Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Few Good Books

One of my favorite quotes is:

"The more that you read, the more that you know,
The more that you know, the more places you'll go."

Dr. Seuss had it right all along. It's the reason I can't stop reading, can't stop learning. It's a fact in my life, that I love being challenged to learn new things. Actually, I crave it. Knowledge takes you to new places, discovering possibilities beyond current reason. Hence why I do things like teach myself French on the side (albeit quite difficult), study vocabulary books for fun, and read case study textbooks. My mother is the same way, as she's currently working on getting her third master's degree, this time in mathematics. (Read: genius.) Like her, I'm always pushing myself harder, expecting more than humanly possible. It stretches my mind to think creatively in how can I achieve all that I want in the given time period I have allotted in a day, month, year, lifetime...

Being the intensely competitive person I am (don't play me in Scrabble), this year I decided to impose a semi-daunting challenge to myself called: "52 Books." I had heard about it through fellow bloggers, and it sounded like the perfect fit for me. The goal is to read 52 books in a year, one per week. I told a few friends about it January, casually asking if they wanted to do it too. Not only did an outstanding number of people join the quest, but we've made it into a social media project through sharing book reviews via Twitter (join the conversation: #52books), as well as mini-blogging on tumblr, and just sending emails back and forth.

I read a couple books at a time typically, which possibly makes me take longer to complete; it keeps them all interesting for me. Thus far, I'm about fifty pages from completion of my sixth book and about 200 from finishing the seventh. Perhaps reading 500-600 page books at a time is making this more difficult to comply with the "one book a week" ideal. As long as by December 31, 2011, I've read 52 books, I will consider it a win.

This year, I've been all over the boards with what I've been reading, including:

1. "Game Change" by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
2. "Reading Jackie" by William M. Kuhn
3. "One Day" by David Nicholls
4. "Travel and Tourism Public Relations" by Dennis Deuschl
5. "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki
6. "Anthropology of an American Girl" by Hilary Thayer Hamann (almost complete)
7. "Decision Points" by George W. Bush (halfway complete)

I will say there are a few trends though in my reading, focusing on politics and biographies. It's what interests me most, which has surprised me actually. It used to be fiction was my genre of choice, loving the ability to be transported to another world entirely. Perhaps now I'm too entwined with events and people in our world to want to be taken away from it.

Although technology is a big proponent for me in my career and personal interest, I've yet to give in to the kindle or an iPad. There's nothing like turning the page to next set of words waiting to be read and having bookcases filled with novels waiting to be opened again. Soon, though, I know I'll begin utilizing them. It took me a while to give up my handheld CD player too for the iPod, as the strap fit perfectly around my hand when I would go for runs. (Side note: my dad still uses his radio headset and discman when working out, one of the many reasons why I adore him for his unwillingness to let go of the things he loves.) Eventually I did give in and now can't imagine my life before my iPod with its ability to hold more songs than I can ever dream of listening to at a given time. Time changes everything. Unlike the discman, though, I hope books, like learning, never go out of style.

“Books open your mind, broaden your mind, and strengthen you as nothing else can.”

Monday, January 31, 2011

He Says It All

"You come by your style by learning what to leave out. At first you tend to overwrite—embellishment instead of insight. You either continue to write puerile bilge, or you change. In the process of simplifying oneself, one often discovers the thing called voice."

Billy Collins

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ryan O'Connell Is On Point

This post from Thought Catalog has whipped through the email chain circuit faster than the wind during last week's massive city blizzard. For the past few weeks it's been read by many, sent over and over, rehashed at cocktail parties, etc. It's too good to not re-post because at the end of the day, this is our lives in the city:

How to Live in New York City
December 20, 2010
By Ryan O'Connell

Move here when you’re 18 or 22, maybe even 24. Come from somewhere else-the north, south, west, Xanadu- and come to realize that everyone living in New York is a transplant. Even the ones who grew up on the Upper East Side end up moving into a place downtown, which, as you’ll soon discover, is like moving to a different city.

Discover the cruel and bizarre world of New York City real estate. End up spending an obscene amount of money on something called a broker’s fee, first and last month’s rent and a security deposit. Cry a little bit in the leasing office but remind yourself that you’re so happy to be here.

Picture hearing a man playing the saxophone outside your bedroom window. End up hearing a lot of sirens instead. Figure it’s okay because it’s New York and you’re still so happy to be here.

Go out to bars in the Lower East Side because the Internet told you so. Fall in love with a bar called, Max Fish, and always stay out till four in the morning. Eat a falafel and have someone pay for a cab back to your apartment. Watch the sun start to rise while going over the Williamsburg Bridge and feel like your life is becoming some kind of movie.

Eat bad pizza but trick yourself into believing it’s good because it’s made in New York. Do the same thing with bagels and sex.

Meet people who will be your best friends for three or four months. They’ll help you transition into city life and take you to weird bars in Murray Hill. It will be like the blind leading the blind but once you get a firm grasp on things, you can stop returning their phone calls.

Watch your life in New York go through phases. Spend a summer in Fort Greene with a lover and get to know the neighborhood and its rhythms. Once the fling ends, forget the blocks, parks and restaurants ever existed and don’t return unless you have to.

Encounter a lot of people crying in public. Watch an NYU student cry in Think Coffee, a business woman in midtown sob into her cellphone, an old man whimper on a stoop in Greenpoint. At first, it will feel very jarring but, like everything else, it will become normal. Have your first public cry in front of a Bank of America. Cry so hard and don’t care if people are watching you. You pay good money to be able to cry in public.

Work long hours at a thankless job. Always be one step away from financial destitution. Marvel at how expensive New York is, how when you walk out the door, $20.00 immediately gets deleted from your wallet. Understand that even though no one has any money, everyone is privileged to live in New York City.

Go home for the holidays and run into old friends from high school. When you tell them that you live in New York, watch their eyes widen. They’ll say, “Oh my god, New York? That’s so crazy. I’m so jealous!” Have a blasé attitude about it but deep down inside, know they have good reason to be jealous.

Go home and feel relieved to be away from the energy of the city, that punishing 4:00 a.m. last call. Spend the first two days eating and sleeping, getting back to normal. Spend the last two days feeling anxious and ready to get back to your real home. Realize this city has you by the balls and isn’t going to let you go.

Someday you might grow tired of it all though. You might start crying in public more often than you’d like, have a bad break-up and want to pack it all up.

Certain moments of living in the city will always stick out to you. Buying plums from a fruit vendor on 34th street and eating three of them on a long walk, the day you spent in bed with your best friend watching Tyra Banks, the amazing rooftop party you attended on a sweltering hot day in July. These memories might seem insignificant but they were all moments when you looked around the city and felt like you were a part of it all.

When you leave the city, you probably won’t come back. Eventually your life in New York will seem so far away and sometimes you’ll even wonder if it really happened. Don’t worry. It did.

Check the original posting out here.

Here's to another year... the best one yet.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Post Script

I'd like to make an addendum to my previous posting regarding the respect needed for the eight million other people living in New York City to make a life here work. I still agree with the sentiment, but also thing you must care deeply about someone else: yourself.

"Those who master others are strong;
Those who master themselves have true power."

Lao-Tsu was a genius. The intrinsic motivation needed to survive in this environment is not commended often-enough, as groping through the urban jungle can be one of the most disparaging tasks of every day life.

If you think too much about how you live daily, you'll never make it out alive. It's a combination of drive, determination, and discipline that makes the days work. Driven to succeed, determined to succeed, disciplined to succeed. Can you tell that my word for New York is success?

Taking the utmost care of yourself through each course of action in life directly correlates with the personal achievements. Many of these are little victories, but some day all of the small feats are going to add up to one very large W.

And I personally cannot wait.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Challenge

New York, I must admit to you: we have a love-hate relationship.

I adore so much of what makes this city one of the most beloved, but recently I've had to reassess my true emotions about living in this world. The crazy work hours, the weekend partying, terrible weather, the financial challenges... it can be taxing both physically and emotionally.

Then I get to thinking about how anything can happen here. It may sound cliche, but it's true. I'm at the center of it all and can't break away from the centrifugal force that pulls the eight million inhabitants to keep themselves in the game.

I'm constantly in awe that people make it here for years; to do so, though, I believe that you truly must have a love for other people.

I've found that I embrace the differences of each person. I've realized through careful observation of my own self that I love the heritage, language, religion, and structure of others. I actually cherish (some more than others) the unique characters that I meet on the street, in a cab, on the subway. I still think about people I meet months later.

The stories are endless. I've been introduced some of my best friends by being confined in small spaces with them and managing to survive. My work environment is top-notch, bringing together the best minds in public relations. With strangers, it fascinates me that I've made an entire subway car start laughing just from giggling and how I have been consoled when I cried on a street corner in broad daylight.

It's like we're all in it together - we live here. This is our city.

This is a place of extremes. There is no in-between, no indifference, no intermediate. No room for thinking about the what-ifs because this city never stops.

So it's time to forget the "maybes" and "what-could-bes."

Here goes, New York, I'm all in...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Les It Girl

I spent the summer after college in Europe, touring through a dozen countries and countless cities, starting in London and ending in the Greek Islands. Although I embraced the culture, cuisine, and citizens of each destination, none stole my heart like Paris. I was in the city as summer was fully blooming, Roland Garros was taking place (won by Federer and Kuznetsova for my fellow tennis fiends), and seeing the glittering Eiffel Tower at dusk as we drank bottles of red wine along the banks of the Seine captured me forever.

It was by chance that a few months later when I moved to Manhattan that I met Garance Doré, one my favorite bloggers, photographers, and illustrators. I was at Bergdorf's for fellow fashion blogger Scott Schuman's book release party when I saw her. Elegantly charismatic, I was curious to know who the woman next to Scott was. His wife? Friend? Publicist (and my next thought was how could I that be me)? Turns out, she is the female French version of our beloved Sartorialist.

Effortlessly chic, Garance stole the show in my eyes. I spoke with her about her beautiful photographs and cool illustrations that had been captivating me online for some time by that point. She had started with street photography, but now has graduated to the likes of French Vogue and earlier this year shooting Club Monaco's Fall 2010 campaign.

I read her posts as she updates, about a few times a week. I suppose I should note that read is a loose term, as I don't translate the pages into English. Garance's art speaks for itself, and I allow myself to get lost in the beauty of the French language.

And perhaps my favorite French phrase thus far: La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Favorite Season: Autumn

"Seasonality informs my selection of color, style and menus, even the scent I wear and use in my homes. The crisp days of autumn arrive, and I'm ready to move inside, where cozy fires and candlelight makes me feel warm and comfy... I revel in the aroma of wood smoke in brisk air, spiced apple cider, pumpkin pies baking, my favorite white truffles. Even my choice of music is different: Vivaldi, Bach and Sinatra."

Amen, Carolyne Roehm.