitely ordered take out on days when I would have just eaten soup, and generally made it harder than it would have been if I were living on my own. I know this because when I was living on my own, this is how I lived most days, and I never really felt deprived, while I felt pretty much constantly deprived during this fast. [Editor's note: I won't say anymore on this because Roger is planning to write a response about his experience with the fiscal fast.]

Another thing that made the entire experience particularly painful was our lack of heat. In addition to costing us over $200 (between court fees, increased electric bills, buying a second space heater, etc.), it also made it really hard to want to stay home or enjoy our time there because it was freezing all the time. (It also made us not want to clean, because it was so easy to just create a nest in the bedroom around our one space heater, and the dirty apartment made us also not want to hang out in filth.) So, on times when we would normally have been happy reading or playing board games in the living room, we were stuck in the bedroom freezing and whining. 

There were a few successes, though. For one, my credit card bill was under $100, even with my gym membership, for the first time in years. I felt great about that! I took out a bunch of library books and got more in touch with the free things we could do around the city. I checked out Super Bowl Avenue, went to some house parties, and took advantage of Roger's museum ID to see some free exhibits. With the cold temperatures, I didn't go on as many walks as I normally would have, I think, and I didn't go to as many free lectures as I would have liked to, but it was great to discover how many affordable things there are to do again. I also realized how incredibly supportive my friends can be. When I had to decline an invitation, no one was ever cranky about it, and several friends seemed happy to find free things to do with me. A few people even treated me to drinks or meals so I could join in the fun without messing up the fast, and those people deserve a huge thanks (and I'll get you back when we get together next, I promise!).

What did I learn? It's not that hard. I'd read a lot of blog posts from people who did it for a week and found the fast to be really difficult. Honestly, in the first week, I didn't even realize I was doing it. I was just more diligent about packing lunch. We cheated a fair amount, as you can tell from the above spending list, so I'd really love to try it again, perhaps in the summer when there's more to do outside, and really stick to a limit.

What did I miss? The ease of take out, saying yes to invitations, and buying gifts for people. There were so many little gift-y things that I wanted to get for people, and forcing myself not to do that was pretty hard. But, my second biggest "debt" category on Mint (where I track my "debts" based on a budget I've made for myself - I'm really lucky not to have any actual debt) is usually gift giving, because I love to shower people with presents. This month, I was able to pull myself out of that debt, so that in the future I can start putting more money toward my other big debt areas (travel is #1, now followed by shopping and food), and that's another really great feeling. I realized I can show how much I love people by spending time with them and letting them know I am thinking about them, instead of by getting them little thoughtful items. A big one for me!

What have I bought since finishing?A haircut, a few new items of workout clothes, and a weekend in Albany. I decided to push getting new glasses back a couple months, until I have my next eye exam in June, even though insurance will cover the new ones. I may need to buy contact lenses before then, though. In March, I've decided to go on a cash budget for myself of $200, in the hopes of spending more wisely, so I will keep you posted on how that goes. I'd also like to go on a cash budget for groceries, but I have to talk to Roger to see if he's on board.

Would I do it again? Yes. I think I might try it again this summer and see how it goes. It was a great way to flush myself out of spending habits in the new year, and start off my goal of spending more consciously. I would also definitely recommend it to anyone else, so if you're interested in starting one and have any questions, let me know and I will definitely be more than happy to answer them!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Weekend Wanderings - Albany

This was a pretty great week and weekend, so I'm sorry I wasn't on the blog much last week! On Wednesday, after work, I cut my hair!

The hair cut!

It isn't perfect (it was a student cut), and it definitely shows off my gray patches, but I really love it. Much easier to take care of, and now I don't put it up in a messy bun everyday, which is what I was doing when I had the long hair that you could braid and style and wear down and show off in the wind. I loved my hair long, but I never did anything with it, so I'm glad for something different and a little adventurous. The last time I did a cut this drastic was when I was studying abroad, so I feel rather cosmopolitan about it, as I did then.

On Thursday, I met up with Sarah for dinner at Delmonico's, America's oldest restaurant.


We've wanted to go for Restaurant Week since last year, and we finally found time to do it. The atmosphere of the place is wonderful and very old-world. The service was very good, and we split a bottle of their RW wine special, a Cabernet from Argentina, which we both liked a lot.  For an appetizer, I tried their Lobster Newberg, one of their specialty dishes, but unfortunately, I wasn't completely wowed.  It was good, but not exactly transcendent, like some other lobster I've eaten. The short ribs for an entree (they seemed to only on the RW menu) were really delicious, and I was glad to have followed my mother's rule of ordering short ribs if they're on the menu because they will be the best dish. (Roger seems to do this with duck. They're both always right.) And for dessert, we got the baked Alaska and the chocolate cake, and both were wonderful. It was great to spend a long dinner chatting with Sarah, and I'm so glad we finally got to check out this historic restaurant.

On Friday, Roger and I spent the morning in court, trying to get our landlords to give us heat. We will see how it goes. They now have an order to fix the radiator and the "alleged" heat condition (since the inspector came on an extremely warm day, the temperature indoors was legal on that particular day) within a month or so.

Waiting to enter the court room.

After that, I made my way upstate to Albany, to visit Shelby for my birthday and some snoe-shoeing!  She greeted me with some lovely sweaters and my favorite cake of all time, from Cocodotts. Their almond cake is so light and airy, it's one of my very favorite foods! We also grabbed some Five Guys for dinner (so sue me, fast food once or twice a year is not the end of the world), and then spent the evening catching up.

The lovely cake!

On Saturday morning, we woke up and headed to the Hot Yoga Spot for my first ever hot yoga experience. It was really wonderful. We did a gentle yoga class for beginners, because even though I've been doing yoga for 13 years, my back has been getting wonky in class lately and I wasn't sure how my body would react to the heat. I'm really glad we did, because class was tough! Sadly, someone got a little sick toward the end of class, so we had to open the door to cool her off and let her out, but she ended up being okay, and the last 15 minutes of class went on as usual. My favorite thing about the class was feeling, for the first time in a long time, like everything was new. I sometimes have a hard time with Shavasana lately and in this class, it was just like it had been for me when I first started yoga - a deeply relaxing experience. It felt so good to get back to that.

We decided that the snow might have melted too much for snow-shoeing, so after getting back to her apartment, we decided to try ice skating. Unfortunately, once we got to the rink, it was closed, so we ended up having to skip that, too. We made the best of it, and took a little walk around the Capital Buildings, and then walked over to Bomber's, a burrito bar that Shelby introduced me to when we were in college. After that, we did a little grocery shopping at a recently renovated Price Chopper, and Mike filled up a growler to bring to his friend's place that evening.

We headed back to their apartment to shoot the shit for a while before dinner, which we ate at a pub close to their house called the Ship's Pub, where they have the coldest Angry Orchard cider I've ever had. It was delicious, and went pretty well with the chicken sandwich I ordered. Mike headed out to his friend's house, and Shelby and I decided to rent a movie. We watched the Dallas Buyer's Club, which I really enjoyed. Matthew McConaughey was excellent and unrecognizable in it. I have no idea how it holds up against the other Oscar-nominations, since I haven't seen any others, but I can definitely tell why it was nominated. It's pretty rare that I see any movies, so two weekends in a row of seeing something felt really impressive to me.

The view from the bus home.

Sadly, I had to leave Albany pretty early on Sunday, right after enjoying a little more birthday cake for breakfast. I felt a small crick in my back on the bus ride home, and took a muscle relaxant just in case. I try not to depend on them too much, but it's nice to know I have them just in case. Since going off them in April of last year, I think I've taken a total of 4 in the past ten months. I spent the bus ride doing a little reading, and when I came back to a warm and sunny Manhattan, with all the snow melted and the subway ready to whisk me back to Harlem, I felt perfectly at home and at peace. Right now, it feels like everything is exactly where it should be.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Liz from Happy Sighs

Liz's blog, Happy Sighs, is one of the first ones I ever started reading, after she moderated APW for a week or so maybe four years ago. (Like Beth, she had a seriously gorgeous wedding.)  I fell totally in love with her words, which are wise beyond her years, and her beautiful paintings.  Even though I only met her once, very briefly at the APW book signing a few years ago, I feel like I know her really well through her writing, and I hope you will too! 

Liz and her adorable son!

Who are you? I'm Liz! I live just outside of Philly with my husband, toddler son and my cat Salvador.

Where can you be found online?  Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work?  If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation?  Happy Sighs is probably the most inappropriately named blog on the internet. It's less of a fluffy, bright blog and more of a place where I rant. That's appealing, right?

What inspired you to start writing/blogging?  When did it happen? I've always written snippets of things here and there, but like everyone, started blogging when I was planning my wedding. I think I was just looking for a way to organize my thoughts, but ended up finding a community of kindred spirits.

Why do you write? My life has always happened in cycles. Maybe I just don't learn my lessons the first time around or something, but writing about things that I experience seems to bear weight when I experience those same things over again later. Learning from history, I guess. I also find that finding a way to put words to something indescribable makes that something easier to handle. When I was having a baby, it felt overwhelming in a lot of ways that I couldn't articulate until I really tried. And once I put those emotions into words and had a way to refer to them, they made more sense to me in general. Then, you add in the community aspect of blogging- the fact that people are going to read and commiserate and say, "I sometimes feel that specific hard to describe thing too!" and it all makes the big things seem a lot more manageable, in very good ways.

Your writing inspires me.  Who inspires you?
  When I'm stuck with nothing to say (or a lot to say, and no words to say it), I like to read Another Damn Life, Kind of a Mess and Ohio on Purpose.

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?  Italy. I've always imagined going to Italy. Also, I like to eat.

What is your favorite place on earth? My back step. We don't have a backyard or anything. But our little cement stoop is beneath this tree that turns a really pretty red, and the sunlight coming through the leaves is just perfect.

Anything else you'd like us to know? I'm just so excited to be included in this! Thank you, Kristin!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Weekend Wanderings - Dave and Christie Visit

This was such a fantastic weekend that I couldn't even get it together to post about it yesterday! While Valentine's Day being on a Friday plus President's Day being on a Monday made this an ideal weekend for a getaway, Roger and I stayed put in New York and had a few house guests instead.

My funny valentines.

For Valentine's Day on Friday we were still on our fiscal fast, so instead of a fancy prix-fixe dinner or going out, we decided to hang out at home, eating some leftovers and playing Pandemic with Rob until Dave and Christie arrived from Boston. You may not know that I'm a big board game nerd, and after hearing many great things about Pandemic and getting it for Christmas, I was so excited to play my first cooperative board game. I really liked it, even though we lost really quickly, and I hope to be able to play it again soon. It's not quite as quick and easy as Timeline, but it's still great fun to learn and play.

Rob and Roger setting up for Pandemic.

On Saturday, Christie made us all eggs Benedict, which were delicious despite the difficulty of poaching eggs. I think I'll stick to soft-boiling when I want that texture in the future. We headed downtown to see The Monuments Men, which I really liked. It's about the group of people who helped rescue 5 million pieces of art from the Nazis. My companions weren't thrilled about the movie, and let me be real: if I see it on a big screen, chances are I really liked it because that's an experience I don't have much anymore, so I can't say for sure if it was worth seeing. But the story is fascinating, so if you don't want to see the movie, at least give The Rape of Europa a read.

Afterward, I headed back home to start cooking some chili for the little get-together we threw for a few friends. It was great to see everyone, and I think everyone enjoyed the food (I know I was pretty enamored with all the desserts everyone brought). Christina, Shakira and I met up with Courtney and a few of her friends for drinks later in the evening, and that was a wonderful time, too.

Hanging out post-party.

On Sunday, Cece was nice enough to paint my nails for me, and then I did a quick shop at Old Navy for some leggings, since my favorites were on sale. I also ended up buying a sweater on clearance and a nice pair of earrings. After that, Christie, Dave, and I met up with some of Christie's friends from Denmark for my first dim sum experience at Jing Fong. There was a long wait, but the food was so delicious and the experience so fun that I may drag Roger back next week for my birthday. We'll see.  My absolute favorite dish was their pork bun, which tasted like biting into a cloud, but there wasn't a single thing we ordered that I didn't love.  At only $12 a person, it felt like a pretty great deal, too! We grabbed some bubble tea after and then hung out at one of her friends' apartments in Chinatown, chatting about Denmark for a while.

Christie ordering pork buns!

I headed back home to meet up with Courtney for some pre-dinner wine, and once Dave, Christie, and one of Dave's friends from Geneva got back to our house, we all headed to Bad Horse for a delicious pizza dinner, ending the weekend on a high note. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone after spending such a great time surrounded by friends, but I'm hopeful I'll see everyone again soon!

Friday, February 14, 2014

{This Moment} Girl Scout Cookies Edition

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Recap of this week on Not Intent On Arriving:

Writing in other places:
  • I was interviewed over at MFA Day Job, talking about writing and work and how they both sometimes hold hands. 
  • Over on my writing website, I started a new page for my copywriting portfolio.  I'd like to reformat it soon, but in the meantime, I'm glad it's up and I can show off a little!

Do you have any fun plans for Valentine's Day or the weekend?  Tonight our friends Dave and Christie arrive from Boston, so I'm sure we'll be catching up with them, and then I'll see more old friends tomorrow night for dinner and a going-away party.  Really looking forward to it!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snowy Days


We've gotten more snow and cold weather this winter than I can remember in almost any other winter for the past ten years. I don't mind it much. It's not a great winter for our heat to go out, but otherwise, it's been nice to feel like we're having a real winter, like we used to have when I was a kid. I have a down coat, which I bought on sale for my birthday three years ago and which has drastically improved my abilities to stay outside, and Roger has snowboots for the first time, so we're doing okay and don't even cry when we have to walk to the subway on days like today.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the winter: seeing old friends this weekend, hiking and hot yoga with Shelby next weekend, perhaps cross country skiing the one after, and downhill skiing the one after that.  I think that should tide me over until spring, no?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Erin from The Familiar Wilderness

Erin is another friend I met on twitter, and thanks to the powers of the MetroNorth, have actually hung out with.  She's just as awesome in real life as she is on The Familiar Wilderness, her nature-writing blog, which inspires me all the time to explore my own little corner of the world.  Plus she is really good at identifying flora and fauna via photograph, so if you're ever wondering what a certain type of animal is, she's your gal!

Who are you? I'm Erin! I'm a writer/photographer/naturalist/aspiring artist living on Long Island, New York.

Where can you be found online?  Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work?  If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation?  Remember, you're in a hot tub with them on a clear cold night, stars twinkling above you.  They want all the details.  If not, tell the hot-tub-stranger about your writing in such a way that makes them urge you to get an online receptacle for it.  Hey Stranger. I write a blog called The Familiar Wilderness, superficially about my adventures as an amateur naturalist on Long Island. More deeply, I'm trying to bust open the notion that Cool Nature only exists on distant continents or in the hearts of impassable wildernesses. I like to reveal the amazing creatures, plants, places and phenomena right under our noses here in urban/suburban/rural North America. If you stop by my online home, you'll find lighthearted photo essays, musings, stories and how-tos. I try not to take myself too seriously.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? I've been blogging at TFW for nearly three years (holy cow!). I've always been a reader of nature and science writing. When I started learning about plants and birds and places as an adult, I fell head-over-heels in love with places that didn't get much attention in the literature -- plain old, commonplace backyard parks and preserves that I could reach by car after work. I wanted to use words and photos to share my love of close-to-home wild spaces in the hope that others would be inspired to fall in love too.

Why do you write? There's a sentiment that shows up in poems and posters to the effect of, "You can't love what you don't know." My hope is that my words inspire people to look closer at the world around them, get to know it, fall in love with it, and take care of it. I love it too much to keep quiet. But also, I write for the satisfaction of laying down words, shuffling and sifting them, and hopefully arriving at that feeling of getting it true, that "DAMN I nailed it," feeling.

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? I really admire Julie Zickefoose as a nature writer and author ( I have several friends who write honestly and hilariously, though they would be embarrassed if I called them out. They remind me to play with my words.

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?  Oh! Oh! I know where I would go! I'd like to take two months in late spring/early summer to camp and drive from Joshua Tree in California through Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite, and all the way up to the Olympic Penninsula in Washington State. My expenses would include knowledgeable-nature-guides-who-are-also-awesome-people for each areas, sleeping up in redwood trees, and wine delivered to my campsite every night. Wanna come?

What is your favorite place on earth? You know what's funny? I'm not a homebody at all, but my favorite place on earth generally tends to be wherever I'm calling home, currently Long Island. But also I love the wild bits of Maine -- they've grown into my soul.

Anything else you'd like us to know?  I keep a spare set of binoculars for friends and visitors, hint hint ;)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weekend Wanderings - Olympics Time!

On Thursday, I met up with my friend Gina to check out an exhibit at the Grey Art Gallery. They had a number of works by Jess and explored his relationship with Robert Duncan.  We really picked it as a place to spend a little time before a reading we were going to, but we both ended up enjoying the show, which showed off how wide a range Jess's work really encompassed.  The Grey Art Gallery is donation-based and a nice little spot to check out if you're near Washington Square Park.  After that, we had some hot chocolates at Le Pain Quotidien, where a stranger asked to take my photo, and headed to the NYU writers house for a reading by Joan Silber and Jean Valentine.  I'd never read any of Silber's work before, but after seeing her read, I definitely want to.  And Valentine was absolutely lovely - her poems are often short but powerful, and her delivery of them was just beautiful.  I'm so glad I went, and getting to catch up with Gina was fantastic, too!

Jean Valentine was really rocking it.

On Friday, Danielle invited us to her house to watch the Olympics opening ceremony, and we made ham sandwiches and watched the TV and I was so glad because I love the Olympics a whole lot.  We hung around for a while chatting with her, Rob, and Beth, and overall it was a great night.  We even somehow managed to catch a D train home so there were no transfers.  Life was beautiful.

Saturday was all about hanging out in bed until 4pm when we cleaned the house and made nachos and then got back into bed and watched Orange is the New Black.  Life was beautiful then, too.

Hot chocolate with a pretty design

And yesterday we did a little work at a new coffeeshop near the apartment, Double Dutch Espresso, and shockingly, I loved it and Roger was super-distracted.  Things usually work the opposite way in our lives.  I knocked out a recommendation letter and drank a delicious hot chocolate while Roger fretted about the conversation behind us and how he was being bumped every time someone wanted to go to the bathroom.  Odd times indeed.  After that, we bought a new space heater (warmth for the win!) and the headed home for more nachos and more work.  Life was less beautiful that day but still pretty great, all things considered.

Maybe this will be the week I start running again?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fiscal Fasting - My Month on a Spending Diet, Day 25

Since breaking a couple times on Days 8 and 10, I've been back on the Fiscal Fast bandwagon and doing pretty well. One small exception is that I bought chips and a diet coke to supplement my lunch last Friday. I also bought a few non-essentials for groceries last week: ice cream, cold cuts, and ingredients for nachos. But, they were a welcome addition to our otherwise somewhat drab meals the past few weeks.  In total, all of these things cost about $35.

My necessary spending has included:
  • Court fees and mailing fees to try and get heat back into our apartment - $57
  • Ricotta and mozzerella to make lasagna for the week last week, plus apples and yogurt - $30
  • A space heater and thermometer (hopefully to be reimbursed post-court) - $45
Admittedly, a thing that has made it a lot easier is that I've been treated by a few friends:
  • Lauren bought me a beer and a meal for letting her stay with us while she was visiting from Boston last weekend. (Thank you, Lauren!)
  • Gina bought me a hot chocolate when we inadvertently had an hour to spare between two free events we attended together.  I'm looking forward to treating her next time we get together, post-Fiscal Fast. (Thank you, Gina!)
  • Roger bought me a hot chocolate this morning so that I would hang out at the coffeehouse and do work with him this morning.  (Thank you, Roger!  Sorry I made fun of you for falling off the fast!)
I try not to take too much advantage of it, but all of my incredibly generous friends (and my incredibly generous friends who have done lots of free things with me this past month) have made it a lot easier to have fun while I've been doing this.  Many thanks to everyone who has had us over to house parties, come to the gym with me, or eaten in our cafeteria at work so I could bring my lunch and still enjoy talking to you!

With five more days to go, I'm really feeling good about things.  The meal for the week is made up of all things we already have (we're making split pea soup), and I have a few free activities planned for the week, so I think I'll be able to keep it up through 2/14.  Next weekend, I'll let you know how everything went and tally up our spending to let you know how it goes! 

Friday, February 7, 2014

{This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Recap of this week on Not Intent On Arriving:
Do you have any fun plans for the weekend?  This one's going to be a quiet one for me - I'm hoping to get a lot of reading (East of Eden and Orange is the New Black) and writing done!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Chad Arnold

I first met Chad Arnold in 2004, shortly after Roger and I started dating.  I could probably embarrass him with lots of stories of when he was just a teenager, but I'll be nice and just say that he's pretty awesome and despite being mostly passionate about thrash metal, he once spent an entire five-hour-long drive with me talking about financial planning, because that is something I like talking about.  When he first started Global Thrash Assault, Roger and I weren't sure what to think, but in the two years he's been writing it, he's gained literally thousands of fans.  (To give you an idea of what this means, I've been working Call & Response for seven years, and we have 68 fans.)  Couldn't be more excited for him.

Chad Arnold, enjoying a Christmas beer.

Who are you? I'm Chad. Avid thrash metal fan and the brother of Roger Arnold who is the long-time boyfriend of the very person who was kind enough to send me these questions for her blog, Kristin Maffei.

Where can you be found online? Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work? If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation? I run a blog that focuses mainly on "underground" thrash metal (think 80's Metallica and Slayer) from around the world called Global Thrash Assault. Occasionally I'll discuss bands that every fan of the genre knows about but my goal is to highlight the bands that no one has ever heard of. I do this in any way, shape or form possible, whether it's by sharing a bands song on the site's Facebook page, urging people to follow a band on the site's Twitter account, or writing an article about a band on the main website itself. I've been blogging about my favorite genre of music for nearly two years and in this time things have grown beyond my wildest dreams.

What started out as a hobby that I thought would never last has turned into nearly 3,000 Facebook fans, 200+ Twitter followers (let's be real, who uses Twitter?) and damn near 200,000 views on the blog itself. Just about every day I receive emails from bands scattered throughout the world containing links to Facebook, ReverbNation and BandCamp pages saying something along the lines of "love your blog, check us out!"

I don't just share links and write about bands though. In the early days of the blog I made a few videos that featured five or so bands from different parts of the world.  I called them "video podcasts" for lack of a better world. It was basically me telling everyone how great a band was and then playing a track by said band. I did two or three of these before I decided to stop with them all together. Instead I focused my attention on a much larger project, one that, as a fan of the genre, I knew would be enjoyed by both bands and fans from around the world. Last December all my efforts finally paid off when I released "Wreck Your Neck: Volume 1," a free digital compilation featuring 26 bands from North America, Australia and throughout Europe. Countless emails were sent, an all-nighter or two was pulled and some of my hard earned money was spent having my buddy Tom Martin design a Global Thrash Assault logo and some pretty sweet artwork for the release. It was all worth it. Every dollar spent, every hour of sleep lost, and every key pressed. At last check the compilation had over 700 downloads. Volume 1 was so successful I announced there would be a Volume 2 earlier this year. I enjoyed putting together the compilations together so much that I became interested in a possible career in broadcasting. I'm currently looking into starting a podcast where I play nothing but killer music and interview different bands/band members. I would love to make the whole thing interactive where fans can call in and ask questions or share there thoughts but I'm taking it one step at a time, I want to focus on making a quality show more than anything else.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? I started Global Thrash Assault just under two years ago out of pure boredom. I had just quit a retail job I worked at for six years after they passed me up on a management position I should of had four years prior. Disgusted with the thought of running a register I decided to take some time off and enjoy life a little, I had another job so it wasn't like there wasn't any money coming in. Well "some time off" turned into "I'd rather be dead than work retail again", so I eventually succumbed to the couch potato life style. Sitting on a couch drinking beer may sound glorious but it gets old pretty damn quick. I needed something to do. Anything. So I weighed my options. Heavy metal music has been a constant in my life since I was a teenager so I knew I wanted to do something involving that. I don't exactly know how I came to the decision to start Global Thrash Assault but eventually the kid that hadn't written a sentence since high school (which was four years prior) and was too damn lazy to even read the Spark Notes decided to start a blog on thrash metal. Best decision I've ever made.

Why do you write?  If you told me two years ago that I would still be doing this I would of laughed and been like "no way!" I honestly thought I would write a few entries and never touch the blog again. I think the reason I keep writing is because I enjoy sharing my passion for thrash metal with people who are just as passionate about the genre as myself. There's nothing like seeing a band share what I wrote with its fan base. Having people from the other side of the world reading what I write and then writing me about their own band. Meeting people who follow my blog at a show and talking to them for hours like we're life long friends catching up. Introducing myself to a band I've written about and shaking their hands while they tell me how my support means to them. These are all things that I've experienced since I started this blog nearly two years ago and they're the reasons why running Global Thrash Assault has become one of my favorite things to do in life.

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? From a writers perspective I don't really have any inspirations. As I mentioned earlier I was the kid growing up who couldn't be bothered to even read the Spark Notes. Speaking in general though I'm pretty inspired by musicians, and not just from the heavy metal genre either. Musicians in general. I struggle with forming sentences at times and these people are writing music and lyrics. I really don't know how they do it. Just thinking about it blows my mind.

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? Traveling is something I've been really getting into the past few years. This past Spring I spent an entire vacation touring through the mid-west with two bands I've discussed on my blog, Lich King and Smash Potater. I saw St. Louis, Kansas City, Des Moines, Minneapolis, Madison, Chicago and Toledo on the tour and had the time of my life. I slept in my car most nights and ate greasy fast food for every meal but I loved every minute of it. I would totally do that again on a moment's notice. I would love to see the West Coast but if it's an all expenses paid trip it would have to be Europe. The heavy metal scene over there is absolutely insane. Some of my favorite bands are from Europe and the thought of seeing them live in front of their hometown crowd is something that I've been dying to witness for quite some time now. I've actually been asked to sponsor a small festival in the UK next year called Full Thrash Assault. The date and line-up were confirmed a year in advance so I'm trying to schedule next year's vacation around the event. I don't know if it will work out but I'm hoping it does.

What is your favorite place on earth? I don't really have a favorite place on earth. I spend a lot of time in my room just listening to music but I don't think that's the kind of place you're talking about. I do however enjoy the Autumn season in upstate New York. It's not uncommon for me to get in my car this time of year and drive north for hours just to get a cup of coffee and enjoy the foliage. It sounds crazy, and it probably is, it's just nice to take nature in every now and then.

Anything else you'd like us to know? There's really nothing else to say. I'm really a simple guy.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Weekend Wanderings - Super Bowl Weekend

It was quite the weekend!  On Friday after work, I had a poetry date with my wonderful friend Sophie.  It's been way too long since we got together, so it was nice to see her and great to get a little work done - two submissions and a little bit of editing.  Keeping the literary theme of the evening going, I had my virtual book club that night, discussing The End of the Suburbs, which was a really interesting book.  We had a great discussion, too, focusing more on our personal reactions to the book and personal experiences with the suburbs.

On Saturday, I spent most of the morning cleaning out our house, which really hadn't been cleaned since before Christmas because of our ongoing heat troubles.  I did three massive loads of laundry, picked up a few groceries for the week, and then Roger and I teamed up to tackle the house.  (He did most of it, though, since I was reeling from laundry-duty.)  I met up with Keriann, Erin, and Lauren for drinks and dinner at the Half Pint, and it was great to see all of them.  We wandered through SoHo and the LES, and ended up capping off the evening with some cupcakes before we all went our separate ways, and Lauren headed up to Harlem to stay at our place.  It was great to get to know her better, and I only wish we'd had more time to hang out during the weekend!

While we were wandering, Erin scaled a building:
Erin climbing a wall, via Lauren's instagram

On Sunday, Lauren headed out on some fantastic adventures (I wish I could have joined her!), and I went to my pilates class and then spent the day putting together our dinner share for the week, baking peanut butter brownies, and prepping my lovely self for Danielle's Super Bowl party that night.  We had a blast watching the game (and the commercials - though I was less impressed with those this year), and Danielle made some incredible snacks for us to enjoy.

Her friend Conrad was obsessed with getting a photo of Peyton Manning next to his "Loser" beer from Seattle, and then I became a little obsessed with getting a photo of him getting a photo. Meta.

Overall, a really nice weekend, and I was glad that the weather was so beautiful!  Today things are rather snowy, so it was nice while it lasted, and certainly made things easier on those footballs fans at the stadium!