in defense of my bf

Have you heard about the recent study that ranked states by how happy their residents are? Well, New York came in last. The reasons why people were happy or not weren’t a part of the study, so I’ve been contemplating why New Yorkers are the least happy people. Just like Carrie Bradshaw, I am dating New York and thus feel the need to defend my boyfriend.

In his profound Here is New York, E.B. White explains that this city consists of three types of people. There are the lifelong residents who have shaped the history of their neighborhoods. There are the commuters who bring a sense of ebb and flow. And then there is a third group, to which I belong. These are the people who come to New York in search of something, usually to live their ideal lives. These are the dreamers, the creators, the visionaries, the light that makes the energy of the city shine. I came here to achieve my dreams and immerse myself in a type of energy I knew I wouldn’t find anywhere else. And I am not alone.

So then why are we unhappy? First of all, the study was conducted by state, so we’re not sure how New York City residents would rank as a separate group. There are some obvious reasons why people living here are sad – poverty, homelessness, health issues, unemployment, crowding, noise pollution. But there are some other issues that get less attention. Focusing on my group of dreamers, those of us who’ve worked so hard to be here, I can think of some factors detracting from our happiness.

1. Excessive expectations. We have extremely high ambitions. There’s so much we want to achieve, so much more we want to do with our lives. It usually feels like as soon as I achieve one goal, I’m already focused on the next three. I don’t take the time to appreciate what I’ve just accomplished. Since we want so much more, we are often disappointed. Which is ridiculous because we are achieving many great things – it just takes time to achieve them. In this blog post I wrote last year, I mentioned that it’s possible to quantify happiness with this equation: Happiness = Reality / Expectation. Our expectations far exceed the reality of our present state. Yeah, we’re an impatient bunch.

2. Single life. Studies have shown that people who are married live longer than people who remain single. Being married means (or should mean) that you have a steady support system, which decreases anxiety levels, which decreases risk of heart disease and other ailments. The thing is, this city is filled with single people. It’s typical to be in your 30s or 40s and living more like you’re in your 20s. I get the feeling that if I were living anywhere else as a single woman in her 30s, I might stand out as unusual. Not here.

3. Financial anxiety. There’s a lot to worry about anywhere, but New York is particularly challenging. Rents are outrageous. Landlords can get away with charging $3,400 for an average one-bedroom apartment (that’s in dollars per month, by the way) because the demand is so high. As ridiculous as that amount sounds, there’s always some finance guy or doctor parents that will pay. Rents aren’t the only financial atrocities; even things like detergent and toothpaste are too expensive. But it’s not like we can drive our cars to Costco or wherever and buy things cheaply in bulk and store them in our closets. We don’t have cars. Or closet space.

Despite its challenges, I love it here. And I’m surrounded by people who feel the same way. If you are one of them or are thinking about making a life for yourself here, my advice is to follow your passion. Don’t let the happy states list discourage you. It’s the dreamers who make this city the most amazing place ever. The dreamers know that anything is possible.

holiday time

Here in New York, the snow has almost melted. Except for these big snow piles from the street plows that will be blocking sidewalks for a while.  There’s a magical quality to snow when it first falls that’s just so peaceful.  Ever since the High Line opened last summer, I’ve been wondering how it will look in the snow. Awesome, is how.  These are the High Line’s lounge benches with fresh snow:

High Line lounge chairs covered with snow

It will apparently be Christmas in two days, which reminds me of my fave Christmas movies. Here’s my list from last year. This year, I would like to add another: Bed of Roses. You’re probably like, Huh? I’ve never heard of that one. But it’s really good. Plus, it has a mid-90s version of Christian Slater. The story is told over several seasons, but the Christmas scenes are for anyone who feels lonely around this time of year. Actually, it’s a good movie about loneliness in general. Okay, now it sounds depressing, but I swear it’s uplifting!

As a gift to myself, I finally purchased my first full-on winter coat ever. I’ve always just had these thinner coats and layered a lot, which never kept me warm despite my Warming Plan. I got tired of layering. And my friend had this amazing puffy coat that was the flat kind of puffy, all slim cut and not making her look like a giant marshmallow. I kept waiting for it to go on sale, but it never did. If there’s anything I’ve learned about being frugal, it’s that if you really want something, don’t wait too long for it to go on sale because it will either sell out or they won’t have the one you want by the time it does go on sale. So I snatched up the last one. It’s a wonderful thing – I totally don’t feel the cold wind! Even without a scarf, which is an unprecedented winter move for me. Yay for flat puffy coats!

Now I’m wondering about my gifts from people who aren’t me. I wouldn’t mind getting one of these Clue games:

24 and The Office Clue games

I want to wish you a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. Whether you’re spending it with family, friends, or taking in some alone time, I hope you enjoy a peaceful celebration. Let’s recharge and get ready for an exciting new decade!

reality check

Happy winter solstice! Yes, I’m excited. Not for winter, because we all know that I don’t do winter. I’m excited for daylight. Starting tomorrow, daylight hours will begin to increase and will continue to increase (by about two minutes per day) until the summer solstice in June. Bring on the light!

Astronomical occasions like this remind me of my old life as a science teacher. Wait, first I have to tell you about David Letterman. I discovered Late Night with David Letterman when I was 12. As soon as I saw him throw a pencil through the window and make crazy faces at the camera, I knew that we were kindred spirits. I used to tape his show on my cranky VCR to watch after school. For a few years of junior high and high school, the two things I looked forward to all day were going home to read on my bed and going home to watch Dave. There were lots of disappointing days when I settled in on the beanbag chair in front of the TV with my snack, only to discover that my mother had turned off the VCR after only a minute because the TV was in her room and she said the VCR was so loud that she couldn’t sleep. So you can imagine how psyched I am to be living in 2009! I can watch Dave online on my sexy iMac anytime I want. If I had a TV, I’m sure I’d watch The Late Show every night it’s on. After all these years, I love that Dave is still quirky and weird. I can relate to quirky and weird.

So I was watching Dave a few days ago and guess who was on? (Note: I am aware that Tobey Maguire was just on – I will be watching that ep when it becomes available tomorrow). Dr. James Hansen! He was my boss when I worked at NASA! I did climate change and global warming research for two summers after grad school at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies here in New York. These are some of their current research projects and findings. Anyway, I was so excited to see Dr. Hansen on the show.  He was the first person to testify before Congress that global warming is a reality.  His book, Storms of My Grandchildren:  The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, describes what will happen unless we all reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The Earth’s climate is changing so dramatically that thousands of species are becoming extinct, entire ecosystems are being destroyed, and severe types of weather like hurricanes are becoming much more dangerous.  Oh, and diseases will get even scarier.  If we don’t stop using coal and oil and start using alternative forms of energy, we will continue to destroy the only known planet we can live on and, ultimately, ourselves.  It’s awesome that Dr. Hansen has not given up hope that the world will start to listen to what he’s been saying for the past 30 years.  You can watch his Amazon video here, in which he explains that if we don’t take dramatic steps to save our planet now, it will very soon be too late.

P.S.  If you encounter someone who still doesn’t believe that global warming is a reality, kindly inform them that 1978 called.  It wants its debate back.

the scene, etc.

Have you seen the Gossip Girl Top Ten List? Every character lists their top ten whatever of 2009. I have to laugh at Chuck’s list. He put Minetta Tavern and Little Branch on his list of Top Ten NYC Bars/Clubs/Restaurants. That motherchucker would. Minetta Tavern used to be this awesome old-school Italian place here in the nabe. We’d go anytime without a reservation and it was always a blast. Then it closed down. I was sad that we’d lost another fave restaurant because so many of them have closed recently. But! It reopened and I was so happy. Until I found out that the new place was this uber exclusive joint where people like Madonna go. It’s impossible to get a decent dinner reservation now. Seriously, it’s either 5:30 or 10:00, if you’re lucky.

Okay, and Little Branch? Is this bar that’s also here in the nabe. SP showed it to me a few years ago, back when no one knew it was there. It’s on this obscure corner with a tiny sign on the door that you would totally walk right by if you didn’t know it was there. One time we were the only customers. I don’t really like bars since I don’t drink alcohol and screaming conversations over loud music isn’t really my thing. I’d much rather be playing a good board game at some coffeehouse. When I do go to bars, the bartenders are typically annoyed that I don’t drink alcohol so I just order a Shirley Temple (with extra cherries) and move on. Little Branch is entirely different. The bartenders love the challenge of me. They whip me up these tasty cucumber/mint/honey drinks with sculpted ice pieces. But the thing about Little Branch is that other people have discovered it. And now it’s such a scene. So of course Chuck would be there. At least Dan didn’t disappoint me – he listed Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You as the best book of 2009. Right on.

I want to thank Amanda for setting up an interview at NYU’s radio station this week. It was so much fun! The interview will air next month, so I’ll let you know when it’s on in case you want to listen. Amanda emailed me last year after reading When It Happens and told me that she wanted to go to NYU. Now she’s there, which rocks. Here we are in the studio:

NY radio

Yeah, I busted out my old NYU tee for the occasion which, ironically, I never wore while I was a grad student there.

Speaking of When It Happens (sort of), here’s a fresh review by Open Mind, Insert Book. Thanks, Stephanie!

Finally, I have to mention that Serendipity Day is this Sunday, December 20. Here’s my explanation of its significance. Let’s all celebrate in our own unique way.  Maybe I’ll partake of some edible gold leaf.  Or, um, not.

depressing vs. uplifting

Jason Reitman is so hot right now he’s on fire. He directed Thank You for Smoking and Juno, both of which I absolutely adored, and he’s impressed me again with Up in the Air. I loved this film. The dialogue and nuances were perfect. Being an organization freak, I was all into the montage at the beginning where George Clooney’s character, Ryan, is going through airport security. He snaps his luggage around like the professional traveler he is. What intrigued me most about the film (other than a major twist I did not see coming at all, except that the girl sitting behind me loudly whispered to her friend that it was about to happen which, of course, totally ruined it for me, but it was still so good I almost didn’t care) is this: I can’t decide if the ending is depressing or uplifting.

George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air

We all like a happy ending. Isn’t that one reason we read books and watch movies, to come away from our escape with a positive feeling about our real lives? The thing is, some of my favorite movies are depressing. Like, really depressing. We’re talking About Schmidt depressing. I just love that movie so much. Why? Because it’s amazingly realistic. It shows the ugly details of our lives in a way most movies won’t even touch. That’s why I also have love for American Beauty, Closer, Year of the Dog, The Shape of Things, and especially The Safety of Objects. Maybe it’s because I prefer movies and books that feel completely real. In a lot of ways, I feel a greater connection with depressing movies than uplifting ones. Although I also love movies with happy endings because they’re like instant mood improvers, I despise the big Hollywood ending where everything is outrageously wrapped up in a big red bow in the last five minutes. But a happy ending that makes sense and feels real? Awesome.

Now it’s Coffee Talk time. Think about your favorite movies. Are most of them depressing or uplifting? Why do you think that is? Discuss amongst yourselves.

searching & finding

My big news of the day is that I’ve submitted book five to my editors! This means, beginning with collapsing in a heap of exhaustion, I’ll be taking a few days off. Now I have time to do things like paint my bathroom, catch up on scrapbooking, and continue my search for the perfect Christmas cookie. Which may very well transform itself into a search for the perfect Christmas cupcake. You know I’m all about the cupcakes.

There were cookies at this holiday party last night, but they were not the Christmas kind. Not that it detracted from the fun in any way. I was invited by Daphne Grab, a wonderful YA author who is just so sweet. I was also psyched to see YA author Courtney Sheinmel. I totally have a crush on the cover of her new book, Positively. Courtney was a lawyer before becoming an author, so it was cool to talk to another author who’s made a career change. Here I am with Daphne and Courtney:

Susane Colasanti, Daphne Grab, and Courtney Sheinmel

What else did I want to tell you? Oh! It’s cool when you start watching a show because someone you like is in it, but then it turns out to be a really good show. That’s what happened with Fringe. I loved Joshua Jackson in Dawson’s Creek so much that when I heard he was in Fringe, I immediately added it to my Netflix queue. I just finished season one and was completely blown away by the last scene. That’s the one where you know it’s 2009 and it’s taking place in a New York office. But then the camera pans out and you see that the office is in one of the Twin Towers. That’s an alternate universe I wouldn’t mind living in.

Okay, it’s like two degrees out and minus whatever with the windchill, but my Warming Plan has been activated. So I will not let the freezing conditions prevent me from my Christmas cookie/cupcake search. If you find or make any good ones, please let me know!