The Weeklies: February 3 - 9

Last Sunday, Alistair and I decided to run errands on the upper west side. I re-told Alistair all of my favorite Columbus Circle stories. He laughed at how excited I became and how quickly I spoke as we passed my favorite places. 

Our first stop was Sur La Table. We Facetimed with Alistair's friends in Sweden, bought ourselves Nespresso pods and a butter dish, then headed further uptown to West Elm where Alistair bought a drink stand to sit beside his Eames chair. We lugged it to the subway and had dinner at home. 

The warm weather on Monday and Tuesday lifted my spirits slightly. You see, I had been in a boredom trap, so on Tuesday I made a list of new things to try, specifically, things that scared me. I emailed a French teacher from Craigslist for a Skype lesson in intermediate French, I decided to join a gym (but haven't yet). Even still, I feel like I need something more.  Alistair listened sweetly as I pouted about not traveling this week on my days off, about not having any friends in town, and general winter malaise. 

On Wednesday a reprieve: after work I took a ferry to Greenpoint for a book launch with my colleagues. It was raining but through the windows of the boat the New York skyline and Brooklyn Bridge were glorious. We stopped at a bar beforehand for burgers and fries. I took the G train home and returned to the apartment sopping wet.

Saturday morning I put on my nicer pajamas, pulled back my hair, and did an introductory Skype call with my French teacher. I told Alistair to watch something loud on TV, I was so nervous, so worried about making a mistake. When you write as much as I do, you consider being articulate as your only strength. Then when you speak in another language it feels...debilitating and embarrassing. My teacher kept pausing, "Are you sure you're comfortable?" she asked. I wasn't. I was mortified. 

That afternoon I took Alistair out to his favorite brunch spot, Bessou, to thank him for helping me move. It's a charming place that barely gets the crowd it deserves. We both ordered miso soup and beef short rib with potatoes and poached eggs. Mid-meal Topper Harris called. I hadn't spoken to him in three years. 

"Topper! What's happenin'?" I said. I told him I was at brunch and planned to have him call me in the evening to catch up. Around 6 pm Alistair put on a tux and left for a work function. I used the opportunity to watch all my favorite trashy TV shows. Topper called and I talked his ear off and from his suggestion, ordered pizza from a (believe it or not) place that served pies in the same style as pizzeria's in Nice, France. 

"Don't forget to ask for their chili oil on the side," he said. 

At 10 pm my pizza arrived and I ate it in front of the TV; a slumber party for one. 

The Weeklies: January 28 - February 2

"Do you want to say goodbye?" Alistair asked. We were at the threshold of my old apartment. We'd dumped the last of my furniture (my old beige couch, a white dining room table and my childhood desk) with the help of two Task Rabbits. Someone came by and bought my bookshelf. 

I told Alistair that I didn't want to say goodbye, but that was only because it would make me cry. I fought for that apartment. It was the first place I paid rent for on my own. Living there felt like ultimate independence. 

I handed off the keys to the super and got a Lyft back to Brooklyn. 

The temperature dipped down into single digits on Wednesday. I normally hate cold weather (unless there is snow!) but when I stepped out of the apartment and shivered to the bus stop I realized: this weather makes me feel alive. 

You see, I've been bored lately. I need something new. I know I just moved but I've been waiting to move for five months, so it definitely doesn't feel new. But cold weather? Feeling my toes and fingers tingle in a new way? This was something that could challenge me. 

That day there was a snow squall warning and for twenty minutes the wind whipped up around us and the snow fell horizontally as if my office were in a tornado.  Everyone got up from their desks and watched. And after it was over, the sun came out again, and everything was still.

Thursday night I made homemade chili with cornbread for Alistair. Friday I had to speak at a meeting but was so terrible I went back to my desk holding back tears. Nothing worth noting happened on Friday or night or Saturday. 

The Weeklies: January 19 - 26

There is a story I always tell: There was one semester in college that I befriended a girl in my English class named Kristen.

Mobile, Alabama, the southern town where I went to college and spent the bulk of my life, is homogenous to a fault. Kristen had the air of someone from far away, and when we first spoke, she confirmed it. She’d grown up in California, met a boy from Mobile, and moved to Mobile to be with him.

“But, it’s so dumb,” she said. “I moved here and we can’t live together.” 

Two other girls in the class who were listening, sighed heavily, nodding to each other.  

“Living in sin,” they said. 

“It’s not like that in LA,” said Kristen. 

Myself and the other classmates tried to sum up the larger reasoning behind the rule.  

“Well, you’ll be married soon,” one of the other girls said. 

“A Catholic wedding,” Kristen interjected. “So we can drink.”

On the last day of class I saw Kristen easing late into her seat. Someone asked her if she was taking the second class in the program.

“I broke off my engagement,” she said flatly. “I imagine myself in New York.”

#


At a wedding reception In a little room off the main dining room at Le Petit Retro, in Paris, Alistair and I were making conversation with one of the party guests. 

"Where do you live?" he asked us. We both gave our separate neighborhoods--me uptown in Washington Heights, him in Brooklyn. There was a one-hour-and-thirty-minute train ride between our homes. We finished the story with our usual joke: "Essentially, it's like a long distance relationship."  

Everyone laughed. 

"You should live together," he said. Alistair smiled demurely. 

"Ariel would be a great roommate," he said. 

"Why not? Really, why not?" the guest asked. 

Why not? 

Whenever Alistair and I brought up the subject, I brought up my reservations. No one I knew back home had moved in with a partner. Alabama was conservative and my very small community was extremely Catholic. Everyone married early and went straight from living alone to living together as a married couple. I would expect to make my parents very angry, I'd expect to have a few old friends (and even their parents) grow apart from me. I would be leaving Manhattan, with the tall buildings and the buzzy energy, for Brooklyn, a hip scene that I never ever feel at home in. So, there was that to consider.

The hours of schlepping and the hour-and-ten-minute commute to the office continued for another year. The summer passed, and Alistair suggested when my lease was up in February of 2019 to consider it again. I decided that I would do it, and thus began our plan.

Over Christmas break I packed my things and just last weekend the movers arrived. On the MLK holiday we found spaces for all my clothes and photo albums and artwork in Alistair's airy, maximalist, parlor-floor apartment. It already feels like home here. 

Alistair's family is so happy about our decision. Me? I've relied on the support of Suni and Philippa and the clerk at the storage facility where my furniture is, my coworkers, and customer service agents for all the home services I've cancelled. 

People are always telling me, "You can't please everyone." But that line doesn't work on me anymore, it has to be more extreme, I have to say: "You will make enemies." Because I will. If I live the life I've wanted for myself, naturally, people will disagree. That's OK. 


Last week was my first week here. I've watched television with Alistair, wrote, admired my books on the bookshelf and made a Moroccan lamb tagine. It is as blissful as I imagined. 

My Brokers, My Friends

November of 2013, my real-estate broker, Mike, and I were standing on the stoop of a Harlem walk-up, ringing the bell. I realized that this was our third Saturday in a row together touring uptown apartments in the bitter cold. It hadn't become torturous. It was fun. 

"You're way better than the other broker I last had," I said.

"Some clients and brokers don't have good chemistry," he said. The use of "chemistry" struck me as laughable. I had done enough apartment searches in New York to know that brokers should be filed in the same compartment as used car salesmen: oily, untrustworthy, fast talkers who only dealt in absolutes: "there is no such thing as a studio in West Village under $3,000," "you're not going to find this anywhere," or "we have only the most exclusive listings in the city." Until that moment, I had considered my relationship with my brokers as business transactions, just like exchanging money for coffee with my barista. But the more I thought about it and considered Mike and all my those before him, I noticed how many of my brokers still liter my inbox, sprinkle LinkedIn endorsements, and befriend me on social media.

My 2013 apartment search involved four brokers including Mike. The first I call the "Broker from Hell." We first met in his Times Square office, a long, gigantic room filled with desks and prospective renters listening off their requirements. He was in his late 50s, gruff and wore sunglasses indoors. We went to Harlem on the train, but he wouldn't acknowledge that he knew me while we rode, not even alerting me of our stop. In a junior-one in Harlem, he excused himself to go to the bathroom and did so with the door wide open. "Seriously?" I whispered when I heard his tinkle and saw a little brown member peeking out. 

After him I had a tall, blonde tennis player in his late 50s, who always showed up in exercise clothes. 

"I like clients who can walk fast," he said as we skirted down the sidewalks.

"That's fine because I walk fast," I said. We split up to pass a slow, elderly couple in Inwood. 

"The Two-Person-Pass!" he said, assigning it a sports term. "Classic!"

He used code words for everything we saw. "This neighborhood is... aggressive," he said once. Then, at another location, he pointed to the block we approached, "Let's just say there's a lot of commerce on this corner." (Read: drug deals.)

The apartments I wanted were gone the next day, so we never had the occasion to meet again. That night we parted ways on Dykman, he was ducking into a restaurant for dinner. 

"Stay warm!" he said. "Oh and Ariel, you can walk with me anytime." 

I'd passed his walking test. 

For two weeks I had a chatty girl who showed me a unit I liked and applied for. She let me in her office after-hours to fill out the paperwork. Her other colleague was there, a former modern dancer in his 40s. I told him I grew up dancing for a local ballet company in the south. Upon hearing this, he sat down in front of me and hung his head. We started having the conversations people have after-hours when the boss is gone and the formalities unnecessary. A cleaning person had shut off all the lights.

"I'm losing my creativity," he said. "So I booked a ticket to go to Burning Man. I'm going alone. I just need this. I know I need it. Something in me is lost. I feel like I can find it there." 

All the brokers I met were either on their second career try, or students. The ones on their second careers were more apt to have deep conversations with me. I, in turn, was inherently curious about his struggle, but I would never find out if he made it to Burning Man. The apartment I wanted had a better candidate so I never saw them again.

My last broker, Mike, was a broker-in-training by his 21-year-old superior, a guy named Jasper. Mike did the majority of the dirty-work, hitting the streets to show me the units. It involved a lot of buzzing strangers to get into buildings and cold weather commutes. By our third go-round we were buying each other coffee, I was trying to help him get a new boyfriend and he was giving me recommendations for new facalists in Manhattan. When we saw a gorgeous apartment in Inwood, we joked about how nice it would be to throw parties there. "If I get it, I'll invite you!" I caught myself saying and recanting. "I mean, just kidding."

In the evenings I met he and Jasper at their offices to turn in applications. I liked seeing them work together. Jasper would come in wearing a brown fur coat with a large collar that spread over his entire chest, Mike would poke him, "With that 'Olivia Pope' coat on!". They had a pet beta fish. "But we think he's dead, we aren't sure." Mike got a gleam in his eye when he was negotiating, but the results were always dismal. I was the worst candidate: I was renting alone, my income was low, my credit was so-so. Mike and Jasper were not giving up.

One weeknight I raced up the stairs to meet Mike at a one-bed on St. Nicholas. The power in the place hadn't been cut on, so we turned on our iPhone flashlights to view it in the dark.

"It's the last one bedroom under $1200 in New York," said the super. I gave him the "yeah, and I was born yesterday" but was sold as we toured it. The floors, walls, molding and appliances were all new. My queen sized bed would have a lot of room to breathe in the bedroom. The windows in the living room were big and wide. The subway was only two blocks north.

"I'll take it," I said. I was approved, a lease signing was scheduled for Black Friday, but Jasper called on Thanksgiving day with bad news. The building had a fire the previous year, and the displaced tenant claimed the apartment was theirs. With my current lease up and the new tenant coming within the week, I was forced to camp out at a sublet in Chelsea -- this was officially an emergency.

We hit the pavement. Mike took me to see everything even in the late evenings after work. Jasper commiserated with me when I sobbed into the phone after my applications kept getting rejected.

A month passed and Jasper called excitedly. The original apartment was mine again, the dispute settled in my favor. I met Jasper at a lease signing in the Bronx in late January. It was snowing. He drove me back to my sublet in his car. We got stuck in traffic, which led to the kind of candid conversations I only have with brokers that I'll never see again.

"You'll let me know how those those things go with your career," he said. "text me."

Spring and summer passed, and in fall I threw a housewarming party. My original email invite included my Mike and Jasper, I missed the laughs and this triumph was theirs and mine. After a day of thinking it over, I decided against it. 

The Weeklies: January 6 - 12

Sunday afternoon I jumped on a Google hangout call with Suni and Philippa. These days, as I go through several life-changes, they feel like friends and  co-conspirators. I took their well wishes and support and carried it with me all week long. I had to hang up after a few hours but I could have talked all evening long. 

I headed to Brooklyn to have dinner with Alistair's family (the same group that I spent Thanksgiving with). It was lovely to end the weekend this way. On Monday, the holidays were officially over. School children returned to school and their parents returned to their early morning commutes. The trains were crowded again.

#

On Tuesday Alistair suggested we meet up for a drink after work. I took the 1 train to West Village and alighted on Christopher Street. The pace on the street was quick, the middle of rush hour. I stepped lively toward Sixth Avenue and looked up at a familiar face. A guy I used to date, a consistently well-dressed man who had a hazelnut Vizsla. I looked down at the sidewalk, and he looked straight ahead. I felt my heart racing nervously. 

I slipped into Goods for the Study. I love paper and pen stores. In Paris I spent almost an hour at Delphonics, my favorite Japanese paper store. I had decided earlier on Tuesday that a trip to the paper store would a treat. As a child I wrote voraciously and as an adult stacks of notebooks fill the living room. A paper store makes me connect to my core self in a nostalgic way. I circled the floor taking note of the paper stock; running my hand on the leather covers. I bought a spiral black notebook made in Japan. 

I walked from there to Corkbuzz, a little wine bar and restaurant Alistair took me to on New Years Day. It's so relaxed and quiet and the staff is nice. We ordered a flight of wine and whipped ricotta. I felt less stressed in an instant. 

#

Alistair and I decided we'd do something cultural on Friday night. I picked the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and dinner at a place I'd never heard of before: Shalel Lounge. 

The MOMA will forever remind me of my first years in New York. (There was that one time I circulated the galleries alone for hours with a squished fly on my face. A guard came up to me, "Are you OK?" he asked. It wasn't till I looked in the mirror of a bathroom that I realized it was there.) Friday nights at the MOMA are free, so Alistair and I expected a crowd. The line for coat check reminded me of a JFK airport security line. The Charles White exhibit, which we actually didn't know was on, was worse. I felt like I was always fighting just to get a view of something, only to finally get my view blocked by someone else. 

We decided to take the B train uptown to dinner. We raced to catch the arriving train. I put my metro card in the wrong pocket, and when I reached into my pocket to get my phone the Metrocard flew onto the tracks. It was annual Metrocard, one that refilled without me doing a thing. I sighed and looked down at it from afar. 

"Should we call someone?" Alistair asked as the train barreled into the station. 

I could have called a station attendant to pick up the card. I could have waited for another train. I just shrugged and told him to forget it. We got on the train and headed uptown. The card was the least important thing on my mind. The camel's back was carrying a full load.

#


In the west 70s Alistair and I descended a nondescript set of stairs into Shalel Lounge, a Moroccan restaurant. I pointed to the rose petals on the stairs and told Alistair that it was considered "extremely romantic" restaurants in the city. We had Negroni's at the lounge and then our waitress pointed to our table down a narrow hall.

"It's that table all the way back there," she said. Alistair and I exchanged a glance. The table was the only one at the end of a brick hall. It was like having our own little restaurant. 

"This is truly candlelit dinner," exclaimed Alistair. 

There was a table around the corner, and though we were far we could hear their conversation. Four women in their 50s, swingers, discussing their escapades. Alistair and I exchanged wide-eyed glances while we dug into our tagines. 

Alistair and I spoke wistfully about our wish to go to Morocco. Even if our talks were about far-away possibilities, it just felt nice to imagine myself anywhere with Alistair.

The Weeklies: December 30 - January 5

New Years Eve, Greenpoint, 2016: I found myself in a dark party room, trying to cross into another room. The venue was a three-story maze with karaoke and mini golf in the basement, several ballrooms with gold balloons, DJs and lights on the ground floor, and live bands on the top floor. There was a drunk girl also stuck waiting for the crowds to pass. She was barely conscious, falling all over me, stepping on my feet in high heels and drooling. I held her up and got her to sit in a chair. It was then that I realized that the party was no longer fun and it was time to go home. We didn’t even make it to midnight.

One of Alistair's roommates, visiting from Europe, had also been there. We saw him a few days later. 

"Did you have fun New Years Eve?" we asked.

"No, it was terrible," he said. "I thought it was going to be...everything." He looked up to the sky hopefully, and then he shrugged. Oh, the naivety! I remember very clearly thinking that my first New Years Eve was going to be like a movie. After a few years you learn that you will never meet a masked stranger, you'll never kiss said masked stranger. You'll spend one hour in line trying to get in, two hours trying to order a drink, an a half hour or more trying to get a cab home. One year I stood on 14th Street in a cocktail dress waiting forever. Around 3 o'clock in the morning I took the bus with other people in cocktail attire. I stood up the whole ride.

For this reason I've stopped making plans on New Years Eve. Alistair and I spent the holiday together, at his home, watching movies and episodes of "Fraiser." We had pesto and bucatini and opened a bottle of prosecco. I wasn't feeling in the mood for New Years Eve. My mood didn't improve the next, day, or the next day after that. I was happy though, to get up early, eat breakfast, get on the train and go to the office. I'd been living in a very lonely world for the holiday break. I was anxious to see people and to feel motivated.

#

On my Thursday night commute home my train rolled in to the 28th Street Station. A woman exited the train and left her cell phone on the seat. Another woman jumped up and chased after her with it. She tried to get back on the train but the doors closed in her face. Everyone on the platform and the train gasped sadly that she had to miss her train and more importantly, her seat on that nearly empty train. The good samaritan shrugged. 

"It's OK," she said. 

Would I ever do that? I asked myself on my walk home. When I was younger I was sure I was a good person. Now I feel like a facade. Someone who makes mistakes with enough grace that no one notices.  

#

After a short work week I spent Friday and Saturday cleaning my apartment. I turned on trash TV and started sifting through the bags of unopened mail and travel trinkets. I ran across my map from my trip to London it was still creased the way it was in my pocket on that trip. The hotel concierge who gave it to me (a very charming man with a dangly earring in his left ear) drew circles around the Westminster stop and the London Eye and Hyde Park. He convinced me to take the tube, "It's quite simple, ma'am." 

I write about that trip a lot. The map made me cry happy tears. I tucked it with the papers to keep and smiled. 

I also ran across my notebook from my 2012 trip to Paris. I kept all my writing in a white notebook with black polka dots. The front cover has a chocolate stain from Pierre Hermé macarons (my favorites). It's another trip I write about a lot and think about constantly. I flipped through it and found my entry from my day at Versailles. 

My mood improved.

A 2018 Recap

In Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy.

In Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy.

My 2018 felt like one long Whit Stillman film: a lot of conversations over dinner tables. I had one delightful vacation (the summer trip to Switzerland) beyond that, I accomplished nothing and spent the year wishing I were someone else. 

I managed to learn a few things in 2018. By coincidence, I saw two quotes that really helped me. The first was graffitied on a wall in the park: "Neutrality favors the oppressor," from Elie Wiesel's 1986 Nobel Prize Speech. It motivated me to voice my opinions and to support activist organizations and to quit being so damn passive. Everyday is a fight against myself and what I worry people think of me. The other quote: "People don't care about you, they are thinking about themselves and their constipation," (I don’t know who said it, but I saw it in a meme) reminded me that really, no one cares.

In 2018 I started my Weeklies, a practice that gives me grief and joy. I love writing them, I love that so many people read them, but I also just worry that they aren't helping me grow as a writer. I look at other writers and bloggers with a lot of jealousy. I secretly want to be popular, but I'm not. So even when I'm looking happily at everything I've done in 2018, I'm also angry. I could have done more. 

When my idol, Anthony Bourdain, died earlier this year the mission of this blog became very clear. I want to explore every human emotion. I want to insert some reality among the smiling faces and beautiful breakfast bowls of Instagram and the Brag-book (Facebook). I'm not a happy-go-lucky, positive person and I want to take away the shame surrounding unhappiness. I know that's a really big, nearly unachievable goal, but in 2018 I decided to try. 

I wish I could say I have an exciting 2019 lined up, but I've got time to make some...Happy New Year to you and yours.

The Weeklies: December 23 - 29

On Sunday morning, Alistair's fever broke.

"Let's go get a Christmas tree!" he said. 

"Not so fast, you have to get 100% better," I said. "Why don't we just order a tree?"  

"No, we have to pick it out ourselves, it's part of the fun," he said.  

I grew up with fake Christmas trees. Each year, on Black Friday my father would get the tree out of the storage shed. We would store it in pieces, but we knew how to put it together by heart: first we'd put a green pole in a fake tree stand, then the branches would slide into color-coded holes. It took an hour to untangle the multicolored lights and walk them around the tree, then we'd add the ornaments. My mother had an African-American angel tree-topper she bought in the early 2000s, but when I was younger we topped the tree with a lucite star. This whole "picking a tree thing" was obviously new to me. 

There was a French Canadian tree seller who wrapped up a 6-foot-tall tree for us. Alistair took the back and I hugged the front, and then we slowly walked our way back to his apartment. Its a funny thing to carry a Christmas tree. Everyone stops to snicker, there's nothing more New York City than not having a car to take it home in. Halfway there we had to stop for a break. We were sweating.

"I'm having nightmares of carrying ski equipment as a child in Verbier," sighed Alistair. Then finally, we were back at his apartment. I hung white lights on the tree and we put it in the front window. 

#

Monday was Christmas Eve. I had two objectives: drinks with Philippa and a dinner party at Alistair's. At one o'clock I found myself in a Christmas-themed reindeer lounge. Every wall on the bar covered in lights, wrapping paper or a fake fire. I ordered a hot toddy. When Philippa arrived I felt like I was bursting -- we had so many secrets and news to share among us. Some of it life-changing. She asked me how I felt after last weekend. I wrote about it in my Weekly: I'd been feeling lonely, rejected, embarrassed, among other things. I'm dealing with a stressful family situation, a stressful apartment situation. I wanted to say that I was feeling much better but I'm always vacillating between apathy and rage. 

At four I left Greenpoint and headed to the grocery store. I bought a prime rib roast but the store was out of fresh rosemary. I stopped by two other stores and they were also sold out. Alistair was also grocery shopping and managed to find the last rosemary left: in dirt in the plant department. 

The dinner prep was pure chaos. We host a dinner party nearly once a month but this time we were both stressed. Alistair kept saying he wanted a "grand feast" and I wanted to make a "simple supper." He planned to make a bûche de Noël from scratch. I snapped at him constantly, then in a huff said: "There are too many cooks in this kitchen and I don't want to turn into my parents!" Every holiday dinner one of them yells at the other to "get out of my kitchen." After the buche prep I tossed a dry rub on the prime rib and stuck it in the oven with butternut squash and a bit of red wine. We made a quick salad and broccoli rabe, put out salmon, lemon, and toasted bread. My prime rib was so-so, but the buche was the real treat. Alistair dusted it with confectioners sugar and placed cranberries on the plate to make it look like a snowy log in the woods. My sister and her boyfriend were our only guests and they were hilarious. We exchanged gifts and chatted till midnight. 

#

On Christmas morning I stood by the tree, jumping up and down. "Open your gift! I'm dying for you to open your gift!" I'd bought Alistair a record player, so he could finally play the records he inherited from his father.  We immediately put on a gypsy jazz album. We spent the rest of the day indoors. 

Wednesday through Friday were a bust. I binged watched "Clique" and "Made in Chelsea" (I have the tv habits of a preteen English person). I felt unwell on Friday and wrote in my bed under the covers. I had to cancel my dinner plans. 

On Saturday I loaded up on mandarin oranges, medicine etc. I was well enough to shower, fix up my hair and have Korean barbecue with Alistair downtown. We haven't yet made New Years Eve plans, but we might do what we always do: nothing at all.