Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Catching Up With An Old Flame

On Thursday, after attending Global Traveler’s anniversary bash in Times Square, I caught up with my old flame Steve.

Steve and I first met back in 2001, at the tail end of my stint as a reporter in Southern Illinois. We quickly fell into a love affair so passionate that it led me to change my flight back to New York three times -- and so intense that both of us were inspired to write poems to each other.

“You’re what love songs are made for,” Steve told me just before I left Illinois for good.

I was smiling at Steve when this picture was taken during his first-ever visit to NYC, April 2002

Geography was our nemesis, as I quickly bounced from New York to a five-month stint in Sydney, calling it quits with Steve just before I went Down Under. New Year’s Eve 2002 saw us reconnecting back in the Big Apple, and so began the next chapter in our long-distance romance. Steve visited me more than once in my new TV news-dictated hometown of Dover, Delaware, proving each time that the fire between us hadn’t gone away.

Still, we continued to find ourselves in very different places and so, we made the transition to being friends.

Now married and living in Kansas City (not too far from my best friend there, oddly enough), Steve is the only ex I remain friendly with. The other night, he reminded me why he’s the exception.

Over a delicious dinner at Times Square bistro Trattoria Dopo Teatro (Caprese salad, risotto with porcini mushrooms), we found plenty to talk about. Steve told me the latest about his globetrotting gig as a computer database engineer – a job that has taken him to Dubai and Sydney, and will put him in Seattle next month. I filled him in on both work and family news. As always, Steve listened with sensitivity and understanding.

Steve also snapped this picture of me during dinner at Trattoria Dopo Teatro

We somehow got onto the topic of music, and songs that have special meaning for us. The Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go” was at the top of the list.

Our nostalgic tangent continued as we recalled some of the more memorable meals we enjoyed way back when – a heavenly breakfast in Rehoboth Beach, a five-star dinner in St. Louis and a dreadful meal at a family friend’s in the Bronx that included rancid wine.

Steve pointed out that he was wearing the same shirt he had on when I returned to Illinois to help him move back in ’02. We both smiled – that was one of our more memorable encounters.

As we reminisced, I couldn’t help thinking how happy I am that Steve and I are still connected. I know he feels the same way.

“I want us to be friends forever,” he told me, “I always want to have you in my life.”

With a tender embrace, we said goodbye. I felt a surge of gratitude. Being with Steve again reminded me that even when romance is no longer in the cards, some old flames will always be a part of you.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Global Traveler's Fifth Anniversary Bash

Thursday night, I joined a handful of my Quinn & Co. colleagues as guests at Global Traveler’s swanky fifth anniversary party.

Held at the Renaissance Hotel in Times Square, the event had everyone enraptured with stunning 360 degree views. All the single ladies in the house agreed that, if your guest list is on the smaller side, there could be no better spot for a quintessentially Gotham wedding.

What A View: Times Square is what you see in 360 at NYC’s Renaissance Hotel

Equally enchanting -- the sounds of a keyboard player and cellist and a tasty selection of hors d’oeuvres including quail with fried egg, mini fish and chips and even cookies and milk (shots).

I had the chance to catch up with GT Editor in Chief Lisa Matte, and was happy to hear her upcoming visit to Q&C client Hilton Arc de Triomphe Paris will coincide with her 50th birthday.

In the small world department, I found myself standing next to Daryl, a charming event planner from Toronto, my hometown for four years as a teenager. We gushed about the city’s recent exponential growth, and Darryl promised me a night on the town next time I’m up north.

Fellow travel PR maven Andrea and I shared our excitement about scoring tickets to U2’s one night only show at Giants Stadium in September. Andrea was double booked, heading from the GT soiree to a season finale party for “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

She invited me to join her, but I too had another commitment -- a date with an old flame who, despite geography, still has a special place in my heart.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another Big Encounter

Over the years, I’ve run into actor Chris Noth (a.k.a Mr. Big on Sex and The City) on more than one occasion.

Back in ‘04, I met him for the first time when we were both working up a sweat at Crunch gym on NYC’s Upper East Side. In the fall of 2007, I joined a crowd of female fans in the East Village swooning over Chris during the SATC movie shoot. And in November, I met a very cranky, somewhat unkempt Chris briefly after his engaging performance in “Farragut North.”

Last night, I had the pleasure of my fourth Big encounter, catching Chris just as he was leaving the GLAAD Media Awards (more to come on the event itself) at NYC’s Marriott Marquis hotel.

Chris Noth And Me: Is he gorgeous or what?!

As I approached him, he dashed past me, saying--

“Sorry, Sweetie, I’m in a hurry.”

Then, much to my surprise and delight, he turned around and motioned me over for a quick picture.

I was happy to see Chris back to his handsome, pre-Farragut self -- and to catch him in in a friendly mood. He’s not one to schmooze if he doesn’t feel like it.

Cranky or not, the hunky actor seems to get better with age. I can’t wait to see him on the, ahem, big screen again in SATC 2.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

An Encore Visit To The Set

Wednesday night, I paid my second visit to The Set, Time Out New York ’s free monthly performing arts showcase of rising stars.

It was standing room only at New World Stage’s downstairs lounge, but I managed to snare a seat at the bar, thanks to show producer Pim. I also caught up with singer/songwriter Red Wine, who knocked my socks off at February’s show.

Singer Red Wine and me at The Set NYC

“I knew something good was going to happen today,” he said when I approached him. I predicted he’ll win a Grammy someday and he promised to thank me if he does.

Red Wine sang his irresistible cover of Ne Yo’s “Closer” before doing double duty as host for the evening. First up -- veteran Aussie singer Anna Fiszman and guitarist Marc Landesberg.

Musical duo Anna and Marc: my favorite performers of the night

Their jazzy take on Ray Charles’ “Unchain My Heart” brought down the house and was, for me, the best performance of the night. Anna’s soulful voice is heaven sent.

Next up was young comedienne Liz Miele, who did an amusing riff about being an angry New Yorker unmoved by dogs or babies. Swedish dance trio Frida, Moncef and Ronja had the crowd applauding with their energetic, fresh take on hip hop.

Frida, Moncef and Ronja put their own spin on hip hop

Adorable magician Nick Ignazzi involved members of the audience in his act, which included being tied up, revealing he’s the Guinness Book record holder for most tic tac toe wins (32) and, of course, doing a card trick.

Young singer Melanie Fontana closed out The Set with a stirring rendition of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and an original ballad, “Water,” that I can’t wait to download.

After the show, I told duo Anna and Marc how much I loved their performance. Anna’s from Melbourne, one of my favorite cities Down Under, and she’s as engaging offstage as she is on.

Getting to know musical duo Anna and Marc

You can catch Anna and Marc on April 11th at the Central Park Bandshell and then that night at Made With Love, a coffeehouse in Jersey City.

For more information about all of The Set’s stars, visit the show's website.

Coming up…a swanky magazine shindig in Times Square and celeb spotting at GLAAD’s Media Awards.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Opening The Vault: Part Thirty

When a relationship is unraveling, trying to hold onto it invariably precedes letting go. I was holding on for dear life as my romance with long-distance love Mark (a.k.a Sparky) came apart.

Like every encounter before it, my post-graduation visit to see Sparky in L.A. started out joyfully. As we headed to Sin City, it almost felt like we could keep our growing differences at bay. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the summer of 1995...

June 5th, 1995
Las Vegas, NV

Dear Diary,

This morning, Mark shared his latest communication with his nutty ex-girlfriend. She called him to bail her out of jail and he ended up going down to the station with her father.

He asked me what I thought about this. I flatly said I didn’t feel he should have anything to do with her, and resented this umpteenth reference to his ex. The green-eyed monster of jealousy can be pretty fierce sometimes.

* * *

The five-hour drive to Las Vegas was fun. Sparky impressed me with his knowledge about California history and geography, and I was relieved that we weren’t driving each other crazy.

The Mirage: Sparky and I stayed here during our ill-fated trip to Vegas

At one point, Mark cued up the soundtrack from “Somewhere In Time,” which he worked on as a sound producer. We were both silent, absorbed in the music. I looked out the window, remembering tearfully the time we’d listened to it when Sparky came to see me in London. I thought about the obstacles facing us, fearing there was trouble ahead.

* * *

While we were checking into the Mirage, Mark said the $5 tip I gave our bellman was too generous. I was more than a little peeved -- especially because Mark had gotten on my case earlier about $30 I spent (also of my own money) at the drugstore.

* * *

Up in our room, with strawberry Snapple and vodka cocktails in hand, I put on a little Gloria Estefan and we danced real close, falling onto the bed as the alcohol went to our heads.

Not wanting to miss the afternoon sun, we went down to the hot tub. Sparky talked at length about the geography of our situation. He said he’s not going to get attached to anyone else. Caught up in his love, I said--

“You know -- I could stay.”

“Not yet,” he answered warmly, “It’s too soon,” whereupon he said he’s in no hurry and that he can wait.

We hugged and kissed. Swimming in thoughts of both our potential future and joyful present, I looked up at the sky. Every inch of me felt at peace.

* * *

My peace was short lived, as the difficulties of our situation and 16-year age difference began to escalate. Sparky and I would soon discover that our love was no longer enough to get past it all.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

ZogSports: Co-Ed Fun For A Good Cause

Tuesday night, I headed up to a high school in Harlem for my first night of volleyball as part of ZogSports.

Zog is a charity-focused co-ed social sports club for young professionals in NYC. The best part, in addition to schmoozing for worthy causes, is all sports leagues offer both competitive and (extremely) casual divisions. Since I was probably still in high school the last time I picked up a volleyball, this made hitting the court a much less terrifying proposition.

I was happy to find that, like pretty much everything else, athletic competition matures considerably once you’re well out of your teens. Everyone at Monday’s pre-season scrimmage series was friendly and eager to cheer each other on. I never knew what a great icebreaker playing sports could be.

Most of my teammates – two couples, two fellow single gals and one hunky guy -- gave me kudos for my (unexpected) knack for serving. Now I just need to work on, well, everything else.

Afterward, I walked over to the subway with teammates Carrie and Dawn. We all admitted our ulterior motive for signing up with Zog, and shared our frustration about being outnumbered by couples. Still, as Carrie reminded us, we have post-game happy hours to look forward when the spring season officially kicks off next week. Sign me up.

Coming up…drinks with an old flame and an encore visit to The Set NYC.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Live From Rockefeller Plaza

Over the years, I’ve joined the Today Show crowds in Rockefeller Center more than once. Each time I went, it was to enjoy a free performance of a beloved favorite (i.e. Ricky Martin, Olivia Newton-John). On Monday, my visit was precipitated by a different purpose – shameless self-promotion for Single Gal In The City.

Bleary eyed and bundled up because of unseasonably cold temperatures (it felt like the teens with the wind chill), I headed over to the plaza in front of Studio 1A around 630am. From trophy-bearing school athletes in Texas to red raincoat-wearing Arkansas natives, I had plenty of company.

Anchor Meredith Vieira mingling with the crowd

All of us in the crowd were disappointed to learn that weatherman Al Roker was on vacation, and Matt Lauer was out recovering from a deer encounter on his bike. Still, anchors Meredith Vieira and Lester Holt did a good job of making everyone feel welcome when they came out to do a few quick liveshots.

Meredith did the most mingling, posing for pictures and addressing many in the crowd (myself included) as “sweetie.”

I was standing right behind her as she gave a journalism student the chance to read some on-air copy.

Caught On Camera: Watching Meredith Vieira shine the spotlight on an aspiring journalist

I was caught on camera two more times -- during a quick pan of the crowd, and when Lester Holt teased what was coming up.

It’s A Sign: Sharing my diary writing habit with Today’s audience

Though I didn’t get to mention SGITC on air, I enjoyed my fleeting 15 seconds of fame -- especially because it’s motivated me to pay a visit to Today’s competitors. The Early Show and Good Morning America, here I come!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Great Saturday Date

In the numbers game of online dating, it often feels like the odds are decidedly against making a connection. Which is why my date with Match.com member Chris was such a refreshing surprise.

I had Saturday night plans with a friend, so Chris and I met mid-afternoon at Annie Moore’s, a low-key pub near Grand Central. I was impressed that he was willing to drive in from New Jersey – and even more impressed when he suggested we adjourn from the bar to a table (unlike my last Match.com date, who kept us crammed into a tight space at the bar and bolted after an hour).

Annie Moore’s: Pub grub in a pleasant setting near Grand Central, perfect for a midday date

Tall, adorable and witty, Chris is as good at listening as he is at making conversation. We reminisced about our respective college years, shared our mutual desire to visit Prague someday and laughed about wearing braces as teenagers. I learned that, in addition to working hard in the compliance department of MetLife, Chris keeps busy with running, scuba diving and staying close to his parents and older brother.

There was plenty of playful banter, complemented by just a few moments of comfortable silence. We were both astounded when we checked the time and discovered that more than two hours had gone by.

Neither of us were in a hurry to say goodbye. As we stood in front of Annie Moore’s, I teased Chris about his daily caffeine fix and suggested he might need an IV transfusion of coffee. He laughed, saying he’d just sent an email to a friend saying the same thing.

He bent down and kissed me on the cheek, and continued to prolong the moment, telling me that he’d had a good time. So did I, I said.

Mindful of my evening plans, Chris said he didn’t want to keep me. Then, to my surprise and delight, he kissed my cheek again -- this time skirting tantalizingly closer to my mouth.

“We’ll talk soon,” he said as we finally went our separate ways.

Since then, we’ve exchanged text messages a few times. Though I’m not sure whether I’ll see Chris again, the sheer perfection of our date had me smiling for the rest of the day.

That’s the thing about a glimmer of romantic possibility. It’s just enough to remind you the journey to finding Mr. Right can be every bit as fun as the destination.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Friday Fun On The LES: Part Two

Friday night, the celebration of work galpal Katie’s move to the burbs continued at Boss Tweed’s Saloon on the Lower East Side.

Katie and me enjoying cocktails at Boss Tweed’s on the LES

We opted to skip the beer pong and concentrate on enjoying the action-packed crowd, which included about a dozen of us.

Conversation quickly turned to the evening’s main attraction -- the mechanical bull at another LES nightspot, Mason Dixon’s. By the time we got there, I was more than a little anxious about climbing aboard. Especially when I had to sign a waiver and present my ID to the very menacing bull operator.

Yikes: Getting ready to ride at Mason Dixon’s

Katie, a mechanical bull veteran, advised me that the best way to avoid injury is to just go with the inevitable fall when it starts. I kept her wise words in mind as I entered the bullpen.

With the supportive cheers and applause of friends and strangers alike, I straddled the mechanical bull and hoped for the best.

$5 well spent: Riding the bull. Yee hah!

Though I didn’t feel unleashed like Miranda on “Sex And The City” (nor did I feel inclined to rip open my top), I enjoyed my 20 seconds or so of writhing around. And the fall on my rear end was only marginally terrifying. The ride was also a great mini workout, as I discovered from the burning sensation in my thighs afterward.

Katie, roommates Beth and Jon, and former Quinn & Co. staffer Juliann all took turns riding the bull before we decided to move onto the next destination, Piano's.

It turned out the bar had reached capacity and was only admitting women. Contemplating the favorable guy-girl ratio inside, I was thisclose to parting company from Katie & Co. I chose instead to head back with everyone to Katie’s abode, where she filled me in about her long history with boyfriend Connor, who she’ll soon be residing with in Connecticut.

Their parents are good friends and it was love at first sight for Katie when she met Connor at the age of 15. A few years later, when she finally professed her feelings, he responded with a kiss. And, a long distance scenario notwithstanding (Katie lived in Florida for awhile), that was that.

As Katie gushed about her beloved beau, I couldn’t help thinking about the fickle finger of fate -- how some people find happily ever after straight out of the gate, while the rest of us end up taking more than a few detours to get there.

Despite the seeming randomness of it all, I took great comfort in Katie’s tale. It reminded me of the times that I've felt head over heels -- and how much I’m looking forward to the day when I feel that way again.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Friday Fun On The LES: Part One

Friday night, I headed down to the Lower East Side for a big night out in honor of my colleague Katie and her imminent move to Connecticut.

The evening began over a delicious dinner at Japanese eatery Jeollado with work galpals Caroline and Morgan. We shared edamame and two tall orders of hot sake -- and some of the tastiest, cheapest sushi I’ve enjoyed in awhile. With rolls as inexpensive as $3, Jeollado is a low key, budget-friendly treat. My personal favorites were the golden dragon eel roll and the Lisa roll (salmon, tuna, yellowtail).

From Jeollado, we walked over to the three-bedroom pad Katie shares with roommates Beth and Jon.

Three’s Company: (from left to right) Katie, Beth and Jon strike a pose during Friday’s LES festivities

The party was already in high gear when we arrived, thanks to friends and significant others (including Katie’s longtime love and absolute sweetheart, Connor), amped up music and a great spread (wine and cheese, Beth’s homemade brownies, chips and dip, etc.).

In the blast from the past department, I was floored when the door opened and in walked Cole, a classmate from my journalism school days at Columbia University who I hadn’t seen in ten years. We fell into easy conversation, as she filled me in on her long distance beau in California and her producing gig at “Good Morning America.”

I was happy to hear the on-air talent at my favorite newsmagazine show is just as much fun behind the scenes. And yes, for a moment, I felt a bit wistful about my previous life in the crazy but exhilarating world of TV news.

Turning my attention back to the present, I chatted with Jon, who’s every bit as smart, adorable and fun as Katie had said he was. We talked about travel -- like me, he’s lived in London -- food, and mechanical bulls. I admitted my anxiety about riding the bull at Mason Dixon's later that night. Having already Twittered my plans, though, I knew there was no turning back.

Up next…part two of my wild night downtown and a surprisingly great Saturday date.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

By The Numbers: Online Dating Edition

Last night, a subway ride with some of my work galpals found us talking about the vagaries of online dating.

A fellow single gal chimed in about her experience with a guy who couldn’t tear himself away from his Blackberry during their date. I could empathize, having just spoken with a JDater who interrupted our conversation three minutes into it to take another call. Given that his online handle is Crackberry69, I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised.

This latest go round of Internet dating has had its share of surprises (good and bad). Here are a few of them -- By The Numbers:

Number of guys from Match.com and JDate.com who have emailed me: 34
Number of first dates: 2
Number of JDate men whose emails began with what I have in common with his ex wife: 1
Number of Match.com women who’ve sent me flirtatious emails: 1
Number of communications (phone and email) it took to schedule a date with
Chris: 10

A 39-year-old New Jersey-based Match.com guy who works in finance, Chris shares my penchant for travel and modern rock bands. We’re meeting for afternoon drinks in Midtown today.

Up next…surviving my first ride on a mechanical bull and running into a friend from my journalism school days.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Smitten With Steamy Kitchen

Every time I encounter a fellow female blogger, I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to be part of a community of fabulous women who have smart and interesting perspectives to share. The other day, I had the pleasure of meeting food blogger and photographer Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen.

Jaden Hair: Multimedia maven and blogger extraordinaire

My Quinn & Co colleagues caught up with Florida-based Jaden during her whirlwind visit to NYC. A true multi-media goddess, Jaden also pens a weekly food column for the Tampa Tribune and makes regular guest appearances on local TV shows. She manages to do all of this, travel frequently and be a wife and mother of two. I need to find out her secret to time management.

It’s no surprise that Steamy Kitchen is one of the most popular food blogs worldwide – Jaden is as passionate about the culinary universe as she is prolific in her talents. Her fresh take on Asian cooking makes me want to use my kitchen for something other than defrosting Lean Cuisines.

Jaden will be speaking at this summer’s BlogHer Conference in Chicago. I’m on the waitlist for a ticket, and hope to catch up with her again in the Windy City. In the meantime, I look forward to following her adventures in and out of the chef's hat at Steamy Kitchen.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Opening The Vault: Part Twenty Nine

In every relationship, there comes a time when you decide to move forward together -- or not. During my long distance romance with California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky), that juncture coincided with graduating from college.

Graduation Day at MHC: Sparky’s absence didn’t bode well for our future together

Though Sparky had mentioned (more than once) that he would fly out for the occasion, he ultimately chose not to, convincing me instead to make my second trip to L.A. in as many months.

Knowing it was make or break time for us, I packed two documents. My resume, in case I decided to stay in L.A., and a goodbye letter that I had actually started to write months before. I now Open The Vault to Volume #60 and take you back to the summer of 1995...

June 4th, 1995
Granada Hills, CA

Dear Diary,

After a long flight -- with a stopover in St. Louis -- I landed in L.A. with the usual butterflies in my stomach.

As soon as I entered the terminal, I spotted Sparky sitting by the gate. He stood and we melted into a wonderful hug and lingering kiss. I held onto him tightly, wanting to savor the joy and sheer delight of the moment. After 15 months, that initial, blissful high of being in his arms again hasn’t changed.

We walked hand in hand to the baggage claim, where we kissed some more.

“So, do you wanna get married?” Sparky asked. Smiling, I rolled my eyes and asked if we could postpone talking about such heavy topics until I recovered from jetlag.

“You don’t love me anymore,” he said with an exaggerated pout.

“I wouldn’t have just flown 2,990 miles if I didn’t love you,” I insisted.

In the points-for-chivalry department, Sparky opened the car door for me. As soon as I sat down, he took my face in his hands and gave me the most delicious kiss. When the Eagles ballad “Love Will Keep Us Alive” came on the radio, I told him--

“I always think of you when I hear this song.”

“Well then, let’s hear it the right way,” he said, cuing it up on a CD and raising the volume. Our hands clasped together tightly, we both sang along and said those three little words to each other.

The music continued when we got to Sparky’s house and he put on some Sinatra. I bent down and wrapped my arms around his chest, whereupon we kissed - and burst out laughing as Sparky carried me on his back while he was on all fours. Then, we danced.

“You’ve still got it,” he said, referring to how perfectly we move together.

“So do you,” I said, as we fell into another kiss.

* * *
Despite the perfection of that ‘first’ night together again, it didn’t take long for the explosive side of my chemistry with Sparky to reemerge. A road trip -- and one of Sparky’s very bad habits -- would end up bringing us to the point of no return.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Paddy's Day Celebration

When it comes to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, I don’t think there’s a more festive place – apart from the Emerald Isle itself – than the Big Apple.

I was gleefully reminded of this yesterday, as I strolled around Midtown and the Upper East Side after work, encountering plenty of paradegoers festooned in St. Paddy’s Day attire. From green eyeshadow and hoodies to the requisite shamrock-adorned hats and t-shirts, nearly everyone in NYC had gone green in celebration of Ireland’s patron saint.

The fun continued when I met up with PR galpals Andrea and Lauren and some of Lauren’s friends at the C Squared Group’s shindig.

All Smiles: Andrea and me with a few touches of green

Held at the Empire Hotel’s rooftop bar, the party was something of a departure from the group’s typically A-list events. Between watered down cocktails, a jazz band that played anything but and an eclectic crowd, I wasn’t surprised when I overheard someone say--

“Maybe if we have a drink, this place will look better.”

Determined to find a more spirited celebration, the six of us walked north a few blocks to P.D. O'Hurleys, an Irish pub on the Upper West Side. As expected, the place was brimming with firefighters, green attired folks and yes, even bagpipers too.

The St. Patrick’s Day scene at P.D. O'Hurleys

I filled the girls in on my most recent experience of outrageous online dating behavior – a JDate.com guy who claimed to be intelligent and have “varied interests,” yet could only manage to say “Nice t*ts” when he emailed me. I quickly reported his antics to the JDate.com profanity police. Whatever happened to just saying hello?

From P.D. O'Hurleys, we walked over to Papaya King, an NYC staple since 1932 that serves up a mean hot dog. It was the perfect punctuation to a memorable St. Paddy’s night out. Erin go bragh!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Journey Into The Outback

Having been to Australia four times now, I’m more eager than ever to visit a legendary part of the country that I haven’t before -- the Outback. Last night, I had a chance to learn more about this vast wonder from renowned adventure travel writer and Aussie native Andrew Dwyer.

Andrew shared his Outback experiences, along with some mouth-watering descriptions of recipes inspired by the region, with an intimate group at The Australian Restaurant & Bar in NYC’s Garment District. Hosted by the Australian American Association, his riveting, informative talk had me falling in love all over again with the Land of Oz.

Cast Iron Chef: Author Andrew Dwyer cooking a Greek meal in the Outback

Andrew’s love affair with the Outback began when he led his first expedition across it 25 years ago. Since then, he has written several books and continued to head up treks to remote areas enhanced by innovative cooking with fire (hence his nickname -- Cast Iron Chef).

“Australia is an amazing place,“ he said. “The Outback is even more amazing.”

It’s no wonder he’s so fascinated with it. Home to 75% of Australia’s biodiversity, the Outback is also the largest terrestrial wilderness area on Earth after Antarctica. From deserts alive with flowers to baby crocodiles that don’t attack, Dwyer has seen it all.

“The beauty of the Outback is that so much of it is impossible to access,” he said. “You can travel through terrain where there are no vehicle tracks.”

I won the door prize -- Andrew’s most recent book, “Outback - Recipes and Stories from the Campfire” -- and happily asked him to sign it for me.

“Happy cooks are happy campers,” he wrote.

I might just have to book an expedition with Andrew next time I’m Down Under so I can experience that first hand.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Friday Night Double Header

Friday night, I ventured out to two very different watering holes in Midtown for an evening with friends.

First, I joined work galpals Caroline and Morgan, and three other Quinn & Co. colleagues at the historic and elegant Algonquin Hotel's Algonquin Hotel's Blue Bar. The occasion – catching up with our former co-worker Vanessa and her hubby Jeff, in town for the weekend from New Orleans.

Happy Hour At The Algonquin: Enjoying cocktails with (from left to right) David, Jeff, Vanessa, Nicole, Caroline and Morgan

Vanessa filled us in on her gig promoting local tourism and how NoLa is managing to weather the recession because of its post-Katrina bounceback.

Later, Morgan, Caroline and I continued the economic talk over cosmos, reflecting on how the downturn is affecting the travel industry.

From the Algonquin, Caroline and I walked over to Annie Moore’s, a nearby pub, where met up with our friends Natasha and Theresa and some of Natasha’s cute City Hall co-workers.

Theresa shared tales of domestic bliss with her boyfriend of one year, Chris. Chris, meanwhile, chimed in about not being a fan of playing matchmaker. Thankfully, Theresa sided with me when it comes to paying it forward once you’ve found your life’s mate.

Girls Night Out: Drinks at Annie Moore’s with (from left to right) Theresa, Caroline and Natasha

While enjoying a delicious Shepherd’s pie and a screwdriver, I chatted briefly with another Chris in the group, this one a member of the Deputy Mayor’s staff. He and the other guys were doggedly focused on work-related brainstorming, so I happily returned to the girls and talked about plans for Theresa’s housewarming party. A hot tub will be involved, so I’m definitely there.

Coming up…an insider's look at the Australian Outback and St. Paddy’s Day C-Squared style.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thursday Night Date

The longer you’re immersed in the world of online dating, the more your expectations tend to shift. During this latest go round, I’ve gone from hoping for chemistry with my online candidate du jour to praying he doesn’t go off on a tangent about sex with his ex.

Thankfully, a pleasant Match.com date on Thursday offered good, appropriate conversation -- albeit only 60 minutes of it.

The Bar at Boqueria: It was much more crowded than this while CB and I sat here

I met 35-year-old finance guy and Philly native CB at Boqueria, the hip Spanish eatery where I celebrated my ex’s wedding day back in September. CB was much cuter than his profile picture, and there’s definitely something about a guy in a suit.

As we enjoyed a selection of divine tapas (ham and potato croquettes, manchego cheese), CB impressed me with his knowledge of wine and art. An art buff myself, it was fun to compare notes on favorite masterpieces from the Italian Renaissance and post-Impressionist periods.

Despite our engaging dialogue, though, there were more than a few awkward pauses so I wasn’t entirely surprised when CB brought the evening to an end. Why linger on a work night when the chemistry isn’t necessarily there?

Still, I found myself feeling very hopeful after we parted company. CB reminded me there are some normal guys left in cyberspace. And, now that I’ve joined JDate.com too, I might be even closer to clicking with one of them.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Opening The Vault: Part Twenty Eight

It is often said that when you’re not with the one you love, love the one you’re with. That’s exactly what I did during my senior year of college.

Senior Ball: All gussied up for a big night on campus with local beau Dave, April 1995

As my long distance relationship with California-based Mark (a.k.a Sparky) hit choppy waters, I enjoyed a local romance with DJ and pre-med student hunk Dave. Dave was refreshingly uncomplicated and a much-needed departure from the drama with Sparky…especially on one fateful night that provided enough drama by itself.

I now Open The Vault to Volume #58 and take you back to the spring of 1995...

Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, MA
April 13, 1995

Dear Diary,

It’s been an eventful week. I totaled my car, ended up spending the night at Dave’s as a result, and received rejection letters from every grad school that I applied to.

The other night, I was on my way to Dave’s and, in keeping with my unfortunate sense of direction, got lost. I ended up on a very dark, very winding road. Doing nearly 60 mph (in a 35 zone), I veered too quickly around a right-hand bend.

Suddenly, I lost control of the wheel and the car skidded off the road, over a small hill and crashed into a tree. Glass from the side windows blew out and the windshield cracked.

Miraculously, I was okay because I was wearing my seat belt. When I think about how crushed the front end of my Nissan was, I can’t believe I survived with only minor cuts and bruises.

* * *

April 15, 1995

Dave and I spent another night together. Objectively speaking, it was fun. The physical chemistry between us is good, and he’s very considerate and sweet. But, he’s not enough for me. In a word, he’s not Sparky.

…I miss him. Despite his infuriating quirks and bad habits, I love him. I know how lucky I am to be alive and to have the full life that I do, but I feel a void without him.

* * *

April 18, 1995

Sparky and I just had the most wonderful phone conversation.

“I wish things were different,” he said. “I wish we could have a normal relationship, for a little while at least.”

He added that if I knew the things he tells his colleagues about me, I’d be on the floor. When I pressed him for specifics, he said he’s told them--

“She’s the one I would marry.”

Sparky was quick to add that he knows I’m not ready. Still, he said--

“I’m waiting.”

* * *

For all of Sparky’s heartfelt declarations, and my willingness to play along with the fantasy of us ending up together, I knew that we were approaching a fork in the road. That we couldn’t continue doing the long distance routine much longer. A new chapter in my life --and a tumultuous trip to Sin City -- would be the catalysts for deciding our fate as a couple.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Dating Rx From The Eye Doctor

When you’re single and in you’re mid-thirties, kinship with other single women can happen in the most unexpected places. This week, it happened for me during a visit to Dr. C, my ophthalmologist.

While she was examining me for a minor infection, Dr. C asked if anyone has ever said I sleep with my eyes partly open.

“It’s been awhile,” I quipped, “since I’ve been in a position to find that out.”

“I hear you, Sister,” she said, and we both laughed, quickly getting onto the topic of how challenging it can be to meet men here in the Big Apple.

I mentioned that I was gearing up for a Match.com date last night. Dr. C said she’d gone on a first date the evening before – with a patient.

“I never, ever ask but if a patient does, I’m not saying no,” she said. “Maybe it would be different if I were a proctologist or urologist.”

She asked if I’ve tried JDate.com. Funnily enough, though it’s the dating site about which I’ve heard the most success stories (my friend Cindy being one) – I never have. I figured it wasn’t an option since, even though my dad was Jewish, I ended up following in my mom’s faith and converting to Catholicism.

Dr. C said she’s perused profiles of several guys on JDate who are open to diverse spiritual backgrounds. The site definitely attracts some interesting characters – I once found a well-known soap opera star on it.

Looks like I’ll be expanding my cyber dating presence. With four promising Match.com candidates currently on my radar, I can’t help thinking the best may be yet to come.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Finer Points of Beer

Last night, I joined work galpals Caroline, Morgan and Katie for a sold-out beer tasting at Loreley, a German speakeasy on NYC’s Lower East Side.

Loreley: The perfect place for a beer tasting

Our animated group of 12, which included friends of Katie’s and Morgan’s, settled into a corner communal table, gleefully taking in a three-course meal (Caesar salad, sausage and mashed potatoes, strawberry shortcake) and a lesson in the finer points of beer.

As we enjoyed nine ales and lagers, German-born host Rudy informed us that all of the country’s breweries are microbreweries because of strict purity requirements. It was Morgan’s sweet hubby Arthur who revealed that wheat beer is less likely to cause a hangover since it uses a different kind of grain.

Cheers: (from left to right) Me, Molly, Beth, Caroline, Katie and Morgan all smiles at Loreley

At the female end of the table, hangovers were the furthest thing from our minds. Katie’s galpal Molly was contemplating her upcoming 30th birthday. Beth, Katie’s roommate, had us laughing about a disastrous date with a guy who’d been dumped the day before. He proceeded to show her pictures of his ex -- then plead with Beth to make out with him because he’d already been rejected. Charming.

Long on charm -- Louis, a recent transplant from France who asked me about my days in the world of TV news. Turns out his girlfriend is where I was nine years ago -- finishing up at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Morgan asked if I ever regret leaving journalism for PR. I told her -- marveling as I did so -- that four and a half years later, I’m still very happy in my second career. How could I be anything else when I’m surrounded by so many fabulous women?

Up next…two Match.com dates in as many days and an action-packed girls night out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Schmoozing At Slate For A Good Cause

Last night, I headed down to Slate, an upscale bar and billiards venue in Gramercy, for a low-key fundraiser for The New York AIR Society. AIR supports research, clinical and educational programs at National Jewish Health, the #1 respiratory hospital in the U.S.

About 25 people showed up for the event, including my friend and fellow PR gal Lauren and many of her pals, who showed up to support guest bartender Steve in his charitable efforts.

Slate: Upscale billiards in NYC’s Gramercy district

At the bar, I bonded with effervescent nutrition consultant Francie about the merits of Ann Taylor trousers and a good cocktail. Steve mixed a mean fuzzy navel, and I enjoyed two of them as Francie endearingly attempted to play matchmaker between me and Barry, a tall, friendly Merrill Lynch guy and fellow Upper East Side resident.

The sparks weren’t there, but the conversation flowed as Barry told us about his recent date with a woman newly converted to Judaism. Having grown up in an interfaith family – and converted in the other direction (to Christianity, though I still consider Judaism a big part of my heritage) – I asked what led to his date’s spiritual transition.

He quipped that it must have been peer pressure in college, and I wondered aloud why he hadn’t asked the obvious follow up question. Then again, as a former reporter, I guess I’m a bit more curious than the average Joe.

Speaking of curiosity, I was eager to learn more about Lauren’s adorable friend Michael – especially when he mentioned a recent weekend jaunt to London for a fundraising dinner in memory of his friend Jason Boas. Jason died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 34 and established The No Surrender Charitable Trust. No Surrender supports cancer research and serves as a networking site for young adults suffering from cancer and other life threatening illnesses.

I love it when an event for one worthy cause leads to learning about another. It gives a whole new meaning to the idea of happy hour.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In Defense of Pampering

Last weekend, I treated myself to a chair massage at my favorite nail spa, Dashing Diva.

After 20 minutes of enjoying TLC for my back and shoulders, I couldn’t help thinking about pampering – and how it’s more important than ever in times like this to make room for it.

In a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 80% of respondents said the economy is a significant cause of stress. Not surprisingly, the recession has many people cutting back on pampering rituals, including one of my favorites, travel.

Travel Therapy: The title of a new book and one of my favorite things

A feature in last Friday’s USA Today talked about the increasing trend of consumers feeling so guilty about taking trips that they’re not even talking about it. More consumers still are holding off on getting away and, with a government-endorsed dropoff in business travel as well, the industry is feeling the pinch. Commerce Department data predicts the loss of 247,000 travel-related jobs this year.

Stimulus package or not, our economy won’t get moving until people get moving with the business of spending, even if it's spending in recessionary fashion. And as someone who works in travel PR, I’m seeing firsthand the flurry of great deals available in the U.S., Caribbean and beyond.

Looking for inspiration for your next vacation? Check out Karen Schaler’s new book, Travel Therapy Travel Therapy.). Whether you’re planning a girlfriends getaway or seeking spa-infused solace, this is a great guide to get you there.

With spring right around the corner, I’m already looking into potential trips. Because sometimes, a change of scenery is exactly what you need to feel at home again.

Monday, March 9, 2009

By The Numbers: Facebook Edition

Like Google, Facebook has become a ubiquitous presence in my daily life – and not just because I’m mildly obsessed with pithy status updates.

As millions around the world have discovered, the social networking site is a great resource for connecting and reconnecting with people from your past and present.

In the eight months since joining the Facebook universe, I’ve inevitably encountered a few ghosts from my eventful love life. Here’s how they all add up -- By The Numbers:

Number of old flames I’m Facebook friends with: 5
Number of exes whose friend request I ignored: 1
Number of (now married) stalkers from high school who’ve emailed and IM’ed me: 1
Number of old flames whose profiles indicate they’re now gay: 2
Number of potential new flames with whom I’m in Facebook limbo: 1

That potential new flame would be Seth, a teacher colleague of my cousin’s who’s been emailing me through Facebook almost daily for two weeks now.

Though the site makes it easy to keep friend-ly exes at a distance, graduating to non-Facebook forms of communications can be a challenge. And of the many things that can be revealed through email, physical chemistry most definitely isn’t one of them.

Up next..recessionary pampering and this week’s charitable social outing.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Celebrating A Cherished Friend

It's not often that someone celebrates a birthday by giving back to family and friends -- but that’s exactly what my dear friend Tiffany did for her 36th on Friday.

All smiles: Tiffany and me during her divine birthday celebration

Tiffany treated a dozen of us to candlelight yoga at the Om Factory in NYC’s Garment District. Previous yoga experiences left me exhausted (and preferring Pilates), so I was happily surprised that the third time in this case proved to be the charm.

Om Factory: The perfect setting for soul-soothing candlelight yoga

Led by Tiff’s friend Allison, the one-hour session accomplished what yoga never had for me before -- reconnecting me with all that I’m thankful for and challenging me physically in a way that didn’t feel like slow torture. It didn’t hurt that the studio offered an amazing view of the Empire State Building.

A View of the ESB from Om Factory's main yoga studio

The class wound down with everyone sitting in a circle and sharing a special memory or sentiment about Tiffany -- and ended, of course, with some delicious yellow sponge cake courtesy of Tiff’s mom.

Next, all of us walked over to Koreatown for a late dinner at Kum Gang San, complimented by live music performed by a piano/cellist duo on a faux cliff ledge.

Sweet Sounds: The musicians at Kum Gang San performed a perfect medley of tunes from the Sinatra era.

Pooped from yoga, I decided to make an early exit -- but not before Tiffany took me aside to give me one of her legendary hugs and ask how my week was. Even though this was her night, she never stopped taking care of everyone. I’m looking forward to celebrating many more birthdays with her.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Opening The Vault: Part Twenty Seven

In a long distance relationship, you have to work twice as hard to stay together -- especially when there’s a 16-year age difference. That struggle intensified as I approached one year of dating my California-based sweetheart Mark (a.k.a. Sparky).

After two tumultuous encounters back to back, we decided to start dating other people. The tricky part -- though this was understood, we never explicitly talked about it.

As the younger half of our May-December romance, I was craving a male distraction of the local variety. Sure enough, during the second half of my senior year in college, that’s exactly what I got. I now Open The Vault to Volume #57 and take you back to the spring of 1995...

March 7, 1995
Mount Holyoke College,

South Hadley, MA

Dear Diary,

I had a date tonight with Dave, a DJ I met last Friday at a campus party.

Amazingly enough, I actually had a good time -- he’s cute, funny and impressed with my vocabulary. I even enjoyed the goodnight kiss. He was polite enough to ask if he could kiss me.

Mount Holyoke: My beloved alma mater was the backdrop for an unexpected senior year romance

“Could I make a strange moment any stranger?” Dave quipped, before leaning down to lock lips. He’s tall too -- a nice change from Sparky.

I realize that a lot of what made tonight enjoyable was that I wasn’t overanalyzing every little thing that happened. I have a bad habit of doing that with Sparky.

We spoke today.

“What’s on your mind?” he asked.

"Can't I just be calling to say I love you without an ulterior motive?"

“No,” he said with a laugh. “I know you, you’re pondering something.”

I was -- the possibility of going to LA next month.

Sparky lamented about his financial situation, mentioning the recent $500 bill from our Valentine’s excursion to The Poconos. I thanked him again for the trip and he said--

“I have to save for graduation.”

He made it sound like this milestone in my life was special for him too. Like he has every intention of being there.

* * *
March 13, 1995

I had a great time again with Dave. He had me laughing quite a bit -- and also wondering if there’s anything left to salvage between Sparky and I.

After a movie, Dave suggested we go for a walk on campus. We sat on a bench by the lake. He took my face in his hands and kissed me, eventually nibbling on my neck and earlobe.

As he put his arms around me and took my hand in his, Dave told me I’m terrific and incredible. When I returned the compliment, he said--

“That’s because I’m kissing you.”

Back at the dorm, there was a message on my machine from Sparky. I called him back and he asked where I’d been. I lied and said I was out with a girlfriend. I felt kind of duplicitous, but it’s better than feeling miserable -- which is what I’ve had enough of with Sparky.

* * *
My romance with Dave ended up getting me through more than just the long-distance blues. Dave would be right by my side when carelessness on my part led me to a brush with death.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Downtown Happy Hour

Last night, I headed down to Spitzer’s Corner on NYC’s Lower East Side for happy hour with some old and new friends.

Happy Hour: Caroline and I enjoying the scene at Spitzer’s on the LES

As we enjoyed some refreshing pints of beer (fruity Magic Hat for me), galpals Caroline, Louise and I talked about inappropriate bridal behavior – i.e., a bride asking her attendants to spend $350 on an especially chintzy looking dress – and equally tactless first date antics.

I filled the girls in about my recent Match.com misadventures and upcoming date with a guy who has the fact that he’s well traveled and close to his sisters going for him.

Later, we were joined by my friend Prince and a few of his colleagues. Prince didn’t register any shock when I shared the tale of a guy who disrobed uninvited after a singles party I co-hosted awhile back.

“Sometimes, it works,” he said pragmatically.

The girls and I expressed our skepticism that such a brazen tactic could ever work – though we were less surprised when Prince said a woman being so bold wouldn’t likely be rebuffed. Boys will be boys, after all.

As Prince and his posse departed, new acquaintance Joseph arrived. Joseph and I connected through the by invitation only social networking site, A Small World.

A married France-born dentist with kids, Joseph spends the rest of his time devoted to the Virtue Foundation, a charitable initiative he founded nine years ago that helps women and children around the world through healthcare, education and empowerment initiatives.

In addition to impressing us with the fact that he absorbs all expenses associated with the foundation, Joseph regaled us with stories about some of the celebs he’s worked with – Anne Hathaway, Bono, Colin Farrell among them – and the possibility of a meeting with none other than President Obama himself. Where does he find the time for root canals?

As I made my way home, I couldn’t help appreciating that inspiration can come from even the newest of acquaintances -- and savoring the virtues of a friend-infused jump start on the weekend.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Flying Solo For A Night

For as much as I love an evening out with friends, sometimes it’s fun to fly solo and see where the night takes you. Last night, it took me down to NYC’s hip Meatpacking District.

After a quick bite at Chelsea Market, a vibrant arcade of food, wine and dessert shops, I went next door to Buddakan, the dazzling restaurant that hosted Carrie & Big’s rehearsal dinner in “Sex And The City.”

Carrie and Big: Like me, SATC’s star-crossed couple enjoyed a night out at Buddakan

As I sipped on a perfect cosmo at the bar, I found myself sitting next to a cute but frazzled-looking derivatives trader. He was anxiously checking his Blackberry and when seven of his clients appeared a few minutes later, I understood why. In this economy, if you’re lucky enough to have a job, it’s even more important to bring your A-game to it.

From Buddakan, I jumped on the subway and headed up to Midtown, where I strolled past a few women camped out (literally – with tents) in front of Barnes & Noble, hoping to secure admission to a Miley Cyrus book signing the following day. More power to them in this nippy weather. I would do the same to see my beloved Ricky Martin, though the longest I’ve lined up for him so far is 5 hours.

At home, following a 30-minute chat with the Match.com guy du jour, I continued watching the SATC movie with commentary from writer and exec producer Michael Patrick King. I smiled when the DVD cued up to none other than the aforementioned scenes at Buddakan. Filming for SATC 2 is scheduled to begin this fall – let the groupie activity begin!

Coming up…co-hosting happy hour at a hot Lower East Side nightspot and celebrating a friend’s birthday with a spa-dinner-karaoke trifecta.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Countdown To Best Job In The World

Yesterday, my client Tourism Queensland announced the Top 50 finalists for the destination’s highly-coveted Island Caretaker position, a.k.a The Best Job In The World.

As the phenomenal media and public response continues, I can’t help thinking about my good fortune in being part of such a groundbreaking campaign – one that will culminate in a once in a lifetime experience for the successful candidate.

Best Job In The World: All smiles after snorkeling for the first time during January’s press trip to Queensland (photo courtesy: Kent St. John)

Nearly 35,000 people from across the globe have applied for the six-month $100k gig on Queensland’s Hamilton Island. The amazing response has been especially fun for me, since I got to experience first hand in January the majesty and excitement of the Islands of The Great Barrier Reef.

Best Job has been such a hit across all media – from The Today Show to Twitter – that it’s redefined viral marketing and reminded me how, in this post-Facebook landscape, we’re all separated by a lot less than six degrees.

One of my best friends from the UK, Eva, shot the 60-second application video for a friend of hers. She didn’t make the Top 50, but it turns out that a fellow publicist (and blogger) I’ve worked with many times, Angelene Orth, did.

Best Job Finalist Angelene Orth (a.k.a Big Apple Angie)

Angie is one of six Americans in the running. Check out her fabulous video here. You can view the videos of all 50 finalists at http://www.islandreefjob.com/, and cast a vote for your favorite. The most popular candidate will join 10 selected by Tourism Queensland to fly down for interviews in May. Online voting runs now through March 24th.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Front Row At The Set

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending The Set NYC – Time Out New York’s monthly showcase of up and coming stars in the performing arts.

All Smiles At The Set: Enjoying some divine sangria with fellow audience member Shannon

Held in an intimate, trendy lounge at off-Broadway theater New World Stages, The Set features a rotating cast of comedians and musicians, and even magicians, contortionists and poets.

Before the lights went down, I chatted with handsome, charismatic co-host and St. Louis native Kai Raziq about his experiences living abroad in Italy. Producer Pim Shih told me he was an aspiring comedian himself when he joined forces with a veteran entertainment producer to launch The Set.

Kai Raziq and Scout Durwood share hosting duties at The Set

Kai and comedian Scout Durwood kept the 90-minute show moving with their hilarious banter and amped up introductions of the evening’s six performers. Up first, singer/songwriter J. Cabrera, delivering R&B with a dash of Justin Timberlake’s vocal and sartorial stylings.

Imagine That: J. Cabrera sang this original tune, worth downloading at MySpace.com

Shifting musical gears, Washington Heights native Rachel (a.k.a Rachel’s Last Resort) did a medley of folk rock post-breakup tunes, including a wry little ditty about what she would do if she were actress Scarlett Johansson.

Soulful rapper/poet GoodBrother managed to do the impossible, getting me to enjoy rap with his heartfelt ode to W.O.M.A.N -- or, as he sings it, “Wonderful, Outstanding, Mature, Aware, Necessary.”

W.O.M.A.N: Rapper GoodBrother spelled out his appreciation in a lyrical rap

It was the next two performers, though, that stood out from the talented crowd. Detroit native singer/songwriter Redwine -- who later told me he could feel my energy -- was absolutely mesmerizing. His silky smooth tones had the entire audience applauding, especially during his spot on version of Ne-Yo’s “Closer.”

Bring Down The House: That’s what Redwine’s performance did

The applause were infused with laughter during Brooklyn comedian Evon Campbell’s hilarious monologue, taking aim at everything from appropriate laundromat attire to how much luckier singers are when it comes to attracting the ladies.

And now for the punch line -- admission to The Set is free. Recession or not, entertainment in the Big Apple doesn’t get any better than this. I can’t wait for next month’s show.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Opening The Vault: Part Twenty Six

Of star-crossed lovers, Shakespeare once wrote parting is such sweet sorrow. That was equally true following my first big fight with long-distance love Mark (a.k.a Sparky).

A tumultuous visit with Sparky in L.A. ended with a war of words at LAX. Though Sparky later apologized in a heartfelt letter, I felt very guarded when he came east for our next encounter two months later. I now Open The Vault to volume #57 and take you back to February of 1995...

February 15th, 1995
Lake Harmony, PA -- The Poconos

Dear Diary,

Mark has been more loving, attentive and generous with me than ever. The problem is I don’t feel the ‘glowy’ response I usually do with him.

Because of our horrible goodbye in December..I can’t just pick up where we left off before. We parted last time in very different places emotionally -- which is kind of a metaphor for how far apart we are in other ways too.

On The Boardwalk: Atlantic City was the second stop during a Valentine’s getaway with Sparky, February 1995

The age difference that has made our relationship so stimulating is revealing its drawbacks more and more.

He told me the other night he doesn’t want to have more children unless he can have them with me. This sentiment scares me, now that I’m realizing how unlikely it is that desire will become a reality.

Valentine’s Day was wonderful. At dinner last night, Mark acknowledged the uncertainty of our future and said we should just see each other whenever we can. At one point, he had a dreamy look on his face.

“I was just savoring the moment,” he explained.

Maybe that’s what I need to do.

* * *

Mark is upstairs smoking a joint right now. Admittedly, he has a bad back and pot helps alleviate the pain, but his use of it upsets me. Probably because it's a depressing reminder of just how starkly different our life's experiences have been.

* * *

February 17th, 1995

Mark asked me today--

“Do you want to cool things off a little, or stop seeing each other?”

I said no, but the truth is I don’t know what I want right now. We’ve shared so much, I don’t want to give up on us without a fight.

* * *

The battle to get back on solid relationship ground with Sparky continued after our Valentine’s getaway. Little did I know that, as our one-year anniversary approached, we would face our greatest challenge yet.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Outrageous Online Dating Tales: Part One

Friday night, I went out on a date with Howard, a 40-year-old lawyer I met on Match.com.

We met for drinks at the swanky Royalton Hotel in Midtown. With soft lighting and fireplaces, the cozy chic ambiance was perfect. Even better, 80’s music played for most of the evening -- providing the perfect icebreaker as Howard and I compared favorite tunes from the era of leg warmers and jelly bracelets.

NYC’s Royalton Hotel: Cozy chic ambiance and a nostalgic musical groove

Conversation and witty repartee flowed freely -- until Howard made a few unintentional missteps, namely talking about other women he’s dated and going off on a lengthy tangent about his experiences with speed dating and Match.com.

Howard told me the average number of times he’s gone out with women from speed dating (3-4) and his theory that Match.com makes it difficult for people to truly connect. Why? Because, he said, it’s so easy to go home right after a great date, and logon to the “panoply” of other available women so that your date becomes a “distant memory.”

I told him if a date was so easily forgettable, then there wasn’t real chemistry in the first place. I also pointedly added that if we had met through any way other than the Internet, chances are this unromantic line of conversation wouldn’t have come up.

I let Howard chew on that while I went to the bathroom. By the time I returned, he apologized for his gaffe and said I’d taught him something about what’s not appropriate to talk about on a first date.

Howard’s not the first Internet guy I’ve gone out with to bring up online dating and other women during a first date. Whatever happened to the pretense of romance?

On the plus side, at least he spoke nearly as much about his desire to settle down. Unlike another Match.com guy, whose invitation by email for drinks said--

“How do you feel about starting things off as friends with benefits?”

Thanks but no thanks.