I’ve trained for decades in the art of patiently waiting for people to butcher my name. It’s often a teacher or customer service official who has to read aloud from a list. I listen to them breeze through Daniel and Jennifer and even Dwayne, but inevitably, there’s a break in their rhythm. “James! Carrie! Karima! Stephanie! Kevin!” Pause. “Bar—” Pause. They look around the room and then look back at their list. Their confidence falters. The declarative tone applied to the names before mine gives way to a weak, interrogative stumbling:

Barry? Barrington? Baracuda? Bartuna? Bartender? Bartunda? Bartholomew? Bart? Baritone? Baritone Dave? Barathunde? Bar—? Brad!!

The person who called me Brad was engaged in the most lazy and hilarious form of wishful thinking, but all the others kind of, sort of, maybe make some sense. This experience is so common in my life that I now entirely look forward to it. Like a child on Christmas morning who hasn’t yet been told that Santa is a creation of consumer culture maintained by society to extend the myth of “economic growth,” I eagerly await the gift of any new variation the next person will invent. Can I get a Beelzebub? Who will see a Q where none exists? How about some numbers or special characters? Can I get a hyphen, underscore, forward slash? Only after letting the awkward process run its public course do I step forward, volunteering myself as the bearer of the unpronounceable label and correct them. “That’s me. It’s Baratunde.”

—Baratunde Thurston, How to Be Black

My first name doesn’t come on magnets

Family, Personal

Welcome, Lucifer!

Alex and I were in Oxford for a week so I could attend and present at a conference. While away, my sister watched our cat and made sure he didn’t get too lonely. It worked well because Dixon didn’t hate us when we returned late on Sunday night and he hasn’t been angrily ignoring us since we returned.

Well, not because we left him for a week, anyway. He has been slightly upset with us since Tuesday, when my parents dropped off a kitten at our place:

Nothing like a kitten!

Nothing like a kitten!

My parents have a small colony of stray/feral cats in their backyard. For some reason, they refuse to trap the females to have them spayed. (The males are much more aggressive and much more difficult to trap to have them neutered.) Instead, they’ve been watching these cats get pregnant and give birth repeatedly over the last couple of years. Some of the kittens were caught and given away. Others grew up in the colony and the cycle continued. (Others, meanwhile, perished.) With this latest litter, I think my parents finally understood what needs to be done. There’s only one adult female left who comes around (they call her “Seraya,” which means “Gray” in Russian) and they’re finally getting her spayed after this latest litter.

However, they first needed to find homes for the three kittens. They managed to give two away to friends and coworkers, leaving only the little susuwatari to be adopted out. My mom called me and said, “What if we bring her by your place? Just until the weekend.” Yeah. ‘Cause that’s how that works with kittens. You can keep them for a few days and just let them go. But how could I say no to a kitten? So they dropped her off at my place on Tuesday night.

I worked from home the next day so I could take the kitten to the vet to get her checked out. It was determined that she is, in fact, a she and that she’s about 8 weeks old. She weighed in at a tiny 2lb 3oz. She had no fleas but the vet tech did find two ticks on her face. Otherwise, though, she was deemed extremely healthy for a stray kitten. (Everyone in the clinic took a turn holding her and making all kinds of cooing noises at her.)

She was extremely docile the first 24 hours. (She must have been frightened and overwhelmed by all the new sights, sounds, and smells. Also being poked and prodded by the vet must have been nerve-wracking.) However, by Thursday, she was much more mobile and feeling frisky. She’s eating well, using her litter box, and playing with anything that moves:

Die, drawstring! Die!

Die, drawstring! Die!

All that was left was her name. I first named her Zuzu (short for susuwatari, the soot sprites in Miyazaki’s films) but it didn’t really suit her and Alex wasn’t crazy about it. I then called her “Lucy” once when it just slipped out. I told Alex about it and he liked it. So now she’s Lucy. And if her troublemaking tendencies keep up, we can call her Lucifer ;)

We’ve been keeping Lucy separated from Dixon for fear of Dixon lashing out and hurting Lucy. However, we’ve been letting them mingle more together and, while he’s not thrilled with her, Dixon has stopped hissing and growling at the newcomer. They are not friends yet, though, by any stretch: he keeps eating her food, pouncing on her when she’s playing, and chasing her through the house. However, it is now Lucy who has the upper hand: she’s been the one hissing and growling at Dixon! I hope they can forge a friendship soon, though. I love my kitties and want to be able to snuggle with them both.



Yesterday, I embarked on the latest biking challenge I’ve set for myself: complete a[n imperial] century. That’s 100 miles in less than 12 hours. This came on the heels of my completing a metric century (100km), which I loved. Luckily, Transportation Alternatives hosts a yearly century ride to raise awareness of bicycling in NYC and uses the proceeds to fund its advocacy efforts. In 2009, I signed up for the 15-mile ride and barely completed that, if I remember correctly. (They no longer offer a 15-mile option.)  This year, I signed up for the full 100-mile ride. In the end, I had to modify the route I took because I simply couldn’t needlessly go over yet another bridge… but I still pedaled over 100 miles!

Map of NYC with 100-mile route highlighted

It was an amazing experience. I was surrounded by thousands of like-minded cyclists. (A group of cyclists all making the same turn around a bend is a sight to behold.) I saw so many parts of New York City that I don’t normally get to see. I climbed a ton of hills. I was cheered on by passersby. Simply, I was reminded of what a truly amazing city I live in. It’s a fantastic way to see the city and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Some of my highlights from this year’s ride:

  • Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at 5:30 AM, before all the tourists were awake.
  • Getting lost in empty & quiet Prospect Park after I got bad intel about the Brooklyn starting line.
  • Climbing up the never-ending hills of Highland Park and Forest Park in Queens.
  • Enjoying the serene ride along the East River on bike paths in Ralph Demarco Park and Astoria Park.
  • Riding along the Harlem River Greenway (along the former site of the Harlem River Speedway!).
  • The spectacular views from the many bridges we crossed.
  • Being called a “roadie” by an enraged cyclist on the Hudson River Greenway on my way home. (I passed him and he got angry. Started spouting off about road cyclists and races: “Oh, of COURSE. Fucking roadies. Do you see a race here? Are you in a race? How’s your race going?”)

Does this look like a roadie to you!?

Allie on her bike, riding along the Hudson River on Shore Parkway, with 1WTC in the background

OK, fine, maybe I was decked out in my fanciest road riding gear. But I had to be safe and comfortable for the long ride that went over many types of terrains with the sun beating down on me! Here’s what all I had on this ride:



Other Necessities

I also brought a bunch of my own food so I wouldn’t have to stand in the long lines, including Clif bars & energy gels, Clif Kit’s Organic Fruit and Seed Bars, Pure Ancient Grains bars, Bobo’s Oat Bars, and fresh fruit (apples & bananas). I burned an estimated 2,300 calories during this ride. My calculations tell me I consumed 1,350 calories during the ride. The green smoothie I had for breakfast adds another 250 calories for a grand total of 1,600 calories that I had to burn during the ride. Needless to say, I was ravenous—on top of being exhausted—by the time I got home around 5:30. And then I was out by 9:30 PM.

Freakin’ awesome day.