Where the balloons live

Before I headed back to Richmond, I ventured out to the city yesterday for some pre-Thanksgiving fun. Nothing sounded more awesome than watching balloons being inflated by the Museum of Natural History for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I imagined myself happily snapping away as the balloons slowly took form and floated into the big blue sky.

That image was tarnished as soon as I stepped outside. First of all, it was almost dark (This happens around, what, 4 p.m. now?). Second, it was raining. And third, there were too many people there, namely kids. Now, I love kids as much as the next non-maternal woman, but they’re pretty much guaranteed to step into shots, obstruct your view (hoisted on their parents’ shoulders) and the like. In many cases, this still could present the opportunity for great familial pictures, except it was too crowded and we were herded like cattle, nicely encouraged by staff to keep moving so as to keep the next group of gawkers happy.

Instead of happy pictures and big blue sky, there was rain, serious multitasking (one hand on the camera, the other on the umbrella), and disgruntled strangers.

“Watch your umbrella!” said the angry woman behind me.
“It’s not even raining!” some guy muttered.
“Oof!” said another after my umbrella stabbed his neck (I guess you could say this one was warranted).

Further, the floats looked like they were held captive, waiting to be freed the following morning for the spectacle that awaited them. Mickey Mouse wasn’t soaring above us, his white gloves in a permanent high five. A net covered him from head to toe. The Pillsbury Doughboy, making his first appearance at the parade, lay with his head on the pavement, weighed down by sandbags. At the end of the line, men and women in bright colored uniforms inflated yet another one doomed to meet its Gulliver-like fate.

Still, beneath all that unglamorous presentation, I admit there was something kind of magical about it.

Happy Thanksgiving, you.

Mickey under siege. Photographers nearby looked through their photos.


Two pups.

Hordes of balloon lovers.

Smurftacular.

Pillsbury Doughboy eats it.

Lilliputian hijinks.

Pooh from behind. What a great last glimpse.

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Street musicians, Central Park


I had a few hours to kill before a meeting yesterday so I wandered over to Central Park. I’d gone there planning to take pictures of trees, but was drawn to the street musicians instead (finding bare trees at The Mall swayed things that way).

There was Boris, the saxophone player from somewhere near Argentina. When I told him I hadn’t heard of his town, he kindly told me I needed to review my geography (which is true). On a good day he makes more than $100. On a slow one, like yesterday, he expected to make no more than $80. I hadn’t taken three shots before he started talking to me… and kept talking to me, which is why I have no decent pictures of him in action. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it.

Then there was the double bassist under the Terrace by the Bethesda Fountain. Using my nonexistent Russian vocabulary, or something that sounded Russian, I inferred from a conversation he was having with a passerby that his bass was 150 years old.

I sat near him to take pictures, with full intentions to exit past him. I somehow ended up staying a half hour, never making it to the other side.

Then, I was off to Brooklyn.

Becoming a writer

“Because, in truth, I didn’t become a writer the first time I put pen to paper or when I finished my first book (easy) or my second one (hard). You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway. Wasn’t until that night when I was faced with all those lousy pages that I realized, really realized, what it was exactly that I am.”

– Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” featured in Oprah.com

Luxury condo auctions

My latest story, about luxury condo auctions, is now up: “At Brooklyn’s first luxury condo auction, agent advises ‘buyer beware.'”

To get an idea just how long it had been since I’d written an article, my last one was published in January.

But I didn’t sit idle long. I moved back home to Richmond, saved money, had a two-month stint at a law firm (yeah, I’m not kidding), ran a 5k (a big feat for this former non-runner and couch potato), created my online portfolio (still under construction, but I’m so excited to publish it!) and moved to New York to freelance.

I like staying busy, what can I say?

Coming up with the lede used to be my favorite activity. I’d usually have one in my head before I even sat down to write the story. This time, I was intimidated. I hadn’t written one in so long, I felt I’d forgotten how to do it. I probably fudged with the introductory paragraph for about an hour (which is what newswriting 101 tells you NOT to do), and the rest came out in halting spurts of jumbled thoughts. Still, the key is practice, and I already have another assignment to tackle.

As my editor said, it’s like riding a bicycle.