As I open the Pandora’s box of playbills, ticket stubs, and other memorabilia from 2017, I feel a strange anxiety. What emotions and memories will overtake me as I remember the year that was? Will I regret missed opportunities, or feel embarrassed at some of my shenanigans?
The dull olive-green box made of woven reeds is also reminiscent of Moses’s basket, bobbing in the river water as the babe escapes murder and meets his fate as the leader of a people. I think this will be my main regret of 2017. I wanted something truly momentous to happen–to be discovered, to have a clear sense of vision and direction, to begin a fantastic creative project that will bring me joy and satisfaction. The dreams of many who come to New York, I’m sure!
What actually happened was that I spent the year looking for a home. I also went out and did a lot of fun things with friends, as you will see below. And I spent more time and money than one would have thought possible seeking treatment for a neck injury.
This latter pursuit brought me to all corners of Manhattan as I tried one specialist after another, which involved taking different subway lines and meeting medical staff in various offices, from Chelsea to SoHo to Park Avenue, and many points in between. I tried hypnosis, acupuncture, acupressure, physical therapy (multiple practitioners), massage therapy (multiple practitioners), the Alexander Technique, osteopathy, chiropractic (multiple practitioners, including old-school, Quantum Spinal Mechanics, and fascial manipulation), cranial sacral therapy, and atlas orthoganal therapy! I spent close to $17,000 out of pocket, thus facing one of my worst fears about moving from Canada to the US, which is that I will be bankrupted by health costs.
And of course, there was a national and global anxiety underlying my personal anxiety that I might never be well. People around the world and in the US were facing much more terrible problems and fears than me as I struggled with the unease that comes with having something wrong in the body–which many of you can relate to, sadly. So I had my personal challenges of health difficulties and fear of the unknown, but there was also a pervasive social anxiety about the fate of the country. What many view as the wildly inappropriate behavior of the current president shattered people’s views of a safe and just society of shared values of acceptance, tolerance, and concern for each other. Countless times over the year my friends expressed concern that the social safety net built up over the past decades will be torn apart irreparably. And also that environmental damage will be irreversible, so that the very planet we live on is doomed. So a pall of gloom and fear underlay the year of 2017 in New York City.
Dozens of people asked me why I moved here, at this point in history. In fact, it was the first thing everyone asked me when I said I had just moved here from Canada. The second thing they said was, “Everyone wants to move in the other direction!” Even at my co-op board interview to buy the apartment that has become my delightful new home, this was the first question they asked me! My answer was unfailingly the same: because I am in love with New York.
I have followed this love blindly, unknowingly. I trust in the pull of my heart, and the feeling of rightness in my body, which I experience whenever I am out and about on the city streets, marveling that I actually live here, but my rational mind is still lagging behind. What am I doing here? I don’t know! And I suppose this is true in the bigger scheme as well–what am I doing here on this planet? Why do I exist? What am I meant to do in this lifetime? This question has been nagging at me throughout my adulthood. There is a grand panoply of life and color unfolding, and I am part of it. But that isn’t enough of an answer to satisfy me.
Looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it’s clear that the move to New York and the neck injury set me back to earlier stages of the pyramid that had been nicely settled in Vancouver. I knew at the outset when I decided to move to New York that I would be disrupting the nice secure world I had built for myself, but it seemed like a waste of my life to just settle there on my sandhill and watch the world go by!
1 – Physiological Needs
The first layer of the pyramid is physiological needs, and the search for shelter is truly what preoccupied me this year. I made an offer on three other apartments before finding the Mark Twain building and succeeding at my offer here. I made offers on apartments on W. 9th Street (snatched out from under me), W. 10th Street (too expensive), and Horatio St. (turned down by the co-op board), before ending up in my dream apartment on W. 12th Street! I learned a lot of fascinating information about New York real estate, and feel I emerged from the battle victorious.
2 – Safety Needs
The second layer, safety needs, also dominated as I sought to recover my health. The quest for healing the neck injury, as outlined above, occupied much time and money. Luckily, I have almost regained homeostasis, and my most recent atlas orthogonal adjustment held until the next day. The pain is gone, and I have discovered so much about my body, and particularly the physiology of the neck and atlas, that I can see the gift in the challenges I faced. Now I have a great support network of health specialists I can call on, and I have learned to do self acupressure as well–the final piece of the puzzle for self-care. Recommendation: Acupressure’s Potent Points.
3 – Social Belonging
Social belonging is the third level of the hierarchy. I have probably spent a disproportionate amount of my time in social pursuits this past year, and perhaps the motivation has been the unconscious need to build bonds of friendship–more than a true desire to go out and see so many plays, movies, ballets, and musical performances. OK, maybe it was a two-fer!
I do recall the pivotal moment during the Race to Deliver in November, when I felt a simple sense of belonging as a member of the New York Road Runners. Not because I am special in any way or wearing a David Bowie costume, but simply because I’ve shown up and participated and run with these people over and over again. I also spent a lot of time writing emails to a wide network of friends and family, as you have probably noticed! It is definitely a conscious need that I check in with when I assess the state of the nation of Karen Rempel. Am I current with everyone? Have I caught up on all the emails? Did I forget someone’s birthday? Sorry to say, I did forget a few this past year, but I hope people will forgive me.
I was happy to spend time in BC with my mom and siblings in April and May (celebrating Kim’s 50th birthday in Tofino–wow!), and caught up with many friends in Vancouver at that time as well, right before the official move to New York on May 21. The Vancouver goodbye party launched me into my new life feeling so much love and support from you all. I know it will take time to build this kind of depth of connection in New York. I could feel the difference when I had my New York housewarming party, and half the guests who said they would come didn’t show up! But with those who came, and some who didn’t, I do feel bonds of love and caring, and I know that these friendships will continue to deepen over time.
4 – Esteem
The fourth level in the hierarchy of needs is esteem. This is an interesting one, encompassing both the need to be respected by others, and the need for self-respect. The need to be respected by others can manifest as the desire for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. Truth be known, this could be the “corn” or sore point for me. When I think back on painful events of the past year or more, this unmet need is often underlying the hurt. I remember the day I ran the marathon, in November 2016. I had a celebratory dinner afterwards at a restaurant on my block with a handful of my closest friends. One friend arrived 20 minutes late and then monopolized the attention of the group by talking about her day! I had just run for over 5 hours, and the dinner was supposed to be about me–a chance to share my experiences and bask in the limelight for a little while… I still feel hurt and puzzlement over that event. But of course, if what Maslow deemed the higher prong of esteem–which is self respect–was more firm, I am sure I wouldn’t have felt so hurt by my friend’s thoughtlessness.
To balance that out, I recall another friend acknowledging to me my accomplishment of buying my New York apartment. She said that few women she knows have managed this under their own steam, based on earning their own money through their careers. As we talked about this, I remembered the pivotal point in my life when my father died, and I realized I couldn’t wait any longer to have a man to pursue my dreams with. I decided to act on my own, and soon after purchased Monkey Valley by myself (with the help of loans from my family members), which is of course what eventually made it possible to buy my home in New York. My friend’s recognition of my accomplishment warmed me inside, and helped my self respect get a little clearer so that I can feel it tangibly. In the sea of anxiety that I have floated in this past year, I haven’t always been in touch with my personal ground of confidence. I need the help of my friends! To misquote the Beatles.
5 – Self-Actualization
Self-actualization is the fifth level of the hierarchy of needs, and this has definitely been a driver in my move to New York. I have a sense of destiny pulling me (together with my heart) and the feeling that I am meant to actualize my being in some particular way. Sometimes I feel it is simply to be, and interact with others. This has been one of the strongest delights for me this past year. Interacting with people as I go about my day, and feeling the joy of connection. There are the staff at Jerri’s–my laundry guys–and LifeThyme, where I get my groceries. My gym (Barre3) made me feel like family right from the beginning, and I feel a sense of belonging at the Joffrey Ballet Center as well. I have taken the Absolute Beginner’s ballet classes for adults 3 or 4 times now! People in the post office, in the subways, on the streets themselves. Bartenders and restaurant servers… Everywhere I go, the warmth of human connection is so satisfying, I wonder if this is my purpose, pure and simple.
However, Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. And here I feel I have so much further to go! I think that I focused mostly on physical and athletic accomplishment in the past year, which is great, but I haven’t been pursuing creative aims as I expected. That is definitely a goal for 2018.
However, I reached a new level of muscle tone, strength, and definition in the Barre3 classes, and learned to tolerate and stay with the burn when it seems impossible. I feel I have actualized a peak level of fitness, and this is an amazing accomplishment which has informed my running as well. I conquered a certain fear of reaching my limit, by exceeding it as a regular occurrence in these classes.
Another unexpected development has occurred with my dance skills. These are very rudimentary in any formal form of dance, but I feel a huge sense of accomplishment in freeform dance–I feel the synthesis in my body of the many different disciplines I have studied, and immensely more freedom in the possibility of movement compared to earlier in my life. I haven’t set out to actualize myself in this direction, but have simply been doing what I love to do. It has been an unconscious impulse, and now perhaps I am making it more conscious by telling you about it.
I went to London and Barcelona for the Christmas holidays, and I held the question in my mind about what is my purpose, what am I meant to do? What is my gift, how should I contribute? I was disappointed to come home with no big “ah-ha” moments, no clear inspiration. But the most fun I had was going dancing one night with two young Londoners, and watching Flamenco dancing on my first evening in Barcelona. The word DANCE is looming in my mind. I think I wrote it on a piece of notepaper while away… What to do with that, I don’t know. I went dancing on New Year’s Eve, at a club called Cielo in the Meatpacking District. I’ve signed up for ballet classes three nights a week at the Joffrey, and I’ve also signed up for a beginner’s course in Flamenco.
I loved dancing on stage at the Orpheum at the David Bowie tribute in 2016, and I have noticed myself wishing to be in a dance troupe when I see groups performing. There, I’ve said it. I want to be a dance performer. I am definitely afraid to say this out loud. I don’t like to want anything that I can’t have. And I was such a miserable failure at beginner’s jazz dance class in the fall! My menopausal brain could not remember the sequences of moves in the choreography, and I was mortified at how bad I was… So there you have it.
6 – Self-Transcendence
Self-transcendence is the sixth and final level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He added this one later in life–it wasn’t part of the original pyramid. He came to believe that the self only finds its actualization in giving itself to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality, which is essentially the desire to reach the infinite. As my own spiritual development has unfolded in its uneven and bumpy way, certain areas shine and dominate, then subside back into the morass of the ego again.
You may notice in this exploration of the year that passed a theme of the yearning for spiritual actualization in the world, mixed with the needs of the animal instincts and egoic confirmation. It’s all part of the stew, and I would say that all the levels are intertwined, while in this human form on this uncertain earth. Those moments of joyful interaction with others, and joyful expression through physical activity, feel like the most pure spiritual expression of my purpose on earth. The quiet moment I spend alone meditating before bed is a different type of spiritual expression–a personal connection with the divine or infinite. I have a sense that my soul can and does have that type of connection outside of human form, between physical incarnations. It supports me, just like food and air and water, to sustain me in this lifetime. A daily moment of self-transcendence. I don’t feel called to pursue this type of experience as my full-time occupation at this point in my life. However, looking back at the beginning of the post, and the word “anxiety,” I know that being in touch with the deeper reality of the divine, infinite true nature is actually the only cure. The trick of self-actualization is to sustain the connection with the infinite while engaging in expression in the finite world.
Highlights of 2017
Now for the Pandora’s box of 2017 highlights!
- Completing the final stage of the A&W project, which entailed putting the standard operating procedures through French translation. I sometimes worked 70 hours a week to get this done, and pushed myself as hard as I ever have on a work project.
- The day spent modelling on Cornelia Street. I truly felt like a high fashion model. I loved the beautiful clothes and the compliments and admiration of strangers. And Krystyna was so fun to spend time with. One of the best days of my life!
- Dressing windows at Krystyna’s Place! A new form of creative expression involving fashion and design that I loved.
- Doing phone inquiry on FaceTime with two friends from Vancouver and having them tell me to buy this apartment (based on the Streeteasy link I sent them)! Thank you, Maylynn and Shira!
- Buying my New York apartment. The day I got board approval was a thrill, but it wasn’t a surprise as it seems it was a foregone conclusion. It felt so right, there was a sense of inevitability about the decision.
- A thrilling date night with a British architect. (I know some of you have been most interested in my love-life, which is rather non-existent and obviously has not been a focus this year.) This date really stood out, though, beginning with the Rockette’s Christmas Special at Radio City Music Hall, followed by a drink at the Top of the Rock, and then another drink and late-night snack in a roof-top lounge on the trendy Highline, with glorious views of the Hudson and the city.
- Meeting James Spader in the hallway at the Village Vanguard. We chatted for a minute. His hand was very warm and full of presence.
- Publishing 3 articles in the WestView News. My first New York publications!
Gorgeous decor of the fantastic Osteria 57, which I reviewed for the WestView News–fabulous people run this place, and I rang in the New Year with them–twice!
- Having a private tour of David Hockney’s exhibit at the Met, with David Hockney, my dear friend Arthur, the artist Ricardo Nazario, and others.
- Visiting Abbey Road, 221B Baker Street, and Paddington Station in London, and the aforementioned dancing outing with two beautiful young London women (Isabel and Hilami) who took me to a grime club on the tube.
- Dinner at Jean-Georges with a dear friend. Definitely the most extravagant restaurant setting I’ve been in, with about 8 waiters attending our table, and exceptionally wonderful food and wine pairings.
- Attending a black-tie gala awards dinner at the United Nations, honoring former vice-president Joe Biden (and buying my first ballgown for the event!).
- Being photographed for Getty Images at a swank art gallery opening in Chelsea. I went to Bernie Taupin’s opening there later on another occasion, and spoke to the man himself, whom I thought was a jerk!
- Playing the piano at Small’s jazz club (after it was closed) for my friend Ed.
- Having the bartender in my Barcelona hotel pour me a drink without asking what I wanted! A brandy Alexander. So sweet! And watching teens in a dance competition on the TV in the lounge.
- Doing the New York Road Runners 9+1. So satisfying! So hard to make myself get up early and take the subway to Central Park or Queens or the Bronx when I am a late afternoon runner by nature! The 10-mile race in the Bronx, with my Vancouver friend Angela, was definitely the toughest and most satisfying of all the races I did in 2017. But the most fun was winning best costume at the Retro 5-Mile Race!
I won based on audience applause, perhaps because I danced to a Guns N’ Roses song played by a band after the race–and I was the only one who danced. 😉
- Going “down the shore” to watch the eclipse with my friend Mike.
- Having a gaggle of models over to my place and then modeling together in Washington Square Park for a pop-up runway show!
- Getting my first local client, which was a New Jersey client a 3-hour commute away, and turned out to be a very short project (ugh). But it was a US client, and I got to bill and then deposit the money in my LLC’s (which I formed myself!) bank account (harder to get than forming the LLC!). An important foundational milestone for my life here in New York.
The Contents of Pandora’s Box
And now for the lists (including one or two early highlights from 2018):
- 2018 Hello Dolly – Bette Midler – with Heather
- The Ferryman – at the Gielgud Theatre in London
- Sweeney Todd – at Barrow Street Theatre – with Marlene
- A Bronx Tale – with Angela
- Spamilton – with Michael
- Noel Coward’s Present Laughter – Kevin Kline – with Arthur
- A Doll’s House, Part 2 – with Angela
- The Color Purple – with Angela
- Kinky Boots – with Angela
- Sunset Boulevard – Glenn Close – with Angela and Marlene
- The Liar – Classic Stage Company – with Deborah
- The End of Longing – Matthew Perry
- Oslo – Lincoln Center – Deborah and Marlene
- Alpha 66 at T. Schreiber Studio – Steve Jones – with Margaret & Marlene
- Schreiber Shorts – Steve Jones & Bill Barry – with Margaret & Ed
- The Great Comet – with Deborah & Rosanna
- Indecent – with Sally & Bill, Deborah, Marlene, Rosy
- 2018 Phantom Threads – Daniel Day Lewis (lives on the same block I lived on–W. 10th) – with Deborah
- No Man’s Land (British National Theatre live performance of Pinter play)
- 20th Century Women (Cinepolis Chelsea)
- Song of Granite – with Dan & Deborah
- Monterey Pop – saw 3 times, with Deborah, Marlene, and Guido
- The Divine Order (at Film Forum) – with Deborah
- Manifesto (at FF) – with Deborah
- Dumb Girl (at FF) – with Deborah & Angela
- Other Side of Hope (FF) – with Guy
- Bird on a Wire (FF) – Mike & Deborah
- Voices of Ascension Mozart & Haydn – church next door!
- Meredith Monk’s Dancing Voices at Lincoln Center – with Deborah
- Bellini’s Norma – Sondra Radvanovsky – with Deborah
- Eric Reed Quartet at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club – with Michelle & Daniel, and also at Village Vanguard
- Ravi Coltrane Quartet at Village Vanguard – with Lew
- Bunuel’s/Ade’s Exterminating Angel at the Metropolitan Opera – with Deborah, Marlene, Tom, and others
- Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center – Debussy & Ravel – with Deborah & Marlene
- Mezzrow’s jazz club – Marlene & Jos
- Winter jazz festival – multiple clubs and performances including Ravi Coltrane – with Ed
- Jazz club in Sleepy Hollow – with Ed
- Guns N’ Roses at Madison Square Garden – with Dan nearby
- BC Recorder Society Spring Showcase (in Vancouver) – featuring Taksu with Patricia Nichols
- Donny McCaslin (played on Bowie’s final CD) at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall – followed by Small’s jazz club – with Ed
- Paul McCartney at Barclays Center (night of first co-op board interview–Horatio St) – with Lew
- Pete Townshend’s Quadrophenia at the Met Opera House – with Mary M
- Joe’s Pub Canada Day Celebration – various artists singing songs by Canadian artists – with Ed
- Roger Waters at Barclays Center
- Duruflé Requiem – Manhattan School of Music – Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine – with Deborah
- Voices of Ascension St. John Passion – with Arthur
- Buika – BB King Blues Club – with Deborah
- Leonidas Kavakos at Lincoln Center – Mahler’s 4th Symphony and Auerbach – with Deborah
- Elias String Quartet at 92|Y – with Deborah and Ed
- Terrell Stafford Quartet at Village Vanguard
- Ravi Coltrane at Birdland – with Ed
- Kenny Barron Quintet at Jazz Standard
- Robert Leslie – Lantern Hall, Brooklyn – with Marlene
- Gran Gala Flamenco – at Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica Orfeo
- Grossman, Phillips, and Paul Taylor – Ariel Rivka Dance – with Deborah
- Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance (3 more outings, multiple performances) – with Deborah and Margaret
- Joffrey Ballet – Romeo and Juliet – friends from dance class (Jacqueline & others)
- Fall for Dance – Program 4 & 5 – Jacqueline; Sally & Bill
- American Ballet Theatre (mixed program, several performances) – with Deborah
- ABT Onegin at Met Opera House – with Deborah
- ABT The Golden Cockeral at the Met – with Deborah
- Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes – with Deborah
- Swan Lake – New York City Ballet – and later attended a dance class taught by two of the principal dancers!
- Queensboro Dance Festival – my teacher Annastasia Mercedes performed – with Rosanna
- Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg – mixed program with music by Tchaikovsky – with Deborah
- Cielo – after midnight (early 2018) with a bunch of New Yorkers all dancing together!
- La Pedrera – Barcelona – Gaudi apartment building and museum
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art – with Arthur and David H. and friends
- MOMA – with Michael
- Rubin Museum of Art – with Marlene
- Whitney Museum – with Lew and Cynthia
- Rolling Stones Exhibitionism
A special thank you to Deborah for curating so many incredible cultural events! You’ve opened up many aspects of New York life to me, in many other ways too. Mille grazie, Bestie D! I’m so glad we rang in the New Year together–a fantastic cap to the year and stirring of the waters to bring in 2018.
- Jerry Seinfeld!! Twice!
- One World Observatory – $68 cocktail including elevator ride to 102 floor
- Authors for Literacy event at United Nations – with Pat
- Wine and Design event on UES – Virginia from Gala
- “Trunk” jewelry show on UES – Lucine from Gala
- Donna Karan’s secret warehouse sale – got thousands of dollars worth of fantastic clothes for $500!
Donna Karan sample dress with her name hand written on the tag!
- Skating at Rockefeller Center followed by a drink at the Trump Bar. It was a couple days before inauguration, and there was a permanent NBC camera focused on Trump Tower. I met a friend at the bar and we went to another bar to watch Obama’s farewell speech.
- Visits to Margaret and Ed’s place in Sleepy Hollow, and fantastic runs along the Croton Aqueduct trail.
- Thanksgiving at Bob’s!
Losses in 2017
And in closing I want to remember the sad passing of a New York writer named John, a man I met through a friend and had one memorable date with at the Village Vanguard. We had a late-night breakfast afterwards at the Waverly Restaurant, and he died the following week while doing Savasana pose in yoga class. May your spirit be at peace, John. I’m glad I knew you, though briefly.
I also feel great sadness about the passing of my uncle, Sebastian Fichtl, a professional zither player and world traveler. May your spirit be at peace, Vastl.
And we also lost my neighbor, Thomas Meehan, in 2017–a great Broadway book writer, who wrote Annie, Hairspray, the Producers, and many others. May your spirit be at peace, Tom.
So that’s the year that was. I haven’t mentioned all the shenanigans I alluded to. There was one involving a toilet delivery… but you’ll have to wait for my memoirs to hear the story! As I think about everything that happened, and the many wonderful visits, emails, and phone calls with friends and family that aren’t even mentioned here, I feel very blessed. How lucky I am! I hope you enjoyed hearing about my year, and I hope you have a fantastic 2018.