Sunday, August 31, 2008

Walking girl

New Yorkers walk. Either out of necessity (maybe one in every 26 people I know actually has a car), or out of budget concerns (I’m not about to pay a cab driver $10 plus tip every time I need to travel a mile or two down the road when my able body can get there for free), or out of public-transit aversion (sometimes you just don’t want to be in the dark, dungy subway or creep along at a snail’s pace on the bus). No matter the actual reason, New Yorkers walk to work, walk to meet friends for a night out, walk to the grocery store, walk to the movies, walk to go shopping, and – my favorite – walk to the gym. The tasks non-New Yorkers would never consider completing on foot, New Yorkers actually view the addition of a car as a disservice to the task. I often speed on foot past a congested intersection of horn-blowing cars and yelling cabbies, and I remind myself a car wouldn’t be so much of a luxury as a big, expensive headache.

To finally put a quantifiable number with my seemingly over the top claims - I swear I walk a million miles a day! - Julie sent me a pedometer. After familiarizing myself with the pedometer instructions and punching all the buttons several times, I clipped it on my waist and walked a few steps to see if it worked. From the couch to the kitchen = 5 steps, yep! From the kitchen to the bathroom = 2 steps, right-o! From the bathroom to my bedroom = 6 steps, alright! This thing works!

The first day I forgot to wear it. So the second day I was determined to wear it, but also had previously decided to wear a dress. Pedometer and dress do not make a good wardrobe combination! With the pedometer clipped underneath the skirt and me slightly obsessed with checking the step count, I constantly had to steal to the bathroom or a dark corner in order to quickly check my progress throughout the day. End of day total = 10154 steps – just over 5 miles!

With the city streets being laid out in a grid format, every informed New Yorker knows that 20 street blocks equals 1 mile, so it's easy to calculate the distance from point A to point B. Although the zigs and zags of my walking commute get jumbled, I can safely bet my daily walking around an island totaling 27 square miles hovers near the 5-mile mark.

Day 1's easy victory of 5 miles made my interest in the new toy wane because I forgot to wear it again for three days straight. The forgotten device would pop into my mind mid-stride – "dang it! I’ve probably already walked a mile, and it’s only 10 AM!" So I made a point to clip it on for my Sunday running around - up to church, over to the park, wandering around the park, down to shopping, over to a barbeque...

End of Day 2 total: 17,587 = almost 9 miles.

Next gift requests from Julie - a foot soaker and massager, please!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Game Day Peaches

There is a little market down at Union Square Park that is open during the summer months on the weekends and Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I shouldn't describe the market as "little," since the exhibitors taut every farm-grown fruit and vegetable you can think of (and then some) along with flowers and ferns and even fresh meats and homemade pies. The gaps between the food vendors are filled by artists whose work ranges from the traditional and beautiful to the wacky and unrefined.

Although the park is just 15 blocks from my apartment - an easy walk or subway ride - I seldom make a visit to the strolling market place. But on this lazy Saturday - the first Saturday of the football season - the beautiful sunshine was calling my name so I suited up in my crimson "Roll Tide" t-shirt and hit the city streets for a walk.

As I sampled the freshly cut tomatoes - red and juicy and tasting just right - and the sliced apples - crisp and sweet in my mouth, my eyes zeroed in on a mound of peaches at the next tent. I hadn't had a peach all summer! I snuck one more taste of a juicy tomato, then slithered my way through the strolling crowd to the next tent. I took a deep breath, letting the glorious smell of the peaches fill my nose. Heeding the reminder of the sign to "Buy then Squeeze," I gently ran a finger over the tickling fuzz of the fragile fruits.

I spent the next 30 minutes circling the market, comparing the price and the quality of each vendor's peach offerings. I wish I could say the careful research resulted in my getting the best peaches for the best price, but the sale was finally decided by the tent with the cutest peach-sample-slicer who just happened to look at my shirt and say, "Alabama, right? Roll Tide!" as I managed a nod and a smile as I slurped a peach wedge into my mouth.

As I skipped away with my bag full of peachy-smelling peaches, I realized I overpaid by at least $1.50, but if it ensured a win for my Alabama Crimson Tide tonight in the peach state of Georgia, the purchase - and flirt - was worth every cent!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I live down there!

Peering down at the glowing city streets from the 86th floor observatory of the Empire State Building, I couldn't help but think (and point and shout a few times), "I live down there!"

I've been to the top several times before, but I had not visited this high-soaring New York City landmark since I moved here 14 months ago. In the past, me living and being a part of New York seemed as distant and out of grasp as the streets below. "Could I ever really be part of that?" I wondered wistfully as I snapped pictures and tried to soak in the view.

I now gaze down at the streets with a mixture of familiarity and awe - overwhelmed as anyone is to view the world whizzing in miniature, but completely blown away to realize those are the buildings I walk by everyday, that the once-unknown streets are now my home, that I can say, "Look over there! That's my building!" Can it really be that where I go to sleep every night is just five blocks away from this New York icon of icons??

I guess it's as good a time (and place) as any, while standing at the highest point in the greatest city in the world, to remember to dream never know where it will take you!

The view of the southern portion of Manhattan from the top of the Empire State Building. The "V" is Broadway and 5th Avenue crossing at the Flatiron Building. My apartment is just out of this picture to the left (near the yellow-topped building).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blanket Supremacy

Lounging near the top of this grassy tree-lined hill of Central Park, I feel a certain supremacy over my fellow sun-bathers, book-readers and people-watchers.  This authority comes not so much from my physical location on the upper slope; rather, it comes from my assessment of the palettes on which each is perched.  Some sit on towels or sheets, no less grabbed from a bathroom rack or unmade bed; some sit on the spread of a newspaper or lean against the bulge of a bag; two old timers sit in tailgate chairs (although, judging by their elaborate unfolding of said chairs and this being New York City, I’m sure the chairs have never actually been used for tailgating); and some sit on the nearby rocks while some sit in the grass on nothing at all. 

I, on the other hand, get no less than two inquiries about my palette from envious admirers every time I parade it into the park (which is a lot of interest considering no one else is getting any).  So it’s no wonder that when one of those wistful afghan-stuffed-in-a-lumpy-bag peons timidly approaches me like I’m the Homecoming Queen of the park and wants to know where I got this coolest new accessory, I smile smugly and agree – “yes, it is the greatest, isn’t it?”

With a features and benefits spiel that would make my Personal Selling 101 professor proud, I proceed to showoff the amazingness that is my blanket:

The All-Weather Blanket is a five foot by five foot lightly cushioned palette that neatly folds into a thin rectangle with an easy to manage zipper; the color-coordinated strap is adjustable – short for carrying on your shoulder or long for strapping diagonally across your body; when folded, the large exterior pocket makes an additional purse unnecessary, and the folded padding and sturdy zipper create the perfect laptop carrying case; the blanket is machine washable, which is a rare need considering the material is easy to brush off and not prone to grass stains.  It is, in fact, the perfect blanket.

And then comes my favorite part.  I love it partly because it adds to the eliteness of my blanket and partly because I enjoy that how I got it makes me special (to my mom, at least).  After I’ve riddled through how wonderful the blanket is, and I have my aspiring audience hanging breathlessly, with expectant, hopeful eyes, they ask, “Well, where did you get it?  Where can I get one?!”  I put on my best sorry-to-have-to-tell-you face: “Actually, you can’t get it here in the city.  My mom sent it to me…in a summer care package…from Alabama.”  With their faces glum and hopes of Homecoming coolness dashed, I toss my hair and offer a cheery “good luck!” before sitting a little taller in the middle of my park throne.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dog days of summer

With pizza places tucked in every nook and cranny of the New York City streets, last summer I found myself grabbing a few slices here, let me try this place one over there, several times a week. I guess it's every new New Yorker's rite of passage to try as many types of pizza as possible and select a favorite go-to spot. (Psst - Ultimate Pizza on 57th and 1st!)

But when my hips started feeling like I'd ordered them with a little extra cheese, I realized my "research" was done. But with a new summer comes a new fling, and this year it's the hotdog. Street vendor hotdogs. I try to tell myself hotdogs have no nutritional value and they will just make my stomach hurt, but not even a self-scolding of "you just had one yesterday" will make me stop. Perfectly boiled with a steamed bun, topped with ketchup, spicy mustard and kraut - all for $2.00 in under a minute. Who could resist that puppy?!

Friday, August 8, 2008

A happy kind of sad

Wouldn't you know Julie looks cutest in the picture where she's talking to me! ;)

After hanging up the phone with Julie, I sat back on the couch and giggled for a second, then I sighed and let myself feel sorry for myself for a minute. I might have shed a tear, not knowing if it was for being excited about Julie's news or for thinking of poor me who's not there to celebrate in person. Thinking of all the wedding preparations and dress shopping and flower choosing and catering tasting that I won't be there for, it was one of the only times since I moved to New York that I felt so far from home.

Then again, thinking of all the wedding preparations and dress shopping and flower choosing and catering tasting that I won't be there may not be a bad thing to be so far away!

Congratulations Julie and Gabe!! I can't wait to hug you in person!

Julie showing off her ring - isn't she cute?!

Julie and Gabe after the proposal!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Buenvenidos a Miami

The last time I was in Miami was eight years ago, when the Million Dollar Band traveled to cheer on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Orange Bowl. We traveled by buses. All night. Thanks to the trombone players the Crimsonettes shared a bus with, a horrific war movie played on the bus TVs in the wee hours of the morning, the bazooka gunshots and screams keeping me awake for most of the night. As the rest of the bus came to life a few hours later, one of the "blonder" Crimsonettes repeatedly sang the then-popular Will Smith song "Benvenidos a Miami". She had no idea of the Spanish words she sang, so the song sounded more like "Benbeneedose yameyame". Over and over she sang - even after I corrected her.

In the years since the trip, I've not been able to shake from my memory the annoying sound of her singing that song when I hear "Miami". But when plans were made to make an end of summer trip to Miami, I found myself happily sing-songing "Benbeneedose yameyame" in excited anticipation of the sun and fun that awaited.

Relieved to not have an excruciating overnight bus ride or grueling band practice in the South Beach heat on the itinerary, I packed my flip flops and bikini and headed south for a weekend of relaxing.

My view from under the umbrella...when I wasn't snoozing!

The back of the beautiful Delano Hotel.

Pina Colada time!

Even the palm trees have an artistic flair in the Art Deco district.

A cute front porch by The Front Porch restaurant on Ocean Drive.