Smoke and the City

BLOG-CHILD SAVE US FROM TABACCO In 1984, I flew to Europe in a no-smoking seat.

The row in front of me was a smoking row.

That’s how it was then— preposterous!

I was three months pregnant and allergic to cigarette smoke.

The plane ride was a torturous eight hours as the man in front of me lit up every thirty minutes.

While government has been slow to respond to the dangers of cigarettes, smoking was banned on all U.S. domestic flights in 1990. And in 1995, Delta made all flights, including international flights, smoke-free.

On New York City streets, I run around, and in front of, people who are smoking.

Not wanting to breathe secondhand smoke, I sprint past buildings where workers congregate, smoking.

And what makes this running around extra-annoying is that smokers seem oblivious to the discomfort they cause.

Fortunately, the law has gotten involved.

And while Michael Bloomberg’s initiative to ban smoking in bars and restaurants was met with much resistance, it has been successful.

According to statistics, smoking in New York is down, and the city, and its restaurants and bars, seem to be thriving and doing just fine without the smoke-filled haze.

While Bloomberg was in office, he proposed a law to force residential buildings to develop smoking policies. He wanted buyers and tenants to be made aware of smoking regulations.

Unfortunately for me, the law did not pass.

I learned the hard way about noise due to construction in the city a few years back when I rented an apartment. But I truly thought it was me alone who experienced such terrible luck.

How was it possible for one individual to be surrounded by so much noise? (See: On Writing and Distractions.)

There is a Yiddish folktale: It Could Always Be Worse. But with the three apartments surrounding mine under construction, and one above me, I did not believe that could possibly be true.

But it was true.

A few months ago I signed a one-year lease on a New York City apartment. And in this new apartment the problem is much worse.

My neighbor is a chain-smoker and her secondhand smoke seeps into my apartment making it difficult to breathe.

The hallway carpeting reeks.

(Read this upsetting article about third hand smoke.)

Neighbors on all sides are incensed. But there is nothing we can do.

Our building does not have smoking restrictions. And us non-smokers have no rights, even though our health is at stake, our quality of life is compromised, and smoking is ranked second in causes for New York fires.

I don’t know how I didn’t notice the repulsive smell when I went to view the apartment. But I didn’t and the real estate agent didn’t point it out to me. Legally, she’s bound to mention bed bugs.

To make matters worse, my neighbor is an eighty-year old woman. She has been smoking for decades. And even if we (me and my neighbors) had the right, we wouldn’t evict an old lady.

We are stuck.

So often as a non-smoker, I've felt trapped, without choice, powerless.

So I was happy to discover that there are new smoking laws that protect children.

In England, you may not smoke in a private vehicle carrying children under 18.

In Italy, there is a ban on smoking in cars carrying pregnant woman and children.

In France, smoking was barred in July 2015 for children under 12.

In the United States, smoking with kids in the car is banned in eight states and the age of the child varies from state to state.

These laws do not apply to e-cigarettes or convertibles with the top down.

One day, soon I hope, in the same way we came to understand the importance of legislation demanding the use of seatbelts and helmets, and laws prohibiting drinking and driving, we will come to realize the obligation we have to protect non-smokers.

We will look back on this time in our history and wonder why we allowed smokers to subject non-smokers to pollutants that are known to affect health, cause cancer.

Could it get any worse?

BLOG-NO SMOKING CHILD IN CAR

Are You Addicted to Your Cell Phone?

BLOG- ADDICTIONMy daughter caught me scrolling through facebook and said, “You’re not just doing that for work.” She was calling me out on what I’d been telling her, which was that I needed to be on facebook and instagram and twitter in order to stay in “the know”.

It was how authors promoted their books.

It was where I could announce my new literary agent, Carrie Howland from Donadio and Olson!

It was where I found interesting articles and learned about communicating in a social media world, which felt as natural to me as raising a baby whale.

I needed information!

But all this was relatively new.

I joined facebook, instagram and twitter only 18 months ago. I did that for two reasons. One, I wanted to promote my new blog; and two, I didn’t want to be left behind. I wanted to know what was going on around the globe, and I wanted to be a part of it.

Simultaneously, everyone in my family complained, bitterly, how I never answered my phone. And that was because I could leave it untouched for hours at a time while I wrote.

So over these 18 months, I became more connected and reliant. And little by little, something changed. (Read: Be Here Now.)

Just this weekend, I’d been wondering if I’d crossed some invisible line because last week, on vacation, in a first attempt to boost my numbers, I studied those social media sites for long periods of time when I was supposed to be relaxing on a beach.

It was my first vacation completely connected.

Before that friends teased me because I couldn’t manage to get my phone to work once I left the country. And of course, the truth behind that was I didn’t want a working phone.

Now that scenario seemed impossible, ridiculous, archaic.

So when my daughter called me on my behavior, it solidified what I’d been contemplating. I had to pay attention to what I was doing.

“I’m going to read,” I said. And I went upstairs. Alone in my room, I checked my wordpress numbers and read some email messages. Before I knew it, I was hooked and kept scrolling. Just a few minutes more I kept telling myself, my daughter’s voice in my head.

I stumbled on Oprah's SuperSoul Sessions.

I was elated!

I thought about how as a child, I got bored. But now, as an adult, with all this access, how could I ever get bored? There was so much to see; I couldn’t keep up.

The SuperSoul speaker was Elizabeth Gilbert. And she was speaking to a huge audience about passion and curiosity and I clung to every word with guilty pleasure. I told myself again and again, rationalizing, that I could’ve paid for seats in that audience and her talk would’ve felt like a cultural outing, something special.

Elizabeth’s speech was empowering and informative and yet as I watched her on my I-phone, I watched the clock intently aware that I was missing precious reading time. I’d been in my room for close to an hour, my book, unopened, at my side.

And here’s what happened:

I wanted to watch another SuperSoul Session but didn’t. I was intent on reading. And worried that the Internet had control of me, I made sure to read. It was a bargain, kind of like how an alcoholic decides he doesn’t have a drinking problem if he can go without alcohol for two days.

The trouble was, I didn’t get into the shower when I was supposed to, and running late, decided not to go out.

My Internet distraction, just like any addiction, had an impact.

There are so many possibilities of how my evening could’ve unfolded.

Maybe my daughter and I would’ve had a meaningful conversation.

Maybe I would’ve read more pages.

I definitely would’ve showered when I was supposed to and then my night would’ve taken a different direction. Instead of staying home, I could’ve gone to a jazz club and heard live music. I could’ve gone to a movie in an actual theater and not watched the stupid one I rented at home.

It’s not that any of these activities were necessarily bad, because I really did appreciate the Gilbert talk; it was just that they all felt a bit out of my control.

And while I had a nagging feeling that I was tipping into new territory over the last few weeks, I kept pushing the thought away, denying, and or defending my choice to send a text, answer an email, post a comment. As if any of these were actually choices.

The word addiction kept popping into my head.

Was I addicted?

That’s ridiculous, I told myself. Just 18 months before I didn’t even have a facebook friend.

But if addiction is a relentless and compulsive pull to a substance, or activity, and interferes with everyday life, I (shockingly) was guilty of that.

And then I woke up to the NY Times article: Addicted to Distraction and everything I’d been feeling was laid out in front of me.

I related to Tony Schwartz’s experiences wholeheartedly.

And yet, and maybe this is denial, I had questions.

Schwartz wrote about being less focused because of the amount of time he spent online.

I had been noticing the same thing.

He stated that reading was a focus building practice. And he wanted, like I did, to do that more.

So instinctively, I agreed with him. But why?

Why was reading a better choice?

Was that thinking outdated?

Maybe that's the equivalent of insisting we use horses for transportation. Horses are naturally more beautiful than cars and they don't have us relying on foreign countries for oil. In addition, cars go too fast and, as a result, we miss a lot.

According to Nicholas Carr, “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information.”

We make trade-offs.

And that’s why we drive cars instead of horses. In time, problems get addressed and voila—the electric car is on the frontier.

Tony Schwartz gives suggestions on how to limit the amount of time you spend on your phone, and in fact, I was ahead of him in that I had my phone far away from me, on purpose, as I read the newspaper Sunday morning.

But these are short-lived solutions. This doesn’t really address the problem.

If there is a problem.

Maybe things are the way they are supposed to be.

Maybe trying to stay off our devices is a pointless fight against change and modernization.

But in the last few paragraphs of Schwartz’s article, he gets me.

He depicts a scene.

He recounts how he saw a father and his four-year-old daughter at a restaurant. The father is on his phone and his daughter cannot get his attention.

In my opinion, this scenario illustrates our biggest loss.

I’ll bet that father wouldn’t dream of bringing a book to the restaurant. It would be socially awkward and unacceptable. But his phone—no problem.

I’d like to say there is a time and a place for everything (because that’s what my mother would say) but when something is compulsive, it is compulsive. There are no boundaries.

We are scrolling ourselves into oblivion and the key here, and what makes these behaviors, or advancements, different than others, is its addictive component.

We are in denial (Denial= Don't Even Notice I Am Lying) or at least I was until my daughter finally got my attention.

From The Core- One Year Anniversary!

BLOG-ONE YEAR AND COUNTINGIt’s been a year! My first From The Core post appeared July 28, 2014.

I was scared and unsure:

Would people like what I wrote and how I wrote it?

 Was I ready for the world of social media?

 What if I made a grammatical mistake?

Well, I did make errors. Some I was able to fix, others I wasn’t.

And remarkably, I survived.

Reader comments kept me going.

Some of you responded directly on the blog site, some on Facebook, some on Instagram, some by private text message and many in person: at the grocery store, at parties and on the street.

(You’d be surprised how many people are hesitant to comment through social media. I was happy to learn, I wasn’t the only inhibited one.)

Tuesdays became my favorite day of the week as I woke to other bloggers liking my post and tracking how many people had read.

I heard from people I hadn’t talked to in 20 years, from people all over the country and yes, even an old boyfriend.

My work was read in Australia, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Spain, France, Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Israel, Lebanon, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and more.

A special thanks goes to my friends and family who let me write about them, their outrageous stories and vulnerable moments.

All year, friends teased that they had to watch what they said in front of me for fear they’d end up in a post.

I heard everything from, “Shhh, she’s going to write about you” to “It’s good Corie’s not here.” (Yes, people repeat these things to me.)

Looking for material or attempting to drum up good conversation, this blog has been the impetus for many a dinner table debate.

Over the course of this year, I wrote about topics that mattered to me.

Equal rights- Gay Marriage

Empathy- Still Alice

Marriage- Why Are So Many Marriage Essays Going Viral?

Parenting- Parenting Gone Well

Friendship- Friendship Matters

Sex- Masters of Sex

Education- Doodle Power

Addiction- Monkey See, Monkey Do

Writing- Writing: It Could Come Back to Bite You.

The Environment- Earth Day 2015.

I wrote about topics that peturbed me slightly- Pouting Face Emoji

And things that annoyed me greatly- A Tip for My Uber Driver.

I wrote about what I found comical- Braces: The New Chastity Belt and Are You A Control Freak Parent?

And things I feared- Fear: The Good The Bad and The Ugly.

Writing about these topics made me focus on them, and in writing Gone Girl No More, I faced my apprehension, put myself out there, and finally got headshots!

Daring greatly (I'm a Brene Brown lover) I'm posting them here.

Help me choose the new From The Core photograph so I can get rid of the blurry one on my About Page.

HEADSHOT #1

HEADSHOT #1

HEADSHOT #2

HEADSHOT #3

 

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the night my husband asked me to marry him so this is kind of a double anniversary for me.

And it’s appropriate that my blog about relationships and my marriage share an anniversary because as long as I’m married to my husband, I’ll always have plenty to write about!

Wink Emoji

P.S. Thanks for reading!! And don’t forget to pick a headshot favorite!!

Mad Men, Advertising and the Trix Rabbit

A Hard PlaceI just finished watching season six of Mad Men. From season one, episode one, all through the series, my most prominent thought was, boy, we’ve come along way.

But, on second thought, have we?

The characters on the show drink too much, smoke too much, have extra-marital affairs and end up divorced. The show takes place in New York City, mostly in the 60’s, a time when women were paid less than men for the same job and were often sexually exploited.

What’s so different?

Okay, some of us now eat quinoa instead of white bread with American cheese, and nobody’s lighting up in a crowded elevator or openly drinking on the job.

Thanks to advertising, ironically, we’ve grown significantly more aware, in some areas, through campaigns like:

Give A Hoot, Don’t Pollute Just Say No This Is Your Brain On Drugs Buckle Up, It’s the Law Stay Alive, Don’t Text and Drive

But what’s really changed?

Don Draper, the main character in Mad Men, is a handsome, hard-working, successful alcoholic who cheats on his wife, neglects his children and ends up divorced without ever stepping into a therapist’s office. He has little understanding of how his childhood traumas, being raised in a whorehouse by a tyrant father and a less than nurturing stepmother, are affecting him.

American culture, then and now, tends to focus on externals; the big house, the beautiful wife, well-dressed children; and ad agencies capitalize on these desires, often introducing us to things we didn’t even know we wanted, getting us to buy certain products, and buy into specific ideas.

Some of the most memorable slogans from my childhood were from the Cracker Jacks campaign:

The More You Eat, The More You Want.

A Prize in Every Box.

And the Lay’s potato chip ad:

Betcha Can’t Eat Just One.

These ads exploit the American dream, tying our feelings of worthiness (or lack of worthiness) into materialism and greed. These ads refer to concepts way bigger than the products they are selling. They instruct a way of life. American life.

And we buy into them. Over the last three decades we've seen obesity become a national issue.

Ad companies prey on our weaknesses in order to sell and we are being manipulated on the most primal level: our need to be loved, our need for connection.

Read the NY Times review, Psst. Look Over Here, to see how ad agencies have used, and still use, our basic human needs to influence us. Did you know we have a subconscious craving for eye contact and that characters like Aunt Jemima, the Quaker Oats man and the Trix rabbit are manipulated so that their gaze meets ours, and as a result we are more likely to choose those brands over others?

Without revealing too much, in case you are not caught up with Mad Men, when season six ends, the viewer is left with some hope. Hope that Don Draper will get it right. We want him to be happy. (Another American luxury).

But we, just like Don Draper, need to understand that true serenity lies in what’s internal (self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-love), not external (fancy cars and designer suits) because those things can never genuinely satiate. (The More You Eat, The More You Want.)

Imagine a future, where we are sustained from within, and can no longer be seduced by the Sun Maid girl, or her controlling smile.

Now that would be real change.