Monday, March 29, 2010

Please and Thank You

I worked just shy of 12 hours on Sunday...on my big girl heels...on my "day off."

It was a long day after one of those weeks when you're irrationally mad at Tuesday for not being Friday.

Commuting to work Monday morning I was a little huffy. A Sunday-less weekend is just not a weekend at all. It's pizza with all the cheese scrapped off. It's an *NSYNC concert in 2000 when Lance Bass was too sick to perform. (I was one irate 14-year-old.)

After hanging my coat and settling into my desk Monday morning, I made a concerted effort to not be productive right away. Take that, work!

Eleven minutes later, after checking Facebook and reading, I was all but desperate to jump into work emails. The first was from one of the coordinators who worked with me on Sunday's event. He had written it from his Blackberry after 1:00am, just after the event ended.

From the bottom of my heart thank you Vanessa. You made my short yet very stressful job here a heck of a lot easier, and you made me look better at my job than I probably am. Seriously it was a pleasure to meet and work with you, and hopefully our paths cross again some day.

And just like that I could care less that I had scrapped the cheese off my weekend. I was thankful for his extremely sweet (slightly intense) thank you and that made all those unpaid hours worth it.

It felt good and even better to send him a response, gushing a few sincere thank yous right back. You can never underestimate the power of just being nice.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I spend most of my work day running around, literally lapping the restaurant where I work as an event planner, zipping from my office through the kitchen to our dining rooms and private rooms and back. It was during one of these routine rushes last Thursday that I had a realization that stopped my clapping heels in their tracks.

I thought, "Is this really my day, my job, my life?" or something to that mellow dramatic effect. If someone would have told me, five years ago, that today I would be living in Manhattan working as an event planner for one of the country's most fancy shmancy restaurants (to use technical terms), I would have instantly dismissed it as crazy talk. Not at all because my current lifestyle is so unbelievably fabulous (or any of that BS) but because my current day to day can sometimes look so un-me. At least not the me I thought I was a few short years ago.

Back then I was a fearless reporter fresh out of journalism school where I was obsessed with my major. My goal was to earn a spot on the masthead of a national publication, and I was very sure I'd get there. In fact, when I quit my first newspaper job to move to NYC a couple years ago, I was still convinced that journalism was my only option.

This unpredictable city had different plans for me. An odd turn of events found me applying for a job as an assistant private events manager and, even odder, I landed the position with zero experience. It began as a means for survival while I continued to scatter my resume and portfolio around the city's magazine offices. It has grown into my main focus. I'm having fun. I'm challenged and energized. I'm making a little bit of money (foreign to an aspiring journalist). And on most days, I'm pretty good at it. Years of deadlines and performance under pressure as a writer transferred seamlessly to events where the ticking clock still dictates my work day. I edit my event contracts like I did my stories. I win over bridezillas and other clients the same way I once coerced my sources.

I wouldn't be surprised if I continue a career in events. But I must admit there are moments when I pause to think about how different things turned out and evaluate just how OK I am with it all.

I'm still a writer. I don't think I need daily printed bylines to validate this. But, when a friend from journalism school asks what I'm up to or, worse, when I read a perfect article and wish the words were mine, a twinge of doubt bubbles up inside.

At the end of college I was so sure of who I was. I was so sure of who I wasn't. I was wrong. Event planner is as me as aspiring journalist was me, and if in three or thirty years I'm a pole dancer or best selling author (fingers and toes crossed on the latter) that will be me as well.

My newest goal is to be it all (eh, minus the pole dancing). I plan on enrolling in a continued education personal essay writing class (stay tuned for a post) and forcing myself to shop some stories around to magazines. Hold me to it loyal readers!

Thursday's moment of pause and that irking feeling of "Wait, what am I doing?" still scare me a little, but I'd be more scared if I fluttered through my twenties without it.

PHOTO CREDIT: Rebecca Loyche from the amazing

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Girl's Girl

I've never really been the new kid.

After attending the same small private school for 12 years and later caravanning to college with the same lifelong friends, I made it through my tweens, teens and early twenties alongside a pretty consistent crew (and I mean that in the most gangsta of ways). At no stage in life did I ever need to try very hard to make new friends.

Sure, I branched off in college and made dozens of friends outside this familiar network. But, as for close girlfriends the same BFFs from grade school remained. These girls are my history. They knew me when...I wore a little boy's bob haircut, forehead-full of blunt bangs and a mouthful of braces (which they cruelly nicknamed Crayola for the colorful rubber bands around each bracket that changed hue with what I ate). Through thick, thin and awkward, I was always surrounded by at least a handful of pretty solid girlfriends.

That was until I moved to New York City and for the first time in a couple decades became the new kid.

I arrived in this city with a very short list of people I knew. There was my big brother (thank God), one good male friend, one son of my parents' friends (who I moved in with) and a handful of male acquaintances. Not one girl.

Those lifelong best girlfriends I mentioned were (and still are) just a phone call away, but the distance created a very distinct void. It dawned on me after my first few plan-less weekends that I had arrived in a new city with no default, no sidekick, nobody who simply assumed we would hang out come Friday night. Of course, I found plenty to do. My two male roommates let me piggyback their plans and the few guy friends I knew made great company. But, I missed the estrogen. I longed to spend my time with someone who just understood me, no explanation necessary.

So, I made it my mission to befriend a new crop of girls.

Post-college New York City does not make this easy, especially since I took a job at a place where I'm at least 15 years younger than most of my colleagues. I kept thinking a cool, normal, easy-going girl would just pop up some place, approach me on the street or, I don't know, fall out of the sky and into the pedicure chair next to mine. I quickly learned, however, that befriending a girl as a girl requires pretty specific strategy, not so different from what it probably takes to pursue a girl as a guy, just harder.

You meet her at a party. You like her boots and she's laughing at the same slightly offensive joke you just chuckled at. She spends her time at the food table (my preferred locale). Then she reveals that she also loves horrible reality television and has been dying to see the newest exhibit at the MOMA.

She's the girl's girl holy grail. But, you can't just walk up and throw a BFF FOREVER slap bracelet on her wrist. It's much more subtle than that. You gotta find some common ground and probably bump into her a couple more times before suggesting that you hang out without coming off as a total creep. It can be nerve racking and as odd as it sounds. You're virtually "courting" another girl and (despite a quick stint in a sorority) I'm not really built for that.

Even if you make it to a second girl "date", friendships with brand new people at this age seem especially tough to keep up. And, since I'm meeting these people in New York, it's very likely that the girl I think is cool is actually nuts.

Two years since my move, I'm happy to count a pretty awesome (very tiny) group of new girls as my close friends. It took just about all of those two years, but I finally have some pseudo defaults- girls who wonder what I'm up to when they don't hear from me, girls who join me for chick flicks and invite me to drinks after work.

My experience as the new lonely kid in a new city has made me especially grateful for the sincere friendships I've built over the years. As I get older and it gets easier to recognize who will likely be on my recently placed call list forever, I consider myself very lucky. There's some real quality there. For the little braceface with messy bangs, that's no small feat.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Knot Ready

Four weeks until my 25th birthday and four of my closest friends are engaged to be married.

While all of these couples seem to make perfect, blissful marital sense, I can't help but feel like it's all happening too soon. Wasn't it just last week that we were trotting Barbie and Ken down the aisle, daydreaming that we would also wear sparkling magenta tulle and side ponytails on our big days?

At my close girlfriend's bridal shower Sunday, there were moments when I felt a little like an imposter. Sitting there, overeating mini-blocks of Cheddar cheese and pita chips, oohing and awing toaster ovens and salad tongs, my mind kept getting stuck on the word "wife." My Mom and her friends are wives. My oldest sister, married five years ago, is kind of a wife. I'm not.

Wives don't live in shoebox apartments without closets. (I hang my clothing on a rack built into the corner of my room.) Wives don't have a drawer full of mismatched socks. Wives probably don't eat cereal for dinner on a regular basis.

Forget wife. Most days, I'm still trying to figure out woman.

Yet, while it's true that most of me can't fathom a wedding and marriage now, I wouldn't be shocked if life changed my tune in the next few years. There's no doubt in my mind that feeling like a wife has a lot to do with being with a man who feels like a husband. At age 24 or 64, marriage is what you both make it together. I suppose that can start in a shoebox apartment...just not mine...not yet.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ode to a New York City Spring

I gave up a few things when I moved from the Sunshine State to the Empire State: my car (r.i.p. little red rover), an in-home washer and drier (r.i.p. weekly laundry day) and, most tragically, a triple-digit rent. But I gained four priceless items Florida can't offer: the seasons.

Back home, it's endless summer with the exception of an occasional two-week cold snap that convinces an unnerving number of Floridians to fit striped toe-socks into their flipflops.

That's how I grew up and that's how I arrived in New York City- without a heavy winter coat, spring trench or rubber boots and without any acting knowledge of surviving the seasons.

Yes, there were dark days in the blustery dead of winter when I craved my 80-degrees-on-Christmas-morning hometown like a drug. But now, with the first hints of a dazzling, crisp Spring perking up the city I can't help but appreciate my new multi-season lifestyle.

The change of the seasons changes people. For the last few days since the hard cold faded (and I better not jinx this) the streets have been stuffed with blissful New Yorkers practically frolicking about. During a recent lunch break, I joined at least 50 other people on the plaza outside my office building, jackets strewn across the cement steps as finance types sunned themselves. It doesn't matter if your Blackberry's blowing up in your pocket with 200 work to-dos. It doesn't matter what the day throws at you. Absolutely nothing can spoil the first warm day after three months of bitter cold.

That's what I love most about the transition. In Florida, I took perfect weather for granted. In New York, the simple fact that I didn't have to wear a coat to work Wednesday was enough to glue a smile to my face for the rest of the week.

A new season, whether it's winter to spring or summer to fall, offers a clean slate if you'd like it. It's a natural pause and opportunity to evaluate. In college and every year before I had the starts and stops of school semesters to keep me in check. Now, if I'm not careful, the months and even years will jumble together and blur past until I wake up done with my twenties wondering where all the time went.

Scary, right?

So I'm thankful for my new seasons, my built-in moments of pause and opportunities for reinvention.

This year, as I hang my heavy coat in the back of my closet and say goodbye to the hats, scarves, gloves and wool socks that got me through the cold, I'll also attempt to toss out a handful of stale habits. Spring cleaning and not a moment too soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Umm, Sir..."

I'm guessing just about every transplant New Yorker can remember the first time they entered a New York City Subway station.

It's a distinct memory, not for the nostalgia or because it looks very different down there from what's expected. It's memorable because that first entrance- the literal action of swiping the subway card and pushing through the turnstile - can provoke a surprising amount of anxiety.

You may be calm as a cucumber walking to the station and climbing down the steps, but when it's time to perform -swipe and go- the stress comes suddenly. For a newbie this process is never as easy as it seems. You must swipe that flimsy, sensitive card with Goldilocks precision: not too fast, not too slow. All this while what seems like the contents of Time Square waits and watches anxiously. They are already annoyed and impatient (because they're commuting New Yorkers) so swipe wrong and they'll instantly turn on you, curse, scream and run you over if it gets to that point.

Perhaps this is a mild exaggeration, but in the moment, when your heart is pounding, hand shaking and that bloody machine keeps beeping and prompting you to "Swipe Again" it can feel that scary. At least, it has for me. Even two years and at least a thousand subway rides later I still perk up and focus before each swipe.

It's at this hectic little New York crossroads where I've interacted with some of the city's most colorful characters. In fact, it was a scuffle at a subway entrance Wednesday that inspired this post.

It was just after 5:00pm, a gorgeous day and the earliest I had been out of the office in a while so there was admittedly a little pep in my step. I approached the entrance to the subway station at exactly the same time as another man though I didn't notice him until he shoved his shoulder against mine and yelled (in a Eastern European accent I couldn't place) "This little Miss thinks she can cut the line!"

A little startled by the bump, I instantly stopped to let him pass, partly because I worried that I had actually cut him off but mostly because the combination shove and yell threw me off my game. I couldn't swipe and go like that.

It's important to note that this entrance was of the especially high-stress variety. There was just one rickety revolving metal door that typically requires a second or two of focus to operate correctly. And, during rush hour you can count on a line of at least 10 hurried suits and heels behind you.

The angry man wearing a leather jacket and thick moustache paused to pull his own card out after pushing me aside, giving me just enough time to review the last several seconds and realize that I was angry.

"Umm, go ahead sir," I said. I use "sir" when trying to show respect and apparently when I'm about to tell a man off.
"But, you should know that we got here at the exact same time and you really didn't need to shove a girl!," deep breath "Relax, alright!"

My voice (already similar to a 7-year-old's) was shaky, and in the moment I couldn't commit to quite the level of sass necessary. But I said it and he didn't like it. He released some foreign expletives and pushed right past me, still yelling things and turning around as he walked into the station. I let the line pass for a minute giving him time to get lost in the crowd ahead. I was happy to get at least one understanding nod from a female bystander.

Two years ago I would have let that moustached jerk shove his way to the front without a second thought. Two years ago I couldn't even hang up on a telemarketer. I'm still not a real feather ruffler and I don't want to be. But, as the city seeps deeper into my skin with each passing month here, I often surprise myself by speaking up.

Be afraid, New Yorkers. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The One Instance When Blondies Are Better Than Brunettes...

I'll spare you the all gritty details, but let's just say a friend of a friend's sister (me) recently experienced a pretty heartbreaking split from a longtime love. And that friend of a friend's sister (still me) happens to find Sunday the toughest day of the week.

Sundays are for couples- for sleeping in, for making egg toast at home, for snuggling while you re-watch half a dozen episodes of "Arrested Development". So, last Saturday, on the eve of that dreaded end of the weekend, that friend of a friend's sister gave herself a very strategic don't-be-sad day plan.

Nothing keeps heartache at bay like a project. So I (err, that friend of a friend's sister) planned to spend the afternoon baking, a brave undertaking for an amateur with zero culinary instinct. I may be the daughter of a woman who shimmies through the kitchen like a choreographed dancer, never measuring, never doubting herself, adding a pinch here and there without a recipe in sight, but I (and yes me, not that friend's sister) can't flip an omelet without calling mom twice for instructions.

I decided to take on Blondies, because really, how tough can this glorious love child of the cookie and brownie really be?

I certainly don't have my mom's finesse in the kitchen, but I do have something even she doesn't have- access to my fabulous foodie roommate's over-stuffed recipe collection. Her proud cookbook shelves deserve the two thirds of our kitchen they take over.

Of course, she had a Blondie recipe I could borrow. It called for coconut flakes, chopped walnuts and about double the amount of butter than another online recipe. Sold. I added mini-chocolate chips for good measure.

I followed her family recipe meticulously and ended up with a pretty satisfying pan-full. Even better, it helped clear my head of some not so yummy thoughts.

Next Sunday...Banana Bread?

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Little Night Music

I have to say, I've never really taken to theater. During my two years as a New Yorker, where I'm just a hop, skip and a jump from Broadway, I've only attended two shows: "Boeing, Boeing" after the leading lady invited my brother plus one, and "Mamma Mia" when my sister Trici visited. Both were fun nights out but neither left my Jazz hands wagging for more. Still, when a couple of family friends visiting from out of town invited me to see a show Saturday night, I eagerly accepted. Despite my lackluster track record, there's something so New York about seeing a live show on Broadway, and I, like Frank Sinatra, want to be a part of it (...New York, New York).

We had tickets to "A Little Night Music" starring Catherine Zeta Jones and Angela Lansbury, who I knew only and affectionately as Mrs. Potts from "Beauty and the Beast."

The rainy Saturday night came and I hopped a cab to the Walter Kerr Theater on 48th Street. I met my friends at the door and we weaved through the crowd to our amazing third row seats. If this was the show to change my mind about Broadway, these were the seats to do it in. I was close enough to see the microphones pinned into the actor's wigs, the tight laces of the women's corsets, the fringe on their petticoats, the heavy makeup on their faces, and, most interesting, the side of the stage where the conductor directed the band.

Nearly three hours later, the last bows were bowed, the curtain dropped and there I stood in ovation, clapping eagerly- a changed woman. I loved it.

"A Little Night Music" is an English play set in turn-of-the-century Sweden that follows the complicated love triangle, even square, of several different couples. Catherine Zeta Jones is especially endearing as a quick-witted, middle-aged actress known for stealing husbands. She's beautiful in person and even has the chops to sing "Send in the Clowns" (the Barbara Streisand song that apparently came from this play). Angela Lansbury (whose voice I really couldn't disassociate from Mrs. Potts) is also fantastic as her sarcastic mother.

I can't really offer too much more of a review as I really don't know musicals well, but I can say that I was thoroughly entertained. Bravo, and all that.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Little OLD Me

Don't be fooled by my documented New York escapades. The friends who know me best know the truth: inside I'm a regular ol' senior citizen.

Sure, I don't look like an old lady yet (with the exception of one godforsaken gray hair that keeps growing back into my bangs and an affinity for cardigan sweaters). Still, more often than not, I can relate to the habits- albeit stereotypical habits - of old folks.

For starters, I have an old lady's back. After more than a decade of pretty miserable aches and pains, I recently decided to see a chiropractor. As the daughter of an MD, I had my fair share of hesitation. Could all that cracking and twisting really be good for you?

Before my first appointment I was nervous. The one chiropractor move I imagined looked a little too much like the tactic a serial killer might use to snap my neck.

After a series of x-rays, the chiropractor asked if I could recall a nasty fall or accident, about five or ten year ago, that could have fractured my tail bone because, apparently, I have a fractured tail bone!

A few snowboarding slips, bicycle collisions and one cannonball into a pond from a treacherous tree-jump nicknamed "Big Balls" (sorry Mom) flashed through my brain. But, a fractured tail bone? I felt like one of those crazy girls on Discovery Channel's "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant." If one of my bones is broken or fractured, I'd like to think I would realize it.

I didn't, and according to my chiropractor I've been compensating for this discomfort for years by subconsciously removing pressure from my right side. I sit wrong, walk wrong, stand wrong and all that wrong has slowly taken a toll on the curve of my spine, compounding the problem.

"Big Balls" Tree Jump in Orlando, Florida. That's not me jumping, but I once did this to impress a cute boy.

I now visit the chiropractor two to three times a week for quick re-adjustments that should eventually correct some of the damage. I look forward to the visits. The louder the crunch of my bones, the better I seem to feel.

The doc also fitted me for orthodics, cast-like shoe insoles that create a healthy arch and correct my habit of standing on the insides of my feet. That's right, like Bertha and Maryann at the shuffle board court, I rock true old lady feet accessories. They're unattractive, but I love them and miss them when they're not in.

As a not-so-secret senior citizen, I'm also a sucker for infomerical goodies - even better when they help with one my old lady habits. I don't usually dial in and buy them (also indecisvie like an old lady), but this latest gadget has me seriously considering a purchase.

Introducing iPosture, a nano-sensor worn close to your chest that actually vibrates each time your posture deviates 3 degrees from "healthy" for longer than a minute. In other words, every time you slouch this clip buzzes you back up. It's like an overbearing mother clipped to your bra strap which somehow appeals to me.

For $75 bucks it may not entirely be worth it, but the following old-lady essentials absoltuley are:

Kashi's Fiber-Filled Good Friend's Cereal

J-Crew Argyle Anything

OK, I'm kidding.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Before the city that never sleeps gets up...

I like New York City best between 4:00am and 7:00am for two very different reasons.

I like that at 4:30am I can mosey my way over to the counter at Artichoke Pizza in the East Village and (after waiting in the inevitable 5-10 person line) bite into a gooey fresh gourmet slice. Forget the amateur after-bar food of your respective college towns. This city delivers (literally) the best, and any food at all hours of the night.

I'm not ashamed to reveal that ridiculously gluttonous truth about me because my second reason for liking this city in the wee hours of the morning has to do with my early spinning class.

Well, it's not exactly the spinning class I love at 6:00am. It's the 8-block walk to my gym in a version of the city that seems to only exist before 7:00am. No honking cabs (or at least very few) fill the streets. No throngs of aggressive power walkers throwing elbows on the sidewalks. No hubbub.

Without these noisy distractions, I can enjoy the backdrop I usually rush past: the gorgeous historical brownstones, the red brick buildings, the groomed storefronts and the charming wide stoops that made me want to live in the Village in the first place. This morning, I noticed the gardens that wrap around St. Luke's Episcopal Parish, built in 1820. Even full of winter's bare branches and brown bushes, in the early morning light, it felt like a little secret between New York City and me.

This city may never sleep, but if you wake up early enough you can catch it with it's feet up.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Diego's Back

Yes, he's my big brother and I kinda have to like his music. But family bias aside, I'm pretty much obsessed with Diego Garcia's current solo work. Tuesday, The Standard Hotel hosted his debut solo performance for an invite-only crowd of more than 100 guests. In between the wood-paneled walls of the hotel's sleek private Highline Room, overlooking a twinkling view of the Hudson River, Diego introduced four new band mates and handful of songs he wrote since Elefant stopped recording. His new music offers something very different from Elefant's effervescent indie pop tunes. In fact, it offers something very different, period.

The music (mainly about the malady of love and certain red-head who may or may not have gotten away) offers a combination of unexpected sounds. A song can start with bongos and a psychedelic bass line and end with a sultry Spanish guitar solo or (my favorite) the always-tragic cry of a cello. The musicians behind him are the real deal. Watching them during the performance, they each seemed to offer an engaging mini-show within the show.

Remnants of Elefant are undoubtedly there- a fearless romanticism and, of course, Diego's showmanship. He wore a deep v-neck sailor shirt that I'll likely make fun of him for, but it worked. The songs are personal and you can sense it. And with lyrics like "Why won't my love set me free?" and "I blame it all on the separate lives that we lead," you can't help but wonder what went down during the last few years D has been out of the lime light. I know, but I'll never tell.

Stay tuned for a link to their new music!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Crepe Cake

I apologize for letting food dominate my last few posts as I prefer to leave most adventures in New York City food blogging to La Buona Forchetta ( But, lucky for me, the last several days have been stuffed with unforgettable, blog-worthy first bites.

It hasn't been 24 hours since I polished off a slice of the cake below (in a shot from my camera phone and one from the web), and I'm already aching to shout its praises into cyber space.

I was introduced to it at my sister-in-law's baby shower Sunday afternoon. Among the spread of tea sandwiches, dip and bite size snacks, this glistening confection instantly piqued my interest. I couldn't tell exactly what it was, but with a golden creme brulee top and what seemed like 40 perfectly moist layers underneath, I knew I couldn't leave without a generous slice. I'm not exactly the kind of gal who turns down cake.

This particular party-stopper came from Lady M Cake Boutique on East 78th St. in uptown Manhattan, a bakery that specializes in French pastries and other fresh sweets that are undoubtedly worth quadruple-digit calorie counts. It's basically a tall stack of paper thin Mille crepes layered with light, almost-frothy vanilla custard. The top of the cake is caramelized offering each fluffy bite a tinge of super sweet. I opted to peel back each layer with the corner of my fork, separating the custard from the sheets with my tongue- savouring my bites a little slower each time. I had really never tasted anything like it. Texture was on. Taste was on.

Now I just need another grand occasion or cause for celebration to justify a trip to M Cake Boutique for round two. Does finally making it to spin class after work count?


Friday, March 5, 2010

Nothing shaved truffle can't cure...

It's just one of those days.

The kind of day that starts off with an grunt...when getting out of bed after the alarm can be done in no less than four slow steps: 1. Curl body into ball and cover with blanket 2. Drag into "child's pose." 3. Sit up in bed with eyes still shut. 4. Slowly step out of bed.

I carried my case of the Mondays (on a Friday) into the subway and down the few blocks to my office, through the remainder of the morning and start of the afternoon. Life slapped me around a little this week and I just wasn't feeling today.

At lunchtime, I shuffled up to the kitchen at The Restaurant and flashed the same frown I had probably been wearing all day. Lucky for me, our generous and fabulous chef noticed.

If a three-course lunch personally planned and prepared by a our chef couldn't pull me out of my funk, nothing would. It started with slices of the freshest sashimi I've ever tasted. Then, a Cara Cara orange ceviche featuring Day Boat scallops, Sweet Rock shrimp, lobster and cucumbers. To finish, a creamy black truffle risotto under a perfectly seared Day Boat Scallop, topped with more shaved truffle. Sabria and I shared each delectable dish, washing away this morning's frown with a belly-full of love from my favorite chef.

This job can be so good.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Laundry Day

About a month into 2010, I managed to make good on one my New Year's resolutions- to book all necessary doctors appointments I had been putting off for the last couple years. As a freckled, relatively fair-skinned Florida girl, first on my list was a skin cancer screening at the dermatologist...something I decided to do after finding a funny looking new mole on my back.

Day of the appointment, I didn't really think twice before heading over to the doctor's office after work. I had a pencil skirt and top on and figured the doctor would just roll up the shirt and take a quick gander. No sweat.

Clearly, this was my first skin screening. Not 3 minutes after the doc walked in to greet me was I handed a paper hospital gown and asked to drop trou. Only bra and panties. Open flap of the gown to the front, please.

Now, I'm not a particularly modest person. With two sisters and four years at an all-girls catholic high school, I have no problem changing in front of friends or using the communal fitting rooms at Loheman's. So why, Vanessa, were you panicking?

Thing is, it was laundry day in my world. Who am I kidding? It had been laundry day all week, and that fateful morning I was down to very slim clean pickins. Under that thin paper vest I was now wearing, by far, the smallest bra I own: a black lacey thing with little red and blue flowers, the kind of bra a promiscuous 16-year-old hides from her mom. I never wear it, but of course I squeezed into it that morning. As for the underwear, it covered me up OK...where the elastic was still in tact and the fabric hadn't been washed thin. These holey drawers had seen better days.

And, of course, there's the miserable fact that my new Manhattan dermatologist is in his early thirties and, with long slick back hair and Guido-groomed eyebrows, looks like he belongs on some medical reality show.

When he came back in with the nurse I was beyond awkward. Lucky for me, a skin cancer screening is about as thorough as it gets. He scanned every last inch of me before stopping for what felt like 45 minutes on my tattered behind.

"There's something here I don't like. How long have you had this?" he asked, pointing at the center of my right butt cheek.
I cranked my neck around as far as it goes.
"Uh, not really sure," I responded. It's not exactly a high visibility area.
"Should I grab a mirror so you can see it better?"

Yes, he really asked this. And, no, I don't want you to hold a mirror to my booty in fluorescent lighting.

Long story short, the mole on my right cheek was the wrong shape and color. After the inspection, I was asked to lay down, butt up, so they could scrape a skin sample for a biopsy. After the first numbing shot made me jump a little, I attempted a nervous joke.

"Didn't think I'd feel anything with all the padding down there."

Nothing. No giggles from Dr. 90210. He was busy giving me a formal wedgie to clear his work space.

He took the sample and I survived, though very close to death by embarrassment.

A few weeks later, the biopsy results came back a little abnormal so Tuesday I went back in for some more butt work- this time wearing my unskankiest under garments. According to the doc, I'll probably be OK. He just wants to see my butt about every six months for a follow up.

Moral of the story: Mom was right. Always, always wear nice underwear.

Important by Associaton

One perk of working for a bigwig New York City boss is my standing as his eager social alternate. Occasionally, when one of the owners of the restaurant where I work as an event planner (which I'll now refer to as "The Restaurant") happens to be previously engaged or otherwise uninterested in one of the many invitations that hits his inbox, he generously asks if my co-worker Sabria and/or I might like to attend. Often times, they're his B-list invites. But, every exciting once in a while, Sabria and I get to pull the important-by association card to get into pretty sweet New York favorites being front row seats in the Bryant Park tents during New York Fashion week and tickets to attend a taping of "The View" as Barbara Walters' personal guest

So, when the boss man tossed us an invite to an exclusive movie screening at the Tribeca Cinemas we snatched up the opportunity. After work Monday night, Sabria and I took the E- train downtown to Varick Street to get a sneak preview of "Brooklyn's Finest", a movie staring Ethan Hawke, Richard Gere and Don Cheadle. The invite promised an after-show Q & A with Ethan Hawke and the director Antoine Fuqua (who also did Training Day).

They had me at Ethan Hawke. Well, really they had me at free movie, but Ethan didn't hurt. I think it was "Reality Bites" when I first started crushing on him and "Great Expectations" that sealed the deal.

Anyway, there we were, on the door list, snug in our "reserved" seats, chomping on free popcorn, pumped for our fancy advanced screening...fabulous night guaranteed, right?

Wrong. The movie sucked, and I'm not even one to come down hard on films, let alone free Ethan Hawke films. But, after almost three Debbie Downer hours of gritty shoot-outs and nonsensical drama, Sabria and I wished we could follow behind the handful of other viewers who walked out early. The dissatisfaction in the room was palpable as people whispered and fidgeted, even laughed out loud as (spoiler alert) just about every lead characters' brains were blown out.

At the end, it got a weak, nervous clap as they introduced Ethan Hawke and the director (who, come to find out, was sitting in the row in front of me next to one of the guests who actually walked out mid-movie).

It was bad, real bad. But, the novelty of seeing a a lead actor in person seconds after seeing him on the big screen won back some major points. Per usual with actors in interviews, they spent the Q&A gushing over how wonderful and talented they are and how shocking it was that the movie got bad reviews at Sundance....blah blah blah. And, I gotta admit Ethan's looking a little skinny and strung out these days...not so much the dreamboat I remembered.

Still, I can't say all the exclusive hoopla wasn't fun. And really, there's pretty much nothing that could keep me from cashing in on future invites. It's a tough job. But somebody's gotta do it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Awful Falafel

Don't let my title (a nod to Camp Anawanna) mislead you. The falafel featured in the image (right) is not awful at all. It's gosh darn perfect. I haven't been to Egypt, Israel or Lebanon, the Middle Eastern countries known for popularizing the falafel. But it seems that Taim Falafel and Smoothie Bar in the West Village is definitely doing this vegetarian treat justice. The word "taim", as I learned from the cashier's T-shirt, means "tasty" in Hebrew. No false advertising here. I ordered the Harissa falafel sandwich- a whole wheat pita pocket packed with homemade hummus, fresh Israeli salad, tahini sauce, mild Tunisian spices and, of course, crispy fried-to-order falafels (savory balls of ground chickpeas). I added chunks of Feta cheese- because that's never a bad idea- and devoured. For me, good food is all about texture. This little bundle offers crispy, creamy, chunky and crunchy all in the same bite. And for $5.25, I'd say that's "taim" at it's finest.

Name: Taim Falafell and Smoothie Bar
Location: 222 Waverly Place (between 11th St. and Perry St.)
Order: Any of their 3 falafel sandwiches- Harissa (mild Tunisian spices), Red (roasted red peppers) or Green (traditional with parsley, cilantro and mint).