Category Archives: New York City

Bi-coastal-curious

artwork by: Nan Lawson

April 5, 2013

I’ve been back in Los Angeles for a few months now and it’s becoming clear to me that I’m going to need to fashion a more bi-coastal lifestyle so I can spend time in both of the cities I love. I met this wicked cool artist selling her illustrations in a booth at the Union Square Holiday Market who was raised in Orange County, lived in NYC for many years, and now lives in Portland. She travels throughout the year selling her work at some of the best arts & crafts fairs around the country and then returns home to Oregon. We bonded over being California gals who lived and loved NYC, but couldn’t stomach the daily grind anymore. Other cities better suit our more laid back constitution, desire for natural surroundings, and thankfully, afford us home studios where we can make art on a consistent basis.

Yes, this is the type of lifestyle I wish to create. Spending time in multiple locations mixing it up is essential for megawatt personal growth. Travel by its very nature, opens your eyes, keeps you on your toes, refreshes your perspective. Home base acts as a creative sanctuary. I can only be in one place at a time, but if I’m imaginative about it, I bet I can shoot for the best of both worlds. I’m certainly going to try.

I must say, I’m not especially interested in having a monogamous relationship – with NYC or LA. Serial monogamy still holds a certain appeal, however, as there are many other spectacular cities worthy of a longer gander during this particular incarnation of my soul. Perhaps I’m ready to explore a more “polyamor-metropolis” lifestyle.  This has not been my typical modus operandi, mind you, but apparently, NY has encouraged my mind to open even wider in regards to the flexible forms relationships can take, despite my almost constant battle with that concept over the years. Bottom line: it is natural to have love for more than one place, person, or thing at a time. The more open your heart is, the more space there is for many desires to flourish simultaneously, the more exploration one is wont to do.

My open mind also thinks it sounds like a fantastic idea to structure my life so that I can enjoy spending time with men from both coasts. They are so different and yet so complementary. I get a spectrum of desires met by both. Oh please, may I have one of each? Sounds good in theory, but seriously, it’s never really been my style and the older I get, the less inclined I am to extol the virtues of multi-tasking. Ideally, there’s a man out there somewhere who understands and appreciates the beautiful complexities of both NY and CA, and is open to building a bi-coastal existence together.

During the last of my Manhattan years, I think that’s what I was secretly wishing to find in a mate – a New York man who, shortly after falling in love with me, would realize his readiness for change and be up for giving the west coast a try. When I revealed this to my best friend one day, she said, “If you want to be with man who’s interested in living in CA, why don’t you find one who’s already there?!”

She had a point, a good one that made increasingly more sense as time wore on. As I ultimately discovered, it’s much more difficult to encounter a west coast man living in the east. They are not as apt to flock that direction. East coast men in the west, however? Surprisingly abundant! As a few “east gone west” men have confided, “once you get a taste of the left coast life, you rarely venture back again, except to visit.”

Bi-coastalism, while also good in theory, is not as easy as it sounds in practice. Many people try it for a while – winters + summers in California, spring + fall in NYC – until one place inevitably seems to win out. While six-hour flights aren’t too terribly long in the scheme of things, they do tend to take their toll with frequency.

I admit, I struggle with chronic “grass is greener syndrome”, wondering if I’ll ever be 100% happy with where I am in the present moment, but I know I’m not alone. When it comes down to it though, your dissatisfaction is really about you, not your whereabouts. When you move, you don’t leave all those things you’re disenchanted with behind, you take them with you. They are you. Certain circumstances and dynamics, habits and patterns may change when you uproot yourself, but they might not, so be forewarned. YOU are ultimately the common denominator in your restless quest for greener pastures.

The flip side of that coin is, the city you choose to leave may not change either and will in all likelihood, remain much the same place you left, if you decide to return. Many of the things I disliked about LA are still very much a part of LA. I just accept it all a little more readily now. Many of things I initially loved about NY, eventually drove me rather nuts and made me want to flee.

Some people like to stay in one place and nest, others prefer to roam and experiment. I’ve got a dash of both – one part homebody artist introvert, one part wander lusting traveler social butterfly. Who says I have to choose? I believe in having my cake and eating it too, since I never much understood that expression anyway. I appreciate the merits of dwelling in Los Angeles and the last few months have taught me that I’m gonna need to scratch that NY itch ‘cause it ain’t going away. Therefore, I hereby set the intention to visit NY at least 2 – 3 times a year, ideally mixing pleasure and business, in an attempt to satisfy my myriad desires and explore my budding bi-coastal-curiosity.

CA & NY

May 20, 2013

I booked a plane ticket back to NY a few weeks ago. I made arrangements for places to stay, scheduled lots of quality hang time with friends, made a list of all the art events I wanted to check out (particularly: Recalling 1993, Street and Punk at the Met, the architectural sculptures along Park Avenue, Orly Genger’s rope installation in Madison Square Park, just to name a few). I planned to spend Memorial Day weekend in Brooklyn, eating my way through Smorgasburg, staying at the Wythe Hotel, going to see the Shins concert in Williamsburg Park. I looked forward to capping off the trip with a few days on Fire Island as a guest at my friend’s summer share. I even came up with a story idea to write while I was in town, did a ton of research, booked reservations, and then… it didn’t feel right.

What?! Are you kidding me? After everything you’ve been posting about NYC these past few months? All the missing and pining and lamenting you’ve been doing! Now you aren’t gonna go?! Have you lost your mind, lady?

Let’s just say that, while many awesome plans did indeed fall into place that would’ve made for a fantastic reunion with NY, others did not. A couple of gigs that were supposed to make this a work trip as well, got postponed for the time being. Then there was an unfortunate hiccup with a guy I’d briefly dated and had been maintaining a long distance flirtation with since I left. I’d literally just finished arranging some stellar plans for our much discussed and long overdue rendezvous, when he informed me that he’d recently run into his ex-gf and they’d decided to give it another try. Doh! C’est la vie. Timing really is everything.

In the weeks leading up to this triumphant NY return, I kept saying to friends that I felt as if I needed to go back, in order to move forward. Many friends who’ve left NY have also made a similar boomerang, and thus, understood my inclination. They also shared that, when they did go back, they soon realized they didn’t belong there anymore. One said, “Get used to it. You think you’re beyond it, you’re enjoying a new life, and then that pang for NYC sneaks up on you unexpectedly, at random times, months, even years later. It never completely goes away.”

Nevertheless, I wanted to catch up in person with the friends I’d been missing so much. I desired some spring romance after months of anticipation. I ached to see how NY would feel again after putting some much needed distance between us. Was I right to leave or would I consider living there again? I thought the only way to know for sure was to go back and trigger some epiphanies. Maybe then I’d finally be able to embrace LA in a way that I’d not yet been able to, if I could just get this out of my system.

But as my departure date crept closer, I attracted answers, and my heart said: This isn’t the right time. I don’t need to go back so soon. I really miss my friends, but they ARE still a part of my life. We talk on the phone all the time. They’ll understand. They’ll come and visit too. Do what’s best for you right now.

So, to my surprise, I’m not ready to go back to NY yet. I don’t need to walk the streets and realize I don’t belong there anymore. I left. I know that already. I don’t need to go back to move forward, I just need to move forward. There are other places on the map that are stirring my wanderlust. I spent the past 5 years in NY. I should venture somewhere else! I want to experience California’s beauty again – take a road trip up the coast, through redwood forests and wine country, up to the Bay Area, visit my west coast friends. I’d love to return to my beloved Hawaii, or go travel somewhere I’ve never been – Bali, Italy, Spain, or ?!

New York will be there. My life in Los Angeles is achieving its own forward momentum and I’m in the midst of a bunch of projects that I’m really enjoying. I’ve only just begun to lay the groundwork and build anew. Stay the course. I need to trust the instincts that encouraged me to move on and pursue uncharted territory.

Reality check: I know I have a bad habit of staying stuck in the past and waiting to see if something might still be there, even when I really know better. I’ve held onto people and places I’ve loved way longer than necessary. I’ve given too much credence to my doubts and engaged in a ton of second-guessing. I’ve put myself through emotionally trying situations only to discover that, yes in fact, that was wrong for me, and damn it, I knew that already!

This is a real opportunity to move forward, full steam ahead. Choosing not to go back to NY means I’m making progress. I’ve officially turned a corner and this is a good sign. Sure, I’ve made the mistake of wasting precious time gazing far too long in the rear view mirror, but now I’m actively focusing on the present, and the future, without dragging myself through the proverbial mud first. Looks like I finally learned that lesson! I guess it just took awhile for my heart to catch up to what my head already knew.

We’re on the cusp of summer here and you know what? It’s high time I give up the struggle! I’m releasing this weird fear of being happy and comfortable in Los Angeles. I’m moving my bi-coastal-curiosity to the back burner. It might stay there permanently; I might opt to stir that pot when I’ve got a new body of work to tour with. Never say never. Right now, California and the Pacific Coast is calling my name and I’m eager to get re-acquainted, sans regrets.

i heart california

**

Have you ever thought you needed to revisit the past in order to move forward? Did you ever desire something so whole-heartedly, only to suddenly experience a moment of clarity and completely change course? I’d like to hear your story, so please leave a comment below. If this post resonates with you, share with a friend, and be sure to SUBSCRIBE (in the top right hand corner of this page) so you can receive all my freshly pressed posts directly to your inbox when they go live every week!

**

Artwork by: Nan Lawson. Check out her delightful store on etsy.com!

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Culture, Dreams, Hollywood, Love, New York City, Travel, Writing

Back in “LA LA Land”

California Dreaming

I’ve always disliked that nickname for Los Angeles – “LA LA Land” – it implies this city is some sort of fantasyland where its inhabitants perpetually flit about with their heads in the clouds, in the relentless pursuit of stardom and success, jetsetting on flights of the imagination and building castles in the sky, while basking in the eternal sunshine of our spotless minds. Well, okay, perhaps there’s a little something to that assertion, on the surface, but that’s a topic I’ll tackle in a future post about what I consider to be the real Los Angeles.

Having spent the last 5 years living in a rough ‘n tumble concrete jungle and observing how Hollywood is perceived by the rest of the world, I can appreciate why folks might erroneously draw such conclusions. After all, it is particularly dreamy here in California – dynamite climate all year round; pretty people; clean streets; pioneering free spirits; health consciousness; cinema studios; silicon valleys; beaches, bays, forests, mountains; 500+ miles of beauty from head to toe! Can you really blame us for being so happy-go-lucky?

Disclaimer: I’m not particularly crazy about the abbreviation “LA” either, but I’m about to use it a whole lot because it does make for convenient short hand. Respectfully, this is Los Angeles, City of Angels! Otherwise known as: HOME.

hwdgratitude

Being back in Los Angeles this time around has been a literal breath of fresh air. The weather = absolute perfection = warm + sunny, blue skies + gentle breezes. So grateful not to be freezing my ass off back east right now! I love being back in my home, giving it some much needed TLC. I’m clearing out the cobwebs, re-discovering all the beautiful keepsakes I’ve collected over the years that I left behind in storage. I’m having fun doing a bit of re-decorating, making the house my own again. I’ve got so much more space it’s taken me a bit of time to get used to spreading my wings and inhabiting it fully. I had all the overgrown brush hacked away and am bringing my garden back to life – planting succulents, resurrecting the compost bin, sowing the seeds of my vegetable & herb garden, giving patio furniture a fresh coat of paint. I’m getting buff from all this diggin’ in the dirt. My skin already has a lovely sun kissed glow and it’s only March! Hummingbirds buzz through the yard daily, gracing me with good juju as they suck nectar from the birds of paradise. It’s so gorgeous and peaceful here, my little slice of heaven.

productivewinter

I am home again, in my comfort zone, but it’s fresh. It’s weird to be back in the city where I grew up and feel like we’re strangers. I don’t know if this or that is still open. There are all these new places I don’t know anything about. It’s a disconcerting feeling, especially since I pride myself on having my finger on the pulse and knowing exactly where to go. LA feels at once familiar and yet rather alien. But that’s exactly what I wanted. I always said if I ever returned to homebase #1, I’d want it to be my choice, on my own terms, and for it to feel brand spankin’ new again. Mission accomplished.

mulholland dr

How fortunate I am to be able to take a time out; to take stock, re-group, and contemplate what’s important to my soul again. I made a decision to put myself first this year and follow my bliss, take my passions off the back burner and place them squarely in front of me. What are my priorities? What do I really want to create in this space and in my life? What do I most want to do with my time and resources? LA affords me the ability to marinate in these questions for a spell and focus on the task of re-inventing myself for this next stage of the game.

I just enrolled in Marie Forleo’s B-School – a sassy, no nonsense online business and marketing class for women entrepreneurs – so I can really hit the ground running and get super pro-active about developing a new business plan + lifestyle that’s in alignment with my current interests. I’m ready to put into practice all these ephiphanies I’ve been having about my work, art, and life. I can already see how much NY got inside my veins and how that go-getter drive is manifesting now that I’m back.

Thrilled as I am about all the positive shifts taking place, one of my oldest, dearest friends called me tonight to ask, “Are you happy back in LA?” Apparently, my recent FaceBook statuses may indicate otherwise. Yes, of course, I’m happy. But her question did strike a nerve and I found myself trying to reconcile the conflicting complexities of my simultaneous desire to be both present in LA and back in NY.

feelings co-exist

I mean, it’s only been 7 weeks. It takes time to re-adjust. I just spent the last 5 years in NYC living a totally different existence. I didn’t even return home once in the last two years. I barely left Manhattan at all, for months at a time. NY got her hooks in good and when you’re entrenched, it regularly feels like you just can’t pull yourself away. Opportunities crop up lightning fast, so many irons are constantly in the fire at once, if you dare leave, you just might miss something. Or so I told myself.

I won’t lie. My head and heart are still very much in NYC. I miss walking the streets; the electricity in the air; my friends; my favorite spots to drink, dine, and daydream. Hell, I even miss the damn smells. I had a dream the other night that I was getting on an airplane, thinking, “I can’t believe I’m going back so soon!” Another dream a few nights later, had me navigating the maze of Manhattan, desperately trying to get home because I forgot to pay my rent, a whopping $2000/mo. When I finally walk through the door, I discover a tiny, windowless, empty room. I have no belongings because I’m too busy busting my ass at work to actually furnish it. NYC literally haunts me in my sleep.

I guess this transition would’ve been easier if I hated NYC. But I don’t. I still love her. I’m straddling the US, metaphorically speaking – one foot’s back in LA, the other’s still in NYC, and doubts about whether I made the right choice continue to linger.

I do still wonder if I should’ve given it more time. I started searching for apartments in Brooklyn before I left, thinking perhaps that charming, slightly quieter borough might be the answer to my chronic dissatisfaction. Searching NYC apartment listings is a super depressing exercise, especially when you’ve lived elsewhere and are able to draw comparisons to how much more bang for your buck you’d get anywhere else on the planet. That last ditch effort at apartment hunting truly tested my power to maintain a cheery outlook. I give myself credit for doing it fairly diligently there for a while, but day by day, I slowly lost faith in my amazingly fortunate real estate karma and ability to manifest yet another flexible miracle, rent-stabilized abode.

I’d already moved 3 times in the span of 5 years while living in Manhattan. I no longer wanted to live in someone else’s place with their ugly ass furniture while they were indefinitely out of town, and run the risk of being kicked out again once they decided their adventure elsewhere was over. Nor was I keen on living with 3 roommates, for which I’d still have the pleasure of paying at least $1000/mo., after living alone for the past 19 years. As a freelance artist, I don’t make 20 times the amount of rent that most NYC landlords insist upon to even consider your application, and the hooping jumping required to sign a lease is utterly absurd!

Brooklyn does indeed rock, and I very much wanted to join the community at 3rd Ward, and have the experience of living there too before I left NY for good, but when reflecting upon what I really envisioned for my life in the long run – spacious living, studio space, travel, warm weather, having a child – I just wasn’t convinced that Brooklyn was really the answer to my prayers either. When I began to think that relocating across the country would be easier/more appealing than moving across the river, I knew I was done with NYC. Once that decision was made, a huge weight began to lift from my shoulders… sort of.

finalchapternyc

Saying goodbye to NYC was no cakewalk. In those final days leading up to my departure, I walked the streets choking back tears, visiting all my favorite places, one more time, for now. I seriously wondered how I could make the decision to leave a place that I loved so much, the city that was now my home away from home, with so many friends who’d become like family to me. But I just knew I had to. Sometimes love isn’t enough. I may be a romantic, but I’m also a pragmatist. My current apartment sublet had become an unbearable daily onslaught of threats, bullying, and stress, and I no longer had the will to fight. It was simply time to let go and move on.

aurevoirnyc

You can be certain about a choice you’ve made and also have doubts; mixed emotions and why-if-onlys will still fuck with your head. As such, my LA re-entry has been a bit of a rollercoaster. At first, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It’s finally over now. I’m home. I can relax. I settled in, enjoying the creature comforts of home and the abundance of natural beauty, but I also continue to long for all I left behind…

anothertrytugowar

**

Have you ever made a gut-wrenching decision to let go of something you still love? Are you torn between two people, places, or things? I’d like to hear your story, so please leave a comment below. If this post resonates with you, share with a friend, and be sure to SUBSCRIBE (in the top right hand corner of this page) so you can receive all my freshly pressed posts directly to your inbox when they go live every week!

Coming up next: exploring my bi-coastal-curiosity and what happened when I decided to return to NYC…

3 Comments

Filed under Culture, Dreams, Hollywood, Love, New York City, Writing

101 Things I’ll Miss About NYC

i hug ny

1. WALKING EVERYWHERE
2. Spending quality time with my kick-ass friends
3. Strolls along The High Line
4. Outings to Chelsea Market
5. Art gallery hopping
6. Rambling through Central Park, ending up @ the Roller Disco Dance Party
7. Washington Square Park – The Arch & Fountain; Crazy Piano Guy; street performers & artists; singing tunes & stimulating conversations with strangers
8. Tompkins Square Park – walking through every day on my way home; reading under the big tree; chatting with my neighbors; the dog run scene; lounging on the grass; watching the neighborhood kids play ball
9. Being an artist living in Greenwich Village
10. Being a resident of The East Village
11. My Sunday ritual: coffee, farmers market at 7th & Ave A, composting at the Lower East Side Ecology Garden
12. Alphabet City – Avenues A, B, & C (D not so much)
13. The Lower East Side
14. Being a Downtowner, living in Manhattan
15. Walking in the footsteps of history
16. Photo missions with my camera
17. The sound of jazz in the air
18. My chats with the city on my rooftop
19. The view from the bathtub in my kitchen overlooking the park
20. The best restaurants in the world right outside my doorstep
21. Superb artisanal cocktails served by ridiculously hot bartenders
22. $3.50 6-piece afternoon special from Dumpling Man on St. Mark’s Place
23. Grabbing a slice at South Brooklyn or Artichoke
24. Doughnut Plant
25. My favorite coffee joints, especially Abraco, La Columbe, & 9th St Espresso
26. Browsing local boutiques
27. Bodegas & delis
28. Mom & Pop shops
29. Going for a shvitz at The Russian Turkish Baths on E 10th Street
30. Shaking my booty with my fellow New Yorkers at Dance Parade
31. Riding my bike along the East River to the Governor’s Island ferry
32. Discovering new places that just opened
33. Knowing the perfect spot to go when friends ask
34. Wandering with no particular destination
35. Easy public transit
36. Yellow metrocards
37. Treating myself to a taxi cab ride
38. Sunday nibbling at the New Amsterdam Market
39. Food trucks and park bench picnics
40. Balthazar pastries
41. Sampling my way through Eataly
42. Public art installations, especially in Madison Square Park
43. Traversing 14th Street from river to river
44. Union Square – the epicenter gathering place; the steps; performers; chess players; artists; shopping at the Greenmarket
45. Buskers
46. Earbuds + iPhone: experiencing the city with a soundtrack
47. Fascinating eavesdropping
48. Randomly running into friends
49. Stumbling upon
50. Street fairs
51. Graffiti/street art
52. The murals at the corner of Bowery & Houston
53. Community gardens
54. Fire escapes
55. Cobblestone streets
56. Water towers
57. Broadway marquees
58. Ornate architecture
59. The Empire State & Chrysler Buildings
60. The Flat Iron Building
61. Strolling Fifth Avenue
62. Free Fridays at MoMA
63. Making wishes under the Xmas tree at Rockefeller Center
64. Exploring The Met and having a cocktail on the rooftop
65. Taking the train out to The Rockaways for a beach day
66. No frills, hardcore massages in Chinatown
67. Lounging along the Hudson River after work
68. The sight of the Statue of Liberty in NY Harbor
69. Ferry rides
70. The Manhattan skyline
71. Manhattanhenge
72. The epic feeling of crossing The Brooklyn Bridge
73. Eating @ Smorgasburg and strolling the Williamsburg waterfront
74. The view from the Q train across the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn
75. Exploring the best of Brooklyn
76. Weekend craft fairs
77. Local artists & artisans
78. New Yorkers hailing from all 5 Boroughs
79. Spring flowers
80. Fall foliage
81. Apple cider and hot chocolate on chilly days
82. Cool weather fashion: jacket, scarf, hat, and boots
83. Watching the snow fall outside my window
84. Walking through the streets holding my boyfriend’s hand
85. Catching myself in the midst of my own Carrie Bradshaw moment
86. The men I love(/d)
87. My gay boyfriends
88. The guy who sings “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” to all the ladies
89. Cute sassy dogs and the people who walk them
90. The Halloween Dog Parade
91. The Easter Bonnet Parade
92. Gazing at the Empire State Building from my bed
93. Being inspired by smart, stylish New York women
94. The Occupy Movement
95. Life-changing conversations with stranger angels
96. Feeling like I belong here
97. Living away from home
98. This chapter of my life
99. Having a love affair with NY
100. Being a New Yorker
101. All the things I never did and all the places I never visited

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Love, New York City, Travel

101 Things I Won’t Miss About NYC

i-love-NY-banksy

1. Fearless rats the size of cats
2. Flying cockroaches
3. Screaming people
4. Dog shit sidewalks
5. Piss puddles
6. Taxi driver funk
7. Piles of hot smelly garbage
8. The mélange of disgusting street smells
9. Deafening sirens
10. Absurdly high rent for teeny tiny apartments
11. How expensive everything is
12. Wall Street arrogance
13. Entitled NYU students
14. Watching NYU execute their 2030 plan to dominate + destroy the Village
15. Being threatened by my nosy landlady
16. The bitchy people I’ve sublet apartments from
17. Not having hot water or heat for days
18. Climbing 5 flights of stairs to my apartment every day
19. Bad water pressure
20. Living with other people’s ugly furniture
21. The smells in the hallway
22. My neighbors slamming their doors
23. My various jobs
24. Always swimming upstream
25. Hustling 24/7
26. Fearing for my safety
27. Lack of personal space
28. The overwhelming desire to flee the city and knowing I can’t
29. “Bag lady syndrome” (i.e. carrying 20 lbs. of crap around with you all day)
30. Dragging my laundry 4 blocks to the closest dirty Laundromat
31. 5+ months of freezing cold winter
32. Dripping with sweat on humid summer days
33. Blizzards and hurricanes
34. An over abundance of beards
35. The urban lumberjack look
36. The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade
37. St. Patrick’s Day drunk-a-palooza
38. The non-stop party
39. Angry drunk fucks
40. Dumb drunk chicks who can’t walk in their high heels
41. Dumb drunk identical jocks who roam in packs
42. People passed out on the street with their pants down
43. A culture that revolves around alcohol
44. Puke puddles
45. The unmistakable stench of death
46. Crusty punks and their poor dogs
47. Walking up the subway stairs behind guys with saggy ass jeans
48. Tourists who block the sidewalk
49. Feeling lonely in a crowd of people
50. Subway train claustrophobia
51. The looks on people’s faces commuting to/from work
52. Being forced to listen to people’s boring cell phone conversations
53. People who do extremely inappropriate things on the subway
54. Being stuck inside subway train
55. Gropers
56. Wanting to pass out in the subway station due to heat/smell on a hot day
57. Waiting for buses that never come on schedule
58. Rude bus drivers who refuse to let you on after they’ve closed the door
59. Not having money left on my Metrocard when I go to get on the bus
60. The MTA
61. The NYPD
62. Mayor Bloomberg
63. ConEd
64. Time Warner Cable
65. The opening of yet another Subway, 7-11, and Duane Reade
66. The slow gentrification and de-personalization of neighborhoods
67. Ben Shaoul’s destruction of the Village/Lower Manhattan
68. Realizing another beloved place has gone out of business
69. The desperation in the air
70. Seeing other people cry in public
71. No longer giving a shit if people see me cry in public
72. The woman who screams “JOEY!” at the top of her lungs
73. That horrible dog who barks like he’s being strangled
74. Being asked for money every five feet
75. Flippant beggar signs
76. Rampant racism
77. An abundance of inconsiderate assholes
78. Being chased down the street by crazy freaks
79. The risk of being robbed for my iPhone again
80. Daily stories about people dying from being hit by the train
81. Daily stories about people being murdered where I just was
82. Unfathomable fatigue
83. Workaholic men with too many options
84. Annoying “salon deal” salespeople who insinuate your hair looks awful
85. People who insist on talking to you when you’re wearing earbuds
86. Crowds that make you want to kill someone (or yourself)
87. Slow walkers
88. Clueless tourists with their maps and big cameras
89. People who can’t seem walk and talk at the same time
90. People who take pictures of squirrels in the park
91. Fighting the hoards while shopping at Trader Joe’s on 14th St
92. The black soot on my feet after wearing sandals all day
93. Bed bug phobia
94. Random blood stains
95. The queasy feeling I get around Ground Zero of the WTC
96. The fishy smell of Chinatown
97. Waiting an hour and half for a table
98. Spending $80 for dinner and leaving hungry
99. Snooty wait staff at overpriced restaurants
100. The state of most public restrooms
101. That nagging feeling I don’t belong here

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, New York City, Travel

Love Letters to NYC

love letter typewriter1,000,001 love letters have been written to New York City over the ages. If you’re an artist who has spent even a small fraction of time here, it undoubtedly changed your consciousness in some fashion, and sooner or later, you will attempt to put your finger on how best to express the imprint she’s made on your heart and soul.

One of my very favorite literary love letters to New York is “My Home Town”, an essay Dorothy Parker penned for McCall’s Magazine in 1928:

It occurs to me that there are other towns. It occurs to me so violently that I say, at intervals, “Very well, if New York is going to be like this, I’m going to live somewhere else.” And I do — that’s the funny part of it. But then one day there comes to me the sharp picture of New York at its best, on a shiny blue-and-white Autumn day with its buildings cut diagonally in halves of light and shadow, with its straight neat avenues colored with quick throngs, like confetti in a breeze. Some one, and I wish it had been I, has said that “Autumn is the Springtime of big cities.” I see New York at holiday time, always in the late afternoon, under a Maxfield Parish sky, with the crowds even more quick and nervous but even more good-natured, the dark groups splashed with the white of Christmas packages, the lighted holly-strung shops urging them in to buy more and more. I see it on a Spring morning, with the clothes of the women as soft and as hopeful as the pretty new leaves on a few, brave trees. I see it at night, with the low skies red with the black-flung lights of Broadway, those lights of which Chesterton — or they told me it was Chesterton — said, “What a marvelous sight for those who cannot read!” I see it in the rain, I smell the enchanting odor of wet asphalt, with the empty streets black and shining as ripe olives. I see it — by this time, I become maudlin with nostalgia — even with its gray mounds of crusted snow, its little Appalachians of ice along the pavements. So I go back. And it is always better than I thought it would be.

I suppose that is the thing about New York. It is always a little more than you had hoped for. Each day, there, is so definitely a new day. “Now we’ll start over,” it seems to say every morning, “and come on, let’s hurry like anything.”

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it. There is excitement ever running its streets. Each day, as you go out, you feel the little nervous quiver that is yours when you sit in the theater just before the curtain rises. Other places may give you a sweet and soothing sense of level; but in New York there is always the feeling of “Something’s going to happen.” It isn’t peace. But, you know, you do get used to peace, and so quickly. And you never get used to New York.

Then of course, I also adore E.B. White’s “Here is New York”, written in 1948:

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter–the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last–the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh yes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company. . . .

The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now; in the sounds of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest editions.

All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm.

Stumbling across these brilliant excerpts got me pondering which other art works of staggering genius really stand out as some of my all-time favorite love letters to New York. Coming up with a SHORT list is near impossible, there’s just too much to choose from (so expect follow up posts in the future, as more examples come to mind). For the purposes of this post, I included a few tried-and-trues that simply could not go without mention, and opted to focus more so on semi-recent indie-newbies that you may not be as familiar with. Enjoy!

 
LITERARY/ILLUSTRATION:

Check out Flavorpill’s compilation of NYC-loving literary masterpieces, including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”.

All the Buildings in New York… That I’ve Drawn So Far
by James Gulliver Hancock
One artist’s painstaking labor of love, docu-illustrating NY’s iconic architectural landmarks and the perhaps lesser known gems that exist perfectly beside them:

 
Mapping Manhattan
by Becky Cooper
Another artist’s labor-of-love-turned-public-art-project in which New Yorkers individually contributed personal drawings of their Manhattan to Ms. Cooper’s greater vision:

 

CINEMA:
IMHO, Woody Allen takes the cake for greatest cinematic love letters to NYC:

Look closely! This short uses miniatures to “capture” a day in the life:

A sweet ‘lil short about NYC romance that’s sure to pluck at your heartstrings:

 
MUSIC:

5 Boroughs, 3 B Boys, 4 Ever:

Perhaps the greatest Big Apple anthem of all-time:

Mraz transports feel good LOVE throughout Manhattan:

These young newcomers distill NY’s Soul so poignantly:

Cat takes the prize for capturing the essence of my Manhattan best of all:

 
**

There are just so many notable love letters to NYC out there! Which are YOUR favorites? Please share by leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

Dig finding out about cool art/literary/cinema/music shtuff like this? Be sure to SUBSCRIBE to this blog (in the upper right hand corner of this page) so you can receive freshly pressed posts right to your inbox as they go live every week, and then pop on over to LIKE Eye For Style on Facebook!

1 Comment

Filed under Architecture, Art, Books, Culture, Film, Love, Maps, Music, New York City, Writing

New York, My Love

carrie-and-big

Though I may have sometimes denied it, I went to New York City to fall in love. Consciously/unconsciously, I hoped to find my “Mr. Big” – a disarmingly handsome, abundantly wealthy, distinguished former playboy who’d finally be ready to settle down soon after meeting fabulously stylish, bubbly and petite, full of wonderment, literary me. After a whirlwind courtship of crème de la crème wining and dining, luxurious weekend getaways, and splitting our time between his Uptown bachelor pad and my charming Downtown abode, he’d put a ring on it and we’d search for an old row house on a quiet cobblestone street in the West Village in need of some major TLC. I’d set about the task of lovingly restoring our future home + garden, a reflection of each of our personal styles and artistic sensibilities, and we’d live happily ever after, more than less. Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?

And while I have caught myself in the midst of many a “Carrie Bradshaw moment”, my Manhattan love odyssey hasn’t exactly resembled much of a fairy tale or perfectly crafted episode of Sex in the City. (A long-running series of tragically humorous love affairs, that have yet to culminate in a steamy “you’re the one” kiss on the Champs de Elysees, perhaps.) The truth is, no freelance writer I know can afford to live alone in a spacious Greenwich Village apartment, with a walk-in closet overflowing with Pat Field plucked designer threads, and the discretionary funds necessary to drink $20 artisanal cocktails with their BFFs at the hottest boites in town on the regular, from penning one column in the weekly tabloid rag. And chances are, their investment banker boyfriend isn’t planning to secretly build a custom vault in his Fifth Avenue Penthouse for their vast collection of Manolo Blahniks either. But I digress…

carrie and big in the closet

When my friends and I would compare notes on our experience of living in NYC, I noticed we’d frequently talk in metaphors about the city as if we were having a romantic relationship with it, as if it were a lover. Such comparisons tend to roll off the tongue quite naturally, for male and female New Yorkers. I’ve heard many people talk about “dating the city” – how “you’re never alone” and it can always be counted upon to “take you out for a good time” even when you’re flying solo.

It certainly was not love at first sight for Manhattan and me. I definitely took a liking to her upon first encounter, but I wasn’t yet ready for anything serious at the time. I was too young. New York was too rough and tumble. I enjoyed getting to know her during that brief visit and we stayed friends through friends, so to speak. The next time we met, almost 15 years later, however, it would be a totally different story…

Upon arrival, you initially spot her from a distance, a tiny glimmer on the horizon. She’s certainly already piqued your curiosity. Her reputation precedes her. As you speed closer, her undeniable beauty emerges. She’s tall and dazzling. She lights up the whole skyline. You get butterflies in your stomach; your body surges with anticipation; you can’t wait to get a better look. She comes closer still. No, she’s not a mirage. Oh my God, she’s stunning! Suddenly, you’re in the thick. The energy is positively electromagnetic. She’s everything you dreamed she’d be and more. You instantly want to explore every inch. It’s terrifying and exhilarating.

You make contact, breathe her in. You want her to want you, just as much. You play it cool, not wanting to get too excited about the possibilities, but it’s near impossible to contain your enthusiasm. She makes your heart pound. You can’t stop smiling. She’s  instantly under your skin. What a whirlwind! As you settle in, you can’t stop thinking about her. She keeps you up at night. “Don’t rush into anything.” You sense this might not be easy. “I’m going to have to elevate my game.” The hooks are in.

She’s so fucking intoxicating that you’re a little apprehensive, but as the fear subsides, total enchantment takes the reins. You’ve never felt this way before. She romances, boldly, unapologetically, leaving you breathless. Turning you on, leaving you wanting more. You may momentarily glimpse her flaws, the red flags, but you quickly ignore. They pale in comparison to her utter magnificence. Yep, you’re a goner, no longer thinking straight. You walk around in a daze. She knows this. She’s a tease, a wild flirt. You wonder, “Oh, boy. What have I gotten myself into? Could she finally be the one?!” Surrender.

Nick Walker: I Love NY

At first, she’s pure unadulterated inspiration. She makes you want to be your best self and rise to the occasion. This is good for you, exactly what the doctor ordered. She forces you to open wide and take big leaps of faith. You willingly oblige. You like this new, confident, powerful you. Soon, “I love you” flows from your lips non-stop. You can’t help it. Her charismatic charm lurks around each and every corner. She’s dirty, and naughty, and just kinky enough. She fits you like a glove. “This might get addictive.” You pretend you can handle it.

Time passes at breakneck speed. You get into a rhythm together. Your bond is passionate, inspiring, full of surprises. Every day is an adventure! It becomes clear that she’s also pretty demanding, this one. She’s going to take every ounce of your energy and require serious presence. You’re feeling a little sluggish, but you suck it up. You really do wish to please her. The risk of losing her is too great. When she gets a whiff of your wavering commitment, you promise you’re invested. “Don’t give up on me.”

The relationship inevitably ebbs and flows. You still love, but doubt creeps in. You’re not so enamored with certain things. They become harder to ignore. You question. You quarrel when you lose your patience. When you make up, you fall even more deeply in love than before. “What was I thinking? I’m crazy about her!” You may contemplate other lovers, but you know in your heart of hearts that nowhere else could ever excite you so completely. To leave might be the greatest regret of your life.

She continues to blow hot and cold, but you tolerate it. “She’s worth it”, you convince yourself. She can be fickle and callous though. She hurts your feelings, a lot, and just as you’re about ready to throw in the towel, she’ll pull an about face, engulfing you with such profound love, and reel you in once more. “Hey, she’s not perfect. No one is.” You try and hold on so tightly, but she’s just too big a personality to be contained. You have to trust that if it’s meant to be, you’ll go the distance together. You will grow and change, evolving in tandem, or you won’t.

i-love-ny-gorilla-hug

You hang in there, determined to make it work, but she breaks your heart over and over again. She knows your weaknesses now. She has a mean streak and knows exactly what buttons to push. The veil lifts and you realize this has become really fucking dysfunctional. You are in fact miserable and have been for a while. She’s been doing most of the taking and you’ve got nothing left to give. “Maybe it is time to move on after all.” As much as it pains you, you come to the conclusion that even though you love her deeply, she’s not a good match for you. You’re just not long-term material. You can’t change her. She is who she is. You have to accept her, warts and all.

So, this thought seed begins to takes root: “I can’t do this anymore. I will always love her. She’s taught me more about myself than anyone I’ve ever known, but this just isn’t working anymore. I need to make a change and keep my heart open for a more compatible love that awaits me in the future.”

And one day, you finally work up the courage to say, “New York, we need to talk. It’s time we break up and go our separate ways. I love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore. I need to figure out who I am without you. This isn’t goodbye forever, just for now. I’ll be back, I promise. And when that day comes, I hope we can be friends….”

dont_love_new_york-funny-business**

Have you ever fallen head over heels for a city, only to later realize that you best get the hell out of dodge? Are you having your own personal love affair with New York, or some other magical destination? I’d love to hear your story, so please leave a comment below. If this post resonates with you, share with a friend, and be sure to SUBSCRIBE (in the top right hand corner of this page) so you can receive all my freshly pressed posts directly to your inbox when they go live every week!

Coming up next week: 101 Things I’ll Miss About NY and 101 Things I Won’t!

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, New York City, Writing

A Change of Heart

Part 3 of My Hurricane Sandy Diaries

Saturday November 10:

I did not cry throughout the Hurricane Sandy blackout experience (save a couple moments when my eyes welled up over people’s heartbreaking stories of pain and loss). Not until yesterday that is, when I finally broke down and let it ALL out – a long, heaving sob about everything. I haven’t done that in a long time.

I am aware that it’s rather silly to cry about anything I’m going through right now. People died during the storm, others lost everything. I’m gonna cry because I had no power for a week? Because telecom services are still down in my neighborhood, so I’ve had no Internet access for days and I can’t send text messages? Chock it up to Mercury retrograde. This too shall pass.

Hurricane Sandy really did put life in perspective – what’s worth getting worked up about and what isn’t – which is why I’m acutely aware that these tears are really not about any temporary communication snafus. The truth is, I just can’t do this anymore. I think I’m ready to move back to Los Angeles.

nyc-vs-la.fall

If I’m really being honest with myself, I need to admit that I’m fed up with New York and I have been for a while. I’m sick of the break neck pace of this city. The gritty, dirty, smelliness. The crazy people shouting in the street. The drunks & junkies passed out in the middle of the sidewalk. The young partygoers who step right over them in their short skirts and stilettos without so much as a second thought.  The NYU kids, and bridge & tunnel set, who infiltrate my neighborhood to get wicked drunk and act stupid, then throw up all over the place and go home.

I’m sick of hostile, selfish jerks fighting about meaningless bullshit. I’m sick of people constantly approaching me on the street; always trying to sell me something; disguising their agenda; wanting a hand out. I’m sick of lacking in personal space. I’m sick of jam-packed subway trains; waiting for buses that never come on schedule; navigating through hoards of people everywhere I go. I’m sick of being “a bag lady” that has to carry 20 lbs of crap around all day because it’s not feasible to run home between meetings. I’m sick of buying too many groceries and having to lug them 15 blocks + 5 flights of stairs, when I can’t get a cab. I’m sick of dragging all my dirty laundry 4 blocks to the nearest filthy Laundromat. I’m sick of how expensive it is to live here. I’m sick of busting my ass at multiple jobs just to barely make ends meet. I’m sick of my rude, nosy landlady; tiptoeing around to avoid her; living without hot water and heat at least several days out of every month, even though she just raised my rent. I’m sick of freezing cold winters; all those lost months spent indoors waiting for the return of pleasant weather. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m sick of it ALL.

Yep, I’m coming to the realization that the pace and tenor of this city just doesn’t suit me. I’m a California gal, who runs on California time, at California speed. I need more nature than the park can provide. I need sunshine, space, clean streets, some peace and quiet, please! I’m also realizing that I gave up a pretty lovely life back in Los Angeles – a beautiful little home in a picturesque hillside neighborhood; a foxy Volkswagen at the ready in my garage; my family close by.

It’s not that I didn’t appreciate these things before, I DID, but perhaps I have an even greater appreciation now that I’ve lived in Manhattan. I was always aware of, and very grateful for my extremely good fortune, which is probably why I never truly set the wheels in motion to live in another city, even though I thought about it for years. Sure, I daydreamed of giving San Francisco, Seattle, or Hawaii a go, but I never thought I’d actually have the guts to move or the wherewithal to successfully thrive outside of my hometown.

lavsnybandw

I never thought NYC was a place I’d ever live. In fact, I was quite sure it would “chew me up and spit me out.” Yet it called me. Once I began to explore the possibility, events unfolded rather effortlessly to move me cross-country. I needed to get out of my comfort zone, go somewhere completely different, and kick my life up a notch. I had a lot to prove, to myself mostly, about what I’m truly capable of. New York gave me that. She toughened me up and forced me hustle. I needed that swift kick in the pants and she delivered in spades.

But New York has also worn me out. I feel like I’ve aged 2 years for every one I’ve lived here. I’m tired. And lonely. I need some love, not another hard knock lesson. This city can light you up like a firework, make you feel as if you’re living the dream, and are the luckiest person alive just to be a part of it. It can also be harsh and unforgiving. New York doesn’t owe you anything. She’s not going to make it easy on you. She may even kick you while you’re down, if you’re not careful. Sometimes when you’re at your wit’s end, she might cut you some slack, but probably not for long. There are certainly many other friendlier places on Earth to live. New York is great if you: have money (and lots of it); thrive on chaos; require constant stimulation; are a workaholic; have ADD, a thick skin, and a high tolerance for other people’s suffering; don’t need a lot of space; can’t exist outside of epic urban habitats.

Perhaps I’m just too sensitive to live here. Maybe I want an easier life after all. Is that so wrong? I don’t want to struggle anymore. I don’t have to. I’m lucky. I can leave. I have a choice, a Plan B, a really awesome one at that.

It’s true, I let opportunities slip through the cracks. I had an abundance of good ideas that I didn’t follow up on. I chose to prioritize the needs of my clients, for the sake of making money, over the things that I’m really passionate about. I took the safer path and thought small. I lacked faith in my abilities. Often I didn’t have the energy, or the inclination, to compete in this cutthroat game. Maybe I could have taken greater risks, thrown more caution to the wind, but it ultimately goes back to the pace thing. I just didn’t have it in me, to do it all and devote myself 24/7. I want a life that’s about more than work.

I might’ve had it when I first moved here. There was a time when I was willing to do whatever it took to stay in New York. While living in my first apartment, I was suddenly given 25 days to move out and at that time, going back to LA simply was NOT an option. I wasn’t going to leave NY before I was ready. This was my dream. I wanted to build a life here. No one was going to take that away from me. Yeah, I had that drive at one point, but I lost it somewhere along the way. To be fair, I did try especially hard to make this work. I applied for hundreds of jobs. I worked at a vintage clothing boutique on Orchard Street (before it went out of business), as a home/office organizer, a photography assistant,  a stylist, a hand model, an executive assistant for several high-profile CEOs, all the while pursuing my own personal writing and photography projects. I explored lots of avenues, but nothing really stuck. I kept giving it more time, hoping all these irons in the fire would manifest into my “big break” if I could just be patient a little longer.

There was a time in NYC’s history when you could live in Greenwich Village as an artist and not have a job. You could just be an artist. What a revolutionary concept. It’s what people did and there was a community here to support that – in the 1920’s era of Edna St. Vincent Mallay and Dorothy Parker; in the 1950/60’s Beat Generation era of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan; and in the 1980’s “NY 500″ era of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring. It was a profoundly grittier Village then, but you could survive with a little help from your friends. Everyone: paint, write, perform, produce shows, make films, host salons; express yourself, tune in, drop out! But those scenes don’t exist anymore. When millionaire developers buy up nursing homes and low-income tenement buildings to erect glass box condo lofts for the mega-rich, and rent for a 300-square-foot shoebox can easily run you $2000 per month, how does anyone manage to live here without earning a six-figure salary?

can't afford to love ny

I did periodically re-evaluate, but the answer I kept receiving: “Give it another year. It’s not time to pull up stakes yet.” People would always tell me, “It takes at least a year to feel comfortable in NY. It takes at least 3 years to get your bearings. It takes at least 5 years to really establish yourself here.” And in the back of my mind, lingered this nagging question, “Yeah but, at what point do you read the writing on the wall and decide that enough is enough?”

2012 certainly fit that bill, serving as a huge mirror and provoking much reflection. The year kicked off with bang, when the guy I’d been dating unexpectedly had a New Year’s Eve freak out and broke up with me shortly after midnight. This coincided with the equally sudden passing of my landlord in his apartment downstairs and the unbearable stench of death that lingered in our building for months. Spring packed its own punches as I was hired and then subsequently fired from what I thought was my “dream job”. A series of nasty legal disputes, violations of privacy, and abusive threats turned my once comfortable apartment sublet into an intolerable source of stress. Thankfully, summer blessed me with a few desperately needed getaways to Kismet, Fire Island. And fall graced me with a trip to the rolling hills of Burgenland, Austria where the emphasis on fine wine, family, tradition, and luxuriating illuminated life’s paramount importances to me. Then of course, Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast in late October, yielding the biggest lessons of the year.

are you happy?

So, as a result of all this soul-searching, I’m finally clear on a few things: I want to be an entrepreneurial artist, not a corporate career gal. I want to have the time and means to pursue my passions: for food, drink, culture, and travel; research, writing, photography, and cartography. I want to live in a house, ideally close to the ocean, that reflects my personal design sensibilities. I want to travel and see the world. I don’t want to work multiple jobs that I have no vested interest in for some overpriced, cramped apartment that will never belong to me, and doesn’t afford the opportunity to venture much of anywhere else.

I want a creative, collaborative partnership with a compassionate, free-spirited man who values the balance of work and play; who desires true love rather than perpetual bachelorhood. Not too many New York men are looking for this with so many beautiful options at their disposal. (Yes, I chose that word on purpose.) Also, I don’t see myself raising a child here. The idea of walking down the streets of Manhattan with a baby, amidst this swirling chaos, scares the bejeezus out of me. (Not to mention, the schools are so expensive and competitive!)

New York certainly got its hooks in me good though. I definitely bought into the work driven, fast paced, single serving, hustle bustle. I may have even convinced myself that I’d be content building a life here for the long haul. But a part of me will always feel out of alignment with this place. You can take the gal out of California, but you can’t take California out of the gal. It’s where I come from and it’s a huge part of who I am. The Universe planted me there from the beginning for a reason.

There was a time when I equated going back to LA with failure. If that happened, it would mean I wasn’t strong/ambitious/talented enough to hack it in NY and I’d return to being all the things I’d left behind – single, isolated, bored, and complacent, again. But things have changed, I’ve changed. I’m the one who gives meaning to my experiences. I can choose to see this return as a new and exciting, completely different era, a clean slate. I’ve gained a much clearer understanding of who I am and what I want out of life. I’ve got this NY energy coursing through my veins now and I can put it to better use in LA. It’s simply impossible to go back to the way things were in the past.

So, does this mean I don’t love NY anymore? Hell no! Quite the contrary. Much like a love affair, you can love someone deeply and know that they’re not a good match for you, that you’re not long-term material, and your destiny lies elsewhere, impossible as it may feel to walk away. I can’t change the things I don’t love about NY, that’s just who she is, and I need to accept her, worts and all.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid to go back to LA. I am afraid to fall into old patterns and habits. I’m afraid to drive again. I’m afraid I’ll be filled with regret, miss NY, and feel as if I made a terrible mistake. I’m afraid I won’t be able to make my new career dreams come true or meet my ideal romantic partner there either. I’m afraid to go backwards, rather than forward.

It’s clear to me now that my biggest blocks about returning to LA are mental ones. It’s all a matter of perspective that I alone am responsible for. I choose my attitude, thoughts, and actions. YES, it is time to read the writing on the wall. Not just read it, but do something about it. I don’t need to fear this. I need to listen to my heart and let go of the things that are no longer serving my highest good! Life is too damn short. I have faith because, you know what? I trust myself and this change finally feels right…

make the jump

 **

Have you ever been guided to make a big move? Did you experience a series of AHA! moments that prompted you to change your life’s path? I’d love to hear your story, so please leave a comment below. If this post resonates with you, share with a friend, and be sure to SUBSCRIBE (in the top right hand corner of this page) so you can receive all my freshly pressed posts directly to your inbox when they go live every week!

Coming up next week: Living in New York is a lot like having a love affair…

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Culture, Dreams, Hollywood, New York City, Writing

My Hurricane Sandy Diaries: Part 2

THE AFTERMATH CONTINUES

Thursday November 1:

“What day is it anyway?” This is the question on everyone’s lips. This week has blended together into one excruciatingly tedious day of waiting for something to happen. Yesterday, fatigue overwhelmed me. Today, I’m getting fucking angry.

Still NO cell service. Searching, searching, searching. Useless. I hate feeling this disconnected. I’m craving news. I need to know what the hell is going on! The NYSE has power, but not the rest of Lower Manhattan? Undoubtedly, it’s important to send a message to the world that we’re not totally crippled here, but this is another perfect example of the divide between “the haves” and “the have nots” in this city. If you bear witness to the state of affairs above and below 39th Street, it’s impossible to ignore this disparity.

A whole world of electricity, information, warmth, and comfort exists above the power divide at 39th. People are going about their daily lives – talk/text/email, work, dine, shop, bathe – all the things in life that we typically take for granted. Downtown, it’s an entirely different story. News is being delivered through word of mouth. People are hungry and cold. Some have lost everything they own, others are trying to salvage what’s left. It looks like a war zone. People are in survival mode.

thedarkzone

There are fewer cars parked on my block today. Clearly more people have left. There’s a big moving truck idling in the street below. It’s the first of the month and someone’s moving out. Was that planned in advance or did they just decide to get the fuck out of here?

I admit, seeing that truck is planting a similar seed in my head, although things should eventually “return to normal”. But how long will that take? When will the grocery stores around here have food again? When will the shops and restaurants re-open? Am I gonna have to keep trekking Uptown every day? I really want to leave, but where would I go? This is not just a Manhattan problem, this is an East Coast problem. Honestly, if I had to make a choice today, I’d pack everything up and go back to Los Angeles tout de suite. Not that I can even get there! JFK and La Guardia are closed, their runways still under several feet of floodwater. No subway, no trains, no car. Grounded.

I should get outside, go for a walk, take the ‘hood’s pulse. Or maybe I should head back Uptown again. Let people know I’m alright. I doubt they’re too worried. I just feel so cut off from everything. I go Uptown, check in/charge up, get that media fix; I’m so grateful for that opportunity and my friend’s hospitality, but I just want to be at home. Being alone through all of this is no fun either. If I thought I was sick of being single before, I’m really over it now.

There’s this sweet Frenchman from Brooklyn that I met on OKC who’s been concerned about me throughout this ordeal. I want to meet him, but I’m not exactly in a dating frame of mind right now. I need take a shower first! He’s been so kind, texting to see how I’m doing, trying to keep my spirits up. It’s weird to be so intimate during a disaster with someone you don’t even know. Strange how you think about certain people in your life, and make every effort to keep in contact with them, and not others. Emergencies really test your relationships, put things in perspective. You learn where you truly stand. It’s fascinating to watch how people conduct themselves in trying situations. Some rise to the occasion, find extraordinary strength, stay positive in the face of adversity; others unravel at the seams. Under these circumstances, both reactions seem equally appropriate.

Guess I’m in a weird headspace today. I mean, last night wasn’t so bad, I made the best of it, but seriously, how long can this possibly go on? No one seems to have any answers. Having no power SUCKS! I’m trying to stay optimistic, but I’m pissed off! Life is basically par for the course Uptown, but here in The Dark Zone, we just fucking WAIT. Worrying, wondering, hoping. We’re living in limbo. Hello? Mayor Bloomberg! What are you doing about this? People need help on the Lower East Side!

sopo

The buses are so damn packed you can’t even get on them. It’s ridiculous. I just keep walking north until I find a couple that’s willing to share a cab with me. I show up unannounced, again, on Kristen’s doorstep and am welcomed with a big hug. I swear, what would I’ve done without her? They have hot water again, so I take one of the longest showers of my life. Heavenly! Almost better than post-Burning Man.

If I’m gonna go home again, I need to do it before sunset. It’s not safe to walk through the pitch-black streets of the East Village by myself. Can’t say I’m crazy about the idea of spending another night in the dark alone. Uptown it is.

Kristen offers to treat Matthew and me to dinner at a Brazilian restaurant and drinks at The Algonquin Hotel, to temporarily take our minds of things and have a little fun. I’m excited to enjoy a night out with my friends, but as we walk through Midtown, I feel like I’m in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Taxis honk, whizzing through the streets. All the neon signs are brightly lit. People are browsing stores, carrying shopping bags, chatting on cell phones. Life appears normal up here. But it’s not. NOT in The Dark Zone. Not even close! Does anyone have a clue what’s really going on below 39th Street? Do they even care?

It feels so lovely, going to dinner and being served; having a fancy cocktail with the ghosts of Dorothy Parker and The Vicious Circle; acting civilized for a spell.  But I must confess, I feel guilty. I’m so grateful for the escape, but most are not so fortunate. As I curl up in Kristen’s heated guest room under a heap of warm blankets, I can’t sleep, thinking about my neighbors spending yet another night in the cold darkness, and all the souls who lost their lives Monday night.

Friday November 2:

ConEd just announced that we’ll get power back in Lower Manhattan today? Please, please, please!

We take the dog for a walk and hit up Starbucks again. People no longer line the sidewalks, charging their cell phones and laptops. Word on the street is, the city cut power to these outlets to prevent “loitering”.

fbpost.coned

Today there are 2 food trucks, NYC Sweetery and Mexico Food, parked on the corner of E 7th & Ave A. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many people around. I’m struck by this wave of nausea as I walk by, so I decide to get a croissant. I ask how much I owe the lady, but she says, “No charge, courtesy of JetBlue.” (Thank you.)

I knock on the door of my neighbor who lives in the building next to mine. He’s the super there and I hope I can talk to him about re-lighting the boiler pilot so we can get some hot water going again. Do you need electricity for that too? I’m not sure. I’ve yet to see my landlady all week or I’d ask her. His mother answers and tells me he’s taking a nap. Good. I know he hasn’t slept in days. I tell her about the food trucks parked on the corner, but she doesn’t want any. “Other people need it more than I do”, she says.

Back in my apartment, there’s a knock at my door. My downstairs neighbor asks if I can boil a pot of water for her. She tells me she has no gas, no more food. She just wants to wash up. Of course, it’s the least I can do. She brings me a pot and while it boils, I clean out my cupboard, packing up all the food I have for her. I can easily get more. She’s living on social security and food stamps. When she returns, she’s so grateful she’s in tears. I tell her about the food trucks too, but she doesn’t want to partake either. “There’s someone who needs it more than I do”, is what everyone says. It humbles me to the core.

There’s a few hours of daylight left, so I’m going for a walk. I’m curious to see which businesses in the neighborhood might be up and running again. I’ll make a list and report my findings on FaceBook – residents need to know what’s available nearby, restaurants need the business. They’ve lost thousands of dollars this week alone. I’ll head towards that WiFi hotspot in Union Square that I heard about…

I wander the blocks between Avenue A and 1st, my beloved East Village streets, checking in with the locals to see how they’re faring, if they’ll be open tonight. When I get to Union Square, at least 100 telecom vehicles from all over the country are parked there. Cell reception is still super spotty. I try to type my neighborhood report into a status update, but it keeps crashing and I get frustrated. It’s getting cold, communicating is again proving futile, so I decide to just head home, feeling a little defeated.

I’m walking along 14th Street, when I suddenly see signal lights pop on at Union Square East. LIGHTS! I spin around, searching for a glimmer of recognition from other people on the street. Have they noticed? I yell, “STREET LIGHTS!” and point excitedly. I walk briskly east. No lights on 3rd Avenue. I have a few bars on my cell phone though, so I stop to post the news. As I look up, all the street lights simultaneously power on, in a wave down 3rd Avenue towards Houston. I run across 13th Street, happy dancing, singing, “POWER, POWER, POWER!”

fbpost.poweron.

Please, tell me the lights on 2nd Avenue are on. YES! I run to 1st Avenue. Green signal lights as far as my eye can see! Lights are on in buildings! Just like you’d expect of New Yorkers, some are happily chanting, “POWER!” at the top of their lungs, others are totally un-phased. I keep stopping to post updates. It quickly becomes my personal mission to spread joy. I smile at everyone, singing “my power song”, skipping through the streets. Most people smile back, yell in solidarity, and continue spreading the joy in my wake. It feels like – a miracle has descended from above!

I dart down Avenue A and see the lamps in Tompkins Square Park glowing that beautiful amber color. Skipping down the south side of the park, I encounter an excited little dog. I mimic the dog’s happy dance, cooing “we have POWER!” as I pet her affectionately. Her owner laughs and joins in.

I bust through my front door and discover all the lights are ON. Hallelujah! I walk through my place, expressing gratitude for every lamp, outlet, and gadget. I flip every light switch on and off, talk on the phone, fire up the computer, turn on the TV. Rapture! I whip up a celebratory hot dinner and watch friends’ joyful status updates pour in on FaceBook. Everyone is elated! But some are still without. We revel, but not too much, not wanting to rub it in. All night long, I have a new appreciation for every.little.thing. We’re back, New York City!

fbpost.peoplestillhurt.

Postscript: As monumental as it was to “get our power back”, the truth of the matter is, New York will never truly be back, in quite the same way, ever again. The story of Hurricane Sandy’s wrath was far from over after Manhattan’s Dark Zone regained most of its power on November 2, 2012. People continued to suffer without electricity, heat, hot water, garbage collection, and basic necessities, within just a few short blocks of my home, for weeks afterwards. Some people regained certain services, but not others, and there was simply no rhyme or reason to its restoration. In many places, particularly in the housing projects along Avenue D, the situation would get considerably worse before it got a little better.

The Lower East Side felt forgotten, and perhaps it was, because attention soon shifted to Staten Island and The Rockaways, and rightly so, I suppose. Watching that part of this tragedy unfold became a whole other heartbreak of epic proportions in the weeks and months following. And though that grief might’ve been briefly tempered by the bright spot of President Obama’s re-election on November 6, the Election Night energy of renewal and optimism was soon replaced by extraordinary anger and unbearable pain again, as many of New York and New Jersey’s coastal communities began feeling abandoned and insulted by the city/state/government response to their most urgent plight. Surprisingly, grassroots organizations like Occupy Sandy, powered purely by compassionate citizens and lacking in copious bureaucratic red tape, stepped up to lead a momentous recovery effort that Mayor Bloomberg’s office, FEMA, The Red Cross, and insurance companies seemed unable or unwilling to manage as successfully. The extraordinary efforts of The Occupy Movement and small, local community organizations gave people a glimmer of hope that they so desperately needed at the time, but sadly, even today, the devastation that Hurricane Sandy wielded continues, seemingly with no end in sight…

**

Where you on The East Coast during Hurricane Sandy? What was your experience? I’d love to hear your story, so please leave a comment below. If this post resonates with you, share with a friend, and be sure to SUBSCRIBE (in the top right hand corner of this page) so you can receive all my freshly pressed posts directly to your inbox when they go live every week!

Coming up next week: Part 3 of My Hurricane Sandy Diaries – the post-storm revelations that altered the course (and location) of my life…

**

Here are a few other poignant articles you may be interested in reading:

Outrage In The Powerless Zone: A Dispatch from Lower Manhattan by Christopher Robbins

The People Who Were Killed By Hurricane Sandy by Whitney Hess

Superstorm Sandy’s Impact on The East Coast

4 Comments

Filed under Culture, New York City

My Hurricane Sandy Diaries: Part 1

FRANKENSTORM

Monday, October 29, 2012:

Spent this past weekend preparing for the storm. Fridge stocked with food and bottled water – check. Flashlights, batteries, crank radio – check. Tape up the windows, cover the A/C units with blankets, place buckets under the leaky ceiling spots – check. Now, we wait.

fbpost.stormgrat.

You can feel the energy of something ominous approaching. The question is: how bad will it be? Is this simply another hyped up storm like Hurricane Irene, or the dreaded “Frankenstorm” of the century all the weathermen are predicting?!

irene vs. sandy

8 pm: The NYFD just pulled up, red lights flashing, beaming their headlights down the block. People are gathered in the middle of the street, snapping group photos on their cell phones. I’m annoyed, yet again, by the party-like atmosphere I’m witnessing down below. It seems juvenile and irresponsible when there’s a severe storm making landfall. But I feel like this pretty much every day, living in the East Village, in Alphabet City, the place where everyone comes to get drunk, woohoo at the top of their lungs, make a huge ass of themselves, and throw up on the sidewalk before going home.

fbpost.streetscene

8:30 pm: Curiosity gets the better of me and I go outside. I get a few feet beyond my doorstep when suddenly I understand what all the commotion is about. The East River is coming down the block! WHAT?! Avenue C is completely submerged. I’m just about to snap my own photo of this unbelievable sight when the power goes out. Everyone runs in different directions, screaming. It’s pitch black. I instantly hightail it back inside my building. Thanks to the glow of my iPhone flashlight app, I don’t have to climb the five flights of stairs back to my apartment in total darkness.

My phone starts blowing up with texts and calls from friends. “Are you alright?” Apparently, the news of what’s going on in my neighborhood looks scary. I learn there’s been an explosion at the ConEd plant on 14th St, just a few blocks away. My friend, Kristen, is concerned and wants me to come Uptown. They still have power. She offers to jump in a cab and come get me. I’m torn, but I think I want to stay home. I can ride out the night. I continue to talk and text, feeling like I want to stay connected to people, but then sense it might also be wise to conserve battery power. Who knows how long the electricity will be out? I keep pacing back and forth, peering out the windows, monitoring the situation down below and debating whether to stay or go, as I watch the river water creep up to and then past my doorsteps towards Avenue B. Too late now. How high will the water rise? I’m on the top floor, so there’s no way it can reach me. Right?

fbpost.streetchaos

Sure enough, the water eventually begins to recede. My friend texts me, “The worst is over. Everything will be back to normal soon.” If only he knew…

Tuesday, October 30, 2012:

I wake up to the discovery that my phone is now useless. Apparently, all the cell towers are down and searching for a signal all night has completely drained the battery. I can’t communicate with anyone. No power = no phone, no internet, no heat, no hot water. I have a strong feeling I should get out of this neighborhood.

I decide maybe it’s wise to take Kristen up on her offer after all and go stay at her place. The cats will be fine. I’ll leave them plenty of food and water. I pack a bag of clothes and as much food as I can carry, knowing it will all spoil if left here. I begin walking uptown along 1st Avenue.

There are no buses or subways running. No power anywhere for blocks. Tons of people are out, some merely strolling for a bit of fresh air, others clearly frantic to get the hell out of dodge ASAP. I walk for a good 20 minutes trying to hail a cab, but no one stops. Around 16th Street, I resign myself to walk all the way to 40th Street if necessary and just take my time. What choice do I have? I stick my arm in the air once more, when suddenly a cab pulls over with 3 women already in the back seat. He asks me where I’m going, then nods yes. I climb in the passenger seat.

Cabs are priceless, as they are now the only source of transportation. People line the streets everywhere, arms in the air, trying to flag one down. I feel so grateful to be in a car, as we pass by dozens of people with desperate looks on their faces. The cabbie says he came to work today from Brooklyn, even though it’s his day off, knowing that people would need help. He stops to let 2 women out of the back seat, but doesn’t ask for payment. We all pay what we can. Thank you, cabbie angel. You’re a lifesaver.

fbpost.cabbies.

I show up on Kristen’s doorstep unannounced, but she’s relieved to see me. We spend the day watching NY1, then a Louis CK comedy special, in an attempt to lighten the mood. Soon, we crash for a nap; mentally, emotionally, exhausted. Matthew comes over in the evening and we cook a big meal from all the food I brought. We drink a great bottle of wine and have an enjoyable evening, all things considered. Also, priceless today –  my amazing friends.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012:

Kristen and I head out into the streets of Midtown East to walk the dog and discover tons of people sitting on the sidewalks, plugging their cell phones and laptops into the power outlets underneath every lamp post and tree. Craving coffee, I pray Starbucks on 42nd Street is open. They’re in fact serving hot drinks and food to the masses, though mostly, the place is packed with disheveled New Yorkers, hovering over the power outlets. What did we do before all this technology? Digital communication is clearly a critical priority.

fbpost.halloween

I should get some cash while I’m up here. Without electricity, there’ll be no banks open, no ATM functioning south of here. Chase Bank has graciously plugged in several surge protectors around their branch lobbies. More circles of people sit, huddled on the floor, around the power.

fbpost.whereabouts

Rested, caffeinated, and fed, I head back down into what people are now referring to as “The Dark Zone”. Thankfully, the buses are running again, and for free, for the next several days. I squeeze myself in, and count my lucky stars that I’m able to get home without a cab or a 36-block walk.

nymagpostsandy

The East Village is a ghost town. It’s shocking to witness this desolate New York. Most businesses are shuttered, save a few who are serving hot coffee and a bit of food if they’re fortunate enough to have gas or propane. A couple of churches are open. Tompkins Square Park and all of the community gardens are closed, huge tree limbs strewn about. The big, old, beautiful willow trees of the LES Ecology Garden and La Plaza Cultural have been uprooted and now lay on their sides.

A few parents walk around trick or treating with their kids. They look weary, but it’s sweet to see them making an effort to preserve Halloween. Residents gather on stoops, trading information, waiting for developments, looking like zombies. Many haven’t been able to sleep. If the power comes back on and their basements are still flooded, fires could start. They have to be ready to kick those pumps on at a minute’s notice. Everywhere, people are clean up mode – bailing water out of their cars with cups, stacking up garbage, laying soaked belongings out to dry.

fbpost.evobservations

All along Avenue C, friends and family, employees and owners alike, pitch in to help. Looks like everyone associated with Zum Schneider, the German beer garden on the corner of 7th, is there lending a hand. Luckily, they and a few other establishments have generators to pump the water out – another priceless item. The constant hum and smell of gasoline fills the air for blocks. I see one fireman chatting with the guys who run The Wayland, one of my favorite neighborhood bars on the corner of C & 9th. Other than that, there are no city or government agencies anywhere in sight. I do spy a large group from Occupy Wall Street conducting a volunteer meeting as I walk by and I can’t help but acknowledge who’s really out here, walking their talk, being of service to this community.

I’m floored by the magnitude of it all. It’s a totally different world down here. The difference between Uptown and Downtown – day and night.

***

Coming up next: Part 2 of My Hurricane Sandy Diaries – The Aftermath Continues.

Don’t wanna miss it? SUBSCRIBE (in the top right hand corner of this page) so you can receive all my freshly pressed posts directly to your inbox when they go live every week!

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, New York City

You say tomato, I say tomahto

Tomatoes, tomates, tomatillos! The city’s farmers’ markets are officially bursting at the seams with more varieties of tomatoes than I can possibly count, making this the perfect window of opportunity to sample much more than your garden variety fruit, and experiment with a few of those recipes you’ve squirreled away. To make the utmost of this short-lived season, here’s my quickie guide to all things tomato-y, while supplies last!

First up, New Amsterdam Market presents:

TOMATO FESTIVAL 
Sunday, August 26
12:00PM-4:00PM
South Street between Beekman Street and Peck Slip

FSNYC’s annual Tomato Fest returns to New Amsterdam Market for tastings of 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and the inaugural Great Tomato Un-Cookoff. A number of regular New Amsterdam Market vendors will feature tomato-centric items, including Jersey tomato ketchup from First Field, tomato focaccia from Hot Bread Kitchen, white bean gazpacho from Brooklyn Bean Company, and more. At 1:00PM, Spicy ‘n Sweet will hold a tomato canning demonstration at their stall so you can learn how to preserve summer’s bounty at home yourself. Click these links for all the juicy details and to purchase your tickets in advance.

Next on the vine, Northern Spy Food Co.’s serves up:

FOUR COURSE TOMATO DINNER
Tuesday, August 28
511 East 12th Street, East Village, 10009
$50 per person

To celebrate the peak season of the tomato, the all-star summer fruit par excellence, Northern Spy is hosting a dinner that will present it in all kinds of clever and tasty ways from savory through sweet. Seats for this dinner will be offered through their website’s reservation system.

Awesome food & drink culture daily e-newsletter, Tasting Table, has also assembled a pretty slideshow of the gorgeous heirlooms and 5 super delish recipes for tomatoes in condiment, salad, sandwich, pasta, and salsa form, that you can easily prepare at home.

And finally, here are few of my favorite tomato recipe finds from my favorite new social media obsession, Pinterest:

cold tomato soup via The New York Times

tomato basil tart via Sunshine and Smile

grilled avocado with herbs & cherry tomatoes via Chimera Obsura

baked shrimp with tomato & feta via Canadian Family

 

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, Events, Food, New York City, Photography, Travel, Workshops