Happy Bigfoot’s Birthday!!!

This is my 5th year celebration of Bigfoot’s Birthday. FIVE YEARS. It seems like just yesterday that my beautiful, charming friends and I were huddled around a booth in our college bar celebrating together over cheap beer and wine. We raised our glasses to Bigfoot. Was he real? Who were we to judge? Here was a fuzzy, furry potential mythical creature worthy of our devotion, attention and praise.  

Bigfoot’s Birthday Celebration 

One of the wonderful ladies I celebrated with, back in 2012, found her own Bigfoot this year. I don’t know if she ever gave up hope or stopped celebrating Bigfoot’s birthday but I hope not. And now, she radiates love and faith in her own furry man. I couldn’t be happier as she navigates the wild forest of Pittsburgh.

I honor Bigfoot because I secretly romanticize a belief in the unknown. As children, we naturally gravitate toward the fantastic. Fairies in the woods. Monsters under the bed. The incredible and the possible was always within our reach. Those ideas seem harder to come by with age. The world instills doubt in our minds and with the loss of innocence, we lose the ability to dream. With each passing year or misstep or heartbreak, we wonder if a certain person, or thing or opportunity is out there at all.  

So to you, I say:

Long live Bigfoot, a creature no less elusive or incredible than the complex emotion of love that so many humans seem to obsess over on February the 14th. 

 

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I found this New Yorker cartoon in Barnes & Nobles a couple weeks ago while I was looking for birthday cards. I immediately bought it. For myself. I don’t see any shame in giving yourself greetings cards and may continue to do so, every year on this special day. I couldn’t possibly address a card to Bigfoot himself.

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c/o The Forest Dwellers
Somewhere quiet with occasional human sightings
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So raise your glasses high!!!! Eat one too many chocolate-covered somethings and laugh loudly in a crazed roar, symbolic of the big man himself. Happy Birthday Bigfoot. This day is for you. 

 

 

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To Italy with Amore

Does anyone remember August?

The last few weeks have blurred in my mind, repeating an endless cycle of air conditioned nights and hot sandy days. For three weekends, I’ve packed the same bag to a new location just to return each Sunday and melt onto my bed, summoning strength for another Monday morning. IMG_4694But here we are, just days away from September. Sweet, beautiful September with cool breezes and changing leaves. I missed you, little 9th month of the year. After the hurried weekends and hot weeks, the fall has come to save us all. The sun is setting noticeably earlier but no one seems to care. My tan lines remember the summer and I’m all too ready to pull out the light jackets and colorful scarves. 

But suddenly time has stopped. With just four days left in frenetic August I hear each minute, lapping like the Hudson River against the pier. Rhythmic. Unhurried.  I’ve lived the last weekend ten times over. The sands in the hourglass are moving against gravity in slow motion uphill. Four long days before EUROPE. 

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My trip in 2014 felt like the experience of a lifetime. I do not regret a single second of the cities I walked and the people I met. Including this little ladyThe chance to return to Italy and watch Serena marry the love of her life feels like the perfect invitation to dust off my passport and pack a suitcase once again. What’s better than watching love happen in one of the most romantic places on earth? Having someone to share it with. 

I remember walking along the canals of Venice and watching the sunsets in Santorini. I have incredible memories of the pizza in Bologna and the waterfalls in Croatia. I truly believe that anyone who loves to travel should try it alone, at least once, just to experience the true freedom to explore and thrive. But there were moments- on the park bench in Nice and in the colosseum in Rome-where I wished I had someone with me to share it with. There would be no one back home who could reminisce, no one to say “remember when…” during a particularly delicious meal or fortuitous meeting with a stranger. There are times of aloneness when you reach out your hand  and wish someone was there to interlace fingers and squeeze tight. 

This time I’m traveling with a plus one. Finally I have the chance to show him who I am at my best with a guidebook in hand on unfamiliar turf. I will show him the gondolas in Venice and tell him about the Australian sister-brother duo I traveled with through St. Mark’s square. I’ll take him to the pizza place I loved and make him eat gelato at every hour of every day. Together we’ll visit Vienna (for the first time!!) and laugh our way through operas, museums and famed cafes.

And then finalmente, we will take a train across Northern Italy and arrive in Torino to reconnect with two of the loveliest people I’ve ever met for their wedding no less! In the beautiful countryside near the town of Asti surrounded by their friends and family, it’s a dream come true. This time, I will reach out and know someone will take my hand. I’ll squeeze it once, twice, just to make sure he’s real. 

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To those who fear:

I make dinner. There is a zucchini in the refrigerator from Monday’s farmers market and some rice in the cabinet. I cut the green vegetable into thick half-moons and listen to them sizzle in the oil, sliding over each other in the pan. The rice is boiling. Sporadic bubbles appear and are instantly gone beneath churning currents. I cover the rice and season the zucchini. It’s a warm and sticky Sunday evening, hours before another week. Tomorrow is another day.

There is little in the daily news that inspires hope. Recent personal events make me question the ifs and the whys in life; these two words have burrowed deep within my stomach. I feel the words beginning to rot, yet answers never come. Great trepidation for the future of which I have no control. 

What is this fear that seems to surround me? 

Zika. Terrorism. Death. The future. Family. Security. Money. Cancer. The “other”. Hillary. Muslims. Trump. Western thought. Death. Sickness. Guns. No guns. Climate change. The wrong choice. Betrayal. Loss of sanity. Loneliness. Inadequacy. Loss of love. No love at all. 

The zucchini is done. Using my wooden spoon, I gently flip each slice and check both sides have browned. The rice needs water. I use the electric kettle and add more steaming liquid before replacing the lid. My lunch for the week is nearing completion.

I wish we the inhabitants of the world could hold one another and ask forgiveness for all the things we’ve ever done or said and have yet to do and say. The longer I live in this world, the more I realize how the Many suffer.The Many have been abandoned by their parents, rejected by society or left to function with less than a whole self. The Many go to sleep wrapped in fury at those who have made them feel, in some way, less than. Less than loved. Less than smart. Less than respected. Less than human. 

The zucchini, rice and chickpeas are finished. I split the ingredients into two plastic containers: lunch for Monday and Tuesday. Snap goes the red lid. A mundane task completed for another day. Snap. A sound so complete. Snap. A moment without meaning. 

Snap and death, a thick black period at the end of a thought, a final punctuation on all that has come before. We lament the future that never will be. Now, we cry, when there is so much left unwritten? But the pen has come and accentuated the dot in permanent black ink. We watch it dry on the page and still we tear at the paper trying to erase what is already done. We think we need the story to continue. We weren’t prepared, didn’t have time to close to the book and place it on the shelf. We don’t know how we will go on.

Tonight before bed, I will imagine a bright star in the night sky, high above the street lamps and traffic lights. On this star, I will wish for the next president of the United States to have compassion, grit and superb listening skills. I will wish for all family members who have witnessed profound tragedy and grief to experience temporary freedom and peace. I will wish for a moment of clarity among the Many who feel life is cheap and tainted and unclean. I wish for you, dear reader, and all your precious beautiful moments that lay ahead. They will come again.

Tomorrow is another day.  

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A Simpler Time

“Life seemed to be a lot simpler then.”

-My Grandfather

The year is 1953. As the final sonata is played for the Korean War, lucky families are listening to the first transistor radios. Puerto Rico becomes a self-governing commonwealth of the United States. And in their hometown in upstate New York, my grandfather and grandmother marry and begin their life as a family. sony_transitor_radio

Life was different, as life tends to be, in years or decades past. Growing up in the Great Depression, my grandfather was lucky when there was a nickel for milk at school. He and his peers grew up to fight in the wars, marry young and promise their children an better life.

“In those days, people got married a lot younger than they do today,” my grandpa wrote me. “At 23, I was the proud father of a beautiful baby girl named Cindy.” And the same year my mother was born, my grandfather started his job as a printer at the local newspaper, a job which he held faithfully for over 38 years.

Life seemed a lot simpler then.

The year is now 2016. I look around at my own life and try to draw parallels back to my grandfather’s journey. I compare trajectories of the working young adult, level of education and current marital status. Working?  Some of my peers, these so called millennials, have worked for almost as many companies as numbers of years spend out of college. My “career path” alone spans two states and four companies in as many years. Married? Most of my friends do not boast a ring on their finger and I’m three years older than my grandfather when my mother came into the world. save-the-date-logo

 We rely on fast promotions in lieu of job security and promised pensions. The idea of company loyalty is a myth of the past, akin to horse drawn carriages and the neighborhood milkman. Then there’s love. If we don’t find a partner in high school, undergraduate studies, or graduate classes, we often resort to online dating. In her book All the Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister describes the increasing marrying age for woman in the United States. Currently, the average age for a woman getting married is 27, up from 23 in 1990. And that’s if they marry at all. Suddenly, the marriage conversation has shifted from WHEN to IF. Even with a steady boyfriend, my answer to marriage is still a big…maybe. The world of jobs and love has rebranded itself; the rule book from my grandfather’s generation was tossed aside years ago. 293892_4013625783339_1407785132_n

I will be attending two weddings this summer, making a grand total of four since I graduated from college. I truly believe these wonderful young men and women have made heartfelt commitments of love with open eyes and caring hearts. But the vast majority of my friends are still unwed and plan to remain that way long past the now “average” age of 27. Brides are no longer 18 or 19 fresh out of high school but 29 and 30 ready to have children and begin a joined life in matrimony.

I wonder what my grandfather’s generation would say in comparison to their own lives: joys and disappointments, opportunities and setbacks. As I struggle to find similarities between my reality and this simpler time I can’t help but ask,

What have we lost? What will we gain?

On the Existence of Bookstores & Animals

Long live the tiny neighborhood bookstore. In many places outside of major cities, small bookstores are a thing of the past. Remember You’ve Got Mail? Meg Ryan closes up her mother’s family bookstore, no longer being able to compete with megastores like those owned by Tom Hanks. Meg finds love but not all small business owners are that lucky. Big box stores, Amazon and the rise of e-books have pushed increased volume and cut prices to successfully diminish the hand-to-hand book selling business. 

In Hoboken, among the fast food windows and college-style bars, there are not one but TWO bookstores. Symposia, a bookstore and community center, is located right on main Washington Street. Rows of books are lined up on the sidewalk displays and I’m guilty of having stopped a number of times to run my fingers over worn titles as if recounting names of old friends. Only after doing a quick Google search, I realized that Symposia is also a “public benefit nonprofit corporation organized and operated exclusively for educational and charitable purposes.” What’s not to love? And it was in this bookstore where my mother found a gently used copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.

I had successfully avoided reading Eating Animals since its release in 2009 while I was a sophomore in college. The title itself seemed aggressive, like a vegan was screaming at me from a megaphone, “Do you see that girl Katelyn? She’s EATING ANIMALS!” With all my sustainability classes focuses in biology, ethics, and philosophy, I couldn’t stomach yet another example of how humanity was royally screwing up the planet.

And then, last month, my mom harmlessly slid the green cover across the lunch table and said, “I just walked into that little bookstore right across the street and HAD to get you this. Have you read it?”

 

So here I am, halfway through the book, completely immersed. Jonathan Safran Foer is a fiction writer who set out to answer a personal question, “What should I feed my kid?” His question is so simple and so without an agenda that the reader cannot help but grab his extended hand and follow along. I won’t go through his quest or quote his many gasp-inducing statistics about the process of eating animals except to say that he seemed to wrestle with the same questions that were rolling around inside my own head.

As I read Eating Animals (on the subway, in the lunch room), I can’t help but think about the path that led us from a hunting and gathering society to one of mass produced factory farms. We have grown exponentially in population and our appetite for all types of delicious beef, pork, chicken and turkey have grown beyond comprehension. We want cheap meat all the time and have found a solution to satisfy our needs (wants). Today, we would be physically unable to eat the quantity of meat we do if animals were raised and killed in the methods from a century ago. Small barns to factory lots. Store front to big box stores.

Like the meat industry, I wonder if we have subconsciously chosen “factory farmed literature” over small independent booksellers. Internet giants like Amazon have indeed cut into profits from the likes of Barnes and Noble and Borders (RIP). To my immense surprise, it seems these smaller bookstores are making a vibrant and profitable comeback. Once again, the reader is seeking a community they can see and books they can feel with their own hands. 

“The independent stores will never be more than a niche business of modest sales and very modest profitability. But the same is true for many small businesses, which makes them no less vital…” Zarchary Karabell, Slate

Customers are consciously choosing to walk into a small bookstore and buy a new find, before devouring each physical page with a hunger and need for the written word. I fear this connection and active voting with both our minds and our wallets will not translate over to another industry that has grown much beyond proportion and comprehension. The average American eats 21,000 entire animals in her lifetime. Our insatiable American appetite is fueled by two day shipping, cheap books and cheaper meat.

But at what cost. 

 

 

Goodbye Astoria

Dear Astoria,

Do you remember when we said our first hellos? I was straight off a plane from Milan, re-teaching myself how to live out of dresser drawers instead of zippered suitcases. I still remember the bright November morning when I saw you, Astoria, for the very first time. My full bed and wooden couch rocked left and right past cafes, falafel trucks, banks, small groceries and streams of moving people. Steinway Street appeared to be another country: baklava in bakery windows, groups of men sitting stoically drinking tea and smoking hookah. Little Egypt, I would learn. The skyline of Manhattan loomed in the distance. I felt dwarfed by the noise and the power of this place, your buzzing soil.

That was one year and 4 months ago.

Each morning in the winter of 2014, I walked south past sleeping businesses-fashion stores Hug and Easy Pickins’, McDonalds, Modell’s, Starbucks, the prom dress store- all silent in the early light.

I took the R train all the way across Manhattan and down to City Hall. Do you remember? Everyone said I was crazy to take the local train such a long way. But I didn’t mind. It gave me time to read my books, borrowed from the local Queens Library. We shared many books, you and I.

Then the new job and a new commute. This time, I walked to the N,Q train aboveground or took the bus when my timing was right. I watched a coffee shop open and finally felt like I wasn’t the newest one on the block. In the summer, my roommates introduced me to the beer garden and the Greek restaurants along Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard. We ate at Sugarfreak, a New Orleans-style restaurant with beignets bananas foster, a memory of which still makes my mouth water. I joined a yoga studio and a gym while treating myself to fresh, hand rolled bagels on Saturday mornings. During one of my first 3 mile runs, I stumbled upon Astoria Park and slowed down to watch children playing in the grass and skipping along the river.

In Astoria, I found the mixture of culture that I had dreamed New York City would foster and nourish. There were young millennials running in new sneakers and old college sweatshirts alongside Muslim men and women on their way to prayer. Greek grandmothers would shop on early mornings in the grocery store as I stumbled in for seltzer or eggs. Old and new. New Yorker natives and foreign immigrants. Spanish speakers. Italian sausage makers. Young married couples and single roommates.

Daina and I stayed longer than we had planned; six months quickly evaporated into sixteen. In the final days before I moved, my nights were spent sitting on the floor meticulously wrapping each plate and mug in bubble wrap and placing them in cardboard boxes. They clinked against one another as if to say, Where are you taking us? Why can’t we go back to our cupboards and shelves? I didn’t have an answer except to say,

because it’s time.

Thank you for all you’ve done. I found a great young woman to take my bedroom. Be kind to her, Astoria, as you were kind to me. Let her listen to your heartbeat, the percussion of daily life. Show her the fresh feta cheese and the best falafel truck. Let her walk the friendliest streets and find the best way home. Nudge her through the doors of your museums and coax her over the bridge into Sunnyside when she is ready to explore. Her heart is open and ready. I was a stranger once too.

From your shore, Manhattan feels both overwhelmingly close and light years away. We are both older and I’d like to think a little wiser too. Take care of yourself, Astoria. I’ll be back soon.

Katelyn

P.S. I moved to Jersey. Don’t cry. 

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Queens Comfort, made famous by Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, has a line out the door every Saturday and Sunday 

 

 

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A magical breakfast from Brooklyn Bagel 

 

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Morning sunrise in Astoria Park 

 

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Beignets Banana Foster 

 

Extra Day and New Shells

Bigfoot’s Birthday has come and gone. The grocery store has heart cakes, heart chocolates and heart cookies. 50% OFF. Do the desserts in their stale pink frosting gowns know their special day has come and gone? Days old and dollars less. I want someone to buy all the cakes and spread their heart-shaped sweetness. Some day,I’ll walk into the store and all the cakes will be gone. I’m going to pretend they went to a big party full of hungry lovers.

February is an extra day longer this year. The earth is spinning, spinning, spinning. I like to think that every four years, the universe gives us a little present. Here, the earth seems to say, here’s an extra day. Don’t spend it all in one place.  

From the kitchen table, I watch Donald Trump’s face answer interview questions in South Carolina. His Donald Trump face is not unlike the overripe orange that sits on the table in front of me. The orange and I both watch Trump on the television and seem to take a collective sigh. Fruit and human in complete agreement. 

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Every day I comb real estate websites, looking for the perfect place to call home. The light breeze of change is steadily growing into a fully developed, powerful wind that will lift me up and plop me down somewhere new. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.  And like all the times before, once again I’ll have new roommates, a new roof, new commute and a new kitchen table where I will blog and watch Donald Trump. Maybe my orange will come too.

Finding a new home is an intense and emotional process, not unlike job-searching or online dating. A significant amount of time is spent searching for the perfect location, price and roommate situation. I’m a wild eyed Asian Goldilocks running around the virtual world of Craig’s List, trying out apartments that are both too big (figuratively, not literally, this is NYC) and too small. Hoboken. Upper East Side. Brooklyn.  The pro-con list grows and grows. 

“As crabs grow, they will need to change shells when they outgrow the old ones, but when they’ve stopped growing, it’s often a matter of mood that determines when a crab will decide to go shopping for a new home. Some crabs will trade shells several times over a week — or even a day — if they’re house-hunting. Other crabs will stay with what they know.”

-Betty Lewis, Demand Media

I’ve already begun to try different shells on for size but I’m still figuring out what my perfect shell looks like or who will share that shell with me. And whether you celebrated Bigfoot’s Birthday or enjoyed a heart-shaped cake with another, I hope you, dear reader, have found someone in this spinning world worthy of sharing a shell with you. 

Your Horoscope (yes, you)

Weekly Horoscope (January 14, 2016)

Good morning to you. This is my weekly horoscope for people born between January 1 and December 31. 

You rolled out of bed this morning with sleep in your eyes or an ache in your lower back. Don’t worry. As the day progresses, someone will do or say a kindness. Acknowledge this kindness and try to pay it forward: to a coworker, a loved one, or a stranger. 

Health is important to you in the new year. Don’t let January slip by without taking time to prepare real food at home, sign up for a yoga class, or speed up the pace for your weekly walk. Your body and mind will thank you. 

Learn the values of saying “yes” and saying “no”. Think about your response to an upcoming social outing or yet another weeknight activity. Am I saying no because I’m afraid of failure? Am I saying yes to distract myself from a lingering problem? Do not fall into the paralysis of routine. 

This week, a book title will catch your eye. Don’t forget to search for it at your library or find a copy in a local bookstore. Reading good writing is an important part of your spiritual growth this mid-January.

You did not win the Powerball. This sadness will pass. You will come into unexpected wealth. Maybe.

Horoscopes

 

Day 1: Funemployment

Today is Day 1. I am a kite, cut free of its string to soar and drift as I please before falling slowly back to Earth. And by Earth, I mean work. My parents forbid retirement at age 25. 

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I awake to a clear and sunny morning, the sun’s rays illuminating the rooftops of Hoboken’s yawning buildings. The dawn feels unlike other Monday mornings and from my position near the window, the bricks and facade seem to stretch in greeting the new day. Boyfriend Billy, however, is less overjoyed to hear the alarm clock buzz for the 2nd snooze and hurriedly rushes around the bedroom in the routinely frantic search for glasses and keys. I roll over and go back to sleep. Funemployment waits for no woman.

The sidewalks at 9:30am are all but deserted. The line at Starbucks contains a mere two or three caffeine-deprived yet relaxed individuals who patiently wait their turn without so much as a grumble or check of the watch. The world is completely devoid of morning commuters and I can’t remember the last time I’ve loved New York City so much.

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My biggest problems now consist of when to eat lunch, if I should exercise and just what exactly constitutes the maximum number of daily naps. My body’s significant decrease in stress restores harmony to my muscles and bones. In my silent apartment, words tumble from my thoughts and through my fingers; a stillness broken only by the street noise and gentle hum of the refrigerator. Without meetings to schedule and phone calls to take, time is made whole again. 

Why did I need to quit a job in order to reassess what matters in my life and focus on the people and activities that make me happy?  While I’m not gearing up for another backpacking trip through Europe, my time off feels almost as special. I finally have those magical minutes in a day to be a tourist in a city I barely know and reach out to people I love yet neglected for far too long.

So let that be a lesson to you, self. Stop using work as an excuse for failing to complete those little things you’ve wanted to do. 

The New Sneakers Feeling

(def.) New Sneakers feeling: the feeling that occurs directly after putting on a brand new pair of squeaky new sneaks.

As a child, it was the feeling of unwavering confidence that directly followed a trip home from the sporting goods store. I distinctly remember removing my new shoes from their box and tying the laces just like my parents taught me. Right there on the grass, I would jump and prance on the lawn before taking off down the gravel driveway and fly fly flying on shoes made for Hermes. I was the faster girl in the world and nothing could slow me down. 

After high school, the New Sneakers feeling was more contained. Instead of running circles around my dad’s legs, I would lace up and take an extra long run or get on a treadmill with seemingly untapped reserves of strength. But the feeling was short-lived. I knew better by now. Shoes weren’t magic; they were just shoes. And I was the same old me. 
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And then, the New Sneakers feeling began manifesting itself in different ways. I recognized it as the feeling that accompanied a big change or start of something new: the day before my trip to Europe, my college graduation, my 25th birthday party. At each of those moments, I once again felt like I’d laced up a new pair of cleats before the championship game. The world was my oyster and nothing could slow me down. 

Once again, I have the New Sneakers feeling. As of Friday, I’ll be leaving my current company for a new opportunity. And once again, I’m taking a risk and reveling in my newfound freedom. 

We spend so much time worrying about the future. We learn to fear change because of the unknowns that lie ahead. What’s the best move? What if we fail? What if we let someone down or have regrets?  I understand those fears. These fears keep us from making impulsive decisions and help us validate our current path. But these fears also keep us from the New Sneakers feeling we so desperately need to feel alive. 

Do you remember the feeling of your feet in new sneakers for the first time? There was no question of where to go, how fast or for how long. There was no fear of failure or defeat.

You already had the potential to fly