Saturday, January 31, 2009

Looking Forward To Saturday Night

There’s something to be said for an unexpected change of plans and the anticipation it creates for rescheduling.

Last weekend, the one-two punch of jetlag and a cold derailed my birthday plans. Tonight, at last, I will get to celebrate the big 3-5 with some of my best gal pals. An added bonus -- the presence of my cousin Chris, in town from Delaware for the weekend.

With just three weeks between us, Chris and I shared some great times growing up. We eventually progressed from teasing each other mercilessly to bonding over the twists and turns of our respective love lives and mutual appreciation for the single life.

I think Chris is probably looking forward to tonight as much as I am -- he’ll be the only guy at our table!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Opening The Vault: Part Twenty Four

When it comes to Shakespeare’s observation about the course of true love not running smoothly, I can’t help wondering if The Bard had long-distance relationships in mind. My bicoastal romance with California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky) hit more than a few bumps along the way – especially on my third visit to L.A.

Already challenged by the 16-year and geographical distance between us, I faced the added stress during this particular encounter of lying to my parents about it. A sudden earthquake that weekend added to the unfolding drama. I now Open The Vault and take you back to December of 1994…

New York, NY
December 6th, 1994

Dear Diary,

Yesterday, after going to see “The Santa Clause,” we both agreed that it had been a disappointment. We were unable to agree, though, about what to do for dinner.

The tension between Sparky and I escalated during this silly movie when I suggested we walk out

It was around 8 already and we had to be up early the next morning [because of my flight]. And I had no desire to sit in a restaurant with him in silence, which is probably what would have happened given the tensions between us.

While we were in the car, Mark said randomly--

“All it would take is one phone call to [your parents] and you could stay here for 40 or 50 years.”

Though I melted at this, I was unable to appreciate the sentiment without getting mired in the implications behind it. Mark became annoyed and another protracted silence ensued.

Later, we were standing in Mark’s living room when all of a sudden, the house started shaking. Mark guided us into the wall jamb and supported me with his arms as he said--

“Hold on Baby!”

The quake measured 4.5 on the Richter scale. Though it only lasted for about a minute, I literally felt the impact go right through me. I understood why when Mark pointed to a flashing red signal on TV showing the epicenter that had caused the quake.

“That’s about a block from here,” he informed me.

Taking my hand, he led me around the house and we examined the damage -- cracks in the walls, the lid on his aquarium precariously shifted, dishes on the floor.

Not surprisingly, the quake’s impact eventually affected Mark’s mood. There I was laying on the couch while he chose to sit on the floor in front of the TV.
How could he be so distant and act like I wasn’t even in the room?

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I put aside my pride and slid down next to him. He didn’t budge -- no embrace, nothing.

I had a miserable look on my face as we were heading upstairs to bed. Mark got angry and I took his hand in an attempt to open up the lines of communication. He pulled away and went into his room. And that’s when the growing conflict between us really began to erupt.

* * *

The argument that followed would make me question whether my relationship with Mark was worth continuing – and force me to realize he was having the same doubts himself.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Recessionista Find: Jewelry By Saelina

When it comes to being creative, I would definitely say I’m less crafty and more of a wordsmith. Which is why I have a great appreciation for people with artistic talents -- like my good friend Yong’s wife Saelina.

Celebrating the season: Yong, Saelina and I at my holiday soiree last month

Saelina is a mompreneur -- a full-time mom of three who also happens to make jewelry.

Designed to be wearable for both formal and casual occasions, her pieces use rich materials like Swarovski crystals and authentic cultured pearls. I’m a fan of both silver and gold jewelry, so I love that Saelina’s collection includes pieces made of both metals.

Designs by Saelina: This pearl necklace is among the handmade items you’ll find online at Tate and Scout’s Boutique.

You can find more of her fabulous, affordable designs at her online eBay store, Tate and Scout’s Boutique -- named for the middle monikers of Yong and Saelina’s two daughters. Prices start at $20, perfect for any recessionista’s budget.

Coming up…unconventional methods for landing a date and “Dancing With The Stars” the concert!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Learning From Little Ones

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of taking my young nephews to an indoor playground.

As I watched them run around, I couldn’t help thinking about the parallels between their bravery and what it takes to move in and out of the dating scene when you’re in your mid-thirties.

Redheaded and Adorable: My nephews Dylan (left) and Eddie

Eddie, 6, and Dylan, 4, stuck close together while climbing the jungle gym. Dylan, who tends to be the more fearless of the two, had no problem leading Eddie to the top -- but he needed some encouragement himself once they got there.

“I’m scared,” Dylan admitted, hesitant to crawl through a bouncy tube way up high.

After assuring him it was safe and he would be fine, Dylan barreled right through the tube, flying into my arms exuberantly as he exclaimed--

“I did it! I did it!”

His excitement was contagious. I was reminded all over again about the rewards at every age of taking risks, and about two of the playground rules that are equally applicable to dating -- don’t be afraid to try something new and, when in doubt, do it with a buddy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

1,001 Ways To Meet Mr. Right

Last year, my best friend Lisa bought me a book called “1,001 Ways To Meet Mr. Right.”

After thumbing through it briefly, I ended up putting the book aside for awhile -- first because of a whirlwind, ill-fated romance with a New Yorker I met on a cruise, then because of a much-needed break from looking for Mr. Right.

Looking For Mr. Right: This book approaches it as what it should be -- an adventure

Now that I’ve crossed the threshold of 35, though, I’m ready to resume the search, and to do it in a savvier way with the help of this handy book.

One of many great things about “1,001 Ways To Meet Mr. Right” is the similarity between author Elizabeth Shimer Bowers’ approach to the titular task and my own -- that it’s about being engaged in the world around you, about getting outside your comfort zone and shaking up your routine by trying new things. And, of course, making sure you have plenty of fun along the way.

Bowers is a true pragmatist. In addition to chapters that categorize each “way” (social, travel, outdoor, etc.), she provides a rating scale indicating how much time and money each activity takes and whether to bring a friend with you.

You can’t argue with success -- Bowers met her husband through Way #104, in her circle of friends.

I think that’s probably the best way to meet someone special, but I’m looking forward to trying out many of the others that Bowers suggests. And I’m profoundly thankful to Lisa for giving this book to me -- and for more than twenty years of being there through all of my adventures, romantic and otherwise.

Monday, January 26, 2009

By The Numbers: Frequent Flier Edition

It’s no accident that I promote travel for a living. Travel is one of my greatest passions, as I rediscovered during my recent return to Australia.

From reinvigorating weekend getaways stateside to adventurous jaunts in more far flung destinations, I’ve been lucky to experience all kinds of getaways. Like I always say, I never met a trip I didn’t like. Here are some of my more memorable travel moments -- By The Numbers:

Approximate Number of overseas trips: 25

All Smiles in Costa Rica: Enjoying the view from Hilton Papagayo in Guanacaste during a business trip, March 2008

Number of return flights to the U.S. from Australia spent in a coach middle seat: 2
Number of British Commonwealth cities in which I’ve resided: 3 (London, Sydney and Toronto)
Number of flight delays precipitated by a dog running loose on the tarmac: 1
Number of celebrity sightings while traveling: 8
Number of brushes with royalty in the baggage claim area of JFK: 1

It was England’s lovely Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson (a.k.a Fergie), whom I found myself standing next to at JFK many years ago. That’s one of my favorite things about traveling -- the interesting characters you encounter unexpectedly along the way.

Coming up…1,001 ways to meet Mr. Right and a belated birthday celebration.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Opening The Vault: Part Twenty Three

In every relationship, there comes a time when you move out of the initial honeymoon period and into real coupledom -- when you begin to explore whether love really does conquer all.

That transition was an especially bumpy one for me and my California-based love Mark (a.k.a Sparky). About eight months into our complicated romance, I made my third consecutive visit out to L.A. to see him.

I felt strongly that it was Mark’s turn to do the traveling, but pleading phone calls from him led me to book a last-minute weekend trip. Just before end of semester final exams my senior year -- and without my parents’ knowledge.

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

New York, NY
Tuesday Dec. 7th, 1994

Dear Diary,

Our reunion Friday night was sublime…Like Friday, Saturday was great.

We woke up early and clad in our robes, went downstairs to the living room, where we had one of our most magical mornings ever.

Phantom of the Opera: The euphoria that Sparky and I enjoyed during a song from this haunting musical was short-lived during my third visit to see him in L.A.

Cueing up the ballad “All I Ask of You” from “Phantom of The Opera,” Sparky and I melted into one another’s arms and began to dance. As we held each other close, I rested my head on his shoulder. Then, feeling Sparky’s eyes on me, I turned to look at him.

“We were meant for each other,” he said. “You know that, don’t you?”

Right then and there, for one fleeting moment, I did know it.

* * *

Later, after a relatively serene afternoon, things between us began to take a turn for the worse. I became unhappy as Mark reverted to his distant mode.

When we woke up on Sunday, Mark sensed my hostility and asked me about it. I told him that I felt he wasn’t being affectionate enough.

“Well, I’m sorry,” he said coldly. “But I think that’s bullsh*t.”

I immediately stood up, furious that he could be so tactless. Another argument ensued.

Afterward, while I was in the bathroom putting on my makeup, he suddenly appeared and said --

“I’m sorry. I guess I’m not used to having such a sensitive, beautiful young woman in my life.”

The rest of the day was up and down. There were a lot of silent moments and I found myself unsuccessfully fighting back tears for the duration of the afternoon.

Over brunch at Marina del Rey, Mark said he was concerned that our relationship was becoming more than I could handle.

* * *

That night, we finally got around to discussing what had prompted me to make the trip -- the difficulties surrounding our situation. Mark admitted he needs more. I said I don’t want our circumstances to ruin what we have.

“What this relationship needs,” he observed, “is the test of time.”

* * *

Our rocky weekend together was the first of many tests for Sparky and I as a couple. I had no idea when he uttered those predictive words the worst of that particular encounter was yet to come.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Jetlag-Induced Pause

It's been three days since my return from Down Under -- but my body is still on Australia time.

As I recover from the inevitable jetlag of crossing multiple time zones in a little more than a week, I can't help looking forward to bouncing back from it, and to the exciting week ahead.

Monday, I'll have the pleasure of watching Florence Quinn, head of the PR agency I work for, Quinn & Co., accept a well-deserved lifetime achievement honor at the Adrian Awards (the Oscars of travel marketing). Additional events coming up include an inaugural visit to a performing arts showcase that highlights new talent, a philanthropic happy hour and manicures and martinis with some of my best galpals.

As my late and wise grandmother used to say, it's good to go away -- and it's good to come home. And it will be even better to be home when my body clock returns too.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Musical Birthday Celebration

Wednesday night, I enjoyed a low-key birthday celebration at home with Morty, one of my best friends, and my dear cousin Alexandra.

In addition to being two of my favorite people on Planet Earth, Morty and Alexandra have something else in common – they’re both talented singers. Alexandra is classically trained with a background in opera, while Morty is a songwriter/guitarist with a flare for contemporary tunes.

After making me smile with a makeshift “cake” of ice cream sandwiches arranged to form an M, they indulged my request for a duet, delivering pitch perfect renditions of songs by Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill and, of course, my beloved Ricky Martin.

Eventually, I joined in, belting out Whitney Houston’s ’92 power ballad “I Have Nothing” with Morty and Alexandra at the top of my lungs (and, with apologies to my neighbors, accompanied by the CD blaring from my stereo). Despite lingering jetlag from my Australia trip, I felt energized – and thankful to be sharing my 35th with two of my nearest and dearest.

The celebrating continues tomorrow, with dinner at NYC’s Il Cantinori – the restaurant where Carrie Bradshaw ended up alone on her 35th in "Sex And The City." My friends have assured me they’ll be more reliable than Carrie’s inner circle. I can’t wait to connect with my inner party girl. After all, 35 is the new 25, right?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bonding With Fellow Bloggers

Last week’s press trip to Queensland in Australia was one of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve ever had.

Along with discovering the majestic beauty of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, I had the pleasure of traveling with six engaging and accomplished travel journalists – three of whom are fellow bloggers.

Travel Buddies: (from left, back row) Writers Jennifer Davoren, Kent St. John, Lisa Loverro, Stephanie Davis and Donovan Webster, and (front row) Barbara Ries, Lori Barbely and Kristin Luna with me and Tourism Queensland’s Kylie Smith, after a delicious dinner at Voyages on Lizard Island

Veteran travel writer Kent St. John delighted everyone with his wit, warmth and unwavering passion for both his wife and every part of our action-packed itinerary. His musings on Be Our Guest are worth checking out.

Prolific San Francisco-based freelancer Kristin Luna astonished us all with an extensive wardrobe of dresses – and her ability to fit them all in one very small suitcase (I, on the other hand, packed only 3 dresses and still managed to exceed the airline baggage limit). I’ve been a fan of her blog Camels and Chocolate for quite awhile.

Atlanta Skirt Magazine Editor and aspiring author Stephanie Davis was great fun to travel with. She brings sass and smarts to her cyberspace musings on Skirt’s website, and I can’t wait until her book comes out.

Jetlag notwithstanding, spending a week Down Under with Stephanie, Kristin, Kent and the six other talented writers in our group has reinvigorated me. Because of them, I’m excited all over again to see what adventures are yet to come -- not only as a travel publicist, but as a writer too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Milestone Birthday

Today is my 35th birthday. One of my favorite pick me up books, The Portable Best Friend, says that your thirties are when you really start hitting your stride. I couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to my life and career here in NYC.

Work wise, I’ve never been happier. Having spent most of my twenties being something of a professional gypsy feeding the TV news beast, I’m thankful to have found both fulfillment and stability in travel PR -- at an agency run by three accomplished women who continually inspire me with their talent and creativity.

Speaking of fabulous ladies, I’m blessed with a truly amazing circle of friends, many of whom defy geographical distance with their devotion, all of whom enrich my life and make everything a lot more fun.

In looking back on the milestones I‘ve achieved, I can’t help pondering the life stages I haven’t yet reached, namely marriage and starting a family.

I take great comfort in the fact that my beloved late mom was in her thirties when she fell in love with my dad. Their passionate and enduring love remains the gold standard of relationships for me, and a source of hope that my own happily ever after is out there too.

As the iconic Carrie Bradshaw herself discovered, 35 is a good age at which to start focusing on finding a soul mate. I’m excited to ramp up the search for mine now that I feel truly ready for him.

So far, being middle aged isn’t so bad. How can it be when you live in the greatest city in the world…and have a steady supply of anti-wrinkle cream?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

By The Numbers: Farewell To Australia Edition

As I write this, I’m in the middle of my 20+ hour journey home, sitting between two charming natives of Western Australia -- an adorable aspiring actor moving to L.A., and the female owner of a strawberry field (WA is apparently renowned for them) heading to Miami and Key West.

Only a pair of Australians could make being in a middle seat in coach for 14 hours feel like an adventure instead of a sentence.

Over the last nine days, I’ve been fortunate to experience that signature Aussie charm over and over again. Here are some of the great memories I’m taking with me from my fourth jaunt Down Under -- By The Numbers:

Number of islands visited: 3
Number of times snorkeling: 2
Number of flights (commercial and charter) taken within Australia: 8 Number of hotels stayed at: 5
Number of personal items lost (including -- arrgh! -- my camera and all of the pictures from Queensland on it): 7
Number of Aussie friends seen: 2

Longtime friend and Canberra resident Dave and I reminisced and caught up over cocktails next to Sydney’s Opera House

Number of press trip journalists who graciously gave me his camera to use for my stay in Sydney: 1
Number of hunky Aussie males who threw me over his shoulder (and patted my derriere) so I wouldn’t have to walk across a rocky shore: 1
Number of business meetings that might lead to a blind date with an Aussie: 1
That blind date would be courtesy of Charlotte, Hilton’s charming regional PR manager for Australasia.

During a three-hour lunch at Hilton Sydney’s chic Glass Brasserie, our conversation eventually moved from work and the many natural wonders of Australia to dating and the pitfalls of social networking websites.

When I mentioned that I’m single, Charlotte told me about a thirty something male friend of hers who happens to live in New York. She offered to connect the two of us. Yes, please.

Charlotte and I also talked about America’s new president and how his election has created a renewed sense of hope and optimism not just in the U.S. but around the world. On this historic Inauguration Day, I feel excited about the new beginning that President Barack Obama is ushering in for the U.S.

A whirlwind trip to Australia and a brand new president -- two more amazing reasons to celebrate when I turn 35 tomorrow!

Sydney Visit: Day Two

Sunday afternoon, I caught up with my dear friend and Sydney native Sue, her mother Annette and my gorgeous 6-year-old goddaughter Isabella.

Over a delightful lunch at Darling Harbor, we talked about everything from Madonna needing to act her age to our adventures 15 years ago on the Contiki tour around Europe that brought us together. Though it had been four years since Sue and I had seen each other (on my last trip Down Under), it felt like it had only been a day. As she said, that's how it is with good friends.

After parting company from my favorite Aussie girls, I hopped on the subway across Harbor Bridge to Luna Park, a historic amusement park overlooking the water. The park was closed (because of noise compaints from residents) during my five months as a Sydneysider back in' 02, so I was especially excited to visit.

As I enjoyed stunning after dark views from Luna Park's ferris wheel, I marveled all over again that I climbed Harbor Bridge. 1,437 steps -- talk about great exercise!

Next up...reuniting with another dear friend Down Under and surviving 14 hours in coach, in the middle seat.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Quick Dispatch From Down Under

My fourth visit to Sydney has been an action-packed one, full of sightseeing, business meetings and catching up with dear friends.

In the course of just three days, I’ve revisited old memories, discovered new favorite spots -- and fallen in love all over again with this beautiful city that artfully combines urban excitement with harbor side elegance.

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This: Enjoying a glass of Aussie Sauvignon Blanc in front of the Sydney Opera House

More than once, I’ve been asked whether it’s worth the trip and time difference involved to get here. My answer remains the same. Yes, yes, a thousand times -- yes!

Coming up…the view from Sydney’s beloved Luna Park and the promise of a blind date back home with an Aussie!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Soaring Return To Sydney

Yesterday, after a whirlwind week of island hopping around Queensland for a press trip, I made my long-awaited return to Sydney.

Breezy, beautiful weather greeted me in the city I was lucky to call home for five months back in ‘02. After a leisurely check-in at my hotel in the heart of Sydney’s CBD that led to a room upgrade and complimentary bottle of sparkling wine, I went for a stroll down George Street.

I was unable to suppress a smile from the joy of being back in one of my most favorite cities, a smile that grew even wider as I caught a glimpse of Sydney’s iconic Opera House and Harbor Bridge.

After a delightful seafood dinner in The Rocks, an artsy neighborhood right near the water, Barb (one of the press trip journalists) and I made our way to the bridge.

Ever since my first visit to Sydney, people have often asked me -- have you done the BridgeClimb? With this trip, I decided it was finally time to change the answer to that question.

Barb and I couldn’t have picked a better night to do the 3.5 hour activity. BridgeClimb is very popular with locals on weekends and sure enough, we were the only non-Aussies in our group of 11.

After getting suited up and prepped by our perky, knowledgeable climb leader Kelly, we began our ascent to the summit.

My heart leapt into my throat as we crossed the first catwalk well above street level, then climbed a couple of very steep ladders. Upon reaching the steps, though, my anxiety was quickly replaced with sheer awe at the view of Sydney before me.

Sydney’s Harbor Bridge: Seven years after my first visit to Australia, I can finally say -- I climbed it!

The summit is 1.5 football fields -- that’s 134 meters, or about 440 feet -- above sea level. Some other fun facts -- BridgeClimb staff members go through six weeks of training and do about 13 climbs per week, and the longest-running staffer has climbed the bridge a whopping 4,000 times.

One very friendly BridgeClimber, Mark (who helped me resist giving into my initial nerves and backing out), told us he's racked up 700 climbs over the course of two years and still loves doing it. He also shared some exciting news -- the company is hoping to launch a similar climb experience on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge.

Sign me up!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Swimming With The Fishes

Our second day in Lizard Island at the top of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef brought with it an exciting first for me – snorkeling.

With Voyages’ friendly (and hunky) dive pros Noel and Gareth at the helm, the ten of us joined a few other resort guests for the short drive to Blue Lagoon Beach, for a scenic boat ride to the outer reef.

This boat shuttled me to and from my first ever snorkeling adventure

It took me a little while to get the hang of breathing through my snorkel tube, but what a thrill once I did! A giant clam and dazzling rainbow of coral came into view as colorful schools of fish swam by, unfazed by the latest interlopers in their underwater universe.

Gareth pulled out a blue starfish for us to look up at close and mentioned the movie “Finding Nemo.” I was as awestruck as Dory herself to be, ahem, swimming with the fishes.

Back at the resort, while the journalists went off to do some exploring on their own, I enjoyed a leisurely dip in the pool, delighted to have it all to myself.

Later, a stroll along the sand and brief climb over the rocks rewarded me with one of the most breathtaking sunsets I’ve ever seen.

This was definitely transformative trip moment #2, as the explosion of color across the sky made me feel like anything is possible – like big dreams can and do come true. What a perfect time to rediscover this, with the big 3-5 now only a few days away.

Coming up…my long-awaited return to Sydney and climbing the legendary Harbor Bridge!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dispatch From Down Under: Lizard Island

In the two decades that I’ve been traveling, I’ve been fortunate to experience a handful of places that can legitimately be described as paradise. This week, I’ve added a very special one to that short list -- Australia’s Lizard Island.

As soon as our charter flight out of Cairns took to the skies, I got a preview of why Lizard has such a legendary reputation as one of the best islands on the Great Barrier Reef.

Another day on a press trip, another stunning view of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, flying over Lizard Island

I was completely blown away when we arrived at Voyages, the island’s five-star -- and only -- resort. With no other commercial development on Lizard, all you see at every turn is lush vegetation and pristine coastline (and yes, lizards darting around). The beach is inhabited by guests only so you truly feel like you’re in your own private Shangri-la.

That feeling intensified when I was shown to my accommodations -- a dreamy, well-appointed bungalow (favorite amenities -- the rain shower in the bathroom, and a cd alarm clock and iPod docking station) with a porch overlooking the water.

Speaking of the deep blue, there was a little free time before dinner, so I joined journalists Stephanie, Kristin and Lisa in heading down to the beach. Since it’s summer Down Under, I knew the water temperature would be perfect and it was.

As I floated happily in the Pacific Ocean, I thought about what my Tourism Queensland client Shana had said just before my departure. She told me there would be a transformative moment for me in Queensland. This was it.

Looking around at the vast, unspoiled coastline and feeling the waves lap up against me, I was humbled by the fact that my job had made it all possible. Well, my job and me doggedly pursuing Tourism Queensland over the course of several months until they hired Quinn & Co. to work on the destination’s sensational new Best Job In The World campaign.

Who says persistence doesn’t pay off?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hamilton Island: Day Two

Monday afternoon, our group of 10 boarded a seaplane for a breathtaking flight over the Great Barrier Reef.

Our 30-minute trek took us into the heart of Australia’s greatest natural wonder (literally -- one of the most famous reefs is in the shape of a heart), with magnificent views of the deep, deep blue water and colorful reef formations.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is even more awesome up close than I thought it would be

The only downside -- it was a very bumpy ride, and the turbulence found me and several of the journalists feeling more than a little green.

Thankfully, it was a smooth landing in the waters of Whitehaven Beach, where we enjoyed some sparkling wine and fruit.

The flight back was much calmer, especially because I got to ride shotgun in the cockpit.

Flying High: I enjoyed the cockpit view during the return flight to Australia’s Hamilton Island

The next morning, we all headed over to the koala gallery. It took four trips to Australia, but on this work-related journey I finally got a photo with the native creature.

This koala got very friendly as I posed for a picture with him

Though koalas are notoriously unfriendly in real life, this one not only posed for pictures, he placed his paw on nearly every female breast he came in contact with. What an animal.

After our koala encounter, it was off to the airport to catch a flight back to Cairns. Next stop on our whirlwind itinerary -- Lizard Island.

I love my job!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Visit to Hamilton Island's Qualia

Sunday night, I joined about 40 journalists from across the globe along with Tourism Queensland’s executive staff for dinner at Qualia, Hamilton Island’s newest luxury resort.

Set on 30 private acres (gated access is restricted to guests only), Qualia’s 60 pavilions feature jaw-dropping island views, modern eco-inspired décor and soothing silence (no kids allowed).

The sense of arrival begins with Qualia’s open air lobby.

Qualia’s open air lobby was the setting for a Tourism Queensland-hosted dinner reception for media

During the cocktail hour there, I enjoyed Champagne and a selection of hot and cold hors d’oeuvres (including kangaroo with fruit chutney and the best fried shrimp I’ve ever had), and learned more about Hamilton Island from CEO Glenn Bourke.

Glenn told me and San Francisco-based freelance writer Kristin Luna about the Oatley family, Hamilton Island’s owners. Known for their philanthropy and great wines (Rosemount is their signature label), the Aussie clan has invested $300 million on Hamilton over the last five years. Still in the works -- a new yacht club and golf course.

Everyone at the dinner was buzzing about Tourism Queensland’s new Best Job In The World campaign, the destination’s just-launched global search for an Island Caretaker who will help spread the word about the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

Skirt Magazine editor Stephanie Davis, Tourism Queensland’s Kylie Smith and me at the Qualia dinner

During a delicious three-course meal, TQ’s Wendy Levy and I talked about how exciting it is to be part of such an innovative campaign that is reaching people around the world.

Expecting her second child this spring, Wendy told me how she met her husband through an unusual Aussie improv group called Theatre Sports. Her tale reaffirmed my belief that having fun -- especially in an unconventional way -- is a surefire approach to finding Mr. Right.

At this particular moment, though, I’m happy to be footloose and fancy free. It’s impossible to be anything but when you’re experiencing the wonders Down Under!

Coming up…my first-ever snorkeling adventure and the island hopping in Queensland continues.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Opening The Vault: Part Twenty Two

For as long as I can remember, travel has been one of my greatest passions. I’ve often said that I never met a trip I didn’t like.

The only thing better than exploring a new destination is sharing that experience with someone you love -- as I first discovered years ago when I visited long distance love Mark (a.k.a Sparky) in California.

A West Coast native, Sparky was the ideal tour guide. My inaugural L.A. visit included a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (with stops at stunning Morro Bay and majestic Hearst Castle) and a visit to Disneyland.

The look of love: Sparky took this picture of me just before we arrived at Hearst Castle, August 1994

Unlike our blissful week together in London, though, this encounter forced me to see just how much was against us. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the summer of ‘94...

August 30th, 1994
Sparky’s Office, Universal Studios, CA

This vacation has been much bumpier than I anticipated it would be…The most disarming thing -- the level of intimacy our relationship has reached.

Part of the unadulterated freedom I felt with Sparky in London had to do with the fact that I was completely absorbed in the moment. Because everything between us was so new, thoughts of the future entered my mind only fleetingly, and even when they did, I didn’t attached any significance to them. This week, all that has changed.

For the first time in my life, I’m experiencing true love. And it scares me a little. For so long, I have yearned to have a great romance. What I never expected was that I would find something as intense, as passionate, and as near perfect as what Sparky and I share.

I find myself wondering over and over, how will all this resolve itself? The timing is wrong, but everything with Sparky feels right. In my years of mistakes with the opposite sex, this is one dilemma I’ve never had to face.

Well, Sparky just told me that I haven’t said two words to him, so I guess I should pretend I’m having a good time.

*Smile.* At least one thing is as I dreamed it would be--we are completely and truly in love.

* * *

Sparky remained on my mind and in my heart as I embarked on my senior year at Mount Holyoke College. Though I was determined our next encounter would have Sparky doing the traveling, that’s not what ended up happening.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dispatch From Down Under: Hamilton Island

Greetings from Queensland, Australia. It’s been a whirlwind since my Virgin Blue flight touched down here yesterday in Hamilton Island, one of the 600 Islands of the Great Barrier Reef and the largest inhabited island in the breathtaking Whitsundays.

Led by our gracious Tourism Queensland escort Kylie, a group of 8 U.S. journalists and I drove by buggy through Hamilton Island’s winding hills to the aptly named Reef View Hotel. Upon entering my room, this was the view that greeted me...

What A View! My room at the Reef View Hotel on Australia’s Hamilton Island overlooks the Coral Sea.

I had just enough time to change and freshen up before rejoining the group and heading up to One Tree Hill, for a 360 degree look around.

Taking it all in from One Tree Hill atop Hamilton Island

Next, we toured Blue Pearl, a three-bedroom duplex home with sweeping island views, for a Q&A session with Tourism Queensland’s dynamic CEO Anthony Hayes.

It was then that we revealed to the journalists Tourism Queensland’s groundbreaking new campaign -- The Best Job In The World. The destination has just kicked off a global search to finding a winning candidate for the position.

What exactly is The Best Job In The World? Tourism Queensland’s newly created role of Island Caretaker. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime -- six months to live and work on the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

The perks? In addition to accommodations on Hamilton Island at Blue Pearl, a $100k salary and the chance to share what it’s like to live above the reef by blogging and video diaries.

I’ve been here only a day and can definitely say the winning applicant will have no shortage of material. Majestic and unspoiled island beauty, an array of activities for the adventurous, and 2,000 welcoming locals. This is Australia at its best, nestled within one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.

Think you’ve got what it takes to be Island Caretaker? Log on to before February 22nd and submit a one-minute video application.

I may not be eligible for the Island Caretaker gig, but as I get to know this subtropical paradise, I can’t help feeling like I’ve got the best job in the world too.

Coming up…a visit to Queensland’s newest luxury resort and a bumpy but unforgettable plane ride over the Great Barrier Reef.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pampering With A Purpose

I’m a big believer in the restorative powers of pampering rituals. From a heavenly semi-outdoor body massage in Bali to a delightful foot spa bath in Sydney, I’ve experienced this in more than a few far flung places.

Here in the Big Apple, some of my best unwinding moments have happened at Paul Labrecque Salon and Great Jones Spa. My favorite destination for pampering, though, is Dashing Diva. Nobody does the art of pampering better than this first class nail spa.

Dashing Diva: My favorite nail spa is helping women learn about extending fertility

Later this month, Dashing Diva is teaming up with the American Fertility Association for Martinis & Manicures, a new series of events aimed at educating women about conceiving later. Dr. Jamie Grifo, Program Director of the NYU Fertility Center, will be on hand. An added bonus – both the martinis and the manicures are free.

I’m planning to attend with a few of my fellow thirty-something gal pals. Though my biological clock isn’t exactly ticking, I know that with 35 knocking on my door, this is a good time for me to find out more about the road to motherhood.

Manicures & Martinis takes place on Tuesday January 27th at 6pm at Dashing Diva’s 15th Street location in NYC. The event is expected to roll through approximately 20 US cities in 2009.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rubix Cube Redux

Last Saturday, my friend Lauren and I enjoyed a girls night out at O’Flanagan’s my favorite neighborhood pub.

A fellow travel PR maven, Lauren was the first person I connected with in the industry back in ‘04, when I was making the jump from TV news. We hit it off immediately during an informal networking lunch. I remember thinking if travel PR attracts fabulous women like her, this is the business for me.

Girls Night Out: Lauren (far right) and me rocking out to Rubix Cube with our new friends at O’Flanagan’s

After talking shop for a few minutes about representing Australian destinations, we moved onto more pressing matters -- like our shared New Year’s resolution to do more mingling with the opposite sex and make sure we’re having plenty of fun along the way.

To that end, we joined new friends Lori and Jamie on the dance floor to the groovy 80’s sounds of Rubix Kube.

Rubix Kube: The crème de la crème of 80’s cover bands

I first caught Rubix Kube at SoHo’s Canal Room last summer. The band was even more entertaining the second time around, and I was especially delighted when keyboard player Rich Forman made this special dedication --

“This goes out to all the single gals in the city here.”

As Rubix Kube kicked into high gear with classics from Erasure’s “A Little Respect” to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” Lauren and I burned off our holiday indulgence with a little booty shaking.

During “Billie Jean,” I joined a male reveler in the center of the floor and we danced like it was 1985 while the crowd cheered us on.

It was well after 2am when we called it a night. I was exhausted but exhilarated, knowing that this is just the beginning of what is shaping up to be a great year. How could it be otherwise with my 35th birthday later this month and my long-awaited return to Australia just a few days away?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Spending The Day In L.A.

Today, I spent the day in the Los Angeles office of the client responsible for my imminent trip Down Under, Tourism Queensland.

Following a lengthy PR brainstorming session in her brightly lit office overlooking the mountains, Regional Director Shana and I headed out for lunch, enjoying a sunlit drive to Marina Del Rey.

I couldn’t help thinking of my last visit to this beautiful part of L.A., with my former long-distance love Sparky, back in ’94. The subject of moving on from old flames and embracing the future was one of many that came up during lunch with Shana at The Cheesecake Factory.

Shana and me after lunch in Marina Del Rey

As we enjoyed farfalle in a mushroom cream sauce, delectable tiramisu cheesecake and a beautiful harbor view, Shana and I talked about our good fortune in finding jobs we adore that allow us to tell the story of some of the most beautiful places on earth. We also reiterated our shared philosophy about dreaming big and reaching for what might seem like the impossible -- why not?

With my departure for Queensland just a few hours away, it felt like the perfect time to be talking about big dreams. I always hoped that working in travel PR would lead me back to Australia and, at long last, it has. I can’t wait to experience what Tourism Queensland refers to as life above the reef.

Stay tuned for more as I Dispatch from Down Under!

Taking To The Skies With QANTAS

Yesterday, I embarked on the first leg of my trip to Australia, flying to Los Angeles on QANTAS. From the minute I checked in, I was reminded of why the Aussie carrier is one of my favorites.

Despite the fact that my suitcase was 1 kilo over the 20 kilogram limit, the genial ticket agent didn’t charge me an excess baggage fee.

Upon boarding, I was delighted to discover that I had three seats to myself. Though I was in coach, the service and amenities were first class.

It began with a hot towel and complimentary bottled water. It continued with top notch in-flight entertainment and a choice of two entrees for dinner -- beef casserole with mashed potatoes or cheese ravioli in a cream and mushroom sauce.

Flying the Friendly Skies: The hard-working QANTAS flight attendants took good care of everyone

I opted for the latter (delish), regretting my decision to stop at McDonald’s in the food court a few hours before. I’m so accustomed to the lack of food on U.S. flights that I forgot how much more generous international carriers are. Also included in the meal -- cheese and crackers, strawberry danish, a selection of beer and wine (Champagne too) and coffee or tea.

While catching up on the news with Australia’s Channel Nine, a dreamy QANTAS ad came on, revealing the airline has been around for 88 years.

“Flying longer than any other airline,” said the voiceover, “And it shows.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Coming up…pampering with a purpose and Dispatches From Down Under!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hope For The Thirty Something Single Gal

This week, two of my 35+ gal pals had big romantic news to share. One got engaged during a Rio getaway with her beau of ten months. The other is smitten with a St. Louis guy she met after moving back to the Midwest just a few weeks ago.

Upon learning about my friends’ happy developments, I couldn’t help thinking about how quickly one’s romantic situation can change -- and feeling renewed hope about my own prospects as I approach turning 35 later this month.

It’s a welcome feeling. Because even in the post-"Sex And The City" era, persistent messaging says that if you’re a thirty something woman, time is running out to find happily ever after.

Carrie Bradshaw and Co: The SATC ladies proved that life and love don’t really start falling into place until your thirties

Last year, a 60-something woman I met in a mall didn’t hesitate to say that the odds are against me since men in their 30’s and 40’s tend to go for women in their 20’s (she‘s not entirely wrong -- I did two May-December romances where I was the young half of the cliché).

Even more telling, though, was the prominent NYC matchmaker who included me in an email blast seeking applicants for an eligible bachelorettes reality show. Upon replying with my vital stats and age (then 33), this is what she told me--

“You sound very eligible so far but the age cut-off is 32 for this project. It is television, as you know.”

Yikes. Thankfully, fate seems to have a much more forgiving timetable for romance than reality TV.

As my good friend Tiffany recently pointed out, Carrie and her brood didn’t get anything they really wanted until after turning 35.

“Get ready,” Tiffany said, “to join all the most interesting, most vivacious, and most beautiful women who are all 35+ because they've finally grown into themselves. Haven't you read all the magazines?"

Thanks for the reminder, Tiff. Look out 35, here I come!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

All My Sons: A Four Star Delight

Sunday afternoon, my cousin Dana and I went to see “All My Sons.” Arthur Miller’s 1947 tale of a family torn apart by a father’s lies and a son’s disappearance during World War two, the play stars an incredible cast -- John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson and Katie Holmes.

Haunted By The Past: Ann (Katie Holmes) and Chris (Patrick Wilson) try to move on from his brother’s disappearance in “All My Sons” (photo credit: Joan Marcus)

The story unfolds in front of the Keller family’s house, as they await a visit from missing Larry’ s fiancee, Ann (Holmes). Three years have passed and Larry’s brother Chris (Wilson) wants to marry Ann, enlisting the help of his father (Lithgow) in convincing his mother (Wiest) to accept that her other son isn’t coming home.

Lithgow and Wiest deliver knockout performances as grieving parents weighed down by a terrible secret. Wilson holds his own with the two acting veterans and has great chemistry with Holmes, who strikes just the right balance of heartfelt emotion and the kind of charm that only a glamorous bombshell can carry off.

“All My Sons” is also helped along by brilliant staging, with projected screen elements and haunting music effectively underscoring major plot points.

After the show, I joined the crowd of theatergoers hoping for a glimpse of the cast. Most of them stopped for pictures and autographs.

Actor Patrick Wilson greets fans after the show

The biggest response, though, came for the littlest star -- Suri Cruise.

Katie Holmes shows Suri off to the enchanted crowd

There was much oohing and ahhing when the 2-year-old emerged wrapped in a blanket in her mother’s arms. Katie Holmes beamed with pride at the crowd’s warm reception. Just another quiet day in New York City.

“All My Sons” takes its final bow on January 11th.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

By The Numbers: Down Under Edition

Seven years ago this month, I made my first trip to Australia. Fortune has smiled upon my love affair with this great country and, on Friday, I’ll embark on my fourth trek Down Under.

As I gear up for my ten-day trip to Sydney and the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, I can’t help thinking about some of the more memorable moments I’ve experienced on the other side of the world. Here a few of them -- By The Numbers:

Number of Aussie men I locked lips with during my five months as a Sydneysider: 5
Approximate number of beaches visited Down Under: 4
Number of visits to observation deck of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge: 1
Number of Kylie Minogue concerts attended: 1
Number of alpha male Aussie roommates engaged in a serious bromance: 2

Doyle‘s on Watson‘s Bay: This was the view when one of my Aussie roommates took me for a sunlit late-afternoon repast at the renowned seafood eatery

Number of male roommates who took me for a motorcycle ride through Sydney’s majestic Watson’s Bay suburb: 1
Number of Aussie old flames I later reconnected with to find that lightning doesn’t always strike twice: 2

I think, sometimes, the point of reconnecting with an old flame is to confirm why he is, in fact, an old flame. After all, it’s must easier to embrace the future when you’re free of any ghosts from the past.

I'm looking forward to finding out what adventures await me Down Under this time around!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Encounter With A Magician: Take Two

For a city of 8 million people, New York can feel like a very small place sometimes. It’s easier than you might think to run into a familiar face -- a fact of which I was reminded yesterday.

I was crossing 42nd Street and Broadway when I looked up and spotted none other than Daniel, the adorable magician I happened to meet during a Times Square stroll on Friday.

Déjà vu all over again: Daniel and I ended up crossing paths twice in as many days

We both laughed, as he predicted that we’ll continue to bump into each other until we have no choice but to go on a date. Though I gave Daniel my number, he quipped that I’m more likely to date Donald Trump than a spirited street artist.

Daniel’s self-deprecating charm is a welcome contrast to the last magician I went out with, an overconfident Aussie whom I met during my days as a Sydney resident six years ago.

He showed up wearing an electric blue silk shirt, unbuttoned enough to reveal more of his chest than I wanted to see, along with a magic charms pendant and a belt buckle adorned with a deck of cards.

Over the course of our evening together, the Aussie made more than a few double entendres about how he would like to make our clothes disappear. After drinks at a bar near Sydney’s famed Opera House, I opted to disappear (fully clothed) myself.

Thankfully, Daniel appears to have a more artful approach to affairs of the heart. Yesterday, holding up his coins and cards, he suddenly shouted to the throngs of passersby--

“This girl will go on a date with me if I make a million dollars! And I’m going to earn it $100,000 at a time!”

Only in New York would such a bold declaration fail to elicit any response. It did not, though, go unnoticed by me. A man has to dream after all, and I’m more than a little curious to find out where Daniel lands in his bid for Harry Potter-sized stardom.

Meanwhile, it’s good to know that serendipity is alive and well in my hometown -- and it appears that Cupid is too.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Look At Spring Awakening

On Friday, I went to see “Spring Awakening,” Duncan Sheik’s pop-infused Tony winning take on Frank Wedekind's coming of age story set in 19th century Germany.

According to Playbill magazine, many of Wedekind’s works were banned or performed in only censored versions. With “Spring Awakening,” it’s easy to see how controversial his work must have been back in 1891. Wedekind takes teenage angst to a new level, examining sex, abortion, homosexuality and suicide within the confines of a very repressed society.

Innocence Lost: Hunter Parrish (Melchior) and Alexandra Socha (Wendla) come of age together in “Spring Awakening

The show’s young cast, many of whom are Broadway first timers, bring impressively raw emotion to the stage and perform Sheik’s score with heartfelt intensity.

Hunter Parrish, on a break from his role as Silas on Showtime’s “Weeds,” ably carries the show as rebellious Melchior. Alexandra Socha is affecting as Melchior’s innocent love Wendla. And original cast member Gerard Canonico brings the house down as the tormented Moritz, manically struggling with his adolescence yearnings.

Still, despite its talented cast, “Spring Awakening” often fails to live up to the pathos of Wedekind’s complicated tale -- mostly because of Sheik’s music. Though catchy, his brand of rock ‘n’ roll gets to be a bit much, as does the show’s very graphic content. Multiple sex acts are simulated on stage.

While I’m sure Wedekind would disagree with me, I think some things are better left to the imagination. Then again, I’m the girl who didn’t start watching “Sex and the City” until the sanitized TBS version came along.

A national tour of “Spring Awakening” recently launched. The show wraps up its Broadway run on January 18th.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Magician And The Soap Star

When you live in New York, you invariably find yourself crossing paths with colorful characters -- often when you least expect to. Yesterday, I encountered two such characters, at varying ends of the celebrity spectrum.

I was lost in thought about everything I have to do before my Australia trip on Friday when a male voice called out--

“Smile -- the snow’s not that bad.”

Welcoming the interruption, I looked up to find that the voice belonged to an adorable magician named Daniel. Newly transplanted from Reno, Nevada, Daniel hopes to make it big here in the Big Apple. He demonstrated a few card and coin tricks and then asked me about graduating from college and starting my career, implying that both were recent events.

Upon informing Daniel that I’m just a few weeks away from turning 35, he seemed genuinely surprised. It may have been part of his shtick, but the line achieved his original intent -- it made me smile.

Later, a visit to the ladies’ room at trendy Koi restaurant in Bryant Park had me standing behind Emmy-nominated soap star Tamara Braun (Reese on ABC’s “All My Children”).

The First Time I Met Tamara: At The Daytime Emmy Awards in NYC, May 2004

I told Tamara I’ve been a fan of hers since her breakout role as Carly on “General Hospital.” I learned she’s a Chicago native and, like me, prefers New Yorkers over Angelinos (she was based in L.A. during her GH stint). Still, she’ll be departing her current soap gig in April in search of something that resonates more with her.

Tamara isn’t the only daytimer I’ve run into lately. Last month, I ended up sitting next to one of her colleagues, actor Darnell Williams (AMC’s Jesse), during a crosstown bus ride.

Like I said, you never know who you’re going to run into in the Big Apple. That’s why I’ve made it one of my new year’s resolutions to keep my eyes wide open. I don’t want to miss any celeb sightings or, of course, any glance-worthy bachelors.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Opening The Vault: Part Twenty One

There’s nothing quite like falling in love for the first time. Every cheesy song suddenly has great personal resonance and yet, you feel paradoxically like no one has ever felt the same way.

For me, that intensity was heightened considerably by the fact that my first love was 3,000 miles away. California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky) swept into my life during a chance encounter at an “NYPD Blue” shoot and continued to sweep me off my feet when I finally made my first trip out West.

Behind The Scenes: My first visit to see Sparky included a stop at Universal Studios, where he worked as a sound editor for “Law & Order,” August 1994

Sparky once said he was in a magical funk thinking of us. During our first night together in California, I felt exactly the same way. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the summer of ‘94...

Granada Hills, CA
August 26th, 1994

Dear Diary,

You’d think that all of the unbridled passion and ecstasy of being in Sparky’s arms again would have been enough to stave any estrogen-induced moodiness. No such luck last night.

PMS kicked in and I began to worry that I’d made a mistake in deciding to stay with Sparky. I was afraid that seeing me day and night would make him tired of me. Some of my anxiety stemmed from residual guilt, of course, about going against Mom’s advice.

I admitted my concern. Pulling me close to him, Sparky took my hand and looked right at me as he said--

“You’re just not used to someone wanting you as much as I want you.”

He was right. Not only did he understand perfectly the daunting newness of our intensifying closeness, but he managed to sweep me off my feet in the same breath.

I called my friend Li-Shean and the sound of her voice calmed me considerably. She made me laugh about overreacting to Sparky’s furnishings when she guessed right off the bat that he has black leather couches! My insecurities faded and I concentrated on savoring my first night with the man I adore.

Not surprisingly, we got little sleep.

“I want to make you my wife,” Sparky murmured in my ear before kissing my cheek.

Later, after we managed to briefly doze off, I woke up to feel his arms holding me tightly, and to the sound of Sparky whispering --

“I love you.”

“I love you too,” I said, feeling like the words couldn’t come out quickly enough.

We kissed yet again, but this time it felt different. This time, we were affirming both those three little words and our mutual desire. And I knew it was only the beginning.

* * *

Passion wasn’t the only thing on the itinerary during my first trip to Sparky’s neck of the woods. We ended up taking in some of California’s top sights -- and along the way, I discovered how hard it was to hold back, despite the very real obstacles facing us.

Coming up…a look at two of Broadway’s hottest departing shows and the Australia countdown continues.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Girls Night Out At O'Flanagan's

Last Saturday, I caught up with my cousin and soul sister Alexandra for an eventful girls night out -- one that offered an enticing glimpse at what the new year might bring.

Over a few glasses of sangria and sublime Mexican food at Cilantro on NYC’s Upper East Side, Alexa and I had (as always) plenty to talk about. Along with the potential pitfalls of reconciling with an ex, we covered the challenges of juggling work and school (Alexa’s pursuing a degree in music education) and the joys of recovering from a physical setback -- i.e., my foot surgery back in October.

Best Friends: Me and my cousin Alexandra having fun at O'Flanagan's

My cousin hadn’t seen me since the weekend of my surgery, so she was happy to see I'm back on both feet again. That, along with her recently completing finals, gave us plenty to celebrate when we moved onto O’Flanagan’s, one of the best pubs in my neighborhood.

In addition to a friendly and attentive bar staff and down to earth, unpretentious crowd, O’Flanagan’s offers great live entertainment. While Alexandra and I were at the bar, she struck up a conversation with one of the vocalists for the night’s cover band, East Coast.

East Coast: An awesome cover band with talented and friendly musicians

East Coast had everyone on the dance floor with their rollicking renditions of hits from the last 40 years. As we shook our groove things to Rihanna's “Please Don’t Stop The Music,” I couldn’t stop smiling -- savoring the delight of dancing for the first time in months.

During a break to catch my breath, a guy leaned over and asked me if I was single. When I said yes, he asked--

“How is that possible?”

“Actually,” I said bemusedly, “That’s a good question.”

I also had the chance to flex my flirting muscles while watching a couple of guys play pool in O’Flanagan’s back room. One of them, an adorable forty-something named Dave, quickly invited me to join the game and proceeded to engage me in a round of TV trivia.

Before the night was over, Alexandra -- a talented singer -- joined East Coast in belting out Alicia Keys’ “No One.” I, meanwhile, offered my more limited vocal talents in supporting the band’s rendition of Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right.”

As we headed home around 3am, I couldn’t help thinking that the night marked a fresh start for me. I’m ready to, literally, hit the ground running now that it’s a new year, and get back into the dating scene. And I will definitely be dropping by O’Flanagan’s again soon. After all, my pool skills could use a little practice.