Archive | April, 2013

When Did I Get Old?

29 Apr

clubbing

“I’m so tired.”

It wasn’t even 11 p.m., and I was ready to hit the hay. Here we were in the East Village, the night life had just begun to perk up and the city was alive. Neon electric, it was this sight that had attracted me to this place to begin with. Any bar, dance club, or restaurant was open for the taking and here we were. A club experience with a beauty salon façade with ‘80s music blaring from the speakers? Done. Want a cave-like experience full of goths? Here you go.

But I didn’t want it. Sure, some of the delis looked appealing – a cup of coffee and a mozzarella and pastrami sandwich sounded wonderful. If my cell phone’s time was right, it was tea time. Followed by my loaned library book and finished with sweet slumber under my down blanket.

When my 21st birthday finally hit in September (a few years back or more), I was ready. I was in a university town with a vibrant night life. I wanted to stay up past closing time, attend after-hours parties, and get the full “college experience.” Sundays were not meant solely for studying, but also as a coping period for excessive hangovers. That’s just what that day of rest was for – resting. On my black futon with a bowl of soup and a Subway sandwich. Monday came along and I was brand new.

“Anyone even like this music?”

When did music and noise become synonymous? The White Stripes that had been playing overhead had been replaced by a thumping and high-pitched electric piano. A melody of four notes played over and over to obviously a giant smashing footprints into cement. Beauty to my ears. While I sat, trying to bob my head to a bass line that stayed inconsistent, everyone else danced liked madmen. So, they had figured it out. I had no interest in doing so, and I stayed perched on my chair covering up with my North Face coat/blanket.

In college, I used to hang out with a group of friends who ironically danced. It was crazy fun. We’d go to so many clubs and make any time a hysterical farce. People would come try to grind with our group, while we continued our grooving ways. Costumes were involved.

“Um, I’m not your baby.”

While waiting in line for lengthy amounts of time for the bathroom (a bathroom that looked like it could have been constructed for Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”), a guy decided it was a perfect opportunity to rub the small of my back while calling me baby and sweet talking me. One, who was he kidding? Two, was I the last one on his list? I was pretty crabby, my makeup was melting, and I looked like I could care less by his persuasive tone. “Move along,” I thought, as he left by my “puh-leeze” eye rolling. My hand never strayed far from my pocket full of mace. I continued on to the dirty bathroom with toilet paper suspended in the air by a piece of black string.

Back in my day (yeah, I’ll use that), I did care. A lot. And maybe I still like to get hit on every once and awhile, but I prefer the daylight. And a sober scene for that. I used to feel like it was such a compliment for a guy (any guy) to bestow that on me. Especially at a bar. “They chose me!” I thought as they continued their advances on the next girl.

“It hurts…remind me why I did that?”

The next day. While my college schedule allowed for such setbacks, my “now” does not. My days off are meant for going on a run, reading books, discovering new places and experiencing new things. Not for wasting it. Not for being laid up in bed wondering why I am no longer 21.

Don’t get me wrong. I can stay out past 11 some nights, and I enjoy throwing back a couple glasses of martinis on a night out with friends. But I think those bar-crawling days might be behind me. For good reason. I get sad and sentimental over the nights I stayed out until the wee hours of the morning, and arrived back home exhausted with stilettos in hand. But my purse was always empty of money, my head was constantly throbbing, and I felt like I had nothing to lose.

So am I getting old or growing up? Sometimes it’s hard to grasp that they might mean the same thing.

Lady Crush: Carly Simon

26 Apr

A really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars – Carly Simon

Lately, I have been bombarded by articles about “the most beautiful people alive.” I know that everyone rushes to the newsstands to pick up their People Magazine to find out who looks super gorg this year, but in my opinion, the publication perpetuates the wrong description of “beauty.”

One artist who I deeply admire and would say is absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful is THE Carly Simon.

While walking to work this morning, I turned on my Spotify to my Carly Simon Collection. My beloved playlist. I get so lost in the music, still, even after having listened to most of her songs many, many times.

I was first introduced to this woman when I was a young child. My mom had many of her tapes and would play them in the kitchen or out on a drive. At the age of 11, I started to voice my confusion with her hit “You’re So Vain.” It played constantly on Lite 104.1, and while she did think the guy in question would assume it was about him, he’d be right. “So what’s the problem?” I’d ask my mother. “She wrote the song about this guy, if he knows her and thinks the song is about him, so be it. Right? This song makes no sense.” Also, why would you date a guy wearing an apricot ascot in the first place? Gross.

But I grew to love her music. Her songs are pure story, and while she has a beautiful voice, her talent as a songwriter astounds me. While the lyrics and music had been written years ago, I toted my Best Of … CD around in my car for years, since, well, since I could drive. The stories told are obviously very personal, from the heart, but still very relatable. And I always respect an artist who can share such personal tragedies and triumphs with the world.

And while many Brittany Murphy movies are laughable, I still own and watch “Little Black Book.” Because Simon’s music was key, and the storyline played out much like one of her songs. In “Working Girl,” another movie I own, “Let The River Run” become an integral part, and the movie “Heartburn.” Dear Lord, what is there not to say about “Heartburn”? It is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time. Written by Nora Ephron, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, and with a theme written by Simon AND featuring “Coming Around Again”? Come on, that’s just plain awesome.

Besides her songs, she survived breast cancer, is a children’s author, and was married to James Taylor. And had two children with him. I can go on and on about this celebrity like I know her, but I just want to express my admiration for one of my “most beautiful people.” She’s pretty damn awesome.

 

American Girl memories

25 Apr
Halloween-pic-Carrie-Emily

I’m on the left in my homemade American Girl Jelly Belly costume. My little sister is next to me. Obviously, we loved candy. It’s amazing that we still have all of our teeth.

Yesterday, I posted some of my favorite books from my childhood. And one thing that I have not touched on is the American Girl collection. I grew up completely immersed in the world it offered – and it definitely helped shaped my adolescence. For years, I ordered the magazine. It was so awesome, and I believe that most of those are in storage somewhere. Each issue was divided up into categories which I found to be of all-important interest to me. In the middle, was an everyday real girl paper doll with assorted outfits (I LOVE PAPER DOLLS), but I was unwilling to break any of these out of the package, in fear of ruining a perfect issue. Every year, there were homemade Halloween costume ideas. I eventually used one – becoming a giant Jelly Belly bag (as shown embarrassingly above).

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I always wanted to submit my story to the mag to become a paper doll. But I didn’t have the courage. And I didn’t want a cartoon version of myself in a swimsuit available to the public.

My love for American Girl didn’t stop there, oh no, I loved, loved, loved the dolls. Unfortunately, I never had one or any of their beautiful clothes. But, thinking back, I wasn’t a huge doll person, just a clothes person. I would rather have Barbie outfits than the actual doll itself. So shuffling through the catalog that came four times a year was an absolute pleasure. The glossy paged booklet would sit on my bed stand, and I would flip through it numerous times. The pictures of beautiful wood-carved wardrobes stocked full of outfits, next to their four-post beds … magnificent (but obscene prices!. I would pretend that I owned one of the historical dolls and would decide on which costume was best for certain occasions. I liked the catalog almost more than the magazine, and decided to send it to any and all my girlfriends (which consisted of four of my girl cousins.) Imagine their confusion, when they realized I sent them unending amounts of American Girl catalogs. Why wouldn’t you want 20 of these lying around your bedroom?

When this came in the mail, I raced up to my bedroom to compare to my previous issue. Just to admire the new products.

When this came in the mail, I raced up to my bedroom to compare to my previous issue. Just to admire the new products.

I did, however, own many of the books. I had every book for three characters: Felicity (Colonial), Addy (Civil War), and Molly (WWII). Kirsten (Swedith immigrant) was meh for me, and I loved Samantha (Victorian), but ended up just borrowing her books from the library. The other dolls were after my time, and the original ones are the ones I liked best. Not only were the stories well-thought out, but they weren’t happy-go-lucky tales for children. Each character had to deal with the issues of their time period, and not all had happy endings. There was a section in the front of each book that talked more in detail about each of the characters, and I mustn’t forget the back pages. Oh, the back pages! History at my fingertips. Pages and pages of black and white photos, information about the time period – I was in heaven.

This is my absolute favorite book of any of the series.

This is my absolute favorite book of any of the American Girl series.

I have recently found that Samantha, Felicity and Kirsten were archived, WTF???? And while the books will still be available, no longer will you be able to go to the store and see the beautiful furniture, wardrobes, and dolls in all their splendor and glory.

This is the doll I wanted and the outfit I wanted her to come in. And yes, under my family Christmas tree.

This is the doll I wanted and the outfit I wanted her to come in. And yes, under my family Christmas tree.

Seriously, I owe this company (and its parent company Mattel) a great deal of thanks, as I can’t say enough about their collection. Although I was never able to afford the doll and accessories, and I was never able to get Felicity’s hair did (she was the doll I wanted most) or dress her in her blue velvety ballgown – the collection of books, the magazine, and the catalog were enough for me.

Classic Books From My Past

24 Apr

Books have been an integral part of my life. I despised, repeat despised, any kind of forced sport in the summer, and would rather spend my time curled up in my air-conditioned local library (shout-out to Kendall Young, seriously the best library I have EVER been in). If I wasn’t there, I was sitting on my bed with my Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies and any number of books. My bookshelf was always overflowing, and I never just checked out two or three books at a time. I was fortunate, in that my mother gave me $5 each month for my Scholastic book order. I was overjoyed when I received the thin-sheeted catalog and always stretched that money and bought the cheaper books. When a book sale came to school, I was given money there too. Sheer excitement for any and every book.

Now, I still read books meant for middle-school readers and have recently begun to restock my library as I had gotten rid of many over the years (why???). Here are a few (or more than a few) that helped shape my literary world and became quite dog-eared in the process.

(Note: Haven’t included board books or The American Girl classics from my past … OR a list of my absolute FAVE Sweet Valley Twins, those all seem like longer lists for another day. Also, these are just the ones I remember at the moment. I’m sure tonight, there will be a ton of other ones I wish I had mentioned.)

Interstellar Pig

Interstellar-Pig

I never thought of myself as someone who enjoyed the science fiction genre, but this one just kicked serious behind. A boy goes on vacation, gets bored, starts playing games … with ALIENS. It’s pretty great.

The Giver

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What is not to love about this book? I still read it at least twice a year, and feel that it is the best Dystopian novel that I have ever read. Oh, I love The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Road, and stories like The Lottery – this one is just the best. Each time, I come away with a different conclusion.

Tuck Everlasting

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This was, for me, my Where The Red Fern Grows. That book made me cry just a bit too much. I became too emotionally invested in this book, and had to step away from it for awhile. (It was always a bit hard to separate fantasy from reality for me as a kid.)

Blubber

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This is the actual book cover of the one in my collection when I was younger, which I find somewhat disturbing now. It was my first Judy Blume book. And while it is an older read, I really find this book to be a great learning tool for children to prevent bullying. The main character isn’t exactly a nice person, and I really enjoyed having a non-hero as the story’s teller.

The Long Winter

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I never got rid of any of my Laura Ingalls Wilder books. That might have been blasphemous. And while I count all of her novels as “favorites,” this was my go-to. Every winter, without fail, I’d cozy up and learn about the plight of the Ingalls family and all of their neighbors during a horrible blizzard.

The Wish Giver

9780590420402Amazing. One of my absolute faves. After attending a local fair, four people are left with “wish cards.” Unfortunately, three of their wishes do not go as planned. SOOO GOOD!

The Indian In The Cupboard

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Going to be honest: If any doll or toy becomes real, I will instantly love it. There is one book, Melony, Melody, I don’t know, it starts with an ‘M’, about a mean fashion doll becoming real. The copy that my sister and I owned was in absolute pieces from the amount of times we read that sucker.

Charlotte’s Web

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“That’ll do, pig.” This book is just a classic. So sad, so poetic, so wonderful.

The Best Loved Doll

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I’m getting into more younger book territory here, but I have continuously read this book throughout the years. A little girl brings her favorite doll to a party. She could pick one of her more fancy dolls, something impressive, but she chooses to bring the one she loves best. It’s ratty and torn, but very loved. The Store Bought Doll and Corduroy come to mind when thinking of this book.

From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

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Oh, wow, this book is so good. Two children decide to run away from home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And live there. What is not to like about this story?

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

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Rats helping Mrs. Frisby (a mouse) and her family escape from spring plowing. It is such a beautiful tale, and it makes me cry every time.

The Baby-Sitters Club: Baby-Sitters On Board!

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I honestly wasn’t a huge TBC fan. I had a few of these on my bookshelf, but they were far outnumbered by the Sweet Valley Twins. Yet, I had one that I would read constantly, and this was it. The club goes on a cruise and to Disneyland (some have to work, while others can breeze on through the vacation, which I felt was unfair) but it tells the tale from multiple viewpoints (like the other books, but this one just worked even better). I wanted to be on that trip with them. I wanted to be Stacey (without diabetes) or Claudia (who was just plain awesome). Not Kristy, though. Never Kristy. She scared me.

Little Women

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I read this very early in my career as a reader. First, with one of those easy-to-read versions and moving on to the real thing. If it is not my favorite book, it is definitely in the top 3 of all time.

The Devil’s Arithmetic

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I have had the pleasure of seeing Jane Yolen speak on a few occasions. One of these days, I’m going to thank her for writing this book. During a Passover Seder supper, Hannah (who is Jewish) is transported to Poland in 1942, where she is sent to a Nazi concentration camp. It is an absolutely attention-grabbing read, and led to many, many other books on the subject of World War II. At the time period that I first read this novel, I was only buying books that told of tales from the Holocaust. I was pretty young, and I remember my parents taking away my WWII books because I couldn’t sleep at night. This is a book I recommend ANYONE read.

The Secret Garden

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This was not the book jacket of the book I own (to this day). Mine is beautiful, and I would stare at it for a long time before opening because of its breathtaking artwork. I would pretend that I had a secret garden, which was actually an outdoor art studio in my neighborhood. No one knew about it, except for obviously the photographer and his family, but I pretended it was all mine.

tumblr_m8tnl4nalC1qzgrn9o1_400R.L. Stine really should be mentioned because he was my gateway author to Christopher Pike. I mean, I read all of their books, reiterate ALL, but this is the book I will still read. A girl runs away from home and her problems, and ends up picking up a couple of hitchhikers. She reveals more and more of her back story, and it is just an absolutely wild tale. This one isn’t just a horror novel, it is one that makes you think. After reading this book, I was ready for the world that Stephen King offered.

Sweet Valley Twins: The Magic Christmas

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Ask any of my family members (extended, even) what my favorite books from yesteryear include, and they will say “Sweet Valley Twins.” I have them all. Every single one of them. I have read them all more than four or five times each. And when I was packing away my life’s belongings to move to NYC, this is the box of items I left at home for safe storage. I will never sell them. And while I love all of the books and specials, The Magic Christmas is my absolute favorite. After arguing and fighting on Christmas Day, the girls are transported along with their dolls to a magical land. I wanted to be one of the twins most of the time, but never more than in this novel. I still read it every Christmas.

I could have listed young adult or middle school books that I read now, like the Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series, but I didn’t discover those until I was out of grade school. And there are so many other books I could list that I so enjoyed, like the Pick Your Own Adventure series, but these are the few I will still go to every once and awhile and get to remember what I was like as a kid. Reading these remind me of certain moments of my life and how I felt at those times. And so while I enjoy these books for the texts contained in them, I also read them to cherish my childhood once more.

Online shopping is not my friend

24 Apr

Shop online

Another girly-girl list. Because it’s Wednesday, and it’s going to be my list-day, dammit!

Today, I’m going to explore my favorite online shopping sites. When I was jobless without money, I scoured websites for things I didn’t need and/or obviously couldn’t afford. Once and awhile, when I’m super depressed, easily influenced, or just feel like it – I will go a little crazy. And Amazon is awesome, but everyone (besides book retailers) loves that site.

Target.com

Obviously. I love Target.com. I love everything about it, I love the red colors, I just love this big-box store. And with my Target Visa card, I can get a percentage off my purchase each time (on and offline) as well as FREE freakin’ SHIPPING. That would make anyone jump for joy. Especially me. I have bought cheap furniture, home decor, our new vacuum, things I just don’t want to haul in our little blue grocery cart from the real live store from here. So happy.

ShabbyApple.com

My go-to want-to-buy-awesome-clothes site. I have a huge obsession with Anthropology, an unhealthy one, really. But on my budget, I can barely afford items in the clearance section. I will allow myself to go into their beautiful doors once a month, just to bask in its greatness. This site is much more affordable, super classy, and just plain awesome. Customer service is extremely helpful, the reviews are pretty honest, and a portion of their net income goes to charity. It’s where I would imagine a nowadays middle-class Audrey Hepburn would online shop.

ModCloth.com

I will admit that I don’t visit this site as much as I used to (due to the site mentioned right above), but I have bought many things from here in the past. Including purses and bags that I still use. I like to use this site as a reference for items that I may like to buy in the future. Warning: If you like the dresses on here (and many of you might), realize that the fabric isn’t the best and everything comes in teeny sizes. You were warned.

Gilt.com

This is one of those flash-sale sites that is pretty expensive if you go there every day. But, if you get e-mail alerts, you may find a brand or type of item that you may want to search there for on their daily sales. Like getting Hunter boots for a much smaller cost than you would find them in the stores.

Overstock.com

What is not to love about this site? So many beautiful, beautiful pieces of furniture that I wish I could buy right now. If my apartment were twice the size (oh yeah, and my bank account). But the throws and pillows are in my price range.

TheAfternoon.com

I go to this site for two reasons. One, because if you want unique gifts, this may be a start to wear you would find them. Two, I would visit this store in Minneapolis and Omaha whenever I was in either city – and, sigh, I just miss setting foot in this store.

UncommonGoods.com

Speaking of unique gifts, this is a really cool place. I go there just to find inspiration or ideas, it’s pretty pricey otherwise.

Blinds.com

I haven’t actually gone to this site per say, but my mom and sister really enjoy it. So yeah, throwing that out there.

Etsy.com

Well, this is obvious. Want cool things that are (maybe) homemade. Then go here. It’s always great to buy from the little guy rather than the chains, and more likely than not, way awesomer stuff. Like a cross-stitched wall adornment of a swear word. Magical.

Sephora.com

For obvious reasons. You can get your free samples and your beauty bonuses (way more choices than if you go into the store), and free shipping after spending so much money. A wonderful place indeed.

Zappos.com

Where am I currently looking? This place. Because this girl loves some shoes.

Yeah, I’m extending this blog with a part two tomorrow. Favorite sites to procrastinate on at work on Thursday.

Dragging, dragging along

23 Apr
I would so sleep in a pile of books right now.

I would so sleep in a pile of DVDs and video games right now.

Ever have one of those days where no matter how much coffee or Red Bull is available, you still just long for your bed? The minutes seem to slow, and the excess caffeine has just made your digits shake endlessly. Your body is filled with a coldness that won’t go away with a zipped-up sweater.

That’s me today. I had a chaotic, but awesome, weekend with one of my best friends. But my recent bedtime regime has begun to resemble one fit for a retiree – and I enjoy reading my Kindle in bed by 9 p.m. So when we arrived home at 11 p.m., midnight, and finally 3 a.m., it was a terrible shock to the system. I am not a college-aged kid anymore, unfortunately, and my body does not bounce back so easily.

And after the fact, knowing my apartment was in shambles and desperately needed an intervention, I excitedly accepted a babysitting gig from two of my favorite NYC people. While my eyes were half closed on the train home to Jersey City, I realized that I hadn’t written my Monday column. Shit. 2 a.m. came around and I was still typing vigorously on my computer. I knew that my alarm clock would be buzzing in five hours, and that I needed some sort of sleep to get by today. And I did. The one enjoyable moment was climbing into my bed and pulling up my down comforter, feeling that extra-tired feeling and knowing that slumber wasn’t far away. But the kind of sleep I experienced was the brand where you wake up every hour, anxiety ridden over sleeping in too late. Waking up wasn’t easy, and I may have washed the conditioner out of my hair? Note the question mark. I have hurriedly gone through my morning, to finally realize that I have an event to attend tonight. What a long day that seems to never end.

The laundry will have to wait. The vacuuming will be there for another day. So here I am, about to chug my fourth cup of coffee and thinking longingly of that warm bed, still unmade.

Times Square Tourist Tips

23 Apr

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It has taken a long, long time to get used to the animal that is New York City and its many qualities and quirks. I am sure I’ll never figure them all out, or understand the complete attraction people have to Times Square. That neon-electric area of town, perpetually on a junkie’s high.

I won’t be the first to admit it, but it is not my favorite part of NYC. My first time there years ago gave me that early impression. I’m not a fan of crushing crowds and in-your-face advertising. And after I spent a few months commuting to the St. James Theatre to bartend, I quickly began to dislike the area even more.

People kept asking me why I wasn’t in Times Square on New Year’s Eve last year. “You live there. You should experience it.” The reason? I have no desire to pee in a bag, I can’t stand the thought of being pushed by thousands of people to the various subway stops on the way home, and won’t stand in the freezing cold amidst the various aromas of the people you have to be be wedged next to (I’m not a scrooge, I swear!). Maybe this is still a hard concept to grasp, but if you live here for a few months, you would probably understand. You are always in the middle of a mass of people, and sometimes celebrating in another mind-numbing crowd just loses its appeal.

But if I ever want to go to Broadway, I go to Times Square. If people are visiting the city, more than likely they are going to want to visit it eventually. So here are just a few tips for meandering around that “fun” area.

Be smart. This is a crazy tourist area and most people know it. Many New Yorkers avoid it for that very reason. But other people who know it will exploit you for it. That is why you see so many beggars on the street. Don’t give them money, seriously. Many people are dressed in costumes, from Dora The Explorer to Woody from Toy Story. Don’t hug them. Don’t take their picture. Just don’t do it. They expect money from you and will be really upset when you try to get a freebie. Also, do you want to hug them, really? Have you seen how dirty their costumes are? These aren’t professional actors, people. Hustlers will try to get you to take their bus tour, go to their private dance club. If you want whatever they are serving, fine, but if not – let them know it. Ignore them completely or be a jerk and just say no. No need to let your Midwest niceness show through in these situations, seriously.

Be courteous. If you want to stop and take a picture, just make sure that you aren’t stopping in front of someone who is walking behind you. If you are lost and wanting to look at your phone or map, stop by a store wall. Don’t stand in the middle of the sidewalk as hundreds of people try to walk around you. If there is a long line at TKTS, don’t just complain and complain. Everyone else has to wait too. (FYI: Want cheaper Broadway or off-Broadway tickets? If you don’t mind not knowing exactly what play you are going to until a day ahead of time, go to the TKTS booth behind the bright red stairs in the middle of Times Square. You can get 50 percent off ticket prices. Pretty worth it.)

Be flexible. One place that is worth going in the Times Square area (or other places in NYC as it is a chain) is Shake Shack. Cheap shakes and concretes, hot dogs and burgers, just plain awesome. You want to hit that up instead of a McDonald’s for good grub. Unfortunately, there are very few spots to sit at. People will try to hoard seats, not share tables, but this is how it is in NYC. Many places are communal-style dining and people just eat where they can. So don’t get upset if you have to share a small table with a couple people you don’t know.

Be a tourist. Have a good time. Go to the NYC souvenir shops. They are awesome and super inexpensive. Tacky but fun. Do enjoy the weird sights of people hawking their various wares on the street. Eat a $2 hot dog or get some cheap Mediterranean food from a vendor. And do get those sweet cashews and almonds from those street corners. Totally worth it.

After being here for more than half a year now, I realize that I have some good advice for tourists (especially Midwesterners) in cities in general and NYC, but that’s another column for another day.

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