A Spot of Tea

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I recently realized that the older we get, the more most of us wish we had paid a little more attention in school. For some, they wish they could remember more of their math lessons; for others, it’s literature, and for me, it’s history. When textbooks popped open to learn about wars and presidents, my head always went into the clouds. But as an adult, when I pass by major landmarks, I find myself constantly Googling. It makes me wish I could remember some of the trivia that was probably right there in those textbooks.

One of my biggest history fascinations in NYC has been The Plaza Hotel (which, for the record, was built in 1907, took two years and $12 million to build—unprecedented at the time.) So when one of my best friends invited me to a birthday tea party there hosted by her lovely mother, I was excited for weeks, imagining all of us dolled up, soaking in the grandeur like it was the 1920s. And it was grand, indeed. We had a three-hour, Eloise-themed sit-down in the Palm Court, an ode to the six-year-old star of the children’s book series. Of course, there was tea, plus mini-peanut butter and jellies, scones, and tiny cupcakes on three-tiered servers.

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Staring up at the vaulted glass ceilings and looming palm trees, I felt like I could’ve been Zelda Fitzgerald on a tea date with Scott—before tea turned into orange blossoms spiked with gin. But I was glad to be me, in a pretty dress surrounded by other women (in pretty dresses themselves) who uplift and inspire me. (And crack me up. Seriously, we need a reality show.)

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I think tea is now officially, well…my cup of tea. And not just because of the magic of the Plaza and the comforting drink (which had me briefly considering making the switch from coffee before I asked myself Who are you kidding?), but because of the idea of taking a break from your day to sit down with friends to eat, drink, and enjoy one another’s company—no cell phones included. Why can’t we all sit for tea with our girlfriends more often? Frolic in the fountain outside like the Fitzgeralds once (allegedly) did? Wander the hotel’s hallways like the mischievous Eloise?

True to my inner nerd, when I got home (well, after a champagne after-party at my apartment, because what’s tea at the Plaza without a Gatsby-like moment?) I did some research, and discovered the hotel offers a free 45-minute tour of the Renaissance-style chateau. Who’s down to go with me? If you come, I promise we can sit down for tea afterward.

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Cathie Black Is Out

photo courtesy of the New York Times

New York City’s school chancellor Cathie Black is out. She will be replaced by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott (pictured above.)

Remember back in November when I wrote about being unsure how she’d do in the job? She was undoubtedly great as the former Hearst president—but something never clicked to me about her moving over to one of the toughest education gigs there is.

Sure enough, she stumbled through the job with odd public outbursts and inappropriate jokes about birth control that all showed how wrong she was for the position. And I guess even her pal Mayor Bloomberg had to admit it, as New York 1 is reporting that his official announcement about her stepping down and being replaced is supposed to be coming any minute now.

I do love to see women taking risks and rising to positions of power. And since I first started dreaming of being in the magazine industry, I truly looked up to Cathie Black as a role model and a woman who paved the way. But nothing about this position was right for her, and it was as clear as day. So while I do feel badly for her, I do think there were about a million signs that this was not the right job for her, and she had to have been blind not to see them.

Regardless, I think the bigger question now is, when is New York’s education department going to get it together and think about the children in these schools? Sheesh.

HUH? Cathie Black Chosen As NYC School Chancellor

Yesterday I was at work when one of the editors walked over and announced “Cathie Black was just named Chancellor of New York City schools.”

My immediate reaction was HUH? Apparently, I was not alone in this reaction, as the Daily News seemed to feel the same way with its headline the following morning:


I was particularly confounded because her book, Basic Black, was like my Bible when I was a magazine intern trying to move my way up the ranks. I feel like I knew so much about her history and career — she’s a media titan who has moved her way through major newspapers and magazines, earning the prominent position of Publisher at publications like New York Magazine and USA Today before going on to become the President of Hearst Magazines. And a woman at that. Not too shabby, and the experiences and words of wisdom she shared in her book will always stick with me as I create my own path through the world of media.

But when the announcement was made, the glaringly obvious item missing from her impressive resume was education experience. She hasn’t so much as taught a class, and both of her children attended boarding school in Connecticut. Ok, I thought, maybe I don’t have that great of an understanding of what exactly a school system chancellor does. So I Googled. And essentially, her responsibility will be to serve as the leader of the NYC Department of Education, home to the largest school system in the nation with 1.1 million students and more than a few problems.

Mayor Bloomberg has attributed his selection of Black to the fact that she is a “world-class manager.” And after weighing all of what I know, I feel a bit torn. A part of me is happy about the fact that one of my magazine idols is breaking barriers: not only is she the first woman in this position, but she is also showing the country that a resume doesn’t have to dictate what you can do in this world; some passion, a great skill set and some innovative ideas can bring something new and appealing to any position.

But then the other realistic part of me that left the theater crying after watching the documentary about the terrible state of the US school system “Waiting for Superman” chimed in. The fact of the matter is, our nation’s education system is in dire need of help. I strongly believe that a great education is necessary for success, but the numbers of children in our country, including New York, who will never see that success because of the lack of good teachers and schools is horrendous. So for this city’s Education Department, which is home to what have been called some of the worst public schools in the country, don’t we need a leader who knows the education system inside and out? Someone who understands both the good and the bad of the system thus far and can say she has the experience to back it up?

Whether it’s an unconventional approach or experience that matters most, only time will tell how Black will do in this position. All I can do is hope that Mayor Bloomberg’s experiment won’t be at the expense of the city’s children.