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Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's Eve 2008

The time just flew during my trip. I thought I'd have time to loll around (where do these ideas of mine come from?).

There was no lolling. I hadn't seen my parents in a year and it was wonderful to sit around after dinner and talk. I miss seeing them and I'll have to visit again soon.

Yesterday we had a nice lunch with my brother Allen, who also lives in Santa Monica. I met his girlfriend, who is sweet and fun. My brother is a partner at a corporate law firm and she's just starting law school. She thinks architecture is a glamorous profession, while my brother reasons that because so many people want to be architects, the wages aren't so great. Therefore he's in a profession that no one enjoys and he's paid well (perverse thought process, but that's my brother).

Allen spent a few years in New York before moving out West. He lived in the netherworld near Wall Street, so he could walk to work at a high-powered firm. His schedule was so demanding that any spare second for himself was precious. A few minutes salvaged from a commute meant getting into work a tad earlier, leaving earlier and being able to go to the gym. In general, though, he pulled 12-hour days routinely and worked nearly every weekend. My parents eventually joined him out West, leaving behind the long, dreary Boston winters.

Allen was saying how tough life is in New York, and that the struggle isn't worth it. He's right in some ways - New York is tough if you're older, if you have kids, if you don't have a steady income or if you're in the slightest way handicapped. You have to constantly climb up and down stairs. It's not easy to own a car. Many things are expensive. And it's damned cold in the winters (not as bad as Chicago, but still).

Life is 'tough' yes, but I think my brother has been softened by California living, which in my perspective is a little too cushy. People rarely walk around. Everything seems big - the malls, the stores, the endless freeways. And it's sunny just about every day. Doesn't that get a little....much? I love the cloudy days, the rainy days and just how every day can be different.

Next time I go to California, I'll have to take more pictures. I wanted to take photographs of the foothills, charred by the recent fires. We drove by stretches of burnt hillsides on the PCH and you could see how close the fires got to homes and gas stations. I also wanted to take pictures of the crowds and stores on The Promenade, but we were in a hurry. Next time.

Tonight, Mark and I don't have anything planned for New Year's Eve. We'll have a nice dinner and enjoy each others' company.

It's hard to believe that it's 2008 already. I have nothing but optimism for the coming year. My general plans include a healthier lifetsyle (going to the gym more often, eating better, dealing with work stress better, kvetching less), visiting my parents more often and just enjoying the moment. Time flies and the moment is really all we have.

Happy New Year to everyone out there.
May you and your families have a wonderful, healthy and happy 2008!

Photo by myself of a typical street in Santa Monica.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

From the Left Coast

Hello from California!

I haven't been posting as much as I'd like, since I forgot my parents have a dial-up connection, which is another way of saying 'waiting several pained minutes for each page to refresh.' Sigh.

It’s cold and green here, sunny and in the 60’s during the day and dropping to the 40’s at night. I’ve been swaddling myself with layers of sweatshirts and sweatpants.

My mother and I visited San Juan Capistrano yesterday, a small town a couple hours south of where they live, near Santa Monica. I drove. We hit slow traffic many times for no reason at all in both directions, so the trip took much longer than planned.

We didn’t know much about San Juan Capistrano beforehand, except that there was a historic Mission there known for the swallows that visit and a library designed in the 80’s by Michael Graves. The mission is surprisingly large and pretty, a rambling brick skeleton of the complex it once was. There was a walking tour, a chapel, a spacious courtyard and fountains filled with huge koi.

The best part about the trip was walking around, looking for a place for lunch. I turned down a couple overpriced cafes and a Mexican steak house before discovering a Mexican eatery tucked away in a mall. Tiled over and colorful, they offered plates of tamales, burritos and sopas. All the dishes came with fresh limes, hot sauces, Mexican rice and red beans. Jugs full of fresh fruit juices, like papaya, pineapple and watermelon, were displayed in a row. There was even a drink made from rice.

I don’t understand the California mentality of driving over an hour, often in traffic to a pretty town to get out and walk around, only to get back in the car and doing it again. To my pedestrian mentality, it is quite bizarre.

I'm off on the plane soon and I'll be back to NYC tomorrow. Hurrah!

Photos by myself in California.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Invasion of the Condo Snatchers

Last night I expected the plane to be empty. Mark had told me about a Christmas Day flight where he and a skiing buddy flew first class because there were so few passengers. In my fantasy I was stretched out, reading a magazine between naps.

Not so. The flight was packed, and I may have been the only American. People spoke Korean, Mandarin, various Indian dialects, French and Spanish. Everyone had their passports out as ID.

I sat next to a father and his five year old son. Their family of five and I were stuck in the last row of the plane, unable to lean backwards. For some reason, I couldn't figure out where they were from. Their quiet conversations sounded first like French, then Spanish. So either they were bilingual or this was a hybrid language (Mark suggested Catalan).

Well-dressed attractive brunettes, they sported the latest gizmos. The little boy tinkered with his father's iphone and later played chess on a Sony Vaio. I was impressed by how well-behaved he was. Meanwhile, I nursed a slight bout of air sickness and avoided watching the bad movie that was playing above me.

I started thinking about the other passengers and the recent tide of foreign investors in New York. The Times real estate section has been publishing articles like this one for the last several months about foreigners purchasing condos as investment properties. Condos make it possible to have not just a city pied-a-terre, but one that makes financial sense. You can sublet your apartment for however many years, use the income to pay off your mortgage and sell it later for a profit.

This fall, the Times described a man in Ireland who bought his apartment without seeing it. The place was near Wall Street, and the man reasoned that Wall Street wasn't about to leave, so it had to be a good investment. (Wall Street also isn't much of a neighborhood, but who knows. Things change).

There are good and bad things to this scenario. The good thing is that the New York real estate market hasn't slowed much at all. Those that have bought in don't have to worry yet. The bad thing is that the real estate boom will induce more growth, more landlords will be enticed to sell their buildings to developers for renovation and even more of the middle and lower classes will be forced out of the city. Brooklyn will continue to thrive and grow. All the boroughs will spread outwards.

The thing is, we aren't feeling the weakness of the dollar in America quite yet, since for whatever reason, countries are selling us their goods at discounted prices. At some point, though, the gap will become too great and we'll start feeling it.

Here's my fear, and it's a conclusion I made after finally succumbing to the movie on board: the dollar will continue to weaken and New York will become another Disneyworld that people visit from abroad. America will be lured into thinking it's still doing all right because it doesn't feel the weakness of its own currency. We'll be lulled into submission. The rest of the world keeps us happy and we keep doing what we do best - producing fashion, gadgets and movies. It happens in the animal world, too, when parasites keep their hosts just healthy enough to run around.

I don't blame the foreign investors. It makes financial sense for them to take advantage of the market. However, as a New Yorker, I'm petrified. I fear the city will essentially die, and become another Venice, a likewise glammed up, overpriced shopping mall. I fear people will move in for the short term, without care for the neighborhoods. And I fear that New York will become a parody of itself, a member of the walking dead. We'll be talking about it in the past tense, longing for what it once was.

Photo by myself in the West Village.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Greetings from New York

Merry Christmas
I'm a little sad that it's Christmas. I've gotten attached to the jingles and I'll miss hearing them.

I'm off the LA to visit my parents today. We don't have much planned as usual, which isn't a bad thing. I'm sure I'll do some shopping and picture taking and walking on the beach. It will be a nice, long-delayed trip. Mark is going to Vermont with his car Clive and a couple buddies.

I walked around the West Village yesterday and it was empty. Then this morning, Mark had an errand in the city and drove in and back within 20 minutes. Zero traffic. He and Clive were alone on Second Avenue.

The city is spooky when there's no one in it. For all my kvetching about the crowds, the subway and the bad drivers, I don't like it so much when no one's here.

Will Smith felt the same way in 'I am Legend', at the end of the world. In one scene, he is near Grand Central. He is surrounded by tall buildings, their empty windows darkly empty. There is the distinct sense that he is not alone, and it is spooky.

He's not alone. New York is a character in the movie, as it is in so many films. However, this only works when within the flow of a narrative, when a reality is constructed, and you're making sense of it as an audience member.

In real life, New York isn't so much a character, it has character. The real characters are the shop owners, the hipster douchebags, the homeless, the wealthy, the tourists, the students, the artists, the professionals, the working class. The city only has as much life as the people it shelters.

Without the people, the place is just a bunch of buildings.

Here's a tribute to the season by The Pogues:

Photo by myself in the West Village.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve and people were out buying last minute Christmas trees. Oh boy.

I can't imagine what it's like for these folks around tax time. Are these same people on line at the 34th Street post office, filling out forms at midnight? (I admit to going there to get my envelope stamped. It is a zoo).

Next Christmas Eve, I'll be prepared with a blow gun and tracking devices. We'll see where these people are on April 15th.

Mark and I went in early to see 'I am Legend' at Union Square. The movie was well done, and thankfully less violent than 'No Country for Old Men'. I spent much less time cowering behind my hands.

I won't give anything away, except that part of 'Legend' takes place in the future, around Christmastime. The talented Will Smith plays a resourceful guy in a deserted, post-apocalyptic New York City. The visuals of the city in ruins are incredible. It's worth seeing the movie for the sets alone.

There is something perverse about making a movie about the world nearing its end and then releasing it around the holidays. I don't get it. ('Die Hard', another movie set around Christmas with disasters on a smaller scale, was released in July, 1988. Imagine if it had been released around the holidays, with everyone traveling by plane?). 'Legend' has some hopeful messages, but still. Strange decision.

Today, the city was relatively deserted and wonderfully sunny out. The last several days have been depressingly gray. I've spent a lot of time indoors, which is tough on the brain. On the streets were tourists, neighborhood people doing some shopping and errands, Mark and myself. Union Square was still filled with Christmas stalls, including one full of lovely dried wreaths and flowers.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday with friends and family, and I wish you a happy and healthy 2008. I'll be off to California for a few, but I'll be posting on the road!

Here's the trailer for the movie:

Photos by myself in Union Square.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

O Christmas Tree

When you walk down the streets, you can sometimes get a whiff of pine needles.

I wish I could post the smell. It's such a striking discovery to have when you're walking along and all of a sudden, you smell nature. It makes me feel like a child, every single time.

Photos by myself, in Brooklyn.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

In the Fast Lane

When Mark rants about how bad New York drivers are, I tell him my theory - either they've never driven here before and are in shock, or they live in the city and don't often drive. Or, they're cab drivers. Mark does not agree with me. He thinks most drivers are stupid or lazy.

I drive once a year, if that. Driving in the city is overwhelming for me. There are too many things to worry about, too many visual distractions. Too many reckless, aggressive drivers that muscle you around and turn without signalling.

Many years ago I rented a car to drive to my parent's house in Boston, when they still lived there. My cat had just passed away and I'd driven home to bury her in the backyard, at the foot of the huge rock where we used to sit together and hang out.

She'd been my first cat, seeing me through high school and college. When I lived in New Jersey for a couple years after graduation, I brought her from the land of big open yards to a thickly settled suburb. Then she and I made the move to New York, and she became an indoor cat. Because of her, I'd never been completely alone in the city. I spent the drive reminiscing about our years together.

On the return drive to New York, I was still dazed. It was sunny out and the traffic was moving well. And then I got to the tollbooths outside the city.

In my delirium, I'd gotten myself into the equivalent to the E-Z pass lane. This was before E-Z passes, the nifty electronic cards that charge your account when scanned by a camera. In those days, there were special tokens you purchased ahead of time. You got into a special lane, deposited the token at the booth in lieu of cash, and moved on.

So here I was at the head of the line, confronted with a basket labelled 'TOKENS' in block letters. I panicked and the flake that I was, dug in my purse for subway tokens. This was the dark ages. People wore clothes and drove cars, but we also used funny coins to get through the subway turnstile.

I was throwing subway tokens into the chute and nothing was happening. The lever arm didn't move. So I started heaving whatever change I had into the basket to get the lever arm to budge. Handfuls of change went in.

The line of restless cars behind me was growing and then I really started to panic. I put the car into reverse, my crazed mind thinking that I might possibly get out of the lane (if everyone cooperated and excused my lack of brain cells). Then I stopped because a toll collector had appeared to see what the trouble was. I should have explained that it was a case of severe mental retardation.

Toll Collector Guy fished out some coins from the basket. 'Subway tokens?' he said, as if confronting an alien life form.

Taking pity on my lack of sound mind and the line of angry cars, Toll Collector Guy worked some magic. The lever arm rose up. I was free to go. Hurrah, hurrah, calamity avoided. Hurrah!!

So I stepped on the gas. The car was still in reverse. To my shock, I backed up, knocking into the motion sensor divider pole. The driver's side mirror crumpled and tore off the car. I braked, shifted, and looked up at Toll Collector Guy. He was standing, hands on hips, watching me. Cars were honking in the background. I could hear the thought bubbles of the drivers, and they were filled with exclamation points and four-letter words.

Good heavens.

I stepped on the gas again and tore ahead, leaving a cloud of honking in my wake. The side view mirror bounced against the car, dangling from its wiry guts.

I drove on, toward the mass of grey-blue buildings. I wanted to be anonymous again, not this moron in the spotlight, at the head of the line. I was speeding, feeling free and hopeful, the rattling of the mirror keeping time.

New York City. You could be anyone and do anything there, if only you put your mind to it. Anything was possible.

And just like that, I was swallowed up by the city, anonymous and home.

Photo by myself on the Brooklyn Bridge, headed out of Manhattan.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Driving in Super Mario Land

Driving in New York has to be one of the most thrilling and frightening experiences. I liken it to a real life Super Mario game - you dodge potholes and double-parked cars, you defend yourself against aggressive or lazy cab drivers who fail to signal or cut you off. You watch for signs, lights, cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, dogs on leashes and strollers.

Driving in New York is not for anyone with heart or nervous problems, whether you're steering the car or along for the ride. I've been strapping myself into cabs, after hearing that a coworker's cousin had her teeth knocked out in an accident (she'd been thrown into the dividing wall behind the front seat).

Today Mark and I decided to take a new route from my place in Park Slope to his place in Greenpoint, which led to a disaster. We found ourselves headed onto the Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan, with no way out.

'Oh no...What?!?! NOOOOO!!!! [Furious chain of expletives].'

Mark was quite unhappy.

We puttered behind cars queued on the bridge, roped around the FDR and through the Lower East Side until we reached the Williamsburg bridge. So, it was Park Slope to Greenpoint via Manhattan. Hm.

The thing about driving in New York is that everyone thinks that they're right. Everyone. The dogs, the drivers, the pedestrians, the cyclists. We nearly hit a guy sauntering down the middle of Delancey today. Mark gave him the horn and the guy turned and gave us the finger. More yelling and gesturing ensued.

I've been on both sides and I know the feeling. On the cold days, standing on the sidewalk while cars whizz by, belting everyone with freezing puddles, you can't help but send hateful vibes their way. How dare they? They're warm in their cars! Can't they see I'm out here freezing my butt off??!

And then behind the wheel with all the lights and distractions, it's the other way around. I want to roll down the window and say 'What are you people doing?! Can't you see it's dark out and you're all wearing black?! Are you trying to get yourselves killed?!'

I have a bunch of driving in New York stories that I'll have to unleash here (aren't you all lucky?). One took place a couple years ago. I'd worked late and cabbed it to Mark's place, after picking up a (delicious) pizza from Lombardi's.

'Greenpoint. Take the Williamsburg Bridge to McGuinness.'

It was late, and I was tired. I was zoning out but realized on the BQE that the driver was going exceptionally fast. I've been in many reckless cabs but the ride felt especially reckless. When we swerved to make the McGuinness exit, I had a premonition. I saw an impact on the passenger's side and glass shattering. Somehow I just knew there'd be an accident.

The cab raced down McGuinness Boulevard, a dangerously fast, six-lane road with a concrete median. The lights seemed strangely bright that night. I was strapped in, but I was nervous, and gripped the seatbelt with both hands.

'Take a left at the Hess station,' I said.

And he did. Only the cab driver anticipated the oncoming traffic across the median and anticipated wrongly.


The oncoming car crashed right into the cab in mid-turn, on the passenger's side. There was no shattering of glass, but it was serious a hit.

'Are you trying to kill people?!' I yelled. 'You're a reckless driver!'

And by sheer reflex, I paid him the fare with a tip. (Oh, how it pains me to admit this. How I wish I'd walked away righteously without paying!)

Both drivers had pulled over to wait for the police. The other driver had come over to yell at the cabbie, and I decided not to stick around. I walked the mile or so to Mark's place carrying the pizza, in a complete daze.

Photo by myself, on the Upper West Side.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On Christmases Past

Rainy night
Photo by myself in Williamsburg.


It rained a bit tonight, and I was caught without an umbrella. I snapped this picture under an awning.

Only six days til Christmas, and in less than a couple weeks, it'll be 2008. Holy cow.

For a variety of reasons, I've been reflecting on the past. Several years ago, a good friend of mine inherited a huge amount of money. I mean, huge. Her father sold his widget-making factory and gave the proceeds to each of his four children and several grandchildren.

Every few months, I'd visit Karen [who does not know about my blog], in New Jersey. She's a stay-at-home mother who has a lot of hobbies, like painting and gardening. Occasionally, she teaches art to children and the elderly.

I'd known Karen more than ten years when she told me about the inheritance. We were sitting in her car at her son's private school. The engine was running and she'd just lit a cigarette. She seemed almost upset, saying what a life-changing thing it was. Karen was married at the time and her husband was successful. Money was never a concern. But this was a whole other league of wealth, and it was hers alone.

Karen asked me whether I'd consider leaving my job, to help her out with her son. She'd pay me the equivalent of my salary, and I'd hang out with her, helping her with groceries, driving, laundry, etc. Knowing Karen, I'd probably have a lot of freedom and very little pressure. We were good friends, after all.

Karen actually asked me a few times to leave my job, and each time, I said no. Recently I've been thinking about this - how I'd said no, how I was so certain that it'd be a bad decision. I was afraid that our friendship would change and become weird, and that I'd feel obligated or uncomfortable.

I keep thinking about what could have been - I could have kept my apartment in New York and commuted from New Jersey on the weekends. I could have been more creative. I could have looked into starting my own business. Who knows?

But then I probably wouldn't have met Mark or a lot of other people. I probably wouldn't have had as many experiences as I've had here. Who knows.

Funny how life turns out. I should give Karen a call and see how she is.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now?

My mom called the other day and asked what I'd done over the weekend.

'Well, my office got rid of some fabric, so I made a pillowcase.'

'A what?'

'A pillowcase.'


'Pillow Case, Mom. A Pillow Case.'

'I can't hear you, darling.'

'PILLOW CASE!! PILLOW CASE!!' I could hear Mark laughing at us in the other room.


Oh dear.

I was at Mark's apartment, calling from my cell phone. Like many New Yorkers, neither of us has a land line. The younger generation eschewed their land lines because they're transient. Mark and I, on the other hand, feel it's a waste of money to pay for two phones.

It used to be that there was a hierarchy about having a 212 area code, the area code for Manhattan. Before cell phones, there was 212 and everyone else. The outer boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and The Bronx) all used 718. It was high contrast.

Early cell phones were able to get 212 numbers, but very soon all the 212 numbers were used up. Most people have 917 cell phone numbers but now there are 646 and 347 numbers, too. I'm glad we've gotten over ourselves in terms of the area code hierarchy. Aren't there more important things in life, people?

Meanwhile, here's the pillowcase I was yelling about:

(Not Miffy, but the flat sham in the beige woven).

The fabric doesn't photograph well, but it's really beautiful. It's a delicate beige with some gold and blue threads thrown in.

Top photo by myself, on Lower Broadway. I swear, every block of this city has scaffolding on it!


Monday, December 17, 2007

Life on the Edge of a Very Big Precipice (in My Little Head)

Late last night, there was a skirmish outside Mark's building. A man and a woman were fighting in raised voices. I couldn't make out any distinct words, but the tones were angry and hurried.

Instinctively, I moved from the couch to the middle of the room, away from the windows. I've seen too many stories on NY1 about people getting hit by stray bullets. Call me paranoid, but I could just see anchorman Pat Kiernan reporting about me the next morning (over and over and over).

Greenpoint is the last place you'd think something bad would ever happen. A mix of older, working class families and the new younger crowd, it's generally a sleepy place, unlike its hipper, pricier sister, Williamsburg. There are a lot of drunks, a lot of bars and a lot of churches.

Mark said,'I'm going to tell them I'm calling the police.' He tied up the garbage, zipped up his jacket, and slithered downstairs.

'&*@#(!?' I thought. '#$*@!??!'

New York isn't dangerous these days, but the possibility of danger remains. Pockets of danger are limited to the sketchier neighborhoods. It's extremely rare to know people who've been mugged or attacked.

A guy in my building on the Upper West Side had been mugged. I'd heard the BANG of the entry door four flights down. When I ran into him in the hall, he said someone tried to force his way into the vestibule as he was getting in. Frantically, he'd gotten the entry door open in time to save himself.

An acquaintance had her purse snatched by a passing car in Spanish Harlem. My friend Nancy had her apartment burgled in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. She'd come home one day to find the door hanging off its hinges. She lived on a nice street, but it was a few blocks from the sketchy part of town.

I'd witnessed a stabbing victim when I first moved here, a bike theft in broad daylight, and a guy with his pants pulled down at the 23rd Street N/R subway station. Of course there still are regular con artists who've 'lost their wallets', or help people with luggage and then demand money. Those don't count in my book.

Even though it's relatively safe, I know things happen. I've heard of women being attacked or abducted and people being pushed into oncoming trains. At the slightest inkling of danger, my instinct kicks in. I am the biggest, paranoid chicken of them all. The crazy ranting weirdos on the subway make my palms sweat. I don't walk down streets that look too deserted. I am occasionally spooked out in my own apartment.

I heard Mark's voice outside and then the other voices subsided. He came up a minute later saying, 'Heroin addicts,' and requested a hug.

'I feel sorry for those people. They were really messed up.'

I closed my eyes, relieved.

For an earlier post about New York before it got itself spiffed up, click here.

Photo by myself, near Grand Central Terminal.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Al Dente

Early in the week I had a dentist's appointment. Note to self: never schedule a dental appointment for a Monday. It makes the Sunday Blues that much bluer.

Deep inside my mouth, the dentist said,'Flossing is the most effective way to preserve your teeth.' Meaning that I should do more of it.

I sent him a gargled reply, but what I really meant to say was, 'Yes, I know. You should talk to my Mom about this. She has perfect teeth. Zero cavities, teeth all lined up and nice. She loves her teeth and she loves to floss.'

My mother is a hoot. She is a certified Plant Fiend (more on that someday), and she is an avid flosser. For the record, Mom prefers the classic Johnson & Johnson waxed floss, either unflavored or mint.

Example: several years ago, Mom and I went to London for vacation. At one point in a cafe near St. Martin-in-the-fields, she whipped out the floss. It's a reflex with her and she forgot where we were. Cafe tables were pushed up to each side of us, 6 inches away. (No worries, I stopped the situation from progressing).

During our week abroad, we also took a day trip to Bath. We toured the Roman Baths and Sir John Soane's house (ours was an architect's and horticulturist's vacation). We stopped by the Royal Crescent by John Wood the Elder - an oval sweep of townhouses fronted by a huge green lawn. I'm not sure of the statistics how big this place is, but it is BIG.

Long story short, I was on one end of the green and, looking back at the other end, I could see Mom sitting alone on a bench. Meaning I could see a speck of color I that assumed was my mother because the speck was flossing.


I felt what wildlife camera people must feel, set up in their blinds. They are there to spy on the elusive arctic fox, and there it is in its natural habitat, preening itself.

All this I would have told my dentist, given the chance.

Top photo by myself on a sunnier day, in Little Italy.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tis the Season

Thanks so much for all the kind wishes for Clive, Mark's car. We picked him up today from the hospital in Lawn Guyland and he's made a full recovery. It was simply a loose connection. Whew! We are relieved.

I am sadly unprepared for the holidays. Today I finally made reservations for LA to visit my parents (I can procrastinate about certain things). Even though Thanksgiving was early this year and the streets are littered with Christmas shoppers, it still doesn't feel like the holidays to me.

On the way to pick up Clive in Lawn Guyland, we passed a couple houses that went a little nuts with their decorations. This one especially:

In the city, people might put a candle in the window, but that's about it. In Manhattan, you don't get much control over the building exterior unless you own a brownstone. In Brooklyn, there are more single family houses, but homeowners are either unambitious or terribly lazy. Decorations are not common.

The larger apartment buildings might have a few lights at the entrance, but it's the stores and restaurants that go hog wild.

What can I say, it's New York, the capital of sheer commercialism!

Top photo by myself in Soho. Lower photo by myself in Lawn Guyland.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Car Goes Boom Boom

Clive died today.

I was playing hooky from work, so Mark and I drove out to Lawn Guyland to lunch with his mum. It was cold out but I was dressed for an indoor experience - tee shirt, jeans jacket, thin pants and sneakers. It was just supposed to be lunch and a walk around a mawl. That's it.

What happened was this - we had a filling lunch of corned beef sandwiches, fries, slaw and pickles. And then Clive was found dead in the parking lot, refusing to wake up.

Mark waited for the tow truck, while his mum and I walked the mile down the icy sidewalk to her place. The wind was blowing. Traffic whizzed by. We held hands to steady ourselves. We laughed at how much closer the restaurant seemed by car and how much worse it could have been (if it were raining, if we'd been in the middle of nowhere, if we were in New Jersey).

The flat soles of my sneakers skidded along. She'd fallen and broken her hip exactly one year before. We finally got to her place, then drove back for Mark and then to the Mini Cooper place nearby.

Clive was there, held helplessly aloft on the back of a truck, held steady with two cables. He looked smaller than usual, and a little apologetic. Later, Mark and I navigated his mum's car through traffic, back to Brooklyn.

One day next summer, I'll have to take a photo around dusk, showing the view of New York from the LIE with whole skyline lit up. There's the classic spire of the Empire State Building (tonight its lights were white), the tiered top of Chrysler Building, the jaunty slope of the Citicorp tower. It is a wall of lights and billboards that make New York look like a vast, indomitable monster.

I could see how impossibly big the city could look to someone who doesn't have a foothold already there. It's scary. And it looked bigger tonight without our dear Clive.

Photo by myself of Clive in Lawn Guyland.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Urban Couples, Part Six, Or, My First Date with Mark

Due to overwork and various moodswings, I never got around to writing about my first date with Mark. He was the fourth in the series of dates that took place over five days more than two a half years ago.


[For the earlier parts of this series, click here:
(Part One) (Part Two) (Part Three) (Part Four) (Part Five)]

When I first saw Mark's profile on the dating site, I thought whoa. He sounded verrry different from every other guy I've dated. His profile was chock filled with stuff. He was an avid music collector. He was an unabashed media whore. He'd traveled just about everywhere. He sounded effusive and confident and outgoing. He worked in tv.

As a cavewoman who didn't have cable and knew almost nothing in terms of pop culture, I found the concept frighteningly odd. It was like the hip, popular guy asking the geeky girl in the corner on a date.

But I was going along with the whole thing, open to anyone, as my friend Lucy had instructed. After meeting the tango fiend and the (cheap) teacher guy, I was not afraid. It would only be one drink, after all.

There were a couple emails back and forth. He wrote one that was very long, describing himself, his childhood in Lawn Guyland, his travels, his thoughts on things. Every word was spelled correctly, all the grammar was correct, and it was funny. I was impressed.

So I wrote back and we planned on a drink after I returned from my week in California. But before I returned, there was an accident. While playing kickball, Mark slid into home plate, leaning into one side. There was a loud snap as all his bodyweight landed on his right wrist, breaking it. Yowch.

Cut to date night, a Monday. We meet at Union Square. There he was, leaning up against one of the railings, his right arm in a cast. He wore a blue dress shirt the color of blueprint paper and jeans. He gave me a little smile and a kiss on the cheek, and then we walked to a nearby bar.

'What'll you have?' the bartender asked.

'Oh, a gin and tonic,' said the cavewoman.

'Make that a top shelf gin,' Mark said. 'Tanqueray, or Bombay Sapphire, one of those.'

The bartender looked at me. 'A Tang and tonic,' I must have said. I was too consumed with being impressed to know whether I was speaking English.

The evening skipped along quickly. There was light-hearted, animated talk, but I don't remember a thing we said. We hopped to a second bar nearby. And then the worst thing that could have happened happened. Mark asked me out for a second date.

'So I'd like to see you again. What are you doing this weekend?' he asked.

Lucy had instructed that one should always be busy when asked for the second date. But what if you're tipsy in mid-drink and caught off guard? What if you're a horrible liar when face to face with someone? What then?!?!

The poor cavewoman could do nothing but say um, yes, this weekend sounded great.

And that was that.

Photo by myself, of one of the many coffee carts littered about the sidewalks, in Soho.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

For Your Entertainment

Who else is completely hooked on Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsay's show? The show is on Fox, Wednesdays at 9pm.

I have to say it's sheer genius. Gordon swoops into failing kitchens, unearths problems and solves them. Most of the problems are people - cooks infatuated with themselves and their menus, managers in denial.

I never got into Hell's Kitchen, Gordon's previous Fox show, but this one seems much more positive. Ramsay doesn't just yell, he renovates the dining rooms and the menus. He yells when needed at an annoying chef or passive owner, and all you can think of is 'YES'! This is a show where the good guy always wins. Or he at least gets to yell at the bad guy.

Mark and I are so hooked on the show that we've been watching the earlier BBC series, too. (The American version is decidedly more glamorized).

We've been debating on whether to visit one of the many improved restaurants in and around New York, or better yet, Gordon's restaurant near Times Square, The London.

After a quick look at The London's menus, we're making a reservation. It'll be a small investment but already the night sounds remarkable.

A recent commercial Mark produced for Samsung, above.

The 30-second spot premiered nationally during the World Series. It's now being shown in theatres during movie previews.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How You Can Have What You Crave When You Want It

Tonight I trekked up to Fairway on the Upper West Side for some groceries. I used to live a few blocks away and never thought I could move away from my supermarket.

Now and then I make the journey if I'm out early enough from work. It's a moot point, though, since Fairway is open 24/7.

I was limited to only what I could carry, and what I got was this:

3 stalks of broccoli
1 container Fairway guacamole
1 container Fairway Pecorino-Romano grated cheese
1 liter bottle Fairway Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Olive Oil
1 box Kohinoor 'Heat & Eat' Aloo Palak (an Indian dish of spinach and potatoes)
1 box Certified Organic Maple Flavored Stroopwafels (a Canadian product)
4 containers Stonybrook strawberry lowfat yogurt

I was tempted by everything else - bins of granola in a variety of flavors, the dried fruits, the refrigerated shelves heaving the pre-made pastas, salads, soups and main courses, the rotisserie chickens with lemon-herb, rosemary or Peruvian seasonings, the desserts, cakes, deli products, hot and cold salad bars. Somehow I managed to walk away without purchasing any of the many soy products and imitation meats (I am half-joking).

After I got home, I had to wonder - is this normal, the fact that you can get organic everything, foods of so many cultures, and so many prepared foods under one roof? And at any time of the day? I could have easily gone to any of the many other supermarkets like Whole Foods and Balducci's and gotten the same grub for slightly more money.

The reason I wonder is that I'm terrified of becoming spoiled. More than anything, I want to live in this city without taking it for granted. I don't want to become one of Those People, who walk around snootily with a sense of entitlement, who forget their roots, who forget what it's like not to have anything. They're the ones that push you aside on the sidewalk, and roll their eyes at other places on the planet. They probably don't even step foot in supermarkets.

Once you become one of Those People, you lose the sense of value and meaning. Of all my fears, that's the biggest one.

For an earlier post about Fairway, click here

Photo by myself at a street vendor downtown.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas Shopping

The other night we had our office holiday party in the meatpacking district. I had overestimated how much work I had and was panicked til the last minute. The client's email wasn't working, I didn't have enough time to check my work. It was the usual insanity. Five minutes before hors d'oevres were to be served, I ran out the door.

Outside, it was freezing and it was impossible to get a cab. Mark called me from the bar to report that traffic was tied up with opening night for the the new Apple Store on 9th Avenue. I opted to take the subway and hoof it a couple blocks.

When I arrived, the party was hopping. There were lights strung in the windows of the restaurant, candles set on tables and an open bar that featured sparkling pink martinis. Smartly dressed waiters balanced trays of skewered meats and sauces. There were rolled things and fried things, and many, many drinks.

Dinner was surprisingly good. There were salads and steak. After desert and coffee, we had our traditional Secret Santa exchange. Earlier in the week, we had picked names and were encouraged to spend $25 for a gift. Most people spent more, since 25 bucks does not get you much.

I'd gotten my Secret Santa person a cute pair of convertible cashmere gloves from J Crew, which were fingerless gloves that turned into mittens. I felt generous and threw in a Sephora lip gloss sampler to boot.

The Secret Santa gift I received was not nearly so cute. I opened the hastily wrapped box to find a few novelty items - a toy camera gizmo, a Christmas ornament, a candle. Mark looked over at the box and said, 'There is no way a gay dude gave you those things. Those are from a straight dude.'

I tried not to look too disappointed in public. 'A gay dude would've at least gotten you a nice soap,' he went on. 'And it would've been wrapped better.'

'He probably ran out of time. He was probably stressed,' I said. 'Or maybe he thought I was 12 years old.'

'Definitely not gay,' Mark repeated.

We left before I could find out who my Secret Santa was. Now I'm dying to know.

Photo by myself in Brooklyn.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

42nd Street

Today Mark and I are zipping into the city for some bakery goods, then zipping out to New Jersey to see his brother's family. Tis the season for getting together. I'll have to post about my first date with Mark later.

I was near 42nd Street the other day and took a picture of the Chrysler Building, above. I was reminded of a talk I gave, many years back at a public school in Chinatown. It was Career Day, and I was going to speak about architecture and one of my favorite streets in the city.

I had all these slides with me to show the kids a virtual walking tour of 42nd Street. It began with the transformation of Times Square and how an old movie theater had been lifted off its foundation and moved. I had photos of the aqua green terra cotta tiles covering the McGraw Hill Building. There was Bryant Park, littered with green folding chairs and people sunning themselves.

I had images of the grand Neo-Classical presence of the New York Public Library, the raised street at Pershing Square, dotted with streetlamps and the swelter of commuters in and out of Grand Central. Finally, Chrylser Building ended the tour, a soaring Art Deco monument in stainless steel. It had briefly been the tallest building in the world, before being eclipsed by the Empire State Building.

Unfortunately, the slide projector was broken (ack!). The thought of giving the tour without visuals seemed absolutely lame. So I broke out a roll of drawings I'd brought to show the kids what architects did (ie; toil for hours over drawings of things for superbly wealthy people).

A flurry of 8th and 9th graders swarmed around me. They were mesmerized by the three-car garage, the housekeeper's apartment, his and her dressing rooms, and the assortment of rooms that might all mean the same thing - Family room, Living Room, Library, Den, Game Room. These were kids who grew up in apartments, and they were a astounded that such over-the-top homes were possible.

Of course, none of them wanted to be me (sad, because this had been the point of Career Day). They all wanted to be the client, the guy with the big bucks. Big Bucks had gotten his money from owning a chain of drug stores. The kids didn't ask about his profession, and I didn't let on.

When the last student left, their teacher turned to me and shook my hand. 'I always wanted to be an architect', he said. It's something I've been told many times.

I gathered my things and left the classroom, toting the heavy roll of blueprints and box of unused slides. All in all, it had been a good day.

Photo by myself of the Chrysler Buliding.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Urban Couples, Part Five

It was a low energy day yesterday. I would've preferred to stay home, but I stumbled in to work because there's so much to do. Just about everyone is coughing and sniffling (take care of yourselves!) due to the cold or the overdrink.

Last night I skipped a birthday dinner to rest at home. I was riveted to Top Chef
(Season Three Finale rerun, the Holiday Special) and Project Runway. All I want to do is cook, sew and write, except that there's no time. It's inspirational and lazy to watch so much effort and creativity from the comfort of the sofa.

Well, here's another installation of my blind date saga.

This is a several part series. For earlier installments, click here:
(Part One) (Part Two) (Part Three) (Part Four)

Sunday rolled around, and it was good I'd had a day off from being 'on'. This would be my third date in four days. I was starting to think of these dates as experiences to be survived, rather than enjoyed.

I'd seen Teacher Guy's photo on another internet dating site a couple years before, when I'd gone on a few non-dreadful, non-eventful dates. (There are stories from those dates, too). I remembered Teacher Guy's profile for the grainy photo and byline about academia.

So when I received an email with the same photo a couple years later on a different site, I was curious. Curious that this guy would have no other images of himself, curious that he was so persistent on the internet dating scene. Maybe he was picky, maybe he had very bad luck.

I met Teacher Guy at the bar of a great British pub on the West Side. Having a Sunday day date was perfect way to take the pressure off.

TG was sitting at the bar, which had flung its windows wide open to the approaching sunset. He was wearing a windbreaker, tee shirt and slacks. He looked like a non-grainy version of his photo, a little like Harrison Ford after being tumble dried. After TG shook my hand, I noticed that he didn't offer me a seat or a drink. Hm. As we started talking about the usual things (what we did, where we lived) I hailed the bartender for a beer.

The conversation drifted about, looking for common ground. He taught something like philosophy or cultural studies at a public college. With my working knowledge, I can do okay with such topics and soon the discussion became very, uh, cerebral. Some people might be flattered with such cerebral conversation, but I find it boring and impersonal.

As the conversation continued, I reached the bottom of my glass. I noticed that Teacher Guy did not offer me another drink. Hell, he didn't offer me the first drink. His eyes flicked to my glass and he just kept motoring on, talking about this or that.

This leads me to a corollary to my friend Lucy's Rule #3, about manners: when a guy asks you out, he asks you out, meaning you are his guest. As a female, you must not ask a guy out. You might think so-and-so's picture looks nice but you must not be the one to initiate contact. He has to do the asking (email you first, suggest a time and place) and therefore he should foot the bill.

The bartender swung around and TG did not order another drink. Following his lead, I did not order another drink. The conversation sputtered on, while dinner dishes started pouring out of the kitchen. People were being served beautiful pork chops with wilted greens, things with sauce, things with garlic mashed potatoes. I didn't expect dinner, but my stomach was growling.

The bartender swooped by again and asked to settle the bill. A line had started for seats. Here's the good part. There was a grand pause before Teacher Guy made the move to pay for my drink, a six dollar beer.

Okay, I can understand that he was on a teacher's salary. I can understand that he might have already spent hundreds of dollars for years of internet dates. I can understand that my expectations might have been outdated. Seeing that hesitation was not so nice. Maybe he was not so impressed with me, but the gentlemanly thing would be to pay up.

We parted ways somewhere near Battery Park. There was a handshake, thank you's and no promises. I'd survived blind three dates already. The week loomed ahead, and I had those mixed Sunday feelings in my throat - is it Monday again already, why does this week look so gapingly open (in a good and bad way), do I have to do this again, and what's next?

Little did I know I'd meet Mark the next day.

Upper photo by myself on Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn.
Lower photo by myself in Long Guy-land.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Urban Couples, Part Four

(Part One) (Part Two) (Part Three)
The saga of some time I spent internet dating, continues.

After the dinner with Tango Fiend, the second of four blind dates in five days, I had a day to regroup. I hadn't been out there that long, but already I feeling discouraged by the internet dating world.

Lucy was my muse during this period. She had a set of rules for me to follow, and the structure was reassuring. She and Brit, friends at the time, were fooling around with their male roommates (Uh-huh. I did not approve, but both gals were in slightly messy, non-relationship situations with guys they saw every day).

Looking back, following Lucy's direction may not seem wise. At the time, it was all I had.

Lucy's dating tips (for women) are simple and familiar:

1. Date anyone who asks
This will increase your confidence and make you feel desirable. Instead of weeding people out, you have many, many dates. The one glitch is that there are tango fiends out there.

2. Always be busy
If your date asks for a second date, be busy at the time he asks. Of course, if you're dating anyone and everyone, chances are you will be busy and you won't have to lie. Being busy and desired by others increases your desirability to the other person.

3. Seriously note how he treats you on the date
Manners count. If he treats you well, that's great and to be expected. If he treats you even slightly badly, things will only go downhill.

The night after the date with Tango Fiend, Lucy, Brit and I went out to the East Village. We sat at the bar and ate, as we sometimes did, and chatted with the bartender.

Brit was feeling more tipsy and opinionated than usual. She lectured at length how the steak could have been cooked better. I nodded, bleary-eyed, and quiet. I was thinking about my date the next day, and how I'd just rather stay home.

(Don't worry, the story gets worse and then much better).
Photo by myself of Lower Broadway.


Wednesday Portraits - Ruvym's Rant

I starting to feel run down yesterday, like my head was wrapped up in a blanket. My shoulders hurt. This morning I woke next to Mark with a full-blown, snotty cold. Yeesh.

I have loads to do but I've happily decided to take a sick day. I more than deserve it. Mark is between projects, so he and I will stay in and nest. How perfect?

I was browsing desperately on NYC Bloggers, looking for a New York site to share. NYC Bloggers is a nifty site that lists blogs by NYC neighborhood and subway station. The only trouble is that a good 50% of the sites are either terribly outdated or non-existant. It is really a crap shoot.

After several frustrated attempts, I stumbled upon Ruvym's Rant, a blog by a fellow who describes himself thusly:

'Out of law school, but desperate to write movies. Still, before that happens, there's the potential I might lose my soul in corporate America.'

What I find via Ruvym's website is that he is a thoughtful guy who happens to live in New York and writes thoughtful posts. Posts about his romantic life, about his childhood, about being a single guy, about about Starbucks.

Ruvym's been writing since 2004 (wow). I'm tuned into this hopes and dreams already, after a short read. It's like the Truman Show, I've become addicted. I want to know if he moves to Brooklyn, how his creative work pans out, when he meets his girl. I hope he continues to write.

Here are a couple posts that I liked, one about a night out and here's one on how Manhattan is changing. Enjoy.

Wednesday Portraits is an ongoing, semi-regular installment featuring other New York blogs.

Photo by myself, in Soho.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

7 More Random Things, 7 More Random Blogs

I've been tagged by Kizz at 117 Hudson and Cole Twins at Sanity for the same meme.

The directions are to post 7 random or odd things about yourself, then tag 7 random people to carry out the same meme.

Since this meme is about random things, I thought I'd post a list of coincidences, some large, some small:

1. My mom, dad, brother and I have the same first and last initials.

2. I was born one day before Mark's brother

3. I went to the same school twice. Once for my Bachelor's and once for my Master's degree.

4. I was hired by the same office on two different ocassions by two different bosses.

5. I worked at an office on the 11th floor on East 42nd Street. Then I worked at an office on the 11th floor on West 42nd Street.

6. My family has a penchant for living on streets and in towns with the word 'West'. I grew up in West Something. When I was 15, we moved to West Something Street in West Something Else.

7. A few years ago, my parents were planning to move. They told me about a house they'd seen that they liked. I asked where it was.

'It's on West Something Street in West Some Other Place', my mom said.

'You'll buy the house.' I said. And I was right.

The seven random blogs from the Nablopomo randomizer:

1. Mindy at Joy Filled You
2. Morganzo at Morgan in Chile
3. Aaron and Danielle from Live from Japan
4. Kerry at Kerry not Kelly
5. Pico at Pirate Dog PDX
6. Dan at Gone Mild
7. Meesh E202

Photo by myself in Soho.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Urban Couples, Part Three

(Part One) (Part Two)
So back to our comic-tragic story.

The second date (of the four blind dates in five days) was a doozy and a half. This was a date I was not looking forward to. He was way out of my age bracket, for one, a good 14 years older than me. He also sounded much too conservative for my taste.

I suggested meeting for a coffee or a drink, to keep things casual. This guy (I'll call him Max) offered dinner in the West Village. And not just dinner but tickets to a dance performance at the Joyce Theater.

And not only that, but he sent me poetry beforehand. Thankfully the poetry wasn't written with me in mind, someone he'd never set eyes on. This was poetry that he'd written at an earlier date. Oh boy. Way to make my heart sing.

I'm not a poetry person. I respect the art, but I don't even have the patience to skim through it. I can't say the poetry was a strike against Max, but it was not a positive thing. (Note - do NOT send poetry to someone you don't know. Like root beer or licorice or Marmite, it is an acquired taste).

The date with Max was on a Friday, the night after meeting Nameless Guy. I'd dreaded the date the whole week, but I told myself I was doing this for the good of humanity. No matter what, I could not back out.

I met Max outside the Joyce, on 8th Avenue. I was polite, dread-filled and dressed up for the occasion. To dress up for someone I had little interest in made me feel absolutely horrible inside.

I felt like a child bride in the 18th century, about to commit her life to scrubbing pots and shoveling coal. My thought bubble was filled with ampersands and exclamation points. Now imagine my despair when we bumped into a married couple whom Max knew, while waiting in line?! (Insert internal withering scream).

Max introduced me to the couple as his 'date' and they promptly exchanged surprised, smiling looks that said 'Oh my, Max, you're going to have to tell us all about your secret ladyfriend'. Oy! What I go through for the good of humanity!

Cut to dinner.

It turned out that Max was a fervent lover of dance. He was taking two different tango classes, sometimes dancing for hours on the weekend. He could not stop talking about tango. Tango, tango, tango. This was the conversation for most of the evening.

The enthusiasm was charming, I guess. I mean, it's better than no hobbies at all. However, there was not one question directed at me. Hm. I'm fine with chit chat and just kept asking questions about tango to pass time - the steps, the history, the other tango students.

Finally, as dinner came to a close, Max got around to asking about me. So what had I studied in school? What was I doing now? I told him simply that I'd started out as a serious musician. I'd fallen in love with architecture my freshman year. I was working on houses for extremely wealthy people.

After my two sentences, there was uncomfortable silence. I'd like to think that Max realized that he'd gone on about tango for half an hour and only then were we getting to me. I'm not sure what his thought bubble said.

I must have said something about how late it was getting. We parted ways under streetlights; Max hailed me a cab and I made the long trip up to the Upper West Side.

Along the ride, I felt wretched for a number of reasons - for possibly leading this poor man on, for enduring the evening, for another one in a string of dating disappointments. I did my best to tell myself that the summer was just beginning. It was June, and though I had nothing to go on, there were bound to be at least a few warm, happy days ahead.

Photo by myself in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

More on Louie - Part Two

UPDATE: The post below is from this morning. Just this afternoon, I heard that Louie is safe in Jill's apartment, hiding under the kitchen table. That's one less cat on the streets tonight.

Hooray Louie!!!


This morning, Mark and I woke to the first official snowfall of winter. There were a couple inches on the ground. The city was quiet and cold.

My first thoughts were about Louie. Jill, the foster mom of the newly adopted kitten, and I are slowly planning Louie's capture. So far, we're undecided on how to go about it.

The black and white cat has been moved into his new home, at a nearby grocery store (pictures forthcoming). Previously owned, Black and White followed Jill into her building. The grey cat followed another fellow-rescuer inside. Grey and her other kitten are now fattening up nicely.

Louie may not go so quietly. He bats my hand sometimes out of reflex, (claws retracted). He's a little shy. I'd love to just grab him while he's eating, but you only have one chance at grabbing a cat. It's all over if you miss.

A couple months ago, I bought a huge cage on ebay to trap these guys. I rode home during rush hour, my arms wrapped around a four foot long box labelled 'Raccoon Trap'. A picture showed a poor creature posed near a metal cage. Every lurch of the train sent me wobbling about on my high heels. I can only imagine what the others passengers thought.

This morning, I checked in with Louie. He was quite content inside his home. Someone had draped another box on top of the one Mark and I had Saran-wrapped, and there was a plastic tarp on top of that. The whole street is taking care of this cat.

Louie slithered out when I cracked open a can of food (Friskies Beef Entree). He ate in the open air, shivering. I took the time to add shredded paper to his nest.

Rescuing him is just a matter of time.

Photos by myself in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Artsy Fartsy

The other night, Mark and I met a few of his buddies at an art opening in Williamsburg. There were graffiti-inspired pasteboard 'paintings' selling for 12 thousand bucks, some collage installations and a row of skateboards.

There was a good-sized crowd, even though the opening took place on an obscure side street among warehouses. What I loved more than the art is the 'scene'. It looked like everyone ran home from work and put on their most anonymous black, green or brown clothing.

Thing is, it's usually the same color palette. In Williamsburg, it's washed denim and cotton. Above 14th Street, it's wool, gabardine or cashmere. In Soho, it's something glitzier with some stretch. Whatever the material, the key was to look like you weren't trying too hard.

Mark and all his guy friends are creative. There was an art director, a music producer and a photographer. Because of their talents, each could qualify as a 'Metrosexual', that strange breed of urban guy who is creative, straight and verrrry particular.

I'd go further to say that these fellows are 'macho Metrosexuals', which means they creative, without being overtly 'gay' (not that there's anything wrong with it). Mark does not have more facial products than I do. His typical costume is sneakers, sweater, jeans and stubble. Then he can take a photograph or decorate a room better than me any day.

I used to go gallery-hopping in Soho and Chelsea for fun. The other night brought back memories - swooping in, homing in on the alcohol, nodding politely at the 'art', then leaving after a respectable minute.

This time, Mark and I only stayed for a beer. Ravenous, we went in search of dinner, leaving the party behind.

Note: I now realize that my definition of 'Metrosexual' might be completely whack. Wikipedia says 'Metrosexual is a neologism generally applied to heterosexual men with a strong concern for their appearance, and who display many of the lifestyle tendencies of stereotypical gay men'. There's nothing in there about being creative.

In my head, though, creativity was always a part of it. My definition would be 'a heterosexual, creative man living in a city, who has a strong concern for his appearance and everything around him.' Or maybe my idea of displaying 'many of the lifestyle tendencies of stereotypical gay men' represents the creative part?

*Sigh*. My confusion stems from living in the city and being in a creative field way too long.

Photos by myself, in Williamsburg.