Getting Caught in the Rain

My lease is signed, sealed, delivered. It’s mine. My savings, well that’s another story, for another posting. I want to make sure I spend as much time as possible in this fabulous moment of victory over the New York rental housing market. I’m glowing.

My landlords seem lovelier every time I speak to them. Joe reminds me of my Ethics professor from Darden, Ed Freeman. Like Ed, Joe is mild mannered, a bit shy, intensely brilliant. A professor. As easy-going as they come. His wife, Ann Marie, is equally as kind. She is a photographer who has just had her first book published. Together, they are that kind, interesting couple living in a multi-floor apartment on the Upper West Side that I have heard about, though never actually met. Going into their home, I feel like I am stepping onto some sort of movie set where I will learn some very valuable life lessons. (I’ve, perhaps vainly, cast myself as the young ingénue striving to get her life together in the big city while fascinating people with their own stories come to her aid. However, this is my life so I feel a certain sense of artistic license in creating it.)

Some times I look to the rain as an inconvenience, something I need to slog through to get my errands done. Most of the time though, I am grateful for a rainy day. Actually, if I go too long without one, I tend to get nervous. One because I am obsessed with water conservation, and two because I like to have an excuse to stay inside and putter around my home reading, watching old movies, and cooking comfort food.

Tonight the sky opened up just as I got off the subway and was on my way to sign my lease. I got drenched and I was rushing to make sure I wasn’t late. With my umbrella flapping with the wind and my soggy, squeaky shoes, I should have been annoyed at the timing. And instead, I was grateful, gleeful even.

I like to think of the rain as literally washing away what needs to be washed away. It’s a fresh start. I also like to think that it’s the Universe’s way of blessing us, of reaching out to us so we know she is there, guiding us and watching over us. And this rain in particular seemed to me to be holding out its arms and welcoming me to this new neighborhood that I have honestly dreamed of living in for quite some time now. For the next two years at least, this will be home.

After the deal was done, I measured the main room, the only room, of my apartment to get a feel for dimensions as I consider furniture, decorations, etc. I stepped outside, soaked and surprisingly tired. Though it was all in a good way.

The rain continued, but not nearly as much as when I first arrived at my new digs. I was supposed to meet my friends Katie and Monika for dinner after signing the lease but I was soaked through to the skin, making the prospect of sitting in public like that more than a little uncomfortable. I considered cracking out the umbrella and instead, put it away in my bag. I let the rain wash down over me, letting it carry with it all the anxiety I had built up around finding a job, an apartment, and beginning to build a new life in a new town that is at once familiar and also still a mystery. The Universe has been acting in my favor these last few months and I wanted to drink it all in while I have the chance.


An Idea for Paris

This post is a bit different than most of my writing for one simple reason. My feet hurt. A lot. A few nights ago I had a first date with a guy that I had a feeling would be a really good guy. And he was. Thank goodness I had picked out my special outfit and my special shoes to wear in case I ended up meeting Mr. Special.

The great thing about New York is that it’s a walking city. The bad thing about New York is that during the summer women feel compelled to wear cute shoes all the time. Even if we need to walk for more than a few blocks, we insist on having out feet swathed in the most trendy shoes we can afford. The problem is that most trendy shoes are notoriously awful for us. Right now I have two enormous blisters that make it impossible for me to be comfortable in any shoes other than flip flops. I had an event tonight where flip flops didn’t seem appropriate so I packed up my blisters in band aids and off I went. A little sore, though I could manage.

This idea would have worked just fine and it not started to down pour as I got out of the subway. Off come the band aids, on comes the pain and my inevitable hobbling. I started laughing when I thought about how much care I take to have my feet look nice during the summer in terms of toe nail polish, moisturizing them, etc. Yet, I wear shoes that look cute that give me blisters. That makes no sense.

As I was feeling dumb (and soaking wet) sitting on the subway home, I looked around at other women’s feet. We all had blisters, every single one of us. And soaked band aids that were half falling off. Now, there must be a way that we can have our cute shoes and save our feet.

I arrived home with a serious limp. My neighbor downstairs is a greater lover of magazines. Rolling Stone, Business Week, Fast Company. You name it, he orders it. He even gets all the great publications dedicated to feeding our obsession with celebrities behaving badly, one of which happened to be just outside his door. (Incidentally, I also heard the theme song to Sex in the City coming from his TV earlier today. A neighbor after my own heart!) According to the magazine’s cover, Poor Paris Hilton has just finished her stint of hard time and rushed from the prison cell into the waiting arms of her loving mother. She’ll probably write a book (maybe Confessions of a Jailhouse Heiress) and create a reality show based on how other celebrities would cope with doing some time behind bars (The Simple Life of a Prison Inmate). Or maybe HGTV could tap her for a new show with a title like Extreme Makover: Prison Edition. No matter what path she chooses, she’ll somehow make millions from it.

I have another idea for Paris. She presumably has quite a few pairs of cute summer shoes. I’m sure she’s had a blister or tow before from walking in those cute shoes. She feels our pain. Now, I am not suggesting that Paris come up with a line of designer shoes that are both comfortable and fashionable. that’s too easy, and so cliche. I’m suggesting that she come up with a line of designer waterproof band aids. Yep, band aids. When I do get blisters from these cute shoes, why should I be forced to wear unsightly beige colored band aids that fall off when they get wet? Why can’t I have something stylish. They make band aids with all kinds of cartoon characters on them for kids. Why not do the same for the women of New York who want to wear their cute summer shoes sans pain?

Paris made a brief statement upon leaving jail that she now wanted to do less partying, and more to help the world. I’m sure she’ll keep right on wearing her designer shoes, though she may now need to do a bit more walking in them. These designer band aids may be just the ticket she needs to make a very valuable, very Paris contribution for the greater good.


Homeward Bound

The rental market in New York City is tough. Actually it’s nearly impossible. I’m starting to believe that the only way anyone actually gets an apartment is through kismet. I was lucky, again. I think this move has basically cost me all the karma I have and then some. I was only looking, really looking, for two days. I had spoken to a few brokers to merely find out that I can’t afford them and even if I could I wouldn’t want to pay them the standard 15% of my annual rent. It’s a complete racket. The only reason everyone in New York isn’t a broker is because most people have a conscience and can’t take that much money for doing about 10 minutes worth of poor quality work.

I don’t start my job until July 9th so with the help of Craig’s List and the Village Voice, I decided to venture out into the world of independent apartment hunting. On Monday I went to see a “spacious studio” on West 57th Street, advertised as 400 square feet. Not even close. 300, maybe, maybe. And that doesn’t mean all 300 square feet are usable. $1500. Obscene. 30 people were there and several of them would have tried to level me if I had been given the apartment on the spot. There was that much tension in the room. People are desperate.

Later that afternoon, I went up to West 103rd. Even worse. MAYBE 200 square feet. This charming space has a mini-loft bed which is accessible if you are: a.) Spider Man, b.) an Olympic pole vaulter, or c.) willing to climb up a rickety, make-shift ladder that’s in what I think is supposed to be the kitchenette area. Oh, and it’s dark and with a faint hint of mildew. $1300 please. 20 people there for viewing. Outrageous. One woman who was viewing the apartment was currently being bitten up by bugs that are in her sublet. She’s been searching for two months to no avail. Little red bumps all over her arms. And she’s a professional events planner.

I hit a low-point on Tuesday when I went back to the building with a shoe box studio (literally) to see a one bedroom they just put on the market. On the way up to view it, I asked the super what the deposit policy was.

“You must have a co-signer.”

“I’m 31. I make $x per year.”

“Doesn’t matter. Co-signer only.”

“I don’t have a co-signer.”

“Do you have 6 months rent up front?”


“You can’t get the apartment. Welcome to New York.”

I wanted to crawl into a hole. I am an ADULT. I am gainfully employed (as of July 9th). I am INDEPENDENT. I have an MBA from a very good school. I was crushed.

I do want to say that the super who wouldn’t show me the apartment was absolutely wrong. Every other apartment, even the worst ones, only required that I have a certain number of times the monthly rent in annual salary. As long as I hit that mark, I didn’t need a co-signer. That guy was literally just off his rocker. The sad part – he’ll rent that place, no problem. It’s probably already gone. The rental market is that nutty right now.

I had one more place left to see. I was completely dejected. I didn’t even want to see one more space. However, I already made the appointment and I have a very hard time breaking my promise to meet anyone. So, I hopped in a cab and headed uptown to West 92nd Street. I arrived a little early so I took a stroll around the block. Grocery store, laundry mat, easy walking distance to subway, easy to reach both Riverside and Central Parks. Wouldn’t this be lovely? I heaved a heavy sigh and rang the buzzer, ready for disappointment.

A friendly man came to the door, native New Yorker, a chemistry professor at CUNY, owner of the building. It’s a gorgeous brownstone. Well maintained, quiet, and cool. (By the way, New York is in the middle of a heat wave – 98 degrees yesterday and humid. Terrific apartment-hunting weather – I could literally feel my make-up melting off my face. Gross.) We go down a short hallway on the first floor and arrive at a studio apartment.

And it’s perfect. Decent size – one open room, with a small kitchen and a brand new bathroom. Adorable. No broker fee. Two year lease with no rent increase. He’ll hold it until August 1st so I can give my dear friend Anne, whom I’m subletting from, a full month’s notice. Holy $%#@*&! The only downside is he needed two months rent upfront for security and he needed them today. I moved some of my finances around, came up with some creative tactics that I wish I never had to use (more on that in a later post), and voila! I have a home.

I am incredibly lucky – I think I might just be the luckiest person in this town. That’s not to say that I like this apartment hunting system. It’s enough to make me consider writing to Mayor Bloomberg to suggest he put a few measures in place to clean up this housing situation. Seriously, this city is losing talent. Young, interested, passionate, creative talent because the cost of living is out-of-control and the cost of relocating here is even worse. Why aren’t all tenants required to give 60 days notice so apartments don’t get listed and rented in less than 24 hours, spawning a frenzy among apartment seekers? Why don’t brokers and landlords take credit cards? Why are brokers allowed to charge fees that are equivalent to the highest paid DOCTORS and BANKERS in this city when broken down by amount of time worked? Okay, I’ve just gotten myself so worked up that I need to go write that letter. I hope you’ll write to him too:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
PHONE 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC)
FAX (212) 788-8123


Serenity Anywhere

Look very closely at the photo to the left. You see that tiny smudge of blue shirt and black pants to the right. That’s me doing yoga in the middle of Times Square. We’re in tree pose, one of the most popular balance poses in yoga, attempting to root into the Earth and grab a hold of its energy.

Yesterday was the summer solstice, and in celebration of the event, the Times Square Alliance hosted a festival called Solstice in Times Square: Mind Over Madness Yoga. (For information on the Times Square Alliance, please click here: All through the day there were classes offered by top yoga teachers from across the city to anyone at any level.
I must admit that I was pretty light-headed when I finished the hour-long intermediate session. We did some serious back bends in celebration of the day and there was an energy opened up in me that I have not felt in a long time. To be sure, the exhaust from cars and the noise of TS were a little difficult to overcome.
I was interviewed by a reporter for a Japanese TV show and she asked how I could possibly concentrate in this environment and find peace here in all the chaos. In actuality, this practice was much more personal. I try hard in classes to never look around at anyone else and focus only on my body and my abilities. In this class, I couldn’t possibly spend a moment of time comparing myself to anyone else. I was too consumed with trying concentrating in an environment that provides complete sensory overload. I was able to look into myself in a way that I sometimes cannot if I am in a class in a serene yoga studio.
When we need to create serenity, it becomes much more powerful than having it handed to us. When we create peace, it becomes much more lasting than if someone else builds peace for us. We are vested in the process; we, our states-of-mind, are the outcome. This class helped me realize how far I’ve come in creating peace for myself; it taught me that I can build a grounded, serene life even if the life that’s happening around me is a whirl of noise. And when I left the class and made my way to the subway, I felt that the world around me was a little more peaceful, that somehow our practice for that hour had rubbed off on the place, rather than the place rubbing off on us.

Frost / Nixon

Once I found out I definitely had the job offer I have been hoping for, I decided to take myself out to celebrate that very afternoon. I start my job on July 9th and one of the most beautiful things about being unemployed until then is that I can stand in line for rush tickets and hardly anyone else will be there. In New York, rush tickets are given out the day of a show, at 10am, for a discounted price. Not all shows do this, but many do.

I had heard a lot of buzz around Frost / Nixon, mostly because one of the lead actors, Frank Langella, just won the Tony award for his performance. I am a little mebarrassed to admit that I had no idea what the show was about, and I had never heard of David Frost, despite the facts that all of my family members have been invloved in politics all whole their lives and that one of my majors as an undergraduate was history. In an effort to not be so hard on myself, I must say that I was raised in a house where Richard Nixon’s name was considered to be a synonym for any four letter word you can think of. My mother still has a profound dislike for the man, almost as strong as her dislike for the Red Sox. (She grew up a decided liberal and a decided Yankees fan.)

A short synopsis: David Frost was a British talk show host who landed an interview with Richard Nixon soon after Nixon decided to resign from office. The play chronicles those interviews, in which Nixon confesses his guilt in the Watergate scandal. David Frost becomes an international celebrity and Richard Nixon never recaptures any of the glory he had pre-Watergate.

I decided to go to the 2pm matinee on Wednesday for a couple of very good reasons. In business school, I occasionally felt like an old foggie for having graduated from undergrad in the 90’s. At this matinee of Frost / Nixon, I was easily the youngest person in the house. How thrilling! When I used to work in a box office, this was my absolute favorite performance of the week. Everyone arrives half an hour early, they are accessorized to the max, and no one has a cell phone that will start to ring at the pivotal moment of the performance.

I get inside at about 1:45 and make my way up to the mezzanine, where I assumed my rush seat would be. A kind usher pointed out to me that not only was I in the orchestra section, but I was in the middle of the very first row. I couldn’t believe it! I’ve never sat in the front row of anything in my entire life, except a baseball game at Wrigley Field (which was equally as exciting but much more expensive.)

So the play begins and I am on the edge of my seat just waiting to see the fall of the man that all these years I thought of as a crook. I was going to see how a dashing, young media man did what no other investigative journalist, Congressman, or attorney had been able to do before. If only my mother were here….

Except it didn’t happen that way at all. Mr. Langella’s performance was so riveting, so engaging that I found myself not only liking Nixon; I was ROUTING for him! I wanted him to come out on top. I wanted everything that I did know about Watergate to be an enormous lie. I didn’t want to see this man disgraced and torn apart; I wanted him to be triumphant. (My mother would be horrified at this reaction!)

I had the great pleasure to see Brian Dennehy in Death of a Salesman in 1999. (Mr. Dennehy, like Mr. Langella, won the Tony award tha year for Best Actor in a Play.) And I felt for Frank Langella’s Nixon the same sympathy, the same heart-breaking sadness that I felt for Brian Dennehy’s Willy Lowman. It was tragic to watch a larger than life man with dream and hopes claw his way out of his own desperate situation only to watch him plunge back down to a point lower than he started. And worse, to watch him orchestrate his own demise.

I have been out of professional theatre for several years now and I’d like to return someday, in some way. For now, it was incredible to have that magic reignited. When you work behind-the-scenes in theatre, that spark, that “wow” factor falls away to some degree. They don’t tell you that when you first sign up for the gig. Once you see what happens before the curtain goes up, what happens after that can becomes less intriguing. I am so grateful to Mr. Langella for helping me re-capture a bit of what I thought I’d lost. He was nothing short of stunning. And if you have the chance, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see the show, no matter what the price of the ticket. Maybe you’ll find yourself routing for Nixon too….


Not Quite New York Enough….

Now that my job search is complete, I am moving on to my number two priority, an apartment. I love everything about New York, except the apartment hunt. It’s brutal. I’ve never experienced anything like it. 15% broker fees, brokers who are keen to show you exactly what you DON’T want, and a very tight market. At the moment the vacancy rate in New York is 1%, the lowest it’s been in decades. I had heard of the legendary “shoebox apartment” though I’d never seen one until today. I went to a see a “cute studio” on West 64th street. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was 150 square feet, if that! My sister, Weez, has an adorable miniature dachshund and this apartment is too small even for him. Still, I am optimistic.

My friend, Dan, keeps telling me the perfect apartment is out there. He’s taken to sending me uplifting text messages. I appreciate these – they arrive just when I feel like I may never find a place of my own. So I spent some time walking around neighborhoods, collecting phone numbers from the precious few “for rent” signs on the upper west side.

Pounding the pavement in search of an apartment is tiring work so I took myself to Cafe Lalo on West 83rd Street. In the movie You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan waits in a cafe to meet than man she’s been flirting with on-line. That scene takes place in Cafe Lalo. It’s a lovely little spot, lovelier than I remember. Classical music playing, marble everywhere, huge windows that open out on a tree-lined street. I was thrilled to see it.

I walk up to the counter, order myself a big piece of apple pie and a coffee. The woman at the register just stares at me. And I stare back.

“A what?” she asked.
“A coffee?” I said.
“What’s a coffee?”
“C-O-F-F-E-E. Tea, hot chocolate, coffee…” I felt terrible because I couldn’t figure out how to say this without sounding like a jerk.
“Oh, you mean a cAUffee.”

I was stunned! This woman was implying that I had an accent, the wrong accent. I haven’t had an apartment here since May 2001. Still, had I been away so long that I was now a foreigner in my own town? I was always under the assumption that you could take the girl out of NY, but you couldn’t take the NY out of the girl.

I then sheepishly handed over my AMEX card.

“Oh, we don’t take those. Only cash. It’ll be $8.50”

“Sorry. Here you go,” I replied, shocked at the cost of a slice of pie these days! “Is it okay if I sit anywhere?”

“You want to sit DOWN?”

“Is that okay?” I asked. I was growing increasingly less comfortable.

“I guess,” the woman said as she rolled her eyes so much I feared they’d get stuck in the back of her head.

I walked over to the far corner of the bar against the window and made myself as small as possible. The pie and cAUffee arrived a few moments later.

I sat staring out the open windows for almost an hour, eating my pie (which wasn’t all that tasty) and drinking my coffee (that was much too strong.) How could this have happened? And if I wasn’t a New Yorker anymore then what was I? I realized how much a home defines us, shapes us, and the way people view us.

A homeless woman walked by me and stopped in front of one of the flower baskets hanging on one of the lampposts. She began to run both her hands through it. It took me a moment to figure out what she was doing. It had rained that morning and she was washing her hands with the water still clinging to the flowers, humming. Then she went on her way.

And just like that I was snapped out of my momentary slump. I took my plate and cup up to the counter and gathered my things. Suddenly I realized that no matter how dire my situation may be in my apartment search, I was indeed lucky, much luckier than most. Even if I have forgotten how to pronounce “coffee”, this is still my town and I have a lot of work to do here.


Fahrenheit 311

Grand Central Station currently has an exhibit on display that pays homage to New York City’s role in film. Everything from The Untouchables to Spike Lee’s creations to You’ve Got Mail. Photographs, film clips, backdrops, and quotes from famous film makers. It’s stunning and it’s free and it made me fall in love with this place all over again. I am, shamelessly, one of those people who reads every word of every plaquard in a museum though I usually only look at any one image for about 5 seconds.

As I’ve wandered around this city the past week, I’ve been thinking about it as the backdrop of my life, the setting in which I will have some wonderful adventures and meet a host of characters, some of whom I have known for years and some of whom I have yet to meet. So it was particularly appropriate that at this tribute to New York’s contribution to film, that I found two very poignant quotes about settings.

The first comes from Ray Bradbury. I think of him as the author of books about strange and mysterious worlds, that years later turn out to not be so strange. It turns out he was just more forward thinking and didn’t care if people thought he was a little odd. It also turns out that he had quite a bit to say about film and theatre as well. “Drama and theater are not special and separate and private things in our lives. They are true stuffs of living, the heart and soul of any true city. It follows that we must begin to provide architectural stages upon which our vast populations can act out their lives.” (To read more about him, you can click here:

I never thought of the city as having a job to do. Before reading this, I thought of the city as something we take into our lives, that we adapt to, because it is far too big and powerful to mold it to what we need. And this quote stopped me in my tracks and asked me to reconsider the role of setting. It told me that I am not here merely to exist and make my way through the maze of New York. I can actually carve out my own path here and the setting itself will be changed because I have been here and done something worth doing.

The second quote comes from Eugene Lourie, a little known art director of the 1950’s. While he never made a colossal mark of his own, he is credited as having influenced the work of Inoshiro Honda’s Godzilla. (For more on Lourie, click here: For someone consumed with a career in visual creativity, I believe he missed his calling life as a wordsmith because his discussion about setting and backdrop was one of the most beautiful and elegant pieces about art I have read. When asked about the artistic license of set designers to add or remove details from a set he simply said, “We were creating a poetic reality, a reality with a soul.”

I’d like to think that I came to New York to do exactly the same work as these set designers. I wanted to be here with all of the beauty and ugliness, the pristine gardens and grimy streets and subways, in the midst of all the noise and the blessed few moments of peacefulness. I was willing to take it all, and then write stories in this blog about the things I truly loved. So in these writings you are getting a flavor of my life here and yes it’s through my filters of my eyes and my experiences. Some people come to New York and they hate it, some fall in love with its perfect imperfections, and many vascillate between these two states numerous times. So while I could be accused of painting a picture of New York through rose-colored glasses, I prefer to think of it as just adding a layer of poetry on top of the reality and bolstering it up from the bottom with some soul.


A Matter of Committment

I went to an interview yesterday and expected to learn more about the positions I had applied for and about the company in general. One of the positions in particular is interesting to me because of the projects I would be working on and because the person I’d work for has so much to teach me. Those teachings are more than industry knowledge, competitive dynamics, and brand building. I have written before about explicit versus implicit learning. The most fascinating part of this potential job opportunity is that afterwards I find myself not considering the job as much as considering my life in general and what this job could do for me as a person.

Yesterday was a perfect example. The person I was interviewing with asked me what about the job concerns me or worries me. And to be honest, I told him I was worried that I may jump on board the ship and maybe he’d jump off in the not so distant future. (I said this with much more professional language, though this was certainly the intent.) And I asked this not because of who he is at all, rather because of who I have worked for in the past. I have had several positions in which the person who hired me was largely the reason I joined the company and then that person took off for greener pastures not long after I arrived.

Then he did something very interesting: he showed me a piece of paper that had a few lines he had written above a quote by Goethe. “Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.” This quote is everywhere – magnets, notepads, graduation cards. There’s nothing new in the message we haven’t heard a million times before. Essentially, it’s the Nike principle: just do it.

The interview was in New Jersey and since I live in Astoria, I had to take the GW bridge to get home. The traffic was backed up so far, it took me over two hours so I had plenty of time to think. And my first thought was, “What the heck am I doing here? In this traffic, in New Jersey?” And then I thought about committment. Real, honest, true, tough, traffic- ladden committment. Was there really magic in it? Was our profound belief in committment just something we tell ourselves when times get rough and we don’t want to admit we misallocated our resources (time, money, or effort) to investments in people or jobs or cities that just didn’t work out? I wasn’t sure but had a long ride home to consider this.

By nature, I am a person of committment and sometimes that has worked well for me and sometimes it hasn’t. I’ve been at times overjoyed and at times gravely disappointed. As the skyline of my beloved New York came into view, I thought about the magic I know is here, in these people, these streets, even these buildings. Last summer, I had been considering moving to Philly or Boston post-graduation for personal reasons and those personal reasons faded away and I committed to coming back home, to New York. I had some great job offers in other areas of the country, and with some reluctance I turned them all down for the dream of New York.

For sure, there were times I regretted turning down those jobs: when classmates asked me what I’d be doing post-graduation and I had no answer, when my bank account balance was quite intent on dwindling away, when I couldn’t take off with my Darden friends to Asia or Brussels or any number of other fabulous travel destinations they had planned to see because they had jobs to come home to. And I, perhaps foolishly, kept holding to that dream of the phenominal job that would fall into place once I planted both feet on the pavement in New York. Idealistic? Sure. Foolhardy? Maybe. Scray? Definitely.

I should make one clarification here: while I believe in a higher power of some kind, I also believe that that higher power helps those who help themselves. I didn’t just move to New York hoping and praying that something would work out. I have been networking myself to the bone, applying for jobs, following up with contacts, tapping into every possible person and interesting company that would speak to me. I’ve considered who I am, what I’m about, and what I want. In short, I committed to me and to my happiness and success. I promised myself that I would be more patient than I am by nature. The magic happens, and I needed to work at letting it into my life, and sometimes the magic takes some time and space to really develop. Oh, and it also needs a little elbow grease behind it.

So here I am, almost one week in. And it’s happening. My sublet at the right price, job interviews, seeing old friends, meeting new people. I’m not buzzing yet, but I’m beginning to hum, steadily. I can see the magic’s tiny glimmer off in the distance and it’s coming my way. The grace and power can’t be far behind.


How I Learned to Drive

Last Monday marked a momentous occasion, one that a year ago I would have said would never happen: I drove my SUV in New York City. I had every intention of bidding a fond farewell to my vehicle the day after my graduation and trading it in for a 3X2 metro card.

And then I found this job that made me so excited that I wanted to jump out of my chair, raise my hand, and say “pick me, pick me!” I didn’t, but I thought about it. It’s in…..New Jersey. So I began researching commuting options. The possibilities on deck were New Jersey Transit or living in Queens and driving over the Triborough and GW bridges. Neither seemed to work well. Both commutes were too long and too expensive. The Queens option in particular was tough – I spent a whopping two and a half hours getting home after my interview. And then to add insult to injury I got a $165 ticket for parking in front of a pedestrian ramp that was not marked and that I could not see in the dark.

Because I sat on the GW for a good amount of time (and I mean truly sat, as in did not move an inch) I had plenty of time to look around. And I noticed something: these lit up boats crossing back and forth. They easily made five trips from one side of the river to the other during my idle time. What were they and where were they going?

I got home and spoke with my friend, Heather, who informed me about the ferry that takes people from midtown to several stops in New Jersey. New York Waterways. I looked them up and it’s a ten minute ride from midtown to Weehawken, NJ, and then a half hour drive from Weehawken to the company’s corporate head quarters. I couldn’t believe it! I felt like a great big present with a giant red bow plunked down and hit me right on the head. This was an unbelievable and delightful discovery.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg had just announced that anyone driving in Manhattan below 86th Street will be subject to an $8 / day charge. This is meant to alleviate congestion and cut down on pollution, two issues the city desparately needs to address. I discovered that the best way to drive in New York City is to find a way to not drive at all.

fear, kayak, travel

Riding Atop the Water

On a recent kayak trip in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I went out with some friends on one of those perfect days. Days that make you happy you’re alive, breathing fresh air and able to enjoy just being a part of the surroundings. All my friends had kayaks that had them seated low in the water. This allowed them to maneuver easily, though they had a fair possibility of tipping once out of the protection of the sound.

My kayak was an ocean kayak. It sits higher in the water making it a bit harder to paddle, though providing it with superior balance and a significantly smaller likelihood of tipping when the water gets rough. Since I just learned to swim this past year, choppy water makes me a little more than nervous. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that making a boat sit higher in the water made it less likely to tip even though I was having to use all the arm strength I could muster to paddle around.

In a testament to my bravery, I tried to follow my friends out of the sound. I may have had a safer kayak, though they were all better swimmers. My seasickness and general fear of death by drowning sent me back to the sound, alone, after only a few minutes out on the open water.

So I made my way, albeit slowly, down a few channels among the cattails and mangroves. I was overwhelmed by the stillness when I let my paddle lay across my lap. I could only hear the whisper of the wind in the tall grasses around me. And I felt the water lift me up.

Riding atop the water, living above the fray, takes work. Hard work – we have to paddle with all our might, with everything we have within us. We feel every bump beneath us. We sway back and forth with the water, with life, roiling underneath us. And we have to keep going. Put the paddle in the water, put our hearts on the line, and move forward with courage and confidence. There is no guarantee of preventing a tip into the water, not in a kayak, and not in life. To be sure, traveling on a higher plane is more difficult: it takes patience, time, and an understanding of the forces all around us. The prize is knowing that when the waves really kicks up, we are much more likely to keep moving ahead, toward our goal, than those sitting low in the water who are being consumed by the chaos of the seas.