On the Agenda

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New York Minutes

More than two weeks have passed, and so much more. I love this city, but I miss the mountains. I wonder if I'm just being a little bit of a coward, choosing to go back to what I know, to a life that will certainly be less interesting in some ways but may well be richer in others. Every time I seem to be sure, my certainty slips away like the cool surf on Rockaway Beach, or maybe it jerks away like the swinging motion of the A train driving south from Harlem. I don't always want to wonder what might have happened if I had gotten the big job at the big company, working with big writers on big titles, slaving away in that famous building on a street that's a household name. If a seven-state commute was a possibility, I'd be there (or here) in a heartbeat. I hoped this would be one of those decisions that I could just tick off after I made it. It decided instead to take the trick candle path.

In the past two+ weeks I've eaten much good food at everywhere from Cosmic Cantina (right across the street) to Fiamma, a très chic establishment in Soho. I've seen the Brooklyn Pride parade in a total downpour (fortunately I was inside with some fantastic sangria and even better empanadas), and I've been to a wonderful craft show at the McCarren Park Pool, also in Brooklyn. I've done some shopping, alone and with my maid of honor, and I've gone to the beach. I've been to Sunday afternoon "parlor entertainment" off of 160th Street, and spent evenings in the cheapest (and certainly not the trashiest) bar on 3rd Avenue. I've HopStopped more times than I ever thought I would, and I've joined Shelfari.com.

The best news is that my magazine launch group (the one with the food) won "best launch of the afternoon session," which—according to those people who saw it all—actually means something pretty significant. I've watched a lot of movies and read a lot of magazines. Now that the book segment of the program has begun, I'm getting a lot of free books too. Comments will be posted later.

All this going and doing and living calls for much sleeping. It's difficult to move forward when I always feel like I'm catching up. The beginnings of wrinkles (two of them) are on my forehead,
and I'm too old to sleep when I'm dead.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Rack and Soul

The name of one of the booths at the Barbecue Festival at Madison Square Park today, which is where I had lunch. I met a good friend from school and we had a good time just sitting in the sun and breeze and discussing work and life and the city. It was so windy (a good thing, given the heat) that from time to time a napkin would wrap itself around my ankle and I would have to take a moment or two to shake it free.

It wasn't quite as hot today as yesterday, but it was still pretty toasty as I wandered down 6th Ave., in and out of well-air-conditioned stores, all of which were packed with people. I had a nice wander, and at least one successful shopping venture before I made it back to my now-chilly dorm room.

At first I felt a bit guilty about sleeping in this morning, missing any opportunity to see the city. But I think it was a good day after all.

Accomplishment of the Day:

I figured out how to turn on the air conditioning in my suite. Today it got up to about 94, and with the thermal properties of a city comprising who-knows-how-many square miles of concrete, I'm sure it felt much hotter. I spent much of the afternoon in my room, much too hot to walk anywhere and definitely too hot to go down to the subway platform. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember thinking that these rooms were supposed to have AC, but I probably dismissed it in part because I've lived in non-ACed houses for the past three summers, and I just feel like the sticky hotness is the way summer living is.

Not anymore, thanks to my finding a really grimy switch in the "off" position, on the equally grimy AC unit hidden behind something once used as a whiteboard, as evidenced through the unerasable beer pong tallies on the front, left courtesy of the previous (male) tenants.

Anyway, the past couple of days have been good ones, and full ones. Highlights include an absolutely enthralling (no sarcasm, it really was amazing) presentation by David Granger, the editor of Esquire magazine, one by the creative director at Gourmet and another by the ad sales director at Condé Nast's Portfolio. I also got to tour the Good Housekeeping Research Institute and pitch a magazine idea (along with a group) for a publication that I truly would love to see get made. The roomie and I have been continuing our evening strolls around the neighborhood, and last night some new friends and I went to the Rodeo restaurant and bar, where there was great food and drink and an excellent band.

Twice this week I've gone to a little pan-Asian restaurant on 8th St. called Cafetasia. I found out about it in the Time Out New York student issue, and it's perfect because it has a great trendy, fancy ambience, but the prices are incredibly reasonable. The food was great both times, and it made me feel like I was having a really upscale restaurant experience without the price tag.

Tonight, after the second visit to Cafetasia, I went to go see War, Inc., the new film starring John Cusack (and Joan Cusack by default) as well as Marisa Tomei and Hillary Duff, with some smaller appearances by Dan Ackroyd and Sir Ben Kingsley. It was playing at a little place in Soho called the Angelika Film Center, which has a full coffee shop with ice cream upstairs, and six theaters and a concession stand downstairs. The theaters were tiny, but it meant they could show lots of independent films at a time. Of course the price was high ($12 a ticket), but it was overall a good experience.

The movie got kinda lukewarm reviews, and although I really liked it, I can kinda see why. John Cusack plays an assassin (again) who is hired by a Halliburton-like company to kill an oil magnate in Turaqistan, with the premise that the war at hand there has been entirely financed and planned by big business. The over-the-top nature of the metaphor earns some laughs as tanks fitted with Financial Times billboards roll past piles of rubble and Cusack has a therapy-session conversation with his personal navigation system, GodStar. But the film probably could have earned some points with subtlety or depth, but its in-your-face tactics will probably draw some attention. Duff and Tomei both have good performances, and overall I think it was a good film.

John Cusack is a great actor because of the films he chooses, but I have to say I feel that he hasn't chosen the best ones lately. Martian Child was good, but it was no High Fidelity (my favorite movie ever, pretty much) or Say Anything. Must Love Dogs had the perfect part for him, and the perfect part for Diane Lane, but the two together just did not make a believable couple. It would have been two good separate movies. "Is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins, is it better to burn out or fade away?"

Monday, June 02, 2008

"Sex, it sells in the single copies…"

That would be in reference to Cosmopolitan. Today was crazy. We got up early and I had a chance to make coffee before we hopped on the subway to be at class at 8:30. There was a bit of an intro and we would put into the groups will will be in for our simulated magazine launch, which will be fantastic and a ton of work. I think we have a good group.

Next came a panel discussion with top editors from Essence, People Stylewatch, the Magazine Publishers of America and Meredith Corporation, which is one of the big magazine companies. That was pretty interesting, and after that we had a nice lunch break when we found cute salad/wrap/sandwich place to eat.

The afternoon was a little rough, but incredibly informative. First a woman from consumer marketing at Time, Inc. talked to us about marketing, and then the managing editor from In Style came to talk to us about the financial side of the magazine. It was two and a half hours of numbers and economics, but the speaker was incredibly knowledgeable and engaging, so we survived. After a brief freeforall at the sign-up table (about which more later) we met back with our magazine groups, and spent two grueling hours hammering out a concept, mission statement, market position and reader audience. How long does it take 10 college graduates to come up with a two-sentence statement? Too long.

I won't disclose the nature of our magazine right now, but it is pretty awesome. At this point everyone was exhausted, so JS and I came home and then went back out for Chinese food, softserve, and a wonderful walk around the neighborhood. It was warm and nice out, even with the sun down, and there were a ton of people around Union Square.

In other news I have a dinner invite, a magazine tour, and a design class coming up this week. The excitement begins. Cheers.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Highway 9

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was packing and listening to Springsteen's "Born to Run," that there was a reference in that song to a Highway 9. This is not the Highway 9 of my blog title... unless Springsteen has spent an untold amount of time between Black Mountain and Bat Cave, NC.

If I can make it here

Welcome to New York. More specifically, welcome to the small desk in the small bedroom of the decidedly dorm-scented apartment that I will call home for the next six weeks. It's getting a little homey already, now that we've put us maps on the wall in place of any sort of real poster that costs money.

I arrived in New York this morning after an altogether uneventful trip, which is the good kind, there's just not much to say about it. The most interesting thing that happened is that I had to call my car service to ask where they were and I couldn't understand my driver over the phone at all. Once in the car, though, there were no problems and I safely arrived at the Palladium Residence Hall, home to almost 1,000 student-aged persons, some of whom are taking classes and some of whom are doing other things. (It's also right on top/next to a Trader Joe's.)

My apartment is made up of two double bedrooms, each about the size of a rear South Campus room, but plus the luxury of a small walk-in closet. Furnishings are what one would expect: extra-long twin bed, desk (with shelves), desk chair and a dresser (with inexplicably shallow drawers). In between the two bedrooms is a small sitting room with one of those ridiculously uncomfortable wood-framed couches with weird stains and a matching chair. There is a small dining table and four more desk-type chairs, again with the weird stains. On one side of the main door is our bathroom, which is fairly spacious given the size of the bedroom, and our small kitchen, complete with sink, gas stove and a smallish fridge/freezer combo. No microwave, which means we might actually need to invest in some cookware before this is all over.

Given nine months or so, one could make this space pretty nice, with some carpet and posters and nice lamps, but for six weeks it will be mostly white and fluorescent-lit with good ol' tile floor (nice and dusty) and stained upholstery. It's really not bad, though.

After I arrived this morning and retrieved my student ID (with the classy photo I took using my laptop) I dropped my things upstairs and met my roommate, JS, who is from outside Philly and is really great. We seem to have a lot in common. Just before I left to run some errands, I met LR, one of the girls in the other bedroom, who is from Dallas. The final suitemate showed up after shopping, JK, who is from Eugene, OR.

If I leave my building and turn left, I am walking toward Union Square, and within two blocks or so, I pretty much pass any store I could need or want, including Walgreen's, Whole Foods, Circuit City, Starbucks (of course), Virgin music, Staples, you name it. I'm set. I went to Filene's Basement this afternoon to find linens that I wasn't able to pack, and it was a decent experience, though partly ruined by the awkwardness of carrying home a huge fluffy bed pillow. The giant windows in the front of Filene's look out over Union Square, which was full of people lounging on towels in the grass and vendors selling all sorts of things. It was really quite beautiful.

This afternoon we took a walking tour of the neighborhood and the main NYU campus, most of which is down in the Washington Square area, but it really just made me more confused. There's really now way to give a tour to 25 people in a crowded city. It just doesn't work. When we arrived at the Woolworth Building, where all of my class sessions will be, we recieved the obligatory nametage, a messenger bag with a BIG (can't say huge, because I've experienced the Eats binder) binder of magazine section info, and a bag lunch, which was really quite delicious. (A plus: I get to walk past the Brooklyn Bridge every day, and there are TWO Starbucks between the subway stop and the class building.)

The course is 92 people = 87 gals and five guys, and it will be intense. There are five UNC grads
here, none of whom I expected to be here (apart from myself, of course), and two of whom I actually know. Weird. Anyway, tonight was a general introduction to everything, including a personal introduction from almost all the students. There are people here from some 26 states and four or five foreign countries, and it seems like a good group.

After orientation my suite found our way back on the subway (thanks to the express trains it's only one stop away), and we did a little minor grocery shopping at the Whole Foods. It's amazing how congested the store was, made even worse by the fact that it was three stories in a fairly narrow space. But hopefully now I won't starve, or stuff my face with pretzels from street carts.

So far New York is really beautiful in the summer. I'm sure it will get hot—thankfully the subway is air conditioned—and I'm sure I will be even more tired and overwhelmed than I am now. But all the program directors are very encouraging, and I feel like it's an excellent opportunity to hone my networking skills and actually make some great connections.

For now I will take my swiveling fluorescent desk lamp around to my bed, complete with a brand new Wamsutta Egyptian cotton blanket and jumbo Ralph Lauren synthetic-stuffed pillow, both a bargain from the place the brings you the running of the brides. Peace.