Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Lighting of a Tree

We did indeed make it to the Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center.

It was essentially pandemonium:

We were sent in circles by police directing the foot traffic. It felt a lot like Labyrinth, except without David Bowie. Then, periodically, the police would say we had to turn around and go another way. It was all very confusing -- one would think that if an event happens every year, there'd be a logical way to direct the crowd. If one did think that, however, that one would be wrong.

Thankfully, Cliff and I are both pretty laid-back, so we just wandered along with the crowds, devising a plan to get us as close to the tree as possible. We ended up pretty close -- just around the corner from the J.Crew in Rockefeller Center -- however, because of the angle of the buildings, we couldn't actually see the tree or the stage on which the performers were. We could, however, see a monitor showing these things.

We were amused by the atrocious lip-synching, and decided that it was a bit of a backhanded compliment to be asked to perform for a free outdoor event like this (unless you are a Rockette -- the Rockettes are awesome), because it means that you're not a big enough deal anymore to make people riot. We imagined how much more ridiculous the crowd would be if, say, Justin Bieber were a performer.

Also, apparently Annie Lennox has a Christmas album and it sounds exactly like one would imagine an Annie Lennox Christmas album to sound like.

At the crucial tree-lighting moment, the monitor was stuck on a stock image of "Christmas of Rockefeller Center". There was booing from our section of the crowd (but not us, because we're classy like that).

Then, a minute later, there was chaos. We managed to work our way toward the tree so Cliff could take a picture with his fancy iWhatever gadget (all photos in this post were taken by him):

One way to tree.

Some people started pushing and yelling things and I was all like, "Dude. Christmas."

Anyway, I'm glad that I went. I had fun, felt Christmas-y, and wouldn't place it totally in the "never again" category, but I don't feel like I need to make it an every-year tradition, either.

In other news, Brooklyn is pretty.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Going through the photos I keep in the "Pictures I Like" folder on my laptop and rediscovered this one (Oscar de la Renta, 2010).

It is pretty and shiny and I wanted to share it with you pretty, shiny, people. (And then maybe you will feel morally required to share it with me in return and let me wear it at least once if you ever own it.)

Probably it costs about the same as a pony, but looking is free.

Cliff & I are going to brave the crowds and rain tonight to try to go to the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting. I am acutely aware of the fact that there are many things in this city that will either be totally excellent or "never again", and it's impossible to know which is which before I do them.

A question: if you were going to take someone on a tour of your childhood, where would you go? What would you do?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

on boat-cake, poetry

There are places in this world that make me reflexively lower my voice, not only out of respect, but to reflect the sense of quiet that comes over me. Poets House is one of those places.

(Photo from their website.)

I've mentioned to some of you that I was the lucky recipient of a membership card as a gift. Before that, I had heard of the place and thought, "Hmm, I should go there sometime." -- and then, of course, didn't. They run some fantastic events, many of which involve the winning combination of poetry, wine, and cheese. I've been to a few readings there, most notably Kathleen Norris, who read some of her own poems and talked about theology in poetry. I also went to see a Greek avant-garde poet named Demosthenes Agrafiotis, whose work didn't particularly speak to me, but I appreciate the conversations about poetry translation that it sparked. (So many people dismiss translating poetry as something worthless, and it's such a loss. There's so much to be gained, for poets, translators, readers, and most of all, those with some amount of overlap in those categories.)

Anyway, I have been remiss in taking advantage of their beautiful library, so Monica and I went today to read and take in the beautiful Battery Park sunset across the street. (I can't believe that no one has photographed this and documented it online for posterity. It is a thing of beauty. I suppose that's a nudge that I should start carrying my camera around more, and maybe eventually get one that actually takes non-blurry pictures in less-than-perfect lighting.) I wish this library were open all the time -- nothing could possibly be better for my mental health. I don't know how to describe it -- the closest I can come is that it feels like stepping into a huge cathedral with stained glass windows letting in lots of light through the rafters, except without the cathedral or the stained glass windows or the rafters. (With the light, though.)

I also want to plug my new favorite brunch place, which is such a hidden gem that it doesn't even have a single Yelp! review. I don't even have a Yelp! account and now I am considering signing up just so I can leave a glowing review. I was initially reluctant to go to Bay Ridge to meet up and have coffee before heading the opposite direction toward Battery Park -- I mean, there's coffee everywhere in Manhattan, right? -- but when neither of us could come up with an idea of where to go close to Poets House, we decided to try this place in Bay Ridge that Monica had longingly walked past a number of times.

We were only going to have coffee. We really were. Then, we looked at the menu.

And we wanted to eat ALL THE THINGS. Pancakes (dark chocolate chips? bananas foster? strawberries & nutella? vanilla with pear? dear Jesus the options -- and I am not taking the Lord's name in vain here because this was my honest prayer -- dear Jesus the options. And I'm only through the pancake part of things), waffles, breakfast burritos, eggs benedict, and the most amazing sounding burger ever with bacon and cheese and "secret barbecue sauce" (I am a barbecue sauce connoisseur, so the concept of "secret barbecue sauce" is particularly intriguing. It's like they know me). We had to tell the waitress that we needed more time to decide approximately five times. Finally, I decided on the secret magic delicious burger and promised myself to eat the vanilla-pancake with pear at a future date, and Monica and her sister decided the best way to solve delicious-menu deer-in-the-headlights was to order one eggs benedict and one breakfast burrito, cut each in half and swap. Done and done.

Oh, and you can get anything on this delicious brunch menu, plus unlimited (or at least we were never told "no more") coffee and an adorably-sized glass of orange juice for $9.95. I'm so unbelievably stoked. I promise no one is paying me to write this. (Though if you were to give me $9.95 to taste test anything on the menu for you, I would totally do it. Special offer, dudes!) I will say, though, that the restaurant is gigantic and although there were other people there, there was no wait and plenty of open tables, which is a little worrisome during prime brunch hours. So, I will continue to support delicious brunch and I'll totally go there with you probably, depending on who you are.

The restaurant is:

Huckleberry's NY
8901 3rd Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11209

To get there, take the R-train to 86th St. in Bay Ridge. Huckleberry's is on 3rd Ave. between 88th and 89th Streets. (I learned via Google just now that there is also a bar in Williamsburg called Huckleberry's -- don't let the hipsters lead you astray. Bay Ridge, not Williamsburg.)

Today was my first trip to Bay Ridge and if, in a decade or two, I start talking about wanting to move to Staten Island and buy a house, I would like all of you to collectively remind me that Bay Ridge is both much prettier and more accessible via public transportation than Staten Island, and that there are houses in Bay Ridge, too.

I made my first real trip to Staten Island last night, and by real I mean "with a destination" rather than taking the ferry for fun (and it actually is really fun, taking it for fun -- great views of the skyline and Statue of Liberty, plus it's free and you get to be on a boat like T-Pain). Cliff and I went to visit our friend John, and I'd just like to illustrate what this trip entailed:

* Taking the subway to the ferry (about 40 minutes)
* Waiting for the ferry, which runs every half hour and then cuts down to once an hour late at night (about 20 minutes)
* Taking the ferry (about 25 minutes)
* Waiting for the bus, which we just barely missed (about 30 minutes)
* Taking the bus (about 30 minutes)
* Walking from the bus stop (about 15 minutes)

By the time we got there we were cold and desperately in need of beer and a warm puppy. Thankfully, both of these were in the house when we arrived. (My brain switched onto OMG PUPPEH mode for basically the whole night.) We played MarioKart on the Wii and I proclaimed that Baby Mario is not a real character (which is a statement I wholeheartedly stand by the next day, despite the amusement of my compatriots), and generally had a great time.

My goal was to get home by 3:00 a.m. so I wouldn't be comatose for coffee-and-poetry today. John told us that the ferry left at 1:30, so we left the party at 12:45 to catch the bus. We waited and waited, and still no bus -- so, still hoping to catch the 1:30 ferry, we called a cab, which shockingly told us it would take 15 minutes to get there (normally it's more like 5). All of the businesses by the freezing-cold bus stop were closed, and we stared longingly at a pizza place at which we would had been enthusiastic patrons had it not decided to forsake us and remain closed.

Finally, we saw a cab across the street and jumped in.

"Wait, did you call? Is this the pick-up at [name of bar I can't remember]?" the cabbie asked.

"Yes, that's us," I said, noting that the bar was almost right at the intersection that we'd specified.

The cabbie had the world's most-leisurely radio conversation with another cabbie that established that this wasn't actually our cab, and that ours was coming in a few minutes. However, since this cab's customers were nowhere to be seen, he would drive us and let the second cab get the second group of people.

This was at 1:21. We wanted to make the 1:30 ferry. If we didn't, we'd be stuck at the ferry terminal until 2:30, and I probably wouldn't go home until about 4.

It was on.

Cliff asked the cabbie how much it was going to be to the ferry terminal, and we began to assemble our collective ten dollars plus tip.

"Here, hand me the money," I told Cliff. "I'll pay him while you open the door. You ready to run?"

We further elaborated on our plans in hushed breaths. Meanwhile, the cabbie turned up the radio so that "Little Drummer Boy" was blasting. Not exactly an ideal soundtrack for a high-speed car chase, perhaps.

The minutes ticked by. When we pulled out in front of the ferry terminal, it was 1:29. I handed the cabbie the money and told him good night while Cliff opened the car-door. All according to plan, so far.

Then we sprinted flat-out like we were in an action movie, dodging slowpokes with shopping bags.

When we reached the lobby area, we slowed to a walk and looked around. There were plenty of people there -- mostly sitting calmly while homeless people slept on the benches. It certainly didn't seem like we'd just missed it -- but people weren't standing to board, either. Curioser and curioser.

Bemused, we approached the ferry schedule.

2:00. Not 1:30. We had been misinformed.

(So anyway, we did catch the ferry, and I made it home by 3. But we totally could be in action movies and do our own stunts. Especially if they involved running to catch the ferry like Staten Island tourists, which I guess we are, since we don't live there and all.)

Also, I am developing new life rules for myself. One of them is to never do laundry on a weekend (it ends up eating up your entire day -- weekday evenings are much less brutal). The other is never dating anyone who, when you suggest that he bring "boat cake" along on an evening adventure, doesn't show up with beautifully-tinfoil-wrapped leftover chocolate cake and sweet-potato pie from Thanksgiving plus an equally-beautifully-tinfoil-wrapped fork with which to eat it. (That sentence got a bit overly-complicated, so suffice to say -- Cliff brings me cake to eat on boats and that is one of many things that makes him a good, good man.)

I am writing ALL THE THINGS tonight to make up for only updating once all month. Here is a summary for the sake of brevity and thankfulness for those who are still reading (hi Mom):

* My mom in Wisconsin won two tickets to Promises, Promises on Broadway. Cliff & I went and had an awesome time, and waited at stage door to talk to Kristin Chenoweth, Sean Hayes, and Molly Shannon and get my t-shirt and tote bag (also courtesy of Mom's winnings) autographed. Everybody was super friendly, especially Molly Shannon. Kristin Chenoweth was even tinier than I expected, and she came out with a bodyguard who started acting gruff when some fans wanted to videotape Kristin saying hello to their friends. She was calm about it though, saying she couldn't because she has had creepy stalkers who manipulate her videos to make her say gross things.

* My apartment building just put up Christmas lights and they are beautiful. I will take a picture when it's not cold outside and warm in my room. So, probably never. (Just kidding. I will take one, eventually. Probably.)

* I am really into the poet Suzanne Gardinier lately, who is also a Sarah Lawrence professor and a lovely human being. Her book Dialogue with the Archipelago is heart-stoppingly beautiful. It combines Greek mythology with the story of the Garden of Eden, and interweaves it with stories about relationships in a series of related poems and dialogues. My favorite are her short poems, some of which are like a really awesome punch in the gut. I once described a friend's music as making me homesick for places I haven't been yet -- that's how I feel about Suzanne's poems. (After being out all day, I am enjoying my evening by finishing the book while drinking peach schnapps with Trader Joe's orange-peach-mango juice. I am a genius.)

* I met Cliff's whole family for Thanksgiving! Nothing exploded, and we ate a lot of delicious food and then spiked the punch with Malibu. All in all, totally fantastic. Also, I love that Thanksgiving is the gift that keeps on giving -- not only did we eat far too much, but we also took home plates to eat for lunch the next day AND boat-cake. (I may need to go back on The Cake Diet in preparation for winter.)

* I also heard the poet Cate Marvin read at a friend's reading series and I can't wait to read her book, Fragment of a Head of a Queen, which I immediately put on reserve at the Brooklyn Public Library after hearing her read. I really enjoyed seeing her poems projected on the screen, since she does such gorgeous work aesthetically.

The title of the book is inspired by this sculpture, on display at the Met:

I think once I get the book, I will take it to the Met and read while I visit the sculpture. That sounds like a great day, doesn't it?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Like many people, I had come to New York City with this idea that I was somehow extraordinary. The important part wasn't "extraordinary," it was "somehow" -- I wasn't quite sure what kind of renown it was, exactly, that I was destined for. I just knew that I was really good at something, or that I could be, if I could just figure out what. Free-floating ambition is toxic because it means that anyone who has accomplished anything in any realm of human endeavor is the enemy because she might be your competition. So you hate everyone a little bit, but behind this wall of hatred you still feel vulnerable. And you are vulnerable, but not because of the competition. You're vulnerable because if anyone points you in anything that seems like a direction, that's where you'll go.

-- Emily Gould, And the Heart Says Whatever

The book as a whole left me wanting something that it didn't quite deliver, but there were a few parts that particularly resonated. I think it's one of the saddest books I've ever read.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In Which I Meet Bernadette Peters

My friend Anne (with whom I went to Thailand in 2008 and worked at Hoofbeat for many years) came to stay with me in New York for a few days before setting off on an around-the-world journey. We had a marvelous time going on adventures around the city, including attending a steam-punk fashion show (our favorite designer was Kristin Costa), walking across the Brooklyn Bridge (which I have done probably a dozen times now and I'm not even close to being sick of it), and watching the Packers beat the Vikings at Kettle of Fish, New York's local Packer bar.

I regretted having to go to work during the day while she was here (such is the life of a paid-by-the-hour worker with no vacation time), so our weekday adventures were restricted to evening-time. We kept Wednesday night reserved to go to some kind of show -- I told Anne to pick up tickets to whatever she wanted while she was exploring during the day, and I'd meet her wherever after work. So all day, I was wondering what she'd pick and what I had to look forward to.

Around six o'clock, she sent me a text message to say she'd gotten tickets to A Little Night Music. I had heard of the show and knew it was Soundheim, but never seen it before -- but I knew that Bernadette Peters was in it, which was more than enough to make me excited about going to see it. (I'm not particularly well-versed in Broadway actors, so basically, if I know who someone is, they are more likely than not a huge star.)

The show was totally incredible. I could see exactly why Bernadette Peters is such a star -- she is positively magnetic. I couldn't look away. The part of Desiree seemed written for her, and at one point I tried to imagine anyone else in the role, and couldn't. There's something life-affirming about seeing a beautiful, radiant, talented, 62-year-old woman on stage. Elaine Stritch was also great and very, very funny. And while it approaches cliche to say that something made me laugh and made me cry -- it pretty much did. Sometimes I laughed a lot and then unexpectedly, the play reeled me into something so human and heartfelt that I couldn't help tearing up a little (and I'm not a crier when it comes to plays & movies).

After the show, Anne & I started to walk out, and we noticed a bunch of people waiting at the stage door. It occurred to us that Bernadette Peters might come out, so we decided to wait. I'd never waited at stage door before -- I'm not really that into getting things signed in general -- but I really wanted to have a moment with Bernadette Peters where she looked at me and acknowledged my existence.

Ramona Mallory, who played the character of Anne (not to be confused with my friend Anne), came out first. I didn't get her autograph because I was standing with a group of obnoxious actor-teenagers, and I think she was a little afraid of them (I don't really blame her). She seemed in a hurry to get home, though she was gracious and smiley.

I did get signatures from Stephen R. Buntrock (Fredrik), Katherine McNamara (Fredrika), Bradley Dean (Count Carl-Magnus Malcom), and Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (Henrik), who came out next. Stephen R. Buntrock has silver-fox laser-eyes. It occurred to me how crazy it must be for Katherine McNamara, who is 14 or so and already in a Broadway play with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch. I mean, where can life go from there?

Then it was quiet for a few minutes. One of the stagehands stepped out and announced, "Elaine Stritch has left the building. I repeat, Elaine Stritch has left the building."

And then we waited. I continued to be annoyed at the obnoxious actor-teenagers, who were talking about how they wanted to call Bernadette Peters "Bernie" when she came out and tell her they wanted to have her babies. Or something like that. Meanwhile, my knees were starting to shake.

Then she came out.

I didn't want to seem too rabid, so I just said thank-you when she signed my Playbill, and then proceeded to grin like a fool. Anne got a picture (thanks to her for taking the photo, and to my brother Zach for editing to reduce my crazy-eyes):

So now my question is, what do I do with the Playbill? Normally I am the type to hold onto them for a few months, then think, "What am I really going to do with this?" and throw it out. I'm not a hoarder. But I can't exactly throw out a playbill signed by Bernadette Peters. I am accepting suggestions on what to do with it. Keep in mind that I live in New York and do not have a ton of space, so a shrine is not a realistic option.

Anyway, I'm headed out to a Halloween party for which Cliff is DJing. (I feel like I consistently switch to talking like I am in Dinosaur Comics when I am writing about him -- but seriously, you guys. He is super rad.) I am currently dressed as a watermelon (sexy watermelon? just kidding), because that is my lazy go-to costume where I don't have to buy anything.

I'm not sure what that says about me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reading List + Garage Band

I had a request to post my reading list from the past year, so here it is. This is approximately since the beginning of last September, when I left on my Greyhound bus trip. Books are in no particular order, and I noted "pending" beside any titles that I haven't finished but intend to. I didn't include The Road by Cormac McCarthy in this list, because I started it, hated it, muscled to halfway through, then heard that it didn't get any better and decided it wasn't worth it. (It takes a very special kind of writer to be writing about killing people in a way that is excruciatingly boring. Also, McCarthy could stand to befriend an apostrophe or two.) I've made no intentional omissions, and have included library books, books borrowed from work, books picked up off friends' shelves, books given to me as gifts, etc., etc. I would also like to note that I in no way endorse all of the opinions expressed by authors on the following list (which would actually be quite difficult, considering that some of them are in staunch opposition to one another). Rather, I like to read what other people think and react -- to what the author got right and wrong from my point of view.

The Watermelon Shirt List of Books Read, September 2010-present

1. Feminist Theory from Margin to Center, by bell hooks
2. The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti
3. The Art of Travel by Alain de Boton
4. On Love by Alain de Boton
5. Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam Fisher
6. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
7. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
8. The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
9. Don't Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards by P.J. O'Rourke
10. I Love a Man in Uniform by Lily Burana
11. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
12. Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World by Bruce Schneier
13. Exquisite Desire: Religion, the Erotic, and the Song of Songs by Carey Ellen Walsh
14. Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson
15. The Penultimate Peril (Series of Unfortunate Events Series, Book #12) by Lemony Snicket
16. How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley
17. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy
18. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf
19. Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Gail Dines
20. What The Living Do by Marie Howe
21. Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr (pending)
23. Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse by Mary Oliver
24. Financial Serial Killers: Inside the World of Wall Street Money Hustlers, Swindlers, and Con Men by Tom Ajamie and Bruce Kelly (pending)
25. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
26. Boy by Roald Dahl
27. Going Solo by Roald Dahl
28. I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee
29. The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
30. Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life by Steve Almond
31. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Saffron Moyer (pending)
32.The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson (pending)
33. Wetlands by Charlotte Roche
34. Voodoo Heart by Scott Snyder
35. How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
36. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
37. Model by Cheryl Diamond
38. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
39. Hungry by Crystal Renn
40. This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin
41.Shopgirl by Steve Martin
42. What a Girl Should Know About Sex by Bernhardt S. Gottlieb (out of print from 1962)
43. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
44.Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It's Not Bad to Be Good by Wendy Shalit
45. Strip City by Lily Burana (pending)

I just finished Girls Gone Mild a few hours ago. My main problem with it is that Shalit callously divides women into two groups -- good and bad. While I don't subscribe to every idea that Jessica Valenti presents in The Purity Myth, one concept that really struck home for me from her book is that dividing women into this false dichotomy perpetuates rape culture. Valenti points out how difficult it is to be a "perfect" rape victim -- how details like what the woman was wearing, if she participated in consensual sexual activity in the past, and whether she had consumed alcohol could influence judges to condemn her as inviting the attack. Shalit has a particularly egregious example of this when writing about Koren Zailckas, author of Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood. Shalit summarizes Zailckas's memoir of alcohol abuse, casual sex, and rape. Then, Shalit gives the reader this curveball: "[Zailckas] polishes the rum off a few days later, and not surprisingly is then date-raped once more."

Non-weasel-worded translation: "She had it coming." Victim-blaming at its finest.

I mean, surely it couldn't be the fault of whoever raped her, right?

I've read a lot of analysis on why people insist on warning young women about the dangers that are lurking down every street they dare to walk down alone. The theory that seems the most emotionally accurate to me is that people want to feel like they have some kind of control over their lives because it makes them feel safe. They want to watch the news and think, "Oh, that girl was attacked because she was x (when x=by herself/with another woman/wearing a short skirt/wearing jeans/talking on the phone/not talking on the phone). Therefore, because I do or do not do x, I am safe and such a thing could never happen to me." When we recognize that, despite taking every precaution, sometimes attackers will attack and there's nothing we can do about it -- it's scary to think about.

Shalit also complains about women who "steal each other's husbands" and describes Alice, one of her interview subjects, as "not the 'other woman' type" (whatever that means). I find the entire concept of "husband-stealing" to be completely offensive to both women and men. Essentially, women are painted as nothing more than sultry temptresses, while men are depicted as animals who lack the rational thought necessary to make moral decisions. I have my doubts that a husband who didn't want to be "stolen" could be -- and let's not forget that, in the "husband-stealing" scenario, the husband has vowed fidelity in marriage while the so-called "other woman" has made no such promise. The same would be true, as far as I'm concerned, if the genders in this situation were reversed -- though Shalit is too busy blaming women for the alleged "husband-stealing" epidemic to panic about the "wife-stealing" that surely also takes place by her logic. (Although, according to society -- if a man cheats, it's the woman's fault for not pleasing him [see: response to Hillary Clinton after Monica Lewinksy scandal et. al.].If a woman cheats, it's because she's a slut.)

But I'm getting carried away with myself here. My point is, as a society we need to stop pretending that there are only two types of women -- good & bad, madonna & whore -- and that of those, one or the other (perhaps which one depends on your politics) is worthless. Everyone loses.

(I know, I know. "This is why [I] can't sleep.")

In other news -- I was inspired by my dear friend Nomester's music upload (already knew she could sing from summer renditions of "Wagon Wheel", but seriously, she sounds amazing), and decided to tinker some more with Garage Band to see if I could figure it out, for actual musical purposes at a later date. My friend Christy and I played with it a little, to record some songs she'd written with me on backup vocals, keyboard, and flute, but I also recorded my warm-up improvisation and us talking.

This one's just the Garage Band sample clips, plus me singing a little and playing with effects.

This one's the tinkered-with improv. Everything is me except for Christy talking toward the end. The effects are crazy because they mess with the tuning in a way I think is interesting -- you can especially hear the discrepancy when the keyboard comes in.

Looking forward to recording actual stuff at a later date -- but for now the laptop tinkering will have to suffice, considering the hour and the sleeping roommates.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

So, today I walked the length of Manhattan.

Today Liza and I decided to follow through on a borderline insane idea we've had for awhile -- walking the length of Manhattan.

To spare the uninitiated a bit of Googling, the walk is about thirteen miles in total. For anyone considering embarking on a similar mission, we started around 12:30 noon and got to Battery Park around 6:30 pm (also, we took a long break for lunch). The goal was to start the day off the 225th St. 1 train station in the Bronx, walk over the Broadway Bridge, and then walk all the way down to Battery Park to take the Staten Island Ferry. We had some delays in getting to our starting spot due to subway construction (read: my accidental trip to Queens). But after that, it was a surprisingly easy walk, considering comfy shoes, company, and conversation.

We walked from 225th to 110th without stopping at all, primarily down Broadway. Then we made a brief stop to visit the Cathedral of St. John the Divine:

We ate lunch at an Italian restaurant and enjoyed sitting down for awhile before continuing our journey. We zig-zagged a little, cutting over to Amsterdam and West End and walking through Hell's Kitchen before going back over to Broadway to walk through Times Square.

When we reached the southernmost tip of Manhattan, we watched the sun set in Battery Park (you can see the Statue of Liberty in the background here).

To complete our mission, we took the Staten Island ferry round-trip before taking the subway back home to Brooklyn. Which means, of course, that if you count my accidental trip to Queens that I set foot in all five boroughs today!

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's True: America IS Great

So for Cliff's birthday, I got us a bus-and-park-admission package to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. I admitted right away that this was partially because I had the ulterior motive of then getting to spend the day with him riding roller coasters. He didn't seem to mind much though.

The New Jersey transit dude recommended that we get to the Port Authority Bus Terminal by 7 am to ensure a spot on the 9:30 bus. I am saying this to shamelessly impress those who know how much I dislike mornings. I actually left my apartment voluntarily around 6:15 in the morning. Somehow it feels so, so much different to wake up and do something fun versus to do something that you have to. And then at the bus station I got a delicious muffin and bought The Week and relished the fact that now, not being in school, I actually have time to read for pleasure. (Cliff had me write him a list of all the books I've read in the past year, and I am proud to say that it worked out to about 42 or something, so almost a book a week. Not bad!)

The bus actually left about half an hour early, so we got to the park before it was even open. Cliff was excited to recognize Bob Katz, a famous audio recording engineer. (I readily admit to borrowing the descriptor "audio recording engineer" from Wikipedia, where I read about him after I got home.)

I realized that I probably hadn't been to a theme park not-with-children-to-supervise in probably close to 10 years. This did not, however, keep us from riding the carousel.

The harried mother in front of us in line pointed us out to her carousel-objecting daughter to say, "See? It's not a baby ride! These people don't even have a kid with them, and they're just going because they like the ride!" We were friendly and agreed that yes, we think carousels are awesome. So I do feel like we served some practical purpose to society and didn't just get in the way of the actual children.

Because we got to the park so early, we were able to ride a bunch of roller coasters with almost no line, including Superman, Nitro, The Dark Knight, Bizarro, and Batman. We also went to go see dolphin show which made me revert back to childhood ambitions to become a dolphin trainer/princess/cowgirl/movie star, and we saw one of the supposedly spooky Halloween shows which was tacky but had flame-throwers as pre-show entertainment. When the park got dark, park employees dressed like ghouls came out to try to scare people for Fright Fest. I really wanted to see Cliff get caught hilariously off-guard, but it didn't happen. We did however observe some obnoxious teenagers get their comeuppance, and an awesome dad jump out at his kids and basically scare the pants off them.

The weather was perfect and I found $20 on the ground (actually), which paid for lunch at Panda Express, so all in all an exceptional day.

It amuses me how prominently and accidentally Panda Express is featured in this photo, so it seems appropriate that I post it here:

Also we got to ride over the park in one of those sky tram things, which is where this photo was taken:

I am mentioning things about the bus to emphasize that it is a super easy day trip to make from New York, except for getting up early. Also, the great thing about riding the bus is that you can sleep on the way home! Sleeping while driving, on the other hand, is heartily discouraged by the Surgeon General.

We had such an awesome time that we are thinking about getting season tickets next year, which are surprisingly inexpensive, especially if you get a group rate for at least 4 people. I overheard the middle-aged man behind us on the bus on the way there that he had been there 11 times already this year!


PS If you were wondering, the most awesome ride in my opinion was the Superman ride, because it puts you in this weird position where you sorta really do feel like Superman. So in other words, I fulfilled my goal in life.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Day at Coney Island

On a somewhat spur-of-the-moment plan, I am lucky enough to have a visitor this week -- Dawn, who is from Zimbabwe and was international staff at camp this past summer. Although I didn't work at camp this summer and therefore hadn't met her before Thursday, our mutual friend Anne emailed me to let me know that she'd be in New York, and I invited her to stay with me in Brooklyn. We've been having a great time -- I only wish work didn't have to get in the way -- but because today was my day off, we decided to meet up with Liza and Cliff and head to Coney Island for the day.

I'd been craving Nathan's for weeks, so the two corn dogs that I had for lunch were entirely overdue. 

I'd definitely like to see the 4th of July hot dog eating contest sometime.

After laying about on the beach for awhile, I lamented the fact that I hadn't gotten around to buy a hula hoop all summer, despite mentioning it several times. So on a quest for candy that ended in Starbursts and Capri Suns heralding back to rec-league soccer days, we were happy to find a toy store to finally bring my dream of owning a hula hoop to fruition. It also made a pretty nice picture frame, all things considered.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Good Night & Not Goodbye

Nomi recently left Brooklyn to set off on a new adventure -- living in Munich for a year and being an au pair for two German children. A few days before she left, we had dinner in Chinatown and she revealed that she hadn't been to all five boroughs -- she was missing Staten Island. While I can't call myself the biggest explorer on the Island (though I have a ton of coupons for it), it seemed a travesty to allow her to leave without having set foot in all the boroughs. So Liza, Monica, and I stepped in and decided that a proper send-off would be to take the (free) Staten Island Ferry and picnic while we watched the sun set.

Liza & Nomi by the ferry terminal.

Nomi watching for the Statue of Liberty.

Liza, Monica, & Nomi being ON A BOAT

I was really excited to find Fruit by the Foot at the grocery store, as I was under the impression that it had gone the way of the dodo.

(This is my favorite picture of the bunch, by far.)

Other than that -- trying to soak in the last of the free summer events that Brooklyn's blessed with. Saw Labyrinth on the big screen at McCarren Park last Wednesday (and the people-watching! all the hipster children with old-fashioned names!). Yesterday Cliff & I went to see Kid Sister and Chromeo play for free at the Williamsburg Waterfront. It was pouring and thunderstorming and wonderful. Now that I think of it, I think that every outdoor concert I've ever been to can be described as pouring, thunderstorming, and wonderful. I love thunderstorms.

I'm also really into sandwiches lately. I wonder if I started reviewing sandwiches on here if I could con[vince] anyone to give me free food.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

When Gwen asked me last spring if I would be one of her bridesmaids, I instantly said yes. I didn't know where I would be flying in from, or what my life would look like, or even if I'd be employed. But somehow, I felt better about my life knowing that there was at least one day in my future during which I knew where I'd be: Saturday, July 10, 2010.

I arrived in Oxford early on Tuesday morning, a few days before the wedding. Rebecca, Liza, and I had made arrangements to stay at the Central Backpackers Hostel, an exceptionally well-run hostel that had not only friendly staff (who were helpful with our rather unusual backpacker requests, such as where to dry-clean suitcase-wrinkly bridesmaid dresses), but Nutella included with the free continental breakfast.

We spent most of the first day orienting ourselves and catching up (since Rebecca had been in Dublin in grad school since graduation, and Liza and I had been in New York working & living life). We took a long walk by the river, and spoke to an eccentric Oxford student who explained to us about the mating habits of pheasants. In the evening, we went to see the world is not flat!, a folk duo comprised of Chris, a former SLC classmate of mine, and his bandmate whom he'd met studying in Oxford. The show was in a yurt. I wrote a postcard home in which I described their music as making me homesick for places I hadn't been yet, and I stand by that.

The next few days passed in a frenzy of wedding preparations. I have been to approximately a million weddings in my life, but it was my first time being a bridesmaid, so I had a rather weak understanding of all that goes into the preparations. All I had observed were the stress levels of the few friends of mine who've gotten married -- and the phone calls about photography, filming, flowers, dresses, cakes...I could go on. And of course, there's the added stressor that society builds up this day to make people feel like it must be The Best Day of Their Life (tm), and that everything must be perfect. And that's a little bit unfair. Because while weddings are beautiful things, they're beautiful because they're the start of a marriage -- and that's something to be excited about, too.

Gwen had decided to buy the flowers wholesale, so part of the preparations involved making our bouquets. I was really looking forward to this part, since I worked at a flower shop for one week helping out seasonally over Valentine's Day -- and, as it turns out, flower arranging is pretty fun. There's a lot that goes into it -- colors, shapes, aesthetics, balance.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I love irises.

Nomi & Honza, just arrived from Germany, holding four of the bridesmaid bouquets.

Gwen's Doe Night (English name for a bachelorette party) was pirate-themed. I rode on public transportation with an eye patch drawn on my face with black eyeliner. Somehow the night evolved into all of us trying to get a musical note sound from blowing on a watering can. Also, there was fire spinning (from some of Gwen's friends who are into circus arts -- not by me).

The day of the wedding, the bridesmaids gathered in Gwen's hotel room to get ready. I shifted into camp-counselor mode, hoping that I could help to keep her relaxed and happy, and hoping to avoid major crises. In the end, the only crises were workable. The first carload of bridesmaids forgot their bouquets at the hotel, so Gwen and I had to very cautiously carry all five bridesmaid bouquets plus hers with us in the car to the chapel. We also couldn't find her lucky sixpence, which she wanted to put in her shoe like in the "something borrowed, something blue" rhyme; I suggested that we implant an invisible one, which seemed to suffice. The groom was feeling a bit nauseous and was worried about throwing up, so he sent the best man over to talk to Gwen before the ceremony and send the message that, if he went to kiss her on the cheek instead of on the mouth, that was why and she shouldn't be offended. I could have sworn that when it reached that part in the ceremony, I could see her ever-so-slightly part her lips, in a nonverbal message of "now is the time to suck it up and kiss me".

Somehow, things managed to go off without a hitch (pun not intended). The ceremony was completely lovely. Then we ate cake, and I realized that I had eaten cake for basically every meal the day before and day of the wedding, and that I should write a lifestyle book called The Cake Diet. (Did I mentioned that I'm going to learn how to bake cakes? I spent a few hours before the wedding helping the best man make a few cakes, and he sent me the recipes. This is going to be my new project.) The reception involved drinking Pimm's with lemonade and lounging & frolicking about the most beautiful estate in the sunshine. And the food! So much delicious food, and wine, and champagne...and then dancing, and a lot of David Bowie.

Goofing around in the hotel room before the ceremony:

Gwen is a seriously stunning bride.

I ended the evening with a blend of emotions -- overall elation at my friend's happiness and the accumulated joy of everyone else present, but also the pang that comes with meeting really wonderful people and having to leave them immediately. I found that, in many ways, being in a wedding reminded me of theatre -- there's the hurry-up and the waiting, and the staging and costumes, the inevitable tensions that arise, the nervousness and the joy. And then afterward, there's a post-partum exhale -- and then wondering, "What do I do now?"

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Big Stuff Happens in Brooklyn, Evening Edition

I interrupt the regular-scheduled tour-of-Wales-and-England program to bring you the evening edition of Big Stuff Happens in Brooklyn:


Sarah Rosner, with whom I went to Sarah Lawrence, started a dance company after graduation called The AO Movement Collective. On Sunday, she was on the front page of the NY Times dance section, with an overall positive review (albeit with some uncalled-for body snark) by notoriously hard-to-please critic Alastair Macaulay. I performed in a modern dance piece with Sarah my first year of college, and she is an extremely driven, passionate choreographer and dancer -- and I am so, so excited for her success.


Two of my very favorite people in the world, DJ Sicksentz and Matt Heern recently collaborated on a video that I am embedding below for your viewing pleasure:


I was walking around in Fort Greene last week, rather on a mission because I was running a little late, when suddenly a dude in a headset blocked my path. "Uh, excuse me, miss? I'm going to need you to cross the street. We're filming over here." Naturally, I asked what was being filmed -- it was a movie called My Last Day Without You. (My aunt B was disappointed when she looked at the cast -- she was that I am "famouser than anybody in that stupid movie", and lamented that I had to cross the street.) It probably speaks to my Midwestern spirit when I am still excited when I am slightly inconvenienced by filming -- my former flute teacher, who lives on the Upper West Side, once complained "Yeah, I had to move my car again."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Castle, Left. Castle, Right.

The youth hostel I stayed at in Conwy did not have free breakfast, but I got all of this for just a few pounds:

The best part of the hostel, though, was the reading room. It was situated as the highest point on the building, with windows all around, and doors that went out to a porch with the most beautiful view of the town:

I watched the World Cup championship here, sitting with a group of guys with whom I didn't share a common language. Still, I could tell their team allegiances by when they started screaming at the television.

I think the above picture illustrates quite well the sheer number of castles there are in Wales. Literally, whichever way you go, you will find a castle. Awesome.
The old & the new.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Houses & Horses

In Conwy, I spent a day walking along the harbor. I took a boat ride, snuggled with an adorable dog (have I mentioned how much I love how dog-friendly Wales is?), and came across this house:

Just one pound to go in and have a look around the smallest house in Great Britain. Granted, the tour doesn't take very long. Funny, how much it could cost to rent out a space even that size many parts of Manhattan...

I stopped into the public library to use the Internet and ask the librarian for directions to Snowdonia Riding Stables, which I had seen in a brochure advertising scenic mountain rides through Snowdonia National Park. She told me which bus to take and said, "Make sure you ride in the direction of Waunfawr." I scribbled down "Winevow" -- the way it sounded -- and she peered through her spectacles and laughed, but in a kindly way: "Oh, honey. Not quite like that."
Despite my inability to spell Welsh words, I managed to find the ponies. This one was mine:

He looks a lot like Fable, a horse we used to have at camp.

I signed up for the half-day mountain trek, which turned out to be extra-awesome because the ride consisted of just me, the guide, and another girl my age who had similar riding experience to me. So we got to gallivant all over, dodging wayward sheep and galloping up sides of mountains, through fields of heather.

I also really appreciated how safety-conscious this stable was -- I am extremely pro-helmet (/anti-brain injury), and I was happy to see that all of their rental helmets fit the British equivalent of ASTM-SEI standards. Also, when I rather cheekily (albeit politely) asked if I could help around the barn to work off part of my ride, the barn director said I could help tack up some horses and turn them out afterwards, and she'd give me 8 pounds off (about $12).

The young woman leading my ride had moved from Manchester in order to ride horses through the mountains and have it be her job. Sounds quite nice, when put like that, doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Visit to Caernarfon, Wales

Continuing my pattern of writing about my trip backwards -- before London, I came from Caernarfon, a very small (pop. 9611 according to Wikipedia) town in Wales. I took the train from Bangor to London Euston station, a ride that was essentially like watching an all-around movie of countryside, hills, castles, and sheep. I found Caernarfon itself to be sleepy and introverted -- the type of place that lends itself well self-reflection, in that it's completely beautiful, and everything closes around 5 pm.

I stayed at a small hostel that seemed to be run by a family as a hobby. There's something appealing in that -- the idea of having a place for travelers to come through, meeting new people from faraway lands, hearing their stories and listening to their languages. In the reading room I found a book written in the early 1900s on the Welsh language, practicing a few of the sentences in my head just for the mental exercise. Everybody in Wales speaks English, and I've read statistics that only about 15-25% of Welsh citizens even speak Welsh at all. The two languages have equal legal standing, and all official signs are written in both languages. Before coming to Caernarfon, I hadn't heard anyone speak Welsh at all during my few days in Wales. In Caernarfon, however, it was everywhere -- not spoken to me, but spoken among families that I heard walking on the streets. I could sit on a bench in the main square and just listen, and if I closed my eyes, it seemed as though I were among elves.

I find language fascinating, and I like the idea of claiming language as a source of home and nationalistic pride. I felt a similar appreciation listening to people in Bilbao speak Basque. I think being able to speak and understand every language would be a great super power. After all, keeping language alive means keeping stories alive, and I can't think of anything more important than that.

Since my plan was to explore castles in Wales for four days, I think I ended up in the right place.

Caernarfon Castle was one of several castles in Wales built by King Edward I of England. This one was built in 1283 and I have to say, as an American, it's hard for me to fathom anything that old, except maybe my parents (just kidding, Mom & Dad).

Next stop will be Riding-Ponies-in-the-Mountains -- if that were a country, I think I would live there.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Nothing Falls Like London Rain

Sifting through photos often makes me a bit unsure about where to begin. The end of my trip brought me back to London for less than 24 hours before I caught my flight home. This means that there are the fewest amount of pictures -- in other words, the perfect place to start.

I'm not so good at remembering to take pictures when I travel. I enjoy wandering and letting my thoughts wander with me. I like not having an agenda, and seeing what I stumble upon. So imagine my delight when I stumbled a few blocks from my hostel to find this:

My point is, sometimes the pictures take themselves.

I'd seen Parliament & Big Ben before, but there's something wonderful about almost tripping over them. (And I have to say, tripping is something that I'm pretty good at.)

I chose the hostel (The Steam Engine) somewhat arbitrarily and at the last minute, and was bemused to find certain eccentricities about it. First of all, the hostel is not only above a pub, but it is part of it. As in, when you go to check in at reception, you check in with the bartender. I stayed in one of the shared rooms and, even after many years as a camp professional, I was surprised to learn that there were such things as triple-layer bunk beds:

(Bed #3, on the bottom, was my temporary cave. I was worried about the people above me moving around and keeping me awake, but the triple-layer-bunk-bed proved to be surprisingly sturdy and non-avalanche-inducing.)

On Thursday morning, before I had to leave for Heathrow, I decided to take a long, wandering walk.

I thought this sign was really funny:

Stumbled upon a guard -- I told you that good things come from wandering:

If you're worried about this being the only horse photo of the trip, don't lose any sleep. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

How to Not Be a Jerk in a Coffee Shop

Lifehacker just ran a post entitled, "Get Things Done at a Coffee Shop Without Annoying Everyone", quoting tips from a businessman who recommends:

* Learn the names of most of the baristas and also take time to have a conversation with them. It helps build a human connection.
* Make sure you buy coffee or something at least three times a day.

As a [reluctant & circumstantial] barista, I couldn't care any less if you remember my name. In fact, I'd prefer it if you never even read the name tag I am required to wear, if only for the one time a customer called me by my name on the street and it was totally creepy. I don't even care if you don't engage me in conversation (in fact, please don't if it's because you feel like you have to -- I don't need your condescension). My expectations for our interaction are not high. Basically, I would like you to not be a jerk. Since this can be complicated for some people, I am including, as a response to the above article, by own tips on How to Not Be a Jerk in a Coffee Shop.

#1- Clean up after yourself. It is amazing how many people cannot manage to move their dirty napkins and wrappers to the garbage can three feet away. It's even more amazing how many people feel entitled to leave huge stacks of books, plates with tons of leftover food, half-empty coffee cups with lipstick marks, and stuff spilled all over the table.

#2- Don't be creepy. I'd rather you didn't call me by my name, but if you feel the need to, please at least don't hit on me. Don't mistake me doing my job for interest. Realize that you as a customer and me as a barista places a power dynamic on our conversation in that I have to be polite to you, even if you are rude.

#3- Don't yell. I understand that for you, our interaction is more about you exerting control over one small portion of your life when the rest of it seems to be hurtling out of control. I will allow you this. But in the event that something about your order does not seem right to your exacting tastebuds, there's a polite way to say it and a rude way to say it (and many other ways, I'm sure). Sneering derisively, "Ew! Why is there cream cheese?! What kind of freak eats toasted bagels with cream cheese?!" is not going to win you any points.

#4- Don't assume that I'm stupid because I'm making your coffee.

#5- Don't throw money down on the counter, especially when it's a bunch of change and I have to pick each coin up off the counter. (If you have strict religious beliefs that would be breached if our hands accidentally touched, I'll give you a break on this one.) Don't hand me bills and then after I already have your change in my hand say, "Oh! I have change!" and then get mad when I won't take it. I'm the one who'll be in trouble if my register's off.

#6- Do teach your children to have good manners. I heard a mom correct her six-year-old-ish son on a throwing-money-on-the-counter habit, and it made my day. More often than not, well-mannered children seem to have well-mannered children -- and the rude, money-throwing, screamy children are imitating their rude, money-throwing, screamy parents.

#7- Do not, under any circumstances, talk on the phone while you are ordering. Unless you are on fire. In which case, you should probably take care of that before you get coffee anyway. Hot tip: if you are telling your friend on the phone, "Yeah, uh huh, I had a turkey sandwich for lunch and now I'm getting coffee! Now I'm ordering!", there is a 99.9% chance that your friend does not care. If your friend is in the remaining .01%, your friend has a 100% chance of being insufferably boring. Find a new friend! There are many places to meet them (though I recommend against dark alleys).

In truth, I don't really care how much stuff you buy in order to feel justified in sitting all day. It doesn't affect me; it's not like I see a penny of that. I just care about treating people like human beings, and being treated like one myself. I understand that it can be a wonderful thing to go and sit somewhere and read and have coffee, or sit down and catch up with a friend, or write, or whatever -- I like these things, too, and I respect your right to be able to do them. But you're still in public (yes, you, on your laptop with your hand in your pants -- there's a time and a place, and let me assure you, it is neither now nor here), so you might as well behave accordingly. I'll let you have your daily dose of caffeine-fueled escapism; just let me go back to doing my job and pondering the everlasting question on my mind: "Don't you people work?"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The wild rumpus continues into year 23.

Every so often, I suppose it's reasonable to provide photographic evidence that my friends are as amazing as I describe. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday or better company to spend it with.

Birthday, Observed (Sunday):

Nomi, Liza, and I made brunch and played Settlers. Cliff joined us & we went into Manhattan to get rainbow-sprinkled birthday cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery and eat them by a fountain.

It was about a million degrees out, so we discreetly lounged in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, since we deemed its air conditioning adequate for rejuvenation (though its surprisingly-tacky carnation floral arrangements made me think somewhat of going to the dentist).

Cliff & Liza were kind enough to indulge my long-held wish to take a touristy carriage ride through Central Park:

I think I am getting more touristy the longer I live here.

Our pony's name was Alfred. I picked him out because he was really friendly and looked happy & healthy.

His owner let me give him a carrot.

Birthday, Actual (Monday):

After a few hours at my new job, I took the N-train to Coney Island and grabbed a couple of corn dogs for sustenance.

I walked down the beach past the Aquarium toward the Brighton Beach side until I found a spot with almost no other people around. Then Nomi & I placed our figurative flags. (Not pictured, because I forgot to take more pictures: big brother Michael.)

Nomi with our book of communist children's stories, which features an author from Sarah Lawrence (naturally).

Still sticking to my plan to jump in the ocean at least once a week.

So, anyway, I made it to 23. Now I guess I'll try for 24!