tales of a girl in the city

mars 30, 2005


I was seventeen when I moved to New York, but I had already been saving pieces of this city in my pockets for years. A "B" on the George-Washington side of a dollar bill marks it as "minted in New York," and growing up, I kept as many of those bills as possible. I navigated my days in Wisconsin by that letter--if it showed up on the face of a crumpled dollar, I would have good luck.

Interesting, then, that I encountered such bad luck so soon after my first day in Manhattan. Having just arrived on Barnard's campus, sporting a fresh haircut that I was sure made me look more "sophisticated," I hadn't even been a New Yorker for a week when I met Gustavo.

Gustavo was a City Kid, a term for the rare breed of human being who is born and raised in Manhattan. His parents divorced in the epic, feuding style of the filthy rich. He went away to boarding school, but spent summers in his father's apartment in Sutton Place. Four years my senior, he'd been a teenager at The Tunnel and Limelight. He used 'Jersey' as an adjective and knew all about drugs with one-letter names.

When he asked me out, I was astonished.

On our first date, he drove myself and six of my friends to Soho in his dad's shiny SUV. We entered the restaurant and the owners called him by name.

I was impressed.

He ordered for all six of us in fluent Italian.

I was in love.

I had never met anyone like him. He was fast and charming and worldy and bored. In comparison, I was so...Wisconsin: mispronouncing Donna Karan (Donna Kay-RAN) and asking aloud, "What does it mean that she's 'Jappy'?". But the minute I met him, I felt about him the way I had felt about those special New York bills. He was intimately acquainted with a universe that I had always wanted to belong to, a literal island of sophistication and electricity and luck. I wanted to be part of everything that he had.

But, being larger than pocket-sized, and less replaceable than a dollar, how would I ever make him mine? On a campus of girls who had grown up on Long Island--girls with sleek dark hair who already knew the subway system and wouldn't be caught dead without a mani/pedi--how could I possibly hold his attention? This was a landscape flooded with the superficial, and I had neither the money nor the knowledge to stay afloat. So, after evaluating the situation carefully, I put on my laciest Moments underwear (Kohl's Department Store, $5.99) and used the one bargaining tool in my possession: my virginity.

He became my first College Boyfriend.

Our relationship took place largely on the third floor of Reid Hall. As a frequent male visitor to an all-women's dorm, he received a ton of attention from all of my new Barnard friends. It never occurred to us--especially not to me--to wonder what else he did with his time. His stories and his energy disarmed us so that we never thought to question when he actually attended the classes he was taking at NYU. And when the first laptop disappeared mysteriously from a room down the hall, I honestly told the detective that I had no idea who had done it. Certainly not Gustavo. With such wealthy parents, why on earth would he have cause to steal?

The crime was never solved.

Fall came and went, marked by his first "I love you" at Halloween, and our first big fight during final exams. I went home for Christmas, but came back early to make up and spend the week with him.

I arrived at his apartment, luggage and gifts in tow, and plopped myself on his bed. Busy at his desk, his back to me, I smiled thinking about my good fortune: my first real boyfriend, my first New York Christmas.

He swung around in his chair, a leather satchel in his lap.

"I have something very special for you."

I grinned and, once again, felt my luck. What would it be? The Natalie Merchant CD I'd been coveting? Victoria's Secret?

Reaching deep into the bag, he pulled out a thin blue box.

Tiffany & Co. The eggshell blue I'd only ever seen in advertisements featuring lovely girls with shiny ponytails.

I actually shook as he placed the treasure in my hands.

"My dad helped me to pick it out. The box is a little worn around the edges. I've been going back and forth for weeks now with it in my bag. I wasn't sure...I mean, I know it's a little extravagent."

I lifted the lid. Inside was a fabric envelope in that same perfect shade of blue. I didn't know jewelry came in cases like this. So simple. Everything precious, even the package. I could feel the bracelet lying in its felt case as I lifted the flap. As the diamonds slid into my hands in a sparkling heap, I could say nothing; I could only stare.

The bracelet was the first of many gifts.

That Valentine's Day there was a small gold ring. Sporadically there were clothes or unexpected, sweet presents. Roses. A Vermont teddy bear.

But there were also surprises of a different sort. Like the expensive phone call he'd made from an airplane phone to my house in Wisconsin, followed up, months later, by a call to my parents from a confused woman in Iowa: I'm just calling to see if I know you. A pretty pricey call was made to this number and charged to my credit card.

And I vaguely remember wondering about the address on the bill the bear was shipped with--a name I didn't recognize. Before I had time to even formulate the question, though, the papers were swept up by Gustavo, carried with the wrappings to the trash: Sorry, baby. I don't want you to see how much he cost.

It was the discovery of a drawer of stolen cell phones and an application to NYU undergrad--the school that he supposedly already attended--that finally woke me up to the truth. That and, I suppose, the fact that those months under Gustavo's tutelage had actually given me what I wanted; I was on my way to becoming a real New Yorker, and, as such, could no longer be taken by a con.

He was a sniveling mess when I broke up with him, but I never even felt a pang of guilt.

I took the subway alone back to Barnard's campus.

And, later that summer, I hardly even flinched when the jeweler looked me squarely in the eye and announced, "Miss, it's a fake."

mars 18, 2005

False Positive

I hung up the phone with the nurse from my doctor's office, having just heard the loveliest three words: "Everything," the kind nurse-lady had said, "was normal."



It was the diagnosis that I knew was coming.

Sort of.

Because--I can admit this now that it's over--there was always that tiny, doubting voice. Afterall, I'm the girl who thinks that the Pentagon may have played a role in replacing her iPod. We all know that I am nothing if not a little...we'll call it creatively neurotic.

So, obviously there was a whispering in my ears over the past few weeks telling me that David was right--that I was responsible for his bumpy-tongued affliction.

Or even worse, that his relentless persistence on the topic was really just his cowardly way of telling me that he'd given me something.

Or even worse than that, that I was the sole vessel of a previously unknown horrific disease that had not only infested David's tongue, but that would also make me swell up and give birth to alien spawn a la that tv mini-series V.

And as much as getting to go on all the talk shows as the world's first mother of alien spawn had it's appeal....

And as much as having some eight-armed extra-terrestrial help around the house might've been nice when it came time to do the dishes....

I was thrilled to finally e-mail David a curt one-liner telling him, ONCE AND FOR ALL, that there was not...and has never been...a polk-a-dot on my puffalump.

But that didn't silence the other small voice that has plagued me since David first started making these accusations.

That voice scratched at wounds that go much deeper and are harder to diagnose.

How could I have so misjudged David?

How could every reading I took of him--every estimation I made of his character, his maturity, his kindness--been so wrong? From beginning to end, my evaluation of him was riddled with false positives. And that bothered me quite a bit.

It was still bothering me, in fact, when I bumped into L, an acquaintance of mine, on Thursday night.

L is the definition of a Good Guy: intelligent, down-to-earth, works in college admissions at an Ivy, which means his job, basically, is to evaluate people. And, though he didn't remember it, he had happened to meet David last summer on the night of our second date.

"God," L said after snort-laughing through the entire story, "that guy had problems."

"Then why did you not tell me that when you met him?" I retorted, hitting L on the shoulder with each word.

"What? I met him? When did I meet him?" L was astonished.

"Last summer. Remember? We were having drinks at Citrus...he stopped in to pick me up. Works at a socially responsible investment group in DC. The two of you talked forever."

"That guy! Crazy-hypochondriac with a bump on his tongue is that guy? You're kidding me."

"That's him."

"You're kidding me. That guy was great. He was smart. In fact, I've actually thought about the conversation he and I had since that night. Christ, Kathryn, he was charming."

"Let's reign in the praise, shall we?"

"Sorry. Wow.... I'm just surprised."

"Well, that makes two of us."

"I mean, that guy was so regular. That's what I left thinking about him, 'What a nice guy.'"

I picked up my drink, surprised by my own relief.

"I mean," L continued, shaking his head, "seriously. I'm great with reading people, and I saw nothing wrong with that one. Wow."

He paused.

"You know, I hope you don't mind me saying this. But, Baby, that one had nothing to do with you."

I held the truth of his words under my tongue for a moment.

There it was. Reassurance from an outside source. A second opinion. Unbiased. Reasonable. Right.

I smiled and nodded.

"I know," I said.

And suddenly...

for real this time...

everything was normal.

mars 15, 2005


First things first.

Though the little viruses currently making my throat hurt and my head spin, may think that they've won by ruining my DAY OFF, what they don't know is that I'm totally calling in sick on Thursday, even if I'm feeling great. So bottom line is that I win, little viruses. Not only because I won't let you ruin my day off, but also because I have opposable thumbs.

Secondly, so here I am sitting on the couch and reading Vanity Fair when I come upon an article about Kimora Lee Simmons, wife to hip-hop mogel Russel Simmons. The article is titled "Unbearable Fabulosity." It's all about how much everyone envies Kimora Lee. They envy her for her clothing line, her perfume line, her make-up line, her upcoming line of Barbie dolls, her celebrity husband, her ridiculous collection of clothes and handbags, etc., etc. The thesis of the article, as far as I can tell, is "Fuck, yeah! Listen up, women everywhere, Kimora Lee Simmons is awesome."

But, it's not all unbearable fabulosity for Ms. Simmons. There are some hurdles to climb as well. For example, apparently, "bitches" are always trying to "rub their boot[ies] in [Russel's] face." My favorite quote about Kimora's plight to keep her husband is when she says, while lying on a beach, "Let me take off my glasses, I want you to see my eyes. I will beat a bitch's ass."

Even through her pain, Ms. Simmons is eloquent.

My next favorite quote is when she compares herself to Coretta Scott King.

My last favorite part is right after that when she brags about being anorexic.

This article has made me love Kimora Lee Simmons. There really is so much there to envy.

I'm going to go throw up now.

mars 09, 2005

Lenny's Big Adventure

The man on the phone was very clear. "We'll send you a box," he said, "and you'll send us back your iPod--"

"You mean Lenny," I said.

"Whatever. Sure. Yeah. So, you'll send us back your iPod. And then we'll fix it and send it back to you. It'll take somewhere between two to three weeks. But if you're fine with that, then I think that'll be the best option."

"Well, I think I'm fine with that. As long as you think Lenny will be ok. I mean, he's a bit...well...Lenny is special. And I want to make sure you think he'll fit in with the other iPods while he's there visiting. I mean, God, I feel really guilty sending him away like this. Because, you know, he is useful. In a way. He tries to be helpful. He really knows his fruits.... Well, he really knows his one fruit. But he's got such a nice disposition. You know, he just sits there, around the house, cheerfully showing me his little apple picture. It's sweet, actually. I mean, I've kind of gotten used to it. I'm not sure what I'd do if he actually played music. Frankly, it might freak me out a little."


"And, of course, there's always the risk of fruit amnesia--"


"Oh...right. Yes?"

"I just need your address."


When the box came a day later, I should have been suspicious right away.

According to the mailing label, I was sending Lenny to Tennessee.


The highly-paid super genius computer guys who were going to fix my iPod live in Tennessee.

I thought they'd live in Sweden. Or Japan. Or at least in California. But they don't. They live in Tennessee.


BUT, I remembered the nice man's words, "We'll send you back your iPod." Your iPod. My iPod. Lenny. Fixed as good as new.

For those of you who think the parting process was easy for me, let me just tell you that if I'd had the sewing skills, I would've made Lenny some underwear with his name written on the tags. As it was, I had a fifteen minute battle with myself over whether or not to put a Capri Sun and a grilled cheese with the crusts cut off in the box with him. But, then I got nervous that the other iPods would steal it from him when he got there. So I settled for a few Raisinettes and a quarter for milk, in case he got hungry along the way. Fuck you if you think I'm kidding.

Well, off Lenny went, to the land of country music, demolition derbies, shotguns, women with big hair, and--apparently--the tech-savvy super geniuses who love them.

I am so naive.

NOT EVEN TWO DAYS LATER, George at the mailbox place calls and says, "Kathryn, you've got a package."

What? A package? How can I have a package? Lenny isn't going to be back for two to three weeks. He's probably winning hearts with his little apple pictures somewhere in Virginia right about now.

"I'm not expecting any packages, George. Where's it from?" I say.

"Looks like it's from Apple."


Oh my god.


There was no way they had fixed Lenny is such a short amount of time.

There was no way he had even gotten to Tennessee by now.

Unless...wait. Unless they had sent a team of mega-efficient crackpot ex-military guys in a Lynx 'copter to land here in Brooklyn and take Lenny back ASAP.

But I'm always on the lookout for that sort of stuff--men in black repelling down brownstone walls, super-fast helicopters landing on rooftops here in Park Slope--and definitely nothing like that has happened. Recently.

Though, I suppose, they could've come at night.

Although then George would have had to be in on it. Because I don't care what kind of military training you've had, nobody is getting into Mailboxes on Fifth without George's permission. He's got those two Chihuahuas.

"George," I ask him over the phone, "Were you in 'Nam?"

His silence is all the response I need.

I head down to his shop, amazed at my luck. The answer here is obvious. The Pentagon guys who read my blog have taken an interest in Lenny and me.

Clearly, they feel they owe me something in return for all the entries I've written about orgasms.

And they're right.

So, they did what any group of highly efficient military blog-readers would do for a girl whose iPod is in distress. They sent me a Lynx 'copter and the A Team. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is just as good as flowers.

Though both would've been nice, boys.

I'm just saying.

Anyway, sure enough, Lenny was waiting for me at George's store. George did his usual joke, "I get to rob you of a whole dollar." (I'm now pretty sure it's the passphrase that unlocks his psyche and puts him back in Sleeper mode.)

I thanked him, and, with a really cool, sly wink, told him to thank "The Crew."

Then, holding Lenny's box close to me, I edged carefully past the Chihuahuas.

Those little fuckers probably know fifty ways to kill a man.

mars 07, 2005

Meeting The Friends

W is thirty-six, and so are his friends. Stacey and Gary. They are not the same thirty-six as he is. They are thirty-just-moved-in-together-and-furniture-shopping-for-the-first-time-six. W is thirty-starting-a-hedge-fund-and-buying-himself-a-penthouse-six. W's thirty-six is not so easily divided by two.

We all got together for dinner this weekend. W. Me. Stacey and Gary....

Stacey holds onto her boyfriend's arm under the table like a favorite expensive handbag. She tells her most recent "Isn't He Cute? Story," detailing their trip last Saturday to buy couches. They chose something taupe. With a lot of texture. She wasn't sure it was the right piece for their living room. Too oversized, maybe. She left to browse for a bit while she made up her mind. When she returned Gary was sound asleep, mouth open on the throw pillows, drooling on the chenille. She captured the moment on their new digital camera: taupe and texture and too cute for words. They bought the sofa on the spot.

I am Laughing At All The Right Places.

Across the table Stacey and Gary order to share. She wants to set Gary's older sister up with someone. He kisses her cheek. Stacey, his gesture seems to say, is always thinking of others. She is thrilled with this notion of herself. Buoyed by his belief in her goodness, she continues. "I mean, his sister is still pretty attractive. You know, for forty. She's thin, anyway. Though she does look older. But she's very nice." She snuggles deeper into Greg's shoulder. Everyone at the table nods, ignores the veiled nastiness of her comments. Greg's love invents her, and we buy the illusion. Stacey is so nice. Always thinking of others.

I choose from the menu, ordering for myself. Inside, I shake my head.

It seems so easy for them. The Stacey's of the World are invented and loved and lit up by their own assured simplicity. They have one long relationship after another. They pick out couches and set up undesireable sisters. The Stacey's of the World are always on the side of the table that orders to share.

And--in some small way--I envy them for it.

mars 03, 2005

All About The Benjamins

Someone across the street is practicing their electric guitar, and suddenly Brooklyn sounds like I always thought it would. Any moment all of us struggling artists will pirouette onto the stoops of our respective brownstones and begin the musical number where we sing about our big, artsy dreams.

Only, having just paid some bills and checked my bank account balance, I think it's official. I'm no longer part of the struggle.

Proof? My iPod. My ridiculously priced new haircut. My savings account. My health insurance. My splurges. My taxes.

If my life were a sitcom where the opening credits changed from season to season a la The Cosby Show, the first couple of seasons would've been pretty low-budget. Me in my kitchen, smiling at the camera as I open up a can of tuna. A lot of episodes featuring my "creative friends"--identified by their ironic t-shirts and shaggy haircuts--who would come over to soothe my ever-present heartbreak and coax me out of my flannel pajamas. Then we'd break into the Old Milwaukee and play Pictionary. Roll credits.

This season's opener would be a little flashier. A new, snappier theme song. A slightly larger wardrobe budget. Me walking up Fifth Avenue, arms swinging. Sunshine. A new pet. We're Gonna Make It After All.

You see, I've never been one of those creative people who's all about the struggle. Struggle is fine, when you're twenty-one. But when you're twenty-six, and your friends have real lives, and real jobs that give them an amazing thing known as PAID VACATION (cue: heavenly light, and angelic choir), struggle looks less and less good. And when you look at your thirty-six year old friends, who are still moving slowly uphill, waiting for things to happen. Waiting for "It." The Big Break. And who, in the meantime, have both wives and roommates. Who have no savings. No health insurance. No time, even, to go on auditions and pursue their dreams because they're too tired after finishing their second shift at job number three.... I knew early on that that would never be me.

How lucky I feel, then, that part of my present security has come from my creative pursuits. The money for Tuesday's Day of Beauty came from my ability to make people laugh. I can pay my rent without having to skip meals. And Mom and Dad haven't come to the rescue in almost a year and a half....


Probably temporary.

But unbeliveable.

mars 01, 2005


I am down to bone.

I've worked my tv job, and my real estate job nearly every single day this month. My "days off" have been spent traveling for the show--five a.m. wake-up calls to get aboard Amtrak's 6:50 train. We filmed the final episodes of the show last week, finishing on Saturday with a five hour trip back to the production office. And then it was on to a last-minute bus bound for Manhattan; my real estate boss had called and demanded I come in on Sunday, which meant arriving in NYC at 4 a.m., heading out to Brooklyn to catch precious hours of sleep, and then a full day at the office on Sunday. Being nice. Appeasing. Mending fences. Selling penthouses. Dreary and bleary. And used up.

So what I need now is a pillow, and a good listener. I need a massage, a facial, and something to rejuvinate the reserves I've been drawing on for the last 45 days. Dirty martinis, maybe? Crack? And a good book. I need a fireplace. A sauna. A long stretch. A bowl of penne with cream sauce and a glass of good wine. I need a purr. I need spoiling. Hot bath. Something that smells of lavender. Something that cools and soothes and calms and whispers repeatedly, "It will be worth it. It is already worth it. Congratulations. You should be proud of where you've gotten to."