Archives

Dating in NYC: Sorry stranger, I’m Not Meeting you for Breakfast

Egg Sandwich 5of7

Egg Sandwich 5of7 (Photo credit: Food Thinkers)

I have only been single for four years in New York but it seems like forty.  So far in my dating escapades I’ve been stood up, watched as my dates have had meltdowns, broken out into tears, ramble on about an ex, tell me they want to date one of my friends, insult me to my face and expect sex immediately.  I have had a few wonderful dates – only to never hear from the guys again for reasons I will never understand.  What can I say?  It’s been fun.

Lately the trend is a man who I have written about before on this blog – The Coward.  A coward will ask me out only to never actually make the date happen.  It run into cowards more often than actual dates now.  I would say for every date I actually go on, I get about 8-10 men who ask me out, but never follow through.  I tell them when I am free and the claim they are busy.  This goes back and forth a few times until I give up.  The newest ploy  is an invitation to a mid-week breakfast date.  I have gotten such an offer a few times, yet I have never taken such enticing bait.  A typical proposal goes like this,

Well I would love to see you but things are really bad at work for the next couple of weeks.  You seem awesome though, and I really love your pictures.  Do you really play the ukulele?  How about we meet for breakfast sometime next week.   That’s the best I can do.

Even if I had a normal 9-5 job.  It’s not as if New York City is a calm and tranquil place in the morning, and virtually no one has an easy commute.  So what would I have to do?  Get up at 5AM, get ready by 6AM to meet you some place at 7AM so I can rush get a cup of coffee and make it to my place of business by 8:00?  For that to work we would need to work pretty much in the same neighborhood, which is unlikely in a city with five boroughs and 8 million people.

Lets say I don’t have a 9-5 job.  So I am still going to have to get up at 5AM get ready.  Get on a crowded train to meet you near your workplace, where we fight to get a table, then rush to get a plate of eggs.  You go to work, and I go home.  Wow that sounds like fun!  I really don’t get enough time on a rush hour train from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Or maybe you work in Brooklyn, but in an area that is going to cause me to take the Q train into Manhattan then transfer to an L to then walk several blocks in Williamsburg to meet you for that same plate of eggs and make the trek home.

I seriously want to ask these men.  Has anyone ever done this before?  Has it ever occurred to you why most dates are in the evening and on the weekends?  Do you think your God’s gift to women that I will crawl on hot coals to share a brief time in your presence only to have you decide I live too far away, have a weird job, and I am just not worth the effort.  And lets not get BRUNCH confused with BREAKFAST.  You didn’t ask me for a leisurely weekend morning activity in the East village filled with Mimosas, Bloody Marys and vanilla bean french toast.  Brunch is a morning after a drunken night New York tradition!   You asked me to breakfast – a meal many restaurants don’t even serve because why should they?  No one but tourists goes out for breakfast, unless it is a local place in a residential area of the city, and there is a 90% chance you don’t work on an area with cute little bistros on every corner.  Maybe by breakfast you meant a latte in an impossibly packed Starbucks in midtown, the neighborhood where every Starbucks is ALWAYS IMPOSSIBLY PACKED!

The weekday breakfast date is telling me one thing – I am not worth the effort.  I get it, as we are just strangers and the likelihood that this is going to be some match made in heaven is slim.  So I understand not wanting to jeopardize your job for the sake of a bad date.  Something tells me though you are still finding time to go out drinking with your buddies, and occasionally hooking up with random women.  You keep an OKCupid profile up more to tell yourself that deep down you really are looking for something with more substance.  I get it.  But you are probably going to end up liking one of the random women you hook up with, and you obviously couldn’t care less about some online blonde.  So instead of insulting me with a “breakfast date” just get off of the site and stop wasting my time.  Breakfast is normally the awkward meal you might feel obligated to have AFTER a date, not before!

Hurricane Sandy – Update from Brooklyn

I am writing this for my non-New York based readers of which there are many.  As you probably know the New York metropolitan area was hit by a major storm earlier this week.  I live on high ground in the center of Brooklyn near Prospect Park.  Living through Sandy was extremely scary as it sounded like jet engines were taking off on the side of my building.  The wall of my six-story brick building built in 1940, would actually shake when the winds got bad.  I have been extremely fortunate however in that the roof of this building held, and there was no damage to windows or the structure’s overall integrity.

Within two days some businesses were back and running.  The day after the hurricane struck I witnessed a fully uniformed sanitation worker removing debris and a postal worker delivering mail.  Meanwhile most privately owned businesses were shuttered.  The New York City subway is only partially operational and there is no practical way of getting from Brooklyn into Manhattan.  As far as I know most of lower Manhattan is still without power.  Most of my friends are struggling artists who rent tiny apartments in extremely old multi-unit buildings.  I know they are safe but I have no idea how much they have lost.  We are all losing income and work.

Coney Island USA, the non-for-profit organization committed to preserving the traditional spirit and history of that area was badly hit.  I have gotten conflicting reports on the damage but as far as I know the entire first floor was underwater.  They have lost irreplaceable memorabilia, and the ancient building in which they call home as suffered extreme water damage.

CONEY ISLAND USA 

As rough as it has been for us, there are tens of thousands who have it much worse.  An untold number of people throughout the Eastern seaboard are without power.    Some have lost their homes while others have suffered great damage.  The death toll for New York City has reached 40, but there are many seniors and disabled trapped in difficult situations with no power, non-working toilets in high-rise buildings with no working elevators.  Due to these extreme conditions everyone here worries the death toll could climb if power is not restored soon.   There has also been looting and violence especially in lower-income areas.

I have lost jobs and I am never in a great place financially but I just donated to the American Red Cross and I am urging everyone else to do the same.  You can also help out by donating blood, as blood supplies were badly depleted due to the storm.

Many have a perception of New York City as being a rich person’s playground.  While there is some truth to that reputation, the majority of New Yorkers are struggling artists, the working poor, and middle class folks just trying to make it.  We also have countless seniors, disabled and other vulnerable citizens that trapped in difficult situations.  Some families in Long Island, New Jersey and the surrounding areas have lost everything.  Even homes in Brooklyn and Queens have been completely washed out or burned to the ground.  Many families were in a difficult economic situation to begin with, and now this.   Please give what you can, your donation will be used to give water, food and shelter to people who desperately need it.

RED CROSS HURRICANE RELIEF 

We will bounce back, and hopefully construct more safety measures to prevent this kind of widespread damage if another storm like this hits us again.  We are only as strong as our weakest link, and right now there are parts of this area that are extremely in need.  Please do what you can to help out.

Much love,

Juliet

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise Divorce – WTF?

English: Cropped image of Tom Cruise and Katie...

English: Cropped image of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Photo taken at the White House Correspondents Dinner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wish I had a better title for this piece, but I don’t.   I debated even writing about this, but since I write about divorce I thought I would give it a shot.  I just want to slap my forehead every time I see anything about this ridiculous divorce.  I say ridiculous because I know many of my readers are fellow divorced men and women, few of whom had divorces that even remotely resembled this farce.  I think what annoys me the most is how easy it seems for both parties to simply walk away from this marriage.  According to the press and their respective publicists, Katie acquired an apartment without Tom’s knowledge and hit him with divorce papers right before his birthday and while he was out of the country.  They both secure top counsel and work out a settlement in less than two weeks time, including child support and a custody agreement.

Who in holy hell has a divorce like this?  I don’t know of any couple, including some who are extremely wealthy who managed a feat quite like this.   The whole thing just screams either blackmail on the part of Ms. Holmes or fraud.  So either Katie Holmes has information that would incredibly embarrass Tom Cruise and that is why he is so quick to settle, or the marriage was a ruse from the start.   I don’t know and I don’t really care.   I think I have gotten so angry towards this drama because it perpetuates a myth that getting divorced is somehow easy.   For starters they aren’t divorced yet, they only reached a settlement.  Their paperwork will still have to make it through the court system and the courts don’t care how much money you make or how much you paid for your attorney.  Everyone has to get in line behind every other couple already waiting in New York state.  Rumor has it that Manhattan is quicker than Brooklyn, but it should probably take at least a couple of months before they are truly legally divorced.  Their divorce will go through more quickly thanks to no-fault divorce in New York state.  Before the changes in New York state divorce law Katie would have had to file for legal separation and waited a year before moving forward.

No divorced couple I know has ever settled this quickly.  It is especially odd since divorce attorneys of the very wealthy actually like to stretch these things out as long as possible as it increases their fees.   Also for Tom to give Katie full custody without much of a fight at all, just seems flat-out bizarre.  Most judges would have given him joint custody, he has no criminal record, no substance abuse, no domestic violence history and he lives the same chaotic lifestyle that his wife does.   Some parents get completely screwed over in child custody situations, but someone with Tom Cruise’s deep pockets and squeaky clean record would not have had a problem.  He basically got full custody of his two children with Nicole Kidman, and since he was the primary parent of two other children it would only have helped him in court.  Something tells me that she had some incriminating evidence on him and that is why he might have caved.  Or there might also be some credence to the rumors that Suri was not his biological child, and that is why he is walking away from this so quickly and easily.   He might have also seen this coming for months rather than being surprised as he claims.  Here are some reasons most of us spends months if not years in litigation over a divorce.

  • One spouse will stretch out the divorce out of spite
  • One side will stretch it out to try to get the other spouse back
  • Fighting over every stupid little possession
  • The couples engage in a full on custody war
  • The couple doesn’t have the funds to pay for a lawyer and court fees
  • The two parties cannot decide on an equitable split of assets especially property
  • One spouse refuses to cooperate and won’t go to court or get an attorney
  • One spouse leaves the state or country to avoid dealing with the divorce
  • One spouse is physically threatening the other
  • One spouse completely bankrupted the other before they could get a lawyer – clean out bank accounts, drove up credit cards, etc.

For most of us, our lawyers aren’t going to dedicate all of their time for our case.  My lawyer forgot about my case and added an extra four months of waiting.  He tried to fix the dates on the documents but he let a few slide and it was obvious my paperwork was just sitting on his desk for no apparent reason for at least two months.  He was an inexpensive lawyer with dozens of cases, these things happen.  With expensive lawyers and huge retaining fees, divorces move quickly I guess.

The lack of passion in the Holmes/Cruise divorce makes me think that the marriage never had any real passion to begin with.  If she truly blind-sided him why would he settle so quickly.  Watching this unfold is like looking at an alternate universe of how the other half lives…not like the rest of us.    And if he thought by settling so quickly he would improve his reputation or avoid scandal his plan backfired.  Now more people are even more suspicious of his religion, his sexual orientation and the validity of the marriage.  To my fellow divorced friends out there, we know it isn’t like this.  Hang in there and when in doubt reach out to someone who has been through it themselves, the 99% don’t wrap everything up so neat and tidy in less than two weeks.

Life of a Clown: Why are you an Elf?

Why are you an elf?

I wish that I could say that I was born to be a clown and that doing kids parties just came to me naturally, but that would be a lie, a huge, horrible, terrible lie.  Doing shows for children is like holding on by your fingers to the edge of a bridge over a raging river, while being pelted with used tires and taunted by a crowd below to just jump and just end it already.  It is that hard, especially when you just start out.  There really is no other performance situation that not only will you be heckled, but your audience might just get up and leave the room, never mind the handful that might physically assault you, burst into tears, or scream at pitch and volume that would cause wild dogs to scatter.  Performing for children is tough.

When I started as a clown, most of my gigs were with my then husband, the big shot circus clown.   Our jobs would usually consist of standing around in a over-the-top circus type of costume, wave, make simple balloon animals, smile, look fabulous–easy.  Joel might be juggling, or balancing a table on his face but I was usually an add-on and I was mainly hired to be pretty—a princess in clown form, to make the little girls happy.

But without really trying people started calling us asking us to do birthday parties, a gig is a gig, and being a clown is not the most lucrative of professions.   Birthday parties can’t be taught they are much like warfare, you can practice all you want but you will never truly be prepared for the experience until you are in the trenches.  My first gigs were awful.   I had no idea what I was doing.  It is so difficult to engage three and four-year olds for any length of time much less entertain them.   And they have no filter, if they don’t like something they tell you, and do so immediately.  They play with toys, they fight among themselves, they hit you with your own props, they can’t help it, they are children and it is what they do.

My worst party, the party I don’t even like talking about, the party that I wish would just go away but the memory of which still strikes fear into my heart each time I am asked to do a show.  Will this one be as bad as_that_ party?

I started with a bad referral, someone knew someone, that knew someone who knew someone and eventually this man got my number.  The client had no idea who I was or what I did.  The second warning sign, the client was a Dad.  95% of the parents that call me are moms.  I have since learned to distrust dads.  Most dads don’t ask enough questions, they assume too many things, they don’t think to consider all factors.   If dads planned most birthday parties they would go something like this. A large tarp would be thrown down on the floor, in the middle would be some pizza and the cake, and the kids would simply roll around on it.

This dad was hiring me for his son’s 1st birthday party.

Mistake #1.  I have since learned that 1st birthday parties are not for the children, they are for the adults.  I no longer do a show for a first birthday party.  The kids ages are too varied and it is next to impossible to please all of them.  And the guests at a 1st birthday party are usually all relatives.  The kids know each other and they will form a united front against any outsider they don’t like.  Add to that the long-held family grudges that exist between siblings, cousins, second cousins and the fights can also turn epic.   With family parties you have to be prepared for anything.

Mistake #2Long Island.   The commute from Brooklyn would be an hour into Manhattan and then over an hour into their section of Long Island, and finally a cab to the family home.  So a brutal 2 1/2 hours each way.

The home – an unassuming prefab 1960’s style medium-sized house.  From the outside it didn’t look like much yet, once inside I was blown away by its splendor.  White fur rugs on Italian marble floors, mirrored walls, all white sofas, a huge flat screen TV, expensive lighting, chandeliers, even statuary.    A small bust of Michelangelo’s David on the coffee table and a 5 foot reproduction of the Winged Victory of Samothrace in the corner.  It was overflowing with opulence.  My first thought was who has white fur rugs?  Since they are walked on they going to get dirty right?  These people have a child, how long do they expect any of this stuff to stay white?

The birthday boy’s father was a huge man with a booming Long Island accent.  The mother was a petite gorgeous size zero woman with tight crisp pants and hair so shiny it seemed to glow.  Normally I arrive dressed for parties but because of my extremely long commute I arrived in street clothes.  They had me change in the second floor bedroom, also decorated in all white, but instead of getting dressed in my usual clown attire I put on an elf costume.

When I had booked the gig with the dad, which took all of about a minute and a half, he asked me to send him some photos of my different looks.   This was before I had my website so I just sent him a 1-sheet, which is a single piece of paper with every costume I owned represented on it.  About a week later he called back to let me know his wife fell in love with a photo of me dressed as a Christmas elf, pointed collar, tunic, striped tights and pointed hat.  The family was second generation Italian, and my elf reminded them of an Italian clown.  I tried to argue that the children would be confused as the party was in March.  The dad said

Kids won’t know the difference, they could care…my wife liked the elf costume, so you should wear the elf costume, no one is going to think you are an elf”

All right I thought, you are the customer, the customer is always right, I guess.  I have since learned that no, sometimes the customer is wrong, completely and utterly, horribly wrong. I was lead down to the basement.   In stark contrast to the living room it was dark, with real wood paneling, low ceilings, and little natural light due to the tiny basement sized windows near the top of the room.   It was also very small, not a full basement and not much larger than their living room.  And yet it had seating for the entire extended family probably around 40 adults crammed in on top of each other in every type of chair, sofa, folding chair, or stool imaginable.  The only exit was a small staircase leading to a door in the corner of the room.

For most parties, the adults either have the show in a separate area with just children, or if they stick around but they talk amongst themselves, they don’t expect to be entertained.  Which is fine as long as they aren’t too loud. I had the same expectation for this party, but as I looked around at the huge crowd assembled, I realized, these people weren’t going anywhere.

There was enough food and liquor to feed them all for at least a week.  Especially the booze, the table used as the makeshift bar was buckling under the weight of every type of liquor imaginable.  Not to mention the empty wine bottles which were neatly stacked up at the end of the generous buffet.  The adults were staying put, because where else would they go?  Take their plates of food up into the perfect museum like all white living room?  Only to have a plate of ziti or a glass of red wine ruin a perfectly beautiful yet horribly impractical white fur rug.  I was going to do this show for all of these adults, the mostly completely intoxicated adults.   Sweat was rolling down my back and pooling at the top of my elf knickers and I hadn’t even started the show.

The first words out of the kids mouth were

“Why are you an elf?”

My heart sank.   And really what could I say?  I am not an elf?  I am a green and red sort of Italian clown like person.  Like a fool I said

“Gabriel’s mommy wanted me to wear this”

Trying to justify, and as if they cared, all it did was further alienate myself from the client, my only hope for survival.    As with all types of performing–fear just makes things worse.  And at this point I was terrified, this was not going to be a good show.

I plunged ahead anyway, the first three minutes or so I had them charmed.  All of the adults were laughing and engaged and I thought to myself, this is going to work.   The kids were all ages, babies to teenagers.   The father had said maybe 12 children and it was more like 20 children, a common mistake, as no one ever counts the babies or the adolescents.  And then I made my first of many missteps, I referred to the birthday boy as Gabrielle instead of Gabriel.  Gabriel being a boy’s name and Gabrielle being a girl’s name.  I am from the Midwest, neither is common, and no matter how I tried I kept saying Gabrielle, Gabriel, Gabrielle, Gabrielle, Gabriel, Gabrielle, until the family said in mass “Gabriel”.  After that I referred to him simply as “sweetie” or “Mr. birthday boy!”

I held on, I could make this work, I could make this work.  Even though by five minutes into the show after fumbling for props, losing track of the order of tricks, and generally becoming consumed by fear–I had completely lost the parents.   The only thing that worked with the younger kids, including the birthday boy himself was music, so I started with more of the baby top 10.

“If you’re happy and you know it”,

It worked I had the little ones including Mr. Birthday boy, but I would immediately lose the older kids.  Switch to magic and the babies would run back to their parents.    I did a quick judgment call, I had more little kids than big, and the birthday boy was actually falling asleep, so I hedged my bets and went music, music, music.  By the time we were on the third song, I heard it.

“What are we babies now?”

And it wasn’t coming from a child, it was one of the adults.   The man’s voice was loud, and slurred, he was lit.   I kept going.

“I want a better show, don’t give us this baby crap”

I tried to block it out, I couldn’t believe that I was being heckled by a parent, a kid is one thing, but my show wasn’t for adults, it was for kids, how nasty does a person have to be to heckle a clown at a children’s party?

“Come on aren’t you going to do something better?”

And then he began to mock.

“If your an elf and you know it…..”

And he was starting to get laughs, not big ones, more nervous laughs than anything else, but this caused something in me to snap.

I froze, turned to the man my face in a stern grimace and I thought I am going to stop this now, and I couldn’t have handled it worse.

“Sir, I am sorry but I am trying to do this show for the kids, not for you, but for the kids, and I came all the way out to LONG ISLAND from Brooklyn in 2 1/2 hours!  Maybe I will stay in Brooklyn next time”

Meanwhile I wanted to say…

“Sir, I am sorry but your stupid fat drunken ass can shut your trap before I come over there and shove my ukulele down your throat”

But in any regards, I lost my cool, which just made everyone uncomfortable.  And I realized I sort of indirectly insulted Long Island and by doing so, insulted everyone in the room.   Most of the family members looked at their shoes during the whole exchange, they were used to him, every family has at least one out of control embarrassing “Drunken Unlce” like this, and they knew there was no point in fighting him.

I turned back to kids trying to keep it together and they reacted with a

“Lulu, LuLu, LuLu, Lulu”

That pretty much ended my show, I wasn’t doing that well to start, and there was no way I could recover.  I moved on to both balloons and face painting.   Only a mad woman does both balloons and face painting for a party that size, but I was inexperienced and I didn’t know better.  These people wanted me to leave but I had to get to every kid.   I was crouched on the floor with my face painting kit and kids surrounding me, even the teenagers wanted their faces painted.   The party went back into full swing including the bar, adults and kids alike stepped over me as I tried to finish things up.  The drunken uncle was still making nasty comments under his breath.

A full hour and a half after my 45 minute show later, drenched in sweat in part due to my velvet costume, I got paid the balance of $200.  Not bad but at this point it was blood money.  I changed out of my elf costume and then awkwardly waited for a cab to arrive.   The grandparents heaped me with praise but I wasn’t buying it, I just wanted to go home.  I missed the train I was planning to take, waited in the cold, damp station for nearly an hour, fell asleep only to be awkwardly awoken by the voice.

“Penn Station…..All Passengers out”

The worst part and the part that still haunts me a bit, when they look over their photo albums and they talk about Gabriel’s 1st birthday, or when they are planning his subsequent celebrations they talk about the terrible clown who wouldn’t leave, couldn’t get his name right, got in a fight with Uncle Tony, and for some unknown reason was dressed like an elf.

 

9-11 Ten years later: What I Remember

English: United Airlines Flight 175 crashes in...

English: United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center complex in New York City during the September 11 attacks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The more time passes, the fuzzier my memory gets.   A linear storyline dissolves into fragments composed of disjointed images, sounds, smells and feelings burned into my psyche.  Living through it I thought I would never forget every little detail of the disaster, but as I struggle to write this piece I find those indelible marks have become weathered and worn down.

My fiancée and I had just moved to Brooklyn five months before the worst terrorist attack on US soil.  We moved from Chicago with  all of our worldly possessions in a rented truck.  As soon as we settled into our humble over-priced one bedroom apartment, we both started working full-time jobs.  Like many other hard-working young couples, we paid our bills with little left over, but we were surviving.

Then one crisp September morning I woke up to the smell of something burning.  It was like no other smell I had ever encountered. a mixture of burnt rubber mixed with gasoline and ash. Instinctively I turned on our television. The first channel was static, and the next, and the next, until finally only one displayed the twin towers of the World Trade Center already smoking.  The picture barely came in and the news anchors desperately tried to hide the panic in their voices.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Like so many others watching the horrible scene, I couldn’t acknowledge what was right before my eyes.

My fiancé was at a meeting at the restaurant where he worked near the South end of Central Park.  I knew he was some distance from the disaster and should be fine.   I didn’t know anyone in the towers, I hardly knew anyone in New York City.

Our phone rang – an old school landline, not a cell phone.  I had no way of knowing that most cell phones had stopped working due to overwhelming stress to the system.  Soon even traditional phones would also become useless due to the volume of calls on the lines.  I heard her voice….an old friend from high school had managed to get through.

“Julie, are you OK?  Are you watching television?  Do you know what is happening?”

I knew it was an old friend since I’ve used my legal name of Juliet for most of my life.  Only friends from my childhood called me Juliet. It was my old friend Corrina from high school calling from St. Louis.

“This feels like a movie”

We both kept saying it over and over.  The same phrase repeated by millions, as none of us could comprehend it.  Then the first tower collapsed.

“Maybe that is just dust, that didn’t just happen…Oh my God…I hope they got the people out, how did that just happen?”

It felt like I was on the phone for just a few minutes, but it had to have been longer because while still talking to her the second tower collapsed.  We both kept just repeating the same questions to each other and to ourselves.

“What the hell is happening?  That couldn’t have just happened…how many people were still in those buildings?  They had to have gotten them out, they had to have gotten them out”

We decided to end the phone call, there wasn’t much she could do for me and I just wanted to sit down and try to calm myself. And I sat staring at the scene in front of me, the horrible burning stench still lingered in the air.  If I went to my bathroom I could see the black plume of smoke pouring out of Manhattan.

One more phone call got through before all the phones shut down.  It was my fiancé reassuring me that he was fine, but he wasn’t sure when he was going to make it home.  He ended up going home with millions of others mostly on foot walking over bridges meant for cars, in massive numbers.  The subway system was completely out of service , the city was in chaos.  My fiancé saw a co-worker crumble into tears while watching the footage.  She worked part-time in the towers and had no idea who she might have just lost.  When he finally left his job, he witnessed countless people collapsing to weep openly on the street, while others stopped to help them..

Meanwhile I sat by myself, in our apartment in a building of strangers, glued to the images on the screen.  The pictures that didn’t change for hours, which turned into days.  The burning pile of rubble, ash, smoke and misery that would not extinguish itself for months.

We lived about three miles away from ground zero, yet we found dust of pulverized concrete, steel and glass inside our window sills. The streets in our Brooklyn neighborhood had a blanket of a light mist of the same gritty powder.  As I rubbed the deadly sand-like dust between my fingers I found myself shocked that it had traveled so far.  We would later find out that friends who were also in Brooklyn found faxes and paperwork with the World Trade Center address in the backyard of their apartment building.

The sickening smell of the smoldering towers lingered for days.  In the months that followed we could see in the horizon two large black plumes of smoke, they became a daily reminder of the horror the city had just gone through.

Worse than the chaos was the silence in the nights that followed.  Brooklyn is never without some noise and yet for those first few days the complete lack of sound was unnerving.  When noise returned instead of the familiar clamor of trucks, cars, buses and police sirens we heard military aircraft, and helicopters overhead.  The jagged whipping of helicopter blades and the unmistakable whoosh of jet engines that seemed too close to the ground.  I knew the aircraft were there to protect us, but the bellow of their engines was hardly reassuring.  About a week after the incident, a young Ukrainian boy about 9 years old asked me a simple question as I was coming back from the Laundromat.

“What’s going to happen if one of the military planes gets shot down?  Where is it going to land?”

I had no idea what to tell him.  I wanted to say that something like that could never happen, but considering what we had all just lived through I was at a loss for words.

My fiancée got a gig out-of-town almost immediately after the attack.  We debated if he should go and decided that he had to go since we had already lost work and needed any income we could get.   So he left.   I sat in our tiny apartment all by myself and tried to keep myself sane with phone calls.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of the television.  Just like that first day I viewed it as the source of all my hope.  Surely today they would find a survivor I kept telling myself.  Surely today something will happen that will bring light to this horrific darkness.  Then a few days after the horrible wreckage the area was hit with a violent rain storm that lasted most of the day.  The heavy rain meant less hope of finding anyone alive.  I knew the chances of a survivor were low but I couldn’t tear myself away from the constant rescue mission played out in front of me.  It took about two weeks before everyone conceded that there was no hope, no survivors.

I went to prayer vigils with neighbors, who were complete strangers to me, and sobbed my eyes out.  They became more worried for me because it was obvious I was completely alone.  I memorized the lyrics to “God Bless America” I watched as some people couldn’t hold their anger in and began to lash out to anyone who would listen ranting like lunatics.

“We have to kill those bastards, we have to nuke them to dust, they murdered people just trying to go to work, just trying to go to work, they didn’t deserve to die like that…they didn’t deserve to die”

In trying to ease my isolation I bought some supplies and donated needed items for the first responders at Chelsea Piers.  The entire Westside highway was overcome with people, some extremely wealthy dropping off carloads of brand new boots, and others like myself with a small bag of first aid supplies, paper towels and toothpaste.   The volunteers had circulated lists of needed items all over the city: long underwear, saline solution, gloves, boots, soap, shampoo, tampons, deodorant, it went on and on.  Local restaurants were donating in shifts feeding hundreds at a time, so although they needed just about everything else they didn’t need food.

As I walked away from Chelsea Piers I saw enormous military vehicles lined up on the edge of the city, helicopters, service men, and trucks covered in camouflage.  Firemen engulfed from head to toe in dust walking around with a dazed look in their eyes.  Huge blood drives were held in every hospital, volunteers rushed to donate yet discovered the blood banks filled to capacity.

For months as I took the F train into Manhattan I would see the Statue of Liberty and the never-ending plumes of black smoke.  It was a daily reminder that the city had not yet healed from this gaping wound.  One morning I noticed a child across from me on the train who was straining in his seat to blankly stare at the constant black cloud that was the twin towers.  The kid was a total stranger to me yet I could help but think.

“Give that little boy a chance, don’t let him die.”

The thought of death and another tragedy happening any day was ever-present in my mind.  It felt like it was just a matter of time when the next horror would visit this city so packed with humanity.

In Grand Central Station and Port Authority makeshift memorials of Xeroxed photos of loved ones with the words “Missing” spontaneously formed on walls and pillars.  Some brightly colored and others pastel or white, these desperate attempts at finding lost loved ones filled entire walls.  They remained for months after anyone had any hope of finding remains much less survivors. News reports spoke of DNA testing on fragments of blackened bone fragments found scattered on the rooftops of surrounding buildings, or remains shifted out of tons of twisted metal and glass in the landfills of Staten Island.  Some families never found DNA or any remains.   Most had to create some type of narrative in their head, about what happened to their missing person.  Did they die instantly?  Die they suffer?  Did they accept their death?  Were they in pain?  Did they witness terror?

That Christmas our first in New York, I had to work a day shift waiting tables while my fiancée had to work at night.  Broke and desperate we had no choice as so much work had dried up.  To snap myself out of the spiral of self-pity I took the subway as close as I could get to ground zero.  I stood there with a small crowd and stared at the destruction.  No formal viewing platforms existed yet and there was no organized effort to allow the public to see the disaster site.  Small groups of us would huddle at one vantage point then to another getting as close as the police would let us.  As I stood there staring at this hell on earth I reminded myself that as bad as we had it, things could have been so much worse.

Then there was the night of the first bombs falling on Afghanistan.  A lifelong pacifist for the first time I thought–let them burn as I watched bombs and rockets light up their night sky.  My blood lust wore off quickly and I soon began to question the war and our motives but for that brief moment I had absolutely no sympathy in my heart for its victims.

I didn’t lose family members or friends.  My fiancée and I were strangers in a strange land, lost in an island of our minuscule apartment, forced to take jobs we would have normally avoided just to pay our rent.  Our debt exploded as we tried to make ends meet but we were extremely lucky.  We knew so many others that were somehow connected to a friend or a relative that had perished.  The sorrow lingered over the city for months, every milestone memorialized.  The first human remains found, the casualties officially confirmed, the day they finally got the fires out.  Over those months I worked at several benefits for the families of the victims.  People would try their best to stay in good spirits but then tears would start and then cascade across the event like a never-ending wave of grief.  Surviving wives and husbands looked blank and children seemed confused and lost.

Every time I meet a New Yorker that lived here during this horrific time, if the subject of 9-11 gets brought up, the stories pour out like an emotional avalanche.  We all start talking, our memories weaving in and out of our shared experience with none of us the same for having lived through it.  A couple of years after the attack we had a city-wide blackout.  Instead of rioting or looting the bars filled up and street corners became crowded with people laughing and sharing in the absurdity.  New Yorkers wouldn’t let anything like a little blackout dampen our spirits or cause us to turn on each other.  After living through the horrors of 9-11 and the months that followed, living without power for a couple of days seemed like a minor inconvenience.  New York City changed for better and for worse. We’ll never get back the many we lost, but through the tragedy we gained back some of our humanity.  We learned that we really were there for each other, and that we’d ultimately rebuild and come back stronger than ever.

Dating Online – The Super Negative profile

English: Angry cat

English: Angry cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I did another search on Match.com tonight and at first glance this guy seemed all right but then I read this…and I am going to break it down into sections…

  • Professional looking for a modern, emancipated, attractive, sane (!!), affectionate, feminine, open-minded, sexy, and sexual woman.

So OK, the sexual part is a bit off-putting as it can come across as kind of creepy.  And he did write it twice, sexy and sexual, so we get it, you are a man who likes sex…shocking!  And sane?  Well who really thinks they are insane?  I think insanity is a relative term.  I dress up in wigs and yell into microphones all over the city for about $40-75 a show and during the day I perform for children as Lulu the clown or paint faces of the extremely rich and privileged.  All in hopes that I might one day get a comedy, voice over or commercial career.  Many would call that insanity.  Even I call it insanity, but I digress.

  • She should be down-to-earth and comfortable in the local diner as much as in a 5 star restaurant. No prude goody-two-shoes or Manhattan socialites, please. I can meet those any day in the city…I am European, liberal, very open-minded and am looking for my match.

OK dude I am with you!  But European causes some red flags in my head.  Are you going to want to move back?  Are you looking for a green card?  It is not a HUGE red flag, but it is something to mention as I love living in New York and I NEVER WANT TO MOVE!  And no goody-two-shoes?  What does that mean?  I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs so some might call me a goody-two-shoes, but I also perform extremely raunchy adult themed material both in stand-up and in the burlesque community.  So I don’t know if in this guy’s book I would be a goody-two-shoes or not!  I guess I ride that Madonna/Whore conflict in my persona a bit on the razor’s edge.  I would definitely not call myself a prude…if you listen to any of my song lyrics…the word prude wouldn’t really come to mind.   But then he wrote this, and any lingering desire I had to wink at him or send him an email disappeared.

After a few weeks on here, I’d also like to add:

  • if you have pictures of you cuddling with your dog/ cat
  • excessive nature pictures
  • pictures of gardens of cherry-blossoms
  • write that you “like the finer things in life”
  • carry around a tiny dog, like a chihuahua, in a luxury bag and refer to it as your “baby”
  • had so much plastic surgery that you start to look like the cat woman
  • every one of your kids is from a different father
  • we are NOT a match. Guaranteed.

Dude!  It is one thing to bitch about these things on a blog, and another thing entirely to put these on your profile where you think potentially interested women might read it…HA! 🙂

I get him on the gold digger hints, the multiple baby daddies…those are obvious red flags.  Although babies and baby daddy situations can be tricky, so it is hard to put a blanket statement out there like that.  As I have know some very stable men and women who might have children with more than one partner.  But in general it is a red flag, I will give him that.

But I call my cats my babies and treat them almost like they are my children.  So what?  And what is wrong with nature shots?  I don’t have any on my profile and they are a bit odd, but who cares?  And he doesn’t like people cuddling with their pets?  That is strange, why would that illicit such a negative reaction in a person?

My hunch is that he is angry and frustrated from the dating process.  Maybe he is the sweetest man on the planet, but online dating is not like ordering a sandwich.  Sure I would prefer someone age appropriate, at least my height, not in the entertainment business and stable…so I get it.  But to put an angry laundry list ON YOUR PROFILE?  I am sure he is still getting multiple emails from multiple women with the very things he describes.  And at the same time driving women like myself away.  Because most people don’t read your profile, yet the slightly more “sane” women do.   So way to go Mr. Angry European for making my online experience that much more entertaining and draining.  HA!  🙂

5/26/11

I just got this one today and I had to add it.  I really felt for this guy as I have been ignored countless times from men online after I sent a short email or wink, so I get it.  But this man shouldn’t have this on his profile, I can’t imagine any woman would send him an email after reading this.  I felt so strongly that I actually sent him a short note basically saying, look, if you only knew what women go through on these sites.  I have had more men personally attack me for no reason than I can to mention.

The first thing I need to say to any woman who reads my profile and is interested in meeting me: SAY SO. Send me a message and invite me to meet you.  I’ve sent several hundred messages to several hundred women of all different types, from all kinds of backgrounds. Each one of them was at least 95% match, 85% friend, and less than 10% enemy. Most were over 98% match.

Aside from ONE woman, I have been utterly ignored.
No “no thank you,” no “you’re not my type, sorry.”

In the words of Steve Buscemi from Fargo: “TOTAL FUCKING SILENCE”

And I ask you, who would respond positively to a profile that starts out like that?  I can’t imagine.  I really do empathize with his situation, but his profile is not helping.   What is that phrase again?  “There is a reason why they are single”

Dating Online: eHarmony is useless!

This has got to be an eHarmony date.

This has got to be an eHarmony date. (Photo credit: David Reber’s Hammer Photography)

eHarmony – The reasons why I absolutely loathe your site.  

Too many suburban matches – I honestly felt bad for these guys because many of them tried to contact me, and I didn’t see the point.  I live in a city with 8 million people, I shouldn’t have to date someone in the suburbs when I have no reliable way of getting to them on a regular basis.

Too many matches that did not meet even minimum criteria – location, height, religion, political affiliation, etc.  Sending me multiple “matches” that were well below my own height?  Sure some guys might be fine with this but many don’t like dating women more than a couple of inches taller than them.  Also I clearly said all over the questionnaire that I was agnostic and NOT RELIGIOUS! I would rather have fewer matches that actually fit my criteria rather than have hundreds of men that did not come even close to what I had indicated in my preferences.  I could just get that from a non-premium free site.  I also questioned the validity of a questionnaire that sent me men with CAT ALLERGIES!

Long process to delete a match – To get rid of a match is a two-step process.  It doesn’t seem so bad but when a person has so many bad matches, it’s an extremely tedious process to get rid of them.

Too many matches with no photo – eHarmony is hardly cheap.  If I am paying a premium for the service, I should not have to waste my time with profiles that don’t have at least one photo.

High Cost – The lock you into a three-month contract and have auto-renewal, I made sure my account did not auto-renew, but it is difficult to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

No Gays Allowed – I didn’t know that when I signed up.  And had I known it, I probably wouldn’t have signed up.  I am not gay but I don’t see anything wrong with being gay.

Questionable matching process – Suburban cops?  REALLY?  I am a creative stand-up comic, emcee and singer with a degree in Theater and Music, call me crazy but I don’t think a COP is probably my best match. I don’t think most suburban cops would think I was their best match.  The amount of law enforcement matches was baffling to me.

Unethical practices – eHarmony recently sent me an email completely out of the blue claiming a member was sending me an “icebreaker”. I found this highly shady since I hadn’t been a member now for a year.  I went to “unsubscribe”, but the link took me to a page to re-register my account.  I could find no way to contact the company other than to sign up again for a service which I absolutely hated.  So they are either using phony profiles to try to lure old members back to their site, or they are using deleted and deactivated accounts as bait for current members.  I responded to their email basically saying there were committing fraud and threatened to expose them on this very blog.  I decided to not wait for a response, as the whole experience really made my skin crawl.

The Incident that made me shut down my account 

I went on eHarmony to answer an email from a “MATCH!”  On eHarmony I get a ton of matches, but most of them live extremely far away, or are horrible.  Despite their claims of superior matching abilities eHarmony doesn’t seem to pay attention to things like height, or religion as they have sent me more than one 5’2″ devout Christian. A man’s height is not a deal breaker but a deeply religious man is definitely a bad match for an agnostic, at least this agnostic.  I find it all very frustrating since I spent an hour filling a long questionnaire when I signed up.

I finally had one member contact me who lived in Manhattan.  I really didn’t have strong feelings for him as he was average looking and his profile didn’t say much.  He lived in Manhattan though and wasn’t a cop!  eHarmony loves matching me with members of suburban law enforcement.  I have no idea why!

I thought, let’s try this so I started to do their whole question back and forth thing.  On eHarmony unlike other sites has a very rigid way of communication.  We had to go through a series of questions before setting up a date.  He asked for my top favorite albums of all time, and the last five albums I listened to recently. It get why he might think that was important, but it seemed rather trivial.  Asking about one’s favorite bands was something we did in college right?  Like most people, I don’t buy full albums very often but I managed to cobble a list for him. He also asked me to type random things about myself and I obliged.  I became aggravated because after several steps, and a lot of time and energy, I still knew next to nothing about this person.

His response, over a week later was to tell me he was allergic to cats.  I wondered why eHarmony matched us in the first place since I think I had indicated strongly my cats and I were a packed deal. Things really got strange when he attacked me personally for my accordion, my ukulele and my use of punctuation.   I admit maybe my punctuation wasn’t perfect, but it was online correspondence and he had asked for random things.  I think I just gave him a list, and I was trying to write in these tiny boxes that eHarmony uses for its forms.  I’m sure I wrote in fragmented and run-on sentences.  Compared to the writing style I usually see on dating websites my prose was on par with Hawthorne or Poe.  I guessed what upset him is that from the time he first emailed me until his second response, I had tried to shut down my account.  I wasn’t that interested anyway and I hadn’t heard from him in over a week. He must have taken this personally or as some type of snub and thought his best defense was a good offense.  I had gotten hostile reactions from men online before, but it was a little unsettling to get it on an expensive premium site, especially one that brags about it’s screening process.

So I told Mr. What are your favorite albums where he could stick it.   During my three-month membership I went on zero dates and found most matches inappropriate or unpractical.  I honestly couldn’t imagine dating someone in central New Jersey, Long Island or Connecticut as I would never see them.

Overall I would never recommend the site.  If they’ve matched people it’s by luck and not their expensive service.

My website www.julietjeske.com

Follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/JulietJeske

Add me on Facebook Juliet Jeske Facebook Fan Page