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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
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.

MAR
30

Moving

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Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to move to New York. And so she sold everything she owned and found a darling studio on the Upper East Side. Everything was perfect until the girl's downstairs neighbor revealed herself to be of despicable, cat-hating character, and the girl was forced (OK, she could have stayed, but it would have been at the expense of her cat, who was not able to run around freely without getting both of them verbally harrassed by said evil neighbor) to move. And so she did.

Truth be told, having to move after only 6 months broke my heart a little. Partly because I really loved my apartment. I loved how it was furnished. Not particularly well, but it had everything I needed (down to things like pots and pans, extra sets of sheets, lamps and mirrors). I also loved how safe I felt. The Upper East Side, while an absolute pain to get to and from (this city *really* needs a crosstown train...or a subway line further east than Lex), is delightful, and I will miss it very much.

It's not that I feel unsafe here in my new apartment in West Harlem, it's just that safety is something I have to think about now, whereas before I really didn't. My first night here I don't think I slept a wink. It's much noisier, and from the hoots and hollers one hears, my writer mind is busy painting pictures of all the no-good these Harlemites are up to. And remember how I said I sold everything before moving to NY? Well, my new place isn't furnished, so I'm sitting here typing this on a writing desk in an otherwise empty apartment, and while I'm not exactly regretting having sold everything back at my garage sale in Cleveland (most of my things I didn't use and so didn't need), it's just that had I known I'd only be in the furnished UES studio for 6 months, I might not have sold quite so much.

But hindsight is 20/20, and so I'm focusing on the positive aspects of this move. 1: I got away from the evil, cat-hating neighbor who should seriously be committed. 2: It's so much easier (and faster) to get places now...chalk one up for the west side. 3: My rent is, like, SO much cheaper now. 4: I get to do lots of shopping in the near future. 5: New adventures surely await on this side of the park.

MAR
24

Time Travel

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I recently read Amy Poehler's memoir, and while I was pretty disappointed by it, one thing she said that has stuck with me is the idea of time travel. Amy says she believes in it, as there are people, places, and things throughout our lives that can instantly transport us to another time. It's just the sort of ethereal, sentimental notion that I tend to gravitate toward, and as if to prove her point, this weekend at the MET it happened to me. I was transported.

There's a painting that hung in the living room of my childhood home for years. A mother at the piano with her two daughters, one holding a violin and the other looking on. My own mother played the piano, me and my older sister both played the violin (although she for much longer than I because she enjoyed it far more), and so the painting always seemed to fit perfectly in our home. I was never really sure what happened to the painting (when I asked Mom this weekend what had ever happened to it, she said it was ruined by one of my brothers, which figures), and in fact hadn't even thought about the painting in many, many years, but as I turned a corner and saw it hanging in the center of an alcove at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was hit with a pang of what can only be described as deja vu. (I'd seen this before.) Mixed with surprise. (Who knew this painting was actually, like, famous?) And extreme happiness. (I almost teared up, because it still reminded me of us, and of my very happy, musical childhood.)

I mean, yeah, it's embarrassing that I had never been to the MET, even after all my vacations to NYC and now having lived here for almost six months. And sure, I feel pretty sheepish about never having known of the painting's popularity or the identity of its artist (it's a Renoir). Nor did I have any concept of where to even find the art I was looking for while at the museum. "Do you have any Van Gogh?" I finally asked the lady at the information desk, anxious to see something I might recognize amidst the sea of sculpture and canvas. She directed me to where I found Rodin, Monet, Picasso, and several others that I recognized, although the highlight was, of course, the Renoir. Such an instant connection (by an object) to a time and place now so far removed from my current life and location has me a believer in Poehler's concept of time travel. There's not much else in her book I believe in, so I was grateful to come away with at least one nugget of wisdom.

MAR
19

The City that Never Sleeps. Ever.

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Since moving to New York, I've never slept so horribly. It really all boils down to one reason, and it's because no one else sleeps either. I'm being completely serious. I fall asleep each night (after much tossing and turning and shaking my fist at the wall) to the sound of the TV blaring from the apartment next to me. That might not sound very unusual, but when I wake up at 2:00 AM, and, let's be honest, again at 4:00 AM and maybe a few more times in between, this woman is still watching TV. The drone of TV voices and movie scores is constant. I hear the same types of noises from downstairs as well, only the woman downstairs--in addition to having it in for my cat--has some type of symphonic stereo system, and whenever there's something on the TV or radio that she thinks the whole building ought to hear (usually breaking news about terrorists), she hooks that thing up and lets it rip. I once ran into the news-blaring, cat-hating woman at the door of our building. It was midnight. I was just returning from Times Square where I had seen a show. She was just returning from doing her grocery shopping. Groceries! At midnight! What are these lives people live??

My window overlooks a garden and courtyard area, and across the courtyard is another apartment building. Most people don't close their blinds (including me), which means at night, my walls are lit up by the various flashes and colors from all the cross-courtyard big-screen TVs. There's one in particular that is truly spectacular, and I find myself looking up and over through this window throughout the day. Not so much because of its size, but because I'm amazed that I've never once seen that TV turned off. It is literally always on. Whether children's cartoons, children and adult video games, movies, or TV shows, that television is a part of every moment of that family's daily life. I certainly indulge in a little TV myself, usually reruns of The Big Bang Theory or Gilmore Girls (did I tell you about the time I ran into Alexis Bledel in Lord & Taylor??), but all the TVs around me make me grateful that it's not a huge part of my life. Grateful that there's a stack of library books on my table. Grateful that each day's to-do list includes things like gemology assignments and finishing the next chapter of my manuscript. Grateful to have hobbies and pursuits and interests outside of the tube. (That said, do you think the people across the courtyard would be open to having guests over for March Madness? Asking for a friend.)

MAR
06

My TV Debut

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Being unemployed in New York City is an interesting thing. You'll recall that I am unemployed by choice, having quit my corporate job in order to get my gemology certification in preparation to transition my career to something in the gemology realm. But back to the point, which is that I am unemployed. And as such, I have some time on my hands.

Of course a portion of this time is spent exploring the city, eating cronuts and strolling through parks and whiling away afternoons at museums and libraries. I love this portion. Almost as much as the portion that is spent studying gems every day. Add to all this the fact that I get to sleep in every day, and I'm pretty much living a fantasy life right now. Of course what I'm not telling you is there's a little tiny baby portion that's spent beating off with a stick such thoughts as "why on earth did you quit your job" and "this is never going to work" and "Tali, you be crazy," but admittedly, this portion is pretty negligible.

What I really wanted to write about today is that having more flexibility with my time has allowed me to devote a portion of it to volunteering. I've begun volunteering with DOROT, an organization that serves the elderly population of NYC. And on the opposite end of the age spectrum, I've also been volunteering at the Kravis Children's Hospital. They have a TV show they broadcast to all the kids' rooms, and I volunteer as host of the show. Now, I know what you're thinking. I mean, how hard can it be to host a kids show? You just smile and wave and say funny things, right? The answer, in fact, is yes. That's literally all the host has to do, and yet by the time the camera had stopped rolling the other night, I was sweating. (Although can I blame that on the lights? I'm going to blame that on the lights.) I legitimately surprised myself by how bad I was at being host. And if you think I'm exaggerating my badness, I can report that the camera woman really only kept the camera on me for about 60 seconds, which was really a shame, because I was wearing a shirt with dinosaurs on it. For the kids.

The thing is, I don't really know how to get better at being a TV host. I don't know why it's so much more difficult to entertain kids on camera than it is in person. Mostly, I don't know if my continuing to volunteer is really going to help the hospital's efforts of brightening the days of sick children, but I'm determined to keep going back. I'll just need to get some new shirts first. And maybe a clown nose. I mean, that's funny in any language, am I right? (Don't answer that.)

 

MAR
02

The Typewriter Doctor

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I've always hoped to one day own a vintage typewriter. Not because I would type my manuscripts on it or because it would have any practical purpose whatsoever, but as a writer, it's just, well, nostalgic. Plus, imagine the possibilities! I could type my to-do lists! Mail notes to friends and family not in my own uneven chicken scratch, but in a nice, neat row of measured typeface! Heck, even just looking over at my writing desk were it be topped with one of these babies would make me smile.

When I saw an old Smith Corona for sale at a thrift store over the weekend, I snatched it up for a song and immediately looked up a typewriter repair shop (reason #13948 why I love NYC...you can find anything). Of course I hoped what anyone in my situation would have hoped: that my little Smith Corona could be restored to working condition. I mean, what a steal that would have been! To have gotten it so cheap. Sadly, after spending a morning at the typewriter doctor's Gramercy office, my little machine was diagnosed as not salvageable. I mean, he could have done it. But it would have cost more than simply buying one of the already restored machines he had on the shelf. And given all the twisted mayhem inside, even if he did restore mine, it wasn't likely to perform particularly well. So I opted to buy one of the beauties on the shelf. (Happy tax return to me.)

I can only blame what I then told the typewriter doctor on my somewhat dopey state (and I can only blame my dopey state on being in the presence of so many darling typewriters), but it struck me in that moment--the customer before me having just been reunited with the machine his grandmother gave him when he was 13; "It's worth it," this customer told me when he heard the doctor tell me how much it would cost to restore the machine I brought in--that being in this line of work must be incredibly satisfying.

"This must be a really fun line of work," I told the typewriter doctor.

In my fantasy world, he would smile wistfully and tell me that it was. In reality, he raised his eyebrows a bit and stared at me while struggling to come up with words strong enough to convey just how wrong I was. I don't know. Maybe a job is always a job to the person doing it. But the way I see it, if yours somehow involves vintage typewriters, you've got a leg up over the rest of us.

FEB
26

Artists and the Chelsea Market

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I know I mentioned in my last post about the Brooklyn Art Library that I wish I was an artist who actually had artistic ability...one who created things with her hands. I'm going to say it again, simply because the degree to which I desire this cannot be overstated: I WISH I COULD MAKE THINGS. LIKE, THINGS THAT PEOPLE WANTED TO BUY. I further wish I could then sell these things at a booth somewhere and connect people with things that make them smile. Books, God love them, just don't have that immediate effect on people.

Let's take this past Sunday morning, which I spent in delightful fashion at the Chelsea Market. Eateries aside (some of them are to die for, and I'm not just talking about the dreamy men that Dickson's Farmstand Meats hires to work their counters), the highlight for me this time was the corner flea market. People selling the jewelry they've made, handbags, shirts, magnets, paintings, photographs, and, my favorite catch of the day, the above stationery that I could not pass up. Even when I had resolutely declared I wouldn't be buying anything (I'd already bought several edible treats as well as convinced one of Dickson's counter guys to give me a free sample of the rosemary potatoes), but this is what happens to people when they come across something they could conceivably need (I write letters. I send out cards.) and happen to find it in an irresistibly adorable form. R. Nichols, the man who makes these cards, starts by cutting shapes out of colored paper and arranging them in various scenes and designs to get the prints that then get manufactured into cards. This NYC pack spoke to me for obvious reasons, so did the pack showing the head and tail of a cat peeping out of a dresser drawer. I bought those too.

I also took the business cards of two artists who I think I may buy pieces from to help decorate my new apartment (countdown to moving day is on...posts to surely follow), and all this when I had not planned on doing any such thing. But when talent meets delight, it's hard to say no. Especially when the actual designer/artist is sitting there at a booth. I'm no artist, but I know what it's like to have most people pass you by. I know what it's like when someone really connects with your work and tells you so. I know what it's like to have repeat customers. It may not happen often in my line of work, but I think it's forever endeared me to the artist at his booth.

FEB
24

Brooklyn Art Library

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To be fair, I didn't even know it existed until a friend pointed it out while we were in Brooklyn. And, further, I wouldn't even have been in Brooklyn had I not been patronizing Mast Brothers Chocolates for the second time in less than a week. The Brooklyn Art Library is literally steps away from Mast's Chocolate Brew Bar. It would have looked appealing regardless, the rows and rows of colorful and uniquely-bound sketchbooks, but looked especially appealing given Saturday afternoon's inclement weather. The brew bar had been packed to the gills with cold bodies dusting snow off of themselves while waiting in line for hot, brewed chocolate. Whereas the library was nearly empty.

When my friend mentioned the library, she explained The Sketchbook Project, which allows anyone who wishes the ability to draw/write/illustrate/create their own small sketchbook and have it housed in the library there in Brooklyn. Others are then allowed to "check out" these sketchbooks as they would regular library books. The concept struck me as empowering, almost like the booming industry of self-publishing, which allows people to get their words out there regardless of a publishing contract.

While I do believe writers are artists, I have always wished to be artistically inclined and have at times felt saddened that I am not. So it will not be me creating a sketchbook, but the good news for any out there like me is that even if you don't contribute a sketchbook, you can sign up with an account (much like you would to get a library card) and check out any sketchbook that interests you after searching through the electronic catalog that sorts them into categories a la "Heroes" and "Changing the World." The whole concept was simply delightful, and if you draw or animate or sketch on any level (or even if you don't), consider becoming a part of The Sketchbook Project. I'd sit on this red bench and check yours out any day. Especially if it's snowy outside.

 

FEB
18

Emergency Preparedness: NYC Edition

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I attended an event last night geared toward emergency preparedness for New Yorkers. It may seem silly and worry-warty of me, but living in New York does bring to mind certain realities—most notably that were any kind of major crisis to hit, we’d all be totally screwed. Look, I’m not saying all I do is sit around imagining all the things that could go wrong. (Although I can report that when flipping through a book at Strand last week that answered the question of what would happen if a magnitude 15 earthquake hit NYC, I resolved I needed to move away ASAP. Although, to be fair, after a magnitude 15 earthquake, the entire planet would cease to exist.)

The catch-22 for New Yorkers is that since we all live in tiny apartments and on shoestring budgets, none of us really have the space or the extra cash to get ourselves as prepared as we should be for emergencies. What kind of preparation, you ask? The speakers at last night’s event discussed everything from having extra canned food on hand (we even got to sample recipes made from nothing but canned foods, and I have to say everything tasted pretty good) to how to best store water, including how to filter and disinfect it if needed.

It both shocked and horrified me to learn that New York is about 72 hours away from eating itself. Meaning if no additional supplies were able to get here, within 3 days we’d be killing each other simply to get access to whatever pitiful supplies of granola bars and water bottles we have stashed under our beds, or, in my case, stuffed into extra compartments in my closet shoe holder since I got rid of almost all my shoes when I moved here.

I’m not trying to be all gloom and doom, and I’m certainly not going to go out and buy the full set of survival gear that the speakers recommended (what normal person has that stuff?), but I certainly left feeling like I can and should be doing more to get myself prepared for crisis, even if that crisis is as simple as not being able to get to the store for a few days because of a blizzard. Or, in NYC’s case, a “blizzard.” Just know this: If after 72 hours you come in search of granola bars, mine are the generic crunchy ones that no one likes. You can do better.

FEB
15

Post V-Day Post

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Ah, the day of love. I don’t know why it’s any tougher for singletons to get through than any other day of the year. We are, after all, always alone. And not having a love on this one day seems far less gutting than not having a love for, you know, the entire year. And yet. V-day always seems tougher. Especially here in the city where there are so many more people, and, by extension, couples. Today I’ve seen countless men walking through the streets with flowers in their arms. On their way to the hands of some adored companion. On the subways, it’s the same thing. Even the long line of people at the drugstore today opting for cards and cheap chocolates seemed worlds more fortunate than I—the girl buying Kleenex, cough drops, and Nyquil to battle the epic sickness that seems to overcome me every Valentine’s Day.

But as any single girl has to, at some point today must be recognized not as the day of lovers, but rather as the day of love. And I’ve certainly got plenty of that. My family is as wonderful as they come, my friends plentiful and sincere, and last night while gazing up at the Empire State Building and its glorious, festive display of red, I was reminded not just of how loved I am, but of how many people in this world mean so very much to me. Today and always.

JAN
31

The Blizzard that Didn't

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I was certainly hoping for more snow. Not because it would do the city any favors…30 inches would have been much more chaotic than the 8 or so that we got…but because I just wanted to see all the hype materialize. I wanted it to be something. I wanted to wake up and have to pick my lower jaw off the floor when I looked outside. I wanted to be snowed in. I wanted to have an excuse to stay home all day and do nothing but write. (I got many messages from people around the country as the storm made ready, messages telling me to be safe and stay warm, but my favorite was from a fan on the west coast who said she and her coworkers, also fans, were hoping I would use the storm to hunker down and finish my third book.)

Snow storms have always been tainted for me, in that the stress of having to commute to work regardless of the weather made me hate them. People never seem to pay attention to the words of the song ‘Let It Snow’ (“And since we’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow") which clearly confirm my theory, which is that if you have to be somewhere, if you have to do anything other than stare wistfully out the window at it, snow absolutely sucks.

Being sans car here in the city means I can appreciate snow in a way I never could before, and the best part about snow storms (as opposed to storms of other varieties) is how quiet they are. And I guess that’s the biggest reason why I wish it would have kept right on snowing this week. Because that night they shut the city down, that night they made everyone get off the streets by 11pm, it was unbelievably peaceful. I always sleep with my window open, and for the first time, there were no sirens. There was no honking. No yelling. No one banging doors shut as they came in and out of the building. In a city like this one, how rare that is. On a night when it would have been much easier than usual to fall asleep, I stayed up much later than I should have.

JAN
26

My Morning with DOROT

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I should probably be doing more to prepare for this blizzard than listen to the 80’s Hits radio station and fold laundry. But clean underwear should be near the top of anyone’s snowed-in list. And I stand by that.

Since I will inevitably lose power in this storm, I thought I’d first say a few words about the opportunity I had this weekend to serve with the DOROT organization. A Jewish organization (the word means ‘generations’ in Hebrew), they work to serve the elderly, particularly by connecting them to younger volunteers, many of whom form lasting relationships with the elders they serve.

Yesterday DOROT delivered winter care packages to hundreds of elderly (many of them shut-ins, unable to leave their apartments) throughout NYC. The packages contained not just food, but warm hats, gloves, and other things needed in winter. (Just in time for the storm!) Of course serving others is its own reward, whether or not the experience is a particularly positive one, but I feel doubly fortunate that the woman I was assigned to visit was such a gem.

I talked with her for about an hour (socialization is another thing these elders are in need of), and in addition to her beautiful Abyssinian cat (the cat lady bond runs deep), her noteworthy career in film (she was “very fond” of Peter Falk, and Shirley MacLaine “did not suffer fools”), when she learned of my gemology studies, she had me fetch her jewelry box, and, drawer by drawer, she showed me her treasures and told the stories behind each one. None were particularly remarkable or valuable pieces, but the stories were incredible, and this amazing woman thanked me for giving her the chance to remember things she hadn’t thought of in years. (Sidenote: Yet another testament to the significance of jewelry and what it can represent to us.)

As a society, there’s so much we can do for each other. I know time is precious and not one of us has nearly enough of it. But if any of you in the NY area are looking for an opportunity to serve, I strongly recommend this organization. You don’t have to be Jewish (“Well you’re obviously not Jewish,” the woman I visited pointed out rather comically when my blond-haired, blue-eyed self showed up at her door), and I promise you you’ll not only enjoy yourself and want in on the next planned delivery day as well, but you'll also wish you had gotten involved sooner.

JAN
12

Not Me Monday

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I absolutely did *not* have Time Warner Cable send me a free 30-day trial of an upgraded cable box just so I can watch tonight’s game.

See, New York City is expensive. I buy less produce. I buy less everything. I have become the lady who holds up the drug store line because the 6-pack of Charmin that said $3.99 on the shelf is ringing up at $6.49, the lady who waits for ten minutes for a supervisor to come verify the price, the lady who actually accompanies said supervisor back to the TP aisle to make sure he sees exactly where she got it, the lady who leaves the store knowing that the $2.50 she has saved is nothing short of a genuine victory, even though that $2.50 will only buy about half of a bag of lettuce…when it’s on sale.

And as if NYC itself weren’t necessitating enough budgetary change on my part, as of Friday, I have officially quit my day job. So when I called TWC to ask about adding a single channel to my TV package (which right now only includes the major networks like ABC and NBC) and learned it would require buying an entire new package, nearly doubling my monthly bill, it was an easy decision. TV is simply not that important to me, and as previously stated in the post probably unanimously considered the one my readers most wish they hadn’t read, I’d rather keep the Brazilian waxes.

Of course, when the customer service agent told me I could try out a new cable box for free for 30 days, I told her to send it right out. I know what she’s thinking. That I, like every other sucker out there, will become so hooked on the oodles of additional channels that I’ll decide to keep it. If that happens, it will be entirely because swapping out the old box for the new was such a herculean task (Let me just say that in order for something to be considered ‘Easy Connect,’ it should not require the use of an adjustable wrench).

In any case, I’m all set to watch the game tonight in the peace and Ohio State fan-free comfort of my own apartment. I predict a Buckeyes win, both because they are so hot right now and because I’m sort of used to the Ducks breaking my heart every year, but if Oregon can pull this one out, it will be a long time coming. I may splurge and buy some bubbly. But only if it’s on sale.