Monday, June 27

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Eighty-six years old and stricken by all sorts of medical conditions ... but he sure doesn't look it, does he? Had you been there and heard his voice, you too would have known that the Rev. Billy Graham's strength came not from medicine or nutrition or even his trusty walker or specially-conditioned podium. Words cannot describe the experience of hearing the love that flowed from this man of God, so I'll just stop here.

Photo by James Estrin, The New York Times

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
And to think -- this is just a fraction of the people who showed up at the park to hear Billy Graham. Even in New York -- or perhaps especially in New York -- Billy Graham's message was welcomed with open arms and hearts, even on a sweltering summer weekend. Such a simple message, how could one ignore it? Jesus loves you, so just come.

Photo by Gregory Bull, Associated Press

Saturday, June 25


The Reverend Billy Graham ... I got to see him at his crusade after all. What a wonderful man, what a wonderful evening. Would say more, but am so, so, so sleepy. God bless us, everyone.

Friday, June 24


So, there was an article in The New York Times this morning reporting that Connecticut Governor Rell is authorizing state troopers to assist Hartford's police force in stemming the increasing tide of shootings in that not-so-illustrious city, the very same city in which Teams All-In, East/West and Cesar Salad with Chicken faced their athletic demons. Naturally, I had to inform my compatriots of the real character of the city we conquered, and here, displaying the true wit and self-deprecation I've come to love about these men, are some of their insightful responses:

"Dodging bullets probably would've helped me improve my time."

"Hearing gunshots would've made us run/bike/row a little faster."

"I guess that's why there is no night-time adventure racing in Hartford."

It's that kind of day, and this is the kind of mood I'm in. Thanks to Wonger for fueling my Friday chill groove ...

1. What time did you get up this morning? 6:30 a.m.

2. Diamonds or pearls? Neither, but if I had to choose, square diamonds.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? "Star Wars, Episode 3."

4. What is your favorite TV show? Recently ... "Lost" and "Alias."

5. What did you have for breakfast this morning? An oatmeal/yogurt cereal bar and hot coffee.

6. What is your middle name? Ain't got one.

7. What is your favorite cuisine? Hmmm ... does Korean food count as "cuisine?" If not ... I really pretty much like everything: Spanish, French, Mexican, Indian, Thai, etc.

8. What is your favorite chip flavor? Sour cream and cheddar.

9. What is your favorite CD at the moment? "Tonight, Not Again: Jason Mraz Live at Eagles Ballroom, 2004"

10. What kind of car do you drive? Good Girl, a silver Toyota 4Runner.

11. Favorite sandwich? Italian combo with extra hot peppers on a roll ... or chicken salad with bacon, honey mustard and lettuce.

12. What characteristics do you despise? Elitism ... racism ... sexism ... unwarranted stupidity ... laziness ... close-mindedness hidden beneath the veil of "liberalism" ... constant immaturity stemming from pure unwillingness to grow up (as opposed to just running around and screaming because it's just fun to do sometimes).

13. Favorite item of clothing? Low-slung cropped pants and a tank top.

14. If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go? I've been dying to go to London for the longest time ... or a return trip to St. Petersburg in the winter ...

15. What color is your bathroom? White. And I want to change it.

16. Favorite brand of clothing? J.Crew. I'm a total J.Crew sloot.

17. Where would you retire? The Upper West Side of Manhattan.

18. Favorite time of day? Early morning, like real early, when no one else is up and I'm able to hang with the chirpy birds and a cup of coffee and think "this day is full of possibility."

19. What was your most memorable birthday? Last year -- the surprise party that actually and finally was a surprise.

20. Favorite sport to watch? Yankee baseball. Is there any other kind?

21. Favorite Movie? "The Sound of Music" ... "Moulin Rouge" ... "The Godfather" ... "Napoleon Dynamite" ... "When Harry Met Sally" ... "Schindler's List" ... "The Usual Suspects" ...

22. What fabric detergent do you use? Tide Unscented.

23. Are you a morning person or night owl? I am more and more becoming a morning person, despite my desperate attempts to remain a night owl ...

24. What is your shoe size? 5.5 shoes; 6 sneakers.

25. Do you have any pets? Hahaha, you must be joking. I merely covet other people's pets. I am not nearly capable enough to care for my own.



From The Daily Dirt ...

1. Would you rather be a musician or an actor? Can't I be both? Everyone's doing it ... but I'd be MUCH better than J.Lo, Lindsay Lohan, and all the other powder puffs put together, natch. But alright, if I have to choose, I choose "actress." I can't write music OR songs, and I won't stand for critics accusing me of being incompetent and fluffy.

2. Would you rather have a son or a daughter? Provided I can have the other one later, I'd rather have a daughter.

3. Pub or a club for you? Pub. I'm waaaaay too frumpy for a club.

4. Country or city life? Sigh. That's it. I have to say it out loud and admit it to myself: COUNTRY LIFE.

5. Would you rather die in a road accident or be murdered? What the ... alright, I confess I sometimes think about this, and I think I'm going to have to say "road accident." The likelihood of my body being identified is higher, and the possibilities of assault, rape, robbery, kidnapping and/or not being found for a very very long time are almost nonexistent. Whatever lessens the agony for my family is good enough for me.

Thursday, June 23


Last night, our care group discussion centered on Jesus' miracles: why He performed them, for whom He performed them, when He performed them. As an introduction to this study, the question was posed: If you could be any super-hero and have any super-power, who would you be and what would your powers be, and what would you name yourself?

The replies were varied and hilarious. There was SpiderBat, a lethal (but kind, of course) combination of Spiderman/Peter Parker and Batman/Bruce Wayne. There was Rain, the female embodiment of nearly all of the X-Men characters and their powers. There was Ranger (NOT "Ranger Jay," which evokes a whole different genre), who had the power to fly and heal wounded animals. There was InvisibleDashYoda, or just DashYoda for short, who had the wisdom of Yoda, the speed of Dash and ... well, was just also invisible. There was Inertia, who had the power to pull, repel and react to the kinetic energy emitted by forces around him, until he met his tragic end in suicide because his powers grew too strong. There was me, who simply wanted to be Sydney Bristow from "Alias," a well-trained young woman who was smart, strong and kicked the bad guys' butts to save the world over and over again.

After the study was over, after we had studied Jesus' miracles of healing the woman who had been hemmorhaging for twelve years, turning water into wine at a wedding feast, casting out demons that had been using human bodies to terrorize the neighbors, making lepers' bodies whole and clean, feeding 5,000 hungry people with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, and raising a man's beloved daughter from death, another question was asked: Why did no one want to have the super-powers of possessing ultimate compassion, healing the sick, feeding the poor, righting wrongs and bringing justice and salvation to the nations?

I actually had thought of these powers, these miraculous powers. I had almost voiced them, but for some reason, felt foolish and idealistic, like a goody-goody, so I kept quiet and came up with Sydney Bristow instead (the next best thing, right?). But after the question was asked, and I slept on the indictment overnight, I woke up to the thought that the other reason I hadn't voiced the desire to possess these super-powers was this: some part of me, some major part of me, doesn't believe that such miracles can be performed now.

Somehow, I recognized, I had become a person who thought that it was more likely that I could perform covert operations on behalf of my government, wearing hundreds of different disguises, shooting dozens of different kinds of guns, rappelling down all sorts of high-rise buildings, killing all manner of bad guys, and saving the world from nuclear destruction twenty times over, than that I could, with the power of Christ, stamp out hunger, end human suffering and injustice, and bring peace and love to Creation.

How shameful. I am so embarrassed that I would think that one completely unreal and impossible scenario was so reachable and attainable, and that the other proven, achieved and attained scenario was not so. What a sad state of the world, that such goodness and satisfaction seem so far-fetched, and what a sad state of me, that I would not recognize the hope that is in Christ and strive to achieve it, no matter the expense to myself or the loftiness of the goal towards which I run.

Wednesday, June 22


For when you're bored at the office: Overheard in the Office.

Tuesday, June 21

A GOOD MAN . . .

The Reverend Billy Graham speaks this weekend at Flushing Meadows Park. It will be one of the greatest regrets of my life that I won't be able to see him speak, probably for the last time in this area. Let it not be one of yours. Go!


The Rev. Billy Graham, 86 years old and ailing, made his first New York appearance in years at a news conference today to promote his three-night crusade in Queens that begins on Friday. He expressed pleasure that what might be the final crusade of his 68-year ministry had returned him to the city that had helped make him famous, a city he said still sorely needed help to heal the wounds of Sept. 11, 2001.

While clearly a shadow of his fiery, fast-talking self, Mr. Graham spoke for 20 minutes, parried a bit with the reporters and even cracked a few jokes. He brought easy laughter to the 64th-floor conference room in Rockefeller Center when he evoked the day that , Christians say, Jesus Christ will return to reign over earth.

"I hope I meet all of you there," Mr. Graham said with a glint in his eye, "and bring your camera, because I may have one, too."

Mr. Graham, hobbled by the combined effects of prostate cancer, water on the brain, failing hearing and a broken hip and pelvis, seemed a little unfocused at times, offering rambling, tangential responses to some questions in a thick burr of a voice that could be hard to make out.

But when it came to the primacy of Jesus Christ, the subject on which he is expected to preach to crowds expected to number 70,000 a night at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Mr. Graham did not waver.

He promised that his sermons this weekend would sound familiar to anyone who heard him at the 1957 crusade at Madison Square Garden that ran for 16 weeks and launched him to world prominence.

"The message that I preach here is going to be the same," he said. "It hasn't changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed. But deep inside, man has not changed and the gospel hasn't changed. Because the Bible says that we've all sinned and we're all sinners."

Mr. Graham plans to preach for about 35 minutes each evening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He speaks now from a podium designed to allow him to sit while speaking, and he sat throughout today's news conference.

He said he was particularly pleased to be speaking at the park, which though it was not his organization's first choice (the city rejected a request for a crusade in Central Park), lies in the center of the most ethnically diverse part of the city.

"Here in New York, not only is there a mixture of ethnic background but there's a mixture of the problems of the world," he said. "There's 100-and-something languages spoken within walking distance of Corona Park, and I know that the problems of the world are there. And I believe that the gospel of Christ is the answer, not part of the answer, but the whole answer."

Mr. Graham promised not to talk about politics, and though several reporters tried to draw him into the subject with questions about evangelism's growing role in American political life and the pros and cons of international debt relief, he stayed on message till the end.

"If I get up and talk about some political issues," he said, "it divides the audience. What I want is a united audience to hear only the gospel. There are many times I went too far in talking about such issues. And I think that this time I want to stick only to the gospel."

Mr. Graham was helped to his feet and, leaning heavily on his walker, made his way slowly from the room.

Saturday, June 18


I almost fell asleep during today's game, but thank goodness I managed to keep my eyes open for this: Derek Jeter's first career grand slam EVAH..

And the icing on the cake? In the grand tradition of the C.o.S., I CALLED IT.

Cheech: You know, of all the major league players who have been playing as long as Jeter has, he's the only to never have hit a grand slam.
Me: Really? How sad.
Me, pointing to outfield: Then he's going to jack one RIGHT NOW.

And BAM. It be done. 'Twas jacked.


I don't get our national anthem. It's about a flag. Alright, alright, the tune is inspirational, and I still get all sorts of weepy-eyed and tingly whenever I hear the Whitney Houston-Super Bowl version (pre-crack Whitney, that is). But it's still about a flag. And people don't know the words to it anyway, which is just about the saddest thing. And then people -- the same people who don't know the words -- stop singing the wrong words with several left to go, and start whistling and hooting and hollering and clapping. SO DISRESPECTFUL, it gets my hackles up every time. In no other country would people do that to their national anthem (no other country, as far as I know, as a national anthem about a flag); in some countries you get shot for doing that; in some countries, the music is so dreary, it doesn't even really lend itself to thoughts of applause.

I'm no raging right-wing Republican patriot, but even I have boundaries. Don't let the flag touch the ground. Take your hat off when the anthem starts up, and stand up for heaven's sake. Learn the words and sing them correctly. And for all that is mighty and good, wait until the song is over before you start screaming like a banshee just because you hear the words "land of the free and the home of the brave."


In the same vein, I don't really understand the 7th-inning stretch anymore either, and I'm very curious about people's responses to it. I don't know about other ballparks, but at The Stadium (is there really any other? Puh-leeze.), they play "God Bless America" before busting into "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (which is just a whole other phenomenon I don't really get). And everyone rises, takes off their caps, and places their hands over their heart ... AS IF IT'S THE NATIONAL ANTHEM. What the?!?!?

I personally would love it if it were our national anthem -- you know, the song being about our country and not merely its flag, and all. But I realized today: the song is a prayer. To God. I wondered today how many people around me who would disclaim God completely sang that song -- with their caps off and their hands over their hearts -- with utter abandon. And what would they do if someone pointed out to them, "dude, you just sang a prayer to God"? Soooo curious.

Yes, these are the things I think about while at a baseball game.

And then of course, there was that asinine clapping and screaming towards the end of the song. Poor Ronan Tynan -- his grand finale always gets washed out by the crowd, in prayer.


So I'm home now, trying to stay awake until a more respectable hour to go to sleep. And what do I hear from the house next door, through their and my open windows? Some young child -- or so I would assume -- warming up his trumpet. Very flatly warming up his trumpet, but valiant effort, I say. And he proceeds to bust into a hearty, though musically suspect, rendition of "God Bless America."

Thankfully, his small audience waited to applaud until after the song had ended.

Friday, June 17


Alright, I admit it, I was watching "Oprah" when the ABC News Special Report broke in with news that another helicopter had crashed in the East River (second time this week!). As I thought my first thoughts that (1) I don't really care, can we get back to "Oprah" and (2) I wonder if it was a form of terrorism, I became riveted by the scene that unfolded before me through the lens of the Eyewitness NewsCopter. Civilians leaving their cars on the northbound FDR Drive to jump the fence and run to the end of the dock near 42nd Street to try to pull people out of the water. Emergency personnel arriving on scene and rushing to the edge with stretchers, life preservers and medical equipment. People grabbing a ladder from somewhere and dropping it into the water into the arms of survivors. EMS workers performing CPR on a man lying on the ground. And then the most fascinating sight I've seen in a long time on television:

A scuba team gearing up and dropping into the water, just like in the movies.

I don't know why that was so awesome to me. I mean, it's just two dudes in wetsuits with oxygen tanks on their backs, grabbing ropes to tether to the sunken helicopter they hope to find, turning around and dropping backwards into the East River. But still. I'm totally riveted. I can't look away even long enough to properly type these words.

I guess I'm just sort of vicariously thrilled at the reality of this scene. Not the reality of the fright and excitement and tragedy, but the reality of the speed of people's responses, the willingness of strangers to leave their evening commutes and hop a ragged wire fence to save someone's life, and how quickly things can be mobilized -- when it really matters -- in this crazy, clogged-up, bureaucratic, unfeeling, jaded city of ours. Just goes to show ... the guys in scuba gear are always there for ya.

Post-script: alright, it's been twenty minutes now and my short American attention-span has failed me once again. I'm bored with the helicopter story and they drone on incessantly about it anyway. Even the scuba guys are out and dry. Forget it, I'm gonna go read a book or something.

But I love the idea of this women's literary circle. Of course, I don't have sleek Chanel suits or strands of real pearls or insightful essays to share ... and in this day and age, my ladies and I would probably meet over martinis and blog entries ... but the idea is so charming, the pretentiousness doesn't bother me.

Tuesday, June 14


By Nicholas D. Kristof

No wonder the Pakistan government can't catch Osama bin Laden. It is too busy harassing, detaining - and now kidnapping - a gang-rape victim for daring to protest and for planning a visit to the United States.

Last fall I wrote about Mukhtaran Bibi, a woman who was sentenced by a tribal council in Pakistan to be gang-raped because of an infraction supposedly committed by her brother. Four men raped Ms. Mukhtaran, then village leaders forced her to walk home nearly naked in front of a jeering crowd of 300.

Ms. Mukhtaran was supposed to have committed suicide. Instead, with the backing of a local Islamic leader, she fought back and testified against her persecutors. Six were convicted.

Then Ms. Mukhtaran, who believed that the best way to overcome such abuses was through better education, used her compensation money to start two schools in her village, one for boys and the other for girls. She went out of her way to enroll the children of her attackers in the schools, showing that she bore no grudges.

Readers of my column sent in more than $133,000 for her. Mercy Corps, a U.S. aid organization, has helped her administer the money, and she has expanded the schools, started a shelter for abused women and bought a van that is used as an ambulance for the area. She has also emerged as a ferocious spokeswoman against honor killings, rapes and acid attacks on women. (If you want to help her, please don't send checks to me but to Mercy Corps, with "Mukhtaran Bibi" in the memo line: 3015 S.W. First, Portland, Ore. 97201.)

A group of Pakistani-Americans invited Ms. Mukhtaran to visit the U.S. starting this Saturday (see Then a few days ago, the Pakistani government went berserk.

On Thursday, the authorities put Ms. Mukhtaran under house arrest - to stop her from speaking out. In phone conversations in the last few days, she said that when she tried to step outside, police pointed their guns at her. To silence her, the police cut off her land line.

After she had been detained, a court ordered her attackers released, putting her life in jeopardy. That happened on a Friday afternoon, when the courts do not normally operate, and apparently was a warning to Ms. Mukhtaran to shut up. Instead, Ms. Mukhtaran continued her protests by cellphone. But at dawn yesterday the police bustled her off, and there's been no word from her since. Her cellphone doesn't answer.

Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani lawyer who is head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said she had learned that Ms. Mukhtaran was taken to Islamabad, furiously berated and told that President Pervez Musharraf was very angry with her. She was led sobbing to detention at a secret location. She is barred from contacting anyone, including her lawyer.

"She's in their custody, in illegal custody," Ms. Jahangir said. "They have gone completely crazy."

Even if Ms. Mukhtaran were released, airports have been alerted to bar her from leaving the country. According to Dawn, a Karachi newspaper, the government took this step, "fearing that she might malign Pakistan's image."

Excuse me, but Ms. Mukhtaran, a symbol of courage and altruism, is the best hope for Pakistan's image. The threat to Pakistan's image comes from President Musharraf for all this thuggish behavior.

I've been sympathetic to Mr. Musharraf till now, despite his nuclear negligence, partly because he's cooperated in the war on terrorism and partly because he has done a good job nurturing Pakistan's economic growth, which in the long run is probably the best way to fight fundamentalism. So even when Mr. Musharraf denied me visas all this year, to block me from visiting Ms. Mukhtaran again and writing a follow-up column, I bit my tongue.

But now President Musharraf has gone nuts.

"This is all because they think they have the support of the U.S. and can get away with murder," Ms. Jahangir said. Indeed, on Friday, just as all this was happening, President Bush received Pakistan's foreign minister in the White House and praised President Musharraf's "bold leadership."

So, Mr. Bush, how about asking Mr. Musharraf to focus on finding Osama, instead of kidnapping rape victims who speak out? And invite Ms. Mukhtaran to the Oval Office - to show that Americans stand not only with generals who seize power, but also with ordinary people of extraordinary courage.

Saturday, June 11


The bare fact of the matter is this: persons will go on and on about how much they love you, how much they love everything about you, how much they would do anything for you, but the bottom line really is that when a speed bump approaches, or when things don't go exactly their way, or when you don't act the way they want you to, that love disappears just a little bit. Or they withhold their love. Or they convince themselves that you must not love them fully back.

That's just human nature, I suppose. Our egos, though created by the Almighty, are so fragile and so needy, and every affront -- real or perceived -- can wound so deeply. I understand that, and though it frustrates me to try to convince my loved ones of my love and devotion and dedication, I know that I must, because that is something I too would wish.

But it also makes me consider that much more how precisely unconditional God's love is. He doesn't get miffed if I don't do exactly what He wants when He wants it. He doesn't talk about me behind my back. He doesn't glare at me balefully, or huff and puff in exasperation. He doesn't give me the cold shoulder, or say "whatever" to me, or make me grovel for His eyes to rest gently upon me. He doesn't ever, EVER do any of these utterly human and base and needful things.

And so, although I toss and turn in minor turmoil about potential brokenness, I also rest myself in His fulfilling and satisfying love.



For prayers and thoughtfulness. For unexpected good times. For friends sticking through thick and thin and thick and thin again. For insights and amusements and distractions that heal. You know who you are.



What is your favorite...

1. ...Smell?
Clean un-cologned man ... percolating coffee ... kimchi jigae ... rain ... jasmine tea ... meat grilling on a summer evening ... clean powdery baby.

2. ...Sound? Whir of cars going by on the highway ... multitude of voices united in song ... piano and guitar ... the voice of a loved one ... that harmony that is right on, but just slightly off and waiting to resolve.

3. ...Flavor? Coffee ... salt ... savory.

4. ...Word? Pumpkin ... quantum ... panties ... cardiologist ... histrionic ... pudding ... f*cker.

5. ...Sight? Passionate, gentle smile ... sun rising, risen, or setting ... beloved family and/or friends relaxing, in repose ... me in the mirror on a day that I feel sassy and confident ... clean and orderly desk, room, closet.

Tuesday, June 7


I'm watching "Primetime Live" right now, Diane Sawyer's interview with Brad Pitt. Alright, I confess that a small, very very small, tiny, miniscule part of me was vaguely curious about Brangelina (Lord, I love these nicknames). But I am hooked not by the lurid details of Pitt's love life, but by his modesty and the raw emotion with which he speaks of fighting poverty and AIDS in Africa.

I speak of The One Campaign, started by Bono, and supported by dozens of celebrities, thousands of churches, millions of 'civilians'. This campaign seeks to raise awareness in this country, this abundant, luxurious, well-watered and well-fed country, of the poverty and sickness and need that millions of Africans -- particularly women and children -- suffer every minute.

I listen to Pitt's voice break as he speaks: "I can't fathom it." And I don't have the heart to be mad at the media for manipulating my emotions, or to be cynical at Pitt and think he's faking it. He's not faking it.

The One Campaign.
Be a sucker.
Check it out.



Once in a long blue moon, I am moved to weep by a song I hear. The music, the words, the chords, the tone make me acknowledge that place deep in the pit of my stomach, hidden away somewhere around my spine, behind my liver, under the intestines, in a dark dark place that doesn't get much light for it would shrivel in the face of such exposure. And then it wells up, ripping up through my guts and gushing through my windpipe until I can't breathe, and have to let the tear ducts fill up and flow out to relieve the pressure.

The last song that made me feel this way, so full and satisfied and wistful and hopeless and hopeful all at once, was "Baby," whispered to me by Dave Matthews in the dark summer nights of 2003.

And now, in the summer of 2005, it's Jason Mraz, coming straight at me with "Sleeping to Dream," off of his live album "Tonight, Not Again." I am struck by this song because ... well, you know when you can't find the words to say what you want to say? And it's so good that I found someone else to say it for me so perfectly. It's miraculous, really. The words to say what I want to say ...

I'm dreaming of sleeping next to you
I'm feeling like a lost little boy in a brand new town
I'm counting my sheep and each one that passes
is another dream to ashes
and they all fall down.

As I lay me down tonight,
I close my eyes and what a beautiful sight

I'm sleeping to dream about you
I'm so tired of having to live without you
So I'm sleeping to dream about you and I'm so tired

I found myself in the riches (Your eyes, your lips, your hair.)
Well you were everywhere
But I woke up in the ditches.
I hit the light and I thought you might be here
but you were nowhere.
You were nowhere at home.

As I lay me back to sleep
Lord I pray that I can keep

Sleeping to dream about you
I'm so tired of having to live without you
So I'm sleeping to dream about you and I'm so tired

(It's just a little a lullaby to keep myself from crying myself to sleep at night.)

Sleeping to dream about you
I'm so tired of having to live without you
So I'm sleeping to dream about you and I'm so tired

He did it!

Another one has joined the anti-dark side: Juice made The Switch and is now the proud owner of a Mac.

My heart swells with pride and joy.

Monday, June 6


1. I can't get enough of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" lately.

2. C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia is coming to the big screen this Christmas. AWESOME ... and yikes!

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
This is the first documented photo of me, Chicken, half of Team Cesar Salad with Chicken, taken about two hours in to the 2005 Genesis Adventure Sprint at Hartford, CT. (And yes, I named myself Chicken because I was scared to death about doing this race, and anything related to it.)

The first leg -- mountain biking around a 6-mile trail -- was pure agony. Cesar Salad, I think, enjoyed it and just didn't want to get off his bike long enough to take a picture. I, Chicken, on the other hand, nearly died on that course, and would have fled into the woods if Cesar Salad had made any efforts to document my pain and suffering.

Here, we are faux-cheating. After a nice downstream float, we found ourselves fighting both wind AND current on our way back to the fourth Checkpoint. We saw some other teams drag their kayaks onto land and walk back, so we attempted to try the same.

We ended up on some bizarre trail that sort of paralleled the river. We dragged that poor kayak across all manner of terrain: dirt, rocks, pebbles, pavement, grass. We encountered a group of young men in the woods who were totally drunk and tried to help us. (Incidentally, that was the only time I felt scared for my life.) We scraped up the bottom of that kayak nice and good before we decided it was too damn heavy to carry anymore, and we relaunched into the river.

When we got back to shore -- legally, this time -- we dragged the kayak out of the water. "DON'T DRAG IT! LIFT IT AND CARRY IT!" berated the Checkpoint monitor.

Cesar Salad and I exchanged looks and smirks. Oh, if they only knew ...

And so, the adventure began.

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Only I'm happy in this picture. Cesar Salad had a bit of a rough time with the kayaking, and I'm convinced I enjoyed it so much more than he did because I have a lower center of gravity.

Nonetheless, once we got the kayak BACK IN the water, we enjoyed the breeze (even when it was blowing against us) and the chill of the water as it splashed us and cooled us down.

And even Cesar Salad said, after the agonizing third leg of biking AND running, that he missed the water.

Hmmm ... he didn't say he missed the kayaking ...

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Under a highway overpass. Or was it a railroad? Hard to tell.

All we knew was that it was cool, dark, totally creepy, and was on the direct route for where we wanted to go.

Others probably took main roads, even if they were slightly roundabout circuits. Whatever. Cesar Salad with Chicken was all about the direct route from Point A to Point B.

Even if it took us here.

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Okay, this is me running for the camera after we finally made our way back to West Hartford to find the last two checkpoints. We had already decided at this point that from now on, we only had to start running when we were crossing a street and cars were coming at us. We found this to be a very efficient use of our energy.

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
What started out hard-core for Team Cesar Salad with Chicken turned into a leisurely tour of Hartford (with which we now have a hate-hate relationship), complete with blazing hot sunshine, running along the barrier of a major highway, climbing up a rock embankment and scrambling down the muddy other side, wading through thigh-high brush, encountering all manner of weird drunk men in the woods, deciding that running really wasn't necessary in this "race," and jumping fences that led to nowhere.

Here, we stop by a flower bed and think, "Other teams are using their precious seconds to run as fast as they can in this heat. How silly they are. Let's take a picture."

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Somewhere between Checkpoint 7 and Checkpoint 8, we found ourselves ONCE AGAIN under some random overpass, gazing upon remnants of human life and many, many cigarette butts.

These dark places were kind of creepy. No, they were VERY creepy. And I was sure I was breathing in all manner of dust and things that would give me Hanta virus. But it was so THANKFULLY cool down there ...

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
This was, if I recall correctly, right before we tried to steal some picnickers' McDonald's french fries and right after someone asked us if we were on "The Amazing Race."

Then we thought, "hey, maybe we can stop for some pizza." But we decided that would look bad if we crossed the finish line holding crusts and cans of beer.

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Team Cesar Salad with Chicken is the first NHF team to cross the finish line!

(Small print: we are also the last team in our division to finish, but let bygones be bygones ...)

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Team Cesar Salad with Chicken, looking refreshed but feeling no less triumphant after several cups of ice-cold Gatorade, a few bags of potato chips, a handful of cookies and a banana.

And the icing on the cake? Our matching jerseys, which won the self-given Salvatore Ferragamo Fashion Award, thank-you-very-much-Banana.

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
And here comes Team All-In, having battled upstream currents, twice capsized, launched themselves over gopher holes, scraped up every exposed part of their bodies, and fought off diarrhea and stomach cramps. Truly my heroes ... and they're talking about doing it again! Whatever!

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Team East/West comes running in, last but not least. The best part is: they're smiling all the way in. What an encouraging sight! That totally made my day ...

Originally uploaded by chaesq.
Unclear as to why I have the stupid "I just won 'The Price is Right' and I'm going to Disneyland in my new Pontiac" grin on my face ... but I sure was glad to be at the finish line and not still stuck somewhere in God-forsaken Hartford.

Actually, the goofy smile was to keep from weeping at the overwhelming sensation of accomplishment, reached at the end of a long line of teamwork, pain, laughter, tears and plain ol' good times.

Two snaps in a big fat circle to All-In, East/West, and of course, Cesar Salad without whom Chicken would have been pounded, breaded and deep-fried into oblivion.

I have a sinus headache and can't bear the thought of starting work yet ...

What is your favorite...
1. ...Soft drink?
I don't drink a lot of soda, but sometimes, nothing is better or brings back more sweet memories than a chilly 7-UP.

2. ...Hot beverage? Strong, sludgy coffee, or chamomile tea with sugar and milk.

3. ...Comfort drink? I don't really know what this means. But I sure do like room-temperature water.

4. ...Mixed drink? Black Russian with Grey Goose. Or cranberry-and-Absolut, for old times' sake.

5. ...Drink to combat a hot, steamy, sticky, miserable August afternoon? Room-temperature water. It just tastes so good!

Saturday, June 4


... But not quite awake either.

Today, five of my friends from NHF and I participated in the 2005 Hartford Genesis Adventure Race.

No, seriously, what the hell were we thinking?

I am far too tired and my muscles are far too loopy to describe much more of our day ... but some tidbits to be related at a future date -- complete with ridiculous photos -- include: (1) the crushing moment I went novice; (2) the crushing moment my team, Cesar Salad with Chicken, realized the current was against us; (3) the crushing moment we realized that a plastic kayak is f*cking heavy; (4) the crushing moment we understood that running is, like, hard; (5) the really crushing moment when I fell off my bike seat and landed ... ON THE CENTER BAR, still straddling the bike (can I get an "oh sh*t"?) (6) running along what we think was I-91 with traffic whizzing by us at approximately 65 miles an hour; (7) scrambling up rocky highway embankments and skidding down muddy ones on the other side; (8) tromping through brush that hasn't seen a human foot in decades and wondering, "if I die out here, will anyone notice before years pass?"; (9) the weird dude with the sweatshirt and the bike in the middle of the brush; (10) salted almonds, OH, those salted almonds; (11) the moment we realized we only needed to run in order to cross the street before cars hit us; (12) the crucial moment where we had to decide, "do we stop for pizza or not?"; (13) climbing the stairs to the top near the end instead of taking the ramp, just because; (14) making a valiant jog for the finish line even though we had just spent two leisurely hours taking a scenic, if fast-paced, stroll through downtown Hartford (which, incidentally, is utterly boring and desolate and we hate it and we're never going back, EVER, because Connecticut is PURE EVIL and it's HOT there); (15) stuffing our faces with chocolate chip cookies, bananas, potato chips and Gatorade, not caring that JKA was documenting every single moment of our shrunken-stomach gluttony with her camera; (16) watching my gang, forever my brothers in sweat, tears and muscle cramps, cross the finish line; (17) driving home and realizing, "OH MY GOD. I JUST DID AN ADVENTURE RACE AND I LIVED TO TELL THE STORY," then bawling and bawling uncontrollably because I just can't believe myself.

Well, we'll see about living to tell the story. For now, she sleeps, not looking forward to the crushing moment in the morning when she has to get out of bed and realizes she can't move.

Friday, June 3


I realized today that for someone who has a lot of inhibitions, I don't have many inhibitions, or at least not of the external kind.

Case in point: I pooed at Whole Foods Market today, after asking some WFM employees to watch my cart for me. Didn't even care that there were other women in the bathroom. Just strolled right into a stall, shucked my undies and pooed. And damn, it felt good.

Five years ago, I never would have done that.

Ten years ago, I never would have done that in a bathroom full of people, even strangers.

Fifteen years ago, I never would have had the nerve to even open my mouth to ask the employees to watch my shopping cart.

I shudder to think what I'll be like twenty years from NOW.

(Incidentally, I am enough of a nerd that when I was sitting in the stall -- very briefly, for I'm efficient that way, unless something is very very wrong -- I thought to myself, "This is too funny. I'm pooing in a Whole Foods. I have to tell someone. Nah, I'll just blog about it.")

Thursday, June 2

I BEEN HIT . . .

"Hit Me, Baby, One More Time" premieres tonight at 9:00 p.m. on NBC. I believe Tiffany, Flock of Seagulls and Loverboy are on the block tonight. Coming soon ... WANG CHUNG.

Last night, I learned that Wang Chung got its name from the alleged noise made by a strum of a guitar: wang-CHUNG. Whatever.

Everybody wang chung tonight.



They are re-running "Lost" this summer. Last night was the first episode, the first hour of the two-hour pilot. I am going to tape every single re-run, then watch each episode, then watch each episode again in slow-motion, then take notes of every thing that jumps out at me (literally or not), then cross-check everything I note against every theory bouncing around out there on the ABC messages boards (not that I read them or anything).

I am officially obsessed and I'm not ashamed of it and until they develop a 12-step program for Losties like me, I'm not letting go of it because it's not a problem and I'm not in denial.


TICK, TOCK . . .

I'm so impatient, I can't stand the anticipation and the unspoken words and the small intakes of breath before a question that isn't asked and the jump across the not-so-dangerous chasm that isn't taken and the idle conversation that replaces the words that really need to be said and the coffee that could have been drunk but wasn't for no good reason and the standing around like it's high school all over again and I'm hanging out in the middle of the street on a summer night after finals are over but before graduation ceremonies just enjoying the stars and the chats and the laughter and the touch that is going to be ignored.

Wednesday, June 1


Can you tell?

So, LiveAid (apparently now to be renamed Live-8, to coincide with the G-8 meetings in London this summer) is revived via Bob Geldof. Free tickets. I want to go. If I had a jet-pack that I could strap on and zip around the world, I'd definitely want to check out Annie Lennox, Madonna, Joss Stone and R.E.M. in London ... DMB and Jay-Z in Philadelphia ... Lauryn Hill and CSN in Berlin ... Duran Duran in Rome ... and Jamiroquai in Paris.

If only.

Slooooow day at the office ...

Here's four of 'em:

1. I watched ten episodes of "Alias" (Season Two) yesterday, finally fell asleep, then had dreams where the gym bag that I had left in the gym locker-room went missing and I turned into Sydney Bristow so that I could find it and take a shower after my workout but not before getting into an argument with a snooty lady at the spa next door who was ranting about how Hispanics should not be allowed to become citizens of the United States because they would take over the government and then where would we be?

2. I don't really care who Deep Throat is or was.

3. I sort of want to be this lady. The best parts of the story? First, where Derek Jeter calls her "Ms. Smith," because you know he's far too polite and well-raised to presume to call an older woman by her first name. And second, when she claims that she, like many Yankee fans, have very little use for the Mets. Ain't that the truth.

4. I've been sucking down this series on class issues in America like it's water. It's sooooo gripping, I don't want it to end. Does this make me a nerd ... or a voyeur?