The Time I Met a Cute Hipster on a New York City Street

This is the story of the time I picked up a guy on a New York City street. It doesn’t just happen on TV. Here’s how it happened to me.

I’m walking home from a rehearsal, up 9th Avenue, at about 9PM. Lost in my own thoughts, I blink and noticed the man walking several paces in front of me. Can you measure a person’s attractiveness from their back? I can’t. Sometimes I think I can and end up disappointed. That’s not what bring my eyes to this guy. It’s the banjo he has strapped on his back.

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Now I live right by Lincoln Center and work in the Theatre District; Julliard students lugging around upright bases and pit orchestra players with trombone cases strapped to their backs are a common sight. But a banjo? Who plays the banjo and then walks up 9th Ave with the naked instrument slung over his shoulder like a messenger bag? I’m driven to find out, more so than I’m driven to get home.

My (annoying but I’m making progress to change it) proclivity of waiting for people for people to come to me gets trumped when I have something  very specific to say to said person. With Banjo Guy I have just that. I need answers to all questions this banjo brings to mind.

I sidle up next to him,“So I have to ask, do you carry the banjo around just to look cool or do you actually play it?” (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s a better line than my Trader Joe’s check out line line.)
He looks at the person assaulting him on the street (me), our eyes meet (me to myself: now lookie there he is cute! that’s lucky. Possibly a hipster, definitely from Brooklyn, the banjo indicates clear musical tendencies…), and he smiles at me (dimples!! ahhh!).
“You think it makes me look cool?”

I am so in. That’s not a Uh, why are you talking to me? Not a Fuck off, rando. Not even a Oh you think you’re clever? Nice try. It’s a genuine Ok, I accept your random offer of conversation, it’s welcome rather than weird. Sweet.

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I would later learn he had a fixie bike in addition to the banjo. Along with many ironic t-shirts and leather jackets. And hipster glasses that he occasionally wore. On top of it all, he denied being a hipster, thus making him the perfect cliche. [credit]
Our conversation begins in the west 40s- I’m walking to the 60s (home), he’s looking for a bar to get a drink. We’re in Hell’s Kitchen, he could have found a bar at pretty much any point during our 20 block walk. But he doesn’t, he walks with me all the way up the street. My burning questions answered: He dabbles in being a street musician (omg! me too! Christmas caroling for ever!) when he’s not tailoring men’s suits (omg you’re not an actor? I extra ♥ you!). Yep, he lives in Brooklyn (told ya!!!) Seems nice, a little bit off sense of humor, but I might like it.

I’m the one who ends the walk – needing to make the necessary veer left to get home.  Before I make said veer, Banjo Guy asks for my phone number. Striking up a conversation on the street? Total success. Not only that, he actually used the number to call me and make a date. Which actually happened last night. No blog worthy story from it (I’m spoiled. My first two first dates in NY were good stories. I now think all first dates should all be that way and this is far from reality) but it was a good date.

Yes, I had fun. Maybe I like him. No, didn’t bring his banjo along.

Weather (or Not)

Throughout my first winter here I firmly believed New York City was brilliant at snow collection. It would snow during the night and by morning the streets would be clear- amazing! This year however, the fairy-tale-snow-land fantasy was broken and I realized the hard cold truth: It barely snowed last winter. New York is not the incredibly efficient city of silly California ignorance. I say all this in light of the snow storm/blizzard (what exactly is the technical difference between a blizzard and a snow storm?), that hit Thursday early morning. It snowed for about 48 hours straight- with barely a pause. I’ve never witnessed so much continuous snow, ever.  Had I not had to go out in it I may adopted a mantra “Let is Snow!” put on a pot of tea, popped some corn, snuggled up in a warm blanket and spent hours content just watching the beautiful flakes tumble from the sky. This is what Californians assume happens when it snows. Unfortunately, I had places to go. And really, snow is only pretty from a warm distance, only fun if you can get out of it and be warm as soon as you want too.

I woke up Friday morning to the screams of glee from both my roommates “SNOWDAY!!” This was expected from my preschool-teaching roommate but not the roommate who has a job quite similar to mine (hello desk). I eagerly checked my phone for hoping for a message: none. Email? None. BUMMER. Business as usual at my office. Jealousy percolated inside me as my roommates sat cozy with coffee, watching my usual morning fuck-I’m-10-minutes-late routine. I left the apartment positively green with envy. Which promptly turned white as I stepped out on the street.  Everything was white.

25 minutes and one snow effected subway ride later I was at work, soggy and sulky grumble grumble everyone-has-the-day-off-but-me grumble. This mood, much like the weather, saw no signs of clearing until 6pm in the evening. By 2:30 I was still grumbling, sitting at my desk, and drafting the first paragraph of this post when I casually mentioned a couple letters I needed to take to the post office, how I was thinking I’d wait until the end of the day and drop them off on my way home. Which turned out to be a BRILLIANT move because I was then told to do it now- leave early, right then and there early. Lovely!

Stepping outside the building, with my brand-new I-got-out-early! gumption, the snow had a different look to it. Flakes were still falling but sun was peaking through the clouds, glittering on the drifts banking the sidewalks. With the weekend now staring me in the face it looked beautiful. I walked to the post office as promised. The streets were slush, like a snow cone you’re having trouble finishing. My Uggs (what kind of cliché would I be if I didn’t wear Uggs?) were soaked through in a few blocks. I finished at the post office and made the fool hardy decision to go on a mission. The sun is out, I haven’t seen it in months, my feet are wet- it’s all impaired my better judgment.

The mission? To find waterproof boots.  Completely practical. Almost a necessity considering the state of the streets and my feet. I’ll pop in a store or 2, get a pair that are reasonably cute or at least not hideous and then journey on home.  Seems genius really. First 2 stores have nothing remotely waterproof. Third is way out of my budget. I make my way sloshing up Broadway. It feels like an adventure, an expedition through urban Everglades. The streets are streams at best, swamps at worst. Every curb is a challenge as this is where the melted snow pools and if you’re really unlucky, where ice forms. Pedestrians form clusters at the curb, offering swears or giggles at absurdity and the difficulty of crossing the street. The world is strictly divided- those wearing water proof boots exuding confidence and fearlessness and those with out: timid and cautious, unsure of their footing.

I stopped at over 6 stores, all populated by people on the same mission as me. Shoe stores with water proof boots are getting out of the red today. Those without kicking themselves, really shooting themselves in the foot. At long-last I accomplished my goal. I now own silver with red accents rain boots. I put them on the moment the sales woman swiped my debit card and my persona immediately changed. Out on the streets I felt dry, warm, ready to take on any crosswalk.

Over confident it turns. Waterproof maybe, ice proof not at all. My  mission may be complete but before my walk is over I lose my footing and wipe out, my butt coming down hard in snow. Fortunately I’m young and resilient. Fortunately I missed a puddle. Fortunately little is bruised but my pride.

Oh winter, will you and I ever be friends?

from a Craigslist ad:

Free Snow!

Free Snow: feel free to come over and remove as much as you want off my driveway.

  • Location: Yorktown Heights * it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Enlarged Prostate Behind the Desk

My official title is “Administrative Assistant” (yeck) and the tasks that go with that are exactly the ones you would expect. Data entry, answering phones, composing letters, memos, reports, sorting mail, etc, etc. When Mr. Big Boss Man (BBM) is in the building, I can expect a flashback to eras past. He’ll hand me a yellow sheet with his difficult scrawl and request I type it up for him. Not exactly a difficult task, but one rife with minor but crucial questions: Is that an M or an N? I could greatly improve the structure of that sentence, should I bother? What the fuck would I do without spell check?

On this visit I’m handed several sheets to “type up”. I narrowly avoid a sigh as I close twitter, blogroll, gmail, facebook, etc and open Microsoft Word. I glance at the sheets ripped from a legal pad. Double take. I peer closely at the words. There’s no mistaking the words and phrases popping out at me:

I had an infection and was unable to urinate.

…my enlarged prostate…

Unable to properly urinate, visiting the bathroom eight times during the day, and another six times interrupting my sleep…

I’m supposed to type THIS up? WHY is he asking me to do such a thing? Is this a cry for HELP? How the HELL am I supposed to react to this? If there is anything I can do to help you prostate Mr. BBM, please let me know. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.?

If I had ever visited my university career center would they have taught me how to behave in this situation? I just closed twitter/g-chat/facebook, I can’t even seek advice from my fellow office-job-working friends!

And so I did nothing. I pretended I was a machine typing out but not comprehending meaning. By the time he left on Friday, I had made not one single out of the ordinary comment, about his health or otherwise. I didn’t so much as give a meaningful look.

I can’t help but wonder (ha ha), was this a test and did I pass or fail?

Beating the Winter Blues (the Battle Continues)

I’m avoiding calling my mother. I haven’t spoken to her in weeks. I can not bear the thought of listening to the unnecessary, down right cruel information she will regale me with if I pick up the phone. The cherry blossoms are in bloom! It was 68 degrees today! Baby birds and bunnies! Tulips! Rainbows! Sunshine and blue skies! The sort of thing I just can NOT handle right now.

This is easily the most difficult time of year for me. It is solidly Spring in San Francisco but here in New York a persistent layer of snow covers the ground. And it’s not melting anytime soon. You can just make out the hint of buds on trees but they’re just a tease. It will be many weeks before any actual green appears. After this many winters I finally have no delusions that spring starts in March. Not around here anyway. So I’m counting the days until April and avoiding spring-happy San Franciscans. And continuing the battle against seasonal depression.

Eating is more fun in the winter. Do you agree? There is something so satisfying about putting hot food in your otherwise freezing cold body.

Warm me up and fill me up in NYC.

I love soup. Hydrates, fills you up, millions of different kinds and preparations. Makes you feel immediately warm and toasty. It’s the ultimate cliché comfort: chicken noodle soup. Mmm-mmm good. But soup in July? Not the same feel good effect.  So I’d better enjoy my soup fix before the weather warms up!

Asian noodle soup is one of the few things I will crave. Mee Noodle Shop is a quick 10 minute walk from my house. And they deliver- in the case of blizzard or sickness.  You pick the kind of noodles you want, they have 8 kinds, and for 7-9 bucks you get a huge bowl full of any and all the meats and veggies you could want. I usually get 2 meals and a warm happy feeling that well lasts me the 13 blocks home.

Hot chocolateis to winter what ice cream is to summer. The perfect sweet pick-me-up, Starbucks will do in a pinch, as I’ve mentioned before. But when it gets to February, it’s time to pull out the big guns. Something City Bakery understands. This February (right now!!) is their 18th Annual Hot Chocolate Festival, every day featuring different awesomeness (Darkest Dark Hot Chocolate is today…I want to leave work and go right now!) or unusual-ness (missed Tropical Hot Chocolate last week, Sunken Treasure Hot Chocolate coming up on the 21st. Can you imagine what those taste like?) I haven’t been yet, and so far it’s the only reason I’m not wishing February ended tomorrow!

I’ve also been seduced by the cuteness of Lily O’Briens Cafe. It’s right next to Bryant Park. The roomie and I almost drowned our sorrows there, after missing Bryant Park Ice Skating (which closed January 24th when winter had only just gotten serious. SO DUMB), but changed route at the last-minute. So this place is on my list.

Of course if you’re looking for a hot drink and you live here and you’ve gotten this far into this post, you’ve probably been to Alice’s Tea Cup. It’s the New York cute tea place. The ambiance is great- everything envelopes you in cute and cozy when you sit down. The feeling only intensifies as you open the menu which overwhelms you with choice. Pick any pot of tea and 2 scones (I’m in love with their pumpkin scones) and its a perfect $10 treat to share with a friend.

One appreciable thing about winter vs. summer, you get a considerably higher bang for your rent buck. In the summer no one stays inside in New York. The winter is a different story. Especially if you like your roommates. I look forward to cozy nights at home. We’ll pick up a gallon of spiced cider at the neighborhood year-round farmer’s market and 1 or 2 not-stocked ingredients and spend the night sipping hot cider and baking muffins- from scratch if ambitious, a Trader Joe’s mix if we’re not. With the smell of banana-oat muffins, the warmth generated by the oven, (maybe an episode of Sex and the City), slippers, and my 2 best friends, I can look  out the window at snow falling and think “Winter is beautiful.”

Beating the Winter Blues

How do I like living New York City? I love walking every where, every day sites on the streets, street fairs, Central Park, warm nights, roof top bars, biking along the river, slightly experimental fashion, side walk cafes… Sensing a theme here? I LOVE living in New York. In the summer (and the months surrounding summer). The other 5 months of the year…well, “love” is a strong word.

This is my 6th East Coast winter. Do they ever get easier? While in college I managed to avoid a huge chunk of January, extending my Winter Break, home in San Francisco, well into the late teens. Since graduation my winter res pit has been short indeed- five little days home for Christmas. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, many people get no glimmer of warm weather for the whole season, never have. Really makes me wonder why they put Christmas in December. That’s just the beginning of winter! After Christmas there’s little to look forward too, the magic is gone, and it only gets colder. We cling to the stupid winter holidays: Groundhog’s Day (did you hear about the controversy yesterday? I’m on Team Chuck, and you should be too), Valentine’s Day and Saint Patrick’s Day, which really provide little comfort unless you’re a groundhog, part of a couple, or Irish/alcoholic. The cold, lack of color, fierce wind, and freezing temperatures do their best to wreck havoc on my spirit (and my skin). So what’s a California Girl to do? Fight back. I’ve built up an arsenal against the Winter Blues.

My mother doesn’t usually worry about me (openly anyway). She knows I’m a big girl with 23 years of gathering street smarts. The only time I ever got “I’m worried about you in big New York City” phone calls was last winter. It’s a huge New York cliché that everyone here wears black, and nothing but. It’s a cliché I must defy when it’s already colorless outside. My mother worried I’d get mugged due to my vibrant show of color in a sea of black; my winter coat for my first 5 winters was bright pink.

The only way anyone recognized me around  my college campus was because of this coat. It was “my thing” and there was no way I was retiring “my thing” to join the sea of black. Mom. It’s “my thing”. No one’s going to mug me because of my coat! Really! But by the end first February in NYC I was faced with a good news/bad news situation. The good news: I had not so much as witnessed a mugging.   Bad news: my coat was nearing unwearable. It was showing signs of being loved too much the 5 years of wear, becoming threadbare in key places. Then the front zipper broke, the last straw . To my chagrin and my mother’s pleasure, I retired my little pink coat. Unable to find a bright color coat I liked, I settled for a gray replacement. I found it at a thrift store, the fit was great, and it was really cheap compared to retail coats I only kinda liked anyway. Some compromise had to be made and so I gave in to gray.

Out on the streets in my new coat I was protected against the cold but the gray threatened to swallow me up. Without my little pink coat I lost my first line of defense against the bleakness. I tried to replace it with little pink gloves and a little pink hat but I was still missing something. Fortunately the colors of spring arrived soon enough and made everything right, putting the issue off until this winter, when colorlessness took over the city again and I was once again lost in the gray.

Until I found this bag.

Embroidered with bright, colorful flowers this bag just screams “Fuck you winter! You can’t bring me down!” I love it like I love New York in the summer. I carry it like a badge, a shield against the Winter Blues (gray really). So far Winter Blues: 0, Me: 1!

Upcoming: Eats to keep your insides warm!

Bad Date and Everyone (But Him) Knows It

You know you’re on a Bad Date when you’re not exactly having fun. Conversation is strained, you are not quite connecting with this person. At best. At worst? You’re repulsed, offended, nauseous, questioning your sexual orientation. You know it’s bad.

Another way to know you’re on a Bad Date? You’re sitting at the bar and the woman seated near you is getting up to leave. As she puts on her coat she taps your shoulder.

“Is this yours?” she asks you, indicating the floor area between your chair and hers. You turn towards her, searching the ground. “I don’t see anything, where could it possibly be?” You ask yourself. Before you fully realize there is nothing fell, not even a napkin, the woman hisses in your ear. “Honey, it’s not going anywhere. Leave now. This guy is just going to bore you all night.” Making her way to the door, she gives you a knowing look. Her eyes speak the wisdom of the decade of experience she has on you. The subtext of that look could fill a hundred pages.

You stare at her with bewilderment and amazement. So this is what it feels like to be speech-less.

She leaves. And you? You continue the damn charade she started. Peering under the chair, hunting for the phantom scarf while thinking, “Aaaw fuck, did the guy hear that? Agh, this is Awkward, capital A.” You’re 90% sure he heard the whole thing. He even says, “What was that about? Was I boring her?” “Nah,” you say feigning ignorance, “She was just letting me know about my scarf!” You’re probably not convincing, but damn it if you didn’t try.

lizlemonsandwich

Instead of using this perfect exit line, “Yeah, actually she’s right, I’m gonna go”, it turns out you’re an actress who hates conflict more than she loves dramatic exits. Something you didn’t realize until this very second. So you end up staying for another half hour. So no one goes home with their self esteem in shreds.  You’ve always been bad at ending things. You’ve always been too nice? Due to lack of wisdom and experience? Maybe, but you’re okay with it. Better Too Nice than Too Jaded. At 23 anyway.

Apparently some New Yorkers see it as their Civic Duty to inform you when you’re on a Bad Date.

My response in retrospect? 80% a genuine New York: “Who the fuck asked you?”

20%: “Thank You Phantom Scarf Lady”.

Let’s Talk Shop

They say New York is a shopper’s paradise. We’ve got the shops. It’s an image you think of when you think of NYC, women strolling down the sidewalks, lux (string handles, no plastic) shopping bags adorning her arms.

After my post featuring a little piece of consumerism (proclaiming I “NEED”ed it no less) it may come as no surprise that I rather like shopping. Fashion interests me for some reason. I’ve put thought into what to wear since the tender age of 5. I was the kid who refused to wear pants (haha, thus this was inevitable) and would only leave the house in a skirt or dress. I really developed my own signature style when from age 9-10 I demanded my hair be put into braids every day. Yes, claiming to have had a sense of style when my mother was still in charge of buying my clothes may seem silly, but I swear it’s true.  Now, after an awkward adolescence- I was one of those kids who struggled to fit in a mold that I just didn’t belong in- of androgynous clothes and dying my hair pink or navy blue depending on my mood, I’m back to my roots. My hair is back to blonde, magenta and purple are easily my favorite colors, and skirts/dresses make up the majority of my wardrobe. Though some things, like my preference for bunnies! and kitties! adorning my chest, I’ve left in the past (phew).

So am I like a kid in a candy shop here in this “shopper’s paradise”, Fashion Capitol USA? I’m I spending my weekends arms adorned in colorful cute bags? Not quite. While I do love the gorgeously detailed window displays of Bergdorf Goodman, I’m too intimidated to actually enter the store. Someday I’ll put on dark sunglasses and just go in, I promise. While I’d love to witness some part of fashion week, I don’t own the key or have the connections to grant me access to the Bryant Park tents. While I’d love to buy pretty clothes, everything in NYC is insanely expensive and I’m a starving artist. It’s always something in this city, isn’t it? I’m too broke to even go bargain hunting in this city, that’s how bad it is.

Granted, I am extremely spoiled. The thrift and vintage stores I grew up in are unique to San Francisco. That’s my shoppers paradise. In New York “vintage” is synonymous with “special”, “one of a kind”, “expensive”. “Trendy”. Yep, vintage has been fashionable for a while. Especially in the recession. Thank god. The huge majority of my wardrobe, over 2/3 I’d venture, once belonged to someone else. The change in attitude towards second-hand changed my life. I went from kinda lame to kinda stylish almost overnight. My specialty is the $5 skirt and the $10 (or less) dress. Yes, I’m one of those people who takes pride that her entire outfit cost less than your pants. Yes, I have frugality ingrained into my being.

So what’s such a person to do in Expensive Capitol USA? For starters, I’ve embraced the yearly shopping spree. Most people do this in September, I’m forced to spree for my self when everyone normal is buying gifts for others- ie when I go home for Christmas. It’s a system that’s served me well for two years. It turns out there are cheap things to do in NYC if you look hard enough.

MyOpenBar.com

Lists all open bars in the city on any given night. Open bar=free alcohol. When not abused, one of the few things that helps nurse the wallet wounds cause by the typical $8 + cocktail price of most any Manhattan bar.

Having a Student ID

Pretending I’m still a student is my key to cheap fun in NY. I still look like a student and my ID says NOTHING about the time period I attended college. As a result I can go to plays, opera, museums, you name it, for a student price. This is the only way Broadway is affordable. Off Broadway for less than a movie 59E59 Theatres, any live performance for less than a movie at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, $200 Metropolitain Opera seats for $25

Metropolitan Opera

There’s an even better opera deal- $20 orchestra seats. You don’t need any kind of ID, just extra hours to wait in a line as they’re in HIGH demand.

Broadway Shows

Most have some sort of cheap deal- Standing Room Only (SRO), Student Rush, Ticket Lottery, I never pay more than $30 for a ticket, you don’t have to either.

HipTix

Roundabout Theatre Company produces quite a few Broadway shows. If you’re 18-35 you can join their HipTix program (for free) and get $20 tix in advance.

Public Library

Sometimes I forget how awesome the library is. I think most New Yorkers do. Free access to any CD, DVD, book, exhibits, sheet music, etc etc THE LIBRARY IS AMAZING.

Having Friends

Connections: hands down the best way ever to get free stuff. I do have a couple of these, and the number is only going to grow.

I know I’m missing loads of things. The Met, Natural History Museum, and many others are pay-what-you-wish, which is awesome if you don’t mind dirty looks. Lot’s of museums have Free Days, but that makes them annoyingly crowded. This list is sure to expand. Especially in the summer (Shakespeare in the Park!! PARKS IN GENERAL!)…winter is harder for the frugal and free skating in Bryant Park ends January 24th.