Sunday, August 31, 2008
A five-and-a-half-acre sports and fitness facility boasting Olympic-size indoor and outdoor pools, Asphalt Green offered a free community swim this afternoon. Given that day passes for local private pools can cost as much as $100, I happily chose this complimentary alternative -- until I got there and was reminded that you get what you pay for.
It wasn’t until after I was in the pool that one of the lifeguards informed me I needed a swim cap, and would have to keep my head above water since I wasn’t wearing one. I attempted to enjoy the water anyway, but a rambunctious crowd of all ages, and signage stating “no lounging or sunbathing” prevented me from chilling out.
Fortunately, I was much more successful at my second destination, Carl Schurz Park. The picturesque park offers winding paths and flowerbeds and a broad promenade with panoramic views of the East River.
My last visit here was back in ‘04, when I attempted to break up with my clingy then-boyfriend. As I settled myself on a grassy knoll to do some people watching, I couldn’t help thinking about how much I’ve grown since that ill-fated romance and those which followed it. I’ve finally reached that wonderful confluence of believing Mr. Right is out there while being completely happy that I’m single. Because, when you’ve got the city of New York to keep you company, you’re never really alone.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
When you’re single, one of the adages that you tend to often hear is that love happens when you’re not looking for it. That was most definitely the case on a spring afternoon fourteen years ago when I met 36-year-old Mark, a.k.a Sparky.
Back in the Big Apple for a few weeks on spring break from my junior year in London, I was persuaded by my mom to accept an invitation from a family friend and producer to watch a filming of “NYPD Blue.” Having only seen the then-hit show a couple of times and still recovering from jetlag, I wasn’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to hobnob with the stars.
That changed when, in the course of trying to locate aforementioned family friend Bill, I crossed paths with Sparky. The sparks flew between us immediately, and so did the playful banter. I now Open The Vault and take you back to March 1994...
March 23, 1994
New York City
I was snapping away with my camera, intent on recording as many details of “NYPD Blue” in action as possible. [My sister] Hilary and I posed for pictures with actors Dennis Franz and David Caruso.
While I was sitting in Sparky’s chair, I couldn’t resist asking Hil to get a shot of the two of us. It seemed fitting since he turned out to be the most memorable part of the day.
Sparky offered to try and get Hil and I walk-on parts as extras in the episode being filmed, but I said no thanks, not wanting to seem too starstruck. As Sparky continued his job of recording the dialogue, we continued giving each other the eye quite a bit.
“God, is it possible,” he asked, gripping the arms of the chair I was in and leaning in real close, “to be infatuated with someone this quickly?”
“I don’t know,” I answered with a smile. “I guess so.”
I knew it was only a matter of time until the fireworks between Sparky and me would lead elsewhere. As the sun faded and filming wrapped up, he once again held both arms of the chair. Looking right at me through his Ray Bans, he said--
“I would love to take you out.”
“Well, I’d love for you to take me out,” I replied without hesitation.
* * *
Before leaving the set, Hilary and I went over to Bill to thank him for inviting us to the proceedings. Upon informing him of my pending date with Sparky, he cautioned--
“Be careful. You know, he’s a Hollywood guy.”
* * *
Sparky took me to dinner at Capriccio, an intimate and upscale restaurant off of Park Avenue. I felt very aware of the fact that I was being wooed in a way I never had been before.
The conversation flowed and it struck me how stimulating it felt to be with an older man with so much life’s experience behind him--until Sparky casually mentioned that was he was divorced and had an 11-year-old child.
I smiled, inwardly thinking--whew, thank goodness he’s only going to be in town for 3 more days.
* * *
I had no idea then that the following three days would lead to months of bicoastal phone calls and flights, and years of love across three time zones. Who knew a TV shoot in the middle of a crowded New York City park could also be the ideal stage for romance?
Friday, August 29, 2008
After sipping a few cosmos (mixed to perfection by bartender Danielle), we parked ourselves in front of the stage. The show began with snippets of classic 80’s films like “Top Gun,” and “E.T.” Then, for the next two hours, Rubix Cube presented a nostalgic set of classics from the era of leg warmers and jelly bracelets.
From “Video Killed The Radio Star” and “Hey Mickey” to “Get Into The Groove” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” Rubix Cube took us back in time, delivering an electrifying mix of 80’s hits performed with great energy and perfect pitch. The band wasn’t exaggerating when they thanked the crowd for being great back-up singers -- we sang along to every word.
By the time Rubix Cube performed their encore -- a rousing rendition of “Livin’ On A Prayer” -- Caroline and I had given new meaning to that 80’s catchphrase let’s get physical by working up a major sweat from dancing.
Cosmos, a dear friend, and a great cover band -- the ideal ingredients for a perfect night out!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
My mother exemplified what it means to have a never-ending zest for life. Today, my job acquainted me with someone of a similar mindset -- legendary public relations and marketing guru, certified skydiver and all-around mensch Peter Shankman.
Peter stopped by Quinn & Co. for lunch, delighting me and my colleagues with his passion for PR, skydiving and thinking outside the box. He’s made a career out of the latter. In addition to founding the in-flight social networking site AirTroductions.com and creating a T-shirt that put the “Titanic” movie phenomenon in perspective (“It sank…get over it”), Peter has launched Help A Reporter Out (HARO).
HARO (http://www.helpareporterout.com/) is an online resource connecting reporters with publicists. In a matter of months, HARO membership has grown from 600 to 23,000. Not surprisingly, HARO is crushing its competitors because of Peter’s fresh approach to the world of information, one that starts with serving the greater good.
As he spoke of this intention, his words struck a chord. Having worked both sides of the media fence -- starting out as a TV journalist before moving into PR -- I’ve come to disagree with the popular notion that the relationship between publicists and members of the media has to be an adversarial one. It was refreshing to hear an industry veteran go one step further by saying that whenever you help someone, everyone benefits.
Peter spoke a lot about dreaming big and the only limitations being the ones we place on ourselves. As an example, he shared his creative approach to job hunting after getting laid off from America Online years ago.
Dressed in a suit on a bitterly cold winter day, Peter wore a sandwich board with his resume and handed out hundreds of copies. The stunt landed him more than just a cold -- he received 479 phone calls and 30 job offers.
“Don’t be afraid to different,” he said, “It’s so much more fun.”
I couldn’t agree more - though I’m still not sure about skydiving.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Thanks to OLV’s tireless efforts and daily updates, I witnessed several key scenes being shot—from Louise meeting Carrie for the first time at a Starbuck’s in the East Village, to Carrie running up the front steps of the main branch of New York’s Public Library. Tidbit: Sarah Jessica Parker was a trooper while filming the latter. Not only did she trip (occupational hazard of high heels, no doubt), but she had to wear a little vest and shorts in bitter cold conditions and smile like it was a spring day. Talk about acting.
I had a nice moment with Chris Noth after the Starbuck’s shoot wrapped. He’s so adorable in person that I couldn’t resist saying so. He smiled and made small talk with the gaggle of us girls surrounding him, rightfully assuming that our hearts belonged more to Mr. Big than Detective Mike Logan on “Law and Order.”
Yes, he's just as handsome in person! Chris Noth (Mr. Big) on the set of SATC, September 2007
Carrie and Big’s non-wedding was quite a production near Bryant Park and afforded the best opportunity for star gazing. I spotted most of the cast there….
Cynthia Nixon (Miranda) and SJP (Carrie) emerging from the New York Public Library, October 2007
It was on my fifth and final visit to the SATC set (after the filming of Charlotte’s birth) when I finally got that picture you see on the right of me and SJP. SJP is very petite and very gracious in person. When I thanked her for posing with me, she replied, “Thank you.”
My SATC fun couldn’t have happened without On Location Vacations. The site does a great job of reporting on film and TV shoots across the U.S. There’s no better resource for catching a glimpse of Hollywood in action.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
This get together was nearly two decades in the making. Marilyn and I connected back in 1991 over our shared affection for A and his work on the NBC soap opera “Santa Barbara.” As I blogged last week (http://melissa-singlegalinthecity.blogspot.com/2008/08/brunch-with-one-of-my-heroes.html), A and I became friends after meeting at the 1988 Daytime Emmys. Marilyn too has become good friends with him.
Still, with Marilyn in Ohio, A in California and me in New York, the stars never aligned for all of us to be in the same place at the same time. Serendipity finally smiled upon us on the other day, with an afternoon that was more than worth the wait.
While I had met A’s delightful wife Leslie years ago at the Emmys, this was my first encounter with their children--Cody, 21, Devon, 19, and Ren, 14. All three of them are exceptional--engaging, intelligent people who have inherited their parents’ warmth and compassion, not to mention their father’s acting and musical talents.
Over a three-hour brunch at Arte Café on the Upper West Side--which serves a brioche French Toast with apple cinnamon sauce that is to die for--the free-flowing conversation covered a lot of ground. Devon mentioned her excitement about going to see “Rent” with her siblings, while the rest of the Martinez clan raved so much about “Osage: August County” that I’m going to see it this weekend. Cody shared his poignant take on the artistic struggles of a musician while Ren told us about building homes this summer on a Navajo reservation.
By the time we got around to sharing an assortment of desserts--cheesecake, chocolate mousse, caramel gelato, and passionfruit sorbet--I felt like I had come to know another side of A. Through the years, he has spoken at great length and with great affection for his family. Now I know why.
With hugs all around, we parted outside the restaurant, but not before taking one last picture…
Monday, August 25, 2008
Our visit to Charm City began the night before, at a delicious dinner at Pazo with the hotel’s fabulous local PR team. Reminiscent of NYC’s Buddakan in its ambience, Pazo dazzled with tapas ranging from mashed potato croquetas to beef tartar with manchego cheese, along with sesame flatbread crackers that everyone here rightfully raves about.
Between bites, Baltimore PR maven Barb and I bonded over our shared passion for travel publicity and a mutual appreciation for the value of an all-women’s education. Meanwhile, hotel general manager Matt regaled me, Alexis and Barb’s effervescent colleagues Beth and Ashley with tales of parenthood. We all had a lump in our throat when Matt spoke of how your priorities shift upon hearing your child take its first breath.
Speaking of giving birth, the period from Hilton Baltimore’s conception to opening day spanned nearly six years. Barb and her team put together a five-star celebration for the hotel's long-anticipated debut that kicked off with an energetic performance from a high school marching band and continued with speeches from Mayor Sheila Dixon and Governor Martin O'Malley.
As officials spoke of the nearly 500 new jobs created by the Hilton and dozens of hotel staffers excitedly looked on, I couldn’t help getting a little choked up. These are the people whose hard work and dedication helped to build this enormous 757-room convention center hotel. I felt excited all over again to be part of the team helping to spread the word about it.
After the ceremonial ribbon cutting and lots of confetti, all of us PR gals skipped the Champagne and made sure the official photographer snapped some important pix, including this one…
With only a few hours before our train back to New York, Alexis and I strolled around Baltimore’s charming Inner Harbor and took in sweeping views of Oriole Park from the Hilton’s fourth floor outdoor terrace. Along the way, we spotted plenty of Yankee fans, in town for the Bronx Bombers’ face-off against the Orioles. What a perfect backdrop for Hilton Baltimore’s homerun first day.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
When you’re in a bicoastal romance, numbers become very important. The number of times you call each other daily, the number of hours, and minutes even, until you’re together again and so on. Here’s some more about my East-West Coast love affair, By The Numbers:
Number of miles collectively traveled by Sparky and I to see each other: 64,012
Number of dates before he presented me with a diamond ring: 3
Number of trips to visit Sparky in L.A. without my parents’ knowledge: 3
Number of trips to L.A. they never found out about: 1
Number of earthquakes experienced while in L.A.: 1
I still remember how unnerving it was to feel the ground shake -- and to learn that Sparky lived just a few blocks from the quake’s epicenter. He slept right through the aftershocks, as I awakened to a new appreciation for residing far from any major fault lines.
It’s fitting that my one and only experience of earthquakes happened with Sparky. As many friends and diary entries can attest, he shook up my world in a big way. One of the happy aftershocks of spending so much time in California with him -- discovering all over again that there’s no place I’d rather be than right here in the Big Apple.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Over drinks with J, a 31-year-old real estate analyst, at Accademia di Vino wine bar on the Upper East Side, the subject of Brad Pitt came up. J made some self-deprecating comment, to which I replied that I found him much cuter than the father of Angelina’s brood.
“Just for saying that,” he said excitedly, “I’m totally giving you oral sex for a year.”
A simple thank you would have sufficed.
While J pushed the envelope with raunchy remarks, 40-year-old real estate attorney H had more romantic matters on his mind when we caught up at Flute, a cozy Champagne lounge in Midtown.
H and I went out a handful of times back in October. Our dalliance fizzled partly because he was an ex’s best friend, and mostly because he didn’t know how to take things slowly. Since then, hitting the big 4-0 and seeing his buddies settle down has only made H intensify his warp speed wooing.
“Do you think we could be happy together?” he asked wistfully.
“I don’t know,” I said, adding that it seemed a bit early to be posing such a question.
What I do know is that rushing romantic chemistry can be a recipe for disaster. Projecting too far into the future--either by alluding to future coupledom or to indoor activities--tends to diminish the fun to be had in the present.
When you truly inhabit the here and now, it allows you not only to enjoy a first date more fully but to make a smart choice about whether that date is worthy of a second.
Friday, August 22, 2008
With a two-to-one guy-girl ratio, my dormitory Commonwealth Hall served up a steady stream of male distractions -- including an unexpected fling with a good friend. The fling ended so badly that romance was the last thing on my mind when I flew back to New York for spring break. Fate, however, had other plans.
It was during this break that I ended up meeting the man who would become my first true love and real-life version of Mr. Big. The day our paths crossed, my sister Hilary and I were invited by Bill Clark, a family friend and producer of “NYPD Blue” to watch a taping of the show in Tompkins Square Park.
I now Open The Vault and take you back to 1994...
New York City
March 23, 1994
“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you know where I can find Bill Clark?”
The man graciously suggested that if I stood right there, Bill would come by. He continued to engage me in small talk and I learned he was sound mixer for the show. We had only been talking for a few minutes when he said--
“You’re so beautiful, you should be in front of the cameras.”
A delighted smile crossed my face. Though his name was Mark, he said his on-set nickname was Sparky so that’s what I called him.
When shooting resumed, Sparky invited me to sit in his monogrammed folding chair, and gave me headphones to listen to the scenes being filmed. I saw him whisper something to my sister and then walk away.
“He said he has some time off soon,” Hilary told me. “And he’d like to spend it with you.”
* * *
I had no idea then that Sparky would act on his words and woo me across time zones and bodies of water.
I’ve got the diary entries to prove it.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
The posh crowd at Royal Ascot, June 2007
Dressed to the nines at Royal Ascot
That afternoon was one of many I’ve enjoyed with Charles and his family, including his sister Cheryl. All of them fall into that rare category of friends who have become family. The closeness we share is made even more special knowing that, somewhere, all of our beloved parents are delighting in the continuation of the love and friendship they enjoyed for so many years.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
(http://melissa-singlegalinthecity.blogspot.com/2008/07/post-breakup-etiquette-moving-on.html). Last night, I came home to find an email from my old flame Shawn informing me that he’s engaged.
Given that his wedding is just a few weeks away, and that I had already learned of the nuptials from his best friend, I was surprised to receive Shawn’s missive. I truly appreciated him wanting to tell me directly – though I found it a bit strange that he also directed me to his wedding website. To paraphase Miss Manners, forwarding event details to an uninvited guest is, well, tacky.
That said, I’m willing to give Shawn the benefit of the doubt. Just as I’ve learned there’s no linear route to happily ever after, so have I come to realize that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to post-breakup communication. I think there are so many minefields along the way to moving on, the occasional misstep is virtually unavoidable.
Shawn and I shared some great times that I'll always remember fondly. Sadly, we also share something tragic – we both lost each of our beloved parents to cancer. As I continue to find tremendous comfort in family, friends and a city that I adore to distraction, I am genuinely happy that my ex has found his own way of moving forward.
Like I’ve often said, closure is a wonderful thing.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Our culinary destination was Rayuela, a “freestyle Latino” eatery known for refashioning traditional Latin American and Spanish dishes. Specialties of the house are ceviche and tapas, and we enjoyed both, with tuna in watermelon ceviche and crab-infused guacamole among the delectable menu items we sampled.
Though our conversation began with subjects like hotel openings and corporate PR strategy, we eventually moved on from the shop talk to affairs of the heart. I couldn’t help noticing the stunning diamond rings adorning both Denise and Lauren’s left hands and couldn't help asking about the stories behind the sparklers.
Lauren spoke of meeting her Melbourne-bred fiance while studying abroad in Australia. As someone who once lived in Sydney and has visited the land of Oz three times, I can most definitely vouch for the irresistible charms of Aussie men.
I don’t know what got to me more about Denise's tale -- how she met her Mr. Right or his fabulous moniker, Hobson. Denise was three months into a membership with Match.com when she decided to cancel. The very next day, Hobson emailed her. Her sister convinced her to go on one last date. As it turned out, she quipped, that was indeed her last date ever because she and Hobson were mutually smitten.
Denise’s tale of online dating success inevitably got me to thinking about my experience with Match.com -- a series of fruitless first dates and a tumultuous 16-month relationship that unraveled with not one but two breakups.
Though I’ve since decided that Internet-generated romance is not for me, Denise’s story was a wonderful reminder that you never know where or when love is going to come into your life. Thankfully, I’ve never had more fun on the journey to finding it.
Monday, August 18, 2008
A 40-year showbiz veteran, A (short for Adolpho) is best known for his Emmy-winning portrayal of Cruz Castillo on NBC’s “Santa Barbara.” That’s how I became a fan of his, meeting him for the first time at the age of 14 when I attended the Daytime Emmys. I remember being so starstruck that I burst into tears upon seeing A. I never imagined that this memorable encounter would lead to a cherished friendship with one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever known.
A and Me at the Daytime Emmy Awards, June 1989
A has a well-deserved reputation for being gracious, down-to-earth and exceedingly kind. Over the course of twenty years and many delightful meals together, I’ve had the good fortune of experiencing his generous spirit first hand.
A devoted father of three who adores his children and his lovely wife Leslie, A speaks with boundless pride about his family. The ties that bind were among the many subjects we covered over brunch at Café Luxembourg on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Our affable waiter was solicitous yet unobtrusive about letting us linger, and linger we did for four hours. A and I were all smiles as we shared a sublimely decadent chocolate gateau with a dollop of whipped cream and cherry compote.
In between bites, we talked about the marvels of New Mexico, the catharsis to be found in artistic expression (he’s also a talented musician and writer), and the emotional trajectory that inevitably follows a breakup.
It is a rare thing to be given the opportunity to meet one of your real-life heroes. Rarer still is when you connect as friends. Twenty years after meeting A for the first time, I’m still starstruck.
I’m tickled pink that A will be gracing the small screen again. If you haven’t experienced his talent, do yourself a favor and check out “One Life to Live” beginning September 12th. You can also catch A this week on the Lifetime Movie Network flick, “Little Girl Lost.”
Sunday, August 17, 2008
From her sunlight-flooded fifth floor pad on Perry Street (located just a few blocks from the stoop that doubled as Carrie’s on Sex and the City), we strolled over to Sant Ambroeus, an intimate Italian eatery with equal parts charm and delicious fare.
Over some white wine, a shared plate of trenette in pesto sauce and grilled sea bass, Dana and I reminisced about memorable childhood moments --- including the tricked out performance that we along with her sister, my cousin Carla produced for other relatives as “Glitter Girls,” complete with show tickets, multiple costume changes, and a faux backstage that consisted of a bed sheet thrown over the stereo system.
Also part of our stroll down memory lane -- the predilection all three of us had as kids for consuming entire tubs of Betty Crocker’s Creamy Deluxe frosting. Our decadent little habit remained a secret from our parents…until one unfortunate night when the chocolate frosting didn’t agree with Dana, and her body virulently rejected every last ounce she’d consumed.
Though that unpleasant episode permanently put the kibosh on our frosting orgies, we’ve continued to share many sweet treats over the years (tonight’s were chocolate gelato and pear sorbet) and, of course, so much more. Dana is one of my heroes -- a smart, accomplished career woman whose flair for fashion, food and event planning is matched by her devotion to those she loves and unfailing moral compass. I feel so proud and fortunate to have her as my cousin, dear friend and, once again, fellow New Yorker.
We did plenty of gushing about our fair city tonight. And we both agreed, there’s no place in the world like it.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Today, I took advantage of the 80-degree low-humidity weather and went for a leisurely stroll across the park. I passed about a dozen John Lennon devotees paying their respects with flowers and candles at Strawberry Fields before catching a glimpse of roller bladers strutting their stuff. I stopped to groove right along with them to Bobby Brown’s 80’s hit “Rock wit'cha.”
As I meandered over to the tree-lined mall, Bobby’s voice faded, replaced by the sounds of a solo sax player. Even though I’ve spent most of my life as a New York resident, I’m continually astounded by the caliber of musical talent here. It’s not uncommon in the Big Apple to enjoy a mariachi band or Motown-esque trio with your morning commute. Sign me for up Subway Idol whenever that makes it onto the crowded reality TV landscape.
Upon exiting the park, I decided to treat myself to Mister Softee ice cream. Thanks to the handy calorie chart pasted on the side of the truck, I was able to absolve myself of any guilt with the reassuring fact that, at 250 calories, a vanilla cone was the least decadent option available.
I was only a few blocks from home when I looked up and spotted Begonia, a fellow Mount Holyoke alum I hadn’t seen in years. She introduced me to her husband and adorable five-month old daughter, and we debriefed each other about our respective jobs and neighborhoods of residence.
After we parted, I couldn’t help thinking about the different trajectories our lives have taken. Though Begonia and I are the same age and graduated the same year, she’s a mother and wife while I’m still single. I found myself wondering, how did she find her happily ever after? Are there choices I might have made that would have led me to find my own domestic bliss by now?
And then, I took a deep breath and smiled, remembering the more important question--am I happy right now, right where I am at this moment?
The answer is a resounding yes.
Friday, August 15, 2008
The impetus for my visual experiment was a dating advice book that suggested saying hello to at least three random men every day. Even for an outgoing gal like me, this felt too brazen so I opted instead to just smile at selected passersby.
As I attempted to make eye contact with some local male residents, I noticed for the first time just how radical a concept this is in the Big Apple. While I will always maintain that New Yorkers are more neighborly than we’re given credit for, the fact is most of us walk around with an intentionally unapproachable air. In fact, the inscrutable poker face is something of an art here. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a genuine smile is sometimes all it takes to elicit the same in return.
For example, during a ride on the downtown 6 train, I smiled at a guy sitting across from me. When I exited the train a few minutes later, he jumped off the train and handed me his number before getting back on the train to his final destination.
A couple of days later, I was sitting in a cab in traffic when a commercial van pulled up beside me. I smiled at the adorable driver, James, who proceeded to jump out in the middle of the street and ask me for my number. This led to a delightful evening at Kemia, a sensual Moroccan lounge near Hell’s Kitchen with low lighting, rose petals on the floor and a killer cocktail menu.
Though my date with James ended up being a one-shot deal (he commutes from the Poconos and is “separated”), I’ve heard several stories of long-term love that resulted simply from paying attention to what’s right in front of you. As a college student, my journalist friend Robert went into a Roy Rogers and looked up to find he had a lot in common with waitress Christine. The conversation Robert and Christine began that night has stretched into more than twenty years of marriage and raising a family together. Who knew fast food could be so romantic?
When you keep your eyes open, you never know where even the simplest of journeys can take you.
A friendly smile doesn’t hurt either.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I’ve participated in the five-mile walk in Central Park since 1996, when my late beloved mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the years, I’ve walked in memory of her, and in honor of the amazing women in my life who are survivors of the disease -- my sister-in-law, my cousin (diagnosed at the age of 40) and my aunt.
Hundreds of us striders filled the Marriott Marquis’ Broadway Ballroom for yesterday’s breakfast. WABC-TV anchor Diana Williams introduced a panel of speakers whose powerful stories reinforced the importance of events like Making Strides. A nine-year survivor diagnosed on her 50th birthday expressed gratitude that her recovery has enabled her to care for her disabled daughter. A more recent survivor was overjoyed to be at the breakfast, having made a videotaped appearance last year because she was undergoing treatment at the time.
Among the sobering statistics presented -- Congress only provides funding for 1 in 5 low-income or uninsured women to get a mammogram. The American Cancer Society provides access to free mammograms. It’s one of many life-saving programs supported by money raised during the Making Strides walk.
Last year’s walk in Central Park raised $2.9 million for the fight against breast cancer. This year, the ACS has set its sights on crossing the $3.2 million mark. On October 19th, I’ll be rounding up my best gal pals and putting on my walking shoes to help the ACS reach this ambitious goal, and my own personal goal of $4,500 (I raised about $4,000 last year). Hope you’ll join me in my efforts by clicking on the link to the right.
I’m looking forward to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, because every step taken is one step closer to making this disease what it should be -- a thing of the past.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Our destination within AC -- The Water Club, a recent addition to the swanky Borgata hotel. A true sense of welcome greets you here, thanks to an enormous lobby decked out with flowers, greenery and a plush oversized sofa from which to take in the view.
Speaking of great views, Immersion Spa on the hotel’s 32nd floor boasts floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Atlantic City’s harbor and modest skyline. It’s a stunning 360 degree backdrop against which to enjoy Immersion’s hot tub and 25-yard infinity-edge lap pool. The Water Club has a total of five pools, two of which are outdoors. But despite splashy amenities -- lush landscaping, private cabanas, underwater music -- the hotel fails to deliver on the promise of its name.
Strict security attends both the entrance and exit of the outdoor pools, primarily because the complex isn’t nearly large enough to accommodate an 800-room hotel. Our group had to wait 45 minutes one day and an hour the next to gain access. For a hotel charging $539 a night (and a jaw-dropping $196 for a 50-minute massage), that’s a problem.
While waiting for the afternoon outdoor crowd to thin out, we parked ourselves in The Sunroom Lounge for some cocktails and a light snack. I chose tea sandwiches and truffle fries. I’ve since decided that truffle fries are on my short list of life’s greatest gastronomic pleasures.
We partied like rock stars in a suite before strolling over to the Borgata’s MurMur nightclub, a velvet rope venue ideal for people watching. Men with spiky hair wearing untucked collared shirts and jeans were doing their fair share of ogling as well, with plenty of fake-breasted Lolita types sauntering through the crowd.
As club dancers shimmied above MurMur‘s packed floor, we all got our groove on to the DJ’s seamless mix of classics present and past, stretching back to 80’s hits like Madonna’s “Holiday” and, this being a Jersey crowd, Bon Jovi’s exhilarating “Livin’ on A Prayer.”
The next morning, after a few hours of relaxation poolside, we hit the road and headed back to the Big Apple in a roomy party bus with limo-style seating. Though I would think twice before staying at The Water Club again, I wouldn’t hesitate to revisit Atlantic City for future celebratory occasions. With my own milestone birthday right around the corner -- gulp, the big 3-5 in January! -- it’s never too soon to start party planning.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Our second experience at the Center for Movement (http://www.centerformovement.com) on Manhattan’s Upper East Side --- we took a reformer pilates session back in June -- proved to be just as invigorating as our first. Once again, I found myself appreciating the differences between Pilates and its equally popular yet more exhausting exercise sibling Yoga. Pilates is less new age and more laidback in its approach to getting in shape.
After a 45-minute mind-clearing session of stretching our muscles, Caroline and I rewarded ourselves with a delicious meal outside at Haru, a trendy Japanese eatery with a great selection of sushi and sake. Over two rounds of sake and the course of two breezy hours, we covered a lot of ground -- from what to do when a friend lets you down to what exactly the travel buzzword ‘staycation’ really means.
As I made my way home, I remembered an article that I read not too long ago about the increased productivity of people who have at least one good friend on the job. I am fortunate enough to have two -- Morty, otherwise known affectionately as my work husband -- and the lovely Caroline, both of whom light up my life in and out of the office. How lucky can a girl get?
Monday, August 11, 2008
Set within Central Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the legendary tourist hotspot served up an interesting hodgepodge of people, hosting three private parties while we were there.
The girls and I were most inclined to crash Merrill Lynch’s soiree -- until we noticed that most of the youthful attendees appeared to be fresh out of business school. In fact, it seemed like we were the only ones representing the thirty-something demographic. The rest of the crowd assembled in Tavern on the Green’s courtyard consisted of people in their 20’s and people in their 40’s and 50’s trying to look like they were in their 20’s.
Despite the unusual mix, we were reminded of what a small world New York can be. Two of the girls spotted former boyfriends of high-school friends. As it turns out, one of these men--nattily dressed in a suit and pink tie -- has quite the background. Not only did he stalk my friend’s friend back in the day and end up in jail, but he also moonlighted from his blue-blooded background as a drug dealer. His parents must be so proud.
Later in the evening, another of the girls ran into a former fling and neighbor through whom she managed to score a substantial gym discount. I laughed as she told the story, telling her of the iPod that has outlasted the ex who gave it to me four years ago.
Also among the topics of conversation -- unexpected advances from longtime and otherwise attached male friends. My good buddy CK received quite a shock when her roommate of more than a year, on the eve of his departure, gave her a goodbye kiss that was anything but platonic. This was doubly shocking given that he was leaving the U.S. to be with his longtime girlfriend.
CK’s tale paved the way for me to mention a married boss of mine who planted one on me after my last day on the job. He kissed me with such ardor, I thought he was going to pull entire chunks of hair out of my head.
We took a brief break from the girl talk to please our palettes, washing down $8 cheeseburgers with $16 cocktails. We couldn’t decide what was more outrageous -- the prices or the life-sized tree sculptures of various animals lunging toward us. Only in New York.
Coming up…mixed reviews for a splashy new Atlantic City resort and the value of keeping your eyes open.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Number of carriage rides through Central Park shared with significant others: 2
Number of men with whom I’ve gone to Las Vegas: 2
Number of boyfriends who spent more time gambling in Vegas than they did with me: 1
Number of men with whom I’ve enjoyed a couples spa treatment: 2
One of the above-referenced spa treatments took place at Elemis Spa in Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun. Elemis is a luxuriously relaxing escape from Mohegan Sun’s sprawling, seasonally-themed casino complex, and also boasts sister locations in Florida and London.
Speaking of spa destinations, one of my new favorites online is http://www.spaparazzi.com/. Edited by industry expert Brenda Lopez, Spaparazzi.com offers the latest spa news as well as tips on organic living, health, wellness, beauty, diet and fitness. It’s the perfect virtual oasis for finding out how to relax and unwind -- something it’s always good to know more about.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
I was still smarting from this slight when he knocked on my door the next day. I now open the vault and take you back to November 1993...
Monday, November 1, 1993
Commonwealth Hall, London
Less than five minutes after Fabian had stopped by my room while I was with a girlfriend, I knocked on his door, closed it behind me and admitted that I didn’t appreciate being ditched for a B-rated horror film.
He said that I should have told him that I was upset when he asked me the night before. I maintained that I shouldn’t have to spell it out for him, adding that if he didn’t want to spend the evening with me, he could’ve just said so.
I chose not to tell him why I was afraid he was blowing me off -- my fear that he had had enough of being unfaithful to his girlfriend. Mercifully, she never came up as Fabian and I argued, and I wanted to keep it that way. When you’re the ‘other woman,’ you get possessive about the most trivial things, perhaps because you know what you want most is not yours for the taking.
Fabian said he prefers to be flexible with plans, that he likes to have his own way. The latter didn’t surprise me, and it dawned on me that most of the friction between us may be because we’re so similar rather than so different. Despite our little tiff, we managed to part on an amicable note.
“I apologize,” he said, giving me a hug.
“How civilized,” I responded condescendingly. I couldn’t make it easy for him, could I?
I admitted to Fabian that I don’t like letting tension between us go unresolved. What I didn’t say was that I would not have sought him out if he hadn’t come to see me first. After all, only then could the cat and mouse game between us continue.
My fling with Fabian continued for a couple of months more, with an unexpected and intoxicating reprise at the conclusion of my time in London.
In the interim, my love life took a few other unexpected turns -- including an encounter with an Oscar-nominated California native who became my first big love, one that ended up defying all odds to stretch across time zones and years.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Over the course of a 2.5 hour concert, One Sweet World performed some of DMB’s greatest hits - including “Crash,” “Stay,” and of course, “Ants Marching.” The musicians’ easy camaraderie was matched by their perfect pitch in recreating DMB’s distinctive urban rock sound. An exhilarating rendition of “Gray Street” had me pumping my fists in the air and exchanging a smile with charismatic lead singer and guitarist Anthony Iglesias. Being a groupie has its privileges…
All smiles with One Sweet World lead singer Anthony Iglesias
Anthony, an NYC native who’s been playing guitar most of his life, performs with electrifying precision and tireless energy, making everyone in the crowd feel like they’re part of the music too. Fiddler Joe Davoli, bassist Ian Rafalak, sax and flute player Dean Keller and drummer Chris Cornish all hold their own on stage as well. The Canal Room introduced One Sweet World as the greatest Dave Matthews tribute band in the world. I couldn’t agree more with that accolade.
Upcoming concerts at the Canal Room will pay tribute to Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and U2. For more info, visit http://www.canalroom.com/.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
CRI’s cocktail party (http://www.cancerresearch.org/events/Midsummer-Social.html) was held at Mantra 986, an intimate bar and restaurant in midtown that plays a steady stream of 80’s and 90’s hits. As Bobbi and I circulated through the well-attired crowd, we encountered some interesting characters along the way – including an interior designer who specializes in feng shui, a former Wall Street broker who recently made the switch to advertising and an IT expert who dreams of becoming a published author. My personal favorite was the charming Renaissance woman who studied fashion and cooking, yet found her bliss in the decidedly calmer world of office management.
After the soiree, Bobbi and I walked over to Luna Piena, a breezy Italian bistro that delivers service with a smile (not to mention adorable waitstaff) and a great, reasonably priced plate of pasta. Our menu of conversation included the diminished communication skills of men who rely on text messaging, and whether an initial lack of attraction means a spark can’t develop if you encounter that person again down the road.
My general rule of thumb is what I call the three-date minimum. If there’s a hint of chemistry, I’ll allow for it to develop some more over the course of three dates. After that, if no physical attraction materializes, better to move on. Time is too precious to date someone without feeling that ever-elusive spark.
Coming up…a girls night out at one of NYC’s top tourist traps and a weekend getaway to Atlantic City.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Sara and I met in our student days at Mount Holyoke College, though it was during our junior year in London that we really bonded. From watching the late, lovely Princess Diana flip the switch on Regent Street’s Christmas lights to day trips to Bath and Stonehenge, we truly made the most of our stint in England’s capital. Since then, I’ve watched with pride and awe as Sara has obtained her phD in law and psychology, served as a congressional fellow, appeared on C-Span for her role in drafting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and brought her passion for children’s rights to NYC’s Department of Children & Family Services. Her dedication is tireless.
It was also during my time in London that I got to know my British-born buddy Steve. We met in the dinner queue on our first night as residents of Commonwealth Hall, slipping into easy conversation about the dreadful food - a conversation that has continued for 15 wonderful years, with Steve’s wisdom and understanding guiding me through countless twists and turns in life and love. Steve was my greatest champion following a disastrous fling with E, one of our dormmates. I’ll never forget his reaction when I feigned civility toward E during a communal dinner one night.
“That was an Academy Award-winning performance, Darling!”
Just as travel led me to Sara and Steve, so did it acquaint me with fun and fabulous Amanda. We met three summers ago when I invited her on a press junket to Barbados (I work on PR for the Hilton there, she’s a magazine writer who covers travel). We clicked immediately over our shared wanderlust and tales of romance gone awry. Since then, Amanda has inspired me not only with her flair for the written word but her passion for following her dreams -- including a year-long journey around the world with friends to be chronicled in a future bestselling book. Visit http://www.lostgirlsworld.blogspot.com/ for more about her amazing journey.
As Amanda, Sara and Steve celebrate their special day, I too feel a cause for celebration -- of who they are and the difference each of them has made in my life. Happy, Happy Happy Birthday, my dear friends.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Number of emails from old flames taking up space in my inbox: 190
Number of dates preceding quickest declaration of love from a new beau: 4
Number of times PDA garnered the attention of a New York city cop: 1
Number of diamond bands from old flames donated to charity: 1
Number of soap opera stars with whom I’ve discussed unrequited love: 1
The above-referenced star is talented and remarkably kind actor A Martinez, whose Emmy-winning portrayal of Cruz Castillo on NBC’s now-defunct sudser Santa Barbara stole my heart, launched a friendship that has spanned two decades and led me to two of my dearest friends in the world.
Up next…socializing for a good cause and a top online spa destination.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Carla suggested Madison & Vine for our evening repast. Located a quick stroll from Grand Central Station in the boutique chic Library Hotel, the cozy, laidback bistro delivered a palette-pleasing meal that included wild striped bass drizzled with chorizo dressing and the “vine” burger, smothered with Gruyere cheese, red onions and mayo.
Our taste buds were most dazzled by Madison & Vine’s macaroni au gratin, topped with Gruyere, bacon, truffles and toasted bread crumbs. Not so dazzling was the uneven service -- being asked half a dozen times if we were done with our entrée only to then wait several minutes for our dessert order to be taken.
With cocktails in hand (Sauvignon Blanc for me, mojito for Carla), we talked about the expanding social media universe and its many tiers -- from all-access Facebook to by-invitation-only site A Small World. We also reflected on nostalgia for first loves, the kind that lingers once you know the romance is rightfully over and yet you can still appreciate, as friends, the rich history you share.
A scrumptious Smores sundae with meringue ice cream and graham cracker shavings put the perfect exclamation point on our girls’ night out. With a quick hug in front of Grand Central, Carla and I parted company and I found myself feeling grateful all over again for the serendipity that led me to Quinn & Co. and such a great friend.
Happy anniversary, Carla!
Sunday, August 3, 2008
We live in an era where technology enables us to be connected 24/7. And yet, despite email, instant messaging, text messaging, Blackberry devices and the like, it seems like there’s becoming more and more of a disconnect, at least when it comes to what is considered appropriate to communicate in a high-tech fashion.
H’s text is only the latest example that I’ve experienced of this unfortunate trend that would have Miss Manners pointing a disapproving finger at the opposite sex.
During my Match.com days, a guy cancelled our Sunday evening date by sending an email to my work account. Never mind the fact that he had my number and had lamented only days before the disappearing use of the telephone.
In the same vein, a real estate analyst tethered at all times to his Blackberry chose to confirm our recent after-work date by sending me an email after 6pm instead of calling. I happened to log on from home that night, opting to forgive his gaffe and meet him for a drink -- an exception which occurred strictly because I was craving a goodnight kiss and knew he would deliver.
Perhaps this is a hopelessly antiquated notion, but I think picking up the phone remains the most appropriate way to cancel or change plans. Emails can go astray, as can text messages. Calling and or leaving a voicemail demonstrates respect and consideration for another person’s time. And there’s nothing antiquated about that.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I now open the vault and take you back once again to Halloween night 1993.
Sunday October 31, 1993
Commonwealth Hall, London
I told Fabian about the accident and he immediately gave me a hug.
My room was a mess and I didn’t feel like dealing with it, so I suggested we go to his room. We did and I sat down on his bed. As I began to describe what happened, my voice quivered and I broke down in tears again. Fabian came over and put his arm around my shoulder.
“It was really scary, Fabian,” I said between sobs.
I began to shiver, both from anxiety over the accident and the sudden chill in Fabian’s room. I pulled his comforter over me and lying back, asked—
“Will you just hold me please?” Without hesitation, he replied—
“Of course,” getting up briefly to turn off the main light so that there was only the low glimmer of his bedside lamp.
Once he was beside me, he put his arm around my waist and pulled me close to him. I placed my hand over his and slowly, felt myself calm down. Fabian caressed my face and kissed my cheek, urging me not to think about my brush with death. He also told me about being hit by a car himself at the age of 5.
I turned to face him as he spoke and rested my head on his chest. He stroked my hair and we laid in silence for awhile. Sometimes, nothing surpasses the security and warmth to be had from this kind of quiet closeness.
…Of course, there is only so long that two youthful, excitable bodies can be in close proximity to one another before the hormones start getting charged up.
Soon, our cheeks were brushing and we were looking right into each other's eyes. Finally, we kissed, a long, lingering kiss.
“You know,” I said, planting kisses on his neck for added emphasis, “I don’t think (kiss) you and I are destined to have a platonic relationship.”
Before Fabian, I never experienced such physical excitement. Given the circumstances (i.e., he has a girlfriend), I often feel guilty about our intimacy, even though my virginity remains firmly intact.
Fabian's guilt was obviously resurfacing, because in the middle of fooling around, he suddenly sat up.
“I know I’ve said this before,” he said, “but I really think we should just be friends.”
I burst out laughing. Fabian had made this recurring suggestion as recently as a week ago.
“I think we should play it by ear,” I said.
It was late (after 2am), so I left his room. I had gotten what I needed from Fabian and felt much better for it--apart from lingering soreness in my knees because of the accident. Ouch.
* * *
I still remember the many nights I would creep out of Fabian’s room at some ungodly hour, hoping none of our floormates would see me. I could never have imagined that the real romance between us would blossom months and months later, after I was back in New York.
Up next…a sweet Dave Matthews tribute band and the downside of warp-speed romance.
Friday, August 1, 2008
As soon as we entered Buddakan, I knew immediately why the producers of Sex and the City chose it as the location for Carrie and Big’s rehearsal dinner. The cavernous 16,000 square foot space – formerly a Nabisco cookie factory – manages to feel grand yet sublimely intimate, thanks to a labyrinth of softly-lit dining nooks around every corner.
Morty and I started off in the bar area, where our perky Aisha Tyler-lookalike waitress Jasmine debriefed us about Buddakan’s celebrity quotient. In the house that night were a Project Runway contestant along with my former Fox News colleague, anchor Rick Folbaum. Earlier in the week, Lionel Ritchie and Depeche Mode had dropped by.
I asked Jasmine if the restaurant has seen a bump in visitors because of SATC. While Buddakan already does brisk business, she said the fanfare leading up to the movie’s release definitely brought in new customers. And yes, I will admit it was Carrie and Big who prompted me to make my long-awaited visit.
Over a pair of perfect cosmos, Morty and I caught up on our own version of current events. He told me about his relaxing jaunt to Northampton, Mass with his longtime beau. I shared the scoop on my recent Facebook connections with more than one old flame.
When we were escorted to our table, I was delighted to discover we had a perfect view of the Chinoiserie – the majestic two-level grand hall seen in SATC. The chandelier-lit space and banquet table seating 30 are even more spectacular than they photograph, and the perfect focal point for people watching when you’re dining upstairs.
Morty and I turned our attention to Buddakan’s sumptuous nouveau Chinese menu of shareable dishes. For appetizers, we feasted on chili rock shrimp, pork potstickers and duck spring rolls. Next up, steamed red snapper with black mushrooms and ginger-glazed veal cheeks so tender and flavorful, I couldn’t stop myself from mmmmming aloud. We satisfied our sweet tooths with a banana-laced millefeulle and chocolate peanut butter bombe, decorated with a candle of course in honor of the occasion.
Morty is someone I celebrate not just on his birthday but every day – a man of such irresistible charm and wit that he can melt the heart of the most hardened journalist (no small feat when you work in PR). More than that, he is the epitome of a true friend. It is with good reason that I have affectionately referred to him as my rock – because on more occasions than I can count, Morty has been the person I’ve leaned on to carry me through the darkness.
The night before my father died, Morty managed to do what no one else could have – he made me laugh. A heartfelt laugh that helped me believe I could somehow survive my second parental loss.
I couldn’t have picked a better place than Buddakan to celebrate Morty’s birthday. With its dramatic ambience, first-class service and delectable menu, Buddakan delivers a dazzling dining experience. Sharing it with one of my best friends only made it even sweeter.