[the palaverist]

Friday, December 28, 2007

[it's my new york again]

Somehow I missed the news, so when I walked past East 33rd and Third Avenue — Toidy-Toid and Toid, to those from the old school — I was overcome with awe and delight. I had to go in for a closer look, just to make sure I wasn't dreaming. But it was real: the Second Avenue Deli is back, with a line out the door.

I have always believed that living in New York City means accommodating yourself to change. I have heard mourned just about everything good or bad that has ever come to pass here, from Ebbets Field and the old Penn Station to porn theaters in Times Square and a lawless Alphabet City on fire, and I've thought, hey, that's life in the Big City. I've been here long enough to see a few of my own beloved landmarks go, and to see neighborhoods change character completely.

But when the 2nd Avenue Deli closed, somehow that was different.

Growing up in California, I was taught by my transplanted New Yorker parents that there were no proper baked goods west of the Hudson and that there was a right way and a wrong way to prepare and eat a deli sandwich: mustard on rye, with none of that bullshit lettuce and tomato or (chas v'shalom!) sprouts.

My Great Aunt Sylvia had lived since the 1950s at Second Avenue and 10th Street, so my father's family had been going there since he was a kid. On trips Back East, and even years later, stopping in at the Deli felt like visiting my parents' childhoods. I remember Abe Lebewohl once greeting my Cousin Roberta, then in her fifties, as if she were still the little girl he had known decades earlier.

New York can be a hard town, and sometimes I wonder what I'm still doing here. Too many of the funky places I fell in love with are gone, and too much of the city is chain stores, tourist crap and stuff I can't afford. The resurrection of the 2nd Avenue Deli reminds me of what I still love about Gotham.

Now to go and stand on that line.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

[new starts]

Just in time for Christmas, I got a present: a job offer from Invision, Inc., a company that provides software for cable TV ad management. I'll be a Documentation Specialist, doing a mix of tech writing, editing and project and team management.

The offer is the culmination of a six-month search. It's bittersweet: I'll be glad to be making more and achieving financial independence, but I'm quite sad to be leaving the South Korean Mission to the UN. I've never had a job I liked more, or found easier, or that sounded better at parties. I love the people, the culture, the environment, the engagement with world affairs.

Still, the work here has become repetitive, and it's time for me to take on new challenges, even if they scare me. Can I handle the new job? Will I work hard? Will they like me? Will I like them?

I don't know yet. I don't know how it will be or where it will lead. All the signs are good: they have growth, low turnover, a mellow atmosphere. The offer, a 60% raise over my current salary (more in real terms because of some complicated tax issues) is serious business. And when I miss the Mission, I'll be just a short distance away, in the Graybar Building at Grand Central.

Two things I do know: 1) I plan to keep studying Korean, and 2) I'm about to take off early from work and enjoy the 80GB iPod Classic I bought yesterday to celebrate.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

[living in interesting times]

Last week, on Monday night, I went to sign the divorce papers. It was devastating. It was a freezing night with bitter winds, which seemed to fit. I went separately from Jenny, but on my way out I stopped in at a McDonald's for a suitably grim dinner, and Jenny bumped into me afterwards on the subway platform. We were both very sad, and there was little to say.

It didn't help matters that I had a cold. On Tuesday I dragged myself to a job interview with a very nice company that isn't hiring. This did not lift my spirits. Exhausted, I took Wednesday off. It was my first time being sick while on my own — ever, really, except for one bout of serious illness in India — and it scared me. Afterward, I made sure to talk to a couple of new friends in the neighborhood, who said that of course they would help if I needed it. Learning to ask for help is good.

Saturday I went to a dance concert at Juilliard, then a much more ramshackle dance concert put on by a composer friend of a composer friend. Afterward, we all went back to the organizer's apartment in Brooklyn for a party, at which I discussed Korean and Finnish folklore with a Finnish folklorist. I left just before the microtonal orchestral music began. I'd been suffering from my arrhythmia all evening, and I almost couldn't walk the three blocks from the subway to my apartment. I had taken too many of the beta-blocker pills that are supposed to fix the arrhythmia, and I ended up staggering to the curb and throwing up in the gutter. I realized that to anyone passing by, I must have looked like a drunk, which was funny because I hadn't had a drink in nine months to the day.

On Tuesday night, as I was heading to a 12-step meeting, I saw a pickup truck start backing up just as a small Hispanic man darted into the street looking the other way. I shouted — "Yo, yo, YO!" and the truck stopped inches from the pedestrian, who never noticed any of it. I then made an incomprehensible gesture at the driver and walked on.

Yesterday morning I went for a job interview and was kept waiting in the lobby for 40 minutes because of a miscommunication. But at least they're hiring.

Last night, after a very interesting evening out, I was walking home from the subway and heard a rustling in the bushes in front of an apartment building. I turned around, expecting a cat or something, and was startled to see the wide-eyed face of a young woman who was lying there, bundled in a coat and mittens. I turned around and kept walking.

Today at lunch, the diner on 49th and First was shaken by an explosion up the block. A manhole cover had been blown off, smoke and steam billowing into the street. A few minutes later, the fire department showed up and taped off the street. As we left, we saw the shards of the manhole cover lying a few feet away from the hole. Fortunately no one was hurt.

I feel today as though I've somehow stepped into a Murakami novel, where the world is off-kilter in a way that may or may not be ominous, and my role is simply to live in it as normally as possible.

I'm tired.

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Previous Posts

[things i'd like to write about but haven't]
[drop the red lantern]
[how not to apply for a job]
[pop is the new alternative]
[what does it all mean?]
[national fears]
[lies, damn lies, and sound effects]
[our pakistan moment?]
[how to fail like an olympian]
[cold winters]


July 2006
August 2006
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October 2006
November 2006
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February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
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December 2007
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December 2008
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