How does that go, about it taking a village?

I've been a big proponent of living in the city of Syracuse, and often looked somewhat cross-eyed at people who did a lot of work in the city but lived in the suburbs.

And then, after five years and some change within the city limits, I moved into the Village of East Syracuse.

The move, actually, fulfilled a lot of the goals I used to write about in terms of living in the city – being able to walk to everything I need, being close to work.

And, in fact, when I asked about six weeks ago over Twitter and Facebook what a village is, pretty much everybody said a place that has everything one needs within its borders.

For those of you who loved my last place, you'll be a combination of disappointed and charmed by the new place. It's much smaller, which I think scores on both sides of that coin (much less room for gatherings, but it's not a five-minute walk to change conversations). There are no mysterious hallways, no surprise steps. There's a door on the bedroom (score!).

Within an eight-block walk, I have:

- Two diners
- A restaurant
- A sports pub
- Two pizza places
- Chinese take-out
- A market
- Two convenience stores
- A donut shop
- A bakery
- A park with tennis and basketball courts
- A library
- A thrift store
- Doggy day care
- Barber shops and salons
- Shoe repair
- A jewelry store
- Auto repair

And that's not counting the commercial strip just over the railroad tracks, which I pretty much never visit. It has a Subway, a Dunkin Donuts (that's right, the donut shop mentioned above is a local one), a Wal-Mart, a BJ's, a Staples (OK, sometimes I need a Staples run).

I've been to a couple of the businesses two or three times, and the proprietors have recognized me.

I'm looking forward to riding my bike the 1.3 miles to work on a daily basis, not like the twice-a-summer I was able to pull in my last place, since it was seven miles each way.

The piano in the photo, by the way, is well-traveled. It will be tuned this weekend, and I'll finally get to sit down and play it for the first time in a long (long) time.

I'm happy to be settling in here.

Been a decent week

The only thing that really changed between 11:59 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. Tuesday was a feeling of hope; a feeling of, "Glad that's over, I'm looking forward to moving on a bit."

It's actually just about the same change that took place for me between 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31, 2008, and 12:01 a.m., Jan. 1, 2009. I got to experience that one twice in three weeks!

And so I've been walking around humming this tune this morning, though I couldn't find some video of it for you – so likely you'll just have to make up your own melody.

That's a good project for a Friday anyway, I'm betting.

[ transition ]

I'm borrowing brackets (but not underscores) from James. I feel it gives a sense of whispering to a headline (I don't know why James has opted for the convention).

We're about to flip our calendars. In fact, in most of our cases, we'll be recycling calendars in exchange for new ones, shifting the weight from the top to the bottom.

This is the time for lists, for memories, for resolutions.

I will, in no uncertain terms, not miss 2008. It began with a major snowstorm, a storm which has not abated for 363 days and counting.

Close family members, close friends have passed this year. Close family members of close friends have done the same.

It was a bad year to be a celebrity; lots of them passed as well, people with names like Heath Ledger, Preacher Roe and Eartha Kitt, among the dozens or hundreds.

We've watched the financial industry crash, watched people and charities ruined in a scam, watched the auto industries in the U.S., U.K., Mexico and Japan reduced to begging.

The people who started the year as well-liked, squeaky-clean governors of New York and Illinois tumbled in scandal, so far resulting in one resignation.

As the year rolls to a close, Palestinians and Israelis are killing each other again.

This isn't to say there's no hope for 2009: in fact, I think it's what we have most of.

It's also not to say good things didn't happen in 2008. Some most assuredly did. I think the world would not have survived had they not.

My 2009 will begin a few weeks late. I am half-in, half-out of boxes at the moment. I am, as one friend put it, "right-sizing" – downsizing to surroundings that I fit into, rather than having spare rooms I don't use.

My plan is to leave some goals open for 2009, but among those I hope to be able to quantify, once I'm in my new space, I hope to:

• Take more photos for the greater good, not necessarily for sale. I'm hoping to put at least three new photos on flickr each week.

• Publish something in Corpse. It's a publication I both enjoy and respect, and I'd be honored to be on their contributors list.

• Make this space here a lot prettier, more professional, and more useful. That includes better (more frequent, more informative) posting, and more creative use of space.

That's the beginning. There will be more.

I also have great hopes for Central New York in 2009, but that's another post for another day.

My hope for you, dear reader: a happy and a healthy 2009.

November: Looking back, looking forward

November was a good – if very busy – month.

You may have noticed I neglected the blog for most of the month. Hell, you may have stopped reading the blog because I neglected it for most of the month. But hopefully you're at least subscribed to the RSS feed (and if not, please do subscribe) or reading it because you follow me on Twitter (again, if you're not, please do).

So, what came of November? Well, there was...

• The 40 Under 40 award. This was a classy affair. About 420 people or so for lunch and the ceremony, and I wound up on TV. This was definitely an honor, especially when I look at the other names on the list.

• There's a new title on my resume (retroactively). I was already doing the job, but, well, I needed to show some movement. The new title ("Project Coordinator") may still get massaged, but both my boss and I signed a title change sheet, so I'm calling it official.

• There was the whole NaNoWriMo thing. I churned out (officially) 50,015 words between Nov. 1 and Nov. 25, which meant that not only did they declare me a "winner," I spent a long Thanksgiving break hanging out with my family, rather than trying to cross the 50,000-word mark.

In December, I am looking forward to...

• Downsizing. Getting rid of the stuff I don't use, books I'm not re-reading, etc. I'm hoping this turns into moving into a new apartment, as well. I currently have two rooms that hold four file drawers and a book case, and nothing else. I have to walk through them, but I rarely stop in them. They could certainly be consolidated into a small office.

• Editing the crap out of the NaNoWriMo stuff. Some people actually wrote full novels, but I wrote short, creative non-fiction essays. They aren't related, and are, I guess to use a legal term, severable. I'll break them up, edit them down, and if something's worth posting I'll post it, and if something's better, I'll try to sell it.

NaNoWriMo, Take 2

Back in 2006 (all those years ago), I took a stab at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo/nanowrimo).

I didn't get too far.

The goal of nanowrimo is to churn out a 50,000-word novel between midnight on Nov. 1 and 11:59:59 p.m. Nov. 30.

That's 1,667 words per day, or about 70 words an hour (daylight savings time ends this month, so we get an extra hour).

In 2006, I set a goal of actually writing those 1,667 words each day. I did great for four days. When I missed one day, looking down the barrel of over 3,300 words got daunting, and I only got 1,000 out. That left me with 4,000 words the next day, and that was it for me.

I'm not going to be so much concerned with daily word counts this year. I may aim for 12,500 words a week, but even then, I'm not going to sweat it too much, because I know if I get going, I can churn out 5,000 words in a sitting, get up, stretch, grab a glass of water, and churn out another 5,000.

And this time, I'm going the creative non-fiction route. As far as fiction goes, I'm really good at creating characters, but just no good at having them do anything interesting. Fifty thousand words of character development with no plot just sounds miserable.

Also, I'm thinking if I do this correctly, I could sell it in pieces, rather than having to shop the whole thing. But maybe that's getting ahead of myself. But I'm geared up for this, think I can really do something fun this year.

I'll keep you apprised.

Embracing the poison

There's a lot of poison in my body these days, although it's starting to leave, slowly.

It started when I was out at Chittenango Falls on Yom Kippur. I stepped on a wet rock, fell, and banged my left elbow.

I can now put weight on it via my hand and forearm, but I still can't lean directly on it. Worse, I keep banging it, even if just lightly, on my desk, on my car door, wherever. It's got one of those "holy crap! that's ugly!" bruises that doesn't hurt as bad as it looks, but it's still one of those injuries that sends bad blood through your veins.

The following Saturday – just over a week ago, now – I was stung multiple times by what I think was a yellow jacket. It somehow got entangled in my shirt, and it got me in the left shoulder and just below the navel, and probably dragged its venomous stinger under my skin for part of that journey. I'm not allergic to such stings, but as with any venom that gets put into your veins, the affected area was swollen. In fact, I'm going to estimate that more than 60 percent of my stomach and chest were swollen.

The swelling is definitely down (a little remains above my pants line, where my abdomen folding over a belt would get irritated), but I'm sure the poison's not out of my system. I'm a little paranoid, actually, of getting stung again, and if it happens soon, I'm going to the emergency room.

One thing Zach Phillips said at the 40 Below summit yesterday hit home with me. To create good art, he said, you have to embrace your pain, whether it's physical or emotional.

I've decided to go with that, and I'm starting to see art everywhere, even if I'm not capturing it. It's really uplifting.

The sound of everything

A 15-second look at Chittenango Falls

I began reading The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi on Thursday.

It's a semi-autobiographical novel about an Afghan woman whose husband is killed by the Taliban. She moves to Denmark, where she must learn a new language – a language that, to her, sounds like bees buzzing.

That I began reading it on Thursday is significant. It was Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish day of atonement, a day when we connect with God to apologize for our sins over the past year. It is tradition to fast (food and liquid) from sundown to sundown. My take: food deprivation is an altered state that brings you closer to God.

Chittenango FallsIf you've never done such a fast, here is a brief timeline of some physical consequences of a 24-hour fast (I can only speak from my experiences; some of you might have others you'd like to share in comments).

• Dehydration headaches
• General fatigue
• General difficulty focusing
• A sharp hunger pang about 16 hours in, that subsides quickly
• Euphoria
• A return of all senses to normal

Take that last one with a grain of salt because, while it feels like you're running on normal, you are dehydrated and without nutrients, which means your body doesn't work quite the way you expect it to.

It's really the euphoria part that makes Yom Kippur my favorite holiday.

Everything sounds really loud – a bird flushed from the bushes sounds like a motorcycle. A fly buzzing around your table sounds like you have your head in a beehive.

Everything seems bigger and brighter. Visual depth doesn't matter. The autumn colors are vivid, and in very sharp contrast to the sky, be it blue or gray.

After services, I went to Chittenango Falls for the first time. I took five rolls of film; the four rolls of color are brilliant, and it will be a while before the black and whites come back.

I spent about five hours out there. It was a beautiful day, and the colors were at peak, so there were a lot of people viewing the falls.

I also went out on the Chips trail, which is an easy 0.85-mile hike, and didn't see another human for three hours.

It was amazing, from the miles of colors, to the sound of leaves underfoot, to the power of the water. I'm also looking forward to getting back out there sometime in winter, to see the ice buildup at the bottom.

Hey, someone interviewed me!

I always forget what it's like to be on the getting-asked-the-questions side of the interview.

For those of you who don't know, one of the things I do in my job is to run a blog about pro athletes with CNY connections. It's generally fairly dormant in the summer, since the locals playing pro baseball aren't really key players, though they have their moments.

But Orange Chuck, a former Syracuse guy in North Carolina, doesn't hold the summers against me, and interviewed me for his 12 questions series this morning.

Interviews are difficult enough for me – it's hard to be on for whatever question is coming – but also being able to answer honestly and completely, without violating any trade secrets, is doubly difficult.

Anyway, thanks, Chuck, for the opportunity, and I'm glad you're enjoying the interviewing.