Fortress of Solitude

It seems like every time I blink my eyes around here, it's a new weekend. Don't get me wrong; I like feeling like I have time to breathe lately, I like that I'm relaxing on the couch with some Friday night nachos and white wine, vaguely watching Scrubs. But I've been having this feeling lately, this mopey cloud hanging around. And the thing is, I recognize it and know it well because it comes with me every time I move my life somewhere new. It's a special blend of loneliness and boredom, with a pinch of grass-is-greener and it sets in just as the excitement of the new place wears off.

When I think back to my life in Paris last year, I realize how absolutely spoiled I was. I spent weekend upon weekend with friends, particularly the second half of the year. I could have paid rent to the Parisian Parks and Bridges departments, I spent so much time there with friends. I miss Maddy so much when spontaneous things come up here in New York; I miss having a sidekick who's game for anything and everything. I got an email from the Obama campaign the other day, asking people to take a road trip to Rhode Island for the weekend to help get the word out to voters there. My first instinct was to say "YEP, THAT'S AWESOME, I'M THERE," and then I reached for my phone and realized that I didn't have anyone to call.

I don't want this to sound judge-y, because I don't mean it to be, but it is hard to be spontaneous with New Yorkers. In a country filled with Blackberrys and planners, I'm hard-pressed to find a free-as-a-bird Maddy or Katie or Stephanie.

And then I wonder if part of this isn't the fact that we were living out of our element and had jobs that didn't demand too much of us. Perhaps there is some truth to the fact that living in your home country brings loads of other obligations, both tangible and mental. I find people here so over-worked that, by the end of the week, it seems like the whole city needs to simultaneously melt onto their couches like zombies.

All the same, I have to believe that there are people like me in a city of 8 million others. (If that isn't that the most popular statement about New York...). The other night I went to Yoga in Manhattan and decided to walk home to Brooklyn. It was a long and chilly walk and there were only about 10 people on the bridge the whole time I was walking over it. But you kind of knew that those other people, walking on the Brooklyn Bridge in 25degree weather at 10pm on a Wednesday night, well, those had to be some pretty great people.

I was talking about this phenomenon to someone on the train this morning. I mentioned how I found it so much harder to meet people here in New York than in Paris, and that I attributed this to the fact that being a foreigner gave me an easy ice-breaker at any moment. My "otherness" made me more successful in fitting in in a foreign place than it obviously would at home.

"You're like Superman with his Kryptonite," my train-mate pointed out. "It only makes him strong when he's away from his planet."

Which is a great point, but in the end, Superman still hangs out in the Fortress of Solitude.


Hello World! We have the Internet!

After months of shoddy stealing from the neighbors, we are the proud owners of a wireless account. Bandwidth stretches out as far as the eye can see. Reliable pop-up signals with excellent strength populate the bottom right-hand corner of my screen.

It's a beautiful thing.

This should hopefully make posting on FOL easier in more ways than one. For one, I can type while I cook in the kitchen. Or while I watch TV in the living room. Or during a bubble bath. Location is WAY easier.

But in a more obvious and physical way, I will no longer have to scrunch my knees up to my chin and balance my computer on top of my knees as I lean back and will the neighbor's wireless to extend just far and long enough for me to hit 'send.' I bet with our new Internet I could even write with my legs outstretched. Wait while I try it... STILL CONNECTED! Ah, the positioning abilities!

Signing off to do a little homemade yoga before bed... stay tuned; we're back in action.


The 40DC

A few years ago, my Catholic friend Kelly cut out alcohol for Lent. Being someone who likes to collaborate, I decided to join her and gave up chocolate (uh yeah, like I was going to give up wine and cheese parties for 6 weeks. Duh).

Kelly and I don't work together anymore but a few weeks ago when the Lent season rolled around again, I had the urge to give something up. Like dessert. And sugary things. And so I embarked on the "40-Day Challenge," a little something that happens to coincide with Lent and doesn't happen to be related to Jesus and that I completely made up.

I'm a few weeks into the 40DC and I'm surrounded by dead, dried fruit. Pineapple chunks and mango strips stare at me from my nightstand. Apple rings and dates are shoved between the cake mix and the bag of chocolate chips, both of which have been banished until late March. Someone told me that eating dried fruit would make me feel like I was eating something bad without the calories. The novelty has worn off and now I just feel like I'm eating fruit. Without the water.

Speaking of dehydration, we went out to a Muhlenberg Happy Hour (which I like to refer to as Oktoberfest, Round II) and I proceeded to get my moneys worth of the $25 all-you-can-drink night out. In this bar, you blow past $25 after two drinks, and I had probably worked through half my student loans by the time Sarah put me in a cab and gave me $20 to get to Brooklyn. Of course my cab driver spoke French (though, per usual, I don't know how I figured that one out, just sort of realized halfway through the conversation that we were using 'vous' with each other) and when I got home, I proceeded to pass out. On a Thursday night. At 10:45p.m.

Bad news for the Challenge: I woke up the next morning, an empty bag of chips and their crumbs inhabiting the other side of the bed. And then! On the floor! An empty bag of M&Ms!

Goldie says falling off the wagon doesn't count if you were drunk, so I'm back in the game. With freaking dried papaya as my guide.


The Humpster

Regarding last night's Muhlenberg happy hour in the city...
Gold: Oh man, I'm so mad I missed it! Seeing all those people and missing drunk Jen!
Me: Oh yeah. Classic moment was when I called one of the Board members the name of the mother of a girl I went to high school with. Then once I figured out that she was not the same person, spent the rest of the conversation saying her name as much as possible. You know, to reinforce the knowing.

Conversation continues about who we do/don't want to see at our 5-year reunion in September.

Gold: Oh HIM. Yeah, he's nasty. He humped everything in the English department.
Me: Yes. He was the Humpster.


Big Cahunas

I gave a speech at Muhlenberg this past weekend to the students being inducted into the Language Honor Society. Irony? I was never inducted to said Society. Other irony? My speech about how to use foreign languages in a future career was pretty vague, mostly because I still don't have the answer to that question.

To make matters worse, at about lunchtime today, I realized that I was wearing my underwear inside-out.

This is symbolic of exactly how I've been feeling lately: pretty pulled together with a ridiculously basic thing twisted around. I've been doing a lot of thinking about my future, my job, love and relationships. Perhaps all of this thinking has prevented me from updating this blog recently. No, not perhaps. Definitely.

A few weekends ago I did something a bit daring and emailed someone in a national magazine. He was part of a story on singles in New York and, prompted by a rainy Saturday night in which I was home alone at 11pm, I took a chance and emailed him. What followed was not, as many of you might hope, dates and a torrid love affair in Manhattan. What followed were a couple of emails and then, after a few days of nothing, I received this in my inbox this afternoon:

So yeah. I'm probably the shittiest "Date Our Friends" contestant ever. The whole thing sort of made me uncomfortable to begin with, and I wasn't sure what to do. But I actually did meet this one girl that I really hit it off with, and I think I'm going to concentrate on her. I'm not really the date-multiple-chicks type of guy. I leave that to dudes who sleep with "The Game" under their pillows. But I'm flattered that you or anyone else wrote me. That took guts, and I appreciate it.

This? This is all I'm asking for. Holy honesty. Holy awesome, good-for-you, genuine honesty. Doesn't this impress you guys? I have no ill feelings and it even makes me root for him and his hit-it-off chick.

I've been watching a lot of Seinfeld before bed lately and maybe it's coincidence, but I have an overwhelming urge to do THE OPPOSITE in lots of areas of my life of late. I guess I feel like I have a better chance of things happening if I'm putting myself out there as much as I can, and even an email back from the guy above feels like a small victory.

Plus, it really cracks me up when Goldie looks at me, shakes her head, and tells me that I have big balls.



Number of emails in my Yahoo account that were retrieved during a search for "love."


Love and truths for NIFW

I want to avoid using FOL as a request center for NIFW, but I thought this could appeal to you guys. For Friday's issue, we'll be publishing love truths in honor of Valentine's day and I'm looking for a couple more submissions to finish the piece off.

We see movies and we listen to songs and try to find our truths about them (maybe I might even be so bold to say that we try to find the truth about love through art) and I want to make the point that people, ordinary people, are capable of verbalizing their own truths about love everyday. Like in emails (either to the other person in the relationship or to a friend about the relationship). Or in letters. Or a short memory about a moment about love... we'll publish everything anonymously.

If you have something to submit, won't you please send it to noisforwimps@gmail.com? Can't wait to read them...


Brooklyn Newsletter: Month Two

Dear Brooklyn,

I’m working on some cool new projects for NIFW, one of which requires the use of a voice recorder. A few months ago, I did an interview with one of the marketing guys at Etsy headquarters and it was only tonight that I got around to playing with the recording. I’d only recorded one 20-minute conversation with him and so I was surprised to see that I had two audio files uploading. Imagine my surprise when a recent drive to work was completely taped, including me singing along at an astounding volume to a song that I had on repeat for the entire 40-minute car trip. A song without lyrics. Thou dost not know embarrassment until thou hears thyself singing, unabashed, alone in a car.

Steve leaves for Tanzania on Tuesday and so he stayed over last night. I felt a sisterly duty to see him just before he leaves, particularly remembering how Katie went a bit off the deep-end before her semester in Madagascar. She found me in the living room the night before she left and proceeded to have a complete breakdown because she’d had a dream and was convinced that she was going to die a horrible death in Africa. Luckily, Steve seems to be confident in his ability to remain alive while abroad, a relief to the entire family. I will now be the only kid on the continent, a role that I hope results in three times the gifts at family holidays.

Academic-longing was in full-swing earlier this month. Nashville did it to me as usual, but actually it was Skersh and the slew of people I know doing their PhDs at Vanderbilt whose lives run parallel to mine, a constant reminder of “coulda, shoulda, woulda.” When I read Skersh’s syllabus or hear about her experiences teaching literature, a small, book-shaped part of my heart pitter-patters. “You are perfect for this,” she gently urges, “are you sure you don’t want to do your doctorate?” I do want to do my doctorate. This is one truth. But there are so many other truths, truths about enjoying working in industry and truths about money and truths about wanting to be able to choose where I live in this country. And though it is a hard lesson to learn, truths do not always mean realities. At least, not all of them.

In the past month Hillary won New York, Giuliani dropped out of the race, and the Giants won the Superbowl. All three have been exciting news here in the Big Apple, but the magic of that football game kind of takes the cake. Everyone loves the story of an underdog defeating arrogance and it was thrilling to be in New York for the Giants’ victory. From a friend’s 13th story apartment in Washington Heights, I watched fireworks at the end of the game and grinned every time I heard a celebratory car horn on the drive home. It encompassed exactly what I love about New Yorkers: despite confronting the realism of life in the city, despite the workaholics and the bull-shit-aholics, despite feeling like the black-sheep-state of the nation, we still find a way to believe.



What do we google?

It was so good to live abroad during a significant portion of George W.'s presidency, but let me make one thing clear: Living in America right now is so freaking cool.

Tomorrow morning I'm walking into the poll booths and -surprise, pollsters!- I still don't know who I'm voting for. Did anyone expect us to have TWO frickin' amazing candidates?

Steve and I just watched various speeches on youtube, we looked up their stats on green websites, we watched Hillary on Letterman. And then:

Steve: Well, how do we decide?
Me: What do we google?


In the crest of the stretch

On days like this, I relive my college Saturdays. Got home past 3 last night and slept in, way in, so far in that I missed the morning.

A quiet pattern emerges: I clean the kitchen, I put my clothes away, I organize my bills. And finally, I sit on my bed, still in my robe, and the apartment is quiet.

There is nothing like quietness to bring out la nostalgie.

When the running stops, when I have more than five seconds to think, my conscious sinks into bigger thoughts. Like in Pilates when you hold a stretch; it feels good to hover in the challenge.

The longer I live (what kind of sentence beginning is this?), the more I ease into a pattern, one which becomes the story of someone's life. Strangely, this life is mine. I am well aware of the stakes in the choices I make, hardly a day goes by that I don't dwell on this, but the little plastic castle is still "a surprise everytime."

Another chapter in NIFW published last night. Happy reading.