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The Poet is In

24 Nov

It’s become part of a punchline for me now when people ask me what my first Bachelor’s degree was in.

“I majored in poetry, but being a poet doesn’t pay like it used to.”

Always gets a moderate chuckle. But it’s jarring to me to think back to a time when that really was my life plan. I knew it was mostly crazy, and I think I was young and rebelling against growing up. I didn’t want some office job. Like most young people, I rejected the life I thought society was forcing on me. And while I’ve successfully avoided having a desk job for most of my adult life, I did bid farewell to my dream of being a poet laureate. It’s not the creative outlet I wanted to invest myself in. Yet poetry exists in my soul like a latent infection.

Back in April I saw a post on Instagram about a pop-up poetry event at Grand Central called “The Poet is In.” It was an all day event that had poets set up at booths writing personalized poems for people. I left work early and hopped a subway South. I had to be there.

I waited in line for about 45 minutes, not minding at all. I had a book to keep me occupied, and I was so excited. Which poet would I get? That hipster one over there? The wise old man over there? It was amazing to see so many people in line, excited about poetry. That’s what poetry is supposed to be. For the people. To connect with one another and, like all art, to share in a bigger human experience.

I think I would have been happy to get any of the poets, but I felt like fate brought me to Marie Howe. A warm presence with wild hair, it turns out she is actually the one who dreamed up the event when she was the New York State poet laureate. She asked me some questions about myself. About the classes I was taking in school. About what I wanted to grow up to be when I was a little girl. She took some notes as we chatted, then loaded up her typewriter and clacked away. When she was done, she read me my personalized poem.

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I almost cried. I loved it so much, and it felt like the perfect snapshot of that very moment in my life. I sniffled back my tears and profusely thanked her for my poem and for putting the lovely event together.

“You know, I didn’t start really writing my poetry until I was in my thirties,” she told me. “You have it in you for when the time is right.”

I needed to hear that.

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The Summer of Chrissy

9 Jul

I’m free! I can’t believe that a year ago I was scrambling around the city trying to register for classes and balance my school and work schedules. A week ago, I finished my summer session class, and with that final grade posted, I can now start my applications for nursing school. AH! While I loved loved loved my classes, (if I had my undergrad to do over again, I’d major in Chemistry) there were a lot of sacrifices involved. I worked part-time, did a ton of pet sitting, and most of my free time was spent studying as much as possible. I spent many weekends at home memorizing polyatomic ions or the different digestive enzymes.

But that’s over. The grades I worked so hard for are in the books, and I have nothing more I can do until school starts up again in September. I’m back to working full-time at the vet clinic, but I feel like I’ve been let out of a cage. I can read books! I can write blog posts! I want to dance in Lincoln Square! Play softball in Central Park! Drink beers with friends on a rooftop bar till 4am! This is going to be the greatest summer. Every day that I have free, I want to spend wisely, explore my city, meet new people. I feel silly that I always had three days off a week before I went to school, and I never really used them.

But there’s no time to dwell in the past. I’ve got so many things to do. My to-do list is looking a lot more interesting these days.

Poodle Nanny Diaries

27 Mar

I find myself in a bizarre situation. I have agreed to be a live-in poodle nanny. Hear me out.

A couple of months ago, our landlords told us that they were not going to renew our lease, because they wanted to give our apartment to their daughter. At the time, I couldn’t face the news. I was drowning in anatomy and chemistry exams and figured I’d deal with finding a new place to live when our June 1st move date was up. But a couple of weeks ago, my roommates both found apartments to move into in the beginning of April and began pressuring me to do the same, so that we could all break the lease early.

I started telling my friends that I was looking when a co-worker told me about an interesting proposition from a client who we have all worked with in the last couple of years. This client owns five black poodles, the newest of which are two young poodles that don’t get along with the eldest poodle. They live in a mansion in the Upper East Side, and the client, a woman we’ll call Marie, was looking for a live-in poodle nanny. I was skeptical. It sounded crazy, but curiosity got the better of me, and I agreed to meet with her and talk about the situation.

Attached to the 5-story home is a small studio apartment, a couple of blocks from where I work, around the corner from Central Park. The deal is that I will live there rent-free, with a small stipend for food in exchange for letting the two youngest poodles sleep in the apartment at night. The caveat is that it is something like a nanny job. They expect me to be there at a certain time at night to bring the poodles into my apartment and to stay there. Marie explained to me that she still wanted me to have a life, but that I just needed to inform the house manager of when I was going to be out at night, so that they could arrange for one of their many, many assistants to watch the dogs for me. I’m still unclear on how strict it all is. How much freedom I’ll actually have.

But I was pulled in, lured by the curiosity of the situation, of this woman. I’m so intrigued to find out how they live, how they function. I thought about it for a couple of days and told them that I would give it a shot. We agreed to do a three-month trial to make sure that I like the job and that they are happy with me. It was exciting and strange at first, but now a bit of panic is starting to set in.

How beholden will I be to these people? Do they really expect me to lead some sort of Cinderella life where I have to drop whatever I’m doing at 8pm to run back to the apartment to greet some poodles? Why can’t the poodles just hang in my apartment while I’m not there? How nice is the pool on the roof? I’m trying to calm myself down by remembering how much money I’m going to save while I’m in this current stretch of post-bacc pre-med school and how if it doesn’t work out, I’ll pretty much be in the exact same position that I am now, looking for a new place to live. But I’ll have a story. And really my whole life has just been chasing stories to tell the nurses at the old folks home one day. Maybe this will be an incredible experience, and I’ll love it. Maybe I’m entangling myself with international crime lords. At this point, I honestly don’t know. And that’s where my nervousness and my anxiety is stemming from. But all new journeys start with a little bit of fear and hesitation I suppose.

30 Before 30: Go to a Live Taping

24 May

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

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I’ve been wanting to do this for years! But it’s not as easy to score tickets to these shows as one might think. The tickets themselves are free and are often snatched up by tourists. Over the years, I’ve tried to get tickets to the Tonight Show, to the Daily Show, to the Colbert Report, and of course, to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. All to no avail. It seemed such a fruitless endeavor that I kind of gave up.

As far as television goes, other than the occasional Netflix binge (currently obsessed with “Jane the Virgin”), the only shows I watch on a weekly basis are “Walking Dead” and “Last Week Tonight.” But I recently added a third show to my weekly, lazy tv time: “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”

I was interested by the first late night show hosted by a woman. (Really? It took till 2016 for that to happen?) But I already had my hands full with number-one-love-of-my-life-John-Oliver. I wasn’t looking for any more political satire in my life. Go women and all, but do we really need another one of these shows?

Yes, yes we do. While she tackles major issues like the presidential election and the Syrian refugee crisis, she doesn’t shy away from dedicating major chunks of her show to women’s issues. Abortion laws, fraudulent pregnancy centers, unprocessed rape kits. She makes my feminist heart pitter-patter.

So I added my name to a list of hopefuls for tickets to the show, not expecting to ever get a call. But a couple weeks later, on a Monday morning, I got a phone call from someone who works for the show. They had a bunch of cancellations and had tickets available. I dragged my friend Lauren with me, and we went to the live-taping.

It was quite unglamorous, although I didn’t expect it to be much. We sat in a holding room with about a hundred other people, until we were ushered into the studio. After 30 minutes or so, Samantha Bee came out to greet everyone and answer a couple of questions. She also introduced some personal friends she had in the audience including her father and her gynecologist. Of course she would invite her gynecologist. Of course she would.

Once the show got underway, it was a bit odd, to be cued on when to clap, and to watch most of the pre-recorded show off a screen. But I was starstruck to be in the same room as that tiny, feminist bastion of hope in her signature blazer and high heels. In between taping and setting up for the next segment, a DJ played “Bad Girls” by MIA, as Samantha Bee danced around while assistants fixed her hair. What. A. Boss.

30 Before 30: Visit One World Observatory

19 May

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

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Manhattan from so far above

On a clear and sunny day, my friend Zach and I trekked downtown to visit the One World Observatory at the top of the Freedom Tower. My obligatory tourist indulgence in a city overflowing with them. At this point, I’ve done Top of the Rock, top of the Empire State Building. So I knew at the very least, I’d get some great views. The whole thing was so orchestrated; though, it ended up feeling surreal.

After going through airport-level security, everyone was shoved into elevators that as they rose to the top floor, displayed on screens a 360-view of Manhattan developing over the centuries. From when it was home to Native Americans, to the first Dutch traders, to the Industrial Revolution, and present day. It was the most interesting part of the visit, but it went by so fast, and everyone in the elevator expressed varying degrees of nausea.

Upon exiting the elevator, we were ushered into a theatre, showing “street scenes” of New York, the kind of imagery constantly fed to people who aren’t from here. Women in high heels catching taxis, smoky hot dog stands, the rumble of a subway train. It’s a little less exciting and hypnotizing when it’s just an expression of your day-to-day. At the end of the movie, the wall lifted to reveal a floor to ceiling window, showing off Manhattan. All the tourists gasped and then clapped before we were ushered into a room where they tried to sell us interactive iPads to carry around. Then we were taken through a gift shop. Then we were forced to take a picture which Zach ended up convincing me to buy, because he’s a sentimentalist, even though I wasn’t ready and look like a goon.

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The green screen photo I CLEARLY wasn’t ready for, but Zach somehow was.

Finally we got to the floor with the views. My phone promptly died after one picture, but it felt better that way. Instead of worrying about the perfect picture, we took our time wandering around, admiring the city from every bird’s eye angle we could find. Once we felt like we had absorbed most of it, we left, caught a cab, giving the driver an address on the West Side highway.

“Oh, you go to the bar!” Our Island cabdriver said.
“You clearly know us.”
“I should park my cab and join you,” he said.
“I’d buy you a drink, man!” Zach told him as we all laughed.

At the Frying Pan, a bar on a pier, we drank cold Pale Ales and ate sandwiches. We laughed about the morning and chatted about innumerable things, the kind of conversation only possible between two people who have known each other 12+ years. Once it got too breezy, we wandered through Chelsea and stumbled upon another dive bar we like, and we grabbed one more beer to cap the day.

THAT’s New York to me. THAT’s the thing they will never be able to appropriately sell to the hordes of tourists. It’s a city full of lovely, kind people, chance encounters, wanderings that usually result in something memorable and familiar. It was great to take in the city from above, but it’s so much better to be living right down in it.

The Christmas Eve Tahini Sauce Incident

7 Jan

This wasn’t the first Christmas that I’ve spent away from family. One year I was snowed in by a freak blizzard in Seattle and couldn’t get a flight home till late Christmas day. And I spent my first Christmas on the East Coast with my then-boyfriend’s family in Maryland. This was my first year since that Maryland Christmas that I didn’t travel to Reno to see my parents or to Philadelphia to see my family there. I thought I might spend the holiday with a boyfriend, but I had decided to end things the week before.

I had to work late on Christmas Eve, but I found a Lutheran church that had a late candlelight service at 10pm. It’s one of my favorite traditions, so I thought I’d put on my brand new Stitch Fix dress and treat myself.

After work, I had some time to kill before the service, so I went to the only open bookstore I could find and bought myself a new book and a nice new shoulder bag to carry it in. I walked the 30 blocks from Union Square to where the church was located. New York City has been so warm this winter; I used the walk to enjoy the weather and clear my mind.

I made it up to the Hell’s Kitchen area where the church was and thought, “What a nice evening I’m having!” Then, I decided to treat myself further. To a falafel sandwich.

I walked into a small store that had a wide range of specialty falafels. It was full of Israeli people, and I stuck out. Everyone was being exceptionally kind to me, as it was Christmas Eve, and I was clearly alone. I ordered my sandwich, and an older man wearing a yarmulke smiled at me and promised, “This will be the best falafel you ever have!”

The giant sandwich barely fit in my hands as I carried it to the other side of the store where a variety of sauces were. I picked up the tahini sauce to put it on my sandwich, but nothing came out. I gave it one quick shake, and the lid of the bottle came off and the entire bottle of Tahini sauce drenched my sandwich, my hands, my jacket, my brand new dress, my boots. I stand there frozen, holding the empty bottle and watching the sauce drip from my sandwich to the floor. I lift my gaze to look around the tiny shop, unsure what to do.

I was alone on Christmas Eve. No family. No boyfriend. My brand new dress was ruined. I was hungry. My sandwich was ruined. I had told myself all day that I was okay with it all, but I wasn’t, and it took that tahini sauce to make me feel it. But I held it together. I wanted to cry, but I swallowed it down. Until all the patrons of the little falafel shop swarmed me.

The guys who were working there took my ruined sandwich and started making me a new one. The old man who had promised me a magical falafel experience asked me if I was okay. A couple with a baby stroller started handing me a bunch of baby wipes to clean myself. All these strangers huddled around me and tried to make sure I was okay. And that’s what made me cry. Embarrassing tears falling out on their own. I had tried so hard to make the best of things, and it was as if the universe had replied, “Nope. Not today.”

I cleaned myself up as best I could and figured I couldn’t go to a new church covered in Tahini sauce stains. So I gathered my things and rushed out the door as someone yelled behind me, “Miss, you forgot your sandwich!” I couldn’t face them. I was humiliated by my tears and by my inadvertent clumsiness.

I’ve recounted this story a dozen times to my friends and family, often to a reaction of laughing and joking. Christmas didn’t turn out so bad as I spent it with friends. I look back on that night in that falafel shop as an important reminder. Those strangers didn’t have to rally around me like they did. They didn’t have to worry about me and try to make it right. I was embarrassed, but I wish I had the courage to stay and to say thank you. New York can seem like a cold and distant place, and the world at large as hateful things happening all the time.

But there are two ways of looking at my Christmas Eve falafel incident. One: the universe is cruel and unforgiving. Or two: there is an inherent goodness in people, and even though I started the evening feeling alone, I wasn’t. It just took a bottle of tahini sauce to see that even strangers can be there.

I don’t even remember exactly where the shop was, and I have no way of tracking down those strangers, but I am so grateful that they were there that night and that they were kind to me. As I rode the subway home and thought about all that had happened, it was the first time in the whole day that I honestly felt like I was okay and that things would be fine.

Thank you strangers. Thank you so much for that.

Night of a Thousand Stevies

15 May

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I was planning on spending the Friday night in. I had a flight the next day and wanted to pack and rest up. My friend Jan, however, was texting me earlier in the week and convinced me to go to an event with her. It was called “Night of a Thousand Stevies,” and I had no clue what I was getting myself into.

Jan is a HUGE Stevie Nicks fan. She adores the twirl, the bohemian occult draw. I liked Stevie Nicks enough. I mean, doesn’t every woman find “Landslide” poignant? And I had listened to “Dreams” on repeat when going through a break-up years ago, until the sting of the loss subsumed into the clang of Stevie’s tambourine. But I wasn’t a huge fan and found myself unsure why I was dragging myself out for an all-night, Stevie Nick’s themed, mystery event.

I dressed myself up as Stevie as I could. Red flowing skirt, black sheer sweater with sleeves that covered most of my fingers, long charm necklace, hoop earrings, and feathers in my hair. I thought I’d feel silly, but I actually felt amazing, thinking I should start dressing like a wayward gypsy more often. I had downloaded some Stevie Nicks music while out with my softball team earlier in the week and on my train ride to Irving Plaza for this strange event I had signed up for, I listened. “Silver Springs,” “Edge of Seventeen,” “Gold Dust Woman.” How had I missed this? These songs are incredible, and her songwriting is on point.

“Rulers make bad lovers. Better put your kingdom up for sale.”

She’s incredible.

Jan and I

Jan and I

We get to the event and start to see the thousand Stevies. People in top hats, black corsets, tambourines with ribbons, fake owls, long capes. Everyone dressed in some form of an inspired Stevie ensemble. So many twirl-offs. I had no idea that twirling could be such an art.

Up in the balcony, we managed to score a prime viewing spot of the stage where a variety of bands and artists came out to perform odes to Stevie. We saw straight-forward tribute bands, look-alikes who just wanted to dance and twirl, drag queens who came out with giant dove wings and glowing orb moons. My favorite was a troupe of ballerinas who danced en pointe to a choreographed routine of “Carousel” while dressed like Stevies in tutus.

I was struck by the idea of Stevie Nicks and her career. She was different than many women in music during her day, an original concept and style that she created and stuck to. And to back it up, she wrote beautiful songs with so much honesty and vulnerability. Now she lays claim to a cult of weirdos who get together once a year to emulate and bond over her music. She inspired me to be less afraid to lay my heart bare in my writing, to find my own way and style. If anything, that night I joined the cult of weirdos in worshiping the amazing Stevie.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks obsessed with her music, bouncing from song to song and listening to them on repeat. I can’t get enough of her. My latest song on repeat is “Leather and Lace”

“You’re saying I’m fragile. I try not to be. I search only for something I can’t see. I have my own life, and I am stronger than you know.”

Twirl on, Stevie. Twirl on.

Where are you going, where have you been?

10 Feb

This doesn’t actually have anything to do with the Joyce Carol Oates story of the same name. I just love that title. I also love the story and recommend it to anyone else who is likewise fascinated with American fables.

The shoe tree on the drive from Seattle to Reno.

The shoe tree on the drive from Seattle to Reno.

 

“Where are you from originally?”

It’s my most dreaded of questions that new acquaintances ask me. It is also one of the most common in a city of immigrants and transplants. I’ve always struggled with how to answer. Buffalo? Reno? Seattle?

My answer is Seattle, because if I have to launch into a discussion about one of those cities, Seattle is the place I want to talk about. Plus I lived there for five years. But I’m also coming up on my five-year anniversary of living in New York.

Five years. I can’t believe it. Instead of wearing it like a New Yorker badge of honor like a lot of people do, I find myself wondering, “How did that happen?”I can demarcate my time in this city by the different periods where I was sure I was going to leave, where I hatched a plan and set a secret date for my Exodus. But here I am.

I think of the day I left Seattle. I crashed at my friend Eric’s apartment, because I had sold him all my furniture and had no where to sleep. He drove me back to my apartment on a foggy morning. He called it “Chrissy weather,” that perfect mixture of summer fog that dissipates by mid-afternoon. I packed up the last of the things into my Jeep and headed to the coffeeshop where I had worked for three years. My boss Anna gave me treats for the road and everyone hugged me. It was a Sunday, and I set my radio to listen to the Mariner game. I drove South on I-5, passing the stadium. The farther South I got, the less I could get the game on the radio. I wiped a couple of tears from my eyes and ignored the voice screaming inside of me that told me not to leave.

Six years later, I can’t believe where I am and what I’ve been through. I never thought Reno would lead to New York. I never thought I’d get to go to Japan and Iceland. I never thought I’d become a veterinary technician. I’m a happier person now than I was when I left Seattle, but it’s a strange thing to mark the passage of time. What would life have been like if I had turned the Jeep around and driven back into Seattle? It’s foolish to think about, because I will never know.

It’s a bittersweet feeling to realize that soon I will have lived in New York longer than I lived in Seattle. What does that mean exactly? Am I from here now? Can I no longer claim Seattle a home? Why doesn’t that make me happy? Most importantly, what do I do next? Where do I go?

29 Before 29: Visit the United Nations

9 Feb

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

General Assembly Hall

General Assembly Hall

This morning, after walking the dog that I’m sitting for and grabbing myself a blueberry smoothie, I left the country. All it took was $20 and an online reservation.  I passed through the security at the United Nations building on the East River in New York City and entered international territory.

I’m currently staying with a pug, Ellie Mae, and her cat brother, Lucas. They are regulars of mine and happen to live about a block away from the United Nations. So when me and their owner set up a couple of days for me to stay with them this February, I made sure to also set up a UN tour for myself.

Glass mural representing a world of peaceful collaboration.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It was only an hour long, and I was the only American in my group of about 20. It was great though. We got to see all of the assembly halls, including one that had a session going on. We got to see a number of different gifts to the UN from member countries. I found it fascinating and wished that I had studied International Affairs in college so that maybe I could somehow work there. They do a lot of interesting work, and it’s amazing that 193 countries come together and try to make the world a better place.

I was particularly moved by a display by a Brazilian artist of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration was drafted by a committee in 1948 headed by Eleanor Roosevelt and enumerates the basic rights that every human being is entitled to. It was sad to read some of them, such as the right to education or the right to be free from torture and know that many people in our world are denied these rights.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

It was a fun diversion on a bitter February day. I also learned about the website Free Rice which I learned about in college. It was created by the UN as a simple education tool. It has trivia and for every correct question, they use the money from the ad sponsors to donate 10 grains of rice to countries in need. Finally, a way to waste time on the Internet and not feel guilty.

Cat Sitting

16 Dec
A couple of rescues from the NYPD.

A couple of rescues from the NYPD.

Last week, Dr. L introduced me to a new cat sitting client. His cat, Midnight, had that day been diagnosed as a diabetic. Him and his wife often go to Long Island for the weekend, and he needed someone to stop by and give Midnight her insulin. I quoted him my rates, and we had made a deal.

“You know,” I told him. “I also do cat feeding and litter box changes if you wanted me to take care of all of it while I stop by.”
“Oh no. There’s a lady in our building who does that and..um… she does that.”
“No problem. I’ll just take care of the insulin then.”

He sent me a nicely detailed email about the times he wanted me to stop by. The cat sitter that lives in the building would feed the cat in the afternoon, and I was to come over in the “early evening” to give her the insulin.

So after work I walked to the apartment, and as I entered, I heard someone rustling in the kitchen. I called out a hello and a slight-of-frame woman came out from the kitchen with a phone cradled between her shoulder and face.

“The technician just got here,” she said into the phone. “Yes, she just walked in. So I’ll help her.” She hung up the phone and turned to me. “I’m the other cat sitter. That was Bruce. He told me you were coming in the early evening, and it’s almost six.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you’d be here.”
“I’ve been waiting for you since 3 when I fed Midnight. I called Bruce to tell him that I could just give the insulin. I know how to do it myself, you know.”
“Oh, okay,” I said making my way to the kitchen to draw up the insulin. I wanted out of that apartment.

“Bruce is such a nervous daddy,” she continued. “I mean, I can give the shots. I know how. I don’t know why he hired you. I’ve done this before. I’ll hold Midnight for you. She doesn’t like strangers.”
“I actually met Midnight at the clinic.”
“She likes me better.”

So I let the woman hold the cat while I gave the quick injection. We both left the apartment together, and she told me to call her tomorrow if I needed help giving the injection in the morning.

The next morning I walk into the building and tell the doorman at the front desk the apartment number that I’m going up to. He picks up the phone and starts calling someone.

“Oh, they’re not there,” I tell him. “They left a key for me to let myself in.”
“That’s not who I’m calling.” I swallow my annoyance as I hear him announce to my cat sitter friend that I have arrived.
“She will meet you at the apartment,” he tells me.

I head upstairs and let myself in. I get out the insulin and start drawing it up as the cat comes out of the bathroom and circles at my feet. A couple of moments later, the cat sitter enters.

“When you said late morning, I didn’t think you meant 11!”
“Sorry.”
“Here. Let me hold Midnight. I can do this myself you know.”

I smile and nod and give the injection that I was paid to give.

“I’ve given injections to other animals before. I don’t think Bruce will be using you again. I’ll just do it from now on.”
“So I’ll leave my key here for them, so they don’t have to come by the clinic,” I say, placing the key on the living room table.
“Sounds like a good idea,” she says to me. “I mean, I have my own set.”

So, needless to say, I don’t think that client will use me again. I felt a mix of frustration and guilt. I never meant to step on this woman’s territory. I wasn’t trying to steal her client. I had no idea Upper East Side cat sitters could be so territorial.