Station Eleven

Imagine that a deadly flu took out most of the world’s population and now, as a result, people are forced to live without electricity, gas, or internet, and learn live off the land to survive. This is the premise of Station Eleven, a novel by Emily St. John Mandel.

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Station Eleven reminded me a lot initially of the (now sadly canceled) tv show Revolution. It’s a post-apocalyptic survival story, and the characters are traveling across the North American landscape with no electricity and no “United States”. In the novel’s case, however, the destroyed world is more of a background setting for an exploration of how humans have become disconnected from the natural world and how some interactions, moments, or choices can have an inexplicable lasting impact on someone.

The most interesting feature of the novel is how the story is told. Mandel jumps around constantly from moment to moment, and setting to setting. It feels almost carefree on her part, but you know it can’t be because it’s done in such a way that it’s not causing the reader to have to do any additional work, and everything makes sense. I don’t know how Mandel kept straight in her head what information she had and had not given away as she was writing, but she’s done a great job. You’re constantly waiting until the end to find out what happened in the future to the characters you’ve connected with in the pre-flu world and you’re wanting to know more about the origins of the people you’ve connected with in the post-flu world. It’s not a mystery novel, but as you read it feels like you’re following lots of mini-mysteries which are all these characters’ life stories and how their interactions, chance or otherwise, have profound effects on their lives.

Mandel really makes you think about how the world is structured today. We constantly hear about how much knowledge we have available to us in the information age, but we don’t often consider that just because it’s available to us, doesn’t mean we have it. All the tasks necessary to run our society are divided into separate careers. A banker probably doesn’t know how to hunt, a hunter probably doesn’t know how to generate electricity, an electrical engineer probably doesn’t know how to run a successful government, and a politician, whatever he or she may say, probably doesn’t know how to set up an efficient economy. We know we have all of this information available at our fingertips with the internet. But, if we lost that magnificent tool, the knowledge in today’s world is so subsetted that we’d probably be lost for a long time too.

Ironically, as I was reading Station Eleven, I kept coming across an ad on TV by America’s Natural Gas Alliance. It starts, “Someone once told me that working for the power company is a noble calling. I believe that it is. People don’t have to think about where their electricity comes from. They flipped a switch, and the light comes on. It’s our job to make sure that it does.” Obviously this type of system has helped our world develop much more quickly than if everyone tried to be knowledgeable about everything – there’s only so much information a human brain can hold. Nevertheless, reading this book made me think that it probably couldn’t hurt to learn a little more about how I get things like running water, electricity, food, and clothing!

All in all, I’d give this book 8/10 stars. It’s narrative is a little choppy (unexpectedly picks up and slows down through the book) but the style is unique and does work. The characters aren’t ones that will stick with you forever but their stories are engaging and will probably make you think about the interactions you have in your own life. Finally, if you, like me, are interested in the post-apocalyptic genre but can’t stand to read another book revolving around a sordid teen romance, then you should definitely check this book out!

Have you read Station Eleven or any other books by Mandel? What is your favorite post-apocalyptic or dystopian book? What do you think of the genre? Let me know in the comments below!

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Washington Square Park

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.

An entrance to quintessential New York

An entrance to quintessential New York

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.

A shopper enters the park on his way elsewhere.

Walking through the park makes for a lovely commute on a sunny day.

Park-goers lounge in the sunshine – a classic American park scene

Park-goers lounge in the sunshine – a classic American summer scene

Another classic scene – the hot dog and soda cart. There were surprisingly few of these in the park... others stationed themselves just outside on the sidewalks.

Another classic scene – the hot dog and soda cart. There were surprisingly few of these in the park… others stationed themselves just outside on the sidewalks.

Gorgeous yellow flowers greet you at one entrance. If you look closely, you can see a couple friends chatting just behind them.

Gorgeous yellow flowers greet you at one entrance. If you look closely, you can see a couple friends chatting just behind them.

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.

This knotty old tree stump seems to be a mini-tourist attraction within the park. I found myself looking at all its twists and turns for several minutes.

This knotty old tree stump seems to be a mini-tourist attraction within the park. I found myself looking at all its lumps and bumps for several minutes.

I loved that there were still flowers in bloom all around the park.

I loved that there were still flowers in bloom all around the park.

A variety of trees make a rippling pattern of green wherever you look.

A variety of trees make a rippling pattern of green wherever you look. You can nearly forget you’re in a huge city!

This picture reminded me of a scene you might find in Disney world – there's a touch of magic and a touch of romanticism, don't you think?

This picture reminded me of a scene you might find in Disney world – there’s a touch of magic and a touch of romanticism, don’t you think?

This was my favorite – a lovely sweeping tree that provided the perfect amount of shade. Does anyone know what kind it is?

This was my favorite – a lovely sweeping tree that provided the perfect amount of shade. Does anyone know what kind it is?

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.

A tribute to Giuseppe Garibaldi, who fought for a unified Italy in the 1800s. Some research tells me that there is an NYU finance new students' tradition of tossing a penny at the base of the statue for good luck.

A tribute to Giuseppe Garibaldi, who fought for a unified Italy in the 1800s. Some research tells me that there is an NYU finance new students’ tradition of tossing a penny at the base of the statue for good luck.

A statue of Alexander Lyman Holley who was a 19th century engineer best known for propagating the use of Bessemer steel in the US and abroad.

A statue of Alexander Lyman Holley who was a 19th century engineer best known for propagating the use of Bessemer steel in the US and abroad.

The fountain and iconic archway.

One of the many odd juxtapositions of the park: a stately archway in the background and people cooling off barefoot by the fountain. 

Details on the arch

Details on the arch

The back of the arch has two statues of George Washington, called "Washington at War" and "Washington at Peace".

The back of the arch has two statues of George Washington, called “Washington at War” and “Washington at Peace”.

The powerful Freedom Tower can be seen through a space in the buildings if you stand just next to the archway.

The powerful Freedom Tower can be seen through a space in the buildings if you stand just next to the archway.

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.

I heard this drummer rat-a-tat out a march, fittingly just as I was looking at the statues of George Washington on the arch.

I heard this drummer rat-a-tat out a march, fittingly just as I was looking at the statues of George Washington on the arch!

Someone managed to bring this grand piano into the middle of the park. Some days there is famously another grand piano that is played under the iconic archway.

Someone managed to bring this grand piano into the middle of the park. A couple violinists stood chatting in the background, so they may have just finished their set. Some days there is famously another grand piano that is played under the iconic archway.

This four-piece band attracted the attention of many passerby.

This four-piece band attracted the attention of many passerby.

The piano had a printed sign on the front that said "Five ex-wives and piano teacher to support".

The piano had a printed sign on the front that said “Five ex-wives and piano teacher to support”. I wonder what the stories are there!

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.

Someone incredibly talented drew this picture of Hillary Clinton as Rosie the Riveter

Someone incredibly talented (Hani Shihada) drew this picture of Hillary Clinton as Rosie the Riveter. Go check out his stuff on Instagram by clicking on this picture – he has some incredible pavement art. 

Next to Mr. Shihada's work was this slightly trampled chalk-poster for Bernie Sanders. There were a couple of them in the park.

Next to Mr. Shihada’s work was this slightly trampled chalk-poster for Bernie Sanders. There were a couple of them in the park.

A web of scaffolding didn't stop this nearby church from proclaiming its message.

A web of scaffolding didn’t stop this nearby church from adamantly proclaiming its message.

Not sure who the intended audience was here, but the message is pretty clear...

Not sure who the intended audience was here, but I suppose the message is pretty clear…!

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.

Washington Square Park doubles as an academic quad for NYU students.

Washington Square Park doubles as an academic quad for NYU students.

The entrance to NYU's prestigious law school

The entrance to NYU’s prestigious law school. A quote on the building reads, “To what purpose should our thoughts be directed to various kinds of knowledge, unless room be afforded for putting it in practice, so that public advantage may be the result.” (Sir Philip Sidney) An interesting though on the idea of knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

The sculpture outside NYU's Bobst library. (More church volunteers in the background)

The sculpture outside NYU’s Bobst library. (More church volunteers in the background)

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.

A man sold paintings on a nearby sidewalk.

A man in a flower shirt and hat that reminded me of Dopey the Dwarf sold paintings on a nearby sidewalk.

A fellow photographer checks out a man selling instant poetry for $10.

A fellow photographer checks out a man selling instant poetry for $10.

A pigeon-feeder, reminiscent of the old lady in Home Alone. When I look at this picture, Mary Poppins sings in my head: "Feed the birds, tuppence a bag..."

A pigeon-feeder, reminiscent of the old lady in Home Alone. When I look at this picture, Mary Poppins sings in my head: “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag…”

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.

My favorite doors. Walking around this area and through the West Village can really make you dream of a grand life.

My favorite doors. Walking around this area and through the West Village can really make you dream of a grand life.

This was Eleanor Roosevelt's residence from 1942 to 1949.

This was Eleanor Roosevelt’s residence from 1942 to 1949.

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.

A classic playground structure – the jungle gym.

A classic playground structure – the jungle gym.

They may be in a big city, but that doesn't mean these kids don't get to play in rolling hills! (Even if the grass here is fake...)

They may be in a big city, but that doesn’t mean these kids don’t get to play in rolling hills! (Even if the grass in this area is fake…)

A little girl contemplates running through the sprinkler alone.

A little girl contemplates running through the sprinkler alone.

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!

Dulce Candy

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.

Dulce Candy Ruiz

Dulce Candy Ruiz

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

Dulce's note in my copy of

Dulce’s note in my copy of “The Sweet Life”

Yesterday I got the opportunity to meet Dulce at the launch of her first book, The Sweet Life, at the Youtube Space NYC.

The set-up for the Youtube livestream, before it began

The set-up for the Youtube livestream, before it began

“The Sweet Life” by Dulce Candy Ruiz (yes that is her real name!)

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.

During the livestream, I got to ask Dulce what advice she would give to creative people in terms of focusing their passions. She responded that it's important to know and do what you enjoy and just keep working on improving that.

During the livestream, I got to ask Dulce what advice she would give to creative people in terms of focusing their passions. She responded that it’s important to know and do what you enjoy and just keep working on improving that.

Dulce watches

Dulce watches “The Evolution of Dulce Candy”

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.”

Another bit of thoughtfulness – providing a delicious dinner from Los Tacos No. 1! (Not pictured: an on-theme

Another bit of thoughtfulness – providing a delicious dinner from Los Tacos No. 1! (Not pictured: an on-theme “Dulce de Leche Martini”)

A sweet treat – see what I did there? ;-)

A sweet treat – see what I did there? 😉

The event sponsor, Shea Moisture, sent everyone home with a goodie bag of their Fruit Fusion Coconut Water shampoo, conditioner, and body scrub

The event sponsor, Shea Moisture, sent everyone home with a goodie bag of their Fruit Fusion Coconut Water shampoo, conditioner, and body scrub

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.

It's a very cool thing to get to talk to someone you've followed and admired for so long

It’s a very cool thing to get to talk to someone you’ve followed and admired for so long

Dulce speaks to another viewer, and a new friend I made, Liliana :)

Dulce speaks to another viewer, and a new friend I made, Liliana 🙂

I’ve started reading The Sweet Life now and it will most likely be my next “Books I Read” post (even before Go Set a Watchman) because I’m zooming through it.

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! 🙂

The Harper Lee Novels

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 is such an iconic author even though she only published one book in her lifetime!

Harper Lee is such an iconic author even though she only published one book until now!

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! 🙂

The NYC Street Fair

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.

Sometimes all you need is a simple reminder.

Sometimes all you need is a simple reminder.

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.

I had a pair of these when I was younger and I love the idea of wearing them again... nostalgia is clearly highly effective on me.

I had a pair of these when I was younger and I love the idea of wearing them again… nostalgia is clearly a highly effective sales tactic on me.

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.

Something about this feels magical to me... like it belongs in a dusty old antique store out of a novel.

Something about this feels magical to me… like it belongs in a dusty old antique store out of a novel.

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).

A little treasure

A little treasure

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.

Anil making a sale to another customer

Anil making a sale to another customer

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.

I thought this was Shiva at first, but then Anil told me it is actually a female form of Buddha

I thought this was Shiva at first, but then Anil told me it is actually a female form of Buddha

Next, I spotted a $3 jewelry stall – how could I resist looking? I found these earrings and this locket amongst all the choices:

A locket and a sweet pair of earrings – 2/$5 and totally worth it!

A locket and a sweet pair of earrings – 2 for $5 and totally worth it!

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.

A little bonsai garden in the middle of NYC

A little bonsai garden in the middle of NYC

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 elm apparently signifies balance and harmony and is supposed to be a good

The elm apparently signifies balance and harmony and is supposed to be a good “beginner’s bonsai”.

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!):

First orchid I've ever owned... hopefully I can keep it alive!

First orchid I’ve ever owned… hopefully I can keep it alive!

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?

Sorted Food

This past Sunday, Sorted Food, one of the most popular cooking channels on Youtube, hosted a meet up in Central Park. It was a grand conclusion to their #LostAndHungry tour across the US and was done in the typical Sorted fashion – lots of British banter, lots food talk, and lots of real, engaged interaction with viewers.

Me with the iconic Sorted mini-fridge!

Me with the iconic Sorted mini-fridge!

The day was supposed to start around 10 am, but Ben, Barry, Jamie, and Mike arrived around 9:30 to a handful of viewers. I was glad that I’d gotten there early too because it meant that I was able to have a conversation with Ben about their journey through the US. Ben is the actual trained chef of the group, so it was also cool to talk to him about things like a great dish versus a great dining meal and how your experience of food is so predicated on things that surround it – whether you cooked the meal or bought it, who your company is, what setting you’re in, etc.

Me with Ben Ebbrell, the chef behind Sorted Food

Me with Ben Ebbrell, the chef behind Sorted Food

“If you asked me what my favorite dishes on this trip were, I could probably list five, but if you asked me what my favorite dining experiences were I could probably also list five, but they would be an entirely different list than the first set.”

At 10 am, the guys gave (and filmed) an intro for the crowd, which had now swelled to probably about 80. We all split off into four groups (one with each member of the Sorted team) and we went off on an adventure to find food. I was in Mike’s team, and our task was to find something sweet. We were in my neck of the woods on the Upper East Side, so I immediately thought of taking the group to “O Merveilleux“, a darling little French café and pastry shop where Proma and I often like to go to work during the day. As we walked, I got to meet some of the other attendees. One lady was visiting with her husband and daughter from San Francisco and happened to be in town for the meet-up. She told me she had grown up in France and taught me the correct way to pronounce merveilleux (Proma and I always just call it “the bakery”) and recommended a pastry called chouquette from Maison Kayser. As the day went on, I also got to talk to other viewers and find out about their favorite food spots in the city. One viewer, Emily Tan, is a food photographer and gave me tips on using my new DSLR. It was cool to meet people over this random shared interest that we had all come to independently.

Once we got to our destination, Mike bought us all some macarons and gingerbread cookies to share.

Mike examining the fare at O Merveilleux

Mike and some viewers examining the fare at O Merveilleux

Mike and I showing of the macarons

Mike and I showing off the macarons

As the day went on, we went to more local spots including Two Little Red Hens (where we sampled a divine Brooklyn Blackout Cake), Orwasher’s Bakery (where we admired their display of freshly baked breads), and Maison Kayser (where I finally got to try the delicious little chouquettes).

Beautiful, mouth-watering pastries at Maison Kayser

Beautiful, mouth-watering pastries at Maison Kayser

We also stopped by Cascabel Taqueria for my favorite spicy guacamole and tostada to balance out all the sweetness and went downtown to check out the Pride parade that was happening that day.

We were only at the Pride parade briefly, but we spotted Lea DeLaria from Orange is the New Black

We were only at the Pride parade briefly, but we spotted Lea DeLaria from Orange is the New Black

Along the way, I got to talk to Mike about his experiences in the US. He talked about driving through the western part of the country and trying a proper Louisiana crawfish boil in a viewer’s home (see the video). He told me he used to be a school music and drama teacher. He said he missed a traditional British breakfast, so I recommended Jones Wood Foundry for their bangers and mash. He was planning on visiting Boston on his own after NYC so I told him to go to Quincy Market and have a real clam chowder. (The guys had tried it in San Francisco, which, to a Boston girl, really doesn’t count.) It was very cool to be able to have real conversations over a few hours with Mike, instead of just a quick hi, hug, and a selfie like I imagine most meet-and-greets are. (I’ll try to post about my experience meeting Marcus Butler soon.)

With Barry and Jamie at the end of the day

With Barry and Jamie at the end of the day

It was incredible to me how friendly and easy to talk to all the guys were. I feel like if I were in their shoes, I might be nervous about meeting and having to interact with so many unknown people at once. When I stepped back, it was odd but awesome to have someone who I essentially think of as a ‘celebrity’ I watch on a show interacting with me, in ‘my space’, just because I brought him there, like it was normal. In the moment, though, it felt completely natural. I guess that’s the magic of the Sorted mission though. It’s just good people coming together over good food. What does it matter if they know each other or not? Why can’t we just meet some strangers with a common interest and have a good time? It doesn’t and we can. Good people + good food = good time. Simple and delicious.

Coming Soon… Presidential Candidates and Citizenship?!

Today’s post is just a quick one. The Photo 101 task for the day was to post “something big”. As I sat waiting in the Buffalo airport this morning (the business trips are endless!) I found my quarry:  

Everything’s bigger in America. Even the shows of patriotism. Even when they’re for other countries.

I think it was my uncle, visiting from India, who once remarked to me how much Americans love their flag. Since then, I’ve noticed them everywhere – outside schools, offices, and hotels, in front yards, on t-shirts and mugs and mouse pads – seriously, just everywhere. I kind of love it. Patriotic songs from pretty much anywhere get me emotional. There’s something so majestic about seeing a giant flag waving in the wind. When I talk like this with my friends, they look at me like I’m crazy and point out that I’m still an Indian citizen.

I’ve been debating for some time now whether or not to get US citizenship. Pretty much all my life, I’ve faced the typical immigrant problem – Americans call me Indian, and Indians call me American. This didn’t help my identity struggle growing up. I’ve held onto my Indian citizenship for this long because I felt that I might choose to live in India at some point. Plus, I like being able to say conclusively to any family member who challenges it that I am, in fact, Indian. I’ve balanced this by having an avid interest in American politics (especially presidential elections). I figured that if I participate in the political process by reading articles, having discussions with people, and volunteering for campaigns, I was probably doing more than just voting would have done anyway. This is all still under debate in my head though. 

The point of all this is to say that I am going to be going to an event at the end of this month where Hillary Clinton will be speaking! I’m so excited, as I’ve been rooting for her to be president since the 2008 election. I’m not sure if I’ll actually get to meet her, but you can be sure I’m counting it, and you can expect a blog post on it very, very soon. 🙂