Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Order



I am sick of making decisions. Light blue or robin’s egg blue? Iridescent gold overlay tablecloths or opaque bronze? And it is not just about wedding-related choices; it is the multitude of decisions I have to make each day in ordinary life. From the moment we stumble out of bed in the morning, deciding how we want our coffee and what outfit to wear, should we take the subway to work or walk – to the larger and more important decisions which we make daily in our business lives; our days are a knotted-ball rolled up of thousands of choices. Eventually, it can be overwhelming.

“I can’t decide,” I said to M as we tried to pick a cake for our wedding. Scrolling through hundreds of pictures of icing and flower covered cakes, two tier to massive ten-tier versions complete with a structurally sound support system of columns and beams, covered with lilacs and hydrangeas – a full garden atop a white mound of calorie-saturated dough; they all began to look the same. “We can do Swiss meringue buttercream icing with a white chocolate cake or, oh wait, how about scalloped ribbons made of fondant piping a French vanilla-bean exterior covered with nosegays and roses?” The pastry chef explained all of the options that were available, his description and excitement as gooey and as sweet as the icing.

I hate cake. A Ho-Ho or a Ding Dong or a friggin Twinkie, I do not care. It's not a life or death decision, it's friggin cake. I am just not a dessert person, leaving the expression “have your cake and eat too” to be that much more insignificant and illogical to me. I don’t want my cake and I don’t want to eat it. But faced with the endless array of wedding cake options, I turned to the caterer and said, “Just make it white and give me the cheapest option.” My father smiled for the first time during the wedding planning process.

My lack of desire to make decisions has taken over the entirety of my life. “You decide,” I said to M as we tried to pick a restaurant to have dinner with our friends. “I’ll go wherever.” My opinionated and selective nature has been muted – almost shut down entirely as I look to others to make the determination. I just want to go with the flow and have decisions made for me. M, happy to take the reigns, selected Café D’Alsace for dinner. Having perused the menu online at work, he emailed me his menu selection for the evening by mid-afternoon. “I can’t wait ‘til dinner,” he exclaimed.

At the restaurant, M confirmed his selections, “Do you think I should get the Roasted Cod. I think that’s what I want. Yep,” he said as he glanced at the list of entrees, “that is definitely what I am getting.” He closed his menu and took a sip of his martini. “What are you going to get? Get something which I like so I can try it.” He was a kid in a candy shop.

When the waiter finally got to me for my order, M waited with bated breath to see what I would say. “You know what,” I said to the waiter, “Just surprise me.”

And that he did ---- with an amazing dish that I never would have ordered on my own. I didn’t have to make a decision, I didn’t have to weigh options, ponder what I was really in the mood for or have second thoughts after I placed my order. “Oh, wait, maybe I should have gotten the steak,” M said regretfully re-thinking his earlier selection.

Ever since that night, I have been leaving my menu choices to the waiters/waitresses every time we go out to dinner. And no, they hardly ever bring me the most expensive option on the menu nor do they bring something odd like chicken gizzards and gravy. Usually it is something that wouldn’t have jumped off the page at me, something I would overlook, but inevitably something which I am so thrilled to have tried.

Certainly life is free will, but every so often, it is amazing to relinquish that in the world of dining out on the Upper East Side.

New Order

I am sick of making decisions. Light blue or robin’s egg blue? Iridescent gold overlay tablecloths or opaque bronze? And it is not just about wedding-related choices; it is the multitude of decisions I have to make each day in ordinary life. From the moment we stumble out of bed in the morning, deciding how we want our coffee and what outfit to wear, should we take the subway to work or walk – to the larger and more important decisions which we make daily in our business lives; our days are a knotted-ball rolled up of thousands of choices. Eventually, it can be overwhelming.

“I can’t decide,” I said to M as we tried to pick a cake for our wedding. Scrolling through hundreds of pictures of icing and flower covered cakes, two tier to massive ten-tier versions complete with a structurally sound support system of columns and beams, covered with lilacs and hydrangeas – a full garden atop a white mound of calorie-saturated dough; they all began to look the same. “We can do Swiss meringue buttercream icing with a white chocolate cake or, oh wait, how about scalloped ribbons made of fondant piping a French vanilla-bean exterior covered with nosegays and roses?” The pastry chef explained all of the options that were available, his description and excitement as gooey and as sweet as the icing.

I hate cake. A Ho-Ho or a Ding Dong or a friggin Twinkie, I do not care. I am just not a dessert person, leaving the expression “have your cake and eat too” to be that much more insignificant and illogical to me. I don’t want my cake and I don’t want to eat it. But faced with the endless array of wedding cake options, I turned to the caterer and said, “Just make it white and give me the cheapest option.” My father smiled for the first time during the wedding planning process.

My lack of desire to make decisions has taken over the entirety of my life. “You decide,” I said to M as we tried to pick a restaurant to have dinner with our friends. “I’ll go wherever.” My opinionated and selective nature has been muted – almost shut down entirely as I look to others to make the determination. I just want to go with the flow and have decisions made for me. M, happy to take the reigns, selected Café D’Alsace for dinner. Having perused the menu online at work, he emailed me his menu selection for the evening by mid-afternoon. “I can’t wait ‘til dinner,” he exclaimed.

At the restaurant, M confirmed his selections, “Do you think I should get the Roasted Cod. I think that’s what I want. Yep,” he said as he glanced at the list of entrees, “that is definitely what I am getting.” He closed his menu and took a sip of his martini. “What are you going to get? Get something which I like so I can try it.” He was a kid in a candy shop.

When the waiter finally got to me for my order, M waited with bated breath to see what I would say. “You know what,” I said to the waiter, “Just surprise me.”

And that he did ---- with an amazing dish that I never would have ordered on my own. I didn’t have to make a decision, I didn’t have to weigh options, ponder what I was really in the mood for or have second thoughts after I placed my order. “Oh, wait, maybe I should have gotten the steak,” M said regretfully re-thinking his earlier selection.

Ever since that night, I have been leaving my menu choices to the waiters/waitresses every time we go out to dinner. And no, they hardly ever bring me the most expensive option on the menu nor do they bring something odd like chicken gizzards and gravy. Usually it is something that wouldn’t have jumped off the page at me, something I would overlook, but inevitably something which I am so thrilled to have tried.

Certainly life is free will, but every so often, it is amazing to relinquish that in the world of dining out on the Upper East Side.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dog Ate My Homework

“The dog ate my homework.”

Though I never used that excuse for why a paper wasn’t turned in on time, I never thought a teacher would buy it to begin with – but, as far unlikely and far-fetched tales of wedding drama goes, I think this one takes the wedding cake:

“We need to get a marriage license,” I said to M as I read from the checklist of items not yet done. “I actually need you there to do that.” M looked pained, the thought of sitting in a public state office for hours wasn’t an appealing prospect for how M wanted to spend his morning. “We can either do it in New York or get it over while we are here in Philadelphia and somehow I think doing it here will be easier.” Little did I know how wrong I was.

We drove about 40 minutes into the depths of Pennsylvania to the Montgomery County Court House – a stately slate grey building with enormous ionic columns and an historic presence. “Marriage licenses?” a court officer asked as we walked in and through the metal detectors. Our mission was obvious – we were either befuddled looking lawyers or bride and groom. We nodded as they directed us to the second floor of the building, up a flight of marble stairs with walnut handrails and to the office which shared space with Orphans Court and was directly next to the domestic abuse office. “You would think they would have a happier location than this.” Not that I needed a toile-draped white resin columns and a bouquet of plastic roses to signify the blissful step towards marriage, but the placement of the office could have been better.

Every seat was taken in the waiting area as we stood patiently to get a number from the woman behind the counter. She scribbled a “5” on a piece of scrap paper and handed it to M. “You have a lot of people in front of you, should be about 45 minutes or so. Just wait out in the hall,” she said pointing us in the direction of the door. “Oh, and congratulations.” The well-wishes were perfunctory and gratuitous. M grunted a thanks and we skirted out the door passed the exhausted looking line of others waiting for their marriage licenses.

I flipped through one of the magazines I had picked up in the waiting area, it was a Redbook or something I wouldn’t normally read. Reading an article on President Bush’s swearing-in ceremony, I looked at the cover of the magazine for the date – January 2005. “Hey,” I nudged M who was lying down on a bench in the hall. “Look at this! This magazine is from 2005. People have gotten married and divorced in the time that this thing has been sitting here!” He was less than interested in my astute observation on periodicals and reading material in state offices.

Close to an hour later we heard “5, number 5” bellowed from within the office as if we were at the Gristede’s deli counter. “You're up,” the woman from earlier peered over her glasses at us and directed us to two seats in front of a desk. “First off, do you have your drivers licenses and $50 in cash?” Ah, the romance of it all. Handing her the requested items, she clicked away on her keyboard as she asked us information like our middle name and our mothers’ maiden names. When we finished with that part of the exercise, she shoved a bible to the front of the desk. “Please put your hand on the bible,” she said. I looked at M and he looked at me as the woman gathered the sense that we would prefer to raise our right hands instead. “Just raise your hand then. Do you swear that neither of you have any communicable diseases?” M and I shook our heads. “Do you swear you are not brother and sister and to the best of your knowledge you are not related by blood?” I held my tongue, openings such as this, where it would be soooo easy to make an off-color joke, to say “No, but my brother says I am the best French-kisser in these here parts,” required restraint. Instead, I nodded again. “Do you swear that you are here by your own free will and not under duress?” I smiled and nodded and hoped M would do the same because he was there under duress – not that he didn’t want to get married but dragging him out of bed at 7am and having him sit for an hour in that office, that was not of his choosing. “Do you swear everything you said today is true?” Smile. Nod. She printed out a piece of paper on parchment-looking paper and handed it to us. “Congratulations and best of luck.”

At home, I crossed marriage licenses off my checklist and brought the envelope with the licenses in it down to my parents’ basement and placed it in the box marked “ceremony”. I was extremely organized; dozens of legal file boxes lined the floors each marked with the contents inside, who they were being sent to and with all our pertinent wedding information on the outside of the container. I shut off the lights and went upstairs.

Two days later, my mom and I are in the basement again updating one of the boxes when I notice a pile of cat shit in one of the boxes. In the moment, I knew what box it was, I didn’t even need to look on the outside to see how it was marked. “What the hell? I looked into the box, the envelope marked “Wedding Licenses” was wet and a mound of poop was piled like rocks in a quarry on top of it. My mom rushed over and noticed the door to where the cat’s litter box is, was closed leaving her without a bathroom. “Looks like Chelsey found a new litter box,” my mother said nervously. I think she was expecting me to have a meltdown, start sobbing uncontrollably and throwing a hissy fit in Chelsey, the cat’s style. Instead, what began as a rumble of laughter erupted into sidesplitting hysterics. “Do you think I can tell the rabbi that the cat peed on my marriage licenses. It is kinda like the dog ate my homework, but even better.”

Friday, September 14, 2007

Together and Apart






Six New York City girls boarded a plan for the island retreat of Nantucket last weekend, leaving behind the stress of Manhattan in exchange for the quiet tranquility of New England. I didn’t want a raucous bachelorette party, the kind where everything is a hazy alcohol blur charged with electric lights and slot machine sounds of Las Vegas, where memories are only those saved on film and not internally. Instead, I wanted my closest friends to leave their worries behind and breathe in the nice crisp salty sea air. I wanted to celebrate friendship with old friends and toast to the new best friend who I will be marrying.

“It looks like the airport from Wings,” Stacy remarked as she grabbed her bag from the makeshift luggage retrieval area that was a few slabs of wood bolted together mere feet from the tarmac. One by one, I made trips to the airport to pick up my bridesmaids and drive them through the preserve lands, passed the outskirt of town with the grey shingled houses with white shudders, down the cobblestone Main Street whose presence has remained untouched over the years. The old Jeep trudged along over the well-worn streets and the early-fall sun and brisk sea breeze reminded everyone that summer was unofficially over as we discussed our Labor Day adventures. “I just feel so at ease here,” Alissa said taking off her blazer and rolling it up into a ball before shoving it in her carry-on. “I don’t ever want to leave.”

The weekend commenced with a clambake on Friday night in the backyard. “This is a heels-free zone,” I said as everyone got dressed for the evening. “Not just tonight, but trust me, walking around town tomorrow stilettos will be your literal downfall on the cobblestone.” Trying to tell 6 fashionistas that they need to leave their Manolos behind and opt into flip-flops proved to be less challenging than I first thought. It was if with the miles between us and New York, a distance grew between us and our New York City problems. Shoes aside, we left the toe-pinching dilemmas and baggage behind. The James Taylor CD filled the night air as we got our hands dirty pulling lobster and mussels from their shells, clinking wine glasses and laughing a little louder and a little lighter than we would have back at home.

The rest of the weekend was much of the same. “No schedules,” was my Bridezilla request. “I want everyone to do whatever they want while they are here. We don’t have to be together 24 hours a day. I just want everyone to have fun and relax.” I have been to bachelorette parties, weekend ones, where every second is scheduled down to who is showering when and how many boxes of Triscuts are to be shared. I didn’t want any of that nonsense. So, some people spent their afternoon walking on the beach, others playing tennis and more sitting lazily on deck chairs reading a book. No rules. No day planners. No Blackberries.

On our final night we gathered for dinner at a beachside restaurant to watch the sunset over the Atlantic. My bridesmaids had sent M a questionnaire to fill out ahead of time and I was going to be asked the same set of questions that he had answered – a bachelorette version of the Newlywed Game. “Ok Carr, read the first question out loud and tell us what you think M would have answered,” Melissa said as she sweetly sipped the champagne the waiter had just poured. Dumbfounded that M would actually participate in something so estrogen-charged and femmie, I had to double check. “Wait, M actually filled this out?”

“Just answer the questions,” Rachel demanded. I flipped to the last page, there were 43 questions such as: “What is Carrie’s favorite movie and If Mattel made a Carrie-doll, what would it say?” I could envision M, sitting in his office, his Blackberry buzzing a stack of Excel sheets piled next to him, cursing the female persuasion for finding humor and fun in this type of torture as he tried to recall what article of clothing of his I hate the most. I got 41out of 43 questions correct.

The hours ticked by as our flights home loomed and the weekend was coming to an end. “I don’t want to leave,” Alissa said. We packed everyone into the Jeep, 4 seated and two packed into the trunk area like dogs. “You Ok back there?” I asked as I closed the hatch on Jodi and Debra who had contorted into Gumby-like poses. “We aren’t going far, I promise.” I wanted to take them to my lake – the most serene part of the island, a place where the world seems to melt away into the marshlands and time stops for just a moment.

I drove up Cliff Road and turned towards Madaket, pulling off at Hummock Pond. It was mid-day and the sun was strong as we walked down the dock to sit on the edge. A family of ducks was hanging out on the side in the brush as the mother duck watched as the little ones tested out the water. Swans floated by, their white plumes stark against the dusty brown and heather of the landscape. No one else was around – just us girls, the swans, the ducks and a few scattered rabbits who made quick appearances before leaping back into the vegetation. We sat and did nothing, we just watched nature instead of TV, instead of people watching in Central Park or crowded café on the Upper East Side. We just watched the world away from the one we knew, the one which we do love, and appreciated it for everything it is. But every once in awhile, it is good to get away, reflect on life, friendship and love – in a natural way, like the sunlight reflecting a golden hue off the steel gray waters of the pond.

It was perfect to just sit and be together.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hat Trick




I LIKE tennis but M LOVES it, and every year as Labor Day comes and goes, so do we – to the US Open. It is a tradition M and his mom share along with the love of the sport, so if it is important to M, it is important to me. “How many days are we going to the Open,” I asked M as last weekend approached. “Six,” he said, his eyes bulging with excitement. “Six?” I sighed and tried to feign excitement equal to his.

I grew up on Big Ten football. In the Big House, along with the 107,501 other screaming fans I would cheer on the Wolverines each Saturday to victory. We would dangle our keys in the air as the ball was kicked off, bellow obnoxious taunts and teases at the players on the field – “Flush twice! Columbus is far away.” During an important field goal we would distract the other team’s kicker as we frenetically waved our arms in the air and made hissing noises a the top of our lungs. There is an electric buzz which fills that stadium, a constant booming sound of cheers and screams so loud that the players on the field sometimes can not hear the play calls. This was not considered bad form or poor sportsmanship; this is what Michigan football is made of.

Sitting at the Blake/Hass match last weekend, the stands at Ashe were silent. You could hear a pin drop, the ball bounce as Blake dribbled it a few times before he served. “How come no one is cheering? Why isn’t anyone trying to make Hass lose his concentration?” I whispered to M. Tennis is a gentleman’s sport where you respect both players on the court. People cheer for points well-won, both for their favorite player and for that player’s opponent. People sit quietly in the stands, there is no hand waving or shouting – simply applause after points. The rules for being a tennis fan are very different than being a college football fan or hockey for that matter, where it is commonplace and expected a fight will breakout on the ice. (They serve champagne at the Open. In Ann Arbor, they serve shitty skunk beer.)

One set into the match I feel a tug on my ponytail then someone’s hands combing thru my locks. I whip my head around nearly giving myself whiplash as I am face to face with a middle-aged woman wearing a windbreaker, green eye-shadow and boots. I am confused as I look at this woman and try to figure out why in the world she is playing with my hair, playing with the hair of a stranger she doesn’t know, I am left speechless. “You have beautiful hair,” she said smiling at me as if it wasn’t at all unusual for her to grab the swing ponytail of a random person in a public arena. M turns around too as I answer her: “Thanks.” I pull my ponytail over my shoulder and in front of me. I don’t say anything like “Why the fuck are you touching me, wacko? Get your grubby paws off me. I don’t know where that hand as been.” I think it is better to accept the compliment than start a fight at a tennis match, a football game would have been a different story. A minute later, she is at again – petting the top of my head. “I color my hair too,” she informs me, I assume as she inspects my roots and notices the re-growth of darker hair. “That’s nice,” I respond evenly trying to discourage her from any more head-touching. M is giggling under his breath, this is funny to him an amusing interlude as Blake’s performance on the court started to falter. “I thought people who like this sport have manners,” I whisper to M as AGAIN the woman behind me grabs hold of my hair.

I twist around protectively reaching for my head. “Do you wash your hair every day?” this nut job asks me as set point is taking place on the court. “What kind of shampoo do you use?” I wash my hair twice a week.” She continues to ramble about her personal hygiene and I realize the only way to get her to stop is to move seats.

M gets the same idea and grabs my bag, nudges me on the leg and mouths the words “Let’s go”. As we get up and trudge up the stairs to find new seats, she is still screaming after me: “How often do you cut your hair? It is really healthy looking?”

Yea well, lady – you ain’t too healthy you freakazoid-hair-touching-lunatic. I bet this woman has sofa cushions which are stuffed with human hair at home and I didn’t want her to pull out scissors from her handbag and take a sample of mine for a new bedspread she is making.

So, I survived 6 days of the Open with my hair in tact, a tiny bit of a suntan and truly developing a greater interest in the game. In fact, I find myself switching the channel to USA to watch the matches at home now – without M’s insistence or presence. And to make matters worse, Michigan lost to Appalachian State (AKA - Inbred U) in their home opener - so much for the season!

I am looking forward to next year at the Open, but I am definitely going to wear a hat.