Tuesday, March 31, 2009

catching up on columns

The columns continue: I had another column in "The State Press" today and forgot to link to last week's column.

I'm pleased with how this week's turned out. It's based on true events, unfortunately. The moment I got back into bed after the fire alarm, ideas for comparisons started whizzing through me. So, as soon as I knew what I was going to draw the comparison to, the rest was easy.

My editor and schoolmates have also been giving me a lot of praise lately. Since the job is unpaid, that helps make it worthwhile. The sweet thing about having placated my editor is now he thinks I'm an awesome writer and gives me much more freedom. This week, he basically told me to go ahead with my idea even though the subject had been claimed by someone else. I think his exact words were, "I trust you completely." Dangerous territory...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

singing with an old friend

I picked up my saxophone for the first time in months today.

Wary of how awful I would sound, I dusted off the case and headed over to the music building to secured a practice room. I had forgotten how heavy a tenor is; no wonder I abandoned all fear of embarrassment and started simply practicing in my dorm room last year.

But the moment I opened the case, everything returned. My fingers felt light and dexterous; my mouth formed around the reed. It required no though; my muscle memory whipped through all 12 major scales, as if I had practiced them yesterday. I was shocked years of training those responses would remain so readily available. Minor scales proved only slightly more difficult, followed by dominate 5ths, 7ths, arpeggios, etc., musical jargon ad-nauseam.

Of course, I only remained impressed with myself as long as I stayed within the realm of the disgustingly easy. As soon as I attempted a song from my former level, my sharp decline showed itself. Also counted among the missing was my stamina. After 40 minutes, my mouth ached with discomfort and became like rubber.

But I remained happy with the aesthetic of the experience. The play-along track coming from my crappy computer speakers evoked an old gramophone, howling in concert with my sax the grit of the blues. It's true; I suck. But, as I ran through the changing scales of nostalgia, I didn't care. Playing for yourself, for simple self-gratification, holds a purer sort of reward. In this respect, that's enough for me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

it's always about 'life,' even when it's not

At this time in my life, I'm interacting constantly with stories and language.

My studies, my job, my leisure -- all reading, writing, and communication. I spend so much of my time communicating that I've taken to shutting everything off while communting via light rail, simply emptying my mind and entering a zen-like state devoid of all communication, even thought -- the act of communicating with myself.

So, I find it interesting when, introspectively, I notice a peculiarity in my habits. One transition has been my interest in stories. Reporting and journalism drives so hard at finding interesting stories -- scoops that attract readers and clicks -- that I think some part of me rebels.

In my free time, I've become attracted to books and articles about more mundane, yet perceptively charming subjects. While my writing focuses on action, my reading trends toward the idiosyncrasies of unremarkable feeling and the slightly absurdist views -- authors like Jonathan Safran Foer, Milan Kundera, Tao Lin, or Dave Eggers. Mostly young and awash in waves of uncertainty, like me, they speak to uncommon, yet more genuine viewpoints on life. They provide for me a welcome counterpoint to the ridgidly factual, distinctly real focus of journalism.

Life always seems to align in dichotomies with the conscious and subconscious trying to balance the two. Like reporting, it's important to get both sides.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

travel: a retrospective OR "Traveled Time-Traveler"

Typical, right?

Just as I'm doing something that coincides with the title of my blog, I drop the ball. All can be fixed, however, with the use of retroactive posting! To share my experience in New York, I've decided to catalog the trip in posts dated to the day they occurred. Cheating? Maybe. Dishonest? No; I'm giving you, the reader, a heads up. Ingenious? Haha, oh—you give me too much credit.

The dates covered should be Mar. 9 through Mar. 17, so check back soon for posts on those dates. I see this as a handy way of outlining my trip for friends/family without having to repeat myself continually. (Though, in light of how great the trip was, I'm sure some discussion will be appropriate.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

weary and still working

I'm back from spring-break bliss in New York City. I already miss it.

The trip was AMAZING -- the feel of the city, the wonderful food, the perfect host, the complete lack of responsibility, including posting to my blog (I feel bad, but I was having too much fun to sit down and write about it.) And I had to hit the deck running the moment I got back -- heading to class right after traveling for 8+ hours is a great way to feel like crap.

Even now, I haven't had much time to reflect. I'm too busy trying to get normal life rolling again. I'd still like to write it down, so I'll probably share when I find time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

NYC: Day 7

This was it — the last day in New York. What do you do on you last day in the City? Mandi and I didn't know either, so we just stuck to what we hadn't done yet.

Thinking we would be staying up late that night, we slept in and started the day late. Once up, our goal was Grand Central Station and The United Nations. It's said that to go through Grand Central is to enter Manhattan like a king. I was on my way out but still thought the king part should apply well.

However, on the way there we got distracted. I wanted to walk by Bryant Park and Mandi saw that the New York Library was on the way too, so we got of the subway early and walked east through Midtown. Bryant park was pretty but cold, so our stay remained brief. The library, however, was spectacular. The architecture belongs more to a cathedral than public library, with murals, marble, and mosaics. It was beautiful. It would make a great arena in which to be locked in epic battle with a paper.

Just down the street, we got to Grand Central Station. The building was gigantic, but instead of exploring first, we went downstairs to the food court in search of breakfast/lunch. The food court was crowded but good, particularly the chili Mandi discovered. Then, we took turns photo-oping in the main hall, then left for the United Nations (also just down the street—42nd is an important street).

Getting in took a while because in front of security, a giant line for the metal detectors had formed and everyone had tons of coats and scarves to remove. Once we were in, we walked around and toured through a Holocaust exhibit. We could have signed up for a tour of the inner halls, but the next available group was too late that afternoon, so we decided to head back.

Mandi had mock that night, but after mentioning it was my last night in the city, she was able to escape early. We went to Think Coffee again and talked for a long time. That night, we decided to take it easy and order pizza again (again from Patsy's, and again SO tasty—I love basil leaves).

That morning, about 4:30 a.m., we woke up and said our goodbyes. I was worried about finding a taxi that early in the morning, but not two steps out the dorm door, one immediately drove by—the magic of New York, I guess. The ride out seemed considerably less wild, perhaps a product of my acclimating to city life or just because the cabbie was less enthusiastic.

I can't wait to go back. The City is a singularly exciting place—intimidating at first, but in part because of my great guide, also very intimate and manageable. For me the smells and feelings of the City brought back memories of Moscow. But, New York is unique, more optimistic, more uplifting and flashy. Leaving was bitter-sweet because, although I faced returning to school, work and ordinary life, I knew I would visit again. Cliché as it might seem, in-love is undeniably the best way to see the city.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

NYC: Day 6

Sunday, in comparison with Saturday, was much slower and relaxed.

Mandi and I headed out late in the morning for the Staten Island Ferry. She packed some lychee nuts to snack on, we stopped at Tea Spot for some breakfast tea, and hopped on the subway. The conductor didn't stop at the station directly under the ferry dock, so we got off one stop away and walked through downtown back to the dock.

A skilled performer provided unexpected harp music while we waited for the boat—very soothing. On the ride over to Staten Island, we sat out on the side deck, which, while freezing, provided a great view of the Statue of Liberty.

The ferry docked, we walked out onto Staten Island, and, unable to find any reason to stay, almost immediately headed back for Manhattan—so much for that. To stay a bit warmer, we rode inside this time and then headed back to Washington Square for food.

Mandi guided me to the small sushi place, Miyabi. From our seats, I could see the kitchen area where sushi chefs sliced and rolled our food. The sushi was great and we ate three rolls each. A ton of the places we ate were right next to the NYU Law School—definitely incentive to check that out.

Still pretty tired from way too much walking on Saturday, we took the night easy, picking up some food from Cafe Habana a few blocks away (I'm glad we took it to go; the place was really cramped.) and spent the night in.

I got a veggie, mushroom sandwich and Mandi chose catfish, which we, as with almost every meal on the trip, generously swapped with each other, while watching Amélie.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

NYC: Day 5

Saturday—the day we had planned all along to head to Brooklyn. While Mandi pretended to work, I would check out her job and DUMBO, the area around the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

Mandi had it all planned out. We hopped on the subway to York Street, walked past Mandi's work, and to a sweet coffee/pastry shop called Almondine. I'm a breakfast person—even though, in reality, it was pushing noon—which automatically predisposes me to coffee shops. But this was the real deal—tons of baked pastries and excellent coffee. Mandi suggested we try the spinach soup as something a bit more filling and, because she mentioned she had never had a macaroon, I insisted we get the biggest, chocolate-iest one.

After breakfast, we wondered around a bit, taking a few photos at the river-side park with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background, before heading to Mandi's work at Melville House Publishing. I met one of her co-workers, whom we relieved from watching the small bookstore in front so she could grab food. Melville House, a smaller publishing house, consisted of a front, bookstore area, and a back workroom, revealed by turning one of two revolving bookshelves. While Mandi watched the store, I thumbed through a few books and generally took in the space.

Once again out in Brooklyn, we headed for the weekly Brooklyn Flee Market a few blocks away. The market split between two indoor areas. Mandi and I wandered around, trying eclectic clothing, snacking on free samples, and talking to people. As we passed by a jeweler, Mandi mentioned she really wanted to find a rough/tumbled, turquoise necklace, which, to her utter and almost childish delight, we found not 20 minutes later.

On the way back to Melville House, we stopped by Mandi's favorite place for soup—she's kind of food-crazed actually—Foragers Market. She picked up a bottle of kombucha tea, a slightly fermented tea drink originally from China. We hung around work for another hour or so, then walked back into Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. The walk was a bit crowded—lots of tourists who, without fail, blocked progressively more irate bicyclists trying to cross. The bridge led straight into downtown, and we stopped by the site of the World Trade Center—not much to see, just construction—before grabing a subway train back uptown.

Instead of getting off near Washington Square, however, we stopped by Union Square for the Saturday farmers' market. (There are TONS of markets on Saturday.) Mandi picked up some apple cider for later, and we also stopped by Lush so I could be inundated by perfume-y fragrances while she picked up some soaps and shampoo.

Mandi had mock trial again that night, but instead of going, I ran downtown to Chinatown. My mom had highly recommended picking up lychee nuts, a sweet and ubiquitous snack found in nearly every market there. I ended up walking all over downtown that night, heading from Chinatown to Wall Street to the Stock Exchange—which was, of course, closed—and back to Chinatown in a huge loop. It wasn't terribly cold, but I had been walking all night and was pretty tired by the time I found my way back to the subway.

By this time Mandi was out of mock trial, and, both of us starving, we went straight for food. We ate at Quantum Leap, a vegetarian restaurant (by the way, New York is amazingly vegetarian friendly—no surprise there). The nerdy name didn't distract me from the amazing food. I had a veggie burger, which held no pretensions for being healthy, only tasty.

week in the city

I've been so busy nyc-ing, there hasn't been time to blog; I've been using every moment to make this a wonderful trip. BUT, I thought I would post a few things quickly:

The city is phenomenal; the subway is convenient; the weather is cold; the food is amazing (but expensive—ah well); the sights are breathtaking; and the girlfriend is wonderful.
To save time for me—and provide a fairly comprehensive and creative blow-by-blow—check out my girlfriend's blog.   

Friday, March 13, 2009

NYC: Day 4

This morning, after sleeping in for the first time all trip, Mandi and I headed to a niche restaurant she had been hyping for weeks: Rice to Riches. In a space-age looking shop completely out of place among the exposed brick and urban aesthetic, it was an amazingly quirky experience all about rice pudding! We decided to split four flavors between us—french toast, pecan pie, cherry-mascarpone, and banana-coconut. An excellent and a very eccentric way to start a day at MoMA.

Since before planning the trip, Mandi always wanted to show me New York's Museum of Modern Art. It's one of her favorite places, understandably considering how it matches her obscure, artsy sensibilities. We took turns taking odd pictures with the art and generally being silly. Unfortunately Van Gogh's "Starry Night" was on tour, but we still saw tons of Warhol and Pollock. We rested in a dark-room exhibit showing an evocative, 40-minute slideshow featuring photographs about love and its progression over time, and briefly sat in the sun of the sculpture garden, which would have been beautiful to lounge around had the weather not been freezing.

That afternoon, we again went out with Brooke to a restaurant quite possibly conceived by a dessert guru on the verge of chocolate-induced nirvana, Max Brenner, which focuses whole-heartedly on everything chocolate. I had a toffee hot chocolate and split a pita-dipper platter with Mandi. Obviously, the gestalt of the desert menu was imposible to take in one visit; I hope I can return soon and possibly try the chocolate-and-marshmallows pizza!

That night, Brooke headed off to the movies, so Mandi and I decided to go to her favorite pizza place just down the street from the dorm, Patsy's. While we waited for food—I remember, I was starving, having eating nothing but sweets the entire day—I couldn't stop watching one of the employees, possibly the owner, who continually greeted guests and acted friendly. He would take the men's hand, kiss the women's cheek, laugh deeply at jokes—all things done in the manner I imagined a cliche Italian pizza-restaurant owner would use.

It was great. Also, the pizza was incredible. Every slice had on them whole leaves of basil. Between the two of us, we finished an entire 8-slice pizza in close to 30 minutes flat.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

NYC: Day 3

This morning, Mandi had an ethics mid-term so I was left to wander again. I started out purposeless, but after walking down to 5th Avenue, decided to head for the Empire State Building. It looked so close!

It was not so close, but only took about 30 minutes to walk there, including stopping to take photos and generally be tourist-y. I had a great time gawking at the Flatiron building near Madison Square Park.

By the time I got to the Empire State, I knew Mandi would be getting out of class soon. But I had come too far to turn back, so I quickly got in the observation deck line. The line moved pretty fast, I thought, at least until I got to the elevator, which by comparison really DID move fast. I spent a good 20 minutes on the freezing 86th-floor observatory deck, snapped a bunch of pictures, then headed down. I hunted around the base of the building for a restaurant my great grandmother had apparently left a glove in—a story my parents have always told when prompted with the subject—but didn't find anything so I walked swiftly through the cold back to Washington Square.

Mandi had her last class for the week that afternoon, so I'm off again—this time south. I walked clear form SoHo into the downtown area. The sheer size of the buildings hurt my neck and I wondered around the state capitol building and the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge before catching the subway back.

I rested my feet for a while and that evening we again went out again, this time uptown to Times Square and Broadway! We had tickets for Avenue Q, an ingeniously hilarious Sesame Street parody about the hardships of real life and burgeoning adulthood. Mandi and I were both struck by the actors' skill, both in handling the puppets and acting themselves.

We also coincidentally pasted by Birdland, the famous jazz club that gave Charlie Parker his fame. But after having such a busy day, I was more focused on heading home for the night. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

NYC: Day 2

The next morning Mandi again had class. But instead of going, I chose to strike out on my own for a bit. I made a large circle around the campus and walked for a while down Broadway, peering in windows and taking in the city.

I met Mandi just as she got out of class, and we headed to Ino, a cafe and wine bar west of campus. It was downright amazing. We split truffled egg toast (so good!), a trio of bruscetta, and the best americano I've ever had. The atmosphere in Ino blew me away too—a brightly painted and cosy little place.

From there, we sought the nearest subway station and headed uptown to the American Natural History Museum. There was an enterence straight from the subway platform. Unfortunatly, the fourth floor, which held all the dinosaur bones, was closed, so we paid a bit less than the "recommended" entrance fee to compensate. We managed to see everything in the museum that was open, from the origins of the universe to the various ecosystem and wildlife exhibits.

We exited right onto Central Park, and walked south to stop by the "Imagine" mosaic, dedicated to John Lennon's death. Mandi suggested we take the public bus back so I could see more of the city. I have to admit, it was a great idea; we went straight down Broadway, then 5th Avenue, past Time Warner Center, the Empire State Building—which I would return to the next day—and the heart of the city.

That night, I took Mandi out to a semi-fancy French place called Resto Leon. We were celebrating her acceptance into the NYU Paris Creative Writing Program (taught by one of my favorite authors,
fucking Jonathan Safran Foer!). We got a bit lost getting there—completely not my fault; New York City street addresses are confusing. The place was very cosy and romantic and we decided to split three appetizers: escargot, squid, and a warm, goat-cheese salad. It was delicious, particularly whatever sauce was on the escargot.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NYC: Day 1

I got in late last night, about midnight. Would have arrived earlier, but the flight was delayed because of "wind"—yeah right. Mandi picked me up from the airport and we grabbed a wild cab ride into Manhattan. Mandi directed the cabbie straight to Pommes Frites (pronounced "pom freet"), a niche restaurant devoted completely to french fries and 25 awesome, heart-stopping sauces. We ordered the medium-sized fries (actually quite huge) and three sauces—sweet mango chutney mayo, smoked eggplant mayo, and, I think, rosemary garlic (obviously the least memorable of the three).

After devoring most of the fry cone—I felt absolutely disgusting at this point, but also very satisfied—we walked back to Mandi's dorm.

The next morning, Mandi had ethics class. I went with her to get the true NYU experience. Class was pretty staightforward, getting to class was not. It wasn't far, right across the street from the dorms. We hurried past the security guards, who check all students for ID as they enter the buiding. We could have signed me in as a guest, but didn't have time. Luckily, throngs of students were coming and going, so, being undeniably college-looking ourselves, we blended right in.

Completely foreign to me was the need for two sets of elevators: one for odd floors, one for even. We stood momentarily in line for the elevator—another first for me—and took a crowded ride to the 8th floor.

After class, Mandi took me on a tour of the Washington Square area. We stopped by some of her favorite places — Shakespeare and Co., American Apparel (sigh, of course), and Think Coffee.

I was very impressed with Think, a college-y coffee bar that turns into a real bar at night. It had that great, artsy atmosphere I alwasy look for in a coffee shop and reminded me a lot of Lux in Phoenix. Think was about twice as big but just as hipster.

Mandi also showed me all the NYU buildings like Bobst, the impressive, sheer-red library, Stern and Tisch, the business and art schools, respectively, and the law school. Then, we went to Tea Spot, a loose leaf tea house right next to the square, where I had a phenominal pumpkin-cream boba drink.

Hungry, but not looking for much, we stopped by the vegitarian-friendly Dosa Cart and grabbed some Indian dosas (dumpling-like things with pesto and chuntney sauce!).

I accompanied Mandi to her second class that afternoon, Letters as Literature. It was a much more intimate class. Afterward I met the professor, thanked her, and talked a bit about school.

Later for dinner, Mandi, Brooke—Mandi's roommate—and I headed to Caracas Arepa, a Mexian-food place. I got a kick out of the street address: 93 1/2 East 7th Street. We got yoyos, fried sweet plantain balls Mandi had been raving about all day. They were, as forewarned, awesome; I've learned over the years to always trust Mandi on everything food realated.

That night Mandi had to practice for mock trial, which was fine with me because I wanted to see her mock. We were a bit late because we ran into one of Mandi's friends in the square, but ended up being fine. Even after wasting practice time to hang out with me, she nailed her part. Apparentely not much of the team could make it that night, so I got plenty of time to watch her practice.