The first time I had an artichoke, I was maybe 10.

My parents Are Not Artichoke People. I am not sure what qualifies someone as an Artichoke Person, but this is simply to say that artichokes were not a part of how I grew up. We were Transplants; expats; people who left the East Coast for sunnier climes, and so California cuisine baffled us at first: Guacamole – what the hell is that? Artichokes – are these even edible?

There were so many things about being a non-native Californian that confused me; us. As I kid, I struggled to lose that faintest trace of the garbage Philadelphia accent that makes my ears bleed to this day.

Say waterthe kids on the playground would instruct.

Wodder, I would reply.

Say nothey would taunt.

No? I would say, uncertainly – wondering how I was saying it wrong – with that terrible lilt on the vowel that even Mainliners can’t escape.

(To this day, my parents insist this linguistic travesty never befell me. To this day, my father still says talls, instead of towels, so what does that guy know?)

The first time I had an artichoke, I was having dinner with my aunt and uncle, who are not really my aunt and uncle, but are the people with whom my parents celebrate every major milestone and holiday. Our families are so close that I only know maybe two telephone numbers by heart these days besides my own and my office – my parents’ and my aunt and uncle’s. And my parents recently moved house and changed their phone number, meaning that in the event of an emergency, I’m limited to calling Carol and Sam.

The Night of My First Artichoke, my aunt was explaining to me how to eat the artichoke in the first place – how to pull back the leaves, and peel the edible skin off with my teeth. It was such an odd luxury for 10 year old me! What was this joy; this strange food that I could play with and eat at once?! I think we were dipping the petals in some kind of sauce, or pots of ranch dressing (ubiquitous on California tables), and generally enjoying our dinner, digging our way deeper and deeper into the mysterious veggies. It was just a typical night in Southern California.

I cannot lie – meals in California can be idyllic. I recall so many nights in the blue twilight; eating out-of-doors with the smell of the food overwhelmed by barbecue smoke and chlorine. I remember the evening parties at my parents’ old house – people gathered in the foyer under the curving staircase, or sitting in the dining room at holidays where everything looked beautiful but smelled ever-so-faintly of cat piss because there was always a geriatric or angry cat in the house. There was a kind of comfort, and wide-openness, and informality there that simply doesn’t exist on the East Coast.

But I didn’t know that then. I was just 10, and I was eating an artichoke for the first time.  I remember, we were laughing, and eating, and generally having a good time.

And then it happened.

Someone – I think my aunt – pulled back a petal to discover a HUGE BUG. Like, fat green caterpillar-sized creature. Inexplicably, we all screamed, dropped our utensils and napkins, and ran from the table. The bug was obviously dead, having been steamed within an inch of his life. But this was no comfort to any of us. We scurried out of the kitchen and hid under the staircase, huddling like a bunch of proper idiots; half-laughing, half-crying because what if one of us had eaten a bug?

Eventually, we mustered up the courage to return to the table; chucked the offending artichoke; and finished up the dinner with something else.

Since that day, while I have been perfectly happy to eat artichokes in things, I’ve never really had the taste for plain, steamed artichokes ever again.

It is funny, to me, how fear conditions our systems. How we become afraid of one, associated thing and it makes us unconsciously afraid of everything related to a single incident, forevermore. Fear is in our DNA, I suppose.

Relatedly, I am getting married on Saturday, and for the months and weeks leading up to this event, I have had to coach myself into believing that one bad incident – one seeming failure – is not predictive of the future. I have told myself that everything is different and this will not be the same. Because it is not the same, and I know it, but we are slaves to our DNA, and biology is an awfully hard thing to overcome.

In other words, the what-ifs of one caterpillar consumption should not ruin a lifetime of artichokes.

So when the florist called the other week and asked about some final details, she said, What do you think about using purple artichokes in the arrangements if we can get them? We liked them when we saw them at the flower market, right?

And without even thinking I replied, Yes to artichokes.

#Reverb15 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2015.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

School’s Out: Share what you’re doing when the sun doesn’t set until 9 PM!

Here’s what I did with my Summer:

I did not take any vacation of note.

I did not go swimming in the ocean.

I went to Los Angeles to help my parents clean out their house before they moved from my Childhood Home, only to have them accuse me of weighing them down; leaving behind “so much crap.” When pressed, I realised they were referring to the one (admittedly large) box of mementos I had packed up and asked them to ship to me.

My parents are weirdly dramatic.

Then again, my parents are also the proud owners of a “Snow Village,” consisting of hundreds of small, ceramic houses, people, and accessories, which is set up each year at the holidays for my mother to gaze upon, heave sighs, and say, “I just wish I lived there!” The boxes comprising the Snow Village at one point overtook every closet in my childhood bedroom; my parents’ old laundry room; and several other cupboards. They had to permanently rearrange their parlour to accommodate December’s Snow Village arrival.

So the fact that they complained about one box of my stuff, and yet found no issue with moving thousands of tiny pieces of useless ceramic should maybe tell you something about the particular brand of bonkers I am dealing with.

I went to Santa Barbara to run a half marathon, forgetting that I love to run on the East Coast because the sunrises are dramatic.

I miss the West Coast sunsets, and watching that heavy, fiery orb sink into the Pacific. But running at the break of dawn along the shore is nothing particularly special in California. The sky is just grey; pink; yellow; then suddenly…blue.

I went to Governor’s Island with my bestie for a race and wondered why I had never been; I went to Fire Island on a day trip with my friends and my dog, and wondered why I don’t go more often. On both of the aforementioned trips, we encountered the kind of freaky beach detritus that may or may not have contained human remains. In the style of true New Yorkers, we simply looked the other way and continued to enjoy the view.

I slipped and fell during a race in the beginning of August, and wound up having to fly back from Dublin and have emergency reconstructive knee surgery a few days later. I hesitated in making that public because I have had to deal with all types of smug, but well-meaning people leaving Facebook comments and sending messages with stuffed with annoyingly bold assertions like: Maybe this is God’s way of telling you to stop running!

(I am truly fascinated that I know so many people who are able to interpret God’s will; who have personal knowledge that God is a couch potato.)

In reality, this injury was a freak accident. It could’ve happened by walking down the street. But there is something about distance running that inspires…envy?…disgust?…in people who don’t do it and do not understand it.

I am on the mend now. The past few weeks have been a blur of crutches, rehabilitation, and more pain meds than is perhaps socially appropriate to mention in a public forum. When I woke up from hip surgery last summer, I felt like a million bucks – the injury itself had been so painful that the operation brought instant relief. No one bothered to tell me until after I had my knee surgery that operations like the one I had are typically more painful than the procedure I had on my hip.

So that was what happened. It was a far cry from what I wanted to do.

I wanted to run Summer Streets.

I wanted to train for more races.

I wanted to hike in the Adirondacks or the Berkshires.

I wanted to go camping.

I wanted to take my kayak out for the first time in years; hose out the boat; unstick the rudder pedals; paddle around the Sound.

There is a part of me that feels as if I have missed the small joys of summer the past few years; that I am Getting Through rather than really experiencing anything. There is a part of me that is angry that many of these things have been…missed…due to things well beyond my control.

But there will be other summers; there will be more races. There will be new memories to make. This is just my particular brand of bonkers I am dealing with in this sticky middle season of my life.

This is the 12th in a series of posts about New York

For years, my friends and I got together on Wednesdays to drink wine. We called it “Winesday.”

Eventually, we got old, and could no longer guzzle a bottle or two of wine (each!) mid-week, so the tradition tied out, but the name prevailed.

Winesday, though, was such an integral piece of my New York experience. Every year that I have done these New York posts, I have written about these people and the process of coming together at the table to drink and break bread like it’s a religious thing. In some ways, it was.

DSC_0631 DSC_0617 DSC_0628

We may have gone our separate ways and moved on, but these are my people.

My New York People.


This is the 11th in a series of posts about New York.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I used to be a Sorority Advisor.

The collegiate chapter where I advised was on Staten Island. This was one of those things that Seemed Like A Great Idea at The Time. I liked being in a sorority in college, but I never held a leadership role; I was never on the executive team. The highest office I ever held was Chaplain.

But when we moved to New York, I knew no one. And the sorority alumnae network seemed as good a way as any to make friends. So I was new to New York, and new to public transport that was not the extremely expensive and largely suburban DC Metro, and there I was, taking the Staten Island Ferry.

If you have never taken the Staten Island Ferry before, it is an experience worth having. Just maybe not at 9 o’clock at night – which was when I was taking the damn thing – because the chapter I was advising met in the middle of the night. I had moved to New York right after the new Whitehall Terminal was completed, so the ferry experience I was having was immaculate, as far as long-term riders were concerned.

For me, it was still pretty terrifying.

Ferries have been running between the southern tip of Manhattan and Staten Island since the 18th Century – before Staten Island was one of the Five Boros; indeed before these United States looked anything like they look today. At that time, the service was conducted mostly by private sailboats. In the 1850s through the turn of the 20th Century, Staten Island developed quickly – going from a rural outpost to having a settled population with its own railroad and daily, frequent traffic across New York Harbor to Manhattan conducted by motorised steamships.

By 1900, Staten Island was a part of the Borough of Richmond – part of New York City – but the ferry service between the island and Manhattan operated under the control of the Staten Island Railroad, and its successor, the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad. A ferry collision in June 1901 between a Staten Island-bound Ferry and a Jersey City Ferry led the New York City Department of Docks and Ferries to seize control of the ferry system for good. Service resumed in 1905 under the auspices of the City of New York, and has been operated by the City ever since.

I rode the ferry between Manhattan and Staten Island for years – back and forth – at all hours of the night. During sorority recruitment (f/k/a Rush), I would ride the ferry with one of my sisters (or sometimes alone!) at two or three in the morning. Oh, the things I would see!

Some nights, it was nothing. It was just me, alone, on the upper deck.

And other nights, it was people vomiting into trash cans; couples making love in the corner; two drag queens in full regalia circling each other in a knife fight…

The works.

After the knife fight, I came home and told my then-spouse what I had seen, and the following weekend, he bought me a car. I stopped riding the ferry after that. I’m not sure whether I missed it.

But one day last autumn, I had a friend visiting from London and we couldn’t get Statue of Liberty tickets so we took the ferry out into the harbour to see Lady Liberty from a distance. And it all washed over me – the days of being new to New York; the nights of being devastatingly exhausted; the questions I’d had about what I was doing; the stink of the ship – I was back where I’d started from.


It was different – I was different – but I was still very much the same.  Or maybe Not The Same, but that was good too.

The odd thing about becoming a Real Grownup in New York City is that the most mundane things grab you by the throat and seem like the most profound things in the universe. Sometimes, it’s the way the late summer light flickers above the W Hotel in Union Square; sometimes it’s the way the first snowfall settles on the rooftops; sometimes it’s just an ordinary ride on the Staten Island Ferry.



This is the tenth in a series of posts about New York, a guest post by my friend Kat.

In 2010, I became possessed by an urge to visit New York City.  There is no simpler way to put it.  Having never been, but having watched Keeping the Faith one too many times, it was my North Star Of The Moment.

How it actually ended up going down is that we flew in on the tailwind of Hurricane Earl.  As we dragged our suitcases from the bus stop to the subway station, I was so enthused by this billboard and the feeling that we were really In The City that I took a photo of it.

Billboard 1

We airbnb’d a place directly across the street from the Flatiron building.  I had no idea what that was at the time, but it seemed in the middle of a lot of stuff and the price was right, so it was the place for us.  We learned very quickly had rented this studio apartment from a woman, who the neighbors informed us, had recently been in a bike accident and was hospitalized.  This is also where the well-meaning neighbors informed Marcus, Lindsey, and me that in the owner’s absence, we were tasked with caring for Prince Sterling, her black Persian cat.  Helpfully, they described him to us as being “spiritual.”  While no feline spirituality was revealed over the course of the weekend, Prince Sterling’s chief accomplishment was aggressively chasing Lindsey around the apartment in circles at 2:00 AM.

All of this for the opportunity to go to the city and just be.  But as you all already, know, New York is not a place that you can just Be.  You have to Be somewhere.  So we set out to meet up with Marcus’ Friend Who Works In Fashion (something I felt added a lot of cachet to our roving party), we equipped ourselves with tall cans of beer, and we set out to traipse about the city.

Hipster 1

I will also take this time right now to tell you that I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what, exactly I would wear in the big city and the above outfit was one that I was quite proud of.  I wanted to look like I was comfortable without trying too hard.

We walked, and we walked, and we walked some more, sipping our secret beers.  We crossed through Times Square, which had only recently been closed to vehicular traffic.

Times Square 2

It was bright.

Undeterred by the late hour (we were in the city after all), we headed down to the pier to take a night ride on the Staten Island Ferry to see Lady Liberty and the city at night.  The water was black, the boat was quiet and so were we as we moved across the waves.

All of this which is to say that the first night in New York, everything was so shiny, and so new, and so full of potential.  We could be anything and we were surrounded by millions of other people chasing their own anything that night.

About the Author
Kat is a runner, an HR professional, a Minnesota native, and she is the woman behind the curtain at Tenaciously Yours. She is also a ferocious cook, and avid traveller, who, along with her husband Marcus, is happily found both globetrotting and relaxing Up North at the Cabin.

…quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage.

– Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

This is the seventh in a series of posts about New York.

People sometimes ask me: Do you miss Los Angeles?

The answer is no, I do not. And not for any hostile reason, rather, I simply don’t know LA anymore. I go back to California once or twice a year to visit my family, and when I do, people give me directions to places that didn’t exist when I last lived there, and then get angry at me when I tell them: I have no idea what you are talking about.

When I first moved to New York, I had no idea where anything was. They tell you: The grid system is so easy! But until you figure out the direction of traffic on the one-way avenues, you are doomed to exit subway stations and walk a block or two in the wrong direction before you get a sense of what is north and what is south.

Before I moved to New York, though, I visited. First, in 2001, not long before the tragedy. And again a year or so later. I had just moved to Washington, DC at the time, and my best friend called and said: I’m doing a show in New York; you should come visit.

I was a law student, and had no money, and didn’t think I would be able to make the trip. I wasn’t about to drive myself, and being from California, I knew nothing about trains. In fact, I had trouble remember the words for train travel in English, because trains were an anomaly in Southern California. I’d learned the vocabulary for the first time in French, before spending a chunk of one summer in Europe, and I’d never bothered to figure out how to say anything about rail travel in English, leaving a last-minute Amtrak journey an unlikely proposition.

Then, serendipitously, a law school classmate said he was going to New York that particular weekend, did I want a ride? I was terribly homesick for California, and for everything I had previously known, so seeing Jade was going to be the perfect cure.

Four and a half hours after leaving Washington that weekend, my classmate dropped me off somewhere in the East 50s, nowhere near the hotel where I was supposed to meet my best friend. Ever resourceful in the era before smartphones were A Thing, I ducked into a Barnes & Noble; picked up a hotel guide; found the exact address and wandered around until I’d gotten my bearings and could tell north from south.

I finally found the hotel on Lex and 51st, and waited inside at the bar for Jade. She came in not long after, and we had a wonderful weekend of shopping, and laughing, and eating junk food, and buying matching black turtlenecks at Bloomingdale’s.

I pass by that hotel frequently, now; my office is near Bloomingdale’s. The things that were once so delightfully foreign have become mundane, and I am not entirely sure when it happened – when I stopped being From California, and became A New Yorker.

For years, I had forgotten about that weekend, until I recently chucked the ancient turtleneck, which had become so threadbare it was unwearable. For a moment, before I tossed the shirt into the rag pile, I remembered what it was like to be New to New York, and to not know the streets from the avenues. I recalled the joy of wandering; the security of the grids; the grit and grime and hot garbage smell; the skyline view on the approach from the Lincoln Tunnel.

I remembered the smell of smoke in the hotel bar, and the fear of being Completely Lost in the days before the phone in my pocket could not only find the hotel, but direct me there. I remembered being young, and scared, and falling in love with the chaos around me.

I don’t miss Los Angeles, though. I don’t really know it at all anymore.


Put your hand the gearshift
Put your foot off the break
and take one last look at the place that you are leaving.
Take one last look.
 Oh take one last look at the place that you are leaving.
Take one last look.
Tom Waits

This is the fourth in a series of posts about New York; a guest post by my friend Smplefy.

Tom Waits debuted this song on one of the last Letterman shows.  It resonated with me and got me thinking about New York.  The crowd energy on Letterman always made it clear that the show was filmed live in New York City.   That show is gone now.  One the other hand Jimmy Fallon brought the Tonight Show back to New York.  That’s a microcosm of New York right there, with things and people coming, going, redefining, repurposing, reinventing.

In 1995 I stood on Statue of Liberty Island and took a picture of my wife, Laura with the Twin Towers prominently displayed in the background. That black and white 8×10 still hangs in our living room.

During a visit to that same island in August 2001, Laura asked if I wanted to retake that picture.   Wanting to conserve film and oblivious to the events just weeks away, I callously said, “No, I already have that picture”.

On this 30 May, 2015, I stood in line at the opening of the One World Observatory, an observation deck on the 103rd floor of One World Trade Center. This beautiful and sexy building stands adjacent to the site of the lost towers, where two solemn memorial fountains remain.

The observation deck presents the visitors with a 360º view of the city and surrounding areas. The views of New York were beyond breathtaking on a clear day.   I was giddy as I saw all of Brooklyn spread out before me in one direction.  Standing there I could make out Prospect Park and could see all the way to what I thought should have been Coney Island.

brooklyn from 1wt

Brooklyn from the One World Observatory (click to expand)

Along another wall was Manhattan in all its glory with its landmarks and beautiful bridges beauty.  Just over there was Queens and back there was Staten Island in yet another direction.  I sat on the floor for a while in each direction, seeking out and studying the landmarks like I was taking some type of a test that I had been studying my whole life for.

manhattan from 1wtc

Manhattan from the One World Observatory (click to expand)

I was told many years ago, that if you want to take a great picture of the Statue of Liberty, you have to find a unique way to take it.  The view of the Statue of Liberty from of the observation deck was unlike any I’d ever seen before. It eventually struck me that this was how many in the World Trade Center used to see the Statue of Liberty on a daily basis.  That realization brought me pause and brought me back to the tragedy.   That’s the thing about this observation deck, it exhilarates and it reminds us.


Lady Liberty from the One World Observatory

I circled the observation deck several times during my visit.  In my last moments there, I got up close to the glass and discovered a view of the 9-11 Memorial fountains I hadn’t seen before.  It was an unexpected surprise to see a new angle on what is a relatively recent addition to New York.

As much as I would have enjoyed staying to see the sunset, I had a plane to catch.  I kept seeing the One World Trade Center from various points along the train ride to New Jersey.  It seemed to be waving goodbye and inviting me back.

And when I settled on my plane, while the other passengers were still boarding, I looked out window and there she was again, following me in her twinkling dress.  With Tom Waits’ voice in my head, I took one last look at her and the place that I was leaving.   I tried to take in the moment and hold it before the plane took me away from this day to start a new adventure, elsewhere.


One World Trade Center from Newark Airport

Foolish is the man who loves places and things, for that love shall be unrequited.  The Twin Towers were a source of pride for New York and then they were taken from us along with so many of the strangers that were part of the New York family.  These two buildings in this city that I hold dear have not been replaced, but the space has been repurposed to remind us of all we have, what we have lost and what we hold dear.   I don’t mean the girders, rebar and concrete, but the spirit, the enterprise, pride and love of ourselves and one another.

Welcome to the New York family, One World Trade Center.  Be great.


The One World Trade Center

About the author
Born in New York, living far from the land he loves, but still happily managing to live the dream in Sunny, drought-stricken, California.  If you read this, send water.