Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Taso's big fat Greek 24th birthday

Taso's birthday was Friday and it was the most fun ever.

Complete with new pants

and lots of presents. His dad sent him on a wild goose chase to find his present (the video is hilarious) and his mom got him probably a dozen books that would make a normal person's head hurt (I think my old thesis homie Walter Benjamin's entire canon was featured). The rest of us hooked him up too.

There was a huge Greek feast at Greek Isles (owned by a family friend Gus and unbiasedly the best Greek food - maybe the best food food - I've ever had) with family and friends.

At the end of the night Gus and Taso's dad taught us all to dance like proper Greeks.
It was, honestly, the most fun.

I'm slow to blog lately.

Bogged down in LIFE and what not, but I had to say a public XRONIA POLLA to dude.

Monday, August 22, 2011

All cleaned up for 4th grade.

The boy's hair was out of control. 

I support his decision to be a long haired hippie and what not, but this mess needed to be tamed.
After a disastrous cut that ended up looking like a little girl's bob (how hard is a decent cut for a boy who wants to keep his hair longish, really?), we decided to try out Floyd's 99 Barbershop on Mockingbird. 

All I can say is... THANK YOU, TERRINDA! You made my boy happy and handsome for 4th grade.
 It's long enough that he still looks cool but short enough that he can't hide behind it and pout when he gets mad at me. Sheesh, what a mom I've become. 

I would love to show you adorable first day of school pictures but this what I have instead. Lovely. He had a tummy ache (nerves, I think) and an attitude this morning so we left the house late, full of pouts and with un-brushed hair. Can't win them all, I guess. Of note are his school uniform, the shorts of which are a size 12 (what?!), his new classic Vans which are a size 6 (that's a men's size, just FYI - doubt what?!), his backpack that has held up like new since pre-K six years ago (whaaaa?!) and his beloved Boba Fett lunch box which is the only thing on his person that does not make me feel obscenely old.

The napkin note I packed in his lunch box today said: 

"It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." -- Albus Dumbledore
Let this be your motto in 4th grade. Be a Gryffindor!"

That's my hope as we brave a year of more homework, two musical instruments, rigorous testing for the gifted and talented school and, most significantly, getting our lives together back on track.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

it's only just hitting me that i don't live in new york anymore.

i felt at home in new york in a way that i've never felt anywhere else. i would fly back to the city after being away and the second i slipped into a cab, sunk low in my seat and watched the buildings roll by -- first brownstones then skyscrapers -- i would take a deep breath, suck it all in, and then exhale for the first time since i left. i felt anonymous among the crowds and lost in the labyrinth of its many neighborhoods. it was no place for self importance or absorption. i was no one and that humbling feeling empowered me to become whatever i wanted. and so, with nothing to focus on but surviving and thriving, i found a home for myself in the city's streets, parks, libraries, classrooms, bars, movie theaters, museums and subways. i felt at all times like a visitor in those places (because no one owns that city) but always at home. i understand why now.

new york offers people like me, who felt they had so outgrown whatever place they were coming from that they could not bear to stay another day, a constant challenge. it's a challenge to find an apartment, learn to navigate, buy groceries, work long hours and make friends, yes, but the real challenge is in making that time between morning coffee and evening collapse worth something. i don't think it's possible to live there and not hate it just as much as you fall deeply in love with it, and i don't think it's possible to not be changed by it. new york fit so well because my life there was only mine. i created it and every day i carved it out and discovered a new part of myself in it, until i was completely found. while i was busy trying to get by, having breakdowns, never sleeping, having the time of my life, falling in love or just chopping vegetables in my kitchen, i wasn't dwelling on myself (probably for the first time in my life) but i was going through the greatest growth i have yet to experience. by the time i left i had found a portable, constant home inside of myself and a landscape that would allow me to live there.

despite how terrible everything was at times, i had inner calm and outer focus by the end of it.

when i see chelsea on tv i say, "that's my neighborhood!" even though my time there was short and feels like a lifetime ago now. chelsea will always be mine because i walked its piers and breathed for the first time in my life. that first night in my apartment on 24th i walked to whole foods to stock up and felt absolutely elated, happier and more peaceful that i had ever felt in my life, full of more potential than i ever imagined possible. i enrolled my son in p.s. 11 and walked him down 8th ave. every morning. after he left i fought every single day to pull on my boots and trudge through the snow, to come home and watch the olympics alone, to go through a long distance breakup and to work long, hard hours while facing disillusionment. i cried, i broke down and i lived on rice for a month. i earned chelsea.

in brooklyn i actually was home. swinny and sam gave me a family. prospect park gave me sunshine and green grass and danielle and baby k. the roof of my building and the walls of #apt2b hold more meaning for me than words can do justice. those days, those bonds are a part of who i am now, and it feels very strange to be separated from them. there are other things, like the cathartic trips to new jersey when i could barely get out bed, strolling through moma's galleries after hours and the red line between crown heights and washington heights, that make me feel as though i lived out several lifetimes while i was there. of course i didn't. i didn't even do anything spectacular and then, of course, i had to leave.

now i'm in dallas, where i am nearly overtaken by negative feelings every time i drive into the city. i'm stressed out by the traffic, the heat, the lack of jobs and by having to watch people with inflated egos take advantage of each other. i've become reclusive, sticking to days with b and nights on the couch with taso. as long as i'm home with them, i'm very happy... but i'm uncomfortable. i suppose this is where i take all of those wonderful things i learned in new york and apply them in a less ideal environment. i can do that. i am doing that. it's just that...

sometimes i miss new york so much it hurts deep in my gut. i long for the steam rising out of the underground, the slow elevator rides, the unavoidable and constant contact with the world around me and the daily challenge to keep going, take one more day of it, succeed or go home. wherever that is.

Monday, August 15, 2011

ten things.

1. I, the unluckiest gal in the world, just won a Princess Lasertron giveaway! She's a business owner, creative, mom, hip lady and I love her blog. She did little mini giveaways based on themes and I won the "home" one, which is ironic because I don't have a home. But! In some strange way this motivates me even more to make one for myself. Oh, how I crave a home. Thank you, Megan, for the kind note and box of goodies for sprucing up my temporary home.

2. I met the City of Dallas archivist the other day and, I have to tell you, it was really interesting to see what the city chooses to archive for posterity, what records get used regularly and what fascinating gems they have hidden away. I got see original photos, documents and other such from the JFK assassination. It also really struck me how undervalued even the most important archives are. Almost across the board they find it difficult to get funding, staff, space and use, despite their often extremely valuable holdings. We take for granted that we have (or have access to) footage, records, photos and knowledge of important events in our history that are usually carefully maintained by one dedicated person. Which brings me to my next point...

3. I need a job. Thus begins a career of trying to convince people to give me money to do something they're not convinced is important. But how great would it be if I could organize a really amazing collection of old films, make a preservation plan for it, schedule monthly screenings of films from it and teach a class on preservation? Oh, and also afford a place for B and I to live. Pretty great. (Hire me!)

4. I'm reading David Stenn's Clara Bow biography, Runnin' Wild, and it's fantastic. Her life was the MOST thrilling and tragic! Also, Hollywood has always been terrible.

5. Taso called the antique shop in Houston to try to buy my grandmother's cat but she was already sold. I'm touched by his sweetness, but so bummed that I didn't rescue it when I had the chance.

6. My friend James is so cool. He owns Spiral Diner with his rad wife Amy and makes movies. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth hosted a night of his films and I finally got to see Pioneer (which he produced - it's beautiful) and Knife (which he directed). If you get a chance to see either one, take it.

7. Taso's birthday is coming up. I forced him to delay going back to New York till after it, and I'm planning a day of Taso-style fun. Pretty excited. Still not thinking about the going back to New York part that follows.

8. I got my StickyGram magnets! It was so hard to pick only nine photos. You try it: stickygram.com. I think I did a good job, what do you think?

9. B finished swim team lessons (to prepare kids to be on the team) and he decided he doesn't want to be a swimmer. I think the most he got out of the lessons was how to run, screaming, arms flailing off the diving board (see below). But he's started guitar lessons, soccer season started up again this week, school starts next Monday and piano will kick back in soon after that, so he'll be plenty busy. The older he gets the clearer it is that he's a musician, not an athlete. He's coordinated, fast and strong but he just has no interest in putting forth effort at sports. In truth, soccer is more a headache for me than anything else. He insists on doing it (I think we're in our 7th season), but he could care less about actually playing the game. Oh well. Hopefully we have a future at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts in our future. 

10. Last night Taso and I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes and 30 Minutes or Less at the Inwood Theater in Dallas. He hates the Inwood, I love it for nostalgic reasons but have to admit that it's pretty dingy and the presentation is lacking. I think it has the potential to turn around, theaters just need to invest a little more in quality projectionists. Also the Love Sac sofas in the downstairs house were just a bad, bad idea. We had similar thoughts about the movies, liked the cast of 30 Minutes or Less and thought it was funny but had already forgotten it by the drive home. Planet of the Apes was great... er than I was expecting! I actually really liked it, perhaps even more than Taso. The CGI was well done and it was super entertaining. Some of the plot lines went unexplained or didn't make much sense (Freida Pinto's character was wildly underdeveloped and could have added more to the story; the science was pretty silly) but I enjoyed it. I wish I could go to the movies every day.


IUD periods.


The worst.

There is an 86% chance I am actually going into labor. Except I'm not, I'm just having an IUD period. This is #4 since I had it put in and I remember every single one. How -- HOW -- do women do this for years on end? 10 years, really?! I can't even walk right now. This is majorly cramping my style. Pun intended, athankyouverymuch. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

what's next?

This summer has been discouraging. I've applied for countless jobs and gotten nowhere. I've sent my thesis to dozens of people and not heard back from one. On top of that, I am slowly losing my dream to someone who doesn't love it or need it like I do and there's nothing I can do about it. So, fine, I pick myself up and move on to... what?

I don't know what I'm feeling right now. I always have a plan or a project or something big that I'm working on and, somehow, it always works out... but I am totally stumped this time. All I know is that I need a job. I need something that will support a small family and that I can be good at. Dreams can wait. Right now all I care about is being able to take care of these two:

I'm lost in thought today. Searching for answers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I miss Brooklyn and Apt. 2B so much.

Apt. 2B and the women who live there.
This is Sam singing our apartment's theme song.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I love him.

Gregg and I had very similar feelings about Ricky's performance on last week's So You Think You Can Dance.
When he visited me in New York he made this video. All of this is probably not funny to anyone but me. But maybe a little bit if you watch SYTYCD or have ever been to the Natural History Museum or are Justin Ables.
That is all.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Leaving Houston, Agora Coffee and the only vegan at the BBQ

I'm a week behind, aren't I? 

A week ago today we left Houston. The official purpose of our trip - to check out some art house theaters - turned out to be kind of a bust, but we had a good time. An extremely friendly gentleman at one of the antique stores we visited told us, upon learning that Taso is Greek (I have a big mouth), that we HAD to visit Agora Coffee. Oh, and right he was. (I fully planned on giving Agora its own post before I realized that I was a week behind and needed to get on with it.) Forget charming, trendy little coffee shops. This place was big, warm and inviting with dark wood paneling, high, beamed ceilings and friendly people. I don't drink coffee normally but there are no rules on vacation, and thinking about it as a treat makes me value when it's good even more. I had Agora's frappe, the Greek version of iced coffee, made with soy milk and topped off with a perfect foam. It. Was. Heavenly. Seriously, I've had dreams about this drink. God bless those little Greek guys for bringing it to Texas. Sitting there sipping my cold drink in that dark coffee shop, thinking about Taso's heritage and how much I want to go to Greece, was one of the best moments of the trip for me. I even bought one of their pretty little cups.

Finally, we decided to stop for lunch before leaving town. On a bit of a whim we picked a BBQ place we'd seen next to the antique store with my grandma's cat. (If that wasn't a strange sentence...) A BBQ place with a small menu is probably the last place you'd expect to find me, but I'm more than used to taking care of myself at un-veg-friendly places and I was looking forward to the adventure. It turned out 100% for the best. I couldn't have asked for a more pleasant place to sit, escape the heat and people watch. Also, if you went to school with me in New York (all six of you) you know just how long and hard I'd been craving a good baked potato, the kind you can only get at a place like this.
We left Houston pregnant with comfort food babies and happy from a surprisingly relaxing weekend. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Houston: Museums, Antiquing, Death by Heat

You know how the sun has inexplicably moved closer to the earth and we are all on the verge of death by heat exhaustion? I thought the over-100 temperatures and oppressive sun were miserable in Dallas, but you throw a little Gulf air and dragon breath into the mix and you have summer 2011 in Houston.

Yep, Saturday was to be spent leisurely and INDOORS.

We sought out a little coffee house for breakfast that sounded perfect and adorable, and indeed was perfect and adorable (a little bungalow with a bridge in front and awesome menu of drinks and homemade snacks) until we got to the front door and realized it had recently closed. I was so disappointed I even deleted the pictures I took of it. But fate stepped in and lead us to coffee shop #2, Inversion (on Montrose), which was not only open but had a taco truck in its parking lot! Life is awesome... and so were those breakfast tacos. *drool* The coffee shop was connected to the Art League and you could definitely tell by the decor. Such a cool place to enjoy gigantic breakfast tacos, an Americano and air conditioning.

From there we headed to the museum district. So many museums in such a small area! 
We started at the Fine Arts Museum and ended up spending most of our early afternoon there. It was nice and cold (doesn't that lobby look chilly) and featured a lovely array of artifactual art from around the world. There are few things I enjoy more than taking my time strolling around gallery spaces with someone who can both make me laugh and seriously appreciate art. There was a Venetian exhibit on loan from Scotland that looked amazing but was super expensive so we stuck to the other ample offerings and tried to casually sneak a peak. I also snuck a couple lopsided pictures while I was being sucked into another dimension by way of these blue hallways.
On our quest to not pay admission, we visited the Contemporary Arts Museum. It was fun but I was quickly lured away by the gift shop. Don't those Pantone mugs look like something I need? I bought B some fun little erasers for a back-to-school package I'm making him and, after some internal struggle over wanting to enjoy the lovely scenery of the area and also not melt, we were on our way. Even the crosswalks were works of art!
I threw a little bit of a fit over not stopping at antiques shops on our trip down from New York, so it was an unspoken rule that I get my fill on this trip. Houston is full of cute antique and vintage shops, but I stuck to antiques so as not to be too tempted to buy clothes. I was hoping for nothing more than a hunt for old reels of a film and pining over antique furniture that I can't afford, and definitely didn't expect to spend any money.

We were having a great, if strange, time. I spotted this cat in one shop and recognized it instantly as one that used to sit in the front entry way of my Great-Grandma Maree's house. After closely examining it several times, pacing around and furiously texting pictures of it to my family, I began to second guess myself. Grandma Maree lived in San Antonio... How would this have ended up in Houston? Would my aunt really have sold it off at the estate sale? It was so important to me as a child, why wouldn't they have given it to me? We left the shop without buying the cat (I was still trying not to spend money and just couldn't be sure) when I got a text confirming that this had to be the old kitty I used to name and pretend to play with when I was little. I'm still kicking myself for not buying it.
 At another shop I spotted this awesomely awkward Scarlett O'Hara plate and thought instantly of Swinny, my old Apt2B-mate and fellow 1939 movie enthusiast. The picture below speaks for itself.
I would be lying if I said this was the first time this has happened to us. Still, it never ceases to freak me the eff out (and make me love her). So, the day was already going well when fate lead us here...
 We found and were excitedly scoping out a shelf of old Super 8mm and 16mm cameras and some old empty film reels when a gentleman came up and asked if we were looking for anything in particular. I asked if he had any reels of film - home movies, news film, cartoons, anything. He didn't but he just so happened to have a massive box of old slides out back, would I care to take a look? Obviously.

What he brought out a few seconds later blew. my. mind. Old cases filled with 35mm Kodachrome slides from the 30s, 40s and 50s and an old carousel projector. As we poured through the slides, examining them in the light one by one, I became downright giddy. Pictures of GIs in uniform, beautiful ladies lounging in front of a mid-40s era Cadillac, well-dressed men on a trip to Reno, breathtaking shots of flowers and mountains, the colors somehow still perfectly preserved on beautiful Kodachrome. For half an hour I dug through the hundreds of slides and read the handwritten shot lists (dated 1952) as he tried to decide whether or not he would be willing to part with this treasure. Finally, he said: "I suppose if I said I would sell these to you for $1 a slide you would freak out, right?" I didn't answer, just stared back stone faced. There was no way I could ever do that. "But... I guess I would be willing to sell you the whole thing for $60... including the projector." ...What? YES. Yes. Right now. Let's do this. We shoved everything back into boxes and I practically dragged Taso to the cash register, as though I were afraid this wonderful man might change his mind. If you're questioning my sanity right now, just know that slides like this go for $25 a slide on Ebay. However, as I told him, that salesman probably found one of the only people in the world who has no interest in ever selling a single one.

Practically high on our success and nearly dead from the heat, we debated just collapsing in our room to watch the X-games (skateboard vert competition - very big deal round these parts) but decided to cap the night with a meal at #2 on my List - Beavers. I was outrageously mislead by the goofy name and website. It's actually a gorgeous (but casual) space with a fantastic chef and quite creative menu. The vegan gumbo and cornbread was to die for. When we arrived we were seated in a booth directly in front of a TV showing, what else, the X-games.
Taso was glued.

Shaun White killed it on the vert ramp, Chef Jonathan Jones killed it in the kitchen and I felt like a million bucks. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Houston: Road Tripping, Space and Greeks

So we took a little trip to Houston. 

I can't say that I was too excited about Houston at first. Excited to get away, absolutely. Excited for an intimate little road trip, always. Excited to visit some art house theaters, YES. (Especially after how cool the Belcourt was.) But... Houston? Meh. My most prominent memory of Houston was the family road trip to NASA when I was 10, on which I lost my favorite teddy bear. I had family in Galveston when I was younger and tired of the Gulf Coast's disappointing beaches. But! I have since become something of an expert at travel planning and had a best friend to go with me, so I did some research and went with an open mind.

For the first half of the trip down Taso drove with one purpose in mind: to find Bucees. Bucees is the travel stop to end all travel stops, and he's been talking about it for years. It did not disappoint.
He also has a little secret that I'm going to let you in on. Taso wants to be an astronaut. He's obsessed with all things space and has not-ironically wanted a NASA jacket for a long time. It was a must that we visit the Space Center first and foremost.
His enthusiasm made the whole thing so fun, even the boring little driving tour that ended with us getting completely drenched in a surprise thunderstorm. (Actually, that may have been my favorite part. I love rain and surprises.)
I loved the strange contrast of space with Texas prairie.
Things got a little weird by the end of our journey. Let's just call it space madness.

As for me, I lean toward skepticism. I'm fascinated by space, but I found NASA to be a little too fake and outdated. I'd like to know more about the brilliant minds that run the space program and the mysteries and secrets they must hold. I'm a little bit of a conspiracy theorist (just a little bit), so I found myself looking sideways at the "astronaut training station" and half-hearted exhibits. It was still really cool and we've been searching out books and documentaries about space ever since. (Recommendations welcome!)

After a stop at the hotel to wash the thunderstorm out of my hair, we went to #1 on my "Places We Must Eat" list for dinner: Niko Nikos. Neither of us had any idea that Houston has a big Greek population! Taso is Greek (obviously) and I've been trying to learn the language all summer, so this was a super exciting revelation. Niko Nikos is a wildly popular (read: constantly packed) casual Greek diner with a huge menus of legit dishes. I threw my still-wet hair up on top of my head and well... we both tried to look our best.
 There were pretty little murals of Greek islands painted around the perimeter and it had a definite diner vibe. The service was kind of terrible and we had to fight for a table, but the food was delicious. Taso's dad's best friend owns a Greek restaurant in Dallas that's spectacular and has set our standards pretty high, but for a casual, quick place, Niko Nikos stacked up. We decided that if we lived in Houston it would be our go-to takeout place.
It was a perfect Friday, a long drive out of town, good food, peaceful sleep and Taso got his NASA jacket. More importantly, we discovered our favorite area of Houston (where we would spend the rest of our weekend) around the museum district and north up Montrose to endless vintage shops, bookstores and cute coffee houses.