Sunday, February 9, 2014

Worded Out

Here we are in the 2nd full week of February and it's my first post here in the new year!

New. Year. So much pressure in those words. Let's play a little word association:

New - original, uncontaminated, different, unused, unfamiliar, pristine, mint condition.

Year - term, stages, cyclical, series of days organized by months, measure of time, ends with a mandatory festival of gluttony, evidence of age, add retinol skin cream to the shopping list.

I've been so busy, what with traveling to the Middle East for a family event, writing and editing articles, writing content for my other job's new campaign, attempting to stay warm in one of the most brutal winters in recent memory. I even had a relationship start to bloom then dissipate already this year.

Hope - expectancy, prospect, ambition, desire, anticipation, aspiration, maybe, for once, solace, comfort, affection, reliability, perchance to dream.

  • antonym - appearances, false promise, disbelief, despair, excuses, falsehoods, rudeness, passive aggression, are you fucking kidding me with this linkedin request, silence. 

This week a fracture was discovered in a bottom back tooth. Apparently I have been so stressed out that my jaw is clenching at night. The pressure has built around my gums and a wrong angle on an innocent chew sent a thin crack along the core of the tooth. I wonder what I was eating at the time? I think it might have happened when I was in Israel. I blame it on the baklava. 

Blame It On Baklava. There's a name for a Middle Eastern indie rock band! 

Pressure - tension, compression, heaviness, load, deadlines, timing, reception, appearances, integrity, authenticity, pleasing, makeup, bring the pretty, bring the funny, make it work, how many trivia questions can you possibly make up about Bourbon, infinity, groundhog day, need vacation.

But if that's how it started, there's still nearly 10 months left for things to happen.

Left - sometime direction, remainder, vestige, empty canvass, clean slate, rest, plans, allotments, aspirations, goals, could just be more pressure, hopefully someone sends me to italy. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Listicle Schmisticle

Honorable mention, those spring and summer walks to DUMBO
If you've been following my now woefully sporadic and neglected blog you have now come to anticipate the year end list. No, this is not my Top 10 Things I Drank Out of a Coupe Glass or Top 15 Foods I Ate in Places That Are Supposed to Make You Envious I Got a Table There and You Didn't or Top 10 Movies I Managed to See in What Little Spare Time I Have or Top 8 Songs I Heard By New But Derivative Musicians. While I actually did snag a table at Carbone earlier this year and left feeling guilty for starving children everywhere, this list is always about the top things that mattered to me in the year. The influencers, the catalysts, shit that really moved me beyond the every day.

And here we go, in no particular order. Also, I like the number 7 more than I like 10. It was a tough year, but a good one. Cheers to more adventures in 2014!

That Cab Driver Who Picked Me Up Last New Year's Eve Which By Then Was Day: I am utterly convinced my luck changed this year because the impossible happened - I got a cab to Brooklyn on New Year's Eve. For anyone who doesn't understand this, I should explain this is the equivalent of being an unknown actor chosen for a starring role in a movie or unlocking a portal into a world that consists entirely of gorgeous, uncomplicated people declaring their undying love for you while you romp with puppies and kittens who miraculously feed and clean after themselves and eat donuts without gaining an ounce. Though I spent much of the next day in a rather delicate condition speculating as to how I managed to get both a contact lens and a lipstick smear on my bathroom ceiling, days later, my career that I was convinced was totally over, came back in full swing and has continued to flourish. Thank you, Cab Driver, whoever you are. Well, it could also have been the Hoppin' John I had the foresight to prepare the day before (see above). So doing that again!

Amsterdam: It had been years since I had taken a real vacation, more so since I had left the country. I had no money, I had no time. I was going to do it anyway. So what better way to do it than to take a huge leap outside my comfort zone and meet someone there whom I had never actually met in person and spend a few days exploring a new city together? I could actually write a whole entry here just about said person, who came to me in a cyber smoke signal Tweet out of nowhere and has since become one of the closest people in my life, even though he happens to live so very far away. But this is about our trip to Amsterdam, which was everything I could have wanted - meandering through a beautiful city with lovely architecture and stunning views, great meals that were all happenstance (including my favorite new game, Sushi Roulette), making new friends, drinking great drinks and turning a private hotel stash of hooch into the best bar in the city after hours with one of the loveliest travel companions a girl in midlife crisis could ask for. Late nights, short, hot days. It flew by way too quickly. My only regret was the inability to make time stop for us, short of that, extend my plane reservation.

Bruce Is Alive and Well and Driving Me Crazy and I Couldn't Be More Grateful: This time was for real. Halloween, 4 a.m. faced with the kind of agonizing decision I knew someday I might have to make, but couldn't possibly be prepared for. Something told me to let them do what they had to do and let the daylight shine new hope before I choose the wrong door. The supportive messages and calls came pouring in encouraging me not to put him down despite the cost, which was rapidly rising into the thousands. Thousands I simply didn't have. There was a chance it could all work out, shouldn't I take it? Wouldn't I regret it forever if there was even the slightest possibility he would be OK in the end? Well, this bad boy (no longer nearly as big) is currently in my lap, kneading his paws into my knees, purring and loudly begging for turkey slices, which he wouldn't be otherwise. I didn't save him. At least not alone. My friends did. You know who you are.

Pistachios: I seriously don't know what I would do without them. I'm going to say something you don't often hear. You ready? It's easy to get sick of nuts. No. Really. They get boring. Almonds? They turn to cardboard. Cashews? Too greasy sometimes. Hazelnuts tend to give me heartburn now. But somehow pistachios always keep the spark alive in the marriage for me and stave off my hunger when I get the Four O'Clocks. You little green, yummy minxes, you.

New Orleans: This year was my fourth trip there and this time it stole a piece of my heart it has yet to return. It's hard to put into words what exactly changed me, as the circumstances were much the same as before - hot, sweaty, drinky and crowded for Tales of the Cocktail in July. Maybe it was because this time the whole city felt like a familiar friend I wanted to get to know better. I learned there are things about it you can come to expect, the old standbys, the stubborn old grand dames of the city, but it's still full of pleasant surprises and new experiences. "Predictable" is not a word they will ever say about New Orleans. I can't wait to go back.

Re-reading: It's important to revisit certain books as one's own life chapters open and close. I had been remiss in this practice and brought it back this year. So wonderful to once again explore places we didn't know we had places with Kevin Canty and imbibe Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters with Zaphod Beeblebrox! Next up, Nabokov's Pale Fire, which I haven't read since college.

Playing Hooky: When you're unemployed for a long time like I was, you take your free time for granted. This year I've barely had a day off. What I can do on occasion is get my work done early and take an afternoon. I've had a few fantastic hours meeting friends for long, luxurious lunches with too much wine and conversation. I made it to Queens for the US Open and explored a little of Long Island City. And on a few occasions, I rediscovered what it feels like to get lost and relax in Central Park on a crisp, sunny day. I'm actually doing it this very minute by writing here instead of over there. Trust me, if I hadn't stolen these moments for myself I'd resemble Zuul from Ghostbusters right about now. Damn straight there will be more of that in 2014!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tuning Up

This time I'm not even going to bother apologizing for not writing here for so long. Anyone who knows me understands it has been an insanely busy time, and that most of my days have been spent writing in various forms so that when I do have free time, words only seem to come out of me in what seem like meaningless little dribbles. I find myself somewhat inarticulate in conversation these days for that reason, searching for the right words I would normally have at the ready. The high roller vocabulary has been used up for other purposes and I'm only left with spare change when I can manage to form cohesive sentences. I don't love it. My number one New Year's resolution for next year is more literary balance.

But one thing I am changing right here and now is listening to more music. It's hard to believe that at one time in my life music was so important to me that it informed much of the structure of my day - from what would be played upon awakening, to dressing and primping, to accompany cooking and meals, to take with me in transit, to recreation. Somehow that went away. I don't know if that was depression or simply a change in routine, but I am amazed that sometimes whole days go by when I don't listen to an album in full. That's very unlike me. At least it would have been.

Last week I was writing a cocktail article and decided to challenge myself by naming every drink after a song or musical term, to get me back in the groove. One drink was inspired by "One Rainy Wish" by Jimi Hendrix, because despite mostly brownish liquids, when shaken together, they were sort of a burnt gold. Which got me thinking about golden roses. Which got me thinking about a rather peculiar, funny dream about a good friend. Which got me thinking about that song - "Golden rose/the color of the dream I had." How long it has been since I heard that song! WHY has it been so long since I heard that song? I used to listen to Jimi all the time.

Sure, Jimi is everywhere, especially if you go to bars as often as I do, and I am always happy to hear that sharp guitar and the clear, warm cadence of his voice. But how long had it been since I had actively chosen a Jimi Hendrix song and pressed PLAY? It turns out at least twelve years. When my husband and I split, he took most of our classic rock album/CD collection with him. Jimi was one of the first artists we ever bonded over, and though I eventually replaced most of what he took, I never bothered with Hendrix.

Coincidentally, yesterday would have been my 17th wedding anniversary. It was a day very much like yesterday was - sunny, crisp, warm during the day, cool at night. The sort of day that reminds me of "Golden Brown" by the Stranglers (yes I know that tune has nothing at all to do about weather or autumn or leaves, but crisp autumn weather always inspires that tune just as the first stark, cold day of winter always begs for "Desire" by Talk Talk.) For several years October 12th has passed with barely a thought beyond "Oh, yeah. That happened." However, yesterday got me thinking about all the things in my life I have now that I wouldn't if I had stayed married. How grateful I am for those people and experiences, especially the day after knocking down whisky with Scotsmen after a big booze convention! The only thing I was really missing about my ex was our intense musical connection. It was time to listen to Jimi again.

Silvermine, CT fall of 2012

I had a long talk with my friend John over a backyard fire pit last night about him - and I recalled the first time I remember ever hearing his sound - in a Sam Goody record store in Westport, CT when I was six! I had grown up in a mostly classical and musical theater household. Though they were exactly the right age for it, somehow the music of the 1960's, Woodstock and the Summer of Love completely bypassed my parents' cultural existence, so there wasn't a whole lot of crunchy guitar in my environment yet. This was a completely new and interesting intonation to me. I was with my father, who was picking out some classical records, and said I could choose one thing for myself. However when I asked for what they were playing, I wasn't allowed. My dad HATED it, and he didn't want to have to hear that "noise" blasting out of my bedroom. At least not yet. Six-year-old girls grow into twelve-year-olds and he must have known there was time enough for music like that in our lives. For now, something less offensive to his ears. What did I end up taking home that day instead? I don't remember. Maybe I'm afraid to remember. So much bad music existed in 1977 for me before I knew there was good music. It was probably a K-Tel compilation that included a disco rendition of the Star Wars theme.

I didn't end up buying my first Jimi disc till high school, a greatest hits compilation. It was actually one of the first CD's I ever purchased instead of vinyl. That was one of the discs that ended up on the truck to West Virginia, where my future ex-husband was moving. This was before one could easily attain any piece of music from the Internet, mind. A rule had been made that whoever gets possession of a certain artist's music gets the entire catalog, not individual albums, despite who had them first. So he had brought most of the Hendrix to the relationship - Axis: Bold as Love, Electric Ladyland, Are You Experienced?, Valleys of Neptune. Mine went with him. It was a stupid rule, but we had been arguing incessantly for nearly ten years. I think our music collection had been keeping us together for as long as we stayed. Now I just wanted it to end. Fine. Take it. For peace sakes, take it. Take it all.

I'm glad it's time again. Gotta love the cycle of autumn. I owe it to my ears to keep them happy.

Cheers, all!

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Bar in Amsterdam

In a world, where a tired, overworked and single American woman maxes out a credit card to spend six days in a beautiful, old European city to meet up with a younger, cute European man who makes drinks...

The whole time I was there, I felt like I was starring in a movie version of my life. Was this really happening?

I didn't have the money for the trip at all, but I had the credit. Fuck it. So there I was, in a hotel in Amsterdam at 3am, eating fine dark chocolate and drinking a Sazerac made with one of the rarest ryes in the world (I brought it from my own collection) and an absinthe bitters not yet in the marketplace, sitting on a bed across from Jens (say "Yentz"), this Dresden-based German bartender I'd previously only seen on a computer screen. Four nights and five more days ahead of us and this was how it was starting out? Dang. The rapport was easy and natural, and I could tell in that comfortable and decadent moment with that person I knew so well in some ways but also barely knew, this was all going to be worth it.

And it was. Everything those few days just happened as they needed to, all falling into place. 

I'm no stranger to foreign travel, having grown up in a globe-trotting family. But traveling with my parents never felt like vacation. Our days would be so packed with mandatory activities to museums and other sights that there was barely time to relax and take in the local scenery. Dinner and even lunch was spoken for weeks in advance, no wandering into a cafe to take one's chances, no repeat visits to favorite places that would become our locals far from home. Sorry Mom and Dad, I love you, and appreciate all you've done for me, but going places with you is about as relaxing as algebra homework.

So as an adult, I try to do the opposite of that when I travel on my own. I do some research into where I am going and then just wander when I get there. I tend to avoid the museums and touristy sites or make definite plans or reservations. Most of the time, this has worked out beautifully, and the stories, so to speak, wrote themselves. But as exciting as it is, it's lonely, and for years, due to lack of money, due to being chronically single, I stopped traveling. Except now I didn't have to be alone. Not only did I get to spend six days with Jens, but also two with my dear pal Nick, who came into town from England for a little cameo appearance and a great canal-side dinner.

Jens made arrangements to do a couple of guest-bartending shifts at the most happening cocktail bar in town, Door 74. We spent most of our first evening there getting to know the staff (particularly Timo, Ben and Kevin), and by the time I returned to visit Jens, the bar already felt like home.

He also gave a talk on the Old Fashioned cocktail, introducing his own spins on it. It was fun to see a demonstration on his version which involves lighting a cinnamon stick and releasing its aroma into the glass, which hangs out while the rest of the drink  - with bitter orange jam, bourbon and chocolate bitters - is built then shaken to emulsify the jam. Yes, you purists, a shaken Old Fashioned! This was the drink that first introduced me to Jens when I became his editor back in March, and our comraderie evolved from there. Last March the idea of this drink being made before my eyes in a bar in Amsterdam months later seemed as remote to me as spontaneously growing an extra digit, but there I was!

On down time, we mostly wandered, our only real touristy activities were taking a one hour boat ride along the canals and visiting the maritime museum - Het Scheepvaartmuseum - because we liked the look of it from the boat. The inside was cool and serene, and we enjoyed a lovely lunch out on the deck along the water.

The highlight of our day activities was a personal tour of the House of Bols, which had been arranged through my contacts. There we met the lovely Amber, who took us through the sensory exhibit, then led us into the bar, where Frank made us rounds of cocktails using the range of their spirits. Though they didn't have the necessary ingredients, they did "McGuyver" a Negroni for us out of Genever, rosso vermouth, dry curaƧao and lots of Angostura bitters. Very hospitable bunch! Amber joined me at the bar later to visit Jens with her friend Fernando and we had a blast hanging out.

Incidentally, the bathroom graffiti at the top of the page is from Tales and Spirits, where we spent the last evening of our trip drinking cocktails by Danil Nevsky. Well curated back bar, inventive drinks and lovely, cozy space. Wish we'd had more time there!

But the best bar was our own, Bar 505. My whiskeys, absinthe, absinthe bitters, tonka beans (illegal in the states due to the coumarin content), a bit of fire, chocolate, just us having our own time together. Our own bar in Amsterdam built by two people meeting from opposite sides of the world.

Sometimes, kids, you just have to take risks. I'd give anything to be back there now.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


On Friday, I said to myself: "Who are you and what have you done to Amanda?"

If I were starring in the Lifetime movie version of my own autobiography, that afternoon would have been the scene were I look in the mirror, scream, grab a pair of scissors and start hacking off all my hair.

Because, don't you know, this is what women do when they reach a breaking point, the tears mixing with the shorn locks as they slowly fall, swirling toward our feet. When it's over, the remaining strands stick up in uneven tufts, and I would run my fingers through them, no longer crying, only giving my reflection an icy stare. For some reason, Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" starts playing in the background and I reach for a black, tight-fitting, cropped leather jacket that miraculously appears in my wardrobe, insert hoop earrings, drawn on the reddest mouth possible and give my reflection one final nod before heading out the door. Even though moments before, the floor had so much hair on it that it looked like what I would imagine as the bottom of Robin William's drained hot tub, somehow it's all swept up when the camera pans down again.

In the next scene, the tufts have, of course, arranged themselves into a perfect Anne Hathaway pixie cut and people gasp at my courageous beauty as I pass them on the street. Will I receive the same baseless hatred she does if I post the photos of my new do on Twitter?

But I didn't hack my hair off and there is no melodramatic movie about my life. At least not yet.

However, I knew it was time to change things up.

I'm just not having enough fun. Working at home long, exhausting hours, going out mainly only to work events and the occasional social meetup in many of the usual places, not making time to explore, or even see a movie, I just wasn't taking advantage of the great city I live in anymore. I realized I've been treating New York like a worn out spouse, not allowing myself to see or experience the attractive parts of it that made me want to commit to the relationship in the first place, or find better ways of bringing back its romance. I was making excuses for it - too expensive, too fattening, too late, too early, too tired. On top of all of this, by Friday, I was left blinking in the smokey trail of yet another failed romantic situation with an actual person. One that was now peeling out of view. I was angry at him, but mostly at myself for believing in the situation's all too apparent impossibility in the first place. Silly me.

Clearly, this was the moment to start having fun again.

Though I wasn't exactly feeling up to it, I met with old friends on Friday and stayed out past my self-imposed F train curfew, splurging for the cab. Saturday, on fumes of sleep and with Irish whiskey likely still jigging in my bloodstream, I honored a long standing, out of the way, brunch date with a colleague that I was slightly dreading, but ended up thoroughly enjoying. I walked all the way downtown in the crisp, but summery air, feeling confident at my newly buff body in a figure-hugging dress. Making my way through the east 30's, I allowed myself to walk past and look in to Grandma Nina's old building for the first time in years. I usually go out of my way to avoid that corner. As I paused there, I let the nostalgia and sense of loss swell into my chest and held it, almost savoring it, then felt it deflate again at the corner once the light changed.

I continued walking and observing. Through the Union Square farmer's market (no sour cherries for cocktails yet - dang!), down along the Bowery to witness a casual, broad daylight drug exchange because no one told these guys the East Village is over! The rest of the day finally taking in that movie, and loving it beyond expectation, with John. The two of us then ventured to unexplored territory in a now unfamiliar section of my old Brooklyn neighborhood, ending the night with seats at what is usually an overly crowded bar, with a snifter of Calvados and just the right vibe to end the night. I even got home on the train quickly from there. On Sunday, with Father's Day plans on hold till the next day, I skipped my work out for the first time in months, managed to run errands, clean and have enough of the afternoon left to see another movie. I let myself have two true days off in a row! A real weekend, and I did stuff, for once! My lover, the city, had done the equivalent of bringing me an unexpected bouquet of roses, and I feel a renewed affection for it.

As I type this, I realize I should probably be doing work now before cooking dinner (tequila-marinated chicken in my future!). But because this is all about me making time for myself, it feels more right to jot things down here in this neglected depot of essays.

It's nearly my birthday, dammit. And I am not letting myself go sour.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Rabbit! Rabbit!

It's June!

I had a memory last night of the year I was going to turn four. I was tired of being three. At the time, my best friends were a brother and his sisters who lived down the street from me. The brother was already four and his sisters were a couple of years older. I was the baby. I didn't want to be the baby anymore - I wanted to be all grown up! I wanted to be four! 

Four meant I was old enough to climb the ladder on the playground slide by myself. And not the baby one with only two small steps, but the "big girl" ladder - the one with five steps and the bigger, swooshy chute. Four meant I could swim with the big kids in the public, chlorinated, man-made pond with a sandy outer rim, the closest thing we had to a beach in that little, land-locked town I grew up in. I would no longer have to stay in the shallow section behind the light pink and blue floating buoys with the other babies. 

I was a tall toddler. Way taller than the other kids my age. I once overheard my Brazilian nanny, who held nothing back, telling my parents that people who didn't know me thought I was mentally challenged. Ok, for the sake of 1970's authenticity, you know those weren't her exact words. Well, Judy also had a pretty outrageous Portuguese accent. She said they thought I was "e-retardit" because I was so much bigger than the other kids in the baby section. There must be something wrong with that old thing sulking by herself next to all the drooling little people who can't talk. 

I used to try to swim right to the line of buoys, holding on with my hands, letting my toes float infront of me into the big kid section - please, at least let part of me be with the big kids?- hoping the lifeguard wouldn't notice. Then the whistle would blow and I was back with the babies. One of them probably peed in the murky, brown water right next to me just for good measure. 

When I was turning four, I had just learned what months are, and that June was MY month!  

I have to say, that anticipation for the month of June hasn't gone away. I'm excited for this month! Another big birthday coming up, although now at the age of, um, at my age now, I want to play with the younger kids again. Luckily no one thinks I'm "e-retardit" for doing so. Great things happening. Certain beans were already spilled, but I think there still might be some hiding out to surprise me later. 

It's been busy and I've had almost no time for things I even *like* doing. But playtime is (fingers crossed!) coming up soon. Things could still go wrong, as they do, which is why I still had to say "Rabbit! Rabbit!" first thing when I woke up on the first of the month, for good luck. 

Besides, I still think rabbits are awfully cute... 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Multiple Personality Traits

Baby needs a day off.

This has been wonderful, don't get me wrong. I am THRILLED that the start of this year has brought me so many unexpected opportunities. I'm back in the game, bitches!

But it has been nonstop. Each day starts earlier than the last, compelled to get it all done. The vernacular of my work ethic simply does not allow for "piecemeal," "later" and "gently past due." Each day is a sprint. Since this entails completing tasks for at least four out of my six or seven (could it even be eight now?) freelance jobs in a given day, I have to creatively allot focus for each. Twitter is a daily multi-personality disorder, posting in different tones for different accounts.

But those "tones" have started having their own conversations with each other. I am lost. Don't understand what I mean? Imagine yourself as an actor who is doing a play and a movie and a TV series all at once, portraying different characters. One day you find your theater self addressing the movie character, who just made a cameo on the TV show. It's six o'clock and you realize all the characters went out for a drink and left you crashing, exhausted on your couch. Are they getting schnoggered and talking trash about you?

Some days do that to me.

At least the editorial work is wonderful. I love being an editor. I really do. But that is also its own set of unsustainable energies that could use a little R and R.

People tell me I look good. Thank you. But at my age, you only look as good as the quality of your eye cream.

An appointment near Central Park on the consummate spring day in New York City made me realize what I've been missing. The appointment finished earlier than expected, and I had gotten enough accomplished before I left the computer to do a little remote work in the park. Outside. Like, sitting in the warm, lithium rays of the sun, with cute little birds around me and flowering trees. I needed some nach-ah. As long as I could still see the buildings in the distance, I wasn't wandering too far, was I?

And you know what? I got everything done that day, even with that little break. I really need to start telling my inner drill sergeant to give it a rest. Maybe put some ambien in his coffee. The work will get done. As an old friend once said to me, when his grandma was on her deathbed, she never said, "I wish I'd worked more."

Now let me go before my bourbon account starts doing shots with the Irish vodka.