I am a hot mess and we went to New York a million years ago

The last month or so has been just a crazy whirlwind. Our families came for graduation, we took Megan to NYC, bar exam studying is in full force, M turned 27, we helped welcome a friend’s baby into the world, we went camping, and now Baller is here visiting. I want to write about everything that’s happening, but that’s an extremely optimistic goal given that blogging is going to be a “write furiously in snatched snippets of time” thing for the next month and a half. Oh, bar exam. How I thought I was going to dominate you, and instead you are just owning my very soul. Please just make your presence intense enough that we need never meet again.

Ok, so. Begin at the beginning? That would be graduation, but as I was one of the be-tasseled, I didn’t take that many pictures. I’ll save that for after I get some from my mom, and hopefully by then I’ll feel emotionally connected enough to make it seem like the “life event” that it (theoretically) was. (I can’t help feeling very ambivalent about big events on an arbitrary day, graduations especially. They always feel a little…forced, I think? Anyway).

Megan had to miss her graduation to be at ours, so M’s parents funded a little NYC trip so that we could show her around as a consolation prize. Um, yes please? If I could barter for a trip anywhere, my cap and gown would be sitting in a lonely heap in a corner. (That’s probably exactly where they are right now anyway, since we’ve had to return the rented ones we used for the ceremony. There is no ceremonial hood chillin on the wall.)

Hotel prices were kind of astronomical, so we rented a VRBO place in Brooklyn. It turned out to be wonderful (all loft-y and clean, with a full kitchen and Vogue issues littered about) but the trip getting there was…interesting. Neither of us had been to Brooklyn on our previous trips to the city, and so there was a lot of frustrated, suitcase-laden wandering. Google maps said we were supposed to go over some bridge, and then somehow we were walking into an industrial shipyard trying to get directions…let’s just say it was a good thing there were three of us, one was a male and it was broad daylight. Good grief. BUT! The Box House Hotel (as that was, in fact, its name) once found, was situated about 40 seconds from the Brooklyn Ice Cream factory. I’m pretty sure that’s all we need to say about that.

It was kind of subversively fun showing Megan around the city and pretending we actually knew it (“Oh, I have to take you to this cookie place…No, let’s go to this show…”) and she was pretty game for all of it. We haven’t spent that much time together, so this was a chance for me to get to know her more as a person, and less as “his sister.”

Speaking of sisters…Sister Act! While we were leafing through the programs and waiting for the lights to darken, Megan realized that Raven-Symone was playing the Whoopi role. I didn’t believe her at first, and then was a little freaked that I had accidentally picked the Nick Jr of Broadway shows for her first experience. Um, joke’s on me. I don’t care if she was annoying as a four year old on Cosby, current Raven is just an excellent showgirl nun. Talk about accolades you’ve hoped for your whole life.

Best bloody mary EVER at the Clover Club in Brooklyn. This was literally the Platonic brunch. They had deviled eggs with different toppings as appetizers, and M’s shrimp and grits made him a little weepy. There were huevos rancheros with quesadilla instead of tortilla. I can’t even talk about this anymore right now. Just go.

Siblings! And the spiciest jalapeno tequila drink the world has ever known!

And the view from the bar in the Standard. Win.

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Open Sesame Pretty Much Settles It

The other day, for the first few disoriented moments of consciousness, I thought I was in Belmont Shore. The first thing I saw was gray, balmy sky, and my mind immediately leapt to the walk down Santa Ana street to the ocean. The gray sky was real, of course, but the bright purple hibiscus flowers lining that path were three thousand miles away.

I wouldn’t have called myself a “California girl” before spending three years immersed in a culture that is anything but. Growing up, my fantasy life involved urban city centers navigated by public transportation, places with bright marquee lights and scarves and cafes where you could spend all afternoon with Austen or Faulkner without a strange look from teenagers in string bikinis.

I’m sitting in one of those cafes right now. Admittedly, I spend more time with my Google reader than with Austen, but that dream has been realized all the same. A train takes me to school each day, I own enough scarves to outfit a small boutique, and I can tell you where to get the best chocolate-chip cookie in Manhattan.*

Being the child of parents who are still happily married, I feel like this is the closest I’ve ever come to being torn between two poles. I love Boston. Twenty minutes and some flat boots can get you anywhere in the whole city, and the place you’re going probably is some speak-easy restaurant with dollar oysters.** But, as my early-morning subconscious can attest, I am longing for the sunny, salty air of the open expanse where I grew up.

M always teases me that I’m a split personality when it comes to cities. When we land in Boston each August, I’m all hopped up on the Q, rhapsodizing about culture! And ethnic food! And intellectual communities! And as soon as the first 20 degree day hits, I’m angry at the weather and making kindergarten paper chains to count down the days to when we fly “home to California, how could anyone even consider living somewhere else!”

So, it’s safe to say that I have trouble making up my mind. Except that when I look ahead to our return home after the bar exam, to living among our core loved ones again (instead of the dreaded exercise of “splitting time” among people I would rather lavish time upon)…I feel nothing but unadulterated excitement.

Perhaps that’s my answer after all.

*It’s Levain Bakery. If someone says otherwise, they’re telling a falsehood and they don’t want you to be happy. Get the chocolate chip walnut and then write a poem about it. We’ll compare our sonnets*** while eating the double-chocolate chip.

**Hi, Marliave. Let’s talk about your gin cocktails and how they’re just…I like them. A lot.

***You were going to do a sonnet, right? Haikus look like you’re not even trying.

Sense of Wonder

Travel always reminds me that the world is full of possibilities. Walking around a new city, I’m full of energy, pulsing, waiting to see what’s around the next corner. Sometimes it’s a funny and sweet snatch of childhood, newly discarded in just the right place for us to walk by and remember our own days of knocking our heels together three times…

But often I stumble into things that could be easily sought out at home…that could heighten the sensation of the daily march.

Live music falls into that category for me. Falls in, orders up some Chinese, nestles up with a blanket and makes itself at home in that category.

I just can’t get enough.

The beautiful and talented Delaney Gibson.

Hold On

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what in my life I’m comfortable letting go of, and what I want to hold onto with both hands.

Our trip to New York a few weeks ago sparked something in me. The city sort of took me aside and held my head between its hands and was all, “Look. You know you could be making better use of yourself. And your time. And your marriage.”

Apparently it triggered something in M too, because he’s been craving bagels and lox like a man possessed. My bread-loathing husband has made us a breakfast like this twice in the last two weeks:

That picture makes me so jealous of myself from yesterday.

But seriously. I’m really feeling the urge to dig a little deeper in my thoughts/actions/what-have-you and make my existence into “the good life.” My life is already “good”… I’m married to a wonderful man, will be working (soon) and have a network of people that I care so much about. But I really feel like there’s room around here…and I’d like to be consciously filling it with elements of the world that I know will make me feel fully engaged, appreciative and excited.

My dear friend Smash said it best…you are in charge of your life and its peaks and valleys. In her words:

“Happiness doesn’t just happen to you.  It doesn’t rearrange your furniture during the night for optimal flow of energy in your apartment.  It doesn’t change your sheets for you.  It doesn’t make you look good in skinny jeans.  It doesn’t plan your weekend, make dinner reservations, or buy concert tickets for you.  Happiness takes an investment of time, energy, and some amount of soul searching to identify things that make you happy.  Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, one must pursue happiness.”

Sing it, sister.

So, a resolution of sorts (now that we’re out of January and it feels less bandwagon-y)…I’d like to identify those happiness-triggers and purposefully cram my life full of them.

1. Conversations with my best friends. Ones where I’m not returning their phone calls, but seeking them out myself. Ones where I take the fact that I’ve been thinking about my Baller and wondering how she’s doing, and actually finding out. Conversations that include something like the following:

Smash: So, Xander was telling me all about how he volunteers for the Big Brother group, and he took his little brother shopping for their costume party…

Me: Did that exchange make your ovaries hurt?

Smash: Yeah. I had to be like, “Um, please stop. This conversation is making me pregnant.”

2. Be sure that my time with this guy is as sexy and fun as possible, and that it’s got a vibe that’s more “Hi, Boyfriend” and less “Did You Mail Our Rent Check?”

3. Keep exploring Boston and try to spend time in new haunts (like this place! They had almond milk lattes!) instead of defaulting to old ones.

4. Be aware of my surroundings and remember to document what life is like here, lest I forget later.

(Seriously, what is up with these doors? Do all the child actors under 4’10 live in Beacon Hill? And why do they get their own apartments?)

5. Be physically present as much as possible with the people that make my world go round. I feel like sometimes I unintentionally pay lip-service to devoting time to my people, and don’t make the planning effort necessary to see them as often as I want.

No mas.

(Especially when I am lucky enough to have this girl near me for the next year…)

6. Spend less time on the relentlessly entertaining interwebs and be more productive in my daily life.

Ready…go!

The One Where We Finally Get Ourselves on a Bolt Bus

M had promised to take me to New York for my birthday, but then finals were looming, and the city was being all wicked expensive during the Christmas season (rude), so we put it off.

And so it happened that, just a few days ago, I happened to find myself sitting across from this handsome dude at The Stage, introducing him to the concept of Matzo ball soup.

He enjoyed the concept very much, but kindly requested that I not take pictures of him mid-chew. So much work, this marriage.

We were staying with a friend from M’s summer at the USAO, who was pretty much the best hostess on record. Seriously. If you looked up “superlative host” in the dictionary, you would see a picture of Michelle going across town to stay with her boyfriend so we could have the entire apartment to ourselves. They’re coming to Boston in a month, and I’m already feeling lame about only having an air mattress to offer them. (My secret weapon will be happy hour at Marliave. Who’s thinking about an air mattress when they are delightfully tipsy on Boston Tea Parties* and dollar oysters?)

Since we were staying at her apartment, we spent a lot of time in the subway stop for Columbia University. Not trying to be biased or anything, but it’s most def the prettiest one. Look at that blue tile! Semi-Grecian swirls! Really wishing I had taken art history in college!

We ate at Prune on our first night in the city, and that was the only disappointment of the trip. Not because the restaurant wasn’t great, because it was! It just turns out that lots of drinks plus way too much bone marrow equals sick me. However, by the next morning I had totally rallied in time to embrace my inner Jew yet again. Bagels and lox! Never has such a beautifully perfect food been created. And Murray’s in Chelsea is THE place to admire it up close and personal.

I am not exaggerating when I say I wanted to order everything in this establishment. Bagel crates stacked almost to the ceiling: cinnamon raisin, onion, salt, everything. 17 kinds of cream cheese. It’s a good thing we don’t live nearby.

Or is it?

After consuming our weight in smoked fish, we trudged through the snow to the Guggenheim. Such a cool building.

The exhibit while we were there was Maurizio Cattelan, who apparently is kind of a prankster and displayed his life’s work by stringing up all his sculptures and hanging them from the ceiling.

M and I liked Cattelan’s work a lot more than we anticipated. They’re pretty simple, bold pieces, and I liked the immediate, visceral reaction they evoked. Especially this one:

And this one, which we thought was just a chill elephant decked out in the easiest Halloween costume…but Conrad informed us was instead a KKK elephant.

I didn’t know. I would never have patted his trunk had I known.

This little girl was just the greatest. She was perched on the floor in the Kandinsky exhibit with her sketchbook, so seriously copying the artwork. She was just shadin’ away with her colored pencils, and you could tell from her look of concentration that she saw no reason why her finished product couldn’t match the one on the wall perfectly.

New life mission: get back some of that innate confidence.

Museums make you hungry and exhausted, and then you have to get burgers. (It’s the law). We went to Shake Shack to put the old “In-N-Out versus SS” test to rest. (SS= Shake Shack, not the Gestapo. Let’s be clear, cheeseburgers win over fascism every time.)

Verdict = come on. Seriously? I mean, Shake Shack, your custard is very nice. But my tiny imaginary chihuahua ate one of your burgers and then asked when we were having lunch. You straight cannot charge eight dollars for that little guy.

 Good thing we had (somewhat) fortified ourselves, though, cause then we stood in line at ye old TKTS and got tickets to…MEMPHIS!!!

Do you like gospel music? Soul music? There is only one correct answer to such a question, and as soon as you say it (“YES!”) then I will tell you to get yourself over to this 2010 Tony Award-winner with great speed. (Also, go to Lantern’s Keep in the Iroquois Hotel for drinks first. That’s a very important step.)

Oh man. It was so great. It was GREAT. And the greatest thing about it was that M now truly enjoys going to see shows (even musicals) just as much as I do. And it is so much fun to look over at your partner during an amazing experience like that and be able to tell that they’re loving it as much as you are.

 

The one event of which I have no pictures is our dinner at Hudson Clearwater. It was epic and totally worth taking documentary evidence, but the busboys were so gay-beautiful, and the waitress was so skinny and eyeliner-y, and I felt altogether too nerdy to pull out my iPhone and starting snapping away. However. Some cabbage-y slaw thing, an amazing duck dish and an apple-and-salted-caramel dessert were all filed into the mental vault marked “Please Sir, May I Have Some More?”

The next morning we made our way over to the West Village for brunch at Home. They had $5 dollar brunch drinks, which is clearly the price point at which you become financially irresponsible by not ordering one. So I got a bloody mary (which I always feel like I should like, being such a lover of savory things) and this time I really did like it. Very successful brunch, is what I’m trying to say here.

Afterward, we wandered around an elevated park called the Highline, which was constructed out of an abandoned railway platform…

Apparently these benches slide around (when there isn't a bunch of snow blocking their tracks) and you can configure them into chaise-y couches for you and your beloveds.

…and said goodbye to our wonderful hosts and their absurdly cool city. Before we left, though, we had to make a pit-stop at this place I heard makes a decent cookie.

I can’t even talk about it. We got chocolate-chip with walnuts, and dark chocolate. They were enormous, gooey in the middle, and made out of heaven. We brought one home and now it’s gone, and… seriously, I can’t talk about it anymore.

M’s final shot of the city, the beautiful trees on Columbia’s campus lit up for the winter. Does he have an eye, or what? So, so beautiful.

I love you, New York. See you in three weeks!

*Tequila, Earl Grey Tea and Ginger beer. Check it out. You’re quite welcome.