Friday, January 27, 2012

White Street

Walking down the same street nearly every day, I have come to appreciate its subtleties. I will likely never hang out on this street, never stop in one of its establishments. It doesn't seem to have any bars or restaurants I'll ever frequent and I don't think there is even a place for me to grab a cup of coffee. I simply pass by. Although I traverse just one block of White Street between Broadway and Church on my morning walk, there are things I have come to expect.

When I turn onto this street, I immediately look into the side window of a Chinese business on Broadway that sells paper supplies and decorations in fabulous shades of red and pink and gold. Across the street there is always an endless supply of rugged yet creative types in work boots and stocking caps, hauling film-making equipment on and off of trucks of all sizes. Further on, a grocery truck can be found pulled onto the south curb with little room to pass, its drivers rather friendly to female passerby as they unloads their wares. Just below Franklin Place, construction workers converge beneath scaffolding, their conversations shifting between English, Polish, and Spanish but their cigarette smoke smelling all the same. With their blue and yellow umbrellas folded, hot dog carts are rolled up the middle of the street towards Broadway by their bearded owners wearing taqiyahs. The sloping architecture of the Synagogue for the Arts shelters children's playthings and discarded pamphlets in its courtyard. Young men with assymetrical haircuts and young women in tights and big scarves, their clacking heels telling me a block in advance that they will ascend the stairs to the Flea Theater. The glowing charisma of Let There Be Neon that beckons with a lounging, hot pink feminine outline reminiscent of gritty, windowless, male-only establishments.

This morning the street was strangely quiet, as many New York streets tend to be when it rains. Everyone is just in a hurry to get inside and they scurry about with their umbrellas up and their heads down. But the rain wasn't falling in those few minutes I walked on White Street today. The air was uncannily warm for January, muggy and thick and seeming able to absorb any noise that might emanate from the street, and yet, none did. No one spoke. No carts rolled. No heels clacked. The street was suddenly, inexplicably, utterly unfamiliar to me and I felt a bit lost. I looked up at the soaring lofts with their zig-zagging fire escapes and wondered, "Who lives there? What goes on in those buildings?" It seemed I saw the retro yellow ARC sign for the first time and finally acknowledged that it was a record shop. I wondered to myself who thought that synagogue architecture was a good idea and thought perhaps I should look up the Flea Theater and see what was playing.

It baffles me that a street you think you know so well that it has taken on mundane qualities can suddenly become strange and mysterious just because of a slight change in weather. The light casts new shadows and the air feels strange in your lungs. You see something new and different in things you've seen a million times and you realize that you will never know everything about this city. No matter what you think you know, you realize, you are still a stranger. You are still alone. And yet somehow, you are perfectly at home.

Monday, January 23, 2012

World Wide Word Web

Sometimes I think I should take a hiatus from the Internet. My head is filled with so many words, pictures, links, ideas, stories, names, events... Just words, words, and more words, every minute of every hour of every day. It seems I can't ever read enough New York Times articles or get through enough McSweeney's stories or laugh at enough hilarious animal photos or appreciate enough of the thoughts of the countless creative people in the world... There just isn't enough time.

My email inbox often gets terribly overwhelming. I do my best to communicate with friends and family regularly. But personal notes can get lost when there are floods of appeals from organizations asking me to sign a petition and donate money and take action and show up at an event and sign another petition and then they send me a thank you email for signing it, and oh, don't forget to give money! MoveOn, Planned Parenthood, ASPCA, American Humane Association, GEMS, the Brooklyn Museum. My inbox is also jam packed with all the fun and exciting things I can do, buy, see, do, eat, buy, do, buy, buy buy! Groupon, NYC Daily Deals, Living Social, The Bowery Presents. Things I love. Causes I support. Experiences I desire. Communications that are scrambling my brain...

Oddly enough, raising money for a cause and managing communications are in my job description. So I can't ignore the Internet completely. I can't just make the words go away. My work day consists of sitting at a computer and type, type, typing away about children and parents and families and lawyers and social workers and family court and abuse and neglect and sad stories and happy endings... Email is unavoidable. I get Google alerts that I can't ignore. I need to know what's going on in the world and the country and the city... I need to know what's happening in the courthouses down the street and in the government buildings in D.C. and in the offices down the hall. These things are not expendable.

But what about the rest? Perhaps I need a break from the emails, the sites, the blogs, the news, the feeds, the banter... I felt a serious sense of relief yesterday when I cleaned out my friend list on Facebook without remorse and walked away 30 individuals lighter. I also felt a sense of accomplishment when I reorganized my Google Reader into three categories and then alphabetized them all. And instead of feeling finished, it made me itch to organize my bookshelves into fiction by author and nonfiction by subject. So many items to read, so many people to meet, so many ideas to acknowledge, so many things to learn, so many words to try to cram into my head... SO LITTLE TIME.

The best lesson I ever learned is that the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. So you should just keep learning and reaching for as much knowledge as you can attain. But I suppose the more time that passes, the more you realize how little time there is... You have to accept that you can't learn it all. I sure as hell can't read it all. Perhaps I just need to disconnect completely. Less Facebook? Sure. Ignoring the more fluffy stuff in my Reader? Done. Unsubscribing from a few email lists? Probably necessary. Writing more instead of passively reading? Now there's a thought...

I suppose I could just read more books, though not surprisingly, when I'm not reading things on the Internet, I'm reading a book instead. And I end up reading a hell of a lot of books. But goddamn, even that stresses me out, because with every book I finish comes the realization that I'll never read them all. There are simply too many words in the world. And I don't know where to begin. I also don't know where to end...

I guess right about here is as good a place as any.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Apparently This is an Annual Thing

Around this time last year I wrote this post. It was a follow up to this post from the year before. I guess every January I have to look back at my life and wonder, "What the hell happened? And what the hell am I going to do now?"

2011 was a difficult year and I'm glad to see it gone... It was very stressful, but it wasn't all bad. Looking back I have quite a few lovely memories...
  • I went snow tubing!
  • My bar closed. This was extremely depressing and I miss it terribly.
  • I went to Boston to visit my very first friend from college. Hanging out with him and his awesome friends was probably one of the best weekends of the year. Nothing but love!
  • My boss left my organization. The Development Department consisted of only me for a few months.
  • I went to Maryland to babysit my sister for a few days while my very lucky parents went to France. She and I get along splendidly when my parents aren't around, it's really amazing...
  • I organized a few events for work all by myself and did quite well, if I do say so myself.
  • I went to the beach A LOT over the summer. AND I LOVED IT.
  • Nick finished his pre-med program FINALLY. And he got an excellent score on the MCAT. We started pondering potential relocation to other cities for med school...
  • Then he and I went to his cousin's wedding on Long Island and had a blast with his ridiculously fun family.
  • I went to Ireland with my family for two weeks. It was so beautiful and is truly a magical place, but the weather is horrific. At least I took a lot of excellent pictures. 1,400 of them to be exact.
  • I got a new boss and he's awesome!
  • Nick and I went to my cousin's wedding in Michigan. Our complete debauchery made it clear that we are still extremely immature and no one should invite us anywhere.
  • That same weekend we ended up stuck in Detroit because of the hurricane on the East Coast and realized that Detroit is truly the city that God forgot. I hope I never have to go back. EVER.
  • My beautiful mother turned 60 while we were in the armpit of the Midwest (sorry, Mom). To cheer her up I made her an amazing photo book of her life. I am such a good daughter! Even though I slacked off so I had to give it to her at Christmas. Oops.
  • I turned 26. I went to see my favorite band Beirut on the night of my birthday, which was absolutely magical. Then I tried to have a birthday party at a bar and just ended up depressed. I'm old!
  • The aforementioned first friend from college came to visit NYC and since he is politically active and silly things like that, we went to Occupy Wall Street for a little while. It was interesting enough, but we soon left for beer and burgers, because we have our priorities straight.
  • I had a very successful gala for my organization which was about 100 times better and less stressful than last year. I actually got drunk afterwards! It was GREAT!
  • I went home for Thanksgiving and kept things fairly quiet and only hung out with one friend. And I'm grateful that he's such a good friend after literally 13 years.
  • That weekend my cousin had her engagement party. It was so incredibly lovely that I had to have 7 glasses of wine to deal with the beauty of it all. I don't want anyone to grow up but I think I'm okay with this...
  • I went home for Christmas. I saw my best friends and both of my wonderful grandmothers and realized how very lucky I am. I got an iPad that I'm pretty sure my sister tricked my dad into buying. Good job, kid!
  • Speaking of my little baby sister, she turned 13 and it has absolutely traumatized me. I keep looking at the picture on my shelf of me holding her when I'm 17 and she is 4 and I can't believe where the time has gone.
  • An old friend and his darling girlfriend came to New York on December 30th and we saw one of my favorite bands from college. It was the perfect way to end the year.
  • I had a very quiet New Year's Eve with lovely people, just the way I wanted it.

On the schedule for this year....
  • I will attend four weddings in June, July, August, and September. Oh. My. God.
  • In October I'll go to a family reunion of my mother's side of the family.They will be Irish. They will be Catholic. They will be crazy. They will be drunk. There will be hundreds of them. And they will all look like me. This will be weird.
  • Hopefully I will visit my best friend and her boyfriend in Florida and watch them revel in the early days of cohabitation. Hopefully I will do this soon, while it's still cold in NYC but nice and warm on the gulf coast...
  • I also hope to visit this crazy lady and her girlfriend in Raleigh and see an old friend of my parents' as well. And I'll wonder once again why I don't live in the South because everyone is so nice and the weather is splendid.
  • I will also try my very best to head west to see if "Portlandia" is an accurate depiction of a city that is called home by a dear friend from New York, an old friend from high school, new friends from Bonnaroo, two aunts I haven't seen in much too long, a number of tiny cousins I've never met, and another cousin who was a little girl the last time I saw her and is now a gorgeous teenager. Wow.
  • If all goes as planned, Nick will start medical school in the Fall. After many months of contemplating the merits of other US cities, I realize I am terrified to leave New York. I am crossing my fingers that he gets into a school in the city so we never, ever, EVER have to leave. Please please please please please!
  • Hopefully I will finally buckle down and apply to grad school. I know I want to do an MPA, but I'm again considering if I should pair it with an MSW just for the background knowledge that would entail. I don't want to be a social worker anymore, I know that for certain. But I am interested in the experience... Luckily I know that the MPA is where it's at for me, hands down. I just really need to work my ass off this year in my new role!
  • I also need to save tons of money so I can FINALLY go to France and/or Germany like I've been talking about because I need a goddamn European vacation.
  • Also I was reminded last night by a very good friend that I had always planned to go volunteer in India. He told me I should probably do it before I have kids. Thanks for the advice, buddy. I said I'd check out Central America...
  • I think we're going to get another kitten. YES!!!!
Life is too short. I hope you've stopped reading by now. Good night.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Sense of Accomplishment

With these words, I have ensured that I have not broken my very first New Year's resolution! AMAZING. I have already broken others that weren't written down, like getting to work on time every day and bringing my lunch rather than buying it. But since I didn't write them down, they don't count. Duh. So I'm pretty much on the right track in this first week of 2012. You can stop applauding now.

Or keep it up if you like, because I've had a very successful week filled with exciting, grownup accomplishments! You will be very proud to know that:
  1. I went to work. And I did important things.
  2. I went to yoga for the first time in months.
  3. I didn't eat banh mi, not even once.
  4. I painted my nails a weird color. And I liked it.
  5. I downloaded nerdy word games on my iPad.
  6. I sat through an entire football game with my boyfriend and his friends without complaining or making rude comments about the corpulence of the players. This was managed by accomplishing the previous two activities simultaneously.
  7. I went to the Museum of Chinese in America and learned all about the hardships faced by Chinese immigrants throughout the years. I'd like to go back because I didn't get to finish seeing everything before it closed, but now I know who Bing cherries were named after.
  8. I cleaned my kitchen multiple times after the boyfriend made dinner (using food that I bought at the grocery store! BONUS!). And I cleaned it at other times when he didn't even cook, like today! I EVEN SWEPT THE FLOOR. I'm pretty much a domestic goddess.
  9. I caught up with a dear friend I hadn't seen in far too long and we conceived a new plan for our book club. BECAUSE WE ARE GROWN UPS!
  10. I went to see not one, but TWO movies. This is big news, because I never see movies. I saw "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "My Week With Marilyn." Go see them. They are both excellent. And I didn't stuff myself full of popcorn til I was sick, I actually practiced restraint! YOU GUYS, THIS IS SERIOUS.
In other news, even though it's Saturday and I had planned on doing NOTHING all day except maybe (MAYBE) cleaning my room and petting the cat and not talking to anyone because my boyfriend is working all day and night, I actually left my house. I forced myself to stop watching "Portlandia," even though watching it is another accomplishment in itself because I kept meaning to and I never did before. Yay! I made myself take a shower and put on actual clothing and shoes and I went for a walk around my beautiful neighborhood and drank in the sights and enjoyed the fresh air and unseasonably warm temperatures. It was lovely. I even saw a puppy! Her name was Peaches.

To recover from all this activity, I got a coffee and sat on a bench and talked to my mother for a long time and then got a delicious bagel to take home. On my way back I ran into an old friend who was visiting with his adorable little boy, who after a year of living in England HAS AN ACCENT. He told me he was "three and a hoff" and I nearly peed my pants. Then I came home and cleaned my kitchen (again!). I took off my nail polish. I talked to another friend on the phone and got the scoop on his love life. Now I'm here. WRITING.

Wow. I'm so proud of myself.

This probably won't last. My life tends to follow a trajectory much like the one pictured here. Doing stuff is HARD. But tomorrow I'm going to try again to be a grownup who does things. I'm going to wake up early, go to yoga, go to a musem all by myself, clean my room, and then be social by seeing a few friends play music in the neighborhood. Dear god, at least I am going to try. I AM GOING TO DO THINGS. Or not. I don't know. Maybe I won't do any of those things. I still have plenty of time to just give up and shut down altogether.

I think I'll go watch some more "Portlandia" now. Or perhaps I'll just browse the Internet! FOREVER...