My Cubicle, Five Years After 9/11...

The weekend before September 11, 2001 was a new beginning in my professional life. Our small little company, publishers of the best unknown teen magazine out there -- College Bound -- was moving on up to a beautiful corporate office from its previous location above a strip mall. So much potential, so many possibilities.

Then that fateful Tuesday morning came... I was in early that day, around 8:40, excited to start setting up my new cubicle while thinking about what my professional future had in store, when my co-worker started nervously reporting to the few of us early birds that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. What I first brushed off like many people did as a freak commuter plane accident, became the single most defining moment of my generation. As the next few hours, days, and months came, suddenly things were put in perspective. My cubicle decor was hardly a priority.

But life went on, as it inevitably does. By the grace of God, my family members and friends who were there that day survived as so many others hadn't. Such relief and thankfulness was quelled with the death of my grandfather two months to the day after 9/11. Then after the darkness, came the best days of my life. So much to be thankful for, as evidenced by a cubicle that gradually became adorned with photos of my wedding, and then a beautiful baby boy's growth into toddlerhood.

But that's not all that's displayed in my work space. To my left still hangs the yellowed Daily News cover from September 18th, 2001 with the simple headline: "I love NY More Than Ever." And there's the tiny cutout from a Fall 2001 issue of College Bound with a photo illustrating Wagner College's view of the New York skyline -- with the Twin Towers. I remember being glad that the photo had made it into a post-9/11 issue. Just like I'm glad when I catch a glipse of the World Trade Center in old films and TV shows. Images become memories -- and all the digital technology in the world can't erase them.

Now as we approach the five year anniversary of 9/11 and get bombarded with documentary analysis of what went wrong that day, all of those sinking feelings and emotions have started to come flooding back. Who am I kidding? They're always there ready to resurface really. In fact, I can't think of one family or friend get-together in the past five years that didn't circle around to "the 9/11 conversation" -- what were you were doing when the buildings came down? But as September comes, the feelings just weigh a little more heavily, thick like the black smoke that I watched from the drive home on the Verrazano that day in 2001.

Adding to the dread of this year's anniversary came the sudden news that our company would not be publishing College Bound anymore -- on which I've worked since 1997 -- and that many of my dear colleagues were being abruptly let go. Suddenly our thriving office family fell silent, save for the tears and random outbursts -- sounds and emptiness that I hadn't heard around here since that day.

And so once again, just like in 2001, my colleagues and I have to pick up the pieces and adjust to a different world and the guilt of being layoff survivors. While certainly not as life-altering or tragic as the terrorist attacks, I can't help but notice the parallels:
> How this could happen?
> We never saw it coming.
> It will take time to rebuild, but we'll be OK.

The rebuilding has already begun, starting with promises of a better tomorrow and an office redesign. Guess that means I'll be decorating a new cubicle once again. I can't wait to display the latest pics of my son. Ooh, maybe I'll get a funky area rug from Target, and de-clutter my space with cool shelving. I'll still have to find room for my Daily News cover, though... and maybe a couple of my favorite CB Teen issues. I'm not ready to forget.

La Festa

WARNING: If you're not from Brooklyn, you might not get this.

So I took J.J. to his first 18th Avenue Feast. So it got me thinking what should a first-timer know about the infamous beast -- err -- feast...

* On the first night, the zeppoles are fair game. Beyond that, though, it should be noted that vendors use the same oil for the remainder of the week, and stomach side effects may occur.
* Don't be scared of the guy with the snake around his neck -- he's just trying to make you his friend.
* The high-heeled, big-haired, decked-out kids, teens, moms and grandmas who attend consider this to be a huge event, so be sure to dress accordingly, set your hair, and cake on your makeup.
* And if you need to check yourself, pop into a local store and find a mirror -- the clerks will find it amusing, I promise!
* Enjoy a parade of ethnic cuisine comprised of 12 sausage and pepper stands in an 8-block radius. Side note: Lucy is the queen of the sausages (take that however you'd like)
* A little know fact... Remember that Saturday Night Live skit with the three guys at the bar, bobbing their heads to "What is Love?" and gyrating on any girl who happened to walk by? That skit is performed live every year at the feast. Don't miss it!
* It's a free night out... that will empty your wallet. You'll pay $25 for a T-shirt that says "Italian Power" (until you wash it once), $7 for a Toblerone left over from last year, and $5 to throw a basketball into an oval hoop (check out the side view if you don't believe me).
* Some big game prizes worth noting: a Dean Martin 8x10 in a $2 frame; a red, white, and green horn for your car; a goldfish or hermit crab that will die on the way home.
* Ooh that smell can't you smell that smell? After a while, you can't tell if it's the sausage that's been sitting out in 90 degree heat, the pony ride, or urine puddles in local driveways from the night before.
* It's a musical celebration! The Caleps, Bensonheart's own Little Suzy, KTU (the official goomba station), and illegal CDs for sale everywhere.
* Let's not forget, this is a big year. With Azzure winning the World Cup, there's no telling how much the Italian-themed souveniers will cost.
* Another little know fact... this is a religious feast celebrated on an avenue that has no church, and for which the honored saint wears a wig!

Enjoy la festa!