Saturday, December 28, 2013

Window Shopping III

Every year I've gone to see them, department store Bergdorf Goodman proves to me their holiday windows are the only ones worth seeing. While I didn't have the pleasure last year, my trip this year reminds me of how silly it is to miss them. In case you didn't know, the famed store spends all year planning their holiday windows and 15 days installing them, with a staff of over 100 people from beginning to end (for more Bergdorf's windows, or #BGWindows, facts, click here!). This year, the theme for their 5th Avenue windows was "Holidays on Ice," featuring icy interpretations of Halloween, Valentine's Day, Arbor Day, Independence Day, New Year's Eve, Groundhog Day, April Fool's Day, and more! Take a look at some of my photos of the gorgeous installations here:











Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sights and Sounds of the Season

Like screens on a window, some things you don't notice until they're right in front of you. There are a few such instances I've taken notice of this holiday season that I find are especially New York in nature.

For example, nothing, not even the the monsoon-like downpour of snow last Saturday, can keep a New Yorker, myself included, away from their Christmas shopping. I trudged through the snow that just kept falling all day (perhaps it's because I'm from Florida, but I've never seen anything like that in my life; it was, in fact, rather bewildering) because that day was the only day I had to get such things in order. As garbage as it can be to trudge through the New York snow, there is no place else I would rather be trudging. And I did it like a champion, no thanks to the herds of SantaCon-ers crowding the subway whom I prayed would not vomit on me in a drunken stupor, only to apologize with a high-pitched "OMIGOD I'M SOOOOO SORRY" or "Oh, uh, sorry bro." Nonetheless, I enjoyed my trip to one of my regular gifting locations, the Strand Bookstore. I got lost as I always do in their miles of books, at least one mile of my own that I lust after every time. I stood in that crazy holiday line to purchase gifts, dreaming about what book I might like to buy next.

It's also wonderful to get a brisk, crisp chill alongside some sun, which I have been fortunate enough to have these last few days in the city. One night it was even warm enough to walk down the street with my coat unbuttoned, and I got to enjoy a nice cozy stroll before heading uptown. I started at Beyond Sushi, a vegan sushi joint on 14th and 3rd (only in New York, right? But it was delicious, and I highly recommend the Mighty Mushroom roll. It features purple Six Grain Rice, Enoki, Shiitake, Tofu, and Micro Arugula, and is topped with a delish mushroomy paste YUM. Wash it down with a cucumber mint lemonade, hello goodbye.) I walked through the West Village, past the gorgeous brick brownstones and 1970s apartment buildings whose lobbies featured leather armchairs for guests, praying silently to myself that I may one day have the pleasure and privilege of residing in one of them.

I like the wetness of the subway stairs when the snow has melted. I like the gift vendors in Union Square. I like the store clerks wearing elf ears with their Marilyn Monroe t-shirts against their will. I like the rush of the cold air on my hands, the posters of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty outside of the obnoxiously large Regal Cinemas on Broadway, and the proliferation of red Macy's shopping bags. I like the jingle of the Salvation Army bellringers with their red buckets. Older women in luscious minks as you head uptown and the younger women in their faux fur coats downtown.

After the Strand, I sat down in a bubble tea shop--called Comebuy, on 14th between 7th and 8th, it had the most kinds of bubble tea I had ever seen in my life, though I settled on a more traditional honey green that evening--and I opened New York Magazine's annual Reasons to Love New York issue. Perhaps it's the season, this time of reflection on the almost-finished year, but I too felt nostalgic. I had also just finished reading James Wolcott's memoir Lucking Out, about his experience living in New York in the 1970s, arriving here with little else than a letter of reference from Norman Mailer in his pocket. Wolcott writes about his experiences getting, as he says, "down and semi-dirty," in the city, living on Horatio Street and in a man-cave on St. Mark's Place as a writer, when such a thing was still possible. I wonder what my 2010s memoir will look like, should I decide to write one. Will everyone expect it to look like a season of Girls? I shudder to think. What will be the things that I miss the most about my New York now, thirty to forty years in the future?

I wonder if I am just kidding myself sometimes about New York being a place to go, for lack of a better phrase, to chase your dreams. People have a lot of things to say about the way New York is now: that it's inhospitable to artists, that it's all but eliminated a middle class that used to easily live here, that it's gone corporate, that it's a money-driven Disneyland. But I still believe in the hope of New York. You can get lost in the difficulty of it all, or you can just push past it and make your life happen. Maybe it's because I am but a relatively new New Yorker (going on three and a half years), but I haven't given up just yet. I don't know that I ever will.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ladies of the Left Bank

Perhaps one of the greatest friendship phenomena I know of is that of the friendy date. Also known as the "ladydate" or "man-date," it's when two friends plan to spend a night out on the town together. You dress up, go out to a lovely place for dinner or cocktails or both, and you luxuriate in the fabulousness of your friendship. I have been on friendy dates with my bros (SW and I quite like Asiadog for our bro-moments--broments?--and BK and I have taken Empire Biscuit into our recent repertoire), and my ladies, like I did on Saturday with AS.

My friendy date sphere of thought began spinning this evening, when I reflected up on the utterly wonderful Saturday evening spent with my dear friend AS. AS and I have known each other for about eight years (ish), and she was one of the first people I swaddled into my New York life (and vice versa) upon my arrival in the city. Frightfully witty and insightful, she is one of my favorite ladies.

After making the utterly miserable mistake of trying to take a cab down the West Side Highway on a Saturday night, I arrived to meet AS at the restaurant of her choice, The Spotted Pig. She found out upon arriving first that the restaurant was known internationally for its food, which perhaps was supposed to alleviate our "Oh, fuck that" attitudes to the restaurant's two-hour wait, but it certainly did not. Instead, we wandered for a bit and, like moths to a flame, were drawn to an archway of trees set alight and sparkling with elegant white Christmas lights. Though the restaurant they surrounded was of no interest to us, we instead parked ourselves at Left Bank next door where the wait was instead 30 minutes. We figured this would be the best we'd get in the area for a place that wasn't a diner--and we did not feel like a diner that evening--so we stayed.

The very kind hostess gave us the option of sitting at the bar, though to our dismay no seats were available. We sat instead on the benches near the door, a chill swishing over us with each opening. Eventually, though, the hostess noticed some women (also on a friendy date??) leaving and gestured to us to take their seats. How kind! we thought to ourselves. Because let's be honest, in most restaurants if you can't find a seat at the bar, you can go fuck yourself and stand in the corner with your coat, no thank you very much. But she pointed out seats to us! And so we sat and enjoyed a carafe of rioja while waiting for our table. We contemplated for a moment to eat dinner at the bar, but AS said, No, let's make this a thing! We're going to a whole thing! So we did!

We shared a salad of shaved brussels sprouts with parmagiano reggiano and walnuts (I would direct you to the menu, but it changes every day!!), then I had a black fettucini (homemade pasta, by the way!) with calamari, and she the swordfish. Both were lovely dishes. We followed it with a dessert cheese plate and aperitifs (she an old-fashioned and I a Disaronno on the rocks), laughing at ourselves all the way about how we are "cleverly disguised as adults," to use AS's words. We toasted to ourselves and our friends and lovers and smiled at all the damage we did on the bill. Well, you get one life and, as my mother always tells me, you can't take it with you. One of the grand delights of a friendy date is spoiling yourself...a little bit or a lot is up to you.

Say what you will, but there is something magical that happens on friendy dates. It is the beauty of seeing exactly what you love about your friend and your friendship with them. I feel lucky in New York to experience the city with all different sorts of loved ones. Too often people get absorbed into themselves or their relationships and forget all about the people who where there first, or there when everything seemed to oil spill awful into the river of your life. It can be a challenge to see your friends sometimes, living here or anywhere: we are all very busy and important. But who doesn't love to know that they are cherished and adored? It is so nice to go out and get dolled up with a friend, no matter whether you are eating hot dogs or drinking old-fashioneds. Or both.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Feeling Radio-Active

Sitting outside today on Las Olas Boulevard, sipping a tea latte in front of a fountain (New Yorkers, my apologies if I've just boiled your blood a bit...) and staring at palm trees swathed in Christmas lights, I knew a Florida post was on the horizon. After a long and leisurely lunch and gossip session with my near and dear JS, I made my way to a place that was really one of my second homes as a budding music nerd down here: Radio-Active Records.

Selling everything from new and used vinyl (LPs, 45s, etc.) and any possible accessory to go with it, as well as new and used CDs, posters, magazines, and more, Radio-Active Records is not really a gem but an entire diamond mine of an independent music store. Nestled in the same shopping center as a tattoo parlor, a gay bar and an art gallery, it's a record store that has happily and effortlessly maintained that hipness all music stores once had: that positive, these-people-know-what-they're-talking-about-but-aren't-dicks-about-it vibe that makes for a good business and a stellar community built around it. In addition to their awesome selection of tuneage (Shannon on the Clams on vinyl, whaaat! In addition to obscure Maria Muldaur albums and an utterly rad David Bowie 45 where he sings "Heroes" in French...that last one I picked up for myself, thank you very much), Radio-Active also hosts cool, up-and-coming bands in their store: recent performances include blues rockers Deap Vally and punk outfit Remembering Never).

Even a swirling land of corporate music retailers, I always chose Radio-Active instead. The staff is friendly and helpful, not like Jack Black's character in High Fidelity who will balk at your distaste of The Jesus and Mary Chain despite your love of Echo and the Bunnymen. Plus, it's great to get into a conversation with someone who not only has varied tastes and can recommend you sounds you might like, but someone who is also willing to learn from you! (Thank you to R-A's Scott today, who told me about Burial and The Vaccines, and was willing to listen about my interest in Brooklyn band Parquet Courts). And of course I will admit it feels great when they heartily approve of your day's purchases, that my own good taste in music is hardly a figment of my own imagination.

Another fun part about today is that their 45s sale on this weekend (and hurrah, I got to support during Small Business Saturday!). There were crates upon crates upon boxes upon boxes filled with the things, all for $1 apiece. They were given to the store by a woman who had purchased all of them in hopes of filling a jukebox she never purchased. I managed to wrangle some oldie-but-goodies (Johnnie Ray, Tavares, The Seekers, and other divinities) from the crates, as well as my aforementioned David Bowie 45. I listened to the latter on their gorgeous sound system, headphones canceling all exterior noise and allowing me to lose myself in, forgive the Phil Spector reference, a wall of sound. Bowie swooned and lamented to me, the tune sweeping in a hopeful upswing through my ears. I must listen to my records more often, I said to myself. A good music store, a store like Radio-Active Records, will (and should) have that effect on you. See below for a photo of their sweet postcard with all of their contact info. If you're out of state, you can follow their radness on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, where they're really good at showing what's up at the store.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Presents/Presence

I have been remiss in not writing my annual birthday post, so here we go!



November 2
I celebrated my 25th birthday! And I sort of had a birthday week because why the hell not?

I took my annual birthday trip to Bloomingdale's and got myself a lovely sweater coat, followed by a trip to Dylan's Candy Bar for gummies and yummies, and Serendipity 3 for the ridiculous/sublime/ridiculously sublime Cleopatra's Barge: potato skins topped with sour cream and caviar with a side of red onions. I'm 25, health be damned! Then, later...

"How hot are we getting tonight?" SD asked me via text.
"How well do you know me?" I said.

I texted AS: "In case it wasn't already implied, dress code for tonight is 'look hot, betch.'"

By accident I ended up eating my Dylan's Candy Bar loot for dinner. Nothing says adulthood like caramel creams for an entree. 

That evening, the ladies stepped out, heels and all, downtown. The first stop was Decibel, the rad, red-lit, underground sake bar where the waiters all seem kind of pissed at something but don't really take it out on you. We had octopus sushi in wasabi sauce, a variety of dumplings and a laahhhhhge bottle of sake. Even sipping little bits from those teeny glasses will get you a little more than buzzed (well, me anyway). "You know how I feel about drunken women," my mother said. "But one only turns 25 once..."

Next stop was The Slipper Room, the newly refurbished burlesque house on the Lower East Side. We hooted and hollered at fierce ladies being fierce, jiggling like there was no tomorrow. I was a little worried because it was EL's first burlesque show ("What is burlesque, exactly?" she asked) but she loved it! Another convert to what I feel is a sexy, empowering performance art. Huzzah!

After the show, we left to find another bar, but SEP stopped me. "I know a guy who can get us drinks for free," she said. I figured she knew someone who would be nice and get us a couple of cocktails, but  she actually knew the manager of Beauty & Essex, a rather swank restaurant and bar on the Lower East Side. We ended up getting a table and champagne bottle service. For free. They brought one of the champagne bottles over with a giant sparkler in it and everyone sang happy birthday. I never pictured myself as a lady having a birthday 'at the club' but there I was, and there we all were, and it was marvelous. It was followed by a rather drunken bout of disco fries (cheese and gravy...I know...) at the brilliantly 24-hour Remedy diner and a rather sleepy cab ride home. I even wore my heels the entire time! Like a champ.

November 3
November 3 is my actual birthday, and it was the perfect day to take it easy and relax. Even if that wouldn't have been what I wanted to do, I would have had to because it was the day of the New York Marathon! The marathon runs directly past my house, so there was no crossing the avenue that day to get to the train and go anywhere in particular. It was fine by me, though, since DL was running the marathon! All morning I tracked his pace then did some rough calculations to see when he would be running by me. Luckily, and much of a surprise to the math gods as myself, I did it right and waited for him out by the barriers, brightly glittered sign in my hands saying "Go DL Go!". I had made it the night before, before going out, so there was glitter all over my apartment. Since we checked in before, he knew where to look for me, and soon enough he found me. I got a picture of him and he wished me happy birthday. I have to say, it's one of the best birthday presents I've ever received because it's so unique--I don't know if he'll run the marathon again, or if I'll even be living in the same place, so it could very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity to be wished happy birthday in the middle of the marathon! I was so proud of him. The magnitude of what these people are doing doesn't really strike you until they run past you and...they just keep going. I don't know if they're crazy or brilliant. Or a combination of the two.

Then I went to eat my favorite omelet, granny smith apple, cheddar cheese and chicken apple sausage, at my favorite brunch spot, The Barking Dog. I went for a walk on the East River and read a book. That evening, MDP brought me flowers and sat on my couch eating Chinese food.

November 7
My bro (yes, I said bro) BK took me out to new restaurant Empire Biscuit for my birthday. It's a 24-hour biscuit joint, with rad homemade biscuits, biscuit sandwiches, gravies, spreads, and god knows what else. We sat and had girl talk at their long wooden tables about Nora Ephron, dating, and toothbrushes while indulging in these incredible concoctions. I had a biscuit and sausage gravy sandwich while BK went the 'pig and fig' route, bacon and fig jam. Both were to die for, and I'd go back in a heartbeat. It's great, too, for late night munchies since they're open 24 hours! I mean, who doesn't want homemade, gourmet snacks at all hours of the night?

November 9
It was soiree city at The Blue Banana, my apartment. There were a bunch of people I didn't know and a bunch I did, and everyone had a fabulous time and drank champagne. My delightful roommate made me a funfetti cake topped with pink cherry frosting--"To Our Favorite Diva, Happy Birthday Elyssa." With 25 candles!

November 10
EH stayed over after my birthday and we went gallivanting around downtown. Our first stop was the Daily Candy Bazaar, and we managed to scoop up some free Jamberry nail wraps (they're like sheets of nail polish with different patterns on them)! Next stop was Vanessa's Dumplings--you have to go to the one on Broome and Eldridge, because that's where you can get 10 dumplings for $5. No, I'm not joking. We also got bubble tea and a sesame pancake, then sat on the steps of Eleanor Roosevelt Park on Houston and Chrystie to people-watch. We then strolled through Bond No. 9 fragrances to see if we could swing EH a new perfume. While we weren't exactly anticipating their $275 per bottle, we did score a sample for her, which was pretty sweet. Shortly after, EH left and I bopped around SoHo getting my shop on before meeting MDP for tea at McNally Jackson, my favorite bookstore. Later I went home, all warm and snuggly from the day, and reflected on the past week or so--a perfect start to my 25th year. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fall on the Rocks: Zabar's and Central Park

Thankfully this is not a post about tripping on painful objects.

As I have said many a time, try as you might to find it, there is absolutely nothing that compares with fall in New York. There's a cool rush of breeze that runs through your hair and kisses your neck, on top of none too few days of sunshine if you're lucky. What I find interesting, though, is that I don't get to see the changing leaves nearly as often as I thought I would; that is, I'm not in an open green space on a regular enough basis. I did have the pleasure, recently, of walking past the beautiful McCarren Park in between Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn, though. Walking along the western edge of the park felt like I was walking down a corridor paved with yellow leaves, upon which walked hipster parents in matching flannels and their unwittingly hipster children similarly adorned.

You would think, too, that living close(ish) to Central Park, I would have taken a gander there on my own in the past few weeks, but to no avail. This past Friday, however, MDP took it upon himself to show me what I was missing. Leaving his workplace at Columbus Circle, we went for a stroll up Broadway to the one and only Zabar's to get supplies for a picnic. It occurs to me now that I have never actually written about Zabar's, one of my favorite places in the entirety of New York, so I will briefly inform you of its magic now. Zabar's is a gourmet and kosher grocery store on the Upper West Side that has been in existence since 1934, an almost entirely family owned and operated business since then. They roast their own coffee, they have a stupendous prepared foods section, and hand slice their smoked fish. I will admit, my fascination with Zabar's began with a drawing by genius caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, pictured below.
The drawing is of the famous prepared foods counter, dotted with celebrities waiting for their numbers to be called, salamis hanging overhead. I wanted that quintessential New York experience, to buy my groceries where New York's literati and glitterati did. I don't know if the drawing was based on truth, or if he just inserted celebrity friends who lived in the area into the drawing (which he may well have done). But I wanted to go where the people were, not just to some chain that was easy to get to. Zabar's is priced extraordinarily reasonably for New York (and even not for New York), so it's easy to love. The store is always bustling with people, the food is fresh, and my bags are always brimming with goodies when I leave. As it was on the day when MDP and I left: salmon meatballs in an herbed cream sauce, Thai curry chicken salad, eggplant bruschetta, fruit compote and, of course, a famous bagel with Nova and cream cheese (which I have schlepped all the way to the Upper West Side for on multiple occasions). MDP had never been, and to my delight I found he enjoyed it as well.

Next, it was my turn to see something I had not previously explored. "I think the entrance is here," MDP said as we wound our way around the south end of Museum of Natural History and across Central Park West. Police barricades were already in appearance in preparation of Sunday's famous New York Marathon. But inside the park we went, following winding paths practically drowning in beautiful colored leaves--yellows, oranges, reds, and even the occasional misfit green--to a small beach of large rocks right next to a purple gazebo. The rocks overlooked a large lake surrounded by trees upon trees upon trees. A bright red one looked like it was on fire. Buildings seemed far away. The sun sank lower in the west and through candy colored clouds, fluffy tangerine, lavender and cotton candy streaming through the sky. High school kids blasted Top 40 radio, a man in a bowler hat and red suspenders took self portraits, two girls held a photoshoot near the water.


MDP and I sat near the water and dove into our trove of goodness, watching the sun set. As the sky grew darker, we left the park. In darkness, just before we got on the train, fireworks popped and burst through the sky in celebration of the upcoming marathon. Blues and reds and golds glittered through the sky, as if somehow planned just for us (and everyone else standing on the corner of 81st and Central Park West watching along with us). Somehow feeling warm in the chilly autumn air, we got on the train and headed downtown. I smiled. Every year, I fall in love with New York fall all over again.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wishin' and Ziftin'

I think the only time in my life I've been jealous of brides is when they get to register for gifts. I mean, imagine putting together a giant list of things you want and having people actually buy them for you! It's virtually unheard of in non-married life, sadly. Until now!

Ziftit.com* is a website you can use to register yourself for gifts. Any gifts. Of any kind. That are available to purchase online. The site allows you to create "Zift Lists" or gift lists, for any occasion from any store online, or even from the Ziftit site, with no limit to items added. You can also send the list directly to your friends and family, and they can have the gift delivered directly to you (with an upgraded account, multiple people can even split the cost of a gift--super fun for those of us who aren't iBankers.). Voila! Last minute shopping and failed gifting attempts become a thing of the past. 

When assembling your list, Ziftit will tailor a Trending Feed based on your likes and dislikes, and products that match your personal style will magically appear. You can also create an event on their Events tab--birthdays, bachelorette parties, etc.--that will allow people to not only RSVP but to see what to get you for your special occasion! Another fun point is the Ziftit Barcode Scanner, which you can use on your mobile device to scan any item to add to your Zift List. The Barcode Scanner is especially lovely because when you scan a product, the app will show you where to find the product at the best prices.

What's more is that Ziftit is having a contest! The Trendsetter Contest will allow participants to choose their favorite products from all over the web and put them into their own personal Zift Lists with the Ziftit Browser Plugin on the site's product search. The goal is to get the most followers and be the most influential with your Zift List, via the site's "follow" feature. Add products you love and that appeal to your followers. The products will populate your followers' news feeds, allowing them to re-add products to their own Zift Lists. The "influence rating" will be increased by gaining followers and having your products re-added. When the contest ends on December 15, the participant who has the highest overall influence will win $10,000 and they'll be named "The Trendsetter of 2013." Sound like fun? Then head on over to Ziftit and get Zifting today! 




*sponsored post

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chinatown Sunday

Sunday morning I was summoned from being curled up on my bed by a knock at the door. It was SC, requesting my presence at a dim sum brunch. Having only been to dim sum one other time in my life, also with SC interestingly enough, I jumped at the chance. Brunch was organized by LA, who chose Jing Fong on Walker and Elizabeth in Chinatown. He liked it, he told me, because it reminded him of Hong Kong--he loves the chaotic, hectic nature of it all. So up and up and up we went in an elevator replete with mirrored walls and chandeliers to a giant ballroom fit for an enormous bar mitzvah. You simply don't find spaces like this in New York--more chandeliers, red walls decorated with gold dragons, endless circular tables themselves encircled by red leather banquet hall chairs and petite women in orange pushing around carts upon carts upon carts of food.

LA ordered for us--fried dough covered in rice noodles topped with soy sauce, sesame pastries filled with lotus paste, lotus leaves stuffed with pork and sticky rice, bok choi with oyster sauce, fried turnip cakes dotted with Chinese sausage, small, flaky egg custards, barbeque pork buns, and the list probably goes on and on. Cart ladies came by every few minutes and LA told them what he wanted, supplying the table with what seemed like an endless supply of goodies to nibble on. Absolutely everything was delicious. And between the 10 of us at brunch that day, the grand total was only about $12 per person. I was simultaneously elated and dumbfounded. Dim sum at Jing Fong reigns supreme, and New York will have to work pretty hard to prove to me there's something else as much fun and as exciting to do for brunch.

Post-dim sum MDP and I head to the East River to skateboard. Yes, I, Miss Manhattan, took to a skateboard. While the idea of doing it in traffic scares me half to death and going downhill makes me think of the dangers of land luging, I actually really enjoy it in the same way that people enjoy moving sidewalks and roller coasters. Come to think of it, skateboarding is a perfect medium between the two.

MDP is teaching me and while I am very much still learning, I do think I have the required muscle memory down. It's a little like choreography, pressing your foot to the ground to gain speed, then gliding then doing it all again. Press, press, glide; press, press glide. Not to mention the view along the East River is absolutely stunning: you get a beautiful sight of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge going into Brooklyn. The sun was setting and there was a light orange glow around everything. We pissed off as many bikers as we could skateboarding in the bike lane. All was right with the world.

Next was a jaunt through Chinatown to get watermelon bubble tea. MDP's favorite is at the Canal Bakery (242 Canal St), a Chinese bakery that puts real watermelon in with your tea and blends it all together. Plus, bubbles! I actually don't like watermelon that much, but even I thought it was delicious, a nice, cool treat after a skateboarding lesson.

We sauntered down the streets, peering at the different groceries selling nearly-alive sliced open fish, spiky durian, very-alive crabs, herbal medicines in boxes with tigers and smiling, mustachioed men on them. It's amazing how someone else's neighborhood can be a new adventure in and of itself.

The last stop on our tour that day was a Malaysian jerky joint near the F train. And I'm sure my mother is reading this, clutching her face. "YOU ATE WHAT?" No worries, mom, it's cool. And yeah, I ate homemade beef jerky, chicken jerky and pork jerky. While the chicken wasn't really my bag, I dug on the beef and the pork, both doused in a sweet, tangy sauce (barbeque?). In fact, I was enjoying it so much I accidentally got on a train going in the wrong direction. None of us is perfect....Luckily we have New York to remind us of that, and that there's so much of the world we haven't seen, even in our own boroughs.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Better than Munchies

There are few better ways to end an evening than at a 24-hour Indian Deli, leaning against the counter and digging into a bowl of curried vegetables and rice. I know I've said multiple times that you can find anything you want at any hour in New York, but even I didn't think I could get so specific.

We were on the corner of Spring and Bowery when MDP suggested we get Indian food. I wasn't really in the mood for a sit-down dinner at 11 o'clock at night, but I followed anyway. To my delight, that's not what we were doing at all. 

The Punjabi Grocery and Deli has an unremarkable green awning, and three steps leading down to it from its 1st Street location. Behind the counter are Bollywood films for sale. A glass counter to the left of the register holds a trove of home-cooked Indian goodies, signified only by a number. I don't know exactly what everything is, but I make out a saag paneer (a creamed spinach made with homemade cheese), a curried vegetable dish, and samosas. Everything is vegetarian. MDP, who has been there many times before, orders us two combinations of the same numbers. I don't know what I'm about to eat, and I don't know that he does either, but I trust him and shortly we dive in. The two of us eat for a grand total of $7. 

Both of us are a little hazy from an evening of gallery openings and their open bars, so either the food just tastes delicious or it actually is. Peas, carrots and creamy yellow curry pop into my mouth via plastic fork and styrofoam bowl. MDP tells me to stir it up, but I stupidly ignore him and am shortly left with a bowlful of vaguely yellow rice, which I eat anyway. Next time I will know better. Under the counter where we lean are stacks upon stacks of Indian newspapers. Overhead are packages of Indian cookies, snacks, and candies. 

Like traveling with someone in their hometown, there's a beauty to seeing New York through someone else's eyes. What are their favorite haunts? Why do they like particular places so much? And if they've gone there repeatedly and never gotten food poisoning, what's to stop you from trying it, too? It's nice to go out with someone and find yourself a little more fearless than even you thought you could be. MDP works in the area of the deli, and found it on accident one time on a lunch break. Now he's a frequent visitor. It took next to nothing to convert me, too. 

So next time you find yourself in need of munchies (drunk or otherwise) on the Lower East Side, I recommend you head to the Punjabi Grocery and Deli. It's far better than $1 slices. 

Punjabi Deli & Grocery
114 E. 1st St between 1st Avenue and Avenue A

And if you're so inclined, the deli also has a Facebook page

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bantam Bonanza


The first time I saw Bantam Bagels, I thought they were genius: I mean, it was a bagel you could eat like a donut hole, filling and all. Any possible bagel flavor, suddenly it's yours in bite-size, reducing calorie count and increasing novelty factor! Big wins all around. 

Bantam Bagels was founded by Nick and Elyse Oleksak, two former Wall Streeters. The idea came to Nick in a dream one night, and now there's a full-fledged storefront in the West Village. Bantams, as they're known, come in all manner of flavors and fillings, from Hot Pretzel (salt bagel with cheese filling) to Cookies and Milk ("brown sugar walnut bagel with sweet chocolate chip cream cheese"....oh yes). 

Bantam was kind enough to invite me to sample some of their delightful offerings, fresh from the toaster and to take home! I felt like such a lucky girl, choosing from shelves upon shelves of flavors to make my baker's dozen of bantams. I nibbled on some, and also shared with my dear roommates. My favorites were The Hangover ("cheddar cheese and egg bagel topped with melted cheddar cheese filed with bacon cheddar cream cheese and a drizzle of maple syrup" --even upon writing that my mouth is watering. Not to mention it is probably perfect for a hangover) and the aforementioned Hot Pretzel, which actually tasted like its namesake. Wild. 

Should you find yourself Bantam-bound, remember to bite the hole! Say what?

Yep. The hole in the bagel where all that yummy filling goes. If you don't bite it, it'll squeeze everywhere but your mouth and you don't want that. Also try the bagels toasted if you so desire! Bring them to a party--they stay for about 4-6 hours without being refrigerated. Their menu also changes seasonally, so there's always something interesting and new to try. 

It's amazing to see the ways creativity blossoms here in New York. Because really, if you're looking to try something new, this is the place to do it! Open minds and curious tastebuds make for a great combination, which Nick and Elyse clearly recognize. But you don't really have to worry about trying bantams--they're just bagels, with stuff in or on them that you'd probably eat them with anyway. For the  most part, anyway; I mean, I had never eaten a bagel with bacon cheddar cream cheese before, but man I'd sure love to do it again. 

If you want to check out Bantam Bagels, they're in the West Village at 283 Bleecker Street, just before 7th Avenue. Happy Bantam-ing! 

The Box Lunch: "Plain bagel topped with crushed, roasted peanuts filled with peanut butter and sweet strawberry jam"
The Hot Pretzel 
The Hangover 
The Bleecker Street: "Pizza dough bagel topped with a thin slice of pepperoni. Filled with marinara mozzarella cream cheese"

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Blindness

I worry that there's a special kind of jadedness that New Yorkers eventually acquire, and that jadedness involves not seeing the awesomeness around them. For a few weeks, I have been at a loss of things to write about on my blog. "I haven't done anything," I complain to myself, begging myself to be more interesting. When, in fact, there have actually been some incredible moments I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing in the past few weeks or so. At the time, though, I was just too blind to see it.

One of the things I love about this blog is that it forces me to take a look at my life and forget that not every post has to be a specific "event" that I go to. Sometimes you can write 1000 words about an instant without even trying. Other times, you have to work a little harder. The past few weeks I have spent aching my fingers and eyes into pitch mode (which any freelancer will tell you is the most difficult mode to be in), using something like Jedi mind tricks to will editors into publishing my work, forgetting to take some time for introspection because all I want to do is turn off my brain and watch Will & Grace from 11pm until I pass out.  With the start of this new month, though, I hope to change. So please forgive me, dear readers, if I have been remiss. Below are a potpurri of experiences I hope you too can come across at some point.

September 15
SD and I went down to Coney Island for a tattoo and motorcycle festival. While the festival itself did not inspire too much, it was SD's first trip so we took full advantage of the touristy wonderfulness of it all. SD slipped a quarter into a box with a glass front, the contents of which, a mannequin and her cat, we were told would instantly fall in love with us. To our delight, we found "instantly fall in love with us," meant the unironically '90s-attired lady and cat boogied to something that sounded like a Prince takeoff about love. It was a little like watching a sex doll sing to me, which felt both profoundly awkward and hilarious. We ate funnel cake on the beach, powdered sugar taking a comedic cue and blowing all over my black jeans. And, of course, Nathan's. Who in their right mind goes to Coney Island without getting Nathan's? I don't often go to the beach when it's not summertime, but it was really lovely to feel a brisk, crisp breeze as we walked down the boardwalk.

September 21
Interest piqued in zine and artist book culture by a brief trip to Printed Matter in Chelsea, MD (not a doctor, haha) was interested in attending the New York Art Book Fair, and I was happy to accompany him. The event, held at MoMA PS1 in Queens, turned the entire museum into vendor spaces and displays for the fair, which is the "world's premier event for artists' books, catalogs, monographs, periodicals, and zines." And it was free! In short, artists' books are books of artwork made by the artists themselves--both the artwork in them, and the book itself. Or, as Printed Matter says, "books or other editioned publications conceived by artists as art works, or, more succinctly, as 'artwork for the page.' We wound ourselves through the entirety of the building, even the furnace, looking at different artwork and installations. 

September 24
Amazing soup dumplings with crab and egg at Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing. First, you put a little bit of a soy sauce/vinegar mix on your spoon, then a dumpling. Then, you bite the dumpling and the soup flows into the soup spoon. It's an art I haven't mastered yet, to say the least, but I'd go back in a heartbeat to get better at it :)

The New World Mall, just off the last stop on the 7 train, also in Flushing. The bottom floor is a food court of all different kinds of Asian food--some even with live lobsters splashing about in tanks. Not to mention the best bubble tea I've had to date, for only $2 (at a place where I unfortunately can't remember the name, aaagh). 

September 29
I put on my best Nicki Minaj-like ensemble and took part in a rap video parody of "Gangster's Paradise" on a rooftop in Bushwick. This video idea sprung from the brain of Hannah VanderPoel, a comedy writer here in New York. Rago, myself, and eight other ladies spent the afternoon tottering around the rooftop in stilettos and sneakers and boots doing our best bad bitch impressions. And you had better believe that as soon as it comes out, I'll post a link ;)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Inside the Madness

Now that I've exited the Fashion Week cocoon, I've been sleeping a lot. Running around until 3am can really do a girl in, you know? But one of my favorite parts about Fashion Week being over is that I get to look back on it all. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the week, and links to all of the shows I wrote about for Her Campus.com, the magazine for which I am the Style Editor. Cheers, dears!

BCBGMAXAZRIA
Cushnie et Ochs
Jill Stuart
Herve Leger
Lela Rose
Dennis Basso
Maita Marimo
Parsons MFA











Friday, September 6, 2013

Runways and Walkways

It has only been two days, and good lord Fashion Week has already worked its magic. I can hardly remember what day it is, my camera is exploding with pictures, my feet are blistered, I've been eating ice cream for dinner, and am constantly on the verge of passing out. And, strangely, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm sure I've written it before, but if 10 years ago you had told me this is what my life would be, I would have cried tears of happiness. Running around taking pictures backstage and writing about fashion? I would have been sublimely happy. I am sublimely happy. Of course, the happiness doesn't come without work, but the work makes the happiness even sweeter. 

Two and a half years ago I stepped into the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents and nearly cried. I was here! I had made it! I don't feel exactly the same now, though elements of the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed me still remain. My Fashion Week ensembles are more, shall we say, laissez-faire chic, less planned than in the past. I care less what people think and more about being able to walk comfortably in my shoes. Before many shows I am running around photographing backstage, too, so I *gasp* need flats so I don't die. After two days, I am tipsy with tiredness. God bless these people who do multiple shows  and parties and shows and parties every single day; even at my small number I am starting to feel it, and tomorrow I have back to back shows and events pretty much until 2am. Trust me, I am not complaining, though. This is the work all of us have chosen, the thrill of seeing new clothes for the first time, the rush of makeup artists and hairstylists backstage, the tip-toed walks of the models as they sashay or plod down the runway during rehearsal and rush into their clothes for 'First Looks' (the outfit the model wears on their first trip down the runway during a show). Just sometimes it makes you need a nap or three in between shows (if you have the luxury of 'in between shows,' that is). As I've said many times before, if Fashion Week were every day of my life, I'd have to hurt myself. It's not a way to live. But two weeks out of the year? Sign me up! One of the things I love about being tired, about being "Fashion Week tired," is that it's such a clear sign that you're living!

This Fashion Week, I will be backstage quite often and also in the audience quite a bit. It's a challenge to see something new each time, especially backstage where it's so often the same kinds of things happening--some hairspray there, some eyeshadow here. What I have noticed myself seeing more and more this time around are the people on their way to events--today I was on the train with a model who happened to be going to the same show I was photographing backstage. Long, stringy brown hair parted in the middle, black velvet harem pants and thick black flatform sneakers, a black leather backpack hanging from her back. She brushes past me and says "Excuse me" in a thick Eastern European accent, hair swishing behind her. Her portfolio is in her hand and she clomps up the subway steps in these giant shoes. Sometimes you'll see a fashion celebrity--read: people non-fashion-nerds don't recognize-- on their way to and from a show (Nina Garcia walked past me at BCBG yesterday, as did Kate Lanphear and Carine Roitfeld. I gasped inwardly and wistfully, in that way we all do when we see someone we want to talk to but have just instantly run out of all the words we've ever known). In some ways, the walkways outside of venues are great equalizers--we all have to tread on the same ground. Unless of course you've been ushered in the back way, which is another story entirely. 

In the fast-paced, digital age in which we live, though, Fashion Week's place in, well, fashion, is being challenged. It is hardly as exclusive as it used to be (many designers this year, even, are live-streaming their shows) and barely serves its original purpose of exposing designers to editors and buyers in one place (the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents). Many designers actually choose to have shows offsite, in art galleries or photo studios or even high school gymnasiums, to have smaller shows and preserve the original intent. A recent article in The New York Times addresses this very idea. Because if you are not writing about or choosing to sell the clothing, what are you really doing at a show? People have become obsessed with the exclusivity to the point where the clothes sometimes come second. 

Every Fashion Week, I am befuddled at my own reactions to the event: a sort of "include-me-don't-include-me" deal where I am both inside and outside of the world at all times. I said recently that I try to look at fashion like an art form, to review and critique the way one would a gallery exhibition. In this way, I hope, I just get to observe beauty and not get sucked into some sort of trend making machine. I think I have always wanted the beauty and not the machine; the substance and not the submission; the aesthetics and not the obsessions. We'll see how I do. I only have five days left and already I find myself wanting more. 


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hometown Adventures

Or: Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy While Eating Scallion Salad with Chopsticks

I wasn't going to write another blog post about Florida because, well, this blog is about New York. Except I realized that it's not just really that. I hope on some level this also serves as a travel blog, and I realize that just because going home is going home that doesn't mean there can't be superfunsurprise-hey-maybe-I-would-take-people-to-do-that experiences there, too. Sometimes when you're in your bubble you forget to step outside of it. I mean, on the surface, anyone's idea of their own home might not be particularly interesting only because a lot of the time we tend to take such things for granted. But here are some things I did in Florida that I would love for you to do, too.

Round Up
I have never been to a line dancing bar before. Round Up is just that, a country-western bar located in the rather country-western city of Davie, in Broward County, where I'm from. On a wooden dance floor encircled by what looked like wooden corrals, people stomped and clapped in succession like I had never seen. The line dancing culture is not one I'm particularly familiar with, but damn, these people seem to know a dance for every single song that came on in the club. How do you learn them? How do you know when to do them? My friends and I, who are far more versed in latin dances like merengue, salsa and bachata, can hear in the music what's called for, but there's only so many dances--each line dance seemed to be completely new and different, save for the Texas Cha-Cha (I'm not even sure if that's what it's called) and the Two-Step. I watched in awe. Eventually, though, an older gentleman actually taught me how to do the last two dances and I was two-steppin' right along there with them. While I hardly consider myself a cowgirl, I do indeed think I would do it again!



Yeah, I went there.

Gabose
To understand the impact this restaurant had on me, it's first important to understand that my parents aren't particularly adventurous eaters. In most restaurants they frequent, they have a number of things they like and are willing to experiment to an extent, but not to a wild degree (I, on the other hand, will try pretty much anything, including but not limited to chicken feet and burgers topped with cashew butter). So to have them expand their culinary repertoires is very exciting for me!

Gabose is a Korean and Japanese restaurant my parents go to at least once every two weeks or so. One day, my mother told me, one of the owners who now knows them as regulars (they have "their table" and everything) brought over some new foods for them to try. And they tried them! And they liked them so much they wanted me to try them too! Then we went and had what my parents call "Korean tapas." There was a spicy, red pepper scallion salad that I would be happy to take intravenously, as well as a chive pancake, a crab and cucumber salad in a rice vinaigrette and old standbys like vegetable tempura and tuna tataki. It was all delicious, but what made me enjoy it even more was seeing my parents still learning new things and enjoying the ride. Isn't that all we really want for our loved ones?

--

Sometimes I forget that just because I'm not downtown that there's not nothing to do. Like any place, the really wonderful things to do are the things suggested by people who know the area really well. To step outside of yourself and have an experience unlike one you typically have, even in an area you know like the back of your hand. Looking at an old place with new eyes means there are infinite possibilities for adventures.

That being said, tonight back in New York I walked down 58th Street from 9th Avenue to Madison Avenue, just to enjoy the surprisingly cool, breezy air and see some of those famous glittering storefronts in a different way. With Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland playing in my ears, Bergdorf Goodman, Dior, and Chanel were especially beautiful to the tune of "Voodoo Chile" and "Crosstown Traffic." Even in New York, where we always think we've seen everything, there's always something left to see.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Few Notes About Relaxation

There comes a time in every freelancer's life where they must do the thing they perhaps most fear doing: stop working.

Yes, there must be a pause in the schedules we have set up so seamlessly to get us through the work week and enable us to be our most productive for, truthfully, if there isn't, we simply won't be able to produce work anymore. And then we'll be useless. So part of this grand productivity is to be productive in another way, to produce in ourselves a sense of relaxation and pause so we can produce more later.

And let me tell you, it is difficult. When you've wired yourself to get up everyday and answer to yourself at a certain hour for fear you will make a mess of this entire freelancing business into which you've entered, stopping seems a sacrilege. So you have to make yourself answer to a new kind of self, one who simply won't take 'work' for an answer, much as you've conditioned yourself previously to not take 'relax' for an answer.

So here I am in South Florida, writing from my parents' kitchen table, overlooking all sorts of strange trees we don't have in New York, wearing my bathing suit and thinking about how much work I'm absolutely not going to do today. I have been doing all sorts of unheard of things since I arrived: lying out in the sun, watching Doris Day movies and back to back to back episodes of The Big Bang Theory on demand, eating French food and Cheetos and pausing in the middle of the day to read a book, of all things. I hardly know who I am anymore--how does one do nothing?

Last weekend I worked every day; in fact, I had been working for 10 days straight before I left New York Wednesday evening. There is something about New York that completely disables my 'do nothing' factor. I am never home just sitting around watching television during the day (at night, it's a different story, as I recently went through the entire series of Freaks and Geeks on Netflix and have become newly obsessed with this brilliant but canceled series). The days are for working, the nights are for not working, if possible--often I am working an eight hour day plus whatever event I attend in the evening to write about or to photograph. But here...little work is happening, and that's the way it's supposed to be. I have been here three days and already my inner moral compass is failing--or is it not failing? I am, essentially, forcing myself to relax and it is stressing me out.

I think if I had not earned the title 'New Yorker' before, I certainly have now. I had a glass of wine on the beach yesterday. WHO AM I?? New York, we are often told, is the city that never sleeps, and it is 100% true--because when the city is not sleeping, why should we be? We keep working and working and working until we have nothing left and we fall apart. Ultimately, though, what we need to do is program ourselves to relax, to understand that what we're doing is not bad or incorrect: it is simply necessary so we can keep going later on.

So, New Yorkers, if you have the chance to relax on occasion, be it for only a Saturday spent lolling about on your couch or for a trip to see your family or a weekend getaway to the Hamptons, please do so. You'll find yourself rejuvenated and ready to take on your life anew, freelancer or not. It'll just take some getting used to--relaxation, for us folk, doesn't come easy. But once you start, I promise you'll get the hang of it.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

OXHEART Interview: Alfie Bunz


This Friday, August 9th, OXHEART will present its eighth event, CURRENT at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn. We'll have a fantastic lineup of tunes and performances, all topped off with the cherry that is one Mr. Alfie Bunz, emcee and performer extraordinaire. Take a look at the interview with Alfie below and get psyched for another superrad OXHEART show!*


Alfie Bunz, Photo by Sean Luke Hopkins

How and when did you begin emceeing and performing?
I began performing during spring, in 2011. My first show, ever! Pat Muko [sideshow and burlesque performer] and Dick Zigun [founder of the modern Coney Island Sideshow] had (still do have!) so much faith in me; they invited me to do a burlesque show, then their Halloween Creepshow at the Freakshow. I started emceeing when I became the Bilingual Bally Master at Coney Island USA, 2011. I was given the “groovy” opportunity to host the Gowanus Circus (Noah from Brooklyn’s baby), and I became the Emcee/Ringmaster. Been workin' the crowds, ever since!

What made you get interested in sideshow culture?
My romance began in 2010 when I started working for the sideshow. I really didn’t know what I was getting into. I thought it was just a cashiering job. As the months went-by, I began seeing the strange happenings at Coney USA, and when I saw Scott Baker do the blockhead. It had been the first time I had ever seen any type of sideshow. From that moment, back in April 2010, I was in love!

What is your favorite part of emceeing and performing?
Anything that I would do on a stage wouldn’t be worth my while if not for the people! I live and breathe for entertaining people; the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve had people get up and walk out when I hit the stage. I’ve had people compliment me…but, when ya get that ovation from your audience, you know you’ve reached them; you know you’ve entertained them. This is the height of any time spent on stage, for me!

What is the most shocking sideshow trick you've ever performed? 
Before I begin, let me clarify that they are not tricks. They are acts. A trick implies some kind of an illusion; this is all real, all alive… Now, this was back in 2011. I was in Philadelphia, performing with [circus performers] Alejandro Dubois and Rev. MacKenzie Moltov. I did a mental floss while eating glass and standing on glass…Then, I proceeded to blockhead, all while snapping a rat trap on my hand. ;-) This is light, compared to what my brothers and sisters in sideshow can do!

How did you learn to perform sideshow acts? How long did it take?
Sideshow acts can be learned in a day, or in a week…or…maybe longer. Quite honestly, it’s mind over matter. Pardon the cliché: practice makes perfect! But, the first act I learned was the blockhead. The incomparable Scott Baker taught me the act…the rest is history…

What can OXHEART-ers expect to see from you at CURRENT?
They will have to come and watch!  …and…that’s that…hehehehehe!

What performers inspire you most and why?
Tigger! (Boylesque performer) and Scott Baker; they both know their stuff! They are confident, amiable, have incredible stage presence and are incredibly talented performers. When they hit the stage, they illuminate it entirely! In one expression: “The Sun came up!” The level of their professionalism and respect and love for what they do, well, they are genius!

What do you do when you're not performing?
I have a day job. But! Aside from this, I love being surrounded by nature. Love hiking and camping. I am currently taking classes to learn how to swim in the open ocean! Can’t wait to master this skill!  Otherwise, I’m always making costumes, developing choreography because I do sideshow, but I also do Boylesque. Then, it’s just about spending time with family and friends! This is my favorite part about life…then…there are those moments when a stroll is just enough…

Where else around New York do you perform?
I perform at the Parkside Lounge (East Village), where I host a burlesque show for Sake Fevah, in Drag! I also perform in Long Island City, and just all over…including Philly and if all goes well, next Spring in Sydney, Australia!

*sponsored post

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Air Up There

I learned something very important about myself this past weekend:

I have excellent taste in music but I cannot read maps to save my life.

This seems to be a very 'Do you walk to school or carry your lunch?' scenario (thanks, mom), but it is in fact quite accurate. Let me explain.

Months and months ago, DL emailed me with a link to see the fabulous and wonderful cabaret performer Taylor Mac upstate (read: two hours north of the city) at Bard College in a town called Annandale-on-Hudson. Groupies to the core, we had been flirting with the idea of even driving to North Carolina to see him perform in a production of Cabaret, so this trip didn't ruffle a feather. Maybe we would do both! But ultimately the shorter trip won out. So, along with recent Taylor Mac convert SE, we popped ourselves into a Zipcar and headed north on a Friday evening. Responsible adults that we are, we left early so we wouldn't have to rush. Seated in the front, I was in charge of directions. Which was very easy to do when I had printouts in front of me, but almost literally impossible when using DL's iPhone to navigate. I am quite sure I deleted or erased the directions several times on the phone, inadvertently testing DL's patience in ways I'm sure only his middle school-aged students had to this point. Ultimately, I handed over the phone to SE for fear of mapping us off a cliff and stuck to my original job, choosing tuneage. At which I greatly excelled, thank you very much.

Map-ly challenged as I am, the trip was utterly delightful and, I feel, very representative of the way I like to take road trips. Did we stop at a greasy spoon or pizza joint on the way up? No sir! Rather, we found ourselves in front of a boat of sushi at Abis, a Japanese restaurant in a town called Thornwood. Continuing on, SE educated us in the ways of indie classical music (I especially enjoyed Gabriel Kahane, so thank you dahhhling for opening my mind and pouring good music into it).


We drove and drove some more, getting close to Bard and coming across a petite street covered in brick buildings and white-bordered signs and country stores. I felt like I was on the set of Pollyanna, but in the best way possible. We get so used to seeing the same lights and signs and buildings after a while that we just forget there's life on other planets, as it were. That there are trees and stars and cool mountain air. That sometimes all the lights you need are billions of miles away and in some places it gets cool at night in the summertime.

The pathway up to the venue, the Bard Spiegeltent, was strung above with colored Christmas lights, dotted below with pink, glowing round orbs to light the way. We ate homemade ice cream (vanilla with peanut butter and chocolate fudge, I died) and entered the lush purple tent, done up to resemble a luxurious, old-timey gypsy tent, decked out on the inside with a variety of wood paneling, golden carousel poles and sparkling white chandeliers. I drank a dirty martini and instantly felt at home. 


Our fair Taylor entered not too long afterward, clad in a homemade silver decoupage (?) re-imagining of the Chrysler Building. He sang tunes from the 1920s as a part of his 24-Hour History of Popular Music series, where he workshops songs from every decade from the 1770s forward. Eventually the workshops will be a 24-hour concert performed as an ode to imperfection. Like the several other decade workshops I have seen to date, the gender-bending cabaret god nailed it again: a perfect combination of song, storytelling, history, witty banter and oh-so-much glitter (not to mention a costume covered in Pez dispensers). I left feeling the way one feels after having a slice of cheesecake for dinner: pleasantly filled with all the right amounts of yumminess. I could describe more, but I don't want to ruin it for you--you should really go see the performances whenever they come through.

We walked out into the crisp summer night and I understood why people say you have to leave the city in the summer. The air felt like a sweet hug from a long-lost friend. Oh, is that what a breeze is? I daresay I felt absolutely smitten with the weather. Everything was right. The trip in the car itself even to stand outside in the fresh air was worth the trip, not to mention that we had the distinct pleasure of seeing a Taylor Mac performance on top of it. We trucked back to the car and I got us lost again on the map and put SE in charge. Not to worry, though. It was nothing a little Pixies couldn't fix.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Affirmations While Cleaning Out My Drain

Sorry to disappoint you, but this isn't a sexual metaphor.

This story starts a few years ago, when I was visiting home from college. The bathroom light beamed at the end of the hallway in our house and I went towards it to turn it off, only to realize my mother was sitting in the shower, water not running of course, hunched over the drain with a hanger in her hand. "Come here, look at this," she said, almost challenging me. "Look at what's in the drain."

"Nope," I said, shaking my head and moving to turn away. But I was too slow.

She waved a pile of dark brown, hairy slop at me. "Look at what's in the drain!"
My eyebrow raised and mouth curled in disgust. "Ew."

"Come here, you're learning how to do this," she said, beckoning me with her hangerful of slop. She had been using the hook to lift out the drain-clogging mess. "One day you'll have to do this, you know!"

I shivered. "But that day's not today!" And I walked out.

--

Twelve hours ago, my roommate J found the drain was clogged and asked if we should call the super. Having encountered this problem before, I declined and instead prescribed Drano or Liquid Plumr, or what have you. I would get some when I came home from the gym.

Hours later, I poured a half-bottle magic unclogger down the drain, waited 15 minutes and ran hot water as directed. But the water didn't move. I poured the other half-bottle down the drain and repeated the steps again, but to no avail.

I poked at the drain with a bobby pin, but suddenly I knew what I had to do. Noticing the center of the drain required a screwdriver, I retrieved said object as well as a hanger and set to work. What follows is perhaps one of the most disgusting hours I have ever spent in my life.

At first I leaned over the drain to try and unscrew the top, but soon realized I would be sitting in it, hunched over, just as my mother had. Payback, as they say, is nothing short of a bitch.

I pried the screw loose and my stomach churned at the sight of the brown goo encircling the drain below. Slowly but surely, I pried loose what were probably masses of hair and skin cells and water and sand and whatever the hell else from the drain first with the hanger, then the screwdriver. The masses slopped around the drain and stared back at me. Welcome to life, sister.

I almost threw up more than one time, but ultimately I did it. I cleaned out my drain, I cleaned out the shower, I disinfected and threw everything away, I screwed everything back in. And you know what? I felt like a rockstar.

Requiring a shower after this incredibly dirty experience, there was no greater sound than the drain happily, thirstily glugging down water like a runner after a marathon. And I did that! I fixed the drain! Couldn't have done it without mom, for sure.

But here are a few things I not so much learned as had reaffirmed along the sloppy, nearly-vomit-inducing way:

  1. Sometimes you simply can't rely on anyone else and you have to do it yourself. As a person who functions as my own boss, I know the value of being independent. I do it on a daily basis, and have zero problem doing so. In fact, I quite enjoy it. But when it comes to fixing things in my own house, I am, shall we say, not the most handy. But why not? If I spent my workday waiting for other people to fix problems, I would never get anything done. Though, sure, it's important to trust and be able to rely on other people, you should always, always be able to rely on yourself. You don't know how to do something? Learn it. If you don't know, it's nobody's fault but your own. And when you do learn, it might be messy, but you won't make the same mistake again.
  2. I am woman, hear me roar. I don't know who said that men are more mechanical than women, but they can bite me. My mother was always fixing things and teaching us how to use different appliances. She has a toolkit and she knows how to use it because when she was single, she had to. There wasn't just going to be some knight with shining plunger to make it all better. I don't know when I got the idea that I was some high-femme-you're-expecting-me-to-do-what-with-a-screwdriver person, but it was clearly a figment of my imagination. Sometimes all you have to do is tell yourself you can do something, then you can. 
  3. Seeing the fruits of your labor is powerful stuff. Knock on wood, I've had a pretty good few weeks, career-wise. I've seen my hard work pay off, and the feeling is enough to keep me wanting it more. But the occasion is rare when I will be doing something with my bare hands like getting them all up in a drain. I spent too much time on that drain to let it get like that again. There's an investment now. I know the hard work it takes to fix it and I'm going to work hard not to get it like that in the first place. It's too often that people don't learn the value of hard work and take far too much for granted. I feel bad for them. You can't be afraid to get your hands dirty because you never know what the rewards will be! 
  4. Listen to your mom. Because if you don't you'll have to write a blog post telling her how wrong you are about not paying attention when she was cleaning out the drain the first time. Moms (and dads!) have been there, they've done it, and they know a few things. You also have to have the presence of mind, though, to know when not to listen--sometimes this will result in a mistake that you'll learn from, but sometimes it will be the right choice. Sometimes there will just be brown goo and you'll have to be resourceful and get rid of it in your own way. But be open to suggestions from people who've seen it before. 

I know what the haters will say--oh, poor little girl cleaning out a drain! Your life is so difficult! Shut up. You know the first time you cleaned out a drain it was nasty as all hell, too. What I'm saying is that it's empowering, it's important to be able to do these kinds of things yourself. You can throw money at someone else to do it, but what are you really learning? Make mistakes, see the results of your actions, work hard not to make them again; or if you do, make sure you learn from them.

But if you're really too squeamish to clean out the drain, I can help you. And I promise not to vomit.