upper upper west side dreamin’

On Friday I got off early from work and went up to my old stomping grounds. Ah, hello my old neighborhood! Hello dearest Columbia! Hello quiet residential streets!

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There isn’t much up there except housing, the university, the hospital, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, but I have such fond memories of the area! It’s where I first lived in New York, and while I was busy at grad school, that quiet environment was just what I needed. Oh, but seriously, Columbia isn’t in Harlem, it’s in Morningside Heights (the area west of Morningside Park, West 110th to 125th Streets), which I tend to merge with the UUWS (Upper Upper West Side, aka Manhattan Valley, West 96th to 110th Streets), which itself is differentiated from the more happening part of the UWS to the south.

But in truth, who really cares? I lump Morningside Heights with the UUWS because combined, that was the majority of my life, and culturally, it feels more like the UWS than Harlem. And after living in Harlem for a year (east of Morningside Park), I gotta say, that park is a pretty serious dividing line. Oh gracious, all those stairs. (Not so fond memories.)

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I was actually up at Columbia in order to get an alumni ID because my student ID had been stolen (along with the rest of my wallet) during my last few weeks in Shanghai. I also went to look at an apartment in the area, which was spacious and clean and recently renovated and overall great. But unfortunately not great enough to outweigh the location. That being said, I love the location.

The UUWS really does feel like home to me (or more like home than my current tourist-ridden pit of hellfire), but alas, it’s no good for me anymore. Sigh, if only I could transport the UUWS to Midtown. So yes, this is a bit of an ode/elegy to the Upper Upper West Side, because it was amazing. But is no longer. (For me anyway.)

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how to use the laundry room

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Ah, the convenience of an in-unit washer/dryer … how I miss thee! Having to trudge downstairs with a basket full of laundry makes me think back to my college days, and not in a good way. Plus, the laundry in my new place is crazy expensive. As in $3 for a wash and $2.75 for a dry. SERIOUSLY? It is such a rip-off, I feel like I’m being fleeced, but I’m not barbaric enough to go without washing my stuff.

When I lived in Astoria, I had to use the coin laundromat around the corner, which was annoying but not as bad as you might imagine because I was only working part-time that summer, which means I never did laundry during the rush periods and I had the time to chill and read a book while waiting. In the grand scheme of things, laundry in-building isn’t too bad either, but between carrying your giant basket, debating where to wait, hoping that no one takes your stuff, and praying that there are machines open … it does get to be a bit frustrating.

But seriously people, there are some basic rules of communal laundry:

  1. Don’t hog the washers or dryers. Yeah it’s convenient to do all five loads at once and block out the dryers, but if you’re doing that, you really should do laundry more often OR not do laundry at peak times! That’s rude. If you’re going to treat the place like your own personal washing room, invest in an apartment with an in-unit instead.
  2. Keep it clean. Or at least try to. While doing laundry is inherently about cleanliness, laundry rooms aren’t the cleanest places. Somehow there’s always spilled detergent and lint and soggy lost socks everywhere. If you’re cleaning out the lint trap, use the trashcan, because that’s what it’s there for. Don’t just bang it against the side of the machine and send lint into the air.
  3. Don’t leave your laundry in a washer or dryer! After that buzzer beeps, you get a maximum five minutes to make your way over before the machine becomes free game. If all the machines are full and there’s one with already-cleaned stuff that’s just been sitting there, I will dump the wet pile into a basket and no one will judge me. I don’t want to touch your stuff, you don’t want me to touch your stuff, but if I need to use the machine and you’re not responsible enough to be on time to remove your own stuff, you and I will both just have to deal with it.
  4. Don’t touch my stuff. This may seem to go against #3, but as long as I’m abiding by the other rules, don’t touch my stuff. If I happen to leave my laundry detergent there (which I never do anymore), don’t use it. If I happen to leave my laundry basket there (which I rarely do anymore), don’t use it. You know what you should do instead? Invest in laundry detergent and a laundry basket.

Rant completed.

architecture randomness (tbt)

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Back when I was at Columbia I used to sit in on a lot of the lectures hosted by GSAPP, and attended one that I made a note of. I shall now share:

Date: April 04, 2013
Setting: Wood Auditorium, Columbia University, New York
Event: “Converse” – Conversation between Mark Wigley and Wang Shu

Wigley was TORTURING this conversation about hard versus soft for what seemed to be forever. I was over it, I’m sure most of the audience was over it, and maybe even Wang Shu was over it (or at least he seemed kind of confused). Wang had brought up that he practices calligraphy in the morning before he begins pencil sketching his designs … and Wigley took off from there, trying to conceptualize Wang’s process. Then Wang mentioned that the first thing is actually making tea, which comes before the calligraphy, which Wigley took as the ultimate soft (id est, the liquid) that transitioned to the semi-soft (ink and brush) and then to the hard (pencil). In other words, this was a really weird conceptual sort of conversation and this particular topic went on much longer than it should have. But then:

Wigley: How hard is your pencil?

Wang: 1H.

[Laughter from Audience]

Maybe you had to be there? I think it was funny because of the literalness and simple specificity with which Wang Shu answered compared to Wigley’s all over the place hard-soft monologue. And the fact that an H pencil isn’t all that hard. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wigley … but this was not one of his finest moments.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why this post started with a picture of an alpaca/llama, it’s because it’s also random and somewhat Columbia/architecture-related. It was a Saturday, I was stressed and sleep deprived because the end of the year was nearing, and I was on my way to studio to work on my thesis. And then I ran into an alpaca/llama. Well, not literally ran into it. About a block from campus there was a street festival with bouncy castles and the alpaca/llama and I basically froze in shock. Because, seriously? How much more random can you get than seeing an alpaca/llama on your way to school? Or well, I actually have no idea if it was a llama or alpaca because I can’t tell the difference and didn’t stay long enough to ask. Anyone know for sure?

today’s google doodle: jane jacobs!

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Did you see today’s Google doodle!? It’s of Jane Jacobs! In full disclosure, as much as I would like to truly, fully geek out over this, I’ve only read bits and pieces of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), which is primarily what she’s known for. Regardless, today is Jane Jacobs’s 100th birthday! Woot!

Basically anyone who’s ever even had a passing interest in urban studies or urban planning has heard of Jane Jacobs and her book. It really is that important. I’m not saying it’s great or that it’s the way to go, but it is something that should be read, or at least known about. Kudos to Google for acknowledging her influence and impact! However, in my estimation, it doesn’t quite rival the Google doodle of Viollet-le-Duc … because Eugène Viollet-le-Duc is hands down awesome in my mind, and his doodle was just classier.

falafel on rice

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Any New Yorker knows what falafel on rice is. It’s that delicious-ness that comes from any one of a million seemingly-identical food trucks. It’s great as drunk food, it’s great as a quick lunch, and it’s great as a lazy dinner. I used to be a chicken on rice kind of girl, but lately I’ve been going with the falafel. Then there’s the choice: white sauce (kind of yogurt-y) and/or red sauce (spicy) – white sauce only for me. And usually there’s also a sad “salad” of iceberg lettuce to the side, which I usually just put on a sandwich for another day.

Back when I was in the UWS, falafel on rice would run $5, but the Midtown cart closest to me charges $7. Not sure if it’s an issue of location or if all the food carts raised their prices in the three years I was away, but regardless, for the amount of food, it’s a great price. And oh so convenient. Because seriously, these food trucks are everywhere. And I’ve never once gotten sick.

blackbird, the play

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Oh goodness golly gosh. I mean … woah. Oy. As much as I talk about my love of attending art exhibitions and such, I quite like the performing arts as well, although I tend to be a bit pickier with plays and such. So when my sister had extra tickets to a play called Blackbird, I was like, Sure, I’ll go. Based on the description it’s not a play I would have chosen, but it did sound interesting. And it has Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams in it too.

So my friend S and I trekked over to the Belasco Theatre, which is really quite lovely, and sat staring at this lovely office set for a while. And then the play started … and it continued … and it ended. And by the end of it I think the whole audience was stunned into awkward, uncomfortable silence. You know how people tend to linger a bit after a play? There was no lingering here, it felt like people were just pouring out of the theatre – like they couldn’t get out of there fast enough. My friend and I were like: Where’s the nearest bar?

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I don’t feel equipped enough to give a thorough review of Blackbird, but while I thought the premise of the play was strong (a woman confronting the man who sexually abused her as a child, but who she loved), the twists and turns and the characters’ personalities were just jarring. And I hate to say this, but Michelle Williams annoyed me. From her awkward shifting accent to her weird, hysterical mannerisms, I couldn’t tell if it was part of her character or just bad acting. Anyhow, it was distracting. There was a monologue by her character about halfway through when she really hit her stride and I got into the play, but then the last five minutes just yanked me out of it again.

Oy. It really was a twisty one. With a single set consisting of an office breakroom and just the two* characters, it was a fairly minimalist play based solely on the two’s dialogue and some hyperactive (are these people drunk?) actions. How the story of their past emerged from their different perspectives was quite intriguing. But I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Definitely not a happy play, not a date play, not a “take your mother” play. Afterwards, I just wanted to curl up into a ball and watch Disney movies.