Monday, September 13, 2010

Correction

Just received update, via text message, that Gabe's eyes are, in fact Hazel.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The End of the Beginning

In this lovely video of Paul discussing the key, he states "you have to give something to get something from the artwork." This has been, mostly, a blog about love. About relationships and excitement, of disappointment and trying not to dwell. I've covered love of the city, love of yourself, love of the confusion. But what of the art?

Paul later states, "the artwork is a virus that infiltrates" well, isn't that the same of love? In turn,when you walk into a modern art museum there are more often than not moments of "huh. I think I get it. I think I like it. But do I? Do I really know?" I've certainly been there with the loves in my life. And what of the inaccessibility of so much art, how the more hidden it is the more it's sought after, do we not go after the most withholding of men? If someone gave me a key to the city or, as Paul says, "threw it off the back of an ice cream truck" would it work as well for me, would it hold the same power and magic? Does love that's come without the slightest of effort mean as much to the receiver herself?

On Sunday, September 5th, 2010 at approximately 5:30pm I ventured with the project's most wonderful find Tom to the Whitney Museum of art and turned the last key into the last lock, uncovering a 3D model of plans for the Whitney's latest extension in Chelsea, near where I live. I was sick and Tom was kind, even in my cranky cold-induced moments, and we discussed life plans, growing up, and, what else, love. We later dined on grownup Ramen noodles in the East Village (another of Tom's first) and when we hugged (I had a 100 plus degree fever at this point) my belly button glowed warm with his connection and it was the first time that I truly felt this really may turn into something.  Something beyond a project or a key, but a living breathing work of relational art, all on its own.

The project still felt unfinished, however, even after the 24th lock was turned and even though Tom provided a wonderful companion and holds, I believe, promise, it was not an end that adequately reflected my entire summer. So, on Monday September 6th, 2010, I put on most favorite vintage fairytale shipwreck like dress and head to where it all began, Bryant Park. 

Before the park I go on a dinner date, just me myself and I, and the hard-flipping folks at the not-so-secret Burger Joint, (a wooden paneled, graffitied hole in the wall hidden behind lavish curtains in the upscale Le Parker Meridien) didn't bat an eye when I ordered the works with fries in blue silk. I sat across from a cute guy but instead whipped out a book and when Tom texted me I smiled, but kept my attention focused on myself.

Walking to Bryant Park I noted every person walking by and tried to guess the impact they could play on my life. I took stock of every door and wondered what may lay behind its threshold.   I've always been on the lookout for extraordinary moments in every day life, a leaf imprinted in concrete or the way a child wraps her hand around her mother's pinkie finger, but after key to the city every door front has the ability to bring you to a new world, every person the possibility to make a connection. Even if it’s just empty beer cans and dead fish, a split second romance on a subway platform or a three week love affair. It’s about living, truly living, every moment of your life, noticing the small details, getting lost in the treasures of opportunity and risk, that makes our lives, our loves, and ourselves, all the more interesting to be a part of. I’d never be a passive observer in my own life again.



Finally, after half an hour of sitting, I built up the courage to walk up to the little lock box and get ready to turn the switch and shine the light that evaded me three months prior. The excitment to the moment which I was missing in my dayquil induced haze the day before is here and the key literally feels heavier in my hand, as if it knows it's to be used for the very last time. I crouch down onto my knees and my eyes dart for the lock and....

It's broken. The lock was broken. Someone, some person who came before me, had snapped their lock into the key hole rendering each follower dumbstruck at the inability to render it fixed. I pried at the broken piece of metal, attempted using a bobby pin like Nancy Drew, willed it to slip out with my mind, nothing works. Finally, staring up at the unlit light, I stood and turned to walk away. As I did a young woman approached me, surrounded by three friends. Aren't you that girl with the blog? She asks, and I laugh saying I am. Her and her friends inform me they came to the last site similarly disappointed that the last lock didn't work but they decided to make a night of it any way and were enjoying hot cocoa perfectly temperatured for the new fall weather.  Finally, as I turned to go, the first girl stopped me and asked, "wait, how will this end? Don't you need a date for your blog?" "or at least a functional key site?" questioned one of her friends.

       I paused and looked around at the glow of the garden, remembered the taste of my burger and how liberating it felt to eat it alone with a book, and the quiet beauty on a night with myself and answered

       No, tonight this was enough.

       And, finally,  it was.

         When I first got to Bryant Park, I watched the unfolding of evening Monday-labor day life beneath the floodlights illuminating the space. I saw couples with children, lovers from Europe, teenage hipsters falling for the first time and realize that, all of it, all that emotion and gooey eyes and romance, that is what I want.....eventually, and only when it's worth giving up all the fireworks that come with being by myself. Some of the adventures with men this summer have been fantastic belly-rolling journeys full of mishaps and sparks, others have been more work to make something out of what most likely will last no longer than an afternoon. But I am the common denominator. The moments of wonder must, in the end, come through my own eyes and my own heart, because truly, I have the ability to make my own magic, with or without a key, a map, or a man.


And it only took me 24 dates to figure it out.

Always,

L.A.

       

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Twenty Third Date

Happy gorgeous, sun shiny, just the right amount of cool fall day to you all. I hope you have a wonderful adventure planned today, out in the city or town that you call home. Just one week ago I ventured off to my second to last date with Gabe to Corona Queens.

 The Time:  Saturday, September 4th, 4:00pm
The Place: Louis Armstrong House Museum, 34-56th 107th St, Queens
The Guy: Gabe, 26, who I had been on my first date with one year prior and decided there wasn't a love connection as we walked along the highline, second time's the charm?
What Creative Time Says:  Humble spaces are part of the story, even if they are not part of the official tour.

 I love meeting men in every single way possible in NYC. I'll try speed dating, asking out a cute guy in a coffee shop, singles events and in central park. I once flew to Kansas to meet a guy I had been chatting with for months online (sorry parents, but it's true, I'm still alive though!) It comes as no surprise then, that I relish Time Out New York's singles issue every year it makes it's way to my doorstep, and devour its pages and people open and willing enough to put themselves on a market with such a high circulation.

Enter Gabe. A, then 25, tall curly haired guy with fantastic blue eyes. His profile, if I remember, somehow mentioned both his proclivity towards cucumbers and social justice. Obviously, I emailed him right away and we soon found ourselves walking along the building-treetops of the highline in Chelsea. Though our view of the world was spot on, I just didn't feel the love that night and we parted ways.

But when Gabe instant messaged me about law school ( he just started at my alma mater), and sneakily asked me how he should approach a professor about asking out this girl with a key, well, my stomach did that excited momentary burst it does when something gets changed up in life, and I gave him some very useful pointers.

Fast forward to last saturday and me running down the streets of Coronoa, flip flops flapping, back pack bouncing, calling Gabe's name as I recognized his well-over six foot tall frame heading down the road. Though I had approached today with some hesitation, immediately when he said hello, (me standing on tip toes, Gabe crouching down), I felt it again, that slight moment where you body is trying to tell you something like give it a real shot. Given my recent thoughts on "the leap" and "trust me", I tried my best to knock down some of my walls and give into the day(te). We rounded the corner and came upon the unassuming brick building that was once the house of a great jazz master legend.

Kudos here to everyone involved in the Armstrong House Museum for creating an entirely welcoming, fun, and friendly environment. Our tour guide Will was the perfect blend of funny and quirky, real life neighbors whose lives were folded into that of history walked by, and stepping into the house is a complete time warp where you feel you're stepping into gradma's living room and Louis wife Lucille will soon step out with cookies. The house rules were layed out in the friendliest of manners and so, even though I was bummed
 no pictures were allowed, the whole tour was filled with such thanksgiving turkey inspired warmth I couldn't have minded for more than a minute. Spiced with audio recordings of Louis' laughter-speckled words, I wanted nothing more at the end of the tour than to give the musician a hug worth breaking world records.

After the tour Gabe and I ventured through the gardens, took pictures in front of the space soon to house an even larger museum, and headed across the street for a Dominican restaurant which was really more like someone's kitchen with tables pulled up, and dined upon sweet smothered plantains, bursting with flavor yellow rice, and juicy, tender, blackened grilled chicken (well, I did, Gabe is a vegetarian). The ladies running the place were clearly enamored with my blue-eyed giant friend when he busted out his Spanish and they called him Papi through the entirety of our meal.

I was beginning to get to like this Papi as well. Clearly extremely intelligent (even the tour guide said his questions were "very good" in  first grade inspired feedback which made you want some too, sadly my questions did not receive the same accolades, Gabe was the star student of the day) and pursuing a career in international justice and inequality up-ending, we certainly had a lot to talk about. I was just talking about this with my friend Sally but, as much as people tell you to look away from someone's occupation because "it's not who they are it's what they do," I believe there is something to be said in how you choose to contribute to the world with your human capital. Granted, not everyone has the same ability or the same choices available to them in life but, more often than not, the people I am seeing do and I forget how nice it is to be with someone whose efforts are towards righting the wrongs of the worlds full force.  As we weaved through the streets of Coronoa, from thrift stores to vibrant shops, passing children with icees and parents with back to school fliers and spanish spanish spanish everywhere, our conversation kept the most friendly of beats and I found myself looking often up (way up!) into his eyes. Corona Queens is ALIVE with color and sites and sounds and even though I was battling a cold, I felt like skipping next to Gabe.

As we walked past Mosques and Evangelical centers, we eventually settled into a park and watched a rag-tag baseball team reminiscent of The Sandlot and discussed, what else, relationships. Gabe enjoyed questioning me about the whole process and watching me squirm as he asked me to dissect it, and he talked about his own relationships and dating partners from the past year. We talked alot about honesty and the necessity to ensure your partner knows exactly where you're at. Is this for fun or are you looking for something more long term? Are you dating around or sticking with one? Are you even in a place, right now, where you can let someone into your life in a meaningful way? I'm not saying that a third date requires an e-harmony like survey on your life right now, but so much hurt and confusion comes from the lack of that honesty and ability to put yourself out there. I remember talking to Alex of date number six soon after our date on the GWB, and all I wanted him to tell me was he wasn't interested in seeing me because then I could give up and let go for sure. Like the Armstrong museum versus Gracie Mansion, in the former the rules-setting was done with such warmth and care, and prepared me for what was ahead, so I didn't feel so dismayed when things didn't go exactly my way, even if it took more care for the museum to structure it that way, it made all the difference in how I felt about the site.  Gabe, at least, seemed completely comfortable being himself, and being open and honest with himself, with others.



Later on, when discussing what we're both into, Gabe mentions he doesn't really like cute (why he asked me out for a date given this knowledge I have no idea) and I almost  stuff the animal paw printed hoodie I bought at a new designer market back into my bag but then I realized that in order to find someone who loves you for who you are, you need to be who you are and put it all out there. Honestly and rules and hangups and all. I pulled the sweater back over my head, and headed off with Gabe through the dusk-glowing streets of Coronoa, Queens.

Honestly,

L.A.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Twenty-Second Date

Tonight, I've got couples on the brain. My own past, my friend's futures, life today has seem punctuated by couples and relationships and twosomes. This summer has been one of such change in the makeup of my companion's singledom. Babies have been born and created, marriages proposed and accepted, people move to and move from. And here lies L.A., always floating and turning in space, like a tiny ballerina in a black tutu in some New York City snowglobe.

Part of what I've enjoyed about New York this summer has been the idea of venturing to all these spots,all these little enclaves of life, as part of a couple. Life somehow seems more excited and recognized when you can point out to someone else, "oh that, right there! see that?!" All my dates have bruised upper arms from my constant flailing about at the wonders of life, getting excited over the placement of a toothpick, the shine from a packet of butter, or even the way a key is able to open a lock.

Thus, you can imagine in part my disappointment when I found myself without a partner to share the joy of opening lock number twenty-two as karma had finally kicked me in the butt and added all those late minutes I've blogged about and pasted them onto a series of subway mishaps making date number 22, who shall henceforth be known as "Don", approximately one hour late to our date and thirty minutes beyond the closing time of PostNet box number 136 in the Bronx.

The Time: Friday, September 3rd, 7 32pm
The Guy: "Don" who I was introduced to at a friend's party the week prior
The Place:  557 Grand Concourse, suite 3, Da Bronx
What Creative Time Says:  Check the mail, it's your mailing address too.

So, here I was, all 5'2" exploring the Bronx with nothing but a pair of flip flops and a few case files. Don let me know he'd be running late, (blast the MTA and their unlimited metrocard inflations!) so I decided that, rather than risk it, I'd open this puppy up before the clock struck eight. After wrongly wandering into the actual post office across the street, looking ever regal in its always pip-pip-cheerio-fashion, the attendant kindly pointed me across the street to a glowing neon red sign reading "Postnet". Well, that makes sense.

I have to say that, as I crossed the street, I wanted to linger in between the yellow painted lines to look at the sunset superimposed upon all that neon. The reflections of pink and orange in the shining billboards and twinkling lights of McDonalds and car donation ads, well, it was actually kind of beautiful, like its own uptown tribute to dusk. My photos are at the end of this post.

But time was ticking down and a post office box needed to be open. Once inside, the only one in the store, I cautiously opened the small box and rushing out like the bread out of I Love Lucy's oven exploded scraps of all sizes and shapes of letters from around New York. Notes on receipts and matchboxes, postcards and  trinkets, folded up cranes and even bubble gum wrappers, this little capsule had it all, the hearts and the minds of hundreds of new yorkers with a key.

While sitting and going through the notes, looking, I am sure, forlorn in my little corner of the Bronx, one of the three workers at the store came up to me and we got to chatting about life and love in NY. C.J., the charmer of the crew, said he'd be my date until the real one showed up (though, having cars, they could not believe a subway could actually run so late, believe me fellas, it has and it did and it will again!) and we celebrated someones birthday surreptitiously behind the counter as they closed up shop.



Finally, as  I watched the new light show the advertisements of the way upper east side were putting on, I saw Don waving from across the street. As we couldn't find a nearby place to eat (my coworker who lives up there started laughing when I asked if she could recommend anything in the area) we took C.J.'s suggestion and hopped on to the two train to Harlem and the smothered goodness found in a little shop known as Amy Ruth's. 

Pulling up to the spare, slightly yellowed window overlooking a dining room laden with full looking customers. I watched waiters pull out plate after plate of fried chicken and mac and cheese, smothered pork chops and collared greens. My mouth watered with anticipation and I couldn't even stop to photograph the most slammin 70's style barbershop in the universe across the street.

So Don and I headed inside and ordered everything that we thought would possibly fit in our bellies, meaning waffles, fried chicken, collard greens, catfish, cheesy grits and fried okra. And I'll be damned if I didn't wish for awhile that my stomach could have expanded right there on the spot in a freaky pit-stop surgery the exact opposite of gastric bypass. Literally, I think I used about six packets of butter and ate enough fried pieces to wrap myself up in the flaky crusts but it's all good.  Nothing a quick walk around central park, ghostly midnight hour and all, and jamming briefly, (ok maybe mostly inside our heads) with the boomboxes and barrel tops lining our way through Harlem.


For those of you who haven't walked through this particular area, let me tell you that it, perhaps more than any other neighborhood in NYC, is just alive. With people and languages, shouts and music, kids on mountain bikes and older couples walking hand in cane-holding hand. The beat of this party of the city is just always thumping, even if it's at lower decibels, something just moves you, body mind and soul when you're there. It's an incredible place to walk through at night. The haunting lanterns of an empty central park topped off the evening quite picturesquely, like globe lit breadcrumbs guiding our way to the lumbering subway that would bring us home.

I remembered that C.J., earlier in the evening, had noted to me that not a lot of people actually came and chatted with the people working in the store. I wondered if this had to do with the nature of the project, with the focus on the site rather than the people, your own key gives you your own access and apart from the sites with tours, you don't really need to rely on anyone else. It could also, however, be due to the inherent nature of groups and partners and, well, relationships. When you're in one, or with one, may it be two friends or a date or a lifelong partner, you don't necessarily look for those other interactions quite so much. Sometimes I even feel this way with my friends in new (or old) partnerships, that our friendship somehow becomes not quite so shiny once they have that love in their life. I'm not sure if it's that they need a friend less, or they are just so into the admiration and excitement of love, but it definitely is there and I often feel it.

The date was fun with Don but, I've got to say, it was kind of nice having the first bit to myself, so my eyes were wide open to see everything possible around me.  And the fried chicken and waffles tasted just as yummy as I sat and ate them alone on my stoop the next morning,

But, you know, if that cute guy who just walked his dog by  as I sit writing this on my stoop happens to come back and ask me out to dinner in the village, who would I be to turn him down?

Enjoying it, either way,

L.A.


Monday, September 6, 2010

The Fall

Happy day-after-labor-day all! And let me give you this official welcome to the fall. Time for leaf-viewing and pumpkin roasting, the halloween parade through sixth ave, light jacket weather that makes you want to catch the farther-away subway just so you can enjoy a few extra moments outdoors, hot cider and pecans and snuggling in with sweaters and slippers. What is there not to love?

My key to the city adventure officially ended tonight but my adventure will continue on, thanks to the wonders of the Internet and this blog, for at least one more week as I get up all the posts from this weekend (not even a 100 degree fever could keep me from finishing the project, nosiree!) As far as dates go I have a clunker, a surprise, a blast from the past, I may even learn something by number 25 (specially added by yours truly).

So I hope you'll stick with me as I finish out this week. I'd love love love to hear what you have to say about the adventures, the love, your own stories of summer romance, and just anything else in the world! (I know you're all out there, google analytics doesn't lie!) Blogging is odd in that it's often so one sided but one of the best things from this project has been hearing the words of encouragement, advice, and thoughts, from all of you. Sadly this project won't last forever, even in a digital sense.


But, until that time comes,  we've got a ways to go, hope to see you at the finish line!

xo,

L.A.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Twenty First Date

So I'm behind on posting and most likely won't get all the dates up before the end of the project, ie Labor Day, ie tomorrow!, and coming down with a cold the weekend it all ends has not been helping BUT rest assured the project will be completed and posts will be coming....at some point. In the meantime let's finish off our marathon day-date from last Wednesday shall we?

The Time: Wednesday, September 1st, 3:45pm
The Place: The Office of New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm, 25th District, 37-32 75th Street, Queens
The Guy: Tom! (Hope you guys aren't sick of him because I certainly am not!)
What Creative Time Says:Public symbols and elected officials are different kinds of representation.

By this point in quite possibly the most ambitious marathon date of all time, Tom and I were more than a little tired, haggard, and, most importantly, hungry! (case in point? This exchange after Tom takes my picture: Me: "Ugh, I look sweaty and horrible!" Tom: "You don't look sweaty!" Gee, thanks Tom... ;)) But thanks to the cold air of an overly AC'd V train, we were ready and eager to hit the ground running in Jackson Heights, Queens.

As soon as I stepped off the subway and the underground yet brightly lit tunnels brought me to a side corner shop, shoes and beads squashed in every possible corner as if they were stopping sprouting leaks, I knew we were in a place fit for adventure. New York is amazing this way, every street you walk down,every corner you turn leads to an entirely different street culture, food culture, world culture and people culture. Immediately our eyes are filled with Arabic and Hindi, the sharp smell of spices wafts through the air, black haired children grasp onto the wrists of hemp-tattooed mothers, and clinking jewels trailing behind deep purple saris guide us through the walk ways. You can, in fact, visit almost every country in the world right here in Queens, China in Flushing, Greece in Astoria, even Ireland in Woodside. In fact the seven train, for this very reason, has been dubbed "The International Express." In Queens your ears can pick up new languages like lost coins on the street and you can walk from one avenue to another, taking bites like seashells from all the new tastes to try, your wallet, and belly, still satisfyingly full at the end.  Who needs a passport when you have an unlimited metrocard?

It's not just Queens of course, as every street in New York brings out its own inner world of life and love, from the different games children play to the way in which their parents watch (or don't) over them. From the produce sold in markets to who has the rule of the sidewalk streets (Vendors or Strollers? Artists or Arsons? Produce or Pot?). People are so silly sometimes, don't they see this diversity, this range, this breathtaking freedom to chose who to be and when to be it, is what makes our city, and country, so achingly beautiful? New York, new york, I love you I love you I love you.

Oh? And Tom? He was fairing pretty well himself. You'd think after five or six hours with someone you'd run out of topics to discuss but with Tom it kept on rolling, like a salt water taffy pull continually stretching and turning to make the truly perfect texture. Our chatter wasn't non-stop, it involved pauses and breaks, which usually means you feel comfortable enough with the other person to be alright with the silence, but it was full and alive and familiar and, by the end, I wanted to hold his hand down that multicolored street.

So we first wound our way to the esteemed council man's office. When taking a quick peek inside the workspace itself a proud banner fighting for gay rights displayed itself above the hard-working head of a summer intern made me satisfied that this politician was worthy of the honor of a key to the city site right outside his front door. Unlocking the plexi glass display case, tucked behind the American flag, lay an entire little village of objects and notes, eagerly waving hello to Tom and I as we dug right in. The words of the people are below:



Tom and I wrote secret notes that we wouldn't let eachother see and as I lay concealed behind that flag, the red glow creating the most wonderful fort-like feeling, I wondered if it wasn't the perfect spot for our first kiss, but, alas, we returned the notes, locked up the box and headed on our way to find the most delicious delights a conglomeration of countries could deliver!

Can I admit something shameful? I've never visited Jackson Heights! It's perhaps one of the most written about areas of Queens for its food, its street culture, its vibrancy and life, and yet, I've never been! Shame on myself! Luckily I came to this date armed with three, count em three, issues of Time Out New York featuring Queens, Cheap Eats, and Ethnic Foods, so I'd know where to hit among the clatter and bang that overtakes such an intersection of the world. We selected Tibetan cuisine, as Tom had never before tried the food of yak-country (which was all I ate when I was there a few years ago), so we walked into the brightest florescent packed Merit Kabab Palace and headed to the back counter of Tashi Delek Momo, which serves up a combination of Chinese delights with a Tibetan twist. Even the rallying students would have to approve.

Of course we couldn't settle on just one noodle dish from just one of the shops in the cafeteria like dining room, so we ordered veggie Chow Mein, and fried chicken dumplings, and a whole host of fried treats from the Bangladeshi restaurant in the counter to the left, and Mango Lassis (Tom never had Lassi before either!) and some salty miso soup, AND, to top it off, the strangest pink-gel drink I have ever before had in my life, on the house!

The fried treats were delicious (and it was fascinating to watch the workers quickly pack up boxes for Ramadan Fasters to take home for sundown supper) and the dumplings fried to perfection but the standout item of the meal was most certainly those noodles. As promised they were fluffy and light, sauced but not too oiley, springy and perfect. Served with a bright array of fresh vegetables (orange carrots, purple onions, green scallions, Monet himself couldn't have created a better pallet!), my mouth wanted more, and more, and more until I was achingly stuffed.  Tom too seem pleased with his first Tibetan food adventure.

But we couldn't sit around for too long, oh no! There was much to be explored, aquariums and beauty parlors, pillow shops and salsa music blasting from the street. We walked and wandered until, exhausted from the day, we finally decided to head back home. On our subway ride, me clutching my new $6 pillow purchased from the funniest Queens guys around,  I realized that I actually was really liking Tom, that the fun wouldn't have been the same without him, and that he possibly kinda liked me too. So, of course, like the mature girl I am, I dissolved into giggles and couldn't stop laughing, or make eye contact with the most likely very confused marathon-Tom. Before disembarking at Penn Station, I invited him to visit the very last key site with me this weekend and, to my delight, he accepted.

Can't get a much better day than that!



Full and satisfied,  and proud to be a part of this city and this adventure,

L.A.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Twentieth Date or, Trust Me

Gracie Mansion is, quote, "a house of the people." Or at least that's what we're told Mayor Bloomberg would like it to be during the time he is head of our (5bourough) state and allows Gracie mansion to be stomped upon by visitor's footsteps day in and day out rather than those of his own family. Well, it's a house of the people if you are a person who has arranged a tour on a particular wednesday, in advance, without a stroller, who will not take pictures or lean on the furniture. Yes my friends, it was The Met all over again and though I have the Key to the City, I do not, unfortunately have the prep necessary to impress the feisty tourguides at this historic spot. Alas, we trudge on into the battle against so many rules imposed upon us and enter, date twenty.

The Time: Wednesday, Sept. 1st, 1:01pm (Only one minute late after talking worker's rights in the Bronx = victory!)
The Place: Gracie Mansion, East End Ave and 88th St., Manhattan
The Guy: Marathon-Tom
What Creative Time Says: Any of us could live here if we had a majority (and the power to write the rules. Ok, I added that part, all third-term jokes are now out of my system, almost ;))

Sprinting from our recent jaunt in the Bronx (the key to the city wins again! one of us cries as we peer the train, sunlight glinting off its would-be wet back, come around the corner like a whistletop depression era vehicle up in the Bronx just 17 minutes before our guided tour began), Tom and I exited on the Upper East Side and sprinted the five or so avenues until we, sweaty and very unrefined, made our way to the house of our leader. We were rather brusquely checked in by a woman preppier than a Laura Ashley ad campaign, led through a set of metal detectors, and made our way to the tour where a very sweet looking older woman was gathering us around. I began excited to learn something, perhaps a bit of history, perhaps a bit of intrigue, and to find out whether or not mayors can live without AC (turns out, they can't, everything has been updated to cooled air perfection.)

That is until I was whirled around into a spinny top of rules, unable to find my pin point of reference to keep myself from turning. I swear I was a five year old kid  again trying not to giggle in church, scratchy tights and squeezing mary janes and all.

"No Photos." They said as I turned on my camera
"No touching the furniture." They barked to two tiny little girls who, once anxious looking with key inspired determination, simply turned off, their faces back to the masked performance children are too practiced at giving to seemingly well-meaning adults.
"Ascent the staircase one at a time." "No walking on the grass." "No venturing on the porch." "No dawdling or looking on your own."

No. Just, no. There were interesting things about the tour of course, I learned why chandeliers have so many dripping spheres of glass (to make the small flames more vibrant!). You could tell the women leading the tour had such a love and reverence for history and I, in turn, loved the hand painted, victorian inspired wrapping wall paper in the dining room. It was a delight to imagine we were being bugged and recorded, watched by a sweaty CIA man in a van parked down by the river (was that just me? oh, well, my imagination is very active) and, get this, I was introduced to the actual key to the city, as in, the one pictured on the top of this blog! For a place engaging in a public art project (and trust me, I love  that Bloomberg got so behind this piece, guess third time's the charm, ba-dum CHING!), they certainly didn't embrace the whole freedom, secret, empowered, sneaky, explorative ideals that the project, to me, seemed to encapsulate.

Why couldn't they just trust us? What, with the key we'd run all over Gracie Mansion, flipping over sofa's, carving our names into the prized steinway piano? Just the image of well-meaning new yorkers, willing to wait hours in line in times square for a key, then reserve a spot on a tour, in advance, then brave the upper east side, go through a name check and a full scale security clearance, somehow causing so much damage to the Gracie Mansion (not a museum mind you, but a place actual living humans often occupy and, gasp, hold events in) amuses me to no end.  Jerry Seinfeld does this hilarious piece about spring loaded faucets that comes to mind:

So, I go to the bathroom in the airport. What is the story on the sinks in airport bathrooms
That they will not give us a twist-it-on twist-it-off, human-style faucet? Is that too risky for the general population? Too dangerous?  What is it they think we would do with a faucet?
Turn them all on full, run out into the parking lot, laughing, pushing each other into the bushes?
"Come on, the water's on, let's go!" "I turned it on full blast." "You idiot! We're businessmen, we're gonna miss our plane." "Who cares! Water!" That's how they think we're gonna act.


Granted, I have laughed and pushed plenty of people into the bushes during these key sites, but I've had the deceny of leaving the mayor's home before doing so. But seriously, what on earth is there not to trust, or, if you go into a relationship assuming there is no trust, can it ever fully exist? I broke the rules with my ninja camera skills at Gracie Mansion because there were so many rules placed upon me, I was already told that I was a trouble maker and they knew it so they were going to do everything in their power to stop it, sounds like a challenge to me! I did the same to my poor mother whose head I am sure has extra grey hairs because of the stunts I would pull pretending I was a "bad kid" because she already assumed I'd be acting like one (picture a small bag filled with sugar and me planting sets of baby sitting earned twenty dollar bills in my room as a scenerio).


This can, of course, all be applied to love. I was on my "fourth" date with Tom after all, and things were starting to get pretty serious, nod nod wink wink, mostly to the delight of the ladies outside my tour who wanted to know all about how we met and the project and how it was going (one even wished Tom luck as we parted.)

I have certainly had my ups and downs with trust and love over the years and, can I be honest, there is no way in heck I'd allow someone to enter my home-self with abandon and run on through. Ok maybe  if they waited online and passed a checkpoint and made a reservation and called it art, maybe then they'd be allowed in, but certainly it has to be cautious right? Maybe I would only allow for him to enter single file while holding a handrail with my eyes pasted on the back of my head. Granted, past experiences have left me mostly unscarred. I've had the occasional "kissed another girl on summer vacation" devastation when I was sixteen  but, in general, most who have handled my heart have done so with at least some care, so where do all the eggshells come from? Does Gracie Mansion have some horrible vandal in its past hallowed halls, or were the guards implemented long before a sharpie marker was drawn?

I don't know, or, I have guesses but I can't know for sure and with those inklings its hard to know what is the best way to proceed.  I know I really love hanging out with Tom but when he asked me certain questions as we sat sipping smoothies overlooking Roosevelt island and the many, many, shirtless men who frequent the upper east side on random weekday afternoons, I just froze up. Luckily, of course, I recovered with my amazing leaf-turned-frog-belly horticulture skills. But for a moment there it got a little scary.

Would the art work better if we were allowed to run amok? Does love run more free when we are completely open with all barriers removed? I know you need to make space to allow life to come in, doors closing and windows opening and all that jazz, but can your space still be protected? Can it still be your own? And, if you're not ready to let the wind come rushing through your being like a wooden board house with its doors blown off the hinges in the middle of a hurricane, should you really be putting yourself out there? If you want to impose so many rules upon a visit, so many barriers and "no's" and "don't do's" and "can'ts" should your really be inviting 10,000 strangers to walk through your home?

Four sites left and a boatload of questions to be answered,

Thinking,

L.A.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Eighteenth (and Nineteenth!) Dates

So there are four key to the city sites only open Monday through Friday from 9am - 5pm. Four sites totally inaccessible to those of us who hold "normal" work schedules. So what's a girl to do? She has to hit them all in one day, one magical day gifted by Key to the City. And there you have it, the reason why I had the most marathon day of dating in the universe.

Now, I would never go on a date with more than one guy in the same night. "Fun" be gone, I just think it's pretty sleazy. Luckily, Tom from Saturday's adventure doesn't start nursing school until Sept. 2nd and we really kind of hit it off so he agreed to partake in this crazy three borough adventure. I'll briefly fill you in on the first two because there's more to be said about sites three and four (or twenty and twenty-one, depending on how you look at it.) Rest assured there's good stuff, and ponderings about art and the ability to make it interactive, coming up!

The Time: Wednesday, Sept 1st, 11:05am
The Place(s):  P.S. 73, 1020 Anderson Ave and The Bronx County Courthouse, 851 Grand Concourse, The Bronx
The Guy: The wonderful Tom from date 15!
What Creative Time Says: The P stands for "public" and "Be Patient: security and freedom of access have to coexist." 

When meeting Tom this morning my stomach felt, well, strange. I quickly checked over everything I had eaten the night before (Japanese Ramen and Edamame with my public interest butt kicking friend Alison) and this morning (almond croissant from chocolate bar, mmmm) and found nothing. Then, when I saw Tom across the street waving by yankee stadium, it jolted through me, like a combination karate kick slash roller coaster and then, just as fast, returned to a light flutter.

Were these butterflies? No way, I thought, no chance. But when I gave Tom a hug and felt a warm and familiar chicken soup type feeling, well then, perhaps they were there, and that was kind of nice. I'm actually super-exhausted at the end of today and I must get some sleep after last night's debacle so I'll sum up some key (haha, oh god I'm my grandfather) moments and let you see the rest in pictures.

 -->  I heart schools. Tom went to a schoolhouse built in the 19th century which automatically makes him cooler than me. I would have spent hours writing pretend stories of past student-souls who had sat at my desk rather than pay attention to geometry or the like. So jealous of Tom and his must-have-existed ghost-girl crushes.


--> Both these sites comprise of boxes where fellow key holders have left notes. I love thinking of all the lives this project has touched and what they must have thought when turning the same key. Thoughts replicate through my mind, do they get the stomach flip? The ah-ha moment? Is it all ho-hum to them by this point or do they share my wonder in the moment the key lock hold?


-->  Is there any better feeling in the world than back to school time? New backpacks and pencils, new friends in your class, new materials to learn, the excitement was as tangible as a soft angel cake in those hallowed halls of first graders gingerly holding their mother's hands. As if to say, I still want you here but I'm ready now.

-->  Tom is very inflexible in body, I am very inflexible in planning and spirit (but trying to get better!)  Do couples work best in yin and yang? Or do people work better with mirror images of themselves? Curious.

-->  No photos allowed in the Bronx Courthouse? No problem, I am the stealthiest camera ninja of all time (see tomorrow's date for further proof of this fact.)  The key brings you to the marriage bureau, a concept I am still not sure if I can get behind (marriage and bureau's, separate and together.)

--> Worker's rights advocates outside the courthouse make my heart skip a bit. We almost are too late for our next site because we're discussing the benefit's of unions and why most exploited worker's are immigrants.

-->   Sometimes, I love that I am 26 and a lawyer and still doing wonderful silly things like having dates with the key to the city. Other times, I can't believe that I am 26 and a lawyer and still doing wonderful silly things like  having dates on the key to the city. But I've decided it's so necessary to have these projects. To own your life as it is, yours, and to live it as you chose, decorate it as you like. Especially in my line of work which has the tendency to pull you down into the darkest depths of humanity at times, I need to remember what it is to smile, and dance, and live scribbled notes inside plexi glass boxes, unlocked with a key.

Til tomorrow,

L.A.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Seventeenth Date!

So. It's a fairly nice night out and I have a fairly nice stoop so I decided, as I am want to do, to write this post while sitting outside overlooking my street in the west village, NYC. I have a glass of water (because it's still August after all, even if for a few more hours), my laptop, and my phone all balanced in my hands as I pull my door shut with my right foot (thank you yoga) before tip toeing  outside (I live in a townhouse of a wonderful family I used to nanny for, thus the tip toeing.)

Can anyone guess yet what is wrong with this picture? I have contact with the outside world (phone), hydration (water) and the impetus upon which to write this blog (laptop). What else is missing right?

My keys.

Shit.

So, yes, I am writing this on my stoop, locked out of my apartment, unsure what on earth I will do this evening to get a good night's sleep. I can't very well wake up my landlords, they have three children after all, but I just don't know if the mosquito-laden front porch of my home will do it for me tonight. Hmmm. And don't think I miss the irony in all this. I, unofficial key girl of New York, LOCK myself out of my apartment, without my KEYS. There are just too many levels to explore here.

Well, until that's all figured out, let's got on with the writing shall we? Without further adieu let me rush in the quirky, the nutty, the perhaps most surprising of all, date number 17!

The Time: Monday, August 30th, 6:02pm
The Place: Joe Holzka Community Garden, Castleton Ave and Baker St, Staten Island
The Guy: Dan, 26, another set up from my faithful friends, this time the delightful Patty Eames.
What Creative Time Says: This public gazebo was once a private casino.

About four weeks ago Patty and Chris, quite possibly the cutest couple of the century, came to visit New York. Over milkshakes I told tales of my summer of love (well, perhaps my love of summer) and the quest and challenge I was facing. Immediately, the two turned towards one another. "Dan?" they said. After scrolling through facebook pictures and learning he was a foodie in advertising with a sense of adventure, well, what more possibly needs to be said?

So here I was, Monday afternoon, leaning up against the ferry terminal wall reading my latest acquisition (Then We Came to The End, very funny.), unable to believe that I was actually getting nostalgic for my final key venture to the fifth borough. Staten Island, how I do apologize for not giving you a chance earlier along!
 The ride was, as always, tourist filled and beautiful and there really may be no better feeling in the world then sea breeze brushing around you, even if it is from the Hudson river. Dan and I are such huge talkers (we actually missed two ferries because we weren't paying adequate attention, thank goodness it was rush hour) that I imagine we sounded like two children's footsteps chasing a new kitten around an attic to a bystander down below (or just the German tourists to our left.) Upon disembarking we ran to the S46 and spent the next twenty minutes craning our necks out the window in hopes of spotting the proper exit point. Dan asked, "don't they announce the stops on a bus?" No Dan, no they do not, that would be far too practical for our oft-confused MTA system.

The Joe Holzka Community Garden (and a big thank you here for including so many gardens on this tour, they are the epicenter of community and growth and big city delight and surprise) was tended by the adorable Kathy who allowed us free reign to smell, touch, and even taste the delights around the garden. Certainly the biggest I've visited, it hosted plants from all over the world (Kathy taught us how to tell what country of origin the planters were from based off the layout of their plots.) The colors were hidden and gorgeous, like I-Spy's in nature, play sardines until you stumbled upon their bursts of reds, pinks, and yellows.


What a delightful way to spend a monday eve. Better yet was entering the adorable gazebo, outfitted with chairs and a mysterious box labeled "Take One." Inside? A whole army of tiny origami projects, many made by Kathy herself. Dan and I attempted to create our own objects before succumbing to the origami taboos of crumpling and tearing, snapped a few photos, and made our way to dinner.

Oh right,dinner. You see, "winging it", which has worked in my past and which I had also hoped for that night, is not exactly the best idea for a monday evening in the middle of Staten Island. Kathy "maybe" knew where a bus "might be" and directed us to Forest Hills Ave where the Staten, which sounded promising, was located. So Dan and I waited on the most western-archetype deserted street in NY for a bus to bring us to the corner of McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken land and the two of us, determined to find the best cuisine SI had to offer, trudged along the strip-mall like road. Where were we, Tennessee? Oh, and it turns out the Staten is a buffet mart, only open for lunch, from 12- 2 30pm. Whoops.

I was about to give up and hightail it to Baskin Robbins (hey, I'd never been to a Dunkin Deli before, that would be new!) when across the way, under a haze of florescent kegs and mugs, a green awning read "Best Burgers in Staten Island." Done.

Duffy's, where we decided to land was, in four words, old school scrumptiously perfect. The waiters were locals (we got into a great debate about the island's best pizza because, you know, now I'm an expert)  the burger special was blue cheese, the bloody mary's were six bucks and the sweet potato fries were the best I have ever eaten. Seriously it was like a crunchy juicy skin containing the most wonderfully pureed sweet potatoes in the world. I had died and gone to bar food heaven.

Dan and I decided to walk back, discussing the best in Pixar movies, his job in advertising, and what on earth the random knots of teenagers circling the island came from. We passed sparkly organic cleaners, dozens of bagel shops, and the strangest townhouse turned burrito hut this side of the Mississippi. Finally when we could walk no more (we ran out of street lights!) we boarded the bus and headed back to our little isle of Manhattan.

On the return trip, there was, I swear to goodness, the most beautiful moon I have ever seen in my life. Full yet halved, so close and yet so orange, it was haunting and beautiful and perfect in the moment. I, of course, took approximately 1000 pictures, Dan was kind enough to let me do so.

The key to the city came to me in my hour of need, bringing me a snappy burger and the most perfect of sweet potato fries just when I had almost given up all hope. Which is where I was with this whole apartment thing when who should so happen to answer my facebook cry for locked-out help but, I kid you not, our dear friend Tim, of the original Staten Island adventure.

This truly is a magical little key. Now only if it would open the door to my apartment.....

Locked Out, but with quite the view,



L.A.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Sixteenth Date

Do you ever put your ipod on shuffle and then get mad that it doesn't understand exactly what song you'd like to hear? Frustrated by tune after tune of audiobook or that CD a guy made you in High School, you just want to get to the good stuff, the gels with where you are in time? You can either be upset or, you can reframe it, as I have decided to do so, by deciding well, at least this means all the really great ones are on the way. And that is officially how I am going to think about dating from now on! With that being said I am totally psyched by this last string of dates, so lovingly chosen by my friends to support me in my hour of need, and what wonderful companions they have helped me find for this crazy adventure of mine. After spending 15 hours in a car in upstate New York with my friend Kyle for research, I finally weaseled out the information about his very charming friend Brian, in town for three months to film an upcoming documentary. Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you date 16.

The Time: Sunday, August 29th, 12:05 pm
The Date: Brian,6'4", filmmaker, bloody mary hater
The Place: Trinity Church, 74 Trinity Place, Manhattan
What Creative Time Says: To be buried in the city is to become part of the city. (sing it sister).

You know a date is going to rock when you exchange texts all morning pushing back the meeting time. Thanks to a bottle of red wine and the fact that Jared works a few blocks from my house, was having girl troubles, and gets off his shift at 1am I did not quite receive the nine hours of sleep I was planning on in order to ensure I was bright eyed and bushy for a morning date. Thankfully, Brian was right there with me and we agreed to step into the sunshine Manhattan-early at noon. We searched the corpse-like wall street area with its no man land of no-work sundays, and finally found stone street, the strangest little mecca of italy meets boston meets the 19th century I have ever seen. Tables are packed so that you can pick food off your neighbor's plate and the cobblestone ground cannot even be seen, but we were outside, our surly hostess found us a seat, and Brian hilariously mountain climbed over the benches to reach a nice landing point. I was good to go.

Brunch was delicious, thank you Smorgas Chef, and Brian had me laughing throughout my Jarlsberg eggs and chive whipped mashed potatoes. It's tricky knowing with these set ups if the guy is actually interested in going on a date with me or if he's more into the whole blog exposure, but I am sure they must feel the same way about me and what's fair is fair. Besides, Brian's obsession with Paul the Octopus made for a skippingly delightful breakfast topic when one is working very hard at staying awake. Even if he did compare me to Julia Allison. Bastard.

With a very full belly and my cheeks hurting from laughing I brought Brian to the elevated acre, one of my favorite spots in an area I don't much love, the financial district. Whoa the website makes this place look like an outdoor disco club but in reality, it's quite beautiful, with native plants and pensive couples and groups of men practicing their parkouring skills. Yep, you read me right, every Saturday and Sunday at 1 30pm a group of men in their 20's gets together to practice doing the grapevine and making high high highkicks so they can jump over the 2.5 foot stairs located around the turf grass. I love parkouring but my goodness if we NewYorkers aren't good at turning everything fun into a talent in need of perfection. I was content to lie on my blanket (I never leave my apartment on a summer weekend without packing at least one book and a giant tapestry blanket from China) and try and figure out just what the heck these guys are doing in the section of the city where the sky peaks out in quilt-like fashion and each building stands imposingly as a high school security guard on a pot bust.

Now was, of course, a perfect time for Brian to show me his top secret ninja documentary which I cannot reveal on this site for fear of it being leaked. Seriously (in part). Here is also where I begin to fall a little for Brian. You see world, there is this thing called the creative magnet and when utilized properly it can be the most wonderful catalyst for tripping over your words and becoming nervous around someone whom you have only just met. It's what makes me stammer like a schoolgirl when meeting obviously gay broadway stars and has me falling in love with every other performer at the Nuyorican Cafe or UCBT. The creative magnet is an attractive lifeforce wielded by those very talented at adding art and inspiration and life into our sometimes gray world. I know I've focused a lot on the dating here but, as important to me is the art, heck, I'd be clamoring over Paul Ramirez Jonas if the guy wasn't married as he is, inarguably, the greatest relational aesthesian of our time. To be fair, this is not always a good thing, the search of the creative magnet, and the misplays it creates, have lead me down some pretty dark paths (think rats crawling on your feet in a theater space in Manhattan, literally!), and I, who hates being liked for what I put out there rather than who I am, should understand the dangers this can bring.  But creation of art, additions to the world, making people smile or cry or think or spin, is incredibly important to me, and I can't help but recognize and celebrate that in another person. So, clearly, when Brian showed me the trailer to his movie which may be telling one of the stories that most makes me want to hopscotch that I have encountered in awhile, well, let's just say my tongue was a little more tied at the end of the four minute twenty five second trailer (but who's counting?)

Luckily, I pulled myself together and we made it to Trinity by the 3pm deadline, laughing over Brian's stories all the way. I swear this guy collects characters in his life like burs in a meadow and I loved stepping for a few hours into his world. Baring down the tourist traps of high waving American flags, just steps from the most inflammatory argument in our present time, rocking out on Mr. Softie and catching snapshots of Lady Liberty herself, we led ourselves into the back gates of Trinity only to discover the promised gate was wide open for all to explore (how indecent!) Saddened (ok, that was just me) we walked through the weathered tombs, listened to Brian's This-American-Life like collection of voicemails on his phone (seriously, he should start a podcast "The Answer(ing) Machine" is what I would title it), and then, fittingly, were locked into the park at closing time. Though Brian could have easily stepped over the 5' gate, he was kind enough to signal the guard so that I was not locked in. Thank you my dear.



Now, many have complained about Trinity's lack of a lock (clearly whoever connected with the project was incredibly quick to change her mind regarding the exclusivity of the place) and, frankly, there are a lot of whiners out there about many of the key sites that don't provide some sort of "special" prize at the end. Yes, I was as sad as the next at the inability to unlock my own world but should certain places be turned into the standard hotel, available only to those of us lucky to stumble upon the key? I like the far thrown places, the community gardens and boxes on buses, because just getting there is half the battle and the key is a wonderful reward but Trinity Church 'aint no secret friends. Sometimes you just have to let go and be grateful for the experience, regardless of the package it arrived in.

So I left Brian in the heated fog of the 14th street subway station, eager for more of his stories, more of his art, and more of, just generally, him (though maybe after a nice shower, a nap, and some AC this time, since when did July return to NYC?). For the first time in a while, however, I genuinely had no clue if he felt the same, which, let's be honest, usually means they do not. But the really nice thing about these creative types is that their art lives on. And that I got to go home, make myself some lemonade iced tea, and watch his rocking trailer, realizing, perhaps for the first time, that the art is separate from the person. Regardless of how he felt, I was laughing and smiling and dancing on my toes all the same. 

And I hope that for the men of this project, if I'm on your cutting room floor or  left behind on the paint pallet, if the gate is locked open or the key just won't turn, that the same will hold true: regardless of how I've gotten here, it's been a wonderful place to end up.

With cheeks that burn from smiles,

L.A.

Don't try this at home

Before I plunge into date 16, let me say this: I would rather be Sarah Haskins than Julia Allison any day.  I want to enjoy life, yes, but I'm not here looking for some perfect specimen whom I can pick apart with a piece of dental floss. I want to love the moments but laugh at the bad and not assume this is all some project that has to do with me just stumbling upon someone "right." I read another dating blog at the suggestion of a friend and wanted to vomit with its gendering, its simplicity, its lack of anything real. Weirdly enough, it half kills me to think of this as a dating blog itself. I don't want to be some butter churn of men switching them in and out. I want to live the moments I am in with the person I am with and of course I would rather have this all figured out by now but I don't and thus, comes ten dates in ten days.

Maybe I'm trying to make myself feel better. Maybe it's ridiculous a woman has to make herself feel better when she dates multiple guys when it's often assumed men are doing the same. But, for the record, while I am psyched for this week I don't usually prescribe to, nor love, so much dating and so much turnover in such a short span on time. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be psyched to have a fifth date involving homemade cooking and favorite movies down the road. But I am where I am and I'm finishing this thing darn it and I so appreciate the men who are helping me do it. Thank you for entering this strange little world I have somehow teleported myself into.

And if you want dating advice, just click HERE. 

<3

L.A.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Fifteenth Date

So this is what happens when you procrastinate or are focusing on other things (you know, like your job) and forget that, whoops, it's already late August and, uh oh, the entire Key to the City project ends on labor day (thankfully running extra-date this year) and you, ahhhh!, have TEN DATES TO DO IN TEN DAYS?

Can you do it? Will you make it? Damn right you will! And gosh darn it if you won't even have some fun!
Which brings us to the beginning of the end, and date numero quince!

The Time:  Saturday, August 28th, 10:22am (me= 7 minutes late = success!)
The Guy: Tom, introduced through college dorm-mate Meg, 26
The Place: Freshkills Park, Staten Island
What Creative Time Says:  It took us half a century but we made this together.

About one month ago I emailed Doug, the tour guide and booker for the Freshkills park extravaganza as, in order to open this key you had to secure a spot on one of their coveted tours. Thankfully, Doug was waiting for me as he wrote:


We were wondering if you'd every come out! After I read the NYT piece I looked back on our rosters and noticed that you hadn't been out - I do most of the tour organization and lead many of them and didn't think any blind dates were happening...

Thank goodness for small graces! Tom and I had also been waiting for our big moment as Meg tried to set us up way back when I only had maybe three readers aside from my parents and our schedules just never clicked into a date. Thankfully, and finally, with almost one week to go, we finally cleared our schedules for each other!

Ok now readers, so at this point in the game, I'm pretty good at a first date and I've also come to expect pretty much zero from the whole thing. It's down to a science, say hello, hug, comment on getting there, comment on the key to the city, and dive into a few hours of getting to know you chat. I wasn't expecting much, heck, Tom and I had barely exchang substantive emails before agreeing to meet, so I was going into this really pretty blind.


But there was something about this guy! Nothing big and fancy, nothing glittery, but damn if the more we talked the more I wanted to just keep talking. And the conversation wasn't all, where are you from what are your views, it was more, let's talk about that childhood pet we accidentally killed and the novel you have written that you want to keep working on (seriously, and tragically, we both had that in common.) It wasn't othat our lives were mirror images, but our life views and the rhythms of the choices made seemed to, well, compliment each other.


And see? I'm not even talking about the key site! Which was, totally awesome and fantastic and beautiful and I am losing my adjectives with which to describe it. Freshkills Park, kills meaning stream in Dutch, is a 2200 acre former landfill now being adapted to make the second biggest park in NYC. Soon (well,thirty years) to be featuring kayaking and picnicing, playgrounds and hiking trails, this massive expanse of land now operates as some kind of sanitation boneyard with long retired cranes creaking about the mountains and run down garbage trucks lining the gravel roads. Our tourbus, and fearless leader Doug, wound around the paths, over tons and tons of rubbish, literally, through highway passes and over creeks, all in the name of learning about this soon to be awe-inspiring space. I for one am happy I will still be living in NYC when it's all open. 


Being on a tour bus meant the actual key part was a singular event, one girl opened the padlocked box to reveal a giant pair of binoculars (note: objects in magnification may be further than they appear, while using them I ducked out of the way of a dragonfly seemingly soaring towards my head which was, in all likelihood, closer to Manhattan than myself) and all of us key-bearers cheered at the surprise (two of them later recognized me and told me they were loyal readers, FUN!) I still made Tom open the lock, of course, and tried to explain to him why the entire thing was so exciting to me and Tom, bless his heart, tried to play along. Well, if I can't find someone who will squeal with delight when I stumble upon a purple piece of glass on the street, than all I can ask for is someone who will smile as I do so. We had a delightful time scavenging for gas vent kegs and trying to capture a picture of the elusive butterflies and bees on the hill.


Let this be a lesson to anyone who says NYC is all buildings and crowds, my friends, you simply have not ventured out enough. The paths and grounds went on and on and I felt just as I would on top of a conservatory area in my hometown of western, MA (minus all the landfill covering but hey, I used to sled over an old landfill near my house, as long as you don't lick the snow right?) I was sad when the tour ended (I was dying to climb up onto these giant blue sculptures, I mean plows, just waiting for human contact) but Tom and I chatted the entire way back to the ferry, often in hushed tones because we were the only ones on the bus still engaged in conversation! 


After we disembarked most everyone made a beeline to the ferry but not us, we were brave adventurers here to conquer Staten Island! Walking past the scariest clown-painted bar I have ever seen in my life, a homeless shelter for youth, and the tiniest bait and tackle shop I've ever seen, a cart of used books caught my eye as carts of used books are want to do and soon we came upon the most fabulous used bookstore I have yet been to in NYC. Everything Goes Book Cafe and Neighborhood Stage is  everything that I truly miss about coffee houses/bookstores in NYC. Sure, we have housing works and McNally Robinson, which I love and are certainly able to do the trick, but here, in the heart of the oft-forgotten borough, was a place full of vintage records and current novels, 19th century playbills and local artists, but without one bit of the pretension that often occupies these areas in Manhattan. The couches were free to be sat upon, the regulars had out their tarot cards, and the hummus was homemade, I was in heaven.



Tom copied my lunch of an iced mint tea and a bagel with cream cheese, tomato and fresh basil (brilliant new combo!) though he preferred his bagel to remain untoasted, and we sat out in the completely unoccupied back porch area to delve into the realms of children's literature and our favorite movies. I don't think I've ever been out with someone with whom I had such opposite tastes in culture (the man hasn't read Matilda or The Fountainhead, people) and yet whose opinion made me want to look into the movies I may have otherwise skipped over. It was just like the bagel, familiar and delicious with just a new enough twist to keep me delightfully on my toes. I went to acroyoga after the date and for the first time in awhile I didn't even need to be flown before I was smiling like crazy. It had been a good day, a very good day indeed.


So I think it's fair to say this date may have been one of the more promising of them all. Not only does Freshkills have a lot of potential and a lot to look forward too, but I do believe Tom may reappear in this week of insanity himself as another key date. 


 





Looking Forward, 




L.A.







 

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Dating

Here's where I admit that this whole dating thing is really, really hard, and sometimes it really really sucks. I'm about to enter a crazy week not unlike my first flurry foray into this project, ten dates in ten days to top off a summer of adventure, of finding NYC, of finding myself and finding many, many first dates.

But, if I am honest with you all, and with myself, sometimes it's a pain in the butt. I am psyched and committed to jump full force into the next (and last?) series of dates. I'm looking forward to a trip to the Whitney, to grooving with Louis in his house museum, to visiting a courthouse without my suit on, and yes, returning to Staten Island. I'm devilishly ready to meet the men my friends have set me up with for the last venture into finding summer love and anxious to bring summer out with a bang (and a key, and nearly a dozen locks.)

But my goodness if it can't be tiring at times. Being open for three months straight? Believing in the possibility that a connection may be out there? Making the guy feel comfortable and ensure (or at least try to ensure) that he is having a fun time too? Listening to friends dismiss my idea when they go home to their husbands (for clarification,I am  not talking about any of my wonderful friends in beautiful relationships who posted comments and furthered dialogue on the last post!). Going through personal struggles and both not wanting to be negative on a first date and also wishing someone already knew. Let's face it, dating can be hard, and dating openly for one whole summer, looking for love, wanting love, but also realizing and admitting and succumbing to the idea that it's all about the experience, the adventure, the moments, well, that's a tough order.

Being single means being your own cheerleader when you want to give up, it means kissing yourself goodnight and telling yourself you're beautiful every morning. It means getting yourself out of that funk and telling yourself a funny story to make you laugh. And it can be insightful and gorgeous and comforting but it can also be, well, hard, and lonely, and, dare I say it, sometimes a little sad. I didn't expect to put myself out there just to find "someone" but the more you date, the more you are confronted with the idea of idea, and thus, the fact that you yourself are floating in orbit.

I don't want to give the wrong idea, I still love all of it, and tomorrow I will wake up and head to that ferry full of possibility and wonder.

But tonight, I just want to acknowledge that it can be tough out there for us single folks in a world made for twos.

-L.A.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Leap

On December second 2006, halfway through my senior year of college and just before my twenty-second birthday, writing " I just want to be with someone whose arms I am as excited to jump into as a pile of leaves fallen from a tree."

The air has finally begun to cool.

Which means many lovely things. It means I get to curl up in a warm sweater as I write this post from my front stoop overlooking cobbled stones. It means lovely jaunts with blessed coworkers and actually enjoying the breeze. It means acroyoga without getting over heated and the reminder of leaves changing color and newly sharpened pencils and the back to school giddiness in the stomach even if you're finally an "adult" who no longer has "summer break" and thus no longer can relish in the mystery/terror of beginnings of class sections, new teachers, cute boys, notebooks that have yet to be written in, subjects that have yet to be learned. The leaves will soon begin to fall.

It also means the end of the Key to the City project. Fear not, I promise you I will get it done (I have quite the week planned) but I have to say that in this summer of love of art and love of life there has been less love than usual in my dating experiences and adventures. What I mean to say is that it is intellectually and romantically interesting to me that I have not yet found someone to consistently share the end dates with, not because I believe men are like fish and you just have to hang around long enough to catch something worthwhile, but because in my past, it's worked out that way.

Now, to be fair, none of my relationships have exactly lasted. Dating I am great at, actual relationships, admittedly, not so much ( I  believe Morgan Spurlock proved that McDonald French Fries outlast my boyfriends in terms of a shelf life) but I have, in the past, found people with whom I wanted to share more than a handful of outings. And so far, in this project, either I haven't found them or they haven't (metaphysically) found me or, perhaps more fittingly, we collectively didn't find our connection.

Could it be the project has bitten me in the rear end? Does the possibility and knowledge of completing so many dates in a summer take away from focusing on the man at present? Or have I been allowed to explore more, look for deeper connections, so I am not just falling into old patterns of "eh, you're not so bad"-relationships that inevitably end? Maybe it's something in between. Maybe I have been allowed to look but, truth be told, I have no idea what on earth I am looking for.

It's easy to make lists of attributes, the rambling "cute, funny, smart, good guy" persona's that work like fortune tellers in that we all agree with are talking only about us. Ask one hundred people what they are looking for and I bet 90 percent will tell you much of the same. And there's a difference when you add in personal chemistry and the pace of your conversation and how wide your smile gets when he calls but really, on a first date, I just have no idea how you know anymore.

I knew with Jared, my high school sweetheart who I oft refer to (and shout out here to his fantastic mom who I am told reads this blog and to whom I would STILL like to apologize for consuming 99 percent of her sons time throughout our freshmen and sophomore years of high school, had texting taken off by then I'm sure it would be closer to 100) almost right away. I knew when I first saw him and the first time we hugged I literally, LITERALLY, got weak in the knees. Granted, I was thirteen and had maybe hugged two other guys in the non-cousin variety but still, it was everything the movies tell you it's supposed to be, your breath slows down, your heart speeds up, and everything, even the thoughts through your head, go into slow motion.

But back to life, back to reality and back to non Romeo and Juliet tumultuous hormone driven love from the 90's. These days, I'd like my love with a side of stability please and I'm willing to do what it takes to get there. Though the dramatic parts certainly encompassed a large sector of my life and, while it's been a while since I've bled a pen dry with longing over some boy in a journal, I sometimes read over my piles of notebooks in gestures of humility, thought provocation, and, often, amusement. I quoted Shakespeare, wrote poems, stated, in all truth and belief to myself, that I felt I would die without X,Y, or Zach. But for all that adolescent heartbreak and handwritten drama, I still don't know what actually made my heart go thump-thump.

 Is this the silliest of all questions, am I questioning the obvious here? I honestly find myself with guys who are smart, who are cute, who are funny, with whom I share interests and activities and I'll-be-damned if I just don't know what I am supposed to be looking for. My knees don't go weak for anyone, and I no longer stammer at the prospect of a male at the other end of the phone (ok, maybe i never stammered, I've always been quite the flirt but blazing heartbeats like bouncy balls on a san francisco hill, yes, that once existed). But still, I admit, I am totally lost.

I look now at my friends getting married, my friends having babies, my friends dating exes they had once written off and I just wonder, how did you know? Did it take more than one date? Did you ever think it could never work for you? Could you wait until he called you back or did you hold onto your phone like one grasps monkey bars in childhood? Did you know you wanted to look into their eyes forever, hear their voice for always or did you have to distort it to accept it at first in your mind? Did you fantasize right away or did you run screaming before you see things clearly in the closer-than-it-appears mirror of self-reflection? What were the right jokes and right moves and the right time to kiss and was it right because it was simply all wrong? The facebook albums flooding my newsfeed, full of white dresses and tuxed best men, show me one endpoint and I wonder, could they articulate the beginning?

I spent some time this past spring recording my friends, let's call them Julie and Pete, who, together, comprise the most wonderful loving couple that I dare say has walked this earth. I attacked the male counterpart of the pair (the female is one of my better friends from law school) within the first ten minutes of them picking me up from the train station with the question "How did you know you were in love with Julie?" I followed up with the notation that they had first been friends, and how did they know that it could be more than friendship.

Here is his response (note, Julie was with us when we were recording so he addresses her towards the end)

I'm the type of person who doesn't sort of make decisions or have epiphanies in one fell swoop. So I would have to say there were a number of moments when I sort of realized that I was in love with Julie... I think when I had a wonderful moment when I had this gut reaction was when Julie had just gotten back from the airport from visiting her sisters, and she had all her luggage, and she just looked so beautiful and she had this big smile on her face and we hugged and she gave me a kiss on the cheek and I had that butterfly feeling and I started thinking about dating Julie right at that very moment. I had liked Julie before that but I hadn't sustained the emotion before that previous moment. I had thought about it before, but I hadn't known. But then that moment, when you walked in, you were radiant and smiling and I felt all light hearted and I couldn't think about other things for awhile and I was just thinking about you. 


Damn.

Incidentally when I followed up with Julie about why she was so happy that day and why her smile was so big, she replied

Because I was happy about seeing Pete. I had to go right from the airport and Pete had sent me a cute email over the summer and when I walked in, to have him sitting there, was really great.

So my question remains, what came first, the love or the love?  Without Julie's smile, which was sparked by Pete's presence, would Pete have fallen in love with Julie in the first place? Perhaps I am getting to brainy about all this, too deep (I am a lawyer after all) but as I go on date after date with wonderful guy after wonderful guy,  I wonder, what am I missing? Should I know right off the bat or should I give it time? How do I know? And is it that I just have to let go of the knowing to truly find out, to let anything happen and be open to possibility in order for the love to creep it's way in? Is it silent or noisy, hidden or in plain view? My question is not "where is the love" but "where are my glasses so I can see it properly."And maybe it doesn't need to be there, or maybe the real kind never is there, right at the very beginning, and I need to relax and look for comfort, not love, and delight, not necessarily adventure, and find it through being open and willing to allow it to come.

The question still remains over whether I have learned anything yet from this project aside from a lot of self reflection and a newfound appreciation of Staten Island, but, just recognizing the journey is often step one. Four years ago I wrote, " I just want to be with someone whose arms I am as excited to jump into as a pile of leaves fallen from a tree." 

That, at least, is a sentiment I can stand behind and taking the plunge is something I have become a champion at. And until  the day comes when I know it's right, well, I'll keep jumping with my impish self until I find a pile suitable enough to sustain a legion of notebooks. And in my last dates, I want to jump with some of those great guys with whom, in my past, I may have thought "eh, this won't work," but who deserve a second (or third, or forth look.)

Luckily, the leaves will soon begin to fall and I've become more comfortable with the first step, the leap.

Love,

L.A.