Videos – Trying Something New

I’ve talked a few times on this blog now about how big a fan I am of Youtube. (See Sorted Food and Dulce Candy.) Well, meeting Dulce after 7 years of watching her made me realize that I had spent 7 years wishing I could do Youtube myself and being too afraid to actually do it. Like with most things in my life, I’ve had ideas that I stewed on for months or years before I finally decided this week to just put them into motion. I tried my hand at two small film projects.

The first is actually for Instagram, not Youtube. As a creative challenge to myself, I wanted to see if I could make something interesting involving dance in the span of a 15-second Instagram video. This was the result:

I’m hoping to post something like this weekly with #DanceVignettes.

The second is a (slightly) longer vlog-style video for Youtube about an afternoon Proma, Radhika, and I had in the city last week.

As you can see, I don’t even really show myself in the video, and the music I used is a standard iMovie track, but the project was more about trying my hand at editing together film clips I took in a way that’s hopefully interesting! I’m definitely more comfortable writing (in fact, it’s kind of taking all my courage to post this just now, haha), but it was fun to dip my toe into something a little different. Also, if you read my first post on this blog, “Patrick“, you’ll see that video was something I was planning on incorporating from the beginning, so it was nice to come back to it from another angle.

What new things are you trying this week? Are you a vlogger or filmmaker? Do you have any feedback on my two little projects? Let me know in the comments below!

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Storm King

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:

The hills are alive... with art and culture

The hills are alive… with art and culture

Part of Lynda Benglis's "Water Sources", silhouetted against the sky

Part of Lynda Benglis’s “Water Sources”, silhouetted against the sky

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A spiderweb forms on Chakala Booker's "A Moment in Time". Art is placed in nature, nature grows upon it.

A spiderweb forms on Chakala Booker’s “A Moment in Time”. Art is placed in nature, nature grows upon it.

A bright pop of color

Rotating circles

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"Ear" by Tomio Miki. I think it belonged to a giant.

“Ear” by Tomio Miki. I think it belonged to a giant.

My grandfather used to tell me a story about a giant who showed how fearsome he was by describing his teeth and spit and hair. I imagine that his hair looked something like this.

My grandfather used to tell me a story about a giant raakshasa who showed how fearsome he was by describing his teeth and spit and hair. I imagine that his hair looked something like this.

The giant left his marbles out

The giant left his marbles out

Glowing geometry

A different vantage point

A different vantage point

One mode of transportation around the park, although I preferred just to walk.

One mode of transportation around the park, although I preferred just to walk.

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Bridge to Nowhere

I found this earring dangling from a tree, fluttering in the wind. Clearly someone created their own art.

I found this earring dangling from a tree, fluttering in the wind. Clearly someone created their own art. 🙂

Another panel on this piece had the Italian words "Lo sai: debbo riperderti e non posso," engraved in it. That means "You know : I have to lose you again and I can not."

Another panel on this piece had the Italian words “Lo sai: debbo riperderti e non posso,” engraved in it. That means “You know : I have to lose you again and I can not.”

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Naturally artful

"City on the High Mountain" by Louise Nevelson

“City on the High Mountain” by Louise Nevelson

Part of the "Three-Legged Buddha" by Zhang Huan

Part of the “Three-Legged Buddha” by Zhang Huan

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My dream backyard

Take me home, country road

Country road

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Sometimes the juxtaposition of art and nature was a little too odd

Sometimes the juxtaposition of art and nature was a little too odd

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Amongst fields of summer

Amongst fields of summer

Chasing butterflies

Chasing butterflies

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Serenity

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The road home

The road home

The High Line

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.

A few postcards I picked up showing the High Line in its various forms – (clockwise from top) prior to opening in 2000, a map showing the entire pathway, people strolling down the boardwalk

A few postcards I picked up showing the High Line in its various forms – (clockwise from top) prior to opening in 2000, a map showing the entire pathway, people strolling down the boardwalk

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.

A variety of sitting areas along the High Line, each providing a moment of solace from the bustle of the main walkway.

A variety of sitting areas along the High Line, each providing a moment of solace from the bustle of the main walkway.


On a day as hot as Sunday, it was nice to be able to kick off my sandals and step in some cool, flowing water

On a day as hot as Sunday, it was nice to be able to kick off my sandals and step in some cool, flowing water! (BTW, can you tell I’ve gotten some sun this summer?)


There were a few of these funny amphitheater-like seats along the way. The show playing? Live traffic in the streets below!

There were a few of these funny amphitheater-like seats along the way. The show playing? Live traffic in the streets below!

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.

Construction and scaffolding are commonly seen along the High Line, but so are more scenic views of the Hudson River and the West Side Highway.

Construction and scaffolding are commonly seen along the High Line, but so are more scenic views of the Hudson River and the West Side Highway.

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.

I'll admit I was a bit dismayed by the amount of construction visible surrounding the High Line, but I found scenes like this – with the shrubbery growing all over the old tracks – positively charming.

I’ll admit I was a bit dismayed by the amount of construction visible surrounding the High Line, but I found scenes like this – with the shrubbery growing all over the old tracks – positively charming.


Iron details

Iron details


The end of the line at Hudson Yards

“The End of the Line” at Hudson Yards

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:

One of the first pieces you'll see are these busts painted in traffic-sign yellow and seated on dark metal shelves.

One of the first pieces you’ll see are these busts painted in traffic-sign yellow and seated in stacked, dark metal crates.


Two visitors find their home on a 3-D recreation of Manhattan

Two visitors find their neighborhood on a 3-D recreation of Manhattan


Did you think it was graffiti? They're actually sculptures made out of bent rebar by artist Damián Ortega – part of his series called "Physical Graffiti".

Did you think it was graffiti? They’re actually sculptures made out of bent rebar by artist Damián Ortega – part of his series called “Physical Graffiti”.


Some of the artwork that can be seen along the High Line isn't actually part of the High Line itself.

Some of the artwork that can be seen along the High Line isn’t actually part of the High Line itself.


A giant mural like a page out of a graphic novel covers the wall of one of the adjoining buildings. This is just one small section of it.

A giant mural like a page out of a graphic novel covers the wall of one of the adjoining buildings. This is just one small section of it.


A remnant of the railroad or an art piece? It's unclear.

A remnant of the railroad or an art piece? It’s unclear.


The Collectivity Project by Olaf Eliasson is one of the coolest installations. It's a community-generated lego-building frenzy. It's always changing, but when I went I saw intricate towers, a tribute to the Ukraine, a profession of love, and much more. Anyone can add to it, so if you come here be sure to stop by and leave your mark!

The Collectivity Project by Olaf Eliasson is one of the coolest installations. It’s a community-generated lego-building frenzy. It’s always changing, but when I went I saw intricate towers, a tribute to the Ukraine, a profession of love, and much more. Anyone can add to it, so if you come here be sure to stop by and leave your mark!


My personal favorite piece (which I think technically isn't even part of the High Line) was this sassy portrait of Einstein, continuing to solve the world's problems.

My personal favorite piece (which, again, I think technically isn’t even part of the High Line) was this sassy portrait of Einstein, continuing to solve the world’s problems.

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.

Bright flowers soak in the sunshine

Bright flowers soak in the sunshine


Dark, berried leaves bring winter to mind

Dark, berried leaves bring winter to mind


A touch of fall has already arrived

A touch of fall has already arrived


Drying summer wild flowers

Drying summer wild flowers

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.

Crowds gathered to look through telescopes

Crowds gathered to look through telescopes


A cheap view of the night sky – this visit really made me want to get into proper nighttime photography!

A cheap view of the night sky – this visit really made me want to get into proper nighttime photography!


This astronomer – Alric (doesn't that just sound like a stargazer's name?) – preps his telescope for us to look at Saturn. I couldn't believe we could actually see the planet with it's ring around it! Alric told me that the first time he showed his dad the same thing, he was so surprised he fell off the back porch.

This astronomer – Alric (doesn’t that just sound like a stargazer’s name?) – preps his telescope for us to look at Saturn. I couldn’t believe we could actually see the planet with it’s ring around it! Alric told me that the first time he showed his dad the same thing, he was so surprised he fell off the back porch.

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!

“The Sweet Life” by Dulce Candy Ruiz

Some quick notes before we begin:

  1. 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 🙂
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

My Post-it-riddled copy of of "The Sweet Life"

My Post-it-riddled copy of of “The Sweet Life”

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.

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!

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?