eclipse revelation: what the heck am i doing?

On Monday, the moon covered the sun. Here in New York there was no full eclipse, no moment of complete darkness. As I was busily working away in the office, the world out the window seemed same ol’ same ol’. But a bunch of colleagues went to hang out on the street outside, so I joined them. And I put on a pair of those special glasses. And I saw the eclipse, the partial 71% that we got. And it looked like darkness and fire. And all I could think was: wow. Wow. And then I thought: What the heck am I doing? Was my careful editing of that marketing text really so important that I was almost going to miss the FREAKING ECLIPSE?

Some days, days like these days, I wonder: What the heck am I doing? I’ve always tended towards apathy, but it’s getting ridiculous. In a span of six years, I moved from Texas to Shanghai to New York back to Shanghai and back to New York again, all in the search of new challenges. And now? The standard answer is that I’m in New York because I love New York (and I do), and that it’s the best mix of homey Texas and chaotic Shanghai (and it is), but being in New York also means that I don’t have to anything outstanding, because there’s so much going on already that it’s easy to just go with the flow. New York means I can use words like ‘adulting’, wear nice clothes at my nice job, have a glass (or three) at French wine bars, blend with all the other aimless millennials, let all my ambitions and plans slowly fade away, and pretend that I’m right where I ought to be.

But what happened to all that other stuff? Have I *gasp* settled? No more. I’m going to revive this poor little blog. I’m going to take up freelance work. I’m going to get back into creating, shaping, thinking, writing, discussing, learning, and being out there. I’m going to be me again … the me I want to be. That’s what I’m going to do. So thank you moon, for blocking out the sun. It truly was amazing.

(Note: That’s not to say I’m going to give up wine and stop being occasionally superficial … I still am a millennial after all.)

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new york apartment no. 8

Last week I was talking to a colleague when I mentioned I was moving over the weekend. Her response: “AGAIN?!?!”

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen! I am now on my eighth New York apartment, my fifth in the last 1.5 years. But I promise this will be the last. Pinky swear. Each place has its own special New York story attached to it, so … how about a highlight reel?

No. 1: Upper West Side
During my first year of grad school at Columbia (and my first time living in New York), I lived with three other girls in an amazing fourth-floor walk-up (oy) that had washer and dryer in-unit. I signed the initial paperwork for the apartment while traveling around China, without having met the roommates and without even having been to the neighborhood, and ended up spending about 50 RMB at the Beijing hostel for internet access and scanning. The four of us got along great, had many shenanigans, and frequented a local bar called the Ding Dong Lounge. I experienced my first earthquake in this apartment. And an overactive heater meant that my room (and only my room) would easily surpass 80 degrees, and I’d be in a tank top and shorts with the window open while snow fell outside.

No. 2: Central Harlem
In my second year at Columbia, I lived with a charming Dutch girl with a lot of food allergies for one semester and a boisterous German girl who drank a lot of red wine for the second semester. This is where I holed up during Sandy and Nemo and where the liquor store guy at the end of the block knew my favorite wine. Oh, and we were illegally subletting because it was an affordable housing building. And the glass of building’s front door got broken in. And we once heard gunshots. And my neighbor’s recently-released-from-prison husband would pee in the stairway because she wouldn’t let him move back in. And I locked myself out once, but then my neighbor oh so helpfully “opened” my door for me.

No. 3: Astoria
This was a summer sublet where I lived with two 20-something professionals. It was my first summer in New York, and I survived it with a ceiling fan, table fan, and open windows. But really, I survived by spending a lot of time outside exploring New York, drinking too many delicious frappes, being off in China, at my internship in Chelsea (often after waiting 30+ minutes for the stupid NQ train—back when the Q went to Queens), or at Columbia (because I just couldn’t stay away).

No. 4: Flushing
After two years in Shanghai, I returned to New York with no job but high hopes, so I stayed in Flushing while job searching. And honestly? It felt like I never left China, since I was still surrounded by Chinese people, I ate a lot of Chinese food, and things were fairly cheap (in comparison to Manhattan). For the first month of working, I dealt with hour-long commutes and a lot of cockroaches.

No. 5: Herald Square
Kitty corner to Macy’s, my room was a few floors above the Gap, and this place was LOUD. There was street noise all day and all night, and tourists were everywhere. The building had a fantastic-looking lobby, but the rental floors looked like an outdated hotel with dingy lighting, long narrow hallways, and the occasional waft of pot smoke. Its saving graces were being right by the BDFMNQR trains, and having Koreatown a few blocks away.

No. 6: Tribeca
This was basically a glorified flophouse, with nine girls living in a totally illegal yet rather spacious apartment. When my Herald Square lease ended, I wasn’t able to find a more permanent situation, so I ended up at this month-to-month place, which I found two days before I was due to move out. My room was one of the only two rooms that had a window, and it was tiny—it fit a twin bed with about a foot of walkway to the side. One girl (an aspiring model/actress from Ukraine) lived in a room accessible only through the bathroom. No one ever locked the front door, the circuit breaker got tripped almost every day, and while it was fun at times (reality tv binge watches), it was also pretty gross. More “hostel” than “sorority house.”

No. 7: Hell’s Kitchen
My two roommates were other 20-something Asian girls who were very entertaining (lots of drama, but not amongst us) and it was actually kind of great. My room was a bit on the small side but got great light, and we were on a higher floor so I would often hang out on the terrace with a glass of wine and watch people working late in the office tower across the avenue. The building was located a few blocks from Central Park, near a whole bunch of great restaurants, and we had the nicest doormen.

No. 8: NoMad
Time will tell, but with a great view (see above) and easy walking distance to work, so far things are looking good for No. 8!

brunching and the swing of things

For some reason I’ve let this blog just slide on by. Sadness. So now that I’ve been in New York over a year, am busy as heck with work but otherwise fairly settled, and it’s SUMMER again, here’s to getting back into the swing of things with a nice, simple, easy post on one of my favorite topicsfood. And not just any food, but brunch food.

Before moving to New York I always associated ‘brunch’ with ‘after-church Sunday brunch’ or ‘late breakfast brunch’, but in New York, brunch is something altogether different. It’s typically an hours-long meal with friends that implies, a) it’s the weekend, b) you woke up when the sun is already high in the sky, and c) there’s day drinking involved. Granted, alcohol isn’t required for a successful brunch, but at Vynl, one of my go-to brunch spots (due in part to not being overly crowded, having solidly good food, and being within walking distance to my house), I highly recommend their frozen mimosas. Yum. I’ve heard Vynl has a good happy hour as well, but I’ve only ever been for brunch, so to me, Vynl is a solid brunch place.

Last weekend I went to Vynl with my roommates for brunch. They went to the gym beforehand, while I slept in and met them later. Despite having just worked out, they ordered the chicken and waffles, and the chicken chilaquiles, and I, who have never been particularly health-conscious, ordered the biscuits and gravy (pictured). Oh so yum. Isn’t it amazing how good food makes you so easily forget your diet? Not me (because I’m not a dieter), but I find it such a sight when girls in workout gear are chowing down … I guess it balances out?

Vynl
756 Ninth Avenue
(between West 50th and 51st Streets)
Hell’s Kitchen, New York, NY

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

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