Monday, March 30, 2009


As I exited the train at Roosevelt Island, a thick white fog covered the city across the river. Squinting, I tried to locate the Empire State Building as I stood waiting for the bus to take me home.

A woman quickly approached me and broke my concentration. “Habla usted espaƱol?” she asked. “No, I am sorry” I said while shaking my head. I had taken one semester of Spanish during my senior year in college and only retained the phrase “vacaciones de primavera” (spring break!).

The woman stayed at my side and attempted to speak English, but I was unable to understand her. Somehow, I managed to communicate to her that she was at the bus stop and needed a quarter to ride.

Soon, a young girl stood next to me. The woman asked the girl if she spoke Spanish and within seconds the two were having a conversation. I began to walk away, but the girl called after me and asked if I knew where 4 River Road was on the island. I told her that I lived next to the address and offered to show the woman to the apartment. The girl conveyed the message, as the woman smiled and put her arm around me.

As quickly as the woman spoke, the girl translated. “She just moved here from the Dominican Republic,” the girl said. “This is her first day of work as a caretaker and she doesn’t want to be late. She says this is her only chance at having a good life.” As I began to assure the girl that I would take the woman to the correct address, I was interrupted. “She says that we are her guardian angels,” my interpreter stated.

When the bus arrived, the girl walked away and left the woman with me. She sat at the front of the bus with her hand firmly planted on the seat next to her. As I walked towards her she patted the seat, motioning for me to sit down.

The mile long ride took longer than usual. We tried to carry on the conversation from the bus stop, but it wasn’t working very well. When we arrived at 4 River Road, we exited the bus and I pointed to the building. Like old friends departing, she gave me a firm hug goodbye.

As I walked home, I noticed that the fog was even thicker than before. I began to think that the haze was not much different than our language barrier. Even though I couldn’t see the city, I had faith in its existence.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Day Dreamer

Ask any New Yorker with a television, and they will tell you exactly which Brooklyn wedding venue uses the slogan, “We make your dreams come true.”

I was stuffing the last chotzky from my desk drawer into a company tote bag when my cell phone began to ring. It was my last day at the office, and I was taking personal calls.

A woman with a smoker’s cough and a thick European accent gruffly said that she was from the Brooklyn venue and wanted to know if I could come in the following day to meet with the owner- Mr. M. The only thing that I had scheduled for the next day was to sign up for unemployment, so I figured a job interview should take precedent.

I had miscalculated the hour-long train ride into Brooklyn and began to run from the subway to the venue. It was two minutes until my scheduled 9:00 AM meeting and I had six blocks to go.

Out of breath, I arrived at the venue and was greeted by a man with a vacuum. Not saying a word, he led me into a large office space. The stain glass windows and mahogany walls sucked the youth from me instantly as I walked through the door. Four older women sat at their respectable desks, drinking coffee and gossiping in a loud whisper. It was just like Sex and the City. But except for Chanel, the women wore polyester stretch pants, “The World’s Best Grandmother” sweatshirts and spoke Ukrainian.

The woman closest to the door looked up and motioned for me to come to her. She handed me an application and told me to have a seat and wait. A half an hour later, Mr. M walked through the door. I had recognized him from his commercials. The four women stood up from their desks and said in unison, “Good morning, Mr. M.” Not saying a word, he went into his office and slammed the door.

Ten minutes later, Mr. M reappeared and motioned for me to come inside and sit down. I took a seat on the one chair that was not covered in papers and introduced myself. Speaking in a thick Ukrainian accent, he began to talk about the business and repeatedly referenced his lapel pin. I nodded along with a smile, concentrating on every word, but understood next to nothing.

When it was my time to speak, I told Mr. M that I was newly engaged. Thinking that a soon-to-be bride working with other soon-to-be brides would entice him, I had been clearly wrong. “Oh, no!” he said in broken English. “I will ruin your life. Now, you go call your father and ask him for money!” Confused, I assured Mr. M that I was capable of having both a job and a fiance, but he did not want to hear any more. Instead, he wanted to take me on a tour of the venue.

Before I could decline, he grabbed my hand and began to guide me through the three-story space. The rooms were carefully decorated in bright colors, with gold-plated molding and ornate cherubs clinging to every last inch of the ceiling.

So, this is what Tony & Tina’s wedding looks like, I thought.

Towards the end of the tour, Mr. M escorted me into an unfinished space. When we arrived, men on scaffolds were listening to light rock and painting the ceiling. Quickly they each greeted the owner and continued to paint. Arms crossed, Mr. M took a step back and looked up. He looked at me and then looked up again. “Young lady, do you see what I see?” Inside I was screaming, please just let me go home! But instead I said, “I see a beautiful ceiling.” “No!” he shouted. “That peach colored paint does not match the other peach colored paint!” I examined the two sections of ceiling and then looked over at Jerry Stiller’s twin. The painters and I tried our best to explain that one section had dried, and the other was still wet. But Mr. M was convinced otherwise.

In a huff, I was escorted to the front door. There Mr. M handed me the venue’s promotional brochure and told me to go home and rest.

Needless to say, my dreams didn’t come true that day. After all, I don’t keep them within gold-plated mahogany walls, but rather a much more carefully designed place- my heart.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's Not You. It's Me.

In most relationships, the woman remembers everything- the first date, the first kiss and most importantly- the anniversary. Not only does the man not remember the specifics, he also doesn’t see the need to be reminded of them. In this instance, I am the man. And The New York State Department of Labor is the woman.

I received a card in the mail this week reminding me of our three-month anniversary. “What have you been up to?” the enclosed questionnaire read in bold letters. “Well, waking up at noon, watching Unsolved Mysteries re-runs and baking copious amounts of cupcakes,” I said aloud while scanning the letter and hoping that it didn’t involve yet another trip to the unemployment office.

I had been summoned to the Downtown labor offices at 5:30 PM on New Years Eve. Sitting in a small, dimly lit room full of recently unemployed people wasn’t exactly how I had imagined ringing in the New Year. But, in fear of losing my benefits, I attended the “required course.”

A woman in her mid 70s stood at the front of the room. Roughly 100 pounds and dressed in a wool suit and large-brimmed hat, she appeared to be a little girl playing dress up. The feather in her hat swayed each time she peered over her thick, brown glasses. “Can anyone tell me what Craigslist is?” she asked slowly, not to confuse anyone. Everyone began to mumble his or her answer. “Raise your hand if you would like to respond,” she quickly scolded. This went on for 45 minutes as she went through crazy new websites such as Linkedin, Monster, CareerBuilder and (perhaps you have heard of it)- Google.

Desperate to not return to the labor offices, I promptly began to fill out the questionnaire. Listing a number of possible productive things that I could be doing with my time, it asked that I check off all that apply.

Sending out resumes- check!
Making business contacts- check!
Not losing focus and staying positive- eh, check!

I placed the completed anniversary letter in the mail today. As I walked home, I wanted nothing more than to break up.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Blog Is About You

I was in Williams- Sonoma, browsing over-priced meat tenderizers when my phone began to ring. It was a 212 number, so it had to be one of two things- either a job opportunity or a reminder for a doctor’s appointment that I had made months ago. I was hoping that it was the first one as I answered my phone.

The bubbly girl on the other end quickly introduced herself as Jennifer from a local PR firm. I had recently sent my resume to the agency and Jennifer asked if I could come in the next day for an interview. I was thrilled and agreed to the 5:30 PM time slot. It was after she mentioned for the fourth time that their offices were located in the “Penthouse Suite” that I made my best Charlotte York face and cheerfully said that I would see her the next evening.

I spent the night before the interview researching the firm with the best tool I know- Google. I quickly found the website, but thought it was odd that it hadn’t been updated since 2005. Their clients included Mariah Carey, Foxy Brown and Kim Cattrall so I thought, “How bad could this place be?”

I arrived at the office 10 minutes early to find the once enthusiastic Jennifer to be anything but. With her shirt buttoned lop-sided and confetti-like paper in her hair, it looked as if she was spending her nights nestled in shredder scraps while spooning toner in the supply closet.

After signing in, I had a seat next to a young man who appeared to be the missing band mate of Fall Out Boy. Not looking up from his Blackberry, I quickly began to scan the amethyst-themed office. Designer candles lit each corner of the space filling the room with a floral scent, as four plasma screen TVs blared CNN. An embroidered pillow sat on an overstuffed chair that read,
I was born free. Now I am expensive.

From behind a closed door, I heard an interview in progress. A voice sounding like Wanda Sykes on helium began to loudly discuss the recent Alli commercials featuring Wynonna Judd. “Well, it’s clearly not working, because that girl is still fat,” the woman boldly stated. I looked over at Pete Wentz’s stunt double with a crooked smile, but got no reaction.

Close to an hour after my scheduled time, Jennifer escorted me into “Wanda’s” lair. Perched behind a large glass desk, the owner sat cross-armed with a headset that looked to be sewn in as a part of her weave. I wanted to remind her that she wasn’t at Wendy’s, nor was she working the drive thru, but instead I outstretched my hand and introduced myself.

Not looking up from my resume, she began to ask a question but quickly became distracted by her computer. Typing with two fingers, she told me to “hold on” and proceeded to write nothing short of a novella. After what seemed to be an hour, she looked up and said, “So, you didn’t answer my question.” “You didn’t ask me a question,” I said in my sweetest voice. Annoyed, she pulled out a list of questions and stated that perhaps it would take more prying to get an answer from me.

“Do you have a spirit to serve?” she questioned. I had no idea how to answer this and politely asked her what she meant. “I mean, if you see a napkin on the floor- you pick it up!” She shouted at me. Before I could respond, the owner pushed back her chair, got up and screamed, “Jesus served, why can’t you?” A part of me wanted to ask, who is this Jesus that you speak of? Oh, is he the new pitcher for the Mets? But, instead I sat back and listened to her sermon.

At this point, I had mentally “checked out” of the interview. I answered a few more questions as quickly as possible wanting nothing more than to be on my way home. Then she announced, “My last and most important question is- regardless of who you voted for in this election, give me one word that best describes Obama’s campaign.” “Determination,” I quickly stated. “That’s it?” she snorted. I reminded her that she asked for one word, and one word is what I gave her. Getting up from her seat, she thanked me for my time and had Jennifer lead me to the front door.

Shocked from what had just transpired, I walked to the subway in a trance. I began to think about the immaculate office space and the sprite that dominated it. My thoughts immediately went to the embroidered pillow.

Sometimes, no matter how expensive you are- your talk is still cheap.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Moment In Time

This is simply an update from my February 24 entry, “Time Out.”

I am featured in this week’s issue (March 12) of Time Out New York, in the “Own This City” section.

So, please go splurge on the $3.99 magazine (if you already subscribe, kudos to you!), dog-ear page 29 and strategically place it on your HR manager’s desk.

Thank you in advance!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Common Scents

I have always been highly sensitive to sounds and scents.

To this day, crickets chirping at the end of summer take me to my backyard and playing badminton with my dad. Knowing that the first day of school was near, we would play until it was nearly too dark to see the birdie.

It rained this weekend, and as I walked around the Upper East Side, I was reminded of the scent of spring. I remember smelling a similar scent while I was living in London. It had been three months since moving there, and as the flowers in Regents Park began to bloom, I would open my dorm window and sit on the ledge overlooking the gardens. Sometimes I would read, other times I would listen to music, but most of the time I would think.

I would think about how far I came from being that small town girl in Pennsylvania, to living in a foreign country. And even if it was only for a semester abroad, I knew that I wanted more.

It was six months after moving to New York City in 2004, that I was reminded of spring again. Living just blocks away from the Jaclyn Onassis Reservoir, I remember sitting on a park bench thinking all that I wanted was to live in Manhattan – and there I was making it happen.

A fine mist began to fall as I crossed the street. I saw two young girls who appeared to be new residents to New York, and soon became envious, as the city still seemed unscathed to them. I wondered what small town they were from, what brought them to New York and if they had found it- or maybe, like me, they were still searching.

But, then I thought. My time for change is coming. Spring is in the air.

Friday, March 6, 2009

No Man Is An Island

The Norton Virus on my laptop flashed red for the first time in three years. “Twelve viruses detected” the ominous message warned me. Not wasting any time, I placed my computer into a large tote, left my apartment and headed for the nearest Geek Squad.

I live on Roosevelt Island. It’s the two-mile stretch of land between Manhattan and Queens, and is undoubtedly the redheaded stepchild of the five boroughs. There are three types of people that live there. 1. Diplomats. 2. Quadriplegics. And 3. Everybody else. The subway is at the Southern tip of the island, and because most people live on the Northern side, a bus transports residents to and from the train for 25 cents a ride.

It had been 10 minutes and still no bus. Freezing, I slung the tote over my shoulder, put in my headphones and decided to walk the mile long path to the subway station.

I didn’t get as far as the chorus of the first song when I saw a man in a wheelchair waving me down from the middle of the sidewalk. I lowered my headphones and asked if he was ok. “Can you give me a push?” he barked. “Sure,” I said and asked him if he needed to cross the street. “Are you heading to the subway?” he snapped, ignoring my first question. “Yes,” I said. “Good,” he responded. “I have a doctors appointment in 45 minutes, and that’s where I need to go.” Before I knew it, I was wheeling the man to the subway.

About half way into the trip, he cocked his body towards me and said, “My name is Barry Cohen. What’s yours?” “Anne,” I answered and continued to push him through the brisk air. When we got to the subway, my hands were red and chapped from the medal handles, but Barry asked if I could help him on to the elevator and then on to the subway. Not wanting to leave him, I did as he asked.

Once on the train, we had a chance to look at each other. His fedora hat covered most of his silver hair, which peeked out in curls. Barry smiled and asked, “So, what do you do?”
I told him that I was an event planner, but I had been laid off in December. He began to tell me about an article that he had recently read outlining the unemployment pay for different States. Apparently, Hawaii is the worst place to be unemployed and Connecticut is the best.

I began to step out of the train at Bryant Park. Barry grabbed my hand, thanked me and said, “I hope someday, somebody helps you the way you have helped me.” I told him to “be safe” and the doors closed. As the train sped by, I thought about what Barry had said and wondered what he meant by that.

And then I realized. Sometimes, all we need is a good push.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sale Away

There was a time when a trip to J. Crew could brighten even my darkest of days.

Until December, I worked just a few short blocks from the flagship store in Rockefeller Center. It almost became a ritual for me to stop by after work and check out the constant changing SALE section.

With my head down, not to make eye contact with the sales associates for fear that they would recognize me from the days past, I would make a bee line to the back of the store. Wednesdays were the best days. Not only would they completely rotate the inventory, but also an extra 25% to 50% was taken off at the register. It was heaven. Beautiful linen skirts, adorable cotton dresses, buttery leather belts all at ridiculously low prices. “$9.99 or less” was my mantra.

After abstaining from J.Crew for close to three months, I decided to take a peek at the SALE section yesterday afternoon. I walked in with my head high. After all, I hadn’t seen these people in months and had nothing to hide! Like a woman on a mission, I scurried past the tourists and hurdled small children to get to my favorite section. But when I reached the end of the store, all that I saw was regularly priced goods. “I am not paying retail,” I thought. “Those skinny jeans cost a little less than my weekly unemployment check.” So, I turned around, with my head down, and left the store.

On my way home, I began to question just what had happened to my once Mecca. I remembered recently reading an article that said the Obamas frequent J. Crew because of the “reasonably priced fashion.” That made me wonder- if this is reasonable for them, what is reasonable for me?

Frustrated, I decided to stop in to Duane Reade and grab chocolate. While there, I also grabbed a bridal magazine, a pack of gum and a birthday card. My bill came to $9.98.

At least, even in these tough economic times, I am sticking with my mantra.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What Happened to Dinner and a Movie?

An interview is a lot like a first date. Both parties put on their best faces in hopes of finding that “right” person to ultimately benefit their own needs. “Sure, I’m an excel expert!” “I love working 12 hour work days.” “Yea, I’m totally into monogamy…really!” It’s all the same thing.

Last week, I had my first date with a lung cancer non-profit. It was after spending three hours with the Executive Director, Susan that I began to think that I may be the right person for the job. I left the interview, and as per my instructions, promptly called my recruiter, Harriet.

Harriet was the overbearing, Jewish mother that I never had nor wanted. “So, how was it?” she asked in her thick New York accent. “Great,” I answered and began to explain to her the last three hours. “Woooow!” she cooed. “Three hours! They must just love you. Ok, I will twalk to them and then I will cwall you later.”

A whole week passed and Harriet hadn’t cwalled.

And then, the phone rang. “Anne, it’s Harriet. I am afraid that I have some bad news,” she said. “They have decided to go with another candidate. They liked you, but they say that you are too personable.” I didn’t know what to say to that, but I did manage to ask Harriet to explain. “Well, Susan said that you twalked too much about things other than the actual job.”

“That’s funny,” I thought since I know that the Susan lives in Hoboken. She moved there from the Upper West Side a little less than a year ago. She takes the ferry in to work each morning, and because of the brisk air, her eyes tear up during the ride. Her husband’s name is Steve and when her parents last visited in November, they commented on how cold she kept her apartment. Her electric bill is way over $500 a month and she is originally from Massachusetts. But, you’re right. I am way too personable.

I didn’t argue with Harriet. I gave her my “Thank you and better luck next time speech” and hung up the phone.

Despite my calmness on the phone, the “too personable” thing really had me baffled and made me wonder just where I went wrong. What more could I have said during the interview? Did I not wear the right suit? Did she see the disapproving look on my face when I first noticed her fake turquoise earrings? And then it hit me. Being too personable was just Susan’s poor excuse for something that is very simply put, yet very hard to say.

She’s just not that in to me.

And you know what? It’s ok.