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:
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.
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
Yesterday I got the opportunity to meet Dulce at the launch of her first book, The Sweet Life, at the Youtube Space NYC.
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.
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’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.
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?
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.
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.
“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.
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).
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.
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.)
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:
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. 🙂
Proma, Radhika, and Rads
I came out of college feeling like I didn’t need any more friends. I’m not sure if that sounds conceited or tragic, but I felt that I had a few really good friends, and while I was happy to meet and hang out with other people, I didn’t need to keep searching for people to share everything with. I spent my first year and a half in New York operating under this plan. I met some great people but, for whatever reason, didn’t allow myself to get close to anyone new. Life tends to work in funny ways though, and last summer, I met Proma, Radhika, and Rads.
I have been dancing with Ajna Dance Company since I first moved to New York. Last summer, two new girls joined – Proma and Radhika. Proma, I had actually met when I was 16, through some childhood friends. I had always felt we would get along (largely based on shared obsessions with Harry Potter and dance). Radhika was bubbly and came over to learn the Ajna choreography. We met Rads through Proma and together, the four of us quickly became friends.
What I love about our little ‘crew’ (we call ourselves “Uptown Funk” – sorry not sorry) is how easy it is. We’re different ages, but all mid-twenties, we have very different personalities, yet we tend to be on similar wavelengths, we have a variety of interests, but we all push each other creatively. (Writing about Jasmine and my psychic experience was largely thanks to their encouragement to keep writing.) Best of all, I know I can rely on them.
We’re in such constant communication that in some ways, the most difficult part of my trip to Chicago last week was not being able to unwind with them at the end of the day. (Naturally, I saw them as soon as I got back, hah.)
I realize that we sound like typical 20-something’s from NYC – all inside jokes, texting threads, and cutesy group names. But these girls encourage me more than any of my other friends ever have to chase my creative goals, and that makes them really special. Plus, I swear we’ve only all gone for mani-pedis together once. 🙂
I’m interested to know what other people’s experiences have been. Have you made an unexpected connection or a new friendship recently? Do you expect to or do you think you’ve already made your “lifelong friendships”? Let me know in the comments below!
The Past #Throwback Thursday
This visit is the first time in 18 years that I’ve been back to Chicago. My family lived in Buffalo Grove from when I was 3 to 7. As a result, some of my formative childhood memories were created here.
Yesterday, we came back to our old apartment complex. The apartment we lived in looks exactly the same from the outside. The school bus stop where I once got hit in the mouth with a frisbee is still there. So is the winding path, bridge, and running track where I first learned to ride a bicycle. My dad would wake me up at 5 in the morning every day to teach me to ride with my training wheels off. He never learned to ride a bike himself, but that is the typical middle class mentality isn’t it? Make sure your kids get every opportunity you didn’t have.
Another memory that always makes us laugh happened in the parking lot in front of the apartment. I was probably 5 years old and there was a puddle completely covered in white flowers and feathers. To me, it just looked like a patch of ground, but my dad knew there was water underneath. He saw my little kindergartener’s mind considering and he told me repeatedly not to step in it. Of course I thought he was just pulling my leg and I stepped in it anyway – my feet were totally covered in dirty water, hah!
We walked around a bit more, taking our old routes and reminiscing about friends we had when we lived here and places we went. We visited my first elementary school. We visited some family we hadn’t seen in all these years.
Perhaps my favorite moment was when my uncle spotted a tiny Indian girl with short hair and a pink jacket playing on the same swings I used to play on at that age and said, “Look! There’s Shachi.”
Chicago (A Bit of a Cheat)
Today’s post is a bit of a cheat. The assignment for Photography 101 today was to take a picture of water. I actually took this photo a month ago when I was flying through Chicago for a business trip (the one when I met Jasmine), but it felt relevant because I’m back in Chicago now. Another cheat: technically, I didn’t first meet Chicago in my twenties (I lived in Chicago from the age of 3 to 7) but as anyone who’s been dragged to Vegas as a kid can tell you, experiencing a place as a child and experiencing it as an adult are two very different things.
Chicago is majestic. It’s not like the East Coast cities, formed because that’s where the founders happened to land. Instead, this land was chosen, and the city was built upon the banks of a mighty river. Buildings in cities like Boston (where I grew up) tend to be uniform in their brick and dark colors but there is a great diversity of architecture here in Chicago, and there are many buildings in light beiges and creams that somehow create a more optimistic, forward-thinking vibe to the city. Fellow Bostonians, don’t get me wrong, I love Boston and its history, but it’s like a breath of fresh air to be in a city where the past isn’t staring at you from every corner.
How would you describe your city? Is it historic, futuristic, or a bit of both? Chicagoans, I’m just a visitor in your city – how would you describe it? Finally, Photo 101 classmates – what are your thoughts on plane photos? 🙂