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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
AUG
03

People Suck

At least the ones who steal your carry-on suitcase directly from the overhead bin. I know what you’re thinking. It was a mix-up, right? But just take a look at this butterfly-and-flower-riddled bag pictured above and tell me if it’s even possible to accidentally mistake it for your own crappy black one. The answer you’re looking for is no.

It’s true. I was robbed. Of some very precious things, I might add. But I don’t want to focus on that. It’s depressing. I’d rather focus on the rather unexpected things that happen when you fly to New York City for a work trip and end up with no possessions.

There’s a rather clarifying sensation that settles in once you stop crying over your loss, and that is the ability to deduce what it is that you actually NEED while on this trip. And I can tell you the answer to that question is underwear. It’s really the ONLY answer, which is why instead of spend your first evening catching up with a friend at a favorite Harlem eatery (yes, I said favorite Harlem eatery), you'll schlepp it from the hotel to the nearest Victoria’s Secret. Learning this, that underwear is really the bedrock of existence, will feel somewhat revelatory.

The CMO of your company, and probably the fanciest lady you know, might invite you to her hotel room when you and your lack of luggage arrive. Her Manolos will be lined up in a row, and she’ll tell you to pick a pair to wear the following day at the tradeshow you’re working. (Remember, you have no shoes.) It’ll be the first time you’ve ever worn Manolos, and you’ll enjoy learning—even for one day—what that feels like. For the record, it feels like pain, but that won’t matter. And you won’t even begrudge her when she asks for them back the next day due to her outfit being perfectly tailored to Those Shoes. You might learn you’re pretty happy just being a regular person.

While trying on the clothes of a co-worker and complaining about them all feeling tight, she’ll point out that you’ve been hiding your cute little body in clothes that are too big. You’ll feel real slutty in leopard print tops and vampy red skirts that hug your curves and restrict both your breath and your step, but remember, short of spending a bunch of money on new clothes that you really can’t afford and that you can’t transport home anyway because you no longer have a suitcase, you don’t have a choice. And so you get to experience the week while wearing the clothes of this other person. You won’t feel like yourself, and how odd that is, to exist as not you, but at the end of it all, you’ll find yourself wanting to go out and buy a tight skirt.

A friend will subway it from 145th Street, in the rain, and bring dresses wrapped in plastic for you to try on for the gala you need to attend. People will tell you at said gala that they’d have had no idea the dress wasn’t yours. And the willingness of people to help, to step up, to comfort, and to tell you how nice you look in your slutty red skirt or baffling gaucho pants will remind you that not everyone is a thief. Not everyone does horrible things just because they can. Not everyone sucks. It won’t bring back your precious things, but in the grand scheme of things, I’d say that’s a win.

JUL
01

The Lights are so Bright

Taylor Swift certainly got those lyrics right. And I was reminded of this while back in New York City last week on vacation. It's a city I pine for often, even in the very act of praising heaven over how much less stressful my life has been since I moved away. Less epic as well, perhaps, but that's the tradeoff, people.

In any case, I was happy to be back even for just a few days, and I found it amusing that my friends scolded me for wanting to go to my favorite spots rather than spend my limited NYC time exploring new ones. But to me it was a no-brainer. So, yes, my friend turned to me at one point and said, "I can't believe you're back in New York and of all the places we could go for dinner, you want to go to Harlem Shake," but old habits die hard. So get off my back.

Levain Bakery was in the mix as well, as was a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and multiple Broadway shows, but that's my New York. That's the New York I love. It's the New York I've always loved. The stuff you can only find in New York. I don't see what's so shameful about that; about admitting your favorite things about a city are the very things all the tourists come to see.

One new experience I did have was marching in the Gay Pride Parade. I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did, and since I'm straight, I wondered if my marching would appear phony to others for whom it means so much more personally, but the whole thing was just a giant puddle of love and celebration and acceptance. And who--gay or straight--wouldn't be on board with that? And so marching down Fifth Avenue, thousands upon thousands of people looking on and cheering, I felt part elated over the sheer positive energy wafting up from the streets and part sad that it can't be like this every day. Because everyone deserves that kind of pride in their sexuality, that kind of acceptance from others, and that kind of confidence to be authentically themselves.

So, see, I did manage to sneak in something new. Even if I ate falafel and pizza by the slice every day.

 

APR
24

The California Effect

Living in California is pretty idyllic. The weather is fantastic, and I can go to the beach literally every day. I look at the tourists renting the condos along the shoreline and think, "And I get to live here." It hardly seems fair.

The thing about California, though, is it's changed my threshold for tolerances that previously would have been no problem. Like temperature. I moved here last summer, and after several months of constantly comfy temps, I remember actually taking a picture of the temperature display in my car on the day when the temperature never left the 60s. It just seemed so cold. After all those years in Cleveland and New York, strange that temps in the 60s could seem anything but balmy. Yet, it's true. I feel cold here more often...and when I am around actual cold temps or--heaven help me--snow (like this past Christmas in the mountains of eastern Washington state or even last weekend while caught in that freak blizzard in Denver), I just can't handle it like I used to. These days, I always think it's too cold.

California has also done a number on my skin. I'm not just talking about the fact that it took me a while to get the hang of sufficient sunscreen application, but also of the random bumps and rashes that began showing up due to--according to my dermatologist--the changes in environment and humidity from what I was used to out East. Multiple medications later, my skin is improving...albeit a myriad of other skin-related side-effects of the skin medications have cropped up. Which is how I came to be the girl who wears gloves while at the beach.

My skin issues are TMI, I realize, I just think sometimes it's nice to remind everyone that living in Calfornia is not always like those commercials with all the celebrities. The ones trying to convince you that their lives are just like everyone else's, even though the point of those commercials is clearly that California living is not really reality. I confess seeing those commercials while living out East filled me with a surprisingly intense yearning to be here. And those commercials are right...living in California is pretty idyllic. Although for the sake of accuracy, they really ought to get a girl wearing gloves at the beach on one of those commercials. I'll happily volunteer.

MAR
25

The Editor

I'm preparing to do my final read-through of this darn manuscript before handing it over to my editor next week. It really is a bummer that even as your manuscript gets tighter and better as the read-throughs continue, you start to genuinely dislike it. The repetition. The many revisions and re-revisions. The fact that you can recite so much of it for memory that you fear your eyes may simply be glossing over entire pages without really paying attention. By this point I am, as per usual, convinced no one will ever want to read this thing. Probably a good sign that it's time to hand it off to someone else.

When my editor reminded me today that it's been five years since she edited my first book, it seemed a bit hard to fathom. Five years. It's not a huge amount of time, but it is nonetheless significant. The first little chunk in roundable figures. Five years. In so many ways, I feel like I'm in a much better place now. I've cut the tie with Corporate America. I finally left a city I had outgrown. I've become a gemologist. I pursued a dream and it worked out. I got to live in my beloved Manhattan. I tried a pixie cut. I've written three books.

Of course, in a few ways, things are worse, too. I lost a love, a future I very much wanted. I've perhaps lost some amount of faith as well. Not just in the world and the goodness at its core, but also in a belief system that becomes ever harder to embrace in its entirety. And I've obviously lost some youth, creeping ever closer to the point at which I can no longer consider myself young at all. None of these losses are insignificant.

But overall I have to be happy with where things have shaken out over the five years since I picked up one of those Guide to Literary Agents books and began looking for a kindred spirit--or, at the very least, someone who thought I had talent. Given where I sit at this moment (at my writing desk, looking out at the palm trees in my front yard and enjoying the cool ocean-laced breeze coming in through the window), I have to conclude I made a good choice.

FEB
25

Final(ish) Touches

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A friend recently commented that I blog much less now that I’m a working girl again. This is true. So is the fact that I am way behind on getting my new manuscript to my editor, and much for the same reason. I do pine for my days in New York City, most of them employer-free once I quit my job to focus on gemology, nothing really on my to-do list other than a freelance writing gig and a magnificent city to discover. Those were the days.

It’s now been three months since announcing here (And....Done.) that I had finished the new manuscript, so I should probably tell you that what’s happened is I felt like there was something missing. I wanted to add in a more universal component to weave throughout the stories from my own life that fill the book, and so I sent out the survey I mentioned here (Survey Says), and then wrote 8,000 more words to incorporate some of the survey themes and data into the manuscript.

It’s not perfect, and I still have some work to do before I hand it off, but I like it better now. And I like that it’s something new I’m experimenting with. Don’t get me wrong…I’m still filled with that sickening sense of panic that always fills me before the release of a book (“No one will like this.”), but that will probably be there every time. All I can do is take my time, try to get it right on my end, and enjoy every bit of the process.

NOV
30

I Recall Central Park in Fall

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It's almost too late in the season to still be considered fall, but I found myself in New York City over the Thanksgiving weekend and boy howdy, it sure felt like it. Fall. 65 degrees and sunny. People out in droves biking and running, all wearing shorts and tanks. I hadn't been back to NYC since moving away over the summer, so I would have reveled in the New-Yorkyness regardless, but the weather was truly spectacular. I had a long list of things I wanted to accomplish in a short time, but somehow everything else fell off the list once I stepped into Central Park. Now, isn't that always the way? Some places never really leave you.

 

NOV
07

The Typewriter

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I'd always wanted a vintage typewriter. I probably mentioned with glee when I finally acquired one last spring while living in New York City...the land where they have everything, including not only a plethora of vintage typewriters, but also people who can repair them and restore them and teach you how to use them and order you a new ribbon for your circa 1960s model. (The Typewriter Doctor)

Of course, the Typewriter Doctor will also charge you a fortune, but it's worth it. Right? To be able to plunk out darling, nostalgic notes for people. Or even for yourself. To write letters. To craft the most charming grocery and weekend to-do lists you ever thought possible. (You try typing 'Pay Target Bill' on a vintage typewriter and see if it doesn't make you feel downright excited to pay it.) But excited as I was on that sunny day when I schlepped the not exactly lightweight machine from 23rd Street to the subway and then from the 77th and Lex stop all the way over to 1st Avenue, I haven't used it. I blame the fact that I was in the thick of gemology studies. Then I was preparing to move across the country. Then I was actually moving across the country. Then I was getting settled on the other side of the country, starting a new job and figuring out how to properly apply sunscreen.

I feel I owe my typewriter a commitment to use him more, I'm just not sure it's a commitment I can confidently make. Not that you should interpret any of this to mean that Tali has suddenly become all down on vintage typewriters, because I haven't. I think every author should have one. For what though, I'm really not sure.

NOV
01

Lessons from a Pixie Cut

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This week marks one year since getting a pixie cut. I can't say enough about how much I've enjoyed it. That doesn't mean I always think it looks good. That doesn't mean all men like it. (The exception being really old men, who, without fail, smile, wink, and wave at you because you remind them of Julie Andrews or Audrey Hepburn.) But I always feel pretty bad-ass. A tweenager came up to me a few weeks ago and said, "I like your hair. You look like Tris from Divergent." So clearly I've accomplished everything I could have ever hoped to in life.

Seriously though, here's some advice to anyone who's considering a pixie.

The season doesn't matter. I cut mine in November. In New York City. Winter was upon us, and my stylist urged me to consider waiting until spring. But by then I may have chickened out. Besides, was the frigid NYC winter we were about to experience going to be measurably warmer with longer hair? Well, maybe. Ok, probably. But still. You would be cold regardless, so just chop it when you have the courage to chop it.

You won't look like a boy. I walked straight from the stylist to Sephora on E. 86th Street and had them give me a makeover. I bought everything they used on me, and in the beginning I was sure that unless I dolled myself up, complete with a headband or sparkly hair accessory, I would look like a boy. This is a stupid fear. Because hair doesn't have a monopoly on femininity. Take a look at notable pixies in the celebrity world. Emma Watson, Kaley Cuoco, Michelle Williams, and, most recently, Kate Mara, whose pixie is downright stunning and looks so much better than the longer hair she had previously. Are these women any less feminine? Or sexy? I would argue they are more so. So stop fretting. You still look like a girl.

Style with purpose. Every day my hair looks different. Depending on the product and the way I tousle it, I get something different. True, there are days I don't love the way it turns out. There are days I miss having hair. But as I think about growing it out, something inside me feels ickily ordinary. When I think back to a lifetime spent just pulling my hair back, piling it on top of my head, doing nothing with it, it makes me love the pixie even more. Think about it. It's a style. A style you have on purpose. A sexy and bold style you have on purpose that exudes confidence and makes others wish they had the huevos (and the cheekbones) to pull it off.

So do it. Get a pixie cut. Make November the month. Winter be damned. (Plus you can dress like Peter Pan for Halloween. Just saying.)

 

OCT
14

Happy Fall! (Er...summer?)

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Things I miss about fall: changing leaves, cool temperatures, sweaters, light jackets, the smell of campfire, rainy days, and baking sweet things. I also miss all the Ohio State crap in everybody's yard. But don't tell anyone.

It's truly odd to be in this land of eternal sunshine. Because it doesn't feel like fall. It doesn't feel any different than it felt all summer. It's actually even hotter. And how odd to be sweating it out at the beach in mid-October. I keep finding myself checking the 10-day forecast in New York City, where I lived last fall, and Cleveland, where I lived the six falls before that. Temperatures in the sixties, fifties even on some days. It sounds so glorious!! I know I'll be singing a different tune come winter...something tells me I won't mind sitting at the beach in winter...but there's something about fall that a girl just wants to experience.

I can't do much about the sunny temps here in Cali, the lack of need for my jackets and sweaters, but baking? I can do something about that. And so last night I used my oven for the first time in the 4 months I've lived here and baked something sweet. It was an 85-degree day and it made my house so hot that I may never bake anything again, but for a moment, it was fall. Real fall.

OCT
02

October is for Opal

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So, remember when I was living in New York City and studying gemology? Yeah, me too. One of my favorite phases of life. Ever. I miss the city a lot and the gemstones even more. Studying them, identifying them, subjecting my Instagram followers to pictures of them. Of course, the great thing about now working for a gemology institute is that my building is not in want of gemstone displays. They are, quite frankly, everywhere. And not just the laboratory area either (where, for example, just this week I was able to meet one of the gemologists who graded the Hope Diamond), but lining pretty much every hallway, too.

Most of the pieces I've seen now, through my various explorations of the building, but every now and then I come across one that has somehow snuck past me. Like this opal stunner that literally stopped me cold. I mean, just freaking look at it! And I'm not even an opal girl. Trust me, as a gemologist, I have my favorites--diamond because it's the BEST, star corundum for the asterism, rhodochrosite because it's so unique, turquoise and aquamarine for their beautiful blues--but opals have never moved me. Until this necklace, that is. Maybe it just takes 148 carats to get me there, but either way, this was a happy way to officially ring in the month that boasts opal as its birthstone. Happy October, everyone!

SEP
12

Good/Bad

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It's gotten to the point where I don't watch the news anymore. I can't. I won't. It depresses me, frightens me, maddens me. The downside is that I rarely know what's going on in the world, but sometimes this seems like the better alternative.

September 11 was a terrifying day. It may not have seemed completely real to me from the safety of my college dorm room on the other side of the country--bodies falling, burning, this was the stuff of fiction, of movies. I still find myself trying to block out the overwhelming disturbia that sets in every time I'm reminded of the events of that day; that people purposely brought those towers down. Earlier this summer I attended a small short-film festival, and it took until about halfway through the longest of the films to realize that it--following the stories of a flight attendant on a plane, a businessman in an office, and a firefighter in the city--was about 9/11. The sickening disturbia set in like it always does, such that the film's final scenes--the flight attendant crying and whispering to air traffic control about their low altitude, the firefighter's concerned glance to the sky overhead, and the businessman's look of both shock and solemnity as he looked out the office window to see a plane headed straight for him--have not let me go.

I'm not actually recommending avoiding watching the news. It's a wimpy and irresponsible thing to do. We have to be in the world. Since I've been thinking about The Giver (Game-changing Books), remember that the Elders' stance was that it was better to shield people from the pains and sorrows of the world, even if it meant the people could experience and feel nothing...even the good, wonderful, and lovely. Or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a movie about a process that allows people to erase their memories, particularly of other people. I love watching our protagonist, who's had a bad breakup, fight to reverse the process once he's realized that if it means losing all memory of the person he once loved, it's not worth ridding himself of the heart-wrenchingly painful parts of their relationship.

The fact is, there is good all around us. It might be harder to see, it's certainly not publicized as often or to the same extent, but it is there. And even though each day something in the world can be counted on to bring me down, something else equally reliable is the rate at which something--some kindness, some action, some thing of beauty--inspires me. May those moments carry us through. And may we never forget.

 

JUL
19

I Want to be Famous

 

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I've come to terms with the fact that it will never be mine, fame and copious amounts of money, and really, that's OK with me. I rather enjoy paying my bills each month, saving where I can, fighting with the bank--let's call them Schmells Schmargo--to get them to overturn $90 worth of fees I should have never been hit with (in the end they refunded only $50.50, and it still felt like a small victory). On one hand, that I care so much about bank fees makes me feel a little bit desperate, but on the other hand, we're talking about 90 freaking dollars, not to mention the principle of the thing (I'm talking to you, Schmells Schmargo), and despite all the indignities that come with being a regular person (think coupons, sales, packing lunch, buying off-brand, fighting with Schmells Schmargo), I find the struggle quite invigorating. It's living. But every now and then, I just want to be famous. I want to breathe easy about retirement, to have living in the most expensive city in the country (NYC) followed by the second (hello, California) not even phase me, to buy my parents a beautiful house, to be so cute and popular that my picture shows up in the weekly People magazine. Heck, I'd even settle for occasionally just being recognized while out in public.

Just prior to leaving New York, I spent the day with a celebrity. He's not an A-lister, but he's very well known, and I found it thrilling just to be in the presence of someone who was stopped everywhere we went (at the botanical gardens, at dinner, at Target) for autographs and pictures. I felt famous simply by association. Even as I could tell he was years weary of these being-stopped-in-the-street moments, all I could think was how much better my life would be if such things happened to me. If the manager sent out free dessert simply because I was dining in his restaurant. If the people at the table next to me asked for a photo. If I had a bajillion Twitter followers. Or even 250.

My celebrity friend is a singer, and a very good one, too, but since he hasn't been focusing on recording for some years now, he hasn't exactly been "working." On our day about town, I was just finishing up my gemology sabbatical and getting ready to start my new job, and I was a little sad (translation: completely depressed) about having to say goodbye to the delightful world of Not Having a Day Job. I said as much to my Famous Friend when he began to complain about having nothing to do. Now, see, isn't that interesting? He was complaining about having nothing to do.

Me: "Having just experienced a phase of life where I had no job and no responsibilities, it was pretty much the best thing ever."

FF: "Yeah, but you were still working toward being a gemologist. You had a goal."

Maybe it's just a classic case of the grass always being greener. It's just that celebrity grass always seems like it's the greenest. Not to say that my Famous Friend envies my life (I wouldn't wish Schmells Schmargo fights on anybody), but does he envy parts of it? Parts of a regular person life? I think he does, and that makes me feel good inside. I'm still never going to be famous, but I'll settle for knowing that there are aspects of my life--even the mundane, lowly ones--that are enviable even to those who appear to have it all. I'll settle for my day about town with my famous friend, both of us singing in his car at the top of our lungs. I'll settle for that drive, the NYC skyline before us, and the way he said "Tali, sing girl!" when I hit the high note.

JUN
21

Top Ten Moving Moments

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Hello from the Pacific time zone. How good does that sound? No more staying up until midnight (or after) watching sporting events. I'd driven from Michigan to Utah once (and back again) many years ago, but this cross-country venture was truly that. From New York City to San Diego. I was surprised not just by how not horrendous the drive was, but also by how much I enjoyed it. I remember thinking on the last day of the trip that I was going to miss being on the road, starting somewhere new every morning, eating somewhere new each evening, seeing such beautiful and varied scenery in such quick succession. Here are some of my favorite moments from the trip.

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10. Driving by my old house

I never appreciated how palatial my house was. A 2 bedroom!! It's simply unheard of in NYC. There were so many nights I pined for the quiet of my old street, for the lack of any noise coming from above, beside, or below me. Seeing the house again made me smile.

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9. Impromptu Stops

This was a functional trip, one on which we made very few stops, but when we did veer off the path (like this pic in Indiana where we stopped to see my aunt T and uncle S), it was nice to change it up.

8. Cleaning out my storage unit

I had all of one day to empty my midwest storage unit. There wasn't much in the way of substantial items inside, save my writing desk and guitar (both of which I am thrilled to be reunited with), but to the medical resident who swung by and bought my bedroom set, I will be forever grateful. There simply would have been no room to take it with me.

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7. Passing through Omaha

I blame this on the boy who introduced me to the Counting Crows when I was 17. He was handsome and won me over by playing Omaha on the guitar, and passing through the midpoint of the trip had me waxing nostalgic. Not necessarily for the boy (who's now married with kids, although who isn't married with kids these days?), but for the summer I was 17. For me, discovering love and Adam Duritz go hand in hand.

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6. Beach proximity

My new place is 5 blocks from the ocean. And although I don't eat fish, it's nice to know I can stop at the fish shack on the way back and be served even in my sandy bare feet.

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5. Introducing Clementine to her cousins

Traveling with a cat went smoother than I thought it would (meaning we only lost her once), and although it was by far the scariest of all our stops for poor Clementine, my sister's house found some little boys very eager to meet their feline cousin.

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4. The NYC send-off

It's my favorite building. Honestly, it is. And the trouble with going to the top is that you can't see it...because you're on it. So the Top of the Rock became my favorite place for viewing the Empire State Building, and you can bet that's where I spent my last NYC sunset.

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3. Mountain Day

Driving cross country is largely flat. And consequently easy. You set the cruise control and you are golden until you stop for the night 10 hours later. But mountain driving (Colorado mostly) is steep, it's winding, it's got a lot of pesky construction, and if you do manage to find the apparently one gas station within a 50-mile radius, you'll still have to drive 12 miles to the station after you've taken the exit. That said, my day of mountain driving was perhaps the most beautiful I've ever spent. At literally every turn you're surrounded by mountains, trees, rivers running alongside the road, sky, clouds. It was hard not to look away, and at the risk of waxing spiritual, it was good for the soul to be reminded of how much beauty there is to be had on this rolling sphere of ours.

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2. Catching a Cavs game

By now you should know how I feel about Cleveland and my beloved Cavaliers. Though the game didn't go my way, I'd always wanted to see them play in the finals, and I was lucky to be able to attend a game while passing through. To cheer alongside 20,561 others inside of Quicken Loans Arena once more was a definite trip highlight.

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1. Roadtripping with my mom

And of course none of this would have been possible without my mom. Or at least I can't imagine it being possible. Going it alone on such a trek (which I actually had believed for a time was my preferred method) now seems so foolish, and knowing now how much she helped and supported me before, during, and after the trip, I definitely couldn't have done it without her. Not to mention, I just got to spend 11 solid days with my mom, and what adult can say that? Lucky doesn't quite cut it, and after dropping her off at the airport yesterday, my passenger seat felt very empty.

JUN
10

Goodbye to all that

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I've been reading a collection of essays written by female writers who have at some point lived in (and left) New York. It's amazing how conflicted we writer folk can be about this city, and in almost every essay is what I've come to dub an inevitable waffling between how we could never leave new York and the fact that we can't leave fast enough because being here is, at most, draining and shallow, and, at worst, sort of sucky. In these essays there are three camps of people: those who love New York, those who hate New York, and those who--for better or for worse--feel an unnamed sense of belonging, pull, and attraction to being in New York. This final group are those who even after moving away end up moving back; those who even if they choose not to move back still pine for the city every day, wish they were there again, home.

I suppose you could say I belong to this third group of people, although I'm not really sure why. It's not like New York was ever mine. Certain of the essayists make quite clear, in fact, how annoyed they are with these so-called baby New Yorkers who move to the city with big dreams and after a few months of living with a bunch of roommates in a small flat in the East Village start going around claiming the city as their own. But when I say I belong to this third group, it's because my attraction to New York is something I cannot help. It's wired into me. I know this because living here has been hard. I've found many aspects of it much more challenging than I had ever anticipated, yet the thought of leaving tomorrow has me weepy.

To me, New York City equals possibility. On a grand scale, certainly, and the fact that I've been able to complete and fulfill a dream while here certainly boosts the life-making fantasy I've got going in my mind when I think of Manhattan. But I'm talking about possibility on a small scale, too. Because no other city is like this. No other city offers so much in the way of daily activities, eateries, or attractions. Any day could take you in any number of directions and result in any number of outcomes, favorites, and new friends. As an introvert, it's not even as if I was taking full advantage of this, but the point is that it's there for you when you want it. And there is comfort in that. Not to suggest that I'm sad about beginning a new chapter on the other side of the country (translation: I am totally sad), but I know every night will find me wondering what everyone in New York is up to, feeling the way you feel in dreams when you've been left behind, beating off with a stick this annoying sense that a bunch of fun is being had without you. Having now lived in New York, I know it will absolutely be true. To quote the essay that opens the book, "California has taught me this: you can take the girl out of New York, but all that accomplishes is taking the girl out of New York." I guess we'll just have to see.

JUN
03

End of an Era

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People have asked me what it feels like now that I'm a gemologist. And while it's hard to say that "the same" and "amazing" can both be valid answers, they sort of are. It's like you feel after your birthday...no older, but you'd like to think you are changed somehow nonetheless. And of course every day there is still the recollection of last week's exam, how hard it was, learning I passed, the satisfaction and amazement still fresh.

I can sum up post-gemology life in two succinct bullets:

1. I've resumed the writing of my third book. Feels good to be back in the saddle. I still have no idea really how this one will turn out, especially since it'll be my most personal book yet, so there are some jitters. But as always, I'm looking forward to how it comes together.

2. I've accepted a job. It's in the gemology field, so experiment Quit My Corporate America Job to Become a Gemologist and Switch Careers in the end has been a complete success.

Of course, going back to work can be summed up in two equally succinct bullets:

1. My time will no longer be my own. (ie. no more sleeping in, whiling away the afternoons reading in the park, doing really whatever I want all day long) And the end of such a satisfying sabbatical would make even the most stout-hearted cry like a baby.

2. I am leaving New York. Speaking of crying like a baby. I always assumed if a gemology job came my way it would be here. But it's actually on the other side of the country, which gives me only a few final days to get as much city time in as I possibly can.

So I'm going to stop writing and go outside.

MAY
20

Slow Living

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I took this picture while sitting in Washington Square Park eating fresh bread and cheese (From Amy's and Murray's, respectively) and washing it all down with a beverage from Papaya Dog. If you've read the book pictured above, New Slow City, this will all seem apropos. And not a bad way to spend an afternoon, am I right? Nice work if you can get it. Which is what I've been wresting over since reading the book. Not really slow living in general, because when it comes to the concepts (savoring meals instead of wolfing down fast food, taking in the buildings and birds and other sights you pass instead of hurrying along with your face buried in your smart phone, seeking out urban sanctuaries to temporarily escape from city chaos), I'm completely on board. I mean, aren't you? Think of your own life and tell me it wouldn't be bettered by such changes of pace. But a major aspect of the book deals with this whole notion of taking back your time, and I'm a bit skepitcal about how realistic it is to do that.

Of course, having recently quit my job, I'm the absolute poster child for taking back your time. Because I did. I took it back. All of it. So when I recently read New Slow City, I did so with a chorus of "Amen, brother!" dancing around in my head, because seriously, why's we gotta be working so much, America? And while I quit my job for a specific reason (to do something I've always wanted to do [become a gemologist] in a city in which I've always wanted to live [NYC]), I'm definitely capitalizing on all the benefits (to heart, mind, and soul) of living a slower life. If it is within your power to do the same, you should.

But this fancy-free phase of my life is of course only temporary, and I think it's actually going to make it a bit harder to go back to a 9-5 after this. (I feel Plato's Allegory of the Cave coming on...) Not to mention, most of us are slaved to a 9 to 5 *period*, in that there is no financially feasible way for us to escape or even scale back. "Um, boss, how about I start working part time from now on?" "How about you give me more vacation time?" "How about I work from home?" Most of us simply can't pull these kinds of strings, to which I'll say two things. First, if you've never asked these questions, they are worth a try. Who knows? They might work. Of course if they do, I don't want to hear about it because I hate you. And second, if you're like most people and can't actually put in less time at the office, then do a quick inventory of your life as a whole (where you spend your time, to what extent you disconnect when you finally DO have time away, what gems in your own city you've been too busy to take advantage of...) and figure out what slow(er) living means for you. I promise it will make a big difference; that you will be less stressed and your life more full of the things that truly matter. Like fresh bread and cheese, a bood book, and a patch of sunshine. We can all make time for that.

MAY
05

Photo Op

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Food Tours of NY is my favorite NYC-based food tour company. And not just because they have my picture on their website. I know, I know, it doesn't even look like me. In fact, when I took this Greenwich Village tour for the second time last month and mentioned to the tour guide that my picture was on the website, she replied, "You don't look familiar." "I'm the one in the kelly green coat eating a cannoli," I replied. Still nothing.

The only reason I'd brought it up is because a photographer accompanied our tour group last month and took no less than one billion pictures of us at the various stops and tastings. This surely means that I was caught on camera in any number of unflattering mid-bite poses, including one particularly awkward moment at Joe's Pizza where I tried (unsuccessfully) for several seconds to get all the cheese hanging off my slice into a single bite. Of course, the reason for the photographer's presence in the first place is so the Greenwich Village tour website can be "redone," which does make me a little sad, because I like being a part of it. Even with greasy cheese all over my mouth I know I would still be a part of it, but a much less flattering part. #savethecannolipic

 

APR
30

Coast to Coast

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When you live in New York, a trip to California is, well, far. Especially when you'll only be there for 32 hours. Not that I mind. Plane rides give me lots of uninterrupted reading time, not to mention the chance to wax poetic about the beauty to be seen between coastlines. And I'm not just talking about the plane's-eye view of mountains, lakes, and perfectly divided crop squares, but also the variance in the destinations themselves. The night before the trip, I took a sailboat (I think the actual term was "tall ship," but whatever, it had sails) out to the Statue of Liberty at sunset and then sailed along the skyline as it darkened and the buildings began to sparkle, and the next night I was driving along the palm tree lined California coast. I guess what I'm saying is that experiencing a laidback beach town and the busiest, most populated city in America within such a short timeframe sure makes you grateful that we can experience so many different kinds of beautiful within this country of ours. That one of these kinds of beautiful comes with an In-N-Out Burger, well, that's just a bonus.

APR
21

Sighting

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I think life can really be divided into two phases: before seeing George Clooney in real life and after seeing George Clooney in real life. I've just entered the latter phase. Do I look different?

APR
07

The Birthday List

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I made a list this year. Not of what I wanted, but what I wanted to do on my birthday. It's the first time I've lived in such a big city for my birthday, and also the first time I've been unemployed, so it was really the first birthday I've had where I felt not only like the whole day was really mine, but also like the sky was indeed the limit. Want to go get a cronut? Do it. Finally ride the carousel at Central Park that you always seem to get lost before finding? (It's a big park, OK?) Go for it. Want to try on a 2-carat necklace at Tiffany's, visit the 91st Street Garden, spend some time among the vendors at Chelsea Market, and peruse the cases at Pippin Vintage Jewelry? Knock yourself out. Want to walk the High Line, spend some time at the big 5th Avenue library, and then meet the girls for dessert at Serendipity? Go right ahead. And on top of all this, would you also like to spend some portion of the day reading and still another portion writing? Then by all means, do. And so I did. Indeed I've been getting comments all day from friends and family encouraging me to "live it up" and "take time for me," which is exactly what I did today.

Today's birthday comes on the heels of an outing I took yesterday to the Green-Wood Cemetery, which, naturally, has me thinking about life and death. About the fact that we only have a finite number of days. I realize we have to provide for ourselves, we have to have responsibility, we have to do stuff we don't want to do. But how worth celebrating then are the days where we can truly do whatever we want. Exactly what we want. And only what we want. When you find yourself experiencing such a day (or such a season in my case), treasure it, document it, and maybe make yourself a list so you don't leave anything out. Preferably typed on a vintage typewriter.

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TaliNayBooks I think that's how you know it's a good book.
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