Blissed Out on the Buzz…

Winter’s here, I’m telling you, and for those of us who are solidly outdoor runners–I loathe treadmills–this whole plunging mercury thing makes running rather a challenge. On my last windchapped outing a few days ago, I came to grips with the cold (literally), hard fact that strappy just wasn’t cutting it. Running along the Hudson wasn’t going to happen again for me until spring, it just wasn’t, so I’d better come up with a seasonal alternative and fast.

For kicks, why not run up to Central Park, around said Park, and then back?

The Pond at Bryant Park.
Skaters enjoying The Pond at Bryant Park.

The deal buster in my plan was Midtown. To get to CP, you gotta go through–there. You see, I detest crowds–and yes I realize that sounds crazy coming from someone who moved to Manhattan on purpose even. But it’s true, which is why ordinarily I avoid Midtown like well, the proverbial plague. Problem was, I was desperate, jones-ing for that Runner’s High. Unfortunately, off-hours in the Big Apple are hard to come by. With the city decked out for the upcoming holidays, checking out Midtown wasn’t just my good idea. The sidewalks were thronged, three-deep, making me feel like I was in some sort of virtual reality pinball machine. At times, I just had to give up the ghost and walk it. So much for my much anticipated endorphin boost.

But, mes enfants, when given the lemons, sometimes it is best to make the lemonade, or in this case, the holiday lemon curd…

Rather than gnashing my teeth and vocalizing some very non-brotherly love type expletives every time my shoulders got bumped, which was a lot, I decided to dial it down and just go with it. Smell, if not the roses, then the vendor hotdogs and roasted chestnuts.

Manhattan decked out for the holidays is truly a sight to behold. Fortunately I had my trusty Blackberry tucked into my runner’s arm band and I used the camera of said BB to snap some photos.

First stop: The New York Public Library. After paying my respects to Patience and Fortitude, I ran up the library steps Rocky style just because I could. Duly oxygen deprived (hmm, perhaps source of aforementioned Runner’s High isn’t endorphins at all) I circled back behind to Bryant Park. Not much running there given the temporary buildings set up for winter but fortunately lots of good photo ops. There’s even a small skating rink called The Pond. After watching for a while, I think I like this one better than Rockefeller Center’s. Not as grand for sure but somehow it just seems more friendly, more approachable. Then again, maybe I’m influenced by the signage: “The Perfect Antidote to the 9 to 5.” I haven’t had a 9 to 5 job in years, thank goodness, but if I did, I’m sure I’d need an antidote.

Rockefeller Center. No Christmas tree yet but an angel and a fish fountain are almost as good.
Rockefeller Center. No Christmas tree yet but an angel and a fish fountain are almost as good.

And of course, since I was in the hood, I had to stop in at Rockefeller Center, which is yes, really quite spectacularly beautiful despite the proud dad who didn’t seem to understand why I objected to his learning-to-walk toddler stomping on my beloved Blackberry, which I’d set down on the wall–for like less than a minute.

Peace and love,


Girls Just Wanna Have Fun?

“I want to meet Mr. Big, get married, and live in New York.”

I am freezing my butt at the outside bar of the Bryant Park Grill, sipping shiraz, eating french fries, and fielding questions from two twenty-something German chicks who’ve come to New York for the first time, ostensibly on vacation. For tonight at least, they are on a fact-finding mission more so than a holiday. They want to know where to find Mr. Big and a good deal on American jeans–in that order.

The Dynamic Duo from Deutschland
The Dynamic Duo from Deutschland

The more animated of the two, or at least the one with the better English, is leading the charge. Even though she has barely touched her sweet-looking drink, she is more than slightly drunk. She waves her stick thin arms in the air a lot and slides her Size 0 butt around the stool a lot, and steals my fries when she thinks I’m not looking. So far, though, she’s more amusing than obnoxious, certifiably happy to meet me and anyone else who lives in New York. Even if it’s partly vodka-induced, that kind of unbridled, unjaded, over-the-top enthusiasm is well, kind of refreshing.

She smiles frequently and broadly, and I can’t help noticing her teeth could really do with a bonding. Still, she is lovely in that haphazard, waifish, just-breezed-out-of-my-bunk-at-the-youth-hostel sort of way, a look you pretty much stop being able to pull off the day you turn thirty-five. With her straight brown hair, full mouth, and pencil thin body, she also bears a striking resemblance to the 80’s supermodel, Paulina Porizkova. I’d tell her so only she probably wouldn’t know who Paulina is. You see, she was born in 1981.

“No, really, I want to know,” she persists, plumping her full lips into a pout which if I were a guy I’d probably find really hot. “Where do the Mr. Big’s go?” She tosses her bangs out of her eyes for the umpteenth time and slants her big round eyes at her friend, whom until now she seems to have forgotten. “We want to go there.”

Yes, well, good luck with that. Not that I say anything so remotely bitchy, of course. Instead I smile back and shake my head and admit it’s a worthy goal–and one hell of a good question.

Just what my friends and I need, another nubile twenty-something model look alike swimming in our dating pond which even though it’s Manhattan sometimes feels more like a puddle. Supposing I do know where Mr. Big hangs out? Does she really expect me to give it up out of what, the goodness of my heart?

The German educational system is reputed to be among the world’s best, but I’m thinking the curriculum must not include any Darwin.

To segue from science to literature–that’s litter-ah-chur–I’m reading or rather re-reading Candace Bushnell’s SEX AND THE CITY. It’s interesting how living in Manhattan has altered my perspective on the book as well as the HBO series. Before moving here, references to The Bowery Bar (B Bar and Grill now), Bicycle Boys, and yes, Modelizers seemed about as relevant to me as Ancient Egypt. I mean good to know, fascinating even, but really what does any of it have to do with my day-to-day? Now nine months into my Single Girl in Manhattan Life, I find myself sighing and shaking my head. And groaning occasionally. Okay, a lot.

The Paulina girl interrupts my momentary musing, her eyelids listing toward closed though her drink is more than three-quarters full. “You are Carrie Bradshaw, yes, but you have brown hair.”

I don’t smoke, either, but well, when you’re being compared, even remotely, to Sarah Jessica Parker, is it really any time to quibble?

Candace Bushnell, whom I met last month when she stopped by the Barnes and Noble in Union Square, is frequently likened to literary icon, Edith Wharton. The only Wharton books I’ve read are ETHAN FROME and THE BUCCANEERS and well, it’s been a while. (As for THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, so far I’ve made due with the Daniel Day Lewis film). For sure both authors offer an insider’s sometimes scathing perspective on Manhattan culture, though Bushnell’s take is a lot closer to the Age of Un-Innocence. And even though SEX AND THE CITY was first published in 1996, dating some of the references, it’s amazing how much of what she wrote in the 90’s still holds true. If you have any doubts, see my 9-22 blog on “Keeping It Real.” Believe me, modelizing is alive and well.

Fortunately, so are dreams. Yes, “girls” of all ages still want to have fun. But along with the fun, we want the fairytale. Sure, Prince Charming is now Mr. Big, the castle is now an Upper West Side high rise, and the glass slippers are Manolo slingbacks with some sort of really amazing detailing on the vamp, but otherwise the story, the fairytale, plays out pretty much the same.

And I for one am holding onto it with both white-knuckled hands. Even Bushnell’s Mr. Big got it right in the end, at least in the television and film adaptations of the book.

“Sometimes you just want to be with the one who makes you laugh.”

Happily Ever After–and Happy Halloween,


PS In celebration of the day-long Witching Hour, I’ll be pulling out my Inner Princess along with my ghoul-friends Liz Maverick, Elizabeth Kerri Mahon, Leanna Hieber et al as the Goth versions of popular fairytale princesses. I’m going as Goth Snow White and in addition to that Poison Apple, my costume’s corset is well, murder.

Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder?

When romance author buddy and fellow Manhattan singleton, Liz Maverick called me up last week and said, “This new absinthe bar just opened up in the Lower East Side. Wanna go?” there was really only one answer that sprang to mind.


Maybe Liz’s um…maverick spirit is just contagious or maybe it was my own residual curiosity from high school Art Appreciation Class–Degas’ painting, “The Glass of Absinthe” is well, pretty haunting–but either way I was totally game to go.

On Saturday night I met Liz and our mutual friend, Bonni at White Star on Essex Street. White Star isn’t a terribly big place, but it packs a pretty powerful presence, sort of Prohibition era speak easy meets uber cool Manhattan “secret bar.” Proprietor and yes, mixologist, Sasha Petraske patiently briefed the three of us on the history of absinthe before settling in to make our drinks.

Up until Saturday night, I was an absinthe virgin. I remember absinthe being illegal in the US “back in the day” but beyond vague allusions to blindness and brain function loss, I really didn’t know much about it. The official Webster definition of absinthe is “a green liquor flavored with wormwood or a substitute, anise, and other aromatics.”

After Saturday night, I strongly recommend Webster and Company update their definition. As it turns out, there are various types of absinthe. White Star serves the traditional green “Parisian” variety as well as a slightly less fortified clear type.

The flavor didn’t shoot me over the moon but it wasn’t bad, either, quite pleasant in point. To me, absinthe tastes like licorice only without the syrupy consisteny of sambucca. But what I really dug was the whole ritual of preparation and presentation, complete with 1930’s-esque bar gatchetry. That Sasha kind of looks like Brendan Frasier in the Mummy movies didn’t hurt, either. But I digress…

Preparing absinthe is fairly labor intensive. You do it by the glass and there is absolutely no rushing the process. Basically, about three-fingers’ worth of the actual liquor is poured into a glass. Ice water is then drizzled over a single sugar cube set atop a strainer, slowly infusing the absinthe with an almost fairylike foaminess.

I didn’t experience any Green Fairy sightings, I’m happy to say, though the absinthe I drank was the clear variety and I only sampled one before switching to a tried-and-true clear alcoholic beverage–champagne. Still, White Star stands out as the highlight of the evening.

But like intrepid cultural anthropologists, our data collection and cataloguing didn’t end there. Afterward, there was a dinner at a nearby Afro-French bistro, Les Enfants Terrible (the grilled calamari with chick peas are to die for), followed by dancing and people watching at The Cellar in the Bryant Park Hotel. The near naked chics, The Cellar’s answer to the Solid Gold Dancers, had me swearing to pull out my yoga mat and weights the very next day. I could say more but better yet, check out Liz’s blog at the Rebels of Romance for the um…unexpurgated story.

Happy (post) Labor Day,


Calling All Urban Cowgirls

Okay, so I started off my Monday night with the best of intentions, namely to drop in on my French language “meet-up” group, say a quick good evening–better make that bonsoir–drink a glass of vino and then call it an early night and catch up on my zzz’s.

Then again you know what they say about the road to hell…

At the meet-up, I ran into a friend who persuaded me to extend my evening. Our first stop was Bryant Park. Through the summer months, the park’s Summer Film Festival presents free-to-the public outdoor films every Monday night. Last night’s selection was the classic “Arsenic and Old Lace” with the forever wonderful Cary Grant. You just don’t say no to Cary Grant…The park lawn was covered in blankets as movie watchers noshed on picnic fare, enjoyed the cool, clear (for Manhattan) evening air and yes, watched the film. Think Silver Screen at its best.

But there’s more. Afterward, my friend proposed we drop-in at Johnny Utah’s at Rockefeller Center where some other friends of his were bellying up to the bar’s mechanical bull. By that time, I was wide-awake and game to add to my mounting roster of Manhattan experiences, so I went along for the um…ride.

Johnny Utah’s bills itself as the ultimate urban cowboy experience and last night’s Bull Riding Challenge didn’t disappoint. Think single women, couples, girlfriend dyads, and yes, even the occassional strapping Manhattan male all riding to the um…range while a play list from hip-hop to classic rock blared in the backdrop.

Bull riding is probably one of those pursuits best left as a spectator sport and, in my defense, I wasn’t exactly dressed for the occasion. So I passed–this time. That said, I was on that bull in spirit, really I was.

The above photos are, strictly speaking, from last year in Dallas. Still, you’ve met one mechanical bull, you’ve probably met them all. Then again, sometimes you just have to giddy up and go.