Saturday was perfection. I took a solo trip about an hour and a half upstate to Storm King Art Center. Storm King is a beautiful parkland and outdoor art exhibit. I love New York but I was really starting to feel cooped up in all the concrete. I’ve been itching to get out of the city for a while now, and this day-trip was just what I needed. I mentioned in my Washington Sq. Park post that I have a goal to take 3 small trips this year, and I’d heard about Storm King years ago, and finally decided to go. I don’t have a car, but luckily Storm King and Coach Short Line buses have partnered to offer a day-trip service that’s quite convenient. I’m so glad I went. The greenery, fresh air, and open landscapes were revitalizing. Even the weather was cooperating. It was probably the best day of the summer – mid-seventies to eighties, and the most glorious end-of-summer breezes. Everything felt peaceful and beautiful, and the giant sculptures were unexpected and added interest to the landscape. I think this is a visit that’s really best described in pictures, though, so here are my favorites from the day:
Ever since I moved to Manhattan, a little over a year ago, I’ve been hearing about the High Line. It’s become a common conversation in New York: “What did you do last weekend?” “Oh we got brunch, walked the High Line, it was really nice.” Somehow, though, I had never been. Well on Sunday, after a weekend spent indoors, I decided I was going to go and see what all the fuss was about.The High Line is a stretch of old railroad track running along the west side of Manhattan that connects the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and Hudson Yards. Trains ran along its tracks from 1934 to 1980, after which residents in the area (particularly Mr. Peter Obletz) fought for it not to be destroyed. After decades of work, in 2009, the organization “Friends of the High Line” opened the first section to the public. Today the High Line is a mile-and-a-half of walkway surrounded by plants, the city, and quirky pieces of artwork. It’s situated in quite a fancy part of town (ads for $20 million residences and the offices of Giorgio Armani line the walkway) but it’s an area for all New Yorkers (there are free events constantly and even a play area for children).
It was 93 degrees that afternoon in New York, so I probably could have chosen a more comfortable day to visit, but I kind of had that mentality that if I didn’t go then it was never going to happen. Surprisingly, even though it was swelteringly hot, the walkway was crowded almost the whole way through. Luckily, the creators of this little city garden have thoughtfully incorporated water fountains and sitting areas all along the path to help you cool off.
I had expected the High Line to be another little oasis. However, unlike Washington Sq. Park, the creators of the High Line haven’t made a bubble within the city so much as they’ve made a garden that grows within and among it. As you walk through, the city leaps out at you as much as the plants and artwork do. The High Line has been constructed the way it has very consciously. Rather than tearing the old railroad down completely to build something new, Friends of the High Line focused on an eco-friendly approach by simply repurposing what was already there to create something new. As a result, touches of the old rail system can be seen throughout the walk.
The art installations along the pathway incorporate the city and rail themes as well. Embedded amongst the greenery, they’re often easy to miss. Here are a few that stood out to me:
The High Line is primarily a bit of green space in the city. Various trees, shrubs, self-seeded grasses, and flowers grow all over it. A built-in irrigation system helps the plants retain water (and helps guests cool off like in that picture of my feet above). When I visited, the plants were at the peak of summer vibrancy and already starting to sense the coming change of season.
My favorite part of my visit to the High Line actually came on Tuesday night when I went back to look at the night sky. I have a slight obsession with the night sky – it’s one of the things I miss the most from growing up in the suburbs – so I was thrilled to learn that the High Line hosts the Amateur Astronomers Association every Tuesday night from dusk till 11pm. The astronomers bring their telescopes and show whomever is interested what is going on in the sky that night. When I went, there were long lines already formed to see Saturn and the moon.
All in all, the High Line makes for a nice quick walk in the city. It’s not quite the oasis I thought it would be, but it definitely has lots of interesting things to look at and talk about.
Have you ever been to the High Line? What are your favorite walks in your city or town? Photographers – do any of you do night-sky photography? What equipment do you use and what are your tips and tricks? Let me know in the comments below!
Some quick notes before we begin:
- If you haven’t yet read my post on meeting Dulce, I recommend you pop over and read it first (just click here!) and then pop back over here to read this book review 🙂
- Also, if you haven’t read the book, this post does technically contain spoilers, although it isn’t a story-book, and I believe it’s still completely worth reading in Dulce’s own words, even if you do read this first.
- There is a giveaway at the end of this post so be sure to read all the way through!
I’ve never been a fan of “self-help” books. I know that a lot of people (including some of my family members) are fans, but whenever I’ve tried to read one, I couldn’t help but have cynical, snarky thoughts pop into my head every time I read a line like “with hard work you can do anything!” or “everyone has fears”. The Sweet Life is the first one that I’ve managed to read all the way through and actually really enjoy. In fact, as I read through it, I thought I would probably like to refer back to it again in time and made notes on Post-its – something I NEVER do.
What made the difference for me is that The Sweet Life is not just a self-help book. It’s an autobiography. Dulce tells her life story in the pages of this book, from her joyful early childhood in Michoacán, Mexico with her parents and three sisters, to their terrifying journey across the US border, to her insecure high school years when she acted like someone she didn’t want to be, to her days learning to appreciate discipline in the US army, and finally to her journey as a beauty vlogger on Youtube. (Just typing it out makes me realize what a full life that is already!) While the book certainly has those clichés, “Success doesn’t happen overnight” (pg. 44), “If you rely on others to provide you with confidence, you’ll never learn to provide it yourself,” (pg. 121), they don’t feel like platitudes because they come only after she’s told a story from her life that illustrates it perfectly. It’s clear that she hasn’t just picked up catchy phrases and put them in a book. She’s brought together the major life lessons she’s learned from every part of her life.
I mentioned in my post about meeting Dulce that I’ve followed the trajectory of her Youtube career almost since the beginning, and that I admire that after seven years and great success she’s managed to stay so real. In The Sweet Life, Dulce talks openly about trying to compete with other youtubers, being seduced by the prospect of brand deals, and getting doses of reality from her brutally honest viewers. It showed me that being true to yourself (which first requires figuring out who you are) isn’t always easy for anyone.
One of the most poignant parts of Dulce’s book for me was when she talked about being shy. She talked about putting on a “veneer” when she met new people because “people gravitate toward outgoing, over-the-top personalities” (pg. 69). Her habit of having super-bubbly first meetings with people while shaking inside is something I can relate to completely. I really like meeting new people and learning about them – that’s why I started this blog, after all – but at the same time, it scares me. I’m always terrified of lulls in the conversation (when I’m sure whomever I’m talking to is itching to get out of my company), and as chatty as I can be, I usually like to keep the big things in my life to myself or within a very small, trusted group of friends. In fact, when meeting new people, even friends of friends, I’m usually the opposite of myself – very, very quiet. I don’t think I ever thought about this cohesively until I read Dulce’s experience of the same. She’s managed to find a balance of allowing herself time to settle into a new group of people and learning to “relax and tak[e] a bit of friendly initiative” (pg. 71) that I hope, now that I have been able to think concretely about this, I can come to myself.
I really liked the “behind-the-scenes” view of youtubing that Dulce gave. Youtubers typically haven’t talked extensively about the kind of work that goes into doing it as a career and even less about the money, perks, and business deals they receive. Youtube notoriously hasn’t allowed its partners to disclose how much money they make off of it’s ad-based revenue-share program. This culture is slowly shifting a bit with Youtube becoming more mainstream and the media becoming ever more interested. (Recently, there was a bit of drama in the Youtube world when its most popular content creator, PewDiePie, had his income revealed by a news article. You can read this article and watch his response to find out more.) Dulce writes in her book about how to build a brand that’s based on yourself (she keeps a list of every major and minor milestone so she has something to talk about whenever anyone asks), when she realized that she could make money off of Youtube (two fellow vloggers pointed it out to her), and how much she initially made. She also writes about her video creation process, the disciplied schedule she keeps for herself, and her husband Jesse’s role in the business. All of this again makes Dulce seem very real. She’s not just some lucky overnight success – if you’ve followed her on Youtube or if you read this book, you’ll be able to understand the exact journey she took and realize it’s one that really anyone can emulate if they have the same dedication.
To conclude, Dulce’s book was definitely written for her viewers. It has anecdotes she’s touched upon in videos and the writing-style is such that I could imagine her saying the words in one of her vlogs. However, I do genuinely believe that anyone with a goal to work creatively can benefit from reading this book. Her exact experiences are unique but the emotions she has felt and the lessons she has learned are relatable. No matter where you are in your career – whether you’re still wavering between pursuing your creative dreams or choosing to work somewhere “practical” or you’ve already established yourself and have amassed a large number of followers – I believe this book will be reaffirming if not helpful to you. I highly recommend you check it out!
Have you read The Sweet Life? What did you think? Do you read other “self-help” books? Let me know in the comments below!
Giveaway: I bought The Sweet Life on Amazon but was lucky enough to get a free copy when I met Dulce at her launch. So now, I thought I would share the wealth and give away a copy of the book along with a couple of Dulce’s favorite beauty products. To enter, all you have to do is follow this blog, “like” this post, and comment below letting me know your thoughts!. I will choose a winner in a week and contact you when I do! Good luck! 🙂
Youtubers & Money: If you’re interested in finding out a bit more, Shane Dawson made a video recently called “HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOUTUBERS MAKE” (strong language warning) that spells it out pretty clearly and also talks about the new app “Vessel” which has a slightly different payment system for video content.
I’ve wanted to travel for as long as I can remember but I haven’t yet been able to do it on my own. One of my goals for this year is to “take an epic trip for myself” (which to me means travel abroad on my own) and to take 3 smaller trips or days out with friends. So far, I’ve just taken one smaller trip with my friends to Cape Cod, and I’m in the process of planning a couple more upcoming adventures.
So what does this have to do with Washington Square Park? Well, in thinking about all these trips, the travel bug has hit me. I can’t quite jet off whenever I wish, so I’ve been looking for places in my own city to explore more thoroughly. I’ve done a bit of that this summer, exploring the sweetshops on the Upper East Side with Sorted Food, but I wanted to go beyond eateries. My friend Radhika suggested Washington Sq. Park. I was skeptical because I’d been there before, and while it’s pretty, I didn’t think there would be much I could say about it. However, last Sunday I took her advice, and found that it’s a treasure trove of interesting characters.
As I mentioned, the park is beautiful. It has plenty of green spaces for people to hang out in the shade or the sunshine. It’s a throughway for a lot of foot traffic with the West Village and Union Square within walking distance. The park is well-sculpted and made up of a variety of smaller, interesting areas.
One of my favorite things about the park is the beautiful trees. There are all different kinds – strong oaks and maples, mulberries, a huge sycamore, and something graceful and sweeping that I think might be a willow. (Help me out, nature-lovers!) Radhika mentioned to me that cherry blossoms bloom there in the Spring – I definitely want to come see those next year.
Amidst all this beauty, was a melting pot of people enjoying the sunshine. The park is layer after layer of subcultures, jarringly juxtaposed, but somehow fitting together, very much like the bizarre jigsaw puzzle that is New York City itself. Framing the park is the stately architecture. The most iconic piece is, of course, the grand archway. However, there is also a stunning fountain just in front of it, and several statues peppered along the walkways.
The park isn’t that large, so at any point you could hear two or three musical acts floating through the air towards you. They ranged from dignified classical musicians to college-aged bands to people whose story it was impossible to guess at when you looked at them.
The park is also used for modern-day political and social activism. On the day I was there, Christian volunteers in bright yellow shirts were asking people for blood donations (you can see them in several of the pictures). Joggers tried to avoid (or in some cases, purposely didn’t) running across chalk drawings in support of presidential candidates. Because of the beauty and grandeur of the park, there was an air of natural rebellion or amplification to each of these statements.
Washington Square Park doubles as a sort of academic quad for New York University. NYU buildings surround the four sides of the park, including one block that is mostly taken up by Bobst Library.
Ironically, just outside the library was a wizened old man selling books that looked just as old. He freaked out a bit when he thought I took his picture. (To be honest, I did, but when he got upset, I deleted it.) He wasn’t the only whimsical character in the park that day, though.
Thanks to NYU, the streets that border the park are beautiful and interesting as well. It’s a quick and fascinating walk to go around just looking at the doors on all of the buildings.
Finally, my favorite part of any park is seeing the little children playing. This is especially true in New York, where there is limited space for running around. Once again, though, NYC remains true to form, creating a little oasis within the metropolis, just like with its street fairs. I love that within this small park, the city has created a few different play areas geared towards kids.
Thus concludes my Washington Square Park adventure! NYC people – have you explored this park? What other areas of the city do you love to visit? Let me know where I should go next! Everyone – have you ever tried being a “tourist” in your own city? What was the experience like? Let me know in a comment!
I’ve talked about Youtube a little bit on this blog before (check out my post on Sorted Food), but I haven’t really gone into why I love it so much. I think it’s an incredible platform that’s taken its time coming into the mainstream (in fact, many would say it’s still not quite there), but has somehow, quietly, become one of most powerful messaging services in our world today. Youtubers, at their best, are real people who talk directly to real people. They show who they are, share their interests, and get conversations going.
A prime example of this is Dulce Candy Ruiz. She started on Youtube as “DulceCandy87” in 2008, fresh out of a military tour in Iraq. She was one of the first of a large population of Youtubers known as “beauty gurus”, sharing tips and tutorials on how to apply makeup, do hairstyles, and put together outfits.
When I first discovered her, I was fascinated by the tutorials she and other girls were putting up. I learned so much about makeup just from watching them. As time passed, I felt like I got to know them better, and in my loneliest hours in college, I came to rely on their videos almost as friends. This sounds sad, but I think it’s actually a positive thing that has helped millions of viewers over the past 8-10 years. When I was at my lowest, I was able to watch people who were working hard every day to make their dreams come true and, slowly but surely, their dreams were actually coming true.
Dulce’s newest video: The Evolution of Dulce Candy | The Sweet Life
It was incredible. It really only struck me how long I’ve been watching her when I was there. I realized that I hardly watch her videos for make up tips anymore. Instead, my viewing interests have shifted to decor, filmmaking, and vlogs. However, I’ve continued to avidly follow Dulce because, as I mentioned to her, even as her filming, presentation, and editing quality has improved drastically with time, she still comes across as completely genuine. In fact, I think in some ways she seems more real now than she did 7 years ago. She speaks honestly about her failures and mistakes and explains how she had to change her mindset to overcome the roadblocks she put in her own way. It’s a powerful message for anyone, but I think it speaks to me especially because the biggest obstacle in my life is my tendency to internalize and overanalyze doubts other people have about me. Fear is a hard thing to overcome, but Dulce is an example of someone who has worked toward overcoming it little by little, year after year, (and continues to do so) to amazing success. One of the things she said was that “you can really achieve anything you want to achieve”, which sounds like a cliché, but when I look at the trajectory of her life and think about how she got to where she is today, it’s clear that there was nothing really involved besides her hard and continuous work.
One of the things I love about Dulce’s book tour is that she’s paired it with a sort of “good will” mission. At each book tour stop, she’s working with a local organization to do a bit of good in the area. For example, in New York, she had an event working with kids through the Police Athletic League on Monday. (I wanted to go but had to travel for business!) Her comment on it was, “I feel like if God blesses you with something, he does it for you to give back to people.”
When I got to speak to her for a few minutes, I told her how much I appreciated how real she is in her videos. I mentioned this blog and she immediately looked up from signing my book and said “oh wow! What was the inspiration for that?” I told her that a lot of it was about the things she’d talked about – overcoming fear – which in my case was connecting with new people and sharing my writing with others. She told me she’d read and follow when I sent her the link which was unexpected but so sweet. When I mentioned my blog, she could have just given the obligatory “oh send me a link” response, but instead she paused to have an actual conversation about it. That was pretty cool.
Do you watch Youtube? Have you gotten a chance to meet someone you truly admire? What was that experience like for you? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
I’m trying a new type of post today. I’ve done People I Met posts (obviously) and some Places I Went posts, and today I’m going to start a series called Books I Read. I’ll be writing about books I bought, books I’m starting, and my thoughts after I have read them.
I grew up loving reading and I’m constantly trying to make more space for it in my life, so I think this will be a good way to make me read more – especially if other people get involved! I have added the Goodreads widget on the right side so you can see what I am currently reading. When I finish a book, I will publish a post on my review of it. Typically I am reading 2-3 books at once. Right now, for example, I am listening to New York: The Novel as my slower, travel/ work read on Audible, while I am about to restart To Kill a Mockingbird again as my quick, bedtime read. I’m always looking for new things to read (fantasy, fiction, historical fiction, and non-fiction are all great) so please leave me your suggestions in the comments below!
Harper Lee’s second (secret) novel has just been released and it is a sequel to her acclaimed novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The new novel, Go Set a Watchman, centers on a 26-year-old Scout and an aging Atticus. I originally read To Kill a Mockingbird in middle school or high school and I remember instantly thinking of it as one of the best books I had ever read. The story made you think, the characters were likable, and the prose was extremely well-written. Harper Lee holds a special place for me because she has the same birthday as my grandfather (April 28, 1926) who is also an author and the first storyteller in my life. It has been a long time since I read TKAM, though, and although I want to dive into Go Set a Watchman, I have decided to quickly reread the original book first.
There has been a lot of controversy over Go Set a Watchman being published because Ms. Lee’s decision to publish the novel (which she had written long ago) came after decades of vowing never to publish another book, and after she suffered a debilitating stroke. What do you think of Harper-Collins going ahead and publishing the book? I think that even if Ms. Lee did not originally want to share this new picture of her iconic characters with a larger audience, it’s alright to share it with them now. It has been so long since TKAM was published and the image of those characters as they were in TKAM is so ingrained in readers’ heads that I feel like it will never leave. Reading GSAW will just be like a bonus, the way JK Rowling continues to provide additional information about the Harry Potter universe. (Obviously Ms. Lee is providing us with a whole new novel, but I think it’s the same idea.)
Are you planning on reading Go Set a Watchman? If so, let’s read it together! I am hoping to finish rereading TKAM by Friday the 24th (I’ll tweet when I do), and then I’ll start GSAW right away. Let me know if you’re reading with me below, and also leave your thoughts on these books and suggestions for what I should read next! Thanks! 🙂
I love that New York goes so out of its way to bring elements of rural life into its whirling metropolis. Whenever you look, especially in summer, there is a lush park, bustling farmer’s market, or vibrant street fair to be found, nestled right into those mad-dash streets. My favorite days in this city have been the ones when I stroll down the avenues, walking 50-80 blocks at a time, and just explore the things around me. I had one such excursion up Lexington Avenue this past weekend.
My journey actually started on the West Side, at Gotham West Market’s Blue Bottle Coffee, where I was meeting a friend for a drink. There, we discovered some free post-cards with a post-box and a sign with an offer to mail them for you. One of of my goals for this year is to send more snail-mail, so I really liked the idea. We each mailed a postcard, and I kept a couple more that I feel might have inspired the rest of my day.
I hadn’t explored Lexington Avenue in midtown too much at that point, so I decided to walk it. Right at the start of my journey, I discovered a new little Indian clothing store in Murray Hill called “Vintage India“. Most of the items were goods I would never bother buying in the US, since I can find more variety and cheaper prices in India, but the shop was colorful and fragrant and I was drawn in. (Plus it reminded me of a shop that we used to visit in college called Mexicali Blues, so there was a nostalgia factor.) I discovered a bin of $10 paayal (silver tinkling anklets) and was immediately sold.
From there, I kept walking up Lex, right into a street fair. I have been to several street fairs around the city, but I particularly liked this one because there was more than just food. The stalls all around me were selling jewelry, clothing, plants, and carpets – with a bit of imagination I could picture myself in a foreign marketplace, picking up things that I would have described as a child as “treasures”. I gave myself a cash budget for the day, and set off on my street fair adventure.
The first stall I came to had what seemed like hundreds of long, bronze-chained lockets hanging down from its railing.
When I looked closer, I realized they were clocks. I chose one with pretty engraving and bought it for $8. I love the look of pendants on long chains, and this piece felt timeless (no pun intended).
As I kept walking, I saw a few stalls with colorful cotton clothing. I am on the look out for comfortable, good quality but affordable harem pants, so I was intrigued. As I looked through the racks at one stall, some beautiful figurines caught my eye. I could instantly tell that they were from South Asia. I spoke to the seller, Anil, who confirmed that he was Nepali.
He showed me the various pieces he had depicting Hindu and Buddhist deities and we talked about his childhood in Darjeeling. In the end, I bought this beautiful Buddhist wall-hanging for $20.
Next, I spotted a $3 jewelry stall – how could I resist looking? I found these earrings and this locket amongst all the choices:
Finally, I decided I really wanted to look for something different that I would not normally buy. I had to walk for a bit longer, but I found a man who was selling beautiful plants.
I asked him what was required to take care of bonsai (I definitely do not have a green thumb) and how much they cost. I assumed it would be very complicated and expensive. However, the seller explained the care process to me – just submerging the roots in water 2-3 times a week and keeping in indirect sunlight – and sold me this Chinese elm for just $18.
The seller was so kind that as I was packing up my purchase, he told me to wait and brought me this gorgeous orchid for free (he gave me instructions on taking care of it too, of course!):
Days like these make me so happy because I feel like I can have an adventure right in my own city. It makes me want to discover what else New York has to offer and to go and explore other places the same way.
What’s the best adventure you’ve had in your city? How do you like to explore new places?