About

My heart failed at 25 years old and left me no choice but to face my own mortality: would I be forgotten? What was I leaving behind? This is a 100 day journey to the special places where I've lived my life from childhood, pre-heart condition, through the scary times, and up to present day. I want to leave behind a piece of me, my mark, in each of these 100 locations. My secret hope is that in re-visiting amazing moments and places in time my heart will recognize the authentic joy and remember what it’s like to live. Maybe this pure energy will start a party for my cells and nurture my heart in ways medicine has not been able to.
Instagram: 100Heartbeats

Day 99

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Day 99 - Nurse Bettie, Lower East Side, New York City

A blizzard is without a doubt one of the best days to go out for a drink in New York. Put on your snow boots, down jacket and plow away to your favorite neighborhood watering hole. What you will find is quality likeminded people, who just want to come out and have a drink while the snow is coming down. No frills, no bridge and tunnel, no bullshit, just a good hangout with great people.

Nurse Bettie was Lauren’s neighborhood watering hole, a second home if you may. She spent numerous occasions here while the city was put high alert due to extreme weather discussing whatever was going on at the time with other patrons. The bar reminded her of the New York’s golden era of nightlife, where you didn’t have to go to a hotel bar to enjoy yourself. Hell, you didn’t even have to leave your neighborhood if you didn’t want to and you were guaranteed just as much fun if not more.

A massive thank you to our extended family at Nurse Bettie for putting her medallion behind the bar and keeping her memory alive for as long as the bar stands. Thank you for all your support. We love you.

Watch Lauren’s School of Visual Arts diploma ceremony
Watch Lauren’s memorial organized by School of Visual Arts
Watch work that Lauren was part of during her time at School of Visual Arts

Day 98

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Day 98 - Angel Orensanz, Lower East Side, New York City

In May 2012, Lauren’s close friends threw her a fundraiser to help out with her medical expenses. There was some difficulty deciding on a venue until we all realized that the best location was actually just around the corner.

I pass Angel Orensanz daily and think back to that day and the people that came together to make the event happen. Between the lovely staff at Angel Orensanz and all the sponsors, we could not have asked for a better night. A few days before the event I remember how Lauren managed to hunt down Bethany Frankel at one of her book signings who was also touched by her story and decided to sponsor the event with her Skinny Girl cocktails.

Thank you Angel Orensanz for letting us put up one of her hundred medallions on your wall and keeping her memory alive. Thank you for all your support.

Watch Lauren’s School of Visual Arts diploma ceremony
Watch Lauren’s memorial organized by School of Visual Arts
Watch work that Lauren was part of during her time at School of Visual Arts

Day 97

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Day 97 - Alexanderplatz, Berlin, Germany

A few years back Lauren and I found ourselves in Berlin for one of Lauren’s best friend’s birthday. East Berlin at the time still felt like a diamond in the rough. It felt like a city by artists for artists, exiting and full of surprises. Lauren’s friend was well connected with the Berlin nightlife scene so we got to experience that side as well. No bottle service, no bullshit, just raw venues, great music and the people who were there to enjoy it.

In many ways it reminded us of how the East Village used to be back in the nineties. Both of us had at one point in our lives lived in the East Village and we have also seen it change over the last decade. Being in East Berlin brought back great memories. The days when you could go out in the village alone and venture from place to place, meeting great people, listening to great music, and have a great time without ever leaving the neighborhood.

Thank you Megan for introducing us to Berlin. Thank you Julieth for putting up the medallion in honor of Lauren. We love you!

Watch Lauren’s School of Visual Arts diploma ceremony
Watch Lauren’s memorial organized by School of Visual Arts
Watch work that Lauren was part of during her time at School of Visual Arts

Day 96

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Day 96 - Kardamyla, Chios, Greece

Pre heart failure, Lauren used to spend a number of summers at her best friend’s house in Greece. Our paths had not crossed yet but I heard all the stories how the people of this Greek village had to brace themselves every summer when these two came to town. I asked her best friend to share her memories of their summers together.

"Lauren was unstoppable. Our first summer in Kardamyla (2002) we made friends with all the local Greek boys and they’d practice their English on her. Lauren’s charm made them open up to her quickly and invite her everywhere- no matter the language barrier. Most conversations revolved around her tan (she was a committed tanner!) or, of course, her love of food.  I won’t forget the first time they called us over to eat when we were on the beach, struggling to get their words right: “LO-REN! CAHHHM! UHH… EHHH… FU*KING FOOD!!!

The end of that summer went out with a BANG. Literally. We spent the vacation cruising around on the island in my Jeep Wrangler, and one night very late, the Jeep crashed straight into a house. Our new Greek friends came rushing to our help and drove us to the hospital downtown. Lauren was chilling with her feet up in the car (classic move) and broke her ankle on impact, and had to spend the rest of the vacation in a cast and crutches. Didn’t stop her one bit. From scooching up the stairs of our walk-up using her behind, to getting the sailors on the ferry boats to fire-man carry her up the stairs, to angrily confronting the loud Greek fruit sellers with her crutches for waking her up - she didn’t let it slow her down. She never let anything slow her down.

I went back to Kardamyla shortly after Lauren’s passing and was moved by the outpour of love, condolences, nice words, stories, and even tears that came from those old friends - and by many of the local townspeople. One by one they came up to me and my parents and paid their respects by sharing their memories of her. She brightened their lives with her positive energy, sense of humor, and authentic personality. She left her mark in a village that considered her local too - and which she will always be a part of.”

Lauren often referred to her Greek summer as spending them with her second family. I had the honor of meeting them on multiple occasions and I love them dearly. Thank you Eleonora, the Captain and of course her best friend for taking such good care of Lauren and welcoming her as your own daughter during her wild days.

Day 95

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Day 95

The Branding Studio, School of Visual Arts

When Lauren was first diagnosed with her weakened heart, she had a hard time acclimating to her new limitations. Given that she was a social New York City girl, she could never get used to the social part of her life diminishing. We carefully tried to place her around people where she could feel stimulated by her environment but she simply wasn’t ready. Instead she choose to focus on her recovery.

Two years ago Lauren’s good friend graduated from the Branding program at School of Visual Arts and introduced her to some of his work. I could see the passion in her eyes igniting as she felt in love with the program and what it had to offer. After spending five years in recovery mode she felt ready and shortly thereafter she applied. I remember both of us staying up the entire night adding the finishing touches to her application.

She got accepted and was ecstatic about studying with passionate and like-minded people. The sheer fact that she would be contributing to a “greater good” was very exciting to her. As a husband, seeing my wife so happy was truly something precious. In the spring of 2013 the class received an assignment that entailed doing something consistent every day for a hundred days. Lauren’s 100 heartbeat project was born.

Thank you Debbie, J’aime, Katie (SVA Branding faculty and staff) and the entire class of 2013 for making Lauren part of the family. We love you!

Watch work that Lauren was part of during her time at School of Visual Arts
Watch Lauren’s memorial organized by School of Visual Arts

Day 94
The place for meatballs, period.
When the first Meatball Shop opened on Stanton Street, there was no outdoor seating. Instead you would often find the owners chilling outside the restaurant before it got busy. It did not take long before Lauren striked up a conversation and that was that.
Last summer, Lauren and I used to take a midnight stroll here almost every night. It became a ritual. A nice neighborhood walk followed by amazing food. She religiously got the meatball smash with a side of salad and topped it off with the ice cream sandwich. Before you knew it the staff became family.
Other locations eventually opened up and needless to say we didn’t see the owners as much anymore. Lauren always wanted to put a medallion at this location but since it is always packed we would have been busted within seconds so we let this one slide.
When Lauren passed away our extended family helped me reconnect with the owners and I asked if I could put up her medallion anywhere outside. The reply I got was “we would be honored”. Oh, and it is not outside, it’s behind the bar.
Thank you to Michael and the entire Meatball Shop family on Stanton Street for always making us feel special. We love you!

Day 94

The place for meatballs, period.

When the first Meatball Shop opened on Stanton Street, there was no outdoor seating. Instead you would often find the owners chilling outside the restaurant before it got busy. It did not take long before Lauren striked up a conversation and that was that.

Last summer, Lauren and I used to take a midnight stroll here almost every night. It became a ritual. A nice neighborhood walk followed by amazing food. She religiously got the meatball smash with a side of salad and topped it off with the ice cream sandwich. Before you knew it the staff became family.

Other locations eventually opened up and needless to say we didn’t see the owners as much anymore. Lauren always wanted to put a medallion at this location but since it is always packed we would have been busted within seconds so we let this one slide.

When Lauren passed away our extended family helped me reconnect with the owners and I asked if I could put up her medallion anywhere outside. The reply I got was “we would be honored”. Oh, and it is not outside, it’s behind the bar.

Thank you to Michael and the entire Meatball Shop family on Stanton Street for always making us feel special. We love you!

RIP Lauren Zaleski

My name is Thomas, I am Lauren’s (the author of this blog) husband. It saddens me to say that Lauren passed away on July 19th. The 100 heartbeat project that she was working on was part of an assignment she received while getting her master’s degree at School of Visual Arts. The essence of the assignment was to do something consistent every day for a hundred days. She reached day 93 before she left us.

In the memory of Lauren, I have taken it upon myself to finish her project. The last 7 days will be posted in the weeks to come and with the help of the remarkable people that stood by her the last post will be something really spectacular.

I am honored to have stood by Lauren’s side for the last 7 years of her life. The night I first met her I knew she was one of a kind. We never got the chance to exchange phone number that night, instead we randomly ran in to each other on the street on a rainy New York night just a few days later. Within a month she moved in with me and for the next 7 years we were inseparable.

Our journey together faced the most difficult challenges a couple can face. Just a few months after we met, Lauren got her heart diagnosis and her life changed dramatically. Despite the relentless challenges, Lauren refused to let anything get in her way of life. She left us with these words:

“I leave you with one thought. Take it from someone who had the rug pulled out from beneath them… the record could stop at your party at any time my friend. Celebrate your life each and every day. Do things that scare you, live life all the way, love with every cell in your body, eat that piece of chocolate cake! Wear your favorite dress, or your “good clothes” to the market, go places, see things, and don’t look back.”
- Lauren Zaleski

Thank you for the best 7 years of my life. Thank you for being amazing. Thank you for being you. Words cannot describe how much I miss you. I love you always and forever.

Please feel free to share Lauren’s blog and her story. Stay tuned for the remaining  posts.

Day 92
7A  
The 24/7 staple that has been in the East Village since forever.  
I would venture to say that many New Yorkers —at least those who have had their fair share of nights out, have their very own favorite diner (kind of like .  This one was mine for a very long time.  
*The left image is a close up of mosaics along the doorway and entrance to 7A.

Day 92

7A  

The 24/7 staple that has been in the East Village since forever.  

I would venture to say that many New Yorkers —at least those who have had their fair share of nights out, have their very own favorite diner (kind of like .  This one was mine for a very long time.  

*The left image is a close up of mosaics along the doorway and entrance to 7A.

Day 91
A friend of mine (thank you J) went down to Ocean City, Maryland for a weekend vacation last week.  He was sweet enough to bring one of my heart medallions along and represent.  This is a place that makes my heart sing when I think about it.
My parents bought a small beach house down in OC.  My dad loved that house.  He would drive down on weekends (after working all week) on a Friday night in the middle of the night, just to spend time with us, and then drive back up to NYC Sunday all night long to be back at work Monday morning.  I could cry thinking about how sweet that is now that I’m older.  This place represents everything fun and wonderful and amazing about childhood summer for me.  I can remember what our neighborhood smelled like in the mornings (low tide), and at night when the fire wood was burning.  I can remember all of our favorite restaurants and crab shacks, picnics on the beach where the horses ran wild (it was a National Park that was untouched and ridiculously gorgeous).  The beaches were clean, the boardwalk was seedy but happening, and although we fought legendary brawls for a significant amount of the 6 hour car ride down in the back of the mini van, my siblings and I were happiest together during those months we spent together down in OC. 
 
 

Day 91

A friend of mine (thank you J) went down to Ocean City, Maryland for a weekend vacation last week.  He was sweet enough to bring one of my heart medallions along and represent.  This is a place that makes my heart sing when I think about it.

My parents bought a small beach house down in OC.  My dad loved that house.  He would drive down on weekends (after working all week) on a Friday night in the middle of the night, just to spend time with us, and then drive back up to NYC Sunday all night long to be back at work Monday morning.  I could cry thinking about how sweet that is now that I’m older.  This place represents everything fun and wonderful and amazing about childhood summer for me.  I can remember what our neighborhood smelled like in the mornings (low tide), and at night when the fire wood was burning.  I can remember all of our favorite restaurants and crab shacks, picnics on the beach where the horses ran wild (it was a National Park that was untouched and ridiculously gorgeous).  The beaches were clean, the boardwalk was seedy but happening, and although we fought legendary brawls for a significant amount of the 6 hour car ride down in the back of the mini van, my siblings and I were happiest together during those months we spent together down in OC.