Thursday, February 28, 2008

Trial, day 19 -- with cookies

My mom was not a baker. Every once in a while, she'd play along when I wanted to bake something, but it was not something she particularly enjoyed doing.

One year, I got an Easy-Bake oven as a birthday gift, and my mother was actually perplexed when I wanted to use it. She told me that it made no sense, trying to bake little mini cakes on a lightbulb. After one or two uses, the toy mysteriously disappeared. So if I wanted to bake something, I'd have to resort to looking up the recipe in my dad's well-worn copy of "The Joy of Cooking" and using the real oven.

When the subject of baking came up, she would tell the story about how, for one of my birthdays, she labored over frosting a Bert and Ernie cake for an ungodly amount of time. The cake was, indeed, beautiful. But she always left out the part where the cake itself was made from a mix, and how the beautiful frosting tasted exactly like food coloring.

When the other kids' moms brought in cupcakes for their birthdays, I was excited. I love cupcakes. But when it was my turn, I begged and pleaded for Munchkins. Trust me, it was safer -- and better.

Then there was one time, in 7th grade, when I had to make some kind of dessert for a school project, and do a demonstration of how it was made. She actually had me make rum balls. I got in trouble. She thought it was funny. In retrospect, I'm surprised that I didn't get suspended.

In all honesty, there were a couple of things she baked well. Cream puffs and cannoli were her specialties. Actually, now that I think about it, I think she used pre-baked shells for the cannoli, and just made the filling. For her kids, she made really good M&M cookies -- mostly because the recipe was on the back of the package and it's pretty much foolproof.

Anyway, one of the best things about this hotel is that, every day, it puts out cookies for the guests. More often than not, they're chocolate chip, or chocolate with white chips. Sometimes they're coconut or peanut butter or white chocolate cherry. Today they were M&M cookies -- just like my mom's.

The M&M cookies are still my favorite.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Trial, Day 18

Day 18. In Newark.

I have nothing more to say.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Trial, Day 17

We've had seventeen days of trial -- and it's not over yet! There are at least three more days of testimony -- more likely four -- and then a day for closing arguments.

More importantly, I've been away from my apartment -- and my life, such as it is -- for the better part of seven weeks.

I am sick of room service. I am sick of the three or four decent restaurants that we can walk to for dinner. I am sick of the three or four places that we get lunch from. I am sick of Newark.

Really, I am just going stir-crazy.

I want to go home.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Trial, Day 16

You know what would totally suck? Having to come back to Newark to finish up the trial in March.

Oh, wait. That's not a joke.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Photo Essay

This is what it looked like out of the window of the New Jersey Transit, between 11:30 a.m. and 12:05 p.m. today:

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Today was the first day I spent entirely by myself since my mom died. And I spent it in a hotel in Newark.

I could have gone back to my apartment for the weekend and relied on my friends to distract me. I could have gone down to my Uncle's house. I could have gone into Manhattan and been distracted there, either by shopping or by seeing friends or family. Heck, I could have gone to a hockey game here in Newark. But instead, I chose to have a quiet day of sleep, work, and tv here in the hotel.

I think the solace is good for me. Maybe I'm wrong, though.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Snow Day!

I grew up not too far from the hotel in which I am currently staying. During the winter, almost every night I would go to sleep hoping and praying for a snow storm big enough to cancel -- or at least delay -- school.

Last night, I was hoping against hope that the predicted storm would be small enough that court wouldn't be cancelled. I just want the case to get over with already.

But that was not to be. It's snowing pretty hard here:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Trial, Day 15

Today was a late morning, so I got to sleep in. I am still tired. I am still coughing. Newark is still cold. And it's probably going to snow tomorrow.

Nothing changes. Every once in a while, I think that everything is normal. And then I remember otherwise.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A message

Oh, and I've been neglecting one really important thing: I need to thank everyone who has stopped by this blog over the past two weeks and has left me words of support, encouragement, condolence, and/or compassion. I am pretty sure that I wouldn't have made it through the past two weeks without it.

I am amazed and awed by each and every single one of you, my friends.

Trial, Day 14

Well, we had more trial today. And then we had dinner. Boy, did we have dinner. We went to a Portugese/Brazilian restaurant, where several of us had the rodizio -- where they bring out giant skewers of meat and keep cutting pieces off until you beg them to stop.

One of my coworkers then told me that he can find this blog by googling my name, and that maybe I shouldn't write specific details about the trial anymore, just in case.

My first reaction was that's probably a good thing, because it's not like anyone really wants to read about my work anyway. But then I got curious. So, once I got back to the hotel, I was on a mission -- I googled my name in an attempt to figure out whether you could find the blog through my name.

Turns out, I couldn't. Especially not when I googled my first and last names, as anyone who knows me would likely do. In fact, I didn't find the blog until I googled the words "Dara" and "blog" -- and even then, it was on the second page of the results.

So, I'm safe for now. But who knows -- tomorrow, I might very well ignore the work stuff and post about Lost. It's more interesting anyway.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Trial, Day 13

Yesterday afternoon, on the train up, I kept thinking about how young and innocent and naïve I was when this goddamn trial started. Back when I thought the universe was a rational place, with a logic -- and, for lack of a better word, sanity.

I have been disabused of such notions. Nothing makes sense anymore.

Today, the trial started up once again -- and I am sick, once again. The judge was clearly feeling badly for me, so, after I had a particularly nasty bout of coughing, she kept offering me cough drops. It wasn't until later in the day that she made it clear that she knew about my mom when she called me up to a sidebar to ask a question. She then followed up with an offer of more cough drops, and told me that if I wasn't feeling well, her courtroom deputy had an office with a couch that I could go lie down on.

And that's when I remembered, once again, that I had entered the twilight zone.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The sweater

When I was a kid, my mom had this sweater that she used to wear around the house. Nothing special, just an oversized ivory cardigan with brown buttons and two pockets. But she wore it almost every day.

It was from Bamberger's. I know this, because, the other day, I found it, on the floor of her closet, tucked in a corner. It was dirty, one of the buttons was loose, and one of the pockets was torn.

I took the sweater -- not in a surreptitious way, unlike, say, how I acquired my dad's army jacket. Instead, I walked out of the closet holding the dirty old thing and boldly announced to my father and my sister and my brother that, if no one had any objections, I was taking it.

My dad and brother looked at me as if I were crazy. My sister asked to see the sweater and, after I handed it to her, she held it for a minute or two, quietly inspecting it. Equally quietly, she announced that it was torn, and folded it up and put it on the couch next to her. When she left to go back to her house for the evening, the sweater was still there.

Leaving it like that was clearly an act of consent.

Last night, upon arriving home, I washed the sweater and then sat on the couch, mending it. It made me feel just a little closer -- a little better.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I am currently sitting in my parents' house, alone. Actually, I am sitting in my dad's house, alone. That small change in sentence structure is so gigantic, and is so unlike anything I have ever known, anything I could possibly convey to anyone who hasn't already been through something similar.

It's like the earth all of a sudden spun off its axis. Like the ground suddenly shifted from under my feet.

Seismic. That's the word my sister and I keep using.

I cried a lot on the airplane on the way down. I couldn't read, couldn't listen to music, and, thanks to the TSA, couldn't really pace up and down the airplane. So I cried and wrote in a journal. When I told my brother and dad about it, they concluded that the people sitting next to me must have thought I was schizophrenic.

The next couple of days were a blur. There were the arrangements, and then the funeral, and then the sitting shiva. My brother described it as, "Sorry about your mom. Have some mayo." I would replace the word "mayo" with "babka," but it's close enough. I don't really remember most of it, which is probably a blessing in disguise. I kept my notes from my speech at the funeral, but I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to muster up the strength to look at it.

There are little things I think about that I never really considered before. Like how the last meal I ate with my mom was in a Denny's. And the last time I kissed her was in front of the Palm Beach International airport. And how the last conversation we had was about a Catherine Malandrino dress and the Giants winning the Superbowl. And the last Thanksgiving, the last birthday present, that kind of stuff, the stuff that I would do over again if I knew it was supposed to last a lifetime.

I think, most of all, that's what I'm going to take away from this whole crazy thing.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


There are some words I never in a million years thought I'd have to hear or to say -- or even write. Some things just don't happen. But at 3:40, when I heard my cell phone ringing in the other room, I knew I was about to hear something that would change my life forever. I mean, who's dad calls at 3:40 am on a Thursday unless the most horrible, unthinkable thing has happened?

I can't type the words. It makes it real.

I then had to call my brother and tell him. He answered the phone and I said, "Please don't make me say it out loud."

I then called my sister, who had to tell my Nana. They're on their way to the hospital by now. I sat down on the floor and hyperventilated, until the phone rang again.

I have to figure out how to get myself to Florida -- not to mention how to function on a very, very basic level.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Yet another family crisis

Monday night I had a really hard time sleeping. All night, I tossed and turned, having these incredibly weird dreams about my mom, of all people. When I finally managed to drag my butt out of bed Tuesday morning, I dismissed it as the product of an overworked and overtired brain, as any rational person would.

As luck would have it, my mom was really sick Monday night/Tuesday morning.* She ignored it and managed to get through most of the day, but Tuesday evening, she checked herself into the hospital. And no one told us kids. My sister lives 20 minutes away, and no one bothered to call her. The only reason we found out about it at all was because my brother called my Nana, where he found out about this and the fact that my Nana all but totaled her car on Friday. (I already knew about the car accident.)

Clearly, this is not a good year for my family.

I spent most of the day trying to find out from someone -- anyone -- what the hell was going on. No one was answering the house phone or my mother's cell phone, and my dad's cell phone went straight to voicemail -- which means that it wasn't on or wasn't charged. Go figure. So when I got home, I called my sister, who didn't even know my mom was sick, and I sent her into a panic. And then I called my Nana, who only knew the vaguest of information.

Eventually, my sister and I -- separately -- managed to get to talk to our father. (And then to each other, to our brother, and to Nana.) Turns out that my mom has some kind of infection and is septic. And now she's having complications -- she's having difficulty breathing, her kidneys aren't working, and her blood pressure is really low. And she's a diabetic who is allergic to a whole bunch of medicines.

I don't know anything about medicine, but I know this is bad -- and the doctors have pretty much confirmed my worst fears.

My entire family seems to understand the scope, but we all process it differently, I guess. Apart from failing to communicate with his children, my dad complained about how my mother was complaining, and about how she seemed so much better in the morning, before he left her to go to work. And then he decided that he would go to sleep early so he can deal with things tomorrow, with a clear head.

My brother, the baby of the family, is in some kind of denial, saying that, after the past couple of months, the fates "owe us one." My Nana is understandably worried about her eldest child.

My sister is a wreck. She called me to cry -- and I wasn't having any of it. In no uncertain terms, I told her to stop, that she could fall apart when it's over, but for now, she has to be a grown-up. She says she's not strong enough -- I told her that's bullshit -- people manage to get through what they need to get through, piece by piece, little by little. We're all worried and sad and scared about mom, but everyone else can't spend their limited energy making her feel better about it. She needs to find that strength for herself.

As for me, I'm listening to the rain pound against my window, and checking on flights to Florida for the weekend. I'm still kind of hoping to go next month, under better circumstances. But I'll decide tomorrow.

*This is not the first time such a thing has happened in my family. Half my life ago, when I was sixteen, my mom was scheduled to have foot surgery -- and I was really excited about getting to drive her car around while she recovered. But when she went to have the surgery, she had a panic attack when they tried to give her the anesthetic. Turns out, my Pop - her dad - was in the process of having emergency bypass surgery.

Reflections on Super Tuesday

I watched the Super Tuesday returns come in last night with the same feeling I've had for weeks -- internal conflict resulting from my likely choice of candidate in the upcoming Democratic primary. Since that blog entry, every other member of my family that has voted in the Democratic primary in their respective states has voted for Hillary Clinton.* And I totally understand why. (I'd probably only find it really puzzling if one of them suddenly voted for Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, or this guy.)

Today, via email, I had a conversation about the candidates with a friend, someone who seems to reach similar decisions to me but approaches pretty much everything in a very different way. She asked me if it was an easy decision.

On the one hand, it's sort-of funny because I'm not 100% decided -- and I probably won't be until I actually get in the box and touch the screen. But that's academic, since I've been saying that I'm leaning towards Obama for several weeks now. So my response was more serious/less pithy:

It hasn't been easy at all. On day one, I've was about 51-49 in favor of Obama. (Actually it was about 35-33-32 Obama-Edwards-Clinton, until I figured that Edwards wasn't really a viable candidate.) Then [Rabid Hillary supporter's] emails pushed me further into Obama territory. But [Obama Fans'] constant [commenting] about him has pushed me slightly in the other direction, not to mention Hillary's impressive performance on Letterman the other night.

Ignoring for a second the whole feminism/post-feminism aspect of the debate, ultimately, I've sort-of concluded that I like Obama's optimism and the fact that he symbolizes a complete change from the status quo, which is enough to overcome the fact that she actually seems to represent a slightly more left-of-center liberalism. But I will happily support either one of them in the general election, and I get very annoyed whenever other Democrats go around bashing either one of them.

I mean that. I get frustrated whenever I see supporters of either Democratic candidate bashing the other one. It's silly and unproductive -- and in the general election, will be turned around and used against whichever candidate ultimately prevails.

*An aside: My dad joked that he voted for John McCain -- but no one in my family has voted Republican in years, and my dad wouldn't be the first to cross the party line. (Although I am sure that if he was voting for a Republican in Florida, it would have been McCain or Giuliani -- and not Romney or Huckabee.) So then he admitted that he voted for Hillary because he and my mom don't think that a black candidate can win in this country, not yet. Of course, I then pointed out that if some people can't bring themselves to vote for a black man, what makes him think those same people would vote for a woman. So then he said that the Democrats would undoubtedly lose either way in November. Not very optimistic, right?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Geeks and Pop Culture

I have a friend who apparently is a finalist in some kind of comic book superhero contest. If he wins, his character and plot will be featured in a series of comic books.

Other than attending the occasional movie based on a comic and visiting Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash (the New Jersey location), I know nothing about comics -- but I can usually tell when something is a big deal. I quickly decided that my friend's contest must be a pretty big deal if he's getting email congratulations from some really big names in the entertainment industry. So, at first, I thought that his accomplishment was the equivalent of being crowned king of the geeks.

But according to the A.V. Club, my impression was dead wrong: Comic books don't even rank on their list of the 20 geekiest pop-culture obsessions. (And neither do Star Wars and Monty Python, apparently.) Being an avowed Monty Python geek and occasional Star Wars fan, I am intrigued by this list and decided to parse it more carefully in order to determine just how geeky I am.

The results:

  1. Star Trek. I have seen a couple of the movies. I have seen a couple of the episodes of the original series and The Next Generation. I know who Captain Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Captain Picard are. Other than that, nothing. Clearly this is not my thing.

  2. Renaissance faires. I've been known to go to them, and sometimes even take pictures. But I don't dress up: I make fun of people who dress up. I make fun of people who spell it "faire." I do, however, like to eat food on sticks.

  3. Fantasy Sports. Well, you got me there. I have been known to play fantasy sports. And win. But here's an important observation: I'm a girl. Doesn't that cancel out the geekiness of it? Well, that and the fact that I don't really care?

  4. Michael Jackson. I owned Thriller once upon a time, and I have one Jackson 5 CD. I am marginally disturbed by him in general, more so by his face, and even more so because of his increasingly erratic behavior. Not a fan.

  5. Wikipedia. Admittedly, this is a close call. I find Wikipedia intriguing. And for something that is public domain, it's surprisingly accurate, all things considered. But I draw the line at editing.

  6. Battlestar Galactica. I think the only thing I know about this show is that it is the source of the swear-substitute "frakking." Not my thing.

  7. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I may have been known to dance the Time Warp. I know when to throw the toast. And at one point, I did suggest to my best friend that we dress like Columbia and Magenta. But I haven't seen it in years. Honest.

  8. Joss Whedon. I have seen every episode of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. I have the DVDs. I even have the movies and the soundtrack to the musical episode. I paid special attention when he directed The Office. So yeah, guilty as charged.

  9. Media-specific role-playing. I don't even know what this means. Next.

  10. Magic: The Gathering. Never played, and probably would laugh if someone asked.

  11. World of Warcraft. Same answer. But if someone offered me the chance to play Guitar Hero, that seems like it would be fun.

  12. The Simpsons. I have seen quite a number of episodes, and overall enjoy the show enough to try to catch it on Sunday evenings -- usually while doing laundry. At one point in time, I used to pay attention to the quips that Bart wrote on the chalkboard in the opening sequence, and even had a Bart Simpson t-shirt -- but that was almost 20 years ago. Sadly, despite my best intentions, I never even got around to seeing the movie this summer. Does this count as a half?

  13. Doctor Who. I can honestly say that I have never seen an episode. Where do they air it?

  14. Frank Zappa. I'm sure I've heard some of his music, but I don't own any of it. I know what his kids' names are, though.

  15. Game Show Tape Trading. People really do this? Why would you want to see a repeat of an old game show? Lame.

  16. Anime. I have a Tokidoki for LeSportsac bag with anime pirates on it that I occasionally use as a briefcase substitute. But that's about the extent of it.

  17. Cosplay. The last time I dressed like a cartoon character was back in the first grade, when I was Cinderella for Halloween. Although I have contemplated being the Corpse Bride some year. But Halloween is the exception, not the rule -- so I'm safe.

  18. Live action role playing. The closest I ever got to this was a week-long game of Axis and Allies back in high school. Not quite the same as Dungeons and Dragons, though.

  19. Second Life / MySpace / FaceBook. I have one of the three (MySpace). I am not one of those people who tricked out their profile page with all sorts of graphics and whatnot. The extent of my use of the silly thing is to sign in about once a week to change the song to fit my mood. And I only have people I know as my friends. And yes, I am aware that everyone says Facebook is better, but I don't care enough to try.

  20. Fanfic. I don't write fan fiction. I don't have the time or the inclination.

So, what does that total to? Fantasy sports and Joss Whedon, with a little bit of Renn Fest, MySpace, Simpsons, and Rocky Horror thrown in for good measure. Not overwhelmingly geeky, I suppose. To compete, I guess I'm going to have to get my own comic book.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Some things change, others not so much

With the exception of last weekend, I was away from home -- and my office -- for three weeks. All things considered, three weeks is not that long -- but it was enough time that things felt off. My commute felt different. Not wearing a suit felt weird. Sitting at my desk felt strange.

It must be the sleep deprivation.

But there were some actual changes. For example, on my walk to Metro this morning, I noticed that a bunch of stores in the mall had gotten facelifts, and that they're opening a new Harry's Tap Room to replace the icky Ruby Tuesday's. But then, on my walk back from Metro this evening, I realized that not even a Harry's Tap Room will make the mall patrons less annoying. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

So, now that I'm home for the time being, there's places to go, things to do. I'm pretty sure that a haircut is in order, since I'm pretty sure that, except for the drunken bang-cutting incident, my last haircut was sometime this summer.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Trial, day 12

Actually, forget about that. The Judge basically kicked us out of her courtroom at noon to address some criminal matters -- which was perfectly fine with me, since I made it back to DC on the 1:14 Acela.

It also meant that it was okay that I stayed up late to watch Jimmy Kimmel, and got to see this video:

For the record, this may be the first time I've ever really liked Sarah Silverman. So funny.