Tag Archives: youth

The Best Things in Life Are Free

I met a friend visiting from the west coast for drinks tonight at the Campbell Apartment. It was a lot of fun to catch up and finally see her on my coast, for a change. As the evening began to wind down, I asked her what her older daughter was doing for the summer. “She’ll be living in New York, actually,” said my friend. “And interning a bit with a friend’s father’s company.” We began talking about all the things her daughter should see and do while she’s in town. I mentioned how many free things there are to do and take advantage of. I was met with an interesting, candid response, “Well,” said my friend, “these girls are affluent, so I doubt they’ll be doing anything like that.” She wasn’t wrong with what she said, and it wasn’t said offensively, simply stated as a fact. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much that sucks in a way. As great as it is to see New York from a position of wealth, it’s also fun (though sometimes difficult) to see it when you don’t have a ton of money, especially when you’re young. I could wax on poetically, but because it’s late, and I’m tired, here’s a list of the things one could miss if they didn’t take advantage of a “free” New York:

Walking through Central Park (vs. whizzing through in a cab)
Navigating the subways (and subway performers)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Walking Washington Square Park, Gramercy Park, Union Square, Times Square, Cooper Square, Battery Park, etc.
Grand Army Plaza
The New York Public Library
The Performing Arts Library
Hanging out at Lincoln Center
Watching artists paint pictures of restaurants and buildings on Cornelia Street
Encountering tourists — everywhere!
Barney’s window displays
Discovering Minetta Lane
Downtown theaters
St. Mark’s Place
Observing the characters at fashion week at Bryant Park

sunset_over_new_york_city_1932

Granted, all of these things could be experienced from town cars, taxis and perhaps even on their own two feet. But sometimes when

the experience comes easily, it doesn’t mean as much or feel as rewarding. Like coming into a warm, cozy apartment after walking ten blocks from the freezing cold subway, to finding a way to get drinks for free, or getting into an event when you don’t have tickets. Those things just feel so good. And, I’m sure there are experiences that these girls will have that most New Yorkers never will in their lifetime. But, more than anything, in New York it’s the possibility of what you may encounter and the unexpected that you do encounter that makes this city so fascinating. The trick is do it all, the free, the not-so-free and the down-right expensive. Open yourself up to it all, as much as you can, and hold on tight.

A Carousel of Time

Yesterday a child came out to wander …

By the start of 2006, I had officially shed my past. Well, at least my career past. I no longer “worked in film,” or “used to work in film.” I was a book publicist and freelance carousel-1researcher. I had never know any other life besides film and, after a particularly insane Devil Wears Prada moment with my boss, I knew I had to give myself a chance to see what else was out there. So, I joined a the publishing arm of a semi-corporate, family-friendly company.

The people I worked with had vague ideas of what I had done before. When they complained about not being able to place a book review in O Magazine, I silently smiled and remembered when I had that secret assistant power to get Oprah on the phone. It took two little words, (my boss’s name) and magically, a short time later, a very familiar would come through the other end of the line.

While my co-workers talked of cold walks to the subway, my mind went back to the hours I spent in New Jersey sandpits in negative-degree temperatures trying to recreate the Gulf War — complete with high-speed camels, military cars and tanks and famous actors freezing their asses off in army fatigues, while making it all look very real.

I went from approving double-truck ads in Variety for Oscar season to listening to sales teams talk about the best day to place an ad for a book in the NY Times. From multi-million dollar budgets and hundred-million dollar grosses to selling a hundred thousand copies of a book. It was odd territory. Something — I was determined to believe — I could get use to. But everyday my cubicle became more and more claustrophobic, the corporate environment more stifling. At first I rebelled, trying hard to connect both of my worlds, but then I gave up and began hiding pieces of myself, censoring my thoughts, my actions, my passion, and my past. I started losing who I was and that scared me.

So I took the leap.carousel

I quit.

Then, the child moved ten times ’round the seasons …

I spent time as a research assistant for a writer. A little more creative and interesting, and it gave me time to lick some wounds and figure out what to do next.

I moved briefly into copy writing for a daytime talk show, where I learned my limit of suffering, restraint and how much I valued myself as a person. Though the ending was awful, it was possibly the best test of self-worth I’ve had thus far.

More time, more freelance writing, websites, developing and networking. But even that wasn’t enough. I was still drawn back to my past, my passion. It’s odd to know exactly what you want to do with your life when you’re 14 years old. Especially when you don’t really know quite what the industry is about to begin with. There’s a vague notion and a dream. I’m convinced for people like me, it’s pre-programmed in our DNA. It’s like air, water and love all mixed together — we cannot live without it.

Finally, I stopped denying myself and got back onboard the carousel.dscn21421

And promises of someday make h[er] dreams …

Now I’m back to sixteen hour days, (sometimes weekends), constant craziness, complaining, laughter, and running the gamut of emotions on a daily basis. It’s exhausting, exhilarating and I love it. I’m working with people I worked with ten years ago on my first film (as a 17-year-old intern). A producer I worked with on my second feature — as a 22-year-old newly-minted college grad — whom I hadn’t seen since then, embraced me and exclaimed, “My god, you’re not a kid anymore!” She had taken me under her wing back then, my anxiety-ridden, lowly-assistant self, and always watched out for me. Now, I’m working on a different level. People are listening to me, respecting me. It’s interesting and weird and such a fulfilling experience. I guess, really, it’s just life. But sometimes it’s wonderful when it feels like so much more.

We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and ’round and ’round and ’round
In the circle game …

Me, Musically

There are certain blogs I’m obsessed with and visit religiously. My all-time favorite out of these is the NYT’s Measure for Measure: How to Write a Song and Other Mysteries. Music is one of the purest forms of writing and interpretation. The depths and volumes one has to convey when writing lyrics, a part for a cello or even singing, is genius at its finest. Reading this blog is bittersweet, because it triggers a wellspring of memories.

Music defined much of my early life. My parents quite accidentally provided me with an incredible musical foundation. Unlike my peers, I was never allowed to listen to Madonna. The rule was if you wanted to listen to anything, it had to play on a record (I didn’t get my own tape player until I was 10). This meant listening to whatever we had in my house, what could be pilfered from my grandparent’s Bronx apartment or what we could pick up at garage sales and second hand record stores. My mom’s collection consisted of Cat Stevens, Janis Joplin, the Flashdancesoundtrack, Star Wars (no one knows where this came from), Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, the Beatles and the Moody Blues. My grandparent’s apartment held Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Louis Prima, Dean Martin, Lou Monte, Ella Fitzgerald, the South Pacific soundtrack, Billie Holiday and the Three Tenors. My Dad’s one album was the hit single, “American Pie.” Being naive, I assumed everyone listened to this stuff, when they weren’t listening to MC Hammer

When I was 12, we got our first CD player, with a six CD changer. It came with six free CDs: Bette Midler’s “Experience the Divine,” Highlights from Les Miserables, A Smokey Mountain Christmas (Christmas music as played by Earl Scruggs, on his banjo), Barry White’s Greatest Hits, the Best of Andrew Lloyd Weber, and a mix CD that featured such early hits as, “In the Mood” and“Rhapsody In Blue.” I fell in love with all of it. The call and response of blues, and the jazz of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” which was only appropriate to listen to at full volume. I had a very definite visual to go along with RIB, as it was my idea of what the Harlem Renaissance must have felt like. I have no idea how or why I connected a white, Jewish composer to an African-American movement, but mentally, it worked for me. It was only later in college that I discovered this was in fact Gershwin’s intention, as he said the piece was meant to be “heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our blues, our metropolitan madness.”

Beyond jazz, I was also in love with Broadway music. From the Les Miserables“highlight” soundtrack, to the Andrew Lloyd Weber CD, I had music from thirty years of Broadway right at my fingertips. I started singing them all, alone, in the living room. The songs always played at full volume, so I couldn’t never quite hear my voice above the music. It was my grandmother who told my parents she thought I might be a good singer and perhaps they might want to get me lessons, if anything, to relieve them all from hearing the same song over and over again while I worked to “feel it” throughout my body in the right way.

It had never occurred to me that people could go for voice lessons, so when I went to my first lesson, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. We went through scales and then I was asked to sing something. I didn’t own any sheet music, so I just went ahead and started, a cappella, not knowing how it was going to work. It turns out, I had perfect pitch, timing and belted so vivaciously that I felt a physical vibration in the room from it. That was all it took, I was hooked. Lessons began twice a week, then I found a mentor who worked with me an additional day a week in exchange for my babysitting services. I sang along to everything, including the violin parts of classical music. My voice was way more mature than my 13 year old body let on. I auditioned for local musicals, joined a jazz group where we performed at some really cool venues.

Eventually, I started going to Manhattan School of Music for further training. This was in addition to my lessons with a maestro and his accompanist on the Upper West Side, my ongoing jazz group and attending recordings, rehearsals and performances and even the Drama Desk Awards, for an off-Broadway musical my mentor was starring in. My idea of an education was to absorb as much as I could from as many angles as possible. For instance, if I was singing something from Evita, I’d research Eva Peron and the presidency of Juan Peron. That was my life, daily commutes into Manhattan from my private middle/high school in Westchester and endless hours of practice and homework from both schools.

Despite all of the work, passion and time I devoted to my love, I never quite felt my voice was good enough to perform solo. I knew in my heart of hearts, it was, but a crippling stage fright overtook me 70 percent of the time. And despite the mature voice, I was still an adolescent with zero confidence. I was starting to burn out from all of the pressure and fear I had put on myself.

One day, when I was 16, I simply had enough. I stopped, abruptly and permanently. My music books, scores and endless notes, CDs and programs began to sit in my bookshelves collecting dust. Today, my voice isn’t anywhere near where it used to be (this is especially evident during Karaoke sing-offs), but music still runs through me like blood. I remember every lyric to every song I’ve ever had to sing, including ones from elementary school. I may have been able to turn off the voice then, but my musical memory and my love for the art can never be extinguished.