Thursday, July 31, 2008
An ongoing series of informal wine tastings, VinoVersity is ideal for both the novice and the more experienced connoisseur. I probably fall somewhere in the middle, having fancied myself as an oenophile ever since I fell in love with Australian wines during my stint as a Sydney resident six years ago.
This week’s VinoVersity class served up an array of the world’s white wines alongside seafood-tinged hors d’oeuvres. Joining me for the palette-pleasing fun was my friend and fellow wine lover Cindy. Cindy and I have attended several VinoVersity tastings over the last couple of years, including one last summer featuring wines from the vineyards of Lorraine Bracco and family.
Over some Riesling and delicious tuna rolls, Cindy and I talked about the fun of drinking Champagne for no reason and pretending it's your birthday even when it's not. We also shared a good laugh about an older man who took a little too much delight in asking whether we were “getting enough.” Some double entendres are definitely better left unsaid.
I’m already looking forward to VinoVersity’s fall 2008 semester. For more info about the Divine wine tasting series, visit http://www.vinoversity.com/.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Each of my departing colleagues is leaving to pursue different career paths. Cristina is taking her tremendous gift for advising into a new role as a school guidance counselor. Fashion-savvy (and, I predict, future Project Runway candidate) Michel has been accepted to New York University's highly-competitive Steinhardt Master of Arts Visual Culture’s Costume Studies Program. And organizational whiz Danielle will be transferring her talents to event planning for the New York Historical Society.
As these fabulous women begin new chapters in their lives, I am excited at what lies ahead for them. And I can’t help recalling the circuitous but deeply fulfilling journey I’ve had in following my own bliss.
I spent most of my twenties pursuing my childhood dream of broadcast journalism, specifically, the pie-in-the-sky hope of becoming the next Katie Couric. My ambitions took me to destinations of all kinds -- from glamorous cities abroad (Sydney, Australia) to small-town USA (Southern Illinois, Dover, Delaware). For seven years, I was part of the TV news world as a writer, producer and on-air reporter.
I was on day two of a two-year reporting contract at a CBS affiliate in Maryland when it hit me -- I want to do something else. The realization unnerved me. After all, I had devoted my education and career to that point in service of one very specific goal. What in the world would I do next? Thanks to a serendipitous encounter with Val, a fellow journalism school alum and respected travel reporter, I soon found out.
Over drinks one night, I discovered Val was looking for a freelance writer to contribute to her website. She gave me the job, which was to take press releases and turn them into news items. It was in the course of doing this that my new career in travel PR was born. Val forwarded me an opening at Quinn & Co. and the rest, as they say, is history.
Nearly four years later, I’m still having the time of my life. PR is the perfect confluence of what I love -- writing, travel, and working with the media. Uppity journalists might say I’ve gone over to the ‘dark side.’ I say, it was the best professional decision I’ve ever made.
I have no doubt the same fulfillment awaits Cristina, Danielle and Michel, and I can’t wait to hear all about their adventures post-Quinn & Co. Their transitions are a wonderful reminder that it’s never too late -- or too soon -- for a second act.
As English novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley once said, the beginning is always today.
Number of romantic airport goodbyes/reunions: 30
Number of flights taken with significant others: 4
Number of post-breakup airport partings: 2
Number of guys picked up while waiting for a flight: 1
Number of flights preceded by making out in an airport parking lot: 1
Even when you're not a member of the mile-high club, taking to the skies is always an experience worth having -- especially when you've got a little romance to accompany you in-flight.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The Boss performed his classic brand of rock ‘n’ roll with an energy rivaling performers half his age. At 58, Springsteen is—as he quipped in a recent 60 Minutes interview—“a chiseled hunk of muscle,” who knows not only how to belt out a tune and produce magic with a guitar, but also how to work a crowd with effortless charm.
Springsteen’s thirty-year recording history spans hundreds of songs, so it wasn’t surprising that some in the audience held up signs requesting their favorites. His set list delivered the perfect combination of past and present, with hits ranging from “Held Up Without A Gun” and “Thunder Road” to “Hungry Heart” and the powerful post 9/11 anthem, “The Rising.” A rousing rendition of the 1980 classic “Sherry Darlin’” turned into a stadium-wide duet between Springsteen and the audience.
The E Street Band knocked it out of the park, with electrifying performances from drummer Max Weinberg and sax player Clarence Clemons. But it was Springsteen’s chemistry with Stevie Van Zandt that stole the show, as they stood smiling cheek to cheek, belting out the best of The Boss’ repertoire. Along the way, Springsteen also showcased his number one fans offstage.
“It’s my baby’s birthday tomorrow” he said, leading the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to wife and bandmate Patti Scialfa.
Teenage daughter Jessica also received a shoutout, when Bruce went into the crowd and put his arm around her.
“This is my little girl!” he said, briefly giving her the mike to sing.
The show ended on a high note with Springsteen’s signature hit “Born to Run.”
As my friend Sara and I made our way out of the stadium, it occurred to me that I have a soft spot in my heart for Jersey-bred musicians--Sinatra, Bon Jovi, Springsteen. When it comes to great music and unforgettable concerts, it simply doesn’t get any better than these guys. From where this New Yorker is sitting, The Boss still has many Glory Days ahead of him.
Rock on, Bruce.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Admittedly, my learning curve has been, ahem, flat at times when it comes to affairs of the heart, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve never been happier being single, so I must be doing something right.
I think the last time I enjoyed singlehood this much was during my junior year in London. That eventful time brought with it a diverse menu of romantic distractions. On the October night when I was hit by a truck, I was very fortunate to have one of those distractions step up to the plate.
I now open the vault once again to Halloween night 1993….
Sunday, October 31st
Commonwealth (Commie) Hall, London
“Oh my God!” I heard someone scream as Eduardo caught me in his arms and carried me into Uncle Alf’s building.
“I’m okay, I’m okay,” I said, trying to reassure myself as much as Eduardo, but tears rolled down my face anyway.
Although I told Eduardo he didn’t have to carry me, I was glad he didn’t put me down until we were inside. I could feel my entire body weakened from the shock.
Eduardo, Gaby and Camilla urged me to go to the hospital but I knew that I didn’t need to. Still, I sobbed for a moment, overwhelmed at how close I’d just come to losing my life.
Though I managed to walk away with only a headache and grazed knees, Uncle Alf insisted we go to his doctor so I could get checked out. The doctor covered my wounds with bandages and gave me a tetanus shot. I felt better now that I had doctor-certified proof I was okay.
* * *
Later, back at Commie Hall, I went down to the bar to find Eduardo and Gaby. Gaby seemed much more concerned about how I was than Eduardo, but that could be just because Gaby is nicer to me, generally speaking, than Eduardo is. Eduardo made me feel like I was intruding and I didn’t appreciate that. I thanked him for the ride and made my exit.
I decided to knock on Fabian’s door but there was no answer. Back in my room, I tried to think of what I could do to lift my spirits. I didn’t feel like reading or watching TV. I wanted my mother and father or Fabian, period.
I ended up chatting with my next door neighbor and good friend Lionel about the accident. Suddenly, there was a knock on Lionel’s door and I was euphorically surprised that it was Fabian. I told him I’d stopped by his room earlier and he said he didn’t want to interrupt. I got up to leave. Maybe it was rude to exit Lionel’s room so quickly, but I needed Fabian more than anything else. He came through for me – more so than I ever could have imagined.
* * *
Indeed, Fabian was full of surprises…including an encounter on this side of the pond that caught the attention of a local NYPD officer.
Coming up…A review of The Boss at Giants Stadium and following your bliss to a new career path.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Because Shawn is the third ex-boyfriend whose betrothal news I heard secondhand, it seems to me that there is a lack of etiquette when it comes to telling an old flame that you’ve moved on for good.
The question of if/when to divulge this doesn’t apply when you make a clean break and cease all communication post-breakup. For better or worse, though, that has rarely been the case in my relationships. I’ve maintained amicable ties with most of my ex-boyfriends.
As I rationalized it to one of them, the end of a romance doesn’t mean you stop caring about a significant other or what happens to him. The fact that none of the men I’ve dated ever committed any truly egregious acts (lying, cheating, etc.) has made keeping in touch platonically--following the breakup mourning period, of course--somewhat easier. The thing about keeping in touch after a breakup, though, is it deceives you into thinking you’ll be one of the first to know when your ex’s status changes. I now recognize how foolish that assumption was.
A decade ago, Mark, a long-distance love from L.A. who continued calling at least twice a month, suddenly dropped out of sight. When I picked up the phone to find out what was going on, he dropped the bombshell that he‘d gotten married.
“I’m really glad you called,” he said. “I just didn’t know how to tell you. I still care about you…I love you.”
Talk about your mixed messages.
In the same vein, I found out in cyberspace that an old flame (and now good friend) from the Midwest recently tied the knot. I was visiting MySpace.com when the site informed me that he had updated his profile status to married. Like Mark, he was apologetic about how I learned the news, insisting he hadn’t meant for me to find out that way.
Apart from not being told directly, I wondered what was most troubling to me about learning that each ex has found happily ever after. Was it the realization that the possibility of a reconciliation, however improbable or only vaguely considered, no longer exists? The ego bruising of knowing he’s no longer pining away for me? Perhaps it’s a little of both--and the selfish resentment that a former boyfriend has found his soulmate while I’m still searching for mine.
Fortunately, the shock of Shawn’s engagement was tempered by an amusing tidbit -- he met his bride-to-be in a dog park. Given that Shawn’s devotion to his two dogs was one of the deal breakers with us, I couldn't help thinking that everything really does work out the way it’s supposed to in the end.
It’s reassuring to know that, even when it’s unexpected and unceremoniously delivered, closure is always a good thing.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
I looked up from my seat on the downtown N train and was surprised to see a very familiar face - my high school boyfriend T.G. Though it had been more than a decade since I’d last seen him, I recognized him immediately, probably because he looked exactly the same. Tall, fit and adorably preppy (gingham shirt, khaki pants), with blue eyes and short blonde hair with a lock that fell perfectly across his forehead.
T.G. is probably the only beau I’ve dated who comes from a blue-blooded background. During our brief romance as teenagers, we spent a lot of time at his parents’ apartment on Park Avenue. I spent most of that time debating whether or not to let him get past second base (I ultimately decided against it).
After confirming in my mind that it was really him, curiosity got the better of me and I approached T.G. to say hello. He greeted me warmly and I quickly learned that his office is only a few blocks from mine and that he is engaged to a childhood friend whom he reconnected with during a ski getaway to ritzy Sun Valley.
As he told me about his new technology company and I offered some PR advice, I couldn’t help thinking -- this is the same guy who once upon a time took great pride in giving me a hickey. It seemed surreal that so many years had passed.
We exchanged business cards and parted with a friendly hug. Our unexpected encounter found me recalling a similar experience that happened a few summers back.
I had decided to pay a visit to the Upper West Side, a neighborhood I had avoided for months in an effort to also avoid my ex Shawn, who lived there. It was time for me to take back this enchanting part of town, I thought, even if it meant tempting fate. In fact, I essentially double-dared fate to have me bump into Shawn, intentionally strolling down his block and over to Riverside Park at precisely the hour when he usually walks his dogs.
It became clear that fate had no intention of giving into my nostalgic whim so I returned to my part of town. On my way out of the supermarket, I was shocked to see another ex, Radley, coming straight toward me. He glanced downward, pretending not to see me. I was relieved. The five months I spent with Radley were exhausting. He moved our relationship along so quickly that I didn’t have the heart, courage or whatever it was I needed to have to tell him that I felt suffocated instead of equally smitten.
I smiled as we brushed past each other, appreciating the irony of it all. I had gone out that afternoon with every expectation of running into one ex--only to end up running into another.
Fate may have had the last laugh, but at least I looked damn good during my old flame run-in. What more could I ask for?
Friday, July 25, 2008
I was 19 years old. Home for me that year was London, under the pretext of studying abroad. Truthfully, I chose to be a temporary resident of England’s exhilarating capital city for two reasons -- I had become smitten during a previous family vacation there and wanted to explore it like a local, and I needed a breather from the all-female world of my beloved alma mater, Mount Holyoke College.
If I majored in anything that year, it was a crash course in the opposite sex -- the good, the bad and the heartbreakers. Without any further ado, I now open the vault to volume #45...
Sunday, October 31st, 1993
Commonwealth Hall, University of London
Yesterday I didn’t wake up until 1pm, due to a late night of fooling around with my floor mate Eduardo. I decided to stop in his room to ask if I could borrow his squash racket.
In keeping with the deal we’d made the night before, we acted as if nothing had happened between us. Surprisingly, I had no problem asking him for the racquet and then leaving. I was quite pleased, though, when Eduardo made an oh-so-subtle reference to our marathon kissing session. As he handed me his racquet, he smiled with the naughtiest glint in his eye. His friend didn’t notice -- but I certainly did. I left with a self-satisfied grin on my face. He can’t forget about our rendez-vous that quickly, I thought.
* * *
[Later that day, I was running late for dinner with longtime family friend Uncle Alf. Eduardo and dorm mates Camilla and Gaby agreed to give me a ride across town to Uncle Alf's house.]
As we all piled into Edu’s car, Gaby quipped, “Driving Miss Melissa!” a reference to the movie, Driving Miss Daisy. I laughed but remained focused on trying to find Uncle Alf’s street because we were slightly lost.
Finally, we arrived at Avenue Road. I thanked Eduardo for the ride. He advised me to be careful crossing the street because I was on the traffic-facing side of the car. Being cocky and way too nonchalant, I said something like,
“I’m from New York, I know how to be a pedestrian.”
I was in such a hurry that I ran across the road looking to my right, forgetting that traffic was two-way and also coming from the left. Suddenly, a big white truck came out of nowhere and knocked me onto the pavement.
Despite the jolt, or perhaps because of it and my fear of being completely run over, I managed to stand up right away. Eduardo and Gaby jumped out of the car and were immediately by my side.
“Are you alright?” Eduardo asked worriedly.
I attempted to respond but the impact of what had just happened hit me with extreme force. I collapsed.
* * *
Needless to say, I became a much humbler--and more alert--pedestrian after this little episode. Stay tuned for details about the rest of that fateful night…including the comfort I found in another man’s arms.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I found this out the hard way when I moved back to the Big Apple permanently five years ago. Having spent most of my twenties in small town limbo, I was anxious to mingle with other big city singletons and quickly signed up for an interview with a group called Social Circles.
Over the course of an hour, the chatty representative persuaded me to fork over the money for membership—making it a point to tell me that the already-pricey fee would increase considerably if I didn’t join on the spot.
After attending a handful of Social Circles functions, it became clear that I had been hoodwinked. Not only was the male-female ratio at each event painfully lopsided, the few males who were in attendance were—how can I put this diplomatically?--clearly single for a reason.
My lesson from this costly mistake? Avoid “singles” events and attend parties and other activities of a charitable, cultural or professional nature. It’s a strategy that has paid tremendous dividends for me in terms of meeting smart, interesting people—many of whom just happen to be single.
I encountered plenty of engaging New Yorkers at the recent kickoff of Just A Cocktail. Hosted by the C Squared Group (http://www.csquaredgroup.com/), which sponsors upscale business networking events for a variety of industries, Just A Cocktail offered an educated, friendly and perfectly co-ed crowd, limited open bar, and an inviting venue (midtown French Moroccan restaurant and lounge Azza)--all for only $20.
This week, my friend Tiffany and I attended another great C Squared event, Cocktails & Charity, connecting people who want to volunteer with organizations who need their participation. Though the crowd was smaller, it was as sociable as the one at Just A Cocktail. I’m looking forward to attending more C Squared soirees, and to continuing my quest to experience the best of what the Big Apple has to offer intrepid singles like me.
Up next...my long-awaited visit to Buddakan with one of my favorite people on Planet Earth and unexpected encounters with old flames.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
"You should have seen your face, you lit up like a Christmas tree."
And so, my celebrity crush began--a crush that has taken me to Miami, San Juan and many a long (long) line to see Ricky perform or, on five glorious occasions, meet him face to face. The last up close encounter happened in December of '06 at NYC's Roseland, where I managed to sneak into the VIP area. All of a sudden, I looked up and there Ricky was, flashing me his megawatt smile. "Hey Baby, how are you? It's always great to see you," he said, punctuating his friendly greeting with a hug and quick kiss on the cheek before disappearing into a sea of other fans.
The only thing better than seeing your celebrity crush in the flesh is sharing it with someone who feels exactly the same way. I've had that pleasure several times with fellow Ricky fan club member and New Jersey native Jenn. We bonded at one of Ricky's TODAY Show performances back in '05, becoming fast friends.
Since then, we've attended a private meet and greet with Ricky at the Time Warner Center here, flown to Miami to attend the dress rehearsal for his MTV Unplugged performance, and jetted off to San Juan last summer for two concerts back to back during Ricky's electrifying "Black and White" tour.
Seeing Ricky in Puerto Rico is what I would imagine seeing Elvis at Graceland must have been like. From billboards everywhere to front page newspaper coverage and regular TV spots, PR welcomed its favorite musical son with open arms. Jenn and I had fifth row center seats both nights. Our double dose of Ricky left us wanting more, so we got tickets for his concert at the Garden on the tail end of his tour.
That was in October, so Jenn and I had lots of catching up to do when we met up for dinner tonight. Over a handful of tapas at Cafe Ronda on the Upper West Side, we gushed about our recent experiences as first-time cruisers on Royal Caribbean, reminisced about the sweet sounds of Puerto Rico's native little frog, the coqui, and griped about the only downside of being a Ricky fan--having to answer that same question over and over again (no, we don't know if he is, and no, we don't care one way or the other).
One of the many upsides--connecting with a great friend who is as ready to pack her bags as I am next time Ricky hits the road.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
When I said that Mr. Real Estate would be no more than a passing fancy, my friend immediately asked "Then, why bother?" While her response probably had more to do with the fact that she’s post-breakup than anything else, I couldn’t help thinking—does the quest to find Mr. Right prevent you from enjoying Mr. Right For Now?
I’m no stranger to this conundrum. For years, I’ve scrutinized every boyfriend’s every quirk. And when I say scrutinize, I mean scrutinize. Two quizzes in the reassuring book, Kiss and Run revealed that I’m a classic case of what author Elina Fuhrman calls the nitpicker-perfectionist. No doubt, part of my preoccupation with happily-ever-after stems from having had two parents blissfully devoted to each other, whose first marriages ended in divorce.
Eager to avoid the starter marriage myself, I've spent most of my relationships questioning whether they would last. With more than half a dozen breakups behind me, I now realize that was time poorly spent. After all, does the measure of a relationship's worth really come from its duration? I dated my most recent boyfriend Jimmy--a real-life version of Sex and the City's ultimate good guy Aidan--for just three months. And yet, the imprint he left on my soul is as great as that of any significant other who was in my life for years.
One of the many wonderful lessons I learned from being with Jimmy is how important it is to live in the moment. Since we parted ways, I've decided to do something radical -- stop worrying about whether the current object of my affections is Mr. Right and simply have fun.
Isn't that what being single and fabulous is all about?
Monday, July 21, 2008
While Mark and I were able to get to know each other over dinner, that opportunity never came for my cousin C.S. and her mystery man Forrest.
C.S. and Forrest connected at a bar in Alexandria, Virginia. Forrest told her he worked in the Army. When he found himself heading to New York on business, he invited C.S. to meet him in the city.
After trekking in from Long Island, she received a call from Forrest. He was tied up at work, would she mind meeting him at The Plaza, where he was staying? C.S. obliged. After waiting in the lobby for awhile, she received another call from Forrest, asking if she would meet him in his room.
She was about to knock on the door when Forrest emerged from a different room -- carrying two armored briefcases. With an alarmed look on his face, he told C.S. in a whisper that he was in the middle of something, handed her his room key and disappeared. Upon entering his room, she found another surprise--wires everywhere, maps, a list of doctors, and a document titled, "Site Status Report for Vice Presidential Visit to NYC." Forrest wasn't in the Army -- he was with the secret service.
Uncomfortable with her findings, C.S. headed down to the legendary Oak Bar. One $25 cocktail later, Forrest still hadn't materialized. Tired of waiting, she called Forrest, told him she was leaving and walked down Fifth Avenue to the Gap. A little retail therapy goes a long way.
Like I've said, even a disappointing date leaves you with something--whether it's an impulse purchase or, if you're lucky, a nice guy to share a platonic dessert with.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Our evening began with a scrumptious dinner at Aji 53 in Bay Shore, a funky Japanese restaurant that my cousin frequents so much, the sushi chef and owner greeted her when we walked in. As soon as I tasted one of Aji's signature rolls, American Dream, I understood Carla's fondness for Aji 53. American Dream is a melt-in-your-mouth combination of rock shrimp tempura, spicy lobster and spicy kani with creamy sauce. There was a very pregnant pause in the conversation as I moaned in ecstasy over the explosion of flavor. Nobu's got nothing on this place.
While savoring every bite of Aji 53's superb cuisine, Carla, Amina and I reflected on some of the lessons we've learned as single and fabulous women -- the value of a three-date minimum for guys that seem to have potential, the sliding scale for male idiosyncrasies depending on what kind of potential they have (fling versus significant other), and the importance of being happy with yourself before undertaking any kind of romance.
Following our calorically and conversationally satisfying meal, we went to see Mamma Mia. The perfect film for a girls night out, Mamma Mia faithfully recreates the popular Broadway musical constructed around ABBA's greatest hits. A fantastic all-star ensemble cast--led by Meryl Streep (who knew she could sing?) and the positively luminous Amanda Seyfried as her daughter -- delivers non-stop fun. The eye candy (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Dominic Cooper) isn't bad either. Mamma Mia's exhuberant finale will have you laughing and singing along like you're a member of ABBA.
Top-rate sushi, first-class conversation and an entertaining film. That's my idea of an ABBA-solutely perfect Friday night!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The tale of Shoeless Joe Hardy, a fictional baseball fan who makes a deal with the devil to help his favorite team beat New York's Bronx Bombers, Damn Yankees sparkles with snappy dialogue and such beloved Adler & Ross showtune classics as "(You Gotta Have) Heart" and "Whatever Lola Wants." The show's three stars shine with home-run performances that had all of us in the audience cheering and laughing right through to the last curtain call.
Hunky Cheyenne Jackson, on a break from his role as lovable lunkhead Sonny Malone in Xanadu, brings a soulful sweetness to Shoeless Joe, capturing Joe's longing for the wife he's separated from. Jane Krakowski is at her bombshell best as Lola, the seductress who has her sights set on Joe. Sean Hayes of "Will & Grace" steals the show as Applegate. His pitch-perfect delivery and charisma create a devil you can't help falling in love with.
Like a slugger sliding toward home plate, the 2.5 hour running time of Damn Yankees races by, thanks to the show's talented cast. By the time they took their final bow, my cheeks were almost sore from smiling so much.
Damn Yankees' three-week run wraps up on July 27th. If you're looking for a night at the theater that will leave you with a perma-grin, this is the ticket.
Up next, a review of Mamma Mia the movie and a cousin's first date disaster with a secret service agent.
Friday, July 18, 2008
For a year and a half, I dated Shawn—a man who preferred curling up with his two ginormous pets and was not bashful about saying so. Though the experience of having four-legged competition for someone’s affections was a first for me, a little research revealed I wasn’t alone. According to a 2006 LIFE/America Online poll, at least 30% of pet owners spend more time with their pet than with their spouse. A whopping seventy-eight percent of those pet owners said this pattern is true of their loyalties too. More recently, a 2007 American Kennel Club survey found that 15% of pet owners say their significant other has become jealous of their dog.
As my pet-related problems with Shawn reached a fever pitch, I recall him confiding in me about a nightmare that had left him visibly shaken because it was about losing someone he loved. I was moved by his vulnerability—until he added that his fears were about losing the dogs. I knew then that I would always be second fiddle to Fido, that he would be living happily ever after with his poochs and not me.
Ever since our relationship ended, I’ve noticed something about guys and their dogs. Tall men seem to favor small Chihuahua types, while their shorter counterparts tend to prefer larger breeds (my ex is about 5”7 and owns two 60-pound canines, an English Pointer and a Weimaraner). I was surprised, then, earlier this week when I looked up and spotted a tall, handsome man with an equally tall, handsome dog walking toward me.
His dog graciously served as the icebreaker, approaching me in search of a little stroking. I was more than happy to oblige, especially when I noticed the book his owner was carrying—Lauren Weisberger’s current bestseller, “Chasing Harry Winston.” Could it be? I wondered. A cute, single guy so evolved that he reads chick lit and isn’t ashamed to admit it?
“Good book?” I inquired, flashing him my best smile.
“Uh, I don’t know,” he answered sheepishly. “My girlfriend is reading it.”
I chuckled as I walked away. At least this time, barking up the wrong tree had made me laugh.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I recall one memorable exchange a few years ago with my then-boyfriend Shawn in which I grossly overreacted to something he said on the subject of money.
“Who are you having a conversation with?” he asked, “Because it most certainly isn’t me.”
Shawn was absolutely right. My irrational response was because money had been a thorny issue with the man I had dated before him. Shawn had every reason to call me on trying to blame him for someone else’s behavior.
When it comes to past relationships, the downside of having total recall is holding onto previous grudges. The upside? Taking a stroll down memory lane strictly for the purpose of, as my favorite soap opera character once put it, nostalgiamatizing.
And so, with only the best of intentions in mind, I bring you By The Numbers-Take Four…
Number of old flames who are now Facebook ‘friends’: 4
Number of exes who declared unrequited love for me after marrying someone else: 2
Number of restaurants with panoramic views visited with boyfriends: 5
Number of times PDA with a boyfriend garnered applause from bystanders: 1
Number of years leading up to consummation of my long-distance love: 12
Stay tuned for much more about that long-distance love, and the suitors who followed him, when I finally start opening the vault of my journals next week!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
During the elevator ride upstairs, my friend Bobbi told me about her last visit to the hotel, which began with a gaggle of paparazzi out front and a Lindsay Lohan sighting. Apparently, she looks like less of a vixen and more of a (short) high schooler in person.
When we reached A-60, the Thompson Hotel’s members-and-guests-only rooftop bar, we couldn’t help noticing the intimate size of the space. Thankfully, there are two bar areas to help offset space-dictated fraternizing.
We grabbed a couple of cocktails from the perky waitress handing them out and settled ourselves on a cushy couch to take in the view. Along with idyllic sunset vistas of the skyline, our seats offered the perfect spot for people watching. It was a very well-coiffed, very twenty-something crowd, most of whom kept to themselves. When it came time for us to get our gift bags, we couldn’t help but appreciate the irony of one included item--Roc anti-wrinkle serum. I think it’s safe to say we were more excited than the party’s more youthful contingent about trying it.
Our next stop was Barolo, a breezy Italian eatery with three spacious dining rooms. Over a plate of pasta and pan seared sea bass respectively, Bobbi and I compared notes about disastrous first dates.
For her, there was the dinner during which she found out her date was married—when his wife showed up. Equally surprising, the double date that culminated in the other couple making out and asking Bobbi if she and her date would like to join them. My worst first/last dates? The restaurateur who asked me if I wanted to hear about his broken engagement—and then proceeded to talk about nothing else all night. A close second would be the guy who went into florid detail about sexual escapades with his ex. Call me old fashioned, but I think any talk of past relationships on a first date should be in (very) small doses. As for asking about threesomes, foursomes and the like, whatever happened to leaving a little mystery for date number two?
Cost of attending TONY’s Rooftop party: $28. Laughing with a friend about the vagaries of bad first dates and inappropriate kinky requests? Priceless.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Having gone to my very first Bon Jovi show in October during the initial leg of their "Lost Highway" tour, I had every expectation of being dazzled all over again. The veteran rockers did not disappoint, delivering a high-octane three-hour concert that proved why they're still selling out arenas 25 years after first arriving on the scene.
From classics like "Bad Medicine" and "Livin' On A Prayer" to such recent charttoppers as "Who Says You Can't Go Home" and "(You Want To) Make a Memory," the band took all of us in the audience on an exhilarating journey through their entire catalog of hits. The on-stage camaraderie between Jon, Ritchie Sambora and the rest of the band was palpable--the kind of connection that can only come from more than two decades of performing together.
Between songs, Jon did some reminiscing. He mentioned writing "Wanted: Dead or Alive" way back when with Ritchie on the washing machine at Ritchie's house. He laughed about coming to MSG as a kid and sitting in the nosebleed section, and said this week marks the 25th anniversary of Bon Jovi's first performance here.
"For 25 years, we've been saying we're not going anywhere," he told the crowd. "We're just getting started."
Thunderous applause and screams indicated all of us in the audience couldn't agree more.
By the time Bon Jovi took their final bow, my voice was happily hoarse. As everyone filed out, the sounds of Sinatra singing "New York, New York" filled the emptying arena. All of us sang right along with Old Blue Eyes. I smiled, thinking immediately of my mother. "New York, New York" was one of her favorites. She adored this city with every part of her, a love I will be forever grateful to have inherited. After all, this is a city where even the biggest of dreams can come true.
Just ask Bon Jovi.
So, I hereby rescind what I said earlier about Mark being your typical artist type. It takes an above average guy to admit when he's nervous and I appreciate that. And I wish him a lifetime of great desserts and rock star fame.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Mark and I met at Steak Frites, a laidback bistro down on Varick Street. The conversation kicked off easily, as Mark and I had discovered earlier in the week (when he posted a comment right here on the blog) a shared passion for dessert. Over the next two hours, I learned quite a bit about Mark. I learned that he has spent more than a month aboard a Carnival cruise ship entertaining passengers, that he loves conceptual art installations, that his older brother and father possess Mensa-level intelligence, and that he “wasn’t blown away” by closing Broadway show “Passing Strange.” And what exactly did Mark learn about me? Not much, since there was little room in our conversation for my end of it.
Apart from asking me one question (“what kind of PR do you do?”), Mark’s focus remained squarely on himself. Perhaps it’s too much of a cliché to say that narcissism is typical of artists, but then again…stereotypes exist for a reason.
Thankfully, Steak Frites more than met my expectations, offering service with a smile and a meal that was delicious from start to finish. Since the Post was picking up the tab, Mark and I indulged in four appetizers—including two types of gazpacho, crabcakes and shrimp cocktail. For my entrée, I selected a sublime lobster risotto with pan seared scallops, followed by a red-wine glazed cheesecake that was to die for. A glass of sweet wine topped it all off and cemented my kudos to the Post for choosing such a fantastic restaurant.
When Mark and I parted at the subway, he said, “We’ll talk soon.” Translation: not going to happen.
Full from my decadent three-course meal, I exited the 1/9 at Columbus Circle and walked a couple of blocks to try and burn off both the calories and my disappointment. What is it about a lackluster date that makes romantic chemistry seem impossibly out of reach?
To cheer myself up, I signed in to Facebook, curious about what old flame updates awaited me. I was already zero for two, having learned earlier in the day that a high school sweetheart is gay and a college ex is married. With bated breath and more than a little trepidation, I logged in and wondered what response I would get from the adorable Aussie who enchanted me six years ago when I was Down Under. Turns out he has just moved to Canada, news which made me smile. Our cyberspace exchange reminded me that you never know what’s right around the corner and left me feeling hopeful.
After all, in an era that offers so many virtual and real world opportunities to connect and reconnect, how can I be anything else?
Sunday, July 13, 2008
The privilege of bypassing family-deluged public pools is something locals are willing to pay dearly for -- a one-year membership to trendy hotspot SoHo House will set you back $1,400 (Sex and the City's Samantha opted to masquerade as a member there instead just so she and the girls could access the rooftop pool). I discovered a much more cost effective and delightfully low-key urban oasis yesterday, at Room Mate Grace.
A boutique hotel located a few blocks from Rockefeller Center, Room Mate Grace offers indoor relaxation to non-guests after 5pm daily. The hotel's small but more than serviceable pool is 3 foot 9 inches deep and connected to a bar, so you can order a cocktail while going for a dip. Best of all, it will only cost you a few drinks, or $10 on weekends, to get wet.
Against the modern chic backdrop of soft, spa-like lighting and an eclectic soundtrack ranging from 60's classic "Hang on Sloopy" to a trippy cover of "Let's Get Physical," I kicked back on a lounge chair before going for an exhilarating swim. Not only was the water comfortably cool, but I had the pool all to myself.
Still, it was easy to imagine New Yorkers mingling underwater, so I asked the bartender what the poolside vibe is usually like.
"Pretty chill," she said of weekends at dusk, adding that it becomes quite a scene as the evening progresses.
I was feeling pretty chill myself post-swim and more than happy to pony up my $10 for it. The bartender, however, told me not to worry about it and to "just go and have a great day."
Her generosity exemplified one of New York's least-publicized and yet most enduring assets -- the kindness of strangers. Even in a city of 8 million people, it's easier to find than you might think.
And, yes, I tipped the bartender.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
I became acquainted with Mario earlier this year, during his electrifying stint on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars." As the show's youngest-ever competitor (he's 21), he ignited the floor with energetic charm, sexy moves and sizzling chemistry with partner Karina Smirnoff.
It was standing room only at the concert. Before the show, I wedged myself into a spot at the crowded bar and indulged in some popcorn shrimp and fries, complimented by a smooth glass of Chardonnay. The shrimp was basted in a zesty lime vinaigrette. Sinfully high in calories, sinfully pleasing to the palette.
Finally, Mario took the stage, blazing through every song and enchanting his audience every step of the way. His 75-minute set was a seamless mix of recent hits and covers -- including silky smooth renditions of "Sexual Healing" and "Human Nature" that had all of us grooving right along with him.
In celebration of his recent big birthday, Mario toasted us with a glass of champagne, his first alcoholic beverage on stage. Cheers!
The show ended on a high note, with Mario's two biggest hits (and my favorites in his repertoire) -- "Crying Out For Me"and "Let Me Love You." Everyone, myself included, was belting out every word. It was no surprise then, when Mario declared,
"Ain't no place like New York!"
Friday, July 11, 2008
With my good friends Sara and Leila in tow, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the very first time. Apart from narrowly avoiding a collision with bicyclists racing by in the adjacent lane, the mile-long trek lived up to my expectations and then some. Panoramic views of the New York skyline...couples, families and joggers taking advantage of perfect low-humidity 75-degree weather…and a look at this summer’s much-discussed Waterfalls installation.
Upon arriving in Brooklyn Heights, we reverted from resident to tourist mode, trying to get our bearings with the help of directions printed out on MapQuest. Though legendary pizza purveyor Grimaldi’s was our intended destination, the inevitable long line landed us down the street instead, at Pete's near the waterfront.
Over some tasty and reasonably priced pasta ($36 per person for drink, appetizer and entrée), the three of us covered a lot of ground--a long-awaited promotion finally becoming official, ideal long weekend destinations (New Orleans and Savannah among them) and the often-complicated nature of sibling relationships. Sometimes, female bonding is more straightforward when you don’t share the same DNA.
The three of us shared a desire for dessert and our charming waiter--living up to the restaurant's tagline, "four generations of service" -- gamely attempted to entice us into having it at Pete's. I almost caved when he mentioned my Achilles sweet spot TiramiSu but resisted, knowing a different kind of homemade pleasure awaited us at The Blue Pig. Renowned for its ice cream, The Blue Pig delighted me just as much with the portion sizes— runt, piglet, piggy and hog. Though I ordered a runt-sized cherry vanilla shake, I left feeling more like a piggy.
After a stroll along the promenade and one last sweeping glimpse of the illuminated NYC skyline, we jumped on the 2/3 train back to Manhattan. Who says you need to stray farther than a neighboring zip code to go on a memorable trip?
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Why the reticence? For the same reason that Cindy's friend expressed over dinner at Fresco the other night -- being a little too close for comfort when it comes to old flames.
My affable colleague Li, whose megawatt smile always lights up a room, put it best today.
"I hate that all of my exes are only two clicks away," he lamented. "It's bad enough that [one of them] lives in Brooklyn."
As we compared notes on the thriving social media landscape, Li was kind enough to say that he enjoyed my recent By The Numbers posts. Several SGITC readers have expressed a similar appreciation for my fun statistics, so here are a few more:
Number of relationships started during a taping of NYPD Blue: 1
Number of serious relationships generated by Match.com, HurryDate, etc: 2
Number of relationships with multiple breakups: 3
Number of breakups that took place in Central Park: 2
Number of men who disrobed (uninvited) on a first date without achieving their intended goal: 2
Stay tuned for more about my life, By The Numbers. Up next...a journey to Brooklyn and a concert by a "Dancing with The Stars" semi-finalist.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
In the space of less than ten minutes, the men had moved swiftly across several subjects -- including salary bonuses, politics and dogfighting. Topics of a different sort characterized the dialogue that unfolded over dinner between me, my good friend Cindy and two longtime friends of hers.
With the dreamy Dali-esque paintings of artist Gregory Drasler surrounding us, talk moved swiftly from Fresco's pricey menu (about $75 per person) to questions about relationships. Should a groom's nuptial toast to his bride be breathlessly romantic or humorously anecdotal? To date or not to date right after a breakup? And just how attracted do you need to be to go out with someone more than once?
"I like him well enough," said one of Cindy's friends, adding that her new guy's lack of height prohibits her from feeling any more than that.
Cindy's other friend seemed unsure what to feel about her recent entre into the social networking universe, where she's encountered more than one old flame. Sometimes even cyberspace can be an unnervingly small world.
All of this girl talk took place between bites of truly delectable Italian fare. My palette was pleased by each of the following menu selections--tuna tartar with avocado, vegetarian pennette in a tomato sauce with mozzarella cheese, and the most divine banana pudding with vanilla wafers, butterscotch sauce and whipped cream. The pudding was so heavenly that it has claimed the fifth spot in my personal pantheon of all-time favorite desserts. Here are the other Top 4:
4. Chocolate mousse at Vivolo's in Midtown. Light yet sinfully rich and satisfying, garnished with a dollop of whipped cream and a strawberry.
3. Key lime pie at Cedar's, Foxwoods, Connecticut. Memorable as much for the slice's gargantuan size as for being the perfect blend of tart and sweet.
2. Chocolate ice cream sundae at T-Bar on the Upper East Side. In two words--pure decadence.
And the most memorable dessert of all time, reigning supreme after more than 15 years...
1. TiramiSu, The Savoy Hotel, Zurich. Literally meaning "pick me up" in Italian, this slice of heaven was introduced to me by a charming maitre'd who spoke five languages fluently. Though I said I had no room for dessert, he insisted I try the TiramiSu. I ended up ordering a second serving and thus, an enduring love affair was born.
Men may come and go, but the pleasure of a good dessert lingers forever!
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Our upcoming date will be featured in the Post's weekly "Meet Market" column. The column is basically the modern-day equivalent of "The Love Connection," with NYP editors replacing Chuck Woolery as host and facilitator. After you submit a detailed profile and pose for some professional pix, matchmakers at the Post decide who might be a good fit with whom and one of two scenarios takes place--a guy chooses from three girls or vice versa. Finally, the propective couple goes out on a date at a restaurant TBD, and the Post picks up the tab. Having tried Match.com, eHarmony and Hurry Date, how could I resist this user-friendly approach to romance?
Meet Market is always looking for willing victims...ahem, I mean, singletons. If you're interested in playing the Post's version of The Dating Game, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My date with Mark--a 38-year-old musician/writer--is scheduled for Sunday. Be sure to pick up the Post and watch this space to find out how it goes!
Monday, July 7, 2008
With such an embarassment of culinary riches right at my doorstep, I tend to patronize what's nearby. My beloved late father was a similar creature of habit. A true neighborhood gourmand, he was steadfastly loyal to only three or four eateries. If a restaurant was beyond a four-block radius, he simply wasn't interested, never mind how buzzworthy it might be.
While I'm not that much of a stickler for proximity (though I share my dad's ardor for a good meal), I will admit to having certain gaps in my restaurant savoir faire. This week, I will be venturing out of my neighborhood--twice!--to try two well-known dining establishments. First up will be Fresco, run by renowned NYC restaurateurs, the Scotto Family. Next, I will head down to meatpacking district darling Buddakan--the location of Carrie and Big's engagement party in "Sex and the City."
Mmmm, New York. The city of limitless dining options!
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Bolton's is like Filene's Basement and Burlington Coat Factory--you have to wade through a lot of dowdy, older-skewing fashions to get to the finds. That said, I never leave Bolton's empty handed and yesterday was no exception. Within an hour, I found 3 tops, a pair of khakis and a breezy black dress -- all for $100. Much as my heart belongs to the pricier and trendier Ann Taylor LOFT, I can't deny that Bolton's is a worthy competitor for my shopping affection.
Sporting one of my new purchases (pale pink sleeveless top with gathered neck - $14.99), I met my friend Tiffany in the lobby and we went to see "Get Smart." An entertaining romp that provides enough belly laughs to offset the jokes that fall flat, the movie also showcases Anne Hathaway's evolution from Disney ingenue to style icon. She's a breath of fresh air in this day and age of Britney, Lindsay and the like.
After "Get Smart," Tiffany and I went for drinks (fruit smoothie for me, mochachino for her) at nearby Cinema Cafe, a casual bistro very conducive to girl talk and breakups. I've experienced both here, having called it a day with two boyfriends and spent many a meal analyzing the indiosynchrasies of the opposite sex.
Tiffany and I met recently for the first time, when I overheard her talking about "Sex and the City" and couldn't stop myself from chiming in about how much I enjoyed the big-screen version. It seemed only fitting to end the night curled up on my couch with a pirated DVD copy of the movie. Pirated copies have come a long way, and this slightly blurry version will do until the real thing (which should boast plenty of deleted scenes given that SATC's original cut was 3 hours+) comes out.
A $5 copy of SATC? That's my kind of bargain!
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Strolling down 8th Avenue to meet my dear friend Leila, I overhear a guy tell his friend--
"I slept alone last night." He pauses deliberately before adding, "By choice. All the women who have my number...."
His voice trails off as I walk past him, leaving me to wonder how he finished the rest of that sentence. I suspected, though, that his solo slumbering was not necessarily by his own design.
Leila and I had a good laugh over this while making our way over to the West Village for lunch at Rare burger bar. I somehow managed to resist ordering the fry sampler plate with 3 varieties and 4 dipping sauces, opting instead to indulge in the truffle fries. Delish!
Our next stop was the newest outpost of Grom, the popular gelaterie, on Bleecker Street. Dessert was made even sweeter by the absence of Grom's typically long queues. The Tirami Su flavored gelato hit the spot.
We jumped on the 2 train to Wall Street and headed over to one of NYC's summer staples - the street fair. In between the ubiquitous cheap t-shirt and ethnic food stalls, we stumbled across some colorful gemstone jewelry. Leila convinced me to abandon my accessory comfort zone and purchase a chunky turquoise necklace. For $10 and a pair of matching earrings, how could I say no?
Finally, we arrived at the day's primary destination - the Lower East Side apartment of another soul sister, Amanda. She and her two roommates continued their tradition of holiday hospitality, welcoming about 25 of us into their fabulous home overlooking the East River. In addition to patriotic red and blue Jell-O shots, burgers, hot dogs, pizza bagels and Amanda's legendary four-layer dip, we feasted on yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting that put NYC's overhyped Magnolia Bakery to shame.
With a picture-perfect view of the fireworks, everyone burst into a rendition of "America the Beautiful" that made me think of my beloved late mom. Mom adored this country. Every Independence Day, she would belt out patriotic tunes, clapping her hands and marching in place excitedly while watching July 4th celebrations on TV. It is because of her that I appreciate how fortunate I am to be an American. Thanks, Mom.
Leila and I joined the crowd assembled on the terrace, where we had a good laugh with Ross, a master joketeller with an uncommon modern-day specialty in PG-rated humor. With perfect pitch, he says,
"A priest, a rabbi and an acrobat walk into a bar. The bartender says--what is this, a joke?"
A little later, Ross has us chuckling again when we overhear him talking about the social networking site he belongs to.
"All of the girls from high school who've chatted me up seem to be unhappy in their marriages," he says.
Maybe there's something to be said for singlehood after all.
Friday, July 4, 2008
Cumulative Miles I’ve Traveled for Men: 49,156
Cumulative Miles Men Have Traveled For Me: 33,994
Number of Miles Traveled During Longest Road Trip With A Boyfriend: 886
Number of Road Trips Followed Immediately By A Breakup: 2
Happy 4th, everyone!!
Thursday, July 3, 2008
After the music, I went inside and took advantage of MOMA's extended hours. What a pleasure to enjoy masterpieces by Monet, Matisse and their contemporaries without the usual crush of museum crowds! Definitely worth the $20 entrance fee.
My last stop of the night was Rockefeller Center, for a cocktail at the Rainbow Room. Over a perfectly chilled glass of Chardonnay, J.J. the bartender told me of his native Costa Rica, and of his wife making the first move when she spotted him at a ballgame in Texas more than 30 years ago.
"It's easier to win the lottery than to meet the right person," he says.
Truer words were never spoken, I think to myself.
What's the secret of his enduring marriage? J.J. lives in NYC. His wife lives in Florida.
I laugh and turn my attention toward sweeping views of the skyline, punctuated tonight by the Empire State Building lit up in red, white and blue. What better way to end July 4th eve?
God bless America!
Number of Handwritten Diaries: 93
Age During First Diary: 7 (1981)
Approximate Number of Jobs: 10
Number of Chance Encounters with Actor Chris Noth (a.k.a Mr. Big): 2
Number of In-Person Encounters with Singer Ricky Martin: 4
Number of Ricky Martin Concerts Attended: 12
Estimated Number of Destinations Visited: 34
Number of Times Lived Abroad: 3
Cumulative Miles I’ve Traveled for Men: 45,656
Cumulative Miles Men Have Traveled For Me: 29,676
Number of Serious Relationships: 7
Number of Long-Distance Relationships: 2
Number of British Boyfriends: 3 (okay--one was only a two-week fling, but I’m counting him anyway).
What’s In A Name: I’ve dated 5 David’s, 3 Jason’s, 2 Eddies, 2 Alan’s and 2 Marks.
Most Flowers Received: 300. Long-stem roses of varying colors--25 dozen for my 25th birthday.
Live music at MOMA (Museum of Modern Art)? Happy Hour imbibing in Midtown? That's the great thing about New York--the possibilities are endless. Watch this space to find out where the night takes me.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Now, as I hover on the precipice of the big 3-5, I can't help wondering if it's time to supplement my private, portable writings with something in the blogosphere. And so it is that, with some encouragement from several of my fabulous girlfriends, Single Gal in the City is, at long last, making her online debut.
I make no apologies for appropriating my title from that little HBO series that became a cultural phenonemon, and now, one of the summer's hottest movies (with the highest-ever opening for a romantic comedy). Critics and elitist naysayers be damned, Sex and the City - much like Bridget Jones' Diary - resonated with women like myself by portraying with honesty and wit the up's and down's of dating, friendship and big city life--and topping it off with a heavy dose of fashion eye candy.
As for me, I've often joked that my life here in my beloved New York is very SATC - minus the great sex and the great shoes. Like Ms. Bradshaw, I cherish my friendships, adore my city and do a lot of reflecting about the opposite sex. But when it comes to my healthy appetite for both carbs and cosmos, and my penchant for Payless over Manolos, I'm definitely more of a Bridget Jones kind of girl.
One more explanatory note about how Single Gal in the City will unfold - it will be a blog that mingles past and present together. Because I'll be juxtaposing my current-day adventures and reflections with entries from the aforementioned 90+ handwritten journals I've filled. From the ghost of a long-distance love spanning 14 years to the 300 roses I once received from a smitten Englishman, I've experienced some memorable affairs of the heart. I'm looking forward to sharing these adventures from my past, and the ones to come.