jeanhee
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March 22, 2004

dinner with dad

Tonight Luke and I took my dad to dinner to celebrate his 70th birthday. My brothers and I are contributing to his overseas trip to Vienna, where he will visit Freud’s home (my dad is a psychiatrist, so this is really cool stuff!), and Budapest, where he will be guided around the cities by a friend who lives there. His actual birthday is on the Ides of March — but this was the best we could do.

It was a perfectly lovely dinner. He commented on our wedding web site, which included a joke about how I nixed Luke’s plans for a co-ed naked volleyball wedding. I told him that one of my brothers was concerned that that joke would bother Mom. (When we asked her, though, she said of course she recognized it was a joke.) Then I had wondered whether it would bother my dad. He said, “It’s a joke. If it weren’t a joke and you were actually going to have a naked wedding, then I would have a problem!”

Made me realize that sometimes we overestimate our parents’ sensitivity and conservatism, and we underestimate their reason and hipness. After all, my dad does go to work every day in New York City. He’s got to be somewhat hip to the world around him.

Our dinner was delicious — and helped by the incredibly attentive service at Red Cat and the complimentary dessert of risotto fritters with wild blueberries and vanilla ice cream (served to us because the entree my dad had ordered was missing an ingredient, sea beans, that was mentioned on the menu and that I was eager to taste. Turned out the kitchen had run out but forgot to tell the servers, and our server Christine felt bad. She more than made up for it! Yum!). But the best part was after dinner.

Dad drove us to Whole Foods, where Luke and I planned to do our weekly grocery shopping. I realized that my dad has probably never been to a Whole Foods and might like the experience. He was amazed. We pointed out how to spot the organic (yellow) from the conventional (purple) produce. We bought sanguinella, or blood oranges, because he had never had them and they were part of our other dessert tonight, the one we actually ordered (napoleon of lemongrass cream and blood oranges with a coconut/lemon ice cream). And I enticed him to make fresh almond butter using Whole Foods Chelsea’s brand-new nut-butter-making machines!

We lost him several times while we were shopping. At one point, I asked Luke where he was and he smiled, “He’s in the olives.” It was really fun to see him be totally curious and impressed by our supermarket.

I have to admit, harking back to the overestimate/underestimate-our-parents’ thing, that I was a little nervous watching him check out. I was afraid he would pull a George H.W. Bush and remark about the scanner or something. But no, he pulled out his credit card like a pro and swiped it as soon as the cashier told him what his total was! I beamed with pride. My dad, he’s living in the 21st century!

jeanhee @ 12:37 am

March 19, 2004

good things happen in threes

Although I officially call myself a freelancer, in truth I really just feel — and behave — like an unemployed writer/editor. I’ve been looking for an appropriate full-time position for almost two years — and am a firm believer that the official unemployment statistics in the U.S. are flawed. People not claiming unemployment insurance are not necessarily employed.

Yesterday was in some ways a typical, and in other ways a very unusual day in my life. Instead of having full-time employment prospects, I was offered a variety of non-paying-but-cool or low-paying-and-temporary gigs. However, the sheer number of them in a short space of time made me think that things may just start moving in the right direction soon.

I received a call from the editor of a men’s fitness magazine, who needs a senior editor to fill-in until the guy he hopes to hire accepts the position and reports to work. This will be a two- to three-week gig. I told him I would like to think about it for a few hours and call him back. Good thing I did that!

Not 10 minutes later, the phone rang again. The deputy managing editor of a personal finance magazine wanted to know if I could come in for two weeks next month to fact check. (I have been fact checking to smooth over the fallow periods while job-hunting and freelance-writing.) The two gigs were potentially in conflict, so I gave that editor the heads up and promised to let him know if I could be more definitive about my availability within the next few days.

Then, a half hour later, a friend calls. He catches me up on his new entrepreneurial venture — a magalog (we hate that word!) for home, entertaining, lifestyle and more called Mike at Home. Would I like to be the editor of it? After making sure he was aware that although I have personal interest in home design, architecture, decorating, food, gardening and entertaining, I have no professional editorial experience with those industries, I accepted. After all, in the space of one hour I was offered work in men’s fitness, investing and personal finance, and now, home and lifestyle. That must say something about my versatility!

So, starting Monday I’ll be an editor for a while. No office, just a desk in an open newsroom. Someday, and I hope it’s sooner than later, I would like to be able to close the door and concentrate when I need to. Or, take a phone call without feeling like all invisible radars are tuned in my direction. I’m reading about the inventor of the modern cubicle, and one sentence he wrote struck me like an icepick between the shoulder blades: “Over-concern for privacy may indicate retreat from responsibility and sagging motivation.”

Maybe that’s true. Or maybe that guy doesn’t understand that people have different ways of working. I’ve found that when I work in an open or modified cubicle office, I tend to work much longer hours. I don’t start feeling effective until after 4, when everyone else starts winding down and the office gets quieter and empties out. When deadlines loom, I would sometimes go in several hours early, and find my productivity slacking just about 10:30 a.m., when the office would be in full force. Either way, that’s a lot of hours wasted.

jeanhee @ 12:59 pm

March 15, 2004

brow beaten

Lately when I look in the mirror I am sad about my brows. Boo. The shape and total lack of actual brow. I have too few brow hairs for all the arching and shaping that reads as sophisticated and well-groomed in our society.

Early in my twenties when a friend’s wedding was such an exciting and wondrous event that we all would make appointments together at salons and giggle and laugh our way through makeup lessons and facials, I visited a prominent Asian-American makeup artist, Christine. She touted her client list as including Madonna and Winona Ryder. She turned out to be a mean and critical woman, who I suspected had completely bought into the idea that beautiful was blond, with big eyes and a strong nose (or at least a nose that had a bridge).

I remember that she stood behind me while we both looked at the mirror and she said, “You have no cheekbones, you have no brow. Your eyes are too small. Your face is too round. You need lots of work.” Had she not added, grudgingly, that my lips were “okay,” I’m sure I would not have been able to reach the doorknob to leave.

She proceeded to pluck my brows to such a degree that I had only a quarter-inch of actual, shaped brow. She recommended that I use a brown pencil and draw the rest upon my bald skin. This, I figured she was saying, I should do for the rest of my life!

Thinking about Christine and the Brow Incident today, I realized that we live in a society where the idea of what is beautiful in magazines and media (but not necessarily for individuals) favors some races over others. Now that I recognize this, I feel better able to deal with my brows. Okay, they are not ever going to be the feature that marks me as chic and well-groomed. Let’s move on.

On a related note. This also made me think about sunglasses and how they simply do not fit on my face because I don’t have a prominent bridge on my nose. All of you who have a bridge: You have no idea what it’s like to wear glasses so close to your face that your eyelashes leave streak marks on the lenses!

This is an open call. Someone, please make sunglasses that suit the faces of the 3 billion or so people like me!

jeanhee @ 6:46 pm

March 12, 2004

a safe place

I tried to compare my emotions after learning of the bombings in Madrid with those I had after 9/11. Of course, my proximity to the World Trade Center made my feelings much more acute, but in both cases, I’ve really just felt numb.

In 2001, I walked to Union Square to see the flyers of all the missing and unaccounted people. And I stopped at every bus stop to look at the faces on the posters. Each morning I went to the sports club at Chelsea Piers with the intention of swimming, but didn’t. I was at the gym the morning of September 11, and I watched the towers through the windows. In the cafe, there is a large-screen, 42-inch TV in front of a wall of windows. I remember seeing the TV image first, and being momentarily confused by the sight of smoke coming from the towers. Then, looking up and behind the TV and seeing the actual towers, several magnitudes larger, engulfed in smoke.

When I went back to the gym those first few days, I would sit at the cafe and just look out the windows. There was still smoke burning, but a void where there had been towers. I would just sit and stare out the window..

Today I kept trying to remember my trip to Spain in 2002. Did I take any of those trains — very likely yes. I took several trains between Madrid and Cordoba, Bilbao, and Seville in turn. What can I remember about them? They were just ordinary trains with ordinary people on them. I didn’t pay any attention to them really.

Then I started to think about the people. I stayed in Madrid for a little over one week, and would have encountered the service staff at the hotel, the waitstaff at the memorable and popular Bar Bardemcilla (owned by Javier Bardem’s family), and at the many museums and shops we visited. How many of the people I met then would have commuted into Madrid? How many of them could have been on those trains?

Thinking about Madrid has made me wonder about the ordinary lives of the many people killed and wounded on those trains. What did they do to deserve this gruesome end?

jeanhee @ 8:20 pm

March 5, 2004

Victory for the Little Man?

Martha Stewart was found guilty on all four charges against her today. Peter Bacanovic was found guilty of four of five charges against him.

I’m stunned.

I thought there was a chance of this, especially given how strong the government’s case was and how seemingly smug the defense — Stewart’s in particular — was. Her defense rested after one witness and 40 minutes! That’s arrogance. So I thought there was a chance, but did I really think she’d go to jail, or that a jury would convict her of all counts?

No. I really didn’t.

But after seeing an interview with one of the jurors, I can see how wrong I was. He said the convictions were a victory for the “little man,” who may lose money because of behavior like this.

The defense totally miscalculated. They thought the jurors would see the case as the big bad government persecuting little Martha Stewart. They thought the persecution was so obviously ridiculous that they would underscore it by not putting on a defense. But in the end, little details that emerged — Stewart’s rude behavior toward assistants, her luxury vacation in Mexico, even the scrutiny of the expensive handbags she carried to court every day — did Martha in. She’s big bad rich woman, and the jury was not going to let her off easy once they had the power to send a message.

I sense anger, and it’s shaping up as friction between the classes. The haves have more than just money. They have power, they have information, they have material things. And clearly, they are not using this power responsibly.

The little man is mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore.

jeanhee @ 5:38 pm

March 3, 2004

Litany of Horrors

Today’s blog is inspired by Luke.
In my never-ending quest to discover what is wrong with me and why I am not gainfully employed — yes, despite the job situation, I do feel that I should be able to find a job I can be passionate and dedicated to — I have hit on a new diagnosis.

We were reading Andrew Greeley’s NYT Op-Ed today arguing that celibacy is not the problem in the priesthood, it’s mediocracy and arrogance. Mediocracy because just 18 percent of Catholic parishioners polled said the sermons were excellent. Arrogance because the priests polled said that parishioners were suffering from moral decline, loss of faith, apathy, materialism, lack of responsibility and lack of personal leadership. In other words, why try to be a great priest when your parishioners are so flawed and irredeemable?

That’s when I discovered the stunning truth: I am a litany of horrors! Greeley listed the reasons why clergy believe parishioners are leaving the church: “the usual litany of horrors: individualism, secularism, no faith, poor prayer life, no commitment, media bias, hedonism, sex, feminism, family breakdown and apathy.”

There you have it.

Oh, the horror. The horror.

jeanhee @ 2:02 pm

March 1, 2004

I Don’t Like Mondays

I woke up today with a vague sense of foreboding. I didn’t know what was wrong. Could it be my annual post-Oscars thing, when I wake up realizing that I will never walk the red carpet, have the camera pan over to me as I laugh politely at Billy Crystal jokes, and tears streaming down my face declare to the world that I can’t believe I’m standing here holding this gold statue, but give me a sec, I think I have my speech memorized?

No, that wasn’t it.

I found the answer in this week’s New York magazine. The 6+ page cover story asked, “Are You Bipolar?” Well, I’m not. Great! More evidence that I am not on the cutting edge. Another fad passing me by. EVERYONE in New York is bipolar.

But seriously, I learned that if I were bipolar, I could be “creative, exuberant, impulsive, passionate about shopping and sex.” That’s the problem! I’m not bipolar.

It’s really not something I can do anything about, this not-bipolar thing. It must be what kept me from making headway on my writing today. Surely, it’s what kept me from buying those gorgeous white-and-silver-striped go-go boots that were on sale, ON SALE! at Sacco.

Whoa. If only someone had told me years ago that I wasn’t bipolar, I wouldn’t have tried to be a writer!

p.s. There is a brilliant haiku blog on the Oscars — the Bill Murray/Precious one particularly.

jeanhee @ 8:20 pm