hello, it’s me. hello from the other side.

Welcome to 2017, everyone! Yes, it’s me. It’s almost a full month into 2017 and I haven’t posted in over two months, but … whatever.

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This was the first year that I rang in the new year in New York. I live about 15 minutes away from Times Square, which means that for New Year’s Eve celebrations, I got AS FAR AWAY from home as possible. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. I stayed in Manhattan, because late night subway traffic, especially right after the New Year, is ridiculous. But I definitely escaped to the Upper West Side. Only tourists are in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, and they clutter up the place. Roadblocks everywhere, traffic diverted, heavy police presence, and no access to certain subway stations. Total madness. Starting at 2 PM, you had to go through police checkpoints to get east of Eighth Avenue. STARTING AT 2 IN THE AFTERNOON. That meant no access to the NQRW trains for me and long lines of people on the sidewalks. ARGH.

But Upper West Side? Nice dinner, hung out at a friend’s place, then headed over to Central Park and watched fireworks. Yay. Nice and simple. And so far? 2017’s not been too horrible. There’s nothing to be happy about, but at least the world hasn’t exploded or imploded yet, so that’s good, right? The key to happiness is low expectations.

ramen weather!

When it starts getting chilly outside, nothing satisfies the soul better than a nice warm bowl of ramen. It’s quite solidly fall these days, and now that daylight savings is over (I hope you remembered to change your clocks!), it’s darker earlier. Which means that I want nothing more than to curl up in bed and hibernate through winter. But since that’s not an option (or at least not a viable option if I want to maintain my health/work/life), thank goodness there’s ramen. Nothing makes you feel like a human faster than being warmed from the inside out and left happy and full.

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Totto Ramen
464 West 51st Street
(between 9th and 10th Avenues)
Hell’s Kitchen, New York, NY

the upcoming election and what it’s revealed

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For anyone who’s read more than two posts on this blog has realized, I don’t offer much personal information on here. I don’t use full names. I generally talk about places and events rather than the specifics of my life. You can easily glean some information about where I live, went to school, and what kind of work I do, and probably have an idea about my personality and what I care about, but I try to stay away from current events and issues like politics. But … I just gotta chime in.

This election is driving me nuts. So forgive me, but I feel the need to rant. Last year, when Trump announced his run for president, I was living in Shanghai. All my non-American friends were joking about how crazy it was and what it would be like if Trump was president. I laughed it off, because Trump as president? What a complete joke. It was a complete farce. At this point, however, it’s no longer funny. It’s just frightening and saddening and frustrating. Was I living in a blissfully ignorant bubble before? I never knew there was so much hatred and divisiveness in this country. I never realized how close-minded, how naive, how sinfully prideful, and how ill-informed so many Americans are about how the government works and what’s actually going on in the world. Are Americans truly the “stupid, uncultured Americans” that the rest of the world stereotypes us as?

This evening I was on the phone with a very fast-talking man who was taking a survey for CNN. Normally I don’t bother with phone surveys, but since I’m just chilling at home and this election cycle has made me so aggravated, I answered. Who am I voting for? Hillary. What is your opinion of Trump? Unfavorable. What is your opinion of Hillary? Unfavorable. Who do I trust more? Oy. I reluctantly answered: Hillary. Who shares my values more? I couldn’t pick one. Neither. Do you think Trump’s comments in that video are reflect his opinions as a whole? Yes. Are you registered? Yes. With a party? Republican. Position? Conservative.

I vote on the issues. Honestly, I do. So it might seem weird, maybe even blasphemous to some hardcore right-wingers that I’m crossing the aisle. But I’m not alone. Yes personality is playing a role in my opinion, but position is far more important to me. To put it simply, Trump’s positions are not only infeasible, but dangerous. I’m not voting for Hillary as much as I’m voting against Trump. I’m not voting for liberal policies as much as I’m voting to avoid World War III. To avoid nuclear war. To avoid the loss of foreign alliances. To avoid a downfall of our national security. To avoid a civil war. To avoid a collapse of our economy. To avoid a loss of progress and talent. To avoid martial law and riots and internal destruction. To avoid a culture of fear and distrust. I’m voting to maintain the tenuous balance we have now. To maintain a semblance of rationality. To give us some stoppage time to re-evaluate.

On Sunday I watched the second presidential debate with some friends. All of them are Democrats except for one. My Republican friend and I commiserated. He’s not voting. He said he can’t vote for someone who he doesn’t believe in, a position which I respect, but can’t bring myself to hold. It is extremely disheartening to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton when I don’t want her to be president, but my desire to keep Trump away from the presidency outweighs my desire to vote for someone I believe in. And that makes me truly, truly sad. During the debate I was muttering and yelling and stress eating like mad. And mostly at Trump, at a guy who is supposed to be “my” candidate and represent “my” side. My Democrat friends, not all of whom are Hillary supporters, were also complaining throughout the debate, but even if they don’t wholeheartedly endorse Hillary, they’re still on board with the broad strokes. They may sympathize with my situation of voting for someone I’m not gung-ho about, but I don’t know if they fully understand the internal conflict, to have someone you are so against be labeled “your” candidate. I usually don’t get so worked up about the election, because although I disagree with the liberal position, I see their stance, I understand their logic, and I respect the candidates as people. I just usually disagree with fundamental ideas of what constitutes an unalienable right, or to what degree equality can or should be enforced, or how much faith you can place in people’s innate goodness. But I have always seen most candidates as people striving to improve this country who just happen to have different ideas than my own. I can’t say the same for Trump.

As much as I am a proud conservative and believe in low taxes, small government, and states’ rights, the United States of America is a nation for a reason. The federal government exists for a reason and it has its role. In today’s global economy with global issues of terrorism and refugee crises and political upheavals every which way, we may look to the protectionist, closed-border, xenophobic idea as one that would solve all our problems. And, like communism, it does seem great. But, like communism, it’s perfect only in theory. How do you expect our multinational corporations to function? How do you expect a nation built upon immigration and diversity to function? How do you expect the United States of America to give up on its own American dream? How do you lose so much hope that you give in to the fear?

never forget, can’t forget

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Sometimes I wish I could forget 9/11 and all that it symbolizes, but every time I hear “The Star-Spangled Banner,” every time I see an American flag, and every time I see One World Trade Center, all those memories and emotions and fears flood back and I can’t help but cry. And trust me, crying every time I hear the national anthem can get awkward. Walking to my friend’s place for dinner and showing up with tears in my eyes because there’s a giant American flag opposite her building … that’s awkward. Sitting in a movie theater and having my friend grab my hand because I’m bawling during a preview for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close … that’s awkward. But at the same time, I wouldn’t change it, because 9/11 defined a generation, defined my generation.

While at college in Texas, there was one 9/11 when a group of protestors had a large “Bush Engineered 9/11” or some-sort sign on the steps to the tower. The sun had already set, I had a long day of school, and was exhausted from thinking of 9/11. For those not familiar with the University of Texas campus, there’s a plaza area in front of the steps. I saw them from a ways off, but I had to walk through the plaza and pass right by the steps to get to the dorms. I saw them and started crying. Ugly, angry crying. And I kept walking, at my normal pace, through that plaza—lots of people milling about and such—while angry, exhausted, and crying.

The first time I encountered such people was actually during my first trip to New York as a semi-adult. In high school I did a pre-college program at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and during one trip out with roommates, we went to some area with a plaza (I can’t remember where) and there were protestors with a “Bush Engineered 9/11” sign. I had split up with my friends and was wandering about looking for them when I saw the protestors. And I just couldn’t move. In Ohio you never saw such things. We had heard about them on the news, but it never really occurred to me that such people actually, truly existed. That they would actually say such things (and loudly), especially within the city that had experienced it firsthand. I was just appalled and upset and absolutely flabbergasted. So I was standing there, silently watching these people rant and scream, all while tears are streaming down my face and I’m lost and confused and completely out of my element. I don’t really remember what happened afterwards, but I remember that moment almost as vividly as I remember 9/11 itself.

9/11 made me realize that there was evil and sadness and hatred in the world. That day in New York made me realize that it was everywhere. And within everyone.

In seventh grade, I had a teacher who told me I lived a charmed life. We had read a story and she was asking people what they would do if they suddenly received a large sum of money. Most other people said material things—cars, houses, et cetera—but I said I’d invest it. She smiled and said I lived a charmed life. She probably didn’t mean anything by it, but looking back, I realize that I did live a charmed life. Back then, pre-9/11, life was charmed. It was innocent. And with 9/11, that changed. For everyone. And so, as much as I wish I could forget 9/11 and go back to that innocent state when I didn’t care about so much, when I didn’t cry so much when seeing the American flag, that day is part of me. Forever.

Never forget.

ikea’s swedish meatballs … now with veggies

What did you do over the Labor Day weekend? I went to Ikea. Woot! Oy! Conflicting emotions there. As always.

I moved into my new place last week (yay!), which meant I needed to buy stuff. I didn’t need as much stuff as I ended up buying, but some of it was needed. Well … ‘need’ is debatable. But what is undeniable is that Ikea has Swedish meatballs and I am a fan. Are they good? Eh. Are they cheap? Yes. Are they consistently the same worldwide? Close enough. Do I get Swedish meatballs each and every trip to Ikea? Oh heck yes. That is, if the line’s not too crazy long.

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And ya know what? Now they’re nutritious! The meatballs are likely the same as before, but an order of Swedish meatballs now comes with vegetables. VEGETABLES! I have no idea when this became a thing, but I’m not a fan. What the heck is that green, yellow, and orange doing on my plate? Mon dieu! They’re cluttering the plate! So now, because I feel bad wasting food, I get guilted into eating vegetables when all I really want are the Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. Argh. Good thing Ikea also offers desserts, because chocolate cake is the perfect thing to wash down those bland veggies!

a city of islands: beaches and art

Sometimes I forget that New York City is a city of islands with easy access to water because I spend the far majority of my time surrounded by skyscrapers in Midtown or Lower Manhattan. But yes, Manhattan is an island. Queens and Brooklyn are part of Long Island (a rather giant island). Staten Island is an island. Only the Bronx is not an island … and coincidentally it’s also the only borough I’ve never been to. But there really is water everywhere. Which means beaches! And since it’s still New York, it also (sometimes) means art! Woot!

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The Rockaways (Rockaway Peninsula in Queens) were pretty devastated during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, so it’s nice to see how it’s recovered. Over at Fort Tilden is the site-specific installation Rockaway! by Katharina Grosse. Basically it’s an abandoned structure full of sand that got a spiffy red and white paint job. Cool. Kinda random, but still kinda cool. I mean, if it’s going to be abandoned, it might as well be pretty.

So far I’ve been to Rockaway Beach, which has a pretty spiffy new boardwalk, and Jacob Riis, which is less crowded with better/closer food options, but is harder to get to (we took the Beach Bus to Jacob Riis; Rockaway Beach is accessible by train). But getting out of the city in any manner feels AMAZING! And if I’m being technical about it, we never really left the “city” since we were in New York City the whole time!

Oh, and while at Rockaway Beach, we created a masterpiece. What do you get when a group of architects builds a sandcastle? Why, a ziggurat of course.

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Happy summer!

rainy days, crowded subways

It’s fun to run around and splash in the rain. It’s refreshing to have a slight drizzle on a hot summer day. It’s calming to hear the pitter-patter of rain on your window while snuggling up with a good book. But it is super, super annoying to have the skies open up as you’re leaving for work and need to get to the subway to get home. Especially when it wasn’t forecast to rain until a few hours later, leaving many people (such as me) caught in pouring rain without an umbrella.

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I could’ve joined one of the many groups I saw that were huddled under awnings trying to wait out the worst of it, but who knows how long I’d have to wait? So I braved the short trip to the subway station, because I could not wait to change into pajamas. And then I had to wait for what seemed like forever for the train to come on a crowded, humid subway platform. And then I got shoved into a subway car and was pressed up against way too many slightly damp/sweaty people.

Because in New York, rain means puddles galore, wet and slippery streets, lots of slightly damp strangers, and super crowded subways. And considering it’s the middle of summer (hot and humid), it’s the city (so the rain was probably toxic), and subway platforms have basically no airflow, it was kinda gross. So … that was a fun ride home.

gin + tonic + tapas = cata

Over in the Lower East Side is a restaurant called Cata, which, although not my normal vibe, is definitely yum. It’s a Spanish tapas place known for their gin and tonics and it would probably make a great date place. It’s somewhat pricey, but on par for restaurants of its level in the area. As I mentioned previously, I’m a fan of a good gin and tonic, and my friend H said that any fan of gin and tonics should visit Cata, so off we went.

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And yes, their gin and tonics are pretty good. Quite a few untraditional options too. I had the Thai chili pepper gin and tonic, which was yum. And since it’s an actual restaurant and not just a bar, they had food, which was on point. We ended up sharing deviled eggs, chicken croquettes, and paella – all super yum. Loved those croquettes. I spent more than I thought I would, for not all that much food, but alas, such is the way of New York. Unfortunately, as good as Cata is, on my budget, it might be a while before I’m back!

Cata
catarestaurant.com
245 Bowery
(between Stanton and Prince Streets)
Lower East Side, New York, NY

the joys of nyc apartment living

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I was living in Midtown, but my lease ended at the end of June and apartment hunting in New York is crazy, so I ended up not being able to find a place … even after looking at 20 or so places. Between the places that were completely horrible to the places that were too expensive or too far from the subway to the places that I hesitated too long on to the places that just didn’t pick me, I ended up scrambling to find somewhere to live two days before my lease was up. And voila, I found my current place!

So now I’m in Tribeca. But I have eight roommates. Yes, eight roommates. The location is great, but the apartment itself is a bit rundown and totally beyond illegal (rooms are way too small and only two of the nine rooms have windows), it’s a fire hazard with the wires daisy-chained the way they are, the circuit breaker keeps getting tripped (because it’s not equipped to handle nine people and multiple air conditioners), and the place is security-compromised because most of the girls don’t lock the front door. But ya know what? It’s strangely okay with me, because I know it’s temporary and I have a deadlock on my room door. It’s like a dorm for post-college girls or a long-stay hostel, and it is kind of fun to watch The Bachelorette with others, but I definitely feel far too old to be living in a place like this.

The image above isn’t from my current place, but rather from a place I visited during my ridiculous apartment hunt at the end of June. If you can’t read it, it says: “BEWARE Packages are Being Stolen / PLEASE Report Any Suspicious Activity!!!” and off to the side someone wrote “Me too! Just ordered horse shit (yes, really) and won’t share what apt I sent it to, so, thief … enjoy touching what you are :) shitsenders.com <not a joke.” ROFLOL. And ya know what? That place was far nicer than my current shoebox and far more expensive. And ya know what? They still got some major issues.

smoked salmon and avocado ftw

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My new favorite sandwich is salmon and avocado. I used to be a turkey and colby jack girl, then I switched to tuna salad sandwiches, and now it’s all about the smoked salmon and avocado. If I phrase it like that, it sounds like I’m becoming more hoity or health conscious, but it’s really just that I’m discovering new foods and my palette is improving. I’ll still go for a good ol’ turkey and cheese every so often. But smoked salmon and avocado? Wow. It’s a revelation. The only problem is that in comparison to other sandwich options, it’s downright pricey.

When I first started working, I ate out every lunch, which in the Flatiron District equates to a serious drain on the bank account. Now I try to bring my lunch to work, but I still love Cafe Prague, because they’re amazing. And their smoked salmon and avocado sandwich (pictured above) is just TOO amazing. So yummy. But at $11.92 a pop (with a side of chips), it’s just too much for me. So I went to the grocery store, bought sliced potato bread, avocados, smoked salmon, and swiss cheese, assembled, and voila! My version (pictured below) is not as great as Cafe Prague, but for the budget conscious, it’ll do.

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Cafe Prague
cafepraguenyc.com
2 West 19th Street
Flatiron District, New York, NY