Sunday, August 31, 2008

Over & Over Again

I keep running into the same guy all over New York.

He used to promote nightclubs - which is how we met - and now works in event marketing. We became "facebook friends" months ago, but recently we've been running into each other in real life in the most random places. Once at 135th and Broadway, on a weekend just before I moved out of Harlem, when I was taking old clothes and shoes to donate at a local threft store. Another time on my way to a spa appointment near Madison and 34th Street during a lunch break.

And then last week, instead of going straight to the office, I had an early doctor's appointment. As I was walking down Ninth Avenue from my apartment, I paused to check out the brunch menu at a restaurant called Orchid. I was lifting my sunglasses off my face to get a better look when I heard a voice, "That's it. I know you're following me."

I started to laugh before I even turned around.

And a few weeks ago, my roommate and I were out strolling around Hell's Kitchen one evening, exploring our new neighborhood and collecting take-out menus, when a voice from my college years in North Carolina called out, "Katie!"

My R.A. from my freshmen dorm was sitting at the first table inside of a tiny, attractive hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant. I had not seen him in over five years.

A Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today: No post

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Search-Term Saturday: "Some Pig" - Charlotte A. Cavatica

Someone in Arlington, Virginia, googled "twin blondes new york yankees behind home plate" on Wednesday and found my blog because the keywords probably found this post.

Those must have been some blondes.

Funny that no one googled "gorgeous, half-Filipina brunette behind home plate" the day after I attended the Yankee's game with Natasha, Iris and Former SNL Actor.

A Year Ago Today: Cocktail View
Two Years Ago Today: Not Exactly An Offer Yet, But An Opportunity on the Table

Friday, August 29, 2008

Eight 2008 NYC Blogs

I generally ignore chain letters, forwarded emails and text messsages that you are supposed to pass on to 52 people within 13 minutes or you'll have poor luck and bad sex for 7 years. However, in appreciation of receiving a "bloggy love award" from someone who felt my blog was worth reading, I thought I'd participate in passing it along.

The rules of the award:
1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog.
2. Link to the person from whom you received your award.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs for an award.
4. Put links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs for the people you’ve nominated.

Since my blog is about "Becoming a New Yorker" (from NC to NYC, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly - and even the Boring - of being a New York transplant, in my own words and others), I decided to nominate 8 New York City blogs that I have enjoyed reading in 2008.

Below are my New York City Blog Nominees in alphabetical order.
Blog Name Removed
Chelsea Talks Smack
City Wendy
Misguided Misadventures in NYC
Miss Model Behavior
NYC Ponderings
So's Your Face
Zombie Fights Shark

(these blogs are available to invited readers only but deserve a mention)
DrunkBrunch [Update: DrunkBrunch has left Blogger and is "tumbling".]
Satire City

Honorable Mention
(because anyone who challenges themselves to become a New York transplant can use this blog as a how-to guide)
Newbie NYC

Thank you to VeganMama for the nomination. For more good blog reading (NYC-centric or otherwise), scroll down and view left for additional links.

A Year Ago Today: Morning View
Two Years Ago Today: NYTimes View of Asheville Teens

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Things I Love" Thursdays - People Watching

I saw the sweetest thing from the third floor window of my dermatolgist's office during my lunch break this afternoon. Overlooking Madison Avenue, I spied a young couple in an embrace, kissing each other goodbye. They parted reluctantly, lingering with their fingers interlocked as they slipped in opposite directions. She does not know it, but he watched her walk away.

As she disappeared into the shadow of the cave-like entryway to 415 Madison Avenue, she hesitated at the glass doors, turned back and peeked around the corner to where he was already walking toward East 49th Street. He does not know it, but she watched him walk away.
"Things I Love" Thursdays are inspired by "I Love New York" (BNY, February 14, 2007).

A Year Ago Today: City Parking
Two Years Ago Today: My New Matthew McConaughey

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

City Fits, Eventually, for New Arrivals

"I knew it wasn’t going to be easy — it was something I had to do. I am in love with the city. And what relationship is good if you don’t work for it?"
IAN INGERSOLL, 25, on being a newcomer in New York City.

In the New York Times this morning, the narcissist in me was struck by how many times I felt like Cara Buckley was citing my blog for her N.Y./Region article Newcomers Adjust, Eventually, To New York. It wasn't my blog they were referencing, however, but it featured the same stories that average New York City transplants seem to share. Like Mr. Ingersoll, I worked three jobs for a year and saved $11,000 to fund a comfortable transition to New York. Once I was here, it took me almost a year to establish a circle of good friends, and I still feel incredibly lucky to have the amazing group I found. Our first Christmases in the city were similar, too. He spent his wandering alone in Central Park. I spent mine in 2006 watching the Kaleidoscope Light Show in Grand Central. I sat on the east staircase of the main terminal and watched three shows back-to-back ... or one 10-minute show every 30 minutes for an hour and a half.

Sometime over the course of a person’s first year in New York, there usually comes that moment. It can happen in the first days or weeks, or after 10 months. It can happen repeatedly, or without people noticing, at least not at first ... Newcomers suddenly realize either that the city is not working for them or that they are inexorably becoming part of it, or both. They find themselves walking and talking faster [and looking up less] ... The subway begins to make sense. Patience is whittled away; sarcasm often ensues. New friends are made, routines established, and city life begins to feel like second nature. In other words, newcomers find themselves becoming New Yorkers ... Gabrielle Sirkin’s moment came on the heels of Thanksgiving Day last year, five months after she moved to New York. Every day until then, she felt as if she was doing battle daily with the city. But suddenly, on a night flight to Kennedy International Airport from California, Ms. Sirkin, 26, caught sight of the glittering skyline, and, to her great surprise, felt a surge of joy ... “I was really caught off guard by my reaction,” she said. “But I could see Central Park, and the lights on the Chrysler Building, and I wasn’t looking at it as a tourist. I was looking at it as though I was home.” ... Mr. Ingersoll painstakingly saved $8,000 over a year and a half in Seattle, working three jobs to prepare for life in the city of his dreams. He burned through it in no time when he could not find full-time work. While he had admired New Yorkers’ famed acerbic attitude from afar, he found the brusqueness wounding once here. Making friends also proved hard; Mr. Ingersoll spent last Christmas wandering alone through Central Park ... But for many, the thrill of arrival is often tempered by the sinking realization of what an alienating place the city can be, especially for those who are not wealthy or who do not have a pre-existing network of friends. Nothing comes easily, even if one can get past the dauntingly high cost of living. The subway maze seems indecipherable. People are everywhere, but ignore each other on the street. Friends might live in distant neighborhoods, and seeing them often requires booking time, like an appointment, weeks in advance ... “My friend said, ‘The city abuses you, and you just have to abuse it back,’” said Ms. Sirkin, who grew up in California and moved to New York reluctantly, after having visa problems in Italy last year. “The subway doesn’t work in the morning, and you’re a half-hour late for work, and that’s not in your control. You have to find ways of surviving.” ... Ms. Sirkin’s friend Sarah Kasbeer also recalled being consumed by a common strain of existential New York City angst: the sense that no matter where one is, something better is happening — the real New York is in full swing — somewhere else ... But sometime during her first year, she stopped trying so hard. “I just realized that I didn’t need to find ‘it,’ that my place in the city would fall into place,” she said. “Now I don’t make an effort; I roll with things. It’s not just the city, it’s yourself that you have to deal with as well.” ... “Every day you encounter situations where you have to step out of your safety zone, and it’s really kind of a self-discovery experience,” she said. “I see myself fighting it, but I also I see myself, every day, becoming a New Yorker."

A version of this article appeared in print on August 27, 2008,
on page A1 of the New York edition.
Click here for full online text.

A Year Ago Today: Side Order of Life
Two Years Ago Today: Kudos for Halle Berry

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

More Breasts, More Fun

While my friends and I were abreast the 45-story, 90-degree plummet of Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, we missed this opportunity to march topless in Manhattan over the weekend.
For More Flags, More Fun! Click Here

Meanwhile in the kickoff of your corporate workweek, you are more likely in New York City to get an email from another executive assistant that reads: "[Name eradicated] can no longer make this today - she has a meeting with [celebrity] … thanks."

A Year Ago Today:
Insightful Taboo
Faux Walk of Shame
Two Years Ago Today: No post

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Both Sides of the Moon

Ra cooked dinner tonight at her massive apartment in Brooklyn (or last night, depending on how you define the hours prior to midnight when you have not yet gone to sleep). I type massive because it is by my brainwashed Manhattan standards. As I sat at her kitchen table sipping wine, her boyfriend Brad walked in with his overnight bag and a fitted baseball cap cocked to the side. There was something familiar about the way he sauntered in, walked up behind Ra at the stove, knelt his 6'4" frame slightly to kiss her hello, and strolled back to her bedroom to put down his stuff. The familiarity of it made something tighten inside my chest. I'm not sure who it made me miss - Terrence or Rickey. Even now, I'm not even really sure whether Brad actually had on a hat or if I just recall it from my own memories of tilted baseball caps - a mannerism that Terrence and Rickey share. But I am beginning to think that part of me will just always exist in that place, where I see the past and the present simultaneously.

A Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today: Bryant Park By Day & Night

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Non-Twitter Tweet

If I had Twitter, I would tweet: "Katie wants her friends to read this post on text messaging ettiquette."

And what do you think this young couple tweeted after this subway ride?

I'm going to say their names are John and Rose.
John and Rose just woke up in Far Rockaway. 2 hours after their stop

Leave your own John and Rose twitter in the comments.

A Year Ago Today: Urban Hazzards
Two Years Ago Today: Subway Entertainers

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"Things I Love" Thursdays - Gallery Shows

Ra and I attend the "Seen on Audio" art show sponsored by 55DSL in collaboration with Sound of Art. It featured interesting pieces of art crafted from recycled objects found in the streets of New York City. The music-inspired pieces were shown with the aim of complimenting the tone of the new 55DSL Fall Winter 08 collection LOWNOISE HIGH QUALITY in their Soho store.

The launch event included free booze and samples of Wine Cellar Sorbet, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Moreover, small gallery shows are one of my favorite ways to enjoy the creativity of New York City's artists. We were particularly drawn to a piece by SOA Artist M. Tony Peralta. It is entitled "Childhood Soundtrack".
"Things I Love" Thursdays are inspired by "I Love New York" (BNY, February 14, 2007).

A Year Ago Today: Psycho End to Summer Movies
Two Years Ago Today: Literary Commutes and All Right

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Movie Magic

Watching movies on the lawn in Bryant Park on Monday nights in the summer is like going to a show on Broadway. The audience applauds when the opening credits begin to roll; they cheer when the main characters first appear; there is a standing ovation at the end. From Casablanca last summer to Superman last night, it's the same magical experience, sitting on blankets under the twinkling lights of sky scrapers and stars in one of the city's many green oases.

Armed with wine, food and games, my girlfriends and I enjoyed a lazy evening in Midtown. If a picture says a thousand words, here are 1001.

Moviegoers wait anxiously for the 5pm stampede onto the lawn to claim the space where they will eat, drink, read, play cards and board games, chat and laugh until sunset.

We were lucky enough to score a spot behind this.

It's no wonder so many New Yorkers report finding love in Bryant Park.

Waiting for dusk.

This guy really could not wait.

And then it began.

A Year Ago Today: Weekend in Long Beach
Two Years Ago Today: No post

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Do So Like Green Eggs and Ham!

I have seen New York City from a taxicab, a pedicab, a double-decker bus, on horseback, and now from the back seat of a drop-top Bentley. Former SNL Actor picked up my roommate and me in "one of his cars" from the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, where we watched the last movie of the summer, the original Superman starring Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman. As we inched through the traffic jam in Times Square, random people shouted at our driver: "Yo, [eradicated]! ... What's up, [eradicated]! ... Hey, you're a funny dude!"

I inched down low in the back seat so that only my eyes were visible at street level over the side of the car. But it was kind of hard to be incognito with the top down and people peering over you at intersections under the glare of a million Times Square light bulbs. I tried not to put on that annoying, nonchalant I-know-everyone-is-watching-me face that you see on the unknown wives and girlfriends of athletes and entertainers, but it was really hard not to feel self-conscious - especially with the bits of dirt and grass that were probably still in my hair from laying on a blanket in Bryant Park for five hours.

Finally we were on the West Side Highway, the wind in our faces and Manhattan was streaming by on our right, its reflection on the Hudson sparkling on our left. I leaned back in the seat of the coolest car in which this little New York transplant has ever ridden, stretched my arms toward the night sky, and watched the lights of the city flow along like a huge volumetric display.

A Year Ago Today: Shameless Attempt for Page Views
Two Years Ago Today: Week Recap & Michael Kors Highlight

Saturday, August 16, 2008

And Bice Bersa

Even in death, Filipinos - especially my family - always find a way to laugh. I received the following email from my Tita Marie today:
Hi Everyone,
Connie just arrived and had a good laugh! I am sorry I did not edit the email I sent about Gie's leaving us. I assure everyone I do know how to spell but I do tend not to reread what I wrote. Again, my apologies.

The original email to which she was referring:
To everyone,
Gerald passed away a few minutes ago. I tahnk eberyone for their prayers and am now asking that you pray for peace in heaven for his soul. I write this for his wife, parents and brothrers who I am sure will email you when they van. Again thank you so much.

Poor spelling aside, it is slightly reminiscent of Ron Josol's stand-up:
"We pronounce our f and p - and - v and b backward ... or bice bersa ..."

Of course, I've always said that my geographic location always dictates "what" people think I am. I'm sure most Filipinos can relate, but Ron could have at least credited me with the joke.

A Year Ago Today: No post*
Two Years Ago Today: No post*

*These must have been slow blog weeks for me over the past two years.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Frustration of Olympic Proportions

This break from "Becoming a New Yorker" and "live" coverage of the Olympic games (never mind that I would otherwise miss the best events broadcast live anyway because of my need for sleep or to earn money to pay my outrageous Manhattan rent) sponsored by ...
[email to purchase this advertising sponsorship].

Dear Under-Informed Opinion Former,

I am a little tired of the slander aimed at China regarding the "faked fireworks" in the 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremonies. Many in the United States - viewing the ceremonies 12 hours later on NBC - heard telecasters, Bob Costas, Matt Lauer, and Joshua Cooper Ramo say: "You are looking at a cinematic device employed by Zhang Yimou here. This is actually, almost animation. A footstep a second, 29 in all, to signify the 29 Olympiads ... you said earlier that aspects of this opening ceremony are almost like cinema in real time. This is quite literally cinematic."

For those of you who did not get it, let me break it down for you in layman's terms: The 29 footsteps of history from the old center of Beijing to the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium did actually occur as a part of the opening ceremony. In case you do not realize it, those were probably the easiest of their extremely intricate firework production to set off. However, because of safety concerns in operating a helicopter in close proximity to exploding displays and artistic concerns regarding visibility from above due to smog, this aerial portion of the televised program was filmed in advance and the fireworks that would be set off during the ceremony were digitally incorporated into the clip as they would actually appear.

Someone's home footage of the 29 footsteps shot from the ground is submitted below for your review.

The fact that you didn't get what the NBC telecasters were saying isn't what agitates me. Nor is the fact that you read a few comments on YouTube and assumed you had a full grasp of the issue. So why does this bother me so much? Because it poses the same question regarding the generally shallow concerns of a great majority of the world. Why is China's digitized aerial footage of the 29 footsteps getting more international attention and causing a larger Web uproar than their occupation of Tibet? What China did is not too different from when UK men's magazine GQ digitally altered Kate Winslet's legs on their cover to make them look slimmer. Look out, London.

Back to you, Olympic athletes.

A Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today: No post

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Things I Love" Thursdays - Dispelling Rude New Yorker Myths

The Two-Dollar Ride
New Yorkers are Too Polite
Random Act of Kindness
Minding My Own Business
Are New Yorkers Rude?

"Things I Love" Thursdays are inspired by "I Love New York" (BNY, February 14, 2007).

The Anatomy of Beauty

There is a high fashion photo shoot going on right now on the corner of 56th and 8th. I walked by it on the way back from jogging in Central Park a few minutes ago. Pedestrians and passengers alike were rubbernecking to get a look at the sleek, big-haired, made-up model. All the expensive photo shoot equipment aside, I probably would have noticed her anyway. Even from behind, she was stunning. Waiting for the light to change at the intersection, drenched in sweat and my thighs sticking together under my shorts, I glanced at her long, slender legs posted on 5" stilettos and haloed by a short raincoat. Her back was to those standing at the intersection while a make-up artist ran brushes over her cheeks. A woman near me said, I wish she'd turn around so we could see her face. But her tone was less of one who was genuinely curious and more of one who was hoping to see that the model was not as pretty as her retouched pictures would surely turn out.

Yesterday I was sharing pizza with some of the other executive assistants at work, discussing the Olympics and someone said, I just wish Michael Phelps was nicer to look at. Another nodded in agreement: Yea, his gums are bigger than his teeth. I was quiet during the conversation, running my tongue along the inside of my own teeth, feeling the inside of my bite, made nearly perfect by braces and a procedure I've kept secret from anyone who came to know me after I was 16. Even now, those who know me well and read my blog will be learning of it for the first time. My shallower friends may feel deceived. Others will claim that the hidden truth would not have made a difference; unfortunately, I won't believe all of them.

There is a preoccupation with beauty in almost every human society that is never more intensely felt than by those who aren't beautiful. I know because I felt it throughout most of my youth. Just before puberty hit, it started to become noticeable that my lower jaw was growing beyond my upper one, and my protruding underbite would subject me to the mental anguish of cruel childish ridicule well into my teens. I spent hours locked in the bathroom, viewing myself in profile between the mirror on the wall and another held at an angle in one hand, trying to imagine what I would look like if I had a regular bite and wondering what it would feel like to be noticed for being beautiful. It would seem ironic almost 15 years later when Super Bowl Champ would shout at me over the music in Tenjune that I have a pretty profile. Huh? I would yell back. You know, he would reply, Some girls look good from the front but not from the side.

I dreaded going to classes in middle school and my first two years of high school. There is a fundamental difference between simply undergoing the awkward stages of puberty and being legitimately unattractive. When I hear others discuss the trials of their youth, they often make generic references to gangly limbs, baby fat, bad hair or braces. As amusing as their stories are, few can recount their own instances of the intense, daily derision that I felt. The mean boys taunted me and the mean girls passive-aggressively reminded me that my lower jaw was longer than normal. The boys I had crushes on never knew my name. I don't know which hurt more, to be noticed because of a dramatic flaw or to not be noticed at all. The latter stung less so throughout middle school, I gravitated toward general hallway and classroom isolation, team sports because the athletic girls didn't seem to care as long as you pulled your weight, and the class clowns because the funniest people tend to be too absorbed in their own personal problems to notice yours.

I've had orthognathic surgery twice; once during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school and again in 2006 to correct some discomfort caused by the slight regrowth associated with having the first surgery at too early of an age. Immediately after the first surgery in 1996, my father incidentally retired from the Navy and we moved to Asheville, North Carolina. With a new face and a new life at age 16, I never mentioned the first, and more dramatic, surgery to anyone I ever met thereafter.

I've dealt with ugly duckling syndrome, learning how to accept compliments from those who assume that I have always looked this way. The surgery didn't turn me into God's gift or supermodel material, but maybe I never fully accept compliments because I feel like I am falsely packaged. As if who they see isn't really me. By my senior year of high school in 1998, I had lots of friends, was on Homecoming Court, tied in nominations for Most Friendly in the Senior Superlatives, and dating the guy who was voted Most Attractive. My life was a complete 180 from my middle school, freshmen and sophomore years. When I was later elected to Homecoming Court in college, too, I wondered all the way across the football field if any of these people would be cheering for me if I looked how I used to look. Even now, Michael Phelps' Olympic gold medals do not save him from the mockery of abnormality.

This past July, I received a message on Facebook from a high school classmate in freshmen algebra, a boy who sat right in front of me in class for an entire year but never spoke to me beyond asking to borrow a pencil. He wrote: Hey Katie. Everytime I look at your profile, I'm just like, "Damn! I used to go to high school with this girl. She is so beautiful that it doesn't make any sense! Her boyfriend is blessed." I hope that makes you smile. As an added bonus, you have some fine ass friends too. Me and [eradicated] were talking about you about 2 weeks ago. Anyways, I hope all is well with you.

But who am I really? Am I shaped by personal experience or by the saturation of societal standards? Am I caught up in the preoccupation of beauty because I know how it feels to be justifiably ugly or am I preoccupied with beauty because I am the product of a preoccupied society? Or am I driven by the ultimate revenge of subtly flaunting my New York life in front of anyone who was mean to me in middle school and high school, where I now jog by high fashion models without shrinking in envy and discuss the Olympics with coworkers on a top floor of a Manhattan high rise?

A Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today: Corporate Monday

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Couldn't Help But Ramble

I convinced myself that I was going to love Sex and the City: The Movie when I first heard that it was in production. Absence of the series had made my heart grow fonder. Moving to New York had not unveiled my inner (and outer) Carrie Bradshaw so I absorbed the TBS syndication from my couch in Harlem every chance I could get.

By the time my girlfriends and I entered an Upper West Side movie theater on the opening weekend of the movie, I was so "Sex"-deprived, I was ready and willing to overlook any flaws that would taint my Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha moments. I imagine that - for me - viewing the film for the first time was like the taste of water after walking through the desert. It was going to be great even if there was a bug or two and a little bit of dust floating around.

I had suspended reality so much to enjoy this film, that it has been a little surprising to hear over the weeks since that not everyone adored the movie as much as I did. And then I recently read a review that really got me thinking about the message of the movie.

From Miss Model Behavior:
The moral of the film: get rich so you can afford to neglect any real responsibility and completely immerse yourself in the personal problems that consume your existence through every possible season (just long enough to view a complete wardrobe, the only saving grace of those two and a half hours). This might not have mattered if the movie had the funny sarcasm and witty repartee of the comedy series, but mostly it was just horribly, indulgently dramatic. However, my opinion seemed to be at odds with every other female that I talked to, who had consumed the motion picture like it was a pint of Ben and Jerry’s after a bad breakup.
Read more

After reading this blog post, I licked off the rest of my Ben and Jerry's spoon, put it down and did a little self-reflection. Maybe I wouldn't list Sex and the City: The Movie with all of my favorites on Facebook after all. Side thought: Because nothing is official until it is announced on Facebook - friendships, relationships, careers. I mean it. Don't mess around and claim that you are engaged on Facebook; you'll start receiving wedding gifts and then a lot of people will be mad when they learn you're not really getting married. I have referenced the HBO series multiple times throughout my blog, sometimes in sincerity, often in satire. I've analyzed the allure of Manhattan that the television show created. I've had my own couldn't help but wonder moments about whether or not I was just another Carrie Wannabe.

I've gotten through two years in New York knowing that those types of girls don't make it. They can't look far enough beyond the fantasy of Manhattan to see the gritty reality of New York City. Recently a good friend admitted to me that this city wasn't all she hoped it would be and that she can't afford to continue living here if she doesn't find a better job. This city is a hard place to survive, and the level of in-your-face luxury and materialism can make your biggest steps forward feel miniscule. Even conversations over brunch are more often about who received what from whom, who bought what from where, and who wore what when - rather than real world issues, like subsistence farming, the Middle East, poor education, natural disasters, the welfare system, affordable medical care. No one wants to be Debbie Downer on a beautiful New York day, but is marching down the street in Manolos and Jimmy Choos, linked arm in arm with our hottest friends, toting Louis Vuitton and Chanel all that we really hope for? Do we not get much deeper than that?

In a world of Darfurs, Iraqs and Tibets, it can't get any shallower. And in a post that began as self-reflection spurred by the analysis of a Hollywood film, I cannot get any more random.

A Year Ago Today: Phone Photo Ops - Here's Looking at You, New York
Two Years Ago Today: No post

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The "Reality" Next Door

In New York, you're more likely to see aspiring assistants running down your street on an episode of "I Want to Work for Diddy".

A Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today: Phone Photo Ops - My Best Friend's Wedding

Monday, August 11, 2008

Just a Look Back

A Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today: First Day of Work

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Life Goes On

Gerald's battle with leukemia ended Saturday night in the Philippines. Twelve hours behind in New York, it was 11am. When I received the news within minutes of his death, I was just waking up to beautiful blue skies in the city.

Less than an hour later, I received a text message from a friend in Charlotte, North Carolina: "Don't forget to wish Kelli a happy 28th bday today."

A Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today: Working 9 to 5 ... well, 6

Friday, August 08, 2008

Pandamoniom in the Park

The Jonas Brothers are for children, what Jewish Holidays are for rush hour on the train. I don't think I saw one child under the age of 16 in the streets of Midtown on my walk to work. Now through my boss's closed window and seated outside of her glass walls in my 13-Going-on-30 cubicle, it sounds like Madison Square Garden is downstairs. The fire marshal should go inspect Bryant Park before the lawn collapses into the subway station.

The sidewalks surrounding the park became the 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue Campgrounds yesterday when teenage girls, armed with posters and homemade signs, and patient parents staked their claims on slabs of concrete in anticipation of the Friday GMA Summer Concert Series. Someone mentioned that they had started gathering on Wednesday. Looking down on the patchwork quilt of blankets and sleeping bags from my boss's window around 5pm, a coworker commented: "Miley Cyrus didn't even do that."

There is sort of a female cult following created by certain male phenomena. New Kids on the Block and Charles Manson come to mind.

I think we all know how this story is going to end.

Yesterday evening the children and parents marked
their territory.

This morning the perimeter of the park looked like
the door at Tenjune on a Tuesday night.

A Year Ago Today: No Post
Two Years Ago Today: Here I Go On My Own

Thursday, August 07, 2008

"Things I Love" Thursdays - Cupid's NYC-Tipped Arrow

Cupid has shot another one with his New York City-tipped arrow. His latest victim is a friend of Tasha's, who is visiting from Idaho. On Tuesday, three women flew across the country to crash at our apartment, see what there is to see, and do what there is to do in the big city. They landed at La Guardia just before midnight and by the time they arrived at our apartment in Midtown, lugged their bags up four flights of stairs and collapsed on our couch, one of them was already gushing about how wonderful and exciting the city was. I looked at her and saw myself two years ago and glimpses of me today when I shift periodically into awed tourist mode or "how cool is it that I live here" mode, which can sometimes be a simultaneous action.

Seated outside last night at Puccini on Ninth Avenue, a few blocks from our apartment, Tasha's New York City-enamored friend leaned back and - motioning to our table adorned with Pinot Grigio, Bruschetta, and assorted pastas - she said out loud what I often think during distinctly New York moments: "Where in Idaho could we do something like this?"

After a quiet pause, one of her friends shrugged, "Olive Garden?!?!?"

A unified "no" and laughter resounded in response. While I have never referenced Idaho specifically, you can insert [anywhere you want] into that phrase and the answer will most often be: "No where."

We talked about all the things we loved about the city. The hole-in-the-wall restaurants. The trendy and outrageous fashion. The embraced individualism. The weirdness. Especially the weirdness. So when we passed the most attractive drag queen we've ever seen in the stairwell of our apartment building on the way back from dinner, I think it sealed the deal. I couldn't help wonder, "Where else could you see a man as pretty as that?"

It's the same for our friend Cassie, who planned to return to North Carolina after her nanny career ends in Connecticut. Cupid took aim at her last spring and she realized that if she want back to Charlotte, she would ultimately be sitting around one night at some bar or club wondering what the hell she was doing there and wishing she were in New York. Soon she'll be joining us as a resident of the city for a few years before returning to the South. But I know that whenever she does leave, she will always miss it.

That's the thing about true love.
"Things I Love" Thursdays are inspired by "I Love New York" (BNY, February 14, 2007).

A Year Ago Today: Phone Photo Ops - Monday with Marilyn
Two Years Ago Today: Converse High Heels, Cocaine, Central Park & Superman Wears Prada

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Memory Boxes

My cousin Gerald, the eldest son of my Tito Butch, is dying. He's 32. He has a wife and 3-year old son. We expect his fight with leukemia to end any moment now. My family is grieving a world away in the Philippines, and I know my false hope for relief when he dies is illusory. I thought there would be that same relief when my Tita Cita died from breast cancer in 2004. I didn't want her to suffer anymore. To regret what she had never done. To dwell over everything she would never get to see. Which she did. That's what made her slow death even harder - knowing that she did not want to let go. And when she was finally gone, I waited to feel the relief that I thought would be there. It never came.

My mother shared a memory with me last Thanksgiving of my Tita Cita, who - in her 40s and in the more successful stages of her battle with breast cancer - wanted some sort of little baking oven. My mom was visiting her family in the Philippines at that time and my Tita Cita was awaiting some important test results regarding the remission of her cancer. If the results are good, she had said to my mother, she wanted to go buy that little oven. If the results were bad, there would be no reason to waste money on it. They went together to get the results and immediately after the doctor revealed the good news, she turned to my mother and said, "Let's go get that oven."

A few years later, in the final moments of her life, my Tito Rocky remembers standing at the foot of her hospital bed as doctors and nurses bustled around her failing body, surrounded by tubes and needles and machines. Over a nurse's shoulder, he made eye contact with her and saw the sadness and defeat she was feeling. He knew in that instant that it was the end and that she was letting go. My Tita Marie told me the story that my Tito Rocky had once shared with her. After that, he had said that he hoped to never have to watch someone he loves die again.

For a family of 11, composed of my mother's four brothers and four sisters, who struggled in the poorer areas of the Metro Manila throughout most of their child- and young adulthood, you'd think life would at least offer them a break in their later years. Instead, my mother has osteoporosis, and her eldest sister has been bedridden, suffering from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, since her early 20s. My mother's eldest brother Tito Sonny died suddenly in 2000 of pancreatitis some 15-20 years after losing a teenage son in a tragic bus accident. Then, last year his oldest son died from the same pancreatic complications, leaving behind a young wife and two small children. And recently Tito Sonny's only daughter was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She is currently fighting a winning battle, but if she were to die, my tito's wife and youngest son - a cousin my age - will be the last two of a family of six.

Some of my titos and titas think that our family is cursed. My mother's father was mentally-ill. From what I was told, he had some form of schizophrenia; my grandmother, in her later years, eventually developed Alzheimer's and lost quite a bit of her short- and long-term memory. After my Tito Sonny died from pancreatitis, the family had to stop telling her what had happened to him because she would grieve all over again as if she were hearing of his death for the first time. In some ways, she was. It was the same for my Tita Cita. My grandmother, who remained until she died with her unmarried daughters in the concrete house where she had raised her children, would call out for Cita often and then cry. It is hard for me to imagine a woman, who was well-known for her humor and wit, to be disoriented and despondent. I thought there would be relief when she finally died.

There wasn't.

I don't know if I believe in curses, but I do believe in luck. So maybe curses exist in the same way that darkness is just the absence of light. My father's side of the family, hailing from Boston, is known for having extraordinary luck. Though they've had their share of health conditions, they've all had some fortunate - and sometimes amazing - breaks. Maybe that was the light for my mom when my dad first saw a beautiful Filipina nurse on an elevator at Johns Hopkins Hospital and fell in love instantaneously. He - as well as everyone else who was born or marries into our family - bands together and assists when and where they can with the family's growing medical bills. Yet my Tita Olivia, ever the humble and generous soul despite her crippling disease, is still often giving away what little money she has to the poorer around her in Manila.

Whenever I reminisce with my parents about my transition to New York, my dad often comments, "It's that [last name omitted] luck." Maybe I shouldn't write about that luck and cause a jinx. I just wish it would bring me a winning lottery ticket - though I supposed I'd have to actually buy tickets to have any chances.

When I was in my late-teens, I wrote a letter to Oprah after seeing an episode where she had helped a family. I hoped that she would renovate my grandmother's concrete house in the Philippines (which has little to no running water) and provide them with comfortable furniture, especially my Tita Olivia, who has spent most of her life in a bed. I wanted my Tita Connie, Tita Cita and Tita Marie to be able to retire from housekeeping in New York City and live comfortably in their own home near their friends and family. I specifically wanted my Tita Cita to stop working seasonally in the United States and enjoy whatever time she might have left in the Philippines. I promised Oprah in the letter that if she could help me renovate the house so that they could live well in the meantime, I would help them all retire once I was rich. I never mailed the letter because I didn't know how I was going to get rich.

When I was 25, I found the letter and realized that two of the people I wanted to renovate the house for were gone. My Tita Cita had died and my grandmother no longer remembered who I was and did not know what was going on most of the time. I don't know if I cried more while reading the letter about the house that never was or the people that no longer were.

Now I feel like I'm waiting again to hear every one's memories of Gerald and put them in my little mental box where I save things I want to remember. As his situation begins to seem more hopeless, my mind tries to trick me into anticipating the relief. I know it won't be there.

A Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today: First Weekend Recap

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Monday, August 04, 2008

Black Monday

We had more lay-offs as a result of further corporate restructuring at work today. I know there is always a better and more streamlined way of doing something, especially when the dollar is the bottom line, but it is even scarier to experience a restructure in the current state of our economy. It's also nerve-wrecking to remember that executive and administrative assistance is a luxury and not a necessity so I'm not exactly safeguarded from cutbacks. Eight employees alone were impacted in our department. However, the saddest by far was the termination of two mailroom employees that the executive assistants particularly liked because of their good humor and strong work ethic; one has a baby due in two weeks.

I should stop blogging on my lunch hour at work and look for more ways to make myself indispensable.

Zombie Fights Shark is always a good way to brighten any day, unless your employment was unexpectedly discontinued. That's a pretty dull day. Here's a particular funny read about reading the Bible on the subway and the way an apartment smells when the girlfriend has been away too long.

A Year Ago Today: Search-term Saturday: The Johns
Two Years Ago Today: No post

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Two Years Down; A Lifetime to Go

Today marks my first two years living in New York City. But that anniversary is secondary. Five years ago today. And the 3rd has fallen on a Sunday again. At this exact moment five years ago, that darkness did not yet exist for me. In another 12-13 more hours, his father would be calling to tell me that he was dead.

I'm still creating coincidences and searching for that connection, which logic tells me does not exist. But as August 3, 2008, drew closer, I was helping plan a baby shower for Mayra, and Natasha invited me to attend a Yankees game - a first for both of us - made even more special by the location of our seats.

Natasha and I spent the three days before Friday's game, bouncing around our apartment, giddy about the idea of sitting in the first row behind home plate for our first-ever Yankees game - and one of the last to ever be played in The House that Ruth Built. We giggled continuously and said corny things sporadically, like "Home plate, baby!" while passing each other in the kitchen. One evening, I walked in the apartment and called out, "Is there a home plate ticket holder in the house?"

And as Mayra's baby shower approached, I became increasingly busier with last minute preparations and shopping for gifts on her registry. Ra and I met at the Toys "R" Us in Times Square after work one evening and wandered aimlessly in the babies section. Sifting through the endless options of bottles, diapers, teethers and care kits was overwhelming, to say the least. I highly recommend it as an effective form of birth control. As we were exiting the store with our purchases (including a large, boxed high chair), Ra - slightly frustrated by the complicated shopping spree - mentioned that we should probably catch a taxi to my apartment. I replied that we probably wouldn't be able to catch a cab in Midtown at that hour, to which she exclaimed in horror, "Oh no! What are we going to do?"

I looked back at the genuine expression of repulsion on her face, her body hunched by the weight of Toys "R" Us shopping bags, and we both died laughing. Unable to catch an available taxi from 44th and Broadway, we ended up taking our first pedicab ride.

Mayra and Melvin's baby shower was a traditional Dominican shower, which included a lot of friends, food, music, dancing and alcohol. I ran around Midtown on Saturday morning, trying to find some of the last things I had forgotten to purchase for her shower games. And then there was the commute from Midtown to 111th Street in Queens, the set-up for the party, and Melvin's reassurance that we had plenty of time because Dominicans are never punctual. But what about all of the invited Americans, Ecuadorians, Puerto Ricans, and those who bubble in "other", I wondered? So many things to keep my mind occupied. And of course, I found more moments to add to my memory montage when Mayra was in the middle of opening her gifts and suddenly began to cry. We all knew it was partially her eighth-month hormones, but we also knew how overpowering it can be to feel so incredibly loved. As Melvin laughed and began to console her, his own eyes welled up and a few tears spilled over.

And this evening, Natasha and I are painting our living room and kitchen. Spiced Butternut and Autumn Orange while we order Thai take-out and sip Pinot Noir. It's the combination of the big and little things, after all, that make life go on.

A Year Ago Today: One Year At A Time
Two Years Ago Today: Temperaturely Speaking ...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

My First Yankees Game

The Former SNL Actor got Natasha four tickets to the Yankees game versus the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night and told her to invite two girlfriends. So she brought me and Iris.

The Yankees didn't win, but I had my first MBL hot dog. I couldn't help but wonder if the secret was in the sauce or in the stadium. And beer had never tasted so refreshing.

"Katie," the former SNL actor said, leaning across Natasha after the fifth inning, "You're going to love this."

The Yankees grounds crew came out to rake the infield mid-game and performed their traditional YMCA routine as they worked. I had to take a second and appreciate the moment. We were sitting in seats that the three of us would never have even dared to search for on Ticketmaster. The crowd was singing along, my friends were laughing, my beer was ice cold.

I added the moment to the montage of memories that I plan to play in my mind the moment before I die, right after me and Ra struggling to shop in Toys "R" Us for Mayra's baby shower, and right before Tasha screaming at Natasha and me to "work those thighs" as we ran up the stairs to catch a Manhattan-bound A train on the elevated platform at 111th Street in Queens.

Below: Waiting for the game to start ... and glad that the three of us stopped waiting for our lives to start (in Idaho, North Carolina and Arizona respectfully) and found each other.

The highlight of the game: Iris throwing the ball back to A. Rod.

A Year Ago Today: Uppity Executives
Two Years Ago Today: No post

Friday, August 01, 2008

In Daylights

There is no better way to start your day than with live music from "Rent."

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minute
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Moments So Dear
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure - Measure A Year?

In Daylights - In Sunsets
In Midnights - In Cups Of Coffee
In Inches - In Miles
In Laughter - In Strife
In - Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure A Year In The Life

How About Love?
How About Love?
How About Love?
Measure In Love

Seasons Of Love
Seasons Of Love

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Journeys To Plan

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure The Life
Of A Woman Or A Man?

In Truths That She Learned
Or In Times That He Cried
In Bridges He Burned
Or The Way That She Died

It's Time Now - To Sing Out
Tho' The Story Never Ends
Let's Celebrate
Remember A Year In The Life Of Friends

Remember The Love
Remember The Love
Remember The Love
Measure In Love

Measure, Measure Your Life In Love

Seasons Of Love...
Seasons Of Love

One Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today: T Minus 5, 4, 3...