Friday, May 21, 2010

Hello, Goodbye

Harrison Street McInroe finally entered the world this morning at 5:19 CST, 7 lbs 6 oz. Melissa is amazing. 36 hours after being induced (Tuesday morning), her water finally broke last night. And early this morning, Harry arrived. I am so excited for Melissa and Jordan. They are going to be wonderful parents.

Today, we are leaving for Spain, so I probably will not update the blog for the next week and a half. Twelve days away will be great (except for twelve days away from Knightley, which is just hard). I will be off exploring Moorish fortresses, relaxing on a beach, and driving through the Sierras.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Look into this Horse's Eyes and Tell Me You Don't Want to Vote for this Guy

When this guy talks about naming names and taking no prisoners, you better believe it. Because after all, that is when in his commercial he is modeling his rifle.

Look, I haven't been very political lately. The fact is, since I have lived in DC, I figure that the whole lot of those politicians are the worst kind of human beings. However, I can't help but get the feeling that we are dialing up the notch on crazy these days. I think that the recent primary elections have shown that the person that can shout the loudest and be the most alarmist is the person who is going to be elected. It doesn't bode well for the future.

If alarmist and angry are the criteria for political office these days, then Dale Peterson is a sho-in. Certifiably. And since I can't hope for thoughtful, responsible government, I might as well go for entertainment. Anyone who can make a political commercial this spectacularly entertaining should at least be interesting to watch from a detatched, unaffected point of view. I will just pretend that the $5 billion dollars this guy may be spending has nothing to do with me.

After all, in regard to politics these days, I firmly believe that it is better to laugh than to weep.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


(Soundtrack for this entry - "This Time Tomorrow", The Kinks)

By this time tomorrow, hopefully, I will be an aunt to a healthy baby boy delivered by my sister.

By this time on Saturday, hopefully, I will be in Spain.

By this time on June 13, hopefully, I will have met little Harry in Texas.

By this time on June 20th, hopefully, David and I will have found a house in North Carolina that we want to buy (assuming, of course, that he isn't completely sick of having to spend 12 days straight with me in Spain, and that we have found a house on the two planned trips we have to North Carolina).

By this time on July 1, hopefully, I will be happily spending the first evening after beginning my new job at Carolina.

By this time on July 16, 2012, hopefully, I will not just be an aunt, but also a mother.

I can plan for all of these, save one.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Birds' Songs

I don't typically enjoy waking up before the sun has fully risen when I am on a trip. However, that little Knightley sometimes will not let me sleep in, in spite of my own personal preferences. This morning at Grammy's house, Knightley insisted on going outside at 6:00 am. I am glad that he was so insistent. Outside, it was a symphony of songbirds. I had forgotten how many songbirds call the hardwood trees of North Carolina home. If you catch them on the edge of dawn, the sound is as full as any symphonic crechendo. If only I were better with recognizing bird calls, or Melissa were there to offer some insistence supplying information about the birds whose melodies Knightley and I were enjoying.

Other favorite bird moment from North Carolina: A heron sat on the back lawn by the lake. When Knightley noticed him, he trotted over to get a closer look. Seeing the approaching dog, the heron opened up its wings and flew away, frightening Knightley who had no idea that bird was so large. The heron landed again on Grammy's dock. Knightley watched him for the next few minutes fascinated, at a safer distance.

Other favorite Knightley moment from my quick weekend trip: Knightley sitting in the car, watching me sing at the top of my lungs along to alt-country Southern road trip CDs. I don't think it is possible for any other creature on this planet who could tolerate hours sitting in a car, just looking at me.

Other favorite roadtrip music of the weekend: The new album by The National, "High Violet", is so perfect, it makes me cry ("Sorrow", in particular; it's so sad, but so perfectly sad).

(From the Pitchfork review that I linked above, there are two lines that I particularly love: "The National aren't 'dad-rock' so much as 'men's magazine rock': music chiefly interested in the complications of being a stable person expected to own certain things and dress certain ways." and "But these aren't mawkish, empty gestures; they're anxious, personal songs projected onto wide screens. Even if you don't consider yourself an upwardly mobile stiff with minor social anxiety, the National make it sound grand, confusing, and relatable.")
Other road trip moment that made me cry in my car: Sitting in I-95 Northbound traffic on the way back into DC on a Sunday afternoon is awful, awful, awful. It is probably what I will miss least when we move to North Carolina.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Two Kinds of Friday Night Lights

Tonight, David watched Friday Night Lights on television (I really love that Tami Taylor). I parked my chair in front of the window and watched the Friday night lights over the Washington Monument. It was that first big thunderstorm of the summer here in DC tonight, and I sighed with contentment thinking of the many muggy days and thunderstorms ahead. It is my favorite kind of late afternoon reading weather, and to celebrate I finished off The Double Comfort Safari Club, the latest No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency book.

Tomorrow, Knightley and I are heading down to Charlotte to see Grammy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Ham Boil Later

Love in Place
I really don't remember falling in love all that much
I remember wanting to bake corn bread and boil a ham and I
certainly remember making lemon pie and when I used to smoke I
stopped in the middle of my day to contemplate
I know I must have fallen in love once because I quit biting
my cuticles and my hair is gray and that must indicate
something and I all of a sudden had a deeper appreciation
for Billie Holiday and Billy Strayhorn so if it wasn't love I don't
know what it was
I see the old photographs and I am smiling and I'm sure quite
happy but what I mostly see is me
through your eyes
and I am still young and slim and very much committed to the
love we still have
--Nikki Giovanni
When I was a freshman in college, Suz copied the above poem from the New Yorker magazine and gave it to me around Valentines Day. I thought about it last night when I wrote about my mix tapes that included somber Billie Holiday tunes (followed up by the Beastie Boys "Brass Monkey" or the immortal "Don't Go There" because that is what a mix tape is supposed to be). I rummaged around to find where I had saved it and thought to myself, what could possibly have possessed two eighteen year old girls to save this poem? Whatever it was, I think Suz was already wiser then and could sense that this poem would be more understood a dozen or more years later, in retrospect. And now, perhaps that is the case, if for no other reason than that I have now baked corn bread and several lemon pies, although never have boiled a ham.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Island: Imaginary Vacation

I don't write much about my old Africa trip on this blog because I feel like I exhausted the topic in the 400 paged, two volume compilation of my field journal, personal journal, and pictures that I put together a couple of summers after I returned from my trip. This entry will be different. Maybe it is because with the impending finale of the television series "Lost", I can't help but think about my favorite island. Maybe it is because I keep having dreams about the destruction of white sand beaches. Maybe it is because with the rapid approach of another long awaited vacation, I can't help but rehash another vacation that I have been mentally planning since I left the place in 1998. For whatever reason, I am totally stuck on Zanzibar and all of the places where I want to stay when I do eventually get back there again.

In Stone Town, there is the Tembo House Hotel. Granted, it may not be as luxurious as the Zanzibar Serena Lodge where we took a 2:00 am swam with those celebratory Harvard MBA students that fell in love with Suzanne and I after one evening spent dancing at the Garage Club. However, the Tembo House Hotel was where my romantic notions of Zanzibar first took shape, as I was openly teased for discussing the possibility of romantic trysts on the balconies overlooking the Indian Ocean. These sentimental notions led me to skipping around Stonetown after two British university students, Johnny and Harry, flirting more than I ever did in my real non-Zanzibar life. That is what the Tembo did to me. As poor students, even the modestly priced Tembo was out of our price range, but some of our more gainfully employed travel companions were able to afford it enough to let us hang around every now and again. On the night that the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed, Suz and I temporarily forgot our worries with a lovely dinner at the Tembo House Restaurant. And for all of those reasons, when I return to Zanzibar Stone Town I will stay in the Tembo House Hotel which will hopefully still look something like this:

Considering a beach retreat takes somewhat more deliberation. I know that now there is even a Fairmont resort that sits along the Zanzibar coastline with all of the new development that has taken shape since I visited. However, when I think about a place to sit on the beach, this is the picture that comes into my mind:

If I want that beach, only one place will do and that is Matemwe, where these pictures were taken. I don't know if these days, it is as deserted as it was back then when I danced up its shores and wrote bold declarations in its sands. I do know that the Matemwe Bungalows existed back then, although now I think they are part of a larger development called the Matemwe Lodge Retreat. On the day that we visited Matemwe (we didn't stay there), I remarked in my personal journal, "Off shore I could see Mnemba Island, home to the resort where I sure would want to spend some time with someone special." Sure, that was an incredibly cheesy sentiment, but it still holds true that if I could plan a trip to Zanzibar right now, it would still include a few nights at the Mnemba Island Lodge (Where rates start at the oh so reasonable $1,100 per night. Clearly you can see why this did not fit into my poor student itinerary, but rather my romantic, dream vacation itinerary).

Here I am - full of my romantic intentions wading in the waters at Matemwe:

The reality of our beach getaway is that we spent a few days up at Nungwi on the North Shore of Zanzibar. Our guesthouse was clean, new, and cost all of $30 a night for three of us to split. The best part is that it was directly on the beach and faced the ocean. It looked something like this:
I spent most of the time alone in Nungwi, where I wrote in my journal, "I am just not so great being alone all of the time, because in order to ignore all of the people who stare at you, you have to be completely comfortable with yourself and convinced that nothing is wrong with you. And that is not an assumption that I can comfortably make." Ah, sigh - introspective, self-pity was something that I did very well as a nineteen year old. I spent too much time listening to my mix tapes full of Billie Holiday's haunting voice while there. Nungwi was beautiful, but perhaps this kind of self-indulgent, over-analytical babble is the reason why Nungwi does not make my imaginary return trip itinerary.
One place that I would like to go back, though, is the place where we spent most of our time when we were on the island of Zanzibar, and that is the village of Kizimkazi Dimbani where Suz and I worked for a time. From the pictures that I have seen online, it appears that it has changed dramatically. When we were there, it entirely lacked in tourist amenities save one beachside restaurant that catered to the tourists who came for day trips to see the dolphins that swim off shore (Kizimkazi is located on the southern tip of the island). Now it has several lodges that look like this one - the Karamba Resort. I would love to stay there and see the village again. It looks considerably more upscale than the place where Suz and I lived when we were in the village:

When we were staying in that house, we thought it was pretty fancy. Not only did it have a tin roof and western style toilet bathroom, but we had a TV that had grainy reception of CNN International. It made the house the village hotspot for the young children who wanted to watch TV, and it also served us well in informing us about the US embassy bombings that took place while we were there. Without it, we would have been completely clueless.
After some pretty rough conditions in other spots where we stayed, our lodgings in Zanzibar (the Haven Guesthouse in Stonetown with its delicious breakfasts, the Nungwi bungalow, and our house in Kizimkazi Dimbani) felt like downright luxurious. Here I am contemplating the quiet of having my own room under the mosquito net in the Dimbani house:

And yes, my childhood Curious George (as well as a pen and notebook) went everywhere I did when I was in Zanzibar. And chances are, those three items will make the return trip as well when my imaginary vacation finally becomes a reality.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Debbie Downer (and me)

I have been accused of playing the part of Debbie Downer more than once. Sure, I might have gone off on blood diamonds more than a few times back in the day as Debbie may have done. It appears that as times change, even though I think of myself as significantly less serious, as it turns out, Debbie Downer and I still talk about the same things - a worrisome lack of symmetry, waking up 300 times at night, and the significance of the Gulf Oil Spill.

Debbie, I get it. I really do.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Weekday Diversions

This week was one in which my mental state required ample weekday diversions from thinking about everything that I need to accomplish in the next little while. What fit the bill? How about brunch on Tuesday with my good friend, Suz (who has recently departed DC, also). Also, later in that same day I was able to have dinner with my good friend Erin at Co Co. Sala. Co Co. Sala is a divine place where dinner is just a prelude to the main event, dessert. The way to do it right is to eat one of their small plates (delicious dishes like lamb sliders, tuna tatare) and follow it up with a three course dessert (with the main dessert portion being delicious concoctions they name things like Chocolate Onyx, seen below). If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can go for the five course dessert.

Sometimes on a Tuesday night that is exactly what one needs.

On Thursday, still feeling a bit stressed, an hour long facial at the Nordstrom Clarins Skin Spa did me right. I know that I have spoken of my intense shallowness when it comes to skin care in the past, but I'll go even farther in my explanation. When I have a crappy day, the one thing that I can count on is an esthetician to tell me that I have nice skin, and that instantly makes me feel better. Particularly if said esthetician has a lovely French accent. It makes me feel younger and pretty in ways that few things do these days.

Knightley has his own mid-week diversions. For one, sometimes he hangs out in the sink in his bathroom. (Yes, I refer to it now as Knightley's bathroom and not the guest bathroom. I figure that Knightley gets far more use out of it than guests do. Plus, he loves that room since all of his treats are stored under the sink in there.)

Or he always enjoys a good weekday roll-around. That dog loves to just roll around.

That dog makes me smile in ways that are the best possible remedies for a stressful week.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Gone to Carolina

It is time to start channeling James Taylor. I received my offer letter from the University of North Carolina, and pending a criminal background check, I will be beginning my employment in Chapel Hill on July 1. I am thrilled.

I am a person who has had many lifelong dreams, some more realistic than others. I was never going to be a member of the New York City Ballet, but living in North Carolina, one way or another seemed much more realistic. When I was a child, I had my house picked out. It was situated on the corner of Sharon Road and Sharon Lane in Charlotte, NC. Grammy would give me semi-annual updates concerning the state of my house. I learned about when the lawn was brown or when it was the showcase Symphony Guild home. The specific reality of owning that home is not the reality, nor is it likely to become one. After all, I am not moving to Charlotte, but Chapel Hill.

I never applied to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I grew up feeling like I bled Tarheel blue, and yet never applied to attend. My mom went there long before I came along, and for graduate school, Sarah followed in her footsteps. Sarah moved to Boston to do her post doc, and missed Carolina so much she had to go back. I always felt like, at some point in time, my chance to live in Chapel Hill would come along too.

It happened really fast. I am quite content with my job at Georgetown, so I never thought that I would leave it this quickly. Then one day, sometime in March, I saw a job posting for the exact job that I thought that I would want next, and it just so happened that it was posted as a position at UNC. I thought that I would be mad at myself if I didn't apply, because I would always wonder what would have happened. So I applied. I didn't expect to get an interview, because I figured that people with much more experience than me would also apply, because who wouldn't want to live in Chapel Hill? Approximately one month later, I head they were checking my references. I was shocked and couldn't believe that they were considering me. A few days later, I received a phone call. They wanted to schedule an interview. I jumped and committed to the first day they mentioned as a possible interview date. I drove down to Chapel Hill. I really liked the people and the library. I started thinking to myself how great it would be to move there. We could buy a house with a yard for Knightley. We could live in a fantastic school district for if we ever have children. We could say goodbye to DC twenty four hour traffic. Two days after my interview, I was offered the job.

This is a hard move to contemplate. When I left New York, I just wanted to be close to David, so I was very motivated to leave. When I left Seattle, I just wanted to be out of that place. Here is the thing - I like DC. We have good friends here and more who are moving here. And yet, I feel so strongly that Chapel Hill is the right place to be. Yes, I will be able to live in the same town as Sarah, be near to Grammy, and even four hours closer to my parents. All of those things feel great, but what really convinced me is that I want to live in a place that feels like a home. I want to live somewhere that feels like it could be a hometown for my children. I want to live somewhere where I feel grown-up and away from the status-conscious world of ambition and egocentricity. I feel like Chapel Hill is that place. The people there are smart, well-educated, and yet lack the pomp and circumstance of their well-educated neighbors to the north. Most people there can attend a pig-pickin' or a play, and all without the affectation of self-importance. I feel like Goldilocks searching out for a place to put down roots, and every place so far has been too cold. I feel very strongly that Chapel Hill could be just right.