Monday, December 21, 2009

Weird is the new normal...a look back at the decade from the 10,000 foot view

10 years ago I had no idea which square state was Colorado.
9 years ago I had never attended a free concert.
8 years ago I had never climbed a mountain.
7 years ago I had some of the best friends a girl could ask for.
6 years ago I was wondering whether I should live on the East Coast, the West Coast or in Ireland.
5 years ago I was just wondering how I'd pay the bills.
4 years ago I was living on my own for the first time.
3 years ago I had the best roommates ever and dreamt up a sitcom based on our lives.
2 years ago I was making big plans and fulfilling a lifelong dream.
1 year ago I was wondering where love was.
This year I am noticing that everything is starting over again.

I was home sick on Friday and I ended up watching "Big" on HBO. I haven't seen the full cut of the movie in years. A few things struck me as I was watching the movie. First, this movie is so earnest it was hard to watch parts of it. Second, I recognized 90% of the location shots because unlike movies today where Vancouver fills in for NYC (no offense, Vancouver) "Big" was actually shot in Soho. And third, as a kid you know everything. When you have an idea as a kid you are stopped by nothing. You make it happen.

Looking back on the last 10 years it's easy to be critical about all the things I hoped to accomplish but haven't. But lately I've been feeling some of that good old optimism so instead I choose to look back on the goals I have reached as well as some happy accidents. Going to Colorado State was for sure a happy accident. As a junior in high school I wasn't excited about college at all, though I was excited about getting the heck out of Connecticut. And mostly that worked out well. My first jobs out of college were rough but working at the paper in Danbury was a happy accident. Moving to NYC was a lifelong dream achieved. And it's a lot tougher than it seemed. The girl who hates technology ends up working in the field. My last two jobs have been happy accidents, ditto the awesome friends I've made along the way. I went on a tropical vacation; I went to Europe just before my kiddie passport expired; I stalked bands and made friends with some; I chased boys and let some chase me; I stayed out all night and I slept all day. Enjoying the little victories is sometimes just as sweet.

Of course the story has also been filled with twists, turns and shocks. A lot of the time I find myself thinking that a situation turned out oddly. But now I see that for me weird is the new normal and I am really bad at predicting how a situation will turn out. It's not so much that I leave things to chance now. I am slowly getting better at accepting destiny as much as I determine my own fate. Whatever will be will be and all that good stuff.

Much as there are some moments I'd love to erase, much as there are some that I'd like to redo, I don't want to let go of this moment of youth. The next 10 years may be the best of my life. Maybe in 10 years I'll realize these last 10 were it. I am ready to say goodbye to this decade yet I don't want to let go. I am still working on making peace with time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Grabbing my health by the horns

Last week's September 11 anniversary was bearable and for that I am thankful. I thought about it a lot in the morning, especially now that I live down in FiDi. The worst was hearing the parade of sirens go by -- that really got me. I stopped by the reflecting pool on the way to work to drop off a flower in D's honor. I still think of him every time I see a fire engine go by.

Otherwise the same three topics (music, money, health) are still swirling in my head. For this month health seems to have come to the forefront. Whatever this cough I have is I still have it and it sucks. It's now a dry, hacking loveliness that sometimes makes me gasp for air. It feels like I have something stuck in there. Back to the doc once blood tests come back, hopefully he can help me figure out what the hell this thing is.

In the meantime I started looking for a nutritionist. It's obvious I'm going to need some help getting myself in order so professional help can't hurt. Especially when covered by my work's actually kind of awesome health care. I found a recommended nutritionist right by my work. She even had after hours appointments which is a huge plus. Located in a fancy Soho dermatologist's office, the place was a bit intimidating but the doc herself was great.

I met with her for almost 2 hours. I was honest with her -- no sense in lying when my physical appearance belies -- about my diet and activity level. We went through my food and exercise routine. We talked about what kinds of foods I like and I don't like. We discussed attainable goals. She gave me some materials to read and helped me assemble about 20 different meals to try over the next 3 weeks. It actually got me kind of excited!

It's not like she didn't say things I already know. You have to burn more calories than you eat to lose weight. You have to exercise. Etc. Truth is I just need someone kicking my ass a little bit about it. I went to Whole Foods and bought $100 in groceries. I almost went into shock. I think I usually spend $25/week on groceries. Then I realized that all the crap I've been ordering in has been pushing me over $100 easily and then I didn't feel so bad. The hardest part is going to be giving up soda. I'm really not sure I can do it. But at least I've cut back to 1 can per day for now.

I already feel a bit better. I'm going back in 3 weeks for a follow-up visit. Hopefully there will be good news.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I have seen Fashion Week, and it is great

It's Fashion Week here in NYC and I must admit I'm really getting into it this year. In high school and college I was quite the junior fashionista. When I re-arrived in NYC I had the opportunity to walk in a plus-size show for a friend who styles (plus size! I'm an 8 for goodness sake!). In 2006 I attended three shows in the tents and in 2007 I was at one. But more recently my body and budget issues have put my fashionista aspirations on the back burner. Over the last couple of mmy freelance projects have revolved around fashion. Though the industry is kind of messed up in terms of ego savagery it's been fun to get back into the exciting whirlwind that is FASHION, all caps.

This year I was particularly interested in getting into Leifsdottir's Spring 2010 presentation. I realized it too late and didn't start making calls to the peeps I know until the beginning of September. I didn't have high hopes. Though I had no luck through my connections it was great to get in touch with friends, some of whom I hadn't spoken with in a couple of years.

Usually the response I got was, "Can't do Leifsdottir but I can get you into X." I was shocked! I got invites to some great shows. All I had to do was ask!

Friday was by far the craziest day. After failing to get an invite to Leifsdottir through friends by sheer luck Anthropologie's PR firm invited me directly. I could not have been more excited. I put in a 3/4 day at work and then went to the presentation. Unfortunately my partner in crime F had to bail so I went by myself. It was such a beautiful presentation and I loved just about every single piece. The presentation was my first time blogging about a show and I had trouble editing myself because I was so pleased with what I saw. Here's the post.

Friday was GROSS in NYC -- rainy and cold and more like October or April than September. Soaked to the bone, I ran from 38th St & 7th Ave to the tents to make Nicole Miller. Thank goodness these shows always start late. My friend J was understandably pissed that I was late but once the show started all was forgiven. I loved Ms. Miller's show. She had an intense peacock modern print in several pieces that I found intensely awesome, even from the second-to-last row.

I was a bit embarrassed by how underdressed I was. I usually break out the DVF for Fashion Week and had my Pilar dress set to go. The rain completely messed with my plans. I ended up in jeans, a white tank and a grandpa cardi. Not exactly front row material.

I did much better on Saturday. Rain again killed my Pilar plans but I did wear a fabulous pair of wide leg trousers, awesome 4" ruffle heels and a Theory blouse that was flatteringly...umm...flattering. I was lucky enough to see Christian Siriano's show on the promenade. Again I was in the second-to-last row but I heard that many people didn't even get in so I have zero complaints. His collection was stunning even from that far back. I saw later in the online pictures just how cool the prints he made were and there were several pieces I only wish I was famous enough to have an occasion to wear. My friend F tried to introduce me to Tim Gunn but the poor man, dapper as ever, was swarmed.

And yesterday it was a dream come true as I somehow got into Diane Von Furstenberg's show. I kept pinching myself...could not believe it was real. I broke out a Missoni dress and a pair of Cole Haan heels. Looking at some of the frocks inside the tent I would have been safe in DVF. I love almost all of her stuff but last year was a rare miss for me. I liked what I saw for 2010 a lot better. I didn't think her show photographed very well. The photos I've seen have not captured the movement her pieces had.

The end of the weekend was almost a relief. I have an invite to one more show: Nanette Lepore on Wednesday. I would love love LOVE to go but it's smack in the middle of work. Not sure what I'm going to do. But in terms of seeing shows Fashion Week has already been quite the lucky success.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Finding a doctor in NYC: just as hard as it looks

I don't get sick very often anymore but when I do I am down for the count. Anything lung-affecting is the worst; I've suffered from decreased lung capacity since I was a kid. About 2 weeks ago I started coughing. I was so pissed because I know I got sick at the hospital. I was there for a consultation. I walked in healthy. I walked out sick. I knew it was pretty bad when I started waking up in the middle of the night to cough. Then came to lovely phlegm and waking up with a burning throat. There was no avoiding it: I needed to see a doctor.

Since college I've pretty much avoided the regular doctor. I've been good about the dentist and the lady doctor. But I'm young, spry and healthy. Plus health insurance is so friggin confusing. How much is my co-pay? What kind of doctors can I see? Etc. And forget asking friends for referrals -- all my friends are doctor-aversive like me. Cheating sickness by way of not seeing the doctor.

I had been going to a walk-in clinic so I tried there first. The doctors are mostly medical students doing their rotations and they're pretty nice. The doc I saw took a throat culture which came back negative, decided I didn't have the flu and recommended I take Sudafed and cough medicine. And that was it. I tried both, and while I slept (and snored, I'm sure) like a baby I woke up feeling worse and worse. After a few days I woke up one morning with what felt like blood in my throat. It was so nasty. So I went back and they gave me cough medicine with codeine. Which again helped me sleep but I wasn't getting better. I needed a real doctor.

I turned to my insurer's online physician finder. It was helpful in terms of proximity but less than helpful in terms of anything else. In a city like New York I feel like it's important to have a certified, friendly, highly-recommended doctor. And you'd think there'd be plenty of resources for finding just that doctor. But there's really not. New York Magazine publishes an annual list of Best Doctors but it's like those Who's Who buy your way in. The few websites devoted to doctor ratings had little to no information about most of the doctors.

So it became a crapshoot. The first listing I tried was a nightmare. It turned out it was affiliated with Social Services, which made for all kinds of interesting characters at the office. There were also a bunch of unsavory characters. I was lucky enough to go on a day when they were having a recovering alcoholics group come through. It was the first time in New York I felt scared. I left before my appointment.

Third time's the charm so after failures with walk-in clinics and physician finders I called a friend of a friend who is a receptionist for a plastic surgeon in the city. She found a doctor right by my work. It was nuts. I called his cell phone, then he had me call his Brooklyn office to make an appointment. It's like some kind of secret code you have to follow. But he had after hours appointments so I didn't complain.

The next night I went to the office which was above an upscale retailer. I checked in and started filling out the forms. It was just me and a couple in the waiting area. By the third page I realized they were asking an awful lot about my sexual history. Then I started noticing the office decor. An African fertility statue. Literature about cord blood. Some ad for a pregnant New Yorkers network. Oh my god, I realized. I was at a family practice, not a general practitioner. I almost left but I was so miserable and just wanted to see some doctor, any friggin doctor.

Still it was kind of mortifying when the doctor called me back and the first words that spewed out of my mouth were "uh, I may have made a mistake, I'm not pregnant or anything, I just have a cough!" He just laughed an explained that he was an MD and that the other doctors in the office specialized in fertility and family medicine. Oh. Glad we got that out of the way! The second mortifying moment was when I had to weigh myself. I know I have packed on some pounds in the past month or so and I'm already taking steps to rectify the issue. Still, it was pretty devastating to see the scale land on the heaviest weight I've ever been in my life. Just by a few poinds, but still! I'm surprised I didn't lose a pound in carbon dioxide by how much that deflated me. Not the end of the world certainly but considering I've actually really picked up my exercise routine it's unnerving.

The doc turned out to be pretty cool though. He proscribed some Zithromax for the cough (hello again and I met many times through Tonsilitis in college). Then he talked general health with me for a bit. My parents are both type II diabetics and lord I do not want to suffer the same fate. Doc told me to go get some blood work, hands me a form, recommends I hook up with a nutritionist, and wants to see me again in 2 weeks to follow up. It's just the beginning but this could be the beginning of a beautiful doctor-patient relationship. I think I found my NYC doc, and it only took 3 years.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Where the hell was this clothing 10 years ago when I needed it??!?

If I had a time machine, I would go on a shopping spree right now for rockstar clothing. Then I would go back in time to 1999 when I was 17, actively in a band and could actually wanted and needed this stuff. Now I just want it. Man I want this clothing badly. But at 27 with no band, not even a hint of one and damaged vocal chords...yeah. I could probably pull this stuff off on the, maybe not. Even though I can pull of fashion chameleon pretty well I just can't see myself pulling off rockstar daily anymore without a legitimate reason.

Walking around Soho today was an exercise in jaw dropping. I'd expect to see this kind of stuff at Topshop or Mango or Necessary Clothing or the like. H&M? Maybe. But walking around Express and Guess seeing the look was both awesome and so friggin unfair.

Some of the options:

I would have killed for these looks at 17. Time. Machine. I cannot tell a lie -- I might buy a couple of these anyway. Just to parade around my apartment when I sing along with my Apple TV at the top of my lungs. It's a good thing my building has thick walls. Or for when I go to concerts as infrequent as that is these days.

Even Nanette Lepore is getting in on the act:

It left me a little speechless. I am just so jealous of all the peeps who will be rocking these looks while I stick to preppy chic. Not that I mind preppy chic, it's just more buttoned up than rockstar.

My guitars are staring at me right now. And they are frowning.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I am shopping my closet and unhappy with the goods

Deep thoughts at Central Park

So I'm on a spending budget for the first time in awhile (cue world's smallest violin, I know) and of course as part of this I am shopping my closet. It's kind of nice because I have 3 closets but it also kind of sucks because it's opened my eyes to just how disordered my fashion sense has become in the last 12 months.

I can recall it clearly about 13 months ago. I had finished paying off my credit cards a few months earlier and was banking money. But it was also when my stress + available credit card limits combined for the perfect storm of spendthrift. The upside was that I bought some truly fabulous clothing pieces. The downside was that I can clearly see that I was thinking in terms of impulse (ooh, need that, want that) instead of practical, more outfit-driven terms. I'm not really mad at myself because of the happiness it brought me at the time -- and I seriously needed that pickmeup -- but the collateral damage sucks. There is the credit card debt which I think I've whined about enough at this point. Making payments for now until I can afford to clear them for good.

Then there is the realization that I have very few complete outfits. This is part one of why I keep shopping. I have lots of 3/4 outfits: tops with bottoms but no shoes. Or shoes but no real outfit direction to pair with them. Accessories that are good for dressing up but I'm not going out much right now. Fabulous dresses without an event to wear them to. Who stares at their closet every morning wondering what the hell to wear? I do. The sad part is that I have lots of stuff that I love. But very few complete looks.

I've also realized that I completely fell away from my rules of shopping. I am having the typical personal shopper's crisis! I can dress other people just fine (and damn well if I may toot my own horn a bit) but ask me to put myself together and watch me accomplish mediocre at best. I bought bohemian and preppy and modern and classic with blatant disregard for how items would work together or what I needed vs. wanted.

Right now I'm working up the guts to go through my closet and honestly discard the items I don't wear. Some items I hope to sell but most I'll probably donate. The problem is the superficial attachment to the clothing. Oh, this top makes me look thin! I wore these jeans on a hot date! This cardigan is soooo comfy! Etc.

After that's done I will have to revisit my rules which are something like:
1. Only 2 impulse items per season (I have sucked at this rule since moving down to NYC)
2. You should not own more than 2 items in the same color
3. If you cannot think of 3 things to wear with an item, you cannot buy it
4. If you don't wear it within 10 days of purchase, it goes back! (unless purchased at end-of-season sale)
5. Just because it's on sale does not mean buy it
6. Dressy pieces must be bought with an intended use
7. You can justify an expensive buy ONLY IF you believe the cost per wear will work out to be $5/wear or less in the course of 6 months
8. If you see someone else in it on the street and can't style it differently, it goes back
9. Don't give into discount goods unless you will honestly love it next year too
10. If you can't pay it off within 2 billing cycles you can't buy it

I am looking forward to and dreading the upcoming purge. I am also swooning over so many fall pieces I can't buy. Hooray for the reintroduction of budgeting, boo for the lack of disposable income. All in all I'm in pretty good if I could just find someone to sublet my I could get back on-topic!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

If I were waffling any more, I'd need syrup

Money. It's that lame omnipresent thought that is probably making me age at twice the normal rate. In case you had not heard the economy is not so great right now and here in NYC it's one of those weird undercurrents. I've had too many of my friends lose their jobs. And it sucks. I hate every second of this whole Great Recession.

On the selfish front I've been watching my credit card balances creep back up for several months now. I am the pendulum that swings back and forth between saving all my money (I was pretty damn rich in 2005-2007!!) to nearly broke (college). Right now I'm doing OK. I'm not living paycheck to paycheck. I have a money market account. But that account is at its minimum and I pay a penalty if I drop below that minimum. I have a small savings cushion but I'm saving that for a real emergency, liking suddenly needing to get out of NYC.

Two of my friends and I took out one of our unemployed friends out for dinner this past week. At dinner we were talking about getting stiffed on freelance gigs. It's happened to me recently and my poor friend just got shafted on about $5,000. She's been jobless since February and she and her boyfriend are dangerously close to losing their apartment. He works but it isn't enough to make full rent payments so they're close to being evicted. She's so smart and talented at what she does (web design) and it is INSANE to me that there is no job out there for her. It's certainly not for lack of trying on her part.

This of course got me pretty freaked out. I started thinking about my own finances. And in my typical exercise in extremes way I settled on the idea that I needed to do something right away to shore myself up financially. I called T and asked if one of his financial friends could assess me. He sent me to a friend who is a financial planner to the rich. The friend, G, kindly agreed to see me on Thursday evening. His midtown office is on the 40-something-th floor of a snazzy high-rise with views of Midtown East. I felt pretty VIP even going there. (The security guards were freaked out by my currently-purple hair. Just as it should be.)

So G and I spoke frankly. We talked assets -- my paycheck, stuff I own (not much), stocks I own (none), investments (ditto), 401k (one withdrawn early, one teeny). Then we talked debts. College loans, credit cards, etc. I ducked in my chair. "Remember what it was like to be in your 20s making under 100k!" I pleaded. "I started at 150k out of college," he replied with a smirk (he was making a funny, I know it doesn't sound like it). Damn finance people.

G's advice wasn't really surprising but it still sucked. He told me I was spending way too much of my income on rent, even for a NYC resident. I already knew this but just didn't want to admit it. He recommended moving somewhere super cheap for a year or two to pay off my credit cards and then start thinking about buying. He also said I needed to cancel all of my store credit cards and consolidate the rest of the debt. I explained all the reasons why I want to stay in my apartment. Starting with that I've never been happier in a home. But G cut through it all -- "Those are emotional reasons, Roxy," he said. "And you can't use emotions to pay bills." Or take classes. Or travel. But damn if home isn't where my head clears.

Back in my awesome apartment that I can't really afford I was mulling my options. A big part of me just wants to stay where I am. My mental health has made such a 180 for the better since I've moved in. But it's a big risk. A second option is to get a roommate. I'm not really sure that my floor plan would allow for that. And the third option is to move. I could move into another apartment, or I could go into a roomie situation.

I'm usually good about making a decision and sticking with it. But I keep waffling on this one. I know what I should do but I also know what makes me happy. Happy may not pay the bills but it makes me sane enough to earn them dolla bills. So that's something.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Then and then and now

Pershing Square (outside Grand Central) in the 1940s

What is it about photos that stirs the soul? Many thanks to Gothamist for helping me discover these Flickr photo collections of NYC from various eras. I love looking at old photos of New York City. It's amazing to see how far the city has come. Some of the photos from the 1800s look almost fake in their simplicity -- there were trees! And barns! In the city proper! To look at photos of what is now a burgeoning urban zoo from way back when is both a tribute and a eulogy.

Take for instance Trinity Church, located on Broadway downtown where Wall St. begins. Many famous figures are buried there, including Alexander Hamilton. So the place has been around for awhile.

Here it is in the late 1800s:

Unbelievable. This shot was taken from east of the church on Wall St, facing west. Townhouses of no more than 7 stories! Above-ground power lines! A general lack of din! Not many people. A far cry from the crowds and noise of today.

Here it is in the 1940s:

This shot is from the same angle as the one above, but further west on Wall St. That's Federal Hall on the right and the Stock Exchange on the left. Love the truck in the shot -- an instant frame of reference. Look at the people's clothing...look at how open the area is. No fences or cops like today. A bygone era but approaching today. The church itself looks so different. I can't say if it's the sun, the film or the technique. It look likes a movie set.

And today:

Tall buildings everywhere. People everywhere. And yet still so damn beautiful. I wonder if George Washington ever walked or rode up Wall St. -- he must have, right? And now there is a statue of him here. I realize that New York City is much younger than, say, Athens, Rome or even London or Paris. And yet there is already so much history here. When I walk around down here in FiDi I can't help but think about the millions that have tread before me. What were they like? Where did they go? Were they happy? What was the city around them like?

I am normally extremely camera-shy and by proxy I'm not usually into people photos. But the human element in the Flickr NYC collections are mesmerizing. Their eyes alone say so much. Such proud people. I like looking at photos from the 40s/50s/60s to see what my parents' lives were like growing up here. And from the 10s/20s/30s to see what my grandparents' lives were like (two of my grandparents grew up here, two immigrated just before WWII). Though I can't explain why some of the photos make me cry. The photos of the 70s and 80s don't touch me as much. It might just be too close to now, a real or fake memory rather than an era I never knew.

I wonder what our time will look like to future generations. Many of the current city movements are about a movement back to nature -- no cars in Times Square, Summer Streets, etc. -- yet many new skyscrapers are under construction reaching higher into the sky than ever. As our historical records become digital I hope we don't lose the qualities a photo can bring. One simple click makes an amazing time capsule. That's a pretty powerful tool.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Weekend of free

It's Memorial Day weekend and here in the city that means many of the residents flee out to the Hamptons for the weekend. I enjoy the emptiness, which I prefer to think of as a little more room to move around. When I lived on the Upper East Side it was almost comical how few people were left -- it was like "I Am Legend" up there. Down here in Financial District though it was still pretty crowded with tourists in town for the long weekend. I only mind when I'm trying to get to the 4/5 subway line and everyone is trying to take pictures of George Washington.

The last few days have been much better. One thing I do appreciate about myself now is that no matter how hard I try to be moody and depressed it never sticks. I can do it for 2/3 days max. I used to be able to go for months. I am so glad I've grown out of that and receded into optimism. It's tiring being sad. Plus NYC is just always so alive. The kinetic energy is impossible to repulse for too long. T stayed a few extra nights because he was in protector mode and I totally appreciated it. I of course responded by giving him a had time. Especially when I did the math and realized that he's turning 40 in a couple of months! Or 39 again as I used to tell an old acquaintance. We played it loose -- he hung out with friends while I was at work.

One common thing that happens here (and really everywhere) is that my friends will disappear for months at a time and then reappear just as suddenly. So it went this past week with my friend J, who works in the fashion industry doing something international. A buyer maybe. On Wednesday nite T and I went out to dinner at Brasserie with her and then went to the Top of the Rock -- one of my favorite places in the city. Just adore the view.

My big project this week was all about music. My first project is a poster. I took the lyrics to one of my favorite songs and designed it into a text art poster. It came out really cool, I must say. I finally got around today to researching printing costs. A friend had recommended Zazzle and the cost was going to be $180 or something ridiculous like that. But Zazzle was having a 70% off (!) sale so I ended up paying $60. Pics to come once the finished product comes.

The other was hanging up my basses and guitar, something I'd been planning to do since January. It was nerve-racking. I couldn't get the wall anchors in and neither could T so I decided to risk it with just the screws. I tested on the Ibanez (far left) first because, well, it was the cheapest one to replace. It stayed up overnight and so up went the other two...after a trip to Home Depot. The wall hanger's actual hanger piece had a long screw that was pertruding too far out the back to mount flush. A nice store associate offered to saw it down for me. Thanks nice guy!! I hope that having my guitars out and available all the time will inspire me to write and play more often. So far though T and I are just staring at how pretty they are.

Earlier today T once again proved how he's got mad skills. We were riding down the elevator when he ran into an old friend and somehow got us invited to a party in my own building. I could only laugh...I have a lot to learn from him or someone. We declined though. He left for Jersey for man stuff and I have plans to go surfing tomorrow if the weather holds up. I can't wait either way. These days off are so refreshing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ancillary causes

Like most people, I spent most of college broke. For the first three years I spent any extra money I had on clothing. Not beer. Not food. Not drugs. Clothing. And it made me happy enough. (We've all got our vices.) I didn't really have discretionary income until senior year, which probably not coincidentally was the first year I gained weight in college.

Weighty issues aside I remember being so excited about my senior year. I was finally living in a cool apartment. I had a little bit of money to spare. I was getting ready to launch a fabulous career in journalism and/or the music industry (ba-dum-chick!). Every door seemed to be opening. My life seemed well in order.

So it was a shock what a disaster 2003-04 was. That year I also joined a sorority. It was something I'd wanted to do but didn't have the money for until 2003. But for some reason I got a major friend backlash about the whole thing -- they said it wasn't like me and that I changed. Maybe I did change, it's hard for me to say objectively even looking back now. I do remember feeling pretty lonely and commiserating that while one side of my life (the financials) seemed relatively in order, the other side (the social) had fallen into disarray. Much of my life felt out of control.

It helped spur me back East and eventually the move into NYC. That was a good thing. I had to make some difficult decisions. They say you're still forming who you are in your 20s and I re-examined my personality a bit. It felt weird doing it -- I literally evaluated my type of attitude and the way I reacted in situations. For a year or two I focused on consciously changing myself to be what I thought was more socially acceptable. While my social side slowly recovered to a semi-respectable state my financial side a-tumbled. Rent-poor became a term I got all too familiar with. Now an adult I had a serious conversation with myself that went something like, "Self, do you agree to become rent-poor if it means you're in a good neighborhood close to friends and happy?" "Yes, self, I agree." "Terrific, now stop talking to yourself, it's weird."

I think 2007 was probably the best year in terms of financial/social balance since college. In 2008 my financials started turning for the better and oddly enough, my social scale begin to tip downward once again. And now here I am in 2009 with the best pay I've ever made, rent-poor once again but loving where I live and yet goddammit I am fucking up the social stuff. In some ways it's worse because I feel like I am making the effort and yet the efforts are not yielding the results I want. I want to improve myself yet I'm not sure the concessions and changes I'm making are doing it. People must see through it? I'm not sure.

New York City is a tough, tough city to be social in when you don't know anyone. Even harder when you are still building yourself. At least that has been my experience. We are in so many ways a city of loners, a city where everyone is goal-oriented and driven towards their own personal goal. We often forget to step aside and see each other. I plead guilty on this as much as anyone. So if my failure comes from trying to please others and forgetting to please myself I don't mind taking a step back to become myself again. The issue is I've forgotten the right mix. I know small bits and pieces but the passive ingredient I introduced into my personality has overwritten some of harder pieces. It's an everyday battle to find the right balance. I am laughing as I write this because it sounds self-involved and silly. I must have missed this lesson when I was 4 -- how to make friends and influence people. Or maybe I just like crashing into walls. Repeatedly.

Poor T. He's crashing on my couch for 3 days in the middle of this existential breakdown. The guy just wanted to see the Financial District again for a few days. Ha, he had no idea what he was in for. He has suggested I make "Tubthumping" my personal anthem. It's a start.


On a much lighter note, I made T watch "The Bachelorette" with me last nite. During the show I was telling him that I would totally do that show. Much to his chagrin. He came from the logical side saying that the people on the show were there for all the wrong reasons. I came from the modern romantic side saying it would be way easier to find one guy out of a group of 25. (Romantic, right?) Then came the previews for the rest of the season where we already see that poor Jillian finds out that some of the guys were just playing the game rather than actually trying to love her (!), that some were just fame manwhores (!!) and that some maybe left girlfriends back home (!!!).

I turned to T and said I would never, ever do the show. He patted me on the head. Lesson learned.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Driving is hell in NYC (in case you didn't already know)

Hey, look! It's Tudor City. I totally almost lived there until I looked at a few apartments and cried. They were so ridiculously tiny. Like 200 sq. feet tiny. And when they built Tudor City people didn't have kitchens in their apartments (they ate in mess-hall style cafeterias) so you would see one of the closets sacrificed to the gods of hot plates and dorm fridges. But that is not what this post is about.

And oh hey there's the Chrysler Building with Tudor City! Great shots right? You don't usually see shots from this angle. You see I got these great pictures while sitting on the FDR. Yep. I was in a car. Driving. Don't worry, I wasn't taking pictures while zooming along at (ahem) 40 mph because that's the speed limit. Nope. I was at a standstill thanks to gawd awful city traffic.

On Wednesday it took me 2.5 hours to get to New Rochelle for a Seder. It should have taken me an hour tops. I should have predicted traffic would be hell but I had no idea how bad. I didn't want to take the train because my cousin doesn't really live near a train station. So instead I decided to get a Mini Cooper from Zipcar and zoom and sing at the top of my lungs. I left work early and started the commute at 4:30 from Battery Park City.

(Quick tangent: There is no Mini Cooper on the east side of Financial District. What gives Zipcar? That's your friggin flagship vehicle. Oh and PS the cars at the Cedar St garage are always messy inside and have less than 1/4 tank. I have animosity against my neighborhood Zipsters. Thanks especially to the person who left a Starbucks soy latte in the BMW 328 overnight! My car ride was so pleasant in 30 degree temperatures with the windows down to alleviate the smell.)

My cousin had given me directions going up the West Side but my friend who'd left 30 minutes before me called to warn me off that path. So I thought I would just zip up the FDR drive to the Triboro aka RFK bridge to 95. Oh man. What a mess the FDR was! At 5 PM I hadn't made it to Houston St. At 5:30 PM I was just passing Tudor City. At 6 PM I was near tears at 96th St. Side streets were no better. It was the massive Passover commute!

I have never hit such bad traffic on the FDR. When I lived on the Upper East Side I'd just get on at 96th St and sometimes it would be stop and go. This was just stop. The only good news was that I got to take in the pretty scenery. I went through two CDs before I cleared Manhattan. I almost turned around twice -- the only thing that stopped me was that the traffic was equally bad going southbound. And the WORST was all the idiot drivers weaving in and out of traffic trying to gain any position. I picked the left lane and stayed there almost the whole way up.

Wait though. It gets better. Around the Queensboro Bridge I heard sirens behind me. Thinking it was an emergency I moved over. Except it wasn't an ambulance. It was the Mayor's caravan. Yep, that's right. The Mayor who takes the subway to work was apparently in such a rush to get home that they had to make a traffic jam even worse. I hope he made it in time for dinner!

I almost didn't. I was ridiculously late. So was everyone else though. And for contrast, the trip home took me 40 minutes. And it would have been shorter but I got caught by the toll shift change entering Manhattan. I wasn't even speeding! I didn't have to brake around corners though...god bless Mini Coopers.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The give and take

Despite all the great things about living down in Financial District there is also lameness. And things that are just weird. I guess because everyone lives in converted business buildings infrastructure is still catching up. Let's start with the biggest FAIL: it seems like nothing is open here on the weekends (especially not food places). Hale & Hearty Soups is all my all-time winter favorite and I have not one but 2 within 5 blocks! Too bad both of them close at like 4:30 PM during the week and don't even bother opening on the weekends. There is no decent pizza place close by that's open on the weekends. At least there's a Chipotle. Duane Reade? Yeah it's the only drugstore down here and it's frickin closed on Sundays. Au Bon Pain? Closed on Sundays. Kudos are due to the Gristede's on Maiden Lane (which, uh, Google Maps says is an unverified listing) which is open decent hours. Unfortunately it's a small grocery store even by NYC standards so while it's great for the basics it's more like a big Bodega than a grocery store. Yeah, that's right, I said Gristede's. This is the nicest, newest one I've ever seen. It's obviously a privately owned affiliate and the owners do a great job with the small space. They do not deliver though. That's a bummer on a rainy day.

Oh and if you have a bank don't plan on visiting it down here in THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT. Because it ain't down here. There's no Wachovia branch. There is this dinky little ATM on Broad Street which is great for taking money out but not so much for putting money in. I'm old fashioned -- I like giving money to peeps, not machines. But don't worry, there is a Tiffany's, a True Religion and a Borders. So at least we've got those necessities covered.

The other weird thing is the lack of local businesses. Restaurants aside everything is a chain or mini-chain. I recently learned that my Uncle used to own a grocery store on Pearl St and my Dad worked bagging groceries there as a kid (this was in the 1950s or 1960s). A little piece of family history! That store is long gone, replaced by I don't know what because I don't know the exact address. There doesn't seem to be much of that stuff down here. It's kind of weird.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Apartment Therapy's Small Cool Contest is Back

Yeah that's right. No posts for two months and now two in one day! I just wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to Apartment Therapy's Small Cool contest. I entered last year and though I didn't even make it out of the first round it was such a fun time. It made me feel SO great to even make the site. And my goodness my apartment looked SO CLEAN. It was like that for exactly 2 hours I think. I also think my apartment was completely different than the modern minimal mantra AT pushes. They never re-used any of my photos in posts. I appreciate that they posted a different aesthetic from their own in mine though. I heart them.

So far this is my favorite entry but please do head on over and check them all out. And comment if you like 'em. Trust me, the entrants really appreciate it.


Well, hi. I know I know. That I've fallen down makes me a bit sad but I'm gonna use that tired old "life got super busy and then the economy went to hell excuse." So let's see, where are we? Oh right.

I've lived in the Financial District for almost 4 months now and I LOVE IT. I'm enjoying it so much more than the Upper East Side. No offense at all to the UES -- it's not you, it's me. It turns out that NOT living that close to shopping is much better for my wallet. And while I really miss Central Park I've replaced it with the conglomerate of South Street Seaport-Battery Park-the West Side bike path. My commute to work is much more roomy. Trying to find a lame-ass club has been replaced by visiting one of the local pubs or restaurants. It's probably also the safest neighborhood -- incredibly limited to cars with tons of police around both the World Trade Center and the Stock Exchange. I could go on (and I probably will).

I'll admit it: I get a kick out of telling people that I live on Wall St. Waaaahhhllll street. When I place orders over the phone reps ooh and ahh. Despite the negativity directed towards the stock exchange (two blocks away!) or AIG/AIU/whatever (one block the other way!) Wall Street means something to people. And the superficial side of me gets all buttered up when people coo.

As an added bonus, the Financial District is old New York City. I can give George Washington a very high-five for me/low-five for him if I want on my way past Federal Hall (that is, when they're not shooting lame-ass Domino's pizza commercials there). Many of the streets around me are cobblestone and a proliferation of mounted police officers means I can hear the sounds of the way it used to be. My street is typically pretty dead once Deutsche Bank clears out all the Towncars between 8:30 and 9 PM and I am totally OK with that. I walk out of my building, turn left and have an awesome view of Trinity Church. Just don't try finding a taxi to get home here. You will have to direct them.

And just to rub it in to my former self a bit apartment is 50 times better than my old place. In fact part of the reason why I stopped blogging for a bit was because I honestly thought it was a mirage. I couldn't really be living here. If I said something they would find out (whoever they are) and come drag me out, kicking and screaming the entire way back to dorm-style living in one room. I went to Colorado on vacation and was afraid I'd come back, try to get into my apartment and come to grips with the fact that it was all a dream. But now I have come to realize that yes, I really live in a doorman/elevator building; yes, I really have more than one room; and most importantly yes, I really have a dishwasher.

Not that life is all peaches and cream. I am incredibly rent-poor right now. I knew this and budgeted for it...sort of. I have promised myself not to touch my savings. I had spent the final couple of months at my last job spending myself back into debt. Damn that stress. And really things would have worked out fine at the new place if not for the economy...I would gotten a raise at my 6-month review and maybe even a bonus. Instead I'm just happy to have a job (and one I enjoy to boot! again!) and quietly suffering over bills each month. After rent and expenses I've committed myself to using my disposable income to pay down the cards, but there's not much there. Some nights I can't sleep because I'm so worried about my finances. I don't want to end up like my parents.

I had even considered breaking my lease and moving. But lord I can't do it! The mental health I have gained living in a calm situation is worth saving $1000/mo by moving out to Queens. Really I'm counting my blessings to have this kind of pain to deal with. I know my apartment is below market rate. So I hope to use this time of no disposable money as fodder the next time I want to go spendthirft. For now I'm creatively looking for free events and staying home a lot. But who am I kidding? I'm kind of a homebody anyway. I blog. I code CSS for fun. I play video games. I'm like a 13-year-old boy.

And then the last busy factor came courtesy of a guy or two. No need to get into the messy details, but they're gone now. T is still around and we're currently chatting back and forth about Lost a lot and applying it to our faux relationship. We pretend like NYC is the Island and say really outlandish things. Things like "if I had traveled back in time to 1997 when you were mid-20s and working in the city but had been my current self we would be together!" (me) or "if I had been moved forward in time by the island from 1995 to 2006 in Connecticut we would be co-habitating right now and you'd be pouting about me not inviting you to poker night" (him). Instead we're like Sawyer and Kate -- back in the same place but years apart; him giving me 10 stupid yet endearing nicknames and me giving him exceedingly long glancess without dialogue while corny dramatic music plays. Yep, I'm a geek.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My life is much quieter today

We'll get back to our regularly scheduled blog in a few days but first I have to get this off my chest. And I have to say I'm so sorry to the two kitties in the photo above.

You see, as I settle into my new apartment I wanted to realize one of my dreams: having a pet. I grew up with horses; I trained dogs and scuttled around barn cats. And now that I finally live in more than room again I figured now was a great time to get a pet. Really I wanted to get a dog but I just can't do it. I'm not home enough to care for a dog and I don't want to give up my social life in order to care for one. Also, I liked the idea of cats as independent animals. Sure they'd want pets and love and for me to clean the litter box but mostly they'd kind of do their own thing. Perfect pets for an on-the-go 20-something.

So I settled on a cat. After talking to several of my friends who have cats they recommended that I get 2 so they could keep each other company. Easy enough. My first thought was to get kittens because they are just so damn cute. But I adopted right after the holidays and the pickings at ASPCA, AC&C and even North Shore were pretty thin.

At North Shore I met two adorable calicos named Erin & Evelyn. About a year old, they were calm and friendly even in the madhouse environment of an animal shelter. I knew they were the kitties for me and so I adopted them on January 4th. They were immediately rekindled Latke and Knish -- my (belated) Hanukkah kittes. On the way home Knish meowed the entire way...who are you? Where are we going? Are we there yet? I talked to them for the entire drive, telling them we were going home.

Once home I opened the carrier and allowed them to come out when they were ready. Knish came out right away but Latke spend most of the first day in the carrier. They didn't eat much for the first few days and I was really scared the second day because Knish spent almost all day sleeping in the carrier coughing and sleeping and I thought she was really sick.

Luckily both cats were healthy. Soon their true personalities came out: Latke was the more aloof and active kitty. She spent her time up on my windowsill cooing at the birds across the alley. Knish always wanted to be by my side. Or, more accuarately, on me. Literally in my lap at all times. Very needy kitty. For the first week or so I allowed her to climb all over me unabated but soon I grew weary of this.

Knish -- always RIGHT there.

I started training her that climbing all over me without permission was not OK. We made some good progress but every time a guest came over she would fall right back into it...climbing all over people. My biggest issue with this is that she liked to give love bites to people's faces. Nothing like BFF M's kitty Tolstoy who straight out bites but a bit alarming to someone meeting her for the first time. The worst was that she would do this to people in their sleep. I had four friends crash with me at various times over the past four weeks and each time I heard someone wake up saying "OW!" to a facial kitty love bite.

I was totally willing to work on this, though it worried me so. They did the typical kitty things like scratching anything but the scratching post (I tried both fabric and cardboard) and even a sofa cover didn't really dissuade them. Nor did bitter apple spray.

Latke -- watching.

Overall though they were great kitties. Not scratchers, not really bitters, good dispositions, endless source of entertainment. The issue for me became two things: 1 -- my alergies started acting up and 2 -- they always wanted to be right with me. The second item really disarmed me. They meowed constantly. Not just when they were hungry. They meowed when I went to the bathroom. They meowed when I left; they meowed when I came home. They meowed when I was right there sometimes. Knish was much worse than Latke. Her meow sounded like, "mom" to me. Mom, mom, mom, mooo-ooom. All the time. In an attempt to help my allergies I closed my bedroom door at night and she would sit right outside almost all night just meowing. It got a bit better as time went on but it was grating. A couple of nights I gave up and let them in but Knish just wanted to paw my face and give me love bites. I couldn't take it.

It became that everything they were doing started to annoy me. They would run around the apartment playing in the middle of the night and crash into things. They would scratch the door to my bedroom and the walls (which I found so weird). They clawed my rug; they clawed my couch. Knish loved to run my rolls of toilet paper. I put a little bell on it so I could catch her in the act but eventually I just closed all the doors to my other rooms. I got them playthings -- squeaky balls, mice with catnip and a fishing pole so we could play together. Except the cats were kinda dumb with the mice -- they always batted them under the stove and fridge. You'd think they would learn to play with them somewhere else, and I always presented them on the opposite side of the apartment...but no, every day I had to fish the toys out.

One day a bit over a week ago I caught Knish ruining yet another roll of toilet paper. Incensed, I chased her around the apartment with a water spray bottle telling her no. After a minute of it my faculties came back and I said to myself, "Roxy, what the hell are you doing???" I couldn't justify my actions but in that moment something became clear: this just wasn't working. I was beginning to resent the cats for forcing me to change my life. I know that's incredibly selfish and it pains me to admit it. They made me happy sometimes yes, but more often then not they were making me frustrated. I have such a tough job at work that all I want to do is come home and unwind. But the cats wouldn't let me unwind. They wanted attention -- which was reasonable -- but I just didn't want to provide enough. My skin is rashed, my nose is runny and my eyes itch. But mostly, I just want to be alone.

I gave myself a few more days to change my mind. The responsibilities: feeding, changing litter, etc. didn't bother me at all. Oddly, it was the peripheral stuff that was getting to me. And even though I felt incredibly guilty I realized it was best to take the cats back to North Shore. It would be worse to keep them and resent them. Maybe I would eventually grow up a bit and learn to love the cats. But chances of that didn't look good. This just solidifies that I am a dog person. They were great cats but their temperment was not right for me. I feel like 99.9% of people would have loved to have these two cats. What the hell is wrong with me? They would do better in a family I think, where someone could always be paying attention to Knish.

So on Friday I called North Shore and made preparations to bring the cats back. And my god it was awful. Latke just laid quietly in the carrier for the whole drive, but Knish was giving this terrible gutteral meow. Almost like a no no please no. I was bawling the entire way. I felt terrible. I feel terrible. How unfair and immature of me was this? The only comfort is knowing that North Shore is no-kill. I sat in the parking lot crying for 20 minutes, giving myself one last chance to change my mind. I didn't. The staff didn't ask me any questions except if the cats were healthy. I kept it under control until they brought the empty carrier back out. Then I totally lost it.

To say I am disappointed in myself doesn't even begin to cover it. Some animal lover I am. I couldn't even deal with two kitties. The projections made mental leaps in my head -- if I couldn't deal with two cats how would I ever deal with kids? What is so wrong with me that I resent two other beings in my life? It wasn't like they were asking for much. Today my life is much quieter than it was yesterday. And I feel so much worse. This regret is terrible. I don't regret bringing them back, even though I almost called to get them back. The regret is getting them in the first place. How unfair of me. How immature of me. I am totally beating myself up here.

And I owe two little kitties an apology. I hope someone better than me adopts them soon and forever.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Still Alive! And I'll be back soon.

Wow, I can't believe it's been almost a month since I moved. As is always the way, while many people's lives seem to slow down in the winter mine picks up to almost a frantic pace. Which is my backhanded excuse for no posting the past month. I have plenty to share though and notes on what to post. I plan to resume posting at the end of January (thanks for holding on with me!).

Til then...keep warm.