A Note From a “Femme d’un Certain Age”

Students Protest

Spring Brings Out The Campus crowds. Girl in a Tree. aitcheyedigital

I’m sitting here in my apartment just steps from Columbia University on a gorgeous spring day, writing my introductory post for The Clyde Fitch Report. I’m a single femme d’un certain âge working independently in the media and communications industry as both a producer and public relations professional. In this first entry, I hope to reveal a glimpse of what makes me tick, pisses me off and amuses me.

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Cathedral Grounds

Cathedral Grounds. Photo Credit: Betsyann Faiella. All Rights Reserved.

Truthfully, when I tell people where I live (half a block from Riverside Park, around the corner from Cathedral of St. John the Divine), it always elicits the same response. “Oh, it’s so nice there, you’re between the parks! What a great neighborhood.” Yes, that’s an upside if you spend a lot of time in the parks, which I don’t. I spend a lot of time working in my apartment between the parks, and then rushing to the subway to get to appointments and events that are generally south of 50th Street anywhere from river to river. Some of my pet peeves about my neighborhood are that it’s at least 60 blocks north of almost everything I do and love and frankly, it’s not hip. In fact, it’s incredibly un-hip and it lacks a wide choice of good restaurants, too (proof-positive of un-hipness). I should be able to toss a wine cork 10 feet in either direction and hit a really good restaurant in New York City, after all. The dearth of good Upper West Side restaurants has been covered for a lot of years in the foodie press, so no need to expound on it here. I ended up in this neighborhood when, after my return from Los Angeles after 20 years, I had the fear of g-d thrown into me about rent stabilization. I was so terrified I wouldn’t find a place that I took the first apartment I saw because it had a huge kitchen counter, which I now use as a receptacle for mail. I’m sure I could have found a nice counter for my mail in the East Village, but for some reason, I didn’t think that existed. I wish I had just paid the rent on my Thompson Street apartment for 246 months.

Something has endeared me to this spot.Yet something this spring, and particularly in the last couple of weeks, has endeared me to this spot between the parks at least for the moment: I’ve heard the unmistakable sounds of protest from the Columbia campus a few blocks away. Today, it’s been very loud and going on for hours. A large crowd has assembled and they’ve been chanting and horns are beeping. I can’t tell what they’re chanting about. It could be for Bernie (no one seems to just assemble spontaneously for Hillary, though I certainly would). Maybe it’s in support or protest for the scheduled event: “Drug Policy Reform is Racial Justice Reform” — A One Day Strategy Session in Advance of UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs sponsored by Drug Policy Alliance and Columbia University’s Center for Justice and Center on African American Politics and Society — whew! (Things have particularly heated up on this subject since the April issue of Harper’s Magazine published Dan Baum’s article, Legalize It All.) Or maybe the students are still upset about the installation of Henry Moore’s sculpture, Reclining Figure, on their campus, a work of art some have likened to a “chewed wad of gum” and a “gargantuan metal garbage heap.” In any event, it sounds great out there.

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Something that baffles me in general is the incredibly negative emphasis on people’s differences, how that divides us and our resources and does no service to anyone at all. I’m not claiming I can figure it out but I’ll write about it, ask questions, interview people of all ages, races and genders who can spread their light on it, and I’ll probably kvetch some, too. Oops, here goes:

What’s the big deal about age? Even the 19-year-olds are feeling hot breath on the back of their necks.

Dan Lyons

Photo courtesy Realdanlyons.com.

Last week I heard Terry Gross (Fresh Air) interview Dan Lyons, a highly regarded tech writer for years at Newsweek who got canned, of course. At 52, he went to work as a marketing writer at a tech startup where the average age was 26. Confusion, frat house behavior and disappointment ensued, and so did an FBI investigation when the startup tried to prevent publication of his book about the experience. His paraphrased take on the new tech world: very cultish, very cutthroat, very “We’re going to change the world.” His take on the old tech world: “We’re going to make a great product and sell a lot of stuff.” I’m sure it isn’t really so cut and dry (let’s remember Steve Jobs was a major weirdo).

Today, I was chatting with a pal who is an extras casting agent, and she mentioned how few older extras are cast in commercials nowadays. “They skew younger all the time to 20s and 30s,” she lamented. “Yes,” I agreed, “I’ve learned from watching commercials lately that no one over 30 works in an office, eats in a restaurant, shops or walks on the street. Someone should have told me.”

One evening last week I was at a client’s house where her 19-year-old intern was doing some editing, posting etc. She’s a super fly, smart music student at NYU. We two older girls were talking about how fast she gets stuff uploaded, downloaded, transformed, edited etc. She responded, “Are you kidding? My sister’s 13 and those kids really know what they’re doing.”

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We just about died.

I’m interested in what can make us better people all around. Better to each other and ourselves.

Next month I’ll publish an interview with author, actress and sleep activist, Kathleen Frazier, whose memoir, Sleepwalker: The Mysterious Makings and Recovery of a Somnambulist, recounts a life fraught with near fatal sleepwalking and night terrors and her ultimate recovery to full health and hope. Since writing and publishing her book, Frazier has become an advocate for healthy sleep as a basic human right. Her book is so exquisitely written; if it weren’t so inspiring I’d never pick up a pen again. Can’t wait to talk to her.

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