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Living in NYC

Stories for Friends. Advice for Strangers.

My wife and I decided not to go home for Christmas. Being our first Christmas as a married couple, it was a tough call. On one hand, you always want to be with family (and we were, thanks to gchat). On the other, the thought of making the Christmas holiday ours was exciting. So with sadness to be missing family and with some trepidation at what it might be like to miss them on Christmas, we didn’t buy plane tickets. Instead, we set up our apartment with a tree and decorations, did our food shopping early thanks to the advice of some wise friends and dug in. What an adventure!

Christmas Eve was relaxing and fun. We roamed Manhattan stealing late glimpses of the various holiday window displays at Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. A scheduled stop at Tiffany & Co. made the day even more special. Amber found the perfect charm to commemorate our first Christmas in New York, and we had delicious hot chocolate with home-made teal marshmallows. The streets were full of tourists, crowding the corner of every intersection and overrunning St. Patrick’s cathedral, where we took a brief rest to tour the cavernous spaces within. Amber had never seen it, and it is one of my favorite places to visit in the entire city. The burger place next door is so good that the Pope eats there, so we ducked in for a quick bite.

After a full day of walking, we took a quick break at our apartment before heading down to Chelsea where our church was hosting its Christmas Eve service. We arrived at 7th avenue and 22nd street to find people from all over the city caroling in front of a beautiful old Lutheran church. After singing a few songs (some of them sacred), we headed inside to sit on the balcony. We had met up with a couple of friends on accident, so we sat with them and enjoyed the service. Where there had been a fun brass quartet and megaphone-armed man leading the songs outside, a beautiful blend of piano, cello and vocals graced the old, wooden sanctuary with a calming sense of expectation for the coming Christ.

After heading home via an early Christmas gift (a cab ride), I crafted the Priest family’s signature “pizza fondue” for dinner, and we sat down to video chat with Amber’s family. We shared gifts and enjoyed each other’s company, even if we were nearly a thousand miles apart. It was wonderful.

Christmas day gave us the chance to open the presents that had been sitting under our tree for nearly 2 weeks. My mom has always gotten her shopping done early, and this year she sent ours up in plenty of time to have something sitting under the tree leading up Christmas. So we set up a video chat with my parents and brother, live from his new house in Georgia, and we opened gifts with them, too.

Our winter break and first Christmas together and apart from our families turned into something wonderful, and this was all before the blizzard. Next up: how Amber and I challenged the blizzard to a staring contest, and won.

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From the draft archives:

More blogging beneath Lexington avenue. I’m on my way to the office the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Amazed at the power we presume the words “excuse me” to have on a practical level. It’s more like a tactic down here. Utter those words in sequence, and you can do whatever you want.

For example, a person just made me move so that she could occupy the space I was standing in. But how?, you might ask. Aren’t you bigger? How were you displaced? The words of the day slipped from her mouth, and she shifted her weight and handbag on to me, effectively standing on me, settling in, and pulling out her Kindle. I had to move, because she obviously wasn’t.

We discussed what she had done. She did not appear to care. My new interpretation of “excuse me” is one of total disregard for the person being asked to make accommodations. At least on the train.

On second thought, it may have been a Nook. Things make much more sense now.

I promise these won’t all be rants.

More from the subway:

I am underground. There are a hundred faces nearby, each displaying an individual reaction to the metropolitan human experience. Apart from each other, I think we would look sad, confused, mildly depressed, and in some cases amused. In unison, we are irate at the MTA and its apparent disregard for each of us.

Now I am thinking about what makes something worth doing. I strongly believe you should love what you do, even if that is cleaning toilets, because you love who you are doing it for. This is the nature of things as I see them, and it can work to our benefit. When the person you are working for is not you. If we all pursue things for completely selfish reasons, it will result in garbage productivity. Why? Most people don’t actually like themselves.

I am at 23rd street and 6th. Five trains passed over the course of 30 minutes before mine arrived. It’s rush hour, and there is no reasonable excuse for it, except that the combined workforce of the MTA refuses to make things better. When the fees for this service go up, as the quality continues to diminish, I wish there were an alternative. But, like the TSA telling people not to fly if they don’t want their constitutional rights violated with blue gloves, or Google telling brits to move if they don’t want their data stolen by street view cars, we too are forced to deal with it because this is the lifestyle we chose.

Something about all that just doesn’t seem right. Thumb fatigue and a headache force a premature end to this subterranean rant.

Another quick post written from a downtown 6 train:

Fall in new York is so exciting to me. For one thing, the array of leaves and degree to which they avail themselves to make a satisfying crunch under my feet is a new experience for me. It’s not just dead leaves versus the evergreen up here. The full visible spectrum is available in 360 degrees of central park on a clear day, and it really makes you feel alive. There is beauty in new things, or in things that are newly beheld, and that energy is hard to emulate. I would say I experience that feeling of exhilaration enough to be reminded why we moved up here. To try it. So we are both, in our own way, still trying it, and it seems to be working out.

Dusting off my wordpress dashboard and diving in. Lately, I’ve been writing while underground – traveling beneath the streets of New York to save time, thumb typing on my phone to preserve my sanity.

This is the first of several, and I’m sure many to come:

“There is so much to talk about, I’m finding myself at a loss for words these days. It’s interesting to look back to older posts and remember how I felt when I wrote some of them. When I open a new post and start to write, it feels different somehow than it did before. And I’m not sure what moment I have in mind that establishes that timeline.

For one thing, I feel like I am doing exactly what I should be doing with my time. That is, working toward a career goal and dedicating myself to my family. On the other hand, part of what I feel when I look at an empty screen staring back at me is a sense that I have betrayed or otherwise departed from the spirit with which I started blogging.”

Today was a Saturday like any other. We got up late, I made an egg sandwich, and we stepped outside to accomplish something a week day won’t afford us. Today it was a trip up to East Harlem to shop for (primarily) food. There is a Costco and a Target in a sort of outdoor stacked mall, and we like to visit them both in one trip to maximize our time. After what it took to get up there today, I’m afraid to go back.

First, for some context. We live between 1st and 2nd avenues. Both avenues send traffic in a single direction – 1st goes uptown, and 2nd goes downtown. On either avenue, the M15 bus runs every 10 minutes or so. We like this bus line because it is generally reliable, and it was one of the first in the city to feature their newest bus models (complete with backwards doors that confuse the elderly, of which there are many in our neighborhood). Within the last month or so, MTA, in its wisdom, created a new variety of bus service called “Select.” The concept is to be faster than a local bus by stopping less and having patrons pay their fare on the street, all without costing more. Since express buses cost $5.50 a ride, I’m glad to have an alternative. But today, the new service showed its ugly side, and it cost us about an hour of valuable daylight.

We got to the bus stop closest to our place, only to watch 3 of them pass us, without a nod from any of the drivers (not even the one we tried frantically to flag down). Since two of them were the elusive “Select” bus, a service neither of us had tried, we figured we should head up to where they were stopping a few blocks north and give it a shot. So we went up there and paid. While we waited, we read the sign posted at the bus stop that shows its schedule (buses, unlike subway trains, follow a specific schedule to the minute). Even though the city had made it clear that no buses on 1st avenue were following their schedule today, we wanted to give the Select buses the benefit of the doubt. They’re new, after all, and should not be jaded and bored like most of the services and people who have been around for a while. These buses also squandered our patience. After standing there for another 15 minutes, we realized we had left the apartment without our shopping bags or our shopping list, so we returned to our apartment, annoyed, but confident that a bus wouldn’t come in the time it would take us to get there and back anyway. When we returned, equipped to trek back home with way too much bulk food, there were still plenty of people there. Score? We did pass a local bus, which refused to let us get on with our Select fair receipts. This still doesn’t make sense to either of us, and Amber was quite annoyed.

Once I had talked Amber down and the bus we were allowed to ride finally came, it actually got us up there in record time. Only making four stops to 116th street meant a quick ride. All activities considered, including the 10 minute self-imposed trip back home, it took us an hour to travel 40 blocks. More than half of that time was spent watching empty buses pass us. So if you’re from around here, let me know how the Select bus works out for you. If you’re not, stick with the train unless you have a day to kill.

We love shopping at Costco because you can get a lot of shopping done at once while saving a lot of money. Our location sells Breitling watches and Burberry handbags, which is pretty funny. That’s off topic, but worth mentioning because I’m pretty sure they’re getting sued to stop. Anyway, that was our day, and now you know what it’s like to shop for food in New York. Enjoy your cars, suburbanites! We miss ours daily.

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New York has ridiculous nightlife. I’m sure you can imagine it, even if you have never been here, because you see it in movies and on TV. Most of it is true – although I have decided that the drug-infused parties of the seventies and eighties no longer exist. There are still drugs, but the people on them are either stoners (who aren’t exactly in short supply down south, either), or random people wandering around looking for parties like that, only to realize they are alone, on self-imbibed GHB, and have lost 12 hours of their lives to undisclosed sections of Queens. (The last sentence is based on true events, of which I had no part).

What’s here for the rest of us is actually pretty cool. You can break it down into pretty basic categories. One is food, and that is certainly a recreational activity for me. Another is music. Anyone who knows me will tell you that music is the most important art form in my life. In this city, you can breathe it if you want to. I won’t waist your time with venues and random band names. Last week, CMJ (a New York music and film festival that garners international attention every year) dominated my industry. Cornerstone helped out with a couple of pretty cool events, and I got to see some extremely cool people doing things with instruments that I will never understand. But with my mom in town, we ended up hearing a different kind of music, and it wasn’t on the lower east side.

Three broadway shows in one weekend might seem like a lot, but mom and Amber pulled it off. I joined them for two, Million Dollar Quartet and Mama Mia. We went to MDQ immediately after one of the events for CMJ, so it was a stark contrast. After emerging from the show in the Nederlander Theater, I couldn’t help but feel like the production on broadway was cooler than any show at CMJ. I’m probably not supposed to say that, and maybe it’s not even true, but I definitely felt it.

There is something about the productions on broadway that make them remarkable. So much time, effort and talent from countless people go in to making those shows run smoothly day after day. In the case of Mama Mia, they have been doing it for years. I was excited to see that the actors in MDQ performed everything themselves, without the help of hidden musicians. They were fantastic.

So if you’re here visiting, or even if you move here for the music industry like I did, give both scenes a try. Let me know how it goes!

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