Friday, February 17, 2012


I have now spent five days unemployed. One glorious week, and it's gone.

While I was in the shower, the clock hit 6 p.m. and like that, my week was up. I am disappointed in myself, disappointed to note that it would appear that I have not contributed one thing to the world in the span of this week. I had so much time, and what have I done with it?

I have not spent time with family. I have not volunteered my time to others. I cringe to realize that I have not cracked open my Rosetta Stone, have not learned a single word of French (sorry, Sir). I have not studied up on my new employer. I have not read anything non-fiction. I have not really written, save for that mediocre bit on the kindness of strangers and my trip to Milwaukee.

But I shouldn't say I've done nothing.

I have slept. Not only have I slept, I've napped, thoroughly. I've eaten an abnormal amount of fresh fruit. I celebrated yet another year cooking dinner with my better half on Valentine's day, our easiest and most successful V-Day dinner thus far. I have limbered up, attending a record-breaking three (three!) yoga classes this week. For the first time in months, my heels grazed the ground today when I hit my final downward-facing dog. I also busted out two spin sessions and a pathetic 2-mile run. I helped my friend the photographer run all over DUMBO shooting the most gorgeous, talented and sweet little ballerina. I did four loads of laundry and cleaned the air filter in the kitchen. I re-read the second Harry Potter novel, and am just about half-way through the third. I took the cat to the vet. I apartment-hunted. I vegetated. And five days later, I am unbelievably blissed-out.

No, I shouldn't say I've done nothing.

In five short days of lounging, I've managed to slough off years of frustration and anger and misery and brought positive energy to the world in the form of just one so-much-happier soul. My contribution this week is in attempting to rid the planet of one more miserable individual, and leave the place a little bit happier than it was last week.

My cousin Allison gave birth today, to a sweet little girl named Riley Jane. I went shopping for a new yoga towel and ended up with hammer pants (and a new yoga towel, and another pair of pants and a jacket).

Sometimes it's your turn to give birth, other times it's your turn to give yourself new life. All things in perspective.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sweet, sweet Milwaukee.

Less than two hours after leaving La Guardia, I de-planed in frigid Milwaukee just in time to catch a very important announcement over the PA.

"Excuse me! If you are, um, a young woman, with kind of a brownish wool coat, you left your Walmart shopping bag at the Starbucks near the center of the terminal. We're holding it for you at the Starbucks so come on back over here! Thank you, so sorry to interrupt! Have a great night!"

I actually paused to stare, dumbfounded, at the loudspeaker.

Milwaukee is a gem of a city tucked along the banks of Lake Michigan, about 90 miles north of Chicago in southwestern Wisconsin. New Yorkers, I found, are entirely unaware of its location on the globe and why anyone would possibly bother visiting. Their blank or slightly concerned stares when I had mentioned I was planning on making the trip were nothing short of hilarious.

"It's like, freezing there, right? It's like up near Canada? I mean... what will you do there?"

I guess it is pretty cold.

I had spent about six years here, college and then some, and was back in town for the first time in years to visit a friend from school. It's a beautiful little city, filled with phenomenal dive bars, staunchly loyal Packer fans, surprisingly great restaurants and some of the most wonderfully kind people I've ever met.

They are so polite. They are kind and funny and encouraging. They apologize when they bump into you, and hold the door every time. Apparently, they return your shopping bag when you leave it at the Starbucks at the airport.

We packed so much into 48 hours - tapas, sangria, bikram yoga, pancake brunch, sports bars, Marquette basketball, dinners, a Mardi Gras parade at the Hofbräuhaus and at least six hours at the piano bar, fawning over some hottie piano player like a couple of MU co-eds. It was a fabulous little bite-sized vacation that left me longing to find a way to stay wrapped in the comfortably warm words and gestures of midwesterners.

Upon returning to NYC and settling into my staycation week, I ran up to the gym for a yoga class. I made sure to get there super early so I could sit for a while in silence, get my breath in check for the class. Weekday workout bonus - spotted Dakota Fanning on the rowing machines with her trainer, squee!

My silence was delicious and lasted approximately two seconds, until another woman joined me - a woman who, apparently, had set up one of the gym's yoga mats for herself at least a half hour prior to class starting and then left, and was FURIOUS to find that it had been removed by the cleaning crew. This woman was in about her mid-sixties and threw a legit temper tantrum right there in the yoga studio, with me as her only audience. My jaw dropped as she screamed at me for at least five full minutes - she didn't understand how ANYONE could POSSIBLY be so INEPT and just COMPLETELY STUPID as to move her mat. This is the LAST THING she FUCKING NEEDED, they were always RUINING her DAY. JUST FUCKING RUINING IT. And then she set up a new mat (which took approximately four seconds) and stomped off to talk to a manager about the inadequacies of the maintenance crew.

In a yoga class. I'm not joking.

My New Yorker friends tell me I'm too polite, why am I always apologizing, I need to be more confrontational, I'm so naïve. They are so in charge, they are so empowered. They've looked at this situation and decided that there is something wrong with me, that I am the one who needs to re-evaluate her interpersonal skills.

You know what's empowering? The high you get from interacting with pleasant people all day long. Isn't there enough rage in the world without needing to scream out every person who touches your yoga mat?


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Zak and Sara.

I had a serious love affair with Ben Folds during my senior year of high school. And by "serious love affair," I mean I rocked out to the Folds in my candy-apple red Pontiac Grand Prix, used the songs in sports montages I was cutting for our school video production team and blasted it on my stereo on repeat while reading Perks of Being a Wallflower in my bedroom for the twenty-fourth time. The pages of that book, by the way, are so beautifully oiled and worn from page-turning and re-reading, they feel a little bit like leather.

I especially liked Zak and Sara, partially for the piano runs and partially for the crazy dark lyrics.

I wrote a short story about Zak and Sara for Mr. George's creative writing class. I remember being somewhat hesitant to turn it in because (if I recall correctly), Sara kills herself in the story. I wasn't a particularly dark teenager, it's just that I'm pretty sure she's headed in that direction in the song and I wanted to represent it correctly. Fortunately, Mr. George was a cool guy and apparently got what I was going for creatively, because I don't remember being asked to visit the guidance counselor or anything afterwards. And I'm pretty sure I got an A.

I really wish I still had a copy of that story.

Monday, February 6, 2012


I am a perpetual renter.

I've been happily renting for five years now, skipping from city to city and apartment to apartment as happy as a kid with a one-bedroom cupcake. Renting is irrefutably tied to breezy city living, which suits me very well. I've had phenomenal luck finding wonderful spaces bursting with amenities - home ownership, so it seemed, with minimal responsibility involved. "Why would you possibly want to own," I would blithely proclaim, "when you can rent?"

Apparently there's at least one really good reason: that space, that glorious piece of real estate, does not in any way, shape or form, belong to you. And unless you're willing to take that next step and become an owner, you should not count on it to be there when you want or need it.

We have been squatting for almost two years now on a gorgeous Brooklyn one-bedroom, a true New York anomaly. Plenty of space, sound-proofed walls, brand-new finishings and appliances, natural light pouring in through every double-wide, doubled-paned window. We're tucked in a nook behind the Manhattan bridge overpass in DUMBO, quite possibly the cutest little four-block stretch of cobbled streets and greenspace that the East River bank has to offer. We're one of the only buildings in DUMBO with reasonable rent, one of the only buildings that hasn't gone condo. It's my first New York apartment, my first adult apartment (with paint and purchased furniture), my first home together with Sir. I want to stay in this apartment for the rest of my life, or at least the next ten years. Or maybe five years. Suffice to say, we were definitely planning on renewing our lease in June.

I guess I've never stayed in an apartment long enough to know that permanent renter-status isn't always a possibility.

As of February 1st, in fact, that option is no longer on the table. We had heard rumblings in the elevator, but now here it was in black and white, staring back at me like an ugly purple bruise from the top of my inbox. Sir and I scanned and rescanned the brief letter from the rental company that explained the situation in broken-English legalese. I read aloud, he paced. It sounded a little something like this:

"Blah blah... selling the units as condos... first right of refusal for 60 days, at which point we will begin marketing your space... yada yada will not be renewing your lease... shit."

In other words, if we like it, then we need to put a ring on it. And I felt a tiny bit shocked and hurt to be given an ultimatum. Isn't my love... my rent money... our lease... isn't that enough?

It is not. It says so, right there on the screen.

All matters of whether or not I've conscientiously saved a sizable down payment aside (I definitely have not), I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for that kind of commitment. The thought of being tied to a city and a space is giving me a tiny panic attack, making me want to run and scream and flail my arms and put a Jen-shaped hole in the wall.

As a person who dives headfirst into relationships before ever even thinking to check the depth of the pool, I've always thought of myself as about as commitment-phobic as a golden retriever. But apparently when it comes to living situation, I can only handle my commitment doled out in one-year-at-a-time-sized slices. Per my recent track record, I haven't been able to commit to a city for more than a year and a half since I left Milwaukee, let alone an apartment. I haven't felt particularly trapped by any of my living arrangements, yet here I am. Why can't I stay in one place? Am I a person who is looking for an easy escape, should things go awry?

And if so, what's wrong with that, exactly?

I think for the first time in my life, I am beginning to understand why people get freaked out by marriage.

*A note*
To be clear, I am aware that we live a wonderful and privileged life and that losing our amazing apartment does not count as a personal tragedy. I am not looking for any sympathy on this. Actually, we are both control freaks and have already found several options for new apartment buildings that will suit us just fine, even if they are not 100% as perfect as our DUMBO bungalow. I just found this little episode interesting. That's all.