Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy to Be Scrappy

On an uptown C train, I stood next to 2 women who clearly haven’t known each other for very long, but are on the fast track toward friendship. They’re at that stage of the relationship where they’re exchanging in-depth personal stories about how some of the shit they’ve survived has shaped them.

When they walked onto the train, one of them had just begun a tale about an ex-roommate who had been having sexual relations with a married man. This woman became more drawn into the affair's sordid complexities than she wanted to be, and either threw the roommate out or judgmentally implied that she soon would. The roommate didn’t like this - so she smacked the woman and they got into a rolling-on-the-floor fist fight. This fact pattern is straight out of an episode of Basketball Wives (Mob Wives too)! People really do this?

I usually resent being trapped within a loud and lengthy public conversation, especially when I’m reading. But this person was a better storyteller than the author of my book.

I never would have figured her for a savage. Before she hissed out the word “smack,” I figured her for a mid-level employee at a Condé Nast-owned magazine who habitually unwinds at trendy wine bars that don’t offer happy hour specials - which made it that much more startling to hear her make statements like: “I just kept punching and punching her, that’s all I wanted to do.”

She said the neighbors must have called the cops, because that’s who came knocking on their door “5 to 10 minutes into the fight.” Is 5 to 10 minutes a normal time frame for a fist fight? It seems epic. I’d expect someone to get knocked out of commission within the first 3 to 5 minutes. Sounds like a couple of lightweights. How’d the cops get there so fast? 

The friend-to-be interrupted with a bit of practical advice about how to better defend herself the next time she’s in a one-on-one brawl, but I couldn’t hear most of it. It gets so noisy in those subway cars – speak up, dammit! I could use a tutorial on how to be boss if a lunatic ever comes at me, and was crushed when I had to get off at my stop while class was still well in session. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cause(s) for Concern

I went to a (cash bar) fundraiser for the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages earlier this week. As soon as the horse-drawn carriage industry is finally run into the ground, my next cause might be the formation of a Coalition to Ban Cash Bar Events. They’re off-putting. Nothing extraordinary can come from any cash bar arrangement; and if you really want to get funds moving, you have to let the hooch flow free, at least for a certain window of time. It’s during or immediately after this window when charitable-giving impulses will be at their peak – that’s when you need to start selling raffle tickets and/or auctioning things off. Open bars beget open minds and open wallets. These are the kinds of principles that will be thoroughly fleshed out at future CTBCBE meetings.

New York City is a major tourist hub, and a lot of tourists take quaint horse-drawn carriage rides around Central Park, without realizing they’re subsidizing animal cruelty. I see, up close, these carriages almost every day. I also have some personal experience dealing with horses. The stable I rode at as a teenager had a separate barn where the older, sicklier horses were kept – the horses in that barn looked healthier and happier than most of the horses that pull these completely unnecessary twenty-first-century urban buggies.

When I used to jog the 6-mile loop around the Park, I once ran past a slow-moving horse that was hauling a family of four. One of the carriage passengers congratulated me for moving faster than the horse – a horse that looked like it was about to drop dead from fatigue at any minute.  

One horse did drop dead last October. Others collapse and hurt themselves in the middle of insanely busy, traffic-congested, noise-polluted Manhattan streets.

Please stay away from horse-drawn carriages. It’ll be good for your karma. If you want to take an open-air tour of Central Park, and you’re not willing or able to do so on foot or rent a bike, another option is to take a pedicab ride and get pedaled around by a personable guide. If riding through the streets on a bicycle-powered rickshaw isn’t quaint or old-school sophisticated enough for you, wear a petticoat in the pedicab.

Help the horses harness some peace. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Extra-Precious Stones

After locking up all the good jewelry in a desk drawer, last Friday morning I left my spare apartment key with the super’s hot new helper so he could revamp my bathroom while I was out working for the money all day. My flash drive (or, rather, the content on it), my photo albums, and my jewels are the only belongings that actually mean anything to me – in the event of a burglary or a fire, everything else I own could be emotionlessly replaced.

All the good jewelry I have is from my late mother, who had exquisite taste. I rarely wear any of it anymore because I’m too afraid of losing or damaging the pieces I have left. Within the past 15 years, I’ve managed to lose a ring and a pendant. And I dropped a tiny opal earring in my closet almost 3 years ago. I still can’t find it. The medium I met with last fall confidently told me to look again in the back left corner. It’s not there.

I’ve never been able to resist making lists, and they’re getting more detailed and unorthodox by the week. I’m now writing notes to myself like: “e-mail dad about getting onto Pandora radio”; or “go to an early-morning breakfast at IHOP - alone.” A few months ago, I typed up a list of things I want to accomplish by the end of the year. Number 5 on this particular list is: “buy a stunning piece of pass-downable jewelry.” So far, no luck. All the jewelry I’ve bought for myself eventually turns out to be chintzy crap. I always keep my eyes open when I’m traveling or when I’m shopping in the city, but nothing ever looks grand enough. I’m not even totally sure what I’m looking for. It’s another one of those things that only my mom would know.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bollocks to the Bureaucracy

One of the phases I went through in my early twenties involved a desire to go into the Peace Corps. There are two reasons I never ended up applying: the climates of the countries I wanted to serve in are too hot; and the length and intensity of the application materials made my neighboring stack of law school applications look like a one-way, first-class ticket to Tahiti.  

In the past year alone, I’ve filled out a battery of formal applications for various opportunities. I’m in the process of filling out another one this month. Some have exhausted or appalled me to the point of aborting the entire effort by the time I reach page 6. So many dates and details they’re asking for, in addition to inquiring about information that can be found elsewhere within my submitted online paperwork. You’d think I was applying to adopt a child or work for the CIA or enter a Ph.D. program. But I’m not – far from it. There’s a certain level of organized inefficiency that amazes me.

What prompted me to apply? What qualities do I bring to the table? Well, I spent a fair amount of time finalizing that professional references list you wanted. I hardly ever see or talk to the professionals in that line-up anymore, and had to troll around my e-mail archives and the Internet to find their most recent contact information. Then I had to e-mail them a heads-up about possibly getting grilled about me in the near future. So howzabout we put them to work? Ask them what qualities I bring to the table. Or, better yet, see if they’d be game for hazarding a guess as to what they think prompts me to do anything.

If I ever run my own little local enterprise one day, it’s remarkable how different things will be. I can already see how to whittle these initial application forms down to 2 pages. And I won’t need any candidate-crafted references list. If I’ve got reservations about someone after reading his or her 2-page application, resume, and writing sample, and after an in-person meeting, I know how to go about independently finding and contacting people from his or her past to get the bigger-picture story - that’s one of my signature qualities right there. 

Friday, April 6, 2012


The Roving Retorter site has partnered up with the newly minted blog of GNI International’s Women Entrepreneurs Reinforcement (WeR) initiative – a global program that counsels and supports entrepreneurially-minded (and entrepreneurially-curious) women.

Please click here to check the WeR blog out.