Saturday, May 31, 2008

Double Dutch

For client confidentiality reasons, I can't write about the client I'm working on here in London. Nor do I particularly wish to go into detail about where I work, etc, for similar reasons. But I can talk about work, and the fact that my client is Dutch, and that I flew to Amsterdam (well, technically, a suburb of Amsterdam) yesterday to meet them for the first time and help run a workshop.

I flew for work a lot when I was in New York, but mostly my clients were within driving distance of the office so I had cars take me to and from their offices. In London the majority of my office's clients are based in other countries, making business travel less of "commuter trips" and more time spent waiting in line in check-in, customs, and immigration. Yesterday, a car picked me up at 4:45AM to get me to Terminal 4 at Heathrow for the 6:30AM (read: first flight out) flight to Amsterdam. I was at my client's by 10AM, and spent the next six hours (in addition to the previous 5) in heels, in a restaurant, looking over a picturesque canal, trying to follow a powerpoint presentation given in Dutch (and getting a lot of it!), and making small talk with a group of 15 Dutch people I've never met before. The meeting was a success, hurrah, and my boss and I celebrated with McDonalds and Heineken in Schipol.

The wacky thing about it all was that in one day, I used 2 ATMs for 2 types of currency, spoke three languages (2 in random words), and was back where I started in 14 hours. It's amazing to think that Europe is so compact that a business trip I would have had entirely in the United States was spread across borders. Very weird, but very awesome too.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Today I mailed my FPCA – my request for an absentee ballot for an American citizen living abroad.

Apparently, all the expats in London are gearing up for the 2008 US Presidential election. Famous expats held a fundraiser for Obama last night, and he is considered the most "Anglophile" of the three candidates.

Read about it here.

Sherlock Holmes in Baker Street

I transfer at the Baker Street Underground station nearly every day, and I couldn't help but notice the tiles in the walkways throughout the station. I think they're screenprinted on the tiles, not in the glaze. Whatever the case, I love them - they make me smile on a not-amusing commute.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pictures! Everyone loves pictures

So I know you're all clamoring about for photographs I've been taking in London, so I finally uploaded them here. Enjoy!

West End Girls

Sloane was here!!! My very first visitor!!!

I just spent a wonderful weekend hanging out with my New York friend in London. She stayed in a hotel in Earl's Court, so I found myself in the West End for most of the weekend. Sloane was here for another friend's wedding, so while she was busy with the wedding events, I was wandering around a part of town I remember (but not quite) from my previous visits to London.

Saturday I had lunch with Sloane, and when she left to get ready for the wedding, I walked up to Notting Hill and down Portobello Road through the market. I was a bit disappointed by the market - so touristy! so much crap! - but the produce vendors were great and there was extremely good people watching. Saturday night Ashley and I went to Leicester Square and saw the McDreamy chick-flick, which had lovely scenes of New York - SoHo, Central Park, the Village - that didn't make me cry! It was a big step for me to see a NYC-based movie and not burst into tears. So go me!

Sunday Sloane and I visited my new flat (22? days to go!) and conducted an anthropological study by eating at Pizza Express (it IS quite nice), before heading to Kensington to shop. We tried on tons of clothes and bought none, which is responsible shopping, and found a ton of scrumptious shoes that I could have eaten for dinner. We also checked out the Conran Shop, which is what I like to call furniture porn, and I flipped out over throw pillows embrodiered with the Eiffel Tower. Sloane lost it for some stacking red chairs. We ended the day with a traditional Sunday roast; picture above is at the "local" (the local pub, for you Americans) in Clerkenwell Green. Unfortunately, I only know the pubs close to my office so I always default to them.

Monday Sloane and I had a traditional English breakfast: 1 egg, 2 sausages, 1 slice of bacon (really a side of pork), toast, and a stewed tomato. Sloane added beans to hers. After a fun inspection of Boots and some silly picture taking of me with my umbrella blown inside out, Sloane had to leave and I was left to my own devices in the driving rain. I spent the afternoon wandering through the V&A, and then headed home to get dry.

This was one of my better weekends in London, mostly because I had a second familiar face to share it with. Sloane and I have such a great time together doing normal things like chatting, shopping, getting coffee, and we laugh a lot. It was really comforting to have a very normal New York weekend in my new home, and I am actually hopeful that I can continue to have these types of weekends with the new people that I meet here.

Week 3: Freebird

So! Happy Memorial Day to all of you jerks in the US who enjoyed a gloriously sunny three-day weekend. We had a three-day weekend too, you know, but it was rainy – so rainy, infact, that I removed "New York" from my iGoogle application. Seeing the cute little yellow suns next to New York contrasted with the boring clouds next to London each day was making me a little feisty.

Anyway, this weekend was my first official Bank Holiday weekend. I guess I technically had a bank holiday weekend my first weekend in London, but I had just landed and was staying at Le Travelodge of King's Cross so I don't really count that. I spent my weekend with friends (see next post), doing regular things like shopping and chatting and getting coffee, so it was relaxing and quite reassuring. I didn't leave town like many people I know, but it was good to spend a weekend in a familiar mode of waking up late, meeting up with people who know me well, and just ambling through the day with no particular plans. It was quite New York in that way, and that made it comfortable.

Adding to my comfort is a thought I had this week, that the flipside of people I know back in the States continuing in their lives without me is that I am also continuing in my life without them. I realized on the train one night that any restrictions I felt in New York have been completely relaxed; like I was wearing a very tight dress and suddenly had the laces undone, I feel like I can breathe deeply on my own for the first time in a very long time. Maybe it's because my new cell phone only has ten numbers in it, and 5 of them are British. Maybe it's because I email people, I instant message them, I even call them, but there is nothing forcing me to see them, to make plans with them – there are no obligations. Obviously I miss everyone I left in the US, but never in my life have I been so truly free to do whatever I want, whenever I want. There are no social plans for me to bail on, no one expecting me to spend time with them because I haven't seen them in two weeks, no one telling me they're pissed at me for not getting back to them about that thing they sent me three weeks ago and it got lost in the inbox of one of my three email addresses because it just wasn't as important as the other 15 things that got lost in my inbox that day.

Breathing is really quite nice. (It's very British to say something is "Quite nice", especially when referring to food - "Pizza Express is quite nice"). It allows your brain to function on a completely different level. I feel much more attentive to the world, I see more, I notice more, I think more complete thoughts. I spend the afternoon at the Victoria & Albert Museum today, and filled four pages of my Moleskin with ideas about culture, art & design, and various other topics for papers I may or may not write. I sketched things, I wandered, and I was completely content. Without restrictions on time, behavior, or actions, creativity seems much more readily available to me. I'm so excited by the possibilities it holds.

You know when someone tells you something, and you know it's important, but you don't quite "get it"? Jane, the therapist I was seeing in New York, told me a lot of those somethings, and one of them is finally sinking in: she tried to stress to me that I need to live with myself at the center of my own universe - not self-centered, but starting out with me in the center and working out from there. I never quite understood what she meant, but I finally do. Being in London, truly on my own for the very first time in a long time and ready for the challenge, has given me a rare opportunity to put myself first in every part of my life. I feel completely in control of myself, and it's a wonderful feeling.

Yes there are ties that bind, but I highly suggest everyone loosen them now and again.

Orla Kiely on a bus for Rietje!

Rietje has been bugging me for a few weeks now (like, ever since I left) for design. Photos, books, leaflets - you name it, she wants it! So when I saw this bus, I had to photograph it for her. Sorry about the overexposure - I didn't have much time to take the shot.

Epilogue to the big game (a post for Allison)

So that big game I mentioned previously? Man U won in penalty kicks (which is a big deal). Super long overtime, etc. In honor of their win, I'm posting a picture of an ad that is hanging all over London for Allison: it features Portuguese football star Ronaldo, the key player for Man U, and Allison's future husband. Miguel, Allison's current boyfriend, is also Portuguese, and will appreciate it as well.

Allison, I think you can write a better tagline for this ad than "my country has the best golf courses in Europe"!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Happiness is…

…running 5 miles wearing a sports bra, not the oldest bra you brought to London with you that lost its supportiveness long ago and had to be sacrificed for your greater mental and physical well-being.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Something about soccer today? (a post for DK and Miguel)

So there is some humongous soccer game today. In Moscow. Russia eased its visa requirements so that thousands of English football fans could fly to Moscow to watch the UEFA Championship game between Chelsea and Manchester United (Man U).

I marginally understand what it all that means. I jest; I actually understand a lot thanks to Miguel, who explained how English football and how the Premier league works over a scrumptious brunch right before I left New York. DK has also been feeding me pointers and tidbits on various football clubs in England.

Obviously there are other sports played in this country; obviously, the only one that matters is football. It is obsessive. There is a championship game here every other DAY it seems. You go to the train station, and you see people dressed up in ridiculous outfits. If you thought tailgating and American football fans looked stupid, painting their bare chests in -10 degree weather in, like, Green Bay, WI, come to London and check out the football fans. Unbelievable. They have these chants that, once the fans are drunk and shouting in unison, are unintelligible.

Because of the absolute enormity of the sport, it's impossible for anyone in London not to support a football club. Who one supports is a very important decision; it can not be made lightly, or retracted; like baseball in the US, once you pick a team, you never go back on it. Even if you picked your team when you were 5, that's your team.

So, in this very public forum, I'm going to announce that I've picked my team: The Tottenham Hotspurs. I've picked them for the following reasons:

1. I like their rooster logo (recently redrawn)
2. I like calling them the Tottenham Hotties
3. They seem like a bit of a scruffy underdog (like my Mets!)
4. They are the historically Jewish team so half of me likes them more than the other clubs.

So! Now I can move on to my typical M.O. of not actually following a sports team of any type until they make it to the playoffs (but reserve the right to grumble when thy don't).

Semiotics, Cultural Property, and Meaning

Here is a heady intellectual exercise for all you folks who have no idea what I do for a living.

This past Sunday's New York Times Magazine had a thorough article about dead brands that are purchased, revived, and reintroduced to the market.

The whole concept of an intangible entity living and dying and being revived, all based on consumer memory, is staggering. Adorno would have a field day with this, as would Bourdieu.

I know I rant a lot about how my job is a bunch of BS, but I get excited when people take branding seriously enough to write about the complexities of the discipline on an intellectual level.

Through the Looking Glass

One of the best compliments I ever received was that I am an emotional person. No need to hide it. I cry a lot – at beautiful things, at horrible things, at hilarious things. Robert DeNiro's AMEX commercials post-9/11 made me weep the first few times I saw them. So no surprise that when I read this article that Jeff sent me, I welled up.


The possibility of SEEING lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge, with my favorite people in front of them, is amazing. I'm going to flip my shit when I look through that glass and see Jeff making stupid faces right back at me as if he were feet away (instead of miles across an ocean). To then look back up and see the Thames?! I think that then I will know what Alice in Wonderland was feeling: displacement and connection and a flurry of emotion.

Wheeee! I can't wait!

If anyone else wants to wave, let me know! Let's schedule a post-modern embrace!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ode to the British Suit

This post is long overdue. It's been pretty much a constant topic of conversation since I arrived 17 days ago, and it's about time I put it in print (digital print).

About a month before I moved here, I was hanging out in my Brooklyn kitchen with roommates Eric and Theresa when Eric queried us as to the definition of the word "sartorial." Theresa and I looked at each other and agreed it must have something to do with "sarcastic." But I needed a definitive answer, so I hauled out my favorite book: the unabridged Webster's Dictionary, weighing in at about 12 lbs. Imagine my surprise, then, when it turns out that "sartorial" actually means "having to do with tailoring and wardrobe."

Armed with that knowledge, I am here to tell you that only now can I fully appreciate sartorial excellence; I have found it in the British mens suit. Britain has given the world many a notable gift: soccer, Dairy Milk, the theory of evolution, Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones... but by far its greatest gift is that of impeccable tailoring of male businesswear.

It doesn't matter how foul my mood is in the morning, because when I get on the tube and am treated to a car full of attractive men in well-tailored suits I can't help but smile to see them all turned out so well. What makes a British suit so smashing? Here, let me outline it for you.

1. The impeccable attention to fit in the shoulders. Most girls agree that a man's best asset is his shoulders, and nothing looks worse than a suit jacket where the shoulder seams are halfway down his biceps. A British suit is always perfectly cut in the shoulders, and it looks neater, cleaner, and well, hotter.

2. The tapered pant. In America, men insist on wearing pants with enough fabric to upholster a couch - in fact, their suit jackets have enough to do a matching armchair. Here, the pants are cut slim and taper elegantly, making even short and stocky guys look lithe.

3. The pointy-toed shoes. Those tapered pants more often than not end in a pointy-toed shoe that just looks great. No clunkers or ugly round-toed loafers for British men; these shoes are usually amazingly neat, polished, and sophisticated.

4. The wide-collar/Windsor knot combo. So hot. Plus, on the tube in the morning, some men keep the tie undone, to knot at the office, and its quite nice to see the casual open collar. Yum.

5. Last but not least, the butt flap. I'm sure there is a more appropriate term for this essential suit element, but I call it the butt flap because that is what it is. Instead of one pleat a the bottom of the suit jacket back, good British suits do a double flap that makes EVERY guy's ass look great. LE SIGH.

In order to illustrate this wonderment of fashion, I've posted a picture of the Chelsea football team in their Armani suits. It's not Jermyn Street or Savile Row tailoring, but you get the gist. Even footballers wear good suits, and it's a travesty that American men haven't learned better. For the sake of womankind in America, boys! Find your passports - the dollar is gaining strength - and get your asses over here to get fitted for some suits! You'll thank me!

Small rodents

This is a 2 part post.

Part 1 is a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAM! Sam is one year older (but still younger than me) today, and I'm sorry I can't be there to give him a huge hug. Sam and I share an affinity for cute small rodents, such as guinea pigs, hamsters, and chinchillas.

Part 2, however, is about the small rodents I DON'T like, specifically rats and mice. Yesterday I started my run rather late, at about 8PM; it was still light out but dusk was approaching rapidly. As I rounded the first bend in the canal, listening to Jimmy Eat World, what pops out of the bushes but a RAT. Now. I lived in New York. I watched the rats frolic on the subway rails in between trains. I saw them scurry out from under garbage bags and disappear into the sewer. But this rat, which was not that big but still a RAT, was running full speed ahead STRAIGHT AT ME on the towpath.

What did I do? What I normally do when confronted with a rodent that's not domesticated: I automatically screamed like a banshee and jumped up and down until it made a sharp left and headed back into the bushes. As soon as it left the path, I continued my run while laughing at myself. It made the rest of the run seem like cake.

Monday, May 19, 2008


One of the Americans in the London office who has been away for a while returned today. With him, he brought a box of Thin Mints.


I think my reaction to seeing the box was "SHUT UP OH MY GOD YOU'RE KIDDING ME" and lunging for it.

I have never enjoyed a Thin Mint so much in my entire life.

siiiiiiiigggggggh mmmmmm thhiiiiiiinnnn miiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnt.

Now if someone could send a box of Samoas (Caramel Delites), I'd be all set.

Canals? Who knew!

We are now returning to regularly scheduled programming: ie, less introspection, more London tidbits and fun facts!

The very last thing I expected when I arrived in London was a canal. I had no idea London HAD a canal; I guess I assumed that the Thames was it for water. The canal runs throughout several areas of the city and connect various boroughs across miles with a well-maintained towpath for bicycles, pedestrians, and joggers, and benches along the sides. I first encountered Regent's Canal (pictured above) on my first weekend here, when I was exploring Angel Islington, and I was delighted to see all of the house boats, flowering trees, and old bridges. As Angel is where I'm going to be living in 29 short days, I'm super excited to be close to it.

But there are several other segments of Regents Canal besides the Islington's, and I am living near one a stretch of it right now out in Willesdon Junction. I finally broke down on Thursday and fished my running sneakers out of the boxes conveniently located alongside my desk at work, and when I went out for that first run I happened upon the canal within minutes. Out in Willesdon Junction, the canal runs for miles, and I could actually ride my bike along it into work if I wanted. Best part about the canal out west is that there are signposts along it that chart mileage; I now know what a true five mile run feels like, and it's not so bad at all. The western canal also has better wildlife: swans, geese (with goslings!), and all kinds of smaller birds. On my second run, I had to close my eyes and zoom past a family of geese with little babies - the parents were hissing and I really didn't want to find out if geese had teeth or not.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Week in Review 2: Reality Sets In

Well! Refreshed from a full night's sleep and Dr Stuart's Detox tea, I woke up this AM to a sunny sky and renewed (enough) optimism. So let's deconstruct this past week and objectively understand what's what, what's up and what's down.

Good news is, Ashley and I got our dream apartment. With the help of her very generous host and luck that no one else snapped it up while we were debating its affordability, we are soon-to-be the proud lease holders of a sweet two-bedroom flat on Upper Street in Angel Islington. For those of you who don't know London, Angel is a really fun, hip area with tons of bars and shops and restaurants. Not as trendy/gritty as Shoreditch and Hoxton (that's like the Williamsburg of London); this is like the West Village of London. I can walk to work (WOOT) and we have a JULIETTE BALCONY (double WOOT). Downside? It's not available until June 18. So, the countdown begins – exactly 30 days until I move out of Weehauken and into walking distance of the City. Let's hope that I can maintain my sanity that long.

So, yesterday's homesickness... pretty brutal. I ended up going BACK to Ashley's apartment to hear an American accent and get Thai noodle soup which is probably as comfort-food-y as I'm going to get here. Afterwards, Ashley's host let us watch High Noon with him, which also made me feel better because a) nothing is more American than a Western, b) I feel like Poppi loved that movie, c) sitting on a couch hugging a pillow was about all I had the energy for, d) Grace Kelly was a badass in that movie!

But seriously. I think the homesickness stemmed from the fact that two weeks have gone by here, and it's really, truly, hitting me that I am here, permanently. Obviously not for the rest of my life, but I've moved here. The initial excitement of arriving, starting work, exploring, getting my Oyster card, buying real Dairy Milk with Nuts and Raisins, etc, is fading and revealing the fact that I've chosen a completely new and different direction in which to take my life. I met a friend of a friend on Saturday night, an American guy who has lived here for six years, and somehow, meeting him – the typical New York Jew – in London, it made me realize that this is, well, REAL. I have a return ticket to the States, for Christmas, and that's it. I have to somehow figure out how to merge my old life into this new life, where it's of course going to be different, but that will be the challenge and hopefully the fun. Unfortunately, right now it just feels like none of that can truly happen until June 18. So what have I been doing while biding my time? Drinking. Clearly, Danielle has not changed THAT much.

Compounding this homesickness is the slow realization that life is still going on for everyone I know back home. When people go on vacation, they drop out of life as they know it, have deeply personal and hopefully enlightening experiences, and then return, changed, relaxed, edified, etc, to their normal, day-to-day lives. Their friends and relatives greet them, want to hear their tales, see their pictures, but in the end that window of individual experience closes and people are still the same and life continues as it always did. That's not the case here. I'm not on vacation. People want to see my pictures and read my blog posts to find stuff out, but I'm not coming back – my day-to-day life in the US doesn't exist anymore and people aren't waiting for me. Life for everyone in New York is continuing at its normally rapid clip, and I'm not a part of it. If I thought of every birthday party, every girls night, every band, every impromptu gathering that I have and will continue to miss, I will vomit. Humans are inherent selfish beings and consider themselves the centers of their little individual universes; my particular universe has just been ripped in two, and the one without me in the middle is looking a lot more exciting at the moment.

Let's be completely straight here, though; this situation is all of my own doing. I asked for this. OK, maybe I didn't ask for London initially, but I'm so happy I ended up here instead of Paris, and the point is that I asked for the opportunity to live abroad. It's up to me now to take advantage of living abroad to the fullest. So in the end, yes I can whine and complain and have my temper tantrums and hissy fits, but this is, of all times, one where I've made my bed (with a DUVET and without a boxspring) and now I not only have to lay in it, but I have to sleep in it – permanently. And if it hurts, well Princess Danielle, figure out where the pea is and take it out.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

First wave

Well, I tried to bring back the snark but unfortunately you're stuck with more rants of despair. Today is my first day of real homesickness. I'm sitting here about to burst into tears at how much I wish I were in New York right now.

I'm sequestered in a room the size of my Brooklyn bathroom with 3 suitcases that have lost all semblence of order or tidiness, and I have no energy or interest in resolving the situation. My two brand-new suits are crumpled in a ball somewhere in the midst of all of this, and I'm angry beyond belief at myself for having just spent $500 on new work clothes only to let them get cruddy before I even wear them BUT I JUST DON'T CARE.

It takes me an hour to get anywhere in the city from here. I feel like I'm in the way if I try to cook in my host's kitchen, or watch TV, or take a shower. I don't even have anything to COOK WITH because I don't have staples like olive oil or Balsamic vinegar! Everything goes bad here in 2 days because they don't use preservatives! AND I HAVE NO MONEY TO FOOD SHOP because I don't get paid until 28 May!

The only places I feel remotely comfortable in this city are my office and my friend's temporary flat. Obviously, I'm not spending any more time at work than I need to because I sense a very quick upswing in work coming right around the corner. And despite my own personal ease and comfort at my friend's place, my poor friend's host is I'm sure ready to have the consulate revoke my right-to-stay because he sees my face every 3 days. I'm like a squatter on their couch every weekend!

I don't have any of my music, because it's all on a portable harddrive in a box next to my desk at work. I don't have any place to put any of the flyers or postcards or other artifacts I collect when I walk around. I'm running out of toothpaste, but I can't find the tube that I brought from home. It's somewhere in this hovel. I also can't find my sports bra, and that is starting to become a problem. I haven't practiced yoga in 3 weeks, and even if I wanted to practice it on my own, outside of a studio, where would I do it? In my hosts' living room?!

It is 4PM in the afternoon and all I've accomplished today is to get waxed and take a shower and write this. It's miserable outside. I'm wearing a wool sweater!

What I want right now is to get on the subway (NOT the goddamned tube) and exit at 49th-50th Street/Rockefeller Center and go into the MoMA where I get in for free and find one of my favorite paintings like a Morris Louis or a Joseph Cornell box and just sit there for a while and think. Then I want to go over to Sloane's, or Rietje's, and hang out and chat. I want to get dinner at the pasta place on Prince Street or get Indian food on 5th Street. Then I want to go back to Brooklyn and drink PBR at Alibi and play Big Buckhunter and stumble 2 blocks to my big bed with A FUCKING BOXSPRING MATTRESS (seriously, can't anyone in this country do anything for my back?!) in my tiny garret room with the Danielle-sized sloped ceiling.

And I want to go to the Greenmarket, and I want to get milk from a farmer, and I want to compost. And I want to go to Central Park and I want to go to the design stores in SoHo and I want to go to Cobble Hill and get coffee beans from D'Amicos where the little old Italian ladies yell at their sons to get married already. And I want to see the Sex in the City movie with my friends, and I want to talk about how American men are all douchebags, and I want to dissect their behavior with my ladies and try to understand why they act the way they do, but still hope that tonight might be the night I find the one.

I want to complain that my parents are showing up at the interminable gap between lunch and dinner so that we can't find someplace to eat. I want to spend a lazy Sunday on my bike riding around Brooklyn ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD. I want to sit by the river and smell the pungent brine as the river water mixes with the sea.

Yes, I know that there are all kinds of things I could be doing with myself right now besides whining and complaining. And yes, I know that I just posted that I should be grateful for this opportunity. But until June 18, I reserve the right to be really fucking PISSED OFF that I'm stuck in seemingly interminable limbo. I am 27 years old, for god's sake... I should be living like an adult, not some trustfund hosteller. This is the part of fate where I really want to grab control of my destiny and wrangle it into place. If this is some kind of sick joke on karma's behalf, thankyouverymuch but I'm over it.

Sigh. I miss you all. Hugs.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A post for Poppi

Only one post today kids, because it doesn't seem right to be blogging all day today.

Today is the one-year anniversary of my grandfather's death. It is also the first day of truly "London" weather - rainy, overcast, dreary. Someone in New York told me that when it rains in London it's like the sky is sitting inches from your head, pressing down on you; to me, it's sort of like a net keeping all of my thoughts down close to me rather than letting them float off into the world. I feel more introspective, more vulnerable, weaker, today.

I spent my lunch hour at church. The closest Catholic church I could find to work is an Italian church, Chiesa di San Pietro. Mass was said in Italian, and I found comfort in the fact that, even though I didn't understand most of what was said, I knew exactly what was going on. To me, being raised Catholic means constantly questioning the religion's doctrines, trying to understand their place and importance beyond antiquated cultural ritual. But every time I step into a church, those same rituals quickly lull me into a peaceful calm. Even though I don't go that often, Poppi once to ld me to "Try it someday, you might like it" and in some ways, he was right.

I can't believe that it has been a year; some things are exactly the same, others are wildly different. Usually I think of Poppi most when I least expect it; some little saying or sight or even smell will trigger a memory and I smile. The shore is very special for me; Poppi loved the water and being near it always reminds me of him.

Being in London is hard today, for various reasons. I keep coming back to the hope that he is proud of me for doing this, and understands why I'm here. I also hope he knows how much I value what he sacrificed to enable me to be here.

In the spirit of Poppi, I want you all to try to do this this coming summer. If you do, let me know and I'll link it to the blog. Until then, hug your grandparents if you have them and respect where you came from.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Robert Rauschenberg, dead at 82.

More on this later… I'm feeling a bit melancholy right now.

Happy Birthday, Phil! (a post for my dad)

Today is my dad's birthday. Because I'm 5 hours ahead, I couldn't call him at 7AM to catch him on his commute. But I talked to him last night, and I will call him later.

Phil and I are tight, and I miss meeting him for conveyor-belt-sushi at East on 25th and 3rd. And calling him while walking down the street in New York to tell him about a ridiculous sight I've just witnessed. And hearing his commentary on New York's real estate and construction industry. And debate the merits of congestion pricing vs development.

I owe him, as well, for all of the hard labor I put him through over the last ten years, including, but not limited to: no less than 5 strenuous moves, several emotional breakdowns, and repeated pestering for him to invest in a brownstone in Brooklyn.

So here's to my dad, the coolest Dad around. I'm posting this image in his honor: it is my luggage trolley at Heathrow right before I loaded it all in a taxi. Total weight of baggage: 125 lbs, give or take 10. Yes, that is a bike on top. Dad: The trolley had better suspension than the one in Newark, but just as poor steering.

I hope you have a good day, Dad, and that you get to take some time for you. xoxoxox.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

London Premiere of Sex in the City: brand-wise.

Oh, FT! The Pink Paper has its say.

For those of you who don't work in branding, consider this a primer on what the market is doing to "masstige" and luxury branding.

Say wha?! Just read the article.

New to me!

Today I did a lot of British things for the first time:

1. I tried Marmite.

Verdict: To be honest, I'm neutral on it. For those of you who don't know, Marmite is this yeast by-product of the beer brewing process that British people either love or hate. Frankly, I find the idea that someone decided to use the by-product of the beer brewing process for a food substance more disgusting than the actual taste. But yeah, it was ok. It kinda was missing something. I bet you could make some yummy crudites with it, by pairing it with something really complimentary. My new mission!

2. I had a half shandy at lunch.

Verdict: Interesting. A shandy, for all of you who don't know in America, is the British beer-mosa: 1/3 lager, 2/3 lemonade. It's super sweet and bubbly. I think I might prefer the drink that is the next step up, 3/4 lager and 1/4 lemonade, whose name was equally as silly-sounding but I forgot it. A half means a half pint, which is good for lightweights like me who want to have a drink at the pub with co-workers but also want to be somewhat productive at work in the afternoon.

3. (from last night) I watched Eastenders.

Verdict: Totally rad. This is sort of a fake "first" because I watched Eastenders for the first time last weekend in my hotel room (along with Coronation Street), and I also watched it last night so it wasn't exactly today. ANYWAY. Eastenders is like the UK's "Guiding Light" or "General Hospital" in that it has been on the air for like 15 years and the characters keep coming in and out of plotlines. The best part, though, is that is based on people from a low-class white trash neighborhood in East London. So where Americans watch the daily dramas of people they aspire to be – wealthy, successful, beautiful - Brits, on the other hand, watch the people they are glad they are not - slightly ridiculous, poorly dressed, overly made-up people from bad areas of the city. The class system here is fascinating.

And now for an epilogue to the last post: rather than going home for another solo dance party, Ashley and I did some more apartment searching. We ended up getting some food and cooking at her temporary home, watching Eastenders, and pestering her very patient and obliging host. I left around 11:00PM for my trek to Weehauken (Willesdon Junction), and did the standard transfer at Baker Street. Until, at Baker Street, they announce there are no Bakerloo (brown) line trains at that station. They tell me to take the Circle (yellow) line trains to Paddington and transfer there for the Bakerloo. Only at Paddington, there are no Bakerloo trains running AT ALL. So I get back on the Circle Line to go back one stop to Edgware Road, where I was to get on the No.18 bus to Willesdon Junction.

Now. The bus system in London is quite efficient - clean, inexpensive, and surprisingly local. Except: when the bus stop is not right outside the station, but underneath an overpass, in the dark, in a part of town that I'd never been to in the daylight. When I finally found the bus stop (only because I saw the bus pulling up), after the short ride it dropped me off at the Willesdon Junction tube station - my normal stop - but only on the other side of the station. So the only way for me to get to the other side was to walk along a path that was (thank god) extremely well lit but bordered on both sides with chain link fence topped with razor wire. I walked fast, kept my eyes down, and clenched my fists over and over again, mentally composing the scathing letter that would go to my HR director this morning for placing me in a temporary housing situation that put a foreigner in such a vulnerable position. The problem was not so much that the tube broke down - this happened all the time in New York (thank you, fucking MTA New York City Transit) - because the tube system is pretty extensive and the buses helped. But only one line services the area where I'm being hosted, and apparently, judging from the grumbles around me as the London Transport representative explained why the subway wasn't running, this happens on the Bakerloo all of the time. So instead of being centrally located in an area where there were several other transportation options, I was placed in an area relatively isolated from the rest of London. And, I was wearing a shorter dress, and its was dark, and it was very intimidating. London is known for street crime, and the thought definitely crossed my mind that I was not in a great situation.


4. Stranded in London, forced to take a sketchy bus.

Verdict: That totally sucked.

Monday, May 12, 2008

While the cat's away…

My hosts are staying in the West End for a few days. They were there last night, and will be there tonight. That means I'm home alone.

Yesterday I took advantage of the peace and quiet to explore their extensive music collection, and it resulted in a one-woman David Bowie BowieChanges dance party. This after a very impromptu Brazilian dance session that lasted until 3AM on Saturday night.

I can't wait to see what tonight brings!


George Michael wrote and sang that you gotta have faith (a-faith a-faith aaaah). But sometimes, I think, you have to believe in fate, too.

I've had this conversation with a lot of people in the past, more so in my heady, more optimistic, youth; I seem to recall too many marathon phone calls with my more spiritual friends in high school, when we sat for hours discussing the existence of God, whose God, higher powers, spiritual entities, whether or not destiny was a real concept, etc. I have to thank my parents for allowing me to tie up the phone line (did we have more than one, no!) for such valuable philosophical debates. As I grew up, however, more mundane and consequential matters filled my time (rent, bills, work), and with it increased the desire for more control and a feeling that it was me, and only me, who held the reins to my own destiny. Remember that old high school essay topic, fate or free will? It seems like the natural course of things is for one to start on one side of the pendulum, swing to the other extreme, and then settle somewhere in between.

I don't know that I remember the exact stance I had on this old debate in 1999, but to this day I still consider the matter of a predetermined plan to be highly comforting. Dealing with the losses my family incurred over the last few years, coping with unanswerable questions, packing up and picking up to move across the ocean, gives me the perspective and wisdom to sit back and allow the world's centrifugal force carry me along with it. Coincidence and charmed moments abound, and once I start taking notice of them all together, it seems like there is a force that can't be ignored.

Case in point: during the negotiations for my move to London, I realized that my daily planner, one that I had designed and constructed myself because I can't stand the format of store-bought planners (another post topic right there), ended on May 2 - my last day at my New York office and the day of my flight to London. Coincidence? Maybe. But it hit close enough to home to register with me that it was a sign - positive, negative, it's up to me to decide - or maybe an omen, foretelling of impending adventure and change.

I had a boss in New York whom I clashed with, and ultimately couldn't work with; here in England, my boss and I share such similar experiences, and I have such a high level of respect for her, that I can't help but marvel at such a happy coincidence… or not.

We lost the apartment on Upper Street in Angel, Islington, because of red tape, but the estate agent has offered us a comparable alternative. I'm going to go see the location now, and it might be better than this first place. One never knows. But it could also be fate.

People enter and depart from our lives daily, situations present themselves and unfold, daily traumas reverse upon themselves to show a silver lining. The question of whether or not fate exists, whether or not our individual stories are already written for us, or simply waiting for us to fill in the blanks, or completely blank pages of a n empty book, can never be answered by humans. But the discussion of this existence, fated or not, is the true gift: the interaction we share when we investigate and tease apart the nuances of our existence - that is what is in the end truly magical.

(I started reading The Biography of London by Peter Ackroyd last night, a gift from my mother, and obviously it is influencing how I think about the world I now inhabit. That, and the absolutely divine experience of exploring hidden brick passageways and forgotten courtyards).

Easy come, easy go

We've seen the most beautiful apartment in the world, in the most perfect location… and then lost the most beautiful apartment in the world, in the most perfect location. Stupid Brits and their stupid rules. Stupid stupid!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Week in Review: real estate can kiss it

So, one week down… countless more to go.

I can't believe I've been here a week! So far I've survived four days at work, fucked up my commute once, seen three apartments that freak me out, and drank at least ten pints (not all at once, but last night sure saw at least half of the total).

Everyone here has been super welcoming and warm. I have to give a huge shoutout to my new boss Rachel who is so cool that she Facebooked me (woot!) and might even be reading this. We all know a boss can make or break your life, basically, and from the get go Rachel has been pretty much everything you can ask for in a manager - from tulips on my desk to celebrate my arrival and our Dutch client to enlightening me on the intricate web of gossip in our office - and it's a breath of fresh air.

People have been asking me how the first week has been, what's easy, what's hard, etc. What is easiest is work - going there each day and doing my job. Thank god I transferred within my company; it really is just like it was in New York and all of the things I'm responsible for here I was responsible for there. Work is actually a bit easier here, partially because of Rachel (see above) and also because for once I'm actually doing my job description - nothing above or below - and it feels right. Le sigh, actually knowing what the fuck your role is! How civilized!

So if work is easiest, what is hardest? This is a tough one to answer. I had this question posed to me last night at the pub, and it took me a while to answer it (no, not because of the WIFEBEATER in my hand). Clearly, a lot of things are different here. I do a lot of "okay, how does this faucet/door handle/pedestrian traffic pattern/bus system work" mental gymnastics. The accent is actually kind of annoying, especially when you can't understand a goddamned thing someone says to you. But I think probably the hardest thing is the simplest - living out of suitcases, not knowing where I'm going to live. My host people are very nice, extremely welcoming, and genuinely interested in helping me out and getting me settled. But I had such a freaking hard time getting everything INTO my three suitcases that I'm not unpacking them until it's for good. So for now I'm living in a house in London's equivalent of Weehawken with an hour-long commute to work, and desperately trying to find a place of my own. As Kat said to me, my adventure won't start until I'm moved into a place and all settled; for now, I'm in a holding pattern like the planes stacked up over Heathrow (how fitting for me, now that I'm working on an aviation brand!).

In order to expedite this apartment/life settling, I made the right decision and called up a friend and former college roommate, Ashley, who arrived in London a few weeks before me for graduate school at the London Film School. She and I are going to join forces in the apartment search, and already it's looking up. 2 is better than 1 in real estate, and we are seeing better places for less money in much better locations than we both saw on our respective own. I have a really good feeling about an apartment in the heart of Angel/Islington's Upper Street, which is pretty much like living in the middle of Park Slope, on Monday morning. I don't want to jinx it, but we will be the first people to see it and barring severe structural damage, human waste, and or pest infestations, I think we'll love it. SO! Fingers crossed and hopefully you'll read something very positive in this place next week.

Until then, x's and o's and all that jazz to each and every one of you. I miss everyone a lot; this adventure is crazy and great, but it would be exponentially better the more of you were here. So! Get your asses on planes, people!

Also, PS - thank you SO much to all of who are commenting! It means a lot to know that you're reading what I'm writing (picking up what I'm putting down, in fact). And, Laura, who knows - never say never!

No bloody ice!

I don't remember well enough from my summer in Europe whether or not ice was a rarity. But I am here to tell you that it is in London. No place has ice. You don't get it in water at restaurants, you don't get it at the store, and you sure as hell don't get it in coffee. It took me a day of searching to find the one coffee chain (besides Starbucks) who will make me an iced latte. Costa Coffee it is. For £2.55, each morning a nice man pulls a double espresso and pours it in a plastic cup that he has filled with ice and skim milk. And it is heaven. These Brits don't know what they're missing with their teas and warm coffee. Thank god they chill beer!

Walking and sitting

If there is one thing that Londoners have mastered, it's the art of walking and sitting. This city is a joy to wander through (although not in heels - watch out for the cobblestones!), as it has back alleys and wonderful hidden passages that open into courtyards or whole other streets. But just when you think you might have walked too far or need a bit of a rest, you come across a plaza or a square or a green or a garden; it is usually perfectly manicured with a nice patch of grass, lovely plantings, perhaps a fountain. It is the perfect place to sit and rest and drink some water, peoplewatch, and admire the views. It makes for the best type of exploring: leisurely!


In all countries around the world besides the UK, Stella Artois is considered a premium beer. In New York, for sure, I wouldn't be surprised to see it on a menu or bar list for $8. However, in England, Stella is known as "wifebeater" because it is what those who wear wifebeaters drink, and it also has a tendency to make those people more aggressive. The local credence is that one drinks Stella, and then goes home and beats his wife. Therefore nice people don't drink Stella, and I was soundly chastised for ordering it at the pub last night then persuaded to try Kroenenburg 1664. Apparently, I'm too good for Stella! Imagine that.

Oi is right

I know there is a word for when a word has two different spellings and meanings, but sounds exactly the same. I don't remember what it is, but I'm sure it will come to me later on tonight at the pub. In any case, one pair of those words that has inoffensive connotations in both American and British English is OI/OY. You all remember Bridget Jones yelling "Oi! Oi oi!" to get people's attention in Bridget Jones's Diary; in the UK, oi is kind of like "Hey, hey you there!". Whereas in the US, especially on the East Coast and in urban areas with lots of Heebs, oy is more of a lament... usually in the form of "oy vey, oh my gawd, my feet hurt so much you'll never believe." In any case, it's fitting then that this (now defunct) bagel shop was called Oi Bagel. Insightful!

File under: aw!

Due to the fact that I was a designer by trade and am still a designer by heart, this blog is going to feature some sweet glimpses of British design. I think a fitting start is this lovely little fish-shaped soy sauce packet included in the Sainsburys Local takeaway sushi package. I had to start with this because, yes, it's adorable, but it's also functional. How many of us purchase pre-made sushi packs at Whole Foods, a deli, etc, and struggle to open the soy sauce packet with our teeth, threatening to spill its contents all over our clothes, food, everywhere? This handy little fish has a screwtop so you can civilly pour your soy sauce into a dish and dip away. There may be some ecos out there who protest that because it is plastic the package is generating more waste, but it can't be that much more than our packets. Plus, this being England, it is probably made out of 3x post-recycled material. The essence of design: solving a problem in a simply beautiful (or whimsical, or clever) way.

Citibank has redeemed itself.

I have 1 victory under my belt: I opened a bank account. Martyn-with-a-Y was pleasant, courteous, helped me figure out what plans and such I needed, and otherwise was a gem. I overlooked his very garish tie because he was so kind. So, Citi, perhaps its just your jerkoff New York brethren who can't master customer service... or is it because in London everyone is just NICE?


In any case, bank account down - apartment and cell phone to go.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I've made it, haven't I.

Well friends, I'm here. Yes, despite the Continental check-in assistant who couldn't figure out a codeshare flight, despite having one suitcase weigh in at 77 lbs (maximum suitcase weight = 70 lbs), despite my Virgin Atlantic inflight entertainment system having 100 films loaded with incorrect titles (so that when I selected Elizabeth II, The Golden Compass started playing), despite a 1 hour delay loading baggage and a holding pattern over Heathrow, DESPITE MY TAXI DRIVER TAKING ME TO THE WRONG HOTEL (and the right hotel being shitty), I'm here in London. So far, so good. Initial thoughts: beer is cheap, regular coffee is weak, Sainsburys pre-made sushi takeaway does not compare to Whole Foods, the whole left-side-of the road-driving-business is really just ridiculous and they need to give it up, bus drivers are meaner here than New York, and otherwise its great. I have tons of pictures to post, so bear with me and I'll be making lots of posts soon. xo!