Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tonight's the Night the World Begins Again

In a few hours, Terrence and I will attempt to join millions of people in Times Square for the annual countdown to the New Year.

As I often find others who can express things better than I can, I’d like to end 2006 in this blog with song lyrics from the Goo Goo Dolls.

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cuz I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And desire and love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

This is Katie signing off in 2006.

Things I Learned in 2006

Today is the last day of 2006. At midnight I will have met my goal: I will not be starting 2007 in North Carolina; I will be starting 2007 in what I believe is the best city in the world.

The coming of the New Year brings with it the anticipation of the future and recollection of the past. Here are some things I have learned this past year as I move forward into the new one in New York City:

+ Blind faith isn’t always foolish.
+ My parents know a lot, but they don’t know everything.
+ Your real friends are the ones who are always truly happy for you.
+ I don’t necessarily believe in fate, but I believe that things often have a way of working themselves out.
+ You can change the things you don’t like about yourself.
+ There are more things I need to change; there are some things I need to accept; there are a few things I’ll keep forever.
+ It’s ok to be wrong and you should recognize when laughing at yourself is in order.
+ It may be too late to be forgiven, but it’s never too late to say you’re sorry.
+ You can’t always worry about what others think, but sometimes you will anyway.
+ I know a lot about words, but I have even more to learn about life.
+ I can make it in New York City.

My next goal will be to keep on keeping on.

After Awhile

A poem by Veronica Shoffstall

After awhile you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning,
And company isn’t security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts,
And presents aren’t promises.
And you begin to accept your defeats with
Your head high and your eyes open,
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s grounds are too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling in mid-flight.
And after awhile you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone else to bring you flowers.
And you realize
That you really can endure …
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and you learn
With every good-bye, you learn.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Patriotic Dilemma x2

When I woke up this morning, I learned that Saddam Hussein had been executed. I have been wondering how I feel about the execution of Saddam, and as usual, Joe.My.God put my questions into words before I was really even sure what they were:

"I'm confused. Are we supposed to cheer the imminent execution of Saddam Hussein? Or protest the barbaric method? Are we suppose to be gladdened that a dark chapter of human history is about to close? Or should we be angered that we've meddled in yet another country's internal affairs?"

From Joe.My.God's Patriotic Dilemma

Friday, December 29, 2006

Phone Photo Ops - Night on the Town

Walking toward Times Square on 44th Street after attending Les Miserables with Terrence (in town for the weekend), I turned around and took a camera phone photo.
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Dinner at Casa La Femme North on the East Side was an Egyptian experience with tables under private tents and exotic decor.
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Even the bathroom was ornately decorated from floor to ceiling.
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But the next time I order fish, I will first ask the server if the fish comes out looking like a fish.
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After cutting my meal in half (above), I had to cover its eyeball with a tomato so that it wouldn't stare at me while I ate it.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

One in a Million

Terrence left his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, and landed in New York City just before 9 p.m. Forty-five minutes later, he couldn't seem to find his way out of the airport.

"You told me to catch the M-60 bus to Broadway and 116th and catch the uptown 1 train, right?" Terrence asked when he called me. I replied that I had and asked him where he was.

"I'm at a different terminal than usual," he said, "I can't find the M-60 and some guy just told me he'd never heard of it."

"He doesn't know what he's talking about," I replied. "Find someone who works there and ask them to help you."

Terrence called me back 3-4 times. Each time we were both baffled.

"Just go where we were last time," I had irritatedly directed him. On his fifth or sixth call, I answered and - without so much as a greeting - he asked, "What airport did I fly into last time I was here?"

"Oh no ..." I replied.

"What airport did I fly into last time?" he asked again.

"La Guardia," I said. I heard him sigh. And then: "I'm at JFK."

What are the chances that you would give someone directions to your apartment from La Guardia airport - while assuming they're flying into La Guardia again - when they're actually flying into JFK for the first time? Well, if you're idiots like us, the chances of a blunder to this degree of dumbness are pretty good.

But after circling several terminals at the airport a couple of times, finally realizing that you have to catch the Airtrain to the blue subway line, and while sitting on the A train to Manhattan, what are the odds that an old high school friend that you haven't seen in over five years will step onto the exact subway car in which you are currently sitting?

I'd bet those odds are slim to none. But tonight, in a city of 8 million people with 26 subway lines, 490 stations, 660 miles of track and about 6,400 subway cars, Terrence caught a flight from Atlanta, wandered lost in JFK until he realized that I had erroneously assumed he was at La Guardia, and ended up in the same subway car as an old classmate he hadn't seen since he graduated from high school in Atlanta over half a decade ago.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Starting 2007 in NYC

I left work early and was walking through Times Square this afternoon on my way to the train. I know they say that real New Yorkers avoid 42nd Street between Sixth and Eighth Avenues and all other tourist-strewn stretches, such as Bleeker Street between Sixth Avenue and La Guardia Place or St. Marks Place between Second and Third Avenues, but I still love walking through Times Square before and after work. I wonder how long it'll take for that to wear off.

As I was about to cross Broadway on 43rd Street today, I looked up at the "2007" that is waiting to be lit at midnight on Sunday. I first noticed it last week while standing on that same curb, and I had looked up at it for so long that I missed the signal to cross the street. New Yorkers and tourists had flowed around me as if I were a rock in midstream as I stood there looking up at the numbers. I think my mouth might have even been half open.

Approximately a year and a half ago, when I first decided to stop talking about moving to New York City and actually make the moves toward doing it - stop talking and start walking as they say - I had told myself that I would not start 2007 in North Carolina.

I am five months into becoming a New Yorker, and I am four days away from my goal. It hit me last week as I stood there staring agape at the "2007" over Times Square.

Phone Photo Op - Here Comes 2007

There it is.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Phone Photo Op - In the Subway

While my mom was visiting in the city a few weeks ago, she had asked me if it was ok to bring her suitcase in the subway when she went to the airport.

"Do you ever see anyone in the subway with a large suitcase?" she had asked. I had replied, "Of course."

If there should ever come a time when she asks me if I have ever seen anyone in the subway with a mattress, I will reply, "Of course."
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Monday, December 25, 2006

A New York City Christmas Moment

It was months ago while I was still living in North Carolina when I first read Joe.My.God's blog entry "Dance of the Sugar Plum Lesbians," in which he recounted a moment that only the Christmas spirit in New York City could create.

The first time I read it, I imagined the pulse of midtown as Joe.My.God had described it. And I couldn't wait to feel it.

As a fellow blogger commented about Joe.My.God's third annual repost of his New York City Christmas moment, this is the sort of thing that you witness and then try to express in words.

Joe.My.God expressed it beautifully. And tonight, I went to Grand Central's Main Concourse to see the holiday light show I had read about from North Carolina and could not wait to experience as a New Yorker.

Phone Photo Op - Grand Central Kaleidoscope Light Show

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ghosts of Lovers Past

When it's that time of year - when the holidays roll around and annual traditions resurface - so do memories. Memories of family, friends, college, high school, childhood and ex-boyfriends.

I often think of a story I once read in Reader's Digest years ago. Ten years ago, in fact, when I had my first romantic relationship that lasted longer than a few months. I was a junior and had just transferred to a high school in Asheville, North Carolina in the fall of 1996 after my father retired from the military.

The Reader's Digest story was originally published by Glamour in March 1996, and I discovered it later that fall. I saved the story in a small book, in which I have pasted articles, short stories, poems, postcards and photos from magazines or newspapers that I have liked. And on days like today, I reread Lisa Bain's story "The Loves We Leave Behind" and I remember.

Last night, I was talking on the phone to an old college friend, who now lives just south of Atlanta, Georgia. Our dorm suites were on the same hall our freshmen year, and we've been close on and off ever since. Only recently has he become comfortable in his own skin and in openly admitting that he is gay. And only recently has he been truly happy.

We often laugh together about dumb things we did in college, things we wish we had done differently and the way things are now. As I laid on my back with my head hanging off the foot of the bed, I said to my cell phone: "You know how ... when you're a kid ... you have this vision of how your life will be in your 20s?"

"Yea," he replied, "I thought that by now I'd be married, I'd have a house, and I'd be having my first kid ..."

"White picket fence," I added, "Two dogs and a cat ... Instead life doesn't always turn out the way you thought it would ..."

"Yea, "he sighed, "And you realize you're gay."

We both drowned in a fit of laughter.

"You're not where you thought you'd be professionally," I said.

"You rent a room from your boss," he added.

We pitched antidotes back and forth and laughed until our sides hurt. We talked about mistakes we'd made and why we're glad we've made them. I know we're both glad that we haven't ended up married to our high school or college sweethearts, with kids, a mortgage and a minivan. We jokingly claim to pity those poor souls whose lives are already trapped by responsibility.

One could charge that our cynical beliefs are based on jealousy and resentment. I would go down arguing in our defense. I know we're both happy as we come into our own in our distinct, individual ways. We're both becoming comfortable with who we are as individuals instead of dragging a spouse and children through our emotional bouts with the realities we have half-chosen and half-fallen into ... only to end up middle-aged, on the brink of divorce, and regretting that we didn't experience more of the independent life before we started cranking out kids so we're having an affair with the hottie down the block.

I know that we're relieved that our 20s haven't turned out the way we both thought and planned that they would when we were kids - yet we don't disregard our friends who have chosen marriage and children at an early age. Some people are ready for that level of commitment before others. Everyone is different.

I think we both just wish that love, marriage, kids, mortgage and minivan were just that easy. But would life be as fulfilling if it were?

The Loves We Leave Behind

Choosing one life means giving up others

My father met my mother in a poker game. He said she was the best bluffer he'd ever seen. She sat with five men at a table under an elm tree that shaded them from the hot Kansas City, Mo., sun. Her talent for subterfuge lay hidden behind her sweet, serene smile. She beat them all. My father couldn't take his eyes off her.

It was her company's annual picnic, and he walked her home. The next week, from his home in Chicago, he sent her a post card: "Remember me? Please do, 'cause I'll be calling you one of these days. David."

She still has the post card. I'm not sure what made her save it. Though he already had his heart set on her, she hadn't chosen him yet, at least not consciously.

As my father often told us while we were growing up, it was blind luck that he was at the picnic that day. A salesman for a big electronics company, he was in town to meet with clients and happened to stop by the branch office that Saturday morning to make some calls. The telephone rang; it was the manager of a local radio station with whom my father had done some business. "Dave! Glad you're in town!" he said, and invited him to come right over to their annual picnic.

My mother was a writer at that radio station. If my father hadn't stopped by the office that morning, he told us, or if he'd gotten there two minutes later ... We shivered with a delicious horror at the opportunity, the life - our lives - that would have been missed.

My mother saw him when he was in town, but she dated other men, including a car salesman who entered our family lore. Soon after she met my father, the car salesman gave her a watch for her birthday. In those days the gift of a watch meant the relationship was moving toward engagement. But she returned the watch, and one night a few months later, she woke her mother and told her she was going to marry Dave.

A few months after the wedding, my father was transferred East. They settled in New York, in the house where I grew up.

I was eight years old when I met my future husband. He was in high school, a friend of my brother's. I remember him only peripherally, as I was much more interested in my brother's other friend - Francois, a Swiss exchanged student, dark, mysterious and polished.

Fifteen years later the man I would eventually marry came back to town for Christmas and stopped by my parents' house to pick up my brother for an evening out. When he saw me in the next room, he hissed, "Who's that?"

My brother looked at him strangely and said, "It's just Lisa."

He walked into the room, reintroduced himself and pretended he didn't know how to wrap his Christmas gifts. I pretended to believe him and helped. He came around a lot over the next few days. "I don't know who he's interested in," my mother told me, "you or your sister." I knew. But later that week I flew across the country to spend New Year's Eve with another man. Though I'd been chosen, I wasn't ready to admit it yet.

If the timing had been different, the distance less daunting and my heart not already - albeit unknowingly - engaged, I could have ended up with that man whom I went off to visit. Or if not him, then with someone else. Sometimes I think about that, how time sweeps us along and puts us in a certain place where we're faced with one option or another. By chance and by the choices we make, we leave behind whole other lives we could have lived, full of different passions and joys, different problems and disappointments.

My father could have missed that picnic. Or my mother could have picked the car salesman. She would have had other children and an entirely different future.

Other times - particularly when I come home late to a sleeping house, my husband and daughter curled around each other after drifting off during the third reading of Jane Yolen's Owl Moon - I think about the lives we would not have had if chance or choice had brought us to a different place. And I shiver, much the way I did as a child at the story of my father's near miss, at the thought that I might have missed this life, this man, this child, this love.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas in the City

I love this city at Christmas. The streets are lit with strings of lights, your strolls are scored by holiday carols, there are Christmas trees on many corners or in the windows of highrise condos, store displays feature extravagent Christmas decor, and people preface or postscript everything with a smile and a "Merry Christmas!" or "Happy Holidays!"

Of course, the city is saturated in the commercialism of Christmas, but you can feel the spirit of the season in ways that you can't feel it anywhere else. It's Christmas as only the Big Apple can do it.

I was buying shampoo and conditioner in a Duane Reade yesterday. As I strolled down one of the aisles there was a song playing. I don't know the name of it nor had I heard it before, but the chorus went something like, I'm coming home for Christmas in New York.

I hummed along silently in my head and then exited onto Broadway. A crisp breeze hit my face, car horns honked, and people raced in opposite, zagging patterns on the sidewalk. From the subway grate, I heard a train roar beneath the street.

I'm home for Christmas in New York.

Phone Photo Op - Rockefeller Tree

The Christmas tree of a thousand lights (literally 30,000 of them) in Rockefeller Center.
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Phone Photo Op - Hudson River Sunset

Crescent moon over the Hudson River from my studio apartment about 45 minutes ago.
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Friday, December 22, 2006

Minding My Own Business

"You Know You're a New Yorker When ...
Your boyfriend has broken up with you, you're on the subway during rush hour crying your eyes out, the car is packed and you are comforted that New Yorkers realize that your problems are none of their business."
- From

Thinking further with regard to yesterday's post, I passed by a nice-looking girl in the train station near my apartment, who was about my age and wearing a sharp wool jacket and a contrasting scarf - an ensemble similar to what I have been looking for in stores. She was huddled in the corner, with the ends of her scarf tossed back over her shoulders, vomiting on the floor.

All those who had just exited the train, walked by her with not much more than a glance. The side of me that's been raised with Southern hospitality wanted to stop and ask her if she was ok. Instead I ascended the staircase and only looked back down as I stood at the crosswalk at the top of the stairs. She was bracing herself in the corner and then leaned forward to vomit again as a line of people continued to proceed up the stairs.

I averted my gaze and looked down the street. The traffic light changed, and I headed home. I couldn't help but wonder ... do New Yorkers seem rude simply because they mind their own business?

"You Know You're a New Yorker When ...
You see a car accident and you keep walking because you think an episode of 'Law and Order' is being filmed."
- From

Phone Photo Op - Inappropriate Gingerbread

This afternoon my coworkers exchanged a few more Christmas gifts. Julie, an avid yoga enthusiast, handed out gingerbread men in a variety of yoga positions. Our sales manager looked at my cookie and then paused when she saw the cookie of one of the sales associates.

"You know," she said, "Your cookie and his cookie should be together."

So we tested her theory.
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Our founder and former CEO would certainly not approve of these highly inappropriate photos of sugar, flour and water.

Disclaimer: This photo is not necessarily indicative of the type of people with whom I work in advertising sales. Though as I snapped this phone photo op, I said to our sales manager, "So when people ask me what I did at work today ..."

"Yes," she said. "These are the people you work with."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Are New Yorkers Rude?

That was the open-ended survey question in one of the many daily newspapers in the city today. All but one of the published answers were some version of the testament that "No, New Yorkers are not rude."

And I will continue to fully support my rationale that with 8 million people compressed in a city that is relatively small based on on the square mile, your likelihood of running into rude people is dramatically increased. However, this does not certify that the majority of New Yorkers are rude.

If fact, this evening as I waited at a vertical turnstile in the Times Square station (where there is no live attendent and a turnstile over which one cannot hop), I witnessed a man swipe his card as a parade of 3-4 people rushed out. Since he had an unlimited card (as indicated by the "GO" display that flashed as he swiped his card), his "swipe" was considered used and subsequent swipes were now void. [Note to non-New Yorkers: A turnstile will not allow an unlimited card to be swiped multiple times in the same station within a 20-minute period.]

Damn, I thought to myself, That sucks.

The man backed up in frustration and motioned for those waiting behind him to go ahead. However, the second man behind him swiped his own card and motioned for the first man to pass through. He had a Metrocard with a cash balance, which can be used multiple times at the same turnstile at a debit of $2 a pop. The frustrated man smiled and thanked him as he went through, and then the second man swiped his card again and passed through the turnstile just behind the first.

I smiled to no one in particular. Just smiled and thought of the infamous question in this morning's paper.

Gift from One Celeb to Another

At work today, our sales manager went upstairs to pick up some books that she had asked our founder and former CEO to sign as holiday gifts to agency clients. Next to one of the books for her clients was a booked that had been signed to Kanye West.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Phone Photo Op - Dawn Reflection

If I leave for work at exactly the right moment in the morning, the sunrise reflects off of the buildings and the street has a soft golden glow, which wasn't best captured by my camera phone.
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Guess you have to be there.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


"I’m always surprised when people leave New York.
I mean, where do they go?"
- Samantha, "Sex & the City"

The episode where Carrie learns Mr. Big is leaving town was on TBS tonight. The show lives on in syndication as I learn how to live the city life every day. Just four short months in the city, and I already feel like Samantha. Where else in the world would I go?

A friend who was visiting from NC last weekend asked me if New York City felt like home yet. The answer is that it does and it doesn't.

It doesn't feel like home when I'm lost somewhere below Canal, where the streets still don't make sense to me. It doesn't feel like home when I stand between a mom from Kansas City and an old man from Palm Beach and snap a photo of Beyonce as she exits the ABC Studios. And it doesn't feel like home when most of my best friends are never nearer than a phone call.

But it felt like home tonight when I exited a store on 66th and Broadway clutching several large bags like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I think images from Vivian's shopping spree on Rodeo Drive are embedded in the subconscious of most women when they carry large shopping bags.

I wasn't carrying bags with expensive designer clothes and hat boxes, of course - rather I had just purchased bedsheets for my new mattress, a chenille throw and some other housekeeping items from Bed, Bath & Beyond. But I wasn't a tourist with bags of souvenir shot glasses, "I [heart] New York" t-shirts, and Statue of Liberty paperweights. I was a resident carrying things I had just purchased for my home in New York City.

It would have been nice to proceed directly up into one of the condos at 66th Street. I looked up at the large windows. Lit Christmas trees blinked down at me as I waited for the traffic light to change.

Must be nice ... but I felt my own personal pride and accomplishment as I descended into the train station and caught a train uptown to my own home on Broadway.

My street just has a three digit number on it.

Phone Photo Op - Morning Star Sighting

On my way to work this morning, I exit the train station at Times Square, turn a corner and who should appear?

Beyonce and her body guard, but no tiny reindeer.
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Monday, December 18, 2006

My Two Bosses

I have the best bosses ever. They have been more than just a boss (or two) to me; they have each been a teacher, an advisor, a mentor and - at Christmastime - they have deep pockets! Today they gave me a gift card to Pottery Barn for quite a large sum.

After work I went to Papyrus and bought two thank you cards that look like interdepartment delivery envelopes. On the inside of each it says:

To: Very Important Person
Subject: Thanks

Thanks for everything!

It's so simple, but it really sums up what they have provided for me during my first four months as a young, naive aspiring professional in New York City.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Phone Photo Op - Drunk Santa

On my way to a Christmas party last night at Chris and David's apartment, I happened upon a most unfortunate circumstance in which a misguided Santa Claus was passed out in the [west side] 14th Street station.
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I'll probably go to hell for taking this picture, but I hope he doesn't plan to drink on the job on Christmas Eve.

Phone Photo Ops - Chinatown

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saturday Night Lights

It's after 2 a.m. and I just returned from a night on the town, which included a 4th year drama production followed by cheese and wine at The Juilliard School. My best friend Tokii is the lead role in Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel, a play set in the early 1990s, about a talented African-American designer and seamstress who is challenged by the sexual taboos of her time.

I don't know what it is about curtain calls at The Juilliard School, but every time I've seen Tokii take a bow after a production in New York City, I find myself slightly teary-eyed and moderately embarrassed. Pride, I guess. But it's history, too. I know how far she's come from small university productions in Western North Carolina to the bright lights of a renowned Juilliard stage in NYC.

After the play, we had wine and cheese in a dance studio while the actors schmoozed with some of the school's donors. While Tokii was chatting with several patrons, I joined two of her male classmates at a small table. Though I've met both of them, one attempted to introduce me to the other, to which came the reply of the latter, "Of course, I know her. Everyone knows that's Tokii's heart."

The other said to me, "I'm sure I don't have to tell you this, but Tokii thinks and speaks so highly of you. She tells us all the time how you just up and moved to New York and landed right on your feet, got a great job, an apartment and fit right into this city. Not an easy thing to do."

"I've just been incredibly lucky," I said.

A friend who is visiting from North Carolina and attended the play with me tonight cut in: "Sometimes you make your own luck."

It made me think back to a brief conversation I had with my new boss a few months ago when I was still a temp and she invited me to apply for a permanent position. She had said, "I don't know why New York just works really well for some people and others just can't catch a break."

Maybe I've made my own luck, but I honestly don't know how I did it. I'll just continue hoping it doesn't run out.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I Love Michael Kors

... Because he works several floors above my office and has exclusive sample sales for employees in our building several times a quarter. And today I bought five sweaters, four shirts, two pairs of pants and a dress for $142.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Phone Photo Ops - Swirling Diamonds

Last week, I blogged about conflict diamonds. Perhaps the swirling diamonds on these large digital billboards in Times Square were an attempt to remind the people that "a diamond is forever." Interesting that this giant advertisement appeared immediately in the wake of Leonardo Dicaprio's movie. Or maybe it's just what's for Christmas.
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Phone Photo Op - 5pm Pic

The MetLife building at 5 p.m. from my boss's office.
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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Morning After

This morning, clips from last night's corporate holiday party were featured on national television. I wasn't in any of the clips [whew!].

Nor was the dance-off between editorial and digital advertising that was squashed when my esteemed colleague on the advertising side performed an uncanny rendition of Britney's "I'm a Slave For You" complete with [huff], [huff], [huff] convulsions on the dance floor that quickly had her surrounded by all the guys from the mail room and left editorial repeatedly bowing in submission.

Nor were our slightly drunken double-dares outside of the kitchen.

Nor was the relentless laughter as our general manager shook his tail-feather to rapper Chamillionaire's "Ridin' Dirty."

Last night was a fun night.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Corporate Holiday Party

THERE were 500 votive candles, a half-dozen Christmas trees, four scantily-clad elves, two caricature artists, one giant inflatable basketball game and a killer skyline view. But what really impressed guests at the party that Fox Interactive Media, an online group, gave on Wednesday was the vintage arcade-style Ms. Pac-Man machine.

“That,” said Adam Sumner, a 23-year-old media planner, “was awesome.”

The Scotch tasting didn't hurt, either. “Pairing it with chocolate was really nice,” said Rohanie Singh, 29, who works in advertising.

“I give this party an 8.5,” said her friend Michael Jacobson, 29, an Internet consultant. “It reminds me of the dot-com era. What would make it better is if they had a Santa dancing in a thong on the bar. That would be like a 9.5.”

From "At Holiday Parties, St. Nick Starts to Morph Into Bacchus" in The New York Times (read the rest of the article here)

My company's corporate holiday party didn't have scantily-clad elves, but it was listed on

We left the office early and proceeded to a chichi downtown club that had been shutdown for our exclusive holiday gathering. As we walked down 14th Street, I wondered briefly what I'd be doing tonight if I hadn't left North Carolina four months ago.

In the club, just beyond the coat check, there was a table with name tags for all the employees. I found mine and couldn't help smiling to myself as I pinned it to my sweater. Across the top was the name of the company. Just below it read "Holiday Party." Below that was my name. And below my name, in all upper-case letters was written "ADVERTISING NEW YORK."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Phone Photo Op - Todai

My titas, my mom and I brunched at Todai this afternoon. We dined in fine form efficiently utilizing the appetite that is characteristic of the Filipino side of my family. In fact, we closed the restaurant down. The chefs were lining up to eat before we even left.
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Too good to eat, but I did.
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Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Food for Thought

There is a website that features touching, dramatic, funny, and inspirational photos submitted by people around the world proclaiming that "We're Not Afraid." The creator of the Web site was featured on GMA last year and spoke about its purpose. I agreed with everything he said except for one thing.

He said that we need to go on with our lives and not change anything we do because of terrorists. I agree that we should keep going to work, visiting family and friends, taking vacations, going on dates ... Of course, we should continue with the simple pleasures of our every day lives.

But there are also some things we need to change. Our government needs to change a lot of its domestic and foreign policy because there are many cases where America is just plain wrong. Examples include:
US-Sponsored Plan Colombia
Farm Subsidies
Failing Foreign Aid Programs
Environmental Double Standards
U.S. Support of Repressive Dictatorships
(But I thought Bush wanted to stop all the "Saddams" of the world?!?!?!?! I guess he only wants to stop the ones who control oil-producing nations.)

If any or all of these topics are unfamiliar, then one should start with David's Wallechinksy's article "Why Do They Hate Us?" He sums it up pretty well and it doesn't even take 10 minutes to learn about what you didn't know.

What can individuals change about themselves in the wake of these terrorist attacks, whether they are here, London, the Middle East or elsewhere? We need to change our wasteful consumption of every resource. Buy a fuel efficient car. Combine trips to save gasoline. Don't leave the water running while you brush your teeth. Turn off the lights in rooms you are not using. Read more about issues that DON'T affect you directly, like conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone.

And that is why "they" hate us. Many of the big and little things we do for ourselves (whether they are government operations or personal choices) have direct and indirect negative impacts on the people of many other nations. We don't think enough about others to even wonder if what we are doing will hurt anyone else. And we don't even realize what we AREN'T doing. Ignorance is truly bliss.

Following September 11th, President Bush told us to keep driving, shopping and spending money. What he didn't tell you is that the longer we continue to waste gasoline, the longer it will take our troops to come home. And that's just the real deal. Don't believe me? Read a little and keep up with the facts. And I don't mean to get your news from People Magazine, USA Today, or rely solely on 30-second news segments on FOX or CNN.

Pick up the Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine, or Newsweek. Try sitting through some programs led by some of our top opinion leaders, such as Wolf Blitzer, Bob Schieffer, Bill Maher, and even Bill O'Reilly. As much as I dislike O'Reilly, listening to all sides can help create your own opinion. Try reading some books that vary in topics, such as Al Franklin's "Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" OR Tammy Bruce's "The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left's Assault on Our Culture & Values." Then, THINK for yourself. There are two sides to every story and the truth is often somewhere in the middle.

And if you just want some damn funny reading. Check out "The Daily Show With John Stewart Presents America the Book: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction." The problem is that most Americans would rather watch "The Fabulous Life of Paris Hilton" or catch up on reruns of "Fear Factor." Sure, those shows are fun and I enjoy them, but I try not to let myself become a celebrity or reality TV junkie (Give me a "Friends" marathon though and you might not see me all day!). Spread out your interests and you'll become a more interesting person.

Some say that if we change our lives, the terrorists win. No. Paraphrasing Bill Maher in his book "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden," when you don't change your habits of wasteful consumption and choose to remain ignorant of the issues that face others, the terrorists win. I am inclined to agree.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Conflict Conscious

Today Leonardo DiCaprio's new movie "Blood Diamond" premiered in Los Angeles. Some film critics claim that this movie will make people think twice before buying another diamond. Maybe. But maybe the DiCaprio-generated momentum will be lost with all of the other mainstream media causes that get Americans riled up for 15 minutes and then are lost in the hype surrounding new episodes of America's Next Top Model.

Rapper Kanye West released a song last year that related the issue of conflict diamonds that has been plaguing Africa. He talked a good talk, but it would be more impressive if he'd stop buying diamonds. And maybe he has. I've never had a chance to ask him personally.

Of course, not all diamonds are conflict diamonds, but major jewelry distributors do not track their diamonds as carefully as the claim that they do. And if everyone joined in a diamond boycott regardless of the diamond's conflict or non-conflict origin, maybe some of our world leaders and major jewelers would truly address the horrific crimes against humanity taking place in African diamond mining communities.

When we continue to buy diamonds it sends a message to the rest of the world that our own bling is more important than the limbs of African men, women and children. I don't know if I'll ever watch Leonardo's movie because I have a hard time stomaching Hollywood carnage. But I know I will never be one of those people who feels like just watching the movie and being aware is enough.

Increasing awareness without taking action is as inane as using an American flag bumper sticker as a personal stand against terrorism or wearing a pink ribbon to fight breast cancer. Those symbols often allow someone to feel like they've done something to make a difference when they really haven't done anything at all.

After reading Bill Maher's book "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden" in 2005, I decided that I would never purchase another diamond as long as another human being is losing limbs for my privilege to wear sparkly rocks.

It's a personal choice. I don't pass judgement on those who live by the mottos that "Diamonds are Forever" or "Diamonds are a girl's best friend." I know people who feel like the size of a diamond is indicative of the strength of a relationship. Some of those people are friends of mine, and I love them regardless of conflicting beliefs and opinions. A good friend even told me once that she deserves a diamond so that when things are hard she can look down at her finger and remember what her relationship means to her. In some ways, her declaration is truer than she realized because life is certainly hard for the person who lost their hand so that she could wear it ... but the wedding industry has ingrained the sentiment of diamonds into the romantic ideals of women worldwide. How many ways can you beat a dead horse? It has to be a personal choice.

In any case, I am just one person and neither my decision nor this blog entry will cause the collapse of the diamond industry. It just means that if my engagement ring is a cubic zirconia so that I can look at it and not think of an armless child ... so be it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Phone Photo Op - American Beauty

"It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And [this trash] was, like, [sitting there]. Like [no one had anywhere else to put it]. [All day]. And that's the day I knew there was this entire life behind things, and... this incredibly benevolent force, that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. [Phone photo ops are] a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... and I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in."
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There is a blog, however, the catches the beauty of the city in photos. It is called Boroughed: Metropolitan NYC Photo-Blog (Five Boroughs & Beyond).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hump Day

It's the day that reminds you that you're half way through the week. Having a demanding career is often a Catch-22. Most days I feel so lucky to have such challenging daily duties and tasks. Some mornings I wish I had a mindless job, where I could just perform some inane routine without having to think too hard. Nine times out of ten, those some mornings are Wednesdays.

My perspective of the workweek is a little different from most. I don't dread Mondays and my favorite workdays are Thursdays.

I stopped dreading Mondays during my last year in North Carolina, which ended on July 31, 2006. I had been working two jobs that year to get out of some moderate debt and save money to move to New York City.

Monday meant that I only had to go to one job for the next four days. After awhile, the Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. grind became very easy. At 5 p.m., I could go home and lounge for the remainder of the evening, watch TV or meet friends for dinner or drinks.

Thursday was my Friday. It was my last evening to myself before I had to add a 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift at a casino to my 8-hour day in higher education administration. I didn't often go out on Thursdays. I had to be in bed early in order to prepare myself for the subsequent 16-hour workday.

Saturdays were spent in a hang-over like blur. My throat was scratchy and sore from the cigarette and cigar smoke in the casino. I served drinks for another eight hours on Saturday nights and then spent Sundays in a coma.

In the summer, I decided I didn't work enough and I added a third job waitressing at a crab shack. I generally began to hate my life and sometimes lost sight of my goal. I couldn't wait for the day when I could finally say that it had all been worth it. It began to feel like that day would never come.

On July 31, in my final post as a resident of North Carolina, I wrote about the worth of that grueling year. Monetarily, it numbered in the tens of thousands (minus, of course, my annual living expenses and debt resolution). Emotionally, it numbered in all the ways I would be living my life in New York City.

Wednesdays can still be tough, but not as tough as they used to be amidst a 7-day workweek. For those who continue to work seven days a week, my heart goes out to them. For those who work seven days a week and support children, my heart breaks.

This post was more for myself than anyone else today. Today I needed my perspective to remind me how hard it was to get here and how much easier I have it now. Of course, living in New York City is not easy. In fact, it is very hard. Its streets are harsh, its weather is harsher. However, my perspective keeps me sane - though my view of the days of the week have changed a little.

Mondays are generally the end to a good weekend. And Thursdays mean that another good one might be on the way.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

When is it Official?

I once heard that you are officially on your way to becoming a New Yorker when you can give someone directions without referring to a subway map.

I left work early today to await a furniture delivery at my apartment this afternoon. My bed arrived without mishap. Now I just need a mattress. But I was almost more excited by a transcending experience I had prior to boarding an uptown 2 train after leaving work.

As the 2 pulled into the station, an older woman tapped me. I paused my iPod and she asked, "Does this train stop at 57th?"

"No," I replied as the subway doors opened. "This is an express. But the Q stops at 57th. Where are you trying to go?"

"57th and Broadway," she answered.

"You can wait for the 1 train on this platform and get off at 59th Street."

"Thank you," she called after me as I boarded the 2. I looked over my shoulder and waved back at her, pressed play on my iPod and took a seat. It was only then that I realized what I had just done.

I had just given someone directions without pulling out my subway map! Granted they were simple directions toward the easy-to-navigate Upper West Side. It wasn't like I'd just explained the downtown mazes below Houston Street, but nevertheless, I recalled what I had once heard about subway directions.

While waiting for my bed to be delivered, I researched the makings of a New Yorker. Here are my findings:

You Know You're a New Yorker When ...
and You Know You're a New Yorker When ...
and my favorite You Know You're a New Yorker When ...

From Lizzie Breyer's review of "Trading Up" in Knot Magazine:
There's something about New York that makes you a snob, if you live there long enough.

New York is one of the greatest cities in the world. It's diverse, convenient, eclectic and constantly engaging. But for that very reason, it makes you totally spoiled. Describe yourself as a New Yorker once, and it means the city's in your blood -- along with everything that comes with it.

You'll notice little changes in your attitude at first. You'll still appreciate nice cars -- they become pieces of art to be appreciated, daydreams enjoyed as you ride the 4 or Q subway lines under the traffic. You start eating brunch every Sunday, and mimosas creep into your regular diet.

But most importantly, you'll start to get annoyed by people who aren't quite as chic and, well, urban. Leave New York for a minute, and it becomes crushingly clear. Even Chicago doesn't seem so great after a summer in the Big Apple. The Midwestern accents? Ugh. And who wears khaki shorts and flip-flops to a bar? Where was the bouncer when THAT happened?

New York gets under your skin like that.

But no matter how guilty you may feel for becoming A New Yorker, remember this: you're not as bad as Janey Wilcox, the protagonist of Candice Bushnell's new novel, Trading Up. And I should know -- I'm a twentysomething blonde fresh from a stay in New York -- just the kind that Candace Bushnell likes to write about.

I'm a twentysomething brunette fresh off the boat in Manhattan, who plans to spend the next 10 years writing about her life in the city - the good, the bad, the ugly and even the boring. When I first started this blog in North Carolina back in July, I had 10 years and 30 days to go - as 10 years is widely considered the official benchmark of official New Yorker-ship.

As it stands now, according to both the 10-year minimum and the New York subway anecdote, I am four months in and well on my way.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Deflation Countdown

My new platform bed will be delivered tomorrow afternoon. I'm leaving work early in order to accept the delivery - and apparently furniture delivery can be the next best excuse to calling in sick in New York City.

Tonight would be my last night on my trusty air mattress, except I still have to buy a mattress to put on my new bed. Maybe I'll just put my air mattress on top of the platform.

Phone Photo Op - High-end Furnishings

The airbed on which I've been sleeping the past four months, and the file boxes I craftly transformed to a desk and/or dinner table.
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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bloomingdale Blues

If you ever want to feel depressed about your financial standing in New York City - or in the world in general - I highly recommend paying a visit to Bloomingdale's on a Sunday afternoon. You can literally smell the wealth of the nouveau riche and/or the old money. In fact, much of mid- and downtown reek of wealth. While waiting at crosswalks, countless limousines, VIP cars and luxury vehicles often pass by, but it's none more in your face than in the large, expensive department stores.

If you want to feel especially bummed out, try to overhear a conversation between two women who are debating whether or not to buy a $3000 coat or another coat that looks exactly like it on the sale rack for $1800. Then listen as they opt for the $3000 coat because the one on sale just looks cheap.

I looked at my own black down-feather jacket, which I had purchased for $50 at Century 21 and let out a little sigh to myself. Later I tried to lament over my envious monetary woes with Tokii, but in blunt best friend form, she sharply interrupted me: "I am not going to entertain you right now."

Leave it to her to remind me in less than 10 words not to stop counting the blessings I do have.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Phone Photo Op - Subway Symphony

Young musicians performing in the Times Square station this afternoon.
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Friday, December 01, 2006

Spa Schmoozing

Following a frustrating morning in which I was made to look like a dumbass thanks to the incompetency of Lotus Notes, I assisted one of our sales managers with a client event this evening at a spa in Tribeca. Manicures and pedicures catered with sandwiches, salad, cookies, fresh fruit, white wine and champagne was a great way to end a bad day - and a less than good workweek overall.

I also helped "work the room" as our sales manager put it. Business schmoozing - it turns out - is not as forced and phony as I thought it would be. In fact, it was quite fun and relaxing. Though I'm sure the alcohol helped.

Afterward, I hopped in a cab and headed back up to Harlem. I slumped down into the back seat, leaned against the headrest and watched the buildings and lights whiz by outside the car window. Somewhere between Soho and the Upper West Side, I remembered that I'd rather have a rough workweek in New York City than anywhere else.

Phone Photo Op - Company Perk

Treating advertising agency clients to manicures and pedicures in a spa in Tribeca meant a mani and pedi for me, too.
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Christmas Time is Here

... Happiness and cheer ... that's what all the children call their favorite time of year ... snowflakes in the air ... ummmm ...

Charlie Brown: I think there must be something wrong with New York, Linus. Christmas is coming, but it doesn't feel the way it's supposed to feel. It was in the mid-sixties outside today.

A Charlie Brown Christmas Trivia (from Wikipedia)
- The special has not been seen in its original, uncut form since the first three telecasts in 1965, 1966 and 1967. Much of this is due to the opening and closing credits containing references to Coca-Cola, the show's original sponsor.
- The actors, all of them children, learned their lines phonetically, often not knowing what they meant. This led to the now-familiar Peanuts delivery style.
- All of the versions of the show broadcast on CBS between 1968 and 1996, and the earliest home video release were edited to completely delete the scene where the gang throws snowballs at a [Coca-Cola] can on a fence.
- Just before her remarks about Christmas being a big commercial racket, Lucy refers to Charlie Brown simply as "Charlie". This is the only time she does this in any of the TV specials; every other time it's "Charlie Brown".