18 March 2009

Scotch and fur coats for our girlfriends.

People have wealth in different things.

Usually in New York, these things are tangible. Whether it’s money or jewelry, or even art donated to the Guggenheim, it is no secret that the city isn’t short on luxury and large pocket books.

I, too, am wealthy. More than most.

But I don’t have money. And the only nice jewelry I own is a cherished pair of diamond studs given to me by my father for my 21st birthday. I haven’t invested in anything, I don’t own a car and I don’t have a trust fund.

I am wealthy when it comes to friendship.

Over the years, I have met more faces than I could care to remember. I’ve had friendships end in flames and I’ve had friendships end in heartbreak. Over the years, I have loved and lost and loved and lost again. The only thing that was consistent was the unwavering support of a handful of friends.

Every girl in my opinion needs a select few in order to get through the day-to-day. These are individuals who have your best interest at heart, no matter what. There are no ulterior motives.

When I moved to New York, I left this group, physically. We left each other. One went to Seattle and two stayed in Oregon. My tight knit circle also extended to San Diego and Los Angeles. As a whole, we couldn’t get further apart. I lucked out when one of my dearest friends moved to New York a month after I did.

But even so, since moving here, I’ve traveled in a large group of one. And in that time, I have started an incredible and exhilarating relationship. And that relationship is with myself.

Last week, I took myself on a date. I went to Union Square to see a movie. Bitter New York theaters didn’t have matinee or student discounts (the reason why I still tote my school I.D.), I paid the horrific $12.50 to see Kate Winslet in “The Reader”.

After I took my seat in the fairly empty theater, I noticed two women at the bottom of the stadium steps. Both women looked to be in their late 90s, but that’s not why they caught my eye.

I was drawn to these women because they were adorned in their Sunday’s finest for a Thursday matinee. Both wearing full fur, floor length coats, matching felt hats and jewels that even the great Elizabeth Taylor would be envious of, the women were clutching each other’s hands.

As they made their way up the stairs, helping one another with each four-inch incline, I knew they were going to sit directly next to me—which they did. While they were getting settled in their seats, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop.

“After this,” one said. “I’m taking you back to my apartment and we’re going to drink some scotch.”

I had to turn my head to hide my instantaneous, foolish grin.

“Well what if I don’t want to drink scotch?” the other retorted. “It’s only 5 o’clock!”

“Well I don’t care what you say. We’re going to drink scotch after this.”

“How could I interject and get invited?” I thought to myself. I don’t even like scotch, but something tells me the liquor in this woman’s cabinet is as old as she is, and I’m all about having a cocktail with girlfriends.

“How much did you pay for the tickets?” asked the non-scotch drinker.

“I’m not even going to tell you. I told you, it’s my treat.”

“That’s nonsense. You tell me right now!”

I no longer felt the theater was robbing me. These two’s go-around was worth every penny.

“Excuse me, miss,” the non-scotch drinker asked me, fully turned in her seat. “How much is a movie ticket for a senior?”

“Well I’m not sure,” I tell her. “But my guess would be around $7.”

“Thank you,” she said now fully turned to her other side. “She, right there, told me a ticket costs $7, so here.” She gave a handful of wrinkled bills to the scotch drinker. “And I don’t want to hear anything else about it!”

To some, the banter of these two women might have sounded abrasive, but I understand what relationships between girlfriends are like. Sometimes you can get frustrated and blunt with your favorite people because they’re the only ones who know that it comes from a good place.

As the lights dimmed, and the first preview started to show, the scotch drinker leaned into her friend. “It’s very good to be with you.”

“And the same with you.”

11 March 2009

Be a good one.

When I told my parents almost a decade ago that I wanted to live in New York, they immediately gave me their full support. There is no endeavor I could face that my two biggest cheerleaders wouldn’t encourage.

I could tell them I wanted to move to the Moon, and they would grab an atlas and open Google’s browser in attempt to help me in any way.

At a friend’s graduation party last year, I was telling a group of middle-aged attendees I just met about how my father was driving with me cross country to make my big trek. A very pompous and pretentious man I had met briefly before, snarled.

“What’d ya have to do to make him do that?” he asked rudely. “Bat your eyelashes and say ‘please Daddy, I love you Daddy?'”

The group of adults laughed.

“Actually, no,” I retorted more directly than I had intended. “He’s my Dad and wanted to help me in anyway he could. He’s driven across the country a half dozen times. I’d be crazy not to have him come with me.”

The group was no longer laughing. They were shifty.

“That’s just what you do as a parent,” I continued, knowing full well this man had a daughter around my age. “You help your children.”

When no one replied, I took it as my cue to go sit on the porch.

Living 3,000 miles away from my parents and brother has been tough. I find that since my move, I gravitate towards parents I’ve met here because I miss that sense of family.

When the entire eastern part of the country was annihilated by one of the heaviest overnight snowfalls last week, New York City was suffering from the ripple affect: Traffic delays turned into power outages which turned into broken water heaters which turned into chaos. The only people excited about the storm were children, who got their first snow day in five years, and Mike Favetta, Brooklyn 12’s highly annoying weather man.

My subway line broke down the day after the storm camouflaged Brooklyn, turning my usual 15 minute trip to Fort Green into a two hour odyssey. Commuters from various down trains were herded like cattle to the only line that was running out of South Brooklyn.

As I took a seat, I noticed the woman next to me had brilliant blue acrylic nails. They matched her brilliant blue acrylic phone cover.

“I just hate this cold,” she says leaning into me, not making eye contact. “It turns everyone crazy.”

She was a stout African American woman with beautiful teeth. The blue tooth headset in her ear was blinking the same color as her nails and phone.

“I don’t really mind it,” I tell her.

“You see my son, LeRoy, he’s a pilot in the Bahamas. I just visited him. They’re having beautiful weather.”

“I can imagine.”

“You should have saw him,” she says, placing her cobalt fingernail on my bundled up knee. “In his pilot uniform. He looked so handsome. I am so proud of him.”

“He must be very brave,” I tell her.

“I told my kids when they were young that they could be whatever they wanted in life—they just had to be good at it.”

I nod.

“Anything,” she reiterates. “Even if they wanted to be a bum.”

I start to laugh.

“I’m serious. As long as they came to my house to shower and eat every once in awhile, if that’s what they wanted to do, and they were good at it, then I would support them.”

“I think that’s wonderful.”

“Well you have to support your kids,” she says. “In everything they do.”

I come to find out later her name is Bernadette.

I’m at that stage in my life where I’m no longer a kid, but I feel too young to be a fully certified adult. I’m truly fortunate to have two people in the world who are my ultimate soundboards during this transition.

In the interim, I am going to be a good one. A good what? I’m not exactly sure. It’s a hell of a mantra to live by, but I’m going to take Bernadette’s word for it.

18 February 2009

Perfect Strangers.

No one would argue with you if you were to say New York City is one of the most scenic and thriving cities in the world. The Bronx, Harlem, Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn are connected by one of the most entertaining venues New York has to offer: the subways.

The subways are a great break from monotonous days.

I’ve seen elementary school kids break dancing on the subway. I’ve seen couples break up on the subway. I’ve even seen a girl almost break her face on a stability pole while leaning over to vomit on the subway.

A day of taking the subway without a six piece Mariachi band playing in the two foot space directly next to you is bizarre. If you want to fully experience New York, take the subway.

My train, the D, spends a lot of its time above ground as well as under. Majority of the lines when heading into Manhattan from Brooklyn and vice versa go under the East River. The D doesn’t. It goes above it via the Manhattan Bridge. Every time I enter or exit the city, I get the six million dollar view.

The Manhattan skyline proudly serves as the bustling backdrop to calm water housing Lady Liberty and Ellis Island—both of which are visible from the Manhattan Bridge.

Every time I cross the East River, I look at the Statue of Liberty and am reminded of a woman who sold me luggage at a department store in Oregon months ago. She asked me what I needed luggage for and I told her about my move to New York.

“I’ve told myself since I was a little girl that before I die, I will see the Statue of Liberty,” said the 50-something cashier.

I get to see it everyday. There is never a moment during the two-minute bridge crossing when I don’t feel overwhelmingly thankful.

When taking the bridge last week around dusk, my thoughts were interrupted by a middle-aged woman sitting next to me.

“Does that ring open?” she asked pointing at my jewelry.

“No,” I answer. “It’s just obnoxious.”

She puts her weathered hands out in front of her and spreads her fingers. A large Tiger’s Eye ring adorns her left middle finger, the same finger where my massive white onyx resides.

“I like your ring,” I tell her.

“Really?” she asks more surprised than I was expecting. “Thank you.”

“So where did you get your ring from?” she asked.

“Well actually I got it from Oregon, where I'm from.”

“What brought you here?”

“I’m a writer,” I tell her. “I’m currently copy editing at a magazine.”

“Well,” she says breathing out. “Then I think you should know about the dance studio that’s closing on 36th street.”

“Oh, ok.”

“Yeah, maybe you could pass it along to someone.”

When telling someone you don’t know you are involved in media, the conversation tends to go towards something you “should” cover.

“Yeah,” I tell her. “I’ll do that.”

After a moment of silence, she speaks to me again.

“It’s sad,” she says. “I used to take lessons there all the time, but I haven’t been recently because I just lost my mother.”

As I turn to look at her, she puts her head down. I cock my head to see her face, and I notice her eyes are flooded. Like a yawn, I am immediately triggered. I start to tear up, too.

I am instantly reminded of my grandmother, who was probably around the same age as her mother. I lost her last year after a long, mean battle with Alzheimer’s.

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” I say. “Really.”

“It’s been tough. It’s not the best way to start a new year.”

“I can’t even imagine.”

“But I’ll be ok,” she says still looking at her thighs.

Seeing my stop is approaching, I look up at the subways abrasive fluorescent lights and blink away the sadness engulfing my eyes. Bowing my head to her level, I extend my right hand.

“I’m Meghan.”

“Maria,” she says, accepting my hand.

Still embracing her hand I place my left one on her knee and she looks up at me.

“I think 2009 is going to be a great year for you, Maria.”


“Without a doubt.”

She warmly smiles and wipes her face with her hand. She nods at me. “Thank you.”

As I stepped off the train, I’m overwhelmed with emotion—about everything: the recession, my job industry, my friends and family and their distance away, and now Maria.

I didn’t lie to Maria. 2009 will be a great year. Because it has to be. For all of us.

Now every time I go over the Manhattan Bridge I am reminded of two strangers: the Oregon cashier and Maria.

I hope the Oregonian gets to see the aqua marine monument before she dies. I hope Maria will find a new dance studio. I used to hope that I would never take my time here for granted. But because of two perfect strangers, I know I never will.

13 February 2009

Mazel Tov.

It was like the opener to a bad bar joke: a fair Irish Catholic moves to Hasidic Brooklyn.

Except it isn’t a joke. It is my life. I, the fair Irish Catholic one, moved to a Hasidic Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood almost nine months ago.

And not just any Hasidic Jewish neighborhood. I moved to the largest Hasidic neighborhood in the United States.

When I decided to move to Brooklyn from the West coast, I was unfamiliar with her neighborhoods. I came to visit Manhattan’s sister borough in May to find an apartment before my summer move. New York was dark and rainy; borderline apolocalyptic. As I visited apartments with my companion Conner, I based my judgment on a very important, highly scientific test: The “Do I feel comfortable walking these streets at night in the dark without fear of getting jumped, groped and/or murdered?” Test. Majority of the neighborhoods I looked at failed—until I came to Borough Park.

Borough Park is in South Brooklyn below Park Slope and above Coney Island. I could tell the neighborhood was quaint based on the fact I walked by two elementary schools within two blocks of one another. Even in the late May downpour, I felt instantaneously comfortable and connected. The apartment I came to see was wonderful. 1,200 sq. ft, 2.5 rooms, top floor and a roof view that was enviable. The building owners are a mother-daughter duo and spoke with such heavy New York accents, I could barely understand what they were saying—but I knew I liked them. I trusted them. And more importantly, I trusted the neighborhood.

I signed a lease.

Walking back to the subway, I noticed a few men in wide brimmed hats and heavy overcoats. They had curls at their temples that tumbled past their ears. These men were accompanied by women pushing double-seated strollers. As I continued down my new street, I noticed all of the women had identical haircuts: a blunt cut brunette bob. Because of the rain, they covered their hair with plastic bonnets. After a few more blocks I figured out they were all wearing wigs. And I also figured out I just signed a lease in a Jewish neighborhood.

When I arrived back to Oregon I googled my new neighborhood and found out my speculation was correct. Borough Park was the largest Hasidic neighborhood in America. Crown Heights Brooklyn, made famous by Jewish reggae rapper, Matisyahu, was number two.

I arrived in Brooklyn full-time in the dead of summer. The July humidity was almost enough to make me trek back across country without looking back. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced. There was no way to remain cool and there was no way to remain clean. Now that the weather was bright and clear, I saw many more of my new neighbors. Dressed in their wool coats and slacks, their dark brimmed hats were lined with white residue from their head sweating in the 95-degree sun.

I was immediately singled out. My wild curly, blonde hair paired with my kelly green shirt and shorts didn’t make the best first impression.

I found myself intimidated by this culture. Never making eye contact, they didn’t acknowledge me. They looked right through me. I constantly had to step off the curb so they could pass. It was like I wasn’t present on the street at all.

My father and I went to the local hardware store to purchase an air conditioner. The Hasidic man behind the counter didn’t help us. After waiting at the counter to pay for what we came for, the shopkeeper looked at me and simply walked away.

My dad had an idea.

When he returned without me, but with Conner’s brother Sam 15 minutes later, he was sold the unit without a problem.

Summer continued with like experiences. I felt guilty walking the streets in dresses and shorts. Women would stare at me while waiting in line at the local, non-Hasidic owned drug store. I found myself getting more and more frustrated as time wore on.

The first five months of living in Borough Park, I didn't talk to a single resident. It was an unspoken agreement. I became a silent observer. I was fascinated by the Hasidic way of living and I started noticing their subtleties.

Like how Hasidic men would cut in front of women in various lines. How the usually packed streets were vacant on the Sabbath (Saturdays). How their children go to school Sunday through Thursday. How not once have I seen a Hasidic man or woman walk at a leisurely pace. They walked very quick and with purpose. Their coats are very long, sometimes covering their feet and they looked like they were floating because of it.

A few months ago while waiting to pay for some cards at Duane Reade, the local drug store, a Hasidic man cut in front of me. Usually I am very non-confrontational, but today I was a bit feisty. I walked in front of him and placed my items on the counter. A moment later I could feel his chest on my back, letting his presence known.

I was an outcast in this neighborhood and this man made sure I understood. So when a Hasidic woman reached out to me one Fall night, in one of the most bizarre encounters of my life, to say I was shocked is a severe understatement.

While walking home from the subway with Conner around midnight, we noticed makeshift tents all over my neighborhood. 12x12 foot wooden boxes were assembled and covered in tarps on the sidewalks. As we walked by each one, we could hear conversation inside.

Upon reaching my apartment entryway, a Hasidic woman who I recognized as living in the building next to mine approached us.

“I need you to reset my oven,” she states in broken English.

Completely caught off guard, I ask her to repeat herself.

“Here, you go with her,” she says while pointing at her pre-pubescent daughter in the doorway of their building.

Without giving it a second thought I go with her. To reset the oven. At midnight.

While walking up the never-ending staircase, I start to overheat. Not because of the incline, but because I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going. I turn to look behind me and Conner has matching bewilderment on his face.

When we reach the apartment I notice instantly it is three times the size of mine and I’m immediately envious. Furnished in dark oak and gold, the home is rich and warm. When we walk into the living room, we are met by an audience. Roughly seven or eight children look at us in confusion. My red pants and knee-high boots were not helping.

“Here,” says the daughter while pointing at the oven.

The oven is running perfectly fine. It’s on, baking something at 400 degrees.

“Push this down arrow button,” I’m told.

So I do.

“Keep pushing it until 350.”

So I did.

“Ok. Thank you.”

I don’t think I even returned the sentiment because I was so confused. Why couldn’t she press the button three times? My mind is racing. If they were to kill Conner and I right now, no one would know. Seriously.

As we turn to run back down the stairs to safety, we are blocked by the mother who was coming up them.

“Ok, now I need you to program my lights,” she says. “In the back room.”

Now I’m officially feverish and suffering from slight tunnel vision.

We follow her to the dark back room where we are met by her older son. She points at the light timer on the ground of their laundry room, and Conner picks it up on command. As she and her son are speaking Yiddish to one another, Conner and I are wild eyed.

“Ok, he says you have to turn it three clicks to the right,” she instructs.

Conner clicks it times three.

“Ok, now you have to put this pin in it to set it.”

Conner sets the pin.

“Ok. Thank you.”

I yell “You’re Welcome” over my shoulder as I’m already out the door.

“Here, I must give you cake,” she says.

We enter her kitchen and she cuts us a generous piece of marble cake. Feeling a little more at ease while giving her countless children awkward smiles, I ask, “do you mind telling us why we needed to do these things and what the huts are outside?”

“Why yes, it is our holiday, Sukkot [pronounced sue-COAT]. Our men eat, drink and sleep outside for seven days,” she says. “And we cannot do any kind of work for a week.”

Like setting light timers and ovens.

Thanking her for the cake, we descend the stairs.

“So when do you work, just in case we need something else?” she asks us.
“Well are you able to call us?” I ask.


“What about leave us a note?”


“Ok, well if you see us outside, we’ll come help if you need it.”

Note taking and dialing were all considered exerting themselves during this time.

It was at this moment I felt a part of this culture. Hasidic Jews are a quiet, ultra orthodox culture. I get it.

On New Years Eve an acquaintance I don’t know well approached me at a bar.

“How come you live in that neighborhood?” she asked rudely. “I’m Jewish and I wouldn’t even live in that neighborhood.”

Well good. Then don’t. Because it’s my neighborhood. And when they need their ovens set, I’m the only gentile they've got. And I'm ok with that.

07 February 2009


I quit my job.

During the worst economic recession of my lifetime, I quit a well paying job.

During my time in New York, I worked as a design assistant to a well-known New York dress designer. The hours were flexible, the pay was good and it gave me the luxury to make money while working for free at an independent magazine.

New York has become the eye of the economic storm. Effects of this recession hit the city in waves, giving small and independent business owners optimism one week and leaving them devastated the next. Manhattan has become the city of egg shells and I have become a professional at treading lightly.

The dress shop I worked for is the prime example of what entrepreneurship is going through during this arduous time. With pieces priced between $400 and $800, residents of the lower east side are more concerned in making their rent and paying their escalating utilities than purchasing gratuitous gowns. When I was hired, the store was in its prime, pulling over $20k a week. When I left, weekly sales were around $5k.

Working became dismal. And the times reflected in the designer's attitude.

My job was in fabric selection. The designer would sketch dresses and I chose what it would be made out of. I spent my days perusing the garment district looking for poly lycras, silks, linens and cotton blends. The 2009 Spring line would be made out of textiles I researched and found. For someone with no background in fashion design, it was exciting.

Regardless of how important I felt I was to the label, the designer made sure I felt otherwise.

Throughout the six months I spent with her, I was treated and talked to like a child. I was a verbal punching bag. The recession took its toll on the designer. It was an illness. She was scattered and decided the reason sales were down wasn't because of the current financial hardships. It was because of me. I was tangible, therefore the spoken barrage was easier to localize.

We came to verbal blows a few times and I always stuck up for myself. I felt bad for her. I knew her entire livelihood depended on the success of the store. She was desperate-- but never wanted to look like it. She refused to put signs in her window or lower her prices. Her form of advertising came from those who reached out to her, like nymag.com.

In November, New York Magazine Online called the store to fact check a paragraph they were going to run on their Website. It covered the basics: our location, telephone number and what we carried. Six sentences total. The designer wasn't around so I fact checked it.

"..and you have silk wrapped dresses," read the fact checker from the blurb in front of him.

After I address that we don't carry such dress, the caller says, "great. I'll take that out and get it right in".

When I told the designer she was elated. She was thankful I was the one who took the call because of my "journalism background". I was treated as an equal for the rest of the day.

The paragraph never ran. The designer called every person she could at nymag.com to figure out why and came up empty handed.

Months passed.

Last Wednesday, I called the designer when I opened the store to inquire about the paintings that were newly displayed on the walls. I could tell they were painted by Christy, a girl who worked primarily selling in the store. I called to see if they were for sale.

"What I need for you to do, Meghan, is to keep your agenda out of my store," she harshly replied to my question.

The biggest peeve I have is when people say my name condescendingly. It is the one thing in this world that will raise my hackles instantaneously and at this exact moment I'm flushed.

"Agenda?" I ask trying to keep my octave at a professional level. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"I know Christy is a painter, and you're a journalist, but when you are in my store, you are neither."

Her stance makes perfect sense. Her tone with me at this moment, doesn't.

"Where is this coming from?"

"Well, since I'm over it now I guess I can address it, but it's taken me a long time. I was really upset about this, Meghan."

Again with the name thing.

"Remember the New York Mag article?" she demands.

How could I forget? There wasn't a day in the past two months she didn't mention it, and now that I think of it, mention it directly to me.


"Well basically you cost me thousands of dollars."

My furrowed eyebrows weren't helping my accelerated migraine.

"Oh yeah? And how is that?" I ask, my voice now gaining fire.

"Because I made some phone calls-- because I know, like a lot of people in the publishing business-- and they said the reason why they didn't run the story on me was because you corrected it."

I am now sitting Indian style in the middle of the store. My left elbow is resting on my knee and my forehead is in my hand.

"Uhh, no..."

"-- actually yes, Meghan. I made the calls."

"Did New York Mag tell you that?"


Well of course not.

"And that story, Meghan, would have been seen by millions and the store would have generated a couple thousand dollars off a story like that."

I would like to address, it wasn't a story. Her face was not going to be plastered on Vanity Fair with an accompanying article written by Dominick Dunn. It was shorter than an obituary in a local paper. And I know they didn't run it because of me.

"Well I don't know what to tell you," I say. "I really don't think that's the cas--"

"-- and the things is Meghan, I was going to fire you. But I didn't because you are new to the city and I'm sure you have personal things going on," she interjects. "So I've really done a lot for you."

I start stuttering giving her more fuel.

"So I'm over it now, but your agenda needs to not be in my store. I know a lot of people in the publishing business."

I don't fully understand what she means by her last statement. Was that a threat?

I get off the phone. Sitting on the floor with my scarf and coat still on, I notice I'm in the middle of two racks of her designs. I wonder how I'm going to sell these products after the recent conversation.

I get through the day and call her. I give her my notice. She is surprised, oddly, and starts telling me how much she has done for me.

I ask her if she wants it in writing.

"Can you give me a week?" she asks. I tell her I would.

The next day I open the shop and store my things in the back. A minute later, the designer enters with shopping bags full of the Spring pieces-- the pieces I have researched so hard on.

"I need you to get me a cider," she says handing me a twenty.

Upon my return, I notice my coat, scarf, purse and bag on the front chair. As I approach the desk, I see my key ring two keys short. The designer is writing a check.

"Since you're so unhappy here, Meghan, I'm going to let you go today."

With a full tooth smile I over eagerly reply, "great!".

As I take my personal items out of the pile she put them in, I ask if I can see the Spring line before I go.

"You can come back and see them when they're on the rack."

My back teeth are slowly turning into powder as I'm forcing to keep my mouth closed. I'm positive she can hear the grinding.


As I walked out, I am upset. I'm infuriated. But as quickly as these emotions come, they disappear. And I'm randomly at peace. I'm walking taller than I have in a long time. And I'm proud of myself.

As someone who is anti-cliché, it's crazy how they surface at the most opportune times. If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

The designer's store is destined to fall. And it's incredible to know that it won't be on my shoulders.

27 January 2009

Go to Paris.

“What is it that you do?” Billy asked in his East Village shop.

“Well, I’m a journalist,” I mumbled while looking around.

Billy and his wife Jane have owned their closet sized store for over 35 years. They sell traditional Indian jewelry and clothing smelling of Nag Champa incense and far off travel. There is no walkway in Billy and Jane’s shop. You enter, stand, and turn on your heels to see everything. The three of us are in the store at the same time, making it an intimate affair.

“Oh then you have to go to Paris,” Billy said. “Have you ever been to Paris?”

“I haven’t.”

“You name it—Hemingway, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, Emerson—they all spent time in Paris. You’ve heard it: Paris, New York and Rome—they’re all ‘centers’ and Paris is definitely a center. I’ve never been to Rome, but I’m sure it’s one as well,” he said.

I have been to Rome. But not to Paris. Billy and I have one destination to go before our “center” trifecta is completed.

“The sooner you look into going, the better,” he said adamantly.

“What you need to do is learn a few formalities—please, thank you, mister, misses, where is this, etc.—and you need to stay at least two weeks. You won’t pick up the language in two weeks, but that’s ok.”

Billy is speaking so direct and so confident, as if we are long-time friends and I just showed him my Air France boarding pass.

But I just met him two minutes previous and I don’t have a ticket to Paris. I have a subway ticket to Brooklyn. A trip to the City of Lights has never crossed the sane part of my mind.

But in a flash of three minutes, I already arranged in my head how I would put the plane ticket on my credit card, book hotels—or better yet, hostels in four different areas of Paris and spend 3.5 days in each area of town.

I also scripted the conversation with my parents and friends.

“I’m going to Paris,” I’d tell them.

They would get wide eyed, then squint replaying the three words I just said in their heads. They would cock their heads and their mouths would start to move but before they could ask their first question, I would interject.

“I already bought my ticket,” I would say. “And I’m going for two weeks. And don’t worry because I got work off.”

Because I did. Get work off. The conversation with my editor was part of this instant flash in the Paris pan.

“I need time off. I’m going to Paris,” I would say. “All great writers go to Paris and now it’s my time.”

And she too would question me and I would be completely evasive and get off the phone. I would tell her over the phone because I wouldn’t want the same inquisitive cocked head look followed with a big "WOW?". No exclamation. It would be a question disguised in an exclamation.

In under four minutes, had the next 3 weeks of my life planned.

I would spend copious amounts of money—or francs or euros—I didn’t have and instead of paying school loans or bills, I would be buying French cigarettes. I would lie on my back in the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower and I would watch it jump left to right as I quickly opened and closed each of my eyes.

I would go to Brentano’s, the American bookstore in Paris that American writers have visited since the late 1800s. I would go to Paris. And I would be inspired.

“...and the French women are not beautiful by American standards,” Billy said reeling me in from his green ceiling where I was levitating. “They don’t have much, but you’d never know by looking at them.”

I missed the lead into his French women speech because I was busy fondling the same silk dress for far too long and coordinating my itinerary.

“What kind of writing is it that you do?” he asked. “Short stories?”

“Not really. I write news.”

“Where can I read your writing?”

“Well, no where really—I’m currently copy writing.”

“Well I tell you what you got to do,” Billy said pointing at me. “You should look in Paris for a writing job! Have you applied to The [New York] Times?”

Surprised and a bit flattered I tell him no.

“You got to leave your contact information with The Times. Because you know why?”


“Because the ones you’d never think will call you are often the ones that do.”

He pauses, chin down and peers at me over his glasses. He raises his white eyebrows and I nod at their question. I understand he is serious.

“So what is it exactly you write?”

“I write for the arts.”

“Well!” he says in a big breath. “You absolutely have to go to Paris!”

“I guess I’m at a time in my life where doing something, like going to Paris, can be totally done,” I say. “There’s not really a better time?”

“There is no better time,” Jane says reiterating my sentence, giving it stability. I realized I said it as a question and Jane repeated it as a statement.

Standing in the entrance of Billy and Jane’s shop, I catch the sight of my breath. Listening to Billy talk about Paris had me so flushed, I failed to notice I was a sieve in an open door blocking out the freezing New York night.

“You come back and tell us how it goes,” says Billy as I turn to leave. I tell him I will.

This particular Thursday was the hardest day I’ve had since I’ve been in New York. It was a day full of let downs and work was particularly unbearable. I spent the day sulking like a child and counting down the seconds until I could be fetal position in my bed. I originally came to Billy and Jane’s hole-in-the wall to quickly buy a birthday gift for a Seattle based friend and I left feeling I made my first New York based ones.

Walking to the subway, I’m flooded with thoughts. My bed isn’t one of them. The wind whips at my face and my eyes tear at the sharpness.

When the R train arrives, I take a backward seat and pulled out a notebook and started to write. I started to write frantically. I wrote the entire 40 minute ride home to my South Brooklyn apartment. I write about Billy and Jane. I write about Barack and Michelle. I write about the guy who somehow is always in the same subway car as me.

Two weeks might not teach me the language, but what will it teach me?

I found a ticket on Icelandair for $625. I can’t stop thinking about actually purchasing it.