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.
Monday, November 22, 2010
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.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
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
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
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
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
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
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
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 Kiva.org), 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.