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.

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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

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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…

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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.

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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”.

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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!”

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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!

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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…

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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…

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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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Time Out, Take Stock

time-out(First drafted in October 2012)

It’s official. I’m in a serious artistic rut. Battling some painfully persistent photo/writer’s block here. My perfectionism has gotten the better of me. I’ve made procrastination my new art form. The voice in my head is a relentless, critical taskmaster. I am frustrated. I am irritated. I am at my wit’s end.

I know I need to do certain tasks, but the thought of tackling them just makes me wanna take a nap. I hurt my back recently, and even though I was in constant pain and could barely walk, I had trouble giving myself permission to rest and heal. I kept feeling like I should work and “at least be doing something” if I was going to “lay around on my ass all day”. Not really a great mindset to encourage creativity. In my heart, I know I need to just sloooow doooown, but I can’t bring myself to do it without reproach. I am my own worse enemy, critic, and naysayer. I utter things to myself that I’d never allow anyone else get away with. Why?

procrastination-640It’s a challenge, being a freelance creative, a one-woman show. You’re not only an artist who’s supposed to deliver the goods in a fresh, innovative, and timely manner, but you’re also the CEO, responsible for running the operations of your entire business. Unless you can afford to hire a support team, you’re your own personal assistant and bookkeeper, responding ASAP to near constant inquiries, calls, and emails. Research; budget; hunt down payment for months old invoices. Schedule your life in between your work commitments; search for upcoming gigs, a full-time job in itself. Much time and energy is spent in pursuit, often with little or no pay off.

Not to mention these days, you’re also marketing manager and tech support. Shoot, convert, organize, edit, process, retouch, design, backup. Maintain a website and a blog; update them consistently with the new content. Install the latest software; make sure it all functions seamlessly. Plug into social media: FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Foursquare, Instagram, so you are “liked” and “shared”. Attract “friends” and followers. Build a list and write a newsletter. Get the word out about what you’re doing, so you can maintain constant interest in your “brand”. Post, tweet, pin, check-in, hangout; repeat, ad nauseam. Don’t forget to be creative! Wake up and do it all over again tomorrow, weekends too, so you can pay the bills and eat this month. Exhausting!

I keep having the same conversation with my creative friends as many of us wonder, “Why I am spending hours upon hours doing this? Is it really doing any good?” Most of us do these things because we’re so passionate about what we’re making and saying that we’d do it anyway, regardless of whether anyone is actually paying attention, whether we’re getting paid for it, or any of this translates into future business for us. And people know this, which is why we’re frequently asked to do it for free.

artists don't work for free

Truthfully, if this is where my head is at, I just need to STOP for a while. Time out! Take stock. Assess. WHAT am I doing? Is this really what I WANT to be doing? Is there something I’d RATHER be doing? Where?

I suppose I could easily fill my blog with event announcements, videos, photos, whatever; something, anything, to keep my page current, my SEO optimized. I want to. I really do. I drive myself crazy thinking about it. Berating myself. I lose sleep over it:

“How hard is it to just post something short and simple? It doesn’t really take that much time. I seem to post links to articles, videos and photos, thoughts du jour on my timeline and vision boards, right? I easily waste hours doing relatively nothing on those time suck sites. I have an extraordinary archive of photography, already in my collection; years of work, just ripe for the uploading. I have ideas coming out of my ears (and piles of notepads and paper scraps to prove it). Just do it already!”

Ugh. Shut up, ego. What does the voice of sanity say? Let it go. Fuck it! Even if my last post sits there, staring me in my face daily, unchanged in my Safari Top Sites, as a reminder of my “laziness”, and everyone loses interest.

remind myself

I know I don’t want to just pack my feed with fluff. I don’t want to fill it with things that other people have written or created. After all, is it about quality or quantity? I DO want my site to be about my own original content, not someone else’s. My stats indicate that’s what my followers respond to the most anyway, and how people find Eye For Style most often, even from posts I wrote years ago.

I mean, really, what I need to do is get to the root of this mental block. I need to quit trying to make everything so damn perfect. All it does is create artistic paralysis – “if I can’t do it just so, I won’t do it at all.” This whole rigmarole makes me feel really lame as an artist. Hell, it makes me feel really lame as a person. I’m smart and talented. I’m not just making this work for myself. Just try, lady, even if it sucks.  Show up, stick with it, don’t give up!

I know how important it is to power through. Getting started is often the hardest part. If I just commit, and start to put one foot in front of another, things do usually start to flow, it’s true. There are also times when the best remedy is just to step back. Stare off into space and daydream, curl up for that nap, bust into a dance break, take a walk, read, breathe, “do nothing”. This is often when the magic happens – when I allow myself to relax.

At this stage of the game, living “the artist’s way” for many years now, I have come to understand this about myself: although I may not feel creative, right now, that experience is temporary. It is only a matter of time before I feel inspired again. I MUST create. I am compelled to, in order to feel good, to feel like myself. It’s what makes me tick. It’s why I get up in the morning. I can NOT turn this off. I don’t know any other way to BE.

creative is a way of life

Okay, so I’m in the thick of a transition right now. I think we all are actually. It is not a coincidence that so many people are experiencing profound change and upheaval, contemplating what they really want to be doing and being, as 2012 draws to a close. The energy of this year has been straight up funky from the get go! It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the pace of life we’re currently experiencing, what with all the instantaneous data that’s constantly available, right at our fingertips, begging to steal our attention away from the present moment. It’s okay not to know; to exist in a state of uncertainty for a while; to reflect on the path I’ve been on, and the road I want to take moving forward. It’s OKAY, okay?

I realize this “time out” is in fact giving me clarity, uncomfortable as I may be. I’m grateful for the time to just ponder and figure things out. My vision for the new direction I want to take my art/photography in IS in fact crystalizing. I’m actually excited about it! But I want to do it, not just talk about it anymore. That’s a huge factor in my frustration.

So, visualize. I’m ready to design my very own art studio, project lab, playground. YES, I love that vision! I’m ready to fully stock it with every tool and toy; utilize all this cutting-edge technology; explore new techniques; take my art to new heights. I’m ready to roll my multi-passions into one dynamic experiment in personal creativity. I’m ready to mix mediums; print photos on canvas; integrate paint & collage; craft textiles. I’m ready to fashion functional beauty and make some fucking statements!

These are very recent epiphanies. Thankfully, this new train of thought does inspire the hell out of me. I’m just experiencing some growing pains and evolving – as a human, a woman, an artist. I can indeed marinate in this for a little while longer. I know I need to simplify things. I’m aware there’s no such thing as perfection. I do want to share with my community. But, I’m also not going to rush it. I’ve got to let go of my time frame issues. I will not be bamboozled into believing the myth that I must “do it all”, 24/7, if I want to be successful. I will not subscribe to the glorification of busy!

glorification of busy

I create my life. I’m already a success. Creativity is not a competition. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Faster is not necessarily better. Comparing myself to others always gets me into trouble. Accumulating acquaintances does not equate to popularity. Money is not the most important goal. My work is a part of what I do, it does not define all that I am. People who support me will be there to enjoy my creations in whatever time frame they evolve.

I hereby make a promise to myself, to post again when I’m truly inspired to, and not a minute sooner. I will craft a game plan so that I can enjoy the process and live life at a speed that suits me. I will take action steps in pursuit of my goals, working in a way that’s in alignment with my constitution. I give myself permission to take stock, to change course, to create, not to create; to be gentle with myself, knowing full well that the ideas will flow, the execution will follow, in an authentic way, in right timing. So be it!

zayn malik quote

Phew! Glad I got that out of my system. I take a lot of these epiphanies for granted now that I’ve been sitting with them for several months. Reading back on it allows me to witness how much I’ve changed in a short period of time. More on that later….

I’m curious, what are you fed up with? Are there any areas of your life where you feel out of alignment, or could benefit from “loosen the reins” and cutting yourself some slack? What do you give yourself permission to do?

I’d love to hear from you, so please write a comment below. If this resonates with you, share with a friend! Maybe there’s a take away in it for them too. 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 1 of my Hurricane Sandy Diaries – the Frankenstorm that put everything into perspective…

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Hello Again

Hello, my friend, hello. Just blogged to let you know…

No, this post is not going to be about Neil Diamond, though his song did pop into my mind as soon as I sat down to write this for some reason. (Yes, I AM a 70’s child).

So, you may or may not have noticed that it’s been a while since my last blog post (= understatement). I admit it – I completely and utterly fell off the blog-wagon. This was not just some brief hiatus, or your average dry spell. No. This was full-on radio silence, emergency drought conditions, one loooong bout of absolutely nada. Could you hear the crickets?!

Yep, I was in a serious rut – artistically, personally, professionally. I was in the thick of battling some painfully persistent photo/writer’s block. My perfectionism got the better of me. I turned procrastination into my new art form. I lost my way and forgot what was important to me for a while.

I could’ve easily packed this blog with posts about other people’s events, cool music videos, pretty photos, timely quotes, whatever; something, anything, in an effort to keep this page current, my SEO “optimized”. I wanted to. I really did. I thought long and hard about it. (Agonized is more like it.) But I didn’t. I just LET IT GO. And my last post has sat there ever since, staring me in my face daily, unchanged in my Safari Top Sites, as a reminder of all that I “haven’t been doing”.

That said, I’m actually proud to report that I resisted the urge to merely fill this feed with fluff & stuff, instead opting to wade through the extreme uncomfortable-ness of taking a near blackout break from social media, to just sit with it for a stretch. I needed to get quiet; a time out, to take stock. I needed to figure out why I felt stumped and what the blocks were about. I needed to get clarity about what I truly want to be doing with my life, and where I want to be doing it. I needed to make some BIG LIFE CHANGES.

I mean, at the end of the day, is it about quality or quantity? I decided to choose quality and take some time to re-assess what I want this space to be, for me AND for my readers.

This post is my way of letting you know that I have stumbled through that tunnel of contemplation and “not knowingness”, only to come out the other side refreshed, re-focused, and ready to hit the ground running. Yep, I’m back! Better and stronger, new and improved, WITH a game plan. YES!

Much change has occurred in the last 7 months. Luckily, I kept writing, even when it felt like pulling teeth, even though I kept it to myself. Now I feel like it’s finally the right time to share what happened with you – and I’m so jazzed to do that!

WARNING: Eye For Style’s blog content is going to take a bit of a shift from here on out. It’s going to get a little more personal for a spell. I’ve got some stories to tell; a few life lessons, epiphanies, and experiences I’d like to relate. Stories that I believe other creative, urban, spiritually minded types who are in passionate pursuit of discovering their life’s purpose will relate to.

DO NOT FEAR: Eye For Style will still continue to dish up all the awesome art, culture, food/drink, design, and travel content you’ve come to know and love. I could not be more dedicated to exploring all of these sweet treasures of life. It is an indelible part of who I am. It is simply in my blood to seek out maximum beauty and pleasure; to share my discoveries and tricks of trade, no matter where I may find myself. Keeping all these gems to myself is no fun! I will always love touting my favorites; sharing insider tips; making spot-on recommendations to keep other savvy souls like you “in the know” about the greatest offerings the best cities in the world have on tap. I will always love snapping photos, crafting words, and making my carefully curated findings look freaking pretty! None of this will change. In fact, I’m committed to even more original, quality content moving forward. Pinky swear.

But first, let’s catch up, dear friend. I fell off the radar and have some explaining to do. My bad. It wasn’t you, it was totally me. Allow me to share some stories about where I’ve been, so you know where I’m coming from, and where we’re going. I promise, these tales are worth sticking around for. (If you don’t think so, tell me. That’s what friends are for.)

That’s right, I’d like your feedback. Can you relate to any of my recent AHA! moments? Have you ever needed to take a time out and re-group? Please post a comment below. I’d love to hear from you. This might be cyberspace, but one of my favorite parts of the internet is the sharing and connecting we have the opportunity to do through this “world wide web” of ours.

Thanks in advance for your support and I look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the unfolding of my recent course correction. If something resonates, pass it along to a friend? Hopefully your friends will discover a take away tidbit too. 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!

With love,
Carly

Well, maybe it’s a little about Neil Diamond:

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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

 

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Ice Cream Dreams

With this luscious breeze in the air, feels as though the seasons are a changin’, but luckily there are still oodles of opportunity this weekend to get your fill of summer’s favorite dessert: ICE CREAM! (Did you just scream?)

Here’s the scoop:

Saturday, August 18, Dylan’s Candy Bar will be giving away FREE scoops from noon – 4 p.m at their flagship location, 1011 3rd Avenue @ 60th Street.

Sunday, August 19, New Amsterdam Market will host their 3rd Annual Ice Cream Sunday, from noon – 4pm, directly next to South Street Seaport.

This afternoon-long fundraising event will benefit NAM’s ongoing projects while bringing together the most eclectic and seasonal northeast ice cream makers, each of which will create up to four unique ice creams specifically for the market, using only seasonal and responsibly sourced ingredients. Save room to sample creamy creations by:

Gabrielle Carbone of THE BENT SPOON
Joseph Roselli of DREAMSCOOPS
Amy Miller of EARLY BIRD COOKERY
Tracy Obolsky of ESCA
Keren Weiner of  IL BUCO
Ashley Whitmore of MARLOW & SONS
Fany Gerson of LA NEWYORKINA
Catherine Oddenino of LUCA & BOSCO
James Distefano of ROUGE TOMATE
Forbes Fisher of STEVE’S ICE CREAM
Ben Van Leeuwen of VAN LEEUWEN ARTISAN ICE CREAM

EARLY BIRD ADMISSION – Starts 12pm
$30 for 10 Tasting Tickets, redeem for 10 miniature cones

GENERAL ADMISSION – Starts 1pm
$20 for 8 Tasting Tickets, redeem for 8 miniature cones

AT THE DOOR: $35 for Early Bird, $25 for General Admission

Purchase advance tickets here and use promo code EDIBLEICECREAM12 for a $5 discount.

Monday, August 20, The Brooklyn Kitchen will host an Ice Cream Making Class, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm, with their resident everything dessert instructor, Megan Fitzroy, Owner/Chef of Fitzroy Specialty Cakes, and former pastry chef at Torrisi Italian Specialties. She’ll teach you the science behind making perfect ice cream as you sample a slew of specialty flavors, and receive basic recipes to experiment with at home.

I’d also recommend an any time visit to new kid on the block, Fresco Gelateria on 2nd Avenue in the East Village, which serves up their family’s recipe for traditional Greek yogurt-y gelato. The space is beautifully designed. Its simple chic, white-washed space invites you to linger in nooks and on comfy benches as you people watch from the large bay windows. They make some really unusual flavors like rosewater, mastic, and goat cheese, and some road-less-traveled flavors like passionfruit, peanut butter, and biscotti. Not-so-standard vanilla bean, chocolate, and peppermint are also on hand to keep the less adventurous very pleased indeed.

So, treat yourself to a double scoop and happy lickity licking!

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