Monday, July 31, 2006

I just paid $6.03 for one nausea-inducing iced mocha latte and an inedible slice of low-fat oatmeal banana loaf. I hate you Starbucks. You own me.

In other news, J and I hosted his parents for a day of fun and frivolity in the city on Saturday. J's parents are wonderful sports, as we shuffled them through the often treacherous NYC subway system, the overcrowded South Street Seaport (where that strange bendable man is still stuffing himself into a 17-inch box), the blistering hot streets of Chinatown (regrettably, I did not take Mom of J into the depths of hell for a Coach bag), finally weaving them in and out of the shops in Soho. I think they loved it. Next time - Astoria!

On Sunday, J and I hopped in his car to listen to 80s rock and simultaneously play "Where would you live in Brooklyn?" - for research purposes only, of course. Although J will disagree, Coney Island gets my vote. In all my years in New York, why have I never seen this wondrous place? It's completely charming, with its rickety old wooden roller coaster "Cyclone," and it's dilapidated ferris wheel. And I'll tell you, you can't get a better gyro in Greece! The bubble gum water ice had real bubble gum in it! You can play a game called "Shoot the Freak," in which you aim paint balls at a "LIVE HUMAN TARGET!" You can sing karaoke on the boardwalk in the middle of the day! I spoke solely in exclamation points for the duration of the afternoon. It was that good. J says the word is that this is the last year for the amusement park, Astroland, but the nice man who made our gyros told us not to believe it. If Coney Island is on its way out, I say, run, don't walk.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Writer's Block

Writing used to be serious business for me. When I was eleven years old, I wrote so much and so often that I developed symptoms of carpal tunnel. My late step-father took me to a doctor when I began complaining of severe cramping in my right hand. The doc told me to lay off the pen.

Walking to the car after hearing the doctor's prescription, I was scowling. My late step-dad, the only adult who took me seriously at the time (and for that I will always be grateful to him), asked, "Are you working on anything right now?"

"Yes," I replied, me eyes filling up. "Only my novel!"

Right. I had written nearly 60 pages of my first novel in a black and white marble notebook. It was entitled The Way She Fell, and it was the story of seventeen year old Faye, whose sister, Mariah, had fallen to her unfortunate demise from a rooftop during her sixteenth birthday pool party. I know I described the doomed birthday bash via flashback, and then followed Faye as she realized her sister's death was no accident and attempted to solve the crime. As of today, my not-at-all-cliched teen novel (Mariah was the gorgeous, popular attention-hog; Faye was beautiful yet brainy) is still unfinished, as I never did figure out who did it, and why. Shame, because it sounds delightful, doesn't it?

Though I put that "project" to the side, I continued to write throughout elementary school. In the eighth grade, I penned a short story, "Snow." I told the story of Tony and Laura, ill-fated lovers who meet, fall in love, move in together, and then one day, Tony decides to tell Laura he is dying. With AIDS. Somehow I think that would have come up before cohabitating, but when you are thirteen, the small details can escape you. Still, I won an award for the piece from a young writer's conference. It remains my only award for short fiction.

I loved to create characters and recount terribly dramatic tales. But of course, when it's time for high school, short-story writing becomes frivilous. Priorities shift. Reading for pleasure becomes a thing of the past. Friendships are formed, beers are guzzled, college apps are completed, prom gowns are purchased.

Most successful writers will tell you in order to write well, you need to read a lot, write a lot, and most importantly, get a life. I find that most eschew writing classes, or MFAs, in exchange for travel, various jobs, bad relationships; in other words, life experience.

Now I've not experienced everything, but I've lived through a lot. Perhaps I could write a more convincing story of a man living with AIDS in New York having met such a man, and having lived in New York. Right?

I must then be suffering from an acute case of writer's block. Stephen King, in his fabulous treatise On Writing, advises me to turn off the television, find a special writing spot, and then, you know, actually write. Oh Steve, if only it were that easy. Just one more episode of What Not to Wear, and I'm turning off the tube, laying off the Pinot, and getting serious about this. I have ideas you know. Now, to put them to paper.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Things I learned this past weekend:

  • It's never too late to say "Thank you." I know my extended family appreciated it when, at Sunday dinner, I handed them the bright yellow note cards I found stuffed underneath my bed last week. "What's this for?" They asked. "Not sure," I replied. "A thank-you card for either my high school or college graduation gift. Open it! Let's see."
  • Feigning ignorance in poker games is brilliant. "I'm not the best card player," I assured J, Todd, and the Real JC on Saturday night. My advice to the amateur poker player: every few hands, study your cards, furrow your brow, then ask pointedly, "What's a royal flush again?" Works every time.
  • My thirteen year old cousin, Churd, is a stud. "Wanna hear the line I use to pick up the ladies?" He asks with a grin. "Are you from Tennessee? Cuz you're the only ten I see." Genius.
  • It is not okay to exclaim angrily, "MOM! You SUCK!" during the requisite family Trivial Pursuit game. Trust me on this one. It gets awkward.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Michelle's at home, the cat's are purring...

I am putting out an APB on my roommate, Vanessa. Unbelievably, we live in the same apartment, work three blocks from each other, and I have not seen her in... possibly three weeks. And though some nights it's wonderful to have my own place, it is just no fun watching That's So Raven or Full House without her.

When I moved back to NYC, nearly two years ago, Vanessa was my lifeline. She kindly took me into her one-bedroom apartment in Queens and put up with a million boxes piled in the living room for weeks. When our remodeled two-bedroom apartment was finally finished, the mighty Van moved us upstairs by herself (I had to be in West Chester, cheering for my mama at her college graduation). When I had to be in Philly for Koos's wedding day shortly thereafter, she hung the curtains in my bedroom for me, as she knew there was little chance I would ever get around to it.

Blissfully happy in our new digs, we indulged ourselves with far too many happy hours at bars throughout Manhattan. When it was time to go home, we'd often take the train, sharing Van's Ipod, singing along to Beyonce or Christina. We went on countless bad dates. We dissected them over Pinot in the living room. We took spontaneous trips to Miami and Puerto Rico. We turned 25. On my 25th, she treated me to tapas and sangria and consoled me through my quarter-life crisis. On hers, we drank atomic margaritas and wore Vanessa nameplate necklaces. (Again, sorry about having to be sent home in a cab that night at 8 PM, V. Those damn margaritas!) We nursed hangovers together. We ordered food from the diner across the street and had it delivered. We drank martinis at home and watched horrific romantic comedies. We quoted The Family Guy incessantly. We smoked cartons of cigarettes in our apartment (we have both since kicked the habit). We went for mani/pedis at Athena's on Sunday mornings. We saw Wedding Crashers and nearly died laughing. We cheered each other up when bad guys left hurt feelings. We watched Will Ferrell and sang about Fred's slacks. I sported a "More Cowbell" tee. Man, they were great times.

My darling Vanessa and I can sing all the words to Jesse and the Rippers, "Forever." We can hold whole conversations using Zoolander quotes. Things are certainly different than they were all those months ago... of course, we're both happy now and that's fantastic! But if anyone can understand why "Michelle's Smiling" is a damn good song, it's Van. She'll also remember that Uncle Jesse sang that song to one depressed toddler, who missed her old pal Howie. Come home soon, Van! Lest I will make you a tape of me blowing kisses and waving to you, saying, "Hi Vanessa," and send it straight to Hoboken. Never question Bruce Dickinson.

Sir, are you aware that you're actually drinking Folgers Decaffeinated Crystals?

The other night, J and I had a fight. We don't make a habit of it, but sometimes tension mounts, and we have it out. For our recent one-year anniversary, I wrote J a list of "100 Reasons" I like him. I forgot to include this gem: I like that we fight fairly. We never spew spiteful remarks; we keep it clean. We typically deal with the issue at hand, talk (or talk loudly) through it, and come to some sort of truce. It's all very healthy, I assure you. We've both seen our way through tumultuous relationships, and I like to think that we have learned a thing or two along the way.

So recently, when J brought something up that was troubling him and I became defensive, as I do (I'm good, yet far from perfect), we retreated to separate corners for a good hour before reconvening. And by "reconvening," I mean, I went upstairs to the bedroom, where J was brooding, and pretended to pack my bags to return to New York.

"Where're you going?" J asks.

"New York," I say succinctly. We may fight fair, but I am dismayed by the separate corners, and so I respond in - what I hope is atypical - brat mode.

Of course, I don't immediately rush to 30th Street Station. We begin talking again, and we're each saying (or talking loudly about) what is bugging us. You can feel the tension melting away, and we both begin to lighten up, to see the ridiculousness of it all.

"You know, I have my faults," I assure him. "I am independent, and I get defensive, and I'm, I'm - stubborn!"

"Noooo," he says sarcastically. We both crack up.

Before I know it, we are laughing about my inherent clumsiness.

"You're upset because I am clumsy!" I tell him. "Because I am always breaking dishes? And then when I cut myself, you have to help me with band-aids and then clean up the glass?"

He laughs. "I love it when you break dishes, babe."

"You won't when they're yours."

"No. I won't," he says.

And the storm has passed. He hugs me. "You know," he says. "Sometimes you can just apologize. You can just come upstairs and say 'I'm sorry,' instead of pretending to run away to New York."


One of things on the top 100 list was that J is "infinitely patient." He'd have to be; I can be a handful. And you know, he's also got a point a lot of the time. I can feel an August resolution coming on.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Yeah, I think this is how we do it.

Saturday night bachelorette party in AC. Borgata. Mixx. Things get interesting when a Tony Siragusa doppelganger invites the girls (all ten of us) to the VIP lounge. Turns out Siragusa’s brother-in-law is getting married on the same day as our darling Dee, and everyone is in celebration mode. It also follows that some men in their early 30s don't appreciate the Tony Siragusa comparison (who knew?). When Tony overheard his new nickname, and mock-angrily attempted to track down the purveyor of such nonsense, I innocently pointed him in Allie’s direction.

At one point, Grace tosses me Tony’s cell. “This is great!” she says. I’m looking at a picture of the irrepressible Constantine Maroulis, who is mugging for the camera phone with his patented squinty-eyed, lascivious gaze.

“We ran into him downstairs,” says Siragusa. “I say, ‘Hey, aren’t you the dude from American Idol?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, you wanna picture?’ What was I supposed to do?”


Soon we reach the sentimental portion of the evening, in which Koos (who has been double-fisting glasses of champagne all night), turns to me and says, “HomeValley, I love you. No, I really love you. You’re not just some chump. You’re the real thing.” This is by far the best compliment I have ever received.

Later, one of the bachelors motions to Allie. “Your friend is crazy!” He laughs. “She hasn’t stopped dancing all night!” I realize this is true. Allie is standing behind a Grey Goose-smattered table, her face stoic, completely engulfed in the music. At this point, the only way to speak to her is to weave through the crowd and spend a moment dancing beside her. I do this periodically throughout the night, between sipping various vodka drinks, learning that one of the nicer bachelors lives in Astoria, trying to entice Grace to marry him, and screaming as the strains of Lionel singing “All Night Long” fill the VIP lounge.

The night progresses, and soon Dee needs to be put to bed. As most of the girls make to leave, Allie and I decide to stay, as she still can’t stop dancing and Grace is deep in discussion with Astoria Guy. I coincidentally find myself sitting next to two Queens girls, one a pretty professional poker player, the other a fashion designer. We mix drinks and chat amiably until Allie finally loses steam and we decide to head out.

Traipsing through the Borgata, I wax poetic to the girls about how perfect the night was, how much fun I have had, when suddenly – there is Constantine. Before you could say, "Jerry Seinfeld called, Const, and he wants his white puffy shirt back," I giggle like a nerd and yelp, “Constantine!”

“What’s up?” He too-cools, as he and his small entourage move along.

Allie, Grace, and I laugh uproariously all the way home.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

This is all a little disconcerting for the human race...

A few things:

  • I am scared of mice. My pretty little cubicle, set in posh Chelsea, is infested with the vermin. One morning, unsuspecting, I bounce into the office and happen upon my despondent cube-mate. She can't look at me. We need to talk, she whispers. She recounts a sordid tale, one in which she entered our space in the early AM, horrified to see our home filled with giants rats dancing gleefully about the room, excreting on our desks and laughing haughtily, rummaging through our garbage and feasting on our leftovers. At least, that's what I heard. Perhaps there was just one tiny mouse that scurried away when she came in. No matter - since that heartwrenching morning, I have struggled to ensure that no morsel of food is left for Stuart Little, on my desk, or in the trash can. It's too risky; a face-to-face encounter with the monster will send me into cardiac arrest. Today, however, I find that Cube-Mate has been storing a plastic tub of granola (granola!!) in the corner! This is sure to attract the beasts, and then kill me.

  • Phone call from Allie this morning: "I forgot to tell you about your mom at the shower this past weekend!" she says (Note: I skipped the bridal shower for friend Dee, yet Mom attended. She will not let me forget this.). "We were discussing a particular mother's antics, how she was getting crazy and yelling at the bridesmaids, when your mother blurts, 'Yeah! It's like, Al, you know I'm crazy, right? But I'm not crazy in front of other people!'" Mom.

  • From the mouth of Vanessa: So I made "B" [boyfriend of Vanessa] watch a part of Full House last night- and it was the one where Joey was supposed to do a stand-up comedy show- but Phyllis Diller was there- and performed for over an hour and a half- and then everyone left before Joey got into his routine. Well Gallagher, the host, before introducing Joey did a bit about toys that were provided in cereal boxes- and pulled out a huge Frankenstein mask- I lost it! I laughed so hard bc it was so awful- and couldn’t stop. I think it really scared B. He said it was the worst thing he’d ever seen in his life and that it almost made his eyes and ears bleed- and he could not figure out why I was dying laughing. Anyhoo- what’s w/ dudes? Does J appreciate Tanner family fun? Or is he a hater?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

1992 was a good year...

Last night, as I was clamoring to tie my running shoes and head out to the New York Sports Club (that's right, "King of Pop"), I received a delightful phone call from my twelve-year old sister. Catalina, as I prefer to call her, is a precocious blonde vixen who currently resides in a small town in Southern New Jersey. An aspiring musical theater actress after my own heart, Cat called to discuss her imminent trip to New York, in which she and I will see Wicked and subsequently sing show tunes in Times Square until dawn (look out when the soundtrack from Mamma Mia is on - we bring the house down).

Cat and I hadn't chatted in quite awhile, so I excitedly listened to her recount the details of her young life:
  • On friendship: "My best friend and I have decided we will have a double wedding and we will live with our husbands together in a house made of cheese. Also, as she will probably go to college in Pittsburgh, we decided that before we leave for school we'll need to take a trip together. We're thinking we'll just spend a week in Disneyworld, you know, going on all the rides we want."
  • On love: "I just adore Orlando Bloom, Sis. He has my heart. Forever."
  • On college plans: "I want to go to Yale and major in drama, maybe minor in French. It's the strangest thing, but I have always wanted to be bilingual."
  • On Harry Potter: "I just can't imagine why Rowling would kill Potter off, but we'll just have to wait and see. By the way, one of my friends absolutely loves Daniel Radcliffe. Sometimes I think he's cute, but other times, I feel like he is trying too hard to look cute. And that's just not cool."
  • On suburban living: "I have decided that I am, in fact, a city girl. Nothing ever happens here in the suburbs."
  • On Grandmom's incessant calling: "We have caller ID, so anytime Grandmom calls, Meghan [our 8 year old sibling] will take one look at the phone, look at me, look back at the phone and say, completely seriously: 'Cat, it's for you.'"

I adore this child.

And of course, speaking with my baby sister forces me to recall what my own life was like at twelve. I reluctantly realize that Cat is remarkably more astute and self-aware than I was in 1992. Let's just say, I certainly wasn't pondering Yale Drama. If I remember correctly, I was obsessed with the fact that I had not yet gotten my period, when many of my friends had. They developed boobs; I was affectionately dubbed "The Wall." (Or "Pink Floyd," like, haha, very clever, O'Connor!).

Come on, you'll sing along to Bohemian Rhapsody too.

It was a simpler time, in which The Real World had just premiered on MTV, and new best friend Koos and I donned Wayne's World caps at the theater while seeing the film that year. In October, I played the role of Bush Sr. in a makeshift political debate at our modest Catholic grade school, and lost to an ever-charismatic governor from Arkansas. That November, we watched the Presidential election unfold much the same on Channel One. Thus, I retired my political aspirations and settled for writing plays and novels, as well as reading R.L. Stine books, attending sleepovers, taking trips to the mall sans parents, listening to what is now referred to as "old-school hip hop," walking around the neighborhood like bad-asses past curfew, and alternately pining for Luke Perry, Jason Priestley, and Darren Daulton.

All of this two years before my lovely, intelligent, hilarious sister was born. Here's hoping her future is bright and wonderful, that she makes only fortuitous mistakes, and that someday, somehow, her dream comes true and she resides in her very own house of cheese.

Oh, Walsh. We miss you.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Trauma (and Recovery)

At 11 AM yesterday, I receive a concerned call from friend Allie in Philadelphia:

"Hey, where are you?? Are you near this?"

"What happened? I'm in Connecticut," I sputter. I am working in East Hartford today.

"A building exploded in Manhattan! We are watching CNN in the office. It looks pretty bad."


We hang up quickly after Allie gives me the sparse details that she has. I can't get to my computer, so I immediately call J and ask for an update. He visits, and assures me that all looks fine.

"It doesn't seem to be terrorists," he asserts quietly.

I exhale.

On September 11th, 2001, I found myself back at work at One World Financial Center around 8 AM. Within the hour, my life was decidedly altered when a plane hit the Tower across the street.

The events of the day are foggy at best. Physically, I ran from the crumbling Towers, and was at one point covered in pulverized debris. Struggling to inhale and blinded by the gray matter, I calmly asked my new friend, Brian, if we were going to die. "No," he replied, and I believed him. "But this can't be good."

We were lucky that day, when so many others weren't, and I am grateful. Yet emotionally, the effects of that Tuesday remain with me. I suppose they always will.

I've made great strides in overcoming the fears that at one time were debilitating and all-encompassing. Years ago, I couldn't hear a plane flying overhead without my pulse beginning to race, my palms sweating, my adrenaline pumping. I was always ready to run. Everyday in our Lower Manhattan neighborhood, my roommates and I felt like moving targets. I couldn't eat. I lost ten pounds. When Vanessa got an ear infection, we were convinced she was infected with anthrax. I had nightmares every night without fail, horrific ones comprised of bombs exploding and bodies being tossed in the air like rag dolls. The first time I flew - alone - after the attacks, terror nearly suffocated me.

Compounding matters, towards the end of that school year, a two-alarm fire in our dorm roused us in the middle of the night, making it that much more impossible to heal. Now, the fear had seaped into our safe haven, our home, and no place was secure.

For me, the answer was distance. I had to move away from the scene, then back to it, to get some clarity. I had to really feel it, and stew in it, and talk about it, and write about it, until it simply exhausted me. I had to examine it, and dissect it, and face it head on to really begin to take back my life. I had to be in a harmful relationship through this process, and then end that relationship with startling finality, to move past the mess. I had to take a job that required travel, so that I could be on a plane, alone, and handle it. And it's still hard, especially on an overnight flight to Paris, in which J is woken up approximately every five minutes to hug me during light turbulence. And of course I had to eventually be in a healthy relationship, with a man who is infinitely patient and understanding, especially when the fire alarm goes off in our Providence hotel room, and I bark at him to run: "We've got to move!"

After yesterday's explosion on 62nd and Madison (which we now know was the failed suicide attempt of a doctor who was determined to screw his ex-wife on this 10 million dollar property), old memories were dredged up. Luckily, today they are primarily showcased in my dreams. Last night's nightmare was a bad one, but I am now far better-equipped to handle such incidents at 4 AM with the wisdom I have gained, and of course my Friends DVDs. After all, it's still a process, one that has made me that much more resilient and hopeful.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Resolutions and Claims to Fame

I recently got into some trouble with a friend for breaking a commitment. Said plans were for the evening before I was scheduled to leave for Athens, so I had no business seeing the Mets play the Phils. Alas, I did say I would go. When I told this friend several days before that I couldn't attend, he was irate and demanded I pay for my ticket (ahem, his season ticket). Indignant, I simply asked for his home address and mailed a check for $33.00.

And yes, he cashed it.

And no, I probably won't be inviting him to the Beer Garden this summer. Ah well.

This unfortunate loss of $33 plus one friend did teach me this: I need to start honoring my commitments. What do I have if I don't keep my word?

So last night, I promised an old college friend that I'd be at his happy hour. And by God, I made it. Clad in Guess heels and a smart skirt which Stacy and Clinton would have approved, I arrive at the BBQ bar, assuring myself I'll only have one or two beers, and head out. Instead, College Buddy makes a face when I order a Miller Lite. "We're all drinking these lemonade drinks... Not sure what is in them, but they're great!"

I acquiesce. The drink is delicious! College Buddy and I begin catching up. He is a friend from my first school, a tiny liberal arts college on Manhattan's Upper East Side. There, most of the students were either theater or dance majors, or child actors. I always loved that the kid from The Sandlot (Smalls!) was a classmate, thoughI never once ran into him. And of course, he popped up later opposite Sean Penn in Mystic River, so Smalls is doing alright for himself.

Eventually, CB mocks me for once having a crush on his roommate, Christian Actor.

"He was dreamy," I swoon, as the alcohol I am gulping begins to cloud my better judgment. "He spent some time on As The World Turns or Another World I think. But it would have never worked out between us; he always had a thing for that blonde dancer girl. The Southern one?"

"Yes, Katherine something - and she was in that movie!"

Instantly, I know which film he speaks of.

"Oh my God!" I squeal. "From Justin to Kelly!!" Of course, I didn't know I was watching adorable Southern Katherine at the time. My mind races: How did she get this role? Who is her agent? What is Kelly Clarkson like in person?

More importantly, shouldn't I be doing something more?

I order another drink and chat with CB and his work friends until the room starts spinning. I throw on my flip flops and head out into Times Square, quite tipsy. I feel amazing about keeping my resolution and becoming a reliable woman. I soak up the energy on 42nd Street for a moment, and then dash into the subway to head home.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Chris Noth, Where Are You?

It's raining in New York, the N train is a big old mess, the AC is out, and Ultimate Roach just dropped by my dainty little cube in Chelsea. Nonetheless, I am still in an awfully good mood as the weekend was long and lovely. We took in a few singer/songwriter shows in Manhattan - hi Joe Purdy (! Apparently, buy Joe and bandmembers a drink and they will hang with you for hours. Fabulous time chatting with you, men! Also traveled through nefarious traffic enroute to Providence, Rhode Island, to finally use that Marriott gift certificate. Plus, exercised on three separate occasions - on a holiday weekend, no less.

I watched more episodes of What Not to Wear than I care to admit; however, thoroughly inspired by Stacy and Clinton, J and I managed to clean out three entire closests. I feel positively lighter today, as J lovingly combated my packrat tendencies with his refreshing practicality. The items I was on the fence about were subject to his yea or nay vote. Some choice comments:
  • Regarding my once-beloved, now Wet Seal reject fiery red shirt purchased in Malibu five years ago: "That's great - if you're 12."
  • A red, polka-dot sweater that is actually my roommate's (and was safely returned to your closet.,Vanessa): "Okay - if you are Strawberry Shortcake."
  • The stretchy gray dress (circa 1998) I fell in love with in Florence: "That's a dress? Does it even cover your stomach?" (I kept this one, but alas, he is right. How much weight have I gained since high school ended?)

The old metallic shoulder bags; the thick, rubber-soled shoes - nothing was safe. In the end, I feel good about it. At 26, I really have no business shopping at Forever 21 .

If there was one thing wrong with this weekend, however, it was once again the utter lack of a Chris Noth sighting. I have spent many martini-laden nights at your bar, Mr. Big ( - where are you?