Monday, May 31, 2010

DaFoWo Goes To New York City!

Kristin Campbell in Manhattan Although we did not see the nicest parts of New York today, my friend Kristin and I had a nice time in the city, strolling around and catching up. Kristin and I worked together back at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where we wrote, produced, edited and hosted a weekly Web show called "The DaFoWo Show." It was quite good given our limited resources. Some bits were a lot better than others. It improved. It was fun to do. The show ended when she moved to New York, the state, and now she's somewhat recently relocated to New York, the city, residing in Brooklyn.

John @ AP Our activities included a very mediocre lunch in Queens -- options were limited because it's Memorial Day, and we decided to have lunch at 3:20 p.m. -- followed by trekking out to The AP so I could get a sense of tomorrow morning's commute. It will take about 40 minutes door-to-door, although of course tomorrow I'll be sure to leave more than an hour just in case.

We also stopped by The Yale Club, which is right next to Grand Central Station. I'm going to join tomorrow. It's got a fitness center, a bar and various other amenities I can enjoy over the summer, as well as special summer events for young members, including gin tasting, a wine dinner and an "All-Ivy GALA Mixer" for gay and lesbian alumni. There are also film screenings, book discussions, poetry nights, concierge services, discounts at stores ... lots of stuff. And my train goes through the Grand Central stop every day, so it will be no trouble to hop off.

So John In New York Summer 2010 is starting off quite well. I shall be off to bed early so as to be especially refreshed for orientation tomorrow.

I'm totally in New York, y'all

Feet up Many of my sources of anxiety can be put to rest. I have navigated the spaghetti of highways, had no trouble finding my summer dwelling, parked easily, and -- above all else -- entered the apartment successfully using the keys that had been sent to me. I am now putting my feet up for just a little while before unpacking, showering and, I hope, getting together with one of my friends from back in Fort Worth who happens to live in Brooklyn.

I mentioned previously that aspects of this summer internship make me feel as I did nine years ago, when I was interning at the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio. Appropriately, I was bombarded and delighted with a bizarre number of songs from my college on the radio on my way here. I heard "Waiting for Tonight" by Jennifer Lopez, "Be With You" by Enrique Iglesias, "The Hardest Thing" by 98 Degrees, "I'm Like a Bird" by Nelly Furtado, "Always on Time" by Ja Rule & Ashanti ... stuff I almost never hear anymore. I mention that not because it's the least bit interesting, but because I thought the song titles might bring back fond memories for some.

OK, let's get New Yorkin'.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I could leave today, but ...

Squirrel I am packed and more or less ready to go to New York. There's still enough daylight that I could probably load up the car and get to Queens tonight. I have the keys, and the apartment is mine for the taking. But I think I would rather arrive in the morning, so I'm going to hang around here tonight and pace.

Besides, the look on this squirrel's face really says it all. The forest creatures of New Haven don't want me to leave! Sorry, little rat with a cute tail.

Nothing says "I love you" like a son who sees his parents for the first time in months and probably the last time until Christmas and neglects to take a picture. But their visit was very whirlwind. Here, lunch and gone, pretty much. I mentioned that SOM was 10 minutes away by foot, and my mom wanted to stroll over to see it -- my dad has, or claims to have, trouble walking, so he declined. Of course, a 10-minute walk for a 31-year-old who is late to class is like a 25-minute walk to a 67-year-old woman with a knee problem. You'd think we were hiking the Appalachian Trail. But now, at least, she's seen where the magic happens.

A 4-year-old's birthday

Vinnie and a firetruck Yesterday, I spent more time at Toys R Us than I ever have, or ever expected to, trying to find the perfect presents for my nephew who is turning 4 on Wednesday. I can remember my own 4th birthday, believe it or not. I remember being in the kitchen, tugging on my mom's apron and asking if I was 4. Adorable, right? I think she yelled at me.

This trace of a memory leads me to believe that Henry, the birthday boy, may actually remember this birthday for years to come. Unfortunately I can't be there in person, because I'll be at my second day of work at The AP. But I can at least send along a present. I got several Toy Story-themed items that I know he'll like because he's obsessed with Buzz Lightyear ... a Memory game, a book and a jigsaw puzzle. But I wanted the kind of gift that had a "wow" factor, a large, shiny thing that would make a 4-year-old go apeshit. When I saw this giant remote-controlled firetruck, I knew that was it. It's just the kind of thing a 4-year-old might remember opening, even 25 years later.

One of my favorite phrases used to be "all up in my circumference." I can't remember where I first heard it -- one of those court television shows or something. I just thought it was a very funny way to describe someone who was being intrusive, nosy or aggressive. Anyway, my parents, who live in Florida, are in fact all up in my circumference in the geographic sense. They are in Massachusetts (which I still can't spell without looking up) for my mom's 45th year reunion from college. If you do the math, that makes her 114. They are swinging down to New Haven just for a couple hours to have lunch and see my apartment; I may take them on a little tour of SOM, although you know how elderly people can be about walking. Then they are taking off to see my brother, sister-in-law and nephews about two hours away. Thus, they are my birthday present delivery system.

I would like to join everyone for a pool-tastic, grill-acious Memorial Day weekend, of course, but as soon as my parents leave I am packing, packing, packing. I'll either leave for Queens tonight or, more likely, tomorrow, just because I don't know if driving in unfamiliar neighborhoods in Queens at night is exactly the ticket to safety.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Breakfast, 'Sex' and a new computer

Gummy Bears On Friday, I had breakfast with my friends Erika and Mike, in advance of Erika's departure for a summer internship in California at Disney. A lot of the Media & Entertainment Club folks ended up doing pretty well for themselves, I must say. We've got SOM-ers going to Sony, Paramount, PBS and, in my case, The AP. That's just what I can recall anecdotally, although I imagine there are other impressive placements.

After breakfast, I went to campus to pick up my laptop, which I had dropped off the day before because the monitor frame was cracked and a piece in the back was loose. (Every student at SOM gets the same laptop.) A couple months ago we were offered a Windows 7 upgrade, which I never got around to getting. Anyway, it turned out when I picked up my computer that I was not actually picking up my computer -- I'd gotten a whole new computer. Same one, with the same Yale School of Management engravement. I think the engravement is to prevent theft, and coolness.

In the evening I saw "Sex and the City 2" with some friends, preceded, appropriately, by an overpriced cocktail across the street at Kudeta. I was a fan of the original show on HBO, even though I came to it a couple years after most people. The movies are a bit too silly for me ... not that the series was gravely serious, but it at least resonated as realistic enough to draw lessons about life, love, friendship and career. The films, on the other hand, seem more like extended dream sequences. But they're a pleasant diversion.

Speaking of "the city," I'm moving there soon, either tomorrow or the day after. It's taken me several days of waking up early, tossing and turning with an ever-growing pain in my stomach, for me to come to terms with the fact that, despite what I said recently to the contrary, I am indeed nervous. Maybe slightly anxious is a better description than flat-out nervous. But this morning I was particularly troubled by a flood of task-related questions, which included but are not limited to: (1) Should I have bought an EZ Pass so that it arrived in time for my move? (2) Do I have enough dress clothes for work? (3) Should I buy a bag, and if so, what kind? (4) Where will I work out? Should I join the Yale Club? (5) Do I have time to clean the apartment before my parents come to visit tomorrow? (6) Should I have been paying more attention when the girl I'm subleasing from showed me which grocery store and laundromat she uses? (7) Is it a mistake to bring my car to Queens? Will I be able to park? (8) Am I being naive in thinking that packing won't take long and that I'll be OK with just suitcases and no boxes? (9) Have I been paying enough attention to the news recently, considering I'll be working for the world's largest newsgathering organization? (10) Will I fall flat on my face?

I could go on, of course.

Fortunately, each of these questions either has an answer or will reveal itself in due time. I decided this morning to start with No. 1 and order an EZ Pass online. The site was down.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Karaoke

Dave Holub sings karaoke. An afternoon barbecuing and drinking beer with my friend Dave turned into a sudden urge to do karaoke, which we and our friends were famous for when we lived in Corpus Christi eons ago. Our 2010 recapitulation was fun, but of course it wasn't the same as back in the day.

In said day, we were such regulars that when we'd walk in, the waiter would bring us our preferred drinks before we'd ordered, and even bring out an ash tray with some fresh delightful cigarettes. This was back when you could smoke in bars ... 2003. A lifetime ago.

The place we went to relive the glory days was Time Out Sports Bar in Manchester.

GOOD THINGS ABOUT THE BAR:

1. Enjoyable drink specials. $3 wells and $4 shots.

2. A great selection of songs. Almost anything I could think of was in that book.

3. A few talented patrons.

BAD THINGS ABOUT THE BAR:

1. Worst/dumbest karaoke setup ever. Reading the monitor with lyrics required turning your back to the audience.

2. An only mildly attentive audience.

3. A few untalented (tone deaf) patrons.

I sang "Back At One" by Brian McKnight, "Fat Lip" by Sum 41, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and a duet with Dave, "Tell Him" by Barbra & Celine. I also tried to do "I'm Your Baby Tonight" by Whitney Houston, but at that point I'd had one too many. A good rule of thumb is: Whenever you think you're doing your last song, just don't do it. You've already overstayed your welcome.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mojito after mojito after flarbbbblrgttz

A.J., Meredith, Aminah and Rasanah, at C.O. Jones My friend Rasanah (far right) organized a happy hour get-together yesterday that began at a little bar (with an extensive enough menu that I suppose it was a restaurant) called Dolci, which serves highly refreshing but decidedly diminutive pitchers of mojitos. We had several, and they really hit at the end of a steamy summer day.

At this point, a few SOM-ers have already begun their internships. My friend Aminah (pictured, in the midst of some dramatic or distressing text messaging) has started working at United Way in New Haven, and my friend Carolyn, not pictured, is spending her summer doing marketing for Mory's, a Yale-affiliated eating club, also in New Haven.

Aminah and Haris at DolciAfter our mojitos at Dolci (left), we stumbled across the street to the patio of C.O. Jones (above), where we had some food that, if memory serves, wasn't very good. Business school has made me much less patient about customer service. The five of us received a bill, which naturally they couldn't be bothered to split for us. Fine. So we tallied up each of our orders and wrote them down and handed her credit cards with corresponding dollar amounts. No, in fact, she could not do that -- we had to all either put it on one card or pay in cash.

That's the point at which I would prefer just to leave without paying, which I realize some people say is akin to stealing but in my view is not. If two legitimate and legal attempts to pay are rejected -- if they want to make it so difficult to pay that I actually have to stroll up and down the street looking for an ATM -- then I have half a mind not to pay at all. I did, of course.

Maybe two weeks ago, I encountered similar irritation when I went to Mamoun's for lunch, and my total was about $8. I wanted to pay with a card, but they rejected it and said there was a $10 (or maybe $20, I don't remember) minimum for card charges. I have been told but have not independently confirmed that credit card companies explicitly discourage this practice, as they should. In the face of such a anti-customer policy, I am tempted to declare, whilst stomping my fist on the counter, "If you wish not to take the money I am offering you, I will be on my way. Toodles." Again, of course, I wouldn't do such a thing, basically because I figure the server will be the one who ends up screwed, not the restaurant owner who is the object of my wrath.

I'm an honest fellow, but I get so very annoyed with restaurants. So annoyed. It's remarkable that restaurants are so unwilling to make it simple and fair for groups to pay. Surely many restaurant get groups all the time that want to split checks! Restaurateurs should all be forced to take the Customer class at SOM.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

SOM-pty

The Hall of Mirrors (HOM) at the School of Management (SOM), 2010. Who in his right mind would be hanging out at the school weeks after our last exam? I asked myself that while hanging out at the school weeks after my last exam.

After doing a few errands on foot on this rather warm day I decided to swing into the School of Management for some air-conditioned respite, as well as to check my mailbox (empty) and see if the IT folks were still working (more on that below). There were actually also a couple students loitering about, which surprised me.

This reminds me that I may not have given due mention in this blog to the fact that construction is under way for a new $150 million SOM campus, set to open in 2013. You can learn more and see some pretty kick-ass renderings here. I find it rather greenhouse-like. Having been in only two other business schools, I am not the foremost authority on the extent to which SOM is outdated or deficient in its facilities, although word on the street is that it most certainly is. The current school is surely an old-school school -- chalk boards and all that. They want to go pretty Star Trek with SOM 2.0.

It's too bad that the new campus won't be ready until two years after I graduate. Too bad not just because I'll miss it, but because I will soon not have an old SOM campus to come back to and visit. I haven't gotten a straight answer as to what they're doing with the old campus. The fronts consist of gorgeous mansions, and the backs, where we actually have class, were constructed in the '70s, I think.

Anyway, back at the current SOM, I was happily surprised to see that the IT department is still working full days and would be happy to fix a few problems I'm having with my laptop. I'll do that tomorrow. What service!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A day, or part of one, at the beach

Mikey is at the beach. Here is Mr. Mikey Gannon at Lighthouse Point Park, where today we enjoyed some sun, sand and swings to take advantage of our status as free-spirited vacationers. The day's agenda also included spending more money than I'd expected on some casual summer clothes, seeing Iron Man 2 (Mike really liked it; I less so) and working out, which is among my summer foci.

And so proceed my final days of freedom as I draw closer to my 12-week internship at The Associated Press in New York. I'll be moving in a few days and starting work on Tuesday. I'm definitely ready to get working again, and I'm eager to see what working on the business of things is like in more ways than one -- the professionalism, the camaraderie, the work itself, the hours, the pressure, the perks, etc. In a way, even though I am 31 and have been supporting myself since I was 22, to some extent I feel like a college student who's about to work for the first time. I find myself wondering what it will be like as if I've never had a job before.

I'm particularly curious to experience the culture at AP. Recently, my friends at the San Antonio Express-News were telling me about major changes there. Many of them are being either transferred to Houston or laid off. It's just another example of the cost-saving measures that are pushing many journalists into different careers and causing general anxiety and demoralization. I hope, of course, that the atmosphere at The AP is hopeful, innovative and exciting, not doom-and-gloom. We shall see.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lost finale to make my day/life

Rice Krispie Treats Could there be a better time to make Rice Krispie Treats than for the series finale of Lost this evening? I think not, and so they were made. I'd never made them before and am not sure why it occurred to me to do so today, but I'm meeting with my regular Losties for tonight's highly anticipated viewing, and my pot-lock assignment was dessert. So here they are.

They're so simple. You don't even need an oven. You literally melt butter in a big saucepan, add marshmallows, melt them into a goo, add Rice Krispies, stir it all together, spoon the sticky glop into a 9-by-13 dish, spread it out, let it cool, and slice them up. No wonder they are popular.

If you're thinking of tuning into the finale but haven't been following the show, here's a minute-long recap starring cats that should get you up to speed.

Friday, May 21, 2010

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

A riding lawnmower ruins my life. What a beautiful day it is, and what a perfect opportunity to relax beneath my favorite tree on the Yale campus. Alas, though, landscaping activities interrupted my peace. So did the ants. But I'm certainly not one to complain. This free time is wonderful. I barely know what to do with it!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A pair of numbers





One way I spend spare time is writing songs -- two-minute ditties, really. Here are two of the eight or so I managed to knock together during the school year, even amid those pesky academic distractions. Enjoy (I hope)! Feedback is always welcome.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lost, then sloshed

Fellow fans of 'Lost.'Yesterday, I had a board meeting for CABO, followed by a networking event at the Holiday Inn. The focus was on the arts, and I re-realized that New Haven is at its best over the summer. So many great festivals -- the Festival of Arts & Ideas, the Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and Concerts on The Green, which seems to need either its own website or some SEO help. But, of course, I will be missing out on all that to be in New York, where there are also a few things to do in the summertime.

After the Holiday Inn, I convened with my fellow Losties, pictured above, to watch the penultimate episode. What an incredible show. I wonder what it would be like to have never seen the show, but to watch the finale nevertheless. Very confusing, probably. That's what I did with "Seinfeld" -- the first episode I ever saw (in full, at least) was the series finale. I didn't crack a smile. But I digress. I'm on the edge of my seat for Sunday's 2 ½-hour "Lost" finale. It'll be sad, though. I'll have nothing televised to look forward to. And I refuse to become invested in another serial. What'll I do, read? Psshhht.

BAR in New Haven.After "Lost," I went out with three second-year gays, who in a few days will be Yale SOM alumni, which I suppose will make me a second-year gay. We went to BAR, which embraces gays on Tuesdays, not that they kick them out the other six days. The evening made me reflect on the power of dance. I speculate that dancing as we know it today grew from formal dancing, with live music, that was probably a rare opportunity for men and women to touch each other and observe each other's body movements. Back in the day, that was very exciting, I'm sure. Then somehow that evolved into the discos of the 1970s, I suppose, and that's more or less the way they still are today. I dunno. Even after a few drinks, I find dancing kind of tedious and goofy. But some people just love to dance, and I'm very happy for them. I'll be standing off the side, looking fetching, cocktail in hand, taking sorta cool photographs.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ditching the threads

Here's half the clothes I threw away. Today I threw away about half my clothes. What's pictured above is half of what I threw away. Most of what I got rid of were shirts, but I also tossed out other articles. Basically, for Round 1 of what my friend Erika calls my closet exorcism, I threw out anything that I determined was:

1. Worn whatsoever. This includes socks with holes, T-shirts with frayed collars, anything with stains and dress shirts with deodorant traces.

2. Outdated. If I can remember wearing it more than 5 years ago, it's gone, with limited exceptions, like a magnificently durable heavy blue sweater I've had for 13 years that looks exactly as it did when it was given to me.

3. Ill-fitting/uncomfortable. It's very hard to let go of things that are in many ways nice but are simply ill-fitting, because you always imagine you can lose 15 pounds and suddenly look stunning in it. But my theory is that if you're keeping clothes because you may look good in them after 3 months of intense exercise, you will necessarily look better in all your clothes after these hypothetical 3 months anyway. So if you're not thrilled with how you look in the tight T-shirt today, away it goes.

4. Age inappropriate. There are some things I have that are too 20-something, and about an equal number of things I have that are too 40-something. Goodbye.

Using these criteria I quickly filled two garbage bags, and out they went. Then I went further and created a fifth, far more brutal category:

5. If I try it on and don't think I look cute, it's gone. This is a very subjective and murky criterion, but at the end of the day it's the most important. Maybe I can't quite explain *why* that semi-new shirt that fits fine and is age appropriate doesn't look cute, but if it doesn't look cute, it doesn't look cute. And I must look cute because I'm gay, and everyone knows gay men care only about appearance.

I have done essentially this same process once before, in 2005. I went totally crazy over the summer, after months and months of slowly building hatred for my wardrobe. Finally I spontaneously screamed "ENOUGH!" and went to town, throwing away probably 90% of my clothes. It was one of the most liberating domestic experiences of my life. That day seems recent, but it was five years ago, so I'm long overdue to do it again.

You may be thinking that this is very weird behavior, and perhaps it is, but it's just how I operate. I really don't like shopping, and I have a rather amazing talent for blocking important personal obligations from my mind for months or even years on end. I consider clothes-shopping one such obligation. Being in school, of course, makes it all the easier to pay no attention whatsoever to your appearance. Aside from a couple suits and some shoes, I don't recall buying much of anything in the way of new clothes this year.

And that brings me to the tough part -- replacing these clothes. Even tougher, I have absolutely no money. But I think that even though this isn't the most economically prudent time to spend mad cash on clothes, it's the most personally important time to do so, because I have two free weeks during which I'd like to spend ample time getting my act together before I move to New York for my 12-week internship. And I'd like to be able to walk the streets of New York City not looking like a frumpy, pathetic embarrassment.

Not coincidentally, I spent much of the rest of the afternoon working out.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

There's no town like China Town

China Town tea Inelegant translations and all, China Town charms visitors with its festive mix of shopping, dining and otherworldly aromas. You can buy, for example, ginger tea; and if you love solving puzzles, you can even follow the brewing directions.

We ate at a *fantastic* restaurant called Dim Sum Go-Go. Here's a picture.

Lunch at Dim Sum Go-GoEverything was so delicious I couldn't tolerate it. We ate every morsel. And as you can see if you study this photo carefully, other patrons were so enthusiastic they shoved chopsticks up one another's noses.

One of the many activities in which we participated after lunch was to drop in on a photo exhibit in SoHo at which my friend Alex's friend Prentice's husband Ray's friend Igor was featured. There I saw photo from 9/11 of rubble and firemen surrounding an incredibly familiar looking sculpture. It was Roy Lichtenstein's Modern Head, one of which is now at Yale, right next to the business school I've been attending every day of my life. I still don't really understand why there's more than one, but it seems from a brief Googling that there is (or was) a blue one in D.C., a red one in New York and our silver-ish one in New Haven. Feel free to do some research on your own.

And so my trip to New York ends; I'm about to brave the drive back. Driving in the city is not relaxing, but getting out on a Sunday afternoon shouldn't be too chaotic, I'm told.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Take me out to the "ball" game

Ink 48 This isn't the first time I've found it hard to photograph a nightlife excursion. My iPhone, with which I take all my pictures, doesn't have a flash. Regardless, it's not exactly polite/hip/permitted to go around taking quality photos of strangers who are just trying to mind their own business. So I gotta be sly. In the end, I come away with the photo above being my best shot of the night.

Alex dragged me out. When you're as elderly as I am, it does take a little dragging. Once out, though, I can -- believe it or not -- be sort of fun, or at least stay out till late. I think we got back at 4. That's pretty amazing, considering that exactly 24 hours earlier I was being awakened to engage in prayers at the dergah. Kind of a long, bizarre day, come to think of it.

Anyway, our evening in the Big Apple began in what I think was Chelsea at Ink 48, where a friend of a friend of a friend was having a birthday party on the rooftop bar, which come to think of it was not on the rooftop at all; it was just a bar with a terrace. I loved this place, actually, $10 drinks and all. Alex's friends were super nice; one of them is about to go back for his MBA at Stern, and has been in the publishing business, so we had no end of things to discuss. Like being in the publishing business and then getting an MBA, for example.

Of course, in New York City one doesn't just park at a bar, even if he loves it. He then treks across town to somewhere he doesn't remember the name of and drops a $10 cover to walk into a loud room, decline a lap dance, then leave. Then he has a chicken wrap and goes to Barracuda, then G Lounge, then back to Barracuda. Why he didn't just stay at the nice place is lost on him, although he appreciates having explored, especially since these places are all pretty close to where he'll be working this summer.

In not too long I'll be heading to check out what will hopefully be my summertime residence in Sunnyside, Queens. I have gotten mostly favorable comments when mentioning that this will be my neighborhood; I am going to hang out there for a bit and soak it all in.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sufi dergah is the place to be?

Prentice and Alex Greetings from Sidney Center, New York, in the Catskill Mountains. I am spending roughly 24 hours at a Sufi dergah, which is a rural area where spiritual people chant, pray and raise animals, under the guidance of a sheikh. My friend Alex (pictured) lived here to varying degrees for several years. He currently resides in Fort Worth but is planning to move back to New York, his favorite city, this summer. He's here to visit me and his friend Prentice, also pictured above.

Alex maks naan. I bet I've heard the word dergah more than you have, because Alex spoke consistently about this places for the duration of our 2 1/2 year relationship. I imagined it as remote, which it certainly is, and rustic, which it certainly is. We spent yesterday morning making naan and lentils for the dozens of people with whom we dined last night, guys from all over the world. And I say guys because the women exist separately, so I haven't met any of them, although I imagine they, too, are from all over the world.

Spirituality is explored.After dinner, we retreated into a room infused with incense where there was a great deal of chanting, standing, kneeling and bowing. I sat in the back because I didn't know what was going on, and the repetition made me so drowsy I had to slink out to nap in my car. I figured that was more respectful than snoring. My car was parked on top of a muddy hill, and I was frequently awakened by the sound of howling winds and shrieking animals; the dergah has donkeys, horses, sheep, turkeys, ducks, goats, cows, and I'm sure more.

Later today we'll be off to New York City, and tomorrow I'll be checking out my summertime residence in Queens.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mishemokwa made fine-quality tees

John, with a high-quality CIT shirt.I'm on summer vacation. That hasn't happened in nine years. My favorite summers were not the ones in college, though -- well actually maybe they were. Those were pretty great, really. But I also loved my summers even longer ago, when I was a camper and then a CIT at Camp Mishemokwa in Bat Cave, N.C.

As you can see, I still have proof that this was a real place and something I did; or, I at least have proof I can doctor up T-shirts to correspond with invented stories of my past to throw people off. In this case, though, I genuinely did attend this camp, for six consecutive summers. I must say, they made awfully sturdy and durable T-shirts. This one basically looks as good as new, and it's most certainly not. It's at least 16 years old, maybe 17. That's outrageous. But I can't believe what good shape it's in -- no wear or discoloration around the collar, no trace of holes or strain, not even any pit stains. Either this is one high-quality shirt, or it's a shirt I never wear. Maybe the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

If MBA candidates weren't supposed to have serious businessy internships over the summer, I'd definitely have gone back to Mishemokwa as a counselor. Well maybe definitely is the wrong word ... What am I, 19? Regardless, that's not a choice on the table for me, because the camp no longer exists. It's changed hands several times in the past 10 years or so. It is now a "private vacation rental" ... wonder how that's going. When you visit their web site, please be sure your volume is on!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Join me in a toast to my doneness

A Portuguese wineI have just completed the very last assignment in my first year at the Yale School of Management. Technical difficulties abounded, but I was working enough ahead that spending five hours dealing with them still left me with five hours to spare.

To celebrate, I did what you probably would have done in a similar situation -- I bought a salami sandwich and a bottle of Portuguese sparkling wine. One has been devoured entirely, and the other I'm just beginning to work on. I'll let you guess which is which (or which is 'wich).

Now that the year is over, I think it would be legitimate and courteous of me to share five lessons I think I learned this year, as a former journalist getting an MBA. That is, after all, what this blog is supposed to be about.

1. A journalist can cut it in an MBA program. Recently we had an activity in which fellow students shared first and current impressions of one another, and someone told me he remembered the first time I spoke in class. I prefaced my comment with an apology about not knowing what I was talking about because I was only a journalist and didn't know anything about business. Now that the year has ended, I realize that the thing I didn't know about, specifically, was finance. That's just one slice of "business," and it can be learned. I learned some of it this year and did just fine at it, and I intend to learn more about it next year. So if you're a journalist and you're thinking an MBA might not be for you, you might be right, but the reason is not that business is rocket science.

2. You cannot script the future. Often when we daydream about the future, we think of the positive things relevant to the reason we're making a change. When I was looking forward to this MBA program I thought primarily about being back in school and embarking on a new career. As it turns out, one of the foremost weights on my mind all year was neither of those things; it was of a romantic nature. The point is you can't plan everything -- you may think an experience will be about one thing, but you have to relax and let it be about whatever it's about.

3. Connecticut is not wonderful. Sorry. Living in Texas, I imagined Connecticut as a gorgeous haven of gay people, crisp fall breezes, intellectuals, beautiful buildings and, you know, nice-looking streets and stuff. It's not exactly paradise, friends. I wouldn't even say it's better than Texas. It'll do for now, though.

4. You always bring yourself to the island. You may think you can become a completely different person just because you put yourself in a new situation, but that's not true. Your strengths and weaknesses will always follow you around, so if you're lazy and introverted today, you'll be lazy and introverted even if you win the lottery and move to Paris. Unless you work hard at fixing those things, that is. But fixing those things comes from within, not from where you live.

5. iPhones are amazing. Get one.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I ache with semi-senioritis

Sunnyside, Queens.
I think I found where I'll live this summer, in Sunnyside, Queens. It's been very difficult to find an apartment from New Haven because naturally I want to see the places in person, and the subletters would like to meet me, too. In this case, though, I was uncharacteristically forward because it seemed like the ideal arrangement -- a place all to myself, right next to the train I want, for the precise price I was looking for, and for more or less the dates I wanted. There may be a slight overlap in the last week, but I figure I can stay a week at the Yale Club or a friend's house or even my brother's place in Cornwall-on-Hudson. No big deal.

To make this happen I offered to send a deposit in good faith. I'm hoping to God, of course, that she doesn't betray me, cash the check and not give me the room ... but we're Facebook friends, so that's a modern-day form of reference, I think. I hope! I'm going to New York next weekend and will see the place and meet her then. I couldn't go this weekend because it's just too many hours of travel, and I am supposedly working on my final exam and project.

The motivation factor is quite low, I must say. I'm nearly finished with the take-home final due Sunday and am gulping a bit at how much needs to be done for a final group project due Tuesday. The fortunate thing, though, is that I will truly, honestly, be finished Tuesday. Then my friend Alex is coming in for a visit from Fort Worth, and he, his friend and I are going to go to the Catskills for a couple days, and then to New York. Hence my ability to see this apartment in Sunnyside.

It was stormy this morning and then suddenly turned beautiful, so it ended up being a good day to help Mike move into his new apartment. He, like almost everyone I know, only recently definitively secured a summer internship arrangement, but I'm happy to report that my friends seem to have made out like bandits, often getting what they'd been vying for all along (as did I). The road is long and winding, but it's reassuring to hit the target at which you aimed.

What I'll be doing tonight

O. M. G. Can. Not. Wait.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Oh, give me a home

A Hartford-area sunset The past couple days have been a bit of an unstructured blur, but they included margaritas for Cinco de Mayo made by my friend Rasanah, meetings with faculty about the Human Capital Club I'm co-founding with my friend Erika, lots of time spent in the sunshine with Mike, group meetings and work on final projects, and this evening I ate a decidedly salty and fabulous dinner with my friend Dave at Texas Roadhouse. The view from outside is pictured above.

I have also been trying to find a place to live this summer. That hasn't been as easy as I expected. Today I thought I really had something -- a gay guy who wants another gay roommate in his 30s for exactly the dates I need. But three other people are looking at the place tomorrow, apparently, and I very much don't want to go all the way into New York to look at one apartment -- that's taking six hours out of my day. I'm not sure what the best strategy is for finding an apartment because ultimately, no matter what I find online, I'm going to have to get over there to see prospective dwellings in person.

Let me know if you own a gorgeous, empty, furnished apartment in New York ... seriously.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I've got no class

I stroll off campus after my last class of the first year of my MBA. As I walked off campus after my last class today, I couldn't help but wonder: Why am I wearing jeans and a heavy short-sleeve shirt over a white tee? Am I vying for New Haven's Sweatiest Student?

Anyway, I'm not totally out of woods -- two more projects must be completed, plus a take-home exam. But it still feels nice to know I won't be setting my alarm much over the next few weeks ... I can stay up to the wee hours with a clear conscience.

Tonight it is my turn to host a "Lost" viewing party, which is a nice way to cap off the last day of class, since lost is often how I felt in class. Today I was cold-called twice in the same class! I expressed my opinion that this was entirely unjust. But I answered anyway. Come to think of it, though, my answer was that I didn't know. Can't win 'em all.

Here's a look back at my fourth-quarter classes, and a bit of what I felt about them:

1. Innovator. This was a pretty interesting class, really. When I visited SOM last year, I sat in on this one. Some of the main ideas were that innovation is a process that needs to be supported by management, organizational structure and finances ... it's not just some mysterious burst of creative genius. And then we looked at how to practically execute innovation, like through experimenting. We had a lot of case reading in the class and some pop quizzes, which no other class had, but the assignments were especially fun; in the same group of four we went through the process of moving forward with a new idea. My group explored ways to improve women's purses. For our final project we can pick from a different list of business plans, and since one member of our group is in fact doing something entrepreneurial this summer, we're going to help her out by making her business the focus of our project. What she's up to is delicious.

2. State & Society. This was an entirely discussion-based class with tons of reading, run rather ruthlessly via the Socratic method, with a great deal of cold-calling and roleplay. So coming prepared was essential. We really only had one assignment, though: A group presentation having to do with aspects of our International Experience trip. We also have a take-home final, which will be released tomorrow and due Sunday. Not sure what to expect there. The subject matter of the class was a whirlwind of law, ethics, governance, politics and the role states play in business practices (and how businesses can work with governments to shape policies favorable to them, or to all).

3. Integrated Leadership Perspective, or ILP. This is the capstone of our integrated curriculum and is designed to bring all the classes together in one place. It met for 2 1/2 hours once a week. Its objective is pretty ambitious, so you can imagine it didn't entirely succeed. We looked at a different, complex case every week. What I wrote in our course evaluation is what I will say here, which is that the class may have been better had we focused on maybe two cases over the quarter instead of seven, going much deeper into them and examining them from all perspectives. But nevertheless it was a pretty good refresher ... it was the kind of class where you really got out of it what you put into it, and I certainly could have put more into it.

4. Managing Marketing Programs. This was my elective. One of our core classes, second quarter, was called Customer, and that was sort of an intro into marketing. Managing Marketing Programs was more or less a refresher and slight extension of Customer, with a bit more focus on cases and, specifically, pricing. I preferred it to Customer, but I would like to have learned more about the actual management of marketing programs; this was more of an analysis of previous marketing decisions, which I realize are important to study if one is to manage a marketing program. But our final project, for example, is to analyze a marketing decision. Shouldn't the final project have been to design a marketing program and discuss how we might manage it?

I should add here that the professors this quarter were, as usual, very good, all the way around. Our dean really emphasizes teaching quality, and it shows -- each professor naturally has his or her own style, but the caliber of professor here really is outstanding, far better than I experienced in undergrad, where I barely remember a single professor. I don't think I'll soon forget the SOM faculty.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Happy professional people

John, Jenn and DanHere are the CABO board members who went to the regional summit: John, Jenn and Dan.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Streets of Philadelphia

Capogiro is a gelato establishment in Philadelphia.When I was bound for Philadelphia I was urged to, above all else, have gelato at Capogiro. It *was* delicious, people. I had three flavors: hazelnut, rum and burnt sugar. Three kinds of perfect. Just amazing ... rich and super creamy, but still light and sweet and not too heavy. It was fantastic.

So before I came to Philadelphia, I didn't expect to care about it one way or another -- I was just there for a summit. But I really liked it! From what I saw, anyway. I spent this first day in this room ...

CCBO ... And, in that room, I did get some good ideas for CABO, and I met some nice people, including a guy who looked so eerily like Brad Pitt that when I started to ask, "Does anyone ever tell you that you look like ..." he correctly completed my sentence. Anyway, most of what I saw of Philadelphia was the night life. But when I visit a new city I do like to try to get an impression of what everyday life would be like: Is stuff expensive, what do the buildings look like, what's the food like, what do the people look and act like, etc. And on those fronts I have nothing but nice things to say ... plus there's clearly an awesomely vibrant gay scene.

A street of Philadelphia

I partied pretty hard two nights in a row. The first evening began at a welcome reception that included not only all the gays there for the summit, but some other gays employed by corporate partners, just there to mingle. I latched onto a couple people my age, and after the reception we hit the town, starting at Stir and ending up in a couple other places I didn't catch the name of because I was just stumbling around with people who knew the city.

In retrospect, I drank too much. I can recall being alone on the street, on the way home, offering money to a woman in exchange for a cigarette. I soon learned she was from New Zealand and proceeded to show her all my amazing New Zealand photos still in my phone. Soon, she had run away. I probably scared her to death. Anyway, it was great! Really loved it.

Elizabeth

The second late night was with my friend Elizabeth, who was an intern at the paper at which I worked in Corpus Christi, way back in 2002, and then it turned out we both lived in the DFW area for the three years I was there. Now she's moved to Philadelphia. After I had a truly delicious three-course dinner at Vallani with the CCBO folks, I met up with Elizabeth at a Fox & Hound, where we had a few beers. I got lost coming home, but nobody mugged or stab me. I'm not as confident I could say the same in New Haven.

Now that I've had a very good first impression, I look forward to going back. I will hereby be spending almost every waking moment from now until class Monday morning doing work .... it's a pile.