Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hear, Taste, Smell, Feel...but don't See!

A slightly more avant garde assignment, my writing teacher asked us to go somewhere and experience our surroundings without the use of our eyes and then to write about it only using our other four senses: hearing, taste, feel and smell. The approach I took in writing this piece was quite abstract (for me) - can you guess where I was? Extra points to anyone who can identify what each sound represents.

Sensory homework

Damp yet not musty. Humid but sans elbow sweat. A subtle, chemically clean aroma in the air. 

“Clop, clop, clop,” comment the footwear crossing the tile floor. Pausing, listening to the rhythmic beat, “Slap, pause, slap, pause, slap, pause, slap, pause, slap, pause, slap, pause, slap, pause.” Silence. One, two, three, four, five…and then repeat. “Slap, pause, slap, pause, slap, pause, slap, pause, slap, pause, slap, pause, slap, pause.” Silence again. One, two, three, four, five…and then repeat.

A new beat begins, “wallop, wallop, wallop, wallop, wallop, wallop,” a quick and clamorous cadence followed by a winded break. “Wallop, wallop, wallop, wallop, wallop,” launches again.

“Clop, slap, wallop, clop, wallop, slap, wallop, clop, wallop, slap.” While not cacophonous or quite harmonious, a symbiosis ensues.

The humidity caresses the skin, ill prepared for the sudden mutation. An instant later, swathed in a blanket of breeze. “Slap, wallop, wallop, slap” intermittently becomes “Swish, crash, crash, swoosh.” Replacing “Clop, clop, clop,” a steady “strike, strike, swoosh, strike, strike, swoosh”.

“Strike, swish, crash, swoosh, crash, strike/ swish, crash, swish /swoosh, crash,” the rhythm is muddled.

Warm velvet tickles, transformed from the former blanket of breeze, incubate while the melodious “strike, strike, swoosh, strike, strike, swoosh” keeps time. The only interruption an unexpected intruder, acrid and sharp tasting, quickly discharged. The beat goes on.

“Strike, swish, crash, swoosh, crash, strike/ swish, crash, swish /swoosh, crash,” a stride is hit, maintained, elevated almost to a sweet refrain. Abruptly, an intrinsic component of the tune is gone. “Strike, crash, swoosh, crash, strike, crash, strike, crash,” a melody changed. Without time for adjustment, “Strike, strike, swoosh, strike, strike, swoosh, strike, strike, swoosh,” the lone survivor.

“Strike, strike, swoosh, strike, strike, swoosh, strike, strike, swoosh, pause.” Silence. One, two, three, four, five. “Strike, strike, swoosh, strike, strike, swoosh, strike, strike, swoosh, pause.” Silence. One, two, three, four, five. “Strike, strike, swoosh, strike, strike, swoosh, strike, strike, swoosh, pause.” Silence.  Hoisted up, the velvet tickles ripped away momentarily exposed but quickly met with a comforting reprieve. Snuggly engulfed, “clop, clop, clop” sounds the retreat.

Homework..."Write a short essay or memoir"

If there is one thing I've learned in the last five weeks of my writing class, I clearly fit in the essayist or memoir writer category. I'm the blatant protagonist in all of my writing and attempting another route is a huge challenge. My homework this week was to pick a trip and organize a memoir like a good fiction story, with beginning, body of the story in which the character faces some sort of adversity or conflict and ending, with some resolution of the conflict. So, I took an old posting of mine and reworked it. Here's what I'm turning in....what do you think?

Memoir Homework – “A Return Home”

Since I moved to New York City two years ago, the question I’m most frequently asked is "Why would you leave Sunny SoCal for New York?!" The first 150 times, I answered sincerely...I had reached a point in my life where I needed a change, wanted the larger than life experience in Manhattan, etc. Apparently that didn't suffice so my response now is more concise: "Why do you choose to live in New York?" Next topic.

In my almost 32 years, I have only once spent Christmas in the snow. Even when we lived in Minnesota, we would fly out to Palm Springs every holiday break and spend a few weeks in the sun rejuvenating our depleted Vitamin D stores. My first return to San Diego after my big, cross-country move had similar motivations – sun and family holiday celebration. Unique to this visit, my return was slightly shrouded with uncertainty. Quite possibly my visit could warrant a reversal of fortunes, a realization that the grass wasn’t really Kelly green but only slightly lime-yellow.

Christmas break in San Diego was filled with reunions with my favorite people - loads of laughs and quality time catching up, quiet time relaxing at home with my parents, a few movies, and lots of driving! It had been six months since I was last behind the wheel and I’d forgotten how dependent on cars we are in California. They are great because you can go wherever you want whenever you want and whichever route you prefer (scenic, direct, a stop at CVS.) You can choose to interact with or avoid as many people as you want. Singular to my current mode of transportation (foot, bus or subway.) Current budgets preclude 24/7 car service.

My trip included tailgating with friends before the Poinsettia Bowl - it was about 56 degrees and sunny yet people were dressed for a snow storm! I'd just left 18 inches of fresh snow, 21 degree weather and a wind chill factor of 12 in New York. I thought it was sublime!

Twelve weeks without doing my hair was rewarded with a fun trip to see my old stylist, Irene. We swapped stories on life in NYC vs. SD and my hair was fantastically coiffed for a fraction of what I am forced to pay in NY. Worth the wait for so many reasons!

My typical 500 square foot abode was exchanged for a week of 4,500 square foot magnificence in my parent's home. To sleep in a king size bed in a room practically the size of my apartment with a rain shower, oh the luxury! Breakfast with an ocean view, Christmas with my family, and coffee beachside with old friends -moments that encapsulate "home".

It was lovely being home – I found myself enjoying the evening sunsets gazing at the ocean, glass of wine in hand, a wistful smile broaching my lips as I …longed for New York? 

Driving is convenient, comfortable, fast (with me driving) and fun (sun roof open, favorite radio station blaring.) However, you miss the forced interaction of the street or the subway or the bus. Headed to work, I’m inundated daily with a large cross section of the population. It's a small glimpse at the World. Amazingly not everyone is a blond and buff Adonis as they'd have you believe in Southern California.

I desperately missed walking everywhere and having a plethora of "things to do". I could leave my apartment at 7 am and not return until the evening, filling the day with events like: a swim, trip to the Whitney, BBQ in Jersey City, ice skate in Bryant Park, cheap eats in China Town, and Sunday football before stumbling home to bed. And that was just one day last weekend!

San Diego offers exclusive perks - the beach, the persistent sun, the mountains, great hiking, etc. Don't get me wrong - I absolutely appreciate those things and am thankful there always there when I visit. But I kind of like walking down the street horrified at how tremendously freezing it is. It makes the warmer days SO much warmer...even if “warmer” only equals 10 degrees. I can ride my bike to the seaboard or to hike in the beautiful NY State parks. And while it may be wicked expensive and somewhat confining, I smile everyday at quirks that make New York City my new scene. My home.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Whirlwind Weeks!

So my goal of writing at least once a week has been trumped by travel, class, work, fundraiser planning and wedding affairs ...oh, and my life. It's a non-stop go-go-go these days and this week I'm finally back on my feet with some breathing room. What does that mean? It means I have two whole evenings free this week! But I'm sure they'll get filled somehow.

Southwest Porch - photo courtesy of the Bryant Park Blog
The Children's Aid Society - Spring Cocktail Event

My first comment (which originally was my last but I'm capitalizing as I'm the editor here) is about our upcoming fundraiser for The Children's Aid Society. After resigning from Junior League, it took me a while to find my new cause, the thing I was "trained" for through my 6 years with the League. I found it with CAS. I'm on the Associate's Council, which is the Junior Board for CAS. We participate in programs and plan events to support the overall efforts of The Children's Aid Society, a 158-year old community organization helping  the children of New York City and Westchester County that are facing the instability, stress and risk of living in poverty. On May 11th, we're hosting an amazing cocktail party at Bryant Park at the Southwest Porch. I'm so excited (especially after another crappy weather day)! Awesome food from 'wichcraft, great beverage selection, awesome auction/raffle prizes, a stellar location and great people. As co-chair of the event, I'm obviously vested, but I would honestly want to attend even if I wasn't. So, if you're in NYC on May 11th and want to have a great evening of Al fresco cocktails, food and great entertainment, please join us! If you can't attend but want to support this cause, please donate - even a small amount makes a difference! For more info, visit our website: 

In this moment of reprieve, I'll recap a few of my favorite adventures over the past two weeks. First and foremost, a review from my classmates on "Elbow Sweat Survival". It was a resounding success! PHEW. I was quite nervous about it. There were some great suggestions including incorporating more elbow-related idioms (i.e. elbow-to-elbow, rubbing elbows, etc.) and re-working the piece to be a Goldilocks-like tasting of elbow sweat survival methods and finding the ultimate after some "almost there" and "just about right" options. I will certainly consider these suggestions when I re-work the piece. The next writing piece will be a reflection on my trip to Ghana back in 2008 but luckily I have a few weeks before that one is due.

After my class, I hustled home in the pouring (and sideways) rain - this was 2 weeks ago. As I was waiting to cross the street in my non-rain friendly outfit (think wool coat, corduroys, and clogs), a taxi whooshed past me and cleverly hit a puddle drenching me from head to toe. I didn't need elbow sweat survival techniques....I needed a parka. Sigh. This winter has been INTERMINABLE! Literally this morning it snowed for a few minutes. That's after it was 70 degrees on Friday. As I said to the checkout guy at Trader Joe's yesterday, the weather is like a 15 year old girl who just figured out she's pretty. A total tease.

There is really one thing I LOVE about winter that makes it bearable and it's getting to go ski/ride. I've been skiing since I was three years old and riding since I was 16 (I'm predominantly a boarder now); last year (2009-10 season) was the first year in 29 years that I didn't make it to a mountain. Slightly devastating for someone who used to drive to Mammoth alone (6 1/2 hour - 395 mile drive) regularly. The reason I was hustling home was to back my board bag for a last minute trip to Denver to see my brother and hang out with his family. I took the 7 AM flight so my brother could collect me and drive directly to the mountain. We hit up Keystone and the conditions were absolutely fabulous. Still powder in the trees, enough sun to don a fleece, and fabulous company. My brother is a stellar skier so we zoomed around the mountain at breakneck speed - I was in heaven. Even if I only get that one day this year, it was SO worth it. And good to know I haven't lost my skills.

We spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with my (unfortunately) sick niece, Scout (4 almost 5) and nephew, Sawyer (almost 2), but they had enough energy to keep us entertained playing games, reading, and watching movies. At one point when both kids were slightly hysterical with illness and over tiredness, my sister in law said, "I'm sure this is great birth control for you!" I thought about it and honestly, in the past it might have been, but my gut reaction was that I really do look forward to having little people of my own to care for - whether healthy, sick or tantrum prone. This picture is a snap of my niece...I couldn't resist with those freckles! Reminds me of my face as a child.

Another recent adventure was a swift trip to DC to, among other things, see the Gauguin exhibit, "Gauguin: Maker of Myth", at The National Gallery. The exhibit was quite comprehensive and had some stellar pieces. I fell in love with this piece, "Ondine", and was disappointed to discover reproduction prints are only made in a small scale size. "Ondine", is historically considered in European folklore and mythology as a gorgeous, yet soulless, water nymph blessed with a beautiful voice and immortality. Her only way to gain a soul is to marry a man and bear his child, an act that gains a soul but loses her immortality. The tale says that as Ondine ages her husband loses interest in her taking a mistress. One day Ondine finds her husband sleeping in the arms of another and curses him stating, "You swore faithfulness to me with every waking breath, and I accepted your oath. So be it. As long as you are awake, you shall have your breath, but should you ever fall asleep, then that breath will be taken from you and you will die!"("Ondine",Wikipedia) This curious tale is the basis for "Ondine's Curse", also known as Congenital Central Hyperventilation Syndrome, a serious form of sleep apnea. Makes you reconsider the repercussions of "Til death do us part.". NPR did a very interesting article discussing the show and in particular Gauguin's voluptuous - almost Rubenesque - nude, Tahitian women, relating how his images didn't reflect his actual surroundings. In actuality, due to Christian missionary efforts, the majority of the women were fully clad in Christian missionary gowns! At least we know Gauguin had a wild imagination.

Other adventures these past few weeks have included a visit to the new Glen Ligon Exhibit at the Whitney Museum. A definite must see. Very creative, poignant perspectives and interesting use of many mediums. Fabulous dinner at Marea - it was Friday in Lent so I was slightly restricted (no bread, alcohol, or meat), but I found amazing options regardless in the crudo trio and the scallop dish. We also hit up the Architectural Digest Home Show at Pier 94, which was fabulous. If only we actually owned our apartments and could incorporated some of the creative ideas and pieces we were exposed to at the show. Some day, right?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Elbow Sweat Survival

It's legitimately 23 degrees outside right now and I'm writing a piece on summer elbow sweat survival. It was tough going, but I've finally finished. Thank you to those of you that helped me edit...I really appreciate it. Writing in this fashion was harder than I'd imagined. I had to be careful not to vaguely reference places/things, assuming people would understand, and I had to make my tone more informative than the free-flow way I typically write. I'm very curious to get the feedback of my classmates (depending on how favorable, I may let you know next week how it goes!).

Elbow Sweat Survival                          

It has happened to the best of us – you’re walking down the streets of Manhattan, heat from the blazing sun radiating from the sidewalk, humidity hanging in the air, temperatures soaring into the 90’s. You’re trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy, chatting on your cell while enduring yet another Manhattan summer. Despite your best efforts, it happens: elbow sweat. The slow trickle starts running off your hooked arm as you continue your conversation wondering how you’ll survive. No Hamptons summer share? No air conditioned vehicle to whisk you off to the shore? No fear – the elbow sweat (ES) survival guide is here.

As a San Diego native, I consider the summer synonymous with the beach, being out on the water, enjoying al fresco dining and not melting to death. Having moved to Manhattan in mid-2009, I arrived just in time for a sizzling summer and earnestly plotted how best to enjoy myself while limiting the ES. An intrinsic goal of my plan was to cater my experiences to the path less traveled (i.e. no double-decker bus tour or Central Park bike tour). Over the past two years, I have collected a few favorite survival standbys for the summer weekend in the city, and I’m generously sharing them with you in two agendas: one for an evening out on the town (think Friday night) and another for an all day affair.

Evening out on the town
The idea of paying to bathe in a beach is outrageous. Then you add the hour train ride to get there from the city, packed into the Long Island Rail Road with fellow Manhattanites and their cumulative elbow sweat. All for a few hours of fresh air and water. It seems ridiculous. For my birthday last summer, I was determined to do something that would not involve sweat dribbling down my back and frizzy hair plastered to my head. My fix for escaping the city to enjoy the smell of sea salt? A boat! More specifically, a two hour sunset sailboat cruise on the Schooner Adirondack along the Hudson. A magnificent front row seat to enjoy the sunset with good friends and more importantly delectable picnic snacks and adult beverages! 

Classic Harbor Lines offers a variety of unique boating adventures that go beyond the typical ferry ride around Manhattan. The Adirondack took off from Chelsea Piers sailing past the Statue of Liberty, Governor's Island and around Lower Manhattan. We relaxed on the deck enjoying a picnic we’d brought while the crew served us wine and beer. Unlike other ships where a one free drink system is prevalent, the Adirondack doesn’t limit your adult beverages (however, responsible drinking is implied). The Adirondack experience is further enhanced by limited ticket sales, an extra half an hour of sailing (compared to other lines), a pristine sailing vessel, and an amiable crew.  Book ahead of time so you don’t miss out!

Arriving back to the dock post sunset cruise, the night is still young and you may enjoy an outdoor night cap. The breeze is briskest the higher you go so rooftop bar comes to mind. Roof top bars usually mean doormen, lines, overpriced cocktails, scantily clad “ladies”, and a barely tolerable level of douchbagery. New in 2011, the already adored Eataly will be opening their 8,000 square foot rooftop brewery and beer garden, Birreria, rivaling the Bohemian Beer Hall in size. Thanks to the collaboration of Italian brewers Birrificio Le Baladan and Birra del Borgo with American brewers Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Russian River Brewing, homebrewed craft beers will be served 365 days per year, elbow sweat or frostbite beware.

All Day Affair

Your apartment’s air conditioner is straining under the oppressive heat but failing miserably; even worse – you have no air conditioner.  You desperately want to enjoy your weekend outside but need cool temperature security.  Visit Governor’s Island!  A seemingly generic choice, the Island offers a plethora of events and activities to entertain even the most easily distracted. Previously known as “Nut Island” by the original occupants of the Native American Manahata tribe, Governor’s Island has a rich history as a strategic military base (from 1664 to 1995) and offers visitors a unique perspective on what life on the island might have been like. It was even the birthplace of the famous Smothers Brothers!

On a recent summer visit, we arrived late morning, rented bikes, and cruised around the Island. Cooled by the river breeze, we took in the picturesque surroundings and historical buildings. Each summer in June, (precisely why I picked this day), the Island hosts the New York Brew Fest.  Now in its 5th year, the festival showcases brewers and food purveyors from New York and around the country. Having worked up an appetite biking, we eagerly picked up our tasting glasses and started our imbibing adventure. The variety of brewers and culinary treats offer something for everyone and critiquing the gamut of flavors was the highlight of our day. The festival ends at 8 PM and for those not quite ready for bed, this all “inclusive” Island runs a weekend summer concert series at “The Beach”, an outdoor venue located adjacent to the ferry dock. If you can sustain the pace, dynamic bands like Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros or Corinne Bailey Rae will entertain while you relax, taking in the view of lower Manhattan and luxuriating in the breeze off the water. The concert rounded out our day at Governor’s Island: another hot day survived and thoroughly enjoyed.

While the summer survival itineraries I have created may not be revolutionary, they certainly aren’t main stream. Beyond Frisbee in Central Park’s Sheep’s Meadow and cocktails at the notorious rooftop bar, 230 Fifth, there are unique ways to “escape the heat” leaving the confines of the city and it’s at times burdensome social scene. The key is honing your Elbow Sweat Survival skills. While it may take me years to prevent the onset of ES, my tactics for combating it will keep evolving. 

Elbow Sweat Survival Specifics

The Schooners Adirondack & Adirondack II: Chelsea Piers. The ships offer a variety of trips with distinct themes that the entire family can enjoy.

:  200 Fifth Avenue (and 23rd Street) – across from Madison Square Park.
Further reading on the Birreria (now scheduled to open Spring 2011):

Governor’s Island: Take the free ferry from South Ferry Station to the Island. Schedules and other information are on the website:  For more information on bike rentals visit or call 1-866-RENT-A-BIKE.

New York Brew Fest: Saturday, June 19th 2011 from 3:30-8PM. This year will be the festival’s 5th year on Governor’s Island. Check the website more information:

Concerts at the Beach at Governor’s Island: Check here for the 2011 schedule.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Travel Writing Class

The genesis of this blog came from my e-mail correspondence from trips abroad - it has always been pretty free flowing and without much review and strategy. However, in the past year or so, I've begun to rethink that approach and consider a more targeted and structured writing style.

To support that effort, I decided to sign up for a writing class: "From Traveler to Travel Writer" at NYU. Our first take home assignment was to write a pitch for a story. No parameters on the topic, just whatever we wanted. However the pitch is supposed to contain the following components: Paragraph 1): get the editors attention; 2) provide the angle of the story (can be multiple paragraphs if needed); 3) explain the "peg" - what the story is tied too or why the topic is germane; 4) talk about you and why you're qualified to discuss the topic. That was a lot harder than I thought it would be; I found myself writing the story instead of focusing just on the pitch. This Thursday we will get feedback on our pitch so I'm not sure how well I fared, but here's the pitch for your consideration. Right now I am writing the story that goes with the pitch. It will be work shopped by my classmates next week - yikes!

Elbow Sweat Survival - Pitch                                                          Jennifer E. Gallivan

Surviving the oppressive heat and humidity of a Manhattan summer - Hamptons summer shares, Jersey shore houses, and air conditioned escape vehicles are the answer for some, but for the less fortunate what are the options? Creatively surviving elbow sweat conditions in the confines of this island without having to don your ascot is possible. I’ve done it. And I’m going to share my top three “to do’s”.

Whether it is money or schedule related, the perpetual summer weekend away can be prohibitive for many of us. But the opportunity to enjoy the same pleasures is not out of our reach. New York has a plethora of activities to enjoy ranging from sail boat cruises (unique from the typical Circle line ferry), new rooftop bars (that don’t require a black card or douche bag credentials), and outdoor festivals that combine unique historical experiences and cutting edge culinary treats.

Classic Harbor Lines offers a variety of unique boating adventures that go beyond the typical ferry ride around Manhattan. Either on an 80-foot schooner or a classic yacht, there are beer tastings, sushi & sake events, sunset cruises or brunches that provide the breeze of the open water without the overbearing crowds of other boating options. Bring your own picnic and simulate the experience of being on Muffy’s yacht off Sag Harbor.

Eataly, already a well known name around town for its fresh Italian market and eateries, will be debuting a 3,000 square foot rooftop beer garden, “Birreria”, in time for summer 2011. No dress code or subway ride required.

New York Brew Fest will be in its 5th year on Governor’s Island this summer. The afternoon festival combines breweries with local eateries amidst the historic back drop of Governor’s Island. Adult imbibers can enjoy a bike ride and historic tour of the island in the morning and quench their thirst in the evening with brewers from around the country. Depending on your drinking prowess and fatigue, the summer concert series has concerts on the island to be enjoyed post Brew Fest.

While my picks are not revolutionary, they aren’t main stream. Beyond Frisbee in the Sheep’s Meadow and cocktails at 230 Fifth Avenue there are a lot more unique ways to “escape the heat” and feel you’ve escaped the confines of the city and it’s at times burdensome social scene. My approach with this article is 36 hours in a Manhattan Summer weekend, creating a slightly less bourgeois itinerary for the stylish and active Manhattanite. I have already experienced the Sunset and Sushi & Sake cruises as well as Brew Fest. In anticipation of completing the article, I will visit Birreria, which is scheduled to open in coming months.

Growing up in San Diego, summer is synonymous with beach, being out on the water, enjoying al fresco dining and not melting to death. Paying to bathe in a non-top 100 beach is outrageous to say the least. I’m an active traveler, having visited 37 countries and 36 states, and cater my experiences to the path less traveled. Since moving to Manhattan in 2009, I have focused on experiencing the gamut of touristy experiences as well as unearthing the less mundane.  I’d like the opportunity to share some of what I’ve discovered.