The Next Chapter

Love does funny things to you. Sure, I’ve been in love in the past. And each time I thought I had it figured out, I was wrong. We broke up, and I moved on.

I’m in this position now where things keep changing, and I am perhaps the happiest I’ve been in a long time.

When I first moved to New York, I struggled. I’ve worked too hard for what I have to not brag that I’ve since earned four promotions in less than three years. I’ve had two apartments (one for one year, one for two), many friends — some good, and some bad with whom I’ve parted ways — and a whirlwind of experiences in between.

I leave this apartment behind next week, all in the name of love.

I never imagined that in less than 6 months after we first met in December, and had our first date at the MET, we’d be moving in together. But we are, and we picked up our keys today.

I’m not sure about a lot of things, and if history is any evidence, I’m wrong about almost everything, but I’m pretty certain in this case that things are different. His family is wonderful, his intentions are the best, and 97% of the time (save the 3% when he’s in former frat boy mode) I’m having the best of times.

He’s been my right-hand for a series of firsts: first time at the MET, first time in several states (Rhode Island, Massachusetts, California), first time trying sole (and I liked it, kind of), first time in a Manhattan ER my own injury (I hurt my neck on the drive back from MA).

This post wasn’t supposed to be about love, but instead about moving. And maybe it still is, because I love New York, and moving within one of its boroughs  When I moved here, what I knew of apartment living came mostly from sit-coms like Friends, Mad About You, Seinfeld, Sex and the City, Will & Grace, etc. Unreasonably priced, unrealistically beautiful Manhattan apartments that were coveted.

The same is not entirely true for Queens. Some people have found places to covet, but others are drifters. From pre-war, to luxury low-rise, new things pop up that stir curiosity in long-time Astoria residents and newbies alike.

When I found this place, it seemed perfect. I was moving in with a friend and it seemed much more stable than where I had lived when I first moved. We’ve had our ups and downs here, but it hasn’t been half-bad.

I always thought my next move would mark the beginning of the chapter of me. A studio or a one bedroom of my own. But, fate changed, and I’m really excited for the next chapter, and a new corner of Astoria to explore and call home with the man that I love.

Frankenstorm Frenzy

I’m from the midwest, a place where natural disasters are rare. Sure, we had tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, but nothing super catastrophic — not in my day, anyways.

Since moving to New York, I’ve experienced — though I say this lightly because I didn’t actually feel anything — an earthquake, Hurricane Irene, and now Hurricane Sandy is hours away from making a major impact on the greater New York City area.

For Hurricane Irene, I camped out for a couple days at my friends Jen and Patrick’s, about a mile from my apartment. I left a few hours before the storm was supposed to hit, wheeling a shopping cart full of three different pasta dishes, bottled water, hard cider, my computer and iPad. We spent the entire time eating — Jen makes a men blue-box macaroni and cheese — watching the weather channel (and flipping between No Reservations and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding), and drawing in coloring books. The storm didn’t have much of an impact besides some wind and rain in Astoria, but I felt comfortable to be amongst friends.

This year, reports trickled in on Friday that people should begin prep. By that time, my local drug store was out of flashlights, so I made my way to the grocery store to pick up shabbos candles and yarzheit candles. Baruch hashem!

I have plenty of food and bottled water, and as of this morning, a few bars and restaurants are still delivering within Queens. Winds are picking up, as is rain.

I’m thankful to have power at this point, and continue to charge my phone and my iPad just in case that changes. I’ll spend the rest of the day working, and have made provisions in case power is lost — my iPad is loaded with some games (Jeopardy, Crazy Taxi, and Monopoly!), I have a few Nora Ephron books on-hand, and if all else fails, I’ll use my gas stove to do some cooking.

Stay safe, and stay warm to all those on the East Coast. For up-to-date coverage on the storm, head to The Weather Channel site.

My general thoughts on being under glorified house arrest?

Courtesy of ReactionGifs.com

Table 4 Writers Foundation: Annual Writers’ Grants

Elaine Kaufman

Elaine Kaufman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re a New York City resident — 21 and older — and an aspiring writer, consider applying for a new grant announced this week by The Table 4 Writers Foundation. The Foundation was formed in honor of legendary restaurateur Elaine Kaufman.

The Foundation will give several grants of $2,000 (or gifts in kind of up to $2,000) to promising writers as part of an annual competition.

Grants will be announced at a gala to be held in February 2013, marking what would have been Kaufman’s 84th birthday. Kaufman, known for nurturing writers and other creative people, died in December 2010 after running the world-famous Elaine’s restaurant on the Upper East Side for more than 47 years.

“What we want to do is reach writers who are struggling in their careers,’’ said Jenine Lepera Izzi, the foundation’s chairwoman. “Maybe it takes the place of a few months of part time work,’’ she said. “Maybe it pays a portion of their rent.’’ The goal is to give the writers time to focus on their work, and possibly allow them to do a little networking through the foundation.

Rules and application forms for the grants, which will include both fiction and nonfiction writing, are available at www.table4.org.

All entries must be postmarked by Oct. 15, 2012. 

Girls vs. Sex and the City

I’m a devoted fan of most shows produced by premium networks like HBO and Showtime. What’s not to love about shows that take place on Sunday nights and shine entertaining light on the hours that stand between me and my work week?

When Sex and the City was first on-air, I wasn’t a loyal fan. The thought of sex and relationships being written into a storyline — more heavily than was being done on Friends or other such shows — made me red in the face.

During its final season, I finally saw what so many 20-to-30-somethings had seen; while it was completely un-relatable   in a realistic way for a girl in her mid-teens, I saw pieces of each character in my personality. Perhaps, at the end of the day, I was more of a Carrie — but weren’t we all?

Let’s bring it back to the idea of reality. In reality, as a 20-something Michigander-turned-New Yorker, I would never spend one month’s rent on a pair of Louboutin pumps — I can’t really walk in pumps — or take cabs everywhere that the subway also reaches (not anymore, anyways).

That’s where Girls comes in. While way wittier than any of my thoughts or conversations, there’s a certain charm to Lena Dunham‘s creation that is incredibly relatable. I’m far from a Brooklyn dweller — no disrespect, but I’m an Astoria girl — and while my Warby Parker frames may dictate otherwise, I’m not at all a hipster. That all said, Girls represents the real embellished non-glamour of New York life for the young and over-educated. We live by the words we hear broadcast on NPR, or what we read in the New Yorker. We make nonsensical cultural references overheard from one person we knew who studied psychology — or better yet, philosophy — at NYU or Columbia, and have friends who call themselves writers but work as glorified coffee-runners from 9 to 5. Or more realistic yet, they just work in coffee shops.

Lives dictated by insecurity and thirst for success, Dunham captures a very realistic — albeit better articulated and performed — dynamic of the non-native New Yorker in her twenties, and not all of whom are part of the New York literary scene (disclaimer: I work in book publicity).

My only gripe with Dunham is her portrayal of East Lansing, the city from which her character Hannah relocated. It’s far less folksy, and much more academia-meets-grunge. Other than that, I feel that just like today’s 30-somethings related realistically to Sex and the City back in the day, I relate to aspects of each of the main characters on Girls.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

New Yorkers love their neighborhoods. And while I proudly broadcast by suburban Detroit roots, I love Astoria.

A Greek restaurant in Astoria

A Greek restaurant in Astoria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve built a community around my life in New York. I have my local taverna (Zenon – the best Greek food you’ll ever have . . . ever), my laundromat (Geno’s! Geno and his cousin Ronald take care of my clothes on a weekly basis for $0.65/pound), my coffee shop (Brooklyn Bagel on 30th Ave. – amazing iced coffee and stellar mini whole wheat everything bagels), and of course, my local movie theater (United Artists Kaufman Astoria). Astoria, like many other ‘hoods outside of Manhattan, has the amazing ability to feel as much like a city as it needs to, while still playing the part of a quieter, more suburban locale.

I’m dedicating my summer to getting to know Astoria even better, by perusing the green market, hanging at the beer gardens, and sampling skordalia from taverna to taverna.

If you’ve never stepped foot beyond Manhattan, I highly suggest taking the N/R/Q over the East River and into Astoria.

Places worth trying:

  1. Zenon Taverna
  2. Ovelia
  3. MexiQ
  4. Museum of the Moving Image
  5. Bohemian Hall Beer Garden
  6. Mama Yogurt
  7. The Sparrow Tavern
  8. Vesta
  9. Frank’s Bakery
  10. Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company

 

 

The Sixth Borough

Since seeing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close a few weeks back, I’ve heard this “sixth borough” saying from many a non-New Yorker. And while I feel that, for most the part, LA is the antithesis of New York, there were elements of my less-than-24-hour trip that made me feel comfortable, and almost connected to the city. Everyone I encountered had some New York experience worth sharing, and in the same way that I feel I dispel the myth that everyone in New York is uptight and overly aggressive, my LA contacts did the same for my unwarranted stereotypes of the City of Angels.  And, to my only-slight surprise, the waitress at Cafe Gratitude — excellent vegan and raw restaurant in Beverly Hills — used the sixth borough expression to describe her feelings toward LA.

Though incredibly short, my trip was lovely overall, and was preceded with a jaunt to Seattle. In less than 72 hours and my first-ever trip further west than Chicago, IL, I’ve tried Vietnamese food (highly recommend the Lemon Grass Tofu Rice dish at Tamarind Tree in Seattle), walked through Pikes Place Market, met my adorable baby cousin Ben, had my first-ever vegan taco and raw dessert at Cafe Gratitude (see link above), and had the best-ever inflight experience with Virgin America.

While my layover in Denver during the blizzard wasn’t ideal, and I encountered a minor snafu on my way west via Frontier, I’m overall thrilled with my first West Coast trip, especially my stint in the supposed sixth borough.

Mambo ‘talanio Ristorante & Piano Bar [review]

Last weekend, my mom visited me. Despite having three of her four children move to cities that are far more engaging and entertaining than Detroit, my mother is a homebody. Like her mother before her, she is rooted in her Michigander routine — including daily visits to Nello’s, nightly yoga, with work and errands in between. That said, my mother has made it abundantly clear that she has no interest in New York beyond Ellis Island and the city’s many diners and dives.

I didn’t have time to plan a full-fledged itinerary, so instead, we had a walk-and-see kind of weekend. After spending an afternoon walking through Union Square Park and then down to SoHo, we wandered into Little Italy in search of a bite to eat.

Unlike many New Yorkers — native and transplanted — I love Little Italy. I don’t mind being flirted into a restaurant, because ultimately, I’ll have the last laugh on Yelp if I’m not satisfied with the food or the service — and in some cases with both.

Olive Miste

After a few odd turns, we happened upon Mambo ‘talanio Ristorante & Piano Bar. We were seated quickly, but it took a bizarrely long amount of time to be recognized for water service and the delivery of a bread basket. Said bread basket was strike one against Mambo ‘taliano. I would be shocked if the bread was homemade. It was boring and commercial. Another strike – how can an Italian restaurant in Little Italy not have a fresh pepper grinder at the table,  while providing me with fresh table-side olive oil and vinegar? #noexcuses

Famished and unsatisfied with the bread, we each ordered an appetizer. I had the olive miste, and she ordered fried calamari. I loved the olive dish – which was also served with some lightly marinated eggplant and roasted red peppers.

For the main course, we each opted for a pasta dish. I had the orechiette alla checca, which was really just orechiette with tomato sauce. Nothing too special. I am a big fan of orechiette noodles, as I find that they hold chunkier sauces like marinara and arrabiata quite well. My mom had the trenette al pesto. It was good, but in a “maybe I was craving that over this” kind of way.

The food was not super special. So far, I’m still more partial to Pellegrino’s and Da Nico when in Little Italy. As I’m watching my figure (down 26 pounds since early August!), I passed up the normally non-negotiable, super-indulgent trip to Ferrara that any trip to Little Italy merits.

Overall, the service was painfully slow, and the food was lackluster and non-competitive given the area. Not sure that I’d return.