Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bah Humbug


I woke up at a very dark 4:30am Thursday to fly home to Florida for Christmas. It was freezing. The airport was packed. The automated ticket kiosk at JetBlue flashed "error" when I tried to print my boarding pass, forcing me into a line that snaked around the terminal. The man behind me bumped my heels with his luggage cart no less than three times. The flight was delayed 90 minutes. I had to wait until the sold-out plane boarded to receive my seat assignment.

Once finally in my window seat I prepared to wrap my face in my scarf and sleep away the less than pleasant first few hours of my long weekend.

Her squeaky voice ripped onto the loudspeaker as soon as I buckled my seat belt.

"A very toasty warm and merry Christmas to each and every one of you!" the stewardess spoke to us like kindergartners. Her strawberry red side ponytail bounced as she paced the aisle.

"Looks like we're all bringing way too many gifts in our sleighs," she explained the packed overhead compartments in a dolphin-friendly pitch. She used "mmmkaays"and "okie dokies." She took at least 8 minutes to introduce the crew and explain how they were all her very best friends.

I rolled my eyes and sighed audibly. It was before 8am. Day before Christmas or not, that woman was out of control.

I dialed up the volume on my iPod and prayed that perky Ms. Claus would lay off the loudspeaker.

She didn't. Even after 2 hours of useless announcements and overhearing her strike up small talk with half the passengers on the plane, nothing could have prepared me for her sign-off.

Seconds after we landed she cleared her throat and began:

"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to ride on a JetBlue Airplane. HEY!"

My jaw dropped as she started to shriek the second verse.

"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. I hope you all have a great day in TAMPA BAY!"

I had had it. I was ready to huff and puff and roll my eyes. But before I could, as soon as she finished, the packed airplane erupted in applause and cheers. Children laughed. Couples kissed. Strangers hugged.
I nervously joined the second wave of applause.

Yup, It dawned on me fast. I was the Grinch.

I was a stone cold, eye-rolling, too cool for school New York bit*h, utterly appalled by a cheery stranger.

I slunk into my seat, ashamed. Yes, our little ginger flight attendant was painfully annoying and I'm certain other passengers wanted her to shut the falalala up, but I hated her at first toothy smile. She wished us a Merry Christmas and I was ready to strangle her with the navy blue handkerchief tied around her neck.

New Yorkers aren't well known for their friendliness. They're an impatient breed rumored to give wrong directions to tourists and flip people off without provocation. New Yorkers are harder, louder and tougher.

I've always carefully left myself out of that classification- New Yorker, that is. I'm a Florida girl living in New York, and there's a big difference. I'm nice. I'm approachable. I won't intercept the cab you've been waiting 20 minutes to hail.

And now, apparently, I despise people who sing Christmas carols?
How long do you have to live in a city before you qualify for their stereotypes?

A few days later on Christmas Eve, I unwrapped a scarf a close family friend gifted me. When I went to try it on, my dad volunteered a good way to wear it.

I shook my head no and retied it, "No, no this is how a New Yorker wears it," I explained moving the knot to the front.

"New Yorker, huh?" he asked.

Like it or not, I guess so.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Touchy Feely

On a flight back to New York from Chicago last weekend, I woke up from a nap to find my face less than a couple inches from the passenger next to me. We had dozed off facing each other, heads fallen to the edges of our seats unknowingly about half-a-nudge away from Eskimo kissing. We both opened our eyes at the fasten seat belt ding, noticed the awkward lack of distance between us and simultaneously jolted our heads back. He was a twenty or maybe early thirty something with a mop of black curly hair and matching patchy beard. He tapped his feet and fingers to whatever was on his iPod. He ordered a Jack Daniels neat and called me a "troublemaker" when I asked to slip out to use the restroom. I laughed to myself after whipping my head back to face my tray table. For total strangers, we had just shared a pretty intimate 10 or 20 minutes- swapping breathes as we virtually shared a pillow. As far as I could asses, I was more responsible for the almost snuggling than the hipster in the tomato red cardigan sweater. I had fallen slightly farther left in my seat than he had fallen right. I laughed because I'm not surprised my subconscious curled me up to a total stranger. I'm a notorious personal space invader.

A male friend recently told me that the average person needs about 8 touches per day to maintain a healthy sense of connection to his or her surroundings.

"Vanessa, you need like 80," he joked after sharing the statistic.

He's right. I'm a big fan of touching, hugging, holding hands, rubbing, snuggling and generally grabbing on to the people I talk to or walk next to. No romantic interest necessary (see snuggling strange man on airplane), I simply like to be close. I suppose that's why New York and I get along so well.

It's a touchy city. From crowded 6-train at rush hour (aka spring break Cancun as one bump in the rail can press you up against/booty dance you with whoever is crammed behind you) to being seated no more than a fork's distance from any other diner at a popular restaurant, it's a place where personal space doesn't entirely exist.

Of all my city complaints- mice, monthly rent check that violates my bank account, frozen puddle of hobo pee I slipped on last winter- the whole lack of personal space thing is most tolerable.

At risk of sounding both creepy and cheesy (creesy?), I'll admit I find it sort of exhilarating to have so many opportunities everyday to connect with random people. I hug and hold on to people when I talk to them because I like interacting and, on my better days, I really appreciate the way New York City forces interaction.

It's not just me driving to work and back. It's me and the senile old Cuban lady (once professional ballerina) who paces my building's lobby in a lace trimmed moomoo waiting to open the door for people. It's me and that very good looking man in fancy suits who lives a block down and, as if it's choreographed, always steps off his stoop while I'm walking past it. It's me and whatever mixed bag is sharing my subway cart- people I smile at or stare at or roll my eyes with when a crazy/drunk man jumps on as the doors are shutting to scream out to us "why God hates women and women love abortions." (true story)

Sure, the interactions aren't always magical. Some days the slow old Cuban lady holds me up when I'm in a rush, fancy suit man doesn't float down his stoop in freshly polished shoes and I can't drown out whatever noise I don't want to hear on the subway with my iPod. But you get used to it. In fact, after more than two years here, I'm fairly certain I'd miss all this hubbub if I had to do day to day without it.

Back on the airplane, several minutes after invading the bearded hipster's personal space, I offered him a stick of gum. He took it but said nothing. We chewed side by side in silence. I wanted small talk. I wanted to know what he does for a living, what trendy Brooklyn neighborhood he resides in, why he was throwing back Jack Daniels before 2:00pm. We napped together for goodness sake, I wanted to know his name. But I got nothing.

The plane landed. We stood up to file out of the aisle. Without my asking, he pointed at my luggage, waited for my nod then plucked it out of the overhead compartment. "Thanks!" I exclaimed a bit too enthusiastically. He shrugged and walked off the plane. Still I'm convinced we had a moment- and that he thinks I'm crazy.

Not crazy sir, just creesy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fatty Love

So I found the perfect food.

No big deal or anything; it's just the planet's most scrumptious combination of flavor and texture in one dish- my food soulmate.

It's a "salad" but not at all the humdrum pile of diet greens that word might conjure. Naturally, there's nothing diet about my food soulmate. It consists of two main ingredients (drum roll please...): fresh chunks of watermelon and crispy melt-in-your-mouth pork belly.


Yup, you read me right. The restaurant Fatty Crab (conveniently and dangerously located a stone's throw from my apartment) serves up this succulent combination of sweet and savory/hot and cold/crispy and soft that is undeniably one of the tastiest things I've ever consumed. For reals.

I'll admit, I hesitated a little before ordering it for the first time. I like watermelon. I like (/would swim in a sea of) pork belly. But together? It's this strange, counter-intuitive combination that makes this salad memorable. Like everything else at Fatty Crab- a Malaysian restaurant where you eat chili-lime-coconut short ribs and soy-fennel-cumin glazed chicken wings with your hands- every bite of the salad is layered with calculated flavors and textures. It's splashed with a rice wine vinegar based dressing that incorporates lime juice, ginger, cilantro, Vietnamese coriander, Thai basil and sesame seeds. In other words, it's fan-freaking-tastic in a way most of us could never hope to recreate at home.

So thank you Fatty Crab and Chef Zak Pelaccio. And, while I'm at it, a long overdue, thank you pork belly.

Monday, November 8, 2010

braceface


I had a smile full of braces in my senior high school picture- those awful "clear" brackets my orthodontist enthusiastically promised would be "almost invisible." Liar. It looked like my teeth were half an inch too thick- awkward little off-white squares that turned whatever color I was eating or drinking.

High school was tricky for me. It's not that I wasn't popular. I had attended the same school all my life so I knew everyone and, as far as I can remember, was pretty well-liked. I attended the Friday night football games and dinners at TGI-Friday's that followed. I was invited to the parties. I got drunk off half a Mike's Hard Lemonade like the best of them. Thanks to three older siblings I was socially normal and, despite those clear braces and a questionable center hair part, I wasn't terribly offensive looking. Still, it was a tricky time for my self-esteem mainly because I got zero attention from boys.

My friends had boyfriends and prom dates that tried to go to second base with them. All my dates to dances were platonic. In fact, when I did get the courage to ask a boy I liked to Christmas Formal (when girls are supposed to ask guys), he didn't hesitate to say no- a plain no without explanation. For whatever reason, I just didn't have what most post-pubescent lads wanted.

I liked who I was back then- a goofball, a good student, a good friend. Still (like most teenage girls) I wasn't too comfortable in my own skin. I rarely felt pretty enough or cool enough around boys.

By the time I got to college I had been kissed just twice. The first weekend of my first semester at UF a tall good looking junior walked up to me at a party and told me I was "hot." I almost dropped the red Solo cup I had been pretending to drink from for hours. I made out with him that night. He asked me if I wanted to go back to his apartment to "check out a coffee table my roommates made from beer bottle caps" (seriously). I ran back to my dorm as terrified as I was giddy.

This should be the point in the post when I announce that after that fateful night the floodgates opened and men lined up around the block to date me- the flower that had finally blossomed. Eh, not so much. I dated a little. I kissed around. I mainly spent my time developing crushes on undeserving frat boys. Unrequited love was my speciality. By sophomore year I surprised myself with a serious boyfriend and well, that was it for dating. We stayed together until I was 24.

I'm single now and obviously very different from the 18-year-old single version of me. Somewhere along the way, I started feeling pretty enough and cool enough. But, I gotta admit, that braceface still exists. She's why I still crush so hard so fast. She's why I give men fourth and fifth chances they usually don't deserve. She's this tiny part of me that wants to be liked so bad it doesn't matter how.

A couple weeks ago, I went for drinks at the usual bar my coworkers and I head to after work. I was sitting at a counter that faces the bar, letting my feet dangle as I sipped a cocktail, when a group of three took seats across from us at the bar. I was warned that "my type" had arrived. He was. I starred at him shamelessly between conversations. He made eye contact with me too. My coworker, aware of the spectacle, demanded that I go talk to him. I dismissed her insanity. I couldn't approach him. What would I say?

So then write your number on a napkin and hand it to him on your way out, she suggested- as if that was normal behavior. I rolled my eyes. I would never. Braceface was appalled.

Fifteen seconds later she put a pen in my hand and 10 minutes later, in one of my more shocking single moments, I waltzed over to him at the bar, leaned in, scooted the napkin toward him and muttered whatever I could as my heart palpitated "I promise I never do this."

He looked at the napkin, smiled and introduced himself. I don't really remember anything that flopped out of my mouth after that. Something along the lines of we should meet up tonight as I scurried out the door where my coworkers were waiting/giggling.

About an hour later, he called.

Yes, braceface is still a part of me and she always will be. But I'm kinda starting to like this other side too- fearless New York maneater. Ha, a braceface can dream.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"rut ro"

Last week my roommate announced that she's ready to move out of our apartment. She's lived in our third floor walk-up for six years (four years before I got there). The slanted floorboards and peeled white moldings I find charming drive her crazy. She sees herself in a studio in Brooklyn. She's sure the change in scenery will drop her back in love with the city.

A few days later, over strong happy hour drinks, a close friend explained that she's considering a complete career overhaul. She's worried the industry she's in wont satisfy her in the long term- and her boss is a jerk.

As much as I wagged my head in support as both listed the pros of switching things up, I'll admit- I don't entirely get it. Yes, our apartment is small, closet-less and inexplicably dusty even after you dust, but it's cozy and cheap for the neighborhood. And yes, my friend's boss sucks, but honestly speaking, sane New York bosses are about as ubiquitous as female cab drivers (once and she had a moustache).

Why fix what ain't really broke?

When I relayed these updates to another friend (who just switched cities and job) she reminded me, "Well, Vanessa, you're not exactly big on change."

I got a little defensive. I'm big on change, or at least I'm sure I'm not small on it. I'm certainly not one of those boring people who just gets comfortable and settles- at least, I don't think I am. I guess it's just been a while since I felt the urgency to make any significant adjustments.

Nervous, I quickly scanned my apartment for evidence of complacency. I moved in two years ago and I still have plastic drawers instead of a real dresser. My head spun into a mini-tizzy. Do I need a change in scenery? Do I need a new job? Wait a hot second, did I fall into a rut when nobody was looking?

So, I overreacted. But I could use the break for evaluation.

When I moved to the city a couple years ago I was the queen of change and risk. New city, job, apartment, roommates, friends, singledom, bangs- I was scared to let anything stay the same.

A couple thousand subway rides later, I may have gotten a little comfortable. As good as that feels I'm a firm believer that your twenties (or at least my twenties) is hardly the time to settle into anything. I don't need a new apartment, but it could use a face lift- and furniture that didn't come from Kmart's dorm collection on clearance. I don't need a new job tomorrow, but I shouldn't avoid the sometimes scary question, "Where am I headed?"

Lucky for me, I live in a city that won't let you suffer in (or enjoy) any rut for too long. I'm surrounded by the antsiest folks on the planet- commitment-phobes and workaholics who consider "settle" a very bad word.

Right now, that's perfect for me- not that I'll never settle down. I look forward to the security and satisfaction that comes from picking the right place, person and job. But not now or yet- a least a hundred more mini-crises (and blog posts) to go before I figure that out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Parka Please

I may look the part in my boots and scarf, but below the layers I am (and always will be) a shivering Floridian who just can't woman up to the cold. And it's coming fast. I felt it under my bare feet when I stepped out of bed onto a chilled hardwood floor this morning. It was in the breeze that forced me to tuck my chin and tie up my jacket while walking home yesterday. It was in that frigid little transition from hot shower to towel. Before I know it, New York's cold season- all 5 ruthless months of it- will be in full frosty swing.

It will be my third since moving from winter-free Florida. I'll go ahead and give myself a solid D and C on keeping warm in 2008 and 2009. I made honest attempts- a fancy coat from Saks (attractive but worthless), a sad puffy jacket impulsively purchased from Loehmann's (when I couldn't fake warmth in the expensive Saks coat anymore) and a handful of scarves, hats and leggings hardly pulled me through.

This year, I'm not messing around. My strategy: a ridiculous coat from North Face. That beauty below is called an Arctic Parka. Sure, it will make me look a over-stuffed, gender-less, 200- pound Michelin Tire person with limited range of movement, but I will be oh so pleasantly toasty.

Bring it on negative degrees and wind tunnels. Me, the parka and my tiny space heater are ready.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Angry Chick


The other night, while stuck in a momentary “I hate boys” wallow, I turned to the same person I’ve turned to since middle school: Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter/angry chick Fiona Apple.

As an 18-year-old moping around my dorm because a boy didn't like me enough and as a 25-year-old moping around my (dorm-sized) New York apartment because a boy didn’t like me enough, Fiona’s raspy croons always hit the spot.

Lucky for me and my current sitch, her entire second album “When the Pawn Hits” seems to be about a dude who played her. She spends about 30% of the album frustrated and angry with herself and the other 70% telling him off.

Fiona had one. I have one. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had one- a guy or girl you simply can’t say no to, a person who somehow deflates your brain of all sensible decision-making abilities, your romantic kryptonite.

Newish to the dating world (as I had the same boyfriend from age 19 to 24) this total acquiescence of the upper hand has been tough to adjust to. Sure, I’ve endured plenty of versions of heartache and rejection in the past, but this is all just silly.

Even when the correct thing to do (ignore his call, go home, drop him like it’s hot) is sounding off in my brain like an alarm, I don’t hesitate to do the opposite.

I tried erasing his number. I tried pulling the just friends card. I tried dating his opposite.

The man is a boomerang. I can’t go a month without adding a new scene to our drama. It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting. It’s always entertaining. And I guess in many ways it’s a rite of passage.

Fiona said it best:

“And when the day is done,
and I look back and the fact is I had fun,
fumbling around
all the advice I shunned,
and I ran where they told me not to run,
but I sure had fun."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The post where I name drop too much...


Since moving to the Big Apple I've had my fair share of celebrity sightings. From way random (Phillip Seymour Hoffman yelling into his cell phone at a grocery store; Danny Devito too small for his SUV; Steve Buscemi beside me at a bar; Mr. Belding drinking heavily) to the ones that make your repeat "Oh my God" like an idiot: Madonna almost bumping into me on a sidewalk; Josh Hartnett seated across from me at a restaurant; Hugh Jackman eating at my go-to sushi place; Lindsay Lo, Cameron Diaz and Elijah Wood at my brother's concerts; and through work (the highlights): Bono, Matt Damon, Natalie Portman, Sarah Jessica Parker, President Obama, Al Pacino, Renee Zellweger, Michael Douglas, Babs Walters, Uma Thurman, Martha Stewart, Ted Danson, Susan Sarandon, Anna Wintour and, uh, the Dalai Lama.

Excuse the shameless name dropping, but I promise I'm building to a good story.

Here's the thing; I used to be a star struck mess.

When I was 13 at an NSYNC concert I saw Joey Fatone's sister on line to get nachos. Not Joey Fatone or even a brother that looks like him but Joey Fatone's chubby sister with an Italian girl-stache. To say I spazed out is an understatement. I literally started jumping up and down, pointing and screaming so wildly my friend (also 13) had to pluck me out of the line, push me into a corridor and coach me into normal breathing again. So, to review, I not only knew who in the world Joey Fatone's sister was but I hyperventilated at the sight of her.

For years this insane reaciton to celebrities lingered. I just learned how to play it off better. I kept an MC Hammer autograph like a love note in my journal for years and can still remember what I was wearing when I saw Goldie Hawn, Kurt Douglas and a young Kate and Oliver Hudson at an airport (denim overalls and, for the record, Goldie said no to an autograph. Kurt said yes.)

Then I moved to New York where a week doesn't go by without at least a SNL star or Bravo housewife sighting. After two years of this, I thought I was totally cured of my star struckness.

I frequently choose to leave work on time rather than wait around for whatever celeb who's hosting the event I'm planning to arrive. I don't get the same rush. I'm not mesmerized anymore.

Well, at least this is what I had convinced myself of until about two weeks ago when one sighting left me utterly handicapped.

I was putting the final touches on a long banquet table I had set up for a dinner party- adjusting the napkins, straightening the chairs, checking the glasses for smudges- when someone standing directly across the table, leaning in to read a place card, made me look up.

The instant my brain registered Leonardo Dicaprio's perfect face, I'm fairly certain my heart paused. My mind blanked. My limbs went Gumby beside me. I was a zombie, mouth open, eyes unblinked for at least a minute. He's tall- a broad, thick, dreamboat of a man. His tan glowed. His gelled hair glistened.

A waiter bumped me out of the way to light a candle in front of me. I tried to regain use of my feet and legs. Then the adrenaline rush came. I sprinted to the other side of the table to squeeze my coworker's arm until she also spotted him. We silently freaked out together then attempted to snake through the crowd forming around Leo to get another good look. On our way, my boss, also a little giddy from the excitement, grabbed my arm, spun me around and announced, "Do you want to meet Dicaprio?"

As he said this I realized I was now standing less than one foot away from Leo. If I had proper use of my arms I could have touched him. But, at this point and for the remainder of my time near Dicaprio, I was an bumbling mess. I couldn't speak more than "Oh my God." My heart was pounding so hard I worried I might faint.

My coworker, aware of my freak out, suggested that we walk out of the crowd. I went where I was tugged. I wish I could say I confidently introduced myself and shook his perfect hand (like I had every opportunity to, dammit) but controlled speech and movements were just not possible for me that evening.

Seeing him up close was everything the little girl who went to go see Titanic in theaters 8 times could have hoped for.

The reaction should probably embarrass me, but it doesn't. In a lot of ways it's comforting. Just when I think too-cool-for-school New York has changed me for good, I get a reminder that I'll always be the dorky Floridan who flipped out over a Fatone. And that's quite alright with me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Reach

I take my last sip of sake.

He asks for the check.

The bill comes, tucked in a black leather booklet, propped just a smidge closer to him than it is to me on the table.

It's formal dinner date number three (or maybe four. Either way, very new.) We're at a pretty swanky sushi restaurant in Midtown (complete with ambient music and bubbling rock garden bathroom sink.) It wasn't a bad date. He looks cute. Conversation is flowing, enough. I'm quiet for a couple minutes contemplating whether or not we'll smooch after dinner.

He finally unfolds the black leather booklet. I position myself for "the reach", a particularly insincere one.

Ladies, you know "the reach" I'm referring to. The let me move my hand in slow motion toward my purse, rummage through aimlessly and maybe start to mutter something along the lines of "What do I owe?"- a choreographed set up for the guy to shew away my credit card and insist that he's "got it."

When one performs this reach there's rarely any intention of actually contributing to the bill. It's just what we lady folk do. We don't want to seem entitled or unappreciative so we "offer."

My male readers (all three of them) are likely scoffing at their computer screens. The reach represents everything manipulative and hypocritical about modern women blah blah blah. I disagree. Look, I hate the word entitled too, but in the courting stage of a budding relationship all women are absolutely entitled to a few free meals. It's the only shred of chivalry we've got left. And, at the end of the day, it's not all about us. Paying for a girl's dinner- refusing the reach- is a timely opportunity at the end of a date for a man to puff up, pound his chest and showcase the masculine charm all girls want. Pick up the check. Pull out her chair. Open her door. Text her to make sure she got home OK. This stuff really works.

Back at the sushi restaurant, I'm in mid-reach.

"So umm if you want we could maybe split the check this time, if you want," I suggest quietly. My hand is wrist deep in my purse pretending to search for a wallet.

"Sure, that works," he replies casually.

My stomach drops. Uh, buddy, aren't you familiar with the reach?

"Yea, totally. Here you go." I fake a smile, pluck out my credit card and launch it at his face. Kidding. I poltitley place it in the black leather booklet.

It was sushi in Manhattan. It wasn't cheap.

And just like that I started to like the dude a whole lot less. Don't get me wrong. There were certainly other reasons why that meal became our last. But, when recounting the saga to girlfriends, I couldn't help but bring it up.

Is it shallow, snobby, superficial? A little bit. But it's true.

For the record, I'm only campaigning for free meals in the beginning. Once you're an item it's more than acceptable to split the bill or offer to pay for him.

Just consider this post a public service announcement. Fellas, suck it up and pick up the first few checks. I promise we're worth it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

TGI-Effed

Faithful readers, you may have noticed by now that embarrassing moments in the life and times of me are my favorite items to blog about. They're the easiest stories to tell.

I've posted about about the weird freckle on my bum (and the hot doctor who examined it), my habit of dancing like a crazy person in front of my mirror and the very proud moment when my mother announced my bathroom troubles to a new suitor.

I'm an open book- in life and in blog.

That being said, I have something pretty shameful to admit. Yesterday I took down a post seconds after publishing it because, for the first time, I was afraid of appearing a little too uncool.

I know. You're probably thinking, "Vanessa, you're the coolest chick on the face of the planet. What could possibly cramp your style?"

I present to you, unedited, yesterday's post. But I'm warning you, you may find me far less fabulous when it's over.

TGI-Effed

I work in the events industry. A day rarely passes without some mini-catastrophe, e.g., a wedding cake topples over, a buffet table catches on fire, Barbara Walter's Dover sole is over-salted.

I like my job because I'm pretty good under pressure. But last Friday, when crisis hit in the middle of my workday, my response was nothing less than desperate panic.

I really had no choice, you see. My front tooth fell out.

Yup, first bite into an Oats & Honey Nature Valley bar my front tooth popped right off.

Some background: When I was about 15 I opened my dad's car door right into my face and shattered about 70% of my front tooth. We had it fixed right away and up until about 12:30pm Friday afternoon all was good up in my grill.

Then, it fell out. I felt the gap with my tongue before running to the mirror in front of my cubicle.

"Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God."

My coworker, on the phone at the time, looked up confused.

"Oh my God, my tooth just felt out."

When I flashed her a nervous mouthful exposing the gap, literally smack dab in the center of my smile, my coworker screamed, hung up and sprung into action.

I sat back down, buried my busted smile into my hands and started crying. I looked like the freckle-faced Mad Magazine cartoon. My short-term plan was to sob and call my mother (in Florida). My coworker called my boss over to my desk. He assessed the damages, looked at me with equal parts surprise and sympathy and called his dentist.

In less than 10 minutes my extremely well-connected boss was able to convince his dentist to leave Central Park where he was enjoying a day off with his wife and meet me for an emergency appointment at his Rockefeller Plaza office.

I rushed to the appointment in full panic, frantically cutting off cabs and elbowing packs of tourists on 5th Avenue. I didn't open my mouth until I reached the revolving door outside the doc's office. I caught my reflection in the building's shiny black glass.

Then, finally, I started laughing. I was a total toothless freak show. I imagined myself greeting a client at work or smiling at a cute guy next to me in the subway. The snaggletooth was nothing less than startling.

At the building security desk, I attempted to speak with my toothless mouth turned toward the floor.

"What was that?" the security guard barked as I told the floor I was here to see Dr. Hurowitz. "Who are you here to see?"

"I'm here to see Dr. Hurowitz, the dentist, because I just lost my front tooth and I'm freaking out!"

Did I mention I was now speaking with a horrendous lisp as the acoustics of my mouth were totally thrown off? Hurowitz came out more like "Hurowithz".

The guard's comforting response, "You know it's expensive to fix a tooth."

Pacing the dentist's waiting room I wondered what I would have done without my boss' connections. It was a Friday afternoon. I don't even have a dentist in the city. Without strings to pull the earliest appointment would have been Monday. And, at that point, my only option would have been to check out of society for the weekend- hide under my covers or if an outing was totally necessary, wear a burka.

Sure it's adorable on a 5 year old. But I learned the hard way, as an adult there's no way to function without your front teeth.

A couple hours after the run in with the Nature Valley bar, I was good as new. But days later I have to admit I'm still a little shaken up by the fiasco.

That one little change to my appearance flipped my world upside down. I went from confident to a sobbing mess in seconds. Is my sanity that precarious? Am I too vain?

God, give me bad hair days or big zits, but please oh please leave me my teeth.
***

So why did I pull the post yesterday? The truth: I imagined the next dude I date browsing my blog, coming across this post and finding the whole fake tooth thing unattractive.

Sure, it's sorta TMI. But it was also hilarious, and after careful consideration, if a man can't handle my (rather sexy) fake front tooth then I'd rather not handle him.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

When in Rome...

Pizza is my desert island food. I could happily eat it for more consecutive days than I should publicly admit. I don't indulge as often as the Cathy comic managing my cravings would like (because of the consequences to my badunk) but when I do it's never less than blissful.

Last weekend I was in Chicago visiting my big sister and her husband who recently moved there. My sis rattled off our agenda as soon as I arrived: architectural walking tour, a few museums, Lincoln Park, authentic deep dish pizza... She probably listed at least 5 other exciting Chicago to-dos after that but I wouldn't know. Cathy and I were drooling over visions of fluffy crispy crusts and bubbling cheese.

We skipped lunch Sunday in preparation for dinner at Pequod's Pizza, a 40-year-old pizza joint in Lincoln Park (named after the whaling boat from Moby Dick). My brother-in-law bragged about its "locals only" status. Walking in it looked like I wanted it to- exposed brick walls, neon beer signs, those tall red-tinted plastic tumblers. To cut to the chase, our large half-peperoni/half-sausage looked and smelled nothing less than glorious when it was plopped onto our table 45 minutes after we ordered. I'm pretty sure I clapped when it arrived.


As my slice was carved out of the cast iron skillet and hunked onto my plate the local we were eating with explained that Pequod's is famous for a black "caramelized" crust that comes from decades of baking in pans that they supposedly never really clean. Sure enough this "dirty crust" was my favorite part, adding a toasty hint of nuttiness to the slice. The couple inches of bread weren't too soft, holding up the gobs of cheese and sauce well. To be honest, it didn't really taste like pizza. It was this decadent slab of saucey cheesiness that strangely felt like dessert.

Better than New York City thin crust? They're apples and oranges- both perfect in context, impossible to compare.

Deep dish might just work better on that desert island. More carbs. Cathy agrees.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Manly Men

After four days and five nights in Portland, Oregon I came to one very sure conclusion: I dig West Coast guys.

To unfairly stereotype, they're nothing like the big city boys I've gotten used to- with their Molton Brown lemongrass shave wax and professionally manicured nails.

Out West they're all hunky, tall, broad-shouldered, mountain-sun-kissed manly men with carabiners clipped to their keys and hobbies like whitewater rafting or, I don't know, lifting heavy things. Exhibit A: Chris Sharma, big deal rock climber and dreamboat


Back in New York this week I shared my observation with a group of coworkers. The men got instantly defensive and asked me to list one thing an Oregon boy can do that they cant.

Change a tire?

Both sheepishly admitted to never having done it."BMW assistance is a button away and I probably wouldn't do it right." Point proved.

Full disclosure: As much as I swear up and down that my type is rugged and outdoorsy with a pinch of hippie, the last handful of guys I've dated have been buttoned up bankers/lawyers. So the suit does it for me too. If he hikes on the weekends and is big and strong enough to pick me up and throw me, even better.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No News is Bad News


Once upon a time I was a newspaper reporter.

As a local features writer most of my assignments were puff: school spelling bees, ice cream parlor openings, how to prepare for the hurricane season and such. I didn't expose many (or any) social injustices or scandals (but I did offer painstaking coverage of the Westminster Dog Show when a local pup made it to the semi-finals.)

So the job was fluffy but working in a newsroom did wonders for my knowledge of current events. Every morning I read/heavily skimmed every section of the New York Times and St. Pete Times. Throughout the rest of the work day I would poke around the AP wire searching for other interesting headlines. At the time there wasn't a water cooler conversation I couldn't participate in.

That was then.

Last week at lunch with my older bosses someone brought up the floods in Pakistan. Everyone at the table chimed in with opinions and information. I stared at my gazpacho. I had no idea what they were talking about. Apparently hundreds of people had died in monsoon floods while I was very busy watching "The Bachelor Pad".

I don't go to work in a newsroom anymore. In fact, as an event planner the only news that officially matters is if Sam Sifton reviewed us yet or there's a financial shakeup that might keep a regular client from ordering white truffle.

But that's no excuse. I should know what's going on out there. I should care.

Today I spent at least 30 minutes clicking through the New York Times Web site. It felt good to be back...even if I did spend a nice chunk of my time there reading the article titled, "Need a Pick-Me-Up? Try Boots." Baby steps count.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No she didn't.


I'm six months single- dating but officially unattached for the last half year. I'll admit, for a while it was a difficult status change to embrace. As much as I wanted to believe there was an independent, finger-shaking, spandex-onesi-wearing, sassy "single lady" inside, a lot of days I just missed the whole girlfriend gig.

Six months later, I'm happy to report that I now have a lot less of those days. Relationships have their perks- trust, intimacy, comfort, substance, snuggling- but singlehood in NYC offers something satisfying too: utter unpredictability. Last weekend I pulled a single lady stunt that surprised even me.

Before I admit this to all 5 people who regularly read this blog, I must preface: my opinions and final judgements of this whole thing are still firmly TBD.

So, I made an online dating profile.

But I swear it's not what you think (OK it's a little what you think.)

I kept hearing about OKCupid, this free dating/social networking site that apparently caters to young New Yorkers. It's basically Facebook: lots of lurking strangers' pictures and personal information with the addition of compatibility questionnaires (Are you political? Do you smoke?). I, of course, gave it a thorough browse before putting up a profile.

As far as I knew dating sites were exclusively for the socially awkward. A lot of guys lived up to the stereotype: balding unattractive creepers with self-summaries like "Everyday is an adventure. Come along." or profile shots of only their chiseled, spray tanned abdominals. But a surprising handful seemed normal, interesting, attractive and even witty. Most notably, it's a site that doesn't seem to take itself too seriously.

So I did it. Mainly because it was a rainy Sunday. A little bit because I'm curious to see how I do. (Eventually they tell you if you've gotten clicked on enough to make it to their attractive person tier where you actually get blocked from the lesser not-clicked-on folks. No, I'm not joking.) Most importantly, I did it because I'm dedicated to my current say yes to everything kick. Wanna go on a hiking trip in Portland? Yes. Wanna try Bikram yoga? Yes. Wanna make an online dating profile? Dear Lord, I'm actually going to say yes.

So far, four days into it, I've received 22 messages from male members. Some just say hello. Others attempt to relate to details from my self-summary. "You're from Florida. I went to Disney once." The vast majority are creepers. "I like rotten food, cheap piss liquor and love girls that don't eat or drink- more for me!" (actual excerpt from message). A grand total of four have come across as normal and kinda cute.

It may take a small miracle for me to actually agree to meet any of the aforementioned kinda cute ones in public (a very safe, well lit, densely populated public), but in the meantime it's extremely entertaining...and, most importantly, destined to deliver blogworthy stories.

Just look out for me on the next online dating commercial. I'll be the the one hugging "Tom" after we get into a flour fight while baking his favorite snickerdoodles. And you'll be jealous.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kind of a Big Deal

I had dinner with President Obama last Wednesday.

Well, not dinner in the "traditional" sense. We weren't at the same table-- or in the same room while he ate. But I did make sure the table, chair and tablecloth he used were just right. And I did ask him (via White House staff) what he wanted to eat (the sirloin steak au poivre, medium rare). In my mind that qualifies as dinner with the leader of the free world.

Barrack was in town for a couple political fundraisers: one Tuesday at Anna Wintour's house and (the important) one Wednesday at the very restaurant where I run around as an event planner. Fifty of the president's top donors gathered for dinner in one of our private rooms. They ate gazpacho with smoked salmon, maple peppercorn glazed duck and saffron peach pudding (prepared by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson.) But Mr. President- after mingling with the party guests- ate separately off of our restaurant's menu in a smaller private room.

His visit lasted just a couple hours but the planning and security clearance started weeks ago. Every employee was background checked. Every person who step foot in the restaurant got metal detected. We're fairly certain all the office phones were tapped (which forced me to hang up on my always tactful Rush-Limbaugh-loving mother who called on the big day to ask if "Barrack HUSSEIN Obama!" had arrived.)

At least 70 Secret Service agents invaded the restaurant. And when Obama pulled up, through a tent and tunnel that was built off of the closed New York City block, every inch of the restaurant throbbed with energy. He came, schmoozed, ate quickly and left but I can't help but feel like it was well worth all the hoopla.

It was one of my proudest professional moments- second to last year's lunch with the Dalia Lama (and Bethenny Frankel peeing in one of our wine buckets, of course.)

I felt especially lucky to do what I do.

And it didn't hurt that one of the Secret Service guys asked me out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Apple's Worms

Oh the many ways this great city can creep me out.

On the subway, sidewalk, park bench or bar stool a little too close to mine, the never predictable residents of New York City effortlessly insert crazy into my daily routine.

Last week the city tossed two especially memorable and blogworthy creepers into my path.

Friday, 5:30ish, Downtown 6-Train: I shuffle onto a packed subway cart shocked to see a glistening free wedge of seat in the middle of a row. I "excuse me" my way in it, plop purse in lap, look up and quickly realize exactly why it was the only vacant seat during rush hour. The young guy standing above me is singing along to his iPod. Well, not singing but dropping beats- loud unbelievably vulgar beats. Doo rag tight, pants bagged to mid-thigh, facial hair neatly groomed into a sharp chin strap- this fellow passenger is rapping the "p" word and "c" word and every other raunchy slang for female genitalia along with a generous mix of "n" words at an uncomfortably audible volume. The hipster across from me is biting his lip to hold back church giggles. The other 70 percent of the train is appalled. And there I am, seated directly below the Hispanic Marshall Mathers, inches away from his exposed boxer shorts, praying to God we don't make eye contact.
Just another commute home from work...

Sunday, 6:00ish, Chelsea: I'm strolling down 19th Street, headed to Trader Joe's for some groceries, on the phone with my older sister when my shriek pauses her in mid-sentence.

"Wait, what?" she asks.
I let out at least five "Oh my Gods" before I can piece together an explanation.
"A man just walked past me with his wiener out!"
"Wait, what? What do you mean?"
"He's walking down the street in broad day light with his zipper down and wiener out."

Yes, an otherwise normal looking man passes me on a busy sidewalk with his wang al fresco like it's another arm or leg. I'm traumatized for at least 2 blocks, desperate to scrub the picture from memory.
Just another trip to the grocery store...

I guess every apple has its worms.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Anything and Anyone


25 is a tricky age.

I'm definitely not "old" but in a lot of ways I'm not all that young anymore.

It's this sometimes frustrating limbo between carefree youth and not-so-carefree adulthood that makes decisions tough. If I date this guy, take this job, move to this city, how much weight will it have on how my life unfolds? Will it mean nothing, everything?

Should you date someone who's probably not the "one" or work a job you couldn't really see yourself in 5 or 10 years down the line? My gut tells me I'm too young to worry about it, but is it healthy to not even have the slightest clue what's in store?

Sorry, blog readers, for the barrage of "dear diary" rhetorical questions. I'm not really in crisis. Most days, I'm perfectly content where I am: on no specific track.

When I moved to New York a couple years ago I vowed to make this period of my life strictly about compiling worthwhile experiences and meeting worthwhile people. I had no agenda. I just wanted life to get interesting. So far, so successful. But my ducks are nowhere near in row.

Most days I'm comforted by this uncertainty, the idea that anything and anyone is still possible. But lately, while coaching a few friends through rough patches, the realization has bubbled up some nerves.

The everyday novelty of life in this city is exhilarating. Whether it's the opportunity to meet the President of the United States at just another Tuesday night on the job (blog post to follow) or simply watching a man drum an unbelievable beat into the bottom of a plastic bucket on a subway platform, it's a city that keeps me on my toes.

But, at the same time, the whirling pace, changing scenery and friends who seem to come and go often leaves me aching for depth, substance and intimacy. It seems harder to find here than anywhere else.

I'm happy for now, still determined and excited to chomp this apple to its core. But, I'm also determined to never lose myself in the shuffle.

I'm still game, New York.

Photo by Joseph O. Holmes of 20x200.com

Monday, July 19, 2010

30% Miserable, 70% Amazing



July started with a week-long stretch of unbearable 100-degree days. A sticky, suffocating, everyone-on-the subway-smells heat wave the whole city was griping about. So, naturally, when my perky coworker asked me to join her at Bikram yoga- aka hot yoga- on the most sweltering Tuesday night of the summer, I agreed...then I Googled it...then I panicked.

I'm not the least athletic person I know. I take spinning classes and work out often. I've survived regular yoga, kickboxing, a class my gym calls "arms, abs and ass" and at least four semesters of GatorFunk sessions in college. But I do have a pretty scary tendency of fainting-- at the beach, at soccer practice, while climbing up the Acropolis in Greece. When I'm too hot, I pass out and Bikram pretty much revolves around getting too hot. It's a 90 minute class that includes 26 different postures that fold, twist, pull and stretch your entire body. A Bikram yoga room is heated to at least 105 degrees, an environment that's supposed to warm up your muscles for a deeper stretch, rev up your cardiovascular system and, through all the sweating, flush out all the waste and toxins in your body.

My coworker and her Jennifer Aniston arms swear by it so I figured it was worth a shot, despite the 50 percent chance I would pass out.

The class was jam packed with rows of mats and half-naked classmates. I wore Spandex pants. Rookie mistake. 10 minutes in, I envied the (probably gay) man stretching next to me in nothing but a black and lime green striped Speedo. 20 minutes in, I was drenched in sweat. Everything was slippery. 40 minutes in, after dipping my head and neck forward for a posture, I started to feel dizzy. I was either going to puke or pass out. I kneeled on my mat and begged for neither. The break helped and after I repeated "Relax, Vanessa" at least 50 times, the spins subsided. I was shocked to be able to finish the class faint-free.

It was 30% miserable, 70% amazing so I went back the next day and have made it to class at least every two or three days during the last 2 weeks. And, turns out, Anna Chlumsky (Vada from "My Girl") also takes yoga there.

Leave it to a Florida girl to find the hottest most humid room in Manhattan and pay to be there.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekend Warrior

I woke up to five ripe purplely-black bruises Sunday after a Saturday in New Jersey. Don't worry; I wasn't clocked in the face Snookie-style by a roided out Jersey shore bar dweller. Instead I earned my wounds in battle, literally.

Paintballing has been on my really-wanna-do list for a while, at least in theory. Like sky diving, hiking 14ers, getting a post graduate degree and being the main hoochie in a rap video, paintballing is something I've always said/hoped I'd do.

So, when a guy friend asked me to join a big group for paintballing Saturday morning I quickly agreed. The trip was planned through Urban Escapes, a company that organizes weekend getaways for young city folk like me. They usually mix an outdoorsy activity with alcohol like kayaking and wine tasting or in this case, paintballing and brewery tour. I signed up without hesitation. I could use a little spontaneity and adventure.

When our vans pulled into the paintballing place in Jersey Saturday morning, fear came over me quick. A group of grown men in full camouflage from bandanna to clunky combat boots were using the course before us. It was all a little more intense than I imagined.

They passed around guns and Power Ranger-esque masks and warned us that if we took them off we'd probably get our teeth knocked out.

As I ran out into the first "junkyard" course, hiding behind a rusty old fridge, clenching my gun to keep my hands from shaking, I wondered how in the world I got from Manhattan to here. The first paint bullet hit me smack dab in the center of my mask. I threw up my hands in surrender and zig-zagged back to the safety zone as quickly as I could with yellow paint splattered across my goggles. Another bullet pegged my chest before I made it to safety. The body shot stung, like getting pelted with a marble, but only for a minute...not scary enough keep me out of the next five rounds that followed.

I was surprised by how much I liked it...romping around a random field, ducking behind tires and trees, strategizing with teammates, shooting perfectly nice strangers in their backs. It was all pretty badass. And the big bruises on my back and legs, those are just badges of honor.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ode to Korean Karaoke

It usually happens after midnight. It started off as a special occasion thing, something I only did a couple times a year to celebrate a friend's birthday or bachelorette. I never thought it would become a weekly thing. I didn't think I was that kind of of girl-- the kind of girl that ends up at a Korean karaoke bar until 3am on a weeknight, just because and often.

Since April I've Korean karaoked at least a dozen times. For those of you who don't live in a city with a bustling Korean population, it's important to explain that this culture's version of karaoke is little like the traditional. No quiet stage or judgemental crowd. Korean karaoke takes place in a small dark private room typically containing giant leather couches, rainbow-colored walls and a big screen tv flashing absurd 1980s video montages for each song.



You get two microphones and song books stuffed with any tune your drunk heart might desire. You order pitchers of beers and shots of this Korean liquor I can never remember the name of. Everyone in the room sings. You don't check your watch or remember that outside the room in four hours there's work to go to. You belt out Billy Joel, The Boss, one-hit-wonder 80s bands, Jay-Z, the Sister Act soundtrack, pa-pa-pa poker face, Kings of Leon and a riveting rendition of Janet Jackson's "Again" until the very friendly spikey-gel-haired young Korean dude that works there flips the lights on your room.

Truth is, I'm very OK with this addiction.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Where everybody knows your name...

I'm on a first-name basis with Abraham, the man who works at the 24-hour bodega on my block. He gives me relationship advice (and a free mini Toblerone once). I exchange daily waives with the ladies at the nail salon down the street. They ask to see pictures of my new niece. And last week the barista at the Starbucks near work actually remembered my usual order. This can only mean one thing (well, other than confirmation I'm spending way too much on manicures and lattes): I'm a New Yorker, a real one. It happened. Orange to apple.

I'll celebrate the two year anniversary of my move to New York in a couple weeks. So, naturally, I'm tempted to take a wistful look back.

During my first lonely weeks here two years ago, I would have paid big bucks for the man at my neighborhood bodega to remember my name, let alone keep the freezer section stocked with Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked Fro Yo (guilty). I can remember Saturday afternoons when I would literally walk slump-shouldered down the East Village, staring enviously at restaurant tables stuffed with groups of friends brunching, laughing, planning fabulous group activities. It was weird. I was sad and lonely and jealous of groups of strangers. I missed my friends.

This city can be painfully anonymous. But last week after the Starbucks man smiled and yelled "tall soy latte" before I said anything at the counter, and a couple weeks ago when Abraham asked if I missed my ex-boyfriend who moved to Colorado, the city felt anything but anonymous. It took me a hot second, but I think I've finally carved out a life, a wedge in this apple where everybody knows my name (and they're always glad you came...) It's my city too.

I can sincerely say that these days I'm pretty much in love with New York. It's a romance that took time and effort. It took patience and sense of humor. Because you can't really love or even like it here until you feel loved by the people here.

Happy Anniversary.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ole Ole Ole Ole

It was hardly 7:15am Thursday. I pried one eye open after my cell phone buzzed so many times it nearly scooted off my night table. Missed texts and emails from dad, brother and mom. It took about 5 seconds for my sleepy brain to process.

"Oh my God, the game!" I flopped out of my lofted bed, ran into the living room and scrambled for the remote control. Argentina vs. South Korea, 7:30AM ET.

The photo texts buzzed through all morning.

7:16am: Picture of Mom in an Argentina jersey and white and blue alpargatas standing next to a life size cut out of Diego Maradona (team coach and hands down best soccer play to ever live).

7:22am: Image of my brother in an Argentina jersey cradling my month-old niece wearing an Argentina onesi.
7:55am: Pic of Dad sporting an Argentina jersey and blue and white striped afro
9:11am: Photo of Mom and Dad cheering
And later after we win (4-1!!)...
12:46pm: Shot of Abuela & Abuelo huddled around the television cheering.

The World Cup is a very big deal among us Garcias (as it is for every other member of this planet other than silly Americans). I'll never forget an early morning during the 2002 South Korea/Japan World Cup when my dad woke me up at 4:30am to sit wrapped in the Argentina flag while the team ran out onto the field, out of respect--then I could go back to bed.

Can you blame him? We're the best team in the world.

Vamos, vamos Argentina! Vamos, vamos a ganar!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

sweet gushy goey goodness

I'm a big fan of Bob from the purchasing department.

Bob is responsible for ordering every morsel of food used at the landmark restaurant where I work. He mans our giant pantry and fridge, a veritable foodie dream world (larger then my current apartment) filled with the best ingredients from all over the world- fresh truffle, towers of caviar, $40 jars of honey, every spice you can dream up and the freshest fruit flown in weekly.

I fancy Bob because he uses his pantry power for good and drops edible surprises on my desk when I seem to need them most. During the fall, it's perfectly crisp apples. During the winter and spring, gushing cara cara oranges. In the summer- drum roll please- peaches so good they'll restore your faith in man.

I was on the phone this morning when Bob rolled a rosy little peach onto my desk. I interrupted the call to yelp. Nothing's better than a summer peach from Bob.

Later my Tuesday got even tastier. My boss treated my coworker and me to Chinese lychee. I'm familiar with the fruit but I had never peeled into a fresh one. The gooey flesh under it's bumpy skin burst like a plum when I bit into it. More refreshing than sweet, it's the kind of thing I can eat 20 of before noticing (like edamame and Twizzlers.)

Later, I took an extra lap past the pastry side of our kitchen to sneak a mini chocolate ball filled with pistachio mousse. Three indulgent reasons a gal like me probably shouldn't work at a restaurant.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Five O'Clock Somewhere


I know everybody everywhere happy hours. But do you sip after-work brewskis at a roof top bar under the legendary Empire State Building?

I snapped these cell phone photos from Sun Roof, a 14-th floor roof bar in Midtown West located in the shadow of the 102-story landmark. No King Kong, Meg Ryan or Tom Hanks sightings but the breeze and view from up there made it a pretty stellar spot to end my work week. Only in the Empire State.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Getting my rooftop on...

A few weeks shy of the official start of summer and I'm beginning to remember just how bitter sweet the season can be in the city. The heat here is relentless. Warm air coats the boiling streets. It's sticky hot outside, worse commuting underground and even when you finally reach the indoors, without central air chugging away you're always at least 10 minutes away from relief.

Yes, it'll get pretty gross during the next couple months, but this crazy city can't help but find perfectly unique ways to redeem itself. Restaurants open sidewalk seating, patios, rooftops and beer gardens. (The pic above was snapped Monday night from the rooftop at the Gansevoort Hotel overlooking the Hudson River.) Parks host outdoor movie screenings and concerts. People picnic, toss Frisbees, rent bikes, throw parties and incorporate chilled alcoholic beverages into it all-- anything to keep us out of our sizzling shoebox apartments.

I get to know the city best during the summer. So even if I wake up sweaty most mornings and even if I curse every boiling block of cement I walk to work, I'm looking forward to an extra hot one.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Really?

My family's crazy.

The good crazy. The kind of crazy that makes me laugh until my cheeks hurt at family gatherings. The kind of crazy that makes spontaneous post-dinner dance parties (complete with conga lines through the living room) a relatively normal occurrence. The kind of crazy that can only come from unconditional love (and an Argentinian background). I'm proud and appreciative. But some days (Sunday) certain loved ones (Mom) go too far.

I rolled the dice and invited a guy I've been dating casually for the last several weeks to lunch with the family. My mom was visiting from Florida. My sister just moved to the city. My brother and his wife (brand new parents) were willing to leave their apartment for the first time in weeks. Despite the relative newness of my "relationship" with (lets call him) Bob I felt comfortable saying yes to my mom's request to meet him. Like I said, I'm usually pretty proud of my nutty family. Their antics are always entertaining, and I knew Bob could handle it.

We met for lunch at Perry St. in the West Village, a Jean Georges restaurant that takes itself a nudge too seriously but the food is fantastic. I ordered a steak. Since I started working at a 3-star restaurant and at least pretending to be a part of New York's City's foodie culture, I've adjusted some of my ordering habits. The chef I work with taught me that a good steak should be enjoyed medium rare so that's how I ordered it. And that's how it came, pink and juicy. We were all ready to dig in, family plus Bob.

My always-opinionated mother took one look and proclaimed in her extra loud accented English...

"Ju know, Vanessa, ju really shouldn't eat it so rare. Remember a couple weeks ago you had bad diarrhea."

Just like that, she dropped the d word. She screamed the d word.

The table erupted in laughter. I dropped my fork, turned red and melted into the back of Bob's chair. Really, Mom? Really?

She wasn't done.

"I'm just saying, ju should be careful because..."
"Mom, stop."
"You eat these things and your stomach is sensitive and..."
"Mom, please."
"I'm just saying, it can make ju sick."

My sister changed the subject. I regained normal coloring in my face a few minutes later. Bob obviously didn't care (though I'm sure some of the mystique of our new romance got flushed that afternoon).

I was mortified and I realize I'm now letting cyber space laugh at me. But some things just have to be blogged.

Like I said, the Garcia's are crazy.

It's complicated.


A guy friend recently joked that a man's brain is run by dude in a La-Z-Boy, wiping potato chip fingers on his shirt, making all decisions based on the maximum amount of boob he can get out of each situation. Crack open a woman's head and you'll find a fully-staffed control center, a hundred women in headsets calling in opinions, emotions, judgements, feelings etc...

He's right. Women are complex creatures. An article in the science section of the New York Times this morning confirms it...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Peachy Keen


"There are two types of people,"

My ears perked as one of my bosses (a Swiss man who wears suspenders under his impeccably pressed suits) addressed our lunch table. I love when people speak in absolutes, and as a yogi who's chummy with the Dalia Lama (literally) this boss usually offers worthwhile bits of wisdom.

"You're either a walnut or a peach," he proclaimed.

According to the boss man, if you're hard like a walnut on the outside (guarded, inexpressive, cautious) once broken into you're a sweet little nugget. If you're a mushy peach at the surface (emotional, open, sensitive, tender) deep down there's a tough core.

Neither one is good or bad, he explained. Just different, and we're all absolutely one or the other.

"Vanessa, you're definitely a peach," he burst my thought bubble before it floated overhead. The rest of the table (all men) nodded their heads in agreement.

Alright, I'll take peach. I'm self-aware enough to recognize that I'm generous with my emotions. I don't mind being vulnerable. I'm anxious when I don't express myself. I'm addicted to affection (If you sit or stand by me I will hold your hand.) All peachy. But, what's this deep, dark, impenetrable core?

Sometimes I feel more like a kiwi: mushy through and through, too sensitive for my own good. According to my zen boss, however, my tough core absolutely exists. I'm comforted by his insistence. Lately I've been trying, rather unsuccessfully, to act a little harder. Because apparently what every single lady in the Big Apple needs is a ninja turtle shell.

The shell protects against New York City men who are a different breed all together, or so I've been told. Everyone has their theory.

"Guys in this city are drunk on options," a girlfriend commented recently. The warning: men here will wine and dine you but few will commit. Why should they? There's a new single, attractive, semi-interesting girl at the corner of every bar.

It makes sense. Just about all of my 25-year-old friends back in Florida are married, engaged or openly talking about engagement. In New York, single is the norm, committed relationship is the exception, marriage talk before 30- well that's just madness.

Most days I like it that way. I'm certainly not ready to settle down. But every once in a while I wonder if I'm walnut enough to handle dating New York City men. There's only one way to find out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ragged on the edges girl...

I heart you New York, but some weekends there's nothing I crave more than a city break.

This holiday weekend I traded up for the wide open spaces of Central Pennsylvania. A friend invited me to a hunting cabin tucked deep into the PA backwoods- five hours away from New York where cell phones, Internet, television and all reminders of my buzzing city life cease to exist. Riding up the mountain we hung our heads out the windows of the car like dogs sucking in the fresh air we didnt realize we missed.

Our plans for three days: throwin' horseshoes, shootin' guns, ridin' four wheelers and grillin' steaks...all set to the honky croons of Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney and company (songs I've memorized by osmosis growing up in Florida). I wore jorts, sipped Miller Lites and let my legs get muddy, a world away from my fancy pants day job.

At night, huddled around a fire, the sky burst with stars I never get to see. Leaned back in camp chairs with leg rests and cup holders, we counted shooting stars (I wished on two) as the moon rose over the trees.

I forgot the day and time, the Blackberry and bridezillas (it's turkey hunting season at the cabin but wedding season back at work).

Back in the city Monday nothing was still. At night, I couldn't count a single star. I still heart you New York and your hustle and bustle, but sometimes you're just a little too much.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Busty Move

At least twice a week I eat lunch at the bar in the restaurant where I work (as an event planner). My coworker and I wait until 2:30pm to take our seats when the lunch crowd is dwindling and there are only a handful of suits left at the bar alternating between blinking Blackberries and mid-day cocktails. It makes for great people watching.

On Monday I was enjoying a delectable lunch (roasted chicken with ramps and morels) when an attractive Asian woman took a seat across from me at the bar. Two giant breasts, not at all proportional to her small frame, spilled out of the collar of her wrap dress. She practically propped them onto the bar. I looked. The entire restaurant looked. It was hard not to.

She was meeting a man. I eavesdropped. They chatted business/finance. She sounded smart. She had a loud unself-conscience laugh and used it generously. After about three minutes of observation, I decided that I liked her. She was undeniably comfortable in her skin. Her cleavage and easy laugh commanded the room. Men were drooling. Jealous women rolled their eyes. Good for her.

I sized up my own chest. Not too big or small, I've always been satisfied with the size of my "girls." They arrived relatively early when I was about 11. I remember a Sunday morning in the 5th grade sitting at the breakfast table with my older brother and a handful of his friends who had slept over. I was wearing my pajamas- a white T-shirt and boxer shorts.

"Nana (my nickname), when did you get boobs?" my brother proclaimed. His 18-year-old friends erupted in laughter. I turned magenta and stormed out. I wore a sports bra and tank top under my school uniform the next day. I wasn't ready for boobs.

Eventually, I discovered their power. In college, I showcased them often, playing up my cleavage with spaghetti straps and push up bras. But it's been a while since I've really worked them. The busty woman at the bar inspired a shopping trip. After all, few things perk me up like buying new cutesy unders.

First stop, Victoria's Secret. With help from Daphne, "fit specialist" and apparently new best friend, I took two of their heavily advertised new bras to the fitting room: The BioFit and The Miraculous. The Miraculous promises a 2-cup upgrade. I was intrigued, a $48 boob job. I strapped it on and burst into laughter. Daphne asked if I was OK.

"I'm Dolly Parton," I answered, cleavage inches away from my chin.

Thanks to about two inches of gel padding my chest looked like an apple bottom.

The BioFit, a bra that can be worn 7 different ways, seemed more my speed. I wiggled into it and started to test the options: strapless, across one shoulder, halter, racer back and 3 ridiculously impractical crisscross patterns that Daphne (who's now standing virtually on top of me in the fitting room) was eager to show. She snapped and tugged me into each of the 7 "revolutionary" options, at one point literally picking up my breasts to "maximize bombshell cleavage." Despite the invasion of space, I loved my new best friend Daphne and consequently shelled out 50 bucks for a new bra.



Later that night, I "wore" my boobs out. Whether it was the cleavage or the little boost of confidence it gave me, I seemed to get some extra attention that night. Men are predictable. Then again, I'm not breaking down any stereotypes by working my chest.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Waiting to Speak


I don't mind first dates. Granted, with a five year monogamous relationship behind me, I haven't been on all that many. But the few dates I have been invited on have generally been entertaining, and if not so entertaining at the time they always deliver a worthwhile story.

Blame it on the same part of me that adores ice breaker games at school orientations. I like all the questions and answers. I like the challenge of figuring someone out, and on my most vain days, I like the opportunity to prove that I can be witty or endearing or surprising. Arrogant but true.

On a recent first(ish) date, I came to an unsettling realization.

Too often, I'm just waiting to speak.

He's was interesting, charming, funny, but I wasn't really listening. I'm too busy picking my next move. How will I respond? What cutesy anecdote can I tell? How can I make him laugh? I was stuck in my own head, missing the opportunity to really try to figure this guy out.

The realization is embarrassing. Do I ever just listen without an agenda?

Next time we hung out, I made a conscience effort to shut up. I had more fun. I'm pretty sure he had a better time too.

Truth is, we all like to talk about ourselves. (I keep a blog.) It's harmless human nature. This little experiment just reminded me that listening, really listening to someone else, is pretty fun too.

Hello Bagel


I keep missing my bed time, tucking in when I can count the hours until my alarm shouts on half a hand. If you let it New York will keep you up late.

It was especially tough lifting out of bed Wednesday morning. It was dank and chilly for May (yes, Floridian blog readers, we're still wearing our heavy coats over here). But I had to face the rain because, well, it was Wednesday.

To motivate my early start I promised myself a bagel. As the kind of gal who takes immense pleasure in planning meals, this was just enough incentive to shower me, dress me and put me on a subway to midtown.

All this for an Ess-A-Bagel...and worth every carb-loaded bite. This bagel shop, dangerously close to my office on 50th and 3rd Avenue, has been in business for about 40 years. It's the kinda bagel shop I presume you can only find in New York: a full Kosher deli with career bagel shmearers behind the counter. The hand-rolled bagels are always warm out of the oven with a hint doughnies where you want it. They're good enough naked but the spreads there are what keep me coming back.

My coworker, a native New Yorker, introduced me to Essa-A. She insisted on ordering for me the first time we walked over.

"Whole-wheat, toasted, scooped-out, scallion-tofu cream cheese, lettuce and tomato," she ordered then turned to me, "Just trust me."

I had serious doubts.

Scooped-out means please rip out all the excess dough until there's just a thin sad bagel shell left.

It's downright un-American, but I've been known to let it happen. I wont dab the grease off a slice of pizza or push the bun off my burger, but I scoop.

Scooping, OK. Scallion tofu, not OK.

I'm Argentinian. I'm not a vegetarian. Still, I'm up for anything and with food I have a strict try everything once policy.



As the begining of this post hinted, I was very pleasently surprised by my scooped-out tofu order. The tofu spread tastes just like the regular stuff, if not creamier, and the bagel minus all the dense middle is crispier on the edges (just how I like it).

I ordered the same on Wednesday, and although it sent the rest of my rainy morning into an unproductive food coma, it was worth every carb.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Last thing you want to wake up to...

It was up too early last Saturday morning after a Friday night out. The sun fought me out of bed. It was too nice out, and I had too much to do. I shuffled through my living room, about to turn the corner into my kitchen when I heard my roommate, Whitney, yell out from her bedroom.

"I'm so sorry, Vanessa! They're leaving soon!" she yelped.

Huh?

Did Whitney bring home a guy...multiple sketchy guys from a bar who were now passed out on our kitchen counters? (impossible). My sleepy brain didn't understand the warning.

"Wait, what?"

As she popped out of her bedroom to explain, I heard "them".

My jaw dropped, limbs froze. I reverted back to age 5.

I'm in the mulched playground outside St. Mary's School in a plaid jumper. The red remnants of snack time's juice box are probably stained into the corners of my mouth. A classmate points at my shoulder and shrieks in terror. Instinct tells me to swat. The bee stings me on my hand and my shoulder.

From that moment on I was terrified of bees. And since bees smell fear (no idea if that's factual) I have been stung four miserable times since the kindergarten playground debacle. On my butt cheek, on my arm and twice on my thighs.

So when I heard that unmistakable drone a few feet ahead, in my own home, I was frozen with terror.

How do I, of all people, live with a beekeeper.

Just a few feet across from me on the windowsill in my kitchen was a netted box stuffed with 12,000 live bees. They're buzzing like neon, clumped in a black dementor from Harry Potter mound.

I would have preffered the sketchy bar dudes.




Whitney owns a honey bee hive. She keeps it on the rooftop of the building where she works. It was time to add bees to her hive and through some horrendous series of misfortunes, the 12,000 caged new bees ended up sleeping over on Friday night.

"Can't they get out of that box?"

"No. It's totally secure. I brought them home in a cab."

I imagined the bees loose in a cab, stingers tapping against the plastic partition as they covered the driver. My palms got sweaty.

They were gone less than a couple hours later. I thanked Saint Mary.

Whitney came home that day with two new stings. Both were swollen into pink balls.

I worry one day a bee will follow Whitney home in her pocket, cling to the lining of her coat until she unlocks the door and it has the chance to torpedo out toward me.

I can live with that fear but not with 12,000 bees.

Got it, Whit?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cup of Joe


New Yorkers take food seriously.

We have the best pizza, best bagels, best cheesecake, best cupcakes, best everything. Challenge these claims and we'll get violent (or maybe just give you wrong directions to the Empire State Building. Suckas!)

Honestly, the adjective "best" is probably thrown around too generously in this city, but it is to safe to say that a lot of what's cooked up here is unique and delicious.

This past weekend, a friend told about the city's "best" coffee. So, on a damp, brisk Sunday afternoon we weaved through the West Village under an umbrella until we arrived at Joe The Art of Coffee on Waverly Place. Joe's is specifically famous for lattes so we ordered accordingly: 1 small soy latte for me (because I like the nuttiness) and 1 large regular latte for him. To stay.

We took two seats by the window. A man next to me was editing what looked like a screenplay. A folky indie band I'm not hip enough to hear about for at least another couple months was playing quietly in the background. Our drinks came quick in wide round mugs. The tops were decorated with a delicate frothy layer of artwork that explains the shop's slightly pretentious name.

But it wasn't all looks. The mug-full delivered. It was warm, rich and creamy to the last velvety sip.

It was good, really good. An easy New York best, and that's a fact. Well, my fact.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Make Me Wanna Shoop


Lucky for Google-obsessed New Yorkers like me, just about every location worth patronizing in this city offers published online reviews. Be it a restaurant, bar, clothing store, dry cleaner or random deli that serves delicious paninis after midnight, if you Google there is usually a detailed, relatively trustworthy collection of reviews to guide your decisions.

Before my dentist appointment Saturday afternoon (which I booked after finding an online coupon through Lifebooker.com) I decided to do some research. Truth is, I've always despised going to the dentist so I was half hoping to find a scary please-don't-go review to justify a last minute cancellation. Instead it was all positive. The brief online search prepared me for a trendy Tribeca "dental spa" decorated in flat screen TVs and funky white scoop chairs. It mentioned their "environmentally-friendly paperless check-in." (You're handed a laptop and asked to click through the paperwork online. Pretty impressive.) The review even described a perky, helpful receptionist. All true.

What it failed to mention is that my dental hygienist would be an undeniably attractive, tall, built, oh-so-smooth black man. He had an easy white smile and velvety deep voice that made "you're not flossing as often as you should," sound like a come on. (It wasn't.)

I usually go for skinny, white (and what's the opposite of smooth), but I have had three notable crushes on black men: Chris Leak (delicious Gator football quarterback pictured below), Lenny Kravtiz (when he drops that towel in that video) and Pharrell (Who doesn't?).

Add dimple-faced dental hygienist who's name I don't remember.

I laughed too hard at his jokes. The spit sucker almost fell out.

I tried unsuccessfully not to drool. My old orthodontist used to call my mouth a swimming pool.

No cavities. He wasn't impressed.

After a minty orange cleaning (a rancid flavor combination I've never understood) and a request to swish that disgusting post-exam bitter mouthwash for two full minutes, I hated him anyway.

At this point, after two attractive doctor encounters in the city (see the March post "Laundry Day"), I think it's safe to assume that every physician in New York is a looker.

Or maybe I just have a thing for doctors.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Our Stoop

I have a terrible habit of always being early.

Blame it on my obsessive mother who, even now in her empty nest, jolts out of bed before the sun as if there are still four lunch boxes to pack and school traffic to beat. Growing up, she made me painfully early to everything...school, flights, boy-girl dance parties at Marlene Russo's house. I was never fashionably late. I got there when the lights were still on and parents were still snapping photos.

It's a habit I can't shake. Now, I often get to work when the office lights are still off. I get to my gate before a flight with enough time to finish the book I brought for the trip. I'm even the first by about 15 minutes to my 6:45am spinning class.

Naturally, I was 45 minutes early to my writing class on Tuesday. Walking from the subway stop, I decided to weave aimlessly around the streets near the YMCA on the Bowery where we borrow a classroom. After some exploring I found an attractive wide set of steps outside a boarded up building. I took a seat, pulled out my Blackberry and beep bopped some texts and emails. I called a close friend who's getting married in a couple weeks. We gabbed about her seating chart and centerpieces. I was perfectly content on that step, enjoying the sunny spring weather, people watching, shooting the shit for thirty solid minutes. When it was finally time for class, I left the steps.

Three hours later I retraced the same path back to the subway station. It was dark now and colder without the sun. The spring air was brisk. I pulled my coat shut and tucked my face into the collar. When I approached the same stoop I had occupied before class, I noticed a homeless man laying there sprawled under a tattered wind breaker. His eyes were open, starring blankly ahead, tugging the small jacket around his shoulder each time the wind picked up. I starred at him longer than I should have.

A few hours ago, that was my comfortable stoop, a delightful spot to waste time and have a conversation about nothing. Now, it's his hard, cold bed.

After two years in New York, I'm accustomed to passing bums on the street. The sight rarely inspires a second look. They're built into the landscape here like the skyscrapers and Ray's pizza places. But something about sharing the step with him that night tied my stomach in knots.

I was hesitant to write this post. That moment and any mess of sympathy and introspection it inspired feels self-indulgent. Maybe he enjoyed that step as much as I did.

The streets of this city are teeming with reminders that my little world and what happens or matters to me are just blips in this universe. I like the reminder.