Friday, October 31, 2008

By The Numbers: You Never Know Edition

It’s often said that romance happens when you least expect it. Over the years, I’ve experienced this phenomenon many times.

From NYC’s overcrowded Lexington Avenue subway line to a summer stint as a receptionist, there’s been no shortage of variety when it comes to how I’ve connected with the opposite sex. Here are some of the standout random connections, By The Numbers:

Number of men who jumped out of a car in traffic to get my number: 1
Number of men encountered on NYC’s #6 subway who asked me out : 2
Number of holiday romances produced by friends’ matchmaking efforts: 2
Number of temp jobs that led to a long-term boyfriend: 1
Number of bridal showers that resulted in being asked out by a groomsman: 1

NYC's Essex Restaurant: The kiss that resulted from a bridal shower brunch at this Lower East Side eatery was one of the most lackluster I’ve ever had

You never know when or where the next romantic encounter is going to happen. As I recover from my recent foot surgery, I’m excited to be one step closer to finding out what Cupid has in store for me.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Girls Night Out At Cilantro

Last night, my good friend Bobbi and I met up for dinner at Southwestern style eatery Cilantro on the Upper East Side.

Cilantro Restaurant: Tasty Southwestern fare in a cozy, laidback setting

We hadn’t seen each other since my foot surgery almost three weeks ago, so we had plenty to catch up on. A physician’s assistant, Bobbi filled me in on her recent Botox class and plans for a Vermont ski share in December. I told her about my business trip to Queensland (home of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef) in January, and about my upcoming date with an Englishman I met online.

As we savored Cilantro’s tasty Mexican fare (seafood paella for Bobbi, skirt steak marinated in Chimichurri sauce with Southwest fries for me), we also talked about current affairs -- from this year’s thisclose presidential election to Madonna’s messy divorce and astonishing lack of a pre-nup – and what it means when a guy isn’t rushing you into sex. I couldn’t help thinking it’s a sign we’ve become too cynical if our first instinct is to assume the worst about a man who takes his time.

The evening ended on a high note, with Bobbi and I laughing about the vagaries of 30-something singlehood, and me feeling thankful for a much-needed night out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Making Room For Romance

The other day, a 60-something neighbor of mine came by to fill me in about her recent reunion in Sweden with a long-distance love from years ago. Though the reunion didn’t turn out as she had hoped, it did confirm one thing.

“I’m tired,” she said, “of being surrounded by women.”

Her epiphany that she is ready to find love again got me to thinking about a subject that’s come up more than once lately – how easy it is to fill up your life so much that there’s no room for romance in it.

Ko Sushi: Delicious Japanese fare, great service and the setting of a recent conversation about singlehood

Over dinner at neighborhood delight Ko Sushi, my friend Lauren rhapsodized about the joys of living alone. In the same vein, one of my cousins recently mentioned how happy she is with her life as a 30-something single, a sentiment I share.

As I told my newly romance-minded neighbor, New York is the ideal place to be an independent woman flying solo. Some of this is because we’re in the majority (I once read somewhere that there are approximately 100,000 more single women in the Big Apple than single men). The rest is because when you live in NYC, with its endless parade of engaging diversions and interesting people, you’re never really alone.

Still, for as much as I’m enjoying my love affair with New York, I can’t help thinking it might be time to start carving out more space for a different kind of long-term relationship. I’m looking forward, once I’m fully recovered from my recent foot surgery, to being on the prowl again -- and to all of the fun that goes along with it here in my hometown.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Adventures In Online Dating

This week, I received an email from a guy responding to my profile on, a networking and dating site for alumni of selected colleges and universities. Having been on a lengthy (i.e. permanent) hiatus from online dating, I couldn’t help thinking about some of my adventures in cyberspace.

Over the years, I’ve cast a pretty wide net on the Net, joining at one time or another half a dozen dating sites. I started off with the ubiquitous, which produced several strange first dates, a year-long relationship with a canine-obsessed New Yorker and emails from interesting characters like this one:

“Im Italian and Cajen. I went to union trade school to become a electricion. I like to read the daily news in the bathroom.”

From the often-grammatically challenged men on, I moved onto, billed as the site for marriage-minded singles and known for cloying TV ads featuring couples embracing to Natalie Cole’s “Everlasting love.” Everlasting is the best way to describe eHarmony’s time-consuming setup.

After you fill out a lengthy personal questionnaire, eHarmony selects matches for you. Before you can email a prospective match, the site requires you to go through a four-step guided communication process. My three-month membership netted me one lackluster date.

I enjoyed a better return on my investment with The Right Stuff, a site for Ivy League grads. I connected with several intelligent, interesting guys and appreciated the site’s etiquette policy, which mandates that you send a polite thanks but no thanks when rejecting a member you're not interested in. I gladly said yes when a 40-something entrepreneur invited me out for drinks at Town restaurant inside the trendy Chambers Hotel.

Town at the Chambers Hotel: A great rendez-vous spot for a first date

Both the conversation and the cocktails flowed as my nattily dressed date and I discovered we were both oenophiles. Not long after our evening at Town, he emailed me and suggested we do a private wine tasting together -- in his apartment. Thanks but no thanks.

As for my new friend from, we graduated swiftly from email to an engaging phone conversation last night. Who knows? Maybe it’s time to give the online dating marketplace another look.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Thirteen

My junior year in London brought with it the opportunity to explore a lot more than just England’s capital. Having been preceded by two years at Mount Holyoke College, my stint abroad was a welcome chance to experience life in a very co-ed setting, Commonwealth Hall.

London's Commonwealth Hall: A 2-to-1 guy-girl ratio made for an eventful year at this college dorm

New love and California native Mark (a.k.a. Sparky) captured my heart during a memorable week together in April. Though I was sad to say goodbye to him -- not knowing when our next encounter would be -- I didn’t let that interfere with enjoying my final weeks in Londontown and reconnecting with some previous suitors of the local variety. I now Open The Vault and take you back to June of 1994….

London, England
Commonwealth Hall

June 10th, 1994

Dear Diary,

As usual on the night of a Commie Hall party, the bar was packed. Still, the party itself (in the cafeteria) was pretty dead, so I decided to go upstairs and bond with Carine for a little while. We lamented our single status and mutual desire to have a fling.

We both decided that Stuart would be my best prospect, so Carine and I went down to Eddie’s room and sure enough, Stuart was there. He greeted me with a big hug and kiss.

“You’re looking very shwingsome tonight,” he said as we left Eddie’s room together arm in arm.

I don’t know if it was because we hadn’t seen each other in a month, but Stuart was noticeably interested in me. Still, I wanted to make sure he knew I had more than platonic bonding in mind…without throwing myself at him. A woman has to plan her strategy carefully in situations like this…

At the party, Stuart and I danced a lot, inching closer and closer to each other with every song. During a breather at the bar, he murmured--

“I have a proposition for you.”

He paused intentionally before adding that he was referring to a possible visit from him once I was back in New York. He asked if I was disappointed he wasn’t referring to another kind of proposition, and I wondered if perhaps I was being a little too obvious. When he squeezed my lower back with both hands, I knew I had nothing to worry about…

* * *

There was a nice bit of symmetry to my reprise with Stuart. We had gone out a few times during first semester then decided to be just friends when one of his friends emerged as competition for my affections. Little did I know that, before my final week in London was over, I would also get reacquainted with the first man to turn my head in England’s capital.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Afternoon In The Park

One of the best things about living in New York is discovering a part of the city you’ve never experienced before. Today, thanks to my good friend Tiffany, I enjoyed my first visit to Central Park’s northern section.

Taking advantage of the crisp autumn weather, we headed up to 106th Street. Along the way, we spotted a film crew shooting a car scene for HBO’s upcoming pilot “How To Make It In America.”

After catching a glimpse of the sunflowers in full bloom at Central Park’s Conservatory Garden, Tiff and I made our way into the park and ended up stumbling onto a Halloween party for kids that featured music provided by Natalia Paruz, a.k.a “The Saw Lady,” whose unique repertoire also includes English handbells and the glass harp.

NYC's Central Park: Autumn splendor at its best

As we took in the fall foliage and passersby of all ages, we were in awe of the park’s bucolic charm. Like Tiffany said, it almost makes you forget you’re in the city. And it reminds you of another great thing about NYC -- the quiet respites from the hustle and bustle to be found without venturing too far from your own zip code.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Great SATC Debate

Last night, my good friend Tiffany and I took part in the recession trend of dining down and enjoyed a low-key dinner at Texas Rotisserie & Grill on the Upper East Side.

Having stayed close to home since my recent foot surgery, it was a treat to venture out for some comfort food -- and to enjoy BBQ ribs with whipped sweet potato and creamed spinach for the cost of a pricey NYC cocktail ($15).

Over dinner, Tiff and I talked about the mixed blessings of revisiting old flames, the entertainment value of “Gray’s Anatomy” and other soap opera-type shows and the major girls night out we’re going to have once I’m off crutches and back on both feet again.

We also ended up on the subject of “Sex and the City” and the question of whether Carrie should have forgiven Big for getting cold feet on their wedding day. Disappointed in the movie’s fairy tale ending, Tiff said she would’ve preferred to see Carrie make a fresh start with someone new, that it stretched credulity to have her forgive Big for bailing on her yet again.

SATC’s Carrie and Big: Was it plausible that she forgave him
for standing her up at the altar?

Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I admitted I was able to buy into the Cinderella storyline because Big came back after leaving Carrie stranded. Then again, I find it easier to make allowances for fictionalized characters who embody all-too-familiar commitment issues, especially when they're in the guise of Chris Noth.

One thing Tiff and I both agreed on, there probably won’t ever be a show like SATC again (sorry, “Lipstick Jungle”). Tiff has given me yet another reason to love SATC. We met a couple of months ago when I overheard her in my lobby talking about the movie.

When I’m done hobbling around, I’m looking forward to toasting our fabulous friendship -- maybe with a few cosmos in honor of the fab four who led us to each other.

Friday, October 24, 2008

By The Numbers: Letting Go Edition

Having been through seven serious relationships, I’m no stranger to the roller coaster ride of breaking up. While no two breakups are alike, all have one thing in common -- the joy that accompanies letting go of the past and moving on.

I’ve found that moving on from a relationship is a process that happens in stages. Given the time it takes to carve out room in your life for someone special, it makes sense that it’s a process to reconfigure the space created by his exit.

From my shorter romances (4-6 months) to my one-year+ entanglements with the opposite sex, I’ve experienced time and again the exhilaration of leaving a relationship comfortably in the past. Here are some of my moving on milestones -- By The Numbers:

Average number of breakups per boyfriend before final split: 2
Number of exes with whom I managed to make the lengthy transition to being just friends: 4
Number of exes with whom I’m still friendly: 1
Number of meals spent celebrating my ex’s nuptials and dodging the bullet of Mr. Wrong: 1

Boqueria Restaurant: Sublime tapas and a great place to toast
escaping Mr. Wrong

Number of years it took me to part with jewelry from my first love: 3
Number of years it took to discard many of his cards and letters: 10

One of my favorite post-relationship books, The Breakup Repair Kit, advises having a ceremonial bonfire of ex-boyfriend mementos. I’ve opted instead to hold onto some souvenirs of the past. Partly because I’m a packrat and partly because even when Mr. Right For Now turns out be Mr. Wrong, it’s good to have tangible reminders that love is always worth the gamble.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Outrageous First Dates: Verse Five

When I think about outrageous first dates, I invariably recall previous blind dates -- particularly the ones I’ve experienced which made me think the matchmaker was, in fact, blind.

Like well-meaning family friend Dorothy who set me up with her stepson. Dorothy said she was baffled by the fact that he was still single and I looked forward to meeting what sounded like a very eligible bachelor.

I had a feeling rumors of his charm were greatly exaggerated when he showed up to meet me wearing an old sweatshirt and thick gold chain. Call me crazy but appearance matters, especially on a first date.

Merchant's East: Trendy restaurant and lounge and site of an outrageous blind date

Over drinks at Merchant’s on the Upper East Side, Mr. Eligible proceeded to share his pet peeves about, well, everything, including life in New York. I couldn’t decide what was more unattractive, his attire or his attitude.

For my friend Louise, too much information took on a whole new meaning when a date casually mentioned he was a fan of erotic asphyxiation. He also revealed that he likes to choke sexual partners in the throes of passion without asking them first if they share his proclivity for it.

Talk about leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

Cleveland native Julie had her own brush with outrageous behavior on her first and only date with a guy she met online.

Boasting that he had a great coupon for the restaurant they went to, he instructed Julie on what she was allowed to order.

“He was very into it, trying to make sure that there was absolutely no expense for my meal,” she says. “I thought - jeez, I can pay for it if it's that big a deal.”

After dinner, Julie’s date shifted his attention from saving money to saving her soul. During the drive to a nearby watering hole, he put his hand on hers and asked if he could pray for her, saying aloud “God, bless this woman. She is young and in need of your guidance."

He then presented Julie with a CD of Christian music -- and a few other parting gifts.

“He pulled out his coupon book and started asking me, ‘would you use this Taco Bell coupon?’ ‘Do you eat at Arby's?’ and tearing out individual coupons and handing them to me,” she says. “He must have gone through the entire book before I finally pulled away.”

Which just proves that fast food, even under the guise of thriftiness, isn’t exactly first date fare. And that, when it comes to outrageous first dates, truth really is stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Twelve

When it comes to relationships, the honeymoon period always seems to race by in a heartbeat. The same could be said of my week in London with California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky).

Our whirlwind week in England’s capital took us on quite a journey. We shared giggles in the Whispering Gallery of St. Paul’s Cathedral, tears at “Phantom of The Opera” and countless kisses in Trafalgar Square. We laughed at our mutual affinity for the 80’s film flop “Xanadu” (Sparky worked on the movie, I loved the unabashed cheesiness of it). And, as his departure approached, we shared our thoughts about the future.

I now Open The Vault and take you back once again to the spring of 1994...

London, England
Commonwealth Hall

May 3, 1994

Dear Diary,

Our final day together began with a quick bite at McDonald’s on Charing Cross. I became weepy thinking about Sparky’s departure and our obstacle-laden circumstances. It was a subject we would return to that night.

We strolled over to Leicester Square. Sparky pulled me into a passionate kiss. I was beginning to wonder if we were overdoing it on the PDA when I spotted two ladies in a café applauding us and smiling.

London's Leicester Square: A great spot for PDA and people watching

After stopping in Chinatown for some takeout, we went back to Sparky’s hotel room for a cozy, low-key evening. I told Sparky that I didn’t want to leave him in limbo because of my inability to make a commitment.

“Five years might seem like a long time,” he said, anticipating how long it would take me to be ready to settle down, “but it’s not to me.”

He was silent then as he inscribed the following on the inside cover of the “Xanadu” soundtrack he’d bought me…

“You are the most magical woman I have ever met.
All the wonders of the world will be yours. I love you.”

We fell into each other’s arms and a beautiful dance. Somehow, dancing felt like an affirmation of our love and what we meant to each other.


* * *

With talk of a potential second encounter in London, I said goodbye to Sparky and wondered when we would be together again. It would be months before we were reunited. In the interim, the final part of my junior year abroad brought its fair share of surprises -- including a few more of the male variety.

Coming up…more outrageous first dates and the conundrum of relationship make or break deadlines.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Kindness Of Strangers

Yesterday, I hobbled back to work after a week-long sabbatical precipitated by foot surgery.

In addition to providing a much-needed workout for my upper arms, my first ever stint on crutches has given me a new appreciation for functioning limbs -- and for the kindness of strangers. Like the cab driver who helped me out of his taxi and lifted me onto the curb. Or the suited guy who whooshed past then stopped in his tracks to hold the elevator door for me.

The staffers at Old John’s Luncheonette on the Upper West Side were equally accommodating when I had brunch there with friends on Sunday. After I enjoyed a sublime frittata cooked to perfection, one of the waiters wheeled me around and offered me his arm when I hopped up to use the restroom. Another carried me -- in my wheelchair -- down the restaurant’s front steps and would accept my thanks but no gratuity for his efforts.

Sometimes, a helping hand comes in the form of laughter. As I waited for change at a deli, the man behind me quipped--

“I hope the other guy is still in the hospital.”

A little humor goes a long way when you’re post-op. So does a cute guy going out of his way, like the one who spent five minutes helping me hail a cab last week.

Bloomingdale's: Sometimes it takes two to hail a cab here

Commenting on the Indian Summer-like weather, the handsome stranger said--

“I’d much rather be out here helping you find a cab than inside at my desk.”

Had I not been in a slightly medicated haze, I would have responded with more than just a simple thank you.

Upon sharing this little anecdote with my good friend Caroline, she said my crutches might end up being a male magnet. Who knows? Maybe there’s something to the whole damsel in distress thing, especially when it’s of finite duration.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Walking And Rolling: Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

Yesterday, I participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Central Park. This year marks the 15th anniversary of Making Strides and my 11th year being a part of it. And, because of my recent foot surgery, it’s also the first time I did the walk in a wheelchair.

My fabulous friends and fellow striders Caroline, Cindy, Leila and Sara burned some major calories as they pushed me along the four-mile route. I couldn't have done it without them.

Making Strides Together: (from left) Cindy, Sara, Caroline and Leila joined
me in Central Park yesterday

Before making the trek, each of us pinned signs on our backs in memory of my beloved mom, who lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 57 ten years ago.

According to the American Cancer Society, 182,460 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 40,480 women will die of the disease. The money raised at Making Strides goes directly to ACS programs including cancer research, education and support for patients.

I’m thrilled that, for the third year in a row, I’m a Pacesetter -- someone who has raised more than $2,500 for the fight against breast cancer. And I’m looking forward to making strides, with the best group of friends a girl could ask for, until the day when there’s no longer a need for it.

It’s not too late to join me in making a difference. Click on the link to the right and donate whatever you can. Every dollar counts and brings us one step closer to crossing the finish line of making breast cancer a thing of the past.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday Afternoon At Dashing Diva

Yesterday, my friend Amanda and I treated ourselves to manicures at Dashing Diva.

A first-class nail spa with five locations in NYC (and a total of 28 stores on 3 continents), Dashing Diva delivers stylish pampering in a pink-tinged setting. Signature amenities include free cosmopolitans on Thursday and Friday nights, and flat screen TV’s playing an endless loop of concert videos from Beyoncé to Barbra Streisand.

Dashing Diva: First-class pampering with a stylish twist

My favorite indulgence here is the Spoiled Diva Pedicure. It’s worth the price ($45) for the additional 10 minute foot and leg massage, and the aromatherapy foot bath is heavenly.

As Amanda and I had our nails primped and polished, we talked about Madonna’s knack for reinvention, how the recession is affecting the travel industry and the benefits of taking off when you’re in the throes of writing.

Amanda will soon be retreating to North Carolina for a few weeks, where she’ll continue penning
The Lost Girls, a joint effort between her and her two best buds chronicling their year-long journey around the world. A prolific magazine writer, Amanda is a talented wordsmith of great wit and style. The Lost Girls is due out in spring of ‘09. I can’t wait to read it.

Coming up…crossing the finish line for the American Cancer Society with a little help from my friends.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

By The Numbers: On The Job Edition

In this day and age of sexual harassment and often-muddled male-female office politics, getting romantic with a co-worker is like walking across a minefield. Still, when you spend 40+ hours a week with the same group of people, the prospect of mixing business with pleasure invariably comes up.

Over the years, the workplace has provided me with more than a few interesting distractions of a romantic nature. Here are some of the ones that stand out, By The Numbers:

Number of co-workers with whom I became romantically involved: 3
Number of co-workers I dated who turned out to be gay: 1
Number of married co-workers who flirted with me: 6
Number of bosses who revealed feelings for me on my last day: 1

The above co-worker made his surprising declaration after a company party that dovetailed with my departure. Equally unexpected was the post-party kiss from him, a kiss so passionate it felt like he was going to pull chunks of hair out of my head.

Fortunately, I emerged from our encounter with my scalp unscathed. It’s safe to say that no job farewell since topped this one. Crossing the line with a co-worker is a lot less complicated -- and a lot more fun -- when you’re on your way out.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Eleven

When you’re in the throes of new romance, simple moments tend to take on a larger-than-life quality. California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky) and I enjoyed many storybook-worthy moments during our time together in England’s capital.

As our week in London drew to a close, things between us intensified and I began to wonder if Sparky just might be my Mr. Right. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the spring of 1994.…

London, England
Commonwealth Hall

May 2nd, 1994

Dear Diary,

Sparky and I made our way to Paddington Station, the departing point for trains to Oxford. Oxford was lovely -- quaint, charming and, on this particular day, bustling with university students taking part in a parade.

Sunny Day in Oxford: Sparky bought me this hat just before taking this picture

Classical Charm: Oxford's majestic architecture, visible at every turn

At one point, as Sparky and I strolled hand in hand, we walked past a bridal boutique and mused aloud about the possibility of getting married. That conversational thread was picked up again when we stopped for ice cream in a cobblestone square. It felt like fate was smiling down on the possibility of Sparky and I ending up together for good someday….

* * *
The next morning, after a chaste night of cuddling and conversation, I woke up feeling a contentment I never had before. With his arms around me, he murmured--

“I love you.”

I knew I was falling for Sparky but I remained silent. It was too easy to say it because of his proximity. I needed to be sure.

* * *
Today, after strolling past Trafalgar Square toward the Houses of Parliament, we paused on a stoop to look at some pictures we developed at a one-hour place. I lingered for a long moment on one of the pix. There was a smile on my face I’d never seen before. I knew Sparky was the reason for that and I felt a surge of feeling toward him. The words came tumbling out.

“I love you,” I said. “I really love you.”

“I love you too,” Sparky said, and we kissed.

* * *

My final day in London with Sparky brought with it the promise of another encounter in England’s capital. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of frequent flying for both of us.

Months later, as a senior at Mount Holyoke College, I would be recognized for my romance-related travel with a dorm award -- Most Likely To Fly To California On A Whim.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Girls Night Out At Cinema Cafe

Last night, my good friend Caroline and I headed over to Cinema Café for dinner. After I introduced Caroline to one of my favorite cocktails, the blue cosmopolitan (a cosmo mixed with blue curacao), we settled in for some quality female bonding.

Over a shared vegetable Quesadilla and some tasty seafood fare (grilled jumbo shrimp with frizzled leeks for me, blackened St. Peter’s fish with asparagus for Caroline), we talked about the allure of living in faraway places, the benefits of spray tanning and the McDreamy appeal of Patrick Dempsey in the 1987 classic “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

Cinema Café is one of my favorite neighborhood haunts, serving up reliable bistro fare against the backdrop of movie poster-covered walls and silent films. And, as I told Caroline, it has proven to be an ideal setting in which to part ways with a significant other.

Two of my major breakup scenes played out at Cinema Café. Back in ‘04, I chose one of the restaurant’s booths for my swan song with a well-intentioned but clingy Brit. A few years later, over dinner in the otherwise empty back room, I informed on-again/off-again longtime sweetheart Larry that we were, in fact, off again.

Yes, Cinema Café’s low-key, quiet atmosphere is perfect if you’re looking for a public yet discreet place to call it quits. And, as I re-re-discovered with Caroline, it’s also perfect for a girls night out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Year Of Firsts

My junior year abroad in London brought with it many firsts. First time I fell in love, first time I juggled multiple men, first time I became good friends with someone I met in an elevator.

That someone was my Commonwealth Hall floor mate, Carine. A smart, stunning woman with a big heart and beautiful smile, Carine offered a sympathetic ear during many a late night conversation in her room. I also credit her with introducing me to the remarkably soothing powers of tea.

During our year as neighbors, Carine and I celebrated many milestones, from her 21st birthday to the dissolution of our respective romances du jour.

All smiles: Carine and me in my room at Commie Hall, London, January 1994

My good friend recently marked another milestone -- the beginning of a year of firsts. For the next 365 days, Carine is going to try something new every single day. She is chronicling her year of firsts at

I’m looking forward to following Carine’s exciting journey and maybe even embarking on some firsts of my own.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Evening with Morty and Moonstruck

Last night, I spent the evening with one of my best friends, Morty. Taking advantage of the Indian Summer-like weather, we headed over to Tasti D-Lite for dessert.

Sweet Treat: Tasti D-Lite, the perfect post-op outing

The outing was doubly delightful for me, as it was one of my first since bunion removal foot surgery on Friday. Along with discovering the pain-fighting prowess of Vicodin, I’ve learned there are many women who have undergone this procedure and understandably so. As the get well card from one of them -- my fabulous sister-in-law -- says, with the right shoes, you can do anything.

Over some delicious cookies ‘n’ cream frozen yogurt, Morty and I questioned whether Tasti D is really fat free and I informed him that we were sitting in front of the same location that Charlotte and Harry visited in the final season of “Sex and The City.” SATC was on my mind, having watched the movie the night before and been delighted to find that it held up for a fourth viewing.

Back at my place, we filled in a major gap in our 80’s film repertoire and watched “Moonstruck.” The 1987 romantic comedy that garnered Cher an Academy Award charmed both of us and had us laughing at how big hair was held up as a glamour benchmark back then.

Speaking of movies, there’s no better Rx for a post-op pick-me-up. As I indulge the couch potato in me, I welcome suggestions for films to add to my Netflix queue. What are some of your favorites? Post a comment here. A little cinematic distraction goes a long way -- as I found while I was smiling (and, at times, crying) my way through SATC all over again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Outrageous First Dates: Verse Four

When I think of outrageous first dates, I can’t help remembering the attorney that longtime family friend Helen set me up with. I went into the date with a few reservations. Partly because she said work was always the best place to reach him (even after 10pm) and partly because of her response when I asked what he looked like.

“Well,” she said after a very pregnant pause, “He’s pleasant.”

NYC's Ernst & Young Building: I spent 30 minutes waiting in here for my worst blind date ever

Mr. Pleasant suggested a weekday lunch date. After making me wait in the reception area of his office for a half an hour, he emerged without an apology or much in the way of social graces. He took me to a pizza place and failed to ask me one question about myself, monopolizing the conversation the entire time.

For my good friend Tiffany, a chatty date led to a surprising revelation about his most long-standing commitment.

“I have a relationship with marijuana,” he told her.

Talk about a first date buzz killer. contributor Amy was stuck in traffic on the Throgs Neck Bridge when a guy in the car next to hers asked for her number. After two lengthy, enjoyable phone conversations, she was surprised that traffic guy showed up for their date with an unexpected guest in tow -- a funeral director friend of his who had officiated at two funerals that day.

The three of them went to an arcade. While Amy’s date and his friend played video games, she tried to figure out an escape plan. Finally, her date and the funeral director took her home.

“He walked me to the door (solo, thankfully!) and tried to kiss me goodnight,” she recalls. “with his friend sitting in the car, watching. Needless to say, we never spoke again.”

Which just goes to show that threesomes of any kind aren’t exactly an ideal first date configuration. On the bright side, Amy's tale proves that you never know what can happen when you play in traffic.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Only In New York: Take One

The other day in my neighborhood, I spotted veteran local news anchor Ernie Anastas stopping to chat with some Upper East Side residents who greeted him with a friendly hello. When you live in New York, it’s easy to stumble upon bold-faced names. The ease with which Ernie’s fans spoke to him got me to thinking about something else --- the colorful non-celebrity characters that fill the Big Apple.

I remember walking along West 35th Street in NYC’s Garment District one morning, so euphoric about reconciling with a boyfriend that I was singing -- audibly -- a Whitney Houston song.

“God bless you,” a man said as I passed him.

Just as I was about to thank him for that (and for appreciating my singing), he added--

“…Don’t quit your day job.”

I got a good chuckle out of that, as I did when I was strolling through Times Square years ago with a Fox News colleague. We were talking about the ingenuity of local panhandlers. Right on cue, a guy in front of us reached out his hand and asked--

“Can you spare some change for the United Negro Pizza Fund?”

I actually spared a dollar because that line was priceless.

Call it moxie, chutzpah or whatever you will, but New Yorkers aren’t bashful about saying what’s on their mind. And they can deliver a perfectly timed quip that, even when it’s directed at you, hits right where it matters most -- your funny bone.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

By The Numbers: Travel Edition

When it comes to romantic escapades, most of the ones I’ve enjoyed over the years have been inextricably linked with one of my greatest passions -- travel.

Having grown up with two parents who had a great curiosity about the world and their own penchant for globetrotting, I can definitely say that jetsetting is part of my DNA. From holiday flings to encounters with old flames, travel has afforded me the opportunity to experience all kinds of romance. Here are some of the more memorable ones, By The Numbers:

Number of men dated during junior year in London: 7
Number of men dated while living in Sydney: 5
Number of hours spent driving to Montreal for weekend with Toronto high school sweetheart: 12
Number of shipboard-to-shore romances: 1
Number of European tour guides who put the moves on me: 1
Number of times I’ve been asked out while waiting for a flight at JFK: 1
Number of old flames from New York who romanced me in Bali: 1

Thought my Indonesian rendez-vous with old flame Dave proved to be the final flicker of romance for us, it was more than worth the trip to experience the magic of Bali.

Indonesian Paradise: Me at the Waka di Ume Resort
in Ubud, Bali, January 2002

A tropical paradise inhabited by truly genteel, hospitable people, Bali is one of the most spectacular places on planet Earth. I look forward to returning someday, maybe even with Mr. Right in tow.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Ten

When you’re dating someone, the first time you say those three little words is always a memorable moment. California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky) and I were about five months into our relationship and enjoying a magical week in London when that milestone happened for us.

I was sitting on a stoop with him near Westminster Abbey when I said “I love you” (after, of course, Sparky had uttered the same to me). Our week in England’s capital brought us much closer -- and foreshadowed the bumps in the road ahead. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the spring of 1994...

London, England
April 30th, 1994

Dear Diary,

Sparky was left in the lurch for a bit as I tended to my duties for the day, coordinating my friend Camilla’s 21st birthday celebration. I had just put the finishing touches on the restaurant’s private dining room when the guests -- all 27 of them -- descended en masse.

I don’t know how it started, but someone pelted Camilla with cake. Those who got caught in the crossfire needed little provocation to join the fray. Suddenly, cake was flying everywhere -- across the table, onto the wall. At one point, I dove across someone’s lap to avoid being the next target of the food fracas.

Before the food fight: Camilla and me celebrating her 21st birthday, London, April 1994

Later, while I was settling the bill, I noticed Sparky chatting with Fabian. The sight of my former flame and current one conversing made me uneasy. I know how Machiavellian Fabian can be, so it wasn’t impossible that he might have been bending Sparky’s ear about our colorful past. After seeing them share a good laugh, though, I relaxed. My colorful past with Fabian had safely remained a secret..

After the party was over, Sparky accompanied me back to Commonwealth Hall. As we were saying goodnight, he said--

“Hurry up and get older, will you?!”

Though I understood Sparky’s frustration about our age difference given the antics at Camilla’s party, I was peeved. He knows I’m a college student and I don’t want to feel like I have to apologize for it.

* * *

The next day, Sparky and I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral and enjoyed a double decker bus tour around the city.

After a visit to the student union for a sauna and exhilarating (bathing suit-clad) shower together -- my first with a significant other -- we went back to Sparky’s room at the Hilton. Giving into our intensifying passion, we fooled around for hours. This would be the last night I would leave Sparky to return to my dorm.

* * *

There were a lot of first’s for me and Sparky during our week in London, a week that we continue to look back on fondly more than 14 years later. Is it any wonder that to this day, my beloved New York notwithstanding, London remains my favorite city?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Romance In Unexpected Places

When you’re single and searching, you often hear that love happens when you’re not looking for it. I was reminded of how true that is today, upon hearing how my lovely colleague Shana met her current beau.

Panda Express: Who knew it could be romantic?

Shana was about to exit Chinese fast food chain Panda Express when she noticed a man blocking the front door. Looking right at her, he asked--

“Can I have your number?”

Unnerved by his brazen directness -- not even a hello?! she thought -- Shana resisted. Though she ultimately did give the bold stranger her number, she never imagined he would actually use it. Well, he did. Two months later, they’re still together and discovering the many things they have in common. Including a fondness for Slurpee’s and for their neighborhood (they happen to live five blocks apart).

Shana’s tale got me to thinking about the unexpected places I’ve encountered romance. Like the temp job that acquainted me with intellectual giant and super chivalrous Brooklynite Larry. Or, during my stint in Illinois, the dinner at a neighbor’s house that led to a passionate romance with her step grandson Steve. Or, most unexpectedly of all, the park in NYC’s East Village where, during a location shoot for “NYPD Blue” I ended up meeting my first big love, California native Mark.

Yes, the element of surprise has been a key element of my romantic experiences. Shana’s story of unexpected love gave me a much-needed reminder to keep my eyes open. After all, you never what-- or who --is right around the corner.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Young Frankenstein And An SATC Sighting

Last night, my friend Cindy and I went to see “Young Frankenstein.” On my way to meet Cindy in Times Square, I noticed a gaggle of photographers in front of a neighboring theater. Upon poking my head in the crowd, I caught a glimpse of the lovely Cynthia Nixon (Miranda on “Sex and the City”) heading in to the premiere of the new Frank Langella play, “A Man For All Seasons.”

Cynthia Nixon arrives at opening night of "A Man For All Seasons"
(photo: Getty images)

The celebrity sighting – coming just a few days after exchanging smiles with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes at Il Cantinori – made me smile. So did the usher who informed me and Cindy that our seats would be upgraded since the theater wasn’t at full capacity.

“Young Frankenstein,” a musical remake of the 1974 film, gets off to a rollicking start with a pair of lively song and dance numbers, one of which introduces lead Roger Bart (Frederick Frankenstein) during a clever ode to his fascination with the brain. The hand of legendary Mel Brooks is unmistakable here, with his signature slapstick comedy and ribald humor very much at play.

Roger Bart and Christopher Fitzgerald hamming it up in "Young Frankenstein"

Unfortunately, Brooks’ uneven script is weighed down by many moments that fall flat. And the show is so overloaded with double entendres -- a housekeeper sings about being “plowed” by her “farmer,” a hay ride that’s about a roll in the hay, you get the picture -- it almost seems like Brooks is trying too hard to get a laugh.

Thankfully, Roger Bart does an admirable job of rising above the thin material he’s given to work with. The Broadway veteran and former “Desperate Housewives” star (he played scheming pharmacist George) performs the show’s funniest moments with perfect comedic timing and irresistible charm. Beth Leveal (Frau Blucher) and Christopher Fitzgerald (Igor) are equally entertaining as Dr. Frankenstein’s high-strung sidekicks in scientific experimentation.

“Young Frankenstein” is far from being Brooks’ best work, but it delivers enough laughs to be considered a decent night at the theater. And, having never seen the film, it‘s given me another title to add to my NetFlix list.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Family Fun And TomKat At Il Cantinori

Saturday night, I headed down to trendy East Village bistro Il Cantinori for the celebration of my Aunt Lydia and Uncle Joe’s 40th anniversary.

With a 25-year history that has included visits from many famous faces and a cameo on “Sex and The City” (it's where Carrie was stood up on her 35th birthday), Il Cantinori is known for scrumptious Tuscan fare and impeccable, gracious service. The restaurant delivered plenty of both for Saturday night's family soirée.

Tuscan Delight: NYC's Il Cantinori

Hosted by my beloved cousin Dana, the festive 18-people affair took place in Il Cantinori’s downstairs wine room. An event planning maven whose style could give Martha Stewart a run for her money, Dana selected a positively scrumptious menu for us.

After passed hors d’oeuvres that included bruschetta and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, our meal began with an appetizer plate of grilled calamari and vegetables, and mozzarella and tomato. Next came a pasta sampler featuring rigatoni in tomato sauce, spinach ravioli, and some of the best spaghetti carbonara I’ve ever had. Of three entrée options available, I selected mouth-watering chicken Milanese.

Somehow, I managed to find room for dessert -- a decadent chocolate cake celebrating this month's other milestone, Uncle Joe’s 65th birthday.

As all of us reminisced about memories past and milestones to come (my cousin Melanie, the youngest of all of us, is expecting a baby boy in November), I felt a heart full of gratitude for my beautiful family. And equally grateful that we could be together for such a happy occasion.

Family Bonding: My sister Hilary (front, second from left) and me with our fabulous cousins. From left: Derek, Melanie, Carla and Dana

The celebratory atmosphere continued when, just before leaving, we were informed that a rather high-profile couple was expected shortly.

Sure enough, in walked none other than Katie Holmes, dazzling in an all black ensemble and, with her head tilted coquettishly to one side, smiling warmly as she made her way to Il Cantinori’s back dining room. Minutes later, Katie was followed by Tom Cruise, carrying adorable daughter Suri in his arms. Flashing his signature megawatt grin, he said a warm “hi” to all of us before joining his wife.

Il Cantinori has long been a favorite of Tom’s—he’s also dined there with exes Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman. With its intimate, candlelit ambience and five-star cuisine, it’s the perfect spot for a romantic rendez-vous. Or, as both TomKat and my nearest and dearest experienced on Saturday, for a family affair.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Girls Day Out

On Saturday, my friend Leila and I enjoyed a girls day out. Our afternoon began with brunch at cozy bistro Fig & Olive (left). Over a pair of delicious egg dishes (cassolette for Leila, scrambled eggs with mushrooms for me) and a shared warm apple tart, we talked about work overload, upcoming overseas travels and recent developments in my love life.

I filled Leila in on the real estate analyst whose once-a-month availability has dovetailed nicely with my new dating mantra -- just have fun.

An Upper East Side block party celebrating Czech Independence gave us the excuse to stroll along Madison Avenue and browse in a few posh stores. We stopped in Michael’s, a ritzy consignment boutique where you can score everything from secondhand Manolo’s to vintage Chanel, and an item that’s 50% off can still set you back $300.

Next, we headed over to the Clarin's Skin Spa, where I was delighted to discover Instant Smooth, a line-reducing product that lives up to its name. Even better, it doesn’t have the chilling impact on your face or wallet of Freeze, the last brand-name anti-age serum I sampled. A 0.5 ounce jar of Instant Smooth is just $29 versus $100 for the same amount of Freeze.

Though Leila and I left the other stores we visited empty-handed, the Clarin’s find made our shopping excursion a success. Discovering a product that appears to defy the aging process, and sharing the fun of that with a good friend is more than enough to make me smile, facial lines be damned.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Outrageous First Dates: Verse Three

When you’re single and living in New York, it’s easy to find yourself on a date with an eccentric character. One of my more outrageous, albeit brief, first dates happened after crossing paths with a guy at an arcade in Times Square.

Chevy's Restaurant in Times Square: Site of one of my more outrageous first dates

The mysterious stranger invited me for a drink at the neighboring Chevy’s Mexican restaurant. As soon as we sat at the bar, he mentioned that he was an aspiring actor. Then, after tilting his head down briefly, he looked at me with a menacing stare and burst into tears.

Deciding this was a little too much drama, rehearsed or otherwise, I excused myself to go to the bathroom and never came back.

For my good friend Lauren, a blind date with a family friend’s son turned out to be of equally short duration. Lauren was surprised to discover she had already met her blind date at a party a few weeks before -- when he was introduced as her friend’s boyfriend.

Geography became an issue when Philadelphia-based publicist Meredith was set up with a New Yorker just a few days before her birthday. Initially, Meredith’s date had agreed to drop her off at a mutual friend’s house after dinner. That night, he said it was too far to drive and suggested Meredith stay over at his parents’ house instead. He didn’t take it too well when she declined the invitation.

“He proceeded to open the trunk and throw a bunch of presents at me and angrily wished me a Happy Birthday,” she says. “It was awkward.”

On the plus side, Meredith enjoyed a nice meal and show prior to her date’s outburst. Which just proves that even on an outrageous first date, you’ll get something to show for your time
-- even if it’s just an amusing story.

Coming up…a TomKat sighting at one of NYC’s hottest restaurants and holiday romance By The Numbers.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Sneak Peak At "Speed The Plow"

Thursday night, my friend Sara and I went to an invitation-only dress rehearsal for David Mamet’s “Speed The Plow.” The show began with an introduction by director Neil Pepe informing the audience that there might be line calling and repeated scenes. As soon as the curtain went up, though, and the show’s stars took the stage, it seemed more like opening night.

“Speed The Plow” features three of today’s hottest actors -- recent Emmy winner Jeremy Piven of HBO‘s “Entourage,” Tony-nominated Raul Esparza of “Company” and Elisabeth Moss of AMC‘s “Mad Men." A scathing, fantastically witty commentary on the vagaries of moviemaking in Hollywood, “Speed The Plow” delivers sharp dialogue and riveting interplay between all three characters.

Raul Esparza, Jeremy Piven and Elisabeth Moss in David Mamet's "Speed The Plow"

Esparza and Piven play producers hungry to deliver the next blockbuster to their Studio Head. When a script from an A-list director lands in the lap of Charlie Fox (Esparza), he knows it’s his shot at the big time. The catch -- he only has 24 hours to green light the project before his option on it expires.

Charlie’s long-time boss, newly-minted Head of Production Bobby Gould (Piven) assures him it’s a done deal and schedules a meeting with the Studio Head. That’s when we meet Karen (Moss), a sexy, seemingly naive secretary who turns Bobby’s head. Karen tries to sell Bobby on producing an apocalyptic bestseller about radiation instead of Charlie’s more bankable prison buddy script.

Mamet cleverly slips in a pointed political reference, as Bobby chides Karen for trying to break the Hollywood tradition of being driven by what sells.

“You want to be a maverick,” he says. “There’s no such thing as a maverick.”

After his evening with Karen, Bobby is thinking differently and Charlie’s ticket to the big time is suddenly on the line. Charlie reacts by having a meltdown, performed so brilliantly by Esparza that he pretty much steals the show. Piven proves why he’s an Emmy three-peater and Moss is convincing as a character who’s more than meets the eye.

“Speed The Plow” is smart playwriting at its best. The entire cast sails through the show’s brisk 80-minute running time, making it non-stop entertainment from start to finish. “Speed The Plow” opens October 23rd for a limited 20-week run. For more information, visit

Friday, October 3, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Nine

When you’re falling in love, even the most crowded destinations suddenly feel like they belong to only you and the object of your affections. I experienced this curious phenomenon for the first time 14 years ago, during my week in London with California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky).

England’s capital, with all of its majesty and magic, provided the perfect setting for Sparky and me to continue getting to know one another. Having met just one month before, we still had plenty to learn about each other. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the spring of ‘94...

April 28, 1994
London, England

Dear Diary,

With maps and cameras in hand, Sparky and I headed to Regent’s Park, where the conversation eventually turned to sex.

I felt uncomfortable discussing sex with Sparky. I reiterated the fact that, given the 3,000 miles separating us, I can’t guarantee we’ll be together long enough for me to feel ready to lose my virginity with him.

Sparky said all the right things, professing once again his desire to have a future with me. Cynical little me, however, wasn’t convinced his romantic declarations weren’t at least partly a ploy to get me into bed.

Later, while we were waiting for the tube at Embankment Station, Sparky pulled me toward him as he murmured--

“I just want more and more of you.”

Noticing that I didn’t melt on cue, Sparky clarified he wasn’t referring to “that,” i.e., sex.

“Mmhm,” I said coolly. Still, despite my reservations, I couldn’t deny it -- he was getting to me.

* * *

After touring the Tower of London and viewing the Crown Jewels, Sparky and I headed over to the Tower Thistle Hotel for a late lunch.

The majestic view from London's Tower Thistle Hotel

We had a table by the window, which afforded a perfect view of the Thames and Tower Bridge. As the sun disappeared and the sky turned to gray, Sparky began opening up about his past, including his bouts with cancer.

For some reason, a warning bell went off inside me and I asked Sparky if he was okay. He paused before admitting that, only five days ago, he had a tumor removed from his colon.

I was shocked and scared. I reminded Sparky I’m all too familiar with the disease -- my parents, my aunt and uncle have all battled it.

“The cancer is part of the reason I want to hold on to you and enjoy whatever time we have together,” he said.

It took me a little while to get my bearings after Sparky's revelation. Still, I wanted -- and needed -- him to tell me more about his condition and what he was facing. He hesitated.

“You’re young, the last thing you need is some old man with all these problems.”

“Oh Sparky, please. You are far from old and you are ten times more of a man than anyone I’ve ever dated.”

Taking an almost childlike delight in my reassuring words, Sparky put his arms around me and gave me a big kiss.

* * *

Our week in London had its fair share of intense moments -- moments that Sparky and I would cling to as our relationship progressed and geography and our 16-year age difference became formidable foes.

Coming up…a tribute to U2 in SoHo and a 40th anniversary celebration.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

California Dreamin' in NYC

Last night, my friend Bobbi and I attended the launch party for California Dreamin’, a new calendar shot by travel writer and photographer Mark Chesnut.

Mark and I got to know each other earlier this year during an action-packed press trip to Costa Rica hosted by my Hilton client. I was excited to celebrate Mark’s latest venture – and to get the inside scoop on the stories behind the calendar.

California Dreamin': One of 12 hunks photographed by
Mark Chesnut in his 2009 calendar

Over drinks at Barrage, an intimate gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen, Mark told me the calendar’s title is more thematic than literal. The hunks of the month were actually photographed in a variety of destinations ranging from Buenos Aires to Brooklyn. It’s a credit to Mark’s talent that he’s made the shores near Coney Island look so pristine.

Bobbi and I had the pleasure of chatting with Mr. December, NYC native and sweetheart Steve Interiano. We weren’t surprised to learn that Steve works out 3-5 times a week to maintain his buff bod. Exercise is a hobby, he said, pulling out his PDA to show us more pinup-worthy images from the photo shoot. It occurred to me that it might be time to reexamine my currently non-existent relationship with the gym.

After picking up our goodie bags, Bobbi and I strolled over to Italian bistro Amarone. Over a shared plate of tuna carpaccio and two yummy plates of pasta (orecchiette in marinara sauce for her, spinach fettucine bolognese for me), we talked about wine tastings, charitable social events and the many other reasons we’re excited fall is here.

California Dreamin' is part of Men of The Americas, Mark’s ongoing project documenting a variety of male beauty from across the hemisphere. I’m all for it.

To order California Dreamin’, visit For more info about Mark’s photography, head over to

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

By The Numbers: Anniversary Edition

This week marks a milestone of sorts – the three-month anniversary of Single Gal In The City.

Since launching SGITC in July more than 100 posts ago, life has been a veritable whirlwind. From amusing drama surrounding my dalliance with an ex’s best friend (and relief about said ex tying the knot) to schmoozing with the stars of “Sex and The City,” this quarter of ’08 has kept me on my toes and continually excited about single life in the Big Apple.

To celebrate SGITC's three-month milestone, here are some of the adventures I’ve blogged about – By The Numbers:

Approximate number of men mentioned: 14
Number of exes who have gotten married: 1
Number of dates with above mentioned ex’s best friend: 3
Number of run-ins with high school boyfriends: 1
Number of old flames who have become Facebook friends: 5
Number of celebrities met: 6
Number of concerts attended: 5
Number of evenings spent canoodling on my roof deck with hunky longtime friend: 1

As my hunky and impossibly charming friend said, our evening underneath the stars was paradise. You know a kiss is sublime when the mere thought of it weeks later makes you weak in the knees.

I’m looking forward to sharing many more of my romantic escapades. Single Gal In The City has only just begun!

Coming up…a sneak peak at Jeremy Piven’s new Broadway show and more outrageous date tales.