Friday Five

1. Usually my Christmas gifts fall into one of two categories: It Was On My List and It’s The Thought That Counts. This year, my mom surprised me with a great gift: a Keurig coffee maker. I’d been looking at them but in my postage stamp apartment, it seemed like it would take up too much precious counter space. Voila! They make a compact version that fits right under the cabinet. I’ve had about 23 cups of coffee trying different flavors. I hope they make decaf.

2. B-L-I-Z-Z-A-R-D. After having the first white Christmas in my memory (in Tennessee no less!) that same storm dumped about 15 inches of snow in Brooklyn . Luckily Reggie and I drove so I didn’t have long airport lines in my future. I was telling everyone in Tennessee that New York is always well prepared – salting the day before a big storm and then running plows every hour or so as the snow comes down. So wasn’t I surprised to find when I got back to the neighborhood three days later, that several streets hadn’t been plowed, including mine. After a 14-hour drive I started to get nervous when I was waiting behind a Fed Ex truck stuck in a drift. In true Brooklyn fashion the neighborhood guys came out of the woodwork to offer helpful advice to the driver. People were parked perpendicular to the curb. I finally found a sketchy spot on the main drag about 5 feet from the curb – a spot sure to cause you to lose your side mirrors – in what is usually a meter. So my car might not be there when I get back but at least I didn’t have to dig it out of a 4-foot snow drift.


Tow truck pulling a snow plow out of a drift totals a car parked on the street.

3. On long drives, I like to listen to audio books. I mean, I can only scream Aerosmith’s “Dream On” for so many miles. This trip, I picked two by Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers and What the Dog Saw. Outliers is predicated on one question: why do some people succeed, living productive and impactful lives, while others never reach their potential? (The fact that I’m trying to get some insight into my own pitiful life has not escaped me.) Gladwell doesn’t believe in the “self-made man,” instead trying to prove that success can be predicted by factors that are out of one’s control. For example, nearly all pro hockey players are born between January and June, pilots from certain countries are much more likely to crash, and New York’s most powerful lawyers are descendants of Jewish garment workers, almost without exception. Gladwell is thorough, and by the end it’s enough to make you despair, if say you’re a hockey player born in December (You have no chance of making it in the pros, he says.)  or a Korean pilot (Your sense of cultural hierarchy makes you prone to having a crash.).

What the Dog Saw is a collection of Gladwell’s New Yorker articles where he has been a staff writer since 1996. The articles are incredibly quirky, ranging in subject matter from how Heinz ketchup has been able to remain the market leader for so long to the complexity of hair dye advertisements. Gladwell is such an engaging writer he makes even the nuances of the difference between panicking and choking interesting, but sometimes not interesting enough for me. It was easy for me to zone out for long stretches – not a good thing when you’re behind the wheel. It’s a great cocktail party book based on his impressive ability to tell a story and connect it to our everyday lives.

4. Ringing in the New Year. I’ll be watching the ball drop from a friend’s living room. (You didn’t think that I was going to Times Square, did you?) But if you’re into something a little more…unusual, do I have the answer for you. Mt. Olive, NC hosts the Pickle Drop. Yes, a giant green pickle, completely lit, cascades down a wire at the stroke of midnight. Can’t get to Mt. Olive? No worries. You can watch streaming video broadcast live! If pickles aren’t your thing, how about a 12-foot, 200-lb piece of bologna? That’s happening in Lebanon, PA, home of bologna (?). If you’re not into a food drop, how about a pirate wench? You read that correctly. I can personally vouch for this, having been to Key West on New Year’s Eve long ago. In a salute to the island’s seafaring heritage, a pirate wench descends down a ship’s mast as the clock hits 12:00. It was enough to make me order another Jack on the rocks. Thar she blows!

5. It’s the last day of 2010, in the strange but glorious lull between Christmas and New Year’s, and with my 43-pound lap dog stretched out on my legs as I type, it seems natural to take a look back at the year, what I’ve accomplished, what I haven’t, make resolutions for the next year. Actually I don’t really make resolutions because I find them too easy to break. A few years ago I wanted to “be nicer to people” and I’m sure you’re not surprised to learn that I broke that on January 2 when a guy kept holding the subway doors open. Now I’d rather set intentions: focusing on shaping my life to my vision of my future rather than the lack of something or giving up something. The idea goes that if you make a resolution to stop smoking, you have less conviction than if you set an intention to be healthier. Then you’re not giving something up, you’re bringing positivity into your life every day.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. I’m sending you good energy for a joyous 2011. May it be the year that all of our intentions come true.


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