Monday, June 23, 2008

Sometimes, you just need a drink...

Here are some things I hate:

1) Hipsters
2) Lines
3) Hipsters in line

Odds are that whatever they're in line for is way too cool for me to be in line for, like indie films or ironic live music. So, when I found myself a couple of weeks ago in line for an indie film that was showing on a roof with a pre-sho
w band playing loudly over the neighborhood, I wondered aloud what I could possibly have been doing there. Not only was I clearly out of my element, in my H&M dress, but I was also down in Chinatown, an area which I never visit.

That part was the exciting part. The shitty part was that I was alone, towards the end of a really long line, and unable to reach my friend Maya who had suggested I come to the show. As it neared closer to eight, I realized that all I really wanted to do was go exploring, so I jumped line, left a message on Maya's answering machine, and started off in search of a place called the Bowery Poetry Club.

I had hoped that the
Club would have some sort of open mike or reading series. But, alas, it was a Saturday, and that meant the bar was open and a band was setting up. I decided to face my fears, and I went into the bar by myself. I was there for 45 minutes, watching hipsters arrive, and waiting for the band to stop setting up and play already. I left because after checking equipment for almost an hour, they left the stage and all got alcohol. I figured it was fruitless, and I really hated my canned PBR anyway (number 4 on my list).

But it wasn't a total loss - I was in a bar alone. Not looking to get hit on, just looking. And it really wasn't so bad. I will definitely be going back to the Poetry Club, although on
a night when I can see if the place lives up to its name - because, ultimately I don't like going to bars by myself, but poetry readings sound pretty cool solo. But the point is, I didn't die from embarrassment, and I proved that I am perfectly capable of going out alone. Which is what I set out to prove anyway.

Bars are definitely more fun in a group. I've been going to a place called Greenwich Treehouse down on Greenwich Avenue in the West Village, because my friend Mike is the bartender there
. Our group of friends hangs out there occasionally, and we drink beer while Mike does his thing - he is an excellent bar tender because he understands the performance aspect of the job. Anyway, he shows movies on Monday nights, and when the bar starts to empty out, we play Wii. The place is cool, and on weekends is pretty packed. They have a juke box. And aside from that, I'm starting to dig the West Village, with its pretty tree lined streets and small, themed hang outs. Christopher Street just feels apart from the hipster strewn East Village. I might just be ignoring the sad truth that hipsters own downtown Manhattan as well as Brooklyn and Queens, but I don't think so.

We'll find out more tomorrow when I go to a Christopher Street bar on a date. The place is called The Fat Cat and I've actually been before - I liked it. And my date said it's his favorite bar, which gives me hope that maybe I'll like him. And besides, if it doesn't work out, there are enough pool tables and ping pong tables to distract us from awkward conversation. Could be worse.

The final place of note that I've been to since my last post is The Beer Garden in Astoria. I loved i
t. It reminded me of a bar in SF that I really loved - a kind of hippy biker bar called Zeitgeist in the Mission. Big back yard, lots of tables, pitchers of beer. And all the bartenders were Czech. So were the guys at the table next to us. I thought that was pretty fucking cool.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Burning in My Heart

In the summer, New York lulls, and trudges through the day exhausted and dirty, but grateful for every air conditioning blast from an open shop. New Yorkers stare at the sky and wait for rain to break the heat. It can be clear and blue, but you can feel everyone's eyes incline upwards, just hoping.

I don't have air conditioning. We never did have it because we never spent summers in New York, and I cannot now condone it - not after my hippie make over in the land of composting. So, my roommates and I place a fan in every corner of the house and hope, like everyone else, for that crash of thunder.

I went for a run today, and had to stop before I was done because the heat was so thick, I felt ill. I figured that it was evening, and there was no longer any direct sunlight, so I should be fine. But it just sits on you, like you were in the South. Except you're also dirty. I rubbed dirt off the back of my neck today while I was on the subway. I would've felt awkward about it, except that I knew a) no one was looking at me anyway and b) if anyone else on that subway had rubbed the back of their neck, they would have found dirt there as well.

Then, tonight, it broke.

Laying on bed in my underwear, positioned directly in front of the fan and reading the Times, there was this sudden whoosh from the window, and my curtain exploded into the room. You could literally see the cold front move in. And then the lightning and the thunder and the wind and everything changed. Just like that.

And I was feeling down. I was missing someone, and the coast all at once (perhaps they are inseparable). And then this shift - Kate and I lying in her room today unable to move, now standing at my window as the apartment cools down and shampoo bottles fall in the bathroom.

Trees are falling onto the roof, and the lady with the dog on our hallway is freaked out ("This is very weird weather. Everyone's scared").

I think it's amazing. Heat storm with lightning over Broadway. And tomorrow it's only supposed to be 87.

The Search for the Perfect Coffee Shop

Even if San Francisco had been a total hole in the wall city, I could have loved it for the coffee shops alone. I spent endless hours in Philz and Revolution Cafe, drinking so much sweetened caffeine that my hands began to buzz and I lost feeling in my feet. The atmosphere in these places is beautiful - places to sit, low-key people hanging out, live music sometimes - really they were neighborhood hang outs. But the truly wonderful thing about them was the free wi-fi. I'd lug my computer the few short blocks from my house on the days that I'd work from home, and find myself in good company. I never worried that I was taking up space, or being gauche (because really, is anything gauche in SF?), and so there'd I'd be for hours, working, writing long emails, and of course, drinking really great coffee. It was like out of a fantasy of mine, a kind of early 90s Seattle vision that I had created which I was sure had to be defunct if it had ever even existed in the first place. One of my greatest concerns in returning to New York was that I wouldn't be able to find a simple coffee place with free wi-fi where I could just sit and work for hours.

It turns out my fears were justified. I have a feeling that the vast majority of my exploration will be motivated by the search for the East Coast equivalent of coffee heaven.

It's not that New York is lacking in coffee shops - in comparison to SF, of course, but not in general. It's that the Upper W
est Side is a waste land. I went online to a site called which shows a map of Manhattan and little flags where all the coffee shops are. My neighborhood is pathetically blank. I also visited and which, though lacking the aggressive visual aid, were no more promising. I ended up on which gave me some more detail but I was still faced with the sad truth.

So I sucked it up and hopped the 1.

I ventured to West 125th street and then strolled down Amsterdam in the blinding heat to a place called Max Cafe. I walked in and was pretty intimidated at first, since it was definitely a restaurant. But I glanced over and saw people with laptops and iced coffee, and I
figured they couldn't all be wrong. So, I sat down and joined them.

It was really nice. Free wi-fi, decent coffee, and I sat there for three hours on only one drink. They also have beer and wine and food, which is definitely cool. It feels a little formal, but I got over it. And, I mean, it's not cheap, which sucks, but then again, I'm in Manhattan. Short of jumping onto the 7 and heading out towards Queens, I'm not sure how much less expensive it will get. Of course, now that the parks have wi-fi, I could always just brew my own and head East for thirty minutes before my old computer dies on me.

But that would kind of defeat my purpose.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

And So It Begins...

So I moved back.

After seven months in a city that I loved, in a city that drew me to it before I even knew it, in a city where I felt free and easy, I moved back. Why?

Well, there is only one reason. Real Estate. In the end, it was just too good to pass up, this apartment I inherited. Because ultimately, it is more than just a really great apartment on the Upper West for super cheap. It's home. It's my life. (And secretly, I believe that my bohemian artist roommates and I are single-handedly saving the whole neighborhood from a yuppie invasion. It's really not such a secret. Besides, it's true.)

So I moved back.

I fell totally in love with San Francisco. I didn't realize what that meant, to fall in love with a place. It turns out, it is exactly what it sounds like - the city became my lover. I woke up grateful to be there, I spent hours just walking the streets, trying to discover every detail. I picked my favorite coffee shops, my favorite Mexican joints - I became "a regular." I knew which streets were the most beautiful, and how to avoid the hills. I learned this all quickly, voraciously, eagerly. It was head over heels, incomplete-without-you love, the kind where even the shittiest day, or the rainiest week can't make you miss your old lovers. I became quickly and irrevocably fond of the smallest annoyances, and gushingly pathetic over the great triumphs of my adopted city.

But, as with all my great love affairs, this one too came to a close because of distance. I had this lease. And I had to go back. I have tried, in the past, to keep my relationships going, to make the love stretch across all those miles. And I have always ended up missing parts of my life that were happening right in front of me because I was on the phone. Then the love affair ends anyway, and what is left? Nothing but empty lonely months that could have been spent being here now instead of there then.

So, I'm taking a lesson from my beloved city, the city that exists before and after and beyond time. I am learning to "just be" - just be present, just be where I am. And for now, I'm here.

Which is why I'm here, writing this blog.

It is not easy to come home. It is not easy to live in this apartment. Despite my good fortune, I am having trouble finding a reason to be here.


I'm keeping this blog to try to find the joy and excitement which came so easily in the sunshine state. I am keeping this blog to encourage myself to explore. I am keeping this blog so I will face New York like I've never been here before. I am lucky to be here, and I'm in, even if I have to force my eyes open in order to see this city.

Wish me luck.