Love Research adventures, street interviews, and photos chronicling my search for love around New York City.
February 26, 2010
(Click on the link above to watch my Fox & Friends Interview)
I didn’t sleep much the night before. I tossed and turned and a litany of questions kept running through my head— everything I thought the anchor would ask. Half-asleep I practiced what I would say. The alarm rang at 5 a.m.— finally Valentine’s Day had arrived. I flew out of bed, and scrambled around the apartment throwing on my red suit and fedora, brushing my teeth and pulling together my supplies. Fox & Friends was sending a driver to pick me up at 6 a.m. sharp. I thought “Wow- so this is how the people in TV land live.”
The driver was a gentle man from Bangladesh. I asked him if he drove all the guests for Fox to the TV station. He told me he did a lot of those trips, and he had chauffered a lot of celebrity guests. I told him I wasn’t a celebrity but I had written a book about love. I had spent the last seven years interviewing strangers on the streets of NYC and my book had just gotten published.
He seemed interested, and we started talking about the differences between love in his country versus America. He told me that his marriage had been arranged. He and his wife had never met until their wedding day. Most people he knew had arranged marriages, but surprisingly in his country divorce rarely happened. He said that things were really different in the US, “I drive so many woman home alone late at night. They burst into tears in my backseat. Crying to me they say ‘I thought he loved me but he left me for someone else.’ Sometimes I tell these girls I think that they should save themselves from heartache by holding off on sex until after marriage.” I am not so sure the woman he drove home appreciated his heartfelt advice –and I can’t really see abstinence catching on as a trend in New York City but it’s always interesting talking to strangers about love and over the last seven years I have had hundreds of conversations like this.
We pulled up at Fox’s studio thirty minutes earlier than I expected. 6 a.m. on a Sunday and we were the only car on the streets. He helped me unpack the trunk and reassemble my red shopping cart. We filled it with my folding stools and table, my love research sign and a vase of red roses that still miraculously looked fresh. This was a relief: I had paid the inflated Valentine’s Day price for the two-dozen flowers. I thanked him and pushed my traveling love cart through the front door of the building. A dogged assistant was waiting for me. He looked like he had been up for hours. He led me down the hall into Fox’s guest waiting room. It was 6:30 a.m., and a breakfast of fresh fruit, and pastries was laid out.
He didn’t explain what was going to happen next but ran off on some other errand. I realized I was in a DIY situation. I sat back on the cushy seats and looked at the giant flat screens on either end of the room and tried to imagine myself sitting next to the anchors. They were bright and chipper, and perfectly manicured.
He stuck his head in the door and asked me if I had visited the makeup lady yet. “No, I didn’t know that was part of the plan”, I said. I guess everyone who goes on TV gets the beauty treatment first. He led me down the hall behind a curtain. There was a jolly woman standing at a dressing table filled with hair products. In a thick accent she asked me to “take a seat.” When I asked her where she was from she explained Croatia. She started manipulating my hair like a sculpture spritzing and blow-drying and curling as she described her country. I felt a little bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, when she gets the beauty makeover before she meets the Wizard. My hair ended up in a sassy swag and strangely identical to the anchorwomen’s hair.
Then she led me to the makeup lady who had a table across from her. Her counter top was piled with every kind of cosmetic imaginable. She proceeded to use quite a few on me. Then she told me she was going to give me an airbrush. She took a little device and filled it with foundation and finely misted the entire surface of my face until I had perfect Barbie plastic skin. No freckles or blemishes just one smooth color covering me, like a skin colored mask.
I made several trips to the bathroom to inspect my outfit. I was four months pregnant and my love research suit like most of my clothes no longer fit quite right. I could no longer button the red jacket that used to fit me like a glove. Now I had a tiny gut like a miniature beer belly sticking out. This was going to be one of the last days I could wear the suit. I was pushing it. I hoped sitting down, my stomach wouldn’t be too noticeable. I had looked around for a maternity red suit but had no luck. Most pregnant woman don’t want to attract that much attention in terms of their wardrobe.
The assistant led me into the studio to get fitted with a microphone. Lights and cameras were everywhere. Again, I had that Dorothy-like feeling of entering Oz. They explained that I would enter the set after they cut to a segment on Daytona. I was standing next to a large monitor that showed their cutaways to national and international news. The anchor team sat on a couch surrounded by red roses. They had decorated for Valentine’s Day and Alisyn Camerota, who would be interviewing me, had on a vixen red suit. They were going over the news of the day, a bombing, a murder, and a car crash. I thought about what it meant to talk about love after all that tragedy and calamity. Then they cut to Daytona to talk to a driver who described his race-car as a womb (almost unconsciously, I placed my hand on my stomach).
Next they shuffled me up onto the stage to sit on the couch next to Alisyn. She was plugged into a headset that was feeding her national news, and she was staring at a teleprompter that fed her everything she needed to say. Yet somehow she managed to look relaxed, elegant and present in the moment. Smiling and calm she seemed interested in what I was saying. The interview went very very fast (in tv speed). I said ummms and ahs, but managed to get my words out. Before I knew it, the interview was over, and the show returned to the drama of the day.
Later, I was sitting in Union Square doing love research for Valentine’s Day. A man approached me. He was shy and a bit akward in his approach, “I saw you on television this morning talking about love research.” Now I was the host of the show. I invited him to take a seat and sit down for an interview.
February 3, 2010
According to an MSNBC report, Americans spent as much as $13.7 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2006, up 22 percent from just five years ago. Valentine’s week sales account for more than five percent of annual chocolate sales, totaling $345 million. According to Hallmark, half of the U.S. population celebrates Valentine’s Day by purchasing at least one greeting card. That figures out to be around 180 million Valentine’s Day cards exchanged annually, making it the second biggest holiday of the year next to Christmas. Thinking about all the money spent on Valentine’s Day is overwhelming, so this year I am going to do things a bit more economically.
Here are some big-hearted tips for those of you with small wallets:
January 24, 2010
A long dark weekend in January. Last Monday, I was listening to Gospel music on the radio playing in honor of Martin Luther King Day when my friend called me for a walk in the park. I convinced her we should go to Greenwood Cemetary instead of Prospect Park. My husband and I have become regular Greenwood cemetary goers as it is the most peaceful place in Brooklyn to be. It is also one of the rare spots in the city where you can actually hear silence.
“Nothing in the universe resembles god so much as silence.” –Meiser Eckhardt
My husband says he prefers the company of the dead, over the Park Slope stroller-pushers and joggers that inhabit Prospect Park. Call me morbid, but I sometimes agree.
I’ve been a cemetary goer since I was in my teens. Once when I was in high school I found a tombstone with my name KAREN P. SORENSEN carved on it. A woman, like me, who had lived and died one hundred years ago. Seeing that etched in stone had etched something in my consciousness at a young age. I realized at that moment that life was passing by, and passing quickly. I had better make the most of the moments I had. Visiting cemetaries had also gotten me interested in poetry, and the words of the dead. I admired the great thinkers who composed poetry that could stand the test of time. They could summon words that outlived even their physical existence. People like Kahlil Gibran who was a 13th century mystic whose powerful words still move us hundreds of years after his death.
“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Growing up in Racine, Wisconsin, a depressed Midwestern city with very few places for teens to hang out the cemetary had been a place to go and think. It had offered a space for contemplation. For this reason I still think it is an ideal place to visit with someone you love. Being in a graveyard you can’t help but have a rich and meaningful conversation. How can you not think of eternal things when you are passing by tombstones.
When I visit the cemetary with my husband we quietly walk and honor the dead. We read the names off the stones, noticing birth and death dates. My imagination takes hold as I think about the story of their lives. Often there is a family all buried together their graves spaced gently apart. Sometimes a couple will get a tombstone together. The husband’s name will be carved with his death date. Beside this there will be a blank space for the wife’s name and date waiting for the day when she passes.
Seeing such a thing makes time together feel even more precious.
So Monday, I took a walk with my friend who was visiting Greenwood for the first time. She admired all the tombs and statues as we talked about relationships, and our dreams for the future. She told me about the love she craves, and I spoke about the baby I hope I will someday have. My friend is wild, passionate and never follows any rules.
When I am with her I feel reckless, and I throw caution to the wind. We meandered up and down and through the cemetary’s many paths losing our way. If I had been walking alone I would not have strayed so far, but with her I lost track of the time. We both knew that the sun was setting and the gates would close at five. But it was a spectacular sunset and it was so peaceful to be there. Suddenly I checked my cell phone for the time and we realized we had five minutes to find our way out.
I have no sense of direction at all so I led us in the wrong way for quite awhile, until she took over. Eventually at 5:08, we got to the gothic spired gates and found our car and started off. We made it through the main gates but realized driving down the road that the twenty foot high metal outer gate was securely locked with a chain.
We were shut-ins, and in a panic I thought that we might spend the night in the cemetary. Which wouldn’t be entirely bad because it would be an experience, and it would make a funny story. But luckily we called the emergency hotline and a bemused patrol man eventually came to our rescue. He did make us wait for quite awhile and I got the feeling that this sort of thing happened more than occassionally and when it did he drew it out. Relishing the fact that he was the only one with a key to the gates of the ‘city of the dead.’
January 5, 2010
It’s 2010, already. Unbelievable isn’t it – how quickly time passes? I’m taking time to reflect on the previous year and thinking of resolutions for the new one. I live in New York, one of the most hectic, fastest-moving cities in the world. I love the city and chose to move here, but lately I have been feeling the urge to just ‘slow down.’ Everything is always moving in fast-motion guided by the notion that time= money. At my job, my co-workers are always multi-tasking and rushing to cram into a single day what realistically should be done in a week. My friends are always making plans, on top of plans in the fruitless effort to have more fun. Personally I always feel in a rush: I eat fast, think fast, talk fast and walk fast. Perhaps I am just worn out and need a radical lifestyle change. Maybe after nine years, it is finally time for me to throw in the towel and leave NYC to move to the country.
If I had it my way, tomorrow I would not wake up at the crack of dawn to travel to work on the packed subway car at rush hour. I would unplug to move at my own speed letting my inner rhythm guide me throughout the day. Well, at this moment living in a cottage in a remote village in Ireland is still just a dream but here are some thoughts on ways to slow down.
When I told my friend about my goal to slow down, she said that there is a book called In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed, by Carl Honore who offers some inspiring examples of a growing worldwide ‘slow’ movement.
“It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”
Honore, who lives in London, said last spring the city held the first Slow Down London Festival where the city’s residents were offered a rare opportunity to take a break from their rushed lifestyles. Personally I would love for the Festival to come to NYC. Are there are other New Yorkers out there who feel the way I do and want to slow down the pace of your lives just a little? If you’re like me and wishing to lower your life’s speed limit, here are some thoughts for inspiration. First a list of things to observe when you need inspiration, and second a list of activities to follow that will help you reset your daily metronome.
Slow things to observe for inspiration: