The last two weeks: A former VIP lounge, A concert, A baseball game, A fireworks display…A whirlwind

So much for basking in the glow of my week away cruising the Atlantic and visiting Bermuda.  Although I returned to work during the middle of a week and had a shortened week (last week) thanks to the July 4th U.S. Independence long holiday weekend, there was enough that brought me back to reality that I was home.

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Below 54 - Inside

The first day back to work transitioned into the first night out on the town to Below 54, a fabulous jazz place in the Theater District.   It’s got a bit of history.  It used to be the former VIP lounge of “Studio”, as in the famed nightclub of the 70s and 80s – Studio 54.  Oh, if the walls could talk!

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Four nights later, on Saturday night, I was bounding up the stairs to the street of the Atlantic Avenue subway station into a crush of minglers outside the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.  Two words:  Floor Seats.  (Yay, me!)  I had no shame.  Yes, I was screaming my lungs out and grooving to Bruno Mars.  One more word:  EPIC.   The man is bad!   And is band?  Wow.  Just awesome.  That pintsized dude (Mr. Mars, a.k.a. Mr. Hernandez) — yes, I am there for him in every way as a performer.  I’d never seen him live and he did not disappoint!  I enjoyed it so much, it did cross my mind to find a way to the nearest city to see him again, but I knew it was nothing short of crazy to fly to Montreal, Canada.

Bruno Mars - 2 (2013)

Bruno Mars - 1 (2013)

Bruno Mars - 3 (2013)

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Citi Field - Mets Game (2013)

Two nights later, I was at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets baseball team.  Yes, the “other” New York baseball team.  I’d been part of an invited group to tour their suite spaces and to see what they had to offer those with “deep pockets” in terms of bars, restaurants and snack areas.  Our host could not have been more hospitable.  Although I’m not a Queens baseball chick (I’m a New York Yankees fan — always have been, so the Bronx is where I belong), I actually enjoyed every minute of my visit to Citi Field.  But I will admit, it’s not like the old Shea Stadium, their old home.  Can’t help to have a little bit of a soft spot for the old stadiums.  Gone are Shea and the original Yankee Stadium — the house that Ruth built.   It was great to see the “new” home of the Mets, especially since they’ll be hosting the 2013 Baseball All Star Game very soon.

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Macys Fireworks - Waiting (2013)

Three nights later, I was seated on the West Side Highway ramp — yes, seated, in the middle of the street (see photo above) — with about 50,000 other New Yorkers and tourists waiting for nightfall and the annual Macy’s July 4th fireworks extravaganza.  It was a wonderful sight once the show began.  Sure, I had to wait for hours in the heat (we’d had days of 90 degree weather and humidity that were relentless), but I had a bottle of water (that unfortunately became warm very quickly, but at least I had liquid), my Nook to read some downloaded magazines, and my relatively new smartphone.   (Yes, I got a new phone!…I’m no longer walking around with my 5-year old or almost 5-year old BlackBerry.  I now have a Samsung Galaxy S4….BTW, the photos you see on this blog post were all snapped with the S4.  Not bad. Actually, anything is better than my antiquated BlackBerry.  Yes, I’m throwing shade to my “old faithful” now relegated to being an “ex”.)

Fireworks - July 4 - 2 (2013)

Fireworks - July 4 - 3 (2013)

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In the midst of these activities, I managed to visit The Second Mother twice and spent some time with Sassy Spitfire, The Traveler and The Kid, squeeze in a brief stroll through Central Park on my way to Sunday brunch with a friend, and had a very long overdue bonding and catching up session with Momma Rockstar, the BFF, who I hadn’t seen in weeks.   We took refuge on a sweltering Saturday afternoon in a mall.  Now that’s a place I haven’t been to in forever.  I don’t do malls, but when the temps rose, this island girl refused to be outdoors.  Re-fused.

So, tired yet?  That was my last two weeks.  What were you up to?

This was not a Dove commercial. But, the face looking back at me just didn’t look like me.

As I write this, exactly one week ago, on Tuesday, April 16, the Huffington Post‘s Huff Post Women section included the Emma Gray article, “Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ Ad Campaign Tells Women ‘You’re More Beautiful Than You Think‘”.  The article focused on Dove’s newest ad campaign featuring an interesting — whether you love it or hate it — commercial.  If you haven’t seen it, take a look.

This isn’t a post chiming in on comments by some who have issues with the fact that the women chosen weren’t reflective of the diverse society in which most of us in the United States live, or whatever else is the gripe.  This is a post about something I experienced days later.

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Some time ago, I’d purchased a Groupon for a professional photography session — studio, lights, make-up artist — the works.  I needed headshots working in Corporate America, and really, I’d wanted a new set of professional photos.  The last time I’d treated myself, it was almost 20 years ago.

The date seemed to be rushing towards me.  I wasn’t ready.  Nope.  I hadn’t lost 20 pounds and my bellies were still where I left them…on me.  I needed more time. *panic*  Too late.  It was now the night before and I had an appointment first thing in the morning, on a Saturday morning, I might add (this was so nuts), and I couldn’t think of a reason to call to cancel.  Short of a family emergency or my own personal emergency that involved a hospital visit, there was no way out of this.  I had to go.  Bottom line:  I needed to find it in me to turn on the charm and turn off the nerves through what I envisioned would be excessive “cheesing” and three wardrobe changes.

It’s was a long time since I did one of these, and even then, it wasn’t professional-professional with lights, cameras and a true make-up artist.  Heck, the last time I did this, the photographer didn’t even use a digital camera!  (Those were not the “norm”.)  I had negatives.  All I really remember from that shoot are two things:  (1)  The scarf I had wrapped around my head framing my hair — yes, hair (because, you know, that’s stylin’…smh) and (2) my cousin plucked my eye brows for the first time into oblivion a night or two before. I could barely feel the top half of my face.  I was still hurting.

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Morning broke on Saturday and off I went — small suitcase in tow.  Yes, a suitcase.  (Look, I had clothes and several pairs of high heels.  Don’t judge me.)

Fast Forward:  The actual shoot was not as painful as I thought it would be.  The photographer made me extremely comfortable, I almost forgot about the 2 decade time lapse and 30 extra pounds I was carrying.  Then, it was over.  The last shot.  I had nothing but anxiety.  How would I look?  Would I have paid for this, gone through an intensive wardrobe prep, lugging a suitcase on a Saturday morning through Midtown Manhattan to a photo studio near Times Square only to then see the end result and be completely disappointed and deflated about how I looked?

Modern technology allows you to see things almost immediately — almost 250 shots.  Yes, that many.

As I sat in a chair looking at a computer screen about the size of a television, I thought: Is that me?  It didn’t look like me — full make-up that was shockingly natural and so frighteningly close to my skin tone, but the lights placed a glow over my entire body.  The face looking at me didn’t look like me.  They were beautiful (and not in a conceited way).  This is not how I picture myself.  It’s not that I don’t have photographs of myself or allow people to take snapshots of me or don’t look at myself in the mirror every morning, but in my head I see a face that, frankly, has seen better days.  Years of battling acne (since puberty), dark spots, bags under my eyes, not-so-smooth skin — that’s what I see.  I also see the body weight and a large head (an unfortunate family trait).

This was not a Dove commercial.  But, the face looking back at me just didn’t look like me.

It’s interesting, the older I’ve gotten, the more self-critical I’ve become.  I don’t remember being this critical even as a teenager.  Sure, I know I look a lot younger than my age (also a family trait, but a really good one.  The “look”, however, doesn’t hide the obvious flaws I see.  And notice, I didn’t say, “…I think I see.”  What I described earlier in the post is real in my head.  But, perhaps my brain and eyes are making things a lot more prominent than they actually are, evidently, because the photographer, the make-up artist, and several family members who I’ve since shared one of the photos, couldn’t be more complimentary.

This brings me back to the Dove commercial.  What’s in a face?  Obviously, a lot from someone (me) who is seemingly coming to terms with aging.

Is this what qualifies as a mid-life crisis?

How do you see yourself?  When you look in the mirror or look at a photograph of yourself, what do you see?  Would people describe you as you’ve described yourself?