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.


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.

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.


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.

Time is of the Essense: East vs. West

About once a week some one will say to me:
Oh you’re from San Francisco? What’s the difference between the East Coast and West Coast?

Presently my answer is to yell “I don’t want to talk about it!” wrap my down parka tighter around myself, pulling my scarf up to my eyes. A gesture to illustrate the most obvious answer (WINTER) and deter the speaker from continuing such banal small talk.

That was a bit harsh. I imagine I wouldn’t dislike this question so much if I had a good answer for it. Any answer I think of is vague, which isn’t surprising because so is the initial question. Let’s be honest, when a New Yorker says “East Coast” he means “New York City”. To give a logical answer requires detail, out of the range of small talk. Maybe if I just outline it here, I’ll have the perfect answer: “You can read all about it on my blog!” (Confession: I have actually used this phrase in real life. The reaction is always “…” which forces me to then recount the story written here in a much less witty and insightful manner. Sigh.)

So the most obvious difference I notice in my daily routine? A trivial change in vernacular. West coasters wait “in” line. They only go “online” to use the internet. East coasters (and by that I mean New Yorkers) spend a lot more time “on” lines than West coasters do “in” lines- any relation to the lingo? Maybe…

New Yorkers are obsessed with time. We’re always too busy. There are never enough hours in a day.  Despite our many 24/7 locations, the subway that never stops running, and bars that never close before 4AM. Hold up a New Yorker- walk too slow, chat with a cashier, stand on the wrong side of an escalator, delay a subway- and they will, at the very least, give you a dirty look. More often than not they’ll say something dirty to your face. Myself included (I favor loud sighs and muttering to myself, but admittedly I have lapsed into crazy ranting after waiting 20 + minutes for a subway.) Similarly, being late for an appointment in NY is likely a deal breaker. My habitual 10 minutes tardiness? Unacceptable.

In San Francisco no one thinks twice if you’re 5 minutes late. You can literally, because the temperate climate always for year-round blooms, take time to smell the roses. San Franciscans value time as much as New Yorkers, but they aren’t obsessed with it. Each city has a tangible energy that is hard to describe. Going home for Christmas from NY, SF felt relaxed, calm, carefree. Lazy even. Perfect for a vacation.

At this point in my life, I think I prefer hustle and bustle and constant stimulation.

In (East coast) college we would have “Who Is Busier” contests all the time. Student 1: “Omg I have two 15 page papers, one 5 pager, 1 lab and 3 tests all due on Friday!” Student 2: “Well I have three 16 page papers, two 4 pagers, 3 tests, and 5 scenes all due on Friday” Student 1 & 2: “OMG I’m sooo stressed out!” I hated these contests.  I thought they’d stop with college. Wishful thinking. I still have friends give me run downs of their lives where the subtext just reeks of “I am sooo much busier than you! My time is so much more valuable so you’re even lucky I’m talking to you right now!” Ok really? We’re ALL busy so I don’t need to hear it. Similar to when someone you’re dating feeds you “I’m really busy these days.” line. As ego bruising as it would be, I truly would prefer “I’m not really interested.” This is a little pet peeve of mine. I’m beginning to fear this may just be human nature an I shant escape it with maturity.

Another huge difference between New York and San Francisco? Minimum wage. San Francisco’s is a respectable $9.79. One might almost-sorta-not-really be able to live on that. New York’s is $7.25. Insane considering how inflated everything is here. As they say, time is money- it only makes sense New Yorkers treat it like a precious commodity.

Get It?

Will someone please buy me this necklace? Don't you agree I NEED it?
Will someone please buy me this necklace? Don’t you agree I NEED it?

After Trader Joe’s Boy revealed that he’d read my blog, he looked deep into my eyes and said with nothing but sincerity: “You are not a cliché. You are a unique wonderful person. Little self esteem issue, huh? Trust me. I know people who are clichés. You are not one of them.” I had no idea how to react to this. Had I not just broken up with him, I think that declaration would’ve been enough to seal the deal.

Another reason to need the above necklace, I can wear it on a first date and find out immediately if they have a prayer of “getting it”. (Ha ha double entendre!)

I’ve never had someone “not get me” so completely. Well, not to my knowledge. My humor is often dry as toast (other times it tries too hard- I’m aware). I’d venture as far as saying most of my friends have had a moment “Wait, stop, are you joking? I can’t tell!” I say credit goes to my Theatre BA and natural feminine mystique (“Wait, are you kidding? I can’t tell!”).

If you’re reading this, I imagine there’s a good chance you get it. I thank you for that. As a little token of thanks, I’m going to give you more frequent reading material (maybe you noticed this is my 3rd post this week!) Given that you “get it” I especially value your opinion. Therefore I ask: Do you appreciate small posts such as this? I’m conflicted with quality (as in sporadic but quality stories) vs. quantity (more posts…likely ranging in quality). I’m so accustomed to 1,000 worders, brevity feels weird to me. I’m also afraid to write meaningless tripe. Guess that makes me a non-cliché blogger.

I’ve changed the appearance around here a bit too. Like I said, I value your opinion, so tell me what you think. Really, I just want to make sure everyone’s met the “Leave a Comment” tab. Hey, maybe I do have plenty “cliché blogger” in me after all!

Get Outta My Pants!

The subway is many New Yorkers’ 2nd home. It shows. We sleep on the subway, eat on the subway, put make up on, make money, make out, change babies, finish novels, puke, etc (guess which ones on this list I haven’t done!). Ask most anyone who lives in New York, they likely have a harrowing story (or ten) about something inappropriate/gross/bizarre/hilarious that they saw on the subway.

This past weekend I decided to take my pants off on the subway.

Yes, you read that right. Yes, I’m fully serious.

No, I’m not original.

Sunday was NYC’s annual No Pants Subway Ride.

No doubt you’ve heard of it but in case you missed the memo on this world-wide phenomenon (people participated in 41 countries!) here’s some press: The event was started in NYC by our resident troupe Improv Everywhere (check out their website, it’s fun) whose mission statement is to “cause scenes of chaos and joy in public places” like spontaneous musicals and throwing surprise wedding receptions.

Really, this news segment can give you the perfect 3 minute summary (that’s what news segments do best after all, I’m much better at wordy blog posts.)

ARVE Error: no id set

See me? I’m in that crowd! (I don’t think I made the video though, I can’t find me.)

Riders on the subway weren’t too fazed. It was a little disappointing. NY subway riders are so jaded they don’t even blink when hundreds of people pull down their pants.  Plus the pants-less easily out numbered the pant-wearing. When we got off the subway in Union Square there was a moment of “am I really going to go outside (IN JANUARY) with no pants?” Answer: YES. It wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. Organizers of the event met us with pamphlets COULD PANTS BE RIGHT FOR YOU? ARE YOU READY TO ACCEPT PANTS INTO YOUR LIFE? MISSING SOMETHING? ASK ME ABOUT PANTS!

The outside reactions were much better. Strangers on the street, easily tourists, “So how did you find out about this event? Why aren’t you wearing pants?” Oh you know, don’t you ever have those days where you wake up and just don’t really feel like putting on pants?

We brought our pants-lessness to a neighborhood bar where there were a whole bunch of fratty people watching the playoffs. The “Um okay….?” uttered by a girl clearly upset that her cleavage was being rivaled made it hard for me to keep a straight face. A man wearing pants sits next to me as we are just about to leave. “Ok. So tell me why you aren’t wearing pants? What’s the deal?” Oh my God! I forgot my pants, ok? Why do people keep mentioning it! I was hoping no one would notice! This is so embarrassing! With that I get up from my seat, grab my friends, and leave the bar. I love dramatic exits.

Why did I decide to take my pants off on the subway? Come on, if there’s something that society forbids you to do but on one day allows,  you do it! I knew it would be a funny experience. I also love the feeling  of being united towards a goal. The group events I go to usually have the goal to create change. Races, protests, even parades. The No Pants Subway Ride had all the comradery that’s amazing at Gay Pride or the AIDS Walk but there was no element of sadness, of fighting the fight. This was pure, unadulterated silliness.

Or maybe I did it to protest winter. Running around Union Square in my little pink underwear, laughing in the face of the teen degree weather I felt like I can beat the winter blues. That the days of running around in a bikini bottom (very similar to underwear, see?) aren’t all that far away. That’s life-blood to my chapped lips, scarf encased face, numb hands.

Or maybe I did it because, as we all know, I not so secretly aspire to be Carrie Bradshaw.