Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It Won't Be Long Til Happiness Steps Up To Greet Me

Hurray! I finally got to have a couple of "only in New York" times! Granted - school is still dominating pretty much every moment of my life. Sometimes my friends and I exchange bewildered looks and ask, "Remember this time last year? Didn't we have free time then?" The consensus is that yes, we did. And now we don't.

Of course, it's not exactly a mystery. People who are planning to get a job after graduation are working internships now, people who are planning to go into academia are sweating their applications, and a lot of people from both groups (certainly all the academia people) are worrying about the thesis that's hanging over their heads. I am too. The weeks that bled into months of procrastination when I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Twilight (largely because I was paralyzed by a total certainty that I had bitten off way more than I could actually chew), are not in evidence these days. I'm working - writing outlines, doing research, and making notable progress. I would be surprised at myself, but the fact is I just don't have the luxury of procrastination with the deadlines I have.

So when I landed free tickets to a taping of the BBC America show "Would You Rather? with Graham Norton" the first question was whether or not I really had time to go (still undetermined, but I did decide the take the break for fun). The second was whether I would be able to find anyone to go with me. It was dicey. People were busy with school, Rosh Hashanah, and God knows what else. Graham Norton is not exactly drop everything famous in the U.S. (I had to look him up on YouTube to figure out what exactly he did). But luckily, my friend Lili shares my plucky can-do spirit and affection for the BBC! She was in, and we had a great time. The premise of the show was that he has a panel of four comedians on, and they answer a ridiculous "Would you rather...?" question, defend their answer, and then Graham Norton picks the best one. They ranged all over (e.g. "Would you rather lose both thumbs, or a cousin?" "Would you rather spend a year chained to roadkill, or a disapproving nun?"). They taped an episode, then they had everyone in the audience move to a different seat while the tv people went backstage to change clothes, and then did another one. I got a free shirt (essentially by waiting for a quiet moment and then asking for one). We had a lot of fun, and the show was very funny. Afterwards we had dinner at the Tick Tock Cafe next store, whose egg creams were apparently written about in the book "Eat Pray Love." I did have one, and it was tasty, but not really more special than any other egg creams I've had.

The next night I went with my friend Michelle to the Metropolitan Museum for cocktails on the roof amid a sculpture display. Admittedly, I was much more interested in the cocktails and the rooftop view than the sculpture (giant, brightly colored, modern metal shaping that is certainly art but doesn't move me). We were happy to not get the stink eye when we didn't pay the full suggested donation (the Met really doesn't like you to know that the admission fee is optional, but it is and we go a lot), and before heading up to the roof we stopped by our shared favorite section - 19th and Early-20th Century European painting. Here we can visit our favorite impressionists, and marvel at landscapes that are near-photographic. After the roof cocktails (and plenty of time enjoying the incredible view of the sunset of the city over Central Park), we headed through Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture - a little disoriented by the Met's distinctly non-intuitive layout. We had dinner at an excellent vegan restaurant called Candle Cafe. But I'm not big on dessert in vegan restaurants. I eat butter, milk and eggs, and I think dessert is improved by their inclusion. For dessert, we walked to Dylan's Candy Bar - a pretty famous spot I had never been to before.
Dylan is Dylan Lauren, the daughter of Ralph Lauren, who decided her passion was sweets and not fashion. She went all out - her place on the Upper East Side has three floors of candy - a ground floor where you can load up on seasonal and bulk candy, a basement with specialty and nostalgia candy, and an upstairs cafe where you can get various desserts.
We settled on milkshakes, and settled in the brightly colored sitting area, at a gumball filled table, and set in to enjoy ourselves. And we did - the milkshakes were excellent, the ice cream of high quality, and I was glad it was dairy instead of soy. They were pretty rich and thick, neither of us was actually able to finish our milkshake, and we walked a fair portion of the way back to aid digestion. But it started to drizzle on us, so we got into the subway. However, when I got out of the subway, it was pouring! Oppressive, heavy, flooding rain seemingly out of nowhere. I had to get a taxi to take me the three long blocks back to my apartment (something I never do), and then got soaked crossing the street. However, my spirits remain undampened. The precious moments I get to steal that remind me what a great city New York is make it that much easier to dive back in to the all-consuming school routine.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Grass Will Be Greener On The Other Side

I'm back in New York! Well, I've really been back for two weeks, but now I'm back with an internet connection in my apartment. Speaking of my apartment, check out some pictures:
The view from the entryway: bed, couch, rocking chair, and window.
I can't get the whole room in one shot, so foot of the bed, TV/dresser, desk, and the kitchen in the background.
Roomie enjoying some fridge time.

It is, admittedly, not huge. But it's a good sized studio, and plenty of space for me and Sansa to share. It's also quiet - my window doesn't look out on the street, so I can't here traffic or the sounds of tons of people passing back and forth. I also don't hear much noise from my neighbors, which is very nice.

In most New York buildings, you can go out on the roof. My roof is no exception, and an 18 story building in Chelsea affords some very nice views:
Sunset, buildings, the Hudson River and New Jersey in the distance
Skyscrapers and their king: The Empire State Building

And.... well, that's pretty much it. My first class was only a few hours after I got back in town, and I haven't had much time for adventures. However, I'm enjoying my classes, being a grader seems to be going well, and the weather has been nice lately. And even with all the settling in, I did find time to try a new part of the world's food: Scandinavian! My friend Michelle and I went to Smorgas, which is in the neighborhoody area of Chelsea near where I live (I live in the more commercial area of Chelsea) for brunch. I love brunch in New York. Nothing compares. Here I am sitting in our outdoor cafe set-up, with a plate of soft vanilla waffles with whipped cream, strawberries, and cloudberry sauce. I have never encountered a cloudberry before, but let me say, they make amazing sauce.

So, that's pretty much it. More to come, as I've gotten settled into my schedule and hope for excitement in the future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It Ain't No Famous Name On A Golden Plaque That Makes Me Ride That Railroad Track

Here I am, in my hotel in Washington, D.C. preparing to head out on the morning of the day that I presented my paper at my first-ever academic conference: ECA (Eastern Communication Association). Taking a picture of myself in the mirror felt silly, but I knew I'd want to share it on here - I devoted an entire day last week to putting together this exact outfit, painstakingly selecting something I thought would make me look confident/ professional/ youthful/ academic .... I was really invested in this outfit. I'm happy with where I ended up. Considering how crazy nervous I was at this moment, I'm glad I felt good about what I was wearing.

So, the whole story. Thursday morning (my 23rd birthday!), I took the 7:17am train to Washington D.C., so I could attend and present at my first academic conference. Conferences are important in building an academic career/resume, and I felt like I had a lot riding on this experience (though really, writing and submitting the paper was the big deal part. Having been accepted, the part that I'll be judged for in the long term was already behind me). I got there in the afternoon, settled in to my hotel room, laid out my outfit, and tried to go back over exactly what I was going to say. Of course, I was exhausted, jittery, and pretty much decided to put it to destiny. I did briefly attend the reception held on the top floor of the hotel. It was mostly a place for people who already knew each other to catch up, rather than an opportunity to meet new people. But the view was incredible.
The next day was presentation day. Celeste, my undergrad professor/Bachelor's Essay director who was also attending the conference (and held my hand through the entire process of getting my paper to this point, even as I near being a year out from my CofC graduation), came to my room hear what I planned to say and offer me some pointers. Of course, it's a bit awkward to talk to one person you know like she's a crowd of people you've never met, and I started to feel VERY nervous. Celeste assured me that once I got going I was right where I needed to be, and offered a few last minute tips. I was very glad to get them.

My presentation was at 1:30, so I went to see another panel in the morning. Doing so definitely boosted my confidence. I got to see that the environment at ECA is very laid back and friendly, people joked in their presentations, the rooms weren't packed with people, and I was able to feel like I got my bearings. Then, after lunch, came the moment of truth.

I was the first one to the room, which I dutifully documented. That seat in the corner behind the table is where I sat, along with three other presenters. We ended up attracting around 15 people to come see us (the one I went to in the morning had 6, so we did pretty well). Although I was definitely very nervous, when the time came I took a deep breath a dove it. I was surprised at how quickly I found my footing, and was able to deliver my research with confidence. All my jokes and pithy phrasings got laughs. People seemed interested in what I had to say, and I felt like I did well. All in all, I talked for just over 13 minutes, which felt both incredibly long and very brief. Although I became confident, I could feel my face getting warmer and warmer the whole time I was talking. By the end I was sure that I must be blushing severely, something I never used to do when engaged in public speaking. I think it's because (despite the detached feeling I'm probably supposed to take), this work feels deeply personal to me. It was my first project in the field I now want to spend my life in, something I spent month after month on, struggled with, learned from, got into NYU with, and was not presenting at my first conference. I wanted it to be appreciated, and seen as the legitimate equal of the other work there. And, fortunately, ECA is a friendly conference and I got that experience I was hoping for. My only disappointment was that the panel ran a bit long, so I didn't get to answer any questions.

After all that internal drama I wanted a break. I attended one more panel, and then walked over the bridge into Georgetown to enjoy the day. I thought about getting myself a birthday cupcake at Georgetown Cupcakes (a famous spot), but the line was 30-45 minutes, so I changed my mind at I got a birthday ice cream cone at a not famous no-waiting spot. It was delicious. I then wandered around for a bit, enjoying the weather and the semi-familiar scenery (during my semester in DC I spent almost no time in Georgetown). Then I went back to the hotel to meet up with Celeste, her husband, her sister, and her brother-in-law. She had invited me to go out to dinner with them (Ethiopian food!!), and I was very happy to go. At the restaurant we met up with her friend, her friend's husband, and her niece.

Dinner was great! I was so excited to be included, and I had a wonderful time. In the cab ride on the way over I mentioned that the previous day had been my birthday (in reference to my failed Georgetown Cupcakes attempt). Later, at the end of dinner, they surprised me with a piece of cake and a candle, and sang happy birthday! It was so sweet, I honestly choked up.
I know, that's not the best picture, but it's the one I got. The next morning I got up and went to Kramerbooks and Afterwords - by far my favorite place in DC to get brunch! After a delicious meal, I tried to get myself excited about a day of museum hopping and sight-seeing (although the conference continued during this day, my presentation and all panels relevant to me were over, so I ended up with this extra day). But the weather was awful (rainy, chilly, the whole bit), and I was flatly exhausted. I ended up deciding that getting my money's worth out of the hotel room was just as good a way to spend my mini-vacation. I ended up catching up on being lazy! I napped, I watched TV (something I hadn't done in four months!), I did some reading for school, and I enjoyed a precious quiet day. Those don't exist in New York, which can be part of its charm. But it was something worth savoring.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

There Is A Time For Us To Wander

It's possible that I'm becoming jaded to the never-ending supply of zaniness that New York always seems eager to offer. Last week, for example, I decided to enjoy the (rare. Oh, so very rare) nice weather that day and have a long walk. As I passed Union Square, it was crammed with people (Hundreds? Thousands?) armed with pillows. They waved them joyfully in the air preparing for what I discovered is the annual Union Square pillow fight. I did pause to take a picture, so I'm not a hopeless case. But I have to admit, I was barely even bemused. Eventually in New York you just kind of say "Well, ok. Why not?" to pretty much everything.

On that walk I ended up at the fanciest bookstore I have ever been in. So fancy, in fact, that I couldn't imagine buying any books there. They seemed to mainly sell gardening, decorating, and art books.

I went to Barnes and Noble on the way back to buy a couple of magazines. Very bourgeois of me. Fortunately I'm not a cultural Marxist (there's my education at work!).

On Saturday I got to see an AMAZING production of Company at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, with a super star-studded cast. Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, Patti LuPone, Christina Hendricks, etc etc. The ticket was a birthday present from my mom, and I had an incredible time. I loved the whole show, though the one who really blew it out of the water was Patti LuPone singing "Ladies Who Lunch." The biggest laugh probably went to Christina Hendricks, voicing the indifference of New York that I was talking about earlier. Describing her roommate, she matter-of-factly said, "He was born in New York, so nothing interests him."

I don't actually think I'm done being dazzled by the city, I think I'm just sulking with it because Spring refuses to arrive. Weeks of cold, one nice day, a week of rain, and then the cycle repeats. It's done it at least four times since I got back. I keep reminding myself that when I got here in September there were warm sunny days that were a joy to be out in, and that this is not the miserable weather capital of America. But I am impatient for the transition. It's got to be soon, right?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Start Spinning Slipping Out of Time

Whoops! A month without an update. Honestly, I've been way busy with school work, plus I was home for 9 days over Spring break (which was amazing!). The Spring semester always flies by, and this semester has not been an exception. There's already only 7 weeks left until I head home for the summer, and in that time I've got 4 big papers to write (the first one - 12-14 pages - is due Monday. The other three are my final papers, one of which is supposed to be 25-30 pages long! So... I really need to start them now, even though they're not due for almost two months. Plus, in April I'm going to DC for conference weekend. Lately my fun times are the days I sleep in a couple of hours, get a friend to do school work with me, or find someone who has a free hour at the same time as me to grab a cup of coffee.

Not to say I'm not enjoying myself, because I love my classes and am really interested in what I'm studying. But not so much in the adventures-to-report category. I'll be more motivated to work on that once Spring finally shows up here (it snowed last night!).

The week before I went home for Spring Break (so, about three weeks ago), Angus came to New York to visit. We had a great time together! And here are some pictures:

With his massive liverwurst sandwich at 2nd Ave Deli
Our visit to Radio City Music Hall to see "Red State"
Digging in to our super fancy/delicious macaroni and cheese at 'smac
With beloved fiction writer Jasper Fforde

Friday, February 25, 2011

I Ain't Changed, But I Know I Ain't The Same

I've been staying pretty busy lately - classes this semester aren't really much more demanding than last semester, but they seem to be absorbing more of my time anyway. Still, I have been finding time for fun, so that's what I'll catch up on here. Last week we had a couple of totally glorious days of warmer temperatures - up in the mid-sixties. I decided to go walk around (in jeans and a short sleeved shirt!) in Central Park. On the way there I passed a music video shoot. I stopped to watch for a little while, largely out of curiosity to figure out whose music video it was. I eventually gave up. Nobody standing there knew, and it became wildly boring before too long, since they were just doing establishing shots.

In Central Park the ice, piled up after a very snowy winter, was melting so quickly that small rivers were running down all the hills. I visited the once-famous (now defunct) Tavern On The Green.
This used to be THE restaurant for the Broadway big shots to come to after a show. But it went out of business. Now it's a visitor's center (overpriced Central Park t-shirt anyone?). And the famous Crystal Room is shuttered. Technically speaking, the rich and powerful could still get food there, but they're probably not interested in what's on offer.
One rarely observes the glamorous eating from food trucks, even such high quality food trucks as have moved in here.

A couple of days later I visited Momofuku Milk Bar with my friend Michelle (at her suggestion). It is excellent suggestions such as these that keep things interesting. Milk Bar is a dessert spot that serves pretty off-the wall treats - in this picture I'm enjoying an apple pie truffle (small truffle that tastes EXACTLY like apple pie). They have things like blueberry cream cookies, French toast ice cream, cinnamon bun pie, and compost cookies (which have potato chips, pretzels, various candies, and coffee in them). Definitely super delicious, and pretty darn indulgent. A nice little place to visit at the end of a hard week of class work.

Over the weekend, Michelle's friend Marissa came to visit from Toronto, and I went with them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for Balcony Bar. Every Friday and Saturday evening the Met sets up tables in the second floor balcony area (near Ancient Chinese Art), brings in a string quartet and a piano to play classical music, and serves wine and hors d'oeuvres. We even got all dressed up, and thus had a super classy museum trip.
Marissa and Me in front of the Temple of Dendur

On Tuesday I went with Marissa to The Jewish Museum to see their exhibit on Harry Houdini. It was fantastic! I learned a lot about the life of Houdini, and got to see his handcuffs, milk jug, upside down water chamber, and much more. It was a great display, with tons of artifacts from Houdini's life (which were super cool), old videos of Houdini performing his tricks (which were amazing), and modern art inspired by Houdini (which I was less interested in).

This weekend is a big school work weekend for me. Even though our Spring temperatures only lasted a couple of days, and it's chilly again, they did make me optimistic about the coming change in seasons. Hopefully as the weather continues to improve I can continue having time for adventures.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Break The Lock If It Don't Fit

Since it's been a little more than a week since my last post, I feel like I really need to put something here. Unfortunately, I haven't done anything especially interesting in the past 10 days. What can I say? It's been cold, my new living situation means I don't mind staying in, I've had plenty to do for my classes, my friends are also busy, and (reiteration for emphasis) it's been cold.

Not to say I haven't been having a nice time. Yesterday my suitemate and I walked 3 miles up to a Swedish coffee shop and back, and we had delicious frothy drinks and a nice time. We even saw Meg Ryan on the street. Wednesday I made banana pudding for my friend Kim (she's from South Korea, and had never tried it before), and we had some fun hanging out. Also on Wednesday, one of my professors took everyone out for a drink at his favorite bar after class. That was also very pleasant, and I got to know some of my classmates a little better.

Today I'm (finally) seeing The King's Speech - we got $3 tickets through the building we live in. It's supposed to warm up this week, so maybe I'll feel a little more adventurous. Right now things seem to be on a pleasantly even keel.