Tag Archives: NYC

Favorite NYC Pastime

14 Oct
My closet is pretty similar, but I like to think that it's somewhat coordinated and not a complete clusterfuck.

My closet is pretty similar, but I like to think that it’s somewhat coordinated and not a complete clusterfuck.

Yesterday was one of those perfect fall days – a walk around Soho, pumpkin-caramel latte in hand, scarves, finished by a hike through the park. And as glorious as listening to Ella Fitzgerald croon “Autumn In New York” in my ear buds was, my wandering eye kept me from thoroughly enjoying the day. No, I wasn’t gawking at handsome men with my fiancee at my side, no, instead I was cheating on my wardrobe.

Forgive me, I don’t have much to complain about in that department. I know what I like, what my style is, and I buy accordingly. My clothing selection used to be filed with binges – items that I would never wear more than once, but in the last two years, I have really cleaned that kind of spending up. While in some boutique or a place like Macy’s, I try hard in my mind to rack up different options – how often would I wear it, what in my current closet could be paired with it, etc., etc. In years past, it would be “this would look good for this event” or “someday I will buy the boots, pants, whatever, that will go with this outfit.” After a gigantic purge before I moved east, it’s a bit easier to know what is in my closet and what I might possibly like in it in the future.

While on a budget, NYC fashion is always tempting. There is always someone somewhere – on the subway, in the park, walking to work – that has a garment that I covet. I will fixate on this item, today a navy pleated midi skirt, thinking of all the different outfits I could coordinate. Maybe we are going out for lunch or to a reading – I can’t concentrate on anything other than that beautiful item. Sometimes I am able to forget about the pair of strappy heels or the vibrant green scarf, but a lot of times, it continues to be front and center. I NEED IT! I WANT IT! I HAVE TO HAVE IT NOW!

My birthday recently came up, and a few of those “needed” items were given to me as presents. THANKS! And a few others sit on a wishlist, for whenever I am able to afford those purchases. Unfortunately, I work near Century 21 – a department store mecca for all things fashionable and at a cheaper price than most places (so it claims). So after a marketing exec walks by my desk wearing a beautiful light-grey cashmere sweater, at 6 p.m., I run to the fourth floor womens’ department. Or I will take the train across the water to the three-story mall that is too, too close to my apartment. Most of the time, I won’t find the exact item, but I will come close. And if I haven’t bought something in a while and the garment is in my price range, I might go in for the kill.

Once that NYC outfit is fully assembled, I will don it proudly out and about. Maybe some other girl will see something she likes in my ensemble, so I hope. And then it happens. A girl in my neighborhood walks by in a leather jacket and boots, closely resembling things that I currently own. She is also wearing a ’90s-inspired baby-doll dress and looks oh-so adorable. Where did she buy that? It it vintage or purchased at a little boutique? Here I go again.

Understanding 9/11

11 Sep
The Empty Sky Memorial in Jersey City, N.J.

The Empty Sky Memorial in Jersey City, N.J.

Each workday, I enter and leave through the Port Authority Trans-Hudson hub that sits right next to the World Trade Center. The six-minute train ride underneath the river lets me sort out my thoughts before my short jaunt to the building that houses Soap Opera Digest. At 6 p.m., I stroll back home past the New York Stock Exchange, gothic buildings and churches in the Financial District. As soon as I hit Fulton Street, I look straight ahead. There, the Freedom Tower stands prominently, and I have to tilt my head up to see the entire building with its newly placed spire.

As soon as I open the door to my brownstone apartment in Jersey City, I can see the tower standing alone in the distance. I am reminded day after day, time after time, of 9/11.

When it happened, I was a senior at Webster City High School. We had a two-hour in-service that morning and my mom was busy talking to my uncle Dave on the phone about some things that needed fixing in the house. He must have said, “Turn on the news!” because my mom hurriedly flipped on the small TV in my parent’s bedroom. She let out a small shriek and covered her mouth, as we both watched the second plane hit. I knew it was a big deal, I knew that this was horribly wrong but as a 17-year-old, I just felt numb. We went to school and many of our teachers nixed our studies and left the television on so we could continue to watch the coverage. During lunch and cafe, we went back to talking about cross country, boys, our usual conversations. Why? We were kids, that’s why. It’s not easily digestible information that planes were being flown into buildings. That thousands of people had just died a couple hours ago. That there was so much hate.

As my senior year rolled on, I thought more about myself, as teenagers do, and kept up on the news when it fit my schedule. In the years following, I let what happened sink in. Call it maturity or finally allowing myself to unshield my eyes to the atrocities – it happened.

Since moving here, I have talked with native New Yorkers and people who lived here during the attacks. Where they were, people they know that had died – each person had a different story, but talked about it like it happened yesterday. When I first started working in Battery Park, I was very aware of the WTC site. After awhile, I started to get lost in my own thoughts and wouldn’t look up, the sounds of construction turning into background noise.

A couple months ago, I decided to watch 9/11 documentaries, like the ones produced by National Geographic. I watched YouTube videos of the attacks happening during the Today Show, of people getting off the PATH train and finding out about the carnage as they were getting out of the hub. I saw all the surrounding buildings that I walk by every day. I saw people sprinting down the streets that I walk every day. I pictured myself on one of my normal workdays, getting out of the train at the same time it happened. It’s now more real than it has ever been.

I have read the names of people at the memorial aloud; to fully understand that some of these normal people lived in the same neighborhood I do, probably frequented some of the same pubs, and hung out in the parks where I like to read.

Now, I don’t walk back and forth caught up in the music I am listening to or thinking about what I’m about to cook for dinner. I always look up at the Freedom Tower and think about that day and all the people affected. I think about the people trapped in the higher floors and others falling to their death. I see fire trucks daily on their way to some emergency and think about all those firefighters who climbed the stairs with all that heavy gear.

If living here has done one thing, it’s that I realize that life is truly a gift. One not to be wasted or squandered. It could have been any one of these people that I walk to work with, the sea of people heading off to their full-time jobs. Sometimes when something so horrific happens in a far-off place, it’s hard to take a walk in their shoes and understand that those affected are just normal people. Listening to their headphones, planning their grocery list, thinking of the weekend ahead.

If I didn’t let it sink in then, 12 years ago, I have definitely let it sink in now.

Friends

9 Sep
One of those people (one of the COOLEST, "said in my best Will Ferrell impression") in my life, who just happens to make it so much better.

One of those people (“the COOLEST,” said in my best Will Ferrell impression) in my life, who just happens to make it so much better.

“Do you notice you get a little less angry when the crowds become almost unbearable?”

“Yes.”

It’s been a year since we moved to NYC, and in that time, a lot has changed. I went from not working to babysitting to bartending to landing a full-time writing gig. Nate and I got engaged. And now we are less than two months away from our wedding.

While it’s easy to gripe about the constant foot traffic and lack of space – it’s also a pretty cool place. When we do have money and are able to partake in what the city offers – it’s at a Shake Shack, coffee shop, or a pub with a cool vibe or theme. And a lot of times it’s with friends.

That’s what makes it livable for me, being around people I thoroughly enjoy. Unfortunately, with work schedules and commuting, it’s not an everyday occurrence that I see these wonderful faces, but when I do, I’m glad we’ve made time for our meetings.

Yesterday was one of those days. Well, it wasn’t exactly a “hang out and relax” time period, it was a day for our engagement photos. In our dress clothes we walked to different parts of Central Park and our good friend, a photographer, took shots of us in various poses by famous points of the park.

It was really cool to be able to take our photos in such an iconic NYC place by someone we both care about, making the experience not such a formal situation. We talked of “Breaking Bad”, upcoming events we’d like to attend, and current events. And while we were all exhausted by the experience, afterwards it didn’t take too much arm twisting to land at our beloved Shake Shack for Shackburgers and Concretes.

I fell asleep on Nate’s shoulder on the train back to Jersey City, but when we got back, I realized I had a missed call from one of my bridesmaids who lives in Colorado. After lots of phone tag in the past week, we finally were able to talk over wedding plans, our lives, funny stories – she’s one of those people that no matter how much time goes in between seeing each other, we pick up right where we left off. After more than an hour, we said our good-byes, and I couldn’t wait for my wedding just to spend some time in her presence laughing about whatever nonsense I’m sure will happen.

Sometimes I get so down on the fact that my family is miles away in Iowa, and I forget all the friends I have right here or only a phone call away. People that have the same humor or tastes, have had shared experiences, and even people from the same small town I came from.

This place can be absolutely lonely, and many people are unable to stay here for a long period because they can’t make personal connections and thrive. Yesterday was a good reminder of what I do have and what I can easily take for granted.

 

NYC2WC

26 Aug
Excited to see Miss Quynn, the little daredevil!

Excited to see Miss Quynn, the little daredevil!

Two sleeps. That is how I used to countdown to exciting dates, and this past week has been no exception. When I was younger, it was because of our annual summer vacation, Christmas, or my birthday. I’d begin packing my suitcase or preparing my favorite outfit for the occasion and dwell in the anticipation. And then I’d sit in wonder, imagining this whole beauteous occasion over and over again. Ahem. I have a packing list prepared, a list of to-do’s before we leave and of course an entire wardrobe to squash into one tiny suitcase. While Nate watched his beloved Breaking Bad last night, I went to bed early to make the day come ever nearer. (Unfortunately, I just stayed wide awake for another couple hours.)

My Google map indicates that as soon as I get off work on Wednesday, I take the R uptown to the World Trade two stops, run quickly in my high heels to the PATH and take it to Newark. (Not that I didn’t already know this, since I take this route routinely and constantly, but it’s a good reminder, I tell myself.) We have our twenty dollars in cash ready for our taxi from the Newark Penn Station to Newark Airport, which feels a bit like a second home to us. I can already imagine the feeling in the pit of my stomach while we await our flight (queasy nervousness, hoping desperately for no flight delays because of our tiny layover window in Chicago.)

I’m going home for my cousin’s wedding, and I am just over the moon excited. Even if I’ve been warned that the heat is unbearable, even if I have been told again and again that the time will go by so quickly. And even if I have a doctor’s appointment, eye doctor’s appointment, dress fitting, and so much more on my plate.

I can’t wait to spend time with my immediate and extended family. I can’t wait to walk into Kendall Young Library and hike the Briggs Woods Trail. I can’t wait to see friendly people I don’t know waving from cars, for politeness and manners and stuff, for small town life. I can’t wait to sit outside and actually see the stars.

I feel like a little kid, and I am totally okay with that. Give me the heat and humidity, all I want to do is kiss my little niece’s cheek and cuddle with my parent’s anxiety-ridden cat, that’s all I want.

There have been periods of time in the past couple months when I was so incredibly homesick. And there have been others where I am so glad to be here. For my career, meeting people, trying all the flavors that NYC seems capable of offering. That’s where I’m at today. Happy to be here.

Almost every weekend, I walk through SoHo or one of the villages (our favorite area of the city) and I get this slight thrill, always. “I’m here, I’m actually here. And not just on a trip. I’m a casual resident on a casual Saturday looking for a casual Bloody Mary.” I love playing the part of cool Carrie out on a stroll. Or walking to work. “Hey there New York Stock Exchange and very old gothic buildings, while I make my way through this mess of people to my workplace.” Listening to a Bangle’s album on my headphones, all I am missing is my white lace-up sneakers and perm to go with my ‘80s career-woman attitude.

And although I savor these moments like none other, I look forward to being plain old me in small-town Iowa most of all. No acting, just being. I’m not there to try and impress anyone or get ahead in the game. I’m just me.

So I have 48 hours until the day of my flight … maybe I should start counting down that way … hmmm …. :)

NYC Prejudices

12 Aug

wave-the-next-time-you-fly-over-iowa-1350320987

We’ve just hit the one-year mark of moving to the East Coast from our home state of Iowa. It’s pretty significant, since I honestly didn’t know if I would get to see this milestone. I had only been away from Iowa and family for a few months at a time, so I wasn’t sure if this whole moving thing would be all that I had hoped it would to be.

And it has been. Besides all the obvious, I live in a great city. Not NYC, but Jersey City. While we enjoy our jaunts through Central Park, walking around the Villages – we most enjoy our town. A tree-lined brownstone community with many, many restaurants and coffee shops. After walking in Lower Manhattan filled to the brim with too many people, getting off the train in Jersey City is a relief. We have options, not as many as NYC, but a lot.

It’s been a growing-up time period. I’ve had to learn to get a hold of my bill paying and spending habits. I’ve had to learn to deal with homesickness and feeling alone. And I’ve dumped some really bad habits.

And as much as I want to say that this journey has “changed me”, it really hasn’t. I’m a bit more mature, a little wiser, but the same me. While I enjoy walking down the street with Ella Fitzgerald crooning through my headphones, I truly miss the Midwest. I can see myself living here indefinitely, I could. But I also could see myself happily packing up the moving van after Nate graduates from school. In a couple weeks time, we will be flying back home for a family wedding. And just like the last time, I will press my face against the glass of the plane, grinning from ear to ear while seeing the green cornfields below. When we are driving back to Webster City, my dad will say to me, like before, “I bet this is going to be boring compared to New York.” No, Dad, no. Impossible.

People may think that I’ve got “stuck-up airs” about me since moving here. No, and I don’t really hang out in my free time with anyone who would emulate that kind of attitude. That “I’m better than others or have more knowledge than before” – yeah, no.

Being here has been amazing, enlightening, and a learning curve. I’m a bit colder and not as “Midwest nice”, but I can turn on the charm as soon as I enter my hometown farming community. I miss waving at strangers, saying hello to everyone you see while out on a run, and saying “excuse me”, “I’m sorry” and my “please” and “thank-yous” while out and about.

So, again, I do enjoy it here, but it’s no heaven on earth, that is for sure. I don’t enjoy the rudeness. I don’t enjoy the “one-upping” that is so prevalent here, and the need to be the best at anything and everything. The competition is fierce, and while I can hang out in it for awhile, I don’t have the endurance for the race. I just don’t. And the “me” culture. Wow. I’ve never met more self-centered people in my life than I have here. It’s great to have goals, it’s great to want to succeed, but man, there is more to life than this city and the people who live in it.

Now, one of my biggest gripes about this area is it’s prejudices toward Midwesterners. I’m told all the time about my accent, how it sounds funny – and that doesn’t bother me. It’s when people talk about that area of the country like it’s a giant wasteland of despair. Everyone there is a racist. Everyone there is a redneck hick. Everyone. Didn’t you know that? :) The cultured people live on either coast, and the rest, the people with no teeth or grammar skills, sit making mud pies in that vast “fly over country”. (Oh yeah, I’ve heard that phrase enough times.)

“What do you guys do there?” People inquire. “Like for fun?” I’ve had incredulous conversations with those who think that we really cow tip on the regular and sit on porches in our wicker chairs piecing together four-word sentences about the weather.

I used to defend my area like a momma bear to it’s small cub, but why bother? It’s like trying to change a staunch Democrat or Republican, not going to happen. So I thin-lip it while listening to their garbage. Most of the time, I do have a “I’m better than you” attitude, because these people haven’t even set their toes on Midwestern soil before forming their ideas.

I have other gripes about NYC that will be saved for another time, but this one, I can’t agree with ever. Sure, there are certain people who fit the profiles that people want to stereotype all Midwesterners as. That’s why stereotypes exist. It’s just so … frustrating. It really is.

Before I get angrier about the subject, I need to take a breath and realize … only 14 more days until I’m home. Home Sweet Iowa.

The Writer’s Room

31 Jul

images

I came to NYC with three goals in mind: Grow closer to my now fiance, find a job in my field, and write a YA novel. One, check; two, sort of check; and three … yeah, about that.

Last week, I attended a writer’s meet-up in Tribeca. It was one of those “we heard about it on Facebook, so…let’s go” kind of things. Last year, this event happened and hundreds of people attended. It advertised free drinks, appetizers and a good atmosphere to network with a collection of writers, editors and publishers. We arrived at the basement event, which was almost pitch black excluding a few dimmed lights here and there for ambience purposes. Besides that, people were crammed in every which way, unable to walk through the crunch of bodies. If there were free beverages and cheese on crackers around, we must have missed that, because drinks were selling for at least $8 a pop. Not exactly an ideal place to meet up (for me, at least).

While we were crammed in a corner, a couple of people meandered over to meet the small group of writing cohorts I was hanging with. I’m sure that we could have tried to mingle with others, but after a full-day’s work and feeling overwhelmed by the total lack of space, it just wasn’t my jam. (My jam included getting in my jammies and watching some Netflixed flicks while stuffing cookie dough in my mouth.)

Sure, it would have been nice to make some new friends that have similar interests as me. It could have been. Yet, I was also taking in the swell of individuals (many non-native New Yorkers) that were in this tight space because a majority of them were aspiring writers.

Yeah, it shouldn’t still be so surprising that so many artists live in this city and its surrounding areas. But I am. When I see a columnist or popular blogger post pictures of their surroundings and I realize that I either live near them or just walked near a place they referred to, it’s pretty eerie. I don’t think I will ever get used to the situation, either.

We walk by a brownstone, find out an established writer resides there. In conversation, a friend mentions another friend that just landed a major book deal. Not to be repetitive, but “overwhelmed” is the word here. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to see something published in book form, and maybe that will happen, maybe not – who knows. And while being in a place with useful contacts is ideal, it’s also a place that can sink your hopes when you realize how much of a guppy you really are.

You hear the words “network” “contacts”, and the phrase “it’s all about who you know” all the time, and yes, it’s all true. But mentally, sometimes I’d rather snuggle under the covers and dream about it all happening. I’ve networked. I’ve made a few contacts. I know some people, I guess. Can I have a break?

Last Thursday was more of a realization that I’ve got a long way to go to seeing one of my goals ever completed. Maybe it’s good to have reality hit you in the head. Maybe?

Expensive City

22 Jul

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Living in NYC on a dime, it ain’t easy. Especially for this girl. I’m a person who every once and awhile glances at her checking account, and goes about her day as usual. When I lived in central Iowa that was usually a pretty safe deal. If I was going to go out and spend money, I might have to travel 25 miles away to do so, so it wasn’t happening every day. There were things to do that didn’t cost much money, and that was fine by me. I could go to our town’s library, take a long run through the woods, or maybe take a dip in the community pool for a few bucks. Perhaps I’d head to a local restaurant for a reasonably priced lunch or hang out at the local bar for a $3 drink. It didn’t put a huge dent in my bankbook, and I was okay with that.

Here, though, spending money freely is expected and encouraged. It’s not just a weekend thing. It’s an everyday event. Everywhere you walk, there’s a cute little pub or diner. Stores clog the streets, selling their wares. “You’re so lucky to live so close to this and that,” I hear constantly. “You have all of these crazy food options at your fingertips.” True, I do. And it is great to have options, I don’t deny that. But how many options of material goods and cuisine does a person possibly need? At first, my eyes were huge at the prospect. And I went into almost every cute boutique or funky restaurant that I saw. That definitely surprises your money supply. Quickly. We halted that spending soon after arriving in the Big Apple. It’s the everyday wallet digging that continues to shock and awe.

Want a quick bite to eat during lunch? It will run you around $13-14. And that’s for a brown-bag sandwich, chips and soda. Want a drink after work? That Lower East Side bar has specials for $7 a glass. Yeah, that’s on sale and just from the tap. And afternoon at the museum? No less than $25.

The ice cream parlor a few blocks away is another great example. It’s delicious, organic (of course it is) and will cost you about $5 for a single scoop. No cash? No problem, if you don’t mind spending the minimum $15 for a card swipe. (It’s a pretty common problem we find here. Places have high minimums or they offer an ATM in the corner that charges exorbitant fees.)

But you don’t have to worry about gas or car fees, you say. True, but I have public transportation to pay for. $2.75 per trip to be exact. And while it might not seem like a lot, if I want to get to work quicker, I pay double that price. (I save money by walking a good 25 minutes more each day.) Want to make it across town? Perhaps you’ll take a taxi for a good chunk of change.

I forgot quarters for the laundry. $2 per wash and $2 per drying cycle (it sometimes takes a couple drying cycles for towels).

And while we live comfortably in a small apartment across the water from the city, the living space would probably be four times less where I am from. We are also doing this on salaries that are pretty near to the ones we had in the Midwest (there was no expected “cost of living” factored in like we had originally thought. Thank you, English degrees.)

When I finally asked to look at my savings account balance, I was definitely astonished at what I found. Not what I expected. But I haven’t bought that iPad or camera that I have wanted. Those designer heels for my upcoming nuptials. We haven’t taken our East Coast summer vacation yet. How did it dwindle that fast? NYC, is the answer. We weren’t stupid. We knew that this would be an expensive place to live, but it still shocks you just the same when you realize just how much it would cost to do so. And although we live pretty minimally and frugally these days (crockpot dinners, basic cable, and nights spent going through our own DVD collection and putting together 2,000 piece puzzles), the expenses keep coming.

The Midwest keeps looking better each and every day. :)

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