Wednesday, December 12, 2012

the witching hours

I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.
- Vincent Van Gogh

I can't help but reflect on hurricane Sandy this evening, 12/12/12 benefit concert blasting on another tab and my mind exploring the destruction. I feel lucky to have gone through it unscathed and to see how much the community and world is pitching in. That being said, there's so much still to do and it seems that recovery has only just begun. It's all incredibly sobering.

The one thing that still haunts me a bit during the week after Sandy was the power outage in the village and the resulting absolute darkness at night. We were without power Monday-Saturday (like pretty much everyone within a couple mile radius), but we made do by traveling around the city, backpacks full of books, laptops, changes of clothes in case we could shower. The days were interesting, but the nights were just unreal. Seeing total darkness in one of the busiest parts of the city. Dashing across busy streets, sans streets lights or stop lights, hoping the scurrying taxis saw us and cared enough to swerve. Hearing the sounds of voices without faces, and the lone band that congregated to play a few songs in the street.

The energy, didn't leave the village for a second. It's hard to even think about how many people lost so much, but I'm so happy that the spirit of the city seems stronger than ever. My hope is that it only continues and that we all donate/give back what we can to those affected by this disaster.

lesson #58 in moving here: you can never be too grateful.

But speaking of starry nights, look what I got to see a few weeks after the hurricane - this Van Gogh has been in my bedroom at home for probably 10 years and it's currently at the MoMA. Since you still couldn't see the stars from my neighborhood during the power outage because the rest of the city still shone so brightly. Van Gogh's starry depiction will have to do!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Birds of paradise

I've wanted to have a pet bird for a while. Before moving to NYC, I seriously considered adopting one and teaching it to talk/keep me company after getting back from work. I could just bring it with me to my new home, right? Sadly, I came to the realization that even getting a bird is a commitment I wasn't yet ready to make.

Three years later, I'm still sure I made the right choice. But why the hell didn't I buy these bird decals for my wall earlier?!

(updated view, courtesy of Sean and Hurricane Sandy's loss of power)

Lesson #57: you can have it all, even if it's a fake version of it. I don't have 5 birds as pets, but I am reminded daily of how awesome they are on my wall, but without the constantly chirping/screeching reminders. If you can't commit to having a pet, I feel your pain, but don't let it stop you from pretending.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ode to Red Hook

“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you've never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.” 
―Judith Thurman

Verging on 3 years in the city, I am focused on retaining the love for exploring new neighborhoods, which diminishes some of the homesickness about places not yet traveled.

One of the things I love best about living in New York is finding spots/bars/neighborhoods where you simply feel like you're thousands of miles away. Red Hook, pictured above (along with my incredibly resilient travel buddy), is a favorite sort of newly discovered spot. From the Jalopy to Sunny's, it's truly like no place I've been in my life. Plus, the sign pictured above is simply too bad ass to miss.

Lesson #56 in moving to a big city: Finding gems in your own neighborhood is hard to beat, but there's nothing as satisfying as venturing far, far away via public transit and long walks to find your own new neighborhood spots, as if you were a local.

Another tip: if you aren't a local, don't pretend you are - just be open to a new experience. In Red Hook's case, be open to hearing the cool dudes who've played bluegrass for 50+ years. Get into the music, drink lots of beer, clap and shout loudly, and maybe their coolness will rub off.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Searching high and low for hope

"You can't tie me down like a pair of shoe strings." Unless you're writing a hopeful quote and trying it to this pole. In which case, tie me down, please.

Lesson #55: Hope is all around, but you sometimes just have to get your phone out of your face to see it. (And yes, these photos were taken with my phone. But while out of everyone's the way. And while standing still).

The Highline and surrounding streets take my breath away every time, but its mostly because it turns the city into such an incredible backdrop that even the bright yellow taxis look beautiful.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

(I can get some) Satisfaction

Here is a short list of things that I find ridiculously satisfying:

- changing from tight pants into a loose skirt, especially if it's hot out
- finishing chapsticks, big boxes of cereal, anything that seems too large to finish at first
- finding new bones in my body that crack
- getting out of New York
- ....returning to it

Lesson #54: "there" is never better than "here," meaning I'm learning to love whereever I am more than where I could be. Mainly, for the simple reason that I'm here, not there, and as long as I remain present, where better could I be?

Honestly, I feel so lucky to both live in the greatest city in the world (validated by yours truly) and also for the ability to travel to so many other great spots. It does induce a tendency to open the travel bug flood gates and think about all the other wonderful places to see, but as long as I remember that "here" is always the right spot for me, a little dreaming is a-ok.

Santa Monica, CA

Monday, April 23, 2012

Goodbye, Blue Brooklyn

Some moments last forever
but some flare out with love, love, love
- the mountain goats

this is the view of my normal (as of last week) commute home to Brooklyn on the C train. I'll take a video of the new commute at some point, but it involves only walking, trees, and some incredibly well dressed New Yorkers. After staying away for a couple years in the comfort of Boerum Hill, I'm a West Village resident again.

I'm really going to miss this place.

Lesson #53: Just because you move to a new place or neighborhood doesn't mean it's really goodbye. As my move back to Manhattan attests, I could one day call Brooklyn home again. I've literally gone from living in Brooklyn to Manhattan to Brooklyn to Manhattan again, as of yesterday. It seems I just can't make up my mind, but the great thing is you don't really ever have to.

For now, I'm going to enjoy my Subway-less commute, wonderful addition of a roommate, and lots of new posh, upscale memories to be had (well, probably just new).

Friday, April 20, 2012

say cheese!

(credit to the New Yorker)

"Your life leaves laugh lines, your love leaves bright bruises."
- the Hold Steady

I'm generally a pretty smiley person. I like to laugh and, well, smiling's my favorite.

When I was in high school, a boy I liked once complimented me on my smile by noting it's resemblance to Aerosmith's Stephen Tyler's jagged laugh lines. That was over 10 years ago, and I've grown to love my "imperfections," especially those that I've gained through smiling and being joyful.

However, it seems that this puts me squarely in the minority (and I suppose I should revisit this post in, say, 10 or 15 years).

I read somewhere that women tend to focus on the details, where men focus on the whole picture in terms of what each finds attractive. Maybe that's why some of the obsession with wrinkles and anti-aging has taken off so much, and not a day goes by that I don't see a woman that has poured more money into her face than most people spend on a house.

The thought of not being able to express my emotions fully, and non-verbally, is akin to having a nightmare where no one can hear you yelling and you're stuck in the same place, unable to move.

Lesson #52: I know this seems fairly ridiculous for a 27 year to say, but own your imperfections and the process of aging, even if it's relatively early on in the process. Lots of people have the money and time to "fix" theirs, but when does one draw the line? Beauty is in our imperfections, I truly believe. I suppose being a slave to surgery is an imperfection of sorts. Instead of giving in to the urge to change ourselves, I wish we'd keep it natural and all take a deep breath, smile without thinking about our wrinkles, and pop a Xanax.

Monday, February 27, 2012

2am Kitchen Tour

This past weekend was a great one, but I do have a true confession to make. I did something I haven't done in a long time. Take a deep breath as I continue.

After a particularly fun night out, I got home and promptly got into bed, but drunkenly realized I was hungry. I emerged from a state of half-sleep and turned into a Pac Man, eating everything in my path. The problem was that everything on hand wasn't exactly health food. After polishing off most of a frozen pizza (Amy's new vegan pizza was pretty awesome, I can sort of remember), I dug into almonds, chips, then a box of Saltine's when realized I'd hit a new low: eating food that is normally reserved for those that are too sick to keep anything other than crackers and ginger ale down. I promptly put the Saltine's down and marched straight to bed, though I found some leftover Valentine's candy on my way and chewed through that obstacle as well.

Lesson #51: keep healthy foods around, even if you're not expecting to eat at home. The worst feeling is being hungry and desperate enough to eat Saltines at 2 in the morning because nothing is open and you can't possibly wait for food delivery. Living in the city with everything has led to a false confidence that I don't really need to keep fresh food in my apartment, but in moments of drunken distress, I would've woken up much happier had my inner Hunger Games heroine snacked on pineapple instead of pizza.

Dammit...writing that caused me to also remember that I also polished off a container of dried pineapple on Saturday night. The good news is that I ate pretty much all of the junk food in my apartment in one fell swoop.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Guest Post: Head vs. Heart

This week's post come's courtesy of Meggie Smith, who I'm delighted to call a best friend and, as of this year, fellow New Yorker. You can check out her blog here; set aside a few hours because you'll be hooked.

Sitting on my couch (OK, not so much a couch as a creaky twin mattress under a lofted bed- but hey, it was France and I only had 250 square feet to work with!) with feet on the coffee table, and a glass full of rosé reflecting the lavender and burnt orange twilight of a sun setting over the Spanish tiles of sloping Provençal rooftop, I was relaxed. And with good reason. Earlier that day I had turned in my thesis, effectively completing the Master’s degree I’d spent the past 9 months working towards. My friends would be over in an hour to celebrate, and I had a call with my Google recruiter in several minutes. I should have been nervous, but the beautiful circumstances around set me at ease.

The phone rang and the ‘+1 212’ on the display looked both foreign and familiarly comforting. My recruiter and I exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes, and then he relayed the good news. “Meggie, your resumé and experience look great. Both hiring managers want to interview you, but you can only go for one position. Which do you want to pursue, Chicago or New York?”

I paused, not able to give an immediate answer. Earlier that day, I had made a list of pros and cons for each city. Chicago far outweighed the pros of New York. It was familiar, close to my family, affordable, with Midwest charm and a haven for fellow Michigan alumni. Most importantly it was home to so many close friends I would need more than two hands to count them all. The list for New York City was paltry in comparison. Cathlin, writing, and inspiration were what I had come up with, my wonderful best friend’s residence the only tangible advantage on my list. Deeming writing and inspiration move worthy qualities to a city I’d briefly visited four times in my life seemed retrospectively absurd when reviewing my list.

But before I knew it, my heart made the decision for me, as I confidently blurted “New York” into the phone receiver. Ten months later, as a fledging New Yorker thoroughly enjoying and soaking in the wonderment of her new city, I suppose you could say the rest is history, the “right” choice made.

Lesson #50: when moving to a big city: don’t let your head preside as the all-knowing master of ceremonies over your choices. For decisions big and small, listen to your heart and go with your gut. Whether you call it God, the Universe, your inner guide, whatever, sometimes you just need to stop and listen to yourself, tapping into your own great wisdom. Amidst the noise, bustle and endless options in the city, you can feel pulled in a million conflicting directions, re-thinking and over analyzing the minutiae of life’s decisions. What restaurant to eat at and whether or not to purchase those high waisted jeans are scrutinized with the same fervor as larger decisions, like which apartment to take, going for a new role at work, or if he is really the right guy for you.

At an impasse, sometimes the best way to go forth is to stop and breathe, ceasing the city and cerebrum’s cacophonous assault on your choices, clear your mind, and listen to yourself. When you tap into your own wisdom and follow your heart and your gut, your decisions may surprise you. But if you’re true to yourself, there really are no wrong choices. You’ll be in for an amazing ride, and if you’re as lucky as me, your next great adventure amongst a million new friends and neighbors in the city that never sleeps.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

“I'm not confused, I'm just well mixed”

- Robert Frost

I had a strange few years of my life that I'd like to tell you about. Essentially, it revolved around the following scenario: every time I was promised great music at a party with friends, I got mediocre beer instead. Time and time again I attended multiple parties in my young twenties expecting to enjoy one of my favorite bands' music. After being promised we'd play Beirut at said parties, I would wait to hear the trumpet blaring, hip shaking gypsy music of the wonderful group.

But each party visit, I was offered a ping pong ball and a beer pong match up instead. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy playing beer pong as much as any other Big 10 grad (though the allure has faded with age). But why, oh, why were we playing beer pong instead of sitting around (and dancing) to Zach Condon and friends?

Finally, late one night, I asked the party host point blank - "So, just when are we going to play Beirut?" I could hardly hide the frustration in my voice, so desperate was I to hear this or this. The host stared at me for a few moments before simply pointing to the ping pong table and saying, "what do you think we're doing?"

It was my turn to stare back. What could he mean with this cryptic statement? Were the band members hiding under the table, ready to jump up for an impromptu jam? A fellow midwesterner shook his head and took me aside, explaining to me that the term "Beirut" refers to the game of beer pong for pretty much everyone from the east coast (and beyond, but apparently I'd missed that).

Oh. I guess that explains it. The fact that I never thought it was weird that people would have parties focused on an indie band with a relatively small (but passionate) following evades me as well.

Lesson #49: Don't assume you know the lingo everywhere, and also don't be afraid to just ask. Sure, you'll feel and look silly asking someone to define a confusing sounding phrase they've known their whole life (hopefully not beer pong in this case), but you'll feel far sillier if you spend years attending parties because you thought some of your favorite music would be played. Maybe even sillier yet if you tell others of your misunderstanding that lasted far longer than it should've.