Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why I Love My Coworkers

My coworkers in digital advertising are such an amazing group.

The president of our division had a baby recently, and before she went on maternity leave, our entire team - approximately 70 of us - conspired to throw her a surprise baby shower and created fun gifts based on inside jokes around the office.

Our senior marketing manager recently collapsed in the gym and was hospitalized due to a genetic blood disorder that she didn't know she had. We immediately swooped into action with a gourmet fruit basket (she was on a strict diet) and sent a box of our company's various magazines for her nurses. And Jenny, one of my favorite coworkers, went to Build-A-Bear and created a teddy bear based roughly on Amie's likeness (blond hair and trendy outfit). The funniest thing about the bear is that when you press the bear's paw, you hear a message from one of our sales associates: "Hi, Amie. It's Sam. We're working on an advertising proposal with print. We're thinking of doing a sweepstakes. Do you think that will work?" (inside joke)

It's even funnier that we sent her the bear - and that she loved it - because there was a recent conversation in the office in which she had belittled the idea of paying $80 to build a teddy bear. Jenny had jokingly argued back that you were paying for the experience of creation as well as the joy such a gift can provide. I think Jenny won that argument.

And our senior vice president had surgery this week to remove a nonmalignant tumor from the roof of her mouth and will be spending some post-operative days in the hospital. Today we ordered a fruit basket (for her family to share in her recovery room), a box of chocolate penguins (for her kids) in addition to a box magazines for her caregivers. Other departments and individual colleagues are sending their own gifts.

I love how we go out of our way to celebrate each other's birthdays, rejoice in each other's success, and rally together when one of us falls. Sometimes I consider telling them about this blog because I want to share my reflections on some of our daily interactions. But I'd like to retain my blogger anonymity with regard to most of my life in the city.

Needless to say, they don't need to read these entries to know that I enjoy working with them. I moved from southern hospitality to the cold north expecting to enter a brutal workforce. That is certainly a metropolitan reality for many, and it certainly isn't peaches and cream in our office every day. We debate, bicker like teenagers and often agree to disagree, but somehow I fell into an amazing group with whom I can grow, learn and succeed. And in New York City. Imagine that.

Phone Photo Ops - Interoffice Commute

The Financial District from the downtown office building
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I can't look at that skyline without thinking of the Twin Towers

A playground in Chelsea on the way back to the midtown office
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Before descending the stairs to the subway at West 28th & 7th
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

No Reason

I saw Stephen Colbert today at the corner of Hudson Street and St Marks Place.

Ok. I didn't see Stephen Colbert today, and I don't think Hudson even crosses St Marks. But it would have been cool if I did and if such an intersection existed.

Speaking of which, if you want to attend the best cardio kickboxing class in the city, find the instructor who teaches classes at several Equinox locations in Manhattan. You'll know it's him because his voice sounds like DMX. I keep expecting him to bark after each set of roundhouse kicks.

After leaving the gym, I was walking along West 43rd Street to catch the train in Times Square, and I overheard about three seconds of a conversation. One man said to another, "There's something about New York that is ..."

I didn't hear the end of the sentence because I continued walking and was quickly out of range, but between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, I thought of ways to end that sentence. The one I thought of that I liked the most was, "There's something about New York that is home."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Always Something to Miss

In New York City, there is always something to do, and that means that there is also always something to miss. There is so much going on, much of which excludes the general public, and sometimes I find myself wondering where the New York on E! TV is. Or even "Friends" or "Seinfeld."

Last week I missed a chance to see the actual Oscar statuettes up close and personal in Times Square before they were presented at The 79th Academy Awards. Not that it was really in my top 100 - or even my top 43 things - that I want to do (in fact, I don't actually have a list of 43). But I bought Tokii a plastic Oscar replica a few years ago for her birthday (to help prepare her for accepting the real thing), and it would have been interesting to see an actual Oscar.

Joe.My.God - who misses much less than I do and through whom I often live vicariously (minus the gay man thing) - took an opportunity to swing by Times Square and check Oscar out:; however, anyone with an Internet connection can meet Oscar here.

And over the weekend I missed the 2007 annual pillow fight in Union Square, but of course Joe.My.God happened across it after his Saturday brunch:

I think I will plan to participate in the annual pillow fight next year. Maybe I'll make a list of 43 things for 2007. It's only February. I have plenty of time to do 43 things before the end of the year.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Center Stage

My life is beginning to feel more centered. As a military brat dealing with constant and inevitable change, my life often felt left or right of center. Not in a bad way. I just never felt grounded because I knew that most situations were temporary. But that can also be a good way. I don't rely on permanence, and as a result, change is not as frightening to me as an adult. It doesn't mean that I don't hate the fact that nothing lasts. I absolutely despise that the greatest things in my life won't last forever, and I think I grip moments more than others do because of it.

The big picture of my life contrasts sharply with the finer details. I am a creature of habit, creating structure in whatever environment I have been placed, or - as with New York - have finally chosen. And I have created my own structure in becoming a New Yorker.

My apartment is coming together. Still slowly. But there is a personal gratification that comes with labored progress. And I'm creating new goals instead of flying by the seat of my pants on the newborn-New-Yorker-express. It was a big move and a dramatic change from the South, and I spent the first six months just trying to stay on board.

My health and wellness are next. I gained about 20 pounds (not an exaggeration) between August and January. I'm a comfort-eater, and without the barrier of a moving car and finding a parking space, all of the hot dog stands, cafes and bakeries are easily accessible from the sidewalk. I went from The Devil Wears Prada's "6 is the new 14" to a "not-necessarily-fat-but-an-uncomfortable size 8."

I've been going to the gym for over a month, four days a week. And already, I'm seeing changes in my body. I am feeling lighter again, and yesterday I noticed the faint outline of my old four-pack. I have never been able to get that six.

Monday is an hour spinning class, followed by weights then a 30-minute stretch class. Tuesday is a 30-minute ab class followed by 45 minutes of cardio kickboxing. Wednesday is spinning class and weights. Thursday is cardio boot camp and another 30-minute ab class. Some evenings, I ditch the gym for a night out with friends or coworkers, but I don't lose sleep over it.

My general diet outline includes a daily vitamin regimen with omelets; protein shakes with fruit and milk; high-fiber cereals; ham sandwiches with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat bread; salads; variations of chicken, brown rice and vegetables; and red wine. And I've gotten into the habit of carrying fruit in my bag for snacks. I sneak in the processed foods, bad carbs and cocktails, but I try to chalk it up to being human.

I guess being human is about roaming from center stage to the left and to the right and back to center. Life is about changing the things you can, accepting the things you can't, knowing the difference and sometimes daring to try anyway.

Phone Photo Ops - Herald Square

Sunday afternoon wanderings around the city included
Herald Square
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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Saturday in the City

It took me an hour and a half to get home from West 23rd Street. Ninety minutes. But before I recount that part of my day, let me back up.

I met Eileen, Annisha and Gina B. for brunch in Soho at noon. We stayed there for four hours. I love how conversation at brunch has no rules. We talk about anything and everything. It's so refreshing, frequently hilarious and always a good time. The bartender, a friend of Annisha's and obviously entrigued by our incessant laughter, pulled up a chair for awhile. I learned that he lives just five blocks from me. The waitress brought out a pitcher of sangria on the house, and suddenly it was 4 p.m.

After brunch Annisha dropped Gina off on Houston and me at West 23rd, and then she and Eileen drove back over the river to Hoboken. I had my eyebrows threaded at Unique Threading Salon and then went to The Container Store on West 19th Street - my haven. I find a sense of meaning and purpose in there that I should find in a church. It's the immaculate organization.

I bought a 12-cube organizer for my closet, two air-tight Tupperware boxes and a sandwich-shaped container since I've started making sandwiches for lunch at work (trying to add whole grains to my diet).

On a crowded uptown 1 train from West 23rd Street, I was able to get a seat at 42nd Street. A man put his bag in the seat next to me instead of sitting down or offering the seat to another passenger. At 59th Street an older woman - but by no means elderly - got on the train. A few moments later she asked me if the bag was mine. The man turned to her and said curtly, "Ma'am, you look twice my age. Do you want to sit down?"

She smiled, trying to mask her shock and surprise, and said, "I am twice your age! Thank you!"

She sat down next to me and pulled out a Blackberry. When the man moved to the other side of the train, I said to her, "I don't know how old you are, but you don't look twice his age. You look fabulous."

And I meant it. In fact, as I said it, I wondered privately if she had had any work done. Her skin looked great. Her makeup was well-applied, and she had on a furry hat and an outfit that looked expensive.

She smiled back at me and said, "He was a might rude, wasn't he? But aren't you so cute. I'm glad I got to sit next to you."

She exited the train at 103rd Street and flashed me a fabulous smile.

At 125th Street, the train was delayed. After half a dozen announcements regarding a smoke situation at 145th Street and FDNY investigations, I lugged my stuff off the train and waddled with my bags to the bus stop. I waited through two buses since they were full of fellow subway rejects.

When I finally got on a bus, I rode it one stop before I became irritated by all of the pushing and shoving. I stepped off the bus and walked the rest of the way to my apartment. It was less than a dozen blocks that I normally wouldn't hesitate to walk. With my heavy load, it was a struggle; however, I paced the bus block for block all the way to my building because of the delays caused by the overcrowding.

Now I'm in my apartment and relieved that Eileen, Annisha and Gina had already decided to bail on a birthday party that we planned to attend in the Lower East Side. I had been trying to think of a decent excuse to back out, but the bitter cold made a good enough one for all four of us.

Instead I will spend my evening organizing my shoes and vegging on my couch. I hate to admit that nothing would give me more joy tonight. It's a Saturday night in New York City, but I get a weird adrenalin rush creating organization in my life.

I'll blame it on the weather so I don't feel as lame!

Phone Photo Op - Brunch Spot

Waiting for the girls before brunch
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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Midweek Recap

What I did today: Woke up before my alarm went off at 6 a.m.; fell in a man's lap when the train lurched on the tracks; read the newest issue of one of our company's magazines, which doesn't hit newsstands until March; stepped out of the office for lunch for the first time in two weeks; attended mass for Ash Wednesday and walked around the city with black ashes on my forehead; decided that I am going to give up Starbursts for Lent; returned home to receive my groceries from FreshDirect within the 8-10 p.m. delivery window I had selected; finished this blog in time to catch the new episode of LOST; drinking a glass of wine now.

What I did yesterday:
Had a good day at work; attended a cardio kickboxing class at Equinox with one of my bosses; sat in the steam room even though I forgot my flip flops (I hope I didn't catch plantar warts); watched "Sex and the City" on TBS; received photos of my cousin's wedding in the Philippines and wished I could have been there; drank a glass of wine; got in bed by 11 p.m. and began a new book: Tales from the Bed: On Living, Dying and Having It All, a memoir by Jenifer Estess as told to Valerie Estess.

Phone Photo Ops - Frozen Filth

What were once soft blankets of snow
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Are now frozen mounds of dirt
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But they get smaller everyday
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Sort of ...

Monday, February 19, 2007

More Reasons to Love New York

Today I thought of more reasons that I love New York.

So I added them to what is now a running list.
More reasons sure to come.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Better Than Chocolate

Tokii really wanted me to see a play called "Better Than Chocolate," a production by the Second Year (Group 38) students in The Juilliard Drama Division. So I went back to Lincoln Center this afternoon to catch the 5 p.m. show. "The Greeks," in which Tokii portrays several roles, was showing again at 8 p.m. and she had already seen "Better Than Chocolate" this weekend so I attended alone.

"I really want you to see this play by the Second Years," she had said. "So try to make it."

She knows me. When she says I'll like something, I believe her. And I loved it.

She had just seen a play today in the 2007 Playwright Project Schedule by another group of Second Years at 1:30 p.m. called "Farragut North," and according to a text message I received as I was walking to the train: "... a juilliard playwright wrote it & now 2 big hollywood studios r fighting over the script. George Clooney and Leo DiCaprio want it bad! Not to mention they're tryn 2 get it done on b'way."

I am always blown away by the talent I am privileged to witness at The Juilliard School, but "Better Than Chocolate" was especially appealing to me. It was your typical love story cliche. A New Yorker in her late 20s searching for love, of course, and a man from New Jersey that she finds via a website in the genre. The conflict: how could a relationship survive with the Hudson River between them?

It was "Sex and the City" meets He Said, She Said in a Juilliard rehearsal project. And it was oddly parallel to the long distance relationships that both Tokii and I are living. Except that I want to remain a New Yorker; Tokii wants to trade the Manhattan high rises for the freeways of L.A. While her fiance - an overseas basketball player - plans to follow her there and take up permanent California residence in the off-season, my future with Terrence is still under deliberation.

He's a down-south Georgia boy raised in Atlanta; I'm a military brat transplant seeking long-term Big Apple residency and the authentic time-based New Yorker title. It will ultimately come down to what each of us is willing to give up, but we don't think about that now.

Rehearsal projects [in The Juilliard School Drama Division] are laboratory exercises for developing the actor's process and a yardstick for measuring their ability to apply and integrate what they've learned in their classes. These projects also challenge the students to practice putting all that work on themselves into something larger than themselves: the creation together of the world of the play and bringing other peoples' stories to life.

The third project of the Second Year breaks the class into three groups and give each of them the opportunity to work with and serve writers studying in the Playwrights Program, and with outside professional directors, in the development of new plays. It also give them a chance to learn their roles in bringing new plays to life.

Juilliard Drama Division - Group 36

Every year, two thousand students audition for twenty places in the freshman class in The Juilliard School's Drama Division. In 2003, my best friend (a fellow North Carolinian and New York transplant) was one of those two thousand students to audition. In 2007, she will be one of the 15 members of Group 36 at Juilliard to successfully complete the intense, four-year program.

Last night I went to see her in her final production of the 4th Year Drama Division Season 2006-07. As I waited for the play to begin on a stage on the fourth floor of the world-renowned school, I flipped through The Juilliard Journal. The interesting thing about the school's newspaper is that their alumni news section is sprinkled with the news of famous actors, dancers, directors, musicians, playwrights and composers. With notable alumni like Val Kilmer (Group 10), Kevin Kline (Group 1), Anthony Mackie (Group 30), it's easy to wonder what the future holds in store for Group 36.

The play "THE GREEKS Part One: The War," which runs through Monday, was interesting and entertaining albeit hard to understand. At least for me anyway. I can vaguely remember the gist of most of the Greek mythology stories I read in high school and college so I was slow to grasp much of the symbolism, which was often crude and raw for artistic shock value.

After the play, she crashed at my place uptown so that she wouldn't have to go all the way back to the Bronx; she had to be back at school early this morning. We discussed the symbolism of the "The Greeks" - mostly for my benefit as I was curious to know what different parts of the play meant. The play used the old Greek myth of Helen of Troy coupled with modern-day props to portray the repetition of history and ultimately the mistakes and detriment of mankind (including George Bush's policy and the war in Iraq, though it didn't say it in so many words).

Before we both drifted off to sleep, we also chatted about her last four years at Juilliard and what her move to Los Angeles this fall might hold. I imagine that right now she feels very much like I did last year anticipating my move to New York City.

After graduation, a whole new adventure will begin for her - and the other members of Group 36 - as mine continues right here in the Big Apple.

Phone Photo Ops - Juilliard & Lincoln Center

Overlooking Lincoln Center from The Juilliard School
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Alumni news at Juilliard reads like a "who's who" of arts and entertainment
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Jamie Foxx, Kevin Kline, Anthony Mackie, Christopher Reeve,
Kevin Spacey, Robin Williams, to name a few

Halls of greatness
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Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Feeling of Life

“It’s not the meaning of life, Alfred, it’s the feeling of life. Look at that park down there! Just think of how many loves lost and found in it, how many first kisses kissed, how many Frisbees lost, and just remember that is your park, my friend. And you've got your whole life to walk though it.”
~ Zak Orth to Freddie Prinze Jr. referring to Central Park in Down to You (2000), aired this morning on FX at 9 o'clock

I added a new quotation to the Quotable NYC sidebar. No one expects cutesy, toothless movies about light teen romances to inspire you, but sometimes they have Hallmark-card moments of greatness that provide a glimpse into your own heart.

That's the moment I had this morning when I came across this movie while laying on my couch, flipping channels, frustrated at being awake too early on a Saturday morning.

It's not the meaning of life, it's the feeling of life. If that's not a myspace headline, I don't know what is. But it's going to be my new personal motto.

I've got all of New York City outside my window and just a walk or a MetroCard swipe away, but it's too cold to go have that feeling outside. And it feels so good to lay on my couch and drift between random TV channels and unconscious dozing.

So that is what I am going to do.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Phone Photo Op - Julio Cesar Diaz

I forgot to mention my brief encounter during yesterday's evening commute with Julio Cesar Diaz, the ubiquitous subway mannequin dancing man, and Lupita ... the mannequin (below Times Square)
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P.S. A quick Google search of Julio and his dance partner uncovered an excerpt in Subwayland: Adventures in the World Beneath New York

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Odd One Out

Last night I went to a single's party at Stitch, a bar in the Fashion District, to celebrate Valentine's Day. I'm assuming that I was probably the only person in a relationship in the bar, but I'll never know because I spent the evening drinking Apple Martinis and chatting with Eileen and about two dozen of her female coworkers, friends and friends-of-friends.

Eileen had forwarded me the following evite last week, and she informed me yesterday that my Valentine's evening would not be best spent in the spinning class at my gym.

Host: Some good looking single people
Location: Stitch Bar & Lounge, 247 W 37th Street (b/w 7th & 8th Ave)
When : Wednesday, February 14, 6:00pm
Bring on the single and the booze. t is Valentine's Day and Wednesday so what better to do then gather with like minded singles post-work to lift up some drinks and get your party on. Pass on to other single people you know and maybe you might just get lucky on Vday. Thursday mornings are great for a walk of shame.

So I ditched the gym and engaged in bar talk and empty calories for a few hours, which is how I would come to meet Iris, Renee and Miriam. A few guys tried to loop themselves into our conversation from time to time, but for most of the evening Eileen, two other girls and I were engrossed in absolutely hilarious banter covering a wide range of topics: past lives before New York City (which included North Carolina, California and Ireland), ex-boyfriends, myspace, a weekend spent in Florida with an heir to some Louisiana fortune, fashion design (Eileen's line of work), advertising (my line of work) and Brazilian bikini waxing.

Before the night was really over, three of us headed out of Stitch and walked down to Penn Station, where we had a laugh at my tipsy nonrecognition of the Empire State Building because - and I quote myself, "it looked too skinny." From Penn Station, we went our separate ways - Harlem, Hoboken and Brooklyn.

It wasn't the most romantic Valentine's Day ever. I mean, I'm in a long-distance relationship, and I was home in time to catch what I missed on LOST (thanks to DVR technology), do a little blogging and be in bed by midnight. But it was my first Valentine's Day in New York. The great thing about falling more and more in love with Manhattan is that there is no walk of shame the morning after.

The Love Drug

All the chronic in the world couldn't even mess with you
You are the ultimate high ...
... Take my money,
My house and my cars
For one hit of you
You can have it all, baby
Cause makin' love
Every time we do
Girl, it's worse than drugs
Cause I'm an addict over you
- Jodeci, "Feenin"

The 1990's R&B group may have been stumbling across scientific grounds defining the feelings of love when they released their hit "Feenin" in 1993. AM New York reprinted an article from The Washington Post in today's paper that was some interesting food for thought in the post-Valentine's Day hangover.

"Feelings of new love are only temporary" from
An Affair of the Head
They Say Love Is All About Brain Chemistry. Will You Be Dopamine?
By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer

It's all about dopamine, baby, this One Great True Love, this passionate thing we'd burn down the house and blow up the car and drive from Houston to Orlando just to taste on the tip of the tongue.

You crave it because your brain tells you to. Because if a wet kiss on the suprasternal notch -- while, say, your lover has you pinned against a wall in the corner of a dance club -- doesn't fire up the ventral tegmentum in the Motel 6 of your mind, well, he's not going to send you roses tomorrow.


God's little neurotransmitter. Better known by its street name, romantic love.

Also, norepinephrine. Street name, infatuation.

These chemicals are natural stimulants. You fall in love, a growing amount of research shows, and these chemicals and their cousins start pole-dancing around the neurons of your brain, hopping around the limbic system, setting off craving, obsessive thoughts, focused attention, the desire to commit possibly immoral acts with your beloved while at a stoplight in the 2100 block of K Street during lunch hour, and so on.

"Love is a drug," says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and author of "Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love." "The ventral tegmental area is a clump of cells that make dopamine, a natural stimulant, and sends it out to many brain regions" when one is in love. "It's the same region affected when you feel the rush of cocaine."

Passion! Sex! Narcotics!

Why do we suspect this isn't going to end well?

Because these things are hard-wired not to last, all of them. Short shelf lives. The passion you fulfill is the passion you kill. The most wonderful, soaring feeling known to all mankind . . . amounts to no more than a narcotic high, a temporal state of mania.

"Being in love, having a crush on someone is wonderful . . . but our bodies can't be in that state all the time," says Pamela C. Regan, a professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and author of "Mind Games: A Primer on Love, Sex and Marriage." "Your body would fizzle out. As a species, we'd die."

Some of these love chemicals in the brain, scientists measure by the picogram, which is a trillionth of a gram.

How fragile, this thing called love.

Just about all writing about love stinks, maybe because so much of it begins with something like "O!" or maybe because people are (a) in love when they write it, which makes for a lot of senseless mooning the rest of us couldn't care less about; or (b) they have just been Kicked to the Curb of Romance, in which case they would rather be pinned to an insect board and labeled than live another minute on this godawful Planet of Hate.


Stendhal was onto something in the 19th century when he observed that "The pleasures of love are always in proportion to our fears," because passionate love is also partly about terror. Bill Shakespeare had it down cold, when he had Friar Laurence warn young Romeo of the perils of passion: "These violent delights have violent ends."

And did Romeo listen?

Shucks, no! Wise counsel, patience, foresight, prune juice -- who wants that? Is there one among us who, at least once in this life, does not want to throw everything out the door and sprint to the Disco Ball of the Brain, where there are big white piles of dopamine, where a hot and sweaty Barry White is always on stage, thumping out "You're My First! My Last! My Everything!" And there's that new girl in class! Scantily clad! She's on the floor, beckoning you! Yes, Bubba, you! Out you go, and she's saying your name and her hand slips to the small of your back, and this is going to last FOREVER AND EVER!

Regan, the California researcher, notes that such cases are rare, and may have more to do with existing mental issues than simple unrequited love. Still, she says, passion is destined to end, whether mellowing into long-term love or blowing up on the freeway at 4 a.m. Given this, she wonders if "we do our self a disservice by glorifying passionate love so much."

"The search for eternal passion is very misguided," she says. "It's the search for the perfect high that keeps people discarding relationships right and left . You don't feel the same way you did; people want to break up, instead of seeing it as normal."

And so, alas. Even neurologists, to go with Shakespeare's priest, now tell us passion is true love's fool's gold, a flamboyant dead end on the evolutionary chain of primate happiness.

The only problem with this insight is that no one pays it any mind. Doomed passion may not make us right, and it may not even make us very happy.

It only makes us human. It only makes us who we are.


Final thoughts from Katie: In summation, love really is dope.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Phone Photo Ops - Valentines

Holding hands in New York

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I Love New York

Despite my cynicism of the commercialization of Valentine's Day, I reflected a lot today on the things I love. In particular, the things I love about my new life in New York. I've lived here for a little over six months, and there is so much that I love - that I knew I would love. I made a list of a few things that came to mind.

Things I love about living in New York City:
- the Manhattan skyline
- walking to work
- how almost every culture in the world exists within the five boroughs
- weekend brunches
- after-work cocktails
- Bleecker Street
- Broadway shows
- the liberation of anonymity in the city (trip in the middle of the street, and no one will know it happened by the time you reach the next block)
- lunch in Bryant Park (when it's warm)
- nonfat cafe latte from Starbucks on almost every corner (when it's cold)
- turning the key(s) in the door of my Manhattan apartment
- cobblestone streets in the Meatpacking District
- the city from the back seat of a taxi
- the energy of the city at any hour
- the steam room after an intense spinning class at Equinox
- riding in a nearly empty subway car with my iPod on a weekend afternoon
- cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery
- Grey's Papaya hot dogs
- real New York-style pizza
- the Upper West Side
- sipping wine while preparing dinner alone in my own kitchen
- creative subway entertainment
- street performers
- manicures and pedicures
- sidewalk flower stands
- the blinking red light of the Empire State Building from my apartment
- random acts of kindness

As the honeymoon-effect begins to wear off, there are also things I don't love:
- planning errands based on what I can carry
- grocery shopping without a car
- annoying subway entertainment
- stumbling over mounds of snow to get to the sidewalk
- packing into the train during rush hour
- freezing wind off the Hudson River
- catching a cab in midtown on a weekday between 5:30 and 7 p.m.
- express trains running on the local tracks on weekends
- increased exposure to the elements (no more running 20 feet from the front door of my house to my car; now I walk blocks in the rain, sleet, snow and heat)
- rude people (which aren't as many as you might think)

It's a thin line between love and hate, but ain't it grand?

"So maybe it won't look the way you thought it would look in high school. But it's good to remember love is possible ... anything is possible. This is New York."
- Carrie Bradshaw, "Sex and the City"

Phone Photo Ops - New York Wonderland

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Anti-Valentine's Day ≠ Anti-Romance

Anti-Valentine's Day does not equal anti-romance.

Even on Valentine's Days when I have someone to share them with, I've always been a little cynical about this holiday. It's just as commercialized as Christmas, but it's easier for me to become annoyed by Valentine's Day because it often feels forced and - let's face it - tacky. Boxes of chocolates decorated with ruffles. Giant teddy bears that don't match the decor in your apartment. Plants inside of balloons.

According to, "the history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition."

My contention is that once upon a time in a greeting card company of yore, some executives in the marketing division had a conversation that went a little something like this ...

Marketing executive: Our greeting card sales drop off after Christmas and don't pick up again until Easter.

Another marketing exec: What holiday can we introduce in the middle of our lagging months to increase greeting card sales?

Yet another marketing exec: We need a holiday that makes people feel like they have to buy something for someone else. It needs to be something that would cause women to get angry if their significant other were to forget ... like anniversaries.

The first marketing exec: Isn't there a Saint Valentine-someone-or-other?

IT'S NOT that I don't like receiving a gift on Valentine's Day. Nor do I sneer at those who rejoice in celebrating it. And it's not that I don't like romance. In fact, I love romance. When a woman says she doesn't care about receiving flowers or jewelry, she's generally lying to make herself appear cool, nonchalant and laid-back. In that right, romance-ophobia is similar to homophobia. The people who claim to fear or despise it are often the ones who internally crave it the most.

IT'S that I don't like the levels of expectation that are written in the fine print on February 14. Instead of receiving flowers, heart-shaped earrings, giant red teddy bears that look out of place on my bed by March, or chocolates that will go straight to my hips on a day imposed by consumerism, I'd rather receive some flowers, dinner at a secluded table in a dark restaurant, a funky pillow or candle that matches my home decor, or chocolates that will go straight to my hips on a random day for no other reason than that I had been thought of.

Being told that I am loved by someone who loves me because Hallmark says it's necessary on a certain day stifles the spontaneity and surprises of unscripted romance.

Maybe some people need reminders because the people they love aren't reminded enough. Maybe Valentine's Day is often a disappointment to me because the flowers, chocolates and teddy bears fail to define the fanciful vision of love tainted by flighty knock-your-socks-off, take-your-breath-away, sweep-you-off-your-feet notions. Maybe my expectations are too great. Maybe I don't expect enough.

It's that crazy little thing called love. A few years ago - around Valentine's Day - I found an editorial in an issue of Vibe Magazine that was all about that crazy little thing. I tore out the editorial and saved it in my book - the one in which I paste articles, short stories, poems, postcards and photos from magazines or newspapers that I have liked over the years.

I don't remember what year it was, and the article isn't dated, but there's a full-page advertisement on the back of the page for the DVD Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of The World, a documentary "featuring appearances by Billy Crystal, Lennox Lewis, James Earl Jones and many more! Includes rare archive fight footage and exclusive interviews with Muhammad Ali." So whatever year that was.

Happy February 13!

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

With Valentine's Day right around the corner,
Cheo Hodari Coker breaks down the four-letter word.
From VIBE Magazine

Love. Can't define it. Refuse to. Ask 10 different people what love is, and you'll get 20 different answers. I could probably give you 40, most of them stolen from moments I've experienced with Dinah Washington ("...the thought of you makes my temperature a summer with a thousand Julys..."); Prince ("What's it gonna be, baby? Do you want him? Or do you want me? 'Cause I want you"); or even Ghostface Killah ("Your whole body looks wild/With your rugged profile/Enough to make a hardrock smile").

May 12, 2001, was the day my ship came in. As I stood in front of my bride, looking into her eyes, I was rendered speechless by her beauty. Never more so than that day. I was holding my wedding vows and being asked to define the one thing I could never find words to express, to an audience of 130 people. Well, here goes nothing.

"My feelings for you remain so profound, so primal, so real, that I lack ability to voice them," I said. "Why does God feel I am worthy of one of his angels? I'll never know. But I've learned never to question His gifts, but to instead cherish them as I do the air that I breathe.

"I promise to always protect this beautiful friendship that we have - to communicate, to listen, to appreciate, to praise you. I stand here in awe of you. You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. And maybe one day, I'll create a phrase that fully encompasses my feelings. Something deeper than the three words that leap from my heart every single time I hear your voice, look into your eyes, or hear the simple mention of your name: I love you."

Not a dry eye in the house. But I was cool. Didn't tear up or nothing'. I smirked. I was the man. But then as Donny Hathaway's "A Song for You" fell from the sound system like a gentle rain, I felt that twinge. This is it. This is the woman I've going to spend the rest of my life with. I saw our children - and grandchildren - flash in front of my eyes. The house. The anniversary parties. The whole nine.

Not gonna cry. I looked at her through the veil, tears of joy running down her face, ruining her makeup. Beginning to waiver, but no tears. "We did it," she whispered. "We made it." I started bawling. The whole world disappeared, and it was just me, her, and Donny Hathaway's voice.

I love you in a place where there's no space or time. I love you for my life. You're a friend of mine. And when my life is over. Remember when we were together. We were alone. And I was singing this song to you....

That's my definition of love.


Phone Photo Ops - Snow Log

The weather forecast predicted heavy snowfall beginning
by 9 am in Jersey and by noon in Manhattan.

8:15 am - Outside the office in midtown ... no snow
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5:15 pm - Left work early, heading to the gym ... no snow
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8:00 pm - On the way home ... light flurries
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8:35 pm - Emerging from the subway uptown ... there it is
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New York's Got You Covered

"If you need to buy flowers or chocolate for your Valentine on Wednesday, you're on your own. The condoms, however, are free courtesy of New York City.

"Taking advantage of the holiday for lovers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration was to unveil the official city condom in midtown Manhattan, where volunteers were to hand them out free at Fifth Avenue and 50th Street."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Wall Street Pact

Over the weekend, my friend Candice sent me the following text message:

"I want to date people in ny like on sex & the city...someone with big artwork in a big apartment and we have to dress up to go out on dates."

Tonight I sent the following reply:

"I propose a pact. If neither of us are married by the time we're 35, we'll each put on something skimpy and walk up and down Wall Street."

Phone Photo Op - To Be Necessary

... Or not to be necessary ... it's not really a question.

Just when you think there are no separate products left to fuse into one, I walk into a Duane Reade and find earTunes, a hat with built in head phones.

When a winter hat and iPod earbuds are just too much, simply plug your portable player up to your tobaggan, and you can listen to music and keep your head warm at the same time.
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I used to be cynical about the fusion of cameras and cell phones, but look at me now. Perhaps one day I'll wonder how I ever got by without my earTunes.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Peaks & Valleys

My spin on one of Mary J. Blige's acceptance speeches during tonight's Grammys:

"I don't think you can have a peak if you don't ever have a valley. And it's in the valley when we learn who we really are. And it's on the peaks when we learn who we really are because success exposes who you really are."

... and it's on the peaks when you are happy with who you've become ... or are becoming - even if more valleys lie ahead.

Emotional Ramblings

I had a great week at work. Organized. Productive. Fulfilling. Followed by what started out to be a great weekend (brunch with the girls, Obama announced his run for the White House), but ended poorly. I think I need to learn how to take better care of myself because ultimately no one else can or will, especially in this city. I know that things I say or do are often caused by my own scars. But who doesn't have baggage?

Perfection is overrated. And I wish the best of luck to those who seek it. People with problems are more interesting. That's why controversial biographies sell. No one wants to read about someone who has it all and is happy all the time. People don't hesitate to judge others on their worst days or they at least like to watch others in them. It's what reminds us that we're not alone in our insecurities.

My problems are pretty shallow in the big scheme of things. Maybe I've just got the winter blues since winter is actually here now. The cold months in New York City can be harsh, but none more harsh than I can be on myself.

When I'm feeling a little down, I try to find comfort in the passing of time. That this too will pass. And spring will come later.

But later is still real for others. Still finite. It exists for others in a way it doesn't exist for me anymore. It's probably the reason why I start missing people that I love while they're still here. Or moments that I love while I'm still in them. Or why I often feel the need to start, do, accomplish, finish or resolve some things now.

I won't go into detail about this weekend's turn of events because a few people I know read this blog. The sacrifice of not demanding blogger anonymity. This is more of a rambling vent session for me. A place to breathe and to let go and to say to myself, I am human, I have issues, I need chocolate.

What better place to reveal your emotional insecurities than on the Internet? I guess we all just want someone with whom we can be vulnerable.

I remember a moment years ago when I was in an Applebee's in Asheville with Tokii, Monique, Jessica, Daphne and Shameika. We were all sitting around a large table with food and margaritas and everyone was laughing but me. I was sitting at the far end of the table with my head propped on one hand watching everyone laugh. I'm sure I had a smile on my face and that my demeanor matched the moment so that no attention was drawn away from the laughter. It's not that I didn't find the moment funny. I was taking a mental snapshot, memorizing where each of them were sitting and the way each of them laughed. And I found that I was already missing that moment, and I miss it still.

And what better way to start a new week than having your girls over for dinner, wine and the Grammy's?

... 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 ...

Tokii and Gina will be here in an hour.

Phone Photo Ops - Week Recap

Images from last week ...
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Those glimpses from cabs that I love
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When a train is being delayed due to a police investigation,
I generally wait for the next one
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Faux subway tunnel in a Flatiron District bar
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Chain curtains around our table in the Coffee Shop
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Where you could find yourself after tequilla shots with coworkers
followed by a train ride that unexpectedly becomes too long
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Winter seeping underground
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Frozen Hudson shorelines
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Views that make me smile
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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

You Know It's Brrrrr

You know it's cold when you're walking from the train to the office, and you open your mouth to say something, and your teeth instantly feel like you just bit into ice cream.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Following the Law to the Degree

I think I heard on the morning news that there were 2200 lack-of-heat complaints within the previous 24 hours to the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development or the City's Citizen Service Center at 311.

I don't know if I heard correctly, but I don't find it hard to believe. It was freezing last night and today. The wind chill made it feel like 15 to 20 degrees below zero.

And unfortunately for me, my apartment is not well insulated, and there is a draft around the window. The exterior walls of my studio are cold to the touch. I've tried to stop the draft along the windowsill with rolled towels, and I'll be dreading my electric bill if I have to continue running my space heater all night long. The building has had the radiators on the past few nights, but they're stingy with the heat.

In New York City, residential building owners are required by law to provide tenants with hot water year-round and maintain an indoor temperature of 55 degrees when the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees. And since heat and hot water are included in my rent, my building makes sure it doesn't go a degree above the law.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Phone Photo Op - Fashion Empire

This evening, my colleague Gloria and I were walking from the office along 42nd Street to the subway station in Times Square when I happened to look up from the corner of Sixth Avenue.

"I don't like what the Empire State Building is wearing tonight," I commented as the building loomed over the Fashion Week tent in Bryant Park.

Gloria looked up, "Oh, I think it looks classy. I don't like it when it's all blue, orange and green."
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Super Bowl XLI

Last night I met Eileen, Gina B., Annisha and two of their friends at Bounce, where we had six seats at the bar, a round of shots on the house and front row views of the flat screens. We rated the Super Bowl commercials, cheered on our teams, ate popcorn shrimp, quesadillas and chicken fingers and stopped drinking before we'd regret it in the morning.

At one point, I looked at our six reflections in the long mirror behind the bar. I know alcohol makes you feel more attractive than you really are, but we were some hot girls sitting at the bar. I turned to Eileen and relayed my observation. She nodded and replied, "That's how we roll! We're like the Pussycat Dolls; we've got one of each color."

"Oh my gosh!" I exclaimed at the revelation. "How many Pussycat Dolls are there? Six?"

She looked puzzled, "Hmmm ... I don't know."

We both shrugged and turned back to the game.

Later after Prince's amazing halftime performance, I sent a text message to my closest friends: "I just watched the Super Bowl halftime show from a bar in Manhattan!"

What am I going to do next?

Remove: I'm going to Disney World!

Insert: Keep living in New York City!

Phone Photo Ops - Bounce

Front row seats at Bounce
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Shots on the house
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One of the best halftime shows in XVI years
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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Brunching in the City

I met Eileen and Gina B. for brunch in Soho at Cafe Noir. Eileen is in fashion design and Gina is in fashion merchandising for the same company. Along with fashionable friends, brunch is something that is so New York. In the South, I'd argue that brunch is only something that one might do after a Sunday church service. But even then, it's not referred to as "brunch" in the same trendy way that it is referred to as "brunch" in New York City.

Brunch is the perfect way to start a Saturday. It gets you out of bed, but not too early. We met at 12:30 p.m. - but weekend brunches in New York can go as late as 4 p.m., or so I've been told. With the temptation to stay in bed all day, brunch is a fabulous reason to get out of your apartment and enjoy the city. And once you're out in Manhattan, it's easy to stay out.

We talked about work, men, clothes, bags and Super Bowl plans for tomorrow. After we had finished our cappuccinos, omelets, soups, salads and slices of bread that you could dip in olive oil, we continued to chat for another hour. The bartender sent out a pitcher of sangria on the house, and we sipped and laughed away the day.

I know it's a cliche Sex & the City moment, but days like today were exactly how I fantasized back in North Carolina that my life would one day be like in New York City. Brunch, sangria and a Saturday afternoon.

Phone Photo Op - A Reason to Love Soho

On the corner of Grand Street and Thompson Street
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Phone Photo Ops - Madison Square Park at Sunset (23rd St b/w Fifth & Madison)

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Professional Renewal

I've been trying to blog about arbitrary, random stuff the past few weeks to take my mind off of things that have been bothering me at the office. But it hasn't been working so I'm just going to blog about it and move on.

I try to leave my work at the office, but the truth is that I have become engaged to my career. And soon, I expect that I'll be married to it. And proud to be. I feel good about my job. It's an emotional high to be honored, grateful and proud to be a part of the digital advertising team for a renowned company.

I don't often carry every little thing home and lose sleep, but when I make big mistakes, it follows me like a cloud. Well, some small mistakes have been accumulating over the last few weeks into some major errors - so much so that one of my bosses (the AVP one) finally scheduled a meeting with me at 9:30 a.m. today to discuss the issues.

My boss's first job out of college in New York City was an executive assistant position under a major executive at Atlantic Records so she has been where I am. During our meeting, she was a little reprimanding but not patronizing, firm but empathetic. First she wanted to know if there was anything behind my lagging performance.

I've been off lately, and I knew it. I've been hasty under the pressure of growing demands. Multitasking has become an increasing challenge, especially since I assist two people. She had seen a difference and wanted to know why. Then, she reiterated the big picture and why certain things are important.

She knew that I already understood. The reiteration was for her just as much as it was for me. She needed to be reassured that I got it. And she knew that I did. But then the meeting took an unexpected turn.

My boss paused briefly and then said to me, "I called my old boss at Atlantic Records and asked her to remind me what I was like when I was her assistant. I just wanted some perspective and to remember what it was like when I was new in the industry and working under a demanding woman ... And you know what, Katie? She described you."

"My boss and I had a similar conversation when I worked for her," she continued. "But she really put it in perspective for me when she once said to me, 'You have to make me look like a rock star.' So that is what I am going to say to you. You have to ensure that I am successful so that I can make the senior vice president and the president successful. And in turn, I'll make you successful ... You have to make me look like a rock star."

She knows I got it. And I'll start fresh on Monday.

Boston Terror Scare

You'd have to live under a rock - or only watch the Cartoon Network - to not have heard about Boston's recent terror scare. As serious as it is and as funny as it isn't, the way Peter Berdovsky, 27, and Sean Stevens, 28, are handling the media - while insensitive and irresponsible - is absolutely hilarious.

They were released from jail yesterday on $2,500 cash bond after they pleaded not guilty to placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct for a device found at a Boston subway station. The devices were illuminated signs intended to promote the cartoon show Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

After their release, they called a press conference, which had no functional purpose other than having some fun with the media. I love how the MSNBC control room interrupts news about Al Franklin running for senate to roll live footage of this press conference in Boston.

February 2nd

"February 2nd may be remembered in history as the day the question mark was removed from the question of global warming" ... oh, and it's Ground Hog Day, and the hog didn't see his shadow.

Looks like winter will be over before it has even begun. And according to the report on global warming released in Paris today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, human activity on this planet likely carries much of the blame.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


In honor of American Heart Month, I'd like to give a shout out to Izzy's BloggerChicks, which highlights the women bloggers of cyberspace.
Join BloggerChicks

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in this country, claiming over 349,000 American women each year. Raising awareness and improving treatment and screening can save many lives. Congress introduced the HEART for Women Act, legislation that would improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease and stroke.

To make sure that the HEART for Women Act is passed swiftly, we need your help. Please urge your Members of Congress to support this lifesaving legislation.

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