Apartment 53

Apartment 53 was my first apartment in NYC where I lived on my own, and thus, where I really think of my life as a Manhattan woman beginning. I've always been fascinated by NYC apartments. Giant buildings filled with people, each with their own story. Windows everywhere. And I always wonder: what's behind them? What do people see when they look in from the outside? What is the real story of the person who lives behind that glass? This is my blog. A real story from a Manhattan apartment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Absentee Ballot

I have been out of the blogosphere for so long that I have felt quite a bit of pressure on my next post. I will explain this to my fan: I sprained my wrist. It was dreadful. My new man took me snowboarding, and after a lesson where I linked turns and got cocky, I fell backwards (wrist guards were in my locker,) and pulled all of the ligaments in my right hand. So, I couldn't type.

That said, I feel like I need to ease back in to things, so I will say this:
"American Idol" is back on the air, and I feel like the world is just how it should be. However, Simon (as much as I love him,) uses the word "cabaret" way too often. He uses it to compare certain singers who are, say, ordinary, or over-dramatic, or theatrical, or who use too much verbrato, to singers who are ordinary, over-dramatic, and who use way too much verbrato and who are often found in downtown NY or LA clubs or on cruise ships for people over 80 who can't hear very well anyway.

That's all.

I'll be back soon.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Simple Plan

The other day, a friend of mine asked me a seemingly simple question. One that I would imagine for most people, would be rather easy to answer. The question was not meant to be thought-provoking, prying, or even remotely blog-worthy. It was one I’ve been asked and have answered many times in the past in some variation or another. But this particular question, at this particular time in my particular life, has awakened a sleeping fear in me that I have resisted facing for some time now.

He asked me about my five-year plan.

Five years ago I would have had an obvious answer to this question. I’d have wanted to be married, for sure. Maybe have a baby or two. A lucrative career, of course, and the fulfilling charity work on the side would just be gravy.

Piece of cake.

The thing is, I have none of the things now that I thought I would have five years ago. No husband – not even a promising prospect. I have no children. And honestly, sometimes I even question whether or not they are even a possibility at this point. Not because I don't want them... But because I don't know if I have a life that would be good for them. A career? Yes, but one that is prone to peaks and valleys financially. And volunteer work? Very, very little. I am also none of the things now I thought I would be five years ago: settled, content, emotionally committed...

Have I failed myself from five years ago? Will I fail myself again five years from now?

What I didn’t count on when I was younger, back when I had big dreams and made big proclamations and expected big things of myself, was how many external factors there were that could take me off my course. In work, a boss that stunted my growth. In love, a man who didn’t love me for who I really was. In life, there is illness and pain and worse, but also just plain old rainy days that mean pushing a trip to the supermarket to the following week. In life, there is also laughter and lust and days that are so bright and warm and wonderful that to enjoy them and the brilliance they bring is really the only thing you can do at the moment, thus pushing you off course once again.

When I was a teenager, my mother would constantly remind me that life was a series of forks in the road symbolizing our choices. Depending on which fork I chose at that moment, that decision and the road it brought me down, would then lead me to another fork in the road. And that one, of course, would be much different than the fork I would have encountered had I made a different choice originally, and so on, and so on. And this is what life is, she would say. A constantly changing map of forks that you determine by the choices you make.

I hesitated when I had to answer him, my friend who asked me this question about my five-year plan. What I have learned in the past five years since the last time I thought I knew the answer, is that perhaps the worst thing I can do for myself is plan. Because when you spend so much time planning for a life that you expect to live, I’ve realized how disappointing it can be when it doesn’t actually happen. And because of all of the plans that never came to fruition, the reality of what actually has occurred is somehow slighted in the end.

I am a person who thrives on the unexpected moments that arise day to day. An old friend I see on the street because I’ve chosen to walk home instead of taking the subway. A last-minute trip or visit from someone I love because a job that I had been counting on just happened to fall through. I love the prospect of laughing unabashedly on a day that I thought would just be a bore. Or the idea of jetting off to someplace sunny on a day that I thought I would be covered in blankets to stay warm. These are the things that make the unplanned so special. I love that I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or next week, or five years from now. I love that I don’t have control over it, and I love that I finally realize that. My life is mine to live. And the fork that I will choose today and likely tomorrow and the day after that will be to live wholly and with passion and with conviction and expect that everything is going to work out the way it’s supposed to.

My five-year plan is nothing if not a bit ambiguous and ambitious too. In five years I want to be loved. I want to still be excited by the idea of the unexpected. I want to be supported and give support. I want to feel deeper and live wiser than ever before. I want to have traveled to many places and met many people and learned many things I don’t know now. I want to have read many books and given many hugs. I want to have learned from the mistakes that I will inevitably make and heal from the pain that I will inevitably encounter. I want my loved-ones safe and happy. I want my work to be satisfying and I want my body to look great. I want to be more beautiful than ever before, but mostly on the inside. I want to be stronger. I want to be able, in five years, to look back on that span of time, from the moment I am writing this to the moment I remember that I did, to be able to smile at the accomplishments I’ve made and realize how lucky I am. I can’t wait for the next five years. The opportunities they will hold, the joy they will bring, and the clarity they will provide. I will live passionately and love without shame. I will work hard and relish in the unexpected obstacles that are mine to conquer. My plan is very simple, really. To cherish the small surprises and little lessons life brings us, since we never know when it will end. My plan is to live my life as it comes, instead of planning it too far ahead.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Few of My Favorite Things (Part Deux)

1. "Hey Ya" by Obadiah Parker - a new take on a not-so-classic, but very recognizable song

2. A great kiss

3. "Brothers and Sisters" - Sally Field deserved every ounce of that Emmy

4. Essie's nail color Wicked (because I'm not)

5. When a man sees me home safely

6. Hearing my mom's voice in a message

7. Colleagues who tell you what a good job you've done (especially when you have)

8. Nights that bring you clarity in the future

9. Giving a gift for no particular reason

10. My "street" jewels. I always get compliments and not one piece has cost me more than ten bucks.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My Best Friend's Wedding

I spent last weekend in the town where I grew up – a town I have not visited for years. The weather was beautiful, the memories plentiful, and the occasion: wonderful. My best friend of 27 years was getting married. My friend who is like the shrink I don’t pay, the idol I actually get to talk to, the sister I chose. This woman who I adore with every ounce of myself, with whom I have shared every piece of myself, who has been in my life for longer than everyone in my life except for my mother, was becoming a wife.

I met my best friend, V, when we were five years-old. She had just moved with her family from Manhattan to the ‘burbs mid-school-year so I was assigned to be her kindergarten tour guide. After we covered the basics, (sandbox, cubbies, see-saw, finger paints,) we were thick as thieves. V with her long brown locks, me with my pre-pubescent, home-styled bob – both of us with our honest, unapologetic giggles and hearts open to a friendship we had no idea would continue to grow and grow and grow in all of the years to come.

V’s parents would become like second parents to me. They celebrated our graduation from eighth grade by giving me a beautiful gold bracelet which I still keep in my jewelry box. V and I created songs in her mom’s home recording studio. We made up tunes about the bullies at school, boys we had crushes on, and dreams of conquering the stage. Some days we left the studio and went sledding or swimming, and we had countless gossip sessions at our countless sleep-overs where the only obstacle we faced was keeping our younger, then annoying siblings away from us.

In college, V studied her first love: music. Though we went to universities just a few miles apart, our worlds were very different and so we didn't spend much time together. Her friends were aspiring artists, and mine were aspiring attorneys. I learned how to straighten my hair while V learned to color hers with hues found in a big box of crayons. I dated frat boys and V dated actors. While I was in American History, V was probably learning to speak with a German accent. And though our lives had become very different, when it came time to drive back home to the town where we had grown up, the town where our friendship began, we spent four hours in the car unable to stop talking. No matter how different we seemed to be, with V and me, nothing much ever changed. Always we were each other's chosen sister, biggest fan, most trusted advisor. Always.

V became a professional musician, and one of my favorites. Her work can be found on my iPod and on the tip of my tongue at all times. Her shows at bars in New York City were some of my favorite outings in my twenties. I was so proud, out there in the audience, watching V strum her guitar and sing her poetry. My girl was living her dream. And as the years slipped by and the likelihood of her becoming a rock star did too, V did what most people never have the courage to do. She continued to live her passion. Writing. Creating. Singing. Inspiring.

V is one of the most special people I know. She is all at once perky and calming; sentimental and practical; emotional and rational; complex and easy to please. She is talented in ways that far exceed her musicality. V has an infectious giggle, an intentionally mischievous glance, a smile that makes everyone else smile. She talks avidly with her hands and carefully selects the words that she says to describe how she feels. She's goofy in ways that only fellow goof balls really appreciate - and luckily she surrounds herself with lots of those. V makes the most of days and can usually find a way to make herself laugh so hard she has tears streaming down her face. She has a way with people - almost anyone - where she makes them feel special and loved. She feels the weight of her friends' pain and goes to great lengths to see them out of it. She is what a lot of us are: a sister, a daughter, a girlfriend, a profesional... But V is all of those things one hundred percent, and manages to still give everything else one hundred percent too. I have never questioned where I've stood in V's life - she's never made me do that. She believes in telling people what she feels when she feels it. She'll call me from three thousand miles away at ten-thirty in the morning just to tell me that she loves having me in her life.

About five years ago V met a man. She was on a trip to Los Angeles and she met a man and when she came home she was madly in love. Soon he moved to New York, and soon after that they moved in together. I came to know this man she loved over beers in dark dives and when I slept on their couch while I went through a break-up of my own. And soon, I loved him too. It was impossible not to. He made my V so happy. Their love was gripping and enviable. It was built on things that are real like friendship, respect, support, and true passion – things that are next to impossible to find all wrapped up in just one partner. To be around them was to be around story-book love except that it lacked all of the superficial lust and instead included the real-life complications of real-life love. And a few months ago, this perfect man for his perfect girl popped the perfect question. And her reply was perfectly obvious.

Last weekend, V emerged from the woods in the backyard of her parents’ home. Her father led her down a tree-lined path toward the man that she has loved for so long and who she will love for an eternity. Her already beautiful face glowed. She had wildflowers tucked in to her hair, and she wore a long, white dress that flowed elegantly and proudly while she moved. Then she stopped beside her beloved and promised to be strong and honorable and loving for the rest of her days. And then he promised the same, and then they were husband and wife. We spent the night celebrating this union at a party, a wonderful party, I will note, that V planned almost entirely by herself. We danced and drank and ate and toasted and joked. We caught up with old friends and made new ones. We reminisced about high school parties and fights with parents and teachers we loved and classmates we couldn’t stand. It was the atmosphere of a typical party. But to be there, in the presence of love so real and lasting and profound, you have to realize that there was nothing typical about it at all.

V and I will probably never ride a sled together again. We’ll likely never write another silly song or be stuck in another monsoon on our way to Vermont. We’ll probably never choreograph another dance competition for her brother to judge and we’ll likely never have to sneak phone calls because one of us has been grounded. Those things are all in the past: memories to be cherished and told to our children one day when we are still best friends but have kids who need more attention than one another. So many chapters of V and me have been closed, but now V’s most amazing chapter has begun. I can’t wait to continue to be moved by her love and her life. And she knows that while my role now is a little different, a little smaller, I am always by her side.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Daydream Believer

For those of you who know me, you know that it was always my dream to become an accomplished actress. I grew up reading “Bop” and “Tiger Beat,” so by “accomplished actress” I mean the blonde equivalent of Alyssa Milano or Tracy Gold. The talents of Meryl Streep or Glenn Close were far too unattainable for me to relate. I just wanted a little sitcom with a cute, male costar, a terrific 80’s wardrobe consisting of hats, leggings, and ornate belts; and a house in San Fernando Valley, which is where I believe “Big Bopper” told me Mackenzie Astin lived. Is that too much for a girl from the suburbs of New York City to ask?

I demanded that my mother (along with her master’s degree,) move with me to LA so that I could make us all rich. As you can imagine, she refused, and as usual, I slammed my door. I still don’t understand why she didn’t give in.

As I grew older, my once ballsy performances grew timid. While at one point in my life I would embrace the stage, as I aged the very idea of it made my knees quiver. I lost confidence. I lost talent. I FROZE. I wasn’t an actress. I was a phony. And the worst kind: the kind that just wanted to be able to say that I was an actress, that I was living the dream, that my house in the Valley and my belt collection were f’ing killer. Not actually the kind that wanted to work hard to get there, get over my stage fright, and show my tits to millions of people because the character would actually be showing her tits.

I am now in my thirties, (early thirties). I’ve been told time and time again by casting agents that I’m “commercial,” so I finally decided to do something about it. And now, I go to castings. This afternoon I sat in a waiting room where my agent sent me that was filled with fifty other girls who looked like me. Some were a lot prettier, some, notsomuch. We were all there vying for a print ad for a pharmaceutical company. The ad called for us to be riding a bicycle. When my name was called and I entered the casting room, there was no bike. Instead, I had to perch myself up on a stool, lift my ass and position my wrists on a metal easel posing as handlebars that would have easily given way had I been three and a half pounds heavier. I tried to channel Diana Morales from “A Chorus Line” (“Every day for a week we would try to feel the motion, feeee-eeel the motion.. DOWN the hill…”) But I pretty much think I just looked like a fool with her ass in the air and her scrawny arms leaning on a goddamned easel. I mean, I tried to feel the pedals under my feet, the wind in my hair, the desire to run someone over on the street or beat Lance Armstrong's record, but Method has never really been my thing…

I left the go-see giggling. I couldn’t help it. I had just sat in a waiting room filled with fifty people who were dressed like they should be at the start line for the IronMan and instead we were all just… you know… sitting. And I realized: there’s something sorta silly about acting, isn’t there? I mean, why pretend to be riding a bike when you can, in this great, free country, actually ride a bike? So, I left the call in my workout clothes and I headed for the gym which is where my workout clothes actually belong. (And since I live in Manhattan, I don’t have room for an actual bike in my apartment – let’s not get crazy, here).

In hindsight, I’m glad that my mother didn’t condone my mission to become a child star (though I know I would have avoided drugs and sleazy directors and instead would have just made an absolute fortune and obtained a degree from Harvard along with an Oscar before I even had my first period). I look at people like Britney, Lindsay, and Macauley, and I just want to give each of them a big hug. Poor things were just commodities to their parents – feeding their families before they could even spell. I wait for people like Dakota to fuck up royally and I just want to call up her parents and tell them to take her out of Oprah productions and put her back in the sixth grade where she should be feeling anxiety about boys, grades, and her looks where she belongs. Why should this child have to worry instead about winding up at the set on time just because a movie studio is shelling out millions to use her name at the box office? That’s no childhood.

Instead, I think they all should have waited like the rest of us dreamers so that dreaming is just that: something that while we can actually taste it, isn’t something that's actually real. That usually the fantasy of what we think we want, is really a helluva lot better than what we actually get.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dear Dad

I miss you.

I need you more now than I thought I ever would. Who is a woman without her daddy, I wonder?

I know that I drove you crazy while you were here. I never studied hard enough, you thought. I made bad choices, you said. My priorities were all "out of whack," you commented... But as I grew older I became more self-assured. And the studying and the choices and the priorities, whether in or out of whack, were part of what made me the woman that I became. And I think that eventually you became very proud.

You were not proud as most fathers are of their daughters because our relationship was quite different, wasn't it?

You were not there to change my diapers or teach me to talk or play Candyland. You were not there to oooh and aaaah over my first words or the first time I smiled or the first time I successfully operated a sit 'n spin. You came in to my life much later when you fell in love with my mother and I was part of the package. And like it or not, you had to love me too. But I think you liked it. I think you did, didn't you?

You didn't have to love me. I had an attitude problem, didn't I? You gave me braces and I didn't want to wear my headgear (that sucked). You sent me to Israel to learn about my Judaism and I spoiled it with a nasty sunburn (also sucked). You sent me to an excellent (and expensive) college and I couldn't wait to get out. But you loved me anyway. Through all of the yelling and door-slamming and grounding, I know you loved me.

You taught me so much and I wish that you were still here. I so wish that you were still here to teach me more. I yearn for your guidance. I feel like I'm spinning around and around and you are the only one who can make me stand still and tell me what to do. I would do anything to hug you once more - to have just one more conversation with you. You were so wise. You saw in people things they did not see in themselves. I was so lucky to have known you... And you were my father!

What a lucky girl I am.


Without you I would not know a lot of things.

I would not know how to parallel park. I would not know that my backhand is better than my forehand, or that the smell of nail polish really bothers some people. I would not know that property taxes sometimes negate the purpose of purchasing the property altogether, or that looking it up in the dictionary really does teach you more than someone just simply telling you the meaning. I wouldn't know that Shabbat dinners are so important to Jewish families, that Grandma's banana cake is sometimes the best medicine, or that caffeine-free diet coke is just as good as the real stuff. Without you I wouldn't know that when there is a bat in the house the smartest thing you can do is walk around with a tennis racket in front of your face, that most of my stories really can be told in five sentences (though I still rarely adhere to this lesson,) and that the Jets really do "stink". Without you I would never know how to spell chrysanthemum because when other families played basketball they got to play Horse. I would never know that Dutch Dancing could be so funny; that soaking it really can cure many things, and that splinters really won't kill me.

Without you, Dad, I would not know about self-respect. Without you I would not know that gentlemen take women they care about to nice places, and pay for dates and only kiss on the cheek after the first date. I would not know that talk is cheap and that actions speak louder than words. Without you I would be listening to words and not looking at actions. Because words are easy and actions are hard, aren't they?

You've been gone for two years now, Dad. Life has changed a lot since you've left us. Mom is getting married! I know that would make you happy - you always wanted Mom to be happy. Brother has another baby - can you believe it? Three girls and they all, as you can imagine, adore him to pieces. Between the three of them, they bear your initials which is incredible since brother and his wife didn't realize it till I pointed it out! Sister lives in California now. She is happy in the sunshine with the man who's loved her since she was a teenager and that makes me happy. She misses home, I think, her friends and our little nieces and some of the family stuff - though the family stuff has not been the same since you've left us. I am not getting married anymore. That ended soon after you and I said goodbye. We weren't right for each other, and you probably knew that, since you knew everything. But I think that you were too sick and too tired to tell me the truth since you knew that just like everything else, I'd fight you on that too. But you would have been right.

So, I am somewhat alone in the world now that Mom is moving on with her life and sister is three thousand miles away and brother has three mouths to feed and three thousand questions a day to answer... And I miss you. I miss you so much sometimes I can hardly stand it. But all I can say is that I am so glad that I had you for the time that I did, though I wish it was longer. I am not superstitious but I swear that sometimes you are here. There was a man in the elevator with us after your funeral. He acted confused and followed us to the apartment. Mom laughed at me but I swear it was you. Always the life of the party - not even wanting to miss out on your own funeral. It was you, wasn't it?!?!?!

I am so happy that you are out of pain. I know that the last few years of your life were hard and dreary and miserable... But I wish you were here. I miss the smell of your cologne and the feel of your hand patting my head because you were never quite sure how to hug me tightly. I miss the texture of your beard on my cheek when I kissed you hello and goodbye, the jokes that you made and the stories that you told hundreds and hundreds of times and yet still managed to stay funny. Mostly I just miss you being here. I miss the security of having a father to run to when things are scary and ugly and mean. I don't like feeling alone in this world and I know that if you were still here I wouldn't feel that way. But... You always knew I was resilient. You knew it when I was just a girl before I knew it myself, and you knew it when you were leaving me. But you knew all along that I could make it. And somewhere you know that I still can... And I will. But I wish that you were here anyway.

Before I lost you, I think that I was far more free with my heart. I loved people who didn't deserve it just because the mood struck, or something. And you always worried about that. But I can promise you this, Dad: I will not love freely anymore. I know what it is now to have loved and lost and I will not love another person in my life who does not earn that devotion. That was what you worried most about when it came to me, the middle of your three children. And I don't want you to have to worry anymore.

I didn't tell you this enough while you were here, and I'm sorry for that. I love you, Dad. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Few of My Favorite Things (Today)

1. "Old School", "Elf", and "Swingers". Every time I watch any of them I find something new to laugh at.

2. Cibar. It's on Irving between 17th and 18th. Don't tell too many people about it because I really don't want it to get more crowded.

3. The song "Sleepwalking" by Angie Stevens. Download it.

4. The Broadway show "Spring Awakenings". If you don't like this show there is something wrong with you.

5. The book "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. You will not be a complete person until you read, absorb, and live this book.

6. The "Open Letter" column of GQ Magazine. It's the last page of the magazine, smart, witty, and wildly hilarious while poking fun of celebrities who have recently made asses of themselves, which of course, is the best kind of celebrity.

7. The smell of my nieces' hair and the sounds of their laughs. I think these will always be on my list.

8. Fancy hotels, beautiful shoes, decadent meals.

9. The board game Taboo. It's genius.

10. Anything Billy Joel. If you disagree with me on this, please don't ever tell me.