Monday, May 31, 2010

Sunny day at Storm King

So I'm not coming through with my Astoria photo collage this week because I spent the weekend out of the city. This was far better than my Memorial Day weekend last year when I developed a horrific cold, lost my voice, and was alone (save Dinah, of course) in my apartment for three days because my roommates had both skipped town. Leaving town for a three day weekend is always preferable to sitting alone, sending pathetic emails to people for human interaction, and watching The Other Boleyn Girl on my roommate's netflix. This particular leaving town was especially nice, and really doesn't deserve simply being compared to my crappy holiday weekends of yore. Because I went here:
Ah yes, the bliss of leaving the city. The above picture is from Storm King Art Center, an enormous outdoor museum featuring large scale sculptures. It was a hot but lovely day for an art walk. Here's another picture featuring some strangers (a picture I took not for the attractiveness of the strangers, but to get a sense of scale):
Alas, the photos take too long to upload, so this will be the last one. It's of one of my favorites of the sculptures I saw. You'll note I'm not including the names of the artists (I think Calder did some?) because I don't know them. And really shouldn't art transcend the artist?

You may also notice that I'm not including any pictures of me at Storm King (you'll just have to trust that I was there). This is because I looked sweaty and gross that day. And really, if I wanted to make this blog a forum for unflattering photos of me I would just link to my facebook highlighting pretty much any photo of me taken during my college junior year, or as I like to call it: the year of the open mouth smile.

Hope you all had a happy Memorial Day weekend, dear readers!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Books deals, and why my blog doesn't have one

So nearly a month in on this whole "new blog" thing and I realized I haven't really had much to say about Astoria. If I'm going to be completely honest with myself, I'd have to admit I never really had that much to say about Astoria. I think I was just looking for a blog name that hadn't been taken. I have plans to go on an Astoria photo odyssey soon (perhaps even during this up-coming three day weekend!), so Astorian photography enthusiasts should definitely remain on the edge of their seats. Other than that though, you might have to except that you'll need to get your Astoria-specific news elsewhere.

I'd still kind of like a blog theme though. After all, a blog theme is the first step in the path to a lucrative book deal. I could be the next woman who blogs about cooking her way through Julia Childs, living biblically, or living the advice of Oprah for a year. (Not sure about what that last one entails--but I see the book advertised on the subway, so clearly you should be looking for it in a grocery store checkout line soon). It seems like a year is the usual timeline for these sorts of projects. Perhaps I could craft my way through every Martha Stewart living project for 12 months? (The 8 hours it took my sister and me to painfully construct marzipan carrots for her simple garden cake is enough to convince me I wouldn't last more than 2 weeks at that endeavor). Other ideas I have rejected are: building a plywood shanty in Astoria Park in a sad attempt to create Walden 3, "The Princess: My Year Living the Advice of Machiavelli," and living my life according to the moral values of Mr. Rogers.
Here's another reject. And, yes, I know, I'm a photoshopping amateur.

I think I'm still in the drawing board phase of this project. Until my theme takes off, I'll probably just talk about my life, per the usual. But if you have any good ideas, feel free to share them with me. You'll be handsomely rewarded on the dedication page of my best seller once my blog achieves book deal status.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dancing with a few other people

Yesterday, I participated in New York's annual International Dance Parade. The Bollywood dance class I've been taking for a couple of weeks was participating, and even though I barely knew the steps to the dance they would be performing in front of hundreds of people along Broadway, I decided to participate.

I had some trepidation about the parade because dancing and rhythm are two things that don't come particularly naturally to me. Also, the last "dance performance" I attempted had not gone well. It was at the end of term party for my Irish step dancing class a year ago. Of a group of 20 jig-happy classmates, only one other person showed up. None of my friends were able to come to watch, and after making small talk with middle-aged Irish people and getting my fill of soda bread, I'd been planning to slip out the back exit without performing. Unfortunately for me, the one other girl who showed up had brought with her a boyfriend with flowers and video camera in tow ready to record our rendition of the reel. There was no escaping. The reel would be performed. We decided to skip the dramatic two stepping entrance that with 20 people looked quite nice, but in our case would only serve to highlight the fact that there were only two of us. The only positive thing about only have two people was that the space we were allowed was actually quite small. So small that in doing the first side step I manged to kick the cane out from under an older woman who was sitting (thankfully) very close to the sidelines. Our entire performance ended up (according to other girl's boyfriend's digital camera) being about 47 seconds long. Easily 20 seconds of that is me profusely apologizing to the woman for kicking her cane and then trying to figure out how to regain the steps. I sometimes wonder if this video is on youtube somewhere.

At any rate, it seemed like a good time to face my fears and tackle public organized dancing yet again. I figured, despite not being confident in the steps, at least I could hide in the middle of a crowd of dancers. In the end, only five people showed up. One of them was the teacher of our class, the only person who really looked good doing the dance, who also happened to have a stress fracture in her foot that kept her from moving too much. We planned to do our choreographed moves to this song:, which would play out of a reasonably powerful boom box. Other dance groups had more sophisticated sound systems, however, including the group with a truck full of speakers blasting Lady Gaga right behind us. The first half of the parade was spent trying to distance ourselves from the truck as much as possible so we could hear our music. By the end of the parade though, we had loosened up a lot, found our groove, essentially learned to co-exist with both the truck and the aggressive swing dance troop behind us, and the whole experience was a lot of fun.

I'm including some pictures of the dance parade for those who couldn't attend:
I'm not sure why I look bored here. Also, this picture make it look like the parade was sparsely attended, which I swear it wasn't! I only picked this picture because it was one of the, sadly, few in which I'm doing basically the same thing as the other people. For whatever reason, the belly dancers were more popular than we were.

My next goal is to take a class in whatever the hell this is.
Although I don't have a picture of them actually dancing, I can assure you that these guys removed my long-held prejudices about needing water in order to credibly perform synchronized swimming.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sassy in Strawberry

A few months ago, I wrote a book intended for a high school audience about the exciting subject of trading futures (especially commodities futures). I don't remember being terribly interested in reading about futures and derivatives when I was in high school, but then again lack of access to age-appropriate reading material on the subject might just explain why I didn't blossom into a lucrative investor to this day. (Case in point, my last intended money making investment was in the New York lottery.) At any rate, last week I got the page proofs in for the book. It looks lovely all laid out with photos and has a nice clean design. The only surprise was that the predominant color was a very bright pink. I was later told this color was "strawberry," but I think a more accurate descriptor would be "Incrediberry Kool-aid."

I wrote to my editor thanking him for the proofs and mentioned that I thought the pink added a certain girlish charm to the otherwise dry subject of futures trading. His response:

I know! I wonder if it's too late to retitle the book?

"Oh no You Didn't!: The Girlfriend's Guide to Smart Futures Trading"

"Ooo Snap!: The Sassy Girl's Guide to Futures Trading Made Easy"

"BFF: Big Futures Fun!!! The OMG Guide to Futures Trading and Becoming Your Financial Future's Best Friend, Forever"

I only hope this is possible before press time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Autumn in New May

A bizarre cold snap has hit New York this spring. Two weeks ago it was in the upper 80s, and this week it's dipping back into the 40s. On the downside, this means my new summer haircut (which after an overzealous Italian hairdresser was done with it, can best be described as a "bob"), that was acquired mere hours before the mysterious cold snap, is now impractical. Especially because of its unfortunate quality of looking silly under hats. On the plus side, I can now blame the temperature of my apartment for the death of my fuchsia plant--a slow demise that previously could only be attributed to my either over or under-watering it. Or maybe it's because I'm not supplying it enough "strong, indirect sunlight." I'm really not even sure what that means.

My cat, Dinah, who will likely be a regular feature of this blog (because she's cute and more interesting than talking about the weather), also prefers the cold weather. Being stuck at home all day, she experiences the bulk of the heat in my un-air-conditioned apartment in the summer. In the height of summer, this results in extreme cat wilt. She lays around, preferably on surfaces of clean laundry in dark colors that will best highlight her massive shedding, and moves as little as possible until fall. This year, she's had to deal with a new hot weather horror because I now have a ceiling fan in my room, which for some reason she finds incredibly threatening. Here's a photo of what Dinah would look like if she were typing this post:
In unrelated news, the film Something Borrowed is currently being filmed on the street where I work. The movie stars Ginnifer Godwin, Kate Hudson and (the reason most of the girls in the office have been taking a lot more coffee breaks to walk by the movie set) John Krasinski. I haven't personally seen him, but I can say that his trailer is the only one with an awning. Yep. Big news.

I think this post was done for when I started resorting to cute pictures of my cat...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The kindness of strange New Yorkers

No sooner do I start a blog, but interesting (dare I say, blog-worthy?) things start to happen to me. Last night, I was walking with a friend through the East Village (I know, I know hardly Astoria--but we were coming from a dance class and looking for a place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a cheap margarita in a not completely packed bar. As it turns out, such places don't exist in the East Village on Cinco de Mayo.) Anyway, as we were walking, an old woman stopped us asking for help and to "protect her" from a man standing nearby who was trying to steal her bag. We (or at least I) thought she was crazy as the man was just leaning against a restaurant a few feet away, smoking a cigarette.

My friend tried to figure out what she was talking about and started asking the man if he had threatened the old woman. We weren't really sure what to do because the woman just kept mumbling about how he was going to steal her bag, but wasn't making any attempt to walk away from the guy. Just then, he finished the cigarette, threw down the butt, and actually did grab her bag. He knocked her down in the process, and then took off running up the avenue. The crazy thing was it wasn't just in front of us, but on a very busy street. So when we yelled out for someone to stop the man, several people actually did. We helped the old woman up, and some man, who for some reason was carrying a giant walking stick but had no problem sprinting with it, returned her bag.

A medium-sized crowd that had gathered stood around the guy until police arrived (only a couple of minutes later). They took the guy into custody and took down our information. Overall, I was impressed by the efficiency of the arrest. Sometimes in this huge city it seems like no one would notice if you fell over dead on the sidewalk. (And granted, there are events to support that claim.) Since I've lived here, I've learned to drown out noises that formerly would have caused me to look up and take notice, including but not limited to: yelling, random screams, sirens, and subway mariachi bands. However, whenever I do see someone in trouble, people always rush to their aid. When someone fainted on my subway car once, the people around her were calling for help and looking for a doctor seconds after she hit the ground. As jaded and wrapped up in their (or I suppose I should say 'our') lives as New Yorkers seem to be,
they do look out for their own.

Oddly enough, the attempted mugging of a senior citizen has somehow renewed my faith in the humanity of this city.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What's in a name?

I promised to entertain you all with a description of the nearby restaurants on my little block, but I think I'm going to go a different way. I promise you, readers, I don't take the breaking of blog promises (however offhand and vague they might be) lightly. I will say that Astoria is home to what they claim is the "only donut burger in New York City." I haven't verified that claim per se, but you may as well understand now that this blog will not be super concerned with "facts." However, if any one of my (no doubt many) readers wants to come forward with proof (preferably photographic) of having consumed a donut burger (a hamburger on which the bun has been cast out in favor of a plain glazed donut, sliced in half and toasted) in any of the five boroughs, I will gladly blog a retraction.

At any rate, I gave up the "describing the restaurants nearby" thing in part because I realized I have nothing to say about them other than that I enjoy living close to so much food, as well as because I've received my first question. That's right! Astute reader frenchteacher (a pseudonym I strongly suspect is this blogger's mother) posed our first question. She (I'm assuming) wants to know if Astoria is named for John Jacob Astor. As a matter of fact, John Jacob Astor is the namesake of our beloved hamlet by the East River. According to my sources (that is to say, wikipedia), the area now known as Astoria was originally called Hallet's Cove, but was renamed after Astor in order to persuade him to invest $2,000 in the neighborhood. Somehow, he managed to get away with only ever paying $500 of the promised amount, but the name still stuck. Apparently, despite being able to view Astoria from his Manhattan summer home, he never actually set foot in it. The below picture came up on a google image search for John Jacob Astor. Not sure what's really going on here, or if that's even him in the picture, but I think it sums up the tale nicely:The second part of her question was: why there are so many seperate towns in Queens? I would hestiate to call them towns, as really Queens is more divided into neighborhoods. However, it does seem to me that the neighborhoods do maintain a greater identity and seperateness than, say, the neighborhoods of Brooklyn. While living in a neighborhood of Brooklyn, my mailing address was always simply "Brooklyn", whereas so long as I've lived in Astoria, my address has included that rather than "Queens." Perhaps there's something to that. And then again, perhaps not. Nevertheless, I appreciate the questions, frenchteacher! May you serve as an example to others, lest I have to come up with my own topics to write about!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The mission statement is...there is no mission statement

I wanted to start a blog not because I have a particular focus in mind, but more just for the sake of having a writing project I could easily knock out on lunch at work. I considered having a food blog again (for those unfamiliar, see previous, occasionally ballyhooed food blog: or reviewing movies or books. But honestly my diet of food (mostly consisting of bagels, strawberries, and vegetarian buffalo wings) probably wouldn't make for great reading. My reading likewise has lately consisted entirely of books my last roommate left behind when she moved out (mostly bestsellers from 10 years ago--many are good, none make for timely book reviews). I'll take comments from readers on what you'd like me to write about (this is a democratic blog, you see). Of course, for that, I'd require a readership. So until I build one up...I'll probably just talk about food (but NOT a food blog), my cat, and food my cat eats.

Starting with food, in the next post I plan to (at the suggestion of a helpful aunt!) write about the many cuisine options available in my neighborhood of Astoria (the Manhattan of Queens as no one really calls it). Actually, that's too great a feat. Instead, I'll probably rhapsodize about the food available on just the block I live on. Stay tuned!