Saturday, April 12, 2008

Jesus Christ this is hard.

I'm sitting here, on a warm and wonderful Saturday, reviewing pieces of paper and ephemera from the past ten years of my life, and feeling my courage crumble. Today was a Danielle-style. picture-perfect day: I woke up, took my compost to the Greenmarket (no comments, pls), got La Colombe coffee from Bittersweet, saw Jeff outside on my way home, talked to Jim for 45 min on the phone after I read the New York Times, putzed, hung out with Dave and Bettina, ran into Jason and Kayvalyn. It was all random, and spur of the moment, and special; the flowering trees smelled pretty, the sun peaked out from behind stormclouds, and the weather was oh-so-warm.

But then I came home and turned my attention fully to packing, and I hit a wall. I've found letters from lovers, cards from family, collected notions from places I've visited, postcards from friends' travels. Pictures, pins, articles... you name it, I've kept it and carried it around since leaving home at 18. Now that I'm leaving the US permanently, the thought of keeping it all seems ridiculous, but throwing everything in the trash is cruel and gutwrenching. How can I send the letters Jim typed to me on his typewriter while listening to Yo La Tengo in 2005 to a landfill? Or the condolence cards people sent me when my grandfather passed away? Or the postcards my brother, a notorious for never writing or calling, sent me from his summer in Barcelona?

The thought of disposing of my past terrifies me, more so than the thought of me leaving New York or the US. Humans have a great tendency to keep moving forward, leaving wreckage in our wake; rarely do we turn around and assess the damage before going on with more care and caution. Sometimes I think I am the opposite, that I live too much in the past and regard the future with hesitancy and skepticism. Whichever extreme may be the case, neither is healthy - balance is necessary in terms of understanding where one has come from and where one is going. But that doesn't relieve the pain of personally putting remnants of one's college years in trash bags and hauling them to the curb.

As I'm writing this, the stormclouds have gathered again and my lovely spring weather is, I fear, over for today. I know it will be nice again tomorrow, but it's funny how the weather has followed my mood today. Already a chill has picked up, and its not making my heart feel any better.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why globalization is a big crock and isn't helping me move to the UK.

Those of you who knew me when I was still a fiery, idealistic, anti-corporate-monopolast in college might remember a design project I made where I turned a Monopoly game into a scathing critique of global hegemony. The point of the game was to play as one of a dozen developing countries seeking aid from multinational organizations like the IMF, World Bank, etc, in the hopes of building infrastructure and economic growth - the kicker was, you couldn't win. Instead of bankrupt and tax cards, players were socked with fees, restrictive relationships, and other hazards that basically put them further in debt. Obviously no one actually PLAYED this game; it was meant to be a conversation piece to illustrate the horrors of the geo-economic hegemony that industrialized nations hold over the developing world.

Since then (my junior year), my viewpoints have moderated and I realize there are centuries of complexities influencing the rise global corporations and the continuing struggle of still-developing countries. However, every so often I encounter something so stupid that I find myself as indignant at the travesty of today's world as I was back in 2002. These days, it is the sham of the so-called "connected world" enabled by global corporations.

Specifically, there are two companies that I deal with for important services that I chose precisely for their presence in multiple countries around the world. One is Citibank, the other is TMobile. I chose them over their competitors because I knew that one day I'd succeed in living and working abroad, and in the meantime as I travel about I could use my services without extra fees or hassle. You would think this was a good plan, right? Well, you'd be wrong.

Citibank apparently has services for ex-pats - their website says so. But I can't find out about them. When I went into a branch in New York to inquire further, the staff had no idea those services exist and they told me to call the number on the back of my card. I tried calling the UK number but no one answered; I left a message and they never called me back. I have so many issues with this situation that its hard to articulate them at all logically without ranting, but one is customer service. I am a customer. I want to keep doing business with this bank. Their representatives do NOT want to help me. Just because I don't have a gazillion dollars on deposit with them doesn't mean I don't deserve good service, assistance with this move, advice about financial services. That's what I pay for by banking with them. But even though Citibank has offices all over the world and throughout the UK, they are not linked and they are not in touch with each other enough to provide seamless service for me. As a service company, they are not providing ME, the most important part of the equation (the customer) with good service, and therefore they are not selling a good product.

TMobile is similar. Even though TMobile is owned by Deutsche Telekom and has presence and service all over Europe, each country is run separately through its own silo. Therefore, even though I've used TMobile for FIVE YEARS in the US, I have to say goodbye to my lovely 646 mobile number and my sweet rate plan and go into a UK mobile shop and start a whole new account. Like I have built no history with this company.

I think that might be the worst aspect of this "fake" globalized world. The promise of a seamlessly integrated product or service across boundaries and borders is not actually true. It may be, if you're willing to pay a premium for it. The promise of individualized, customized products for every person, allowing true self-expression around the world, is also not true – we're all still numbers, and numbers are easily forgotten.

The bottom line is, multi-national companies, I thank you for making an effort (I'm not sure if it's sincere) in creating service products that help people in an increasingly connected world. But don't make promises you can't keep - because I WILL find you out, and I WILL have a temper tantrum.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What the F (train) am I thinking!!?!?!

I think it's only fitting that my first post is about how much I love New York. Ever since my leave date was finalized, I've been revisiting my favorite places in New York in order to memorize exactly how they look, feel, sound, smell (ew, F train), and taste (yum, Choice Bakery). And of course, I'm feeling like I'm making the worst decision of my life. How can I leave this city? My hairdresser is here, my heritage is here, my best friends are all here... BAGELS are here. C'mon – my subway ride to work every morning includes picture-perfect views of the Statue of Liberty, South Street Seaport, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Everyone keeps telling me that moving to London is the biggest and best adventure I'll ever have, and, well, yes that's true, but New York is my home. I know this city like the back of my hand, and everything about it comforts me. I feel like the minute I board the plane in Newark the flight attendant is going to take my security blanket away and I will WAIL. I've lived in New York since 2003, with a 2 year leave of absence to try out Philadelphia; while I was there, I'd visit New York monthly via Greyhound; as the bus approached the Lincoln Tunnel and the New York skyline appeared over the trees, I'd unconsciously whisper "Hello friend!" in greeting. New York City is like the best friend you love to hate but can't live without – one minute sharing special secrets with you, the next minute not returning your calls and being infuriatingly stupid and petty. Frank was right when he sang in "New York New York" that if you can make it here you can make it anywhere, because learning to live well in New York means learning to stand on your own two feet, trusting yourself completely, taking everything you can get, and then passing it on.

When I took my detour down I-95 to live in Philly, I really thought I was leaving home and going out on my own. That was not moving away from home – it was simply me not having spent enough time in New York to understand that I was still a child who needed just a little more time to grow up. I'm so glad I realized it, and came back to finish the job in the place I love the most. I hope I know myself well enough by now to trust my instincts with this move. So here it goes – I'm holding my nose and jumping in – no toe test.