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The Season of Dirty Feet

I love spring in New York City.  As a child growing up in the San Fernando Valley I never had the opportunity to witness the absolute stunning beauty of the first yellow tulip after six months of freezing gray.  But now?  For the rest of my life, when I see yellow tulips I will remember the City in spring.  But there is something else that comes with the creep of spring, there is a darker side.  Something sticky and grisly and black as oil.  That something is Dirty Feet.

Our first spring in the City I documented the phenomenon on my Flickr site.  Over the next two-plus-years a photo of my dirty feet received 4,312 unique views.

That is ridiculous.  My dirty little feet have gotten more clicks than any post I’ve ever written ever.  Apparently there are a lot more of you interested in how dirty my feet are then how cute my dogs are.

The thing is, I do not like being dirty.  There is a funny family story that my sister likes to tell about the first time she took me to the beach when I was eight months old.  I’d been lathered in sun block and made to wear a hat and sit under an umbrella and I’d taken it all like a champ.  I giggled and cooed and waved my shiny red shovel and then the wind blew and five or six grains of sand were swept up onto the blanket six inches from my knee.  And I began to scream.  And scream.  My sister leapt up, shook the blanket, put it back down, and still I screamed.  She offered me water, a new toy, something to eat, was my hat too tight?  Was there sand in my eye?  No, no, I was fine, perfectly fine, but there was sand on the towel and I do not like to be dirty.

Perhaps you can understand how horrifying it was when I took off my shoes last night and found their outlines traced along my foot in grisly black grime.  It was so horrible, so awfully terribly horrible, I almost cried.

This is a first-world problem, I know.  I realize that if having dirty feet is the worst thing that happens to me in a day, I’ve had a pretty damn good day.  But it’s that time of the month when socks on the floor and a glass on the table make me froth at the mouth, so you can imagine my reaction when I realized that even the pumice wasn’t scraping the black grit out from underneath my skin cells.

But then, there’s this …

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And these …

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And can you believe how beautiful this is?

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New York in spring.  Holy shit.  I will miss the City when we move.

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Three Years

The city of New York and I celebrated our third anniversary last month. I realize that it’s like beating a dead horse, the way I go on and on about how moving to New York changed my life, but I really believe it was one of my most defining experiences. I’m not sure what that says about me, that the most important and life-changing experience I’ve had is the time I moved across the country, but that’s not the point.

I’d never really visited the city before I moved. I’d spent approximately sixty hours in New York when I did my showcase right after graduation, but I don’t count that because most of that time was spent in rehearsal, performance or awkward “networking” which was really just me standing in a corner stuffing my face with cheesecake. The day after the showcase I walked by Tiffany’s on my way to have coffee with an agent and then I met up with my best friend from high school and wandered around in Central Park where I bought an ‘I <3 NY’ t-shirt. Then I hailed a cab and went back to JFK. The next time I went to New York was on February 23, 2007. I had two suitcases, a sublet, and a really big dream.

<i>Standard new-to-New-York snap shot.</i>

Standard new-to-New-York snapshot.

Three months later Mike and I were living in a Hells Kitchen tenement with a dog and two cats.  A couple of weeks before that we’d sold and/or given away everything but our mattress, some favorite books, our computers, the x-box, the microwave, a toaster oven and our TV.  That’s actually a lot of stuff, I see that now.  Our downsize was truly a first-world downsize.  My point is that it was a big deal to get rid of half our life and haul the other half 3,000 miles to a city neither of us knew anything about.

Like most people who run off to New York, we were chasing a dream.  I pictured New York as a mecca of bohemian artists, linking arms and blasting people away with incredible works of art.  I thought we would move to New York and find a family of artists and we would all rent a huge warehouse on the Lower East Side and everyone would live there.  It would be our home but it would also be an art gallery and a performance space.  We’d write plays together and perform and build sets and write music and make all our own clothes.  It was going to be a commune for artists, an art-share, and we were going to change the face of theatre in America.

<i>Smiling through exuberant terror.</i>

Smiling through exuberant terror.

The day I landed in the city I was saucer-eyed and hopeful.  I stayed that way for about six months and then I fell apart.  New York was nothing like I’d imagined.  I couldn’t find anyone who had even slightly similar ideas about art that I had.  Broadway had been bought out by Disney and I didn’t even have a bathroom sink. I became miserably homesick.  I felt like all of my friends and family were in Los Angeles living my life without me.  I became cripplingly depressed.  I spent weeks sprawled on the sofa wearing filthy sweat pants and eating ice cream from the tub.  I watched every single season of Nip/Tuck, How I Met Your Mother, House, Lost, The Shield, South Park and Desperate Housewives available on DVD.  I believed my life had no purpose and I wanted to die.

You could say I got discouraged very quickly.  That would be true.  I realize now that it takes more than six months to settle into a new city, it takes more than six months to make good friends and find your footing.  Knowing that now doesn’t change the fact that my first year in the city was easily the worst year of my life.

The second year started out with a bang.  I signed with an agent and I started working.  I did a couple of little projects I was crazy about and a couple of little projects that were so awful I’ve blocked them from my memory.  I put more energy and effort into my acting career than I ever had, and considering how new I was to the New York scene, I had a great deal of success.  But I was miserable.  I was almost as miserable as I was the year before, only this time my TV-and-ice-cream jags were punctuated by little acting jobs that inspired short bursts of hysterical happiness.

The third year something changed.  We moved, I changed jobs, Mike made the deans list, we started nesting, we met our neighbors, we made friends.  I started writing.  I began exploring neighborhoods I’d never been to and I found restaurants, vintage shops, galleries and cafes that belong in story books.  We saw free concerts in the park, visited museums we’d always talked about going to, scored free tickets to multiple Broadway shows, and did a little traveling around the east coast.  We started living in the city.  And I fell in love.

Happy Anniversary, New York.  What they said about you was true.

Harlem

The snow's only been gone a week and already I miss it.

I hear it has huge bells

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I fall more and more in love with my neighborhood every day.  Mike took this photo of Riverside Church in Harlem.  It’s just a few blocks from Grant’s Tomb.  Do you know who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?  Grant … And his wife!

On their way to Narnia

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Harlem, NYC — February 2010

Evolution of a snowgirl

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At the end of a long work week, I like to take a moment and fall backward into thirteen inches of perfect, pristine, untouched snow. I recommend it instead of a massage.

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Better than a facial - the rosy cheeks and laugh lines will give you a youthful glow!

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And just like that, I look like a little, awkward, six-year-old again.

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While it that was fun, it turned out to also be wet and cold.