Advice for the weary

Tonight I had dinner with an old college friend in Bryant Park, after which we traded fiction pieces and workshopped them. Yes, folks, that is the kind of girl I am- Thirsty Thursday's got nothing on exploring personal fiction techniques.

But before we got to the fiction, we had a good talk about life. The past couple of days have been a little rough (blah, blah, you've heard it all before, I miss Paris, NY blows, nothing new to report here!) and I was asking him for some advice of how to get through days like these. Because this afternoon at work I thought my heart was going to explode of sadness right onto my new Mac screen. And then wouldn't that be an awkward moment!

So Jon's like, "Yeah, Jen, I have those moments sometimes. I had a couple of days like that last month." And his advice was to change things, little things, about my life here. Walk a different route home or eat a food you've never had before or hang out with someone you don't normally see. BREAK ROUTINE, was his point.

He also said that he finds himself feeling sad when he's being too much of something that he's not- too much of his boss' employee, too much of his girlfriend's boyfriend, too much of his brother's brother. And most importantly, not enough of himself.

And holy crap, but he might just have something there.

So new goal for this weekend: do a bunch of random different shit and see what happens. You guys want to try? Do something ridiculously unlike you and leave me a comment about it. I'm in the mood for good stories...


Midtown Mornings

One of my favorite things about working in midtown is coming out of the subway through Grand Central everyday. I come out of this back staircase up onto the street and immediately there are two guys yelling at those of us clambering up the stairs.

"MORNING! MORNING, MORNING!" they yell, and try to shove free newspapers in our hands. I don't usually take one because I haven't really had time to read the paper in, say, six weeks. But when someone does accept their offerings, they have a little party about it.


It cracks me up, and I just love that these guys, who are probably paid minimum wage, bring such energy to getting news coverage to the cranky commuters in NYC. News coverage on NEWSPAPER.

You may remember that funny material; it used to be read every morning by people drinking coffee. Now it's been traded in for digital letters on tiny screens, and I predict, soon to be accompanied by virtual coffee- same great flavor, zero experience.


He's back and he's more biblical looking than ever...

You know how your little brother spends years trying to grow out a little peach fuzz? Well, SEND HIM TO TANZANIA. It appears they put facial hair fertilizer in the food.


This would NEVER happen in a Paris metro.

Me: So yeah, Goldie was telling me all about that article, about why married men cheat on their wives.
Anne: Well, there are lots of married women who cheat on their husbands too.
Random man (who just got on the subway with his wife and daughter): Oh no! How can you girls be worried about this at your age? Are you talking about that article in New York magazine?
Me: Yes! So, you read it?
Man: Let me tell you something. The writer makes some argument about the biology behind it, which, I don't know, maybe part of that's true. But the whole argument about how men cheat on their wives because their sex lives are boring... I mean, come on.
Man's wife: The problem is that no one today realizes how much work goes into a marriage. It's like a job!
Man's daughter: You can believe them- they've been happily married for 35 years.
Man: That's true, very happily married... do you want to see a picture of my girlfriend?
Everyone laughs. Anne has to leave the subway to transfer, but I remain standing and the family sits down. Then, when they go to leave, the man touches my arm.
Man: You stay strong, ok? You're going to meet your Mr. Right.

It's strangely comforting that the very things I worry about are brought up by random strangers in the subway. All the time.


Nation-wide tour starting next week!

Goldie was listening to Ingrid Michaelson a few minutes ago in her room; she recently discovered the amazingness that is that girl and her songs. And so I'm sitting here at the kitchen table eating watermelon (a new obsession) and I put some Ingrid on and instantly it's last July and I'm playing her CD every. freaking. car. ride. all summer.

You know how certain CDs or songs are marked with a time or a person of your life? Well Ingrid Michaelson reminds me of summer and Yoga and Eat, Pray, Love and sun roofs and angst-filled nights when I was questioning lots of recent decisions. In those days, words like "I want to crawl back inside my mother's womb" were as comforting as mantras, and I held onto that underlying beat for dear life just to get through August.

I must have told you all this before, but this time I'm not kidding: GO. LISTEN. NOW.


No one has a private jet when you need one...

I'm itchy to leave and go somewhere. Memorial Day weekend is staring me in the face, taunting me as my only day off in the near future.

I just spent an hour looking at last minute flights to Florida (good god, how I hate the state of Florida, but ANYTHING to get some sun...). Thanks to the powers that be in today's world, even flights to craptastic FL are $500. I keep shortening the search (how far up does the sun come? South Carolina? Virginia? D.C.? Can't I just open up a lawn chair on the White House lawn for a 3-day weekend?). Nothing appealing, nothing for the cash I'm willing to throw at it.

New issue of NIFW came out last week- check it. My music video with subtitles is something you Frenchies might appreciate.


True that, Dave. True that.

"Yo dude, dating sucks. If I ever date again, I'm never going to do it sober."


What I was afraid of.

Last week I woke up one morning, heart pounding, tangled up, nightmare cliche. I dreamed that I'd gone back to Paris and called a bunch of friends to let them know I had arrived safely, but none of them were around. I got directions to the city and didn't recognize the way to get there. I was lost in Paris and Paris was lost to me.

I've been perpetually trying to go back for 10 days for the past six months, though changing jobs hasn't helped with the vacation time situation. Tonight I spent a few hours walking around Central Park with Fanny after work... I can feel that my language is slower and my vocab is slipping.

It's a freaking nightmare.

You guys out there who know or knew a language- how do you do it? How do you hold onto it? Advice for the linguistic-weary is welcome.


Update from the African Siblings

I spend a lot of time explaining where my other DNA matches are in the world and what they're doing. Some of you ask about them; often I have vague answers like "she's helping to teach a village about AIDS" or "he's smelling lion's breath!" So, an update:

Who: Kate

Where: Togo

What the F is she doing there?: Peace Corps, finishes this winter

Update: I finally spoke with Kate on the phone this weekend and she seems to be much happier now that she's in Lome (the capital of Togo). She spent her first year out in a rural village and enjoyed the people but was pretty frustrated with the *work* portion of her assignment. She's now working for an organization in Lome, where she helps with the Peace Corps volunteer grant application process. To give you an idea of a typical day in Togo- she went out with friends and partied until very late one night last week. And then another night last week she woke up with a scorpion in her bed. Awesome!


Who: Steve-o

Where: Tanzania/Mount Kilimanjaro

What the F is he doing there?: Semester abroad, junior year; hiking Kilimanjaro this week because "yay, classes are finished!" Yes, I realize most other juniors celebrate by drinking beer.

Update: Steve comes home on Saturday. He spent three months studying large animals and the culture of Tanzania; he learned some Swahili and once he smelled some lion's breath on a safari. He will have a TRUCKLOAD of photos to share and that means that I get to SEE the view from the summit of Kili (as he so lovingly calls it) without actually climbing the damn thing. Also- I've spoken to him a couple of times on the phone since he left in February and every time he ends the conversation with "Wait, Jenny- ARE THERE NEW EPISODES OF THE OFFICE AND ARE THEY HILARIOUS?!" At least he has his priorities in check.


Brooklyn Newsletter: Month Five

Dear Brooklyn,

I'm headed out to Jay's fiancee's bachelorette party in a few minutes. As the tulips appear in spring, so do the wedding invitations and our refrigerator door looks like Kate's Paperie, it's that covered with invites and save-the-dates. BRING ON THE SUMMER WEDDINGS, I say. BRING ON THE FESTIVITIES. And the cake and champagne.

My social life decided to come out of hibernation over the past four weeks. More specifically, it decided to head straight over to alcoholism; working in a company with mostly boys has resulted in more beer and free shots then I've ever encountered in my life. It's as if destiny said "Hey- you there. Didn't you ever want to pledge Sig Ep? Well here's your chance." Luckily, no one has sent me on a mission to buy cheese steaks in Philly, though I've only been working there for three weeks. There's still time.

One of the changes that has resulted from the new job (besides sleeping later and understanding more nerdy jokes) has been a shift in vocabulary. You can't be ladylike when you're hanging around all that testosterone; 'douchebag' is now a staple and I'm swearing like a sailor. All that being said, sometimes these men can surprise me. Last night at a pub near work, one of the guys went from making crude jokes one second to describing his dreams and nightmares the next. "What's been the craziest thing you've ever dreamt?" he asked us, earnestly, and I had to laugh because, for all their technological aptitudes, there are still sweet souls down there.

One of the many subjects of reflexion during the past month has been the nagging question of blogging: why do it? For those of you who follow the dooce.com news, Heather has become media central of late (featured on the Today show among a whole bunch of other news outlets). I've read dooce for a couple of years now and I've always enjoyed her take on things, particularly via her writing, which is witty and engaging. That said, her recent surge into celebrity-ville makes me feel a little bit ooky when I log onto her site; like I'm reading people.com or checking up on Lindsay Lohan's personal blog. I'm not interested in reading about what it's like to be a celebrity (or if I am, it's not via dooce.com that I want to encounter it). In feeling uneasy about Heather's fame, I've thought about my reasons for writing a blog myself. Is it narcissistic? Who exactly am I writing for? And even if I'm not a mommyblogger, aren't there still legitimate reasons to be blogging?

I'm still unsure about the answers to some of these questions, but I may have found one reason to continue. A few months ago I wanted to look up the name of a book I'd read during my trip to Ireland last year and so I dug around in last spring's archives. Re-reading what I'd been thinking a year ago was incredibly enlightening; my words had been since forgotten and it was like re-meeting a younger version of myself, someone who didn't yet know she would be living in Brooklyn a year later.

I don't know who that information is useful for outside of myself, nor do I know if the act of writing on a semi-daily basis is helpful to anyone else either. I guess that, in a small way, I hope that people who read others' thoughts are more understanding of the human race, whether they're sharing a seat in the subway or negotiating peace talks somewhere far away. To know that everyone's coming from a different space and to understand that the way they interact with you is a direct result of such diversity... these are small steps towards a kinder world.

And I do think that's important.



The post in which I get a little heady with you...

Today for the first time I encountered the New Jersey Transit situation (by which I mean got confused by words like "Seacaucus" and "Newark Penn Station"); I was headed up north to the Shiva I mentioned the other day. As I left the office, I walked a different route to a subway that I never take and the whole experience was, to put it briefly, new.

So I'm sitting there in the subway on my way to Penn Station, and I started thinking that if I wasn't going this new route today, there wouldn't necessarily be anything memorable about the day (barring the obvious evening's activities). I went to work, had pizza at lunch, asked a bunch of tech questions and understood a few of the answers. But by changing my routine, I was in the process of creating a memory of the day. Even if I don't remember the details, I'll remember what NJ Transit is like and what it means to take the E train to Penn Station.

So if routine assures non-memory (I won't say forgetting because I mean something more like 'un-remarking'), is an great memory more often available to a person who has lots of new experiences? If your everyday routine is unremarkable, you can imagine entire years passing in a snap. But perhaps we can slow down time (or the impression of time) by pelting it with new routes home and different food and conversations with strangers who mark the experience and render it memorable?




My first instinct is to make food. Lots of food.

A friend's father passed away yesterday and her family is sitting Shiva this week. Shiva is such a lovely tradition in the Jewish faith; in the days after my Nanas passed away last summer, I wished we'd had a way to remember them. Not only on the day of their funerals, nor in the days leading up to them: choosing dresses, caskets, hymns. But in a live feeling-fest.

They passed away in Pennsylvania and the reality of it faded somewhere in New Jersey on the way home. The book closed; we still thought of them and we still mourned for them, but we didn't live it the same way my uncles and cousins did. We had the Tappan Zee Bridge as a barrier. And our jobs. Our busy New York jobs.


I missed them a few weeks ago, randomly. I saw something on the news and thought about asking someone older about politics 60 years ago.

"Nana, which was your favorite president?"
"Oh, I don't know. Kennedy was good, I guess."

"Nana, what do you remember about being little?"
"We had chickens. And a farm."

The Nanas are unavailable now. I'll have to look elsewhere to appease my love of history's stories.


It feels the same way when I see married friends' Facebook profiles, cuddled up to their sons in Easter photos. I sleep in on Saturdays; no doubt they're exhausted with cleaning and playing and car-seat buckling by the time I roll out of bed. I feel selfish; I feel free. I'm an asshole whose profile picture is posing with a beer; I'm thankful that I've sown some oats in the hopes of one day being a more settled mother. In the end, I have no choice.


And so my instinct is to make food. Lots of food. To give something, anything to make a small dent in the insurmountable pain of losing your father in your mid-20s. To harness that mothering energy, to be counted upon, to be useful to someone other than to myself.

It feels like it helps.


Still got it.

Goldie and I are getting ready for Single Saturdays and I just went through iTunes to make a kick-ass party mix to play while we get ready. Inevitably, JLo, JT, and Gwen Stefani made the cut. I just made myself a mixed drink in the kitchen with 2 parts Bacardi and 1 part juice. And now I'm about to put on eye-liner for the first time in months.

Minus five years we were doing the same shit 100 miles south of here. Great to know your friends don't change. Photos to follow.


'But I know where I want to go'

I'm on one of my obsessive music kicks right now. I published a new issue of NIFW tonight (check it out if you have a sec, it's a good one...) and have had the same song on repeat all night. Have you heard of Bright Eyes? Or what about Shout Out Louds? We have a shared drive at work that lets us all share iTunes music and it's been pretty great for sampling new bands.

You know, what with me being so ancient and dated and 27 years old. It's good to hear what the kiddies are listening to these days.



Co-worker Matt: Jen, you want to hear a funny European joke?
Me: Sure.
Matt: How do you know you're in heaven?
Me: ...
Matt: The cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the police are British, the lovers are Italian, and everything is managed by the Swiss. How do you know you're in hell?
Me: ...
Matt: The cooks are British, the mechanics are French, the police are German, the lovers are Swiss, and everything is managed by the Italians.
Me: THAT'S TOO FUNNY. Did you make that up?!?