The Weeklies: March 10 - 17

On Tuesday morning, the doorbell rang. My super and his assistant shook my hand and I guided them to my living room. I pointed at two spots in the ceiling where the drywall had split in two. 

"When?" asked the super. I walked to my hallway between my bedroom and living room and I pointed at another crack. 

"I don't know, a month?" But in the last week it'd gotten worse. I was so busy with parties, dinners. Friday night I was at a party and performance at my boyfriend's-friend's-place. Saturday, Korean barbecue (we'd upgraded from our originally low-key place to Gaonnuri which was actually a treat). We had a very late writing group meeting on Monday, and when I made it home at 10 o'clock  my living room ceiling resembled the chest of a fit man with a bloated belly. The ceiling near the window was flat and perfect, but then slowly, towards the opposite wall, became sagging and bolbus. This was dangerous. 

The super nodded and told me he'd try to schedule to fix it as soon as he could. 

I raced off to the office late. On my series of local and express trains (I have an hour and ten minute commute one way) I grieved  my clouding calendar. My boyfriend and I had so many little things invitations and outings. I was keen on cancelling them all, I'd been down and tired and burntout, in short. 

Wednesday evening he and I took a subway from the Financial District to the Upper West Side. New York remains incredibly chilly for March, we stuffed our hands in our pockets and I pulled my hat almost past my eyebrows. 

"I love this neighborhood," I said. 

We walked by the Europan Cafe where I used to have  weekly private French lessons. It was boarded up. Closed. 

"I used to have French here. My teacher, she met her boyfriend there, he was one of her students. When she told me the story, I said, 'Oh you fell in love here!?' The restaurant was so old and dirty she said, 'No. No love can start here.'"

We continued our walk down Broadway. I showed him all my favorite places and gushed enthusiastically over the beautiful buildings of West End. 

One of my boyfriends-friends had us over for dinner. They had three adorable children, the youngest was a four-year-old who poked me in the leg and smiled, "It wasn't me!" I marveled at their life. They had a lot of room for the children to play and a very beautiful art collection. Very rarely in New York do you come across a house that feels like a real home. 

Snow fell as I hailed a cab on West End. I arrived home, put down my things, and looked up at the ceiling again. No improvement. 

On Thursday, we had tickets to showing of a documentary, "China Hustle," at the Tumblr offices. I raced out of work and got on an empty R train. There was a woman asking for directions and struck up a conversation with a man on the train. He asked her where she was going, she said to an art show. They discussed the artist at length, and as the train rolled into the station he stood. 

"Well," he cleared his throat. "if you ever want to take in a show together sometime, you can take my number." 

"But, is this your stop?" she asked. Everyone was watching. 

"Yeah but if I miss it, I'll just miss it," he said. She took his number, and he made it in time to get off the train. As we rolled away from the station, I saw him beaming on the platform. 

Then, the group of three youngsters became inspired by the scene and one of the guys started to compose a text. 

"What do I text him?" one of them asked. "Should I ask him how Paris was considering the..."

"Don't say that," the girl snapped at him. "You want to see how he's doing, you don't want to make a home in his ass." 

Well, there goes the magic. 

After the film screening my boyfriend and I went to a Greek restaurant in the Flower District. He listened to me whine about the weather (New York will be cold for another few weeks), about needing to get away, about needing less plans and more time to myself.  When, when, when? The super was scheduled to fix the ceiling on Saturday. My eyes welled with tears. 

Then on Saturday, as I waited, fully dressed in my living room, the super texted, there was a bigger emergency, he would be there next week. 

The Weeklies

Essay writing, though it is my favorite genre, can be slow and steady. It takes months sometimes to perfect them, and years for stories to unfold. Even then, new conclusions can appear years after that. Lately I've been feeling really stunted and creatively trapped in the form. I miss the good old days of LiveJournal. Then I asked myself, why can't I have some form of that and use it as a challenge? So here we have it, The Weeklies. 

I'll be posting every Saturday about the week prior. This will give me the casual, less-edited exercise that my writing muscles need with added creative regularity. So look here on Saturdays. Hope it is worth something...

On the Occasion of My 10 Year Anniversary in New York

In December 2007 my parents arrived in New York City a few days before me to co-sign my new lease. Following my last college exams I hopped on a plane to join them, it was December 14, 2007. New York and I had a long courtship -- I always say it that way -- I spent summers and winters between 2003-2007 making trips to New York City. I interned in the city the summer of 2007 and after that there was no doubt about my decision. One night after having dessert with new friends at Good Enough to Eat, I rode home in a cab with the window down, perfect weather, passing strangers in the street and dark buildings with lights on. How could anyone want anything other than this? 

I knew, however, that I was too soft for New York City. I spoke at a near whisper, if I was overcharged at the grocery store I'd just accept it and leave. I never was one for complaining, and that was the appeal of New York. I wanted to live somewhere known for beating its inhabitants to a pulp and therefore carving them into sufficient, resilient, assholes. I thought of it as basic training. I would arrive a quiet, annoying, never-been-kissed, doormat-waif, and become just like "Shaft" in the opening credits, a bad mother-fucker who crosses against the light and just doesn't give a shit.

Yes, that vision exactly.

So, I moved in the winter of 2007. My parents had picked for me a luxury, high-rise one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side that they paid $2,600 a month for. Nervous and protective, they greased my doorman to "watch out for me." Whenever I waited in the lobby for a cab to take me to a 9 pm dinner, he would grill me. "Where ya headed? Who ya seeing? When do you think you'll be home?" I was lucky, but also, completely unrealistic. I thought everyone lived in New York that way.

That first month I spent all my time in Starbucks writing, at Bloomingdale's shopping, or at the ballet. I was working on a book project that would give me free tickets, so I was there two nights a week. I finally got a full-time job that February, and with it, some new friends. I suffered through culture shock the remainder of that first year. For three days one winter I cried endlessly trying to figure out how to conform without really changing my core values. I'd come from a really conservative community with ideals that were not upheld in New York. I didn't fit in. In my third year my little sister moved up and we got a place at 89th and First Avenue together. The fourth and fifth years, we moved apart, and I moved to 68th and First Avenue and lived in a rent-stabilized hole in the wall without a bathroom sink. Two years later, I landed in my current place uptown. 

I've had so many good moments in New York these past 10 years. So many awe-filled walks in the summertime, pleasant conversations with tourists, good days. I laugh when I think of all the stupid things I've done in my naïvety: like overpaying for brunch, engaging in conversation with people when I'd rather not, that one Thanksgiving at a friends-of-a-friends when the host rudely asked everyone who brought sides to pitch in $20 for the turkey before they left, that one time I told myself I'd go on a little walk in Central Park and got lost for hours, when I decided stupidly to shutter my first blog (which got 1,600 visitors per day!) because of "writers block." All the men I dated! (In most cases, I was the problem, not them). I still cringe with embarrassment when I remember ordering my first cocktail at a Fashion Week after-party: 

Me: What's the free cocktail that everyone is getting? 
Bartender: Pink. (A new liquor drink that no one drinks anymore.)
Me: I'll have a Pink please.
Bartender: With what? Like, soda or tonic or something?
Me: You can get it with things?

This is the part where I'm supposed to write: "And then I grew up." But is that true? I suppose in a way I've started saving for retirement, I get a decent amount of telemarketing phone calls, I haven't scheduled preventative botox, but I still call the hordes of kids knock-down-drunk in East Village "the young folk." 

Looking back, I never had any idea what I would be in 10 years time. I knew I'd eventually be living in a much cheaper neighborhood (I am). I hoped I'd be working at a magazine (I do). I'd hoped that I'd still be in love with the city, and I am. If there's a honeymoon phase, I'm still in it -- the idiot who finds Times Square to be magical. Even though I have learned how to make a good complaint and challenge someone for being rude, I'm still a few years away from being "Shaft." But I'm looking forward to it. 

Everything I Ate in Paris and London



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Red wine, foie gras, perfectly poofed cheddar and chive soufflé, chocolate soufflé.
Three o'clock in the afternoon, La Cigale Récamier
At an outdoor table, Edward and I ease into wicker chairs, order a glass of wine, and then he says: "I can't believe you are in Paris with me." I'd arrived at noon after a horrible flight (I'm usually lucky on long hauls -- empty rows, decadent meals, good movies, waking refreshed). This time it was a nightmare, I slept one hour, there wasn't food service and my checked luggage was damaged. Edward had already arrived by train from Geneva. After landing, I headed to our hotel, Les Dames du Pantheon. He was leaning out of the window of our room, as if he knew I was arriving. An hour later were having lunch -- completely in awe at being together in Paris. After too much wine, Edward wanted to show me the Hermes store that was built from an existing swimming pool. I was tipsy, and we discovered my new tipsy talent: blindly pricing Hermes furniture. 

 Yours truly at Café de Flore.

Yours truly at Café de Flore.

Noisette. Water.
Five o'clock in the evening, Cafe de Flore
We wandered St. Germain, shopped at Le Bon Marche and realized that we needed more coffee, so we stopped at Café de Flore. When we left, Edward noticed a famous philosopher and author reading the paper at one of the outside tables. I'm reminded of my first trip to Paris, when I was too afraid to go to the cool cafes alone. Was it really only five years ago that I was walking the St. Germain in the cold, trying to make myself love Paris, going back to my apartment and stirring Prozac into juice, falling asleep to the television? Back when I imagined a vacation would make me a mentally healthy person?

Two glasses of champagne, medium rare steak, wine, a shot of limoncello with a straw.
Evening, Le Poulette de Grain
I only know three people in Paris and Henri is one of them. When I visited in 2012, Henri and I spent two days together, and have kept in touch since. Henri and his girlfriend meet us for dinner in the Bastille and announce that they are actually engaged! A celebration this big calls for many toasts and therefore, many drinks. I climb into bed that night feeling as if my 2012 trip were yesterday, and that he and I are still the same people. [I also go to bed frustrated: embarrassingly, the waiter gaves me an iPad with an English menu -- I was the only English speaker at the table (Edward grew up speaking French). It becomes apparent that the French language is my lifelong rival. I took it in middle school, college and two years worth of private lessons in New York and yet, I still need the iPad to get by.]


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Bottled still water.
Four o'clock in the morning, Le Dames du Pantheon
We wake up to loud music playing at the hotel room next door, a song is ending, and the beginning of "New York, New York" starts. Edward lifts the receiver of our vintage 1960s phone (its a boutique hotel, with a 60s mod theme) and whispers in French. The only thing I can translate him saying is: "We can hear music, 'New York, New York.'" Then much more is said in French, then he hangs up.

"What did the night manager say?" I ask Edward. 

"He can't call him but he can come up and knock on the door." 

In silence, we wait for the managers footsteps to come up the hotel spiral staircase. Then we hear him rapping on the door, but the music doesn't stop. Edward puts on earplugs.



Croissant, apple tart, cold pressed orange juice, noisette.
Early morning, Dalloyau 
We eat at a cafe above the Jardin du Luxembourg. Out the cafe window I can see the park to my right, a traffic circle around a fountain, businesses, limestone. I keep asking myself the same question I asked in 2012: "Why does Paris seem so grim to me? Why can't I get that feeling everyone else gets here? What's wrong with me?"

Lobster ravioli in foam (Me: I hate foam! Edward: Wait till it goes away.), white wine, tuna tartare. 
Around three o'clock in the evening, somewhere near L'Opera
We visit Les Invallides and the Paris Opera House and then go to a restaurant Edward knows well. We think we're getting the prix fixe menu, but it was a misunderstanding with the waiter. Two full sized portions come for each of us.

"We'll need to go on a major cleanse after this trip," we laugh. 

Aperol spritz (served in a wine glass the size of a bowl).
Late afternoon, Le Stella
After the wedding we attended, there's a few hours time before the reception, so a few of the guests have decided to go drink. We walk from the wedding to a bar. What once was sun is now rain and I take Edward's arm and he holds our umbrella. "A gentleman!" some men joke as we pass. I am in four-inch heels, a pale pink lace dress and a trench coat. I think to myself: isn't it what every girl daydreams Paris is like? Wearing high heels and dashing to a cafe? Drinks last a little over an hour and despite just meeting these wedding guests today we have a very fun chat. I like these people a lot. Especially the French girl named Clara who has a very-French bob.

White wine, red wine for the second course, wild mushrooms, duck, sweet potatoes, Paris Brest
7 o'clock in the evening, Le Petit Retro
The wedding reception is in the private room of a charming cafe. The menu for the evening says that dessert is "surprise" and when Paris Brest's arrive everyone coos. It is my first, and I adore it. (Weeks later, I will get a craving and buy one from Francois Payard.) Over dinner we discuss politics, the French relationship to politics, apartments, apartment prices, tourism in Iran, Blackberry keyboards, World War II, Brooklyn in the 50s, and how all the couples met. We drive along the Seine on the way home, and I want so badly for the Eiffel Tower to sparkle as we pass. 


Friday, October 6, 2017

Croissant, baguette with butter, omelette, greens with olive oil and vinegar, noisette.
Early morning, Rotisserie du Pantheon
We spend the morning at the Pantheon (and get to see Foucault's Pendulum) and return to the hotel to put on our fancy clothes for another wedding party at a private club, Cercle de l'Union Interalliée. In the bathroom, I hear the sound of horse hooves on cobblestone (the prettiest sound) and open my window to see a carriage passing below.

Ham and brie on baguette, a bite of a canaille.
Gare du Nord
We miss our train from Paris to London and spend a half hour in the lounge snacking.

"I might cry," I warn Edward about our trip to London. For me, it is not some city, but the moment of my life that I stepped out of something into something else. I want to say "milestone" but it is not the right word. Edward just laughs. I'm still in shock when our high-speed train reaches St. Pancras. I don't know it, but I will exist this way the entire trip -- not feeling like I'm actually in London again. Clearly, I am in a mirage.
I looked down at my lapel of my coat. "Do we need poppies? Is it time for poppies?" It wasn't. It was too early.


Champagne, wine, two fingers of bourbon, salmon grilled outdoors, red rice and grains, broccoli rabe, pear poached in saffron with ice cream.
A Private Home in The Mews
Our hosts, Edward's friends, throw a dinner party upon our arrival. They put a grill out in their street (a Mews! A quaint Mews! I adore it!). I play with their newborn and swill champagne and feel comfortable and warm, even as a stranger to them. I love learning all the London slang and local knowledge. They explain to me what a "chav" is.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Egg and bacon on a roll, brown sauce, espresso.
Ten o'clock in the morning, Fischer's in Marlybone
Breakfast. I learn that no one knows what is in Brown Sauce. It is just an English thing.

Quiche, wine, salad with walnut oil, carrots.
Private home.
Edward's niece invites us over to lunch, which is also as relaxing and lovely as dinner the night before. There is also another cute baby at which to fawn over. On the walk from the train we pass through Queens Park, and I see my first autumn leaf. 

 Tea at Fortnum's.

Tea at Fortnum's.

Fort Mason tea, two scones with clotted cream (dressed in the Devon fashion), a stilton cheese and raspberry tart, venison pâté, an egg filled with lobster and soft scrambled eggs, truffle puff pastry, a variety of tea sandwiches, a lemon custard tart, a chocolate cream roll. 
Four o'clock in the afternoon, Fortnum and Mason's Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
It is noted again that we will need a cleanse upon arriving to New York. 

Dumplings, duck fried rice, pork ribs, Negroni.
Nine o'clock in the evening, The Duck and Rice
Edward and I walk in the dark to a late reservation. There are all sorts of young people out and on their way to bars. At one intersection, two smartly dressed men in nice shoes are foot racing down the street and a crowd of their friends are cheering them on. I can't remember who won. I want to know how this all got started, how they know one another. I remember that if I had gone to the university in London that I was accepted to that I would have been there at the same time as Edward. Would we have met? Would we have gone on one of these walks through Soho on a date?


Sunday, October 8, 2017


Chocolate cake. 
Early morning, a private home in The Mews.
We have leftover cake from tea at Fortnum's for breakfast, followed by a brisk walk through Hyde Park. My heart sings in Hyde Park. I'd come there in 2011 on my first trip to London and of all the memories I've had in my life, Hyde Park is a beacon among them.

My first English Sunday Roast (roast beef, vegetables, yorkshire pudding), chicken pâté, sparkling water.
Noon, a hotel restaurant in Marylebone.
Our last meal in London with Edward's friends from high school. I feel bad that we're rushing through the meal to make it to our flight, and even more guilty that I am the only person seated who doesn't speak French fluently. 

Gin and tonic, fish sandwich.
Three o'clock in the afternoon, Gatwick Airport Lounge
It's my first time in an airport lounge. My first time at Gatwick. For the first time on a return flight, I do not write and I do not sleep for longer than fifteen minutes. I watch a few awful films. 

Steamboat Springs

 Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park.

It would become the story we told all summer: Philippa emerged from the Rocky Mountain National Park bathroom, rounding a corner, and shouting across a parking lot to me. 

"Ariel! Have you seen my phone?" 

"Uh," she had given it to me a few times to carry during our short hike through the woods. If I did have it, it would be inside my backpack. A' jumble with water bottles, trail mix, hardboiled eggs, and spiced pepitas. 

"I hope it wasn't in my pocket and fell in the toilet," she said. 

Suni walked back to the stream where we stopped, maybe it was over there when we were chatting with the other hiker. Philippa went back to the bathroom to check and later, as I was still digging through dirty socks and boarding passes, Philippa screamed. 

"Ariel! Come here!" This time with more sadness in her voice. I walked to the bathroom. She was standing outside, pouting. I expected that it was indeed in the toilet. I rolled up a sleeve of my Obama sweatshirt, totally prepared to pull it out. I'm hardly a germaphobe when there was soap around. 

I opened the door to the bathroom and looked down the toilet. It wasn't a toilet, it was a latrine! The phone was about 10 feet down, sinking in human waste. 

"It's gone!" I heard Philippa saying through the door. I left the bathroom and stood with she and Suni and tried to think of a plan. 

"I can call someone," Suni said. "Maybe a park ranger?" An Italian tourist walked up and put her hand on the bathroom knob. 

"Don't go to that one," Philippa said. "something is wrong with it." 

"Yeah," Suni and I chimed in. "Yeah, go to the other one..." 

The woman nodded and went to the bathroom next door. We stood there a bit, and suddenly Philippa said that we should consider the phone gone. Even if a ranger could get it out, would she want it? Defeated, we walked through the dusty parking lot back to Suni's champagne Subaru. 

"What if I want to take pictures?" Philippa said sullenly as the car climbed up the side of the mountain and towards the tundra covered in snow. 

"Take a picture with your heart," Suni said. Philippa was aghast.

"You can't take a picture with your heart!" 


Colorado, in short, is mountain peaks, valleys, wide lakes with deep blue water, and curling roads. Moose, elk, bears, mountain lions. Beautiful vista after beautiful vista. Suni took us up the roads she knew so well: the drive from Denver to Steamboat Springs, a small valley town in northern Colorado. Population 10,000. It was known for being a big ski destination, so it had the sheen that I always imagined Aspen had (clean streets, newish store facades and a main street). When Suni lived in New York she spoke a lot about Steamboat's Fourth of July celebration. Everyone went to a parade, ate free hot dogs, drank root beer floats and danced at block party. Then in the afternoons, they went tubing on the river. That made my barbecue and homemade-ice cream Fourth of July celebrations look like child's play.

At some point, before Suni moved from New York to a monastery, we discussed the idea of visit each others hometowns. Philippa's in Sri Lanka, Suni's in Colorado and mine, in Mobile, Alabama. Suni's was first.

If I had the gall to outline the trip in detail, it'd be another 7-post wonder like that of my Las Vegas series. We piled so many good things in our five days -- like the day we spent in the hot spring, our toes settling in the rocky bottom of the pool. There was the day we did a hungover hike through windy ridge. We had to sit on a rock to rest, and a group of elderly people marched past us. "Don't give up," they said smugly, "you're almost there." A mud pit ate Philippa's shoe. The Yampa river, which were warned was wild and raging, also got the best of us. Suni and I thought we'd just float down the river together on a tube, and as soon as she hit the current she was carried out yards from me. I paddled frantically towards her and a stranger rescued me by grabbing my tube and pushing me into the current. When I looked down, the struggle was so great, half of my chest was exposed and I didn't even know it. 

Between activities, we enjoyed the Colorado quiet. Suni's parents built a fire for us during dinners outside and we sat around eating s'mores. We listened to her parents tell us camp fire stories: the time her father stuck his head down a bear hole to meet a sleeping bear, how her mother and father met (it's the best meet-cute in history). One night Suni called all her friends over for tacos. Everyone was so delightfully western, one of the girls even lived in a Tiny House. 

 Taco night.

Taco night.

"Guess how I lost my phone?" Philippa asked the friends. One of them smiled. 

"Hm, did put it in your pocket and forget and then when you went to the bathroom it fell in?" she said. 

"How did you know!?" Philippa and I asked. 

"You look like the type of person who would do that," she laughed. 

Though brush fires cancelled Fourth of July fireworks, we still had a very full holiday. We went to the parade and watched the townspeople represent their various clubs and businesses with floats. That evening, after another outdoor dinner, the neighbors started lighting fireworks. Big, majestic displays started popping all over the town under the hill where we stood. Suni's parents went to the basement and pulled out their supply of roman candles and sparklers and big things that shot up in the air, and on the street we lit a few of our own.



"But, Smokey the Bear says--" I started to stammer nervously. 

"You really listen to him?" laughed Philippa.


On our last day in Colorado, we got breakfast and coffee to go, and Suni drove us up to one of the town's waterfalls. It was so early in the morning that we had it all to ourselves. Then we hit the road, going north into Laramie, Wyoming, to check another state off our list, then back down to Ft. Collins for lunch and finally a bus back to Denver and then a plane to New York. 

I've learned that sometimes traveling is like wearing a costume: you do the things, you wear the clothes, you eat the foods. You become something else. (I think that's part of the fun of going to Vegas, the costume is forced absurdity and if you ride with it, you're guaranteed absurdity.) In Colorado we rode in the Subaru, ate elk and lived in hiking boots. Philippa even went to F.M. Light, the household name cowboy store, and left with a pair of boots and a cowboy hat. When we arrived that afternoon to the Denver Airport, we queued under glass ceilings and waited by metal pillars and metal walls. I remember thinking, "no this is too soon" to give up the trees and soft green grass. My bear anxiety replaced with that of currency, timing. 

Candy Rose

On a Thursday morning in Vancouver, Edward and I had breakfast in our hotel room and went outside. We needed "travel things." My comb bristles broke and I needed socks for hiking. He needed another bottle of his signature scent: Penhaligon's in Blenheim Bouquet. 

"Hey look," I said, pointing to a sandwich board on West Hastings that advertised for a perfume shop. Penhaligon was on the list of perfumes. "It's perfect." We turned and walked through a small, quiet mall. The doorway to the shop was open and a shopkeeper was sitting behind a desk. 

"Hello, what are you looking for?" she said. She had short dark and hair and an undetectable accent. Edward told her he was looking for Penhaligon's and she spritzed him with a sampling and boxed up a bottle that he quickly bought. 

"And you, dear?" the woman asked. Edward encouraged me to purchase a scent since I was always unhappily rotating. I was up for trying something new, but I'd barely finished the multiple bottles at the house and I couldn't really afford it. But there was something about that place, if you were going to by a perfume you had to buy it from there. It was quaint, charming, authentic. "What kind of things do you like?" she asked. 

"I wear a lot of things, mostly really cheap silly stuff," I said rattling off an embarrassing list of department store brands that were once the fads. "I like really clean scents. I don't like citrus and absolutely no musk." 

The woman smiled and looked me up and down like she was reading me. I let my vivid imagination and writerly brain run wild -- a story about a perfumer who was actually psychic who reads customers and gives her life prescriptions under the guise of giving directions for perfume. I've romanticized the idea that a stranger can look at you and tell you exactly what you need.

"I think, for you I'm going to give you something absolutely different than what you're used too," she said. "Is that OK?"

I said it was. She started to rummage through her bottles. I didn't recognize them. She made small talk as she selected, asking us what brought us to Vancouver (a wedding) and where we were from (New York). Then she had me hold out my arm, and she took out a bright pink atomizer and gave it a quick, punctuated tap with the heel of her hand. Then she began fanning wildly. "We have to let it sit a bit, don't rub it. We need your own scent to come through." 

After a few moments she gave my wrist a sniff. "What is this you are wearing already? There's something here," she said. The hotel body wash from my shower still lingered. Surely it had worn off on our morning walk.

"I'm not wearing anything," I stammered. 

Edward narrowed his eyes. "There was this awful smelling scent at the hotel," he said. He'd actually said so after his shower. 

"I do not like it," she said. She grabbed a bottle of antibacterial sanitizer and began wiping my arm down with it until the offending scent was gone. Then again, another concentrated spritz from the pink bottle. 

I sniffed. "It smells OK." 

"Go outside," she said, pointing to the mall hallway. I went out of the store, just one step from the threshold to an entry way.  What a difference! The scent was now alive and in the hallway where I stood, it felt like the only living thing. I walked back in, smiling. 

"See?" she said, looking as if the matter had been set, and some balance restored to my aura, if that was even possible. God, the promise of a remedy. But a remedy to what? Everything was fine. I was traveling -- in the summertime -- my dream for a long while when I couldn't afford since summertime travel was often the most expensive. I felt that I didn't deserve to be traveling. That I didn't deserve perfume, sunshine, the comb I'd bought at Miniso. It's just like that trip to Montauk where I felt so guilty I even whispered it to Philippa and she thought I was crazy.

I didn't buy the perfume. The shopkeeper put a sampling of it in a small bottle and wrote the name of it on the side. It was by a maker I'd never heard of, a small French family. Later that afternoon, I looked at the label: "Candy Rose." 

The Record On Repeat (Montauk)

The hotel's indoor pool was on a sub level, reachable by an elevator and a hallway lined with black and white photos from the 1920s. The pool was in a white room with white walls, mirrors lined on one side and a tiny rectangular hot tub. "It's a cave," Philippa had said when I asked her what it was like.

Before 11 pm, still happy from my meal at the Crow's Nest, I slid into the bubbly rectangle in the cave, the water rising up to my chin. I then got up to my waist in the heated pool, then I told Edward I was going to sit in the sauna and borrowed his flip flops.

The sauna and bathroom were also white. There were rows of lockers and I followed the hallway to a corner where the wooden door led to the sauna, and pulled it open. It was empty. I could hear the hiss of the sauna and feel the heat. So I sat on my hands, my bathing suit still damp. A quick seven seconds passed and the sauna grew cold, I imagined that maybe its cycle had run out. I opened the door and stuck my head in the hall, looking to see that the sauna was still on. To be sure, I cranked up the heat a touch by arbitrarily turning a knob that looked like it needed turning, and went back in. 

I had a feeling that is unwritable -- a strange feeling of otherness in the room. It embarrasses me even writing about it, even more embarrassing as I looked around myself in the sauna, as I slowly had the realization that maybe I wasn't alone. And if I wasn't alone, what was there? The sauna wasn't heating up, like someone was playing a prank and turning the knob. I got up and left, rushing quickly through the white-walled-bathroom and back out to the pool where Edward was sitting. 

"That was the quickest sauna trip ever," Edward said. "you look pale." 

"I think...I think there was a ghost in there," I said. "I just felt like I wasn't alone." 


I have loved Montauk since last summer after a last-minute girls weekend. It was the kind of thing that's too spontaneous to overthink which made it perfect in its execution, and allowed us to still be surprised and awed of the things we found. We swam in pools surrounded by trees and flower bushes, we drank beer at the beach and had outdoor, bare-shouldered, sunburnt, rosé laden dinners. Perfect sunsets were in excess. The highlight of that trip was a long afternoon sail, where I cried with a sea captain, which I wrote about for this blog. I would return to New York and run into friends who would say: "I love the post about Montauk; about the sea captain." 

I couldn't wait to get back. 

A few weeks before Memorial Day Philippa put the gears in motion for another trip to Montauk. We'd stay at the same hotel, The Montauk Manor. The only issue was the weather, it would barely reach 60 degrees, but we could do hikes, we could have nice dinners and the hotel pool was heated. Philippa would bring her husband, Martin, and I would bring my boyfriend Edward. 

On May 27th, Edward slid into a seat on the LIRR train and said: "I'm feeling rather smug." There were girls were squished together on the floor on top of their monogrammed L.L. Bean canvas tote bags and cross-legged in Lululemon pants. There were people standing the corridors, and Philippa texted me from another part of the train, "We're standing," she said. Someone spilled their Bellini on Martin. 

The last time I was in Montauk the train ride was empty, relaxing. This time I was heading into a big holiday weekend: Memorial Day. The partiers were out and ready, Instagraming and complaining. People were dropping lines like, "I'll die if the one time I don't go to Spain he's there." 

I'm secretly envious of the cool kids. Montauk offers adjacency to the cool kids, enough closeness that I can pretend I didn't spend high school hiding and not speaking, that I didn't have a lonely undergrad at a university that has to be mentioned up north with a, "no ones ever heard of it, it was just a state school where I grew up." I can wear a costume by going to the right beach and dining and the good spots. It's annoying to know that all those social foibles and dorkiness would still bother me at thirty-two years old. 

We land at Montauk and get a cab to The Montauk Manor. When we enter the front corridor I'm met with the same beautiful hallways and soft piano music echoing off the lobby arches. We drop our bags and decide to go to Gosman's Deck for lunch. It's sunny enough to eat outdoors under an umbrella and Philippa and I recount our last trip to the boys. 

A sailboat approached. 

"I'll cry if its the same boat I rode on last summer," I say, seeing the sails. It turns out to be the very same boat, so Philippa, Edward and I ran to the deck to get a picture of me watching it sail away. It was a long lunch, two bottles of wine and seafood. We giggled quite a lot. We had ice cream after and took the hotel shuttle back to the manor. Our driver, I realize, was our same driver from last year, a thirty-something local named Peter who knows Montauk like the back of his hand. He had a high aversion to the rich kids who spend all their nights at the Surf Lodge or Sloppy Tuna. He always had good recommendations for the best of Montauk, he would point at a place and tell us to go there, always using the same adjective: "That place? That place is solid.

I get a kick out of knowing someone in this town. The locals never change, everyone knows everyone. It reminds me of all my vacations as a child and teen. We always went to New Orleans, and we delighted in knowing our way around, in knowing just enough to feel at home but not too much. The return traveller has a shallow sort of love, they never want to see what gears turn underneath a city so they never have to complain about the traffic on the twenty-seven -- but they want to know that the twenty-seven exists. 

Back at the manor I decided to give Edward a tour, and we started walking south toward a group of trees. 

"Let's go in here," he said. I hung back, a little frightened of trespassing. Edward held up a hand for me to take. "We'll just look." 

We ducked under some brush and found ourselves in a graveyard. It's very minimalist, none of the plots have headstones but little discrete markers in various places. Flags line the veterans graves, and a massive stone sat in the middle of the yard that belonged to the Native American's who lived on the site. I find great peace there, and so we continue walking till we reach a cliff overlooking a body of water. Edward admitted that he felt calmed by the wild grass and trees and the silence. 

We spend the next hours watching sunset at the hotel, and then went to the Crow's Nest but couldn't get a table, and instead had a a drink on the waterfront and dinner at South Edison. It's cold at night, I wished it were warmer.

The next morning we had breakfast in town, picked up beach provisions at the local market and headed to Ditch Plains. The sun came out and in the warmth we shed our clothes for bathing suits. The water was too cold to swim. Martin, the only brave one, took a dip. We went back to the room, watched a bit of TV and dressed for the Crow's Nest. I'd talked up the place so much: about the table we got under the arbor on the grass, the watermelon cocktails and scallops and ricotta with grilled bread. Is all else failed, we could count on the Crow's Nest to be beautiful and delicious. 

We had a wonderful meal, and went back down to the bar by the water but the weather was cold. Edward and I resolved to go back to the pool and spa after dinner. 

Up to that evening, talk of ghosts had been rampant. Every time we boarded the hotel shuttle a driver would tell us a story about the ghosts at the hotel, which was built on top of a Native American burial ground.

"Once I was in the pool after it closed, late at night," says Peter. "And I saw something in the mirror go into the bathroom. And I'm thinking, 'Who is in here the pool is closed,' so I go in the bathroom and there's no one there. It was a shadow."

Edward called bullshit on this story. Another driver tells us that the fourth floor lights every night at 4 a.m. flicker, and a waiter in the hotel restaurant says that when he was setting tables for dinner service one night the lights were flickering to the music.

"Like, to the beat," he says widening his eyes and raising his hand and lowering it like a DJ. Edward called bullshit on this story, too. 

Martin and Edward did not believe in ghosts; Martin a doctor and a man of science believed it was all a figment of our imagination. Philippa and I were in the other camp. Philippa had a few experiences here or there. Me, nothing, no ghosts, no ghouls, no fantom phone calls from the dead, no devil cars following me at midnight, no rustle in the bushes (and yes, those were all real-life ghost stories culled from friends). The first time I stayed at the Montauk Manor I experienced nothing. I felt so sure that the hotel wasn't haunted that I felt comfortable enough to come back. 

Edward and I put on our swimsuits and walked to the pool. After my experience at the sauna, we returned to the room, and a weak smile crossed my face. 

"Philippa, something happened in the sauna," I said. She'd come right off the stairs, her eyes wide. 

"What happened!?" she asked. I explained the story. 

"But maybe I'm imagining things," I said. 

"You're back-pedaling!" she said. "You saw something!"

Despite this, she and Martin went to the pool and I went to the upstairs bathroom and shut the door to change. I started to feel the fullness in the room again, and trying to convince myself to calm down, looked at my reflection and faked a smile.

"It's nothing," I said to the mirror. 

The next morning a storm crossed Montauk on our last day. The four of us took our last shuttle ride to the train. The station platform was packed all the way down to the parking lot. We were luckily enough to get seats, Philippa and I talked about Noam Chomsky across the aisle. We realized halfway through the ride that we left all our rosé and rum in the hotel room fridge.

We rolled through Long Island for three hours, and for most of it I considered the night before. Hypothetically, if ghosts were real in the traditional sense of what we know, I considered how lonely that would be. How sad and isolating to be apart from human experience in such a concrete way. It didn't seem that far from my own life experience, which strangely made me feel more comforted, rather than afraid, by what happened. That night I still slept with the light on.


On Tuesday, I returned back to life, to work. My colleague asked about the hotel, I'd told her before I left that it was supposedly haunted. She is a horror film fan, and gleefully awaited my news, if any. I told her the story about the sauna. 

"I think," she said, offering her theory on ghosts, "that it's like an energy trapped in a space. It's just like a record playing on repeat." 

I liked that explanation best of all those I'd heard. It took a lot of distance from Montauk, and a few times catching myself being envious of the people I saw there, to make the connection: if I keep dwelling on the pitfalls of the past, they will continue to play for me, to haunt me. I need to change the way I think. 

My First Protest (The Women's March in D.C.)

On January 20, I find myself in a hotel lobby in Silver Springs, Maryland. About thirty teenagers in prom dresses and shirts with ties are on the couches in the lobby. You barely hear over the chatter. It's already midnight. 

The hotel attendant gives Edward and I our keys and warm cookies (it's their thing) and we get into an elevator, with more of the formally-dressed high schoolers. On our floor there are more kids on carpet having conversations so involved they don't notice when we step over them.

There's a woman with a clipboard doing bed checks through an open door. I tell Edward that they were probably an Inauguration Band. 

"Well, we're definitely not getting any sleep tonight." 

I'm exhausted. I had a full day of work, I got on The Path Train, I met Kel in New Jersey and we drove six hours to be in Washington, D.C. for the Women's March. It was all a fluke, really. Kel called Wednesday night with an excited urgency I'd never heard from her: 

"I was raised to do what I am told and put my head down. But with everything that has gone on, I said, 'You know what? I need to do this.'"

So here we are, in D.C. with only three days notice. I open the window shade to a main street. I tell Edward that I haven't been to D.C. since 2009, and start into my favorite story about taking the Amtrak alone, writing the whole ride, alighting at Union Station and getting a cab and feeling so independent. I tell him about seeing the monuments from a tour trolley in the freezing cold ("It was April, it was supposed to be warm, it was the Cherry Blossom Festival") and seeing The White House where there was a protest. Then the famous punchline -- it was an anti-circumcision protest. 

"I've never protested before," I keep saying. I'm scared but manage to sleep.

Edward and I set alarms for 6 am, we have to meet Kel and the girls at 7:15 am sharp. 

The alarm goes off the next morning and my eyes feel...sore. I put on a pair of jeans and tennis shoes, I hide my purse in my larger overnight bag and only tie the essentials to my chest in an old passport pouch. We go to breakfast buffet. A woman looks over at Edward's pink sweater. 

"I hope a lot of people show up. He's wearing pink, but maybe I'm reading too much into it." 

All is quiet in Silver Lake, Maryland, at 7 am until Edward and I make it to the station platform and we realize that everyone going to the march is there. My heavy eyelids perk up, a smile crosses my face. We're not alone, and everyone is exuberant instead of angry. Kel and company arrive in pink just in time for the train. We exit the metro near The National Mall and start walking to find coffee. 

There is an Au Bon Pain right off the march route, and it's packed. The line is wrapped around the interior three times. A barista is holding a hot vat of coffee high above the crowd. 

"Excuse me, hot coffee," he says, and places the dispenser right beside Edward and I. 

"Has it been crowded?" someone asks. 

"Yeah, but a really polite crowd, much nicer than yesterdays crowd that's for sure," he says, mentioning the inauguration crowd from the day before.

We walk back to a meeting point, where Kel's friend is gathering people from a nonprofit organization to pass out posters. There's a memorable moment on a bathroom break: the women's line is longer than the men's line (naturally) and one of the elderly woman kicks open the door and yells, "I'm coming in! We have to fight the patriarchy and the man, and just make our own way!" Other women follow-suit, and suddenly the sexes mixed in each bathroom laughing uproariously. 

I make a mental note, that I'm going to blog about that moment no matter what. 

The group starts to gather for the rally just a block or two away. Edward and I find out that if we hold hands on our walk, we get television cameras in our face. 

"We're, 'That Interracial Couple at the Women's March,'" I whisper to him with a hell of a lot of snark.


The first six hours, are the worst. A crowd forms near The National Mall around 8 am to watch the rally on a big screen. Everyone is shoulder to shoulder. That big breakfast wears off and I wonder if anyone will be able to hold it together until 1 pm, when the official march is supposed to begin. 

Around 9 am, the crowd starts screaming “Am-bu-lance. Am-bu-lance.” The first casualty. This will happen about five more times, someone at one time screaming, “Does anyone have a blood sugar checker?” About five doctors part the crowd but they are helpless without an ENT to lift the body for a man who has passed out. I look around and notice that there’s no cops in eyesight, but why would there be — there are probably cameras everywhere.

For the Rally portion of the march, several celebrities make speeches and bands play music. It would be fun but it’s not what anyone is there for, we’re there to say things, to make noise. For a long time we've watched the news, read articles, felt powerless and out of control, and this is finally the moment we get to express ourselves. We're tired of listening to people at microphones, it's our turn.

The crowd gets more and more angry as we get closer and closer to 1 pm. “When are we actually going to start marching?” someone asks. Even if it muffles the rally, a small group even starts to scream, "March! March! March!" The crowd decides that they’ve had enough. 

“Everyone turn around and start walking,” someone shouts. We’re just going to do this, and so we start off in any direction where there is room. It’s disorganized. Most of the walking paths are short lived and end on giant fields and streets that start to look like street fairs. Our group finds multiple groups to follow down the streets.

The chants are as thus: 

“Hey-hey, ho-ho, Donald Trump has got to go.” 
“We will not go away, welcome to your first day.” 
“We need a leader, not a creepy Tweeter.” “This is what democracy looks like; this is what America looks like.”
"Thank you Obama! Thank you Obama!" 

I get the feeling like I’m going to cry whenever I see a sign that I agree with, or just because some rage and disappointment floods me and because I still feel like a pawn in a very large, hard to fight game. We have work to do. This is an exasperating feeling of helplessness that I’ve felt long before the election began. 

Despite this, there is an overarching feeling of happiness, too. People find moments to dance to a jazz band that's playing, to laugh, to be polite to each other. You'd think the crowd would be showing more of their rage, but it's good we're civilized. My parents text me: "Don't go to jail." I read this to my friends and they all laugh, it seems unlikely now. 

After a few more hours of marching, we find the end of the trail. The protesters have dissipated to bars and restaurants or the nearby T station. Edward and I are taking a rental car back the same night. We have six hours of road to cover. We expect to be back in New York by midnight. 

We take a train to Silver Springs, grab dinner, pick up our bags at the hotel and took the train back to the airport to get a rental car. A heavy fog settles over D.C. as we exit. 

"Ah, all the monuments look so beautiful glowing in the dark," I say to Edward. 

We sing oldies songs on the way home and stop at a rest stop in Delaware, stretching our legs beside buses of admirable women in pink gear.

Even though I'm inspired by being surrounded by like-minded people in a safe forum, I also feel discouraged, lazy, and anxious. Sure, we'd had a success that day. But we couldn't all party and rejoice without keeping the momentum going for the many months or years that we would need to. Showing up was only 1/4 of the battle.

Edward and I make it to New York around 2 am. My feet hurt, my lower back sore and I'm losing my voice (a seasoned protester was trying to tell me to preserve it, but I was such a newbie). When I close my eyes to sleep, I think about our rental car headlights on the highway and feel the movement of the car. Roads to cover, hours to drive, unfinished, urgent business. Work to be done.