Thursday, February 26, 2009

Baltimore

is in Maryland and Maryland is only three hours from NYC. Why didn't this ever occur to me before? The northeast is so cramped together, very similar to Europe. Cities and states that you figured were so far apart are just a bus or train ride away. Why didn't I pay attention in 7th grade geography? Hmm. I guess this is what growing up in really suburban, sprawled out areas like south Florida does to you; it inhibits your ability to judge distances on maps!

I really enjoyed Baltimore. It was a bit different from what I expected, however I immediately loved it and felt at home there. The neatest thing about that city is that there is a real sense of history there and I think its residents embrace that. Many of the streets are cobblestone and there are mostly original architecture lining the roads. You don't find a lot of newly developed office and apartment buildings and cathedrals and churches are on every other street corner. Mike drove me through many of the neighborhoods and we walked quite a bit around the downtown area.




The best part about exploring a new city was exploring it with people I care about. Mike was so sweet to have me stay with him for the weekend and he was the perfect tour guide! He is so knowledgeable about the history of the city buildings, where everything is located, the different kinds of neighborhoods. He spent a lot of time trying to show me places that I would really enjoy and tried hard to make the city feel like home for me. While he worked during the day on Monday, I was able to do a little exploring with Arya. We spent our time driving around running important errands to take care of before his departure for the peace corp. It was a different point of view of the city from the windows of a car. We ventured out into more suburban neighborhoods and more so along the outskirts of the city while having great conversation about the past and the next years of our lives. At some point we returned to Arya's apartment to begin the duty of packing all of his important possessions into just two suitcases. It was very reminiscent of when I had to pack most of my things into just four boxes while I was preparing to move to NYC. I remembered how difficult it was to give away and throwout all of my "stuff". Little things like nicknacks, do-dads that i've been collecting for years, ceramics....it all had to go and it was heartbreaking. Seriously debating for hours on what possesions must make a presence in my life for the next however many years and going back and forth about whether that ceramic orange poodle toothbrush holder that I found in a vintage shop in 7th grade was an epic part of my life or not (which I decided HAD to accompany me to NYC....)
...wasn't really an issue for Arya. The peace corp gives extremely specific directions on what to take with him : "One windbreaker", "One Belt", "Two weeks worth of underwear", "Five t-shirts." That last one was pretty difficult to dwindle down...I think we narrowed it to 29.


I'm thankful that I had a meaningful amount of time to spend with both of them, even if the trip was entirely too short. I am going to go back in a couple of weeks to visit and can't wait to explore the city a little more.

Off to work!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Manhattan

is a blend of a million elements that you never thought could come together to create something so unnaturally beautiful. I remember when I lived in California I would hop into my little car with a borrowed camera in hand and drive for hours on highway one. It didn't matter where I drove or how long I was lost for, the scenic views were inspiring and overwhelming.





I find myself inspired and overwhelmed by elements of NYC that are so different from the ones discovered while taking those pictures eight years ago. Manhattan is full of steel, concrete, dirt and cursing. People swarm you wherever you go. You independently walk through the city with your chin up in un-independent herds of strangers that steer your direction without having any choice in the matter. The vegetation is slim but extremely appreciated. All I wanted, during my time in Brooklyn, was to find a grocery store where someone spoke English and carried something other than Polish foods. Sometimes the steam from the heat of the subways overwhelms your nostrils until you can't breathe. Sometimes the sweet sugary smells of freshly-baked goods overwhelms your nostrils until you can't breathe. There are hundred year old copper-covered cathedrals next to entire buildings made of glass. Eeek, was that a rat over there? Sorry dude, no money to spare. The long daylight hours are draining and they make me appreciate the moment I see my best friend in our apartment each and every time I come home. The sun that is able to filter through the sky scrapers sometimes hits the buildings just right and creates rainbow filled reflections on the windows. Sometimes the city becomes very quiet for only a few rare moments at a time....the honking stops, the lights turn red, people stand staionary... and you notice these moments every time they occur. Whenever I see the statue of liberty, my chest tightens up.

This place is so different from anything I have ever experienced and it changes your opinion of it each and every day, each hour, each minute. It is just as beautiful as any other place in the world, maybe not just because of the physical aspects but also because of the life-altering moments that it offers you. On a night earlier this week, I stood on a busy corner of Times Square with someone I hadn't seen in a decade while traffic whizzed by, people slammed into us, neon lights blinked wildly, distractions were everywhere....and all I could think of was that I was so happy I had another moment that I will remember forever in this crazy, beautiful city.




Thursday, February 12, 2009

If you let your 5 dogs bark uncontrollably at 7am each and every morning...

you've got a lot more coming to you than a mean flea problem.

I came to the realization somewhere on the train between 42nd Street and Queensborough Plaza that tonight was Thursday night, which meant it was Burrito and Sangria night at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint down the street. Maybe we were too content after binging on tortilla chips and salsa, but we decided on the walk home after dinner that something must be done about our neighbor situation. I decided that the best remedy to this problem in question was to hulk-toss a vat of Kate's tofu into our neighbor's yard. Even after our landlord has talked to them about their five canines of all shapes and sizes disturbing the deep slumber of the residents of our entire block, they haven't done anything to let us rest in peace.

Maybe THIS will get the point across!!!!!!!!!


(By the way I hurled the tub of tofu, one might have thought I was an Olympian Discus thrower. It hit the ground with a wet SPLAT and I jumped through the window with the stealth of some kind of organic-food -hurling super hero.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Normally I would be hesitant to walk into a dark unfamiliar basement...

but the mysterious green stairwell leading downstairs into the secret room below felt really inviting. I had ventured down to Soho on Sunday to try and find Spring Studio. I walked by it almost three times until I realized that the lonely red door amongst the high-end boutiques was the entrance to this gold mind. Spring Studio isn't fancy at all...it is literally a single staircase leading into a basement that smells like a really old library and is filled with rickety old desks, easels and drawing supplies (an artist's HEAVEN!). The idea is simple: you pay $14 bucks and get to sit there for four hours drawing live models. The studio offers three sessions a day. I happened to attend on the day where we were doing portraits. This was my first drawing class in quite some time so I was naturally very intimidated by the people around me. They all had top of the line drawing pencils, charcoals, acrylic paint, etc. I on the other hand had a single pencil that Kate let me borrow, a pencil sharpener and a $.99 notepad that I found at "The Bargain Stop" near my house. Yeeeaaaahhh it was a little obvious that I was a bit rusty. However, once we began drawing, I realized that I wasn't as much as a newby as I thought that I might be and that it didn't matter how well I could draw, or how well the people around me could draw in the first place. What mattered was that I was in a creative, peaceful environment with others who cared about art, too. I can't tell you how nice it was to focus my attention on something other than sales figures and selling techniques. I listened to my ipod for two hours and concentrated on the deep lines and crevices of the woman's face in front of us.


Due to work-related reasons, I couldn't stay for the whole four hours but the two hours that I was there made me feel wonderful for the rest of the day. I'm going to return on Sunday and do it again. Whoohoo for creative outlets!!

This morning I decided to go in at 12:00 instead of open up the store with C. I woke up feeling really rested and ready to start the day. Even Kate mentioned that it was the first morning she had seen me wake up without groaning loudly. Haha. I'm enjoying taking my time sipping my coffee after taking a long shower. I even opened up one of our kitchen windows above the fire escape because the weather is absolutely beautiful. I can't believe the high is 57 degrees today. THANK GOD! Soon I will be off, but I think today is going to be a good one.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"If it gets bad,we'll kick that window out"

...is what the older man standing next to me on the train last night said to another guy nearby while they both gripped tightly onto the hand poles above us. I consciously eavesdropped on their conversation, taking mental note of their game plan in case there had to be an evacuation. People were panicked, others stayed quiet, I just tried to console one of my associates who was on the verge of hyperventilating.

Coming home last night was definitely an experience I can add to my list of strange things that always happen to me. However, this by far was the most dangerous situation I have been in in quite some time... the odds of this happening to my train out of every train running at that moment seems so slim.

C and I left work and got to the train at around 7:25. We went downstairs and the first train that showed up was an express train. Express basically means that, unlike a local train, it will skip all of the "smaller" stops on each block and take you to a major transfer hub. In our case, it was going from the 70's to 42nd Street/Grand Central without stopping. We entered the subway car and were standing toward one end of the car next to a mom and her little boy and a bunch of other people. A lot of people were on the train because it was prime-commuting hour at that point. About two minutes into the ride, C and I were talking when all of a sudden her eyes narrowed in on something behind me and expression turned bleak. I looked behind me to see what she was staring at. About 15-20 people were shoving their way into our subway car from the car attached to ours. Everyone was shouting to move. My first reaction was that someone had a gun or something, but I waited a few moments before I made any drastic movements. Someone started to yell out loud, "What's going on!?" and someone yelled back "FIRE!!!!!!!!!!" I looked back at C, who was standing wide-eyed and starting to breathe heavy. She started to freak out...like...I mean freak out. She wasn't the only one. All of the people around us started to shout. I grabbed C's arm quickly and started pulling her down the isle toward the back of our train car. Others had this same idea and we all started caravanning from one train to the next. We were walking accross these makeshift bridges of chain and metal in between the trains. If you looked down, you could see the tracks quickly moving by in a blur below us. I grabbed the person's arm in front of me while C grabbed mine behind me. About two train cars later, we reached a dead end and couldn't go any farther because the door was locked. Around 62nd street, the train slowed down a little bit and then came to a stop in the middle track, with a train track on either side of us. Looking back now, I think maybe the conductor was trying to figure out if we could evacuate at this point. There were three issues if we were to evacuate here: One - there was about a six foot drop from the train door into the sludgy sewery tracks beneath us. Two - there were trains coming and going on either side of us. Three - how would we all get back onto the subway platform?

Some people around us were shouting, others were quiet. One guy started yelling something or other about how we should complain to the MTA about this, while one guy yelled back, "If we make it out of here alive!!!" Another girl with a thick east coast accent shouted, "if it's our time it's our time, mind as well not freak out about it!" and smiled at me. C kept telling me that it was a terrorist attack, she just KNEW it was. I tried to keep her calmed down while I stood there trying to figure out what was going on. The smell of smoke was getting a little more prominent at this point. I listened to the older man next to me talk about kicking out the window. That sounded like a good idea.

Suddenly, the train started to pick up speed. We got to 60th and sadly the train slowed down again and stopped. I kept praying that they would just haul down the track to 42nd street as fast as that train could go. It would have been much faster to speed down there and evacuate there than to stop at each block and figure out a game plan. We were all getting cramped in the train. I could feel tons of bodies touching me. C looked like she was about to hyperventilate. I usually tend to get extreme claustrophobia and panicky in circumstances like this, but surprisingly, I felt abnormally calm while chaos was going on around us. I tried my best to stand there and take in everything. I was listening to conversations around me, comforting C and an older woman sitting in front of us and calculating the situation in my head in case I had to make any quick decisions.

I can't remember how much time had passed since the ordeal had started. It felt like we were stuck in there for 30 minutes or more. I'm sure it was only 15 minutes, though. The panic around me just made the situation so tense and I could individualy count and hear the thuds from my heart echoing throughout my body. Eventually we got to 42nd Street and when the doors opened, we all flooded out like ants after you spray their home with bug spray. As we exited, I looked over and a big pillow of smoke expanded from the subway car. Flames were licking the roof from the inside. I stood for a second while everyone flurried out of the cars and up the stairs. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. "Police, Police" was repeating in a robotic voice on the loud speaker while policemen pushed us aside to others out of the train. C jolted me out of my transe and pulled me up the stairs. We hugged eachother when we got to our separate subway entrances and I shakily walked to my next train.

On the ride home, I couldn't stop thinking about what had just happened! What are the odds of that? Out of all of the trains, it was mine that caught on fire. I have never been in a situation like that before. It forces people to act in ways they might never act before. I shockingly stayed so calm and attentive while it was happening. I suddenly felt so protective over C and the other girls around me. While many were pushing people over to get past us closer to the exit, I tried to stay still and not make any brash decisions. If there would have been an opportunity for us to escape the train, I realize now that I would have been one of the ones leading the evacuation and helping others before I helped myself. It was a weird part of my personality that I hadn't yet discovered...but I'm really glad that this happened.

This morning I could feel my chest tighten up when Kate and I got onto the train. I'll probably feel nervous coming home tonight, too. Ahg. Something more to add to my list of crazy NYC experiences.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Keeping Austin Weird

While Keith and I were driving to Jonathan's house one night, we passed a pretty bizarre, yet appropriate warning sign on the road.





Apparently it made national headlines on The Today Show and here. We pulled over to take these pictures. It was little bit of a detour (ha!) but definitely a well-needed laugh after seeing Revolutionary Road, which made me desperately want to hug a puppy or eat an ice cream cone afterward.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

There are maybe ten or twelve things I could teach you, after that you're on your own.


I've been back in New York since Wednesday evening and it has been NON-stop since returning to the fast pace of city life. After a day of delayed flights and chilly Chicago over-lay weather, I made it home about five hours after my scheduled arrival time. Take the M60 bus back home? No way, dude. I cabbed it back to the apartment.

My trip was really refreshing and helped me trampoline jump into the craziness that would begin once I returned. I spent a lot of time with my friends and family. Each night, they took me to new Austin bars that I hadn't been to before, a couple of parties, Kerbey Lane (MIGAS!!), friend's houses, etc. Dani and Mark were so gracious to let Keith and I stay at their place. I missed them a lot and really enjoyed our conversations. Playing with Mac and Chewy Chomperson all week stirred up some of my internal cravings to own my own dog again. Sadly, that isn't in the cards for a long time. :(

Some parts of the trip were difficult for me. There were a few times where I definitely felt out of place and out of the loop when it came to the new and exciting things that my Austinite friends were doing. I lost the ability to hold normal conversations with many of them. Most of the time, our conversations solely revolved around New York and my life....when all I really wanted was to talk about them and their lives. I guess this was a normal subject to talk about considering at this moment in my life, New York and my job happened to be the only thing anyone really identifies me with. Simultaneously, I didn't know very much about each of their daily lives, either. It was a difficult realization when it hit me that many of us didn't have any common threads left to talk about like we had worked so hard to develop with one another over the summer. I guess that's what happens when you move away and come back six months later. Things can't stay the same unless you make a ginormous effort to bridge the distance and stay in touch on a daily basis. People move on. Maybe you feel left behind. Even though there were a few people who I clicked with instantly who I hadn't grown close to before I moved, I admit full heartidly that I haven't been the best at keeping in contact with many of my friends who I consider close and staying up to date on the ins and outs of Austin. There are no excuses for this, especially since the internet makes it so easy to drop someone a line instantly, but sometimes it just feels so impersonal and you keep saying you'll send an email the next day, or the day after that, or next week. And then a month goes by.



I must say that the best part about Austin was spending time with my family. Keith and I drove through the fog down to my parents house on Monday and spent the afternoon relaxing at their house. It felt good to eat a home cooked meal, have meaningful conversations and play with Bella. They really enjoyed Keith's company too. It's funny, no matter how old you are, it always feels good to see your parents after being away for so long. Next-up is a visit with my Mom! The next morning I rented a car and caravanned through the countryside back to my parent's house with my brother.


It felt absolutely amazing to drive a car solo through the Texas hill country back roads for two hours. Especially on the drive to the airport at 6am the next morning, watching the sun slowly rising over the hills and the satellite radio crankin, I was in pure heaven. Robby and I had a wonderful time talking, playing with the pup, spending time with the rents and going to the movies. I missed him so much and am really happy I was able to spend some quality time with him for an extra day.




It definitely was a (wayyyy too short) sweet trip and gave me a huge boost of energy and motivation to start this busy week off right. Thank you everyone for spending time with me and being so gracious. I am sorry if I haven't been the best at keeping in touch. With that said, however, you all mean so much to me and the little contact we might have each week means such a great deal to me considering how isolated of an environment I find myself surviving in on a daily basis.

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