Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm Moving!! New Blog:

After many spirited, grimy, glamorous, grinning and grinding years in New York City, "my new York" has come to an end to make way for a new adventure and a new blog: A journey to Africa.

Get out your bug spray and a brand new life lens and join me on the journey at

D-Day (Depature Date): January 12, 2011.

Cioa for Now, New York!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Its my party, and I'll cry if I want to

In New York, every life transition, birthday, good day, bad day or anything else worth mentioning, is marked with a party. A glass of wine over dinner, an outdoor café with friends, a little bubbly with coworkers, or whatever’s in a can at the nearest dive bar with the people that make a New York afternoon so much better. In just a few days, there will be a party for me – one that says, this party’s over.

If I look hard, I can still find the girl that came here three years ago, the one that looked like me and used my name. She’s still there and sometimes late at night I can hear her breathe. I can still feel her heart flutter at the lights of midtown rising at the feet of the Queensborough bridge one late, cold March night. I can still taste the sweet sweat and the iron blood of a city that births dreams and suffocates them all in the same breath. I can still hear the non-sound that Wall Street made as it fell in the bleary winter days of 2009 just a few streets down from our vanquished yet shiny new glass office building – just a silent settling of dust on the shoulders of the nicest suits in town. I can still remember the bright, grainy days of pitted concrete and perfect blue glass when I wondered if this was real – all of this, was this actually real. And I can still see my barely-made New York friends through an empty, foggy bottle of vodka from the floor of my newly rented apartment the day they told us my brother had cancer. It is those friends, and those lights, and that same non-sound that I must prepare to say goodbye to now.

If there were words that existed that could capture all the people I have met here –those I have loved, those who I have missed, those who I have learned from, adored, admired, frowned at and observed from close range – then I would use those words now. But they escape me. Evade me in disguise when called upon but fill me with the magnetic presence of their many subjects just the same. Because I – I am not the same.

People come to New York to own it – and they lease it instead. They come to meet new people – and meet themselves instead. They come to live their dream – and reinvent their dream to live… or live even beyond their dream instead. They (like me) come here shirking sadness like drugstore robbers on the interstate…and leave with that same uniformed sadness turned outlaw. Sadness dressed up nice and living out loud. Garnished generously with some of the best friends and best moments you’ve ever had in your life.

I’ve had the last of my shots now, the last of my chances to turn back and the last of those once coveted doors close softly. I wanted Africa, now I’ve got it. A one way ticket and one hell of an excel spreadsheet. Like tinfoil onto a fire – throw me in. Send me there by his side and see if I believe myself long enough to remember why I went in the first place. When will I return and as whom? It’s anyone’s guess and my best kept secret from myself.

But one thing is for certain. Like a long-time lover, I could not have lived without you New York. I could not have faced the world without your bawdy, exhilarating touch. Could not have arm-wrestled with my sorry, broken sense of self without your thick-lipped, relentless demands and your late night flirtations with my sanity. Could not have died a slow, senseless death before opening my eyes to some unrecognizable, surprisingly capable human being, bearing my very own name and my old college T-shirts. Could not have known life, jeered at life, done time with life, fell at life’s knees and even saved a life without you…my New York.

So lets you and I drink up the last drop, bring down the house and hold each other close before slinking away into the dark. One more round and one more toast to those who have saved me, most of all from myself. It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Water Watchers

There are benches on the east river where you can watch the sun come up. Or, if you’re like me, you can witness the sun going down without watching. Like a canary in a covered cage knows its morning, you’ll suddenly find yourself in the near dark and the East River has lost its sheen without warning. You’re most definitely being eaten by mosquitos. And there’s nothing funny about these moments. You’re crying and you know why, somewhere deep down, but you don’t know what to say about it – if it needs fixing or rethinking or just plain sleeping it off. Everyone notices you crying, even in the half dark, the runners behind you, the sleepy homeless beside you, the cell phone girls wafting around you, they all know you’re crying and they look at you like construction workers do at an unusually short and uncalled-for sparkly skirt on a Tuesday morning. It’s not the choices you had planned on but they are the ones you knew you had to make all along. Because you’re you. And you’d rather be dipped in disillusionment then constantly disappointed by boredom. There are no brakelights when you’re breaking the speed limit, every screeching corner bringing your wheels closer to what you think you’re afraid of.

New York city. No where to run. No where to hide. No where to cry in peace. No space of your own to feel your earlobes fill with blood and your body ask you softly where you’ve come and how you got here. Its just you and…new York city. Here together. And you haven’t forgiven each other. And you haven’t told each other how you feel. Even though you know goodbye is hanging in the wings. Once the curtain falls. Once the light disappears on the west side while you drop your gaze into the lightless East River. Once your eyes grow tired of your own reflection. Once the lights of downtown grow lightless in your heart and render you sightless in their glare. Tonight you’ll lay down next to the lover who’s soon to be long lost – a city that will never speak your name again as if you never haunted its walls. And you will come to realize that it wasn’t your name it called out on those un-lonely nights. It was its own.

The boardwalk grows dark but never cool on a sweltering July night. The hot garbage splayed out under the FDR grows sour fingers on the warm wind. Was it solitude you escaped here for? Was it meditation, contemplation or were you simply visiting fantasy’s gravesite in the dark, moving like an urban ghost along with the sub-80-degrees mid-summer runners. Whatever you came for, you find nothing but the uncanny feeling of being watched constantly by the living. Not even the darkness on the east river can excuse you from an unraveled, uncontemplated appearance – for a moment in your life that you visibly didn’t prepare for. Long Island City lends no skyline and no soundtrack as you hang your elbows over the railing, in hopes that the angle and the darkness will shield you from the prying eyes that pass behind. Shield you from the non-view of your life that you cherish, snub and ignore. And then it comes.

The skirt around your legs opens to let in a hot wind and the curious bugs on its breeze. The moment you came for. All the boats already swallowed by the dusk. The runners steeped in sightless sweat. The water-watchers sweatered in expected silence on the stoop of shore-less swells – under the eyes of an expressionless evening. Nothing escapes us and our unseeing eyes. Like falcons riding the hot summer air, we bear the blood we seek. It is we who haunt the sidewalks that we fear the most. We are the watched, the watchers and the watchless. We are New York City.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Band of Brothers: Life without your eyes in

My brother Alec left NYC yesterday in a cab among swirls of rain blowing up the skirts of new York and bringing the spring, and the airports, to a chilly halt. It felt appropriate, after a weekend of walking and climbing and moving together through the colors of my life that look sometimes unfamiliar even to me, that he should leave just as he arrived – among irreverent uncertainty. Once he was gone, I resumed my life just as I had left it, answered my office phone and transplanting excel columns from one worksheet to another.

For most of this weekend I simply spent time with a good old friend of mine. Many times I took time to admire who this human being was, this person who I knew only as my brother, what kind of person he had grown into and the way that he managed to operate acceptably within society while (amazingly) always retaining authenticity in absolutely everything that he did. A few times did I recognize the person that I grew up with and a few times did I truly appreciate him as just one of the independent tree trunks that make up this larger moving organism of our family.

Tuesday evening, I went home late in the pouring rain. I mindlessly stuffed a teetering plastic bag full of clothes (in an effort to start the move from my apartment to the new one for a short five months), and I carried it over in the rain, peering around the side of it to see the sidewalk in front of me. When I got there, I folded everything and put it away into a dark empty closet. I decorated the house with my disheartened self in various places for a little while, before going into the bedroom to put a new blanket on the bed, finding soon after that the sheets were dirty and dusty from the room switch. This, clearly, was simply too much for me to bear. Or it seemed to be so, because five minutes later I was head first in my blanket, drawing my feet up so that no inch of skin would be exposed to the light. The next door neighbors children were racketing, yelling and throwing things against the wall and the new Jakob Dylan album (which I highly recommend) was playing to drown them out. Paralyzed by absolutely nothing at all except my own self, I stared at the inside of the blanket and started staving my oxygen, which I knew would run out shortly. I thought of everybody and their faces the way I remember them back at the house, at rainbow which will soon be sold, at family dinners and on walks, sitting on rocks up at betasso. And I thought of my brother Todd’s big birthday, which I would miss and which I would think of with every step along Park avenue this weekend. And I knew, with rich, colorful Africa beckoning to me with long, tugging fingers that time with my family over the next couple years might slip away underfoot like silt on the riverbanks of our lives.

Then I heard a random line in one of the Jakob Dylan songs, and it said something like “this is the place where you were born.” Before long I was irreparably weepy, and like a homesick child, refused to return to adulthood for at least three hours. In between bouts of tears, well past midnight and after I had removed my contacts, a gripping fear suddenly struck me – that one of the navy blue dresses I had piled on my bag of clothes had fallen off onto the ground in the rain on my way over. I didn’t remember putting it away, hanging it up or seeing it anywhere about our new apartment. It was most assuredly out there, underfoot and in the gutter – and my last memory of it forever would be wearing it this weekend with Alec in New York. Like a good old soldier, Buzz had his shoes and basketball shorts on and was out retracing my steps in the rain in search of it before another tear had time to reach my puffy eyes, rendered helpless without contact lenses. While he was out and I was groping desparately around the room with my hands for my dress without my “eyes in”, a strange thought struck me.

When it comes to family – is it actually your family that you inevitably lose to adulthood or just the way you remember them? Is loss a thing that is often just perceived simply because you forgot to put your wiser, more knowing eyes in?

Buzz returned empty-handed and I went to sleep without my dress and without any of my family around me.

When I woke up in the morning, I put my contacts in – which was a struggle because they were dirty and salty. Then, I walked in a sleepwalk to the closet and retrieved my navy dress from the crushing oblivion of several brighter colored, heavier winter sweaters.
My dress was there the whole time, out of sight and very much not out of mind.

When I got to work that morning, with a renewed sense of love and gratefulness in my heart for this family I had left behind two years ago and have had to fight for ever since against distance and cancer, I called united to change Buzz’ and I’s flights returning back from Colorado during our trip in June so that we could have one more precious day with the people I loved the most in the world. Alas. There were no more tickets available going from Denver to La Guardia on Tuesday, stated very matter of factly. Thwarted. Symbolic action representing the emotional commitment to/and the importance of my family squandered cruelly. Darkness, oblivion, crushing impossibility…LOSS. There was silence on the other line. Then a thought - “Is there anything going into Newark or JFK? (easier airports anyway)” The agent was friendly and the change was amazingly easy, we got the only two seats left.

Its funny what happens when you put your eyes in.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nothing like waking up and knowing...

Its going to happen. I just know it.

Africa, here we come.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What Dreams are Made of

People do a lot for their dreams. Depending what it is that a dream requires. Spite, spit or spirit. That’s the stuff. If your dream asks things of you – spine and sacrifice – do you then wonder what you are asking of your dream? To become a self above all selves? To only be real when seen? To walk between the moments like Jesus in between the raindrops? To win the battles you are already winning, just in your sleep? To step into the spotlight looking exactly how you planned to look? And if yours is a real (and I mean really real) kind of dream, what wouldn’t you do for it because you are afraid that it might fail you…then you would be left with no dream at all?

I wanted to be a writer in first grade. I wanted to write stories and draw the pictures too with my crayons that would appear glossy on published pages. A quiet and reverential child, I wanted to see myself on those pages; my eyes looking back in the pictures that I drew for the words that I had written. And then, in a real book, the real me would truly be seen. My existence pored over, line by line, and my little hand an apprentice to a product that would be so much bigger and better than I. The human story told by a little girl where everyone in the story matters – even the ones who don’t talk.

My elementary school had a miniature book binding machine. The librarian would take the stories we wrote and bind them into a little feux-leather books with real bindings, real pages and real pictures we drew. I wrote hoardes of them and waited anxiously to get them back in different colors, warm from the machine. I wrote one story called the mermaid dragon. It took place in China and a half-mermaid-half dragon genie gave a poor shoeless boy a chance at happiness however he defined it. In the end he chose love over riches of course. And the whole storyline was eerily similar if not completely plagiarized from Aladdin. A local children’s writing contest picked it up. I won and I got to read it at our local mall. That day in that big empty suburban mall on an early Sunday morning reading a story that wasn’t completely mine, I felt like I had finally found my place in the world – at the table of humankind and among the ranks of those I admired. I was six.

Now I’m older. I work at a magazine – a good one. And it’s in a very nice big glass office in downtown Manhattan. I work at a desk and I have people who believe in my abilities as a marketer. I know how to engineer an e-blast with authority, experiment with different ways of writing a message to get people to do things and I’m a diligent taxpayer. I work for recognition, socialization and rent. And I realize that this is a very respectable, if not admirable way to live. You don’t always have to earn your keep in the world, you know. And you especially don’t have to do it in the ways that make it into the movies. Some of the most gracious, giving and inspirational public people I’ve met in the big Apple have clean collars, great stories …and very self-serving underbellies that you only discover with lipstick over a drink. Yes, I could very well live like this happily – knowing and not contorting or over-revealing myself, using the time of my life to make friends not feux-leather-bound books and bad habits that come easy and die hard.

Ah but sometimes I do wonder. Those pesky raindrop life-filler moments that I cant seem to walk between. Its right what they say about me. Usually over drinks and usually while spending money I don’t have and usually after some small human interaction has made me want to kiss the world all better with big wet lips and big tears salting my salmon fritters. They are right to ask me what I have done for my dream lately. What publications have I submitted to. How many hours of non-marketing copy have I written this week. What unheard voice am I giving song to today. Not tomorrow. Tomorrows just get thrown away with last night’s trash. And they are right to criticize. Because when I come home and I hang up my clothes (I’ll probably buy more tomorrow) and I go to the freezer for cheap vodka (setting my alarm for work in the morning beforehand)…its then that the nip of that dream brings me hard and fast to my knees with a quick, warm bite right to the heart. And it doesn’t get its teeth from being leather-bound, velvet-roped or reeking of Carrie Bradshaw. It’s the uncalculated, constantly miscarried but somehow trustworthy current that runs through the middle of me when I do just what I am doing now. When the words come and most of the time I hate them but some of the time they light perfectly upon the very moments of my life like afternoon sun on a running gutter brook. Flighty, transient and dirty but ever so worth sitting on the curb to watch. Tiny beads of belief that open the heart like a jewelry box with a crowbar. And the truth is, blogosphere, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I don’t chase this dream because I’m desparately afraid of losing it. Forever. Its the worst excuse I can think of for ignoring a dream and I’m it. Maybe they are right. Maybe someday they will say over cognac and chinese take out, “That girl, she sure had heart, but she don’t got no gumption.” If they say anything at all. Because I sure never did.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Raindrops on Roses

In New York, and in life in general, when it rains, it pours. In the city where anything is possible, everything suddenly becomes impossible (getting a cab, getting delivery, getting your groceries home, getting a life). Thus, its the perfect opportunity to stay up late alone in the dark, let the central heating out through an open window, listen to the cabs slosh down first avenue and feel the minutes of your life go slowly by.

I've been in New York for two years now (and like a true New York patriot, I was far too busy to realize or celebrate our anniversary together). Each day here has been blended like a Kandinsky painting, circular in the patterns of living out loud and then working overtime to quiet down, or at least until the morning sheen of self awareness wears off once more. This morning -- suddenly and unexpectedly -- I became aware of the passing of time.

The hair that I had cut short and sharp well over a year ago and has miraculously seemed to stay that way, suddenly looks like it has grown an inch. My bedroom smells like my T-shirts and residual chamomile tea instead of the peeling paint and borrowed furniture of my early twenties. My apartment, or at least the part of it I preside over, looks a lot like my mother's kitchen and I get the itchy and strangely electric feeling that I imagine she must get also when I clean it maniacally-- allowing a momentary, secretly profound grasp on my own tangible existence and impact on the empirical world perhaps? Words, like marriage and career and income, that have been for most of my life distant orbs of cosmic mass barelling toward me through space that wont reach me until after the sun runs out of nuclear fuel, becomes a red giant and swallows the universe...have overnight become more like very real words that can be found next to my alarm clock at 7am that demand to be both respected and feared.

But most of all this morning I realized that I was afraid to live my life forever as it is now and equally as afraid to make any change at all to it. The very distinct welling of fear that collected in my esophagus when I thought of the countries I would like to trek through, the writing I'd like to do more of, the new city I would like to live in, the inspiring companies I'd like to work, for was enough to make me stop and notice myself, there running on a treadmill called New York City, which was itself rattling in the bed of a pick-up truck on the Interstate which life. And that was the moment when I caught time red-handed walking quietly through my life while I was busy burning dinner in the kitchen. And when it saw me looking back at it, it stopped dead in its tracks. Until I closed the window against the rain and went back to loudly sorting silverware.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Do Unto Others....

At sunrise in New York on a Sunday, they own the city. Quietly of course, they move with their faces toward the dawn. They, who seem invisible among the late afternoon brunchers and the rabid weekend shoppers who hoof through union square, now step out in the wee hours of the morning to show all their colors and walk the pale yellow streets. Very old men walking very small dogs and even older women walking their walkers and baskets on wheels. Young bright-eyed Latin American immigrants disappearing into the back doors of bakery kitchens. Sleepless artists who read folded newspapers as they walk. And of course, the hooded, plodding weather-torn homeless who are on the move at the first smell of the sun.

Its a hard life being homeless. Even in the nicer shelters, you are getting up before six every day. Carrying what little you own and making your way around your life as an eyesore to the rest of the world, unless you can manage, as many homeless do, to make yourself look somewhat presentable with what you have. There is no sleeping in. No speaking out too loudly. No morning television, no private urination. And, if you want to keep your temporary place to sleep at the shelter, no wine on a Saturday night. No one to really talk to about the memories that make you just as much of a real person as any of the rest of us. And while you are at it, please, try to refrain from talking to yourself...because not even you are listening to you anymore. If any of these requirements seem too inconvenient, you're more than welcome to pitch a tent against the icy winds of the east river with the rest.

Its 7:15am on the morning of SuperBowl Sunday. I'm on the M15 bus heading home from the shelter, with a small array of the otherwise invisibles I described earlier. As I pass 41st street going south, I see a lumbering figure with a small briefcase bag. A sight that, like the rest of the invisibles, would rarely catch my eye, even if it wasn't the only moving thing on this deserted Avenue in midtown. This morning though, I turn to catch a glimpse of the face to see if its one of our guys. I try to wave from the bus window, but John doesn't see me with his head down against the wind.

His name is Michael. "You pronounce it Mikah-el." he says. "My sister named me and thats how she used to say it." He's a stout, wide black man with a very well shaped head and closely cropped hair. His eyes are liquid and his skin shows only a few craggy marks of homelessness. A finely-shaped nose and a clean blue collared shirt. The most marked underbite I think Ive ever seen, with thin narrow teeth that are at least one whole tooth's length away from one another. But however Barracuda-esque that whole rig might sound, there's something rather pleasant about him. His eyes arent angry like many are. His mannerisms are far more open in nature than the rest. Strangely, homelessness hasnt seemed to turn him in on himself...yet. And he genuinely seems to like simple conversation. I guess you cant talk like that about usual stuff with some of the guys at the shelter. Because homeless life, well, isnt that usual.

Seeing three of us drinking orange juice at the table --two of us volunteers and one of the other guys who was feeling remotely social--he sidles over and slides in to the cafeteria bench. He's open-faced at the prospect of conversation, even with some spoiled rotten overnight volunteers here to work off some unspoken catholic guilt and then go back to their beds in the morning to sleep it off. He smiles with his his barracuda teeth and says nothing. I try to sip my orange juice but scoot it away when I notice the smell of feet that is filling the room from the already sleeping men around us. We are talking about South Florida. One of the guys, a small, thin guy with scarred skin, a bald spot and a big black handebar mustache, is talking excitedly about his time in the everglades and all the reptiles they would pull out of hte boat's engine when they docked after a boat ride. I am making a face and expressing my distaste for the creatures. I start to tell a story about the rattlesnakes in Colorado but realize before I get too far that the handebar mustache guy (I never caught his name) wants desparately to tell another story. I fall silent and go back to showing the utmost interest. He has long, thin, pale hands that shake violently as he holds his juice and they shake even more now as he waves them in the air in the midst of the next story.
Mikah-el listens pleasantly with his bottom teeth out and his head to the side. Then he opens his mouth and says in a barrio-thick, Southern accent "When I was a boy in North Carolina, grow'n' up near the border," his pleasant expression deepens as his mind revisits the memory, "Y' ever heard of a mulberry tree?" We all nod our heads, picturing this man as a young kid in the hot, wet woods and fields of the Carolinas, running under the big furry canopy of the swaying mulberry trees. "Big ole trees they are. My Daddy used to take our hunting rifle and..."as he says this he points an arm out as if to aim and closes one eye "and shoot snakes right out of the trees. One, two, three just like that." We are all quiet as he continues, "When I got old enough he took me out and showed me how to use the rifle, how to hold it. It was too big for me 'course and I couldnt never go huntin' with him or nothin. He was dead before I was big enough and my older brother never wanted to teach me to hunt any big game. So I just used to bird hunt with this ole bbgun we had, you know, but there aint enough meet on those things to feed nobody. Anyways, I still tried to practice with that rifle, tryin to shoot them snakes out of the tree branches like Daddy usedta. One, two, three just like that. Never got too many of 'em."
Pause and he's back from his memory to look around that we were all listening. "One day I was out in the field with a sickle, you know cuttin the weeds back, back and forth" he makes a sweeping motion accross his body, turning his wrist at each turn of direction, "And I suddenly saw this big ole rattlesnake coiled up in the weeds. I didn't even think, I just hacked at its head with my sickle, you know how they say to be sure to get the head off first, just cuttin at it like crazy. Maybe it was a'ready to strike, you know, but it made me think o'it when you said" (nodding to handlebar and referring to a little known fact that he had asserted earlier) "that rattlers could strike the length o their body. That sucker was, you know, like right there gettin' ready to strike.I woulda been, well..." With that, he takes a bite and munches on a piece of bread with a slice of American cheese from his styrafoam plate, his eyes still bright and lilting around at us.

After finishing a discussion on hunting, through which I keep my tummy turning disapproval to myself, we move on to gun and carrying laws in different states. My fellow volunteer, Dave, from upstate new york metions that new york just passed a law that you had to conceal your weapon if you wanted to carry it - that its illegal to have it in a visible holster. "Now whys that?" asks Mikah-el. "Im guessing that they judged it too provoking to have it showing" I say matter of factly as I tend to do when Im bullshitting about a subject of great interest. "Oh, yes yes, of course." He responds thoughtfully. Dave and handebar are now off on a heated discussion of gun laws and rights and the like, and, feeling that the conversation was getting too close to gun-toting self reichiousness for my taste, I feel it time to interject a small point of likely disonance. Mikah-el encourages me on without knowing it through his wholly-interested, genuine look of non-judgement. "Well I know that in Colorado, where I'm from, there was a big fuss about concealed weapons and liscence laws after Colombine." Mikah-el looks concerned in a childlike way at the mention of the massacre. "They blame the guns but they dont blame the parents" retorts Dave without looking at me. "Well I think you can probably blame both, dont you think? I mean with nearly 20 kids dead, I dont think anyone in our state would have been satisfied to blame upbringing alone and leave accesibility to guns as it stood before the shooting." Handlebar looks mystified and Mikah-el nods open-eyed. Dave ruffles, "well when your kids walk around looking like goths and dress
I know Im becoming heated when my nose starts to tingle from the rush of blood (I always blush when Im angry). But, given that I am sleeping here tonight on a cot with 16 of these guys, I verbally withold the hot reprimand I was giving him in my head and from announcing that I too dressed like a goth at some point in high school out of the pure pain of not being accepted. More precisely, it would have come out like "Well I used to dress like that, and you are definately right, because I personally have shot a lot of people as well." Instead, I say "More than that, no one factor could be an isolated incident, especially considering how alone those kids must have felt. I think the moral of the story is just be nice to everyone." I force a laugh and look around for the judgement I feel sure is already in their faces. I see it in Dave's but mere thoughtfulness in those of the other two, which, as two men of the street, suprises me. "It was a cry for help" murmurs Mikah-el, almost inaudibly with his eyes on his sanwhich plate. "Just havin' some'ne list'n, I guess." There is a momentary silence among us. Looking at these two guys holding their styrafoam cups and staring down in thought at a cafeteria table in the basement of a church turned into an overnight shelter in the cold winter months who are now silently thinking about those two guys at Colombine and everyone they hurt, my anger at Dave disappates and looks stupid next to a subject of this importance. Loneliness. Isolation. Underestimation. Neglect. I know they get it like a slamming door.

Dave takes his plate and starts in on clearing the table. I lean forward "You know what I think? I think that everyone that does something horrible to others, every act of violence or mean or terrible thing someone does, I think that if you look back you will always find that someone has been mean to them. Its like a chain, you know? Nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Sometimes it might just be hard to look back far enough into someone's know?" They both nod. Mikah-el sits back in his chair with a heartfelt, gentle look on his face and looks at me forlornly. Handlebar's hands go on trembling as he weaves his fingers together in front of him on the table.
I continue. "Most people that do bad things are, well, really..." I pause. "Hurting." says Handlebar.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Clocking in.

It’s a slow sunrise over New York. A very dirty, acidic sunrise backlit by early morning winter clouds. I’m one of the first few to make it to the office. There is work to be done today. Meetings to attend this morning. Deliverables to be attended to this afternoon. Action items on a notepad next to handdrawn checkboxes. My sleeves smell of hand-me-down clothes and canned fruit from the shelter that I couldn’t hand out quite fast enough at 6am this morning. I fold my powdered sweatshirt and twist up my hair so that you’d really think I belong here in my office. At my job. ‘I have a job’ I tell myself in the mirror and immediately feel grateful. For a moment I feel a wave of strangeness, something near guilt, first kind of like I’m cheating on my job by helping to feel those who don’t have one and then as if I’m cheating on them by having one. Either way, I take these first few minutes of the morning to run my cold hands under the cold water. Wake up and move to the next chapter. Next chapter of your day. Next chapter of your life. Next chapter of you, when no two are ever the same and someone keeps putting twists in the plot. Here in my cubicle slowly applying hand lotion and watching the manhattan skyline open its blinds for eyes, I feel as though I’m reading it in third person. Just for a moment. And I…love…everything about the silence. Here where I can hear my heart make jokes on the corner of my 20’s as it waits for the next “walk” signal. There’s only a few minutes to dilly dally. A few minutes to fill my teacup, wash my hands. A few minutes of clear, uninterrupted writing up here where the air is clear and behind glass to reflect and get settled in my own life. I dream of someday finding true independence…which might actually be the realization that I am completely dependent on the entire world at large. On a grueling New York city Tuesday morning in winter right around rush hour with less than a few hours sleep for any of us on the subway cars, you can be sure that this heart ain’t tired yet. The lights are coming on in offices. I can hear the printers warming up on the morning’s first expense reports. Nobody has asked me any questions yet but I’m waiting in peace until the first one comes. I’m finished with my tea and feel soothed by the light of my screen and the unopened documents. Just two more seconds more and I’ll be ready to start.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A little bita loan, a whole lotta love

Spent a fantastic Saturday night, frigid and blowing as only new york (well, ok maybe Canada too) can make 'em, in good company at a fundraiser with's new New York chapter. If you haven't checked out Kiva yet, do so...they are the most interesting thing going this side of the Atlantic...and the other side...too....
Person to person, intention to impact, concept to community, these guys actually know the world well enough to change it. Microfinance is as popular as faux leather leggings these days - but for good reason. The smallest loans are making the biggest of impacts on the lives of entrepreneurs everywhere - and their communities follow in their wake. Anyway, I felt they deserved recognition on these pages for attempting the impossible - putting third world development in the hands of...the third world. After all, compared to most charities and international causes, a microloan is imply gift with high expectations. Anyway, worth checking out.
Peace out (and I mean that)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Marketing: Are you Feelin' It?

I started in marketing because I needed some way to fund who I was, or who I thought I was. Back then it was something to bide my time until I ended up on Oprah. Something that made you dress up for work, write on whiteboards and watch your language. Something that meant charts and graphs and my address next to a customer ID along with all the different kinds of hair products I'd ever bought. Something that meant a lot of bad coffee, conference calls where you never said anything after announcing yourself, and words like 'investment' and "return" written all over your soul, and on the backs of peeled off soft drink labels. This is what I pictured when I first got my own direct line and I was determined to resist the slide shows of death. Of course I was partly right, but most of the way wrong.
Because marketing is all about little post-college, secretly-insecure, intellectually-impetuous brats like I was. Its also about working mothers with kids they love more than their jobs. And bridge-playing retirees from Arizona. You get the idea…
What I finally got after a little time doing it was that I wasnt to be warping myself to please marketing. Marketing should be warping itself to be me. To know me, to meet me in the middle, wake me up at night with new ideas and give me the products that helped me act myself out. Me and everyone else in the world working a 9 to 5 who really wanted more – from themselves, from their lives, from their spouses, from their time.

Now. Marketing has done a great job. I own jeans that cut off the circulation to my thighs that I fit into by eating food without MSG precisely when my blackberry tells me to eat it. Honey, Im a walking loyalty indicator. A living, breathing consumer behavior statistic that matches up perfectly with my value set, as well as the spending trends in my target demographic (x axis) cross referenced with my metro area(y axis). So if Im so predictable (and in general, I am) along with a large majority of the rest of the country, then why haven't marketers found a better way to influence my behavior around a what most of us humans actually do care about (which is more than you can say about hair color)…each other.
We've heard of corporate social responsibility and most of us own a red product- but what I'm missing here is the feeling of knowing and being connected directly to another person whose day or entire life is a little bit better because I decided to do business with this company. Take that GAP. For those of us who dont get out to volunteer much, this (and the spiced eggnog) is the familiar feeling that makes the christmas season so great. Once again, you can thank holiday season marketers for helping to encourage us to look at each other a differently during the month of December. With just a little more compassion. A little more benefit of the doubt. A little more, oh I dont know, just general good will. But it’s hard to have good will toward an improper noun. Where are the people here? And if you have so much of yours and my money to give them, why can’t I talk to them?

Excuse me Apple, but when I bought my red ipod I did not hear any songs written by AIDs survivors in Botswana. When I get my coffee I dont get a postcard from the free trade coffee farmers - I dont see them on my coffee cup -- nor do I see the animals in the rainforests who would be saved per year if Starbucks would make its cups recyclable! If marketers want to influence my decisions, start with me ("check”, says Apple), then someone who I might want to help. And if you really want my repeat business, brand loyalty and twitter references, then somehow make feel actually connected to them in a more tangible way. In the world of Web 2.10 and beyond, we must be able to connect people better than we used to. Even in countries with limited web access and completely different lives. Surely there must be something to put a face to the names of all the millions of people I’ve supposedly helped with my product and non-profit investments.
People care about people. And to care about people you have to know about them, and a little more than their statistics. I cant wait for the day when you can give a $30 microloan online (thank you, have the whole of it go directly and traceably to a microentrepreneur who updates me on her progress via facebook. Impossible you say? What if the operational costs were covered by a big brand’s marketing department in exchange for my loyalty and the internet access was hosted by a Microsoft CSR social media site. Naïve? Probably. But oh the possibilities!
I will say this (and get back to work). If there was a brand or product out there that allowed me to do just that, I would buy it, tell me friends about it, and wear it’s T-shirt under a sport coat with pearls. I realize Im not everyone. But almost everyone can relate to that good feeling of having meaning in someone else's life. A product can help you do that through its own basic function (think Johnson & Johnson), but a brand can help you do that beyond what their selling and more toward what you're buying. Now that the internet has stripped advertisers of their mass marketing monarchies by educating the consumer like never before on just products themselves, what exactly are you buying these days? Products or promises? I choose promises and I expect you, big brands of the world, to keep them. If you want to know how, just give me a call or a job. I reckon that we, the consumers of the world are willing. And the world is waiting.