Saturday, June 27, 2015

Shaking off the cobwebs

After what feels like an eternity, I awoke this morning inspired to shake off the mantle of silence and re-acquaint myself with my dear confidante, this blog. Why all of a sudden, you ask?  Who knows. The inner workings of my mind are a mystery, especially to me. Because I’m bored?  Because I finally (after 3 years) figured out how to connect my blogger account to my new Google+ account?  Because I’ve been doing some fun things I’d love to document for my own posterity? Check, check, check and more.

In any case, a quick catch up on life:

The family is fine: Delta and I are still living in our little (read: cozy) apartment in the Big Apple, with our two kitties, who are more than enough to keep us on our toes. Three years into their sororal relationship, Queen Jaffa and Charlie Parker are now solidly frenemies. They sleep right up next to each other. They spat. They hiss. They sniff butts and sometimes kiss. But most importantly, they know they’re safe, and loved, and the other conflicting complexities that make for cat-on-cat interactions simply pale in comparison. Cos and Dr G still live just a few blocks down the road, with their little kids who have now sprouted into real beings.  They squawk and talk and walk, and everyday surprise Delta and me with the crazy workings of the infant mind.

The friends grew up too: When it comes to friends, three years can seem a lifetime. When I last left off, Bobbs, Doobie and McPanj were still roommates in midtown Manhattan. Since then, they’re all growns up, some have gotten married, and our circle has inclusively morphed into a larger and more complex set of dynamics. Bobbis is now a part of duo “Bobbis and Po”. A lovely chap, and we’ll always love Bobbis all the more for bringing him into our lives. Doobie, in a heart-thumpingly swift twelve months, fell in love with a beau in London(!), engaged in a series of frenetic back-and-forth visits, and earlier this year, tied the knot in lovely City Hall. McPanj moved into an apartment right up on the UES by Delta and me, and we love love love having her just a stone’s throw away!
The Bobbis-Po dynamic duo

Doobie and her Trans-Atlantic dalliance

And me: I’ve grown up all over again. The same person, and yet an entirely different one. More perspective, more maturity, more awareness. Gentler. Kinder. More experience. I’ve certainly had my moments, but overall, it’s been a great few years, and everyday I realize just how lucky Delta and I are, to have all we have.

Life is an adventure: Somewhere during this bloggerial hiatus, I changed jobs a couple times, and am now at a small French tech firm.  And boy, it’s been an adventure! Startup life is just entirely different.  A lot more bumpy, but a lot more rewarding.  And if it’s a French startup, and peppered along the way are the occasional trips to Paris, then so much the better.  Delta and I have taken advantage of those fabulous flight benefits, and traveled as much as we could spare. Hawaii, Tuscany, the Boundary Waters, Mt Rainier.
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawai'i

Lunigiana, Tuscany

We’re on the brink of our future, and the only constraints are ourselves. The options seem suddenly limitless. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

An addition to the family

On Christmas Eve, Delta and I impulsively adopted another kitty from the shelter. I guess we watched just one Sarah McLaughlin add to many, and caught up in the pathos of the song, we convinced ourselves it was our moral duty to save a little feline life. Introduce Charlie.

Unfortunately, the magnanimous benevolence of our actions was rather lost on Queen Jaffa, who has hitherto been the unquestioned empress of her kingdom. She was duly unimpressed with our divided attentions.

Charlie is a timid little kitty. At the advice of the kindly ASPCA volunteer, we've restricted her to the bathroom for the moment, so she has a safe haven from which to accustom herself to the sights, sounds and smells of her new abode. Instantly, she set up camp under the vanity from whence she squawked for food at regular intervals. Today, in a huge leap of (potentially premature) progress, we've kept the bathroom door propped open for the first time, separating Charlie from the world yonder with only a little child-gate.

Queen Jaffa, napping in the living room, is blissfully unaware that when she wakes up, there'll be another kitty around in her kingdom, separated only by something as flimsy and ephemeral as a few babyproof bars.

We have always known it would be a delicate introduction between the two kitties, and expect nothing less than a parade of hissing and back-arching (remarkable similarity to the yoga position) in their quiverfull of tricks.

Wish us luck, for although right now, the kitties sleep soundly, we rest assured that this home will regress into an animal farm of mayhem in the not so distant future.

Still - all in a day's work, right? Sarah McLaughlin would be proud. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Family Holiday

Delta and I have never been celebrators of Christmas.

Festivus? Yeah, maybe. That's a bit more our kind of thing.

But Christmas? With all the presents and forced family reunions that unearth historical resentments that were hitherto buried for a reason? Slightly more dubious.

But this year, we had a different take on the event. The Gins called us over to spend Christmas with them, their little Peanut, and the rents.

And, although the potato rosti we brought over could have stood for a little less time in the oven (don't think they're meant to brown and tough as pumpernickel?!), the day overall was a wonderful success. Seeing the Gins and their rents was lovely as ever, and little Peanut was in his element.

Every day we're reminded again and again how happy we are to have the Gins as our family around the corner.

 Little Peanut, literally keeling over with excitement at all the presents.

As always, we set up the 'ol tripod and insisted on a group picture. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

A fantasy, and an indulgence

Nikon 17-55mm, F2.8

This lens, right here, is my new guilty fantasy. But at $900 a pop (second hand! $1400 for new), I fear it remains just that - a fantasy.

Danny showed it to us at his home the other day, and we were just floored by it's speed. Finally, something as fast as a prime lens but with a zoom to boot. It's like a dream come true. 

One day, this will be ours.

Separately, but much more achievable, is my new guilty indulgence. Boardwalk Empire.

I don't know where I've been these past couple years, as the rest of the world has been raving about this show. Probably caught up in the likes of Breaking Bad and Homeland, which is hardly anything to complain about. But this is what a bit of extra time on your hands during the holidays can do to you. Hour after hour after hour, it transports me into the magical world of the twenties. Gowns, extravaganzas, gangs and all.

A quiet holiday period

The holidays have traditionally been a busy time of year. Delta and I have either always been travelling, or recuperating from recent travels, or just having a time replete with friends, family and parties.

This year, however, is different. It's quiet. I had a few vacation days to burn before the end of the calendar year, so I've taken time out (I never usually do that unless we actually are travelling somewhere). And yet this year, we had no plans for travels. The flights were all heavily booked, eliminating any possibility of non-rev (free) travel. And far be it from us to actually pay for a ticket.

So here we were, with plenty of days off, and no real plans for things to do with it. Time has started expanding itself with an astonishing elasticity. Delta's sister and her husband came down to visit us for a couple days, but left yesterday. And most of our friends have embarked on travels of their own, leaving us bereft of our normal festivities.

It's an odd feeling, disquieting in its very quietness. It doesn't seem to ruffle Delta in the slightest, but I'm always one for plans and have to concede to feeling a void of some sorts, that I'm not quite sure of how to handle.

Nothing to do, no one to see.
Hunkering down -
Delta, the kitty and me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A holiday photo project

Last week, in the run-up to the holidays, I decided to take a wander around the city with the ol' camera to capture some of the holiday spirit that seems to be spilling around every corner. And, as always, the city didn't disappoint.

Thank you, NYC, for always being such a wonderful place in the holidays.

 The tree at Bryant Park

 An elusive Empire State Building, glowing through the fog

 All over the city, holiday markets!

 Rounded the corner and suddenly there it was before me, my favouritest building in the whole city!

Wandered round to the grand New York Public library 

 A street kebab guy, winding down after a long day's work

The practically undiscovered tree in the little plaza behind Bloomingdales. Why deal with the crowds of the Rockefeller Centre when you can have a tree all unto yourself.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A coolness radar

One of my colleagues, Nick, happened to mention a couple months ago that he performs in an improv comedy group in the city. Instantly, my ears pricked up.

Improv comedy? My radar for coolness was instantly on high alert. 

Because that's now it works, for non-creative folks like me. For people who think in bullet points and spreadsheets. You don't develop your own coolness (because really, you can't), but rather a finely tuned radar for coolness in others, that you can then follow along in their glow.

"When are you next performing?!" I asked him.
Turned out, it was this Friday past.
"Can we come?"
"Of course".

And so we did. This Friday, Delta, I, Bobbis and Kate headed down to watch Nick and his friends perform in their improv comedy troupe. And laughed non-stop for the entire 60 minutes of their performance. What an incrediby, incredibly talented group of comedians, and we couldn't recommend them enough. If you life in NYC, check out Lead McEnroe, who perform at the Magnet Theater.  Great evening, great idea for a date, great laughs and great people.

A Mad Men party

The idea of a Mad Men party was disingenuously introduced into the conversation by me several months ago, when I happened to buy a new dress and I couldn't think of a more suitable occasion to wear it than a Mad Men party. And it wasn't like we were getting invited to Mad Men parties all over the place, so it fell on Delta and me to host one ourselves.

So Delta and I sent out an email to the gang, inviting them for a Mad Men night last weekend. Have you ever thrown a Mad Men party? Certainly a somewhat more complicated endeavour than we'd originally anticipated, especially with Delta and I being novices at the nuanced complexities of cocktails (who knew where to get aromatic bitters and simple syrup?!).

But it was also undeniably exciting. Google, that all-knowing wizard, pointed us to Mad Men cocktail sites all over the interweb. The morning before the party was filled with martini glasses and muddlers and mint and olives and cherries. And perhaps we even had a practice cocktail (or two) in the afternoon before the guests arrived. We weren't quite sure about hairstyles, but discovered there wasn't quite any problem that a bit of Brylcreem couldn't solve.

We'd asked our friends to dress to theme, but I'm not quite sure what we expected. A bit of effort towards suits and dresses, maybe? A few references to our favourite characters?  But how we had underestimated our posse.

They had taken the theme to heart, and had leapt into the spirit of the evening with both feet. In the week running up to our party, they had engaged in a furious amount of googling and website-link-exchanging, to drum up ideas and costumes.

Sometime during the middle of the party, I paused and removed myself to glance around and take in the scene. I was bursting with pride and adoration at our friends for embracing the spirit with such enthusiasm. Couldn't have asked for anything more to make the party feel just perfect. 

And also, while I'm thinking of it, a big thank you to our neighbours who have borne with us for all these years, and politely refrained from complaining about our inane parties. Who could ask for more. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A July 4th celebration come early

Yesterday afternoon, Doobie and I were wandering aimlessly through Central Park, when we found ourselves passing by the SummerStage rotunda. We could hear a singer in there, warming up for her evening performance. The husky, sensuous voice was characteristic. “That sounds like Norah Jones,” I mentioned casually to Doobie.

Immediately, Doobie, who has how become the world’s most avid googler ever since she bought her first iPhone, started googling SummerStage singers. And wouldn’t you know it. I was right! Norah Jones was scheduled to perform at SummerStage later that evening! I’ve never, ever been able to identify a singer or group before. It’s just not in my repertoire of expertise, such as that is. Someone could play the Rolling Stones to me, even one of their greatest hits, and if I had to guess the singers, I’d still probably say, “ummm, Beatles? Bon Jovi?”. Yes, that’s how horrifically musically disinclined I am.

So when I pulled the Norah Jones guess out of my hat, I have to say, I was more than just a little bit chuffed. I might have even affected a strut for a few minutes there.

“I really wanted to go to see Norah Jones,” Doobie said wistfully, “but the tickets were all sold out when I looked.” So we listened to her warming up for a while instead, our own private concert before the real thing.
And then strolled onwards, enjoying the warm summer’s day in the park. 

Shortly, I’d all but forgotten about Norah Jones, and we were about to head back homewards, when a tall man approached us. “Hey. You want tickets for Norah Jones tonight?” he asked. Whaddaya know. A scalper. Doobie and I looked at each other. We hadn’t really planned on going to the concert, but now here were the tickets, being thrown in our faces!
“How much are they for?”
“How much you willing to pay?”

I’m terrible at such kind of negotiations and always end up overpaying because I’m too embarrassed to low-ball someone, so Doobie deftly took the lead in the conversation. She can play hardball when she gets going. Mere seconds later we’d agreed to two tickets for $35 each.
“It’s even less than the face value of the ticket!” The scalper told us, pointing to the face value listed as $50. “But I’ll give this to you ladies, because of her beautiful smile,” he accepted, indicating Doobie.

Right then and there we should have known there was something dodgy in the air. If the scalper himself wasn’t enough, at least the below face-value price, and the distracting flattery should have given us a hint. But the truth is, Doobie and I were so beside ourselves with excitement about the tickets, (and though we hate to admit it, equally elated by the compliment), that we didn’t allow ourselves to consider that the tickets might actually be fake. I mean, that happens to other people all the time. But to us??! No way. Besides, they looked similar to the tickets everyone else in line was brandishing, so they must be real.

So we skipped over to the line and took our spots excitedly at the end.  They had already started allowing people in, so the line, though freakishly long, actually moved along fairly quickly. And before we knew it we’d reached the ticket checkers already.

“Tickets, please.”
We handed over our tickets, wide grins of anticipation plastered across our faces.  He held them below the scanner. But instead of the normal beeeeeep, it made a  strange staccato sound, as though it was angry. Beep-beep-BEEP-beep-beeeep!! Immediately he called his supervisor, and we knew we were done for.

“These tickets are fake,” the man told us sternly. “Where’d you get them from?”
“Craig’s list,” Doobie jumped in.  That girl truly can be glib when the situation calls for it. “Why what’s wrong with them?”
“They’re fake tickets,” the official said. “I’m afraid we can’t let you in with these.”
I threw in a “what?!” of feigned surprise, just for good measure, lest he think we’re the type of girls who would buy tickets from scalpers round the corner.
“I’m sorry girls, you’re going to leave, I can’t let you in with these,” he repeated firmly. 

There was a long line of impatient entrants behind us, so Doobie and I knew we couldn’t hold up the queue any longer. We were crushed.  Couldn’t believe we’d fallen for that age-old fake ticket ploy. And that beautiful smile line. Ha!

But just as we were about to ask him where we should exit from, there was another “Beep-beep-BEEP-beep-beeeep!!” at a neighbouring ticket counter, and the supervisor headed off to address the same issue with another entrant. Doobie and I glanced around, wondering what we were supposed to do. The ticket checkers were busy checking other customers. The supervisor was busy dealing with the new person he had found. Just for that moment, everyone had forgotten about us.

And there Doobie and I were standing, past the ticket check counters, actually inside the arena. And nobody was looking for tickets anymore. And nobody was paying attention to us anymore. And gradually, just standing there, we’d started blending into the crowd heading to the stage.

We stood there for a few moments, when another concert official came up to us. We thought she’d ask us to leave, but instead she said, “you can’t just stand there, you have to keep moving. The stage is that way,” and she guided us towards the stage. And before we knew it, there we were, drifting with the rest of the crowds towards the bleachers.

I still don’t think it had sunk in yet, when we bought our drinks, and grabbed our seats. We kept expecting someone to come by and say, “Hey you! With the fake tickets! You have to leave.” But nobody did. Nobody cared. I don’t know whether that supervisor who checked our tickets had decided to deliberately turn a blind eye, or whether he got truly distracted. But whatever it was, I thank him kindly.

And so there we were. Despite not having planned to attend the concert in the first place. Despite stumbling upon it purely by coincidence. Despite being duped into fake tickets. Somehow, fortuitously, there we were.
Needless to say, it was a great evening. We watched the sun set over the crowds, as Norah Jones’ strong and melodic voice carried her distinctive music through the evening air.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A challenge of rather high magnitude

My colleague Jezebel, one of the nicest, funnest colleagues I could ask for, has an odd tick that's been niggling me lately. Whenever anyone cracks a joke, or does something funny, instead of laughing, she'll just exclaim, "that's so funny!"

Doesn't sound that odd right now, but I mean, it adds up after a while. If something is so funny (and I know she truly thinks it is!), then shouldn't you laugh? Or giggle or something? Instead of just telling us it's funny.

I've been trying to test her threshold at which she'll break down and actually laugh. Been trying to crack jokes all week, and well, even if  have to say so myself, I've been pretty darn funny.

This afternoon I pulled out some of the best from my repertoire. A cackle-inducing, thigh-slapping, hysteria-causing one-liner. Everyone was laughing. But yet, Jezebel just beamed at me, and said excitedly, "Gosh Ficali that's so funny!"

Imagine the teenage summer horror movies, fifteen teenagers stuck in a deserted summer cottage and they all start getting killed, one at a time. And then one girl is walking alone in the middle of the night, and something suddenly pounces out at her in the dark. But instead of shrieking in terror, she just exclaims, "I'm so scared!"

You see? It doesn't work like that.  Life simply demands more theatre and drama than that. An extra laugh or a scream or never killed anyone (except in those teenage horror movies when eventually they all die, no matter what kind of scream).

I'm sure Jezebel has her breaking point. I'm sure I'll get her to laugh yet. The gauntlet is down, may the competition begin!