Life Through My Lens: Back in New York City

I’m pretty sure I had Hawaii withdrawal for at least a few weeks after coming back. I gained a new understanding as to why wave noise-makers are a thing and contemplated whether or not I could create a lifestyle for myself where I could work remotely… from Hawaii. But New York City in the summer is not a bad reality to come home to – at least those days that it’s not 90 degrees with 100% humidity. But first, a reminder of some cooler times. Remember March – the tale end of a winter that would not go away? Yup – neither do I. I’ve since blocked it out.

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Life Through My Lens – Hawaiian Wedding

A bit of fun employment and nice weather has allowed me to take some lovely photos over the last few months. I also have someone very special to thank for fixing my 50mm 1.4 lens. Seriously, there’s nothing more annoying than being a photographer in a very photogenic environment without a lens that works. A Youtube video, a few tools and lots of patience on his part saved me a few hundred dollars and my creative sanity.

So I’ll be posting my life of the last few months through my lens.

First, a trip down a very green, gorgeous memory lane. I went to Hawaii’s Oahu a few months ago for my friend’s wedding. The talk of Hawaii’s beauty is not just hype. The island is green and lush, reminding you of a pre-historic oasis – perhaps because Jurassic Park was filmed there? Despite technically being in the United States, you feel like you’re in a different country, surrounded by Polynesians who come from the other side of the world – or at least the other side from New York City. We stayed in the Turtle Bay Resort on the North shore. There is something priceless about being able to stroll from the beach to the pool, to your hotel room, and then back to the beach for a wedding. It’s hard to decide what I loved more – the pristine, uncrowded beaches of Tulum or hearing the loud waves lull us to sleep in our Hawaii hotel room. I split a room with a couple which worked out fine because the rooms were huge and we all got along perfectly. Plus it helped that my friends and I have the same traveling desires – mainly those that revolve around food, relaxation, water and minor exploration.

Oh. So I caught the bouquet. I’ve never caught the bouquet before. Usually I duck in horror like a typical single, career woman living in New York City. But this time I was surrounded by single, career women living in New York City who all ducked and consequently, the bouquet went flying into my face. I caught it perfectly, in self defense. My roommate took a picture to document the moment. Truth be told she had to take about five photos because I had trouble mustering a genuine smile when shock and anxiety were my first emotions. But months of the bouquet drying nicely in my apartment has helped me happily embrace this possibility.

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The New Imperialism

US-PassportcoverOver the last few years, I’ve seen a huge trend in quitting ones job and traveling around the world. This was first fueled by the economic crisis. We all heard not so woful tales about bankers being laid off only to use their presumably hefty severance checks to travel the world and find themselves. Next came the photographer, writer or website designer, inspired by Chris Guillebeau to hack their credit card airline miles and consider a laptop with wifi connection their office. Those of us stuck in our windowless offices could momentarily live vicariously through travel blogs with the occasional pang of envy hitting us, as new photos appeared on our Facebook feed. We clicked through photos of our friends or even an engaging stranger as they bussed their way through Asia – brave enough to navigate a language barrier and foreign country for the promise of deliciously inexpensive food and the experience of local culture. In between our slight jealousy – we learned something. They opened our eyes to how other people lived. We silently thanked them for being ambassadors, making the world just a little bit smaller.

But after the major landmarks were visited, and famous, Asian street food consumed, there was a new frontier to be had. Enter our current day. In favor of reflective blog posts, used as an alternative to a travel journal – we have the more immediate – Instagram. In place of self-reflection, we have the outward attention grabbing hashtag. And with it, a move to newer journeys – venturing into Africa. A stunning, envy-inducing vacation within a vacation at a Travel & Leisure-worthy resort smack in the middle of a war-torn, third world country. Gone are the photos of local culture and attempting to experience the world that 99% of a country’s population experiences. Instead, we have Americans from a first world country, wealthy even for American standards – taking advantage of their power and status in a country where few have any. What is fueling this new behavior? Is it narcissism? The impulse to self-promote? The last decade has shown an increase in the desire for experiences over the accumulation of stuff. Is this the Berkin bag of experiences?

Whatever it is - with great power comes great responsibility.


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Flawed Logic

Sorry-BrokenI was going to write about the Garden State Plaza Mall in NJ but instead am ranting about this.

So I’m sure we’ve all been there. You’re sitting in the doctor’s chair. Most likely somewhat exposed – literally. A boob threatening to peak out under your flimsy hospital gown. Trying to stay warm from the cold examination room. You tell your doctor that something is just not right and they respond with,

“Oh, sure, I’ll do a test for that.”

“Great,” You respond with relief that whatever was ailing you will be discovered and cured.

Days later, you hear nothing from your doctor which means everything was fine. And you feel fine.

But then you get a bill from your insurance. Not covered. $675!!!

WTF ?!%$#@

So you mean if I had just waited TWO days without asking my doctor to perform any tests, I could have saved $675?!?!

You’re outraged. In what universe is it okay to give someone a service of some kind only to find out afterwards what you owe? No estimate. No idea that it will even cost you money. Plumbers and contractors guilty of this are kept in check through Yelp reviews. But who keeps medical services in check?

So you call your doctor’s office. Five transfers and fifteen minutes later, you get transferred to the billing department of the lab.

You have the bill in your hand that itemizes the procedure costs. Over $3,000. You have no idea what any of this means but are racking your brain trying to figure out how any of this could add up to that.

You bring this up to the billing administrator.

Her response, “It doesn’t matter. We charge this to the insurance company and they adjust it. They tell us that it should be $675 because they won’t pay that cost.”

Your response, “So you charge them as much as you can get away with and then they adjust it to what should make sense?”

Awkward pause. I’ve caught the billing administrator in trying to explain the flawed logic of hospital and lab costs.

And you continue.. “So without the negotiating power of the insurance company, I’d owe $3,000.”

Response, “No – well.. we’d figure something out.”

You continue. “If I was getting a haircut and the hairdresser told me that I’d look good in this cut – and I said go ahead. Then his salon charged me an outrageous amount for that – beyond what he knew would happen. They wouldn’t be in business anymore. In fact, it would be considered bad business. Except I’m not in a hairdresser’s chair and this is my health. Potentially my life, and you’re viewing me as a source of profit. How does any of this make sense? How is any of this even moral?”

At which point – you’ve reached a standstill because the administrator has no response. In fact, they probably even know that you’re right and the system is FUBARED. And anything she says will probably incriminate her in some way.

Finally, the administrator responds with “The next time you’re at the doctor, call your insurance company first and see what’s covered before getting any procedure done.”

You think about this. This makes sense. Okay. Then you think about it some more. To which you response, “I’m not a doctor. How would I know which tests to ask about? How would I be able to make the decision over whether or not it’s worth it to get a test done or wait? How would I know if I’m making the decision between paying an extra $50 or $500? How does any of this make sense?”

You hang up the phone completely defeated – wondering why in this day in age – where the most detailed information about cost is available through a simple Google search – this still happens. And then you log on to your bank account – visualizing that $675 no longer in your account. Money that could have been used for a vacation. A month’s worth of food including eating out. A payment to a school loan. But instead, it’s mainly going to cover the costs of our screwed up medical system – money to maintain absurd overhead – equipment instead of doctor’s intuition / patient time. High medical malpractice insurance. High administrative costs negotiating with insurance company. You are understandably distraught.

And then you contemplate moving to Canada or Europe and wondering how - with a country that has gotten so much right – they could have gotten something so wrong.

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