Monthly Archives: August 2012

Holly Golightly’s New York

If a movie begins with a scene like this, with a woman in formal evening wear enjoying a Danish in front of a famous fine jewelry shop, you know it will be good. At least if you, the viewer, have a second X chromosome.

I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’ve watched it more times than I can count, know all the lines by heart, and the fact that this film is now available on Netflix Instantview is not helping. One time freshman year, I was out of my dorm for an evening, and later learned that my roommate and another friend had decided to watch one of my DVDs while I was gone. I didn’t mind at all, until I learned that they stopped about 30 minutes in because they determined they didn’t like it. Naturally, I had to ask which movie that had selected. The answer? Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (As you can tell, this disagreement in opinions about this film has stuck with me for a LONG time. I wasn’t offended, I promise. Just surprised.)

I know “old” films aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I had a hard time understanding why two such fine young women — I love them, I really do, and they were both bridesmaids in my wedding — could not appreciate this iconic film. From Audrey Hepburn’s classic Givenchy wardrobe to Henry Mancini’s “Moon River,” I found it impossible to believe that there was not something that would have held their attention. Was Audrey not the epitome of sophistication as she brandished about her long cigarette holder and drank milk for breakfast out of a crystal wine glass? Couldn’t her innocent, doe-like eyes make you almost forget she was playing a call-girl (or as Capote categorized his famous protagonist, an “American geisha”) in this film? Isn’t Paul Varjak such a dreamboat, hacking away at his typewriter?

Makes me cry. Every. Single. Time.

Don’t you cry every time at the end of the film, not because Holly and Paul inevitably profess their love for one another, but because she finally finds Cat again?

Aren’t we all a little bit like Holly sometimes — trying so desperately to find our place in the world and at times, suffering from the “mean reds”?

…or is it just me who feels this way?

This seemingly random post is somewhat motivated by the fact that I learned the copy of Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman is finally IN TRANSIT to my local library branch. I’m so excited to learn more about this movie that I’ve already determined I’m a wee bit obsessed with (and, admittedly, a little defensive about).

The other part of my motivation has to do with the fact that while walking back to the office from my new favorite lunch hour spot (Greenacre Park, remember?), I noticed this:

This is a fountain.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Um, Rebecca, that is just a really ordinary fountain in front of a boring corporate building on Park Avenue.”

Wrong, so very wrong.

Ladies and gentleman, because I am a freak, I knew in my bones that it was THIS:

Look at Holly and Paul, classing up Corporate America by sitting on one of its fountains.

In another shot right before this one, you can see more of the bench pictured in the first photograph of the building. OK, so I thought I might be a *little* crazy, but I did a lot of Google Mapping and normal Googling to determine that this is the Seagram Building Plaza at Park and East 52nd, and because buildings in NYC are sooo important, they have their own websites to tell their whole history, which confirmed my suspicions that this was a filming site in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Now I know this film is supposed to take place on the Upper East Side, so I’m determined to see more of Holly Golightly’s New York. I’ve already been to the Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue (“I’m just CRAZY about Tiffany’s!”), but I did a little online research today and learned that the facade of Holly’s brownstone, a.k.a. Chez Golightly, is located at 169 E. 71st St, between Lexington & Third. That’s not very far away from me at all! I must go and potentially creep out the current residents by taking pictures.

Here Holly and Paul are classing up the Upper East Side. Which, if you must know, is already pretty classy.

While we are on the subject of classy, old school NYC locations, allow me to subtly change topics and mention the bar where my co-workers invited me to join them at the end of my first week this past Friday for happy hour. This dark-hued bar at Third & 55th, P.J. Clarke’s, was once a favorite of Jackie O, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole. No, this is not your college-type bar. This is a grown-up bar that screams class. Also, Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band penned a song called “Stolen Away on 55th and 3rd,” inspired by a girl he met at P.J.’s, and Johnny Depp gifted Keith Richards a guitar here. So that’s pretty darn cool, too.

P.J. Clarke’s at night.

I honestly didn’t realize the rich history of the place until nearly a week later, when finishing up Valley of the Dolls. One of the main character’s husbands claims to have a business meeting at “P.J.’s” when he is actually having an affair. I read those two initials and thought, “P.J.’s? That can’t be the P.J’s I went to, can it?” A bit of Googling — oh, Google, what would I ever do without you? — and I learned that little bar on the corner, just two blocks from my office, has many famous patrons.

Moral of the story: Midtown New York is a lot cooler than I previously thought.

And sorry to do this, but one more screenshot from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I am convinced that this is the most utterly perfect ending to any movie ever. Do not even mention to me that in Capote’s original novella, Paul (the anonymous narrator) is openly gay. I know, I read the book, and I’m trying to forget that little detail. That’s unimportant. Feast your eyes on some timeless Hollywood romance:

So totally and completely perfect. Modern-day rom-coms ain’t got nothing on the classic cheesiness of older films.

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I *heart* NYPL

One day I would like to have a personal library with one of these rolling ladders against the fully stocked shelves.

New York Public Library, that is. I love libraries–I always have. I was the kid who happily dropped by the local public library at least once a week, all the way through high school and the following summer until I arrived on my university’s campus and discovered an even BIGGER library just for students and faculty. I always participated in those summer reading programs in elementary and middle school, and in high school, I volunteered with Youth Services to help run those same summer and after-school programs for younger students. I think it is a testimony to the stupendous state of our society that anyone can get a library card at their local library branch and receive FREE access to nearly unlimited knowledge and adventures. Oh, no, libraries are not just where homeless people flock to enjoy the Internet and air conditioning. Libraries are magical.

I love bookstores too; I really do. My heart actually starts beating faster when I enter one and smell all those fresh, untouched books–or musty, well-loved used ones. There are very few things that thrill me more in life than discovering a truly fantastic used bookstore. You know the kind: overwhelmingly cluttered, totally disorganized, tucked away in some unexpected place.

But libraries will always have an extra-special place in my heart.

Mine looks just like this, and it is simply BEAUTIFUL.

You have no idea how absolutely much it thrilled me to receive my New York Public Library card at long last a few weeks ago. It took a while because, long story short, I had to wait forever to get a new U.S. passport with my married name. I needed that passport to get the library card in some way, either using the passport itself with a recently postmarked piece of mail to my NYC address, or using the passport as the means to get a NY driver’s license and then obtain a library card (an even longer route). When I saw that piece of mail postmarked from the U.S. Department of State, I almost jumped with glee. And no, I’m not planning on any international travel any time soon–unless it’s fictional.

Did you know that there are more than 8.5 million items a person can check out from the New York Public Library? 8.5 million! “Why, life is so unfair! I’ll never be able to read them ALL,” the nerd cried.

Fun fact: You know the iconic NYPL building next to Bryant Park in Midtown? There are not really any circulating items there. However, there IS awesome architecture and a wonderfully quiet reading room with unbeatable ambiance.

Oh, but it gets even better: our nearest branch of the NYPL, the Webster branch, is all of four blocks from our apartment. Four blocks. I can’t handle it. That is closer than my preferred grocery store and the church we’ve been attending. Do you fully comprehend this? Sweet fate has place books closer to my current residence than both food and worship.

School children enjoying story time at the NYPL Webster Branch in 1910.

The Webster branch was built in 1893 and opened to the public in 1906. The branch originally served a predominately Czech immigrant population in the early 20th Century. Most importantly, the library branch’s founders foresaw more than 100 years in the future and determined that the Webster branch would be four blocks from the apartment of myself, an avid reader and loyal patron of public libraries everywhere. Ahem.

The library branch itself is fairly small, but the items within the branch change out as items from other branches are brought in. It is cozy old building filled with people reading and the occasional individual whispering in Czech (yes, really). But the absolute best part is The Book Cellar, a used bookstore in the branch’s basement operated by Friends of NYPL. The Book Cellar is a magical place filled with SO many donated books. There were too many books to fit on the shelves, so there were even more boxes of unopened donations stacked beneath tables and in high nooks. And everything was amazingly priced, even for places outside of NYC! I scored two good-as-new novels for $4.

Let’s do a little math problem: If Rebecca learns that she can purchase two used books for $4 from the basement of the public library branch that is all of four city blocks away from her apartment, how quickly will she drain both the savings from her meager copy editor’s salary and her husband’s more ample accountant’s salary?

Actually, let’s not think about that. But there is good news in terms of my book-buying hoarding issues. NYPL offers quite a few ebooks for free temporary download on ereaders, including the Kindle. I received a Kindle as a college graduation gift from my parents last year, and I have used it quite a bit. Although ebooks are much cheaper than new novels, I am–as I mentioned earlier–a hopeless sucker for used bookstores. I go in hoping to save money, and leave with arms loaded down with books I won’t get around to for months and a wallet that is $40 lighter. But do you know what tempts me more than the allure of cheap, used books? FREE LIBRARY BOOKS.

Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) wouldn’t believe it if you told her that you could download library books for free nowadays! Poor girl had to use an old-fashioned card catalog.

Checking out ebooks from NYPL is so convenient, it’s ridiculous. I don’t even have to walk the measly four blocks to the Webster Branch to retrieve new reading material. I can sit on my couch and have a new book in minutes. After searching around the NYPL website and discovering an available volume that catches my eye, I simply request a copy, fill out my email, and receive an email directing me to my FREE download on Amazon. You can choose to “check out” ebooks for one, two, or three weeks, after which time, they will no longer be available for you to access until you check them out again. If an ebook isn’t available at the time, you can request it and you will receive an email when it’s available for you. Needless to say, I’ve requested a lot of ebooks in the past week or so since making this discovery.

I consider my ability to park it on the couch and receive a new book to be the epitome of New Yorker laziness. In this city, you can have many things delivered to you–from Chinese or pizza to your groceries and your laundry. But what do I get most excited about? Ebooks from the public library. Figures.

OK, so the only thing that has made me slightly more excited about the library than the ebooks is finally getting Downton Abbey, Season 2 delivered to the Webster Branch. I have been watching it religiously after work every day so I can be sure to finish all of it by the end of this upcoming Labor Day weekend, when it is sadly due. Can we please talk about how incredibly emotionally invested I have become in the Crawleys and their servants? Can we please talk about the fact that I sit on the edge of my seat for entire episodes and then shake my hands at the goshdarn cliffhanger endings of every. single. episode. Because it means, SIGH, I have to watch yet another episode right then and there.

Can we talk about the fact that I want all of Lady Mary’s dresses, even if they went out of style with pantaloons? Or about the fact that seeing Daisy scrub all the upstairs people’s dishes motivates me to finally go clean my own dishes? Or that it makes me want to read The Remains of the Day all over again? And want to adopt a British accent?

Seriously, if you have never watched this show before, do yourself a favor, and do. You’re missing out on some quality television. At least the first season is available for instant view on Netflix, so no excuses. (Plus, you get to learn about WWI-era history and British culture and stuff because, I mean, it’s PBS.) It has so many things I adore in it, half the time I like to believe these brilliant television makers created this show just for me. I’m only slightly delusional…turns out, a lot of people adore it!

Excuse me, just going to have to go watch *one* more episode. Just one…


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Mexican Food in Manhattan: Fact or Fiction?

Since moving to New York City, Sean and I have gotten try some of the best food I have ever had in my life, from the exotic (Sri Lankan, anyone?) to the more familiar (a.k.a. the best pizza and hot dogs). But we had not yet had any of that familiar “exotic” breed of cuisine known as Mexican. While I can prepare a number of Mexican dishes at home, if you’ve ever had truly great Mexican food at a restaurant, you know that I–as a “white, non-Hispanic” individual–could never come close to the real thing.

So after a few weeks of sampling other Latin cuisines, from Peruvian to Cuban, I began to sympathize with the Homesick Texan. There is truly nothing like tried-and-true Tex-Mex favorites. After a little Yelp-ing, I discovered a place called Cafe Ollin with dirt-cheap prices, rave reviews, and an attractive location in Spanish Harlem (so surely it would be more authentic than throwing some guacamole on top of some chips and proclaiming it to be “Mexican,” right?). A quick bus ride up to Harlem on Friday evening and we arrived at what can truly be called a hole-in-the-wall establishment:

Don’t blink! You might miss it. (Please note the Mexican grocery next door.)

We walked into a tiny room tackily decorated with Mexican bric-a-brac. None of the tables matched one another, and most were just fold-out card tables with scuffed and sticky surfaces. Our young waitress did not understand much English. All of the food items on the menu were listed in Spanish first, English second. This place was promising.

I had noted from my online research beforehand that this would not be my standard Tex-Mex or Cali Mex fare. All of the food served in this little joint is of the Puebla style, Puebla being a region of Mexico a couple of hours southeast of Mexico City. We both ordered the same thing like the boring married couple that we are: carnitas cemitas. I’ve never had a cemita before, but it is basically a HUGE Mexican sandwich that originated from Puebla. Lots of Yelp-ers were raving about it, so I decided to venture into the unfamiliar.

Our sandwiches, which each occupied an entire plate, consisted of carnitas (pork), lettuce, tomato, red onion, cilantro, avacado, oaxaca cheese, and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Of course, that last ingredient brought back memories of my first experience with adobo sauce when I made Tex-Mex Mashed Sweet Potatoes. All of this was piled on a toasted sesame bun of gargantuan portions. It looks a little like this (my leftovers I ate on Saturday), times two:

The Mexicans are serious about their sandwich-making.

I thoroughly enjoyed that sandwich, and it took self-control to save half for Saturday’s lunch. It was a wonderful mix of spiciness and freshness from the cilantro and avacado. The crunch from the toasted bun and the onions was nice, too. I was happy, until I felt horribly ill on Saturday afternoon, and was not even able to enjoy my Downton Abbey, Season 2 marathon properly. I thought I had a fever. I could not drink enough water. I felt absurdly tired. I cannot blame my simple Saturday breakfast of OJ and Special K.

I blame the adobo sauce.

(Oh, and I’m fine now, thanks for asking.)

To recuperate from this too-exotic food encounter (Sean suffered from adobo-induced pains himself), we resorted to the comfort food to end all comfort foods: macaroni and cheese from the well-known East Village establishment ‘Smac. Yes, a restaurant entirely devoted to mac & cheese, with appropriately orange- and yellow-hued decor. Don’t judge.

An example of ‘Smac’s deliciousness.

Maybe this puts me on par with those folks who will pay a whole heckuva lot for a classic PB&J from Peanut Butter & Co, but it was so so worth it. I had been wanting to visit the Houston restaurant Jus’ Mac before moving up to Yankee Land, but we never did. Our ‘Smac visit more than made up for it.

We ordered two of the smallest size skillet you can get, “Nosh,”–and yes, you do get served your bubbly hot pan of mac & cheese in a skillet. We got one order of the buffalo chicken mac, after a recommendation from one of my new coworkers, and an order of the “Alpine,” a heavenly mixture of gruyere cheese and thick-cut bacon.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it more than made up for our unfortunate encounter with Puebla cuisine. Please, please go there if you live in NYC. It won’t break the bank, and it will fill your stomach with cheesy happiness.

I’m sorry to share all these lovely pictures of delicious food with you without being able to offer you a sample myself. Reading about food is the worst. One day at work last week, I copy edited pages and pages of tables about the best-selling candies and snacks. It was torture. Now I endure the self-induced torture of reading mouth-watering descriptions of foreign cuisines in my current read, Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and People Who Cook. (Pssst…by reading this book, I learned that Bourdain totally lives in the UES. All the more reason to NOT zone out when walking around the neighborhood, right?).

Here is a photo of Anthony Bourdain eating brunch at Cafe d’Alsace on NYC’s Upper East Side, you guys. Included just because I can. (Obviously not a personal photo.)

Anyhow, if you know of any worthwhile Mexican restaurants in NYC, please comment and let me know! It might be a frustrating adventure, but I’m determined to complete our quest. We will not be dismayed. I mean, there are plenty of Mexican people in this city–where do they eat?!? Can someone please invite me over to eat a home-cooked meal from their abuela’s kitchen? Pleeeease?


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Lunch Hour Discovery

While I am enjoying my new job, today I had a wee bit too much downtime because my supervisor was out of the office and hadn’t given me enough assignments, so I decided to explore Midtown East a bit during my lunch hour. Although I prefer to pack my own lunch, as I did today, because it is healthier and cheaper than going out, I thought it would be nice to find some sort of public outdoor space at which to enjoy a quiet lunch.

After a little Yelp-ing, I discovered this beautiful urban oasis:

A waterfall? In New York City? Yes, really. No, not naturally.

This gorgeous little green retreat, called Greenacre Park, was just a 10 minute walk from my office on Park Ave. This well-landscaped courtyard was discretely nestled between two buildings in the east 50s near 3rd Ave, right in the heart of otherwise boring corporate New York. If you are not familiar with Midtown NYC, basically it’s just a bunch of high-rise office buildings and delis and cafes to feed the many people who work in those office buildings. There are many-laned, busy streets, wide and crowded sidewalks, many suits, and no trees. It’s probably the version of New York non-city people would cite as to why they are NOT city people.

But then, just when you least expect it, you can turn the corner and find something lovely like this. It was quite crowded with other working people during the lunch hour, and it was refreshing to see a lot of other people brown-bagging it. Some people had come with a co-worker or two, but most were enjoying a little peace of mind. Some were simply reading. It was love at first sight for me and this little park. I’ll definitely be returning often, for as long as the weather here stays this lovely!

This is the slightly elevated area of the park where you enter from the street. There were a bunch of these little cafe-style tables nestled under a shady canopy of trees.

New York is always full of surprises. As I was walking back to my office, I came across this interesting site, among all the run-of-the-mill skyscrapers (Not that I take skyscrapers for granted…skyscrapers are an awesome feat of engineering/architecture and use of limited space. Go humans!):

Obviously this is an older picture. But look at those arches! What’s a pretty, not-so-little thing like this doing in Midtown East?

After a lot of Google mapping and struggling to remember the route I took back to work, I learned this is The Raquet and Tennis Club. Yeah, I didn’t get it either, but Wikipedia told me that this is a private, ultra-exclusive, formerly men’s-only social and athletic club. Construction was completed in 1918 on this Italian Renaissance-style building. See? You learn something new everyday.

Also, when I was walking, I saw a large group of Asians wearing business professional attire all using their phones/digital cameras to snap the same photo (of the MetLife building) at the same time while stopped before a crosswalk. It was the sort of moment when I wished I had a camera and photography skills to capture it, but instead I just had to resort to writing the last sentence.

Speaking of other surprises, this morning when I got off the elevator at work, there were TV cameramen filming the realty people from Keller Williams NYC, who share our floor (and restrooms and break room). Crazy, huh? I’m not sure what it was for. Facebook inquiries suggested it might have been HGTV’s Selling New York, but I don’t really know. I recall seeing at least on KW guy on the show in the past, but I don’t remember what he looked like at all.

Anyway, I like my job so far, and I would even if the Greenacre Park wasn’t so close by. I got to write two short web stories today, and even though they were simple summaries of press releases, it was nice to crank out a couple of articles again. I am trying to teach myself a bunch of the InDesign keyboard shortcuts during any downtime, but I don’t know what a lot of the Mac OS shortcut symbols even mean, so then I have to study this chart, too. It’s been a while since I spent any significant time on a Mac. It makes me feel so very out-of-touch with technology because I struggle even to “right-click.” For you Windows loyalists who are confused, Mac mice don’t come with right-click buttons, so you have to click “control” while clicking the only mouse button.

To conclude, I’ll post this charming artistic rendition of Adobe Photoshop, an imagining of what the computer program would be like if it were a “real” work station instead of a computer program. (I’ve been playing with  working on Photoshop at work too, doing cutouts and stuff. Really, it is not fair that some of us get to play with photographs and get paid for it.)

If Photoshop were real…

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Broadway & Brunch

I need to post this entry about our past weekend soon, or it will be the next weekend before I know it! Our weekend got off to a bit of a rough start, particularly for Sean, who had to work until 10 at night on Friday. While he works late a lot right now because of some sort of second tax busy season, this was extra-ridiculous. We had a sushi dinner at 10:30 p.m., and I was very thankful at that time to live in New York, where restaurants are not only open at that hour but are bustling.

Here’s a scene from the stage production of “Once.” Meet the vaguely named main characters, Guy and Girl.

The main thing I want to talk about is our Saturday evening because, thanks to the extreme generosity of a good friend, we were able to see the newish Broadway musical OnceWe were given the tickets as a belated wedding present, and I think it might have quickly become one of my top wedding gifts, right up there with restaurant and money gift certificates we received for our honeymoon. We’re all about spending money on experiences rather than things, so this was right up our alley. Plus, we had both seen the indie film upon which the stage production is based and adored it, so we were quite excited to see the stage version for ourselves.

Before the show, we found a random Theater District Italian restaurant, Patzeria Family & Friends, which was delicious and affordable and almost completely devoid of tourists. (I have nothing against dining among tourists…it’s just that there are a lot of them here, and they can make the wait for a table difficult!) We ended up getting to the theater really early, and I’m glad we did, because we were able to catch all of the “pre-show,” when various secondary cast members performed different folk music selections. The entire show takes place on one set, a dingy Irish pub, with changes in lighting and chair arrangements to help you re-imagine a new scene/setting. For the pre-show, however, the set was all about being a pub, and audience members could go on stage to purchase outrageously overpriced drinks and watch the musical action up-close. We did not do this (see note about “outrageously overpriced drinks”), but we enjoyed our viewing from the mezzanine nonetheless.

As for the actual show, I cannot say enough how much I loved it. I have been fortunate to see several other Broadway shows, either here in NYC or on tour at my university (and I even wrote reviews for the student newspapers of a few, like one for Mamma Mia!, which I am not a huge fan of), but this was easily my personal favorite. Just like in the movie, which could also be classified as a musical, the music is not your typical big-band show tunes. In fact, there was no orchestra pit. All of the cast members played at least one, if not two or three instruments, providing the most beautiful instrumentation. If you are at all a fan of folk music, whether a classic Bob Dylan fan or a follower of more mainstream Mumford & Sons or an indie kid digging Radical Face, I think you would appreciate the music of Once. There’s acoustic guitars, mandolins, violins, accordions, and even a melodica! A melodica! Now you have to go, right?

Here’s a sample of the music, the song “Gold” performed by the cast members at the Tonys:

I would have loved Once for the music alone, but the story is pretty bittersweet and touching, too. I’ll warn people that the show does not have a typical Hollywood ending, so please don’t gripe like some of my fellow audience members. The story tells of a chance encounter between a struggling Irish street performer and a poor Czech immigrant in Dublin, and how their remarkable ability to craft lovely music together forges a strong friendship and maybe something more between them. The main character, Guy, wears a vest over a T-shirt, and his female counterpart, simply named Girl, wears leggings and boots. Enough said, OK?

As if the eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, it won this past June didn’t speak enough for Once‘s quality, I’ll urge you to go if you ever find yourself in New York wondering what show to see. Tickets are pricey, but they do have rush tickets and students standing room-only tickets available for much less, which is what Sean and I were planning on doing eventually. Or you could get married and hope someone kindly gifts you tickets, too! (Needless to say, we are writing this guy the magnum opus of all thank you letters.)

Since you aren’t allowed to take photos inside, I snapped this one of the theater.

We spent the rest of our Saturday drinking wine at home, watching Modern Family, and watching our kitty’s silly antics until the wee hours of the morning. Sunday we decided to have a repeat experience of the Sunday before and went to brunch down the street. I’d always heard about how much New Yorkers love their brunch, and now I totally understand why. Brunch is perhaps the greatest dining invention of all time. Most restaurants here serve brunch items from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to accommodate everyone’s lethargy and inability to rise at a decent hour on the weekend (too many 11 p.m. sushi dinners, I guess).

We have gone to Le Moulin a Cafe on York both times. This is a darling little French-style cafe that feels like you just walked into some French woman’s large and airy country kitchen. There’s a shelf filled with empty French lemonade bottles for decoration. The wooden tables have flecks of worn-off turquoise paint on them. It’s charming. And according to the Times, real French people eat here, y’all. Both times I ordered the croque-monsieur, an exquisite creation that was included every. single. year. in my French textbooks, in the food and dining chapter, right between “les pommes” (apples) and “le petit-dejeuner” (breakfast). You know what my French textbooks said a croque-monsieur is? “A ham and cheese sandwich.” OK, um, nothing too exciting there…wrong!

From The New Yorker. Croque-monsieurs are made of awesome, not frogs.

A croque-monsieur is a buttery, cheesy, melt-in-your-mouth delicacy. It’s also probably not very healthy for you, which is why Le Moulin a Cafe serves theirs with a small side salad tossed in a light vinaigrette. Anyway, I wish someone had told me a long time ago that croque-monsieurs are THE way to start your Sunday. My life could be so different right now–me, I’d probably be a much more cheerful person, in addition to a much fatter one. Sean tried a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a croissant the first time, but the second time he tried the croque-madame (see how we played a gender-reversal game with our sandwiches), which is the same thing as the croque-monsieur plus a sunny side-up egg on the top. I was too scared to try something with runny yolk all over it, despite my willingness to try things like eel (delicious), but Sean loved it. The first time we went we also tried their pain du chocolat, which are little pastries filled with–what else?–chocolate! I would also eat pains du chocolat for breakfast, if they had a little more nutritional value. 🙂

Then we went to the Yorkville HousingWorks, a wonderful thrift store that aids those with HIV/AIDS. We bought a lot of our other furniture there, and it’s great because you are getting quality used furniture for a good price and helping those in need. Such a win-win situation. It turns out it was the perfect day to go to HousingWorks because we finally found a nightstand!!! This is one article of clothing that we simply could not track down, because the space between the edge of our full-sized bed (which is in a corner) and our doorway is all of 12″. So we were using the cardboard box our TV came in, standing precariously on its narrowest side, which took up a lot of room because the long side went halfway down the bed! And you could never rest a glass of water on top or anything. Lo, and behold, we found this little gem:

Who would have thought such a simple, unexciting piece of furniture could excite us so much?!?

As you can see, it’s being used to hold laughably little at the moment, but the point is it fits! I am now inspired to buy a little table lamp so that I can read in bed in the evenings (my favorite). I’m not yet sure what all those little cubby holes will hold, but I’m sure they’ll come in handy at some point. It was only $16 and it’s remarkably 12″ wide, so I’m a happy camper. Also, this light bamboo material also matches the other two pieces of furniture we have in the room: an end table/filing cabinet next to the bathroom door and a wardrobe. Our bed is just on a metal frame and some risers, as you can see. It would be nice and homey to make one of those faux-headboards, but we’ll see when I find the motivation and skills to achieve that.

A selection of goodies from the Peter Pan Bakery, taken from Yelp. See those big half-chocolate, half-vanilla circular creations of scrumptiousness? That’s what we had.

After Sean stopped to get a haircut in a little basement barbershop in our neighborhood, we took the subway out to Brooklyn and spent the afternoon wandering around Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Brooklyn has a lot more of a neighborhood feel than does Manhattan because there are no high-rise buildings and there are endless rows of mom-and-pop shops. We stopped in the Peter Pan Bakery on a whim and split a black-and-white cookie, a New York staple that we’ve recently fallen in love with. It was very yummy, but you should have seen the donuts they had in the place! Incredible–there were apple crisp donuts with baked apples and cinnamon streusel just PILED on top. If I hadn’t already had that croque-monsieur (literally translated from French to “Mr. Crunchy,” or more accurately, “Mrs. Fatty”), I would have totally gotten one of those. The bakery itself was adorable, an old-timey, diner-style joint with checkered linoleum floors, uniformed waitresses, and swirling diner stools bolted up against a sticky counter. The place was not even trying to be retro. It just was. Brooklyn is cool like that.

Audrey likes vinyl, so you should too.

We also stopped in a few record stores because Sean is intent on expanding his vinyl collection. I created a monster out of him by giving him a turntable for this past Christmas. As a huge audiophile, he loves it and indulges it in new vinyls quite often. I like visiting the record stores myself because they always have interesting artwork and band posters plastered all over the place. Usually there’s a resident cat, too, for whatever reason. Although we did not buy any more records this weekend, Sean did purchase the nonfiction book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (what a title!) from one of those used book tables that pop up all over the New York sidewalks on nice weekend days.

We went back to the UES to split a pizza from Gotham Pizza, where a little girl sitting next to us sang “Hakuna Matata” while eating her cheese pizza. So weird to think that I was her age when the movie that song is from (The Lion King) first came out–and happy that kids still appreciate it. Then we watched Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, which makes me hopeful that one day very soon I can convince Sean to watch my namesake Hitchcock film, Rebecca.

Despite the rough start, it was a wonderful last weekend before I began my employment! It’s fun to be tourists in your own city.

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Adventures in Art and the Park

Like I mentioned in my last post, I have been trying to enjoy these last few days of fairly responsibility-free summertime. Wednesday was quite gloomy and rainy, so I decided it was the perfect day to finally visit that kinda-sorta famous building down our street, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Of course, it was not the perfect day to walk to said building because it was wet and rainy. The hems on my jeans got soaking wet, and I hate that, but it was OK because you know what? NYC is very pretty in the rain. I watched the documentary Bill Cunningham New York about the Times‘ fashion and society photographer of the same name, and there’s a segment where he just raves about New York in the rain or snow, how it transforms the city. He loves to get shots of impeccably dressed women leaping over puddles of rainwater or melting slush because it captures a sort of candid grace otherwise not often seen.

Yesterday, walking along East 82nd in the rain, I totally got that. Women in billowy maxi dresses and strappy sandals were arabesqueing from the curbs, doormen waved down taxis for impatient residents huddled under awnings, and tourists squealed while skipping through the puddles in a hurry to cross the street. It was wonderful and lovely.

I found this photo of a doorman on Humans of New York, a photography project/website that I highly recommend checking out. It reminded me a lot of my rainy walk to the Met.

I also love that in NYC, a rainy day is a business opportunity, at least if you are an umbrella salesman! There were two who quickly opened shop at the bottom of the Met steps, beckoning tourists from beneath their crowded cover to purchase their wares. There was also a saxophonist playing jazz music underneath a cheap plastic poncho, and it was like a scene out of a movie. Cue: soft rain. Cue: distant thunder. Cue: improvisational jazz music. Cue: enthusiastic umbrella salesmen.

Once I got inside, worked my way through the crowds at the entrance security and admissions/donations line, I was finally free to explore this labyrinth of rooms, full of works by names I once knew only from textbooks. I’m no art expert, that’s for sure, but I did take AP Art History my senior year of high school, and I’m so glad I did. I only vaguely remember a few specifics about various art movements and artists, but my teacher did a wonderful job teaching us to appreciate art. That was her big goal for us that she announced on the first day of class (that and learning the difference between “nude” and “naked”), and I think she certainly succeeded.

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze. How can you see something like this and NOT stop to look at it for a while?

As I began my museum explorations in The American Wing, I began to remember why I don’t always enjoy museum visits. I am appalled by the way some people approach artwork! I saw not one but two different individuals in different art galleries touching and leaning on decades-, even centuries-old sculptures!!! I don’t even…sigh, anyway. (Eventually the museum chaperones? Supervisors? Uniformed individuals creeping in the doorways? fussed at the sculpture-touching bafoons.)

I understand a lot of the museum visitors are tourists visiting from out-of-town, -state, or -country and they are hurried to “see all the sights” of New York, but what’s the point of seeing them if you don’t take the time to truly absorb what you’re looking at? My advice would be to pick a few wings/galleries of The Met that you know you are interested in and spend some quality time getting acquainted with the works on display there.

My pet peeve is when tourists rush from room to room in the museum, photographing artwork or displays along the way, without even so much as stopping read the plaques. If you aren’t literate in English, I understand, but for God’s sake, at least LOOK at the one-of-a-kind masterpiece in front of you. For at least five seconds. That’s not even that long. Sigh.

I enjoyed looking at the “period rooms” in The American Wing, which are replicas of rooms from various American country houses filled with all sorts of luxurious furniture and decorations. They kind of looked like sets from Downton Abbey, although I know that show is set in Britain and not the U.S. My favorite period room was one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Gorgeous. I also liked the paintings in The American Wing, especially the cheery, picturesque depictions of country life, the like of which were printed by Currier and Ives.

A Jackson Pollock piece.

My other favorite section was the modern art gallery, which probably means I need to visit MoMa soon. I know this is the kind of artwork a lot of people understandably blow off, but I think it’s fascinating because these artists were bold enough to do it and proclaim it as artwork. It takes a lot of guts to splatter paint on a giant canvas and draw attention to the fact that those paint splatters can be just as visually engaging as the carefully rendered still-lifes of the realists in centuries past.

I decorated my college bedroom with colorful Warhol prints, so it was cool to see some real Warhol pieces as well.

Of course, I also had to pay a visit to the European painting galleries, mainly to check out the Impressionist exhibits. Impressionism is my absolute favorite art movement, and I decorated my bedroom in Florida with a number of Monet prints. I have seen one of Monet’s waterlily paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, but it was a real treat to check out a specific painting that I had a print of in my room growing up, Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies.

This version (and its frame) is a lot nicer than the cheap print I had in my bedroom back in Florida. Unsurprisingly.

Maybe it’s cliche to like Rodin, but I love his works.

I also had time to check out some Picassos, Matisses, Seurats, and Van Goghs. I’m not that into sculpture, but luckily I stumbled across a few pieces by Rodin on my way out. I spent nearly three hours in the museum, but honestly, you could spend days. I didn’t even glance at the ancient Egyptian or Greek exhibits. All that looking at artwork–actually looking at it–and reading the accompanying informative plaques was mentally and physically exhausting! I headed straight back to the apartment, with a brief pit stop at Insomnia Cookies for a double-chocolate chunk pick-me-up.

Yesterday (Thursday) was a much lovelier day, sunny with little to no chance of rain. Shortly after eating some lunch, I set off on a trek to Central Park, my current read (Valley of the Dolls), some chilled cherries, and a water bottle in tow. After some aimless meandering about the park looking for the perfect reading spot, I finally decided to check out the Shakespeare Garden. See, I always thought the garden was named such because it is next to the Delacorte Theater, where Shakespeare in the Park is held every summer. Some quick Wikipedia research–I’ll be quick to confess that I Wikipedia everything in life–I learned that it is actually called that because the plants in the garden are those mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. How cool is that? Also, um, hello–could there be a more literary garden out there?

The peaceful view from my reading spot. I actually ended up moving a few benches down to a shadier spot away from an annoying bee, but you get the idea.

I spent an hour and a half or so here reading and snacking on my cherries. When I reached a good stopping point, I decided to check out the neighboring Belvedere Castle since the stairs to it were RIGHT THERE. I had been to the bottom platform of the “castle” before, but this time I climbed the narrow spiral staircase inside the tower. “Belvedere” translates to “beautiful view” in Italian, and boy, they aren’t kidding! From the top level you can see The Duck Pond that serves as the castle’s moat, plenty of sunbathing New Yorkers on the Great Lawn, a forest of park trees, and just beyond, the Manhattan skyline. On a clear, sunny day like this, it was picture-perfect.

After my visit, I learned that the castle was constructed in 1869 as a Victorian “folly” (a decorative rather than functional building). It definitely doesn’t feel that old, but the wall-climbing ivy and surrounding water cluttered with lily pads must do the trick, because I heard a little girl at the top observation platform asking her mother repeatedly, “But Mommy, where are the princesses?” Adorable, just adorable.

When I was finished exploring the castle, I realized I was hungry. Again. Darn you super-fast metabolism, that’s what the cherries were for! I debated buying a Belgian waffle from the Wafels & Dinges cart, but deterred by the prices, ended up selecting a cheap, plain pretzel instead (Why?!? Those things are loaded with calories!), and promised myself I would eat a small dinner to compensate for my afternoon gluttony. I found another bench along one of the main walkways to enjoy said-pretzel, one near a saxophonist jazzing up “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

I wouldn’t say “no” to being a princess in a pretend-castle if I had this view.

Then, I went home, and in reverse-fairy-tale fashion, ended up having fled a castle to play Cinderella before she met Prince Charming, cleaning up the seemingly endless amounts of cat hair that have found their way into every nook and cranny of our little apartment. Today I think I might do some shopping, check out the UES H&M, which seems pretty affordable, or maybe do some thrifting (my favorite). Ironically, I have more nice business casual clothes than I do nicer plain-casual ones, so I’d like to find a new pair of jeans and maybe a couple new tops I can wear to my new job. I haven’t gone clothing shopping since pre-wedding and honeymoon, so it would be nice to get just a few new wardrobe items. Everyone seems is so absurdly stylish here, and it has inspired me to, uh, go shopping.

I think I’ll also clock-in some downtime at home, where my new favorite activity basically consists of this:

An adorable cat and a good book, all you really need in life.

Also, I forgot to share this last time, but I think this is more appropriate to include here in a somewhat art-themed post, but I had a Q&A article with photographer Kevin Bauman published in the digital GALO (Global Art Laid Out) magazine Wednesday. The article discusses Bauman’s series “100 Abandoned Houses,” which you should definitely check out even if you don’t want to read a super-long article about it.

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Return to the working world!

So it has finally happened. The Great Job Search of 2012 has come to an end. It took me about two months from beginning to end, with a big cross-country move thrown in, so I feel pretty happy with the time frame it took me, considering I have only been out of college for one year (and a few months). The job I ended up accepting is actually one I applied to a month ago, which just goes to show an inevitable part of the job search is waiting around for the other end to get back to you.

As for the actual position, it’s quite a bit different from my last job as a reporter for two weekly newspapers in Houston, and I’m excited about that. Don’t get me wrong, there were many things I loved about reporting–mainly the opportunity to write everyday and to meet lots of interesting people–and I learned so, so much about journalism, reporting, and myself through the near-yearlong experience. But there were a few things I was hoping would change with a new job:

  • Paris and Rory of Gilmore Girls know how super-fun it can be to be a part of all the drama of working as an editor at a college daily. It makes you do loopy things, like wear newspaper hats.

    more normal work hours – This just flat-out isn’t possible as a reporter because inevitably public meetings and events are in the evenings or on the weekends. Basically, everything you do is at the whim of someone else’s schedule. And I can tolerate that to a certain extent, but after working until 10 or 11 p.m. on a typical night at the daily student newspaper in college, only to have to go home and do homework or study, I was so over working evenings. I did not go to college and become an adult for that.

  • more time in the office – Sometimes, I really loved that reporting allowed me to not stay confined at a desk all day long. Eventually, however, I decided that I didn’t like having to run in and out and all over the city to meet with people.
  • This MIGHT have happened to me once or twice…but I always noticed before the interview was over!

    more opportunity to “multitask” – The thing about reporting is it changes everyday, which is great, but essentially what you are doing boils down to: finding a story, going to an event/meeting with people/calling people, interviewing, transcribing interviews, and writing an article. Sometimes you’d also have to take photos and edit them. I can’t explain it, but sometimes it just got really repetitive. I would stare at MS Word and just think, “I do not want to write today. This is a problem because that is basically my job: to write.” I’m sure this same thing happens with every one at some point with every job, but I really missed my more varied responsibilities as the Lifestyles desk editor at The Battalion (the student newspaper).

  • less inevitable downtime– This was killer for me, a person who likes to stay constantly busy. The thing with reporting is that you have to wait for people to call you back in order to get the information you need to write a story. And I’ve learned that all the phone calls and voice mails in the world cannot make anyone get back to you in a more timely fashion. While I could sometimes use this downtime to plan the next week’s budget, re-re-re-organize my Rolodex, and proofread other stories I’d finished, I really yearned for something else to do during those times. Something productive.

    I wonder if Louis Lane had this much trouble getting sources to call her back.

By the time I finished my job search, I’d applied to more than 80 jobs (diligence is key), had at least a dozen phone and office interviews, taken several reporting and copy editing tests, and written more personalized thank you notes to potential employers than  I care to count. And then in the last few days, I received two offers of employment! They were offering the same starting salary and amount of PTO, so I was fortunate to make my decision solely on the positions, companies, and interviewers and not about money. I won’t talk about the position I declined very much here because I don’t like to dwell on things like that, but I will say it was for a great company with friendly people in a ridiculously awesome location (right next to the NY Stock Exchange). In the end, I decided the position did not excite me as much nor did I feel like it would take my career in the direction I’d like.

So the full-time job I did accept is a desk editor position for a well-established B2B publications company that specializes in the retail industry. My particular job would be with the news group within that company that focuses on pharmaceutical retail and the healthcare industry. The position I declined was in financial/business journalism, and although I can think of no better city than New York, the financial capital of the world, to do such a thing, I just felt like I couldn’t inspire as much passion or interest in that topic as I can about healthcare. I guess it’s the consequence of having a second-year medical student for a best friend. 🙂

But that’s not the only reason I decided this job is the one for me. Firstly, it fulfills all of the things in the above list that I was hoping for. Here’s a quick list of other reasons why I’m excited about this position:

  • The managing editor and EIC who interviewed me in two separate rounds were my absolute favorite interviewers of this whole job search. They were friendly, personable, and clearly very passionate about what they do. I ended up spending an hour longer than my scheduled 30 minutes with the EIC because we got involved in such an animated discussion of the evolution of media production and consumption, as well as what the recent health care reform means to the pharmacy industry and publications the company is producing. At the end of the interview, when he basically hinted that they’d really like to hire me, he bought me a bottle of water from the office vending machine. Such a simple gesture, but it was much nicer than the Dixie cups of tap water I’d received at other offices, so it really made the company stand out in my mind.
  • While the company does produce a lot of print products (various magazines), they also work with a lot of other types of media. They update their website daily, produce many daily email newsletters, manage Facebook/Twitter/Linkedin accounts, produce podcasts and videos, and are developing digital versions of the magazine and a phone app. Because it is a smaller company and a small staff within each news group, there is the opportunity for someone in a print-orient position like the one I accepted to pitch in and try their hand at other projects. Because I am young and demonstrated enthusiasm about it, the EIC seemed interested in having me provide input about their social media engagement.
  • Oh, InDesign. How I have missed you and your many toolbars and menus.

    I’ll get to work in InDesign again. I love InDesign, you guys. Kerning, gutter space, and picas are about to return to my world. I can’t wait. Doing page design, a central element of the job description, is the perfect combination of creativity and meticulous perfectionism that suits my nature.

  • I’ll get to copy edit again! I’ll put all those AP Style trivialities that have been tattooed to my brain as a reporter to good use. Basically, I’m going to get paid to wield my Grammar Queen crown. CANNOT WAIT.
  • I’ll get to work collaboratively again, kind of. I’ll be working on a close-knit three-person team with the managing editor (my direct supervisor) and another desk editor. There will also, of course, be some liaising with the art department and the staff reporters. While I like having independent responsibilities, I really, really prefer teamwork, as long as it involves other talented, hard-working individuals. Seriously, the Batt fam remains the best “group project” I’ve ever participated in. So glad I worked as an editor there for three semesters, or I’d never know that group work can actually be successful…and fun!
  • Casual dress work environment = I can wear jeans to work. Enough said. Also, I want to buy more jeans.
  • Excellent work/life balance. Although this is unheard of in my husband’s profession (accounting), it’s important to me because I get cranky if I don’t get my daily dose of leisurely reading at home. I was told they rarely work past 7 p.m., even during final production weeks, and they haven’t clocked in on a weekend in years. This is generally unheard of for a lot media jobs, which is unfortunate. Also, morning arrival times are flexible as long as you show up by 10 a.m. and put in a solid 8-hour workday.
  • Opportunity to travel for work – The managing editor annually takes one of the desk editors to one trade show/convention each. During these three-day periods, the company cranks out a daily publication for the event attendees, so I’d have to work 12+ hours day then doing page design and copy editing, but it’s three days out of the whole year. And I might get to travel to another city. Or it might just be in NYC, which is cool too. I like it here, and honestly, leaving the city is a huge pain.
  • This is the general area of my new workplace. It’s fairly close to the MetLife Building, on Park Ave.

    Less than a 30-minute commute! Unless there is some terrible traffic accident, so help us all. The office is in a nice high-rise building on Park in midtown. I can get there by taking the cross-town bus from York (the stop is literally across the street!) down to 57th & Park, and then I have to walk like two blocks more to the office. Two blocks. The 59th & Lex metro stop is also near the office, so I can take that up to 86th if I want to walk by Fairway to pick up groceries or something like that on the way home. It’s nice not having to take the subway if you don’t have to though because it gets A LOT more crowded in the mornings and early evenings than does the bus.

    Update: Just found out from HR today that I can enroll for public transit reimbursement. Even better.

  • Good future career prospects – Both of my interviewers had been the company for at least 10 years. That’s how they got to where they are in the company today. However, since it is a small company, if I get tired of waiting for someone to quit or get promoted so that I can get promoted, I wanted to make sure there was room for horizontal movement too. People say page design is a dying art as everything goes digital, but my handy-dandy Linkedin research revealed to me that a number of people who held this position in the past (at about the same point in their careers as me, a year or two out of college) have gone on to be copy editors for nationally recognized consumer magazines at Hearst and Conde Nast. One former desk editor is the current assistant managing editor for the bridal magazine The Knot. Others have transitioned into PR and marketing. I got excited learning about all this because it has kind of been my dream since I saw 13 Going On 30 and The Devil Wears Prada to work for a magazine. Technically, that’s what I’ll be doing at my new job, but you know what I mean…a non-B2B magazine (B2B = business-to-business, if you didn’t know the term. It’s a publication specifically for professionals of a certain industry/field.)

If you saw otherwise forgettable rom-com 13 Going on 30 and didn’t want to work for a magazine, something is wrong with you.

So that’s that! We are just waiting for my criminal background to clear, which it should, and then HR is emailing me a new hire packet with some forms to fill out before my first day, this upcoming Monday.

If you’re wondering what all went into getting this job, I started by sending a cover letter, my resume, and a design clip to the managing editor through a job posting I saw on Mediabistro. I cannot recommend Mediabistro enough to everyone else in the media industry. It’s a great place to find media jobs of all kinds, from book- and magazine-publishing to news wires and PR agencies, and they send out really comprehensive, informative morning newsletters that give you the quick scoop on the latest news about the media industry (news about the news business, basically).

About two weeks later, I got a call from the managing editor, and we talked for 15 minutes or so about my InDesign, copy editing, and CMS experience. Then she decided to invite me in for an interview and copy editing test. That first interview was last Wednesday. I met with her for about 30 minutes, then spent 2 1/2 hours (yeah, I know) on the test. I had to copy edit five short articles, write headlines for them, reformat photos in Photoshop and add them to the page layout with cut lines, transfer numerical table data from Excel to a specially formatted table in InDesign, and generally do page design things using a premade template. The second part of the test was making a creative features story layout that mimicked some element of a premade front cover.

I felt like I did pretty well on the test because (thank God) I had gone to the UES Barnes & Noble a few days before and spent nearly two hours studying InDesign instructional books to refresh my memory. The only thing I struggled with was getting cut-outs I made in Photoshop go into InDesign with a transparent background AND edge-detecting text wrap without the cut-out getting a little screwed-up on the edges. Also, I had to use Mac OS for the first time since graduating from college, so that took me at least 30 minutes to readapt to. Fortunately, the EIC said I’ll get a refresher training course my first week and my work load will be a little lighter at first than it will be at full capacity–about five pages of articles copy edited and designed per day, plus copy editing either all of the day’s online stories or all of the day’s e-newsletters.

I also left the managing editor after that first interview with five different page design clips (one front page and two lifestyles blanks from The Battalion and two pages of Cornerstone, which I designed for Liberal Arts Student Council). She liked the clips, my test results, and me enough to invite me back on Friday for a 30-minute interview with the EIC. As you know, he seemed to like me enough to talk to me for quite a while, and he was impressed with my work. I think the highlight of my interview was when the EIC asked me in his rather frank Yankee way (he’s from Boston, and you can tell from his heavy accent), “So you’re young, you’re just starting out in this world, and you’ve decided to enter the dying industry of publishing. Why do you want to be a journalist so badly?”

For about half a millisecond, I was thrown off. Then I launched into this spiel about how it’s NOT dying, it’s just transforming and how that’s exciting and I’m young and I want to be a part of it (it was a lot more eloquent then that it is now). He just stared at me for a second when I finished, threw his pen down, and said, “Wow. That is the best answer I’ve ever gotten to that question. And you know what? I completely agree. It’s not a dying industry.”

So if I had any interview advice for anyone, it’s definitely to apply to jobs you know you are genuinely interested in. Your interviewers can tell. It’s why I did not perform so well at interviews for marketing-related writing positions (*cough*sell-outs*cough*) but apparently impressed two seasoned editors that I was worth hiring.

That’s enough about a job I haven’t started yet for now, haha. As you can tell, I’m so excited and happy and grateful! I feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to do what I truly wanted to do when we came to New York. I feel like once I’m settled into the working routine, I’ll have this dream life-come-true: married to my best friend of 4+ years, living with the best rescued cat ever in one of the greatest cities on earth, doing exactly what I love–working with words. I know I’ve worked truly hard to get here, but sometimes I can’t help but feel incredibly humble and grateful.

So there’s the portion of Little Women where Jo moves to NYC away from everything she knows to pursue her dream of becoming a published writer and basically since I saw this movie in elementary school, I decided “That, THAT is what I want to do.” Sadly, there aren’t nearly as many horses around this city these days.

That said, I’m determined to enjoy my last few days of freedom, the first time this summer that I don’t have to be the least concerned with wedding planning, a big move, or the job search. I kicked off this mini-summer on this rainy Wednesday with an afternoon at The Met. More on that adventure soon!


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Recipe: Orangeberry Creamsicles

My watermelon-blueberry popsicles were a success!

If you know me, you know that I love ice cream and once composed an ode to it that got published on HelloGiggles. But ice cream is also not the best for you, so lately I have been trying to find alternative sweet frozen snacks that aren’t so loaded in fat and processed sugar. I had success with watermelon and blueberry popsicles and with plain ol’ frozen grapes and blueberries (can you tell I’m having a summer fling with blueberries?), but sometimes what I really crave is a smoothie.

Back in the Boggy Bayou (a.k.a. Niceville), there is a little smoothie place called Tropical Smoothie, which is actually just part of a chain that is all over Florida. In high school, the thing to do on Wednesday afternoons was to head to Tropical Smoothie for Big Cup Wednesday, a special deal where you get a HUGE smoothie for the same prize of a normal-sized one. I only did this once to see what all the fuss was about, and they weren’t kidding about that “big” part. It was basically a bucket of smoothie. I had to consume it in multiple smoothie-slurping sessions for the rest of the day.

But here’s the thing about store-bought smoothies: they are deceptively bad for you because they add so much sugar. At least at Tropical Smoothie, where I had a few friends who worked there over the summer. Adding sugar to smoothies is really silly, if you think about it, because the fruit and juice you’re putting in there already has so much natural sugar in it.

The only thing is I can’t really make a smoothie because we don’t have a blender or the space for one (goodness, I make it sound like we live in a third-world country with all the “we don’t have a _____” statements I seem to make). Additionally, when I used our mini food processor to make watermelon puree for those other popsicles I mentioned, I had to make them on the living room floor because of issues with the kitchen outlets and the length of the appliance cord.

I began to wonder if there was a way to replicate the healthful, fruity, frozen deliciousness of a smoothie without actually making a smoothie. And that’s when I stumbled upon this recipe for creamy frozen yogurt chips on Pinterest. Then the wheels in my head started turning. I didn’t want to use my ice cube trays to make “yogurt chips” because I need them to actually make ice, as (waaaaait for it…) we don’t have an automatic ice maker. But what I do have is a bountiful supply of aluminum foil, plastic cutlery from when we first moved in, and little paper Dixie cups. Thus, this was born:

Smoothie-esque popsicle. A popsicle made of smoothie-worthy ingredients. An orangeberry creamsicle. Whatever you want to call it, it’s delicious.

I’ve decided to dub them Orangeberry Creamsicles because this manages to get basically all the ingredients and concepts all compacted together into two whimsical words.

What you need to make these popsicles is so simple, and there’s a good chance you might already have these things in your fridge:

Meet Team Popsicle, featuring all-star players Fresh Strawberries, Low-Fat Vanilla Yogurt, Orange Juice, and (not pictured, sadly) Fresh Blueberries.


  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups of low-fat vanilla yogurt (strawberry would be nice, too)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups of orange juice (just make sure the juice and yogurt are fairly equal quantities, OK?)
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries


1. Combine equal parts yogurt and OJ in a bowl. If you don’t have vanilla yogurt, you could use plain (of either the Greek or normal variety) and mix in 1 tsp. of sugar and 1 tsp. of vanilla extract for a little more flavor. I thought this Dannon Light & Fit yogurt was plenty sweet and vanilla-y.

2. Set your liquid mixture aside and clean your berries, then proceed to chop up the strawberries. Make the pieces fairly small because strawberries get HARD when they are frozen and tend to be more manageable in smaller pieces.

Did you know I’m a professional strawberry-slicer? I used to slice up pounds and pounds of strawberries each day for mixings at Marble Slab.

3. Place a small layer of strawberries, then blueberries in each of your Dixie cups. I ended up making 10 fairly small popsicles, but it’s really up to you how it all pans out. Then pour your OJ/yogurt mixture on top.

4. Cut small squares/rectangles out of foil and cover the top of each Dixie cup. This will hold your popsicle sticks in place. Cut a small slit in the center of each foil top with either scissors, if you’re lazy like me, or a knife.

5. Stick popsicle sticks into each slit down into the cup. If you don’t have popsicle sticks or know where to find them easily in NYC, like me, be ghetto-fabulous and stick plastic utensils in instead. I used plastic knives, spoons, and forks, haha. The good thing about this is that you can save the cutlery when you finish the popsicles, wash and dry them, and then use them to make more popsicles! Which may or may not be what I’ve done here. Don’t think of it as cheap or weird so much as environmentally friendly and money-conscious.

6. Relocate your army of suited-up Dixie cups/makeshift popsicle molds into the freezer and then leave them there for at least 8 hours or overnight. Try to ignore your impatience.

Our freezer is a barren wasteland of white.

I “made” these last night–I use the word “made” very lightly because it was basically the easiest dessert/snack ever–and finally got to try one today. To remove the popsicle from the Dixie cup, run the bottom portion of the cup (where the frozen good stuff is) under warm water, discard the foil, snip through the thick paper rim with scissors, and rip off the rest of the cup.

Final verdict: I think they turned out really well! The yogurt and juice combination has a really nice smooth and creamy texture when frozen, not icy like some other homemade popsicles I’ve tried. This part of the popsicle also kind of tastes like an orange creamsicle, hence, part of the inspiration for the name.

The fruit adds a pretty pop of color, which is why I decided to add the strawberries as a solid and not a puree. The sweetness of the frozen blueberries and yogurt is well-balanced by the tartness of the strawberries and orange juice.

Yeah, you can’t slurp it through a straw, but these quick and easy popsicles are still rather enjoyable. The best part is you can totally eat them for a second breakfast. Which I might or might not have done in my eagerness to try them out. The other best part is that they are completely fat-free, given that you used fat-free yogurt!

I think it would be fun to try different variations on this combination. You could use sliced bananas instead of blueberries, pineapple-orange juice instead of plain OJ, or strawberry yogurt instead of vanilla. This would also be a fun and safe version of “cooking” to do with kids, I think, if you have a few spare kids lying around (I don’t).

It hasn’t been nearly as unbearably hot here lately as it was when we arrived in late June, but as August is quickly passing and I’m finally about to start a new job next week (hooray!), I thought making popsicles would be a simple, nostalgic way to bid farewell to summertime.

What are your favorite frozen treats to whip up at home?

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Yorkville: Home of Yorkies and New Yorkers alike

I literally just finished reading Last Exit to Brooklyn this evening (so I’ll have to do a book review really soon), and it made me so glad I don’t live in that part of Brooklyn…at least in that time period. Now Brooklyn seems to be a pretty happy place of plaid-wearing, bike-pedaling, vinyl-loving, thrifting vegans and their friends. More on Brooklyn and the horribly depressing book about it later because I want to be selfish and talk about my own NYC neighborhood!

If you look at a map or just good ol’ Google, you’ll know that East 82nd Street is in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. So you might think that it’s straight out of Gossip Girl:

Obviously, everyone on the UES is beautiful and immaculately groomed and prone to strike odd group photos in Central Park at a moment’s notice.

OK, maybe that’s just me because that’s my guilty pleasure TV show (don’t judge). And yes, there has to be lots of wealthy people living along 5th near Central Park. In fact, Madonna owns a $40 million mansion on East 81st. $40 million! I don’t even know where the number came from when I researched this (you know, Googled), but that is a really big number.

But where I live is, well, we’ll just say that it is much closer to the East River than Central Park. Technically, if you walk aaaaall the way down our street toward the park, you’ll eventually encounter this:

You might recognize this as the steps where Blair and the other queen bees eat lunch in Gossip Girl. OK, OK, I’ll stop bringing it up…

Voila! The front steps of the Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, everybody. Which I have yet to visit since moving to New York. I’m saving it for a rainy/blustery winter day, when indoor activities are best. Lately, it’s been too gorgeous to not spent time outdoors in one of the parks on the weekend. Plus, one of my favorite areas of Central Park, the Conservatory Boat Pond, is very close to an edge of the park bordering the UES.

You might recognize this from Stuart Little, when Stuart helps his brother win the boat race by actually going on one of the model boats and steering it.

However, like I said, it’s a bit of a hike. Although it’s a fun hike, because as you walk in a westward direction along East 82nd, you can actually feel the rent prices steadily hiking up and sidewalks becoming sparkling clean. This is because such buildings have doormen that must hose off the ground literally every time a pedestrian, especially a canine-toting pedestrian, walks past. Or so it seems.

Also, it’s fun to walk past Park Ave. and look downtown toward the MetLife building and remind yourself that you actually live in New York City.

Cheery German-Americans celebrating October Fest (Oktoberfest?) in Yorkville, back in the day. What day? Don’t ask me.

We live in a more down-to-earth neighborhood within the UES: Yorkville. Even the name is down-to-earth! Yorkville was once heavily populated by Eastern European immigrants from the likes of Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary, as well as a decent number of Irish and German families. East 86th, which remains the main commercial street of our area–it’s where the metro stop and movie theater is located and a bunch of large chain stores/restaurants like H&M, Banana Republic, and Best Buy–has always been the hub of Yorkville and was once known as the “German Broadway” as well as “Sauerkraut Boulevard.”

Today there are very few remnants of the neighborhood’s cultural roots. Two long-lasting German establishments, The Heidelberg Restaurant and Schaller & Weber, continue to preserve their heritage through the well-respected tradition of German sausages. 😉 I’ve also noticed a number of local parishes that reflect some of the original residents, like St. Stephen of Hungary Catholic Church, which is just down our street (one Mass each weekend is celebrated in Hungarian), and St. Joseph’s, which is a few blocks away (once a month, they have a German Mass).

Young Nazis in the making right here in Yorkville, apparently.

I also found something else hilarious in my research of the history of Yorkville. Apparently there was a children’s book set in the area called Incident in Yorkville. From my understanding, the story is the tale of a young German-American who is pro-Nazi and part of the Hitler Youth and the conflict that inevitably caused with the all-American, anti-Nazi family upstairs (this is a very, very brief and probably mostly inaccurate summary). The book takes place at the fictitious address of 260 E. 84th St., just two blocks away from real marches held on E. 86th St. (Sauerkraut Ave., remember?) by the German American Bund. Yorkville was closely watched by the FBI during WWII because of the large German population, and several raids were conducted in the area to arrest alien enemies who were supporters of the Third Reich.

Here is the German American Bund marching on E. 86th in Yorkville. This was an American organization founded in the 1930s that promoted a favorable view of Nazi Germany.


Especially if you live in a pre-war walk-up. There are a number of high-rise condos in the neighborhood, and while I’m sure they have spiffy modern conveniences like central A/C and elevators and doormen, I couldn’t be happier with my four-flight climb each day. There’s nothing that quite says living in New York like hauling your shopping cart full of groceries up the front stoop and then remembering you still have to get them ALL THE WAY UPSTAIRS. Seriously though, living in an old building is charming, and ours has been recently renovated, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds, you know? Old-school, super-fast-cookin’ gas stove top with gorgeous granite counter tops.

The avenue we live closest to is York Ave., which I’m sure some New Yorkers don’t even know exists because it disappears when you head further downtown (let’s not even talk about East End Ave.). I love this avenue because it is. completely. devoid. of. tourists. Having lived for some time in an area of Florida quite frequented by tourists, I am familiar with the breed. Of course, I’ve been a tourist myself many times, so I can’t dislike the people. My main issue with some of these individuals is their need to videotape everything, and I mean everything, on their NYC trip. Pictures I totally get. Tweets and FB statuses are cool, too. But the videos? Does anyone ever actually watch the 40-minute footage of their trek around the Financial District again?

I’m losing my focus here. The point is that York Ave. is a quiet place full of nannies pushing strollers and elderly folks who have probably lived here since the Incident in Yorkville took place, college students enjoying the fairly reasonable rent (for Manhattan), and young professionals like myself and my husband. There are a lot of little restaurants, convenience stores, grocers, hair and nail salons, laundromats/cleaners, and the occasional bank, school, or post office lining the street. Most are locally owned places, too, which is a welcome change from East 86th & Lex, where with such nationally known chains, you might as well be in any other major city in America and throw in a few iconic yellow NYC cabs for fun.

Here’s a typical street in Yorkville, lined with trees and walk-ups. I think it needs more dogs in the photo though, to be most accurate.

Schurz Park is also home to my absolute favorite reading spot in the world, near the Peter Pan statue hidden among the rosebushes.

We also live really close to Carl Schurz Park, which is also great because it is completely devoid of tourists. This place is Nanny Central during the weekdays–once I even saw a goofy man playing child-friendly songs on his guitar to a whole crowd of nannies and their tots–and also dog central (if all of the UES isn’t Dog Central, I don’t know what is) because they have two off-leash dog run areas. The park has everything you could want: grassy, shady areas; a children’s playground; a basketball court; public restrooms; a covered picnic area; and a lovely paved walk overlooking the East River.

Gracie Mansion is also tucked away in the park. Built in 1799, this lovely abode is the official residence of the mayor of New York. Bloomberg doesn’t live there though; he does use the house for official meetings and events. You can walk all around its well-secured borders, but you cannot enter, sadly, unless you are visiting for official city business.

From what I can tell, a lot of cafes, diners, and even one of the local USPS branches are named “Gracie,” in reference to either the mansion itself or Archibald Gracie, the Scottish-born shipping magnate who made it big as a merchant in NYC and built, of course, the Gracie Mansion. Maybe I’m completely wrong, but it’s what I’d like to think.

One of the dog runs in Schurz Park. Sometimes I feel like the whole neighborhood looks like this, plus leashes.

Let’s talk about the wildlife of Yorkville! By wildlife, I mean completely spoiled city dogs of all sizes, shapes, colors, and breeds. New Yorkers are well-known for having dogs and taking them with them everywhere (hey, it could get lonely living here by yourself!), but I swear the UES is extra-obsessed. People take their dogs with them into the bank, to outdoor dining areas (a way to guarantee business as a restaurant), and even to bars. Occasionally, these dogs are retrievers, labs, or St. Bernards, but usually they are dogs our cat could eat for breakfast. Hence, the title of this post.

Disclaimer: I am 125 percent a cat-person, but now that I get to watch the dog parade around my neighborhood on a daily basis, I think it would be really awesome to get a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel one day because they are super-adorable.

That’s all I have to say about Yorkville for now. Maybe my fond opinion of the area will change when I have to walk to the subway in the icy cold winter, but for now I think it’s a good transition to city life. Some people might think it’s too quiet/safe/clean/boring (uhhh, boring?!? clearly they didn’t know about the Nazis), but I like it. If I want to enjoy nightlife, I’ll go to the East Village or some place where that’s a big thing. But when I want some place where I can feel safe walking to the drugstore by myself at night or can read quietly in a park, I know Yorkville is my go-to place.

I forget how large and crowded and generally awe-inspiring NYC is when I am stuck at a normal person’s floor-level view. This was a good reminder. Hello, UES!

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Book review: Hi, Gonzo journalism, nice to meet you.

This is what I wish the cover of my copy of Fear and Loathing looked like, instead of a movie poster version. It irks me when they force movie posters to serve double-duty as book covers.

A couple of days ago I finished reading my first Hunter S. Thompson novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. I bought a used paperback copy for half-price while on our honeymoon in Seattle, at the BLMF Literary Saloon in Pike’s Place Market. Alas, I set this vollume aside for a couple of months, but after witnessing Sean laughing as he read through it in July, I decided it was my turn to discover what had inspired such a cult following.

Part of my interest in Thompson’s work stems from the fact that he might be the most fascinating/famous person to live in the near vicinity of my hometown of Niceville, Fla. Before he started ingesting dangerous quantities of drugs and began the revolutionary Gonzo movement in journalism (more on that later), good ol’ HST served in the U.S. Air Force at Eglin AF Base, where my dad works. By lying about his job experience, he landed a job as the sports editor of the base newspaper, The Command Courier. He also wrote an anonymous sports column for The Playground News, a local paper in Ft. Walton Beach–the neighboring hometown of one of my college roommates.

If you know anything about Thompson, it is unsurprising to learn that this guy was recommended for an early honorable discharge by his commanding officer because “although talented, [he] will not be guided by policy … sometimes his rebel and superior attitude seems to rub off on other airmen staff members.” So said Col. William S. Evans, chief of information services at Eglin. In the end, this was probably a good thing–both for the Air Force and for us lit nerds.

Here’s clean-cut Airman Thompson, typing away in the AFB office.

That’s the little known history of Hunter S. Thompson that is probably only interesting to us Okaloosa County natives. In my JOUR 102 course in college, we learned about Thompson as the father of Gonzo journalism, which was ground-breaking at the time because it defied all notions of completely objective reporting. Instead, Thompson placed himself, the reporter, into the story he was covering and wrote in the first-person. This would later inspire the New Journalism movement and such renowned narrative nonfiction writers as Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese.

I find this all to be very interesting because I read the book The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on their Craft earlier this summer (coincidentally, another Seattle purchase, from the well-known Elliot Bay Book Company). That anthology featured interviews with the likes of Jon Krakauer, who wrote the NY Times’ bestseller Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. In essence, the journalistic grandbabies of Mr. Thompson. So I saw this as my opportunity to see where all this new-fangled journalism began.

Here’s the man himself, in more of his natural element. Almost every photo I found of him post-military service involved a cigarette in his mouth. No, really.

Fear and Loathing is notably the first time Thompson uses the label “Gonzo” in his own writing to refer to his journalistic style: “But what was the story? Nobody had bothered to say. So we would have to drum it up on our own. Free Enterprise. The American Dream. Horatio Alger gone mad on drugs in Las Vegas. Do it now: pure Gonzo journalism.” The term “gonzo” was coined by Boston Globe editor Bill Cardoso in 1970 when describing Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” Cardoso claimed “gonzo” was Boston Irish slang to describe the last man standing after an all-night drinking marathon. Who knows how true this story is, but it makes sense, right? Just a fun little etymology lesson for you. Thompson personally associated his style of writing with one of my favorite authors, William Faulkner, who once claimed that “fiction is often the best fact.”

Here is Thompson (left) and Acosta, the real-life inspirations for alter egos “Raoul Duke” and “Dr. Gonzo,” Duke’s attorney.

Fear and Loathing actually began as a 250-word photo caption assignment for Sports Illustrated that grew into a two-part series in Rolling Stone and the contemporary classic the book is today. What’s it about, you ask? Plot-wise, it’s hard to say, because Thompson wasn’t much of one for plot. Or at least plot as the primary motivation/drive for the writing. But in short, it’s a thinly disguised, somewhat autobiographical tale about reporter Raoul Duke (Thompson) and a 250-pound Samoan, repeatedly referred to as “my attorney” (Oscar Zeta Acosta), who head to Vegas to cover the Mint 400 desert race, and later, to crash the National District Attorneys Association’s Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs–with, as it turns out, a suitcase stuffed with psychedelics.

As Duke explains, “Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas … with the music at top volume and at least a pint of ether.” More importantly to Duke and his attorney, they are in pursuit of “the American Dream,” that elusive concept that they naturally never quite find. Sorry to spoil that for you. But if you’ve read The Great Gatsby in high school like the rest of America, you already knew that such a dream isn’t real.

A lot of Thompson’s stream-of-conscious style of writing can be difficult for readers to make sense of, and with good reason, as he attempts to write based off recordings he made while in a hallucinogenic-induced haze:

We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.

Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

I think to appreciate this book you have to reflect on Thompson’s underlying commentary about the culture of the U.S. in the early ’70s. Fear and Loathing is plot-less, not pointless, OK? At the time this book takes place, you’ve got the Vietnam War going on, Nixon as president, and the flower child/counter-culture movements of the ’60s are already on the decline. When the reality-skewing drugs of the past decade did not prove to be enough to right the world, they went out of style (“It is worth noting, historically, that downers came in with Nixon…”). The drug culture began to mirror the hopelessness of society. “No more of the speed that fueled the Sixties. . . a generation of permanent cripples who never understood the essential fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody. . . is tending the Light at the end of the tunnel.” As the drug culture changed, those on the fringes of society were left dwindling and confused.

The Las Vegas hotel Circus-Circus has a prominent role in the book, but fun fact: the hotel would not allow filming on-site for the film adaptation. Unsurprising.

Las Vegas is the perfect setting for a place to pursue the American Dream, in my opinion. You’ve got excess to the extent of tackiness and hope and despair all juxtaposed together in one city. One of my favorite quotes from the book is when Duke decides that Vegas “is not a good town for psychedelic drugs. Reality itself is too twisted.”

As Thompson threw any cohesive idea of a plot out the window, the focus is on the details. We are given vivid images of the world seen through a drug-powered delirium. Duke sees strangers as reptilian monsters, crawling in pools of blood. There’s a humorous scene when Duke tries to convince a Georgia cop to be worried about a smackhead migration to the Deep South because such druggies are attracted to warm weather. There are truly no slow points in the book, as Thompson’s rolling language carries us further and further from reality and deeper into his whacked-out mind.

There are also some fantastically phantasmagorical illustrations from Ralph Steadman, which I think really add to the story in terms of revealing the horrific side-effects of drugs that are intended to make life seem a little more enjoyable.

And sometimes the book is just laugh-out-loud funny.

Here’s a just charming illustration by Steadman for Fear and Loathing. In the book, I’m pretty sure the attorney was vomiting into this boots, not the toilet.

There is no denying this book is worth reading because of the revolutionary nature of the writing. It’s the journalistic equivalent of a surrealist painting. Although not as serious as Thompson’s other works, it is considered by many of his devoted followers to be his magnum opus. I’m not in a position to know if I agree, but I can see why they would say so. As the NY Times’ book reviewer declared in 1972, when Fear and Loathing was first published, it is “the best book yet written on the decade of dope gone by,” but it is also much more than that. It’s a memorable, visceral literary experience.

I give it 3 out of 5 stars because it just wasn’t my favorite type of book and after 200 pages, witnessing two guys on drugs got a little predictable, but I’m definitely glad I read it so I know what all the well-justified hype is about. I would like to see the 1998 film adaptation, which stars Johnny Depp as Duke/Thompson (Depp also starred in the film adaptation of Thompson’s The Rum Diary…I sense a pattern here). But I doubt it could compare to the rollicking adventure of the book version.

I’ll conclude with one of my favorite quotes from Fear and Loathing (I love collecting quotes). This is Thompson’s reflections on being in San Francisco in the ’60s:

Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.

Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke in the 1998 film adaptation of Fear and Loathing.


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