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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
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.

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.

JAN
08

Epic Battle

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It is ON. And I’m not talking about Oregon vs. Ohio State. (Although oh my GOSH, Oregon vs. Ohio State!!) No, I’m talking about Me vs. The Woman Downstairs. She is by far the worst thing about New York so far, and all because she takes personal issue with the fact that I have a cat. A cat!! Not a rock band, not a blaring late-night TV habit, not a crying child, not a live-in boyfriend whom I cannot stop (loudly) loving, not 300 lbs. of mass that accompany my every step. Let me break it down for you.

Phase 1: She began brooming her ceiling whenever my cat ran across the floor. For the record, my cat is 6 pounds. And sleeps all day.

Phase 2: When my cat didn’t get the message (shocker), the woman began yelling—hysterical, possessed yelling. From inside her apartment. Up at me. It usually sounds something like this: “BLAH BLAH @#^&* BLAH @&*#% THAT CAT $%*@# BLAH BLAH $%&*@ CAT!!”

Phase 3: When it proved that my cat could not be trained by the sounds of a deranged lunatic one floor below, this woman came to my door and presented her case, which was that my cat (who runs around for at most 30 seconds a day…and that’s on her feistiest of days) is exacerbating her many ailments. Now, look, I’m a nice person, even to lunatics at my door, so I sympathized with this woman over how horrifying it must be to have a 6-pound jungle tiger cat leaping around above her. I also explained to the woman that I had recently had additional rugs and mufflers put down (true story) and that I wasn’t sure what else I could do.

To really make you feel as if you were there (although to really get the full effect, throw on scrubs and a ratty t-shirt, no bra, and have some pasta boiling on the stove), here’s an excerpt of the conversation that went down at my door.

Woman: “DON’T YOU TELL ME THERE’S NOTHING ELSE YOU CAN DO. I’VE BEEN HERE FOR 30 YEARS AND I KNOW FOR A FACT THERE’S MORE THAT YOU COULD DO.”

Me: “Are you suggesting I keep the cat locked in the bathroom? I mean, besides the rugs, what else can I do?”

Woman: “YOU CAN GET THE F*** OUT.”        

Me: “Oh, okay. I think this conversation is over.”

Woman: “WHO TOLD YOU YOU COULD MOVE IN HERE? WHO TOLD YOU YOU COULD LIVE ABOVE ME? GET THE F***OUTTA HERE.”

By this time my landlord had heard the commotion and come out into the hall.

Landlord, to the Woman: “What are you doing?”

Woman, now in a calm voice: “I just thought a face to face conversation would be the best way to handle this.”

Me: “By telling me to get the f*** out? That’s the best way to handle this?”

Woman: “I REFUSE TO HAVE A CAT BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN MY LIFE. IT’S UNACCEPTABLE. I SURVIVED THE NAZIS AND I WILL NOT LET THIS HAPPEN.”

In case you missed it, my cat is now being compared to the evil, doom, and overall world devastation stemming from the Nazi party.

I am not making this up, nor can I believe that someone who has been in NYC for so long would think they have any right to make such a stink over hearing a 6-pound cat for 30 seconds a day. I mean, you hear positively everything in these thin-walled apartments (and I do mean everything).

Me, in my fantasy dream world where I say all the snarky things that come to my mind: “Well at least my cat doesn’t climax.”

Phase 4: This is yet to be implemented and will involve strapping on a pair of stilettos (thanks for the suggestion MWW) and walking around the apartment for an hour at a time. To be fair, I’m too nice to actually do this, not to mention, who has this kind of time?

In any case, I’m sure I haven’t heard the last of the woman downstairs. “She’s ruining my New York experience,” I complained recently, to which came the response, “Or she’s giving you a really authentic one.” Ding ding ding!

JAN
04

Farewell to my First Hobby

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If you read Schooled, you'll recall I learned how to tie lanyards in the 3rd grade. I loved it so much that I kept tying them until I left home, at which time I had not only accumulated a sizable collection of supplies (string, hooks, beads, not to mention all of the finished lanyards themselves), but I had also realized that I couldn't possibly bring said supplies with me to college. Nor did I really want to at that point. I had outgrown my beloved hobby, only I couldn't bring myself to throw the supplies away.

I'd forgotten about them until I was at my parents' house over Christmas going through various bins of childhood belongings in an effort to consolidate. With my recent NYC-inspired gutting of possessions (see Less > More post), it seemed like the right time. Indeed, most everything in the bins got thrown away. Things like my She-ra dolls, my troll collection (remember the two minutes when those fluorescent-haired little things were trendy?), oodles of school papers, a box of dried up corsages (from what events, I have no idea, since the only dance I ever attended was my senior prom), framed photos of Olympic gymnasts from back when I was sure that the same level of glory and athletic prowess could be mine as well.

But nothing gave me as much pause as those spools of lanyard string. As Billy Collins says in his own poem, The Lanyard, nothing "could send one into the past more suddenly." I remember so well sitting through that after school program and, after having no interest in any of the other activities (think chess), I remember loving the lanyard tying right away. I recognize now it was probably because it didn't involve interacting with any of the other kids...nor was it something at which they could handily beat me. Indeed, I could not even count the hours I spent in my room over the next decade tying those things. It honestly makes me a little sad to think about--all the time NOT hanging out with friends or becoming an Olympic gymnast--but it made me happy.

I might have opted to keep the string instead of throw it away when I unpacked it from a bin last week, but apparently plastic lanyard string doesn't have a 20-year shelf life. Let's just say it was not in tie-able condition. And that is how any future child of mine was saved from inheriting a tub full of plastic lanyard string. Not that this will stop me, should any such child ever exist, from teaching her how to tie them. She may not be as introverted as I am, but I hope there is at least one season of her childhood where the calming repetition of strand over strand engenders a sense of independence and creation. Besides, we can't all be Olympic gymnasts, now can we?

DEC
31

New

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If you must know, this wasn't actually taken at midnight. I cheated. I was there though, and I have some surpsingly close pictures of Ryan Seacrest to prove it. For the record, I am thoroughly embarrassed to have taken any pictures of him at all. Honestly, how does a person get such billing power with so little to show for it in the way of talent? Not that I'm saying that Ryan Seacrest has no talent, but what has he ever really done to show us otherwise? He can speak, he can speak into a microphone, he can speak into a microphone while keeping a show moving along at the proper pace, he can speak into a microphone while keeping a show moving along at the proper pace and simultaneously making all the girls he interviews look taller than they really are. Anyway, how did we get here? Almost a full paragraph on Ryan Seacrest?

You'll recall that I love NYE. I love Times Square. And I love that the confetti released at midnight is made up of wishes that the general public has hand-written on each little square. (See Hopes and Dreams. Or Wishing. Or even NYE Reboot.) The wish I made in 2013 that was shot into the sky a year ago didn't come true, and that's OK. It was sappy and stupid and something I knew I wouldn't get anyway, I just felt at the moment when I scrawled it on a tiny blue confetti square that it was still important for the universe to know it's what I would have wanted. This year's wish, the one released tonight, is another gamble, but it's a go big or go home kind of night.

In my book, wishes are things a person can't control herself. They need a little extra help, luck, fate, providence, miracle, whatever you want to call it. They aren't things you can bring about yourself. I love this aspect of New Years that the Times Square confetti brings, but I also love the chance New Years gives for us all to make resolutions that we can accomplish on our own. How empowering! And not because any of you are keeping track at home, but simply because I believe there is power in formally recording your goals, here are the three things I am resolving to accomplish this year:

1. Complete my gemology certification

2. Write my third book

3. Make a career switch (to something in the gemology realm)

It's going to take a lot of work, but I really think I can do it. Of course, everyone says that on January 1. It's why gyms are so crowded in January. Everyone is still on the wagon. So I'll check back in with you in a year. (And, um, also 2-3 times per week until then.) And as for my wish? I hope it enjoyed the ride down. I bet the view is pretty spectacular from up there.

DEC
28

The Pacific

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Ditto everything I said in my last post. There are days when it wins me over. Although I've yet to experience a day on the Oregon Coast that did not win me over.

DEC
24

Roots and Wings

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I love living in New York, but it's hard to beat this view out your back window. Yes, I love living in New York, but I'd be lying if I said it was stress free. Au contraire. It's noisy, it's expensive, and the woman downstairs keeps whacking her ceiling as hard as she can every time my cat runs across the room. Of course, these things seem less significant when compared to all the wonderful things about living in New York, but still, there are days it wears me down. There are days when the woman downstairs wins. 

All of this is to say that I am enjoying my extended Christmas vacation in Oregon perhaps much more than I have in other years. The contrast is so refreshing. Everything is quiet and the air smells clean and piney. There are tree-covered hills in every direction. There are high school friends raising families. There is my jeweler who asked me once again yesterday how long before I am ready to buy his store. Of course, these things seem less appealing when compared to the economic challenges and realities of living in rural, southwestern Oregon, but still, there are days when it wins me over. There are days when the city can't compare.

I know, I know. A girl can certainly have roots and wings, and I guess I should consider myself fortunate that both places are so special to me. And with that, I must return to my Christmas Eve activities. There's a pie to bake, presents to wrap, a party to attend. I can promise that before stepping into the building tonight, pie in hand, I will pause, surrounded by green on all sides, and take a deep breath in. And it will smell like rain and trees. More than that, it will smell like home.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

DEC
16

We Are So Young

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For all the time I’ve spent thinking about what to include in my routine were I a stand-up comedian (for some unspoken reason I feel compelled to be prepared for the hypothetical scenario of the mic being suddenly thrust upon me), I’ve only ever been able to come up with two jokes. The first involves the notion of more athletic coaches following baseball’s suit and dressing in the uniforms donned by their respective players. Bela Karolyi in a leotard? Come on, that’s funny.

The second joke has to do with the wigs worn by noblemen in eras past. You know the ones. Long, poofy, curly. Downright feminine, and always either white or brown. You never see any depictions of graying wigs. No brown with a few stray grays. No salt and pepper. No gradients when it comes to this notion of follicle maturity. Which means that at some point then, a man simply flipped the switch. And can’t you imagine a formerly brown-wigged man showing up to work one day suddenly donning a mound of the brightest white? “Rough night?” his comrades would ask.

Because I am not a stand-up comedian—please thank whatever Deity you subscribe to for this—this second joke actually gives me pause. Because I am a writer, it sends me into a bit of a pensive and aching analysis of youth—how and when it ends, and the much more haunting question of who decides when it ends? What is the threshold for being young?

Like much of the world, I was moved by the late Marina Keegan’s final essay, printed in the university newspaper just prior to her graduation from Yale. It’s not just that her words—“We are so young. We have so much time.”—became so cruelly ironic when she was killed in a car accident five days after graduation. It’s that her message continues to turn my stomach into a pit of schoolyard angst over whether or not I can still include myself in Marina’s collective “We.”

She wasn’t talking to me, of course. I’m no longer twenty-two. Aside from age or college—something that categorizes us as young by default—how do we know if we still qualify? As long as the workers in Times Square see your small frame and hand you a booster for your theater seat? As long as the guys behind the counter at Artichoke Pizza call you “Doll” on your way out the door? As long as your eyes are clear and your muscles strong and your back straight? As long as you are not old? Does not being old equal being young?

Marina offers an interesting perspective on the matter, one much more satisfying than the ice cream cone of belief that equates youth to how young a person feels; how young he acts. Cautioning her fellow classmates against the notion that it is ever too late to “begin a beginning” or that “we must settle for continuance, for commencement,” Marina makes a connection between youth and possibility. “What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over.” Think about that. We are so young.

What makes young people so young is not only the myriad of choices still to be made, but also the ability to change course—perhaps drastically—even after those choices have been made. Using this criteria, then, I’d wager it could encompass a much larger percentage of the population if only we would stop looking at our decisions as undoable. Stop looking at our books as written, our paths as taken. It’s the reason why I’m in New York in the first place. To pursue the career I always wanted, even though it’s many years after I envisioned pursuing it. So late to the game am I that I’d be foolish not to admit that the odds of it not working out in my favor are much larger than slim. But I’m trying. Because I can. And if I’ve learned anything from Marina Keegan, it’s that I wish I would have been like her from the beginning, resolutely declaring my future occupation to all my friends: “Like, a real one,” she told them. “With my life.”

I may never stop wishing to be young. Never stop clinging to the collective ease and carefreeness with which the youth of this world can adopt. Indeed, they can’t help themselves. It is theirs. The way it once was mine. And, to some extent—We are so young—still is. Or maybe, like Tennyson’s Tithonus, I will inevitably tire of life’s longevity. Either way, I’m sure there will come a moment when my wrinkly, post-menopausal self will no longer need to be young.

I can only hope that by then I will have come up with a few more jokes. You know, just in case I need them.

DEC
11

Rockefeller Center, 6 AM

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Perhaps not as sexy as Fifth Avenue, 5 AM (a delicious title by Sam Wesson), but I did find the suggestion to do my Rockefeller Tree viewing in the early AM to be a good one. The tree is lit at 5:30 each morning, so your pictures will still have the "night time" look, but unlike the daytime hours, when the whole plaza is flooded with people, there isn't another soul around. The spot where I'm standing in this picture is blocked off during the day, and if you want a photo-op, it'll actually cost you money. So if you happen to be in New York this Christmas, do yourself a favor and set your alarm early one of these mornings. Just maybe wait until it's a morning that is not torrentially downpouring. And maybe one where you don't have to go to work after. Or have to go anywhere, really, for the rest of the day, as your coat will still be wet through at nightfall.

DEC
07

Writer's Block

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I don't have it. Not really. True that I've written shamefully little since moving here (I have a day job, I have a new city to explore, I'm still working on my gemology certification, etc.), but the main reason for my low post-NYC-move word count, and I'm embarrassed to admit this, is that I'm stalling. Is that a thing? Writer's Stall?

The chapter I'm in the middle of writing right now is such a downer, see. And it's not even the one where the protagonist is abandoned by her love and left alone and devastatingly heartbroken. It's the one where the protagonist is making really stupid choices. And since you all know who the protagonist in all my books is, I find it much harder to relive things you brought upon yourself verses things that happened to you that were outside of your control. If he was going to leave, he was going to leave.

This book is also proving a bit slippery in terms of overall point and purpose. Crucial, I know. I just need some sort of Aha Moment about how these chapters and themes should be arranged and tied together. In the meantime though, I suppose I will press on. Continue writing. Ever grateful for the distance I--er, the protagonist--now has from some of these chapters.

DEC
04

He is the Gift

I've been planning this post for a few days, spurred on by the holiday cheer in the air, snapping pictures of NYC at its most festive. And in terms of Christmas prep, I've never been more on top of my game. My cards were all mailed on December 1. I finished my Christmas shopping on December 2. Last night was the Rockefeller Tree Lighting (what the what, LeAnn Rimes??). Tonight I'm going to see a production of A Christmas Carol. And at the homestead, I've got a plate of Christmas cookies I decorated myself and a big, fabric Christmas tree draped over a closet door.

So, yes, I've been planning this post for a few days, a picture of a building off of 5th Avenue with lots of lights and candy cane decorations selected to go with it, but then some friends shared this video with me today. As a Christian, it's hard to watch it without feeling chastened. And maybe a bit teary. (Er...not that this happened to me.) As a society, we forget. I forget. I get caught up. In sparkles and packages. In snow and ribbon and parties. In mashed potatoes. Although I challenge you to find me a person in this country who doesn't get caught up in the mashed potatoes, still, the point is valid.

The point being that we should be better than this. We should be more aware of and more grateful for this first gift of Christmas. I'm going to do my best to be better. As long as I can keep the mashed potatoes.

 

NOV
28

Giving

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Last year's Thanksgiving post (Grateful) remains my most trafficked to date. Like, by far. As in thousands and thousands more hits than anything else I have ever written. It baffles me a little, because the post was about heartbreak. And are people really that interested in my romantic misfortune? Probably not. But most everyone can probably relate...love and loss inevitably go hand in hand.

When I thought about Thanksgiving this year, about gratitude in general, my surroundings made it uncomfortably easy. See, New York City is a place where you feel grateful at almost every turn, because there are so many here who do not have as much as you do. More than that, they do not have even enough to keep themselves fed, warm, and safe. And while it can be uncomfortable to have a smelly a disheveled pregnant woman step onto your subway car and ask if anyone can help her get food or warmer clothes, or a man with no legs scoot himself and an empty coffee can from car to car, I promise you'll feel much more uncomfortable if you don't give them anything.

You can say what you will about choices and circumstances, about how much someone "deserves" to be given to. You can talk yourself out of giving with any manner of assumption about how these individuals may squander the money, but that's not really within our control. What is--and I do believe it's one of the highest and most important responsibilities we have as humans on this planet--is to serve and care for others. That said, if I were to give to every person who needed it, I'd be on the streets myself, but I do hope this next year we can all become more aware of our abundance and more inspired to use it to help those who are less fortunate.

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm grateful for my readers...even if they are so fascinated by me getting dumped. (There's more where that came from in my next book...)