Monday, November 15, 2010

Proverbial Lemonade Stand

My old apartment in the West Village had a lot of issues. When the heat was working, I wore three layers of clothing. I found a few mice. There were late night weekday poker matches with thick smoke and thicker accents. But I realized I needed to move when we didn't have hot water for days, then it was suddenly shut off - we were alerted by the posting of this makeshift "sign" out of cardboard and writing with the dirt from under fingernails.

I was raging, needless to say, upon reading this. I couldn't believe they treated us so poorly, and just fumed for probably a day. So pissed I took the above photo. I wanted to show everyone that cared about me, so they could see just how rough I had it (poor, poor me.)

However, when I got home from work, I was greeted with a slightly tweaked sign:

At first I scoffed at this new sign and became enraged simply by seeing the color red. But then, I quickly realized two things: 1. Being pissed off wasn't going to do a thing in this scenario, and more importantly 2. It was actually kinda funny that I was so pissed off, and everyone around me was dealing with the situation too. At that moment I decided to get off my high, pissy horse, realize it could be worse, and started relishing the fact that I had an excuse not to shower.

Lesson #37 in moving to a big city: This is as cliche as they come, but life is so much easier and more pleasurable if you manage to find the funny, ironic, silly parts to a situation and choose to laugh at it instead of curse it. I had a lot more trouble being able to do this when I first moved, since there's just so much stress that it's hard to let go of it. But as much as you can, find what brings you joy and remember that being happy is a choice. (Also, in cases like the above living situation, another lesson is to move.)

Hell, I curse and I feel the force of anger threatening to impale me at times, but as I get older (wiser?) I'm gravitating towards the Lemons into a Lemonade Stand model of life. When I feel rage coming on, I try to take a step back as much as possible and deal with it instead of allowing it to simmer. Humor is how I deal with it most effectively. I'm amazed by how much a short clip of Maru or a funny stand up act can influence my thoughts; I'm working on getting that inner joy/laughter from within, but when it doesn't work, you can't blame a girl for getting it however she can. I usually need to get past the initial pissed off angst, then it gets surprisingly easier to calm down and enjoy whatever it is I'm supposed to be pissed about. Or I just force a smile and to oft surprising results.

{EDIT: I have an even better example of choosing to laugh at something. The other day, I was wearing my absolute favorite pair of corduroy pants, which have been worn so much they basically don't have the raised threads that make them corduroy. I took a deep bend and they split right open all down the leg. I was deeply surprised, and could've gotten embarrassed and decided to embark on a diet then and there, but instead, I laughed. A lot. Then I ripped the pants further as a way of eulogizing them, since they can no longer be worn. I loved the hell out of those pants, and I chose to enjoy a laugh at my own expense rather than getting upset. I haven't been able to throw the remains away, just yet...not until I find another pair to take their place. Now that I think of it, that's not the first time my pants have ripped, but it is the best reaction I've had. :D }

So that's my gem of wisdom-y lemonade for today: you're in control, and feeling angry = bad, feeling joy = good. Why not increase the joy to anger ratio if you can? Again, this is a constant work in progress for me, but then again, so am I. Forever the same, always refining.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pick your Poison

While I'm not an under-employed musician living in Chinatown, I can appreciate the basic tenet of this song: living in the city is stressful.

I've realized that one fail-proof way to gauge my stress/anxiety level is to simply check my fingernails. Some people's weight fluctuates. Others break out, or get dark circles under their eyes. While I'm not immune to any of these either, my fingernails are the constantly victimized ones.

My thrashing, stress laden teeth come down on my nails with no abandon. The pearly white beasts don't stop until there's (literally, sometimes) blood. I'm not kidding, though it has gotten better over the years.

I've struggled with nail biting my whole life, trying various remedies. Most notable: my dad bought me the terrible tasting nail polish to deter me from biting. Turns out I liked the feeling of ravishing my nails more than I disliked the taste of said polish.

Lesson #36: Learn to accept that some of your bad habits/vices are simply here to stay. There are enough pressures and outside stressors that you should pick your battles, and pick your cuticles if it helps deal with stress. My nail biting has only been exacerbated by living in this city. I go through phases where I'm able to grown them out a dainty millimeter or two. When I get to this point, my nails become a precious, exotic novelty, and I protect them the way a mother shields her fragile babies.

But then, lo and behold, I get stressed and the next thing I know, they're gone. I generally have no recollection of the nail biting happening, but I have learned to keep them a bit longer than in the past. I suppose I'm learning the subtle art of restraint?

At the very least, you'd think I'd appreciate the decadent iniquity of nail biting. But the stress saps that small joy from me, and essentially bites my nails for me since it happens so quickly, and without memory.

Somewhat ironically, the only things I've found consistently cheaper in the city are manicures. However, the last time I went, the nail technician seriously considered whether or not it was worth painting my nails. They're beyond hope (her words). But now that I've started to just accept this vice, I can focus my time figuring out how to handle inevitable stress more effectively. Who knows - maybe that'll help with the nail biting, and lead to a new career as a hand model.

(if you ever see me with these, please introduce me to stress immediately.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Veggies! Get 'em while they're...Crisp.

Never trust the Man, man. Unless he's wearing overalls and a big straw hat.

One of my favorite and delicious choices I've made in this fine city was joining a CSA. While paying up front for six months of groceries was hard to swallow, it's more than paid for itself both in quality of food and in what I've learned (been semi-forced) to cook.

Every Wednesday, my friend Lizzie and I split a share of fresh fruits and vegetables from local NY/NJ farms, which is delivered directly to our office.

It reminds me of a grab bag (aptly titled The Bag - Jamie, you know what I'm talking about) full of jewelry, which you don't get to open until you purchase. While living in Ann Arbor, my roommates and I shared one CSA with another house (meaning it was essentially split six ways), but ironically, we rarely finished it. Reminds me a little of the bystander effect, if you think of vegetables as desperately wanting to be eaten, which I generally do.

Having ownership of an entire half has caused me to step up to the (dinner) plate, and up my cruciferous game. No two weeks have been the same, and I can honestly say I wouldn't ever have bought on my own:

fresh dill, parsley, thyme
swiss chard/kale
to name a few.

It's kept me on track to eating well every week, since it comes automatically and doesn't require a trip to the grocery store. Obviously, living in a food capital like this one, it's easy to eat out and spend little time in the kitchen, which I find incredibly soothing (I really hate identifying with gender stereotypes, but I seriously love to cook. Give me an apron and pie recipe, and I'm set.) I probably end up shopping even more to make complete meals with seemingly random vegetables, but it's so worth it.

I've only had two issues with the CSA, since the rest has been bliss:

1. It's awkward bringing a bag o' groceries with you to bars and happy hours. Be prepared to be called 'Farmer Cathlin' by friends.
2. The peaches. They just haven't been rave-worthy this season. It wouldn't be a big deal if it weren't for the free, amazingly succulent peaches we have at work...mere feet away from where our food is delivered.

Lesson #35 in moving to a big city: Join a CSA! Or at the least, vow to shop weekly at a Farmer's Market if you're not ready for CSA type commitment. Not only will this help you feel more connected to local farms and your community, but you'll cook more adventurously and often. My only regret was taking so long to join to get in on the action.

So now, I leave you to chew on this thought:

"Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn." - Garrison Keillor.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reading Rainbow

Opening Books, Opening Minds

I've made a series of important realizations in the last year, which I've begun reflecting on as this week marks the end of my first year in NYC. While I plan on sharing many of these in due time, there's one realization that I simply must share. Don't judge me for the lack of depth on this one.

One of the books I've been most fascinated with over the past year is called the China Study, and I'd highly recommend reading it as soon as possible. As Neal Barnard, M.D, put it, "reading it may save your life." While Barnard makes a good point, I'd argue that you're more likely to be asked incessant nutrition questions when you'd rather not be bothered than saving your life, at least in the short term.

Lesson #34 in moving to a big city: Be wary of your reading materials in while public, especially on the Subway. Instead of reading the China Study, for the past couple weeks I've felt like I was reading a book called "Pretend You're Interested in Nutrition and Try to Pick Me Up. Seriously. Why Else Would I be Reading This?"

I recently heard the Subway described as "the traditional hot bed of lust in the city" on NPR, no less. Apparently the golden ticket for creating lust is being armed with a well titled book. Strangers rarely talk to one another here, but without fail, people start up conversations about this book.

So my main point is this: if you'd like to meet more New Yorkers, possibly get some dates, and get a few lusty looks, find an interestingly titled book and take and hold it proudly everywhere you go. If you're not interested in any of this, which is where I'm at, keep the China Study and other bold sounding books at home and instead pick up some some romance novels, the Twilight books, and perhaps Eat, Pray, Love. It'll ward the onlookers in this city off as effectively as silver to vampires.*

*I actually haven't tried any of these books on the train, but I have read the Sookie Stackhouse vampire novels on the train before. The most attention I ever got was a sad knowing smile from a woman across the train reading the same thing. I can't believe she wouldn't give me her number.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Fought the Law

And, you guess it: the law won.

The gorgeous Highline Park in New York City is one of my favorite haunts. I can't get enough of it, which is why some friends and I decided to make it our post work Happy Hour destination one fateful day.

The weather was especially nice, and we had a couple hours to kill before catching a Devendra Banhart show. What are a few 20-somethings to do, but soak up the last rays of sun with a delicious drink in hand?

Yes, I'll admit it. We drank in a public park, with children running around and young lovers strolling. Our euphoria didn't last long, as getting caught red-handed isn't exactly intoxicating. What a buzz kill.

Lesson #33: Pay attention to your surroundings, and don't get too comfortable when you're surrounded by good company and good (strong) beer. As my mom put it, 'you're not in the Midwest anymore' (though I don't recall drinking in public often there, either). However, a much smaller, and better, lesson is that the drinking fines in NYC are really. really. cheap. Like less than my bar tab would've been had we kept it indoors.

After our few minutes in the sun, an officer (Park Ranger, officially) came up to us, puffing his chest to convey importance. We begrudgingly handed over our IDs, and waited patiently while he wrote up our drinking violation. I learned my lesson that day, which is to drink more carefully in public. The only time I was actually in danger was while the officer wrote my ticket I decided to multi task (see post from a while back) and finish my beer, directly in front of him. For some reason, he didn't like that.

If loving both nature and drinking is wrong, consider me

The only way I could possibly end this post is by linking to a fantastically fitting song.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

When most I wink, then do my eyes best see

"Maybe that's what life is...a wink of the eye and winking stars." - Jack Kerouac

My school of thought on winking is that it's more Candyland than calendar pinup girl, at least until residing in the city. I love winking, and am careful to only wink sparsely so each wink has maximum value. I also relish receiving the occasional wink from strangers, friends, young or old - its incredibly charming.

Unfortunately, I've found winking has different connotations in the city than in the confines of Michigan. One of my first weeks here, I found myself winking at an older man out of habit. I expected a head nod, perhaps, or even a look of contented puzzlement - but instead, got a response too lewd to type. As a whole, I would say that eye rolling is at least ten times as popular as the quaint wink. Suffice to say, the few winks I've received in the city have also had an underlying theme that still shocks me.

Lesson #32: Monitor your winking, and better yet, don't wink at anyone again until you're in the comfort of the Midwest. Perhaps winking should just stay in the bedroom, if we look at how winks are understood in Brooklyn. Winking amongst friends is a fun past time, but beware - it's something altogether too easy to apply to other situations. If you do it too often with friends, you'll think your charming ways should be shared. The next thing you know, the nice looking woman walking down the street is scowling at you and asking "where's the rest of your outfit?" (*a woman really said this to me. On my way to work.)

If you find yourself forgetting, and winking to strangers as I've done, you could try pretending you have something in your eye. And if you forget to do that, well, just expect a reaction. (NOTE: winking is probably a very effective method of picking men up. I've somehow only used it at the most inopportune times, so perhaps more research in bar settings is needed).

Well you can't have a dream
And cut it to fit
But when I saw you I knew we'd go together
With a wink and a smile

Harry Connick Jr is clearly living in sleepy small town America, but it makes me long for the good old winking days. I haven't found a proper substitute, as curtseying is a bit too formal, and head nods just aren't my thing. If I make a strange expression the next time you see me, I'm probably just trying out a new greeting, so forgive me in advance.

Or perhaps this love of winking is one small town part of me I'm just not ever willing to give up, crazy comments and all. Thanks for the encouragement, Jack.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rev Your Minivan

I live in the fashion capital of the world, yet I found myself shopping at the local mall for a wedding dress (on the day of the wedding.) I ran into two of my best friends there (Alissa and Gretch), which was delightful and also very fitting that all three of us would be racing around Macy's at 11am.

My spatial reasoning skills have gotten totally skewed - I can understand city blocks perfectly, and how to walk places and/or take the train. But let me loose in a giant mall, and I'm clueless. It feels exactly like a (team Edward) corn maze.

At one point, my mom and I lost each other and she had to tell one of the sales clerks what I look like. I can only imagine the conversation:

"Excuse me, but I can't find my daughter."

"Oh no! What does she look like?"

"She has a blond ponytail and a romper. She just woke up from a nap, and is probably playing dress up somewhere."

"How old is she?"


Lesson #31 in moving to a big city (and when visiting much smaller ones): Hold on to your spatial reasoning skills and figure out how to make sense of non cities, especially in exotic locations like suburban malls.

Giant megastores (Costo, Meijer) are basically their own cities with a totally different set up, ones in which I've forgotten how to navigate. My advice is to try to imagine the mall as a series of city grids and neighborhoods: the Panda Express and food court as Chinatown, which borders on Little Italy, the series of discount leather stores. Need to get home? Simply hop on the nearest 6 train stop, the closest mall exit where you've parked your car. (I won't even tackle how much I don't know how to drive anymore - I can only handle trying to not get lost inside the 'burbs.)

This works within store perimeters as well; I have to make mental notes of where I am, because there simply aren't any identifiers. I've become so accustomed to street intersections guiding me through the city, that when I'm in a large space with no wifi phone connection, I'm literally lost. Therefore, a few mental notes will take you a long way (as in: Cathlin, you walked in by the swimsuit collection. Remember how much you hate shopping for suits? Then remember that's where you parked.)

My mom and I did have a blissful reunion, but I wasn't allowed any dessert due to my misbehavior. Once I master mapping out mental grids, I'll be eating vegan cake by the pound.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends
when you pass them at night under the silvery, silvery citibank lights
arm in arm in arm and eyes and eyes glazing under
oh you wouldn’t want an angel watching over you
surprise, surprise they wouldn’t wannna watch
another uninnocent, elegant fall into the unmagnificent lives of adults
- Mistaken for Strangers, the National

According to this site, my closest celeb match is either Sarah Michelle Gellar or Scarlett Johannson (oh dear God, one can dream). Their database must be really small, because in real life I'm more accustomed to comparisons with less attractive, but quirky celebs like that girl from the Ting Tings or Peggy from Mad Men. I'm totally cool with that, as I'd rather be thought of as quirkiness tends to persist, whereas girlish good looks fade. Also, I'd gladly exchange closets with either of them.

You can imagine my surprise when Thursday, a man on the elevator mistook me for Lindsay Lohan, the prison bound heroine. After getting a better look at me, and my shocked face, he realized I wasn't the lovable hellion, but told me about his mistake anyway. I immediately realized I need to lay off the drugs, and that 'heroin chic' is so Kate Moss circa '95.

All joking aside, this incident got me thinking about the notion of celebrity, and how much I would hate to be one. Just the one person giving me extra attention made me want to crawl into a hole.

Luckily, NYC isn't a place that gives much heed to celebrities (besides my elevator friend, an anomaly of sorts).

Lesson #30: If you're into celebrities, you probably shouldn't move here. And if you do, you should learn to play it cool like (almost) all of us. Seriously, I don't think New Yorkers care about seeing celebs - maybe because our egos get in the way, or maybe our hearts are two sizes too small.

The plus side is that celebrities probably view this city as an oasis, as they can largely go unnoticed. In LA, people visit looking explicitly for celebs, like a zoo for the beautiful and exotic. It seems that the really interesting ones always settle for the east coast anyway (Woody Allen, Heath Ledger - my old neighbor, Lou Reed)

Now please indulge me for a minute - even though I'd never say anything or react to seeing them, I still would like to gush about a few of the celebrities I've seen. I've only lived here a few months, so give me a break (not like an acting break or anything. Unless you're looking for someone that does a mean Moonwalk, because I can easily fit that bill.)

-Ed Westwick at LGA, while he was arguing with Jessica Szohr (he also had on purple pants, which he pulled off nicely)
-Willem Dafoe in the West village, while I was walking to see Fantastic Mr Fox (he's in it)
-Kyra Sedgwick, in an elevator, while our team discussed celebrity diets. She laughed quietly to herself while the rest of us were mortified.
-Molly Shannon in Chelsea Market, just being Molly Shannon
-Parker Posey at our cafeteria, drinking ginger ale

Those were some of the more interesting "run ins" I've had, if you can call them that. Which you really can't, since I acted the same way around them as I would any others. But inside, I had a few internal battles. Wouldn't Molly Shannon love to know how amazing 'Year of the Dog' was?? Couldn't I discuss Ed Westwick's accent with, well, HIM??

No, because now I understand how accosted celebs must feel and wouldn't want to put them through that. But seriously, if I ever see Craig Finn sitting alone at the bar, I'm buying both of us shots. I'll just pretend I don't know who he is and am simply into middle aged academic hipsters. OK, back to reality - this In Touch isn't going to read itself.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Good Morning! and Bon Appetit!

Dab a little blush here, ma chère, a side of pronunciation with that Café Noir and croissant, and my day has officially begun. My morning routine now includes approximately 30 minutes of Rosetta stone language immersion, interspersed with Coffee Break Spanish/French when I have less time.

I'veI hooked my shower curtains together while taking a cab. I've studied GRE vocab while walking to lunch. I've plucked my eyebrows while riding the A train home. (OK, that last one isn't true...but I've seen this more than once. There's an apparent pandemic of people doing things in public that NO ONE needs to see).

Now that I think about it, maybe I've just deeply misunderstood the crazy people mentioned in previous posts....since I probably look like one about 50% of the time. It's okay, though, because the multi-tasking has given me even more time to further the crazy vibe into NYC.

Lesson #29: Become a master multi tasker, and basically create time for things. Just don't spend so much time strategizing, unless of course you're also listening to the new Roots album and furiously cooking dinner at the same time (which I highly recommend).

For me, the reason I'm able to multi-task effectively is that I choose one mindless, automatic function and pair it with something that requires some mental acuity. It's kind of like pairing wine with food. Some good pairings thus far: doing dishes and listening to NPR's All Songs Considered. Making to-do lists while trying to stay upright on the train. Blogging and reflecting on my time in NY thus far (har har), with a large glass of wine.

Of course, on the flip side, it feels unbelievable to do just one thing, and do it well. As I've mentioned, I often find chores to be therapeutic, especially when I allow my brain to wonder anywhere. Not to mention, to really learn something or do something well, full attention is absolutely necessary for hours on end! This harmonica isn't going to master itself.

But honestly, multi-tasking is inevitable and necessary to survival here. Just please, don't let me catch you clipping your toenails on the subway - wouldn't you rather have unruly nails than be subject to the wrath of 50 pissed off New Yorkers?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Don't Sweat It.

But if (and when) you do, you're not alone.

There's something about New York that inspires so much beauty, art, music, philosophy, and all of these things take passion. In the summer, that much passion conjures a sweaty demographic, moving madly through the city, glistening and glowing. Not exactly a pregnant glow, or this kind either, but a glow that reflects the haziness of summer with 8 million best friends, living in close proximity.

Lesson #28: Embrace the sweat: a thin film of it will cover you at all times during summer, so learn to find it sexy on yourself, and others. Accept that you will often feel like a wilting flower, cowering from the sun with your fellow perennials.

Once you get past the fact that you'll always be a little sweaty in the summer, you can learn to look forward to things like taking the train (when the AC is actually working, that is). It's almost painful how cold it can get, but I love it - and as I've said before, moderation is overrated and ultimately kind of lame.

So wipe your brow, roll up your sleeves, don't worry about that glisten because you don't have time for worry, you've got a lot of living to do. Besides, people find it pretty sexy - not that you have a choice.

I have always depended on the kindness of hot, sweaty strangers.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen not a problem for me, now that I live alone.

In fact, I've had quite the opposite problem of too many cooks. This weekend marked the momentous occasion of the first time I've cooked a meal since moving back in September. You didn't read that incorrectly. The proverbial first time.

Sure, I'd prepared meals that didn't require cooking, but I literally went over 6 months without cooking a true meal. And it felt amazing when I finally did. Cathartic, even (more of a first meal feeling than last supper, though).

Lesson #27 when moving to a big city: Cooking can be infinitely more satisfying than eating at the countless delicious restaurants this city offers, especially after such a long break. Take a look here for great documentation of this fact. This is a bit ambitious, with the authors living in Brooklyn off $30 in groceries between the two (this is also not a typo).

Pictured below is the simple, yet utterly delicious, meal I prepared. I still don't have many cooking ingredients, or certain utensils (ever tried draining pasta via one slotted spoon? Quite time consuming.) I'm telling you, though, this was so much more satisfying than any other meal I could've possibly found in the city, so I would highly encourage you to not take a 6 month hiatus from cooking. (however, I also have to point out that the food I eat at work makes dining out difficult, because it's so unbelievably good.)

penne with olives, garlic, oil, red pepper and arugula

But until I learn how to make a decent non dairy based frozen dessert, I'm sticking with Lula's Apothecary. Self control is a limited natural resource!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Slight Discomfort

The other night, I had the privilege of seeing the Hold Steady two times in a night. Life was good. Or, rather, incredible.

The only issue was that I got really into the show, and somehow my gum ended up in my hair (hey, it happens to the best of us). I was able to ascertain that it was indeed my gum, and not a random concert-goer's. I mean, I love other Hold Steady fans...but I have to draw the line somewhere. I noticed the gum while it was still freshly fused with my hair (which had also been misted with beer and decorated with glitter, naturally). My immediate priority was to watch the show instead of tend to my hair, which resulted in a tangled mess.

By the time the second show ended, I was deliriously happy, but also in a bit of a predicament. There I was, in Williamsburg at 2am, gum in my hair and wandering around like a lost puppy. Luckily, my friend Ryan was with me and talked some sense into me. I was ready to find the nearest pair of scissors and end it (the gum in hair dilemma, of course).

Ryan came through as he always does, with two simple words: Peanut Butter. "But I'm not hungry," I declared triumphantly. He sighed and cleverly explained that Peanut Butter will get gum out of hair, which I hadn't remembered in my time of distress. This taught me the following:

Lesson #26: No matter where you're living, conventional wisdom will help you out when you're....stuck. There are simple fixes that are easy to forget if you haven't had to employ them since you were five years old (seriously, how does a 25 year old get gum in her hair? Oh, maybe drinking had to do with it). The important thing is to think calmly in times of distress and don't jump to assuming the worst. Sure, some conventional wisdom is cliche and no longer relevant, but I'm personally vouching for Peanut Butter's effectiveness.

I would've been really upset if I woke up and realized I had chopped some of my hair off at 2am, but instead I awoke with the delicious scent of Peanut Butter surrounding me and my pillow. And also, Oh My God does it make your hair silky smooth. I now have a favorite new hair product, and it's Peanut Butter (hey, at least I'm not this guy.)

I'm glad that I didn't have a roommate to judge me - but now that I've made the gum mishap public, feel free to judge. But if you haven't tried Peanut Butter in your hair, I will leave you with (the oh so cliche): don't knock it 'til you try it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Search Continues

Lesson #25: Some things are out of your control, and you simply need to learn and accept it. Literally, let go and enjoy the ride! Unless you're stuck on the tracks, surrounded by people, and the air conditioning shuts off. Then I really have no advice, as I haven't yet figured out how to not freak out in those instances.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Urban Walkabouts

I can liken much of my experience living in NYC to being on a Walkabout, though I didn't realize this before Lost introduced the John Locke storyline, I'll admit. Life imitates art, no? My life has essentially become an Urban Walkabout, learning to survive on my own in the city. Long, solitary walks have become the meat and potatoes (seitan and fennel?) of my sanity.

Lesson #24: Start getting used to doing things alone, and learn to enjoy it if you already don't! This may sound extreme to those without an inclination towards introversion, but that's the beauty of this city - even when you're alone, you're surrounded by millions. Basically, you're never alone in New York.

I think a lot of people are afraid to spend long amounts of time with only their thoughts (and perhaps some good music). Some of my most brilliant thoughts come from random walks where I have no social constructions to worry about and am able to simply observe life being lived.

Plus, what better way to explore the city than setting out on long walks, with maybe this guide, and planning a day to really get to know one neighborhood? Some of my favorite days I've spent in the city were ones when I woke up and decided to go to a random spot on a whim, discovering things I'd never have found otherwise.

Of course many things are more enjoyable with good company, which I'm very lucky to have here. Now that I'm living alone (what perfection!), I appreciate my time with others that much more - yet I understand how closely my sanity is tied to having time alone.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


We gotta stay positive!

I'm currently in the eye of the storm, happily sandwiched between two Hold Steady shows. Last night was the Hold Steady's kickoff night of their tour, held in Ardsley, New York. The show was absolutely incredible, and held in probably the most interesting venue I've seen them in: Life, the place to be.

Though Ardsley is just an hour north of the city, the train stop was one of the most desolate areas - we were told it'd be "so easy to get a cab" from the stop to the venue.

It wasn't.

After departing the train, we waited and waited in at the train stop calling at least 10 taxi companies. We finally realized there was literally one cab working that night. There are few things I like to do more than talk to other Hold Steady fans, which we did while waiting, but my anxiety began to wear on me.

We wandered to the only building around to ask the security guard if she had any tips. After seeing a few ominous signs, we realized that we were waiting directly next to a mental institution.

Though I'm not a smoker, I thought deeply about taking up the habit at that moment given the stress of the situation. Lost in Ardsley, next to a mental institution, all while possibly missing the Hold Steady? I can only handle so much!

Luckily, I didn't need to start up a new habit, or check myself into the mental institution. The lone cab made trips back and forth, so we made it to our destination just as my sanity was about to break. Through the stress, I did learn one major lesson:

Lesson #23 when moving to a big city: Suburbs are similar where ever you go - just because they're outside a big metropolitan area doesn't mean they're going to be any cooler, or have more than one taxi per 5 mile radius. I honestly assumed that any place within a couple hours of NYC must have either public transit available, and at least a small fleet of cabs. Not the case.

I would say the moral here is to plan in advance and have your transportation figured out when traveling outside of the city. Or just never leave New York City, I suppose.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lighten Up, Sunshine!

(Laugh Yoga. In case you're wondering, yes, I've done it.)

"The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter."
-Mark Twain

Oh, joyous day! Maybe not for all New Yorkers, as many were surprised, then upset, by this. April Fool's Day here at work (wait, wait, here) is akin to Christmas, without the excess consumerism and day off from work. April Fool's is full of fun surprises and laughs, and I wouldn't want to spend it anywhere else, no joke.

Lesson #22: If all else fails, keep your sense of humor! A sense of humor and ability to laugh at yourself is such an important quality, especially when you're living in a place that is often humorless. Take breaks every once in a while and read or watch something funny, and above all else, see the humor in the mundane.

Since I'm a new resident of Brooklyn, I like to ironically keep up on all things hipster by reading the following:

and of course, this classic

Lastly, I may have mentioned my participation in the annual No Pants Subway Ride, but this today we decided to up the ante: may I present, the No Underwear Subway Ride.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Elders? Yes, Listen to Them.

Gather round for storytime...

"You're a very attractive young woman, and I imagine you take many men home." (insert awkwardest pause imaginable, as an 85 year old couple stare me down). I warily glace back, unsure whether to laugh, deny, or simply shrug off the accusation.

"And you should,"she says to me, giving me the kind of glance usually reserved for construction workers cat-calling women on the street. "There's no reason to be tied down now. I mean, I had children by your age, but things are different now - you've got your whole life for those," she muses, eyes starting to glaze over as she is transported to a golden age of remembrance (or perhaps some LSD related flashback, it wasn't entirely clear).

After recalling her glory days, apparently full of one night stands and salacious affairs, her husband timidly cut in with a new topic, to my immense relief.

The jury's still out on whether her advice about men is true, but their non-relationship advice was astounding.

The couple I'm referring to were potential landlords in my apartment search last week. Though they had incentive to paint a perfect picture of their building, they were refreshingly frank with me. This may seem overly simple, the advice that stuck with me the most is as follows:

Lesson #21 when moving to a big city: No matter how much you like an apartment the first time, you must see it a second time before deciding anything. Needless to say, with my first apartment in NYC I didn't see it at all, and the second one I saw just clearly the third time's a charm (and if you know me well, you probably know how both of those went...leaving it at that.) It's practically impossible to really see any flaws the first time, to know which types of questions to ask, and to simply give yourself the chance to think through what it'd be like to live somewhere.

I ended up finding a place I really like, in a great location (check out a NYTimes writeup here), and didn't sign a lease before I saw it a few times. Funny enough, it wasn't the place they showed me. I took their advice to heart I and realized that I wasn't thrilled with the space and their tendency to pry made it even less desirable. Maybe I'm more old-fashioned than an 85 year old couple, but imagining them seeing me bring anyone home is too painful a thought, whether or not they approve (read: insist).

(Update: I'm moving to Boerum Hill, Brooklyn this weekend from the West Village! Wish me luck!)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Who Says Chivalry is Dead?

She obviously wasn’t living in New York on a very snowy day, because chivalry most definitely exists on days like these.

On my walk this morning, I came upon a particularly treacherous bank of slush, ice, and perhaps alligators. This moat was most intimidating, and caused me to stand for a moment, configuring an escape. My chucks were no match for the endlessly wet wintry mix, so I was ready to turn around and head home in defeat. Suddenly, through the swirling blizzard and my slight Friday morning hangover, I noticed a figure sprinting towards me.

Normally, I would have assumed someone running towards me that quickly was trying to mug me, but for some reason (maybe it was the blood keeping my extremities warm, instead of being in my brain) I felt oddly trusting. I also knew that my chucks would never allow me to run fast enough to get away, so I accepted and awaited my fate.

Luckily, my instincts were right…my knight in shining armor (read: a regular guy in full snowsuit and boots) valiantly grabbed my hand and pulled me onto his horse. He led me through the menacing bank, fighting off icy diversions until we stood safely on the other side. Though I was shivering, my heart was fully warmed.

How could I ever repay him, I worried, remembering that I had just given my last bag of gold to the hobbit living down the street. But before I could utter a thing, the knight was galloping away. “Be well, my lady!” he proclaimed, blowing me a kiss before he hurried off to slay the dragons in Times Square and the gremlins hanging out in Hoboken. All this, just so I could get to my Palace safely. After I was given my smelling salts, and my heart finally stopped fluttering, I started thinking about the following...

Lesson #20 (which really is for those visiting the city, since the rest of us are here year round): If you want to see New Yorkers at their most chivalrous, happiest, and most cheerful, walk around on a really snowy day. It seems that the best time is early in the morning, when the snow is still pristine, people are enjoying their morning coffee, and the realization hasn’t set in that their day will be thrown off by the storm.

Also, things seem less bleak when covered in a blanket of snow – though it could be the vitamin D boost from the sun/snow reflection. Regardless the reason, I’ve never seen so many smiling faces in this city at once (not to mention dogs that have their own winter Olympics in the snow). And seriously, don’t underestimate your fellow New Yorkers’ compassion and willingness to lend a hand, physically.

I don’t know that I’ll ever see the knight in shining snowsuit again, but I’ll sleep easy knowing others like him exist – random New Yorkers looking out for each other, defying stereotypes and defeating werewolves along the way.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If you really love someone, you'll let them free

O Franz, why have you forsaken me??

Should you really let go of something you love? Or perhaps you should find a way to deal with the pain, and hopefully a way to ignore annoying cliches such as these.

Since you don't have control over so many things in life, like the sudden departure of Franz Nicolay from the Hold Steady, it's important to find things that are consistent and make you happy.

Yes, you read that correctly - Franz left the Hold Steady a few weeks ago and I think I'm finally over it. Though I did watch this video and tear up a little, I know he's on to bigger and better (actually, just....different) things.

Lesson #19: One never truly can prepare for sudden life changes like these, and living in a place like NYC makes it all the more difficult to keep the stress to a minimum. That's why you need to find a few things that make you incredibly blissful and for God's sake, hold on to them and don't let them free.

For instance, here are a few things that make me beyond happy: the fake cheese popcorn at LifeThyme, tap dancing (which apparently Franz is also into), and currently number one on my list: Crossword Sundays with my amazing pal Ryan. They're beyond fantastic, in a way that very few might understand. I look forward to it all week, am in a state of bliss during it, then the high wears off only a few days later.

Now, I'm not encouraging anyone to take up my habits (I swear, I'm not referencing drugs in any of the above) but if you want to stay sane, and learn to deal with sad changes, then find the things that make you smile. As in stop reading this blog and figure out what it is that makes you glow! Unless of course this blog is your idea of ecstasy. Then read away, my fellow logophile - I'll try to not make it another 2 weeks until your next fix.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Must. Avert. Gaze.

Of models and madness: "(In New York) Every 20 minutes, you have to decide immediately -- oh my God. Do I look at the most beautiful woman in the world or the craziest guy in the world?" - David Cross

Mr. Cross had this totally right. You can’t decide which way to look! Gorgeous Amazonian model or the grinning man with a cat on his head and no shoes?

I am constantly stunned by the number of beautiful women in this city and even more stunned by the stark contrast with the city crazies. I’m happy to fit somewhere in between...though I’m sure most of these gorgeous women are also crazy (and, poor things, sometimes too beautiful). Or at the very least, narcissists. But then again, aren’t we all?

Lesson #18 when moving to a big city: Don’t stare. Or at least try to be less obvious, since many people view the slightest eye contact as confrontational (or a come on. But that's another story).

I would also say not to compare yourself to either the gorgeous or the crazies, but one only has so much will power in a day. Part of my mind thinks, ‘How can they be so tall? How would it feel to know that having a job relies on your ability to look hot? Do they ever get sick of looking that hot and people constantly staring? (probably not)’ but the other side is simultaneously fascinated with the crazies, and thinks ‘How can they be so disheveled? How would it feel to know that getting a job relies on your ability to look like you’re not homeless? Do they ever get sick of people staring? (probably not)’

However, I also wonder if these folks are used to being stared at, and standing out in smaller cities...then they move here and people react less to them (or perhaps have gotten better at staring without being seen). That or they become more beautiful/crazier just so they can stand out. Madness!

So you see, crazy people and supermodels do have a few things in common. Mostly that both could use a decent meal and could ditch wearing animal fur (though the crazies prefer it’s still alive, like the cat on head man in the east village). Maybe the city crazies are an outward manifestation of the way supermodels feel inside, and will one day become. But mostly they're alike because people are quick to judge and assume they “get them” immediately. Which, along with staring, I’d never do. And I’d most definitely never expose my sarcastic tendencies via this blog.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cleaning up my act

I just finished a 21 day cleanse, in which I avoided many delicious things...the toughest being coffee and alcohol, but no surprise there. But in addition to the avoidance, I added many foods that I hadn't been regularly eating (avocado! kale! coconuts in every form!).

The Doctor explained that a cleanse is a bit like taking a shower - something you need to do occasionally, depending on how dirty you are. After each shower, you can prolong the need for another shower by basically taking better care of yourself, being less dirty, etc.

If his explanation holds any truth, then I should hop into the shower pretty damn soon. I was feeling so great both during and at the end of the cleanse, but the couple days have been a bit, well, excessive in my food/alcohol intake. Of course it's all relative, and I'm still doing a good job of avoiding anything artificial, but I really went a bit wild.

After going out and enjoying (more than) a few drinks on Thursday, I went grocery shopping at 10pm to buy a vegan brownie, ice cream, and other snacks. After consuming them promptly at home, my roommate says to me (without any knowledge of my cleanse) - "you look like you've lost weight!" I probably had chocolate smeared on my face, and I'm pretty sure I effectively reversed some of the cleanse in one sitting.

But then I decided to take a step back and recognize the good. In the words of Craig Finn, 'there is so much joy in what we do up here!' I know much more about what my body needs and how I can take care of it.

Also, this cleanse brought some perspective to my diet - and helped me realize that there is always someone stricter than you. Being vegan is restrictive enough, but even with the additional cleanse I realize that this a city of extremes.

Lesson #17: There will always be someone more extreme in their eating/drinking habits than you, so follow up that raw cashew "ice cream" with another glass of locally brewed beer and thank God that you live in a place where this is all possible. And if you're lucky enough to not have any food allergies (mmmmm gluten! so delicious!), then the city is your oyster. But I wouldn't recommend eating those. (though it's one of the few cases of animal farming that doesn't seem to be a despicable idea.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kicking the Starbucks Habit

The scene of the alleged crime

Now, by Starbucks habit, you might assume that I'm referring to a caffeine habit, or just a taste for Bob Dylan + Band of Horses + John Mayer playlists, but no. My caffeine habit has already been kicked thanks to Dr. Junger (sample tweet: "the number of people these days that have parasites is crazy. often people who have them get them from raw fish, undercooked meat & pets." Must remember to cook pets thoroughly!), and I can do without the assorted playlists. Instead, I'm referring to my habit of trying to use coffee/tea/book stores to find a secluded, quiet space where I can find my zen.

Lesson #16: Look inwardly to find a peaceful space, because God knows it's hard to find in this city, at least when it comes to physical locations. I feel that this lesson will be an important one over the next few years (yes, years. I honestly am only beginning to achieve the necessary amount of inner calm that I need to survive). Of course, there are plenty of ways to help one along this journey (classes, meditation, desserts so good that you close your eyes to savor them), but finding an inner calm is ultimately something you learn on your own. It keeps you from going crazy, which makes me think at least 25% of this city has never found this peace. Instead they've found craziness.

Speaking of crazy people, tonight I visited my local Starbucks, hoping to find a quiet spot to catch up on the latest book club read. Sure enough, it was full of a few students, a few drunks, and a few really crazy people. A few of them got into a fight, after one haphazardly spilled coffee on another's computer and starting yelling (no really, yelling).

An employee must have called the cops, because a few minutes, I'm being asked to leave by an officer. "'Scuse me, ma'am. You'll have to leave - you hafta to drink Starbucks if you're in here." At first I thought he was joking, or just a crazy man.

But no, apparently that's what I get for being eco-conscious and having a reusable mug. After showing me his badge, I stood up for my tree-hugging self to explain that, No, officer, I am indeed drinking Starbucks. He backed off. "Until next time," he muttered, shaking his fist at me. Okay, he might have apologized for being totally wrong, but I could tell he was upset. Since the crazy coffee spiller had already left by this point, he was probably pissed that he didn't get to make any arrests.

This also perfectly illuminates the fact that perhaps Manhattan is too safe. If after breaking up a fight in a coffee shop, an officer has time to stroll around and pick out people that don't shouldn't be there (and is wrong much of the time), then there's something off.

So while my peppermint tea was especially relaxing, it helped me realize that I can't look to it or any place for inner calm. Or just a damn quiet spot to read.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Above the Influence?

Whether or not you're moving to a place with a lot of friends, if you're anything like me, you'll miss everyone a helluva a lot. You'll also start thinking that people care about what you're up to, what you're interested in, and what you've been guiltily dreaming of. Or at least you'll be disoriented enough with your new surroundings to think this is the case. Which brings us to...

Lesson #15: Just give in to peer pressure - as in, give in to the social network revolution/time suck. So start a blog, join twitter (as I did quite recently), update your facebook once in a while, and for God's sake, keep up to date with email. Of course, you risk overexposure, but since you aren't seeing most of these people on a regular basis, have a little faith that there's always someone who'll do way, way more than you. But then again, attention spans are so damn short that maybe these clever kids have a point. However, I sometimes prefer the simplicity of sites like this, which is simultaneously genius and totally lame at the same time. Brilliant.

I do feel for kids that are overexposed by the tender age of 3. But I totally get where that kid's coming from - haven't we all been in a spot where we're desperately trying to tell something important, but all anyone else can do is laugh? Especially when it's so urgent that you can only make out one to two words??

Just one more shout out to overexposed kids: this kid is going to be such a bad ass in like 15 years. Even I don't say that word in front of my parents! To think, he kisses his mother (okay, definitely nurses) with that mouth.

And now, I will link this post all around the interwebs. All while listening to this techno remix.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sorry, We're (almost) Closed

Who doesn't have a little dirty laundry in their life?

I'm not about to expose any secrets or try to blackmail anyone, I really am referring to dirty clothing. I will not knowingly play a game of "true confessions," as my friends refer to it, on this blog. Not until I know you, the reader, a bit more, or have a few too many glasses of wine.

This week marks the second time I’ve been effectively cut off from doing laundry, given that the “last call” is at 8:30 for washers and I strolled in around 9, then immediately strolled out after being reprimanded for my tardiness. The laundromat staff have no patience for 2 things: dirty clothing and working later than 10pm.

Lesson #14: Not everything in this city is 24/7! Therefore, save yourself the exhaustion (and clean clothes) by remembering these things. Don’t assume that the city revolves around your hours and convenience! Sure, if you have the money and will, you can get about anything done or delivered to you (I could go into detail here, but I think you get the gist). But for the other 99.9% of us, it isn't always so simple.

Small details like this will be my ruin if I don’t pay more attention. Also, I know this isn’t Western Michigan, where every Godly place is closed on Sunday (and no alcohol is sold, since Jesus wouldn't approve. Except when for that time he turned water into wine for the masses.), but there are plenty of places that close at “respectable” hours.

A quick side note: you might feel ridiculous the first time carrying bags of laundry down really, really busy streets...but then you'll look around and see someone carrying something infinitely bigger/more interesting/probably illegal. That and you'll also soon realize that people don't really make eye contact on the street very often - some view it as confrontational, similar to animals in the wild. It's a concrete jungle out there, after all.

Of course, there's always somewhere to eat (though being on a 3 week long cleanse doesn't require much of that). This city is full of convenience, but you can really only take advantage of this if you learn from your missteps!