Tuesday, November 17, 2015

love in the face of fear.

The past few days have felt like a blur and every morning when I listen to the news, I feel a lump in my throat as my grip on events in this world gets ever looser.  By some miracle, Niamh left Paris early on Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with family in Dublin.  I am grateful for her safety, for that Friday evening she spent sipping champagne with Megan instead of out at her usual haunts, for fortune and fate.  I try not to think about the plain fact that it could have been different.  Niamh has written about returning to her adopted home this weekend and her words make me feel at once sad, thankful, and very very far away, both physically and emotionally.

And here, on a beautiful November day in New York City, I feel a heavy sadness like I have rarely felt before.  Uncertainty has taken the place of comfort and stability.  A man in a van almost ran me over as he turned right into the pedestrian crossing where I walked outside Riverside Park yesterday.  He shook his fist at me in frustration.  Five minutes later, a man yelled at an elderly woman to shut up after she asked him to look ahead instead of down at his phone.  Tears sprang to my eyes.  Why can't we all just get along? I thought.  It's a platitude but since Friday I've been saying it with heart.  Why can't we all just get along?  Here we are in our magnificent neighborhoods, cities, countries, on this incredible planet with countless opportunities to love rather than hate every day.  Too often, too many people choose hate.

I saw someone mention this phrase this morning on social media and it's all I can think about.  A new mantra.  Love, in the face of fear.  Because that's all we can do.


Monday, November 2, 2015

rules of civility

On an October weekend in Beacon, after the most picturesque train ride in recent history, in between leaf peeping and microbrews, we stumbled into a little used bookshop on the main drag. Once the older woman sitting at the little fold-up table told me all the stores's profits went to the upkeep of the library next door, I was sold.  So were two gently used paperbacks.

Much to my surprise, this novel I picked up on a whim and for the greater good of the population of Beacon, NY was an incredibly enjoyable read.  Love, jealousy, parties, regret, success, and crosswords all set against the backdrop of New York in the Thirties.  I kept a pencil tucked behind my ear every time I pulled the book from my bag.  Herein, some of my favorite lines.


"Anyone who has ridden the subway twice a day to earn their bread knows how it goes: When you board, you exhibit the same persona you use with your colleagues and acquaintances.  You've carried it through the turnstile and past the sliding doors, so that your fellow passengers can tell who you are -- cocky or cautious, amorous or indifferent, loaded or on the dole.  But you find yourself a seat and the train gets under way; it comes to one station and then another; people get off and others get on.  And under the influence of the cradlelike rocking of the train, your carefully crafted persona begins to slip away.  The superego dissolves as your mind begins to wander aimlessly over your cares and your dreams; or better yet, it drifts into an ambient hypnosis, where even cares and dreams recede and the peaceful silence of the cosmos pervades.
It happens to all of us.  It's just a question of how many stops it takes.  Two for some.  Three for others.  Sixty-eighth Street.  Fifty-ninth.  Fifty-first.  Grand Central.  What a relief it was, those few minutes with our guard let down and our gaze inexact, finding the one true solace that human isolation allows."


"Uncompromising purpose and the search for eternal truth have an unquestionable sex appeal for the young and high-minded; but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane -- in the cigarette on the stoop or the gingersnap in the bath -- she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger."


"... I had the house salad -- a terrific concoction of iceberg greens, cold blue cheese and warm red bacon.  If I were a country, I would have made it my flag."


"... each city has its own romantic season.  Once a year, the city's architectural, cultural, and horticultural variables come into alignment with the solar course in such a way that men and women passing each other on the thoroughfares feel an unusual sense of romantic promise.  Like Christmastime in Vienna, or April in Paris.
That's the way we New Yorkers feel about fall.  Come September, despite the waning hours, despite the leaves succumbing to the weight of gray autumnal rains, there is a certain relief to having the long days of summer behind us; and there's a paradoxical sense of rejuvenation in the air.
... that somehow, despite the coming of winter, autumn in New York promises an effervescent romance which makes one look to the Manhattan skyline with fresh eyes and feel: It's good to live it again."


"What a transcendent diversion a crossword can be.... no matter how vestigial these words are in the body of common English, watching them fit so neatly into the puzzle's machinery, one feels as the archaeologist must feel when assembling a skeleton -- the end of the thighbone fitting so precisely into the socket of the hip bone that it simply has to confirm the existence of an orderly universe, if not divine intention."


"-- How does that happen?  How do you stop telling people where you're from?
  -- By inches."

From Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Friday, October 30, 2015

grand mal on the G train

I left the office early yesterday afternoon to take care of some errands and work from home for a few hours.  The air was warm.  This autumn has been warmer than usual, which I know makes some people really happy but mostly makes me really upset about the inevitability of climate change.  Just call me Debbie Downer.

I followed my usual path home to Greenpoint, joining the construction workers at the subway station finishing their workdays inside Upper West Side brownstones that never seem to be finished.  I hopped on the downtown 2 express to Times Square.  I really do my best to put myself in the shoes of that tourist holding a map and blocking the stairs and on a good day, the perspective makes me shove a little less.  On a less-good day, I'm another commuter with places to be.

The 7 train platform was more crowded than I expected for a Thursday afternoon but I remembered the construction workers' shift and joined them on the train toward Flushing, where the air is spicy and exotic, especially for Queens.  My crossword app wouldn't download any new puzzles which is incredibly frustrating, but it was only 3:30 after all and I was on my way home.  At Court Square, I surrendered my seat and made my way towards the G train.  Instead of boarding in the usual place, I followed the cars all the way to the opposite end so that the post office would be a short walk from the exit at Nassau Ave.  The seats were all taken, but I was happy to post up by the door, leaning my back against the silvery surface to work on a Tuesday crossword from July.

The train lurched out of the station after a few minutes and somewhere between Queens and Brooklyn, the lady sitting across the train car dropped her red tote bag.  It was one of those reusable bags they used to give out at Falvey Library at Villanova when I had too many books to check out for my thesis research.  She seemed not to notice the bag fall, which was surprising considering the thump of it.  A minute passed, and then I made a move to see if she was okay as the guy leaning against the door next to her did the same.  She wasn't okay.  Her face turned and from the books I've read and the episodes of E.R. I've watched, I knew she was having a seizure.

The train car moved to action.  We consulted each other on the merits of pulling the emergency brake versus waiting for the train to pull into the station, and decided to wait rather than be stuck underground.  In the meantime, the woman had slipped from her chair and we gathered around her to catch her as she slumped to the floor.  When the train halted, we banged on the door of the conductor and ran to the window.  She lifted her walkie-talkie and sent for help.  A young guy chewing gum pulled a bandana from his gym bag and then gently slid the bag under the woman's head.  He held her hand and wiped her mouth where spit had gathered and spilled.  I was struck by his kindness.  An older woman came up beside me to see what was going on and told me it looked like a grand mal seizure, not a petit mal one.

After what seemed like an eternity, paramedics arrived and I moved to give them space.  The woman was responsive and seemed understandably freaked out by her new fetal position on the floor of a G train car.  I could only make out moans, but felt relieved to hear something.  Something is better than nothing.

There was nothing more I could do except get in the way, so I began to walk towards the stairs and outside into the Greenpoint evening.  I gulped at the fresh air and blinked back tears.  I stood for a moment, the image of that woman slumping to the floor fresh in my mind, and willed that memory to come forward next time I am on a delayed subway or waiting endlessly for a train to arrive, rolling my eyes and scoffing at the "sick passenger on a train up ahead".

Friday, September 11, 2015


Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees going nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Adam Zagajewski, "Try to Praise the Mutilated World" from Without End: New and Selected Poems, 2002.


This morning I woke up slowly, savoring the sounds of the whirring fan above and the kids on their way to school on the street below.  Kevin being away for the weekend and a rainy evening last night meant I could finally sleep without the constant hum of our air conditioner taking up the small window in our bedroom.

A cool breeze floated through the room and I lay there listening to the familiar cadences of Morning Edition.  I considered a run but decided instead to stay put, the cat cuddled next to my feet.  I felt a sense of wonder at how quickly 14 years go by.  I can't believe that it's been so long; in some ways, it feels just like yesterday.

Snippets of memory: fifth day of freshman year of high school, clear blue skies, sun shining.  Mr. Castle bumbles an announcement that something has happened in New York, that we had to go home.  Glued to the television, mouths agape, transfixed.  Classmates still relative strangers, but some with fathers working in New York.  Being sent home early, opening the front door to see Mum crying on the couch.  Family back home hearing "Pennsylvania" on the news and panicking.  No cellphone service, no school, just those photos and videos playing over and over again.  The memorial services, the stunned silences, the tears.

Ten years later when I moved to Brooklyn. my running route took me through Brooklyn Bridge Park and up along the Promenade, parts of the borough that lie closest to the Financial District.  I remember seeing a memorial plaque along the wrought iron fence of the Promenade for the first time and realizing, "Oh yeah, I guess the twin towers would have been right there."  That's the first time I saw that empty space on the skyline as empty, as a hole.  My mind drifted back to a trip to New York City, the "Big Apple", when my Nana was still alive and able to visit.  Mum took a photo of Nana and me standing together on the ferry.  We only noticed later that the twin towers loomed in the background.  That photo was one of the first things I saw every time I walked into her house.  Photo from the ferry, frantic phone calls on that day, the hole in the sky.  The passage of time is a strange thing.

This morning, I stopped in at my favorite coffee shop before getting on the bus and bought a latte.  It felt like a celebratory gesture on this first cool, blue-sky day of September.  On the subway at Times Square, the train was held in the station as a group of firefighters boarded the car, looking regal and handsome in their shiny polished black shoes, white hats, badges of honor on their sleeves.  A lump rose in my throat.  I stepped out of the train at 72nd Street onto Broadway, yellow cabs whizzing by, latte cool now in my hand, sky so clear and blue overhead.  I live here now.  Fourteen years earlier and my day would have been so different.  I felt grateful at that moment; first for the coffee in my cup and the cool breeze, and then for the the resilience of this city and its people, for the memory of that day and the fragility of the human experience, and for the opportunity to call this place home.

New York, I love you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

the story of a new name

I said to myself every day: I am what I am and I have to accept myself; I was born like this, in this city, with this dialect, without money; I will give what I can give, I will take what I can take, I will endure what has to be endured.

From The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

N.B. If you read the first of Ferrante's Neapolitan novels and didn't love it, persevere and read the second.  I think I enjoyed it a million times more than the first and I'm already looking forward to reading Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay after a few weeks' break.

Friday, August 28, 2015

the ones who know me best.

The other evening after a lucky break working from home for the day, I sat on a blanket with my sister Niamh in Transmitter Park, one of my favorite spots in Greenpoint.  The sky was blue and the most perfect clouds hung suspended above the city skyline.  The air smelled faintly of the sea, as much as East River air can, I guess.  The later the evening became, the young couples and tow-headed kids on scooters from the neighborhood overtook the tourists toting large-lensed cameras and shopping bags from distant designer stores.
As we sipped rosé, we chatted on the phone with our younger sister Megan, who was in the airport waiting to board a flight to Dublin.  Next month she will be starting her Masters in bioengineering at Trinity College.  The baby of the family, the one who knew all the words to the "Star Spangled Banner" before any of us, is the one returning to build a life in Dublin.  We threatened to laugh if she had adopted an accent by the time we visit in December.  It's inevitable she retorted.  She spent the last of her dollars on a book at the airport which left her with none for a glass of wine.  I loved that.  I will miss her weekend visits to our Brooklyn apartment, where she takes up residence on the couch after seeking out her favorite throw blanket.  I don't know if we will still be living on Noble Street when she comes home.  If she comes home.
But for now, there is another sister living on the couch.  Niamh has left her adopted home behind and is home for the month.  Sometimes I think we have been sustaining ourselves on a WhatsApp-based relationship for so long that spending lots of time together in person will be weird, or challenging, or tiresome.  For the most part, I am wrong on that count.  It has been so nice to revisit our jokes and hang out with the cat and share my Brooklyn life with her (even if we are both due for a serious diet come September).
This summer has felt somewhat like the summers of childhood, when my sisters and I would crowd back into my parents' lives (and they into ours) after the last day of school.  We have spent more time together as a family of five -- and sometimes six -- than we have in years.  The days lifeguarding at the community pool have been traded in for more indoor and grown-up pursuits, but it has felt really good to spend time with my favorite people.
First there was Megan's graduation weekend at Goucher College, which Niamh snuck home to attend much to my shocked surprise.  One emotional ceremony, a sweaty move-out and frenzied AC-free road trip, and a few too many drinks later, Niamh was back in Paris for final exams, Megan was taking hundreds of selfies in Lisbon and Berlin, and I was wrapping up my last few weeks at work.  Mum and Dad took off for France not long after and sent lots of photos of the pool and rosé and sunsets that awaited us.
In June, I flew to Paris to see Niamh and after Megan had arrived from Lisbon, we spent two weeks in the French countryside at Monet Les Blanchardieres, my parents' idyllic cottage in the Loire.  Kevin came along just in time for Fourth of July and despite a brutal canicule, or heatwave, we spent many happy days relaxing by the pool and wandering the local markets.  It felt nice to get away and be together in a distant place, and despite the physical and cultural distance, the rhythm of the days still felt very much like home.  I hadn't been to stay at the house since after my college graduation in 2009 so there was a bit of a disconnect between my experience and that of everyone else who visits more regularly, but when 5:00 came each day, someone would pop open a bottle of crémant and we would enjoy the long sunny evenings around the table.  I didn't even have to charge my phone every night.  What a concept!
After a stopover in Brooklyn and an incredibly fortunate scheduling mishap, Kevin and I spent five days on the beaches of Bermuda with his parents.  Though I was sad to leave my scooter and the rum swizzles behind, I looked forward to soaking up the remaining weekends of the summer in the city.  Niamh flew into Philadelphia on the 1st of August and we jointly celebrated my parents' birthdays the best way we know how: a delicious feast, stinky cheese, and carrot cake for dessert.  Dad was a good sport and slaved away over his signature cocktails all weekend.  I don't think there are any lemons or limes left in the state of Pennsylvania.
Since that first weekend of August, the days have been a whirlwind.  There have been ferry rides and subway rides, an inaugural Yankees game, lots of pizza and bagels, rooftop cocktail hour, cuddles with the cat, morning runs, and egg sandwiches.  There have been group chats with Megan about the angst and eventual resolution of her apartment hunt, followed by more angst about that Dublin rain.  Niamh spent a few days at home in-between and I am already looking forward to a weekend there with Mum after Labor Day.
I thought that all the time I would spend with my family this summer would err on the side of too much, but then I remembered that for 18 years these were the people with whom I toughed out the days.  Ten years on and many miles in-between, they are still the ones who know me the best and I feel so grateful to call them mine, all mine.  There is no one I would rather go through life with.
When all is said and done, I think our time together this summer will have been too short after all.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

a regular.

Where you been?  Long vacation or what??
Milk no sugar, right?


I hadn't been to the diner on the corner near my office since June, but they still knew my order.  I swooned a little and tried, failing spectacularly, not to smile too much.

The humidity has lifted and I love this city again.  I suppose that makes me a fair weather fan in the most literal sense of the word.  The clear skies and cool breeze has got me antsy for sleeping with the windows open and crunchy walks to the subway, cardigans and scarves and wrapping my hands around a warm cup of tea.  There is nothing like New York in the fall.

But in the spirit of not wishing my life away, as I am wont to do, I am focusing on these waning bright mornings and being able to bare my arms without a chill.  In these last days of August, I'll paint my toenails and pack bathing suits and sunscreen for a trip to Cape Cod next weekend, and close out this memorable summer with clam strips and wine coolers on the beach and hopefully a few more freckles.

I'll certainly be ready for the change when autumn comes.  But I'll be ordering the same coffee because, in this city of so many strange faces, it's nice to be a regular.

Monday, August 17, 2015

an ode to the summertime storm.

It's so hot.  It won't be enjoyable.
That's the right attitude!
I thought we were bringing cheese and crackers.  You should have cut the watermelon into slices.

Thus began my Sunday.  A picnic in the middle of Prospect Park on a 98-degree day was the last thing I wanted to do.  Even with good company, this summer heat is making a grump out of me.  Once I had an iced americano in hand I was a little more amenable... but still hot.  We got sandwiches at the bagel shop and packed a large bag of watermelon after I grouched about how it had been cut.  I was not a happy camper.

After meeting Conor midway between our apartments, we boarded the G train going south and my mood lifted; the meat and cheese picnic box Conor was toting cheered me up.  As soon as we sat down, I noticed a couple with a hefty New York guidebook in hand.  The husband opened their knapsack and pulled out a bundle of clothes.  The wife pulled on a tweed-style jacket while he wrapped a plaid scarf around his neck (arms still bare in a t-shirt).  I had to laugh; of course it was freezing inside the subway car but I couldn't get over how prepared these tourists were.  I made a note to find their guidebook for the next city I visit.

With goosebumps on our bare arms we stepped out of the train and into the neat front stoops of Park Slope.  We made our way toward the coordinates on Kevin's Google Maps app, marveling at technology.  I feel grateful to be at an age where I can appreciate how meeting up with friends required an aforementioned time and place.  It's eerily easy to find the meeting spot when you have the GPS coordinates and a satellite some thousands of miles overhead pinpointing the exact location of the picnic blankets.

We settled under a tree and enjoyed the shade with the occasional warm breeze drifting over the hill.  It seemed as though everyone cleared out the crunchy snack department of his or her local bodega.  An hour later, some of the guys had drifted over to play Spikeball and those of us on the blankets checked our weather apps, noticing a few gray clouds over the treetops in the distance.  The game continued, the forecast was clear, and we were grateful for the cool relief the clouds offered against the sun.

Then, I felt a drop-- not one of those small pricks of moisture but a fat, slobbering raindrop, right on my freckled forearm.  Conor felt one too, then Meg, then Irma.  We began to move cell phones and clothes under the tree as the drops quickened.

Five minutes later the leaves on every tree were blowing sideways and we were drenched, water collecting in our shoes and hair plastered to our sunburned foreheads.  The two weeks' worth of newspapers I had brought were sopping pulp, bags of chips useless now with the rain, and electronics stuffed hurriedly into dry nooks of backpacks.  We were completely disoriented, the mid-August heat and humidity transformed into wind and rain and chills in a matter of minutes.  We laughed at our bad luck and once our heads cleared. went our separate ways to subways and apartments and cars.

As soon as we stepped beyond the park gates, the rain had petered to an unconvincing drizzle and the blue skies had conquered the clouds.  My sister arrived to meet us, dry and warm and confused when we motioned for her to turn back around and head underground.  My feet were dyed blue from my new shoes.  The subway ride back to Greenpoint was freezing cold; I wish I'd had the foresight to pack a jacket and scarf.  But there is something so pure about being drastically under-prepared.  I think I prefer it that way.

Monday, June 22, 2015

sag harbor

A firefly blinked into existence, drew half a word in the air.  Then gone.  A black bug secret in the night.  Such a strange little guy.  It materialized, visible to human eyes for brief moments, and then it disappeared.  But it got its name from its fake time, people time, when in fact most of its business went on when people couldn't see.  Its true life was invisible to us but we called it firefly after its fractions.  Knowable and fixed for a few seconds, sharing a short segment of its message before it continued on its real mission, unknowable in its true self and course, outside of reach.  It was a bad name because it was incomplete-- both parts were true, the bright and the dark, the one we could see and the other one we couldn't.  It was both.

From Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

Friday, June 19, 2015

"on self-respect"

"Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception.  The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that very well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself: no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions.  One shuffles flashily but in vain through one's marked cards -- the kindness done for the wrong reason, the apparent triumph which involved no real effort, the seemingly heroic act into which one had been shamed.  The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others -- who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O'Hara, is something people with courage can do without."

From "On Self-Respect", Slouching Towards Bethlehem by (the inimitable) Joan Didion

Monday, June 15, 2015

then and now.

Eight years ago, I spent ten days backpacking-without-a-backpack in Europe.  I sent juicy newsy emails to a list of family and friends every few days.  I am very glad to have those, and the replies, in the archives.  It reminds me of a simpler time, before social media became the filter through which we experience life.

I started in Amsterdam, where I stayed in a Christian women's hostel and met a group of four girls from York.  I visited museums and strolled the canals during the day, and ventured out at night with my new friends to gawk at the red light district and drink warm Heineken.  I almost fainted in public after spending too long watching from the sidelines at a coffee shop.  I visited the Anne Frank Huis and was very moved, most of all at the display of international editions of her diary.  I ate at a vegetarian restaurant one night and felt really self-righteous, even then.  I remember the moment of realization that serving fries in a paper cone with a dollop of mayo made more sense to me than bloody ketchup ever would.

The train to Belgium was fast and clean.  Antwerp was underwhelming, but I chalked it up to the miserable weather.  I feigned great interest in Belgian beers when my hostel-mate, Anders, asked me to find a bar called the Kulminator with him.  He was from Idaho and I remember finding each other on Myspace before we said our goodbyes.  He is probably the first guy I ever drank a beer with who grew a beard for fun.  We went to another bar called The Eleventh Commandment, decorated almost completely with religious statues.  The bar was an altar and the booths were old pews.  I shopped in H&M and ate a waffle every day.  The waffles were amazing.

In Bruges (before the movie came out), I stayed at a hostel where beers cost 1 euro at happy hour and the smell of cigarette smoke wafted into my dorm room all night long.  I celebrated Fourth of July with two Americans from Tennessee, one of whom, according to social media, has since put on weight and become a father.  I climbed the belltower in the main square and far below, an orchestra played near the square's fountain.  I remember calling my mum that afternoon with the music in the background.  The sky was very blue.  Also, more waffles.

My last stop on the solo tour was Brussels.  I hung out with some Californians and developed a weirdly intense two-day crush on one of them who had a tattoo across his chest that said BLESSED, like Lil Wayne.  I didn't know who Lil Wayne was but went with it.  He kind of looked like Russell Brand (??)  We drank premade sangria that we bought at a corner shop and the guys rolled their own cigarettes.  The next day, I ate moules frites at a table outside a restaurant in a little alley, where tourists walking by looked at the empty seat across from me with confusion and pity.  It was great.  The main square of the city was impressive even though the rest of it, at times, felt like Philadelphia.

When my ten days came to an end, I boarded a train from Brussels across the border to Lille in France, and then onward to Angers.  My family met me at the train station and I felt strangely relieved to be reunited with them.  It felt like longer than ten days.

In two weeks, I'll be back in France with my sisters and my parents.  It will be the first time I have been back there with my entire family since that summer.  This time around, instead of eating fries with mayo and drinking with strangers in the preceding days, I'll be tying up loose ends at the office in preparation for a new job and making arrangements for our plants to get watered and the cat to be fed while we are away.  Those ten days in 2007 feel like just yesterday, so I guess I've done a lot of growing up in the meantime... but I could definitely still go for a waffle.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"one minus one"

"I do not even believe in Ireland. But you know, too, that in these years of being away there are times when Ireland comes to me in a sudden guise, when I see a hint of something familiar that I want and need. I see someone coming toward me, with a soft way of smiling, or a stubborn uneasy face, or a way of moving warily through a public place, or a raw, almost resentful stare into the middle distance."

From "One Minus One" by Colm Tóibín

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

timing is everything.

Summer has come on strong.  Muggy humid days appeared seemingly out of the blue around Memorial Day and with them, all the sneezing and sniffles and lethargy of springtime allergies.  On the days in-between rides to the subway or around the neighborhood, my bike seat was covered in a thin film of green powder and even the cat is sneezing daily.

On Sunday, after an impromptu barbecue with friends the night before and a flurry of spontaneous morning cleaning, we sucked down icy coffees and headed for the India Street pier.  The East River Ferry is neck-and-neck with riding a bike as my favorite way to travel in New York.  The view is spectacular, the air is (relatively) fresh as it rises off the river, and for the price of the aforementioned iced latte, you get a few moments of watery respite from the hustle and bustle.  We touched down on East 34th Street and scurried beneath the FDR towards Second Avenue and the Kips Bay movie theater.  A few hours in air conditioned darkness seemed like the perfect way to escape both the humidity and promised thunderstorms forecast for later that day.

Two and a half hours later, the engines of Mad Max still humming in our ears, we stepped out of the cinema to scattered raindrops and a blackened sky.  Timing is everything.  After fifteen minutes in the supermarket for baguette and tins of cat food (we have become Those People) and chickpeas for that night's dinner, the skies had opened and Second Avenue was flooded.  I immediately thought of California, and of the doormen on the Upper West Side who clean off the sidewalks with a hose every morning in the heat of the summer, instead of with a broom.

We decided to brave the rain.  It's only water after all.  Ten minutes and ten blocks later, the rain had eased and we had arrived at the subway.  Timing is everything.  A couple of train delays and another downpour later, with a fresh bottle of gin in hand, we were back across the river and ready for cocktails.

I drank my negroni as I wandered from room to room to room to room (there are only four) closing the windows to keep the rain from wetting the carpet.  The smell of roasted garlic emerged from the oven.  We listened to jazz.  I noticed that my watch had stopped ticking.

I might leave it that way all summer.

Friday, May 1, 2015

four years on.

As of today, I have been living in New York City for 4 years.  On the scale of places I have lived so far, that is creeping close to my college years spent on a leafy campus outside Philadelphia.  That seemed like a lifetime.  My time in New York does not.

The thing is, I have a bad habit of qualifying my responses in conversation.  If someone asks me what I do for a living I start by saying, "I work at an education non-profit" and end with ...I'm the chief executive's assistant.    When I cook something for dinner and someone compliments the meal, I say, "Thanks, I'm glad you like it!" and then ....here are 4 ways it could taste better.  And when people ask me how I like living in New York, my typical response is, "It's great!  It's a great place to live... but it's really expensive/stressful/crazy."

Living in New York City is all those things.  It is expensive.  It can certainly be stressful.  It is without a doubt crazy.  But it is also really, really great.  My bad habit can sometimes make it hard to see the forest for the trees but when I take a moment to examine my life at this very moment, on the brink of a fifth year of this crazy expensive stressful life, I have to be grateful, above all, for the opportunity to live in this city.

A brief random, but relevant, anecdote:
Around lunchtime today, my coworker Caroline frantically told me her pants were "broken".  She realized a clasp had fallen off the zip and was mortified at the thought of her meeting at Google later in the afternoon.  She walked down to my desk practicing a hunched-over version of her usual confident stance to hide the embarrassing zip-less fly of her trousers.  By some stroke of luck, I had an extra pair of trousers at my desk which I had neglected to bring home last night.  And by another stroke of luck, said trousers were of appropriate size and exact same color as aforementioned zip-less perpetrators.  Caroline quickly changed and headed off to her meeting, crisis averted.

After this exchange and in thinking about this long overdue blog post, I had to laugh.  Three years ago, Caroline and I did not even know each other (though we have since discovered many junctures at which our paths could have crossed).  Now we can confidently wear each other's pants without blinking an eye.  I have often thought about how hard it can be to make new, true girl friends after the somewhat forced close quarters of high school and college.  I feel very lucky to be able to share pants with Caroline.

So, here's to another year of swapping trousers, of craziness, of stress, and of (moderate) expense.  I hope I can finally stop qualifying those answers and instead, confidently speak about my job, my home, my cooking, my friends.

I look forward to the day when I up and move somewhere greener, quieter, cheaper.  I am sure that I will be ready to leave New York behind.  But now, four years in, I guess what I'm trying to say is that  I am grateful for the friendships I have made and the path I have followed.  And in its own way, New York has really begun to feel like home.