Franklin Delano Roosevelt, aka The Kit. Born in March 2005, died May 4 of this year.
Entered the world an abandoned runt, umbilical cord still attached, eyes yet to develop, left to freeze under the back deck of a south Denver home on a snowy March afternoon. Raised with love, bottle fed, incubated, nurtured like a child.
Started out in Colorado, came of age in New York. Died in Seattle (fell from a tree).
The only animal I ever knew through the entire course of his life. He wasn't mine, but I was there through his first months, was his cat sitter when I first moved to New York, and let him stay at my apartment the day before he moved away.
FDR was a fighter and occasional punk -- I have the scars to prove it. He was a good cat, too. The best.
It's still not real that he's gone.
If not for the the television and print coverage I woke up to this morning, I might have overlooked the six month anniversary of Hurricane Sandy making landfall on New York.
And I live in one of the state's most heavily affected communities.
That's not to say that things are OK just half a year after the storm that changed everything. It's still far from it.
But at the same time, it feels like we're already a lifetime removed from that day when Hurricane Sandy ripped through Rockaway Beach, leaving in its wake the splintered ruin of a quiet beach community.
Maybe it's because the boardwalk debris has been cleaned up, and construction is underway for our new lifeguard stands and beach concession 'islands.' Maybe it's the return of some of our favorite local restaurants and businesses. Maybe it's because the ongoing lack of continuous subway service pushed me to leave my post as a reporter in Manhattan to try my hand at corporate communications and an opportunity that would allow me to forego the 3- to 5-hour daily commute to and from the city.
Or, perhaps, it's because my home was one of few that didn't flood. Though the survivor sickness has mostly worn off, there are constant reminders of how lucky we were. Whether it's through the sound of our neighbors rebuilding their flooded first floor or from the typical post-Sandy greetings of 'How did you make out?' and 'Are you moved back home yet?' We've all grown accustomed to living in a construction site.
It's flattering to see the media has not forgotten the Rockaways six months after Sandy. But while today we take a step back to remember the storm today, I'm still concerned for what happens tomorrow.
There is a flurry of activity along the shore and among existing businesses to be ready for a new summer season. Yet at this point it's still triage. There is no final plan for the full restoration of the boardwalk. There is no consensus on how to build better protection against future storms. There is no (good) mass transit solution for New York residents to get out to the beach and no timetable for the full restoration of the A train. And one gets the sense that the city still doesn't see this community's potential as a source for revenue and tourism -- there are still plenty of people who live in New York who don't realize there is a beach (nay, a surfing beach) within city limits.
In spite of everything, I'm as happy living in the Rockaways now as I've been at any point before Sandy hit. With each business that reopens and each neighbor who comes back comes incremental signs that things are going to be OK again. And all the dust and noise of construction brings with it the imagination to believe our little beach community on the edge of New York will eventually be better than it was before.
It isn't every day when Batman cruises through the city during lunch hour carrying a bouquet of flowers. Maybe Valentine's Day brings out the romantic in even the darkest of Dark Knights.
Who's the lucky Batgirl?
It only took a little more than a month after Hurricane Sandy, but the flooding found its way to my house.
Monday night I returned home to the sound of water dripping to the kitchen floor through a vent and several cracks in the ceiling. And in the little utility room behind the kitchen, it was downright pouting onto the furnace and hot water heater.
Turns out the appliances in my landlord's apartment upstairs were overflowing, and that they had been leaking water long enough to permeate the vents and ceiling in my apartment below. The landlord was home, but seemed surprised when I notified him that something was wrong.
I could never compare the leaks and puddles in my kitchen and closet with the sort of flooding our neighbors experienced all throughout the Rockaways. But in the weeks since the storm, our relatively unscathed home was one of the few sources of comfort in the midst of the surrounding turmoil that is life in the Rockaways post-Sandy. Just another dose of perspective in what feels like a never-ending test of emotional endurance. Every time we start to feel comfortable or begin to settle in to some sort of routine, a new challenge comes along.
This morning I drove my car about a mile, hopped on a ferry to Wall Street and then caught a subway to Times Square, where I work. Door-to-door my commute took roughly 90 minutes.
Somewhere along the line, it hit me that today is Nov. 29 -- a month to the day when everything changed.
One month ago, we were huddled around a TV 60 miles away from home, anxiously waiting for dispatches from Rockaway Beach. One month ago, we lost power in New York and New Jersey. One Month ago, we sat in the dark as Hurricane Sandy ripped apart the community we call home.
Ever since that day we've endured power outages, fuel shortages, destruction, heartbreak and loss, and have seen the first signs of progress in what is sure to be a long recovery. We saw our neighbors in Arverne, Rockaway Park and Belle Harbor gracefully accept their misfortunes, and keep going in the face of the surrounding hell. We've witnessed police, firefighters, sanitation and transit workers, soldiers and volunteers work hard to prop our community up after taking such a tremendous blow. So many countless heroes.
Nothing is the same as it was. Nor do I expect it ever will be. But we accept the hand we're dealt and move forward. It isn't easy, but it's all we've got.
This is as much for posterity as it is to remind myself to maintain a positive attitude toward all things.
I strive to:
- Laugh at the absurd
- Not worry about the things I can't control
- Give my best effort in the things I can
- Never stop learning
Of the many things New York City is known for, its beaches don't typically come to mind. But in a small corner of south Queens, a narrow peninsula draws a distinct demarcation between the city's tireless pulse and the seemingly endless cerulean skin of the Atlantic.
It's on that stretch of land surrounded by the ocean on one side and Jamaica Bay on the other, that I've chosen to relocate after about two and a half years in Manhattan. Though it's still part of New York City, the neighborhood feels like it's a million miles away from what I've known since moving here from Colorado in the winter of 2009. Still, I'm just a six minute walk away from the nearest subway station, and about 300 steps off the boardwalk. This is where New York and its need to build and grow and absorb the land succumbs to nature and fades away. But it's still full of life and energy and all those things that make the city unique. My new neighborhood is a contradiction. It's a great place to be.
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this blog entry. Maybe something to do with the never-ending series surprises and opportunity life in this city affords.
Life in New York is sometimes best described as a series of unpredictable and unique events. Among which, the above video makes a fine highlight.
Imagine a warm, sunny day on the beach. Kids and families are playing in the sand and surf, while loud reggae music and the sound of carnival rides mix with the waves crashing on the shore. Then, on the horizon, you see helicopters circling a small regatta of tug boats and pleasure cruisers. As the flotilla grows nearer, the silhouette of a space shuttle appears to be riding the surface along with it.
Such was the scene this weekend, as the NASA space shuttle Enterprise made its way past Coney Island en route to its new home aboard the Intrepid Air and Space Museum on the west side of Manhattan.
It was one of those "Only in New York" type moments, where a lot of things that don't normally go together suddenly appear and make perfect sense.
Perspective is a funny thing. That is to say, at the May 9 Avett Brothers concert at Terminal 5 in New York, I managed to get a good view of the band. In the bigger picture, it came at the expense of actually getting to hear much of the music.
Shortly before the show started a, dare I say, short guy and his girlfriend squeezed in behind me. As the band walked on stage, they started talking about the inequality of not being as tall as the people in front of him, and justifying the view of my shoulders by saying, "At least we'll be able to hear them."
I suddenly felt guilty for my height.
But hear the band we could not, as the guy behind me began singing at the top of his voice with each and every song. Now, I'm all for singing along with good music, and have at loud concerts been guilty of doing so in the past. But hopefully not at the expense of others. The Avett Brothers is not a particularly loud band.
Not having been terribly familiar with all of the Avetts' work, I came into the concert with an open mind. From that perspective, the first half of the show was terrible, and it wasn't the band's fault. Eventually, either as a result of repeated complaints from those around him or the loss of his voice, the guy behind me finally shut up. The concert got better.
Self awareness has not always been my forte. Over the many years I've been in bands or gone to concerts, I've been guilty of singing along with my favorite songs. I get it. And I understand the passion of feeling like the music was written and performed just for me. But I think this recent experience has also enlightened me to the effect that my own behavior might have on others. I hope I haven't ruined too many concerts for everyone else.
Two years ago today, I moved to New York City in pursuit of a dream.
Two years ago today, I arrived in Manhattan without a job, without a home, and without a clue where my future would lead me.
That is to say, two years ago today, I had no idea what I was doing.
Two years ago, I let go of everything and made a 1,700 mile leap of faith.
Two years later, I’m glad I did it.
At the confluence of conflict and opportunity, I left behind everything I knew. I moved to New York at the trough of one of the worst recessions this country has ever seen. I left my hometown, my family, my friends, and my cat. I resigned the best job I’d had up to that point. I packed two suitcases and left everything else behind.
Dec. 13, 2009 fell on a Sunday. I said goodbye to Denver at roughly 1:30 p.m., and arrived in my new hometown in the early evening, just as a mild December rainstorm came to an end. It was only the third time I had been to New York.
To say that I didn’t have a home is inaccurate. I moved into a friend’s apartment in the Upper East Side, taking over her room while she was working abroad on a several-month assignment in Europe. In return for shelter, I served as an over-glorified cat sitter. I had no income and a tight budget, and the threat of returning home in defeat hung over my head for the duration of my first few months in the city.
From that point my job became the search for a better (or really any kind of) job. Tied to the cross-country move was the idea that New York is not only the greatest city in the world, but also the capital city of my chosen profession as a journalist.
Denver was slowly becoming a journalistic ghost town. Its oldest daily newspaper had shut its doors, community papers and regional magazines based in the Denver area were dying. Opportunity was limited to the highly experienced or those willing to work for a pittance. And the outlook was getting worse.
To me, New York was the home of the world’s best journalists, and most of its greatest periodicals, publishers and news outlets. It was everything I aspired to, and it was the only city that had a chance to overcome the cancer that has been eating away at the media industry. It was where I wanted to be.
I learned a lot about the city early on. It’s built on dreams and grounded in the cool cynicism of people who know better. New York is big and arrogant and no place to be poor. It’s self-absorbed and self-referential. It is no place for self-pity. New York is the home of terrible weather and loud complaints. New York doesn’t care what you think. New York is the greatest city in the world.
There is nothing easy about life in New York. The city rewards hard work and resilience, but never celebrates it.
For my own part, I know living within the five boroughs has given way to opportunities I would never have had anywhere else. I love my hometown of Denver, but to have stayed there would have meant surrendering my goal of a career in journalism. And besides, what is a career in journalism without at least a short stop in its capital city?
The last two years haven’t been without their challenges. But in those two years, I’ve grown as a writer and developed my career as a reporter. I’ve hit the point where I can call New York my home without the threat that, at any moment, I might fail and be forced to move into my parents’ basement a couple thousand miles away. I’m happy here. I’m living the dream, so to speak. And it is only getting better with time.
I’ve known people who have given what I do for a living a shot. And I’ve known people who have given life in New York a shot. I’ve also known a lot of people who never really tried. Within each of those categories, I’ve known a lot of people who have given up. I never wanted to be one of those people.
I’m happy with my first two years in New York. And I am forever grateful to those who have supported me, who have guided me and who never gave up on me. Whatever happens in the future, wherever life takes me from here, I’ll always have this.