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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
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.

APR
02

Let's Talk About Writing

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I'm ashamed of how seldom I actually talk about writing on this blog. Further, I am ashamed about how little writing I've done since moving to NY period. You could say it's because I've been spending so much time studying gemology (true) and exploring the city (true), which is why I'm happy to report that since moving to my new apartment, I've gotten back into a bit of a writing groove. You could say it's because I'm ahead of schedule on my gemology studies (true) and that since Levain Bakery is now 5 minutes away from me, I really should probably never leave my apartment (true).

In any case, for my handful of fans out there who may be interested, I'm probably about 70% done with the writing for my next book. Still feels like a long way to go, but there is an end in sight. Now, before I convince myself that I need to walk down the street and get a cookie for being 70% done, I'm going to begin the next chapter. (Let's say cookie at 75%. That seems fair.)

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
16

No. 1 Seed

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I love March Madness. I really do. Considering that I much prefer the NBA to college ball, it really all just comes down to the competition of it all; the fact that with a bracket, I get to have my own say. And I like winning things. Especially coming off of my Oscar season ballot (which, incidentally, didn't do so well for me this year...stupid Birdman sweeping in and winning everything), I'm partial to major events on which I can wager a guess...and potentially perform better than all my friends. (Note: I have only won a March Madness pool once, and it was quite possibly the best day of my life.)

Of course there's a more wistful reason why I love March Madness, the simple reason being that doing well requires you to bet against the odds. True that no 16 seed has ever beat a 1 seed, but there also hasn't been a single year where all four no. 1 seeds made it to the final four. So, see? It's a competition that actually requires risk-taking in order to be successful. And to me, that's a good parallel for life. Of course, you're talking to the girl that recently quit her job in order to pursue a dream, so of course you're going to get that from me. The point is, we should take more risks. The trouble with the bracket is that there are so many potential upsets that it's hard to know which ones to choose. And so we go with the safest, surest path (picking all no. 1 seeds) because we're not sure what else to do and we just want to minimize the damage.

I'll certainly be the first to admit that no one is ever sure. You can research, you can have hunches, you can have favorites, but at the end of the day, you can't know. You just have to start picking. And if you pick only the top seeds, you are guaranteed to be wrong. Guaranteed. So think about that. Not only as you fill out your bracket, but also as you approach this next season of life. Pick a few upsets. They might pay off.

MAR
12

B&B, anyone?

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This is the Center Lovell Inn. It's in Maine, and if you've seen the headlines that have been positively everywhere this week, you'll know that the current owner, who won the inn over twenty years ago in--get this--an essay contest, is offering dreamers the chance to win the same contest once again. Basically, you write an essay, and if you win, the whole inn is yours. Lock, stock, and barrel. Considering that it's worth almost $1MM and that all you have to commit to is running the inn for 1 year prior to selling it yourself (or doing whatever else you want to do with the property), it's a pretty sweet deal.

I know what you're thinking...because this isn't exactly like winning a vacation, now is it? The winner would be tasked with running the B&B, the tallest of tall orders. Especially considering that most of us--very close to all of us--have absolutely no business running a country inn. And yet, why is it that I think every single person capable of composing sentences should enter this contest? It's just so...romantic. So unbelievable. And for the person who wins, so life changing. So adventurous. So hands-down, bat-shit crazy. Two hundred words is not many; it's fewer than what you see here in this very blog post. And how endearing that the next owner of the inn will be the person who can be as inspiring and persuasive as they are succinct. So get out your paper and pens, everyone. There's an inn to win.

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.

FEB
11

Unified

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I attended a high school basketball game last week that just may have restored my faith in the youth of America. See, I'd never heard of a "unified" basketball league, but they are essentially composed of a mix of kids with special needs and kids without them. The kids without special needs, many of them quite athletically talented, are the ones who primarily rebound, get the ball down the court and into the hands of a shooter, but they themselves are not allowed to shoot. Only the special needs kids can shoot the ball.

When the concept was explained to me prior to the game, it's the sort of thing you hear about and then worry you might cry when you see it in action. "Oh no," I was assured. "It's not like that." But it is like that. And I'm here to tell you that I could have cried at almost every moment of that game. Every time a girl in a wheelchair or boy with down syndrome put their arms up in celebration after making a shot. Every time the audience cheered at full volume when either team made a basket.

But what perhaps touched me the most was that these kids--the ones without special needs--were choosing to spend their time this way; to be on this team as opposed to one where they could have played to their full potential, showed no (or at least less) mercy, and perhaps gained some amount of notoriety around campus. Being on a high school campus at all reminded me of my own high school days, which, whether or not this fully came across in Schooled, I feel like I experienced in an almost constant state of selfishness. It's just the way teenagers are, I've rationalized. Only these kids weren't. And I was so impressed by their selflessness as they pushed wheelchairs and walked step for step with their more challenged teammates. I left feeling moved and inspired, and how many times do your interactions with teenagers have that effect? It's why I believe everyone who attends a unified league game knows instinctively that he has witnessed something truly special.

FEB
03

Harper Lee

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In case you've missed the big literary news of the day (and this is positively epic), Harper Lee is publishing a new book this summer. If you hadn't yet heard, I'll excuse you, as I myself was on Fifth Avenue looking at a couple pieces of estate jewelry (#ihaveaproblem) and had to hear via phone from someone else. But if you don't know who Harper Lee is, then you should be ashamed of both yourself and your high school English teacher.

Harper only ever published one book, and it won a Pulitzer Prize. (Now that's the way to do it, am I right??) To Kill a Mockingbird can only be described as a classic, and while there may be a few people out there who are a little anxious about the story of the adult Scout being disappointing or not living up to its hype (although keep in mind that Go Set a Watchman was written before Mockingbird...it was the original book), I have a feeling the 2 Million copy first run won't be nearly enough.

 

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
23

In Honor of National Handwriting Day

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JAN
19

Book Group

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Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a book group discussion. I don’t belong to any book groups, and never really have (other than this one time, but I only went once, when that month’s book was something I had already read, but the host’s house smelled like fish and it was hard to hear over the yappy dog being kept in a bedroom), but a book group over on the west coast invited me to participate in the discussion of their January book, which just so happened to be one that I wrote.

It’s a weird thing, listening in when a group of readers are discussing your book. It’s even weirder when they’ve got you up on the big screen TV while you’re talking. But technology is pretty cool when you think about it. And it got me thinking about how nice it would be if, after finishing a book I’d enjoyed, I could have a conversation with the author, ask her any questions, tell her I particularly liked this aspect or that.

And that’s what these ladies did. They asked questions about jewelry, questions about writing Jeweled and if it was harder or easier than writing Schooled. They asked if I visited my jeweler when I was home for Christmas, asked about conflict diamonds, giggled about my musings on old-lady veins, shared how powerful the opening scene was with the whale. They even answered a few questions for me which might help me shape the structure of my next book, which I’ve recently begun to rethink.

How grateful I am for readers, for books, for kind words, for camaraderie. I’m also grateful for the times that make me feel like a real author. I will not say that they happen a lot, but when they do, it's enough to keep me going.

JAN
15

Dinner for One

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There’s a scene in Judy Greer’s memoir where’s she’s describing her solo trip to Spain. Her cab driver, who is trying to learn English, makes her repeat the word “alone” over and over again when she answers that she’s not meeting anyone for dinner. He’d never heard the word, see, and in his zeal for knowledge, he doesn’t realize that such an emphasis on her lack of companionship (“You are alone.” “You have no one.”) might be a tad depressing.

This scene had me laughing out loud, because what long-time single girl hasn’t had a similar exchange? Indeed, it seems like we’re asked to confirm our aloneness fairly regularly, and while being forced to state it out loud—to other people—is the worst, even an act as simple and private as checking the SINGLE box on an insurance form can feel at least somewhat deflating. “You are alone.” “You have no one.”

I belong to a church congregation that keeps very good records of its members, and while asked to verify my information recently, I couldn’t help but notice that right next to my name, in letters that were the same size and just as prominently placed, were the words SPOUSE: NONE. Nice. Nice that we’re all so clear on that. Just below this line came the gentle reminder, CHILDREN: NONE. Excellent. Glad we got that out there. Followed by a final statement of RESIDING WITH: NONE. I freaking get it, OK? I am alone. I have no one. Even when RSVPing to a gemology dinner and lecture the other night at the National Arts Club, I was asked over the phone to confirm the number in my party, even though I’d only ordered one ticket. “There won’t be anyone with you?” Is that so unheard of? So unfortunate? So worth verifying over and over again?

Not that I mean to suggest that my life is defined (or somehow lessened) by my singleness. When at dinner last night with a family friend, an Italian widow in her seventies, she asked how I did with it…with being single. I told her that I wished I weren’t, but that if this is my life, I’m determined to make the best of it regardless. It’s why I live here. It’s why I write books and study gemology and do the things I want to do. My Italian friend agreed with me about the inherent freedom that comes from only having to be accountable to yourself (“I eat cookies in bed!!,” she said, although I hadn’t realized that a person, married or not, would ever *not* eat cookies in bed.), but summed this freedom up best when she said: “But it’s not worth the steep price you pay.” Aye, the price of being alone. Of having no one.

It’s Judy in Spain, it’s the Italian widow eating dessert in bed, it’s me sitting solo at a lecture on the rubies of Myanmar…although something tells me even if my SPOUSE: NONE line ever changes, that’s one thing I’ll still be doing alone.