Louie Armstrong Moments

The morning my flight left from JFK, the last day of my summer internship several years ago, I set my alarm early so I could take in as much New York as possible before our extended separation. I decided to sit  in Madison Square Park, a place I frequented to people watch, lay out in the sun, and meet friends before heading out. Though not anything particularly spectacular, this miniature space of green housed several of my memories from that summer.

After stopping at a café across from my apartment, I grabbed a scone and coffee, and found a table near Shake Shack. For an August morning, it was rather chilly and the leaves were falling much earlier than I anticipated. Yet, the energy of the park, even at this early hour, was buzzing. There were families and dogs, couples and strollers, children and musicians, waking and rising, starting their New York days with conversation and caffeine.

I sat in a wrap dress and cardigan, my hair air-drying and curling, writing in this giant blue journal I kept almost daily while in New York. Even though I now live here permanently, that tattered and worn notebook remains one of my most prized possessions and will always have a home on any bookshelf I own. I scribbled sentences that don’t mean much, yet mean everything – and as I was finishing up the last paragraph, a single yellow leaf stained with red tips fell to the page. Seconds later, a tiny bird landed on my patio table, picked at a crumb I left, and flew away.

Charmed by the simplicity of that single moment, I smiled, and looked up, catching the eye of an older woman reading a book across from me. Maybe she was watching me or just happened to look up at that instant, but when we locked eyes, we shared the same thought in that park on a Sunday, when the sun was making its way mid-sky.

I’ve always called these experiences New York moments. Recently, however, I discovered a better fitting name from my friend, K. She calls them Louie Armstrong moments.

We were sitting at Fig & Olive on the Upper East Side, after just leaving the opening of Pipino 57 – Wella Professionals Flagship, where champagne and celebrities were ripe, and talking about our unique New York experiences. Though, maybe not that unique. If you hold a certain love for the city, if it is a place you’ve always wanted to live in, your experience doesn’t differ too much from the other dreamers who always wanted to gaze at the lights of the Empire.

And that’s kind of the beauty behind a Louie Armstrong moment. Where you realize what a wonderful world it really is by sharing it with other people, even the ones you don’t know and never will know.

When you’re in a place where most people are strangers and not friends, it’s easy to feel alone. You can walk miles without seeing a familiar face and when you battle the street trenches and crowds, you can feel like just another number, just another gal whose hair is frizzy from the humidity and whose feet are tired from unreasonable heels. But if you wait for it, if you don’t look for it, but stay positively alert – you’ll find yourself sharing an experience with someone you don’t know that you’ll cherish forever. For me, it’s with a woman who witnessed a bittersweet ending to my first New York adventure, for Kate it’s the natural smile of a man who watched butterflies take flight unexpectedly. Both of our Louie Armstrong moments coincidently happened in Madison Square Park, but we’ve had more.

And we’ll continue to. As long as we’re blessed enough to live in New York, that is. I’m sure it is capable to connect in a fleeting instant with people you’ll never see again anywhere, but for me, the only Louies that I remember are in the place where I see weathering trees in Central, and tulips too – for me and for whoever walks by. I see skies with scrapers; stars that don’t come out at night. I see the colors of the rainbow in Chelsea, so pretty walking by. I hear taxis cry, I watch them speed, and I realize they’ll see so much more New York than I’ll ever know.

And still, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

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Committed to the Now

I once dated a tall, tanned, and chiseled Australian. Our affair, was indeed an affair: short-lived and insanely passionate. He had an art with enticing, a knack for titillating, and an undeniable way of melting me in the palm of his hand. I didn’t expect more out of what we shared than what we did, but when we played show-and-tell, it certainly wasn’t kindergarten appropriate.

Maybe it was his accent or his blasé attitude toward most everything or his talent of reaching the depth of my heart and other parts in the same stride – but from the second we laid eyes on each other, the light was lit. He was my Foreigner and I was his Southerner, no other title, no other commitment, and no other anything required or effective to describe us. While I thoroughly enjoyed being romanced and teased in the short time we indulged in the company of one another, I was also constantly fretting.

The thing about dating a sexy guy from down under who enjoys going down under is that they don’t really have a concept of time. And though I know it isn’t accurate, I would almost attest to the fact that they don’t understand how to use a phone either. In person, they will fill up the room and then some, but when they’re out of sight, they might as well be totally out of mind, or out of your own mind you will go worrying. Sure, you will mostly likely see them again, but they know they’re lying when they promise to follow-up, and if you expect a long, drawn-out texting conversation during the workday, you’d be as poorly mistaken as I was. Things ultimately fizzled with the Australian because I couldn’t let go of myself enough to appreciate the joint affinity for what it was then.

Years later and a few less entrancing foreigners later, I discovered a theme that the States – or perhaps, just me – doesn’t seem to adapt to. In European countries and obviously with the Aussies, plans aren’t meant to be so concrete. This is an over generalization of several populations, but as a sweeping statement that could be utterly inaccurate (excuse me if that’s the case), foreigners aren’t as much concerned with what they want forever more, but what they want right now. They see life as more in the moment than a year or so from now, or even a week, if you’re the Australian.

I haven’t traveled a significant amount and most of what I’ve learned about culture has been from conversations with tourists in New York, through anthropology and sociology classes in college, and from being an avid reader of current events, as well as history. I don’t observe the ways of life abroad – though I’d love to – and my language skills are limited to English and almost-conversational Italian. But I will say from people I’ve met, what I’ve read, and what I assume – Americans don’t live as beautifully as many in other parts of the world.

And lately, for better or for worse, I’ve been living a little less American.

I’ve been unconcerned with the big picture and more focused on making decisions day-to-day, significant or insignificant, affecting my life greatly or not at all. I’ve liberated myself enough to enjoy carbohydrates to the extreme without feeling too guilty and I’ve accepted last-minute invitations to drink or dine, or to run or to nap. I’ve entertained online and in-the-store  decorating dreams of my soon-to-be new apartment, without worrying about price or budget, what’s practical or what’s not. I’ve spent lengthy amounts of time lounging, often alone naked in my own skin, not caring much about what I should be doing, but about what I wanted to do. And not what I want to do that will get me what I want tomorrow, but what I want…now.

And what I want in the moment transforms with the moment. I’ve changed my mind endlessly, I’ve noticed a dramatic shift in my tastes and my preferences in just the last six months, and I’ve adapted to the New York life more so since I started this blog than before I ever frequented WordPress daily. I haven’t planned out my entire weekend in fear that if I didn’t, I would be stranded home, by myself, feeling unsocial and unloved because really, being in the quiet company of myself doesn’t seem like a punishment as much as it does a prize. While I can’t go completely Australian by waking up at noon to lounge aimlessly as my Aussie once described his life prior to the States, other than what work requires me to do after hours, my after hours have been open. To taking a jog, meeting with a new or old friend, or discovering the art of being free from a penciled schedule.

These choices and this shift in my maturity have made me a little less committed. Not to my career, to this blog, to my friends, or to Mr. Possibility, but to myself. The only thing I’m really committed to is the me I am, now. I still put my needs before much anything else, as I should as a 20-something, but I’ve learned how to be less rigid in my own ways. We know people get stuck in their routines and mindsets, and if I can help it, I’d like to be open to change and growth for as long as allowed, if not forever.

But forever is a funny word, isn’t it?

Once we say we’ll do something, love somebody, live somewhere, or be someone forever – you’re attached to whatever and whoever that may be. Or maybe not so much in America, where everything seems to be reversible, excused, or divorce-able. But, overseas in nations where they may live dreamily and think more about wanting in an instant than wanting for a lifetime – once they decide to devote a lifetime, it’s taken seriously.

Because while they were busy not taking themselves or the pressing matters of 10 years from now too seriously, they were learning to listen. To the world and its people, to what makes them happy and satisfied, and what’s easy to move away from. Maybe that’s the trick the Australian was trying to teach me and I never could quite understand until now:

Listen to what you want, don’t be committed to being someone or something forever, and don’t worry about the next time you’ll get what you desire or if you will get it at all, and learn to celebrate your life, instead of wasting it. After all, it is the little things or in the Australian’s case, the not-so-little things, that really do serve their purpose right then, right at the right moment, and though you yearn for more, you’re happy just to of experienced it at all.

The 20-Something Syndrome

There’s something special about being a 20-something.

It’s after the uncomfortable teenage years, but we still have enough awkwardness to keep us humble. Well, at least at the start of our twenties anyways, until we discover a certain power we have because we’re young and yet to be jaded. By the time we reach the mid-way point between the second and third decade, we’ve been burnt, hurt, used, tossed, and treasured, and we’ve done to the same to countless men, jobs, friends, apartments, and shoes. But more than the year before and less than the one that will follow, we’ve managed to capture and ignite the spark we have to offer the world and the men in it – and though we may still settle for less than first rate at times, at least we’re aware we’re settling. Unlike before when we may have not been able to spot a red flag a mile or an inch away. I haven’t reached the late 20’s, so I can’t speak for that crowd – but if my friends are any indicators (or Mr. Possibility), it seems something happens around 27 or 28, where the need to lockdown a relationship or make some really impressive steps in our career becomes priority. Either, in my opinion, seem like a lot of pressure when desired at the drop of a dime.

But really, isn’t being a 20-something about pressure? Isn’t the 20-something syndrome an ordeal (or a blessing?) we all have to pass through to make it to the 30’s? (Which, I’m told by my mother and every 30 and beyond, will be the best time of my life.)

The pressure of being a 20-something is not just from external factors but often enforced by ourselves. If this 10-year span is when I’ll look my very best, be in the best shape, feel my best, and put my best face forward – shouldn’t I be going out constantly? If this is the period where I’ll have the most opportunity to travel, where I won’t have to consider anyone as a higher priority than myself, where the decisions I make won’t weigh as heavily as future choices, and where I’ll have the most energy and brightest perspective on life – shouldn’t I go after whatever I want with diligence?

But isn’t that the issue? When you’re a 20-something, the options seem limitless, but the resources are often not – at least for me, currently. However, I have ways around monetary setbacks, primarily because I’m female. Right now in this late hour as I write this blog after a few glasses of wine and an evening spent with Mr. Hubby, I could grab a pair of heels and a swipe of my signature lipstick and be at a bar in midtown in thirty minutes or less. I could lure in an eligible bachelor or two, have my drinks paid for all night long, and head back uptown in a cab paid for with cash given to me by a stranger I met an hour earlier. Tomorrow morning, I could go anywhere on this island I want to – Times Square, the Empire State, Wall Street, and Magnolia’s (let’s be honest, it’s sadly a landmark now) are not destinations for me, they are just part of my home.

If I wanted to – or if I was brave enough – I could save enough money to live abroad for a year, working low-paying jobs, backpacking, and experiencing the world I’ve never witnessed. I could consume alcohol in vast amounts, I could go by the golden rule that if he’s foreign, he doesn’t count as part of my “number”, and instead of focusing on editing and writing, I could take a completely different turn in my career. Or not focus on work at all and throw my luck to the fates, hoping I’ll land up where I’m meant to be, even if it is far away from what I pictured or hoped for.

I have no real obligations - my lease is actually up in May and it is undetermined what commitment I’ll make after that. And really in New York, signing your name has merit, but finding a subleaser is quite simple. I’m not married. I don’t live with a boyfriend. I have no children. I don’t own a pet, unless you count Giorgio the fish – who I’m sure would be happy with anyone who fed him and cleaned his bowl once a week. I have barely any bills to pay (damn you Best Buy and Student Loans). Nothing is keeping me in New York other than the magazine job that’s important to me and the fact that I love this city with most of my heart.

And yet, when I think of being in my twenties, when I feel the pressure from the 20-something syndrome, I never feel like I’m doing enough. If I go out three times a week and stay in on a Saturday because I’m tired and the commute home at 3 a.m. nearly kills any opportunity for a 10 a.m. run – I feel guilty. If my friends beg me for one more glass of wine or one more song or one more hour when I’m exhausted, if I don’t give in – I feel like I’ll regret it or I’ll miss something. When I see my peers who, instead of joining the workforce or going to grad school, like many of us who graduated in the downward pivot of the economy, decided to live in another country without any concrete plan – I’m envious. When I skip a night at the gym to cook dinner and consume large quantities of ice cream with Mr. Possibility, the next morning – I feel fatter, though I didn’t gain a pound. When I succeed at work, only to take two steps backwards the next day – I feel like I’ll never get to where I want to be as a writer. And then again, sometimes I have no idea what the endpoint or goal is – or if there even is one.

So what’s the cure for the 20-something syndrome? How do I forgive myself for indulging or giving myself a much needed evening in for me-myself-and-I? How do I celebrate what I’m doing right instead of turning every little miss into all the reasons I’m going about my life the wrong way? How do I prepare for this seemingly inevitable end-of-decade turn when my priorities will become more important? How do I get through my twenties happily, successfully, and healthily – feeling like I’ve done all that I could with all that I had?

I’d like to have a real answer, but I don’t. I only have a guess – and it’s maybe simplified too much. But to overcome the 20-something syndrome, I think the trick is stop trying. Or deciding it isn’t something to get over or to get through or to survive. It is, like every other period and person we’ll experience, temporary and yet, absolutely necessary. Children grow into teens, and teens into twenties, and twenties into thirties, and so on, and so it goes - there is no end in sight until it is, the end.

Time may seem to pass as quickly as it does slowly. I may be dumbfounded seeing the start of April this upcoming week. I may be shocked to know I’m closer to my next birthday than I am to my last. I may not always feel like I’m doing what’s best or what’s good or what will take me the furthest or make me the happiest.

But I’m living. I’m learning. I’m loving. I’m 20-something.

Tequila vs. The WTF Moment

I once went to a free open bar at a joint in Murray Hill. This was before I discovered this particular part of New York is breeding ground for frat guys who never wanted to leave college and still enjoy beer pong more than making a career or adult life for themselves. Even in school, where I was in a sorority and I thoroughly enjoyed Greek life, I never dated or slept with a guy in a fraternity. There has always been something about their Solo cup-decorated apartments, perfectly styled hair (or looks that resemble the Biebs), and stained Ralph Lauren Polos that turned me off.

Imagine that.

Nevertheless, when a friend found booze for free on PulseJFK and invited me to come, I followed in suit, high heels and push-up in tow. Fast forward to midnight, way past the penniless power hour: picture my friend with smeared red lipstick and crusted mascara, sucking face at the corner of the bar with a guy I believe was named Todd. And then there’s me, turning on the charm with a dude who told me he worked for MTV. I’d say what he did for them, but instead of telling me, he told my tequila – which is gladly no longer with me.

At this point in the night, my friend lets me know she’s going home with Todd, who claimed he was one of the Mets. She later confirmed he was, but more of a benchwarmer than an actual athlete. Still fairly new to Manhattan and as broke as an early-20s gal can get, I asked her not to leave (I didn’t want to pay for a ride home). Obviously not one of my closest companions, she encouraged me to go with the MTV man and said she’d text me when she arrived in Hoboken with Todd. I responded with a half-drunken smirk, followed by thoughts of how much I felt sorry for her that she was leaving for dirty Jersey.

Even knew to the city, I knew that wasn’t a favorable ending point for an evening. (Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who takes the PATH at night).

As I watched her exit into the rolling crowds of the M.Hill, Mr. MTV turned his attention to me and asked if I needed another drink. I refused while nodding my head in agreement. Intrigued by my drunken stupor, he welcomed more company from the liquor that not only heats me up, but makes everyone around me instantly hotter. And thus, in the next 20 minutes, I fell for Mr. MTV.

In the bits and pieces I remember, I imagined him opening doors (both literally and figuratively) for me at his company and attending fancy parties ripe with celebrities. I may have devised a fantasy where he introduced me to Ryan Reynolds at rooftop gala in the middle of June, where he instantly found me irresistible and I left Mr. MTV in a dramatic exit as I whisked away to Paris. Perhaps Rome. Hell, I’ll settle for Madrid, if need be.

Mr. MTV, noticing my inability to focus as he enthusiastically bragged about his corner office (or was it a cubicle with a view?), whispered, “Do you want to go back to my place?” Before I could comprehend, tequila (who knows this dude better than I do, apparently), nodded yes.

In barely enough time to grab my bag and cardigan, I found myself hailing a cab, hand-in-hand with Mr. MTV. “I live, like, really close by, in Union Square,” he reassured. Unable to comprehend my coordinates (or to really care), I again, allowed tequila to control my motions by giving him a slurred, encouraging grin. In what seemed like an eternity but probably equated to ten minutes, Mr. MTV had us heading cross-town to an apartment he lived by himself. Somewhere between allowing him to cram his tongue half-way down my throat, telling me to relax, and he does this sort of thing all the time -I woke up.

I could give it an eloquent name, but in all fairness, it was simply a WTF moment.

As Mr. MTV is chatting with the driver, I looked out my window to catch a glimpse of a familiar landmark and realized what I was doing. As if it was in slow motion, I looked down to see my hands, still stamped from the beginning of the evening. I wiggled my fingers to make sure they still had feeling. I was glad to find, they did. I checked to see if I had everything with me that I started with and minus an earring, I thought, “Good job, Linds. All together.”

But then the sobering side of me argued, “Um, no. Look again. You’re a hot mess. Where are you going?”

So, without a word to Mr. MTV or gaining enough courage to look at him, I shouted to the cabbie to stop. Maybe the driver had been in this situation enough times, but he pounded the brakes immediately. Without hesitation, I threw open the door, stumbled my way ten steps across the street, shot my hand in the air, and magically, another yellow-and-black carriage swept me away to a place much better than the place I was heading: home. Alone.

Sometimes it is easy to know when it is time to walk away.

Unfortunately, most of the relationships that leave the most damage aren’t created and ended in a matter of hours. They are often the ones that are a collection of times where we depend on our staying graces as much as we peer over at our boots-made-for-walking, and the ones that Katy Perry claims are measured by fluctuating temperatures. They are the ones encompassed by exhaustion and often leave us, just as I was in my tequila haze, one hell of a mess. And though we know it is so not right and against our better judgment, we always stick around. Because somehow we think – or we convince ourselves- there’s a way for it to work out. If we can only get over one thing, if we can only be brave enough to stick around while he makes up his mind, or if we can establish a scenario where he’ll miss us. That’s when we will be justified in our one-night stand or our shouldn’t-have-lasted-as-long-as-it-did.

Maybe for some couples the patience pays off and the rewards are plenty.

But most of the time, tequila (or denial) comes in the form of syrupy romantic notions that against all other rational thought processes, tells us to keep going and going, when really, it’d be best to steer away from another tall drink of complication. Because while shots in a glass can be difficult to swallow, a shot to the broken heart and at our swollen pride, burns much longer. It is only when the rose-colored glasses are removed and the love drunk haze wears off that we see a relationship or a man for what he really is: a bad idea that’s best left on Saturday night (or in the past), where he belongs.

What the World Needs

I wrote a blog for today.

It was about learning to control your imagination and not allowing it to get the best of you, the relationship you’re in or considering making official. I made analogies and edits, I crossed the t’s and dotted the I’s. I inserted links. It was what I consider a clever concoction of words and ideas and I’m sure readers and haters alike would have related.

But then WordPress goofed on me.

For whatever reason, the scheduled blog missed its automatic deadline and didn’t publish. I currently am without a phone with a higher IQ than the basic feature one, so I didn’t realize the mishap until midafternoon – maybe 20 minutes before this post goes live. I spent the morning away from the computer, sleeping in, eating breakfast in bed, and attempting to motivate myself to clean while nursing a one-too-many-Merlot haze.

However, the hours I spent enjoying the company of Mr. Possibility and his bacon-cooking skills, were interrupted by the news. I notoriously don’t watch shows or commentaries – I’m more of a reader. I digest The Times daily, subscribe to New York magazine, and my job requires me to follow business trends – which, surprisingly, have become far more interesting than I ever predicted they would. I’m fascinated by international affairs and the changing state of the world and its politics. I tend to believe we can’t all fight every single war, every injustice, or every problem – but picking one and sticking to it, would do the planet and its people a lot of good.

So today, don’t read this blog.

Put relationship troubles and worries of never finding the right guy on the back burner. Stop focusing on how to love yourself and what are the proper relationship-oriented decisions you should make to remain happy and confident. These things are important (I wouldn’t need a 12 step program, if they weren’t) – but today, take the time to catch up on the needs of the universe. Not the needs of yourself.

Love may not give back the lives of those killed in Egypt or give peace to the women raped in Libya or bring back the hundreds who lost their life in Japan’s current state of disaster. It may not save anyone from radiation, should it become a real threat. It may not stop sex trafficking from being the third most profitable illegal trade – only behind the smuggling of guns and drugs. It may not help an 11-year-old who was taken by 18 men in Texas or change the articles published placing the blame on her and posing a question of concern for the rapists’ futures. It may not turn the agendas of the media – who may be more concerned with hits and clicks - from giving way more attention to a washed-up, B-list celebrity who has abused women for decades, without anything more than a smack on the hand, followed by placing another million in his pocket.

It’s true, love doesn’t solve everything.

It doesn’t answer the questions left unruly and bitter in the hearts of those who have suffered great loss or pain. But maybe The Beatles are right – what the world needs now is, in fact, love. A love for humanity. A neighborly kind of love that looks out for the family of four next door. A love that doesn’t want something in return, but wants to give. An educated love that knows of the world outside of their zip code. A love that sees people as people, not as objects, statistics or figures, but human beings, who have the ability to love and to hate.

Go give the world what it needs: more people who care. More people who want to help someone else. More people who, regardless of what’s going on in their lives, their relationships, their homes, or their hearts – know there is always someone out there who needs love more than they do.