Category Archives: London

Wearing trousers on New Year’s Eve

American passenger: So how was your New Year’s? Did you kiss a special dude?

Me: No.

AP: Did you kiss a special dudette?

Me: No.

AP: So what did you do?

Me: I wore trousers for the first time.

There is a moment in every Orthodox Jewish girl’s life when she looks to the High Heavens, fully expecting lightning to strike. For me, there have been two such moments. The first was June 21, 2001– the day after my Bat Mitzvah; the day I assumed full responsibility for all my sins; and the day I dared to sport a short-sleeved shirt in public. It was 90 degrees and humid, a typically painfully New York summer day, and if public nudity had been legal and I had been more comfortable with my body, I would have debated sporting my birthday suit.

Still, despite my commitment to overcoming heat stroke, I was also paralyzed with fear. Men would see my elbows, and what could be more seductive than my funny bones on display? There would be retribution; there would be lightning. And so after a few short moments in the public eye, I receded to my bedroom and opted for more modest attire.

Fast forward 12.5 years, and I make the bold decision to buy crazy, sexy, cool heathen pants. I am not entirely convinced I will wear them, but I use my discount code and go for the spiritual plunge: wearing them on New Year’s Eve in London.

Only once I am in London and surrounded by Jewish peers, I begin to rethink this somewhat bold move. Note: the last time I attempted to purchase pants, I broke down in tears in the GAP fitting room and ran a mile down Broadway shrieking, “Never again.” I wasn’t ready then, and I was beginning to reconsider if I was truly ready now.

But the joy of traveling with a quasi-small suitcase is that you don’t have lots of alternatives. Once you are 3000 miles from home, you must make do with what you have. And so reluctantly and fearful of an impending rain storm, I sported my newly purchased symbol of heresy and boarded a public bus to a fairly large party– where many people who knew my older skirt-wearing self would be amazed (and perhaps concerned) with my transformation.

Then the unthinkable happened. Nobody said a word. And not because they were silently judging my single lady ways, but because nobody actually cared. I was just another rowdy New Yorker in all black attire brooding silently over my beer.

In fact, the only comment anyone even made in reference to my clothing was, “You have a smart blazer.” And my beloved Zavi responded, “Well, obviously, she’s Yaffa.” Though her comment seemed benign, it meant the world to me. I was not defined solely by my exterior. There was a full package, and even complete strangers at the party could sort of see that.

So when I boarded my flight back to New York hours later, and the nosy American grandma quizzed me on the night before, I told her quite simply that I had worn trousers… and lightning did not strike.

When bridesmaid becomes a verb.

If I could marry a city, I’d become a polygamist and marry London and New York. In the last four days, I have been privileged to see “Blood Brothers” on the West End and “Sister Act” on Broadway. And, avid readers, celibacy has never looked so good.

Ironically, in the midst of my musical awakening, two close friends have gotten engaged. While bridesmaid for me has already assumed the power of a verb, I was still surprised, excited, and perhaps even a wee bit  jealous of all of the wedding bells brouhaha.

Two extremely special people are about to embark on a new phase of their lives, while I simply try to get through the 26th of April: the dreaded thesis due date. They are about to become lean, mean baby-producing machines, when I consider a successful day one in which I’ve consumed  my body weight in lattes.

These women have a sense of certainty pervading their futures, whereas I stand the chance of being in one of three continents come the 1st of June. Their futures include bright white dresses involving excessive amounts of lace, and mine is marked by another trip to Anthropologie to find the perfect little black dress.

Needless to say, our paths are diverging. They seem to be selecting the path well-traveled, whereas I– taking my cues from Robert Frost– am opting for the road less-traveled.

Commenting to my mother during the “Sister Act” intermission, I said, “If I became a nun, well, that certainly would surprise a few people. And it would likely qualify as the road less-traveled given the fact that the average age of a nun these days is 76.” Yes, I told my mother I was ready to join the sisterhood in an act of complete spontaneity.

However, for those who know me well, spontaneity is not my strong suit. I prefer the employment of Excel spreadsheets when making major life decisions. Even if I opt for the less popular path, it is a well-calculated decision (and usually made from the comforts of my local Starbucks).

And, as my mother noted, joining the divine sisterhood would just be a means of “escape” from the challenging realities I would prefer not to face. But upon reviewing both Sister Act films, I began to realize something about myself; something I verbally acknowledge, but rarely internalize: I like challenges.

I live and breathe off of challenges. In fact, I deliberately create them for myself so I can properly channel my Jewish neurosis. I take on Oxford-sized balls with little to no funding because I get an adrenaline high from last minute fundraising efforts.

And considering my success in these “challenging” endeavors, I am starting to believe that regardless of my major life decisions (which will be made this Friday), I am capable of handling all of the challenges that accompany them.

And if not– if I fail and find myself scrounging for abandoned cardboard boxes behind my local Starbucks– at least I can say I’m not 21 and pregnant with my third, counting down the days until I can drink caffeine again.

I left my heart in Brooklyn.

Avid readers, I have arrived in the land of cucumber sandwiches. The weather is glorious, in the rain, fog, and sleet sense, and the people– well, they continue to describe me as “gregarious.”

However, as many a New Yorker will tell you, you can take the girl out of the City, but you can never take the City out of the New Yorker. Hence my need to share the following video, which has made me incredibly homesick. It is an ode to my future borough of residence: Brooklyn, and documents the lives of Brooklynites, who adore Michael Jackson, Paris, and Sunday brunches:

And for those well acquainted with the Gentile Giant, expect a glorious guest post Monday morning!

New Yorkers will always wear black until they can find something darker.

New York Magazine asked its loyal readers a vital question– “What makes someone a New Yorker?” And as a loyalist myself, I felt obliged to read every single response. My personal favorite was, “New Yorkers will always wear black until they can find something darker.”

For those who are well-acquainted with my wardrobe, there are but two consistencies: black skirts and black boots. Despite Kate Spade’s delightful “Live Colorfully” campaign, I find myself consistently pulling the black garments from my closet first. And, perhaps, if I am in a hyper-caffeinated state, I add a pop of color.

Generally speaking, however, I resort to my black Longchamp bag when accessorizing. Yes, black bags complement black outfits. And I am in the philosophical state of binary oppositionial denial. In place of viewing the world as painted in strokes of black and white, I just see shades of black– the 21st Century gray, if anyone outside of New York asks.

Now my propensity for dark shades has never posed much of an issue. Though I have been subject to the standard biting commentary (“Oh, look, it’s the Elbow-Concealing Grim Reaper!”), I have succeeded in acquiring additional garments of the black variety without fear of verbal retaliation.

There is but one exception: England. Apparently the “live colorfully” campaign is more than just a means of selling $395 purses; it’s a way of life, or  “modus operandi,” as one such Oxfordian phrased it. And in the midst of my last minute packing crusade yesterday, I realized how few colored garments I had placed in my suitcase.

So I did what any girl who had just downed two Starbucks ventis would do, I ran like the wind to my local Anthropologie, explained my predicament to my personal shopper, and a few too many dollars later walked out with garments in shades of red, green, and blue. Granted, the blue was of the navy variety, but I believe in taking baby steps.

The kicker, though, is the nail polish selection I have opted to sport. In place of my standard OPI Lincoln Park After Dark, which, in truth, is a moniker for black, I chose a most fitting color: “My Private Jet.” Given my red-eye excursion, it seemed the most logical selection– a brown with glittery undertones:

And with that, avid readers, I bid you adieu! When next we meet, I will be across the pond, interrogating a certain health minister about his wildly erratic sleeping patterns.

Brought to you by the letter Starbucks

When in doubt, take a sporcle quiz to figure it out. Yes, avid readers, my new mantra is that every decision can be made with the use of a handy dandy sporcle quiz. Today, courtesy of the Beloved Roommate, I took the “Can you name the city with the most Starbucks?” quiz. I guessed 28 of 30, missing Calgary (seriously!) and Bangkok (um, what?) .

The significance of the quiz, though, is not the two cities I missed, but the top three cities I correctly identified: London (270 locations), Tokyo (260), and New York (216). As a senior struggling to make the career choice that is in my best coffee-related interest, I have continually been drawn to London, and more specifically the graduate program to which I was accepted, and New York, a city that has never ceased to inspire me, though currently provides no source of permanent income.

I imagine, given the quantity of Starbucks locations in Tokyo, I should begin investing in Japanese lessons as well. For now, though, I am content to limit my job search to the two cities that recognize that a Starbucks addiction is a perfectly acceptable and perhaps even laudable caffeine-driven pursuit.

Brooke Shields once said, “No one comes between me and my Calvins.” I would modify that statement and say, no one comes between Starbucks skinny vanilla lattes and me. It is for this reason that I leave you with a video my Albright fellows feel best encapsulates my outlook on life:

*I should note that said recommendation was followed by a link to a blog called “Starbucks Anonymous.” A little research indicates, however, that the creators of the blog soon gave into their addiction and abandoned their advice column to pursue bigger and better cappuccinos.

Dear G-d, It’s me, the grounded one.

And just to clarify, I don’t mean grounded in the rational thinking sense. I mean it literally. While I generally avoid the country  music genre, in the  midst of my canceled-flight-to-England despair, I turned to a country-only playlist on youtube. Most country music is about accidentally getting pregnant or furtively getting rid of a pregnancy– both of which are sorry mistakes for which there can be little relief, except perhaps in a recorded and heavily edited musical number.

When I go into my dark and twisty place, I crave musicals. Though country is a far cry from Broadway, I did happen upon one song that provided a perfect synopsis of my rather pathetic flying experiences. Sung by the country-pop crossover sensation, LeAnn Rimes, who rose to fame at the tender age of 13 and has never experienced a moment of normal American existence since, it is a ballad for those who did her wrong:

“Baby shame on you, if you fool me once
Shame on me if you fool me twice
You’ve been a pretty hard case to crack
Should’ve known better but I didn’t
And I can’t go back”

Yes, this is a song that I dedicate to every British airport that ever did me wrong. A canceled flight due to unsafe flying conditions is acceptable, but when those conditions are a result of British bureaucratic incompetency, it is worthy of an embittered musical number.

After my experience with volcanoes spontaneously combusting/erupting, I thought I had seen my share of crazy weather conditions and flight cancelation causations. I mean what could be more absurd than a volcano that has been dormant for 200 years suddenly erupting the day I am to take off for my Barcelona-Lisbon excursion? And that said volcano, despite being hundreds of miles from my point of departure– England, should disrupt my travel plans?

Enter the worst four letter word of them all: snow. Apparently neither the conservatives nor the liberals included acquiring shovels and melting ice in their campaign platforms. Apparently neither party thought that snow, which just happens to fall on a yearly basis in England, would cause any disruption to any holiday travelers. Apparently, as my cynical self is discovering, they simply didn’t think.

As a result, I will be forced to spend the holiday season in the best city in the world. Yes, there is a silver lining in all of this. After two hours on the phone with representatives from Continental, I rescheduled my flight for spring break– ironically, on the anniversary of the Icelandic volcanic eruption. And in the interim, I will participate in spectacular New York holiday events.

My first stop: Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Window Display. Harrod’s has got nothing on Bergdorf, as evidenced below.

Also, as I am biologically incapable of taking a complete break from reality, I have scheduled my staycation. It will involve a tea tour of Manhattan, a stop at my new favorite store on Broome St, a Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn rom-com marathon, and a bit of work on my senior thesis. Because in the words of Ms. Rimes herself,

“Oh Life goes on
And it’s only gonna make me strong
It’s a fact, once you get on board
Say good-bye cause you can’t go back
Oh it’s a fight, and I really wanna get it right
Where I’m at, is my life before me
And this feelin’ that I can go back”

The Yaffa Plane: Attempting to defy gravity

Though I have no recollection of the following incident having transpired on several occasions, photographs in my baby book confirm that, in fact, the description I am about to share is factually accurate.

As a child, I would often find myself sitting on top of my family’s microscopically-sized Queens, New York refrigerator. My father– for his own sheer amusement, or perhaps to avoid his diaper-changing duties– would place me on top of his favorite technological invention of the 20th Century. Then he would proceed to engage in his usual hyper-intellectual activities, such as reading The New York Times or perusing his 1000+ page  biography on some obscure American president, all the while consuming a favorite beverage in the Fredrick-Blumenthal household: coffee.

Inevitably my mother would return home from a strenuous day at the lab/in the grocery store/on the Starbucks line and have a mild panic attack when she witnessed her one and only daughter on top of the refrigerator– particularly because said daughter would be given little parental guidance from her father, engaged in otherwise literary activities.

Words, er, loudly articulated expressions would be exchanged. And then my father, true to his Mr. Clown sense of humor, would lift me off the refrigerator, exclaiming, “Behold! The Yaffa Plane!” His point, if one can surmise one from his failures of supervision, was that I was capable of defying gravity, reaching impossible heights, indulging my inner metaphorical mountain climber.

Through the years, both my parents encouraged me to continue to fly, and often without the requisite parachute or experienced co-pilot beside me. Placing me in new and creative summer “camps”– ranging in content from African dance to digital photography to rocketry and science– they challenged me to challenge myself.

And though I kvetched about constantly having to reorient myself to new people, obscure places, and unorthodox surroundings, I realized the other day just how much I have internalized the message 6 month old Yaffa could not fully comprehend on top of the family fridge.

In a meeting with my favorite Wellesley professor, who is both outside my two majors and not from New York, Jewish, or in love with coffee, I found myself admitting to him just how much I craved England. Having just begun my London School of Economics MSc in development journalism application, I had Old Blighty on the brain.

Said professor, Professor M, could not help but comment, “My dear, you have this wonderful restlessness in you; it’s the mark of a good journalist. You are ready and willing to enter a globalized world, and to cite one of your favorite musicals, defy gravity.”

I paused, uncertain of whether it was the appropriate time to share my baby story, and instead opted for, “Well, I can’t imagine that trying to defy any other cosmic force would be both as rewarding and as disappointing as gravity is.” And as a senior growing accustomed to the sound of rejection– hence the sudden transition to graduate school applications– I know quite well about the positive and negative consequences of new experiences.

At this point, however, it’s impossible to imagine the costs outweighing the benefits. After all, I’ve been challenging Sir Isaac Newton since I was in diapers.

Meet me in London.