Posts Tagged ‘New York’

UCLA + UM

February 10, 2012

I’m taking a writing class at UCLA, through the extension program.

I like being on campus. There’s grass and benches, buildings with names like “Rolfe Hall,” and hand-made posters urging you to join the Ballroom Dance Club and the Muslim Student Association.

It makes me nostalgic.

I went to the University of Michigan, which I picked because my dad said I should, and because it was big: I wanted to make sure college was nothing like high school; disappearing into a sea of 35,000 undergrads seemed like a good strategy.

The only downside was that it was in Michigan, which I knew to be a lame state because a) it wasn’t on the East Coast and b) it didn’t seem to be completely plumbed (my grandfather’s house on Lake Michigan had an indoor toilet, but he discouraged its use; why strain the sceptic system when there was a perfectly good outhouse out back?)

So I was surprised to discover, bit by bit, that I liked it there. I liked Ann Arbor, with its clapboard houses and old-fashioned downtown. I liked the plain beauty of the Midwest. And to be honest the East Coast kids were… well, a little snobby.

They hung out in packs, joined the same frats. They were so sure of themselves, so positive about where they were headed (right back to the Tristate area), so curiously incurious.

When I lived in New York, years later, I noticed the same thing. New York is so confident of its solar position in the universe — it’s just not that interested in what’s happening anywhere else.

Take this month’s Elle Decor — published NY, NY 10020 — which features up-and-coming designers. The editors breezily note, “The renaissance seems to be worldwide. We’re as likely to discover a special talent in Brooklyn as in Milan, in an upstate New York industrial studio as in a Paris atelier.” Good grief. That’s a New Yorker’s idea of “worldwide?” Brooklyn, Paris, and upstate?

But I digress.

I’m taking a writing class at UCLA.

And if you had told me, back when I was hurrying across UM’s diag on my way to class, that one day I’d be headed to class in Los Angeles — driving up Wilshire through rush hour traffic — I would have known you were wrong.

Known.

Which just goes to show: Once you move to Michigan, anything can happen.

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Overnight

January 5, 2012

After Christmas, I took Mei to New York City. It was just overnight, but it seemed like a big trip to both of us. I was nervous about watching a 6-year-old in Manhattan. Mei cried because she didn’t want to leave her daddy.

But by the time we got to the train station, we were okay. Here she’s covering her ears because the passing Amtrak was so loud.

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We had lunch at my favorite tea shop: Podunk, on 5th Street. Everything there is homemade, and delicious. Except Mei didn’t like her hot chocolate.

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Then we went to Rockefeller Center.

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Mei got a camera for Christmas. She took a lot of photos, including this one of skaters.

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Last month the subway doors closed on Mei’s backpack, causing some PTSD. So I was proud of her for riding like a regular New Yorker.

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My sister met us for dinner at Bread Tribeca. Mei got a clown pizza. She picked off the cherry tomato eyes and green bean mouth, and ate the rest.

She also took these pictures of the restaurant’s wine barrels, which I hadn’t even noticed. Kids are so good at seeing things. I miss that about being one.

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Click

September 11, 2011

I got a new camera for my road trip: I want proof that I’ve seen actual buffalos.

But for now, I’m still on the East Coast. So I tried the camera out on Manhattan.

At first it was discouraging, because I kept on not getting good pictures. Even the Chrysler Building wasn’t cooperating, and the Chrysler Building is like the Alps — as long as it’s in frame, your photo comes out artistic.

But mine came out with product placement.

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So then I decided to take pictures of New York being ugly. This is easier because most buildings are not the Chrysler Building. Most are just tan, bland, and somewhat tall:

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Also, there’s too much to look at in New York. Visual clutter! And what on earth are those pipes there for? Is there a mini nuclear reactor in midtown Manhattan?

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I dislike Manhattan’s numerous window air conditioning units. They drip on you. This one has been dripping since about 1857.

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These two dudes were having a friendly conversation, sipping iced lattes, standing next to a pile of trash. They didn’t seem bothered; but then, they’re used to it. In New York you’re almost always standing next to a pile of trash.

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Overheard

August 28, 2011

I’ve been getting ready for my move, which basically consists of intensive puttering. I do laundry, rearrange objects, make to-do lists, and poke around in closets.

Most of it isn’t so productive, but the poking around got some results: I came across a little notebook from the year I lived in New York. It’s mainly filled with names, numbers, and to-do lists. (I’m big on to-do lists.) But it also contains scraps of overheard conversations – things real people said, which I wrote down, word for word, because they were just too good to be lost.

For instance:

 “She’s basically anorexic. Ish. She’s self-concerned. She’s 17.”

–       in reference to a daughter? step-daughter?

(Someone… husband?…) “wanted me to send Jeremy to Peru. But it’s like two thousand dollars a ticket. I was like, no way. I’m already taking them to St. Lucia.”

–       in reference to son or step-son

“Should I have gotten a bigger diamond on the side? Cause I would have. But if it was bigger it would be too yucky, right? Too massive?”

–       in reference to a sapphire and diamond ring

All of these came from the mouth of one person, a middle-aged blonde, who sat in the Savoy on November 12, 2006. She was the motherlode. Everything she said was I-can’t-believe-she-just-said-that quotable.

No accident that she was a New Yorker – it’s the top city for eavesdropping because a) New Yorkers say what they think and b) they say it loudly.

I’m looking forward to being back.