Saturday, December 15, 2012

Something Closer To What We Call "Stability"

I suppose it’s time to tell you about my new "big girl" job.

I’ve owed you this blog post for quite a few weeks but, as you might understand, the dust from my last shaky jump into the unknown needed to settle before I blasted any inner thoughts over the internet.

So let’s flashback to New York’s mild days of mid-October:

That’s me. I’m sitting at my desk in the vast Huffington Post newsroom.  Most likely on deadline, and probably a little bit hungry, I’m frantically typing something tech-related. There’s two disposable cups perched on the edge of my shared desk – one full of water; the other drained of coffee.

Someone nearby is smashing a sandwich into their face, and the noise becomes distracting. While I struggle to find the correct turn of phrase about Apple’s latest whatever, all I can hear is the smack, smack of lips.
Then a phone rings.
Then two reporters start talking.
Someone’s laughing.
The TV blares above my head.
My Gchat pings…. and pings, and pings, and pings.

I quickly grab my headphones and stuff them into my ears, praying I can block out the nasty sound of what is probably a mild form of OCD. Now we can see me glance at the clock. Did you catch that twitch? Yes, I’ve got 30 minutes to make this article into something publishable.

Oh... that face. 

But before continuing, I stare at the empty, coffee-stained paper cup still sitting on my desk. Can you see those wheels turning? That’s right… I’m thinking about the promise I made to myself in 2010.

Many temporary jobs ago, I decided I wouldn’t bring a coffee cup to work until I had a salaried, fixed position within a company. This future mug was my secret reward, while this cynical thought was my slight motivation and persistent reminder that every publishing job I’d obtained thus far had been as stable as that damn paper cup.

It’s not that I wasn’t happy. In fact, the longer I worked for good ol’ Huffy, the more I appreciated my experience. I was getting paid to write! I had national bylines, and relevance, and editors tearing apart my work, and deadlines to make, and valuable lessons to learn – that’s the dream, right? “THAT’S why you’re HERE,” I would think to myself.

But the truth is, loan payments loomed. PB&J sandwiches began to make my stomach revolt. I craved a certain responsibility, and maybe even the next experience. I also knew there wasn’t a permanent position for me at HuffPost.

So I left.

Last day on the job. 

I won’t lie; the process wasn’t quite that easy. There was a series of interviews and edit tests that dominated my evenings, while a growing pit in my stomach reminded me that I’d become quite fond of my home at AOL headquarters.

Still, there’s never been a job I haven’t enjoyed, and already I’ve happily immersed myself back into the world of print publication. I’m now the official web editor of Kiwi Magazine. (An editor? An editor! Insert silly squeal of delight here.) Social media growth, blogger platforms, daily site updates, quick copy – these are my pet projects I’m more than thrilled to develop.

But let’s flashback to New York’s not-so-mild days of late November:  

That’s me. I’m standing in the lobby of 770 Broadway, receiving my first job offer. It’s raining, so my hair is probably a mess, but then again so is everyone else’s. Boots are squeaking across the marble floor. Umbrellas are opening and closing on cue, like life has been previously choreographed.

I’m all genuine smiles as my next boss tells me the good news, though I know my departure from Huffington Post will inevitably be bittersweet.

But do you know the first thing I thought? Over salary negotiations, and vacation days, and contracts -- the very first thing to cross my mind as a full time employee was this:

"I can finally bring a coffee mug to work."
And so I did. 

The new office, located  in mid-town.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Yes" To The Dance Of Conversation

I was standing on the balcony of a penthouse apartment, located deep within New York City’s gentrified East Village.  It was a seasonably warm Monday night in December, and the town sparkled like stars under our noses.

The man to my right (whom we shall call M) and the woman to my left (whom we shall call B) appeared to be actors, or at least the “theater type,” with their perfect diction piercing the night air alongside the clink of half-filled wine glasses. Our hostess was The Reverend – a striking and dignified woman – who joyfully stated that “the choir came over every week for dinner.”

My new friend B had a high-pitched voice and cat-eyed Kate Spade glasses. Her hair was cut short and her clothes fell just right, giving the actress a casually posh appearance. To put in simply, B was the kind of go-getting gal you’d write a book about. 

Then again, nearly every person who occupied that penthouse had the look of a fascinating story about them.

“How’d I get here?” I thought to myself as M and I discussed everything from art exhibits to hurricanes to the sheer brilliance of some new flick.

Oh, I do so love a random soirĂ©e! How we dance that conversational waltz, attempting to briefly bond with strangers, never to be seen again... It’s fascinating to care about the trivial or noteworthy, half in jest and half for the challenge of greeting humanity’s neediness with a sure quip and clever grin.

Not to mention the captivating tales of life one can uncover. If I had the time (and if you cared enough) I’d write down the dozens of observations my brain clung to as M, B, and a whole cast of others glided effortlessly around the apartment -- sequins, cheese platters, and all. 

But I suppose the true story is that my friend Kortlyn has a set of benefactors, or “sugar parents” if you will, who graciously bought us poor girls tickets to see a show. The performance was something else, with music written by Larry Hart, a few songs preformed by Linda Hart, and a little ditty by The Reverend herself that had something to do with “stomping your Prada for God.”

Sneaking pictures

Then, before we knew it, Kortlyn and I were led to the cast's after party by the generous upper crusts of New York. To the northeast we walked -- bubbly in hand, patchwork makeup on our faces.

Finally, up an elevator we went. As our motley crew stepped into the  apartment, the greeting ritual commenced with a few “I’ll take your coats,” and several “The food and beverages are right this way.”  The top floor apartment was humble by city standards but the space and view were something I rarely witness.

So that’s how we got to the balcony of penthouse in New York.
On a Monday night.
In December.

And all of this just to say…

There will be those quixotic moments in life when you’ll want to say “yes” to any offer that comes your way. And then there will be those sulky periods of time when you’ll simply want to say “no,” "no way," or "hell to the no" at even the best of requests.

I suggest refraining from the later. 


Here  was my favorite clip from the performance:

"Big hair" gets you closer to "Gaauhd." 
Yeah.... it was like that


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ask All You Want, But I Don’t Have The Answer

Which way is home?

I thought about this while barreling up the East Coast toward New York’s Penn Station. Pebbly roads and snaking streams cut the surrounding landscape, like a post card from some old country store.

I was leaving home – or I was going home?

We passengers stared silently out of our individual windows, all of us likely trying to peg down a certain emotion. Richmond, Ashland, Fredericksburg… the train continued north as winter’s hesitantly sunny skies kissed any remaining flecks of red and orange in the barren treetops.

With each year I live in New York, it becomes more difficult to imagine residing anywhere else. The addiction of city life is all encompassing; that ever-present spark in the night air, the endless possibilities each hour might bring, the hoards of people you’ve yet to meet, touch, know….

But oh, how easy it is to be home (which, in this case, I’m defining as that familiar place harboring your most distinct memories of childhood). The normalcy of life is comforting and triggers a specific type of relaxation unobtainable in any other environment.  

Home has the smell of coffee in the mornings.
Kitchen stools, lined up in a row of three.
A Weezer CD left in your car since high school.
Dogs barking, cars parking,
That revolving side door of continual visitors.

These things are native.
But now, too, are the rooftops and subway stops of New York City.

Home has a crack in the pavement that you always trip over.
Bars you know, friends you meet.
Italian bagel guys who make you laugh.
People walking, cars honking,
That perpetual feeling you’re living, being, doing.

These things are native.
These things are home - that place where you 
were, and where you must go back.

With these oh-so insightful thoughts brought on by obvious train boredom, I decided stubbornly (if only at my own indecision) that I was, in fact, allowed to have two “homes.” Who doesn’t fancy a little juxtaposition anyway?

So you can keep asking me to pick one place over the other.
Ask all you want!
But I won't choose because, at least for now, I simply don't have the answer.

And I may never have one.

The great American railroad -- where, incidentally, my train was delayed due to a man on the tracks who was "armed and dangerous" outside of Philly. But, that's another blog post.  


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New York And Hurricane Sandy, Part Two: We Are Hit

“Unless you own a submarine, there is no way you are getting out of New York City,” a frantic reporter stated on television.  

My roommate and I looked at each other, slightly wide-eyed. It seemed as though the island of Manhattan was on its own tonight.

Hurricane Sandy officially made landfall in New Jersey around 8pm on October 29, 2012. Wind gusts reached 90 mph, as a 13-foot storm surge encompassed lower Manhattan. By 9:30pm, news anchors announced that nearly every building located under 39th street was without power.

So why did the glistening lights of our city flicker out? Some of the blame can be attributed to the explosion that occurred at a Con Edison power plant on East 14th and FDR. The video footage is shown below:

New York’s subway tunnels (not all that surprisingly) were also damaged, but the murky water rose higher than expected. Our 108-year-old underground system has never before "faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night," MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota recently told several news sources. And air traffic isn’t looking much better, with over 15,000 flights cancelled throughout the last several days.

I thought the subway would flood but... 
Source: ninjapito

So, in essence, everyone is stuck.
This also means, by the time you’ve read this post, I will be uncontrollably stir crazy.

Still, where I reside in Queens, we were relatively untouched. Sometime around 5pm yesterday, when storm winds were just picking up, the largest tree on our block snapped and took several power lines down with it. Lucky, the sporadic electricity lasted us through the night. (Because let’s face it: Without the local news mishaps, sensationalism, and awesome accents, Hurricane Sandy just wouldn’t have been as fun. And was anyone watching Ali Velshi of CNN!?)

Entertainment aside, what transpired in Breezy Point, Queens (located here) was pretty petrifying. A massive 6-alarm fire reportedly wiped out 80 to 100 houses in one flooded neighborhood, with some pockets continuing to burn through morning. The unexpected, ashy pictures were pretty unnerving.

I also received a short message from Ivy, Harlem resident extraordinaire, during the middle of our epic storm. Apparently, one of her windows was flung open from the gusts, shattering a nearby vase. But not to worry -- after exclaiming that Sandy “better not mess with this Floridian!” Ivy covered her window with two chairs and a vintage boat propeller (phew).

And me? Well, the internet and cable have been off the majority of the day so I did what I do best.

I went and bought bagels.
Because you KNOW New York didn’t run out of those.

For some legit pics, check out The Atlantic or The Huffington Post's coverage of the storm. Here's what we Queens kids have been up to...

Our street in Queens, with multiple trees down. 

Internet = Out. 

Steinway Street storefronts had some damage.

Hanging out the window during the storm. 

RIP "Big Tree." The neighborhood shall miss you. 

Two of the trees down on our street. 

The dark city skyline from my rooftop. 


Sunday, October 28, 2012

New York And Hurricane Sandy, Part One: We Wait

“No bread. We don’t have any bread. No buns, no biscuits, no bread!” the manager of Key Foods was shouting to a group of unlucky customers on Astoria’s 30th Ave. Lines at the grocery store were invading the produce aisles, while queues at Duane Reade wrapped toward the rear of the building.

Such Sunday hubbub could only mean one thing: It’s hurricane time.

New York is an odd place to inhabit when one of these gales unexpectedly blows through the East Coast. Our fluidity of the city is interrupted by a new excitement. The 8.5 million people of NYC spastically shop for supplies, grab last minute “hurricane survival kits,” and then, quite suddenly, disappear.

Never will you feel more like the apocalypse occurred -- and you were infuriatingly left behind -- than when you’re standing in front of a shining, glistening, completely empty Time Square. It’s an eerie sensation to see one center of the universe so vacant of human life. 

At 2pm this afternoon...

But people love storms too. That same energy New York grasps on a daily basis is bundled into a shared excitement that spreads faster than the flu in February. News anchors become superstars, meteorologists become gods, and we common folk? Those of us not living under a rock quickly ban together against what might as well be dubbed the “impending doom.”

As I ran down Steinway to pick up two more bottles of wine before the liquor store closed, I saw a few old women jumping up and down in the street about their “sleepover,” a rolling office chair fly down the sidewalk and smack into an SUV, as well as a group of guys who wanted to know if me and my roommate would attend their “hurricane party of the century.”

I think it’s safe to say we take ourselves seriously in times of distress… but not that seriously. And that's probably best.

If Hurricane Sandy’s current trajectory pans out, storm force winds are expected to occur around lunchtime tomorrow in the New York City area. Already the subway, busses, and other forms of public transportation have been shut down and evacuations of “Zone A” ordered. The majority of businesses (including Wall Street) are closed for tomorrow, and schools were cancelled early this morning.

So what will the supposed “Frankenstorm” inflict? Maybe Hurricane Sandy will bring a whole lot of nothing… or maybe the worst weather to have swept this area in decades will stubbornly commence.

Either way, I’m staying (safely) in the city. And I’m a little excited to see what tomorrow will bring. Let's hope I don’t eat my words...

Be careful out there kiddos. 


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

So You Want A Birthday Post, Grace?

It's my little sister's birthday. 
And she, in jest, asked for a blog post. 

"im not begging but like if you need to inform your blogger followers then feel free to do so," she stated on my Facebook wall. 

Inform them I shall. 

First, let us celebrate G-race (pronounced gee-race in sister talk) by showing off this gem from 2006. Believe it or not, this photo has lingered on Facebook all these years. It's also one of the oldest digital pictures we have together. 

Aren't you glad you asked for a post, Gracie? 
Alright, alright... 
I'll add few more favorable (and ridiculous) pictures too.

Happy Birthday little sis!

When we were just tourist in NY. (2008)

 Who says we don't look alike? Grace's 16th birthday. (2009)

Oh, those girls. (2012)

Something is weird about this. (2012)

To reiterate... we were tourist in NY. (2008)

Downtown Richmond with the Spicer clan. (2007)

Oh, the beginning of jumping pictures. (2009)

 We get really excited in our family. (2010)

With Kathryn on Tour. (2011)

Such a doll. Halloween? Spirit week in high school? You decide. (2010)

The classic college kid pic. (2012)

With both sisters, at Passport Camp. (2008) 

 Easter at Uncle and Aunt's place. (2009)

 When you were just visiting CNU, G-race. (2008)

 Kathryn's graduation from CNU. (2012)

I mean... I have to throw one more in there. 
We look about the same ;)
High school graduation. (2006)


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Um, "That's Mine"

We were sitting at an elevated table toward the western side of Bryant Park, a few quiet blocks over from Times Square.

Ivy and I wore casual clothes and discussed casual topics, because on Sunday, one can afford the time to be casual.

A random rainstorm had cleared the park of its many weekend inhabitants, but the decidedly stubborn sun had just made its second appearance of the day. We relaxed amongst the rays of lucky light, taking in a quintessential New York autumn afternoon. 

“What are you doing the 20th?” Ivy asked. Her belongings were scattered on our green metal table; she fidgeted with her phone.
“I donno,” I said. “Let me look.” I reached for my own mobile, and flipped open an omnipresent force in my life: the iCal. Meanwhile, my bag rested an arms length away, propped in another chair. 

In the midst of our weekend planning, a slow moving woman passed near our table. She wasn’t old, but probably older than us, wearing orange flips-flops and a blue hoodie. I might have pegged her as homeless, but then it’s truly impossible to tell at times.

Either way, she slowly (very slowly) walked over to the chair where my bag lay. Immediately my senses were heightened, and I considered what this woman was contemplating. Was she about to say something? People talk to you all the time in parks. But no… she tilted her head a tiny bit, and slowly grasped the top of my bag.

It was almost as if she were asking permission. 
“May I…?” her eyes questioned.
No. You may not.

“That’s mine,” I replied matter-of-factly. Then I angled my head to match her own and snatched the bag away from her hands. She gave a subtle nod, and then looked calculatingly at my friend.

Things seemed as if they were about to get a whole lot less casual.

Ivy had a moral dilemma: If she reached for her items sitting on the table, it would obviously be an offensive gesture and the woman’s prerogative was not yet solidified. Maybe she was confused? Ivy stared at the woman, but didn’t make any moves to relocate her phone, credit card, keys, etc.

Then BAM
The woman’s hand jutted forth at a pace much faster than her previous attempt in grabbing my backpack. Her fingers stretched across the table, clutching for Ivy’s possessions.

“JESUS CHRI--!!” Ivy yelped, scrambling toward her coveted items. She scooped up everything in one quick move, and then glared at the woman.

Nope. Not casual.

In the midst of their scuffle, a Louis Vuitton wallet had flown from the woman’s sleeve and landed unceremoniously on the table. Our uninvited visitor suddenly forgot about future spoils, and reclaimed what was hers. (Although, let’s be honest… that wallet wasn't hers.)

And now it was awkward. She stared at us, particularly at Ivy, as if waiting for something to happen. I had not a dollar on me, or even a piece of gum. Only my computer, empty wallet, cell phone, and personal space were hers for the taking.

“We don’t have anything,” I said, not with anger but with certainty. Ivy looked at me with the “I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening” face, her eyes bulging out of their sockets.

The woman accepted our words with another subtle nod. She and I? We had come to a mutual understanding: Neither of us had much.

So she walked away.

While of course I had sympathy for this odd woman, I was also struck by the sheer irony of nearly being robbed. And of all places! After every possible dangerous spot I’ve inhabited, freaking Times Square is always the worst! (That’s your lesson for the day, folks.)

“It's so funny to almost get robbed in broad daylight at the speed of a snail,” Ivy said as she stuffed her items away.  We laughed and laughed at the sheer oddity of it all.

But then, this is New York. Everything is slightly ironic, a wee bit contrite, and certainly absurd. Yet even here, sometimes all we need are a few words from a stranger to ensure that we’re still alive.

So I wish I’d said a little something more.

[Editor’s note: Despite my conflicting inner thoughts, this "attempted robbery" was pretty awesomely hilarious. If only you could have seen our stunned faces... ]