Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mahopac High School Ten Year Reunion

I can't believe it's been more than ten years since I graduated high school (or that it's been more than ten years since that Usher et al. classic, "Yeah," was the most popular song of the year)! But, it has, and some of my former classmates and I celebrated at a local pizza place the day after Christmas.

It was strange seeing so many people I haven't talked to in years, an experience made even stranger by the fact that we all had a reasonable idea of what everyone else was up to because of facebook. There were definitely a few awkward moments and--let's be real--a few people who were dicks ten years ago are somehow still dicks. (How is that even possible? Hasn't adulthood kicked the shit out of them yet?) The lack of diversity in my hometown and the sheer bro-iness of it has never felt more apparent. And, while I'm pretty thrilled to be able to say that my life is more or less exactly what I was hoping it would be ten years ago (give or take a book deal), it definitely feels like a very different path than the one most of my classmates have taken, which felt strange and maybe a little lonely.

But, I'm glad to have gone. I think it was a good experience, and one that made me really think about what I've accomplished and what goals I have for the future. Here are a few pictures from the evening:

Mahopac High School Class of 2004 - Ten Year Reunion

Mahopac High School Class of 2004 - Ten Year Reunion

Mahopac High School Class of 2004 - Ten Year Reunion
Me, Shelby, and Lauren

Mahopac High School Class of 2004 - Ten Year Reunion

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas 2014

We've already started our holiday trip to Georgia and South Carolina, but I wanted to share a few photos from Christmas Eve on here before I start writing aboutthe trip. It's also my first "mobile post" from my phone, so forgive me if the formatting here is a little weird.
I hope your Christmas was as lovely as ours!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Traditions - Top 5 Christmas Albums

Do you have your playlist ready for tomorrow? I'm not a big music-head at all, but I love hymns and I love Christmas carols, so I figured I'd bring you my favorite mixes, and the order in which I think you should play them for your day. And, since I can never pick just one, I've also included a runner-up for each.

Opening Presents: Various Artists - A Very Special Christmas

The Very Special Christmas albums will get you pumped for your morning of open gifts! All of the albums in this series are great, but I grew up with Vol. 1 and 2, so I'm preferential to those, of course. I seriously didn't even realize these weren't the traditional versions of each of these songs until I was about fourteen. Rock on, Mom and Dad. Listen here (and here).

Runner Up: Disney - A Family Christmas - Listen here.

Getting Prepared for the Day: Sufjan Stevens - Songs for Christmas

While you're cleaning up wrapping paper, enjoying time with your family, and cooking for incoming guests, have a listen to Songs for Christmas. This is a quiet, beautiful collection of songs that capture all the moods of the holidays, including the ones we don't love talking about: sadness, nostalgia, anxiety. It's so good (like all of Sufjan's albums) that sometimes I even listen to it when it's not Christmas. Listen here.
Runner Up: Annie Lennox - A Christmas Cornucopia - Listen here.

Cocktail Hour: Various Artists - Holidays Rule

Once your guests arrive, it's time to throw on Holidays Rule while you nosh on appetizers and start in on the eggnog. For an album that was, I think, produced entirely by Starbucks (true/false, music lovers?), this is seriously good stuff. It has A LOT of bands I really like (Rufus Wainwright, She & Him, The Head and the Heart, The Shins, I could keep going...) and the songs are, like Sufjan's above, legitmately great. It's also the perfect thing to loosen you up during cocktail hour without being overpoweringly Christmas-y. Listen here. 

Runner Up: Barenaked Ladies - Barenaked for the Holidays (mostly for their version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen with Sarah McLachlan) - Listen here.

Dinner and Dessert: Berlin Symphony Orchestra - The Nutcracker Highlights

As you meander into the dining room, pop on the Nutcracker Suite, which features beautiful holiday classics that allow for a festive spirit and conversation. I'm pretty sure this is the Nutcracker Suite album that we have, but I bet any version would be equally lovely and majestic. Listen here.

Runner up: Vince Guaraldi - A Charlie Brown Christmas - Listen here.

Post-dinner Card Game: Various Artists - This Warm December

After dinner, turn on something relaxing and cozy with This Warm December. I just heard this one for the first time last month, but I'm really loving it. It has a sort of laid back, warm Christmas feel to it, much like all the artists of Brushfire Records. It's how I imagine Christmas on a tropical island feels. Listen here.

Runner Up: Bing Crosby - White Christmas - Listen here.

Happy holidays, everyone! Have a wonderful Christmas eve tomorrow!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Weekend Wanderings - Holiday Errands

We had a lovely, busy weekend finishing up some last minute holiday errands and enjoying ourselves. Saturday started with a visit to the New Museum to see the Chris Ofili show. For some reason, I only wore a blazer. It was snowing.

We grabbed a quick lunch of french fries at Pommes Frites, one of my favorite spots in the city and one I haven't been to in quite some time. We even managed to snag a seat!

After picking up a few Christmas gifts, we hopped on the Path train to Hoboken for Heather's holiday get-together. One of the more surreal moments of my life happened when we got off the train and were greeted with a long line of Santas waiting outside a bar, singing "Take Me Home, Country Roads" at the tops of their lungs.

And then the holiday party commenced, with delicious food, lovely friends, and most exciting for me, babies!

Yesterday we ran a few more last minute errands, cleaned up the house, and wrapped some presents. Just two more days of work, and then we have a few days at our parents' houses for Christmas before heading to Savannah!

A sneak peek of the gifts we're giving later this week.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Traditions - A City Singing at Christmas

I'm so glad Danielle invited me to come along with her to last night's 35th Annual "A City Singing at Christmas" at St. Patrick's Cathedral. I would say I have a very complicated relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, but I love Christmas carols and I love hymnals and I love cathedrals, so this was a wonderful evening. The scaffolding that had blocked so much of the cathedral last year is almost 75% gone, so it was lovely to see the church looking so beautiful again. After the two-hour-long concert was over, we walked past Saks' windows and stopped by the Rockefeller Center tree for a few minutes. I hope to do it again next year when all of the scaffolding is gone!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holiday Traditions - Company Holiday Party

My office had their annual holiday party last night, and it was a blast. This year, we tried something new, with staff carolers before and after our annual awards ceremony, and I think it was quite a hit. Overall, it was a wonderful evening with wonderful coworkers, and a reminder of why I'm so happy to be a part of this company!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Ben Apatoff

Perhaps interesting to readers: I went to college with Ben Apatoff but never met him until he was at Erica Quinn's housewarming, several years after we had both graduated.  Ben is the author of two books, a freelance writer, and the creator of Apatoff for Destruction, a metal blog.

Ben Apatoff, photo by Sarah Anne Wharton

Who are you? That's a good question. I love people, music, books and movies.

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've published two eBooks on Amazon, A Metal Fan's Notes and The Perks of Being a Campaigner. I also co-host a podcast (Duke and Duke) and run a metal blog (Apatoff for Destruction). I've been pretty bad about updating it this fall, and have been posting more videos than essays, but I've gone through periods like this before and I'll get back to full essays every morning soon. In the meantime, I've been writing and editing stories for Electric Literature, and I've been interviewing some of New York City's coolest artists for The Deli Magazine. My first cover story for them is out this month.

My writing is probably more about fandom than anything else. I don't write for metalheads, or for political buffs, but I hope that someone who doesn't care about either of those things could get caught up in the passion. When someone tells me they don't like metal but they like my writing, or that something I wrote inspired them to go canvassing, I know I've done something right.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? I've written in one way or another for almost as long as I can remember, but when I left college and stopped writing papers I felt the need to stay in the habit. I was reading a lot about music, and I was usually disappointed with how little coverage went to my favorite artists, and how poor the writing was, even in major publications. So I started a blog.

Why do you write? It feels right to me. I'd rather be a great guitar player, or the undisputed world middleweight champ, or Vice President of the United States, but when I get home from work or a party my first instinct is usually to update my blog.

Ben drawn by the kids at PS 290

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? Axl Rose's influence is probably most obvious, from my blog title to my publishing company name (Nightrain) to my essays on Guns N' Roses to my performances in my band, Eat. He's not my favorite writer or the person who's had the greatest impact on me personally, but no one has inspired me to write as much as he has. Having overanalyzed him to the ends of the earth over the past 20 years, I've come to understand a lot of things through him and his music.

I think of that Václav Havel quote about how Lou Reed's music wasn't political, but it was revolutionary, and that was enough to inspire Havel to lead a peaceful overthrowing of Czechoslovakia's Communist regime with the Velvet Revolution. Not that my accomplishments are anywhere near Havel's, but I like the idea that someone who isn't necessarily a writer or an activist can inspire those things with their art.

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? My first thought was Tulum, Mexico. Even though I was just there last summer, one of my best friends lives down there and I always have a blast when I visit. But if I were to pick someplace I've never been, I've always been intrigued by Australia. Initially from reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, but now because I'd like to see the land that spawned AC/DC and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.

What is your favorite place on earth? It's got to be Virginia, home to George Washington and GWAR. A great place to spend your adolescence, and a great place to inspire adolescents to run off to Brooklyn. Plus, the state flag has a lady stabbing a tyrant, which is the most metal thing I can think of.

Anything else you'd like us to know? Call your friends on their birthdays.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Traditions - Dyker Heights Lights

I didn't even know that Dyker Heights was a place until Danielle told us about their incredible Christmas displays, but I'm so glad she did, because we had a blast seeing them this weekend. We enjoyed a bit of hot cocoa before taking the D train and wandering among the ornately decorated houses.

If you have a chance to go this holiday season, you definitely should! We even saw a NYRR group doing a fun run through the area, which seems like it would be a great way to hang out, get some exercise, and see the lights all at once!

Friday, December 12, 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:
Writing Elsewhere:
  • On Tuesday, my interview with Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, came out. She's another writer I really admire, so I'd love for you to have a listen! And, if you enjoy it, I hope you'll consider giving even just a small amount to our fundraising drive. If you live in Portland, there are some fantastic incentives for you!
I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Tonight, we're heading to Dyker Heights to check out the Christmas lights there. Tomorrow, I may do a group run from Union Square to Rockefeller Center, and then we have two parties to go to in the evening. It should be a busy but fun weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Seasons Greetings from the University of Oxford

Are you quite in the mood for the holidays yet? With our decorations up and a good amount of egg nog drunk, I'd say I'm quite in the mood. My college holiday party was on Tuesday night, and then yesterday my office sent around our holiday card for the year.

Of course, when I went to view that, this gem popped up, and I thought you all might enjoy seeing it:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Claire Zulkey

Claire Zulkey is seriously one of the coolest people on the internet. And the internet is a wide place filled with cool people, so that's a big deal. She's also the author of An Off Year. A graduate of Georgetown and Northwestern, she lives in Chicago and writes incredible stuff over at Zulkey. So much of what she says makes sense to me on a level of real understanding, and I appreciate reading someone who can say what I'm feeling in the words that I often don't have myself. I hope you'll hop over and read her work after this interview!

Who are you? I’m Claire Zulkey!

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 can be found at all the usual Facebook and Twitter places but the place where I started—and can still be found—is Zulkey.com. It’s a bloggy combo of personal essay, humor and interview along with the occasional collection of stupid photos.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? I started it in 2002 as a place to store my freelance clips and to provide little “nuggets” of something new for people to read every day. I’m not quite as consistent at it as I was way back then but it’s still alive and kicking. My topics have shifted over time, too: I wish I did more silly humor but sometimes I just need to vent about stuff.

Why do you write? It’s the only thing I can do that I like that people pay me to do. Sometimes it comes easily to me. Sometimes it helps me work through my problems.

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? I don’t do a good job of keeping track of specific people. It’s hard to know the difference between inspiration and envy sometimes, too. Just off the top of my head, my writing group, which consists of Molly Backes, Kate Harding, Wendy McClure and Kelly McNees. We get together on a regular basis and actually don’t typically share writing—instead we discuss our lives, both writing-and-not, and share encouragement and sympathy and ideas. We come from many different genres: feminist polemic, first person memoir, YA, historical fiction, whatever the hell it is I do—yet we can always find ways to help each other and not step on each others’ toes or compete. Same thing with the women I read with yearly at the Book Cellar at Witty Women, which includes Wendy, Amy Guth, Jen Lancaster and Stacey Ballis. My friend Jami Attenberg never stops blowing me away for her dedication to craft and the writers’ life and her sheer prolificness. She’s a true artist, to me. And basically anyone in Chicago who manages to be creative and forge a personal life and share their time and manage to be cool people on top of that. I hope they all know who they are.

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? OK, I want to make use of this all-expenses-paid thing, so it’s got to be someplace far away, so I travel in style. Someplace where someone can show me around. I’m thinking New Zealand or Japan, two places that I’m intrigued by but I’m unlikely to travel to anytime soon on my own buck or time.

What is your favorite place on earth? In my present, the Caribbean, either Anguilla or Peter Island, where my only responsibilities are to try to keep up with my reading, try to drink slowly, and re-apply my sunscreen. In the past, this resort called the Greenbrier in West Virginia that my dad used to take us to on work conferences. It was a beautiful playground: my conference-friends and I would meet up and run wild during the day, swimming and bowling and riding horses and at night, dressing up and going to fancy dinner with finger bowls and people offering you different types of bread from silver bread baskets. Lots of different wings to explore, with green and pink Dorothy Draper decorating and little delightful spots like writing desks stocked with stationery. I haven’t been there since I was in college. Part of me desperately wants to go back; on the other hand, what if it’s inferior to my memory?

Anything else you'd like us to know? Sometimes I feel sad that I’m not as full of ideas and baseless drive and desire to prove myself as I used to be, but then I remember I need to be grateful that I’m actually still here, doing stuff, and it’s a long journey.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Weekend Wanderings - St. Nicholas Day

Oh, what a weekend. We were supposed to go upstate for a winterfest with some of Roger's roommates from college, but unfortunately it fell through, so we spent it at home.

On Saturday, I sneakily set up a little St. Nicholas Day gift for Roger. We've been doing it since we moved in together, and I think it's a nice, quiet way to start the holiday season.

Almost immediately after that, I proceeded to spill red nail polish on pretty much everything in our office. Fun times. That afternoon, I met friends for lunch at the soon-to-be-closed Chip Shop. The only other time I'd gone there was with friends from the program at Oxford in 2008, so I have sweet memories of it, and I was glad to have a chance to say goodbye.

Walking home from the restaurant in the rain, I started to feel a cold coming on, and I ended up spending the rest of the day in bed drinking Roger's famous sick-day tea.

On Sunday, Roger and I ventured out of the house for brunch, but I really wasn't feeling up to my long run or doing much of anything else. My father came to the city to visit my great-aunt, who is ill, and dropped off our Christmas decorations (that were in storage in my parents' house) and took us to dinner that evening.

We did a bit of decorating and some catch-up work before I fell asleep at an ungodly early hour again. If I had to sum up the weekend with one image, it would be this: