The Road Less Travelled Part 4: The Big Apple
I partied like a rockstar in Miami for WMC in March and moved to NYC straight after at the beginning of April 2007. I was 22 and fearless, moving to the biggest city in the world on my own.
Thanks to "Craigslist", I had an apartment waiting for me with 4 delightful roommates.
I took a taxi from La Guardia Airport to Midtown Manhattan and when I saw the NYC skyline I was delirious with excitement as the butterflies in my tummy fluttered around.
My new apartment was on 44th St and 2nd avenue, 2 streets away from Grand Central Station, right in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. The area itself is a business hub of office blocks but also home to some 20 something yuppies fresh out of college in Murray Hill, 10 blocks east.
I was greeted with a big smile from Tali Katz, a nice Jewish girl from Cleveland Ohio, her father was also Israeli so I felt this would be a very "kosher" living situation. She showed me to my room which was opposite hers. It was tiny, I could fit a double bed in with just enough space to walk around it but I didn't care, I was in New York City!!!!! My window looked down on 44th street and it was alive! I'd watch the commuters rushing to work in the morning and smell the aroma of coffee wafting up to my window from the morning breakfast stand right on the corner.
The apartment was like a hostel with all of us young and idealistic internationals (besides for the one American Tali).
My roommates were delightfully colourful, Ilana was from Calgary, Canada, she was a hipster before hipsters were cool, artsy, creative and studying in NYC with a dream of becoming an art curator. (Which she now is.)
Sophie was a little Jewish Moroccan French mademoiselle who came to do an internship in NYC for the summer. Her room was even smaller than mine, it was the same size as a walk-in closet, it barely fit a single bed. The walls were red and her room was illuminated by a plastic red bedside lamp from Ikea, we used to call it the Moulin Rouge.
Kemal was our hot Turkish roommate, he called the shots as his name was on the lease and we were just renting rooms from him. I'm positive he was raping us on our rental, I was paying $1000 a month for my room, he was probably living there for free by charging us those prices.
I loved my new international family and couldn't believe I found 3 lovely Jewish Girls and a Turk to live with. The only downfall was that the 5 of us had to share 1 bathroom but we had to make do!
I bought a bed and some drawers at Ikea and as most people do in their new apartments, I sat on the floor for hours trying to assemble them, almost giving up hope until Tali's dad came to my rescue.
On my second night in NYC, I met a Jewish guy online and I went on my first date. He took me to a place right on 44th street in an office building. I started to feel a little suspicious as there was no restaurant in sight, but he guided me down a staircase to the basement and to my surprise I was transported to another world. It was a traditional Japanese sushi restaurant, with Water Lilies and Koi fish swimming around in ponds, beautiful Asian women greeting me with a bow and an ever so gentle "Arrogate" (Japanese for "Hello"). I felt like I was in Japan and realized I had just had my first taste of this eclectic city, the melting pot of the world right at my doorstep. I couldn't wait to bite my teeth into this big shiny apple.
I enrolled at The Circle in The Square Musical Theatre Summer Workshop, It was OK but kind of basic so I left and went to do a summer intensive course at The Lee Strasberg Institute. For those of you who don't know Lee Strasberg, he co-founded the Group Theatre in 1931. Strasberg is often considered the "father of method acting in America" teaching the 'system' of Konstantin Stanislavski, which he had interpreted and developed. In 1951 he became director of the nonprofit Actors Studio in New York City, considered "the nation's most prestigious acting school," and in 1966 he was involved in the creation of Actors Studio West in Los Angeles.
I loved my program at Strasberg which focused on scene study, movement, acting for film and learning how to be a method actor.
We did the most incredible exercise one day with our teacher Lola Cohen. Sense Memory, it is the art of channelling emotions quickly. You have to remember a traumatic incident in your life, a memory that holds a lot of emotion, you are to describe the incident not by the action or events that took place but by your senses. I pictured the moment I walked into the hospital not knowing if my friend Nasko was dead or alive but when I got to his room he had passed. I described the smell of the hospital, the colour of the rose on his bed, every sensation I had that day and within 1 minute, I was crying my eyes out. You are not allowed to use a memory that was recent as it could be too traumatic so you have to choose a memory from at least 6 years ago.
This training helped me particularly playing my last role of Eva Peron, when she was gravely ill and her body was crumbling, I memorised the feeling of being really sick, of utter fatigue, weakness, feeling short of breath, it allowed to be in my character's body and when you are there physically, the emotion that comes with it is much easier to access.
I also began vocal lessons with a teacher that was recommended to me by an opera singer I met when I worked on Costa Cruise lines. I paid $100 an hour going to weekly lessons when I could afford it. Knowing what I know now after training in the Bel Canto style of singing with my incredible teacher Serita Stern (who is 87 years old and going strong) was a complete waste of money, he had it all wrong.
My roommates and I had so much fun together sharing stories about how our days went, going out for amazing Sushi around the corner and authentic Thai around the next. New York has the most authentic cuisine from all over the world as it's made by all its multicultural immigrants that came to America with nothing more than the hope of living the American dream. We would have pre-game drinks at the apartment just to get a bit of a buzz before our big nights out clubbing and Wow, did we party!
We all fancied Kemal but little flirty French Sophie soon became the chosen one.
When my summer acting intensive training was over it was time to start auditioning.
I went back to the Backstage weekly audition paper and online searches on Craigslist. I would have to arrive at the auditions by 7 am, sometimes just to sign in to avoid the mass cattle call and there would already be a line of girls fresh out of the best musical theatre programs in the country waiting to sign in. I was very insecure as I didn't have the training they had or the connections. Sometimes I would have to wait till the late afternoon to be seen, which by that point, my voice was no longer warmed up. From being allocated 16 bars to sing normally, by the end of the day you were lucky if you got to sing 8 bars. Sometimes you never even got the opportunity to audition, you were called into the room with 30 other young women or so and the casting panel would look at your headshot and resume and if there wasn't much experience on it you were "typed out", meaning you were dismissed.
It was a catch 22, how could I possibly break-in or even get an agent without the experience? Never mind the fact that I wasn't equity. I would have to continue the hustle of auditioning in the mass cattle calls.
I began hustling for work immediately, searching for any bartending jobs. I landed my first job at Phillipe Chow, a very trendy upmarket Chinese Restaurant on the Upper East Side on 60th St and Madison Ave. It was a popular celeb hangout loved by the Kardashians, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Jay Z and Cardi B, just to name a few. The private lounge was frequented by the hottest hip hop stars racking up some hefty bills ordering Dom Perignon and Courvoisier
I had to train for 2 weeks, which meant I was working for free, I was not happy about it but hey beggars can't be choosers.
I really enjoyed working behind the bar, mixing up some tasty cocktails and engaging with the patrons. In my mind I was my own Coyote from the movie "Coyote Ugly"
In September it was the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur which always fall around my birthday. I had been taken to a very cool "Yuppie" synagogue called the "Soho Synagogue" they didn't really have an actual synagogue, it was more like a pop-up synagogue. The rabbi was young, hip and clever and it became the in place to be for all the Yuppie Jews of Manhattan. Membership fees were steep for most of the eligible bachelors there.
I loved it, it was hip and social and I really wanted a bit of community in this big city so I volunteered my talents and asked if I could sing for the High Holidays. We started rehearsing our harmony parts and then at the last minute they were concerned that this would go against the Jewish orthodox law. You see, women aren't allowed to sing in front of men as in theory men would be turned on and lose focus on their prayers. Don't get me started on this topic, I used to fight with my Rabbis at school about this all the time! The compromise was that instead of scrapping the beautiful harmonies we had been working on for the last 2 weeks, the Rabbi allowed us females to sing to the congregation but with our backs facing the men which didn't really make any sense to me as even though technically they couldn't see me singing, they could still check out my derriere.
There was a very cool young orthodox guy called Mendle who had quite a gift with the spoken word, he told the weekly Parashah (sermon) as a "rap" it was hip and it felt good to be a part of this progressive community.
Somehow I got connected to this stunning Israeli couple who were starting a wedding band, I auditioned for them and we started rehearsing with another amazing male vocalist, we filmed some videos but only had 1 gig before the band disintegrated.
I missed being on stage and performing but had to keep hustling.
One job is definitely not enough in NYC so I started working as a "promo model" We were hired by different brands to promote a product or work at different events. I once worked at Shakira's concert promoting her new fragrance and got to watch her concert for free at Madison Square Gardens.
One of the least glamorous jobs was handing out flyers in the freezing cold. I worked for alcohol brands promoting different spirits at different bars and clubs.
Most models, actors and singers worked as "cater waiters" or as "model bartenders" and hostesses or coat check-ins for big events. I'd find myself rushing to the kitchen to get another tray of hors d'oeuvres out for a private party in an Upper West Side loft, or bartending at the Hugo Boss fashion show after-party at Fashion Week or for a Martha Stewart catered event, where I sliced off a piece of my finger while preparing garnishes for her cocktails and had to pay $1000 dollars for a pressure bandage when I went to the ER. (Don't get me started on that!)
The upside was we got a sneak peek into the lives of the New York Elite's socialite scene.
I also started a job working as a Disney Princess, obviously I was Princess Jasmine and sometimes Cinderella and I also had to be a clown for kids parties, painting faces, doing magic tricks and making balloon animals, the skills you acquire when you are desperate for cash! For $100 an hour it was worth it.
I managed to hustle a gig with a divine Cuban Salsa Band in October and it felt so good to do what I loved even for just that 1 hour.
By November 2007 our lease had come to an end and it was time for the fabulous 5 to part ways. Tali and I decided to stick together and find a place of our own, we couldn't find anything decent in the city so we ventured out over the Queensboro Bridge to LIC, Long Island City. To a new development along the East River in Queens. Long Island City is known for its gleaming new high-rises with sweeping views of Manhattan and did we find a high rise! Brand spanking new, a concierge, a movie cinema, indoor pool, rooftop terrace with BBQ facilities, a huge lounge area with communal kitchen plus the apartment was huge. it was technically a 2 bedroom but as everyone does in Manhattan, just add a drywall and its a 3 bedroom. So to afford this Luxe living we needed to find another roommate, so I invited Amanda, an Armenian 20 something princess who I worked with at Phillipe Chow to move in with us, her parents were well off and funding her music career, she was also a singer and thank goodness, between the 2 of their parents who signed surety for us, we were able to secure the apartment.
Tali and Amanda lived in the front of the apartment with beautiful views of Manhattan, I, being the immigrant got the back room without windows, it was my cave, at least the sun wouldn't wake me up in the morning and I had an ensuite bathroom so it was a trade-off.
It was a great idea having these communal spaces as it created a more social vibe, we met our neighbours and used to hang out together. Most New Yorkers, go to work come home and the only person they say hello to is their doorman.
That December I decided to run away from the cold and go with some friends to Miami, Jade met us there and we had a fabulous time at one of the top hotel parties on New Years Eve. I just loved Miami, It was a sexy city with the warm Latin culture, the Art Deco scene and the tropical vibe.
I came back from Miami and was on the next flight out of NYC to Cape Town. I am not a fan of winter, in fact, I have been trying to avoid it for most of my life and as the temperatures started to drop to below 0 degrees Celcius I knew that was my cue to head on home. Like a little bird, this would be the first of many migrations. I managed to hustle some gigs but mostly managed to enjoy the summer and live off the hard-earned Dollars I had made that year.
I got back in February and I auditioned for an awesome project called "Peaceman" it was a musical about Shlomo Carlebach's life intertwined with his beautiful melodies he wrote for the Jewish prayers. It was a "reading" a musical reading is just a read-through of the book and music so investors can get a sense of it. The reading was at The Lincoln Centre" and it felt quite posh to be a part of something there.
I recently discovered that Shlomo Carlebach was accused of sexually assaulting and harassing numerous teenage girls and women, yet somehow I remained unaware of this until this year, no one had managed to mention this, despite the allegations being public since 1998. That's probably why the show never took off. #metoo
Back in the hustle and bustle of the city one evening, I was strolling around Chelsea trying to find a friends party. I had my little Chinese pink Sanyo flip phone, with no GPS in those days and my battery was on the verge of dying. I was wearing black knee-high boots, a pink tartan skirt, a black top and a cute black hat. Just as I was just about to give up on trying to find this party I heard a deep voice say to me "you look familiar, are you lost?" I looked up at this tall dark handsome man and low and behold it was Mr Big (Chris Noth) from Sex In The City.
Now I don't know about you but I was obsessed with this show! I started watching it when I was 17 and couldn't wait for the next weekly episode. It was revolutionary in the fact that it was the first show that liberated women sexually, it was about women who enjoyed sex and spoke about it openly. I would still have 2 more years before I lost my virginity but I loved this show and got quite an education from it. I couldn't wait to live like these fabulous women did, having my very own sensational NYC experience. I had also fantasised of meeting my very own version of the debonaire mystery man, Mr Big, who would arrive in a black town car and wine and dine me and whisk me away on adventures with him.
I didn't expect to meet THE Mr Big!
He invited me to join him for a drink, I accepted very nonchalantly meanwhile inside I was about to explode. My heart was racing, I was a bit star-struck but I played it so cool.
we went to an Italian wine bar /restaurant and sat at the bar, all the women were eyeing him out like Piranhas and would have ravished him instantaneously.
I pretended I had no idea who he was and asked him "So what do you do?" " A little acting, writing, directing," he said, I replied, "tough industry hey!" I told him I had just moved to the city and we chatted a bit, I can't remember what we spoke about as I was just trying to keep my cool and hold it together, I felt like I was living in my very own episode of Sex In The City.
We left the bar and he got us a black town car, yes that same black town car with a driver that he picked "Carey" (Sarah Jessica Parker) up in. He took my number and dropped me at my front door like a complete gentleman. He told me he wanted to see me again. I was dying inside but gave him a coy smile and a wave goodbye. I walked into my apartment and freaked out with my roommates, they couldn't believe it. A week later he called me and asked me out again, we went to a low key New York landmark restaurant. We saw each other for drinks again and drove around with his driver, while he held my hand in the back seat, my heart was pounding. He invited me to his Chelsea apartment for a "nightcap" and I thought "what the hell you only live once!" His apartment was cosy, charming and elegant, he introduced me to his favourite musical composer Sondheim and gave me the grand tour.
He poured me a whiskey in the living room and then pulled me in tightly as he caressed the small of my back and kissed me to the soundtrack of the musical Company's "Being Alive" and wow, did I feel alive the moment his lips pressed against mine.
I had seen him kiss Sarah Jessica Parker on the show in slow motion and it looked like the most passionate sensual embrace. Ladies I hate to break it to you, I was shocked to discover that Mr Big was the worst kisser in real life. I thought to myself "How can such a ladies man not know how to kiss?" He had a stiff tongue that went round and round like a washing machine. There was no sensuality and rhythm. Nevertheless, we started making out but I told him I wasn't going to sleep with him. I thought, a man like this needs to chase a little, once he nails the challenge the fun and mystery would be over, so I kept him waiting.
I started working as a cocktail waitress at the Bryant Park Hotel and he would come to visit me there sometimes or a week would go by and I wouldn't hear from him. When he called I would put him on speakerphone while my roommates freaked out silently in the background.
This went on for about 2 months and one labour day weekend while I was at a Clam-Bake in the Hamptons, Ok can we just take a moment, a Clam-Bake? I know you are probably wondering just like I did, what the hell a Clam-Bake is? Well, it's a waspy affair that's definitely NFJ (Not For Jews). I mean, what Jew do you know that eats clams? let alone bake them? As Jackie Mason, my favourite comedian would say, "It's not for me, It's not for me"
While I was frolicking around this "Clam-Bake" turned party, Mr Big called wanting to see me. Truth be told, I had already started to lose interest because I just found out how old he was (my father's age at the time) and it just felt a bit creepy so I stopped taking his calls.
Anyway, I found out he knocked up his long term on and off girlfriend the next month. Don't think he didn't come back to the hotel bar to see me and try his luck before the wedding. I was glad I never slept with him, I probably would have caught an STD.
I was making decent money at the Cellar Bar in the Bryant Park Hotel and at around 5pm when I went into work I would see all the "Suits" (bankers/corporate guys) congregate in the park for Happy Hour at the outdoor bar/restaurant.
I had some regulars at the bar, 2 guys in particular who headed up the graphic art design department at "Coogi" an urban fashion label that originated in Australia. One of them asked me what else I did when I wasn't working here, as for almost every bartender or cocktail waitress this was just a side hustle while we pursue our dreams. I told him about my passion for music, acting, performing and also mentioned that I painted. He asked to see my artwork and then told me that his company was looking for an in house artist that could illustrate.
He invited me in for a meeting at their offices in Midtown Manhattan right in the heart of Time Square the following week.
They informed me about the part-time position which would be 3 days a week from 10 am to 6 pm. I was given a task to design a dress with the theme "Queen of Hearts" in mind. they were going for a graphic artwork look, "think of the dress as your canvas." the thought of this was too delightful for words and my imagination started to race with ideas.
After a week I handed in my design and got the position. I started working there in May 2008.
I worked there during the week and at the hotel on the weekends.
The job was not as glamorous as I imagined, there were tight deadlines and I had to learn on the fly with little or no help from my colleagues, who were also trying to keep their head above water.
It was more about finding the fastest way to get the artwork done to send off for printing and production which didn't leave a lot of time for creative ideas to flourish. I found myself learning how to do fashion cads, filling out production sheets, drawing Ed Hardy inspired tattoo artwork which was all the rage then, creating Verbiage on T-shirts, logos and even designing the embroidered labels and choosing hardware for the jeans line and spending hours creating rhinestone patterns.
I worked hard and even though this new 9-5 ( 10-6) job was quite new to me I embraced the change and tried to fit into corporate Midtown Manhattan.
There were many hangover days at the office, I was in NYC in my early twenties, people worked hard but partied harder.
New York City was famous for its incredible nightlife when I lived there. The clubs were kitted out with most stunning sexy interiors but you were lucky if you made it passed the velvet ropes. NYC clubs like LA had a tight door just like studio 54. You had to know someone, be on a list or just look like the hottest version of yourself to get in, it was a scene, "See and be seen". In my later years, I was turned away from the sexy club Provocateur and told by the supermodel hostess at the velvet rope that I was too short to come in, "how rude!"
Luckily it was in the Meatpacking District, the centre of nightlife in NYC with many other options.
Picture a Friday or Saturday night, dinner was always a vibe at "Patisse" the local French restaurant or at "Catch" for seafood and Sushi, which then turned into a nightclub. There was a strict dress code, men collard shirts, long trousers and dress shoes and women well most of them wore sexy dresses and stilettos. The Meatpacking was a death trap for us girls, trying to walk across the cobblestone streets in heels. it was like walking across a tightrope after a night of drinking. There were many accidents. By the early hours of the morning, the ladies of the Meatpacking district would head home a little sloppy, barefoot, with heels in hand.
The Gansevoort Hotel was my regular spot when I first moved to NYC and soon I managed to get a hook up to the pool on the weekends. Finding an "in" at a rooftop pool in the city was a necessity to surviving the boiling summers.
For those of you who remember the good old days, these were the hotspots. Le Bain, The Standard Hotel, Cielo, Pink Elephant, Ten June, LAVO, 1oak, Avenue, Kiss and Fly, Marquee, The dream hotel downtown, Tao, TOY, Toshi's, Bagatelle, Greenhouse.
I even worked as a dancer at the Superclub Pacha in a bikini on the dancefloor and in these glass shower boxes adding a little heat, not my proudest moment.
Then there were the ever so fabulous French Tuesday's parties that migrated from LA to NYC and became an international phenomenon.
I loved them, hearing French all around me and feeling like I could be in Paris for the night and a chance to mingle with more Europeans! Count me in!
As an attractive woman, you were invited to go to these parties with promoters who supplied you with free drinks all night long. The more beautiful women in the club, the more wealthy men would come and spend money to meet them, it was a win-win for me as I needed to drink for free, I didn't have the budget for $12 drinks.
It is much harder for the guys in NYC, especially if you weren't minted or didn't have the right connections, you would have the hardest time getting into the hot spots, you were asked if you wanted to buy a bottle which was a couple hundred bucks or a table which would set you back a couple of thousands for the night, not an issue for the "suits" or the "banker wankers" let's just say their reputation preceded them. However, when us gals heard that they worked for a hedge fund, even though we didn't quite know what that actually meant, we knew that meant they were ballers and our interest peaked.
(Now: Pshhh, that don't impress me)
I am so glad I got to sow my wild oats in NYC, partying away my twenties like a rockstar.
I had so much fun and felt like I was living in my very own movie at times.
There were quite a few "walks of shame" or should I say "walks of fame" after my frivolous encounters, often lacking that emotional connection I so badly craved.
There was no Tinder in those days but I was on Jdate, a Jewish dating website and I went on many dates. It was perfect for me as I couldn't afford the best restaurants and the men in NYC were real gentlemen and always paid. I wined and dined probably 3-4 times a week. It amazes me how I had the energy to do it.
Now the mere thought of sitting through a blind dinner date "being interviewed" feels utterly exhausting.
So much so that I have a rule now, that if I ever go on a blind date, it's for a quick coffee" or a walk, there needs to be a set time of 30 min with an exit strategy. Let's be real, you know within the first 2 minutes of meeting someone whether you are feeling it or not, so there is nothing worse than sitting down to dinner with someone who you are most certainly not in to or worse, they then want to order not only starters but dessert too! I have been locked in once, for 3 hours on a dinner date! It was exhausting, especially since I am usually the conversationalist.
If you think about it, it's quite a preposterous idea having a "dinner date" as a first encounter. I mean to put two random strangers together opposite each other at a table, like an interview or an interrogation and expect them to converse for hours, I mean I don't even talk to my best friend for 2 hours straight. Well, I guess having a coffee you are also across from one another but it's in and out and a much easier exit.
Ah, to be young and not jaded!
Summers in New York were amazing if you weren't fortunate enough to have a connection and a place to stay in the Hampton's, there were plenty of fun things to do in the city. I spent my weekends at the Gansevoort rooftop pool or any other rooftop pool I could get in to.
New York is all about who you know. If my friends and I never had the luxury or tanning poolside on a scorcher of a day "Sheeps Meadow" in central park was a wonderful alternative and such a vibe, everyone used to go and tan there, take picnics, the guys played sport and it was quite social.
Brunch is a thing in Manhattan, you can get brunch all day long on Saturday's and Sunday's, with most places offering very enticing mimosa specials so brunch almost always turns into a party or an after-party elsewhere.
LADIES WHO BRUNCH
I loved wandering around Soho, shopping and taking in all the different cultures around me often following the Euros to West Broadway, my favourite street. The cafes and restaurants there were adorned by the once Euro now New Yorker chic. Just stroll past the sunshine yellow awnings of Cipriani's on any given Saturday and witness the NY socialite scene sipping on their famous peach Bellini's, They were quite tasty I must say. Well for $18 a Bellini, they better be amazing!
My absolute favourite place to be for my Sunday Funday was my second home "Cafe Felix" The most divine French / Brazilian restaurant.
I had stumbled upon it on my last 2-day layover in NYC. I was pulled in by some Europeans who were so warm and friendly, although it could have been the bottomless jugs of Mojitos they were drinking. I instantly fell in love with this place, the patrons were Euro Chic and you would hear French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese spoken around you.
Sunday's at Felix started out with a civil brunch/ lunch at 2 or 3 pm and by 5 pm the endless mojito jugs had intoxicated everyone just enough to get up dancing and by 6 pm the party was in full swing and inhibitions flew out the window as people danced on their chairs and the bar. The soundtrack to the festivities, Brazilian, Salsa, Latin house music, Felix felt like home.
One hot and sunny Sunday at the end of May, I met the most gorgeous guy outside Felix, there was an instant vibe. We sat on the bench outside chatting, we danced and I felt like I had met the male version of myself. His name was Trevor, Trevor Schneider ( don't get excited, he wasn't Jewish, he was Irish/Italian) Oh but did he have the cutest dimples, stunning smile and a naughty glint in his eyes. He was warm and friendly with such a personality! Did I mention that he was the most incredible dancer and the life and soul of the party! I had found my match.
Trevor was an actor/bartender at the trendy 230 fifth rooftop bar.
We were both hustling to make our dreams a reality and had so much in common including our sense of adventure and passion for life.
Within 2 weeks I was in love, my first real love at 24 years old,
Trevor was 30 and not only was I insanely attracted to this man but he was like my best friend, it was so easy and effortless, I could just be myself.
I would stay over in his tiny little room with just enough space for a desk, a closet and a single loft bed. Let's just say I hit my head on the ceiling numerous times in his west village apartment.
We laughed together, partied together, ate a lot of slices at Bleecker Street Pizza across the road from his place after a night of drinking. We had so many adventures together and we were the king and queen, the mood directors on Sunday's at Cafe Felix.
Salsa dancing on the sidewalk and getting the vibe going.
Trevor would show up at my apartment in LIC (Long island City) after a long shift at the bar looking ravishing. I was smitten, I just wanted to be with him 24/7 and I had a constant smile on my face. I was in Love.
At around this time, I auditioned and got into a pop-rock band called Off The Hook, we used to play a regular gig at an Irish pub on the Upper East Side called O'Flanagans. It wasn't much, but I was so excited to be on stage again. The bassist "Double Z" was the fittest 60-year-old you have ever seen with a tiny physique and long curly black hair, she told me about an entertainment Company called Hank Lane Music and said I would be perfect for them as I had "the Chops" and they only hired attractive young women who were great performers. Only 6 months later would I pluck up the courage to call them and to go in for an audition.
I was happily in love, I was finally singing in a band and I had a job in fashion in NYC, things were looking up! I found out about Birthright "Mayanot" an American program that allows all Jewish twenty-somethings up till the age of 25 to get a free trip to the holy land. I was so excited that I signed up and departed to Israel with a stunning group of Jewish Americans. It was an incredible trip and I felt more connected to my roots than ever.
I wondered if my Irish Italian was in fact "the one" , or if ending up with someone from my own tribe would be more suitable. I was in love and and at that time It was far more exciting being there than worrying about the future but the thought had started to bloom.
In October my fashion company Coogi sent us on a work trip to Shenzhen China
We were so behind on production line that the company flew us to where our factories were. Wow, was that an experience! It wasn't the Shenzhen you know today,
We stayed in a gorgeous hotel but I couldn't stomach the food, I ended up at an international grocery store buying boxes of cereal and boxed imported long life milk to live on.
We would go to the factory at 9 am and leave at 7 or 8 pm, I had to get the designs out and also head to the wholesale manufacturers with my boss to source hardware, buttons, zips, epaulettes, studs, you name it, there were buildings floor to ceiling with this stuff, it was so overwhelming.
on the upside it was fascinating seeing the production side of things and I learnt a lot about screen printing.
Lunch was served in the office but it looked so unappealing like slimy "I don't know what" that I would head back to my box of dry cereal in my office.
Thank goodness after a few days we found an international shopping mall around the corner from us and there was an Italian western restaurant. Finally real food!.
I have to mention that I had a complete culture shock when I got to Shenzhen the first time. It was really grimy and industrial, I saw a mother lift up her toddler and hold him over a dustbin in the street to make a poo, What? They don't have diapers here? People would spit on the street, it's normal in China, oh and don't get me started on the toilets, I was horrified when I went to the ladies bathroom only to find a hole in the ground where I was to pop a squat. I was in Shenzhen with my colleague Jenny, she was African American and the local Chinese people would stare at her as if she was a tourist attraction because she was tall and black and let's face it, that was quite an anomaly in this part of the world
I worked very long hours and was hungry most of the time, I couldn't wait to get home to my hotel every night to order room service and skype the love of my life.
We managed to finish off the line and I was proud that some of my designs made it on to the rails of the famous Macy's department store.
Sadly it all came crashing down along with the economic recession in 2008 when half of my company was retrenched.
Trevor and I moved in together on November 19 2008. We headed to Dumbo Brooklyn, near Flatbush Avenue. Our little walk-up apartment was on a quaint little tree-lined street called "Duffield street". Luckily we found a leather sleeper sofa couch in pretty mint condition on the sidewalk and while we were waiting for our furniture delivery we passionately christened our apartment that first night on it.
Nathan,an Australian friend of Trevor's moved into the second bedroom with us to help out with the rent.
He was out most of the time, working as a bartender but also studying acting.
Trevor and I had our first big fight when it was time to buy a couch. He wanted a brown leather one and I wanted something a bit less masculine and in a more muted comfortable fabric.
in the end, I had to give in as I knew I wasn't going to win this one.
Honestly I was the most amazing girlfriend, I spoilt this man so much, I cooked for him and cleaned and catered to his every need, so much so that I became really subservient. I just wanted to please him.
I was really involved with his family and they loved me. We would go to visit them in New Jersey at their lovely home and I would learn how to cook a real Italian Napolitana sauce with his mother or bake cookies with her on Christmas. It was always very festive during the holidays and there was so much food! We would BBQ and enjoy summer weekends at their pool and it was a great respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Trevor's father was a DJ and had a thriving events entertainment business and I couldn't fathom why he didn't want to join the family business as he would have been perfect for it with his personality. He was set on being a top bartender and mixologist.
It's good to have shared goals and dreams as a couple and it was wonderful that we had something to look forward to together. We were so excited to visit Cape Town in February 2009 and I couldn't wait for the love of my life to meet my parents.
We had a fabulous holiday but then it was over and it was back to the hustle in NYC.
In March Trevor booked us and his parents a table at a nice restaurant in Brooklyn and before dessert, he proposed to me. He pulled out 2 rings from his pockets, 1 from either one of his grandmothers and asked me if I would marry him while his parents looked at me in anticipation. Talk about backing me into a corner, how awkward? I mean what could I say at that point but "Yes!"
Trevor didn't have a day job as we were both freelancers so we spent a lot of time at home together which can kill the sense of mystery and desire pretty quickly. I also noticed that he would tell me not to listen to everything my mother said. My mother and I are so close we are like best friends and this caused quite a rift in our relationship, I barely spoke to her. I didn't notice it at the time but Trevor was isolating me in order to control me.
When I suggested we do a Pesach Seder (passover holiday meal) and invite some friends from birthright he said "No that won't work for me, I have work"
or when I wanted my friends to come over, he told me he didn't like them.
I also started to feel like he wasn't making much of an effort anymore in the relationship and my cup was nearly on empty from filling his up.
I started working for that big entertainment company called Hank Lane Music and was so happy. I started out in Bobby Attiko's band, He was one of the best performers I had ever seen and he was my best teacher, I learnt so much from sharing the stage with him. I mean this guy had so much energy he would do ninja kicks off the stage.
I was also sent out to work with the other 25 bands under the Hank Lane umbrella until I got picked to join one of the company partner's bands, Mike Herman. The lead male singer in the band Dannis Winston was such a character, he was so flamboyant. The male singers had to wear black suits as their uniform and he rocked up to a gig with broken mirror pieces stuck on his jacket collar for a little dazzle and the next week he was peacocking around with a feather-adorned collar. He was a true creative and I always said he was a visionary.
We were electric on that stage together and fed off each others energy.
Dannis now has one of the most successful international live events entertainment companies called DWP Live Factory (www.dwplivefactory.com) He is also a recording artist and I am just so proud of him. I knew he was destined for great things.
I was so happy to be performing again and Trevor also started making a bit more effort so we found our groove again.
I loved him so much and couldn't imagine my life without him.
My parents came to visit in August to meet "The Fockers", they stayed with us for 1 week and we went to Trevor's parent's house in New Jersey for a weekend.
They intended to get to know their future in-laws and both chip in to help us get our first home to start our married life together. We stayed in their stunning house with amazing hospitality.
We were invited for Shabbat to Crown Heights at Mendel's parents home, his wonderful and known father Simon Jacobson. On the train there I was irritated by a comment my father made about me finding a nice Jewish guy instead. I guess it bugged me so much as this was a tug of war battle that was in the back of my mind since my birthright trip.
We had the most divine Shabbat dinner, Rabbi Simon Jacobson is an extraordinary man, even though he looks Hassidic in the black hat, robe and payos (those curly sideburns) he is a free thinker. His parents were both journalists and he was very liberal. I couldn't believe it when he asked me to grace the table by singing with my God-given voice. There were Jews from all walks of life and we went around the table sharing a bit about ourselves. Rabbi Jacobson then said, " we are all here from different walks of life but we must learn to work in harmony from a place of love and kindness to create this incredible symphony of life."
I felt so at home here and started to question whether marrying Trevor was the right thing to do, would he respect my culture and traditions as much as I respected his? How would our kids be raised?
I went home confused.
My mother wasn't commenting much about what she thought of him and I knew that was a bad sign, I noticed that he could have been more accommodating to my parents in many instances that week.
My parents took us for dinner to Buddha Bar, a very trendy institution in the Meatpacking district and we had a lovely evening until I confronted Trevor that I expected more from him that week. His response shocked the hell out of me. He told me "Well you have to choose me or them"
My father wanted to go to Vegas, being the gambler that he was and so at the beginning of September we booked a room at the Venetian and invited Trevor but there were bad vibes in the apartment and he declined and said he had to work.
I knew then and there that this relationship was over. I didn't know how to tell him as he was so volatile and explosive and every argument we had I would end up apologising even though I knew he was the one to blame. I couldn't stand the confrontation.
I broke down to my parents in Vegas and I sent him a breakup email.
I never saw it at the time as I was blinded by love and only once I took a step back did I realise how much I had sacrificed for this man. I lost myself in the relationship to please him. It was a gradual manipulation and control over me by isolating me from my loved ones and chipping away at my self-worth.
My other roommate Nathan really helped me through that difficult time and helped me see that I was not in the wrong, I was under his spell. Nathan and I remained really good friends to this day and love each other dearly.
Even though I ended the relationship with Trevor as I knew he wasn't the right guy for me long term, it still didn't make it any easier.
I came home from Vegas and packed up my things and my friend helped me move. Jade, my fairy godmother came to my rescue once again, she had a nice apartment near Union Square and said I could come to stay until I found a new place. I was so devastated, I could not stop crying for 2 weeks.
The end of a relationship is like mourning the death of a loved one, all of the hopes and dreams of a life you imagined having with this person. From this man being "your person", your best friend to nothing.
After 2 weeks I had no more tears left to cry and I went to a swanky new car launch with a friend who suggested it was a great event to meet some eligible bachelors. I didn't meet an eligible bachelor but I met Khoa Nguyen there, he was the most delightfully charming and charismatic Vietnamese you have ever met! He saved my life after my break up, He was a total tonic and kept me in hysterics which was much needed after the last 2 weeks. Khoa was married to a stunning Jewish Woman called Carly, He always joked that if they had kids they would come out "Jasian" (Jewish Asians). I always told him he missed his vocation and should have been a comedian. He became my new best friend and was such a socialite, he would always invite me out to different events for some "Khoa-lity time". There was never a dull moment with him.
My dad started complaining of terrible back pain on their trip and it got progressively worse in Las Vegas. He was told previously that it was just a kidney stone that needed to pass after a doctors consult several months before.
He went for more scans and tests when he came home and was told it wasn't a kidney stone he was misdiagnosed and that the spot is malignant and was, in fact, Renal Cell Carcinoma (Kidney Cancer) and that he had a year to live as it was stage 4 and had metastasized to his back. I flew home the next month as my father was going in for a back surgery as the cancer was eroding his spine.
Thankfully the surgery was a success and they were able to stabilize his spine with a metal plate. I remember lying on the bed with him, he was in a complete state of shock, and I said to him "Dad, it's Ok to cry, you are allowed to feel, it doesn't make you weak. I could see the tears welling up in his eyes as he fought with every fibre of his being not to let them escape.
My Dad was a "gever" (a real man in Hebrew) and real men don't cry.
He started his treatment and was enrolled in a clinical trial.
It was his 50th Birthday on the 7th of January and we decided to throw him an early birthday party on Dec 23 to celebrate with all his nearest and dearest, I sang and got the party started and we had the most joyous celebration.
I prayed for a miracle every day and refused to believe my father would succumb to this illness.
I had to go to Israel to get my Israeli passport in February and in March I went back to NYC. I was hesitant but my father encouraged me to go back, he told me,
"Dani, I don't want you to stop living your life because of me, I want you to carry on chasing your dreams, I will be fine, don't worry about me."
I stayed with Jade in her amazing new $10000 apartment sponsored by her new sugar daddy. She said
"If it was up to me I would love you to be my roommate but unfortunately "Mr H" is turning the second bedroom you are staying in, into a dungeon."
She proceeded to tell me about the S&M Rope tying class they had done with an instructor just last week and how they finally agreed on a suitable "Safe Word". Wow, Just some standard Tuesday convo there for you, LOL
I managed to find an apartment in Hell's Kitchen, living with a very sweet Chinese young woman, Susan, who was a student at Fordham University around the corner our apartment consisted of 2 big rooms separated by a long corridor and a tiny kitchen and bathroom in the middle.
Susan was an overachiever, this is where Jews and Chinese cultures are surprisingly similar. She would tell me how hard her parents were on her, that nothing was ever good enough for them, she had to strive for excellence all the time and was utterly exhausted. And I thought Jewish guilt was hard! She was never there on the weekends, she would go to her family in Sunnyside Queens.
Susan and I were both petrified of cockroaches and being on the ground floor we ran into a few of them. Once she closed her room screaming, leaving me to fend for myself.
I was at home alone one weekend and I was up late and went into the kitchen to get a bite to eat, I saw a mouse run across the kitchen counter.
I nearly died, I ran into my bedroom, closed the door, laid towels against the creek so it couldn't wiggle its way in and I called my mother on Skype in a state.
She asked me what the hell I expected her to do from South Africa? and told me to take a tranquiliser and go to sleep. ( I'm Jewish of course I had tranquilisers, you know, just in case of emergencies)
Anyway, I finally got to sleep but I was being held hostage in my apartment by a mouse. I eventually plucked up the courage to sneak out and bolted to the front door. I went to the store and bought a few sticky traps and rat poison.
I arrived home and quickly dashed into my room fearing I might encounter "it" again.
I put on my black knee-high boots, and I put on the soundtrack to the war I was about to wage on this little rodent "The Eye Of The Tiger"
I plucked up the courage and strode down the corridor in my knee-high boots like a gladiator ready for battle, holding a Swiffer as my sword to help me position the traps.
I was not going to be held hostage any longer!
The next morning I woke up to some squealing noises, Susan did too.
I was so excited that my plan had worked! I had caught the mouse! It was stuck squealing on the sticky trap, I actually felt quite sad for it but not that sad that I wanted to keep it. Susan was seeing a very sweet and introverted nerdy guy, also an Asian overachiever called Jeffery who lived around the corner. We ordered him to come and get the mouse at once, I told him I didn't care where he took it as long as it ended up in a different borough.
I thought Susan was at her parents for the weekend when I got a call from NYC Presbyterian hospital. They told me that Susan had been detained as she had expressed suicidal thoughts to a councillor at school due to the immense pressure she was under. She had requested I come to visit her, I arrived with some of her things and sushi. I had to go through strict security to get in and anything that could be considered a weapon, even the chopsticks I bought were confiscated.
Susan was a fighter for justice and she was marching around the psych ward telling everyone "This is like Guantanamo Bay, I have rights you know! this is bullshit" The state law is that if you are considered a danger to yourself you were apprehended and supervised under psychiatric care for 72 hours. I felt terrible for her and when she came home I begged her that if she ever felt that way again she should confide in me and I would help her the best I could.
I worked at the Hudson Hotel as a cocktail waitress that year which was up the road from my apartment and gigged on the weekends.
I also started going to Rabbi Simon Jacobson's Meaningful Life Centre https://www.meaningfullife.com/
on the Lower East Side. We would study mystical teachings and there were services for all the stray Jews who couldn't afford the ridiculous admission ticket prices for the services on "Rosh Hashanah / Yom Kippur" at the more established synagogues.
I grounded myself by running and rollerblading in central park and finished off each workout with a meditation in my favourite secret spot under the trees. I would sit and pray for my father's healing.
I was still soaking up all the culture and energy NYC had to offer
on March 24 I posted
"I just spent the night jamming with the most incredible flamenco guitarists/gipsy's, Turkish Oud player, Cajon player from chile, 2 other singers from Puerto Rico and Lebanon, an amazing worldly fiesta - incredible only in NYC the melting pot of the world!"
In April one of my best friends Martine came to visit me. We had such fun exploring all the sights and partying till the early hours of the morning.
It was nice to have a brief respite from the worry of my fathers terminal diagnosis for 2 weeks
Facebook Post: May 12 2010
"Is thankful for good news today! My father's cancer is not growing - it is contained and shrinking slowly but surely! Keep fighting Abba! Love you"
That month I sang with the well known Michael Fredo Orchestra at The Plaza Hotel.
I was also gigging full time with Hank Lane Entertainment company all over New York and at most notable venues like, The Mandarin Oriental, The Plaza Hotel, The Pierre Hotel, Cipriani's on Wall Street, The Waldorf Astoria, Oheka Castle, just to name a few. I performed at weddings, gala dinners and charity events.
These functions were so extravagant, the flower arrangements alone at the Waldorf Astoria or Plaza Hotel were $60 000, my band charged $20000 and I made $500 a gig at the time. The lowest musicians wage for a function was $350 (entry-level)
But hey it beat cocktail waitressing.
I still did some promo modeling and cater waiting and in June 2010 I met one of my best friends Cat. We were both working a function and instead of passing out hor's de oeuvres we got to hang back for most of the night but had to wear a silver sexy space cadet outfits and then head out as "shot girls" when the party started. Aah the things you do when you're young for a buck!
We bumped into each other a month later outside Cafe Felix and our love affair began. Cat is from the north of England and has the most delightful Geordie accent, being with her was like being on holiday. Cat was my Patsy (Absolutely Fabulous TV show reference). She still has the most brilliant sense of humour and we are still great friends to this day. I love her with every fibre of my being.
In June 2010 the World Cup games were in full swing and all the sports bars even restaurants had big TV screens up to entice more customers to join in on the spirit.
I worked at my favourite French/Brazilian bar/restaurant in Soho called Cafe Felix.
I was the chosen shot girl promoting a new Brazilian rum during the World Cup in 2010 and even though I couldn't be in my homeland for it, I was getting the vibe going in the heart of the action in NYC.
I had quite an eclectic group of friends, mainly other entertainers I worked with. We went out partying after our gigs, brunched on the weekends and lived our best lives. My birthdays were always celebrated in style weather it s a girlie brunch in the East Village, followed by a wonder around Union Square, or a dinner at the trendiest new restaurant followed by a night of dancing and drinking at the hottest nightclub. Another birthday was a little more low key, just a delightful picnic with my nearest and dearest in Sheeps Meadow in Central Park on a gorgeous summers day.
Facebook post-July 6 2010
Is giving thanks for the wonderful news today! My father's scans show that the cancer has not grown or spread and doctors are happy with the results! Baruch Hashem! Praying daily for you Abba! We all love you.
I managed to secure a wonderful summer gig at The Rock Centre Cafe at Rockefeller Centre with a stunning couple, a guitarist-singer and a percussionist we performed Bossa's and laid back classics. I also performed 2 of my original songs at a belly dance brunch at the Highline ballroom
In July my other best friend since childhood, Tiffany, arrived to NYC. She was doing a 2 year internship at KPMG as a CPA. It was great having her there but she worked crazy hours and I didn't see her as much as I would have liked to.
When my father was diagnosed the previous year with stage 4 Renal Cell Carcinoma they had given him a year to live, we didn't know what the future held and he wanted to go back to is homeland, Israel to see his family in case it might be the last time.
It was an emotional trip and I could see my dad was lost in his thoughts a lot of the time. I was worried about him.
I guess I was in denial, it was easier there, not wanting to believe that I could lose my father to CANCER!
I went back to NYC to finish off the Summer seasons gigs and I celebrated my 26 birthday with a picnic in Central Park.
My mother didn't want to push pause on the exciting movie I was living in. She never told me I should come home, that things were not looking good, she let me carry on in denial until one day the phone rang.
She was crying and my brother got on the line and said
" Dani, what the hell are you doing? Dad's dying, come home!"
Just like that my denial bubble burst and I was faced with the harsh reality I had been trying to escape.
I flew home in October praying that my father would still be alive when I got there.
I spent a month with him, I would go to the hospital to see him and I would sit by his bed and sing to him. It was so painful to watch my father wither away, to witness how this terrible disease was stealing his life and the worst part was there was nothing I could do to stop it. I felt infuriated and so helpless at the same time.
That last week he was not lucid, he was in and out of consciousness and I knew the end was near. I sat next to his bed and sang to him as I held on to the life force in his warm hand, I wasn't ready to say goodbye.
On the 14th of November, we got a call from the hospital, my father had passed.
My mother's friend drove us to the hospital, we walked into the ward and his 4 siblings who had flown down from Israel were with him. There lay my father lifeless, all colour drained from his face, he was just a shell of the force of a man he was.
I collapsed on the floor sobbing, I had anticipated the end was near but nothing can prepare you for this moment. My father, my protector was gone.
So many people attended his funeral at the Pinelands Jewish Cemetery and we honoured his life by writing the most beautiful words on his tombstone.
Beloved husband Aba (Father in Hebrew) and brother
Our charismatic hero
Your bright light will always illuminate us
You will always inspire us as we continue your legacy of living our dreams
Soaring to new heights and dancing through life
We will love you forever
Shiva was a blur, people came and went as my mother, Gabi and I drowned in our tears, my brother, Alon, put on a brave face as he felt he had to step up and now be our protector.
I got lost in creating a DVD of photos celebrating my father's life.
Dad (Aba) I will love you and carry you in my heart forever
Aba - Shlomi Shabat - song lyrics translation.
Dad, a friend told me to write a song about you About everything I saw in your eyes About the calm without words The scents and the sounds All of it was so beautiful in your eyes.
Dad, remember the roads to school All the melodies out of the room When you listened to how I sing With a happy look And the smile hiding between your lips.
Dad, the paths you loved to care for I tried to win over you I didn’t always understand how Things will not always work out I am different from you, but so much like you."
After a month the shock wore off and life carried on with it's day to day tasks, I wondered if the pain would ever go away and was given a book called "Healing Grief" by James Van Praagh which helped me get through the grieving process that year.
My Friend Jade, won a super expensive Safari getaway at Molori Lodge and asked me to join her at the beginning of January, I thought I would be ok, but I spent most days just staring out into the bush longing for my father, I felt so alone.
The pain started to subside and I booked a few singing gigs back home which brought me joy, I knew my father wanted me to be happy.
At the end of April 2011, I went back to NYC and one of my best friends Oona joined me on my next adventure for a little holiday. It was so wonderful having her with me as the thought of starting the hustle again felt exhausting.
I was back in it , gigging and even picked up some decent graphic design jobs.
In June we went to Israel for my cousin Yaniv's wedding, it felt so strange to be in Israel without my father there.
Alon decided to Join me in NYC that July, he had enough of being a voyeur into my "dream life" on Facebook and he wanted to live The American Dream too.
I was living in Astoria, Queens at the time and we shared a room and a bed for 3 months. I loved having him with me, we had so much fun together, so many adventures and parties! It was amazing to have my brother and best friend with me.
I'll never forget one day in August, it was pouring down buckets and we went into Bed Bath and Beyond to get something and left kitted out in our very own Bed Bath and Beyond rain gear, we made from their plastic bags.
Alon was lucky enough to see the first snowfall that year and I remember sitting and waiting for the train together after my gigs shivering it was so icy cold.
I told you I loved Halloween but this year in NYC took the cake, I dressed Alon up and painted his face like Michael Jackson resurrected and I was Cat Woman with a whip.
We hit up the most fabulous Halloween parties in NYC and woke up with the most massive hangovers the next day.
Looking back I am amazed at how much alcohol I consumed in my twenties, I haven't drunk in 3 years, besides the occasional fruity cocktail once in a while.
1. I just realised it didn't serve me,
2. I couldn't stand the feeling of being hangover
3. I didn't need it to socially relax or come out of my shell, I am pretty much the same with or without it.
4. who needs the calories?
Sadly Alon's time had come to an end and I ventured home to follow him in December
Summer in Cape Town that year was fantastic, I booked lots of gigs, spent time with wonderful friends, went out loads and enjoyed some sun-worshipping at Cape Towns beautiful pool parties (the usual)
You must be thinking " Aren't you exhausted by now, Danielle?"
Well just from going down memory lane right now I am exhausted, I don't know how I had the energy to live in 2 countries for 6 years, packing up every 6 months, schlepping, starting over and hustling
And then this little birdie migrated North back to NYC around the end of April 2012 for the last time. I found a wonderful apartment right on the waterfront in Battery Park. I sublet it from a musical theatre performer who had just booked a tour. The living room was sectioned off with a curtain where another young 21 year old from Chicago would be staying, she was in NYC for the summer doing an internship.
I had met Emma, briefly as I had to leave that afternoon to get to my gig upstate. She was quite nerdy, reserved and unassuming, you could say she blended into the background.
I got home past 1 am and she hopped off another train cart, I said, "Hi" as we walked towards our new apartment. I noticed she had scratches on her chest and asked her " are you ok, OMG did something happen to you?" (I watch a lot of Law and order SVU so I was extremely concerned)
She nonchalantly replied;
"Oh that, no I'm fine, I was just at a BDSM club downtown"
My jaw nearly dropped to the floor, talk about not judging a book by its cover. "What exactly is that?" I asked
"It's a fetish club, you go in there and can enact your fantasies and fetishes with like-minded people." So I asked, "So the scratches? that gets you off?" She replied "yeah and a little hot wax and other things"
I was finished and fascinated! WOW!
I didn't engage much with Emma and a week later my mother came to stay, I had given her the low down on my new weird roommate.
One day we came home from shopping to find her with an overweight Hispanic dude sitting in our tiny "lounge" on a towel on the floor having a picnic (not bizarre at all, right?). We overheard how they were planning a threesome with his girlfriend and he suggested she should just move into his place, she could sleep in the cupboard and she agreed only if he would paint it pink.
That crazy roommate will forever be known as "Mother Hubbard", OMG, did me and my mother laugh!
I was performing with Dannis Anderson, the male lead singer in my Hank Lane band and we just adored each other and were on fire on stage together, we were both performers and didn't hold back.
We auditioned and got a stunning residency at "Toshi's" the most divine live music venue/bar in the Flat Iron Hotel on W26th St
The stage lit up and you could see us performing through the glass windows so it was always packed with people who wanted in on the action.
I was in my element and Wednesdays at Toshi's became the "IN PLACE" to be that Summer. I also got offered a great position with another top entertainment company as their lead singer earning $700 dollars a gig.
Boiling hot weekends that summer were spent at the Jimmy Rooftop pool where there was always a vibe.
I met the most gorgeous guy called Chris out and about and was smitten, He kept me waiting 30 min on our first date but was starting out in the finance world and his hours were ridiculous.
He was emotionally unavailable like most of the men I had met in NYC but I was determined to crack him open.
He would wake up early for work and one morning his jacket fell on the floor and a small bag of cocaine fell out. "wow you really are living like the wolf of Wall Street" I said his reply was "With the hours I work you either have to sink or swim, and this helps me stay afloat from time to time." I started to think...What kind of a life is this where people just live to work, where the rat race was so intense that those striving for success almost never got off the hamster wheel. Surely the European way of life was more favourable, a work to live approach, where you work just enough so you can take in all the simple joys and pleasures life has to offer. I mean imagine "Siesta time" in NYC! It would be utterly ridiculous! It was a crime not to be constantly frantically busy as a New Yorker.
I was seeing Chris for about 2 months and we would see each other for dinners and sleepovers. On October 29, 2012, we decided to brave Hurricane Sandy together, We didn't believe the hype that we should buy supplies and gallons of water but when it was at its peak, lower Manhattan was plunged into darkness. That disaster was compounded by outages at two other lower Manhattan substations, eventually leading to a days-long blackout that affected hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. With no power, no water and no taxis in sight, we had no choice but to pack a bag and start walking uptown with the rest of the downtown residences finding shelter with our civilized uptown friends.
I had been asked to step in as the lead for a Gloria Estefan cruise ship show on Norwegian Cruise Lines and was so excited at the opportunity. Cat was leaving to go on tour as well and I was happy to escape another NYC winter. I stayed with Cat in her tiny apartment for a week until she left and I stayed on for an extra 2 weeks.
In those 2 weeks, I discovered that she had bed bugs.
She had dark brown sheets on her loft bed so I couldn't see them at first but as soon as I felt one crawl on me I had a full-blown panic attack. Having bed bugs in NYC is like living through one of the Passover plagues. friendships evaporate, people treat you as though you have Leprosy and no one wants anything to do with you.
I had to get out of the apartment and clear it all out so the landlord could come and fumigate. It was a 3-floor walk up on 72nd St and Columbus Ave and I was running back and forth to the laundromat up the block as I had to wash my clothes 3 times in case of any hidden bugs and eggs. I also had to spray down everything I owned which ended up being on the sidewalk and half my shit including my sound equipment got stolen as I had no one to help me, I felt so alone. I was just about at breaking point dealing with this disaster. Thank God my friend Tiffany was there to help me, she said I could come stay with her for a little while before I embarked on my next Gloria Estefan tribute contract as long as I didn't have one bug in site, I swore to her that I had washed everything 3 times.
I got a call a few weeks before I was supposed to fly out, telling me that the Gloria Estefan tribute show had been cancelled, I was devastated! I had cancelled all my festive season gigs in NYC to take this opportunity, so I was jobless, homeless and on top of it all, I got the flu.
Well I felt like I had hit rock bottom. I felt like the universe took a big dump on my head, basically everything that could go wrong did and I felt like I was drowning in a pool of my own tears.
New york once glittering with dreams and possibilities felt like a filthy tunnel of dismay.
Relying on the kindness of strangers was the only solace the universe gave me. Friends were unreachable busy tending to their lives, as when you cry you cry alone and I was left to face myself. Chris, the guy I was seeing was unreliable and married to his job and even though he liked me a considerable amount, it wasn't enough for him to let down the wall of armor protecting his heart from love's betrayal. for 2 weeks I sat with the pain, the pain of failed plans, self doubt, scrutinizing my weaknesses, I was so vulnerable , so alone.
I had as Oprah likes to call an AHA moment, it made me stop and really think about my life and stop treading the wheel like a little hamster. How fabulous was my life in New York? Is this as good as it gets? I have plenty of frivolous friends but who can I call when I really need support ? Who will be there to help me when I'm down?
The harsh realization was, I didn't have a support system, I felt lost and lonely in this concrete jungle.
I sat on the floor sobbing trying to catch my breath, as I dialed the number of the only person in the world who could save me from despair, my mother.
"Dani what is all this for ? Just come home and be with family"
January 11 2013
"Seconds later I had booked a ticket home. Instantly I felt my world shift and a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders, I could now see the light at the end of this horrible existence I was living in for the past 2 weeks. I should mention that all this happened 2 weeks before my 28th birthday. If this was the Saturn return coming to teach me some lessons, well then the universe gave me one hell of a birthday present that year! It was as if I had put on glasses and could see so clearly now, through all the bullshit right down to the core of that big apple. I could feel that the winds of change were blowing me in a new direction.
Something had stirred in my soul and the parties and fly by night friends I had made that Summer in New York were not as appealing as they once were. I needed more, I needed food for my soul. I was hungry and my appetite was no longer being satiated here. I could stay and I could carry on singing for different companies on different stages, meeting men who had to much and appreciated too little, who were jaded by life's hedonistic pleasures, who lost their values in order to get to the top.
I could see my friends here and there in social settings but never fully be able to let down my guard and ask them for help or to reveal my deepest fears and longings to them. If you have lasted in new York for that long (7 yrs) you learn to be tough and strong and not to show your weakness because there is always someone in the wings waiting to pull the carpet out from underneath you.
My soul was longing to grow to learn and with any transformation comes pain. I also realized I need a man with an open heart and I can't keep settling for scraps.
John Lennon was right when he said " life is what happens when you're busy making other plans' . Guess the joke was on me."
I enjoyed the last bit of time l had left with Chris and one last Halloween party and we said our goodbyes and I headed home.
I arrived home in November, relieved to be surrounded by my families love and support. I realized how starved I was of it braving it alone for so long. I learnt how important family was in my life and I didn't want to be apart from them any longer .
By December I was lost in the hedonistic social scene of Cape Town that summer trying Ecstacy and MDMA for the first time, seduced by the nightlife and a wealthy playboy, I was taken to the best parties and whisked away for weekends at Tintswalo and other 5 star Hotels.
It was frivolous and fun and then it was done.
My family had already made preparations to "make Aliya" to move to Israel in January and I decided I was going with them, I didn't want to be apart from them any longer. It was time to start a new adventure together.
Stay tuned for the next chapter in the Holy Land.