new boozy city

My favorite bit of narration from Prohibition, Parts II & III:

Consumption dropped in every major city, and everywhere in the United States, except in New York City, where it went up. New Yorkers then as now did NOT enjoy being told what to do and took to drinking in defiance.

Heh. Yeah, I could’ve guessed.

Another favorite tale: a woman at grad school in Cambridge (Radcliffe?) applied that intellectual talent (with a roommate) to making homemade beer. It blew up, thus spoiling an otherwise promising weekend, no doubt.

All of these stories–up to and including the spawn of what we now know as the mob–make for quite the tale of “crime, corruption and hypocrisy.”

Oh, and did anyone else catch the right to privacy first articulated thanks to Justice Brandeis?  Or a hero of New York politics, Al Smith? Imagine a politician today standing up for his or her convictions regardless of losing a general election, because that’s what Smith did after denouncing the strengthening KKK.

It was quite something hearing from The New Yorker’s Lois Long (aka “Lipstick”) who could be a blogger recapping her night somewhere on the Lower East Side circa 2011 : these are the tales which cemented the legendary flappers in New York’s imagination, I’m sure.

At last, Burns gets back to gender in the 1920’s, and brings up a phenomenon you’ll see again in the wake of 2nd wave American feminism: an incredibly politicized generation of feminist activists appalled at the sexualized behavior of their daughters. My delightful discovery, thanks to this doc, was that of Pauline Sabin, the blue-blood Republican who stood for repeal and against the Women’s Christian Temperance Union because she felt offended that they purported to stand for all American women.

Definitely worth a viewing–so put this one in your queue for a winter’s weekend, if not sooner! I’m impressed at Burns’ brevity here: there is more than enough material to have gone on far longer, and this film is fairly “tight” for him, clocking in at around six hours. It’s also genuinely insightful in terms of how long certain political and cultural debates have been with us as a nation, which is to say–as always–longer than we thought.


prohibition, part 1

It was interesting to see so many of the issues I’ve worked on in policy and feminist history show up throughout the first installment of Ken Burns’ Prohibition.

Kudos to Burns for tracing the history of women’s activism in terms of the temperance movement in the 19th century–they are absolutely intertwined. It is amazing to reread the history of temperance seeing “alcohol” as code for domestic violence, marital rape and financial ruin if paychecks were brought directly to taverns where they could be cashed and spent in full. This did not encompass every single drinker’s behavior, thank goodness, but it has always interested me to think about how easily we can use one identifiable so-called “evil” as a stand-in for far more amorphous social problems (then and now).

Last year, I spent a lot of time doing research on New York’s alcohol policy, and the same arguments from the 19th century about the city’s “vice neighborhoods” now appear as battles over the efficacy of allowing “nightlife districts”. Watching Burns’ documentary, you see history repeat itself over and over again. In America, fights over alcohol  have been going on in the background of our politics forever–one way or another.

start spreading the news…

At long last, I have returned to New York!

The move from New Jersey was every bit as fabulous as every one of your moves has been. Also, I get to do it all over again in August. So enough said on that matter.

Right now, my post-graduate school days are terribly glamorous. I finished my campus job a week ago, moved to my first sublet, and am currently out on the job market. (My tagline: I want to write and collaborate with others to make a difference. Yes, I mean it!!)

Obligatory Whining Section: That is all well and good, but I am in need of rest and relaxation. I still have not had a summer weekend which did not include homework, packing, moving, unpacking, resume and cover letter drafting, or some form of migraine battle.

However, there are bright spots and lovely friends in my midst, so despite all of the above, life is beautiful these days.

I plan to write more–certainly more frequently–going forward. It is an incredible feeling to realize how much time you get back simply by completing graduate school. (Yes, let’s thank Captain Obvious for paying a visit here at Ginsberg’s House.)

Cheers!  Hope you’re enjoying a marvelous summer out there!


humble warrior

I’ve been needing to get back to attending a regular yoga class for quite awhile.  This is well documented elsewhere, but practicing at a studio in New York can become prohibitively expensive (over $18-20 per class) when you’re in my world of Ninja Finance.  I’d made lists of the low-fee, pay what you will, etc., courses at studios I intended to investigate over this past fall.

That did not happen. Naturally school continued its maddening tendency to interfere with, you know, having a life, and lo and behold I arrived into 2011 with one of 2010’s resolutions still unchecked.

I’ve started practicing at Sonic Yoga in NYC; they have a student discount, the classes are challenging me, and the people are very friendly. I’m already feeling calmer, happier, and more serene than I have in such a long time, so finding any way I can to do this is going to remain a necessity during these last stressful, hectic months of grad school.  After which I promise you can get snarky with me if I disappear for months on end.

Here’s my favorite thing I’ve done in the last little while:

SUCH a great stretch for your hips. Have a peaceful week.

feats of strength

Continental Airlines called me at 8 p.m. or so on Christmas evening.  I was trying to grab a nap so that I could muster the energy to partake of family movie time.  After all, it’s been a VERY long fall and I needed my beauty sleep.

ANYWAY.  Their automated message ended like this: “…sorry to inform you that your flight is canceled.”

That’s right, Snowpocalypse 2010 was bearing down on New York, and clearly no one was taking any chances.  Great! Safety!  Except Ginsberg is here holding down the fort, and I have calendar items such that I couldn’t just hang out and putter around in Cleveland for a few days until we’re dug out.  So the game of Beat The Blizzard began.

My brother got me the last available ticket on a 2 a.m. train to Washington, where I had the last seat on a 4 pm train up to Penn Station.  Barring the invention of warp speed, it was the best anyone could do.  So there I was in the middle of the night on Christmas, making what can only be described as a getaway, and not in an awesome sense.

11 hours later, Washington DC seemed to be minding its business with nary a snowflake in sight. I endured the layover enjoying my fabulous read (about which another post) and we started up the coast.

By Wilmington, snow; by Philadelphia, blizzard; by Newark, I was honestly kind of nervous about the last two legs of my trip to come: from Penn Station to NJ, and then from my PATH station home.  Well.  Our train started skidding into Penn Station and sliding backwards; we had to actually back the train up and build up enough momentum to get over the frozen rails to deliver us into the whiteout.  That’s when the real fun began.

It is one block from Penn Station to the entrance to the PATH train.  When we emerged into the blizzard, there were still cabs, because while this may be a Snowpocalypse, it is still Manhattan.  Of course, they did me no good what with needing to go one block with a wheeled carryon through about 6 or 8 inches of snow.

Two minutes in, my hat, coat, gloves, and suitcase were covered in whipping snow which felt like little stinging pellets.  At that point I still fantasized about a nice toasty cab finishing my journey.  Also, a nip of bourbon.  I’m rationing the good stuff, but I thought enduring this situation merited a drink.

Tra la la, I exited the PATH train in Jersey only to find that NJ Transit, those wise souls, had suspended all bus and light rail service.  There were a couple of cabs on the street, but they were stuck in front of the station.  Basically, after a few stressful minutes of deliberating and not wanting to risk someone else’s life or vehicle, I knew I would have to walk home, literally “uphill in the snow up to here”.  I put on every garment I could muster, even wrapped my travel blanket around me like an abaya, and started the mile and a half home.

Strange things happen in those kinds of literally painful circumstances.  For instance, I discovered that it is not melting snow that freezes your eyelashes together, but frozen sweat from the effort exerted when the snow is too deep to drag your suitcase so you must instead carry it.  I chortled bitterly, realizing that my entire life in academia schlepping heavy book bags must have been meant to prepare me for this evening.  Then I cursed worried I was going to throw out my back.  I sang songs to myself in my head.  (Thank you, U2).

I tried to keep my face covered and my body moving.  Despite choosing the route I knew by heart, I managed to get lost in the whiteout, trudging along in the middle of the street moving aside into the 3-foot drifts when the snowplows came lumbering along.  There were others moving along that way too.  Some were laughing and hurling snowballs, but the rest of us were silent and plodding.  We were all late from Somewhere, and I don’t know about them, but I was getting a little scared.  Too long in the cold goes from unfunny to dangerous at a point, and my growing nausea and ice-caked extremities were concerning.

Some never-ending time later, I turned a corner and realized I had made it to the elevator up the Palisades to my neighborhood, but that elevator wasn’t working either.  Like magic, a group of people arrived and as we silently turned to ascend via the emergency staircase, a guy gestured towards me and took my suitcase.  He carried it the rest of the way home for me, and I am thankful for him because I was nearly spent by the time he and his cohort appeared.  He put the bag in my vestibule and turned to disappear into the night.  I was so disoriented I don’t know if I’d ever recognize him, and I don’t know his name, but I will always remember him.

Then, at long last, inside to a hot shower, soup, and bourbon.

Someone called earlier and asked cheerily if I’d gone outside “to take a walk in the snow”.  “No,” I replied.  “I’ve seen it.”

one of the Runner People

It turns out that I don’t hate to run; I hate THE GYM.  I love doing yoga, and I love going walking, but to make a long story short felt certain that I was not going to ever be able to become one of the Runner People.

This really does get easier to say with time: I was wrong.  I love feeling stronger and quicker, I love overcoming  mental and physical challenges, I love how running has made me look, I love it when the little kids in my neighborhood started running after me to “catch the fast lady”, or the day last week when I arrived at race pace in front of a dance studio spilling out toddler ballerinas.  Some moms made a hole through the cloud of pink tutus and all was well.

This morning was my first race in [a REALLY long while].  I still don’t know my time, as my watch stopped clocking at some point along the way, and I am completely sore, but had a great time wearing myself out in the sickeningly high heat and humidity.  That nasty combo plus little sleep seemed to indicate I had a race result much slower than my last training runs, but it turns out I don’t care about that so much.   Approaching a finish line in Central Park with a very enthusiastic announcer turned out to be very exciting.  Crossing was even better.

All of my other friends who are Runner People are preparing for either of the upcoming half-or full NYC marathons, so I’m in no danger of developing an inflated sense of athleticism (not that they are ego-maniacs, just much more experienced at this than I am!)  That also prompted my circumspect lead-in to this event, because I’m still trying to work up to some distance and get into a good regular running groove, for which this race was an excellent early goal-post.  Another new beginning.

Now I need an appropriate soundtrack for what comes next, but I really am about to ice pretty much the entire lower half of my body.  How cinematic.

By the way?  Clif Bars = disgusting.  Just in case you were curious as to my feelings on that matter.