Thursday, February 28, 2008

The end of an era

I have moved out of my apartment.

I feel sad.

With all my stuff moved out, the place echoes in a very lonely way.

When I moved into this apartment, I was 29.

I lived in this apartment 8.5 years. Other than the house I grew up in, where I lived until I was 13, this is the place I have lived the longest. In many ways, I became an adult in this apartment.

It was the first place I lived alone, without roommates. Now that I am married, it may remain the only place I ever lived alone. I hope so.

It was the first place I owned.
It was the first place where I had doormen--a staff that, in a sense, worked for me.
I bought real furniture for it.
I painted the walls bright colors, because white walls scream "rented apartment" to me.
I bought shades for it, and new faucets, and a new toilet, and other things homeowners do. I caulked the bathroom sink.

While I lived here, I changed. I lost a significant amount of weight. I started to care about fashion and shoes. I read less. I exercise more. I learned to knit. I go out to eat a lot. I became a New Yorker.

While I lived here, I achieved a certain success in my career. I was no longer the assistant, I became a boss. I was an expert. I was asked for my opinion. I was considered very valuable to my employer.

While I lived here, I met a lot of men; I dated a lot. I met the man who broke my heart, and I met the man who is the love of my life.

While I lived here, I enjoyed NYC, I grew to consider it home. And I grew quite tired of its unique pressures.

On September 11, 2001, I brought my boss home with me, because she couldn't go home: the trains weren't running to the suburbs. My boss was a nasty woman, but I couldn't leave her alone in the office, so I took her home. We sat on the couch and watched the TV all day, until about 4:30 when they announced the trains were running, and she could leave. For years afterwards, people would say to me, "I heard you took so-and-so home on September 11! I couldn't imagine having her in my personal space!" But honestly, she was never nasty to me again after that.

When I bought the apartment, I had never had a serious boyfriend. I hadn't even dated much, really. Throughout my twenties, I thought I wanted to be alone for the rest of my life. When I bought the apartment, I thought there was a decent chance I would live in it until I died.

I am on such a different path than I envisioned coming to when bought this apartment.

It feels different moving out of this apartment, different from moving out of every other place I've lived. Every other place before this was temporary. I knew I would not be there long. This place was mine, it was home.

I am a little sad to leave it, even though I am excited to start the next phase of my life. I was happy here. I was, by some measures, successful here. The life I lived here was a life I knew I could do, was a person I knew I could be. It was safe. It was comfortable. I am a person who likes safe and comfortable.

It makes me wonder what I will think 8.5 years from now. What life will I have then, that I never saw coming from this end?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Times have changed

These are Ess-a Bagels. Ess-a makes my favorite bagel in NYC, and I will miss them. Today I ate what I believe will be my last Ess-a Bagel, a sesame, my favorite.

When I first moved to New York, I lived right around the corner from the Ess-a on 3rd Ave. I went there a lot, and usually got two at a time. Nowadays I go by only when I am nearby, and I only get one. They are huge, some bagel purists might say too huge, but for me they are the quintessential bagel. No other bagel in NYC is as satisfying and--I am sorry to sound like an obnoxious New Yorker, but it's true--no bagel I've had outside of NYC is even a bagel.

When I went in today, I noticed that Ess-a Bagels now cost $1. I think they were $0.95 last time I went in, but I could be wrong. Back when I lived around the corner from them, the bagels cost $0.60. I guess I have been in NYC a long time that I can track such significant inflation!

Other things that have gone up: movies. Movies were $7.50, I think, when I came to NYC in 1996. Now they are $10.50, $11 in some theatres. I remember when they went up to $8.50 (about six months after they'd gone up to $8) I was so annoyed I boycotted movies for a year. I go occasionally now, but nowhere near as often as I used to.

The subway was $1.50 when I first came here; now it's $2, and they're talking about raising it to $2.25. I actually think the subway provides a heck of a lot of service for a relatively small fee (heck, compared to Ess-a, the inflation rate on the subway is only 33% versus 67%), so I don't mind this. While I appreciate the NYC mindset that vocal complaining keeps city agencies on their toes, I do think the people who squawk loudest about how much the subway sucks and how outrageous it is should take a trip outside of NYC once in a while.

The suggested entrance fee for the Metropolitan Museum of Art was $8 in 1996. Today it is $20. Seriously. I blame MOMA: they renovated the MOMA a few years ago and reopened with a ticket price of $20, to much outrage from all sides. But people are paying it, so how could the Met not follow suit? The Guggenheim is $18. I've never been there, and will not go before I leave.

Do I sound like a crotchety New Yorker yet? Boy am I old, complaining about how much things used to cost! I mean, while I'm at it, I might as well complain about postage ($0.32 compared to $0.41), although like the subway, the post office provides a service that is easy to complain about, but is pretty darned impressive if you really think about what is provided for the price. But they might have done better to increase the rate all at once instead of bringing out another increase so soon after the last one. It's a PR problem as much as anything.

Finally, to get back on the subject of round bread, even more than bagels, I will miss bialys. Bialys are kind of a cross between English muffins and bagels, and they are pretty unique to New York. I once read that bialys are not made anywhere else in the world but New York; no one really knows where they came from, but the theory is they were brought here by Jewish immigrants, possibly from Bialystok, Poland. But if you go to Bialystok today, you will not find bialys, because, well, the bialys were lost along with the Jews. But if you go into any deli in NYC, even ones run by Koreans, you will find bialys.

In some ways that are not always obvious, New York City is very, very cool.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


It is customary on bridal websites for brides to review their vendors for others' information. Here are my reviews of my major vendors:

Venue/Battery Gardens: A+
I can’t say enough about Battery Gardens. First of all, the space is gorgeous, with spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and New York Harbor. It was also very affordable, by NYC standards, because we chose a date in February. Finally, the food is terrific, Asian-influenced and very well presented. And, they have the option of having Peking Duck, which I adore. With just these things I would have been happy, but in addition, their staff is excellent, and extremely professional. Alex, the Catering Manager, made sure he knew all of the details I wanted, and took care to arrange everything the way I requested. Eddie, our Maitre d’ for the evening, kept everything running smoothly and on schedule. The wait staff was unobtrusive and kept my water glass filled (my major criteria for table service, since I drain water glasses at a rate of about one every ten minutes). Most of all, I really felt that they wanted the wedding to be exactly as I wanted it—that it was a point of pride for them that everything ran seamlessly without causing me any grief or worry. They succeeded in this, and I appreciated it so much. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Officiant/Julie Laudicina: A+
Julie is a secular celebrant, and she proved that a wedding needn’t be religious to be meaningful. Everyone was raving about our ceremony throughout the night, something I don’t think I’ve heard at other weddings I’ve been to. She created something very personal and moving, and that captured our personalities perfectly. Many, many guests told us it made them tear up, because she really made it clear what it was that we felt for each other and how special the day was to us. Julie began writing the ceremony back in November, when she sent us a detailed questionnaire for us to fill out separately. Then we reviewed drafts of the ceremony, refining it via email and a phone conversation until it was pretty good. Then, she delivered it in such a way that it became perfect: I was struck by how much more special the ceremony sounded when she spoke it over how it had read on the page. It really was exactly what we wanted, and it set the tone for the entire evening of celebration with the people we love. I actually think, now that I’ve gone through it and heard the feedback from our guests, that nothing personalizes your wedding more than a personalized ceremony done right. No one commented on any of the details I slaved over—the Blurb guestbook, the postcard table names, the travel mug favors, etc.—the thing they all talked about was the ceremony.

Flowers/Antheia Floral Design: A
When I started calling florists for the wedding, I quickly realized that my demands were going to be challenging: I wanted red flowers three days after Valentine’s Day, and I did not want to spend more than $2,000. Only three florists did not laugh at me, and only two had proposals that did not look like they were cheap. I chose Angie at Antheia because she seemed calm and her aesthetic suited my style better. I wasn’t disappointed. Not only did she do very pretty centerpieces and a bridal bouquet I loved, she came in more than $200 under budget. Angie was hugely busy in the week before my wedding because of Valentine’s Day, but I never felt that she had forgotten about me or that I was an afterthought. Because I ended up with fewer guests than I had originally expected, we made some last minute changes to the plan and she was accommodating and helpful. Furthermore, when I was really not sure what I wanted the bridesmaids’ bouquets to look like, she offered some great suggestions and created something pretty with very little guidance from me.

Hair/Stacy Pitt: A
Stacy gets lots of raves and they are deserved. I had two trials with her, one almost a year ago when I first hired her and one just a few weeks before the wedding. She is so calm and cares so much about making her brides beautiful, not just for her own professional reputation but I think because she wants brides to be beautiful. My hair was not behaving on the day of the wedding: Stacy had to take it down and start again three times, and we got very behind schedule. I think she was more upset about stressing me out than I was stressed. In the end, because the style we had decided on in the trial just wasn’t working, Stacy created a fallback style on the spot, and it looked great and stayed perfect throughout the night. You would never have known it wasn’t what we had planned. In addition, Stacy made my mom and my bridesmaid Laura, who both have short hair and figured there was nothing to do with their hair, look elegant and flirty and terrific.

Makeup/Laura Nadeau: A+
Laura also gets lots of thoroughly deserved raves. Like Stacy, I get the impression that Laura loves brides and loves being able to make them beautiful. She’s also a lot of fun to have around when you are getting ready. She was faced with four women (me, my mom, and my two bridesmaids) who rarely if ever wear makeup (she was astonished that my mother, at 72, had never used any eye makeup. Ever), and she handled the task perfectly and made all of us look beautiful but natural. She hung around well after the makeup was done to help however she could in the last moments before the ceremony. When my MIL’s corsage broke, she sat down and tried to fix it with a safety pin. It was like having another girlfriend around to gossip and laugh and help. She was great.

DJ/Expressway Music, David Swirsky: B+/A-
This is tough review to write as I think there were a few things with the space that made the music challenging. Battery Gardens is a huge room, and we had only 100 guests, so the dance floor felt very far away. Dave had to work pretty hard to keep anything going on the floor, and mixed it up quite a bit. It was a great mix of Motown, 80s music, hip-hop, a little big band, and everyone felt included. Several of our guests commented that the music was great. Dave absolutely respected our “do not play” criteria (no line dances, no breakup songs, no “Celebration”). However, there were a couple songs we specifically requested he play that he didn’t, and we were a bit disappointed, though he explained that these were decisions he made in an attempt to keep the dancing going, and we had emphasized that dancing was our biggest priority. As far as the guests were concerned, the music was great and helped create a good party atmosphere. Alas, I think because of the space the music was more of a background, and I'm not sure how we could have fixed this, honestly. I do want to say that Dave himself was great, my husband and he really connected, and he obviously loves music and what he does.

Photographer/Agaton Strom: A
This is a provisional grade, since I haven’t yet seen any of the photos :-). But we were really, really happy with Agaton, who was there from early in the day until the end of the wedding, traveling from Battery Gardens where the groom and groomsmen were decorating, to the hotel where I was getting ready, and back to Battery Gardens for the wedding. He was very professional and unobtrusive, but whenever I turned around he seemed to be there, capturing the action. The bunch of us piled into two cabs to go from the hotel to the venue, and Agaton was in a different cab from me, yet when I got there, he was waiting to catch me emerging. He even offered, at the end of the night, to pop in to our brunch the next day for half an hour, since it was just a few blocks from his studio, to sort of capture the end of the wedding, and when we arrived he was there, shooting us coming down the street. He was generous and good humored, and we were really happy to have him. I can’t wait to see the pictures!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Darn, do I hate myself in video. But if you are curious, my fabulous makeup artist, Laura Nadeau, has a short video of me on her blog. We are discussing my necklace(s), which were eBay purchases and hung on my neck backwards :-). You may recall my necklace obsession. This is what came of it.

Laura Nadeau

Monday, February 18, 2008

We're married!

Well, we are married. Funny, I don't feel much different :-). My sweetie leaves for Seattle again tomorrow, so I think it might not really hit me until I get to Seattle myself.

I think the wedding went really well, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. *I* certainly had fun!

Here are a few pictures taken by the husband of our officiant.

All pics by Joe Laudicina

The last pic is with our officiant, Julie Laudicina, who was wonderful. She created a ceremony that was very personal, funny, touching, and really captured us. All of our guests were raving about it all evening. She was great.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New friends?

My sweetie has finally arrived for the wedding. One week to go: I can't wait!

(For the curious, the 10-day forecast predicts morning clouds and afternoon sun for the day. Whee!)

Tonight we worked on the seating chart. What a bear! We will have tables of ten, and we kept producing logical groupings of seven or nine. Then there's the question of whether we should seat people entirely with people they know, or if we should mix it up? And what about the people who know nobody? What about the handful of people we don't even know? And, of course, you never want people to feel like they're at the boondocks table, so far from the head table that they are obviously second class. Since our wedding is small and we are truly happy to see pretty much everyone, we don't want anyone to feel slighted. We mitigated this problem (somewhat), by seating ourselves smack in the middle of the room :-).

We arrived at a "final" arrangement three different times, but I think we are done now, if only because we're both sick to death of the task. Some tables are logical groupings of my people, some of his people, and we're pretty pleased that we've come up with several tables which are a nice mix of both sides.

The funny thing is, we are having a buffet dinner, so I honestly think people will be sitting at these tables for, at most, an hour. Seriously, can't anyone make stupid small talk in a group of ten for an hour? So I don't know why this was such a struggle. I guess we just want everyone to be happy. But, as with most things with this wedding, I could only sweat so much over the task before I called it done. Bridezilla, I still am not.

But I am soooo excited! It finally hit me three days ago that I am getting married. This isn't just some big party I've been planning, it's, well, a wedding.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I've started checking the weather

Happy Groundhog Day! Apparently Staten Island Chuck and Punxsutawney Phil disagree on whether we will have six more weeks of winter. In less than six weeks I will be Seattle, so: I really don't care :-).

I do care, though, about the weather on my wedding day. Here is what I would consider ideal: clear days for the two or three days leading up to my wedding (so that people who are traveling have no trouble), and then a freak snow once the wedding starts, with big, fat, photogenic flakes. I even bought myself a red Asian paper umbrella just in case: if it snows, I am going outside for pictures!

Alas, I think it is far more likely that, if we have precipitation, it will be rain. It doesn't snow terribly often in NYC--I really think the city produces so much heat it changes the weather. New York in the rain is a pain in the butt, so I definitely don't want rain. Happily, February is the driest month in NYC, so our chances are decent. How do I know this last fact?, of course:

Average monthly temperatures and precipitation
Averages highs and lows for every day in February
The forecast for the next ten days

When we first booked a February wedding, my dad expressed concern about the weather. But he has lived in California for twenty years, and his formative experiences of a city winter occurred in Chicago. I can understand why it scares him. I was not overly concerned. I considered getting wedding insurance just in case a large number of our guests missed the wedding because of weather, but decided it wasn't worth it.

This doesn't stop me, though, from checking the weather. I just want to know, you know? What will the day look like? Will I have to bring my galoshes? Which coat will I have to wear? Will we have a glorious sunset or just clouds?

I wish it were the 7th so I could get a (highly inaccurate) ten-day forecast that covers my day. Seriously. I wanna know.