Sunday, November 6, 2016

Bottom of the Ninth


Last Wednesday I did something I never typically do, and watched the World Series even though it had zero Mets representation.  I was even rooting for one side, Chicago, on the sole basis of their 108-year drought of Championship titles.  I couldn’t tell you one Cubs player, one Cubs coach and I kept second guessing myself as to which team was on the National League (Cubs) and which was on the American League (Indians).  But I felt in this match-up of World Series-starved teams, Chicago was in greater need of the win.  And in a series down 3-1, they were the underdogs of all underdogs. 

Game 7 was good baseball.  Chicago was first to score, but then it was tied, and Chicago pulled ahead, and Cleveland tied it up again.  The momentum moved from the Cubs to the Indians to the Cubs to the Indians and then back to the Cubs.  It pulled me in.  It put this die-hard second-generation Mets fan’s love of all things Blue and Orange allegiance to the side, and let me be enraptured by my love for the sport, my love of the game.

Honestly, for America ex-Chicago and ex-Cleveland, I don’t think it mattered who won this battle.  Only 37 seasons in the 112 years of modern World Series Championships have come down to such a close call with a game 7 winner-take-all scenarios.  Neither team was the incumbent champion.  The last time Cleveland won the World Series, Truman was president.  The last time the Cubs won the Fall Classic, Teddy Roosevelt was president, women didn’t have the right to vote and the Ford Model T was all the rage.  Both teams were due, but it would take seven games, and extra innings to name the winner.  It was a tight, close race. 

While watching game 7 on live television, I was abruptly shaken from my love-of-baseball euphoria by ads for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the commercial breaks.  And not because of the content of the ads, this campaign has been going on long enough, but I was surprised there actually were ads at all.  Excuse my lack of media-buying knowledge, I’m not sure if those commercials were aired here in New York specifically or if everyone across the country were seeing the same ads at the same time.  Because here in (down-state) New York, and in the Seventh Borough, we have made it to November without any real mass political solicitation by the presidential candidates.  The local races are advertising like crazy, but Hillary and The Donald have sent me zero mail.  Typical for national elections, I’m paid no mind. I’m not a political donor, I sway no constituencies, I’m from an undeniably ‘Blue’ state, I’m ignored from Day 1. 

As this blog began in 2013, this is the Seventh Borough News’ first presidential election cycle, so here is where we get to be un-ignored.  The election of 2016 has proved to be a tight, close race, especially as we wind up the last 48 hours of this mudslinger. 



  Like many of you, I cannot wait for this race to be over, but unlike the World Series (+/- Cleveland and Chicago), it does matter who wins this battle.   And unlike the World Series, which brought fans and fans of other teams, like myself, together, hopeful for an elusive champion, this election has been divisive and full of anger.  And the anger has turned into rage.  And the rage has brought all our demons to the fore.  And all the world is watching us become a worse version of ourselves.  We’re basically a 240-year-old having a temper tantrum.

I may not be a political hack, but I am a mother of two young children, so I’m well versed in temper tantrums.  Notably, they can sometimes be avoidable.  If the child (or the country) has their needs met, sufficient food, rest, comfort and stimulation, you can typically avoid the meltdown.  This is not always in your control, sometimes you get behind schedule, or you forget the diaper bag in the car, or you leave a favorite stuffed animal behind in a hotel room in Pennsylvania, and the world comes to an end on the Jersey turnpike.  Nobody’s perfect, but we can anticipate the needs of our charges and act.

The United States of America is basically having a meltdown because the republic is angry.  Our basic needs are not being met.  Our wages are stagnant, yet healthcare costs and higher education costs are growing exponentially.  Last week was open enrollment for our 2017 benefits at work, and as I clicked the link to the medical insurance premium data, I read the computer screen through squinted eyes and held my breath to see how much the increases would be for a family of four.  I braced myself for bad news. I got through it.  People are working harder and longer for less benefit, if they can even get the work they are seeking.  Certain segments of the country have been left behind.  On the Homefront, our security is at risk, and our protectors are also under threat.  Our infrastructure is rusting.  Our systems are dated.  Our Veterans go without.  Our population is changing.  Certain segments of the population are growing more marginalized.  Certain segments of the citizenry are getting wealthier and healthier and have all the right connections, while many others see no progress.  We’re not “Young, scrappy and hungry”, but rather bloated, disengaged and litigious (and that doesn’t make for good lyrics).  For the first time in maybe forever, there is a sentiment across the country that our children will NOT be better off than we are.  The American Dream is dying.

That work-hard-make-progress contract between the governed and the governors, which has steadily fueled this country for more than two centuries, is at risk of being voided.  Yet somewhere along this journey, we misinterpreted the signals.  We’ve accepted that a deterioration of the social contract has granted us permission to be a republic behaving badly.  Perhaps it’s due to the painfully slow ‘jobless recovery’ and the increasing threat of terrorism, greased by the ease and anonymity of social media account and internet posts, we’ve unleashed our latent racist, misogynistic and xenophobic tendencies for all the world to see.  Let’s be honest, America, many of us have never worked through our demons, we just manage to keep them under wraps in front of the company.   

This is disheartening, but what’s worse, is that this is mostly avoidable, so let’s avoid it.  We can do better.  We need to be good citizens and not raging haters.  We need our leaders to get out of their cozy camps and anticipate the needs of their charges, and act.  We need our leaders to work for the greater good, and not just themselves.  We need the public sector to be about public service.  We need the private sector to be accountable and involved.  We need a balance, not a collusion, between the two sectors.  The social contract needs to be repaired, re-written.  Our tool for redrafting this contract is our vote.                                                                                            






This is the paragraph where I tell you it’s all going to be okay.  I can’t write this paragraph convincingly, because I can’t even convince myself that it’s true.   




But I can tell you this – despite the 108 years between Cubs’ championships, they had no shortage of support.  The faith of the fans was always there.  They showed up.  If you believe we can do better, if you believe we deserve better, if you believe our children deserve better, then show up. 

Vote. 

"Do Not Throw Away Your Shot!"  (A.Ham)


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

On Your Own


“Why should a tiny island across the sea regulate the price of tea?”  Sings Alexander Hamilton in the musical, Hamilton.  And I think to myself, hmm the tables have turned.

So it’s the Fourth of July, and while everyone is grillin’ & chillin’ I’m at work with the rest of my department getting stuff done.  Working a holiday grants, us lunch on the firm’s tab, so some of the office guys are running a campaign to find a place on Seamless that is open and will deliver some good barbeque that we should all partake, otherwise it may be the Nathan’s food truck for hotdogs and a Coke.  Happy Independence Day. 

Full disclosure: the head office of my employer is based in London.  I work for a British company, so I guess I should take working on the Fourth of July as a given, no?  Fifteen years ago I basically had an internship visa to work in the United Kingdom from 2000-2001 and spent July 4th, 2001 at work, getting teased by my British colleagues for hailing from a country founded by religious zealots.  This meme floating around the internet kind of summed up how that day had gone down:




Their jokes didn’t bother me much, this was a nation who fancied prawn-flavored potato chips and considers tuna and corn pizza toppings.  Their judgement was clearly unsound.

This 4th of July, I wasn’t getting taunted by the Brits in the office.  Firstly, they were grossly outnumbered here in our Midtown location.  Also, our vending machines’ choice of potato chips was much more palatable, but mostly, the United Kingdom was still reeling from their own declaration of independence with their June 23rd Brexit vote to leave the European Union just less than a fortnight ago.  The sentiment of that decision metastasized into a black cloud which had swiftly jetted across the Atlantic, and was clearly palpable in the office on June 24th.  Arriving at the office in the few days after the vote felt like walking into a funeral home.  Honestly, I was hoping the ‘Remain’ campaign would eke out a victory, but to no avail, Great Britain basically told the EU and Brussels to piss off

Though I (an outsider with no vote) was in favor of the UK staying and stabilizing the EU, 52% of voters chose to leave the EU.  But I get it.  I do, I get it.

Well over 50 nations have separated from the United Kingdom, either by force or by negotiation or a bit of both, and the U.K. just wanted to have a slice of that feeling, to know what it’s like to be the one doing the breaking up, and not being the one left at the altar.  After the Colonial 13 were the first subjects of the Crown to break the seal and head for the door, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Belize, Barbados, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Cyprus and (the Republic of) Ireland among others followed suit.  Many of which only obtained their independence in the last 100 years or so.  After a century of bleeding out territories, colonies and ‘subsidiaries’, the United Kingdom wanted its turn to say “Thanks, but no thanks”.  Feeling used and abused by the European Union, among other fears, rationales and factors, Britain decided to say “Adieu” and got their shot at being the dumper instead of the dumpee.  The geographical mapping of the votes to stay and leave looked something like this:



With the blue area wanting to leave the EU and the yellow area wanting to remain.

But I get it, I do.  I live in the United States of America.  Do you think all 50 states like each other?  Do we always get along?  No.  Doesn’t Texas think it’s its own entity from time to time?  Even Staten Island propositioned a secession vote from New York City.  Just two years ago Scotland held a vote to stay or leave the United Kingdom.  Scotland got itself off the brink and decided to stick it out with QE2 only to get sideswiped by the ‘blue states’ in the above picture. 

Within the next few days after the Brexit vote, the head office issued emails and memos to staff to the effect of “Dear Employees, Don’t Panic, um, that’s all we have for now”.  The Brexiters didn’t really have much of a plan put together in the event that they would actually win.  What is known, is that the UK may be in need of a new Prime Minister shortly and that there is roughly a two-year time period to actually withdraw from the EU.  And that the value of the UK’s currency, the Pound, has effectively taken a nose dive, and that affects me directly working in financial reporting for a US Dollar-denominated branch whose parent will be converting all our figures in to Pounds at a now-volatile exchange rate.  And so goes the question:
  
What comes next?
You’ve been freed
Do you know how hard it is to lead?
You’re on your own
Awesome.  Wow.
Do you have a clue what happens now?
Oceans rise
Empires fall
It’s much harder when it’s all your call
All alone, across the sea


-          “What Comes Next” from Hamilton

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Battle of Brooklyn



The truth is in ya face when ya hear the British cannons go
Boom!
Any hope of success is fleeting
How can I keep leading when the people I’m
Leading keep retreating?
We put a stop to the bleeding as the British take Brooklyn
Knight takes rook, but look
We are outgunned
Outmanned
Outnumbered
Outplanned
We gotta make an all out stand
Ayo, I’m gonna need a right-hand man
Incoming!

   -- "Right Hand Man", Hamilton, the Musical

In the summer of 1776, 32,000 British troops arrived in New York Harbor, making land fall on both banks of The Narrows, the narrow base of the Hudson River where Brooklyn and Staten Island are geographically closest to each other.  New York City, at the time, the second most populous city in the Colonial 13, only had about 25,000 residents.  The Red Coat presence would soon saturate the city.

The British and their soldier-for-hire Hessians generally broke into two groups, the first headed north, directly towards lower Manhattan (think: any modern-day express bus route into the city).   The second group swung out east then back west (think: like Kings Highway to Flatbush to Atlantic Avenue, or probably the worst possible route into the city, every day of the week) though it proved to be a highly effective flanking strategy on behalf of the Red Coats.  The Continentals suffered mass casualties in the present-day neighborhoods of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and in Green-Wood Cemetery, among other locales.  Retreating and running out of Brooklyn terra firma, General Washington and company found themselves pinned against the East River and fled to lower Manhattan by boat under the timely cover of late summer fog. 

The Battle of Brooklyn, or more commonly known as the Battle of Long Island, by less Brooklyn-centric folks, was a major loss for the fledgling Republic, but it was also a major military boo-boo by the Crown.  Ever the gentlemen officers, the Red Coats made the erroneous assumption that GW would be formally surrendering in the near-term.  Meanwhile, One-Dollar George, Virginia plantation owner, and his rag-tag armada got across the river in a New York Minute, and lived to fight another day. 

***

“I was born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, in a hospital that overlooked the spot in 1776 where the British crossed from Staten Island before facing Washington in the Battle of Brooklyn.  On the other side of the hospital was Fort Hamilton…  My family lived on Brooklyn’s Marine Avenue until I was 3.  Then we moved in 1952 to Kew Gardens Hills in Queens…”
Except for the part about moving to Queens in 1952, Ron Chernow’s early life (as told to Marc Myers in the weekly “House Call” column of the Wall Street Journal) reads just like my own.  Mr. Chernow continues that he “…had a Washington and Hamilton connection from birth.”  He’s the author of six historical biographies, including “Alexander Hamilton,” adapted for the Broadway musical Hamilton.

I’d like to tell you that I’m a fan of Hamilton, but the truth is, I’m kind of obsessed, with the musical, not Alexander, per se.  Don’t get me wrong, growing up next to Fort Hamilton, an active U.S. Army Base and garrison on the Narrows was named after our “ten-dollar founding father without a father”, you get used to most things in the neighborhood bearing the Hamilton name.  In and around Bay Ridge, the Hamilton name has been attached to diners, dry cleaners, apartment buildings, restaurants, medical groups, physical therapy practices, the library, Fort Hamilton Parkway (roughly seventh avenue), Fort Hamilton High School (which debuted in this blog two years ago as the now Fed Chair, Janet Yellen’s, alma mater) and probably another dozen local establishments.  But the Fort that bears his name wasn’t actually named after A.Ham until the early 20th Century, as it went through another round of structural reinforcements between World Wars.

So you grow up with this general, albeit distant, affiliation or familiarity with this historical figure and these historical events, maybe you even have your newly-minted husband (who works at the bank A.Ham founded in 1784) and his groomsmen pose for some wedding photos by one of these old garrison cannons,






And then a musical about all this stuff comes to the fore, and how do you not get obsessed?  Not to mention the music and lyrics are smart, fresh, clever, poetic and impactful.  I’m not going to venture to be a theater critic here, I haven’t even seen the play.  I think tickets at non-astronomical prices are sold out until like 2020.  But I broke with my own tradition of not buying musical soundtracks until I have seen the musical in person, kind of giving in that I won’t be seeing this one for a long time.  Given Hamilton’s great renown and ability to pick up Tony Awards like Michael Phelps cleans up at the Olympics, and my own geographical affiliation to all things Hamiltonian, I had to give it a try, sight unseen.  And I was hooked.


I was playing the music on my phone all the time.  The Hamilton soundtrack would become my personal theme music as I get through this rough July workload and my new yuuuuuge reporting deliverables at work.  But what makes this song book so relevant is this:  the story, the setting and the characters of the forging of the American Experiment is our national legend, American mythology part 1.  We all know the story, or at least versions of it, and for all of its growing pains, we like this story because it reminds us that we kind of got this nation started on the right foot.  And nothing could be more reassuring in an election year where we seem so far off course.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Adult Swim


Two days into my July-non-vacation and it’s already the weekend.  Yesterday’s build up of work stress can get relegated elsewhere for the next 48 hours.  But this isn’t just any weekend, it’s July 4th weekend!  That means grilling, chilling, general fun summer stuff and celebrating our great nation – the U.S.A.

So as ‘Merica gets into Independence Day mode, and prepares for its 240th birthday party (what’s the popular gift for 240 year-olds these days??), I will go to work.  And it’s sad and borderline embarrassing to tell people that you have to work on our biggest national holiday, and it’s not because you work in an Emergency Room or at air traffic control, or some other place that needs to be 100% operational 24-7-365, but it’s because you work on spreadsheets.  Yeah. 

I have some very good Fourth of July memories (of not working) and I get worried that my kids won’t have the same if I have to work this holiday each year.  But maybe I get ahead of myself and just overthink it.  I have to remind myself that 1. They are still young, and the little one is asleep before nightfall in July 2. Fireworks would probably scare the shizzles out of the kids for a few more years (maybe), fireworks basically give my cats PTSD so we can probably still hold off on that a bit 3. When I was their age, there was no New York City ban on fireworks and the streets were literally on fire 4. You don’t know how to grill.  So what were these great Fourth memories again?  Time paints a rose-hued lens on what was more or less patriotic tomfoolery. 

So here’s something to build good summertime memories despite having to work on the Fourth: we went swimming.  Our town pool (which technically serves three towns) is great.  At least when we first joined, I was in awe.  Some of the Co-op apartments we had looked at (before we found our house) advertise the pool and the adjoining golf and tennis area as part of the selling point of the Co-ops.  It’s like a country club, without the fees of a country club.   You can join based on residency, not based on who you know and do they like you.

The longer I’ve been going to this pool, the more I’m getting familiar with the lay of the land and who is in charge of whom at the Mecca of Seventh Borough Summertime: The Town Pool.  And I say town pool, but I really mean poolS.  There are 5 pools, and 4 of them are somehow kind of built into a hill.  As you come through the gate, you have the Granny pool on your immediate right and the snack bar is to the left.  The Snack bar is mainly staffed by 12 year-olds and managed by 14 year-olds.  If you make it through food service, you can drive a golf cart at 15 and become a lifeguard at 16 and really move up the ranks.  I’m not sure, but I’d guess the three or four adults who are actually in charge are School-year phys ed teachers picking up a summer gig.  They all carry clipboards and wear matching polo shirts.  The kids who seem like they’d rather be anywhere else but the pool all tend to have the job of setting up and breaking down the lounge chairs.  That looks like a crummy job.  None of those kids look happy even though sometimes they get tipped for bringing chairs.   Lastly, there are the shuttle drivers who drive the ‘trolley’ around the parking lot, because while the parking lot may not look so big, when you’re schlepping a bag full of damp towels and two tired children around, it’s a Godsend.  The ‘trolley’ is like a very long golf cart.  It’s the super stretch limo of golf carts.  I swear sometimes we go to the pool just to ride the ‘trolley’.

Opposite the snack bar is the Granny Pool, which is strictly for adults, and by adults I mean you have to be 18 to swim there, so there is no ‘Adult Swim’ time, the Granny Pool is Adult Swim all the time.  And even though a 19 year-old would surely be welcome at the Granny pool, the average age of swimmers at that pool is 75.

Passing the Granny pool, if you sort of go down a hill and then up a hill, you will find yourself at the Diving Pool.  The Diving Pool has two springboards and is 13 feet deep.  The Diving Pool is frequented by the 10-13 year-old set, but sometimes I get on line for the springboard myself and take the plunge.  Down yet another hill or like two flights of stairs, depending how you go, are the baby pools.  One pool starts at six inches and slopes down to about 18 inches.  In the shallow side of the pool you won’t find kids playing splish splash.  You’ll find all the moms and dads lounging as if it were a swim-up bar while the tots are mostly in the adjacent playground or the other baby pool, which has like a million sprinklers attached to it.  I mean, it’s probably 5 sprinklers, but there is not a corner of that pool you can stay sprinkler free in, trust me, I’ve tried.  This pool tends to lose interest with 5 years and up crowd. 

Finally, at the bottom of the last hill, is the large 4 foot-deep ‘Olympic Size’ pool with laps lanes and basketball hoops.  This is really where it’s at.  Each time we go to the pool, I stand on the top of the hill and ask the kids which pool do they want to go to today, and without fail, it’s the big ‘Olympic’ pool at the way bottom of the hill.  And this pool is like an evil mirage because it looks so much closer than it is, and ten minutes later, you finally get there (Fifteen minutes if the kids have to stop and take stock of everyone else’s floaties and water toys) and you wish the trolley could transport you from one pool to the next, but given the sloping of the pool decks, a ski lift would be more appropriate. 

And once we’re in the pool it’s like the most fun in the world, and they love it, and I try to get them to work on swim strokes and they ignore me, because just holding on to your mom is way more fun than swimming on your own.  But they’ll get there, and skills increase and fear subsides (Kate actually has zero fear, despite having basically zero swimming skills).  Nick practises his cannonballs and Kate practises inhaling less water than before.  And hopefully they will gain a love of the water and build good memories of summertime at the pool.
  

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Summer Reading

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

To Whom It May Concern:

Today is the first day of September, but I'd like to take you back to the First of July.  Some sixty-two days ago, the Summer of 2016 held so much promise, so much hope, there was nothing but endless sunshine and carefree days ahead of us.  Some of us would go to camp.  Some would go camping.  Some travel, road-trip, hike, bike or swim.  Others stay-cation in the back yard or practice escapism with the help of books or movies.  My July, however, was going to look more like this:



Just before leaving the office on the evening of June 30th, I flipped over my Grumpy Cat calendar to see this beautiful mug of a cat, reminding me of what I already knew.  July was going to suck big time.  Or was it?  No, it was.  I've spent 12 years of my professional life on this cyclical roller coaster.  I knew by now what months sucked more than others, and which days of which months sucked the most.  I had it down.  If I wasn't such a lover of predictability, I might actually dislike the repetitiveness of the financial reporting cycle, its deadlines, its deliverables, its drivers.  January always sucks the most but July may be a close second.  If January is the final exam, then July is the midterm.  This July, my boss was handing over all the lending and credit reporting and disclosures to me.  I had a small piece of this pie for the January cycle, and a slightly larger piece for April's cycle, but since then, another manager had left the team and my boss absorbed all that other stuff, so I've been absorbing all my boss' stuff, and so goes the food chain.

I'm also the newest person on the team, having only worked here for about 8 months, after having just served a dime at another bank, and prior to that, a year and change at another bank, who had been mortally wounded by the financial implosion of 2008.  I was familiar with lending and credit reporting, but the word on the street is that the full package of lending and credit reporting would amount to a slow and painful death, basically consuming the month of July.  I was kind of hoping that the end of June would go on forever, like a warmer, critter-less Groundhog Day.  But the transition from June to July was palpable in the office, as July 1 rang in a new era for several other staff on our floor (unrelated to my issue) but it warranted a pizza party none-the-less. 

Pizza in hand (the July 1st event was so monumental, we even had Sicilian pies!!), I got to work, because in addition to this massive amount of work, I also had to do my regular job of ‘Other Stuff’, and maybe also get to see my family and take a shower and regular things people do like this.  Part of me was looking forward to the challenge.  If I could pull this off successfully, I’d be a new(ish) hire with a bargaining chip, or two.  If not….well… yeah.



"Take a break and get away / Run away with us for the summer
  (Hamilton, the musical)

So with 12 years of working on this financial reporting cycle, summer classes for grad school, summer jobs and internships, I probably haven’t had an unbooked July since maybe 1991?  It’s OK, I tell myself, as I catch the scowl of the Grumpy Cat as I sit at my desk.  What would you do anyway?  Clean the house, do the laundry, cook meals in advance but then not want to eat them, you know, boring stuff.  As I eat my Sicilian at my desk, I scan social media on my phone and see people going to Lego camp and beach trips, and the rooftop party scene is in full effect.  And I see kids (and adults!!) going to writing camp or writing programs and I’m sad because I miss my blog.  I haven’t been on this page in over a year, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about you, Seventh Borough.  In fact, most evenings, on the train ride home from work, I try to switch gears from number cruncher to story teller.  I pull out my notebook from my bag, turn to a clean sheet of paper and jot some ideas down.  But for whatever reason, I feel like these notes and bullet points just slide off the page into oblivion, like grains of sand through my fingers, unable to materialize into a narrative nor congeal into a plot line. 

And I think what excitement do I have to offer here, besides my totally average suburban working mom life, about to be saddled with an incredibly youuuuge work load?  (It’s going to be yyyyyuge!!!).  If you look back at some past posts here in the Seventh Borough, they kind of revolve around the themes of running for trains, spilling coffee, silly things my kids do and/or the ridiculousness of my cats.  And for the most part, nothing has changed.  Over the past year I’ve written several drafts and published nothing, because reading back my own writing, well, it sucked. 

So how do you un-suck?  You practice.  And I don’t have the luxury of time to go to writing camp, so I figured I’d live my story in July, write it out in August and edit/publish it in September.  31 days of small posts jammed into a thirty-day month (looks like some lucky date is getting a two-fer!).  Even though this post is technically only covering July 1st, I’m going to skip ahead for a minute and cheat when I tell you many, many, many times I thought a month of mini blog posts was silly and a bad idea and something I’d only have time for if I was back in 1991, but we didn’t have blogs in 1991 so that poses a problem.  And then I saw this gem of inspiration online:



And if it's on the Internet, it must be true.   

Welcome back to the Seventh Borough!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Deliverance

We were the only ones up and stirring at that hour of the morning.  Despite our proximity to the just-past Summer Solstice, the sun had not yet made its way to our view of the skyline this early in the day.  School had just let out for the summer, or was about to be let out.  Schedules were changing for the season.  It was a time of transition, it was a time for vacations, a time of graduations, a time for commencement. 

We let ourselves out of the house as quietly as possible.  The cats assumed it was time for breakfast, and they got fed the usual.  The cats always think it’s time for feeding.  Once in a while, they are right.  The livery car was early.  We were earlier.  As soon as the black town car pulled in front of our house, we were locking the door, down the steps to the driveway.  The driver made no effort to assist with the bags.  I was unimpressed.  A dozen or so times, a black car has pulled up in front of our house in the stealth of early morning.  We’d be eagerly waiting for the ride, to the airport, for vacation, or sometimes we’d greet the ride less eagerly, and only one of us would get in the car if it was travel for business.  This black car was not airport-bound.  There would be no departures.  There would be no landings.  Today, there would be an arrival.

The cushy, wide back seat left plenty of room for the two of us, plus the arm-rest was down in the center, with water bottles resting in its build-in cup holders.  No eating, I told myself.  We were on local roads, and yet I wasn’t driving, so I sat back and enjoyed the chance to be chauffeured.  We headed north on the Hutch, red and orange sunrise streaking the sky, though still dusk enough that opposing traffic twinkled their headlights.  It was set to be a nice day.  Maybe not a perfect, crystal-clear, low humidity June day, but a good one nonetheless.  The back seat was so ample and roomy, I stretched out my legs, crossed my ankles, and a melody filled my head:

Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you
On the day that you were born the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair
Of gold and starlight in your eyes of blue
                                                     
                                                  -The Carpenters (lyrics: B. Bacharach, H. David)

Best birth-day lyric ever: ‘On the day that you were born, the angels got together, and decided to create a dream come true’.  Sums up how I feel about both of my kids, even the off-the-wall little boy and, of course my littlest one, about to be evicted in three hours, more or less. 

The black car got off the Hutch and switched to I-95, which was basically empty at this hour except for a few trucks.  But they were the big trucks, the semis and the freight haulers.  A few feet from our exit for the hospital, the driver realized he’d have to cut across three lanes of interstate and wove the car between two gasoline tankers.  I shut my eyes and gripped the door handle, and kept them that way until we were in the emergency bay of the hospital.  A few more feet of crazy driving like that and I’d be in that ER on a gurney and not walking myself through the door.  Crazy livery-car driver man had gotten us to the hospital quite early, mostly due to his general disregard for the speed limit and flammable tankers on the road.  An ER staff person wheeled me up to the third floor for Labor and Delivery.  The wheel chair ride was nice and slow and avoided colliding into anything or anyone, though at 5:30 in the morning, there was little hallway traffic as well.  Even the ER seemed to be having a slow night. 

I was deposited into a pre-op room, an internal room with no windows (I was hoping to catch more of the sunrise), but there was a monitor with all the Labor and Delivery patients’ doctors names, delivering some graphic data to the screen in medical shorthand, I killed time guessing the logic to the codes and hypothesizing which patients were faring better than others.  I saw my doctor’s name on the monitor, so he had another patient here already.  I sat on the bed in the pre-op room and looked at my phone a bunch of times but there just wasn’t much going on at 5:30 in the morning on a calm Thursday in June.  Rob sat in a nearby chair and did the same.

By now, the sugary-mellow Carpenter’s tune had left my head.  The near-death experience on I-95 and the beep-beep of medical telemetry were clearing my head and sobering my mood, just the way a nice, strong cup of coffee would have done (I’d prefer the coffee – but no pre-surgical eating!)  The baby is coming, it’s just a few hours now!  But I wasn’t excited.  I was excited.  But I wasn’t excited.  There was this one last, very big step, before the baby would arrive, so that I could be, well, close to her.  Though pretty much everything went fine during the last thirty-nine weeks of pregnancy, from taking my vitamins, to tests and blood pressure readings and sonograms, this was not a difficult pregnancy, it surely had its uncomfortable moments, but we weren’t in the high-risk group.  Yet it all came down to this.  The actual delivery of the baby, the final step.  There would be no labor.  Just delivery.  Just deliverance.  Repeat C-section.  Relax, you’ve done it before.  Lay down, have baby surgically removed, recover, easy-peasy!

Just before six A.M. I received a face-time call on my phone.  It was Nick.  “Mommy where are you?”  OMG, child, don’t guilt-trip me now, I’m really very new at this balancing act called ‘Mother of Two’.  I snuck away in the early darkness and left you sleeping soundly in your bed with your Grandma for a good reason.  It’s been a long day and it hasn’t even gotten started yet.  I told him “Sister is coming, I’ll see you soon”.  There was some other chitchat about eating breakfast and ‘go to school!’ (I later found out my mom let him stay home), but I wasn’t sure I convinced him to chill out because I couldn’t convince myself to chill out.  I had to get to deliverance.  Then I could chill out.  (Yeah, right!)

A nurse and a tech came in, and gave me the run down.  I changed into a gown, and got poked with an IV line for a few tries, then I got hooked up to a monitor and my metrics were now on the telemetry screen too.  I was on deck.  This was getting serious.  A nurse took my medical history, and I guess now was as good as time as any, even though this information must have been supplied somewhere prior, in my pre-certification or from my doctor’s office or from the first time I had a baby, somewhere, no?  (I have to interject – the pre-certification form asks if you are in the hospital due to an accident.  I assume they mean by cause of a workplace or motor vehicle accident, but I’m thinking pregnancies could go either way.  I checked the “no” box.)  We were approaching 7AM and the turmoil of shift change, so many different nurses and techs were in and out.  Many of them asked me if this was my first child, to which I replied “no”.  Once you identify yourself as a repeat delivery or experienced mom, I think the conversation takes a different turn.  When you have your first, you get responses like “Congratulations”, “Best Wishes”, “He/She’ll be lovely”.  When you have baby #2 or beyond, you get a look like “Welcome to Extreme Exhaustion Again”, “You Know You’re Crazy” and “How old is/are your other child(ren)”.  If the nurse/tech also has kids, and it seems like most do, it opens the door for them to tell you about their kids.  Whatever the combination or permutation of children, age ranges and genders, all responses are met with a few, pre-set answers; polite, superficial, small talk.  These conversations are all followed by the same, desperate, tired look, of nurse-moms ending their shifts, in need of a vacation and a martini.   Ladies, I hear you.

My obstetrician, Dr. Bob, came into the room.  He seemed worn down from his other patient.  I was concerned.  “Go get a coffee”, I said (and I need one too, OK?) I quickly glanced at the monitor to compare beeps and graphs with myself (doing nothing) and his other patient, doing, well, I don’t know what.  He seemed happy to see me, a scheduled, lower-risk, repeat C-section.  I think we all know why he wa$ happy to $ee me.  I wa$ a patient with a very predictable circum$tance.  Repeat C-$ection.  Fully in$ured.  We all knew the drill.  I wanted to say, let’s go grab a coffee and chit chat about some other light conversation we’ve had during this third trimester:  my new dishwasher, your trip to Myrtle Beach, the up-coming wedding of one of your nurses… anything.  He seemed to be looking forward to the predictability and precision of a surgical delivery.  And even though I felt he had done a very good job delivering Nick, I just wanted to get it all over with, the surgical part, the part where they put a needle in your spine, the extreme nakedness part, the part where you stop breathing until you hear baby's first cry, the part where everybody is in your business, and I mean IN YOUR business in the most literal sense.   I just wanted a coffee.  Does anyone want to let me have a coffee?

No.

Coffee addiction aside, I was nervous about this delivery.  You have your first child all starry-eyed and hopeful, but you have your second (and subsequent) child(ren) knowing full well what can go wrong, with either of you, because now you have experience, and you have more mommy-friends, and you have their experiences, and you have context.  And in the back of your logical, prepared mind, you know that the possibility of health issues that can arise is both broad and multi-variable.  When you deliver a second child, who is healthy and intact, you can’t help but think it was nothing short of miraculous.  Forget modern science and in$urance coverage.  Nothing short of miraculous.

Dr. Bob stepped out and the anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself as Dr. L.  He asked me if I was allergic to anything.  I thought to myself, well this would be a hell of a time to find out? “No.”  I’ve never had an allergic reaction to anything, even if I’ve lied in the past and told people I was allergic to hot dogs just so I wouldn’t have to eat them.  I doubt hot dogs would make their way into the spinal, but you never know. 

It was go time.  Game faces on.  The OR was ready.  Dr. L was ready.  Dr. Bob introduced the second surgeon, but he was a blur, so I’ll call him Dr. X.  I have a feeling he was a student.  I hope he had had enough coffee, and enough sleep.  Dr. Bob announced we were delivering a baby girl today, and everyone seemed on board.  A fourth doctor came into the room, Dr. T, a neonatologist.  He was tall and bearded and a bit Santa Claus-ish.  He would take care of the baby, once delivered, alongside two neonatal nurses, plus two other maternal/OR nurses.  4 (or 3.5) doctors, 4 nurses, one scrub-clad daddy and me in my breezy hospital gown and compression booties.  I’ve gone to cocktail parties with less people (though not lately). 

I sat on the edge of the bed, hunched over and waiting for the spinal.  There was an issue with my medical bracelet, well, basically, I didn’t have one, so they had to fix the bracelet printer thingy.  We waited for a new printer cartridge.  And we waited.  And we waited to print a bracelet thingy.  And we waited a little more.

A few weeks earlier, the Wall Street Journal ran articles about the horrid conditions of maternity hospitals in India, and the pressures on their health system given the growing population.  I also read a story about how the biggest challenge to labor and delivery in a southern African nation was how the hospital kept running out of electricity.  A non-profit group was distributing the equivalent of flood-light back packs to help assist with night time procedures.  And here we were, in Greenwich, Connecticut, unable to print an ID bracelet – something we could technically assemble by hand.  Four nurses, a hospital with plenty of electricity and air conditioning, not to mention computerized equipment, a Greek neonatologist, an anesthesiologist from the former Soviet Union, a Jewish obstetrician originally from Queens, a daddy from the Bronx, a mommy from Brooklyn, a fourth physician at our disposal, so insignificant I can’t even remember his name (sorry, Dr. X) in a hospital with a wing named after a client of the Private Bank for which I used to work.  They say it’s not about where you start in life, dear baby, it’s where you finish.  Thursday’s Child has far to go.

As the anesthesia took over, I just felt this overwhelming sense of dread, heaviness in my limbs, and nausea.  I did not want to have surgery.  I wanted to have my baby, but I didn’t want to have surgery.  Having never been through labor, I really didn’t want to have a labor either.  I didn’t want a labor.  I didn’t want a surgery.  I just wanted my baby delivered through, I don’t know, reverse osmosis or whatever.  Just come out, baby.  No fuss.  No booties.  No four doctors and as many nurses in my room.  No needles in the spine.  No recovery.  No trauma.  No drama.  No stitches.  Just my baby.  Just a healthy baby.  (And a coffee).

It would just be a few minutes now, I told myself, trying to self-soothe, as I lay back on the table, limbs splayed and being gutted like a fish.  One arm outstretched with a blood pressure cuff.  The other with the IV.  Dr. L at my head asking if I was alright.  I couldn’t even answer.  Drs. Bob and X were chit-chatting about a restaurant.  That was my signal that things seemed to be going OK if their banter was casual.  Just a few more minutes, I told myself, but I was mesmerized by the overhead lamp, a wide circle filled with several little light bulbs, their heat pored into my skin.  I was on fire.  I was cold.  I was really nauseous.  I felt drunk.  Dr. L was speaking in tongues.  Rob was missing. No he was there, but I couldn’t understand anyone, surgical masks muffling all dialogue.  I was on a trip, or maybe a hallucination.  Later I found out I was on morphine.  I thought they only used that stuff on terminal patients.  What was to be my fate?  Whoa.  There was pressure, and pulling, and more pulling, and a lamp searing into my soul.  I was ready for this to be over.

I felt a release of pressure and the baby had been delivered.  Though none of the doctors seemed worried, two seconds, perhaps even only one second passed before she cried.  But in that fraction of time and in my hallucinogenic state, I aged ten years. 

I had only been in this new, upside-down position for only a short while, and it wasn’t all that comfortable anymore.  I was relaxing, waiting for breakfast to head my way, but today things seemed out of routine.  Our usual night time rest seemed shorter than usual.  By now, Mom would have had some coffee, if not a full meal.  I’m not sure what was going on, so I went back to my usual games of staring at my hands and sucking on my fingers, these things taste good!  I was going to start stretching out my legs for the morning, as my little home was closing in on me and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could take such cramped confines.  Suddenly, and without warning, a light shone into my little space.  It was bright and blinding. And things were getting loud, lots of voices, but where was Mom?

I was pulled out of my little, warm, cozy and squishy nook and now found myself in a bright, cold, vast space surrounded by masked people in blue.  I was so disoriented, I paused for a moment, and as the cold, dry air was starting to chill me, I let out a wail. 

And then I heard it.  A nurse recorded it at 08:27 Eastern Standard Time.

Everybody was talking.  But I was listening.  Everybody was busy.  But I was trying to focus.  I needed to hear it.  I needed to hear the sound of baby’s first cry, of baby’s first breath.  That was my confirmation.  That was my deliverance.  There was my little love.  There was my miracle.  She was my blessing, and she was here, pink, gooey and breathing. 
  
Some gloved hands put me down to rest on papery, blue sheets.  I was cold and confused and blinded by this huge lamp with hundreds of eyes.  I shut my eyes and cried.  I didn’t like this set up.  I was not a fan.  I then felt some tugging on my food tube.  ‘Umbilical Cord’ was the phrase I heard them say and then, snap!  They cut it off!  Wait, what about breakfast!  What about the coffee?  I needed that!  That was my source of food for my entire life! 

This day was going from bad to worse.  One blue-masked man picked me up and handed me over to another blue-masked man, who walked me across the room and put me in a box with clear sides.  I was poked and prodded and measured and then they smeared some goo over my eyes.  I was basically being tortured, starved and frozen.  This was the worst day of my life.

This was one of the happiest days of my life, even though I felt like crap.  I could see Dr. Bob hand the baby over to Dr. T. and then the staff split themselves into two teams: baby care and mom recovery.  I caught a glimpse of her, and she was tiny and cute and splotchy and had the look of ‘WTF?’ on her small face.  I’ll see you on the flip side, little one.  Now I just had to keep it together, or rather Dr. Bob had to sew me back together and I had to get off this morphine-induced magic carpet ride.  I either had had a baby, or had a hallucination about having abdominal surgery.  I’m pretty sure it was the former.  My job was done.  (Ha! My job(s) were only beginning!)  My body returned to carrying only one heartbeat, instead of two.  A new soul had entered the universe.  The world gained another pair of feet, ready to explore, another set of hands, ready to grasp, another set of eyes, ready to observe, another heart, ready to love. 

I was pretty furious over my eviction, so I cried some more, and then I peed.  A lady put a diaper on my tush and a little cap on my head, but I was still pretty cold.  The blue-masked man kept booming out statistics with his big voice and gesturing with his arms like he was flying.  “Seven pounds, eleven ounces”, he seemed to be shouting.  “She’s twenty inches long”, “What will be her name?” His voice reverberated across the room.

“Kate.”

Wait a minute, I recognize that voice! It’s Mom!  Where is she?  I can’t see her.  I heard another blue-mask ask her if she was ready for a third child, and then I heard her again, laughing, almost wildly so.  I cried louder thinking, Mom, if you can hear me, I’m being held captive and I need your help!

Mid-surgery, Dr. Bob asked me when could he expect baby number three.  Despite my nausea, I laughed, if not partially choked.  Hold your horse$, sir.

Third child?  Who else are we talking about?  Then a bracelet was put on my wrist and another one looped around my ankle, they matched but one had a little box on the end of it.  Maybe that’s where they put the food.  I was getting kind of hungry.  I was scooped up and wrapped in two blankets, tightly tucked in and starting to warm up.  The prodding and measuring was over.  Maybe the worst of today was behind me.  Just as I was settling into my swaddle in a clear box, I was scooped up again and whisked across the room.  I was placed in the arms of another blue-clad man.  He brought me close to his face and I saw his big, green eyes taking stock of me.  “Hi, Kate”, he said, the voice was familiar.  It was Daddy!  Thank goodness, I thought.  Dad, you will not believe the day I’ve had!  I could use some cuddles.  Dad kissed my cheek and swiveled around on his stool, placing my cheek next to the face of a woman.  Her eyes looked tired but her smell was so recognizable!

“Hello, my sweet baby.”       

Mom!  My parents were here!  This day was getting better by the minute.  She kissed what little parts of my skin were exposed, and not wrapped in a blanket nor covered by my cap, and she whispered to me:

On the day that you were born the angels got together
hmmmm….mmmmm….mmmmm…
Just like me, they long to be
close to you…

And with that sweet tune, my snug-ness re-secured and my parents near, I drifted.
Off.
To sleep.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A River Runs Through It

Silver cities rise,
the morning lights
the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on
with a song.

We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

                -Carly Simon

I left my house in darkness.  I boarded the train in darkness.  I emerged from the tunnels of Grand Central in darkness.  It was the end of December and everything was very dark, and cold, and dark all the time.  It was a Monday, or a Wednesday or a Friday, one of the days I go into work super early so I’d soon be at my desk before the sun rose.  December 31st is our fiscal year-end so I was going in super early to get things done.  I don’t work late any longer.  I have day care pickup.  So I work early.  But early or late, in December, everything is dark.  And cold.

But this day I was going to take a little detour before going to work.  I swung west towards Fifth Avenue and walked past Rockefeller Center, past the big, illuminated tree.  I didn’t stop, I didn’t cross over Fifth and actually go into the plaza, I just kept walking, looked at the tree and that was it, my big holiday season viewing of this giant, midtown arborous tourist trap, check that one off the list for 2014, move on.  Christmas was over and now it’s just dark December. 

I kept walking north, past St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and as I got to the corner of 53rd street, pivoted right, while keeping the pace of my brisk walk, and turned east.  And there it was. 

The beauty and order of Manhattan’s grid system, lends the vantage point that some cross-town streets have the perfect setup for catching the sunset, or sunrise.   And in the early hours of this cold, dark, but clear and crisp winter morning, looking directly eastward I saw morning’s first light rising behind the tower of doom. 

And there it was:  the tower of doom.  Or specifically, our Long Island City office tower, a fifty-story greenish glass tower of urban zoning mismatch and corporate mayhem. 

With the sun beginning to rise behind the tower, it looked almost ablaze, and part of me wished that the building would just burn down.  I mean, let’s be clear, I wouldn’t want it to burn down with anyone inside.  I do not wish for anyone to be injured.  I’ve ‘evacuated’ that building when summertime brown-outs were putting high-rise elevators out of commission a few years ago, and nobody needs a panic.  But if that building, that stand-alone glass house in western Queens, could just disappear, just be swallowed up by the Earth, if it could just implode, or perhaps be engulfed in a Sharknado, that would be great.

I had worked in that building from 2005 through 2011, and in three weeks I would be moving back. 

As I walked through the hallways of our current office, still happily located in Midtown East, I zigzagged around moving dollies, dumpsters and pallets of flattened cardboard boxes yet to be assembled, labeled and filled with office treasures.  We were preparing for the move as a group, but some were more ready to pack up and go than others.  Everything would have to get packed, including the file room (which was a small library), personal effects, such as a favorite stapler, tchochkies celebrating system roll-outs (for example I have a ‘magic wand’ for the roll-out of Client Wizard, but it has no magical powers when it comes to getting discontent coworkers to co-operate.  Trust me, I’ve tried).  Some coworkers have the ‘Balance Sheet Pyramid’ knick-knack.  The pointed tip of this thing could easily be used as a weapon, and its base a true blunt object.  People should consider the impalement factor when designing these things, or else it’s death by accounting toys, that is a horrible way to go.  The crap that adorns everyone’s desks has no real monetary value, but we all love our stuff.  I had to pack up my recent purchase, a mint-green pencil holder I found in the dollar bin at Target, a little something to brighten up my lack of moving enthusiasm.  And I still had to pack my drawer of black dress shoes, because like many office workers, I commute in my sneakers every day. 

I’ve been through a company move before, and that one went quite well, and that whole office building had just undergone a fantastic, modern renovation.  But I’ve never moved with one team back to the floor and building I used to work on with another team, and this is what I was not looking forward to.  Not only was I aware that this floor had not been renovated in forever, our relegation out of Manhattan and into Queens was basically a reinforcement of where our group sits in the grand hierarchy of people who matter.  We weren’t worth our high-rent district any longer.  I had told one of our managers I felt like I was going backwards, as if place is an indicator of position and going back to the same floor I had been on was like my whole career was going backwards.  He reassured me that where you sit is not an indicator of what you do, and the whole company is being shuffled around as leases get renegotiated and contracts change, this was only temporary.   And I knew that was true for everyone, but we move to a fifty-story building and we have to go to the one exact same floor I had been on prior, what is the chance of that?  The one exact same floor that is home to the team I left three years ago on my own volition.  Nope.  We couldn’t pick another floor.  Out of fifty.   We.  Couldn’t.  Pick.  Another.  Floor.



That first Monday came around, our first day in the new building, or the old building or I guess 2015 is truly the year of Back to The Future.  Backwards.  Forwards.  Whatever.  I had my metrocard and it was back on the subway for me.  I hadn’t owned a metrocard (or one with actual money on it) for a while, I just had my commuter rail pass and my sneakered feet to get to and from work for 3 and one half years.  The timing of all this is funny because I spent both pregnancies commuting to work without having to take the subway, except for a one-off trip here or there.  I thank God every day for sparing me from having to be pregnant while having to take the subway.  I missed out on a whole smorgasbord of vile smells and odors, pushy people, extreme personal space invasions, probably not ever getting a seat, escalators that don’t work, elevators that are death traps, vermin, nutjobs, crowds and, did I mention, bad smells.  Now it’s as if post-partum life ended, and my freedom from the subway has also ended -- fateful timing. 

I bought a coffee in Grand Central (the biggest size they could legally sell me), as a little ‘umph’ for having to go further underground and get the seven train.  Little did I know Long Island City has zero (0) breakfast wagon carts.  Zero.  As I walked down the flight of stairs to the 4-5-6 trains, and then further down to the 7, I passed a woman with a shopping cart selling hats and scarves.  Apropos for January, but I had remembered a woman with a shopping cart in that exact same spot selling churros.   Granted it was over three years ago, but what happened to her?  Or was this woman one and the same with new merchandise?  Or did the rats get all the churros?  I’d have to get filled in on 7 train life after my hiatus.  What else did I miss?

As the seven train pulled into the station, I noticed it was more crowded at this time of day than it had been in the past.  More people are reverse-commuting into Queens than before, no joke.  One face on the train stood out and I quickly realized it was my former manager.  I knew I would be running into him on our (new/old) floor but on the seven train, already?  And why was he on the train before me?  He comes into Grand Central like I do, he should get on where I get on.  I was suspicious and I was not ready to deal with awkward circumstances, so I hopped into another train car and laid low. 

It would only take about two minutes for the train to slide under the East River and emerge into this once-upon-a-time dockland area of the western-most tip of the land mass that is Long Island.  But those two minutes represented a world of change.  And the East River, technically not a river, but rather a post-glacial salt water tidal strait, was my natural boundary between good and bad, between relevance and obsolescence, between opportunity and isolation, between energy and stagnation, between professionalism and crazy town.

Two stops into Queens, the train rises and traces an elevated track via a ‘S’ curve.  As the train emerged from the tunnel, I noticed much had changed to both the LIC and the Manhattan skylines.  Long Island City, which had been constructing high-rise apartment towers here and there, now had residential towers by the dozens, and a few old industrial brick shells re-fabricated into apartments and lofts just the same.  Some looked inhabited, others were still works in progress.  And as the seven snaked its ‘S’ curve left, then right, it was easy to spot the slim silhouette of Park Avenue’s new 89-story apartment tower on 56thstreet to the northwest, and the thick metal girth of the new World Trade Center to the southwest.

I exited the seven train and walked towards our office building.  When I got to the building, I hoped that my ID card would not let me through the turnstile.  But it did.  When I got to our floor’s lobby, I hoped that my ID card would not let me through the doors.  But it did.  I guess I was supposed to be here.  I guess I was really here.  This was really happening. 

A yellow and gray sign bearing my name hung from the ceiling above my cubicle in our somewhat open-plan workspace, but I already knew where my seat was, and I already knew who had sat here before me from my prior tour of duty on this floor.  My boxes full of desk treasures, dress shoes, files and a magic wand were waiting for me next to my new workspace.  I began to unpack and re-situate my stuff in a workspace layout in which I had already spent five years.  But this time I had a few new accessories to add to my desk.  My $1 Target find.  Knick-knacks from our corporate sponsorship of the last two Olympics.  Business cards stating a rise in corporate title.  A framed photo of a baby girl.  A mousepad chock full of photos of a little boy.  

A yellow and gray sign bearing my name hung from the ceiling above my new cubicle.  But my last name on that sign was not the last name I had when I moved out of this building a few years ago.  Landscapes were changing.  Cityscapes were doing what they do best: reinventing themselves.  Maybe I would do the same.  But first, I'd have to secure a new coffee dealer in my new (old) world.  And maybe a churro too!