Wednesday, May 26, 2010

if we wait until the weekend, we could miss the best things to do.

So 95% of my interactions with people yesterday were with men. Seriously, it was very weird. I talked briefly to one woman the whole day. I went out with an old friend for lunch and he and I walked around the Upper West Side for a few hours. We went to Ulysses Grant's tomb, which was very cool, then I went to my knitting class which was taught by a man. After that I went to a concert and on my way home I ran into a guy I met a few weeks ago and hung out with a few times. He wrote a book and gave me a copy and I've read and it was the weirdest run in with a person. I was getting off the train and there were only men surrounding me. I didn't see one woman, and I thought "this is really odd" and I started looking around to see if there were men behind me as well and I turned and this kid was walking right next to me. We were both a little shocked, especially since those sort of run ins don't happen often. So we took the same train home and we talked the whole way and set up a time to hang out next week. Then when I got home I talked to 2 more guys before I went to bed. Weird.

So I was thinking of blogging about today because I had another awesome day, but then I realized how boring these posts must be about me listing the stuff I do. I decided to make my perfect day into a walking tour so that if any of you find yourselves in New York you can retrace my steps and perhaps find yourself having a perfect day.

I call this The Lazy Hot Day in New York Tour:

The next time you find yourself jobless in New York City with a lot of time on your hands, a couple of nice people to hang out with and weather that is less agreeable on the temperature side (preferably 90 degrees or more) there are plenty of relaxing and low impact activities. A nice picnic in the park is the perfect way to start.

1. Take a three hour picnic in the shade in Central Park. Start at the corner of 96th Street and Central Park West entrance to the park. Walk about 20 feet into the park and find a nice shady spot on the nearby hill. It's hot out there. You don't need to be doing any trekking any further when a perfectly shady hill is available right next to the entrance. Set yourself down and talk and eat with the couple of nice people you brought with you for the next two to three to four hours.

2. After snoozing in the shade, lazily stroll down Central Park West until you find yourself a refreshing drink. If you are lucky enough to be with someone who lives in the Upper West Side you can stop by their house, use their bathroom and freshen up with some cool water from their kitchen sink (it's free!)

3. Without exerting too much effort, ramble down Amsterdam and stop in Pretty Angel Nail & Spa (between 81 and 82nd) for a $24 mani/pedi. Super cheap and they also have great massage chairs.

4. After your mani/pedi hop on the train and head down to Chinatown. On Mott St. there are a number of places to get a cold tapioca drink. I got a passion fruit with little bits of coconut jellies floating in it. So refreshing. I got it at a place that was also a bakery where I bought a 98 cent piece of chocolate torte. 98 cents!!

5. Around the corner at 68 Bayard St. is a little place called "Nice Green Bo Restaraunt". They have delicious dumplings. You can share 3 orders between 4 people and only pay $5 each to get filled up with yummy food. Across the street is the Ice Cream Factory where they have an impressive array of flavors such as avacado and red bean. I got the lychee flavor, and it was delicious. Only, be aware that you can only sample 2 flavors of ice cream.

6. After dessert walk east down Canal Street (towards the East River) where you might just be lucky enough to run into some sister missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who sit outside the high school with big signs in Chinese offering free Book of Mormons and English lessons and try to talk to passers by. They're adorable girls and speak excellent Chinese, and if you crowd around them people will get interested and actually come up and talk to them.

7. Continue down Canal Street until you get to Allen Street. Cross the street and turn right. Just before you reach Division Street is a genuine Bansky painting on a wall. It's been tagged with silver paint, but what can you expect? Stand there and admire the piece of art which, if it had been done on a canvas would be worth thousands of dollars.

8. Walk down Allen Street towards the river until you pass under the Manhattan Bridge and actually get to the East River. The best time to go is at evening with a full moon when it's still 90 degrees and a cool breeze blows off of the river. You get a spectacular view of the Manhattan and the Brooklyn bridges and of Brooklyn and the Financial District.

9. Now if you're doing this walking tour right you'll be with someone who actually lives in a high rise luxury apartment in the Financial District. If you don't, well then you can't really finish the tour, so enjoy the view and then go home to your crumby little room that isn't actually a room at all in Harlem. Otherwise walk along the river towards the Financial District, try to navigate its charming crooked streets until you get to Two Gold St, advertised as "Downtown Manhattan's most amenity rich luxury resident rental". Take the elevator to the roof and enjoy the view of the river and of downtown Manhattan, or you can hang out in the club house with several private lounge areas and pool tables, or you can go for a swim in the pool or do laundry in one of the TWO on site laundry facilities. Two. On site. Not down the street, but in the same building. Unheard of. Or you could just hang out in a sweet apartment and watch tv on the giant flat screen.

This is where your adventure ends, but you'll find an A train near by that will take you to your (still 90 degree hot) room that isn't really a room in Harlem. From Central Park to the Upper West Side to China Town to the Financial District, you've seen a lot today and you deserve a nice cool shower.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

an imitation from New York, you're made in Japan from cheese and chalk

I've been sick since Tuesday night after I went out into the rain to see the movie Exit Through the Gift Shop which was thoroughly enjoyable, fun to watch, thought provoking and kind of awesome. I couldn't help feel like someone was messing with me, which really only made me enjoy it more. I don't feel like giving a plot summary or review, but there are plenty out there to read. I like how the NY Times calls it "a film that looks like a documentary but feels like a monumental con."

So while the beginning of the week was fun, the middle was a little annoying since I wanted to try to get better quickly so that I could resume my rock 'n' roll lifestyle in the Big Apple. So I stayed home, sniffly and miserable. On Thursday I went to the Whitney Biennial, an exhibition they do every other year of up and coming artists. I thought a couple hours there would not be too taxing on my virus infested body, but I didn't realize that my brain had ceased functioning until I found myself lost in Central Park. I had been meaning to simply walk across, to get from West 72nd street (on 8th Ave) to East 72 street (on 5th Ave), and I was little alarmed when I exited the Park at 59th Street and 6th Ave. If you don't feel like trying to picture the geography of this mistake, I made a map to give you an idea:

The black line is my intended route and the red marks my actual trek through the Park.

So I effectively walked a mile out of my way, which is no big deal, but because I was sick and it was a really hot day I thought that I was going to die by the time I made it to the museum. Plus I was also disturbed by the fact that I thought I was walking in one direction the whole way and I was so totally off track and I didn't know until I came out of the park.

As fun as that all was, and the Biennial was actually pretty great, Saturday was my really interesting day of the week. I was scheduled, or thought I was, to work at Coney Island at noon, so I decided to leave a little early and go to the temple to do some work. I had a very lovely experience there, and because I had been trying to write the talk that I gave in church today, I felt that my mind was in the right place to allow myself the kind of spiritual learning that can occur there. I left feeling very good and not concerned at all that I might be late to my job. I'm glad I didn't worry because when I got there my boss was surprised. "You're not on the schedule," she told me. Now, the fact that I was only scheduled to work twice in the whole month made me feel pretty sure that I was on the schedule, but I guess not on hers. I'm a little annoyed since her boss scheduled me and called her (while I was in the room) when she was out of town and told her when I was supposed to work. I told her not to worry about it and that I would go home and not come back, but that if she needed extra help in the next couple of weeks she could call me. I really just wanted to get out of there, especially because I was sick and had other plans for my Saturday. So I left and it took me an hour and a half to get home. I left for Coney Island at 10:30 and was back in my apartment by 2:30. It was a fantastic waste of time, and on the way back I sat next to a little old asian man on the train who proceeded to clip his very very long fingernails and leave the clippings on the floor. Lovely.

When I got home I rested and finished writing my talk and then I went to the LCD Soundsystem show, which I was very excited about. Needless to say, I had an awesome time. The only thing that bugged me was the crowd, especially the people near me, who refused to dance. One girl was positively frowning. It totally killed my concert buzz. Here is a video of the last song from the show that I went to, and if you look closely you can see me!! (I'm in the lower left hand side right in front of the two bongo-like drums)

I seriously had so much fun. I was exhausted by the time I got home but it felt good to dance and let myself go a little.

Well, that's it for now, but I have more to write about this week which has been far more enjoyable.

Friday, May 14, 2010

week three

I'm at the end of week three of my time here in New York, and so far this has been my favorite week. I came out here because I felt like it was the right thing to do, and I was terribly disappointed when things seemed to not go as well as I'd hoped. I was feeling lonely, homesick and constantly jerked around by the city and the people in it. But, in my time alone my thoughts have gathered in little puddles. Maybe that's not the right metaphor. It reminds me of those little bacteria I had heard about that when they run out of food they congregate into a solid mass, millions upon millions of them, building on one another until they look like a small plant. I'm not sure why they do this actually, and maybe this whole description has been totally unnecessary, but my point is that my thoughts seem to be doing something similar, seemingly random but building into lessons and insights.

Anyway, I thought I'd share some of my realizations, despite the fact that they are probably quite cheesy and it's very late and I'd like to go to sleep but my roommate is in the shower and will probably be there for the next hour at least.

First, I undervalue myself. I think most of us do, and I'm beginning to see that this undervaluing, which we tell ourselves is modesty, is bullshit. I may not have had lots of conventional experiences in the work force of the world, but I have had done a lot of a great things that I simply don't give myself credit for. I have to build on those things and those experiences.

Second, I cannot find happiness in a place, or rather because of a place. When I was in Provo I fantasized about being in New York, and when I got here I fantasized about being back in Utah, and when I go back I know I'll think about being here. I've got to learn to be happy where I'm at, whether it is in Harlem or Provo or Louisville. I have to find things that bring me joy in that place, but not because of the place itself, but because of how I am looking at that place. Today it was people's dogs. Oh I love the dogs in New York. They're like tiny happy little people, and they bring their owners such joy. I saw one little guy trotting along with his owner and her baby with such a bounce in his little step, and every five paces or so he would look up lovingly at his owner. Then I saw a little old lady walking with her walker and her little shiatsu whose long hair was brushed out perfectly, but she was very fat and moved slowly and I could tell she was old as well. "She's so adorable," I said, unable to help myself. "She's my baby," said the old lady, "Or I guess she's my old lady." I think I'll have to dedicate a whole post to the dogs I see around here. They amuse me so.

Lesson three: last night I started my job at an installation at the Armory on Park Avenue (which I will also have to wrote a whole post about soon) and part of my job is to talk to strangers about the piece. Me? Talk to strangers? If you know me, and have known me for a long time, you know me to be shy, to run away from strangers, to avoid talking at all costs, but deep inside I'm not really like that, and for the last couple of weeks I have been aching to talk to strangers, to all the hundreds of interesting people I see every day on the bus and the street and the subway. So this job is my chance to do so. And I realized last night that if I didn't talk to people I would have to stand there bored, and I would rather do anything than just stand around bored, so I pushed myself and I talked to as many people as I could, and we stood there, close together, and analyzed the piece, and I answered questions and I was in heaven. It was like teaching again. I loved it, and I realized this morning that I have to be just as deliberate in living my life. It's either push myself and get out of my comfort area and do something interesting or be bored and stand around and never get anywhere. I can't be afraid of people, I can't shy away from helping someone or from talking to a stranger when the opportunity comes up. And so when I left the apartment today and walked down the street in Harlem it felt like I was in a different place, and I felt good and comfortable and ready to go and talk to people and do so without being afraid but also without being naive, because I'm not going to undervalue myself anymore, and I know that I am a smart and capable human being.

So my whole point is, the last few weeks have been difficult, just as I knew they were going to be, but I can't believe how quickly I am learning lessons that will hopefully change the way I live my life. As I said before, these are all just random thoughts coming together and forming something bigger and more tangible, and they may continue to grow and change. I just hope I actually use them. I'm going to Coney Island tomorrow to work, where I had had a bad experience a couple weeks ago, and I hope things will go better with my new epiphanies in tow. We shall see.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New York I love you but you're bringing me down

I was talking to a lady today who is serving an LDS mission with her husband here in New York. I asked her what she thought of the city and she said that she has a love/hate relationship with it. I instantly knew what she was talking about. Now, I have only been here for a week so everything might change by the time I leave, but if today is any indication then the relationship I have with New York is definitely love/hate, and I think this is perfectly fine. To be honest I was surprised that I didn't love every second of being here right from the start, but really, why should I? It's a strange and new experience for me, and the city is also quite dirty (even in the nicest areas), crowded, noisy and it has been either freezing or incredibly hot for the last week, there are weird looking people walking around, you are constantly surrounded by people you never have any reason to talk to, and it often smells of urine. So, with all of these things to hate, why do so many people continue to live here, to raise their families here, to grow old here? I'm pretty sure I just don't understand this place yet. I'm trying though, and maybe some day I'll figure it out.

I spent most of my day in Central Park, walking around, looking at people, knitting, you know, the things you do in Central Park. I love Central Park, and I have always loved it, before I even went there. In fact, I wrote a paper on it for my Environmental Humanities class a couple years ago and had plans to expand it into my thesis, but as many of you know, I switched to zombies because I realized that writing a 100 page thesis about a park would end up being extremely boring. I think I made the right decision, but I still have plans to expand that paper. It's about the poetics of park design, but I wanted to also talk about urban nature in general. The interesting thing about Central Park is that it resembles nature, but in a contrived way that is supposed to induce recreation and transcendence. It's like looking at a landscape painting where nature is improved upon. Landscapes and parks do not show its scary side, but instead are meant to be morally, and in the case of parks physically, theraputic. After the morning I had feeling like I absolutely hated this city I went into the park and wandered around the "ramble", the woodsy area behind one of the lakes with trails. Of course I know the history of the park well and I know that all of those trails were very carefully designed, but I totally fell for it. I felt like I was out in the woods, not in the middle of huge dirty city. I calmed down, breathed deeply and relaxed. I totally fell for what Frederick Law Olmstead had planned. I felt like I was far away from the dirt and noise of a crazy city. I watched the birds and the squirrels and I decided that I would forgive New York this time. After another hour in the park I decided that I loved New York again. I left the ramble, but later went back in to eat my lunch and knit.

I spent 6 hours in the park today, knitting and taking pictures and enjoying the warm sunshine and the clear blue skies. I climbed up the Belvedere Castle and looked out over the park. I got lost a few times, turned around because I couldnt see any buildings and didn't know which way from Sunday. But even that was nice because I found places I hadn't known existed. I bought a frozen custard at the Boathouse cafe which was way overpriced but entirely delicious, and a few times I was genuinely entertained by the people walking their dogs and their children, and at one point a little old French lady complimented my knitting.

The last week has been filled with anxiety, but today I am happy. I'm glad Central Park and I were able to get to know each other a little better, and I hope we can be real friends now. I can't wait to start working on that paper again.