She Sure is {Reminiscing} : My 20s – A Reverse Bucket List

On this, my last day of my 20s, I grab a sketchbook and skirt out the door. It’s a holiday for one. Last night I grabbed a pen and started this New York Minute style Reverse Bucket List. It’s been a good decade.

I’ve learned a lot. I’ve done a lot. I’m so thankful. So crazily, giddily wildly thankful. On the eve of Thirty, and in no particular order I give you my personal highlight reel.

  • Spend a summer sharing a two person “just for art” studio that kisses a Great Lake and looks out on the water. (never get over it.
  • Give Kevin Bacon a one-on-one tour of a gallery (ONE degree people)
  • Teach oil painting to high school students for a summer.
  • Spend an entire week sitting on your ass in a Lazy Boy recliner (Hellllllllo, Montana)
  • Read “The Client” in its entirety to an illiterate basketball team on a Greyhound Bus
  • Make friends that feel like family.
  • Learn how to dig for and shuck an oyster. Find it disgusting. I recommend doing it in Montauk.
  • Fall in love with Butte, Montana.
  • Dress Up Every Single Halloween
  • Go to Montreal (for a Haircut)
  • Help Plan a Film Festival
  • Sing your Heart Out with a Girl You Adore and All of Brooklyn at a Sound of Music Sing-A-Long
  • Smoke a Cigar at a Gentleman’s Club (like a boss)
  • Throw Theme Parties
  • Nerd Out
  • Befriend a real and true Coney Island Freak
    — Stephanie, my favorite life drawing model of all time and one hell of a contortionist.
  • Judge a Dog Competition
  • Be Part of a Studio Audience – as often as possible
  • Work in a library
  • Work a job where ‘bloomers’ are part of the uniform
  • Work a job where you’re given a clothing allowance
  • Work a job where you’re specifically asked to dress down. (Um… Can you wear jeans?)
  • Boycott something. Go big.
  • Use a broker.
  • Get a nickname (a life long ambition, I assure you)
  • Love your roommates (except for Gaustass, He can Suck it)
  • Stage murder scenes with them.
  • Get Snowed In for three days with the favorites (Do Nothing but play board games and eat cheese)
  • Get crazy dressed up with your best male friend and go real estate shopping for a day
  • Obsess about the townhouse on the Brooklyn Promenade that you pretend to be on the fence about. Scheme how you can afford a 7K a month rent. Say things like, “Well, it does have three fire places.”
  • Befriend a crazy lady
  • Find that the crazy lady is in fact just eccentric.When she says “Salvador Dali would have LOVED you, dahling” That it is possibly true since she was his muse.
  • Attend all her Gallery Shows where she allows you to “walk on her red carpet” and introduces you to men by saying “Amber, this is Ralph, I’d like you to go home with him tonight.”
  • Race to the Top of the Statue of Liberty’s Crown
  • Have a 75 Year Old Italian Woman Teach You How to Make Ravioli from Scratch
  • Play Croquet on the Competitive Circuit (That’s what Manhattan is for, pets)
  • Take a Day in the Life of a Museum Curator (back rooms of the Met)
  • Get a Dirty Look from a Museum Curator When You Cannot Stop Humming The Ghost Busters 2 Soundtrack.
  • Spend Ten Years Following a Singer who Refuses to Sell-Out
  • Have Her Just Randomly Walk Up to You and Hug You at a Show and Whisper,
    –GOD! THANK YOU FOR STILL COMING! in your ear.
  • Feel ridiculously good about that moment.
  • Wear Red  Jeans (at the bride’s request) as a bridesmaid in a wedding
  • Go dead broke who-knows-where-your-next-meal-is-coming-from (?) no less than four times to get to a concert.
  • Live in an apartment with a spiral staircase
  • Vow to never live in an apartment with a spiral staircase again
  • Attend the first NYC concerts for people that go on to be famous and win Grammys.
  • Watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade Live, but indoors
  • Watch fireworks from a cruise ship on the Forth of July with your kid sister
  • Swim in a pool of chocolate liquor
  • Spend the night in the bat cave at the Bronx Zoo.
  • Swear off milk chocolate… once you go dark….
  • Learn how to make chocolate at Jaques Torres.
  • Date a lawyer.
  • Date a bartender.
  • Make sure bartender becomes a sommelier.
  • Date a CPA (just not in April, or for sure in April — depends on What You’re Going For)
  • Date a single father.
  • Date a stranger you meet on a train.
  • Date a psychologist. (This makes everything better.)
  • Swear off dating.
  • Date a doctor you meet in the ER
  • Date a med student. (Drop that like it’s hot)
  • Date a blacksmith. (Thank you, Universe.)
  • Date a clown (because the Universe takes back what it gives).
  • Date a poor penniless writer (never get over it).
  • Find a go-to vacation. (Thanks to Rachel and Dave, who let the Duchess and I crash their babymoon.)
  • Learn a Museum’s Collection Backward and Forward
    — I can give you a five page report on just about anything at the Frick
  • Attempt learning Italian
  • Try it again
  • Try it a third time – find it’s this time that’s the charm
  • Sneak on to a Movie Set
  • Walk barefoot in Central Park
  • Live Somewhere You Love Like Walden Must Have Loved the Pond
  • Live Somewhere you hate (if you’re in the market, may I suggest Greenpoint?)
  • Get Good Stories
  • Give your Compliments to the Chef
  • Doorbell Ditch Members of Fashion TV
  • Roll Down a Gigantic Hill in Forte Green
  • Kiss in the Rain
  • Walk from The Metropolitan Museum of Art to Clinton Hill

    –Walk it in Heels
    –During a Blackout
  • Lose your Gallbladder (Good Riddance)
  • Finish  College
  • Make friends with a celebrity… Thank you, Gabriel Byrne.
  • Take a tour of Sesame Street, with Big Bird
  • Meet a Girl who Changes Your Life (when she’s 7)
  • Learn how to make a horseshoe like no’body’s business
  • Animate a haul of educational vignettes staring a robot.
  • Own an animal that belongs on a farm
  • Go abroad
  • Take Mass at Westminster Abbey
  • Model for a Life Drawing Class
  • See the Very Last Night of a Long Running Tony Award Winning Broadway Play
    –(I am still in awe of Brian Stokes Mitchell)
  • Help a bunch of kids open a fire hydrant
  • Dance in an Open Fire Hydrant
  • Perfect your Crepes Recipe/Skillz
  • Free Style Rap on Stage in front of a Huge Audience – (Some of these happened when I was 22 obs.)
  • Volunteer
  • Work a Hotline
  • Stay Up Too Late — (Every Single Night of your 20s)
  • Dance in Bubbles at a Night Club (Which is why I came to NYC in the first place…)
  • Dance in the Middle of the Street on a Double Date at 4 in the morning with your Best Friend…
    –While it snows
  • Eat Yourself Sick with your bestie as you devour 8 kinds of cheeses and two loaves of bread in a four am obsession to discover the very best possible Grilled Cheese (and as a result) best meal possible. Toss up between Havarti on Rosemary French Toast, or ….  you call it
  • Own a Snuggie
  • Wear a Snuggie on the F train
  • Wear a Snuggie in a Bar
  • Wear a Snuggie on Broadway etc. etc. You get the idea.
  • Experience a National Tragedy
    — Stand at its threshold and feel yourself change
  • Fall in love for the second time…
  • Do it again……
  • How about a once more for good measure?
  • Ride across the Brooklyn Bridge on the Back of a Motorcycle
  • Attend a real Hamptons pool party.
  • Spend a day as a character witness in a Federal Trial
  • Yell at a Mo-Fo cab driver (x 20)
  • On an impulse, dye your hair. Leave it like that for the rest of your life.
  • Be part of a small and intimate 5 person design team.
  • Get nominated for a design Emmy with those fools 😉
  • Learn your way around a Forox.
  • Be so Uninhibited that all the Baldwin Brothers Gawk at You as You Make-Out on a Park Bench.
  • Learn Some ‘effing Manners
  • Make Friends Belle-style with all the Perveyors of Fine Goods in your Little Town. Know their first names.
  • Pull your BFF Roomie off a Pool Table (that’s no place for dancing)
  • Become a Health Coach
  • Design clothes that you see people wearing on the streets of NYC
  • Freak-Out and Chase them with a Camera
  • Get Pulled on Stage at a Death Metal Concert
  • Watch Meryl Streep as she steps from behind the curtain on stage (pure magic, people).
  • Give Directions to the UN to Goran Persson’s driver
  • Tell Your Favorite Story to tell at the Moth’s Outtakes Stage
  • Sprint Across a Battlefield (well a Historic Battlefield)
  • Stuff Your Fist in Your Mouth to Keep from Laughing in a Packed Audience at the Worst Play to Ever Grace a Stage
  • Fail
  • Get Kicked Out of the Theater
  • Feel Mixed Guilt/Vindication when the Play Closes a Week Later
  • Ice Skate
  • Let Your exBoyfriend’s Best Friend Kiss You
    –you might not regret it
  • Write a Song in an Elevator with your Best Friend. It’s OK if it takes hours. You’ll make new friends.
  • Get Your Heart Broken in Dramatic Lighting, 4am under a Street lamp is good for this Scene.
  • Dye an Old Woman’s Hair Hott Pink in her Hospital Bed
  • Do Work That Makes You Brim Over with Happiness and Pride
  • Draw Nearly Every Day, afterall, your life is beautiful
  • Fill 67 Sketchbooks (This next decade’s got a lot of paper to fill)
  • Travel to Tropical Locations like it’s Just Part of your Every Day (The Duchess is my Go-To Girl Here)
  • Have a Bartender Make You an “Amberlina” a Signature Drink You Can Actually Order at Gramercy –(well on nights when Kavin is working) — Shirley Temple don’t got nothing on this (which is a lie)
  • Ride a Bike on the Roof of a Grocery Store
  • Start Your Own Company
  • Get a Ride in a Police Car
  • Keep in Touch
  • Find a Mentor
  • Make Her Be Your BFF
  • Play on Playground Equipment (the more dangerous the better)
  • Fly Half Way Across the Country to Meet Someone Who’s Flown Half Way too…
    because what happens in Vegas….
  • Ride a Pop Culture Wave
  • Catch Movies on their Release Day at Midnight
  • Make t-shirts to Commemorate these Occasions
  • Forgive Someone that No One Else Forgives
  • Stand Up for Them
  • Commune with Nature in a Fairy Dust Moment on Fire Island with the World’s two Coolest Girls
  • Call in sick to finish Reading a book. “I can’t sleep. I can’t eat.” Valid.
  • Meet Judy Bloom (gush yourself in to a coma)
  • Share Lunch with Jane Yolan
  • Be Friendsies with Kevin Henkes
  • Own an Original Rosemary Wells
  • Get Kissed on the Cheek by Jeff Smith
  • Sit Cross-legged on a Roof and talk with someone until the Sun Comes Up
  • Kick a Brooklyn Kid’s A in Jump Rope
  • Read Every Book on this List:
  • Make it a Competition with a Hottie
  • Give Up when You Get to War and Peace.
  • “Cheat” and let him read it to you in Russian
  • Work in a building that holds 15 Organs – the kind with pipes.
  • Work in a building that contains a room that’s an exact replica of the Titanic’s Ballroom.
  • Flip a coin to make every decision for an entire day
    — You’ll End Up at Storm King
  • See the Whirling Dervishes Whirl
  • Make it Through Ten Years in NYC without a Tattoo
  • On an Impulse Go to Philadelphia with Some New Girls You Just Met
  • Have them Turn Out to Be Your Life-Long Friends
  • Stand beside the Double Sided Glass and Pick a Guy out of a Police Line
    –(I was thrilled to know this was a real thing)
  • Start a Blog!
    Best of a Decade
    Best Vacation: October 2011’s Seattle/Hawaii Extravaganza There were Lanterns and Mudslides and Fresh Flowers and Mai Tais and Long Lazy Days. Hands down. Best Vacation Ever.

    Best Day Trip:
    1.Princeton in 2002 with Angela, Grammy was in Fine Form and We Stayed Up All Night Listening to Records and Writing Music
    2. Fort Tyron Park with the Ludlows – the Cloisters with this crew was a complete surprise and a total blast… from the past
    3. Connecticut for a Long weekend — I got on a train and got a hotel.

Best Books:
1.The Hunger Games,
2. 100 Years of Solitude
3. The Alchemist
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
5. The Song of Achilles

Best Shows
2011  – Amon Amrath at Best Buy Theater (totally unexpected, wildly fun)
2011 – Melanie at BBKing
2010 – Esperanza Spalding at Summer Stage
2008 – Matchbox 20 at MSG
2006 – Ani Di Franco at Carnige Hall
2005 – Eminem at MSG (possibly the best show of my life)
2004 – Patti Smith at the Bowery Ballroom
2004 – Prince at MSG
2003 – Five Iron Frenzy in Grove City, PA
2003 – The White Stripes at the Aragon Ballroom — blew my mind
2002 – Bob Dylan at MSG

Best Things to Do: Go to Accupuncture, Coney Island, the Bowery Electric or ANY Beach

Best Place to Eat: Benchmark/ Joya/ China Grill/ Gramercy Tavern/ The Red Hook Ballparks/ Stacy Giauque’s Kitchen
Best Kisses:
1.La Brea Tar Pits – I laughed so hard I almost puked but instead made-out
2.During a Futurama marathon here at the Penthouse at 302 Court
3.The High-line
Best Memories
2011 – Two Words. Royal. Wedding.
2011 – Toys R Us and FAO Shwartz enter a bidding war over my art.
2010Jen Mo hosted me and Ashley for Christmas, and gifted us with automatic soap dispensers. Ashley’s reaction was maybe my favorite memory of that year.
2008 Olympics – In which I took time off from work and kept the cable running non-stop. People dropped by at their leisure and we ate our weight in Chinese Food for weeks. There was a particular lovely moment where every guy in the room ran to get some dinner plates, because no way you’d really want dishes for hands. Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps.
Every “Normal Day” I get to wake up in my beautiful apartment, roll out of bed and explore my Beautiful Brooklyn
2007 Thanksgiving Day in London in which we were so baller we bought Turkey at Harrods
2007 – The Day Garrett and Scott Put the AC in.
2006 – In the Fall I wandered up to a woman coming out of the cutest little carriage house on that street that runs along Rendezvous Park. I had the weirdest feeling that I should talk to her about my total lack of housing situation. I’d been looking at places for two months and was on the brink of the kind of nervous break down only a New Yorker without an apartment can understand. I had actually flipped out at a homeless man earlier that week. (“YEAH?? I don’t have anywhere to live EITHER!”) I remember saying “Those houses are so cool and kitchy, do you know who I could talk to about renting one?” She said, “No, but I’m actually a broker… and there’s this adorable place I keep thinking is too special for just anyone.” There were 13 people looking at it the night we came to see it. Maria’s Mother, who owned it at the time, pinched both my cheeks and said “Oh Bella, so beautiful! No gatto??” When I shook my head she hugged me and said “OK. Everybody. You. Leave!” It’s the only perfect English I have ever heard her speak. That is how I came to find the Penthouse at 302 Court.  Every moment since has been magic.

Things I Didn’t Have in my Teens but that I Would Now Rescue in a Fire:
2011 –
The year I finally got my Cintiq, which I thought I’d stop dreaming of once I actually bought it. That is not the case.

2011 – The Duchess bestowed me with a framed aireal shot of Coney Island. My eyes fell out of my head.
2011 – Rachel Micheal gifted me an amazing set of drinking glasses. I cannot even describe them, but here’s 1000 words.
2010Brittany (of grief and high-delight) bestowed this cookbook upon me. I remember looking down at my feet and seeing that my socks had been war(k)nocked off.
2009Norton Juster signed a copy of The Dot and the Line for me. It’s getting pried out of my cold dead hands.
2009 – Keith gave me this rose wood sand turner, because it “is your favorite color, and it will remind you of home, and it is animated, it makes shapes you can use for scribble drawing”. It remains my favorite thing

2007 – My mom flew to NYC and painted and pimped my office, where I have had countless days of happy living ever since. I’d save the cork board in there. It is the rocking-ist.
2007 – My parents shocked and awed me by sending me a pair of custom earrings (my favorite piece of jewelry) before my first major trade show. These babies are always along for any major life event, and they’d be one of the first things I’d grab.

I’m reading “Love is a Mixed Tape”. I dug out all the tapes I’d been given over the last ten years. (Which is where the idea for this post originated)
Best Mixed Tape: I give you Todd Rawson age 23:

Best Lessons Learned:
What Goes Around Comes Around
Ben Folds is just another Human Being
If You’re Not Enjoying Something, Stop Doing It
Send Snail Mail
Eat Six Small Meals a Day
Hawaiian Time is Annoying
and most importantly:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my twenties.
I’m off to live this last day of it, as wild and as free as the day I pulled up to NYC’s shore.

Have a day. Make it Good.

Categories: A New York Minute

12 replies »

  1. OMG! Where do I even begin?
    This list is amazing. (Also, you have some explaining to do…ha!) I am so grateful to have been part of your 20s and some of these awesome memories. You are one cool gal. Have a great birthday! I have a feeling our 30's are going to be amazing.

  2. Basically, you are totally amazing and have lived more in a decade than most people live in 6 lifetimes. Rock star. And to think, your thirties are going to be even better! Because being thirty absolutely rocks. I've never felt more confident in myself.

    Have a blast today!

  3. Aww thanks, friends. Sometimes I feel like I haven't done nearly enough. I'm walking the line between ecstatic and terrified when it comes to 30, but I'm mega glad I'll have you there for the dips and the jumps and those long soaring highs. xo love you such.

  4. Ditto all of the above. I stand all amazed. And you know what? 30rock does not stand for Rockefellah Center. It stands for what is ahead! You are gonna 30 rock it girl!!!!

  5. Haha! Hahahaha! 30Rock it! Mom, you are so Mom. xo

    Rachel, thank you for Girlyman, and Joe's pub and the piano recital, which was the most inspiring things of 2011 (for me at least).

  6. Amber,
    Today you're 30! How awesome is that? I hope you're having a brilliant birthday, NYC style (with some Hawaiian flair, perhaps?) and I can't wait to read about your 30th birthday adventures :]

  7. Oh so sorry for the belated well wishes, but hope your special day was the bestest ever! Looks like you have a lot to live up to in this next decade…If anyone is up for the task, it's you 🙂

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About last night. 🦌💛 Crawling home on all fours after celebrating at the epic Puppy Par-tay my brother and sister-in-law put on for my dog nephew, Milo tonight. It was everything and more, complete with a bone-shaped swimming pool. #dreamtheimpawssibledream 🤘#livewithnoregrets We otter go exploring more rivers. 😍
#lifeachievementunlocked A Mama said there’d be days like this😍
Totally alone in the Natural History Museum’s Hall of Mammals for hours! Hashtag Blessed. It’s 1 AM. Do you know where your mini gummi bears are? 
#fairgame #latenightinthestudio #goodbyeoctober We’re celebrating today. I opened my eyes to Matt  crowing, “Amber! Wake up. They made it!” We have been following the inspiring pilgrimage of my mom @incredimombo & sister @prilliegirl_shakazoozoo via text & @instagram for weeks. They set out to trek across Spain a month and a half ago. This morning they walked their 500th mile and crossed into Santiago. Having read a lot about their journey before they set out to do it, I felt concerned at their determination. The Camino is not easy. It requires walking 10-20 miles a day 7 days a week. You have to carry everything you need on your back. The toll is physical, mental & spiritual. Many prepared and experienced hikers do not make it to the end of the journey the first or second time they attempt it. ☀️ So we’re dreaming impossible dreams and celebrating too. It would seem today is a good day to set out to do the impossible. When we moved to Utah I was sure I’d been too spoiled by my childhood on the ocean and my twenties in Brooklyn, to ever find anything to love in the desert. I fully planned on dying of boredom. I don’t know what I’ll do when we outgrow this little Wasatch apartment of ours! Watching the Sun kiss the mountains goodnight from our tiny balcony is beyond description. This picture doesn’t begin to do it justice. Home again.
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