Friday, December 24, 2004

A Sven and Jamie Christmas

Christmas was wonderful. Sven and I spent a quiet evening on the 23rd to exchange presents. He cooked Hunafrikasee - my favorite german dish, and it was cold so we had a fire. And of course my new awesome Christmas tree made actually seem like Christmas. (Stockings will come next year.)

Sven was very cute with his gift. After a long session alone in the stratego-mess room, he emerged with a red form resembling a present. He immediately declared, "I have a rule for tonight. No jokes about other people's wrapping jobs." I sensed that the present was already pretty embarrassed about its appearance and agreed to the rule. Poor Sven. It was like the present had attacked him, and the only way to save himself was to clobber it with wrapping paper. In doing so, it was not possible to seal the box itself, which meant the flaps of the box were poking against the wrapping paper. It was actually very touching - it made me finally understand how parents can be so proud of the clumsy drawings their kids make for them.

But, as they say, its whats on the inside that counts. So true. The present turned out to be a mini-iPod!!! A pink mini-iPod. Sven scored BIG points on all 3 present-giving elements:
1.) It was something I really wanted, but wouldn't buy myself.
2.) I barely mentioned it to Sven, but he picked up on it anyway. This demonstrates that he actually pays attention to me when I talk. Also, it's my favorite color, which reinforces the idea that he pays attention to me.
3.) He had to special order it, which shows he planned it and was not just super-lucky.

Anyway, I'm obsessed with the iPod now. I love it even more than I thought I would. Its so awesome. After creating a huge mess in the living room with all my cd's and then forcing Sven to sit with me while I copied down music, I asked him if he was sorry he gave it to me. He said no, but that he might be a little bit sorry he let me move in with him. Bless his heart.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Christmas Tree

I bought a Christmas tree yesterday! I got it for 50% off. Supposedly the discount goes to 75% on the 23rd (which is when I get back from Phoenix anyway) so I could have waited. But, I didn't know if they would still have the one I liked and I didn't want to risk it. Even at 50% off, it was a major deal though.

Anyway, I set it up last night and it looks beautiful!! It came with tons of white lights, which is great. (I only have 9 ornaments.) I can't wait to go home again. Even Sven likes it, which is pretty surprising. Its 7.5 ft tall and Sven has this personal fear of excess. I felt like a little kid when I bought it - like when your mom has specifically instructed you NOT to do something and you do it anyway, knowing you will absolutely get caught. That's exactly how it was. Funny how things turn out. But, I guess its okay since Sven actually likes it.

Also, here's a little factoid I thought I'd toss out. Did you know that practically the rest of the world (or at least Germany) celebrates Christmas on the 24th? Weird, huh? I don't understand why we do it on a different day. And they open presents in the evening. That would have been so excruciating as a kid. Poor Sven.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Trail of Lights

Last night, Laura, Nancy, Sven and I did the trail of lights. This is fast becoming one of my favorite Christmas traditions. Its a 5k and you run through the Zilker Park Trail of Lights. A lot of people dress up, and everyone brings their kids and dogs.

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Friday, December 10, 2004

Congratulations to Laura and Dean!

The cat's out of the bag. Dean proposed to Laura last Saturday!! He set up a bench and table and potted a bunch of flowers on their land. Then he blindfolded Laura and drove her out there to watch the sunset. When they got there, they planted bluebonnets and had champagne and then he proposed. It was really sweet. So, CONGRATULATIONS guys!!! I'm so happy for you!

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I hope all your wishes come true :)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

New York Cont.

After Sven left, I had 2 days left in NYC by myself. I was really excited about these 2 days because it was my first chance ever to be in the city by myself and walk aimlessly. I could go to museums or shopping or just sit in coffee shops and read. Sven thought it was really weird as did one of his friends. They were like, "Why would you want to be there by yourself?" and made this face like Did you just eat a cockroach? I don't see anything strange about it though. Is this a difference between the sexes? I can easily imagine any of my girlfriends wanting to do the same.

Maybe I'll look it up. Sven has this book he calls the "Man/Woman Book". He used to talk about it a lot when we first started dating to explain things like how most women have to turn a map in the direction they're facing to be able to read it and that a company in the UK actually marketed special upside-down maps for women. (this example makes it sound biased, but its not.) I think it'll have an answer though.

Anyway, I've completely left my original topic behind. New York. Wednesday was stupid and rainy. Everything was dirty and gross, so I did stuff inside as much as possible. My first stop was the Museum of Natural History. This may have been my favorite museum of the trip. At first, I went to the biology part and they had all these dead stuffed animals and I thought it was pretty lame. I mean, because isn't it much more interesting to see them when they're alive, like at the zoo? And then I went to the fish part which was equally boring considering Sven and I recently went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

It got a lot better though. First, I have to say that even the stupid biology exhibits were really exceptional in the sheer artistry put into the displays. Here's an example:

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Other than that, they had a section about plantlife, and trees in particular. They had all of these cross-sections of trees and showed how they could tell what the environment had been like. It was pretty neat. And then they had this one cross-section that was HUGE!! We fell in love immediately and asked a stranger to take our picture together.

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The other interesting part was an exhibit about the evolution of humans. They had all these really old skeletons (which may have been replicas, I don't know) and so you could see how early human-like peoples were shaped. Like they had really long arms compared to the legs and the jaw protruded a lot, like a monkey's. And then they made these models so you could see how the outside evolved - they were so weird - I mean, they're not really humans, but they're not really monkeys either. Very strange. But, I've always sort of wondered how this happened so I enjoyed it.

By the time I got to the dinosaur stuff, I was about to pass out from hunger so I rushed through. Its not quite as interesting as when you're five anyway. Afterwards, I made my way to the Chelsea district and then to Macy's. The Christmas window displays at Macy's were very impressive, although none of my pictures came out very well.

I also wanted to see their Santa setup, but you had to go through this maze to see him. There was virtually no line, so I figured whenever I got to the build-up, I'd just take my picture of Santa and duck out. It paid off. All the stuff on the way is super neat. Of course, its just a cleverly disguised waiting line, but the whole thing is completely ingenious - when you finally get to where Santa is, he's not out in the open as usual. He's in a little room where nobody can see him. I think they have several rooms and several Santas to make the line go faster. I'm telling you, these people are smart.

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There is one thing thats a little weird though. The elves act in character all the time. Not knowing this, I approach them. I am an adult. I do not have a child with me. I just want to take a picture of a kid sitting on Santa's lap. I personally do not want to sit on Santa's lap. They are completely oblivious to all of my attempts to speak to them as a normal human being. They smile really big at me and everything they say is an exclamation!! "You have to go through the North Pole to see Santa!!!" "Come right this way, Santa has been waiting for you!!" Man, I felt so stupid. How dumb does that make me, an adult, all by myself, with no kids to visit Santa.

But, I'd come this far, so I was going to get my stupid picture of Santa. And so its my turn and the elf takes me to one of the Santas and then they expect me to sit on his lap. Santa role plays too. Santa: "Boy, I sure haven't seen YOU in a long time!!" Yeah Santa, its been awhile. It was probably before I had grandkids. "So, tell me! Have you been Naughty? Or Nice!" I'm sitting on some guy, not my boyfriend's lap, but whatever. I've been very Nice Santa. "Whoa Ho Ho Ho! That's very good!! Now, tell me! What would you like for Christmas?" A patio set. "Woah Ho Ho Ho!! My how your tastes have changed!! Ho Ho Ho!! I will put it on my list!" (Notice he does not promise to bring me a patio set.) Thank you Santa. Then the elf took my picture and I left as fast as I could.

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So, overall, it was spectacular but mortifying. I would also like to add that the Macy Elves would be well-advised to put a bathroom in along the way.

Thursday was my last day. It was a beautiful, clear day, so I walked to through Central Park to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). I got a couple good pics in CP. The guys with the dogs followed me and sang "Pretty Woman" which I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed.

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I love this picture of the little girls. I guess they thought they had to smile the whole time, and so they did.

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When I finally got to MOMA, it was more than a little disappointing. It was by far the most expensive museum - $20. And what I realized is that I just don't get it. The whole time I kept wondering, Who looked at this painting and thought it was so great that other people should pay $20 to be able to look at it???

And then they had the weird shit. Like an old chair on a platform. How is this art? I have an old chair at home and nobody spends a lot of time looking at it. I don't know. I really don't think these people should be called artists. They should be called Opinionists. And based on the fact I had no idea what their opinion was, I don't think they're very good Opinionists. And therefore they should not charge $20 to let people in. They should donate all that old crap to Goodwill like the rest of us.

It didn't get much better after that. I went to the Empire State Building and the line turned out to be super long and it wrapped so many times you had no idea how much longer it was. Also, it was so crowded that it was super hot and everyone was sweating. To top it off, they put in an extra wait by making you stop on this one floor so you could look at their stupid merchandise. And then of course you had to stop again on the way down, and wait in another line. The view was great, but I'm not sure its worth all the crap.

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And that was pretty much it. I guess it ended on a little bit of a bad note, but overall we had a great time.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Hood Rat

Okay, so it was a long time coming, but I'm finally in New York. A couple of years ago, I heard this hood version of Santa Baby and it talks about New York at Christmastime - so ever since, I've really wanted to come here and see the tree and window displays.

However, it turns out that about a million other people have the same desire, so its impossible to find a place to stay for less than $300/night. Which means, Sven and I are staying in Harlem. I didn't realize it was harlem when I booked it. I just thought it was a really good deal because its a guesthouse and the woman who owns it didn't advertise very much. Which is probably partly true. But, then Nancy told me I'd probably witness a drive-by and I got a little nervous.

I checked in my guidebook and the cross-street we're at is actually shown in the upper-west side map, not the harlem map. Which of course made me feel a little better. It wasn't until I got on the subway and all the other white people got off at 96th street that I really truly knew I was staying in Harlem. I'd never felt so different or alone in my whole life.

But, anyway, it hasn't been too bad. We're staying right off Malcolm X Blvd, which is the main street here, so I think its fairly safe. There's actually a pretty nice shopping area only a few blocks up with Starbucks and everything. And, the woman gave us a nicer room so we have a private bath and kitchenette :) :) Plus it has free wireless internet and its only a few blocks from the main North/South line. All in all, a very good deal.

So, what have we been up to? Well, of course we went to Rockefeller center first thing and also to Sak's to see the decorations. I really wanted to go ice-skating, but the line is about 10 miles long so we didn't. And also, we went last year in Berlin, and although it should have been very romantic, my feet were so cold that it really wasn't.

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On Saturday, we got up early enough to buy tickets to Broadway and just miss admission to both the Statue of Liberty and United Nations. So, we had a wonderful dinner at a very sweet little Italian restaurant and then saw 42nd Street. The show was fantastic - I really enjoyed it and I think Sven did too. (He would have preferred Democracy, but it was sold out. But, of course I got a history lesson anyway.)

Sunday, we went back to the Statue of Liberty and this time got to actually take the Ferry. It may have been a blessing in disguise as the sky was much clearer and the weather was a lot warmer. The Statue of Liberty was quite impressive, as was the astonishing number of untalented photographers on the island. Thank God for Japanese tourists or else I wouldn't have a decent picture to post.

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We have several amputee versions of the picture with Sven and me. And, while I'm on it - what is it that is so hard about framing a picture??? Yes, I want the arm and the torch. Yes, I want the star on top of the tree. Based on our recent attempts to have strangers take our pictures, my guess is that only about 1 in 10 people know how to use a camera. Maybe slightly less, since a lot of times when you ask a couple to take your picture, one of them hands it over to the "better" photographer who takes an amazingly horrible shot.

After that, we headed over to the Guggenheim, which is currently featuring the Aztec collection. At first I tried really hard to be humbled by these primitive carvings, but then I found a book that told what the pieces were used for, and realized that it was all completely revolting anyway. I'd tell you what it said, but its pretty gross. After that I spent most of time looking at Picasso's. btw, I had no idea Picasso was so recent!! He didn't die until 1972. I always thought he was from a long time ago.

Oh, and then we went to an authentic German restaurant. heeheehee. Sven said the food was authentic, but he didn't feel represented. Poor guy.

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The real highlight was on the subway though. You all know Sven and I are big Law and Order fans, right? Well, we saw a real police crew asking this guy questions. "Have you seen this man?" "When's the last time you saw him?" "What time was it?" It was just like the show.

And today, we went back to the United Nations and took a tour. The building is not quite as impressive as one might expect, but its about 50 years old. There are some pretty amazing art works though, which were given by other countries. There's this one sculpture that was given by China - it was carved out of 6 pieces of ivory and took 98 workers 2 years to create. Other than that, the tour is mostly educational - but in a good way.

Afterwards, Sven and I disagreed about foreign policy for awhile and walked home. Then it was time for him to leave :( :( :( I am very sad, but at least I see him again on thursday.

Its still rainy and cold outside, so I'm going to stay in tonight. I forgot to bring my charger, so I can't stay long on the internet :(