Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving in NYC

Stuffed. I'm lying on my back letting the food sit atop my spine, like birds on a power line. The tryptophan is doing its job, sleepy is taking control. I just had a great meal with great friends. The whole kit-and-cabootle: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato casserole, rolls, and Martinelli's, of course. It feels great just being here in this warm Manhattan apartment with a slight brisk breeze coming through the opened windows. Some DC friends and I were able to use my friends, Jon and Madison's, apartment on the upper east side during the holiday weekend because they were going to be out of town, back home to SLC. Their apartment is cozy and inviting. The walls are covered with pictures, maps and posters, and found objects scattered across New York sidewalks. I like it here, as I always do.

This morning started off with an early appointment with Mr. Turkey. Yes, I was in charge of turkey this year, my first time preparing the beastly bird. At first the whole task was daunting, but then, I remembered my Saturday mornings spent in my youth watching nothing but cooking shows on PBS. I pulled from my mind images of Julia Childs, placed her beside me in the kitchen and went to work. I have been in cahoots with my grandma all week long in order to get the exact directions on making the turkey perfect. I took out the innards, covered it in salt, gave her some thyme and rosemary, stuffed her, coated her in butter and then led her into the small oven. She fit right in that house, cozy as a...uh...cucumber?
Afterwards, I headed out to meet up with the group of friends, meeting just west of Central Park to watch the Macy's Day parade. The balloons filled the sky, like frozen-in-time fireworks. I stood there, mouth ajar, just staring at these figures of media, remembering all the Thursday mornings spent watching the parade on NBC, amazed by the sites, the biggness, the sounds and the colours. It was a momentous occasion to be there in person. Children were laughing and pointing, mothers were calm and collective gathering their kids up with excitement, fathers were brawny and intellectual, reminiscing about their thanksgiving days of past, everyone was so happy and I was too. We stood just west of Central Park on a brick wall watching the parade floats before they took off to begin the actual journey towards Macy's Department Store. I saw stars-galore, media'd up and all glorified. Most of all, it felt great spending the morning with friends, all excited like a kid on mornings at grandmas watching theparade on TV.

So now we've eaten and I'm stuffed. I'm thankful too, it truly is a great day for thanks. I was able to call some of my family, people enjoying each other throughout the country. My dad is spending the day with my sister and her kids, her oldest and my nephew Kristofer, spoke complete sentences to me (although half in Tongan). I remember seeing him as a newborn and holding him in my arms. It's amazing how fast he grows. He finished his sentence with "I love ya, bye". He's such a good kid and I'm thankful for having him in my life, and my sister, and all my family. I'm thankful for love and for joy. For good times and bad times. For life in general, I'm thankful for that. Thanks NYC.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Places to Go in DC: Tryst

Tryst $
2459 18th Street, NW
(202) 232-5500

The instant I saw the little horse and camel animal crackers lying next to my mountainous cup of chai tea I knew this place was a keeper. In fact, I have been back almost weekly to this place since my first weekend here. I was randomly passing it on a biking rendezvous up around Adam's Morgan. I always try to spot places piled with bicycles and this was certainly one of them. I had to squeeze my lock around my Bianchi and a tree because the bike rack was busting at the seems. The instant I walked in, I felt at home. The music was just right, the lighting was a little dim to read in but still manageable, and the mismatched furniture was perfect to rest my tired body.

Tryst provides a great community feel. If you can't find an empty table, feel free to make a new friend and share a seat with them. On most weeknights they have a live jazz band which fits quite comfortably with a nice conversation with a friend or some self-reflection. For eats, may I suggest the soup of the day and a moist peanut butter cookie. The perfect combination for a cold Autumn eve. If drinks be your thing, try the sweet and spicy chai tea, a classic black coffee, or one of their many assorted loose leaf teas. The proportions are plenty big and moderately priced. Check it out. You're sure to fall in love, if even just for the childhood reminder of how happy an animal cracker makes you feel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blurry Plateau

There becomes a moment in places where consistency becomes planned and the days seem to blur like paste plastered on a glass ceiling. This isn't a bad thing, it's just a moment of comfortableness I have to grow accustomed to. It's in this moment, that things lose the new to be replaced by the memory of the new. The bike ride in the morning seems shorter, the strain on my calves less punishing. My mind has a memory bank full of these things so the process of understanding them is short. I almost miss that newness of the mind processing each little thing as I pass it, the journey long and full of mystery. But in the same breath, I'm sure I like this knowledge, this memory bank full of things, the journey planned.

I'm comfortable here. I've grown knowledgeable about places to eat, people to meet and monuments to visit. I know the corners, the nooks and the crannies. I know the bookstore on the corner of P and 20th street. The one that I've spent my lunch hours scouring. I know the National Cathedral down by Woodley Park. The one I run to in the mornings to get a headstart on the day, stammering as I look up to see the towering spires. I know the doorman of my apartment. The one with the most genuine of all smiles. I know the smell of my shirt as I come home from the pizzeria. The one that embeds itself into my skin forcing me to take a shower. I know the feel of the rain pouring over my ankles as I bike in the puddles. The one that makes me soaked through to the bone. I know the taste of inspiration as I surround the monument of Abe Lincoln. The one that is felt among my neighbors overlooking the great figure in front of us. I know the sound of the Metro train as it hauls to a stop. The one that cues a safe hello train or goodbye platform. I know this and that and the other thing here. It's like having a feeling of I could make it here if I stayed.

I think I've reached the plateau. The plateau of my journey in DC. Things are constant now and I have my bearings. I have two jobs, good friends, fun places and a routine. That's really all I need. This plateau is a good one, it's one I was told about before arriving here. I heard it would be difficult at first but soon it would plateau. And it has. Every morning I wake up to the same alarm in the same bed trying to rush in order to make the same breakfast. Then I ride the same bike on the same streets to the same employment. The sameness is nice and it's constant and I have a great view from here.

While the plateau exists, I feel uncertain in its stability because of the constant newness that DC has in store for me. It's big and ever-changing here. People are moving in and out. Young people are starting over and trying to get their big break. Pedestrians are filing past me as I walk and the faces always blend together. No longer remembering their every detail, the passerbys, they are just blurs. Not having time to slow, the memory adjusts to the blurs in order to get a picture. A picture of being content but always wanting and seeing more. That's what I appreciate about this place. There is constant newness to be found and while a plateau now exists in which to rest, it is nice to know that in my final stretch here, for now, I am able to see the picture in the blur.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


The planes wizz by the concrete canyon. Fireworks of light fill the senses, flooding the pupils so much that the wetness spills out onto the shiny cement, dripping into the cracked sidewalks. The wetness stays a while in the cracks, waiting for the collection of glitter to be picked up by the soles of the passerbys. The glitter is hot and it's sticky. It's sweat pouring out of hard working people. It's oil, wet and slick from the manufactured pretty things. Constant pigments enter the database of the mind with few computing: the couple drinking ginger ale, the lottery ticket on the ground, the tiny dog being carefully maneuvered beside the passerbys, almost devoured by the trampling commuters. The dandelions stop growing to make way for the parking meters and stop lights. The clouds rendezvous around the tallest buildings, planning their next set of attacks, ensuring that the old woman remembered that umbrella she has had for ages. Wisps of wind push the smell of gyro into my nostrils as I feel the rumbling of the earth beneath my feet. Everything is fast and jaunted. I feel like a bee trapped under a glass. It's frightening and it's big but it's beautiful.

I was in New York City last weekend for a day trip. I'm always awe-struck by the presence of the city. It truly devours every sense and feels the mind with so many scenarios and so many stories. I went to see Hamlet with Jude Law with my friend, Niccolo. It was a great performance by a classically-trained actor. The stage was primed with pristine architecture, each set piece meticulously placed. Jude Law stole the show. He was keen in his betrayal, although at times he took the words of the play too literally. Polonius was also one of my favorite characters, his timing was impeccable and his charm deceitful. Beside going to the theatre, we were able to ascend to the top of the Rockefeller building where the birds didn't even dare to fly. The view was breath-taking. The Empire State Building was first to greet us as we got off the elevator onto the 67th floor. There lives such wonder in this city. I'm not sure where to place it. I think it's the grandeur of it all, of knowing I'm somewhere big and meaningful. I took deep breaths of the Autumn sky. The leaves of central park were vibrant oranges and reds. I dove right into the feeling of warmth as the city embraced me from below.

This was my fifth visit to the city. It had also been my first visit in Autumn, which now completed my seasonal catalogue of seeing New York in all forms, whether it be Spring, Winter, Fall or Summer. I remember going for my first time in 2005 with my High School Madrigal Choir. I was young and had only heard tales of the great city. Once I arrived, the city absolutely encompassed me. It grew over me like weeds, each cement structure pulling me in to take a closer look. It was all new and it was all wonderful. I like to imagine that New York was the first time I realized I can do this. This being life's big step forward after High School. I remember walking down the streets of New York by myself, although I was advised to always stay with my chaperone, but I was ready to move out and explore so I did just that. I walked the streets of Manhattan and nobody knew my name and nobody cared if I got lost and it felt like possibility existed around each corner. I was able to just be in this place, to just live as an individual without a destination. It's a bit crazy to think that this gave me confidence in life, but it did. I wanted to venture more on my own, discover the complexities of life on my own, and traveling to New York gave me that confidence. I think it was NYC that gave me the notion of exploration and worldly pursuit that I seek today. Venturing this little blue dot one step at a time and being okay with what the next step entails, because a new journey is hidden everywhere. The sky seems limitless and nobody knows my name.

I was a different person in 2005. My self-confidence was dodgy, my ability to trust lagged and my pain was hidden. In my youth, I found that New York was able to accept all that, because it was so large it consumed the insecurities I found in myself and exposed an open canvas of exploration. Sure, I was young and I didn't understand my self but I think I began to see that the future held great things. I've been through a lot of things since that early trip in New York. I've experienced a lot of life. Going back to New York always gives me that same feeling and it seems I'm more confident in my character after each visit. Being in the heated independence of the city gives me the comfort that I can be confident in my self as an individual. I'd like to meet this 2005-version of myself and tell him I have great things ahead. Some things will hurt and the road will be rough, but it's all worth it. Saying, "This journey doesn't last forever, so take hold and dream on. No regrets"

Sometimes I forget that lights have a way of talking to me. The neon buzzing shouts at me from all directions. "Buy me". "Eat this". "Vindicate that". The fluorescent light waits patiently inside a bedside lamp waiting for me to arrive home safely. The sun gives me words of inspiration and the moon sings me softly to sleep. New York brings light. The bulb shines brighter.