A Broadway Sort of Day

A cloudy Novenew-york-november-2008-015mber 14th.

After a nice, greasy breakfast (which for me includes pancakes … mmm!), C, P and I trek west, then north towards Times Square.

We stop briefly at Bryant Park, which has already set up a small skating rink. Because of the rain, a couple of maintenance staffers are pushing the water off with a broom while someone else gets ready to go over it with a Zamboni. Looking out over the rink, it immediately seems brighter. It’s probably the ice, reflecting what little natural light there is at this point in the day.

We continue on along until we hit what is Times Square – which to me looks like a series of long narrow, concrete strips, going north for a number of blocks before “ending” at this plot of land with fibreglass risers, known as Father Duffy Square. This is also where we’ll go to the TKTS booth to try and score some seats for a Broadway show. 

Times Square is crazy. All the neon signs, ads, crazy billboards – combined with all the vehicular AND pedestrian traffic – is a bit overwhelming. And this is during the day.

We talk to a security guard at the TKTS booth, who explains to us how the “ticket-getting” works.

We leave Times Square and continue northward until we hit Columbus Circle (where C and P stop for coffees) and then … BAM! There it is. Central Park.

new-york-november-2008-025It’s every bit as beautiful as people say it is.

We don’t walk the whole thing – I’d say we manage to do about half of it. We start at the playground, sitting on nearby Umpire Rock for several minutes. We then peek in at the carousel, walk down the Mall, under Bethesda Terrace and past the fountain, where we see the last of the waterlilies, right before they pull them out.

We get as far as the Alice in Wonderland sculpture then double back, ending our visit at Strawberry Fields. We take a break on the park benches around the “Imagine” mosaic, taking in the loud conversations of characters we assume are “regulars” to the area.

We exit at W 72nd Street, crossing the intersection to get a brief look at the Dakota, where Yoko Ono is said to still live. There’s a doorman and a dimly-lit alcove just beyond the big wrought-iron gates behind him.

After, we grab a taxi back down to Times Square to look into tickets for a Broadway show. We’d all forgotten the security guard’s advice about getting there before the box offices opened at 3 p.m. It’s about 4:30 when we get back there and – understandably – the lines are jammed full of people. I admit that I’m secretly pessimistic about our chances.

C and P come up with a good plan to have a bunch of choices available in case our first choice isn’t available. In the end, we do get tickets for a play – the Tony and Pulitzer-prize-winning August: Osage County. We don’t know anything about it, other than the blurb we read about prior to getting in line, but we take a chance. Anything involving a dysfunctional family is bound to be interesting, right?

We rush back to the apartment, freshen up, then hot-foot it back out to Broadway. We stop at Junior’s for a snack before the play.

We sit outside on the chilly patio and wait for someone to serve us. Our waiter is – what’s the word? Oh, right. Meh. He’s minimal with the helpfulness when it comes to ordering.

And when we decide to order three slices of cake? I immediatnew-york-november-2008-052ely regret not ordering a brownie. Our desserts are mountains of cake and icing. 

Head’s up if you go to New York: If you eat like a bird, Junior’s is NOT for you.

Everything is big. EVERYTHING.

I remember us turning to look at the plates of the closest patrons to us sitting inside the restaurant, and saw this old lady trying to tackle a salad meant for a family of four. If the table was any lower, she’d probably fall in.

After settling the bill, we waddle across the street to the theatre and find our seats just before show time. The production is almost three hours with two intermissions. And it’s fantastic. If you don’t mind a dysfunctional family plot with cussin’, this play could be your cup of tea. A number of the actors were just dynamite in their roles. Forget Katie Holmes and “All My Sons” (which, incidentally, was playing across the street)!

new-york-november-2008-057Having just about recovered from Junior’s and his Everest-sized cakes, we pass back through Times Square, its neon signs and lit billboards ten times more bedazzling at night than it is during the day.

Yonge-Dundas Square doesn’t even hold a candle to this. It shouldn’t even try.

We keep going and eventually find this Cuban restaurant near Times Square for dinner. It was awesome. I get this grilled mango-glazed salmon that  just melts in my mouth. And the mojitos, I have to say, are even better than the ones I’ve had in Cuba, sugar cane and all.

The walk home tonight is one I don’t mind making. I’m happy and content.

Tomorrow: our big night out. But where?

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Meeting New York City

The first thing I smell is bread.

The first thing I hear is a horrible, screechy, ear-splitting … security alarm.

Welcome to New York. LaGuardia Airport, to be exact.

It’s the afternoon of November 13 and it’s raining.

My friend C and I have just gotten off the Air Canada flight from Toronto, almost ready to start our four-day trip in New York City. It’s our first time here. We just have to get our luggage and meet our friend P, who is also coming to NYC, but is arriving on an American Airlines flight just after ours.

Shortly after getting our luggage off the carousel, we’re almost immediately accosted by a man trying to convince us that taking his cab would be cheaper than the yellow New York cabs pulling up just outside, about 50 metres from where we’re standing.

We decline his offer. I immediately think he’s one of those illegal cab drivers I’ve read about in one of the guide books about New York, and I become annoyed.

We then try to figure out where P might be getting her luggage when she arrives. We pace back and forth between directory maps of the terminal, trying to read them. The annoying cab driver returns for a second shot at getting a fare.

My friend says, “No thanks,” as I say, “We’re meeting a friend,” and I look at him. Hard.

After the little weasel disappears, we find airport staff who helpfully direct us to the next building over. We get there just as our friend has collected her luggage. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

In a matter of minutes, we’re zipping along in a big yellow taxi towards Manhattan and Murray Hill, the residential area where we’re rented an apartment for the next several days.

By the time we get out of the cab on 3rd, it’s pouring rain. C calls the guy we’re renting the apartment from. He says he’ll be in the area in about 40 minutes, so we head to a nearby diner to kill time.

We finally meet our contact – named J – who helps us with our things up four flights of stairs, and then shows us the basics of his small apartment.

After we rifle through his things get settled, we new-york-november-2008-0011decided to make the most of our afternoon – starting with a peek at Grand Central Station. We enter the building and take a quick look around the main hall of the central terminal, and then up at the ceiling, which in itself is a work of art – all the stars, and the constellations painted on by hand … wow

It was then onwards to the Museum of Modern Art (or the MoMA), opting to walk instead of tackling the subway system during our first day in town. The rain continued as we weave our way around other pedestrians, across busy intersections and under scaffolding.

“Umbrellas, umbrellas, umbrellas,” sings a vendor we pass on the sidewalk. “No need to get wet, umbrellas …”

We arrive at the MoMA around 3:30 – and find out the museum closes at 5:30. No matter – we tackle three, maybe four floors.

There are installations, paintings, sculptures, multimedia works and industrial design pieces as far as the eye can see. Even though we cover a lot of ground in just under two hours, I’m sure we don’t see everything. You just can’t. Even as we’re in the museum, they’re putting the finishing touches on a multimedia installation which, as it turns out, is by a Swiss artist, Pipilotti Rist.

The highlights for me are:

(1) A Henri Rousseau painting called The Dream. Don’t ask me why, but it resonates with me. I buy a poster version, which I hope to mount one day.

new-york-november-2008-013(2) Seeing the Picassos. But not just any Picassos. I had poster versions of Girl Before A Mirror and Three Musicians (pictured here) when I was a kid. The posters have since been taken down, but seeing the real thing is pretty cool.

We leave the MoMA in search of our next quest: dinner.

We walk up and down the streets in search of a pub or anything with decent food. Of course, it being a Thursday in New York, we’re trying to find a restaurant in the middle of happy hour. Which means almost anywhere we go is packed to the gills with drinking young – and not-so-young – professionals and other types.

We finally settle on a pub around E 43rd Street. I can’t speak for either C or P, but I’m so tired by this point, I’m feeling drowsy halfway through my mediocre fish-and-chips dinner, and am ready to faceplant shortly thereafter.

When we leave the pub, it’s around 11:30 and practically empty, save for the staff, a couple of stragglers and the middle-aged couple canoodling in the booth right next to ours.

When we return to the apartment, I am gladly looking forward to the good night’s sleep that awaits -probably the best in ages.

My Frustration

I originally drafted this post about a week ago, when I was in a bit of a funk.

I‘m in a better mood now, but I still hold the same convictions about work …

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YAAAAARGH.

You know when something happens in your work life – something that’s really a good thing – and you should be happy … but instead you have the exact opposite reaction?

Well, I think that’s been me lately.

It’s a complicated situation, but I’ll try to explain in general terms.

I’ve worked in the same department for four and a half years. Sometime early on, I realized I wasn’t particularly jazzed about what I was doing. Unfortunately, I haven’t really wavered.

Twenty-one months ago, completely frustrated (or so I thought), I applied for a job at another company. Shortly thereafter, my boss calls me into his office to offer me a job on a new project.

I thought to myself, maybe this is the change I need. It may be only twenty feet down the hall, but I’d be an idiot to say no.

So I said yes. And then promptly got an e-mail from the place I’d applied to, asking if I could come in for an interview. (D’oh.)

I took a chance and told my boss, who was surprisingly fair. He understood and let me do what I had to do. Obviously, I didn’t get the job, and I’m at the current job I’m at now.

Which brings me to the present. 

This spring, I decided to start looking in another department for something new. I figured it was time, since I’d been in my present job for just over a year.

I talked to someone in the department I wanted to work for, hoping there might be opportunities to fill in during the summer. She even suggested a job swap with someone from the department I wanted into.

I then told my boss, and he understood. 

Sounds promising, right?

Well, it didn’t happen in time for summer. There were scheduling issues with other staff members. But I was still hopeful. And the other department was still willing to include me as part of their team. So I still kept in touch and continued voicing my interest.

I returned from summer vacation in August, and was promptly told by my boss that my job – which wasn’t a permanent position – would be made permanent. Which meant I had to apply.

So apply I did, and I waited to hear about when my interview would be.

And I waited. And waited.  

Amid all this, the department I’d been liaising with e-mailed me back, asking me if I was still interested in working with them.

(Um, yes?!)

I was getting excited again. This might actually happen, I thought to myself.

And then three things happened. 

First I started getting some work more in the vein that I wanted to do in the other department.

Then I was told by my boss that my job – my current job – was finally mine. No interviews to worry about, nothing.

Things seemed to be resolving themselves.

But then, just last week, a manager from my “dream” department came by my desk to visit, in plain view of my more senior colleague, to discuss my hopes to work for him. So unfortunately, when the manager disappeared and the senior colleague started asking questions, I had to kind of tell him why he was there, forcing my hand a bit.

(It didn’t help that one of my colleagues had just taken a job offer she couldn’t really refuse in another unit – for career development – and was leaving in a matter of days.)

“Why do you want to leave?” he asked.

I said plainly, “I’ve been here for four and a half years, and I need a change. Even if it’s for a month, I think it would help.”

Not even a few days later, I found out I would start doing more of the type of work I wanted to do … in the other department.

I suppose it was his way of trying to give me more opportunity. And when he finally told me, I said, “Okay.” All I could say was okay.

Perhaps it was a coincidence. But the timing was uncanny.

I can’t say I’m completely happy. And I’m frustrated that I’m still not happy.

All I wanted – all I WANT – is a change.

Yes, I sound completely whiny and ungrateful. And yes, there are people out there who don’t have my job. Or A JOB, period.

But I DON’T expect to find my dream job in the place I’m working.

There is a saying someone once said to me, something to the effect of:

“If you love your job, you never work a day in your life.”

Really, that’s what I would like – a job I look forward to going to. One where I’m willing to participate, instead of feeling complacent and indifferent. A position where the notion of working a little harder or for longer hours doesn’t elicit an inward groan, a furrow in my brow, or the corners of my mouth to turn downward. Because I like it THAT MUCH.

But most importantly? I would genuinely like a job that I’ve sought or achieved, on my terms. And I’m convinced I’m not the only one on this entire planet who feels this way.

I work in a unit where the people are really nice, and my job has decent hours and decent pay. But that’s where it ends. Because I feel that if I want to move my career forward, I can’t do it on my own – it has to be controlled by someone else. It’s already happened twice before, and I truly believed that last year’s acceptance of the job I currently hold was the beginning of a more proactive phase of my career.

Perhaps that’s just not possible in a place where people move other people around like marionettes.

Surely there must be a way to cut the strings – or find a new puppetmaster.

Coming Soon … More Posts

Hey kids,

I know I’ve been pretty much non-existent in the blogosphere the last several weeks. Apologies.

A lot of it has had to do with lethargy. The fact my life has been even more mundane than usual. And the fact I’ve been out of town for the past five days. Woot!

So prepare yourself – there will be more entries. But despite posting the current date, they’ll actually be a bit behind chronologically. One I meant to write before I left town; the rest will be the chronicles of my recent trip to New York City.

(Speaking of which, I should probably finish writing in my travel diary first. Oops.)

Stay tuned.