Small Differences Between NY & Home

As inspired by Mighty Girl’s travel series (Paris, Barcelona, Hawaii), here are a few things I noticed on a recent trip to New York:

  • People wear sunglasses a lot less in NY. I was there on sunny days, some of the hottest and muggiest of the summer. Despite that, I saw maybe one in every 20 folks with sunglasses on. It even affected me: in LA, I tend to automatically pop sunglasses on my face as soon as I venture outside, but by my third day there, I forgot to wear them till past lunchtime!
  • I was expecting a faster pace of activity, and gamely brought walking shoes and tried to keep up with the flow of foot traffic on the busy sidewalks. As such, I ended up getting to almost all of my meetups on time or early… and would then wait for 10-20 minutes. New Yorkers are meant to be impatient and to-the-point, but I guess that doesn’t always translate to punctuality! My suspicion is that everyone was stuck with “just one more thing at work” syndrome.
  • A black-and-white cookie is not a cookie, but a cake. Not a difference, I was just a bit (actually, a lot) boggled by that.
  • Half the people I saw standing on sidewalks (so… a lot) were smoking. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone smoking in LA!
  • I can count on one hand the number of streets I saw/crossed that were two-way. And yet, even though I knew they were all one-way, I could never keep myself from checking traffic the wrong way too… just in case. I kept hearing my parents’ voices in my head, saying “be sure to look both ways!”
  • Performances are just a part of life in NY. You can ignore them, smile and watch, or openly scoff, but it seemed pretty normal to see in any given week a subway dance troupe, breakdancers, and a Hare Krishna parade. I actually saw all of those things in just three days!
  • People would talk about money more openly. Granted, this may be affected by the people I interact with in LA (I don’t have a ton of friends in the entertainment industry), but I was part of many more conversations in NY that involved how much people made, how much rent was in that area of town, how much that vacation cost.
  • Coffeeshops were so so so small! It’s a good thing that there would be four on a block, because it’s very possible that the first three wouldn’t have any open table spaces.
  • Speaking of crowded blocks, spotting three or four of the same service on a single block probably means that you’ll get pretty good value at any of them, due to competition. When I found myself on a block with three nail salons, I did a Yelp search for the best-reviewed one. I ended up with an AMAZING manicure for $8.50 that included a one-minute back massage while my nails dried (is this standard?? If so, two points, New York.)!
  • I missed NPR. I remember as a kid hearing that New Yorkers loved their newspapers because they were perfect for reading in the subway, and Angelenos loved radio because they were always in their cars. I saw not one newspaper on the subway this trip — everyone was on their phones instead (doing something that doesn’t require consistent cell service, I guess?). But I did very severely miss having the presence of radio news in my life.
  • Everyone talked about the weather, which, to be fair, I feel like people do everywhere in the world. But in NY, unlike in LA, it’s actually worth talking about — I experienced two of the hottest, muggiest days ever (and I’m from Cleveland!), followed by a dark, cloudy day that featured two huge thunderstorms. Dramatic much, NY?
  • And finally, one big similarity, a big city thing, I think: every New Yorker has a very different New York. While, just like in LA, there are things that unite all the city’s denizens. But there are also things that are integral parts of one person’s life and complete mysteries to another person, even if those two folks have essentially lived side-by-side for years. NY example: the Chinese car services. LA example: $15 one-hour massages. (both of my examples are Chinese because I don’t know anyone else’s secrets.)
  • (Photo of me with a NY bagel in a NY park, but still with my LA sunglasses and chipped LA manicure very much intact.)

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Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs

My first Arcade Fire album was The Suburbs, which is, frankly, pretty embarrassing to/for me. I had heard a song here and there before, most notably the version of Wake Up that they recorded for the first, absolutely perfect Where the Wild Things Are trailer:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r–oMLtql7Q%5D

Aside: I haven’t seen that movie since I saw it in the theater, pre-Zoe. I liked it then but didn’t feel a real connection, for reasons that I could only articulate as, “I’ve never been a 9-year-old boy?” Rewatching the trailer now, I’m feeling pretty deeply moved, so… rewatch time!

Anyway, so the pre-Suburbs Arcade Fire albums are pretty special, as I found out on fervent listens when I finally needed a break from playing The Suburbs over and over again for four months straight. But they’re nothing compared to The Suburbs, which is that rare artistic masterpiece that is incredibly accessible. I knew that I would be listening to it compulsively after hearing just one track, and that I’d be filling a need as basic and human as drinking water when we’re thirsty.

Of course though, I eventually moved on to the other albums, and reluctantly to non-Arcade Fire music after that. But it’s been a few years now, and earlier this week, I had a dream where I had a great idea for a bar name (seriously, I dream about some mundane shit.), and then waking up to realize that it was Wasted Hours, the name of one of the perfect tracks from The Suburbs. Then I saw this video, the amazing elderly chorus group Young @ Heart (themselves the subject of an incredible 2007 documentary) covering another Suburbs track, Modern Man, and lending it an even deeper resonance, and you guys, I cried. Obviously.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9vdw-N4Z3o%5D

I have The Suburbs on repeat now, and who knows, this run might last another few months again. All I know is that this music makes me know and love life more, and what else can you ask for from art?

PS This is the same album that won the Grammys for Album of the Year in 2011, which is so incredibly well-deserved, but this also drew the ire of many of the folks who hadn’t heard of them, and were really really upset that more seemingly worthwhile albums like, you know, Katy Perry’s, were beat. Which in turn led to awesome tweets like this:

(Photo from the truly amazing Who Is Arcade Fire? Tumblr)

Eat24

I’ve never been a cook. I almost said that I’ve never been much of a cook, but that’d just be a lie: I don’t cook. I can prepare food, as I proved to myself when I lived alone abroad a couple of times, both times too unwilling to spend my scant cash on eating out regularly. But actual cooking? I simply have no interest.

I have my own suspicions as to why this is SUCH a point of interest for people, and they primarily center around the fact that I’m a woman. In particular, I’m a woman who likes being a married home-owning mother, and also enjoys being creative and crafty. But the thing that always seems to trip people up, that has them saying to me over and over again, “do you maybe just not know how to?” and “I bet you really would enjoy it if you tried” is the fact that I love food. Effing LOOOOOOOOVE eating, including both restaurant meals and home-cooked goodness. I love food so much that I went to a 90-minute lecture once on the current state of Mexican food in Los Angeles even though no food was served at the lecture because even the topic of food is so exciting to me.

But, you guys, I love experiencing lots of things (the whole point of this blog), and that doesn’t mean I have more than a passing interest in creating them. I mean, sure, sometimes I think about how AMAZING it would be to be Mindy Kaling, who gets the opportunity to create in a pure, comprehensive way an environment that’s engaging, relatable, and totally from her vision (oh, and where cute guys are always saying sexy-ass things). But in general, I can separate my enjoyment of the product from any desire to create it.

So one of the points at which people told me that I would start wanting (or, I guess, needing) to cook was when we had Zoe. I can see why: we spend almost every evening after 7:30pm at home these days — if we want to go out to eat, either only one of us goes or we have to call our babysitter. And while we love our babysitter, our current once-a-week routine is quite enough for our bank account! Hence, we don’t eat out every night any more like we used to, just as folks had predicted. So who’s going to save me or Evan from cooking? (I didn’t mention it before, but Evan’s not an avid cook either — though, predictably, he rarely gets the incredulity that I do)

Enter Eat24! Eat24 is a delivery and takeout aggregate site that allows you to easily order online. But these days, there’s a ton of great places to get the same service. What sets Eat24 apart?

First off, they are hilarious. This shouldn’t matter, just like I shouldn’t love my realtor any more for her amazing English accent. Too bad though: both totally matter to me. Eat24 has a GENIUS marketing and communications department, and I’m saying that as a Master of Communication, which is a title that both the University of Washington and I have given to me, so I know of what I speak. Their voice is funny, conversational, helpful, enthusiastic, and sadly, completely unique in their industry.

I get lots of instances to “hear” that voice, because they email me every week… with a coupon! That’s right, the other amazing thing about Eat24 is how they always make you feel like you’re saving a little money, and in such a way that you feel smart and in-the-know, not like the cat-hair covered lady who brings a fistful of cut coupons to the local grocery (sorry, that woman!). Between those emailed coupons and the discount codes they’re constantly passing out to whoever asks on their Facebook or Twitter page, I haven’t ordered from them in the last six months or so without getting a sweet $2 or $3 off my total!

And the last thing that pushes it over the edge for me: they’re constantly adding new features. The most recent one that I use alllllllll the time now is the like/dislike and notes that people can leave on individual menu items. I’m not under any illusion that everything is good at my favorite restaurants (and ps, if the server tells you that, they’re pulling your leg), so I love easily seeing what people really like, especially if the notes they leave have helpful tips, like “get this with beef” or “their medium is REALLY hot.” You can also make your notes private, if you want to just remind yourself next time that the garlic rice may sound good, but remember, they put bamboo slivers in it, grossgrossgross.

So if you’re as cooking-averse and housebound as I am every evening, you need someone in your corner! Eat24 is it — hurry hurry, and don’t forget to let me know how it was!

(Photo courtesy of Someecards)

Tragedy in the Time of the Internet

I was going to post today about year-end best books lists. That, like so much else, will have to wait for next week.

Unlike many of my peers, I don’t want to take this time or space to talk about gun control, mental illness, our culture of violence glorification, or prayer in schools. Not because those things aren’t important to me, as they very much are. But we can’t control our reactions to tragedy, and apparently mine is to sit here, mostly frozen, reading everything I can (fact, fiction, opinion, protest), and trying to process today’s events.

The internet helps us all feel more connected to one another: acquaintances or old friends now feel completely inserted into each other’s daily lives as if we were bosom buddies or roommates. Bloggers who are otherwise complete strangers to us eloquently speak about some aspect of their lives in a way that resonates with us, and we slip into a quasi-relationship where we become part-friends, part-fans. I was recently at a local playground and recognized a well-known LA blogger, or rather, I recognized one of her adorable, oft-photographed children, and then realized that I thus recognized the mother calling for the baby. I debated whether to say hi, but realized that, for me, the relationship was more public figure/fan than friend/friend, or even one random mom with a cute kid to another, and in those situations, I tend to leave the person alone.

Tangent aside, my point is that the internet makes us feel closer. When tragedies of this magnitude happen, we all run towards family and friends. But I know I can’t have been alone in wanting desperately to know what my friends were feeling and saying, and that includes my “friends” as well, meaning my Facebook and Twitter feeds. And one thing I noticed as I refreshed is that every so often, there would be someone talking about something else besides today’s shooting.

At first, I felt jarred, and then a bit upset — how could anyone be thinking about anything else? But then I saw those folks get some frankly insane feedback to that effect, and I began to feel for them. Whether they had content set to auto-post, whether they had not yet heard the news (seemingly impossible in our 24/7 news culture, but actually kinda comforting), or whether they were choosing to speak about something else in an attempt towards normality, it’s their prerogative. If there should be a moratorium on anything today, please let it be judging others on their reactions or lack thereof. The internet may make us feel like we’re all one big family (the type that involves prying great-aunts), but you there? You do not know most of your Facebook friends’ inner lives, and you do not get to lambast others on Twitter for every post made that doesn’t match what you feel right now.

There’s such a need to band together right now, to find the answers, and to please fix these problems, these horrors that plague our lives from time to time, sometimes more often than others. I have no answers or suggestions as to how to do that, but what I do know is that tragedies happen. And they are immeasurably terrible. But if something happened to me tomorrow, I would so want to think that I spent my last day, and every single precious one before that, as active in my pursuit of happiness as I could be. Whether that’s by seeing a silly movie by myself, spending time with my ingenious toddler, gasping over what the HELL Kristen Stewart just wore on the red carpet, eating a million and one mint M&Ms, or making out with my hot husband.

In the face of unexplainable, devastating death, I choose to mourn, but also to live. And I’m okay with that.