Sunday, September 30, 2007

The shape of lives

We have choices in every moment. I decide what time to get up, I decide when to leave for work, I decide what route to drive, I decide what to eat for breakfast. These are the mundane choices of my life on weekday mornings.

And there are choices like whether or not to accept a dinner invitation, to go to a party with a friend even if I know no one else who will be there, to volunteer with an organization, to attend a reading by a favorite author at Barnes and Noble. And some times I choose to stay in, give myself a facial, shut off my phone, get out my yoga mat, and light a candle.

I am becoming particularly conscious of my decisions to do, or not to do, things. Mostly because there are a million options in New York, and I have a great crew of friends here to do things with. And so sometimes my calendar is overly stuffed with activities. I struggle with this. I wear myself out over it. I have a hard time saying no to doing something fun for the sake of getting to bed early or just staying in to take time for myself. I am terrified of missing out, even if I don't have the foggiest idea what I may be missing out on. I like hearing stories, and to hear stories, we must get out there in the world and listen and move and be open to taking it all in.

Flora Whittemore was an author and historian, the oldest living citizen of Caribou County, Idaho. Surprisingly little info is available about her. The only information I could find on her seems to suggest that she lived to a ripe, old age. Which is to say I believe she discovered more about life than I have thus. Yet, she is quoted for one very simple sentence on hundreds of web pages. The very simple wisdom that "The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live." It's about choices.
I have this terrible habit of thinking that life happens to me. Quotes like Ms. Whittemore's snap me back to reality. It doesn't happen to me. I choose to open and close opportunities and meetings and experiences, and those choices have shaped my life, made it possible for me to have this life. Life didn't happen to me; rather, I made my life happen. And while that's scary if I really think about it - I own all of the success, and also all the failures, of my life - it's also quite empowering to think that my simple, everyday choices create what collectively becomes my life.

Now, the enormity of this opening and closing of doors could be daunting, even paralyzing. I hate shutting doors truly. I think, well if I just leave this door, this option open a bit longer, maybe something incredible will come of it, so I better not turn away just yet. What the quote doesn't bring to light is that leaving each of the doors open takes some energy, some amount of time. And our lives have a set amount of time. We have a limited amount of energy, even the most energetic of us.

I think about it in terms of a financial investment - if we perfectly hedge, then net net we come out even, no loss, but no gain either. Leaving doors open is the same way. If we never close a door, then we never have the time or energy to open new ones and play out the option behind each to its full potential. To be sure the opening and closing can be joyful and painful, and sometimes, it's both. In case, often it's both.

I recently rediscovered a CD I have loved for years - Hymns from the 49th parallel by k.d. lang. my favorite track is "Love is everything." It's also about opening and closing doors. She talks about a love that she gave her all to, and then ultimately had to give up. "Love was everything they said it would be. Love makes sweet and sad the same....I can't wait for you to make the whole kingdom come, so I'm leaving."

Opening and closing doors is a deeply personal decision, and I would argue that it is the most important thing we ever do. Whether it's about a job, about love, about friendship, about where we live. Big and small choices. Decision making is an art that cannot be cultivated enough. We are sculptors, photographers, painters, dancers. And the body of our work is played out everyday in who we are, where we go, and how we spend our time.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Take a note

So after months of anticipation and hopefully exiting from my apartment building, I finally have a date with Hottie Neighbor (going forward noted as H.N.) You may remember him from a previous post. He helped me move into my apartment when it was 100 degrees outside, and I thought my poor stepfather may just pass out.

In the months since I've been here I have occasionally seen him as we pass one another coming and going from the building. He has mentioned we should get a drink, though has been reluctant to just ask me out. Patience in these matters, or rather game playing, is something I have no time for. So with some nudging from my wise friend, Catherine (who incidentally is also my neighbor), convinced me that I needed to leave H.N. a note. Several weeks ago, I saw H.N. and he said I should just pick a place and time and he'd be there. So I picked a time.

It is also important to point out that normally I am not the least bit shy with men, regardless of how good-looking they are. H.N. is a different story. I literally end up tongue-tied. Babbling something I have not thought through. And I also always manage to be doing some glamorous task like taking out the trash every time he sees me. My hair is invariably in 10 different directions. What a mess. Apparently, he has not yet been scared off.

It is also worth saying that I have already gone so far as to imagine knocking down the sealed door that separates our apartments so we can have one great living space. I have also taken that a step further and imagined that my landlord will retire and we can buy the whole darn building to populate with my favorite friends. It's really a lovely fantasy.

I saw H.N. on my way out today and I asked him if he had a favorite place in the neighborhood. He suggested we have dinner instead of just drinks. He chose Gabriella because it has great margaritas. So 7:30pm, Sunday night. I am going to knock on his door and off to dinner we'll go. Great.

And then I go on my way, completely panicked. My friend Steve (who tauts himself as "almost a gay man" because he watches Sex in the City nightly, and likes it) and I had already planned my outfit. For a drink only! Now we are expanding that to dinner. This changes everything. So I call Steve back. "Now what do I do?" He needs some time, and needs to consult his wife, Lianne, on the issue. He'll get back to me on wardrobe choice.

So for now, I am seated at my dining table, typing on this keyboard, and staring at the door that separates me from H.N. Maybe Sunday night will be the night I find my good pal to be in the world with...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Omigod you guys (have to see this show)

As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of musicals. Mostly because the spontaneous bursting into song is sort of annoying, the acting is usually not fantastic, and the story is mostly contrived. They're also expensive, which goes against my miserly ways. Yes, I made quite a bit of money working for musical theatre companies and loved my time doing that. I picked the few good shows I really liked. And though I've seen a few since I exited the industry, none have really jumped out at me the way Cabaret or The Full Monty did.

On Sunday, I changed my tune (pardon the pun). My dear friend, Amy, came into town and wanted to see Legally Blonde. Are you kidding me, I thought. Legally Blonde? And spend money to see it? She was persuasive. We've worked with Jerry Mitchell before, and L.B. is his directorial debut. Luckily for my wallet, the show was at TKTS for the Sunday evening performance. We had awesome seats in the mezz, center, for $65. I was skeptical. Amy was not.

From the moment the stage manager came over the PA and told us to not photos, I was hooked. Seriously, you guys. It was amazing and you HAVE to see it. The cast belted out some of the funniest lyrics I've ever heard, they had heart, they could ALL act and sing. And they were working every moment they were on stage. There wasn't a single weak link. The story was funny and sweet, some parts even sad, all in a very genuine way. I would have paid double for the ticket and been just as thrilled.

I woke up the next morning still smiling when thinking about the show, and I have caught myself humming the music once or twice. This is extremely rare - I hum constantly, but I NEVER hum show tunes. I love the show so much, I may go buy the sound track. And I NEVER by soundtracks to musicals.
So run over to see it. When it tours to your city, make sure to make room in your schedule for little Miss Woods comma Elle. Wear pink. Practice your "bend and snap". And make sure your cheeks are in tip top shape - you'll be smiling so much it will hurt.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Grief's cure

I read a quote today from Elbert Hubbard. I have no idea who this is, though I really appreciate his sentiment. "The cure for grief is motion." I was particularly struck by this after watching the coverage of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to the U.S. and the protests by Buddhist monks in Burma. To alleviate pain, suffering, and frustration, people strike out. The grief becomes so overwhelming that containing it becomes an insurmountable task.

But there is a different kind of grief that also inspires action. I am thinking about friends of mine who want more from life. My friend, Amy, who is in town for a visit and so incredibly gifted in negotiation and passionate about peaceful resolutions to international conflicts. My friend, Rob, who saw such a need for healing in our society and such a lack of available resources for people to use in their journey to healing that he just returned to graduate school to study social work. There is grief in watching complacency when we know that was is needed in transformation.

The need for re-invention of our daily lives is a constant, and must be at the forefront of our minds all the time. So often we wait for the New Year, or our birthdays, or some other mile marker. Really what we need to do is see every day we have as a time to remake parts of our lives that we wish were different. Wishing for change is also a form of grief. We need to see every day as a call to action. Imagine a world like that....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Laughing out loud, and in front of others

My friend, Ken, and I share the same reverence for sarcasm. I envy Ken because he doesn't only revere it, he has a wit quick enough to actually use it effectively in the moment. I am one of those people who walks away from a situation and a moment later thinks of some perfect retort, only after the time to use it has passed. It's very frustrating.
Ken's work situation is less than ideal. He is the highest performer on his team, and yet is grossly underpaid for his talents and productivity. His CEO recently made a remark that she didn't know if everyone could get raises this year because they make too many color copies. Ken couldn't contain himself. He began laughing out loud, in front of the crowd. And the CEO was completely disarmed, and soon everyone in the room was laughing.

The same day that Ken was recounting this story to me, I read a quote about laughter by Bob Hope. “I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.” And this started me thinking about how underutilized laughter is. The relief it provides. The truth it reveals (a la the color copies). The changes it can set in motion.

I'm not sure why laughter isn't used as a tool more often. Why do we often resort to arguing during a conflict. Can laughter be wielded as expertly and with as great an impact? Is there humor to be found in even the gravest situation. I'm not at all suggesting that our nation approach its foreign relations by making world leaders laugh. To be certain there is a place and time for laughter. I'm just wondering if that place exists more often than we allow it to.

If re-invention and transformation is what we seek, can we allow laughter to do some of the heavy lifting as Bob Hope suggested? Can laughter, especially at unexpected times, be the catalyst for imagining the world around us in a way that we could not access otherwise? There are more pathways to enlightenment that we realize.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Maggie or a drowned rat?

When I think of myself in the world, I always imagine that my make-up is on perfectly, that every hair is in place, that I've got on just the right outfit. Then I catch a glimpse of myself in a store window as I stroll by feeling confident and realize I am a disaster. Without fail, my hair is flipping all over the place, and I have spilled something down the length of my shirt. Lovely.
But is that right? Is it possible that if I imagine I look great, then I can somehow alter reality? Maybe...

A few weeks ago New York was inundated with some pretty horrible rains. It was absolutely pouring, morning 'til night. The subway flooded out, the roads were covered in 6 inches of water, heavy fog. A commuter's nightmare. And also a nightmare for my hair, which has a mind of its own anyway.

I got to my destination, shook out my umbrella and rain coat. Replaced my rain shoes with heels, and headed to the cafe for some coffee. I bumped into a woman in the elevator who I don't see very often though I see her in passing. It so happened that I ran into her again later on in the day and the first thing she said to me was "when I saw you this morning, you looked like a drowned rat." And she says this in front of my friends! I was mortified. On of my friends, being the gracious and kind man that he is, and probably sensing just a hint of embarrassment on my part, quickly said, "I looked like a drowned rat too. It was pouring this morning." End of conversation.

Now I will add here that I don't think I looked like a rat at all, drowned or otherwise. And to be honest this woman has got to be one of the most unattractive people on Earth. Truly. And she's not nice either, which I think adds to her lack of good looks.

That evening, I went out to meet my friend, Ian for dinner. He is a Chipotle fan, and I was more than happy to scarf down a burrito with him and catch up. Every time I go out with Ian it is usual to have people staring at us, constantly. And it has nothing to do with me. Ian is just gorgeous, right off the cover of a magazine. So when we were in Chipotle, I noticed, as usual, people staring at us. It turns out it was a friend of Ian's, but that's not why he was staring. He came over to the table, greeted Ian, and apologized for not coming over sooner. "I thought your beautiful friend was Maggie Gyllenhaal." "Oh! You know, Christa, you do look like her," Ian said.

Can you imagine? From a drowned rat to Maggie in just a matter of hours! And I didn't even stop at home in between to tidy myself up. Maybe beauty really does live in the eye of the beholder.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Good Pal Wanted

I am completely freaked out by the idea of marriage. Truly. Just looking at the word, I am beginning to feel a panic attack coming on. I love being in love, I love the idea of finding that one terrific guy who’s so fantastic that I could never imagine wanting to be with anyone else. I love imagining having a partner in life who’s supportive of even my wackiest ideas. I just can’t imagine that my sense of judgment is so amazing that I could pick, right now, the one person I’ll be happy with forever. And actually what I’m more worried about is how will he know that I’m the one he’ll be happy with forever. I’ve had relationships when I thought I found the right one, and then it seemed to fall apart for no reason at all. And it was heart-breaking, and awful, and I just don’t want to go through that again. I don’t think I can go through that again and come out of it a sane person. Or, at least these were all my fears until today when I read something that helped me start to turn the corner. Something that helped me to look at this fear with a little more courage, and say, “well, maybe you aren’t so scary after all….”

One of the columnists in the New York Times went shopping with Alice Waters at the Union Square Farmers Market. Waters is a restaurateur, chef, and advocated for supporting locally-grown agriculture. In the world of foodies, she’s legendary. She’s 63, and as the article points out, currently not in love. And then she added a really lovely comment that helped me see that marriage, or at least being in love a committed long-term relationship may not be so bad. “While not in love, she does wish she had a good pal to be in the world with.” And if in my mind I define “husband” in that way, it doesn’t seem quite so scary.

Truthfully, that is exactly what I’m looking for. I don’t need a husband to support me financially. I don’t need him to be my everything, and quite frankly, I would prefer he not be since I have many wonderful people in my life that fill a variety of roles quite well. And since I’m laying the honesty on thick in this post, I’m not 100% sure that I want children. I’m a good 50 / 50 on that one, so I’m not even looking for someone to be the ideal father-figure.

What I really want is someone I laugh with, someone who’s smart and helps me think clearly, someone who supports my crazy ideas and has fun in the process. A creative-bent would be nice. Ambitious, though doesn’t devote his entire being to his profession. It would help if he liked dogs. Scratch that – he has to like dogs. Cooking, or an interest in learning to cook would just be fantastic. And travel – I want someone who is in this world to be an adventurer. And yes, I need him to be good-looking. Sorry. I figured if I’m really going to send this wish out into the world, I might as well ask for everything I want. At the heart of it, Alice Waters is right – he needs to be a good friend to me as we figure out how to navigate this crazy world around us.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"I'm a blender" and other sayings of note

My friend, Trevin, has recently moved to New York City after many years of imaging this place as the Garden of Eden. I understand - I've felt that way for the six years I have been away and I love being back here. During a recent conversation I was explaining to him that I had plans for a time he suggested we meet up to hang out, and invited him to come along. I gave him fair warning about the crowd he'd be meeting to which he replied, "oh don't worry about me, Christa. I'm a blender." To which I just burst out laughing.

And it's true, Trevin, like me, is a blender. I know many of other people who are not - people I would never dream of introducing to friends from other chapters of my life. When someone asks "what kind of skills do you think I need to do X job", being a blender is never something I've heard someone say before.

For years I've been hearing lots of funny, odd, and all-too-true sayings like Trevin's and it's high time I wrote them down. The following is a list of those (in addition to "I'm a blender") that stopped me in my tracks, made me laugh, and also made me think.

"Bad design will haunt you forever." My boss loves this one, and it's so true. So many times we think up solutions and approaches to just get by. We're so interested in doing that we don't spend the time designing the best possible solution. We just want something in place so we feel like we're moving forward. For example, let's look at the state of New Jersey highways - could there be a worse design? Look at the bridge feed from NJ Route 4 onto the GW Bridge - hideous. Who imagines going from 6 lanes to two in a 100 foot stretch?

"Learn to talk to a wall." I used to think small talk was overrated - now I've learned that small talk creates big connections. I've been undervaluing it for far too long. Small talk builds the beginnings of life-long relationships and connected us others. Through small talk we find our place in the world.

"Prepare for peace in a time of war." I am so mad at Sun-Tzu for writing The Art of War. I'm even more mad at the people who revere it and take it out of context. So often I feel like preparing for war is the easy part. Preparing for and building a plan for maintaining peace is the hard stuff. Any schmo can demolish a bridge; it takes a real artist to build one that holds up over the years.

"Don't invest in things that rust." This another one of my boss's favorites that he lives by, truly. He had one car for 18 years. Unbelievable. And this saying extends far beyond cars. Think about all the energy that we pour into lost causes or places where we know we can't make an impact. Eventually it rusts out, and we move on. Imagine what we could do by redirecting that energy toward things like fine wine and a good quality leather coat that only get better with age.

"Be in it for the journey." There's something to be said for having a goal, and something to be said for taking interesting detours. And yes, you can do both.

"Live your life spherically, in many different directions." Ever meet someone with a one-track mind? I never understand that. I used to envy those people who could be so singularly focused, mostly because I am the anti-thesis of them. And I would get down on myself when I felt like I was flailing and all over the place. Was my exploring getting in the way of my living? And after a few years, I could look back on the journey and see how it all connected, see how having my hands in a lot of different pots gave me a richer, more interesting spirit than I would have had otherwise. And I learned that the only really direction in life is a circle.

"The hardest thing on Earth is choosing what matters." I used to frustrate myself with all of my competing interests. For a long time I have struggled with prioritizing different areas of my life. My romantic life, school, time for me, friends, family, career. And when I read this saying I felt a huge weight being lifted off of me. I thought everyone else instantly knew what was important and what wasn't, and then just went about their lives. It turns out that deciding between competing interests is everyone's struggle. We're in this together, and to help one another figure this out.

"I believe in the goodness of imagination." No explanation needed.

The dishes will wait

I hate dirty dishes - the very thought of them makes me feel a little queasy. Probably because I worked as a dishwasher in a nursing home one summer because it was a job I could walk to from my home and I really needed the money. The only thing I hate more than dirty dishes in the sink is wasting a gorgeous day outside by doing menial, though necessary tasks around the house. Erma Bombeck said, "I hate mopping the floor. I spend all this time doing it, and then a month later I have to do it again." I couldn't agree more!

Today was one of those gorgeous days, and one of those days when I have a hundred menial tasks to do around my apartment. Tracking expenses, dropping off dry cleaning, cleaning my bathtub, and yes, doing today's dishes. I just couldn't pass up the chance for a nice long walk today. I walked 72 blocks to meet my friends, Katie and Monika, for lunch at The Cookshop. And even though there are still dishes in my sink and receipts to record in my excel spreadsheet, I just couldn't stay inside today. I needed to get out, breathe deeply, and poke around my neighborhood Barnes and Noble for some writing inspiration. I also needed some exercise.

I saw little kids learning to play soccer in the park, dogs and their owners jogging. Friends greeting one another, and catching up. It helped me count my blessings while making up for the 500 calories I was about to consume on a yummy, sumptuous lunch. It did my heart good to see my friends, and recognize, acknowledge, and honor the happiness that is all around us, peeking out from every nook and cranny of our world. For that, yes, the dishes will wait.

Why a kindergardner can achieve more than an MBA

I recently watched a talk by Peter Skillman, Director of New Product Development for Palm, Inc. I love him - mostly because he helped create my new Palm Smartphone that I am totally in love with because it keeps me so organized. And I love being organized. I wonder how in the world I lived without this thing. And Peter says we have only scratched the surface of possibility with this device - I can hardly wait to see what these things will do next! Also, he confirmed my underlying suspicion that kindergartners are smarter than MBAs.

Now, I have an MBA, and so do many of my friends. And I can say from my gut, I think getting an MBA asks us to temporarily lose a part of ourselves that is critical to our success. Peter Skillman has done an experiment with various groups, all around the country. The assignment goes like this - build the tallest structure possible that can support the weight of a marshmallow using only 18 pieces of spaghetti and one meter of tape. The highest average height - kindergartners. the lowest average height - MBAs. He's got data to show this - data that even the most analytical MBA could not falsify. Sorry b-schoolers. I am one of you - so I am equally embarrassed. I'm not laughing at you - I am laughing with you.

So why does this happen? We are all in kindergarten once. What happened? And he noticed something very interesting - kindergartners dug right in. They worked together, imagined the impossible. A structure as tall as the Empire State Building. Yeah - let's do it! MBAs - they spent half their time figuring out who would be CEO and the President of the Tape Cutting Division. Divide up every piece of the project, set benchmarks for progress, monitor the spaghetti budget, play it safe, what is everyone else doing? Kindergartners focused on the actual need - supporting the marshmallow. MBAs focused on beating others around them. Kindergartners approached the task without any fear of failure. MBAs would never even think of disgracing themselves with failure at such a simple task.

It turns out that the shorter the design cycle, the more important it is to failure as soon as possible in order to succeed sooner. Who knew? We did - we all did. When we were 5, and at 25 we have completely erased that intuition.

There is a video on YouTube that is the depiction of Apple's ad campaign in the 1980's. "A Salute to the Crazy Ones." If you've never seen it, you need to. Actually, if you've never seen it, stop reading this blog right now, and click the following link. Because the crazy ones who think they can change the world (or build the tallest spaghetti structure to support a marshmallow), do.

The photo above is the sole property of Apple.

Friday, September 14, 2007


The best thing about working for a boss whose title is Consigliere is that he knows other equally brilliant Consiglieres. My boss recently introduced me to Mark Hurst and the GEL conference. (You can find more information about Mark, the conference, and Mark's company, by clicking (Coincidentally Mark is a friendly, engaging guy who lives just a few blocks away from me. I love this town!) The GEL conference is a once-a-year event that bring together brilliant thinkers and innovators from many different fields to share their ideas, concerns, experiences, and hopes for the future. The brain power in these conferences at any given moment is nothing short of incredible.

Mark was kind enough to send me a few DVDs with some footage from last year's event. There were two speakers whose work really struck me as something that I could write about on this blog. One of them is Marie Lorenz. She's a boat builder, artist, and tidal expert who lives right here in New York. She started a project called the Tide and Current Taxi. She sent an email to everyone she knew in New York, asked them to give her two points that they visited often (around the costs of the islands that comprise New York City) and then invited them into one of her boats to navigate between those two points using only the current of New York City's rivers. They rarely got exactly where they were trying to go, though she always got a great story. And really, it's always about the story and we rarely ever end up exactly where we thought we were going. We're in it for the journey.

In her talk at GEL, Marie explained that on one trip, the current had become particularly rough in the East River, and more and more water lapped up into the boat, causing it to sink, no matter how much she and her friend paddled. They ended up letting go of the boat and everything inside of it and had to swim to the shore of Roosevelt Island. Marie was so upset, so discouraged. She and her friend nearly drowned, and she had lost the project. It was now floating out there in the East River, menacingly, upside down, right near one of the strongest currents in the world. Her heart was broken.

And a moment later, she climbed over the short fence between her and the East River, and she dove in. Like hell that current was getting her boat and her gear! She swam diligently out to the boat, scooped it up, and swam back to shore with all her might. She had worked too hard on this project to let it all go down the current.

It made me think about all the times I've worked so hard for something, paddled furiously in the wake of impending disaster, only to end up swimming for the shore. Like Marie, on occasion my heart was broken and so I dove back in, in an effort to salvage was was taken away. The salvaging has never worked quite as well for me as it did for Marie - each time I ended up discarding the very thing I dove back in for once I realized it would have been better to let it remain out at sea and for me to move on. Though I suppose that's better than having it drift away and never being sure of whether or not you needed or even wanted it.

I've been thinking a lot about those currents that surround this island I am making my home on. I don't think I'll ever look at them quite the same way as I did before Marie's talk. Sometimes they carry us to some place new that wasn't on our itinerary, and sometimes they take away everything we've got leaving us able to do nothing else but swim to shore. I guess the trick is to know the difference - when is the vessel that carries you worth paddling like hell for, when is it better to just let it fall away, and what makes some of these vessels so special that they are worth diving back in to rescue?

For more information about Marie, visit

The above image can be found at

The Need for Speed

Speed dating that is. One of my favorite Kerry Bradshaw quotes is that every woman is New York is looking for one of three things: a job, an apartment, or a man. Given that I have been incredibly fortunate with one and two in recent months, I am trying my luck with #3. Third time's a charm. So my wonderful friend, Monika, agreed to go to one of these events with me. I had no idea what to expect though I am pretty adventurous so I figured at the worst it would be something to write about on this blog.

I was running late from work to make it to the event - the omens were less than promising. The GW Bridge was backed up during my commute from NJ, parking was tough to find, and as I approached the bar where the event was being held (sadly near Port Authority), I could not escape the overwhelming smell of urine. That's because the man about 15 feet in front of me was in fact peeing, on someone's car. (Thankfully not mine.) It was at this moment that I realized I was so worried about being late to meet Monika that I had not spent a second thinking of some good questions to ask so I didn't have to rely on the boring, "how are you? what do you do? where are you from?" litany. What if I met an amazing guy and was just completely tongue-tied? What was I even doing here? I should turn around and go home. Or maybe Monika and I should just go have a martini.

"No, no," I thought. Just go in there, smile, and give it a shot. And I did, right after I made sure to grab a sangria. And I love meeting new people. As it turned out, I would have preferred to just hang around at the bar rather than go through a rash of dates - some of whom didn't speak English, were incapable of eye contact, and were just, well, dull. All was not lost, though - I met some really good guys (all of whom tended to be on the older end of the age range for the event - no surprise there.) In the end, Mr. Amazing (for me) wasn't there and that's okay. Just knowing that there are so many others in this city who are looking, just like me, somehow made the whole dating adventure seem to be just that, an adventure.

Whether I need speed dating to as a vehicle to continue that journey, I'm not quite sure. However, it is sure nice to have options put before you that only cost 6 minutes each.

*The picture above can be found at

Friday, September 7, 2007

Mien petite appartement

Please forgive me if I can’t even string three French words together properly. French is one of those language I long to be able to speak. It drips with elegance and charm in a way that few other language could ever hope to do. As much as I love Spanish and Italian, which have their own incredible beauty, French has always captured my attention.

Me all have daydreams - I imagine myself sitting in some lovely little cafĂ©, sipping coffee from a delicate little cup, in some incredibly chic French outfit, just out this season of course. Eating a croissant, and laughing with an adorable French man who finds me equally adorable. And then the part in the daydream when I have to say something…I imagine myself speaking French but then what comes out of my mouth is some alien language not comprehensible by any other living being. The French boy runs away, and I am left with my coffee….sad, sad story.

I went to France for a month right before starting at business school and I fell in love with it. The Sunflowers, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the people, the FOOD, the wine. I spent a week in Paris, two weeks volunteering with a nonprofit that rebuilds ancient architecture in Saint Victor La Coste (near Avignon), and then a week along the French Riviera. So incredible – every day was out of fairy tale book. Paris is the only other city I have ever been that made me feel the way New York make me feel – alive, free, and bubbling over with joy. Whenever I went to a restaurant or a museum or the post office, etc. I always made an effort to ask for what I wanted in French. The people I was speaking to would look at me with sad eyes and respond to me in English. I would respond in French (if I could) and they’d look at me with even sadder eyes and again respond to me in English. I love France so much that I think I am entitled to be able to learn French without any difficulties.

My friend Heather recently came to New York for a visit and stayed in my apartment. Heather went to Darden with me, and her husband Didier, is originally from France. Their children are completely bi-lingual and I marvel at their conversations. When Heather came into my very small apartment, I immediately said, “oh don’t look at the kitchen – it’s so tiny. (It literally is the size of a closet.) She immediately said, “Are you kidding me? This apartment is great – bigger than places in Paris. All apartments in France are small.”

My heart leapt with joy! Now I can imagine myself coming home to mien petite appartement, knowing that million of people in Paris are doing the exact same thing in an even smaller place than mine. If I can’t share the language with them, at the very least I can appreciate the beauty of living small.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The West Side's Most Elusive Creature

The opera singer Beverly Sills once said, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” Some people may think she was pontificating about how to achieve a successful life through hard work and determination. I think she was talking about finding a parking space on the Upper West side of Manhattan. Now that school is back in session, all of my favorite parking haunts have been stolen. I am exaggerating – it’s actually not bad at all. The most I have ever spent looking for parking is 20 minutes, and, knock on wood, that will be a rare occurrence and I will go back to my five-minute parking search which has up until now always ended with me finding a primo spot.

These parking posts are quite elusive, I find them and they always manage to be a little too small, or a little close to a fire hydrant, or just a smidge into the cross-walk. Given how diligently the police patrol my neighborhood (when in my opinion they really need to be spending their time in parts of the city that really need heavy patrols rather than having their cushy jobs giving people like me tickets for making turns where I am supposed to magically know that turns are illegal despite the fact that there is no posting), I am weary of any parking that doesn’t seem absolutely 100% perfect.

The other real kickers are these crazies looking for parking spaces on the UWS. Yesterday I actually encountered a woman who was STANDING in a parking spot waiting for her friend to come by and park there. Unbelievable. I considered forcing her to leave and give me the spot but she looked like the spiteful type who may key my car the second I walked away. (Not really, but that was the only way I could console myself for letting her take a spot that really should have been mine.

Then there are the people who continually make a right on red, despite the fact that you can’t do that in NYC, all to steal a spot from someone respectfully waiting at the light. At moments like these I say to myself, “that person’s karma has just hit an iceberg.”

I’ve been trying the theory of positive thinking a la the Oprah-recommended book, The Secret. I imagine in my mind a perfectly sized, legal spot right outside my building. I’m not imagining hard enough. I will have to work on that in the coming weeks.

I’ve got a fabulous weekend lined up – I am going to devise a parking space strategy. There are all kinds of different parking hours on the UWS. Some spaces you can’t be in between 7 and 4 on school days. Some don’t allow you to park there between 8am and 6pm. And the list goes on and on. I haven’t found a website that gives details of these parking rules yet – heaven forbid the city government give you that info – it would inhibit the police from giving you tickets that I imagine rack up quite a bit of funds. So I am going to make a list, and come up with a search strategy based upon what time I arrive back in the city.

Sounds like I’m a crazy person right? Though if I consider that it will probably take me about an hour’s walk on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to get all the information on parking in my neighborhood, compared to the 20 minutes per night it may be taking me to find parking everyday, it doesn’t seem so crazy after all. I’m sure that perfect spot is out there waiting for me...

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Imperfection Becomes Us

I have a friend who has me laughing so hard without even trying that if there was a contest for the Funniest Person in America she'd win hands-down. I can ALWAYS count on her to have a funny anecdote or personal incident to cheer me up on even the darkest days. Friday was no exception - not that I was having a dark day, just that she had one of the funniest and most poignant stories I've heard to date.

Like me, she has started a new job fairly recently and was wearing a beautiful outfit for a big meeting she had early in the morning. Mid-afternoon, she went into the ladies room only to discover that her colorful and striped underwear was showing clearly through her skirt. This had not been the case when she checked herself out in the mirror at home that morning. She even asked a stranger in the bathroom to check, hoping it was just her own self-conscious perception. the stranger replied, "I can definitely see it." Even out in the hallway, where the light was a little less harsh, the underwear was completely visible. After being in the cafeteria with hundreds of people, meeting a whole new project team, her attempt at perfection provided a perfectly beautiful and entertaining lesson - perfection is highly over-rated.

In starting a new job, a new relationship, a new hobby, we are always putting our best foot forward early on, seeking to be perfection to our potential new mate, our new bosses, to our new co-workers, even to our fellow commuters. Despite my best attempts at perfection, I never quite get there, and I'm thankful for that. It's just when I think I've thought of every last deal that there's a total wrench thrown into the works. And the wrenches are what make the journey enjoyable, memorable, and bond us to people around us. There is no quality more flattering than being able to have a sense of humor about ourselves, and then have the humility to share that humor with others.

So while my dear friend may feel she fell short of her best attempt at perfection, I think that imperfection was what makes her uniquely and wonderfully her. We'd have a much easier time being perfectly happy if we could just take our imperfections in stride.