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.