Tag Archives: NYC

The statistical probability of rain


Imagine a Venn diagram. This Venn diagram is my life. On the left-hand side we have “days I forget to bring an umbrella.” On the right we have “days it rains.” In the middle, intersecting section is “days I have to go grocery shopping.”

This is a fact.

This has happened the past 27 times I have gone grocery shopping. Or at least the last three. Two times ago, I looked like I had just taken a shower or dived in a pool by the time I got home. Or more accurately, Cat at the end of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and so NOT the ever-glamorous Audrey Hepburn.

The most recent time, I waited about three minutes inside Fairway, and then just trudged home in the downpour, accepting my umbrella-less, grocery-full fate.

I also sometimes throw in a circle called “days I am wearing sandals” into the mix. And then when I step in a puddle of dog urine and god knows what else, I’m all like *cue Gossip Girl gif*:


The good thing about grocery shopping in a city is that it is always a good workout. I mean, I think carrying 10+ pounds of food home 3/4 of a mile and then up three flights of stairs counts for something. It counts for an extra something if it is 5 degrees outside and snowing (been there, done that), and of course, if it is 90 degrees and pouring.

These are the stories I am going to tell my grandchildren. “Listen here, youngsters, back in the day, I didn’t have a car to tow my groceries home. No, sir. I had to carry them. Up a hill. Both. Ways.”

oregon-trail-exposure“I also didn’t have adequate air conditioning. The little air conditioning I had, my cat liked to turn off in the middle of the night.”

My grandchildren are going to think I was a pioneer on the Oregon Trail.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

East Village favorites.

I love the East Village. I mean, I love the Upper East Side as a home, but the East Village is the perfect place to get away for an afternoon or evening. Firstly, it is super-easy for us to get to via the 4/5/6 lines, but more importantly, the East Village is just a cool place.


With the days of junkies in the streets and the Tompkins Square Park riots long gone, the East Village isn’t quite the bohemian hell depicted in the likes of Rent anymore. But it’s still quirky and charming as ever.

Sean and I recently realized we end up in the East Village every single weekend at some point or another, and I’m beginning to feel as familiar with certain areas of the neighborhood as much as the UES.

Here’s a quick list of our favorite East Village haunts, some newer discoveries and others more familiar:



Mark: Easily the best burger and fries hole-in-the-wall place we’ve come across. It blows Shake Shack out of the water, and it will make you wonder why people line up out the door for the aforementioned chain. And they have different kinds of ketchup, like jalapeno and chipotle (our favorites), which is fun. Great happy hour specials on drinks AND food too, and a good laid-back atmosphere for meeting up with friends or for taking Texas visitors.


Pommes Frites: Speaking of fries, this teeny-tiny take-out place that only serves Belgian fries is divine. We try not to go there too often because, uh, our health, but their fries are amazing. The best part is they have a bunch of different dipping sauces you can choose from (as well as poutine, for our Northern friends!) Our go-to is sundried tomato mayo, but I think the rosemary garlic mayo and curry ketchup are enjoyable as well.

Malai Marke: This fairly recently opened Indian restaurant is worth the cost of a nicer dinner date. All of the food is wonderful; and there are always a lot of Indian people eating there, so I think that’s a good sign. Only con is that naan costs extra, and what is an Indian dinner without piping hot, fluffy naan? We get lamb madras and saag paneer and share everything, which is my favorite way to eat out. Who wants to get stuck with one dish? There’s a classier ambiance to this place — the empty spice racks on the walls and dim lighting — that you don’t get at a standard Indian take-out joint. I like it.

Sigiri: While we’re on the subject of spicy ethnic cuisine, let’s talk about Sigiri. Sigiri is a Sri Lankan restaurant. I’m not really sure how to describe Sri Lankan food as a whole. I just know I like kotthu roti, and I’m not even sure what that is. It’s meat and vegetables and egg and breading all mashed up together into a Thanksgiving dressing-like substance, mysteriously infused with sinus-clearing spice levels. Totally makes up for the lack of decent Tex-Mex in this city.


Mono + Mono: This Korean fried chicken restaurant doesn’t have the best reviews, but I’m not exactly an expert on Korean fried chicken, so whatever. I do know that Korean fried chicken is crispy, juicy and far surpasses American buffalo wings. I also love the concept/decor of this place. The walls are glass displays of shelves and shelves of vinyl records, and this guy walks around and picks one out to play on the jukebox/turntable.

Awash: A simple, no-nonsense Ethiopian restaurant. You can eat with your hands. Everything tastes so good, I want to travel to Africa myself for the real deal.  They have honey wine. Go there.


Caracas Arepa Bar: Oh. My. Goodness. This place is the answer to our prayers! A nook of a restaurant dishing out Venezuelan street food. I didn’t know what an arepa was before coming here — it’s like a cross between a sandwich made of cornbread and a taco — but now I want to eat one every day of my life. Plus, they use some of my favorite ingredients: black beans (!!!), avocado, and plantains. Yes, please.

Drinks & Dessert:


Amor y Amargo: Probably my favorite cocktail bar in the city. Not that I go to a lot of cocktail bars because $$$, but I love this place. It’s classy, but not pretentious. Intimate, but not crowded. The tiny bar itself has a lot of character. They are always playing good music, and the same easy-going bartender always seems to be there. Their boast-worthy drink that has gotten a lot of press is their gin and tonic, which worthy of its praise. I know I’ll come back here again and again.


Death & Co.: OK, so this speakeasy is a little pretentious. And pricey. So it’s definitely a special occasion thing. They only let as many people in as they can physically seat at the time, and you can’t take flash photos with your camera or be wearing ratty jeans or anything. So it’s a nice little escape from the chaos of the city. The cocktails are their specialty. Last time I was there, a girl next to me ordered a beer. You can get a beer at almost every restaurant, bar, and convenience store in this city. You do not go to Death & Company for a beer, OK? You go for a Fitzgerald or a Legend or a Gypsy Wedding or some other fancy-pants drink. I mean, there are black walls and floors. You have to get a cocktail when black is involved.


Veniero’s Pastry: A long-standing Italian bakery and pastry shop/cafe, with plenty of seating and a daunting list of cakes by the slice. I want to try them all, but I think my waistline would hate me. (Well-known for their cannoli. I’m not a cannoli person, so…)


Big Gay Ice Cream Shop: This ice creamery has a giant unicorn painted on their wall and a rainbow ice cream cone on the window. Basically, it is soft-serve for grown-ups (think salty-sweet combos), but there are always a million kids in here. Because we all scream for ice cream.



Academy Records: I really don’t know much about this new & used vinyl shop, but Sean is obsessed with it and always wants to go here, so it’s on the list. It doesn’t have a resident cat like Bleeker Street Records in the West Village, so it’s not THE coolest record store in my book. I do get good vibes when I’m in there though. And people do bring in their dogs, so there’s that.


No Relation Vintage: I love this thrift store. I mean, I love all thrift stores, but unlike all the other thrift stores I’ve seen here that are totally banking off the thrifting trend and charging more than I would spend on brand-new clothes, this place is very reasonable. I bought a pair of Levi cut-offs for $8. A good mix of vintage dresses, funky tees, worn-in shorts and boots, and way out there pieces like a military flight suit and floor-length fur coats. I’ll definitely be coming back to get my thrifting fix — and a few giggles!

The Strand Bookstore: I guess this mecca for bookworms isn’t really in the East East Village, but I’ve walked from there to a number of the other places I’ve mentioned, so I’m counting it. It’s amazing. I would walk miles to get to The Strand. And I’m pretty sure I have.

The East Village is perfect for wandering around aimlessly and getting lost in, so you never know when you’ll next stumble upon something wonderful!


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Turkish books and food

First off, I changed the header image on the blog! (Finally!) I also added the Goodreads widget to the sidebar so everyone can stalk what I am currently reading.

Secondly, I am sad to announce for the first time in years, I couldn’t finish a book. That book was The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk.

It won the Nobel Prize in Literature. And I couldn’t finish it.

urlI was reading this book for my book club, and while I still will go to the meeting on Monday night (maybe others’ praises for it will change my opinion), I guess just wasn’t in the right mood for it.

The Museum of Innocence is the story of a 30-year-old Turkish man’s obsessive love for the young shopgirl Fusun. The two begin a love affair when she is only 18, but she disappears in envy when the man becomes officially engaged to his long-term socialite girlfriend. Eventually, our protagonist, Kemal, finds her again — and surprise! She’s married. Then there are 500 drawn-out pages in which Kemal dines regularly with Fusun, her new husband, and her parents, eager to resume their romance but hopelessly separated from her. All the while, he collects small trinkets that remind him of her and their relationship in some way, for his museum about their romance.

I read three-fourths of this book thoroughly, but then I was just painfully bored, so I started skimming until there was some semblance of a plot again. It was just. So. Melancholy. It was like being trapped in a room for hours and hours with a very lonely person who could not stop talking, in painful detail, about every minuscule detail of their sad, sad life.

I will say the first third of the novel — which chronicles how Kemal crosses path with Fusun, a long-lost distant cousin of his, and falls madly in love with her while concealing this secret from the rest of the world — was wonderful. Pamuk writes lovely prose. What he does not write, in my opinion, is an engaging story.

The Museum of Innocence is set against the backdrop of Istanbul, beginning in the 1970s. It’s embarrassing, but when I think of Istanbul, the only things that come mind are the Hagia Sophia and that song, “So if you’ve got a date in Istanbul, she’ll be waiting in Constantinople.”

So yeah. Basically nothing.

And this is so silly of me, but I have SO much trouble reading novels when I can’t pronounce even the main characters’ names. This is my main gripe about Anna Karenina, as it is. And when the book isn’t already engaging, I become frustrated with trivial things like name pronunciations.

And the thing is I’ve already read and loved two other acclaimed novels with similar themes about obsessive love. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of my favorite books of all time. (Interestingly enough, the NY Times’ book review of The Museum of Innocence is titled “Lolita on the Bosphorus”.) When I took a whole senior seminar on Nabokov and found out we’d be studying Lolita for weeks, I thought my heart would explode with happiness. Lolita is the seductively told tale of the aging European Humbert Humbert and his doomed love for the 12-year-old American “nymphet” Dolores Haze. I cannot even tell you how beautifully written this novel is. And what a haunting confessional tale of a man pleading, hopelessly, for redemption. Yes, it is disturbing, as it in essence a tale of pedophilia, told by the pedophile himself. But no, it is not graphic. And yes, it is much more than a book about pedophilia. It also asks big questions about What is love, and what is obsession? Can you be in love with a fantasy? Can art be a form of redemption? And on broader, more metaphorical levels, it speaks of a sophisticated, aging Europe colliding with brash, young America.

Here is a depiction of the first chapter’s text. If that doesn’t make you both extremely creeped out and want to keep reading, I don’t know what will.

tumblr_lpqafpp9fM1qze3z3o1_400The other novel The Museum of Innocence reminded me of is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Love in Time of Cholera. This is the story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, who fall passionately in love in their innocent youth. Fermina eventually marries a doctor, and Florentino is tragically devastated. While he passes his years with 622 love affairs, as a hopeless romantic, he “reserves his heart” for only Fermina. As the book jackets says, “Fifty-nine years, nine months and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.”

I love love LOVE Marquez’ magical realism style. I’ve read his other major novel (A Hundred Years of Solitude) as well and a couple of his novellas. When you read his writing, you feel like you are sitting on the front porch of a couple of village elders, somewhere in the depths of Colombia. His stories comes across as part factual, part personal tall tale, part oral folklore, and part the “weirder” beliefs of Catholicism (like the Assumption of the Virgin Mary). It’s absolutely glorious and breathtaking to read. I’ve heard from some Spanish-speaking friends back in Texas that his prose is even more enchanting in the original language. I can only imagine.

One praiseful thing I will say about The Museum of Innocence is that the author opened an actual museum based on the book in Istanbul. This sort of blurs the line between reality and fiction, and I love quirky, imaginative things like that. I found a few photos of the exhibits online, and they eerily imitate the exhibits listed in the book. For example, Kemal spends years collecting thousands of Fusun’s used cigarettes for his museum. And there is an exhibit of used cigarettes in the actual museum in Istanbul.


Anyway, after seeing reference after reference to the Istanbul neighborhood of Beyoglu in the book, I couldn’t help but want to go to the Turkish restaurant in our neighborhood of the same name.

This was our second visit. We got the large meze platter and another plate of the Mediterranean crab cakes, to share.

lThe meze platter includes hummus, Greek yogurt & cucumber salad, smashed eggplant salad, some sort of spinach concoction, something that looks like couscous or quinoa, and what I call “Greek salsa.” Everything has authentic names that I can’t pronounce or spell. Most importantly, it is all delicious and must be eaten with bits of bread. Anything that I 1) can eat with bread, and 2) fulfills my Meatless Lenten Fridays requirements is good in my book.

And you know what? I know it’s quite a generalization, but based on first impressions, I think I’m more partial to Turkish food than to Turkish books.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Happiest Place on Earth

No, I’m not talking about Disneyland.

I’m talking about this place, The Strand Bookstore, right off of Union Square.

The-Strand-1-610x325The Strand’s slogan is either “18 miles of books” or “Where books are loved,” I can’t really tell, as they have both phrases plastered across coffee mugs and book totes, but either way…you can tell this place is amazing.

Seriously, if someone was only in Manhattan for an afternoon, I’d say go to Central Park and go to this place. And you’ll have had a pleasant NYC visit. I saw on a sign outside The Strand that you can rent out the place for events — birthday parties, fundraisers, even weddings. Personally, if they started renting out aisles between the rows of books for you to set up an air mattress, I’d be interested in signing a lease.


Only sort of.


If you want to see me sublimely, transcendentally, euphorically happy, take me to The Strand.

If you want to see me deeply frustrated and ruffled, tell me I’m only allowed to buy one thing at The Strand today.

The Strand is a wonderful hodgepodge of new, used, and rare titles. They also have some of the most thoughtfully curated table selections, from “Best of Underground” to “Cult Classics.” There are handwritten notes sprinkled out of volumes here and there, detailing why this sales associate or that one suggests this read. Everyone who works there lives and breathes books.

It’s no Barnes & Noble. (And I love B&N.)

I paid a visit here last night to kill some time while waiting to meet up with a friend-of-a-friend (Caitlin, if you’re reading this, I have helped advance the cause for Post-Grad Employment of Minnesotan English Majors). I don’t need any more new books, but I was so tempted by a $7 copy of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies, which is on my non-fiction to-read list.

But, guys. I didn’t buy anything.

Not a thing.

And for that, I think I deserve a new book as a reward.

I did, however, add two more books to my to-read list: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, and Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places by Sharon Zukin. So that only makes my to-read list, like, what? 2,948,204,982 gazillion books?


They have all sorts of cool book reading/discussion events every month, and I would love to attend one eventually. There’s this really awesome one next Thursday about the Beatnik movement — Kerouac, Ginsberg, Borroughs, and the whole gang — but alas, it’s on a Thursday.

Thursdays are my rescue cat volunteer days.

Don’t you hate it when your crazy cat lady side interferes with your introverted bibliophile side?

Seriously though, go to The Strand! Even if you aren’t a reader, it’d be hard not to find the perfect book for you in there, even if that means a colorful cookbook of 500 cookies recipes.

There’s nothing wrong with that AT ALL. In fact, I saw this, and I wanted it.


Filed under Uncategorized

Scene from the NYC Subway.


The scene: Grand Central Station, downtown 4/5/6 platform. 5:20 p.m. Friday.

The 6 train pulls into Grand Central. A number of people hurriedly exit the train.

Man exiting train: Watch it, guys.

Me (thinking): What? I’m standing to the side. What does it mean?!?

Three or four people enter the train car. We all immediately notice that the small handful of other passengers — a shockingly small number for this bustling time of day, just post-work on a Friday evening — are all holding their scarves to their noses. The train car smells like rotten eggs or a dirty diaper or intense body odor. Or some putrid combination of the three. Also like used kitty litter and a filthy public restroom. And rotting garbage on the street in the July sun. All of the worst smells you can think of, combined and intensified.

A homeless man is laying down in one corner of the train, sleeping. Sleeping, or perhaps dead. Perhaps this is the smell of death. It is hard to tell from this distance if he is still breathing. He is not moving otherwise, and no one wants to move closer. What does death smell like?

Me (thinking): That is a horrifying thought. Oh, God. Why?

Everyone moves to the end of the car as far away from the homeless, possibly sleeping, maybe dead guy as possible. The train slows to a screeching halt.

Young Man: No. No, this can’t be happening. We can’t get stuck on this train. Oh, no. Oh, God.

Young Woman: (buries her nose deeper into her scarf, scowls)

The train begins moving again, for what seems like an eternity, before stopping at the next station. Everyone bolts from the train car, except the possibly sleeping, maybe dead homeless man. A few others attempt to board the vacated train car.

Young Man: You do NOT want to get on that train.

Everyone runs hurriedly to other cars, cramming themselves among the other people, inhaling great, painful gulps of “fresh” airAll wonder, “How long will the possibly sleeping, maybe dead homeless man ride the 6 train before someone removes him?”

Seriously, the weirdest subway event I’ve ever encountered. Runner-up goes to the time there appeared to be a dried blood stain on a seat and no one would let anyone else sit there.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Spring organization

drawerEarlier this evening, after a Sunday of much cleaning and a Monday of working late, I guess I got really caught up in a bout of productivity and stopped by The Container Store on my way home. I wish I hadn’t.

It’s two floors of products for your every organizational need — even those you didn’t think you had. It’s a place of doom for the wallets of perfectionists. I managed to escape with only three items. Mainly because one was a bulky canvas container and the other was a long box containing a two-tiered shoe rack and I was going to tote them all home on public transportation. Because in addition to being a perfectionist, I am also incredibly frugal.

Yes, I was that girl everyone gave death stares when she carried on her Santa Claus-worthy sack of home organization goods onto the 6 train. And into the CVS pharmacy line. But whatever. I GOT ORGANIZED.

I came home, and assembled the shoe rack by myself. Then I re-organized the bottom of our closet, gaining at least two square feet of storage space “beneath” our closet. I re-folded all of the towels in the linen closet, and placed all of my kitchen towels and washcloths in a snazzy new container. I emptied out the only real drawer in my kitchen, my kitchen cart drawer (above), and organized all my culinary gizmos and gadgets.

I am very pleased with my de-cluttered spaces.

Now I am envisioning a fully re-organized apartment, with little compartments and crannies for everything, from paper clips to old birthday cards. Whole empty, spacious rooms will spring up from nowhere, giving our little home infinite possibilities.

Did I mention that The Container Store is only two blocks away from my office? Oh, dear me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

5 things (about life lately)

560379_10151458986121743_1899409956_n(1) Last night, I made Ratatouille a la Remy, just like in the Disney/Pixar film, thanks to smitten kitchen. I am immensely proud of myself and my mandolin for our hard work. Also, isn’t this one of the prettiest dinners you’ve ever seen? It’s really tasty, too. Now I want to try cooking other French-ish things like coq au vin or boeuf bourguinon. I love cooking. Cooking is my favorite.


(2) It’s funny how people always make Christmastime to be all winter-y, dreaming of White Christmases and decorating with snowmen and paper snowflakes, when really February is the dead of winter. And no one wants to go out on their Valentine’s date in 5 degree weather. It’s amusing how quickly everyone’s seasonal love for scarves, hot chocolate, and other warm coziness fades by this time of the year. I’m struggling to remember how deathly hot it was when we moved in at the end of June, when I took two frigidly cold showers a day and pressed chilled Diet Coke cans to my forehead to prevent overheating. (Photo taken from Sean’s office, at Madison & 42nd, overlooking Grand Central Station.)


(3) Central Park in the snow is the most beautiful, happy thing. When we got about a foot of snow on Feb. 9, there were hundreds and hundreds of New Yorkers out enjoying the snowfall. It looked like one of the old-timey Victorian postcards by Currier & Ives, depicting an era when people would go ice skating on frozen ponds instead of man-made ones and used wooden toboggans instead of the colorful plastic ones of today’s age. You know, like this? This was Central Park two Saturday’s ago.

Currier & Ives Central Park 2

It was such a delight to see children zooming around every which way on sleds and inner tubes and their own backs, dogs frolicking, and grown-ups giggling delightedly like children.


(4) I started volunteering one evening a week with the cat rescue organization from which we adopted our dear Ali. Myself and two other volunteers tend to the half dozen or so cats currently living at the UES Petco. We clean up after them, feed them, provide any medications, and love on them (of course!). Petco is a sad in-between place, like a cat orphanage, before cats are adopted or just temporarily fostered. Some of the kitties, like adventurous, not-quite-photogenic Diesel (above, who just went to a forever home this past weekend!) are sweet as can be. Some are problem children, who dump their food face-down into their litter boxes or hiss at all the other cats. The cats cycle out pretty quickly, fortunately, but it means there’s always someone new in transition there and you don’t know how they’re going to act. In case you couldn’t guess, I now want to adopt ALL OF THE KITTIES. Even the problematic ones.


(5) For Valentine’s Day (OK, technically the day after Valentine’s), Sean and I checked out the NYC location of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, which opened in the fall. We went to the original — and only other — location of Beecher’s at Pike’s Place in Seattle on our honeymoon. It was eerie how similar the two locations looked, right down to the milk jug “stools” and the glass walls that allow you to watch employees make cheese on-site. We went to the downstairs “cellar,” which was surprisingly ritzy. They have nice happy hour deals where you can get the “world’s best mac ‘n cheese” for half-price and $6 glasses of wine. It was super-crowded and unorganized downstairs, and while the decor was nice and the macaroni was delicious, as expected, I think next time we’ll just eat in the casual upstairs deli. Same thing, lower price. 🙂

Then we came home and made fancy s’mores on our gaslit stovetop with a s’mores kit I got from the Brooklyn-based etsy shop whimsy&spice. These were a little more “grown-up,” with substantial graham shortbread cookies, maple-infused homemade marshmallows, and extra-fancy Madecasse chocolates.

But yeah, we did celebrate Valentine’s with mac & cheese and s’mores, so we are probably 10 years old, secretly.

P.S. My Valentine’s gift from Sean, which completely broke our rule of “not getting anything seriously nice,” is two tickets to see She & Him on the Central Park Summerstage this July, furthering my Zooey D. obsession. So sweet! I’m already envisioning myself in a flowy sundress and sandals in the NOT COLD.

Check these two cool kids out here. This will be my third time seeing M. Ward live, and you should definitely check out his work with indie supergroup Monsters of Folk. And give a listen to M.’s solo stuff, too.


Leave a comment

Filed under personal