- Put on your raincoat and grab an umbrella. A small umbrella, not those tarps on sticks you see at golf games.
- Kiss your lover goodbye, because you may not survive.
- Test out the water-proof-edness of your boots by walking straight through puddles instead of going around. Because if you get there before they do, you win.
- Close your umbrella before you hit the stairs to the platform, not after. After means you are an asshole.
- If above ground, wait for your train under the dripping of the sky. It's less crowded out there, and besides, you brought your umbrella, which you are free to open again now.
- "Accidentally" tip your umbrella onto the head of the guy who just used his hip to scoot you out of his way.
- Close umbrella as the train is pulling in. Feel your hairdo unravel as rain cascades down your face and clothes.
- Board the train and secure a standing spot. Remove backpack and place onto the lake that used to be the train car floor.
- Defend your tiny space on the train as more and more soggy commuters push and squeeze on board.
- When the lady with the slick puffy coat begins to push you further and further into the lap of the man sitting below you, lock your arm as you hold the pole and do not relent.
- Listen as the conductor pleads with people to take the next train because it is so full that the doors won't close. Watch as no one exits.
- Smell the sting of hairspray, coffee breath and angst as you tunnel underground with thousands of NYC residents.
- Continue locking your arm as Puffy Coat presses ever onward toward Christopher Columbus-ing your well-earned spot.
- Take deep breaths and remind yourself of miners trapped underground for days. They have it worse.
- Try not to murder when you receive an elbow to the temple at the Times Square station.
- Pick your waterlogged backpack up off the floor and strap it to your now-bruised back.
- Make your way out of the station and onto the street where you will immediately be hit with a wall of water from a taxi cab making a right turn.
- Try not to cry, but know that if you do, your makeup is already ruined, so no one's the wiser.
I remember walking down the cosmetics aisle of my neighborhood Eckerd in high school and noticing lotions and makeups that vowed to erase lines or were touted as "anti-aging" and thinking, "I'm so glad I don't have to worry about that yet."
It's now 20 years later and the inner monologue has changed to, "How many firming cremes can I get my hands on and how much do you want for them"?
That's not true, actually. I'm not that bad. I don't have the income to be that bad. But I do do my homework and research what works and what's bullshit and try out things that are within my price range. I definitely don't consider myself an expert on skin care and makeup or anything, but as my face needs (and my face itself) has shifted over the years, I've liked reading about what is effective and a good value.
So, I'm going to talk about what items I'd break your arm over if you tried to take from me. This is by no means the full spectrum of things I put on my person, but instead a look at what I think are must-have skin care items for women in their 30s. (I have ultra dry & sensitive skin, so some of these products might not be right for you.)
Let's start with washing your mug. Some people use those fancy, expensive face scrubbers like the Clarisonic which is supposed to blast a bunch of dirt off your face, but I honestly don't feel like my face gets that dirty. I'm not mopping the floor with it. So, I just use Cetaphil Skin Cleanser.
Cetaphil Skin Cleanser is this creamy liquid with a pearlescent sheen that you just rub on your face. Then you can rinse it off with water or...not. You can also just wipe a tissue over your face to remove dirt and makeup and excess cleanser. That's it. That's the whole process. You basically have no excuse not to wash your face.
I like Cetaphil, and so do thousands and thousands of others, because there's no soap in it. If you have dry skin, I can't recommend this highly enough. You know how if you have dry skin and you wash your face with soap it feels like it shrunk afterwards? Like the skin on your head was reduced two sizes? This doesn't happen with Cetaphil because it doesn't strip your face of its natural oils. This stuff is a miracle, and I'll never not use it. It's $10 and a 16 ounce bottle lasts me well over a year.
Next let's talk exfoliating. Because if there is anything I've learned in my research about my changing skin is that you have to exfoliate like its your job. This part is not optional. If you want your skin to not be kinda dull and blah looking, you have to blast off that top, dying layer of skin cells and get that newer skin to come on out to play. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate. Live it, love it.
Now, there are different ways to accomplish this act. You can use a scrub with little granules of some kind or another to grind away the top layer of your face or you can have acids eat it off. I've chosen option B. I let acid eat my face off. And I do it with Peter Thomas Roth's Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads.
The Un-Wrinkle Pads are little round miracles. I love them. They are on the pricey side at 75 cents per pad, but I swear by them. It's probably the most expensive cosmetic product I buy, but they make such a huge difference in my skin.
When I use them consistently my skin looks firmer, fine lines less visible, there is less redness, my pores are smaller, it removes any trace of flakiness and my skin just looks brighter and better. These little gentle at-home peel sessions are the perfect way to a bare face before applying any sort of moisturizer or serum. My face really drinks in the moisture and vitamins after prepping it with one of those little pads.
If the price is a put-off, many women report that cutting the pads in half works just fine for them and that they save a lot of money that way. I'm such an addict of these things, though, that I use a full pad on my face, neck, chest and the tops of my hands.
Read the reviews on these circular wonders. People swear by them:
I'm 40 yrs old I have started to notice the 11 between my eyebrows and they were getting worse I tried everything came across peter thomas on u tube decided to try it and OMG.. 2 weeks I've been using his products and they are gone!!! I'm sure it's all of it but when I added this holy cow my face looks so young again I will continue to try more of his products i found my holy grail!!
I am in awe at how bright, hydrated and soft my skin is after only a few uses. This is now a fave. and I cannot wait to see the results after a few weeks...Love, love and definitely recommend for dry, uneven skin tone and fine lines.
I think the best part about the Un-Wrinkle Peed Pads is how quickly you'll see an improvement in your skin. One use. Not exaggerating.
The next necessity is sunscreen. Sunscreen all day, every day. This is my song. Because in all the reading I've done the one thing everyone agreed upon as the very best product that works 100% of the time at making you look younger is sunscreen.
You probably know this. Sunscreen is mandatory. I like Kiss My Face SPF 50 for Face and Neck.
The Kiss My Face sunscreen is not greasy or thick. It doesn't leave a film of white gunk behind. It doesn't cause breakouts. It's broad spectrum and water-proof and leaves behind no trace, so it works perfectly under make-up. Use it year-round. So good.
Next up: moisturizer. This is where the search can get downright exhausting. There are just so. many. options. It can leave a lady paralyzed.
And, while I'm *sure* there is a better daytime moisturizer than the one I use, Oil of Olay Age Defying Sensitive Skin Day Lotion With Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 15, (suggestions please!) I will be using my newly discovered night cream forprobablyever. It's Nivea Creme.
Nivea Creme is everything. And it's so cheap. I put it on at night and my skin is suuuuuuper soft by morning. The skin is plumper almost. Some people would say that Nivea Creme is on par with or better than the very famous, very expensive Crème de la Mer. La Mer costs $150 an ounce and Nivea Creme is 79 cents an ounce.
Oh! And I've heard that the imported German Nivea Creme is even better. I'm waiting to run out of the tin I have before trying that kind.
My next very favorite is a primer. (This is technically makeup and not skin care, but I'm including it in this post anyway. It's more of a prep for makeup, really, and it's about how it makes the skin look, so I'm including it here instead of in my upcoming post about makeup.)
I used to never wear primers. Why would I need a primer? So, your makeup stays on longer if you wear it. Big whoop. It's not worth spending money on. OR SO I THOUGHT.
Turns out the right primer can make your skin look airbrushed. No lie. And my favorite for that effect is Benefit's Porefessional Primer.
I'd been hearing about Porefessional for ages but I also didn't need another item to spend money on. So, I avoided trying it. Until one day when I was at a Benefit counter to pick up a different product (that I'll talk about in the future post about makeup for 30-something skin) I decided to give it a go.
The sales lady/makeup artist put Porefessional on one side of my face but not the other then handed me a magnifying mirror. I was sold almost immediately. But I was still hedging at the price. $40 for a tube of something I didn't "need" until two minutes ago? Ugh. I couldn't commit.
Until she told me they had tiny tubes for $10 that were equal in price per amount as the bigger bottles, so I wouldn't be wasting money on a smaller size to try. That was the deal-sealer. I added the tiny tube of Porefessional to my purchase and now I don't ever want to go without it. It makes for a clean, smooth canvas on which to paint yourself up, and it fills in not just pores, but wrinkles! Use it around the eyes and marvel at how makeup doesn't settle into creases. It's like spackle, but it smells good and costs an arm and a leg.
However! I learned that NYX Pore Filler is an awesome "dupe" at a muuuuuch lower price, so I'll be springing for that soon.
And that's about it. I use other stuff on my skin (like eye creams and masks and crap), but these are the skin care products I hold near and dear to my vain heart.
Now here's the fun part: Tell me what you like to put on your face! Hopefully the commenting section on this here rickety old blog isn't hard to use and we can share tips on what to waste money on next.
He is banging his head against the doors of the subway car. His voice is a whine.
"I just want something to report back. I had so many people behind me."
He is young and thin with a wiry, overgrown goatee. His voice is loud. The girl at his side can't take her eyes off him.
"Maybe you try doing an unpaid gig. For the exposure." She's talking now, in hushed tones.
"For free? You think I should work for free? That's not why I moved to New York." His eyes are on his shoes.
"You are 100% right. I'm sorry. It was a silly suggestion." She is patting his cheek. Her eyes are trained on his face.
"I should have gotten that role!" He is not shouting, but only barely. "I at least should have gotten one of the two smaller parts."
"You are absolutely right. You should have." Her voice is a whisper.
"I'm going to let myself feel bad about it this morning, and then I move on. I guess I just keep doing auditions."
"What about Chicago? Some of your friends have gotten roles there."
His body becomes rigid.
"How can you say that, darling? How can you? Moving to NY is the hardest thing I ever did. How could you say that? And what about us, darling?" His voice cracks as though it may become a cry.
"You're right. You're right. I'm just trying to help."
He is louder now. "I'm just a chorus boy who dances well. That's all I am!"
"There is no chorus..."
He cuts her off. "In life! I'm just a chorus boy in life! That's all I'll ever be!"
Train riders are shifting uncomfortably, snatching glimpses of his pouting.
"Jessica Samford said one time that I'm nothing more than a chorus boy. And maybe she's right."
Her face is full of tenderness and so close to his. "That's not true. Come on, now."
His voice rings out in the quiet of the train. "Maybe I just suck!"
She is cooing to him now. She is gently leading his chin up with her hand, making his eyes meet hers.
"You don't suck, Matthew. You're brilliant."
He says nothing, only sticks his bottom lip a little further out.
The train stops with a jolt. She turns to exit.
"This is your stop? You get off here?" Her face says that he should know that.
"Okay, bye!" Suddenly his voice is bright, cheerful. "I love you!" he calls after her, but she's too far gone to respond.
The train doors close and the performance comes to an end.
This morning I woke up at 6 am, not because I'd set my alarm (I had), but because the cats I'd locked out of the bedroom an hour or so prior were scratching to be let in. Had they not been annoyingly persistent, I'd have kept hitting the snooze button for an hour while my boyfriend silently cursed me in his dreams.
Instead, I figured I'd do what I set out to do: get up hours before I have to leave for work and move my body.
I've become very stiff since moving to New York. My shirts are fitting snugly. My back hurts when I stand up for a long time, and it's because I rarely stand up for a long time. The weather in New York City has been an icy deterrent to exercise, and I've let it win.
I got spoiled by San Francisco's mild everydays. I walked to the gym there, where memberships are far cheaper and it rarely rains. Hence the inexpensive gym contracts. In San Francisco, you can walk anywhere, bike anywhere, hike anywhere and otherwise be active in the outdoors year-round. In New York, unless you want a face full of snow bank or are a much more extreme exerciser than me, you have to join a gym. And they know that. So New York quadruples the price of what I was paying in San Francisco and tells you to like it or leave it.
So, I've gotten softer. Stiffer. Less agile. And it's starting to become horrifyingly obvious that I can't rely on my youth anymore to keep me sprightly. I'm pushing 40 and my back hurts. Top and bottom. And it's time to turn this creaky, old boat around.
And because I'm pushing 40 I've learned that jumping whole hog into an exercise routine with gusto is great...until the next day when you have to brace yourself against the stall to go to the bathroom. Delayed onset muscle soreness is no joke, and while it means you've worked out hard, it can often mean I don't work out again for 3 days. Because I did too much too soon. And then I end up not going at all, and no habit has been created. So, none of that for me. I'm easing back in to being active with one of my favorite things: yoga.
And I'm going back to the fundamentals. I've taken yoga classes before. Power yoga and Bikram yoga, but that was when I was younger and fitter. And to be honest, I didn't know what I was doing half the time I was there. I was watching everyone else around me trying to figure out the flows, because I'd never really started from the beginning.
So, I'm starting from the beginning.
This morning I did a 40 minute practice for beginners that included basic instruction on things like downward dog and corpse pose, the simplest of simple moves. But I'd never had anyone tell me that moving into downward dog should happen from the sit bone, like a mother bear picking up her cub by its tail.
Luckily, I found Adriene. She wears sweatpants, has a sense of humor and is the owners of one of the most soothing voices known to man. Her instruction is clear, calming and forgiving. She can be a little act-y, but that's easy to overlook (I mean, she's a professional actress, so it's understandable). Overall, she is one of the best yoga instructors I've had, on YouTube or in real life.
Best of all, Adriene's YouTube classes are free. She had a full 30-day yoga program for no cost, and it's what I'll be embarking on once I finish her yoga beginners playlist. I'm not rushing anything, not pushing toward "yoga for weight loss," just allowing the practice to become habit one small baby step at a time.
So, this morning I rolled my mat out onto the living room floor. I lit three scented candles and left the blinds closed and the lights off and was inside my body for 45 minutes. The cats were not going to let me practice unencumbered, so they joined in for a few minutes, as well. Gracie has perfected the Hair Sniffing Pose already.
After the session was over, I lay on the mat in savasana, pushing away thoughts of breakfast and what I would wear and the impending commute, and meditated. Only for three minutes or so, but the time felt expansive and well-spent.
Then I rolled up my mat, put oatmeal in the rice cooker and got on with my day.
While the snooze button is a seductive temptress, I am so glad the cats came scratching around my door this morning. By getting up early and moving my body I feel accomplished. No, I didn't break a sweat, and I didn't do anything particularly challenging, but I did what I set out to do, which is reward in and of itself.
In fact, the mat session led to a real sense of calm during my commute. This is different from the normal, stabby way that I feel when on the subway. I felt relaxed and flexible, even in my mind.
So, when the train, packed the the brim, arrived at Queensboro Plaza and the woman in the fake fur slammed her body into mine in order to board, I just breathed through it. And when she repeatedly shoved me to make room for herself where there was no room, I had a soft mind. And when she drove her elbow into me and crushed my chest into the railing, I did not snap at her, only cooed quietly near her ear, "You and I both know you should have waited for the next train, so please stop shoving me." I said it soothingly and with a smile. And then she apologized, much to my surprise.
I'm not saying a single yoga class for beginners cured all that ails me, but it's a good start. Namaste.
You can't hear snow fall. At least I can't.
I often listen to rain sounds through headphones, stormy ones, with claps of thunder. Sometimes the sounds of a rainforest.
I can't hear snow falling, and I can't hear a birdsong. Maybe I could hear them if I stood in the center of Central Park, where if you squint, you forget you're surrounded by tons of steel and glass.
Sometimes I think of taking the train up north to I don't know where. Hiking in the scraggly woods of the other New York, the one without all the honking. But it's too cold now.
I need snow boots. I almost fell on the grate on the sidewalk that is already slick, even though the snow is fresh. It will be brown tomorrow and the next day.
I need gloves with all their fingers. I bought the fingerless kind, for texting, which was a total San Francisco move. My hat is knitted loosely with knobby yarn. It warms my ears, but not if the wind is a punch instead of a caress.
Sometimes I think of taking long walks in the mornings, but where would I go?
You could walk around this city for your whole life, slip into it, disappear, live off of dollar slices and fifty cent coffee from the carts, get fat, start a book club for one that meets every Tuesday at the library.
This city makes you work for it, work real hard, and do it amongst a million younger, leaner, richer and with better jawlines. No city cares about you. Least of all this one.
It takes a year, they say.
If I pull back I can see what it's all for. From a distance I can see magic. But up close it's a big old mess.
It's up to me. It doesn't come free with rent. It doesn't get served up on a beam of sunshine. It's not as easy as a gorgeous view or a cab ride down the hill toward the sea.
And I will give it all I've got.
When we talked about moving and I imagined our New York apartment, I imagined a fourth floor walk-up, cramped and small, high in rent and a far walk from any desirable area. I imagined a giant brick box on some charmless street beside warehouses surrounded by razor wire.
Our first apartment in New York couldn't be comfortable or affordable or spacious or lovely. That's not how New York works, I thought. We'd have to crawl over one another to get to and from the bathroom, bumping butts in a tiny kitchen with no room for even the smallest of tables. Noise from our drunken, fighting neighbors would keep us from going to sleep and the cries of a baby next door would wake us far too early in the mornings. It would be ugly. It would be tiny. It would be cramped.
Because New York is hard. New York makes you work for it. New York is full of magic, so you must live in a rat-infested shithole at half your monthly income in order to partake in it. This is what I thought. We'd perservere through all of it, but this is what I imagined.
That didn't turn out to be true. Our place is gorgeous. And it's big. Dominique found us a 950 square foot two bedroom flat mere steps from one of the liveliest and most desirable streets in the entire neighborhood. And the rent is not only fair, but affordable and far below the price of what we'd have paid for the same spot in San Francisco. Like, a thousand dollars less.
We live on a residential street, home to friendly neighbors who wave to us as we pass, making sure to come over and introduce themselves and offer warm welcome. I chat with the lady next door, Sandy, about the weather and what it was like living in California and her cats, all the cats that her animal-loving daughter adopts then somehow end up with her.
There are six stairs leading up to the porch -- a porch! -- a lovely, spacious sitting area with boxed flowers and an American flag. The autumn weather has been unusually warm since we arrived, and sitting on the porch to watch passersby and listen to the trains roll just one block over has been heavenly. With Halloween just around the corner, we'll be ripe for candy-hunting strick-or-treaters. Astoria is a family neighborhood, but not everyone has a porch.
Our front door opens into a hallway -- a hallway! -- and immediately to the left you'll find a large living room with lovely hardwood floors and crown molding and a ceiling fan. A ceiling fan! (The cats have never lived with a ceiling fan before, and they are still unsure of the spinning monster in the sky, though at first they were utterly terrified.)
This hallway also contains a closet, one large enough to serve as a bedroom. It's huge! Not only can I stand in it, I could turn it into a nursery if the occasion ever arose. My friend Joanna marveled at its size: "You could totally make this a baby's room. It wouldn't be child abuse until they were three years old."
The hallway then leads to a kitchen, a good-sized kitchen, with a window. There is a gas-burning stove (standard, I think, in New York) and a full-sized fridge with still enough room for a breakfast nook or a table for two.
The kitchen then leads to another hallway -- a second hallway! -- that contains two more closets, one pantry like, the other deep enough to store many, many things. We have so many closets that we need to acquire more stuff to fill them all.
In that hallway there is a door to the master bedroom, a sizable affair with another ceiling fan -- ceiling fan! -- and a window that overlooks the small backyard that belongs to the people who live below us. I don't think they use it, because the greenery is overgrown, but it's still lush with leaves from large trees that are home to many loud and squawking birds that keep Gracie occupied for hours on end. She sits every day looking out the window into the green of the backyard, daydreaming of snagging herself a fat squirrel or unsuspecting blackbird.
Despite our not having access to it, I love that little backyard. It allows us a peek at nature, however small that peek may be, even as the sound from the subway trains arrives every five or so minutes.
I love our proximity to the subway. It's literally a two minute walk, one short block away, but it isn't loud enough to rattle the panes. Commuting to Manhattan is just a short fifteen minute trip, and the sound of the incoming and outgoing trains is comforting, a reminder that life happens always, in and out, in and out. I often stare into our backyard to a soundtrack of trains.
In addition to the master bedroom there is a smaller second bedroom, also with a ceiling fan. A ceiling fan! The second bedroom is his space for working: literal paycheck-making work, as well as for his music, a place for him to write and play and record. It pleases me to know he has a little sanctuary, a room of his own, in which to create. His creations are one of my favorite things about him.
Lastly, there is a bathroom. It's nothing special, but it has a fantastic full tub with arched tile overhead. There is also a non-functioning shower stall that we use for the cats' litter box, the perfect use for a shower stall you can't take a shower in.
All of this is situated mere steps from Broadway, a street that has almost anything you could ever want. Within two blocks I can do all of the following with ease: grocery shop, hit the ATM at my local branch, buy barista-made coffee, drop off laundry to be washed and folded, purchase a terrarium, select from a dizzying array of baked goods until well past midnight, brunch, get my hair cut and my nails done, take the subway, buy an entire roasted chicken, hit the drugstore, buy cheap utensils from a discount mart, play pool, drink beer and dine on Greek food so delicious you'll sigh throughout the entire meal. And that's literally just the two blocks in any direction from our place. The convenience is staggering, and I suppose that's why they say that New Yorkers rarely leave their neighborhoods. There is just no need.
The streets of Astoria are teeming with life, vibrant lives of all kinds. Pregnant women pushing strollers, couples kissing on stoops, pockets of boys headed to a local bar, families with straggling toddlers, old ladies gingerly traversing the sidewalks, and all of them are from every place in the world. Our neighborhood is one of the most diverse in the country, with everyone from Greeks to Italians to Egyptians to two people from Texas and Tennessee who are still marveling at all the city has to offer.
I've lived in New York before. I lived in Manhattan, in Hell's Kitchen, and I hated it so very much. It was too crowded, too noisy, too far from the subway for me to ever feel relaxed and at home. Astoria is so different. Our street is not quiet, but it is peaceful, and it is safe. And just down the road is a lively strip of city life that we can tap simply by putting on some shoes and heading out the door. We live on a residential street that feels homey and welcoming, and that street meets another street with all the things that New York City does best. It's the best of both, and I feel so lucky to live here.
It still hasn't sunk in all the way. I live here. I live in New York, and it's different this time. It's better. It's so, so much better. I am not lonely. I do not live above the Lincoln tunnel and the constant honking of horns trying to make their way back to New Jersey. I live with a man I love with a fierceness I have never known. This is our home. This is our city. I am not visiting. I do not have to leave in five days. I have the keys.
I wouldn't be here if it were not for Dominique. New York was his idea. He asked me to join him, and I couldn't fathom life without him, so I said yes. But I'd never have returned to New York of my own volition. The first time left a terrible taste in my mouth, as well as some lasting scars. But he had a dream, a specific one, and if I know anything about Dominique it's that he doesn't allow dreams to remain as such. He works hard to make them real, and I'm so lucky he invited me to be with him as he made this one happen.
I am happy here. I am jobless still, but so very happy. After a stressful and expensive stint to make it happen, we have arrived, and it is wonderful. We are only two weeks in, but this home, this neighborhood in this city, is like the last porridge: not too hot, not too cold, but juuuuuust right.
And we've only just begun.
I'd forgotten that riding the New York City subways brings out your inner warrior, that being deep inside you with an innate will to survive. Yesterday I got a harsh reminder.
I had a job interview at 10 a.m. at Two Park Avenue. That meant trains from Queens to midtown Manhattan in the midst of rush hour, an exercise in frustration that I recommend you avoid if at all possible.
It started in Astoria where I bounded up the stairs at the Broadway stop along with the rest of the city's worker bees. I left my apartment an hour before my interview was to start, which gave me ample time to arrive and get there early. I wasn't in a rush, but still I walked along at a brisk clip, my Metrocard at the ready.
Just as I was about to enter the turnstyle, I heard the Manhattan-bound N train barrel into the station overhead. The guy behind me heard it too, because he stuck his long, lanky arm around me and across my chest in an attempt to thrust his body in front of mine.
It didn't work. I continued through the turnstyle, shot him a side-eye that could cut glass, all the while mouthing the word "wow" at him. His brutish attempt to cut me off was unsuccessful and unnecessary. We both made it onto the crowded N train, both jostling for space to grip the vertical pole that prevents a puddle of people on the floor upon take off.
I know that commuting in a car is maddening. Rush hour car traffic is a nightmare that I'm glad I no longer have to endure. But at least you have a bubble. In a vehicle you have steel mass surrounding you, a barrier between you and men who think a forearm across your breasts is a good way to get to work earlier.
I had to transfer to the 6 at 59th and Lexington, so I squeezed my body through the throng of commuters and flung myself onto the platform. I could move again. And no one's coffee breath was hot on my face.
I checked my phone. There was plenty of time to make it to the interview without being late.
A sea of humanity practically carried me to the downtown 6 train. When I arrived at the platform I saw a crowd of people six deep and sighed knowing a battle was about to ensue. There were significant delays on both the uptown and downtown 6 lines, with significant anger from the masses to match.
Within one minute a 6 train screamed into the station, packed with bodies and bags. I watched those on the front lines wait impatiently for people to disembark, then hurl themselves inward, despite there being no apparent room to do so. Most of them fit, like some kind of subway voodoo, but a couple of riders still had their butts and backpacks hanging out of the doors, which held the train up even further.
"If you cannot safely board this train and fit all the way inside the closing doors, please consider taking the next available train," the conducter groaned over the loud speaker.
I'd already decided to wait for the following train said to arrive in five minutes. It's why I'd left early. So I didn't have to have my butt crushed by subway doors.
By waiting for the next train, I'd found myself right along the yellow safety strip at the edge of the platform, a sure spot for safely boarding the next subway car. As I stood waiting, a young woman with a mass of curly hair snaked her way in front of me and along the edge of the platform, treating it like a balance beam. I held my breath and she precariously navigated the front lines, risking life and limb to find a better position. I hoped I would not see someone die that day.
Another train crushed full of humans entered the station and when the doors opened, people spilled out with great force. Once the last person got off, I took a step to board, when suddenly I felt an elbow in my ribcage.
An elderly man, though not infirm, was literally elbowing me out of his way. He was behind me, but was unsatisfied with that position, and so he was physically and painfully using his pointy little old man elbows to take my spot.
I spun around, mere inches from his face and said, "Excuse you!" He jabbed me in the ribs again with an elbow like a knife, at which time I bellowed, "EXCUSE YOU!"
He was unfazed. My yelling in his face seemed to fall on deaf ears. His mission was to make sure he got on that train, and no chick with a job interview was going to stand in his way.
You can't be in flight on a packed subway car, so you immediately move to fight mode. I was ready to brawl with a man who gets senior citizen discounts at his local cafeteria.
There was no way I was letting this man bully his way onto the train before me. I squeezed my way in and grabbed the pole with both hands and tried not to continue with a tirade of expletives.
At the next stop, when it would seem there was no way another body could squeeze onto the subway car, about a dozen or so did. A short, bald man in a Rangers jersey began ordering people around.
"You in the middle! Move down! Now you next to him! Move down! I can't stay cramped up in this position!" He was giving orders and people were actually following them. Save for the lady who shouted, "If you can't fit, you need to wait, sir!"
I felt a leather purse jab into the small of my back. A man pushing 300 pounds stepped on my foot. Another man leered and winked in my direction, then began looking down the blouse of the woman to his right.
I was so relieved to finally arrive at the 33rd Street stop, my final destination. I said excuse me in order to politely exit the train, but a man standing in a trench coat would not budge.
"Excuse me, please," I said more assertively.
"If you are not getting off, you need to chill," he said without even looking at me.
"This is my stop!," I said, then shapeshifted in order to make it out the doors before they closed.
The relief of exiting a train packed to the gills is glorious. I could move! I could breathe! I shook my hair out and readjusted my belongings, so grateful to be walking onto the streets of Manhattan, even in pouring rain.
I fished my compact umbrella from inside my purse and opened it just as I crested the stairs onto Park Avenue, at which time a fierce wind promptly turned it inside out.
(photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ianqui/1547118909)
I set my alarm for 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 1st because I had a one-way plane ticket to New York at 6:20 a.m. It was moving day, the day I'd cross the country through its clouds, and there was a lot still to be done before the flight.
At 4 a.m. my phone vibrated by my head; the alarm I'd set was for PM instead of AM. If it was not for an early morning spam message from Beyond the Rack, I might have slept right on through til dawn.
I bolted off of my mattress on the floor and began to fly about the house in a desperate effort to get everything in order before my flight. I had just over two hours to get to SFO and through security and onto an airplane. Panic set in.
My first order of business was to get two unsuspecting cats into the single carrier I'd set out the night before, a task comparable to wrestling a greased pig, or rather, two of them. I'd dragged their food and litter box into my bedroom the night prior and closed both cats up inside. By limiting their access to the entire house, I was limiting their ability to hide from me when it came time to trap them in their carrier. I'd planned in advance. I was ready.
I managed to snag the black cat who never minds being held and gave him a quick nuzzle before placing him into the zippered soft-sided crate. He resisted a bit, but I got him in without much trouble, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Not so bad. One down, the little white and gray one to go.
I picked up Cat Number Two, the cat who does not tolerate being held, and carried her toward the crate as she squirmed in my arms. I unzipped the carrier as little as I could and tried pushing her inside. She locked all four legs and unsheathed her claws and used every bit of her will to avoid captivity. Still, I was able to force her inside...just as her brother popped right out of the bag.
It was then I noticed I hadn't closed my bedroom door behind me and thus the hide and seek game was on. I'd lure one cat out with a shake of the treat bag, wrestle him into the carrier and zip it up, only to have him slither out like a snake the second I opened it again to put his sister inside. They ran. They hid. They did not want to go inside the bag.
The clock was ticking. Time was running out and the cat bag game was unending. I'd put a cat in the crate, but when shoving the other one inside, the first cat would bolt. Cat in, cat out, cat in, cat out. This went on for twenty minutes. My plane was taxiing up to the gate, no doubt. I began freaking out.
I called Dominique who was already in New York awaiting my arrival and sleeping soundly on his friend's couch. He answered a sleepy hello at which time I let out a crying squeal the likes of which he'd never heard.
The boyfriend tried desperately to calm me from 2500 miles away, but I was a wreck. The cats were already traumatized, as was I, and we hadn't even boarded the plane yet. Dominique, sweet and sane, told me that if I missed my flight I could take the next one and to breathe, just breathe. I sucked down some air, told him I loved him and goodbye, and tried yet again to wrangle two cats into one carrier. The phone call was magic. On my next attempt it worked: two angry cats were finally confined to the crate.
I pitched out their food bowls and litter box and gathered my 70-pound suitcase and the other suitcase and the backpack and the carrier and called a cab. I didn't even change clothes; I just left in my pajamas.
The taxi gods were smiling because the driver arrived just five minutes later. He rushed me off to the airport, probably suffering a hernia from hoisting my luggage into the car. A text message from Southwest Airlines popped up on my phone. The flight was delayed by 30 minutes. I was going to make it.
The cats meowed all the way to SFO but piped down once we got inside. I stood in a snaking line to check-in as kids and adults alike cooed at the two cats in the yellow bag. Luckily at 5:30 in the morning the security lines are short, so we made our way to the coveyer belt and body scan machine in short order.
Once there I insisted on a room for the TSA screening of the two pissed kittens in a crate. All animal carriers must be inspected before boarding, which means taking them out of the bag. Without a room with four walls and a door, I imagined Goat tearing ass toward the nearest gate and boarding a plane to Mexico where he'd live the rest of his life on margaritas and tacos, never to be seen by me again.
They agreed to search the cat bag in a closed room, but could not agree on who would do the searching.
"Tom, you wanna screen this bag with two cats in it?"
"Felines?," he asked with terror in his eyes and shook his head no.
The TSA agents volleyed the task back and forth to one another until one lady finally relented.
"Do we have to take them out of the bag?," I pleaded. The nightmare of the hour prior was still fresh in my mind.
"Yes, we do," she said.
I showed her my arm, which was a mangled mess of scratches, cuts and blood.
"I'll just pat it down," she said while looking at my forearm in horror. I breathed a thank you and soon we were on our way to Gate 32.
I'd had nothing to eat, nothing to drink; I hadn't even brushed my teeth. By the time we made it through security there was no time for any of that, because the kitties and I were in boarding group A.
I carried the bagged cats onto the aircraft and got the distinct taste of what it is like to board a plane with an infant in tow. People began to shift nervously. They avoided eye contact. No one wanted to sit next to two mewling cats for a five hour flight.
But I also got a taste of what those parents must feel: I did not give a shit. I'd paid my fare and a fee for the cats and had made it this far without passing out or losing a pet to the sandy beaches of Puerto Vallarta. I chose my spot and stowed the cats under the seat and crammed the Klonopin I'd saved for this very day down my throat. It was fly time.
Southwest is the only airline that allows two animals in a single carrier inside the cabin, but the downside is they have no direct flights from SF to NY. I had a layover in Chicago, further extending the cats on a plane debacle. I kept having to poke at the cats to see if they were still alive and not just paralyzed with terror. They were breathing, but not exactly happy about it.
We finally, finally made it to LGA some ten hours later. Waiting for my bags and a taxi to our new place in Astoria was excrutiating because I knew how long it had been since those cats had peed.
I texted Dominique once in a Queens-bound cab and told him, "I'm going to come there frazzled. Don't take it personally."
He met me outside our place and took the cat bag from my hands. I nearly broke down on the street. We got all my baggage inside the empty new apartment, unleashed the cats from their portable prison, at which time I told my partner I needed five minutes.
The first thing I did at our new home was cry. I entered what is our bedroom and lost it. I boo-hooed and slobbered and snotted with relief, so grateful for the hellish trip to be over. Once I felt sufficiently cleansed, I left the bedroom to take a look at our New York pad with fresh eyes for the first time.
Dominique showed me around the place he'd selected for us and the cats, then took me in his arms and held me. I'd done it. We did it. We'd moved our family of four all the way across the country and no one died. We'd won.
The cats spent the next three days in either the bathtub or the closet. A full week later they're out and about and running things. They've fully recovered, and the scabs on my arms from their claws are completely healed.
Safe to say we aren't moving again any time soon. Moving day is over, gone, nothing more now than a good story to tell.
I love San Francisco, and I probably always will. I fell in love with her because of her unparalleled beauty, splendid and unabashed, but I love her grime and her stink, too. She is a singular city, none others like her, with her houses painted in the prettiest of pastels and her watery sides lending a sheen to nearly every view.
In four days I'll leave her again. I'll pack up all my things and board a plane and my ticket will only take me one way, right to New York. I'm not leaving because I dislike San Francisco, but because I like a man very, very much.
She has her flaws, no doubt. There are many. But I will always love San Francisco for her mild climate and cozy green parks tucked into a gorgeous sprawling cityscape. I love how soft she can make you, fooling you into believing that humidity doesn't exist and whispering in your ear that you never really need to grow up, not if you don't want to. I love her freaks and her festivals and her food and how a cab ride can feel like a rollercoaster.
I only have four more days with this babe of a city. I'm going to miss her most of all in the snow. Or when the heat of a New York summer chafes my thighs. I'll grow harder and think back on her cool breezes and remember how a light jacket was all you'd ever need, any day of the year.
She's so lovely and light and fun. She's the fizzy peach-colored guava mimosa to New York's face-twisting Manhattan, and I'm going to miss her.
In one month I'm moving to New York City. If you are playing along at home, yes, that would be again.
It was 2010 when I first moved to New York. I took a job there, moved into the midtown neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen, and settled in for life in one of the biggest cities in the world.
There I found myself able to order single cups of coffee or bottles of wine to be delivered to my door without ever leaving the couch. I found myself living one block from the Hudson River, with my closest subway stop being in Times Square. I found out you don't want your closest subway stop to be Times Square. I found myself pretty lonely and adrift in a city of millions. I gained weight. I started smoking. The job didn't pan out. I sometimes spent entire weekends asleep out of sheer depression.
That isn't to say there weren't amazing moments and amazing people. It shouldn't be misunderstood. I had a great time. Sometimes too great. And there is a particular kind of magic in New York. Just walking the streets there lends a certain something to your gait.
But the weather was a nightmare. While I lived in New York there were three blizzards, a hurricane, an earthquake and then there was that god forsaken summer. I grew up in Tennessee, and I didn't know hot like that existed. While I was living there a fashion model passed out from the heat on a subway platform and was killed by an oncoming train. That's how hot it is. All that steel and concrete and all those people...
So, I left. I went back to California. And that's where I met Dominique.
I didn't meet him right away. We only met 15 months ago. But everything's been different -- brighter, funner, fuller -- since then. We're a good pair, a bonded pair. If we were up for adoption the shelter would demand we end up in the same home.
So, that's what we're going to do. We're going to end up in the same home. I probably wouldn't have picked New York, but he did, and he asked me to go with him. And you just don't say no to a guy like him. Not about that.
We're moving to Queens. Astoria, exactly, though we don't have a place rented yet. Hell, I don't even have a job lined up. I'm resigning my position at CBS in September and taking a big chance. Good news is there is lots of work in New York in my field, thank the Lord, so I'm not terribly worried on that front. Fortune favors the bold. I love that quote. I'm counting on it to be true.
I move in thirty days. We move in thirty days. All of us: me, him and the cats. Astoria's a sight different than midtown Manhattan. It's more residential and easy going, but still full of culture and nightlife and fun stuff. I'll admit I was hesitant at first, but I came around. I'm willing to give New York another go. For him I will. And besides, I only experienced a tiny sliver of New York those four plus years ago. I can't let 18 months in Hell's Kitchen dictate how New York will be when it's a different time and a different place. And with my favorite person by my side.
This next month will be a lot of work. Job interviews and movers and packing and brokers and putting two cats on a plane again. Oy vey. But lying right on top of the stress is utter glee. I've found something special in this man, and now I'm going to make a home with him. I'm so excited about what is to come. It's fun to be excited.
It's exhilarating to make a leap this big. I can't wait to see where we land.