Category Archives: Carpe Diem

O, Christmas Tree. O, Christmas Tree.

I was raised with the understanding that “Time to trim the Christmas tree!” started with putting said tree together. Our tree was stored in a giant tupperware bin, amidst an array of plush snowmen, Precious Moments nativity scenes, and shiny, red garland. Sure, we didn’t have the joy of picking out a new tree every year, but we did get to control which way the branches curved.

While I have no regrets as to my childhood of straightening out wire branches and attaching them to color coordinated slots on  a big ole pole, I have to admit that I was a little excited ecstatic about the prospect of getting a real tree this year for my apartment. My first real Christmas tree. The smell of pine, the crunch of needles loosed from the branches, the task of watering the tree…I couldn’t wait.

So, on the chosen night, my roommate and I headed out to find our tree. We took the train one stop to a grocery store that had been rumored to have great trees. As we excitedly sifted through the selection, it became clear that not all rumors are true. Trees with strange bald spots and already rotting stumps greeted us at every turn. Just as we were about to give up, we saw it: Standing, half tied up and pushed to the side. It stood a good 5-ft, had strangely bushy and awkwardly-faced branches, and looked like it would last til just past Christmas. Our tree. We nearly jumped in excitement (Okay, I nearly jumped in excitement. My roommate, who is a normal, well-adjusted member of society, just smiled ), paid, and happily began to carry it back to the train.

Which brings us to adventure number 1: Riding the subway with a 5-foot tree in tow.

Surprisingly this was not so much of a milestone as carrying said tree from the subway, up two blocks, down an avenue, and then hauling it up four flights of stairs. As we trudged, we half joked/half prayed-“Wouldn’t it be funny if one the four male friends we live across the street from passed us on the street right now, and then offered, out of the kindness of his heart, to carry our tree for us? Wouldn’t that be just lovely?”

…it would have been. But, after a full ten minutes of hoping, even as we climbed the stairs to our apartment, we victoriously carried the tree into our living room ourselves.

Next came the decorations. After standing up our tree, declaring it every euphemistic name we could think of for slightly awkward (Quirky! Cute! Unique!), we rushed out the door to go raid the various 99-cent stores in our neighborhood. We were met with the discovery that 99-cent stores close at 9 pm. (No, I am not kidding.) After coercing one of the shop owners to let us in, we picked out some lights, bobbles, and a classy light-up star for our tree-topper.

After a couple hours of cutting snowflakes, listening to Christmas music, and drinking hot toddies, our third roommate arrived home, and we haphazardly decorated our little tree. We stood there, practically vibrating from excitement, staring at what had to be the most beautifully-imperfect tree in existence.

The tree

The quirky little tree that marks my first real Christmas tree, and my first Christmas in my new apartment

Overcome with a need to share this with others, we texted our neighbors a brief “Come over”, with the hopes that their close proximity would mean that they would overlook the fact that it was midnight, and come look at our tree. Sure enough, two did. And with a shot of Jameson, several Santa hats, and Christmas carols underscoring the conversation, we laughed, joked, and celebrated around the tree- my first real Christmas tree.

Your Holiday Guide to NYC

Well, if I didn’t have a calendar, it wouldn’t take more than two minutes outside to make me very aware that it is the holiday season once again. From the light-strewn power lines to the Christmas trees being sold outside of the Rite-Aid near my subway stop, it’s taking over the streets of NYC. Now, this particular season happens to be my absolute favorite (original, I know). I love seeing my family, cannot wait to eat Christmas dinner (Thanksgiving was a week ago, so it’s totally fine that I’m already craving a huge feast…right?), and I’ve been obsessed with twinkle lights since I was old enough to stick pennies in an outlet. Living in the city, I have the unique privilege of being near a ridiculous amount of fun, free holiday activities. So, I thought I would share some with you, in the hopes that you will get to the city to enjoy a few yourself this holiday season.

K’s Guide to Christmas in New York:

Bryant Park Holiday Market1) Start your day off with a walk through the Union Square Holiday Market. Awesome little gifts, really great loose-leaf tea, and you can totally grab something freshly baked and delicious for breakfast. There’s also some of the best cider I have ever found hidden somewhere amidst the vendors.

pond_bryant_park2) Take your skates to Bryant Park next for the best place to skate in the city. It has the best view, hands down, and is free if you bring your own skates. Plus, if you go on a weekday before school is out, it’s hardly ever crowded.

imgres3) Head over to City Bakery and warm up with some of their famous hot chocolate. You must, i repeat, MUST get the marshmallow on top. It is literally a brick of heaven. Do it.

imgres-14) If it’s getting dark at this point, take a self-led window tour. Hit up all the must-sees (Bloomingdales, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Lord and Taylor, Macy’s), and scope out any other cool ones on the way. Make sure to watch the Sak’s light show while you’re passing by.

santaland-at-macy-s-20085) Well, now that you’re at Macy’s, check out Santaland! You are never too old to visit Santa. Plus it’s Christmas overload there-so you’ll be sure to get your entire year’s worth of Christmas lights, music, dancing bears in tutus, and candy cane statues.

imgres-26) Finally, end your adventure at Rockefeller Center. That tree is the best part of New York in December. It’s stunning, with more lights than you have ever seen. Get ready to push some tourists out of the way to get a picture. Worth it.

I really hope you get to experience any, if not all, of these things. It is really an incredible way to celebrate the best time of the year. And if it happens to snow while you’re here, well…catch a few.

Blame it on the Zodiac

When it comes to making decisions, I am generally not the person you want to turn to. I credit this entirely to the fact that I am a Gemini- this is not because I am a true believer in the whole Zodiac signs thing, but rather because it’s an incredibly useful and available scapegoat for why I run to the hills whenever anyone asks, “Where do you want to go for dinner?” Or “What CD should we listen to while we get ready?” OR the ever ominous “What should we do tonight?” You get the picture. Indecision is my most impossible trait, and it rears it’s ugly head 24/7. (I’m gonna blame it now as to why I haven’t written in three weeks- i.e. what should I write about?)

One of the big side effects to indecision is insomnia. You see, once I make a decision, however hard it is to make, I am fine. Golden. This is what I’m going to do, and so now I’m just gonna shut up and do it. But the minutes, hours, days, WEEKS preceding that moment? I’m like a crazed, sleepless, twitchy ball of fun. And since I am in the process of figuring out all sorts of fun things like where I’m going to live, who I’m going to live with, when I’m going to move, and what I’m going to do for a job, I haven’t been sleeping much. With all this extra time on my hands, I was faced with yet another decision: What am I going to do at 2 AM?  So, I thought I would compile a list of things to do if you, like me are ever faced with insomnia:

1. Reread books. – Let’s face it. You’re still tired, even if you can’t sleep. Reading new books, therefore, is pointless. You’ll have to reread every page about 30 times before anything sinks in. 

2. Watch countless hours of Netflix.- You are about to be SO caught up on every t.v. show you’ve ever watched, thought about watching, tried to watch but didn’t have the time, or swore you would never, ever watch.

3. Call/text other insomniacs. – Friends, family, exes, neighbors, that girl you did a project in school with once…the possibilities are endless.

4. Write in a journal. – This makes for some pretty entertaining reading in the morning. Or whenever you’re not tired anymore.

5. Clean. – I know, I know. This sounds awful. But when you’re about to fall over, cleaning can be very conducive to stress release. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself. In any case, your house will never look better.

6. Try to name state capitals.- …nah, I’m just kidding on that one.

7. Cry out to the sleep gods for mercy. – I mean, what have you got to lose, right? Besides your dignity.

Well, I hope this helps you sleep. It helped me… since I created this list at 4 am last night, and then finally crashed. Maybe that’s a good number 8- make lists.

Got something to add to the “to do list for insomniacs”?

How Getting Cold Feet Can Attract the NYPD.

Well, the hopeful move-in day is getting precariously close. Less than a month. And I’m starting to experience the beginning stages of about 30 different incredibly strong emotions, all vying for my attention. Currently topping the list are terror, dread, fear, anxiety, nervousness, insecurity, and an extremely persistent joy. As I was sitting at work today, amidst several teetering piles of contracts and grumbling co-workers, a memory hit me square in the face. One that I think fits my overall emotional state when it comes to NYC.

About two summers ago, I traveled to the city with a friend of mine from our acting gig in upstate New York. We had a few days off, and thought we’d go stay in her apt, eat some sushi, drink some very strong Margaritas, and watch a disturbing amount of True Blood. Now, my friend (we’ll call her the Apothecary, after her character), lived in a very nice part of the city, so I felt immediately safe and relaxed. Her roommate was in Austria for the summer; we had the whole apartment to ourselves. Girly activities ensued. It was absolutely fabulous.

The next day, the Apothecary and I are happily asleep, the AC drumming in the window, when we are jolted awakeby a knock on her door. A quick glance at my cell phone shows that it’s 7 am. Odd. Before we can react, the person knocks again- which leads to the unsettling realization that the knock is coming from right outside her bedroom door. Oh goody. We’re going to be murdered, but at least the guy is nice enough to alert us.  The door opens roughly, and in steps a cop. Holding a gun. Pointing at a space directly between the floor and where I am lying on the bed.

“Stay where you are! Put your hands above the covers! Do you live here?” 

“Yes, I do.”

” I need to see some ID.”

Before the Apothecary can so much as nod her head, a second cop enters, demanding to know if we live here. As I had been sleeping about two minutes before, and also didn’t happen to live there, I sat, petrified and absolutely silent. A great deal of scuffling around could be heard coming from the living room and the other bedroom. And just as I’m starting to think this is all a dream, yet another of NYPD’s finest enters the room. Aggressively. With a gun drawn. Delightful.

The Apothecary begins reaching for her purse in slow, measured movements; and that’s when we hear a confused female voice calling her name.

The Apothecary stands up uncertainly and walks into the living room, where the pieces start to click into place.You see, a friend of the Apothecary’s had been  watering the plants for her while she was gone. She was an EMT and worked odd hours. Her shift had just ended, and so she was coming over while she had a minute, and noticed the window was open. This made her a little confused. A tad bit concerned. Then, she arrived at the door to the apt only to find it dead-bolted. Now she was downright alarmed. And instead of calling the landlord, she called the cops. Who forced their way throw said window, knocking it out of its frame and onto the exact plant that was needing to be watered, broke the dead bolt in their hurry and confusion (apparently they never open a door from the inside), let in a few more cops, and woke up the Apothecary and I, thinking we were intruders.

Sheepish smiles and apologies were offered from the people who had, up until a few seconds ago, had their guns drawn at us. Then, the seven or so cops who had been standing around in the cramped living room trekked out the door and down the stairs, as I watched with utter disbelief.

And so, that is where I’m at. On the verge of an amazing, fun experience, but aware that I might get woken up by a bunch of gun-wielding cops. Yeah, I think that sums it up.

 

 

The Curious Case of the Lap Top and the Yoga Mat

I like research. Not the I-had-no-choice-as-to-my-research-topic-and-now-I’m-reading-a-book-about-the-Donner-party-and-I’m-squeamish type of research (true story: thanks Mr Mozden). I’m talking about looking up how to julienne a cucumber in the middle of cooking dinner research. Or  which type of jeans would look best with your body research. Or, my most recent endeavor, how to bend yourself into a pretzel research.

It all started when my parents bought my brother a nautilus system for his birthday. Now, I’ve used one of those before, but this thing is HUGE. With lots of  protruding metal bars and huge circular weights that you have to load on yourself. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to the war I would inevitably wage with this thing.

And the war was short. It won. Hands down. After 20 minutes of staring at it in slight confusion, I opted to start looking into yoga. Relaxing and a good workout.  And without all of the scary equipment. I’ve gone to a few different yoga classes, but never really had the time to make it a regular thing; so why not do it myself? Let the research begin.

I spent two days just looking through different poses, tips, sequences and stretches, hoping it would all get absorbed into my brain before I hit the mat. On that third day, I knew it was time. And so, armed with a yoga mat, a bottle of water and my laptop, I descended the stairs to my basement, traversed through my cat’s lair (really, though. It’s his spot. And if you don’t acknowledge it, you’re a goner), and found my way to the exercise room. About a half hour later, I’d attempted one pose, and then, afraid that I was doing it wrong and would somehow pull every muscle in my body, I stopped, opened up my laptop and began to look up again exactly how to do it the right way.

This carried on for another forty-five minutes before I collapsed onto the mat, a ball of frustration and tension (so much for yoga being relaxing). As I reached for my laptop to look up cool down techniques, I was hit with a strange thought- maybe researching something while you’re doing it is a bad way to go about things. Maybe it’s just a clever way of procrastinating. Maybe your laptop is what’s holding you back from succeeding in holding the warrior pose longer than 10 seconds. Maybe…

…I should probably look that up.

Sailing Homeward.

Home is an interesting concept to someone in transition. From college, to my parents’ house, to summerstock, to college, back to my parents’ house-I’ve bounced around quite a bit in these past four years. And now, it seems, I’m just biding my time until I move to my next location. I have my family in one location, and my chosen, extended family in about ten others. So, it’s been awhile since I’ve felt truly at home- where all my possessions and all of my life’s loose ends come to rest, neatly tied up and put away.

For the past three summers, I had the incredible opportunity of working at a Renaissance Festival in upstate NY. This entailed living in the woods for three months of improv training, character creating, and laughing at and with my insanely talented castmates. It was, in one word, magical.

This summer, it was time for a change;  however, I have missed my little corner of the woods more than I can say. So last weekend, two of my college friends (Toby and Kate ) and I piled into my car and roadtripped it to their opening weekend.

I’ll admit it: I was a little apprehensive about visiting. Firstly, I had no idea how it would feel to not be acting in the festival. Would I play along (it’s interactive improv-which is creating scenarios that you can pull audience members into)? What shows would I see? And, most terrifyingly, would it be less -well- magical as a guest? Secondly, it holds a lot of memories. And, really, any place that holds that many memories can either be a joy to visit or a painful sinkhole of moments. (I know, that was a little too 14-year old goth chick, but go with me.) Anyway, I was nervous. And immensely excited.

I could spend this blog post commenting on the awesome shows I saw, and this quirky conversation I had with a character, or that hilarious scene I saw played out in front of me, or what it was like to be carried through the mid-day parade over the shoulder of a once alchemist, now pirate, but I’m gonna go ahead and skip to the pivotal moment of my trip: the pub sing.

PUBSING!

Now, every faire day ends with a half-hour sing along with the entire cast, all of the musicians, and every guest that is within the gates. I cannot accurately explain  how moving this is, but I’m gonna give myself fifteen words in which to try (lest I spend the next twenty minutes writing some epic poem about it that no one, not even myself, will want to read afterwards): It’s like that moment when you first light a sparkler as a kid…awe-inspiring. Anyway, the songs vary from day to day, but it always ends with the same two songs: Auld Lang Syne and Mingulay. Preceding Auld Lang Syne, one character gives a speech- a moment in which he can reveal something about himself, the actor. The speeches are usually moving and therefore usually bring me to tears (A lot of things bring me to tears. I am not generally able to not cry when things move me, or I, you know, breathe. Or walk. Or eat a particularly good sandwich.)

It wouldn’t be a pubsing without a song about drinking far too much.

On this day, my dear friend Lenny Burrows got up to speak. So, of course, my eyes welled up. He began to talk about returning to the festival-of how leaving for a period of time will make the return mean that much more. Great. Thanks, Lenny. Let’s talk about that today-when I’m returning. Thanks for that. By the end of his two-minute (if that) speech, I am hysterical. Kate and Toby are sitting next to me, I’m assuming wondering if they can sneak away slowly so as not to become associated with this madwoman. But I know, oh boy do I know: this is just the beginning.

Love is pretty much what it comes down to. Love and Music.

The minute the song begins, I fall entirely apart. Sobbing. Not really breathing because I would rather refrain for a few minutes than start wheezing. I can see cast members looking at me, sobbing about 8 rows from the stage, and smiling in that way people do. More tears. Then comes the line, “And here’s a hand my trusted friend…” Traditionally, during this line, the cast will offer hands to each other, then to the first two or three rows of the audience. I look up from my lap, which I have been studying quite determinedly for the past 30 seconds or so, and see about ten of my friends in the cast traversing down the aisle towards me. They grasp my hand, one by one, share a tearful smile, and run back to the stage.  I cannot express, or even begin to make sense, of the amount of love I felt in that moment. But more than that, I felt at home. It all clicked into place- I was entirely and happily home.

And as the cast sang the last song, “Mingulay,” I heard my own voice join in. It was a song about coming home, about returning to loved ones after time away- how could I not sing along?

My Fourth of July (or how I learned to drown in a kayak.)

Fireworks, of any variety (romantic or, you know, the kind that actually explode in the sky), are quite possibly my favorite thing in the world. Top five at least. There’s always been something about lights for me, whether they be twinkle lights, Christmas lights, sparklers, or good ole’ fashioned stars. I’m immediately enthralled. In fact, I have a habit of picking restaurants based on who has the best string of lights decorating the outside of their building- but I digress. Fireworks. They’re fucking awesome. And so, when one of my best friends from high school asked me if I wanted to kayak down the Charles River to watch Boston’s 4th of July fireworks from the water, I said “yes.” Actually, I think I squealed, jumped around a bit, and then said, “Are you serious?!,”  about 500 times…but “yes” is pretty much what all that conveys.

So, Wednesday morning I made the trek to Boston, armed with a flashlight, sneakers, and little to no knowledge of how to kayak. The day passed in a happy blur of window shopping, book store browsing, and some really strong margaritas, until finally, it was time to make our way to the launch point. (Side note-how cool is it to get to say that? “It was time to make our way to the launch point.” Bad ass. I feel like an astronaut. Or someone who kayaks. Either way-  bad ass.) After the quickest safety course I have ever been a part of (“Here’s where you go to see the fireworks, don’t get too close to the barge, stay to the sides or you’ll get run over by rich people on boats.”), I was given a life jacket, an oar, and, finally, a kayak. My friend ( let’s call her Specs- she has awesome glasses) and I were going to be rocking out in a double kayak for the night, so we jumped in and started trying to steer away from the launch point (again, bad ass). After a few minutes (around 30 or so), we got the hang of it, and sped along the Charles toward some point that was approximately 4 miles away.

Let me pause for a moment here to talk about upper body strength. You don’t want to wait until you’re in the middle of a river in a kayak to start thinking about incorporating some push ups into your daily routine. Lesson painfully learned. Now, back to the story.

After about an hour of rowing, Specs and I arrived at the viewing point.  Clusters of boats, kayaks and canoes sat in the water, waiting for the show to begin. As we reclined in our kayak, I started to notice bursts of light out of the corner of my eye. Lightning. Oh goody. It was around this time that we thought to ask a fellow water dweller what the estimated start time was: 10:30. It was 9.

Thunder began to start echoing across the water. we paddled forward to look for Specs’ friends, who had fallen behind in a four-person kayak. As we passed under a bridge, I became aware of the crowd: thousands of people lining the shore. I couldn’t help but smile. We had the absolute best seats in the house- the barge that held the fireworks was directly in front of us. We sat, listening to the Boston Pops, floating back and forth, waiting. And then, about five minutes before the fireworks were scheduled to begin, it started to sprinkle. Tiny droplets of warm rain. Now, we were already soaked from the decent amount of flailing it had taken us to reach our destination, so a little bit of rain was nothing. Child’s play. I turned to joke with Specs about the ridiculousness of the situation- sitting in a slowly filling kayak in the middle of a crowd of equally endangered kayaks and canoes- when a burst of color made my head snap back to the front. Without any

I cannot even put into words how gorgeous these fireworks were…so here’s a picture!

forewarning, the fireworks had begun to fill the sky. My jaw subsequently dropped. I had never seen anything like it. The sheer size of the fireworks was stunning, not to mention the variety of shapes and colors that exploded across the the harbor in a continuous stream. (Heart-shaped fireworks. HEARTS!) As I stared, slack-jawed, up at the show, the rain started getting heavier. And heavier. A torrential downpour of lukewarm rain pummeled our little kayak (and my face), creating a wall between me and the fireworks. The sane reaction would have been annoyance, concern for the kayak, or even a shuffling of clothing to try to slow the attack. But me? I laughed. I doubled over in the kayak, overcome with the insanity of my evening. Kayaking 4 miles to sit in a rain-filled kayak, watching the most beautiful fireworks I had ever seen.

The rain eventually slowed, and then stopped, while the fireworks continued to get better and better. As I watched the finale, a barrage of colors that literally filled the sky, I felt a wave of gratitude and awe crash over me. How lucky was I to be experiencing this?

And then I remembered…I still had to paddle 4 miles back. My arms became dead weight at the thought, silently protesting the hour-long rowing party that was about to begin.  Needless to say, Pocahontas was lying when she sang “just around the river bend.” Bitch.