I DRESS TO IMPRESS…MYSELF.

Last week I read an article about men who like women better without makeup on. The article was all about how women actually don’t wear makeup to impress men but wear it to feel confident and beautiful. This got me thinking about my own ideology on how I present myself and how other people’s opinions affect me. As I started brainstorming about this, I came up with tons of grand statements outlining my philosophy on fashion. It turns out most of the things I came up with were not entirely true and the more I thought about each one, the more exceptions I came up with. Here is the truth that I was able to find amongst the hallmark statements I initially came up with:

1) I don’t like to dress to try to impress men. I think what I actually mean by this is that I tend to dress in a way that isn’t necessarily what most men would find attractive. When I get dressed to “go out”, I don’t feel most confident in a mini skirt, spaghetti straps and heels (does anyone over the age of 20?) I don’t generally blow out my hair and wear tons of “sexy” makeup. Perhaps this has been my way of weeding out the kind of guys I DON’T want to attract.

When I went away to a big state college in Maine, this proved to be a challenge for me. My best friend would come over to get dressed to “go out”. He would roll his eyes at me when I put on my LL Bean snow boots (IT WAS SNOWING OUTSIDE!) instead of heels or something a little more “presentable” to go out to the bars. On one occasion, I decided I was going to try to dress to impress. I wore a VERY short skirt, heels and no jacket. I didn’t feel like myself at all and I was freezing. On my way past the line of girls who were dressed exactly the same way, a girl driving by singled me out and said, “put some clothes on, it’s winter.” I immediately burst into tears. I felt like I was selling out in order to impress people I didn’t even care about. Since then, I’ve done my best to dress in a way that feels authentic to me, whether other people find it attractive or not.

I think in a way, dressing in a less conventional manner also serves as a litmus test when meeting new people, particularly potential love interests. I don’t have to worry about dating anymore because I already found my lobster, but when I met him I definitely put him through a few tests of this sort. On our first date, I wore a beanie all night and Dansko clogs. On subsequent dates, I attempted to scare him away with Harem pants, dropped crotch jeans, the most bohemian baggy shirts in my closet, and my nerdy bright red glasses. Roman seemed to like me regardless. That’s not to say my boyfriend is with me because I’m the most fashionable chick in town, but I think he was able to get a better idea of my personality because of the way I presented myself.

On many occasions, when I’m feeling unhappy about my appearance, Roman will say, “But I think you look great, isn’t that enough?” My answer is always no. I think many people can relate to this feeling. It’s not that I DON’T care what he thinks. It just doesn’t affect how I view myself. If I feel uncomfortable with how I look it doesn’t matter what he says, I’m going to continue feeling uncomfortable. That is the heart of what I’m getting at when I say I don’t dress to impress men. It’s important to me that Roman finds me attractive, but it’s not what motivates the choices I make.

2) I’d rather look “interesting” than “hot”. This isn’t entirely true but let me expand upon this topic before diving into how it pertains to me. I think this is actually a pretty common approach to style in New York City these days. Pre “Man Repeller“, you primarily saw people challenging fashion norms in two places, on the runway or in more creatively inclined communities. Now that Leandra Medine has branded this as an ideology, it has become trendy (among certain types of people) to dress in a way that “repels members of the opposite sex”.

 man·re·pell·er1 [mahn-ree-peller]

–noun

she who outfits herself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include but are not limited to harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls, shoulder pads, full length jumpsuits, jewelry that resembles violent weaponry and clogs.

–verb (used without object),-pell·ing, -pell·ed.

to commit the act of repelling men:

Girl 1: What are you wearing tonight?

Girl 2: My sweet lime green drop crotch utility pants, of course.

Girl 1: Oh, so we’re man repelling tonight?

*DISCLAIMER: the above conversation took place in this room 5 minutes ago.

I can totally identify with this approach to dressing myself. As I said above, the looks I find most appealing are generally not very provocative or revealing but rather an interesting juxtaposition of shape, texture and color. Often these types of looks are more thought-provoking/ awkward than they are attractive. For some reason, that is what I am drawn to style- wise. Not always of course, sometimes I like to go to a fancy party and wear a nice dress. Other times I don’t have the energy to devote to coming up with an interesting “look”. However, on a day-to-day basis, I tend to gravitate toward this style of dressing.

Times I tried to look “sexy”:

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Aiming high.
Aiming high.
This was for trashy/classy night. Pretty sure I nailed the classy look.
This was for trashy/classy night. I think I looked pretty darn classy.
This is very likely one of my first date looks.
This is very likely one of my first date looks.

3) I get panicky if I feel I’m not executing my vision accurately. Is that the most first-world kind of problem or what? This is hard to explain but I’m going to give it the old college try. Essentially, I very clearly know what I like and what I don’t like. Around people who have a similar type of style to mine, I feel at ease because I know they get what I’m going for and vice versa. However, when I’m around people whose personal style doesn’t quite align (or is completely opposing to mine) I feel the need to try to prove that I’m not attempting to look one way and failing at it.

Here’s an example of what I mean: I have a pair of light-wash, boyfriend style Levi’s that ride the line of horrifically ugly and effortlessly cool. If paired with the right shoes and top they can look exactly as old-school intentionally ugly as I want them to. But with the wrong combination they can quickly make me look like I’ve forgotten what decade I’m living in and should be driving my kids around in my van somewhere in the midwest. Does that make sense? Is that offensive?

Those are just a few musings on my ever-evolving thoughts on fashion and personal style. I’m not an authority on the subject, I often get it all wrong, and I frequently second-guess every word I say. So don’t take any of this too seriously.

Recent inspo:

http://www.cosstores.com/us/

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A LITTLE BIT OF SACCHARIN ON EASTER

As a kid, Easter was all about being with my family and eating copious amounts of chocolate. I spent many of my Easter holidays in Florida at my grandparents’ house with my cousins, aunt and uncle. The night before easter we sat around the dining room table coloring eggs, each one of us trying to come up with the coolest design. The next day we would wake up in the morning and hunt for our (barely) hidden Easter basket.

After consuming almost all of the contents of said easter basket, we would reluctantly get ready for church, my cousins and I groaning that we didn’t want to go and “can’t we just stay home?” The service always seemed to be the longest and most boring part of the day. Clearly we were missing the point of the holiday. After church we spent the rest of the day consuming more food and candy, again paying very little mind to what it was we were celebrating.

These days the outline of the day looks similar, but I attempt to take more time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday. What am I celebrating and why? Do I believe the story of Easter as it is described in the bible? What does it mean to me and how can I apply it to my life?

Without going into too much depth on my religious beliefs (if you do want a bit more info on that you can check out this post), here is a bit about what Easter really means to me:

  1. It gives me a renewed sense of hope. In a time when we are seeing horrific terrorist attacks occurring all over the world, I remain hopeful that love and kindness will eventually prevail.
  2. It reminds me that forgiveness is both possible and necessary.
  3. It grounds me, helping me to reflect on my faith and the amazing, unseen and unknown mysteries that surround us.
  4. It energizes me to continue to reinvent myself daily and to try to become a better person.
  5. It means that “popcorn trees” are coming! In my family, we have always called cherry blossoms “popcorn trees”. They are one of my favorite parts of spring and they are so close to popping and revealing their beautiful pink selves.

What does Easter mean for you? Is it a time of joy, hope, reinvention? Let me know!

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“I LOVE THE GRIME ALL THE TIME…”

It’s a humid day in NYC. It’s gone between sunny, rainy and cloudy (my childhood cats were named rainy and cloudy…I think I was in a bit of a depression when naming them) and yet it’s been a glorious day. I think something that I dislike most about living in the city is the schlepping. On any given day I’ll go between my house, work, an exercise class, multiple auditions and my boyfriend’s house. This requires me to carry more bags than I’d wish to carry, inevitably making me into a bag lady of sorts. This morning I walked to my office and various auditions, down and up and down again along 8th avenue. Each time carrying, at least, three bags while attempting to keep my cool.

 
As I walk in one of the busiest neighborhoods of this city dripping sweat, there are so many classic New York scenes in every visible direction. A man stands on the corner trying to sell me an umbrella, a biker nearly runs me over trying to deliver someone’s lunch (and I do NOT curse at him), tourists block the intersection looking at their cellphones and directions. It all reminds me of the stories my mom told me of her dreams of moving to New York and hustling to make a life here. Her dream was of course a romanticized version of what it is actually like, but it’s also not. It’s exactly as beautiful and grimey and amazing as she imagined it would be.

One of my favorite sights becomes increasingly visible as I near the block where the majority of Broadway (and off Broadway and off off Broadway) auditions are held. I see actors/dancers/singers going to auditions. You can sometimes spot them from a mile away. I ride the elevator up with a young girl and her mom, the girl carrying a sparkly blue binder full of crisply printed music. She is clearly new to the audition scene. The more seasoned performers roam the halls with their binders full of faded copies of music they’ve sung for years. Some of them even have black rectangles of mic tape residue on their necks from the previous evening’s performance.

It starts to pour outside of our 16th-floor window and I’ll have to schlep all these bags back to my office with no hands left for an umbrella. But it’s fine because I’ve spent the morning being serenaded with broadway show tunes and after all, I live in one of the greatest cities in the world.


  

“Once I hated this city
Now it can’t get me down
Slushy, humid and gritty
What a pretty town

What thought I could be duller
More depressing, less gay
Now my favorite color
Is gray

A wall of rain as it turns to sleet
The lack of sun on a one-way street
I love the grime all the time
And what more do I need?

My window pane has a lovely view
An inch of sky and a fly or two
Why I can see half a tree
And what more do I need?

The dusk is thick and it’s galling
It simply can’t be excused
In winter even the falling snow looks
Used

My window pane may not give much light
But I see you, so the view is bright
If I can love you, I’ll pay the dirt no heed
With your love what more do I need?

Someone shouting for quiet
Someone starting a brawl
Down the block there’s a riot
And I’ll buy it all

Listen now, I’m ecstatic
Hold me close and be still
Hear the lovely pneumatic
Drill

A subway train thunders through the Bronx
A taxi horn on the corner honks
But I adore every roar
And what more do I need?

I hear a crane making street repairs
A two ton child running wild upstairs
Steam pipes bang, sirens clang
And what more do I need?

The neighbors yell in the summer
The landlord yells in the fall
So loud I can’t hear the plumber
Pound the wall

An aeroplane roars across the bay
But I can hear you as clear as day
You said you loved me
Above the sound and speed
With your love what more do I need?”

“What More Do I Need”- Stephen Sondheim

A CAREER PATH I ONCE TOOK/ TWO ROADS DIVERGED

Over the years, I have known that I wanted to have a career in the theatre, but I was uncertain as to exactly what that career would be. I have had many incredible opportunities; I was an intern to a Stage Manager on the Broadway revival of Gypsy with Patti Lupone and an intern on the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera. I briefly attempted singing and acting as an ensemble member of a workshop for a new musical headed for Broadway. (“headed for” is important. It didn’t make it). I interned for a sound designer in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre.  I was a dresser for a number of years. Now I have recently (and finally) found what seems to be my “home” in casting. If my pursuits seemed random, you might say that the constant thread is the fact that I steadily pursued jobs in the theater (except that one time when I tried being a vegan chef).

My longest experience in one career path was as a dresser. It was also one of the most fun. I started one summer between my junior and senior year of college. Let me back up a bit in case you don’t know the specifics of what a dresser in the theatre does. Generally, a dresser is assigned to one or more actors whom they dress every night. They are responsible for pre-setting all of the costumes that the actors will need throughout the show, making sure that the costumes are in good shape (no rips, buttons falling off, etc), making sure the actor is comfortable and ready to perform, and assisting with any mid-show costume changes. My first job was as a swing dresser for The Phantom of the Opera. A swing learns many different wardrobe “tracks” in the event that a permanent dresser is sick or goes on vacation. As a dresser you need to a) stay out of the way of moving sets and fast moving people, and b) try to make everything as seamless for the actors as possible. This can be particularly challenging if you are doing a different track every night. I worked at Phantom for the duration of that summer, learning 9 out of 16 tracks in the show.

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Some of the Phantom wig and wardrobe girlies
The lovely Sarah Bakker on the night of her first performance as Christine
The lovely Sarah Bakker on the night of her first performance as Christine
The Raoul boys
The Raoul boys

 After college, I returned to the city and went back to dressing. I continued to dress at Phantom and also began subbing in wardrobe at Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, two completely different experiences. Going between those two shows was a trip. One night I might be helping someone get into a giant dress with a corset and a big bustle and the next I’d be zipping someone into a skin-tight spider suit.

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After Spiderman closed, I was asked to work on the revival of Cabaret as a full-time dresser. This was my first time not only having my own track, but creating it from scratch. I dressed the character Fraulein Kost throughout the entire show, helping other dressers with quick changes at various points as well. My time at Studio 54 was truly incredible. Watching Alan Cumming return to the role that made him famous was an experience I’ll never forget, not to mention making lifelong friends with such an amazing group of coworkers.

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Dressers hard at work
At Tony rehearsal

One of the things I love most about being a dresser are the fun traditions you create. Because the job requires you to do to the exact same sequence of events every night at the same time with the same people, you start to develop jokes and rituals with different people backstage. Every night after the call for places, Alan would come down the stairs in his Emcee costume and do pull ups on the stairs in front of us. When he walked by he would say the same phrase to the actors as he passed them, wishing them good luck. In the first act as one actor ran by to enter his scene, he would do a different kind of dance, entertaining those of us who were waiting for our next cue. At the end of the first act, when the actor that I dressed left her scene from one side of the stage and walked to enter at another side, she would get high fives from everyone she met on her path to her next entrance. On her final night, we arranged to have a huge line of people waiting to high five her. She wasn’t able to make it through that scene with dry eyes.

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One of my favorite traditions was during act two with my friend and floormate Danny who played Herr Schultz. Every night we (he) would come up with a joke of some sort and we would greet our other floormates Aaron (Ernst Ludwig) and Gayle/Hani (Fraulein Kost) as they exited the stage. Our jokes would range from full on skits to just wearing signs on our clothes. Any pieces of paper required for these jokes were later taped onto one of the dressing room doors on our floor. It turned into quite a work of art.

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I always say they should sell tickets to be backstage during a show instead of in front of the stage because that’s really where the magic happens. Dressers are just one group of so many incredible people that are crucial in making the experience of going to the theatre magical.

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GETTING ZEN IN NYC

I never particularly liked yoga growing up. I tried to like it because it seemed like a great way to relax, stretch, and exercise, but I just couldn’t get into it. Thoughts would race through my head while I was trying to be “zen” and I would become increasingly bored and anxious as the class slowly passed one ujjayi breath at a time.

One day while perusing the racks of overpriced clothes at Lululemon (clothes which I pined over), I saw a poster up about their monthly free yoga classes. This month was being hosted at Laughing Lotus. Regardless of the fact that the class was at 6:30am, I decided to go. It was summer and I worked nights so I had all day to rest. This place completely changed my view of yoga. The walls are covered in pink graffiti and murals of Ganesha and lotus flowers, the floors are covered in glitter (but not the kind that gets all over you), and they play loud bumping music while you sweat it out on the mat. This probably goes against the whole purpose of the practice of yoga, but this was my foray into loving it.

Image from Wellandgood.com
Image from Wellandgood.com

After this experience I was able to start understanding and appreciating the slower, quieter, more introspective practices of yoga. Here are a few of my other favorite studios around the city.

Upper West Side

Image from yelp.com

New York Loves Yoga– 140 W. 83rd Street                                     http://www.nylovesyoga.com/

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UWS Yoga and Wellness– 75B W. 85th Street                                http://www.uwsyoga.com/

Lower Manhattan

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Yoga Vida NYC-99 University Place/ 666 Broadway                     http://yogavida.com/

Image from giltcity.com
Image from giltcity.com

Y7 Studio– 430 Broome Street                                                        http://www.y7-studio.com/

Image from ishtayoga.com
Image from ishtayoga.com

Ishta Yoga– 56 E. 11th Street                                                           http://www.ishtayoga.com/

Image from Skytingyoga.com
Image from Skytingyoga.com

Sky Ting Yoga– 55 Chrystie Street                                                  http://www.skytingyoga.com/

Brooklyn

Image from areayogabrooklyn.com
Image from areayogabrooklyn.com

Area Yoga– 144 Montague Street                                                    http://www.areayogabrooklyn.com/

Where are your favorite places to zen out in NYC? Let me know!

 

 

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SECRET PIZZA AND A WEEKEND IN PHOTOS

In a city that is notorious for it’s Pizza, I think I’ve finally found my very favorite slice in town. Though popular among born and bred Brooklynites and authentic Italians (at least that’s what my two very Italian friends tell me), I think this place is fairly unknown. L&B Spumoni Gardens is quite a trek but it is SO worth it. There are two ways to get there a) drive, though parking can be tricky or b) take the subway (N to 86th street or D to 25th Ave).

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There is often quite a wait and you won’t have much luck sweet-talking the old school grumpy Italian hostess, but your patience will pay off. I’ve only been here twice so my suggestions are limited but I would suggest getting the Caprese salad which is a fresh and healthy start to what is sure to be a not-so-healthy meal. The rice balls look amazing. I didn’t have them as they aren’t vegetarian, but I did have the melted cheese and marinara sauce which comes on top of them and it was delicious. We got a carafe of the house red which is decent enough when you’re paying a pittance though I would just as soon get an ice cold Peroni to pair with my carbs. The obvious must-have is the Sicilian Pizza. This pizza… I “can’t even”. I mean I “literally can’t”. It feels like you’re biting into a cloud of dough. The marinara sauce has a delicious sweetness to it and there is the perfect ratio of sauce to cheese. If you are lucky enough to get a corner slice, you’ll really be in heaven. I’ve committed a Spumoni crime twice now in that I’ve never actually ordered any Spumoni. I am usually too full at that point and I tend to be more of a savory gal so you know where my priorities lie. I’ve heard the Spumoni is pretty darn good though.

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As a side note, if you happen to drive to L&B Spumoni Garden in the month of December, you should also drive by Dyker Heights to see the famous Christmas Lights. They are over-the-top but beautiful.

We spent our Saturday evening at Spumoni Gardens in an effort to carb load for Roman’s half-marathon on Sunday. It seemed to have been a successful mission because he ran a great race. After not having run farther than four miles in months, Roman ran the half marathon on Sunday under two hours. I got to cheer him on in Times Square and then meet him at the finish. After his race, we went for Brunch at one of my favorites, The Smile. I had a quinoa, lentil, egg concoction which was great and he had lox and lemon caper cream cheese on a Black Seed Bagel. I’m not a lox person but I tasted his food and it was SO good.

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Post-brunch, Roman and I walked around the village to different antique stores looking for furniture for our new apartment which we are moving into in the next few weeks. We found a million things we wanted and yet nothing we could afford. We also found some great mural walls to pose in front of.

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After walking around for a bit, I went downtown to the Glossier pop-up shop. If you don’t know Glossier, you should. I don’t mind ordering it online but going to the pop-up is so fun, I can’t resist. It smells like roses (due to the Soothing Face mist which contains Rosewater) and is a pink wonderland. I spent way too much money on various new products I wanted to try but so far it’s worth it because I’m loving everything. If you want to try out some of their products you can get 20% off with this Link.

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After a pretty good nap, Roman and I went to dinner at a friend’s place in Brooklyn. It was a fabulous night of wine, tuna steak (my first time having it, it was great!) and a very addicting game called Spyfall. 

Overall it was a perfect weekend. How was yours? Let me know!

BUSES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES

When I picture what it must be like to have grown up in a more suburban or rural area, I get caught up on the whole transportation thing. Imagining my mom driving me to school is comical. Two things happen when my mom drives: 1) She starts singing along with the seat belt bell which is supposed to tell her that her seatbelt isn’t buckled. She will do this for minutes on end. 2) She drives at a snail’s pace and keeps about 5 car lengths of distance between her and the car ahead of her. She does this even if she’s going 30 mph. This is probably wise due to the fact that she wasn’t allowed to drive in New York City for many years or she would be arrested/fined.

Conversely, I’ve had people tell me they could never imagine riding the subway to school every day. I find the differences in peoples’ day-to-day lives and routines to be fascinating. What is normal and maybe even mundane for one person is completely novel to another. This is what my experience was like…

Elementary school was at a public school on the Upper West Side, across from the Museum of Natural History. We lived less than a mile from there so for the most part, we walked to school every day. In the early years, I would walk with my mom or Indra, my babysitter. We walked by Lincoln Center every day and my mom would always point out the murals hanging in the Met. She would try to help me remember who the artist was that painted them by saying “think of the city of Chicago, Chagall!” It’s a bit of a stretch, but it worked.

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In the warmer months when I would walk home with Indra, I tried to convince her daily that I HAD to have an Icee from the Icee cart. One day I decided to go out of my comfort zone and get a coconut Icee. Indra warned me that I wouldn’t like it but I ignored her advice and followed my heart. My heart was wrong. On the walk back home after I had one taste I slowly and subtly (not subtly at all) turned the Icee upside down, spilling it all over the sidewalk and then whining that I needed another one. I went with tried-and-true Mango this time.

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After elementary school, I went to a public middle school up on 107th street. This was when I really started moving up in the world because a) got a cell phone (a giant baby blue Nokia) and b) I started being allowed to ride the public bus on my own. My mom or Larry  would walk me to the bus stop every morning. When I got on the bus I would find a seat and watch through the window as my mom danced and sang for me on the sidewalk. At the time I found it extremely embarrassing, but nowadays I would probably just join in with her. To combat my embarrassment I would put on my walkman headphones and listen to the soundtrack to “Rent” all the way to school, thinking I was super cool and grown up.

One of my most vivid and traumatizing memories was from a bus ride home from middle school. My friend and I got on the bus like we did every day and walked to the very back to get a seat. When we sat down we noticed a teenage couple huddling over something. It was one of those moments when I instinctively knew I should look away but couldn’t. My friend and I watched as the young man helped his woman friend inject something into her arm. After a few minutes, their eyes started to sag a bit and they both became very drowsy. They started “necking”, clearly having no awareness that there was a bus full of people around them. My friend and I could not believe our eyes and went to the front of the bus to tell the bus driver what we saw. He stopped the bus and made an announcement over the PA system that the couple had to get off the bus. When they didn’t seem to hear or comprehend his command he came to the back of the bus to physically remove them. My friend and I took this opportunity to run off the bus as quickly as we could, thinking they would surely find us and get some kind of revenge. This is my favorite part of this story: traumatized and extremely frightened, my friend and I sat in a park and cried. As we dialed our mothers on our giant Nokia cell phones my friend let out a blood-curdling scream followed by the words “somebody help us”. I’m not sure what either of us thought we needed help with. I think we were both so upset by what we had witnessed and really just wanted to erase the images from our heads. I get a good laugh when I think of this experience now, mainly because of how we handled it, but for a few years, it really haunted me.

After middle school, I switched to an all-girls Catholic school on the Upper East Side. This meant a subway uptown and then a bus across town. I often met other west sider friends at the crosstown bus and we would ride through the park together. I went through a brief phase where I would use the time between walking from my apartment to the subway to smoke a cigarette (sorry Mimi). This was really badass of me because 1) smoking is bad for you, duh and 2) you weren’t ever supposed to smoke in uniform because someone might recognize you as a Sacred Heart girl and it would ruin the school’s reputation (priorities!). The fact that I tried to be cool by smoking a cigarette on the way to school is comical because I couldn’t really smoke cigarettes successfully. I would have one cigarette and then feel nauseous for the rest of the day. Regardless, I was a trooper and did what I could for the sake of “cool”.

On one occasion, I went down to the subway platform at Columbus Circle to wait for my train. I noticed there was an express train stopped in the center track and there was a lot of commotion. An MTA employee made an announcement that all trains were being delayed due to an incident at Columbus Circle. I asked a woman standing on the platform if she knew what was going on and she pointed to something underneath the train and said a passenger had jumped into the tracks. I was able to force myself to avert my eyes long enough to make the decision to find another way to school that day.

One of my favorite forms of transportation to and from school was on the back of my step-dad Larry’s red Vespa. If it was warm enough we would get on the Vespa and ride through Central Park to the upper east side. On days when we rode the Vespa I didn’t need to have my one daily cigarette cause my cool factor was already through the roof.

The view from the Vespa
The view from the Vespa

 

I include both the positive and the negative stories beause I think it’s important to see both sides and learn from it all. I’ve heard people say “I could never live in New York City”. If that’s your opinion that’s totally fair and valid (and better for me, the rent is already too high). However, I think there are unfortunate events and experiences no matter where you go. You just have to choose what is important to you and what negative things you are willing to put up with. As for me, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to leave this glorious city.

WHEN YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW. YOU KNOW?

It’s hard to write about meeting the love of your life without giving some background on the 26 years before you met him. You can’t really understand what it feels like to know someone is “the one” without having dated a bunch of people who weren’t the one. Or maybe you can, but that’s not how it went for me.

Without going into too much detail, I’d say I definitely went through the cliche “bad boy” phase. Does everyone go through this or are most people wise enough to know that a person who is kind and caring is generally the person you want to go for? If a guy ignored me, was not really “looking for a relationship”, or was significantly older, it was a challenge I was ready to accept. Whether due to “daddy issues” or low self-esteem, it was a pattern that went on for many years.

Between bad breakups and broken hearts, I tried to like “nice” boys. The feeling nice boys gave me is like when you feel like there are spiders crawling on you, it’s like you are going to crawl out of your skin. My favorite nice boy story was when I went out for drinks with a guy friend of mine. We had a great time and got in a cab to head uptown to our respective homes. I’ll have to preface what comes next by saying that I have a bad habit of not buckling my seat belt in cabs. It’s not that I think it’s stupid or unnecessary, I’m just not used to doing it. Perhaps this is because they were always broken or ripped out of the old cabs I took? Fellow New Yorkers, do you find this to be true? Anyway, we were sitting in the cab and he had buckled his seat belt. As we drove uptown I watched out of the corner of my eye as he very slowly unbuckled his seat belt, noticing that I hadn’t buckled mine. The fact that he was being safe and buckling up in a cab is not what turned me off. It was the fact that he couldn’t be confident about his choice. If you happen to be reading this nice boy, I think you are a great person and you are going to make another seat belt buckle upper very happy someday.

I’m skipping over a lot of things here, but only to get to the best part faster. In November of 2014, I was swiping left and right, as you do. I don’t remember the exact moment when Bae came across my screen but I obviously swiped right. After having been on Tinder for a while with little success I deleted it on a whim, thinking I should really meet a person the old fashioned way, slightly intoxicated at a bar. After a dull two weeks, I re-downloaded the app only to find the following romantic opening line waiting in my inbox: “so you run a lot?”. We chatted for a few days on Tinder before he said “I’m sorry if this is too forward but here is my number, text me, I can’t stand this Tinder thing”.

After texting for a few days, we decided to meet up after work. Coincidentally, it turned out that we worked on the same block, him as a director’s assistant at David Letterman and me as a dresser at the revival of “Cabaret”. While Roman waited for me outside the Studio 54 stage door, I took a shot in my girlfriend Gayle’s dressing room (I look back fondly at all the times Gayle and I HAD to do shots before we went on failed attempts at dates). To back up a bit, almost all my life I’ve had long naturally blonde hair. I went through a brief identity crisis and chopped all my hair off and dyed it platinum blonde. This happens to be when Roman met me. I came out of the stage door with a guitar on my back and a beany covering my platinum pixie cut. He says when he saw me thought I was a super cool guitar playing hipster, little did he know I was shakin’ in ma boots.

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The identity crisis look.

We walked to a trashy sports bar and on the way he kept accidentally bumping into me. I later found out he had already been drinking for a few hours with friends. I’m pretty shocked he still liked me after that evening because it seemed like I was determined to sabotage myself by telling him all the horrible things I had done within the last few months. Regardless, we saw each other two days later.

It wasn’t love at first sight but it was love at second sight if that’s a thing. Our second date started at Greenwich Tree House. As soon as I sat down with him I felt comfortable like I was home. We chatted for a bit and then walked over to the Village Vanguard. Sitting next to him and listening to a big brass band play, I felt like I was sitting next to someone I had known all my life.

The great thing about Roman is he is the perfect mix of everything. He’s certainly not a bad boy which I’m grateful for, but he isn’t the gross kind of nice either. He’s one of the most ambitious people I know and therefore is quite successful at everything he tries to do. He’s kind and loving and always helps me to try to “be a better person” as cliche as that sounds. He cares immensely about his amazing family which translates into caring about mine as well. All that plus he’s more handsome than Robert Pattinson and Rufus Wainright combined (and he gets that a lot).

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As I’ve tried to think about different things I could write about in this here blog, Roman kept (jokingly) saying “why don’t you write about me!?” My response kept being “because I’m an independent woman and my life isn’t all about having a boyfriend!” I was joking when I said that but the truth is, I’ve grown up in an age where being a “strong woman” who doesn’t prioritize romantic relationships is not only fashionable but sometimes imperative. I was raised to dream about my career instead of my future husband, and I did. But no matter what happens in my career, no matter where I live, no matter how much money I have, I’ll be happy if Roman is there with me. And I think being able to say that still allows me to be an “independent woman”.

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IT’S TIME FOR BREAKFAST!

When writing my first of the “24 hours” series, I had a difficult time picking where to suggest that one should go to breakfast. The lovely problem about New York City is there’s probably 20 amazing restaurants within a 5 block radius of where you are at any given moment. So, if I were to give you my top 10 breakfast joints, this is what they would be in no particular order (and as soon as I type this I’ll think of 10 more that I forgot):

1) Floridita- This place is not charming by any means. It is big, brightly lit and kind of sterile, and the waitresses take some time to warm up to you. In fact, we often try to figure out whether our usual waitress is joyously telling her Spanish speaking colleagues that we are back or talking about how much she hates us. All of this plus Cuban music and smells wafting from Dinosaur BBQ is what gives Floridita it’s charm. First, you HAVE to get a “cafe con leche”. You will probably need more than one of these because it’s basically liquid gold. I would follow that with a breakfast sandwich and a side of Mangu (mashed plantains). Be sure to get the pickled onions with the Mangu. It’s a perfect balance of savory, sweet and sour. This place is a schlep to get to for anyone who doesn’t live in West Harlem, but it is worth it for the coffee alone and you can walk or bike down the Hudson river after and work of those Cuban calories!

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2) Cafe Cluny- This place is the tiniest bit snooty and overpriced, but still oh so wonderful. It’s an adorable little french bistro with perfect bright morning light that makes you feel like you want to sit and read the New York Times while sipping a coffee. You are pretty safe ordering anything on the menu though my favorites are the avocado toast with a poached egg and the grapefruit brûlée.

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3) The Smile- If I were a restaurant, this is the restaurant I would be. Is that a thing? This hole-in-the-wall breakfast spot is somewhat inconspicuously located on Bond street between Lafayette and Bowery. I can’t mention The Smile without saying that my friend Cristina introduced me to it. She’d kill me otherwise (not literally but almost). The Smile has the perfect mix of rustic charm and hipster ruggedness. The wait staff is generally clad in some sort of vintage mom jeans or not-too-cool culottes with baby bangs and circle frame glasses that you get the feeling didn’t come from Warby Parker. I haven’t had anything on the menu that wasn’t good, but my most recent favorite was the scrambled eggs with sourdough toast and extra cheese and avocado.

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4) Absolute Bagels- Absolute Bagels is absolutely my favorite bagel place in New York City (see what I did there?). It isn’t fancy or chic and you won’t find a million variations on cream cheese, but it’s flipping good. All you need is a cinnamon raisin bagel toasted with butter which will be perfectly melted onto your bagel. There’s not a lot of room to sit and eat, and even if there were, you wouldn’t want to. Take your bagel across the street to the little park between avenues or walk to Riverside park.

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5) Veselka- I had never been here until I met my boo who lives two blocks from Veselka and is also a loud and proud Ukrainian (Dobri den Ro Ro. See? I’m practicing!). It has the charm and grit of a New York diner with an Eastern European twist. Get some potato pancakes, and pierogies with apple sauce and sour cream and you’ll be living on a carb cloud of happiness. If you ask me though, you can add dill to anything and it’ll be tasty, so they really can’t go wrong.

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6) Jack’s Wife Freda- Disclaimer: don’t try to go here during normal brunch hours. Either get there early on the weekend or during the week if you are able, otherwise, you’ll be waiting forever and when you do sit down you’ll be very squished at a tiny table. I prefer the Lafayette location but both are wonderful. All the food is great but my favorite things are grapefruit and yogurt with the toasted baguette on the side. I’ve also heard a lot about the rosewater waffles, and really what could be bad about something that has rosewater in it.

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7) Juliette- I love this restaurant because I feel like I’m eating in a greenhouse, but also because the food is good. The Eggs Forestiere is one thing that I like a lot. I am also dying to try the banana stuffed french toast. The other great thing about Juliette is it has a rooftop area which is quaint and quiet due to it’s super hip Brooklyn location (is Williamsburg hip anymore?)

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8) Iris Cafe- This is sort of like the Brooklyn Heights version of The Smile. It is a tiny place on a quiet street with a homegrown vibe. I haven’t been here in a few years (that’s what happens when you break up with someone who lives in a different neighborhood), but I still dream of the avocado toast with poached eggs on top.

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9) Irving Farm- This is more of a coffee shop than a breakfast place but they do have really great food in addition to their coffee. I’m going to sound like a gross caricature when I say that the almond milk latte is pure heaven in a paper cup. The scrambled eggs with avocado and slow roasted tomatoes on a bagel are also delish. If you go in the warmer months you might be able to snag a seat on the front patio and watch all the crazy Upper West Siders.

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10) The Flame- it’s nearly impossible for me to pick a favorite diner in a city of amazing diners. Like you like your mother’s cooking, I like The Flame because it basically WAS my mother’s cooking. It’s diner food so you can’t expect a gourmet meal, but it never changes in a world where the only constant is change. As a kid, I would tell my mom I wanted “eggies in a bowl”, which she would translate into adult-speak for Pedro the waiter. One time I went to the flame with family friends who were babysitting me and I asked for “eggies in a bowl”. They didn’t know what that was and neither did Pedro as he had only ever heard my moms translated version of the order. It was a very distressing time for me but I’ve moved past it. The moral of the story is, don’t try to order “eggies in a bowl”. They are called poached eggs.

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Whew, that was a lot of pressure but I think I accurately reflected most of my favorite New York City breakfast spots. Where are your favorite places to go? Let me know in the comments below, or in a Facebook message, or in a text message, or take me there this weekend!

 

FINDING “GOD” IN NYC


I’m diving right in with a controversial topic because, as I said, this is my honest account of growing up in NYC.

My mom was raised as a “Christian” in Cleveland, Ohio. She went to Baptist Bible camp in Wisconsin every summer and managed to corral all of her friends to come to church with her on Sundays. My grandparents used to joke that she had a whole aisle full of boys next to her in the pew at church because if they wanted to hang out with her on the weekends they had to come to church too. They were a religious family, but they were also extremely welcoming and accepting of all types of people. It’s unfortunate that my experience has been that this isn’t always the case. I’m told that after all the boys came to church, they would go back to my grandparents house, roll up the rugs and throw a party. My mom played piano while they had sing alongs and my grandma sat in the kitchen as the teens told her about their adolescent problems. My mom recalls the kids telling my grandma about their marijuana habits, and girl troubles.

This photo is unrelated but just so good.
This photo is unrelated but just so good.

When I was growing up, my mom tried to create the same type of church community and tradition for me. It didn’t prove to be very easy. We generally would find a church we liked the looks of and would attend services for anywhere between 1 Sunday to a few years. Without fail nearly every church would eventually make a statement on their disapproval of homosexuality. As soon as this topic came up and we realized their stance was less than accepting, we would move on to the next church. This went on for years.

Throughout this time, my mom simultaneously meditated and traveled to an Ashram in Switzerland to chant with a guru for 24 consecutive hours. She’s trained in Transcendental Meditation and was initiated into Parmahansa Yogananda’s Self Realization Fellowship. We had a meditation altar in our apartment and we each had special meditation mats which were meant to soak up our positive energy.

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Though I also attended “Bible camp” every summer and went to Catholic  high school, it was a circuitous journey to my current spiritual state. I went through a religious rebellion for many years as teens often do, never to the extent where I denied the existence of a higher power altogether, but I wasn’t sure that praying to someone would help in anyway. Eventually in college I started attending church on my own volition as well as becoming a part of various religious groups. Here again I had trouble associating with groups who weren’t accepting of all types of people and was never able to fully commit to any one group or church. During this time I developed my own spiritual practices, frequently meditating and reading religious texts such as scripture and spiritually based “self- help” books.

In New York I’ve seen slow but steady progress towards all inclusive faith based communities. In recent years I’ve been going between two churches in Manhattan. Hillsong United is a mega-church which originated in Australia that attracts primarily young hipsters and celebrities. I like this church not only because I’ve seen Justin Beiber there, but also because 1) the music is incredible and 2) I think it’s important that young people have a place where they feel it’s safe and even “cool” to openly celebrate their faith.  Church is held in a night club and looks like a disco party. There’s 8 services in two locations in NYC every Sunday as well as various mid- week events.

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Hillsong United, NYC.

The Church of Saint Paul and Saint Andrew on the Upper West Side is an incredible place that states on the front of their program that they accept people of every gender, sexual orientation, race or religious belief. This is the kind of group I want to be a part of. Not only do they walk in the gay pride parade and marry homosexual couples, they also share their church with a Jewish temple. This is so central to my beliefs. I’m not sure how to make sense of this to people who question why I read the bible if I clearly disagree with major parts of it, but all I can say is it works for me. I identify as a Christian, but I don’t believe it’s the only way. I don’t believe only Christians go to heaven, I think everyone goes to heaven. I think one person’s practice of Islam or Hinduism is just as valid as my practice of Christianity. I think praying in bed at night is not so different than sitting under a tree and having gratitude for your surroundings.

I think everyone’s spiritual journey is personal and ever-evolving. This has been my experience thus far within the context of my history and my upbringing. I think it’s a fascinating topic and I always love to hear other people’s stories, whether they are similar to mine or completely opposing.

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Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew