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Valentine Daze

14 Feb

Couples fight. Couples make up. Couples stay together. Couples break up. That’s what couples do.

For as bad as an argument can feel in the moment, it’s important to keep your wits; to remember that you are arguing with your partner – not the guy that elbowed his way onto the crowded train; you are arguing with the person you love.

I’ve often said that a couple can be judged not by their best moments but by their worst. How a couple fights and makes up – or, adversely, fights and breaks up – really shows the inner workings of their relationship. It’s in the “getting through it” – the communicating, apologizing, and forgiving – where a couple builds trust and confidence. I believe, it’s in that place where love is ultimately strengthened.

sunset from a plane

Image source: Shannon McGarvey

 

 

Real New Yorkers

7 Feb

Why are so many New Yorkers obsessed with being “real New Yorkers?”

This thought entered my mind while watching a promo for the NY1 “Real New Yorker” campaign yesterday. A narrator speaks over photos of different New York street scenes while asking the viewer certain questions: (I’m paraphrasing) “why do you look into oncoming traffic instead of the traffic light before stepping into the crosswalk?”; “how do you know the street vendor umbrellas are garbage?”; “how do you know which subway car will drop you off closest to the exit?” – “you’re a REAL NEW YORKER.”

I understand the angle. NY1 is at once attempting to illustrate it’s longevity while also giving viewers the “secret handshake.” New Yorkers wear this city like a badge and rightfully so. The longer I’ve lived here, however, the more I’ve come to see New York as I would any other city: just a city.

Before I moved to New York I got a lot of chatter about how expensive it is, how hard it is to “make it,” how everyone is rude, how New York is the loneliest city in the world, how it’s a dog-eat-dog world and New York City has the sharpest teeth – the list goes on. What I’ve found? Well, there’s truth in every trite adage but only a little.

As with any megalopolis, New York is going to have slightly stiffer competition than other cities, more expensive options, more people thus more of the ruder variety, and, yes, it can be very lonely. My point is, when I stopped glorifying New York City and saw it stripped naked standing in front of me, I realized that we’re not so different from everybody else – we’re just more concentrated.

Sure, New York is different in the details: I walk everywhere; I look like a pack mule coming home from the grocery store; I have a personal relationship with my cobbler. In many ways, I feel like New Yorkers are closer, more in touch, with their residence just because of simple interaction. There is an energy to this place but there is no magic.

So why are New Yorkers so obsessed with being “real?” Maybe it’s because we know how special this city is. We know how, perhaps, we once glorified the skyscrapers and bustle; how we felt when we first visited; how envious we were of our friends that had already made the leap. We also know the dirty, often stressful realities of living here.

Maybe that’s what they mean by “real.”

Shadow Self

24 Jan

It was 6am and the day was only a hint of itself.

I guess you could say that I was sleeping. I mean, my eyes were closed. I felt like I was sleeping. I suppose, in reality I was skating the thin line between a conscious and subconscious state; the place where waking dreams, night terrors and other menacing sleep phenomena occur. It was in this strange nether-region that I heard a woman’s voice.

“FUR?”

My eyes snapped open. Am I crazy (don’t you dare answer that) or did I just hear a woman’s voice say the word “fur?” Is someone in my room? I propped myself up, crawled to the foot of my bed and peeked over the edge – no one was there. Then I remembered.

In my sophomore or junior year of  high school, I was drifting off to sleep in my tiny teenager bed when I heard, plain as day, a man’s voice shout into my ear. I shot up in bed, inspected the floor of my room for anything amiss and, when I found no trace, lied in bed walleyed; terrified. Hearing voices isn’t exactly, um normal,  so I conveniently failed to mention it to anyone. Then a couple of months of regular sleep patterns passed and it happened again. First time was weird, second time was schizo. Was I losing my mind? What was happening to my brain? Still, I told no one and hoped that it would never happen again. And it didn’t… until last week.

The difference is, when it happened recently, instead of cowering I found myself curious. What special combination of brain chemicals, environmental factors and/or stress goes into making something like this happen? What, after more than ten years, is the subconscious common denominator? How does this event speak about my sleep patterns? What does it say about my Shadow Self?

Maybe it says nothing. Then again, maybe it says everything. Sleep experts please chime in.

Occupy A Dream

20 Jan

When is it time to give up? Well, if the steadfast presence of the occupiers down on Wall Street have anything to say about it, never.

There’s a reason that the Protester was the Time Magazine 2011 Person of the Year. There is something about the very spirit of protest that really embodies our time and, within it, a true – if not naive – belief in change. A belief that surprisingly perseveres through violence, ridicule, homelessness, joblessness and even weather. Faith, I guess you could call it.

What can the lay person take away from all of this? I believe that it all comes down to the simple seed of dreaming. No, not the kind where you’re naked sword-fighting Darth Vader in front of your peers. The other kind of dreaming; your goals. Would you endure brutality, destitution and the elements for your dreams? I think it is an important question to consider when considering what you are truly passionate about.

For Heaven’s sake, keep the dream alive.

Two guys were handing these out at Union Square this morning.

Follow Your Bliss

15 Jan

Some times, when you’re feeling really low, the last thing you wanna do is exactly what you need to do.

I’ve found that when I focus on the negative – things I don’t have, what I fear, worst case scenarios, etc. – it paralyzes me in the present. In other words, I stop moving forward. For a creative and driven person, this can feel like a death sentence. In moments like these, I often know exactly what I need and it’s probably the last thing that I really want. This means doing something (or a combination of things) that I really love. But why would I have to remind myself to do something that I  love?

Because bad feelings have a tendency to make us short-sighted. We can only focus on the negative present- what is wrong now, what is scaring us now, etc. – instead of thinking about what we want for the future (ie. what we need to do to get happy). For me, this means going for a run, eating well and creating something.

The hardest part of this process? Actually doing it.

Always follow your bliss.

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A trip to Juiceland after a run.

imageLove is greater than fear.

Life Moves Pretty Fast

11 Jan

County Line

19 Dec

This time of the year is abuzz with lists.

Some are set to chronicle the recent past while others put a steady focus on future. As the holidays close in, it is easy to find ourselves engaging in a feverish tally of the previous 365 days. The culture of the New Year’s resolution asks us to ask ourselves questions – both important and seemingly unimportant – and urges an introspection while gently pressing for an answer.

What have I accomplished? What has inspired me? Where have I been? Where will I go? What mistakes have I made? Who has been good to me? Who has been toxic? What do I want? Am I content with my life?

These questions can yield some pretty heavy answers, if you’re not careful. The others simply leave you with a dozen or so top ten lists.

This song is on one of my lists somewhere.

The Best Laid Plans

14 Nov

As I was walking to my apartment yesterday, I came across a blueprint on the sidewalk.

I thought to myself: In my lifetime, how many times have I come across a blueprint on the street? (thinking) I have never come across a blueprint on the street. Why is this so special, aside from the fact that you’ve never come across a blueprint on the street? Truth be told, this blueprint is not particularly special aside from the details of its unfortunate circumstance.

Meaning, some times even the best laid plans still end up slipping away, falling out of your portfolio and onto a dirty sidewalk in Williamsburg.

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Steve Jobs

6 Oct

In my adult life, I have been tremendously inspired by Steve Jobs.  His 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University has appeared on my blog several times.

Jobs’ intrepid spirit, his “foolishness,” his vision, and resolve – all I’ve used, in varying degrees, as models for living my own life. His death, though not entirely unexpected, comes with some sadness and bookends a laundry list of accomplishments that I can only hope to achieve.

My father was also moved by the passing of Steve Jobs and offers not only eloquence but insight:

“I read about Mr. Jobs’ death on my Ipod Touch.  What a remarkable tribute to his legacy that I and millions of others learned of his passing on a device of Jobs’ invention. The uniqueness of that situation can only be mirrored in reason history by the passing of Thomas Edison, 80 years ago.  At that time, I’m sure millions realized that the light they read his obituary under, was a gift of his innovation.

Jobs legacy is written in stone. It is in the hands and ears and eyes of each of it’s owners. Time won’t – can’t –  over-magnify  what he has actually accomplished.”
Here’s to celebrating an incredible life.

Live Free Or Die

5 Oct

I’ve recently and quite suddenly become really bored with my morning commute. To me, it’s slowly transformed into a lot of the same : same rotating cast of figures – the Ecuadorian crooner singing “Stand By Me” in broken English, the over-styled young professional carrying a man-purse, that one guy on the lap steel – same packed subway car, same cattle call at Union Square, same AM New York guy, same same same.

This morning, as I was getting ready to head to work, I began thinking about permanently changing my morning commute. You know, just to mix it up. It was a passing thought really because my regular commute is the most efficient route and any other option would lob on another 10 to 15 minutes, which appeared to be a preposterous option despite my boredom. So when it eventually came to me walking out the door (15 minutes “late,” mind you) I chose my tried and true (and boring) route instead.
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When I landed on my old  worn-out subway platform, I found that the next train was due to arrive in 12 minutes. That feels like an eternity when you’re running late. Then it dawned on me: This was the perfect opportunity to test out a new commute. Even if it tacked on an extra 10 minutes, it would still be better than hearing the botched lyrics of “Stand By Me” for the umpteenth time.
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This little light bulb moment got me thinking about serendipity and how, I believe, the Universe always supplies us with the tools to achieve exactly what we need. It’s just a matter of paying attention; seeing the opportunity in every situation; seizing the moment – even down to the smallest or most insignificant circumstance.
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I think so many people don’t even realize these instances and just spin away, content to live with boredom or sadness or even misery. Never knowing – er, never noticing – that we have been holding the key to our own happiness the entire time.
imagePlease don’t stalk this person.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

17 Aug

Oh, Alf…

16 Aug

Sometimes appreciating is all about opening your eyes.

To notice is to participate and, believe it or not, I’ve noticed that many people simply never do. Maybe New York breeds a sort of oblivion where citizens can seemingly withdraw and think only of themselves?

In a city of 8m people, it’s kind of a challenge to ignore the 7.9m other bodies knocking around on top of this island.  From the folks who stop in the middle of a busy sidewalk to the guy who walks past the lost child on the subway to the women that won’t clear the doorway of the train at rush hour  – so many of us go about our days with blinders on.

Today, open your eyes. There is literally a whole world of interesting things going on out there.

“The Force of Character is Cumulative”

1 Jun

“Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

If the spirit is a freight train, barreling forward in unstoppable momentum, thinking only of the ticking tracks below, the burning coal inside, and the smear of passing scenery, then there is only the perfect solitude of now and the anticipation – perhaps, hope – of the long journey ahead.

That is to say, freight trains; the human spirit; time doesn’t typically barrel backwards and, as much as we may toil in the scenarios of the past or the possibilities of the future, the only promise is the present – ourselves. To be lucid is to be grateful and awake; readied and fearless of the future; forgiving and healed from the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tracks.” Even the best ships – er, freight trains, humans – travel on crooked courses to reach their destination(s). It is more genuine to be present in these moments, then to brood over wrong turns here and there. After all, those “wrong turns” build character and the force of character is cumulative.
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This post was written as a part of the #Trust30 online initiative and 30-day writing challenge.

Bart Simpson Is Just Using You

25 May

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there just aren’t enough spray-painted likenesses of Bart Simpson anymore.

There was a time when Bart Simpson was king and his face was everywhere. I remember when I couldn’t walk five paces on the schoolyard without hearing a “cowabunga, dude” or an “eat my shorts.” Sundays revolved around Matt Groening.

So where is he now? Well, most recently, he’s been spotted under some scaffolding next to some douche bag’s plywood confessions along Keap Street in Williamsburg.

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Hello?

17 May

She was half-way through her story when the phone rang. It was one of those annoying breaks in conversation that came just before the denouement, just as things were getting interesting. She excused herself from the group and walked to the hallway, which was only steps away within clear earshot of where we were sitting.

“Hello?” She looked back and whispered that she had to take the call.

“Hello?” There was silence as she stood facing the wall, carefully listening to the phone.

“Hello.” This time her “hello” was less of a question and more of a statement. Another careful listen.

“Hell-OH?” A little goofier; more embarrassed; more desperate for a response.

“Hellooooooo…” A wolfen call to the night.

“Hello?” Back to square one. She listened again, squinting her eyes and rolling them side-to-side, then pulled the phone from her ear, shrugged her eyebrows, and hung up.

“Ugh, pocket-dial,” she shuffled back to us; to the couch. “I wanted it to be a real-dial.”

Then it struck me: there’s something kind of sad about that brand of accidental communication. It’s not just about the listening, it’s about the hoping and excitement; the lingering and expectation. More often than not, these one-sided interaction tend to leave me asking deeper, more abstract, and probing questions.

How long will you stay on the phone asking “hello” when no one answers? How long will you believe in the silence, waiting for it to respond? How long will it take you to hang up?

No Stars In Brooklyn

12 May

Walking in Williamsburg last night I looked above the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and saw a thick fog of pink and purple – nothing more, save the blinking lights of a passing airplane. City smog. “There are no stars in Brooklyn!” I shouted to myself, over the music of my headphones.

On last weekend’s trip to Connecticut, while driving down a particularly dark stretch of highway between the Long Island Sound and Hartford, I pressed my forehead against the glass of the passenger window and looked to the open night sky, awash with glowing pinholes. “Look at the stars, they’re just perfect!” I said “There are no stars in Brooklyn.”

It wasn’t even a particularly special night for astronomy – the moon looked like a toenail clipping and the constellations were obscured by the reflection of the radio dials on the glass – but it was special to me.

In New York City, it is easy to simply detach and disappear; To lose yourself in the chaos of every second. In this place, nature is compartmentalized and biodiversity is low; Instead of trees there are skyscrapers; Instead of stars there is the blinking spire of the Empire State Building. In New York City, it is easy to forget that we are human; that we were born and will die; that our parts are as fragile and precious as the squares of green parkland carved from the concrete.

We need nature to remind us of our nature: beautiful and finite. So many times I have glossed over the miracle of my every night, the giant rock on which we sleep atop, the bowl of dying stars that surround us constantly…even in Brooklyn.

On my way home I took a different route and caught sight of a single star – the North Star – just over the roof of an old tenement. “See Shan, there are stars in Brooklyn. You just have to search a little harder to find them.”

Just Like Going Fishing

5 May

At some point, most everyone has a moment in which they think that they should’ve trusted their instincts; A time when we reflect on how stupid we were for not listening to ourselves; “If the me now could just talk to the me then…” 

I’ve had plenty of these situations and, after several lessons that were particularly hard to learn, I started to become hyper aware of the times in which my instincts were throwing up red flags. Even still, I had to ask: Is there a chance that my “instincts” could be wrong?

No one ever really advises us against trusting our instincts. There aren’t any time-honored adages that warn against going with your gut. Well, there is that one quote from “High Fidelity” but I don’t think anyone should base their actions on the advice of a jaded and lovelorn Nick Hornby character.  

My point is – yes, I have a point – that maybe we should just chill sometimes and stop looking for reasons to leave. Have you ever considered that these “instincts” may be coming from an unhealthy place? What if your “gut” is telling you to do something that is purely motivated by fear? Sometimes, I think, it is easier to react than it is to be patient and present.

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Wisdom From A Stone

15 Apr

As the panflutist on the Union Square platform reminded me this morning, through an inspired rendition of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want, ” you can’t always get what you want.

I didn’t recognize the song at first, though it seemed familiar. The soft hollow sounds were a distant dispatch over the white noise of rush hour; against the squealing of the trains and grinding metal, it was difficult to make out. I hummed it to myself as I shuffled along with the human cattle and soon the lyrics trickled in. First a drip: “…I saw her there in the reception…cherry red…” And then a stream: “but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

I never knew the Stones were so popular in Peru.

imageI sat on these stairs for about an hour last night. No, those are not my Cobras.

“Do This, Don’t Do That, Can’t You Read the Signs?”

29 Mar

Call me superstitious, call me crazy, call me Stevie Nicks, but I believe in signs – and not the M. Night Shyamalan kind, either (although UFOs were recently seen over the Fukushima plant).

Sometimes, when things begin to feel a little too hard – challenging: good; hard: bad – it’s important to stop and question if you are really on the right path. Some of my greatest accomplishments have been “easy” challenges. That is not to say that I did not have to work for them but rather that, with work, they came relatively easily. For example, when I decided to move to the UK, it came with tons of preparation and work but, in the end, I generally felt like every door swung open. I was on the right path. Something similar happened when I decided to move to New York City and, later, to make the leap from journalism to television.

When you are on the right path, challenges come easier. Doors simply open. The Universe reaches out and shakes your hand.

Attitude of Gratitude

22 Mar
How strange it is that one can do essentially the same things every morning with very little variation – shower, iPod, coffee, subway, work – though still manage to happen upon tiny revelations.
 
It is in these seldom-changing daily events that I encounter some of my best thinking. Maybe it’s the solitude of a crowded train ride; the prolonged moments of silence in which everyone must simply stop and wait; an imposed time to reflect on what ever one will and then venture to where ever one is going. There is a Zen beauty to it, really.
 
This morning, on my sojourn from South Williamsburg to Midtown East, while listening to random selections from my iPod, I was struck by a sudden sense of gratitude. As a rule, I try to remind myself to think about thanking. Doing such, I believe, opens us to more positive interactions and thus puts us in a better position to receive the outcomes we desire. Usually these gratitudes are obvious, especially considering the recent events in Japan: I am thankful for the breath in my lungs; I am thankful for the roof over my head; I am thankful for my job, etc.
 
Sometimes, however, it’s the more overlooked areas of our lives –  the things we use and see every day – that we often take for granted. This morning, I realized that I’m really grateful for music. So grateful in fact that I felt the strong urge to write a thank you note to every musician that has ever made me feel, like really feel. Then I realized what a tall order that would be. Using that reasoning, I’d be writing thank you notes to everyone from Mike Nesmith to Geddy Lee to the ghost of Biggie and ‘Pac. So I’ve decided to choose ten instead – not necessarily my top ten - as an exercise in gratitude and maybe a good scrapbook art project, to boot
 
imageI am grateful for my new horse portraiture.

One Step Beyond

16 Mar

In the bathroom at work, there is a soap dispenser that is broken. I know that it is broken. It has been broken for months. Still, every time I wash-up after doing my business, for some reason I always go to that dispenser. 

This got me thinking: If I know that a well – er, soap dispenser – is dry, then why keep going back for water (soap)? That is, if something isn’t working, why not try a new approach?

Notes to self: If the same old exercise routine has plateaued, try switching it up and see if the results change. If dates with the same types of guys keep ending unsuccessfully, consider stepping outside of your comfort zone and give that one dork a chance. If communication with a co-worker continuously fails, try addressing problems from another direction. You get the point.

Change can sometimes be so scary but taking risks, taking one step beyond, always yields growth and growth will forever make us stronger.

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Happy Anniversary, Honey.

8 Mar

Today is my one-year anniversary in New York. I can hardly believe it.

Anniversaries are a nostalgic time; a time to reflect on the changes in our lives; a time to embrace our accomplishments and press on toward the greater goals of the future. As I’ve said many times over the course of the past 365 days, New York has been very good to me.

If there are a few tidbits that I’ve picked up, it’s that this city loves hard work. If you are ambitious and willing to work hard, you will go far here. Throw in a bit of talent and a warm smile? Fuhgettaboutit.

I understand that New York City can be a challenging place to live and, believe me, I know that there are plenty of hard-working, ambitious, kind-hearted, and talented people going through hard times right now. My point is that anything is possible here – for better or for worse – but, as Lena Horne once said “It is not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.”

Happy annniversary, honey.

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What Now?

1 Mar

If the opposite of love is not hate but indifference, then where does one go after that? 

When the chains that bind you spontaneously disappear – or better, when you realize that those chains were just an illusion the entire time – will you first run to your freedom or will you freeze in fear? Either way, in the end, you are free.

There’s a strange emptiness to this realization; An expectation of emotion where there is none. Maybe it’s because indifference is seldom noticed except when it exists where once it did not.

I always knew that forgiveness came at a price, but I was surprised to find that true forgiveness can sometimes happen so naturally that you forget even paying in the first place.

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“New York City Made Me…”

23 Feb

Finish the sentence.

An interesting dialogue began on Facebook today after my friend Ryan posted a misquote from Lady Gaga that said, “New York made [her] brave.” Friends began to respond with their own versions: “New York made me walk”; “New York made me sweaty”; “New York turned me into dog years”; this list goes on.

To me, this is a great commentary on our shared relationship with New York City, as well as the individual nature of our respective experiences. This dirty, filthy, wonderful space belongs to all of us and we must remind ourselves to always consider our cohabitants, despite the cramped conditions and sometimes hard-knock details of our lives. These things are  important.

That said, I give you this: New York City made me stronger. New York City made me more humane. New York City made me work harder. New York City made me, me.

imageSunshine on the City.

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