Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blogging and Biking

From (my other blog) Blog-By-Bike:

Long before I began Blog-By-Bike ... or at least in the years prior (long is a relative term) ... I often lamented that some of my best writing is forever lost in the streets of New York City. I would be strolling in Manhattan or clinging to a pole in the subway and the perfect assortment and order of words would drift through my head. Despite silently repeating my self-acclaimed profound thoughts over and over, they were often lost before I could get pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard. I began carrying a miniature notebook in my purse just for that reason, and Helen now carries one on her bike. I will be, too, this summer in the hopes that less of my best writing will be forever lost with the ghost of my pedal strokes across North America.

In my first blog - dedicated to my journey of becoming a New Yorker - I wrote my opening post on July 1, 2006, when I was a month away from my big move to New York City. I had no apartment. No job. No corporate connections. I still felt like it was ok to order pizza from Dominos and had no knowledge of bodegas or that a hero is both Derek Jeter and a sandwich. No substantial comprehension of the subway. No Duane Reade card. I  All I had was the hope that comes with knowing what you want. While some wondered why, I instead wondered the scarier question of why not?

In a book I read recently, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now, there is an entire chapter dedicated to what Gordon Livingston, M.D. considers to be life's two most important questions: "Why?" and "Why not?"

"If people are reluctant to answer 'Why?' questions in their lives, they also tend to have trouble with 'Why not?' The latter implies risk," Livingston writes. "Steeped in habit and fearful of change, most of us are to some degree risk-averse. Particularly in activities that may involve rejection, we tend to act as if our sense of ourselves is fragile and must be protected. One would think that these fears would improve with age and experience; the opposite is usually the case."

Livingston goes on to say, "When presented with new things, the operative question may be 'Why not?' but people frequently defend themselves from disappointment by asking 'Why?' This can lead to the creative of endless excuses for not taking [chances]." Though he is specifically referring to intimate relationships in this chapter, one can apply this valuable insight to a variety of scenarios in life.

I'm a planner. I'm organized. I make lists. I use Microsoft Excel outside of the office to systematize an assortment of elements in my personal life. I did not go to a four-year university with the intention of becoming a "glorified secretary", but I think I'm now a pretty good corporate-NYC executive assistant because organization and planning come naturally to me. I enjoy paying my credit card bill in full each month. In fact, I kinda get off on not being in debt. I have a diversified portfolio of mutual funds (modest in value though it may be), I contribute the maximum for company-match to my 401(k), and I had an IRA before I graduated from college. I wear sunscreen daily from May to September. I have a vitamin regimen that involves supplement intake three times a day. I've never been bungee jumping, and I'm reserving sky diving for my 70th or 80th birthday - when I won't be quite as disappointed if my parachute fails to open.

On the surface, I do not live an incredibly risky life. But I've never let risk stand in the way of something I want. Maybe it's because I had incorporated Livingston's declaration of the final and controlling paradox even before I read his definition on page 54: Only by embracing our mortality can we be happy in the time we have. It closely resembles my own personal vendetta with "time" -- fueled by my secret fear that I won't get to do everything I hope to do before I die -- that we must be grateful to be given the years of which others are denied so that the few they might have been granted were not lived in vain.

While reading Livingston's chapter on why and why not, I wondered why we are often more protective of our sense of self than we are of the time we have. We treat our feelings as if they are more fragile - when in fact "time" - which is far more delicate than our ego - is finite and incredibly, relatively limited. Is science not indirectly teaching us that our lives are nothing more than a blink of the cosmic eye in the vast, immeasurable universe?

Just as I fended the "Why?" questions that proceeded my move to New York City in 2006 - often with a shrug and a smile - I have also faced the raised eyebrows and wide eyes that have followed my announcement to cycle across North America in 2010.

I'll continue to approach most things in life with a "Why not?" attitude, but this summer - in this blog - with each pedal stroke and each published post, I'll be specifically answering the "Why not?" question of cycling 3,629 miles in 50 days. I suspect that it will have many answers. Those answers may not convince anyone else otherwise, but it will be my own personal record for reflection. I'll stop as often as I can to jot my thoughts in my little notebook, and I hope most of them make it to publication on my blog. Even if some of my thoughts are forever lost in the space and time between Oregon and New Hampshire, I know that the basic message to myself will not be.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I Own This City

There are so many owners of New York City.

I am one.

Here is another.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Value of a MetroCard

When I'm not speeding through subway turnstiles at my "New Yorker hurry-up-and-wait" pace, I'm going to start picking up MetroCards.

Here's why.

... My new means of income hobby means that I should probably consider carrying hand sanitizer - even though I'm that person, who will hang onto a pole in the train, exit the subway, buy an apple from a fruit vendor on the street and start eating it immediately. I truly believe that my immune system is awesome because of this.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Letters to Our Younger Selves

From (my other blog) Blog-By-Bike:

Ellyn Spragins and I first connected when she commented on a blog post in which I had included a copy of a letter to my younger self that I had written in 2008. It was inspired by a contest in Marie Claire magazine that was based on Ellyn's books. I never actually entered the contest, but two years later, my letter led to a personal invitation from Ellyn to host one of the inaugural "Letters to My Younger Self" Parties. After I agreed, she sent the invitations, party kit, a free copy of her latest book to reference at the party, which had a personalized inscription from Ellyn to me, and swag for the gift bags (which included products from Neutrogena, Trish McEvoy and Suze Orman). Virtually all I had to do was be a host. And since I organized a potluck picnic, I spent less than $100 on pens, gift bags, champagne, orange juice and disposable cups, plates and eating utensils).

In a note to the party hosts on March 6, 2010, Ellyn mentioned that there would be nearly 50 LTMYS Parties taking place across the United States during the week of April 30-May 2 - an initiative that she is developing into a product associated with her books. Among us, she noted, were dear family members, treasured friends, neighbors, readers, attendees and organizers of her speeches and Letters to My Younger Self Seminars - women spanning age ranges from their twenties to their sixties.

And so it came to be that seven of my 20- and 30-something girlfriends gathered in Central Park on Sunday, May 2, for our own LTMYS Party - a picnic brunch with discreetly-contained mimosas (hey, Mayor Bloomberg said it was ok) and delicious snacks (most notably, lemon-artichoke pesto and sliced baguettes from Zabars). We shared our potluck snacks, drank premium orange juice spiked with cheap champagne (except me since my bicycle training rides are getting longer), enjoyed small talk and laughter, and then listened while three friends read aloud from Ellyn's book - letters by Diane Von Furstenberg, Bobbie Brown and Barbara Walters. Finally, under the cool shade of a large tree at the north end of Sheep Meadow, we began our own letters. Except me again. I just continued eating since I had already written a letter to my younger self and posted it on my blog ... hence the reason I am holding a laptop in our group photo.

 


Bianca

Keisha


Liz


And me ...
 Dear Younger Self,

You won’t have what you thought you'd have by your late-20s. But you’ll be happy. You’ll have a 350-square foot apartment in Manhattan. A MetroCard. A job as an executive assistant surrounded by amazing women. You’ll have great friends, New York, phone calls from mom, dirty martinis, Lox cream cheese and bagels.

You’ll realize something new about yourself often. You won't seek to constantly reinvent yourself, yet you might not ever really know everything about you because different parts of you will change – sometimes frequently. This should probably bother you, but it won’t.

You’ll wish you were wittier, and you’ll be a sucker for a sense of humor. You won’t fall in love easily, you won’t get attached easily, and you’ll have to be both of those things if you’re going to get jealous easily; you’ll be able to thank a military-brat upbringing for that. You will be nominated for the "Most Friendly" Senior Superlative at your second high school, and you’ll be a "relatively nice" New Yorker 10 years later. But you’ll have a dark side, and you generally won’t trust those who don't. You’ll like to step back and absorb certain moments so that you can remember the details; you’ll do that most often when your friends are laughing.


You’ll crave cliché “Sex and the City” moments because it’s how you once pictured your life – minus, of course, the Manolo Blahniks, Upper East Side brownstones, and voluminous consumption of Magnolia Bakery cupcakes without gaining a pound. Your narrative thoughts and meaningful conversations won’t be set to background music, but you’ll have the fantasy in syndication and the real thing right outside your window. You won’t worry that your life is becoming a cliché because there will be a reason that you are not the first to live life the way you’ll choose to live it. And you’ll want to be Melanie Griffith at the end of Working Girl when she calls her best friend and says, "Guess where I am right now."

Good and bad things will happen. And you'll have regrets. A few will stay with you always. So embrace varying levels of disappointment so that you’ll recognize rapturous joy. Floss your teeth regularly. Take chances. Don't settle for what’s easy; seek what’s worth it. Take random walks in this city. Look for sights you can't believe, listen for sounds that tug at your heart strings, savor the feelings that take your breath away. Eat more fruits and vegetables; drink more water. Allow yourself to be swept off your feet regularly. Save money and spend wisely. Live like Anthony Hopkins in Meet Joe Black so that you can wake up one morning and say, "I don't want anything more."

When you write this letter, you still won’t know who you are exactly, but you’ll realize it and be ok with it. And you’ll see that the only thing that matters for any of us in the end is that we once existed. So laugh more, love more, live more. Because you can.

Love Always,
Your 28-Year Old Self 

P.S. And when you're 30, you'll cycle across North America [2010 revision].

UPDATES:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Difference Between the City & Everywhere Else

From CityWendy's "The Big Day":

"Hey, you know what the difference is between a 40th birthday party and a 30th birthday party? At the 40th, half your guests have to get home early to relieve the babysitter. That's ok; more Sangria for us!"

And that's because we live in New York City. Back in North Carolina, that's largely how the 25th birthday party works.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Katie Project

From (my other blog) Blog-By-Bike:

My boyfriend thinks I'm just like Julie Powell. That's what I get for encouraging him to watch a romantic comedy.

Between basketball practice, team meetings and publicity events associated with the bj-league in Japan, he is fairly isolated during his downtime - namely because he doesn't speak fluent Japanese. Because of this general seclusion from direct American contact, he is easily swayed to consume any media that is produced in English.

"It was a good movie," Terrence said - something I'm sure he'd be less eager to confess if I had physically dragged him into a theater to see Julie & Julia myself.

"And Meryl Streep was adorable," he admitted - an opinion he was less reluctant to divulge since he has a widely-known affinity for cuteness (Side note: Julie never actually called Julia Child "adorable"). If you ever want to make a 6'9" heterosexual male melt, just send him a link to any "cute kitten" video on YouTube. He also thinks tall, awkward women are more appealing that short, cute women - which was another factor that made this movie an easy sell.

And then he added, "And you are just like Julie."

"What about me is just like Julie?" I asked. "Give me adjectives."

"Just like she is," he replied. "You saw the movie. I'm not going to go crazy typing it all out, but you act like she does." [I suppose I should also clarify that this entire conversation took place via AOL Instant Messenger.]

"Neurotic?" I probed.

"Yes."

"Obsessive?"

"Yes."

"Redundant?"

"Yes."

I paused, realizing that I had not come up with one endearing adjective to describe Julie.

"Focused," he typed, "And female."

"Thanks for putting a positive spin on this," I typed back.

I'm not sure what kind of picture this paints for anyone who might be reading this blog without ever having met me - especially if one already has a mental perception of a 30-year old, half-Filipina, half-White woman, who is tall for anyone of Asian decent, with a long torso, short arms, long legs and small, exactly-the-same-size feet (an apparently abnormal trait), as determined by the pro bicycle fitter at R&A Cycles a few weeks ago. When I shared my measurements with a coworker at job #1, who is four inches shorter than me, we compared arms and mine were, indeed, even shorter than hers. I can't believe I never realized that I have short arms before, but my disproportioned measurements actually make sense. I am exactly what happens when you mix average-size White genes with much smaller Asian genes: long torso, long legs, short arms, small hands, small feet.

I suppose there are some similarities between us, which may be few to mention - since I don't know the actual Julie Powell anymore than anyone can claim by simply judging a Hollywood dramatization of someone else's life. However, we both live in New York City. We both consider moving from one New York borough to another (a span of mere miles) like changing planets - or, at a minimum, I totally related to the relocation scene at the opening of Julie & Julia.

We both like to eat (though I can name essentially everything that I know how to cook, which someone once told me - as I proudly listed them off - is not actually a good thing). We both work in cubicles - at least until her writing began to turn a profit. We both blog. Anyone, who regularly posts their thoughts on the Internet - with the hope and assumption that someone out there is going to care - is comprised of some level of narcissism. We both use hobbies as a channel for self-exploration; case in point: the blogging we both do ends up being more about ourselves than the hobbies. She has a "Donation" button on her blog The Julie/Julia Project, an avenue for others to make charitable donations to a non-charitable, self-absorbed cause.

We both enjoy writing and attempt - more often than socially accepted in literary academic circles - to make run-on sentences charming. I check my blog everyday for new comments, which - not unlike Julie in her early blogger years - also serves as a daily reminder that my mother is likely one of my only regular readers. And I relish any opinion that anyone might make an effort to share, openly accepting the occasional backlash it may incur, as I'm sure Julie has had to learn, since - through blogging - we indirectly welcome the equal advantage and risk of having people tell us what they really think. The aptitude to be simultaneously vulnerable and thick-skinned is also a characteristic that Julie and I certainly must share.

I suppose one of our likely-many differences (outside of stating my obvious lack of a dominant gene for red hair; then again, based on a few Google images, neither does she) is that she hates the subway more than I do (I still enjoy how my knowledge of it and familiarity with it make me feel like a New Yorker), and she drops the F-word in her previous and current blog more often than I would ever have the courage to use it to color my own writing - mostly because I know how much it will disappoint my parents, who will now be disappointed to learn how much I actually enjoy including it in my daily vernacular. The main advantage Julie has over me is that she began blogging random, inane thoughts before they became cliché.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

No Can Without Will

From (my other blog) Blog-By-Bike:

I am sitting on the toilet in our bathroom, the only place in the apartment where my roommate and I can consistently "borrow" wireless Internet from our neighbors. After nearly two days, wallowing in my self-pity party, pouting at both jobs, and soliciting money with shameless plugs on Twitter [DONATE HERE], I am deciding here and now to drag myself out of the financial funk that I've been in all weekend. So what if I underestimated my cycling attire needs by nearly two grand or if I was off by another thousand for bicycle equipment? I've come a long way - and with a lot of love and support from family and friends - and that's too much to be proud of to focus on what's still lacking.

I cried once back in 2006, after surviving my second weekend with a second job at a casino in western North Carolina. Much like now, I had created a goal that required more than my single income could provide. It was the cry of frustration that often ensues when a single person enters into the exhausting world of dual employment. Even those of the heartiest character can have moments of weakness. The determining factor is what results from these moments.

Four years later, I didn't waste energy on tears this time. If I have learned anything about time, I've learned that it passes. It passes whether you throw a tantrum, wallow in self-pity or whine and complain. It doesn't wait for you to realize that you're wasting it. It doesn't allow a replay if you regret not taking a second to just be in the moment. The only thing you can control is what you do as it passes. Much like in 2006 - if not exactly - the sun still rises and sets, the moon continues through its phases, the seasons change. Whether I work my ass off at job #2 all weekend or spend it relaxing, another Monday morning at job #1 still comes. And I'd rather be a little bit closer to my goal each time it does.

Not too long ago, I played devil's advocate with a friend regarding a debate over disabled parking privileges. Imagine if you needed to use that permit, I had said to her, what would you give to not need it? What would you give to be able to just walk on your own from the last space at the very end of the lot?

I decided to take my own advice and appreciate the fact that I can. I can pleasantly answer phones, reply to emails, schedule meetings and manage endless piles of receipts to expense at job #1. I can smile and serve overpriced cocktails at job #2. I can gratefully work two jobs in an economy where many people are imagining what they'd give for just one. I can appreciate that I am in a position to finance frivolous dreams when there are others who just want to survive. Whenever I'm having a rough time, I eventually remember to try to search for some perspective.

If gratitude for what I do have and "glass half full" analogies just aren't cutting it or whenever I have a classic case of the "mean reds", Stiles Farmer's Market on West 52nd Street is my own version of Breakfast at Tiffany's. Just the sight of all the fresh produce one can buy for a dollar can cheer most of my mild emotional ruts.

And in Bikram yoga, the instructor often talks about bringing yourself into the room, being in the moment, and moving onto the next pose, even if we are too tired, simply because we can.

And when I am too sore and exhausted to push my bicycle over another hill this summer, I will. Because I will know that I can.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Celebrating My 10,958th

From (my other blog) Blog-By-Bike:

I received the following email today from City Wendy:
Hi Katie, Happy, happy belated birthday! I saw on twitter that you're starting your third decade and I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you're actually in your fourth decade! But don't worry -- it only gets better!! Hope you're doing well, Wendy

"By golly, you're right," I replied - because that's the kind of corny lingo I like to throw into conversations with friends. And because I'm an obsessive-compulsive, semi-perfectionist, I'll be revising any erroneous "third decade" references in previous blog posts. Standby for said corrections.

I closed out my third decade with an intimate evening among girlfriends at Brasserie 8 1/2 on Sunday, January 17 - my last night in my 20s. I had received a 50/50 offer from the Patina Restaurant Group, which you can also (currently) obtain by clicking here or here. The birthday gift certificate entitles the bearer to spend $50 and get up to $50 (alcohol excluded, of course) at a variety of Patina Group restaurants (some location exclusions apply). One hundred dollars-worth of food for $50? Yes, please. I made reservations for a party of six in Brasserie 8 1/2's lounge area and we ordered $100-worth of table shares from their Bar & Lounge Menu. At $25 for any combination of three table share items, we enjoyed a pretty nice spread. The Mac & Cheese and Goat Cheese Croquettes were strong favorites.

On Monday, January 18 - the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Observance - more widely-known as my birthday, I treated myself to sleep-in until 11:30am, went to the gym with my roommate Bianca, and then dragged her to Brooklyn for my second trip to R&A Cycles, where - with the assistance of an Al - I may have narrowed down my bicycle selection for a final purchase! After leaving the bicycle shop, with much of my burden of indecision lifted, we hiked (literally) to Grimaldi's, where my pre-determined birthday eating route was foiled by the two-hour line outside of the famous pizzeria. We settled for Water Street Restaurant & Lounge and were pleased with the overall selection, though I did continue to pout through the appetizer course about not having my favorite pizza. The day was redeemed, however, when a stop next door at Jacques Torres and Bianca's birthday-date-drop to the sales clerk, resulted in five free chocolates.

Throughout the course of my day, I also vowed that I would celebrate my birthday in days, moving forward and moderately inspired by something a recently-partially-paralyzed Orson Hodge said on last Sunday's episode of Desperate Housewives:
"Please roll me over! Please help me off the toilet! Please! Please! Please! That's the life I'm facing now; having to ask people for help, for everything. Do you know how hard that is? Every morning I wake up at five; you get up at 6:30. For an hour and a half, I lie there, staring at the bedroom door, fantasizing about how lovely it would be - how excruciatingly lovely it would be - to get up and make myself a cup of tea one last time. No 'please'. Just hot water and tea."

Later, I learned that I am not the first to embrace this philosophy of formally celebrating my birth and my existence by the day. It made it a lot easier to wake up at 5:40am for my weekday six o'clock gym session this morning. To get up and yawn through the fatigue and get going ... because I can.

The highlight of my birthday - while I regret that the highlight had to be significantly monetary in nature - was several donations from family and a close family friend - the latter being one who is practically family. Given the rate that I have been burning my metaphoric candle (a.k.a. my body) at both ends, their financial contributions toward my cycling tour were received with immeasurable gratitude and immense relief. I spent three-and-a-half days out of the office last week [job #1], trying to recover from a severe cold. And - given the fact that I had grossly overestimated how much I would make cocktail serving in the poor state of the economy [job #2] - I've been stressing over my need to scale down my evenings at the lounge to one night per week. Between two jobs, I am considerably behind in finalizing my bicycle purchase and heavily committing to the physical training and conditioning for my transcontinental ride.

So the best birthday gifts of all came with zeros this year ... or rather, on my 10,958th day - but I also know that those zeros were motivated by love.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Forever Young

From (my other blog) Blog-By-Bike:

"... Without a wrinkle in today 'cause there is no tomorrow, just some picture perfect day that lasts a whole lifetime. And it never ends 'cause all we have to do is hit rewind. So let's just stay in the moment, smoke some weed, drink some wine, reminisce, talk some sh**, 'forever young' is in your mind. Leave a mark that can't erase neither space nor time. So when the director yells cut, I'll be fine ..."
- Jay-Z featuring Mr. Hudson, "Young Forever"

Last month, I was cat-sitting at my [job #1] boss's apartment in the East Village while she and her husband spent their holiday in Costa Rica. The first weekend of my two-week stint, a snow storm hit the entire east coast, from North Carolina to New England. It left behind the magical, white Manhattan wonderland that barely lasts a day before city traffic turns everything into murky slush. I was enjoying this wonderland, strolling along with Jay-Z's "Blueprint 3" album playing on my iPod. It's funny how random songs on your playlist sometimes create the perfect soundtrack to your day.

I walked through the quad of my boss's apartment complex and the opening bars of Jay-Z's "Young Forever" began to hum. As I approached the front door, two adorable, little Asian girls were cautiously descending from the stoop. At the bottom of the steps, the older of the two little girls raised her face to the sky and flung both arms into the air as she began to run.

As I turn 30 years old tomorrow, this is the random slice of time that I've chosen to define the start of my next decade.

"Snow! Snow!" the little girl squealed as her smaller sister, running behind her on the freshly shoveled walkway, copied her motions and repeated joyously, "Snow! Snow!"

"Forever young," Mr. Hudson sang to the private soundtrack in my ears, "Forever young ..."

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Over and Over Again

I had a dream that I had an opportunity to travel back in time. It's a recurring dream that I've had several times over the years. The scenarios and locations vary, but the scene is generally the same. They're nearly spot-on remakes of fights Rickey and I once had.

I "awake" suddenly in my 21-year old body, nearly ten years younger. I feel my legs storming away from where Rickey is standing about 30 yards behind me. It is dusk in Cullowhee. The street lamps are already on. I immediately remember this moment back in 2001. I know exactly where I am.

Rickey and I were arguing in the freshmen parking lot across the creek from the track at Western Carolina University. I was walking away, my arms swinging in anger. In actuality, I don't know how long he stood there, probably watching me walk away. Or maybe he had turned around and taken the long way back to Leatherwood Hall, as I had stomped to Helder.

This time, I am no longer upset. My 30-year old mind, grief-stricken from over six years of regret, slams my 21-year old legs to a halt. I spin my younger self to turn and face him. He is still standing there and initially appears shocked to see me stop. And then I run. I run and I run. I run like I have never run before. Tears streaming down my face, my hair whipping behind me. And I leap into his arms, nearly knocking him backward.

The dream is so real. I can feel the warmth of his body and the smoothness of his face as my cheek presses against his. I can smell him. A familiar mixture of cologne and laundry detergent. I can feel his arms wrap around me. His embrace is familiar, safe. I feel like I can't get close enough to him. I have longed for a moment like this for so long.

"Why didn't I do this before?" I sob.

"It's ok," he replies, in a calm tone. "You were angry."

I begin to shake uncontrollably as I cry. He hugs me tighter.

"It's ok," he says again. "I was angry, too."

"I'm so sorry," I cry. "I'm so, so sorry."

"We said a lot of things that we didn't mean," he says.

And then, the parking lot around us begins to fade, the street lamps become balls of fuzz. The world blackens around us.

As a dim light began to glow in the darkness, I awoke, blinking into the soft glimmer of a street lamp shinning through my bedroom window on West 51st Street. And behind it, I saw the twinkling lights of the Time Warner Center, towering silently in the night. A taxicab honked. A car door slammed. In the distance, someone shouted a quick farewell. And below my window, the sound of horse hooves clopped along the street as it pulled a carriage home from Central Park.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010

From (my other blog) Blog-By-Bike:

It seems ironic - if ironic is the right word - that tonight I'll be bringing in 2010 holding a tray of drinks, four years after I swore I would never do it again. It's as if all of my biggest goals are destined to involve multiple jobs and a drink tray [job #2].

Monday, January 1, 2007: Terrence and I arrived in Times Square at 3:30pm and were filtered into one of several dozen corrals. Strict rules were in place, such as no alcohol, lawn chairs or space heaters. Though the rules didn't seem to be strictly enforced - everyone seemed to abide accordingly. I'm sure it had something to do with the thousands of NYPD and FDNY officers, police dogs and occasional machine gun-ish weapons.

To our right was a metal barricade and one of three large stages; to all other sides of us were a group from Australia, four reunited high school friends who now live in Illinois and Kentucky, a couple from South Florida, and half a dozen foreigners who I am going to venture to say were from an Eastern European country.

I might have been the only current resident of New York City within a 3-mile radius of Times Square - as my coworkers had warned when they tried to talk me out of my New Year's Rockin' Eve plans.

"Do you really want to stand in the cold for 10 hours surrounded by millions of tourists?" one of my colleagues had asked. The truth is that New Year's Eve in Times Square is one of those things that I had to do at least once in my life. I'll probably never do it again, but it was something I had to do, and I had to do it this year. It's the way I wanted to bring in my first year in my new home - even if I wasn't actually going to be bringing it in with any of my new neighbors. Terrence was not exactly feeling my New Year's Eve celebration plans either, but he didn't make me ask him more than three or four times before he gave in.

We waited approximately 8 1/2 hours for roughly fifteen minutes of celebration. While not every minute of anticipation was jam-packed with excitement, the evening was filled with live performances, hourly fireworks and periodic showers of confetti. McDonalds waited until the corralled masses were on the brink of insane hunger and then appeared in the streets to take orders for delivery. After five hours, we gladly paid $16 for a Big Mac meal and a 2-Cheeseburger Meal with hot cappuccinos.

Though many would argue that the countdown to the New Year and subsequent few minutes of cheers, song and celebration are overrated simply due to the wait time involved, I have to admit that the simultaneous countdown to 2007 and the cheering, the singing/humming of "Auld Lang Syne," and the jumping with glee in Times Square were approximately five minutes of pure joy for me.

I brought in 2006 in a smoky casino in North Carolina holding a tray full of drinks and watching the guests around me jump up and down, blow horns, and kiss and hug each other. It's weird how you can feel completely alone in a sea of people. My only solace that night - one year ago - had been to picture myself in a year somewhere in New York City. So it had to be Times Square tonight. My New Year's Eve had to be better than last year. For me.

10 ... Monday-Friday with an administrative 8-5 in NC
9 ... weekends spent serving beverages in a casino
8 ... waitressing on weeknights in a crab shack
7 ... selling my car and furniture
6 ... packing my belongings into a stow-and-go minivan
5 ... driving all night up the east coast and arriving in hell
4 ... sleeping on an air mattress in the South Bronx for 3 months
3 ... temping at my first job in the city
2 ... tiny studio apartment for $1000 a month
1 ... being able to say everything - from the moment I decided I was really going to move to New York to waiting in Times Square for the ball to drop - was worth it

Tonight I was again in a sea of people, but for a few brief moments, I felt like I was one with everybody. It's so cliché but the sheer, non-alcohol influenced happiness was absolutely surreal. For the first few minutes of 2007 - despite what hardships may follow - we were at peace with ourselves, our lives and the world.

Immediately after "Auld Lang Syne," Frank Sinatra's voice floated over the square as confetti drifted in loops and swirls to the jubilant bodies below.

Start spreading the news
I'm leaving today
I want to be a part of it,
New York, New York
These vagabond shoes
Are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it -
New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I'm king of the hill, top of the heap
These little town blues
Are melting away
I'll make a brand new start of it
In old New York
If I can make it there
I'll make it anywhere
It's up to you,
New York, New York.

I sang along at the top of my lungs, completely off key, and half swaying off beat and half jumping up and down, waving my long, red balloon, and thanking my lucky stars for this night.

Back to the future ... my entry into 2010 won't be as fabulous as my first New Year's Eve in New York City, but I'm hoping to make 2010 a hell of a year.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Made

From (my other blog) Blog-By-Bike:

I love that New York City let's you be whoever you are or want to be or whoever you don't know you are or didn't know you wanted to be. Whatever your personal cliché may be, New York City let's you own it without mass judgement.

Last night, while watching club-goers dance around me in the Midtown lounge of the infamous job #2 (existing in my own personal infamy, of course), I stood solo with my empty drink tray and watched a group of gay males lively conversing at their table. I was particularly drawn to one of the men in the group. He was wearing a hint of black eye liner that was better applied than I have seen on most women. With his man purse confidently slung over his shoulder, he returned from smoking a cigarette on the open balcony, lightly bouncing in his gait and bobbing his head, keeping perfect time to Beyonce's "Get Me Bodied". You go, boy, I thought. Be you. Own it and know you're fabulous. And don't appear to care whether any of the rest of us recognize it or not.

And - if I believed in signs (rather than in chaos and coincidence) - as if to affirm my thoughts on the grandeur of New York City, the opening beats of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind" began pulsing the walls and floors of the lounge. I was reminded of City Wendy's blog post from November 4th:

Since Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" was released in September and certainly since he and Alicia Keys played it before game two of the World Series, it's become an instant anthem for New York City. On warm afternoons when I keep the windows open, I hear it playing in cars passing by on the street below all day long. Sometimes the lyrics blasting from the cars almost match exactly where they are in my own living room. In New York, concrete jungles where dreams are made of/ there's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York!

Yesterday I grabbed my iPod and went for a 4 1/2 mile walk to Union Square and back, down 9th Avenue, across 36th street to 6th Avenue, down to 25th street and over to Broadway. It was a sunny afternoon, but the skyscrapers blocked my view of the sky and shaded the streets. At intersections, I turned my head up, caught some sun peeking through space between buildings, turned Jay-Z and Alicia up. These streets will make you feel brand new/Big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York! ...

... Heading back up Broadway I passed Stacy London from "What Not To Wear," a show I watched almost daily until a couple months ago when I got bored of it. She saw me see her and we had that moment I've had so many times now with celebrities when they realize they've been recognized. There's a whole unspoken conversation in that moment that basically goes like this:

Me: Are you...?
Celeb: Yeah, but please, I'm sorry, I don't feel like talking to anyone right now.
Me: Okay, don't worry, I'm not a freak or anything.

And then, depending on what I think of the celebrity, I usually smile or nod or even do a little wave. Sometimes the celeb smiles back.

After I got home Drew and I took a cab up to the UWS to have dinner with his pops. I brought my iPod along, and gave Drew one earbud and kept the other for myself. I played "Empire State of Mind." Drew looked at me, nodded and smiled. We both looked out the window toward the bright lights and all the stories, Jay-Z singing a love song to New York in our ears.
- City Wendy, "It Damn Fun Being a New Yorker", Nov 4, 2009

I can't believe I really want to spend $15,000 to be somewhere other than here for 50 days.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Lamentations of a Part-Time Cocktail Server

From (my other blog) Blog-By-Bike:

"'Joe'? 'Just call me Joe'? As if you were one of those stupid 22-year old girls with no last name? 'Hi, I'm Kimberly!' 'Hi, I'm Janice!' Don't they know you're supposed to have a last name? It's like they're an entire generation of cocktail waitresses."
- Meg Ryan, You've Got Mail

There is no "PC" way to convey my feelings on the subject of this blog post. And the following sentence is not meant to debase any aspect of the food and beverage service industry. But I hate being treated like a career cocktail server. That is not to say that cocktail serving cannot be a compelling and lucrative career, nor is it unwarranted of the dignity and respect commanded by other industries. Furthermore, I'm not exactly saving babies as an executive assistant (a.k.a. glorified secretary) during the workweek.

However, it takes a lot of self-restraint and humility to remain respectfully silent while being reprimanded for making the vice president of the hotel (in which the lounge is located) wait a whole five minutes for a club soda. A club soda, I might add, that I did not realize the vice president's guest had ordered with his Glenfiddich because his guest's accent was so thick.

I am also annoyed by being constantly subjected to the consummate power trip of one of the night managers. His indirect, subtle applications of purposely imposed inconvenience - while not necessarily inappropriate - unfailingly remind us that he is authorized to exercise his authority over us. His condescending replies to staff inquiries, deliberately delayed responses to staff requests, and negligence regarding over-staffed scenarios (e.g. too many servers on the floor during off-peak hours) make me want to say trite and contrived things like, "My salary at my day job [job #1] is probably twice your night manager rate; I just need a weekend job [job #2] because I can't simultaneously afford my ridiculously expensive Midtown Manhattan apartment and my frivolous 8-week, $15,000 vacation."

But you can't say things like that without sounding like a complete tool and getting fired.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

World Without Weekends

From (my other blog) Blog-By-Bike:

There are a lot of different worlds in New York City. About 8 million or so. In mine, weekends no longer exist. Even after just one month working two different jobs, I already feel like I'm going into human interaction overload. I've always been one who valued alone time. Now I crave it. Perhaps 10 months of craving isolation will amplify the worth of the open road across North America next summer.

In the meantime, I am trying to find balance in my new world of dual employment - in two jobs that are as distinct in roles as they are in attire. It is slightly frustrating and sufficiently humbling to go from a corporate environment, where I am a relatively respected upper-level executive assistant, to "entry-level" cocktail server. Monday through Friday, my knowledge and experience in the inner workings of the company are often sought in coordinating a variety of tasks, projects and events. On the weekends, I shed my pantsuits and pencil skirts for a push-up bra and minuscule shorts. While my expertise was held in significant regard just hours earlier, a bartender is now making little attempt to hide her irritation that it's taking way too long for me to remember what garnishes a Summer Wind versus a Sinfully Gin.

But there is something wonderfully cliché about serving cocktails on the top floor of a high rise building in Midtown, overlooking the bright lights and excitement of Times Square. On Friday and Saturday evenings, I trot out of my four-floor walk-up apartment (real estate speak for "fifth floor sans elevator") in Hell's Kitchen, with its exposed brick walls and rickety fire escape, and walk north on Eighth Avenue. Dressed in a brown hoodie drawn over my freshly flat-ironed hair and matching sweatpants concealing my revealing cocktail serving outfit, I stop by Starbucks and order a grande skinny vanilla latte to fuel the caffeine rush for my 11-hour shift.

Fridays are tough. After eight hours in the office, dealing with the wear and tear of executive assistant busy work, meeting coordination, travel management and expense reporting, I have roughly an hour to get home, darken my eye makeup, change clothes and roles, and reset my mind from professional corporate woman to demure cocktail-toting vixen. I ascend the elevator to the penthouse of a Midtown hotel, where the lounge and rooftop bar already have the inaudible hum of simultaneous conversations. Music by Jay-Z and Biggie blare from the lounge's DJ booth while the giant billboard of Sean "Diddy" Combs - which has become a staple where Broadway crosses Seventh Avenue - is framed in the floor-to-ceiling windows of the hotel's southern exposure. If you are at all partial to hip hop, it's a constant reminder of the quintessential hustle through the struggle of New York City.

When the lounge slows down between the happy hour rush and the nightlife crowd, I find myself staring at neighboring penthouse apartments and often catching the silhouettes of their occupants illuminated inside. Sometimes I think about how little the $15,000 that I'm trying to save to cycle across North America must seem to people like them. It's hard not to envy Manhattan's elite - to covet thy neighbor's paycheck and penthouse.

But most of the time, I crave the New York City clichés. The cozy walk-up apartment above congested, street-level bars. The quaint, tree-lined neighborhood with hidden gourmet gems just off the beaten path of Times Square. And the little transplant New Yorker with a small presence and big dreams, asking if you want your martini on the rocks or straight up.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I Made It In New York City

What am I going to do next?

I am going to cycle across North America next summer.

And to do that, I have a second job (again) ... because of those little things called priorities.

Yay.

Monday, June 29, 2009

New York, New York

My dear friend Adrienne wrote a paper for her Communication and the New Economy class at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She emailed the paper to me with a little note: "... I hope you find it entertaining."

I had no idea that my life had been referenced in the subject matter: "New York, New York". I was more than entertained.

“Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today. I want to be a part of it - New York, New York. These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray. Right through the very heart of it - New York, New York.” (Kander, 1977)

For as long as I can remember New York City has been the place where fashion, theatre and artistic hopefuls flock to become a part of the cultural class that nurtures the New York City economy. As an undergrad, I participated in many of my universities musical theatre productions and became friends with many of the musical theatre degree seekers at our university. Many of these individuals are still close friends of mine and one thing about them has yet to change. They all are living for the day that they can move to New York City and become members of the creative class. It is as if the only place you can truly become a successful member of this class is New York City. Their professors encourage them to perfect their skills so that they can compete with other hopefuls in the city. They graduate with a degree in dance, theatre or art and as soon as they can sell all of their personal possessions and book a flight, they are on their way to New York City. More often than not, these same individuals end up working two or more jobs, auditioning on their days off, subletting a room from a stranger in a Brooklyn apartment, far from the Manhattan lifestyle they came seeking. Is it not possible to “make it” anywhere else? I believe it is, but like Currid says, “The “walkability” of New York’s streets and neighborhoods makes run-ins possible between those offering artistic skill sets and those needing them” (Currid, 2007 p. 9).

A good friend of mine, Katie [last name erradicated], made the decision to move to New York City five years ago after realizing that she was turning 25 years old and still had not moved away from the small town our undergraduate university was settled in. She decided to get a second job as a server at a casino in Cherokee, NC and save the money for the move. A year later, she sold her car, rented a minivan and drove to New York City. She slept on a friend's couch for three months and landed a job at [company eradicated] as a temporary worker. The temporary job led to a full time position and she is now the executive assistant in their advertising sales department. Because of her job, she has had numerous run-ins that have led to career advancement and even a guest spot on [television show eradicated]. Katie has the kind of handwriting that people pay for when it comes to event invitations. In the case of [company founder's name eradicated], she was looking for someone to hand-write placecards for a company project. [Company founder's name eradicated] saw a memo Katie had written to a co-worker and liked it so much that she asked Katie to hand-write the said placecards. I have a hard time believing that this could have happened had she moved to Memphis or Nashville. Whether we agree with Currid (2007) or not, she is correct when she says that the odds of making connections that can advance you artistically or culturally are far better in New York City than other United States cities. Katie is one of the lucky ones. If you google her name, the first thing that comes up is an article about how her move to New York City has been the ideal situation. For Katie, New York City has lived up to the expectations Currid (2007) writes of. Unfortunately, other friends of mine have not been as fortunate.

In chapter 6 of the text, Currid (2007) discusses gatekeepers within the cultural class. Reading this chapter immediately made me think of the television show Project Runway. Every week, Fashion model Heidi Klum tells the designers how in the world of fashion, “one day you’re in and the next you’re out.” Currid (2007) refers to this when she says that tastemakers, certifiers and peer reviewers pick who the cultural and artistic “winners” are. Small groups of people determine your fate. Too many people, this does not exactly seem fair, but I know individuals who have dealt with this harsh reality, specifically when it comes to breaking into the Broadway scene. As an undergrad, I worked under Terrence Mann, who originated the role of Rum Tum Tugger in Andrew Lord Webbers, Cats. While working with him, I would often hear him say, “It’s not the talent, it’s the type.” You can have all of the talent in the world, but if you do not look the way the “gatekeeper” wants you to look, you are out and someone else is in.

I do not think there will ever be a day when New York City is not a breeding ground for the cultural class. People will continue to flock there in hopes of becoming members of this class and the more people that come; the more money will be spent in the city and the wealthier the city will become. As desired as membership in the cultural class is, it can be difficult to get there and be successful. Many cultural class hopefuls end up as “starving artists”, working and waiting on that big break. I cannot help but wonder if these same people would be struggling the way they are if they had moved to a city like Nashville or Atlanta. These cities are known for their up and coming cultural class and the cost of living is far less than New York City. People make it to the highest ranks of the cultural class via these cities as well, but I believe people are in love with the idea of being able to say, “I made it in New York City”. Even I must admit that it has a nicer ring to it than, “I made it in Atlanta”.

I'll find my own words to close out my three-year chronicle of "Becoming a New Yorker", but I could not agree more with the final statement of Adrienne's essay.

Oh, and she got an A.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How Do You Deal With a Mooch in NYC?

... Hopefully, better than I am.

The Scenario
The Mooch moved to New York City from Arizona in the last week of December in 2008. The Mooch shares a full-size bed with my roommate, who has been a close friend of hers since high school. The Mooch does not allow my roommate's own dog sit on or sleep in my roommate's own bed in the apartment for which The Mooch does NOT share equal financial responsibility. The Mooch's best friend lives in Harlem, but - regarding location - our Hell's Kitchen apartment is more convenient for The Mooch. The Mooch still lives with us (note the date of this blog post).

The Error
The direct fault I carry in this situation was believing that the best friend of The Mooch - and mutual friend of ours - was completely out of line for initially wanting to charge The Mooch $600/month to share the mutual friend's $1200-studio in Harlem. I wrongfully thought that the mutual friend was trying to take advantage of The Mooch's unstable relocation situation and wanted to profit from having The Mooch stay with her. In all actuality, the mutual friend was fairly requesting upfront that The Mooch assume equal financial responsibility for the space they would have shared. She was well within her rights - as both a New Yorker and as a friend.

However, my roommate and I - initially and foolishly finding it harsh to charge The Mooch immediately upon her arrival in the city (even though millions of other NYC transplants begin paying outrageous amounts for a roof over their heads the moment they change their zip code) - offered to let The Mooch stay in our Midtown apartment under the following conditions:
1) She could stay with us as long as she needed.
2) She could sleep in my roommate's bed (with my roommate) regularly; she and her boyfriend could sleep on my couch whenever he wanted to stay over; she and her boyfriend could use my room whenever I was out of town as long as they washed the sheets before I returned.
3) She should start contributing financially as soon as she could.

Number 3 was where we went wrong. The Mooch moved in the last week of December in 2008. By May 2009, she had still been unable to secure full-time employment, yet refused to consider waitressing, retail or other gigs not befitting "a recent college graduate." By June 2009, she had been living with us rent-free for five months.

Things I Now Know Since The Mooch Moved in Six Months Ago
1) After one month - or even just two weeks of staying in our $2500-month, 600-square foot, two-bedroom apartment in Midtown - The Mooch was no longer a guest; she was living with us.
2) Once she began forwarding her mail and listing our address on West 51st Street as her own - The Mooch was no longer a guest; she was living with us.
3) Once I began overhearing her tell friends on the phone, "I'm back at my apartment now," - The Mooch was no longer a guest; she was living with us.
4) Once she began asking me and my roommate if her out-of-town friends could stay at our apartment during their NYC visit - The Mooch was no longer a guest; she was living with us.
5) Once The Mooch stopped allowing my roommate's own dog into my roommate's own bed - The Mooch was no longer a guest; she was living with us.
6) I should not have assumed that The Mooch would have a personal sense of self-accountability for the space she shared with us.
7) I should not have assumed that this said self-accountability would compel The Mooch to feel responsible for contributing to the rent within 1-2 months (maybe even three, tops).
8) I should have been clear on my expectations instead of assuming that The Mooch had the same sense of personal responsibility that I have (e.g. when I slept on an air mattress for three months in the living room of my best friend's $1000-South Bronx, two-bedroom apartment, I contributed $200/month toward their rent, bringing their equal portions to $400/month each, and I took it upon myself to keep toilet paper, paper towels and other "communal items" fully stocked over the three months I stayed there).
9) The Mooch once tried to pretend that she didn't know we were out of trash bags, even though someone had emptied the trash can half way to make more room instead of buying more trash bags (and my roommate told me that she had not touched the trash). The Mooch also often acted like she didn't have to buy more toilet paper because she bought the "last round". She'd rather substitute travel tissue paper, napkins and paper towels while waiting for me or my roommate to get the next round of TP, which always made me want to scream, "Dude! You live here rent free! We shouldn't be taking turns buying the toilet paper; you should always buy it!" But I didn't.
10) My roommate and I are enabling The Mooch to have no sense of urgency to find permanent, full-time employment, to have no need to pick up a second part-time job after finally obtaining a full-time job with a low salary in late-May, and to take a week of unpaid leave from said low-salary employment to go on vacation with her boyfriend to Aruba in June. Rather than help her develop into a proud, independent New Yorker, we allow her to spend her money frivolously instead of paying a fair portion of the rent. Meanwhile my roommate and I continue to make careful decisions and sacrifices in order to sustain our lives in New York City. We are enabling The Mooch to do things that most middle- and lower-income people cannot do when they first relocate to New York City.
11) The Mooch moved in with my roommate and I just six months after we began our $2500-month lease on West 51st Street. Just like the mutual friend in Harlem was within her rights to expect rent immediately from The Mooch upon her relocation from Arizona, we would have been within our rights to ask her to split our $3000-broker fee three ways and divide the monthly rent fairly between us. If we had known that The Mooch was going to end up staying over half a year (not to mention the $5000-security deposit and first and last month's rent that my roommate and I paid up front), we would have expected an equal contribution.
12) I was wrong for denigrating the mutual friend for wanting to charge The Mooch half the rent on her $1200-Harlem studio.
13) I am a coward for blogging about this instead of telling The Mooch how I really feel.

Things The Mooch Does Not Know That We Know
1) The Mooch, who relocated from Arizona, is using my roommate and I to live closer to her boyfriend, who lives with his parents in Long Island. She doesn't want to contribute financially to our current living situation because she wants to save money while waiting for him to be ready to move into an apartment with her. So she is using us to be closer to him and foster their relationship until he is ready for cohabitation.
2) When The Mooch goes shopping with another mutual friend, that mutual friend reports back that The Mooch throws away her receipts, shopping bags and boxes and hides her new purchases in a large purse or tote bag because she doesn't want my roommate and I to know she has been shopping.
3) After searching craigslist job postings for about 20 minutes a day, she walked leisurely around the city throughout most of the spring months, with Starbucks coffee in hand, accompanied by the same mutual friend mentioned in #2 - instead of visiting more temp agencies, going door to door with her resume, and looking for jobs (however, she knows that we know not to even ask her to consider the food service industry even though we live in the heart of Hell's Kitchen and mere steps from the plethora of restaurants on Ninth Avenue).
4) The Mooch bought her boyfriend a $350-camera for his recent birthday, but led us to believe that she could only afford to bake him a cake.
5) The Mooch had just learned of her boyfriend's disloyal indiscretions a few weeks prior to his birthday - thus proving that she'd rather buy her cheating boyfriend a present than pay rent to her more-than-generous friends.
6) We were willing to do more for The Mooch than her own family was willing (case in point: her own brother and his new wife live on the Upper East Side and would not have allowed her to crash with them for half a year, rent-free).
7) The Mooch doesn't want to live in New York City. She wants to be a merry, little housewife, and her current boyfriend is the best - and maybe only - shot she'll ever have at achieving her marital, baby-making dreams.*
8) People who really want to succeed in New York City are willing to wait tables or fold T-shirts in a GAP or do whatever it takes to be self-sufficient. She is not one of those people. She shamelessly continues to take advantage of a generous living situation despite the fact that I am making it clear that she has worn out her welcome.

To be fair, The Mooch is relatively easy to live with. She is clean, she didn't often leave her stuff all over the apartment (though I often tidy up after her), and she is generally friendly. However, I initially became irritated when my roommate expressed her frustration to me regarding The Mooch's response to a possible receptionist position at the engineering firm where my roommate is an executive assistant: "I didn't move to New York City to be a receptionist." And I further lost my patience with our living arrangement when we asked The Mooch to begin paying $300/month on June 1 and she replied that she would rather pay $200.

To continue fairly noting the occurrence of events, The Mooch did end up taking the receptionist position at the end of May 2009, but not without some strong encouragement from my roommate. And The Mooch did begin paying $300/month on June 1 after I made it clear that it was not negotiable. But to be completely blunt, I don't know how The Mooch failed her NY teacher's licensing exams this month when she has supposedly been studying for the last six months - sans the responsibilities and long hours associated with full-time, or even part-time, employment. Maybe she should have spent less time walking leisurely around the city with Starbucks coffee.

I don't know what to do even though I know what I need to do. But even though she has it in her heart to completely take advantage of our generosity - and potentially permanently tarnish her close friendship with my roommate - I don't have the heart to tell her that I think she's a puerile, manipulative, indolent sloth - to put it lightly.

Help!

Dear Abby ... [sigh]

*No offense to current baby-makers; I totally want to be a baby-maker one day, but I refuse to use my current so-called friends in order to achieve my eventual, long-term dream of family life. Or step on my friends for any other reason, for that matter.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Looking in the Mirror

It was pointed out to me in comment on a post dated June 1, that my blog used to be interesting but has become lame. To be honest, I was surprised that someone actually followed my blog long enough to have had an opinion of when it was good.

However, being one who never shies from self-introspection, the comment made me wonder if my life had, in fact, become lame. Rather than be offended, I took it as an opportunity to explore what my blog was becoming ... since my blog is ultimately a reflection of what I was becoming.

This blog is written primarily for me with the intention that my older self will be the main audience. My motivation behind the blog was never to gain Internet fame or to garnish a book deal. It has served its purpose of documenting my own transition from North Carolina to New York City and the subsequent day-to-days. So I have no apologies that I want to remember what my body looked like at 29 or the sight of my friends enjoying a day on a Long Island beach.

But
if someone in cyberspace cared enough to offer a critique on the alleged progressive lameness of my blog, I had to at least be willing to take a look in the mirror and see if it was because I was losing my motivation to effectively document the world around me … or if my life was indeed becoming lame. And maybe it had.

I had been too busy trying to keep up with life in NYC to actually blog regularly about it. I guess I was no longer just an observer. I have been shamelessly backdating posts (which will continue through my last official post dated July 1, 2009) because I'm often too tired from long hours in the office or the night club. I've had too much going on at work to use lunch hours to people-watch some 20-odd floors below in Bryant Park. I use my Sundays to recuperate instead of taking my beloved city walks. And even deeper than that (or maybe shallower), I was surrounded by namedroppers, who revered night club promoters as if they were Gods, and arranged their social calendars around celebrity birthdays and music album release dates. I was beginning to covet designer exclusives and embrace materialistic ideals. Regardless of what any random reader thought about me, I was beginning to dislike what I saw in the mirror.

Anonymous’s June 1st post comment did not ignite my need to rediscover my true values, but it reaffirmed a slow change within myself that had already begun – though a little less consciously. In preceding months, I was becoming bored with the New York nightlife scene. All the things that were so exciting before were losing their luster. I was partying less and exercising more, giving up alcohol (though not entirely), much to the seemingly utter dispair of several friends. I was eating better and reading up on politics and personal finance. I even opened some mutual funds. And having achieved my goal of establishing a life in New York City by my New Year's Eve 2007 deadline (e.g. rent an apartment, secure employment, make friends to brunch with) - and having survived over the last three years, it is time for a new initiative as my 30th birthday approaches in January of 2010 and a new blog that will shed my cyber anonymity since everyone I care about already knows about this one anyway.

I’ll still spend the next few months, wrapping up “Becoming a New Yorker” through its previously intended end date of July 1, 2009 - the third anniversary of my first post. I can't say that I'll be able to suppress my new love for designer handbags. As shallow as it sounds, walking to work in Manhattan in a trendy outfit and designer bag in tow makes me feel good about not having spent my 20s having babies.

Regardless of the positive changes I succeed in making or the negative ones I knowingly choose to ignore ... in the end, I will have a record of my first three years in New York City – of my life … the good, the bad, the ugly, and even the boring … of becoming a New Yorker.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Hotpads' Rent vs Buy Heat Maps

Gotta love Thrillist New York for its colorful, politically-incorrect, slightly offensive yet always hilarious summaries of all things New York. In a simultaneous renter's and buyer's marketed created by Fannie and Freddie - if they didn't take you under with them, Thrillist New York has reviewed a handy tool:

New York's high-priced housing presents a conundrum: start mailing hefty mortgage payments to a bank, or resign yourself to abetting your Ukrainian landlord's enviable lifestyle of hookers and kasha. Pick your poison with Hotpads' Rent vs. Buy Heat Maps.

A new, financially dispiriting tool from an established rental site, HP's maps counsel whether you should rent or buy via color-coded hoods: from light blue for steal-worthy purchasing opps (Jersey City, Forest Hills), to green for market average (Murray Hill, UES), to red for rent-worthy digs, e.g., SoHo and West Village (Manhattan's gated clubdivision). The site's calcs are automatically done via esoteric math wizardry, i.e., avg cost of ownership / estimated annual rent -- a formula that's confounded many a couch-surfer's TI81. To further assist your hopeless quest for shelter, HP plots icons for thousands of current listings, each clickable for photos and details, which even include moving solutions and storage units (there's an affordable option for you).

HP also provides additional real estate heat maps, like Household Income, Foreclosures per Household, and Median Age, thus illuminating another conundrum: how to get into the low-priced hood beset by a cabal of rent-control beneficiaries who just. Won't. Die.

See your options unfurled at HotPads.com

Sunday, June 07, 2009

All in My Head

There are two dates that strike a nerve with me every year: June 7 is the day Rickey was born; August 3 is the day he died.

I was reading the tweets of loved ones & strangers who recently lost a friend of theirs. In times of tragedy and loss, I'm always struck by how life goes on. I perused their tweets about missing their friend and their seemingly cheerful and unrelated daily goings-on within spans of less than 24 hours ... I suppose it all goes on for all of us at one time or another. And it will again.

But when will I stop trying to make connections out of coincidences?

I needed today to be a good day. And it was ... outside of my head.