Friday, April 24, 2009

Chilly Chile!

Countdown: 12 days to Chile.

As promised, I have been reading up on my pending home away from home. I've gotten a lot of info out of the Fodors book, which I had a chance to read pretty much cover to cover on Tuesday, when I was in NYC for a promising job interview at a major publisher and had lunch with my Book Angel (and good friend), Erika. I'll get back to NYC in a sec...but now, Chile.

Here's what else I learned thanks to my Fodor's Chile Book:

1) It is fall season in Chile in May. Temps will be chilly (between 50 and 60 degrees) Nice...right as NYC is starting to warm up. While I'm digging out my summer clothes for my next 12 days here, I'm throwing my winter clothes in a pile to get packed in my suitcase.

2) I need to go to the doctor to check my MMR boosters and get a Hep A shot. (I took care of this during this week. The Hep A shot cost $83 (not covered by insurance) and it is only the first shot in a series of two (the second shot comes in six months). The doctor said this was better than nothing. We'll see about that.

3) There is a nice park in Santiago, Chile where I can hike up (about an hour) and see the entire city. Views are great. Excercise is even better. I'm still doing Joy's Life plan is to keep up the good work while I am away. Hopefully Chilleans don't love the fried food as much as I do.

4) I can use my cell phone for $1 a minute and $0.40 text messages. Or I can get my cell phone unlocked to get a local SIM card, which should save me money. (I went for the unlocked phone option). In the process of doing this, I found out I can get my blackberry unlocked by some random company for $30 Orrrr I could call T-Mobile and they would give me the code for free (Guess which option I chose?). In addition, in cleaning my condo, I found that I had not one, but two spare phones. So I think I may bring 2 phones. One for local (Chile) calls and one for emergency (US Calls). I can thank God right now my mother is not a chatterbox and doesn't need to talk to me every day.

5) I think I am going to have to rent a car or fly to some of the other places I want to see in Chile. I know the Sisters plan to send me to Ovalle, but I also want to see the wineries and other locations up North. I'll have to check out the bank accounts when I get there.

My muy malo
I am also working on my Rosetta Stone studies. I try to get an hour or two in a day. I went to B&N today, because I have been spending way too much time on TV lately. They have free electricity and nice chairs there, so I parked myself in front of a window and got down to business.

I am now on Level 2...and after talking to the "no hablo ingles" Domincan guy, Roberto, at the gym, I realize I am in big trouble. There are so may words I just don't know. It is hard to have a conversation when you are stuck on simple things like telling someone where you live.

And my mom and I had a funny (or not so funny) conversation on the ferry today. I'm allergic to Yellow Jackets. If I get stung, its lights out for me, unless I get to a hospital. My face swells, my throat closes up, and I can't breathe. In the past my doctor wouldn't give me a prescription for the shot I need to save my life, because she said it was better to just get to the hospital and that in most cases, how often would I be that far away from a hospital??? And honestly, I am lucky if I have my keys every day. Chances of me carrying this thing around is slim to none on the day I get stung. Well, my new doctor gave me the prescription for the trip.

Here's the funny part...How do you say "Yellow Jacket" in spanish? "abrigo amarillo"??? I don't think so.

If I get stung, I don't have a lot of time...I need to give myself the shot, get to the hospital and hope that I don't pass out from lack of oxegyn. "Ayudame!!! Abrigo Amarillo" will be my choking words. I guess I can be thankful it is fall in Chile and los abrigos amarillos will be out of season.

A minor side note: Adding to my Before you Die NYC List:

1) Go to a Jazz show at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola located in the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle. So the price for a show is $35 plus $10 min for a drink. When you add a drink and food and tax and tip, you get a bill around $80 per person min...Now, yes this is expensive, and you could do it a little cheaper (eat somewhere else...and just get one drink). But the view of Central Park and the music was something else. Definitely recommend for a night out.

2) Visit the New York Public Library (and the bathroom at Bryant Park) Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, 10018-2788.917-ASK-NYPL (917-275-6975) First of all, this library is beautiful on the inside and the outside. The lions have been a fascination to me ever since I saw them come to life in the WIZ (see 1:14 for the Library Lion in clip below).

Ahhh...just watched the DVD trailer not as fascinating as I remember, but give me a break, I was just a little kid. Anwyay, this is a NYC landmark. You have to see it.

When you are done looking around, go downstairs to the basement, go out the side door, and walk towards 6th Avenue.There is a public rest room outside the library right where Bryant Park begins on 42nd street. It is the CLEANEST public bathroom I have ever been to. It has flowers in it and everything. I swear...its amazing. A wonder of the world. You have to see it for yourself.

Then go to the park, sit and relax and take a seat and do some people-watching. Its the the most fun thing to do in NYC, and best of all, its FREE!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Focus on: Chile

Well, work ends for me on Wednesday and then I begin a new chapter in my life.

I'm not going to lie...I am sad to be laid off. You can't help but feeling a little rejected. How did I make the cut and other people get to stay? Why me? Why anyone? But you know what, I can't be bothered with these bad thoughts. They are counter-productive. I choose to find a bright side. EVERYTHING happens for a reason.

It definately helps that as far as layoffs go (this was my second one), this one was fairly pleasant. They gave me six weeks notice, an okay severance, and I couldn't ask for a better time of year. I'll be getting my tax refund and can enjoy some nice weather, while I collect unemployment and job hunt with the rest of the country.

But first, I'm going to Santiago, Chile. That's right. I'm going. I need a change. I am going to recharge and I'm going to speak Spanish if it kills me.

View Larger Map

So if you are wondering what I will be reading for the next few weeks, I can tell you with 100% certianty, it won't be about Elvis. Thanks to another publishing friend (aka Book Angel #3) I'm reading Chile - Culture Smart!: a quick guide to customs and etiquette and Fodor's Chile, 4th Edition: Including Argentine Patagonia

So far, I learned the following:
1) There is no time difference between NYC and Chile.
2) Never show up on time, as nobody will be expecting you, but be punctual the first time, just in case.
3) Lunch is the main meal of the day and dinner is between 8 and 9pm. "Once" is the period between lunch and dinner you have a little snack.
4) Chileans love their grilled meat and seafood.
5) Water is okay to drink in Santiago, but have bottled water in rural areas.
6) Tipping is 10%
7) Men like to stare at women.
8) Drinks can be very strong so be careful.

Clearly...I have more to read. But its a start.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Top 10 Places to see in NYC (before you die)

Anyone who has been reading my blog knows that there is one book I come back to again and again, 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. & Canada Before You Die. Well, when it comes to NYC, I think the author/editor really fell short. So I decided to give her list a boost with a list of my own. (Fellow New Yorkers: I'd LOVE to hear what you think! What's your top 10 list?)

So here it is... My addition to 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. & Canada Before You Die....

Barb's Top Ten Places To Visit in NYC (before you die)

1)Ride Staten Island Ferry (DOWNTOWN MANHATTAN - Battery Park) - Take the Staten Island Ferry (Free) from Downtown Manhattan to Staten Island. Sit on the top right side of the boat to get the best pictures of the Statue of Liberty. At the back of the boat, you'll also get a nice view of the Manhattan Skyline.

In the summer evenings, you might be able to catch a fun game of baseball with the Staten Island Yankees. You can enjoy a nice cold beer, relax at the game and take in the view of the Manhattan Skyline for about $12-25 a ticket.

Looking for a place to eat in Staten Island? Walk out of the St.George ferry terminal and take a left onto Richmond Terrace/Bay Street. Walk about .4 miles to Cargo Cafe (120 Bay Street, on Staten Island (718) 876-0539). Its a friendly place with a casual vibe, and great menu. A piece of trivia for you: The bar scene from the movie School of Rock was filmed at the Cargo Cafe.

If you have a little extra time and want to try one of the City's BEST Pizza Places, I would suggest you take a cab (about $10) or get on the S44 bus to Walker St./Port Richmond Ave ($2 and approx. 30 minutes by bus) to Denino's Pizza Tavern (524 Port Richmond Ave., Staten Island, NY 10302 (718) 442-9401) and get a "MOR" pizza (meatball, onion and ricotta). It is well worth the trip. While in the neighborhood, walk across the street to Ralph's Ices (501 Port Richmond Ave. Staten Island, NY 10302 (718) 273-3675) for dessert. You can't miss the place. The line is usually going around the block...its that good.

Getting back to Manhattan is no problem. The Staten Island Ferry runs 24 hours every 30 mins to 1 hour depending on what time of day you travel. Did I mention the ferry is FREE???

2) Visit U.S. Custom House/American Indian Museum ( Bottom of Broadway, One Bowling Green New York, NY 10004 Phone: 212-514-3700). This location is on my list for a few reasons. One, it is a beautiful building and two, admission is free. In its heyday, the Custom House was a bustling place of activity as brokers and customs agents worked together to build our nation's wealth. Today it is the home of Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian as well as The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, and smaller agencies.

My favorite part of this building are the 4 statues outside by Daniel Chester French, representing the continents of Asia, America, Europe and Africa. The main figure in each statue is a seated young woman, whose features are typical of a given national group, race, or an amalgam of the continent. For more information about these beautiful statues, visit the Custom House Website. When you look up along the top of the building, you'll see The Twelve Statues of Seafaring Nations, by Cass Gilbert. For more on the 12 statues, check out this page.

After you leave the Customs House, take a short walk up Broadway and take a picture with The 7,000 pound bronze bull. This is my father's favorite photo op. He will take anyone and everyone he knows there to make sure they get their picture with "the Bull." You'd think he sculpted it himself (he didn't). This huge bull was a creation of SoHo sculptor Arturo DeModica. It was first appeared in front of the New York Stock Exchange in December 1989 and was quickly impounded by the NYPD. The New York City Parks Department later gave the bull an official home on Broadway, 2 blocks below Wall Street. Make my father happy...take your picture here.

3) Seek out Adrianne's Pizza Bar On Stone Street This place is a little hard to find in the maze of streets of Downtown Manhattan, but if you are going to go to any place in NYC for Pizza, you have to try this place. Adrianne's (54 Stone St New York, NY 10004 - (212) 248-3838) is right by Wall Street, near the world famous Delmonico's Steak House. I'll admit for a pizza place, it is a little pricey, but really its worth it.

I love taking people to Adrianne's and suggest it almost every time someone wants to meet up for dinner. My favorite time to go there is during the warmer months, when all the Stone Street restaurants set up tables in the street and you can enjoy great food out in the open air. I highly recommend the Antipasti (which has grilled vegetables, beans, meats and cheese) and then the Old Fashioned Pizza (my favorite is topped with Eggplant, but any topping on this pizza tastes heavenly) .

A little piece of trivia: Stone Street claims to be one of the first paved streets in Manhattan. If you can find this place, it is well worth the visit. You'll feel like you have stepped in a different time.

4) Take a good look at the Woolworth Building - Head up Broadway, stop to pay your respects at Ground Zero (soon to be the Freedom Towers or 1 World Trade Plaza) and then continue to the Woolworth Building, (233 Broadway New York, NY 10007), one of my favorite places to in Manhattan.

My bus stop is right in front of the Woolworth building and I can't help but look at all the details of this building every time I go there. This 57 story beauty cost $13.5 million to build in 1910 and was paid for by F.W. Woolworth in cash. It was designed and built to be the worlds largest building. It is truly amazing inside and out, from close up and far away. The lobby of the building is amazing. Its closed to visitors, but you can always go in for a second and pretend you are lost.

5) Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. People. I don't care how tired you are, how much your legs hurt. Pull it together and walk from the Woolworth Building through City Hall Park and over the Brooklyn Bridge. This is my FAVORITE PLACE in NYC. Its FREE to walk over, it has a most amazing history and it offers some fantastic views of New York.

I think the best views from the Brooklyn Bridge are really from Brooklyn coming to Manhattan. You can see The Statue of Liberty, South Street SeaPort, The Empire State Building, and the city skyline.

So if you are too lazy to walk both ways, then take the A/E Subway to High Street in Brooklyn (there's a subway entrance is on Church and Park Place in Manhattan). Get on towards the back of the train. Get off at the High Street (Brooklyn) Station. Cross through the Cadman Park, and follow signs to the Brooklyn Bridge. If you don't have time for this...MAKE IT. The walk takes about 30-40 minutes. You can do this walk practically year-round. I've done it over 100 times myself (no exaggeration...twice in a thunder and lighting storm) . The view is great day or night.

If you want to love this bridge as much as I do, you should read the book The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge

If you are hungry when you land in Brooklyn, I would suggest 4 places in DUMBO (Downtown Brooklyn...acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), you'll get to these locations by walking right past the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge walkway, and down Washington Street to Front Street. On a nice sunny day, DUMBO is a cute little neighborhood to stop off, grab a bite to eat and plan the rest of your touring.

Make a right on Front Street for Grimaldi's, home Brooklyn's most famous Pizza. Continue down Front Street and make a right on Old Fulton Street. You'll see Grimaldi's (19 Old Fulton St, Brooklyn - (718) 858-4300) red and green awning, and most likely a long line, especially on days when the weather is nice. Even if you have to wait, give it a try. The pizza is made in a brick oven and has a very thin crust. A large pie is good for 2 people.

Or make a left at Front Street for Superfine (126 Front St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 (718) 243-9005), they have a great atmosphere, small menu selection but fresh, quality food at a decent price. My favorite there is the steak sandwich, but everything on the menu is fantastic. When you are done, walk straight towards the water to the park. You'll end up at a nice park where you can sit and enjoy the view.

If you want Brooklyn's (and arguably the world's) Best Chocolate, you have to stop at Jacques Torres Chocolate (66 Water Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 718.875.9772) (take a left on Front Street, make a right at the Starbucks, and a left on Water Street) . The've got amazing Ice Cream Sandwiches in the summer featuring Jacques' chocolate chip cookies, and in the winter, the Hot Chocolate is too rich to describe. Go there and at least sample a chocolate.

If you rather some ice cream, then you should keep walking down Water street to Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, (1 Water St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 718-246-3963). In the summer, there will be a nice long line for this creamy delicious ice cream. Get a scoop and sit and enjoy it in the garden of the River Cafe (don't be fooled by the name, this place is way too expensive to eat there). Watch people take their wedding and engagment photos and enjoy the view of the Bridge and NYC skyline.

Go to any of these places above, and I promise you will get some of the most fantastic pictures of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, the East River and NYC Skyline.

6) Get a bird's eye view from the Empire State Building. I never get tired of bringing my tourist friends to the Empire State Building. It is a classic NYC Landmark. Built in 1931, this 102 story building is currently the tallest building in NYC. Every night they light the top with colors that represent a holiday or event. It is fun to see it lit up and to try to figure out what today's color means. As far as getting to the top, it only costs about $18 to go to the 86th floor. Sometimes the lines are long, but frankly, I really think if you are in NYC, you have to do it.

If you don't want to spend the cash getting to the top, I have one more suggestion for you. Go to La Quinta Hotel (17 West 32nd Street (between Broadway and 5th) New York, NY 10001) Take the elevator to the Sky Bar. Go there in the evening, have a drink and enjoy the view of this modern marvel from the La Qunita's rooftop bar.

7) Take spin in Times Square. First of all, if you are visiting NYC, you have to catch a show on Broadway. Make plans to go to one the TKTS booth and get a discount ticket for that evening or the next day matinee. The booths are open from 11am -6pm.

Before the show, grab a drink at the Marriott Marquis (1535 Broadway at 46th street New York, NY 10036). Take the elevator up the the View Restaurant. While you sit, the room rotates and you get a 360 degree view of Times Square and New Jersey Skyline. They have a dinner and dessert buffet, but I'd just go for the drink. You can get some good eats at my 2 favorite places Carmine's (Italian family style) - 200 W 44th St New York, NY 10036 - (212) 221-3800, or Virgils for Southern BBQ (152 W 44th St New York, NY 10036 - (212) 921-9494). I also can suggest Ruby Foo's for Asian Fusion (1626 Broadway, New York - (212) 489-5600).

8) Get your Chocolate Fix - I personally look forward to going to the Chocolate Show every November (beginning of the month). You pay about $30 and get to taste all the chocolate your heart desires. The location has been changing, but in 2008, it was at Pier 94 (711 12th Avenue and 55th Street). You want to get to this event early in the day, before it gets too crowded. My friends and I usually arrive at around 10am, tour around for about 2 hours and then go out for lunch. This year I learned about Chocolate Covered Bacon (need I say more???) from Roni-Sue located in the Essex Street Market (120 Essex St., New York, NY 10002) .

I also can highly recommend Max Brenner (A.K.A Chocolate by the Bald Man) located at 841 Broadway (between 13th and 14th Streets). You have to try his Chocolate Pizza and Chocolate Milk Shakes.

9) Ride NYC in the 5 Borough Bike Tour. I love to see NYC by bicycle. For the past 5 years, I have participated in the 5 Borough Bike Tour , which usually takes place the first Sunday in May. You start in Downtown Manhattan, ride through all the boroughs and end up in Staten Island. The roads are all closed to traffic and the route is mostly flat. Its 42 miles of adventure. This ride has become extremely popular, so you have to sign up early the fee starts at $40, and goes higher depending on when you register. There are so many people on this ride, it can get dangerous. You will experience bottle-necks if you are not in the front of the pack. Try to get there super early so you aren't stuck behind the slow pokes and less experienced riders. My friends and I also ride up the side streets ahead of everyone up until Central Park.

Another ride that I can suggest is MS Bike NY in October. This ride requires that you pay an entry fee and raise a minimum for the charity. I can tell you though that it is well organized and they take care of their riders. It is well worth the hassle of fundraising (and it is a good cause!) . The ride is 30 - 100 miles through NYC and NJ. If you do up to 75 miles, you get to ride through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey and back over the George Washington Bridge, which is pretty exciting.

You can also try the New York Century Bike Tour in September. It ranges from 15 to 100 mile routes. The ride starts at $60 and goes up from there depending on when you register. I've done this a few times and my only complaint about this ride is that they don't close off all the routes to cars, and it sometimes feels a little less organized compared to the other rides above.

10) Get lost in Grand Central Station You just have to check out this historical landmark. Grand Central Station is beautiful from the outside and the inside. I like to walk in the middle and just look up. But there is lots to see here. Check out this walking tour. According to this website, free public tours are given on Wednesdays and Fridays at 12:30pm. The Wednesday tour meets at the Round Information Booth and is given by the Municipal Art Society (212) 935-3960. The Friday tours meets outside on 42nd Street in front of the Phillip Morris Building/Whitney Museum entrance across the street from Grand Central and is given by the Grand Central Partnership (212) 883-2420. fellow New Yorkers...What do you think? Did I miss anything?

Note about 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. & Canada Before You Die: There are many variations of this book, one highlights action/adventure, another lists places to visit world-wide. Many people use these types of books to help them in compiling their Bucket List, the list of things they want to do before they die. I don't really see it as my Bucket List, but as a list of things I don't want to miss. I chose the US and Canada version of the Before you Die Books because I actually felt I might be able to do them all! Why give yourself an impossible challenge? As I go from state to state and up into Canada, I find it satisfying to check off the different places listed in this book, and as with the case with NYC, finding even more treasures along the way. I hope to continue to share my adventures and finds as I find them.

Want to create your own Bucket List or Don't Miss list? Here are some books to get you started:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen...Elvis has Left the Building.

Today I finished Careless Love by Peter Guralnick. Heartbreaking.

Elvis was really before my time, but I can tell you that he was a handsome young man oozing with charisma and sex appeal.

He was a complicated character. He had all the money you could imagine, but no one around him he could really trust. He hated the movies he made, they embarrassed him. But they made him money, so he did them anyway and his eccentric manager, The Colonel Tom Parker (the ultimate deal maker) kept signing him up for more.

Here is one of his early movies...where he actually looks like he was enjoying himself.

In his private life, Elvis was searching for answers and peace, but really only found solace with drugs. Nobody around him had the guts to tell him to stop. Elvis' career eventually moved from movies to concert performances, which brought him closer to the fans he loved. Here's a clip from his famous 1968 Comeback Special.

In the end, his addition to drugs made him bloated and sick and affected his performances. Here is one of his last concerts before his death at Graceland in August 1977.

As I read Elvis' story, I couldn't help of think of the stars of today, who find themselves in a similar hell: from Anna Nicole to Brittany Spears. I really feel for these celebs even more now, having read Elvis' story.

This book was written in 1999, but I am so glad it fell into my hands today. I was able to give it another dimension with videos from YouTube. Its a tragic story well told by author Guralnick. Today, I give it 4 of 5 stars.

What's next on my list...? Honestly, I don't know I have quite a few books waiting for my attention. I'll let you know in my next post.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Joy's Life Diet - You can see it in my face.

Well its been 3 months since I started JOY's LIFE DIET. It is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Joy Bauer, celebrated nutritionist from the Today Show, is a winner! This book is my new weight loss bible! And I can't tell enough people about it.

I'm down to 208lbs from 225lbs. That's 17 lbs and counting. Everyone says they can see it in my face. I see it in my clothes (falling off me).

Some people say that it is too expensive to go on a diet. I don't think that is really true. Yes, my grocery bills for the first 2 weeks were about $150 (which was about 3x as much as what I normally spent). But now they are down to $50 or less. I have a list that I go to the grocery store with, and I try not to deviate. If it is not on my list, I don't need it. Plus, I save a ton of money eating out.

The key to my progress has been planning ahead for meals. Every night before I go to bed, I know what I will be eating the next day, from breakfast to dinner. I bring my lunch, snacks and sometimes dinner to work with me. Now, I even have a special bowl and spoon in the office with my name on it to prepare my meals in the office microwave. I save myself from having to run out and get something (most likely unhealthy) to eat, and give myself more time to focus on other things, like getting out of work early and going to the gym.

That leads me to the topic of exercise. It wasn't until I made exercise part of my routine that that the weight loss really started kicking up for me. I added classes to NYSC to help me to get my 30 minutes of exercise into my day. I enjoy the Spin classes (which I couldn't get past the warm-up when I first started) and Zumba Dance. I've cut my training sessions down to once a week with Catalino which is another big financial savings. We are down to our last 5 sessions. Catalino and I will be breaking up after a 2 year relationship. In the past this would of scared me to death. He was a HUGE part of my success to date. Sometimes Catalino was the only reason why I was going to the gym. But now that exercise is officially part of my Joy's Life Diet routine, I know I can do it.

One more thing that really helped was an office weight loss challenge. It was probably the accountability I needed to stay on track. I could earn points to help the team by eating healthy and getting in daily exercises and sleep. Days when I wanted to skip my 30 minutes of exercise, I would force myself to get it in for the team. Joy has similar challenges on the Today show. I really think this competitive environment and personal challenges help me keep on track. This year I'm planning on my 75 Mile bike ride to be a piece of cake.

For the first time in a LONG time I feel like the 175 is in my reach. That's a wonderful feeling.

One little side note on Joy Bauer: I have had the pleasure to meet Joy in person, and she is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING and the most genuine person you ever want to know. She is a go-getter and you can't help but be inspired by her energy. See Joy in action:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Elvis and Layoffs

What a difference a few weeks make! When we got back from Tennessee, all I was worried about was finishing my Elvis book, Careless Love by Peter Guralnick.

Then I got laid off.
Now, I was worried about finding a new job, money and all the things I had planned for the near future...Getting laid off wasn't what I had in mind for 2009. I just got myself in a good place. I'm losing weight, on dating sites, and just feeling good about life. WTF?????? Not this again.

Hope and inspiration from a small book...
So...I get this email from NYU for the launch event for the book called the World Wide Rave. My boss told me to do what I need to do to find another job, so I signed up figuring it was a networking opportunity. I was inspired by the various speakers, including author David Meerman Scott. While not really a networking event, it gave me hope for my future. The Internet is changing again...and after 10 years I'm still moving forward with it. Things started looking brighter.

Big lift from a small package

Then I get home to a shipment from my Book Angel. To my was LAST TRAIN TO MEMPHIS...another Elvis Book from the author of Careless Love. This was a follow up to another shipment of assorted reading from Book Angel... NICE...good day.

Another possible bright side...
Then I was visiting with my Aunt and Uncle, talking about my Cousin's wedding in California in June. My cousin Kim is driving back to New York, right after the wedding. Maybe I could drive back with her? Maybe... I like the sound of something to do...A few more spots to check off my list from 1001 places to visit before you die. Sounds okay to me.

Good News still shines through
Then I had a revelation. What if I could take some time and travel and maybe learn Spanish? An email and phone call later, I was speaking to the former principal of my high school, Sr. Lois and I was planning my trip to Chile. A few days later I got the good news. The nuns think this is a GREAT idea and they are happy to have me. Dreams coming true.

Then I called my cable company...Told them I got laid off. My bill was reduced to $99. A call to my credit card company had more good news. They told me that if I needed it, I just had to tell them that I need hardship support and I get 3 months with no interest. Plus I found out I had enough miles to go to Chile...Free.

Then my friend Tricia told me that the federal government will pay 65% of COBRA premiums for employees who are laid off from Sept. 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2009. The subsidy will extend for nine months. A big relief.

I think I found a Bright Side

So...No, not what I had in mind for 2009...but I am starting to think that the universe and God still has a plan for me. Just in case...I'll also pick up a copy of highly recommended book, Rebound by by Martha I. Finney. I'm not going to let this shitty economy bring me down!

It now time to start brushing up on Spanish with the Rosetta Stone, learning more about Chile and digging up my copy of The Secret.

More to come...

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Reader...good book...glad I didn't go see the movie.

Well, I just got back from a great vacation from Tennessee. I went to visit an old BookSpan (from back when it was Doubleday Book & Music Club) friend, Sheila. I traveled with another friend, and former BookSpan (aka Doubleday Direct) employee, Erika. (All this is irrelevant to my book review, just giving context.)

Anyway, after Madame Bovary, my reading material had dried up, so first thing after getting a sandwich at the airport, I stopped in the bookstore to pick up a good read.

I was drawn to Wally Lamb's book, THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED, but thought it was a bit too long for a vacation book (I DO plan to read it at some point).

So, I turned to the paperback bestsellers and there was THE READER by Bernhard Schlink. Two seconds later I was at the counter, making my purchase. Erika said to me, "Don't you just want to see the movie?" and I forgot my exact answer, but I pretty much said, "no."

I finished 80% of the book on the plane. Its a story of a young boy growing up in Europe in the 40's, who encounters this woman and they develop a strange relationship and he falls in love and they become each other's world, until one day she disappears. Years later, they are reunited under the strange circumstances...and the story unfolds from there.

Lots of sex, lots of reading...and that's about it. I am not quite sure how THE READER works as a movie, though I hear it got good reviews, but I think I am pretty happy with just reading the book. I left it in Tennessee with a rating of 3 of 5 stars.

"How was Tennessee," you ask??? Great. I had the best time ever. From the Peabody Hotel, watching the ducks march up a red carpet into a fountain, to Peanut Butter and Banana sandwiches at Graceland, hanging out at Sun Studios, to Fried Chicken at Gus's to a day trip to Nashville, a side trip to Walmart, and the Rock and Roll Hall of was FANTASTIC. I had lots of laughs with Sheila and Erika. And best of all, now I can check a few more items off my 1001 places to Visit Before You Die to-do list.

And...most important of all, I picked up my latest read...CARELESS LOVE: The unmaking of Elvis Presley.

I found this treasure in Sun Studios. Erika, Sheila and I stopped here right after Graceland. Its the studio where Elvis made his first recording and the home of many other singing greats. We liked the place so much, that after a fantastic tour, we hung out in the gift shop for another 30 minutes or so, and had coffee and ice cream shakes.

I had been searching for an Elvis biography in the shops at Graceland, but couldn't find anything good... While I was waiting for my shake to be made, I found this book and bought it on the spot.

I've been reading this book since I got home from Tennessee last week. The book references many of Elvis's songs and movies, and the best part of technology today is that at a click of a button, I can experience it all. Not only can I see how much weight Elvis gained from movie to movie, but I can hear how beautiful he sang a particular song the author mentioned. The book really comes to life with this extra media support from YouTube. It just takes me a little longer than if I tried to read the book straight through.

Here is my favorite clip of all...I only wish I could see the outtakes...

Dog's Life. - Watch the best video clips here