Being in the Moment

John-Luther-3-luther-bbc-30683033-1024-768Yesterday I was leaving a client meeting in Dumbo, Brooklyn, when all of a sudden I stumbled onto the set of The Dark Tower, the movie adaptation of the popular Stephen King novels. As I watched the impressive set come together (the movie is scheduled to film in Dumbo all weekend), I decided to turn down a nearby street to keep investigating. Well, who do I see standing there but none other than Idris Elba in the flesh! Elba is starring in The Dark Tower along with Matthew McConaughey. He’s also known for playing the London copper John Luther on BBC’s Luther, one of my all-time favorite shows. Of course, I didn’t hesitate to tell him that!

In fact, I refused to curb any of my enthusiasm. I had run into a big TV/movie star completely unexpectedly in one of those great New York moments that you just don’t get in Iowa. The 92 degree day had gotten even hotter!

The way I approached Elba made his entourage chuckle. I lowered my sunglasses and said, “I am completely blown away to run into you Idris Elba. I am such a fan!” Mind you, I began my career in television so I’ve come across my fair share of celebrities over the years, but Elba has a star quality that you simply don’t see every day. He exudes charm and charisma, and of course, that sexy accent doesn’t hurt either! Hearing him say, “Thank you, sweetheart,” made my day. As for our handshake, let’s just say I didn’t wash my hand for several hours! I even blew him a kiss as I walked away, and I’m happy to say he blew one right back. It was a memorable encounter and a fabulous way to start the weekend.

Afterward, it dawned on me that perhaps I should go back and take a selfie with him.  However, seeing him with a bunch of people ready to go back on set, I decided I didn’t want to be too disruptive. I opted to soak up the moment, to enjoy the interaction and savor the memory that was created. I went the old school route. No iPhones, no Instagram, no hassling him to get the perfect two-shot. Just him and me havin’ a laugh and a handshake on a summer afternoon. That image doesn’t have to live on a phone; instead it’ll live in my mind and create a smile for years to come.




Finding the Light from a Dark Day in History


I remember it like it was yesterday. The confusion. The fear. The disbelief. The deep sadness.

Fourteen years later, those emotions still sneak to the surface while reading and watching the tributes that are pouring in. Sure, we try to go about our business like any other work day but the reality is – this is a very dark day in U.S., and especially New York’s, history.

Over the summer, I came across a couple from Pennsylvania who had never been to New York City but wanted to talk all about 9/11. “It’s a heavy topic for us New Yorkers,” I explained. “It was a terrible day for everyone.” That said, I think they caught my drift.

This past year, I worked on-site with a communications client of mine downtown. Given the office’s proximity to the 9/11 memorial, I often encountered tourists asking directions to get to it. While it’s important to remember the people we lost, tourists’ fascination with 9/11 and Ground Zero has always irked me. It’s as if the site simply got lumped together with all the other tourist attractions in NYC. Maybe it’s still too raw.

One thing I’ll never forget about that dark day is the deep ability to feel. Most of us (especially New Yorkers) get so caught up in the daily grind that we sometimes forget to absorb our feelings. 9/11 and the months that followed was truly an emotional time. Families on Good Day, New York holding up photos of lost loved ones; walking down the street and smelling burnt steel, depending on which way the wind blew. All of us were affected whether awake or asleep: recovery workers I knew had nightmares when they came home after working a shift on the bucket brigade.

On a positive note, I’ll always remember how New Yorkers banded together after the tragedy. We made eye contact on the street, we spoke to each other on the subway, we wore flag pins and yellow ribbons to remember the victims. Friends and family took on more meaning as we discovered how quickly you can lose the ones you love.

As we pause to reflect on this moving day, let us vow not to take things for granted. Be kind to one another, go the extra mile for someone if you can. Cherish the connections you have and make new ones. Appreciate the little things because as we all saw on that terrible day – life is just too short.

(Photos by Ben Sturner)

A lesson in commuting etiquette

Apologies for the lack of blog posts in recent weeks. I recently took on an exciting long-term editorial assignment so I’ve been happily busy amid scores of print and digital copy.

Unlike many of my other freelance writing gigs, this job requires me to work in an office, putting me back into the 9-5 commuter world. Being shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of New Yorkers in tight subway cars is actually a job in itself! You never know what sights and smells you will encounter on any given day.

Rather than sigh and complain, I’ve decided to post this lesson in commuter etiquette which will hopefully inspire slightly better behavior and more pleasant train (and bus) rides across the city.

Here are 5 ways in which our commutes can be made more bearable. Riders, are you listening?:

1. No perfume before 9am – The other morning I nearly gagged on a floral scent worn by the woman sitting next to me. At 8am, a strong smell like that is hard to take, yet alone at any time of day. My advice? Save the heavy perfumes for your hot Friday night dates, not an early morning subway ride. And gentlemen, that means you too. The only old spice I want to smell at that hour is the cinnamon in my cappucino. If the offensive perfume smell wasn’t enough that morning, the woman wearing it was sitting so close to me, she was practically in my lap, which brings me to Tip #2.

2. Mind the gap – No, I’m not talking about the gap between the train and the platform, I’m referring to the amount of space between seated riders on a train. If you see there’s hardly any room, don’t sit there. If I had a choice between being squashed or standing up, I’d choose standing every time. So why don’t other people feel the same?

3. Listen to the music (but quietly, please) – Okay, we all like our music (myself included), but is there really a need to blast it from your iPod or iPhone? Maybe the rest of us don’t want to hear “Blurred Lines” for the 1000th time or the latest Justin Timberlake song. So do us a favor – by all means, enjoy your tunes, but do so responsibly. Hey, you’ll benefit too – you’ll reduce your chances of going deaf!

4. Get a grip – Actually, #4 is not about griping; it’s about gripping. My “tips for grips” when riding the subway is to hold onto the poles via the palms of your hand (instead of grasping them with your fingers). It’s simply more sanitary. And if you do wind up fully gripping the poles, make sure you have some hand sanitizer nearby. (Frankly, I don’t know why the MTA doesn’t install hand sanitizer dispensers at subway stations – if gyms and hospitals can have them, why not subways? We pay enough for our metrocards!)

5. To the left, to the left – My final tip is an organizational one. In London, what I like most about riding the Tube is that commuters are instructed to stay to the left of stairs and escalators so those in a hurry can pass them on the left. It’s very organized and works well. Why New York does not follow in London’s footsteps is beyond me. Every morning it takes several minutes for people to navigate the stairs at the Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center station. With so many people moving in all different directions, transferring lines or exiting a station can become a complete headache. Why not implement a system like London’s that will keep foot traffic flowing?

Got that, MTA?

Words no job seeker wants to hear…and how to cope

Whether we’re seeking staff or freelance work, we all have to hunt. This means perusing sites like craigslist,, monster, indeed, SimplyHired, LinkedIn and others. If you’re lucky, your cover letter and resume will stand out just enough to get that coveted phone call for a face-to-face interview (and trust me, that’s no easy feat these days).

So you meet with the hiring manager, have a great 25-minute chat and then you’re on your way. A few hours later, you send the courtesy email thanking him/her for their time so you remain fresh in their mind. And then you wait.

Being a native New Yorker, patience is not my best trait. I want something and I want it now! Unfortunately, that can’t always be the case (though you can get a mean grilled cheese at 3am at the local diner).

When it comes to seeking work (no matter what your profession is), you are at the mercy of employers. That’s just the way it is. The bright side is that as a freelancer, you automatically grow the ability to develop a thick skin. With that, comes the ability to identify all the typical catch phrases you hear when you don’t land a job:

“Thanks for your interest in the position, but we’ve decided to move in a new direction with it.” (North? South? East? West?)

“We’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities.” (That is, if we don’t wind up going with someone we already know!)

“We’ll be sure to keep your resume on file.” (Along with the 350 other CVs in our filing cabinet).

Bottom line: being turned down for a gig sucks. Especially after you’ve made the effort to dry clean your suit, prepare a portfolio and endure an hour-and-ten minute commute on two crowded subway trains.

When that happens, it’s important to keep your chin up. Allow yourself one hour of moping time, one or two phone calls to vent to friends, even a half-hour of mindless television to get your mind off the disappointment. Then, it’s time to get back on that horse and start all over again the next day.