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Category Archives: Thoughts
Sometimes I love my life, sometimes I don’t. In those moments when I get down, I remind myself that it’s not the life you have, it’s what you do with it.
I took this picture from the top of The Standard Hotel. From there, you can look out over the glittering city, which always causes a warm flush of gratitude for my experiences and the opportunity to be here. Turn and walk to the other side, and you can observe cabs whizzing up town and downtown with their fares, and trace the white reflections of New Jersey skyscrapers in the black Hudson. What are all those millions of people doing out there in the city tonight?
New York City sometimes has a way of making you feel like you’re missing out, especially at night. There’s always a better party, a prettier dress, a more expensive bauble, a more fascinating person to meet, a more prestigious career and more ridiculous story. You never have to go to bed, if you don’t want to–you never have to stop.
But there’s also a lot of sadness and grime here, which is easy to forget at night as you barrel toward the next party. After dusk, when the grey of pavement and steel fade to inky black and the windows turn to gold squares of light, you can’t see the grime, just the glitter.
I think it’s important to remember that getting a more impressive job or hanging out with “cooler” people or getting into that more desirable club doesn’t lead to happiness. It’s appreciating what’s been set before you that does. And remembering that this–this party, this loneliness, this elation, this hangover, this beautiful view, this disappointment–this too shall pass.
Happy New Year! I hope your 2013 is full of things that make you happy and fulfilled.
I took a moment on Sunday to read over my 2012 resolutions. A year ago, I wanted to “cultivate relationships with good people,” “treat my body with respect,” and “practice authenticity.”
I can say the results were mixed. I’ve made many new friends, some of which are good people, and a few that left me with heartache. I’ve continued to practice yoga, added spinning to my workout regimen, and drink a ton of green tea, but I’m still eating sugary treats. As for authenticity? That’s a hard one to quantify. I asked my friend who inspired the last one, and he said, “I think you’re better at saying no and being true to yourself.” Aw, thanks!
So I don’t think I failed, so much as made some amount of progress, with still more work to do. This year, I’m going to make my resolutions more specific. And plus, I think they are resolutions that almost everyone could benefit from. Could you?
1. Meditate every day.
Meditation has so many benefits, it’s like a miracle drug that is free. You might have heard that it reduces stress, but it also physically rewires the brain for happiness, improves memory, improves focus, and even helps you lose weight by helping you make more mindful food choices. And you can see benefits after practicing for only four days, 20 minutes a day.
Well, I picked this habit up earlier in the year and I was quite good at it for a while. And then I started hitting the snooze button and stopped. Time to climb back in the mindfulness wagon.
To make it happen: I’ll set my alarm 10 minutes earlier and meditate every morning after I get out of the shower.
2. Say “no” to things and people that are not in my best interest.
Sometimes I stretch myself really thin. I want to try and experience everything, and make everyone happy. But I don’t have the time or energy for that. I’m going to save space for things that will help me reach my goals, like improving my writing, being healthy and cultivating good relationships. And if it’s not healthy, honest and kind, I’m striking it from the agenda.
To make it happen: Before saying yes to anything, I will ask myself: Is it healthy? Is it honest? Is it kind?
3. Listen more, talk less.
Writers tend to talk a lot. We just love to share and tell stories. But this year, I would like to connect with people on a more meaningful level, and build relationships that have depth and lasting power.
To make it happen: A great place to start would be to stop interrupting people so much. (I’m just really excited, I swear.)
Up until a few months ago, I was one of those people who was like, “Nah, I don’t care about the lottery.”
But like many people (and probably you, admit it. Go on, say it!) I secretly harbored a little fantasy of $550 million falling into my lap. I had vague fantasies of fun times. Quitting my job! Traveling the world! Grabbing the first sales associate I see at Bergdorfs and making her day. “Hey, get your coworkers. I need helping spending a couple million on clothes.”
And then, I read this sad, sad story, of Jack Whittaker, whose lotto winning turned into robberies, strip club madness, his wife leaving him and even the death by overdose of his granddaughter. Yes, his winnings turned his granddaughter into, quite literally, a crackhead. If that’s not the opposite of happily ever after, I don’t know what is.
Of course, you read these stories of people living in trailer homes from West Virginia who suddenly strike it rich, and you think, Well, they have no idea what to do with that money. Me, I’m classy. I would be so much smarter. I would get a financial advisor, and donate to charity …
Maybe. Maybe not. Once I thought harder, I realized how utterly useless $550 million would be to me. Indulge me in this thought experiment:
Let’s say I win tonight. (Not likely, since I didn’t buy a ticket, but OK, for the sake of argument and fantasy.)
First, I need to get my butt on the phone to AT&T and change my number, the one I’ve had since 2002, so I don’t get hit up by every person I’ve ever met. And believe me, they will call. Not only because I won the lottery, but my name is so unique that literally every person who has “Alden” in their phone–from that dude I went on a date with junior year of high school to the neighbor I met during the blackout–will be blowing up my phone, asking for money. I mean, I already have a wayward aunt trying to get my mom to loan her money in the tens of thousands. And we’re not even rich!
Next, I’ll need to shut down my Facebook. A crying shame, since I love that thing. I get my party invitations and keep up with my friends a remarkable amount via Facebook. You know, in a healthy way. But of course, I’ll be so popular, it won’t matter, right? Twitter will also be rendered useless. And blogging on this little blog seems silly now, not to mention sort of dangerous. If say I want to go to whatever event, people will show up, looking for me.
Let’s say, next, that I email my editor and give her two weeks notice. Bye bye! No more work! I wouldn’t actually want to to that, because I enjoy my job and value my career. If I didn’t, I would be working in something far more lucrative than editorial, believe me. But if I did quit …
I decide to head out, as usual, for Thursday happy hour and celebrate. I show up at Pianos, order a frozen margarita, hang out, cheer with all my friends … and when the check come, everyone holds their breath. I’m a millionaire! I can afford it, obviously. So I throw down my credit card. But honestly, you think anyone I’m with will ever want to pay for their own damn drinks ever again? No. They’re struggling to pay their credit cards on their own tiny salary, so it’s really crappy of me not pick up the check. More and more people start hanging out as the weekends pass, knowing they could get a free ride. I get pissy, because I’m not paying for Random French Dude’s drink and, “Hey, I don’t even know him! Who invited him?!” and suddenly the mood is ruined.
Now I need to decide how to entertain myself with all that gobs of money. Vacation? Great! But first … hmm, I’ll want to go with someone. So I need to find someone who can take, I dunno, six weeks’ vacation, and travel to Thailand with me. That’s a hard sell. They probably won’t be able to afford it either, especially since I don’t roll with many rich people. So I would have to bank roll their trip. Now things are getting weird. On this trip I want to ride an elephant. Whatever friend I managed to find to go with me doesn’t. I tell her tough shit, I paid for you to come here! I want to ride, we ride. Now I’m turning into an entitled bitch.
I also want to hit up Saks like I’m a Kardashian. So I do, I outfit myself in Stella McCartney from head to toe, get a blow out, manicure and professional makeup done. And … where do I go all dressed up? All my friends are at work. So I go, by myself, to the Plaza Hotel because I guess that’s where rich people hang out, and drink a gin tonic by myself until some random guy picks me up. If I do meet up with my girl friends, they feel all awkward because I’m wearing $15,000 of clothing and beauty services, and they’re not. Now I feel bad, and I’m like, “Hey! Let’s go to the spa. On me!” But the friendship is kind of ruined now, because they feel beholden to me whenever I spend on them, but they can’t afford the things I can. I have to treat if I want to grab something at ABC Kitchen, which by the way, is getting very boring and not-so-special anymore. So I need to make new friends.
I’m not working now, so I’m bored and I have no reason not to party every night–which I do by throwing massive ragers in my penthouse apartment, which is in a semi-permanent state of being trashed to the extent that my two cleaning ladies can hardly keep up. I’m always hung over, I feel sort of worthless, my life has ceased to have meaning and my dating life sucks because I’m convinced no guy likes me for me, he just wants to party all the time with me.
Does any of this sound like it’s fun to you? It doesn’t to me. And this isn’t just me being neurotic. The Atlantic ran a fascinating article a couple years ago that dove into the minds of the super wealthy. In short, they aren’t happy. These are people who are supposedly classy, who earned their wealth, who manage it wisely. But they fear everyone is after them for their money. So they only hang out with other wealthy people, who make them feel poor in comparison because their yacht is slightly bigger, or whatever. It’s a vicious cycle–a hamster wheel of net worth.
So, to summarize:
I don’t want to win the lottery because I’m actually really happy with my life right now, I enjoy my work, I like my friends and I want to continue to have goals to strive for.
But hey, good luck winning the lottery in 10 minutes. I’m sure it will solve allll your problems.
Do You Agree? Tell me in the comments!
Image credit: Flickr/Kelly Michelle
A year ago exactly, I was fresh from a breakup involving a lot of yelling, and crashing at my best friend’s apartment in Murray Hill. I needed to find an apartment fast.
I wanted a place I could call all my own, something with charm–even if it was dilapidated charm. I wanted a place, as I told my friends, “Where I don’t have to deal with roommates, and I don’t have to move out until I get back from my honeymoon!”
Well, I was charmed as soon as the broker opened the little iron gate to the mini courtyard. Charmed as we walked up the staircase with the raw brick wall and framed black and white photos of Union Square and the building right after it was built in the twenties, with what looks like a Model T out front.
I was charmed when she showed me into this studio. It had a little non-working marble fireplace, a bathroom with turquoise tile, a kitchen that was small, yes, but decent with the addition of a butchers block. It camed furnished with bland but not ugly Ikea furniture. This was great, as I was completely sans furniture and the idea of going out and finding new stuff made me feel tired. The ceilings were high, like, Parisian-apartment high. I looked out the window into the boughs of a leafy tree and the quiet street below. Finally, it was $100 less per month than the one-bedroom apartment below, which made it just barely affordable.
“I’ll take this one,” I told the broker.
My Castle in the Sky
Obviously, as a furnished apartment, it’s really meant for people living her for only six months or a year. But I quickly set about making it my own. After a little move-in mishap involved quinoa flour, sesame seeds and agave nectar all over the courtyard, I went to work like the daughter of an interior designer I am.
I dismantled the crappy desk and shoved the parts in the back of the closet, opting for a real wood secretary desk. I stripped the bed of the mustard colored provided linens and replaced them with organic patterned ones. I bought two sustainably-made ottoman cubes in custom fabric from ABC Home for the living space, and matching pillows. I made my mom cart our antique ice box up to new york to serve as a well-appointed liquor cabinet. I hung my artwork, bought rugs, pots and pans and a pot and pan wall holder. I painted an accent wall pink and hung Tibetan prayer flags on it like festive bunting. I turned this apartment into my home.
I threw parties, threw the murphy bed up to do yoga, leaned out the window to drop my keys down to visitors, cooked food in the little kitchen that I brought back from the farmers market in Unions Square, and read the New York Times on Saturday curled up on the couch wrapped in the t-shirt blanket my mom made for me. Friends crashed on the couch, bed and floor. This apartment has heard me laugh and cuss and–just twice–cry hysterically. And it made me feel like a grownup, like it gave me space to stretch out become the person I wanted to be.
I was lucky enough to report on a feng shui story for work, and the consultant agreed to take a look at my apartment. She instructed me to move some things around. “Single women” were to get out of my relationship area, so I moved pictures of my grandmother and mother to the other side. I hung my watercolor prints of stylized Barbies in gowns to my “fame” and “career” area and hung mementos of things that represented success for my blog in the corner. In my “wealth” corner, I put up pictures of friends, mementos of travel and foreign money. And my spirituality corner got a big overhaul. I bought a pretty print of a couple on a tandem bike and constructed Love artwork out of flower images from a gardening magazine for my “relationship” corner.
So did it work? Well, I did travel to see a friend. And then got roofied. I’ve been dating a lot, but none of the boys have bowled me over. And even though I hung an all metal wind chime at my door to block bad energy, the bad energy just started coming up through the floor.
About five months ago the attractive couple below me moved out (probably forced out for loud yelling and loud lovemaking, since that apartment is right above the landlord) and a new girl moved in straight from California. I stopped by and introduced myself to her, gave her my cell phone and told her that if she ever need anything, not to hesitate to text. (Big mistake.) I even invited her out with me one night. My friend A and I helped her choose a dress, and then left her to get dressed. When she came up a few minutes later, she said she could hear her name when we were talking about her. That was alarming, but I didn’t think about it much.
Then her texts started.
“Girly, could you turn down the music?” OK, fine. It’s 10 PM on a Sunday and I understand my bass box was above her bedroom. I turned it off, and moved my computer speakers and bass to the opposite side of the apartment and at the top of the murphy bed.
“R u in heels … waaaaahhh. I understand you like to try on shoes, but can you not wear them around the apartment?”
Fine. I started trying on my shoes and then taking them back off and placing them by the door until I left.
“Seriously girl, trying to pre-game nap. Please. Not trying to be a pain in the ass, but I have to go to sleep when u do, I wake up when u come home and throw your heels on the ground, in the am at 745 smashing the murphy bed up and down.”
I bought a rug. And stopped playing, getting-ready-to-go-out music.
One morning I ran into her leaving her apartment. “Why were you up at 6:45?” she said. “I couldn’t sleep! I could hear you opening and closing your drawers.” I hurried on to work after half-apologizing. (Sorry, not sorry. I have the right to open and close my drawers and get up WHENEVER I WANT.)
One Saturday I came home around three in the afternoon and threw on some music. Not loudly, just at a level that’s normal. My phone pinged. I tensed up, my blood pressure swooshing into action.
“Napping please! Music bass waah!”
I turned it down.
Two friends came to visit. We stopped by the farmers market for food for dinner, and puttered around the apartment, taking showers and cooking up dinner.
My phone pinged. “Please just sit down!! Waaah! For 3hours there is thuud trop. Thud move furniture, I’m trying to sleep.”
I read this and decided to ignore it. Nobody tells my friends and I to sit down when we’re just going about our normal business. I mean, really, can you think of anything more innocuous than frying up bluefish and making a beet salad? Plus, does this girl ever not sleep? Is she depressed or something? It’s a good thing I didn’t tell Crazy A, because she told me later that had she known, she would found some heavy objects and then climbed on a chair to drop them from on high.
The next weekend, I came home in the afternoon and put on some yoga music for an hour session on the mat. My phone pinged.
“Could you please lower the music? You have to know a volume I can hear and wake up to by now. Please. Stop being so selfish.”
I ignored her. Here’s my view, and comment if you think I’m wrong, but if you are in the habit of taking midday naps on the weekends in New York City, you should buy ear plugs, period. If I can’t play music at a normal level at 4pm on a weekend, when can I play music? Can I just not play music at all? More frustrating, I would leave my apartment where I had been tiptoeing around, cringing if a mug fell on the floor, and arrive at a friend’s apartment where the three-foot-tall speakers were thumping out drum and bass music. No problem from the neighbors whatsoever. I was not being selfish. I was walking on eggshells, rearranging my life to suit her. And still, she continued to harass me.
She complained to my landlord, and my landlord started making noises about not renewing my lease in August. I had planned on staying, but once I started thinking about it, I wondered if this was right for me. I’m paying a lot for the privilege of living alone. (And actually not really living alone, as the girl below me made abundantly clear.) And this beautiful apartment feels indulgent for someone who is just 25. I don’t feel like I deserve it, to be honest.
This Is Just too Good
So I decided to see what was out there, and threw up something on Facebook, saying I was looking for a roommate. Less than 12 hours later, I was communicating with dear friend of my dear friend. Let’s call her E. She:
- Is located five blocks away, still within walking distance of work and my dear Union Square farmers market
- Is looking for a roommate for a lease starting in August, when my lease runs out
- Keeps a fastidious apartment, with minimal but nice furniture and–to put it bluntly–free of random ugly crap
- Is really super nice and accommodating
- Has a serious boyfriend (hence she’ll be out of the apartment a lot)
The apartment has:
- Laundry on the same floor
- An expansive finished roof
E is even letting me help her redecorate the living room to suit my taste–actually she proposed we redecorate together.
Oh, and it is 66% of my current rent. Hallelujah, let’s go shopping. (The only drawback? I know have to tell people I live in Murray Hill. I’ve officially joined the hoards of Young Professionals.)
It seemed too perfect. Like the universe was telling me, “It’s time to move on now.”
Will I Regret This?
My current little apartment isn’t super luxurious. I’ve developed a system where if the water pressure sputters while I’m showering, I jump out of the water and count to forty, until the freezing water has passed. It’s poorly insulated and freezing in the winter. It has a murphy bed, which is just never cool unless I’m throwing it up to make room for beer pong. I have to carry my bike up and down three flights of stairs. I can buzz people in and I can’t even talk to them, since the intercom broke. It has zero amenities, except maybe an unfinished roof with no view that I’m pretty sure I’m not actually allowed to go up on. But this apartment is mine. And I’m sad to leave it behind.
I’m worried about having a roommate again. What if I’ve developed quirks? I can’t walk around naked anymore, leave the bathroom door open or arrive home at 3 AM, five people in tow. (I mean, I only did that twice, but it’s nice to know I can.)
It will be nice to say hi to someone at the end of the day, and share a bottle of wine. To cook up dinner and serve half to someone else instead of storing all of it to get thrown out later. But I also like knowing that if there are dishes in the sink, it’s my own damn fault and I’ll get to them when I get to them.
I guess I kind of like the idea of moving again, though. It’s a chance to clean out all my stuff, move things around and look at my life from a different angle. And this feels like the responsible thing to do.
I guess I just have faith in my ability to be happy in almost any situation. After all, people’s base line happiness is almost always the same despite outside circumstances, right? That’s what psychology says.
Of course, there’s an adjustment period.
I guess I’ll just have to check back in a year from now and tell you how it’s worked out.
What do you think? Am I seriously downgrading or is this a smart move?
As I write this, I’m trying to figure out how to position my laptop so that it doesn’t burn my already tender legs. I’m red from my hairline down my chest, around my bikini line and down the front of my legs. I’m damp all over because this cottage lacks air conditioning, even though I’m in nothing but a bikini. I’m trying to type in between chewing on a strawberry popsicle. Yes, I’m on vacation, and it feels so good.
Living lightly is never far from my mind, but it has weighed especially heavy on me while I’ve been here at Macatawa Bay in Michigan, right off of Lake Michigan. Evidence abounds of global warming. The lake is low this year because of pitiful snowfall this winter, leading to a pitiful snowpack and a pitiful amount of freshwater running down the rivers to the Great Lakes.
Crazy A, who’s hosting me and other friends here, says when she was young jeans and a sweater were standard, even in the summer. Now the sun is high and hot in the washed out sky. It feels like we’re at the Outer Banks, instead of at a latitude of 42 degrees. Yesterday it was exactly 100 degrees, excluding the humidity. That’s only near record highs, but it still doesn’t feel right.
We talk about all this and tsk tsk climate deniers, but it doesn’t stop us or the residents of Macatawa from frolicking on the waters, and I’m not talking about in canoes. On the Fourth of July we took her motor boat to watch fireworks, which is the best way to watch them. You’re on your own boat, away from the crowds, and the fireworks are practically on top of you.
And Thursday the four of us dropped Crazy A’s motorboat in the water and took it to pump $200 worth of fuel inside of it. That boat is thirsty, but $200 seemed like a lot. ”Why is it so expensive?” I asked the typically hot guy who was pumping it for us (All guys who do these summer resort jobs are tan, muscled and so great to look at). “We have to pay a lot in insurance to pump it over the water like this. Spilling it would cause a lot of environmental damage–more than spilling it on the ground. Then they can just scoop out that ground that is effected,” he told me. “But here it’s just in the water.”
So do I feel awesome about using this much gas cruising around in a small boat? No. But seriously, what am I going to do, say no? Yeah, just imagine that: “Sorry guys, I’m going to stay at the cabin since I don’t believe in using gas.” I might as well have just not come. When it’s 100 degrees outside, the best way to stay cool is to get out on the water with a breeze, only a step away from jumping in. And if my friends go, I am going.
We motored the boat slowly out the channel, past Big Red lighthouse (and also past a boat called “Moisture Missile,” seriously? You named your boat that??) and once we were into the waters of Lake Michigan, gunned it, flying over the waters along the coast until we found a spot where no one could see us but the sun, dropped anchor, stripped down to our bikini bottoms and dove into the clear, agate waters.
In between swims, we drank Summer Shandies, a local lemonade flavored beer, and lounged on the deck reading. I tried to position myself strategically, since the front of my body is so burned.
Non-Toxic Sunscreen: Effective or Just Annoying?
Before I left New York, I bought the least toxic sunscreen out there according to Good Guide: Badger Sport. A drawback is that it has the consistency of a soft clay, and leaves my skin white. So my friends have been calling it my “geisha paint” and “hippie clay.” I wouldn’t mind if it was effective–I’m now proud when it comes to protecting my skin. But despite never seeming to come off (it’s still in the crease of my elbow 24 hours after I put it on) I’ve been getting burned.
I might switch back to regular sunscreen today and see if I’m getting burned because I’m using nontoxic sunscreen, or because I’m am a super-white chick who hasn’t been in the sun for a year.
The Dune From Hell
After some time bobbing on the waves, Crazy A kicked the boat into gear again and we sidled up to an almost empty beach. It’s so far from any roads that it is almost only accessible by boat and very in shape people who are crazy enough to walk all the way down the beach. “So only rich people can get here?” I asked. “Well, even poor people have boats here, so no,” Crazy A told me. “Some people don’t even have cars in their driveways, just boats. They just tow their boats to the dock themselves.”
Our plan for this beach was to climb the dune that rises steeply up from the water. Crazy A has been doing this since she was a kid, and said it’s hard, but fun. You gotta get your exercise somehow, right? She threw four Shandies in her backpack cooler to drink at the top and we waded to the beach.
That dune was hot. Painfully hot. Our leisurely climb turned into a series of suicides, as we scampered as fast as we could until our feet couldn’t stand it anymore, then stopped and buried them in the sand to gain some measure of relief. Then, once we had caught our breath, we would scamper again. One friend gave up a third of the way up, and would show us her blisters later. But we kept going. We were going to reach the top, godamnit.
When we finally got there, we collapsed in the shade of a bush and pulled out our lemonade beers to drink. But A.D. had made the mistake of putting sunscreen on her face before leaving the boat. “Ow, ow, ow ow, that really hurts you guys,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “Don’t rub it,” Crazy A told her. “That will make it worse. Why don’t you pour some of the beer on your face to wash it off?” A.D. did so, and cried. “Holy shit! Worst advice ever!” and took off back down the hill to the fresh lake water with huge bounds. We watched her go. “That dune sucked,” I said to Crazy A. “Was it always this hot?”
[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/51058759" iframe="true" /]
“No way, man,” she said. “I’ve climbed that so many times and it’s never been like that.” We finished our beers and ran back down the dune to the lake to cool off. We climbed on the boat, made sure A.D.’s eyes were now OK, and broke into our stash of snacks from the Holland farmers market: hard goat cheeses, white fish spread on fresh bread, kettle corn, dried fruit, raspberries and cherries. (I’ve also been eating a nut butter for breakfast I got at the market called pepita. It’s got flax, pumpkin, sunflower and hemp seeds, plus cinnamon and allspice. It’s very sweet and yummy and includes all your omega-3s, but it is three times the price of almond butter.)
Air Conditioning Optional
As guilty as I feel about the fun I’m having on Crazy A’s motorboat, I think I might be evening out my global warming karma by staying in this cottage without air conditioning. Sounds awful, right? Except this hundred-year old cottage is so well shaded by trees and the dune behind it that it never gets over 80 inside. And when you’re at the beach and all you’re wearing is a bikini and a pair of Soffe shorts all day, it doesn’t matter if you get a little sweaty.
Fun With Alternative Energy
Yesterday we WASPed out and decided to go sailing instead. We’ve been joking that there should be a .gif of my reaction when I found out Crazy A has an account at the Macatawa Bay Yacht club. I was holding my purse at her car as everyone walked away empty handed. “How will we pay for our drinks?” I asked. “[Crazy A] has an account at the yacht club,” A.D. said. I dropped my purse in the car, slammed the door, wiped my hands and marched off toward the club. Hello free rum runners!
But drinks would be for later. This time we went straight the boat parking lot (I’m sure there’s a better name for it, but that’s what it is) and Crazy A set about getting a little sailboat ready, rigging it up, tying knots and hooking things up with the mastery of an old hand. Neither A.D., K or I knew how to sail (I went to sailing camp about 16 years ago and that’s it) so Anna basically gave us a lesson.
It was a perfect day for sailing: a light breeze, and not too many motorboats creating wakes since it was a weekday. No, you can’t lounge on a sailboat–unless it’s one of those huge pleasure cruise ones that comes with a crew–but it’s a great kind of fun. When you’re skipping over the water, leaning back to balance the boat with a rope in hand keeping the jib taught, it’s a fabulous feeling. And no gas required.
About a year ago, the last of my friends without a smart phone finally gave in. He had been so proud (or obstinate, rather) about his flip phone. When we met up for a catch up drink, I didn’t even notice him pull out his iPhone until he asked, “Notice anything?” while waving it in front of my face.
Of course, I congratulated him joining the rest of us in 21st century New York.
The truth is, I couldn’t imagine navigating life in NYC without my smart phone. From the time I started searching for apartments, I had a Blackberry to help me travel from one tiny apartment to the next without a map.
Now I use my iPhone all day long: in the morning to meditate, check the weather, and even check my email before I get out of bed. (Yes, I’m a person who does that.) I catch up on the rest of the mail that has come in between 7 and 9am while I wait for my smoothie at Liquiteria. Then I place it by my desk where it will alert me with a lit screen if I have text messages from friends or dates.
But it’s on the weekends that I really need it. What’s the quickest way to get to my friend’s apartment situated in that “up-and-coming” neighborhood in Brooklyn? Is the train actually running? OK, it’s not, which one should I take instead? “Ah I’m running late, srry! 15 mins!” What’s the best route by bike to the South Street Seaport? Where’s a good bar nearby? Where should I stand on the subway platform for quickest exit? Which seafood on this menu is sustainable? I’m standing at the farmers market and need a recipe for squash blossoms, help, Epicurious! Just spent $15 at the farmers market, need to note it down for my budget. Me and J. are together at this amazing brunch spot, here’s a pic of our breakfast cocktails. Jealous much?
Obviously, it’s a useful thing to have. But even when I don’t need it, I’m still pulling it out of my pocket, like a worry stone with an LCD screen. An extra minute without something to pull my attention means it’s time to check my mail and stare jealously at A.’s beautiful Instagram pics.
So imagine my horror when I landed at London Heathrow last Saturday and my iPhone’s top left corner only said “Searching…” No! Please, let it work. I need to Instagram the Eiffel Tower! I want to check in at French restaurants and have a map of the metro at my fingertips! But some quick research on my laptop at Heathrow revealed I was SOL.
I, however, am an optimist who loves to read O Magazine articles on how to connect with one’s inner life. I could do this. I could live for a week in a foreign city–in which I wasn’t totally sure I could still have a conversation or even string together sentences–take the metro, meet up at appointed times and just generally function on a basic level. I just needed a flip phone with basic calling and texting functions, and my brain (I hoped) would handle the rest.
Here’s what I discovered:
I interacted with France. As I stood on the platform Monday morning for my first solo trip, and I had nothing to occupy me. I glanced around, and accidentally caught the eye of a French guy across the platform. He smiled at me, and I looked shyly away. When I boarded the train, I looked out the window for lack of anything else to do, and I saw him again. He waved goodbye as the train left the station.
“I forgot that French men hit on you all the time,” I told D. when I met up with her for lunch, telling her what happened. “That hasn’t happened to me!” she said. My guess is that her having her nose always in a Kindle or iPhone makes her unapproachable. Perhaps I should do that same in NYC?
I exercised my brain. D. equipped me with Paris Pratique, which lists every rue in Paris in an index, with a corresponding square in a grid on a neighborhood map. Each time I wanted to get somewhere, I would look up the street, turn to the page, search the square for the street, and then find the nearest metro stations in order to plan my route.
Maybe it sounds crazy, but I quickly grew to love this little brain teaser. Sometimes I chose a longer route than I could have. But doing it this way felt so satisfying. Of course, you could brand me as a tourist as soon as I pulled the little book of maps out of my pocket, but c’est la vie.
Don’t ask me why these books are hanging from this tree by Saint Germain. I couldn’t tell you.
I got lost (but that’s OK). This requires a back story: D. and I were at a lovely little wine bar one night when we met a pair of Danish guys. (Not “Denmarkian,” as I accidentally called them. Oof.) They were in the exact same situation as us, with one living and working in Paris, and the other visiting for the week. Adam and Adam were their names. So Adam #1–as I would come to call him—and I made plans to hang out together the next day while both our friends worked.
When we met up the next day, he was all for just wandering around, getting lost. But it was drizzling on and off, and I had my sights set on the Pompidou. Using my little map, I led us confidently toward the famous modern art museum.
“Are you sure this is the right way?” Adam asked once, looking at his phone. I consulted my map. “Yup! We’re headed right down this big street,” I told him. We continued to walk, talking and folding away our umbrellas as the weather cleared. Twenty minutes later, I looked again and realized we had been heading in the exact opposite direction. “Crap!” I cried. “I totally messed up!” Adam smiled an innocent smile. “You knew the whole time, didn’t you,” I said. He just smiled some more. “Jerk!” I smacked him with my Paris Practique, but I was laughing.
We never did make it to the Pompidou, and yet I still really enjoyed our walk. I managed to lead us in the wrong direction a couple more times, but we eventually made it to the Grand Palais for an exhibition. My sense of direction is crap, but there are worse things than getting lost in Paris.
This woman’s expressions is just so French, isn’t it?
I stopped showing off. There were so many times when I had an itch to pull out my iPhone and Instagram some famous monument or Parisian thing and post it to all my social networks. I wanted to check in to every Parisian café and restaurant and museum. “I’M IN PARIS! I wanted to trumpet to every person I know. Eventually I stopped caring and just enjoyed where we were, concentrating on the food and the art and the tulips in the tuilieries.
I rediscovered pens, paper and planning. Before I could go anywhere, I had to write down the name of the street and address, phone numbers, restaurants, directions and everything else I could have looked up on the fly if I had an iPhone. I had slips of paper stuffed into my purse at all times, and what a delicious feeling that was! Making everything digital is so tidy and clean, but a piece of paper covered with evidence of where you went and where you want to go is lovely, tactile and romantic.
Lovely, tactile and romantic … sounds like Paris to me.
I’m back to life with an iPhone now that I’m back in New York, but at least I now know I can survive without it. I just might get a little lost …
Remember how I said, “Paris is always a good idea?” I want to take that back.
That’s because my very first night in Paris, I got roofied. Thanks, Paris. Right back atcha.
Here’s what happened:
My plane touched down at Paris Orly at 2:45, and D. was waiting for me right outside the baggage claim. We did the high-pitched squeal thing and then took a bus into the city to the 17th arondissement (that’s neighborhood for you non-Francophiles) where she lives.
Her adorable little apartment is on an adorable little street that is just so French. I made D. watch the opening sequence of Beauty and the Beast with me, where all the French people are popping out of windows singing “Bonjour!” I wanted to fling open the windows and yell “Bonjour!” to the people walking the cobblestones below me, visiting the boulangerie (bakery), the bucherie (butcher), poissonerie (fishmonger), patisserie (pastry shop), flower stand and all the other little shops lining the street.
I bought a pretty orange purse from a stand. I attempted to negotiate but the guy pretended he didn’t hear me and I chickened out. Then I got apples from the organic store (they call organic “bio” here, FYI) and we popped into the wine store, where a kindly merchant suggested some red wines for us, then wrapped them lovingly in tissue paper, writing the price in their strange French characters–the one looks like a seven–plus directions on how long we should let the wine breathe. Adorable.
We took a delicious four-hour nap before rousing at 10 to prettify ourselves. We ordered the NYC box of sushi from Sushi Shop. Isn’t it awesome looking? Life was good.
And then it all went downhill.
We took the metro to the Champs Elysee, and walked down a little street to a nice bar D. had been to before. I guess the bouncer saw us coming, because he immediately said when we walked up, “Desolée, c’est fermé.” (Sorry, it’s closed.)
“Really?” D. asked in French. He nodded as he held the door open for a pretty girl to go inside. “Come back tomorrow,” he told D.
I gave him a dirty look before we turned to leave. Next we tried the club Matignon, where the bouncer looked us up and down and consulted with a haughty girl with a clipboard. She gave her approval and we were in!
Wow, there were a lot of pretty people in there. And they alllll had bottle service. Except for us. The upside was that we didn’t have to elbow our way to the bar. The downside was that we spent 20 each on a glass of champagne.
The music was awful. The DJ would lay into a really good track with bass, tantalizing us before switching it off in the middle and putting on Killing Me Softly and We Will Rock You. Seriously?? Of course no one was dancing. After finishing our champagne, we were still way too sober to deal with this situation. So we knocked back one shot at the bar, and ordered a couple mixed drinks. I didn’t even finish a quarter of mine, because I soberly spilled it in the bathroom.
So at this point, I had two drinks in my system of the course of an hour. I felt completely sober. D. and I were talking to a couple nice guys when two other guys walked up to us, introduced themselves and then asked us to hang out with them at their table. Yes, please!
Later, we would recognize how weird that was. But at the time we were grateful to finally partake in the bottle service, instead of awkwardly standing around, not dancing.
One guy was Egyptian, as was his female friend at the table. I asked her what she thought about the political situation there, but she shushed me. “I don’t want to talk about that right now. Ask me over brunch.” The other guy was from Miami. The guys poured D. and I a drink from a bottle of Belvedere.
D. took a sip and then leaned in to shout in my ear over the music, “This doesn’t taste like vodka. What if something is in it?”
“Nah, it’s fine,” I told her. “It’s probably just the club jerking us around and watering it down.”
Famous last words. It could have been the vodka, or it could have been the energy drink one of the guys poured in it. But twenty minutes later I found myself barely able to stand. Well, I thought twenty minutes later. I blacked out for a period of probably hour, during which I made out with one of the guys and danced on the bench seat. I don’t remember any of it. Apparently the guys kept trying to get us to go back to their apartment with them, but D. ran interference on that idea. My blackout eased to a brownout when I started walking to the bathroom, and fell sideways into a table. I righted myself with effort, and somehow got myself down to the bathroom and inside, where I vomited. A lot.
When I came out, an employee pointed to the bathroom, which had vomit all over it and said something in French about it. I shook my head. “I didn’t do that,” I told her, and dragged myself upstairs where I sat down and waited for D. to find me. I couldn’t even find the energy to go back to the table. I couldn’t stand up! I don’t know how long I sat there, but I finally realized I would have to find her. I stood up and walked somewhere, I don’t remember where, and found her. Oh my God, I found her.
That’s the last thing I remember. Somehow, we found a cab, and we got back to her place. D. said that we got out of the cab, she went to unlock her door and when she turned around I was standing in the middle of the street, and then just fell sideways. Just bit it.
She also told me that she had to undress me and put me in pajamas. She made rice for me, but I passed out. Fifteen minutes later, the roofies hit her, and she was in the bathroom too, petrified.
She attempted to text her boyfriend, but couldn’t string together letters in the correct sequence, even though she was really trying.
The mariachi band outside her window woke me up this morning. “D.! Why is there a mariachi band outside your window?” I whined. I looked down at D.’s t-shirt and boxers and remembered. I was so embarrassed. How could I get that drunk? I wondered. I haven’t done that since my freshman year of college! What an amateur move. When D. suggested it was roofies, I poo pood the idea. But when we started thinking back over the night, over the three drinks I had and the sudden onset of my inability to stand, we realized what happened.
I managed to navigate the stairs in her apartment to buy a baguette and we devoured it, thanking our lucky stars that the roofies didn’t hit D. until we were back in the apartment. What would have happened? I don’t want to think about it.
We went to lunch with a friend from college today, and ran into a French friend of D.’s. When we told her what happened, she shrugged, ashing her cigarette. “Oh yeah, that’s happened to me too,” she said in French. “It happens all the time.”
I don’t even understand roofies. Why would you want to hang out with a girl who is vomiting everywhere? That’s what roofies do! It’s so cowardly in so many different ways.
I guess I had just gotten too complacent about being safe when I’m out. What was I thinking? I wasn’t. At least we got home safe. But people have been instant messaging me, asking things like “OMG, are you having just the best time?” Actually, no. I’ve been sleeping, rejected at a bar, vomiting and then trying to recover from a massive hangover.
Hopefully that was the low point. Tomorrow I’m going to go to some musées, eat delicious food, and go to good bars where I’m going to keep an eagle eye on my drink.
There are many things I love about France. The fact that I could get a warm baguette this morning from a boulangerie five feet from D.’s door, the long dinners over wine had at a table on the sidewalk, the way the Eiffel Tower twinkles every hour on the hour. But things I don’t like are piling up: the constant smoking, the matter-of-fact racism, and the absence of peanut butter are some of them.
Now I’m adding roofies to the list.
You are about to be jealous in t-minus 3…2…1….
I’m in London!!
Yup! I hopped a flight (carbon offset at a price of $22.66, naturally) to the old continent to visit my dear friend D. in Paris–of the going away party and recycled champagne glasses—and I’m on layover in the land of bad food, class divide, mean tabloids and royalty obsession.
The first thing I saw disembarking my flight? A hunky British dude making direct eye contact. I think I like it here.
D. is living the dream in Paris. On the one hand, I don’t like that my best friend is thousand of miles away. On the other hand, now I have an excuse to go to mother f’n Paris! (She keeps trying to get me to move there, but how could I leave NYC behind?
After we tear it up in the city of lights for a week, we’ll be back in London for a weekend. I’ve spent a whole summer in Paris before, but as the Audrey Hepburn character Sabrina said, “Paris is always a good idea.” But I’ve never been to London. “We must go,” I emailed D. emphatically. “It’s a huge hole in my experience that needs filling.”
So please, if you have recommendations, comment below or tweet them my way! I’ve already gotten a short list of museums, plus un-missable street food and competing recos for the best place to get high tea. (National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern, Bosphorus Kebabs, The Ritz or Dukes Hotel, respectively).
Also, what does a modern green girl pack for her adventure in world travel? It’s all revealed:
From top left: iPhone charger, compact faux crocodile wallet, John Masters Organics lip balm, Korres non-toxic lipstick in coral, Sigg water bottle (empty for security), apartment keys (stripped of superfluities), laptop charger, Clean Hippie blog business cards and card holder, ChicoBag reusable bag, birth control, handkerchiefs from the Brooklyn Flea (2), pen, sleep mask, iPhone in Anicase endangered species cover, headphones, passport (!), flight reservation, sunglasses gotten for free from advertising partner at work with logo rubbed off with soy nail polish remover (couldn’t find my Kayu sunglasses—darn!). Not pictured: Zebra striped travel pillow made with post-consumer recycled content, laptop, magazines (coming up).
What to Wear for an Overnight Flight
Clearly, the goal is to get as close as to pajamas as possible without looking like a typical American ass. I chose my Degree Six top in soft organic cotton, organic Deborah Lindquist leggings, and a stack of Green Sewn vintage sari bracelets. You can’t see them, but on my feet are fuzzy socks—a Christmas present from my dear sister.
Mags Go Green for Earth Day
I have been busy unsubscribing from catalogues left and right, but I just can’t give up on my print editions of magazines. After all, they don’t put everything on line. And many magazines I get through my work. Piles of magazines have been eating my apartment like kudzu, but flights are a fabulous time to catch up.
Check out this bundle that has probably given me permanent back problems from hauling them to work and then through the subway system to the airport. (No black car for this lady.)
I absolutely loved diving into the April editions, since magazines from inStyle to Self are doing their darndest to pay lip service to Earth day with lots and lots of toxin-free and eco-friendly products—some old friends, some new to me. I also love that InStyle is educating consumers about one of my favorite websites, Skin Deep.
On my to try list: aluminum-free Weleda citrus deodorant, Yes to Tomatoes acne spot stick, USDA-certified organic essential oils by Tsi-La, Mali Organics Koke’e organics sugar body polish, DairyFace Eye Caramba Nourishing Facial Refresher, Butter London non-toxic nail polish, Dairy Kai vegetable base skylight candle, Bracketron’s Mushroom Green Zero wall charger, (all rated high by inStyle) and NY-based Anjolie Ayurveda moisturizers and soaps (thanks Oprah mag!). I even found some goodies in the ads: non-toxic Zoya nail polish and EOS lip balm (the ones you’ve no doubt seen in those little egg-shaped containers).
Of course, when I say “To try,” I do’t mean “Run out and immediately buy everything.” I just mean it’s on my radar if I happen to find myself in need of body polish. Truly being green means being judicious about purchases, yo.
Stay tuned for lots of lovely pictures! I have my big fancy Canon D7, my little canon for nights out and of course Instagram on my iPhone. Meanwhile, enjoy one of my favorite songs about Paris. (Hopefully we will make it to club Showcase! I had to cull my going out options down from three sequined dresses to one.)
Gotta run! My gate just got posted for Pearee.
In fact, it had been a long weekend. A long week. A loooong month. I felt emotionally and physically … drained isn’t the right word. Because I didn’t feel empty. It was like my brain was a muddy puddle where all the silt has been kicked up, and my thoughts were swirling slowly around my brain. Ew.
I was thinking this as I lay in bed at two in the afternoon. It was a beautiful day, but I had missed 60% of it after a big night out. I decided I need a mind cleanse. So I dragged myself out of bed and formulated a plan for how I would feel better by the time I went to bed. Here’s what I did:
8 oz Organic Juice Drink
I know this is in the physical cleanse area, but it helps get you in the right frame of mind. My favorite place to get juice drinks is Liquiteria. After pulling on some yoga pants and a top in order to look somewhat productive, I walked the seven blocks south to 11th Street and 2nd Ave to get a bottle of “the killer x,” with apple, lemon, ginger and immunity booster.
42 Minutes Rooftop meditation
You could do this in the park, but I prefer my roof because it’s the closest thing I have to a backyard in that it’s quiet and private-ish. I can only imagine what Sheep’s Meadow looked and sounded like on a nice day like Sunday. Probably like a music festival.
I took up the ladder outside my apartment door to my humble little blacktop roof. I laid a big, fluffy towel out on the side that looks over the pretty gardens in the back (which, unfortunately I don’t have access to or else I would be down there), and laid on my back for a while, just looking at the blue sky above me. An unseen windchime tinged on someone’s fire escape, and birds chirped in the trees in the garden. In other words: bliss.
Then I assumed a prone position on my stomach much like Wile E. Coyote after he falls off a cliff and splats on the ground. I know you’re supposed to sit up, but that just wasn’t happening and I wanted to be gentle on myself.
I used MyMeditation Lite. This is a simple little app that will guide you through breathing exercises and then will ping you into the main meditation for three, 12 or 30 minutes. I set it to the longest setting of 12 minutes of breathing plus 30 minutes of meditation. I meditated casually. My thoughts wandered often. I would let them for a bit, and then gently shoo them away and empty my head again. When my phone chimed, I already felt a little better.
In a separate bowl mix:
1 Clean Apartment
Really, nothing refreshes like a neat and tidy apartment. I just can’t feel on top of my game when there’s crap scattered everywhere. So I did my dishes, stacked all my unread magazines and recycled the rest, swept the floor and hung up my clothing. I threw open a window to let fresh air in, and just for good measure turned on my ionizer.
Then I chose one space to reorganize–my jewelry box. It’s small and simple, but it’s such a nice feeling to see everything neatly lined up. You could do this with your denim drawer or desk drawer or bookshelf. Anything that makes you feel like you’ve tidied a corner of your life.
Something Simple for Dinner
Grab a simple vegetable, drizzle it in olive oil and shove it in the oven to roast. The act of cubing the vegetable, the simple seasonings and the fresh taste cleansed my palate of any vestiges of last night’s alcohol and set my mind at ease.
1-2 Pieces Edifying Piece of Writing
This could be almost anything: an issue of The Atlantic or The New Yorker, some non-fiction about new discoveries in psychology, modern buddhist writing, or even just a celebrated piece of literature from from the past few years. I chose Poser, by Claire Dederer, for my reading.
Saltwater has wonderful properties, or so I hear. Feng Shui consultants use it to cleanse themselves before doing an apartment energy cleanse, it’s recommended as a remedy for all sorts of maladies, and it just feels nice.
You can order delicious-smelling organic infused salts off of Etsy, but I still have salt left over from my trip to Iceland, so I liberally poured that into a warm bath and soaked, reading my book and drinking a cup of green tea.
1 Call to a Family Member
I owed my grandmother a call, so I rang her up and we discussed the nice, clean, happy things grandmothers and granddaughters discuss: my career, where I had gone out to dinner, the weather in New York versus Arizona, etc. There’s nothing like discussing what you’re making for dinner and singing a round of “You Are My Sunshine,” to feel happy and productive.
Combine and bake for at least 8 hours in:
A Nice Deep Sleep
Whew, that’s a lot of mind cleanse. By the time I was done with all these mind-health activities, it was time for bed. So I climbed into bed, feeling clarified and (almost) looking forward to Monday morning.
The fashion world is abuzz over fashion writer Jenni Avins’ account of killing and skinning her own foxes for a fox fur vest.
Walk around in Soho on any afternoon, and you’ll see parades of girls wearing fur vests in every color and texture, from shaggy and black to cropped and striped. Yet the online community is up in arms.
On Ecouterre, 222 readers voted for “Hell no! Murder is murder,” when asked if trapping and skinning your own fur made it OK to wear it, while the other two options, “Hell yes,” and “Meh, I have no problem with fur,” got a collective 57 votes.
Meanwhile, on Refinery29, the comments exploded into a maelstrom of judge-y, catty comments, like one raising the superb philosophical question of whether it’s OK to kill a baby if it’s “free range” instead of sticking it in a cage. Come on now, people.
You would think going through all that trouble to skin your own pelts would give you some sort of dispensation from the usual screeching over killing animals.
Fur seems to strike a special cord in us. Why? Because we can almost recognize the animal in the fur coat as we pull it on? And yet, we wear leather boots, purses and belts. And we eat meat of all kinds.
Look, when it comes to fur, I treat it like I do any meat–with careful consideration. Call it being a conscious fur wearer. In my mind, if you judge your fur the same way you judge your meat, that gives you three options:
1. Get yourself a used or vintage fur coat. They can be found in almost any consignment shop for a steal.
2. Go with the environmentally friendly nutria fur, which I wrote about for Huffington Post Green.
3. Go free range. Now, I don’t think it’s necessary to participate in the actual skinning of the animal, a la Jenni Avins, but if it were possible to secure a fur vest from the Greenmarket the way you can currently pick up a pork loin or sheepskin rug, I would be all over that option. As of right now, I’m not sure there is a way to do that, unfortunately.
As for myself, I have two faux fur vests, which I’m a little ill-at-ease with because they are synthetic. I have a fur coat I inherited from my mother (with mixed feelings). And I have a yummy, warm fur head piece I got as a gift that I believe is rabbit. I’m not chucking anything, but I don’t have plans to pick up anything new anytime soon.
What are your thoughts on killing your own fur? Would you ever do it for the sake of owning a conscious fur vest?