March 2010 Archives

March 2010 Archives

Personal Been 2(00)6

On April 3, 2010, at 3:15pm, I turn exactly 30 years old.  This post is part of a very ambitious effort to share each of the last 10 years.  Thanks to Mike and his recap of the 2000's for the inspiration.

On the second day of 2006, Amber and I were officially together.  I'll spare the mushy details, but living in NYC drastically improved.  We were still working together through the winter until her internship ended that March.  (As Amber likes to tell it, we'd secretly make out in the elevators to hide from the bosses.)  She still had that last semester to finish up at Hyper Island, but working full-time and finishing the senior project in the States instead of Sweden was common.  So by mid-March, she went from intern to senior designer at a different shop - leapfrogging a few years of her career plan - and spent the following two months finishing up her senior project.

One Saturday morning in June, we decided to go out to brunch at a diner near DUMBO.  After the meal, we walked around and stumbled on a little real estate agency a few doors down from the diner.  The front door was propped open, and as we looked at the listings in the window, the agent inside said hello and started chatting us up.

At the time, having been together all of about 5 months, Amber and I were still living separately and hadn't had any explicit discussions on moving in together.  Looking in the real estate agency window, we were basically doing The NYC Thing, where everyone looks at real estate all the time, for no particular reason at all.  But a few minutes into our conversation and the real estate agent had us intrigued on a brand new listing that wasn't yet in the window: a garden apartment in a gorgeous Brooklyn Heights brownstone.  So before we knew it, the three of us were walking from the agency to the apartment to scout it out.

Late the year before, not long after I started working at that job, the MTA had a strike and shut down public transportation for a few days.  The two partners put together car pools to ensure we could all get to work in the freezing cold winter.  I had been living in Windsor Terrace, so my ride into the office included driving through Brooklyn Heights to get into DUMBO.  (I had only been living in Brooklyn for about 2 months, so getting around and checking out new neighborhoods hadn't really happened.)  I remember looking out the window as we drove along the stretch of Clark Street, wondering what gorgeous neighborhood we had stumbled into.  In the sparkly cold Brooklyn Heights was magical, and in the ensuing months Amber and I would occasionally sneak walks together at lunch to explore the neighborhood.  It was a kind of coveted plan for us to someday move there, and here we were looking at an apartment together in the today, not the someday.

We weren't - and aren't - one of those couples that rushes into things too quickly.  But in the guise of Amber's rapid career ascent, as we looked at this amazing apartment, we knew we had to have it.  And on July 1, we moved in - together - officially starting our lives together at the newly-dubbed 123 Awesome Street.

Personal Been 2(00)5

On April 3, 2010, at 3:15pm, I turn exactly 30 years old.  This post is part of a very ambitious effort to share each of the last 10 years.  Thanks to Mike and his recap of the 2000's for the inspiration.

Next to 18, 25 was one of the best years of my life.  It was definitely the most lived.

At some point early that year, in conversations about life and the future, a good friend of mine reminded me about the work abroad program he had done right after undergrad.  It was open to full-time students 25 years and under (student status any time within that calendar year), and offered opportunities in a bunch of countries around the world for various lengths.

One thing I had always regretted about my college years was not studying abroad when I had the opportunity.  LA was a popular internship destination for our communications school, but LA is the wrong kind of foreign.  London was another, which I hadn't considered at the time, between being in a puppy-love relationship and just not being mature enough at 19 to take it seriously.  An ex had raved about her UK experiences, and this student program had an 8-month London option.  I had always wanted to see a bit more of Europe than my previous 2 trips to England, and the only other language I speak is some rusty French, so London seemed like a good spot to set up HQ.  So with this opportunity looking like the last one I'd be able to capitalize on as a student, I applied, got accepted, and paid the dues.

I powered through that spring, wrapping up my last semester and generally planning the adventure.  My girlfriend and I had broken up; I was going abroad and she was looking at graduate school in the fall.  Other than my usual 'home base' of Long Island, all of my roots were being uplifted.  I headed to London.

I have a bunch of family in England (paternal grandmother's side).  A cousin I had met twice previously, once in the UK and once in the US, was gracious enough to put me up until I could find a flat to call my own.  It took a few days, but I found a room in a unit with three girls - two Brits and an Aussie - near Kingston, a posh little area about 30 minutes outside the city center.  Until we could get broadband installed, I was splitting my time between preparing documents and making calls at home, and job hunting online with my laptop at the B&N's Starbucks in Kingston.

Through these first few days, I had been having trouble accessing my bank account at HSBC, which I had prepared for international usage before I left the US.  The only way for me to rectify the situation was to head to one of the London headquarters, which was somewhere in the middle of the city.  So on the morning of July 7, as the city reveled in its victorious 2012 Olympics bid from the day before, I woke up, got ready, and made my way to the Kingston station for the train to take me to Kings Cross, where some terrorists were about to blow up a train.

When I don't have a lot of structure or pressure, I tend to take things slowly, especially when it's hot.  (I spend enough time rushing around and being uptight and punctual when I work.)  In a flat with no air conditioning, in a damn hot summer, I was not in a hurry to the train that day.  I must have not turned on the TV at all that morning because within minutes of leaving the flat and getting on the bus heading to the train, someone was already murmuring about some kind of fire or explosion.  I didn't make anything of it; there was no urgency in her voice and everything around me seemed normal.  But when I got to the train station and saw that everything was basically shut down, at that point I figured something serious was up.  I didn't have my laptop, so I headed back to the flat to see what was going on.

I figure I missed the bomb by about 45 minutes.  Kings Cross was my transfer destination so there was a pretty good chance I'd be nothing but rubble right now had I left the flat earlier and traveled with rush hour traffic instead of waiting.  I was shaken up, but I wasn't freaking out.  There was a certain numbness that came with 9/11; I was paying attention and I was absorbing the reality of the situation, but I wasn't breaking down.

At this point, I had almost no cash left in my wallet (though plenty of money sitting in an account I couldn't access), no real job leads to speak of, and now a rampant fear of terrorism at every turn.  The plans were all falling apart instead of coming together.  After a walk through an absolutely dead silent city the following day (and a few horribly tense bus rides), I got into my bank account and had money once again.  London was surprisingly resilient after the attacks; I heard a lot of references to the IRA bombings of years past and how for Brits, domestic attacks weren't entirely new.

I continued to job hunt, but with little luck.  I finally settled on a part-time gig, very similar to my programming / designing / project management job in Ithaca, and I could work from the flat.  It was for a start-up web video company that aspired to be the primary source online for global independent films.  While they had the backing of Microsoft, the company was clearly a disaster.

Everything about my London adventure was becoming a big fail.  I couldn't get a real job (the goal had been to work as a project manager to kick off that career with some international experience), my flat situation was painful, it was hot as hell all the time, everyone in the city was on high alert, but the final nail: London was just boring.  I couldn't seem to pierce through and find the subculture.  Everyone - and I mean everyone - would spend just about every night going to the pub and binge drinking.  (This was the year the Brits repealed the early curfew laws, so had I stayed, I would've been witness to that debacle unfolding.)

London just wasn't a culture I was interested in any longer.  So I set a date, gave my notice, and made some plans.  The one thing I hadn't done was any real traveling.  London was a convenient hub to all of Europe, and I had to take advantage while I still had time.

First, I detoured to the south, to visit some of my lovely British family in Tunbridge Wells (aka The Shire) some of whom I had met previously and others I got to meet for the first time.  We played trivia at their watering hole, The Wheel, and had a grand old time.

I had previously visited my French friend from grad school up in Manchester and met her Aussie boyfriend, with whom I had made plans to go to Oktoberfest in Munich.  So late that September, he met me in London, and we flew out to Germany and had the best beer ever in the best drinking vessels ever (steins are amazing).  When the two days in Munich were over, I hopped over to Oslo to spend a few days with my Norwegian buddy from undergrad.  One day, we drove across a bridge that connects Norway and Sweden, so technically, I also visited Sweden, while my polar bear friend picked up a few sleeves of tax-free smokes.

And when I got back to London in October, after a day or two, I packed up my things and flew home, thinking about what to do next.

It was 2005, and the post-9/11 economy was recovering well, at least in tech and interactive.  While I recouped on Long Island, I had my sights set on working in NYC, the city I grew up with and never thought I'd ever live in.  A bunch of my good friends from Ithaca were living in Brooklyn, and countless other friends from high school, so I would train in to interview and catch up with a few people here and there.  And I got to experience this New Brooklyn, which seemed pretty dope.  There was one particular shop I was most interested in.  It had a good reputation and my in-industry friend, on whom I relied for job advice, was recommending it highly.  So I put on my fancy suit and made my way into DUMBO for the interview.

I got to their office, which had a strange, dot-com-era "funky" organization to it, and wandered around looking for someone, anyone.  Behind one of the cubicle-y walls popped a very cute, very smiley blond girl.  (At the risk of being a cheeseball, that snapshot of the room and Amber's enthusiastic "hi!" is etched in my head for good.)  I interviewed with the partners, I got the job, and I moved to Brooklyn.

Over the last remaining weeks of 2005, I hung out with Amber a couple of times, both with groups and once just the two of us.  We were onto something, but never really talked about it explicitly.  She had been dating someone long distance for a little while, but it hadn't been going well and she had been planning on breaking it off after the holidays.  That Christmas, we spent most of the day flirting over text messages.  I wouldn't get to see or talk to her again until after the new year, but 2005 definitely closed out on a hopeful note.


Right before my birthday in 2005 when I was still in Ithaca, I was at a bar one night with a friend and her boyfriend.  He had asked how old I was going to be, and when I answered, he immediately yelled out, "25 was the best year of my life.  It's going to be awesome.  25 is a great, great year.".  And it was.  2005 was the year it all came together.