The Hamptons

What Matters Most

karen amster-young :: The Beach Chair Chronicles

…weekly observations & discoveries from manhattan to the east end…

As I look around my home office and stare at my never-ending to-do list I can’t help thinking about a dear friend of mine who is going through a heart-wrenching time trying to successfully complete an adoption of a beautiful little Vietnamese girl who already considers my friend her mother.

I am staring at the Bloomies bag on my floor; it has been sitting here for a month, waiting for me to haul my ass to 60th Street to return some semi-horrific dresses that I bought in a state of panic before a recent family wedding in Pittsburgh (don’t get me started – that’s another column). Meanwhile, I can’t stop thinking about this great friend who has already been back and forth to Vietnam two or three times this year as I try to find the time to get to do my errands. Nothing would or could stop her on her quest to adopt this little girl from Vietnam. Her situation is on my mind; it is making me think. It is making me extraordinarily pensive and mad.

I came home last Sunday relaxed from a weekend in the Hamptons and was jarred back to reality as I tried to cross town to drop my daughter at summer camp. I watched, incredulously as traffic cops ignored double-parked trucks of questionable origin block side streets for countless minutes while they aggressively ticket SUV’s dropping little ones at summer programs and camps in front of various upper east and west side schools. What is wrong with our government and law enforcement on a local, state and national level? Sirens, traffic and clogged streets made my serene state from the weekend quickly fade.

It started for me with the recount in the now infamous 2000 Presidential election. Then of course life-altering 9/11 and too many unanswered questions; then the “bad” information that led to the Iraq War. I thought about our government again during the ridiculous primary season that just concluded a few weeks ago. Count a vote as half a vote? Give me a break. Ticket an innocuous SUV not blocking any traffic for a few moments to drop off a kid at school or camp while ignoring the huge, unmarked trucks that languish forever and block entire city streets day after day? The energy our government and law enforcement officials spend on the wrong things is beginning to leave me speechless and disillusioned. Which brings me back to my friend.

I can’t detail the specifics of her political and bureaucratic nightmare because she is about to embark on a legal battle to ensure this little girl eventually comes to the United States. I do not want to write anything that could even remotely be found by aggressive googling and would in any way, shape or form impact anything. But I will share with you that I have been flabbergasted by the situation: why is it so difficult for wonderful families to complete an adoption in Vietnam despite lip service to the contrary by President Bush and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung?

The beautiful little girl my friend is trying to bring home is 5 1/2 years-old. She has never known her true birth mother and her father voluntarily gave her up for adoption because he lives in unimaginable poverty and can’t care for her. This is not a little infant but a little girl who already knows my friend who has visited with her and talks to her weekly on the phone with a translator. This is a little girl who would likely languish in an orphanage (especially because of her age) and is now receiving new clothes and toys weekly via a care package that my friend sends religiously. Two brothers are also waiting for this little girl here in NYC. Her room is ready – filled with new furniture that likely costs more money than she would see in her entire lifetime should she have to stay in Vietnam. But all of these comforts are not what is making the light shine in this little girl’s eyes for the first time (I’ve seen her photos). It’s the love and connection she feels with my friend; a growing trust and love that she has never experienced in her lifetime.

And governmental bureaucracy is standing in the way.

I know my friend has the fight of her life ahead of her. She is determined. She and her husband have already written countless letters to politicians and others. They’ve researched and researched and researched. They’ve traveled. They’ve cried. They have gone to Washington D.C. to hire the best lawyers they could find. I know they won’t stop until they bring her home.

I am feeling my friend’s sadness over this situation. I am feeling frustrated. The big truck blocking the side streets is symbolic of the frustrating and unnecessary hurdle she faces in this fight for her little girl. The local authorities doing zilcho about daily unfair crap in NYC is representative of the wasted time and energy spent on blocking an adoption of a girl from Vietnam for the wrong reasons. Are my friends being used as a political example? Is her case being used as a data point to support policy change? Is our government full of shit sometimes? Yes, absolutely. And too often it’s the good guys that have to fight the fight.

I can’t wait to meet this little girl from Vietnam. She has no idea what is going on and how lucky she is to have a family like this fighting for her to come here to be a part of a loving home. But the look in her eyes is unmistakably one of a little girl already coming to life. I know she will be here one day. And I know one day my friend will tell her the remarkable story about her life and her eventual journey to America. I know when she is old enough to understand, Jodi will tell her how she fought with everything she had to be her mother. I just hope this little girl only experiences the best of what America has to offer. It’s a great country; the opportunities here for her far surpass any she would have living in an orphanage in Vietnam her whole life. Hopefully, once here, she won’t face any hurdles that are unfair, unjust and ridiculous. Unfortunately, she probably will. But it’s still better here. She’s going to love her new room. She already loves her new Mom.

Karen Amster-Young, formerly principal of Amster-Young Public Relations, Inc., is a freelance writer living in New York City. She lives with her husband, Ben and 6 year-old daughter, Alison. She continues to work as a public relations & marketing consultant and is currently working on a non-fiction book. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including magazines on the East End. She can be reached at karen[at] lifeguard stand

July 3rd, 2008 Posted by | Beach Chair Chronicles | one comment

It’s Almost Summer…Just in the Nick of Time

karen amster-young :: The Beach Chair Chronicles

…weekly observations & discoveries from manhattan to the east end…

Hillary and Obama. Foreclosures and layoffs. Mind-boggling, horrific natural disasters. Rising, ridiculous gas prices. Ted Kennedy. Captivating but questionable tell-all books by Barbara Walters and others. Shamed politicians.

The media is dripping with harsh reality, irony, and layers of news from a scary and seemingly hypocritical world. Adding to this, we all, each and every day try to process our own, individual realities, losses, and challenges in the tiny little space we take up on this planet.

And then, just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, just in the nick of time, the “American Idol” finale aired this week. Aaah…mindless escapism. David Cook won? How could that be? Didn’t he have a bad night on Tuesday? Didn’t even Simon exclaim, “David you won the night,” the day before the finale? We love our reality television now. Even my workaholic, banker husband is watching “Dancing with the Stars” when he can; and forget about calling my TiVo-less Mom when it is airing. “Real Housewives of New York City” is frequently brought up at dinner with my girlfriends. And, the ultimate, truly first “reality” show, “Sex and the City: The Movie”, is opening next weekend after endless months of pre-release hype and buzz. Countless women between the ages of 25 – 45 have already pre-purchased tickets and are planning outings with close friends — an incredible phenomenon considering most of us have not gone to a movie with a “group” since high school. I have to admit I pre-purchased my ticket already.

So what does this all mean? It means we are increasingly seeking to escape reality – even for an hour or two. I think we would all go crazy without our escapes – whether it’s an hour of watching American Idol and contemplating the over inflated ego of David Cook and asking yourself if David Archuleta truly is as bewildered as he appears; anticipating the release of SATC: The Movie; playing tennis; retail therapy; laughing; good sex; good food; running, walking, biking, antiquing; whatever it is that takes you away from reality (as long as it’s legal?). Perhaps that explains the ever-growing popularity of reality television and, more importantly, the appeal of descending upon the Hamptons once again for the season. It’s great to get away. It’s as simple as that.

The Hamptons provides it’s own kind of escape. That is why many of us return, summer after summer and even year-round. Whether you just sit in your backyard or the beach, there is something about the Hamptons that we all love, despite our incessant complaining about traffic and crowds. Is it those very things that annoy us that actually transport us? Lines at Hampton Coffee and Citaralla; $40 drinks at Summertimes; bees on the beach at Cooper’s; another Jean-Luc restaurant; incredibly long lines at the movies in East Hampton on a rainy day. Are we exchanging one reality in Manhattan for another out East? Perhaps, but for some reason it all feels better out here after a day on the beach and an overpriced lobster dinner in your backyard. If you look at it another way, the Hamptons is a bit like a reality show, especially if you attend the “right” parties and are part of the non-stop social scene out here. “It’s like being IN a reality show,” my friend Lisa tried to explain to me as she rattled off the parties she plans on attending in the coming months. “That’s why the T.V. shows have their season finales before the summer.” I tried not to roll my eyes and simply said, “Of course, I know, but I am talking about doing things that get you away from the nonsense and the news.” “Oh”, she sighed as if I had just told her the tooth fairy doesn’t exist. “Listen I said, I am just saying that for every person escaping reality is different. Sometimes it is going to the hottest parties and clubs on the East End but sometimes – or most of the time in my opinion – it is about doing things that you can only do out here.” “I know what you mean,” she replied a little bewildered.

So, to ensure that “all the Lisa’s” out here don’t spend the entire summer hopping from one reality show to another on the East End, I have compiled a list of some great suggestions for escaping the news or whatever your reality is this summer on the East End.

• Picnic on the beach at sunset
• Drive aimlessly on the back roads (convertible preferred but optional)
• Go to Lunch in Amagansett and wait on line to eat a Lobster Roll (yes, waiting on line is allowed for this particular experience)
• Take your kids to see the ducks at Agawam Park
• Sign-up for an art class at the Parrish Art Museum (this place is NOT just about their annual Midsummer Party)
• Go to Tide Runners and escape the “scene” while listening to great local bands with people who live in the Hamptons year-round
• Bike from anywhere to the Montauk Lighthouse
• Book a massage at Oasis Spa on weekday
• Go to K-Mart in the Bridgehampton Commons just to get away from the boutiques and find a pair of sneakers for your 7 year-old that doesn’t cost $90.
• Read a good book…alright, I’ll say it: Audition: A Memoir by Barbara Walters is getting rave reviews.

And, if all fails and you find yourself annoyed standing on line at Golden Pear or Schmidt’s or filling up your tank for $4.51 a gallon, I promise you that you can find repeats of “American Idol”, “The Biggest Loser” and “Dancing with the Stars” somewhere on some channel this summer. I’m also pretty sure that “Sex and the City” (the series) will continue to have late-night airings on TBS. Oh, and don’t forget about Obama and Hillary. Even if Hillary has to hit her head on a wall to actually stop campaigning, the Obama – McCain battle is sure to be entertaining when you think about it. The Reverend Wright is sure to rear his ridiculous self again and scare us even more about Obama as President while McCain will try to figure out how to distance himself from the disastrous Bush administration while not alienating the entire Republican Party. Okay, maybe that’s too much reality…

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Karen Amster-Young, formerly principal of Amster-Young Public Relations, Inc., is a freelance writer living in New York City. She lives with her husband, Ben and 6 year-old daughter, Alison. She continues to work as a public relations & marketing consultant and is currently working on a non-fiction book. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including magazines on the East End. She can be reached atkaren[at] lifeguard stand

May 23rd, 2008 Posted by | Beach Chair Chronicles | one comment

True Inspiration: Just a Picture a Day…

karen amster-young :: The Beach Chair Chronicles

…weekly observations & discoveries from manhattan to the east end…

Inspiration comes in many forms. As the summer winds down, I am looking at a beautiful sunrise and contemplating fall and all that comes with it. What makes people take on new projects, challenges and move forward in their lives – whether personally or professionally? What motivates someone to lose weight, end a bad relationship, start that novel, learn a new hobby, or reach out to an old friend? Around this time of year – perhaps even more than New Year’s — we all have “our lists” – a list of things we want to accomplish as we “head back to school” (not to mention the things we have to do). In fact, there is a growing movement, particularly among people in “mid-life” to compile what they are now calling Life Lists – a list of things, from simple to perhaps more daunting, that one wants to accomplish over a period of time. The New York Times wrote an entire feature article about it last week. According to the article, it could and should include anything and everything you want to do this year, next year, before you leave this earth – from eating a new vegetable to traveling to Africa. I like this new trend. I like the tangible, measurable, simplicity of it. It really works for someone like me who likes to cross things off a list (you know, the omnipresent To-Do list) in order to feel a sense of accomplishment; it took me thousands of dollars to realize that getting things done is better than weekly visits to a therapist to talk about what we should be doing. The Life List concept appeals to me – especially since it goes beyond things like “pick up dry cleaning”. I already started compiling my Life List for the fall. Will I be able to cross some things off the list by January? By next summer? Even before the birth of this trend, I think everyone shares a desire to accomplish something each day. Even a seemingly simple, small accomplishment makes one feel more productive (Okay, even picking up the dry cleaning!). Our lives are measured in steps – both small and large. In fact, perhaps we don’t even realize how doing something each day – whatever it is – is all part of living our lives fully and leaving a legacy of some kind. But lists are not what it is all about either is it? Too many lists and we get bogged down and don’t actually create. Perhaps there is a happy medium? Maybe it is a combination of lists, including both seemingly small goals and large and actually crossing some off! But I am more adamant now than ever that it is also about living life and just doing. Let me go back to inspiration for a moment.

During the last week or so I was really touched and motivated by two projects that I heard about. Both were “brought” to me by good friends. One was a fulfillment of a promise made by my dear friend Linda to her first husband, Jamie Livingston, who sadly passed away at the age of 41 from melanoma. For 18 years before his untimely passing, he took a Polaroid photograph of anything that moved him, including up to the day he died. There were no “do-over’s” – whatever image was captured was meticulously documented and stored. “The Photo of The Day was his ritual. He collected unusual places, strange angles, curious things, loyal subjects, beautiful times of day. “Photo of the Day is a work of light, color, laughter, pain, travel, beauty, Won Ton soup, afternoons, coffee, hanging out, love, life in its entirety. It’s the masterpiece we all create. It’s just that Jamie thought to take its picture,” explained Linda. I have not stopped thinking about this project since she told me about it. I am sure Jamie did not think about the photos he was taking for 18 years as part of his legacy or crossed off “take picture” from his list of things to do for the day (or for 18 years for that matter). He just did it. Linda is now just two months away from having his six thousand, six hundred and ninety seven photographs displayed at this alma mater, Bard College. Jamie passed away 10 years ago. Did Linda have this goal – to bring the exhibit to fruition — on a Life List? I doubt it. She had it in her heart (and perhaps the steps written down to make it happen got her to this point today). Something to think about. I am truly impressed and touched by this story and her determination to get it done. The exhibit opens on October 12th. I wish I knew Jamie Livingston.

My college friend Jodi just e-mailed me about a good friend of hers, Pamela French. Pamela’s son is best friends with Jodi’s son. They are both entering 2nd grade. She just finished her first feature-length documentary scheduled to be aired on TLC Monday, September 10th. The film is entitled, Getting In…Kindergarten. According to Jodi, Pamela filmed three families over the course of a year – through the entire, crazy New York City admissions process — capturing all the trials and tribulations of the families and what they went through to get junior into the school of their choice. I thought about this project and how great it was that someone was bringing this story to life in full-length feature film as opposed to the occasional news specials that have touched upon this daunting process. This film needed to be made. What motivated Pamela to start this documentary and finish it? How did it get on her to-do list, her Life List or any list? Did she cross-off much else when she was getting this done? Probably not. The big projects we take on often means that everything else is put on hold; every choice we make means something else is not getting done. But look at the potential reward. I went through the ridiculous school admissions process myself. I certainly thought about writing about it. I didn’t. Other things for me came first. Why? Not sure. We all make these choices. Steve Nelson, the principal of Calhoun School is quoted in the film write-up and says, “ If people around the country watched this program, they will have just one more reason to believe that everyone in New York City has lost their minds!” Of course Steve is referring to the ludicrous nature of the admissions process but I think, in New York City, there truly is the potential to lose one’s mind. I almost did during the school admissions process a couple of years ago. Maybe that is why we need To-do Lists, Life Lists and more important, just some rituals like Photo of the Day. All working together we can truly take steps of all kinds to get things done and perhaps even leave a lasting legacy of some sort. Just don’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning. Most of all, don’t forget to be inspired – by a sunrise or just a simple image.

Till next time…

Karen Amster-Young, formerly principal of Amster-Young Public Relations, Inc., is a freelance writer living in New York City. She lives with her husband, Ben and 6 year-old daughter, Alison. She continues to work as a public relations & marketing consultant and is currently working on a non-fiction book. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including magazines on the East End. She can be reached at lifeguard stand

September 7th, 2007 Posted by | Beach Chair Chronicles | no comments

Storms and Sunshine – Why We Need Both

karen amster-young :: The Beach Chair Chronicles

…weekly observations & discoveries from manhattan to the east end…

I wish I could tell you that I read this in the New Yorker or that it was written by a Pulitzer Prize winner; the truth of the matter is that I truly believe I was in the nail salon, perusing O magazine or People or a similar mindless magazine. I was reading about Angelina and Brad, Lindsey Lohan and articles with titles such as, “How to Attract Anything You Want”, when I came across the following statement:

Sometimes the soul needs storms as well as sunshine

There I was, feet soaking in soapy, sudsy, warm water when I thought to myself, “that’s it!” Perhaps not everyone feels this way, but I certainly do; I need both – storms and sunshine. If things are too peaceful, too ordinary, too repetitive, I start feeling anxious. It just does not work for me. Now, in case you think I am crazy, let me clarify: I am not seeking storms that cause damage – emotionally, physically or spiritually. I am not talking about the “get me a Xanax now”, kind of storms. I am referring to storms in the sense of excitement, intrigue, challenge, variety. If there is too much sunshine, day after day literally and figuratively (i.e. routine, monotony) I begin to lose it. You get the idea. I can’t even focus when this goes on too long. Let’s take for example, my last few weeks in the Hamptons, which included Mom’s annual week-long visit to the Hamptons: I love the Hamptons. In fact, if I don’t get a Hamptons “fix” every week or so I also go crazy. However, too much of anything just does not work. Consider the following:

  • How many times can one go the Fudge Shop in Southampton with two six year-olds (daughter and niece), buying overpriced candy after dinner? The fact is, nothing else is open at that time if you are with kids;
  • How many times can you drive on the “back roads” in the pitch black without craving the din of New York City;
  • How many times can you stand on line at Citeralla, stubbing your toes on the uneven, wooden floors without missing the crowded Gristedes in NYC with smooth floors (albeit a little dirty) and the smiling delivery guy?
  • How many times can the birds at Cooper’s Beach swoop down and put their mouths on your water bottle, Coke can or lunch without craving a dignified lunch in Midtown?
  • How many times can you bite your tongue when Mom says approximately ten times, during her week-long visit:
    • You Drive Like That – With Your Foot Up on the dashboard?
      (Yes Mom, I have been driving like this since I was 16)
    • You rent this big house and they only have one TV?
      (Yes Mom, the owners are just not a TV family; it’s not a big deal)
    • I hope you have enough sunscreen on her
      (Yes and bug spray thank you)
    • Why are there no shades on your windows in the living room? They should put shades up – anyone can see in!
      (Because Mom, it would block the farm views and there is no one around looking in, believe me!)
    • I don’t know how you drive around here at night – it’s so dark!
      (I know Mom, the back roads are like that at night here; that is what people like about it and especially if you live in the city)

O.K. This is not about bashing Mom or the Hamptons; Mom and I had a lovely visit although I did reach for the chardonnay a little more that week. This is about my personal disdain for repetition. I know these are not big problems; sometimes you just have to rant because you believe in your soul that others must feel this way and seek storms as well as sunshine. All of us out here know that time on the East End is wonderful for the body, soul and spirit and we are lucky to be here. I know. I know!

However, during the last two weeks or so in the Hamptons I truly felt like I was pressing rewind each and every day. Don’t get me wrong, mixed in were some great dinners, one too many BBQ’s, some elegant Hamptons cocktail parties, the beach, reading and so on. Don’t start adamantly telling me about the exercise classes, the fundraisers, the clambakes on the beach, the art exhibits, the great farm stands! I know. I know. Been there; done that (well, maybe not enough exercise classes). I know many of you “love, love, love” living out here for 3 months. I JUST CAN’T DO IT!

Even for the “live out here, kids at camp, husbands on the cannonball arriving on Thursdays or Fridays” Moms, please don’t tell me there does not come a time that you just start craving the routine of fall and the City, the energy, the NOISE, culture and putting on real shoes again. Please admit that you miss your hair salon, your apartment, your own stupid deli at the corner, great food DELIVERED at any time. Admit it! And, most of all, even if you are part of the “I live out here and love it and my husband come on weekends” tribe please, please admit that at some point this month you start missing using your brain for something other than nailing that dinner reservation at Nick and Toni’s. OK, I feel better now. Let’s go back to Mom’s visit.

It started with a call from Westhampton on her journey out here. “I am near the Westhampton Deli,” she said with slight panic in her voice. “How do I get back on Montauk Highway”? Now if I tried to tell her that I had no idea where she was in Westhampton she would have gotten upset with me because, like many people, when you are nervous, there is a tendency to sound annoyed, particularly with the people you are closest to; emotions can run high when you are lost in my family. I simultaneously tried to give her directions and handle my 6-year-old daughter in the shower, while not dropping my cell phone in the toilet again as I had done a few weeks ago. I silently prayed that I would not have to return to Verizon in Bridgehampton. The calls came in quick succession until, by some miracle, she ended up back on the Highway. Whew. I think I managed to handle that without sounding impatient. I knew that her arriving with minimal driving frustration could possibly set the tone for the whole visit. A little later in the week, I was looking all over for the milk I just purchased on the way home from dinner ; my nerves were a little shot on this 6th day, so I truly could not find the milk although I knew I put it down somewhere in the house. Mom was now trying to navigate her way to the front door area where she had put her suitcase upon arrival and literally asked me directions — IN THE HOUSE. She was truly like a fish out of water out here as she looked for the non-existent shades in the living room to pull down, fearing that a deer may see us in our pajamas.

I know sometime in October I will be craving the peace and tranquility and slow rhythm of August. I know I will be kicking myself that I went back, this 20th day of the month to the City for a mini-“fix”. I plan on returning later this week and enjoying every last sandy, buggy, Fudge Shop stop moment. In fact, I can’t wait for the last two weeks out on the East End. I know it will end and I will be sad but I am, I admit, thinking about the fall and that great “going back to school” feeling. Being out here also makes me appreciate the rhythm of the home routine and all that comes with it. Like I said, it is about knowing yourself and what you need — in my case, variety, balance, challenge and even the noise. I know there is nothing like pulling up in the driveway of your beach house after a week in the city. I know that. But honestly, I cannot WAIT to make that lunch reservation in Midtown. At the moment, it is stormy in New York City and the Hamptons. I think I picked the perfect time for my City “fix”. I know, on the East End, with camp a distant memory at this point, I would have been at the Fudge Shop with Alison in Southampton at least once today. Ah…sunshine and storms. We need both.

Karen Amster-Young, formerly principal of Amster-Young Public Relations, Inc., is a freelance writer living in New York City. She lives with her husband, Ben and 6 year-old daughter, Alison. She continues to work as a public relations & marketing consultant and is currently working on a non-fiction book. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including magazines on the East End. She can be reached at lifeguard stand

August 21st, 2007 Posted by | Beach Chair Chronicles | no comments

Super Saturday? Super Friends? Super Heroes!

karen amster-young :: The Beach Chair Chronicles

…weekly observations & discoveries from manhattan to the east end…

“Super heroes are the best,” my daughter Alison recently said with conviction as we were walking together in Southampton. She then asked, “Why do there have to be bad guys?” in the same breath. I did not know how to answer; there was no easy answer. The questions were getting harder recently. Finishing Kindergarten had propelled her to a new level of curiosity. I knew that she formed this question as a result of a new super hero “second level” reader and from the bits and pieces of conversation she overheard from grown-up conversation and television. I myself struggled with the same question at least weekly. This week alone I was having trouble shaking the story out of Connecticut about the senseless, barbaric home invasion. I was having trouble shaking the revisited realization that Osama was still out there despite a costly, troublesome, controversial war. “There are more good guys than bad,” I found myself saying. “The bad guys get in trouble in the end.” “I wish there were no bad guys,” she answered. I shook my head in agreement and kissed her, wishing that we were in a fictional story where the bad guys really do get in trouble and that bad things didn’t happen. Then I changed the subject; asking her about what she did in camp that day, pointing out a new toy store and just talking. It seemed like the right thing to do. Alright, I thought: I handled that; a six year-old does not have to know more. I wanted to protect her. Not just from the reality of truly bad guys and what goes on in the world but even the little stuff that hurts. I always want to protect her. It was a constant mission for me: to help her grow, to be confident and strong, to make her understand the really super bad stuff and how to be resilient to even the “little” hurts and the roller coaster of life.

Super Saturday – the annual charity designer shopping event in the Hamptons — is for me one of those events I put on my calendar every summer and for some reason never make it. I am either too tired or it’s just too hot or I just have other plans; or I just, well, don’t feel like going when it actually arrives because I am super tired! Last Saturday, I woke up and felt I absolutely had to go the gym because it had been too many days. I also knew I had to go food shopping unless we were going to exist on Baked Lays Potato chips and ketchup. So I made a choice. I was going to do errands; there were limited hours in a day and evening plans looming (which in the Hamptons seem to start earlier and earlier these days).

I also wondered about a “close” friend; let’s call her Lisa who told me during the week that she was not going to Super Saturday (“it wasn’t so great last year,” she had said when I thought perhaps we would go together). Without thinking I had called her to say hi at about noon on Saturday. “I can’t talk,” she explained. I could barely hear her. “I am standing in the V.I.P. line at Super Saturday and it is crazy here.” Call me sensitive, but I was a little offended. Did she change her mind and just decide to go that morning? Did she simply not want to go with me and not even realized I had asked? The reality is she likely just woke up and decided to go without remembering our conversation since it was fairly informal. Or did she? I usually don’t even think about this kind of thing but there have been numerous times lately that I realized I was spending time on the wrong people. I should be spending time on my super heroes! I found it quite annoying since perhaps if she had said she was going I would have mentally planned on attending since the company of a friend is always added incentive. I knew I was not going to lose sleep over this one but I certainly was “insulted” and peeved. Super friend? I don’t think so. Was it enough to even confront her about? Not really. In reality, there were many great memories between us.

But it did make me question the people in my life and craziness of my world: Who are true friends? Who are your super friends? And who are the super heroes in our lives? Are we all just too super busy to be super good friends anymore? Are we not extending simple etiquette to the people we love the most?

Despite one’s confidence, age and the resilience that comes with being older and wiser, there are still the little “hurts”; when they build up and you are feeling out of sorts, it is time to reevaluate things. When is it time to donate some time or energy to contribute to the fight against the really bad guys? Whether it is writing your congressman, marching for a cause or just simply donating more time or money to play our part in trying to eradicate the really bad guys, change unfair laws or make changes around us? When is it time to “clean house” and purge your life or those people who, you come to realize, only reach out when there is something in it for them or somewhere along the way, forgot the simple things that makes a relationship just keep ticking. You just need that phone call once in a while that is spontaneous and thoughtful. Those are really the best. Now it is more about 100 e-mails to orchestrate bigger plans. I miss the simpler calls, “Hey, I changed my mind. I am going to Super Saturday. Want to come?”
That stupid but quick call and I would have probably skipped the gym and lived on the baked Chips another day. Or, would I have decided to hang with my family and skip the super designer duds?

I thought to myself, “Shit, am I guilty of this stuff too?” Probably. Maybe we are all just too busy and connecting via Blackberry and the internet? Maybe we just don’t truly, truly recognize the real super heroes in our lives; maybe we just have to stop trying to be everywhere and do everything. Our family, our spouse or significant other and certainly our kids make us realize what is truly important and remind us about super heroes and who the really bad guys are. And, of course, making an effort with really great friends that have proven themselves over time. They are so important. They are the ones who think to call you spontaneously or just to make sure you are okay.

Later that weekend I heard from a number of people that Super Saturday was just okay. “It was really hot there and there were what seemed like thousands of people waiting on line and doing the shopping thing,” I was informed. Of course, it was for a good cause and part of the summer tradition out here. But, in the end, I was with my super heroes — instead of shopping with a frequently self-absorbed friend — and that is what matters. So write your Congressman, march in a protest, eradicate the bad guys. And, most of all, take a step back and think about who really matters in your life. I think you get that this is not a column intended to bash Super Saturday; it’s a great event for a good cause. This is about reevaluating, reassessing and being present wherever you are. I was eating a great lunch (with baked chips!) in the backyard with my family. I hope my friend missed out on that Donna Karen suit by a split second! Ouch, was that me who said that? Most of all, I hope my daughter doesn’t learn too quickly about the really bad guys. I also hope she learns who to spend time and energy on. And lastly, a little part of me, hope she learns to snag that great designer suit for a good cause on a hot sunny afternoon in the Hamptons! All three life lessons are what it is really about.

Have a super day!

Karen Amster-Young, formerly principal of Amster-Young Public Relations, Inc., is a freelance writer living in New York City. She lives with her husband, Ben and 6 year-old daughter, Alison. She continues to work as a public relations & marketing consultant and is currently working on a non-fiction book. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including magazines on the East End. She can be reached lifeguard stand

August 1st, 2007 Posted by | Beach Chair Chronicles | no comments

Go Fly a Kite!

karen amster-young :: The Beach Chair Chronicles

…weekly observations & discoveries from manhattan to the east end…

A few weeks ago I took a break from writing this column in order to handle an exciting PR project for a renowned interior designer participating in the 2007 Hampton Designer Showhouse. Truth be told, I also took a break to simply observe and reflect. I had been reviewing my columns on this site to date and had noticed a unifying thread: they were always about being a little stuck, stressed or side-tracked by minutia. A few others had also pointed out these recurring themes; and then there were some others that truly were relating to my raves and rants and feared I would stop complaining! Well, for the latter group, I am happy to report that I still feel the same way, so don’t worry! However, it made me step back and actually look at all the great things that make the summer so wonderful. It also made me take a closer look at the genre I have currently chosen to pursue in my writing: the personal essay as a journalistic form. This form has been on the receiving end of some harsh criticism lately. A recent report on a top journalism web site questions whether those in journalism and in the publishing world are too fixated on the idea of a positive narrative thrust? It asks, “Are we afraid of the rambling nature of the essay?” Taking its name from the French word essai, meaning “attempt,” an essay doesn’t set out to tell a complete, narrative, happy story, but rather simply tosses out an idea(s) like a trial balloon. The report continues that Essayphobia (love that word) doesn’t make sense. These days, non-fiction sells better than fiction. Short sells better than long. The essay is a slick fit with today’s reading habits — although whether it fits the tastes and proclivities of today’s writer is another question. According to our old friend Webster, the essay is “a short literary composition of an analytical, interpretive, or reflective kind, dealing with its subject in a non-technical, limited, often unsystematic way, and, usually, expressive of the author’s outlook and personality.” With the need to meld observation of the outside world with the reflections of the soul, this is not the standard journalistic enterprise. Perhaps this is a challenge more journalism programs ought to take up.

With that said and my general observational, slightly cynical, stressed-out viewpoint still in check, I set out on a mission: can I observe the world around me as usual but make note of all the wonderful pleasures of summer? This mission happened to coincide with the official start of my summer on July 1st. If you don’t know why my summer officially started on July 1st, I encourage you to review my first column about preparing for the summer. Okay, so deep breath, here it goes:

  1. Riding in a great convertible in the Hamptons without traffic
  2. Eating ice cream and walking around town
  3. Eating fat-free, tasteless yogurt called something like “Mocha Peanut Butter” and walking around town (OOPS! wrong column; but really, do they actually think this stuff tastes good?)
  4. Actually relaxing by my pool and not moving for at least one hour, despite kids running around
  5. Standing in line at Verizon for 2 hours in Bridgehampton and realizing that the same incompetent people who work at the Manhattan store come here for the summer (Oops! wrong column again!)
  6. The unmistakable aroma of a great BBQ
  7. Having an “aha” moment that can only happen when away from Manhattan. This “aha” moment can be anything from finally deciding what color bath mat to buy to more important decisions about relationships, life and so on. However, for some reason, even the bath mat decision can feel liberating out here.
  8. Actually buying something on sale at a Village store and liking it
  9. Dropping your cell phone in the toilet by accident (Sorry, wrong column again; see #5)
  10. The great Hamptons air
  11. Watching my daughter run barefoot
  12. The sunsets
  13. That perfect drive to Amagansett to LUNCH or that Clam Shack place on a perfect day
  14. Dancing at Cigar Bar in Sag Harbor
  15. Finding that perfect anything, especially when you don’t really need it and you just stumble upon it
  16. No line at Coopers Beach when my daughter is absolutely starving and can’t live another moment without a grilled cheese sandwich
  17. Lobster every weekend – in the backyard, at a great restaurant or anywhere
  18. 10 minutes at my beach house without anyone there
  19. Spending a night at a good ‘ol Carnival in the summer; there is something so great about the fact that they never change. I am not talking about the big fund raising Carnivals that are part of the summer out here. I am talking about the ones with cotton candy and a real Ferris wheel thank you.
  20. Absolutely LOVING a new song on the radio
  21. Being first on-line for coffee at Hampton Coffee Company or Golden Pear or anywhere in the Hamptons. In order to achieve this feeling you must have insomnia and be there before 6:42 on a weekend
  22. Discovering that despite being a popular restaurant you have no desire to ever go back. This sense of sureness comes with age and, in the process, you ensure that you won’t be experiencing bad food and bad service for the remainder of the summer (ok, wrong column again)
  23. Getting a “little color” that falls within the range of “safe” and actually makes you feel better
  24. Playing a great game of tennis despite having not played in 3 weeks. OK, the truth is I have not played in 3 weeks but I know it will feel great when I do : )
  25. Seeing an ex-anything and just not caring
  26. Seeing your husband do the laundry at least one day
  27. Seeing absolutely no dirty laundry for more than a day
  28. Not hearing about or airing any dirty laundry for more than a day
  29. Having your annual “in the Hamptons” High School friends weekend with all the husbands and kids and realizing they’ve known you for about two decades and will love you forever, despite your faults.
  30. Realizing your high school friends freakin’ have known you for almost two decades!!!! What is that? When did that happen? How old am I? How did we get this old? (Oops! wrong column again!)
  31. Finally almost writing a column that is not talking about the ongoing quest for true relaxation, being stuck or just being annoyed. And successfully identifying some of the great things about summer in the Hamptons.

And remember, as stated earlier, according to our old friend Webster, the essay is “a short literary composition of an analytical, interpretive, or reflective kind, dealing with its subject in a non-technical, limited, often unsystematic way, and, usually, expressive of the author’s outlook and personality. I bid adieu until next time. I say, go fly a kite if you don’t want to hear any rants or raves, complaining or whining. Flying a kite is, perhaps, one of the best things about summer (see! I can do it!).

Karen Amster-Young, formerly principal of Amster-Young Public Relations, Inc., is a freelance writer living in New York City. She lives with her husband, Ben and 6 year-old daughter, Alison. She continues to work as a public relations & marketing consultant and is currently working on a non-fiction book. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including magazines on the East End. She can be reached lifeguard stand

July 20th, 2007 Posted by | Beach Chair Chronicles | no comments


karen amster-young :: The Beach Chair Chronicles

…weekly observations & discoveries from manhattan to the east end…

I walked into the serene, Zen-like spa at 10:00 p.m. last Friday. After weeks of being trapped in my zip code I was finally away for 24 hours. The logistics of making this 24-hour getaway happen was equivalent, in my opinion, to getting Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump to dine together. The lights were dim and annoying “relaxation” music played in the background. When are these spas going to learn that we would actually like to hear some real music as we try to unwind? I was supposed to have a massage at 5:00 p.m. Unfortunately, traffic on the way to my destination was horrendous. I made three calls to the spa from the road to change the time of my appointment. “I am sorry,” said the irritatingly-cheerful spa person on the other end of the phone. “We can’t change your appointment at this point to tomorrow morning. However, if you want to come for the last appointment this evening — at 10:00 p.m. — we can accommodate you.” I decided to take it. I figured my daughter would be asleep and I could meander down to the spa, relaxed (ha!) after dining at a kid-friendly restaurant with the required glass of chardonnay, and enjoy a massage. I craved this massage. I deserved this massage. I wanted this massage damn it! I wondered what other crazy, time-challenged people would be at the spa at this time? To my delight, the gym was empty. This meant I could actually continue on this journey without feeling additional guilt for skipping the gym today; I mean, when was I supposed to work out? Was it when I was looking for my daughter’s stupid swim goggles for the 100th time since Memorial Day or when I was behind a tractor-trailer accident stuck on the highway? The spa was quiet but a few others lingered in the whirlpool and locker room. “At least I was not the only crazy woman here”, I thought to myself. I tried to get a sense of who these other crazy women were but decided to focus on my own experience instead. I grabbed one of those lemon-wedged glasses of water and sat in my robe and waited to be called for my treatment.

They should establish a new policy: anyone who makes an appointment for after 8:00 p.m. should have an “open bar” option. Oh, I forgot to mention my ten attempts of opening the locker with one of those key-pads where you enter your own code to open and lock it. I hate them. I prefer the key on the spiral key chain thing you put on your wrist; it makes you feel like you are back in college; remember those things from your dorm room? I ended up lugging my heavy pocketbook with me to the waiting room. I did not trust that I successfully secured the stupid locker.

After waiting for about 10 minutes and reading an article about getting your body “beach ready” (ha!), a girl (and I mean girl) came out and gave me a form to fill out before my massage. “Do I really have to fill this out?” I asked feeling tired and ancient. “Yes, we must have your information before your massage.”

I read the first question:

Sometimes, I thought. This form is making me dizzy – I should let them know. Anxiety can make you feel dizzy. Do they need to know that?

Not at the moment, but the forced Zen in this place is fading fast.


There was not enough room to answer this question. I skipped it.

No! Let’s leave that one alone for now. Thanks for the reminder on so many levels.


AGH! Is this supposed to put me in a pre-massage mood? What is it with these places? Can’t they just have you sign something to release them of all liability regardless of your mental or physical state? It should just read:

I hereby hold this expensive, irritating place harmless for anything that happens as a result of my massage. And then they should have you sign it. That’s it. That’s what all of these places should make you sign.

I gave the form back filled out, with partial truths to the twelve-year old girl. I then checked my cell phone for the last time; shutting it off required an exhausting amount of focus. I then took a big gulp of the lemon-wedged water and waited. Mark, my assigned masseur, entered the waiting area and escorted me in to another, smaller room with the same music. He told me to take off all of my jewelry. I started sweating. Oh, here we go! Of course, most of my jewelry stays on all the time. Taking it off requires dexterity and patience, both of which were in short supply right now. “I will be back in a few moments,” he said. “Just take off all of your clothes except your underwear and lay face down with your head in the cradle.” Much to my surprise, I managed to take off the jewelry and follow his directions. There I was, face down, trying to relax. We all know though that when you try to relax it is next to impossible. I started thinking that perhaps I should have just forgotten the massage and paid the cancellation fee and join the list of spa “no-shows”.

And then…just when I thought I could not possibly be more uptight, an old Bob Dylan song replaced the grating Zen music and Mark’s hands worked my shoulders…

I began relaxing. By the end of the 50 minutes I was successfully in a different place – a state of mind that most “normal” people are probably in on a regular basis. The only difference? I had to pay for it. I floated back to my locker with my big freakin’ pocketbook and, of course, could not successfully open the metal box. I walked back to my room in those ugly spa sandals and decided to worry about getting my own shoes tomorrow.

The quest for relaxation is often elusive. It can actually take some work to get there. But, just as in life, you have to appreciate the journey. It all works in the end.

‘Till next week…

Karen Amster-Young, formerly principal of Amster-Young Public Relations, Inc., is a freelance writer living in New York City. She lives with her husband, Ben and 6 year-old daughter, Alison. She continues to work as a public relations & marketing consultant and is currently working on a non-fiction book. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including magazines on the East End. She can be reached lifeguard stand

June 23rd, 2007 Posted by | Beach Chair Chronicles | no comments

Trapped in… Paris!

karen amster-young :: The Beach Chair Chronicles

…weekly observations & discoveries from manhattan to the east end…

Writer’s note(s):

* = names have been changed to protect privacy

** = a number that is less than the actual real number; fictitious number used to protect my own reputation and not upset Mom.

I am in the mood to explore confinement – physical confinement, mental confinement, relationship confinement, emotional confinement: confinement in general. Confinement also means, for purposes of this column, a sense of stagnation, being trapped and simply not moving on. Unless you were literally in a box somewhere during the last week or so (see box stuff in last column), you are aware that Paris Hilton, the most famous, non-famous person to ever exist, was put in jail, released from jail and confined to her extravagant home and then put back in jail with special medical facilities to deal with her unspecified medical condition (it was alluded to but never confirmed she was in a dangerous mental state). I am sure her medical emergency dissipated, at least slightly, by the time she reentered her home and will emerge again when she is once again confined to a small room with a basic commode, cot and no privacy. By the time you read this she may very well be back under house arrest, with an ankle monitor, but certainly surrounded by the luxuries that she has grown accustomed to. I am not bashing Paris; that would be too easy to do. In fact, I can relate to wanting to scream when you are somewhere you don’t want to be – physically or emotionally, in any aspect of life. Paris is literally in jail. I want to discuss how we all can feel and be locked up sometimes. I want to talk about not being able to move on. It has been said before that life is a journey and it certainly is. I personally have noticed a pattern of movement, stagnation, movement, stagnation. Sometimes the journey to where we want to go simply takes too long. Sometimes there is no movement at all. Sometimes we have no idea where we want to go. Sometimes we don’t even recognize how important it is to move on and get out. Sometimes we simply have to be where we don’t want to be.

Despite the fact that she was a fixture in Hollywood before my time, I thought about true Hollywood legends, such as Katherine Hepburn. Here is a woman who broke the rules and did it with grace and style. She was an independent woman who did not care what people thought. She wore pants in Hollywood when everyone was wearing flirty skirts and trying to please the masses. She would have abhorred someone being famous for not being famous. Kate the Great, despite her haughtiness, was obsessive about her craft and the quality of her work; she worked hard. Paris is trapped right now because she has to move forward. She has to actually work at something and become something to earn the notoriety she has. She simply can’t continue like this. She has to move on.

You can feel locked up, recognize confinement and see stagnation in numerous situations.

  • A bad relationship that you just can’t leave
  • Being stuck on the L.I.E. going east and just not moving (don’t even try to convince me that you “know the back roads”). Even YOU get stuck in traffic
  • Too many obligations and not enough “down” time
  • Literally, as in an elevator (don’t get me started)
  • Locked in a self-destructive pattern (don’t get me started)
  • Trapped at a bridal shower or some other event that we all pretend to like (don’t even try to tell me anyone likes these except, perhaps, if in honor of an immediate family member)
  • Bush’s irrational, ineffective war in Iraq (note: please refrain from thinking that I am even comparing being stuck on the L.I.E with our country’s war)
  • When confined to any small space not designed for humans
  • A stalled career, no career or perhaps the most concerning, no desire for a career
  • Not being able to let go of “old” stuff

I thought about all of this recently.

“I won’t eat that bread,” my daughter yelled at 8:00 in the morning last Wednesday as I was packing her lunch for school. I was unsuccessfully trying to convince her to accept that I did not have any more potato bread for her sandwich. I am out of the “right” bread. Lose one point for Mom! I find it amazing that I have to go to the supermarket again this week. It amazes me that with just one child I find myself going there a ridiculous amount of times to make sure the princess has all of her special snacks, lunch bag requirements and meals in general. I have to use a certain kind of freakin’ bread. She is six. She will only eat one kind. That’s how they are. Perhaps I am just not shopping right? Maybe my husband ate three sandwiches over the weekend that I did not know about? This has to change. It is monotonous. The deli guy knows me and knows what I want. I have become my mother. It feels like 1966 again. Despite decades of progress for women, we are still spending too much time running the household and replacing the bread. This has to change. My daughter needs to change too. She needs to learn that there is more than one delicious bread choice in life. In the meantime, I took her to school. She was devastated about not having potato bread for her sandwich. I have to change my food shopping strategy. I feel totally trapped in the supermarket lately – literally and figuratively. It sounds ridiculous but I want to get out of the supermarket in more ways than one.

Robin* had me on the phone last week for a good hour. She had received an obnoxious and irrational letter from an old friend – someone she had a falling out with over ten years ago that we both knew from college. Robin had recently reached out to Jill* to try to rekindle the friendship. Jill’s response was quite angry considering the nature of the ancient falling out but Robin was despondent. I listened sympathetically and tried to give her some good advice. “Why do you even want to reconnect with her? What do you miss about her friendship?” I asked. She could not really answer. “I don’t know. We used to be such good friends,” she said. “I know, but that was a long time ago,” I replied. “Maybe you don’t have much in common anymore.” I said it nicely (I hope). “Maybe she just is not supposed to be in your life anymore.”

Isn’t it amazing what great therapists we are when it is not about our own lives?

Robin was trapped in the past. Moving on without closure is a tough one. Why do we hate letting go of relationships that don’t work and haven’t for a long time? Because it is hard. I have been there. Letting go of old stuff. That’s a big one.

Andrea* reached out to me this weekend. She was devastated. Her boyfriend of three years had not called after their last fight. “You just never really know when it will be the last time with someone,” she cried to me. “I know,” I said. “I will die without him,” she continued. “What was your last fight about?” I asked. “Same shit,” she said. I was waiting for her to tell me that he insulted her again; that he made her feel like crap when he disappeared on certain nights and was not present – especially mentally because of too much vodka or too much fun. “But he never called when you needed him too,” I reminded her. “I know, but I LOVED him,” she said. “I know,” I said. “There are some people you just love even if they hurt you again and again. I am not sure why.” “You have to move on,” I said as warmly as I could. I cared about my friend. Despite the passion, this relationship had not worked for a while. Andrea knew she was trapped in a bad relationship. She may not be ready, but she has to move on. Change sucks sometimes.

My Mom called me for the third** time today. She was devastated. She could not leave her house because the stupid driveway guy had decided to repave it while her car was in the garage not knowing she was home and therefore she was stuck in suburban hell. “You really should move already,” I said. My father had passed away over five years ago and she was in a house that she really did not need anymore. I mean the lawn, the driveway, the roof, and all the crap that no one really wants to deal with especially when you are over a certain age and trying to do it yourself. My Mom does not want to move from that house. Who would want to deal with packing up a house that you’ve lived in for 30 years or more? Mom changed the topic to my food shopping strategy and how I really have to stop complaining about going to the supermarket so much; she also starting talking to me about how my daughter needs to learn to like a greater variety of foods. Isn’t it easier to tell someone else what is wrong with their lives? It takes the focus off of you. As much as I know that Mom loved our old house I know she knows she has to sell it soon. I wouldn’t say she is trapped in the old house. I wouldn’t dare. She would be furious if I said that. She is a happy person. But change is hard and I think she is trapped in that house. Without a doubt it is time to move.

Katherine Hepburn’s credo was “Go Now”. According to a review of a recent book, “How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great, her salient lesson for the modern age is to act and then figure it out. A lot of her life was about doing things that terrified her. She made plenty of mistakes but at least she went for it. She would not condemn Paris for messing up; the great Kate certainly did that. . But she would tell her to get her act together and do something that she was proud of. She would tell her to be strong, do her time and then come out and accomplish something of value so she could move forward. That is the lesson to be learned here. We need to always move forward. We need to strive to get better, get out of a bad relationship or a stalled career or simply out of the house.

Most of all, you just have to get out of the supermarket to move on. As Hepburn would say, “Go Now”.

Karen Amster-Young, formerly principal of Amster-Young Public Relations, Inc., is a freelance writer living in New York City. She lives with her husband, Ben and 6 year-old daughter, Alison. She continues to work as a public relations & marketing consultant and is currently working on a non-fiction book. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including magazines on the East End. She can be reached at: lifeguard stand

June 13th, 2007 Posted by | Beach Chair Chronicles | no comments

Boxed OUT!

karen amster-young :: The Beach Chair Chronicles

…weekly observations & discoveries from manhattan to the east end.

Mayor Bloomberg talked a lot last week about “blocking the box”. As usual, he had an aggressive and, as much as some of us hate to admit, likely effective recommendation about fixing something in Manhattan. This time it was about how to alleviate the “blocking the box” issue in New York – the box being the area in an intersection in Manhattan that numerous drivers block with or without realizing it, adding to the already congested streets of the City. He announced he would be adding more traffic cops to issue tickets to these drivers without needing to actually stop them (thereby not adding to the congestion). They can simply take a photo of the unsuspecting obnoxious driver’s license plate and a ticket would be issued. Despite being an avid news reader, this was my first conscious exposure to the word “box” in the last seven days. I did not think much of it at the time. “Smack in the Box” was the headline from the Daily News and there were numerous others. I think I liked the headline. That is what I thought about really. But the news is the news and often applies to life: don’t block the box or there are consequences, perhaps just irritating, but consequences.

Around the same time my six-year old developed a fever of unknown origin. It seemed to last forever. No strep throat, no ear infection, none of the usual suspects of infant, toddler or childhood fever. I remained calm for about a week; let’s face it: once you have a kid who is six years old you already have some battle scars and like to think you are an ‘ol pro with these things. When the first week went into the second week and the penicillin was not kicking in, I got a little stressed-out. When my daughter’s pediatrician was rambling on about bacterial versus viral infections and hypothesizing about the cause, I stopped him mid-sentence (I mean this was the 10th call and I was sleep-deprived) and I said in an irritated tone, “Could we think OUT OF THE BOX for a moment?” As the words came out of mouth I realized that this was one of the only times I used this phrase where I was not participating in a creative brainstorm. There was a pregnant pause and then he responded, “Yes, we could.” And he continued talking about our next steps. But this time it did not sound as rehearsed or as if he was placating a nervous Upper East Side Mom. I was reminded that thinking out of the box could be a productive thing. Think out of the box; especially when someone you love is struggling or not well. Think out of the box.

An unbelievably huge box arrived at my door (well, at my doorman) around the same time this was all going on. Not surprisingly, I had forgotten about some phone or on-line purchase I made the week before from one of the thousands of catalogs we get in the mail. I am not an obsessive on-line or catalog shopper. However, I do get freaked out for some reason about throwing out great catalogs before I look at them; and once in while I see something I absolutely MUST have. It is funny how unimportant this shit becomes when you have a kid who does not feel well. Anyway, I brought the 100 ton box upstairs that day and could not even remember what the hell I ordered until I saw “Aged Terra Cotta” on the outside and realized it was during a “weak”, spring fever moment when I ordered a freakin’ planter for my balcony; I admit, I had succumbed to that pathetic New Yorker ritual of trying to make a balcony look pretty so we create an outdoor space to pretend for a second we are not in the city. I did not realize it was so huge. I must have looked at the dimensions, I thought to myself. I have been told I am spatially challenged with some things. I am also bad with directions. Same side of the brain I believe. The huge box sat in my living room. I need to return the huge box to the overpriced home and garden company. It is too big. The box is too big. Some boxes are just not right. Always return boxes that are just not right.

On the Lower East side of Manhattan at this specific time in Gotham, as many of you probably know, there is the hot nightclub of the moment, The Box. There is always one club of the moment. When my daughter was finally, fingers crossed, out of the woods late last week I was desperate to get out. Despite feeling run-down from two weeks of worrying, I felt trapped in my apartment – boxed in. My first choice was to be out with a close friend – just one person that I could meet with my bad hair and chipped nail polish and recap the worry I had been feeling (let’s face it, beauty appointments are the first to go when you are in anxiety mode). Unfortunately, without getting into the story, it was a group dinner or nothing. So I opted for the group dinner. Maybe it was the best thing: light conversation with fairly new friends and acquaintances in the West Village. Later that night, after a few chardonnays, I heard that another group of friends was, coincidentally, at The Box. Risking a bit of humiliation by sharing this, I could not get in that night. According to my sources, if you make a table or show reservation you don’t have to deal with the lines or politics of getting in. I did not even think about this as I headed over to the club, by myself, fairly late in the evening. I think the last time I was in this part of town was when I watched “Crossing Delancey” and just HAD to see if there was really a pickle man! Once you are past a certain age you feel like you’ve “been there, done that” and I really have not had to wait on one of those obnoxious lines where they pick and choose who gets in for about 15 years. That was my first mistake. Never underestimate the power of a BOX. Any box. Girls half my age swirled around me. I think it was a movie called “The Mirror has Two Faces”, where Jeff Bridges’ best friend was trying to explain that he was unfulfilled despite his numerous dates because most of them thought that “A Farewell to Arms” was a diet book rather than a classic novel, alluding to his penchant for young women which was not getting him anywhere on the happiness scale. Most of the girls on line that night looked to be in that category. But I will admit that for a split second, as if I was “twenty-something” again, I did feel humiliated waiting on that line and not getting in on my own accord! Now, I could have called about three people that my husband and I know and dropped some names and gotten in (I think!), but I just would not do that at midnight on that particular night. I remained calm and thought about what the hell I was doing there. I felt old, I will admit. I am not used to not getting in somewhere! How could this be happening?? I go to most of the hot clubs at least once in a while and it has not been an issue. I knew I looked tired from two weeks of putting cold compresses on my daughter’s head, taking her temperature and worrying. The very young “bouncer” looked at me and asked, “Do you have a reservation? Do you know anyone here?” I decided to just play sweet and not use the names of our better known connections because they were not here and I just felt like it was beneath me. So I just said, “I am meeting some friends.” He responded, “Sorry, if you don’t have a table or give me a name I know I can’t let you in.” I was deflated but certainly did not feel crushed. I mean, I knew by next week I may be here again (having at least pre-planned a bit or called ahead with my non-chipped nails!) or perhaps I would just be at a cute café uptown or another hot club in the Hamptons (prepared again); or maybe I would go after some Botox injections (I am kidding!). I just knew that this particular BOX did not mean that much that night. I was more important to get home to make sure my daughter was okay. Some boxes matter. Some boxes don’t. If things are not perfect with people you love, some boxes matter more than others. Maybe another week I would have cared enough to let it bother me for more than a New York minute, but I doubt it. There are a lot of boxes. Some we have to care about; some we should only care about for a second. Don’t block the box. Think out of the Box, especially for things that matter. Return the big annoying box. Get in The Box when you can. Leave The Box when you have to without losing your dignity… Till next week…

Karen Amster-Young, formerly principal of Amster-Young Public Relations, Inc., is a freelance writer living in New York City. She lives with her husband, Ben and 6 year-old daughter, Alison. She continues to work as a public relations & marketing consultant and is currently working on a non-fiction book. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including magazines on the East End. She can be reached at lifeguard stand

May 29th, 2007 Posted by | Beach Chair Chronicles | no comments

Ready, Set, Stress! It’s Memorial Day Weekend!

karen amster-young :: The Beach Chair Chronicles

…weekly observations & discoveries from manhattan to the east end…

All month I was in April: My brain, my calendar, my closet and my body. This year, more than any other I could remember, Memorial Day weekend arrived long before I was ready. Most people will agree that at some point around age 35, life really begins moving at warp speed. There should seriously be two “unofficial” summer kick-off weekends: one for those under age 35 and one for those after age 35. The under 35 set should keep Memorial Day Weekend – let them get things started! For those on the other side, let me propose July 1st as the kick-off: the fact is, after a certain point in life, you simply need more time! Just to have some fun and make my point, I compiled a representative sampling of some of the preparation involved – physical, mental and logistical:

  • Lose at least 10lbs (if you pretend that this is not always on your list, don’t bother to continue reading)
  • Schedule time for spray tan or at least a few hours in the make-up department at a select department store for summer self-tanning and protection essentials (driven by necessity, not vanity)
  • Reorganize closet (move the dark, winter clothes to another area or closet to minimize packing stress)
  • Take inventory of summer wardrobe, (including children’s if applicable) – break out the Jack Rogers again!
  • Prepare to fit 7 days of life into 5 days since there will be no or little productivity on weekends from this point on
  • Arrange new babysitting schedule if applicable (find new babysitter if the one you use in the city does not want to schlep to the Hamptons)
  • Enroll child or children in various summer activities (paperwork, deposits)
  • Review summer schedule of so-called “hot” Hamptons happenings – which ones are really worth going to?
  • Invite select summer guests for designated weekends and coordinate schedules (this involves at least 10 e-mails); learn how to politely turn-down certain prospective guests
  • Determine if you are going to continue to “see” your current girlfriend or boyfriend for the summer or break things off (if applicable). I’ve been told that for the latter it involves starting fights for no reason around the end of March
  • Secure beach permit for select beaches (not as easy as it sounds)
  • And finally, buy all accoutrements for the new hobby or leisurely activity that you convince yourself you will absolutely do this summer

Well…you get the idea. The list goes on and on. It can truly be exhausting just to prepare for the summer — especially if you are the type of person who simultaneously is ambitious but generally procrastinates and therefore has not accomplished any of the above despite the late date on the calendar. Being summer-ready can really evoke anxiety; it’s the pressure of a new season like that feeling in the fall when you are supposed to have your fall wardrobe and mindset in order for “back-to-school” time. One begins to wonder if it is all worth it. But, in the end of course it is. Maybe the answer though is just to take things as they come. There have been summers where I am absolutely SURE I will cook gourmet meals; I arrive at the beach house with those great summer magazines featuring recipes and great photos with titles like “How to Prepare the Most Delicious Poolside Brunch”. By August they are usually still in a pile near the T.V.; there was another summer I was determined to learn how to paint. I even bought one of those kits that are supposed to make getting started “as easy as 1-2-3”. The box remained closed all summer as ran back and forth after my 3 year old in the backyard. Oh and there was last summer when I envisioned myself biking around the Hamptons instead of driving. I even bought a new bike rack that would fit my bike and my daughter’s (with training wheels). That was until I realized that we could not go very far together and certainly Majors Path was out of the question. So instead I just drove to Starbucks every morning in my SUV. So this summer, I am just going to relax. Chances are there will be “too many” BBQs with kids and just hanging out at the house with friends and family despite all those amazing parties and benefits that “I intend to go to”. But in the end, I think we all get to a point that we realize that it’s really all about just hanging out. The great lobster dinners in the backyard still happen. You may not learn to paint but chances are you at least walk into a few great galleries featuring East End artists. The bike may not get as much use as you thought but somehow we manage to get some tennis in or workouts at the gym. The beach, the sand, relaxing, being with friends for those great sunset “happy hour” gatherings with kids running around (OK, maybe it would be better at times without the kids). Perhaps this summer, when I am truly not ready and have no aspirations of learning a new hobby it will just naturally happen and I will discover a new passion. If I can just relax about the whole thing — it’s all about not having expectations and just letting the summer happen.

Shit, where is the summer schedule anyway?

Karen Amster-Young, formerly principal of Amster-Young Public Relations, Inc., is a freelance writer living in New York City. She lives with her husband, Ben and 6 year-old daughter, Alison. She continues to work as a public relations & marketing consultant and is currently working on a non-fiction book. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including magazines on the East End. She can be reached at lifeguard stand

May 1st, 2007 Posted by | Beach Chair Chronicles | no comments