Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 - Growing Pains

Dedicated to those who turn towards the growth and not away from it.

On Christmas Day, I hosted seven of my friends for dinner and before we dug into the collective effort of delicious food, there was some wonder as to what we would toast to.  I, of course, already had an idea.  Passing around a ceramic bowl filled with Angel Cards, (if you don’t know what they are, click here – everyone needs a deck in their life!) I asked everyone to pick a card and wait for further instruction.

The room was abuzz with curiosity as some people had never even seen Angel Cards, let alone understood their purpose.  “Do we look at it?”  “Should we hide it from everyone else?”  I laughed at the easy discomfort amongst everyone as they all wondered what was next. 

I asked each person to take a minute, look at their card and see what came up for them.  Did the word resonate?  Did it make them feel anything?  What could they relate the card to in their life?

I worried about this as often times, at family functions – namely Thanksgiving – I recommend each person offer up – aloud - something for which they are grateful.  The suggestion was usually met with resistance and the feeling that I was bringing the mood down.  I didn’t want this for Christmas, but I felt so excited and grateful to be surrounded by such special people in my home, that I wanted to seal the deal with something that would connect us forever. 

Ironically, I drew Purpose, which I took as a sign, to stick to mine.

As we went around the table, it became clear that my friends were on the same page of reflection and reception.  There was Delight, Support, Gratitude, Truth, Tenderness, Sisterhood/Brotherhood and Faith.  Everyone boldly shared their individual thoughts ranging from the need for more gratitude in their life to being ready to welcome tenderness into their workspace once again. 

It was uplifting and as the conversation began with the group commiserating on what a crap year 2011 was, I started to see that perhaps this year and all its struggle had strong significance.

When I was nine, I remember whining to my father about the aches in my shins and feet.

“Those are growing pains,” he said, kindly, offering to massage away the pain.

“Growing pains?” I asked, happily stretching out my aching legs toward him.

“Your body is growing and sometimes, things don’t all grow at the same time.  You’re getting taller, but your legs are still used to supporting someone smaller.  Don’t worry, it will catch up at some point and the pain will go away.  You’ll see.”

Looking around the table, I saw each person, myself included, in the midst of their own growing pains.  Some needed to be more receptive in their lives.  Others needed to be more assertive in their truth and purpose.  It hadn’t been easy, but 2011 asked us all to push past our so-called limitations, create new boundaries and adapt accordingly.

I saw a lot of things change this past year – in my life and for those around me.  There was death, break-ups, job loss and a boat-load of personal growth.  As we approach the New Year, it would be naïve to think that on January 1st, everything resets, completely wiping away any trace of 2011.  Instead, we can take the year soon to be behind us and use it as a launching point.  Accept the pain that goes along with growth and don’t let it stop you.  If you do, well, then the pain was really for naught.

What was that silly saying in the 80’s? 

“No Pain No Gain.”

It’s time to focus on the gain, my friends, and as we go into 2012, be clear on what you’re leaving behind, but also know – I mean, really know – that it is just as important to recognize all the space you have in your life for possibility and potential.

As for me and my growing pains, I never went back to the shoes that no longer fit or the pants that became too short, because I grew.  I didn’t have a choice either way.  And when I finally hit full height, I forgot all about those growing pains because everything caught up.  Let the growth of 2011 catch up to you and when it does, you’ll be just fine.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chapter 14 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free-Spirit Professional

A warm welcome to visitors - old and new! Please click on the right side of the page in the archives to follow this post from the beginning. It ALL starts in June 2011, so take a look and follow along. As always, thanks for reading and enjoy.

Tony and I had had a short affair.  It was typical:  guy pursues girl heavily and gets her.  Guy tells girl he’s not looking for anything serious.  Girl says okay, but secretly vows to make him love her.  Guy tires of girl always being available and tells her they need a break.

It wasn’t unique nor did it go on for very long.  In fact, I think it took me longer to get over him than the time we actually spent together.  But I learned a very important lesson -  don’t POOP where you eat.  Dating someone in my building seemed perfectly normal when things were going well, but once it ended, coming home was tortuous as I held my breath from the front door all the way to my apartment.

Tony lived on the ground floor and because of that, he never opened the window shade.  At first, I would walk my dog, passing by and wondering what was going on inside.  Oh the life I imagined that guy was leading!  Had it gone the way I’d imagined, he’d be getting laid around the clock by beautiful women taller and skinnier than me; all of whom he’d be madly in love with.

Instead, Tony was busy at work on Hunkmania.

My friends thought I was crazy to get involved in anything Tony, but I felt differently.  Sometimes, it’s best to get close to the very thing you need to get past.  Being back in Tony’s life took the mystique out of walking by his apartment and wondering what he was up to.  My newfound freedom from the corporate life had me feeling good about myself and I was ready to face Tony and make a little money at the same time.

Money.  My new obsession.  I guessed this was how retired people felt as they watched their savings dwindle with no promise of income on the horizon.  I, of course, wasn’t retired, but being on unemployment had its drawbacks.  I could only get a job that paid cash or “under the table.”  If I got paid in a check, I’d have to report the income to unemployment and once they saw I was making money, bye, bye unemployment.

The extra money from Hunk was decent, but I was also getting bored.  Arthur, a guy I knew through Tony, bartended in my neighborhood at a small restaurant called The Cove.  He was a sweetheart and everyone loved him.  I’d stop by once in awhile to see him for a drink or two.

“Ya ever think about bartending?” he asked one night when I popped in for a glass of wine.

The bar at The Cove was small with just six seats.  The décor looked like something out of south Florida with grey tones and pink accents.  The owners were Asian with three other restaurants in the neighborhood – one Chinese and two Japanese.  The Cove was supposed to be their attempt at upscale, but it ended up looking more cheesy than elegant with fake potted palm trees lurking in the corner and mediocre food.

Despite all that, the energy was always good with Albert behind the bar as people who lived in the neighborhood would stop in for a few drinks and a bite to eat before retiring to their respective apartments.

“I’ve thought about it,” I said.  “But it’s practically impossible to get a good bar gig without any experience.”

“You could learn here.”

And so it went.  I came in on the nights Albert worked, for two weeks and he taught me how to bartend.  He was a great teacher – patient and knowledgeable.  And I was a good student, studying the flashcards I’d made with every drink recipe imaginable.

I liked being behind the bar.  That was immediate.  It felt like a stage and being a performer afraid of actually performing, the bar was a perfect place to get my stage on.  When the two weeks were up, Albert announced he was giving up Sundays and the owners okay’d my taking his place.

And just like that, I was bartender!  I was so excited at the notion of my very own bartending gig, not to mention the fact that there was a shift pay and tips, of course.  Life was providing everything I needed to be happy and make the rent.

“There’s just one condition,” Albert said after I practically tackled him gratitude.  “If I let you bartend here, you have to promise to do something about the singing.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chapter 13 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free-Spirit Professional

A warm welcome to visitors - old and new! Please click on the right side of the page in the archives to follow this post from the beginning. It ALL starts in June 2011, so take a look and follow along. As always, thanks for reading and enjoy.

I WILL be posting through the Holidays!

Photo courtesy of
I tried to keep in touch with my friends from the Madsen Group, but as my father wisely put it, “Work friends are because of work.  Once you lose that common thread, there’s not much else left.”

Harsh words from a normally gentle man, but he was right.  Two months after my departure, I’d only stayed close with two people; one of whom had left the company shortly after me.  My other friends all had jobs so my life of freedom and leisure slowly turned into a monotonous routine of, “What will I do to fill up my day today?”

Music wasn’t really happening.  I think I was better at dreaming about being a famous singer than actually becoming one.  I had a lot of ideas, but I was too afraid to try any of them.  Plus, I was slightly disappointed that Puff Daddy (I refuse to call him that other nonsense) and Clive Davis weren’t waiting for me in the lobby the day I quit my job.  Hadn’t they heard I was ready to take the music industry by storm?

I was a rock star in my head and keeping the dream alive inside, meant it would never die.  It also meant it would never thrive.  I couldn’t think about that, because If I did, I’d have to do something and it was just plain safer to sit on my couch.

Plus, I had money to worry about.  A convenient distraction and harsh reality as my finances were starting to tighten.  And while I was still getting unemployment, I needed to come up with something else to do for cash.

Enter Hunkmania.

One morning, as I sat in the car doing my usual street cleaning/writing thing, I ran into Tony.  Tony was an entrepreneur in every sense of the word with several different businesses going at once.  One venture, Hunkmaina, was a male strip show for women he had launched eight months ago.  It was doing well and he was taking things to the next level by going into full advertisement mode.

“I’ve got these postcards that need to be mailed out,” he told me as he leaned his large frame against my car.  A former male stripper himself, Tony had arms like an orangutan and the presence of sleeping giant.  He was a guy from Queens who had a head for business and a thirst for a good party.  “I need someone to put labels and stamps on the cards and send them out,” he continued.

“How many are we talking?” I asked, sitting up in my seat and resting my chin on the open window.

“A lot.”

“A lot” turned out to be over 5,000 and at ten cents per card, I’d found my much-needed extra income.

It was a decent gig in that I didn’t have to get up early and I never had to leave my apartment building (Tony lived downstairs.)  It didn’t really help my loneliness, though it gave me something new to talk about.  Since that common thread of work was gone, I’d have to come up with things to talk about with my friends from the Madsen Group.  

They were counting on me, after all!  You don’t know how many people wished me well and patted my back with envy as they admitted they didn’t have the balls to do what I was doing.  It was a lot of pressure to show those people that I would succeed.

“You’re pursuing your DREAM, Liz,” my friend, Marla had said when I’d called my first week out to complain about being lonely.  “You don’t get to be lonely!  Get out there, girl!  DO it!”

I was doing it alright – exchanging numbers with my new parking buddies and working for the guy who broke my heart a little over a year ago.

Oh yeah, did I mention that I used to be in love with Tony?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chapter 12 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free-Spirit Professional

photo courtesy of

Part 2 - Free at Last

I loved being out of work; especially the mornings where I could wake up when I wanted; no alarm; no mad dash to the subway.  I’d never been a late sleeper, so it wasn’t like I was getting up at or anything; it was just more civilized waking up naturally. 

I fell into a routine rather quickly which consisted of walking the dog, grabbing an iced coffee and dealing with alternate side of the street parking.  Now that the Madsen Group was behind me (along with the hefty paycheck), I decided to cancel the garage and park my car on the street.  Who cared about being a slave to Daily Street Cleaning?  I had all the time in the world!

At first, I liked sitting in my car for an hour and a half on some days, with the windows and sunroof open, driver’s seat slightly reclined, writing in my journal.  I especially enjoyed watching people as they hurried to get to work as I sat there thinking how lucky I was not to have anywhere to go. 

I made friends with the other parking people and quickly realized that they were a close-knit bunch, always looking out for one another.

My first week in, I met the entire cast of characters.  There was Sayjil – a software programmer who worked from home and took care of his young daughter.  Carmella was a retired crossing guard and had lived in the neighborhood for years; and then there was Al who scared me a little at first with his gruff ways and unexpressive tendencies.

“You new?” he asked one morning, when I pulled into a prime Tue/Fri spot in front of my building.

“I’m sorry,” I said, not quite sure what he meant or if he was even talking to me since he pretty much looked over my shoulder when he talked.

“Haven’t seen you before,” he said giving me the once over.  “I’ve been parking my car here for years and you don’t look familiar.”

His demeanor unnerved me and I fought the urge to apologize and ask if it was okay to park there.  Instead, I chatted away, pretending like I didn’t notice his lack of warmth or manners for that matter.

Eventually, Al warmed up and asked for my number.  Not for a date, though.  No…..Al was in his seventies and more interested in not having to move his car.

“Gimme your number,” he grumbled one day – though it was a warm grumble; I’d started to notice the difference.  “If I get a good spot, I’ll call you and let you know.”

Besides my alternate side of the street parking friends, life was a little light on the social front.  I never realized how much I relied on work to feed that part of my life.  Working in an office, there were always people to talk to.  Whether you wanted to chat or not, it didn’t matter – you could if you wanted to.  I missed people.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Brady's December 2011

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of sitting in with the talented boys from NO CALL NO SHOW at Brady's on the Upper East Side.  Check out some of the pics courtesy of Rodrigo Nardoni.

And....don't forget to check out my latest article, "Straighten Up!" on!

 Frank Gabbianelli - vocals, Frank Nardi - percussion, 
Johnny Keys - pretty much everything else!

A little help from Shawn Matzke

My loyal fans from near and far

Daph and Matty

Rodrgio Nardoni sitting in for a few tunes

What a great crowd!
Hoolia with her lens

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Aaaaand....we're BACK!

photo courtesy of

It's hard to believe that it's been over TWO months since I last posted.  I've been busier than ever with lots of exciting stuff and I thank you for all your inquiries as to when Help Wanted would be back.   I'm happy to say that Help Wanted - Tales of a Free-Spirt Professional will be back on Friday.  Be sure to read the last post here so you'll be up to speed.

WHILE you're eagerly awaiting its return, please check out my latest article on - it will blow you away! 

Come on back tomorrow afternoon and check out the photos from a fun night with my favorite band No Call No Show.

Phew! It's been quite a ride!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

STAY tuned...........

Help Wanted will be back very soon!  

In the meantime, check out some of my oldies but goodies:

The Fat White Guy

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

HELP WANTED is taking a short break.......see you in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chapter 11 -HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free-Spirit Professional

A warm welcome to visitors - old and new! Please click on the right side of the page in the archives to follow this post from the beginning. It ALL starts in June 2011, so take a look and follow along. As always, thanks for reading and enjoy.

My final month at the firm was great. I had over $8,000 coming to me after taxes, a new laptop and six months worth of unemployment! The choice to say good-bye to the corporate life and hello to being a full-time artist was looking pretty good.

I had to find a new assistant for Bikram which was my least favorite thing to do. It’s hard to sell a position that you deeply despised. Luckily, I’d had some experience doing so when I hired my replacement for Scott. Lucy was a Marisol’s friend - one of the women who worked across from my desk. She had schooled Lucy on Bikram and she’d still wanted the job.

“I’ve got two kids and jerky ex-husband,” she’d told me in the interview. “I’ll work for anyone as long as the money’s good.”

I admired her ability to just show up for the paycheck. I suppose I did that for the majority of my time there, but it was time to move on and get started on a music career. If Lucy wanted to endure Bikram and his faux-coolness, so be it.

All the girls in the office were sad to see me go, but the nine-to-five world loves a good going away party and mine was an all-day affair. It started with a “Yard Sale” where people were asked to come by and take their pick of the various knick-knacks I’d acquired over the past four years. Apparently, I’d had a reputation for having the best stuff to play with and people showed up in droves to get their hands on everything from my overgrown Chia Pet to the Mr. Potato Head Gina had gotten me for Christmas.

People kept asking if I was sad to go and I kept thinking, “HELL no!” but saying instead, “I’m mixed. I’ll miss the people here.”

After cake and a champagne toast in the conference room, my time at the company formerly known as The Madsen Group was finished and though I didn’t dance in the fountain outside, I threw a penny in it and made a wish towards my new life and all it would bring.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chapter 10 - Help Wanted: Tales of a Free-Spirit Professional

A warm welcome to visitors - old and new! Please click on the right side of the page in the archives to follow this post from the beginning. It ALL starts in June 2011, so take a look and follow along. As always, thanks for reading and enjoy.

In the end, it all worked out perfectly. With Scott’s help, I was able to get “fired” which made me eligible for unemployment. The guys in Tech Support had all been given notice that the new company would be taking over their department and a hefty restructuring would soon follow.

“They’re not even interested in our current inventory,” Damon, the guy in charge of assigning company laptops said when he told me the news. “You’re lucky to get out of here, Liz. Shit, just take that laptop with you. They won’t miss it.”

Damon and I had a history. When I first started working for Bikram, I was in his office looking for a document when I noticed an email from the new Head of Human Resources sitting in his inbox. The subject line read, “Hi SEXY.”

I couldn’t believe it. Bikram and Susan Sherwin? Ugh! She was like sixty years old and he was married! Staring at the screen with my mouth hanging open, I fought the urge to read the email. I came from a household where privacy was so thoroughly respected, my mother would call to tell me she received a bill from my doctor and she didn’t want to open it without my permission.

“Mom!! You’re paying for it! Who cares if you open it?”

But she was adamant – never read anything that isn’t addressed to you.

I repeated this to myself as I double-clicked on the email to open it.

Sorry Mom!

It was short and simple and said,

I thought you’d like the attached picture of me…..see you soon sexy!

This was too much! I had to see that picture. Pushing myself back from his desk, I leaned to the right and looked through the glass window to see if anyone was coming. With the coast clear, I walked myself and the chair back towards his computer and clicked on the picture.

The screen flashed and went dark for a second while the computer made a strange burping sound. There would be no naked picture of our HR Director. Instead, a nasty virus was launched due to me and my nosiness.

I called Damon and gulped into the phone. “You have to get down here – NOW!”

Damon was awesome, cleaning up the virus and lying to Bikram who came back and wanted to know why we were both hovering over his computer.

“I noticed some strange stuff on your desktop, Bikram when I was installing some updates to the firewall,” he said, never taking his eyes off the now dancing screen. “Looks like you’ve got a little virus here. It’ll just take a few minutes to clean it up.”

If Damon were my type, I probably would’ve asked him to marry me that day. Instead, I promised to dedicate a song to him at my next show.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Will Always Have September 11th

A letter to a friend..........

In 2 days it will be Sept 11 - a day forever etched in our souls and embedded in our minds. Our ways have gone separate since then, but it is a day, a moment - a lifetime we will always share. It seems ridiculous... to me not to reach out to u during this time.

And I'll admit, kind of selfish in that you are the only person in my life that will ever know and understand what it felt like to be there that day.

It's been 10 years and life has gone on as it should have, but as much as it has, I can't forget and on the days I don't want to, I find myself lost. Do you feel that way?

You stood next to me at one of the most profound moments in my life - that I will never forget.
It is not my desire to dwell on the sadness of that day. The media does that for me. But, I just couldn't let the day go by without letting you know that I am thinking of you while I am remembering the day and wishing you only good things.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 11, 2011

The healing that can grow out of the simple act of telling our stories is quite remarkable.
- Susan Witting Albert

It always happens the same way.

Towards the end of August, a quiet awareness starts to creep towards me. The end of the summer and its reminders inevitably pull me back towards the memories I promise myself I won’t buy into each year. But then, September arrives and with that, so does the media frenzy. I spend a large part of my time avoiding all “Remembering 9/11” segments at all costs and feeling a mixture of anger and guilt. The anger is because I want to forget and I wish the world would let me. The guilt, well that too comes from the fact that I want to forget and as the day gets closer and the buzz gets louder, I feel a mounting pressure to immerse myself in the pain and sadness along with everyone else.

Instead, I flip into creative mode because that’s what I do when I feel out of control. I walk around conjuring up ideas of what I’ll write about in relationship to my experiences; maybe there’s a lesson in it somewhere. And if I can find it and share, somehow, it will help myself and others heal. But, I never find the lesson and the day comes and goes and I’m sad because yet again, I was unable to make sense of such a tragic moment in my life and our history.

It’s been ten years and I’m still searching for answers. As usual, I’ve got something I’m working on, but I’m not sure I’ll be ready to share it. In the meantime, I’ve decided to post an account of my experience ten years ago. I wrote it a few years after and have never shared it in this space. It feels like the right thing to do and I encourage you all to share your stories here as well. Maybe there is no lesson; but the least we could do is honor the day that tore so many people apart and brought just as many together all at once.

In honor of that, I wish you all love, light and a peaceful heart as we all remember September 11th in our own way.

 Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

I woke up around my usual time, 8am. Mondays and Tuesdays are my days off from working with Thomas. I did my usual thing - got out of bed, turned off the A/C in both the living room and bedroom. It was a beautiful, crisp morning. The kind of morning that makes you realize the Summer is over and Fall is on its way. I opened all the windows in the apartment to let the fresh air inside. I had to move my car by 9am, so I put some clothes on  nylon breakaway pants, a white tank top and sneakers. It was too cold to wear flip-flops.

I came back upstairs from walking the dog and began to check my email with one eye on the clock because I had to move the car at 9am today for street cleaning. In the midst of this, I heard or felt on odd thing, that later would be described as a sonic blast. It was on odd feeling; the building felt like it shook for a second and I immediately felt a change in energy on the street below. I could actually hear exclamations of “oh my god” outside. Something had happened.

I’m not one to look out my window to see what’s going on if I hear sirens or screaming. It’s just not a very New York thing to do. Not because it’s uncool, but more because until that day, as a New Yorker, I’d pretty much seen it all so not much surprised me.

In spite of this, I felt compelled to get and look out the window and onto the street. There was a group of people standing outside looking up to the north at what I thought, was the building next to mine. The energy was so intense that my immediate thought was, “oh my god, someone must have jumped from the building next door.” I’m not a TV person, so the TV wasn’t on and I was winding down my daily computer log-on, so I had no clue what was going on. I just knew I had to go and move my car.

I went to grab coffee at the deli. Inside, people were talking about there being a fire at the World Trade Center. That’s all they said. From our side, nobody could see the plane flying into the tower as it came from the north. I got my coffee and ran into a neighbor. He was in the “alternate side of the street parking club”; one of those people that is out of work and able to sit in the car while the street is being cleaned. He told me about the fire and I said I’d run and get my car and park near him and we could see what’s going on.

Walking to my car, I had to pass the group of people that I’d seen gathered below on the street earlier from my window. I asked casually what was happening and someone said just as casually, “the Trade Center’s on fire”. I turned to look expecting to see what I always see when there’s a fire in a building in Manhattan  smoke coming out of a couple of windows. Instead I saw a giant, gaping whole with flames coming out from the higher floors of the tower. I was momentarily shocked as I’d never really seen a fire up that close. But, again, at that moment, all it was to me was a fire. I spent a few minutes standing there and then was on my way.

I got into my car and wondered if street cleaning would be cancelled. Nonetheless, I wanted a spot closer to my building. I started the car and opened the sunroof. Just as I was putting the car into gear, I heard a loud noise that sounded like a plane coming in for a landing. It was loud and getting louder. I did the natural thing and looked up and there it was, the second plane above my head, so low that I swear I saw numbers on the belly of the plane. I followed that plane with my mouth open and eyes wide and watched it fly right into the second tower. All the while, I was thinking, “Holy shit, what the hell is going on with the radar?” I never once thought about terrorism. Until that day, I lived in a bubble. I liked it that way. It kept me innocent.

From that point on, all hell broke loose. I didn’t even bother moving my car. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. People were running all over my neighborhood toward the buildings. I parked it and got out and made my way back to my building. I remember seeing someone from the neighborhood running towards the World Trade Center. He looked terrified.

I’ve lived in Battery Park City, 2 blocks south of the World Trade Center since 1996. Over the years, I’d see people; ones that I’d never talk to you, but I still felt like I knew them. This one guy in particular that was running was one of those people that I’d never spoken to, but I knew him. I remembered the first time I saw him a few years back, walking a dog; then came the girlfriend; then came the stroller. On that day, as was he running towards the Trade Center, I was sickened by the thought that his wife might be in that building and how I was sure he was desperately trying to get to her. All I remember is the sick feeling I had watching him.

On my way back to the building, I saw my friend and neighbor, Renee. She had her dog, Prince, a rather large Golden Retriever whose been known to have a temper. She was hysterical and running with one shoe, a flip-flop. She was going on and on about how she saw the plane and how we were getting attacked. She asked me to run upstairs to get her some sneakers, just in case we had to run. I obliged thinking that she was totally overreacting. It was just the radars, how could we be getting attacked?

On my way upstairs, I ran into another friend from my floor. Stephanie was the mother of an 18 month old, Melissa. Her husband worked for the Electrician’s Union and was working way up in the Bronx in the Subway near Dykman Street. She was beside herself packing a diaper bag and getting stuff together for fear that we were going to have to run. Again, I was calm and perhaps in denial, but I was telling her it would all be fine. There was no reason to worry about running. What would we have to run from??

I went back downstairs to give Renee her shoes. We stood outside our building and watched the burning towers. And it was then, for the first time, I found out what people were saying had happened. I had my cell phone and I called my sister uptown at her office. She and her colleagues were watching it on TV. It was at that moment, I heard the name, “Osama Bin Laden” for the very first time. My sister was saying he was the guy Clinton okayed a bombing attack against in Afghanistan. All of it was news to me as I stood there watching the fire.

At some point during my conversation with my sister, I began to see things dropping out of the building. There were papers and small confetti-like items that had been coming down from the get-go, but these items were much larger in size and they were dropping as if they had some weight to them. At first, I thought it was furniture. I was telling my sister this and at the same time, I realized it was not furniture falling from the buildings. It was people jumping out of the windows.

There are so many things that I will never forget about that day. This is probably the deepest and most cutting memory of all. I remember cursing aloud to my sister that, “Oh fuck, there are people jumping from the building. I have to go.” I hung up abruptly and watched. I couldn’t tear myself from the painful sight of these people sailing through the air with their ties flapping in the wind. I just kept thinking, “My god, how horrible it must be up there to force them to jump from the 100th floor.”

I went upstairs to my apartment to see if my mother had called. I kept trying to call her, but I couldn’t get through on my cell phone. I got upstairs and still couldn’t reach her. There was a message from a friend of mine who lives in Atlanta wanting to know “what the hell was going on down there”. I remembered being annoyed because it sounded to me like she was trying to bank in on the sensationalistic vibe of the morning.

My phone rang and it was Tino. He and I had just broken up the week before. He worked in Rockefeller Center and wanted to know what was going on. I remember crying and telling him about seeing people jump out of the buildings. He told me to turn on the TV. That was when the Pentagon got hit. He was watching TV and saying, “OH my GOD, they hit the Pentagon. What the hell is going on?? I should get out of here (Rockefeller Center). What if they hit this next??” He hung up abruptly. I went back downstairs still trying to reach my mother.

I remembered Thomas, my friend and boss, who also lived in my building, at some point and I think I even tried to call him. I didn’t’ even think he’d be back from dropping his son off at school on the Upper East Side. I couldn’t’ get through to him either.

When I got downstairs, I found Renee and later Thomas and we all just stood there watching, in awe. It was bizarre at how difficult it was to tear ourselves away from it. There was still so much chaos on the street. The sirens, the running, it was so surreal.

The first tower fell while we were standing on the street. This is the second thing I will never forget. The sound of the building beginning to fall was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Like the sound the ocean waves make when they hit the shoreline, but louder and more powerful. A rumbling and then a crash. I felt the rumbling move up from my toes to my stomach. And then it was like slow motion, the tower fell, just like that. And for maybe a split second, there was total silence. The silence felt like death.

Within seconds, a huge cloud of what I thought was fire, came around the corner just 2 blocks south of us. It was moving in our direction at a rapid pace. People began to run toward us away from the “fire” and all I remember is seeing Thomas put up his hands to say, “Don’t run. Stay calm.” But then we realized we had to run too.

Renee and I grabbed one another’s hand and ran like hell. I remember running and thinking, “This is like a movie.” I kept waiting for the fire and the heat to touch the back of my neck. And for the first time that day, I truly thought I was going to die. I kept thinking about my poor dog, Rufus up in my apartment all alone and how nobody should have to die alone.

As we ran south, it became clear that it was not fire. It was smoke and debris from the tower. However, it was so thick that it was impossible to see in front of us. Renee was running right next to me, no more than a foot away, and I couldn’t even see her. I dropped her hand at some point and tried to turn around and run back to get Rufus. I was afraid he would suffocate from all of the stuff in the air. I couldn’t even see, though, and some random security guy wouldn’t’ let me go back. I remember thinking I would go to my car and get in there to get out of the smoke, but I couldn’t even see which direction to go towards.

The further South we ran, the better the air quality became. By this time, it had passed us by and we were still running, but we could see in front of us. At one point, I was able to take in the whole scene for a moment and I remember thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening. This doesn’t happen here. It happens in the movies or in other countries.” People were covered in gray dust. They looked like ghosts.

EMS was all over the place and the sirens were deafening. It was total chaos. We slowed down to a walk and a man walked up to me and told me I should keep my face covered as most people were doing so as not to breathe in the debris in the air. I looked at him and pointed to my tank top and said, “I can’t really take off my shirt to cover my mouth. What am I going to do, walk around in my bra??” And there it was: the first of many random acts of kindness that day. He removed his shirt and gave it to me to cover my mouth.

At the same time, I saw Stephanie running and struggling with Melissa and her stroller. I ran from the guy to Stephanie and she was saying how she couldn’t get Melissa to cover her mouth. I saw an EMS van that appeared to be taking people into an ambulance for shelter. I ran over to the guy and told him about Stephanie. He motioned for her to get into the van. He gave me four wet towels to cover my mouth. I didn’t’ even say good-bye to Stephanie.

Next, the most bizarre thing happened. We had settled down by the water near where people get on the boats to see the Statue of Liberty. The vendors were already out there as they get an early start. Apparently, one of the vendors tried to sell someone a bottle of water. One guy was outraged by this. He began yelling at the guy and I think he tried to push him into the Hudson River. The vendor was Muslim and had people known more about what was happening, this guy would have been killed. I’m sure of it. But we were all so in it; there was no time to put it all together. A cop broke it up and announced that nobody would pay for water.

From that point on, Thomas, Renee and I just stood there, waiting. There was speculation milling around us about the second tower falling and sure enough, it fell shortly after. We were told to get on the ground to avoid the thick smoke and debris from which we ran from earlier. We were coughing and covering our mouths. At the same time, the fighter jets began circling the city. Every other minute, one would fly by. It was eerie and definitely not a comfort.

We began to make our way back towards the neighborhood at some point. And, I swear every time I thought I’d seen the worst of the worst that day, it just kept getting worse. We ran into our friend Anthony who gave us those masks that painters wear to protect themselves from the fumes. And as we reached the edge of the neighborhood, there was a cop telling everyone to get on the boats for evacuation.

It turned out that there was a gas leak and my neighborhood was going to blow up. No one was allowed back into the neighborhood. I made my way up to the front of the crowd and told the cop that I had to go and get my dog. He wasn’t having it. He said, “Ma’am you CAN NOT get your dog. “ To which I replied, “But I have to get my dog.” To which he replied, “Ma’am. THE NEIGHBORHOOD IS GOING TO BLOW UP, YOU CAN NOT GO BACK AND GET YOUR DOG. NOW, GET ON THE BOAT.” To which I replied, “Fuck you.” I threw down my mask and water and ran probably the fastest I’d ever run in my entire life.

He, of course didn’t follow me. He had much bigger fish to fry. I heard Renee behind me telling me to wait. (Her dog was in the building as well) I yelled back at her to hurry up. When we reached our building, the outside doors were locked. We began pounding on the doors and Hector; our maintenance man wouldn’t open the door. He was motioning and yelling something that made me think he was ordered not to let anyone back in the building. At that point, I was starting to think about breaking the glass, when some woman, whom to this day, I still can’t recall, opened the door and let us inside.

The building was being evacuated as people were coming down the stairwell and exiting through the back door. Our Super, Luis, was standing at the bottom of the stairs with a flashlight since all electricity was out. We ran up the stairs against the others coming down and I vaguely remember Luis yelling up that he had to go. Suddenly, the light was gone and we were in the stairwell in complete darkness.

I’d forgotten to pay attention to which floor we were on and there was no way of knowing how much further up the stairs we had to go. I told Renee, who was behind me to stand by the door and keep it open while I looked to see what floor we were one. Of course, the only emergency light that was working was way down at the end of the hallway. I felt like I was racing against time as I ran down the hall to look at one of the apartment doors to see what floor we were on. 4H. Two more floors to go.

Back in the stairwell, Renee started to unravel. She was behind me saying that she just couldn’t go on any further. I stopped and began to coax her calmly to come closer to me and grab my waist and we would take the stairs together, one at a time. Of course in my head I was screaming, “Hurry up bitch, we are going to die!!” While I was saying aloud, “it’s okay. Good girl, we’re almost there.”

That was the second time that day I was sure I would die.

We got upstairs and agreed to get our dogs and meet right back at the stairs. I ran down the hall and opened the door expecting to find Rufus, lying there, dead. I don’t know why, but that’s what I expected. Of course, he was there wagging his tail. I didn’t really take in the whole scene inside my apartment. There wasn’t enough time. All I knew is that the place was covered with dust. I ran into my room and got my baseball hat, which oddly enough happened to be an “FDNY” hat.

I grabbed a flashlight from the closet, mentally thanking my parents for insisting that I always have one. I grabbed my cash out of the closet, the dog’s leash, the dog and that was it. I was leaving the apartment when I’d heard a distinct voice in my head say the following words, “Take your journal. You’re going to have a lot to write about”. I turned around and grabbed it along with my purse and ran down the hallway and back to the stairs.

I had my period that day. First day – heavy flow. I didn’t even think to take a tampon.

Renee was not at the stairs yet. I yelled for her to hurry and she came soon after. With my flashlight in hand, I began to run down the stairs with the dog as fast as I could. Renee was calling out to me and I stopped. Her dog, Prince wouldn’t go down the stairs.

Another moment I will never won’t forget.

It was as if there was an angel on one of my shoulders and a devil on the other. The angel, of course, was telling me to go back and help her, while the devil was telling me to save myself and forget her. I went back. That was the third time that day I thought I would die.

I gave her the flashlight and Rufus and told her to “GO!” and I would take care of Prince. I ended up giving him a big push down the first flight of stairs which thankfully, got him going. We reached the end of the stairs and switched dogs and ran out the back door to the boats to evacuate. It was like what I’d always imagined nuclear fallout to look like. The neighborhood was practically deserted. There was about 4 inches of ash on the street, burnt up papers and who knows what else everywhere, and the silence mixed with the constant scream of sirens.

We got to the water and were directed to get on a Police tugboat. The deck was extremely narrow and I had to carry Rufus, who weighs about 40 pounds. I was sure he would get freaked out and wriggle out of my arms and into the water, making me the reason we didn’t’ get out of there alive. Thankfully, he was still and we got onto the boat. Renee had to stay outside because Prince was too big to be inside the boat.

The cabin was small and people kept piling in. I wondered if the boat would sink and we’d all die anyway. But I made my way as far into the boat as I could. I sat on a bench that surrounded a table, with Rufus on my lap. It was total madness. People were screaming and crying. One couple was going on and on about how they had no insurance on their stuff. Their dog was barking and pissing people off. A heated argument ensued between the couple and another guy. A toddler was screaming and crying for her mother and I remember wondering if her mother had been in the World Trade Center.

I had Rufus on my lap and I just put my head down on him and tuned it all out. I went completely inside myself and began rocking back and forth and saying to him as well as to myself, “We’re okay. We’re okay.” I said this over and over again until we got across the river to New Jersey. As we left my neighborhood, I think the reality had begun to settle into my mind and I started to realize what I’d just been through. It was really all that I could do from losing it right then and there. The adrenaline rush was over and all I had left was the realization of my experience leading up to that moment.

As we reached Liberty State Park, I let everyone get off the boat. I was never one to push my way to the front and today was no different. As I was trying to get off the boat, a fireman reached out and asked if I’d needed help. This gesture of kindness did it for me. I began to shake and cry and just basically, lose it. He and some others helped me off the boat and I think they thought I was injured at first. Renee was there and thankfully strong enough o take care of me. We found a spot on the grass under a tree that, on any other day, would provide a peaceful and glorious view of lower Manhattan. But today, it was front seat to the burning remains of the World Trade Center and our homes.

We just sat there under that tree for a good two hours. Both of our phones had no cell service, so we couldn’t get in contact with anyone from our families. I went to see if I could find a pay phone at one point. I saw a guy whose boat was docked in the Marina and he was outside talking on a cordless landline. I was so desperate to talk to my parents that I walked over to him and basically begged him to let make a call. He obliged and I called my Dad’s office.

There was so much confusion that we really hadn’t even thought of what to do next. It was so sad. There must have been thousands of ambulances that had come from ALL over lined up and waiting to transport victims for treatment. But no one came. We watched the boats come and everyone anxiously stood there and waited as each boat came and went. It was truly heartbreaking.

Renee and I also looked for people from the building and our neighborhood.

We saw a few familiar faces, but no one that we really knew. It was eerie to sit there and wonder about our friends and neighbors and not know where they had ended up. I had gotten split up from Thomas earlier when I’d decided to run back for the dog, I remember looking back at him, meeting his eyes, each of us knowing that we may never see one another again. Later I had found out that he’d gotten up to the GW Bridge somehow and walked back into Manhattan to go and get his son at school.

At some point, our cell phone service returned and Renee and I started thinking about a plan. I spoke with my mother finally and found out that all main roads had been closed. A couple of firemen told us that people were being shuttled to Bayonne, NJ to stay overnight at a school that had been set up as a shelter. The thought of that made me sick. All I wanted was my mother and the reality that I couldn’t get to her was devastating.

Renee and I began to weigh our options. I knew nobody in New Jersey, although friends of my friends had all put out offers for us to stay with them. I really needed something familiar. The only option was Renee’s brother. He lived in Weehawken and had been trying for hours to get to us to pick us up, but all roads leading to where we were had been closed. Renee suggested walking. It was pretty far but I was more worried about finding the way than how long it would take.

We began to walk. Liberty Island is in Jersey City, so we had to walk through Jersey City to Hoboken to Weehawken. We had stopped to get a sandwich and water at some World Foods place on the way. I think that was my loneliest moment. I was sitting there while Renee was inside and I began to think about the harsh reality of my having no place to go. I was so tired and I felt so lost. My world had been completely shattered and I was sitting outside of some random store in New Jersey with nothing but my dog and the clothes on my back. I couldn’t get to my parents’ house. I had no idea what had become of my own home. It was too overwhelming to think about all at once.

We’d gotten the road towards Renee’s brother’s house around 2pm. We finally arrived at his place around 8:30pm. It never felt like 6.5 hours. We stopped a few times to give the dogs water. Our cell phone batteries were almost dead, so contact became limited. The plan was that I would call my parents when I got to Renee’s brother’s house and we’d see if the roads would be open by then. Of course, they weren’t, so I stayed the night.

I remember walking into his apartment and asking if we could turn on the television to see what had happened to us that day. We couldn’t leave the apartment complex, so we ended up making white rice for the dogs to eat. None of us were hungry, so we just sat there. Andy washed our clothes which I had no idea were so filthy. I had a slight rash from the stuff that had been all over me. I was able to recharge my phone with his charger and I spent a lot of time on the phone talking with friends and returning phone calls.

I didn’t sleep that night. I was exhausted, but I still I couldn’t sleep. The bed was unfamiliar, Rufus was antsy. There was just way too much to process and I think it was all milling around in my head.

The next morning, Renee and I took Rufus and Prince for their walks. I remember standing there on the Promenade, with Renee, just looking over at the cloud of smoke emanating from the place where the World Trade Center once stood. It’s hard to explain and understand unless you actually lived in that neighborhood. The World Trade Center had its own meaning to just about everyone in the World. For me and for Renee, it wasn’t a landmark or a pair of buildings that stood tall in the sky.

For us and our neighbors, it was home. It was my subway stop. It was the place I walked through at least 4 times a day. I did my banking there. It was the place I’d constantly complain about because it was always so damn cold with the A/C and all. It was where Christmas decorations would go up WAY too early, in my opinion. And finally, it was the thing I looked for to make sure I was traveling in the right direction towards home. I couldn’t believe it was gone.

Renee and I talked about what we were going to do. She thought about staying on with her brother or going upstate to her parents’ summer place. I was going to go and stay with my parents. We had arranged to meet somewhere in New Jersey later on that day. My mother and sister were going to meet us at Andy’s office to pick me up and take me back home. I have never in my life wanted my mother so much as I did on September 11th and the day to follow.

We stopped at Target to get some things. It’s funny how we had absolutely nothing. Putting my clothes back on after they were washed felt odd. At the time, I was sure that once I got some other clothes, I’d never wear that stuff again. Renee needed stuff to wear. I needed toiletries.

We arrived first to Andy’s office parking lot. I think my mom had gotten lost and he was on the phone trying to direct her. The anticipation was killing me. I just kept thinking that once I saw her I could let it all go completely. I could just cry and cry and I’d feel better. It wasn’t like I didn’t know Andy and of course, Renee. It was just the need to be in a place that was familiar and comfortable after so much struggle and discomfort.

They pulled into the parking lot and my heart leapt into my throat. The next moments are a complete blur to me. My sister and mother getting out of the car, I can recall. But, after that - nothing. The next thing I remember is sitting in the back of the car with the dog on my way back to my parents’ house. My sister was telling me that she’d packed a bag with some stuff for me to wear. My mom was saying something about food and me needing to eat. We established that Rufus needed dog food. I found out that my friend from college was coming over with clothes and stuff for me, later on.

I guess I was in shock. I don’t’ really know what being “in shock” is. I always thought that if you were in shock, you froze up and didn’t move. I was obviously moving, so in my mind I wasn’t in shock. Looking back, I’m sure that’s what it was coupled with exhaustion and an overwhelming need for silence. Though, silence in the months to follow, was the thing that kept bringing me back to that day.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chapter 9 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free-Spirit Professional

A warm welcome to visitors - old and new! Please click on the right side of the page in the archives to follow this post from the beginning. It ALL starts in June 2011, so take a look and follow along. As always, thanks for reading and enjoy.

Because we weren’t fully merged yet, the accounting department from the Madsen Group was still overseeing all expenses on the Consulting side of the firm. On my way there, I ran into Betsy, the assistant to one of the soon-to-be-former partners.

Her boss had come in a couple of years ago when they were trying to build the advertising side of the consulting firm. Donny Horowitz, a legend in the ad world was eighty years old and in my opinion, a few breaths away from a nursing home.

His assistant was a spunky woman in her seventies. With wavy red hair fixed in a neat bun and jewelry always well-coordinated, Betsy was old school, wearing a suit even though the office had gone business casual several years ago.

I’d gotten to know her better during the transition and she became a regular stop on my roaming route in the days before Bikram.

She was in the kitchen making a cup of tea.

“Donny are I done,” she announced dipping a tea bag into a dainty little teacup that looked like it had been stolen from a fancy tea service in England.

“Oh noooo! That’s terrible!”

“Not really,” she said, her arthritic hands wrapping the teabag around a spoon to wring out the excess liquid. “I’ve got my retirement from working for Donny all these years. Plus, I’ve got the matching fund from the Madsen Group which should be a nice, little chunk of change.”

“Matching fund? Do we all get that?”

“Oh sure,” she said, explaining to me that when someone started at the Madsen Group, they were given a retirement fund that the company matched each year.

“But, I can’t touch that until I retire,” I asked, reaching into the refrigerator for a bottle of water.

“You can cash it in whenever you want. No penalty. You’ll just get taxed on it at a higher rate.”

Later that night, I searched and searched for the last statement I received and didn’t pay any attention to. It was for retirement and pretty much irrelevant I figured, until I was over 65. When I finally found it between a stack of paid bills, unopened, I held my breath as I opened the envelope and hopefully the key to my freedom. Scanning the numbers and pie charts of investments made on my behalf, I looked for the total.

“$16, 772.68,” I almost screamed.

I was finally free!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chapter 8 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free-Spirit Professional

A warm welcome to visitors - old and new! Please click on the right side of the page in the archives to follow this post from the beginning. It ALL starts in June, so take a look and follow along. As always, thanks for reading and enjoy.

If this were a movie, I would’ve stood up and told Scott that I was through with being an assistant; through working in a job I hated, denying myself of the creative aspirations burning inside me. And then I’d walk out; kick my shoes off in the elevator and jump into the fountain outside our building in front of the Plaza Hotel, squealing with delight, “I’m free! I’m free!”

Instead, I made a spreadsheet.

I couldn’t just walk out – not with a mortgage, credit card bills and no savings. I spent hours on that spreadsheet, figuring out just how much money I would need to survive. It wasn’t pretty and until I figured out a way to make it work, I’d have to stick around and do my best not to throw up in my mouth every time Bikram asked me to do something for him.

Bikram, like all of the partners – remaining and departed – was given stock options. I had no clue about the stock market, let alone what it meant to have fifty or fifteen hundred stock options, but what I did know was that he was obsessed - spending most of his days pacing around his large new office located on the twentieth floor, watching the stocks go up and down. He’d come out of his office to let me know every move the stocks made. Thumbs up meant things were going well. Head down and hands stuffed into his khaki’s, not so good.

Bikram wasn’t a tall man. It wasn’t as much about height as it was about confidence. At least Scott was kind of out loud about his awkwardness. Bikram tried so hard to be the cool, confident guy with hid rimless glasses, expensive loafers and faux-touseled hair.  Unfortunately, he just appeared to be playing the cool, confident guy. Nobody took him seriously and I wondered why on earth he was being groomed to be the CEO.

It all became clear about a month into my working for him. I’d still made my usual rounds to Scott’s office and upon returning from a quick visit with him and a check-in with our in-house graphics department, Bikram was waiting for me.

Summoning me into his office like a teenage girl dying to tell her BFF the latest piece of gossip, he ushered me in quickly and closed the door.

“Did you talk to graphics?”

I’d played this game many times when I used to sit in Scott and Tim’s corner. I called it the “Warm Up” – the game where people try to get you to give them information without appearing like they’re trying to do so. Bikram was an amateur and I’d seen this in him when he was a lowly Junior Partner a couple of years back. It pained me to have to play along.

“Yep. The document will be ready by noon.”

“Good, good,” he said, clasping his hands as he sat at his desk. “Sit down, sit down,” he said, trying to appear all warm.

I declined. I just couldn’t do it. I’d played gatekeeper for too long to pretend like I hadn’t a clue as to what was coming next.

“Nah, I’m good,” I said, fully aware of the silent stance I was taking against his authority.

“Hey, yeah, so I know you’re all tight with Scott and everything. I was wondering if you, uh, ya know, heard anything while you were upstairs talking to him.”

He cleared his throat nervously as I took my time to answer. I wasn’t trying to play games with this guy – okay, well maybe a little. But the truth was, I couldn’t tell him what Scott and I talked about because it would crush him.

When Scott had asked me earlier how things were going with Bikram, I didn’t hold back. I was so done with it all – ordering lunch, doing expenses and worst of all – pretending that I really cared about what I was doing. Maybe it was because he used to by my boss or maybe it was the fact that he’d confessed to me weeks ago that he really didn’t have any power.

“They’re just keeping me around to show them ropes,” he’d said with an air of nonchalance. “I don’t mind. I like being needed.”

It was his sheer honesty in that moment that allowed me to abandon any lingering professional airs with Scott. We were finally and ironically on common ground.

“He’s kind of an idiot, Scott,” I almost whispered today, feeling just a little guilty about being so blunt. “He doesn’t really do anything all day long except check his stocks.”

Oh, the irony – my complaining to Scott about a boss who did nothing.

“You realize they chose Bikram because he’s the quintessential yes-man, right?”

And still, more irony.

“The plan is to get the core Madsen Group people out completely. They’re just biding their time. I know it. They know; I know it. But it’s fine.”

Scott was so matter-of-fact about it all that I felt fine for him. I’d underestimated him. He knew what was going on from the get-go and had worked every moment of it. It was on that day when I think finally found my respect for Scott.

It was Bikram I was worried about. The poor sap really had no clue. He actually thought they were going to make him CEO because he was good.

Sitting in front him, I was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions ranging from utter disdain to extreme empathy. What could I tell him? That he was just a puppet and as long as he remained that way, he’d “succeed?”

Hell no. I wasn’t going to serve him up a pitcher of company Kool-Aid. But, what could I do? This was the biggest chance this guy had gotten in all his career – who was I to ruin it?

I decided to do what I did best and play dumb and irritated.

“Heard anything? Like, what would I hear?” I said with just enough edge and apathy to make him feel stupid.

“No, no,” he said squirming in his chair slightly, “I just thought that since you guys are close……”

I pushed myself off the wall I’d been leaning against and stood up straight to indicate the conversation was over, shrugging off my conversation with Scott as just “normal catch-up stuff.”

Back at my desk, I remembered I had forgotten to turn in Bikram’s expenses.

“I’m running up to accounting!” I called out, grabbing a large envelope stuffed with receipts.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

For those of you who still believe in happy endings.......

Check out the first four pages of a my friend's soon-to-be-released book, "The Last Blind Date."  Click here to read.

If you like what you read then please pre-order it at this link.  (It makes her look really good and that makes me happy.)

Great job Linda!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chapter 7 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free-Spirit Professional

A warm welcome to visitors - old and new! Please click on the right side of the page in the archives to follow this post from the beginning. It ALL starts in June, so take a look and follow along. As always, thanks for reading and enjoy.

The merger was swift and steady. In just three months, I was without a boss and relegated to the 20th floor. The important people were housed on the 21st floor and for the last four years, I was one of them.

I still had a job and technically, a boss. The new owners of the company had shipped George off to run the London office. The plan was that he’d come to New York once a month, but I’d only seen him once since everything went down. Thrilled with his new role, he’d even asked if I wanted to join him, but I declined, mostly because of the quarantine laws that meant my dog would have to live in a kennel for several months.

Being relegated to the 20th floor and away from the endless closed-door meetings where the fate of Madsen Group partners were decided, afforded me the privilege of operating mostly off the map. George rarely called and with London being five hours ahead, I had most afternoons free to wander around the office trying to appear busy.

No one really understood what the new company was about, though once the announcement was made, we all got fancy t-shirts and key chains with the new logo. The idea was to create a super power of consultants and internet specialists all under one roof. At least that’s what they told us over coffee and bagels one gray morning in March. From where I was sitting or shall I say, sat – it looked like a bunch of new faces pushing out the old faces.

Those who remained scrambled around like eager children trying to impress the popular kids on the playground. In the end, George’s non-ivy league attitude secured his future whereas Tim left quietly the Friday before the merger and never returned.

Scott was a different story. He’d always been the logistics guy and with Tim’s departure and my lack of anything to do, we forged a strange friendship. The office, from which I fought so hard to depart, became a regular stop on my daily rounds of time wasting.

I noticed a gradual change in Scott. Without Tim beckoning him to do his grunt work, Scott seemed, well, lighter. The new powers that be relied heavily on Scott’s knowledge and for the first time in all the years I’d known him, I smelled confidence on his breath.

He and his office stayed put and Claire, my replacement, was the only assistant who remained. Gina had finally been blessed with a baby as we were equally blessed with her departure. I hadn’t bothered to introduce myself to the new assistants. To them, I was just another leftover from the Madsen Group.

“How goes it on the 20th floor?” Scott asked during one of my frequent visits.

“Eh, ya know,” I said, flopping into one of the comfy, leather chairs opposite his desk.  "How ‘bout you?”

“Good, good. Things are moving along nicely.”

In spite of the noticeable changes in Scott, I still found it hard not to do a double take when I’d hear him answer with such a positive slant.

“I asked to be the one to tell you this,” he said, getting up from his desk and shutting the door.

Oh shit. There it was. I was getting the, “In light of the current circumstances, we feel your services are no longer needed” speech.

I wasn’t prepared for this. I had no savings. What was I going to do?

My mind was racing so fast that I barely heard a word Scott said until, “putting Bikram on your desk.”

I scooched forward in the chair and sat up straight. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”

“They want to put Bikram on your desk.”

I don’t know which was worse – being fired or having to assist Bikram - a once, very junior partner, whose transparent, kiss-ass ways bought him a brief seat at the big boys table when Tim was still around.

“Bikram?” I gulped. “But, Scott…….” I didn’t even finish. Scott’s face said it all. There was really no choice in the matter, unless, of course, I wanted to add my name to the termination file.

And so it was done. I was going to be Bikram’s assistant. Apparently, he was being groomed to be the CEO which made no sense to me as I thought the new head guy who handed out shirts and pumped his fist with enthusiasm at the merger announcement was the CEO.

“He’s the Managing Partner,” Scott informed me. “He’s in charge of everything. Bikram will lead the consulting side of the business.”

It’s funny how things turn out because in that moment, I was surprisingly tempted to plead with Scott to take me back on his desk. But, I didn’t want to go back. In fact, I’d spent the last three months thinking my time on the 20th floor had made me an outsider. The truth was that I’d made me an outsider. I didn’t want to do this anymore and it was time to start planning my exit.