October

Hi!

I’m back.

Here’s a picture of a beautiful tree I saw in Prospect Park on my run yesterday morning, as an apology for being gone for so long:

It should really come as no surprise to you that I love October. It’s the start of fall, the month of birthdays, the month before November, which contains Thanksgiving, which means it’s almost December, which means Christmas is right around the corner! And also pumpkins. And hot cider. And changing leaves.

Funny story about me and changing leaves: Legend has it that on a long ago fall/winter holiday trip to visit the Georgia family, I once looked out the window at the piles of brown, crunchy leaves and the bare limbs they left behind in the yard of one of my relatives and asked why all the trees were dead. In my defense, I grew up in Florida where seasons weren’t really a thing. And further to my case, I don’t actually remember this happening.

This lovely fall weekend was just as chill as the crispness beginning to creep into the air (too much?). After a comedy of cancelled babysitting errors, I ended up hanging out on the Upper West Side with my darling sister both Friday and Saturday nights. I caught up with her on the sidewalk in from of her apartment after work on Friday, and we quickly realized we’d been on the same subway train. In the same car. Within one set of doors of each other. I choose to see this as a funny coincidence, rather than a stark commentary on the isolation and self-absorption of New Yorkers on public transit. Then on Saturday night, we both showed up at the movie theater in the same shirt, under similar khaki-colored jackets.

Today, in different outfits and having traveled separately, we ate Absolute Bagels in a park dedicated to people who died on the Titanic. An elderly basset hound attempted to slobber all over us, and we accidentally almost stole the only sun-drenched bench from a lady with her granny nanny. With my approaching quarter-life crisis, I was glad not to be the oldest one there. That honor definitely went to the dog.

October, man. How great it is.

To my sister, on her graduation day:

It’s hard to be certain, but I’ve always thought that my earliest memory comes from when I was 2 years, 3 months, and 2 days old. I was with David Patrick, in Toys R Us, picking out a stuffed animal for my brand new baby sister.  It’s just a flash of an image and emotion, but I’m pretty sure I was thrilled and scared and curious about this new creature that was going to be a part of my world for the rest of our lives.

I also remember your first day of kindergarten at Hillcrest. I couldn’t wait to have you at school with me to share all of the experiences that I was starting to love.

And I even remember a silly story you told me a few weeks ago about two small children you saw outside of a class, the older girl trying to convince the younger one that it was going to be fun, and not scary, and “that it just wouldn’t be the same without [her] enthusiasm and beautiful dancing.”

Do you see where I’m going with this?

We’ve talked about it before, and I think that no one you meet later in your life can really know you in the same way as someone you grew up with does. That’s not so say that they’re doomed never to know you as well or that they can’t come to know you even better–it’s just different when you’re developing into the person you’ll become right alongside someone else. And because of everything we’ve been through together, sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that you’re your own person and not just an extension of me. But over the course of the last two years since my own graduation in particular, I think I finally get it. I’ve watched you grow, and change, and mature, and achieve things that I could only dream of. Heck, in the last couple of weeks alone, you’ve finished college, won a department prize, been chosen for Phi Beta Kappa, had a job literally created for you, gotten an A on your thesis, and fought off real estate dementors long enough to find a great apartment. And for all of that, and so much more, I am incredibly proud of you.

As wonderful as this time is for you, I’m pretty sure that you’re going to encounter more than a few moments over the course of today, and the next week and perhaps even longer, that feel overpoweringly bittersweet. Because no matter how exciting it is to begin a new phase of your life, it also means having to leave behind the one that came before. And to that end, I must borrow from A. A. Milne: “How lucky [you are] to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  Try to keep that in mind, if you can.

There will be moments when you’re sad. There will be moments when you wish you could turn back time and do it all over again. But your life is a collection of memories and experiences that is ever growing and always moving forward no matter how hard you wish, even if just for a moment, you could go back. And that’s the problem with life, little sister–you can only live it once.

Real life (let’s not go crazy and call it “adulthood” or anything) is beautiful and terrible. Disappointing and wonderful. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s the hardest thing you’ll have to do. But (Robert Frost this time…) “in three words I can sum up everything that I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

So when the dust settles, when the pomp and the circumstance has quieted, when it feels like everything is over, that’s actually when it begins. There’s a whole great big world out here just waiting for you, and I can’t wait to share it with you, your enthusiasm, and your beautiful dancing.

Congratulations and good luck!

Love always,

Your sister

I love New York

It’s a somber day in New York. You know why. I don’t have to explain it.

And I’ve gone back and forth on whether I wanted to write anything today about today, and I decided, 5 minutes after I should’ve gone to bed, that I do.

To me, New York is today as it’s always been. Because when I first saw the skyline, it was already missing its two tallest towers. I think that’s why September 11th has been a hard for me in the years I’ve lived here. Quite honestly, I don’t know how I am supposed to feel. Am I allowed to feel sad, I wonder, if I wasn’t here when it happened? If the New York I have always known remains, on the surface, unchanged? If I was not directly affected by the tragedies of that infamous Tuesday morning?

I was 13 years old, an eighth grader at Conway Middle School. Oddly enough, it was a day we were supposed to be working on our community service project–making quilts to donate to needy children. The school was undergoing renovations at that time, and we weren’t in our usual classroom. It was in Mrs. Nix’s portable that we first heard rumors that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York. At first, I thought it was the kind of small, recreational airplane like my dad flies, and that it had been some kind of terrible accident. But of course, that was not the case.

I can’t remember everything about that day. Certain images remain with me–my quilting fabric (it had cartoon dinosaurs on it); the iconic shots of the smoldering towers before they fell; hearing about D.C. and Pennsylvania; the rows and rows of plastic, blue cafeteria chairs re-appropriated for the parents who came to take their children home early. Mine didn’t come, and I remember thinking that it was ok, because I honestly don’t think I was that afraid. Had I understood the enormity of the implication on the country, the world, history, and the future, I might’ve been. But I was 13 years old, and these places and these horrible events seemed far, far away. So I didn’t.

The Attack on America became a teachable moment for my fellow 8th graders and I. Our American History teacher developed a current events project for us to work on for the rest of the semester. Because of this, I ended up saving every front-page section of the Sentinel from September 12th until the special coverage started to fade away. The three-ring binder is still on the shelf in my room at home, full of clippings, pictures, and graphics neatly organized in page-protector sleeves that was the end product of the project. I last looked at it a few years ago, and while it’s bizarre and somewhat grotesque, I suppose I’m glad I have it.

The 8th grade Spring Break trip to Washington, DC, was nearly cancelled the following March, and I remember saying, probably to my family at dinner following a meeting for concerned parents held in the school library, “If we can’t go on this trip, then the terrorists are winning” (and, even though I was by then 14, it was almost entirely without irony). But the trip, though about half its usual size, was on, and I remember getting goosebumps at every monument we went to in our extremely short time there.

It was a little over a year after the attacks that I first visited New York. We got to come up for Thanksgiving Weekend because my mom’s company was producing the opening number of the parade. I was ecstatic about the opportunity. I had these romantic notions that it was going to be the place for me. And it turns out I was right.

I’m pretty sure I fell in love with this city that November nearly 9 years ago. And how I feel about it will forever be tied to the fond memories I have of those first brisk, fall weekends I spent here over the course of high school. One of our first nights, 40-odd floors above Times Square, was almost entirely spent looking out the window, consumed with a combination of wonder and sensory overload.

We did visit to Ground Zero and Trinity Church. I remember the chain link fence overflowing with messages and photos. I remember being outraged at other tourists having cheerful pictures of themselves taken in front of that fence. I remember looking up and seeing nothing but empty sky. Did I have any idea, then, that 10 years later, I would work only a few blocks away?

I’d like to think, however, that the greater tribute we paid to both those who died there and those who served in the recovery was not in the trip to the site itself. It was in the long walks down 7th avenue, stopping at what felt like every Starbucks we passed so someone or another of the group could get an espresso. It was in the rambles through Central Park. Our first visit to Lincoln Center. Climbing the grand stairs to Met. Seeing my first Broadway musical. Dinner at La Caridad. The view from the top of the Empire State Building. It was in every step we took with love in our hearts that showed we would never forget the sacrifices made on September 11, 2001, and every day since.

There are times when I wish I lived somewhere else. I wish my rent wasn’t nearly half my paycheck. I wish that people wouldn’t shove me on an overcrowded sidewalk, or that I didn’t have to see rats on my commute to work. I wish that the grocery store aisles were big enough to push a cart through, and that I had a car to drive the groceries home in. I wish that an hour of travel meant I’d gone sixty miles, not ten.

But then I ride the Q train across the Manhattan Bridge at dusk, with the soft evening light casting a golden glow on the buildings of Lower Manhattan, when the Statue of Liberty appears between the supports of the Brooklyn Bridge, and I can’t help but think that I love this goddamn town.

And no matter where I go, or what I do, for the rest of my life, nothing will mean more to mean than the years I’ve lived here.

So I guess what I’m feeling is love. Love for this city, for the opportunities it’s given me,  for the people it’s lost.

I felt the earth move…

As we New Yorker prepare for Hurricane Irene, I thought I’d take this opportunity (while we still have power) to tell you about this week’s first natural disaster.

If you’ve ever been to a barbecue at my house, chances are, you’ve heard The Fire Story. And The Flood Story.

Well, here’s one for the ages: The Earthquake Story.

Allow me to set the mood.

 

Tuesday started out, as many strange days do, completely normally. I got a bunch of work done in the morning, went to the gym, came back, ate lunch, set my dirty dishes aside at my desk, and kept reading whatever it was that I was reading. Shortly before 2pm, I decided it was time to clear my the bowl off of my overcrowded desk and take it to the dishwasher (a machine, not a person) in the kitchen. And hey, while I was at it, why not pick up a handful of the chocolate-covered pretzels I had stashed in the fridge? So there I was, standing by the fridge, when all of the sudden, I felt a little wobbly. At first, I was thinking that maybe I’d worked out too hard and not eaten enough lunch or something. But then I thought about it, and that didn’t seem right. But there is a big air compressor thing in a closet by the kitchen, so I thought maybe that was rumbling. Then I started to hear a bit of a ruckus in the hallway.

Now, my office is pretty small. And most of the people who work there are pretty composed for the most part. I heard one of the editors exclaiming about her office shaking (she’s one of the crazier ones, in my opinion, so I thought for sure she was overreacting or kidding) and she was asking other editors if they felt anything, if they were taking their purses, and if they were evacuating.

At this point, I was skeptical, but slightly alarmed, and as I came out of the kitchen (which is in the interior of our floor) I saw everyone out in the hallway in nervous little clusters, all with their purses. HR and the Office Managers were having a tete a tete while the others told stories of what had moved in their offices (plants, a chair, a tv, and so on). Our office is very close to Ground Zero, so I was thinking maybe something related to construction had gone wrong, and I’m sure a terrorist attack wasn’t far from some people’s minds.

The building managers came over the fire drill speakers saying only that if we chose to evacuate, please do not use the elevators. Seeing as I was the only one not clutching my valuables, I ran over to my desk, passing empty office after empty office. Against my better judgment, I left the pretzels at my desk and dashed back to the front. At that point, I got the following text from one of my roommates (who works a few blocks from my office):

It’s true. We felt an earthquake. Our exasperated HR guy exclaimed that we weren’t getting enough information from the building managers, so we were going to evacuate.

Outside, we assembled at our emergency assembly point in the park, which appeared to be a mix of business people who fled, and tourists, who stared, took photos, and continued to ride by in an endless parade of double decker tour buses. Twitter was working, but texts and phone calls weren’t going through, so I whipped out my phone and started giving people updates that I saw online (5.8 magnitude, centered near Richmond, OMG, people in our Toronto office felt it as well!).

I looked around for my boss and didn’t see her, but I knew she had come into the stairwell behind me. When she showed up a few minutes later, it turned out she went straight to the shoe store on our block to buy comfortable flats, in case transit went awry and she had to walk a long distance to get home (lessons she’s learned from both blackouts and 9/11, apparently). We also couldn’t find her boss, but assumed she went to the gym (because she’s so efficient and would likely do something like that).

Fifteen minutes of standing around led to us just getting hot and cranky, so at that point, the elevators were operational in our building, and we all decided to go back inside. Some people were still really freaked out and nervous, but I thought the whole thing was more bizarre than scary, especially once we knew what had happened. My other boss (not the one who went to buy shoes) was very nervous and unsettled that at one point I heard my first boss talking to her in her rational “Mom voice” trying to calm her down, which I thought was very sweet.

Meanwhile, no one knew where exactly my grandboss had gone, but she finally called from Hoboken! Apparently, she evacuated and immediately went to the train station to get back to New Jersey.

On the way home that evening, I thought I smelled that natural gas-esque smell that I’ve always associated with the Earthquake ride at Universal that absolutely terrified me as a child, but then I told myself I was imagining it. Just like I was imagining the aftershocks the next afternoon (that I later realized were my own quivering legs after too many squats at the gym!)

And then I found $5.

Not really, but it was a weird, weird day. And now we’re hours away from a hurricane in New York. WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?

Typewriter

I finally have a computer that will stay on for more than 10 minutes at a time! As you might imagine, a computer that restarts itself every 7 to 10 minutes makes blogging pretty difficult.

And I named it “Typewriter.” Just to be subversive.

I actually have a typewriter in my closet in Orlando. It came from my grandparents’ house in Georgia, and for a brief time (perhaps it was 8th grade) I was writing a story on it, told from the multiple perspectives of a family who owned a campground, also in Georgia. I kept the pages in a 2-pocket folder that I decorated at school several years previously, and I made corrections–using a purple pen that I’m fairly certain I still have–while riding the (short) bus to school. The ink ribbon was really dry, even from the beginning (on account of it being from the Olden Days) so once we went to a typewriter repair shop (Orlando people, maybe you know the one–it’s the only building left on that stretch of Mills where the mill used to be that’s now supposed to be developed into business suites and condos, but nothing’s happened in several years). All I remember was that it seemed like the shop was owned by hoarders, the man working there was not very friendly, the ink was really expensive, and we left right away.

And people wonder why typewriting is a lost art. Maybe if neat, friendly gentlemen ran the typewriter repair shops of the world, all those Underwoods and such would still be in wider use.

Typewriters remind me of hipsters, and hipsters remind me of Brooklyn, which is where I spent most of this weekend, save for a jaunt to the far reaches of the Upper East Side to babysit. On Summer Friday (we all had half days of work/training), Hannah, Zena, and I got fro-yo in Park Slope, then spent an hour and a half people (read: baby) watching in Prospect Park. We made it home just in time to start cooking dinner before the Heavens opened and unleashed an all-powerful, out-of-nowhere thunderstorm. Saturday, I balanced out babysitting and laundry/chores with brunch and wine on the roof (not at the same time, of course). Sunday was equally full, in a relaxed way. The roomies’ former roomie was in town for a bridal shower they were throwing for her, so after bfast, coffee, and lots of lazing about the living room with the Times, we ventured over to Boerum Hill to look for bridal jewelry at some adorable boutiques. In what could’ve been a montage dance scene from a lady romcom, we got trapped in a shop by another sudden downpour, and half of us watched the other half try on fancy clothes. The only thing missing was a peppy one-hit wonder and score cards for us to rate the outfits as the velvet dressing room curtains were tossed aside.

The rain returned again in the evening, leading to a night of ordering in and watching 10 Things I Hate About You.

And then today, I woke up to what felt like an early October morning. Some people are sad that summer is ending, but I find the idea of the approaching fall kind of life-romantic. I may be the only one, however.

Jackson

A weekend in the life:

I got on the subway yesterday and heard yelling. This in and of itself was not that weird; it’s New York, after all. But after listening in and hearing “Stonewall!” and “Michael!” yelled back and forth, I determined that it was a father and son (probably less than 10 years old) at an impasse in what appeared to be “name famous Jacksons” contest.

Summer Friday this week was devoted to a trip to the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met. Hannah and I waited an hour and a half to get in, sneaking bites of granola bars from inside the pockets of our purse in the line. This epic line wrapped almost the entire southern half of the museum’s second floor. It wove through the Mesopotamian and related cultures rooms, ones that I had literally never been in in all the times I’ve visited the museum. The line’s placement may have been an underhanded scheme on behalf of those collections’ curators to finally force people to at least glance at their pieces, if only out of desperation and lack of cell reception in the depths of the building.

It was very crowded, and at one point, I felt the skirt of my dress get caught on something. I thought perhaps it had gotten stuck on someone’s bag or umbrella or who knows what. But then I looked down, and behold! A tiny three year old girl is lifting it up. Just add “peeping up my skirt” to the list of things that only adorable toddlers can get away with.

Today, the Columbia Summer Winds played our final concert of the season. We were in Washington Square Park, a popular hangout for downtown types. There was a flashmob by the fountain before we started, a dog ran into the flute section during the Percy Grainger portion, and park rangers asked the extremely understaffed percussion section to see our permit in the middle of the song. Yes, Ranger, we brought 80 people and chairs and intstuments and stands, and we don’t have the proper permits. Rude.

Summer Fridays

It is with a happy heart that I can now report that the three digit “heat dome”/”heatpocalypse” has momentarily passed, and we are safely back in the 80s and 90s. Yesterday was cloudly with occassional bits of rain (walking to the subway was like being in a really long, really boring, really straight line for a Disney theme park ride, where relief from the heat and humidity is sometimes delivered from above with a fleeting breeze from a fan spraying mist). But it was still hot enough that I saw an eldery couple in the playground fountain across the street from my apartment (the man was in a speedo, natch). Today, I audibly sighed when I walked out of my building because it was actually pleasant. My neighbor was walking his dog, and he kind of gave me a weird look, but I just said “good morning” and went on my merry way.

Apparently, several 10s of thousands of people in NYC have/had lost power at various points over the heakend (Heat+weekend? No? I can’t make that a thing?). As a helpful tip for dealing with this, Mayor Bloomberg advised setting one’s thermostat at 79 to save energy. I had ours at 82 or 83 for mmost of yesterday. You’re welcome.

Speaking of summer, I wanted to discuss Summer Fridays–the beloved Publishing tradition wherein I (and many others in my industry) get half days on Fridays during our (arbitrarily designated) “slower” season. My hours are normally 8-4 (we can pick between 8-4, 9-5, 10-6), but during the summer, I work an extra half hour Monday through Thursday and get off at 12:30 on Fridays (don’t be too outraged though, not counting our unpaid lunch hour, that’s only half an hour of freebie time on Friday, and I usually stay later M-Th if I have things to finish).

Most recently, I’ve used these blissful Friday afternoons to attempt another trip to North Carolina (my attempt was successful eventually, more on that coming soon to a theater near you) and to recover from the exercise  in sleep deprivation that was seeing the premiere of Harry Potter 7 Part 2 at midnight, as well as fight this dreadful plague summer cold that has ripped through my apartment (watch out, W, you’re next!). But I have had several fun outings with coworkers (for day drinking) and other activities.

If I had to pinpoint a quintessential Summer Friday (aka one I didn’t sqander watching an embarrassing number of episodes of The West Wing) it would actually be one of the first few, on which I had an epicnic (epic picnic? how about that one?) adventure with my darling sister.

We met downtown at my building and took the subway to Battery Park to catch the free ferry to Governor’s Island (one of New York’s most puzzling parks/public spaces) for a picnic lunch. I’m not sure if I’ve talked about it before (or maybe I told this to everyone who would listen during my History of the City of New York class senior year) but it’s the location where the 1st Dutch settlers landed in the 1600whatevers.  It also played a role in the Revolutionary War and served as an Army (and later, Coast Guard) post. So there’s an old fort there, and a bunch of old classy colonial buildings from those days, and then they decided to enlarge the island with land fill from the construction of the Lexington Avenue subway line. This island is an amalgamation of historical houses and creepy horror film tenements/housing projects (all now abandoned).

Now it’s home to art installations, a high school, Hipster Jazz Age lawn festivals, and free biking on Fridays. It was the latter that drew Hannah and I on that pleasant May day where we blissfully rode cruisers around a 1/2 fake island in the middle of the Upper Bay of New York. No matter how many times I go there, I can’t imagine myself finding it any less surreal.

But the weather was great, bikes are fun, and where else can you bike across the street river from the Statue of Liberty? (hint: probably nowhere. Except New Jersey).

Perhaps my favorite (slash the one that reflects most poorly on my biking skills) moment was when we were riding past the dock. There are signs that say you’re suppsed to get off your bike and walk across in front of the ferry (presumably so you don’t collide with a person). However, I severely miscalculated my stopping distance, and upon seeing that I was headed straight for a head on collision with a park ranger, I tried to ring the bell on my bike. It wasn’t working, and for some reason, the only thing I could think to do was silently try it over and over (in vain) while getting closer and closer to this park ranger. It didn’t occur to me until after I ran into the back of his leg that I could’ve called out “Hey! Watch out!” or something more helpful that silently flailing around with the broken bell. He apologized to me (park rangers! so nice and helpful! even in NYC) and I apologized back an excessive amount of times before walking my bike away in shame. Meanwhile, Hannah (rightly) laughed at me.

After our time expired, we crossed the waters back to the big island,

opting to walk up to and over the Brooklyn Bridge, where, I’m not kidding, we saw a lovely proposal, silhouetted against the late afternoon sun over the East River. I’ve now seen two proposals, and they’ve both been on top of iconic feats of architecture. How liferomantic.

Then we transitioned into full Brooklyn mode, hitting up Trader Joe’s and cooking something organic for dinner.

And this was all before most of you wokring stiffs even made it home through rush hour traffic (not to rub it in, or anything).

Summer Fridays, you rock!