Tuesday, October 25, 2011

a hell LOVE a WORLD: London

I don't spend every day off in New York, but when I do leave, I typically have gone to my grandmother's, or my parents', back to school, St. Thomas (wooo!) or to visit a friend in a city where I've been before.  I recently had a craving to get out of my comfort zone a little bit more.  Sure, I definitely do enough exploring in this fabulous city, but I need to explore THE WORLD!  I thought an easy way to start that would be to visit my friend Carrie in London, so that I didn't have to learn any new words (except for "cheeky") and so that I didn't have to shell out some extra dolla dolla pounds for housing.  This way I could save them for making phone calls from cool red phonebooths.

Yes, I realize this blog is NYC-centric (as am I of course), but I wanted to reflect a little on my trip and my excuse is that Wikipedia lists London as a "sister city" to NYC.  I think that counts.  And if you don't agree, then just stop reading this!  (GEORGE ARE YOU STILL THERE?  Please don't actually stop!)  I'm not really sure what a "sister city" means and I already closed the wikipedia link so I'm going to reflect upon a couple things I think London could learn from New York as well as a couple things I think New York could learn from London, like getting our own Big Ben.

How 'bout it, Bloomberg?!
 London - get out your moleskine and take some notes:

Get some grids!  Your street system is way too winding and I was very intimidated before my journey because I am used to the efficient grid system of NYC (well at least of the majority of NYC - parts of downtown still make me mad sometimes).  With that said, *for the most part*, I somehow found everything I was looking for without having to ask anyone for directions.  I'm really surprised that I was able to do this on an old-school paper map as my cell phone navigation system of course did not work abroad.  There was just one situation where I walked around for a thousand years trying to find a particular restaurant and had to give up, then when I got back to Carrie's and looked it up on the interweb, I realized that my guidebook had put it in the wrong area of town.  Thanks, Lonely Planet.  And I spent quite some time trying to find Vertigo 42, a bar with great views of London from the 42nd floor, but I did eventually find my way (with the help of a concierge at a hotel).

Smile a little!  I was *shocked* I tell ya at how unfriendly / unhappy most of the people I saw were.  If you're from London and reading this, sorry, I'm not sorry.  It's the truth!  It was really weird for me because I love talking to people and it was odd being in a pub with Carrie and not having a crowd of people around us hanging on our every word (amirite?).  People pretty much kept to their own groups,  one of our friends got yelled at for looking in someone's general direction, and no one stopped when I tried to ask them where the heck I was, which is probably why I got so good at using the map.

Seriously, guy!  Where's your smile??
New York - your turn:

Get some more history!  It’s really a shame that, as far as I know, the oldest stuff you’ll find in NYC is only from around the 1600s (I’m talking about YOU, Trinity Church Cemetery).  And, it’s even more a shame that I haven’t really explored Manhattan from a historical stance.  I have plans of reading some of the books on the Barnes and Noble table labeled “All About New York” and I’m going to explore the places and neighborhoods mentioned in these books, but that is for another entry.  Everywhere you look in London there are buildings from the 1100s, 1200s, 1500s!  Two of my favorites that I managed to jump in front of:

Tower of London
 Windsor Castle

Improve your transit system!  Aside from when a train to Richmond shut down and almost prevented me from seeing my college friend Kathryn, there really aren't that many issues with the London Metro.  MTA has issues EVERYday (and made me a half hour late to work just this Monday).  I don't know why, and maybe it is just because I am used to subway systems in general now, but it took me about a day to figure out the London metro and about two years to figure out the NYC subways.  Also, there are *cushioned* seats on the subway!  It's like I'm in my living room, just with fifty extra people and no Real Housewives on the screen.  It is also much cleaner than our system, something I've missed since being back.

And to conclude this entry, because I want to share more pictures, I have picked out three things that I think are essential to every great city that both London and New York have plenty of:

1) Beautiful Bridges:

2) Modern Museums:

3) Lots of Lions:



Monday, October 3, 2011

She Works Hard for the Kimchi

Normally I don’t have *any* friends from home in the city and I miss them all very dearly.  This week, I was really lucky and had two friends from the homeland randomly in town.  On Monday, I had a lovely dinner / catch-up sesh with Aubrey at Spring Street Natural (more on Spring Street later, stay tuned).  On Thursday, I had a similarly lovely dinner / catch-up sesh with Kristina at Bann.  Bann is a Korean BBQ place near my apartment.  I had been wanting to get Korean food for a while and I didn’t really know where to go, but when Kristina told me her hotel was a few blocks from my apartment, that narrowed it down.

For an appetizer, we ordered the Pa Jun – a pancake with peppers and onions baked into it.  It looked like a pizza and tasted just like Bisquick with veggies baked in.  I think I’m going to try and make it on my own sometime.  We got the “small” barbecue platter which had Kal Bi (short rib), Bul Go Gi (rib eye), and Sae Woo (shrimp) along with vegetables and rice.

Kristina had been to a lot of Korean places in San Francisco but she usually let someone else do the cooking part, so we had to ask the waitress for a quick low-down of what to do - although it is surprising that we didn't get any instructions when the food was put down.  She helped us put the first round of meat on the grill in the middle of the table and said she wanted us to eat it in the traditional way, which was to wrap up the meat in a piece of lettuce with some vegetables, peanut miso sauce, garlic sesame oil, and rice.

Everything was delicious!  Well, everything that I tried.  I didn’t try the kimchi which came alongside our BBQ platter.  It is one of the most traditional Korean dishes, but I have tried cabbage in so many different forms and I have never liked it / have been really grossed out by it.  While I always tell myself to try everything, there was so much else on the table that was amazing that I didn’t want to spoil it with any form of disgustingness.  

I would definitely go again, but maybe try a place in Korea Town next time, as some of the ratings on Bann said “it’s not authentic enough”.  I’m not sure why I like places where I have to do work in order to get my food, but then I only cook at home once every few weeks.  Maybe it’s because I know I won’t be stuck with the dishes.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Home to Avenue Q

On Wednesday night, Kat and I went to see “Avenue Q”, the off-broadway play which, while on Broadway, won the Tony award for best musical in 2004.  I was excited to go because I hadn’t seen a play since “The Book of Mormon” in April, which I neglected to write about because I think I’m the only person in the world who didn’t think it was the best play ever.  It was a good story, but it was offensive just for the point of being offensive and could have been better if it had been more reserved.  Also now it is extremely overhyped.  But ANYWAY:

“Avenue Q” is pretty unique in that the majority of its cast are actually puppets.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when the show started, I thought the puppeteers would be behind garbage cans or under windowsills so that you couldn’t see them, but they were right there on stage with the puppets.  It took a little getting used to because I wasn’t sure who to watch at first, the performer or the puppet, but I determined it was okay to watch both at the same time.  The puppeteers/actors made the same facial expressions that they were conveying with the puppets.  It got me wondering what the auditions were like and if any of the actors had previous experience with puppets for some reason.  Needless to say, it was impressive.  The whole play was put on by just seven performers, three of whom were pure flesh and four of whom were all the puppets’ voices and movements.

The musical is basically a story about finding yourself in modern-day NYC.  Princeton, a recent graduate, moves to Avenue Q without a purpose and he tries to find this purpose throughout the play.  Along the way, he experiences love, confusion, and many adult situations - which are super weird and hilarious to see puppets in the middle of.  The other characters in the play experience unemployment, marriage, identity issues, & homelessness, all presented well through song and humor.  The super of Princeton’s apartment is strangely none other than tv’s own, Gary Coleman.

Notable song titles include:
  • “What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?”
  • “It Sucks to Be Me”
  • “My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada”
  • “There is Life Outside Your Apartment”
  • “I Wish I Could Go Back to College”
There are also songs which I declined to post as I censor myself, but check out the full list here.

It is definitely easy to identify with Princeton and his monster love, Kate.  Sometimes, I wish I could go back to school, too.  But then I realize I wouldn’t live in NYC and I immediately change my mind.

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