Sunday, November 30, 2008

Family Fun In Jacksonville

On Friday, I continued my dual destination holiday weekend and flew down to Jacksonville for the celebration of my cousin Logan's Bar Mitzvah.

Yesterday's festivities began with a moving two-hour service at Beth El Synagogue. The rabbi spoke at length about his pride in calling Logan not only a friend but an inspiration. A smart, sensitive young man who exults in other's triumphs, Logan is and always has been a joy to be around.

Family Reunion: Me and (from left) my cousins Carla, Dana, Logan and Shannon celebrate Logan's Bar Mitzvah and 13th birthday

After the service, Logan's celebration continued at Maggiano's, an inviting Italian restaurant located in Jacksonville's St. John's Town Center -- one of the most sprawling and well-appointed outdoor malls I've ever seen. The sublime menu began with fried mozzarella, stuffed mushrooms, and zucchini fritters. Family style entrees included chicken parmigiana and a four cheese ravioli in pesto sauce that was to die for.

The intimate gathering of nearly 100 family and friends was extra special for me because it reunited me with maternal relatives I hadn't seen in years. My beloved late mother had 18 first cousins, and five of them were at Logan's party. There was lots of reminiscing, and of course, lots of picture taking.

As everyone danced to the Hora and then a medley of Spanish music, I couldn't help thinking of family occasions past. Since Mom was Catholic and of Hispanic descent (my grandparents were from Ecuador and Puerto Rico) and Dad was Jewish, I was lucky to grow up experiencing many interfaith and bicultural traditions.

Logan's Bar Mitzvah reminded me of how fortunate I am to have such a rich heritage -- and to have a wonderful family with whom to continue my parents' legacy. And I have no doubt that yesterday, they were celebrating too.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Seventeen

After you go away to college, there’s always a readjustment period when you return home. Getting used to being under my parents’ roof again was especially difficult during the summer following my junior year in London.

Thankfully, I had the welcome distraction of my California-based long-distance love Mark (a.k.a Sparky). A visit from Sparky in July left me yearning to see him again.

Given the newness of both my romance and my return from London, Dad had his reservations about me taking a trip to the West Coast. Thankfully, Mom helped convince him that he had nothing to worry about. I now Open The Vault and take you back to August of 1994…

August 8, 1994
New York, NY

Dear Diary,

I commented on the weather and asked Dad about his next game of golf. He smiled as he puffed away on his cigar, knowing I had more than meteorological matters on my mind. As if on cue, Mom came in and asked what we were talking about.

With a voice like butter, Mom began to tell Dad the real reason for our conversation. She was just about to do so when he interjected with--

“I know -- she wants to go to California.”

My heart sank when he added—

“Didn’t we say that she’d done enough traveling for awhile?"

Mom concurred but gently added that this time, I would pay for my plane ticket instead of using frequent flier miles from our family account.

“What are you -- attorney for the defense?” Dad quipped.

California Here I Come: A visit to the West Coast to see Sparky was on my agenda during the summer of 1994

After Mom exited, Dad asked when I was planning to go and where I would be staying (I opted not to tell him I would be staying with Sparky). He reached behind him and pulled out the form that would procure me a free miles-earned airline ticket.

Upon receiving the good news, I couldn’t wait to tell my sweetheart. I left a message for him and later, he called back.

“I want to hear you say it,” he said adorably.

“I’m coming to California!” I exclaimed.

“You’ll be on
my turf now,” he said.

“Yeah,” I answered quickly, “But you’ll have to deal with
my scruples [about remaining a virgin]!”

* * *

August 12th, 1994

I just spoke to Sparky. He had been trying to reach me all day. I was tickled pink to hear this because I had tried HIM to no avail the night before.

He said he is “very excited” about our relationship and that, since his visit here last month, his thoughts about me are “more of a constant thing.” I know exactly what he means.

* * *

While Sparky remained on my mind and I looked forward to seeing him on his ‘turf,’ I had other things to contend with on the local front – including a well-intentioned Granola-type beau who had me missing my California love even more.

Coming up…Tina Turner’s return to NYC and farewell festivities for a beloved exiting colleague and friend.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Friend's Playwriting Debut

Monday night, after swinging by the NYC premiere of “Australia,” I headed down to the Gotham Comedy Club in Chelsea for the Hyperion Theater Project’s Fall One Act Festival.

My playwriting friend Diana headlined the series of vignettes with “The Bookstore,” a compelling, witty take on the passions and insecurities that go along with being a writer.

Inspired by Diana’s brief stint working for Barnes and Noble, “The Bookstore” introduces us to book clerk Matt (Nate Weisband) and first-time author Julianne (Lori Sommer). When no one shows up for Julianne’s signing, Matt tries to soften the blow of disappointment, offering to buy all 75 copies of her memoir.

Literary Aspirations: Matt (Nate Weisband) and Julianne (Lori Sommer) muse about the writing process in Diana Rissetto's "The Bookstore"

He distracts her with anecdotes about his worklife, from the old lady who calls the store weekly for personal advice to staffers recommending The Bible with a placard reading “Now a hit film!” when “The Passion of the Christ” came out – moments Diana experienced herself at Barnes & Noble.

Matt eventually reveals that he was once a writer with dreams of getting published, until his day job made him question whether he could ever join the ranks of legendary authors like C.S. Lewis.

Suddenly the roles are reversed, as Julianne becomes the cheerleader, encouraging Matt not to give up on his literary ambitions. Both Weisband and Sommer deliver heartfelt performances, beautifully directed by Nina Ashe.

“The Bookstore” does a great job of portraying with intelligence and honesty what it means to be a writer. With crisp dialogue and engaging story, Diana’s playwriting debut was a home run. I’m already looking forward to her next production.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What I'm Thankful For

When it comes to having a gratitude attitude, I’m a big believer in finding something to be thankful for every day. On this holiday dedicated to doing just that, I’m lucky to have a very long list of reasons for Thanksgiving.

I’m thankful for the joys of being single. From enjoying evenings out on the town solo to girls nights out galore, this is the year that I rediscovered the fun of being unattached.

Along the way, I’ve also found myself appreciating all over again the blessings of good friends. From my work husband Morty to my Kansas City-based best friend of twenty years Lisa and beloved buddies in Australia, Canada and England, my inner circle make the highs higher and the lows infinitely more bearable.

My friends have helped carry me through the journey of recovery from foot surgery six weeks ago. I’m especially thankful for the healing powers of the human body – and the soothing effect of a good, purple-tinged pedicure.

As I celebrate today with my brother Ray and sister-in-law Barb in Delaware, I can’t help thinking about holiday celebrations past.

Holiday Classic: My beloved late grandfather (and culinary whiz) cooks up a big bird, Thanksgiving circa 1978

I think of my adored and very-much missed parents and how they brought our family together year after year. I’m thankful for the happy memories they gave us and for how their spirits continue to guide and inspire me.

Finally, I’m thankful for planes, trains and automobiles. This holiday weekend, I’m using all three modes of transportation. The latter two brought me here to the First State and tomorrow, the first will take me to Jacksonville for the celebration of my cousin’s son’s Bar Mitzvah. That means twice as much family bonding – what better way to kick off the holiday season?

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NYC Block Party: Australia's Stars, Emmy's Honorees and Macy's Cheerleaders

Monday night, I headed over to the Ziegfeld Theater for the NYC premiere of “Australia.”

Despite barricades and cranky security guards, I managed to catch a few fleeting glimpses of the eagerly-anticipated epic’s stars. This was my view of Nicole Kidman…

….as she posed for the throng of photographers under the media tent.

That Aussie Magic: "Australia" co-stars Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman (photo courtesy: Wire Images)

Nicole’s dashing co-star Hugh Jackson made a heroic entrance, stopping to sign a few autographs and greet his fans. With a dazzling smile and heaps of Aussie charm, it’s easy to see why Hugh was chosen as this year’s Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine.

Hugh and his fans (photo courtesy: Getty images)

I jumped on a barricade to get this shot of Hugh on the red carpet!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the street, a smaller group of photographers were snapping the nattily dressed folks arriving for the International Emmy Awards.

As I walked away from the Hollywood hubbub, I noticed a big group of teenagers lined up in front of the Hilton hotel, all wearing Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade sweatshirts.

Ready For Their Closeup: HS Cheerleaders gearing up for their performance in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Turns out they were part of the Mike Miller & Associates troupe of 650 cheerleaders from high schools all across the U.S. One of their chaperones told me the group was heading to a rehearsal for their two numbers. You can catch them in the Macy’s Parade’s big opening sequence tomorrow at 9am EST, then again at 11am.

As I hopped into a cab to begin part two of the evening’s festivities, I marveled at all that was happening on one square block. Just another quiet night in the city that never sleeps!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

By The Numbers: Honeymoon Period Edition

When it comes to relationships, there’s nothing quite like the honeymoon period – that time when you’re first falling in love. Everything is new, every moment endowed with anticipation and a sense of discovery.

I’ve been fortunate to experience that blissful high a handful of times, with boyfriends who knew more than a thing or two about romance. Here are some of the standout moments from my ‘honeymoons’ with past beaus – By The Numbers:

Number of days preceding earliest utterance of 'I love you' from a guy: 5
Number of weeks preceding first romantic getaway (to Mystic, CT) with boyfriend: 6
Number of dates preceding quickest reference to the possibility of marriage: 1
Number of five-month anniversaries celebrated with five dozen (!) roses: 1
Number of candlelit dances before leaving Illinois and returning to NYC: 1

That dance was my first with then-beau Steve, the man who brought love and passion back into my life after a long and often lonely year as a TV reporter in the Midwest.

Dirty Dancing: This 1987 sleeper hit with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey set the mood for my first kiss with Steve

It seemed fitting that we tripped the light fantastic together – “Dirty Dancing” had set the mood for our first kiss. Much like the first time I watched the 1987 movie classic, I remember it well.

Coming up…Australia the movie’s splashy NYC premiere and a friend’s playwriting debut.

Monday, November 24, 2008

An Outrageous Post-Date Email

Every so often, you hear a story about outrageous dating behavior that’s too good not to share. At my friend Michel’s apartment warming soiree on Saturday, I heard one such tale from her effervescent friend Becky.

This summer, Becky’s friend Stephanie went out with Jason, a guy she met on J-Date who was more than candid about his agenda. After their date, she sent him a quick email. This was his response:

“I just want to be honest with u about where I'm at right now. I'm really just playing the field right now. I'm talking to a bunch of girls and trying to sleep with them. I think u are cool so I wanted to let u know that. If you're looking for a booty call I'm your man but other than that we should just be friends. I sound like a total douche in this email but I didn't want to act like something else until I slept with u and then let u know the deal.”

Talk about too much information. Surely Jason could have found a better way to be honest about his intentions. Then again, I suppose there’s no artful way of saying you’re booty-obsessed.

Needless to say, Stephanie didn’t go out with Jason again.

My heartfelt thanks to her and to Becky for the hilarious reminder that sometimes, it’s the worst dates which end up producing the best laughs.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Apartment Warming Soiree

Last night, I ventured down to the East Village for my former Quinn & Co. colleague and friend Michel’s apartment warming party.

Located in a historic hotel-turned-residence building on Fifth Avenue, Michel’s cozy new abode is the perfect reflection of her flair for fashion, with fun accents like a Vanity Fair coffee table book and a framed photo of Michel with style icon Betsey Johnson.

Michel’s intimate gathering also reunited me with another former colleague, Danielle. The three of us shared a been there, done that moment about toxic old boyfriends and made a promise to do a girls night out soon.

Girls Night In: Michel, me and Danielle at Michel's fabulous apartment warming soiree

I found a kindred spirit in Michel’s delightful friend Becky. As we sipped on hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps -- the delicious concoction of Danielle’s brother and Michel’s beau Trevor -- Becky and I discovered a mutual affinity for Australia (she studied abroad in Sydney, where I had the pleasure working for five months back in ‘02).

We also talked about the question of how wide a berth to give mediocre first dates. I shared my three-date-minimum rule for men I’m on the fence about, a practice that grew out of not feeling sparks with one particular boyfriend until that very juncture.

Speaking of the opposite sex, Becky and I got onto the subject of strange male behavior. She told me about one date that ended with an ultimatum, with the guy saying his decision about paying or splitting the bill would be based on how she answered the question of whether she really liked him. Awkward.

Sufficiently warmed from the great company and my jacked up hot cocoa, I merrily headed home, happy that my first Saturday night out in awhile proved to be such a fun one.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Farragut North: An Electrifying Ride

Last Sunday, I went to see “Farragut North,” Beau Willimon’s riveting political thriller about the machinations of a presidential campaign during primary season.

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows: A one night stand between press secretary Stephen (John Gallagher Jr.) and campaign intern Molly (Olivia Thirlby) leads to trouble in "Farragut North"

Fresh from his Tony-winning turn in “Spring Awakening,” John Gallagher Jr. (Stephen) ably carries the show as a young, ambitious press secretary whose secret meeting with the opposition triggers a dramatic chain of events. A paunchy Chris Noth (Paul), in a Big departure from “Sex and the City,” plays a salty-mouthed, seasoned campaign manager passionate about politics and handling the media.

Noth delivers a powerhouse performance, matched by Kate Blumberg (Ida) as a hard-bitten New York Times reporter covering the campaign and Olivia Thirlby (Molly) as an intern who gets caught in the crossfire of Stephen and Paul’s downfall. But the show belongs to Gallagher, whose fiery intensity crackles in every scene.

“Farragut North” (which refers to a neighborhood stop on the Washington, DC subway) is an honest, timely look at both the dark side and the idealism of politics -- from the sex, spin and intrigue of campaigning to that most rare campaign anomaly, an inspiring candidate who makes his supporters “starry eyed.”

Curtain Call: Kate Blumberg, Chris Noth and John Gallagher jr. take a bow

After the show, a gracious Gallagher shared with me the excitement of performing on Election Night, before an “electrifying” audience.

All Smiles: Farragut North's charming leading man and me

Of memorizing his heavy dialogue for the show, he admitted that it wasn’t until opening night that he felt like he hit his stride.

Every member of the cast, including a somewhat reserved and cranky Noth, signed autographs and posed for pictures with each of us who braved the frigid temperatures to stick around. All this and I got upgraded from second-to-last row to third row center -- talk about a great night at the theater.

“Farragut North” runs through November 29th at NYC’s Atlantic Theater Company.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Sixteen

When you’re in the throes of new romance, life’s trials and tribulations invariably feel much more manageable. During the summer of 1994, my budding romance with California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky) offered a much-needed distraction from the letdown that accompanied returning to New York after my junior year in London.

My reunion with Sparky in NYC following our blissful week together in England’s capital confirmed absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Despite three months apart, the chemistry between us was palpable, as we enjoyed local delights ranging from dessert at the Plaza Hotel to corn dogs and rides at Coney Island.

Romance at Astroland: Sparky took this picture of me during our visit to Coney Island, August 1994

There was no questioning our feelings for each other. Other doubts, however, began to surface during our first summer rendez-vous. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the summer of ‘94...

New York, NY
July 31st, 1994

Dear Diary,

Today was divine -- one of the best days I’ve had since my tumultuous return home. Things between Sparky and me are more wonderful than ever, and now I have the added security of knowing that my family really likes him too.

One thing concerns me, though, and that is the intensity of Sparky’s feelings for me. He’s so certain that I’m the one he wants to spend the rest of his life with. I love him too, but I’m very far away from being ready to settle down.

* * *

August 1st, 1994

I came to a difficult conclusion today -- I don’t think Sparky is the one for me. We come from two different worlds. This realization is one of the reasons tonight was such a downer (that, and the fact that Sparky didn’t wear a tie to dinner).

This whole thing with Sparky is so overwhelming. The week we had in London was essentially a honeymoon. During this second go-round, the circumstances are different. Our lives have witnessed a lot of changes since those carefree seven days in May and so, we’re suddenly having to confront issues that seemed much more peripheral a few months ago.

“That’s what a real relationship is,” Sparky told me back in London, when the subject of weathering up’s and down’s as a couple first came up.

Until he came along, I never really knew what a real relationship was.

* * *

August 6th, 1994

Well, he left yesterday and so far, I’ve thought of him every other minute…I never thought I could have such a complete, fulfilling bond with a man so early on in my adult life.

I don’t know what the future has in store for Sparky and I, but of this much I am sure -- I’m going to hold on and enjoy the ride with all my heart while it lasts.

* * *
The roller coaster of long-distance love was just beginning for me and Sparky. And after our reunion in NYC, I was determined not to let another three months pass before we were together again. Before that could happen, though, I would have to overcome some formidable opposition from two important people -- my parents.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Saying Goodbye To Being Twenty-Something

Today, I overheard my colleague and friend Danielle mention that she’s just 29 days away from turning 30. Danielle wants to commemorate the final countdown by doing things you would only do in your twenties.

Thinking about 30: My 29-year-old colleague Danielle and me at a PR industry gala, January 2008

As she mused about what this might entail, I couldn’t help thinking about the popular idea that 30 is the new 20. Given the extended fountain of youth and rise of the thirty-something single woman, are there really any experiences you can only have in your twenties?

Maybe not, but I know there are many I’ve had that were best suited to that decade only. The post-graduate years are invariably a time of exploration and self-discovery, and I engaged in my fair share of both before knocking on 30’s door.

I spent my twenties as a serial monogamist, keeping no job or boyfriend for longer than a year and a half. I happily indulged my wanderlust, leaving New York four times for stints in Maine, Illinois, Delaware and, most memorably, Australia.

By the time I returned to my hometown, just a few months shy of the big 3-0, I was ready to bid farewell to my days of moving around. I embarked on a new career in PR and have worked happily at Quinn & Co. for four years -- my longest professional relationship ever.

While settling down romantically speaking has proven to be more of a challenge, I know I’m much readier to do so because of all the adventures that I enjoyed in my twenties.

I can’t wait to see how Danielle rings in her milestone birthday -- and to help her celebrate a decade that, it turns out, is just as fabulous as the one she’s leaving behind.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Girls Night Out At Aura

Tonight, I had the pleasure of catching up with my good friend and colleague Caroline over dinner at Aura, a casual Thai fusion cafe on Ninth Avenue.

Aura: Good, inexpensive Thai fusion cuisine served up in a cozy cafe setting

After shared appetizers of steamed shrimp dumplings and spring rolls, I enjoyed beef pad thai made even tastier by Aura’s friendly waitstaff and reasonable prices ($16 per person for two courses and a pot of tea).

Our last girls night out was four weeks ago so Caroline and I had much to discuss. We talked about anticipating the upcoming holidays, dreading our beloved colleague Morty’s imminent departure and delighting in the indulgence of nail salon pampering.

Speaking of the latter, I mentioned how much I’m looking forward to a pedicure now that my foot is on the mend from last month’s surgery. I hit another recovery milestone this week -- wearing a regular shoe post-surgery for the first time. What better way to celebrate than by sprucing up my toes with a splash of pink?

As I leaned on Caroline’s arm while she walked me to a cab, it occurred to me for the umpteenth time that the support of friends has made all the difference in my recovery. When it comes to a prescription for healing, there’s no better medicine.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blind Date Roulette

The other night, I heard from Michael, a guy that my friend and fellow travel PR maven/blogger Lyla wants to set me up with. As we chatted about our mutual appreciation for Latin dancing and NYC’s theater scene, I couldn’t help thinking about the unpredictability of blind dates – and some of the memorable setups I’ve experienced.

There’s been no shortage of blind dates that failed to ignite any sparks. Like the tête à tête with a 40-something businessman who scoffed at my decision to leave the world of TV news behind for a career in PR. Or the tardy attorney who kept me waiting for a half an hour then proceeded to talk only about himself.

For every lackluster matchmaking attempt, though, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a few blind date successes that made those disappointing evenings worth it.

Ten years ago, a college friend’s British-born husband suggested I meet up with David, a friend of his who had just moved to the Big Apple. The chemistry between us was immediate. Over the course of a year and a half together, David would become my good guy benchmark, seeing me through the devastating loss of my mother and taking the grand gesture to a whole new level with roses by the hundred.

Parade of Roses: Five dozen of the twenty-five dozen (!) roses that my British beau David gave me for my 25th birthday, January 1999

In 2001, at the tail end of my year-long TV reporter stint in Southern Illinois, my neighbor’s daughter invited me to dinner with her stepson Steve. I ended up changing my return flight to New York three times, as Steve and I fell into one of the most passionate romances I’ve ever had. Our friendship endures to this day.

Michael and I are scheduled to meet for drinks sometime this week. Though It’s too soon to tell how this latest go round of blind date roulette will turn out, I’m just happy to be back in the game.

Monday, November 17, 2008

An A-mazing Friday Night

Friday night, I had the unexpected pleasure of catching up with my good friend, actor A Martinez. A was in town for his second recurring stint on ABC’s “One Life to Live.”

A Martinez as villainous Ray Montez in a scene from ABC-TV's "One Life to Live"

As I mentioned in August, A and I became friends when we met at the Daytime Emmy Awards back in 1988, during his heyday as the heroic lead character on another soap opera, NBC’s “Santa Barbara.” Over the course of the last two decades, we’ve shared many memorable meals together and Friday was no exception.

A and I had dinner at Coppola’s on the Upper West Side. A cozy, moderately-priced bistro, Coppola’s has been serving up brick oven pizza and homestyle Italian fare for nearly 20 years.

Coppola's West: A cozy slice of Italian charm on NYC's Upper West Side

While I savored roasted tilapia over paglia e fieno pasta complemented by a glass of Chardonnay, A enjoyed chicken Milanese and we shared a sinfully rich chocolate cake for dessert.

Our conversation covered everything from this year’s historic presidential election and Obama’s brilliant use of the Internet in engaging Americans of all ages, to coping with the departure of a beloved co-worker. I told A about my PR colleague and dear friend, Morty, whose upcoming exit will leave an enormous void in my workday. A empathized, having gone through the same experience when his “Santa Barbara” leading lady of seven years left the show several months before he did.

After we hugged each other goodbye, I was surprised to check the time and discover that four and a half hours had gone by. That’s the wonderful thing about good friends -- you can always pick up right where you left off.

Be sure to catch A when he turns up on OLTL again as villainous Ray Montez. His scenes are slated to air at the end of December.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Big Sunday Postscript

This weekend of family fun was bookended too perfectly to let it close without a postscript.

It kicked off with a most fabulous Friday, thanks to a surprise dinner with my longtime dear friend, actor A Martinez. It ended tonight with meeting Chris "Mr. Big" Noth after his riveting performance in "Farragut North."

Chris Noth and Me: The perfect end to a perfect weekend

I can't wait to see what the rest of this week has in store for me!

Coming up...a review of "Farragut North" and a recap of my A-mazing Friday night.

Family Reunion In NYC

This weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with both of my big brothers at the same time. With my brother Ray and sister-in-law Barb living in Delaware and my brother Steve and sister-in-law Pris residing in Boston, and each of my siblings maxed out at work, this was a family reunion more than a year in coming.

The four of us along with my niece Marcie shared hugs and a delicious brunch at one of my favorite neighborhood greasy spoons, the Silver Star. While there’s no shortage of great diners in the Big Apple, this is a standout that never fails to deliver and is always packed.

Silver Star: This Upper East Side diner boasts a 200-item menu

After brunch, Ray, Barb and I ambled over to Coldwater Creek’s flagship NYC store. A longtime customer of Coldwater’s catalogue, Barb was as impressed as me by the spacious shop’s upscale rustic décor (think comfy chairs and waterfalls), gracious sales staff and, natch, $30-off-$100-purchase offer.

Later, back at the hotel, all six of us chatted the night away talking about everything from the rocky real estate market and the merits of a low-carb diet to memories of years ago.

As we parted today, I had a feeling that our late and much-loved parents were smiling down on us and happy about our new promise -- to get together quarterly instead of annually.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Fifteen

Whenever I have a conversation about my junior year abroad, I invariably find myself feeling more than a little nostalgic. My nine-month stint in London was one of the best times of my life -- and one of the hardest experiences to part with.

Upon returning from London in the summer of ‘94, I had a bad case of reentry shock, the letdown that accompanies returning to your home country following a long absence. Not only was I longing for England’s capital but I was preoccupied by affairs of the heart, specifically my budding long-distance romance with California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky).

Summer 1994: It wasn't all smiles when I returned to NYC after my year in London

Sparky was very much on my mind as I settled back into life as a New Yorker. Lacking the steady stream of male distractions that I had in London, I ended up dating Frank, a friend of my brother’s whose obsession with being vegan and self-help guru Tony Robbins did little to light my fire. But, as the saying goes, when you’re not near the one you love…

I now Open The Vault and take you back to July of ‘94.…

New York, NY
July 15, 1994

Dear Diary,

In 7 hours, I will join Frank in his hometown of Poughkeepsie for his sister’s wedding. I really do not want to go to this thing because I have no desire to pretend he’s Mr. Wonderful.

It just figures. He comes from a Norman Rockwell-esque family and he lives in the same city -- but I’m not in love with him. When Frank and I first hooked up on New Year’s Eve, I fancied him. But back then, I was looking for a distraction from last summer’s crush and Frank fit the bill.

Since then, though, the excitement factor with Frank has diminished considerably. He's all I’ve got here, though, so I feel like I might as well keep him around.

* * *

July 17, 1994

Spoke to Sparky a little while ago. It’s too bad he’s so far away. Meanwhile, Frank is getting on my last nerve. Then again, what can I expect from a man who order lasagna with no cheese?

* * *

July 30, 1994

I find myself getting irritated on a daily basis now with Mom and Dad. I didn’t have to deal with their comments, criticisms, etc. in London. I had so much freedom there. The kind of freedom that I wish with all my heart I could have again, especially this week. Because in just 9 short hours, I will be reunited with Sparky…

* * *

I was both excited and nervous about seeing Sparky. After our blissful week together in London, would we able to live up to the romantic precedent we’d set for ourselves? Would our chemistry be the same? Little did I know that many more complicated questions would arise when Sparky and I were finally face to face once again.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Brunch At Beach Cafe

Earlier this week, I caught up with fellow travel PR maven and blogger Lyla ( over brunch at one of my favorite neighborhood bistros, Beach Café.

Beach Cafe: This Upper East Side bistro is one of my favorites

As I enjoyed a delicious egg-white omelette loaded with cheddar cheese and spinach, newlywedded Lyla and I talked about the camaraderie of the blogging community and the challenges of thirty-something singlehood in NYC. While musing about the latter, we found ourselves discussing a peculiar phenomenon -- male reticence about becoming involved in the matchmaking process.

Sex And The City’s Charlotte once suggested that the single friends of married men are “the city’s greatest untapped resource.” Both Lyla and I have found quite the opposite to be true, largely because it seems men aren’t often likely to recommend any of their friends for a blind date.

In fact, whenever I’ve asked guys who are spoken for if they have any nice, single friends, the response is usually no. I can’t help wondering -- is this really because they don’t have any normal peers or simply because they don’t want to get entangled in matching people up?

It’s a mystery that Lyla and I decided is worth exploring further. In the meantime, Lyla has promised to let me know if she encounters any eligible bachelors I might be interested in. Because when it comes to being on the prowl in the Big Apple, four eyes are always better than two.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Finding My Footing Again

Today marked a wonderful juncture in my recovery from foot surgery -- hobbling to and from work for the first time minus crutches or a cain.

I was only a few yards from my building when a woman, noticing my post-surgery shoe and slight limp, stopped to ask me what procedure I’d undergone. Upon informing her it was bunion removal, she was even more inquisitive because she is about to go through the same thing.

As I told her that returning to work a week later is doable and that the pain subsides in a matter of days, I could tell she was relieved. And in the course of helping to put her mind at ease, I was struck all over again at the body’s amazing power to heal.

I ended up being reminded of this several times today. First, with several colleagues commenting on my increased mobility. Then tonight, with my doorman happily observing me walk unassisted, saying--

“Looking good, looking good!”

I smiled, grateful for the encouragement and the fact that with each passing day, I’m inching closer toward finding my footing again.

Over the last five weeks, I’ve re-learned what it means to literally take things one step at a time. It’s a lesson I won’t soon forget and one that I think will make me more sure footed, in more ways than one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Celebration For A Counterfeit Farm Girl

Monday night, I hobbled down to my neighbor Celia’s abode for a launch party celebrating Susan McCorkindale’s new memoir, “Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl.”

A Sparkling Debut: Author Susan McCorkindale celebrates her new memoir (photo by Tiffany Wollin)

A witty collection of tales about her move from city living to life on a 500-acre cattle farm in Virginia, Susan’s literary debut struck a chord with me -- I had considered penning a book on my own transition to small town America (tentative title: “Big Fish, Little Pond”) a few years back, when I spent a year in Southern Illinois as a local TV news reporter.

Celia served up a beautiful spread of drinks and hot and cold hors d’oeuvres as I mingled with some of the fabulous women in attendance.

Celia’s friend Sandy filled me in on their upcoming Parisian getaway with six other galpals for Celia’s 50th birthday. I bonded with twenty-something ladies Shannon and Katie about the perils of online dating and navigating singlehood in NYC. And I learned of my good friend Tiffany’s new adventures in partner dancing.

Before doing a fantastically energetic reading, Susan shared the story of how her city-turned-country girl evolution became a book. It’s the kind of tale that aspiring authors everywhere (myself included) dream about.

Captive Audience: All of us were engrossed by Susan's tales of 'life on the funny farm' (photo by Tiffany Wollin)

After moving to Virginia, Susan began emailing her friends about small town life. Her hilarious weekly accounts were soon being forwarded to 200 people, eventually becoming the basis for a blog ( Impressed by Susan’s writing and the blog’s following, the agent who represents bestselling author Nicholas Sparks contacted her and so, a book deal was born.

While Susan was signing my book, I confided my literary aspirations to her. I smiled upon reading what she wrote --

“Keep writing and soon I’ll be at your book signing!”

I’m looking forward to making that prediction come true.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jetsetting To A New Life

This week, my PR colleague Kim, digital media maven and fashionista (, will be leaving Quinn & Co. for an exciting new gig -- life as a London resident.

Kim is moving to England’s capital for both career and love (her beau is British). Her imminent departure got me to thinking about my own experience of picking up and moving to another continent.

Living Abroad: I fell so in love with Sydney that I moved there for five months in 2002

Five years ago, my first trip to Australia left me so smitten that I decided to spend five months as a Sydney resident. At the time, my beloved late father expressed concern that the move would interrupt my professional progress.

I wasn’t surprised he was opposed to it -- the idea of inhabiting far-off destinations for an extended period isn’t as common here in the U.S. as it is in other countries (so common, in fact, that it’s called a gap year because that’s usually how long people spend traveling).

While I settled into life as a happily employed Sydneysider, it didn’t take long for me to re-discover what I did during my junior year in London, and again when I moved to Southern Illinois -- that trying on a new hometown for size is always an adventure worth having. Even if the ultimate result is simply to bring you right back to where you started, you’re so much richer for having had the excursion.

I’m going to miss picking Kim’s brain about how to navigate the information superhighway and, of course, seeing her fabulous wardrobe every day. The upside of her departure -- it gives me another reason to visit my (other) favorite city.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Diva-rrific Manicure

Last week, I enjoyed my first visit to the flagship NYC location of my favorite nail spa, Dashing Diva.

With a sleek, white interior, Dashing Diva’s East Village venue delivers pampering in style -- Jennifer Hudson chose it as the setting for a recent online video (

Nail Pampering with Panache: Dashing Diva's East Village location in NYC

Feeling adventurous, I opted to experience a few more firsts, including my first Divaroma manicure ($15). If there’s such a thing as heaven for hands, this is it. In addition to first-class attention for nails and cuticles, the Divaroma experience includes aromatherapy products (I chose Soothing Eucalyptus), and a full hand and arm massage with exfoliating scrub.

After removing my hands from the dryer, I smiled at the new hue adorning them. Bypassing pale pink for a change, I opted for something bolder -- the richly purple Royal Romanov. I’m looking forward to broadening my nail palette even more in December, when Dashing Diva rolls out more than 300 new colors.

As if free cosmos on Thursday and Friday nights aren't enough incentive for me to keep coming back, Dashing Diva has just launched the Passionate about Pink Sweepstakes. Celebrating the 2009 release of Pink’s new album "Funhouse," the contest gives customers the chance to win a special ‘Day of Rock star Beauty,’ and 2 tickets to Pink’s Summer 2009 Tour.

The sweepstakes will be highlighted at all Dashing Diva nail spas and you can also enter online at

Coming up…an intimate book launch party for a New Yorker braving small town life and Chris “Mr. Big” Noth takes to the (off) Broadway stage.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Relationship Deadline Dilemma

Not too long ago, a newly-30 friend of mine, A, told me about the impass at which she’s arrived with her twenty-something boyfriend of one year. He’s gearing up for grad school out of state, uncertain if he’s ready to settle down. She’s wondering how long to hold out for the promise of a long-term commitment.

When she said they’ve decided to see what happens in six months, I couldn’t help thinking about my own experience with make or break dating deadlines.

Having spent most of my twenties lingering in relationships well past their expiration date, I was anxious to break that bad habit as the big 3-0 loomed closer. Though I’ve had plenty of practice at saying goodbye -- having initiated 6 of the 7 major breakups I’ve been through -- I needed a better exit strategy. I latched onto one suggested to me seven years ago by my then-boyfriend.

St. Louis' Lambert International Airport: It was here back in 2001 that a new long-distance love told me his make or break theory about relationships

During an airport goodbye, he shared his simple rule about the trajectory that a relationship should follow. At six months, he said, a relationship either gets serious or it doesn’t, i.e., you end it. It seemed like the perfect one size fits all answer to the inevitable dating conundrum, should I stay or should I go?

The six-month make or break theory helped liberate me from a stifling entanglement with a clingy British guy. I said sayonara after five months. It had a much more complicated impact on my relationship with S, a canine-obsessed New Yorker I met on

Panicking as irreconcilable differences emerged between us, I opted not to tell S my fears. I abruptly broke up with him exactly six months after we started seeing each other. Though my doubts about S ultimately proved to be well-founded, I regret bolting the way that I did. We reconciled, but our relationship was so damaged that it was never the same.

That experience made me realize how make or break deadlines, while necessary at times, can take on a life of their own. When you’re in your thirties and still single, it becomes more difficult to find that happy medium between being comfortable and drawing a line in the sand about where a relationship is heading.

As my friend A is currently asking herself, how do you know when to have that conversation and when to move on if happily ever after isn’t in the cards? It turns out there is no one size fits all answer to that question.

What I’ve learned is to pay more attention to what’s happening in a relationship now instead of fixating on an arbitrary deadline. Because it’s a lot easier to figure out what your future is when you’re fully inhabiting the journey it takes to get there.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sex And The City: The Sequel

Last December, during a visit to the set of "Sex and The City," I overheard two security guards discussing plans for a sequel. This week, after months of rumors and speculation, Kim Cattrall (Samantha) confirmed that a sequel to the blockbuster film is indeed in the works.

For as much as this year’s big screen SATC installment had me smitten with Carrie & Co all over again, I can’t help thinking it will be a very tough act to follow. What could possibly come next for the fab four? Will they, as Cynthia Nixon (Miranda) hopes, embark on a madcap adventure? Is it possible Carrie, now that she’s finally Mrs. John James Preston, will follow in Miranda and Charlotte’s footsteps and take on motherhood?

As writer/producer Michael Patrick King ponders the next chapter for his beloved fictional females, I wonder if he’s caught TV Land’s hilarious take on SATC: the golden years (

Golden Girl: Bea Arthur as Carrie Bradshaw in TV Land's hilarious SATC spoof

While it’s hard to imagine SATC crossing over into AARP territory, I’m excited for the summer of 2010, which is reportedly when the sequel will come out.

What storyline would you like to see in SATC 2? Post a comment and maybe we can give MPK some ideas. I don't know what he has in store for Carrie and the girls but, with girlfriends and cosmos in hand once again, I can’t wait to find out.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Girls Night At Shabu Shabu

Earlier this week, my friend Cindy and I caught up over dinner at Shabu Shabu, a Japanese eatery on the Upper East Side with an impressive 30-year history. This was my first visit to Shabu Shabu and, for the most part, I enjoyed it.

Shabu Shabu: This laidback UES eatery delivers decent sushi and service with a smile

While my appetizer choice (shumai that stuck to the bowl) was underwhelming, I enjoyed a tasty fatty tuna roll along with eel and white tuna sashimi.

Cindy and I eyed with curiosity another table of diners enjoying the Japanese art for which the restaurant is named. Literally meaning “swish swish,” Shabu Shabu refers to the process of cooking beef and vegetables by dipping them in boiling water. A small butane stove is brought to the table, topped by a pot of liquid in which diners dunk morsels presented on a platter.

Over dinner, Cindy and I talked about the Renaissance of Atlantic City, the challenge of coming up with creative Halloween costumes, and some of the surefire ways to drop 10 pounds in a jiffy -- including breakups or, as I recently discovered, foot surgery.

My only regret of the night was not trying Shabu Shabu’s eponymous specialty. Next time.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Fourteen

When I think about my college days, I can’t help feeling nostalgic -- especially when it comes to my junior year in London.

My nine-month stint in England’s capital served up a series of memorable sights (including the late and lovely Princess Diana) and equally memorable entanglements with the opposite sex.

Things heated up on the romantic front during my final week abroad, at a dorm party that found me reconnecting with former flame and genuine good guy Stuart. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the summer of 1994...

June 10th, 1994

London, England
Commonwealth Hall

Dear Diary,

As Stuart and I danced, I scrambled to think of a plausible reason for inviting him up to my room. Inspiration soon hit me, and I told Stuart I needed his help with a computer problem.

Being a computer whiz/addict, Stuart didn’t hesitate to oblige my request and upstairs we went. He sat at my desk and I pulled up a chair right next to him, making a point of leaning in close as we talked, and flashing him my best seductive smile.

My Humble Abode: Room 725 at University of London's Commonwealth Hall

It turned out that my technical difficulty with accessing computer sound files perplexed Stuart as well.

“So,” he asked, “what do you do?”

Though he was referring to how I had tried to access the sound files, the playful smile on his face confirmed he had more than computers on his mind.

I continued flirting, happily remaining at only a breath’s distance and resting my chin on my hands. When Stuart briefly left, I decided to create some ambiance, by turning off all of the lights except one, putting on music and shpritzing myself with perfume.

Upon his return and at his request, Stuart moved to the bed. Enjoying the slow, sensual pace of things, I restrained myself from laying next to him and chose instead to remain in the chair.

* * *

Before the night was over, Stuart and I would re-cross the platonic line with a kiss, and the promise of another encounter before my imminent departure. He would also predict that, once I was back in New York, my year abroad would seem like a dream.

He was absolutely right.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Night At Southern Hospitality

Last night, my good friend Tiffany and I headed over to Justin Timberlake’s BBQ joint Southern Hospitality, to join other revelers for an election results viewing party.

All Smiles on Election Night: Tiffany and I at Southern Hospitality’s soiree

Taking advantage of unseasonably warm weather, we grabbed a table outside, enjoying a perfect view of the standing room-only crowd and TV sets tuned to CNN. We skipped the $2 Donkey and Elephant shots, splurging calorically instead on warm apple fritters with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

As we watched Obama’s historic win unfold, Tiffany and I talked about how the current economic downturn compares to the Great Depression, clogging up cell phone memory with communications from old flames and shifting global perceptions of the U.S. And then, we watched a seismic shift in the electoral vote tally, joining in the cheers and applause that elicited Obama’s decisive landslide victory.

Earlier, when I was hesitating to go out for the Decision ‘08 festivities because of my recovering foot, Tiffany said we’d probably regret it 20 years from now if we spent this historic night as couch potatoes. She was right. Such a watershed moment deserves the fanfare of celebrating en masse -- and it's even more meaningful when it’s shared with a wonderful friend.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Casting A Historic Ballot

I just got back from voting and, unlike many Americans heading to the polls today, I managed to cast my ballot and be on my way within ten minutes. I was somewhat disappointed by the absence of a wait, and relieved to hear from a Board of Elections volunteer that voter turnout was much heavier during the day.

As I exited the voting booth, I couldn’t help thinking about what a privilege it is to have the right to vote, and how this historic election has provoked a lot more people to exercise it.

Hobbling To Vote: Having just come off crutches and still wearing a foot brace myself, I can appreciate the effort it took for this Charlotte, NC resident to vote (photo courtesy: AP)

My dear friend Morty waited 45 minutes this morning to try and vote, and will be heading back to the polls tonight. Another 20-something colleague of mine spent the last five days campaigning for Obama in Florida. My best friend Lisa followed media coverage and analysis of the presidential campaign religiously, moving at last from undecided to McCain supporter.

Despite all of the negative campaigning and puffed up rhetoric of Decision ‘08, something great happened along the way -- the American electorate has become re-engaged in the democratic process.

Regardless of who ends up in the White House, this active participation is key to getting America through the challenging crossroads at which we find ourselves. And, as Tina Fey and the cast of “Saturday Night Live” have brilliantly proven, so is having a good sense of humor.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Globetrotting Bride

As a single and thirty-something woman, I’m always fascinated by stories about how people find their happily ever after. Today, I was happy to hear from fellow travel PR maven Lyla that she is enjoying newlywedded bliss courtesy of

Lyla and her new hubby David clicked back in ‘06 over Turkish tapas and wine at West Village eatery Turks & Frogs.

Turks & Frogs: A date at this West Village eatery led to matrimony for travel PR maven Lyla

“I knew he was smitten,” she says, “because he let me tell a two-hour home-improvement project story without any interruptions.”

Two years later, David proposed by presenting Lyla with a leather duffel bag loaded with travel accessories and gadgets, a tote with a ring inside, and a note about going on lots of honeymoons together.

Now, Lyla is sharing her nuptial and travel expertise on her new blog, The Globetrotting Bride ( With great tips for everything from eco-friendly wedding gifts to romantic destinations, the site is a great resource even if you’re not a bride-to-be.

Lyla and David’s story comes along at a time when I’m slowly dipping my toe back into the online dating pool. They were married on August 31st – the anniversary of my first date with the only guy to become a long-term boyfriend. Looks like fate is continuing to tell me that cyberspace is a romantic frontier worth revisiting.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Weekend Getaway In The First State

This weekend, I enjoyed a much-needed getaway to Dover, Delaware, to visit my fabulous and fun brother and sister-in-law. The visit coincided with a happy milestone in my recovery from foot surgery -- hobbling around crutch-free.

What better way to celebrate my increased mobility than with a mini shopping spree? Yesterday, my sister-in-law Barb and I went to Kohl’s, where we managed to find two tops and three jackets (including a metallic Members Only style number) for a total of $115. There’s something to be said for a great bargain, especially in this economy.

Dover Downs: Michele's restaurant here serves up fine dining in an ambient setting

For dinner, the three of us and my nephew Chris headed over to Dover Downs, the city’s casino-racetrack-hotel complex, where we enjoyed a delicious meal at newly-remodeled Michele’s. I savored short rib ravioli with marinara sauce and crabmeat stuffed lobster.

Also on last night’s menu -- dessert back at home (Ben & Jerry’s yellow cake with chocolate swirl ice cream) and a late-night viewing of the reasonably entertaining recent blockbuster, “Iron Man.”

As I hugged Ray and Barb goodbye at the train station today, I was reminded all over again how lucky I am to have them in my life -- and how rejuvenating a weekend getaway can be, especially when you can leave the crutches behind.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Delightful Date With An Englishman

When you go on a date with someone you meet online, you never know what exactly you’re in store for. The other night, I enjoyed the pleasant surprise of a date who was even more intriguing than his profile.

A 40-year-old British-born corporate guy turned journalist, S had sent me an “Icebreaker” email through college and university alum networking site An Icebreaker email exchange through this site led to a delightful date

We met at Houndstooth pub, a new venue in NYC’s Garment District, to find out if phone chemistry would translate into a real-life connection.

Over a shared plate of chicken quesadillas, S and I discovered a mutual affinity for Harry Potter, and for the adrenalin rush of covering the news. He asked me if I ever miss being a TV reporter and I was happy that, four years after leaving my former profession behind, my answer is still no. That said, I couldn’t help being tickled pink when S said he wouldn’t hesitate to put me back on camera if he had his own TV station.

After two hours of engaging conversation, we decided to call it a night. A true gentleman, S offered me his arm as he escorted me to a cab and gave me a parting kiss on the cheek.

Though it remains to be seen whether S and I will go out again, one thing’s for sure -- there's something about a guy with an accent.