The Weeklies: April 14 - 21

One fall day, at sunset, I put on a new double breasted sweater I'd bought for a date. I walked from my UES apartment down to the MET Museum, my date a tall Harvard alum with floppy black hair, smiled at me. "Our steps!" he said, referring to our exchange earlier in the day. He thought the steps were romantic and I disagreed, they were too public to be intimate. 

We bought our tickets and took an escalator to the Turner exhibit, and I was quickly corrected. God, the MET was the perfect place for a date. You could part from your partner and still hear the floor creaking as they left you. You could get lost in the wrong era or continent and find your way back, together. It's all in the atmosphere.

Afterwards we walked to dinner where, on either side of us in the intimate restaurant, other couples were on dates. I was 24-years-old, on only my third date in my entire life and it felt to so cosmopolitan. I felt like every one of my college math class day dreams. In them, New York is a series of parties at very progressive restaurants or very old cocktail bars followed by Lincoln Center or a museum or the park. 

I mention all of this because this week felt like a mash up of what I thought New York was like before I moved here. I started the week of with an empty calendar an ended it having attended a series of parties, even another romantic evening at the MET museum with Alistair.

Monday was forgettable. Tuesday, Alistair and I had dinner with his friend at Tomoe Sushi. Its a bright, tiny place with a consistent queue on the sidewalk. Our friend had just returned from a trip with his wife to a "warm place." New Yorkers right now are desperate for consistent warm weather. I clung to his every description of his vacation and the pool. We walked south after dinner and had cocktails at Peculiar Pub (Bullet on the rocks).

Wednesday I had a long telephone call with my father who revealed to me information of high importance: we'd found out what African tribes his family is from, the Bubi's and the Kru's. I almost cried learning this. It left such a good feeling with me through the week. 

Thursday night Alistair hosted a dinner party and I told him I'd buy the wine. I slid a bottle of Otto's Constant Dream across the counter of Alistair's usual wine store, and looked at the shop keeper. She reminded me of the owner of the store, who has a cute pug that wears a diaper and often sits by the cash register. 

"Is the owner your mom?" I asked her. 

"No, gosh no. My mom is much older," the woman said. My face turned bright red and I resolved never to go in that wine shop again.

The dinner party, however, was a hit. At this point, Alistair and I are so efficient at setting the table and move about the kitchen a balletic cohesion. As the Coq a Riesling simmered on the stove we slow danced in our aprons. The guests left at midnight. 

Friday, Alistair and I planned on attending an event at the museum. One of people I chatted with at a work event happened to be a well-regarded artist. We had a good talk, and I'd given her my card. She then emailed me an invitation to see her prints on view at the MET Museum. I was honored to. I invited Alistair and we would make a night of it. On the four train headed uptown after work, I sighed dreamily. "I love going to the Met at night," I said. 

"You're so excited," Alistair laughed. 

We checked our things and got lost in ancient Greece. About three museum guides kept telling us which hallways to take and we kept missing them all. A discrete elevator in the museum store finally took us to a crowded, bustling room. 

Again, this was exactly how I imagined New York before I moved here. 

We moved through the crowd admiring the prints for sale and got ourselves a glass of wine. The artist was being chatted up and recognized me immediately. She walked me through her work, including some she had done with a few famous poets. A Getty photographer was there getting shots, and a few lucky people were actually buying stuff. Alistair and I met many new faces that were all very kind. I talked of Alabama, New York real estate, restaurants, Europe. 

We said goodbye and went back through the maze of exhibits, this time getting lost in Rome on our way. We wanted to rush through the Versailles exhibit but a staff member told us the museum was closing. 

I took the train home. Round 10 pm I slid a piece of cod into the oven with some asparagus and felt very grown up. (Yet, not grown up enough read my mail marked "Action Required for 401K") I texted Philippa and Suni to tell them about what a good week I was having. My "rut" was disappearing. 

The Weeklies: April 7 - 14

On Wednesday afternoon I went to the dentist. I'd spent the whole day with a piece of my tooth in my purse, nervously checking over and over to make sure it was still there. I watched as the dentist pulled out his tools, the worst part of a dentist visit. I looked over and noticed a syringe. 

"Could you tell me about the process?" I asked nervously. 

"Well, first we take an impression of your tooth. Then we'll numb the area and drill it down and put it a temporary crown." 

"Last time I had a crown I wasn't numbed," I said. 

He then gave me the option of drilling without the numbing, and if I felt uncomfortable -- 

"We'll get that in there and keep going," he said jovially. 

The first two impressions were too much for me. All that putty in my mouth! I felt like I couldn't breathe and nervously tapped my fingers on my legs as drool fell all over my leather shirt. 

Then the drilling began and it was painless. I closed my eyes and tried to zone out.

"We're going to go deeper," he said, selecting a larger drill bit.

It was then, that I felt it. It's like an electricity radiating from my gums to my feet. Embarrassingly, I had him administer the numbing agent. My mouth gushed with blood. 

"I'm sorry I'm such a baby," I said. The dentist gives me a high five. 

"You went 95% of the way without it."

That night the numbness wore off and a roaring pain began in my jaws. I took a pain medicine and went to bed early feeling less like a champ and more like an idiot who was too cavalier. 

I've been trying very hard to write about Thursday and Friday. My thoughts and feelings, as they have been these past few months, were hard to grasp. The weather both days in New York was idyllic. Sunny, 70-something-degrees but my stomach was in knots. I was invited to a work event Friday afternoon, and I was nervous. It went OK. After the event my boss told me I didn't have to return to the office, so I went on a walk and sat for a moment in Union Square enjoying the sun. Everyone was out in shorts and planning trips to beer gardens. 

On Saturday it was another beautiful day. I had a birthday party during to attend that afternoon. Alistair and I took a long walk and cooked an easy dinner together before settling down to watch a movie. I told Alistair: "I've been good about caring less about what people think of me these days." But then I wonder: how should one behave in the world when you stop caring? I'm growing weary of something, perhaps myself? Or perhaps of fixing things, or having things to fix even after climbing past hurdles.

But if you told me you were "weary of fixing things" that, I'd tell you that you were weary of life in general. 

The Weeklies: March 31 - April 7

Twice this year I’ve been on cold beaches in knee-heigh boots. Both times digging into the sand with Alistair by my side, trying to take selfies with our faces to the sun. Every time they turn out with our head and shoulders dark; the beach the star of the show. 

It was Easter Sunday. To refresh your memory from last week, Alistair's two friends invited us to stay with them at their waterfront home in Orient, N.Y. for the weekend. They have the most gorgeous beach house I've ever been in, which they've designed in a modern, minimalist style. To borrow the phrase from a friend, it was pure "lifestyle porn" -- the Smeg fridge and oven range! Vertical slats! The matte black rain shower and subway tile! It was like being inserted into AD magazine. I was so jealous my ears burned red hot to the touch.

Saturday we did a hike to Orient Point and on Sunday Alistair’s friends took us to an Easter Egg hunt with their kids. Then we decided to pick up garbage at the beach. 

“The kids hunted for eggs and the adults hunted for trash,” I said jokingly. My dad’s company organized beach cleanups for PR to purposes when I was a kid. We once had our photos in the paper holding up bags of trash. No one knew we went to a catered lunch at a private club and swam afterwards—the real reason anyone went in the first place. I was long overdue for a "real" beach cleanup.

This beach was rocky compared to the long Gulf Coast stretches I cleaned as a child. To cross it completely you needed to climb up boulders covered in garbage: single sneakers, busted sails and Bud Light cans. The water was more green and clear than at my favorite beach (Ditch Plains). The tide was low with no sand in sight just smooth pebbles in green, black and pink. “This is the ocean floor,” I said. 

At one point we all climbed up the highest rock and sat to look at the horizon. This is what indie films are made of: New friends and old friends being silent and contemplative on moody beaches in the winter. 

Alistair and I got into our rental car and I looked briefly at my phone. A random Instagram user sent me a video singing a song about me and my blog (this blog!). 

“Oh my god, oh my god,” I kept saying as we got closer to the house. I showed everyone and we laughed at the Internet and how random it was. 

In the late afternoon Alistair and I agreed to drive to Greenport to get supplies and wine for dinner. My heart fluttered at the thought of going to IGA, the same spot where I buy my booze and snacks in Montauk, because everything that reminds me of Montauk makes me smile. The store was closed, but Alistair wanted to park anyway and see main street. 

Down by the water we paused to watch a ferry depart for Shelter Island. A bee landed on my neck and I told Alistair the story of being stung by a bee in Shelter Island years ago. 

Back at the house we opened the wine, played a game of Clue and Alistair repurposed a little sauce from Citarella and ground beef into a bolognese with zucchini and carrots borrowed from the neighbors. The sun set. From their windows you could see it sink behind the trees, bouncing off the water. "The Instagram moment," we laughed.

Over dinner, we talked at length about the weather. New York was in the middle of a long winter. Snow was due the next day. We went to bed at 10 pm, and when we woke up, everything was covered. Six inches in total.

After having breakfast and when the snow stopped, we thanked our gracious hosts and headed back to New York. We had an early dinner at an Afghani restaurant. 

The rest of the week was slow. Alistair's birthday was Wednesday and I bought him a vase from the MOMA store, and we had dinner at his favorite place, Hanjan. The slow week continued to today, where I write to you from my bedroom. The ceiling work persists in the living room. Already I can see, everything is covered in dust. 

The Weeklies: March 24 - 31

If you compress the events of last week into one sentence it looks like a joke: they fixed the ceiling, we threw a dinner party, I cracked a tooth over breakfast and spit out an off-white chunk into my hand (revealing that it was a vertical crack, split down the middle of my molar), I helped some tourists find their way to Amy Ruth's, I met a memoirist I like and made a fool of myself. 

But the punchline is more illusive than the set up. If the essay doesn’t have a conclusion, why write it at all except to convey an atomsophere? And that’s all I’ve got for this week. A bunch of stories with nothing decided at the end. 

Sunday morning I waited around on the sofa for the super to come and finish the ceiling. They finally arrived at one o'clock and worked till 3. The result: a puffy cloud like pattern of fresh drywall on the ceiling. 

“Next week we paint,” he said. 

I headed directly from home to the boyfriend's house to prep for our dinner party. We were having my sister and her boyfriend over and needed at least 10 hours minimum to cook and marinate the Cabernet Sauvignon Short Ribs. It was a patchy day -- a little cooking, a bit of television, and sushi lunch. By seven o'clock the smell of roast meat wafted through the living room and kitchen and my sister and her boyfriend both were enjoying wine and salad. In the middle of dinner my boyfriend received an invitation for us both to visit and stay with his friends in Orient, N.Y. Considering how much I love the area, I was thrilled.

There was nothing of note Monday besides my weekly writing group.

As I wrote before, Tuesday was a surprise. Like every nightmare I've ever had, one of my teeth fell out of my mouth during breakfast. It was a vertical split down the middle and sharp enough that it hurt my tongue. I suffered through meals all week until Thursday, when finally I purchased a piece of temporary filling. With hands that shook, I plunged a piece of the putty substance into my broken tooth while praying Dear God, let this work.

Thursday night I went shopping and on my way home, two women stopped me in the train station. 

"Does this train go to Harlem?" one of them asked. 

"Where do you want to go?" I asked. 

"Amy Ruth's," she said. Oh of course, I thought, and directed them to take the 3 train with me. We ended up sitting together, and told me that they were visiting for an Urban League conference, only in town for a few days, from Kansas City and Ft. Lauderdale. Both were in their fifties, dressed in the standard tourist attire (read: comfort). One of them worked as a counselor to students from low income families, which I found very admirable.

They asked me about my life and I asked what they had gotten to do in the city so far (just Times Square). I tried my best not to push any conversation, as I have a habit of filling silences with chatter but lately, as I get into my "give no f#@$! days" I just sit in silence when I have nothing else to say. Then suddenly one of them said: 

"Well, I suppose living here is a fun exciting thing to do for awhile...it's good you have this experience, temporarily...do you have any kids? Are there any smooth talking men? I hope you stay away from them....that magazine you work for, is it a good, clean, magazine? Nothing too gossipy and immoral, right? Do you have a car? Well, I suppose you don't need one..." 

I got off at 96 and instructed them to get off in a few more stops. Then I wished them well. 

"God keeps sending us angels," one of them said as I exited. I stepped out onto the platform and laughed. 

Friday night my boyfriend and I rented a car for our weekend trip. We took the West Side Highway south at sunset. In the morning we set off East, making stops along the North Fork for lunch and dinner supplies. Every little town reminded me of the last time I was in the North Fork: the infamous trip to Shelter Island with Harry

Late that night, I climbed into bed and told the boyfriend: "I have to do some writing." I fell asleep without doing it. 

The Weeklies: March 17 - 24

The story of my life right now: the doctor switched my prescription to a generic after a short break and every day has been consumed with afternoon nausea. I mention this because it has made me an irritable on top of the funk I'm already experiencing. Sunday afternoon I stepped out of my apartment and into the cold, and I asked myself, "am I getting depressed again or is it the medicine?" (If you've known me a long time you know that depression for me is like a far away gathering storm, in the times that I'm diagnosed I always will have seen it coming for months in advance.) 

On Sunday I had plans for brunch with a group of friends. New York brunches are often marathons, starting in early afternoon and ending at dinner. I felt a little like the sour-sport who ran out of steam too soon. I was giddy and excited in the first half, but by five o'clock I felt like the frustrated version of myself. Even the jokes were going over my head. That evening I went to visit the boyfriend at his apartment in Brooklyn. After a discussion about Roald Dahl, I convinced him to watch "The Witches." He hadn't seen it! My dad, sister and I spent so many hours watching the film together. Our favorite line "I never liked cock-a-leek-e soup!" and the scene where the chef get a mouse in his pants? Ollie never saw me laugh so hard, even though I saw it one trillion times.

Then what followed was a typical workweek with a minor interruption. Monday I was terribly impatient with myself. Tuesday, even more still. Wednesday, mother nature gave me the break I needed: a snow day.

For me, snow is still a new thing. I can't talk about it with the familiarity that I talk about hurricanes or warm weather. I've written and said it a hundred times, snow only comes to Mobile, Alabama (my hometown) once every four years. Until I've lived in this climate longer than I lived in the south, it will always be magical. I spent the day wandering from room to room watching television and cooking chicken thighs in mustard sauce.  

Thursday came and passed without much incident. To cure the blues, I treated myself to a manicure at my favorite nail salon, Tenoverten. 

Friday afternoon my boyfriend decided to meet for a drink. I had been feeling lightheaded at work, but I pulled myself together and met him at Fraunces Tavern. I could only stomach a ginger beer and a cheese plate. We outlined the weekend plans: one dinner party at his, a little relaxing, and my super coming by to fix the ceiling. Yet again, in a sort of overwhelming stress and tiredness and malaise, I wanted to do neither of those things besides sleep. 

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.