Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Valuable Stuff in the wake of Hurricane #Sandy.

We are lucky more didn't get damaged in the Heights

I feel very fortunate to get past this storm without any major problems. I feel even luckier that everyone in my family is doing well. Its times like these that we begin to really see how frail we, human beings, are when up against a massive force like Hurricane Sandy. It gives me the time to search for clarity and understanding that life can be very short indeed.

A few days before Sandy hit, my sister in law called me concerned with the things I put in storage in her basement when I moved. In the past, water has gotten down there when it has rained hard. There was a serious expectation that water was going to be plentiful with all the rain. There are few things in there that would probably be damaged. The things of value that I do have there are most likely protected in there own right. For example, I have tons of comic books...and yes they are in cardboard boxes but, they are each individually wrapped in plastic. I wasn't too worried about that. However, I am sure there are other things that are in there that probably would get damaged or destroyed.

The thing is...this is just stuff. It is hard to explain it as such, but material things are great but what value do they really have? If I'm meant to have it then I will have it. Sometimes terrible things happen as we were all witnesses to during this devastating storm. I put my car in a garage because I didn't want the only tree in Washington Heights to land on it. Any items that are ultra personal or are just about priceless to me, I have with me. So anything in a storage box that I may not readily use, may not be of too much value.

As I watched on TV, what is left of Atlantic City, The Jersey Shore, and Lower Manhattan, I wondered to myself how did I get this way? People are crushed by the lost of their property and material assets. I'm not sure if I would be that upset. Yes, I know that if my house was destroyed while I was still in Syracuse I would be very upset, but I cannot help but wonder, in the back of my mind, if something like was a blessing in disguise. There is a scene in Fight Club where the narrator loses all his possessions and as he wonders what he is going to do with his life, Tyler Durden simply states, "Things that you own, end up owning you." (Yes, I've said this before)

This year it just seemed to me that I have been relinquishing more and more stuff from my life. It started with the sale of the house, then the moving to the new apt in Syracuse, then the moving to NYC, and if I am lucky...the moving to a new apt. The moving process is always a long a tedious one because there is need to make those decisions on whether to keep something or throw it out. This type of consolidation is just easier if you think about possessions as just stuff that might fluctuate in value depending how old you are.

Yet, the last item of value that I really lost was my glasses off the shores of Fire Island this past summer. It took me a few days to just get over something that was just made out of plastic. Of course, I held them to a higher value because they made me see better, but in the long run, I could live without them. But, then I think about Rocky and he is just about as invaluable to me as any comic book I have. 

Human life is one of the most valuable things on this planet. We squander it in such obscene ways and we wonder where it all went when get older or even close to death. There are some people that don't believe in the value of life and there are some people who "believe" in it so much they ignore science for religion. So when it come to the "stuff" that I have, none of it is all that important in the long run. I cannot take these things with me when I die and 9 times out of 10, material things are replaceable. People, however, are never replaceable.

I am just glad to be safe and all my family members are accounted for. I pray for those who lost loved ones as well their worldly possessions. I never checked on the stuff in my brother's basement and I'm not sure it really matters anyway because the ones that I truly value are still here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Syracuse's Last Laugh

The best thing about being an event planner is this acute perception of the larger world. The reason is because one has to plan for anything and everything. If something goes wrong, there must be a Plan B. So, needless to say that when it came time to move from Syracuse to New York City, I had to make sure that I had a plan in place to make sure that I can survive until pay day…even if that pay day is on Halloween.

If you recall, I made my announcement on August 8th and I left Syracuse on September 16th. I had about 4-5 weeks to plan my return. I needed to make sure my move was carefully planned with the packing of all my stuff and the throwing away of the things I didn't want. I also had ensure where I was going to stay and make sure, as well as have enough money to survive. All these things were done and I thought of everything, at least, that is what I thought.

I knew a while ago that once I leave SU that I was going to have to take money out of my 403b. I needed to be able to replace an lost income so I can do things like eat. I would hate to have to borrow the money or have to rely on anyone. Besides, the plan was full proof. I would not have to miss a payment on any of bills and I would be straight. 

The Plan was simple. Fill out some paperwork right before my last day and just wait for the check. Now, I understood that there were going to be some small hang ups. First, I could not do direct deposit because I changed my bank along time ago and when I opened a new checking account a few years back, I never ordered checks. So, instead of ordering a new check book with a Syracuse address, I just decided to have them send the money to my old house and then have my buddy mail it to me. Of course, the question is…why do I not simply change my address? (I am glad you asked). 

The process of changing your address and it getting verified takes three weeks, which was more than I was willing to wait, yet hindsight being 20/20, I suppose I should have. But, I still went with my gut because this was very good plan to me. I had already planned the move so getting paycheck after I get to NYC was going to just complete my master plan and make me feel comfortable until I starting getting my regular checks.

Well a funny thing happened in Syracuse. You see, I never got my check from TIAA Cref. I found it hard to believe that this could be there fault. I followed their process to the letter. But, every time I called my buddy, the check was never in the mail. So what was I to do but call the company that wrote the check in the first place? As expected, they tell me that the they sent out the check, but what I didn't expect was for them to tell me that it was returned by… THE SYRACUSE POST OFFICE. 

The lady had the envelope in front of her when she read it to me. It stated that my former address was an "undeliverable address." I was flabbergasted. The lady was almost beginning to wonder if my address was real and I had to assure that it was. I told her a funny joke about this whole thing was that I did get mail from TIAA Cref that same week because I had my buddy send me some of mail down and what I got was some retirement benefits information. That alone tells me that if I can get those damn booklets, then I should be getting this check.

Her suggestion was to call the Syracuse Post Office that handles my mail. Of course, I called the main branch in the area which is located on Teal Ave. I have been there several times when it had to do with buying the house and making sure they knew I was the owner of the property. I spoke to (what I believe is) the Post Master and I explained the situation. He tells me that the US Postal Service would never just send any piece of mail back (really? tell me more). The person who is ultimately responsible for doing this is the individual mail carrier. 

So he puts me on hold after I give him my address so he can check what is going on. After some time, he comes back and informs me that my address is valid (I was shocked). I told him that I need this check and that I am getting another one mailed out. I was reassured that there should be no problem. I call TIAA Cref back to say that the address is all good. So I have to do the one thing that I really did not want to do and that was wait and survive. But, of course, the best laid plans never take idiots into account.

That was 2 weeks ago. They sent the check back... again. While I want to be so angry at this whole situation, I can't help but think that the city of Syracuse wanted to make sure that they got their last laugh on me. Do not get me wrong, I love my alma mater, but the city itself has just wore out its welcome with me. Just the idea that it can take them more than 15 years to try to expand that mall was enough for me.

So Syracuse can have that laugh, I have already made arrangements with direct deposit and the money that I am waiting for will be put to better use. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Political Jokes are on US.

Maybe this is what we need...

You know, I laugh because we are indeed at a pinnacle point in our history. Well, at least in the time I have been alive. I can say that because this election is that important. I laugh because it seems like politics have become so extreme. You are either on one side or the other and those sides are so far apart that it makes it hard to really have a critical debate on things. I laugh because people can be married to the lies that are told and are not willing to hear the truth…not matter what that is.

No politician is perfect. No US President has been perfect. Each one of them had chinks in their armor. You can look at Lincoln, Kennedy, Reagan, FDR, Bush(s), Clinton, and Nixon as just a few examples of what can be good or bad depending on history or party affiliation. For every good thing they do, the opposing party will give you a list of things they did horribly. In many cases, each party will talk about some of these eras being dark ones and there was a need for America "to get back on track." Yet, for the most part, the rich remain the rich, the poor are still poor, and the middle class just remains in the middle.

I laugh because there is a joke somewhere in there. A joke that not many of us get and one I may not fully understand myself. Maybe the joke is that nothing really ever gets better perhaps everything is an ebbs and flows. Maybe the joke is that no matter how much we fight, one class of people with get taxed; the middle class or the rich and yet the poor will remain largely ignored. What is almost funny is how the liberals want to help the unfortunate and the conservatives find it unfortunate that people can't help themselves.

The fact is most people are like sheep because no one really thinks critically anymore. They just assume that if something is said by someone in government then it must be true. If things are in History books than it must be true. There was a time when a politician lied and was proven wrong by a fact checker that this individual would lose points in the polls but we live in a bizaro world where the President is Black and his stature is always questioned. Sure, we all called George W dumb and Bill Clinton a womanizer, but there was a level of respect you gave to the position. Yet, Obama seems to get less respect than either and he is smart and a happily married man!

Sure, one can say that Bush had shoes thrown at him and we giggled, but that was not in America. I can guarantee that all us had at least seen one picture of Barak Obama as a monkey or in a noose. I dare anyone to try to defend that. Yet, that is another joke that conservatives do not get. No matter how hard you work, the color of your skin will always be a factor. I mean, I am sure you can point to Oprah Winfrey and say that she is a success, however she is just one "nigger" slur away from the rest of us.

We are indeed at an interesting time. Am I the only one who has noticed that being poor has been deemed as a burden to the rest of society? Apparently, coming across hard times quickly turns to an unwillingness to work so the they can get free healthcare and food stamps. The best part of this joke is that socialism is constantly being shouted out by people because taxing the rich (plus giving a break to the middle class) and using that money to help others is wrong. But if you use the conservative model of taxing the middle class while giving breaks to the rich to use that money to help others is the correct model!

I am quite sure there conservatives will say that the wealthy getting breaks helps big business create jobs, but the thing is I do not buy that idea because people who have money love to keep money. Yet, governmental programs have to be paid for…who is gonna pay for it? (Hint: You) Either that, or the deficit increases. Notice one really says who we owe money to (besides China).

Finally, I laugh because the joke is really on us. Most of us go through life not paying attention to the things that are happening around us. Most of us are distracted by the house/basketball wise, the jersey shores, the dancing stars, the iphone/ipads, facebook, and fantasy sports to realize that our society is getting dumber, fatter, and sicker. And while all that is happening, you have a political party that trying its hardest to restrict the elderly and the minorities the right to vote in battle ground states. Democrat and Republicans must agree that is wrong.

Maybe…just maybe, the real joke is that we are no longer a society in which race matter maybe it is all about class; about the haves and the have nots.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

LBC 2012 Day 6 - Immigration: For or Against?

American Progress by John Gast
is an allegorical representation of the modernization of the new west.
(Let me preface this whole challenge by saying that I know that I am late….but this is me catching up)

This entire immigration debate makes me laugh. Throughout the course of American History, the US has had no problem declaring how much of a melting pot this nation is. You can go to Ellis Island and see the list of names of all the people who crossed our boarders looking for a better life. One can also go back into history and realize that our entire country is basically built on the fact that people from other nations have to come to this land to claim a place to call home.

From the moment European settlers came to this land and decimated the original people who lived here, there has been this debate about people who are crossing boarders. Yet, it has been Americans who have crossed boarders and called it the Western Expansion or the Manifest Destiny. This was our country's view of expanding or realm of freedom by driving out the Native Americans and pushing Mexicans south.

Our views of immigration become very convoluted with modern rhetoric about people who come to this country and take American Jobs. Most of time, the media puts a face behind these "immigrants" and those just happen to belong to Latinos (Mexicans to be more specific). Yet, there is very little attention paid to other types of immigrants that may be lighter in skin tone as if most immigrants who are European know exactly what they are doing.

The problem with the belief of jobs being taken is the simple fact that most of the jobs that these undocumented immigrants are mostly working are jobs that many Americans do not want anyway. Fruit Picking? House Keeping? Sure, the argument is that undocumented workers are willing to work for less thus pushing down the wages and making that job unattractive to the US Worker, but isn't that the fault of the people who are signing the checks? They are the ones who want to make more profit. And let's just say that these places do stop hiring these immigrants and just hire Americans for higher wages, the price of that product or service increases and then we will really complain.

My real issue with this whole idea of just pushing everyone out comes down to the issue of judgement. Many people assume that all undocumented immigrants are in this country for a negative reason. Not everyone has the same story. This need to lump everyone into one thing becomes very discriminatory and of course, in America, that is not surprising.

I am for immigration because this country was founded by immigrants. But, when history is written in a certain way that celebrates people like Columbus for "discovering" a country that was already populated then it is no surprise that the fight for immigration becomes a bloody one.

Friday, October 5, 2012

That Crazy Life!

This NYC life is crazy. Many people ask me if things have changed since the last time I lived here and at the moment, all I can say is no. Perhaps the fact that I have visited the city enough to understand its evolution over the last 11 years. The main thing that has changed has been the names of stores but that is the type of evolution that comes with cities. People come and go in the big city and so do businesses.

Transit seems the same to me. No matter how fancy it gets with it's metrocards and computerized announcements, mass transit will always remain the same. There will always be someone asking for money in between stops. There will always be some delay that will hold up your trip. However, buses seems to have changed. They are bigger and come a little bit more frequently than I recall. I will admit that even though I am stating this, I am not in the Bronx waiting for the ill timed Bx 39.

Yet this life is crazy because there is now so much to do and not enough time at the moment to do them. If I thought I was busy in Syracuse with work, being at Barnard is only busier due to all the stuff that I am learning and doing. Days are flying by and I just realizing that this is the end of my second week work AND I left SU 3 weeks ago. That is crazy to me.

If there is one thing that I am struggling with, it is this thing that I have deemed "Parking Wars". Every few days (expect on weekends), I have to move my car because of alternate side of the street rules. For those not familiar, the city cleans the streets on certain days at certain times. If you do not move, then that is a ticket for you. If you park in place you are not supposed to (like in front of a school on school days), then you will be towed.

This is should sound all very simple if not for the fact that I live in a city where parking is like gold. Not to mention that they are multiple ways to lose this war. There are days when alternate side parking rules are suspended. Those days are normally holidays but more frequently is it Jewish holidays that last two days. Most Jewish holidays mean that public schools are off. I emphasize most because if you make that mistake (like I did) thinking that Sukkot (a Jewish Holiday) meant that all schools were closed, then your car WILL be towed (like mine did).

I wont event talk about how people squat parking spaces for others. There is one lady that thinks she is slick by holding her spot for this guy (again, I am NOT getting into it) Despite this crazy life, I am doing well. I will figure out the car situation. For better or worse, it is a reason to get up early in the morning sometimes. It also gives me a reason to drive since I do not do that as much.

The craziest thing so far has been a surprise welcome back party thrown by former students of mine 2 weeks ago. That took me for such a loop. I never saw it coming. It was nice to see these young adults now having to deal with life outside of school. We all left at a decent time because they had to work the next which I cannot help but smile about. It is crazy to know that I have an established network here.

I wont consider myself full settle until November. That is when this NYC life will finally settle in for me.


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