Thursday, August 30, 2007

Reading minds

After 15 years of driving, I received my first traffic ticket. 7:00am, making a right onto Riverside Drive. Silly me. "Everyone knows you can't make a right onto Riverside Drive up here," said the cop. Well, I guess what she meant to say was "everyone (who's a mind reader) knows you can't make a right here." No sign. Not even a hint that this wouldn't be allowed. There's even a light at that intersection.

I left the ticket on my desk all day long - $90! I was steamed. What a way to start a morning. On the way to work, I started wondering if there are other things we are expected to know in NYC, even if they aren't explained to us.

Streets and Avenues run perpendicular to one another. The subway map. Broker fees are a way of life for renters (actually not true given the great deal I found on Craigslist sans broker, though the brokers will tell you it is near impossible to get a place without them). Dropping off your laundry is cheaper than doing it yourself. The Upper West Side is so much cooler than the Upper East (I don't know if everyone knows this or not - consider this an insider tip from me to you!)

We magically expect everyone, tourist and resident alike, to just "know" things that they couldn't possibly know. NYC is unique and part of the responsibility of living in this city is to help other people find their way. If you happen to be here and a bit lost or confused, just tap the person's shoulder right next to you (and in NYC, there is always someone right next to you). We take a great sense of pride in flaunting our innate knowledge. Just make sure to avoid taking a right off of Riverside.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

An exercise in humility

I have not been to a formal audition in almost a decade. I've been separated from that world of being watched and judged for so long that I barely remember what it was like. I've been searching for opportunities to teach yoga and do some writing. I know I am in a competitive market - New York is chock full of incredibly talented yoga instructors and writers. There was an ad on Craigslist for yoga instructors for a new studio on the East side. The audition was Saturday afternoon for two hours. No other details were provided.

I imagined walking in to a room full of 6 foot tall, gorgeous blonds who look like they just stepped off the cover of a magazine, and me. They would all know sanskrit names for every pose, they would have the equivalent to PhDs in Physiology, and ten years of teaching experience in top-notch studios. But really, what did I have to lose? The best that could happen is I'd get a sub gig for a new studio, and the worst is that I'd get a free two hour class and pick up a few things to add to my own teaching and practice. Plus, maybe I'd get some material for this blog. I was right, sort of.

The room was full of people, though they all looked, well, like me. Normal. They knew some sanskrit names for poses, though I knew more than I had been giving myself credit for. We only had to teach for 5 - 10 minutes teach and then got to be students for the rest of the time. And every person was talented and taught me something. New poses, new ways of describing poses I knew, and some tips on the benefits of different poses. These teachers were giving and warm and friendly, unlike the runway model competition I was expecting. Many were new teachers, like me.

I thought I might have some pithy piece by the end of the afternoon, some examples of raw competition and another chance to be self-deprecating. I don't have any of that today. I got a lesson in humility but not the kind I was expecting. Just when you think you know New York, and New Yorkers, they surprise you. They make you realize that no matter how long you live here among them, they are always different than you will imagine them to be. I learned from the ones I met today that humility, like yoga, is based on being flexible.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


The picture to the left is the Chinese symbol for "crisis". It is comprised of two other symbols - danger + opportunity. This is especially poignant to me as I have taken several big risks in the past few years, and often found myself in a state of crisis - a point where I felt like I was doing something dangerous that could be harmful to me, though on the upside offered great opportunities. I got burned here and there, though I think all of the risk was absolutely worth it. And I never stopped believing that I could get through whatever was thrown at me. I knew I was lucky to have this abundance of chances at accomplishment.
I wonder if we can come through crisis by focusing on the opportunity piece rather than the danger. Or is the recognition and respect for the danger crucial to success?
I did a bit of research on these symbols. According to a know-it-all sinologist, these symbols actually do not mean "danger" and "opportunity". I wish I could tell you what they do mean. He was so long-winded, and a bit cynical in my opinion, that I couldn't stand reading his web post. If you're interested to know the exact meaning, here is the URL: I still think the consideration of crisis as danger and opportunity is worthwhile, even if the wisdom of the Far East did not intend it.
We tend to think of crisis as something we must stop, put an end to, squash. It is the battle of our lives to mitigate a crisis of any kind. So what about a crisis of faith? I don't mean religious faith, rather faith in ourselves, in our actions, in the goodness of others. What happens when we falter? Do we shrink away from the danger and seek a safer path, even if it is not the path we want? Or do we look at the crisis as an opportunity to flex our muscles, to ask more of ourselves, to reach up a little higher than we really believe we can?
I am also interested in the interchange between how our past experience and current attitude shapes the way we look at a new situation, and then how every situation shapes our experience and attitude going forward. Do we influence the way a situation resolves itself, or does that situation influence us? Is it really all a matter of what we believe to be true. If I want a positive resolution, is it possible that my own will and hard work are enough to make it so?
I had dinner with my wonderful friend, Ian, last night and I was telling him about my fear of karma running out. He adamantly said to me, "Do not say that! If you say it, it happens. And if you believe your good karma will continue, then it will. There is no such thing as luck." I am naturally a self-deprecating person, and Ian was going to let me get away with that. As he saw it, I was on a role of good fortune, so why not focus on that and keep it going.
I feel sorry for the cynical sinologist. My guess is that a focus on opportunity is not his forte. I considered writing to him and explaining that even if those aren't the precise symbols for danger + opportunity, that sentiment has gone a long way toward effecting how I see crisis and my ability to handle crisis in my life. It's changed the way I look at and react to challenges. And isn't that really the important thing? In this case, imagination really is more important than information.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

An apology...finally

Everyday I am amazed by Facebook, Linked-in, My Space, etc. In the past few months I have had bunches of people contact me after finding me on-line after many years. And the sites make it so easy to just fire off an email, say hello, check in. I have had several lives since leaving my small hometown and met people all along the way that now live in far flung places doing all sorts of interesting work that keeps them busy. These sites make it easy for me to keep track of people that are important to me, one of my favorite activities.

Today I got a message I wasn't expecting from an ex-boyfriend who at one time was very important to me. The relationship was on again off again several times through a number of years, most recently just as I was starting business school. I went to visit him before my classes started. A year before he had been through a harrowing experience that really changed him in every way possible and I was anxious to know that he was okay. And then, nothing. He didn't return my calls, emails, or text messages deposite several amazing visits. He just faded away. And the hole that he left in my life, again, was soon filled by someone else. This is the story of my life, as one person or experience or past time fades away, another comes in to take that place. Throughout business school I thought of him often and hoped that he was okay. I let him go because I thought maybe I was a reminder of a life he used to have and could never have again, for a whole host of reasons.

I had a boss once who taught me a lesson that has stuck with me. "You have to let people apologize." And when someone had harmed us and then is ready for forgiveness, then we should do our best to meet them halfway. My former boss used to say, "If someone has the courage to apologize, then we should have the courage to forgive them." I am still not sure which one is harder.

On my Facebook today, my ex-boyfriend sent me a message to say he was sorry and he understood if I didn't want to keep in touch, but he'd like me to. I haven't responded yet. Truth be told, I have not held any kind of grudge against him for fading away this last time. We have fought so much in the past and I have been so angry with his irresponsibility, lack of concern, and inability to communicate that I just couldn't be angry anymore - it took too much energy to be upset with him. I had outgrown the anger. There were so many times in the years since I first met him that he had such glimpses of "wonderfulness." His potential for love for so high and yet he never rose to the occasion. Never. He could exhibit wonderful qualities; he just couldn't sustain them. He just wasn't built that way.

And despite the many downs of our relationship that have far outnumbered the highs, I still have great hope. Not for us - all of those feelings I used to have for him are long since gone. I have great hope for him - that he will grow into the wonderful man I would see from time to time, that someday he will lose his ego and his attitude and exchange them for the compassion, and warmth, and kindness that I know he is capable of. I think his note of apology was a good first step, finally, in the right direction. It showed real courage, and I'm happy to match it. I think my former boss would be proud, of both of us.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Wondering how to register a car in NYS?

Me too. I've been wondering for about 3 months. I have never seen a system so complicated. I just don't get it. NYS gets MONEY for having people register their cars here. And NYS needs money - they have quite a few things that need improving. I read a great quote yesterday that I am considering writing across my registration application before I hand it in to the DMV: "If you want something from somebody, give them a way to hand it to you." How about a nice easy check-list explaining each item that you need?

I went to the DMV in June to get a NYS license. The kind woman at the counter told me I needed to have my car inspected before I could register it. Okay. So I went to have it inspected today and the kind man behind the counter said he couldn't inspect my car because it has Virginia plates. Oye! Now, I should have known better than to trust a kind person who works at the DMV - she was obviously new, not yet jaded, and therefore didn't know what she was talking about. (I don't blame her - I don't know what the DMV is talking about either. If I have this much paperwork, I can't imagine how much people who work there have!)

So I get home, log onto the DMV site, and find that yes I need to register before I get an inspection. Fine. So then I have to click on FOUR separate links to compile a list as long as my arm of documents I need to take to the DMV with me. Now I am not only confused, I am frightened. I can just see myself arriving at the DMV, all the documents in hand, and there's just this one tiny piece that I'm missing that will now take another month to obtain. I have had this same car registered in Florida and in Virginia - the whole process in both of those states took about half an hour, maybe even a little less. I'm not kidding. Why must NYS be so difficult.

The final kicker that I must mention here is a little joke the webmater for the DMV slipped in to the site. After clicking about 20 different times to get to the information you actually need, there is one page that notes that obtaining registration in NYS is very difficult and it may be easier to obtain registration in another state - any other state. I almost fell on the floor laughing. I couldn't agree more! Either the webmater has made some sort of typo or was in a bitter mood the day he set up that page and put is dark sense of humor to work! If Christopher Guest ever makes another movie or if David Sedaris is looking for some new material, I think they should consider a stint at the NYS DMV.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


I had a professor at Darden, Elliot Weiss, who taught operations. In class he made one very simple statement that I think about all the time - "What gets measured gets done." We have performance reviews to keep us on task. We have bank accounts and investment returns to track our wealth. We have health measurements - cholesterol levels, sugar levels, blood pressure, body temperature. And any alteration in these levels causes us to re-examine our actions in that area of our lives. So what about our happiness? If we simply come up with a way to measure it and chart it, can we in fact improve our happiness like we do our health, our wealth, and our career success?

I spend a lot of time considering happiness - how to create it, how to get it back when plans go awry, and how to hang onto it when life seems to good to be true. This last one was on my mind just this morning. Today was one of those days in New York - 70 degrees, sunny, and breezy - the exact weather that makes me well up with gratefulness that I am simply alive. I went for my first long morning walk in Riverside Park, a place I plan to spend a lot of time in a) because it's beautiful and b) because it's right outside my door step, literally. I was walking along the river, watching the boats pass by. People were whizzing by me on bikes, jogging along, some alone, some with friends. Dogs were hanging out with their owners. People were reading and playing tennis. All the flowers were in full bloom. And everything, everything, was shining. My world, in that moment, was alight with happiness.

I commute 40 minutes to work each way so I have at least 80 minutes of solitary time to think, and I spend much of that time checking in with myself. Did I do a good job at work today? Did I do the very best I could? Was there something I missed? I make lists, lots and lots of lists. What to do, who to call or see, things I need to research, errands to run, things I need to buy. And now I'm wondering if I could make a list of happy circumstances. Could I list out things to do or see specifically because they increase my level of happiness. And by checking them off, could I somehow assign an incremental increase to my happiness. By the same token, could I also make a list of things that decrease my happiness, and then find a way to avoid them. In a sense, I want to put myself on a happiness budget. Is it that simple? Is happiness an asset like any other? If so, can we tend to it the way we do our health and our finances, to develop a relatively sure fire-way to increase its value?

Food for thought.....and speaking of food I need to run and get some and then see my charming friends, Lisa, Heather, and Didier for drinks at the Maritime hotel on 15th Street and 9th Avenue. I'm going to ponder this happynomics model a little more. As always, when I have some more insights, or simply some more questions, I'll share them with you right here.

The picture above was found at

Leave no sandal behind

My friends Trevin and Kristi are visiting for the week. They are moving to NYC and looking for their own space to start September 1st. Tonight we went to Jo Allen's for dinner and then over to Smith's bar (a great little divey place with a very funny waitstaff and good music.) We then went over the Kevin St. James, where I consumed a bit more wine than was necessary.
After a few hours we made our way to the 1 train, and the train was about to leave without us. A funny phenomena in New York is that we all run for the train, despite that there is one right behind it. No matter - we run for it as if it's the last train that will ever leave the station. And dear Kristi holds the train door for us, only to lose her beautiful Coach sandal on the platform. Doors close, we speed off into the distance. Everyone on the train sighed....and then she pulled her spare shoes from her (very stylish red) bag, and everyone cheered. Naturally we had to get off at the next stop and go back for the sandal. How can we leave a gold Coach sandal behind???

So we exit as 59th Street, run to the other side of the platform, head back downtown one stop, and there it is - the sandal - bright, shiny, and exactly in the position we left it just 20 minutes before. Kristi was convinced it would be gone, and I was convinced it would still be there. Here's to believing in the goodness of New Yorkers who ride the subway late on a Friday night!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Don't let the sky fall

I saw an old friend this week – meaning I've known him for a long time, not that he's old. And I must admit that his most recent job has beaten him down, considerably. I understand the feeling. I've had jobs like this – too many. He's much more subdued than usual, he's looking at the world more cynically. He's been betrayed by people at his job to the point that he thinks absolutely no one is ever looking out for any of us so the best we can do is only look after ourselves. He's so beaten down that he is actually considering his kindness and desire to trust people to be his greatest flaws and he says he thinks nearly every decision he's made in life is a bad one. This is a sad road to be on, and I am sorry to say that I know it better than I'd like.

I have another friend who is a perpetual pessimist. Everything in life is always awful. The sky is falling every time she and I have a conversation. The saddest part is that the fixes are easy – truly. All her misery and unhappiness is self-generated by her ardent refusal to change. Several times I have tried to broach the topic with her, and I have seen other friends of hers do the same. Nothing works. She becomes enraged when anyone suggests a change she might make to improve her lot in life. We've all but given up and accepted that she may just always be our "Eeyore" friend.

I recently heard a statistic that 80% of our job satisfaction comes from whether or not we like our boss. 80%! Not our co-workers or even the work we're spending all this time doing. It's our boss's personality that makes the difference. And it's also amazing to me that if a job beats you up, as it did my old friend, then it beats up your whole life, not just the part of your life spent at work. It's about energy and enthusiasm – some activities give us energy and some "taketh away".

This recent conversation with my old friend also had me considering how much we beat ourselves up because of our defeats and failures and how little time we spend really celebrating our triumphs. When something doesn't go our way, we're more likely to think "well it figures." (My mother is fond of the saying, "Everyone's got to have something [wrong in their lives].") And when something does go our way, we often say, "it's about time SOMETHING went right." I couldn't disagree more. Our lives are very much a function of the attitude, energy, and hopefulness that we send out to the world.

If my hypothesis is true, then the next logical question is "well if everything in my life is so messed up then how do I get a better attitude?" I think it starts with accepting responsibility for what's wrong, even if we didn't cause it. And then it's about forgiving ourselves and accepting that learning, and we are all always learning, is not a straight-line path. We can't learn if we don't make mistakes. Part of making mistakes is getting burned here and there, and sometimes that here and there is much more frequent than we're comfortable with.

I think there is also a lot of power in believing, truly believing, that unhappiness and disappointment are NOT a way of life. They are temporary conditions. Everything is a temporary condition. And this means that more good times and more bad times are on the way. We need to learn to roll through them the way sand rolls through the tide. It washes into the ocean on the top of a wave and then sinks to the bottom and heads back to shore. But if it never sank to the bottom, how could it ever ride atop another wave?

Yes, people disappoint us. We get less than we deserve from time to time. We have all felt crushed. And my hope in getting some of this written down is that we can still be hopeful about life; that even when we're down and out, we can keep smiling, keep believing that tomorrow with be better. When a reporter asked the Dalai Lama how he could cope with fighting his people's struggle for so long he simply said, "We do the best we can." I figure if all the Dalai Lama can do is his best (and he's enlightened!), then that's all I can do, too. Anna Quindlen expressed the same eloquent sentiment when asked how she handles the ups and down of life. "No matter what, I show up, I listen, and I try to laugh." If your sky is falling, give it a whirl, and when that triumph comes along, take the time to crack open the bubbly!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Design is everywhere

Instead of going into the office today, my wonderful boss, his equally-wonderful wife, and I went to the New York International Gift show at the Javitz Center. We don't exactly work in the gift industry but we do work in retail and there were a variety of products that could suit our business. I can hardly believe I get paid to do this kind of thing.

We were bowled over by the clever designs and the sheer amount of "stuff". The colors, the innovation, the reuse of old, found items was almost not-to-be-believed. A woman who owns hundred of thousands of Victorian-era buttons and makes jewelry from them. The handmade artisans who make one unique creation after another - from candy to knitted scarves to license plate art. Just stunning. I am so glad I'm not a buyer - I would have gone bankrupt with all of the fascinating pieces, despite my miserly ways.

It was nothing short of inspiring. I'll be spending the week going back to the websites of some of the most interesting and germane companies for our business and taking a look at what's on offer. My boss is sort of a design-freak, and he's one of those people whose endless curiosity about everything nearly puts me to shame. I thought I was curious - I have nothing on him. He's like a kid in a candy store when it comes to design. Couple that with his absolute enthusiasm and kindness and he's every artists dream. I often think he would have made a great actor's agent for this very reason.

The messages were flowing today. I was commenting on how much retro-inspired stuff there was and my boss's wife said "well, we have to go back right? It's all we have." Very eloquently put. It is all we have. Somehow all of my weirdo experience, and all of the people I've met along the way will form into some business idea that truly represents me - a perfect (for me) design.

I'll see you around

On Sunday. I had one of those days that made me gitty about New York. It was gorgeous weather, after some rather frightening rainstorms during the week, and my friend Monika called me to say she was walking across town through the park and wanted to have lunch at the a cafe on the Hudson just down the streets from me. We got a table outside in the shade, ate too-expensive, though delicious sandwiches, and watched the boats go by. I was shocked the place wasn't packed.

Earlier that day, I bumped into my friend, Steve, who lives a 7 blocks away and took an unexpected field trip to an open house of an apartment only 4 blocks away from me. Once I am settled in, I'd like to make these open houses in my neighborhood a past time - by nature I'm always curious to see how the other half lives, the other half being those who can afford to sell the apartment they currently own in order to upgrade to another, more expensive, bigger apartment. A girl's gotta dream...

I took a little jaunt over to The Home Depot later on that afternoon to try to find a drill bit for a project I'm working on in my place. In inherited several traits from my mother - 1.) my ability to suspend all belief in reality so I can talk to the TV as I watch a movie or TV show, 2.) my teeth - we both had braces for quite a while to take care of our "vampire-like" alignments, and 3.) our desire to want to be really good at home improvement, though a complete inability to make that dream a reality. Despite a trip to THD and several to my local hardware store, I'm still not quite sure how to pull off this project. Just imagine when I have a whole house to take care of someday!

The greatest thing about that Home Depot trip was that it took me across Central Park to East 59th Street. People were everywhere, enjoying the weather with friends, reading a book or a newspaper, jogging, laughing, driving remote-control boats or paddle boats across the numerous lakes. I was so thrilled to be there that I walked all the way home too. I just couldn't make myself get into a bus or subway, even though they would have been much faster.

I've recently depleted my karma pool - great apartment, great job, dating, seeing old / new friends, an overall pretty fabulous life. This is all making me very nervous. (Those of you who know my life story can understand that too much good fortune makes my deepest neuroses kick in.) In an attempt to replenish my karma, I am opening up my little studio to two friends visiting this week, yes, I said week, as they look for an apartment of their own in New York for the first time. One is a very dear friend and I just couldn't imagine them paying all of this money for the hotel when over the years so many people have kindly let me sleep on their couches when I've visited. I need to pay this forward. So this has lit a fire under me to get my place semi-set up. I went out to try to find a bookcase at a home store to get my small collection out of boxes.

I walk down about 5 blocks from my apartment to a home store, didn't find a bookcase, though did find a total of 3 Mister Softee trucks. I am an ice cream hound - I will literally starve myself all day if it means I get a chocolate Mr. Softee cone in the afternoon. I'd choose ice cream over a drink any day. And all for $2? It's the greatest bargain in New York and they're everywhere. Is this the greatest city in the world or what? Friends and ice cream just around the corner from me - what else could I really ever need?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ready for the message

My friend Anne is my eye opener. I realized this a few years ago as we were having one of our tea times. (We set a time to talk on the phone rather than playing phone tag and have tea together). I was going on about some situation and she just stopped me dead in my tracks to help me connect what I was feeling at that moment about the situation to something that happened to me a very long time ago. It's in my nature to try to remedy the past with the present, which often ends up altering my future in a way I had not expected, and not necessarily wanted. It's as if she turns the light on when I am fumbling around in the dark for the switch despite the fact that the switch was in front of me all along. The beauty of honest friendship.

This happened again recently as I was recanting some story to Anne. I was beating myself up over not recognizing the real state of a relationship sooner. Why didn't I get the message and get out sooner? "Well, Christa, you can't hear a message until you're ready for it." I know all the stock cliches like "we only hear what we want to hear" or "we invent our own truths". Remarkably it is much harder to really appreciate and understand them and consciously live by them. Anne was right; I hadn't been ready for the message so I dismissed it.

And this started me down the path to realizing that messages often ask us to change something, to do something different or see our situation in a new way. And they inspire us to action. What are we willing to do with the information we take in and how are we willing act based upon it? I think about this in the context of my dear friends Dan, Steve, and Lisa who are each starting their own business ventures. I am privy to the details and love being able to stand on the sidelines and observe, cheer lead, and more than happily provide any kind of assistance or advice they may want. They're incredibly talented, bright, energetic people. And they are all taking on risks with these new ventures. Before they embarked on them, they had to be very clear with themselves about what they were willing to do to be successful. How much risk, debt, time, etc. could they afford? They had to really sit down with themselves and say, 'I know this is what I want, now what do I need to do to get there, and am I willing to do what it takes?"

They've inspired me to think about starting my own venture. I haven't the foggiest idea what that would be or where I would start. Before business school, I didn't have a lot of tolerance for risk. I already have insomnia - doesn't having your own business just make that worse? However, those loan notes I signed away did wonders to help me break away from that fear, they helped me trust in myself. I could do this. I could invest in myself and make it pay off.

I've got my ears and eyes wide open. And if I can't find the message on my own, I'll just ask Anne for a light.

The people under the stairs

Living in New York City requires us to be comfortable living in close proximity to others. There's no way around it. And of course that means that if we live close others we may hear them moving about in their lives from time to time. I am an environmentalist, and I currently rationalize my high rent by noting to myself that I am helping to limit urban sprawl by living in a 400 squ. foot apartment.

My neighbors downstairs, under the stairs, welcomed me to the neighborhood with a note under my door yesterday morning telling me that NYC requires me to have carpets since they live in the basement apartment below me. "We don't want to hear every move you make." I am so glad that in light of all of the quality of life issues that New York City has to take care of, that they have required me to have carpets. (I checked into this and it is absolutely not true. However, my lease does mention putting down carpet.)

I was upset about this letter for several reasons: 1) I just moved in and had furniture delivered. 2) I am not a 300 pound gorilla up here jumping around continuously. 3) If someone chooses to live in a basement apartment, there's going to be noise. 4) I was in my apartment - they couldn't knock on my door, say hello, and talk about it with me in person?

My first instinct was to begin jumping rope to let them know how noisy it really could be. Then I thought I could go pound on their door and explain to them how rude I thought their message was. (I couldn't find the door that lead down to the basement. I actually considered that maybe I was dreaming and this note thing never really happened. Where do these people live?) Then I just decided to breathe and call my friend, Ken, so he could make me laugh with a really sarcastic, witty response. And then I called my friend, Lisa, so she could calm me down and give me some advice on being diplomatic.

The reality is that I may be living above these people for several years and I don't want that bad energy lingering anywhere near me. I was steamed, but showing that anger isn't going to help anyone, least of all me. Because after I show the anger, I'll just feel guilty for having expressed it. Below is my response to their note. The letters in bold are what I actually wrote to them and the remaining ones are the ones I said to myself as I was writing it so I could vent my frustration privately. David Sedaris would be proud that I thought of these remarks, and simultaneously disappointed that I took the high road.

"Dear neighbors,
Thank you so much for your kind welcome note to the neighborhood. I was beginning to wonder what all that noise below me was - and now I know that it's you. I am sure you can understand how hectic it is when moving into a new apartment and working full-time. I just had my furniture delivered yesterday and apologize if setting up my apartment has disturbed you. In my research on the required carpeting you mentioned in your note, I was not able to find any mention of a NYC ordinance to put down carpet so that people who choose to live in a basement have a higher quality of life. How thoughtful of our city's officials! I suppose that horror movie "The People Under the Stairs" really struck a cord with some NYC government worker. If you have a copy of the ordinance, I'd love to see it. I am aware that in my lease I need to put down some carpets (I did read it and signed it after all) - I have put down one already and will get an additional one in the coming days. I will do my best to be a courteous and friendly neighbor and I know you will do the same. Could you install something on your ceiling so that I would not have to hear you clunking around down there? I really don't want to hear every move YOU make. Part of living in New York City, particularly in the basement, is that you are going to hear noise. So learn how to deal. While I recognize that the carpet will help (very little), I will not be able to completely eliminate all noise. You're lucky I only weigh 110 pounds and have a light foot. I hear all of my neighbors from time to time as well as people coming up and down the stairs and using the two front doors so I completely understand your request. Welcome to New York - if you want peace and quiet, please move to the 'burbs. Wishing you a blessed Sunday.

Your thoughtful neighbor,

Did you want a real egg?

At my job we have a very cheap, very tasty cafeteria open for breakfast and lunch. I head down there most mornings before I begin my day looking for hints of brilliance that may help the company in its turnaround. There's a terrific grill station that serves my favorite - bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel. Delicious.

I happened over there late last week and the usual grill man was out. When I ordered my sandwich the replacement guy asked me, "Did you want a real egg?" (huh?) "A real egg?" As opposed to? "Yes, a real egg, please." Later that day I also happened to hear about Dole's genetically engineered bananas and packaged meat that is "gassed" to extend shelf life. That night I was meeting my friend, Dan, for dinner and I came across a place down the street from my apartment that boasts "natural pizza" right next to the organic dry cleaner.

I've been thinking a lot about this desire to be "natural", to eat and live healthfully. And I wonder if it's really possible. I wonder if short of growing our own food and living off the land it's too much to ask for a natural life in this day and age. We've gone so far toward engineering everything we eat and every service we receive to get it exactly the way we want it that maybe it's actually altered the very essence of the thing itself.

Last week there was an enormous toy recall by Fisher Price due to suspected lead-based paint in some toys. My mom said to me, "How could that possibly happen?" Very easily I thought. Do we really have any idea where our food comes from or where our packaged goods are manufactured? Not really. We trust that because we live in a first world nation that what we pay for is safe. We expect the suppliers of the products and services we use to have integrity and have our safety in mind.

I am not suggesting that we all go into a state of hysteria, worrying about the origin of every morsel we eat. I have no desire to become Bill Murray in "What About Bob." What I will do is be more conscious about supporting businesses that put out there that my safety is part of their strategy. I want to know that these businesses have their customers' safety and well-being at the top of their minds all of the time. That may not always be easy to discern, though I believe that raising my level of consciousness on these matters may help me live a more "natural" life than I may be able to live otherwise.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

New addy

Hello from the UWS of Manhattan! I am thrilled to finally be in my new place. Now if only I could have a cell phone that worked in my apartment (I'm switching from AT&T to Verizon for this reason) and get rid of all these boxes, I'd be in fabulous shape!

Some very kind actions were exhibited by (almost) complete strangers. My landlord had a bottle of champagne for me to celebrate my move into the building. My (very handsome) neighbor gave my stepfather and I a helping hand as we carted my belongings out of the U-Haul. I am thankful that there is a fire hydrant right outside my front door - we were easily able to use the space to park the truck. The man at the U-Haul drop off point did not charge me for the extra mileage. I am very grateful for all this luck during the move.

I've read that the three most stressful events in life are the death of a loved on, divorce, and moving, respectively. I beg to differ. If moving involves Manhattan, I must say that it trumps the other two. Add to that the fact that it's practically impossible to get into this city without using a Parkway (where no commercial vehicles are allowed) and that we were forced to drive through East Harlem not once, but twice. My stepfather is a saint for braving this adventure with me; I don't know what I would have done without him.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sleepy's...for the MESS of your life

That little guy resting in his red, white, and blue pajamas is just so cute. The people in the showroom and on the phone at customer service are incredibly friendly and they have their catchy theme song playing in several languages and and music genres on their hold music. I should know I've spent my entire day today in my either a) waiting for them to show up, b) on hold trying to reach them to update them on the latest delivery fiasco, or c) in the showroom near my house trying to get the billing fixed.

It is only fair to you if I buy you several stiff martinis before recanting the whole story. Since I don't yet know of a martini delivery service in Manhattan, I will give you the very brief recap:

1.) Delivery man called at 9:am to say he was 5 minutes away. Two hours later, he arrived.

2.) He showed up with the headboard, foot board, slats, and mattress, no rails to put the frame together. "Well, you'll just have to call customer service. That will be $736 please."

"I arranged for financing through the store."

"Sorry, that's not my problem. You need to pay it and then go back to the showroom."

3.) At showroom, re: financing- "What went wrong with the financing?"

"Whoops. Must have not gone through. Did you void the order?"


"Oh. Well I don't really have any answers for you so please don't ask me anymore questions. Just fill out the application again." (This is after 45 minutes of waiting.)

4.) On phone with customer service, re: delivery of rails - "oh, they didn't have the rails? It actually comes as a whole set, so you must have just not seen them."

"No. They weren't with the set."

"Well we'll see if we can get those to you today. It'll probably be after 3."


5.) Rails finally arrive. However, one of the screws doesn't fit into the main support.

"I'm sure it will be fine," says the delivery man. "It's only slightly defective. You'll just have to live with it." (He exits after commenting that I'm the first girl he's seen in all his time with Sleepy's that owns an electric screw driver. I wasn't sure if I should be flattered, surprised, or irritated. I went for surprised.

6.) I begin to put my mattress cover over the new mattress and discover that there is a gaping hole in the back of the mattress. I'm not kidding. I go nuts. I call customer service and explain that I'm at the end of my rope with them and that I need to have a significant reduction in the price or they will need to come out here and replace both the "only slightly defective" frame and the mattress for free. After the salesmen has me on hold for 20 minutes, he says he can take $75 off max. I tell him to send someone next Saturday first thing.

So the Sleepy's saga avoid this mess, please shop somewhere, anywhere, else for your next mattress. Tune in next week to find out if I will spend yet another Saturday getting the "rest of my life."