Friday, June 29, 2007

Phone Photo Ops - Bridezilla Advertising

As I was walking through Grand Central to catch an uptown no. 4 train to my favorite nail salon on 125th Street, I noticed the Bridezillas advertising on trash cans, and thought to myself, "Either someone found it impishly appropriate to put this advertisement on a trash can or they wanted to scare the hell out of random commuting men."
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And then ... what's the likelihood that one of the angry brides on the advertisement would show up while I was taking a picture of it?
Well, this is New York.
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A friend of hers had told her that the ads were on trash cans in Grand Central so she had come to take a few pictures. An actress/model, she asked me to pass along a copy of her headshot and resume when she found out where I worked. And I am happy to help - even though I'm just an assistant and can't do too much more for her. Not only was she extremely nice and down-to-earth, but I found it secretly refreshing to see that an amazing, flawless face on camera looked normal in everyday life ... like me, like you, like anybody.

Yes, even you can be an insane, bitchy bride. I just hope that I one day look as good as she does in a wedding dress ... and that my photos look as great ... minus the snarl!

Phone Photo Op - Grand Rush

All of these people are waiting for the new iPhone
... or a ticket to White Plains.
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Grand Central Station at 6 p.m.

No Ah-Choo for You

I swear, everytime a man in Harlem says to me, "God bless you, ma," I just want to turn to him and say, "Dude, I didn't sneeze."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The New York City Blogging Thermometer

Another witty post from the East Village Idiot. If I don't get off his balls soon and keep reposting his entries or linking to his blog, I'm going to rename my blog "East Village Idiot Groupie."

Phone Photo Ops - Syracuse & Back

Returned last night from my aunt's house in Syracuse, where I joined my parents for an extended weekend and coveted lazy days. Just how lazy were my days?

The only camera phone photo ops I have are from the airport.

Cool things that you don't need
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Syracuse at the end of the tunnel
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Welcome to Syracuse
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An interesting perspective
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And a perfect example of what one doesn't need in a sample
package of Advil prior to my return flight to NYC
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It reads:

Servants, Inc.
Melrose Park, IL 60160

Oh, let me explain what you're looking at.
What: a small envelope that fits inside an sample package of over-the-counter pain reliever.
Purpose: Open the envelope, pour water inside and use it to pop pills.
Wow factor: You can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Phone Photo Op - A Lovely Day

It was a beautiful Saturday for a bachelorette brunch at Amalia, a street fair on 7th Avenue, a fish fry in Harlem, a booth and bottles in VIP at The Grand, a random after-club stop at Ray's Pizza with two guys that seven hot girls picked up on the corner of East 58th and Madison, and a stint through their apartment on West 56th to take off our stilettos.
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And those are the only details I am permitted to disclose with regard to Tokii's Bachelorette Weekend. After returning to my apartment at 5 a.m., I'm leaving a few of the girls here and heading to the airport for an 8:29 a.m. flight to Syracuse. More from upstate at a later date.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Phone Photo Op - Sleeper Car

On the way back to my apartment after dinner at Coffee Shop and meeting Jessica at La Guardia, who arrived on a late-night flight, we witnessed this couple alternating between various puppy-like positions on the train.
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The hottie in the black dress on the right is the bachelorette herself, for whom we are partying this weekend.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Phone Photo Op - Brawl on Bleecker

While perusing local sex shops in search of fun paraphernalia for Tokii's Bachelorette Weekend in the city, Candice, Marcie and I came across a brawl on Bleecker Street. It wasn't A Bronx Tale, but onlookers at the outdoor cafes found it amusing. When one reached into his pocket for what we momentarily thought was a gun, he pulled out a cell phone and appeared to be calling the police.
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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Phone Photo Ops - From Lunch Hour

When people look how I feel
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Teach your dog to read on the lawn of the New York Public Library
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A painting in a nearby gallery of where I had just been
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The Good Life, I mean, Night

Things That Would Only Happen to Me in New York
- Meet a friend who works for a top five securities firm at an exclusive midtown restaurant.
- Be ushered up to our table even though we were late for our reservation (because of an extra drink at the bar) - while another man argued with the host over his reservation being bumped back.
- Hide my embarressment while my friend ordered for us since I had no idea what most items on the menu were.
- Watch him pay a half-a-grand check after consuming over $500 dollars-worth of lobster salad, shrimp tempura, sushi, kobe steak and sake.
- Chat with the restaurant's event planner, who discretely pointed out the celebrities dining among us, and who also caters many events for my company's founder and former celebrity CEO.
- Ride home in a black Mercedes with a driver and watch the canyon of buildings streaming overhead through the full-length moonroof.

Things to Remember as I Continue My New York Journey
- Don't get used to - or expect - all of the above
- Remember that the good life is an illusion
- Enjoy it for a night anyway (and take camera phone photos)

Phone Photo Ops - Beyond the Norm

Interesting things I saw yesterday

Tribeca Drive-In at Rockefeller Center
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Downtown drive-in
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Some trees coming out of a building
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My Japanese dessert while dining with a friend after work
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The huge moonroof of the Mercedes in which my friend
sent me home after drinks and dinner
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Colleague Convo - No Subject...

Monique (from her office at a leading project management and construction company in Charlotte, NC) forwarded me an article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and then I sent the following email with no subject header because I really couldn't think of one that didn't make the situation seem comical:

I think there is a lesson to be learned here ...

Email replies from my coworkers and friends:
southeast digital advertising sales associate: that's just wrong
friend who works in fashion design downtown: LOL ... That's funny (not that people died but, you know....)
executive assistant to the division president: hahahaha
friend who works for a top five investment banking firm a few blocks away: Good point. I'll try to remember that the next time I'm on a roof with a girl.
west coast digital advertising sales manager: note to self: avoid sex on rooftops!
overheard Gloria in the adjacent cubicle: [the snicker that told me she had opened the email]
Victoria from two cubicles over: [appears outside my cubicle and just stands there with her mouth open]

A few minutes later I received the following IM from Victoria:
[Victoria's AIM name removed] (11:49:48 AM): i just imed my friend with the link and she writes...
[Victoria's AIM name removed] (11:49:48 AM): [friend's AIM name removed] (11:48:35 AM): worst rooftop sex ever

Their tragic death is by no means funny, but I really want to know what their final thoughts were on their way down. And not that kind of down.

According to the article on, "'It's too early to rule out anything,' Columbia police Sgt. Florence McCants said, but McCants said a preliminary investigation didn't show any sign of foul play."

However, it does sound like there may have been some foreplay.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Charlotte and Back

Tosha's wedding was beautiful, the reception was gorgeous and was complete with a white Bentley to transport the young bride and groom between the church and the hotel. Tosha and Morris are doing big things of their own, of course, but I would guess that the Bentley might have been courtesy of her older brother, who was a first-round draft pick from Chapel Hill to the NBA. I'm not really into cars, but that was a mighty fine vehicle to see up close. Like Kat Williams says, "The Chrysler 300 looks like a Phantom ... until a Phantom pulls up."

After the reception and wishing the newly weds all the best on their honeymoon in Italy and beyond (if you were going to place a bet on couples who will go the distance, put your tokens on Morris and Tosha), Monique and I met Ana in downtown Charlotte at a going-away party for the Bobcats' assistant coach, who will be joining the Timberwolves staff. Throughout the night, we met up with - and randomly ran into - some old college buddies, which was like an after-party continuation of the semi-Western reunion at Tosha's wedding.

One guy I hadn't seen in years asked me where I was now, and I pointed to a framed black-and-white photo of lower Manhattan on the wall of Phil's Tavern and yelled over the music, "I live there!"

And I'm back there tonight after a 5:20 p.m. flight to La Guardia. As I hugged Monique and Ana at the curbside drop-off at the Charlotte-Douglass International Airport, I feigned crying and sobbed, "I don't want to go back to New York!"

We all knew that wasn't true, but I know I didn't want to leave my girls. I've made some good friends in New York, but there is something about those friendships that you are lucky enough to create, which you know will be lifelong and remind you that water can be just as thick as blood.

To add further insult to injury (regarding the missed Friday evening flight), I realized just before the plane bumped onto the runway at La Guardia that I could see my apartment building outlined by the reflection of the sun on the Hudson River.

We descended the stairs of the small connector jet and boarded the shuttle bus to take us to the gate, and I sat next to an older (not old) couple, who would later tell me that they live on Long Island. I looked over my shoulder and took a camera phone photo of a gorgeous sunset over Manhattan, and then said to the woman, "It's amazing. I can see my apartment building from here, and it'll take me an hour to get there."

"Gotta love it," she replied jokingly. Then she smiled and said, "But where else would you rather live?"

I smiled back, "No where."

Phone Photos Ops - Between Airports

When people look like their dogs
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Boarding a connector flight to Charlotte on Saturday
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There was something nice about going to baggage claim
and knowing that I get to go back to where I came from
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Leaving Charlotte on Sunday
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On the tarmac at Laguardia looking west toward Manhattan
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Friday, June 15, 2007

NYC Mass Transit Wants You to Cry Them a River

This evening was the first time I have been really pissed off at the city. Well, not so much the city. Just its mass transit system. As a Southerner with fading memories of the wide open roads and interstates of my former life, it is still so crazy to me that I can be less than 10 miles away from a destination, and I cannot get there in a decent amount of time.

I missed my 6:26 p.m. flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, because of the sporadic incompetence of the New York City bus system. After a fresh manicure and pedicure at a nail salon on 125th Street, I was patiently waiting at the M-60 bus stop near Fifth Avenue at 4:45 p.m. Within the next 45 minutes, only one M-60 bus would arrive, and it was nearly full. I waited as an older woman boarded the bus, then I stepped aside to let a disabled man enter the bus ahead of me. But before I could lug my suitcase up the steps behind him, the driver shut the doors and waved the rest of us back to the curb.

I watched at least half a dozen of each M-100, M-101 and BX-15 buses go by - none en route to my Point B. As time wound down, I attempted to hail taxi cabs. If you ever want to feel completely helpless, stand at a busy intersection at rush hour and try to catch a cab when you are intensely anxious. I finally spotted an available cab, but the driver asked me where I wanted to go,and then apologized that he could not take me there and drove away.

At 6 p.m., still on a sidewalk in Harlem, I called Delta Airlines to discuss my options. No more flights to Charlotte today. Thus, no $25 flight change fee within the 3-hour, same-day flight window. My only choice was to pay a $50 ticket reissue fee plus the difference in airfare. Bummer.

Just as I was preparing to call Tosha and apologize for not being able to make it to her wedding tomorrow (at least we had fun in Miami), a saving grace: The 6:26 p.m. flight was experiencing a 20-minute delay so - though I still couldn't make check-in - I could change my flight to the following day at no cost. I'm not sure how that worked exactly, but I didn't question it.

As I dragged my suitcase back to my apartment, I bitterly thought of all the things I'd tell the MTA city bus system if I felt like they'd ever care to listen:
1) It makes no sense for the greater majority to have a bus stop on every block. I can often watch a pedestrian pace the bus for at least five avenues. Can't we do every other block and cut the stops in half?
2) Run more M-60 buses during rush hour; then again, I've never previously stood at an M-60 bus stop for more than 15 minutes.
3) Provide customer satisfaction training and anger management courses for drivers.
4) Buses, pedicabs and taxis should have their own lane to share on major avenues and cross streets since mass transit is serving higher volumes of people and could be an incentive to use public transportation and lead a greener life. From where I stood at the bus stop, I watched an M-101 bus take over five minutes to get a block and a half in gridlock traffic.
5) It makes no sense that I was 5.91 miles away from La Guardia (according to, and I could not get to the airport in 90 minutes.
6) Going back to the first bullet point, I believe that having a bus stop on every block is contributing to urban obesity.
7) [Bleep], [Bleep], [Bleep] and [Bleep], [Bleep], [Bleepity-Bleep-Bleep]!!!

I continued to feel more and more enraged as I waited for an M-100 bus to take me back to Amsterdam, and I watched four airport-bound M-60 buses roll by. Of course. There they were. And just when I thought my day couldn't get worse, I noticed a woman walking down the street with four screaming kids. And across the street was a man in a wheel chair playing cards with the end of his pants tied in a knot at the end of his amputated leg. And then I saw a homeless man crouched in a sheltered entryway. And, of course, as if scripted in a movie, there was an ad on the side of the bus stop for the former smoker with the hole in his neck stating, "Nothing will ever be the same ... not even the little things."

New York City will do that to you. It'll back you into your own little corner and flick you in the forehead with its middle finger or even slap you around a bit until you start to feel sorry for yourself, and then it'll get in your face and remind you that it could always be worse. And then the little voice in my head added its own two cents: "What? You think the world revolves around you and when you step out of a nail salon? Stop being a whiny bitch."

But before I completely end my whiny rant: Here I sit in Harlem when I should be getting ready to go out in the Queen City with Monique, Ana and Kelli. They've been dancing for the NBA for three years so I know they're out somewhere right now rolling V.I.P. style. I've never had a dull night with them, and as I broke the bad news, the text messages ensued:
"Slacker! We had the evening all planned out!"
"I know. Moki told me. You are in BIG TROUBLE! Hurry up and get here."

Later Kelli left me the funniest voicemail message I have received in quite awhile. And for the first time, I missed the South. Or maybe I just miss my girls. And now for the irony: I am stuck in New York for the night, and I don't want to be here.

And now for the reality: It could always be worse.

Colleague Convo - I'd Like to Check You For Ticks?

As I was walking along 42nd Street to the office a little while ago, music came floating out of Bryant Park and then I heard a very pleasant voice sing: "I want to check you for ticks."

Really? There is a song about checking for ticks?

Yep. Brad Paisley be thy name, and he was performing in the Good Morning America Summer Concert Series. So I stopped for a moment on the sidewalk to listen before turning into our office building. The song is actually kind of romantic, even the tick part ... in a very primal way. If anything, I think that a country singer's natural urge to create a song about checking for ticks further proves the scientific facts supporting evolution.

In my cubicle moments later (adjacent to Gloria's cubicle), I said to her over the partition that provides me with a view of the top of her head, "Did you hear that song in Bryant Park on your way in - I want to check you for ticks?"

"No!" she said laughing. "Maybe you misunderstood the lyrics?"

"Nope, "I replied. "I actually stopped to listen to make sure I had understood the chorus right the first time."

I googled the lyrics and we played a 30-second sample on Yahoo!Music, which cheated us out of actually getting to hear him sing:

'Cause I'd like to see you out in the moonlight
I'd like to kiss you way back in the sticks
I'd like to walk you through a field of wildflowers
And I'd like to check you for ticks
Oh - I'd sure like to check you for ticks

Gloria shrugged and then turned back to her computer. I only saw the top of her head turn, but I know she shrugged because she made that "meh" sound that she makes when she shrugs. And then she said, "Now that is true love."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Colleague Convo - You Can't Make This Stuff Up

You're more likely in New York to see a naked man do the macarena and to bump into Patrick Dempsey outside of Starbucks. Both scenarios are courtesy of my boss, which are recounted here in today's edition of "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" brought to you by BNR, who is soliciting mad-lib style comments in response to his most recent blog post.

My boss - born and raised in New York - sent a text message a few weeks ago while Jenny and I were hanging out on the roof top bar at 230 Fifth during Happy Hour:
@ whole foods watching a naked man do the macarena on his terrace. Only in NYC, kids!

And yesterday, my boss told us about her Sunday morning encounter with Dr. McDreamy, which I am paraphrasing in her first-person voice rather than a third-person narration.

So it's 8 o'clock on Sunday morning, and I'm riding my bike to the Equinox at Greenwich and 12th, and I'm totally decked out in my hardcore biker girl attire: cycling helmet, spandex capris with butt pads, pedal clips ... and I'm excited to see that the bike rack is empty so I'm cruising in and swinging my leg off the bike to hop off as I'm slowing down, and as I pull up to the bike rack, I notice this very attractive man standing outside of the Starbucks, and he is smiling and says to me, "I'm sorry that we don't have the bike rack valet immediately available."

So I laugh and yank my bike into the rack before I realize that he's Dr. McDreamy. He's holding two cups of Starbucks, and then he balances one cup on top of the other in one hand as if he's preparing to help me lock up my bike. And I'm pulling out my huge bike lock and chain, and I'm securing my bike - all the while totally oblivious to what is going on around me. And I hear him laughing as someone else says, "It's ok, we can actually use that."

Suddenly I zoom out of my little world and finally notice ... the boom mike ... the video cameras and the spot lights ... and I realize that I have just rolled onto the open set of some movie that they're filming.

So once I realize what I've done, I'm so embarrassed, and I'm telling people I'm sorry, and they're all really cool, laughing and telling me that it's ok and that I can leave my bike at the rack for this scene. So I'm walking away bright red, and I bump into some random guy, and I'm like, "You are not going to believe what I just did."

And he's like, "Yea ... ummm ... you're still on the set. I'm an extra."

Usually they close off the streets when they're filming movies if it's a closed set, but sometimes they have open sets, where they want natural background movement and they usually warn you as you walk down the street: "If you walk through here, you might end up on film." But because I cruised in on my bike, I guess someone thought I was just going to ride through -- not stop in the middle of their scene and jump off my bike.

So my bike is going to be in a movie with Patrick Dempsey. How was everyone else's weekend?

None of us had anything better to share.
That random, lone crack of thunder over midtown just now was really loud.

YouTube Circulation

I believe that YouTube is the nonsmoker's smoke break. Sporadically throughout the workweek, a colleague will IM me a link to a short YouTube video clip. Today this link circulated our office ... mainly because I started it.

This clip was passed along to me by my dad's best friend Mack of Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Continuing with the theme, is another George Bush impersonation.

And lunch break is over in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Phone Photo Op - The Coolest Old Man in Manhattan

On my way from the gym to the train this evening, I passed by an older gentlemen sitting on the side of a small ledge, smoking a cigar, with his jacket in his lap and his feet dangling over the sidewalk on West 43rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. I was so struck by how chill he looked in the hustle and bustle of midtown, I turned around and snuck a quick camera phone photo op.
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Phone Photo Ops - My World from Jersey

A friend of mine, who lives on trendy Thompson Street down in the Village, refers to Jersey as the armpit of the northeast. However, the armpit was looking pretty good to me this weekend while I helped my best friend move from the South Bronx apartment she shared with Candice for two years into the new Union City condo where she and her fiance will begin their lives together.

Note: No Sunday City Walk in lieu of two days of packing and heavy lifting in a fourth floor Bronx pre-war walk-up.

They have a condo with a master walk-in closet, two bathrooms and laundry on each floor in a newly constructed building, featuring 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom rentals starting around $2000 per month. To put that price in perspective for anyone not subject to the criminal operation that is New York City real estate, another friend of mine pays $7500/month for a one-bedroom on Bleecker Street in the West Village.

View of Manhattan from the roof deck of Tokii's Jersey condo.
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Don't sleep on Jersey; the closet space alone is worth the 20-minute commute to midtown on the jitney or the ferry. Below are the first of Tokii and Nate's clothes to be hung in their first home.
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Other new-construction rates in Union City and Weehawken run in the range of $1500 for a one-bedroom to $4000 for a 3-bedroom, which are fantastic considering that I pay $1000 for a tiny studio in Harlem, and the commute to midtown from Jersey is almost as easy. And it's incredible to realize that my acclimation to New York from the South has me believing that these are great deals!

“In Washington, the first thing people tell you is what their job is. In Los Angeles you learn their star sign. In Houston you're told how rich they are. And in New York they tell you what their rent is.”
- Simon Hoggart

Friday, June 08, 2007

Phone Photo Op - Commuter Peeve

I hate when someone sits on a packed train and takes up two seats. It's one thing if you are obese and cannot immediately help your current state; it's entirely different if you are of slender to average build and each of your butt cheeks are partially occupying separate seats.

Case in point, the below camera phone photo op of the woman in the red shirt. The photo is deceiving because of the angle (I was holding the phone at my side while squeeshed between six random arms all reaching for the same pole). This woman had roughly a foot of space to each side of her, yet she continued to occupy two seats on a crowded downtown no. 2 express train from 96th Street to Times Square during morning rush hour.
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Thursday, June 07, 2007

June 7, 1976 - August 3, 2003

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

Rickey and I had a conversation sometime in 2001 or 2002, where we mused over the fact that not only do you pass your birthday every year, but every year you also pass your deathday. It wasn't a groundbreaking revelation, of course. And though I have wondered about it - like I am sure everyone has - I'm not generally one of morbid nature, where I regularly mull over what date I will die or what day of the week it will be. Rickey and I just didn't realize - as if you ever could - back when we had that conversation regarding the earnest curiosity and wonder of the one inevitability faced by all, that his death year would be so soon.

It was 2003, and it was a Sunday.

Life without Rickey has been what I had realized that it would eventually be. On some level, I realized it that day in August when I learned he was gone. That day and over the subsequent weeks and months, I could not mentally grasp the idea of not being able to see him, touch him or talk to him ever again. But I also could not comprehend a world where months and years would go by in which he did not exist, and I would be in that world, and I would be ok.

I would eventually be ok, and that is what pissed me off so much after he died. I would imagine a time when I hadn't seen him or talked to him in years. I knew a time would come when I would be able to remember him without crying. And I hated knowing that this would become my world. And as I had imagined it back then, it is the world I live in now. I have not seen him or talked to him in years. And though I have accepted this in order to exist sanely in this new world, it still doesn't feel natural to live a life in which he has no fundamental influence.

The most common parts of my life were suddenly unfamiliar, even from just brushing my teeth or my hair to simply driving down the street. Everything seemed magnified, more deliberate, and required more effort as if immense pain hones all of your senses and blurs the big picture at the same time ... because I distinctly remember patches of moments from those weeks immediately following his death, but my general recollection of those weeks overall is hazy ... and dark. Like I remember opening my eyes once - a few days after the funeral - not knowing how long I had been asleep, and seeing the evening shadows cast across my room. Then, it seems like only moments later that my mother was coming in to ask if I wanted to eat a little breakfast.

Maybe I will live to be a very old woman in this world without Rickey, and I hate the idea of his life becoming more distant. Decades may pass in which I will have existed in this unnatural place, where every time something new or exciting happens, I will have that instantaneous urge to tell Rickey about it before I realize I can't. That's the part that makes me simultaneously appreciate and loathe being in this place where I knew I would eventually be - where I am actually ok and Rickey is a memory.

The strength eventually came to get out of bed every morning and put one foot in front of the other - without my mother's sympathetic embrace. And I learned to accept that the darkness would linger. And time began to help me remember that I love this life despite the circumstances. I would eventually know that there were still good times to be had, and I truly believe that as long as I live, so does he.

Today Rickey would have been 31. And I want to write about what life was like with Rickey.

When I spoke on behalf of Rickey at the Memorial Tree Planting Ceremony for students at our university who had passed away during that academic year, I had wished that I had some words of wisdom to vindicate the meaning of life and to soften the tragic blow of an untimely death such as his. But at that time in my life as a recent college graduate entering a "real world" that suddenly felt like a fifth dimension, I was still trying to simply understand that if I dialed his cell, he was not going to answer it.

Instead I decided that day to share some of my favorite memories, and I balled all the way through it. I could not look at any spot on that campus and not see a memory of Rickey. Some days it was comforting and other days, it could be quite maddening. As college sweethearts, we were probably among the goofiest of couples, with a lot of characteristics that might seem unlikely of a college basketball player and a sorority chapter president. Common acquaintances might have often been surprised to discover that we were both big dorks. Needless to say, there are a lot of silly memories from which I could chose.

Next to a tree in front of Brown Cafeteria is where Rickey was chasing me and I tripped over my own two feet and twisted my ankle; we had only known each other for a few days, and I had been teasing him in a botched attempt to be sexy and flirty. And if you walk about midway up the stairs from Brown Cafeteria to Buchanan Hall, Rickey and I once sat there and looked for four-leaf clovers. Under the Alumni Tower, there is a little square plaque in the bricks, and we would race to see who could step on it first. When it snowed, a few accomplices once joined us in stealing lunch trays from Dodson Cafeteria and went sledding on the hill behind Helder Hall. There was a huge snowball fight that same night in the lobby of Leatherwood Hall, which is just adjacent to that hill.

Our first kiss was also in Leatherwood. When I kissed him the first time, he leaned his head back with his eyes closed and a little grin on his face. He took a deep breath and paused. Then, he looked back down at me and said, "Kiss me again." After having chased me for seven months, he acted as if that one little kiss was the ultimate grand prize. And it was kind of romantic even though we were hiding in the first floor unisex bathroom (in the main lobby) from the twins, Jonas and Jarvis. They were his college basketball teammates, who later transferred to Georgia, and were well-known throughout campus for their pranks. The twins and other friends were involved in whatever silly cat-and-mouse-ish diversion we'd come up with that day, and when we finally came out of hiding, the twins kept asking Rickey why he had such a goofy look on his face.

Cullowhee is in the middle of no where so we had to be creative in entertaining ourselves. We had water gun fights. We played pranks. The men’s basketball team once got in trouble for playing hide-n-go-seek in the basement of Hunter Library during study hall. Another time, some of his teammates caught us playing follow-the-leader around Reid Gym. After being witness to this game, they never let Rickey live it down. However, one of the things that his teammates never knew was that he once let me apply a complete line of cosmetics to his face. After one look in the mirror, he demanded that I immediately take it off.

We took a chessboard on every road trip, whether it was to the waterfalls just beyond Cashiers (NC) or to the beach at Tybee Island (SC). We had our own rule for playing Scrabble. The rule was that you couldn’t make real words, but the word had to sound like it was real. We had a dictionary handy just to make sure that certain words we came up with didn’t actually exist. One time I created the word “W-A-R-P-T-H” and Rickey disqualified it because he said it was just Captain Kirk with a lisp.

We sat on the bricks outside of Dodson Cafeteria. We ate our lunches on the balcony of the University Center. We once ran out of gasoline in front of Scott Hall. We took long walks and sat on many of the benches sprinkled throughout the grounds, and there are so many memories all over that university that sometimes the random conversations we once had sort of echoed in my mind from different corners of campus.

Our favorite movie was "Stir of Echoes" because we liked to laugh at the part where Kevin Bacon tells his wife that the water is softening up the dirt. We used to rewind that part over and over. If one watches that movie and has the same corny sense of humor that Rickey and I share, then it is apparent why we think it is so funny.

In front of friends and even acquaintances, we would randomly act as if we could communicate with each other using this high-pitched alien language from the movie "Galaxy Quest." We would try to finish each other’s sentences in random ways that didn’t make any sense at all, and we loved to purposely use erratic vocabulary completely out of context or just plain wrong. For example, he once referred to a tasty hamburger as being so comatosed.

Rickey’s mom was always telling us how crazy we were, but there aren’t only memories that just make me laugh. I remember sitting on the hood of my car overlooking the view of campus from the Cullowhee Airport and talking for hours. He was one of very few people who would listen to me talk for lengthy periods about astronomy. We debated political and social topics. We talked about our families. We talked about our dreams. We talked about life.

Rickey and I dated for over three years, but we fought a losing battle to the long distance (after he left school) and an addiction to prescription pain medication that started after a basketball injury in his senior year and would ultimately take his life. We had a trying fourth year in which we struggled to salvage our relationship, and my biggest regret is that we spent a majority of that last year arguing and saying things to each other that we didn’t really mean. I know that we never meant any of the things we said because we always called each other back within a day - or even an hour - to apologize.

There are certain people that you love in such a way that you feel like you can say certain things to them – no matter how hurtful – but you would not tolerate it coming from anyone else. I guess that is why no matter how hard things got, we wouldn’t let our bridges burn. In some ways, you feel like you can say anything without doing permanent damage, which you never realize is more wrong than when you can no longer say you're sorry.

However, during the months following Rickey's death, I began to see that the true heartbreak of those arguments is not so much that we argued, but that I realize now that he was right over half the time. I was just so selfish with this tunnel-vision ambition that made me too self-absorbed to notice. I was also naïve about the frailty of life and even though I thought I knew a lot, I did not truly understand the old cliché of not appreciating something until it is gone. Despite all of this, I also realize that I am so lucky because I had some great years with Rickey.

Rickey loved me more in four years than some people ever love anyone in a lifetime, and it seemed like everyone knew it because he threw it out in the open and hid it from no one. During the seven months it took him to get me to go out with him, he used so many random, public tactics to get my attention - these tactics often involved the recruitment and participation of his teammates, friends or even fellow students he barely knew. He once picked flowers off of the university lawn and dropped to his knees at my feet in front of a packed student quad. I don't know if he felt no shame in rejection or if he was just so sure he would eventually get me. After awhile, I knew that he would, too ... and, I don't know if this will make any sense, but he had made the chase so flattering that the "foreplay" of a relationship was almost too much fun to give in to being "caught."

One of the last two memories that I wanted to share at the Memorial Tree Planting Ceremony was right around the time that we had first met. I was walking past Simply T’s on my way to class, and Rickey was walking from Brown Cafeteria. He had on some baggy jeans and a dark green sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his wave cap. He walked along, bobbing his head to the beat of the music in his headphones, and in passing, we stopped momentarily and I asked him what he was listening to. I had expected him to mention someone like Pastor Troy or his favorite rapper, Tupac, but when he pulled the headphone away from his left ear, I heard the boys of N’Sync singing “Bye, bye, bye …”

Rickey looked at people the way he looked at music, with an open-mind, acceptance and appreciation.

The other memory was when he wanted to try my roommate’s cereal. He had never had Waffle Crisps before, so he poured himself a bowl, added the milk and took a spoonful. He immediately got this wide-eyed, astonished look on his face and exclaimed, “I have been looking for a cereal like this my whole life!”

Rickey enjoyed the little things even more than the big things, from the taste of cereal to lying in the grass by the creek or creating special ways to say that he cared. I know, because not only did he notice when the little things happened, which is a knack that few people have, but he also went out of his way to do the little things for those he loved.

After sharing these memories at the Memorial Tree Planting Ceremony in 2004, Rickey's father thanked me for introducing him to a side of his son that he had never known. Rickey took with him a side of me that others may never know, but I suppose the only thing that matters for us in the end is that we once existed.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Phone Photo Ops - Pacing an Express Train

This morning I decided not to deal with the commuter mania happening on the subway platform at 96th Street. I watched as the downtown no. 1 train emptied into the station to await an express no. 2 or 3, and as the doors shut and the no. 1 train lurched forward, I saw a downtown no. 3 pulling into the station.

I'd be damned if the MTA doesn't do that shit on purpose. Not only am I not afforded the option to switch trains with the new given knowledge that an express train was in close proximity, but I've had the reverse happen, where I am on the no. 1 as it arrives at the station and an empty express train is leaving. And, of course, the express train that arrives a few minutes later is packed. I would bet money that a radio conversation between two conductors goes a little something like this:

No. 1 local train conductor: "I'm approaching 96 Street. What's your 20?"
No. 2 express train conductor: "Roger that. We're at 96. 'Bout to leave now."
No. 1 local train conductor: "Wait for it ... wait for it ... ok, I'm pulling in! Shut the door! Go! Go!"

In the big scheme of things, switching to an express train between 96th and 42nd Street generally only saves me about 5-10 minutes, and as my best friend mumbles to people who are rudely in a rush: "If you're in that much of a hurry, you should have left yesterday."

But I think New Yorkers would generally be happier in the morning if the conductor would make announcements like:
"Welcome to 96th Street. It's a beautiful day in New York City. Transfer is available to the express 2 and 3 trains. A downtown 3 just left 110th Street and will be arriving in 2 minutes."

Maybe they do make announcements like this already; I wouldn't know because I can't usually understand the conductor. In any case, this morning I was annoyed as I watched a no. 3 express train arrive at 96th as we left on the no. 1 local, but I was weirdly comforted moments later when the no. 3 had not overtaken us at 72nd Street, and at 66th Street we began pacing a no. 2 express, which was moving very slowly and stopping frequently.

From an almost empty no. 1 local train, the look of discomfort and disdain is clearly visible on the face of an anonymous commuter pressed against the door of a packed no. 2 express train.
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As we sped away on our local train, leaving the express train in our dust, I rode comfortably seated into the 42nd Street-Times Square station and began a lovely New York day.
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To A/C or not to A/C?

On Sunday, May 27, I blogged about the heat and my need for an AC:

"... Despite roughly four hours of sleep, I woke up early this morning in a puddle of sweat in the sauna that is my apartment and immediately decided that today will be the day that I make legitimate efforts toward finding an air conditioner and having it installed in the air conditioner box under my window.

As the back of my legs began to stick to the normally soft microsuede on my couch, I came across reruns of "Run's House" on MTV and noticed in one particular episode that DJ Rev Run's birthday party had been held in Tenjune recently.

"Oh, that's where we were last night," I thought to myself as I seriously debated whether or not to buy a lawn chair at the corner $.99 store and camp out in the frozen food section of the C Town across the street. I've had two cold showers in the last seven hours."

However, I have been dealing with this inner turmoil over the purchase of an air conditioner since I moved into my apartment last November. I knew when I moved from North Carolina into my best friend's living room in the Bronx during the hottest month in New York's recorded history (August 2006) that an air conditioner would be a necessity. I even had all those winter months of opportunity when air conditioners were cheaper.

Yet the same financial reasonings of a recent East Village Idiot blog post have had me in my own internal back-and-forth for months while my family and friends (who live in the South and don't understand housing without AC already included) regularly ask me, "Have you bought an AC yet?"

PLUS, I can only buy an AC that fits in the huge sleeve in my wall, which - though covered - is not insulated and let in the cold air all winter. My ONLY window won't accommodate one, which would ultimately block my view of Jimmy Hoffa's burial ground anyway (= Hudson River) and the only ACs that fit in sleeves at PC Richards currently cost more than another plane ticket to Miami.

And don't even get me started on how I'd get it home. Ever since I sold my car and became a card carrying member of the MTA, I've been stuck in that dark public-transportation abyss: if I can't carry it, I generally can't have it.

That abyss has kept me from making large purchases in New York that I would have easily made in the South without having to mull over the following options: 1) pay for delivery, 2) pay for a cab, but then figure out how to get it up to my apartment, 3) push, pull, heave, drag it - or a combination of (2) and (3) - all the way home.

And thus the question of a new New Yorker becomes: To be with AC or not to be with AC?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Phone Photo Op - West 43rd Street Sunset

Looking toward the Hudson River on 43rd Street
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Monday, June 04, 2007

Phone Photo Op - Another Red Carpet Strikes a Pose

I love how there might be a red carpet event going on, but the New Yorkers in the outdoor bar less than 50 yards away in Bryant Park are too busy with their own New York lives to pay attention to the video cameras and flash bulbs. Of course, committed bloggers - like me - pause to catch a quick camera phone photo op ... solely for documentation purposes, of course.

On my way to happy hour in Bryant Park with a friend this evening, we passed by the below pictured red carpet set-up. Later as the sun set and the hoop-la began on the red carpet, the adjacent bargoers barely took notice ... well, except for me taking notice of how none of us took notice and making mental notes of New York everyday-life surrounded by the glamorous happenings of Manhattan.

I'm sure it would have been a little different if the cast for Ocean's 13 had been standing down there, but red carpet events happen so frequently all over the city, a New Yorker would never have their own life if they paid attention to every celebrity scene happening in Manhattan.
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Sunday, June 03, 2007

City Walk #7 - Upper West Side 3: Riverside Park and the Boat Basin

Card no. 32 - photos
This walk takes you through the Upper West Side's neighborhood treasure, Riverside Park.

Begin at 86th Street and Broadway (1 train to 86th Street).
Walk west on 86th Street to Riverside Drive, a tree-lined residential street that begins at West 72nd Street. Turn right on Riverside Drive to West 89th Street and the 1902 Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, a popular play area for children and the end point for the city's annual Memorial Day parade. Follow the path behind the monument into the park itself, turning right up the promenade to enjoy one of the city's loveliest community gardens, at West 91st Street. Head south again with the river on your right, to where a second path descends on the right. Follow this to the 79th Street Boat Basin, a houseboat community. Directly opposite is the Boat Basin Cafe, an informal outdoor restaurant whose barbecue grills and bar draw both singles and families. If you get there before five o'clock, you have a fighting chance to claim a table overlooking the river and enjoy a drink or early dinner before strolling to the south end of the basin and Trump Pier. Jutting several hundred feet out into the Hudson, the pier offers especially beautiful views of the Jersey Palisades and George Washington Bridge. Leaving the pier, turn left back onto the basin path and take the broad stone steps up to Riverside Park once again. Note the bronze statue of Eleanor Roosevelt at the center of the small planted plaza at the corner of 72nd and Riverside. Though the patrician Mrs. Roosevelt never lived on the West Side, many in this historically political neighborhood would argue that her spirit does.

Phone Photo Ops - City Walk #7

Today's route: Upper West Side 3: Riverside Park
and the Boat Basin
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A street fair, which delayed the start of my walk by an hour
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I bought a really pretty dress and some earrings ...
and a bracelet ... and a ring ...

Looking west on 86th Street from Broadway
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A tail of two West Side dogs
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1902 Soldiers and Sailors Memorial
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Path into Riverside Park behind the monument
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An unexpected meadow in the city
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In the center is a playground full of kids

Is this where Meg Ryan found Tom Cruise and
his dog Brinkley at the end of "You've Got Mail"?
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Along the beaten path
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The Hudson River
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79th Street Boat Basin
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Boat Basin Cafe
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Having a pina colada while waiting for a break in the clouds
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Trump Towers from Trump Pier
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A rusty thing
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The people that live in these towers are enigmas to mePhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
What do all of them do to afford to live here?

Broad stone steps
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Riverside Drive ar 72nd Street
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Bronze statue of Eleanor Roosevelt
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