Sunday, June 27, 2010

Walk Like an American

"Irish stepdance is considered a modern form of old-style stepdance, taught in the early 1900s by traveling dancers. The jig involves rapid movement of the legs while keeping one's arms at one's sides and moving sideways in sync" - From Now Public

Sam: Elaine, am I crazy? I just get the feeling that Dugan and the others are making fun of me all the time.
Elaine: Well, You might wanna think about...maybe, eh...moving your arms a little when you walk.
Sam: My arms?
Elaine: You know, sort of swing them, so your not lurching around like a caveman. - From Seinfeld Scripts, "Summer of George"

New York Kids on 60th
I was walking home one night last week when I suddenly noticed something seemingly different about myself. About the way I was walking. I was swinging my arms. I mean really swinging.

"Hang on!" my inner voice screeched. "What's happening here?"

Because you see I was walking like an American. When could this have happened? It must have crept up on me when I wasn't looking.

When I first arrived here in America, one of the things that stood out to me was the way Americans walked, swinging their arms up until they are horizontal to the ground, and then swinging them back 270 degrees.

This was new to me. I walked like an Australian. No swinging of arms. I suppose we Australians must look like Irish jiggers, bobbing along cork-like, arms to our sides. Unless of course we are running, jogging or power walking. Then we swing our arms with the best of them.

I must have acclimated more than I had thought. I had realized that my Australian ways were fading when I stopped feeling weird when the airline pilot would announce, "we are landing momentarily," half expecting him to be true to his word, touching down only to take off again a moment later.

But maybe it's an evolutionary thing and Australians are walking like that now. I wouldn't be surprised as my home country is changing in so many ways. Last week we got an new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and I read that Ms Gillard doesn't believe in "a big Australia". "Big" must mean something other than it did when I was last in OZ. Of course we can't change the size of Australia, even momentarily.

And then this afternoon I was talking to an Australian in Perth. He said he was about to watch the soccer match between Germany and England. "It's over," I said. "Germany won."

Tourists in Central Park
(arms hanging down)
"No," he argued, "they haven't played yet. Right now Argentina is playing Korea and the Germany England match is after that".

"Nooo," I explained, "Argentinia will play Mexico today."

I checked my facts on my trusty iPad. I was right. Of course.

He insisted. "Not according to CNN sports," I told him. "Or" I was glad I wasn't using a PC - I didn't have all day. Facts were literally flying to my fingertips. "Or Associated Press," I added. "Perhaps I should check Reuters?"

All to no avail. He was sure he was right.

So with all this weirdness I would not be surprised if all Australians were now swinging their arms.

Just like me.

My name is Kathleen wng and I approve this message.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Family of Smokers

For the first time in history, sex is more dangerous than the cigarette afterward. Jay Leno

Nicotine patches are great. Stick one over each eye and you can't find your cigarettes. Unknown

Tobacco and alcohol, delicious fathers of abiding friendships and fertile reveries. Luis Buñuel

Smoking with bro on graduation day a hundred years ago
I gave up smoking on 9th September 2008. I chose that day and month so that I would remember it no matter what country I was in. For although I've gotten used to the American date format of "month day", sometimes I revert to the more sensible Australian-Euro "day, month".

My mother smoked, my father smoked, my brother smokes. And until 9/9/08 I thought I'd never stop. I smoked more than anyone I I've ever known, except perhaps my father. I'd wake in the night craving a cigarette. My mother claimed I smoked even when I was gardening, but she was wrong there; I gardened while I smoked.

Smoking was the primary thing. Other activities somehow fitted in around it.

There are hardly any photos of me as an adult without a cigarette in my hand.

Here I am on my 37th birthday. Smoking.

How did I give it up and why? I THINK I gave it up because I wanted my freedom. The freedom from having to remember to take plenty of cigarettes wherever I went, from having to cater for the smoking habit in every aspect of my life. From having to wash my hair daily, from having smoke-stained clothes, walls, mirrors, teeth.

Until about five years ago I never even contemplated kicking the habit. And then in 2006 I think it was, at Auckland airport on a one hour stop-over, instead of wandering around the shops and having a coffee, I dutifully joined the other smokers in the smokers room. I had an epiphany. I didn't HAVE to smoke. And so the thought germinated and grew until in August 2008 when I decided to take the plunge.

For the first and only time in my life, I gave up smoking.

I was surprised. It wasn't so hard. A few days of cravings and then ...


However I still do miss my cigarettes now and then. Every month or so, I'll remember how nice it was, having a cigarette with coffee after a meal. There's nothing like it. I don't kid myself.

But I have my memories ...

And shall have to be content with those.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Positively 161st Street

"NEW YORK – The New York Mets lost on Saturday afternoon, two days before the official start of one of those baseball summers here, and Jose Reyes first recognized that."
"Subway Series heat is on full blast", Tim Brown

Yankee StadiumSometimes I wonder how I got through third grade. Take today, for example.

"There's two of us," I was explaining. We were standing at an entrance to Yankee Stadium.

"We are both wearing jeans and Yankee tee-shirts," I added.

Yep, there we were, standing outside the Yankee Stadium. There were tens of thousands of people like us.

Oblivious, I persevered. "You're sure to recognize us," I was saying.

Yeah, sometimes I worry about myself. Sometimes I seem divorced from this world.

I'd been invited to watch the Yankees play the Mets from one of the luxury suites in the Yankee Stadium. I had invited my friend J to accompany me.

I had a cell phone number to call when we arrived, and someone was going to come down to escort us into the suite.

So there we were at Gate 4 for luxury-suite-people. "You'll recognize us," I blah-ed on, looking innocently around at the crowd of Yankee-cladded t-shirt people.

Amazingly we were eventually identified, and were escorted in. Me and my friend J.

We had a great time. I learned about strikes and outs and innings. It was like a mixture of cricket and rounders. I liked the way the crowed roared, and sang "YMCA" and The Star Spangled Banner. Patriotism and pop culture. Nothing better.

The Yankees were on top of the game in every set, or over or innings ... whatever. We were sure to win!

Then suddenly the game was over and the Yankees had won as I knew they would. We were all standing up singing, "New York, New York". Except for the Mets people that is. They slinked away somewhere. To Queens, probably. And then it was time to go.

"Let's get a cab," said my friend J. "Of course," I replied. "We aren't getting the subway! ASIF!"

We left the luxury of the glass-enclosed suite into the main part of the stadium, to join the throng of normal New Yorkers who seemed to be making their way to the subway.

And so there we were in the Bronx, surrounded by Yankee fans heading to the subway station.

"Where are the cabs?" I asked. "When I leave the opera they are everywhere!"

A few people near us glared. But I was undeterred.

Manhattan from Yankee StadiumTill I realized what I'd said. My mind was racing. What was wrong with me? Turning up at Yankee Stadium expecting to be recognized by my Yankee tee-shirt. Talking about the opera in the middle of the Bronx. Not that Bronx people don't go to the opera. I was getting confused. Political correctness was schizophrenic-ing me.

There were no cabs to be seen. Several New York cops tried to explain this to us. "You need the subway lady, there are no cabs here."

But we didn't want to know.

We walked north. We walked south.

Well maybe we did. We are both spatially dyslexic.

"I have no sense of direction," said J. "Me neither." I said.

Still no cab in sight.

Eventually we gave up and accepted out fate. We walked to the subway station.

Six minutes later we were in Manhattan.

I put J in a cab. I walked home.

"Jesus," I told the doorman when I reached the safety of my apartment block lobby. "I went to the Yankee Stadium and there were no cabs!"

"I know," he said. "It is a dead area. Never go there."

I got in the elevator and walked into my apartment.

Somehow I felt that I'd passed a test. I was fulfilled.

I am Kathleenwng and I approve this message.

Did he think he was in Ireland?

Over at the Village Voice, Jen Doll cleared it up for Svanberg: "Oh BP, when will you learn? It’s not small people, it's Little People! Jeez."
From "BP boss 'sorry' about 'small people’ remark", MSNBC, June 16, 2010

The following is an article by Australian Edward Kanze, who has given permission to reprint his article, "Pelicans Fraught With Oil and Irony". Thank you Ed! The photos were taken my me, and are of the Maine coastline, as yet unsullied.

Pelicans Fraught With Oil and Irony

BP Ad from 1999
One score and ten years ago, I set off for the Gulf coast. The National Park Service had offered me work as a ranger at Gulf Islands National Seashore, a sprawling collection of barrier islands, coastal marshes, and historical structures in Florida and Mississippi. I was heading to the Florida district. For six months I would live and work on Santa Rosa Island, near Pensacola.

The brown pelican, surely the most handsome member of its ungainly feathered tribe, had been considered an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for ten years. DDT, disturbances to nesting grounds, and competition from fishing boats had come close to putting the yellow, white, brown, and gray bird permanently out of the seafood business. The banning of DDT and the creation of sanctuaries such as Gulf Islands National Seashore had helped turned things around, and when I arrived, brown pelicans were on the rise.

I'll never forget my first sighting of these extraordinary birds: a line of them flying in formation low over the water, jowly faces contrasting with the grace with which the birds flapped their broad, two-toned wings (seven feet or thereabouts from wingtip to wingtip). It was evening. Lemon-yellow sunlight slanting over the gun-metal surface of the Gulf illuminated the birds theatrically from above and below. Foreheads glowed gold, like incandescent light bulbs.

Image16Brown pelicans were not rare then, but they're weren't especially common, either. Certainly they were nowhere near as abundant as I found them twelve years later when I returned to Gulf Islands for another stint. This time I worked in the Mississippi district. Brown pelicans turned up every time I ventured near salt water. Clearly, things were looking up.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed brown pelicans from the Endangered Species List in 2009. No one could foresee that in the spring of 2010, the world's largest oil fiasco would begin playing out in the Gulf of Mexico, and the bird would find itself hurtling toward oblivion all over again.

The most recent figures I've seen report 57 brown pelicans found oiled and dead, plus another 157 oiled but alive. These numbers likely represent a pittance of the real total. Most of the birds are probably succumbing out at sea or on remote sections of coast. It's pelican breeding season now, and breeding season for loggerhead, leatherback, hawksbill, and Kemp's ridley sea turtles, too. The timing of the gusher, which continues to spew and will go on poisoning the Gulf for decades, couldn't be worse.

Image22It's hard for me to picture that coastline today. During my time as a ranger at Gulf Islands in 1980 and from 1992-1995, the shorelines were cluttered in places with beached flotsam, most of it from shrimpers and fishing boats. Still, the sugar-white sand of the beaches was a marvel to behold, as was that most elegant and noble of grasses, the sea-oat, which held the sand in its roots and made possible the growth of dunes.

News from friends along the Gulf has taken me on a roller-coaster ride. First there was horror and anger. Then there was hope, as the situation seemed less dire than it might have been. Then the oil from British Petroleum's undersea geyser continued pouring tanker-loads of liquid fossil sunshine into the water every day, and the fumes and the floating menace and the corpses began coming ashore.

Everyone is asking the same question. Where do we go from here? Triage comes first. Over time, the environmental, economic, psychological, and political ramifications will be profound. If we can't stuff this genie back in the bottle, we certainly must make sure that all the other genies remain where they belong. This will require rooting out the toxic influence of oil money in Washington---do-able, we of goodwill must believe, yet no easy task.

Edward Kanze June, 2010

Copyright Edward Kanze, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Giving Tree

Maybe everything is going to be all right - Maybe (Everything Will Be Alright), The Giving Tree NYC

Con los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar
Con los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar
El arroyo de la sierra
Me complace mas que el mart - Guantanamera, José Fernández

Slim and his Sister
I met Slim on my way back from brunch today. He and two of his buddies were hanging out in front of the locksmiths on Second Avenue near 90th. The locksmith is just next door to the liquor store.

"We are hungry," said the man whose name I was later to learn was Slim. He held out his cup.

Now normally I don't give to panhandlers but there was something about Slim. Chutzpah, larrikinism, call it what you will ....

"Hungry?" I answered? Sure you mean thirsty?" And I gave him a dollar. He looked stunned.

Can I take your photo?" I asked. "Certainly," he smiled. "I'm Slim and I look after this block."

I took a few with my Canon Elph, and as I was leaving Slim asked if ever got them developed, could they see them? "You can leave them in the liquor store," he told me. "They know me there."

I crossed the road to our apartment building. A doorman opened the revolving door for me and the concierge said good afternoon. Two worlds ...

Back in the apartment I was about to slob around, watch some telly ... but I was thinking of Slim and his friends. "Stuff it," I thought, "I'll print the bloody photos for them now."

So I looked through my computer supplies and found some photo paper and stacked it in the printer tray. Was it glossy side up or down? As if that mattered. As with anything to do with computers, Murphy's law comes into play. I spent an hour trying to get the printer to print correctly.

Never buy an HP DeskJet. No matter how much ink you have in the color cartridge, it always blocks up when you need to print in color.

Slim et al came out in bright magenta. I reset the cartridge. The magenta was brighter. I googled, and found that I wasn't alone. Run it under warm water, offered a fellow HP DeskJet owner. I tried it. Still magenta. Boil the water. Still magenta. Use alcohol. I tried some merlot. Perhaps I was meant to drink it. In any case, nothing happened. I googled some more and found someone suggesting soaking the cartridge in Windex.

Eureka! It worked. I printed the photos. You can see some of them here.

And off I set back to the locksmith.

The Giving TreeIt was all worth it. As I walked towards the threesome I waved the photos in the air.

When I handed the photos over they were gob-smacked. "She's printed them," yelled Slim. "Look!" "Is there one of my sister?" "Yes Look at this!"

"No worries," I told them. "Can we have copies?" one asked. "You can have these," I answered.

As I walked off I looked back. They were still looking at the photos, and I wondered how long ago it was that these people had had their photos taken, let alone be given prints.

The hour I spent mucking about with the HP DeskJet had been worth it.

There's something wonderful about giving.

See, I'm not such a bad person .... Well not ALL the time, anyway.

My name is Kathleenwng and I approve this message.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

No Goals for BP, and ABE

The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume. BP CEO Tony Hayward Guardian, May 14 10

There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back. BP CEO Tony Hayward, Guardian, May 18 10
SubwayThe TV in the nail salon was showing the soccer. The sound was off and the closed captioning was in Spanish. Most of the staff were Korean. All were Asian. And those of us having pedicures and manicures were a politically-correct multi-cultural mix.

Being not much interested in soccer and understanding only half a dozen words of Spanish, I turned to my book, "Incendiary"by Chris Cleave. It's a well-executed novel, especially relevant to those of us who lived through 9/11 in New York or DC.

It's set in England and the writer does a good job at describing London, old, gray and depressing.

Not that I'm anti-English. I'm not one of those "ABE"s - "Anyone But England" people. In fact I'd never heard of them until my good friend Madge, who is currently living in the "old country", explained them to me tonight.

But it was comforting to see on the telly, in the nail salon, in Spanish, England draw one-all with the USA in soccer.

Of course it would have probably been comforting to see England draw with Paraguay or Lithuania. Because if you come from a former colony, you have to admit, there's something very annoying about the English.

Cornrow GirlIt's not their fault of course. But as my uncle would say, "It get's up my nose" when they talk of the antipodes and us Aussies losing at cricket (ASIF). Deary me I suppose I'm stereotyping. But as George Cloony's character, Ryan Bingham said in "Up in the Air, "I'm like my mother, I stereotype. It's faster."

Which brings me back to the title of this blog, "No goals for BP and ABE". Well England DID score a goal in the soccer and so did America; but as my friend Madge explained, "The US wouldn't have scored one except that ..." Whatever.

My gripe isn't the almost-lack-of-a-goal but it is about the oil that BP spilled in the Atlantic, and the insulting gaffes made by BP's CEO Mr. Tony Hayward. Mr Haywood may think of the Atlantic Ocean as "the Pond", but most of us, including the fish, do not.

Mr. Haywood wants "his life back".

England wants her goal back.

And the people of Louisiana want their income back.

Stay tuned.

I am Kathleenwng and I approve this message.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Eastern Standard Time and Being American

Deep in my heart
Safe from the guards
Of intellect and reason
Leaving me at a loss
For words to express my feelings - Tracey Chapman, "Deep in my Heart"

Now I've lived in America for over 15 years and I thought I'd seen and heard it all.

Diversity is the name of the game here in the U.S. And because the place is so diverse, we (the uninitiated) tend to think that Americans will understand and recognize diversity elsewhere.

Not so.

"Diversity" in America apparently means "Diversity in America". "Diversity" is an American thing and nowhere else can have it. I suspect they have patented it.

Case in point: I was talking to am American friend tonight on a number of matters. An intelligent woman. I suspect that like all intelligent women everywhere, that she's an Obama supporter (all be it now reluctantly), and that she doesn't like BP flooding our seaboard with oil. And so for a moment there I thought we were talking the same language.

BUT then we got on to "time zones". She (let's call her "T") was asking me about times in Australia and Australian "states" and "cities".

Now as all my followers would agree, I'm a very patient person.

"Melbourne is a city," I explained. "And Victoria is a state. Melbourne is to Victoria as Tallahassee is to Florida; as Sacramento is to California; as Albany is to New York."

"Oh," said "T", so Melbourne is in New South Wales?"

"No-oooo," I said, taking a full sip of my shiraz. ""Tallahassee is not in Texas."

By this stage I think that "T" was taking sips or sniffs or inhales of something, as she was becoming quite confused.

"Listen," I said (taking deep breaths). "America has states and in states are cities."

"Yeah," she said, "Like Brooklyn."

Not really, " I sighed. "Brooklyn is a district, a county. We are talking about cities and state capitals. Like Springfield, Illinois."

"OK," said "T". "I get it."

So far so good. So it was back to the original topic, "time zones".

"So what time zone is Melbourne in and what is the time there?" she asked.

"Eastern Standard Time, 8;00 a.m." I answered.


"What's the matter?" I inquired.

"Eastern Standard Time is East Coast America daylight savings time," she retorted. "How can that be an Australian time?"

"Listen 'T'," I attempted. "It isn't only America that has an east coast. Or a time!!"

But deep in my heart I understood. I'm beginning to get it.

America, You're standing in it.

I'm Kathleenwng and I approve this message.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Fragments of Me

"Tell me great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?" - from "Tombstone Blues", Bob Dylan

"How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown" - from "Like a Rolling Stone", Bob Dylan

A week ago today I fragmented. Into small pieces. Like the small pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle. You know, those huge jigsaws of supposedly idyllic English country scenes with thatched-roof cottages and multi-hued hills and cloudy blue skies.

Except no parts of this particular jigsaw actually touched. A scrambled jigsaw.

Well, at least that's how it felt by the end of the week. I was to all intents and purposes, invisible. I saw no one - literally - for eight whole days. This must be a record for me for I cannot remember prior to last week, spending more than twenty four hours entirely alone.

How could such a thing happen in a city of eight million?

Sure, bits of me remained scattered around the place. Bits of me were remembered for sure by my friends around the world. But no one actually saw me, and only two people made sure to phone to see how I was.

How could this be?

Two reasons.

1: I was ill. And 2: I live in New York.

Eight days home alone. At first it was fun. I lay around in bed, coughing my lungs up, watching day-time telly and playing with my iPad. But after a hundred consecutive episodes, even Judge Judy becomes boring. And as for my former favorite, Joy Behar, by the end of the week her cheery happiness and loud New York voice was painfully grating. And the iPad - well that toy is no longer a shiny apple.

Around Day 3 I was so bored that I looked myself up on Google and was surprised at the amount of information there was about me. Mostly from social and professional networking sites. Enough already yet! I dropped out.

I remember the drop-outs of the seventies. I didn't appreciate them back then. Why didn't they hang in there and fight, I used to wonder. But I was so much older then, as Dylan sang. I'm younger than that now.

I intend to shrink the internet fragment of me. Of course I won't drop out of the internet entirely. It has its uses. Like looking up the weather on my iPad instead of looking out the window. And finding out how to make Anzac cookies.

But back to the fragments. There's the work-me. The social-me. The wife-me. The mother. The sister. The expat-me. The Australian-me. The New York me. I could see them all on the internet and wondered, is that the only place they now reside?

Lying alone in bed for eight days gives one time to reflect.

Yep, I made up my mind on a number of my fragments.

But as for New York - the jury's still out.

I am Kathleenwng and I approve this message