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Friday, February 29, 2008

A New York Frame of Mind

Morning Commute
Photo by myself on the morning commute. I swear New York has a monopoly on black microfiber.


They say that New Yorkers are pushy and fast talking.

Well, yes.

I've changed from the nice person I used to be, lol. My inner bitch-on-wheels has been awakened over time, in part due to the environment. The anger and angst from daily life builds up and comes out at select times.

It'd be different if I spent these years living on a farm in bucolic Italy, for instance. I'd have another set of personality quirks, but impatience would not be among them.

The bitchiness comes out at work when there's a good reason - when people shirk responsibilities, or when a schedule is disregarded, or when someone is acting unreasonably. Usually I endure months of the above before I finally break, and when I do, it's in the form of a long, pointed email. (Okay, so I'm pretty tame).

I've been around screamers. I've seen people throw wooden blocks at each other after meetings. I've worked under soft-spoken bosses who use the subversive power of social pressure to get their worker bees to produce. There are all kinds.

The New Yorker in me is most obvious when I'm on the phone with people in other parts of the country. Salespeople from the South or West take their time. They're nice! They don't get back to you right away. They leave the office on time or early. They probably own cars and houses and have kids.

It's easy to make generalizations. Not all New Yorkers are intense workaholics or weirdos. A large percentage of us are laid back, nice, friendly and sane.

But chances are, yeah, we're a wee bit more hopped up than folks living elsewhere.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

New York on TV, Coming Soon

Photo by myself on the A train at the 50th Street station. My fellow passengers must have thought I was odd for taking this photo, but I liked the colors.


Bravo will soon be showing a new series called The Real Housewives of New York.

The previews show five socialites in their 30's and 40's. Some have second homes in the Hamptons and attend glamorous functions. One is shown pooh-poohing the suburbs and trying on various pieces of expensive clothing. She looks particularly uptight and annoying.

I'm rather put off by this representation of New York. First, why call these freaks housewives? These are women of privilege, who have 'help' around the house. One is a Countess. Yes, they have jobs, but it's not the same as the rest of us. They don't seem to need their jobs. They don't seem to struggle.

I challenge Bravo to display some real people, who can be just as interesting and who are authentic. I guess one obvious reason for the subject matter is that most people struggle through life. Most people need their paycheck. Why put average people on television when those are the people watching?

Please don't be fooled if you wind up watching the series. What they're showing is a micro snapshot of a smidge of New York, and they have chosen perhaps the least interesting demographic, at least, to me.

If Bravo showcased artists or designers, first-year lawyers or bankers, even hipster douchebags shacking up four to a Williamsburg loft, then I'd tune in.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Kingdom for a Working Pay Phone

Photo by myself today at the Times Square subway station. A man sat with young cat that was enamored with him.


Today I forgot my phone and had to call Mark from a *gulp* a pay phone. (Cue creepy organ music).

I wind up using a pay phone about five times a year. I'd say 75% of the time, the phone doesn't work. Either I don't get a dial tone, or I get a dial tone and my fifty cents disappear forever into an abyss, or I actually get my money back. Whatever the result, I have to go in search of another phone.

It's a real act of faith to pick the receiver up off the hook with your bare hand and put it anywhere near your bare ear. Ugh.

I once worked at an office that attempted to design street furniture in the form of snazzy modern payphones. We met with telephone business guys, three of them who wore blueish suits. In the midst of one involved meeting, one business guy was mid-sentence when he whipped out what must have been the equivalent of a Binaca and sprayed himself in the mouth. I would have lost it except I was so shocked I couldn't emit a sound.

Anyway, the amount of energy involved in trying to get the payphone to work was astounding. First was the cost; a fabricator estimated a cost of more than $30k for a prototype. Then it had to comply with national codes for the handicapped. Then it had to be buildable. Finally, it had to defy vandalism.

Hm. All this for a phone booth? Is it really necessary? Well yes, when you think about how much money these phone guys get from advertising. In fact, it doesn't really matter whether the phones work, as long as the phone is attached to a billboard or three. Hence the high percentage of broken phones out there.

In the approval process for the phone booth, we had to present renderings to the Mayor's office. I remember we had to switch out the graphic at the last minute because Rudy (Guiliani, the Mayor at the time), didn't like the Yankees. So we showed an ad for the US Open instead.

Or perhaps it was the other way around, that Rudy preferred baseball to tennis. Whatever the case, it was a mad scramble where we had to switch out one graphic for the other, so the design wouldn't be discriminated against on any level.

I thought it was ironic that we had to be super political around a politician, but perhaps it was less ironic than appropriate. I don't know how Rudy reacted to the images. We dropped them off with his people, and soon afterwards our office abandoned the whole phone booth enterprise. It was just too much work, even for the good of New York.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Mother of All Supermarkets

Fairway Supermarket
Photo by myself at the olive counter at Fairway, in Red Hook.

This specialty supermarket is housed in what used to be a huge warehouse on the Brooklyn waterfront.


This weekend Mark and I drove out to Red Hook to Fairway, the huge supermarket housed in a renovated warehouse along the water's edge in Brooklyn.

The Fairway in Brooklyn is huge. Because of its location and the rough cobblestone streets leading up to it, you have to travel by car. If you ever need to use the ladies' room, you weave down several hundred aisles then hang a right when you're completely lost. Bring your bread crumbs.

Mark and I want to cook more of our dinners and were bent on getting ingredients for a chicken gumbo. We were fine until we forgot the red pepper and had to venture upstream, against a crowd of New Yorkers who seldom use shopping carts. Bad idea.

I'd lived near the Fairway branch on the Upper West Side for years. I've never been to the Fairway in the Bronx, which has a fabled meat locker. You're given a special heavy coat before going in, because it's so cold.

When people mention the meat locker, it sounds like Nirvana or some other make believe place. It's just a supermarket, but that's how New Yorkers can be - at once cosmopolitan and incredibly sheltered.

For earlier posts about Fairway, click here and here


Monday, February 25, 2008

On the Recent Snow, et al.

Photo by myself last week of the snow in Union Square. About five inches came down.


Some updates:
1. We had a bunch of snow last week. So much that when the subway pulled up to the platform Friday morning, there was snow on the roof, and water was cascading down the stainless steel walls. The train looked like it just landed from outer space.

I would have taken a photo but I was already late for work.

2. Louie, the orange cat rescued from an abandoned futon on a Brooklyn street, has made tremendous progress. His foster mom wrote to tell me he's sleeping in bed with her and her other two cats. I hope to get pictures of him soon.

3. There seems to be a sudden spurt of crime in the news here. We had the crazy murder of the psychologist last week, then the shooting of a man in Murray Hill this morning. Murray Hill is known for being a sleepy neighborhood of tall co-op buildings, where nothing much happens. Hm.

Just now, the trial for the Nixzmary Brown case is underway, in which a 7-year old Brooklyn girl apparently died from abuse suffered from her mother and stepfather. Also beginning is the trial for the Sean Bell case, where New York cops used 50 bullets to kill an unarmed man in Queens the night before his wedding.

On the other hand, New York seems safer than ever. New Yorkers park their fancy cars out on the streets without worry. We walk about late at night without overwhelming fear or pepper spray.

So what does this recent barrage with bad news mean?

I don't know. I hope to come up with a theory, or a way of processing it neatly in my head. So far, it's just a jumble of scary things.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

On Eating Chicken Sandwiches in Montreal

W4th Street Church
Photo by myself outside a church on West 4th Street.


Here's a story about another of my site visits in Montreal, for the billionaire, M.

Our office had built a lavish city house for M. and we were working on a small country house for him about an hour and a half north, in the woods. The country house was on a large estate, complete with golf course, man made pond and acres of woodland. The house was sited at the edge of a gorgeous, large lake. There was a small boat dock on the shore and a floating dock too, so if you went for a swim you can stop for a breather.

Partway through construction, I had to travel to the site with Big Boss and a decorator, whom I'll call Eliot. Eliot was 'GD' in the skirmish I wrote about last year. He's an older, robust gay man who gives everyone a nickname. Some names are lewd, some innocuous, all are harmless.

Eliot calls Frank is 'Frankie Boy'. Sam is 'Samuel'. I am his 'delicate white flower' because I seem to bolt when he comes round to hug and kiss everyone, like Pepe Le Pew's love interest, the poor black pussycat.

Eliot calls the two women he works with variously 'doll', 'honey', 'lovey', 'lover' and 'bitch'. He's like a pimp with his posse. One of the women is happily married. The other is a swinging, outspoken single who seems to bed a different guy every week. Eliot's nicknames for her aren't so nice, though it's all meant in jest.

The three of them are inseparable. It sometimes takes the whole group to make a decision, which can be quite funny or frustrating, depending on your relationship to the decision. I've compared them to the three sisters in Greek mythology who share one tooth and one eyeball. I imagine them squabbling and hitting each other on the head, squealing 'Gimme that!'

Anyway, Eliot and I get along quite well and it was bound to be a good trip. We took a 6 am flight and landed at the airport in Montreal. We were to pick the Big Boss up at the city house, where he'd stayed the night before and drive to the country house.

When we made it to the city house, Big Boss had finished his breakfast and had us run around and take notes regarding upcoming improvements. Then he told us that he was being flown to the country house via M's helicopter. We'd have to drive.

Eliot and I jumped into the car and made our way North. On the highway, we hit traffic just before our exit. Eliot, who was driving, made the turn too late onto the offramp, crossing the solid line. Immediately we were pulled over by a surly Canadian cop. We were screwed.

Without hesitation, Eliot was on the phone to his bitches. 'Honey, you won't believe where I am,' he said in a furious huff. 'I'm pulled over with Kitty by a horrible f-ing Canadian cop. I'm not playing with you, lovey, I just got a ticket!'

Cars were stopped in front of us and behind. Minutes were ticking by. Both of us were famished, not having eaten a thing. What a disaster.

Without a word, Canadian cop waved us on. Eliot flicked him the bird and we drove with Eliot attached to his cellphone, gabbing to each of his assistants for moral support. It must have been nearly noon at that point, the morning's stopover at the city house having put a severe dent in the schedule.

Out of pure desperation, we pulled into a McDonald's for lunch on the way. I giggled at how brazen we were, sitting in the parking lot and cramming ourselves with chicken sandwiches. Eliot and I both worried about whether Big Boss was waiting for us, but we were starved.

Just as I was stuffing myself with french fries, I got a call on my cell phone. It was Martin, the French-Canadian contractor for the project.

'Kitty, 'ow are you? I make order for lunch. Is chicken sandwiches okay?'

'Oh Martin, that's so nice!' I said. 'We're almost at the house. We're probably fifteen minutes away.'

'Ah, good, good. We see you soon.'

Oh dear.

I ran out and disposed of the evidence. Moments later, Eliot and I were back on the road.

For earlier posts on M. and the bitches, click here, here or here


Saturday, February 23, 2008

On Jumping Ship

Metropolitan Ave Station
Photo by myself, on the platform of the G train in Brooklyn.

The G is rumored to leave people standing for fifteen minutes on the platform. My experiences so far have been positive.


I gave my notice today. As soon as the HR guy saw me with my letter in hand, he paled and stammered, 'Oh no, not the letter. Are you...?'

I'm sure he's used to it. That's his job - interviews, screening, letters, exit interviews. And in between, he makes sure people are relatively happy. He notes their days off and celebrates their birthdays. He handles the day-to-day.

Anyway, I felt badly and guilty, despite the fact that I'm the one leaving. That's just me. I know that I'll be going to a (hopefully) better place, but someone will have to pick up my pieces, decipher several projects partway through and deal with the same frustrations.

Meanwhile, the skirmish Frank started yesterday with the decorators has quieted. Frank is now openly snubbed when he walks through their workspace. Well-coiffed heads swivel round and give him a dead-eyed stare. I tell Frank that if it'd been me, or a gay guy, we would've had a better time of it.

It's just a strange, political fact of life. I think it's just easier to yell at and torment a straight guy in conservative clothes than it is a female dressed relatively fashionably or a gay dude in wide wale cords and Ralph Lauren moccasins. I don't know why. I can't explain it.

HR guy said there will be an announcement Monday about my departure, but who knows. I wouldn't be surprised if they kept a lid on my leaving for a while. The thing is, unknown to the office, another of my work buddies, Sam, is accepting an offer to the same office where I'm headed. Sam and I are backbone and one-fourth of the team, heading four projects of various sizes between the two of us. The office has been quietly shaken by my leaving. In a couple weeks, they will be reeling and reaching for a strong drink.

I feel badly for Frank, whom Sam and I are leaving behind. Trapped as a non-American in immigration limbo, Frank also has an inhuman amount of work on his plate. Sam and I will visit and email and commiserate over drinks, but it won't be the same.

We won't be there when poo is flung or when fashionable gloves are thrown down. Poor Frank will be on his own.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Let the Hair Pulling Begin

Chinese Laundry
Photo by myself on University Place.


Today marks the start of World War III.

This morning, Frank, an architect at my office, had a skirmish with some decorators over the conference room. The decorators had booked the room but somehow, their appointment wasn't recorded in the log book. Frank was mid-meeting in the room when a group of them swung by, surprised and insulted.

Words were exchanged and suddenly it felt like 'West Side Story', with the Jets meeting the Sharks. The flamboyant expressive decorators were riled up in a huff and we, the stolid sensible architects didn't stand a chance.

Usually, we folks get along like monkeys and giraffes in the zoo (it's questionable, however, who are the monkeys and who are the giraffes). Our personality types are on opposite ends of the spectrum - the architects draw lines on computers, abstract representations of physical spaces. Meanwhile, the decorators use itty bitty swatches of material and paint chips to describe the same spaces.

They run around chattering giddily and calling one another 'Girl' and 'Lovey', regardless of gender. We call each other by our last names and sit quietly at our desks. They dress in stylish, color-coordinating ensembles and astonishing footwear. We dress tastefully in conservative greys, browns, blacks and the occasional green. They're the disco queens. We're the nerds.

Anyway, while Frank told me what happened with the conference room, we received a group email from a teammate showing the following: multiple portraits of a cartoon character sitting calmly, before spontaneously spazzing out. Above the cartoons, the email read 'Do someone a favor. February is National Mental Health Month. Send an email to an unstable person you know.'

'Why don't you forward Them that email we just got?' I suggested.

Frank giggled maniacally and started typing on the subject line, 'Ladies, don't cry.'

'Are you trying to start a war?' I asked. 'That's like lobbing the first grenade.'

Sensibly, Frank used the backspace key. He thought a bit before typing, 'Can't we all just get along?' and hit return.

Minutes later he received the reply, 'Not on your life, suckass.'

The first grenade had been lobbed from their side. The war was on.

For more posts on the divafest, click here, here and here


Thursday, February 21, 2008

On Living in a Petri Dish

W Union Square
Photo by myself, at the W Hotel in Union Square.

The bar downstairs, Olives, is always crowded and serves great food.


Mark says there are 31 days until Spring. And he reminded me yesterday that there are only 8 days left in February. Woohoo!

You wouldn't know it. After an almost balmy weekend, the last couple of days have been bone-chilling, with brisk, icy winds. People at my office have been coughing and sneezing. Mark has already gone through two rounds of very bad colds this season.

I have to wonder whether the crazy weather has something to do with how sick people are. I don't know what's happening on a germ level, but I've been carrying hand sanitizer with me, along with Airborne and multi-vitamins.

There are people I know who don't ride the subway because of the germs, and those who take the trains and don't touch anything. They lean against the pole, making it difficult for everyone else, who then have nothing to grab onto. Or they hang onto other people, or they just stand without holding onto anything, swaying and tumbling onto fellow passengers.

Yesterday on the way to work, I was sandwiched between a baby carriage and a guy in dreadlocks. Trying to avoid the man's swaying hair, I could barely grab hold of a nearby pole. I kept shooting hateful looks toward the mother, who had parked the stroller awkwardly in the train, but she was too busy feeding her other child crackers and cheese with the little plastic red stick that comes with the package.

Goodness. Sometimes I wouldn't mind just driving to work in my own, sanitized car!


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Schmata, Or The Annual Warehouse Sale

Union Square Jazz
Photo by myself tonight at the Union Square subway station.

There are musicians all over the place, but this jazz ensemble was especially animated and fun. On the walls, a Mini Cooper ad campaign.


Apparently, it's that time of year again, The Barney's Warehouse Sale. It's going on until March 2nd.

I used to pay attention to these things. Over the years, I've become *snort* a jaded New Yorker. I know too much.

I written here before that 'sale' in the phrase 'Barney's Sale' does not mean 'sale'. It means 'brainwashing', in the way that 'three-fifty for a pair of hot pants' becomes acceptable after seeing racks upon racks of overpriced clothing. And not just clothing, but generally pretty bland clothing.

I'm over it - the crowds, the lines, the half-dressed women battling over designer t-shirts. (There are no changing rooms, so women disrobe wherever they can find a mirror).

Mark laughs when we pass nightclubs with queues behind velvet ropes. We both pass on opening nights for movies, or movies at all, for that matter. It's a rare occasion that we brave the crowds, high prices, lines, sold out shows and cellphone interruptions to see a movie on the big screen.

It's ironic because before I moved here, I didn't buy into the fashion thing. I was down to earth. I wondered why people lived in New York at all, paying the rent they did, competing for everything from jobs to apartments to significant others.

But then I moved here after graduate school and something changed. I wanted to be where the party was. I wanted to see what the hooplah was about. Now that I know, I'm over it. My trajectory was akin to poor Andrea in 'The Devil Wears Prada', only not so glamorous.

It's a matter of values. I will stand in line for a New Yorker Magazine-sponsored night with David Byrne playing the acoustic guitar and reflecting on his years as a performer. I will stand in line for an on-stage interview and banjo performance with Steve Martin. Once-in-a-lifetime moments, yes. Movies and clothes, no.

I guess I'm either growing up, or growing old. I don't know which.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fashion Accessories Coming Soon

Bluewater Grill, Union Square

Photo by myself at the Bluewater Grill in Union Square, around Broadway and 16th Sreet.

I rarely carry an umbrella. First, carrying one requires planning and knowing what the weather will be. Second, I'm overladen with other crap - purse, wallet, keys, cellphone, camera, gum, Airborne, New Yorker Magazine.

My habits may soon change. This Spring, we'll be seeing a new umbrella on the streets. In last week's New Yorker, Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief, wrote an article about the Boston sculptor Steven Hollinger. His new umbrella design is modeled after the aerodynamic shape of a bicyclist's helmet.

Rounded on the front end to deflect wind, the umbrella tapers at the back. It has gutters. It's narrower than it is long, so that people can walk the sidewalks without bumping into each other. Hollinger's prototype was made of shiny black fabric on the outside and a bright red fabric on the inside, to make the user feel cozy (!).

Just imagine the ramifications. No more crumpled metal skeletons along the streets after a rainstorm. No more hawkers selling cheapo umbrellas for three bucks. No more heaps of anonymous black nylon at the doorways of restaurants and galleries.

I'm skeptical but curious. The image of New Yorkers waiting on a street corner for the light to change, huddled and glum beneath their flimsy umbrellas while traffic hurls by will soon be history. Hard to believe.

I'm sure there will be a few hold-outs at first, carrying their antiquated three dollar nylon umbrellas. And there will be those of us who carry nothing at all.

Top photo by myself at the Blue Water Grill, in Union Square. The jazz club Metropolis used to occupy the downstairs. Metropolis is no longer, but the restaurant features live jazz in its lower dining room.

Lower photo showing the rounded end of the new umbrella design, from Steve Hollinger's website.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Mission Suspended

Greenpoint Scrap Metal Sign
Photo by myself in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. There are a number of metal and industrial yards in this neighborhood.


Happy President's Day, everyone. It feels great to have a day off.

Yesterday, Mark and I were overly ambitious with our trip to Long Island.

The original plan was to drive up to the 'North Fork' of the island and possibly take the ferry to the 'South Fork'. The island tapers off to the east into a couple jagged fingers. Montauk Point, also known as 'The End' is on located on the South Fork.

I was sold on the concept. Mark said there are a number of sod farms along the North that are visually striking - acres of flat land are covered in sod, with a farmhouse in the background. I was looking forward to taking photos of stunning summer homes and the water on the boat ride.

Alas, just as we got some distance from the city, the sky became completely overcast. The roads were lined with brown grass, brown bushes and brown trees. There was the occasional evergreen, but the overall feeling was 'ick'. So we turned around and drove home.

Mark says that Clive, his Mini Cooper, is the perfect 'touring car', meaning he motors well along scenic, twisty turny roads. Mark is also convinced that since Clive was assembled in England, that he does especially well on twisty turny roads in the rain. Hm.

All I know is that the ride was so comfy, I fell asleep on the way home.

For more on Clive, click here and here.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Case Closed

The Carrot Guy in Union Square
Photo by myself in Union Square.

This character, the late Joe Ades, is was well-known for his continuous spiel, hawking carrot peelers and drawing a crowd. His British accent and craggy looks remind me of Gandalf.


Fortunately for us all, it looks like the police made their man: the person responsible for stabbing Upper East Side psychologist Kathryn Faughey seems to have been nabbed last night.

Phew. New Yorkers can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

The kooks we live alongside can continue to act mildly kooky in comparison to this very troubled man. Apparently David Tarloff was a former patient of Faughey's. He'd planned on robbing the doctor and running off with his mother, which explains the bags of womens clothing and adult diapers left at the crime scene. Tarloff confessed he was enraged at whomever had had him institutionalized 17 years ago. The police still don't have the story straight.

I googled Faughey last night and the website for her private practice came up. It was eerie and sad.

How many of you would like to bet that we'll see this crime on Law and Order in the near future?

On a happier note, since it's sunny, Mark, Clive and I plan to drive out to the tip of Lawn Guyland today. I'll post some nice photos when I return!

For an earlier post on Law and Order, click here.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Beware of the Kooks

Red Star, Greenpoint
Photo by myself in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

There are a surprising number of bars in this little neighborhood.


The shocking, brutal murder of a NY psychologist on the Upper East Side has been all over the local news. Last week, a 56-year old doctor was attacked in her office with a meat cleaver. The killer left bags full of knives, womens' clothing and adult diapers at the scene.

People joke that NYers are nuts. Woody Allen didn't help our image, playing very anxious and very New York characters in his movies.

I don't disagree. Many New Yorkers are open about their mental health, and it's quite accepted to be seeking help. One of my bosses openly announces when he's off to his shrink. Sadly, not everyone who needs has enough funds or awareness to seek it. I've met people here who could frankly use some form of therapy.

Two such people lived in my last building on the Upper West Side, a small, five-floor walk-up. One woman seemed to have a persecution complex. She'd open her door just a crack if you knocked, and shout for you to back away from the door.

The other woman must have had a social disorder that made her walk around with a visor pulled over her eyes and carry a piece of paper directly in front of her face. Both women looked like they'd never had their hair cut.

Unfortunately, I got on the bad side of Crazy Woman II. She slid angry, hand-written notes under my door, accusing me of bounding, heavy-footed, down the stairs. Somehow she thought that I walked like elephants hurling bowling balls. She advised me to downsize the high heels I must have worn because of my petite stature, forgetting the 6-foot-6 giant that lived one floor above me.

At one point, Crazy Woman I and Crazy Woman II were angry with one another. I thought I'd witness a Godzilla-Rodan battle, but before the first crazy stone could be lobbed, Crazy Woman II moved out.

Anyway, the recent murder is terribly disturbing. After watching a news segment on the woman's funeral, Mark said, 'There are a lot of crazy people in this city.'


Friday, February 15, 2008

A Bit More on Celebrity, Past and Present

12 bucks an hour
Photo by myself, near Union Square.

There are many parking lots in New York, where gizmos create double decker spaces.


After a glass of wine and a yummy meal out, I suddenly have nothing to write about. Funny, how that happens. Only two small, somewhat related things come to mind:

I had another celebrity sighting yesterday. Woohoo. I saw Sam (Talbot) from Top Chef Season Two, walking up University Place, looking tallish and bald. He'd shaven his head, like so many contestants that season. (Hair is an easy way to express oneself, and that was a particularly expressive bunch). Sam was sauntering by himself, talking on the phone.

That makes five or so celebrities I've seen in my ten-plus years here? Of course, I exaggerate, and I'll have to get an accurate count. For whatever reason, celebs seem to scamper away when they see me coming.

Speaking of celebs, Mark and I watched part of Sixteen Candles tonight. I've never watched it all the way through (yes, my childhood was that sheltered) and I can't figure out why it was such a hit.

Anyway, I got to wondering whatever happened to Molly Ringwald.

The first thing I did was to Google her, and lo and behold, not much has happened to Molly since the 80s, except poor judgement. She turned down lead roles for what turned out to be successful movies like Blue Velvet, Pretty Woman and Ghost.

Coincidentally, her birthday's next Monday, and she's turning 40. How crazy is that?

I am shocked. I'm sure Molly's more shocked than I am.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Welcome to New York

Wafel Cart
Photo by myself, of a Wafel Cart on Broadway and Prince Street.

This bright yellow truck serves up a sinful lunch in Soho.


I wish I had a more mobile job. Right now, I'm just a tense three-toed sloth parked in front of a computer. If I were a bike messenger, I'd be super fit and I'd have photos to share from all over the place. As the weather gets better and the daylight longer, I'll start venturing out of my comfort zone. For now, these will have to do!

I was thinking about what I'd recommend for a visitor to see. I love having people over. There's nothing like seeing a place where you live through someone else's eyeballs.

So what would I recommend for visitors to this fine city?

1. Walk. Just plain walk.
Walk around and experience the streets, where life is. Start down in Wall Street. Work your way to the World Trade Center. Then journey through lovely Tribeca to Chinatown and have a big lunch. Wander through Soho and browse through the boutiques. Then wind up in a bar somewhere in the Village.

These neighborhoods are so different, but they're practically on top of each other. I can't imagine a better day.

2. Take a bus ride, and not a double decker.
I can see how the double decker can give you information about what you're seeing, but a simple bus ride can be pretty neat. I suggest the M5, which runs between the Upper West Side and The Village, via Broadway and Fifth Avenue.

You'll pass Lincoln Square, Columbus Circle and Central Park South, turning onto Fifth Avenue. Then you'll travel through midtown, passing Rockefeller Center and follow Fifth all the way past the graceful Flatiron Building, until you hit Houston Street. This route has a bit of everything, and it only costs two bucks!

3. Get thee a drink. Pronto.
There are several different types of cool bars, depending what you call cool. I've been out of the loop for a while, so my suggestions are dated.

There are the 'old New York' bars that I love, that have a certain something. Call it charm, or age, or patina. Chumley's in the Village comes to mind, as do Old Town in the Flatiron District and Walker's in Tribeca.

Then there are the cool bars in a different vein, which are one of a kind. These look like movie sets, while remaining low key. I'm thinking of Pravda near Soho (complete with Chocolate Martinis), the high-tech Brasserie in midtown, the pretty and the nautical Lure Fish Bar in Soho.

Then there are designer hotel bars, like those by Julian Schnabel (the the Gramercy Park Hotel) and Philippe Starck (The Hudson and The Royalton). Each of these is unique and fantastical - the over-the-top faux medieval of the the Gramercy, the yellow light of The Hudson, the people-watching layout of The Royalton.

This said, flip through the internet or a Time Out Magazine. Look up a bunch of places before coming. There are tons of places to choose from. It's like visiting a gaggle of your oddest relatives.

4. Go to the Park.
Visit one of the many parks on a weekend and have fun. Whether it's people and performer-watching in Central Park, strolling along the water in Battery Park City, or dodging roller bladers in Riverside Park, you're bound to enjoy yourself. Pack a picnic!

5. Ellis Island.
Without hesitation, Mark suggests visiting the entranceway for so many New Yorkers of the past. I've never been, but have heard great things. Exhibits include what people brought with them over the years and what they had to endure to be granted access.

6. Take the Ferry.
The ferry ride to Staten Island only costs fifty cents is free, and you get a fantastic view of lower Manhattan.

7. Eat. A lot. Cheaply.
You don't have to spend megabucks here, and you can get anything, including Ethiopian, Afghani, Turkish, Australian, European and all the various Asian cuisines.

Notice I don't mention any museums. There are tons of excellent museums for every interest, but I recommend that you get out and walk around.

Go shopping. Eat. Drink. Enjoy.

(Fellow New Yorkers, I'd love to hear your suggestions!)


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It Snowed Today in The City

Snowy UWS
Photo by myself tonight on the Upper West Side.

Snow covered all the cars along West End Avenue.


It started snowing today around noon and it didn't look too bad. Then it kept snowing.

By the evening, it was either hailing or raining, I don't know which. I just know that I was bareheaded, laden with groceries and getting walloped in the head by whatever was falling from the sky. All this year we've been wondering whether it'd ever snow in New York again, and here's our answer.

Since I've gotten back from my business trip, things at work have been calm. Usually I'm stressed out, thinking about the next deadline, but it's been okay.

I won't be leaving for the new job until next month, and I'm starting to miss my coworkers already. I haven't told anyone about my leaving. It's a strange, mixed feeling, when you know too much.

It's as if you're lurking behind curtains while a party is going on. Everyone is laughing, making fools of themselves, utterly carefree. Your feeling is strangely nostalgic, not for the past, but for the present. 'This is where I am right now, I'm not going to be here much longer. I need to savor it while I can.'

It's the same feeling I get walking around the City. There's a party going on. I need to savor it while I'm here.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Cold Reality

Herald Square
Photo by myself in Herald Square.

This area is packed heavy foot traffic. With Macy's and other large stores located here, the sidewalks are rarely empty.


This morning I got out of the plane to 12 degree weather (not counting frigid wind chill). Oh my god. So cold!!

I don't have much to write today, since I spent most of it nodding off!

I hope everyone is warm tonight. It is chilly outside.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tell Me About the Rabbits...

Ocean Boulevard
Photos by myself in Santa Monica, along Ocean Boulevard.


This is my fourth day in California, after spending a few days in Aspen for business. It's been wonderful to catch up with family and relax.

Okay, I have to admit, after walking around on the beach and then through the streets of Santa Monica, the warm weather and sunshine has gotten through my hardened exterior. I can see why people love California.

And why not. Life is nice here. This is where, in Of Mice and Men, one 'lives off the fat of the land'. It feels abundant. Palm trees line the streets, looking very surreal. After a long walk down the beach amidst the volleyball games, I now resemble a bright tomato and am loathe to leave.

I talked to a cousin who lived in San Fransisco for several years. He was asking whether I preferred LA, SF or NYC.

'New York, hands down,' I said, without reflection.

'Okay, so between LA and SF?' he asked.

'Hm...I guess San Fransisco.'

He picked up on my hesitation. 'What do you not like about San Fransisco? Is it the weather?'


'Oh, is it because it's too small?'



'Well, it's too damned clean'.

All the cute buildings look like they've been painted yesterday, and that arouses my suspicion (for whatever weirdo reason I have). I prefer a place a little more lived in, with some wear and tear. I guess grime to me is a symbol of urban authenticity.

Tonight, I take the red eye back to New York and land around 6 am. I don't mind sleeping on planes, and I can bounce back pretty readily.

We'll see how I am tomorrow afternoon. I'm sure I won't be so chipper!


Saturday, February 9, 2008

It Takes A Village

Sky Hotel, Aspen
Photos by myself in Aspen, in the funky lobby of the Sky Hotel.

Studded leather and some sort of pelt adorns the front desk. This lobby is always hopping.


Today I got to spend some time with my brother, a corporate lawyer, who now lives in LA. He works with banks and large companies to structure contracts and transactions. My brother lived on Wall Street a few years and doesn't miss New York at all.

'Life is hard in New York,' he tells me every time we see each other. To him, it's the subways and the long hours. Why not have a healthy lifestyle and nice weather all the time?

I often think the opposite, that New York life is easy, and that New Yorkers are a breed of human that refuses to grow up. They don't have to deal with buying a place, cleaning gutters or shoveling snow. They can live in a perpetual playland, if they want to.

Take my coworker and her husband, who came with me on the Aspen leg of my trip. They rent in Battery Park City, after living in White Plains.

'How about Brooklyn?' I'd suggested to the husband. 'You get twice as much space as Manhattan, and there are a lot of great restaurants now. It's not like it was a few years ago.'

'Well, we love Battery Park City. There's the park, and there's the water.' Then he added, 'Having a kid in New York isn't so hard. Everyone comes to you.'

Yes, that's true, but your combined income has to be a certain amount to afford such luxuries. He and his wife have a nanny who visits every day, so that both parents can work. They own a car, and he makes the reverse commute to Jersey for his job. Presumably, too, they park the car in a garage.

My cousin and her husband, on the other hand, live in Chicago. They also have a babysitter who visits daily to care for their 10-month old. They own a townhouse on Chicago's South Side.

These families are the lucky ones. I think it's the story of many couples in New York and other major cities. Their lifestyles sound nice. Their kids were planned. But what happens when life doesn't go according to plan?

What if you're a single parent? What if you're struggling to make ends meet? Your view of the world would be very different from 'everyone coming to you'.

My mom recounted life when I'd been born. My father was studying for his PhD. His monthly stipend was $400 a month. Rent was $350 a month. Fortunately, my grandparents moved in to help with my brother and me, so my mom could go to work.

It certainly does take a village to raise a child. Some villages are just fancier than others.


Friday, February 8, 2008

East Coast, West Coast

Times Square
Photo by myself in Times Square, just outside the subway station at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue.


Since this blog is supposed to feature New York, I'm posting a photo from last week from my intrepid trip into Times Square, the Tourist Vortex. (Does that facade scream 'Wash me, or what??')

I'm presently in LA, and this morning I stepped out of the car into the extremely bright and overbearing sunshine.

'My god, it is waaaay too bright here,' I said to my cousin. 'I just want to crawl into a dark hole.'

'Ah, the concrete jungle of the City,' he said.


You can get ill from getting too little sun. Is there something unhealthy about getting too much? I feel almost sickened by it. It's not sun stroke, but an uneasy claustrophobia, like 'Get me away from this place before my brain turns to mush.'

Speaking of mush, I hate to generalize, but I have to wonder whether another difference between New York and LA has to do with our opposing attitudes toward celebrity.

In LA, many people want to be celebrities, while in New York, celebrities walk about with the rest of us. We New Yorkers don't want to be one of them, we want to be the celebrity's neighbor. We want to live alongside whoever it is and lower them to our level.

It's just my theory. Perhaps I'm generalizing and making grand claims.

If so, I can always blame it on the sunshine.

California Hills
Above photo showing the hills around Los Angeles.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Farewell to Snowy Aspen

Psychics Live in Aspen, too
Photos by myself, in Aspen, Colorado.

There are psychics even in such a ritzy place.


Selecting photos for today was tough. The decision came down to one snowdrift photo with a guy in red, or another snowdrift photo with a woman in blue. Hm.

This morning I took a direct flight to LA. It only takes 90 minutes to go from one extreme to the other. I deplaned to palm trees, 60 degree weather and much, much too much sunshine.

My picture taking in Aspen yesterday was bittersweet. I've decided to accept the recent job offer, so I feel it was my last visit.

A big part of me feels like I'm losing something, and I have to continually remind myself that I never had anything to begin with. Nobody has that beautiful town, not even the rich and famous people who visit or own homes there. It's just work, and I was lucky enough to have these experiences.

I'm sad to leave. I love my freaky coworkers. But after weighing the pros and cons hundreds of times, I felt it was better to change jobs now and get other things built, rather than stick around on this one thing, which is great, but stressful and not so rewarding.

Anyway, to lighten the mood, I have to recount what happened this morning.

I sometimes wear things akin to pasties when I wear confining tops. You know, covers for the nips. (Gentlemen, I'm sorry for such details, but alas, I am a female human with breasts). These things are made of soft silicone and are wonderful. Rinsed and dried after each wearing, they become sticky for the next use.

Well, I stayed in a very fancy hotel in Aspen, and this morning I made my way down to the front desk to settle my bill. I was decked out in my puffy down coat, ready for the cold. The front desk guy remembered my name.

'Why, hello, Miss K, how was your stay?
Are you leaving us?
Would you like us to charge the balance to the AmEx account we have on file?
Would you like a copy of your bill for your records?'

They are so polite and nice over there, my gosh. Nice Front Desk guy then told me a shuttle would be leaving soon for the airport. A nice bellman then helped me collect my bags.

Well, you can see what's coming a mile away, can't you? Only then, after the prolonged talk with the front desk guy and a polite thank you to the bellman, did I notice that a pink silicone nipple cover had stuck itself to the front of my puffy coat, for all to see.

Good lord.

Maybe it's best I don't return to that fancy little town for a good long while.

Aspen Snow
Photo by myself, in Aspen, Colorado.

The snowdrifts here are taller than most humans.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Greetings from Snowy Aspen

Photo by myself today in Aspen, Colorado.

You can see the gondolas lace up the mountains at unbelievable inclines, while the town below is beyond charming.


After working all morning and early afternoon, I was finally able to walk around this beautiful town. It's been snowing lightly all day and threatens to snow all night. I have a flight to LA tomorrow morning, and I pray it won't be delayed.

Because of the snow, the skies were white today rather than blue. Skiers were trooping all over the place in their ski boots, while I scampered in my sneakers, looking very much the doofus.

It was brisk outside, but I didn't mind the cold because everything was so picturesque - the town still decorated with Christmas ribbons, and the impossibly steep mountains with their advanced trails and evergreens.

Skiers were taking pictures as well, and packing the ritzy bars and restaurants. There is tons and tons of snow here, and it's startling to experience when it hasn't snowed a lick in New York. As I was being driven by one hotel guy, he expressed his exasperation with the snow. He also griped about his run-in with Elle McPherson at the hotel, who had been in a 'mood'.

Meanwhile, I need a serious starvation diet, pronto. I was shuffling about with my pants unbuttoned all day today, the result of all this hard work and free food. Good lord. I am only hoping that my condition will become so terrible that I am forced into action.

A coworker asked me how I felt about going from Aspen to LA. I told her that my parents, having lived in New England forever, have a very particular relationship with the thermostat. No joke. It is often 50 degrees inside, and I will wear wool pants, socks and layers to keep myself from turning blue. So packing for this trip was not an issue.

I'm visiting my parents for a family reunion of sorts, so there will be guests over. I am hoping the thermostat will get some action. If not, then the wool pants that I can barely button will go on!

Photo by myself today in Aspen, Colorado.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

On Louie and What's New on TV

Photo by myself from the window of Patsy's Pizza.

My theory is that Patsy's is the Poppy's in those Seinfeld episodes. Their pizza and family style pastas are delicious.


The other day, Mark and I visited Louie at his foster mom's apartment.

Louie, a stray orange cat, lived for months outside on a futon and then a cardboard box in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Since being rescued a couple months ago, he's gone to the vet, where he was dewormed and de-ear mited. He's still relatively shy. It may take another month before he's comfortable around people.

When I saw Louie, he was under a bed, scrunched up against the wall. He looked very happy, but denied photo ops and intervews. He just gazed blankly at me and closed his eyes, the way cats do when they feel safe from the paparazzi. I will have to get a picture of him when he's less skittish.

The other night I stayed up way too late, watching yet another Bravo reality show, Millionaire Matchmaker. (Then of course, I woke at 6 am, which makes for a very tired and grumpy person). If you haven't seen it, stay away. It is addictive. Bravo often runs three episodes in a row, so once you're hooked, you'll find yourself staying up past midnight.

A matchmaker in LA sets up these 20 and 30-something year old attractive women with guys that happen to be millionaires. Often the guys are dorky, or they were dorky and are now trying to be cool. They have really nice cars.

One dude had spiky hair and a 'landing strip' under his lower lip. (Um, gross). Another looked attractive but had the personality of esoteric wallpaper.

Matchmaker: What are you looking for in a woman?

Millionaire dude: What am I looking for in a woman?

MM: Yes, what qualities are you looking for?

MD: What qualities does one look for?

Holy crap.

Here's a photo, meanwhile, from my hotel window this afternoon. It is mighty cold out, but brightly sunny.

Lower photo by myself in Aspen, Colorado, this morning.

For more on Louie, click 'here',
'here' or 'here'.


Monday, February 4, 2008

On the Superbowl and Fancy Living

Photo by myself, of Fairway at 74th and Broadway on the Upper West Side.

The upper floor of this bustling supermarket has a huge assortment of organic foods and a cafe. The lower floor is open 24/7.


Hello, from chilly Aspen!! It snowed a foot this morning and many flights were canceled. Somehow, I managed to squeak through.

Who watched the Superbowl last night??! People on the plane and in the hotel have been talking non-stop about it.

Mark and I are usually ignorant in terms of sports. Football, especially, is not even a blip on our radar. Even though expensive commercials debut during this event, Mark, who works in television, avoids watching because he's usually bored by the game.

For whatever reason, though, we found ourselves tuned in. Perhaps we watched because the game was televised on HD and it looked so utterly amazing. Perhaps we watched because we knew what underdogs the Giants were. We'd been to dinner with friends the night before, and they told us how unlikely it was for the Giants to win. Mark and I are suckers for underdogs.

Both of us were sitting on the couch as usual, surfing the internet. As time ticked down, we started to pay attention to the game. As the Giants inched down the field, we started yelling louder and louder. When the Giants did the unthinkable, we went a little nuts and jumped up and down in disbelief. I have to wonder what the quiet Germans on the ground floor thought of their crazy upstairs neighbors.

Tonight, I'm having a lovely time in the hotel room. The gas fireplace is on, and there's the hum of four-wheel drive vehicles outside. Meanwhile, the luxurious bathtub is calling my name.

I'm not used to living it up like this, and it's at these times that I learn the most for my job. When you're designing spaces for wealthy people and then crawling back to your typical New York apartment, what you draw can be a little abstract.

At my last apartment, the one with the evil landlord, I had a sink in a retrofitted closet. Opposite, there was a tiny stove shoved in another retrofitted closet. An outdated fridge stood awkwardly in a corner. That was my kitchen. No free standing island and bar sink. No wine cooler. No butler's pantry. Nope.

A sink and a stove. Basta cosi.

For more posts on how the other half lives, click here and here


Sunday, February 3, 2008

No Place is Perfect

Photo by myself outside the Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue and 29th Street.

Each gold ribbon outside the building represents a US service person killed in Iraq.


I'm replacing a post I'd written on a great job offer I received last week.

I decided to revise the post because, well, to spare everyone. I'll make my decision in the next few days and we'll see. It's not an easy decision. I happen to be a very hardworking, devoted employee, who doubts her own abilities. Egad.

Of course, no office is perfect, no employee is perfect and no city is perfect, either. In terms of jobs, it's either the people or the boss or the pay. In terms of cities, it's the weather or the cost of living or the crime rate. There is always something.

Without the somethings, though, wouldn't life just be boring? If there were no troubles in the city where you live, no traffic to hold you up, no homeless people in the street, no flights of stairs to climb with the groceries, wouldn't things seem meaningless? I think so. If every day resembled The Stepford Wives, we'd go berserk.

I suppose this is where I should launch into a diatribe about balance. I will spare everyone and tell a story about my Upper West Side apartment, instead.

My apartment was the result of a minor ordeal. The small, two room apartment located on a beautiful, historic block on the Upper West Side was listed in the Times. I could live there if I sublet from a woman I never met. I signed the lease with the landlord, who said the previous tenant had moved to Jersey.

Fine. A couple years passed. Then I received a letter from the mysterious woman, saying she planned to move back. I had to leave.

Just about that time, I met a woman who lived a couple floors below me. She'd lived in the building many years and was eccentric (meaning, she was close to nuts). This woman, whom I'll call Alice, asked if I was new. I said yes, and that I was subletting from the mystery woman.

Alice then tells me the mystery woman was the landlord's daughter, who'd never lived in the building. So instantly, the plot thickened. Seemed like landlord and daughter had faked the sublease, and were trying to kick me out so they could increase the rent. The apartment was rent-subsidized, and with each new tenant, you were allowed to increase the rent a certain percentage.

I got myself a lawyer. Under his advice, I withheld my rent. And because of my refusal to pay rent, I was taken to housing court.

Before the court date, the landlord glued both my locks shut on two occasions, which required a locksmith and some 200 bucks to change the locks. I called the police. I considered getting a surveillance camera. My coworkers couldn't locate me one day and feared foul play. A case was in the news during that time, where a landlord did away with his tenant. Everyone's imagination was on hyperdrive.

In the end, I went to housing court and before anything could happen, the landlord caved and we signed an agreement that gave me a real lease. It was a long, nerve-wracking ordeal, and if the same thing happened to me today, I'm not sure I'd do the same. I was idealistic, younger and more tenacious then.

So as I was saying, not every place is perfect. I know from personal experience.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

On Zen and Eating Too Much Delicious Food

Madison Square Park
Photo by myself, of Madison Square Park, in the Flatiron District at 23rd and Fifth Avenue.

You can see the Empire State Building in the background.


Today Mark and I drove into the city and stuffed ourselves with Ethiopean food until we hurt ourselves. My stomach was just a big ball of delicious pancake and sauces.

I have to wonder whether I'd eat less if I didn't have such good food options around me. A coworker, for instance, started fasting to prepare for her upcoming wedding. She planned on drinking only a mixture of cayenne pepper, maple syrup, lemon juice and water for two weeks. Needless to say, she stopped the fast on the second day because it tasted so terrible.

I can and will eat tremendous amounts of food, especially during times when I feel deprived of other things.

'I'm working hard, so I deserve to cram my stomach with this delicious savory pancake and curry,' my brain reasons.

Or, 'I'm traveling next week, therefore I deserve this organic dark chocolate bar with mint and a hint of rosemary. It has anti-oxidants!'

New Yorkers have a tendency to overindulge. We work hard and play hard. This reminds me of a story I read in a Zen book about 'hungry ghosts', people who have insatiable needs. These 'ghosts' fail to fully appreciate what they already have, so they stuff themselves with indulgences - food, drink, fancy belongings...anything exterior to themselves that might constitute a form of 'happiness'.

Zen, on the other hand, is fully internal. It's all about appreciating what one already has. I love the philosophy: you are never lacking. Even your 'faults' are necessary to one's personality.

I'll have to bring my Zen book with me on my trip this week. Every time I'm tempted to reward myself with delicious plates of (free) food, I'll have to think: 'I'm okay as I am. Enough, already!'