Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"You Can Stare Into the Abyss, But It's Staring Right Back"

Today marks one month since I moved in to the NYU apartment (and thus shifting from a New York vacation to New York living). In honor of that, I'm taking a moment to reflect a little what I've learned about life in the city.

*I Don't Like Getting Drinks from Starbucks Anymore*
In Charleston, many of my days were brightened by my favorite Starbucks drink: tall nonfat no water chai tea latte. I loved them, and would take almost any excuse to visit a Starbucks and snag one. But, unlike Charleston, New York is brimming with local coffee shops, almost all of which offer better quality than Starbucks. The food is tastier (pastries and the meals available), the drinks are bigger, and a lot of them seem interested in helping the environment (Think Coffee divides their trash section into compost, paper recycling, and plastic recycling).

But the one that killed Starbucks is Mud Coffee. In every other coffee place, chai tea lattes taste pretty much the same as the ones at Starbucks. But the ones at Mud are amazing. They've left Starbucks seeming bland and too sweet. So now, rather than go to the Starbucks practically across the street, I trot down Broadway to the Mud Truck or head over to the Lower East Side to visit the store. That's not to say I never visit Starbucks. There's one on pretty much every corner, and it's one of the few places in New York where you don't have to be a customer to use the bathroom.

*Eye Contact with Strangers is Always Incorrect
When I tell people that in Charleston we commonly make eye contact with other people on the street, people think it's strange. They imagine we go around staring at each other or something. Well, we don't, but we also don't go to the extreme lengths to pretend no one else is around that New Yorkers do. I've mainly noticed this when I go running. When you're running in Charleston and you pass another runner, you generally make eye contact and give the other one some kind of nod or wave of acknowledgement. Not so here. It actually took several weeks for me to stop expecting it, but I've learned to put myself in the imaginary tunnel everyone else seems to be in.

*I am a Braver Runner
Another running related story, but when I took up running at home, every time I wanted to go I would drive the 15-20 minutes to Hampton Park, the nearest place with safe running trails. The idea of running down the sidewalk seemed crazy to me - I didn't want to get in anyone's way, I was afraid of looking silly, etc. But here everyone feels entitled to the space they're in (whether they should or not), and you'd have to do something really silly to stand out. As a result, I'm totally comfortable heading out the door and down the sidewalk whenever I feel like the exercise.
The Hudson River Greenway, about a ten minute run from my place

*I Completely Hate Taxis Here
They are insanely aggressive on the road, they go way too fast down my street, and they honk way too often. I have ridden in them twice since I moved in here; one trip ended with tears, and both ended with nausea. I go to great lengths to avoid them. This is limited to New York - my taxi experiences in other cities (D.C., London) were quite pleasant.

*Eating is an Ordeal
New Yorkers eat out for every meal. This isn't really an exaggeration, or a statement about how crowded restaurants are at all hours (during the week waits are minimal to reasonable). But without cars and with tiny kitchens, New York is not a city that favors cooking. As a result, most people eat everything on the go, stocking their kitchens with the barest of snack food. I enjoy cooking, but getting groceries is tough when you have to either walk back with your load or choose your items online. As a result, I swing back and forth between dealing with the arduous task of acquiring supplies and caving to the convenient and delicious on the go food. This is something I'm still struggling to get a grip on, but I think my love affair with the Chelsea Market will help me find more stable balance. Maybe next month.

*There's Always More
Even though I walk everywhere (almost) and I make a real effort to see and do a lot, I simultaneously feel like I'm getting a handle on it here and that I've barely scraped the surface. I'm not sure you could really take advantage of everything New York has to offer even if you devoted your life to it.

Sometimes I feel like I'm part of it all, and other times I feel like I'm peeking into a strange world from the outside. Overall I'm enjoying all the new experiences a lot, and I'm very happy to be here. It can all be a bit tiring though.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"In a New York Minute Things Can Get a Little Strange"

New York gets really crowded on the weekends. I guess that's to be expected - tourist roll in, and the teens and young adults from the surrounding areas flock to the trendy bars and restaurants. As a result, I have decided that I'm best served by doing all my schoolwork on the weekend, and having my free time during the week. Thus I avoid crowds and long lines when I visit the cool places. Really, it's a genius plan. I just need one or two other people to convert to it, since at the moment I do all my cool week activities alone, and have to disrupt my work on the weekends to socialize.

On Saturday I finally went to the markets that I've been meaning to go to - Union Square Greenmarket and the Chelsea Market. The Union Square Greenmarket is a farmer's market that takes place four times a week in nearby Union Square - famous as one of the best in the country. It was pretty impressive (Saturday is the biggest day), but I think in the future I'll go during the week when it's less crowded (See how I think?).

We have a farmer's market - one I'm quite fond of - in Charleston, so maybe that kept me from being too giddy about the Union Square experience. But we don't have anything like the Chelsea Market: a permanent market in the old Nabisco factory where the Oreo was invented. Parts of it still feel and look an awful lot like an old factory, and other bits have the flavor of a high end mall sneaking in. There's a shop run by a local dairy where you can get your milk, eggs, etc or buy a milkshake made with their farm fresh milk and ice cream. There's an Italian market where you can get lunch or browse the international meats, cheeses, and other ingredients. There are many bakeries, and several restaurants serving farm fresh food. I bought Spanish goat cheese and plum preserves from the Italian market. This is one of my new favorite places.

That evening I got dinner with my friend Rachel. We decided to head for Little Italy, since she was in the mood for "cheesy comfort food." However, we did not count of the Feast of San Gennaro. The Feast of San Gennaro is an 11-day festival held every year on Mulberry Street in Little Italy. Historically it is rooted in Catholicism and collecting money for the poor. These days it is more focused on free refill pina coladas (and allegations of mafia connections). Yes, we stumbled straight into New York's most popular party that night.

A rare break in the crushing flow of revelers

That's not to say I'm sorry we hit at prime feast time. It was definitely an experience. It was an amped up, bigger better version of everything similar I've seen. (Which is admittedly not much. The Azalea Festival? The Fair?) Sure, there were stands that sold funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos. But there were also massive steaks roasting over open flames and fresh high quality food being fried up in street stands. We got an outdoor table at one of the restaurants (from which the above picture was snapped), and enjoyed watching the waves of people go by as we ate our food.

Sunday I took a lunchtime break from my studies to attend a multicultural potluck lunch with Mario, Ji-Sup, and Dong-hyung Kim. We all contributed food that represented our cultural heritage, so I brought macaroni and cheese and deviled eggs. I felt a little vanilla when those were compared with the South Korean and Philippine dishes. But I guess I didn't need to. Mario, who'd had deviled eggs once before, was thrilled to see them, and raved to Kim about how "exotic" they are. Similar response to the oven baked macaroni and cheese, which was rewarding. Of course, I was much more excited about trying their food. We resolved to do it again as a dinner soon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"This Autumn in New York Transforms the Slums into Mayfair"

I've had a sort of odd week in New York City life, marked by confusion, mistakes, and spur of the moment decision making. In a good way.

First confusion first - every time I enter Central Park, I am inevitably lost. Since I never go when I have to be in a hurry, it's not really an unpleasant way to be. I wander through, thinking I'm heading west (while actually heading in any other direction), and discover all kinds of new things.
Sir Walter Scott? What are you doing here?

I'd had no idea the people of New York were such fans of Ivanhoe until I encountered this Sir Walter Scott statue. He was across from Robert Burns, and near William Shakespeare and an unlabeled Indian with a dog. Why? 'Cause. In Central Park, I feel like Alice in Wonderland. "Wait, there's a carousel there? Where did this jazz quartet come from? Does no one else find that girl doing Cirque du Soleil style hula hooping strange or interesting? Ok, fine, I'll just continue going West (North)." Really, the only way to be sure I've got my bearings is to leave Central Park, and thus return to the orderly grid of New York streets that I'm becoming quite familiar with.

Spur of the moment choice? My decision to visit the New York Stock Exchange and the Charging Bull statue. I had been watching a tv show on Netflix (Dead Like Me), and it completely bummed me out. Hardly surprising since - as the title may have suggested - death is a pretty major focus of the show. So I decided to go for a walk to cheer myself up, and the New York Stock exchange was the perfect distance away. I admit, this was also more out of a sense of duty to New York sightseeing than actual interest. I figured I go, I'd see them, I'd take my pictures, and I'd have it done. And I was at least half right. I did get my New York Stock Exchange picture, with the Wall Street sign in the frame and everything. It was right across the street from where George Washington took the oath of office. (Thanks to my time in DC, I already knew that Washington was the third capital under the Constitution - preceded by Philadelphia and New York. However, I had not known that George Washington was sworn in on Wall Street, so that was kind of a fun surprise).

The Charging Bull is actually not on Wall Street, but further down Broadway. And it's impressive, but not impressive enough for me to fight through all these people for a good picture. I still count myself as having seen it though.

Yesterday I went to lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant with a few girls in my program, and Rachel and I got coffee at Mud - my favorite coffee place by far. Then, I decided to walk to these two stores that sounded interesting, and were four miles away. So I headed up Madison Avenue.

Passing Times Square, I realized I was at the right time to try to win cheap tickets to Wicked in the lottery, so I tried. I lost, but didn't mind as it's not much trouble and I'll have plenty more opportunities. I bet not as many people show up in the dead of winter.

So I continued up Madison Avenue, and (finally) got to the first store of interest... and it had gone out of business recently. Darn. Another 10/15 blocks and I get to the second store of interest..... which closes at 7. I got there at exactly 7, and they were extremely closed. Oh well.

So I start to walk back (I am now 74 blocks from my apartment, and kind of tired). I considered taking the subway, but it was a beautiful night and the streets were packed with tourists, so there was really no reason to. I switched over to 5th Avenue, which I prefer to Madison. At around 34th Street (only 30 blocks from the goal!), I passed the Empire State Building. And I thought to myself, "Why let the evening be a total bust?" So I went to the top of the Empire State Building.

It really was a breathtaking view, and the fact that a thunderstorm started about 30 seconds after I got out on the deck did not diminish the experience. It may have made it cooler. And it did motivate me to take the subway for those last 30 blocks.

Friday, September 17, 2010

These Vagabond Shoes, They Are Longing to Stray

It's been a good week in New York, in spite of the weather taking a turn for the chilly and at least one tornado. On Tuesday I got up early so I could cross some things off my New York to-do list.

First on the list: my second New York bagel - this time from Murray's Bagels (my first was from Ess-A-Bagel). Pictured here is the garlic with cream cheese. A day or two later I ended up back at Murray's when a friend and I went out for lunch. That day I got the everything with cream cheese - and when I bit into the bagel my lip got a small but deep cut that bled profusely for an embarrassing length of time. I think it was a sesame seed. So in the future, I'll be sticking to garlic bagels at Murray's.

After Murray's I went to Fishs Eddy, where my longstanding refusal to buy more utensils than I needed finally paid off. Kmart only sells forks and spoons in packages of like 8-12, and since I only wanted 2 of each, I've been using disposables while hoping to come across individually marked flatware. And here they were - only 99 cents each. There was also a ton of useful dishes and kitchenware, as well as kitchsy fun mugs and plates.

Then I went to a bookstore on the Upper East Side that only sells cookbooks and books about food, which made for fun browsing. I strolled through Central Park and made my way to the Upper West Side, where I went to Flor de Mayo, a Cuban/Chinese restaurant.

Vegetable lo mein with fried plantains.

It's an unexpected combination, but one that works deliciously. The service was kind of brusk (at 12:05 they were refusing to unlock the front door and informing objecting patrons that they opened at 12; I went to the Urban Outfitters next door to wait them out rather than argue), but you get used to that in New York. Not in every place, obviously. But waiters do not always feel obliged to help you enjoy your dining experience.

I walked back to my apartment, stopping at one bookstore along the way. It was six miles from Flor de Mayo to my place, which was a little ambitious even for me. But overall I enjoyed it very much.

Wednesday I had lunch/coffee with Michelle, a girl from my program who was a lot of fun to hang out with. That night I had tapas with Dong-hyung (Kim), Mario, and Jisup. We went to La Nacional, the oldest Spanish restaurant in New York. We had our usual good time, and (as always) had coffee at a nifty spot afterwards.

Since then I've been pretty focused on reading and classes, though I did manage to grab a cup of coffee with Rachel today. She's from Cyprus - but (it's a small world after all!) her father is from Charleston and her uncle owns Mr. John's Beach Store on Folly.

Also today, I booked my train tickets for a day in DC on October 30th so that I can attend Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity! At least one other girl from my program is going, so that will certainly be a fun time when it rolls around.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"You're Addicted to the Lights, To the Sounds, To the Sights"

So, now I've been to two out of three classes, and done of all the reading for both. I'm feeling pretty on top of it. I think as long as I keep getting the reading done a priority, I should be just fine. Though I understand how people have trouble. New York is full of tempting distractions.

On Friday I went to lunch at Katz's with Ji-Sup (from New York), Mario (from the Philippines), and Dong-hyun (from South Korea). Afterwards we got coffee at Mud, which is by far my favorite coffee shop in New York so far. They bring your drinks in these big hearty mugs, and my chai tea latte tasted like Christmas. I'm definitely remembering that one for the holiday season.

Saturday I finished my reading, and then walked up to Times Square and kicked around that area for a little while. In the evening I went out again with Ji-Sup, Mario, and Dong-hyun. We went to several bars around Greenwich Village, and decided we should start going out to dinner once a week and try a different ethnic food each time. It was a lot of fun.

At Mud Coffee with Dong-hyun (not a flattering shot of me, but she looks cute!)

On the town

Today it's pretty rainy, so I didn't get to walk as much as I'd normally like. I took the subway to the Upper East Side so I'd have time to check out this one bookstore before I met people for dessert. But the bookstore was closed.
So I wandered through Central Park instead - which was fun. This is my third time there, but I see something new every time I go. This time the new thing was the Alice in Wonderland Statue.

I had planned to meet a group of people from my major at Serendipity 3 (famous for desserts and old timey celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, and Jackie O). But three of them cancelled last minute, and seven just didn't show up! I mean, it was raining, and the people who cancelled said they were overwhelmed by all the reading they still had to do. I was a little unhappy, but that's the problem with planning events through Facebook - a Facebook RSVP doesn't feel like a real commitment.

Fortunately, this story does not end with me standing out in the rain waiting on someone, anyone, who said they would meet me to come. One of the 11 RSVPs made it, and she brought two friends. And any irritation I may have felt at the seven no shows no explanations was quickly soothed by feeling totally overwhelmed by desserts!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"I Like the Island Manhattan. Smoke on Your Pipe and Put That In."

The bar on Monday was quite a lot of fun, and an interesting experience. It was a hidden door bar. Apparently to cater to the deep-seated need New Yorkers have to feel cooler than everyone else, the best bars do not have signs, or really anything to indicate that they're there. You have to be hip enough to know where it is before you can come in. Check out the door to Apotheke:

Yeah, this looks like a good idea

Additionally, the intersection where the bar is located is known as "The Bloody Angle" because of the area's history of horrific Chinese gang violence. And it's not known as that to just a few on the inside - that's the name that showed up on my phone's Google Map when directing me to the place. The place (so they say) is a former opium den. One of the girls with me was from Hong Kong, and she said the sign above the door says it is a karaoke restaurant. So, maybe between the opium den and the bar there was karaoke and chicken. Or maybe they brought in the karaoke sign to help hide the door from the undeserving.

In any case, once you get inside, there's a much more posh vibe. Bartenders wear lab coats and mix your drinks in old fashioned vials and beakers (or, you know, martini shakers). The furniture and decorations are very Victorian feeling, but a fantasy Victorian where The Killers were playing.

We had a good time, but atmosphere ain't cheap. The bill (with the added 20% gratuity) came out to about $18 per drink (it's a surprise - classy places don't put prices on the menu). I'd had one drink, and was not too put out. The guy who'd had four was extremely put out.

Yesterday my cold was worse, making me kind of annoyed and sniffly for the first day of class. It was the core seminar, which everyone in the major has to take. And it was very nice, the professor seemed happy to ease everyone into graduate studies. We all introduced ourselves and discussed our interests, and he gave us tips for strategic reading and analysis. He encouraged us to take care of ourselves and enjoy the city, and also not to be shy about getting to know the faculty. While I appreciate the easing of transition, I think I came in a little too keyed up, expecting a full on class. Combined with the cold, I think I came off as a bit overeager. But whatever. I am eager. There are worse traits. And there are about a hundred pages of reading to do for that class by next week, so I don't think I'll have misplaced energies for long.

Today I had no classes, and I went with a group to see West Side Story on Broadway during the matinee. ("Twenty dollars a ticket? Well I was going to read, but my professor told me it was important to enjoy the city!") It was excellent, though the guy who played Riff was kind of flat. It's a shame, since if you're not dazzled by charisma and "Daddy-o's" you start to notice that he's really not very likable. In the movie he's my favorite character. In this, he just seemed like a racist jerk. The actress who played Anita was amazing though. Plus, the show had been updated and translated so that the Sharks and their ladies spoke Spanish primarily with each other. It made it feel much more real, and helped pull me in despite how well I know the show.

Afterwards I went with a couple of people to enter the lottery to buy front row tickets to Wicked for $26. We did not win, but there weren't so many people that winning seemed impossible. I think I'll just keep going back once or twice a week until I make it. It's not a huge commitment; at 5:30 they take the names and at 6:00 they draw the winners. After not winning, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant. Times Square is crowded, but certainly not boring.

My cold is starting to get a bit better, and I'm very interested to see what my class tomorrow will be like. Seminar is kind of a survey course meant to touch on everything, but tomorrow is Media, Memory and History. A very specific class taught by the department head. It's mostly second year students - I had to be waitlisted for a month before I got it. I'm excited to see how that goes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"These Streets Will Make You Feel Brand New, Big Lights Will Inspire You"

Since I started to feel a cold coming on yesterday, I took it easy. After I went to lunch with people from my major, I kicked back and took it easy. And though the Indian food I had delivered for dinner was probably worthy of its own blog (I only thought I liked Indian food in South Carolina. Here, it's AMAZING), it was hardly up to the levels of sightseeing and excitement I try to bring to this.

Today I've still got that sore throat that is the premonition of a cold, so I'm forcing myself to have another restful day. After I got up I went to the coffee shop (literally) around the corner for a hot drink and snack. Think Coffee is a very organic/fair trade/green/etc place - their trash area is separated into "Compost" "Paper Recycling" and "Plastic Recycling." All of the cups and lids are compostable. I ordered a 7 Grain muffin, and the guy who took my order looked at carefully before handing it over and then said, "Well, I can actually only see five grains here." I laughed a little, assuming he was joking and trying to be polite. But he looked apologetic and said, "They're probably on the bottom." I assured him I was fine with the number of grains, but apparently they take stuff like that seriously in New York.

Anyway, I'm supposed to go to a wacky bar this evening, which may well warrant it's own entry. For now though, I'm going to fulfill a request and give a virtual tour of my apartment.

First things first, get off the elevator and head for the end of the hallway. It's a good place to be - virtually no foot traffic goes by our door.

Open the door, and standing in the foyer you'll see my roommate's side of the room, plus our window and the door to the balcony. More on those later.

But since you'll want to see the whole thing, hang an immediate left. This awkward to photograph area is, as far as I can tell, a dressing room of sorts. It has a large closet - plenty of room for both of us to claim half and hang all our hanging clothes - and is much bigger than it appears on camera.

Through to the other side is the bathroom. Not glamourous, but waaay more spacious than a lot of New York bathrooms. Nothing to complain about here.

So come back to the foyer, hang a left, and you'll see our table. It hasn't been used for much of anything except storage yet, but there's potential.

On the other side of the table, in a very cute alcove kind of thing, is our awkward to photograph kitchen. Also, that is not a camera trick - it is the tiniest oven you have ever seen. I really like it a lot though. Plus - gas. Granted, at the moment only the stovetops, and not the oven, light. But I put in a work request, so hopefully that will change soon.

A little bit of the other side of the alcove, before I totally gave up on getting the counters and cabinets in a shot. Through the window you can see a bit of my side of the room.

And here's my side in full!

Giant window and door to the balcony.

The view from the balcony! The orangish building through the tree is the NYU library.

So anyway, that's where I live!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"The Hip Hooray and the Bally Hoo, The Lullaby of Broadway"

The party last night was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I overcame my usual party reluctance to attend. It was a fairly small group of people from my major gathering together on the rooftop deck at one person's apartment to drink wine and get to know each other better. So far I really like everyone in my group that I've met, and I feel optimistic about the potential to make good friends here.

Sort of an aside to any of my readers who may have been fans of the show Friends - remember the Ugly Naked Guy? It was a neighbor across from the characters' apartment who they could see from their window. I always assumed that was a ridiculous running gag, but this guy's place had a Fat Naked Guy. Just hanging out on the deck minding our business, enjoying the scenery, we see a guy in a deck area on the ground, hanging up laundry, and letting the night air blow across every visible part of him. Fortunately (or unfortunately for the very curious), his rather enormous stomach and the laundry kept us from having his nudity absolutely confirmed - so we can give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was wearing short shorts. The guy whose apartment we were at said FNG was out there all the time, and was never wearing clothes.

Today I slept in a bit, and then spent the first part of the afternoon doing laundry. After that was finished I decided to cross a couple of more items off my New York Bucket List (not an abstract thing - it's a slightly more than three page long document on my computer listing the restaurants, stores, and sites that are my highest priorities to see). I went to the Lower East Side to check out Bluestockings, "a radical bookstore." It was small, but with an interesting selection of feminist, Marxist, anti-establishment, and various other literatures. Then I went back to the other end of SoHo to try a truffle at Kee's Chocolate. It was very good, but not dazzling.

I got back to the apartment and realized there was still plenty of time left in the day, so I walked back to the East Side to to eat at Mud Coffee, which had been recommended to me. Unfortunately they were cash only, and I had given all me cash to laundry earlier. So I walked to Snice, which is a sandwich shop in the Meat Packing District I already knew I liked. They were also cash only, but at this point I was quite hungry and just paid the $2.00 service charge at the nearest atm. Then I walked back to the apartment. All told, today had 6.2 miles of walking.

So now I'm back at the apartment, and looking to get settled in for the evening. Maybe it's all the walking, but I get tired pretty early in New York City.

Friday, September 3, 2010

"'Cause Everyone's My Friend in New York City"

Yesterday I decided not to set an alarm, and let myself sleep as much as I needed. I went to sleep around 11:30 the night before, and woke up from what may have actually been a coma at 1:00pm. Madness! Something about New York City really burns through my energy. Maybe it's all the activity or excitement. Maybe it's all the walking (more on that later). In any case, my day was shorter than I had intended.

Once I was up, I decided to cross a couple of desired sites off of my New York City bucket list. I rode the subway to the Frick, an art museum near Central Park. It was the Gilded Age home of one of those robber barons/titans of industry who was an avid art collector. In his will, he stipulated he wanted his house converted into a museum so that everyone could enjoy the art. It's still almost exactly like it was when the family lived there, down to the furniture, and is a very intimate and relaxing setting to see some great works.

Some favorites:

They're all extremely impressive in person. Anyway, after the Frick I decided to walk back to Greenwich village - about 4 miles. I love walking in New York City!

Plus, getting on the subway in Greenwich Village and getting off at 5th Ave by Central Park is liking moving between planets. I wanted to walk back and see the gradual transition. Which I did. The stores changed, but so did the architecture. I really enjoy seeing a historic building and a modern skyscraper next to each other. This is on 5th Ave (which I took pretty much the whole way back). Obviously you can't see the top of the skyscraper - it continues for quite a while. But right next to the church; it's very interesting to me. In Charleston we've got plenty of the historic buildings, but certainly no skyscrapers.

On this trip, I decided to stop at Eisenberg's, a sandwich shop that has been in business since 1929, which my guidebook informed me was a pure New York experience. And the best place to get an egg cream. I didn't know what an egg cream was, but since I plan to have as many pure New York experiences as possible (at least, as many positive ones as possible - not getting mugged or anything), I decided it was a must do.

So, for everyone who didn't know, an egg cream is a fountain drink invented in Brooklyn in the late 19th century. It contains milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer. No eggs, no cream. And no one knows where the name egg cream comes from. But what's important is that it is DELICIOUS. Oh my Lord. I love egg creams. The sandwich I had was fine, nothing special. But I would have done all those miles of walking for just the egg cream. So wonderful. And even though there were some tables in the back, I sat at the sandwich counter so I could watch the cooking. I kind of made friends with the cook, who seemed to enjoy my enthusiasm and good manners.

Today I went on a tour of the library with other people from my major. I'm glad I went - the library has 12 levels open to students, and is kind of complicated. Not unmanageable, especially since I've had a a guided tour. But it would have been hard to figure out on my own. Afterwards we had a picnic in the park. I picked up my lunch from a place that makes nothing but different varieties of peanut butter sandwiches. It was pretty good; peanut butter with apples, cream cheese, and cinnamon raisins. But as more a one time novelty than something I need again. I could only finish half of it.

And now I'm back in the apartment, kicking back. Other people in my major are throwing a party tonight, but it doesn't start until 11. Parties tend not to be my thing, but it's close by and I won't make friends if I don't socialize. So, I think I'll take a nap and then go pick up my snack contribution.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The City's Bright as a Penny Arcade; It Blinks, It Tilts, It Rings

Yesterday was another fairly low key day. I started the day by shopping for new running shoes. I found them, at a store where you stand on a machine that determines your foot type and running shoe needs. After your foot pressure points and arch heights have been discovered (a lot of weight on the toes and high arches - in case you were interested), you try one shoes. Then you run on a treadmill for a little while in the shoes, while a camera films your feet. A clerk then watches your running in slow motion, and checks on how the shoes do; whether your ankles roll more or less than with another pain, how your form is, and where you put your weight when you land. Needless to say, I have a lot of confidence in my shoe purchase.

Later in the afternoon, there was an orientation meeting for my major. We heard from the department head, a librarian, some current students, and the graduate advisor. Apparently the library is an incredible resource, but also huge and confusing. The professors are brilliant, but eccentric and sometimes hard to get ahold of. Classes are rewarding and chock full of fascinating information, but insanely demanding and draining. When someone asked a current student how she balances her classes with work and a personal life she said, "I don't. It's not possible. Something suffers."

I think it intimidated a lot of people. And to some degree, I think it was meant to. Academic programs want to be the hardest and the toughest - judging by what Angus said about his orientation law school is devoted to it. The honors college at CofC loved to go on and on about how unreasonably demanding and difficult their Western Civ course was. But you know what? It was my favorite class in all my time at CofC. Maybe that experience prejudices me, but being told how difficult it would be and how daunted I would feel just made me more excited for classes to start. Good! Bring it! I'm here to learn and grow! How can I be impressive if it's not hard? Though I will admit, it made me think I should hold off on getting a job, even a part time one, until I know the lay of the land.

After the, "This can be wonderful, but will be the most difficult thing you ever experience" meeting, we had a sort of meet and greet with other students. I guess it could have been an opportunity to meet a lot of people, but I don't really do well in the mixer/networking environment. Loud music, lots of strangers, and a dark room send me looking for an exit - not blossoming into a social butterfly. Fortunately, another future classmate felt the exact same way, so I had a potential friend to hide out with. We got on fine, and I think I'll get to know people when classes start.

Today I set my alarm for 7:00am so I could go running in Central Park first thing. It was gorgeous! I started myself running this summer, because I'd read that running around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir should be on everyone's NYC bucket list.And the hard work paid off - I made the full loop no problem. It's only a mile and half, so not really that impressive. You'd have to know how the opposite of capable of running I was before I started. And the view was AMAZING. The skyline and the water and the sunrise - I really love Central Park! Though it is like 20-25 minutes away on the subway, so I'm going to have to find a route closer to me that I can run.

Later, I went on a walking tour being offered by the Graduate Welcome Week - through SoHo (South of Houston Street), Nolita (North of Little Italy), Little Italy, and Chinatown. It wasn't in-depth, but there were some good shopping pointers. I also learned that it is very important to pronounce Houston Street as "House-ton" in order to avoid being identified as a non New Yorker.

At the end of the tour we got dim sum, which apparently are Chinese dumplings that are extremely popular here. You sit at your table, as servers with carts piled high with various dishes come by and unload what you want. The girl sitting next to me was from Singapore, and she ordered everything for our table in Chinese (Cantonese? Mandarin? I don't know which). We drank water and hot tea, and ate the many delicious dim sum. My table ended up getting along very well - and afterwards most of us went to a cafe in Little Italy for cappuccinos and coffees. It was a really fun and interesting group - a girl from Turkey and Greece, a girl from South Korea, a guy from the Philippines, and a guy from New York. We all exchanged information, and I'm hoping I've made my first New York friends.

I spent the later part of the afternoon perusing the four bookstores I've found in walking distance of my apartment. Though none of them had a book on running like I was looking for (I've outgrown my initial program and don't want to just freehand it), they were very enjoyable to me. Now I'm kicked back in the apartment, debating dinner options and considering pulling my desk chair onto the balcony for the evening.