Goodbye to the Upper West Side

Photo of me in front of Milk Bar, Upper West Side

I’ve stopped and started this post several times because I wasn’t sure how I could ever put into words what living on the Upper West Side for the better part of 16 years has meant to me. It was my dream as a kid to live in the Sesame Street neighborhood, and then I was fortunate enough to work at Sesame Street while I was here!

This past week I’ve been racing around doing errands, packing, cleaning, taking care of my aging dog, working – of the employment and graduate school varieties. Every time I turned a corner, walked a block, or saw a familiar face, memories flooded into my mind – some were joyful, some were tragic, and many were ordinary moments that felt extraordinary, then and now. 

Here, I fell in love, and had my heart broken here, many times over. My novels were written and published. I started telling my stories, and helping others tell theirs. Jobs came and went, some were amazing opportunities and some I would like to forget. I started two businesses. I adopted my dog. I became a journalist. I was burned out of one apartment (and almost got trapped in the building), and kicked out of another when the building went co-op. I started therapy and put so many ghosts to rest that had haunted me for most of my life. I learned how to be fearless, or rather how to run right towards what scares me and not flinch. I faced health challenges, mental and physical. I rode out the pandemic. I was diagnosed with and treated for cancer—and nearly died from that treatment, twice, in this exact apartment I’m writing this post from right now. This apartment that I will leave tomorrow, never return to, and where I lived, where I really lived. Where I found out what I’m made of, why I’m here, and what my purpose is. Here I found the secret of life, and it’s love. To be ridiculously, foolishly, blindly, joyfully in love with every moment and interaction, and every single chance we get to just be. 

There are so many things I will miss—my friends and neighbors, Central Park, Riverside Park, the dogs, the shops, the good food, the familiarity. My friend, Jennifer, sent me a quote from Navin Amarasuriya of The Contentment Foundation that says, “Home is not a location, but a place where you are missed when you are gone.” For me, the Upper West Side has been all these things, a real home. I will miss it, and it will miss me. We meant something to each other, and we always will.  

This has been a long and winding chapter, and it’s rapidly coming to a close. There are new adventures and new places waiting for me, places that are not yet home but that I hope in time will be. No place will ever be exactly like this place, and for its special place in my heart I’m so grateful. I’m grateful for all it gave me and took from me, for all of it. 

End scene, curtain up, take a long, happy, thankful bow, smile, pause, and then on to the next show, tomorrow. 


Stories in and on walls

Art on one of the walls in my apartment

If you’ve ever been to one of my apartments, you know I paint my walls with art. In preparation for my move, I took down all my art today and packed it. Normally, this day is a sad one for me. Suddenly my home isn’t my home anymore without the art on the walls.

But today was not a sad day for me. Though I will miss my neighbors and my neighborhood, letting go of this apartment is part of turning the page and letting go of a lot of painful memories. The pandemic. Cancer treatment. Nearly dying from cancer treatment. Break-ups. Old jobs. The loss of friends. The loss of family members. Phineas getting sick multiple times. As I took down my art, I let go of all those difficulties, all that sadness and disappointment.

There were plenty of wonderful times in these walls, too. Visits with friends. Unpacking a box full of copies of my first Emerson novel. Selling my second and third Emerson novels to a new publisher. Getting into the biomimicry program at ASU. Getting into the sustainability leadership course at Cambridge. Healing – for me and for Phin. Here, finally, I found peace and I will take it with me.

I’ve lived in this apartment for 6 years, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else as an adult. It’s a funny thing to be a renter, to live in a place where so many other lives have played out of people I will never know and never meet. Everything that happened to me here will never be known by the people who will live here less than a month from now. They’ll make their own memories here, and I’ll never know those stories. Only the walls know it all, and they keep every secret.


Public Voices Fellowship on the Climate Crisis at Yale University

Really proud to be a finalist for the Public Voices Fellowship on the Climate Crisis with The OpEd Project at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. They had 445 applications this year and though I didn’t get one of the 20 fellowship slots, as a finalist I will have some incredible opportunities this coming year to sharpen and hone my climate change storytelling. Please join me in congratulating this year’s fellows. 


Thanks for the joy, James Corden

James Corden on The Late Late Show

You may know I’m a massive fan of James Corden and his edition of The Late Late Show. You may not know that he and the show were part of my care plan when I went through cancer treatment during the pandemic. In my efforts to find joy every day to get myself through one of the toughest times in my life, James, his staff, and his guests were often that source of joy for me. 

This has made saying goodbye to him in my own distant fangirl way especially difficult. I cried watching him sing his farewell song, “That’s Our Show.” I’m so grateful to him and his team for all they’ve done for eight years to make me laugh, to make us all laugh, especially during the challenging times. What a gift. 

Though his time on late night is done, at least for now, I’m hopeful that we will see him again soon in his next great role. He is a massive talent. His performance in the Amazon show, Mammals, is beautiful and haunting. His comedic work on stage in The History Boys and One Man, Two Guvnors is masterful. I can’t wait to see what he does next because after his incredibly successful late night run, he could do anything. Truly. The world of opportunities is open to him. And I imagine that could be frightening and daunting. What would you do if you could do anything? It’s an enormous, poignant question. 

My hope for him is he takes a long vacation, takes some time, takes a breath, takes in all the love and admiration fans like me have for him, and then does exactly what he wants to do. Maybe he’ll decide to do nothing. Maybe he’ll decide to do something. No matter what I will always be glad he chose to spend eight years of his life in the U.S. bringing his light to late night and making us smile every day. Thank you, James and the whole Late Late Show team, for everything. What a run. What a legacy. Congratulations. 


My dream New York City apartment

The search is on for my new apartment! I’ll be moving on May 31st, or slightly before. To manifest this new space for my new chapter in this city, I wrote out what where I’d love to live:

  • Dog-friendly
  • Filled with light
  • Good public transit
  • Private outdoor space
  • Modern kitchen and bathroom
  • Laundry in-unit or in-building
  • Elevator
  • Doorperson
  • Neighborhood feel with a green space nearby

Let’s see what I can find. All ideas and referrals welcomed!


Remembering Todd Haimes, President / CEO of New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company

“I didn’t know if you’d seen this. I remember your reverence for him.”

My friend Trevin Cooper, himself a talented theater professional, wrote me this note when he sent me the news that Todd Haimes, President / CEO of New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company, where I got my first job in New York after college, passed away. I put my head down and let two big tears roll down my face.

When I first started at the Roundabout, Todd showed me what was possible when you bet on yourself. Fresh out of college and not sure where my life or career was going, his example gave me hope, and a roadmap.

Todd went to the University of Pennsylvania for undergrad, as did I. He got an MBA, which I would get 7 years later following his example. He knew his career was not on stage (he acted in only one play), but on the administrative side. The same was true for me as well. He often described himself as an orchestrator with a talent for getting the right people around the table and removing any roadblocks so they could create something incredible together. I think of myself that way, too.

Todd was the first person who helped me realize not only could I love business and the arts equally, but that the two benefit one another. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten in all the years since I worked at the Roundabout and it’s been the basis for my entire career and life—to use rock solid business principles to support creative endeavors.

When I found out Todd got cancer in his 40s, I was devastated. Then I was inspired because he kept going in spite of it — for 20 years! — and his star rose higher than ever. I also got cancer in my 40s during the pandemic, and again Todd’s example showed me what’s possible, even in the face of a difficult diagnosis. (I am thankfully now cancer-free.)

Though Todd physically left this world last week after his long battle with cancer, the energy, enthusiasm, and talent he wielded to completely transform Broadway theatre lives on in our beautiful city of New York, artistic communities all over the world, and the many people whom he inspired. Me included, of course.

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway, wrote Weil and Mann. I say they shine brighter because Todd Haimes dedicated his life to making them so.


Katie Porter for Senate

Yesterday I attended a fundraiser for California’s next senator, the indomitable, authentic, passionate Congresswoman Katie Porter, hosted by Vicki Eastus and Ted Janger. We covered a lot of ground in our conversation: the economy, climate change, agriculture, fair housing, social justice, childcare, and abortion.

Katie is the real deal. She cares deeply about all of her constituents and this country. She is one of only 11 in Congress who do not take money from PACs or lobbyists. She cannot be bought and that’s one of the thing I admire most about her. Her book, I Swear: Politics is Messier Than My Minivan, came out yesterday and she was also on Colbert last night just before the fundraiser.

What we see on TV is exactly who Katie is. I’m so proud to support her, and I hope you will, too!


Navigating change like Disney / Pixar

One thing you should know about me is that I’m a huge animated movie nerd. I could spend days watching Pixar movies, and have! As I went looking for inspiration about how small creative teams manage change for my latest academic paper on sustainability leadership, I happily re-discovered Ed Catmull’s book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

Catmull is the Co-founder of Pixar and was the President of Walt Disney Animation Studios. His 37 principles of how the company operates, including how they navigate change, hold business and life lessons for all of us.

Jonathan Michael from the company Bplans pulled together these Catmull quotes and created a set of graphics with photos from Disney / Pixar that will have your brain buzzing with ideas. I hope you find them as inspirational as I do.


Climate change will impact everything everywhere all at once 

The new NASA global data set combines historical measurements with data from climate simulations using the best available computer models to provide forecasts of how global temperature (shown here) and precipitation might change up to the year 2100 under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Credits: NASA

Over the weekend, I read a disturbing article that quoted a potential presidential candidate who wrote, “We will keep fighting until we put a stop to ESG once and for all!” 

ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance and is a set of investment standards for a company’s behaviors. In other words, it’s a set of standards that takes more than profit into account. It was coined by the United Nations in 2005. Originially, the acronym was GES because they believed Governance was the most important of the three. They weren’t wrong then. They aren’t wrong now. They just didn’t know at the time the dire state of our environment in 2023. 

The quote above is so incredibly dangerous because if the United States completely gives up on the environment now, catastrophe is certain. Even if we went to net zero today, there’s still no way to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Above 2 degrees, we will see more intensified storms, extreme heatwaves, dangerous flooding, drought, and fire conditions, crop failures, sea level rise, deathly disease increases, and massive loss of biodiversity in flora and fauna. 

To be fair, many parts of the world are already seeing impacts. Whole towns such as Newtok, Alaska moved to avoid climate impacts. Tuvalu, the Pacific island country of 12,000 people halfway between Hawaii and Australia, announced at COP27 its plans to become the world’s first digital country in hopes to preserve its history and heritage. 40% of its capital district is underwater during high tide. Eventually, it will be completely lost to rising seas. The Colorado River, Lake Mead, the Great Salt Lake, and the Mississippi River are rapidly shrinking. 

But, climate has always changed. It’s changed many times before in the history of the planet. So why does this chapter of climate change matter? The last time CO2 was as high as it is now was 3 million years ago. Modern humans didn’t exist then. The rapid rate change of CO2 we’ve seen in the last 100 years because of human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, has never happened before in the history of the planet. And it’s that rate that is the key point. 

Yes, the planet can adjust to changes. But it can’t adjust this much this quickly. If you lost $1 a month in income, you could adjust and manage for a certain amount of time. If you lost $100 a month, that would require a much bigger adjustment in your budget. If you lost $1000 a month, that would require an enormous adjustment and you may find yourself in serious trouble with basic needs because of that rate of change. The planet is under this same type of pressure. 

So why bother doing anything? If we’re on the deck of the climate Titanic, should we just play on? No. Not by a long shot. For every fraction of a degree we can curtail warming, we will see impacts lessened, human lives saved, and species protected from extinction. It’s going to be a difficult ride toward a fully sustainable world, and if we commit to protecting each other, we will eventually get there. It will be painful, expensive, and massively inconvenient to say the least, but not impossible for humans to survive. But life will look different, very different, for centuries. 

None of us will be here to see a fully sustainable world, but we all have a responsibility to future generations. Consider how much better off we’d be today if 100 years ago strong governance cared about the environment as much as they cared about money during the Industrial Revolution. Our world would be healthier, cleaner, happier, and more peaceful. It could be that way for future generations if we, and our governments, do the difficult work now of restoring and regenerating the health of our planet. That could be our legacy. We could be known as the generation who saved human life, and the lives of the species with whom we share this planet. Imagine that. That’s our collective goal. 

No matter on which side of the aisle you sit, can we all agree that health and happiness are what we all want? Don’t we want clean air, water, and soil? Plentiful healthy food and fresh water? Can we start to talk about ESG not as this divisive, political policy as framed in the quote above but as a means of kindness, care, and concern for all? If that’s woke, then please let’s not allow ourselves to turn a blind eye and go back to sleep. Our survival depends upon our eyes and hearts being wide open. 


Edward Hopper’s New York at the Whitney Museum

Sunlight on Brownstones by Edward Hopper

If you’re in New York this weekend, run don’t walk to the expansive and breath-taking art exhibit Edward Hopper’s New York at the Whitney Museum. New York was Hopper’s muse, second only to his wife Josephine “Jo” Nivison Hopper who was also a talented and accomplished painter. (Some of her works are featured in the exhibit as well and they’re stunning.) We see Automat, which reminds me of my heady early adult days in New York when I was scraping by working in Broadway theaters, as well as Early Sunday Morning, Room in New York, Bridle Path, Two Comedians, Drug Store, Tables for Ladies, New York Interior, From Williamsburg Bridge, Approaching the City, Sunlight on Brownstones, New York Pavements, Boy and the Moon, and the exhibit goes on and on with one gorgeous work after the next. 

We also find his illustrations, which I never knew he did, and an extensive set of his theater stubs that he saved. He and Nivison Hopper were massive theater fans and often went there to sketch not the show, but the audience and staff. Hopper was obsessed with depicting the lives of everyday people in ordinary and intimate moments of their lives. This entire exhibit is a celebration of not just New York, but New Yorkers. We could be, and perhaps have been, many of the people in these works. They feel familiar to us because they are. In our city, we have all lived these moments in the course of our average days. 

What Hopper helps us realize is the extraordinary in our ordinary. In his work, we find the sliver of light through the window of our small apartment, the summer sunshine and shadows in Central Park, the very first moments of our mornings when we are still between sleeping and waking, the views from our trains and ferries as we rush to our next appointment, that burnt orange hat or sky blue dress that we love to wear, and that moment when we round the corner and spot our friends seated around the bar at our third home where everyone knows our name. 

The one sadness I felt is that his most famous work, Nighthawks, is not there. I asked a guard where that painting is, and was told, “It’s at The Art Institute of Chicago and they weren’t giving it up. But, the sketches of it are in the side room.” My dear friend, Vicki, who prompted me to catch this exhibit with her before it closes on March 5th, and I hustled over to that side room and it was filled with Hopper’s sketches of many of his best known works. We found them equally fascinating as the final pieces because they show his meticulous, studious process of perspective and the clarity of vision via the clean lines with which he’s synonymous.

To enhance the exhibit even further, don’t miss the views of New York from the Whitney roof. Though it was freezing, Vicki and I ventured out there to see the sculptures and the views of New York that still look so much like the views Hopper saw. “Christa, we live here,” Vicki said to me. “We get to live here.” My heart was filled with gratitude for this city, this time with my dear friend, and for Hopper and Nivison Hopper whose visionary works endure.