Tuesday, September 8, 2009

On the Rocks

Last weekend I decided to try rock climbing for the first time. Feeling a tinge of nostalgia for the many Labor Day weekends spent sitting around campfires, I signed up to play leap frog on some sheer vertical cliffs with a hiking group I found on Meetup.com. I was able to hitch a ride to the cliffs with one member who graciously offered a front seat in his car. Five minutes into the trip a backseat rider asked, "Can I cut my toe nails?" Two hours into the trip, I awoke from a pleasant morning slumber to the sight of a beautiful sloping New Paltz, NY. Our first stop was a rock climbing rental place to pick up shoes and helmets. A 15-minute drive from town brought us to our final destination, a collection of cliffs in the Mohonk Preserve referred to as the Gunks.

Getting nervous for my first climb...lassie senses danger...

Before attempting the climb, several instructors ran through the basics: how to tie a figure-eight rope, how to belay, names for basic climbing equipment, and the signal calls between climber and belayer. I eventually learned that each cliff is rated on a scale going from 5.1 to 5.15 with 5.15 being the hardest. My first climb was a 5-5.

Not too shabby for a first-timer, according to my instructor, who said I screamed the whole way up and whole way down. 

Finish! 


I felt so invigorated, and so relieved. My second and third climbs didn't turn out quite so successfully. I barely made it 10 minutes into both before my muscles started pulsating and shaking out of weakness. And yet, most of the pros climbed like it was nobody's business, going to the top again and again and again. Everyone from the group was so good-natured, it was hard to feel bad about my novice status on such a beautiful summer day. I think I could get used to this sport, even if it involves looking for tiny crevices in a gigantic piece of rock to support my entire body weight and offset the downward crushing blows of gravity.  

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hitting Close to Home

My home is changing, and it saddens me :( 

Growing up, I figured my hometown would stay the same forever. Going away for camp in the summer usually just meant a break from the same ol' same ol'. And understandably so, in a quiet farming community of 590 people. It was comforting to know that no matter how crazy life got in the outside world, I could always go home and return to a simpler time. Which brings me to the "why I am saddened" part. Last week when I was home it seemed eerily quiet, like a ghost town or a gold rush boomtown suddenly hit by small pox. 

I can give at least one reason for the lull in activity. Two years ago, the state rebuilt a major highway which used to run straight through the middle of town; now the highway completely bypasses us. The result has been a huge loss of traffic and local revenue, especially to businesses along the old stretch of highway. Everywhere I looked last week there was another "Closed" or"For Sale" sign up in the window: the local bakery, my old day care, my Catholic grade school (closed in 2002 due to shrinking enrollment), the one and only grocery mart, the hardware store, Mike's video rental, and so on. Apparently the public schools are merging with the schools in a town 15 minutes north to consolidate resources on that front as well. According to my best friend Amanda's "scientific" guesstimations, over 50% of the population is 50 or older. She could be right. Shrinking job opportunities and diversions for young people (myself included) have made it an obvious choice to start a new life in a bigger city rather than live closer to home with more limited options. Brain drain has hit the smallest cities hardest. 

Considering the current trend, I worry about what my town will look like 10 years from now. They say you can always go home, but now I wonder whether that's just a polite expression for people who live in the burbs. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sconsin

A few snapshots from home. 







Monday, May 11, 2009

Home Sweet Home

One of my favorite Sunday guilty pleasures involves flipping through the Real Estate section in the New York Times. Featured apartments range anywhere from 500K to $5M, and tend to look more like movie sets than a cozy place to curl up on the couch and watch movies all day. And yet, these advertisements are the stuff 20-something fantasies are made of. I like to imagine that instead of coming home to 3 roommates and the smell of cat poo, I live in one of these posh, immaculate, perfectly balanced, professionally designed abodes. 

What I have yet to see in the Times is something like this.

Readers, I bring you the smallest house in Brooklyn. Located near the intersection of Ave T and Van Sicklen, you'll need to watch your head as you duck through the front door. Occupying what used to be a driveway, it's now a one bedroom, one bathroom home that sits on a parcel of land 7.25 feet and 113.67 feet long and has an interior of just under 3oo feet. 

Enter...


The living room, looking toward the front of the house. Notice the slick hardwood floors. 

Living room, looking toward the back of the house. 
The kitchen. Includes a washer and dryer!


Here's the bedroom. It comes with a Murphy bed, which is a necessity in such a small place. This is what it looks like with the Murphy bed down. 
The patio. Big enough for a cookout, though I don't know where you'd put all your neighbors (or your beer?) 


Here are the home's 'Listed Features': 
* Completely redone top-to-bottom, front-to-back! 
* Tumbled stone entrance walk 
* Renovated Bath 
* Renovated Kitchen with new stove, new cabinets and new stacked washer/dryer 
* Bedroom with Murphy Bed + 'Built-ins' ... (doubles as a den)! 
* Walkout to fenced patio 
* 100 Amp service 
* 2 Satellite Dishes and Receiver 
Window Air Conditioner Available

All this for a bargain - only $179,900.000!  

In short, 100 grand in New York can buy you a midget house.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hello, Summer!


As temperatures soared into the 80's this weekend, it seemed as though all of New York hit the streets to enjoy the city in its prime. 

I've been looking forward to this weekend since moving back to Brooklyn in February. There's something about the spacious, rambling nature of Brooklyn that makes exploration an intrinsic element of summer. You're never quite finished seeing what's new in the neighborhood. Just a few items on my checklist: running through Prospect Park, reading on a blanket in Fort Greene Park, hitting up the coffee shops, trolling the Brooklyn flea markets. Not a bad start. 


The line for ice cream outside the flea market in Ft. Greene. Just what the doctor ordered.



And  delicious flea market pastries...I opted for a fudge cookie since the cupcakes were melting.



Who doesn't love a good flea market? Pictured above: tents, vintage Dr. Pepper bottles, kimonos, old records, furniture, a woman bending over to display her backside, introspective dude with white hair. Anatomy charts, encyclopedia maps,  hand-made jewelry.


Roosevelt Dime - Official Kick Ass Folk Band of Summer '09 (this photo does not fully capture their awesomeness)


Fort Greene Park on Saturday. Packed. 


View from my picnic blanket. (Ft Greene)

Last but not least, this awesome Monet print, which I bought framed for a whopping $25 at a flea market in Park Slope. Compliments my "Chelsea" walls quite nicely, don't you think?



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Where the Cup Runneth Over Since 1854

Take a close look at this photo. See if you can find the following objects: 

1. A small statue of JFK's head. 
2. A "Wanted" poster for Abe Lincoln's assassin. 
3. Bulbous objects resembling tribal masks
4. A skeleton*
5. An orb*

6. A metal tripod that could be something straight out of the Titanic. It's just as old and covered in 3 inches of dust. The small objects dangling from this rod are wishbones. Legend has it several soldiers left these bones here -McSorley's Old Ale House - before leaving for WWII. The remaining wishbones represent those who did not survive the war to retrieve their bone. 

Of the million and one places in Manhattan to lose oneself in sweet toxic juices, I ended up at McSorley's Saturday night - the oldest bar in New York. Apparently they had quite the basement operation going when Prohibition was in full swing. Also, women were not admitted to the bar until 1970 when a Supreme Court ruling upended this restriction. When ordering a drink, one only needs to say "light" (ale) or "dark" (ale). For $4.50 they give you two mugs right off the bat. This joint was packed and bustling on Saturday; definitely the place to be if you're rambling around the East Village some evening looking to quench your thirst. 

*Trick questions. The "skeleton" is actually a window shade and the "orb" is a real light. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Coffee Bar Hopping

My life is incomplete in one small but important area. 

Sure, I have a great apartment situation in a cute Brooklyn neighborhood. I am gainfully employed. I have a kickass room with shade #9 "Chelsea" walls. What more could one ask for in life, you say? 

Peeps, I am in desperate need of a quality cafe hangout. I'm talking about the kind of place with big comfy chairs where you can just kick back and get lost in a book for an entire day. I've managed to find great places in most of my former cities  - in Syracuse, the Barnes & Noble on Erie Blvd., and during my South Dakota internship, Coffee Smith and Red Rooster. By comparison, the New York B&N's are always filled to the brim with people. I suppose a fear of homeless people camping out in their stores may explain the absence of big comfy chairs and fire places. Alas, the store's cozy "escape" factor has been lost forever on me.

As a whole, the NY coffee scene pales in comparison to my former haunts. Especially when I think of the memories...the memories! My relationship with the Syracuse B&N escalated to the point where I joined a "chair gang" comprised of a 35-year-old nurse, a 70-year-old retired physicist, a 60-year-old bear hunter and myself (we still keep in touch). One scary night in SD leaving the Rooster, I agreed to drive an acquaintance home only to learn that he really just wanted my number...and to tell me that his ex-girlfriend had filed a restraining order against him. But oh Rooster, how could I forget your delectable ice cream drinks, your free coffee, your cheap used books? Sigh. New York, you have a very tall order to fill.

Today I set out once again to find The perfect place. This time I limited my cafe hopping to the Ft Greene area. Several caffeinated beverages later, I am still disappointed (though quite jittery). Here's a short breakdown of the places I've visited and where they rank: 

Best Food: Ortine Cafe
Very tucked-away and out-of-place; you would never know of this cafe's existence unless you actually passed it on the street. Great food, but expensive. It would be hard to spend more than a few hours here since A) I would go broke and B) my back would go broke from their hard restaurant-style tables and chairs. 

Best Coffee: Bittersweet
Great Mocha. Again, very uncomfortable tables and chairs. My neck started hurting after only 30 minutes of trying to read while sitting upright in perfect posture. 

Best Atmosphere: Tillie's of Brooklyn
Fun place; lots of people and live bands on the weekend. There's also walls filled with local art on the upper level. Their chicken sandwich is to die for. But then again, you'll find the same uncomfortable tables and chairs here. Also, it's a popular spot so I find myself constantly distracted by the comings and goings of others. 

Best Sweets: Green Apple Cafe
Tried this place for the first time tonight. Their mocha tasted very bitter; won't try that again. However, they have quite the selection of confectionary goodies (cupcakes, bars, pies, cakes). Sweets tend to have their way with me. 

Now, as soon as I find a coffee joint which embodies all of these traits, I will be one very happy girl. 


Sunday, March 8, 2009

To Queens and Back Again: A Hobbit's Tale

Today I made the epic journey from Brooklyn to Queens to pick up a radioactive watermelon bridesmaid dress that I ordered two months ago. The David's Bridal people told me to try on the dress one more time to make sure it fit, so I did. After sliding into it, I could tell something wasn't right - it just didn't feel the same. Walking over to the mirrors, my suspicions were confirmed: I've lost some weight. Now I have exactly four months to start eating truckloads of food so I can fit into this dress. One of the bridal attendants told me that a smaller dress size would be too small, case closed. Ergo, I must wear this dress. I'm thinking a corset might add some girth, but corsets are also inclined to have a "flattening" rather than "fattening" effect. The eating begins...now.

Here's the kicker: my friend is having us wear full-length dresses and petticoats in late July. I have a feeling this has something to do with the conservative nature of her church. However, Wisconsin easily reaches temperatures in the 90's around that time of year. It could end up being the perfect 70-degree summer day, but who can predict Wisco weather in July? Unless my friend's tiny church has Central Air, it's pretty much a given that I'll be leaving the ceremony glistening with perspiration.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you the dress. Make sure you choose the watermelon color swatch.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Single Life: Day 7

I am enjoying these last few moments of silence before falling asleep in a bed that is entirely mine. I could get used to this. Aside from the occasional police siren which reminds me that I'm in New York, my quiet Brooklyn room feels like a world of its own.

At Day 7, it's disorienting to come home when it doesn't yet feel like home. But this place is growing on me a little more each day. Over the weekend I plan to paint my room a deep shade of Chelsea Purple. Fresh coat = fresh start? 

Sometimes when I daydream I think about all of the various turns my life could take in a matter of seconds...two weeks ago, I was still living with my ex, focusing on running to Whole Foods rather than addressing my feelings about the relationship. Now I'm ordering takeout nonstop and basking in the "me time" I so love. 

Goals for the week: serious girl bonding, room painting, reading, sleeping in -- and frankly my dear, not giving a damn.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Big Changes

You never know what life's going to throw at you.

For me, it was a gradual but growing unhappiness that reared its ugly head this week when RedSunRover and I finally called it quits. 

It's a funny thing, breaking up. My longest relationship before RedSun lasted 7 months, and that was in high school. Before that, my big fling was a second grade "boyfriend" who stood by me when all the girls decided to exile me from their group.   

Somehow, I managed to find an awesome Brooklyn apartment in less than 24 hours. Obviously I couldn't continue living with an ex, but the breakup happened to fall exactly one week before Feb. 1st. Like everything else in NY, the apartment hunt had to be an accelerated process. Finding one turned out to be much easier than I thought it was going to be; I can probably thank the tanking economy for this. 

It's going to feel weird not having a boyfriend, but I'm comforted by the fact that we had a great year together. I'm grateful this hasn't escalated into an extremely messy situation, and that I'll be able to stay friends with my ex moving forward. He's my best friend - always has been, always will be.  Let the healing begin.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Staycation

Subzero temperatures, a failing economy and cabin fever can only lead to one thing: Staycation!

Of course, we wouldn't dare leave Chewy behind.

RedSunRover and I spent Saturday night at Gild Hall in the Financial District. I was very impressed by the lodge-like lobby and Old English vibe. Deer horns on the ceiling reminded me of a decked out version of my family's hunting shack in Wisconsin (minus the outhouse). RedSun and I rented a Western flick and ordered in Dominos as any high roller guest would do ;)  My only complaint was that their restaurant was closed off for breakfast Sunday morn. No attempts were made by the Concierge to make their guests happy when we expressed our discontent at checkout. Too bad...this place was SO close to getting my seal of approval. My deprived stomach overrules over anything else in this decision making process. At least I have my cowboys (Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen) to think back on with fondness. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Modest Proposal

Today I spent $200 on a bright watermelon dress to be worn this July in one of my best friends' weddings. I've got another "Heineken bottle" green dress waiting in the wings for my sister's wedding...which is postponed until further notice. Now, I'm a good bridesmaid: I love my friends and I'll wear a less-than-dazzling dress to keep them happy (for this occasion and this occasion alone). More than losing money, however, I'm concerned about losing all my single friends to the Other Side. Please come back!

I'm pretty old-fashioned by most standards, so it amazes me that so many of my friends/former classmates are married, with children, or both. Facebook keeps me updated on all the happenings, of course. When I see yet another "Mike and Stacy's Wedding Album," I experience a strange mixture of reactions: first, an appreciation for the aesthetic beauty of the ceremony, the wedding dress, the hair, the food, etc. Secondly, a big gold star sense of achievement in being able to retain my singleton status. Lastly, a feeling of big change in the world and my relationship to the people in it. 

For example...
During Christmas vacation I was going through some albums and happened upon a funny Wisconsin middle school basketball photo. In it we all look very wide-eyed, eager, full of promise. Fourteen years ago, none of us had kids, and now more than half do. FYI: I hated middle school. But now I want those young-silly years back! Most of my New York friends are unmarried, but I have a feeling this will change in the next few years. Conclusion: I need to relish these bachelorette days with bachelorette friends before they, too, venture to the Other Side  :(

I deplore you; Friends, please stay unmarried so we can hit the bars together Friday nights without worrying about feeding the kids, feeding the husband, or any other matronly duties I could insert here. Let's relish this time of freedom in our 20's; relish these peak years while our chests are still perky and our hips are narrow. There will be plenty of time for cute babies and smart-mouthed husbands. If you're thinking about getting married, please, come to New York so I can buy you a drink. It's the least you can do for a yet tied-down friend. Think hard before agreeing to that wedding proposal. Think hard before saying goodbye to late nights spent gossiping, reading Cosmo together, and counting down from 100 on the phone.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Princess Week

The first week of January shall henceforth be known as "Princess Week."

Two years ago - New Years Eve 2006 - I experienced a life-changing New Years holiday. It's not a day I remember with fondness. I spent most of the night hostessing at the lovely local Red Lobster establishment. Later that evening, I got stood up. A Syracuse "townie," of all people. I watched the ball drop from my couch, then turned in a few minutes later madder than ever.  As I've mentioned before, this was the catalyst which inspired me to move to New York (you can thank this boy for my blog). Whereas the poor guy, two months after standing me up, totaled his truck and got a DUI.
Okay, so about Princess Week - it started off a little shaky, but eventually gained momentum. I caught a horrible stomach virus in Atlanta four hours before my flight was supposed to take off. I'm sure you've been there. We're talking stomach flu where it feels like an animal is literally eating your insides. I couldn't eat anything but saltines and Sprite until Tuesday. When I got home, however, I only had to work one day because New Years Day was approaching. I was catsitting for my aunt and uncle at their expansive Upper West Side apartment. Cue many hours spent playing Nintendo Wii Mario Kart and watching such cable TV reality gems as "Platinum Weddings" and "What Not to Wear." 

My current boyfriend and I spent our New Years Eve/one year anniversary at Capitale, an investment bank-turned-fancy event venue with high vaulted ceilings and crests etched in all corners.  We spent three hours yesterday at Silk Day Spa getting deep tissue massages and sitting in the steam baths. After the spa we headed to Roth's Steakhouse for surf and turf. 

Who's laughing now?









Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas One and All

Enjoy the holidays, everyone!

I'm looking forward to my wee early morning flight to Atlanta tomorrow. My boyfriend is meeting my parents for the first time, so expect some funny stories to ensue.

In case you were wondering, here's my itinerary for the next few days.

1. Pack my bags



2. Sit around the Christmas tree in my bathrobe



3. Rid the world of darkness




4. Rescue young children from their plight of soiled clothing




5. Feed bamboo to starving puppies


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow Daze

Yesterday involved a lot of running around, so today I've declared an official snow day. 

No subways, no slushy streets... just sitting around the Christmas tree in my apartment watching Netflix, drinking rum and coke.

Good times.




Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Falling Acid

Last week a few drops of "acid" fell on my head while waiting for a train in the subway station. Good omen or bad, I ask?

Good... I think.

The mysterious fluid-like substance dripped from the ceiling and smelled of rotting cabbage. I guess this is to be expected considering its source. BUT, it almost fell on my head and didn't. I happened to be covering my ears (two loud express trains were going through), and the drops only hit my hands. So instead of the drops falling into my eye and causing permanent blindness, I had really smelly hands. Bad stenches I can handle, blindness not so much.

I understand how carried away this might sound, but this is falling acid, people! Who knows where that water came from or what it passed through before reaching my hand *shudder*
Funny - I can spend 10 days in the woods and not desire a shower, but this geyser of foul water falls on me and it's pretty much the end of the world. It's the same with beetles vs. roaches: I can squish beetles with a tiny piece of toilet paper, but I can't even look at a dead roach without screeching like a murder victim.

Cities are the worst kind of dirty.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

AWOL~

Dear Readers, 
Whoever you are, and wherever you are, my apologies for this huge lapse of posting in the blogger space continuum. I owe you a quick update as to what has been occupying so much of my time these last few weeks:

1. I got laid off. And then hired. Long story.
2. I went on LinkedIn and started "friending" anyone who lives in NYC and has ever attended Syracuse University. My search yielded about 30 page results. Sadly, a lot of people picked the "I don't know this person" response. So many that LinkedIn placed my account on probation. Any more networking stunts and they'll shut down my account for good (or so the LinkedIn gods tell me).
3. Going on interviews and nearly slipping in high-heeled shoes twice (once in Port Authority, once while running across the street in the rain). Screw heels.
4. Taking naps.
5. Making mixed cd's for family members using my excellent selection prowess.
6. Listening to Katy Perry's I KISSED A GIRL over and over and over.
7. Buying a coffee maker, which has already paid for itself. 
8. Learning to make a perfectly concocted pot of coffee.
9. Reading NO ANGEL by Penny Vincenzi. Great story, intricately-woven...but riddled with typographical errors in nearly every chapter. I was tempted to mark the mistakes with red pen and then send the book back to Overlook Press (ironic name for a publishing house?).  I've just started Roberto Bolano's THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES. Dirty. Scarily good.
10. Spending my days wrapped in blankets reading books and eating cookies - the apartment is drafty. 
11. Making a (half-hearted) attempt at going to the gym more. 
12. Watching NetFlix classics like THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING. Daniel Day-Lewis gives me shivers.
13. Making lists, because that's pretty much the epitome of fun (!)
14. Visited my old publishing office haunt and read this witty description of myself: "Most New Yorkers found her fresh-faced Midwestern outlook very charming." *twinkle*
15. Improving my culinary skills with each new day of unemployment. 
16. Looking for the slightest thunderbolt of creativity for a blog post. 


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Would you buy this lamp?

I recently posted a few craigslist ads, one for a laptop bag and the other for a jungle lamp. 

The jungle lamp ad is a bit flightly, but considering the audience I think it just might work. 


PS - Any takers, let me know...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Witches of Eastwick

So many post ideas, so little time. I've got a goodie in my head, but I'll need a little time to flesh it out...stay tuned.

Today I bring you a delicious excerpt from last Sunday's NY Times. Tis a book review by Sam Tanenhaus regarding John Updike's The Widows of Eastwick. One part really jumped out of the page. The novel is set in Nixon-era Rhode Island, but the description sounds a bit more like modern-day New York....

A triad of literal witches, sexually rapacious divorcees in their 30s, prey on the menfolk in a shabby-trendy Rhode Island seaside town and, as their power grows, also terrorize the local citizens...

And yet, despite their dream of female empowerment, the witches' fantasies center on a man, a mysteriously well-heeled newcomer 'with greasy curly hair half-hiding behind his ears and clumped at the back...Unsubtly named Darryl Van Horne, he is either Satan or his emissary, given to voluble though not quite coherent Mephistophelian theorizing. Aware the three divorcees are devil-worshipers, he lures them into the brick mansion, Eastwick's finest, which he has bought and gaudily refurbished. The 'malefactresses' cavort in Van Horne's 'eight-foot hot tub,' sexually servicing him and at times one another. They also greedily imbibe lethal cocktails, 'alchemically concocted of tequila and grenadine and creme de cassis and Triple Sec,'...

Sounds like wicked good fun to me. I wonder what Mephistophelian means. If Updike's book comes anywhere close to the quality of this review, I'm totally running out and buying a copy.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Choose Your Own Adventure!

In the beginning, there was R.L. Stine's Invaders of Hark. And it was good. Droves of children (myself included) devoured such tales of self-design like candy, meanwhile hoping not to fall down a well or accidentally eat a poison mushroom in the next chapter. Let's be honest: these tales are a fine wine that only get better with age.

In the next decade, man made digital format . And it was even better. Where will YOUR fortune cookie take you?

The latest turn in the choose-your-own adventure revolution comes in the form of online video, courtesy of my new favorite soap company, Dove. The story is called "Waking Up Hannah."

Viewers are able to explore three different storylines, all of them following a 20-something girl named Hannah who wakes up dazed and confused after a night of boozin'. From there she takes one of three routes: Energize, Refresh or Cool Moisture. You decide. FYI : you can also read through the text messages in her phone for the full Peeping Tom effect. The storyline you pick ultimately decides her fate in a blind date later that evening. Will poor Hannah stay cool and collected or find herself high and dry? Her destiny lies with you...