Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Streets of New York

A Walk Through the Streets of New York City:

* The lovable Richard Kind emerging from an upper west side deli at 9am.

* The dreamboatish James Marsden emerging from Justin Timberlake's restaurant, Southern Hospitality, in a perfectly worn t-shirt and a Yankees hat. And yes, ladies, he looked every bit as handsome as he does on screen.

* Maria Menunous filming a segment for Extra just north of Times Square. And yes, fellas, she looks every bit as gorgeous as she does on screen. (For your sake, dear readers, I dropped my pretense of being a too-cool-to-care New Yorker and snapped some pictures.)


* Gentlemen in their underwear in the Washington Square fountain wrestling at midnight on Saturday while a crowd of drunken fans cheers them on in some sort of impromptu bizarro version of Fight Club.

A Walk Through the Streets of Any Upstate Town:

* Crickets chirping.

* People walking their dogs.

* Ummm...

Actually, in a number of upstate towns, you're lucky if you even have a sidewalk. I've toured small towns all across the country and often walked a mile or two on the side of the highway to get to an Applebee's or a Dollar General. When you don't have a car, you don't have many other options. (Case in point: the single taxi in my hometown shuts down operations at 8pm. On Fridays.)

Fascinatingly, I've found that if you're the lone walker on a street, drivers will actually pull over and ask if you need a ride! I was floored the first time that happened. I mean, it's not 1958. What if I was a psychokiller? I don't exactly look like a psychokiller, but psychokillers never look like psychokillers. Or so I'm told. I, of course, never got into a strange car because I was always afraid that the driver was a psychokiller. You never can tell.

My most amusing walking-on-the-highway experience occurred in rural Pennsylvania. Very rural Pennsylvania. The town had one traffic light, no pizza delivery, and no residents of ethnic origin. (According to the last census, all 700 residents identified themselves as being Caucasian.) I was taking the short 15-minute walk on the side of a county road to get to the theater. It was a lovely summer evening and I was already in sight of the theater when a car slowed down next to me. I had the following conversation with the female driver.

Driver: "Hon, do you need a ride?"
Me: "Me? Oh, no thank you. I'm fine."
Driver: "You sure? I'd be happy to drop you off someplace."
Me: "Oh, I'm fine. I'm just heading down the street."
Driver: "Really. I can take you anywhere you need to go. I really think you should get in the car."
Me: "I'm just walking to the theater. It's right there. See it?"
Driver: "Then why don't you let me drop you off there?"
Me: "No, thank you. I really am fine. Thanks so much! Bye!"

As she pulled away, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was missing something in that odd series of events. Then it occurred to me: my backpack, walking in the dirt on the side of the road, the motherly tone in her voice, her look of concern and sympathetic head tilt. She totally thought I had walked out of some sort of abusive relationship! I could see the whole thing clearly--she envisioned me getting in a fight, throwing clothes in my backpack, and heading out on the highway on the way to a friend's house. The whole thing smacked of Lifetime Movie Network programming. Suddenly, I felt like I had a whole secret identity. I wouldn't want to be a battered girlfriend, and I don't mean to make light of the whole situation, but it seemed like a really interesting acting exercise. And sure enough, I saw her drive by to check on me as I headed in to the theater. I gave a feeble yet feisty wave, as if to say, "I may have fallen on hard times, but I'm sure I'll get through it."

So fascinating things can happen when you take a walk--wherever you may be!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

9/10...9/12, 9/13, 9/14

"We will never forget."

As a New Yorker who experienced 9/11 firsthand, you'd think I'd want to write down every detail to share with you. But I don't.

The thing is: I'd prefer to forget.

I want to forget the horrific day I watched through the picture windows of my Soho office as a plane flew into a tall building, causing an explosion I had only seen in movies. I want to forget that trains stopped running, virtually trapping me in Manhattan. I want to forget the droves of business people marching uptown, covered in dust from the knee down. I want to forget the hours I couldn't contact my parents to let them know I was okay. I want to forget the way I jumped every time I heard a plane fly overhead. And I want to forget the feeling that every choice I made throughout the day was a life or death decision.

Writing those words makes me feel incredibly selfish because in the grand scheme of things, I got off easy. I don't know anyone who died that day. But even so, the day stays with me. If I could, I'd skip right over it--from 9/10 to 9/12--the same way hotels sometimes skip the 13th floor. I don't mean to negate the tragedy or the heroism of it all, but I'm tired of remembering how helpless and vulnerable we can be. I want to go back to the days before we had to take our shoes off at the airport.

It's not that I don't want to remember--I'd just prefer to forget.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Seth Meyers Poured Me a Drink

New York City and I celebrated Fashion's Night Out yesterday. It's the one evening of the year when fancy stores not only throw open their doors to all manner of NYC riffraff—they actually reward you for coming in and putting your grubby little mitts all over their high-end merchandise. Now, Fashion's Night Out—or FNO—is a catchy little title, but the night could also be called the following:

FSFS: Fancy Stores—Free Snacks!
S&C: Shop & Chug!
PPDMOFS: Poor People's Delight—Miles of Free Stuff!
SIFBDIF: Shopping is Fun, But Drinking is Funner!

Clad in $20 Tahari flats from TJ Maxx and a dress from the little girls' section of Target, I caught up with my cousin and her friend after work and we ventured into the throng of shoppers on Fifth Avenue. We knew we were in for a special night when we reached Lacoste and encountered a red carpet and a polo shirt that would have fit the Ghostbusters’ Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. We asked a couple of people behind the velvet rope what they were waiting for, and they said, "Foster the People is playing here tonight." Now I will completely admit that I can name more Gershwin tunes than current chart-toppers, but it just so happens that I love Foster the People and their jaunty little tune about shooting kids on a playground to steal their sneakers, so I was thrilled.

We didn't end up waiting for the concert because they were scheduled to appear "sometime between 6pm and 11pm," but we did hit a slew of other stores. Check out the list below and take copious notes for your mandatory trip to FNO next year.

Michael Kors—This was our first stop...and our most disappointing. We were lured in by the promise of free denim Michael Kors bags, but there were none to be found. We saw the bags later, and since they looked like my acid-washed jeans from eighth grade, I didn't think we missed much.

Banana Republic—We got carded and had white wine in sticky glasses. I chose to ignore the stickiness in light of the freeness. They also had bruschetta and prosciutto-wrapped melon. The bruschetta was average. Since I'm a strict pepperoni/bacon/hot dog eater, I didn't try the prosciutto, but I hear it wasn't that great.

Cole Haan—Snoozefest. Nothing was going on other than a contest to win a pair of free shoes for every month of the year. But since the snooty door person gave us—and our shoes—the once-over when we walked in, we left immediately after filling out our entry forms and taking one of their chocolate brown felt-tip pens. We deserved it. We felt judged.

Fendi—We totally hit the jackpot here! They were pouring Veuve Cliquot like it was going out of style, which their handbags certainly are not. To pass the time while getting as many refills as possible, we played The Price is Right with their overpriced merchandise. Then we took a picture in front of a fancy green screen that made it look like we were in a golden tunnel with "Fendi" written all over the walls. They gave us each a copy, which we plan to destroy immediately because the picture was not flattering. At all.

Tommy Hilfiger—Probably my favorite of the night. Why? A choice of regular champagne or rosé, plus grilled pineapple with herbs on it AND bruschetta with ricotta, honey, and citrus. I would have stayed there forever, but there are only so many places you can move to in the store while pretending to look at clothes. It gets embarrassing after a while.

Elizabeth Arden—We should have gone in here because they were giving away cute Red Door purse mirrors, but there were four creepy models dressed in white chiffon ghost costumes in front of the door. I couldn’t deal with that nonsense.

Diesel—Hated it. We left two seconds after we walked in. Didn't see any freebies, and the salespeople up front were totally banging their gavels. (That means they were judging us. Get it?)

Swarovski on Fifth—Two delicious Lindt chocolates made stopping in totally worth it. I'm pretty sure you were only supposed to have one. 

Zara—I don't get this store. It's like H&M but waaaaay more expensive. Though based on their wine and delicious buttery breadsticks (which they made funky by standing them straight up in a square vase filled with decorative beads), I might give the store another go in the future.

Henri Bendel—A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad crowd. People were pushy and annoying and they were only giving away flavored water. But since we were only using the store for its bathroom, we got our money’s worth.

Tiffany's—Nothing was going on in the store, but someone was giving away what looked like ice cream sandwich pops on the corner outside. Disappointingly, they had an Oreo cream center instead of an ice cream center, but I can't quibble with free food. I'm not sure who was sponsoring the cart because the pops only said, "Love" on them and not the name of a store. Someone must have been asleep at the marketing desk.

Coach—In one of the high points of the evening, Seth Meyers was behind the makeshift bar at Coach. The bar was backed up because he was a very lazy bartender. Too much chatting and picture taking. More booze, less schmooze, Seth! Plus, they had the nerve to run out of glasses. But some very wet (Ewwww!) glasses became available, and Seth asked, "Who wants a glass of white wine?" I actually shouted, "Me!" and raised my hand like a third grader. That was after taking several stalker-like photos of him, of course. (See below.) I'm not sure what came over me. I mean, I do love Seth Meyers because he's a comedy-writing genius, but it's not like he's Justin Timberlake. I guess the tipsier I get, the creepier I get. Anyway, Seth graciously handed me my glass with a brilliant smile. I'm pretty sure I giggled.

Chanel—They were giving free manicures with their two new barf-inducing shades of blue but were just closing up shop. Sigh.

Swarovski on Madison—Yes, we did indeed hit up not one, but two, locations of this store full of animal-shaped glass knick-knacks. Why did we go to the second location? Champagne and red velvet cupcakes, obvi!

Ann Taylor—This store was an odd one to end with, but it was on the way to the subway, so we stopped in for more free champagne. Which we didn't need, seeing as we were grinding with the suit jackets at that point. Actually, I was the one who was grinding. My cousin was ballroom dancing with her suit jacket. Though I don't think it's our fault. The DJ was really good. We were practically forced to dance. By ourselves. In a store full of appropriate work attire.

In the end, I see the beauty of the event—it gets poor folk like me into fancy stores to drool over the merch. But the downfall is that poor folk like me can't afford the merch so instead we greedily grab free booze, destroying the merch with our drool and our bruschetta-coated little fingers. 

When I woke up with a champagne headache this morning, I asked my cousin, “Why on earth didn’t we just say no to our 65th glass of champagne last night?” Her response: “Because we live in Manhattan. Draft beer is $8 a pint in this town.”

I can't wait 'til next year.