Friday Five

1. Coming back to New York City after a longish vacation is a bit like re-entry from outer space. If you’ve ever seen Apollo 13, you know what I mean. There’s that scene where the space capsule hits the earth’s atmosphere while flames threaten to disintegrate its heat shield. The capsule plunges into the Pacific Ocean and the discombobulated astronauts open the hatch blinking in the blinding sunlight. Somehow in the week and a half since I’ve been away, I’d forgotten about climbing the 4 flights of stairs to my apartment with enough luggage to make Paris Hilton jealous, forgotten about parking 2 avenues away, forgotten about the San Gennaro festival in Little Italy tying up traffic for hours, forgotten the potholed streets and orange cones blocking lanes for no apparent reason. I finally found a parking space and shook it off, glad to finally be home.

2. A reported tornado hit the Brooklyn / Queens area last week. I caught the news clip while still in Tennessee. The images on t.v. made it look like the end of days, people running and screaming. What was frustrating was that the news never mentioned which neighborhoods were affected. I was trying to figure it out by the kinds of houses in the clips: brownstones = close to home, detached clapboards = farther away. I got back to find quite a few trees and large branches down and some trees that were so damaged, they will probably need to come down, but for the most part the neighborhood was intact.  I expected the plants on my fire escape to be mauled, but they too were still there waiting for me, save for the basil. The basil had been blown down one flight outside my neighbor’s window. Bizarre.

3. In a complete about-face shocker, Oprah chose as her latest book club selection Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. As I mentioned in this post, Franzen single handedly brought her book club to a screeching halt when she picked The Corrections. He refused to follow the Oprah game plan, causing her to select only dead authors’ books for years afterward. It seems that this time Franzen is going to allow Oprah to put the book club logo on the jacket of his book. He’s even going to appear on the show to discuss the book. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during that conversation.

4. Cows don’t have front teeth. How do I know this? I hand fed one while I was in Tennessee. I offered up a hunk of bread. Sarah, the cow, stuck her large, rough tongue out, which seemed to reach all the way to Nashville. She curled it around the bread and my hand. She swallowed just as I slid my arm  covered in cow saliva out of her gaping mouth. Luckily my watch was still functional.

5. At the beginning of the summer, I wrote a post about my top reads and one of my choices was Three Cups of Tea. I’d written that “some books transport you to another place and time, and some make you think about the world in a new way. This book does something few can do. It makes you want to be a better person.” I have another one to add to that category. Half the Sky, written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is about the seminal moral dilemma of our generation, one that you may not even realize exists: the worldwide abuse and exploitation of women, which the authors categorize as sex trafficking, maternal health, and  violence/honor killings. The statistics are astounding, the stories heartbreaking. It’s both an awakening about a subject so marginalized and a call to action. But it’s also an inspiring testament to these women’s courage and resilience. They filled my heart. After reading their stories, it’s shameful for me to complain that I don’t have enough money or my apartment isn’t big enough.  Women for Women International and Kiva allow you to find a woman who needs sponsorship to help her expand her fruit stand or buy another goat or take classes. Read it. Share it. Do something.

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