Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shake ya Tailfeather

I've done a few items on my 28 Things list where I didn't think I'd fit in with the crowd, like when I went to a New York Fashion Week Show or ate at Le Bernardin, but I never expected that a birdwatching tour would be where I fit in the least.

#28 Take a birdwatching tour in Central Park


My parents really like birds. We'll be driving in the car and they'll stop looking at the road because a hawk is flying overhead. Or we'll be talking on the phone and one of them will mention a bird they saw in the yard and it'll take me a few minutes to get them to steer the conversation back to me. When my mom suggested this item for my list, I decided it would be perfect for the last item on the list, because I wouldn't have thought of it on my own. Plus, who better to recommend my last item than my mother who brought me into this world 28 years ago?

I met up with Birding Bob at 9 am at the Boathouse. I had borrowed binoculars from Carrie so I thought I was prepared, but when I saw everyone else there for the tour, I knew that I was not. I hadn't brought my bucket hat with pins of different birds on it, I forgot to bring my birding journal where I could record which birds I had seen, and I didn't have my camera with the three-foot-long zoom lens. These birders were serious.


Bob was an awesome guide. Our group was big because the weather was gorgeous and it is migration season, but we were still able to see a lot without scaring them away. Most of the birds were pretty tiny, like the downy woodpecker above, so I was glad I had my binoculars. What I really liked about it was that it was basically a treasure hunt. We walked around areas where Bob knew birds hung out and followed all the clues - listened for bird calls, watched where other birders' binoculars were pointed, and looked for movement in the trees. Once in a while, Bob would play a bird call on his phone to attract birds our way. It also seemed like we were members of the paparazzi, but I'm way better at picking out celebs than different birds. I felt really uncool compared to the others. I was only able to identify the cardinals, blue jays, an egret, and this little guy below:


But I was at least told that I saw black-and-white and Northern Parula warblers who were only in town for the week, a Baltimore oriole, goldfinches, towhees, woodpeckers, a Carolina Wren which people could not hold their excitement about, and lots of different kinglets, thrashers, and sparrows. The tour was really fun and something different to do on a weekend morning. It was strange to be actually looking forward to hearing these birds chirping rather than to be annoyed at their chirping outside my window after a rough night out. Being one with nature was perfect for me as I completed my year-long project of my 28 Things to do Before I Turn 28. I don't officially turn 28 until 4:44 pm, so I am WAY ahead of schedule.


xo

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Walking Broadway

This past month, I have been constantly reminded that I'm not cut out for being active - I was nervous for a 7K race, my body was in pain for days after trapeze lessons, and, most recently, I sprained my foot somehow while walking the entire length of Broadway.

#27 Walk the entire length of Broadway

Caitlin is responsible for this task being on my list and therefore blamed for my foot injury. But she is also blamed for all the fun I had and good food I ate on my adventure, so I guess it evens out. Broadway is the only avenue that stretches the entire length of Manhattan, from 225th Street to Battery Park City - a good 13.6 miles - a half-marathon, if you will.

I started off last Saturday running in Central Park with Aubrey and Meg. In hindsight, it wasn't smart to do the run and the walk in one day, but you live and learn. Aubrey was kind enough to join me on the first leg of my journey, from 225th to 180th. I was happy to have the company as I knew the walk would take me a while, especially with lots of stops scheduled along the way. 


We took the 1 train to 225th and walked over the Broadway Bridge into Manhattan to begin the trek. The first point of interest was Carrot Top Pastries on 214th, a cute bakery with "the best carrot cake in NYC". We split a slice there for our breakfast. While I'm not normally a huge fan of carrot cake for obvious reasons (vegetables and me are not great friends), it was actually pretty yummy.


The next stop was at 204th - Dyckman Farmhouse, the oldest farmhouse in Manhattan. I have no idea where there are other farmhouses in Manhattan, but this one was adorable. It certainly does not fit in with the rest of the buildings around there, but I wonder how many people who live up there actually have been to check it out. Aubrey and I walked around the outside gardens and into the house, where they have set up the furniture and decor to resemble what it would have looked like in the 1800s.


Soon after, Aubrey and I came across an adorable three-panel mural with neighborhood kids' drawings of NYC.


After Aubrey had to leave a few blocks later, I'll admit that I went through a pretty bleak period. It was still 100 blocks until I would be in familiar territory, my foot was already hurting, and the things on my list to check out were few and far between. I passed the United Palace Church on 175th which used to be a theater and had "Come on in or smile as you pass" written on the marquee. I walked by old men playing board games on the sidewalk, men aggressively cutting up pineapples at fruit stands, a plaque notifying me that I was walking in the footsteps of Washington's army during the Revolutionary War, and a street fair around Columbia University. I finally saw the next point-of-interest on 112th - Tom's Restaurant, aka Monk's Diner from Seinfeld.


It took me quite some time to get through 110th down to the 90s. I had to stop and get an everything bagel toasted with butter at Absolute Bagels at 108th, get a dog-shaped cookie and a chai at Silver Moon Bakery on 105th, and get a slice of Sal & Carmine pizza at 102nd. I was thankful for the food and also sat at each establishment for quite some time as my foot was in a lot of pain at this point.


As I walked further downtown, I started to come across the Broadway that I knew - the stores and restaurants in the 80s and 70s, Lincoln Center on 65th, and Columbus Circle on 59th. I had originally thought if I had to, I could stop at Columbus Circle and finish up the rest of Broadway on Sunday. I hadn't really paid attention to the Columbus statue since seeing him in his living room in the winter, but I sure appreciated seeing him on this day. Being there meant that I had less than 5 miles to go, so I decided to continue on after all.


I struggled through the Broadway of Times Square because at this point it was mid-afternoon on a sunny Saturday and the tourists were out. Worse than the tourists though were all the people dressed up like characters...Elmos, Hello Kittys, superheroes galore. I don't remember this many characters out any other time I've been in the area and I've been there a lot.


After Times Square, the crowds continued through Herald Square but relaxed a little after that. I finally got to the 20s and Madison Square Park in my 'hood. I rested for a while on a rock while staring at one of my favorite buildings, the Flatiron.


A few minutes later, I was in Union Square and also rested there. It was here that I realized I wasn't going to be able to walk normally for a few days and hoped I wasn't going to be on crutches. But it would have been silly to stop so close to the end, right? I trekked on through Soho, past City Hall, and down into the Financial District. I passed St. Paul's church and Trinity Church and peered into their cemetaries for a while, noting the history here, with gravestones from the 1700s of notable New Yorkers at the time. I read through the Canyon of Heroes strips on the sidewalk to mark honorees of ticker-tape parades over the years. I glanced at the Freedom Tower from a different point of view than the one I see every day. I watched people take pictures with the butt of the bull of Wall Street.


I trudged on and on, unfortunately this far downtown thinking more about the pain I was in than anything else. But then suddenly, I saw it. Battery Park City. I was exhausted. It had taken me seven and a half hours, two hours longer than I had estimated, but I had made it. Broadway started in Manhattan with numbers in the 6000s, but I had made it to number ONE.


Immediately after this picture was taken, well, after I was able to get the people who took it to stop trying to convert me to their religion, I limped to a cab and had the driver take me to the pedicure place by my apartment. I deserved it. I did end up having to ice and wrap my foot for a few days but I think I'm all better now. On to the next.

xo

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Home of the Good Burger

Mendy and I met up for lunch on Sunday to catch up and also to complete one of the last items on my 28 Things list, one that he suggested, to eat "the best burger in NYC" at Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridian.

#26 Eat at Burger Joint

I'm way into burgers and have my favorites in the city. I'm at Shake Shack every week during the summer, and you'll find me hitting up Bareburger, 5 Napkin Burger, Island Burger, & brgr during the winter months. Until Sunday, I was deprived of what many call "the best burger in NYC." I had heard that Burger Joint was in the running, but I had also heard this label thrown out describing burgers at Shake Shack, Corner Bistro, and at Minetta Tavern (if you want to pay $30/burger).

Burger Joint is a little city secret, inside one of the nicest hotels in town. There is always a long line, but as you know, some things are worth waiting for. Before getting in, I thought it would be kind of stuffy and expensive. I even wondered if they would scowl at me if I took a photo of my perfect burger. I'm glad that Mendy didn't tell me before it was our turn to walk in that it was a total dive. The restaurant was probably a storage closet at one point and they decided to destroy the walls and get a grill and see if they could make any side money. And I'm sure they make a lot of it.


I also had pondered what kind of burgers they would have on the menu. Would Mendy and I get different burgers and split them? How would I decide which burger to get? The things I worry about, huh? Luckily, they make it easy at the joint. I picked a cheeseburger over a hamburger (why would you ever get something without cheese on it?!), cooked medium, with the works. I told Mendy I was not sharing fries with him and he agreed and we got our own. We both made several comments about the brownies sitting next to the counter and at the last minute decided to grab one, too.


Mendy and I were going to wait to eat the brownie for dessert but after five seconds of looking at it, we both dove in. Hey, I hadn't eaten since my Eggo waffles an hour beforehand. I don't know what Mendy's excuse was. But don't worry, a few minutes later when our burgers and fries were ready, we still went to town.


I have to say, Mendy and all those other people might just be right about this being the best burger in the city. It is a burger so good that you'll say "wow, that's a good burger" with the first bite still completely in your mouth. You won't care that it takes you a while to get a napkin to wipe off the juices dripping down your chin. You'll work your hardest to fit that last bite in, even though you know you shouldn't, that you will barely be able to get up from your seat. But that's what a good burger is all about.

xo

Monday, April 22, 2013

When on Arthur Ave

In my experience, the best way to reward yourself for a job well done is with food. As a reward for a successful trapeze lesson, Caitlin and Tyler picked Kat and me up at Pier 40 last Saturday and we drove to Arthur Ave in the Bronx together. This was, well what do ya know, another item on my 28 Things, suggested by Caitlin.

#25 Go to Arthur Ave


Arthur Ave is similar to Little Italy, but some would say it's even more authentic. I won't be experiencing real-life Italy for another few months, so I can't verify this yet, but I can tell you that everything was delizioso.

We started off at Dominick's which everyone kept recommending to me the week before. I was told that it would be family style, that we'd be sitting close with other people, and that we wouldn't order but just eat whatever the waitstaff decided to bring us. I loved this idea and was excited when we didn't get menus, but the waiter did end up asking us what we wanted. I said "something with chicken" hoping he'd just make the decision (like at speakeasys where you say you like vodka and they bring you a random drink with vodka), but he made me pick from a few dishes. I chose Chicken insert Italian-sounding adjective that I forget here which he told me was spicy. We also got antipasta, a stuffed artichoke, osso bucco, and of course, pasta with sauce. 




Everything was amazing, especially the stuffed artichoke, which I had never tried before aside from in dips with cheese. We weren't the only ones who enjoyed our meals. While we were eating, a man got up to leave with his pants still unbelted and unbuttoned and his friend followed with a huge pasta sauce stain on his thigh. If that doesn't speak for the food, I don't know what does.


After lunch, we walked around for a while going to different bakeries and delis. We all bought cannolis, rainbow cookies, and butter cookies. I was going to a housewarming that night and planned on bringing the box of butter cookies I purchased, but that all changed after I tasted one. "No way, I'm eating all of these myself." #sorrynotsorry


xo

Sunday, April 21, 2013

With the Greatest of Ease

I cannot even explain the pain I was in on Saturday and Sunday...and actually through 'til Wednesday... All because of maybe ten total minutes of exercise on Saturday. You may think this is pathetic, and you would be correct, but a few days of pain is the norm for someone who takes trapeze lessons at the Trapeze School of New York, on Pier 40 (Houston & the West Side Highway).

#24 Take trapeze lessons 

Kat suggested trapeze lessons for my list of 28 Things and offered to try it out with me. This was one of the items I was most nervous about because I've recently discovered that I'm apparently a little scared of falling (as noted here and here) but also I was sure I just wouldn't physically be capable, even thought I have been running and working out for the past few months.


But get this, I actually was able to do it! Trapeze School of New York is fantastic. Their adorable tagline is: "Forget fear. Worry about the addiction." They had just opened up for the season when we went and I understand why. It was still way too cold and windy to be doing what we were doing, especially considering that we had to stand in our socks for two hours on a wet-from-the-night-before astroturfy surface a few stories in the air on top of the pier.

Luckily, wet socks were the worst part of the day. The instructors were amazing and really made sure everyone was able to succeed. Caitlin and Henry took turns standing up on the jumping platform and putting on our lines so we didn't fall and Jeff called out the instructions and held onto ropes that could swing the bar if we needed it. Kat and I were joined in our lesson by a group there for a birthday. Some of them picked it up really quickly and were able to get their legs up on the first try. Kat and I were convinced they had done this before or at least met each other in gymnastics when they were little, but they denied this. If they didn't have the last name of Barnum, then they probably did well because they weren't as terrified as I was. It turns out, like most things, trapeze is very mental. I don't understand physics AT ALL, but there's something about you being in the air that makes it not about strength or athleticism.

While still on the ground, we practiced what to do when we got up on the platform, getting into position and making sure we jumped with our legs together. We then had to climb the shaky ladder, set up how we had practiced, and jump for real. Jeff called out instructions while we were swinging to bring our legs up to the bar, let go of the bar with our arms, and then bring our arms back up and our legs back out. We then were supposed to let go and fall on the net. My first and second time jumping, I couldn't get my legs up to the bar. I was hesitant each time and was jumping without thinking to keep my legs together. Caitlin mentioned to me that I seemed the most nervous of everyone, which I assured her was perfectly normal.

Pretending not to be scared

Kat swinging leisurely

Finally, on the third jump, after side practice with Caitlin and words of encouragement from everyone, I was able to do it, to roll my legs in and over the bar. I didn't have the confidence to release my arms right away but I did it eventually and it felt great. Everyone else had tried a backflip dismount but I didn't have enough momentum for that, but I told Jeff I was just happy enough to do the leg thing and fell down into the net.


The final jumps were us swinging on one bar and Henry swinging on the other bar and trying to catch us. I went into it thinking "Erin, it's okay if you don't make it, at least you got your legs over the bar." I tried once and didn't have my arms over my head enough for Henry to grab them. But then I got to try one more time and did the last jump of the day for the whole group and I actually did it correctly (or correctly enough) and he caught me. It was awesome.




So in the end, like other things, it took me a little longer to get than everyone else, but I still had a great lesson and would do it again if anyone wants to get a group together, hint hint. Especially since I won't be scared this time around and will probably not scream or shout "Oh God, Oh God, Oh God" during my jumps.



xo

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Night at the Museum (of the City of NY)

One of the hardest things to do in New York is to find an apartment. I starting panicking in January last year when I knew I would have to find a place by August. I'm sure this does not shock you. It turns out that I was semi-founded in my fears as I found out at the Museum of the City of New York this past week that only 1.5% of NYC's rental housing stock is a studio or one-bedroom apartment ready for occupancy. That is insane.

I went to this museum for the first time over a year ago and went again last week with Kat and Sarah for a TimeOutNY party after the museum had closed. We got drinks, white cheddar popcorn, amazing cheese sticks, and a tour of the "Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers" exhibit by the curator, Donald Albrecht.


The exhibit was to show submissions for a design competition held in 2011 for microapartments. The population of NYC is changing and now 50% of the population is single people, either living by themselves, with roommates, or at home with their parents. There are not enough single apartments for all of these people currently so the city is starting to build new microapartments on East 27th Street to meet the demand.

The curator took us through a bunch of the design entries. The main display feature was a life-size model of an apartment with everything built into the wall and/or with a dual-purpose. The murphy bed can be pulled down from the wall over the couch, the ottoman has nesting tables inside of it, the full-sized table slides into the wall, the desk chair turns into a ladder to reach the built in cabinets above everything. This apartment is way nicer than mine. The problem here is that custom furniture is uber-expensive, even if just purchased from Ikea. An apartment like this would also limit your ability to bring in your own furniture, like the cool bar that your dad salvaged from the sidewalk or the beautiful teal side table you made your mom buy you which you couldn't get without the matching vase that was displayed on top of it in the store.


One of the entries was a woman who took a single-family home in a neighborhood in Queens and figured out how many single-resident apartments she could divide the home into while still following all the rules and regulations of the city. She was able to fit eight apartments into her design, the issue here being that in that particular neighborhood, there would need to be a corresponding eight parking spots; these accommodations are unlikely.

Other entries focused on dormitory-style housing, where you would have a bedroom but a shared living, office, bathroom, and kitchen space. This would be similar to living with roommates but you wouldn't have selected these roommates or signed the same lease as them. I'm not sure how the common areas would get cleaned in a situation like this, but I won't have to worry since there is no way I'm sharing a kitchen or bathroom with someone I don't know.


I could actually see myself living in one of the entries - an apartment with a loft which has everything you need in an open space. It's just so darn cute. I am especially loving the bookshelf on the second level. 


But for now, I think I'll stay in my current place, even though I found a tiny uninvited guest last week. Moving is the pits.

xo

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bookin' It

Getting your books at Strand Bookstore is about as NYC as sharing a eyebrow raise and a smile with a cute stranger re: the old lady in front of you yelling at no one in particular about gloves. I had never gone to Strand until this past week, despite it being a short walk from my apartment. Aubrey put this item on my 28 Things list. She is an expert in cute little bookshops around the city, but Strand is pretty much the crème de la crème.

#23 Go to Strand Bookstore

I probably have about thirty books in my apartment that I haven't read yet and I have a kindle, but I still love buying new books in the flesh. I, like Josh Radnor, think that one of the best ways to judge a person is by looking at their bookshelf, so I make sure to keep my shelves stocked with books about travel and art in case any strangers enter my apartment and want to know what I'm about. Some of these books are just clues to the person who I'd like to be, and not necessarily the person I am.

This is my "embarrassed to be taking a selfie in a bookstore" face

Strand Bookstore prides itself on having 18 miles of books which is about four times as long as I ran last weekend. The store has been around since 1927 and was originally part of almost 50 bookstores along 4th Ave between Union Square and Astor Place, six blocks once known as Book Row. When I walked in and started going back into the sprawling mazes of shelves, I was immediately taken back to my college library, which was one of the deciding factors on why I went where I went.


Strand carries over 2.5 million books, old, new, rare, bestsellers - everything you could ever want. They specify which books are cheaper in print than they are as e-books, have staff recommendations and reviews, call out the #1 book to make you look smart on the subway, and have tons of special-interest tables.

My favorite table was of course the New York table, where my future book will be featured one day. I flipped through a few new books I'd heard about, including "Mapping Manhattan," which I purchased that day. I read it this evening in a quick and enthralling ninety minutes. The author, Becky Cooper, gave hundreds of Manhattanites a blank map of the city and asked them to draw their own personal Manhattan. This resulted in a book of 75 creative maps with people mapping out where they've lived, worked, dreamed, eaten, and played, but also creating works of art in the process.


I am definitely adding Strand to my personal map of Manhattan.

xo

Monday, April 8, 2013

You Can't Spell Frousin without R-U-N

A lot of items end up on my to-do lists in order to redeem myself for times when I was younger and things didn't work out how I wanted them to. For example, on my 25 List was "a successful ski trip" as redemption for falling a few times and giving up pretty quickly on the eighth grade ski trip. An item on my 26 List was to run a 5K. I joined the high school track team to enhance my college resume but it resulted in me feeling awful about myself for four straight springs for being the slowest person in the history of the team. But - redemption! I ran the Hoboken Party for a Purpose 5K in the summer of 2010 and it was awesome. I signed up for another race that Halloween, the adorable "HoBOOken 5K" but I somehow got my necklace and headphones tangled together against my throat and was unable to breathe for the last mile - I know how bizarre this sounds. I signed up for three more 5Ks in the next two years but didn't go to any of them because I had stopped running after that race.


But when my frousins wanted to run the Atlantic City April Fools' 7K and 11K, I wanted to be included, especially since it was in my homeland. In my head I needed again to redeem myself, this time for the ridiculous necklace + headphones debacle, so I started to run again a few months ago, mostly on the treadmill since it was too cold for my britches outdoors. I never got the family athletic gene (and have been envious of everyone for at least twenty years because of it), so my dad and I signed up for the 7K while the rest of the team opted for the 11K. Emily (pictured above), the marathoner in the family, was unable to run, but I will let you read about that in her own words


Since I am SO HARD on myself (as in, I actually thought on several separate occasions how I only brought one crossword puzzle home with me this weekend when I should have brought home more), I was really nervous about the race. I knew that I would cross the finish line, 4.34 miles is not that far, especially compared to what my frousins were running, but I wanted to make sure that I didn't give up in the middle and walk any of it, because in my mind, that would have made me a failure - Erin, it wouldn't have. When I did train outside (twice...), I stopped a few times because I didn't know how to pace myself when I wasn't on the treadmill. I didn't want this to happen in the race.

My dad and I didn't really talk about it until right beforehand, but I think we had both been hoping we'd run the race together and keep each other moving. I felt awesome the entire race, whether it was because of the playlist I'd been working out to for weeks (an even mix of gangster rap, Bruce Springsteen, and Justin Timberlake), the breeze coming off the ocean, or being next to my dad, I'm not sure. There was one especially amazing moment probably around the three-mile mark where my dad turned to me, pointed to his headphones, and said "Rosalita!" This was the only time during the race he told me what song he was listening to. "No freaking way," I said, "I'M listening to Rosalita, too!"


Dad and I ran together on the boardwalk for the whole race and crossed the finish line together. It either means he's in really good shape or I'm in really bad shape (or we can go with a combo of these two choices). I didn't walk at all (woo!) so when I finished, I was pretty proud that I had redeemed myself from my previous race. There was no reason to be hard on myself this time (Erin, there's never actually a reason to be hard on yourself). Running the 7K was great because when I finished, I jumped right into cheering for the rest of the family as they came in for the 11K. And I *did* get the family cheering gene.


Having something this past Saturday that I was nervous for that totally worked out bodes well for this Saturday's activity that I am growing more and more terrified about. But the absolute coolest thing about all of this is that the race was part of the AC marathon series, and anyone from MTV's Room Raiders looking at my medal will think I ran a marathon instead of just a wimpy 7K.


xo
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